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My Father's Son

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The Lost Emperor: Rhaegar, Elia and Lyanna by naomimakesart (With ...


"Atten-shun!" At the command from Captain Thorne, officer on duty for the day, the Household Guard for House Targaryen clicked their heels together. Metal-tipped boots smacking as they stood ramrod straight. Spears pointing high to herald the arrival of both the large carriage train approaching the main gate and the two solitary figures racing out of Maegor's Holdfast. One clad in the grey and purple armor of the Kingsguard, sword clipped at the hip who's tip clinked against the plate of the shins. The other sporting a simple red dress of little finery, yet still resplendent with fair Valyrian beauty.

Beauty twisted in barely contained apprehension. "The gate is opening," Queen Rhaella Targaryen said to herself. Her fingers played with each other, a nervous habit.

Normally silent, the Kingsguards on duty to the Queen or Crown Prince were nevertheless allowed to speak their minds. While the recently knighted and newest sworn brother Jaime Lannister had his many secrets, he did appreciate the ability. "His Grace is lucky that their ship hadn't departed yet for Dragonstone, my Queen."

"Indeed. Would have been nigh impossible to reach them by raven." As it stood, the dispatch rider sent by Thorne already took a precious hour to both reach the dock and secure the royal party. Rhaella shuddered, fear clouding her features an unwelcome one for the Lion knight of Casterly Rock. "I hesitate to think what the King would do if he had to wait a few days."

"Gods are kind to us, today." There was no response, as the hornblowers warbled the arrival of the princely procession.

Three-headed dragon banners fluttering in the wind, the initial procession of riders gave way to the Crown Prince himself. Loyal guards Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Barristan Selmy trailing behind, Rhaegar Targaryen was a sight to behold. His normal armor plate was foregone for a soft tunic and cloak that nevertheless magnified his sleek yet muscular physique. Flowing silver hair let down, sparkling rather than dull like his father. Clipped to his waist was Blackfyre, the ancestral sword of Aegon the Conqueror, recently reclaimed with the defeat of Maelys Blackfyre.

Given the King's… condition, it was unopposed that the Crown Prince receive the sword.

Rhaella couldn't help but smile at her strapping son, all of twenty and two, swinging off his horse like an expert Dothraki bloodrider. Catching his mother's gaze, he nodded with a small smile of his own, but stepped past Arthur and Barristan to reach the carriage at the van of the procession. Many royals or lords would simply let servants handle such matters, but the down to earth Rhaegar found no indignity in opening the carriage door for his wife and children. I raised a perfect son.

As if a harsh gale on the cliffs of Dragonstone, a blur of wavy black curls raced from the carriage and slammed into Rhaella's legs. "Grandmomma!"

Laughing merrily, Rhaella leaned down to pick up her beloved granddaughter. "Ooof, Rhae. You're getting heavy."

"I's big girl now," giggled the Princess Rhaenys, all of two years old. Purple eyes of Old Valyria contrasted with the tan of Dornish nobility - Rhaella had no clue whether her rambunctiousness was of the fearsome dragon or the sultry spear and snake. Either way, I pity poor Rhaegar when she comes of age. "Missed you, grandmomma." Rhaenys needed no prodding to bury her head in the Queen's chest.

Beaming, Rhaella dropped a kiss to the raven locks when an apologetic Rhaegar strode up to her. "Apologies, mother." He looked genuinely sorry, sometimes too kind for his own good. "She knows she saw you just this morning."

"Any time away from my beloved grandchildren is too much," Rhaella cooed, coaxing giggled from the Princess as she lavished her face with kisses. Gently putting her onto the ground to run back to her father, Rhaella approached the willowy Crown Princess. "Elia, welcome back to the Red Keep." A gentle finger moved to stroke the bundle carried in her arms.

Elia Martell gave a wan smile, though the same apprehension shone in her dark eyes. "Glad to see you again, goodmother. I hope… we are not imposing." The lengthy gap belied the seriousness of what was happening, the gravity of which was lost only on the excited, bouncing Rhaenys and the sleeping Prince Aegon - all of two months of age. "Do you know how… long our ship should be waiting in port? The docks are quite busy." All seemingly harmless chit chat. One never knew where the spider placed his birds.

Sighing, Rhaella kissed her grandson's cheek. "You are not imposing, and as to your second question, I'm not sure. Dragonstone may have to wait without its prince and princess for a while, now." Another flash of fear on Elia's face, one Rhaella understood. The King… wasn't fond of the Dornish. Their armies and taxes yes, but not as a people. Rhaegar and Elia were clearly hoping for a quick stay for the newborn Prince's baptismal at the Great Sept of Baelor - white marble and limestone facade visible across the city - before heading back to Rhaegar's domain of Dragonstone.

The Royal Directive overruled all such plans.

"My dear," offered Rhaegar, scooping Rhaenys in his arms and handing her to Ser Arthur. "Head back to your rooms with the children. I'll have Arthur and Barristan escort you."

"Of course, my Prince." A perfunctory kiss on the cheek and the lithe, tanned princess was off with the future of House Targaryen. Gods, I wish he had been able to marry for love. Rhaella felt for her son, denied the opportunity to find someone for himself, not just for politics. And yet she had been married for politics… such was the life of a royal of House Targaryen. At least he and Elia are friends. It helped, not that Rhaella would know.

Free of having to put a facade for Rhaenys' sake, Rhaegar fell into lockstep beside his mother, leaned in so that only she could hear his whispers - not even for Ser Jaime, trailing behind them. "What is this all about, mother?"

"I don't know, my son," she shot back, equally quiet. "You weren't gone for twenty minutes before Connington told me to greet you back here on the King's orders. And you know your father isn't always… predictable these days."

The fluttering banners dotting the courtyard whipped in the wind blowing out from the bay, cloudless blue sky only making the red sandstone and brick that formed the walls of the Red Keep all the more blatant and bright. "He seemed practically decent the last week. Even agreed to cancel the latest excise tax." Even Rhaegar had been shocked, the King merely nodding at the request. "I suppose it was too good to be true."

Reaching the steps up to the colonnaded hall outside the throne room, Rhaella looped her arm in the crook of Rhaegar's. "He hasn't been in one of his rages since weeks before you, Elia, and the children arrived. Just… quiet. Calm, sitting on the throne for hours on end and brooding." Rhaegar brooded as well, though his was a silent contemplation, while the King would burn holes in the walls with his fiery violet eyes in spite of not a sound leaving his mouth. "I'm concerned he's planning something quite dangerous."

Outside the great bronze-lined oaken doors of the throne room, Ser Gerold Hightower and Prince Lewyn Martell stood guard. Eyes darting to the figure of their Crown Prince from behind their helmets. "My Prince, his Grace is waiting for you inside," ser Gerold stated, hand drifting to the door.

"Why are you here and not the household guard?" Rhaegar knew it couldn't be good.

"Our King wishes to be alone with the prince and the Master of Whisperers."

Rhaella stiffened next to him. "Viserys…" The King was an absent father… till he wasn't. A bead of sweat falling down her forehead, she embraced Rhaegar. "Good luck, my son."

He returned the embrace. "I love you mother." A wry smirk formed on his lips in spite of everything. "Don't worry, fire cannot kill a dragon." Kingsguard opening the doors just wide enough, Rhaegar disappeared into the dark throne room, leaving Rhaella alone in the cavernous hallway.

High coffered ceiling arched in intricate ribbed vaulting, light pouring through the stained glass of the windows, the Throne Room of the Red Keep had been the pinnacle of architecture during the reign of Maegor I. While the more recent innovations of Braavos, Lannisport, and the castles of the Reach were said to far surpass anything from that era, Crown Prince Rhaegar never ceased to have his breath taken away at the majesty of the seat of House Targaryen. And all of this will be mine someday. Many would think this with lust, but for Rhaegar it was sobering - Rhaella had raised him well.

Normally, for the events and audiences held here, it would be completely packed with guards, courtiers, and brownnosing nobles trying to get in good with the crown. However, at the moment there was nothing but a foreboding darkness. Polished tile and colonnaded halls deserted - dragon skulls whitewashed and staring ahead with unseeing eye sockets. Rhaegar had memorized them. Caraxes, Sunfyre, Silverwing, Vermithor… All reminders of House Targaryen's glorious past… past. Only the weight of Blackfyre clinking against his armor remained of that era.

Will I ever be worthy of their legacy? Could I ever truly lead our House to the glory of Aegon and his sister-wives? A question Rhaegar had grappled with for years, brooding hours into the night. Faced with both greatness and the vile scum that had ruled under his name, he couldn't help but feel… truly unworthy of the mantle.

At the head of the room, overlooked by the great seal of House Targaryen atop the window and the skull of Balerion the Black Dread atop that, was the seat of honor. The Iron Throne, forged by dragonfire out of scores of swords of Aegon's enemies. A symbol of power. Of strength. Of corruption and bloodlust. And seated upon it, clad in loose robes of black and dull burgundy, was the King himself. Aerys Targaryen, Second of his Name. Rhaegar's father, barely in his forties but already covered in wrinkles and a pale pallor. The Defiance of Duskendale hadn't been good to him, aging him considerably.

But his eyes still retained the sharpness of his youth. Lighting up as he recounted the stories of the great dragonlords to the five year old boy perched by his side on the throne. "See, my son, that great skull there was the mighty Vhagar - mount to Queen Visenya Targaryen."

"The mother of Maegor, right?" chirped young Prince Viserys. Slightly gaunt and willowy, he nevertheless bore the Valyrian beauty and inquisitive gaze of a proper Prince. One that would serve the realm well… had he not idolized his father the King, hanging on his every word.

Aerys ruffled the boy's hair. Probably the only affection he had given him in the last month. "Yes, my son. You have learned your lessons well." Viserys beamed at the praise. "Riding Balerion aside his mother on Vhagar before her death, Maegor made sure to give the Faith Militant and other rebelling zealots their comeuppance. With fire and blood - never forget, traitors only deserve fire and blood." A lesson Viserys was clearly absorbing.

There was little light in the Throne Room even with the windows, illuminated only by two candelabras flanking the throne. Stepping out of the darkness, Rhaegar cleared his throat. Interrupting the horrid little history lesson. Two sets of purple eyes darting to him, Viserys let out a happy squeal. "Rhaegar!" Much as Rhaenys had done to her grandmother, so too did Viserys leap out of his perch on the Iron Throne and run over to his older brother. Arms wrapping around his waist. "I thought you left."

The boy's exuberance coaxed a chuckle out of Rhaegar despite himself. "Father said I needed to come back to discuss something important with him. Do you mind going with mother outside?"

Viserys looked back at their father. Whatever smile he had on his face disappeared leaving only a scowl of indifference. "Go, Viserys. Listen to your brother."

"Yes, poppa." Hugging Rhaegar one last time, he was off. Sandals scuffing along the tile.

Alone finally with his father, Rhaegar stepped to the base of the Iron Throne and drew Blackfyre. Keeling before the King. "I am at your service, your Grace."

Fealty was always required by Aerys - he could always be flattered or annoyed by it, depending on his mood. "Get up, son. I didn't summon you here to bloody kneel." So he was in that kind of mood. "I trust your journey was well?"

"It was. Short, but well."

Aerys snickered. "Bothered your weak wife, didn't it? Probably worried about all her pretty clothes and pretty hair getting the fishmarket reek - as if it could be more pungent than her Dornish stink." The King shuddered. "Gods, your son has the Targaryen hair and eyes and he still smells as Dornish as your firstborn brat. Martells ruin everything they touch."

Then why did you have me marry one? Rhaegar knew the answer. Politics. Such brought an undoubtedly beautiful Dornish maiden to his marriage bed in spite of neither holding love for the other. A liking developed, but one devoid of the lifeblood of a truly happy marriage. And Rhaegar put up with it over politics, though not having any true intimacy did drive him further into his brooding. "She is settling in the Holdfast, father, and mother escorted me here. Something about an important matter to discuss?"

Nodding, Aerys motioned into the shadows. "Varys, get out here!" Rhaegar turned to watch a stealthy figure dressed in the finest silks of Myr step out from the shadows. Lord Varys, the young Master of Whisperers - his father's spymaster. This is not going to be good at all. "I hope you don't mind my spider here. He's absolutely indispensable at the moment." Aerys' face was generally calm, hair perfectly straightened rather than the unkempt mane he let wild under his crown.

I don't have a choice in the matter, father. "Of course," said the Crown Prince, bowing again. "It is good to see you, Lord Varys."

"Likewise, my Prince," replied the eunuch. Voice politic and impassive. "Your council is needed in these trying times."

"'Trying times.' Heh, that's an understatement," scoffed the King. "Tywin Lannister is plotting against the realm."

Rhaegar's eyes widened. Now this was news. "Are you sure, father?"

Aerys scoffed. "Of course. You can see it in his beady little lion cub eyes." He has no evidence. "Why do you think he fled to Casterly Rock after you rejected his bitch daughter? Why do you think I replaced him with Connington instead of beg him to come back. He's turned traitor, the cunt."

"Father, I highly doubt the Warden of the West would plot against his childhood best friend." Tywin isn't that stupid.

"Don't be a fool, my son," Aerys wheezed, coughing into his hand. "Fucking draft." He brought the cup of wine to his lips, sipping at it. Sighing as the chilled liquid soothed his throat. "Tywin… he's a shifty little cunt. Keeps all his emotions as clenched inside him as the gold he shits." A laugh left the King, both Rhaegar and Varys simply standing there, forced to listen. "Did you know he's massing his armies."

"Are you sure about that, father?" Rhaegar made sure his voice sounded sincerely questioning rather than a mocking dismissal as he was wont to use.

Clearing his throat, it was Varys who answered. "My birds sing songs about overflowing armories in Lannisport. Of young westerman training within the walls of Crakehall and Casterly Rock. Of castles fortified with added battlements."

"There's an innocuous explanation for this." Tywin wasn't his favorite person by far - the man irked him, and his daughter's obvious longing to marry the Crown Prince rubbed Rhaegar off the wrong way - but the man that made sure to get royal approval to destroy the Reynes and Tarbecks was not someone who'd revolt for the hells of it. "Balon Greyjoy's younger brother is said to be back to raiding and raping. Could be that."

Fists clenched, the King glanced up at the rafters. At the skull of Balerion the Black Dread hanging above the Iron throne itself before glancing back at his son. "You know he's planning it." Voice both soft and hoarse - a seductive whisper of conspiracy. "Preparing for it within the walls of his outhouse of a castle."

Rhaegar leaned in, listening intently to his father. "What is it, father? Perhaps I can call the banners and lead our armies against him?"

A sharp, barking laugh left Aerys' lips. "You can't call the banners on the Doom of Valyria!" More laughter.

"Doom of Valyria?"

"Tywin's planning it, the little shit. Why else would he resign his commission as Hand? Why else would he shut himself up back in the Westerlands? Why else would he remove his damn slut of a daughter from court? The sky will fall! And the city will burn under the hellsfires at his doing! Mark my words…!"

The Crown Prince fought the urge to slap the madness out of his father. He's starting to fall apart. His and his mother's prayers to delay this day hadn't come true. Beside him, the svelte eunuch was as emotionless as usual. "I'm not sure that even Tywin Lannister has the money to buy the needed sorcerers to achieve that goal, your Grace." It felt ridiculous to patronize such insanity, but the man was the King… and his own father. "Do you honestly feel that a war with the Westerlands would be wise?" As much as Tywin is hated, I doubt any other Kingdom would hate him as much to destroy the peace.

There was silence for several seconds before Aerys' lips began to curl upward. A slow, steady grin forming till it stretched across nearly his entire face. "Oh, my beloved son. You seem to underestimate your dear old father." He leaned back, proud of himself. "Our House's words are Fire and Blood, but that doesn't mean I understand diplomacy and it's advantages. Such was how Daeron the Good secured Dorne into our domain."

"Alright…" Rhaegar didn't know whether to be glad war was not in the offering, or to dread what in all honesty his father would be eminently proud of devising. "I am at your disposal, my King."

"Good." Aerys slapped his thigh, grin almost manic. Purple eyes glistening - Rhaegar resisted taking a step back, the madness apparent. His own father. If he hadn't hardened his heart long ago, it would have killed him inside. "We will not fight Tywin. We will surround him with the might of our powerful loins."

Blinking, the crown prince's eyes shifted to Varys, who wore a look of half-passivity, half… apology. They shifted back to his father, and Rhaegar sighed. "Care to tell me more about such an illustrious plan, father?"

"Some very crafty and auspicious marriage alliances are ripe for the taking. I know that fat oaf Mace Tyrell has an infant daughter back in Highgarden… he doesn't shut up about her. Viserys would be perfect for her when she flowers."

In all honesty… that wasn't such a bad plan. It would buy the Reach's loyalty and end the annoying begging of the Master of Coin - as much as Rhaegar's own experiences soured him to the idea of bartering children, such was the way of Westerosi highborns. But that only secures one kingdom. "You… you mentioned surrounding Tywin.?"

Aerys laughed, clapping merrily. "That's the best part, my son. The stupidity of my older brother left us without enough children but providence has fallen into our lap to stave off the Second Doom! We can buy off three Kingdoms for one maiden daughter!" He motioned to the eunuch. "Varys, tell him before I cut your balls off… oh wait, someone already fucking beat me too it, tee hee!"

Pursing his lips, after a poignant silence Varys only nodded. "There exists one house for which the loyalty of three kingdoms hinges on." Aerys was grinning like mad, while Rhaegar listened intently - he wasn't liking how this was going, but the politics of it all did fascinate him. "House Stark."

"House Stark?" That was one noble house that wasn't often talked about. Most southerners felt it just a frozen wasteland that Aegon the Conqueror should have let starve. "How does House Stark have anything to do with this? They're worse about keeping within the blood than us."

If anyone would know, it was Varys. The eunuch had his fingers everywhere. Knew everything, with the attention to detail of an archmaester. "Lord Rickard Stark has been trying to branch out and secure alliances with other houses outside the North. Expand House Stark's influence. His heir Brandon has been betrothed to Catelyn Tully and his younger son Eddard has been the devoted ward to Lord Jon Arryn of the Vale. A union with House Stark would serve to bind the North, Riverlands, and Vale to the crown."

Whooping, Aerys stabbed his hand into the air. "Three senior houses involved, Rhaegar. Three! Hear that Dunk, you dumb fucker! I'm cleaning up the mess you made!" When the King did descend into manic delusions, his deceased older brother Duncan was an oft participant. "And the old wolf has a daughter too. A maiden I heard."

Devious. Downright genius the more Rhaegar thought about it, but… "Who do you plan to betroth this maiden daughter to?" Gods, don't let another poor girl be drawn into his schemes. "We have no more Targaryen sons, unless you wish to find a Blackfyre bastard somewhere?"

"Pish, Aegon the Conqueror didn't worry about the fact that he was already married to taking another bride. Why should the rest of us?"

Eyes widened in realization. "You wish to marry the daughter of Rickard Stark?" Rhaegar's blood boiled at the affront to his mother.

"Oh please." Aerys looked disgusted. "As if I would sully my cock with the cunt of a northern wildling." His grin returned, as if he was enjoying this… no he clearly was enjoying this. "You are to marry the daughter of Rickard Stark."

Rhaegar Targaryen staggered out of the Throne Room only minutes later - his father's words still ringing in his head. The voices of the Kingsguards reached his ears, but the Crown Prince paid them no heed. It was as if the skull of Balerion or Vhagar had come to life and slammed its jaws into him.

"You are to marry the daughter of Rickard Stark."

Another marriage. Another forced marriage thrust upon him for political purposes - political purposes without a basis in reality. Subjecting an innocent maiden innocent of any fault to the same… morosity as Elia… it was like a knife to his heart.

"Rhaegar?" His mother's sweet, serene voice broke him from his haze. Rhaella strode to him, hands grasping his shoulder. "What's wrong? What did he say?"

Not caring of the propriety of it all, Rhaegar simply fell into his mother's comforting arms. Letting her banish the agony away.

Skirts whooshing in the wind, the young woman managed to parry the attack quite easily. Her opponent was stronger despite being over a year younger, but the woman was faster. Using her agility to an advantage. Blows from the blunt bastard training sword coming in at a flurry. Forcing the younger boy on the defensive, only just barely blocking the slashes.

"Come on!" shouted Brandon Stark, heir to Winterfell, seated atop a barrel perched on the walls of the inner courtyard. "Ben you dumb cunt, force your opening!"

"I'm trying!" Benjen called out, charging. Only for the ten and seven year old to twirl out of the way - training sword smacking into his back and forcing him to the ground. "Damn it!"

Spinning the sword in her wrist, Lyanna Stark swayed her hips. Proclaiming her victory. "Too slow, brother. Far too slow." She whooped, chesnut hair matted over her face with a sheen of sweat. Fair skin flushed. Even disheveled from her unladylike romp, the lithe northern lass was still by far the most beautiful maiden in the castle. "Still the champion rider and fighter in this family, bar none!"

"Lady Lyanna!" Heads whipped around to find Nan, her governess. She marched into the courtyard with hands on her hips. "When you did not show up I knew you'd be here." A huff left her lips. "Young ladies from all the Northern houses are here for the prime position as your lady in waiting and you would rather be here, dirtying your dress and fighting with your brothers."

Taking in the mud splatters and slight fraying of her dress, Lyanna grinned. Twirling the hemline around. "I think this is the newest style. All the way from the Haunted Forest, worn by only the classiest spearwives of the Frostfangs." Brandon and Benjen suppressed snickers, as did any of the smallfolk in earshot.

Nan rolled her eyes. "Your future Lord Husband will not stand for such japes from their Lady wife."

"Perhaps I don't want to be married to such a man," she shot back, huffing herself. Such earned her a smack upside the head. "Ow!" It didn't truly hurt - merely a wounding of pride.

"Hush, you are a lady of House Stark, not some wildling spearwife." Many past governesses had cowered before Lyanna's bravado and threats, which they just were - she was no Bolton, and would only treat the servants with love and kindness when it came down to it. Nan knew when to be firm so that she would listen. "You are to put on a clean and proper dress, then march to the great hall to pick your lady in waiting." With that, she stormed out, leaving Lyanna with a dark scowl of annoyance on her face.

Such scowl only grew darker at the cackling belly laughs coming from the sidelines. "Shut it, Bran!"

Holding his side, the heir to Winterfell couldn't help but find humor at his sister's expense. "Oh the mighty she-wolf of the North. Just wait till you have some Manderly or Cerwyn maiden to gush about dresses from Lannisport." Brandon pursed his lips to hold back the giggles, actually hurting his stomach. "Dash off to sew and dance and fix up your pretty hair…" A clump of mud slammed into his head, silencing him. Sending him toppling to the ground.

Benjen watching with his jaw dropped, Lyanna's muddy hand pumped up with a whoop of triumph. "Now who has the 'pretty hair?'" It was her turn to laugh until a second muddy clump shot by her shoulder - splattering into Benjen. "Oh you little shit!" Brandon digging for another from the soggy ground to toss at her, only smirked.

"You're gonna pay for that!" their youngest brother cried, scooping out his own clump of mud.

Turning away with a shake of the head and a smile on his lips, Lord Rickard Stark of Winterfell and Warden of the North chuckled as the shouts and japes of his children wafted back from the courtyard. From his perch on the balcony outside his personal reception room, he had heard the entire little spat. It brought warmth to his heart to see his children so happy. Even now, the scars of the Lady Lyarra's death and heartbreak of sending Ned to the Vale were still acutely felt. While the north was at peace - the sleepy little backwater of Westeros - the needs of alliances still came first.

Even when conflicting with family. Rickard was a more sentimental man than most, but the game of thrones required a little callousness - a trait that the plenty of peace had largely fallen away from the Starks. Gods, I do not wish to lose any of them.

"She is a spitfire, isn't she?" Martyn Cassel, Winterfell master at arms, laughed with crossed arms. Formerly squire to the Lord, he and Rickard were quite close. His most trusted confidant.

Rickard smiled. "Aye. Takes after her mother."

"Lady Lyarra? She was always a dignified lady."

"You didn't know her in her youth." A grin formed on Rickard's face, remembering his wild youth - especially with her intended. "Hopefully Lyanna can settle down as a proper lady when she marries like Lyarra did."

Instead of a laugh or a jape, Martyn frowned. "Careful, my Lord. Yer' playin' with fire there." Pointing into the courtyard, both watched as Lyanna leaped on her older brother, smashing mud in his face while whooping at the top of her lungs. "Direwolves aren't meant to be caged, and the blood of the direwolf is in that one."

Sighing, Rickard could only nod. "Wouldn't want to if I could help it, but a highborn can't help it sometimes." He spared one last look at his children all leaping on each other in a laughing pile. "She's ten and seven. She'll grow out of it if she needs to."

"Whatever you say, my Lord." Martyn wasn't convinced.

A door opened from the inside of the keep, wooden sandals clicking on the floor. "Lord Stark," announced Maester Luwin, two slips of paper nestled between his bony hands. "Two ravens from the south." He handed them to Rickard. "One from the Eyrie and the other from King's Landing."

Opening the slip from the Eyrie first, Rickard felt a joy welling inside him. "Gods, it's good to hear from Ned." Old Jon Arryn a bachelor without heirs, fostering his middle son was the only way the north could build relations with its neighbor - a wise decision all around, since Lord Arryn treated Ned as his own. With happiness, he read the letter.

Dearest father,

Your previous letter has been received well by Lord Robert, having been elevated to the lordship of Storm's End upon his father's death one month previous. He will not leave for the Stormlands for several months, and is very supportive and open of a marriage alliance with our House.

While the final decision should rest with yourself and Lyanna, I cannot help but in the highest terms recommend Robert Baratheon, my dear friend, to be betrothed to my beloved sister. I and Lord Arryn confirm he is a noble, loyal young lord and would be a devoted husband.

Whatever you decide, father.

Your loving son, Ned.

"What's it say, my Lord?" Martyn asked. When Rickard showed him, he whistled. "Ooks like the she-wolf will be finding a stag for a husband." An eyebrow rose. "That is if 'yer considerin' sending her south."

The Lord of Winterfell was conflicted. It was one thing for the Lady Catelyn Tully's betrothal to Brandon - it would be she coming North - but to send Lyanna far to the south in the Stormlands? Once again, politics beat out sentimentality. "Robert Baratheon is a strong match for the North. Lyanna will accept her duty." Not wanting to hear more from Martyn, Rickard opened the other dispatch. This one far more professionally written than his son's.

Lord Stark,

His Grace Aerys, Second of his Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm, invites you to a tourney at Harrenhal to celebrate the Crown Prince Rhaegar's twenty and two nameday. The entirety of the lords and ladies of the Seven Kingdoms are also invited to be welcomed under the hospitality of
His Grace.

Your presence is very strongly requested.

Jon Connington,

Lord of Griffin's Roost and Hand of the King.

"My Lord… My Lord…" Rickard could barely hear Martyn calling to him, blood rushing from his face as he paled. Thrusting the message to his master at arms, Martyn himself paled. "Well fuck."

Chapter Text

Tightening his cloak around his shoulders, Lord Rickard Stark poked at the roaring fire in the hearth of his solar. Shifting the logs around for an even flame. Even with both, he was still impossibly cold. Outside the roar of the autumn rainstorms pounded against the wooden roof and stone walls of Winterfell - as if the gods themselves were furious at the world. Lightning cackled and thunder boomed, adding to the feeling.

Nothing Rickard hadn't gotten used to, so perhaps it was the contents of the letters received only a week before that was grating on him. No, it's definitely that.

"It's days like this that I miss the Reach," moaned Wyman Manderly. The fit, if beefy, Lord of White Harbor was a childhood friend of Rickard's - gregarious and friendly, they made quite a pair.

Beside him, Roose Bolton rolled his eyes. The youngest man there, his sharp mind nevertheless thrust him into the realm of the big players in the North. "You've never lived in the Reach, nor has your house for thousands of years." Unlike the rest, House Manderly was not of the blood of the First Men. Rather of Andal blood that settled in the North long ago.

Wyman chuckled, downing his cup of heated ale. "I guess I miss the idea of the Reach. Ya' never hear of House Tarly freezin' their balls off."

Not one to take part in such idle chit chat, Roose looked back to his Liege Lord. "My Lord, why is it that you are worried here? The prospect of marrying your daughter off to the Lord of Storm's End or the random tourney in the south?"

"It isn't a random tourney, Lord Bolton," Martyn Cassel shot back. "The King himself essentially demanded that he ride south."

Pursing his lips, Bolton nodded. "You're right, that is inherently suspicious."

"What could the King want from me?" Rickard normally was like the ice of the land he ruled, unflappable - Ned took after him, while his other children were more like their wild mother. Now though, he was quite exasperated, sweat streaming down his brow. Aerys II Targaryen tended to have that effect on people. "I've loyally paid my taxes to the crown, traded well with the southern kingdoms."

"He's a madman," boasted Wyman, slapping the arm of the chair he sat in. "The North hasn't involved itself in southern affairs since the Dance of Dragons. We didn't even involve ourselves in the Blackfyre Rebellions!"

A snort came from Roose Bolton, drawing the attention of the other three men. "Have anything to add, Roose?" Martyn Cassel said.

Roose crossed his arms. "It is never wise to underestimate one's… adversaries for lack of a better term. Look at it from the King's perspective. After most of his reign spent under Tywin Lannister's reign as Hand, he's suddenly sacked and with the Targaryen bootlicker Connington put in his place. Lannister foe Mace Tyrell placed on the Small Council and his son married to the Princess of Dorne. What do you make of that?"

It started to dawn on Rickard. "He's seeing threats all around him… especially from the Westerlands."

Wyman paled. "Fuck, Rickard. Yer' marrying off yer' children to the lords of powerful houses in the south. He could see it as an even bigger threat."

"You're not as thick as I thought you were, Wyman," smirked Roose. "Although if you keep eating as much as you do, you will be." All of them, even Lord Manderly, enjoyed a chuckle at the jape. "This tourney is clearly a stunt. He's testing everyone's loyalty."

Sighing, Rickard fell into his chair. "So what would you have me do?"

"Simple. Accept Robert Baratheon's offer. The Stormlands are loyal to the crown, and if you have something huge to offer the King then he'll be more inclined to seek our council rather than burn you alive." A shudder ran through each man's body at the thought.

Nevertheless it being the proper political option, it still weighed on Rickard. "But what of Lyanna? She should have some say in who she marries."

Roose shrugged his shoulders. "She's a woman. Her personal feelings don't matter." In the grand scheme of things… he was right. "For gods' sake, Lord Stark, you realize this is how the world works?"

"Don't you think I know that, Lord Bolton?" Rickard shot back.

"I don't think you do," Roose said dismissively. "Little girls should be learning to sew and manage a household, not gallivanting on horses or playing men's warcraft." He sneered. "It's cruel, if you think about it."

Rickard fumed. "How I raise my daughter is my business, not yours."

"It is my business if your insane parenting style threatens the stability of the North."

Before Rickard could get angry, Wyman stood. "I know, Rickard, that the girl means a lot to ye'. I've seen ya let her do things like ride and swing a sword that only the Mormonts or the Martells do, but… she has her duty. To marry and seal alliances. I know you know this… and she likely does to."

Closing his eyes, Rickard nodded. "Aye, she does." He knew Roose had hit the mark - the only question remaining was whether Lyanna would ever truly forgive him. Wordlessly, he walked back to his desk, picking up a quill to write a letter to Lord Baratheon.

The clash of steel filled the courtyard. Butterflies and cicadas whizzing by the flowers and trees in the gardens as the two great warriors fought brutally, muscles straining and sweat soaking them. Servants stopped whatever they were doing to watch, mesmerized. The fluid movements of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. Training blade in each hand, his wrists flicked and twirled the blunted steel. As amazingly as any mummer dancer from Braavos, pressing an attack or patching an opening in his defensive stance. Truly one of the best warriors in the world.

But if Arthur was exceptional, the Crown Prince of House Targaryen was simply astonishing. Rhaegar's silver locks sparkled in the high sun of midday, loose strands escaping from his bun to mat on his sweaty forehead. On Arthur it was all business, lips pursed in concentration - the dragon was awoken in Rhaegar, a fury crossing him as he charged. His blade striking the steel of Ser Arthur's, rapidly coming up to parry the blow from the Kingsguard's second blade. A pure rage that set alight every female with a working set of eyes watching the spectacle. Gods how they envied the Princess Elia at that moment.

Breaking off, the two sized each other up. Circling the other. Arthur's wrists twirled his swords, waiting for the attack - Rhaegar kept his presented, eyes narrowed. Waiting for an opportunity… At a perfect angle the sun glinted off his gorget, forcing Arthur to blink. Rhaegar surged, clashing against the Kingsguard's blades.

The Sword of the Morning fought back valiantly, one blade always behind his back while the other slashed and parried, but Rhaegar was a machine. Always pushing forth. Taking the initiative. With a snarl he managed to hit one sword with a downward blow, steel clattering on the ground. A roundhouse punch to the gut sent Arthur sprawling, before Rhaegar launched the killing blow.

Arthur sucked in the cool breeze from the bay, letting the fresh salt spray ease his lungs - fighting from coughing. "Son of… a bitch…" The training sword brushed against his adam's apple, one of the few weak points in his armor.

"Do you yield?" demanded Rhaegar, steel gorget rising and falling with his heaving chest. "Ser Arthur?"

"Yes, I yield." Swords clattered to the ground, the two men struggling to not collapse on the stone floor of the training ground. From the onlookers, wild cheers and applause rang out for the Crown Prince's victory. "I think only you could defeat me, your Grace."

"My goodbrother probably could," Rhaegar shrugged, grabbing a waterskin from a bench and downing the lukewarm liquid. It felt wonderful. "And I think you let me win."

Arthur gave a wan grin. "Perhaps partly, your Grace."

Rhaegar punched him in the shoulder. "Cunt." Arthur's grin only widened.

"Good job, my son." Both turned to see Queen Rhaella, smiling softly and walking to them. Behind was Ser Jaime, hand idly on the hilt of his sword.

Both bowed. "Mother."

"Your Grace."

Rhaella swatted her son's shoulder. "You're my son, so stop that." She leaned in to kiss him, and wrinkled her nose. "You reek. I'll have the servants warm you up a nice bath to wash out that sweat…"

"Mother…" Hearing Arthur and Jaime snicker at his embarrassment, Rhaegar took Rhaella's arm and began to walk her to their quarters in Maegor's Holdfast. "Must you?"

"Don't give me that," Rhaella chided. "I'm your mother, I'll always worry about you." Ever since she was ten and four, being given a screaming baby after an arduous labor in which she nearly died, Rhaella had treasured her beloved firstborn. He and Viserys being the only happiness her marriage brought her. "I saw how enraged you were. How you attacked Arthur back there. The mysterious bruises on all the Kingsguards…"

"We're quite alright, your Grace," Jaime piped up, only to be hushed by the older Arthur. He had been Rhaegar's sparring partner - victim - the day before.

Rhaella chuckled. "I know, Ser Jaime." She turned back to the Prince. "They can take it, but it's not healthy to vent your frustrations out like that." While they were still in the gardens - lush with life thanks to Princess Elia's handpicked Dornish horticulturists from the Water Gardens of Sunspear - she reached up to cup her son's cheek. "Please talk to me, my sweetling."

"There's not much to say… Father made his command, and I must live with it."

"I know you will obey him, my son. You are too dutiful not to, but that doesn't mean you have to agree with it."

"What would you have me say, mother?" Rhaegar sighed. "I already have made one woman miserable in a marriage she never wanted. Now I must subject another to it?"

It was what made Rhaegar different from most men - hells most men in their own family. Such care… he was a good man. Rhaella knew he would be a great King, but they just had to survive long enough for him to get there. "All we can do is hope, my son. Perhaps it will turn out the way you want?"

Rhaegar snorted. "That's bloody likely." Sarcasm drifted to sorrow, hanging his head as they reached the Holdfast. He hated exposing his emotions - the lessons his father drilled into him years before held firm - but his mother was different. A refuge in the darkest storm. "Never will I know what real love is. Hold a real marriage with real intimacy. Elia… she'll never love me like that and I can't blame her."

"Elia loves you. I know she does." Gods, both of them were still so young when they were betrothed. Denied any chance to even get to know each other before Aerys was demanding heirs, Prince Doran mining her for information useful to Dorne, and both of them the target of the King's vicious japes. It just… forced them to give up even trying to bond.

It all infected Rhaegar's head, always too kind and sentimental for his own good. "I know how unhappy she is, mother. I've seen it since we were forced together by a goodfather who calls her and our children nothing but trash every single fucking day!"

His pain hitting her like a knife to the heart, Rhaella tried to comfort her son. Knowing how the depths of Aerys' japes and slander hurt him, knowing that he couldn't reply. Knowing it would only be worse if he tried to defend Aerys' targets.

But Rhaegar wouldn't calm down. "The Stark daughter… I just know she'll hate me, and like Elia she'll be completely right to." Blinking back the anguish, he composed himself once more. "I need to be alone."

"Rhaegar!" Rhaella called out to him, but it was too late. He had already disappeared, probably to his chamber to play the harp.

"He'll be alright, your Grace," Ser Jaime stated, pressing a hand to her shoulder despite Arthur's disapproving look.

Smiling despite herself, Rhaella patted the offered hand. Glad for someone's comfort. Especially Jaime's, fond as she was of the newest Kingsguard. "No he won't, I'm afraid." Her boy had the weight of the Kingdoms on his shoulders. The same weight that had driven Aerys to madness - and Rhaegar only denied himself the loving support structure needed to save himself from his father's fate.

Arthur winced. "I know him. He'll give this girl everything, at the expense of his own heart."

Nodding, Rhaella closed her eyes, praying for a miracle.

"She really is a gorgeous horse."

Softly brushing the luscious silver mane hanging down from its neck, Lyanna stroked the horse's muzzle. Rewarded with nicks of contentment. "Her name is Winter," the daughter of House Stark told her new handmaiden. "She's mine."

Dacey Mormont could only nod. It really was a beautiful beast. A solid silver-grey with smatterings of darker grey spots on its haunches, the mare was as close to a thoroughbred Crakehall or Dornish breed as could be found in the north. "How long have you had Winter?"

"It was a gift from my father when I was ten and one, just a foal. Told me to raise her and care for her myself. Been mine ever since… isn't that right Winter?" Further strokes brought a delighted neigh, he horse tilting its head to the side in order to nuzzle Lyanna's hair. "Winter…" she giggled. "Stop it." Dacey couldn't help but laugh at the both hilarious and heartwarming scene.

Both highborn northern ladies wore dresses, but they were streaked with grass stains and little rips from the brambles and branches that adorned the riding trails through the Wolfswood. When Nan bugged Lyanna incessantly about choosing a Lady in Waiting, the idea was for the more graceful northern ladies such as Wylla Manderly or Sybelle Locke… not the raven-haired she-warrior of Bear Island, niece of Lord Jeor Mormont and… practically exactly like Lyanna herself. A week had passed and they were already fast friends - and giving Nan grey hairs. Be careful what you wish for.

"The land's too flat for my taste, but I do like being able to ride… without inhibitions," Dacey laughed, stroking the hide of her own horse. "Anything else worth exploring?"

Lyanna fished out an apple from her pocket - a precious commodity in Winterfell, coming from the Vale - and cut it in thirds. One for herself, one to hand to Dacey, and one for Winter to enjoy. "There's the Crypts, but father doesn't like any of us going in there…"

"You're ten and seven. What's stopping you?"

Shrugging, Lyanna took a bite of her apple slice. "I don't much like it there either. Otherwise, there's this waterfall 'bout an hour's ride north. My brothers and I like to swim in the water there - it's heated with hot springs"

That put a smile on Dacey's face. "Sounds like a blast. Perhaps…" The smile turned sly. "Perhaps we should invite some of these comley guards for a real fun time."

Hearing what Dacey was suggesting - the women of Bear Island known for fierceness and… more - she simply blushed. "I don't think that would be wise." Her wild personality had its limits. It just caused Dacey to laugh louder.

Their conversation in the stables was cut off by a visitor. "My Lady Stark." A member of the household guard bowed. "Lord Stark wishes your presence in his solar." Lyanna blinked, sharing a quizzical look with Dacey. Her father usually would seek her out herself for anything normal, so this was quite serious. "This way, my Lady. I shall escort you."

Rickard Stark was seated at his desk, quill in hand as he scribbled on a sheaf of parchment. The ironwood was piled high with various dispatches and ledgers, touching on everything from grainary yields to congratulations to Lord Karstark for the birth of his first daughter. Growing up among the Lords of the North, Lyanna knew plenty who could barely read or write, instead leaving others to handle the work for them while they hunted or sparred. Not her father - he did the work himself, and made sure each of his children were well read and had excellent calligraphy.

He didn't notice her entry, so Lyanna cleared her throat. "You summoned me, father."

Looking up, Rickard smiled - one that didn't reach his eyes. Uh oh. "Dearest daughter, please." He rose from his desk in respect, motioning to a chair across from him. "Have a seat. We have something important to discuss."

With trepidation, Lyanna complied. Casting her father a wary look - he was never this formal with her. "Do I need to worry?..." Suddenly she froze, shaking from fear. "Is it Ned? Did something happen to him?" Even so far away, Lyanna was the closest to him.

Rickard raised his hands, shaking his head. "No… not at all… well, it does involve him, but your brother is alright, I promise." Lyanna visibly relaxed, though was still guarded. "I received request for your hand in marriage, the most prominent one."

Lyanna froze, the news rocking her just as strongly as had her worry for Ned's health - though in a different way. Requests from many lords for betrothals had poured in for years, but all were dismissed by her father. It was something Lyanna ultimately dreaded but took lightly since all so far were ridiculous. How her father had laughed when old Walder Frey wanted to betroth her to his son Lothar… already she could tell this was different.

"Who… who is he?" she finally croaked out.

"Robert of House Baratheon, the newly designated Lord of Storm's End and Lord Paramount of the Stormlands." A noble, august house. Any maiden daughter couldn't do much better. "Ned suggested the match, given he was fostered with Jon Arryn alongside him."

But Lyanna didn't care about how prestigious such a betrothal was. Robert Baratheon… the Stormlands… You couldn't get farther from Winterfell if one tried, and it was a common saying in the North that the further south one went the less value a woman really had - Dorne aside, from what Lyanna heard it was an accurate statement. "You're considering this, father?"

"Of course, my daughter. Brandon is marrying Lady Tully, the Lord of the Vale thinks Ned is the son he never had. A marriage with the Lord of Storm's End grants our House with influence we haven't had since Cregan Stark went south during the Dance of Dragons." He sighed as Lyanna started to take in deep breaths, trembling. "Calm yourself Lyanna, I'm not going to marry you to a complete stranger." He rose from his chair and rounded the desk, sitting beside Lyanna. "We are to leave in two days for the Riverlands. There's a tourney in Harrenhal the King is throwing that we will be intending. Your brother Eddard will bring Lord Baratheon there as I will you. There you will get to know him in preparation for an official betrothal."

Two days… Harrenhal… official betrothal… This was happening. Lyanna felt as if chains were materializing out of thin air to shackle her. "What if I don't want to live in the south?" she asked, voice halting, mind in a surreal daze. "What if I don't want to be married?"

Rickard's voice grew hard. "I know I've been lenient on you, Lyanna. You remind me so much of your mother that I couldn't help but give in to even your most… outlandish demands and requests. Myself, Brandon, Ned, Benjen… seven hells, every one of us in Winterfell loves your fiery personality, but you are still my daughter. What is expected of you is different from what is expected of Brandon or Ned. I may have been neglectful of what was truly important."

Red blinded her vision, her father's words like a knife to the heart. "You do not mean that. How could you want to chain me up like some caged bird?"

"You will do your duty, Lyanna. As a daughter of House Stark, you will fulfill what you have been raised to be." The Lord of Winterfell softened. "I know that you can do it." He kissed her head. "Now find Lady Mormont and pack. It'll be a busy few days."

Lyanna didn't remember how she had left her father's solar… or how she ended up in the great hall. Everything was a blur, mind whirring with the suddeness of her destiny being foisted on her. Betrothed… betrothed… two days… "Lya!" Blinking, Lyanna looked up find the thatch of sandy blonde hair of her brother, seated upon one of the tables scarfing down a meat pie. Taking after their mother's family, the fair yet rugged looks of the heir to Winterfell made many a maiden swoon. "Come over here and sit with yer' brother!"

While normally she'd smirk and punch him in the shoulder, the tempest inside of Lyanna caused her to just nod dumbly. Wordlessly, she took a seat. Barely listening as Brandon began bragging about the new sword the smiths had forged for him, how many wildling bandits he would slay with it… "Brother, does Ned talk to you often?"

She had cut him off mid-sentence, Brandon gulping down a bite of pie to peer at her. "Umm… as often as he talks to you. Why?"

"What do you know about Robert Baratheon?" Ned never told her about him - if anyone knew the gossip of rumors from Ned or otherwise, it was Brandon. There were bound to be a lot of it in Riverrun when he went south to meet his intended.

Brandon's eyes went wide. "Ah… so father accepted."

Lyanna stared. "You knew?!"

Her brother shrugged. "Ned and Robert were always close, even if he was two years older." Brandon suddenly laughed. "Ha, I can't imagine sour old Ned being friends with Robert! He already has a bastard girl in the Eyrie, and that's only the one we know of…"

But whatever he cared to say was lost on Lyanna. "What?!" Several servants looked up to the screeching of their lady, though they quickly averted their gazes. "He has a bastard?!"

"Oh…" Brandon had the respect to look away sheepishly. "I wasn't supposed to say that."

"You were going to keep this from me?" Gods… Lord Baratheon has a bastard… and only one is known. Perhaps more? It was like a warhammer slamming into her.

"It's not my place to speak ill of someone's… intended. Most wives would want to be kept in ignorance…" Seeing her anger, her hurt, Brandon reached out to clasp her hands. "Lya, please don't be upset. It's common for highborns to bear bastards, especially in their wild youth. Marriage has a way of settling these men down."

She ripped her hands away, shaking her head fiercely. "Once a whoremonger, always a whoremonger!" Lyanna stood, eyes red with unshed tears. "I don't want to get married! I don't want to live in chains!" Before her brother could stop her she dashed out. Servants giving her a wide berth.

As soon as she disappeared out of the hall, Brandon ran a hand down his face. "Thank the gods Catelyn was enamored with me." The way of betrothals in Westeros left much to be desired - first impressions were everything, and even then a whoremongering or cold spouse could end any chance at even affection before it started. Anyone Ned was friends with had to be someone decent, but the facts spoke for themselves. "Robert's gonna break her heart, the cunt." There was literally nothing he could do about it though. Who's a better match than Lord Robert Baratheon?

Scrambling into her private chambers, nearly stumbling on the hem of her long dress half a dozen times, Lyanna slammed the door behind her. Latching it firmly shut. She wanted no companions, no visitors. The desolate, terrified girl needed her space - needed time to calm herself. Lungs inhaled a sucking, deep breath… but she did not calm down. The tempest within Lyanna continued to howl and churn with the force to annihilate a massive sailing carrack.

She threw herself upon her bed, facedown and yelling into her goose-down pillow. Her father's and brother's words pounded the inside of her skull like hammers.

" will get to know him in preparation for an official betrothal..."

"...He already has a bastard girl in the Eyrie…"

"No!" she yelled into the soft mass. "I do not want to marry Robert Baratheon!" Normally so strong, so determined and composed, the weight of her young age and her sheltered life hit Lyanna fully. "I do not want it, father!" All the words she was too afraid to say to him in person tumbling out.

When conflicted and scared, unable to mount Winter and flee into the Wolfswood, Lyanna reached into the ironwood dresser and pulled out her most beloved possession. A leather-bound book, several years old. Slightly worn from overuse, parchment starting to color with age, but otherwise in perfect condition. Cover devoid of scratches or cracks, binding tight, and barely even a single stain on the pages - such was how Lyanna treasured the tome.

It had been a gift from Ned and Jon Arryn for her nameday the one time Lyanna visited the Vale - her brother knowing her uncharacteristic love of books and knowledge and his ward knowing the perfect text to give a wild youth. The Dancing Queen. Unlike the dry Maester's tomes that Luwin instructed them with, this one was a 'novel.' Written in a flowing, dynamic style of prose and plot by then Prince Viserys, later King Viserys II. A tale of the Dance of Dragons, of the great Queen Rhaenyra and her uncle-husband Prince Daemon.

Oh had she read this book. Read and reread it more times than she could count. Lyanna knew every line by heart, but the book still sprang out at her each time she opened a page. A tale of love and of tragedy, of a completely devoted husband to his Queen and love. Of the hero Prince Daemon fighting atop a dragon to his untimely death above the God's Eye against his kin. One that rode a dragon far larger and more feared, yet one Daemon did anyway… to protect his Queen and beloved.

Oh did Lyanna idolize such a man.

Clutching the precious book to her chest, tears tumbled down Lyanna's cheeks. Dropping her fierceness, her wild ways, her strength. Beneath all was a spirited little girl that only desired to be free. To ride through the woods with the wind whipping through her hair - both literally and metaphorically. But what man would want that?

Much as they were looked down as savages and country bumpkins by most of Westeros, the northerners knew things or two about high culture. Lyanna knew what marrying a southern Lord would entail. Endless rows of parties and luncheons. Hosting visiting highborn wives while managing the domestic life of a castle. Pumping out heirs for a husband that probably wanted her as a status symbol. Lyanna was no fool - what her father and mother had… it was rare to the point of lampoon.

The life of a southern Lady Wife would be one of chains, especially for one with the indignity to suffer an unfaithful husband. To which Lord Robert Baratheon of Storm's End apparently was - what else would compel a man to father a bastard? Perhaps she was a bit too harsh, but there was just something… an instinct telling Lyanna her first reaction was right here.

Why would my dear Ned even suggest such a man?

A servant knocked on the door, but Lyanna didn't even answer. Waiting with silent sobs until the knocking stopped and whomever it was went away. The words she had yelled at Brandon played over and over in her head.

I don't want to get married…

I don't want to get married…

I… I can't live in chains.

And another realization that seemed to have punctuated all her behavior. Her reluctance to marriage.

I want love. I want my Daemon.

Each time Lyanna read and reread her favorite book, the dynamic and passionate Queen Rhaenyra became her. And each time, Prince Daemon became the manifestation of the future husband she prayed the gods - old and new - would grant her. One loving and completely devoted. One who would give a caring hand in teaching her how to truly become the kind of lady only she could be. Respectful and even excited to her passions and desires, a man she would fall for completely and he with her.

She was a proud lady of House Stark. Blood of the wolf, ice made flesh, but Lyanna couldn't care at this point. There she laid on the bed, letting the tears flow.

I just want my Daemon.

Chapter Text

The clatter of gold dragons rattled on the worn beech of the bartop as Lord Robert Baratheon slammed them down. "A toast for everyone!" he boomed, flushed face curled up in a roaring grin. "In the name of my goodbrother to be!"

"YEEEEERRRRRR!" whooped the entire tavern, mugs hoisted in the air for whatever the seven hells the man was yelling about. In the back of the rather large establishment, a pair of fiddlers picked up a jaunty tune, patrons beginning to rise spontaneously in dance - free refills were always something to celebrate.

"I'M GETTIN' MARRIED!" The Lord of Storm's End and Lord Paramount of the Stormlands belied his statements by grabbing a barmaid, kissing her cheek and tickling her skin with his bushy moustache and prickly chin beard.

Shaking his head, Eddard Stark chuckled as he went into his own mug. Letting the bitter liquid slosh down his gullet. "Gods, it's good to taste some decent country ale."

Seated across from him, Lord Jon Arryn of the Eyrie blinked at him. "The best arbor golds or Dornish reds in my cellars weren't to your liking?" He clutched his heart atop the plate armor of the Vale knight he had been in his youth. "Dear Ned, you've doth wounded me."

Ned sputtered into his drink, froth showering the table as he laughed. The straightlaced and quiet Lord Paramount of the Vale was thought to be a humorless scold, but the young man considered Arryn's de facto son knew that it wasn't true at all. "You can take the northman out of the north, but never the north out of the northman."

"Don't I know it, lad." Lord Arryn's precise speaking was out of place in the roadside tavern, but the honorable man that the tavern owner insisted on providing room and board to nevertheless was an honored guest. "You should stay with us, Ned. I'd rather you not go to the Twins."

Just as he placed his empty mug down did a barmaid - the one Robert was flirting with earlier - replace it with a full one. Sashaying her hips as she left, hoping to tempt the young northman. Ned didn't take the bait. "As much as I love you and your company, my Lord, I am too eager to see my family."

"I know. Just be careful… both there and at the tourney." Arryn gave him a somber frown. "Most southern keeps are filled with snakes. Men meet their ends in the worst ways, gods know honorable men. I'll try to keep you out of trouble and teach you to identify duplicity when we meet again at Harrenhal, but keep your father away from the King's court. Starks don't fare well south of the Neck, I'm afraid." Ned only nodded, heeding Jon Arryn's warning before his friend sauntered over.

Whooping yet again, eyes wide and speech slurred, Robert threw an arm around Ned's shoulder. His over-the-top, gregarious amiability only enhanced by the ale and wine coursing through his system. "Ned, my man. You are like a brother to me, and soon we're literally going to be brothers!"

While he would never truly be comfortable with the way men would descend into… chaos after enough drink - he had seen it happen to Brandon, and it always irked his more straitlaced personality - Ned just laughed. Robert's… zest for life did rub off on him. He enjoyed allowing himself letting loose, one of the reasons he was drawn to the Stormlands Lord in the first place. "I can't think of anything I'd want more, Robert."

"Your sister sounds perfect, Ned. She'll be the perfect wife for me, Lady of Storm's End." The young Lord could picture it in his head. A future he had grown enamored of since first being told of his friend's younger sister. Since first proposing the betrothal. "A woman fit for a Baratheon, givin' me plenty of stag sons with wolfsblood running through their veins!"

Robert Baratheon wasn't a person known for his wit or intelligence, but he possessed a sort of crafty instinct that kept even his impulsive nature under wraps when such was most needed. But when he drank and when he boasted - especially when considered due for the man that wanted for nothing growing up - such craft tended to vanish. It charmed many a lady and many a knight or bannerman. It wasn't something that Ned particularly enjoyed, and he knew Lyanna wouldn't.

Sensing this, Jon Arryn reached out and placed a hand on Robert's shoulder. "Now, now, dear boy. If she is to be your lady wife, you'll have to give her the respect you would give yourself. Any man could sire heirs, but only a good one can get their wife's affection." Ned smiled at his foster father's words. Such had been one of the first lessons of honor he had learned in the Eyrie, and it served him well to this day.

Blinking, Robert looked at Ned with shock. "Well what am me saying, Ned? Of course I'll treat 'er with respect!" He punched Ned in the arm, laughing sheepishly. "She'll 'ant fer nothin'. Dresses, jewels, flowers, whatever 'dat stuff women put on 'imselves to smell nice… whatever she 'ants I'll give it to 'er!" For a naturally boastful man, this came completely sincere.

Lord Arryn thought so, smiling softly as he drank his own mug of ale.

"Thank you, Robert." Ned cuffed him on the back, the two knocking back their round. "I look forward to our families uniting.

The fact that Lyanna likely wanted something other than fancy clothes and perfumed rooms danced in the back of his mind.

"... the information turned out to be faulty." Clad in his chainmail armor and cloak - clearly for the commanding effect for his visit to the den of snakes - Master of War Mallor Rykker glanced at Varys before shifting back to the head of the table. "Rumors of a secret male Blackfyre pretender in Volantis turned out to be a mere extortion scheme."

Expression placid and unthreatening, Lord Varys only let out a sigh. "The songs weren't as loud or melodious, but it would be an abrogation of my responsibilities if I didn't pass what my birds sang to me to this council."

At the head of the table, in the seat reserved for the monarch, Rhaegar Targaryen pinched the bridge of his nose. Nursing yet another headache. "Well, thank the Gods that it turned out to be nothing." Much of the upswing in the fortunes of Westeros had been due to the fact that House Blackfyre and its ilk had been wiped out to the last man. His father had fought bravely in that war early in his reign, earning the sword that now rested on Rhaegar's hip. "One additional problem that we don't have to deal with."

The men seated around the table nodded at their Prince, each guarded but with the clearly recognizable relief that it was Rhaegar and not Aerys that sat upon the head - Aerys never visited the small council anymore, but his specter served to stifle dissent and free dialogue. Yet another headache for Rhaegar.

"Taxes from the Westerlands are late again," said Lord Mace Tyrell of Highgarden, Master of Coin. Bright, vibrant green and gold of his doublet and breeches making him look like a stuffed peacock, the man wasn't the brightest fire in the hearth but competent enough to manage the full treasury. "I've sent two ravens to Lord Tywin, but have gotten no response." Fuck. Why do the Gods do this to me?

A fist crashed against the table. "He's still smarming that his Grace saw fit to kick him out on his ass." Hand of the King Jon Connington was a man of dueling emotions. It oscillated over which ruled over him, his love for the crown or his hate of its enemies - which today was firmly centered on House Lannister of Casterly Rock. "Tywin is plotting against the crown."

Of course he would agree with father. Did a realm at peace ever seem so chaotic? Rhaegar reasoned it hadn't been this jumbled and tinged with fear since the last days of Viserys I's rule, at the height of anxiety over the succession - that ended with the Dance of Dragons. "I will not allow accusations of plotting without evidence over delays in tax revenue." It irked him that he even had to spell this out. "I'll write to Lord Tywin myself. He can't ignore the summons of someone that outranks him in status." Mace was his equal in status, and his clear inferior in cunning. Seeing Connington's mouth begin to open, Rhaegar held up his hand. "That's enough, Jon."

Mouth closing, Connington seethed at the verbal scolding. "Of course, your Grace." The two had before been as thick as thieves, but the stress of managing Aerys' increasingly deluded commands - as well as something Rhaegar couldn't figure out but that had happened upon his marriage to Elia - were beginning to fray the once strong friendship. I don't have time to deal with this. As the Tourney at Harrenhal approached, the Crown Prince's patience was wearing thin.

"One last issue to deal with. I would like to speak with Lord Mooton about the backlog in criminal trials once he was out of his sickbed." Instituting criminal tribunals for accused felons in King's Landing had been one of his father's ideas from early in his reign. It had been successful, but the sickness of Master of Laws Edmyn Mooton over a month before was threatening to unravel it.

No one answered for quite a while. Silence hanging over the council chamber. "My Prince…" It was finally Varys who spoke. "Lord Mooton has gone with the Gods several days ago."

Rhaegar stared, eyes wide and jaw like a gaping fish. "What?!" Rage began to build up. "Why didn't anyone tell me?!" No one responded, and Rhaegar knew the answer to his own question. Head pounding from rage, he waved his hand. "Dismissed. Everyone out… wait, Lord Varys. A moment."

Hands clasped together under his flowing Lysene robes, Varys' piercing eyes twinkled at him with an enigma of thoughts. "Yes, my Prince?"

Voice low - even though the rest of the council was gone, the walls still had ears - Rhaegar asked the question that had been plaguing his mind since the meeting first started. "Have your birds heard anything of my intended."

Varys nodded. Expecting it and with information ready. "The north and the vale are filled with birdsong about the Lady Lyanna. Apparently your father's nephew, the young Lord of Storm's End, is seeking a marriage alliance. Lord Rickard is inclined to accept, though is putting it off until after the tourney."

Normally Rhaegar concealed his emotions from the Master of Whisperers, but this subject hit too close to home. Ashen, he just slumped in his chair. "Thank you, Lord Varys. You may go."

"Glad to be of service, my Prince."

Soon it was just him and Ser Arthur. "If you brood any harder," the Sword of the Morning said after a long silence, "They'll hear it on Dragonstone."

Rhaegar actually chuckled at that, but his humor didn't reach his eyes. "Just perfect, Arthur. Not only is my father practically commanding me to earn the ire of the North by stealing their daughter, Dorne for dishonoring their daughter, and the Westerlands for essentially branding them an enemy to surround, now I'll be punching my cousin and the Stormlands in the face by stealing his betrothed."

"They aren't betrothed yet."

A snort left the Crown Prince. "You know what they say about Steffon Baratheon's sons? Their father was a tempermental, dour, crafty cunt. Robert got the first trait, Stannis got the second, and apparently Renly got the third. My cousin will not take this slight lightly - yet another fire mountain for me to deal with." He sighed. "First Lord Mooton and now this." Rhaegar covered his face, willing the shit to go away.

"You know they were afraid of speaking out until they knew you would be hearing their concerns, right?" The specter of Aerys and his… unpredictable behavior had a chilling effect on King's Landing.

"Yes, Arthur, I know." At least his Kingsguard would always be honest with him. "Gods. I miss Dragonstone. I still had responsibilities and authority there, but at least it was quieter."

Grinning softly at his friend's frustration. Arthur patted him on the shoulder. "You're a dragon, my Prince. Be a dragon." While Rhaegar was fond of brooding, cowering and bitching about everything like a weak cunt wasn't the great man he had the pleasure of serving. "And you should start by telling the Lady Elia of the reason for the tourney. - the true reason for the tourney."

On this, Rhaegar was looking forward more to dealing with his temperamental Baratheon cousin. "You really are a cunt, Arthur."

"When you're brooding, someone has to be," Arthur laughed.

Leaning back in her rocking chair, the soft Dornish lullabies wafted from Princess Elia's lips. Her hand stroking the chubby back and head of her son as he fed from her breast. The wife of the Crown Prince concentrated on the song, trying to ignore how her beloved Aegon would occasionally bite down on her nipple. A natural occurrence as he teethed, though her son was far less… vicious as his older sister, a hellsraiser even as an infant.

Rhaegar's ministrations in that region were far more pleasing, though those were mutually few and far between.

"It shocks me that you do this yourself," said her lady in waiting. Ellaria Sand may have been the bastard daughter of the Lord of Hellholt and thus not as august as the trueborn Elia, but she had the arrogance and love of luxury that would make a Martell blush. "You're the wife of the future King. Wet nurses wouldn't be hard to find."

"I like doing it myself," Elia shot back. Ellaria was a good lady in waiting and fun enough to tolerate her eccentricities - flushed stableboys and trips to Chataya's brothel on the Street of Silk were tacitly ignored by the smirking Princess - but in this she went to far. "I love all of my children. No other pair of breasts will my son touch." Aegon began to fuss, so Elia pulled him off her breast, cooing and patting his back.

The 'Sand Snake' as many in the Sunspear court had called her only smirked. "Until he grows up. With the blood of the dragon and the viper… I doubt he won't have a trail of bastards through the Seven Kingdoms."

Elia gave her another glare. "Bite your tongue. One whoremonger in my brother Oberyn is enough for House Martell." Even at Rhaegar's age, the Second Prince was notorious for dozens of heartbroken women and men in his wake - Elia was sure he had two bastard daughters already.

"I tell you again, I must meet this brother of yours. He sounds like quite a good time." The toothy grin Ellaria sent her only made Elia shake her head, laughing.

Luckily Elia - now rocking her son softly to sleep - had covered her breast, for Ser Gerold walked into the solar. "His Grace the Crown Prince," announced the Kingsguard. Behind walked Rhaegar, Ser Arthur trailing behind him. At once Ellaria curtseyed - Elia did so as well, though her movements slow and not as supplicant.

It wasn't lost on either of them that they lacked the spark of love enough to make such formalities unnecessary.

"My Lady," Rhaegar bowed in return, nothing if not respectful. The perfect prince and husband. "Gerold, Arthur, wait outside."

Elia understood his tone. "Ellaria, you're dismissed. Go enjoy yourself." Licking her lips, Ellaria curtseyed graciously - swiping a money purse off an end table as she left ahead of the Kingsguards. Chataya's tonight. Ellaria didn't waste money if she wished to seduce the male servants. As the door closed, they were alone. "How was the Small Council meeting?" A sigh left her husband. "That bad?" Rhaegar promised that when he was King, she would sit on the meetings whenever possible - till then, they always discussed the matters of state afterwards.

"Worse. Lord Mooton's been dead for days. They were too scared to tell my father, and they dare not propose a successor without him signing off."

"This can't continue indefinitely, husband."

"No, it cannot." Rhaegar's eyes drifted to little Aegon, sleeping peacefully. "May I hold him?"

Smiling softly, Elia outstretched her arms. "I can't deny the Crown Prince the gift of holding his newborn son." Gently taking the baby in his hold, Rhaegar bounced with him, speaking in High Valyrian as he stroked Aegon's cheek. Here was the mighty Rhaegar Targaryen, said to be the greatest Targaryen warrior since Daemon Blackfyre, reduced to a sentimental maiden by his children. It was the same with Rhaenys, and it warmed Elia's heart.

Not that it was enough.

The Dornish beauty had spent years trying to figure out where they had gone wrong - why there was no spark, no matter the two beautiful children they had. No matter how many times they shared a bed. No matter how close friends and confidants they had become. Sure, every young highborn maiden in Westeros had heard of the dashing Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Even in her sickbed in the Water Gardens, afflicted from everything from the yellow pox to childhood wheezing, Elia held the fantasies of a dashing dragon prince sweeping her off her feet. So when her brother Doran announced she was to marry Rhaegar, she had been quite enamored of the idea.

But neither Doran nor the King treated it as a wedding, more like a business arrangement. Elia had been barred from even seeing her groom, instead subjected to bizzare sessions with Aerys and the Grand Maester where the latter inspected her for childbearing potential heirs while the rather micromanaging King watched. Complaints to Doran went nowhere, her previously loving brother instead browbeating her of the need to both produce and heir immediately while smuggling information about court back to Sunspear. By the time the wedding happened - an equally subdued Rhaegar clearly subjected to some of the same treatment - all the magic had been lost.

Elia married a stranger, no chance to even getting to know him and develop a connection. Their wedding night had been resultantly cold, her tears at losing her maidenhead only dampened by how considerate he was. It wasn't his fault. They had tried, oh how they tried. Romantic dinners, walks, flowery talking, Rhaegar was the perfect husband and had repeatedly told her she was the perfect wife, but the spark wasn't there.

Smothered by the King himself. Always the japes, the constant insults and put downs - making the poor girl of ten and six feel like some abomination and breeding machine. No matter how many times Rhaegar, Rhaella, or even Elia herself told her that it was a lie, the King's cruelty had infected her. By the time the King returned from captivity in Duskendale less gregarious and quieter. Crueler but more prone to brood, it was too late. Our marriage is a duty. Nothing more. Their times together being that of friends. Their children making them light up, but not as a happy couple among their family. The lack of a spark in their bedroom, pleasurable but never making love. Always a duty, bland and unexciting.

Rhaegar was considerate of course, never making her do anything that she wasn't comfortable with, but she wasn't a cruel. Elia could see in his deep violet eyes the longing for a real marriage, the true passion and pleasure in the act of real lovemaking. Find his "other half."

And the parent in her - the mother of a Princess and the Crown Prince - such worries scared her deeply. Threatening to put a wedge into their marriage, as weak as it was.

Breaking through her thoughts, Rhaegar pressed a kiss to Aegon's forehead - underneath the wisps of silver hair. "I love you, my son." Gently, he handed her back to Elia. "He'll grow up to be a strong prince."

"That he will." Still able to read her husband well, Elia noticed him rather nervous. "Is there something else you've been meaning to tell me, Rhaegar?"

Rubbing the back of his neck, sighing deeply, Rhaegar took a seat in the plush chair beside her. Reaching out to put a hand on her knee. "You have heard of the tourney in Harrenhal my father has scheduled for my nameday, correct?"

She blinked, confused. "Yes I have. My servants have just begun packing…"

"Please stay here, Elia." His eyes were pleading. Begging even. "Please."

This was starting to worry her. "Why would your wife not accompany you to your own nameday tourney?" Most wives would have chalked it up to their husband having a mistress, but Rhaegar would never.

He looked as if it was bringing him physical pain to talk. "My father has grown delusional and paranoid. He thinks Lord Tywin is plotting the Doom of Valyria upon us."

Elia furrowed her brows. "While I don't care for Lord Tywin, I doubt he's capable of that," she japed, but the serious frown on his face didn't go away. "What does that have to do with me?"

"He prepared a rather cunning plot to surround Lord Tywin by binding the North, Riverlands, and Vale to House Targaryen through a marriage alliance." Not a coward by any measure, it looked as if he was forcing himself to look into her eyes. "He repealed the laws of Jaehaerys the Conciliator governing multiple marriage and ordered me betrothed to the daughter of Lord Rickard Stark."

There was silence. Nothing but the wafting of the wind blowing from Blackwater Bay and the soft squirms of Aegon in Elia's arms. No sound left the Princess' mouth, while Rhaegar waited just as quietly for an answer. Most would answer questioning what the other person said, but both knew that Elia heard and understood.

What had to be several minutes passed before Elia finally responded. "And the tourney is supposed to be for…"

"To make the announcement to the Realms." Rhaegar was just as uncomfortable about it as she expected him to be."I think he's enjoying this."

A biting laugh left Elia's lips. "Well of course he does." She shook her head, angry grin on her face. "Gods forbid there's some happiness in Westeros - he's always there to squash it as he did with us!"

Rhaegar's eyes opened, frantic. "Please, my dear. Don't speak so loudly."

"Why the fuck shouldn't I?!" Elia was beyond angry. She was furious and would no longer let anyone try to placate her. "Every damn day I had to put up with his abuse, making my life miserable - and now he's bringing another woman into it! Dishonoring me and my children! I don't believe you, Rhaegar. You probably said nothing to him and went along with it as you always do!"

"Do you think I have a choice?!" Rhaegar hissed, trying to keep calm for his son's sake. "My father is probably looking for an excuse to toss me aside and make Viserys his heir. The poor boy is still young enough to be poisoned by his toxicity."

"So to preserve your claim you condemn Rhaenys and Aegon to lose their birthright to the children you sire from this… northerner!" The last word sounded like the vilest epithet.

The Crown Prince knew what was bothering her the most. "Aegon will still be my heir. I would never condemn Rhaenys or he to the life of a bastard… even thinking they could be lesser than any other children I have." Her rage seemed to dim - replaced with a more… simmering irritation. As if Elia was trying to process a way she could live with the newest slight Aerys delivered her. "Elia…"

"Leave me, Rhaegar." She sighed, trying to calm down. "I know you wouldn't have done this on your own, and I am grateful you don't intend to cast me aside or disinherit our children, but I need time to process this."


Her eyes glared at him. "Rhaegar, take Aegon and leave!" She sucked in a deep breath. "Please." Nodding, standing up, sad eyes cast down to her before her husband picked up their son and disappeared towards the nursery.

Just sitting there for what seemed like hours, Elia finally stood. Walking across the solar in a haze. Barely seeing herself in the mirror as she took the red wine from her homeland out of the flagon to pour it in the glass. Bringing it to her lips, draining the entire goblet. Moving to fill the glass again, only to stare at the flagon with hooded eyes.

Eyes that soon grew red.

With a snarl that she didn't know she could make, the goblet flew across the room. Smashing against the far wall into a million pieces.

Walder Frey was a pig. And, as Lyanna found out within four seconds after being introduced to the man, a lecherous pig.

The great hall of the Twins was packed, over a hundred onlookers dancing and feasting on the fat of the northern riverlands - quite fertile even as summer morphed slowly into autumn. Lord Frey had rolled out the welcome wagon for what had to be his most important visitor in years, having greeted her father with full pomp and circumstance. Each of his children, sworn swords, and his - third… fourth wife? Lyanna couldn't be bothered to remember - were trotted out. Walder at the arriving line personally. His gracious kiss of Lyanna's hand made her skin crawl, as did the obvious lust in his eyes as he looked over her body.

Fleeing the high table was a necessity. Abandoning it for the safety of the main floor, where the lesser Northern lords and her father's bannermen enjoyed their meals and drinks. Lyanna knew these uncouth, honest brawlers and was comfortable with them. What she couldn't stand was the slimy Lord of the Twins offering to marry off both of his youngest daughters to her father and youngest brother along with each girl's weight in silver.

All blessings to him, Rickard politely declined. Lyanna would have declined as well, only with more choice words. Perhaps that's why I'm not the Lady of Winterfell. Finesse wasn't exactly her style.

It appeared from a cursory scan of the hall that the rest of her family and retinue didn't share such reservations about being among the Freys as Lyanna did. Rickard was chatting with Lord Walder about this and that - if he was perturbed by the rejected offer, he didn't show it. Brandon was impressing a group of giggling girls with a tale of fighting the wildlings with Willam Dustin and Martyn Cassel, the maidens ooing and ahing at his boasts and wild waving of his arms - utterly eating it up.

Off to the right, Dacey was shamelessly flirting with one of Walder's sons. The boy obviously desperate to get under her skirts. Lyanna smirked to herself. He'd have to wait for the snows in Dorne. Dacey might have been a flirt, but the Freys obviously didn't know what the rest of the North did - Mormont women spread their legs for no one lest they proved themselves. Lyanna envied her lady in waiting for being able to enjoy life anywhere. Much as she wanted to, the she-wolf just felt… suffocated in the south. Without the wide open spaces and looser minds of the north.

Further laughter brought her back to Brandon, leading a giggling Moyra Frey out of the hall. Her father seemed not to notice, but the beady eyes of Walder Frey noticed all. Lyanna rolled her eyes. Her older brother and his antics - he'd better watch out for himself.

"Seems Lord Walder made his offer to the wrong Stark."

Lyanna's head whipped around to find the smiling face of her middle brother staring back at her. "NED!" With a rather girlish squeal - she'd deny it later- Lyanna leapt out of her seat and embraced her long lost brother, burying her face in the crook of his neck. "When did you get here? Why are you here?!" The questions tumbled from her lips rapidly, so excited she was to see Ned. Pulling back, her grin was infectious. Only finally seeing Ned could end the morose sadness that had engulfed her since before leaving Winterfell. "I thought you were travelling with the Arryn column to Harrenhal?"

Ned grinned, just as happy to be here as Lyanna. "Well I was, but I couldn't bear the chance at having to wait any more weeks to see my beloved sister." Squeeing, Lyanna embraced her brother yet again. Only wishing that Benjen were there so that the family could reunite. "Lord Arryn is heading there with Robert and I'll see them again at the tourney."

With the mention of "Robert," Lyanna's newfound happiness burned into ashes. The light in her eyes darkened, smile shifting into a scowl that caused Ned to recoil. "Brother…" she said as icily as the coldest northern winter. "May we speak outside the hall?"

Blinking, unable to know what turned their joyous reunion to hells in a split second, Ned could only nod. Face holding the expression of a deer caught right before an arrow pierced its hide. "Sure, Lya. Follow me." Quietly, melting into the cacophony of the crowd, he led her out to the hallways. Winding through lines of servants till they reached a secluded alcove. "Alright Lya, what's this abou… ow!" Lyanna smacked him in the shoulder. Hard. "What the… ow!" Another into his chest.

"You asshole!" Lyanna was seeing red. Remembering Ned's role in her planned slave auction to a bastard-siring oaf. "How dare you." She kept smacking and hitting him, secure in the knowledge that Ned would never hit her back. "How dare you!"

Hands up, Ned struggled to shield himself. "Lya… Lya…" Finally, he grabbed at her hands, stilling her. "Lya stop." Lips pursed tightly, anger still in her stormy grey eyes, Lyanna nevertheless relented. Merely crossing her arms. "What in seven hells was that about?!"

Eyes narrowing, Lya couldn't believe Ned could be this dense. Was he always this clueless? "Robert Baratheon?" she hissed out. His eyes widened in understanding. "Why do you hate me so, Ned? I thought I was your sister, not some broodmare to be sold."

"What? Why in seven hells would you think that, Lya. You're my sister and I love you." It hurt him deeply that she would say that. "Robert and I were practically raised as brothers by Lord Arryn. I've known him for half my life and he'd make a fine husband for you." And Lya would be perfect for cleaning up Robert's act. It just seemed perfect.

The she-wolf of Winterfell didn't see it that way. "Are you sure about that, Brother?" Her voice was colder than the wall. "Did you knew about Mya Stone when you suggested him to father?"

A sigh left Ned's lips. Of course Brandon would tell her. He only wished it had been himself - or better yet Robert - that told her about that little secret. "I'm sorry, Lya. I was planning to tell you when we saw each other again."

"How could you even suggest such a man, Ned. A loose man! A whoremonger!"

"Robert is not a whoremonger. He may be gregarious and a flirt, but he is a good man." He was his friend. Ned knew him like a brother. "Jon Arryn raised him for gods' sake."

Lyanna didn't buy it. "You suggested my hand to a man who already disgraced himself and his house with a bastard? Please, explain that to me, dear brother."

A deep sigh - Ned knew Lyanna had every right to feel betrayed about this. It wasn't a good look for any man, let alone a high lord. While most southern Lords wouldn't care a bit about what their daughters thought, Ned knew their father would take Lyanna's wishes into consideration. As he should. Robert would have to pass muster. "I grant, that was wrong on his part, but he's still young. At the time Robert was still the heir to Storm's End. Now that his parents have died and he's a Lord and ready to marry, he'll change."

"Are you sure about this?" Lyanna stared intently at him. "Don't lie to me because he's your friend." Ned's character was the best of the entire Stark family - Lyanna knew he wouldn't be friends with an oaf, so his opinion mattered greatly to her.

"If you truly don't wish to marry him, I'll support you in that to father, but don't decide anything till after you meet him."

Lyanna ran her hand through her silky brown locks, a nervous tick that all of the Stark pack shared. "Alright Ned," she sighed. "Since you think so highly of him, I'll make my choice once I meet him."

Ned smiled. "That's all I'm asking."

Returning his smile, she brought him in for an embrace. "I truly did miss you, big brother."

"I missed you too." Pulling back, he laughed. "Dacey Mormont as your Lady in Waiting? I'm sure Nan took that in good humor."

The laughter was infectious. "Oh, you don't know the half of it. Come on," she pulled on his arm. "Perhaps I'll be your matchmaker this time."

Ned blushed. "I don't think I'm tough enough to handle a she-bear of House Mormont." Lyanna smacked him in the shoulder, brother and sister wearing matching grins.

Chapter Text

"Open the gates!" announced the herald, forming up the van of the great column of mounted men and wheeled carts trudging along the Kingsroad. "Make way for his Grace, Aerys II of House Targaryen!" Before them the wooden gates of Harrenhal swung open, allowing the first rider to pass along the already lowered drawbridge into the massive outer courtyard. The large banners of the black bats contrasted with the many red three-headed dragons carried by the hundreds of Targaryen household guardsmen. Aerys didn't leave the Red Keep often, but when he did he travelled with a small army.

"One can still smell the pyre of Harren the Black," stated Arthur Dayne. Leaning left on his horse, he punched Oswell Whent in the arm. "Told you your sister should have hired more washerwomen."

Ser Whent rolled his eyes, previously enjoying being back home. "That jape wasn't funny the last time we were here and it wasn't funny now." The grin on Arthur's face belied the fact it would be used far more times in the near future. "Besides, all the lye in the world can't clean out the metaphysical."

"Ser Arthur." Both experienced knights turned to see the Lion of Lannister approaching. Dark grey steel breastplate with the Targaryen sigil stamped atop it barely masking his golden aura. "What is wrong with His Grace the Prince?"

Sharing a look with Oswell, Arthur shrugged. "The day where he will have to face his… northerner is approaching. I wouldn't doubt he'd be nervous."

Jaime nodded. "But does he always just head alone into the woods?"

"Not the woods, if Ser Barristan is to be believed." Oswell grinned at Arthur. "Isn't it just a shame that he takes ol' Boldy out with him and not you?"

"Fuck off, Whent," Arthur shot back, good-naturedly. They trotted underneath the gate, thankful for the gentle breeze from the God's Eye that cooled them within their armor. "Jaime, go keep Gerold and Lewyn company until the King leaves, then escort the Queen to her chambers." It went unspoken… the King was not fond of being close to his wife for most circumstances. They took separate wheelhouses, and slept in separate chambers.

Beaming underneath his helmet, Jaime tapped his hand against it and reared his horse back, galloping to the royal wheelhouses. Arthur and Oswell gave each other a knowing glance.

Staring over his shoulder at the massive spires of the great castle of Harrenhal - melted stone still remaining from when Balerion the Black Dread wiped out Harren Hoare's rancid line from existence - Jaime felt a sense of deja vu. Of remembrance. For here was the place just one year before where the King had knighted him after his victory in the melee for Lord Whent's daughter's nameday. Where he had almost won the joust on behalf of House Lannister. Where his oath as a Kingsguard had been sworn on the old gods and the new.

Jaime let escape a sigh from his lips. Oh how he wished to be returned to those days. When his ideals still meant something and dreams still waited, fully able to be realized.

Lord Tywin Lannister had not been the most loving person… seven hells, affection from him was rare even before his mother died birthing Tyrion, let alone after. For his sister Cersei the entirety of her childhood was being groomed as a marriage prospect to enhance House Lannister. For him,Tywin saw his golden-haired successor. A man skilled in battle and sharp in mind to continue the legacy he built off the chaos of his father Tytos. Jaime, unlike the 'deformed Imp' of his younger brother - though Jaime loved Tyrion unconditionally - was such an heir.

But the young lion bore such no mind. He cared not about ruling lands or petty politics, though tutelage under his father had exposed a decent grasp of it. No, it was the mantle of the Kingsguard that had been his dream since he could remember. The Kings of the Rock or Targaryen monarchs hadn't been his heroes, but noble knights like Corlys Veleryon, Aemon the Dragonknight, or Duncan the Tall. All Kingsguards, all part of the best of the best with the sole purpose to protect the king. Oh had Tywin raged and Cersei wept when he announced his intention to accept the white cloak even after the King rejected Tywin's proposal of marriage between Rhaegar and his sister. But no one could dissuade Jaime.

Upon the fields of Harrenhal, the young lion the at the top of the world when he achieved that dream - Ser Jaime Lannister, brother of the Kingsguard. The youngest in all of history to top it off! An achievement sending the new knight to King's Landing full of chivalry and expectations... Plans for his exploits to grace the great book alongside Aemon or Barristan the Bold.

The royal wheelhouse rattled into the courtyard, Jaime surrounding it with Ser Gerold and Ser Lewyn. All around the Targaryen guardsmen and the retinue of House Whent all fell to their knees… all but the three Kingsguards as Jaime drew open the door for the King to step out. Aerys was dressed in his best today. Flowing robes and perfectly styled hair reminiscent of descriptions of Jaehaerys the Conciliator. All but his eyes were the epitome of a great King, only the wild violet gaze exposing the true paranoia and guardedness within. Without even acknowledging Jaime, he made his way to the waiting Lord Walter Whent.

"Harrenhal is yours, your Grace," the Lord stated, rising from his bended knee. "Preparations for your son's tourney are going ahead of schedule."

"Good," the King replied rather evenly, beginning to walk into the castle. "Finally someone with a little initiative, unlike the cunts back in the capitol…" Gerold and Lewyn fell into place behind the King while Jaime stayed behind. Watching the man that had turned all his dreams to dust.

Sword at his side and armor draping him, the newly knighted Jaime was forced to confront the pathetic excuse of a king he swore to protect. His father's rants were… quite accurate for once. Every day Aerys slipped further into paranoia, into a brooding madness threatening all around him. He would accuse others of treason for imaginary crimes, torturing them. Some he let go, some he imprisoned. Many, Lord Tywin included, were part of the King's twisted fantasies of wildfire… "The true tool of Targaryen Kings."

Forced to be part of these, enduring the demands of the King to behead 'traitors' and abuse hapless courtiers… Jaime's dreams and respect for the Kingsguard began wear away. How could he be tasked to support such a King? Such a monster? The gusto and good cheer he had dove into his vows with was replaced with a growing cynicism. Morosity, constant drinking during his off hours, withdrawing into himself... all just too much for a man only ten and eight with too many dreams exposed to reality...

Until an angel appeared in his life.

Genuine smile returning to his face, Jaime bounded quickly to the second wheelhouse. Behind the King's, it was a mutual decision from both monarchs to wait until Aerys had left inside the castle for the occupant to emerge. Curling his fingers around the handle, he opened the door, revealing the shimmering silver hair of the Queen Rhaella. Frustrated frown turning into a warm smile at the sight of her personal guard.

It never stopped causing the young lion's cheeks to glow. "Your Grace." He bowed.

"Get up, Ser Jaime," Rhaella waved him off. "I am in need of your assistance - hard to walk in this poofy thing." Her characterization of the latest in Crownlands fashion wasn't wrong, the Queen needing his hand to ease her out of the wheelhouse. "The Dornish or northerners know how to properly dress. Simple wools and silks."

"Of course, my Queen." From Cersei such frivolity had annoyed him, but with Rhaella he did not mind the slightest.

It was Crown Prince Rhaegar that was his salvation. Switching out the young Jaime with the more experienced Gerold Hightower and Lewyn Martell on the King's duty, placing him instead as Rhaella's bodyguard. May the old gods and new always bless my noble prince. The quiet and reclusive Queen that Jaime had rarely seen for his first eight moonturns under the white cloak truly emerged the light in the darkness. Kind, compassionate, wise, gentle… a beautiful and graceful dragon as overshadowed by the King's bitterness as everyone in the Red Keep.

A sigh left the Queen's lips, looking up at the spires of Harren the Black's crowning achievement and undoing. "I do hope Lady Whent gives me the same chambers in the high tower as last time. I don't think I could tolerate any other."

"Are you alright, my Queen?" Jaime asked, daring to place his hand on the small of Rhaella's back to help her up the steps to the keep. Giving a little push - something he remembered his father doing for his mother long ago. A truly intimate act, but not too much of a boundary cross. It warmed him greatly, though.

Chuckling softly, Rhaella's sweet voice wafted out like a breath of fresh air. "They say those wheelhouses are the lap of luxury." A snort followed. "Frankly, Ser Jaime, that's a crock of shit."

"My my." Jaime laughed, armor clinking as he continued to help her up. "Such unqueenly language, your Grace." He knew he was breaching protocol that someone like Aerys wouldn't tolerate, but Rhaegar encouraged it with Arthur and Barristan - Rhaella never said anything about it to Jaime, so he went with it.

"It's true, so very true." A sigh, creamy lids fluttering closed over her violet eyes. "I've asked his Grace to let me ride like our son, but no. 'A Queen must be present but not seen.' Ugh, it's like a hothouse in that wheelhouse, and not the relaxing kind."

Gods, Rhaegar becoming King couldn't happen soon enough. Perhaps then Rhaella could have the peace and serenity Jaime knew she deserved. "I could summon Lady Whent's servants to draw you a hot bath, your Grace."

A beaming smile came Jaime's way, as if Rhaella's entire face lit up. Eyes sparkling with compassion and kindness, hair shimmering in the sunlight. "That is splendid, Ser Jaime. I don't know what I'd do without you as my guard."

There it was, the same image that appeared in his dreams every night - warming him, torturing him… Jaime shook his head, inwardly. Face reality, Lannister. Rhaegar would give him the dream of serving a great King. The other… as if anything would ever happen. Rhaella was his compassionate charge, nothing more.

Regardless, if he could grant her even the simplest of smiles, the degradations of the day were worth it.

And the moment was here. One Lyanna Stark both imagined and dreaded for years - such only tripled in intensity when learning of her betrothed. Robert of House Baratheon, now standing in front of her in the tent. Hands clasped behind his back and waiting for her. Herself shifting, eyes flickering everywhere and bouncing on the balls of her feet. To say it was awkward would be an understatement.

All had been a blur for Lyanna, Robert and Jon Arryn arriving only after the Starks had just set up their tent on the tourney grounds - other Lords having taken the permanent quarters in the castle. The tent flap hadn't been drawn back for a second before Robert scooped her brother Ned into his arms and proceeded to squeeze all the air out of his lungs. Only a smack from Lord Arryn had made him let Ned go, a clear indicator of the man's personality. Introductions followed, and while Lord Arryn had been as charming and respectful as the one and only time she had met him, Lyanna saw how Robert was practically mesmerized by her, begging her father for a one on one meeting. A half an hour in her private alcove in the tent was what he received, and there they were.

It would be Robert that broke the ice. "I must say, Lyanna, your beauty was quite understated by Ned."

She blushed - while she was more aloof and grounded than most maidens, flattery did affect her. "Well… I doubt my brother would want to gush about my features in that manner." The Lord of Storm's End laughed at her jape, smacking his gloved hand against his breeches. Lyanna smiled softly. Perhaps it was a good start.

No one could say Robert Baratheon wasn't handsome. Quite the opposite, actually. Slightly swarthy from the sun, he was built like a bear. Knightly tunic stretched tight over bulging muscles and heavyset shoulders, his legs were proportioned for his imposing height. He had a roguish charm about him, the self-confident smile of a warrior who knew he was hot stuff. The last was a little concerning to Lyanna, but overall there was nothing physically wrong with him.

I bet all the girls swoon over him in the Stormlands… Therein existed the main worry in her mind. Well, I still have to get to know him. "So, Robert. I…"

"I shall be sure to compete in the joust, my dear Lyanna," he interrupted her. "The Queen of Love and Beauty deserves to be someone as breathtaking as yourself." Without letting her speak, he abruptly grabbed her hand, bringing it up to his mouth and kissing it. His breath wafted onto her - it reeked of wine. "Permit me to wear your favor?"

Drawing her hand back, slowly so not to offend, Lyanna blinked. A bit forward, but not out of the ordinary. "I can find no reason to not offer my favor to a man after my hand," she finally replied.

The answer made him grin, a wide beaming smile that displayed his row of teeth. All there, but some discolored. "It is decided then. I shall win the joust and crown you Queen of Love and Beauty. Nothing but the best for my future wife."

This she frowned at. "We have not been officially betrothed, Lord Baratheon…"

"Call me Robert, my dear Lyanna."

Can't the man take a hint? "Robert… don't you think it's a bit presumptuous?"

"Pish, a formality," he waved off the concern. "No one has ever said no to Robert Baratheon!" Plopping onto her cot, he stretched his arms, patting the spot next to him for her to sit - as if this were his tent and not hers. Lyanna nevertheless complied, resolved to keep her promise to Ned.

Several minutes passed as Robert started in on stories of his prowess in combat and on a horse, arms sweeping wide as he added his own commentary to the various battle tactics and sword moves that necessitated profanity on his part. Not once did he let her get a word in, too engrossed in his own exploits. "Have I ever told you of my victory in the melee of the Great Tourney of Highgarden?" His entire eyes sparkled, a memory he seemed to cherish. "For the birth of Mace Tyrell's little brat… I don't doubt that dolt would celebrate the birth of a daughter."

"I've heard the lady Margaery is a rather adorable infant," Lyanna murmured.

The young Lord snickered. "Probably will be a juicy offering to stoke Mace's ego, but a tourney to celebrate? Only a son is worth celebrating, and I plan on having many sons with my wife." He wiggled his thick brows at her.

Lyanna pursed her lips. "And if I only have daughters, my Lord?"

"Ha! As if."

Clenching her teeth, willing herself to keep calm instead of simply laughing at him and telling him to get out, Lyanna tried a different tactic. "Would you like to know something about me?"

Robert peered at her, a smile forming on his face - one that looked to Lyanna as if he was humoring her. "Of course, my Lady, although I already know everything about your great beauty through my own eyes."

Blinking, she didn't know what to make of it. His words were sweet, but there was something about them that… unsettled her. Give him a chance, Lya. At least he seemed to be interested in her. "Here, let me show you." Beaming at the thought of her favorite book, she stood from her cot, dress swaying around her legs as she moved towards the hope chest containing her belongings. Pushing the clothes and the sheathed sword to the side in order to find it.

Behind her, Robert whistled. "A sword? They sure have strange ways of raising girls up in the North." He laughed leaning up to smack Lyanna on the backside - the crude gesture nearly causing her to stumble. "Don't worry, my dear Lyanna. There are no wildling savages in the Stormlands. You won't have need for a sword."

"But what if I would like a sword?" she asked quietly, more rhetorical than anything.

But Robert heard, and proceeded to answer it anyway. "Oh my wild wife to be, I'll make sure you have the finest needle and thread in the Seven Kingdoms.

Lyanna bit back the response on her tongue, still hoping to salvage this and get through to her all but official betrothed. Pulling out the book from the bottom of the trunk. "Here it is, Lord Baratheon." She offered a small smile, sitting next to Robert - the young Lord scooting closer till their sides touched, which Lyanna decided to ignore.

His eyebrows scrunched together. "A book?"

"Aye, it's called Dancing Dragons by King Viserys II Targaryen, before he was the King." Opening the binding to the pages of the marriage between Queen Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon - her favorite. Robert peered at the pages, clearly struggling to read the words. "It's about the Dance of Dragons, a marvelous read. My most prized possession," Lyanna said genuinely. Bearing a bit of her soul to the man she would soon have to marry.

Offering him the book, letting Robert look at it closely, she waited in anticipation as to what he would say. Hoping that he would be interested and they could - finally - find common ground. Pursing his lips, the Stormlands Lord gently closed the book. Turning to peer at her with an… odd look on his face. As if he were trying to understand something he had never witnessed before. "You really find this interesting?" he asked her after the long silence.

That… could mean anything. Lyanna decided to think it positive. "What could be more interesting than such a time? The Queen and her dear husband, fighting desperately to protect themselves from a usurper bent on destroying them. Gods, the greatest romance story of Westerosi History."

Suddenly, Robert laughed. A deep belly laugh, as if all of what Lyanna told him was the most amusing thing he had ever heard. "Oh Lyanna… seven hells…" He reached out with his beefy hand, pinching her cheeks affectionately. Such a gesture was lost to Lyanna, for the book had slipped from his lap and onto the bare grass and dirt of the tent floor. The most precious single item in Lyanna's possession, a gift from Ned so dear to her, carelessly discarded by Robert. He didn't even notice. "You are adorable, my little she-wolf. Everything about you is exquisite."

She squirmed, trying to reach for the text. "Robert… my book."

"Don't worry, my dear Lyanna. You won't have time for such frivolity while you're caring for my sons and my castle." He stared into her captivating grey eyes, growing mesmerized by them. "I know you seek great drama and love, and I shall provide them with my sword arm and affections. Far better than some musty old book written by cunts long dead."

Lyanna realized something in his tone. This wasn't condescension or sarcasm, but genuine. He actually believed such was the highest form of affection and devotion to a woman. She didn't know if that was better.

He figured her silence to be rapture - just like all the other ladies and girls that found themselves in Robert Baratheon's spell. Fitting, since he was rapidly falling into hers. "You are beautiful. Worthy of me, belonging with me where the sun and the clouds can shine above you." Without warning he lurched forward, pressing his lips against hers.

Gasping at the suddenness of it all, Lyanna's eyes only widened further as he took it as an invitation rather than a warning. Tongue shoving inside. Dominating, plundering. A charging stag crashing upon the being that threatened it, uncaring of anything but its own instinct. Grunting like a rutting bull, Robert began to push her none to gently flat on the cot. The instincts overpowering him…

Her hands were frantic. Panicking. Shoving against his chest until his lips popped off hers, drenching her in his saliva. His own eyes both clouded over and confused as to why she would reject him. Lyanna breathless as she recovered her bearings. Sucking in air down her lungs. "Please… I'm a lady… wait… wedding night…" It was all she could say, the she-wolf's thoughts all hammering one fact over and over again. My first kiss… Something she had been dreaming of for years, nothing like her dreams.

Hauling himself upright, Robert seemed to follow her. "Oh… sorry." He chuckled, wicked grin returning to his face. "Got too carried away there, and I respect your propriety, dear Lyanna." The young Lord bent down to kiss her forehead, Lyanna still too breathless to respond. "Don't worry, my little wolf. Our wedding night shall be soon. Then you won't have to restrain yourself." Still grinning, he stood tall and bowed. "Till later, my Lady. My dreams will be of you." And with that, he ducked out of her tent, leaving her alone.

Several moments passed before the she-wolf realized he had left. Quickly, Lyanna scrambled off the cot and grabbed her book off the ground. Closing her eyes and clutching it to her breast protectively. Letting Ned's precious gift to her ease the tempest in her heart. A winter blizzard that had ripped through every imagination and fantasy she had had over meeting her future husband. Not the devoted Prince Daemon but someone more akin to who Aegon II had been. An entitled highborn that felt the world revolved around himself.

A man Ned had praised as a good match.

But instead of coming to conclusions and letting her heart try to handle it, her intelligent mind kept replaying one portion of the meeting. How Robert had kissed her, intending to ravish her completely. It was smooth on his part. Polished, as if he had done it before. Many times.

Mya Stone.

Nestling the book safely in her trunk, Lyanna grabbed a cloak resting close by. Determined to get answers.

Strolling down the grassy fields, Robert almost felt like skipping - like drawing his sword and stabbing it up in the air. Cup of the finest arbor gold in hand, he raised it in a toast to himself. To the most breathtaking wildflower in the world that was now his. Gods, I am a lucky man.

He and Ned, bonded as brothers for life - Robert would have accepted a betrothal had it been with a fifty year ugly maid. But what he had gotten… His luck was as strong now as it was growing up - every triumph had been his with only the barest of efforts. Of course love would be the latest prize for him to win.

And not one part of Robert saw anything wrong with that. Any woman would swoon over being his prize in love. Why not? They had when the prize was merely his fancy.

"Pish, a formality. No one has ever said no to Robert Baratheon!"

No one had, and Rickard Stark wasn't going to be the first.

Lyanna was perfect. A willowy, kind, statuesque goddess of a woman that would make the perfect Lady of Storm's End. One to manage his household, charm the visiting Lords, and bear him half a dozen strapping sons and heirs that would carry the Baratheon legacy. Tough bruisers, half-stag and half-wolf. Better than any dour sourpusses or cowardly weasels that Stannis or Renly would sire. As if that mincing buggerer Renly could ever sire a child.

His mind drifted to that first glimpse of his soon to be wife. The sweet and innocent face of a maiden clashing wildly with the stunning body of a goddess. Someone to cherish and hold up as a paragon of virtue. The greatest conquest the great Robert of House Baratheon could secure, but gods… He downed the wine till there wasn't a drop left in his cup. Unfortunately, while it relaxed him the flush his betrothed has given him only grew.

Tent growing tight in his breeches, the feel of her body against his affecting him. Her delicious lips tasting like peppermint. He was horny, and in need of release. Many a man would vent their sexual frustration themselves, but not Robert Baratheon. He wasn't some pathetic girl of a man, and nothing compared to a tight, warm body to find release.

And he knew just where to go.

With the massive tent city being erected almost overnight outside the great castle of Harrenhal - itself the largest fortress in the entire Seven Kingdoms - the dozens of lords and thousands of bannermen, sworn swords, and assorted retinue were in need of the necessities of life. Food, drink, metalwork, clothes… hundreds of vendors from all corners of the Realm had descended on Harrenhal to take advantage of the Crown Prince's nameday. As plying the trade in one of the important necessities of life, this included hundreds of whores both female and male. Dressed provocatively and flashing their… assets to potential clients.

These individual actors were dwarfed by the massive mobile brothel that the notorious King's Landing madame Chatalya had brought over from the capitol to Harrenhall to scoop up the coin of the countless lords that would arrive. Giant tent the second-largest of the entire tourney grounds, in strode Robert Baratheon with a grin on his face. Already growing harder at the thoughts of delicious female flesh he would be sampling.

Not noticing the hooded figure following him nearly twenty feet behind.

Dark skin exotic and alluring in the midst of the Westerosi, Chatalya opened her arms and embraced the young Lord of Storm's End, kissing his cheeks. "Robert Baratheon. Welcome to my establishment." It paid to know the various high lords and ladies of the Seven Kingdoms and their sigils. He was drunk too, the perfect client.

"My reputation precedes me," laughed Robert, smacking Chatalya on the back. "I want someone young. Ten and seven. Fair, not dark."

The madame nodded. "No problem, I have many women who would do…"

Robert held up his fingers. "Two. I want two."

Chatalya grinned sultrily. "That is costly… though I'm sure it won't be a problem." Two dozen gold dragons tumbled into her hand. She licked her lips. "Perfect. Sarella! Cassana!" Out of the gossamer fabric that shrouded the various compartments of the mobile brothel came a redhead and a blonde. Bodies lithe and tight, but with large breasts that threatened to spill from their skimpy dresses. "Be sure to take care of Lord Baratheon here. He is one of the highest Lords in the land." With a throaty chuckle, the madame went to greet the other customers.

The ale and wine already beginning to cloud his mind in the wonderful haze. Wide smile planted on his face, Robert wrapped his arms around the two beauties he had purchased for the next few hours. "'Allo my pretties," he belted, grin widening at their giggling. They weren't as breathtaking as his Lyanna, but they weren't going to be his lady wife. Purposes were quite different to him. "So where are ye' from?"

Sharing a look with her colleague, the blonde smirked at the handsome young Lord. Patting his chest just as she had been taught. "Sarella is from Maidenpool, my Lord. I am from near Summerhall, in town for the… opportunities." The last came in a sultry whisper, nipping his earlobe.

Robert laughed merrily. "Stormlands, eh?" He groped her tits, whistling with approval. "Perhaps head to Storm's End after. I'll be sure to give ya' plenty of work!" Feeling boastful, he threw his head back, voice booming through the entire tent. "All of ya' come to Storm's End, ladies." The drink had loosened his inhibitions - not that he had many to begin with. "This beast may soon be shackled but it wont forget this heaven of booze and women anytime soon!" Feminine cheers answered him, squeals and claps only making him feel more at ease.

From a hole ripped into the side of the tent, a pair of grey eyes blazed pure fury. The hooded figure darted away from the brothel, fists clenched from what they had just heard.

Hair billowing out from behind her, elaborate hairstyle absolutely ruined by the winds gusting around her, Lyanna could barely see through her scorching sobs. Eyes stinging as the air shot past her and Winter. The horse urged faster and faster through the vibrant green underbrush of the Riverlands forest. Lush with plant life, a beautiful sight. But the she-wolf didn't notice. Didn't care.

All on her mind was the events of the last few hours, filling her with a fury so hot it would have melted Valyrian steel. Starks were ice, not fire, and the flames nearly brought her to her knees.

She had to escape. Had to get out of the tight confines of the great castle and tourney grounds, grabbing her trusty steed and riding him saddleless into the woods as she had done many a time back home. Everything passed by in a blurr, little did she care.

A whoremonger. I'm betrothed to a whoremonger. The image of her future husband and his thick arms wrapped around the shoulders of two bare-chested prostitutes, oafish grin on his face, was seared into Lyanna's mind. Ned was wrong! They were all wrong! That was to be her life, one of metaphorical chains shackling her inside a keep with half a dozen screaming children while her drunken husband fucked half of the Stormlands.

I don't want to get married!

I… I can't live in chains!

The pain, the anger overwhelming her, Lyanna suddenly pulled back on the reins. Winter neighing loudly in panic as she skidded to a stop - rearing back and kicking with her front hooves. Normally Lyanna was an accomplished rider who never let herself be forced into an emergency skid, but the swirling emotions simply overwhelmed her reasoning. Without a second's hesitation she leaped off Winter's back, unsheathing the sword Brandon had gifted her for her fifteenth nameday. Eyes red, she looked around, practically seething. Finally raising the blade and swinging at the closest tree in an enraged frenzy.

"Fuck you Robert Baratheon!" she screeched, throat burning. Sword gouging deep chunks off the poor beech tree that served as the target of her rage. Fuck you father! Fuck you Ned!" Lyanna could care less, face hot with tears and snot. Red with pure rage. "Kill me, gods! New or old, I don't care! I will not marry that... that… THAT FUCKING!" Thwack! "WHORING!" Thwack! "DRUNKEN!" Thwack! "DISRESPECTFUL!" Thwack! "DISGUSTING!" Thwack! "OAF!"

With a final snarl and swipe of her blade a branch was sliced clean in two, the wood and leaves clattering to the forest floor with a chaotic crash.

The sound hitting her ears was almost like a bucket of icy water drenching her. Lyanna blinked, breathing deeply as the red tint of her vision began to fade. Anger and rage slowly transforming into a sense of fatigue. A deep sadness that permeated her very soul, the weight of the North crashing upon her shoulders. Tears began to form once more in her eyes.

I won't marry Robert… I can't…

"You will do your duty, Lyanna."

Standing there, sniffing. Droplets staining her dress as they trickled down her cheek, Lyanna felt a gentle nuzzling on her hair. "Oh, Winter." She turned, greeted with her beloved companion's gentle nicks of affection. Hand lifting up to stroke her muzzle, Lyanna gently rested her forehead upon the soft hide. "I don't know if he'll even let me have you." The soft croo of the horse sounded too much like a requiem for her.

Alone in the woods with only a faithful friend that couldn't even speak to her, Lyanna simply let the tears fall...

And then she heard it.

Ears registering the light sound in a split second, it took a moment before Lyanna parsed it out of the background noise of the forest. Not birdsong, not the wind, but a melody. Wiping the tears from her eyes, curiosity overtook her. I thought I was alone? Sheathing her sword, Lyanna cocked her head and listened closely to where she thought the music was coming from.

"High in the halls of the kings who are gone,

"Jenny would dance with her ghosts.

"The ones she had lost and the ones she had found,

"And the ones who had loved her the most."

She knew not of the song, but it tugged on her heartstrings nonetheless. A tale of love and of sadness, of a poor girl pining for her lost loves. Intrigued, Lyanna pushes back the underbrush - ignoring the branches and brambles scraping against her dress. Following the music, with each step the melody growing clearer and clearer.

"The ones who'd been gone for so very long,

She couldn't remember their names.

They spun her around on the damp old stones,

Spun away all her sorrow and pain."

Ahead, the sun shone through a clearing in the forest. The sweet wafting of music drifting from within it - sight blocked off by a thick growth of bushes and trees. As quiet as possible, not wanting to spook the person who was producing such an enrapturing sound, Lyanna fell to her knees and crawled through the bushes. Gently pushing them aside to secure a hidden glimpse of the singer.

"And she never wanted to leave, never wanted to leave,

"Never wanted to leave, never wanted to leave."

It was a man - a young man in his prime. He sat against a tree, dressed in a simple red tunic and riding breeches. Cleanliness indicating a man of means and posture showing a man of class. A red and black cloak was hung on a branch of the tree, horse tied up to another tree several feet away. He held a harp in his hands, tune created from the strings and words crooning out from his lips.

"They danced through the day,

"And into the night through the snow that swept through the hall.

"From winter to summer then winter again,

"'Til the walls did crumble and fall."

Lyanna never heard someone sing so beautifully. Each word was more graceful than the last, the way his long pale fingers wavered through the cords of his harp putting most musicians to shame. Hands dropped to her sides, tension leaving her. Anger and sadness forgotten.

She shifted in the bushes, catching a clearer glimpse of the singer, almost swooning at the sight. His silver hair fell over his shoulders, thick muscles - not as beefy as Robert's brawler body, but strong and toned like a nimble boxer or skilled horseman. His violet eyes sparkled with peace and emotion. A serenity with the world that many men lacked. Gods, he was the most handsome man Lyanna had ever seen.

"And she never wanted to leave, never wanted to leave,

"Never wanted to leave, never wanted to leave.

"And she never wanted to leave, never wanted to leave,

"Never wanted to leave, never wanted to leave."

His voice was so beautiful, even Winter watched from behind the dense treeline, mesmerized by the melancholy melody that filled the forest. All around, not another sound could be heard but the thrumming of the harp and the man's song. Even the birds stopped their singing, listening to the mysterious man. Lyanna wished to cry at the sad serenity of the words drifting from his lips, but it was so beautiful that she couldn't do anything but watch in a dazed adoration.

Had anything ever made her so lost for words? So… entranced her?

"High in the halls of the kings who are gone,

"Jenny would dance with her ghosts.

"The ones she had lost and the ones she had found,

"And the ones who had loved her the most."

Then, much to her disappointment, the melody ended and the stranger ceased his singing. The deep sigh of a troubled soul leaving his lips, weight of the world seeming to return to him once the escape of the instrument had finished. Lyanna felt her heart reach out to the man, the Lady of House Stark able to relate to him more than one could imagine. She wished to go to him, to hold him in her arms and help take his pain away. For him to take her pain away.

Lyanna shook her head, as if in a daze she needed to snap out of. What is wrong with me? For what had to be a quarter of an hour she had watched a mysterious man singing and almost fell in love with him from that alone. I don't even know who in seven hells he is! Didn't know what the morose, talented, handsome, beautiful, breathtaking man's name was.

Her mind and heart at war, Lyanna allowed herself one last look. One last glimpse between the leaves and brambles of the bush. The man had risen, grabbing his cloak - preparing to take his leave. Strapped to his waist was a glittering sword, a large ruby on the pommel and hilt adorned with intricately-carved dragon heads. A sword so iconic to be known from the Wall to Qarth. Blackfyre…

Blinking, Lyanna pulled back. Silver hair… Blackfyre… No, it couldn't be… Peering back through the leaves, her eyes bugged out of their sockets at the red three-headed dragon emblazoned on the back of the cloak.

There was now no doubt in her mind. The Crown Prince… Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.

The image of her dream Prince Daemon in the flesh.

Chapter Text

Winter trotting out of the woods, Lyanna was in a daze. Mind clouded with thoughts of the man she had seen in the clearing, only coherent thought through the verses of the song replaying in her mind being that of getting out of the woods ahead of him. Not any man… Rhaegar Targaryen. The Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms.

Prince Daemon… my Prince Daemon.

Everything spun as Lyanna rode into the tourney grounds, head throbbing and her body shuddering from what she had witnessed. Is it possible to fall in love with someone just hearing him sing? Lyanna shook her head. No, it was impossible. She had been so angry, so terrified at the prospect of marrying that oaf Robert Baratheon, she would be entranced by any decent-looking man. Especially if he was tall, handsome, serene... beautiful… breathtaking...

Gods, Lyanna, you have it bad.

She hadn't even met him, and yet the daughter of Winterfell couldn't get the Crown Prince out of her mind.

"...looks barely bigger than an Imp!" Lyanna stopped in her tracks, hearing a grunt of pain.

"Cunt's sure weak enough to be one of 'em!" Shouts and yelling were common on the tourney grounds, enough to cause most to tune every loud noise out. But these voices were so… hostile, it caught the she-wolf's attention. Dismounting Winter with a trained ease, she quickly tied her to a post and crept around a storage tent. Peeking across the corner to where the sounds were coming from.

Three burly young men, each at least five ten but no older than Lyanna herself, were surrounding a smaller figure that had been knocked to the ground - small of stature but with a rather nimble strength about him. He tried to scramble for a three-pronged spear laying in the dirt, but a kick to his face sent him sprawling back. Lizard-lion sigil on his leather gambeson visible to her. House Reed. "Stay down, motherfucker!"

"I am the Lord of Greywater Watch…!" the small-statured man yelled only to get another kick. This time in the gut.

Lyanna recognized him now. Howland Reed, one of her father's bannermen and the Lord of the crannogmen in the Neck. He had been a rather quiet one during the journey south, but Lyanna had thought well of him.

"'I am the lord of Greywater Watch…'" mocked one of the boys in a bad falsetto, clearly the leader of the gang. "I squire for Waldron Frey, and he's told me all about you mud people. Little better than wildlings." Another kick followed while Lyanna's blood boiled. Of course the Freys would employ dirtbags.

Laughs came from the other two boys. "Ser Boros says they like to toss dwarves at pins like with bowling." The squire leered at the moaning Howland. "Why don't we try the same with him?" His comrades seemed to agree with the idea.

At this, Lyanna couldn't take it anymore. She had always been one to stand against cruelty - several Wintertown boys with their teeth knocked in for groping the washerwomen could attest to that - and the honor of a Northern Lord at stake only served to further convince her. "Hey!" The three squires stilled, looking to her with a mild irritation at being interrupted. "Stop it!"

"Piss off, cunt!" the Frey squire hissed. They moved to kick Howland yet again.

Drawing her sword, the sound of steel scraping against the scabbard drew their full attention. "I said, stop it."

"Don't want to get yer' dress in a twist," laughed the third squire, pitchfork-emblazoned shield strung across his back. House Haigh.

Lyanna narrowed her eyes, standing tall. "Does it make you feel like men to pummel someone smaller than you? Tired of getting black eyes and losing teeth from the boys your own size?"

The Frey squire sneered, leading his comrades to abandon Lord Howland in the dirt. "What part of piss off do you not understand, bitch?"

A deep laugh left Lyanna's lips. "Bitch and cunt. You must get a lot of attention from the women with that talk." She grinned, enjoying how she was riling them up. None of them recognized her. Good. That just made it all the more fun. "I take you keep your coin purses full when trying to fuck."

Only the Blount squire seemed to understand the insult, flushing red like a tomato. "You'll pay for that, cunt!" drawing his sword and charging. Blade high, chopping wildly, it didn't take much effort for Lyanna to knock it to the side and ram the pommel of hers into the squire's gut. A kick to the shin sending him to the ground.

Right behind came the pitchfork squire, but his comrade fallen caused him to hesitate… a perfect opening for Lyanna to smash her elbow into the boy's face. Blood spurting from a broken nose as he howled in pain. "Is that the best you can do?" she mocked, scoffing. "A girl of ten and seven knocking you on your ass?"

Unlike his friends, the Frey squire darted in, feet quick yet in a firm stance. Such were his only attributes, blows as sloppy as the others. Trained by the best fighters among the Winterfell guards, not to mention her own brothers, Lyanna parried the first strike - blade twirling in her wrist to knock it out of his hand. Sword clattering on the ground. He moved to grab it, only for Lyanna to punch him in the jaw.

Up came the first boy, arms wrapping around her. Breath hot on his ear as his hands moved to grope her breasts. "Yer' mine, whore," he hissed.

Seeing red, Lyanna let out all of her anger and rage on the little cunt. Elbow ramming into his gut, she spun around and kneed him in the stones. Grunting in pain, she uppercut right into his lower jaw, teeth fountianing into the dirt.

The Frey squire moved for his sword, but Lyanna mock lunged with hers. "I'll keep this blade, thank you." She lunged again. "Run!" The two boys grabbed their moaning comrade, dragging him out as they booked it out of there. Leaving a rather proud Lyanna to strut about the field.

Watching the whole thing with mouth agape, Howland Reed tried to stand only for the ache in his stomach to bring him down again. "Seven hells," he cursed through gritted teeth - pushing back up onto his knees. This time, a hand was offered to steady him. Bringing the crannogman face to face with the gorgeous face of his savior. "Thank you, Lady Stark."

She smiled warmly, high cheekbones, pure white teeth, and dimples making it one of the most beautiful smiles he had seen. "Pish, it was my privilege to take down those fuckers." His widening eyes at her language made her giggle. Most highborn girls never cursed, but she wasn't most girls. "And call me Lyanna, Lord Reed."

"Then call me Howland." He chuckled but it changed into a grimace. "Sorry, it hurts to laugh."

"Let's get you to a maester, and a cup of the finest ale. My treat." Draping Howland's arm around her shoulder, she helped him to her waiting horse.

All unbeknownst to the silver-haired Prince that had watched the entire thing from the treeline.

"You have to be japing me, my Prince?" The Sword of the Morning's lips were pressed together, as if struggling not to grin.

The Crown Prince's eyes narrowed, glaring at his Kingsguard and friend. "If I would jape to you, Arthur, would this be what I would use?"

Arthur Dayne thought for a moment, then nodded. "No, I suppose not." The two of them walked through the halls of the great castle, journeying towards his father's chambers. Except for a few servants that they dropped their voices to a whisper around, this wing of Harrenhal was empty. "I heard that the ladies of the North could be a wild bunch, but to take on three burly squires… and to be your bride, no less?"

"Quiet," Rhaegar hissed. "Do you want everyone and their mother to hear you?" The Prince had been the only child in the Red Keep during his youth - the last child of House Targaryen it was said, given the extinction of all other lines due to illness or war and his mother's frequent miscarriages. Aerys isolating him for so long, by the time Viserys was born Rhaegar was ten and seven and approaching marriageable age. Thus, it was only when the young Arthur Dayne arrived at the Red Keep to win the King's Tourney did Rhaegar have a close friend he could call his own. While he was on good terms with the entire Kingsguard, he and Arthur were thick as thieves. His most trusted council along with Rhaella and Elia. "I saw it with my own eyes and still can't believe it - she was good, Arthur. In need of some refinement but very, very good."

"I'd like to see her compete against some real opponents, but I'll take your word for it, my Prince." Arthur looked him over from underneath his helmet, as if searching for something. "Are you… pleased with your new bride?"

Closing his eyes, Rhaegar envisioned the raven-haired Lyanna Stark. Fluid movements with sword in hand. The way her dress clung to her willowy yet toned frame. Her raven hair shimmering in the sunlight. No woman, not even Elia - though she had come a close second - had ever enamored him so easily as the she-wolf of Winterfell… and he hadn't even said a single word to her. And yet in the hours since his quick glimpse, Rhaegar couldn't get his mind off of the woman that would be his second bride.

"She… intrigues me, Arthur."

Rhaegar could almost feel the Kingsguard frowning underneath his helmet. "I'm sure you could tell me more."

Arriving at the entrance to his father's chambers, Ser Gerold and Ser Barristan bowed at their Prince. "I'm sure I could, Arthur." Winking at his friend, Rhaegar entered through the door with a grin.

A grin that promptly fell as he found his father sitting alone in his chair, staring out at the God's Eye from the window. Completely on the other side of the mammoth chambers, his mother was reading a tale to his baby brother. "Rhae!" Silver curls bouncing atop his shoulders, Viserys ran over to him.

Wanting to laugh in joy but restraining himself - out of the three of them, he was the most likely to set his father off - Rhaegar instead picked up his brother. Growing body as light as a feather to him. "Good afternoon, my Prince," he smiled. "What have you been up to?"

"Muna is reading about the Conquest." Viserys chirped excitedly, always did when learning about the history of their family. Rhaegar himself remembered sitting on his mother's lap, thinking with childlike wonder of the dragons and dragonriders of old. "I can't wait till the Field of fire!"

Rhaegar frowned for a moment. Why, father, why? His mother always steered him towards the love stories and tales of great statesmanship until he was old enough to understand the perils of violence - Aerys was clearly imposing his own view of their history on his brother. "Alright, dear Prince," Rhaella cooed. "How about I take you for a pastry for being such a good boy?" Leaning in to kiss her eldest son on the cheek, afterwards she whispered in his ear. "He received a raven from Casterly Rock."

The warning was well noted, the Crown Prince waiting for his mother and brother to leave before approaching his father. Not willing to antagonize or irk, he bent the knee. "You summoned me, your Grace?"

While Aerys wished for full formalities to be observed to him, he didn't reciprocate. "Rhaegar, good." He turned his chair around, manic grin on his face. "Did you hear what that pompous kitty cat told me?"

"I have not, father."

"He says he's 'ill' and cannot make it to my tourney. Sending his cunt of a daughter instead, as his 'representative.'" Aerys snarled. "Fucking Tywin, sending a woman to represent himself to me as if he thinks women are worth anything. That insect knows exactly how to piss me off."

Why does it have to be Cersei? It wasn't as if Rhaegar hated her, but the way she threw herself at him did put the Prince off. "I do not think Lord Tywin will react well when she tells him of your decision, your Grace."

Aerys whistled. "I should fucking hope so. The only thing I regret is not seeing the look on that fucker's face. Him and that Baratheon shit. Why father married Rhaelle to his dolt of a grandfather is beyond me." The King's eyes blazed with anger. "All Dunk's fault. If he only acted like a damn man and not some weak woman… 'Oh father, I love this common harlot. Release me from my birthright…'" It wasn't the first time Aerys mocked his dead older brother in that manner. "The gods did right that night in Summerhall. Dunk got what was coming to him and I got my heir." He smacked Rhaegar on the back.

Rhaegar wanted to vomit - but he had to play along. "I have no doubt, your Grace." He thought of what he could do to mitigate the damage. "Should I bring Lord Stark and his family to have lunch with your Grace and muna?"

"Don't worry about that. I'm planning on inviting them to the King's table at the feast tonight. Nothing but the best for the family of the new Princess." His smile was wide and largely jovial…

Rhaegar didn't believe it for a second. Father, please don't do anything reckless.

He may as well have asked water not to be wet.

Fingers jerking and twisting, Lyanna had enough at the third time Dacey yanked at her hair. "Seven hells, it's my hair, not a bloody longship rope. Be gentle."

Suppressing the laughs that were leaving her lips, Dacey completely failed. "I can't help it, Lya. Just thinking of how those dumb fuckers must've felt realizing they got their asses handed to them by a beautiful maiden…" She dissolved into laughter again, though managing to finish off Lyanna's hair rather well. Sighing, Lyanna did have to admit that having a lady in waiting who could both spar with her and polish a perfect traditional northern double braid was a good thing. "I wish I had seen it! You go girl."

Lyanna couldn't help but chuckle as well. "I was just… ugh I needed to burn off some anger and those cunts were right there, beating up on poor Howland."

The she-bear only scoffed angrily. "You had every right to want to vent with your sword." Putting the finishing touches on her chestnut braids, Dacey fumed. "Robert fucking Baratheon. What gives him the fucking right to disrespect you like that. Scuffing your precious book and then hiring two… two whores? At least when Aegon the Conqueror laid two women he married them first."

Snorting, Lyanna thanked Dacey for her blunt attitude. No one else was privy to what had transpired between her and Robert, or what she had seen afterwards. "Father wants this alliance… he'd have forced Brandon to marry Catelyn Tully even if they weren't enamored with each other." At least that was according to her brother. She hadn't even met her yet. "And Ned and Robert are so close…"

"Your brother may be many wonderful things, Lya, but he's a northern fool. Too naive." She and Ned had hit it off at the Twins - there wasn't a romantic spark, but an easy friendship had been built. Nevertheless, Dacey spoke true. "I think he'll back you up if you decided to beg Lord Stark to cancel the betrothal."

Blinking back a tear, Lyanna stood. Looking herself over in the mirror, smoothing out any creases in the fancy northern dress and perfect braids. I do look good. Perhaps I shall catch the Prince's eye… Gods, she couldn't get Rhaegar out of her head. The way his voice wafted out the love song, his hair shimmering in the light of the sun… She felt heat in her core at the thought of it. But just as she opened her mouth to tell Dacey about it the door knocked. "Come on, lazy!" It was Brandon, blunt as always. "Let's get a move on!"

"Fuck off!" Dacey shouted back. "But I do think we should go. His Grace is waiting." Lyanna only nodded.

It was said that upon the completion of the great hall of Harrenhal, Harren the Black proclaimed that he could dine all the lords of Westeros within. While Aegon the Conqueror ended the man rather easily, it looked to Lyanna that such a boast had been grounded. Taking her father's arm as her escort for the night, she could only gape at the immense stained glass windows, giant rib vaults, and the intricate starry night mosaic plastered atop the coffered ceiling. It may have bled the Riverlands dry till they chose Aegon over Harren, but it was certainly beautiful. Nothing like the drab simplicity of Winterfell - she did love her home, but a beauty it was not. Yet it seemed only Lyanna cared to marvel at it, though Ned did glance up once or twice as he served as Dacey's escort. Everyone around was too enamored with the plentiful food and flowing drink. While not the boisterous near-fights that northern feasts were, Lyanna could still feel the merriment.

It took mere minutes for her father to be locked into conversation with Lord Arryn and… Lord Tyrell if Lyanna could place the rather pompous man's colors correctly. Yet - out of place in her rather muted outfits compared to all the southern finery - she was glad that Ned, Brandon, and Dacey formed a solid phalanx with her against anything that may have come. Just a group of northerners stuck in the great hall with nearly all of Westeros' nobility, she wondered if anyone would end up approaching…

"Bran!" Even with the cacophony, Lyanna did nearly jump out of her skin as a striking redhead ran between the tables, leaping into Brandon's arms. "Gods, I'm overjoyed to see you again." The woman kissed him rather passionately before breaking away, waiting to be introduced.

Brandon, grinning like an idiot, motioned to the new arrival. "Everyone, this is Catelyn Tully. Dear Cat, this is my brother Ned, sister Lyanna, and her lady Dacey Mormont." Lyanna blinked, chiding herself for not putting it together. You're too fixated on the Prince. Smiling, she leaned in to hug her future goodsister.

The greetings passed like a blur, two others joining them - introduced as Catelyn's younger sister Lysa and the Tully ward Petyr Baelish. While Catelyn grew on her due to her apparent adoration of Brandon, the other two were… Lysa seemed jealous and slightly mad, while Baelish was a snake. Lyanna hated him from the moment his clammy hand touched hers, especially how he constantly undressed Catelyn with his eyes.

Brandon was oblivious to this, or if he noticed he didn't say anything - one advantage of his prime self-confidence. "Littlefinger!" Lyanna suppressed a snicker at Baelish's nickname. A gold dragon for how that name came to be. "I heard you nearly got your ass handed to you by Victarion Greyjoy."

Littlefinger flashed everyone a wide, toothy smile. "A large boor, I'm afraid the Lord of Pyke's brother is. Not as salty as Balon or crafty as Euron. But boors can be dealt with if one has a silver tongue." From how his smile shined on all the ladies, Lya wished that the Greyjoy brute had beaten him into a coma.

A finger tapping on her shoulder drew Lyanna out of her rather interesting discussion with Catelyn over the vacancy of the Master of Laws. Turning, she came face to face with the man she did not want to see. "My dear Lyanna." Robert smelled of alcohol already, but other than that was rather dashing in his doublet and silk trousers. "Ned, I don't think you'd put up a fuss if I danced with the Lady here?"

Ned shrugged, Brandon laughing beside him. "Go ahead, Robert. I'd be insulted if you didn't dance with her."

Waggling his eyebrows, the stag offered his hand. "Shall we?" Eyes flickering between a murderous gaze at Ned and a pleading look at Dacey, Lyanna realized she was not getting out of this. Plastering a fake smile on her face, she took the proffered hand - barely even yelping as she was whisked to the dance floor.

The tune was a rather serene one, though fast enough so that she wouldn't have to be too close to Robert. "You're a good dancer," Lyanna commented, praying this would end soon.

Robert scoffed. "Jon Arryn taught me and Ned. He loved it, but this shit is borin' to me. Give me swordplay any day." Lyanna fought the urge to roll her eyes. "Now, at our weddin', I won't mind dancin' with you." His speech was slurred, though he didn't miss a step.

"I should hope our wedding would be in the Winterfell Godswood." A dream of hers from the beginning, to marry before the Weirwood tree.

"That may be a problem, sweet Lyanna." Roberts' grin looked like he had passed gas. "Cause after this tourney I intend to take you to Storm's End as soon as possible." The She-Wolf bit her cheek to keep from screaming.

Thankfully - though Lyanna was probably the only one who thought so - the song was cut off by the trumpeting heralds. "Presenting!" boomed one of the royal servants. "His Grace, Aerys of House Targaryen, Second of his Name! King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men!

Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm!" All present bent the knee as the royal family strode in surrounded by their guards. Aerys in the front, followed by the Queen - behind were both Princes, rounding it out. Combined with the two young children in the Red Keep, the last of House Targaryen in all their glory.

"Well, looks like the dance is over, my sweet Lyanna." Robert seemed put out, while Lyanna hid how relieved she was while they went back to their tables. "Until next time, dear intended." She wanted to spit in his drunken face.

As the King took his seat at the center of the table, Lyanna's eyes were drawn not to him but to the man two spots to the left - seated right next to Queen Rhaella. My Prince Daemon… If anything, Rhaegar Targaryen looked even more handsome that night. Doublet of fine silk showing off his taut frame, long mane of silver hair pulled up into a bun. Lyanna wanted to pull it out of that bun and run her fingers through it… She looked away, blushing red. Gods, Lya, what's wrong with you? Gushing like a lovestruck girl barely after her first moonblood over the handsome knights in the Winterfell courtyard.

Little did she notice the Crown Prince's violet orbs finding her among the other revalers. Nor did she hear the King rise from his seat and speak until halfway through his announcement. " truly welcome our Northern guests for leaving their ice gar…" Lyanna watched as both the Prince and the Queen cleared their throats. A flash of something appeared in Aerys' piercing gaze, but he seemed to relax a split second later. "Homeland to celebrate my beloved heir's nameday, I invite them to dine at the royal table next to myself."

Blinking, slightly shocked at the honor, Lyanna rose with the other surprised and stunned faces of her brothers and father - though he hid it well. Walking towards the King's table, her gaze drifted from the smug leer of the King to the stare of the Prince. Their eyes meeting at long last, though both looked away after a mere moment. Lyanna resolved to take the place farthest from Prince Rhaegar at the table.

Lord and Lady Whent had spared no expense for the courses in front of them. Whole roasted boar, honey-glazed pork belly, chicken and quail braised with herbs, pigeon pie, lamb stew with imported rice from Essos, thick grain soup, oven-fresh breads, platters of ripe fruit, and countless pastries. Everyone happily stuffed their faces, drowning down the scrumptious delicacies with gallons of wine and ale, as well as a new drink from the Vale known as 'whiskey.' Lord Baratheon had already guzzled down plenty of it, though it didn't slow him down. Servants constantly brought in more and more, replenishing the dishes of the various lords, knights, and ladies nestled within the great hall.

As always, the royal table secured the highest amount of attention from the servants - even in spite of Lord Whent being forced to sit elsewhere to accommodate the Starks. The plates of each man and woman seated there were always full as a result. Though for Rhaegar, nothing had been topped off or refilled. Brooding frown planted on his face, he merely picked at the chicken leg and helping of stew in front of him, the only fully-eaten morsel being the apple core resting off to the side.

A fleck of pork landed on his hand, currently resting unused on the table. Rhaegar glanced to his left, finding young Viserys attacking his food with gusto. "Sweetling," he chided good naturedly. "Slow yourself."

"But this is how a dragon eats," chirped the boy, grabbing a thick slab of pork belly and scarfing it down. Mumbling something unintelligible.

Laughing at how adorable his little brother was, Rhaegar simply tousled Viserys' silver locks - earning a groan from the young Prince. "That may be, but flying dragons aren't Princes of House Targaryen. Use your knife and fork and don't eat more than you can chew.

Once he swallowed his morsel, Viserys gulped and nodded. "Sorry." That earned another tousle of the hair. Even being watched by the collected Lords and Ladies of the realm, there was still a few moments where they could be a family. Given what his father was going to do at the tourney, Rhaegar cherished these few and far between moments.

To his right, Rhaella was peering at the both of them with a knowing smirk. "You could use some of Viserys' eating habits, my son."


"Don't 'muna' me, young man," she whispered, kind but firm. "No matter how old you are, I am your mother. And I will not let you go hungry, now eat."

Groaning quietly, hoping none of the vultures before him saw their Crown Prince chided by his own mother, Rhaegar nonetheless took the chicken leg and started working his way through it. Even though it tasted divine, once swallowed it felt like the acid was about to eat his way through his stomach. "Father seems happy, for once." Sure enough, Aerys was slowly eating his plate, serene smile on his face the whole time. For a recluse who had less of an appetite than Rhaegar did at the moment, it was… odd.


Rhaella's voice dropped into an even lighter whisper. "He's imagining how the news will upset the apple cart. Especially with the Baratheons."

Rhaegar wanted to bang his head on the table. They're not my favorite either, but… If the King wanted to go around Tywin, why do it in a way that would give him a natural ally in Lord Robert. The oaf was already on his fifth cup of whiskey, unable to hide his open and wanton gaze upon the occupant of the far-righthand seat at the table.

The Starks were enjoying themselves. Lord Rickard lost in conversation with Arthur and Barristan, while Brandon and Eddard spoke with a beautiful redhead leaning over the table, giving the Stark heir googly eyes - Catelyn Tully. And then there was Lyanna.

Never had he seen someone so beautiful. Wild chestnut locks, lithe body, fair face… and a fiery strength to back it up. Only Elia could compare, but the both of them were so very different that such a comparison was unfair. Looking away before the alone, quiet woman could see him, the Crown Prince took a sip of wine to contain his nerves.

Am I truly falling for her? Rhaegar shook his head, clearing out his mind. Don't be a dolt, you can't afford to be sentimental. Yet one look at Lyanna Stark made such resolve crumble into dust.

But when the King stood, all fell silent. Revelry of even the drunkest ceasing in an instant. "Lords and Ladies," Aerys began, voice even and the epitome of polite grace covering his expression. He looked like the great Targaryen King he had been early in his reign. "I thank you for arriving to celebrate my heir's nameday. My son, Rhaegar Targaryen." Aerys glanced at Rhaegar, and the Prince felt at that moment as if his father truly loved him - inwardly, there was a deep suspicion, but he forced a genial smile on his face. "A toast to him, the Young Dragon reborn."

"Here here!" cheered the crowd. Rhaegar could hear Robert's booming voice above the others, but also the feminine lilt of the Lady Lyanna. Though he hadn't ever heard her speak, somehow he knew it was hers.

Aerys continued, the munificent expression still exposed to all. "Special thanks not only to Lord and Lady Whent for their delightful hospitality, but also to the honorable Lord Stark and his charming family." Rickard nodded politely to the clapping of the crowd, Brandon eating it up, while Eddard and Lyanna seemed to wish to melt into the walls. Rhaegar didn't know about Eddard, but he felt that the she-wolf wasn't normally like this… wait… is it me? He shook his head - no, of course not. "While I am grateful that Lord Tyrell, Lord Arryn, Lord Tully, and Lord Baratheon have arrived to represent their kingdoms tonight, for the Warden of the North to break their normal isolation… it is an honor for House Targaryen." It was subtle, but those who knew the King noticed the slight glint in his violet eyes. "I'm reminded of the last time House Stark truly ventured south into the game of thrones. It was during the Dance of Dragons."

Rhaegar fought to keep his jaw from dropping. Now?! He's doing it now?! One glance at his mother found her just as shocked and worried. Father, please no…

"You do remember, Lord Stark?" Aerys asked his guest, Rickard's confusion at the topic delighting him greatly. All that was missing was Lord Tywin and his cunt daughter to watch the auctioning off of the Lady Lyanna… or was it Rhaegar he was auctioning off? Either way, this was the most fun he had since mutilating and burning alive Lady Darklyn several years back. "What happened then?"

Furrowing his brow, unsure of where his King was going with this, Rickard nonetheless spoke up. "Well, your Grace, my ancestor the Lord Cregan Stark signed a pact of support for Queen Rhaenrya Targaryen, the rightful heir to Viserys I - the namesake of your young son, sire." Little Viserys beamed at the praise of such a high Lord, while Aerys scowled for a split second before the regal smile returned.

"Ah yes, House Stark shaking off its isolation to defend the realm against traitors and usurpers in favor of the rightful ruler." Rhaegar wanted to facepalm himself, and could tell Rhaella was suppressing a groan. Aerys hated both Rhaenyra and Aegon… hells, he hated everyone in the family not named Maegor. His duplicity for the sake of both amusement and to satiate his delusions only insulted the Prince's intelligence - and he was forced to nod in agreement nonetheless. "To do so, they agreed to the Pact of Ice and Fire, where House Stark and House Targaryen would be joined before the gods in marriage. Now, where the realm is under siege from traitors yet again, I can't help but think of this pact once more."

It took every bit of courage and fortitude inside him not to let his head smack upon the table with a groan. Why… why… why must he do this here? Why? But he knew the answer. His mother knew the answer. Every single person that understood how Aerys Targaryen, Second of his Name, operated. He thrived on the mind games - on watching the dance of a person who found a wasp's nest suddenly dropped on them.

As Rhaegar guessed, the King did nothing to hide his amusement at this point. "It strikes me as odd that this Pact has never been consummated. House Targaryen doesn't take pacts made by sworn oaths lightly, for that's the realm of other illustrious houses." A glance to his right found the Starks just staring at him. Completely clueless. Oh boy, this will be fun. "Therefore, I intend to rectify this injustice by personally announcing the betrothal of my son and heir, Prince Rhaegar, to the Lady Lyanna of House Stark. If it was good enough for Aegon the Conqueror to have two brides, then why not my own seed?" And only to look back and watch the reactions.

One could hear a pin drop in the great hall of Harrenhal. No one moved, no one breathed, not even a fly adding its irritating buzz to break the quiet. Biting his tongue, Rhaegar braved the line of fire to glance to his right. His mother was silent, sitting straight and trying to rise above it all. Lord Stark was totally stunned, mouth gaping at the announcement. His son Brandon seemed to try and choke down the gulp of wine he had taken, while his second son Ned was white as a sheet. Not daring to meet eyes with Lyanna - his betrothed by royal decree - again, Rhaegar found Robert in the crowd, his face purple with rage. Oh beautiful…

"A toast to Rhaegar and Lyanna," the King announced, not bothering to hide the dark smirk on his face. He lifted his goblet, forcing all the lords and ladies present to do so as well.

No one noticed Lyanna in the corner of the table. Look of shock slowly transforming into the smallest of smiles.

Chapter Text

"This is an outrage!" Brandon Stark was a man of quite open emotion, but never had he been so enraged in his life. Ned thought that if his face was any redder, steam would be coming out of his ears. "I don't fucking care if he's the King! No sister of mine will be ripped away from us and made some damn Dragonspawn's pillow slave!"

"Please, brother," Ned stated. Palms pressing on the taller Stark's chest. "Calm down."

"Calm down?! CALM DOWN?!" If Brandon could be called enraged, he didn't know what words in seven hells he could use to describe what Robert was.

They were in the Stark tent, himself, his father, Brandon, and Robert discussing the matter - in the corner sat Lyanna, lost in her own thoughts and staring into the distance. Dacey had wanted to help her to her bed, but Rickard had dismissed her for the night. Ned worried over her, especially since no one had asked her opinion in all of this. "Yes, Robert, calm down. There is no sense in panicking."

"She is your sister! Your sister and MY BRIDE!" The second of the Stark sons didn't overlook how Lyanna flinched at Robert's last words, soulful gaze flashing an icy anger for but a moment. He would inquire later, the Stag Lord's ranting taking center stage. "...some mad, scheming dragonspawn King whoring my bride out to his rapist son…"

"Enough," Rickard said firmly, himself seated at his camp desk. He was just as pensive as Lyanna, though not disengaged. Ned could tell he was pulling back. Trying to see the situation from the outside, his father not falling into the rage trap Brandon and Robert were. Though he was angry… even seething. "We are going to stop yelling. Varys the Spider has spies everywhere." Such was the first thing Jon Arryn had warned Ned about, and he passed it on to his father. A whole two dozen Stark Household Guards stood outside the tent, fully armed just in case.

While both Brandon and Robert stopped yelling, it was clear their anger hadn't dimmed. "Call the banners, father," Bran demanded, slamming his fist down on the table. "I'll be damned if my sister will be sold like a whore."

"You'll have the Stormlands behind you, Lord Stark," Robert boasted, chest puffing out. "I don't care if they are my cousins. This means war."

"I'll marry Catelyn tomorrow, bind the Riverlands on our side. I'm sure the Vale and Tywin Lannister would…"

Rickard slammed his fist on the table in counter to Brandon. Losing his patience. "No one is calling any banners." Ned let out a relieved breath. He'd always taken after his father's cooler head. "I am not going to war with the crown without more information. I thought better of you, my son."

Brandon bristled. "But father…" He was cut off by Ned jabbing him in the ribs, gesturing inconspicuously to Lyanna. His brother gulped down whatever retort he had and nodded.

Standing, the Lord of Winterfell glanced at the Lord of Storm's End. "My Lord, we can discuss this further with Lord Arryn and Lord Tully. Perhaps a united front between our four kingdoms can dissuade or influence the King."

In spite of being on an equal footing with Rickard, the fact that the northerner was twice his age put Robert on the disadvantage. He sounded much like Jon Arryn or his own father scolding him after doing something stupid. With a sigh, he relented. "Alright, Lord Stark." Robert then turned to Ned. "I'll stop this, Ned. I'll stop this auction if it's the last thing I do. My bride will not be treated this way, even by the King." Each word working him up further, the purple tint to his face made it back to prominence as he left the tent.

"Watch your sister," Rickard warned to his sons, following the Stormlands lord.

All left in the tent were Brandon, Ned, and their sister. Still sitting quietly, looking nothing like the proud, headstrong girl that had so terrorized and at the same time breathed joy into Winterfell at the same time. Oh Lya… The announcement by King Aerys concerned her the most - it was only natural she was floored. Ned was by her side in an instant. "Lya? Sister, are you alright?" He sat next to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder comfortingly. "Do you need anything?"

Blinking, Lyanna came out of her haze. All she had really heard of their conversation was Robert's possessive pronouncements, ones that repulsed and scared her at the same time. Robert Baratheon the cad was one thing, but the infuriated Lord of Storm's End bringing the fury was another matter entirely. Who knew what he was capable of? "Ned… oh no, Ned. I'm fine. Just… processing everything." It was true. Even in her wildest dreams did she not imagine the King of the Seven Kingdoms himself would decree this of anyone… let alone her.

"How can you be fine, sister?" Brandon clenched his fists. "This is an injustice of the highest order! I won't let Rhaegar turn you into his pillow slave while Elia fucking Martell gets to be Queen."

Rhaegar… Everytime she had worried, everytime she had thought of Robert or heard Robert, Lyanna had thought of the Prince. "Brandon, it's alright." Rhaegar's silver hair, his violet eyes, his voice… Gods, that voice… Almost divine in her mind. Just the thought of him calmed her down. "The Prince wouldn't do that to me."

Ned noticed something in her tone. It wasn't wishful thinking. "What do you mean…"

But nothing was calming Brandon down, his ranting cutting them off and working him back into a frenzy. "Just like that fucking whoremonger Aegon the Unworthy! He'll make you breed his bastards and laugh while doing it. I should kill the cunt right now!"

"Don't be rash," Ned cautioned, rising to hold onto his brother. "I'm not letting you die for treason!"

"And I'm not letting Lyanna be raped by that dragonspawn!"

Lyanna was frantic. "Bran…" Here she was faced with a potential dream, and Brandon's impulsiveness was rapidly turning it into a nightmare. "Please, don't get yourself killed for me. I couldn't bear it."

He knelt beside her, taking both of her hands in his. "Don't worry Lya. I don't care what father says - I'll call the banners and join with Robert. We won't allow that madman of a king forsake your honor and steal you from your rightful husband!"

"You will not do anything of the sort, Bran!" The mere mention of Robert as a husband drew her ire. "I…"

"What?! We can't let..." Gods, let me talk!

Ned held up a hand, stilling his brother. "Lya... why don't you want us to?"

She looked closely at both of them. "I want to marry the Crown Prince!" Lyanna blurted out. Immediately blushing at how blunt she was.

Both Ned and Brandon looked at their sister like she just grew three heads. Mouths gaping open like fish. Neither had expected anything of the sort. "WHAT?!" Brandon roared, more from shock than anything resembling anger. All rage had drained away from him.

Biting her lip, Lyanna nodded. "Tell father to accept the King's decree…" I want my Daemon... "That's what I want."

Taking his seat beside Lyanna once more, Ned motioned for his brother to pull up a chair across from them. Sighing, Brandon poured himself a goblet of wine and complied. Sipping from the liquid. "Lya, offers of marriage are not to be considered lightly. The King may have ordered it, but I don't want you to feel compelled to accept something simply because he said it. You have the whole of the North behind you, sister."

The thought of King Aerys bringing fire and blood to her homeland did weigh on Lyanna's mind but it wasn't important. There was no way she would refuse this. "I would accept the betrothal even if it was completely voluntary on my part." Even she was surprised at how even her voice was, given the tumult of the last day.

"Lya, have you gone mad?" While Ned was simply shocked, Brandon was incredulous. "I don't think you understand the implications of this. The Crown Prince is already married to Princess Elia Martell. King Aerys implied he would want to duplicate Aegon the Conqueror and marry you to his son without an annulment." He downed his wine, needing alcohol to fortify him. "Forget about the complete shitstorm with the Faith and the Dornish, you'll be a second wife. Having to share your husband with another woman… a woman he already has had children with."

Such facts struck Lyanna harshly. In all truth, she had forgotten the fact that Rhaegar was married. Wed to a woman who was said to be one of the great beauties of the Seven Kingdoms. You could end up being second best to him. Second fiddle. Visenya Targaryen came to mind, married out of duty rather than love. Forced to grow old and bitter.

"Could you really share a husband, Lya?" Ned asked. His tone was softer than Brandon's, but no less tough and searching.

The image of Rhaegar in the woods, his voice serenading the very gods themselves, came back to mind. Part of Lyanna thought she had fallen in love with him in that very moment. "I wouldn't care if he had six brides like Maegor the Cruel. I still want to marry him." Never having met Rhaegar, somehow Lyanna just knew. Instinct perhaps, or something deeper - a spiritual intuition that told her to charge forth with her heart.

Brandon's eyes bugged out of his skull. "Why in the seven hells would you prefer being a second wife instead of having a normal marriage? Of being the Lady of Storm's End for gods' sake?!"

There it was. The betrothal to Robert - Lyanna had found her way out and she was taking it. Only a sadistic monster would be a worse husband than Lord Baratheon, and that same intuition told her Rhaegar wasn't that at all. "I know I'll be happy with the Prince," she finally said.

Ned raised an eyebrow. "How are you so sure about that, sister?"

"As sure as I know I would never be happy with Robert," she spat back. The feeling of his lips on hers, his uncaring hands only caring for his own pleasure as he groped and prepared to take her, it made Lyanna feel dirty.

"It's just because of the bastard, Lya?" Brandon was in disbelief. "Many highborns have bastards. It's nothing to throw your life away over…"

"More about how he essentially forced himself on me," Lyanna finally ground out. "And then the whores he bought from Chataya's right after when I wouldn't lay with him." Gods, it felt cathartic to finally get that out to someone other than Dacey.

There was silence - complete silence. Her brothers both utterly flabbergasted, jaws dropped nearly on the floor. "W… what?" Ned asked. More like murmured.

She shuddered just thinking about it. "When we met, he talked like I was his already. Then he kissed me. Pushing me onto his cot and groping me all over like I was one of his whores."

"When. Was. This?" Her older brother's anger was bubbling back to the surface.

Honestly, Lyanna felt better now that it was directed at someone that deserved it. "When he came to meet me for the first time. I pushed him away though. I wasn't dishonored." Even she had to be fair to him.

That wasn't going to calm Brandon down. "Oh, I'm gonna take Ice and castrate the son of a bitch myself!" His voice was deathly serious. "No one forces himself on my sister and has a cock to show for it!"

While she was glad his support of Robert had evaporated, Lyanna couldn't have him declare war on the Stormlands. She rose, moving to cup his cheek. "It was just a kiss. He stopped when I told him to - it was more that…" How could she put what truly disgusted her into words? "He just… seemed to expect me to let him take my maidenhead right then and there. Like I was his property." That did not seem to help. "Bran… calm down. Please?"

Nodding, clamping his lips shut, Brandon's rage didn't dampen. The same anger he had borne towards the Targaryens now directed at Robert Baratheon. Fists clenched so hard that his knuckles turned white, teeth grinding almost into fine powder. Breathing in and out to calm himself. Lyanna taking her seat back. "Alright. I'm steady. I'm calm." He grabbed his cloak off one of the chests throwing it over his shoulders. "As heir to Winterfell, I will make it my duty to end all discussion of any betrothal to Lord Robert Baratheon. I do not care if he's your friend, Ned, but it's over. Over my dead body will I allow it." Glaring at Ned for a moment, he leaned down and kissed Lyanna on the forehead. "I have your back, Lya."

Letting out a breath she had been holding in since Winterfell, Lyanna felt a weight being lifted off her chest. "Thank you." She hugged him tightly. "Love you, Bran."

"Love you too, Lya." With that, Brandon stormed out, leaving her and Ned alone.

The second son was withdrawn into himself, brooding hard. Lyanna knew he was killing himself inside. "Ned… brother?" She leaned forward, now her turn to comfort him. "Talk to me."

"Did Robert really do that to you?" It wasn't rape, Lyanna wasn't alleging that, but even what she did claim was dishonor in and of itself. You never claim a woman like that unless you know she consents. "I need to know."

Lyanna hung her head, hating that she was hurting her brother so. "Yes." Her blood boiled hotter, especially because it caused Ned pain. "After he forced that kiss on me, I followed him to a brothel. Do you know what he shouted for all those whores to hear?"

Already he felt like an idiot. "I hesitate to ask."

Lyanna's cheeks flared red with anger. "He said 'This beast may soon be shackled but it wont forget this heaven of booze and women anytime soon!'" Ire only falling at how it affected Ned.

Ned's brooding only darkened. "I am such a fool." Without warning, he smacked his palm against the side of his head. Hard. "I'm such a fucking fool."

Saying nothing at first, Lyanna merely hugged her brother. "It is not your fault, Ned. Had you known…" Her brother was loyal to a fault, his honor compelling him to stand behind both a friend and a sibling. From the bottom of her heart she knew that he only suggested the marriage because he thought it would be the best for her. "You would never have made the suggestion if you knew what Robert really was like."

"He's not a…" Shaking his head, Ned stopped defending his friend. "I should have known. There were rumors going around the Eyrie, and he always kept company with various reprobates, but I just accepted his denials and explanations at face value." He looked up at his sister, tears in his eyes. "I thought you could tame his wild ways, but this… I'm sorry, Lya."

"I forgive you, Ned," she replied with a sincere, if soft, smile. "Bran will make sure father breaks the negotiations. Nothing was officially made. What's done is done." It was surreal, talking about what a few hours ago had been unbearable chains as if it were nothing. Ethereal strands of thread that could be snapped by a mere jerk of a finger.

Nodding, Ned brooded silently for a moment before something came to his mind. Looking up, peering at Lyanna quizzically. "The Crown Prince?" With the firestorm of what Robert had done to her, Bran and he had completely forgotten.

This time, Lyanna blushed. "Aye, the Crown Prince." Her lips curved up into a smile, growing wider and more radiant as she thought of the beautiful silver dragon. Ned was taken aback… he had never seen the She-Wolf of Winterfell act like such a lovestruck maiden. "The prince is everything Robert could never be. Compassionate, loyal, gentlemanly, gentle, and more."

"Has he met you? How would you know?"

"I just do… instinct." Seeing Ned raise a single eyebrow, Lyanna knew she couldn't pay him off with that. "I rode Winter into the forest earlier today. There I saw the Prince singing."

"Singing?" Ned sees how Lya just looks off into the distance. Face dreamy and with that adoring smile growing wider.

She nodded vociferously. "Dear gods, it was incredible, the way his long pale fingers caressed the strings of his harp... His voice was so sad and beautiful as he sang, Ned. Even the birds stopped to hear him."

Never in his life did Ned ever think he'd be in this situation. To see Lyanna this way. It was concerning… but also something he had hoped for so long for her - happiness. Love and joy. "You're really falling for him," he said quietly.

"I am, brother, and I hope… I pray he feels the same."

"He'd be a fool not to." There was still so much to discuss. So much that bothered him about this. "I'm still not comfortable with him still being married. Targaryens did it before, but only all the respect in the world is good enough for my little sister." He didn't care that the King demanded it - Lyanna deserved the best. "I'll have a talk with him... I think it will require a level head that Brandon just doesn't have."

"Brandon has a level head, it's just between his legs."

The two of them blinked at each other before bursting out into laughter. Letting their stress and nerves go at the jape. "Oh gods, that was a good one," Ned choked out, trying to compose himself. "If you truly wish to marry the Prince after everything is sorted out, then I'll support you."

Lyanna beamed. "Thank you, Ned."

He returned the smile. "Prince Rhaegar is a lucky man - getting you for a wife."

For the second time that night, Lyanna allowed herself a dreamy smile. Allowed herself to be a starstruck maiden of ten and seven. "I'm lucky as well, Ned... I'm likely getting my Prince Daemon." She giggled. Actually giggled.

"Oh seven hells," Ned groaned, rolling his eyes rather outlandishly. "Not that damn book again."

Frowning, Lyanna grabbed a pillow from her loveseat and smacked him with it. "Shut it." Holding his hands up in mock surrender, Ned smiled and pulled his sister into a brotherly hug. One she quickly returned. I really am a fool. Every part of him had been so sure Robert would change his ways for Lya, but the truth was he didn't even know what Robert really was. I can only hope that the Crown Prince is anything like the one in her book. For all her strength, the she-wolf of Winterfell likely couldn't survive another failed match.

Especially this one.

Had the servants not known what was good for them, they would have stared in complete shock. The King was in a good mood. A very good mood. One not induced by sadistic power plays, humiliating poor courtiers, or abusing his wife the Queen. No, this was… completely genuine. Laughter falling from his lips and joy lighting up his eyes for the first time since Duskendale.

"Oh, that was delightful, so delightful," Aerys gushed as he removed his crown - placing it atop a plush purple cushion. "Tee hee, the looks on all those cunts. It was like I had hatched a dragon from my own ass." The giggles that streamed from him were so unlike Aerys, but came all the same.

As wary as all others in the room - more so, even - Rhaegar stayed several paces behind his father. Not wanting to get too close, the King's paranoia likely to act up if someone crowded up to him while his back was turned. "Your Grace, I feel it unwise that you announced the betrothal without informing Lord Stark." After escorting his mother and brother to bed, this had been his first stop.

"Bah." The King waved him off. "That was the best part of the night. I think the Northern oaf's son was about to spit out his wine everywhere!" Humming, Aerys began to dance about to imaginary music. He had been quite the dancer in his youth, Rhaella telling her son about the countless balls he enjoyed showing her off in on the dance floor. The madness and paranoia seemed to kill that part of him, but here he was.

Rhaegar wasn't the only other person in the room. "Why make an alliance with the Starks, your Grace?" asked Hand Jon Connington, suppressed anger and pain evident on his face. Unlike the other loyalists who were concerned, Connington seemed to take it personally - Rhaegar had no idea why. "They offer you nothing."

The King stopped dancing. "They offer me everything!" Coughing, Aerys made his way to the decanter of wine. Easing his throat with the fine Arbor gold. "Tywin is plotting, you see, and this she-wolf brat holds the key to keeping him in check." Rhaegar suppressed the urge to ball his fists tightly at how his father spoke of Lyanna. It was similar to how he reacted to the constant japes about Elia… only more intense. What?

"She was about to be betrothed to Lord Robert Baratheon, my Liege Lord." Griffin's Roost was in the Stormlands, meaning Robert officially outranked Connington outside of the King's favor. "I was sitting with him. The anger was worse than Fourteen Flames. Perhaps it is wiser to allow the betrothal to go through…"

Feeling a sudden surge of jealousy and protectiveness course through him that surprised Rhaegar, the Prince was nevertheless saved by his father. "No, fuck him. Stupid father should have married my older sister to Dunk instead of Robert's drunken, whoring grandfather. Maybe then Dunk wouldn't have acted like a fucking idiot and cohabited with that whore. We'd have more Targaryens and wouldn't be facing the Doom." Only Rhaegar knew what he meant, the others blinking confusion.

Jowls flopping, Mace Tyrell stepped forward - once the happiest man in the Seven Kingdoms after his infant daughter was 'betrothed' to Viserys, now he had grown pale. "Your Grace, my wife is a Hightower…"

"I wouldn't brag about that, but go on, Lord Peacock." The King guffawed at his own jape.

If Mace chose to ignore the insult or was too much a dolt to understand it - Rhaegar bet on the latter - he didn't let on. "The Hightowers are quite pious, and have a long history with the Faith of the Seven. Based on my insight, they will not take kindly to this… polygamy. It's what caused the rebellion against King Maegor."

Rhaegar snorted, impressed at the foresight. First thought of his that didn't come from his mother... probably parroting his wife. Mace was a kindhearted fellow, but he lacked the brainpower for anything that insightful.

"The doctrine of exceptionalism that old king Jae established gives me the damn right, so the Faith can shove it up their arses. We are dragons, Rhaegar and I. We answer to neither gods nor men, let alone a bunch of funny little men in robes." Mace withdrew, chastised. "Now leave me be. Let me enjoy my evening." Rhaegar couldn't be told any further.

Shutting the door to an image of the King gliding about the solar, robes swaying and an old Valyrian ditty about a dragonrider in a Lysene brothel tumbling from his lips, Rhaegar sighed and half collapsed against the stone wall of the hallway. "At least one of us is happy," he mumbled. Granted, upon catching a glimpse of the fiery, gorgeous Lyanna Stark, he wasn't completely unhappy with his now betrothed. And yet would she want anything to do with me? The best case in his mind was Elia, an utterly gorgeous and perfect wife that he was denied happiness with.

"I don't like this, my Prince. It's you and that Martell girl all over again." Apparently Jon Connington thought amongst similar lines - if with different opinions. "Can't the King find someone you want to be with?"

Rhaegar frowned. "She is still my wife, Jon. I've said this before, treat her with respect." The Lord of Griffin's Roost was a close friend, his closest besides Arthur. Practically joined at the hip for the last years before maturity, when Lord Tywin had finally been dismissed Connington was Rhaegar's first choice for his father to name as the new Hand. Someone young, vigorous, and smart. He had proven a strong ally on the Small Council and a loyal administrator, but the Prince couldn't help feel a tension since he had married Elia. The tension only rising.

The Hand of the King looked… sad. Forlorn even. "She was never worthy of you Rhaegar." Connington stepped forward, face only inches apart from the prince's. Rhaegar smelling wine on his breath. A glassy look in his eyes before there was realization and he pulled back. Clearing his throat. "Neither is the Stark bi… girl. There is nothing that the north can offer House Targaryen. They abandoned the crown in the Blackfyre Rebellions and would only antagonize the Faith. Convince your father to change his mind."

Obvious retort forming on his lips, when Rhaegar tried to speak it simply died on his tongue. Refusing to come out, his mind refusing to let it be uttered. You've tried to change his mind, but he will never change it. The image of the beautiful she-wolf fighting the squires twice her weight burned in his mind. Something that told him more than stacks of tomes ever could. Could it be that you truly want this betrothal?

"I can't explain it, Jon, but it feels as if this is my destiny."

Lips forming into a grimace, Connington only nodded. "I'll pray this doesn't ruin you, Rhaegar. It would kill me if anything happened to you." Bowing, the Hand of the King made his exit. Leaving the Prince to face the gravity of his new fate alone.

One moment she was asleep in an unfamiliar bed - in a castle of pure black and gray - and the next a warm sensation had roused her. Causing Lyanna's lids to open… only to flutter closed. Long moan leaving her mouth. "Ohhhh… my Prince…"

Kissing up her body was the silver-haired god from the forest. Rhaegar Targaryen, showering her skin with kisses. With open mouth sucks that left marks upon her body - ones she had often chided Brandon for getting from the servant girls. But far from being disgusted, she only moaned louder. Weaving her hands in silver locks and pulling him to her mouth. "Kiss me. Fuck me, my dragon."

He roared like a dragon would, attacking her lips. Lining his length at her entrance and pushing in. Sensations alien to her… "Ahhh… Don't… stop." Unfamiliar but so, so good. A feeling that Lyanna prayed never ended…

The she-wolf bolted out of her cot, sucking in breaths of the chilled air. She was covered in a sheen of sweat, nightgown clinging to the curves of her body. "What in Seven Hells…" Lyanna murmured. A hand drifted to her chest. Calming her beating heart.

Stills of her dream flashed in her mind, causing Lyanna to flush an even darker red… as well as another part of her flushing rather hotly. Gods, I've got it bad. The last day had been a complete whirlwind, disgusted by the Lord of Storm's End only to find out she was betrothed by royal decree to the Crown Prince.

"Fuck me, my dragon."

Falling back onto the bed, Lyanna's hand involuntarily snuck under her nightgown. Finding her flower slick with her juices. Blazing hot, sensitive to the touch. She rarely did this. Rarely found the need to, but by the old gods and the new, even the thought of her Prince Daemon… My Prince Daemon? Yes, he was hers now. By decree of the King, the most beautiful man Lyanna had ever seen was hers.

"Fuck… fuck… fuck…" she murmured softly, biting her lip to keep anyone in the tent from hearing her. Fingers swiping hard against her own clit, wishing, imagining it was the Prince doing all the things she had heard Dacey or the young servant girls brag or giggle about. Things more akin to a wanton whore than a proper lady, but she didn't care. She wanted all of it, all with him… "Ahhhh…" Her cunt gushed, the most powerful climax of her life ripping through her. All without him even being close.

Lyanna remembered how intently those violet eyes stared at her. Does he dream about me, lust after me like I do him? She felt a tingle at the thought he might…

"Psst…" Yelping, Lyanna frantically smoothed down her nightgown under the furs as Dacey slipped through the flaps. "You asleep?"

Not wanting anyone to know of her… wantonness, Lyanna hid it behind a flash of indignancy. "I was. Until a rather loud she-bear of a lady in waiting woke me up," she huffed.

Dacey saw right through her. "Oh really?" A smirk crossed her face. "Has nothing to do with the love flush on your cheeks?" At that Lyanna reddened even further. "Thinking of your dragon prince the King is sooo kind to hand to you on a silver platter?"

"Is it that obvious?" she said quietly.

"We're all girls here. If I were in your position I'd try to sneak into his chambers and claim him, wife or no wife." She laughed at Lyanna's further embarrassment - it was so unlike her, the fiery she-wolf turned into both a lovestruck maiden and sex-starved harlot. Simply hilarious. But it was beside the point. "I'll leave it alone, get up," Dacey whispered, tossing her mistress a fur cloak to cover up.

Lyanna blinked. "What… why?"

"Waldron Frey paid Lord Reed a visit with some of his household guards." Grey eyes widened at that, Dacey nodding firmly. "He's waiting outside the tent. One of your guards is asleep so we can sneak out to him." Nowhere did she ask if Lyanna wished to. From the determined frown and icy gaze in her eyes, the she-wolf made her answer obvious.

As Dacey had said, one of the guards had fallen asleep, wine gourd collapsed on the ground beside him. Lyanna rolled her eyes, resolving to tell her father in the morning - with the King's announcement making her the future joint Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, the lack of attention paid to House Stark was over. In the near term, it was easy to sneak past the snoring guard, quickly ducking around several tents to find the Lord of Greywater Watch. He stood in his leather armor, beaver skin coat wrapped around his barrel chest. "Howland?" At Lyanna's voice, he turned, causing her to gasp at his split lip, swollen cheek, bruised jaw, and two black eyes. "The Freys?"

Howland nods, wincing even at the slightest movement. "Apparently he was 'defending the honor of his squire.'" Gently, Lyanna reached up to caress the bruises - she was pretty tall for northern women, exactly Ned's height at a five foot ten. She towered over the far shorter Howland, lacking half a head on her. Her touch, far from stinging, comforted his wounds like ice. "He wanted to know the 'rancid, rug-munching cunt' that fought his squire off. I told him it was a camp follower from White Harbor and he seemed to believe it."

Anger coursed through her - in this she took exactly after her mother like Brandon did. "We are going to avenge you, Howland."

"How?" While the prospect of humiliating Waldron Frey did appeal to the wounded crannogman, having Lyanna do it worried him. "I heard of your betrothal. I'd rather not be the cause of any royal scandal that ropes in the King and Crown Prince."

"There are ways to work it around so that it doesn't track back to Lyanna," Dacey mused. "The Freys are idiots, so they won't put two and two together."

An idea suddenly clicked into Lyanna's head. One that she could almost imagine her father scolding her over and Brandon yelling that she was mad, but it refused to leave her mind. Resolve growing by each moment that passed. They'll be on the watch for me… but not on the watch for Howland. "Does Waldron Frey plan to enter any of the contests?"

Both fellow northerners peered at Lyanna quizzically. Her statement abrupt and out of nowhere. "He wants to enter the joust. Says he's a great horseman."

Dacey snorted. "Likely because he's too much of a reed to fight in the melee against Gerold Hightower or Jaime Lannister."

Howland couldn't help but smile softly. Wanting to laugh but in too much pain. "The Haigh bannerman will go with him, and I'm certain Boros the Bald will do it as well."

All three in the joust… perfect. A wide, wolfish grin stretched out over Lyanna's face. "Howland, you'll need to find me a set of cheap armor. Dacey, find me a plain palfrey."

Listening to her plan, even the she-bear was incredulous. "Really, Lya? You're basically a princess at this point and you're going to draw all that attention to yourself?" The King was known to be quite mercurial - it was quite possible that this would set him off.

"I haven't been introduced to the realm yet, so only an observant northerner would recognize me on sight." Neither was able to dissuade her. "If I am to be confined to the Red Keep, then let the she-wolf have one last blaze of glory." Oh, it would be good.

Chapter Text

"My Lords, If we may…"

"Silence, Rhaegar," Aerys said curtly, waving him off. "I'll handle this." He leaned forward, hands on his chin - an almost gleeful smile planted on his face. It wasn't just the announcement that pleased him. Rhaegar could tell he was just itching to see which Lord or religious figure first talked themselves into an execution for treason. "Tell me, my Lords. Repeat it again, why is this betrothal such an issue?"

In front, swaddled in their flowing silks or simple armor were several lords of Dorne. Representing the interests of Prince Doran in his absence. Princess Elia was one of them and rather well-liked in her homeland, and a slight to her honor was a slight on all of Dorne. "If I may, your Grace," stated Ormond Yronwood, one of the most powerful Lords and leader of the assemblage. "It is a grievous insult to Dorne to set the Princess Elia aside for another bride."

If Aerys saw this as treason, he did not show it. "I don't see an insult. No one said that the Princess would be set aside."

"If you mean for the Prince to take two wives as King Maegor, such cheapened the reputation of each bride," Lord Oller piped up, a thin, reedy man. Rhaegar wished he could sink into the furniture. He personally saw nothing wrong with what Maegor did in the beginning, but the idea that either Elia or the beautiful she-wolf that haunted his dreams would be cheapened made the Prince disgusted with himself.

His father on the other hand had no shame. "Maegor gave each wife of his the honor of continuing to grace his bed, even after they failed him," hissed Aerys, causing Oller to flinch. Laughing, he turned to Yronwood. "If either Prince Martell has an issue, they can come and tell me personally. But they would be wrong because Elia belongs to me now." Rhaegar wanted to punch his father for his arrogance, but stayed silent. It would only make things worse. "She is a member of House Targaryen, and so will Lady Stark before too long."

"Bigamy is against the will of the Seven!" All eyes turned to the young Septon of Harrenhal. A young firebrand, rather handsome with a chiseled chin and brilliant blonde hair - Rhaegar thought the young maidens of his village cried when he devoted himself to the Faith - burned with devotion to the gods of the Andals. "The Prince will burn if he allows himself to take another bride!"

Rather than order Gerold or Arthur to behead the firebrand, Aerys erupted into laughter. "Rhaegar is a dragon. Dragon's don't burn you pompous fool!" More laughs, even Rhaegar and some of the Dornish joining in. The Faith wasn't popular in Targaryen circles. Aerys didn't care, while Rhaegar had his own spirituality he kept in the privacy of his chambers. Not wise to antagonize them, however. "The High Septon can kiss my ass if he thinks his child-buggering self can meddle in my affairs."

The Septon continued to stare down the King, the chances of someone losing their head only increasing. "Perhaps we should confer with the High Septon personally about this matter," Rhaegar interjected, calming down the simmering tensions. "Have you spoke with Prince Doran or Prince Oberyn, Lord Ormond?"

As Lord Yronwood continued to prattle on about propriety and the need to follow the will of the gods - not that it didn't stop him, given the prevalence of various knights in his keep named Sand - a servant snuck in through one of the side doors. Rhaegar noticed him out of the corner of his eye, one of his father's 'favorites.' As such he snuck past the kingsguards and approached the King, whispering something into his father's ear. The frown turned into a look of interest and then into a wide smile. "Good, oh most good," Aerys exclaimed, interrupting Yronwood. "Tell him to deliver them to my chambers and hold them under guard." The servant bowed and darted out.

Rhaegar leaned in to his father. "Is something the matter, your Grace?"

Aerys blinked and turned to his son, as if in the moment he had completely forgotten about everything. "Oh, my son…" The King glanced at the Lords. "Umm… take care of this. I have pressing matters to attend to." Standing, all in the room fell to one knee. Gesturing dismissively to them, Aerys made his way out with Ser Gerold and Ser Jonothor following.

The Crown Prince saw his chance to end this. "Lords of Dorne, I understand your concerns over the Princess Elia, but the succession rights of Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys will not change. I fully intend to continue my lifelong commitment to the Princess Elia."

"Such a marriage disrespects the gods!" proclaimed the septon. His ire was raised while the Dornish were… somewhat placated by his earnestness. "The Faith will not permit it!"

"The Faith permitted both the Pact of Ice and Fire - a pact both blessed by the Most Devout and the High Septon at the time - and the Doctrine of Exceptionalism," hissed Connington, proving his appointment as Hand did not cause a loss in skill from Tywin. "His Grace Prince Rhaegar is a Valyrian, the Last Dragon, and is therefore not under the domain of the laws of the Andals."

Bristling, the Septon pointed an accusatory finger at Rhaegar. "You have no dragons anymore. Be wary of what you seek… my Prince." With a huff, he left.

Milling about, uncomfortable at the turn of events, the Dornish Lords didn't hesitate to flee once Rhaegar dismissed him. The Prince wanting a stiff drink as he rubbed his temples. "I don't anticipate a problem with Dorne until my dear goodbrothers get involved."

"No, the Dornish have been… rather lax in their morals," Connington chuckled, eyes growing wistful - as if remembering something fond from his memories. "The Martells' ire will be personal, but the Faith is another matter entirely. I shall see to it that the septon has an accident."

Rhaegar shook his head. "That would just cause more headaches. Notify Varys and your contacts in Oldtown to bribe the High Septon. A man that doesn't want his predilection for boys under the age of ten would likely proclaim visions of leaving House Targaryen alone if the price is right." Connington nodded, slightly proud of his normally straight-laced friend for his cunning. "Anything else?"

A sigh from the Hand of the King. "Well, Rhaegar… your mother is currently meeting with Rickard Stark to negotiate the bride price for the Lady Lyanna." Connington's nose wrinkled in distaste.

Burying his face in his palm, running it down his face, Rhaegar felt his head pounding. "I'm going to get that drink now."

The council room was ornate. House Whent was a very wealthy house, it's Lord soaring no expense. Lushly decorated with the finest Myrish rugs, ironwood paneling, and crystal chandeliers, Rickard Stark could just imagine Harren the Black sitting in the finery, imagining himself the King of all he surveyed before Aegon the Conqueror burned him alive. Winterfell was never even close to approach something like this, and while his spartan northern sensibilities rebelled at the thought it didn't mean he couldn't appreciate it.

While he was one with rather southern tastes in his love of life, Brandon didn't have the same sense of appreciation. Instead, he was rather irritated. "Where are they?" His feet tapped anxiously on the carpet below, stomping upon the intricate flower designs. "I bet the Mad King is making us wait. Yank our chain."

Rickard glared at his heir. "Hush!" Brandon was impetuous and hotheaded, but such was unacceptable. "You must not speak like that here!"

Fortunately, Brandon was summarily chastised. "Forgive me, father. The last day has been… quite harried on my emotions. This betrothal out of nowhere, and Lord Baratheon…" His fists clenched in a suppressed fury. "I still wish I could strangle the cunt."

While the heir was a fire mountain, the Lord more approached a slowly creeping sheet of ice that ended up tearing apart whole boulders. "That was a… mistake on my part." Ned punished himself for the oversight, but Rickard knew it was he that bore the real blame for the misguided betrothal. "I should have been more tactful in the betrothal negotiations."

Shaking his head furiously, Brandon placed his hand on his father's. "Do not blame yourself, and Ned shouldn't blame himself either. This is no one's responsibility but that adulterous pig that forced himself on and then disrespected Lyanna." Such was the way many Lords were - Brandon couldn't excuse some of his behavior either - but Lyanna was his sister and someone precious. A beautiful winter rose. She deserved only the best. Who better than a Targaryen Prince?

"Ned spoke highly of him, but anyone who wouldn't wait for consent will never get my Lyanna," Rickard said firmly. "And that includes Prince Rhaegar." Suddenly the doors opened and in walked Ser Jaime Lannister, resplendent in his shining uniform and brilliant golden hair. The two Starks had just managed to stand when the breathtaking form of Queen Rhaella Targaryen entered, dressed in a form-fitting red gown and wearing her silver hair in a loose bun. "My Queen," Rickard bowed.

The Queen smiled, gesturing for them to take their seats. "Forgive my husband and son, my Lords. They were both tied up by urgent business and requested me to speak with you in their steads." Actually, Aerys had ordered her to do it while Rhaegar was very likely kept in the dark, but Rhaella wasn't about to inform them of such. Probably told me the wrong time in order to make them wait. Aerys loved his mind games.

"It is insulting that Prince Rhaegar doesn't have the balls to face us…"

Rickard elbowed Brandon under the table. "Apologies for my son. He is a man of strong opinions." He smiled apologetically at the Queen.

It was returned. "I fully understand. My family is the same way, and the news of last night undoubtedly were trying for your House." Rickard couldn't help but think well of Rhaella - she was a breath of fresh air that enamored everyone in the room. Even Brandon, as it seemed. "I feel that a bride and a groom should not be involved in betrothal negotiations. It tends to… complicate the development of affection."

Blinking, the Warden of the North could only nod. "You speak with the wisdom of someone double your age, your Grace. My son and I can only hope that my daughter and Prince Rhaegar can make such a connection." One she failed to have with Robert Baratheon. "But, we are not smallfolk that may run away for love. With our power and birth comes a great responsibility, and I hope your Grace isn't offended that I cannot obey the King's decree without concessions." A silent prayer to the old gods that it was Rhaella he now bartered with. Brandon might not see it, but she was far more amenable than the mercurial Aerys. They could speak more bluntly.

"Agreed, and I didn't expect you would." The Queen took a piece of paper from a scribe behind her, pushing it across the table to Rickard. "Lord Mooton of Maidenpool passed recently of old age. The position of Master of Laws is thus vacant. This is a royal decree signed by my husband naming you to that position, and all it requires is your signature." She leaned back in her chair and waited for Rickard's answer.

To say that the Starks were stunned was an understatement. Rickard stared at the paper, reading the words over and over again to make sure of what it said. Brandon had no subtlety, gaping like a fish. "My father… Master of Laws? Part of the Small Council?" It was an honor no Stark had held since Cregan Stark in the early days of Aegon III's reign.

"Such is a great honor, your Grace," Rickard answered honestly, ignoring his son. The Warden of the North wished his heir would learn more tact from him - unlike the more taciturn and cautious Ned, Brandon was rash. Impetuous. One of the reasons Catelyn Tully was a good match. The dutiful and pious members of that house would temper Brandon's fire. "However, there must always be a Stark at Winterfell. I cannot accept on such… short notice."

"Father, what are…" Another elbow in the ribs shut Brandon up.

Rhaella's soft smile didn't fall. If anything, she seemed impressed. "You have a third son in Winterfell, correct?"

"Aye, Benjen, a good lad. Wants to be a knight of the realm." An idea came to mind. "I sought to end the isolation of the North in order to prepare better for winter and improve the North out of the provincial backwater most see it as. Already Hoster Tully of the Riverlands has promised supplies of wood and foodstuffs for the North."

"Something House Targaryen can promise to match double, perhaps triple," Rhaella continued. "For an alliance in perpetuity for the length of my husband and son's reigns on the Iron Throne. We are prepared to even offer a shipload of Myrish glass for your glass gardens. I have heard they are quite lovely."

The Queen had surprised him yet again. Leaning forward, Rickard felt this conversation was going perfectly. "I am truly impressed with your knowledge of the North, your Grace."

Her eyes sparkled. "Only fitting to learn of the land of my future gooddaughter." Yes, things were well on track.

My dearest nephew,

The lines in front of him were in High Valyrian - a particularly ancient form of High Valyrian. Few outside of several Archmaesters in the Citadel and scholars in Meereen could parse the script. Even among House Targaryen, it was an art that had come close to dying after the Dance of Dragons. Viserys II wrote it, as did Daeron II. Aegon V was a particularly fluent expert who taught it to his daughter Rhaella. And Rhaella taught it to Rhaegar, using his skills to converse with the man who had taught grandfather Aegon… Maester Aemon Targaryen at Castle Black.

My unseeing eyes keep me from truly comprehending the words in front of me, but that doesn't mean I don't cherish every letter you send me. Keep family close, my nephew, and I pray that your family doesn't sunder itself as mine or your father's did.

Your predicament is one that would both delight and vex lesser men. Two highborn beauties sharing your bed… even I am jealous…

Rhaegar bit back a chuckle. His great uncle had a way with words - one can never be too old to look or to dream. Aemon gave the best advice, which was why Rhaegar wrote so often. One day I will meet you and free you of your exile to the useless Night's Watch. This he swore on every god he knew.

And yet such unions pose great problems. Visenya grew bitter because though she married Aegon out of duty, she was hurt that he preferred Rhaenys over her. Maegor essentially condemned his brother to be overthrown when he sought a second bride, though I believe most of the anger there was driven by jealousy from the bitter old men within the Most Devout. I hesitate to comment on the particular peril in regards to your father and the current political climate. Your mother, my niece, would be more well versed on that. I can only truly give you proper advice on history and our family.

Rhaegar, you are a dragon. You answer to neither gods nor men, and are recognized as exceptional by even the most zealous members of the Faith. Aegon married both his sisters and didn't look back - the propaganda says different but from the sources of our family Visenya and Rhaenys got along swimmingly, and at the time of Maegor's birth Aegon and Visenya completely reconciled. He was capable of loving more than one and so will you - it is in the dragon's blood. Along with the fighting and the ruling, we are predestined to be masters in the act of love as well.

He was no prude or shy virgin, but coming close to being lectured on the intimate arts by his ancient uncle very nearly turned him into one. Drinking a cup of watered wine to calm his flush, Rhaegar continued to read.

I cannot tell you what to do, but let me elaborate on the same basis of advice I had given you before. Love is the death of duty, but what is duty compared to a beautiful baby in your arms? Compared to two beauties clung to your chest that absolutely adore you? Love… it is of itself its own duty, and those that truly love you would recognize your other duties and assist, not hinder them. From what you told me, Elia is of this and I pray that your Winter Bride is the same.

Heed this, nephew. You'll have happiness as well as greatness.

Your great-uncle.

Aemon Targaryen.

Sighing, Rhaegar refilled his cup - enough to help ease his nerves, but not potent enough to dull his senses. Aemon is more optimistic about Elia than reality. Rhaegar cared deeply for his wife, a far better woman than he deserved. It could be called… love? But his father and both their expectations had strangled any true affection in the crib before it even happened. She would never truly love him, not in the way his uncle spoke of.

Gods hope that Lyanna isn't the same. The girl… she bewitched him with merely a look and a glimpse at her style. She was like no other, a beautiful yet indefatigable northern rose. Rhaegar hoped his mother's negotiations would bear fruit. If the Starks weren't amenable to the marriage, it would be even more loveless than his and Elia's.

A knock on the door interrupted his brooding. "Yes, Ser Arthur?" It could be only one, Rhaegar having given strict instructions not to be disturbed.

"You have a rather important guest seeking an audience, your Grace." The tone was formal - it had to have been quite serious. "The Lady Cersei Lannister."

Yes, very serious indeed. Rhaegar ran a hand through his silver locks, biting back a panicked breath. Stop it, you are a dragon. He took a deep breath and adopted his mask of strength yet polite indifference. "Let her in."

The Lady Cersei Lannister was quite a beautiful woman, bearing the same fair looks as her twin. Lesser men than he would have killed entire villages for the chance to even have one night with a woman such as her, and even Rhaegar had to admit that she would have been an illustrious match. But taking in the arrogant smile and air of almost girlish adoration in her gaze at him, Rhaegar knew why any semblance of this had to be crushed.

His father would kill her - rape her and kill her just to fuck with Tywin. And all she desired was to be Queen. Not him, but to be Queen. Even at their worst, Elia was sincere in wanting to be a proper confidant to him and a mother to their children. Cersei's immature pining was evident in how she bowed an over the top curtsey. "My Prince. I could think of no one I would have rather presented my belated arrival than yourself."

"You flatter me, my Lady," Rhaegar stated without a hint of affection. "Yet you could have done the same while my father and I were holding court."

"Perhaps, but my Lord Father recommended that I instead speak with you." A half lie. Tywin probably had told her to stay away from his father, and Cersei interpreted that to mean see him. The daughter of Casterly Rock had the makings of a power player on the political scene, just not with the subject of her girlish feelings - here she was as obvious as a roaring lion. "I have heard of his Grace's betrothal announcement. It is such a shame to be trapped in yet another marriage you do not want."

Honestly he would have felt that, but even one glimpse of Lyanna had muddled his feelings in that regard. Yet the hopeful gaze in Cersei's eyes, he had to extinguish it. "On the contrary, my Lady, I am quite enamored with my new bride. And she with me." Not a lie as to him, and wishful thinking on her part.

Cersei's smile fell. Hope curdling into a mix of worry and pleading. She had readily accepted to lead the Lannister delegation to the tourney with her father's reluctance to be in the same kingdom as Aerys to not only see her beloved brother but to finally seduce the Prince she loved. Hearing of the betrothal announcement hadn't dampened her resolve, since it seemed clear that Rhaegar didn't want it. But now he seemingly did. "My Prince, you need not let the spat between my father and your father affect things. You will be King…"

"Will be. I am not now - if I marry you, my father would kill you and then disinherit me."

"Just for disobeying…"

"Not just for that. He hates you, hates every Lannister. Ever since your mother spurned his advances so many years ago." Rhaegar didn't want to do this, but he needed Cersei to get out of his hair to keep the peace. "I am to marry the Lady Lyanna and keep Princess Elia."

Cersei felt her plan rapidly collapsing. "My Prince… I love you…"

Gods, spare me these blushing maidens. "You don't, my Lady. You only wish to be Queen. That I blame on your father and I can't fault you for his ambitions." Motioning for Ser Arthur, he gently guided her to the door. "But it will not happen, so I suggest finding someone else. You are a beautiful, desirable catch and I have no doubt you will find someone worthy of you."


"Good day, Lady Cersei." He shut the door in her face, hoping to the gods that this would be the end of her meddling.

Staring at the oaken door with pure shock, Cersei just couldn't believe it. For the King to reject the betrothal request solely out of enmity to her father was one thing, for it had nothing to do with her. But for the Prince to point blank reject her to her face… How? How can he choose that weak Martell girl or the… the… Northern girl over me? She was meant to be queen. Raised from birth to be queen. Told by the great Tywin Lannister that she would be queen…

"Best get a move on, my Lady," Ser Oswell stated bluntly. "The Prince has heard your piece already."

Shock turned to anger. "I am the daughter of the Warden of the West! You do not command me!"

The son of the Lord of Harrenhal smiled politely - it was far more condescending than a sneer. "Such is true, but you do not command me either, Lady Lannister. Please find someplace else to loiter or I will summon your brother to do it for me."

Mouth opening to retort, even in her anger Cersei realized that all of this was pointless. Turning, she stormed off, stormcloud crackling atop her head. "Good thing the Prince didn't marry this one," she heard the Sword of the Morning say to Whent, who laughed just as she turned the corner. It only served to stoke Cersei's rage.

So consumed was she in the ire over both Rhaegar's rejection and the insults of the Kingsguard, Cersei didn't realize she was set on a collision course till slamming right into a person turning into the hallway from a different corridor. The man stumbling but staying upright while Cersei toppled back. Crying out from the sharp pain on her backside. "Fuck!"

Regaining his balance, Ned Stark immediately was at the side of the woman he had absentmindedly knocked over. Noticing her fine spun silks, she was clearly a woman of high status. Honorably, he quickly pulled her up by the hand. "Please, forgive my lack of attention my La…" Ned trailed off, tongue tied as he finally caught a glimpse of her face.

The woman in front of him was stunning. Golden hair, honey skin, vibrant green eyes… she was perhaps the most beautiful woman he had ever seen - and that included the dozens of highborn ladies that had congregated in Harrenhal to find proper intendeds. Opening his mouth, Ned tried to speak but found himself unable to.

Other than a cursory glance at his face, All Cersei could see was the direwolf sigil on the young man's leathers. A Stark! It was as if the gods continued to torture her that day. "Stuff your apology, northern fool!" And with that she disappeared down the corridor, leaving a befuddled Ned Stark staring at her retreating form.

At the second knock on the door, Rhaegar groaned. "Can this girl not take a hint?" he muttered to himself, this time not waiting for Ser Arthur or Ser Oswell to open it for him… Only this time it was not Cersei Lannister. Watched by the shit-eating grins of the two Kingsguards - they greatly enjoyed every latest development of the betrothal that didn't create cause for alarm, especially anything that would result in their Prince's annoyance or embarrassment - there stood Eddard Stark. Trying to appear stern and unyielding, but something was on his mind that didn't involve being here.

Nevertheless, he still bowed. "Your Grace."

Rhaegar nodded respectfully. "Lord Stark." He motioned with his hand. "Please come in." The second son of the Lord of Winterfell had the look of a Stark - almost perfect in that regard. Light brown hair that reached down to brush his shoulders, comely but ruggedly so, and a tough kind of wiry frame. And Rhaegar could tell, Eddard Stark wore his emotions on his sleeve - naturally brooding, but honest.

The Prince liked him already.

"Forgive me for being blunt upon our first words," Ned began, "But I just ran into a rather enraged woman in the corridors not a few minutes ago?"

Blinking, suddenly Rhaegar couldn't help but laugh. "Oh that." He shook his head. "Lady Cersei Lannister. Came to speak to me about a betrothal between us."

Cersei Lannister… The beauty now had a name and a house - quite unattainable for a second son of a backwater, but for the goodbrother to the future King… No, don't jape yourself, Ned. "So that's who she was?" A wary look the Prince's way. "And did you accept?"

"Not in the slightest. I am… happily married to the Princess Elia, and the only other attachment would be to… your sister…" Rhaegar knew he was treading on thin ice, and wanted to make a good impression.

Expression hardening, Ned crossed his arms. "Do I have leave to speak freely, your Grace?"

Rhaegar waved his hand. "We are supposed to end up family, so I would only think less of you if you didn't, Lord Stark. And call me Rhaegar. You are in private and my future goodbrother, so you have leave to."

"Alright." The Prince had a charm about him, one that one couldn't help but like on an almost ordinary level - though the silver hair and stunning Valyrian features branded him as anything but ordinary. "I cannot lie and say the prospect of my sister being the second wife of a man is not concerning to myself and my House."

"Completely fair, Lord Stark…"

"If I am to call you Rhaegar, you may call me Ned."

A smile formed on the dragon's face. "Ned… if I have the honor of marrying the Lady Lyanna, she would be a Princess and Queen on equal footing as the Princess Elia. Targaryens are different from other families, and our blood leaves us quite… passionate with our love."

"As was Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel… at least at first." Ned regarded him with new eyes. He could see what his sister saw, what the singing represented. There wasn't anything underhanded about Rhaegar Targaryen, at least not in his own personality. The man was quite naturally a decent person, same as Lyanna. Knowing now where to look, Ned could tell. "You said 'if I have the honor.' You would seriously refuse your father's orders?"

Sighing, the Prince ran a hand through his hair. "I would hope such an event doesn't occur, but if need be I would never force your sister into a marriage she would not want." Such had essentially occurred with Elia, and Rhaegar was damned if he would do it again. "You have my word as a Targaryen, Ned." He offered his hand.

Ned took the offered hand, squeezing it. The Prince had a strong grip, but didn't show it off by crushing the other as Robert would have - a small but welcome sign. Were the signs all there? "You seem to be a good man, my pri… Rhaegar. But I wouldn't call my judgement of a person the best after the last few days."

"Why is that?" Rhaegar was genuinely curious. This man would be his goodbrother, after all.

"Nothing…" Ned shrugged. "Just that I thought my best friend, Lord Baratheon would be an excellent match. Turns out he was… for House Stark. Not for Lyanna." Grey eyes found Rhaegar, narrowed. "It doesn't matter what I think, or what House Stark thinks. The North hasn't participated in southern politics since the Dance and we really don't need to now that our alliance with the Tullys is going through. I will not support any marriage alliance - not even one with the Targaryen Crown Prince - unless my sister approves."

Regarding the second son of House Stark, Rhaegar felt his respect for the young man only increase. A little naive but that comes with age and pedigree. With the right wife, he should have been the heir to Winterfell. "Frankly, Ned, I wouldn't expect anything else from honorable men."

Tension seeming to wash away, a small grin appeared on Ned's face. "Would you like to meet her?"

"What?" Rhaegar blinked, hoping he'd heard Ned correctly.

"Lyanna seems, taken with you, though she has told me you've never properly met." He wasn't going to betray her secrets, but her feelings for the Prince were obvious enough. "I think that should be rectified."

Rhaegar gulped. "I would very much like that, Lord Stark… if there is no trouble."

Grinning openly, Ned motioned to the door. "That, my Prince, would depend on Lyanna." The dragon and the wolf shared a chuckle before making their way out of the solar.

Chapter Text

Household guards clicking their heels in attention as she walked past, Princess Elia Targaryen made sure to offer them sweet smiles. Acknowledging her approval of their diligence. Such was a reason she was quite popular in the capitol, much like how she was popular all over Dorne. She and Oberyn always treated the smallfolk and servants as human beings rather than furniture - though for Oberyn it was at least half-motivated to get under the skirts or into the pants of all of them - while Doran was more circumspect as a highborn was expected to behave.

If Elia cared for how people expected her to behave, she didn't largely care. Frail as she was, she was still a descendent of the Warrior Queen Nymeria, and would make her voice heard. Luckily, Rhaegar was compatible with that, even if their compatibility was frayed in other respects.

But her mind didn't focus on this, or even her usual risks and problems. With Aegon with his nursemaids and Rhaenys at her early lessons, the scroll in her hand needed attending to - and there was only one person she trusted enough to discuss it with.

No one willing to stop or sideline her with the King at Harrenhal, Elia threw open the door to the nondescript bedchambers despite the muffled grunts and moans emanating from within. They only grew once entering, eyes zeroing in on a tangle of sweaty flesh locked in the heat of passion. "Of course I find you here."

A scream left the throat of the pretty blonde chambermaid, eyes flying open to find the Princess staring at her with arms crossed. Mouth open as he emptied inside the warm cunt he had been enjoying, the burly guard turned and gasped. Pulling out and spilling his seed on the sheets, scrambling to find his trousers. After a moment, both hurried out of bed and bent the knee. "Your Grace."

Nodding at them, Elia shifted her gaze to the third person on the bed. "If you expect me to bend the knee, you can just execute me now… your Grace," Ellaria said sarcastically. Here she was, already on her second climax sandwiched between a powerful cock inside her and a beautiful maid to devour, only for her mistress to barge in.

Annoyed, Elia simply waved her hand. Dismissing both the guard and the servant, both of whom fled with all due haste. The Princess turned back to her lady in waiting. "Do you have any discretion? Like, any at all?" she huffed.

Standing, her nude body on full display - growing up in the Water Gardens, Elia was no prude, just private for her own activities - Ellaria walked towards a chest laid out on a table. "Stop being so paranoid, Princess. The King is out of the city, and you have free reign of the castle." Taking a flagon of moon tea from the chest, Ellaria downed it. While she had no compunction sleeping with the smallfolk, only one of noble blood could sire a child in her womb. "My offer still stands on joining me. There are several maidens that would love to have the future queen lick their cunt."

Elia blushed beet red. "That's… no… I am the wife of the Crown Prince. Even the appearance of impropriety could damage me."

An eyebrow rose, the Princess declining in a very… oblique way. Something to consider later. "Your loss," Ellaria shrugged, finally donning a robe - though the silky fabric left nothing to the imagination. "So why are you here interrupting my fun?"

Conversation finally changed, Elia sighed. Holding out the scroll. "It's done."

Brows furrowing in confusion, Ellaria took the dispatch, unfurling it and reading quickly. Her eyes widened almost immediately. "He did it already? His Grace doesn't waste time." She clicked her tongue, nodding. "So should I call you Ceryse Hightower now?"

"Shut up, this is serious… and I did bear Rhaegar children."

"It's said in Dorne that the Citadel and Most Devout used spells to make old Maegor childless, but I digress. It's official, the Prince is to be married again." For once, Ellaria's face twisted in concern. "How do you feel?"

"Honestly…" Plopping onto the bed, not caring that all manner of fluids were likely coating her orange dress, Elia covered her face in her hands. "Fearful. For this Stark girl… for Rhaegar… His Grace will only make them as miserable as he made me. Rhaegar especially, I worry so much for him…"

Ellaria sat next to her. "Because you love him?"

Another huff. "Because he's the father of my children and my friend."

"Friends don't coax those kinds of screams out of you at night… well, at least your friends don't."

Elia scowled. "You're impossible."

"And yet you don't want another lady in waiting." Wrapping an arm around Elia's shoulder, Ellaria comforted her as best she could. "Well, all we can do is wait till the tourney ends and they arrive in the capitol. Whether I should prepare for a celebration or a war." They sat silently for a few moments. "I wonder how pretty she is," she said lasciviously.

The Princess smacked her on the arm.

"... and the cook ended up slipping and falling into a sack of flour," Ned chuckled, regaling his soon to be goodbrother of a tale where the Stark siblings conspired to steal sweets from the Winterfell kitchens. Rhaegar listened intently, violet eyes sparkling largely for the first time since leaving his children in the Red Keep to come here. "Father was furious and called us all in his solar."

"Oh, this I have to hear." Rhaegar knew his father would have probably caned him and then had the cook executed, but he wouldn't let his family's darkness poison the Starks. It will once you marry Lyanna. He buried his guilt.

"Lyanna took the blame, saying she was acting alone." Ned smiled wistfully. "Father loves her the best, so she got the least punishment."

Just like defending that young Lord. A proud girl with a sense of justice - everything he heard of his bride was causing his heart to flutter, as if he were some lovestruck boy of ten and three."Your sister is quite a woman." Seeing Ned nod, Rhaegar tried a different tack. "I heard she's good with a sword."

Ned raised an eyebrow. "Where'd you hear that?"

"Servants gossip."

"That they do." Ned sighed. "Aye, she loves it. Riding and fighting - father didn't let her at first, but she wore him down. She's better than me sometimes."

Rhaegar chuckled. "I'll have to see that to believe it." You already did. "Baelor the Blessed locked his sisters in the maidenvault, but that's an extreme example. Your sister would have freedom in the Red Keep to an extent not seen in most castles. As a Princess, her authority is below only myself, my father, my mother, and Lord Connington."

"Equal to your other wife?" Ned held up two hands. "Not being antagonistic, but it's a fact. You'll have to handle that issue if the north will accept this marriage. Having the Princess Elia being the power and Lya being the broodmare will only insult the entire North."

Exhaling, Rhaegar vowed to himself to make sure Lyanna never felt like a second wife… nor Elia feeling like she was supplanted.

He was capable of loving more than one and so will you - it is in the dragon's blood.

His great uncle's words provided the proper guidance.

Reaching the Stark tent, Rodrik Cassel - the head of their household guard - bowed low as he saw the dragon prince. "My Prince, Lord Stark…" When both tried to enter, he held up a hand. Less in an order and in more of a request. "I'd wait a moment before entering, your Grace. Ned."

Rhaegar blinked while Ned crossed his hands. "And why would that be? Is my brother styling his hair again?" He turned to his future goodbrother. "I swear, he'd perfume his beard when he's not breaking heads."

"Sounds like someone who should've been born in King's Landing," grinned Rhaegar. "So Ser Rodrik, right? Why can't we go in?"

Before Rodrik answered, a rather feminine giggle emerged from within. "Oh, Bran… you are good at this."

Both looking at each other, Ned grew embarrassed while Rhaegar laughed. "Seems you come from a very sexy family, Ned." First Lyanna acts like a proper warrior lady, then Ned 'charms' Cersei Lannister, and now this. He was having more fun than he had in a while.

Not amused at all, Ned slammed his hand against one of the beams holding the tent upright. "Bran! The Crown Prince is here to see Lyanna! If you have something you don't want him to see, please cover it!"

Muffled voices and the quick flutter of clothes came from within the tent. "Fuck, uh… seven hells… come in, my Prince." Letting Ned lead the way, Rhaegar came face to face with Lyanna's oldest brother and his betrothed. Brandon Stark was taller than Ned, less stocky and in possession with a more… classic beauty. His intended was clearly a Tully, fire red hair and outwardly dour… yet seemingly devoted to her betrothed. If he could settle down and she could loosen up, they'd be a solid match. Brandon bowed. "My Prince, it is an honor."

Eying the rather large red mark adorning Catelyn Tully's neck, Rhaegar grinned softly and nodded his head. "So you are the famous Brandon Stark your brother was telling me about." Brandon's brow rose as he looked at Ned. "Don't worry, he only said good things."

"Mostly good things," deadpanned Ned, earning an amused death glare from his brother. Rhaegar smiled wider, already charmed by the close sibling dynamics of House Stark - the closest he'd seen to him was Oberyn and Elia. It heartened him in regards to Lyanna.


Japes aside, the serious matter underlying all of them was forefront. "I wasn't happy, my Prince." Brandon's eyes narrowed, while Catelyn looked slightly uncomfortable as her intended challenged the Crown Prince. "What his Grace did, without consulting my father, it seemed very much like stealing my sister."

Rhaegar sighed. "That's my father, not me. I have nothing but the best intentions for your sister, and I hope I am a worthy replacement for the betrothal to Lord Baratheon…"

While it was a humbling gesture on Rhaegar's part to earn their trust, the mere mention of Robert's name drove Brandon to anger. "That pig?! I'd betroth my sister to a gravedigger before him!" A gentle touch from his betrothed calmed him down. "I am no longer angry with you, my Prince, but I will not have my sister treated like a common broodmare, do you understand?"

"I understand perfectly." He clasped his hand on his chest. "On my honor as a Targaryen, that will never be my intention." Brandon's gaze softened, Ned smiling. This was going well.

"No, Petyr! Don't!" The four within the tent looked at the entrance, attention caught by the frantic screaming. "You'll die!"

"That's my sister…" Catelyn murmured.

"Get your hands off me, Lysa!" came a reedy but masculine voice. One Rhaegar recognized as that of a smoothtalker trying his best to appear strong and vicious. King's Landing had plenty of suckups like that. Lo and behold, Petyr Baelish stormed into the tent, red as a ripe apple. Clutched to his doublet trying to pull him back was ten and three year old Lysa Tully, eyes wide and tears streaming as she screeched incoherently. Eyes falling on Catelyn, likely seeing the mark on her neck, Baelish's face grew even redder. "Brandon Stark, you wretch! Unhand the Lady Catelyn at once!"

Catelyn opened her mouth to scold him only for Brandon to urge her protectively behind him. "What did you call me, Littlefinger?!"

"Both of you! Hold your tone in the presence of the Crown Prince!" Ned saw an opportunity to calm things down and took it.

Littlefinger's anger abated slightly, going white at the first glimpse of the Prince - rage so consuming that he hadn't even noticed. The thin minor lordling fell to his knees, trembling. "Please, please forgive me for my outburst, your Grace. I meant you know insult…"

Rhaegar waved him off. "Get up. It's obvious that your quarrel is with the heir to Winterfell. I'll act as mediator in my role as Crown Prince." Might as well show his future family that he wasn't some mad dragon breathing fire on everything that crossed him. "Now, what is the problem?"

Rage returning to him, Littlefinger leveled an accusatory finger at Brandon. "This immoral cunt doesn't deserve my Catelyn."

"Petyr!" the Tully girl shouted incredulously.

"Call me a cunt one more time…" Brandon hissed back. "I don't take insults from some no-name lordling with nothing to your name."

He was undeterred. "She deserves someone who actually loves her. Like me!"

Both Brandon and Ned snickered, finding the whole thing hilarious. Rhaegar bit back a laugh as well - this boy was the scrawny son of a hedge knight. Could he realistically hope to marry the daughter of a Lord Paramount? It had happened before, but not often and not for scrawny weaklings like him. "If you wish to make a bid for the Lady Catelyn's hand, you can speak with Lord Tully."

"Petyr, please," Catelyn pleaded, grabbing Brandon's hand. "I've given my heart to Bran, please just let me be happy, as my friend."

Words hurting him beyond belief, Littlefinger fought off tears within his eyes. "No. I cannot let you make this mistake."

Brandon stepped forward. "You heard the lady, get the fuck out of this tent…"

What Littlefinger said next shocked all of them. "I challenge you, Brandon Stark to a duel for Lady Catelyn's hand."


"Nooo!" shrieked both Catelyn and her little sister.

"Oh just perfect" mumbled Ned to the Prince. "Just what we need, more drama."

A pair of highborn ladies about ten feet away, conversation stilling as Lyanna walked by. Eyes flickering to her in a curious wonder. The tenth time that day alone that someone within the tourney grounds - strangers to her - observed her as a smallfolk toddler would a great knight mounted upon his horse. Her household guardsmen that provided the escort her father insisted upon managed to ward away the more leering male gazes with grunts and half-drawn swords, but chose not to interfere with the more benign ones.

With the murmurings between the two ladies, Lyanna groaned. "I don't think I'll ever get used to this."

"You're practically a Targaryen now," Dacey shot back, smirking. "Get used to it. They get stares wherever they go - even the ones that marry into the House of Dragons, their beauty is still sung of to this day."

"Are you trying to make me feel better? Cause it isn't working." Lyanna was used to such stares in Winterfell, but it was… different there. The North always had a sense of close knit camaraderie due to the harsh terrain and brutal winters. Lords that weren't shy about knocking back ale with their charges and smallfolk that could always count on the swift counsel and justice of their Lords. Not so in the south, where questions of form usually took priority over substance. Lyanna enjoyed being able to slip out unnoticed, the level of anonymity being the daughter of an important but backwater House gave her. Now… "I'm like a caged bird, always being gawked at."

Dacey glanced at her, frowning. "Would you rather be chained to Lord Baratheon?"

There was a pause. "I never said that," Lyanna said finally. "Rhaegar… I don't think he would chain me that way." She wanted someone who would respect and honor her, eccentricities and all - Robert wouldn't, while she felt Rhaegar would. "It's the title that's constricting, not the man." For someone that considerate, she'd endure any sense of social duty required of her.

Sensing Lyanna was done with the particular subject, Dacey switched the topic of conversation. Leaning in to whisper. "I found you a lance."

Lyanna raised an eyebrow. "That quickly?" Each spoke in a hushed whisper only the other could hear. "How'd you get it?"

Her Lady in Waiting grinned. "A girl has her ways, especially a Mormont." Of the two, Dacey still bore a significant anonymity among the highborns given that House Mormont was the backwater of the Realm's backwater. A small house, but a proud one as Dacey had said of it, and Lyanna couldn't help but agree. "Howland is handling most of the procurement though. Short and plain, always overlooked. Said he knew the perfect sigil."

"Oh, and what is it?" Couldn't very well use that of a direwolf, or any wolf for that matter. Too obvious.

Smirking, Dacey shook her finger. "Be patient." A giggle at Lyanna's cross look. "Don't worry, it'll be fitting…" She was cut off as a man bumped into her, nearly sending the slender she-bear toppling to the ground. It was Littlefinger, almost comically angry with a flushed face and glowering expression. "Watch it, cunt!" Dacey hissed.

The son of the Fingers glanced back, but his eyes settled on Lyanna. "Tell your shit of a brother that he's going to get what he deserves!"

Bryen, Lyanna's lead guard, glared menacingly at Littlefinger. "Best be on your way now, lad."

Still smoldering, Baelish turned and stormed off. Blinking, the ladies hurried back to their tent to find Catelyn Tully hugging her inconsolable sister, Brandon and Ned standing awkwardly to the side. "By the gods, what in seven hells happened?!" Lyanna exclaimed.

"Petyr Baelish challenged Brandon to a duel for Catelyn's hand," Ned answered grimly, nervously glancing back at the tent.

"I knew he had affections for her." It was parent by just looking at him, but it seemed to Lyanna that Catelyn had no idea. Is she that clueless about some things?

"He'll be killed!" wailed Lysa, who then glared venomously at Brandon. "Look what you did, murderer!" From terrified screams to enraged snarls. The younger Tully daughter clearly had issues, Lyanna could see.

"This is not Bran's fault, it's Petyr's." Say what one wants about Catelyn Tully, she was completely devoted to her betrothed. "He came looking for a confrontation and he got one."

If it weren't for her sister's grip around her, Lyanna thought Lysa would have charged at her brother. "Is this what you wanted?! My sister to your grubby little wildling paws that you'd kill the best man in the world!"

Brandon snorted. "I'm not going to kill him, and I doubt he'll even come close to me." Normally arrogant, from the looks of Petyr Baelish the arrogance on her brother's part was well founded. "Ned, Cat. I need to get something to eat. The morning's…" His eyes flickered suspiciously away from Lyanna. "Discussions and this… whatever it was made me hungry." With a look of longing from his bride, Brandon left.

Clearing his throat, Ned walked to his sister. "Lya, there's someone in the tent wanting to see you about something. Go talk to him while I escort Catelyn and Lysa back to their father." He looked at Dacey. "Mind helping me out?"

"Of course," Dacey replied, smiling at Lyanna who only raised her eyebrows. Who wants to see me? From the way Dacey jumped to go with her brother, it had to be Howland. You fool, why are you here so blatantly… Determined to chew him out, she marched into the tent only to stop in her tracks. Grey eyes meeting a breathtaking shade of violet, knocking all words… all thoughts out of her.

Rhaegar Targaryen smiled at her. "Lady Lyanna," he bowed. Up close and personal, he could feel this woman's effect on him, an enchantment that consumed his very soul. A betrothal he had been dreading for weeks, suddenly upended in… has it only been a day? Since seeing Lyanna Stark fighting those squires, all bigger than her, he haunted his every thought and he just couldn't stop it. Do I want to?

Owl eyed, it took a moment for Lyanna to comprehend who was standing before her. Blushing, she curtseyed, simple tan dress billowing out as she did so. "Your Grace." Trying to ignore the look of him in the dragon-emblazoned gambeson that showed off his toned muscles and trim waist…

There was no denying Lyanna Stark was a beauty. Harsh and wild, but such only enhanced her charm. A direwolf… wild winter rose. "I spoke with both your b...brothers," he said, stammering slightly. "Given our… situation, I feel we should be properly introduced to each other."

Standing there, fingers fiddling with the pleats of her dress, Lyanna's heart thudded out of her chest. The normally unflappable daughter of winter knocked for a loop by the close proximity of the handsome Dragon Prince. "I… I see nothing wrong with that." Here to meet her, to be formally introduced. The last time a man had come for that from her, it hadn't ended well - but this one was different. Lyanna wanted to speak with Rhaegar. "Um… would you like to take a seat, your Grace?"

Falling back on his chivalrous demeanor drummed into him while a squire for Ser Barristan, Rhaegar nodded - containing his amusement about how flustered the Northern beauty was acting. It was both comical and undeniably sweet. "Lead the way, Lady Stark."

Confident but polite, Rhaegar's attitude only flustered Lyanna more. The young girl wanting nothing but to jump him and find out if his lips were as delicious as they looked. "Follow me, this way," she croaked, leading him to her sleep quarters.

"I'm curious as to why House Stark needed a tent." Rhaegar couldn't help but ask, it was not important but gnawed at him. Wanting to know. "As the Warden of the North, Lord Rickard could have had his pick of guest suites in the keep provided by Lord and Lady Whent."

Lyanna shrugged, trying to keep it together. "We got here after the other high lords, and besides. We northerners like to stick with each other." Pushing aside the privacy flap, Lyanna did a double take. Strewn about her cot and chest were bundles of clothes - dresses, sleepwear… underclothes. "Oh gods…"

Pursing his lips, it took all of his strength not to collapse into a fit of laughter - also to hide a spike of desire at seeing the garments his intended wore under her form-fitting dresses. "I take it that these weren't meant to be seen by me, Lady Stark."

Face flushed beet red, she dashed to the bed, scooping clothes and dumping them in her chest. "Stupid servants, stupid Dacey." Lyanna began breathing quickly, humiliated beyond belief. What is fucking wrong with me… Gods, I'm panicking like a little girl… in front of Rhaegar Targaryen… oh Gods…

Unable to stop himself, Rhaegar snickered, finding Lyanna's frantic back and forth an absolute disaster. One of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, enchanting him greatly, here she was acting like a clumsy maiden… and it only served to increase her charm in front of him. Eyes flickering to the chest, something caught his eye. Rhaegar strode to it while Lyanna was busy gathering her shifts in a big ball. "I know this book." Sure enough, the lettering on the spine confirmed it - the binding was the same as the copy in the Red Keep. "Dancing Dragons, by King Viserys II."

Dropping the bundle of clothes, Lyanna blinked. Eyes widening. "Did you read it, your Grace?"

"Of course. It was my favorite as a child - still is by a matter of fact."

Her embarrassment and frantic worry fell, a warm hitch in her heart. "It is my favorite too…" Was she asleep? No, she couldn't be dreaming - this was something she wouldn't have comprehended. "My brother gave it to me as a tenth nameday gift from the Vale."

"Your brother has excellent taste." Opening the book, taking great care to not damage the pages or the binding, he looked at her with keen interest. "Unlike his father, Viserys wasn't an exceptional warrior. He was smart, but contemptible of maesters as well." Waiting for her leave to sit, Lyanna nodded, sitting on her cot and beaming when the gorgeous Valyrian Prince sat next to her. Setting the book back in her lap. "Ended up writing the most accurate take of the Dance of Dragons ever written, even though the Citadel keeps trying to ban this book."

Lyanna looked at him, surprised. "Why would they do that?"

Rhaegar shrugged. "He fought the official historical account written by the Maesters. Knew what they did to Maegor's reputation and was not about to let it happen to his mother and father." This was greatly pleasing to him. Elia liked to read but they couldn't get past their reservations to be that… intimate. His mother was his mother, Connington didn't care for history, and none of the Kingsguards could really be bothered. The Prince wanted someone he could discuss these things for hours on end - and it seemed like he found her. How did I never know of this woman till now? "The maesters insist that Prince Daemon only married Rhaenyra for her throne."

"That is a lie," Lyanna stated vehemently. Their romance had shaped her childhood and adolescent dreams of love, as stated in the novel. "They were madly in love, just like the book says." At his sigh, she placed her hands in her lap. Looking at him pleadingly. Worriedly. "Weren't they…?"

Sighing again, Rhaegar leaned back. "The Maesters wanted to discredit Rhaenyra, largely because she was a woman and their patron, House Hightower, was the blood of the Greens. However, from what our house's sources say, Daemon did initially marry her for the throne, plus for her beauty. Those stories of her growing fat… hugely exaggerated." As he spoke the light in her grey eyes started to dim. As if he had just strangled to death the most precious thing to her. It broke his heart. "But that's not the whole story."

The northern beauty hung on his every word. "Tell me, my Prince."

Gods, this girl would be the death of him. "Something about a dragon… we are temperamental and rather impulsive, especially in our love lives. But when it comes down to it, we mate for life. Such as it was with Daemon. He couldn't help but fall for his she-dragon, even going so far as to leap to his certain death at the God's Eye just to protect her." Glancing at the she-wolf, she was close to swooning. Clutching the book to her chest as if having made a long-sought discovery. "I only wish Winterfell wasn't so far away. Had Cregan Stark got there sooner, Daemon and Rhaenyra would have sat on the Iron Throne for a long time."

Gleeful, Lyanna impulsively reached over to poke Rhaegar in the chest. "You see now the power of the Direwolf. Winter comes for our enemies." Realizing how informal she acted, her eyes widened and she drew away. Opening her mouth to apologize, Lyanna caught the glint in his violet eyes and suddenly they burst into laughter. "Please," she said through her giggles. "Forgive me for that, your Grace."

"Don't worry about that," he said gently, reaching out to place his hand on hers. "And you're my betrothed. Call me Rhaegar."

Rhaegar… The flutter in her heart returned. A pleasant warmth pulsing from his hand onto hers. If this is what the touch of his hand on mine feels like… Lyanna crossed her legs, hoping he didn't notice the sudden heat in her core. "I… like that… Rhaegar." His name felt so good on her lips. "Call me, Lyanna."

"Lyanna. A beautiful name for a beautiful woman." She could barely reply. He thinks I'm beautiful… what happened to me? Whatever did, she didn't mind. "So, Lyanna. Tell me something about yourself."

Blinking, Lyanna stared at him. "You want to know about me?"

He peered at her as if he couldn't fathom what she said. "We are to be married. Of course I want to know about you." What had happened to the stunning winter rose? "Why would you think I didn't care to ask?"

"I…" Wiping her eyes, Lyanna just smiled warmly at him. Robert hadn't even bothered to ask. Rhaegar is not Robert. Had she ever thought she'd end up so lucky? Her Dragon Prince just got more and more beautiful with each passing moment. My Dragon Prince… "What would you like to know?"

"Everything," he rasped, captivated by her smile. No woman in his life had ever truly enchanted him in the way she did. "I don't know what it is about you, Lyanna. But ever since I caught a glimpse of you… at the feast, you've never been far from my mind."

Blushing bright red, she tucked her head between hunched shoulders. Feeling like a lovestruck maiden… which she was. Despite how Robert treated her and the violation she felt, nothing would have made Lyanna happier than if Rhaegar leaned in and kissed her - so hard she had fallen for him, the plummet neverending. "You can say the same for me, Rhaegar. I've never met a more… breathtaking man." Gently, she stroked his palm with her thumb. Enjoying the calloused yet soft skin of an accomplished swordsman.

Matching her smile with one of his own, Rhaegar cleared his throat. "Your brother told me how much of a rider you are." Honestly, it was the first thing that came to mind. "Said you could put a Dothraki screamer to shame while mounted."

Face sparkling with joy, Lyanna pondered for a moment then stood. Tugging on the Prince's hand. "Why tell you when I can show you, my Prince." The last was teasing, letting Rhaegar know what kind of a woman he was to marry. From the twinkle in his violet eyes, he clearly didn't mind in the slightest.

Outside the tent, a quick rush to the stables of the northmen found a particular stall. "Alright, what is it you want to show me?" Rhaegar asked.

Whistling, Lyanna laughed when Winter poked his head out of the stall. Nicking happily and brushing her muzzle against the she-wolf's hair. "Winter, girl… stop it," she laughed, a more beautiful sound Rhaegar had never heard. "My Prince, this is Winter. I raised her since she was but a little foal." As the dapple-grey mare calmed down, Lyanna felt slightly nervous. The Prince of Dragonstone likely had every manner of fine mounts in the stables of King's Landing. What would he say about the stalwart northern breed? She didn't even think about showing her off to Robert.

Approaching the horse, Rhaegar found Winter staring at him. Huffing and attempting to knock him away when the Prince raised a hand to stroke her head. "Hey, shhhh…" He moved to calm the agitated horse. "Gīda riña, gīda," he cooed softly, hand gentle against the animal's hide. "Issa sȳz, Sōnar." High Valyrian tumbled from his lips automatically, the language he used when speaking to the animals on Dragonstone. Amazingly, the horse calmed down, stilling and accepting Rhaegar's touch. The Prince smiled, Winter reminding him so much of Lyanna. "Iksā iā gevie anne, Sōnar. Sepār gevie."

Lyanna stared with mouth agape as Winter nicked, nuzzling Rhaegar's shoulders the same way she had done for her. "Winter is never that good with strangers…" He's perfect… and mine. She couldn't hope to contain her excitement and joy.

You'll have to share him…

The daughter of Winterfell put that aside for now. "Would you like to go for a ride, Rhaegar?"

Giving one last stroke to the stunning horse, Rhaegar almost said yes. "I'm afraid I'll have to pass on that, my dear Lyanna."

Her face fell, though Lyanna passed it off with a grin. "Are you scared that your betrothed would beat you in a race?"

Rhaegar chuckled. "As fun as that sounds, it is getting late in the evening. I wouldn't want to keep you past dark." While she was sad about it, it was clear the lady understood. I think she's close to perfect. "Would you like me to escort you through Harrenhal? I've been here plenty of times before, so I can give you the grand tour."

The grey eyes that so captivated him lit up. Without hesitation, she looped her arm in his, not wanting to be parted from the dashing Rhaegar Targaryen at the moment. "Lead the way, my Prince." It was as if they had always known each other.

Chapter Text

"I can't believe Harren the Black would just stand firm against a dragon." Walking atop the massive walls of the largest keep in Westeros, the moonlight reflecting beautifully over the rippling waters of the God's Eye to their south, Lyanna looked up at the handsome Targaryen Prince. Transfixed at how he described the history of Aegon the Conqueror's war over the Riverlands. His rendition was so much better than how the maesters taught her, and filled with new information.

Rhaegar shrugged, laughing. "Pride goeth before the fall. Harren had absolute power for forty years, probably thought his great castle could withstand even dragonfire." They had walked all over the grounds of the castle, seen by highborns and smallfolk alike. Ladies looked at Lyanna with jealousy, while the men had a combination of admiration and jealousy. Most had seen Elia, and now another beautiful maiden on his arm. All it did was make Rhaegar stand ever straighter, disbelieving of his luck in finding a precious winter rose that Lyanna seemed to be. "'What is outside my walls is of no concern to me. Those walls are strong and thick,' he told my ancestor. Smug cunt."

Giggling, Lyanna pulled herself closer to Rhaegar's torso, seeking out his warmth. The dragonblood within him gave it off in spades. "And what happened next, my Prince?"

A shiver passed through Rhaegar, and it wasn't due to the cold. She is so soft… He thanked the gods that his thick cloak managed to conceal the bulge in his trousers - prurient thoughts about pushing Lyanna against the keep's walls and having her swimming through his mind. "Visenya's personal diary states that Aegon simply looked at Harren, narrowed his eyes, and said 'When the sun sets, your line shall end.' And…" Rhaegar stretched out his arms, one finger pointing to the great Kingspyre Tower, still bearing the scars of being melted away. "He spoke the truth."

Biting her lip, Lyanna wondered if this was all just a dream. Just over a day ago she had been stuck in a betrothal with a whoring oaf who truly cared nothing about her, and now… A dashing Targaryen Prince. Respectful, smart, and just… a beautiful, beautiful man. Lyanna Stark could see a life with this man, for the first time truly desiring a marriage rather than the dream of a wild freedom like those north of the Wall. Her entire life having changed the instant she heard Rhaegar Targaryen sing. That song… "Rhaegar, may I ask you something?"

Taking in her soft voice, Rhaegar chuckled. "Why do you ask, Lyanna? You always have leave to ask a question of me." This was such a deviation from the brave warrior lady he had seen fight the squires the day before. Did he make her this shy and demure?

"Who is Jenny?"

"Jenny?" His brows furrowed. "Where did you get that name?"

"You sang of her." Lyanna blushed, hoping he didn't think less of her - when did I truly care what other people thought?... When you all but have fallen in love with them. Oddly, Lyanna didn't feel shame in being swept off her feet, though she had made fun of her friends for swooning over young knights and warriors. Looking at Rhaegar, she noticed his eyes were wide with shock - it somehow calmed her. "I was out in the woods for… just riding. Getting some air, and I saw you in a clearing with your harp."

Coughing, sputtering, Rhaegar was floored. She heard me? After taking his horse deep into the woods that he knew so well exploring with Oswell just so that no one would ever find him. Clever girl. He didn't let anyone catch him singing in the open, not since his father smashed the first harp his mother had brought for him when he was only ten and three, thrusting a sword in his hand and telling him to spar. Truth be told, there was still a little shame in him for liking the musical arts… and here was the breathtaking Lyanna Stark telling him that she heard. "Jenny of Oldstones. It is a song I wrote and composed myself. Days on Dragonstone are sometimes boring."

Lyanna peered at him, curious. "Who is Jenny? Was she your first love?"

This he could confidently shake his head. "No, gods no. Jenny was my aunt, the wife of my uncle Duncan."

"Duncan Targaryen? The Prince of Dragonflies?" Now that was a name that everyone from the Wall to the Water Gardens knew of. How he gave up his birthright to his younger brother Aerys for the love of a common woman from the Riverlands. "Jenny… she was the woman he loved and married, yes?"

"Aye." Rhaegar sighed. "A lovely woman. Father hated her, but she was too popular to be booted out of court. Aunt Jenny was always kind to me until her death ten years ago. Mother said it was of a broken heart." He still remembered her funeral, attended by at least a hundred thousand people in King's Landing - his father didn't attend, celebrating with a quiet feast of him and his cronies. "I wrote the song several years ago… to honor her memory." Rhaegar smiled wistfully. "She'd always go to ruins of Summerhall every year since Duncan died, to be with the spirits of her beloved."

A tear fell down Lyanna's cheek. "That's beautiful." She put two and two together. "You were born during the fire, correct?"

Rhaegar nodded. "That's why the song has great meaning for me. Uncle Duncan died so that I could live, at least that was what Aunt Jenny said. 'Only death can pay for life.'" Great sorrow overcame him, turning away from his betrothed and leaning forward against the stone battlements. Gazing out over the God's Eye. Willing away the pain of it all until he felt a soft kiss on his cheek.

It was instinct on Lyanna's part, but already she felt her face blush. Hoping she hadn't overstepped some boundary. But that worry was dispelled as he turned his head, smiling at her. A smile that made the she-wolf go weak at the knees. "If… if you must know, my Prince. Your singing was beautiful." She had never heard something more beautiful in her entire life. "I would very much like it if you sang for me."

The prospect was quite appealing to Rhaegar, taking the maiden's hands in his. "That is something I can promise," he smiled widely, stroking her soft skin with his thumb. "I would gladly for my woman. Elia says it's when she feels closest to me…" Rhaegar shut his mouth, realizing the mistake he made. Stupid. Blowing up their happy bubble with things better discussed another time.

Lyanna pulled her hands back, instantly regretting the loss of warmth - wrapping her arms around her torso protectively. "You are still married to another." Much as it complicated things, she had to bring it up.

"I am not letting her aside, Lyanna. Nor does it matter." He ran a hand through his hair. "My father is determined to have me emulate Aegon the Conqueror and I can't disagree with him there?"

"So which would I be? Rhaenys or Visenya?" Lyanna didn't want to be biting, but it slipped out. "The carefree wife without power or the powerful Queen without love." Feeling a tinge of pain at how Rhaegar winced.

"Those characterizations were lies written by men with agendas," Rhaegar shot back, also regretting it at Lyanna's flinch. "I'm sorry, Lyanna… I… fuck. Elia is my wife and the mother of my children. I care about her a great deal but with you… you enthrall me. I really can't explain it."

To have the beautiful Dragon Prince all but throwing himself at you - Lyanna shuddered with warmth, wanting nothing more than for him to strip her naked and take her maidenhead right there, right now. But her mind and heart were a confused cauldron of swirling emotions. It was overwhelming. "I feel the same, Rhaegar. Since I heard you sing I wonder if I've fallen for you completely, but my whole life I've run away from marriage. From being a lady, not from a lack of interest or desire but… I can't explain it either." He moved to embrace her but she backed away. "I would probably choose you in a heartbeat all else being the same, but you being married. Your father practically forcing us together…"

Rhaegar had an inkling of how she felt. "You don't wish to be controlled." Her father, the Faith, Dorne, so many would be predisposed to hate Lyanna upon contact. Hells, he hadn't even really thought of how Elia would feel to see him with actual feelings for his second wife. "To be forced into a life of complete notoriety, thrust into a world where your duties overwhelm your desires?"

She bit her lip again, nodding. Rhaegar read her so well. "I'm sorry, Rhaegar." Tears pricked at her lids, knowing she ruined everything. Being unable to just tell Rhaegar what she wanted, her fears of being caged, even by someone so unlike Robert. By circumstance. I'm just a coward. When he pulled her into an embrace, Lyanna didn't even fight it.

"Don't be sorry, my wolf." Yes, she was his wolf. "It is just the first day of our betrothal. We have plenty of time."

Yes, plenty of time. Perhaps after the Tourney… "You're right." She laughed weakly. "It's only been one day."

He laughed as well. "One damn day." Soon, both were clutching the other, laughing uproariously at how silly it all was. The price of being a royal. He kissed her forehead. "It has been enough for one day. How about I escort you back to your family."

Lyanna still felt the tingle of his lips against her skin. Even with all her reservations and emotions, it was so wonderful. Like they belonged there. "Thank you." She smiled so widely, letting him guide her back to her tent.

Polishing off a dispatch to Maester Luwin, Rickard Stark picked up another sheif of letters from the Night's Watch. Scanning the first line, the Lord Commander was going on about desertions and the need for more recruits. The Lord of Winterfell put in a mental note to ask the Queen or Prince Rhaegar about emptying the Black Cells for men to send there when some hushed voices came from outside the tent. Tiptoeing to peek, he saw the Prince with his darling she pup. Kissing her hand as she blushed.

Young love. Shaking his head with a smile, Rickard went back to his desk just as Lyanna walked in. "Oh…" She looked startled. "I didn't expect you to be up, father."

"Getting some work done. The business of a Lord never sleeps," he chuckled. "Come sit with me." The graceful young lady did as bidded. Growing more and more like her mother every day. "I've come to an arrangement with the crown with which to give my blessing to your betrothal to the Crown Prince."

Beaming, Lyanna threw her arms around her father. The prospect of marrying Rhaegar - no matter what concerns she had shared with him - still filled the she-wolf with happiness. He cares for me. He respects me. They even found the same book as their favorite. Lyanna really didn't believe in fate, but this sure seemed like it. "Thank you, father. Thank you."

Rickard laughed, hugging her back. Feeling the joy at seeing his little pup like this - it truly assuage his guilt about Robert. The old gods provided for her… But she was still so young. He had barely raised her how to be a proper southern lady, let alone a Queen. Cersei Lannister or Elia Martell all had lifelong education in court procedure and southern politics. Starks don't do well south of the Neck. The only ones he remembered that did so were Theon the Hungry Wolf and Cregan, who were utterly ruthless and cunning.

That's what we'll have to be.

"You are the best father I could have ever asked for."

Nearly melting at her words, Rickard had to force himself to remain serious. "Your joy brings me joy, little pup, but I fear you may still be buried in your novels to understand the gravity of the situation."

Pulling back from their embrace, Lyanna sat back. Hands on her lap as she sighed. Another one of her father's kindly lectures… Ironically the last time had been when she was informed of her impending betrothal to Robert Baratheon, but now there wasn't anything to worry about on that front. "How so, father?"

"You won't be alone in going to King's Landing. The Queen - on behalf of His Grace - offered me the open post of Master of Laws and I have accepted." He watched as Lyanna's eyes lit up in pride for her family. "Brandon and Ned will accompany us, Ned until the wedding and Brandon for six months after. Benjen also has a position on the Kingsguard if he wants it."

Lyanna couldn't believe it. Her family was going to be in the capitol with her. Even Benjen. "Father, that's wonderful!"

"It is very prestigious. But you have to realize, Lyanna, Rhaegar isn't the King." The sparkle in her eyes began to falter and Rickard hated it. "I haven't met him yet, but from what your brothers tell me he is a kind and intelligent man. He is not the King, Aerys is. All the rumors of him are true, and the court in King's Landing has gotten correspondingly worse - not that it wasn't already a lime pit to start with." He reached out and held his pup's hand. "You were lucky experiencing the North or the Vale. We northmen are blunt and honest, while Jon Arryn takes the knightly vows quite seriously. The rest of court is not the same."

"I know, father. I read the stories of the Dance of Dragons." Intense dragon battles and torrid love affairs were one thing, but even Viserys II detailed just how cutthroat and vicious that hemmed both the war and the period leading up to it.

Scooting over, tucking his daughter against his shoulder, Rickard kissed her forehead. "It's one thing to read about it, and another to experience it. You will be thrust into the biggest den of vipers there is, not to mention being the second wife that will only earn hate simply for existing."

She lowered her head. "Dorne and the Faith…"

"Yes." It broke his heart to dampen her dreams, but it was necessary. "You'll need to both lean on your betrothed, but also learn quickly to stand on your own two feet. To deal in circles that will need subterfuge and cunning - if you truly think being the second Queen to Prince Rhaegar is worth it, then tell me now."

Pursing her lips, staring off into the distance, all Lyanna could think about was her betrothed's singing voice - serenading her without him even knowing it. "It is worth it, father."

Rickard smiled. "Come'ere little pup." This time the embrace didn't break apart.

Given the stubborn need for her father to remain at his desk for hours, burning the midnight candle wicks till they were mere nubs, it was closer to dawn than dusk when Lyanna was able to sneak out of the tent. The guards were concerned with someone getting in, not out - it was just a matter of daring and patience. Lyanna possessing much of the later and enough of the former. Cloak wrapped tightly around her, she disappeared into the maze of tents. Ignoring the moonlight in favor of the shadows.

As such, she found Dacey and Howland rather tired and perturbed. "What the fuck took you so long?" hissed the she-bear, hands on her hips and teeth chattering. "It's cold as a blizzard." Howland said nothing out of respect for her, but Lyanna could tell he was miserable.

"Forgive me," she replied genuinely. "Father was working late and it hampered my opportunities for sneaking out." Lyanna felt a bit annoyed at first, but seeing how chilly they were did temper her anger. "So what do we have?"

"Waldron and the others have scheduled tilts for two days from now. As part of the first time contenders," Howland informed them both. While the first tilts in the joust would be tomorrow, no one expected the first timers to compete against veterans immediately. They had one day to prove themselves, which was also the day of the melee championship.

"The damn southern system is so complicated and stupid," Dacey complained, "But mystery knights are allowed in, so we're good to go there." She raised an eyebrow. "Unless we're having second thoughts?"

Was Lyanna? The whole situation with Rhaegar had thrown her for a loop. Ending up as Queen, a whole different sort of cage within the chamber of King Aerys… nothing she had trained for, and there was the presence of Princess Elia. How did Rhaenys and Visenya handle it? How did Maegor's brides? Did they hate each other or saw the others as sisters? Did they get him one day? Did they share him or even each other…? Lyanna blushed at the absurd concept, but it served to highlight what she was getting into. I may have rejoiced too soon…

She shook her head. No, Rhaegar is perfect. Her Prince Daemon… But what if he only wants a proper lady as well. He would be respectful and faithful and loving, of this she had no doubt, but Lyanna didn't think she could handle being forced to reject all she was to be some trophy Queen.

All in all, perhaps kicking the ass of an arrogant Frey goon was the best thing for her. "No, no second thoughts. Let's fuck those cunts up."

Dacey grinned like a hungry bear. "Fuck yeah, and you're gonna love this. Howland finished your sigil."

Lyanna raised an eyebrow. "Nothing too obvious, I hope?"

The crannogman smiled sheepishly. "No, I'm careful." Taking out the shield, it became abundantly clear he had a sense of humor far taller than he could ever be. "Well?"

Taking the shield, Lyanna ran her fingers down the intricate artwork. Howland had went all out. A weirwood tree, trunk thick and roots gnarled beneath. The blood-red leaves sprinkled the entire top of the shield, but such wasn't the distinctive feature. In the center of the trunk was a carved face, but a laughing one. Frozen in a state of mocking amusement.

At her quizzical look, Howland grinned. His still purple and fresh bruises seeming to heal slightly with his joy. "For the lamentations of House Frey when you vanquish them."

Yes, this was exactly what Lyanna needed.

The tent for House Baratheon - having just been beaten out of the second to last guest chamber in the keep by the Hightowers, Robert graciously allowing Jon Arryn to take the final room - was among the other Stormlands Houses. As such, Ned found himself in unfamiliar territory, brushing past knights that largely gave him the cold shoulder. Mostly he kept to himself, but a rather surly stare from a knight of House Trant found him giving back as good as he got.

Ned was not in the mood to take shit from anyone. Dour and quiet as always, inside burned a white hot flame of rage - one having simmered within him for the last day. It's not about you, Ned. It's about Lyanna. He had avoided Jon Arryn, but knew just what the man would tell him about keeping both family and friends. Doing the honorable thing by both. And in spite of his rage that was what he planned to do.

Unlike the other Stormlands lords, the Baratheon retinue was comprised of Robert's own men that had accompanied him to the Vale. Knowing Ned quite well, they let him into the tent without fuss. Inside, Robert was preening over a mounted set of armor. At Ned clearing his throat, the Lord of Storm's End turned around. He grinned broadly. "Ah, Ned! Ya' made it, finally!"

Finding him swept in a big bear hug, Ned coughed and sputtered incoherently. "Robert… yer' crushin' me…"

Robert chuckled and dropped him down. "'Ere, brother, come and have a look see." Gesturing his meaty paws to the set of armor, he smiled proudly. "This was me grandfather's armor. Never lost a tourney in them. Gonna enter the joust and win this one - just as I promised your sister. She'll be my Queen of Love and Beauty."

Worse than I thought. Ned shouldn't have been surprised - from what Lyanna said happened, Robert wasn't going to let this go. "It is horrible form to crown a lady betrothed to someone else… especially the future Queen."

"Are you japin' me Ned? You're father's actually going through with it?" Robert regarded him as if he spouted five heads. "The King is my great-uncle, and I know more about him than most thanks to that. This is a flight of fancy on his part." Robert… what is wrong with you? Could being enamored by Lyanna be clouding his sense… or did he have little sense to begin with? "Rhaegar put him up to it, the cunt. I'm gonna make sure he's humiliated before the entire tourney."

"Don't do this, Robert. Don't pressure the King on this. It's done, my father has already authorized the betrothal in exchange for a large bride price and the position of Master of Laws…"

His friend's eyes blazed fury. "You sold that beautiful sun and stars like a piece of meat?! She deserves better!"

Ned's jaw dropped - as if Robert thought he had the moral authority to speak. "Betrothal negotiations for my sister do not involve you, my friend. I know there was talk to betroth Lyanna to you, but my father has formally rescinded the offer upon learning of the King's."

"So you'll let Lyanna be a broodmare slut? Some plaything to be humiliated by the Dornish?"

Taking a deep breath, it took all of Ned's honor and restraint to rein in his temper. "Robert, you are my dear friend. We are like brothers and have been for years, so I'm asking you as your friend and brother, please… please just let this go." The ruddy blue eyes were expressionless. "You are a Lord Paramount. Ladies from the seven Kingdoms will throw themselves at you. I… I…" I don't want you to put your whoring paws on my dear sister. She is marrying a good man.

"You what, Ned?" Robert asked him flatly. The wolf of Winterfell hadn't ever seen the stag so… composed. He had always been larger than life.

"Please just leave it alone. My father has already arranged things with the Crown, and we're not going to risk the fury of the Mad King just so you and I can be brothers in name as well as in spirit. I'm sorry it didn't work out, Robert, but please just let it be." Without waiting for Robert to finish, Ned turned and left - not wanting to add to the headache of challenging his best friend for the first time in his life.

Eyes trained on the tent flap, Robert sighed. Stretching his arms and rolling his neck. "Oh Ned, so afraid of the King," he said to no one in particular. "You may be scared, but not Robert Baratheon." Ours is the Fury. Lyanna was his - she loved him, not some dragonspawn using his poppa to steal brides for him. To play Maegor and his Black Brides. Picking up the shield, emblazoned with the great stag of House Baratheon… and House Durradon before it… Robert grinned. Imagining how he would crown his beloved as the Queen of Love and Beauty. Shaming the King into giving up this farce.

I'll protect you, my sweet wolf.

"For you, your Grace." Setting the cup of spiced wine on the table, still steaming from the kitchens, Jaime smiled as the Queen's eyes widened. Savoring her look of pleased surprise.

Rhaella picked up the hearty drink in her hand, sipping from the brew. A sigh escaped her lips. "Delicious," she moaned happily, a sound that made Jaime thank the gods above he wore an armored codpiece over his crotch. Might have been embarrassing and improper had he not… saved him countless times over the last several months. "What was this for, Ser Jaime?"

He sipped at his own drink. "You looked cold, and I was already heading down for my own drink. What kind of Knight would I be had I allowed a beautiful royal Lady to endure discomfort." He was laying it on a bit thick, but the King was asleep and the glass of wine from dinner emboldened him.

A blush formed on her cheek… due to the wine or Jaime he couldn't tell. He hoped it was the latter. "You didn't have to do that." Her gaze shifted to the fireplace. "A servant would have sufficed."

"Servants are lazy and overrated. When you care if something is to be done quickly," Jaime beamed as Rhaella looked at him, violet eyes sparkling and silver curls running down the bare shoulders of her nightdress - he was desperate to stare into them, running his hands through her hair as he kissed her. "You do it yourself."

Playing with fire, Jaime. For some reason his inner voice of caution sounded like Tyrion.

"Well…" Rhaella smiled widely at Jaime, slight tears in her eyes. "Thank you, Ser Jaime. No one really does that for me anymore." Let alone my husband the King…

"Anyone who doesn't is a fool," he replied, meaning every word.

Opening her mouth to say something else, the Queen thought better of it. "It's getting late, Ser Jaime. You have my leave to go and rest." Part caring, part dismissive. The wine was starting to get to her and she needed to control her decorum.

Slightly saddened yet knowing deep down it was for the best - there was a line he could never cross with the Queen, even thought gods' knew how much he wanted to - Jaime bowed. "Good night, your Grace. I shall be here on the morrow."

"Night, Ser Jaime," she replied with a brilliant smile. Finishing her wine, she wondered if it caused the butterflies in her stomach. Yes, it has to be it. The Queen had long since determined she should be content with what she had. It's not like you can ever dream…

Meanwhile, even being dismissed couldn't end Jaime's good mood as he walked down the airy hallways of the great castle. Buzzed and being able to make the quiet, melancholy Queen Rhaella smile was more he could have hoped for. He could just envision his father shaking his head, completely humiliated at how plebeian his golden lion had become, but Jaime didn't care. Tyrion was better suited to the game of thrones than he. All Jaime wanted was a life of love and honor, the dashing knight to be lionized in the songs as Ser Aemon or Ser Duncan.

Jaime's quarters were said to be built for Harren the Black in order to house his elite Ironborn guards. It fit perfectly for the Kingsguards, a simple cot, brazier, and writing desk all that they really needed. Looking forward to a decent sleep after the chaos of the last few days, it took him a moment before realizing there was a feminine figure waiting outside. "Excuse me, lady…" His eyes did a double take. "Cersei?"

Sure enough, there was his sister. Clad in a wrinkled dress and leaning against the wall. As if having waited for a long time to see him. "So I see her Grace saw fit to dismiss you," she said dismissively.

"Do not talk of her like that," Jaime replied firmly. "What do you want?"

"The Lady Lannister cannot come to see her twin brother?"

After our past… not a good idea. They had agreed to part ways long before, it being the best option for the both of them. But in the end, he couldn't deny Cersei's request. "Come into my chambers." Jaime did not want his sworn brothers to listen on his private matters, and no one would think suspiciously of sister and brother speaking for a short while. At least no one that doesn't truly know us. Frankly, he figured only Tyrion truly knew, and their younger brother wouldn't say anything.

Cersei sat on the cot, hands on her lap. Jaime took the seat at the far end of it, but turned to her. "Why are you here, Cersei? We could have spoken at any time during the day."

"I wanted to get you alone… no, not like that," she said as he cocked a brow at her, only to sigh deeply. "Alright, part of me wished for that, but after the day I had you'd forgive me for hoping."

There was a time Jaime would have came running if she motioned for him, or would have lost himself in her during a trying period… but not since Rhaella. Not since he found his angel - even if he could never be with her. "Does this have something to do with the Prince's betrothal?" Had he not known better, he could have sworn there were tears in her eyes… wait, there were tears! "Sweet sister." Jaime reached over and pulled her into his arms.

She hated being this weak, but Cersei couldn't help it. "He rejected me, brother. I… I think he's enamored with the Stark bitch."

Anyone with eyes can see he's enamored with her. Jaime bit his tongue. "It's a good match, Cersei. Binds the North, Vale, and Riverlands to the Crown. Rhaegar would be a fool not to accept it."

"But I was to be Queen! Father promised me!" Deep down, the lioness knew that it was hopeless. Seeing Rhaegar, hearing him dismiss her, she knew that all chance of being his queen was lost… but part of her still couldn't believe it, and all of her needed to get it out.

"Cersei…" Jaime pulled back, hoping that the brutal truth would end this and let her move on. "The King… he hates father."

She blinked. "Father was his longtime friend and longtime hand. Why would the King hate him? Because father left to manage home?"

And of course she, not being versed in court politics like he or their parents, would buy Tywin Lannister's excuse. "That's not the case. His Grace dismissed him because he feared father was plotting against him."

"Why would he think that?"

"I don't know, Cersei. Maybe he was plotting, maybe the King is delusional. In any case, you'd probably be used as a hostage if you were anywhere close to Rhaegar." He looked her in the eyes. "I see how he treats Princess Elia… how he treats his own wife. I cannot watch and see that happen to you, so please just let the Prince marry Lady Lyanna. Don't dwell on what you can never have." He dwelled on it every day. You are a hypocrite, Jaime.

Gazing at him, Cersei suddenly surged forward, lips on his. Desperately seeking some form of comfort, a validation after what her father had planned for so long and what she had dreamed for so long collapsing around her.

Jaime pushed her off. "We can't, sister." Truth be told, the thought of any lips on his but the Queen's just made him shudder.

Quiet, Cersei pulled back, not looking at him. "Think it would have been different, Jaime? Had you not left for the Kingsguard?" Had it not been for… But Jaime didn't know about that. No one knew…

Shaking his head, Jaime took her hands in his. "I love you, sister… sometimes in a way that only Targaryens should, but it would have been our downfall."

"How do you know?"

"I know, Cersei. I just do." Being with the Queen sobered his mind. Made him realize many things about himself, about what love and duty meant. "We can never be that way again… and neither can you and the Prince." Realization finally finding her expression, Cersei just fell into his brotherly embrace, Jaime allowing himself to comfort her.

Perhaps they would be alright.

Chapter Text

Ser Oswell trailing behind him, the King of the Seven Kingdoms turned the corner of the guest wing of Harrenhal's central keep… only to find yet another empty hallway. "Seven fucking hells," Aerys muttered under his breath. He had been here many times over his entire life and still ended up lost more than half of the time. "You grew up here, Ser Oswell. Don't you think my illustrious ancestor the conqueror should have burned this wretched shithole to the ground?"

"The will of the dragon is never wrong, your Grace," replied the Kingsguard, hand patting the hilt of his sword.

Aerys grinned at the answer, turning yet another corner to finally find what he was looking for. "Ah, Ser Jaime!" Idly standing in front of the door of a particular chamber, eyes glancing at the rather sunny day outside in preparation for the newcomer's joust, the call from his King sent him ramrod straight. An ability that Aerys never stopped enjoying since becoming King after his fool of a father bit the dust. "Is she inside?"

Jaime bowed. "Yes, your Grace." His voice was formal but completely different - there was little else he could be to the King who could grace the bed of the woman he adored, and yet didn't. "Preparing for the day ahead."

"Ah, good." He raised his eyebrow. "You plan to compete in the melee, today, yes?" Jaime nodded. "I wish you luck, Ser Jaime." Still grinning, he saw Ser Oswell get in position on the other side of the door as he entered…

Running right into one of his wife's ladies in waiting. "Oh…" Her eyes widened almost immediately. "Your Grace." The girl fell to her knees.

The King rolled his eyes. "Get up, girl! I wish to be alone with my Queen." It was barely three seconds before the young highborn girl - from some house in the Stormlands or another - to flee. Chuckling, Aerys looked upon his wife sitting at her vanity table. "Rhaella."

"My King." Rhaella didn't bother to rise. Seeing him in her mirror, he seemed… in a good mood. "She was helping me get ready for the tourney."

"Oh? Bothered by your royal husband?" Stepping till he towered above her slight frame, Rhaella was reminded of the brooding but handsome older brother she married twenty-two years before. "Your hair is better in simple styles."

She felt his fingers weaving through her locks, each moving purposefully. "You haven't fixed my hair in years, husband."

He scoffed. "It's like riding a horse. You never forget." Their mother, the beloved Queen Betha Blackwood, had made sure the teenage Aerys stayed close to Rhaella after their elder brother spurned the Baratheon daughter in favor of Lady Jenny. One of the ways they had bonded was him plaiting her hair in the simple style he preferred, which had been a wonderful prelude to the day until the growing split between Aerys and Tywin began to affect him. "The betrothal negotiations were done well. Got the Stark daughter for a cheap price."

Rhaella sighed. His hands felt as wonderful as they did long ago - but Aerys was a far different man. "Lord Stark would make a good Master of Laws - and Rhaegar seems taken by his new bride." With few to confide in, he had told his mother everything. She was happy for him… overjoyed in fact.

"Rhaegar with her and the Dornish bitch, Viserys with the Tyrell brat, I'll finally manage to rebuild House Targaryen from the hole our father and brother dug it into." His words were vicious, but his hands were still gentle. "He may have been an idiot at the end, but at least father knew to marry us for the benefit of our House."

Smug and proud of himself, Rhaella could still hear a wistful sadness in his voice. "I know you never wished to marry me, husband. You preferred Joanna Lannister."

Imagining the beautiful Lady of the Westerlands, his first love and first passion… Aerys shook his head. "That was a long time ago. Our father made his decision, and it ended up the right choice." Love mattered not. Only strength and power. "Done." He pulled back, proud of his work. "You look beautiful, sister."

It wasn't a lie, she was breathtaking. Rhaella wished Aerys would look at her with love and not smugness, though. "Shall you join me to break our fast, husband?"

"No, I'll be down in a moment. Go on." Aerys felt Rhaella reach out and squeeze his hand affectionately, grateful for the almost loving, domestic moment between them. Even as she left, the feel of her touch lingered on his palm.

"She was always the sweetest of us, don't you think?"

Aerys' eyes widened, flying open in shock and anger. "You have no right to speak of her," he shot back, seeing the vision of the man long dead leaning against the windowsill. "You have no right even to speak to me from what you did!"

Duncan Targaryen chuckled as he pushed himself off the windowsill. "Oh brother, always so bitter." The mocking voice he always used to his baby brother made Aerys want to take a sword and run it through the pure Riverman features of the Dragonfly Prince. "You are King, the father of the future of our House, and yet you still seem to act as if the man who renounced his birthright is superior to you."

"You have no authority! No authority to judge me, Dunk!" Even though Ser Oswell and any other servant outside could hear him, no one bothered the King's ranting. "You betrayed our family for some whore! A commoner, witch, whore that was unable to even bear you children. I have two and one of them is about to bear plenty of sons - little dragons that will fix what you destroyed you little shit!" Spittle was flying from the King's mouth by the end.

The smile on the Dragonfly Prince's face didn't falter. "You were always the stupidest among us, brother. My only regret was that I left you the heir to father, but do not worry. Your stupidity will be your undoing."

Aerys blinked. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

"The sigil of High Heart," Duncan began, stepping around his trembling brother. "The one that regards you just as I do, as strong to your son as Jenny was to I… no matter what you hope to do…" Aerys shut his eyes, willing for Duncan to journey down to the Seven Hells where he belonged. "This sigil will be your undoing, Mad King."

"Shut it!"

"Mad King, Mad King, Mad King!"

"SHUT IT!" Drawing a knife from the folds of his robes, Aerys stabbed at the form of his brother only to find nothing there. Just himself, alone in his Queen's chambers screaming into the void.

That morning, Lyanna woke to find both Ned and Brandon having disappeared from their tent, off to the dueling field without her - while a curse tumbled from her lips at their seemingly disrespectful attitude, the rational part of her said they were likely trying to pay their respects to Lord Hoster Tully. Petyr Baelish was his ward and it was Lady Catelyn that they were dueling over. With a sigh, she had dressed and found Dacey. Hoping that they didn't miss the action - not that she wanted to see Brandon cut down the scrawny pig with ease.

Sure enough, Hoster Tully was huddled with Brandon and Ned, the former's shoulder being clasped by the hand of the Lord of Riverrun. What surprised Lyanna was the presence of her betrothed. Fully dressed in a black doublet and red-striped trousers, red cape billowing behind him. Silver locks splayed over his shoulders, Rhaegar looked like the perfect mirror of Prince Daemon.

Having completed her undressing of Rhaegar with her eyes - not that the she-wolf couldn't spend hours admiring the perfect form of her betrothed - Lyanna turned to find Dacey completely silent. Gaze clouded over as she stared at the party of highborns. "You alright?" No answer. "Dacey… Dacey!" She shook her shoulder.

"Huh…" Shaking the dazed gaze from her face, Dacey blinked, turning to Lyanna. "Who's that over there?"

"I'm sure you recognize my betrothed, Prince Rhaegar," Lyanna teased.

The she-bear huffed. "I know who Rheagar is, Lya. I meant, who is that statuesque example of masculinity standing behind him?"

Furrowing her brows, she glanced back at the Prince and followed the line of sight to the armored figure behind him. Helmet held to the side and the other arm planted on the hilt of the famous longsword. "Oh, that's Ser Arthur Dayne. The Prince's Kingsguard." Lyanna hadn't met him formally, but Ser Arthur was famous from Sunspear to Castle Black. The twin blades were instantly recognizable.

Apparently, Bear Island seemed to be a bit isolated from the rest of Westeros. "Never heard of him, though I wish I had." Dacey's gaze was quite hungry as it appreciated the form of Ser Arthur.

Lyanna knew that gaze anywhere and grinned. "The greatest swordsman in Westeros according to most people. They call him the Sword of the Morning for his blade Dawn."

"Mmmm, I know a place he can put his sword if I have anything to say about it," Dacey licked her lips, causing Lyanna to roll her eyes. I bet Princess Elia doesn't have ladies in waiting this crude. Her thoughts were then thrown into disarray when Rhaegar looked at her. Heart skipping a beat from the passionate glint in his violet eyes.

Eyes finally falling on Lyanna, the Crown Prince immediately excused his conversation with Lord Tully to walk to her. A genuine smile teasing his oft brooding face. "My dear Lady Lyanna," he husked, taking her hand and bringing it to his mouth. Kissing the milky skin.

Blushing hotly, Lyanna nevertheless curtsied. "Prince Rhaegar." The effect he had on her was only amplified by their closeness. "It heartens me to see you again… even minding the circumstance."

Rhaegar frowned. "Some men wouldn't mind seeing your brother slaughter a man with more googly eyes than sense, but I'm not one of those men. Neither are either of your brothers, I don't think." For the first time since he made acquaintances with House Stark, Rhaegar saw Brandon as just as brooding as Ned, the young heir offering his apologies to Lord Tully. "Perhaps as the Crown Prince, I can referee the situation before it gets out of hand."

"I don't much care for Petyr Baelish, but I do care for my future goodsister and apparently that worm means a lot to her."

He raised an eyebrow. "I'm still a bit confused as to why the Tullys were picked for your brother. They are devout members of the Faith and… I'm not sure they'd be suited for the North. Wouldn't the Blackwoods have been better? They still believe in the Old Gods."

That was a good question. Ever dutiful, ever formal and pious, the Lady Catelyn did indeed seem a bad fit for being the Wardeness of the North. But… "My Bran needs someone devoted to him to settle him down. I think Lady Catelyn is perfect in that regard." If Rhaegar seemed skeptical, he didn't show it. Seemingly trusting her judgement. Yet another reason she was falling so deeply for him, even if there was that small reservation regarding her more wild nature. Willing it aside, Lyanna looked at the man that had gradually stood behind Rhaegar. "Now now, my Prince. You have been quite rude… not introducing me to the Sword of the Morning."

"Oh that." The Prince laughed. "Well, my dear. This is Ser Arthur Dayne."

Lyanna stepped forward and shook Arthur's hand. "Your reputation precedes you, Ser Arthur. Forgive me if I'm a little starstruck."

"My sigil is that of a falling star, after all," Arthur replied with a small grin. Lyanna decided at that moment she liked him. "I have heard a lot about you from his Grace - he is correct that you light up whatever space you find yourself in." An eye shifted behind the she-wolf. "And who is this beautiful lady behind you?" His green eyes glinted.

Blinking, Dacey approached at the attention of the Sword of the Morning. "Greetings, Ser Arthur. I am unattached…" Her eyes widened in realization. "I mean, I'm a maiden…" She hadn't said more than two sentences to Arthur before she wished to crawl into a hole and die out of embarrassment.

Lyanna hid her amusement. "This is Lady Dacey Mormont of Bear Island. My Lady in Waiting." Luckily for Dacey's sanity, her introduction guided them back into a decent rhythm. "She couldn't be more obvious," Lyanna whispered to Rhaegar.

"Arthur doesn't really go after ladies like Oswell or Gerold, so it's good to see him loosening up." His eyes shifted. "Although if one wants obvious, look over there." Following his line of sight, Lyanna spotted Littlefinger striding determinedly into the field, guided by Ser Brynden Tully and with the two Tully ladies following behind. He turned to speak to Catelyn, but she didn't spare him a glance, instead rushing to Brandon and embracing him. Hurt flashed on Baelish's face before it fell behind into anger. "Well, I should get this over with. Better stand with your brothers, my Lady."

While Lyanna wanted to stay beside him - stay beneath him sans clothes, if she was being honest - she nevertheless complied. Leaning up to kiss his cheek. Lips sparking with warmth as she moved back to where her brother was standing. "Once again, I'm sorry about this," she heard Brandon tell the Lord of Riverrun, arm wrapped around Catelyn's waist. "I regret that this must happen."

Hoster Tully - an older man who's once-red hair was now mostly grey, having aged worse than his younger brother - gave the Starks a weak smile. "You have no need to apologize, Brandon. I should have seen this coming and sent young Petyr back home sooner. My brother is giving him his advice, but it is nothing personal to you, I promise."

"Have to follow all the bases," nodded Brandon.

"The Crown Prince officiating helps. I'm just glad we managed to keep this under wraps for the most part." A sigh. "Good luck, my future goodson." Lord Tully left them to take Rhaegar's side.

"Finish this quickly, Bran." Lyanna knew she had limited time before Dacey and Howland - who had accompanied Ned and Brandon - needed to set her up for the newcomer's joust. While excited, it wasn't only Rhaegar's presence that made her heart beat nervously. Calm, stay calm. She was a far better rider than any of those cunts. "You're a far better fighter than that insect."

Catelyn had a different take. "Petyr asked me for my favor, Bran, but I couldn't give it to him." Lysa had absolutely begged for him to wear hers, and at the last minute he had accepted. "I love you," she said, handing Brandon a small strip of cloth for him to tie around his wrist. "But please don't kill him."

Lyanna rolled her eyes. "The world would be better off without him creeping around it."

"Please, don't! Spare him, please. He may be an idiot here but he's like a brother to me."

"With a lot of unbrotherly feelings," Brandon quipped, only to sigh at Catelyn's wide eyes. "Fine. I'll spare him." While Lyanna and Ned shared a disapproving look - both just… having a bad feeling about Petyr Baelish - one couldn't really argue when Catelyn smiled widely and kissed Brandon passionately on the lips. Brandon accepted, enjoying the death glare from his opponent.

Rhaegar called the duel to order, and both parties moved into position. Baelish's inexperience showed when he charged at Brandon. Sword high and swing wild. The Stark heir may have been impulsive but he was a well-trained fighter, easily sidestepping the initial attack on agile feet. Avoiding going on the attack even when in the open. Having fun with this, Bran? The next two swings by Littlefinger were parried effortlessly, the clash of steel upon steel as Brandon gave ground. Letting his opponent tire himself out.

Baelish's lack of skill took its toll, sweat covering his brow and furious movements slackening. Sensing an opportunity, Brandon smacked Littlefinger's blade aside, fist flying to slam into his nose. Lysa screamed and Catelyn pursed her lips, Baelish falling to the ground. "Yield," Brandon commanded, hoping the runt would get the hint. He didn't, leaping to his feet and charging Brandon. A slash against his front - shallow but bloody - knocked the sword aside. The heir to Winterfell dropped his own sword and knelt by his foe, slamming his fist over and over into his challenger. Blood splattering and ribs cracking. "Yield, you fool!" This time, the command was obeyed.

Fight over, Catelyn raced to inspect Brandon while Lysa and Brynden did the same for Littlefinger. The former showed off his victory by lifting his betrothed in his arms while the latter was carried off the field moaning and groaning, the Prince insisting that he see a maester for his injuries. Satisfied that her brother's marriage was secure, Lyanna met eyes with Dacey and Howland before brushing her hand against her forehead, knees buckling as she fell to the ground.

While Ned and Brandon were up on their feet to rush to her side, it was Rhaegar that got there first. Catching Lyanna mid fall rather adeptly. "My Lady… are you well?" He gently cradled her waist and head, easing her to the ground. "Should I fetch a maester?"

Lyanna fought the flush creeping upon her body. How Rhaegar's fingers and palms spread a tingling electricity wherever upon her body where he touched - even through her clothes. "No… no…" she murmured. "I'm fine, just a little light headed." Once confident in her story, just his presence was disconcerting her. "I… I haven't been eating much lately."

"Shock to me," Brandon quipped once he determined she was fine, wrapping an arm around Catelyn's waist. Enjoying the spoils of his victory. "You usually devour a wheelhouse's worth of food."

"Shut up," Lyanna snapped. "I don't need a maester, Rhaegar. I promise." She smiled, hoping it would melt him - it did from the longing glint in his eyes.

Having smacked Brandon about the head - the heir to Winterfell rubbing the back of it with a glare - Ned knelt by Lyanna. "Still, I think you should head back to your tent. Skip the melee and the newcomer's joust, get some rest and then eat more at tonight's feast."

Normally, she'd punch Ned in the stomach and announce she could fight any one of them, but this was what she was hoping for. Suppressing the inner whoop… though the pleading on Rhaegar's expression could have probably convinced her all on its own. "Alright, brother."

"Do you want me to escort you?" Rhaegar asked, helping her up.

Before Lyanna's desire to be close to him could kick in, Dacey and Howland rushed to her side. "Don't worry, your Grace. We'll take care of this, you and Ser Arthur are needed at the royal box with the King and Queen." She shot the Kingsguard a sultry smile, one that Arthur replied with a wink. Grinning, Dacey turned back to Lyanna. "Let's go, sleepyhead."

As they turned the corner, they pushed Lyanna off them. "That was close," Howland whispered.

"Only close cause Lya wanted to just rip the Prince's clothes off where he stood."

Lyanna glared at Dacey. "Don't make me find another Lady in Waiting. There are plenty of southern ladies who would jump at the chance." A raised eyebrow from the Mormont beauty killed that theory. "Fine, fine. Let's get set up before the melee ends." This was going to be fun.

Taking his seat next to his brother and father, Ned leaned in to where Jon Arryn sat ahead of him in the royal box. "Did I miss anything?"

Lord Arryn shook his head. "No, melee is just about to start."

The Lords Paramount and other guests of the Crown were seated to either side of the King and his family. While the royals had only one row of four seats, the others were divided into two rows. To the left of Prince Viserys were the Tyrells and Baratheons - Robert getting glares from Brandon and Ned but too drunk to notice. To the right of the King himself were the Starks, Lord Arryn, Hoster Tully, and an empty seat. "Who's sitting there?" The seat was right in front of Ned.

"She's coming right now," Brandon answered, pointing to a female figure that made Ned's eyes widen.

Representing House Lannister in the absence of Lord Tywin, the beautiful Cersei Lannister held her head up high as she moved to take her seat. While she considered skipping the event after her encounter with Rhaegar and talk with Jaime, the presence of her brother in the melee kept her from doing it even if she wanted to. "Well, either Tywin spruced himself up or he sent a damn woman in his stead." Several lords laughed at the King's jape, while Cersei just bowed to his Grace and tried to ignore it - missing the lustful, appreciative eyes of Ned Stark as well.

Rising along with his mother, little brother, and father, Rhaegar clasped a clenched fist against his chest. "We, royals of the House of Dragons, salute you brave warriors today on this field of honor."

The knights on the field repeated the gesture. "We, men of honor gathered today in a test of strength and skill, salute our King, Queen, and Princes for this day and all days to come." Bearing their armored hands against the plate or mail draping their chests, each took a fighting stance as the royals resumed their seats.

Each qualifying round the previous days of the tourney were single combat under heavy rules, but the final match was in the style of Old Valyria- a free for all pitting fourteen of the best fighters in the Seven Kingdoms against one another till a single victor emerged. Each of them clutched dulled practice swords, one of the few positive things to come from King Aenys the Weak - Aegon IV allowed fights to the death with real weapons as the Ghiscari did, going further, but all were repealed by his son Daeron II. Rhaegar, watching his father's bored expression, had a feeling that Aerys II would have brought the Unworthy's rule back had he not been apathetic about the whole thing. "Honored knights… may the best win." With a wave of his hand he signalled the start of the melee.

Over half an hour of steel clashing against steel… blades against the thick wood of shields, some revelled in it while others developed pounding headaches. The crowds shouted for the victory of their favorites and the blood of the disliked - which often changed on a whim based on whomever was coming out on top or made an excellent move. Referees darted back and forth, avoiding the swings and calling strikes and rule violations.

"Lord Umber is doing well," commented Jon Arryn, leaning back in his chair.

Rickard nodded. "Burly like a bear, that's why they call him the Greatjon." Five pairs of eyes watched the massive Lord of Last Hearth rip a shield from the hands of a hedge knight of the Reach, punching him right in the stomach - it didn't faze the northerner, grinning like mad while the referee called the knight knocked out. "Less skilled than… tenacious."

"Much like the Greyjoy." Lo and behold, Victarion Greyjoy was also doing quite well. Simply ramming bullheadedly into his competitors, able to withstand blows to him that would crumple lesser men. Hoster frowned. "I really don't want that family to win - Greatjon seems like he could take him."

"Or Ser Jaime," commented Ned. The Lion of Lannister - as he was called by many - was currently engaging Greatjon. The second Stark son wasn't as much watching the Kingsguard, but the blonde beauty he was eying certainly was. Lips pursed worriedly as she watched her brother spar. Letting out a relieved breath when Jaime dodged a downward slice from the Lord of Last Hearth to stab right into his stomach. With a curse, Greatjon was waved off by the referee and stomped off the field - leaving Jaime and Victarion as the only ones left.

Leering at the smaller Ser Jaime, fighting without a helmet and not a strand of his perfect blonde hair out of place, Victarion Greyjoy simply charged. Muscles catapulting his sword to bat Jaime's strike to the left. The brother of the Lord of the Iron Islands crashing right into Jaime, knocking him to the ground. Cersei gasped audibly, while Queen Rhaella silently gripped the arm of her chair ever tighter. "The Iron Way in action," quipped Jon Arryn, crossing his arms and enjoying the show.

Rhaegar's eyes flickered from the prone Ser Jaime to his mother, quiet but with a worried glaze frozen on her face. Gently, he placed his hand on hers, comforting her when his father wouldn't. "Get up, lion!" Viserys yelled, voice high and jumping in his chair. "Fight the Kraken." The two royals laughed at the young prince, easing the tension.

Eyes locking with the Queen's, Jaime sucked in a breath and twisted around - just missing the downward chop that nearly took him out of action. "No head blows!" the referee bellowed. Victarion shoved him off, lunging for Jaime again. The Lion of Lannister had leapt to his feet and twirled his sword. Steel clashing against steel, Jaime's moves quick and fluid against the pure brawn of the Ironborn.

Whimpering as a blow caught Jaime's shoulder, the knight crying out in pain but scrambling back, Cersei could hear the King's smug laughter as she looked away. Unable to see her twin hurt. "Lady Cersei…" She looked up to see the Stark… Lord Eddard, pointing. "Don't worry, the Ironborn is tiring." Blinking, Cersei swiveled back to the fight.

Ned was absolutely correct - a fact that gave Cersei much relief. Sweat poured from Victarion's brow. The great reaver panting as he continued to swing. Darting and spinning, quick on his feet, Jaime parried a strike. Longsword spinning around and smacking Victarion's hand. Howling in pain, the Ironborn dropped his blade… finding Jaime's pressed onto his neck. "Yield," ordered the Kingsguard.

Anger burning within, Victarion nevertheless had no choice. "Yield."

Smiling triumphantly, Jaime turned to the royal box and bowed as the herald dubbed him the winner of the melee, presenting him with a crown of oak leaves. Up out of their seats were the royal family, the strongest claps coming from both the Queen and Prince Rhaegar. The crowd chanted for the Kingsguard, clearly the favorite of the day. "Lannister! Lannister! Lannister!"

Clapping with a genuine smile, watching as Cersei hugged her brother, Ned sat down. "That was a good fight."

"It was, young Eddard," Jon Arryn replied, not unknowing of the lad's wandering eye. "But that'll probably be the highlight of the day."

"Don't think the newcomer's joust will be interesting?" Brandon asked.

He snorted. "About as interesting as watching a bucket of piss."

Unfortunately, Lord Arryn's foresight proved true. The newcomer's joust was filled with green riders - and green was an understatement. Most were unhorsed by sloppy maneuvers, with one tilt even finding both riders falling from their mounts before either's lances made contact. The King died of laughter the entire time, while for the rest it got old quickly. "Please kill me," Brandon whispered to his brother. "I'd have let Littlefinger run me through with his sword if this was gonna be the rest of my day."

"Stop being dramatic, brother. I'm sure it'll get interesting," Ned replied. He opened his mouth to continue only for the herald to announce the next tilt - a mystery knight who had come to challenge the next three scheduled riders. Ned's brow rose. "Knight of the Laughing Tree? What Kind of a name is that?"

Lord Arryn's brows furrowed. "Never heard of a hedge knight of that name? Hoster?" Lord Tully shook his head. "Mace?" Half stuffing a pastry into his mouth, crumbs fell onto his green doublet as Lord Tyrell mumbled something in the negative. "Has a knight of that name graced Casterly Rock, Lady Cersei?"

After her brother was off the field, Cersei had zoned out. "Sorry, Lord Arryn… I haven't seen such a knight in the Westerlands."

Nodding, Lord Arryn leaned back in his chair, stroking his chin. "Mystery knights are generally rare… could be a dud, could be just some fool trying to impress a maiden." At that point the knight entered the field, riding a rather drab palfrey. His armor hung over his likely slight frame as if it were a size too large, with a plain helmet etched with scrapes. The most distinctive item was the shield, however - splayed over the wood was a weirwood tree. One with a laughing instead of a wailing face etched on its side. "On the other hand this could get interesting."

The knight took his position, waiting for Ser Boros Blount and his porcupine sigiled shield. Already sporting plenty of fat beneath his armor, it didn't take long for the resulting tilt to send him flying off his horse. From how he gracefully brought his mount around, the crowd began to cheer for the Knight of the Laughing Tree. Rhaegar's interest was piqued, as was the King's to his right.

Next was the rather poor armor of House Haigh, pickings slim from picking up the scraps that Walder Frey let them have. While some knights were skilled and strong in spite of their meagre reserves, the Pitchfork Knight wasn't. The Knight of the Laughing Tree felling him with a perfect blow to the center-left of the shield. Earning a more roaring approval from the crowd. They recognized skill where it came from.

"Well, finally someone with panache," Brandon commented, grinning. "Let's go, mystery knight!" He clapped his hands together three times for good effect.

Jon Arryn chuckled. "Whomever he is, he has skill." The Lord of the Eyrie crossed his arms. "But Boros Blount and whatever yokel Frey vassal he just unhorsed aren't the paragons of knightly power. The Freys may not be… noble, but I heard Ser Waldron has been training for this."

"I heard him bragging about how he's going to unhorse the Crown Prince," said Hoster Tully, the five of them glancing to the aforementioned Prince Rhaegar before bursting into laughter. "Practically impossible, but that training should be enough to take down most newcomers. I pity anyone that gets in the way of when a Frey actually is determined at something."

Ned pursed his lips, watching the Knight of the Laughing Tree obtain a new lance from the servants. Not even wealthy enough to afford hiring a squire… this was his kind of knight. "I don't know… I have a good feeling about this one, Lord Tully. Lord Arryn." The Lord of Riverrun didn't reply while Jon Arryn smirked.

Finally Ser Waldron Frey arrived, surrounded by Frey bannermen in new, gleaming uniforms. His armor was shined to perfection, two squires - clearly his younger brothers - having worked day and night to keep the equipment spotless. He looked like a Tyrell or a Lannister at that moment, gaudy and bedecked in splendor. While the actually wealthy noble houses could pull it off, on Ser Waldron it just looked tacky… especially as he preened and waved for the lukewarm crowd. Off to the side, the Knight of the Laughing Tree just waited patiently atop his horse.

The wait grew long, tempers chafing as Ser Waldron began blowing kisses to the smallfolk maidens. "Bloody hells!" bellowed Robert, a horn of ale in hand. "Start the damn joust before I piss mi'self!" Eying the handsome, well-built Lord Paramount make a drunken fool of himself, the three Starks cursed themselves for even considering him as a proper match for Lyanna - Ned especially, even though he was still his friend.

One person not embarrassed by the display was the King, who laughed. "Quite true, dear nephew," he said, voice syrupy sweet. "Start the fucking joust! Your King commands it!" Even the self-centered boor Waldron Frey couldn't ignore a command from his King, so he reluctantly broke off from his preening to form up at the north end of the field.

Taking his lance from his younger brother, Waldron Frey sneered at the Weirwood Knight. "Mismatched armor, no squire, pfft," he insulted. "You're not even a proper hedge Knight. You may have defeated the two oafs, but the heir to the twin crossings will wipe the floor with your blood!" A smattering of cheers and boos followed from the crowd.

The Weirwood Knight cocked his helmeted head. "Two?" Came the muffled voice.

At the insinuation that Ser Waldron was also an oaf, the entire crown laughed and cheered, Brandon nearly fell out of his seat while even the dour Ned cracked a smirk. "I like him," Rhaella whispered to her son."

Rhaegar nodded, peering curiously at the ill-fitting armor and worn helmet of the mystery knight. "Yes, muna. I like him as well."

"It's too cold, can this finish?" Young Viserys complained, fidgeting in his seat.

"You heard my son," the King barked, raising a hand. "Let it begin!"

At the sound of the horn the two contestants cracked their reins and sent their horses galloping headlong at each other. The gaudy Riverlands-style helm facing against the generic plain one as the lances both crashed on the other's shields. Rhaegar watched with baited breath as the tilt ended in a draw, both riders jostled but remaining atop their mounts, steeds slowing into a gentle trot to wait on the opposite sides of where they started.

Waldron Frey raised his visor to stare murderously at the mystery knight. "Playtime is over you little cunt," he screeched.

Within the royal box, Brandon couldn't help himself but to heckle. "You're actually calling him a cunt, Frey?"

The knight flushed red. "Who said that?!"

"I did! Brandon Stark," the heir to Winterfell boasted before Rickard kicked him inconspicuously.

"I'll remember that name," Waldron hissed back.

The King was giggling the whole time, enjoying this immensely. Rhaegar, however, wished to spare his future goodbrother any further embarrassment. "Your Grace… perhaps we should continue with the joust?"

"What? Oh… right. On with the damn joust!"

Horn blowing, the horses stampeded towards each other again. Clumps of mud and dirt kicked up by their hooves. Ser Waldron smirked as he lowered his lance, ready to smash it right into the Weirwood Knight's breastplate… only for the knight to shift right atop the saddle just at the right moment. The Frey's lance glanced off the knight's shoulderplate - Ser Waldron wasn't so lucky, lance shattering against his shield as he tumbled off his horse, rolling onto the ground until he laid there with pained groans. Bruised and worn, unable to rise until his squires raced over to help him up.

There was a stilled silence before the crowd started to cheer for the Knight of the Laughing Tree. Including most of the Lords atop the royal box, Robert laughing uproariously at the good show while even Ned and Jon Arryn chuckled as they clapped. "Now that was a good one," Rhaegar whispered to his mother as they watched the knight approach on his mount.

He bowed to the King, and then to Rhaegar. "I serve House Targaryen with my life," came the gravelly voice.

"Congratulations for your victory in this newcomer's tourney," Rhaegar announced to both the knight and the crowd, standing. "As with your right to seek the ransom for the armor and mounts of the knights of House Frey, House Blount, and House Haigh, for your courage and skill on this my nameday, you shall have a place in the grand joust tomorrow."

But the knight merely held up an armored hand. "That will not be necessary, my Prince. I do not intend to compete tomorrow." He tilted his head towards the two defeated knights - Ser Waldron carried, moaning, off the field. "Teach your squires honor, and that shall be payment enough!" They both hung their heads in shame.

As the knight began to turn his horse away, the King bellowed. "Wait! You dare refuse the honor my son bestowed upon you?" His tone was irritated, but also curious. Violet eyes peering at the knight.

"I do not wish to compete, for I cannot face the Prince." The way he said the last title - almost with… affection - it caused Rhaegar to blink. He had heard this voice before. "My honor commands me not to fight him." And before the King could say another word, the Knight of the Laughing Tree turned his horse around and galloped off into the distance to the wild cheers of the crowd.

The Lords of the royal box just sat in a stunned silence… one that Robert Baratheon broke. "Damn, that bastard's got style!" He slapped his knee. "I'll unmask him and buy him a mug!"

But Rhaegar ignored the boorish Stag, instead concentrating on his father. On how his eyes suddenly sparkled, confusion changing into a hardened look - one of anger. Oh fuck. This was not going to end well.

Chapter Text


Kingsguards standing at attention around the solar of the royal quarters, Rhaegar tried his best to hide his nerves. Stilling his trembling leg. "Father, I think…"

Interrupting his pacing and ranting to cast a murderous glare at his son, Aerys gestured madly. "Am I some simple smallfolk turd shoveller? You are to address me with the proper respect, sweet son," he spat.

Rhaegar lowered his head, properly chastised. "Yes, your Grace."

Mollified, if only slightly, the King wheeled around to Lord Commander Hightower. "Ser Gerold. You and your men combed the entire castle and campsite did you not?"

"We have, my King. No sign of the Knight of the Laughing Tree. It appears as if he had disappeared into thin air." Gerold didn't lie - he and the Household Guard of both House Targaryen and House Whent had searched high and low for the mystery knight. While he would have followed Rhaegar's secret directive and let the poor man flee, but they didn't even find him. "Forgive me for my failure."

Instead of rip into Gerold as he would normally have done, Aerys resumed his frantic ranting. "Dunk told me, that malevolent piece of shit!" The Crown Prince and the Queen shared a look as the King's back was turned. Imagining Prince Duncan Targaryen once again - Aerys' favorite vision in a manner of speaking. "I have to find this cutthroat cunt. Ser Oswell… you spoke to the Freys and the Blounts?" House Haigh was too tiny to even warrant the King's disgust, let alone attention.

Oswell cleared his throat. "They spoke of their squires being in a scuffle with some Crannogman Lord and his 'whore,' but…"

"Bah! A woman and a swamp homunculus," Aerys waved dismissively. "My royal ass they were responsible!" He rested his hands on a table, hunched over in despair. "Duncan! Why can't you leave me be!" wailed the King.

Rhaella stepped forward, gently clasping her husband's arm. Hoping that the kind Aerys from before was still somewhere there. "Your Grace, calm down. Perhaps we should simply have a private meal in our chambers and relax ahead of our son competing tomorrow…"

The Queen suddenly pitched back, falling upon the ground after Aerys slapped her hard about the cheek. "Do not tell me to calm down, weak woman!" he thundered, spittle flying from his breath. The Kingsguards watched in horror, but were unable to intervene. Much as they wished to protect their Queen - especially the terrified and enraged Jaime Lannister, fists clenching around the hilt of his sword as his beloved Rhaella collapsed - their oaths were sworn to the King and the King only. "The knight must die! He works for Tywin and the Doom, I just know it!"

Anger boiling even hotter than Ser Jaime's, Rhaegar also couldn't intervene. "If I may, your Grace," he began evenly, hoping to distract his father from his mother. "I can lead a party into the woods around Harrenhal. Find this scoundrel before he truly escapes the King's Justice."

Their violet eyes staring at each other, Aerys considered his son's offer. "Alright," he finally said, ignoring his wife as she cupped her smarting cheek. "Take the Kingsguards and do it. Bring me the bastard's head." With that, he stormed off into his bedchamber, slamming the ironwood door behind him.

In an instant, Rhaegar - and Ser Jaime - had fallen to their knees by Queen Rhaella. "Muna," the Prince said softly, taking her hand in his.

Fighting back tears, Rhaella shifted upright as Jaime pulled her hand away, inspecting the palmprint of the 'King's Justice' on her face. "It hurts, but I'll be alright," she stated. "I've had worse from your father."

"His Grace should treat you as you deserve to be treated," Jaime said with fire in his youthful voice. Both Rhaegar and Ser Barristan wanted to cuff him on the head - what he said was absolutely correct, but not at all smart.

"Calm yourself, Ser Jaime." Rhaella leaned on the two men to stand, smoothing out her dress. "I shall make my leave. Good luck, my wonderful son." Kissing his cheek, the Queen made her way out, followed by Ser Jaime and Ser Barristan.

Sighing, Rhaegar pinched the bridge of his nose. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, my Prince?" Arthur asked, a worried look on his face.

He had since Ser Oswell gave his report to the King. "It can't be. She's ill in her tent, and the knight was clearly a man." Arthur nodded, but the agreement didn't reach his eyes.

Removing the kettle of spiced cider from above the crackling fire, Ned gently poured two cups for his brother and soon to be goodsister. Handing each of the steaming brews to them before pouring one for himself. "This is a traditional Northern drink for the winter climes. Granted, those who don't have glass gardens to grow the southern apples rely on hartier northern varieties. Stronger, not as sublime."

"Easy Ned," boomed Brandon, grinning. "The lady doesn't want to fall asleep listening to you prattle on about apples." Lyanna would have probably thrown an apple core at him, but Ned merely cast him a cross glare. Which his brother found hilarious. "Still, dear Catelyn. He's right about the drink. Gets us through many winters."

Used to the many varieties of wine favored among Andal-based cultures, Catelyn nevertheless sipped at the brew. Wrinkling her nose. "Sweet… but with a kick."

"That's how you know it works!" Gulping down a mouthful of the cider, Brandon didn't notice how his betrothed set the cup down after barely drinking it. Ned noticed and said nothing. It wasn't his place. "Can you believe the Mystery Knight today? Completely turned the day around after Jon Umber lost the damn melee - finally someone from the North wins something."

"How are you sure that the person is of the North?" Ned asked his brother. "As of this point, all we can be sure of is that the knight is a man." And yet, we never did see his face…

Brandon waved him off. "Don't be daft, Ned. The laughing weirwood? Sounds like a mocking jape from someone north of Moat Cailin."

"It isn't just the Lords of the North that follow the old gods," Catelyn added. "House Blackwood does too - father and I have visited Raventree Hall plenty of times. The dead weirwood there is massive, and they have resisted calls to worship the Seven since the Andal invasions." The daughter of House Tully ended the last with a slight tone of distaste. "Brynden Rivers, the Targaryen Bastard, followed the old gods because his mother was a Blackwood."

As before, Brandon was oblivious. "I understand, Cat, but the few remnants in the south of our faith - House Blackwood, House Dayne, and the like - are pretty muted about it. Up in the North, we're proud of our heritage and defiance. Especially with our gods." He leaned down to kiss Catelyn's neck, causing her to giggle. "They'll be your gods as well once we marry, my little trout."

The happy, lovestruck expression on Catelyn's face that was always there around Brandon seemed to vanish upon the mention of the old gods… and her likely conversion. Eyes fluttering shut and a quick, silent prayer mumbled from her lips. Averting his gaze, sipping his cider, Ned hid his worry for Brandon. The maiden was completely devoted to his brother, but the coming culture clash would test their relationship greatly - as well as the relationship between House Stark and the other Northern Houses. His countrymen valued their faith and their cultural independence from the rest of Westeros. House Manderly had been demonized and shut out till they abandoned their Reach-like ways and adopted the old gods. If Catelyn doesn't...

His thoughts were interrupted as Rodrik Cassel entered. "My Lords, Lord Arryn is requesting entry."

Ned's mood perked up as he stood. "Let him in, Rodrik." At the entrance of the impeccably dressed older Lord of the Vale, Ned opened his arms to embrace his foster father. "Lord Jon, it always a pleasure."

"Likewise, Eddard," Lord Arryn smiled, turning to the risen Brandon and Catelyn. "Forgive me for interrupting your quiet evening, but I hoped to come give the Lady Lyanna my best. I heard she has taken ill?"

"Aye, but she is sleeping at the moment," Brandon replied, touched at Lord Arryn's consideration. "I'll be sure to give her your thoughts, but please. Join us for some cider."

He poured himself a steaming cup. "Ah, the tasty northern brew. Your brother made me some years ago and I buy apples by the bushel ever since." Sharing a laugh at the fond memories with Ned, Lord Arryn let the liquid warm his insides. "How are you handling the betrothal?" There was no need to elaborate.

Ned smiled. "The Crown Prince is a person hard to dislike. He's charmed all of us and Lyanna is quite smitten." Putting it mildly. He had never seen his sister so happy outside of holding a sword or riding Winter - even her precious novel didn't make Lyanna smile as Rhaegar did.

"I didn't expect it though," Brandon stated the obvious. "Gods, I doubt any of us did. Accepting as we are of Lya's decision to go through with it, the prospect of her being the second wife to the Prince does give me pause."

"The Princess Elia is a kind soul," Catelyn said. "I met her at last year's tourney here and don't think she'd be vindictive… but jealousy is a strong motive." She didn't say anymore, but it was clear she was thinking of Petyr Baelish. The lad was confined to quarters for the foreseeable future, Lord Tully already making arrangements to send him to Riverrun for further recovery.

Lord Arryn frowned. "It's not really the Princess Elia I have worries about." He looked greatly burdened. "Your father did a wonderful job raising you boys, and Ned… I couldn't have asked for a better ward, but I'm afraid neither of us prepared you for life at court."

Furrowing his brows, Ned looked puzzled. "What do you mean, my Lord?"

"I'm afraid the old adage of Starks never prospering south of Moat Cailin holds quite a bit of truth."

"Cregan Stark did well for himself," commented Brandon.

"Yes he did, but that was in the aftermath of the Dance of Dragons when the Northern blunt honesty was needed to sweep clean the aftermath of rampant corruption and backstabbing. In peacetime, the latter is the norm and Northerners don't do so well." Lord Arryn winced. "I fear your father and sister are walking into a den of vipers like Baelor the Blessed, though I also fear they won't come out. Prince Rhaegar can only protect them so far."

His own worries popping up, Ned met the eyes of his foster father. "Perhaps you could advise my sister? She needs someone experienced, and you were fostered at court if I recall correctly?"

Silent for a moment, Lord Arryn then smiled. "You're a good man, Eddard. Cares for your family when most are only out there for themselves." He clasped Ned on the shoulder. "I can speak to her, certainly, though I'm not sure if I can journey to the capitol. I would advise both of you to speak with the Crown Prince about this. Not counting your father… there's no one but he that I would trust as protecting your sister's interests. Mace Tyrell…"

"Mace Tyrell is a pompous peacock without a shred of brains," Brandon spat. "All he did during last night's feast was brag about how his newborn was betrothed to Prince Viserys."

Lord Arryn rolled his eyes. "He's a gentle soul, but an idiot, yes. Don't count on him until Rhaegar is King. Varys' loyalties are up in the air, Lord Rykker and Lord Velaryon are loyal to Aerys, Pycelle is loyal to Tywin Lannister, and Connington… well…" Arryn chuckled. "Don't count on him."

"Why? Isn't he Rhaegar's close friend?" Ned asked.

"He is, but would rather be in Lyanna's position if you catch my drift." Lord Arryn chuckled as he sipped his drink.

Brandon had a look of disgust on his face. "Disgusting."

"In the days of the Faith Militant, they knew how to punish buggerers," Catelyn stated firmly.

"Enough influence and enough discretion can bury even the worst criminals, Lady Catelyn." He turned back to Ned and Brandon. "Don't trust anyone in King's Landing. Be candid to no one but family, the Prince, and Queen Rhaella. But even then, just be careful what you say. The spider has ears everywhere."

Ned was about to ask what 'the spider' was when the tent flap swished open and he lost all words. There, standing directly in front of him, was the golden lioness Cersei Lannister herself. Hair plaited into a crown of braids in the southern style, which framed her face in a sort of halo.

"Lord Stark, Lord Stark," she offered curtly, though with less venom than their first meeting. "Lord Arryn. I was told by your squire that you would be here in the Stark quarters."

Polished as always, the Lord of the Vale bowed respectfully. "Of course, Lady Cersei. How can I be of service?"

"My father sent some dispatches for me to deliver to you. He's concerned about the trade arrangements between Casterly Rock and the Eyrie." Unlike most young maidens, Cersei seemed to understand the basics of policy and ruling. Smart, if emotional.

He nodded. "Of course. We can discuss them in my quarters." Bading the Starks farewell, he exited the tent.

Before she followed him, Cersei turned to Ned. "Lord Eddard."

Counting trees until it was over, hoping not to show how flustered he was, Ned was forced to face the beautiful lioness. "Um… yes, Lady Cersei?" He could almost feel Brandon's quizzical look boring into his back.

"Thank you for your explanations today at the melee. I'm afraid most vagaries of fighting sports are beyond me, and can be worried for my brother's safety."

It took a moment before he found words. "I… I was glad to be of assistance, and can understand being worried for a sibling."

She was in no mood to continue, clearly uncomfortable. "Good night." and with that she was gone.

Turning, Ned found Brandon's brow cocked up. "What?"

"Oh… nothing, brother." It was most definitely not nothing, and both brothers knew that.

The forest at night was a place alive. The cooing of nocturnal birds, the chirping of crickets, small mammals scampering about in the undergrowth. For someone familiar with these woods as Rhaegar was, there was nothing civilized or tame about Westeros. Outside castle walls or the outskirts of the very few cities - he could count them all on a single hand - there was only wilderness. Land inhabited by those following the justice of survival rather than of the King's. Put much into perspective.

He crept forward through the low foliage, hand kept close to his sword in case of trouble. Eyes having long since adjusted into the chilly darkness only barely lifted by the glow of the moon, at no sign of his target he waved Arthur forward. The Sword of the Morning even quieter as he moved the dozen yards to Rhaegar's side. "No sign of him," whispered the Kignsguard.

"Hopefully he's far gone from here," Rhaegar murmured in response. Perhaps if they found something discarded he could inform his father that the mystery knight died. Then I can get back to Lyanna. Unable to even pay her a visit since she had nearly fainted in his arms, the Prince's mind was fraught with worry.

Arthur raised an eyebrow underneath his helmet. "You don't intend on finding him, do you?"

A sigh. "What would you have me do? Find an innocent knight and send him to be executed? My father's delusions aren't claiming another man." Frankly, the only good thing his father's mental state had ever done was give him Lyanna.

They had both discarded their horses long before for stealth concerns. For two heavily armored Westerosi knights, both of them could move rather silently in their Valyrian and Dornish styles. Trained by the best warriors in tracking and hunting… which this pretty much was. Combing the dense forests of the southern Riverlands with the persistence of a bloodhound. Much as the King ordered him to use all the Kingsguards, his lack of initiative in seeing to his orders being carried out left everything to the subordinates. While some would burn the forest down to curry favor, Rhaegar made sure to not let anything horrid happen. I'm not always successful.

A flicker of light in the distance caused Rhaegar to suddenly hold up his hand. "What's that?"

"Looks like an abandoned cottage, my Prince." Cold winters found a lot of them dotting the countryside, their occupants having died or fled to warmer climes when the food ran out. But this one held a flickering light and smoke coming out of the chimney. "We should check it out." If the Knight of the Laughing Tree was anywhere, it would be there.

The approach was covered with trees and underbrush, allowing both of them to dash across the last dozen yards without being seen. Dilapidated beyond belief, the cottage was clearly only standing due to a combination of wooden logs and stone walls mortared together. Classic design for this part of the Riverlands, rich in both trees and stone. As for the rest… the thatch roof had caved in in multiple places, thin walls decaying before their very eyes. Tied up by the doorway was a sleeping horse. Smart. No better hiding place for a refugee than an abandoned hovel likely devoid of inhabitants for a year.

Leaving Arthur to stand overwatch, Rhaegar scooted in a crouch towards the window. Making sure not to be seen, he slowly peered above the windowsill… only for his eyes to nearly bug out of his head at the sight.


Standing in the middle of the single room was his betrothed. She bore the same mismatched and oversized armor as the Knight did, and the laughing Weirwood shield rested on the ground not far from her. There was no doubt, his betrothed was the Knight of the Laughing Tree.

Flipping around, back resting against the crumbling stone wall, Rhaegar blinked. Clasping his palm atop his forehead to control his astonishment. Women who could handle a blade… they were rare but not unheard of. Women warriors that could bring weapons into a fight and triumph… who wore the pluck of dressing as a knight and entering the Tourney of a mercurial King just to defend the honor of s friend… next to impossible. The only persons matching this that Rhaegar could think of were both Targaryens. Queen Visenya and Princess Daena the Defiant. Perhaps Queen Rhaenyra has she been as adept at fighting as dragonriding.

Thinking about it more and more, the mysteries of his bride to be coming into the light with this revelation, a smile slowly curved on Rhaegar's face. The incest among Targaryens, most explained it as a means to control the dragons - but as Rhaegar seemed to realize more and more… there was an allure that a true dragon held for another of its kind. Where only another dragon could truly mate and pair with the blood of the passionate, fiery creatures. And with no dragons, other, similar natures applied as well. Elia was cunning and smart, a match for him in wit and politics. And now, right in front of him was a fierce, daring direwolf of Winter. Rhaegar peered back into the cabin, watching Lyanna remove her armor.

In spite of her dark hair and northern features, she looked like Visenya reborn - or at least Daena.

"Your Grace…" Before Rhaegar could shush Arthur, the Sword of the Morning managed to get a peek of the damning scene. His eyes widened as well, mouth dropping like a fish while Rhaegar pushed him away from the window. "I'll be damned… Lyanna Stark is the Knight of the Laughing Tree."

Rhaegar frowned. "Say it a little louder, Arthur. See if they can hear you back in Starfall." Arthur closed his mouth, but a sly grin formed. "What?"

The knight chuckled softly. "You are one lucky son of a bitch, my Prince. First Elia, the cunning political mind… and now Lyanna Stark, master rider and northern warrior. It's like Rhaenys and Visenya reborn."

Opening his mouth to speak, Rhaegar found no words. Arthur's comparison was quite apt, and the smile from before returned with a vengeance. Threatening to split his lip open. Lyanna… she's perfect. The sight of her in the armor, knowing just how skilled she was in using it… it lit a fire within Rhaegar. Woke his inner dragon. This was no innocent maiden or power-hungry bitch, but a genuine, fierce soul. One who in only a few days had wormed her way into his heart. Someone he could be honest with - a true wife and lover to fill the yearning in his soul.

"Rhaegar… my Prince…"

Arthur's voice brought him out of his reverie. "Stand guard somewhere close. I'll figure out something to tell my father."

"I was just going to say, enjoy yourself." The knight smiled wide at his friend. "It's been ages since I've seen you this happy. All who care about you want more of it." Rhaegar matched his friend's smile and stepped towards the cabin door.

Fingers nimbly undoing the strap holding the breastplate in place, it clattered to the floor - but not before brushing a large bruise on her shoulder. "Ahhh… fuck!" Damn Waldron Frey. Hiking up her tunic, leaving only a set of breast bindings clothing her torso, Lyanna examined the various bruises, welts, and cuts on her body with a reflecting glass Howland had placed in the cabin for her. Nothing that would be serious, but still irritating.

Chucking another log into the fireplace to ward off the chill - tame compared to the gales of the North, but biting her bare skin through the gaps in the roof and walls - Lyanna silently commended Dacey and Howland for finding this place. Both sufficiently inconspicuous enough to get away with it all. A quick patch up and she could throw on her dress and ditch the armor and shield. Your last chance to be free and wild. The inner voice of worry ate at her. Rhaegar was… perfect, but the thought of being a demure, quiet Queen still gnawed underneath the surface. I hope he understands.

Would any man? Her own father barely did.

Pouring some sour wine from a jug onto a strip of cloth, she dabbed it on her wounds. Enduring the deep sting with clenched teeth and a hiss. Maester Luwin always treated their wounds with it, an old trick from the Citadel. It worked after all. I should have been more careful, anticipated their coming blows. In all honesty, Lyanna hadn't seen a joust till the specific Tourney, and it had been a testament to her skill on a horse that she had beaten each of the three scumbags. Wounds and all.

Was it worth it? Damn straight. A wolfish grin came about her face as she continued to treat her cuts with the rag. Seeing both knights cowering before her, Waldron Frey being carried off moaning like the little bitch he was, it was so satisfying. A memory she would have for the rest of her life - a last hurrah before having to adopt the courtly manners of a proper southern Queen.

In all her musings and reminiscences of the day's events, Lyanna didn't hear the door opening or notice the armored form enter the room. Catching a glimpse of creamy skin and trim, shapely curves all leading up to a rather ample bosom encased in the bindings, Rhaegar leaned against a beam. Crossing his arms with an appreciating smirk. Letting the seconds tick by, curious as to how long she'd go without noticing him - plus he just couldn't tear his gaze away from how beautiful she was. My winter's wolf…

Rolling her shoulders, Lyanna pressed the rag against her bruise there. There was no cut, but the liquid chilled in the early spring chill was quite soothing. A sigh left Lyanna. The daughter of Winterfell finally allowed herself to relax.

Hearing that lovely sigh - going straight to his crotch - Rhaegar couldn't take it anymore. "Look what we have here."

Almost jumping ten feet into the air - the half-yelp, half-scream leaving her lips most unladylike - Lyanna swerved around to see Crown Prince Rhaegar, her betrothed, leaning there with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face. "Uh… my Prince…" Think, Lya, think… "It's not what it looks like." Catching his eyes flicker to to the shield emblazoned with Howland's beautiful laughing weirwood… Really, Lyanna? Really? Flushing crimson, all she could do at that moment was grab her tunic. Covering her nearly bare torso.

"Not what it looks like?" Smirk not faltering, Rhaegar pushed himself off the beam. Walking slowly towards the trapped warrior maiden. Violet eyes trained intensely on Lyanna. "Well, let's have a look see. You are dressed in riding breeches and, I suppose, a tunic." Her face reddened even further as he alluded to her state of undress. "There is stripped plate armor on the floor, as well as a shield. A shield with a very distinctive sigil painted atop it."

Lyanna's heart pounded in her chest as he drew closer. Close enough that she could smell his masculine scent, driving her wild. At that moment she realized she hadn't ever seen him in his armor. Plates arranged up his arms and legs like scales, breastplate snugly against his chest emblazoned with the red three-headed dragon. Large plates accentuating his broad shoulders, silver-hair pulled up into a bun rather than let down so she could run her fingers through them like she so wanted… Lyanna had never seen a more handsome man than Rhaegar Targaryen, and seeing him dressed for battle was turning her into a longing mush.

From the widening smirk on his face, he knew it. "I may be wrong, but you look just like a certain knight that defeated Waldron Frey earlier in the Newcomer's Joust… but I think that knight was a man."

It may have been how he was enjoying the effect he had on here, or perhaps it was his last statement - either way, Lyanna managed to pull herself together. Scowl forming on her face, she quickly threw on her tunic. Grey eyes steely as they stared him down. "Very well, my Prince. Yes, I am the Knight of the Laughing Tree."

He was still thinking of how to express his thoughts - and to be honest her ire simple made her more beautiful. "I find that hard to believe, my Lady."

"Find it hard to believe?!" Her glare was incredulous. "I am a woman of the North, not some southern maiden living cloistered and praying to the Seven every time I think an impure thought." Her worst fears seemed to be true - for all his kindness, respect… otherworldly beauty, he still expected her to be a proper lady. To raise his children and act as a hostess while he ruled the Seven Kingdoms and engaged in knightly pursuits. "I am no demure southern lady, my Prince. I ride, I know swordplay, and apparently I can joust as well…" Rhaegar was silent, making no further gesture. While part of Lyanna said it was not wise to scream at Rhaegar the things more suited to tell Robert or even her father, once it started it had to come out. "So if you expect me to sit quietly then you can…"

She was cut off by Rhaegar pulling her flush against his armored chest. Lips finding hers in a passionate kiss.

When one grew up at court - especially the court of Aerys II Targaryen - you learned how to read people or you died. It was sink or swim and thanks to the council of his mother and, oddly, Hand of the King Tywin Lannister, Rhaegar swam. As Lyanna continued to rant, he realized the real reason for Lyanna's hesitation. While Elia would always be an issue and the suddenness would be overcome with time, the fear and bitterness would be poison to their marriage. Especially since Rhaegar first fell entranced by this woman when seeing her fight. Realizing she was the Weirwood Knight, a magnificent female warrior as the great Visenya before her only sealed it. Unable to truly convey such a cauldron of emotion, Rhaegar did what he had been longing to do and simply kissed her.

Initially taken aback, eyes wide and gasping, a gentle warmth fill her. Gods, he feels amazing. Lyanna melted into the kiss, reaching up to loop her arms around his neck. Feeling his tongue gently lick her lips, asking for entrance, she practically swooned. It was clear to her that a dragon burned inside him, waiting to be unleashed. But unlike Robert, he was considerate enough to hold back. To wait for permission, something she willingly gave. Next thing she knew the dragon awoke. Unleashing a passionate fury in her mouth one gladly reciprocated.

This should have been my first kiss. As Rhaegar drew back, both panting heavily, her tension had disappeared, Lyanna gazing into his violet eyes with a gentle longing. The kiss had been perfect.

Catching his breath, Rhaegar cupped her soft cheek. "You truly believed I wanted a quiet, meek wife simply as a broodmare?"

Lyanna bit her lip, suddenly embarrassed. When Rhaegar put it that way, her worried seemed so foolish in hindsight. "I… it's just how it is. Even in the North."

Smiling at her, Rhaegar kissed the crown of her head. "Coming from the family of female warriors and dragonriders, those that believe that are fools." The Prince could get lost in his betrothed's grey eyes, sparkling with affection at his statements. "Truth be told, it was witnessing you clobber those boorish squires..."

She gaped at him. "You witnessed that?!" Blood rushed back to her face, wrenching away in humiliation. Not letting him finish. "Seven Hells, what must you have thought of me…"

Rhaegar pressed a single finger against her lips, stilling her. "Calm down, Lyanna." How he said her name made Lyanna's heart flutter. "As I was saying, seeing that was what drew me to you in the first place." Lyanna blinked in surprise. "I knew from the beginning that I have a beautiful, courageous, brave, and strong…" He grinned... "Piece of work for a betrothed. And seeing you defend young Lord Reed's honor on the jousting field… gods, you're incredible." Even with their problems, Elia had been a priceless gem to him - an intelligent politician with an inner steel. Lightning struck twice as another strong woman fell into his lap. Perhaps I am one of fortune's favorites after all?

"I…" Lyanna couldn't believe it. "You're not mad?"

"Why would I be mad?"

Gods, how foolish had she been to ever doubt him. Her Prince Daemon. "I'm sorry, Rhaegar." Her eyes flickered down, ashamed. "I just assumed that you could be like most southern men who like their wives to be weak, quiet things."

Briefly frowning at such a common desire, Rhaegar lightly grasped Lyanna's chin and pulled her back to look at him. A smile formed on his face as he caressed the soft skin of her cheek. "Well, im not like those fools, Lyanna. I did not start falling for a weak or manipulative woman, but for the She-Wolf of Winterfell. Proud and strong and very, very beautiful."

This time it was she that was lost for words. It was she that leaned up and planted her lips on his, nothing holding them back in their second kiss. Tongues demanding and searching. Hands bold as his rested on her waist and hers ran along the form-fitting plates of his armor. Two beings supremely comfortable with the other, able to express their latent passion. Lyanna felt Rhaegar push her backward till her back hit the wall, plundering it like a triumphant conqueror. Yes… don't stop, Rhaegar… Had he decided to take her maidenhead right there, she would have urged him on.

But much to her displeasure - though his respect for her was one reason she had fallen so deeply for him in such a short time - he drew back once more. It was now his turn to look nervous. "Perhaps we should talk?"

Biting her lip again, Lyanna nodded. "Yes, we should." Drawing two worn chairs covered in dust, Rhaegar gestured for Lyanna to sit, which she did. His sudden nervousness was adorable. "We've had too many misunderstandings, Rhaegar." She took his hand in hers, tracing along the powerful palm. "What would you like to know?"

Electric tingle shooting up him from her touch, Rhaegar forced himself away from thoughts of her. Of her lips swollen from their passion. "Why were you so worried about our marriage? I mean, being the Princess does pose certain problems to overcome, but also a freedom from certain conventions. If you perform your duties, then there is nothing else truly expected of you, so why the fear?"

Lyanna looked away, pursing her lips. "Let's just say I haven't had a decent history with betrothals before you, my Dragon." She smiled slightly. "Do you mind if I call you that?"

He laughed, a cheery chuckle of a man without a care in the world - something few had heard him ever do since he was but a child. "I like it… my Wolf." Their eyes sparkled at each other. "So, by history you mean your betrothal to Robert Baratheon?" A dark glare flashed across her expression. "Lyanna… what did he do?" If he forced himself on her…

With a hearty sigh - one holding back a still simmering anger, but also a pointless one at this point - Lyanna proceeded to recount her encounters with her previous suitor. From the disrespect, to the kiss, to the almost giddy way he slept with whores while also believing he professed a deep live fit her, by the end she could see Rhaegar was boiling.

"That shit." Rhaegar suppressed his urge to be a kinslayer at that moment. "To think he has any Targaryen blood… fucking disgrace." The Prince pulled her onto his lap, snug in a tight embrace. "Please tell me that your brothers and father no longer have anything to do with that slug?"

She nuzzled her nose against the crook of his neck, enjoying the spicy scent of her Dragon Prince. "They reacted badly when I told them." Memories of what Robert had told her came to mind, the true reason she had been so fearful of Rhaegar… I truly feared my Daemon… Feeling so horrible, the weight of all her worries suddenly hit her - of everything that had been both created and resolved and was still to be in the balance. Clutching to him tighter, she began to softly sob.

Sounds Rhaegar heard almost immediately. "Lyanna?" Surprised by her sudden tears, he pulled her back to look at her, gently rubbing her back. "Lya… what's wrong? Why are you crying?"

"I'm sorry... I want to be strong." Everything he had told her - it just seemed like a dream. "I… I don't want to live in chains. I can't live in chains, Rhaegar."

Seeing those beautiful grey eyes watering again, Rhaegar's heart broke - a sight as horrifying to see as when Elia broke into silent tears at his father insulting their little girl. I swear to you, Lya, I will never chain you."

Sniffling, Lyanna couldn't help but to shift around till she rested her head against his armored chest, listening to his heartbeat underneath the plate. "So if I wish to practice my swordplay?" It had taken years to convince her father to allow Lyanna to train - before which she had trained in the wolfswood with Bran - and that only was due to her agreeing to etiquette lessons from Nan. To train and spar meant the world to her.

"I'll appoint Ser Arthur or Ser Oswell as your instructor if you want."

Lyanna peered up at him, regarding him with new eyes. "And if I wish to ride?"

Gently, he wiped the tears off her cheeks. "The beaches of Dragonstone are perfect for riding. I'll make sure the best mounts in Westeros are there for you to choose from." Honoring and cherishing this gem - this winter rose, it was so easy for him. She was just so perfect.

She blushed. "I already have the best horse in the seven kingdoms." They both laughed at that, Lyanna's tears long forgotten. How did I get so lucky? "His Grace's announcement came at the perfect time for me." Lyanna reached up to cup his cheek. "You saved me from what would be a horrible marriage, instead giving me what I hope will be a wonderful one."

"It will be wonderful, Lyanna." He said this without any doubt in his voice. "I'll do everything in my power to protect you and make you happy. This day until the end of my days." She stared at him, for his use of the Andal wedding vows - it was not by accident. "It's only been a short time since we truly met, but since then I've fallen for you, Lyanna Stark."

They still had to get to know everything about the other, but the bond was made - all that was left to do was strengthen it till it was unbreakable. I have no intention of letting him get away. "I fell for you the moment I heard you sing." Lyanna's expression grew determined. "I don't give a fuck what anyone says, my Prince. I want to be your Queen... if you'll have me that is?"

Rhaegar was taken aback for a moment at the blunt, crude words, but recovered quickly. Grabbing her face with both hands. "Of course I'll have you, my feisty Wolf."

They kissed again, and time just ended for Lyanna. One moment she was in his lap, and the next he had laid her on the threadbare reed mat that lined the dirty floor. Tongues tangled and hands brushing all over her body. She gasped as he moved to her neck, licking and kissing, a livewire to her core. Wordlessly, Lyanna reached and began removing his armor. Tossing them in every direction until he was in a simple tunic. Hands inching under the fabric to feel his hard muscles - muscles that made her mouth water. Whatever had overcome Lyanna, she didn't care.

Kissing back up to her mouth, Rhaegar felt all the most lustful urges coursing through him. Instinct growling at him to bury his length in her heat, to breed the beautiful, wild direwolf with his dragonseed. Tempering the hot blood coursing through him, Rhaegar nevertheless reached down to untie her trousers.

Lost in her passion, his actions brought her back to reality. "Wait… Rhaegar…" Lyanna broke their kiss, half-lidded eyes staring into his dark indigo. She decided then and there she could melt into a puddle by simply gazing into his eyes. "I want to remain a… a maiden until our wedding night." She blushed.

Smiling gently, Rhaegar kissed her sweetly. "I respect your virtue, my Wolf. You are truly a winter's rose." Still, he went back to yanking down her trousers. "But I still intend on making you shatter." Something feral was driving him. Rhaegar needed to see her screaming his name. Needed it more than breathing.

Brows furrowed in confusion, trusting him yet still unknowing of what in the name of the old gods her betrothed was doing, Lyanna watched him kiss down her stomach. Then kiss along her thighs. And then kiss… there. "Rhaegar… what…?" Just as she spoke, the Prince's tongue licked a slow strip up her slit - and it felt so deliriously… good. "Fuck, my Prince… don't stop…"

"Raqagon, ñuha dōna zokla." Pushing her thighs wide apart, Rhaegar moaned into her heat. "Sylutī." She tasted divine - he fancied Elia's, but Lyanna's wasn't comparable. Like two flavors of sweet wine, and he was lucky enough to enjoy both. Her hands weaved into his hair, tugging and pulling until they fell from his bun. He tossed her legs about his shoulders. "Do you like the Lord's Kiss?"

"Oh yes…" She was seeing stars, driven to her edge by his hungry licks. "More, Rhaegar. More!" All she could hear was the sliding of his tongue through her folds, and her frantic breaths.

She was close - he had enough experience with Elia to know for sure. "Lyanna…" he whispered into her wetness. Rhaegar shifted up, lashing his tongue against her little nub. Rewarded by her hips bucking, fingers pulling at his hair. Lyanna's back arched up, wetness covering his mouth to which he downed gladly. "Māzigon syt nyke." Reveling in the shuddering moan that signaled her climax to the world.

Lyanna, arm pressed against her forehead to steady her thoughts, closed her eyes. His voice… Gods, that voice… Speaking in High Valyrian, a language beautiful on his tongue. Opening them again as she panted. "Seven hells…" The aftershocks of her climax still shuddered through her. "That was… Gods, Rhaegar."

Shit-eating grin planted on his face - no man unable to feel smug at making such a gorgeous beauty shatter like that - Rhaegar gently lapped up the remnants of her juices and pulled up her trousers. Fastening them. "So," he said, shimmying till he was by her side. "I'll take it you enjoyed?"

"Mmmmm… that was wonderful, Rhaegar." Needing to be close to him, Lyanna threw her arms around his side, snuggling into his chest. "I can't wait for my life with you." The reality would be quite complex to navigate, but at least she'd have this man beside her during all of it. Lyanna allowed that truth to push everything else aside for now.

"Me neither, my winter goddess." Kissing her hair, sniffing the cold, clean scent, he couldn't help but laugh. "I still can't believe you were the Knight of the Laughing Tree."

Smiling back, Lyanna now knew he held nothing but affection in his tone. "Well, those cunts needed to be taught a lesson, and since this wasn't on the menu I was in need of some fun." Her grin matched his.

Out of nowhere, Rhaegar frowned. "My father…" The mood darkened. "He wants the knight dead."

Lyanna blinked, suddenly fearful. "What, why?"

"I can't be sure anymore…" A sigh, running his hand through his silver locks. "His mind doesn't operate on the plane of sanity anymore." Rhaegar grabbed her hands. "I'll take your helmet and say the knight washed away into the God's Eye. No one will ever know." He pressed a searing kiss to her lips. "You are my betrothed, Lyanna. You are part of the dragon pack, and I will protect you to the death."

She smiled wanly. Prince Daemon Targaryen, leaping off Caraxes to his death to protect the one he loved. "Don't die, Rhaegar. Live, so that we may know a long and happy life."

"Oh, I intend to."

After helping him with his armor - an action frequently interrupted by sweet kisses and lustful touches - Rhaegar finally left the cottage. Shutting the door behind him, Lyanna turned and collapsed against it. Sliding to the ground with a dreamy smile on her face and the feeling of his lips still tingling all over her body. Never having been happier.

Chapter Text

"So, how was it?"

Creamy lids fluttering open, Lyanna's eyes flickered to Dacey's behind her through the looking glass. Normally she'd be squirming and cursing through the daily setting of her hairstyle - rendered more important due to the betrothal - but the future Crown Princess of the Seven Kingdoms was rather quiet this time. "How was what?" she asked back, innocently.

Dacey chuckled. "You know very well what I'm referring to." Twisting Lyanna's chestnut hair into a simple crown of braids - symbolism not lost on either - the She-Bear leaned in. "How was Rhaegar? The look on your face says everything."

Blushing faintly, instead of embarrassment Lyanna could only feel a warm contentment flow through her. "It was the best," she basically swooned. Her rather girlish attitude whenever she thought of Rhaegar, seeming better suited to a story about Florian and Jonquil, didn't bother her anymore. Rhaegar was completely worth it. My beautiful Prince Daemon.

A grin spread on the lady in waiting's face. "That good, huh? Had to be if it got you blushing like that." She puffed up the hair, arranging it in a perfect halo for Lyanna's angelic face. "Think a Prince or Princess is already on the way?"

This time, the blush was rather intense. "What? No." Lyanna wanted to shake her head, but didn't want to disrupt Dacey's masterpiece with her hair. It wasn't fancy, but a faint application of powder to the cheeks joined with the simple hairstyle meant to ground her wild northern beauty served to find the perfect balance between elegance and exotic. "I am still a maiden. He understood when I told him that would wait till the waiting night."

"Respectful… he's a keeper, though I guarantee you there was a dragon hidden inside him waiting to be unleashed." Both young women grinned at each other. "So, what did he do that got you blushing like a swooning maiden?"

"Something with his… tongue." Far from embarrassed now, she smirked lasciviously, transformed into a seductress.

"The Lord's Kiss? Ah, I've had that before, but no one could get me to the swooning stage." Mormont women were wild bears, but very picky with their men. Dacey seemed carry in that tradition, only having eyes for the Sword of the Morning himself.

Her blush returned, a dreamy look forming on her face. "It was absolutely amazing. So kind… so passionate… the perfect balance." This had to be a dream. There was no way such delirious happiness was possible. "I'm falling in love with him, Dacey. Gods help me for going so quickly, but I don't care. He's perfect."

"I wouldn't be ashamed of that." Wrapping her arms around Lyanna's shoulders, Dacey smiled at her through the mirror. "The Prince is a genuine person. No man not pure of heart would have accepted you wishing to remain a maiden with such grace and acceptance - plus you have the same intuition as the wolf you are. Good instincts, and found yourself a keeper." She pressed an affectionate kiss on the crown of her head. "There's stuff to be careful about, but your growing love for the Crown Prince isn't one of them."

Tilting her head, glancing at Dacey, Lyanna gave a large smile. "Thank you." The worries were always there, but it heartened her that Dacey, Ned, her father, and the so many others that loved her were in her corner.

There was a gentle silence between the two. "So… did he say dirty words in Valyrian while licking you?" Her lady in waiting grinned.

Lyanna pulled back to glare at her. "Shut it."

"I'll take that as a yes." Dacey grinned even wider.

"Get out!" Lyanna ordered, a good-natured smile forming on her face. Laughing herself, Dacey bowed and complied, eager to get a good spot at the Tourney grounds - likely hoping to get a good glance at the Sword of the Morning. She was obvious that way.

Rising from her chair, a gentle breeze wafting through the tent, Lyanna admired herself in the mirror. If it weren't for dacey her hair would have practically been a birds nest of wild strands every which way instead of the waterfall of silky locks that fell to her waist, though she doubted Rhaegar would mind. Rhaegar… She hated the doe-eyed, dreamy stares her friends would give the men of the household guards, but here she was doing the same thing to her Dragon Prince. And she wasn't ashamed - he deserved her affections and her love. Looking the image over in the looking glass, it was like Lyanna had transformed herself. Beautiful hairstyle, a finely powdered face, literally the only fine dress she owned in a fine northern style. Glittering sky blue and accentuating her curves, Lyanna knew Rhaegar would be burning with desire while on his horse at the joust.

Just thinking of her beloved, she twirled around, laughing. Gliding around the room with a carefree smile, singing softly in her joy. There would be problems coming forward - dealing with the Princess Elia and a crash course at adapting to court life, but it didn't matter at this moment. She had her Dragon Prince, a man that loved and respected her. One that cherished all of her quirks and accepted her for who she was. I think he'd even spar with me if I asked him to. The thought made her giggle with glee. Nothing could ruin her mood at this point.

"My Lady Lyanna?"

Turns out, the thought had been far too soon. Halting, Lyanna's eyes found the fully armored form of a young highborn waiting by the entrance to the tent. Had it been Rhaegar paying a visit prior to the jousts, she would have ran into his arms and kissed him so passionately they would have toppled over from lack of air. But it wasn't the Valyrian armor of a Targaryen Prince, but the heavy plate of a Stormlands Lord. Her smile fell immediately as her posture grew guarded. "Lord Baratheon."

Confident smile on his face, Robert was in the best of moods. Armor freshly shined, lances sharpened, and horses fully trained in several practice runs, there was no doubt in his mind that the victory in the final joust would be his. A bath with three of Chataya's best girls and the finest gambeson and breeches imported from Tyrosh to go with his suit of armor, all that was left was to find the woman he would be calling his wife by the end of it all. "Oh my dear, you need not be so formal with me." Before Lyanna could respond, he snatched her hand and kissed the knuckles. "You look beautiful in that dress." Upon walking in - confident Ned or Brandon would allow him in if asked - her carefree dancing was just too alluring that he couldn't stop himself from admiring the view.

For once, he didn't smell like wine. That didn't stop Lyanna from wrinkling her nose in disgust. While there was no appetite left in her for a confrontation that would likely get ugly, she nevertheless couldn't stand to be in the same room with him. "What do you want, Lord Baratheon?" she asked, trying to be polite. Crossing her arms and hoping to just wait him out before her brothers or father came to get her.

He bowed, looking like the epitome of a chivalrous knight in the light of the seven. "I am about to compete for the grand prize today. Would you be so kind as to allow me to wear your favor?"

Lyanna's delicate eyebrow rose. He's japing me, right? As if she'd ever let him wear her favor after what an ass he was... "I'm sorry my Lord," she said in a calmer voice than he deserved. "If I'm to give my favor to anyone it will be to my betrothed."

Blinking, the Stormlands lord paramount looked confused. "I am your betrothed. Your father accepted your brother's offer, and he knows how devoted I am to you."

He honestly believes this. "We are not betrothed, Robert. It was only an offer, one that was never finalized." Lyanna leaned against a table in the tent, eyes narrowing. "My true betrothed is Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, ordered by the King and accepted by my father, the new Master of Laws and member of the small council."

Robert rolled his eyes. "More about that again." Waving his hand dismissively, Robert stepped closer to the young she-wolf. "I happen to know my uncle, the King. His sister was my grandmother, and I was fostered in the Red Keep for a year as a young child, so I get how he thinks. This is nothing but a power play to piss off Tywin Lannister, the betrothal isn't real."

At this point beyond caring, Lyanna scoffed. Seven hells - can't this man take a hint? "I assure you, the betrothal is quite real, Lord Baratheon." The last was almost spat out, Lyanna's ire rising.

In all honesty, he didn't understand why she was upset. "There's no chance it can be. Our betrothal was real, in the sight of the Seven. Even the King cannot undo such or else piss off the Faith, and they already fuckin' hate House Targaryen."

"I told you already that our betrothal, however far it went, was never formalized." It struck Lyanna as darkly ironic that he thought himself as such a fine lord, yet she as a wild northerner was the more educated of the two. "Queen Rhaella renewed the Pact of Ice and Fire with my father and eldest brother after the King's decree. It was finalized earlier in the week, with my father appointed Master of Laws, food and Myrish glass being sent to the North for winter, and my brother being sworn as a Kingsguard."

"Ned as a Kingsguard? Impossible," Robert chortled.

Lyanna fought a laugh herself. He doesn't even know who Benjen is… I doubt he remembers Ned telling him, or cares one way or another. "All this time you call yourself his friend and say you're in love with me…"

He peered at her with confused eyes. "But I do love you, my sweet Lyanna…"

Moving to touch her, Lyanna batted his hands away. "Do not touch me, Robert," she snapped, anger at the surface. "You claim to love me without even knowing me or my family. The Pact is sealed. To break it off would bring myself the greatest dishonor." I would have fled with Rhaegar anyway, had father been so stupid as to betroth me to Robert. Her loathing of this man and affection for the Prince so strong already, she refused to be ashamed for such a thought, however mad it was.

Fists clenching, Robert nonetheless showed an incredible restraint. "While I commend your Lord Father for making a good deal for your hand, it disgusts me that you would be sold as some broodmare mistress for a dragonspawn."

Lyanna's cheeks started to flush red, this time with anger. "I will not be a mistress Lord Baratheon." While childish fantasies were childish fantasies, she bore the luck and providence to see hers become a near reality. "I'll become the second wife and warrior Queen of the future King of Westeros, Visenya to his Aegon. He is the heir of our ruler and my betrothed in the sight of both the old gods and the new so I suggest you speak of him with respect."

"He's practically a rapist and I will not let him steal what's mine." Robert stepped forward again, their faces only a foot apart.

The Lord of Storm's End towered over her with his bulk but Lyanna refused to be intimidated. Seeing red and gritted teeth. "What's yours?" If he wouldn't understand, she'd have to hammer it into his idiot brain. Lyanna finally realized that this conflict was inevitable, but this time neither Ned nor Brandon could be the one to finish it.

Her anger… she was scared of Rhaegar, Robert was sure of it. I cannot let him abuse her this way. Lyanna would be his to wed and protect, and if it meant challenging the Crown then Robert was willing to do so. He was a Baratheon, and they were the fury. "Before the King got involved, you were to be my bride. I won't let the dragonspawn get his claws on you."

Enough is enough. "I will become the Prince's wife, Lord Baratheon," she ground out through gritted teeth, voice low. "I am very happy with the prospect so I very well suggest you find another woman because this one will become Queen."

Suddenly his blue eyes grew dark, a dazzling ocean blue almost black with… lust. "I want no other wife but you," he husked. At that moment, before Lyanna could even respond, Robert pulled her to him and kissed her. Thick hands encased in armor wrapping around her waist, trapping her there. His tongue stabbed into her like a mace through bone, even more forcefully than the first time. Then, he merely was overcome by desire. Here, beginning to shove her towards the bed, he was claiming her as his. Absolutely confident that she wanted him to.

Inside, Lyanna was screaming. This was no proper kiss or lover's embrace, not at all like Rhaegar's gentle but fiery touches and caresses. After knowing what a real kiss of love and respect felt like, Lyanna felt even more disgusted at this. Disgusted and… terrified. Knowing where he was going - aiming for her very maidenhead. No! I will not lose it to this disgusting oaf! Unable to push off his bulky frame, she blindly reached for the first thing she could and swung.

The precious book crashed against Robert's cheek. Leaving nothing but a small cut and bruise but causing him to grunt in pain. The shock of which enough to force him off, Lord of Storm's End stumbling back. Looking upon Lyanna with wide, unbelieving eyes. "My sweet…"

"I. Am. Not. Your. Sweet," she hissed, breathing deeply as she shook with rage. "Do not touch me again, or else it will be a dagger I use on you."

At that moment, the guards raced in. Two young members of the Household Guard, illiterate and their first time outside of the ancestral lands of House Stark around Winterfell. They surveyed the scene with confusion and worry, clutching the hilt of their sheathed swords. "What's going on?" Eyes shifting between Lord Baratheon and Lyanna. "My Lady, are you alright?"

Glaring at Robert… the fatigue and tiredness started to wash over her. "I'm fine, Torrhen. Lord Baratheon was just leaving." Lyanna just wanted him gone.

Robert soothed his pained cheek with his hand, the two staring at each other with nary a word. Suddenly, his blue eyes turned a very dark shade - different from before. Something she had never seen in him in their encounters. Angry, but a deep anger. One melded from pure hate. "I'll have you Lyanna, even if it's the last damned thing i do." He grabbed his cape from the coathanger and threw it over his shoulder. "I swear before all the gods that the Dragonspawn will give you to me, or my warhammer will taste his rapist blood." With that, he left. Tent flap swooshing behind him.

Trembling, Lyanna collapsed in the nearest seat. Clutching the book around her waist just like his last visit, only now she was fighting tears rather than mere shock. Strength seeping out of her as the weight of what happened came crashing down. The guards were by her side. "Would you like some wine, my Lady?"

Lyanna shook her head. "No, I'll be fine," she croaked.

"Shall we inform Lord Stark of this?"

"Don't bother him. I'll let him know. Go back to your posts." They nodded and left. Inhaling deeply, Lyanna willed herself to be calm. She wasn't a defenseless maiden, but a wolf of Winterfell. The soon to be Princess to the Dragon Prince. She would be strong. How in the Seven Hells will I get this oaf out of my ass? Perhaps speaking to Ned… or Rhaegar... No, that wasn't an option. He's still the Lord of Storm's End. Thinking like a true Princess, political considerations first.

At that moment, the guards called in from outside. "Lady Stark, make way for her Grace, the Queen Rhaella."

Eyes widening, Lyanna quickly stood and set her book gingerly on the table. Smoothing out the creases in her dress, she fell to her knees just as Rhaella breezed through the tent flaps, Kingsguard right behind her. "My Queen."

The Queen let out a small laugh, one comparable to the sweetest song of birds. "Rise Lady Lyanna," she said softly, reaching down in a most familiar way to help her future gooddaughter up. "We will soon be family after all... and do please call me Rhaella."

Rising back to her feet, Lyanna studied the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms - the only time she'd ever seen her was at the feasts, and at that time Rhaella had always been at the head table beside the King. out of range of her detailed vision. Rhaella was the epitome of what the wife of a Valyrian dragonlord should be, silver hair styled in complex braids down the back of her sparkling red dress that displayed just a hint of the porcelain skin beneath. There was an almost ethereal beauty about her, vibrant violet eyes sparkling with compassion. Yet there was a hidden steel set in them. Like Rhaegar's, but softer. Smiling, Lyanna knew she would come to love the Queen. "Forgive me for being rather flustered, Rhaella." She would have to get used to being around the dragons, both as her goodkin but also as her children… even for a direwolf it was quite dazzling. "And call me Lyanna as well."

She was graced again by the queens melodious laughter. "It's alright dear. After all, this whole matter was practically thrust upon you." Noticing Lyanna's eyes flicker to the man behind her, Rhaella motioned to Ser Jaime. "This is Ser Jaime Lannister, my Kingsguard."

Handsome, golden features completely distinguishable, Lyanna would know the Lion of Lannister anywhere. "Ser Jaime."

Jaime bowed. "My Lady… it is an honor to meet the woman that has brought Prince Rhaegar so much joy."

"Well, the Prince has only brought me such joy as well. I would be worried if he did not reciprocate." Lyanna turned back to her goodmother. "Shall we head for the tourney grounds? I'd hate to miss the Prince's first tilt."

Unable not to beam at the northern beauty, Rhaella clasped her arm affectionately. "You really do care for my son, don't you?"

"I do." Just thinking about him warmed her heart as they began to leave the tent. "You must have dealt with many maidens and their fathers seeking betrothals before settling on Princess Elia, but truth be told I didn't know that he was the Crown Prince when I first heard him sing."

"You heard him?" Rhaegar was always careful after his father broke the first harp Aunt Jenny gave him. "He has a beautiful voice, gets it from my mother, Queen Betha." Rhaella's eyes sparkled thinking of her late mother. "I do wish he would enjoy himself more, not be so pained all the time," she said with regret.

The she-wolf furrowed his brows. "Pained?" Imagining Rhaegar in pain filled her with an indescribable sadness, biting her lip.

It was Ser Jaime that answered, falling behind them as they strolled through the camp. "The King rarely takes small council meetings after Duskendale. Rhaegar has taken most of the slack and it's… he's naturally brooding but with the weight of it all it gets worse for him." He looked at Rhaella. "Her Grace as well."

"I'm fine, Ser Jaime." The Queen grinned at Lyanna. "The Lion of Lannister likes to cluck over me, very devoted to his oaths. Reminds me so much of his mother, while Cersei took more after Lord Tywin."

"Lord Tywin is a very successful Lord. Perhaps that isn't a bad comparison to make?" Looking back to the Kingsguard, Lyanna thought she was seeing things. A sparkle in the eye. A worried look for the Queen more akin to how Rhaegar looked at her or her father to her mother than guard to charge. Utter adoration and dare she say... love? "Your oaths are to follow her Grace?"

"Morning, noon, and night, until dismissed of course." Jaime grinned. "The price to pay for the prestigious post, but I'm happy to do it. Only the best to protect the royal family, especially her Grace." There is that smile again.

From the rather serene expression on her goodmother's face, seemed to Lyanna that Rhaella had no clue - she decided not to say anything. "I guess I'll have to get used to Kingsguards following me," Lyanna ended up saying with a smirk of her own.

Rhaella nodded. "They are sworn to protect the king and his family, my dear, but don't worry. While the history is spotty, Lord Commander Gerold runs a tight ship. The knights are honorable, patient, and understanding. Especially Ser Jaime - I don't know what I would do without him."

The aforementioned knight visibly puffed up like an airskin used to ford across rivers inflating, as if that simple comment was what sustained him. Love is in the air, I suppose. "We will have to find a guard for you, Lady Lyanna."

Robert's tongue invading her mouth flashed in her mind, Lyanna suppressing a shiver. "Yes, that would be best. I won't be under the protection of House Stark after the wedding, and I should probably be seen as a member of the royal family."

Glancing at her with an appreciative look, Rhaella chuckled. "You are learning, my dear gooddaughter." Around them, onlookers were falling to their knees as the Queen and future Queen passed by. Lyanna was taking it in stride, not arrogant yet not too colloquial. "You'll be an intelligent Queen when the time comes." Suddenly, the Queen spotted just the choice. "Ser Barristan!"

Walking towards the grounds, simply enjoying and not participating after being dethroned for the top spot at last year's tourney by the Prince, Ser Barristan's attention was caught by the Queen. He jogged over, bowing. "You summoned me, your Grace?"

"Ah, Lyanna. This is the distinguished Barristan the Bold. It is my directive that he be your guard… at least until your brother arrives from Winterfell. I assume you'll want him as your guard?"

A smile formed on Lyanna's face. If anyone deserved a position on the kingsguard it was Benjen. He'll be ecstatic at this opportunity. Benjen always wanted to be a knight like Aemon Targaryen or Duncan the Tall. But her mind drifted back to the here and now - another legend standing in front of her. "Ser Barristan, your reputation precedes you." She curtsied. "I'd be honored to be your charge."

This one… Barristan took an immediate liking to Lyanna Stark. While most highborns looked down on their guards - especially kings and royals - the future Queen curtseyed to him. He bowed deeply. "The honor is mine, Princess."

Falling behind her beside Jaime without issue, the conversation continued with Ser Barristan now present. "I think I would also like to know the famous Sword of the Morning, Ser Arthur."


Both kingsguards laughed. "We all adore your betrothed, Lady Lyanna, but Ser Arthur. He and the Prince are the closest of friends. Dunk and Egg returned." Barristan explained after Lyanna furrowed his brows. "Ser Duncan the Tall and King Aegon V. They were inseparable - Rhaegar and Arthur are like that. Elia also grew up with the Dayne siblings, s you'll see a lot of him."

"That is good, and I do think my Lady in waiting is smitten with him."

Jaime snorted. "I would pay a million golden dragons to see the she-bear make Ser Stuffy break his vows of celibacy." Barristan rolled his eyes while both ladies laughed.

Finally back in a good mood as they approached the tourney grounds, her mind was already turning in matchmaking plots. "Ser Stuffy. I'll have to tell her that."

"Ignore my youthful brother in arms, my Lady," Barristan offered, though the knight's eyes twinkled with mirth. "I shouldn't be saying this, but Ser Arthur is partial to silk dresses and ponytail hairstyles."

"I'll keep that in mind for Lady Mormont, Ser Barristan."

Worries about being accepted into House Targaryen were apparently all for naught.

It was the final day of the King's Tourney, held months early in the twilight of winter to celebrate the two and twentieth nameday of the Crown Prince. A glorious event, filled with free food and drink for all visitors "by the goodness of his Grace, Aerys Targaryen, Second of His Name, King of the Seven Kingdoms." Over ten thousand smallfolk from as far as Lannisport and Gulltown had arrived, most of them gathered in the hastily built stands surrounding the jousting grounds to watch what was gearing up to be one of the best competitions of the century. Rumors of the Knight of the Laughing Tree vanishing into thin air and the betrothal announcement only added to the mystery of the event, helmed by the coming defense of the Crown Prince's title against the Lord of Storm's End.

Upon the arrival of the Targaryen Queen and the future Princess Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, the already loud masses grew thunderous with applause for the two of them. Beautiful women the envy of all present, they received the boundless love of the smallfolk.

Lyanna, to her credit, handled it all with a regal sense of aplomb and decorum. Waving to the smallfolk with a wide smile - drawing further adoration. Entering the royal box to the rising high Lords and Ladies, Rhaella motioning for Lyanna to sit right next to her. A huge message concerning her placement as a member of House Targaryen. "You're family, Lyanna," Rhaella told her with a smile.

The she-wolf beamed. "This is my first tourney. Are they always like this?"

Jaime shook his head. "No, most are only for highborns. The King's Tourney is one of a kind." He smirked. "Good choice for your first, too. You'll get to see the Crown Prince kick ass today." All the Kingsguards were completely loyal to their Dragon Prince - as was Lyanna.

And his mother. "He's the favorite to go to the final tilt," commented Rhaella. "Him and Lord Baratheon." She noticed Lyanna's face darkening. "Is everything alright dear?" the Queen gently asked her future gooddaughter.

Lyanna put on a fake smile, not wishing to ruin the day with her problems. "I'm fine."

Rhaella shared a quizzical look with Jaime and Ser Barristan. "My Lady," the older knight said with concern. "I believe something is truly bothering you. Ser Jaime, her Grace, and I can keep a secret."

Sighing, Lyanna lowered her voice. "Robert Baratheon…" She closed her eyes, the memory of what had happened rushing back. Making her just feel dirty. "Before you arrived... he tried to force himself on me." An unbidden feeling, of betraying Rhaegar by not ending the conversation earlier or fighting him off quicker… it caused a tear to fall down her cheek.

As for her companions - Rhaella gasped softly while both Jaime and Barristan narrowed their eyes. "How far did he go?" Jaime asked with a tone that was frighteningly similar to Brandon's. Robert's… escapades, were known in court, and while it was shocking that he did do this, it didn't truly surprise them - the fact that he did it to the Crown Princess to be was.

"Just a kiss... he did it before, when we first met. It wasn't rape…" Their conversation was hushed, none of the other lords catching it over the roar of the crowd. "More like he expected me to let him."

Jaime was furious, running a hand through his coffered hair to calm himself. he very much believed that women deserved to be treated with respect. Glancing over at the Queen, she silently blazed with fury. "I wont say im surprised. The oaf already has a bastard in the eyrie, and gods knows how many more."

"He won't harm you again, Lyanna," Rhaella said firmly, taking her hand. "Not while you're in our protection. Ser Barristan?"

The old knight only nodded. "No one gets near Lady Lyanna without me being there."

"Good." Gingerly, Rhaella hugged Lyanna close. The daughter of the North reciprocating, unable to resist the motherly hug denied her since her own mother's demise. What was it about the Targaryens that she couldn't help but love them?

Little do they know that Ned heard every word as he was coming up to the royal box several paces ahead of his brother and father… Mouth going dry, hands trembling with both anger and self-loathing at the story Lyanna had told the Queen. Barely able to speak, he forced himself to not say anything, yet. "My Queen," he said, bowing.

All four turn to see the spare stark heir. "Greetings Lord Stark."

Ned smiles and then hugged his sister close. "Love you, Lya," he murmured, voice hoarse with emotion.

Unsure of where that came from, Lyanna nevertheless reciprocated. "Love you too, Ned." Wordlessly, Ned took his seat while Brandon crushed Lyanna in a tight embrace, joined by Cat and their father. Only the sight of the beautiful Lady Cersei could knock him out of the puddle of malaise he had stepped in.

Finally, the King arrived. Surrounded by guards and followed by the bounding Prince Viserys, on cloud nine for being so close to his father, Aerys took his seat with nary a word. Ser Oswell moving to the King's side, whispering in his ear, Aerys nodded and waved him off. Glaring at the herald. Scrambling to gather his bugler, the man cleared his voice. "Presenting! His Grace the Crown Prince and Lord of Dragonstone, reigning champion of the King's Tourney! Rhaegar of House Targaryen!"

A roar undulated through the crowd as Rhaegar galloped onto the field atop his black thoroughbred war stallion Moondancer, clad in full plate armor of a high knight but free of a helm. Silver hair blowing in the wind. Moondancer suddenly rearing, the Prince held his mount expertly, holding tight and waving to the crowd - which they absolutely loved based on the unadulterated screaming that drowned out all other sounds. Lords and knights were largely a mixed bag, but the thousands of smallfolk that gathered were firmly in adoration of the Dragon Prince.

As was Lyanna, her gaze never leaving the magnificent figure of her betrothed. While not the Valyrian armor he had worn the night before - that she had greatly enjoyed undressing him out of - Rhaegar cut a dashing figure in anything. The plates slim and not the bulky iron houses that many knights wore, hugging his toned figure. And then there was his silver hair, silky and sparkling in the powerful sunlight. Framing his gorgeous face. Oh yes, I am a lucky woman.

"My Lady Stark." Blinking, Lyanna looked up to see Rhaegar right in front of her, that dazzling smile that turned her to jelly beaming at her. How did… He must have greeted his father and mother without her even noticing. "Would you do me the honor of offering me your favor?" Lyanna was sure a bright red blush adorned her cheeks.

Unable to not be a cheeky fuck, Brandon produced a grey ribbon. "You can wear my favor, my Prince," he said in a ridiculous falsetto. The entire royal box erupted in laughter. Jon Arryn guffawing along with the Kingsguards, Mace Tyrell chortling, Rickard and Rhaella laughing merrily, Ned chuckling softly, and even Cersei Lannister unable to stop a giggle.

Only the King himself watching with a blank stare… and Lyanna didn't laugh, glaring at her brother. Smacking him about the head. "Shut up." The crowd loved it. Turning back to Rhaegar - who was laughing himself atop his horse, she took out a small strip of blue silk and gave it to him. "Keep safe, my Prince."

"With the favor of the She-Wolf of Winterfell," Rhaegar announced loudly, though the affection in his violet eyes was only for her. "The gods themselves couldn't strike me down." Lyanna fought from swooning while he tied the silk to his wrist, the King beside her audibly groaning and rolling his eyes. No sentimentality from him. Rhaella, however, was all smiles, hugging her once Rhaegar was trotting off to the field.

Overcoming the surreal feeling of being the archetypal maiden in the long ago epics, Lyanna leaned over to her brothers. "Who's he fighting first."

"Yohn Royce of the Vale," Brandon replied. "It'll be a good tilt, but a short one."

Ned agreed. "I know Lord Royce. He's good, but no match for the Prince." Her brother's observations were spot on. Royce was a proud and noble figure atop his mare, skilled but not sneaky in any way. The first tilt was a draw, both riders striking a glancing blow on the other's shield. The second tilt was shorter, Rhaegar's lance shattering on Royce's breastplate and sending the Lord of Runestone toppling. Dismounting, Rhaegar helped Royce up, earning cheers from the crowd.

Next joust proclaimed, frowns adorned the faces of the Starks - Ned especially, anger boiling deep within his gut thanks to what he had overheard prior to the start - as Robert Baratheon rode onto the jousting grounds. Giant brown Volantine stallion huffing and pawing at the ground in a restless energy. "He's facing Ser Addam Marbrand," Lyanna murmured..

"Ser Addam is good," Catelyn chimed in, holding Brandon's hand affectionately. "Always wins."

"Hopefully he knocks that smug bastard on his ass," Brandon groaned.

"I doubt it." Four sets of eyes found Ned, the Queen unable not to listen in to the younger brood. "Robert is better." His statement proved accurate when a decisive blow to just below the neck unhorsed Ser Addam almost comically easily, Robert thundering to the end of the fence to roars from the crowd. A handsome, strong Lord - naturally he was a favorite of the smallfolk.

Removing the visor of his fancy stag helm, Robert found Lyanna and blew her a kiss. Lyanna simply wrinkled her nose and didn't give him the satisfaction to even look at him. "This is going to be a long day," Rhaella observed.

And a long day it was. Three further jousts each, and all three ended without ceremony or interest. Rhaegar defeated in quick succession Lord Roland Crakehall, Ser Garth Hightower, and lastly Ser Arthur - though the latter took two tilts to do so. Tethering on his saddle, Arthur nearly managed to hold on but eventually fell, though a quick tuck and roll had him on his feet in no time. Even Rhaegar joined the crowd in the exultant applause, though Arthur's only wave and wink was to… Dacey. Lyanna grinned as the normally tough she-bear flushed a full crimson at the attention from the famed Sword of the Morning. "Looks like Ser Stuffy is smitten," she said to Ser Jaime, causing the latter to laugh.

Her joy at Rhaegar winning was dampened as Robert kept gaining as well. Ser Jeremy Rykker collapsed with a hard blow to the center of his shield. Lord Jonos Bracken quickly followed to the displeasure of the mostly Riverman crowd. Robert faced his biggest foe in Ser Gregor Clegane of the Westerlands, sworn sword to Tywin Lannister. Three tilts and three ties, but on the fourth Robert hit him in the neck and sent the monster crashing to the ground. Everyone would have figured Gregor to erupt in anger at the preening Lord Baratheon, but a warning glare from Cersei caused him to merely stomp off.

Huffing, bored and just wanting the joust to continue so she wouldn't have to hear another one of King Aerys' japes, Cersei felt a pair of eyes staring at her. Turning, there were Eddard Stark's greys, finding her form with a twinkle she had seen many men - but not Rhaegar - give her. Unlike those men, when she looked away a tiny smile adorned her lips.

But now it was here. The final joust of the entire tourney, title of King's Champion and a pot of fifty thousand gold dragons in the balance. Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen of Dragonstone and Lord Robert Baratheon of Storm's End facing off. To say that Lyanna's stomach was twisted into knots would be quite understating it. "May the champions present themselves to their King," barked Ser Gerold, both of them bringing their horses in at a slow trot till they were directly in front of his Grace. "Do you pledge your loyalty and fealty to King Aerys of House Targaryen, Second of His Name?"

"I so swear my undying faith and allegiance," Rhaegar said, bowing in his saddle.

By the coincidences of life, it was Robert, not Rhaegar, that was the closest to Lyanna. Her skin crawled, both Brandon and Rhaella reaching over to clasp her hand in comfort. "I so swear my undying faith and allegiance," Robert repeated, though he wasn't done. "And to the most beautiful maiden in the Seven Kingdoms shall come the Crown of Love and Beauty upon my victory." Many ladies swoon, but Lyanna knew he meant her.

Moondancer snorting, ears pulling back angrily, Rhaegar felt a steaming irritation well within him. She is not yours, cousin. Lyanna is mine! My wolf! As much his as he was hers. Angling his mount to pass right abreast of Robert's, their eyes met. "May the best man win, cousin," he ground out.

Robert sneered. "I do not intend to lose, dragonspawn."

The arrogance only drove Rhaegar's determination a hundred fold. "Neither do I." And with that both highborns spurred their horses to position. Young Garlan Tyrell, Rhaegar's squire, offered him the lance while Meryn Trant handed Robert's to him.

One could feel the electricity in the air, even Aerys. Normally he would prefer to be anywhere but there, but with the bloody helm and shield of the Knight of the Laughing Tree displayed in his quarters, his good mood was infectious. He was actually looking forward for his heir to prove the greatness of House Targaryen. "Start now in the name of your King!" he ordered.

Lances leveling, Robert bellowed and Rhaegar whistled as their horses charged into a thunderous gallop. It was over in a split second, Lyanna unable to watch until Brandon rapped her shoulder. "Glancing blows on their shields. A draw."

Normally a rookie play, these weren't inexperienced hedge knights. "They're sizing each other up," mused Rickard.

Jon Arryn whistled, leaning back. "Better get ready. This is gonna be one for the songs."

Almost before the horn sounded the second tilt, both riders were assaulting each other yet again - no love lost or reluctance to go at each other. This time, Rhaegar and Robert slammed their lances into each other's shoulders. Another draw, another probing tilt. Eyes narrowing under visors as cheers broke into hushed murmurs.

"Rhaegar!" screamed Viserys, jumping up and down to cheer his brother - only for the King to grab him by the back of his neck and force him down.

"Let him cheer his brother," Rhaella asked gently.

Aerys was not gentle. "Quiet woman," he hissed. Rhaella drew back, turning her attentions to Lyanna as both of them watched Rhaegar with worried eyes.

The third tilt proceeded with much anticipation, and it didn't disappoint. Rhaegar shattered his lance upon Robert's shield while Robert slammed his into Rhaegar's shoulder. Robert had absorbed most of the impact with his burly arms, while the Prince's torso was leaning precipitously to the side in a sort of pain, drawing screams of displeasure from the crowd and a gasp from Lyanna. But the tables soon turned, Rhaegar earning his family's smiles by shrugging off the pain and breaking another lance against Robert's shield in the fourth tilt. His weapon hadn't even glanced a blow, but quick horsemanship managed to keep Robert from falling off his stallion.

"My gods," breathed Rickard, watching as both the fifth and sixth tilts ended in draws. Neither contestant was holding back this time. Breaking three more lances and obviously inflicting deep bruises and aching cuts on the other. The crowd was simply loving it all, enterprising sneaks and entrepreneurs taking bets all over the stands.

Lyanna's heart was beating out of her chest, squeezing Rhaella's hand tightly when the sixth tilt ended, Rhaegar taking another blow, this time to the side. This was an exciting match, one for the history books since two great riders of great houses were battling each other in a test of strength and skill - the five tilts of Prince Daemon during his brother's reign were still talked about to this day… every detail - but all she could think about was her beloved Rhaegar.

The herald blew into his bugle. "Prince Rhaegar and Lord Baratheon have secured a sixth draw. Each of them shall be granted a pause to prepare for the seventh tilt."

Fingers digging into the wooden seat below her, now Lyanna was quite worried. Starting to slouch atop Moondancer, Rhaegar handed his broken lance to Garlan, his betrothed catching a grimace as he moved his shoulder. It was clear that the Prince caught some nasty hits from Robert's lance and was tiring. My Rhaegar… She wanted nothing more than to race over to him and kiss the pain away.

On the other side of the tourney grounds, Meryn Trant was handing Robert a new lance - one of sturdy oak often used in battle except for the dulled head. Sweat drenched his brow and tunic underneath the armor, bruised sides aching but determination burned in him. Eyes finding Lyanna's, the Lord of Storm's End smirked and blew a kiss.

Eyes flickering between the infuriatingly smug Robert and the aching Rhaegar, Lyanna's emotions were a swirling cauldron of rage and worry. Then, she felt the Queen's hand on hers. "He'll be alright," whispered Rhaella, a smile on her face. "There hasn't been a knight or Lord he hasn't dismounted in his life." Seeing how concerned the northern beauty was, the Queen had no doubt that her son has found a soulmate. Someone she could see as an actual daughter and a welcome addition to the family.

"Look at Robert, so fucking arrogant," grumbled Brandon, wearing his anger on his face unlike the more dour Rickard and Ned. "He really thinks he can win this?"

Rickard snorted. "Overconfidence will be his undoing, mark my words."

"My brother's gonna win!" Viserys piped up. "Fire and blood!" he shouted into the din.

The King grumbled. "He'd fuckin' better."

Biting her lip, Lyanna found Rhaegar again, the Prince taking his own oaken lance from Garlan. Settling atop Moondancer and refitting his feet into the stirrups. Finding Lyanna out of the crowd atop the royal box, he smiled. Tired and aching, but face serene from the mere glimpse of his beloved before he pulled down his visor once more. Just the one look managed to quell the tempest in Lyanna's stomach… until the horses lined up upon the field.

"Prepare for the seventh tilt!" Horses grunting and stomping their feet, both the dragon and the stag stared at each other through the visors. Sharp antlers and glinting wings atop their helms made them look more monstrous and terrifying than they were, Robert's open rage and Rhaegar's cold fire welling deep within them. They each knew that the next clash would be the last, readying their horses accordingly. Not a sound left the crowd as they watched entranced.

The bugle blared, horses charging.

All disappeared for Rhaegar. Nothing but the beauty of Lyanna urging him forward, the vibrations of Moondancer as he thundered atop the ground, and the figure of his contemptible cousin. Watching the weakened grip of the shield as the opposing lance aim for right at his neck - a devastating blow, but one Rhaegar's mind computed in a mere split second to counter…

The crowd took a sharp intake of breath as the riders closed into each other. Lyanna gasping and Rhaella clasping her hands over her mouth in horror as Robert's lance gunned for the Prince's neck… only for Rhaegar to lean inward, lance hitting his right shoulderplate hard but bouncing off. The Lord of Storm's End wasn't so lucky, weak grip on his shield allowing for Rhaegar's aim to its left side to slide directly into Robert's chestplate. Lance shattering as Robert's bracing his right failed to protect his center.

It played out in slow motion for all that watched - Rhaegar dismounting Robert from his horse on the seventh tilt.

Silence reigned for an interminable moment before Lyanna was out of her seat, whooping like a direwolf as the entire crowd roared with her. The other Starks joined her - as did Prince Viserys - while Rhaella and the other Lords rose, clapping proudly.

Coughing, body pained all over, Robert pulled off his helm. He spat onto the ground, raising off the ground with a groan. Narrowed eyes found the Crown Prince slowing his horse, tall atop the stallion while the crowd hurled their love for him into the air. Fists clenching, he shoved aside young Meryn and the other Baratheon bannermen that moved to tend to him. Cheating dragonspawn bastard!

Gently yanking the reins to the left, turning the stallion to face the royal box, Rhaegar couldn't help but bask in the worship of the massive crowd. "DRAGON PRINCE! DRAGON PRINCE! DRAGON PRINCE!" A sea of humanity, throats all bellowing their love for the Prince of Dragonstone. Pushing his visor up, spotting the flurry of activity around the moving and unhurt - besides his pride - Lord of Storm's End, Rhaegar shifted to the royal box. Finding his proud father, mother, and brother. The riveted and slightly jealous looks of his Stark goodbrothers, the admiration of Lord Rickard… and Lyanna. His winter wolf, eyes sparkling and mouth curled in a beaming smile as she was out of her seat. Clapping uproariously, face a blatant display of love and pure adoration. Unable to stop his own smile, Rhaegar waved to the crowd, drawing even louder cheers. He clicked his tongue, horse trotting forward - pulling the reins to guide him close to the box. Directly before his father.

Sunlight glittering off his armor, Lyanna's heart throbbed in her chest as Rhaegar reached just before them. Removing the helm from his head to reveal the same silver locks she loved to tumble over his shoulderplates. "Your Grace," he began. "Honored Lords and Ladies, it was a privilege to compete on this field before you today."

To Lyanna's right, the King rose from his seat, arrogant smirk planted on his lips. He had competed in many tourneys. Liked to boast he won more titles than his older brother, and now he relived such glory through his strapping son. "People of the Seven Kingdoms," he yelled loudly enough for all to hear. "I give you, your champion. Rhaegar of House Targaryen, Lord of Dragonstone, Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms." A quick jerk of the hand brought a pageboy past the empty throne and a giddy Prince Viserys, in his hands a pillow bearing the crown of blue roses. "Present yourself, Prince Rhaegar."

Rhaegar bowed low atop his saddle. Moondancer steady as the perfectly trained war mount he was. "I am unworthy of this honor, your Grace." If there was anything his father enjoyed, it was getting his ass kissed.

Aerys only laughed. "You are the true champion, Prince Rhaegar." In his gaze, the twinkling violet of the man he had once been. "The Young Dragon Reborn, there is no man more deserving of the honor to be crowned champion of the King's Tourney." Taking the pillow from the pageboy, he offered it out for Rhaegar to take. Crowd waiting with baited breath for the favorite part of each and every tourney - the crowning of the Queen of Love and Beauty. A married knight presented it to his spouse, or to the Queen, or the unmarried granting the title to an unattached maiden that took their fancy.

Oh, how every female in the crowd, married or not, wished the handsome Dragon Prince would crown them - from the history of House Targaryen, even wretches like Aegon the Unworthy had no trouble finding mistresses. Many a swoon passed the lips of a maiden who the Crown Prince settled upon, only to turn to a disappointed sigh when he moved on. On the edge of the royal box, Lady Cersei suppressed a pang in her gut, still hoping for the possibility that the Crown Prince would choose her.

But there was only one woman Rhaegar could ever crown. A woman that had in the spate of a week had captured his heart completely. With the approval of his father, his mother and brother, his beloved… Rhaegar couldn't stop himself from beaming with pride. He took the crown and guided his stallion till he stood before Lyanna. His smile was infectious, a similar one finding its way to her lips as his eyes sparkled with love and affection. "Lady Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, my betrothed and future Princess. Would you bring me the greatest honor in accepting this crown and be my Queen of Love and Beauty?"

Confident that he would crown her - hells, there was no chance he wouldn't - Lyanna still couldn't help the bright red blush that adorned her cheeks. Glancing at the Queen, who smiled and tilted her head towards her son. Looking at her father and brothers, all three of them grinning and making the same gesture. Lyanna settled a quick glare, one only gracing her eyes, at Robert's intense stare upon her. You will never have me, Robert. In that moment, she would show him just how true that was.

But upon meeting Rhaegar's gorgeous violet eyes, all other thoughts left her. Standing with the blush still adorning her cheeks, Lyanna approached the edge of the box and leaned forward. Feeling the rose petals resting against the braided crown upon her head. The crowd's roars of approval was far away in her ears, only Rhaegar mattering. Caution to the wind, she threw her arms around his neck and crashed their lips together in their most passionate kiss yet. Lips locking as Rhaegar gladly reciprocated. I am his, and he is mine. Proclaimed to the world.

Rhaella beamed, Brandon whooped, Rickard averted his eyes with a smile, as did the Kingsguards while the crowd bellowed their approval of the public display. Chuckling, Ned's eyes flickered to Cersei, the golden beauty sighing and turning away. The King was less subtle, huffing and retaking the seat upon the throne, withdrawing into himself. Far less subtle was Robert. Throwing off any attempt by his squire or servants to inspect whatever wounds he could have. A stormcloud draped over his head, throwing his helm upon the ground and storming off.

Eyes narrowing, Ned waited for the applause to die down before ducking out of the royal box. Intent on following his friend.

Chapter Text

"Come with me, my Prince." With the thunderous cheers of the smallfolk, obsequious deference of ass-kissing lords and ladies, and the thumping snacks and grins from the Targaryen bannermen, it was a miracle that Lyanna has managed to wrest Rhaegar away from both the tourney field and the planned feast in his honor. But here they were, in his chambers. Lyanna's mouth crashing against his the moment the door shut. Only a blind fool would miss the knowing grins on Barristan and Arthur's faces, but faced with her handsome warrior betrothed, the she-wolf didn't bother to care.

Hands automatically moving to her deliciously thin waist, Rhaegar could only offer the weakest of protests. "Lyanna…" If she continued, by the old gods and the new he wouldn't be able to control himself.

But direwolves proved as stubborn as dragons. "Fuck, you were so sinfully handsome out there." Dainty fingers moved to untie the laces of his armor with the skill of a seasoned squire, mouth moving to the tight muscles of his lower neck. "My King's Champion, let your she-wolf reward you for your victory.

The image of the northern beauty, blue dress clinging to every curve and grey eyes black with lust, it was the crown of winter roses perched on her chestnut locks that caused all of Rhaegar's caution to melt away. Giving into his lust as he brought their lips together once more. Hands growing frantic to strip armor and yank down fabric to expose breasts and cunts.

The two young lovers were starved for each other - not having enjoyed their beloved carnally since the night in the abandoned cabin. After plundering her mouth Rhaegar blazed a trail down Lyanna's cheek, chin, and neck. Breeches tightening from how her moans played him like he did his harp. Needing more of those moans. Pieces of his armor clanked upon the floor, the Prince too far gone to care upon meeting her pert breasts. Creamy with light pink nipples capping them. "You're perfect," he breathed, taking them in his mouth.

Lyanna grasped Rhaegar's silver curls, electricity shooting to her core. It was too much, too intense, but somehow she just couldn't stop. "Give me pleasure, my Prince. Take me to the stars…" She felt his hands yank up the skirts of her dress, underclothes quickly discarded so he could feast upon her.

Gasping, moaning, bucking her hips against his face, Rhaegar quickly brought Lyanna close to her climax. Bathing himself in her taste. World shrunk to just pleasuring this woman. Looking up, Rhaegar met Lyanna's breathtaking eyes. Unable to tear himself away as he continued to attack her folds.

Those violets… her love's. Lyanna held Rhaegar tight to her, wordlessly begging to make her cum. To wash the vile feeling of Robert's touch and tongue with his welcome passion. She-wolf her lip to ride the climax that washed over her. Coating the beautifully sculpted face in her own juices. Speaking his name with reverence, she leaned down to grasp his head. Yanking him back till they were kissing desperately. Flipping him over. Suddenly overcome with an urge to provide him with the same pleasure. Unbuckling his breeches. Freeing a part of him that made her mouth water. So big… belongs to me… Hoping her inexperience didn't show, Lyanna lowered her mouth on him - initially hesitant but driven faster from how he weaved his fingers in her hair and urged her on. Begged her for release which she gladly gave him.

Unable to disturb the crown of winter roses that so framed the beautiful, sinful angel that so ravaged him, one hand fisted by his side while the other reached to the crown of her head to grab at her hair. "Lyanna… ñuha zokla… fuck… fuck… fuck."

Yes, yes, yes… His seed erupting out to coat her mouth and throat, Lyanna knew that there was no other man she would ever crave this violently. Gods, I am lucky.

"Lord Stark!" Not used to being addressed by his father's title, Ned didn't even register until a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he found Howland Reed with a concerned look. The bruises from the encounter Lyanna told him about were starting to heal, but still were quite glaring. "You left in a hurry…"

His eyes narrowed, fists clenching. "Did my sister ask you to come after me?" Not even Lyanna would stop him on his quest.

Howland shook his head. "No, Lady Mormont did. Lady Stark… she's currently joining the Prince with speaking to various Lords and Ladies - the way you stormed off, we want to make sure she doesn't have any further worries."

Rolling his eyes, Ned turned and continued on his path. Scowl on his face and not stopping for anyone. "She won't have any future worries when I'm done with my cunt of a friend."

The Lord of Greywater Watch jog after him, legs pumping to keep up with the taller Stark's stride. "I know that you're angry about Robert…"

"Dacey tell you that too?" Ned laughed, though the humor didn't reach his eyes. "Appears everyone knew about this except me." You're a fuckin' fool, Ned.

"She didn't want you or Brandon… well, mostly Brandon to do anything rash." That made some sense - their brother would be marching over with a sword and spear had he been the one to overhear Lya's conversation with the Queen. "Engaging with Lord Baratheon won't solve anything."

Still stomping forward, Ned turned a quizzical eye. "Why in seven hells do you care, Lord Reed?" The Reeds were crucial bannermen, but unlike the other young highborns they largely kept to themselves in Greywater Watch - none of the Stark brood had much of a deep friendship with him.

Howland was silent for a moment, Ned's searching eyes sensing his mind whirring. "She… she helped me. Avenge my honor."

"How would…?" Suddenly Ned's eyes widened, recognition inside them. Fainting… having to sleep in the Mormont tent… not having seen her for hours yet who shows up and disappears to challenge the knights of the same squires that… "Lyanna, she was…"

"Don't say it out loud, please," Howland whispered. "I heard from some household guards that the King is out for blood - the… person's blood. If this gets out…"

"My lips are sealed." Wild, kind, honorable Lyanna. Willing to defy a King simply to see justice done, yet he couldn't even see… I brought Robert to her… I must be the one to finish it. "What I need to do doesn't involve that, so if you'll excuse me…"

The Stormlands portion of the tourney camp was bustling, many having followed their Liege Lord off the field. It didn't take long for Ned to catch a familiar face. "Ah, Ned, what brings you here?" Beric Dondarrion asked, smile on his face. He had won the racing crown, so had nothing to complain about.

The second Stark son wasn't in the mood for chit chat. "Where's Robert?"

Beric raised an eyebrow before pointing to the Maester's tent. "He was just being treated for his bruises. Maester Villers just ducked out to fetch some poltuces…" The Lord of Blackhaven was cut off when Ned - red in his eyes - stormed to the tent. Howland trailing after him. This will not be good…

Lord Robert Baratheon was bare-chested, seated in the middle of the tent with bandages and poultice-soaked rags wrapped around his arm and torso. He looked like he'd been put through the ringer, but his face held not pain. Rather a seething, boiling anger and bitterness that Ned hadn't truly seen before. Robert did have a temper, but it was more in the gregarious nature of tavern brawls - this was closer to that of a psychopath.

Not that Ned cared at the moment. A direwolf held their emotions, but when the dam burst there was no stopping the wolf's blood from going on a rampage. "You fucking prick!" he hissed.

Instead of shock - as both Ned and Howland expected - Robert simply exploded. The rage having built within him since the joust… hells, since Lyanna smacked him with the book just all spilling out. Charging like the great warriors of his house since the days of the first Storm King. "Me? Me! What the fuck about you, Ned?!" Mindless of his injuries, he stood. Half a head taller than the northerner and far bulkier. "You come here screamin' at me when it was you that stood up there with the dragonspawn cunts condoning the forced sale of your sister?!"

"Oh, don't play the fucking victim here, Robert!" Just having caught up, Beric not far behind, Howland gaped. Eddard Stark almost never cursed, the epitome of a gentleman. He almost never yelled either, yet here he was. A snarling direwolf cornering a mighty stag. "You just couldn't stay away from her, you couldn't listen to me, could you?"

"She's my wife, Ned! My betrothed, my love…!"

He looked disgusted. "What love?! You don't know what the fuck love is! You 'love' every whore and milkmaid who bats her eyelashes at you." He jabbed a finger right on Robert's chest. "Tell me, is it just Mya Stone or do you have other bastards out there that I don't know about?"

"I don't have to justify my sexual prowess to you, Ned," Robert sneered back, rage within him only stoked higher and higher. "But Lyanna is no peasant girl. I had my fun with them, but she will be my wife. My Lady of Storm's End… I'll treat her like a fucking princess and don't you dare say I won't!"

Jaw dropped, trembling at the gall of his supposed friend. Ned's eyes narrowed dangerously. "If you wish to treat her as a princess, then why did you…" Voice low and menacing like a growl, suddenly he roared. "...Fucking force yourself on her fucking twice!"

"Go find someone," Howland whispered to Beric.

The Lord of Blackhaven furrowed his brows. "Who?"

"Just find fucking someone."

The screaming match continued. "She wanted it, Ned!"

"You're not that stupid, Robert. I know you can tell when someone says no." He made a fist, wanting to punch the self-righteous face of the man he thought of as his closest friend. But he hesitated, still unwilling to go that far.

From the flicker in his blue eyes, Robert knew exactly what was going in Ned's mind. "You gonna slug me, Ned? Your own friend… we were goin' to be brothers, and you decided to back the dragonspawn rapist that stole Lyanna over me?" His voice was low, tinged with pain and rage.

Surprising him, yet it really shouldn't have at this point, Ned pointed an accusatory finger at Robert. "That is my goodbrother, you are speaking of, and I won't stand for you smearing our pack." Taking a deep breath, Ned stepped away. "Lyanna loves the Crown Prince. She is going to be his bride, not yours. If you don't understand that, I cannot help you, but stay away from her or you'll be sorry." He attempted to turn away, having said what he needed to say.

But Robert wasn't done. Laughing mockingly. "I can't fucking believe it. Eddard Stark, the king of honor." A sneer returned to his face. "Can't face the facts that his father sold his daughter like a Lysene pillow slave to some disgusting old man for a seat on the small council."

Stopping in his tracks, shoulders tensing and fists clenching, in a split second Ned had swiveled around and slammed a left hook right into Robert's jaw, splitting his lip and sprinkling blood over the ground. The Stag was quick on the counter, debilitating right cross connecting with Ned's shoulder. Snarling like a wolf, Ned simply charged, knocking both of them into a table in a tangle of flying fists and knees.

Frozen in place and barely able to walk without pain himself, Howland simply stood there until the clinking of chainmail registered behind him. "What in seven hells is going on here?!" thundered a bewildered Jon Arryn, mouth open in shock as he watched his foster sons going at each other like crazed Sothoryos apes. "Get them apart, now!"

Two Arryn guards and Lord Dondarrion raced in at the command of the Warden of the East, wading into the flurry of fists to break the two highborns apart. It was tough, but eventually Beric was holding Robert back while one of the guards restrained a hissing Ned. "I'll fucking rip off your cock!" Ned sported bruised ribs, an open cut on his forehead, and black eye.

"I'd like to see you try, pretty boy!" Robert shot back. In addition to the tourney injuries. His lip was a bloody mess and there were additional bruises all over his face and shoulders. Both men's knuckles were bloody.

Lord Arryn's fury dwarfed that of the boys once his shock wore off. "What is this?! Are these the two highborn, noble men I raised? That I molded into the epitome of Westerosi Lords?!" His eyes flickered between Robert and Ned, blazing with fury. "Cause all I see are two addled children killing each other over a toy."

Robert wasn't having it. "Fuck this." Pushing Beric off, he pointed at Ned. "The dragonspawn won't have your sister. She'll be mine if it's the last fucking thing I do!" And with that he stormed off, Beric in tow.

"I'll kill you first if you fucking get near Lyanna again!" Ned screamed after Robert, but by then he was gone. Hot blood of battle draining, the pain showed up. "Shit, my face." He rubbed his jaw gingerly, guided by his foster father and Howland into the chair.

"By the old gods and new, what happened, Ned?" For the life of him, Jon Arryn couldn't figure out what got into the two young men. "You and Robert are the closest of friends and now this? As disappointed I am, there is an explanation and it'll be easier to tell me than others who might use it for their own agendas."

Swallowing, wincing as he did, Ned had to admit that the Lord of the Eyrie had a point. "Robert… he forced himself on Lyanna, twice." Even now, after venting his anger with his fists, Ned felt his blood boiling.

If finding them wailing on each other wasn't enough, the stunned expression made itself right at home on Lord Arryn's face. "What… How do you know this?"

"Lyanna told me and Brandon the first time. It was their first meeting and… he apparently got carried away." Ned shuddered with disgust. "The second time was today, right before the joust." A tear fell down his face, unbidden and unavoidable. "I… overheard her… talking to the Queen… gods, I'm such a fool. A horrid fool…"

He felt an arm wrap around his shoulder. His faster father was peering at him, sad, contrite smile on his face. "It's not your fault, Ned… seven hells, it's mine." A deep, heavy sigh left his lips. "Robert… he's always been larger than life. Charming in a bombastic sort of way. That attracts smallfolk girls and daughters of lesser lords like moths to a flame, but I should have realized that a free-spirited wolf like Lyanna wasn't a good fit for him."

Ned hung his head, trapped in his hands. "Looks like we both made that mistake." The maester then arrived, beginning to poke and prod the Stark spare heir as he cleaned him up. "Shit... " Ned winced at the stinging poultice. "Still… never expected Robert to actually force himself on her."

"I doubt he thought she would reject him. In all my years of raising him, Robert's never been rejected as far as I know, and it seems that he's had more of a reach than I would have thought." It wasn't the first time Jon Arryn - despite loving the Baratheon boy as if he were his own son - wished that the younger Stannis had been the firstborn. The lad was dour and uncompromising, but actually had a skill for ruling. "I'll talk to him, Ned. A man who has friends would never be alone in his life, so you shouldn't throw them away unless they aren't worth saving."

A grumble left Ned's lips. "I'm not sure it's worth saving at this point."

Jon Arryn frowned. "Do not say such things, I raised you better than that." Running a hand through his close cropped chin beard, the Lord of the Eyrie sat next to his foster son. "Leaving aside your friendship with Robert, do you really wish to cost your goodbrother the loyalty of the Stormlands? House Baratheon has been faithful to the crown since the days of the conquest."

Biting his lip, Ned had to admit that Lord Arryn spoke the truth.

"Seems you and your sister will have a lot to learn when dealing with southern politics, Ned." A smile then returned to his face as he patted the northerner on the back. "I'll have to be in King's Landing for the wedding anyway. Elbert can manage things from the Eyrie for me, so I'll accept your request."

"I can't ask you to do that, my Lord." While Ned could think of no one better than his foster father to guide him and Lyanna through the rough and tumble world of court politics while still keeping their souls, he didn't wish to impose on him any further.

The older man waved him off. "Don't be daft. I'm happy to do it, and my heart will rest easy knowing that you and Lyanna are well-equipped in court. Given that your brother is to be the Lord of Winterfell, you'll need to find a place in the world and assisting your goodbrother as a councillor or even Hand could be it." A sly grin formed on Jon Arryn's face. "Perhaps you'll even find a lady you fancy."

A bright red blush formed on Ned's cheeks that dwarfed the bruises. "One thing at a time, my Lord." I may have already found her… But daughters of Lord Paramounts never married second sons.

"The wedding will be held in the Sept of Baelor," announced Lord Hand Jon Connington at the head of the table. Black Harren's council chamber was as large as his inferiority complex could demand built. As such, the four men and one woman currently within it made the accommodations look paltry and empty indeed. "It is a must, Lord Stark," he told the Master of Laws. "Propriety demands it, and it's where we can fit all the guests from all across the Seven Kingdoms."

"An affront to Northern customs… or at least that is what many of the Northern Lords will think." If Rickard Stark was being honest - while he intended on making his mark as Master of Laws, the wedding of his daughter to the Crown Prince came first - Lyanna wouldn't care if the wedding was in a quarry if she was marrying Rhaegar Targaryen. But tradition died hard. "Our faith in the Old Gods is part of our identity…"

Rhaegar would have liked nothing more than to give Lyanna her wish to marry in the Winterfell Godswood, but he was the Prince and she would be his Princess. Other factors had to be considered. "Lord Stark, the Faith is already up in arms over this - Maegor taking a second wife was what set into motion the Faith Militant Rebellion. We know enough about the High Septon to buy him off, but an official wedding outside of a sept would simply be too tough to swallow for them."

"And there are no heart trees in the Godswood." Queen Rhaella hit the nail on the head, as she was wont to do. "It wouldn't mean what a proper Godswood wedding would, if I know the traditions of the Old Gods well. A royal progress to Winterfell in the future could fix that - in front of the entire North and Northern Lords." Her son could have hugged her tightly. While Aerys barely liked anyone attending Small Council meetings, Rhaella was barred for 'being a weak woman.' Half the time, Rhaegar felt both his mother and his wives - well, wife and wife to be - were smarter than the rest of them.

"My wife is of Hightower blood," said Mace Tyrell. The entire Small Council gathered here, hammering out various issues before journeying back to the capitol. "The Faith will be riled about this… such is a wise decision, your Grace."

Rubbing the back of his neck, Jon Connington gave Rhaegar an apologetic look before continuing. "I wouldn't worry about the Faith, at least in the near future… I think we should wait several moonturns before the wedding.

"I'm not going to wait," Rhaegar fumed. Gods, he ached without his Lyanna by his side. How had I truly existed without her all these years? Aside from times spent with his mother and children - along with the few happy moments with Elia not ruined by his father or their duty - his life had been truly empty without her. I can't wait one second more. "Give one week for her to be introduced at court and then we're going ahead. I'll deal with the backlash afterwards."

Connington cleared his throat. "Well, my Prince. The backlash has already begun." The Hand unfurled a note, handing it to Rhaegar. "This was sent from Sunspear several days ago. Lord Yronwood personally delivered it to me for the Prince's eyes."

Snatching the sheaf of parchment, Rhaegar peered at the elegant scrawl.

Prince Rhaegar Targaryen,

I write to you not only as the Prince of the Seventh Kingdom but also as your brother by marriage the eyes of the Seven. The news of the Stark girl has only just reached myself at the Water Gardens, and it took days for my initial response to temper enough to write this letter to you.

As a noble Prince and loving brother, I am grievously insulted at your attempt to disgrace my sister by forcing her to endure the indignity of you taking a second bride. After centuries of war, our alliance was sealed through marriage between our ancient houses. Sealed through marriage once again between yourself and my sister the Princess Elia, only now such alliance is close to the breaking point.

My brother, Prince Oberyn, is journeying to King's Landing for this so-called wedding and to ensure my sister's continued position as the future Queen and my niece and nephew as the sole progeniture for the Iron Throne.

I trust that you shall know what is proper for House Targaryen.

Doran Martell, Prince of Sunspear

Rhaegar clenched his fists. "That jumped up cunt has the fucking nerve…"

"Even still, with the King's desire to prevent Tywin Lannister from obtaining support to… plot against him..." Each of the Small Council knew by now the motivations behind the King's desire for Lyanna's hand - even Rickard. "We can't afford for this to alienate Kingdoms when we're trying to secure a greater alliance."

"Five Kingdoms, Dorne, Reach, North, Vale, and Riverlands," Rhaella listed off, growing concerned. "Combined with the Lords sworn directly to House Targaryen, no force would ever challenge it… but if we lose Dorne in the fallout…"

The fact that both of them fell madly for each other was a delightful bonus to some, a headache for others. Connington was one. Rhaegar had his suspicions as to why, but did not wish to divulge them out of concern for his friend. As much as they quarreled recently, Rhaegar was loyal. "If you wed Lady Stark without at least giving the Lords Paramount the opportunity to air out their grievances then another rebellion could brew."

Rickard had his hands crossed over his chest, but even he seemed to agree. "I'd consider the Stormlands already alienated, then. My daughter wouldn't want the Crown Prince weakened for mere impatience."

"No one is suggesting that, Lord Stark," replied Rhaella. "But dragging things out won't make much of a difference if sedition and rebellion are already firmly set in motion."

"I am behind the crown wholeheartedly, your Grace," Mace wheezed, coughing as he tried to speak and chew on a pastry at the same time. "But… why would… Lord Baratheon be alienated? He is the foster son of Lord Arryn and the Prince's cousin."

Meeting his goodfather's eye, Rhaegar sensed a cold anger, and… guardedness. Is there something he's not telling me… wait, did the cunt try to force himself on Lya again?! Rhaegar forced himself to take a breath. If neither Lyanna, Rickard, Brandon, or Ned told him, then there must have been a good reason. "Let's just say he's affronted by the breaking up of betrothal negotiations that Lord Stark had with him prior to my father's decree." That placated Mace.

For Jon Connington, he raised a fire-colored brow but didn't breach the subject. Knowing him, he'd do his own digging. "If that is the case," he finally said after a modest contemplation, "Then we cannot afford to lose Dorne." He pointed to the parchment. "Three moonturns. Enough to get Lady Lyanna known at court, make some… arrangement with Elia." Rhaegar narrowed his eyes, not taking kindly to how Connington talked about his wife. The Lord of Griffin's Roost didn't heed the glare. "And find some way to placate Prince Oberyn. Buy him a whore, get him drunk… fuck him if you have to." The last came with a bit of bitterness.

"Wait." Rickard looked confused. "The second Prince of Dorne is a buggerer?" He curled his face in disgust - outside of Dorne and King's Landing, attitudes were still old-fashioned and anti-libertine. The North most of all. "And you tolerate that degeneracy?" The Crown Prince didn't fail to notice how Connington stiffened.

It was Queen Rhaella that moved to end the conversation. "It won't take long for Prince Oberyn to arrive, and court introductions are quick. Perhaps a shorter engagement would work?" She looked poignantly at her son.

"One moonturn." Rhaegar held up a single finger. "One. Does that work for everyone?" From the lack of disagreement, it seemed a proper compromise. Oberyn would certainly arrive from Dorne long before then. "Good. We're dismissed. I'll speak with you about the dealings with Lord Baratheon later, Jon." As Connington offered a small smile, Rhaegar was glad that their friendship was still there. Jon was a good man, one he was glad to have as an ally.

His mother hugged him close. "Go spend the day with your lady love. Don't waste the time you have." A kiss on the cheek and she was off.

Soon, it was just he and his goodfather left in the meeting room. "I don't like having to deal with Prince Oberyn, Rhaegar. People with loose morals such as that cannot be trusted."

Rhaegar sighed. "My goodbrother is a rather... eccentric individual. He likes to… spread his seed where he may, regardless of the field. We tolerate him for his intelligence and his loyalty to family." The Prince didn't necessarily like such conduct, but who was he to judge given his family's… transgressions in the eyes of many in Westeros.

"I don't want my family exposed to such depravity."

"Do not worry, he's very discrete." Last time Rhaegar saw him, he at least closed the door when half of Chataya's visited his chambers. A form of modesty, he had to point out. "But nevermind about Oberyn, I'll deal with him. Did something happen with Lord Baratheon?"

Now it was Rickard's turn to look uncomfortable. Gaze dropping to the floor, not wanting to meet Rhaegar's. "If you're asking me that, Lyanna told you what she wished for you to know."

A pit formed in Rhaegar's gut, half worry and half dragonfire. "What did he do to her?" His voice was low, a menacing quality.

"It's not my place to say…"

"Bullshit. Tell me what he fucking did."

Reaching up, the Lord of Winterfell grabbed his prospective goodson's shoulders in a fatherly squeeze. "My Prince… listen to me. You're already dealing with too much - as your councillor and future goodfather, dealing with a rebellious Stormlands shouldn't be added to your plate. It's a Stark matter and House Stark will deal with it." Rhaegar didn't look convinced. "You love my daughter, I can tell you do. You just need to trust her to tell you what you need to know."

Tension building, Rhaegar gradually calmed down. "Trust Lyanna." He did, he trusted her with his life.

"Good. Now try and make sure she doesn't get into a catfight with the Princess Elia." A rather rare grin spread on Rickard's face. "You're already in enough hot water with Dorne." Even the Prince couldn't help a chuckle at that.

"Alright, Brandon, I think you are japing me." Fire roaring in the hearth of the private dining chamber, an intimate setting that could hold about a dozen people maximum, was at only half that.

Brandon Stark held up his palms. "Hand to gods, my Prince. Why would I lie to you?"

While initially disliking the maltish bitterness of the northern ale, at the urging of his insistent and beautiful betrothed Rhaegar had kept at the cups - developing a taste for it after all. By the fourth cup, he was wonderfully buzzed. "It just doesn't make sense to me. Are you sure there aren't any direwolves south of the wall?" Rhaegar's words were slightly slurred, but he was still upright and lucid. Most would have collapsed by now, but the dragon blood burned through food and alcohol like no other. Imagine how much food Aegon the Unworthy had to eat to fuck him up that badly.

"I give up with this lad," Brandon huffed, throwing his hands up dramatically. "Father, please put me out of my misery."

Smirking as he sipped at the ale, Rickard leaned over to tap his goodson on the back. "There haven't been any direwolves in the north since… hells, I think Brandon Snow was the last to bond with one."

Beside Lyanna, the Queen furrowed her brows. "Was that the one who nearly snuck into Aegon the Conqueror's camp and drive arrows into the eyes of the dragons."

Rickard looked impressed. "You know your histories, my Queen. Now I know where your son gets it from."

"Arrows into the eye of a dragon, simple arrows." Rhaegar shook his head. "The Dornish had some contraption to do the same thing to Meraxes, and even that had to be the length of a tall man."

"Weirwood arrows, my Dragon," Lyanna replied, rubbing his knee under the table. "They have magical properties, and I wouldn't doubt that the wood does too."

Rhaegar nodded, pursing his lips. "I'm suddenly less confused as to why Bloodraven carried a bow made of the same material."

"His mother was of House Blackwood," shrugged Brandon. "Only house south of the Neck that worships the old gods. The hill tribes of the Vale still do, but I wouldn't count them a proper house." Pitching back the mug, he drained a third of it. "One of the reasons we Starks don't like going south. Not very comfortable with the Faith of the Seven."

"House Targaryen feels your pain," Rhaegar said, causing a chorus of laughs from the Starks and his mother… Lady Catelyn being the exception, merely sipping at her wine. The only one not drinking the northern ale. That didn't escape the Prince's notice. "Our history with the Faith… they say that Baelor the Blessed and Aegon II were the only ones that had their unwavering support."

"One a crazed zealot that followed everything they said and the other a half-Hightower under the thumb of the patron of the Faith." Lyanna shook her head. "Sure, the Faith draws from the best pool of Kings." A soft hand tapped Rhaegar's shoulder, leaning up to kiss his cheek. "I should take you to the Godswood of King's Landing. No weirwood trees, but I'll still teach you the ways of the Old Gods."

He turned to smile at her. "For you, I'd do anything." She beamed and leaned against him, Rhaella smiled widely while Brandon and Rickard looked pleased with their sister's soon to be husband. Catelyn… while she was leaned into the Stark hier, it was clear she was quite uncomfortable. Lips moving oh so slightly - a silent prayer. She loves Brandon, but would that be enough to tolerate the North? Rhaegar had his doubts, but people could surprise.

A knock on the door found Ser Jaime - he, Ser Barristan, and Ser Arthur on duty and sharing in the merriment - opening it, only to reveal a bruised Ned Stark. "Sorry I'm late," he mumbled, going straight for the pitcher of ale and draining it.

Brandon was the first to rise up, overcoming the shock at the state of his brother. "Fuck being late. What in seven hells happened to you?"

"Ned!" Lyanna was by his side, running a hand along his black eye. "Gods…" Suddenly remembering how he had stormed off after the joust, it was understood. "Robert?"

He snorted. Nearly sputtering as he drank the bitter liquid. "Aye. Robert." It didn't take long for him to tell the story, Lyanna confirming it. By the end, Brandon was seething. "I'll kill the motherfucker."

"I'll join you." Rhaegar was beyond caring at this point. Blackfyre would taste the King's Justice if he had anything to say about it.

"Sit back down, my son," Rhaella ordered. "I won't have you making rash decisions based on your emotions. That's how we got the Blackfyre Rebellions." Furming, it was a pleading look from Lyanna that finally caused Rhaegar to calm down.

The heir to Winterfell was a lost cause, though. "He's gonna wish he was dead by the time I'm done with him…"

"I already took care of it, brother." Ned sat down, leaning back. "He won't bother Lyanna again - Jon Arryn will make sure of that."

"How can you be so sure?" Rhaella didn't want to give an excuse for the Stormlands to rise against the crown, but the obsession their Lord Paramount had for her gooddaughter did worry her. "My sister was married to Robert's grandfather… I know how impetuous a Baratheon can be."

Rickard sighed. "If anyone can get him off our backs, it's Lord Arryn." Perfection was an illusion, but at least he seemed to know all the pieces. "My Prince, I take it that after the wedding, Lord Robert will no longer be a guest at the Red Keep?"

"Consider it done, Lord Stark. Father never liked him anyway." His father didn't like anyone, but that was beside the point. A solution want of justice, but for the sake of peace and politics, had to be done. The rest of the meal was in silence, but the Prince felt Lyanna's hand clasping his for the entire time. In the end, he was still coming out on top.

"You shouldn't see him." Brandon crossed his arms. "The prick doesn't deserve your sympathy. Or closure."

Catelyn sighed, heart heavy with guilt. "He's practically my brother, Bran. I care for him…"

Groaning, the heir to Winterfell suppressed his urge to throttle someone. There were many worries and concerns that plagued Brandon, most of which were objectively worse, but Petyr Baelish was arguably the most irritating of them all. "He's an insect that is obsessed with you. Don't give him the damn satisfaction to justify his delusions…"

His betrothed cut him off with a gentle kiss on his lips. A kiss that deepened, Catelyn running one hand down the hard planes of his chest while the other guided Brandon's hand to her breast. Brandon growling into her mouth and pressing her against the stone walls outside of the infirmary. Never before did she feel this way. Heart fluttering and core flooding with warmth, the lessons of her Septa against the temptations of the flesh going out the window in the face of Brandon of House Stark. Her greatest sin, her soon to be husband… Gods, she couldn't wait till their wedding day.

By some miracle they had managed to disentangle. Catelyn adjusted her hair and yanked up the collar of her dress to cover the love bite that Brandon so lovingly gave her. "I'll be back soon, Bran." She smiled. "Just remember, I am betrothed to you. Not him, you." That seemed to placate him, the handsome northerner leaning against the wall as she took a breath and entered.

Still confined to bed rest, splints tied to the broken limbs and bandages swathed around his wounds, Littlefinger's sullen frown brightened up at the mere image of Catelyn. "Cat." His smile was genuine and infectious.

Much as she wanted to go back to her childhood and the happy memories with him and her two siblings around the waters of the River Trident, Catelyn willed herself not to. Pursing her lips and looking at Littlefinger with a tiny glare. "Petyr, why did you do what you did?"

His smile faltered. "What are you talking about?" Baelish began to study her closely. A flushed cheek, bits of hair in haphazard whips, and the bare peek of a red mark on her neck… "Is that cunt outside?" The look on her face said it all - even coming to see him, she couldn't keep their passions contained.

"That doesn't matter, Petyr. You had no right to challenge my intended to a duel."

"I had every right. I love you, Cat."

She closed her eyes, restraining her emotions. "You are like a brother to me, Petyr. I love you, but not in the way you wish. I am promised to Lord Brandon…"

"He isn't right for you," Petyr begged.

"...and I love him and only him. I wish not to hurt you, but I will be the Lady of Winterfell. Not your wife, not ever." If she continued then she may fall apart, gazing upon one of the persons she was the closest to. That Catelyn Tully was close to - you are to be Catelyn Stark. "I will always support you, but I think it would be unwise for us to see each other for a long while. Goodbye, Petyr."

"Cat… Cat! Catelyn!" But she was gone. Leaving him alone yet again… to go to her betrothed. To him…

Something snapped within Petyr Baelish, head throbbing and fists clenching… Brandon Stark will rue the day...

Panting, coming down from their high as Rhaegar rolled off his future wife, he pulled Lyanna close to him. Their hair spread in wild tangles after their intense passions. "Gods…" the Prince managed to breath.

Calming her racing heart, Lyanna leaned up to kiss her Dragon Prince on the chin. "Aye… that was simply divine." Their wedding couldn't come soon enough. Beautiful day in the Riverlands, the afternoon before the Royal Party was to leave for King's Landing, the dashing Targaryen Prince and his stunning Stark betrothed were out for a ride and picnic in the woods. A simple ride and feast of breads, fruits, and cheeses turned to teasing, teasing to japing, and japing to them satiating their hunger for each other. Going as far as they could without depriving her of her maidenhead… Lyanna didn't know how long she could last. Every part of her screamed for the handsome dragon's length finally making her a real woman and filling her up, painting her womb with his seed. "Sing to me, my love."

It was a request he couldn't resist complying with. Driving Lyanna to tears at the close up rendition of Jenny of Oldstones. A gentle kiss led them to swap stories and memories. Each bittersweet tale on his part brought the direwolf's arms tight around her dragon's waist, her Prince's life not that of comfort and splendor. Memories of her own mother gave her different kind of sadness, tempered only by the warmth of Rhaegar as he held her tightly.

"She and father wanted more children," Lyanna finished, wiping the last tears from her eyes. They were propped against a large birch tree, Rhaegar directly against it and Lyanna cuddled into his chest. "I heard him and Ser Martyn speaking about it once, that the pack deserved to have one or two more members."

"I can imagine why," Rhaegar said softly, kissing her hair. It amazed her, that someone so strong and fierce could have such a gentle touch. "Rhaenys and Aegon are the light of my life."

The prospect of two adorable little ones with her betrothed's eyes brought joy to Lyanna. Not just two… "Tell me about them, my Dragon."

A wistful smile formed on Rhaegar's face. His children always gave him happiness even in his darkest moments. "Rhaenys… she's both the blood of the dragon and pure Nymerios Martell, a combination straight from the Seven Hells," he chuckled. "Vivacious, dramatic, and stubborn. A real hellion, but with a heart of gold."

"Sounds like how my brothers would describe me," Lyanna laughed. She couldn't wait to meet her future stepdaughter. "And Aegon?"

"Egg… that's his nickname. He's still a babe but I can tell he's a more quiet one."

"Like his father."

"No, I don't see him brood much. More a gentle quiet, like his mother thank the gods."

She leaned up. "I happen to adore his father's brooding. Makes him…" Lyanna kissed his lips sultrily, taking her bottom lip between her teeth afterwards. "Irresistible." Rhaegar beamed, kissing her languidly. Tongue probing into her mouth, making her mewl with pleasure. "My dragon?"

Having pulled away, Rhaegar peered down at his betrothed. "Yes, Lya?"

"Do you want more children?" He blinked, a quizzical look forming on his face. "I mean… most Targaryens have many, but perhaps you…"

A finger to her lips cut her off. "Oh Lyanna." She really was adorable. "Aegon… I thought he would be my last. Elia, she had a difficult pregnancy with him and Maester Pycelle recommended that she couldn't carry another babe." Rhaegar cupped her cheek, stroking the soft skin with his thumb. "I wouldn't want anything more than to give Rhae and Egg little dragonwolf brothers and siblings." He kissed her forehead, enjoying how she sighed in joy. "How many would you want?"

Sighing again, placing her ear against the gentle thud of Rhaegar's heart, her mind imagined silver-haired sons with grey eyes and raven-haired daughters with her Prince's violets. "Four."

A chuckle. "You've thought about this?"

She swatted his chest lightly. "Two sons and two daughters." Lyanna stretched languidly. "Thought about names as well."

"Care to share with me my future children's names?" Oh, Lya, you're perfect.

"Well, I always imagined being a Targaryen Princess as a child - granted, that involved swinging Dark Sister atop Vhagar as much as dresses and feasts." Both of them laughed at that. "Visenya, after the great Queen and Lyarra, after my mother." A gentle kiss on her hand made her swoon, knowing Rhaegar's agreement. "And Jaehaerys… after the Targaryen King beloved in the north."

"That still leaves one son unnamed."

"I can't think of a perfect second name, but I will."

So sure of herself, the Prince was greatly enjoying himself. "But why that number?"

"Rhaenyra had five, my mother had four and wanted more… but I hope that I'll be able to count little Rhae and Egg as my daughters as well. Not separate them from Elia, but…" There was no need to elaborate. Everything that needed to be said had been said.

It seemed too soon… hells, it felt like a lifetime had passed since that day Lyanna had seen him singing and he had seen her fighting. Dragons answer to neither gods nor men. "I love you, Lya."

She gazed up at him, eyes sparking and smiling from ear to ear. "I love you too, Rhaegar." Without warning, she straddled him, arms wrapping around his neck. "We still have so much to learn of each other, but I have no doubt that what I learn would only make me love you more… my King."

One hand went to stroke her hair. "I feel the same… my Queen."

Chapter Text

Horsehide bow scraping along the tight thread of the instrument, the notes of the Rains of Castamere brought contentment to Lord Tywin Lannister's mind. The musician added an extra flair at the end of the infamous song, rumor had that it was composed by Lord Tywin himself. Normally he preferred it the way it was, but this time the tune caught his attention positively. Ending the song, the performer bowed as Tywin clapped three times. "Good job, my friend. Good job."

"Mi'Lord approves?" A smile with several gaps where teeth had once been.

"Casterly Rock has found its new court musician, now please leave me." The musician was practically leaping as he left Tywin to his solitude… well, partial solitude.

"You're cheerier than usual." Lord Loren Payne of Payne Hall - formally Tarbeck Hall - crossed his arms, chuckling. "For once that frown can take a respite somewhere warm while that smile gets to spread its wings."

Normally, anyone who japed with frivolity more accustomed to the court of Lord Tytos rather than himself would find Tywin tossing him out of Casterly Rock with a kick in the ass, but castillan Loren Payne was different. Son of the master-at-arms that taught Tywin how to fight and strategize, faithful bannermen beside him at every battle in the Reyne Rebellion, he earned the right to speak and act without restraint in Tywin's presence. Something the man found more precious than the prized keep of the defeated Tarbecks.

Plus… the pulsing headache that came with collecting the taxes off the houses of the Westerlands lessened in severity whenever he heard the song of his greatest achievement. "Shouldn't you be with your newborn son?"

Loren's smile widened. "I would, but Lenora wants some time with little Pod. She's still bedridden and yet refuses a wetnurse."

"Reminds me of Joanna with the twins." Tywin leaned back, allowing the fond memories to bring him just a smidgeon of joy. It heartened his friend greathly. "Tax revenue is up for the fifteenth year in a row. My bannermen know I am not my idiot father."

"That is good," Payne nodded. "No one wishes to be a Reyne. Castamere is still flooded ruins if I recall correctly."

Dipping his quill into ink, Tywin began scribbling the figures into his ledger. No scribes for the Lord of Casterly Rock - all was done himself. "I've been thinking, perhaps when Cersei finally ceases to be a disappointment and finds a match of her own, I could give Castamere to one of her second sons. Finally have someone loyal in that place."

"What's the use? The Reynes tapped out most of their mines decades ago, and the ones they did have weren't worth much."

"Those are just the ones we know about, Loren. I think the Westerlands have yet to surprise us." A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. "Enter." At the glimpse of the person that had just arrived, whatever joy and contentment he had found disappeared. Headache returning and scowl marring his face. "What is it this time, Tyrion? Moon tea stock depleted again?"

Face bearing the cocky visage of his five and ten years upon the earth, Tyrion Lannister never ceased to drive his father to distraction. "No, the whores of Lannisport are safe from my wandering eye for today at least." Sauntering in on his stunted legs, he pulled up a chair and hauled himself into it. "I just came back from seeing the adorable future Ser Podrick Payne. Tell me, Ser Loren, would your son be able to squire for me when the time comes?"

Loren Payne laughed merrily, reaching out to clasp Tyrion on the back. "I actually am honored… just try to keep him out of all but the most clean of brothels."

Winking at his father, Tyrion nodded. "That promise I may be able to keep."

Tywin groaned. Tyrion was the bane of his existence with the drinking and whoring even at his young age, but the dwarf never giving him the excuse to throw him out into the world. To both Tywin's consternation and odd pride, Tyrion was smart in his escapades. Avoiding scandal with highborn mistresses, always discreet, and not slacking on whatever duties Tywin dumped on his plate. "Can you make your business quick, my son. I am a busy man."

"Ah, but I can, father." Out of his doublet Tyrion produced a letter. "Raven from Harrenhal. In Cersei's handwriting. For once she's not complaining about me." The attempt at a jape cause Loren to smirk but Tywin's face only hardened. "Here, father." Confirms the rumors, not that father would have noticed. Tywin Lannister didn't converse with the little people for information.

Grabbing the dispatch from his youngest son, the Lord of Casterly Rock perused it line by line. Certain words and phrases more visible than others.

...betrothal of Prince Rhaegar…

...Lady Lyanna Stark…

...appointment to the small council…

...Lord Baratheon and Eddard Stark not on speaking terms...

His face grew pale. Even he didn't imagine that Aerys would be that desperate… under no circumstances did this not involve him, Tywin knew. The small possibility this was some sort of effort to revive ancient Targaryen tradition or as an effort of religious fervor existed, but Tywin didn't hold his breath. "My Lord… what is it?"

"The Crown Prince… he's betrothed to the daughter of Lord Rickard Stark."

Loren blinked. "He'd risk shitting over Dorne? That alliance was the only thing that kept us from rising against him."

"Looks like Aerys is trying to make his son into Aegon the Conqueror." Tyrion laughed. "Two brides, both stunners if I remember. Gods, I wish I was a Targaryen."

Ignoring his son, Tywin rose. "Notify the stewards. We're leaving for King's Landing on the morrow, but send a message to our bannermen to be ready to call the banners at any time."

Dread filled both men. "Are we to go to war, my Lord?" asked Loren.

"I do feel that I cannot be of help in that department," Tyrion bemused, unable to resist being a wiseass.

"At this point… I have no damn clue." And that scared Tywin the most.

"Rhaenys! Come here!" Biting her bottom lip, Elia fought to keep from trembling. Her beautiful little girl was playing in the inner courtyard of Maegor's Holdfast with her nursemaids, all of whom absolutely adored her. Part of her wished not to disturb her, but with the banners of her King and her husband close approaching - bringing with it the Direwolf sigils of Rhaegar's new bride - preserving Rhaenys' mental stability was more important than even her own sanity.

"If you let your worries continue to consume you, you'll start vomiting blood." Once Rhaenys and her chief nursemaid disappeared in the staircase leading up to the second floor, Elia turned to her lady in waiting. "What's the problem? Your husband is just bringing over your new sister-wife. Not a large issue." At times, Elia didn't know whether Ellaria was being serious or trying to jape her. The two blended seamlessly together.

In any case, she did not appreciate it. "I am in no mood right now."

Ellaria rolled her eyes. "That's the damn point. You know as well as I do that only fussy Septons and their ilk actually care about this."

"House Targaryen hasn't practiced this since Maegor, and it didn't go well for him or Aegon the Conqueror."

"Oh please. I find it hard to believe that Aegon, Visenya, and Rhaenys weren't enjoying the feast of cock and cunts in their beds every night. If it weren't for my House's lucky scorpion shot, they'd have outbred Jaehaerys and Alysanne."

"We aving feast, muna?" Elia's eyes were drawn down to her daughter, staring up with the same violet eyes as Rhaegar.

Leaning down, Elia hefted her up, Rhae still small enough for her to lift. "No feast this time, my sweet dragon. Auntie Ellaria and I were just talking about… something else." A sharp glare caused Ellaria to groan and wink. "Kepa is coming home today."

It was as if the Targaryen Princess lit up as brightly as the Martell sigil. "I miss kepa. He bwing present?" Rhaegar never forgot to bring Rhaenys a little treat or trinket whenever he had to leave Dragonstone or the Red Keep for royal business - as a father, there was no one better.

Sighing, Elia steeled herself. "Yes, he's bringing you a second muna." If they were all to survive, Elia would have to accept Lyanna Stark's presence in their lives.

Rhaenys blinked. "Two muna? But you muna."

Love for her precious child, blood of her blood, Elia hugged close to her. "I'll always be your muna, but kepa is bringing… you know the story I told you of your namesake."

"Mmm-hmm," Rhaenys nodded. "Egg and Rhae and Vis, dwagon con-ker-ors…" Young though she was, she was also smart. "Oh, so you and two muna be Rhae an' Vis?"

"Yes, my dear." Elia kissed Rhae's cheek, relieved. "She'll love you as much as I do." I pray this to not be a lie. "Now, go off and play again. I'll come find you later." Rhaenys kissed her on the cheek and rushed off. "Well, that was brutal."

Ellaria chuckled. "I think you did that rather well. Since you'll be the resurrection of the conquering trio, when can I expect the feasts to occur?"

Face reddening when she realized what Ellaria was talking about, Elia smacked her shoulder. "Shut it." Even if she did share Ellaria's… preferences - Elia couldn't be sure - that was likely never going to happen. "I hope I didn't just lie to my daughter."

"I've been telling you for a long time, there are only two ways this goes down. Catfight central or feast. The in betweens will just end up with Black Brides all over again."

Elia shuddered. The sniping and clandestine infighting between Maegor's last three wives was legend. "You underestimate by desire to protect my children and my husband. Be it even my own house," a very real possibility given Doran refusing to come north and Oberyn already on his way. "I am a Targaryen Princess and that's where my loyalties lay."

"My Ladies."

Familiar voice behind her, Elia spun around to find her husband. Dressed in his armor and hair tied back in a bun, a genuine smile was on his face - happy to see her. "Rhaegar." Without hesitation, she walked over and hugged him. Inhaling his spicy scent. Whatever problems they had, he was her rock. "When did you get back?"

"Just now," Rhaegar replied. Clearly relieved that Elia wasn't bitter about the situation. She looked stressed, but otherwise the same understanding wife he had grown to consider his partner. "My father didn't want anything ostentatious."

"Believe me," Rhaella said as she walked up beside her son. "It surprised me to."

The Dornish Princess leaned down to kiss the Queen's hand. "Goodmother, welcome back. You must be exhausted."

Rhaella chuckled. "As much as I would love to see my grandchildren, traveling has taken its toll on me."

"I'll go change out of my armor. Afterwards, we can make introductions." The Crown Prince ducked out, meaning obvious."

Escorting her goodmother to the Queen's chambers, Elia turned to her. "Where is…?"

"Lady Lyanna? The Starks are a day behind even though she travelled with us. I think she wanted to explore the castle." At Elia's worried expression, the Queen laughed. "Do not worry, dearest daughter. You'll find yourself pleasantly surprised with the she-wolf of Winterfell." The clinking of Ser Jaime and Ser Gerold's armored boots behind them filled the resulting silence.

Used to the barren simplicity of Winterfell, what some perfumed lords or Tourney knights of Dorne and the Reach may have called spartan, Lyanna found herself dazzled. Not just appreciative of the beauty of what had been the premier architectural style of Westeros at the time of Maegor I. Gods… The history of that these walls held. Jaehaerys and Alysanne walking hand and hand as their Kingdoms prospered. Viserys I, desperately trying to keep the peace between his daughter and his wife. Rhaenyra, praying desperately for her warrior husband to come back to her. My book… this is where everything played out. Lyanna wondered if some young Northern lady would imagine being in her own shoes centuries in the future.

The Prince's personal quarters looked comfortable, hearth stocked with logs ready for nightfall. Intricate mosaics of Dragonstone and what Lyanna thought was the court of Daeron II covered the walls, all leading to the outside gardens. There were more specific touches, which Lyanna recognized as Dornish. Elia… Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, the moment of truth fast approaching. Forced to face the woman that was to her beloved what she would soon be…

Pacing about the solar, twiddling her thumbs as she usually did when nervous, a slight bump against her leg knocked Lyanna from her thoughts. Feeling something slide under the skirts of her grey dress, she pushed aside the pleated fabric to find a small red ball. Smooth leather and fitting easily in the palm of her hand.

"That mine."

Eyes drifting to the entrance to the gardens, Lyanna saw the originator of the voice. A little girl in a crimson dress. Raven black curls falling in waves across her shoulders. Utterly adorable. Lyanna couldn't help but smile. "This?" She held up the ball.

The girl nodded vigorously. "I's playing. Wanna play with me?"

Laughing joyously, as Lyanna approach she saw them. Eyes a so perfect violet that they could be recognizable to her anywhere. They were Rhaegar's eyes, which could only mean this girl was… "I'd like to play with you, but I really should ask permission from a Prince or Princess? Princess Rhaenys perhaps."

"Pwincess Rhaenys me!" Rhaenys jumped up and down, giggling in an infectious excitement. "I's Rhaenys!"

Struggling not to fall into laughs at how adorable the Princess was, Lyanna curtseyed. "Your Grace, I bid welcome into your home."

As if remembering what her mother and grandmother would do when receiving someone, Rhaenys copied the movements to the best of her ability. Given she was barely halfway past two, she lost her footing and fell upon the ground. "Oww…" Her lip quivered.

Lyanna's heart broke at seeing such a precious child - Rhaegar's precious child - in such a state and swept forward. Heaving Princess Rhaenys in her arms, she hugged her close. "Don't cry, sweetling." Lyanna pressed a kiss to the girl's cheek. "Believe me, I've been in worse scrapes. For a spirited child… wear it with honor." She pressed her finger on Rhaenys' stomach, tickling the girl back into giggles. Gods, she was falling in love with the entire Targaryen family.

But what Rhaenys said next knocked her off kilter. "You my new muna?"

The daughter of Winterfell wasn't well versed in Valyrian - something she would have to change now that she was to be a Targaryen Princess - but 'muna' was one of the words she did know. Her mother? "What do you mean, sweetling?"

"My muna say new muna come fwam Nowth." New mother… Ah, that explained it. The Princess must have told her daughter about Lyanna so as not to be confused. "You fwam Nowth?"

She smiled softly. "Yes, sweetling. I am from the North." Lyanna pressed another kiss to her brow. "I'm Lyanna of House Stark, and yes, I think I could be your new muna."

A big, toothy smile, violet eyes sparkling in the same way as Rhaegar when he was excited. "You new muna?! Can we play to-gefhter?" Squirming in Lyanna's hands, the chuckling future Princess set Rhaenys down. "What play in Nowth?"

Remembering how she dealt with all the smallfolk children, Lyanna understood what the precocious Princess was getting at. "Well, sweetling, in the North we like to play in the snow."

Her eyes widened in sheer awe. "Snow? I never see snow. Snow in Nowth?"

"A lot of snow." Lyanna spread her arms wide. "As far as the eye can see… Perhaps in the future I could show you myself."

"I wanna see snow!" By now, the excitement was so overwhelming that Rhaenys was jumping up and down with the biggest smile. The most joyous of laughs fell from Lyanna's lips, the girl's innocent joy utterly infectious. "Take me snow. Fluffy fluffy!" However, Rhaenys turned as the sound of scuffing on the stone floor drew attention to the entrance. "Muna!" Headlong she dashed for a raven-haired woman in a burnt orange dress, burying her face in the silky skirts. "I meet two muna. She Lwyanna, wuv her!" Pointing her stubby finger at Lyanna, Rhaenys jumped some more in the new arrival's arms. "She take me see snow. Pwese see snow. Pwease pwease!"

As much as Lyanna was just gushing over how adorable Rhaegar's daughter was, the arrival of the newcomer took her entire attention. Burnt orange, raven hair, olive skin… the way Rhaenys interacted with her could only mean… Without missing a beat, eyes like an owl before averting her gaze, Lyanna curtseyed. "Your Grace. Forgive me for intruding with your daughter without permission." Her mind had been whirring on making the right first impression with her soon to be sister-wife, but meeting little Rhaenys first wasn't one she imagined.

"She gweat, muna?" Rhaenys asked her mother with a smile.

Eyeing over Lyanna Stark with a quizzical look, Elia Martell was forced to smile back to her precocious daughter. "Yes, she seems to be." Glancing back at Ellaria - barely hiding her humorous smirk at the whole situation - Elia knew she wouldn't be of any help. "Rhaenys, why doesn't Ser Jonothor help you find your father? Muna would like to speak with Lady Stark alone." A bit put off, the prospect of seeing Rhaegar again was enough of a distraction. But not before Rhaenys ran back to the still kneeling Lyanna and planted a big kiss on her cheek.

Once the little cyclone of a girl had left the solar, Lyanna rose, her head still down with respect. "Your Grace, I…"

"No need to seek forgiveness… it's quite alright." All of what Elia planned for how to greet the woman who would be marrying her husband, the rigid formality and gradual scrutinizing… all went out the window the moment she found Lyanna Stark laughing and playing with her beloved daughter. A small, genuine smile curled on her lips. "Welcome to the Royal Quarters, Lady Lyanna. I suppose you and I will be getting to know each other quite well."

The woman's piercing grey eyes sparkled - Lyanna Stark wasn't anything that Elia expected. Breath of fresh air could be the appropriate term? At least on first impression. "I suppose so, Princess." Her gaze flickered behind Elia. "Is there any reason why that woman behind you is staring at me?"

Oh Gods… Praying that her lady in waiting didn't embarrass her, Elia forced a tight smile to her face. "Lady Lyanna Stark, this is the Lady Ellaria Sand, daughter of Lord Harman Uller and my Lady in Waiting."

It took a moment for Lyanna to remember they were Dornish - bastards were close to normalized there, even if they weren't able to inherit. There wasn't anything strange with Elia taking one as a lady in waiting. "I am glad to make your acquaintance, Lady Ellaria."

A grin of some sort planted on her lips, Ellaria darted forward. Immediately taking Lyanna's hands in hers, eyes raking her up and down appreciatively. "Nice to meet you too, Lady Stark." The gaze lingered in rather… intimate places upon Lyanna's body. "My my, I never imagined you'd be so… beautiful."

"Um… much thanks, Lady Ellaria." Lyanna was growing a bit uncomfortable - behind, Elia pinched the bridge of her nose, praying this would end soon.

"So many silver-haired Valyrians and swarthy Dornish and Andals." Ellaria clicked her tongue. "Gets boring after a while."

What could one say to that? "For someone… predisposed to appreciating beauty." Lyanna was choosing her words carefully. "I cannot imagine those more perfect than Queen Rhaella or Princess Elia." The aforementioned Princess noticed the compliment - Lyanna meant it, for Elia was a rather stunning woman. Rhaegar was a lucky man even when she sought to be modest about her own attributes.

Ellaria laughed merrily, quite throaty and seductive. "Don't get me wrong, they have their looks, but the wild, natural beauty of the First Men is… refreshing."

Elia had enough. "Ellaria, please give the Lady Lyanna and I some privacy to speak."

Dropping Lyanna's hands, she turned back to Elia. "Alright. While I would love to get to know the future Queen more… intimately, I can't refuse a direct order, and there should be an influx of fresh northmen and women I can introduce myself to." Ellaria cast one last twinkling gaze to Lyanna. "Until next time, Princess." With that, she sauntered out, curvy figure swaying underneath her dark red dress.

Groaning, if Elia's plans had been scrambled by her daughter, they were doused in dragonfire by Ellaria. "Forgive me for that."

"Did she have a problem with me?" Lyanna asked, not knowing what to make of that.

"Ellaria still has a problem with court decorum clothes a necessity." Left to her own devices, she'd be naked and frolicking about a garden with other like-minded individuals. "She's like that with everyone, and believe me, she's actually a good lady in waiting."

Lyanna actually grinned a bit. "I know what you mean. Dacey Mormont is just as eccentric."

A perfectly styled brow rose. "Mormont of Bear Island? The ones that train their women to fight?"

"Just like the Martells of Sunspear." Lyanna shrugged. "Hard to be a woman of strength in certain circles."

That was something Elia could agree too. "Yes, it is. Though Prince Rhaegar is quite appreciative of a strong woman, most Targaryens are." From how her counterpart beamed, there was clearly more to that story. For another time… "Where are my manners, let's sit." Watching the direwolf of Winterfell move to one of the couches, Elia allowed herself the observations Ellaria had denied her. Her lady in waiting wasn't wrong, Lyanna Stark was absolutely beautiful. Chestnut hair reaching to the middle of her back, a smile that could light up the room, few men wouldn't find themselves smitten. But from the way she held herself, there was a power behind the beauty. Muscles toned and body hard and slender from activity and riding. Eyes piercing with intelligence. Inadvertently, Aerys had picked well for his son. Seated across from each other, Elia began. "Introductions to the Princess Rhaenys are unnecessary then."

A genial laugh. "One moment I was admiring the Dornish touch to the royal quarters, and the next she was there, asking to play with her."

"My daughter is quite the handful, isn't she?" It was a running debate whether she took more after her Dornish blood or Rhaegar's dragon blood - Rhaenys certainly didn't act like either of them specifically.

"Oh not at all." Lyanna spoke as if she was praising her own family - surprising to her, Elia didn't feel jealous. Only… relieved maybe? "She is an absolute treasure, as easy to love as her father."

And the tension - or at the very least the awkwardness - returned with a vengeance. Much as the two women tried to find common ground, the fact that they were to marry the same man would hang on them like a massive weight until they found a way to live with it. "You love Rhaegar, don't you?" That was quick… but she is right. He is easy to love.

Lyanna nodded. "What can I say… he swept me off my feet. Saving me from a betrothal to a man I despise."

"Lord Robert Baratheon? Aye, he is not one for a woman who isn't an adoring decoration and womb."

"Gods, you knew too? Why is it that the only person who didn't is my northern fool of a brother?" She loved Ned, but he still irritated her for not catching it - a shrug. "Eh, if he wasn't like that then he wouldn't be the brother I love. None of them would be."

"My brothers drive me mad sometimes as well. Oberyn in different ways than Doran." They had that in common, the only girls in a castle of men. "You seem like a good person, Lyanna. Not like the social climbers and greedy cunts that only see Rhaegar's title."

The daughter of Winterfell cast a grateful look. "Anyone who could raise that angel can't be that, either." It appeared that Rhaenys had unknowingly broke the ice between the two Princesses. "She told me something about a second mother?"

"What else could I really tell her?" Elia played nervously with her fingers. "To be honest, I was hoping that my statements would be proven true. That you wouldn't make Rhaenys feel hated as Alicent Hightower did to Queen Rhaenyra." The Dornish Princess didn't expect the other to understand the reference.

Turns out, she had underestimated the northern beauty - it was practically the best reference she could make. "The peaceful realm that Viserys Targaryen built was destroyed because his new wife couldn't come to terms with what his previous wife left." Elia cocked her brow, curious as to how Lyanna knew that particular story. Behind the willowy figure and sultry Dornish coloring and accent, there existed a sharp mind. Lyanna appreciated it greatly. "I know our situation is ideal, but Rhaegar isn't like most men."

Even given what they had been through, Elia thought the most highly of her husband. "No he isn't… they call him the Last Dragon in the capitol, and they are right. Something about him… he is a kind not seen in Westeros for centuries."

"You sense it too?" Lyanna felt a kinship with her soon to be sister-wife. "I want us to have a good relationship… for his sake and for the future of our adopted house. So perhaps we should take this gradually. Not force ourselves but without airs either?"

Elia nodded. "They say Northerners are simple people, but you… you will make a good Queen." The two women wore matching smiles.

Riotous giggles heralded the return of Princess Rhaenys… only this time she brought companions. "Kepa! Kepa! Muna Lwyanna here!" Lyanna watched as her beloved entered the solar, Rhaenys tugging on his left hand while in his right he cradled the most adorable little babe. Her heart clenched, both for the youngest member of the Targaryen family and imagining Rhaegar carrying her babe in such a manner. "She meet muna."

A flash of concern on the Crown Prince's face, eyes flickering back and forth between his wife and his betrothed relaxed him. Both were smiling, both seemed relaxed and not at each other's throats. Crisis averted. "I can see that, little dragon."

Both women rose, Elia glancing at him sweetly while Lyanna wore a look of absolute adoration. "Husband," the former greeted.

"Wife." Rhaegar leaned down to kiss her. Even with Lyanna in his life, he found that it just wasn't right without his Dornish Princess there too. The only two right decisions my father ever made. He turned to his northern direwolf. "Lyanna."

Lyanna stepped forward and crashed their lips together. Short, but filled with passion all the same. "Your Grace," she remarked saucily, biting her lip as she looked over him lasciviously. A hint for later. "Is this Prince Aegon?"

Nodding, Rhaegar took a chance and handed his son to his betrothed. "Aye, my youngest."

Accepting the babe gladly, Lyanna rocked him gently in her arms. Stroking his cheek. "Gods, what is it with you Targaryens?" While sharing the same Dornish features as his sister, Prince Aegon had far more Targaryen in him. The same silver thatch of hair and violet eyes that made Lyanna's heart throb with love. "In one week I've fallen for your entire family."

Reaching her husband's side, Elia leaned up to kiss his neck. "You could have done much worse, husband. I like her." A tension that Rhaegar hadn't known was there was suddenly released.

Suddenly, the babe began to cry, squirming in Lyanna's arms. "Oh no, sweetling, don't cry." Cooing at him, she gently bounced Aegon up and down. It didn't help.

"I think he's just hungry, Lyanna," Elia butted in, taking her still fussing son. "Let's get you some milk, alright, little dragon?" Casting them both an apologetic look for having to leave, Elia went to her chamber to feed Aegon in private.

Before Lyanna could run into Rhaegar's arms, the little bundle of energy had leapt into hers. "Lwyanna. Play dwagon wif me and kepa?!"

Feeling Rhaegar embrace the both of them, Lyanna sighed happily. How has my life gotten so lucky? "Yes, sweetling, kepa and I can play dragon with you?" After the whirlwind all of them had endured, something mindless and fun sounded just like what the maester ordered.

"No!" Shuffling along the glimmering marble floors of the great colonnade leading to the throne room, Aerys glared at his Hand with blazing violet eyes. "Under no circumstances will that conniving traitor grace himself anywhere near me!"

When dealing with his Grace, one either burned out quickly - sometimes literally - or learned just as quickly how to avoid triggering his temper. Aerys II Targaryen would always blow up, but there were different gradients. For Jon Connington, the art was in just getting a tongue lashing. "This is the wedding between your son and the future Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. As Warden of the West he would…"

Aerys slammed his fist against one of the stone columns. "And bring the Doom upon us?!" Robes wrinkled, hair matted, he looked nothing like the same debonair, regal King that had so graced the tourney grounds only days earlier. Something was on his mind, pushing him into a rather bad time of it. Perhaps the Weirwood Knight? A bloody helm and shield… seemed to calm him down but who really knew? "First he tried to bait me with his whore of a cousin, and now he plots the Doom! I will not have him here!"

"Your Grace," he continued as they reached the open doors to the throne room. "It would be more dangerous to your safety if you do not let him attend the wedding."

While Connington braced for another barrage of words, instead he only got a raised eyebrow. "Go on."

"The wedding would worry Lord Tywin, forcing the Westerlands to face hostile forces all around . If he wishes to strike preemptively by launching the Doom of Valyria upon King's Landing… he can't very well do so while he and his family are present in the capitol."

"I have his brat here," Aerys countered, though half-heartedly.

Connington crossed his arms. "Do you think he cares? That he wouldn't sacrifice his son in a heartbeat?"

The King pursed his lips. "I'd do the same, so I can see it." While his words worried Connington on a fundamental level, for the moment he was calm. "Get him here, but if I see him before the wedding I'll have you killed. Understood."

A deep and low bow. "I am at your service, your Grace."

"Good." A peek inside found exactly what he was looking for, interest and awe filling his expression. "Get out."

"Your Grace…"

"I said get out. Need I remind you again?" Luckily for him, Connington simply bowed again and retreated, leaving the King to shut the door and briskly walk towards the Iron Throne. His throne, the throne of his ancestors that now only he could enjoy. Not Tywin, not my brother. Me! Resting in front of it on the base of the stairs to the throne, the thin, perfumed form Lord Varys waiting on the side. "This is it?"

Reaching out to pat the two ironwood chests - lacquered black in intricate symbols of Old Valyria - the Master of Whisperers nodded. "While I know you would have wanted to be here the moment they landed in the harbor, but with the tourney…"

Aerys waved him off. "Yes, yes I know." Fingers ran along the wood, a warm tingle shooting into his fingers. "Where did your agents find them?"

"Two in the volcanic caves of Dragonstone, the freshest. The others we found in Essos, various Free Cities."

"Did you have to kill anyone to get them?" His eyes were gleaming.

Varys nodded. "There was one merchant in Pentos. Kept his manse guarded - they tried to be discreet but… sometimes only brute force can secure the King's will." He looked at the ground, feet shuffling. "There were no witnesses to our efforts. The merchant tried to hide them but my men… persuaded him to give us the location."

Expression almost sparkling at the information, Aerys stared upon the chests with awe. "You did well, Lord Varys. Now, leave me with my treasures." He didn't need to tell Varys twice, the eunuch making his exit without undue fuss. Fingers drifting to the latches keeping the chest shut, Aerys undid them and raised the lid to the first, jaw falling open slightly at the magnificence within.

Four dragon eggs, nestled gingerly in sand to protect them from the accidental harm of a jostling crate. Black with red swirls, green, white with grey swirls, blue with gold specks, each just as beautiful as the last. They were ossified into stone, scales smooth to the touch of the Targaryen King's fingers, but Aerys could feel it. Feel the tingle coursing through him. Almost feel the immense power contained within these eggs. Rushing to the second chest, opening it found four others. Blood red, a gleaming silver with blue swirls, burnt orange with red patches, and a radiant purple. The first and last of the second chest younger and warmer than the others. Eight beautiful dragon eggs, returned home to their rightful owner.

House Targaryen deserves these eggs. His father was weak, trying to hatch them with Dunk but failing spectacularly. But not Aerys, he would bring the dragons back, let the power of them course through his veins and finally end all the schemers and traitors…

'Aerry… Aerry…'

He froze, nearly falling to his knees in shock. That voice… it can't be… Only one person ever called him 'Aerry.' A supposed name of affection, but one that haunted his life for decades.

'My sweet goodbrother, Aerry… such marvelous eggs you have…'

Wrapping his arms tight about the chests, Aerys' eyes flickered around the dark throne room. "You will not have them, Jenny! They are mine! Mine, not some common whore's!"

A fluttering laugh, joyous and carefree, filled the massive chamber. Wisps of gossamer darting about through the darkness. Almost illuminating it before the specters vanished, Aerys' heart beating out of his chest. 'A King, a King, fire answer the call. Dragons awoken, enemies will fall.'

"Yes!" Eyes almost glowing from pure mania, the King grabbed the blood red egg, cradling it to his breast in spite of the heat of the scales nearly causing his skin to singe. "I am that King! I am to do what my useless father and your idiot husband failed to do! I AM THE KING!"

Suddenly the specter appeared right in front of him. Light hair billowing behind her angelic face - one that inspired a Prince to abandon his throne and nobility and smallfolk alive to fall in love with this simple woman… but to Aerys, the face was that of a demon. Sweat clinging to his skin and limbs trembling from fear. 'The tree of high heart, champion still ride.'

Warm piss ran down Aerys' leg to puddle on the floor, words stabbing him right in the chest. "No! You're lying you deceitful bitch!" The mystery knight was dead - his son brought the bloody helm and shield.

'A son she bears, your reign aside.' Leaning down to press a kiss to her goodbrother's forehead, Aerys watched as the spirit of the Lady Jenny faded through him, disappearing into the dark visage of the Iron Throne. Not a sound could be heard but the King's sobs, rocking on the floor with the egg in his arms.

Chapter Text

Soft sheets.

Such was the first thing that convinced Ned every morning during his groggy, post sleep state that he wasn't in Winterfell. No dream could conceive of sheets that soft, so he could only be in the plush luxury of the Red Keep. Transformed from the second son of the Lord Paramount of the backwater Kingdom into the goodbrother to the Crown Prince of House Targaryen himself. And for his sister to be head over heels for said Prince… Yep, I'd never dream up something this incredible.

While the sheets - especially in contrast to the warm yet rough furs and linens that made up the bedspreads of the North - made it very tempting to stay in and enjoy the amenities the royal family had to offer, early to bed and early to rise drummed into him by both his father and Jon Arryn brought him from the bed to his closet. A quick dry shave and splash of water on his face found him in his leathers and breeches emblazoned with the direwolf of his House. Rare in the south, but he rather enjoyed being the northerner in the southern viper den. The cockiness of youth, as Lord Arryn would say.

Strolling down the hallways towards the training ground, a turn of the corner found him face to face with his soon to be goodbrother. "Ned," Rhaegar laughed. "Do all northerners wake up so early?"

"Unless it's the morning of a feast, aye." Ever since the Tourney… since he had taken the initiative to meet Rhaegar personally, the two had gotten much closer - Rhaegar beginning to usurp Robert's place. Well deserved. The Prince was a man worthy of respect, especially in how he treated Lyanna. "Normally even us highborns have chores around the castle…"

Rhaegar eyed him with a twinkling curiosity. "A Highborn performing chores alongside the smallfolk? Have you heard of that, Oswell?" he asked one of the two Kingsguards behind him. Ser Oswell shook his head. "Arthur?"

"Sometimes squires do it," the Sword of the Morning conceded. "But the North doesn't follow knightly traditions if I recall."

"Northerners are… different that way. Brandon fed the chickens, I swept out the kitchen, and Lyanna…" Rhaegar watched him intently. "She brushed and watered the horses."

Tipping his head back, Rhaegar laughed merrily. Falling in love with his bride more and more. "Sounds like her."

Ned grinned. "Aye, it does." He wouldn't be surprised if Lyanna wouldn't do that here as well. "Anyway, afterwards, we broke our fast and then morning training. Wasn't much to eat, lest we throw up in the middle of a spar."

"Nope, never good" the Prince conceded. "We eat after our morning training. Our food is richer than that in the North, can't ever eat it sparingly. Besides…" He and the two knights shared looks. "We work up a sweat. Bruises… have been known to happen."

The northerner detected a sort of good-natured dick measuring contest going on. "I'm sure the southern tourney knights haven't trained with Umbers and Boltons in preparation for wildling raids."

Ser Oswell trotted forward, hand on Ned's shoulder stopping him. "You calling me a 'Tourney Knight,' Lord Stark?" Eyes narrowed underneath his helm.

While a quarter head shorter than the Hacker of Harrenhal, Ned refused to be intimidated. "If the boot fits, Ser Oswell. Fightin' wildlings is man's work. Makes tourneys look like tickle fights."

"Seems this should be settled on the training grounds," smirked Rhaegar. This was going to be fun. Grunting their assent, Ned and Oswell fell into place in the group, no further words needing to be exchanged.

Turns out, for the sun barely peeking over the eastern horizon of Blackwater Bay, the training yard of Maegor's holdfast was packed. Gawking Household guards of both the dragon and direwolf joined with the appreciative glances of the female staff to watch while the highborns trained. Some stripped to bare chests even in the chill, while all were drenched in sweat. The current duo were Lord Commander Gerold Hightower and… Brandon Stark. Sharp clashes of steel rang out as the training swords met, Ned and Rhaegar perching against columns to watch the duel progress.

An upward slash from Ser Gerold was skillfully parried by Brandon, the heir to Winterfell going on the offensive. "Your brother is good," Rhaegar commented.

"He's always been a natural with a blade," Ned replied, proud that his older brother could stand strong against such a renowned fighter. "Took to it like a fish to water… for me it took a lot of work to master the skill."

"Me too, believe it or not." Both watched as an attempted counterattack from Gerold was beaten back by sheer force of arms on Brandon's part. "Leaning heavily into his strength. Good, yet unoriginal."

Ned shrugged. "Depends on our enemies. Some wildlings… just need to crush underfoot. Others are nimble, need more finesse." He looked at Rhaegar. "I know both."

Raising an eyebrow, the Prince nodded. "Oswell doesn't mean disrespect…"

"Didn't suggested he did."

"Still… they're basically my brothers. Watching out for me… sizing you Starks up." There was silence while Gerold and Brandon traded the initiative several times. "They know and like Lyanna, but they don't know you yet."

Shifting on the cold stone, Ned nodded. "Understandable. We often meet our truest friends on the battlefield."

Violet eyes swiveled to him. "That sounds quite true, Ned, though I pray I won't have to learn that the hard way." Few rulers would admit that, too obsessed with their personal dreams of glory. "I'm good at fighting, yet I hate it." Ned admired Rhaegar more just for that statement. He'll be a great King… "I will enjoy clobbering you, or seeing Oswell clobber you." The quiet wolf only laughed.

Somehow, Brandon managed to sidestep a lunge by Ser Gerold, having feinted an assault to the left. Spinning in a riposte meant to fight Thenn warriors, the Stark heir slashed until his sword hovered over the join between the Kingsguard's helm and shoulderplate. "Yield?"

Ser Gerold snorted, accepting his loss with humility. "Yield." Arms dropping, he clasped Brandon's hand. "Good match."

"Likewise, your reputation is well earned." Finally noticing Ned, Brandon grinned tiredly. "Glad you could show up little brother… goodbrother." There was little formality on the training yard. Quite an egalitarian part of the castle, at least for those participating. "Care to join me for a spar, my Prince? I promise I won't be too hard on ya'."

The shit eating grin on Brandon's face made Rhaegar roll his eyes. "While I would love to, I'm sitting this out. Your brother already chanced Ser Oswell to a one on one."

To this, Brandon was surprised. "Really Ned? Bold of you."

"What can I say?" Ned answered, picking up a practice bastard sword, tip perfectly dulled and edge round. He twirled it in his wrist to acclimate to it. "I'm not one to show off my skills to impress my betrothed… or her pretty handmaidens." A chorus of laughs rang out at Brandon's expense.

"Oh very funny, little brother." Punching Ned's shoulder, it was all in good jest. "Tell you what, how's about you and I against Ser Oswell and…"Brandon narrowed his eyes, peering out at the various Targaryen sworn swords. Suddenly, a grin of mischief spread on his face. "The Sword of the Morning." There was a silence, broken only by a bit of murmuring. Arthur, in the midst of sharpening his second blade, stilled. Confused at his name being called. "Lest he's too busy to do it."

Ned glared at his brother. "Really, Bran? He'll fuck us up." He wanted to prove himself, not get his ass handed to him.

It only provoked a cocky smile directed at Arthur. "I can take him. What do ya' say?"

Shrugging, Arthur stood up. "Alright." Bored, he decided that the arrogant Stark heir could use a humbling. Nonchalantly he went to grab his swords.

"It isn't a fair fight, brother," Ned insisted. "At least we should get another man."

"Hold up." The Prince emerged at the center, hands up. "I have a solution. Ned, Bran, you and six of your best men against Ser Arthur, Ser Oswell, and Ser Gerold. Last man standing is the winner." Frankly, this was the closest to a fair fight as he could arrange.

Sharing a glance with his brother before finally grinning widely, Brandon nodded. "Done."

Oh brother… what have you done? Based on look Rhaegar gave him, the same look Lyanna had given him when he said he could break in a growing stallion and ended up having two limbs splinted by Maester Luwin, all Ned could do was ready his blade and fight like all the seven hells.

Ser Arthur Dayne looking like the world was his oyster didn't help.

"... Lord Mace Tyrell is a jovial fellow, but a bit of a buffoon. It's his mother that's the true mastermind of House Tyrell, but his own initiative is largely spent trying to find a husband for his daughter that would make her Queen. Expect him to try and sweettalk you into betrothing her to Prince Aegon."

Lyanna stared at Jon Arryn incredulously. "But Aegon's but a sweet babe." It had been her that woke in the middle of the night to bounce him the previous early morning. Her heart swelling as he immediately cuddled close. Not much time had passed before the children were seeing her as their new mother, and she seeing them as hers as well as Elia's. "And isn't the Lady Margaery but a babe as well?"

Lord Arryn gave a depreciating smirk. "Aye, that's irrelevant though. Betrothals can be sealed even before birth… My first bride wasn't even conceived before my father made the arrangements with Lord Royce… well, the Lord Royce at a time. I've lived far longer than you, my Lady," laughed the old Warden of the East.

"I wouldn't doubt you've lived a long and fulfilling life, my Lord." While his hair had gone completely grey and a set of wooden teeth fit into his mouth, Jon Arryn still possessed the aquiline nose and piercing blue eyes of a pureblooded Andal. The Arryns had been the first Andal warlords to establish their kingdoms, and he carried himself in that august regard. "My children will be able to choose their betrotheds." Lyanna's experience with Robert made her determined for such.

A shrug from Lord Arryn. "A noble sentiment, my Lady, but I fear you may not be so lucky while ruling. Compromises must be made, but being dragons that does make it more likely." They were seated in the gardens, immersed in the second set of discussions about the political climate of King's Landing - admiring the various bounty of flowers and trees. More than Lyanna had ever seen in the glass gardens or the Wolfswood at the height of summer. "You have to understand, my Lady. Much of decisions here are those of form rather than substance. Everything not just in self-interest but seeming self-interest. Bribery, torrid affairs meant on gauging information or reputations… oftentimes favors are offered only for the reason that the players involved want to be seen offering them, only to never actually complete or even start the favors." A bleak world, but one Lynna was determined to live in to be with Rhaegar. "It is fair to assume that there are few that one can trust in the game of thrones…"

"Except for blood, correct?" Lyanna asked. "One can trust blood?"

"The Blackfyre Rebellions suggest otherwise. Daeron and Daemon were both cousins and half-brothers." That was food for thought. Lyanna knew her brothers and father were trustworthy… Who among Rhaegar's family can't I trust?

"Lyanna." It was the Princess Elia, hurrying over to them in a brisk walk.

As Elia approached, Jon Arryn brought Lyanna's hand up for a respectful kiss. "I think we should pick this up later. Until then, my Lady." He bowed to Rhaegar's wife. "Princess."

Nodding, Lyanna turned to her beautiful Dornish counterpart. Smile widening on her face. "Dearest sister-wife." She took Elia's hands, leaning in to press a kiss on each of her cheeks - Elia reciprocating. They had dined together the night before while Rhaegar was inspecting the City Watch, discussing many things - one being the traditional Dornish method of greeting family. It appealed to the she-wolf, being informal and friendly. "I trust your morning is going well."

"It has, thank you. I was going to the training yard to watch my Lord Husband train, would you like to join?" The northern beauty nodded, radiant look glossing her face at the mere mention of Rhaegar. They walked side by side, Elia glancing back to see the Warden of the East stroll away, practically the epitome of the proper Andal lord. "So what was Lord Arryn doing by your side?"

"He's been discussing court procedure to me. How a northerner can properly integrate themselves into southern politics." Both ladies made an interesting sight, the fair-skinned, athletic northerner and the swarthy, graceful Dornishwoman - each a rarity in the Andal-dominated society of Westeros. Combined with the Valyrian Targaryens, I could see why there is tension against the crown. Elia couldn't help but think of such threats, and if Arryn was advising well then Lyanna would be thinking similarly. "Is it true that Rhaegar admits you into meetings of the Small Council?"

The Princess raised an eyebrow. "Did Lord Arryn tell you that? His Grace forbids women from sitting on the Small Council."

Something in Lyanna's expression fell. "Oh, well, I thought so. Some taboos are hard to break…"

Once they left the gardens and entered the Holdfast, Elia squeezed her arm. "Aerys never ventures into the Holdfast anymore, he keeps quarters near the Throne Room in case of Lannister spies. He has been known to walk the gardens, however." They began to ascend a staircase. "When he can, Rhaegar allows me into the council. I sit in the position of honor across from the Hand as his wife, so I wouldn't be surprised if you are afforded the same."

Light returned to Lyanna." Oh Gods… he really is something, isn't he?" She wore the genuine visage of a woman in love - clearly having had the moments of affection with the Crown Prince that sealed their bond beyond politics or familiarity. "It's been a whirlwind, but for the life of me I can't imagine a life without him anymore."

Elia sighed, a tiny spark of jealousy flickering in the pit of her stomach. "I know the feeling, Lyanna." She clasped her hands together, closing her eyes for a moment. The Lady of House Stark had practically been her shadow for the last several days, alone or joined by Rhaegar or their children - Rhaenys and Aegon already adored her, the former ecstatic at the stories of the Kings of Winter and riding with Lyanna atop her mare. It was as if Lyanna fit into their family, displacing none but rather carving out her own position. But she has had the moments I was denied…

"Sister? Elia?" Brown eyes opened to find Lyanna glancing worriedly at her.

As quickly as the feelings emerged, Elia suppressed them. "I'm fine." She smiled - long having come to terms with her lot, the sweet, gentle Lyanna deserved nothing but her friendship. Elia wanted to be friends with her and it was clearly reciprocated. "Rhaegar… there is no one better than he."

"Oh yes." Balcony opening up before them, Lyanna didn't see her beloved. Only her two brothers huddled together with six of their family's bannermen. Martyn Cassel, Theo Wull… Beyond, three Kingsguards waited patiently, practice swords lazily kept at their sides. "Not waiting all damn day, Stark," Ser Oswell called out.

Brandon glared. "Mugs of ale are on you tonight at the inn. Better get the silver stags ready."

Oh no… "Those dumb bastards." She shook her head. "It sometimes amazes me that we share blood."

"They're not really meaning to spar against Ser Arthur?" Elia asked incredulously.

"Sounds just like something Bran would do. Try to say he eat the sword of the Morning." Sure enough, he was making outrageous swings with his practice sword. "Ned… he probably thinks his honor demands it."

Elia snorted. "They'll lose. I've only seen Arthur bested twice. One each to Rhaegar and Oberyn, and that was after dozens of spars with them."

You cock-addled fools. Lyanna covered he face in her hands, frustrated at their stupidity. "Bran! Ned!" Her yelling caught their attention. "You bloody idiots. Get out of there before I tear you a new one."

Brandon reacted as if he was wounded. "Oh sister, you doth hurt me. Think I can't win this spar?"

"I think you overestimate your skills. Stop being an overconfident fool before you embarrass yourself." Her gaze shifted to Ned. "And you, what's your excuse?"

At that moment, Lya sounded a lot like their mother. Scolding them for tracking mud into the Keep. "Sorry, sister, but Oswell challenged me and I must meet the challenge."

She rolled her eyes. "Honorable fool." Elia stood beside, simply watching the sibling dynamic. Much like her and Oberyn.

"Don't worry about it, my loves." Hearing her beloved's voice, Lyanna found Rhaegar emerging from directly below them, arms open in apology. "Just settling a dispute over skill. Don't worry, it's a fair fight." Snorts and chuckles from the Northerners… all except for Ned and Howland Reed, both quiet. "No one will get hurt."

"You don't know that."

"Do not worry, my Lady." It was Ser Arthur Dayne, taking off his helm to look at her with his green eyes. "I shan't hurt your brothers when I defeat them." That drew a glare from Brandon but was sincere to Lyanna. She merely waved her hand, washing her hands of it. "Alright, shall we begin?" He raised his swords, as did Gerold Hightower and Oswell Whent.

Each of the eight Northerners did the same, clustered into a loosely packed mass. The burly Lord Willam Dustin and his goodbrother Ser Mark Ryswell. The grizzled but kind Martyn Cassel and the scarred Theo Wull. Third son of his House Ethan Glover and the quiet Howland Reed. And oth the smirking Brandon and brooding Eddard Stark. Everyone around hushed their conversations, one enterprising maester's acolyte studying under Grand Maester Pycelle pulling out a quill and leaf of parchment to write notes of this. While merely a spar, it would be a worthy story for his future history of Rhaegar Targaryen's reign.

Sensing the tension thick enough to cut with a knife, Rhaegar merely clapped his hand to begin. Good luck, brothers, you'll need it.

At the clap, the Northerners charged. Brandon leapt at Arthur with a booming battlecry that would have made a Thenn Magnar proud, only for the Sword of the Morning to block the coming swing. Spinning a sideways kick to knock Brandon off balance - the first 'kill' of the match came technically to Ser Gerold, nudging his sword hard into the boiled leather covering the stomach of Mark Ryswell just before both of Arthur's blades rocketed into the cocky Ethan Glover. Ryswell just shrugged and hurried off the field, while the cocky Glover shouted profanities and only buggered off by a stern glare from the Crown Prince. Eight against three became six against three.

"Not a good start for your brothers," Elia mused.

Lyanna couldn't help but agree. "Come on, Bran! Watch your flank!"

Already having barely dodged a killing blow at his hip, Ned darted back to join with Howland. Only then launching themselves at Oswell. The Riverman knight handled one sword with the skill that Arthur did two, wrists firm but flexible as his blade matched each strike the northerners made. Ned lunged, trying to time it for when Howland sliced… but was a second too late. Oswell had just parried the slash and managed to dart away from the lunge. Blade slashing sideways on its own and forcing Ned the stumble to the left. Only Howland's repeated assaults broke Oswell from Ned, the Crannogman now his sole target.

Arthur found himself surrounded by three, four once Willam Dustin broke off as Gerold clashed with Ned. He kept his head on a swivel, swords turning constantly to keep his wrists fluid in movement. Smirking, the knight just where he wanted him, Brandon clicked his tongue and the four advanced simultaneously.

The courtyard echoed with the clashing steel. Each Northerner charging, slashes and thrusts going every which way as Arthur met each one. Arms nearly blurred with frantic yet graceful moves one would witness in the legends of old. Counters were forceful, pushing an attacker back several paces so that the Sword of the Morning could concentrate on the other three. At one time facing them all head on, Brandon's smirk turning to a snarl as he tried to slash upward, only to be forced by a double parry while Arthur kicked Theo Wull in the chest. Coughing, Wull was helpless against the training blade cutting right across his middle. Trying to keep up with the constant fighting, Rhaegar whistled. "Out, Wull!" He was only too happy to comply.

Coming up for a downward chop, Gerold was the first Kingsguard casualty of the day when he found Ned's sword at the hollow of his neck. The Crown Prince's call coming not long after. "First blood goes to the Quiet Wolf." Barely hearing Elia, Lyanna watched with interest as Ned went to rejoin Howland. Come on, Ned… show them how we fight in the North.

Howland was on his last legs. Sweat drenching his tunic and leathers, ankles close to giving out, Oswell easily overcame the half-hearted blows of the Crannongman - they trained to fight hit and run partisan tactics, not direct confrontation with armored knights and it showed. The heavy, two-handed blow sent Howland's sword to the ground and suddenly a blade was at his chest. Another loss for the North, but quickly followed by the second loss for the Kingsguards when Ned utilized the distraction and crashed into the preoccupied Oswell, knocking him down and poking his stomach.

Four against one.

Both swords shot through the air, Arthur taking on Cassel and Brandon in individual clashes while Dustin snuck up behind his comrades. A wise move after a lunge sent Brandon scrambling back, only for crossed blades to take out Cassel - the Winterfell Master-at-Arms prudent enough to sink to the ground after in order not to get in the way. Brandon got in several slashes but all were parried, Arthur managing to slip away and block a downward attack by Dustin… who felt the second sword slamming into his shoulder.

Two against one.

"I have orders from His Grace that Tywin Lannister is not to be provided lodgings within the Red Keep, My Lady. And with all due respect affording your station, I would advise that you keep your visits to the Red Keep to a minimum."

Storming down the corridors of the Red Keep as fast as the skirts of her dress would allow, Cersei Lannister cursed the powers to be in the Seven Kingdoms. From King Aerys II himself, to Aegon V for appointing him the heir, and lastly Hand of the King Jon Connington. Far more a Rhaegar loyalist than he was to the current occupant of the Iron Throne, he nevertheless shared Aerys' distaste of House Lannister. Such contempt was on full display on the early winter's morning when she sought on her father's order the appropriate lodgings for the Warden of the West due to his attending the royal wedding.

The nerve of that cunt. Cersei's hands balled at their sides, the red in her vision blocking out all else. I am a lady of House Lannister! We were Kings while they were nothing but goatherders in Valyria! Jon Arryn and that oaf Mace Tyrell both acquired premium guest chambers in the keep… This was all supposed to be mine! Even with letting go of her bitterness at losing Rhaegar, said bitterness cropped up at each instance of disrespect and humiliation inflicted on her by the King and his retinue - Rhaegar the only one ever respectful even as he brushed her off. If I want to see Jaime, I'll see him when I damn well please. Connington's dismissive threats notwithstanding.

And yet… the calm voice within her mind - increasingly present since her… health scare many moonturns before - told her the opposite. That Connington, whatever his actual motivations, bore truthful advice. That the increasingly erratic King would erupt at even seeing the golden-haired lioness. Increasingly secluded since arriving back in the capitol, that didn't mean he couldn't pop up out of nowhere right in front of her.

Perfectly made up without a hair out of place, that didn't stop Cersei ruining her maid's impeccable work by running her fingers through it. Trying not the scream in frustration.

The sudden grunt of pain from a ma threw Cersei back into reality. Blinking, a twist of her head revealed the packed training courtyard, dozens of men and women watching a man in leather armor collapse, clutching his shoulder as he wriggled moaning off the sparring floor. Catching the silver locks of Prince Rhaegar and the two Princesses viewing the spectacle right across the courtyard from her, Cersei panicked. Scrambling back until she ducked behind a large column, blocking her from view.

When she was sure she wasn't seen - she still didn't know why instinct made her hide - Cersei poked her head to peek from behind the column. There was the dual-wielding figure of Ser Arthur Dayne, pretty easy to pick out. Anyone in the south knew the Sword of the Morning. He assumed a fighting stance, one training blade kept level with his forearm while the other twisted in his wrist. Two others circled him with their own single blades. Cersei didn't recognize the tall, dashing man whose cocky facade didn't dampen with the sweat and exhaustion coating his face. The other… Cersei's eyes widened at the stockier, more guarded form of Eddard Stark.

He would have been thrilled to know that the tourney had left a big impression of him on Cersei Lannister. But at the moment, Ned's mind was everywhere but that.

Meeting the gaze of both of the Starks, Ned to his right and Brandon to his left, Arthur leveled his attack arm directly at the heir of Winterfell. Daring him to attack. Brandon did not disappoint, launching a leftward slash directly at the Sword of the Morning.

Split second behind, Ned attacked as well, swinging upward only to be deflected by the defending arm. The blades clashed, Arthur giving ground in a wide arc against Ned while his free swings pressed against Brandon… hoping to tire out the quiet wolf while forcing the wild one to grow desperate. Brows tight and face scrunched, the heir fell into the trap. Blows skilled and strong but also growing more and more furious.

Ned, however, refused to take the bait. Hanging back, committing just enough to distract Arthur's attention. We're not going to beat him on skill and strength alone. Probing to Arthur's right, trying to hit at his legs, the defending sword emerged from its position in a more aggressive parry. Knocking Ned back. He protects his vulnerable points too well… where doesn't he protect? A wild swipe by Brandon that came just close to hitting Arthur's hand caught his attention. Hmmm...

Swinging around, the kingsguard swiped at Brandon's head, the heir ducking… only for the defending arm to take a chance and lunge forward. Stabbing into Brandon's belly and sending him careening to the ground. "Ah shit!" coughed the wild wolf, smacking his palm on the stone.

One on one.

An inaudible gasp left Cersei's lips, eyes unable to tear themselves away even if she wanted to. Eddard Stark was alone, facing none other than Arthur Dayne. An eventuality that would drive even the most determined man to distraction, yet he refused to be cowed. Face solemn and hard… calculating, far different than the softness she had seen in him before. Heat pooled within her, joining with the apprehension. My gods...

"End it Arthur!" hooted Oswell. Much as Rhaegar did want to see his goodbrother do well, he agreed with the skeptical looks on his men… and even the Northerners. There was no way the Northerner would beat the Sword of the Morning.

Taking the sentiment to heart, the Falling Star went on the offensive. Charging furiously at the direwolf, twin blades never giving a moment of rest. Ned tried to chop with two hands, but the quick swings denied him that chance. Wrist aching as he struggled to one-handedly parry each of Arthur's attacks.

Lyanna watched, entranced at the back and forth just as all the others were. "He's better than Ned."

"Far better," was Elia's response. "Your brother, he thinks. Not like the others."

"Could he think his way out of this?"

A shrug. "I doubt it. Arthur's too good."

Each swing was tiring him out, each clash driving him further to exhaustion. Both blades crashed against his, Arthur determined to force Ned to heel, but Ned merely looked for his opening. For the killing blow Arthur would make. One that gave Ned the chance to try something. Hit him where he doesn't expect a blow… where he is weak in countering. And it came, Arthur's right arm parrying a wild strike by Ned as his left angled back to deliver an upward strike. Ned doubled back his blade with one last gasp of agility and lunged straight for Arthur's left wrist...

An echo rang out, sword clanging atop the stone. Nothing but the sharp intake of breath and the panting of the two combatants left standing. Finally paused in their clash, chests heaving and sweat dripping… Ned's sword pointing at Arthur's neck. Green eyes wide from under the helm, grey eyes just as wide.

Brandon was open mouthed.

Rhaegar could barely move in his shock.

Lyanna and Elia both shared the complexion of owls.

And from behind the column, Cersei felt her heart beating out of her chest. Unknowingly crossing her legs.

"Yield," Arthur finally said, rubbing at his struck hand just as Ned dropped his guard. Spar over. "Smart move, Stark," he offered, small smirk on his face. "I wish you well in the wars to come… not that you need it." Ned, catching his breath, returned it with a smile of his own. Not faint praise.

"How the fuck did you do that?" Ethan Glover blurted out.

"I'll tell you how he did," Rhaegar beamed, racing out to clasp his goodbrother on the back. "Scoping out his foe's weaknesses. Finding a proper attack point… this is a man I will be proud to have by my side in the wars to come!" Pulled out of their collective shock, the entire gathering began applauding, cheering. Brandon walking over to thump Ned on the shoulder while Lyanna whistled, their praise for their brother pouring out. This would certainly go in the histories - judging by the young acolyte's frantic scribbling.

As the cheering died down, Ned staggered to the refreshment table set up for the fighters, pouring a cup of the liquid provided. Downing the watered wine, letting the slightly sour liquid quench his throat, Ned watched as Rhaegar grabbed a practice sword. "Come on, Ned, my turn now."

He groaned. "I'm out. Exhausted."

"Fuck that. Don't be a weak woman. Get over here." He took a sparring stance, spurning all forms of armor for a simple thin tunic. "If you can beat the Sword of the Morning you can face your Prince. That's my command."

Sighing, Ned finished his cup and picked up the blade, moving back to the center of the courtyard. "Your move, my Prince." Rhaegar grinned before he lunged forward, blades striking each other for a split second before they began their dance.

Lyanna watched it intently, eyes locked on not her brother, but her soon to be husband. The way his muscles rippled under the tunic that did no favors in covering them. His long silver hair matted by the sheen of sweat on his forehead. The fluid movements showing off his immense prowess at war… Lyanna's core flooded with wetness. Gods, he is just… a… a man. "Magnificent… isn't he?"

For the Dornish Princess, seeing her husband in such a moment - and her future sister-wife practically coming to orgasm beside her - it was causing her nethers to grow wet as well. "We are very lucky," Elia finally croaked.

Neither of them noticed the green-eyed blonde across the courtyard, eyes staring just as intently. Join of her legs just as aroused looking upon the sparring. Only her eyes weren't trained on the Crown Prince.

"Come on, Rhaegar…" Lyanna whined, giggling as her beloved pulled her along the corridors of the Red Keep. Dress billowing behind her even as her athletic legs kept up with Rhaegar's large strides. "Tell me where you're taking me."

Feeling like the carefree lad he never was allowed to be - racing about the hallways desperate to impress the girl he was enamored with - Rhaegar tilted his head around to wink at Lyanna. "Wouldn't you like to know."

She pursed her lips crossly. "Oh shut it, of course I want to know." They both turned a corner, Rhaegar slowing to a walk. Handsome and simply… manly, after his spar with her brother concluded in a triumph for her betrothed. A hard fought one though, Rhaegar covered in sweat and musk and… oh gods… Her insides quivered just looking at him. Stopping in the middle of the hallway, she pulled him close against her under the coffered ceiling vaults towering high above and inlaid with mosaics and gold leaf. Such stupendous beauty and splendor for a daughter of the North - but Lyanna only had eyes for Rhaegar, her dashing Dragon Prince. "You come out of your sparring, all sexy and such…"

Rhaegar watched her suck her bottom lip between pearly white teeth. Her smile stirring him to painful arousal. "Oh really?"

"Aye." Lyanna ran her fingers down the length of Rhaegar's tunic, inhaling his musky scent. Confidence in her sexual expression growing by the day. "There was nothing that I wanted more than to take you to my chambers and devour you… and yet we are here instead of there." While her face radiated innocence, her stormy grey eyes were anything but. "Why is that?"

Surging forward, enveloping her in a savage kiss that stole both their breaths away, Rhaegar held her trim waist. Pulling back only when he needed air. "You'll see, Lya. I pledge on my honor that you will find it to your liking." At her deep inhale and nod, Rhaegar took her hand again and guided her down the tiled hallways. They were devoid apart from the errant guard or servant, bowing deeply and then going about their business.

In barely a minute, both of them reached two large ironwood doors. "So, am I here to see a pair of doors?"

Rhaegar rolled his eyes. "Must you be difficult?"

"Yes," she smirked back, causing him to grin at her. It was just so easy to slip into the back and forth of a compatible couple.

Fingers closing around the handles of the entranceway, Rhaegar looked back. "Oh, close your eyes."

"Rhaegar, really?" Lyanna huffed, hands on her hips. "We're not children…"

"Please?" he urged. Sighing, his soon to be wife complied, tapping her feet upon the stone floor impatiently. Not wasting more time, Rhaegar threw open the doors for her. "Go inside."

Gingerly walking forward, Lyanna's mind wandered in speculation. "Before I open my eyes, can you give me some kind of hint?" The she-wolf wanted to see if she could guess his surprise.

Placing his hands on her from behind, Rhaegar chuckled and placed a gentle kiss on her pale neck. "I promised that I would never chain you. That my future Queen would never have to become someone she isn't, become a different person than the one I fell in love with." His words were eloquent, the best of the volumes of poetry and epic stories his mother and maester had made him read during his childhood. "Well, here we are."

Hmmm… interesting. She didn't smell the hay or dirt of a stable so it couldn't have been something regarding Winter - her horse had taken to the large stables of the Red Keep like a fish took to water. Had it regarded her swordsmanship, they would have stayed in the training grounds. "Alright, my love. Can I open my eyes now?"

"Do it." Rhaegar felt like a kid on his nameday, eager for presents.

Lids fluttering back to see what he seemed so desperate to show her, it took a moment for it to register in her vision. Jaw dropping in shock and wonder as she twirled around. Eyes staring at the vast expanse she was suddenly in the middle of. "Rhaegar…"

A library, two stories tall and letting in direct sunlight from a series of large glass windows and a dazzling array of colors from various stained glass displays of Targaryen Kings long past. Surrounding the walls and branching out onto the open space were stacks and stacks of books. Thin picturebooks, massive tomes, intricately bound novels and epic poems, ancient scrolls. Lyanna even found a section filled with texts in the style of the Free Cities, of far flung lands whose books only made it in dribs and drabs to the Winterfell library. She had spent most of her time not sleeping or running wild outside the castle walls among the books, and this library had to be ten times as massive.

Lyanna turned to her future husband. Eyes glassy as she regarded him yet again with new eyes. "What is this, my love?" He had sworn to her that he would never chain her, that it was her wild, iconoclast nature that formed the basis of his love… but to see such a feeling expressed in reality… She was close to trembling, so vast was her love for him.

"When Maegor built the Red Keep, he didn't include a library. Concerned he was on other matters. It was Jaehaerys that commissioned this collection, expanded greatly by Aerys I." Rhaegar fell into step behind her, Lyanna pulling out a tome on the history of the North. Similar to what was in the Winterfell library, but simply thicker with information. "My grandfather, Aegon remodeled it into its current glory… the largest library in the known world, aside from the Citadel and the Great Library of Braavos. They say the Yi Ti have one as big, but they are an enigma."

Hand tracing several paragraphs of these one burning of Winterfell by the Bolton Red Kong's, Lyanna set the volume down and turned towards him. Seeing over his shoulder the vast collection of thousands of volumes - imagining how giddy her childhood self would have been here, all muddy from riding in the Wolfswood yet excited to sit at a bench and devour the histories of the Realm and the legends of Old Valyria and the Age of Heroes. And now, even close to marriage to the Crown Prince, Lyanna had to bite back a squeal of delight. "And all this?"

"All yours, my love," came the response.

Unable to contain herself, Lyanna flung herself at Rhaegar. Heart bursting with love and eyelids brimming with tears of joy. "You perfect… beautiful man." Frantic lips pressed all over his face, Lyanna desperately needing to show just how much Rhaegar meant to her. "I love you so much… thank you for this." Beaming, she kissed him again - longer and deeper.

Crushing her to his chest, needing her flush against him, Rhaegar took quick control of the kiss. Plundering her mouth. Wanting his powerful direwolf to feel loved and cherished. To be known as the latest of the mighty Targaryen Queens, unchained and free as the dragons they rode. The kiss broke, his hand moving to cup her cheek. "Lyanna…"

She gazed at him with hooded eyes. "I can't wait to read every volume in this library… but what are we still doing here, my dragon?"

Hesitating no longer, Rhaegar lifted Lyanna into his arms, drinking in her joyous laughter as he raced back to their chambers.

Chapter Text

"One year younger than Princess Lyanna?" Ser Oswell Whent asked.

Ned nodded, hands behind his back as the two strolled through the hallways of Maegor Holdfast's guest wing. "Aye, ten and six, strapping young lad… at least that's what the letters told me." Much to Ned's sorrow, he hadn't seen Benjen in years… gods, would I even recognize my own brother? "Trained by the master-at-arms of Winterfell since he could hold a sword."

"A silver stag says that the Princess taught him a few moves."

"I can't take a bet I know I'd lose," Ned laughed in return.

While a bit hostile when sizing him up days before, Oswell treated him as a brother in arms since the spar. "I'll have to tell you, Ned, there hasn't been a Northerner in the Kingsguard since… gods, must have been since Old King Jaehaerys."

"Most northerners find knighthood ridiculous," Ned replied.

Oswell shrugged. "Eh, it's the code we all grew up with. I think concepts of chivalry and honor run in every culture.."

"Certainly do. Benjen… he always planned to go to the Night's Watch, but the little boy pretending to be Aemon the Dragonknight would leap at the chance, I am sure." He shook his head. "Just a damn shame that Kingsguards can't wed or father children."

"You'd think so, but I think there is a loophole. If you don't marry and don't acknowledge the child as yours officially…"

"Huh, interesting… There's my brother's room." The plan was for Ned and Brandon to teach some new Household Guard recruits Northern fighting styles. Something to do.

But just before Ned knocked on the door, he heard a female moan. Followed by a distinctly male grunt. "Fuck… so tight…"

Does he have a whore in there? A chambermaid? Knowing Brandon's reputation, it would not shock Ned. "Oh, don't stop, Lord Stark…" That breathless voice did shock Ned.

Oswell apparently recognized the voice. "Catelyn Tully?" Slowly backing away from the door, he began to giggle. "Oh, that prim and proper little cunt… imagine what Lord Hoster would do if he heard his daughter was sinning so brazenly."

"Damn you, Bran," Ned groaned, the sounds of fervent copulation loud enough to reach even where they stood, two yards from the closed chamber door. "Must you deflower your bride before your wedding?"

"If they're gonna be married anyway, so what?" Not all Riverlands houses were as pious as House Tully. "I figure this means the training is put on hold. Find something to enjoy around here, Ned, though I doubt it'll be as good as your brother is getting." A muffled scream of ecstasy punctuated the train of thought.

Wandering through the garden aimlessly, Ned reflected on the lives of his siblings. While part of him wanted to smack Brandon upside the head for being reckless, truly he was happy for his brother. Bran marrying Catelyn, Benjen a Kingsguard, Lyanna falling madly for Rhaegar… Any initial worry and dismay had given way in the face of the Crown Prince's gentle heart and carefree personality deep down. A lifelong friend if Ned's instincts were correct. And Princess Elia… he no longer worried about her.

And that only leaves me. His father wanted Ned to manage Winterfell while Brandon continued to make connections within King's Landing for several moonturns, to hold the fort and help his future goodsister get acclimated to living in the North. After that… Ned truly had nothing holding him down anywhere. Second son, not committed to one of the warrior guilds as third sons usually were. Perhaps he'd get a keep somewhere, or secure a position on the small council on Rhaegar's patronage? A likely fallback…

Cool yet pleasant ocean winds calming his leather-clad form sweating under the southern sun, one thing remained completely unresolved. His love life. Being that second son gave him options, the freedom from forging alliances that Brandon or Lyanna didn't have - much as both of them found love matches. Plenty of maidens in the Vale or the North would die to snap up the Crown Prince's goodbrother, but when imagining a future bride only one came to Eddard Stark's mind.

Turning a corner, Ned stopped in his tracks. Resting against a low wall within a gazebo by the cliffside was the object of his imagination. Wearing a loose, ankle-length cerise gown with bell sleeves that somehow did little to hide her graceful figure, long blonde hair flowing freely behind her, she looked angelic. Completely out of his league, yet one Ned couldn't help but feel drawn to. Sucking in a breath, he walked towards her.

Having just visited her own brother, Cersei Lannister had to escape. The gardens of Casterly Rock provided such a refuge, and these did as well. Enjoying the moment alone until steps were heard behind her. A quick turn of the head found someone she was far keener on not seeing. "Lord Stark."

"Lady Lannister." Ned saw how she immediately looked back at the bay, but stepped into the space next to her nevertheless. "I believe this is the first time we've spoken since the hallway at Harrenhal." No reaction from her, but he wasn't a stubborn direwolf for nothing. "I wasn't able to apologize for that, so forgive me for my clumsiness."

Cersei snorted. "You speak to me just for that? Northern fool," she muttered, though part of her enjoyed hearing his brogue. Delightfully exotic from the cultured accents she associated with all her life.

He was not deterred. Ned just wanted to speak with her… Brandon would have called him a glutton for punishment. "Did you come to see your brother?" No answer. "I've met Ser Jaime. My sister speaks very highly of him, the Lion of Lannister."

A laugh escaped Cersei's lips, dripping with sarcasm. "They actually call him that?" It was ridiculous. She then realized he was… charming her. What is wrong with me? "Did you know this could have been mine?" That would drive him away.

Ned blinked. "Why?"

"My father wished to betroth me to Prince Rhaegar. Practically begged his Grace, only to be denied." The wound was still somehow raw, a life of being raised to be Queen falling apart just at the cusp… and yet at the spar, her hungry gaze wasn't on Rhaegar…

It took moments for him to answer that. "The gods… they work in mysterious ways…"

"Don't tell me you actually believe that?" Cersei made the mistake of looking at him. And now that she did she couldn't turn away.

"Everything is for a reason, my Lady," Ned said honestly, captivated by her green eyes. "My goodbrother, seeing him happy with my sister shows he wouldn't have been happy with you, and I think you know that it is the same the other way around." Political marriages were the norm in Westeros, but with advantage didn't come happiness. Ned had seen it, if not firsthand.

I want Rhaegar… I want to be Queen… I was born, trained to be Queen… And yet her thoughts… they merely proved him right. Wanting Rhaegar out of mere belief it was her path. But meeting those grey eyes of his, staring at her. The softness from Harrenhal had returned, but after the fierceness at fighting Ser Arthur, Cersei saw it in a new light. Gentle, not weak. Caring, not flowery. Her entire world felt like it was spinning on an axis.

"Why do you keep doing that?" she finally blurted out.

Ned blinked. "What?"

"That... stare... You keep staring at me like that. Stop."

"I apologize, my Lady." He truly didn't know why himself. Cersei was nothing but rude and bitchy, and yet the spare heir of House Stark felt drawn to her. Be it her beauty or something else...

"Why do you do that?" She ran a hand through her hair, huffing. "Why do I do it?" For days she couldn't get him out of her mind, fighting and sparring with the power of a wolf. He's a damned second son, unworthy of a daughter of House Lannister. A northern barbarian that her father would never let her marry. Gods, her thoughts were a mess.

Watching every color of emotion flash across her face, Ned didn't know what to think. "My Lady…"

Seven hells. Without warning, Cersei grabbed the Stark by the straps of his leathers. Pulling him toward her. Mouths meeting in an abrupt kiss. It was impulsive, borne from a desire to just see what it felt like. Smother the feelings by letting them happen, and yet…

They felt soft, warm… inviting. Just as his dreams were, yet far better. Ned soon felt Cersei sigh. Melting into the kiss, tension leaving her as he placed his arms at her slim waist. Lips parting as their tongues met. Gods… it was wonderful.

How good it felt, how… right it felt, several seconds of bliss ended once Cersei heard her father's disapproval ringing in her head. The same anger that had meted out to her when she was caught kissing one of the stableboys out of curiosity. A Lannister of Casterly Rock… one who never sells herself cheap. Never to someone lesser. And here she was, kissing a second son of a Northern Lord.

Just as abruptly as she had begun the kiss, she ended it. Pushing him away. "Stay away from me, northern bumpkin." Heart pounding, she turned and stormed off.

Standing there, unable to move, Only a hand against a column kept Ned from falling. Gods help him, but he couldn't help but want this woman more.

Nervously biting her lip, Lyanna tightened her hold on Rhaegar's arm. Letting her beloved guide her down the collonaded vault towards the Iron Throne. Never had she expected to be in this august and awe-inspiring hall. To be before the throne forged by Aegon the Conqueror himself, betrothed to the most beautiful, dashing, amazing Prince… But as the various courtiers, eyes gawking at the novelty of a Northern Princess being officially presented to them, the King, and the gods, she couldn't help feel slightly overwhelmed.

"You're going to be fine, my love." Rhaegar's whispered words calmed her, sending a feeling of serenity through Lyanna just as much as Elia's coaching had from only minutes before, outside the hall, had steeled her for the formal beginning of their betrothal. The Princess and soon to be her sister-wife had made her way to the base of the Iron Throne ahead of them, and Lyanna could see her comforting brown eyes urging her to continue.

Head high, smile on her face, and just ever so slightly leaning into her Prince, Lyanna would not be intimidated by the stares of the sycophants and favor curriers of Court. She remembered some of their faces from how Jon Arryn pointed them out. A balding man with a toad-like face. Lord Merryweather. A young man with silver-gold hair. Ser Monford Velaryon, heir to the Driftmark. A hard-faced knight. Ser Willam Derry, Master-at-Arms at the Red Keep. Lyanna could almost feel Rhaegar and Elia's pride for her… the latter nearly as important as the former. Her eyes drifting to Robert Baratheon of all people, it immediately shifted away, snubbing him.

Lyanna hid a smirk at how it gave made him wince.

At the base of the Throne was the Small Council, including Elia and her family. Lord Rickard and her brothers both smiling at her, giving Lyanna added strength. Beside the King himself - impeccably dressed form in royal robes and the ornate golden crown of Aegon IV sitting upon his head - stood the Red Griffin Jon Connington and the impossibly fat High Septon. "Presenting before his Grace and the light of the Seven," Rhaegar announced in a loud voice. "The Lady Lyanna of House Stark. A woman true of birth and pure of heart." Lyanna shuddered at the timbre of her Rhaegar's voice.

"I recognize the presentment of Lady Lyanna before the Royal Court," states Jon Connington, going by the script. Such had occurred for both Duncan and Aerys' betrothals, not to mention Rhaegar's with Elia in his lifetime. "She seeks formal recognition of her betrothal to the Crown Prince from the authority of King and gods."

With how central the Faith found itself in the royal tradition after the reforms of Jaehaerys I and Baelor the Blessed, it was the High Septon that descended first. Jowls of fat jostling for each step he took, Lyanna resisted a shudder when he clasped her hands with his - everyone knew where he put those hands. Only the children sharing his bed would also share his stash of sweetmeats. "Lady Lyanna, do you swear by the Seven to give your life to serve for the Seven Kingdoms?"

"I shall, your High Holiness."

Mentioning the names of each of the Seven, he drew a Seven-Pointed Star with a finger dipped in blessed oil on Lyanna's forehead. Surprising the High Septon, a glint of sunlight suddenly shone atop the star. "She has been anointed by the gods." Blinking in awe, he drew back. Handing the floor to the King himself.

"Well, my son," Aerys remarked. "You look more alive than I've ever seen. That…" he waved his spindly fingers at Rhaegar. "Annoying, brooding frown is finally gone."

Twinkling eyes found Elia, who smiled softly. From how Lyanna stood even taller in the corner of his eyes, Rhaegar could tell the smile reached his bride. "Your Grace, due to the decision of yours to extend my hand to Lady Lyanna, I have grown happier." He could see his father puff up at the praise. "Carrying out the will of the King brings me the greatest joy."

Aerys nodded. "The Young Dragon reborn, indeed. You and I will do great things, Rhaegar." His eyes shifted to Lyanna. "And you, Lady Stark. Are you prepared to be a proper Queen to my son?"

"Of course, your Grace." Lyanna curtseyed, eyes remaining on the King. "I am both his and yours to command…"

Suddenly his generally pleased expression turned sour. "Stop!" he barked. "What the fuck are you doing?"

Ahead of her, Elia's face froze to that of an owl - everyone else was as confused as Lyanna was, but she seemed to understand. "Your Grace?"

"That curtsey. You are to supplicate your eyes to the ground when in the presence of the King."

Mind racing, perhaps Lyanna remembered when Jon Arryn explained the simple etiquette to her. It seemed so minute, she may have forgotten. "Your Grace… forgive me for my lapse…"

Aerys didn't care to hear her. "I should have realized this. An uncultured wildling from the North, not versed in proper civilization. Lord Rickard!" he addressed his Master of Laws, the aging Lord of Winterfell withdrawing behind a flat facade out of self-preservation. "Do you even teach proper manners in that frozen wasteland?"

"I… we… We can always do better, my King," he finally responded, shooting a quick look of apology at his daughter when the King was distracted.

"Your Grace." Rhaegar had flashbacks to the first presentment with Elia, only that one had been after their marriage. Equally disastrous as that had been. "I ask you to consider the circumstances…"

"When will I ever learn?" The King only heard himself. Waxing poetic like a drunk Bravosi philosopher. "I should have realized that foreign mongrel blood could only result in half-breed children unable to take the mantle of a proper Dragon. Daeron II, my own idiot father, and now my son's children from this Dornish whore." Insults of Elia were almost commonplace at this point, and the Princess let it roll off her back. "And now the new one ends up being dressed like some harlot."

There was no doubt Lyanna was beautiful. Her grey gown seemed to shimmer, the normal simplistic swirls and shapes replaced by a sort of floral arrangement - muted green leaves and stems trailing up the side parallel to Lyanna's arms, lavender flower decorations framing the lower cut of her dress just above her breasts. Her sleeves hung down in the style of the Crownlands, contrasted by the simple northern free waves of her chestnut hair.

But to the King, once his mood fell he found anything to criticize over it. "Look at this… disgusting thing. Unlike what some of you cunts thing," he hissed at the court itself. "This is not a brothel. Shape up before I have you all caned - and I'll do this uncultured harlot first if she doesn't change." He stood, shaking his head. "I am disappointed in you, Prince Rhaegar." Mumbling profanities to himself, he stormed out of the room. Leaving a stunned court behind to simply stare at the shock still Lady Lyanna. Her form trembling slightly.

Ned walked forward, wanting to embrace his sister, but was stopped by Elia. "In private." Seeing the Stark son heed her warning, she approached her husband. "Get her out of here, husband." Better this be dealt with away from the vultures of Court.

"Oh, my Prince…" Cuddled on the bed in her guest chambers with her betrothed, chestnut hair all tangled in a fair approximation of a bird's nest, Lyanna shivered with the aftershocks of her climax. "I feel better now."

A dark silver eyebrow rose, Crown Prince casting a look down at the face resting upon his bare chest. Clothed body curled flush against him - though the hemline of Lyanna's dress was hiked up significantly. Supremely sinful, and quite distracting. "I'm glad, Lady Stark?" Gods… it was as if they were Jaehaerys and Alysanne, married for decades and still passionately in love. He just felt so comfortable in her embrace. A feeling that he felt with Elia… "I'm sorry, for what you went through in the throne room."

Lyanna sighed, holding on tighter to her love. "I shouldn't have been surprised that his Grace would act like that. Everyone warned me." Unfortunately, she had gotten complacent. Too enchanted by the love Rhaegar, Rhaella, Elia, and the children were giving her to properly guard herself. "My fault, for exposing myself…"

"Never think that, my love. It isn't your fault." Not hers, and not Elia's… "Never your fault." Rhaegar felt so impotent, only able to comfort his betrothed after the fact rather than actually stand up for her - not that he did either for Elia. His greatest regret. A hand stroked at his back. "I'm here for you, Lya."

Inhaling his scent, she cuddled closer. Not wanting an inch of space between them. "I love you, Rhaegar."

"I love you too, Lyanna."

"You've given me everything I could ever want."

"I could say the same." He leaned down to kiss the crown of her head. She was right when she said everything felt like a dream sometimes. It can't be this easy… this happiness… Arthur told him often to just let loose and enjoy the golden nugget that he'd been handed - well, the way the Kingsguard said it was much more profane but that captured the general meaning. "I'll be traveling to Dragonstone for a few days."

Lyanna sighed. "I don't want to be separated a single day, my dragon." For the wild she-wolf, the loneliness at being without her dragon was unbearable - perhaps one would point out a hypocrisy, but Lyanna didn't see it that way. The lone wolf dies…

He tightened his embrace. "It's just for a few days… to prepare the keep for our arrival after the wedding."

"Good point, my love." Another sigh. "Oh well, I suppose I'll spend more time with my brothers, or Rhaenys and Aegon."

Stroking her back over the woolen grey dress, Rhaegar smiled widely. "My daughter has taken a liking to you." Seeing his beloved interact with his little dragon, it was a sight that brought him a soothing joy. "This morning, she leapt in my arms, gushing about how 'Lwyanna' finally gives someone to play dragons with her."

The she-wolf laughed merrily. "How can I not love her, Rhaegar? She's so precious." Truth be told, Lyanna felt a pull around her betrothed's children… as if somehow she was meant to be just as much a mother to them as Elia. She still worried about usurping her sister-wife, careful about not denying Rhaenys especially time with the Dornish Princess. "I see how much you and Elia love them, and Gods help me but I'm starting to love them as much."

Gently grasping her chin, Rhaegar looked deep into her eyes. "You truly are perfect, my wolf." They kissed deeply, tongues slowly tangling before releasing. "And Elia? I see you two are getting along." Truth be told, he had experienced many sleepless nights in apprehension over them.

Lyanna kept her gaze upon his eyes. "I can see why you spoke highly of her. Elia is the type of Queen you will need - smart and savvy. I hope I'm half as politically astute as she is, your Rhaenys to my Visenya as you so often put it." She wriggled up his body till her face rested in the crook of his neck. "There's not much I want more than to have a good relationship with her."

Splaying his hand on her lower back, Rhaegar smiled softly. "You know, Rhaenyra and Alicent absolutely despised each other, fighting for years over who would be the senior lady in court. Jealousy and bitter pride poisoning the entire court of Viserys I." He didn't want to put the idea in his direwolf's head, but Rhaegar had to know. "Did you ever have any urge to fight over me?"

Two grey eyes found him, narrowing. "Don't get too cocky, my Prince." It was a teasing tone.

"I'm just curious."

She giggled. "Frankly… no. I never had that urge."

"Oh? And why is that?"

Surprisingly, she blushed. "It's embarrassing."

His interest was piqued. "Tell me, my love."

There were many reasons for Lyanna, but the reality of her true desires superseded all others. "Rhaenerya and Daemon weren't my only interests in your family, Rhaegar."

He leaned back, listening.

Taking his silence as an invitation to continue, Lyanna did so. "In my childhood, I always idolized Visenya Targaryen. Proud warrior queen fearlessly wielding Dark Sister into battle. You can imagine that a girl likely facing a life married to some old, fat lordling would find her life appealing."

"I presume nothing with you, Lyanna. You are unique."

She smirked. "Charmer." Lyanna nuzzled his chest. "In addition to wishing for my very own Prince Daemon… part of me always wanted to be Visenya Targaryen. And that included… Aegon and Rhaenys." Blushing, Lyanna felt like a pre-flowering maiden. "Gods, I must sound like a child with her head in the clouds."

"No, you don't. Hard to be that when you actually find your head in the clouds." They shared a laugh with that. "Whatever the reason, I'm glad you and Elia can get along. She's… been through so much. I haven't exactly been the best husband for her." He looked away.

Now it was Lyanna's turn to look at him queerly. "Why do you say that? Something you care to tell me, Rhaegar?" Wishing to be as honest to her as she was to him, Rhaegar proceeded to disclose everything. Their sudden marriage, how both Aerys and Prince Doran prevented either Elia or he from seeing each other until the ceremony. Of the constant verbal abuse and whisper campaigns Aerys would instigate on Elia, getting worse with each difficult pregnancy. By the end, Lyanna was silent. "He's done this before… to Elia."

He nodded. "Yes. From our marriage four years ago to now… just as with you, every damn day." Rhaegar closed his eyes. "Every time we tried to get closer as a couple… it just never worked. She could only feel my father's bitterness and her family's mistrust, and I… it was my fault for not being able to protect her." A tear fell down his cheek. "Eventually, we just stopped trying." A sad smile on her beloved's lips… "With you it's so easy, my love. I… I thought it would be the same with Elia with time. Both of you are smart, headstrong, a lot alike, but after all she's been through. The pain caused her, pain all my fault."

Hooking her leg across his hip and straddling him, Lyanna kissed her beloved. Slow and sweet, pouring love with every passing second. Don't ever think little of yourself, my love. Beneath the mighty prince was someone that had suffered, a raw soul in need of love - just as Elia did. Those children deserve a loving family.

"Try her, Rhaegar… I think she'll surprise you." If the she-wolf of Winterfell had anything to say about it, Rhaegar would be gaining two loving relationships instead of just one from her arrival. It was simply so strange, encouraging him along the path in which she'd have to share him… but simply the true strangeness was how right it felt. As if it was destiny. "She loves you… just as I do. You just need to get passed this." Before he could speak, she kissed him again. Letting their mouths meld.

Gods… I'm turning into a Targaryen. Lyanna's girlhood dream come true.

Dimly lit by the combined yellow flicker of dozens of candles and the red-orange of the roaring hearth, the tavern was like almost any other from Dorne to the Wall. Loud, dirty, smelling of stale wine, piss, and unwashed bodies, the usual crowd of blacksmiths, washerwoman, and hedge knights looking for someone to forge them a new sword kept the place in decent business. A tidy profit.

However, that night, the collection of burly guards in stag colors drew the personal attention and service of the owner. For their Liege Lord was quite the glutton, and his coin was free flowing and plentiful. "Another," slurred the stormlord.

"My Lord," cautioned Ser Courtnay Penrose, his sworn sword. "Perhaps three is enough…"

He was cut off by a hand on his shoulder. "He says he wants another," growled Meryn Trant.

The two would have come to blows. "Fuck off, Courtnay," belted Robert Baratheon. "I'd worry more about that baboon's arse you call your head." The Knight didn't take it personally - the Lord of Storm's End had a certain way with words, especially when drunk. "Another of your finest Arbor gold!" He slammed a silver stag on the counter.

Chuckling, the owner took the coin and replaced it with a wooden goblet. "You have excellent taste, Lord Baratheon."

Goblet brought to his lips, Robert downed a third, belching. He had sparred hard that day, and was looking for fine wine and finer women to drown his sorrows. "That accent, I bet I can place it." Robert smirked. "Tarth?" A shake of the head. "Hmmmm… Blackhaven?"

"Got it, my Lord," winked the bartender and owner.

Robert laugher merrily. "I had a feeling there was some Marsh in you. How'd you end up in the privy of the Seven Kingdoms?" That drew snickers from his men.

The owner shrugged. "Followed the coin. Most lucrative here, and I got lucky. Seven above, I made my living and married a fine Northern girl from White Harbor."

"Northern, eh?" Drunken eyes landed on a dark-haired young woman serving drinks to a group of smiths. "She yours? Daughter?" A nod. "Got the look of the North." Spending time with Ned, gazing at his Lyanna, Robert could notice the blood of the First Men anywhere. High cheekbones, lean yet hard figure… she could pass for the woman denied him by the dragonspawn. While plenty of women had graced his bed since arriving in the capitol, Robert's loneliness and desire for Lyanna was reaching a breaking point. "How much?"

"I'm sorry, my Lord?"

"The girl, how much for a night?"

Fire rose in the marcher's eyes. "You have some fucking nerve…"

A clink on the wooden bartop, Robert's meaty palm withdrawing to reveal a gold dragon.

"My daughter isn't a whore…"

A second clink on the wood found another gold dragon.

It seemed as if the marcher's mouth was watering at the beautifully minted gold. "I wouldn't know where this would happen…"

A third clink and a third gold dragon. "Upstairs… your room." Even drunk, Robert was quite serious when it came to satisfying his lusts.

Covetous, the owner slowly covered the coins with the palm of his hand and drew them to him. "Alys!" he called gruffly. The girl stilled, grey eyes finding her father. "Take Lord Baratheon upstairs, now."


"Do what he says or you'll be fuckin' sorry, now go."

Gazing at the pretty lass with a lecherous look, Robert hauled himself up. Trying to stay upright as his head spun. "Go enjoy yourselves, men. There's only one dagger I'll be using tonight." Laughing at his own jape, Robert sidled up to the girl. "Hw're ya' tonight, beautiful?"

Gulping, the girl felt intimidated. "I am well, my Lord."

"Yer' gonna take the pride of Storm's End now. I promise ye'll enjoy it."

Eyes flickering to her father, seeing him gesture to the stairs, the girl sighed. Best get this over with. - even if she didn't want to. "My Lord, please follow me." Even if the handsome man's drunken breath revolted her, it would be over soon.

From how Robert began groping her backside almost immediately, she could only pray that was the case.

"You're developing a strong relationship with Eddard Stark."

"He's a good man. Honorable and loyal." Loosening the laces of his tunic, Rhaegar pulled the cotton garment off his chest. "Not to mention a lot of fun once he loosens up. Broods too much."

Easing her nightdress over her body before slipping off her burnt-orange gown, Elia couldn't help but sneak a look. Eyes appreciatively traveling on his muscular upper body… only to shift away when he turned to her. "You're one to talk about brooding," she gently teased. It earned a chuckle from him as Elia hid her blush. The Dragon Prince was rather informal in their private quarters, respectful, but informal.

When Elia imagined her married life, the tales of Oberyn's exotic adventures had always been at the back of her mind. Sweaty, nude bodies intertwined, and she and Rhaegar's carnal lives matched such at the times they tried to be intimate. But… along the way she had diverged into the same lifestyle as a devout member of the Faith - never nude, never bare. A gown that covered all of her. Elia resented it, but feared the opposite more.

"You should befriend him… perhaps he could be your Hand?"

"Connington will be my Hand," Rhaegar replied simply, peeling the covers of their large bed back to climb in. Oftentimes, their most important conversations happened when in bed like this. "He is my most loyal friend."

Elia slipped in as well, though with an agonizing distance between him and her husband. "Connington doesn't like me, nor the Starks. I don't think you should trust him too much… especially the way he looks at you." It was the same look Oberyn gave attractive young men, only with longing as well as lust.

A sigh. "I know… perhaps Ned would be a good Hand." Rhaegar chuckled darkly. "I'd certainly be a better friend to him than Robert."

"You should execute Robert," Elia spat. "For what he almost did to Lyanna." Honestly, Elia was not surprised she rushed to defend her soon to be sister-wife.

"I wish I could do it myself, but I can't. Perils of ruling." Rhaegar handled the burden well, especially since Elia was there to help him share it… and even better since Lyanna came and gave him the complete adoration he craved. On one hand Elia was ecstatic for her husband, while on the other… "I'll have to sail to Dragonstone for a few days. Prepare it for our household's arrival after the wedding. Will you and mother make sure Lyanna prepares for her formal presentment to court?"

Reaching out to squeeze his hand, Elia nodded. "I will."

Squeezing the olive-tanned hand back, Rhaegar felt a pull. One as strong as his with Lyanna. The call of his dragonblood to pull his mate closer. To yank her close and embrace her, to express just how much he truly loved her - his silent partner and rock for so long, mothering his children and accepting with open arms his direwolf. At the cusp of giving in…

Her sobs echoed through the chambers. "Elia…"

She recoiled from his touch. "Am I a Dornish whore?"

The words broke his heart. "Why would you…"

"Tell me the truth!" she shrieked. "Am I an unclean Dornish whore?!"

His father. It had to be - Rhaegar had always wanted to know why Aerys betrothed him to Elia if he considered the Martells unclean, but never did ask. "My love… of course you're not…"

Attempting to hold her, the Princess of just five and ten slapped him. Eyes red with anger and tears. "Just get out! Get out!" Grief of his own covering his face, Rhaegar did as bid.

Rhaegar wished that had been an isolated incident, but that would be a lie. Cloistered most of her life, the still young Princess had entered into the hostile court of his garrulous, mercurial father as a supposed spy for her older brother - Varys having told him alone. He couldn't blame her for how she suffered. Only his father…

And himself.

Elia was older. Wiser. Stronger. A perfect wife and Queen in all that mattered… but there was still an indescribable sadness about her that broke his heart. Tortured his soul.

Much as he wanted with her what he had with Lyanna, Rhaegar couldn't bear to see that pain return to her. Their hands broke apart. "Good night wife," he spoke softly. If he'd have to suffer so that she wouldn't, he'd bear that burden.

Hearing his breathing level out in sleep, Elia sighed. Clutching the pillow against her side tighter - the linen-covered goose down cold against her cheek. Cold… not my husband. Tears began to soak the linen. It wasn't the first time in her life that the Dornish Princess wished she could cuddle close to her husband. Seek out the intimacy she so desperately craved with Rhaegar. The father of her children, the attractive Dragon Prince that stirred so many feelings inside her. But yet…

"He is your husband, not your lover. You are to do your duty, give him Dornish heirs, and bind the Iron Throne to Dorne, that is it."

"See here bitch, if it wasn't for the good deal I got for you… I wouldn't sully my line with your mongrel blood…"

"This child smells Dornish. Like her mother, so get her out of my sight!"

Begging for intimacy, desperate of it, Elia couldn't bring herself to do it. The memories so painful in her mind. Worry eating her away, that her heart would only collapse if she opened it… only to be rejected. Such was what formed their routine. Guided both her and Rhaegar into the partnership that worked so well. That calmed the tempest of the Seven Kingdoms and birthed two beautiful babes. The light of both of their lives.

But said routine of reality had suddenly blown apart by the howling winds of the north. By the beautiful, kind, utterly amazing she-wolf that had roared into their lives and seemed to occupy a place not able to dislodge. Rhaegar loved her, Rhaenys loved her, Aegon loved her, Rhaella loved her… seven hells, even Elia was growing to love her. A friend, a confidant, a fellow traveller in the poison-filled waters of King's Landing, willing to defend their family to the death if need be.

Oberyn would say I crave to see her as the sister I never had.

Ellaria would say I want her as much as I do Rhaegar.

Doran would say I should be on my toes. Ready at a moment's notice to defend Aegon's birthright from the northern interlopers.

Elia would dismiss both, but truth be told she didn't know what to think. Didn't know what to believe. Lyanna is providing Rhaegar the love that I cannot… Lyanna loves Aegon, would never steal from him… Rhaegar would never hurt me… I am content with my life...

All was broken when a strong arm wrapped around Elia. Pulling her around and tugging her against the hard plane of her husband's chest. "Elia… my wife…"

Walls breaking, at least for now, she closed all distance between them. Holding him close. "We lost so much, Rhaegar… but I can't lose you. I…"

In agony, only with her in his arms did he begin to feel his heart calm. His pain begin to ebb - just as with Lyanna, a maze of feelings just as strong beginning to reform. "You won't, Elia. You won't," he murmured, stroking her hair.

Aegon the Conqueror. Could he be Aegon the Conqueror? He was capable of loving more than one and so will you - it is in the dragon's blood. His uncle Aemon's words… gods, he prayed for them to be true.

Rhaegar couldn't imagine his life without either of his beauties in his life.

Chapter Text

Pushing his chest up off the sweat-drenched skin directly below him, the Dornish Prince redoubled his angle and thrust his hips forward. Cock spearing through the tight channel slick with the finest Lysene oils. "Gods…" he grunted.

Head turned to the side, his newest lover's mouth was open in a silent scream. "Fuck… me… Prince…" she gasped in broken Common Tongue, her Yi Ti-ish accent alluringly exotic. "So… good…" Arching her back, she impaled his cock even deeper into her ass, burying her face into the pillow to silence her screams. Her alabaster skin and slanted eyes contrasting deliciously with his swarthy features.

Oberyn Martell grinned. He loved the beautiful yet inexperienced - tight and explosively orgasmic. Delighted that he was to scandalize even the rather libertine Dornish society, he had seen blushing maidens fuck like wanton whores once he was done. Like the lone spice trader with whom he and his entourage hitched a ride to King's Landing. Hard and aloof at first, but after several days practically dragging him into her chambers.

"So… close… my… Prince…" Her voice was hoarse from previous bouts of lovemaking. The exotic appearance - his first Yi Ti lover, ironically enough - drove Oberyn mad with lust, hard enough to spear through her rosebud. Exciting him to be her first.

"Erupt for me, slut." One hand kneading a bouncing breast, Oberyn sank his teeth into her pale skin just as his cock bottomed out inside her. Feeling her rosebud clench hard around him, her screams echoing within the cabin. Lover collapsing spent onto the bed.

Pulling out, Oberyn chuckled lightly at her lazy hiss - kissing the flushed skin. "Such a beautiful woman."


"You have improved greatly. One of the best lovers I've had in the longest time."


Pulling on his loose silk tunic and trousers, Oberyn pulled the thin covers on top of his lover's back. "I shall return for supper," he said as he clipped the curved Dornish scimitar to his hip. "Then we shall go again." He didn't know how much of it she understood, given neither spoke their native languages. The language of love is universal. If he'd see her in several years with a young, half-Dornish babe, he wouldn't be surprised. "Wouldn't be the first time."

Roustabouts dashing about on their various tasks, the front bank of sails unfurled to catch the trade winds blowing off the Pentosi coast. "Should be hitting King's Landing in a week or two," commented the first mate that morning. Oberyn was lucky that he had found a steady source of female cunt, else he'd be lost in his thoughts. Increasingly dark and angry. Several of the guards were already splinting sprained limbs from how he lashed out during their sparring sessions. Damn you, Rhaegar. Damn you. It had been him that argued to Doran not to send their innocent sister to the King's Landing viper den, but there she was about to suffer the worst humiliation.

"I know what you're thinking." Oberyn turned to find Ser Gulian Qorgyle, his best friend and foster brother from his time at Sandstone. One of the few men that could both keep up with his sense of adventure… and expansive sexual appetite. "You're not going to kill the Prince."

"And why shouldn't I?" huffed the Prince, knowing how petulant he was acting but not caring.

Qorgyle met his glare. "Because that would leave your sister without a brother." Fuck, he has a point. "And the whores from Volantis to the Wall will cry, women and men." Fuck, a double point.

He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I'm not going to make it easy on him. Aegon will sit on the Iron Throne by hook or by crook." On this, Qorgyle nodded - from Doran on down, the Dornish nobility would not condone being in the Seven Kingdoms any longer unless the marriage alliance was respected.

The sudden footfall upon the wooden deck shook Oberyn from his thoughts. Eyes alert, quick footwork from his light combat stance sent his careening effortlessly out of the way as the spear lunged where his stomach had been. The Prince of Dorne drew his scimitar and spun it to block the counterswipe of the attacker. Steel clashing against gleaming bronze as the attacker redoubled, twirling her spear above her head before charging at the far taller target...

Only for Oberyn's skilled swordsmanship to knock the spear out of the attacker's hand, palm flying out to smack between her neck and breastbone - sending her sprawling onto the deck. Lips curling into a smirk, Oberyn reached down with his hand. "A valiant effort, my dear. But it is clear you need more training to properly face the Red Viper."

Eight year old Obara Sand scowled, nonetheless taking her father's hand to haul her up in spite of her humiliation. "How did you spot me?" she asked incredulously, rubbing her sore bottom. "I made sure I was hidden until the right moment."

"Footfalls." Ruffling his daughter's hair, he chuckled. "A proper warrior of the ambush makes sure her feet make no noise upon the ground." At the girl's curses, his chuckles turned to laughs. Bringing Obara and Nymeria along helped just as much as fucking to calm his anger. "Go on and find your sister. Get her some supper and then continue to train."

Bowing to her father, Obara turned, muttering something about burying a spear in Prince Rhaegar's head. "Aye, she's clearly your daughter," quipped Qorgyle.

"You know," Ellaria Sand stated as she tilted her head back, dark eyes following the northerner currently walking towards the tray of drinks. "It is usually the host that chooses the refreshments." She put a heavier emphasis on her sultry Dornish accent, something she was wont to do when meeting someone new… especially someone as gorgeous as the Mormont of Bear Island.

Displaying the classically northern bluntness that added to her wild beauty - much like her lady the future Princess - Dacey Mormont waved her off. "You are in my rooms, Lady Ellaria… wait, are bastards called 'Lady' in Dorne?"

Bold… I like her already. The bastard daughter of the Lord of Hellholt laughed. "Some are, some aren't. I wouldn't call myself ladylike, but I figure the position of Lady in Waiting to Princess Elia mandates it."

Dacey considered the answer. "Fair enough." Her attention shifted to the glass and metal decanters resting on the table. "Your Dornish reds are too… sour and yet subtle… how is that even fucking possible for a proper drink? Practically shit."

Patriotic sentiment dictated Ellaria should send Dacey a biting retort, but she wasn't overly patriotic for her homeland. Curious she was, however. "Oh, and what would you consider a proper drink?"

A plebian metal jug, clearly hand-forged in a northern smith, jostled as Dacey picked it up. Contrasting with the expertly blown Tyroshi crystal goblets she poured a gleaming amber liquid into. "Here, unless you're too much of a coward, Sand?"

"I'll try anything once, Mormont," Ellaria sent in riposte. Taking the goblet, she immediately knocked it back in one gulp as she would with Dornish reds or Arbor golds… Big mistake. She immediately felt a burning sensation down her throat, dainty hands curling into a fist to hit her chest. Coughing and sputtering. "Seven fucking hells…" Ellaria croaked. "What the fuck… is that?"

Grinning as she gently sipped at the liquid, Dacey leaned forward. "Barley whiskey, brewed and distilled on Bear Island. One of our biggest exports next to lumber… It'll warm ya' up, huh?"

Sure enough, a fiery heat had spread from her throat and stomach to the rest of her body rather quickly. Oddly welcome in the sudden chill, the promise of a quick spring premature. "You are more than I thought you'd be, Lady Dacey."

"Oh, and what were you expecting? Some kind of country bumpkin awed by southern finery?" The she-bear's eyes narrowed.

"Frankly, yes," came the blunt reply. There was a silent tension before suddenly both women burst into laughter. Enjoying the ice break as Ellaria held out her hand for another shot of the killer whiskey. "Perhaps if I pace myself, I'll get used to it."

Dacey topped off her goblet. "A safe assumption to make." They both settled into their seats, comfortable together for the first time since the Dornishwoman had abruptly knocked and then forced her way into Dacey's room. "I think our ladies are getting along. Old gods be good."

Ellaria clinked glasses with her Northern counterpart. "That was my main worry, at least in the short term." Crossing her legs, she kicked absentmindedly in the air. Exposing the slender, toned skin. "The Princess' main concern was that her son wouldn't be disturbed in the line of succession."

"Lady Lyanna would never do that. Given the nature of House Targaryen and her love for Prince Rhaegar, she was prepared to make the best of the situation."

Eyes twinkling, Ellaria sipped her whiskey. Much more bearable in dribs and drabs, smokey taste actually quite welcome to the palate. "In love you say? The Prince works fast… It took a month before Princess Elia fell for him."

This confused the she-bear. "I haven't seen the Princess overly affectionate with the Crown Prince." Nothing like Lya, though. Dacey had stopped counting the times she walked into Lyanna's chambers to find she and the Prince sucking face. It was both heartwarming and slightly disturbing. "There seems to be… a tension."

"Ah, that." Ellaria shrugged. "His Grace the King… made Elia's life living hells. That was before he grew quiet and brooding, constantly sundering whatever attempts they made to get close and intimate. Prince Doran did the same, only before the marriage - the Princess loves Rhaegar, she's just afraid to admit it."

Quite deep, but Dacey understood. There were many northern families that were quite familiar in conduct, the Boltons obviously but others coming to mind. "They sometimes need a kind word… or a kick in the ass."

Lined with a light touch of paint, Ellaria's lips fluttered. Smirking at the comment. "Theirs is a close family, and one under siege by forces no one within this Keep can identify as of yet. Crown Prince Rhaegar, Queen Rhaella… my Lady and yours, they need a proper support system to give them the unvarnished truth. That is why I sought you out, size you up and such." She smirked at Dacey's raised eyebrow. "What? Surprised?"

To her credit, Dacey broke her tough facade to look a bit sheepish. "I just pegged you as someone more…" she tried to think of a word that wouldn't insult.

The Dornishwoman finished it for her. "Degenerate? Frivolous?" at Dacey's embarrassed blush, Ellaria laughed again. "Don't worry, I take it as a compliment, scandalizing those around me." It was a skill she partook in from her maturity in Hellholt.

"I would think that your position would preclude such behavior." Dacey liked joining Lyanna in unladylike pursuits, but in Winterfell and under the disguise of a Mystery Knight was not the same as actually in court. "Do you not worry about hurting the image of Princess Elia?"

"Well of course I don't flaunt it for all of court to see… what kind of idiot to you think I am? Reputation is one thing when it's merely rumors and discreet activities, that's why the highborn men keep their mistresses and lovers under wraps." Given the proclivities of most in court, they were not ones to judge. "I'm not all fucks and good times, though that's my appeal. Already spread my bounty to three of the Stark guards. They do know how to wield their second swords." Now it was the northerner's turn to cough and sputter - Ellaria had seen it before. "You're a maiden, aren't you?"

Cheeks flushed the ripe red of cherries. "I can't see how that's any of your concern."

"You are. If you weren't, the reaction would be far more muted." Suddenly shy, Dacey turned away, still blushing. "Oh, don't worry. It's nothing to be ashamed of… I just find such things incredibly constraining."

That particular moment, a blonde servant girl no older than Dacey entered. "Could I be of service, my Ladies?" Her eyes flickered between Ellaria and Dacey, suggestive and familiar for the former while appreciative and hopeful for the latter.

Ellaria shook her head. "Not for Lady Mormont here, at least not yet. As for me, come around tonight, Marcey." Leaning up, her hand swatted the girl's ass, coaxing a pleased giggle before she left. Grinning to herself - memories of enjoying this particular servant's… oral talents rather recent in her memory - her eyes once again settled on Dacey. Shock written on her face. "Oh come now. Surely you had your fun with your female companions on that iceberg island?"

The red flush was persistent for the she-bear. "I've… I've never."

Oh, this wouldn't do. "What is it with you northerners? I thought you'd be wild and uninhibited like your lands, but instead I get tough but prudish, no no no." She stood from her seat, taking Dacey's hands and pulling her up. "Come. Come over here to the balcony." They leaned over, side by side. Two stunning beauties in a thin Dornish gown and a light grey northern dress respectively. They both showed off their slender builds and killer curves, but one bared much to the elements while the other was far more modest. "Look, who do you see?"

Dacey peered into the courtyard, which wasn't busy but not empty either. "Guards on patrol… the washerwomen taking loads of laundry to the wells… what of it?"

"See that tall, hulking guard. At the front with a halberd? I let him and his wife into my bed two moons ago." She quickly pointed out another. "Those three? They fucked me in each of my holes at the same time… it was marvelous." This was quite fun. "Oh, those two women? One of them devoured my flower while I speared my fingers through…"

"Stop, please stop." Dacey would have to be bleeding if she had been any redder. "Why are you doing this?"

Throwing her arm around the northerner's shoulder, Dacey patted her hand comfortingly. "Don't be so prudish, Mormont. Our sexuality… its as divinely sanctioned as our eyes or our breathing. There is nothing more beautiful than making love, and I've had a lot of beauty since my maturity." Elaria lasciviously reached down to pinch her new companion's rear, causing Dacey to flinch. "Stop being so tense. We only have one life to live, why not make the most of it?"

Shaking her head, Dacey sighed "It's not like I… I want to do most of those things." A shudder coursed through her body at the very thought. "Gods, I want to lay down my barriers and give into my carnal desires, but… I think I could only trust doing such with the man I love."

Ellaria nodded. If there was one facet of society she could appreciate, it was romantic love. "I understand… now what would this kind of man be? Or do you have a particular man in mind?"

Gaze shifting back to the courtyard, Dacey suddenly came across Ser Arthur Dayne. His twin blades jostled in their scabbards as he briskly made his way towards Maegor's Holdfast. When his eyes looked at the balcony by chance, she looked away. Unable to meet his gaze.

None of this was lost on Ellaria. Oh Dacey… my first impression was correct. You are interesting. Her mind whirred at a mile per minute, lips curling up at the possibilities. I do love a challenge.

"My Prince, our food stores had to be broken into,"Maester Marwyn explained, struggling to catch up with Rhaegar's large strides. A balding man with a crown of scraggly hair round the edge of his dome, the man was incredibly smart and worldly. Hence the Citadel sending him to Dragonstone. Both Rhaegar and Elia figured the stuffy Archmaesters just wanted to get rid of him. "We expected you and the Princess back over a moon ago, but the delays… I couldn't let the food spoil."

Turning, placing his shoulders on Marwyn's shoulders, Rhaegar looked at him earnestly. "My friend, I do not begrudge you for it. Just make sure the pantry is stocked with fresh food for when I arrive with my children and both my brides."

The Maester blinked. "Would a northerner appreciate the bounty of the seas?"

"When it's harvested by Lord Lucerys Velaryon fleets and prepared by the finest cooks in the Seven Kingdoms, then I would think so." Rhaegar laughed and cuffed Marwyn lightly on the arm. "See to it." With that, he made his way towards the stairs leading down to the grassy plains of his personal domain.

Rhaegar loved Dragonstone. Loved everything about it. Most didn't understand the appeal, given the foreboding look of the dark stone and sharp boxes and curves of the former outpost of the Valyrian Freehold turned keep for House Targaryen. It had nothing on the flowery beauty of Highgarden, the lush greenery of the Water Gardens, the sheer size of Harrenhal, or even the rugged beauty of Winterfell, but to him it felt like the part of him that he so missed. The Red Keep was Westeros, but Dragonstone harkened back to the time of the dragons, of his glorious ancestors that were so close to conquering the known world.

The Crown Prince craved such a closeness… he felt it in his blood. His bones. An inner calling to the dragons and dragonlords of old, much as it confused him. Rhaegar couldn't wait to share it with Lyanna - he was quite apprehensive about it. While he told himself that he had no reason to worry, part of Rhaegar did fear his beloved's rejection of Dragonstone.

Hopefully her wedding gift will dampen such fears.

Dragonstone laid on a dormant volcano, liquid fire long having ceased spewing destruction. His Aunt Jenny often would make Rhaegar tremble as a child with tales of the wild Cannibal or Sheepstealer that lived in its thermal vents, both of them falling into fits of giggles when she pounced on him during the scariest parts. Now though, the greatest contribution of the volcano was the lush soil… fields of grass, the royal family's personal vineyard and garden… and a copse of sentinels, oaks, soldier pines, and chestnut trees that nestled on the far tip of the island.

Approaching, Rhaegar could already see crews of laborers at work. Digging at the direction of several surveyors - and two nobles. One short and squat, the other tall and thin. "My Lords, how goes the planning?"

Lord Tytos Blackwood of Raventree Hall - formerly squire to Ser Oswell and a friend to the crown - turned and bowed as his Prince arrived on scene. "Seems the place is a bit haphazard for a proper Godswood, but a few trees felled here and some planted there… it could work for your purposes, your Grace."

"You speak too much like a master mason, Blackwood," Howland Reed chuckled. Bruises from the Tourney long healed, though he still bore a wincing gait from the sparring session. As a northerner though, he shared the swagger of how Ned defeated Ser Arthur - and the respect gotten from the knights in the capitol from being on the winning side. "A godswood… it holds the very spirit of the Children of the Forest. The essence of the soul itself. You can't just plan it down to fine scribbles on paper."

Blackwood rolled his eyes. "Forgive me for wanting the Prince's experience to be perfect."

Laughing again, Howland looked at Rhaegar. "Proves my point."

"Enough." While the squabbling amused him, for Rhaegar there was something far more important than his amusement. "I brought you here because of your expertise… and discretion." In their long-running feud with the Brackens of Stone Hedge, House Blackwood had the craftiness melded into their blood - Lord Bloodraven being the best example. And Howland… he kept Lyanna's identity as the Knight of the Laughing Tree secret for the entire Tourney. "How soon can you get the sapling here?"

"It's on its way, your Grace," Howland bowed. "Received a raven from White Harbor just last night announcing the departure of the ship."

Sighing in relief, Rhaegar closed his eyes. Trying not to feel completely over his head. "Gods, this is all new to me. Please explain what we're supposed to do with this?"

Both men were truly here because they worshipped the Old Gods. Lord Blackwood for his connection to the crown and being in possession of the largest Godswood south of the Neck. Howland… Rhaegar could trust him, the Reeds were some of the most spiritual houses in the North, and he had access to the Weirwood saplings the Godswood would need. As such the crannogman cleared his throat. "You'll need a walk around it. Ironwood trees, that's good, a connection to the North."

"Queen Alysanne got them from Alaric Stark during her famous royal progress to the North. Planted the saplings and watched them grow." A piece of history long forgotten in all but Targaryen family lore. Rhaegar intended to jot them all down so that they would never be lost. "And the Weirwood, it goes in the middle?"

"Always. The heart tree and the carved face upon it is the most important part, your Grace," Blackwood explained.

Rhaegar regraded this. "I'm not sure how to ask, but why a Weirwood? What does the face represent? Is it some sort of icon or idol?"

Shaking his head, Howland reached out and took Rhaegar's hand. Gently placing the palm upon a sentinel pine. "The old gods, they are all around us. Both in the heavens above and the earth around us. The heart tree and it's face… they were carved by the ancient Children of the Forest and First Men connected to the gods through magic. Wargers, greenseers, all carving not an icon, but a means for the gods to truly see a person and hear their prayers." The crannogman's muddy-grey eyes bored into him. "That is why you must never lie in front of a heart tree. They are watching."

Fascinated, Rhaegar lamented not being taught even the simple religious beliefs of much of his people. Years of compromise with the Faith has left House Targaryen shackled to it. Abandoning any form of understanding of other faiths, let alone remembering the true beliefs of Old Valyria. It made Rhaegar empty, as of his heritage was torn from him… his family torn apart from their past as those like Baelor the Blessed, Princess Rhaena, and Queen Naerys abandoned their dragonblood for the shackles of their faith.

Thinking about the old gods… it felt as if Rhaegar was letting himself be unchained from those that despised him. "And the carvings? Who would do it on the sapling from Greywater Watch?"

Howland smiled. "Someone with the blood of the ancient magic would do… even Valyrian magic."

Lyanna and I, carving together… Rhaegar couldn't wait to see the look on Lyanna's face. Gods, he was incomplete without her. "I know just the carving tool." It remained in the keep, a memento of Queen Rhaenys. The Crown Prince was saving it for a special occasion, and this certainly qualified. Lyanna will love it… Elia… He had never done something this special for her, never truly made this a home for his first wife, the woman that had sacrificed so much for him. For their family, for how he was bringing in yet another bride into their union for whom his love was boundless. The only time she's ever be happy here was when she took Rhaenys into Aegon's Gardens…

Aegon's Gardens… It would be a cheap substitute for the happiness Elia deserved, but it was at least a start. "Well… See to it, my Lords."

"Your Grace?" asked Blackwood, while Howland just looked at him with knowing eyes.

"I need to send a raven to the capitol. Excuse me." Just before he left, Rhaegar wordlessly rested his head against an Ironwood tree. Hoping to find more than just the whispers of his blood.

Squirming in Lyanna's arm, Prince Aegon Targaryen's cries nevertheless tapered off. Soothed by her gentle rocking and soft tune of the northern lullaby. Purple eyes glancing up at his soon to be second mother - not that Lyanna restricted her growing feelings till the wedding - it worked like a charm. Aegon stretched his arms in a toothless yawn. Utterly adorable as the she-wolf set the now dozing baby into his portable bassinet.

"Sleep tight, little dragon." Gods, she couldn't wait to feel her own blood - Rhaegar's blood - growing inside her.

"You are amazing with him." She turned to find Elia staring at her, small smile on her lips. "Even his nursemaids aren't as good at getting him to sleep."

A gentle laugh came from Queen Rhaella, sitting opposite both her gooddaughter and the empty chair of her future gooddaughter. The three women were gathered for a quiet morning together, a tradition that Rhaella had begun with Elia and that she gladly continued for her son's second bride. "The entire nursery staff loves Rhaenys and Aegon, but nothing can compare to a mother's touch. A mother's love." She leaned over, pouring a cup of piping hot liquid into three porcelain cups that a servant had laid out for them earlier. "Elia always had a magic touch with them, and it seems you have it too."

Lyanna blinked. "Even though I'm not their blood mother…"

The Queen waived her off. "Nonsense… Visenya wasn't Aenys' blood parent, yet she gave him the same loving comfort that she did the infant Maegor when Rhaenys died. Actually, it was her idea to hatch Quicksilver - saved the poor child's life."

"I thought Visenya and her sister-wife's brood were strained?" Elia asked. "Maegor and Aenys as adults certainly were." Much as she wanted to hug Lyanna tightly for being such an angel to her children, words sounding a lot like Doran were telling her to be cautious. To watch out for duplicity as he had said in a letter to her - the Starks seeking to supplant her blood in favor of theirs. She refused to believe it, but it was there nonetheless.

"Vicious lies by the Faith and the Citadel," Rhaella spat. While many Targaryen Queens since the Dance of Dragons had been quite pious in the Faith, Rhaella inherited the original skepticism towards the Starry Sept. "They were quite close. The family lore has Visenya being the one who proposed the Dragon's Wroth… she and Aegon were never the same, always sad. Always… incomplete." Both women listened with rapt attention, feeling honored at hearing the family lore of House Targaryen. "But enough of that." The Queen put on a brilliant smile. "Something happy…"

"What is this drink?" Lyanna sipped it, feeling a calm sensation at the delicious brew.

Elia cut in. "It's called tea, brewed originally in Mother Rhoyne but now a Dornish staple."

Lyanna nodded. "Delicious. We should ship this north." In agreement, Elia figured she could talk to Oberyn about it… if he didn't kill Rhaegar and Rickard first.

"Oh, my dear Lyanna," Rhaella gushed. "What was that song you sung to the little dragon?"

That was something happy. "Oh, it's an old northern lullaby. Tells the tale of a King Brandon Stark, killed defending his realm and mourned by his family and bannermen. We play it at funerals, but a softer version…" Her eyes glossed over with a half-serene, half-melancholic look. "My late mother, Lyarra Stark, always sung it to my brothers and I before bed…. I miss her so."

"My mother… I really don't remember her," Elia murmured, misty herself in spite of the attempted shift in the conversation. "She died when I was but a young girl."

As for Rhaella, her mother was known to all. "For all those that loved Queen Betha… it was the honor of a lifetime to be witness to her true love." Each having lost their mothers - and in all but Lyanna's case their fathers - it was an additional avenue of relation.

Eventually, they did manage to shift the conversation… this time to the Lords of the Small Council. "Honestly, things were better when Tywin was here," Rhaella confessed.

"He always had something up his ass," Elia said to a chuckle from Lyanna, "But he knew how to run the Realm. Connington is… competent and loyal, but he tends to be both bolder and, strangely, less imaginative. I think his Grace selected him to enforce loyalty above anything else."

"Makes sense, considering he cut public spending to the bone. The King's Tourney was the first major project in the last five years."

"Is there any coin left for spending on the Realm?" Lyanna inquired. "My father was forced to increase the land and harvest taxes three times during my lifetime - once I knew better I always assumed it was supposed to pay for the cost of the War of the Ninepenny Kings." While House Blackfyre had marshalled significant funds and resources in its heyday, Maelys Blackfyre was quite destitute, forced to rely on borrowed funds from his Essosi backers.

Rhaella scoffed. "My husband's treasury is filled to the brim - gold bullion, silver ingots, millions of coins, boxes filled with precious gems, even luxury goods. Our debts from that war were paid long ago, as was my father's debt to the Iron Bank, the Rogares of Lys, and House Hightower, all incurred in trying to hatch dragons after over a century without them." The Queen sighed, and neither Princess needed to inquire further. The Tragedy of Summerhall inspired tearful bards from Hellholt to Last Hearth.

"Only debt not paid," Elia mused, shifting the subject back from its tangent, "Is to Tywin Lannister. Five hundred thousand gold dragons… though…" She couldn't help but smirk. "That isn't caused by inability to pay on His Grace's part." Much as she hated the King, the Dornish dislike for the Westermen didn't evaporate due to the presence of a greater foe. "Lord Mace may be an oaf and a fool, but he's good at counting coin… only thing he is good at."

Lips pursed, Lyanna leaned forward. Hands clasped together. "If he's so good at counting, why isn't that coin being spent where it could do some good?" While Winterfell had an emergency stockpile of coin, the harsh climate of the North made every bit outside of it spent on either buying food or repairing infrastructure damaged by the frequent winter blizzards.

"His Grace… he hasn't spent more than a silver stag more than absolutely necessary." Rhaella sipped at her tea, neither Princess missing how the fingers curled round the cup trembled slightly. "And absolutely is very strictly defined. Treasury's only grown and grown, especially since Duskendale." Duskendale changed so many things - before, he had at least been somewhat bearable.

"Besides." She didn't used to be a cynic - Elia had dreams, hopes, romantic fantasies just as Lyanna did. But while the Northern Beauty's came true, the Dornish Princess found herself trapped in hells alongside her husband. They forged a bond under such circumstances, but no one could call it the same as what he had with Lyanna. Her heart still throbbed from the pain of it. "Even if the coin and bullion was released, you think his Grace would personally implement the payments? The Lords he delegates that to would just insist on funneling it through their own ideas of what constitutes a proper endeavor. Probably their own pockets."

Lyanna leaned back, thinking. "Has anyone asked the people?" Twin blinks. "The smallfolk, the merchants? The guilds? Anyone ask them for what they need? My father always does that in Winterfell, the gates always open to grievances and audiences from his subjects."

Both the Queen and the Princess have blank stares on their faces. "I… I was never allowed to socialize with the smallfolk," Rhaella confesses, eyes downcast. "My father was famous for it, but the septas that he had tutor me over my mother's objections… they always said it wasn't proper to socialize 'with rabble.' And Aerys, he doesn't like to leave the keep or his wheelhouse when traveling."

The she-wolf knew from prior conversations with Elia that she had similarly lived a cloistered life. Unable to interact with those not highborn or servants. "His Grace… he stopped hearing audiences years ago, after hearing Tywin was conducting them behind his back."

"Perhaps someone should change that?" Lyanna's mind was racing, ideas blooming same as with the moment that birthed the Knight of the Laughing Tree.

Noticing the she-wolf thinking deeply, Elia found it quite sweet until a shadow appeared in the doorway. Eyes wide, she immediately stood and curtseyed. "Your Grace." Rhaella and Lyanna turned their heads, and within a split second joined her.

Sour-faced, the King strode into his Queen's chambers. Ser Gerold and Prince Lewyn standing vigil. "Where is Viserys?" he demanded of Rhaella. "He's not in his chambers." Aerys was not in a good mood.

Rhaella steeled herself. "Forgive me for worrying you, your Grace, but he is enjoying his afternoon by playing with his niece."

"You would let my son around the Dornish smell? He'll turn into a mincing buggerer like all of them." While Prince Lewyn and Princess Elia were directly affected, it was Lyanna that opened her mouth to say something. Just slightly, immediately drawn back… but enough for the King to notice. "Something to say, Lady Lyanna?"

Eyes glancing at the floor in supplication, she shook her head. "No, your Grace."

He snorted. "That's what I thought. And don't think I haven't seen you playing with that half-breed. You will stop at once, lest she turns from a slut into an uncivilized barbarian." Almost turning to leave, he suddenly noticed Lyanna's dress. A modest cut from the Dornish Marches, just like Jenny used to wear...

Without warning he grabbed the warm pot of tea and dumped it all over Lyanna. The young Lady yelping in the sudden shock. "Get rid of that dress. My son won't have a whore for a Queen like this one," he gestured to Elia and stormed out. Footsteps thudding as he retreated through the hallway.

Immediately as silence returned, Rhaella moved to grab whatever cloth was in reach while Elia raced to Lyanna's side, drawing her in an embrace as the fierce she-wolf began sobbing. Unable to comprehend what had just happened. He won't get you too, sister. I won't let him.

Chapter Text

Eyes raking the image in the looking glass, Cersei shook her head. "No, I can't have this."

"Calm down, my lady," Melara Hetherspoon cautioned, placing a comforting hand on the blonde's arm. "You need not calm down, it's only your father."

Shaking off the hand, Cersei felt flustered. Sensing the errant strands out of place of her crown of braids, the tiny crease in her lime-green gown, the dark circles in her eyes… "That's right, it's my father! If I'm not the perfect Light of the West… I know he blames me for not seducing the Crown Prince, and now a Stark of all women..." With Jaime in the Kingsguard and Tyrion… being Tyrion, she was his last hope for securing the legacy Tywin Lannister built.

"Come now, my lady. I wouldn't speak ill of the same family whom the man you fancy is from."

Cheeks flushed red in embarrassment. "I told you that in confidence."

"Do you see anyone around?" The daughter of the Castillian of the Rock was pretty much the only person Cersei trusted aside from Jaime… more so than Jaime on many occasions. She knew plenty of things no one else did - including about Ned. "He's quite a catch. Clever, gentle, handsome… and defeating Arthur Dayne?" She whistled.

"A second son, Melara." Cersei closed her eyes, trying to not imagine the kiss...

"Being the goodbrother to Prince Rhaegar can't hurt."

"Father won't see it that way."

Her childhood friend rolled her eyes. "I think you aren't seeing it the right way, Cersei. You were raised to be Queen, but the Crown Prince doesn't want you. Expand your horizons."

Before she could snap back, there was a knock at the door. "My Lady, riders bearing your father's sigil are close." Trying but failing not to panic, Cersei smoothed back the loose strands of hair and raced out of her chambers.

Nestled in the shadow of the Red Keep and Dragonpit, the manse was personally selected by Jon Connington for House Lannister… as such, it was large and comfortable but in the Dornish style. Sandstone walls, fountains, palm trees… Anything to irritate the Lion of Casterly Rock, further proving Rhaegar's words.

Perhaps he was right about the two of us...

At the center of the assembled household, Cersei immediately curtsied as the line of horses came into view. Behind the fluttering lion banners was Tywin Lannister. Joined by several Westerlands lords, her jovial uncle Gerion, and… Tyrion. At the gruff nod of acknowledgment before their father dismounted his Crakehall-bred stallion, her eyes met the same sparkling green of their mother, Tyrion smiling and nodding at her. Of course you're here.

Cersei curtsied again. "Father…"

The Lord of Casterly Rock's frown was as hard as his polished Westerlands plate was dazzling. "Shut it." Tywin's tone left no room for arguing. "You and your brother, the solar. Now."

"But Father…"

"Now." It was clear he was one bit of defiance away from bellowing - Cersei knew enough not to argue. Merely curtsying once more, she fell in alongside Tyrion to follow him into the guest manse.

"I'll be off to the tavern, brother," announced Gerion, always in the mood for laughter and drink. He was clearly where her disgusting brother got it from, but with the golden handsomeness to back it up. Not speaking, he shot his niece an apologetic look. Sorry… and good luck.

As soon as the door to the lavish solar was closed did he let it out. "You had one job, daughter."

"Father, I spoke to the Crown Prince…"

"Oh, you spoke to the Crown Prince?" He chuckled. "Does that mean that the ravens were wrong? That you are marrying the Prince instead of Rickard Stark's brat?" Almost ready to throw something, Tywin's lips pursed tight. Calming himself. "Are they in love?"

That was an easy question to answer. "You weren't there at the tourney. One couldn't pry them apart with two elephants."

He groaned. "Of course they are." He ran a hand through his thinning hair. "Well, looks like our chance for you to be Queen has changed into me salvaging this family from disaster." Tyrion silent and trying to melt into the furniture, all Tywin's attention was on Cersei. "Is there anyone that did take this… development with Lyanna Stark badly?"

"I think Robert Barathon was quite insulted. He was Lyanna's betrothed before the King made his announcement."

"Hmmmm, that's a start." Tywin sighed. "Do nothing, say nothing. As of this point, we have no alliances." He muttered profanities. "Gods, if you had done what you were supposed to and had Jaime not joined the damn Kingsguard…" The grey lion continued mumbling as he made his exit. " be close to your bed... none of this would be happening."

The two siblings were the only ones left. "Well?" Cersei spat, not wanting to even look at the… thing that killed their mother. "Thinking you can make me look even prettier by reminding men of what ugly looks like."

Pressing his hand against his heart, Tyrion fake pitched back. "Thou hast wounded me." The Imp chuckled, making his way to a decanter of summerwine. "It's good to see you too, sister. If only Jaime hadn't donned the white so he could be here too… though I figure it's better than him donning the black."

Cersei shuddered at the thought. "Gods, must you be an insufferable little shit?" Just as her brother began filling his cup, she snatched the decanter from him, tapping off her own goblet.

He shrugged. "That's my skill. I'm witty, I drink, and I know things." Tapping his forehead, he finally was able to pour himself the alcohol. "Father is right, you know. About why Jaime joined the Kingsguard."

A scoff. "You know nothing, Tyrion."

"Ah, but I do…" Tyrion winced, look of sympathy not one Cersei wished to have from him. "I hadn't said anything before about… it. But you must know that I'm sorry about the…"

"Don't say it." Cersei shut her eyes tight, gripping the goblet so tightly that it almost snapped the crystal. "Just… don't."

Seemingly wishing to discard the advice, Tyrion thought better. "Alright…" They were silent for a moment, sipping their wine. "The capitol seems to agree with you."

She laughed, though it didn't reach her eyes. "Seems everywhere I go, they make it obvious that I'm not in favor of the King."

"That's more father's issue. I guess now you can believe me and Jaime, instead of pining over the Prince."

Tyrion always had the ability to stab right to the heart of the matter. "Well, you don't have to worry. I've long accepted it."

That drew a raised eyebrow. "I'm honestly shocked. No commissioning some blood maege to curse both the Starks and the Martells?" Cersei groaned, but unable to counter - that did sound like something she would have done. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you found someone else to fancy…" He suddenly quieted.

"Don't… don't be ridiculous." Ever Cersei didn't believe she sounded convincing.

Almost choking on the wine, Tyrion stared at her with wide eyes. "Wait, you do fancy someone?! Oh… this is just perfect." He was grinning ear to ear, making Cersei want to punch him. "What lucky man has the Light of the West pining after him…"

The conversation was cut off when Cersei splashed him with her wine. "If you want to see Jaime, you'll need to get dressed." With that, she walked out.

Watching his sister leave, Tyrion shook his head. "Good luck, you poor, dumb bastard. Whomever you are." He raised the goblet sardonically. "You have your work cut out for you."

Ser Barristan Selmy had lived a long and interesting life as a knight of the Realm. Unhorsed Duncan the Tall in the King's Tourney. Slaying Maelys Blackfyre in single combat. Serving as a Kingsguard for decades. All such violence... and yet it was this that truly made him squeamish. "Shall I try and find the Lady Dacey, my Lady?"

"No need to bother her, Ser Barristan," Lyanna called out from the closet. "I have the two of you to help me."

While the giggling Princess Rhaenys was over the moon, Barristan fought a groan. Eying the many dresses, scarfs, and cloaks that were laid out on the bed as if they were rotten corpses. They call me Barristan the Bold, and here I am having to judge dresses. If it wasn't for it being the beloved Lady Lyanna, the knight would have considered just walking out.

Lyanna breezed out, lavender purple riding gown form-fitting above her waist but with a loose, puffy bodice. "Well?"

"You pretty, muna!" Rhaenys chirped. "Dwess match kepa eyes! Isn't that wight, Bally?" She held up a dark grey tabby cat aptly named Balerion, cuddling it close. Lyanna watched with affection. She and Rhaenys were inseparable since Lyanna's arrival.

"Oh, my little sweetling." Lyanna lifted the Princess and blew raspberries on her stomach, causing her to laugh. Such happiness was treasure in the court of Aerys II Targaryen. "And you, Ser Barristan?"

Barristan's smile fell. "Um… You do look… my Lady…" At that moment - timed so perfectly as if he could hug her - Princess Elia Martell walked into the room. Behind her was Ser Jonothor Derry, not one of his most beloved people. "Your Grace."

She nodded at him, but her attention was fixed on Lyanna. "Sister, where is Aegon?"

Setting Rhaenys down, Lyanna gestured towards the nursery. "Changed his swaddling clothes and put him down for his nap." Since she had arrived and… bonded so well with the Princess and infant Prince, Lyanna had split childcare duties with Elia, both of them dedicated to a rather… hands on policy towards raising babes. It had actually been the Dornish Princess' idea, one that was causing both ladies to bond as well.

Relief was seen on Elia's face - a genuine gratitude. "Gods, thank you." Her worst fears about the northerner were thankfully absent. Lyanna rapidly becoming her closest friend, the sister she never had… one who was about to make a massive fashion mistake... "That dress doesn't work." The Dornish Princess clicked her tongue in disagreement.

"Muna pwetty, muna." While it could tongue-tie most, Rhaenys understood her toddler speak.

Elia ruffled her hair. "Of course she is, my darling." Rhaenys wasn't lying - Lyanna was striking. A perfect balance of wild beauty and elegance. Had Elia been like Ellaria… The Princess turned her back and raced to the bed, hoping to hide her blush. "Dearest sister-wife, that dress is perfect but not without Rhaegar beside you, complimenting his Valyrian eyes."

Sighing, Lyanna placed a hand on her hip. "Well, what should I wear?"

Rifling through the gathered garments, something caught Elia's eye. "Here!" Grey fabric, styled with white trim and ice-blue stripes. "Same color as that of the winter roses of your crown… and of the North."

"Oooooh." Rhaenys jumped up and down, yanking Lyanna by her skirts towards her mother. "Muna, wear pwetty dress."

"Seems the Dornish approve," the she-wolf smirked. "Ser Barristan?"

Damn… He thought he was out of it. "Um… I defer to Princess Elia's expertise."

Lyanna snorted. "Quick save." Eyeing the well stitched fabric once more, she nodded. "I like it… wait, his Grace?" Her expression had changed from joyful to worried… scared even. Practically trembling of another run in with King Aerys.

The Dornish Princess wanted to shove a dagger into the King's back for cowing the fierce Lyanna Stark. Words planned with Rhaegar the moment he returned. "He's locked in his own chambers, mulling over… something or other."

"Good…" The smile returned. "Mind helping me out, sister?"

Elia furrowed her brows. "Isn't Lady Mormont here?"

"Usually she would help me, but she's been spending plenty of time these days in Ellaria's chambers and chattering over gods' knows what." Lyanna shrugged, not knowing what to think.

The Dornish Princess had some thoughts about what Ellaria could be doing... Eyes flickering to Lyanna holding the dress, and then to the silk screen that separated the changing area from the rest of the northerner's chambers, that caused the same thoughts of what she could be doing... Stop it, you're not Oberyn.

Luckily, as she had saved Barristan, Rhaenys saved her. "I's 'elp, muna."

"Well how can I say no to that offer?" With Rhaenys beaming - something that melted both their hearts, smile exactly like her father's - they ducked behind the screen. "Sister, do you know why I'm getting dressed in riding clothes?"

"Um… to go riding, I believe?" Sometimes it was unavoidable to pick up Ellaria's snark.

"Very funny." Lyanna rolled her eyes. "When Rhaegar gets back from Dragonstone…" Gods, I miss him. Even a day without his embrace was too much to bear. "I'm having my first Small Council meeting. I've been preparing with you and Lord Arryn every day for it."

Elia shrugged. "You shouldn't have to worry," she said in her alluring Dornish accent. "Mostly just the councillors squabbling over this and that, plus Mace Tyrell talks about how his sons or daughter would make wonderful spouses to the Targaryens… all very mundane."

"Mundane is how things are done in Westeros, sister." As Rhaenys helped her step out of the dress she was in, Lyanna felt no compunction speaking in front of the Kingsguards. She trusted Ser Barristan with her life, the old knight rapidly becoming a friend. Gods, she often teased Rhaegar with the secrets he told her. "And I've realized one reason why we aren't respected, being women."

"The fact that most of the councilors are either lovers of men or old fools married to demure shrews might have something to do with it."

Lyanna laughed. "Yes, but also that we merely give advice. None of us do anything, supervise something. Take on a project." She kissed Rhaenys on the forehead when the little girl assisted in tying the laces. "Queen Visenya ran the capitol. Alysanne went on royal progresses. My own mother personally handled winter preperations. That's what we need to do, and why I'm going into the city." Gently puffing up her hair, the outfit was completed. I look good. "And why you're coming with me."

It took a moment to register. "What?"

"You heard me, Elia." Breezing out, Lyanna did look like a northern princess. Utterly stunning - Elia understood quite well how Rhaegar would fall for this beauty, a little too well. "Trust me, it will work. My father has already arranged for us to meet with the City Watch, the main merchant guilds, and at the Sept of Baelor… plus why shouldn't the smallfolk meet their future Queens?"

While normally highborns and smallfolk could mingle in the Water Gardens, Elia's frail condition had precluded such. Learned and smart, such kept her largely secluded and nonworldly. Naturally, she was a bit nervous. "I… what if…" Lyanna's hypnotic grey eyes were very convincing. "Ser Barristan, your thoughts?"

Clearing his throat at his name, Barristand the Bold nodded. "Aye, I do think that is a good idea. Your counsel is valued by his Grace, and anything you can do to ease the burden upon him would be most appreciated… but a word of advice." He was sworn not to tell, even the Prince's loves, but it gave him insight. "Talk to the smallfolk, hear their concerns."

Lyanna beamed. "Of course." She turned to Elia. "You in?"

What else could she say. "Count on it." Lyanna's smile grew wider and she kissed her sister-wife on the cheek. The lips tingled as they left Elia's skin.

With a loud scrape, the whetstone almost sparked as it traveled across the edge of the castle-forged steel. Sharpening the blade to a proper level for combat… a proper knight takes care of his weapons, and they take care of him. Seated upon the bench at the edge of the gardens, Arthur Dayne reflected on the words from Prince Lewyn when the Sword of the Morning was but a squire - rhythmically sharpening his sword, such words had served him well over the years.

It was a lovely winter's day, spring almost on the horizon by the vagaries in the winds. Arthur enjoyed the moment to himself. Serene and quiet, even with his friend and charge on Dragonstone he appreciated the boredom. For a combat veteran, boredom was something to be greatly appreciated…

"Well, hello there Ser Arthur," came a sultry voice to his left. Calling for his attention.

Absentmindedly looking over his shoulder… Arthur quickly turned around. Blood rushing from his head to his groin. A kingsguard took his vows seriously… but no vows or training could prepare him for what he saw.

There was Dacey Mormont. Arthur had seen her constantly since the Tourney, admiring her wild beauty from afar with the appreciation only a chivalrous man could give an attractive woman. Now though, Dacey's slender form was sheathed in a skin-tight silk dress. Forest green and of a Dornish cut. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, something that made him shudder with desire.

This must be the goddess of love and beauty…

Trying to hide her trembling form, Dacey bit her lip. Confident lady of Bear Island suddenly subsumed with the lovestruck maiden that Arthur seemed to draw out of her. She fought to keep her cool "Mind if I sit here?" she asked.

All arthur could do is stare at the goddess slacked jawed, unable to speak.

Such a reaction boosted Dacey's confidence. "May I sit here?" she asked a bit louder.

Still speechless, all Arthur could do was motion for the lady of the North to sit with him. Hand absentmindedly brushing against his shoulder, he could feel a tingle spread.

Dacey felt a spark from her hand when it touched his shoulder. She looked around, trying to find anything to break the silence. Her eyes settled on the sword. "So... is that the famous Dawn?"

He was shaken out of his fog - a question the knight could actually answer. "No, castle-forged. House Dayne is not House Lannister, my Lady. We can't afford two special swords." Arthur chuckled, trying to compose himself. "Dawn is actually in my chambers." She pouted at that, which he found to be the most attractive thing. Gods, who is this temptress?

"Sorry to hear that." She sighed, stretching... pushing out her bust. Dacey found it all pretty obvious, but immediately could tell a life as a chaste knight had left Arthur was clueless with women. It worked like a charm, boosting her confidence. "I wished I could have seen you sparring that other day."

Arthur managed a smile. "Well, you can watch me practice and spar anytime you desire, Lady Dacey."

The way he said her name so… reverently, it nearly made Dacey swoon. "I would very much like that, Ser Arthur." Smiling, she stood. "I best bid farewell for now. The Lady Lyanna has a large household to manage. Till later." Emboldened, she leaned down and kissed his cheek. Walking away.

Hand reaching up to touch his cheek, Arthur released a breath he didn't know he had been holding. Gods… what a woman.

Turning a corner through the gardens, and then another corner, and then another and another, Dacey suddenly collapsed against an imported Dornish palm. Eyes closed and a hand to her chest, calming her racing heart. Oh gods… I kissed Ser Arthur... Lips still tingling, she could feel her smallclothes drenched from just being near the breathtaking Dornish Knight.

"Well, well." Dacey looked up to see Ellaria standing there, smirk on her face. "Aside from this pathetic display, I could have sworn you were some kind of seductress. Imagine what would have happened had you played a random guardsman…"

"Shut it." Dacey smacked the Dornishwoman's hip. Pulling her hair out of the ponytail. "I can't believe I didn't lose it out there."

Chuckling, Ellaria took a seat beside her. Leaning back against the palm. "Don't feel bad about it… truthfully, it's clear that you're besotted with Ser Arthur." She sighed. "Love is beauty, to be treasured at all costs."

Dacey smirked at her new friend. "This is someone that took two washerwomen to bed just yesterday."

"I said I treasure love, not fuddy-duddy social constraints imposed by some old man in a septon's robes… or by some arbitrary oath of knighthood." Wrapping an arm around Dacey's shoulder, Ellaria pulled her into a friendly hug. "We've got his attention, and confirmed him besotted. Now…" She pulled back with a wicked grin. "Now it's time to make you so irresistible he won't be able to resist, vows or not."

Just the prospect of having the handsome Sword of the Morning in her bed, never to let her go, drove Dacey to utter lust and longing. "What do I have to do?" Grinning, Ellaria pulled her up and led her back into Maegor's Holdfast.

The Grand avenue of King's Landing was flooded with people. Men, women, and children alike raced to the fringes of the cobblestone streets, the balconies of homes and shops overlooking it. "Looks like news of the tourney spread quickly… and far." Lyanna waved at the crowd, many of the subjects of House Targaryen heaping upon them praise and adoration. Flowers fell upon the street to be crushed underfoot by their horses - Winter preened at the attention - or the guards of both House Stark and House Targaryen.

"They love you, Lyanna," said Elia. Initially reserved as she journeyed out of the Red Keep for once, the complete friendliness of the crowd were drawing her out of her shell. "A love story born during a mighty tourney."

Headed for the Great Sept of Baelor, the reluctance of the septons and Most Devout to support the polygamorous union didn't seem to extend to the populace. "Seven bless the Princesses!" a rather loud man shouted.

"Grace to the Mother and Maiden for you!"

"Gods save the Princess Elia!"

A smirk cast upon Lyanna's lips as she looked to her side at the now blushing Princess. "Seems they love both of us."

Elia felt a bit modest, and surprised. "I had no idea… my father and brother always kept me secluded for fear of my health."

"Your health will improve with a more active lifestyle, Elia, I promise. And I told you every ruler should keep connection with their subjects." Elia smiled back - given the circumstances, the gods were certainly kind upon the two Princesses. Married to the same man, but on the way to being the best of friends.

Out of the crowd raced a small child, no older than three or four by the looks of him. The child's approach was so sudden, Winter suddenly stopped. Snorting and shaking her neck, shoed feet stomping on the cobblestones. "Whoa, whoa…" Lyanna pulled back on the reins, guiding the normally gentle mare to a gradual halt.

"Your Grace, your Grace!" the boy jumped up and down. He had thin, brown hair in wild cowlicks that made him look absolutely precious.

"Dale! I told you not to run off." The boy's father scooped the child in his arms, tall with closely matted dark hair.

"I have a gift for the Princesses!" the boy… Dale piped just as the guards approached. Weapons drawn.

Ser Jonothor was in front, frown on his face while Barristan held back. "State your business, peasant." He began to draw his own blade, the man's turquoise eyes widening as he clutched the boy tightly.

"Put it away, Ser Jonothor." Scowling, he complied. Boots plopping atop the cobblestones, Lyanna walked towards the man and child. Stark colors and simple style framing her wild beauty as a halo, Lyanna Stark held the same aura as any Targaryen. "Greetings," she said to the man with a genuine smile. "I am Lyanna of House Stark."

Initially dumbfounded, the man set his child down and fell to his knees. "Your Grace… Davos Seaworth… of Flea Bottom at your service."

Having dismounted as well, Elia shared a look with her future sister-wife. Both finding his polite fealty quite charming. "You may rise, Davos Seaworth," Elia said in her exotic accent. "And who might this adorable child be?" The boy perked up as attention finally drew his way.

Back on his feet, a relieved smile formed on Davos' face. "This little scamp." He ruffled the boy's hair affectionately. "Is my eldest son, Dale. My wife has another at home, and we're expecting a third." From his adoring tone, it was clear he loved his family.

Smiling, Lyanna crouched on her one knee, coming face to face with Dale. "Well greetings, Dale. Where do you live?"

"Flea Bottom, your Grace," he said shyly, in awe of Lyanna's beauty. "Are you really from the North?"

Oh, this boy is precious. Beaming, Lyanna pointed to the direwolf pin on her dress. "See this? This direwolf is the sigil of House Stark. My blood used to be Kings in the North, but now we serve House Targaryen." Dale looked in complete awe. "And you said you had a gift for Princess Elia and myself?"

He nodded vigorously. Out of a threadbare pouch he pulled out a winter rose. Blue petals glistening in the sun. "Flower from the north for the Princess."

Lyanna took the Rose in hand, shocked at how perfect it was. "Thank you," she said, kissing his cheek and gently placing the flower in her hair. It matched her beauty. "I will treasure this always." The crown from the tourney was pressed and preserved, and so would this - one did not throw away such good luck.

Face having lit up, Dale hurried towards the still standing Elia. "For you, Princess." He handed her a bright red flower. "Dornish Apple."

Gasping, Elia knew it had to be a coincidence, but Dornish Apple was her most favorite flower. "You are the sweetest little thing," she cooed, leaning down to kiss his forehead while affixing it to her hair like Lyanna. Both Princesses looked absolutely radiant. "Where did you get these, my dear?"

Floating among the clouds after the two Royal beauties kissed him, Dale suddenly turned guarded. "Umm… I found them." He averted his eyes with guilt.

With Lyanna and Elia exchanging looks, Davos put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Dale… tell the truth," he said sternly.

Hanging his head, the little boy couldn't meet the gaze of the Princesses. "Malgren's flower stand." A tear fell down his cheek… "Sorry, your Graces, but Papa just bought a house with more than one room and we have no coin..." He trembled in fear…

Looking up at Davos, the man shrugged - embarrassed. "I'm a… sailor, your Grace. 'Ave a ship… times are hard."

"Don't cut mi' hand off, your Grace," Dale cried. "Just wanted to 'ive you the flowers…"

Unable for her heart not to clench, Lyanna hugged the boy to her. "Don't worry, Dale. You're not in trouble." She looked back at Elia, who nodded.

Stepping to her horse, Ser Jonothor interjected. "Your Grace, we shouldn't keep the schedule delayed…"

"It's fine, Ser Jonothor," the Dornish Princess waved off. "Where's my coinpurse?"

The Knight hesitated - Aerys was known for his stingy ways, barely spending the treasury on anything. "His Grace wouldn't take kindly to his gooddaughter spending coin on rabble…"

A glare came from Elia. "My coinpurse, Ser Jonothor."

"Here, your Grace." It was Barristan who complied, smiling softly. He kept it ready, having a feeling that the Princesses would act just like the Crown Prince on these jaunts.

Nodding at Barristan, Elia picked out two coins, handing one to Lyanna - who leaned before Dale with a smile. "Little one, here you go." She tucked a copper star into the boy's hand, who stared at her with wide eyes. "Sneak this on the florist's stand while he's not looking." She winked, causing Dale to giggle.

Elia pressed a silver stag to Davos. "Buy him a play-sword. He has the makings of a powerful knight."

Completely dumbfounded at their kindness, Davos bowed. "Your Graces honor me with such generosity… I shall not forget it."

Releasing Dale from her hug, watching the boy race to hug Elia with relish, Lyanna turned to Davos with a radiant laugh. "We're looking for someplace in the city that could use aid from the crown. Care to point us in the right direction?"

Davos pursed his lips. "My dear wife manages the orphanage… it has been overcrowded and undersupplied since the Blackfyre Rebellions started."

Imagining poor orphan children being neglected broke Lyanna's heart. "Then that is where we'll go." She remounted her horse. "Thank you Davos Seaworth, I shan't forget your kindness."

As they rode off with their guards, Davos hoisted his son atop his shoulders. "Will we see them again, poppa?" asked Dale.

The smuggler chuckled. "Stranger things have happened in mi'life, my boy."

"We can't say enough how pleasantly surprised that you've arrived here, your Grace."

Walking alongside the matron of the orphanage, Lyanna couldn't help but shake her head. Lips curled in a small smile. "I am merely a Lady of the North at this point, my Lady. I won't be a Princess till my wedding day." A day only weeks from now. It felt so surreal for Lyanna… a complete joy that still didn't seem real.

The matron waved her off. "Oh please, the way the children reacted to you and Princess Elia… you're a princess to them." If Davos and Dale were a pleasant surprise, Marya Seaworth was all of that and more. The daughter of a carpenter, she nevertheless was quite intelligent and well-mannered. A kindly smile and warm demeanor proving she was perfect for this profession. "I'm only glad you came when you did…"

"Another! Another!"

Both ladies' eyes were drawn to the cluster of children seated in the common room of the orphanage, all gathered in awe around a single chair in the middle. Seated upon it, legs crossed underneath her gold and orange dress of a conservative Dornish style - apparently there were such styles - Elia looked out affectionately among the children. "I'm sorry, lovelies," she said in her native lilt. "But I will have to go."

A chorus of sad groans and pleas left the children, all of different ages and even homelands. Most were Andal, but the cosmopolitan nature of King's Landing attracted denizens from the North, Dorne, the Free Cities - even some as far away as the Summer Isles. "But we want to hear more about Princess Nymeria!" begged a boy.

"Did she really cross the Narrow Sea?" another child asked, this one a tiny wisp of a girl, scrawny but with the piercing violet eyes of Lys.

Much as with Rhaenys', those eyes were trouble for Elia. She couldn't say no to them. "Alright, I'll finish where I was. About why Nymeria led the Rhoynish people from Essos to Dorne."

Perching herself on the entranceway, Lyanna couldn't help but listen in. Smiling at the happy, excited expression that Elia wore. Rhaegar will be delighted. She looked like there was life in her eyes for the first time the northerner had seen her, a true sense of purpose. Pure, unadulterated beauty… She blinked. Normally it was only Rhaegar that made her dazed that way.

Elia's words knocked Lyanna out of her strange reverie. "The great Princess Nymeria ruled the land of Ny Sar, the last great domain of the Rhoynish people… but they were under threat."

"No," the Lysene girl breathed.

"Was it the Ironborn?" another asked.

"Shut it, silly," said a rather martial boy. "It was the Dothraki scum!"

A chuckle left the Princess' lips. "No, my darlings, it was the dragons of Valyria." Over two dozen dumbfounded stares found her. "The Valyrians went to war to expand their domain, targeting Nymeria. She and her people fought bravely, but in the end were no match for the wroth of the dragonlords."

"Is that when the ten thousand ships sailed?"

Leaning down, Elia ruffled the girl's silver hair. "You are much too smart for your age, little one." She grinned at the attention. "And across the sea they went, finding refuge in Dorne where House Martell gave her a home and a husband… I wouldn't be sitting here today if Princess Nymeria didn't sail the Narrow Sea for Dorne."

An inquisitive child didn't let it go there. "But if the dragons made them leave… why are you married to the Prince?"

Eyes finding Lyanna, Elia recovered quickly. "There was war between them for centuries, but then Good King Daeron made peace. Marrying our houses together, saving thousands that could have died in war. Prince Rhaegar and I… we made sure that the peace would last."

A swarthy child, clearly of Dornish blood, raced to hug the Princess. "Thank you… you hero." Surprised for a moment, Elia quickly returned the hug… which soon turned frenzied as all the other children sought to get their fill of the future Queen. Both Lyanna and Marya erupted in merry laughter. There was nothing but happiness in this moment.

But once attention shifted to the state of the orphanage, such happiness turned sour. "Those children are living in filth," Elia hissed to Marya as soon as she disentangled herself from the group embrace. Both she and Lyanna had regaled them with tales of their homelands - spending double the time here than at the Great Sept or the City Watch barracks.

Marya sighed. "I know it's not ideal…"

"Not ideal? The building is barely functioning." Lyanna had seen ruins abandoned in wintertime that were in better condition. "Cracks in the walls, mortar falling apart… there are barely any logs for the hearths." The draft was intense… if it bothered her then gods only knew what the children were enduring. "Shouldn't the crown support the orphanage?"

"Aegon the unlikely did during his reign," Elia added.

"I remember that… my husband was just a child at the time, living here. That's where we met." When Davos spoke of her, it was with adoration - Marya looked the same when speaking of him. "But priorities change. Only funding we ever get is from a Northern bard." Behind, no one saw Barristan tense slightly. "He sings in the streets and gives us the proceeds."

At least someone cares. "That bard sounds like a real angel," Elia remarked.

"That's northerners for you," smiled Lyanna. "Tough, but we care." There were some exceptions, and not all named Bolton. "Where in seven hells would the coin go instead of here?"

Shrugging, Marya could only offer what she had heard about. "The Faith needs to be bribed, so the Sept is plated with gold leaf. The City Watch needs to be loyal, so they get an extra purse of silver stags to spend on wine and whores. The merchants have clout, so the wharves are doubled in size. Who is going to care about the orphans? At least, who that matters?" On Marya Seaworth, Lyanna could see the same look on smallfolk everywhere. One of futility, that any highborn would every pay them attention except to rob them blind or satiate his carnal desires.

Sharing a stare with Elia, it seemed that the Princesses had found their purpose for the Realm.

Chapter Text

Knife slicing through the soft flesh, Rhaegar smeared the piece of fish in goat's cheese and brought it to his mouth. "Mmm… delicious catch today."

Across from him in their private dining quarters, Elia nodded. "The fishermen wouldn't dare offend his Grace with subpar food." Too many… cautionary tales for them not to learn such lessons. "Where is Lyanna? Shouldn't she be here?"

"She wanted to be." Since falling into a rhythm with their marriage, Elia and Rhaegar had broken their fast together. Alone and unfiltered with each other. Such was the trust and respect between them. "But Egg has the winds and she's watching him over."

Elia smiled at the thought. "She loves our children."

"That she does." It was… almost fate, he thought. "Your brother shouldn't worry about her seeking to displace them from their birthright."

"He won't. Doran rivals Lord Tywin in protecting the family legacy." He may have a slight point… if not about her, then about the Starks… Elia shook away the ridiculous thoughts. "I think you should worry about our family, husband."

Rhaegar blinked, confused. "What do you… ah." He lowered his head, both feeling a knife stabbing through his chest and the dragonblood boil in his veins. "My father…" When his mother told him of what happened to Lyanna… as a proper husband, all anger left him as he went to her, pulling his beloved into a hug. "He's doing it again."

"The difference being Lyanna has a proper support system. A family that cares for her, a love match that was allowed to blossom." She took a deep breath. "We need to protect her, Rhaegar, now that we are able to…" Unlike with me. Elia didn't blame Rhaegar, and wouldn't broach the subject. If we look back, we are lost… An old Dornish proverb. "She is someone worth protecting… I'm happy she's here, Rhaegar. A breath of fresh air that we all need."

A smile crossed his face, thinking of his Lyanna. "She does make me happy." His mother had said he smiled more in the last moonturn than the entirety of his maturity prior.

Pang in her heart, Elia's voice dropped to a murmur. "Unlike me…" It was unbidden, but seeing Rhaegar so affectionate with the northern beauty stirred the dormant longing.

Rhaegar heard the soft words nonetheless. "What?" Seeing her withdraw into herself, he pressed it. "Tell me, Elia."

She sighed. "I'm glad she gives you the joy I could never give you."

"That's not true." It hurt Rhaegar for her to say that… knowing it had merit, though having nothing to do with her. "You've given me the greatest joys of my life."

"Leave our children out of it," she snapped, in spite of herself. Inhaling deeply, the Dornish Princess calmed herself. "I haven't alone brought you joy, Rhaegar. Our situation wasn't ideal and we got past that but… seeing you with her…" A tear fell from her eye in spite of herself. "Don't change your love for her, but why couldn't we ever…" She trailed off, hating herself for exposing he vulnerability yet again.

Wordlessly standing, he walked to his wife's side. Pulling her quiet yet surprised form up. Brushing away the tears with his thumb - staring at the beautiful olive-tanned face and dark eyes. Rhaegar remembered the moment in their bed, the peace they found in each other's arms.

Love… it is of itself its own duty.

The kiss shocked Elia initially, but she quickly succumbed to her feelings. Finally allowed to be free.

Arrived to inform them of the small council meeting, and show off the giggling Prince Aegon, Lyanna gently backed out at seeing the lover's embrace. "Well, little one," she whispered to the baby. "Looks like our family is whole after all." She was all smiles as she walked down the hallway.

"This is unexpected," Lucerys Velaryon whispered, leaning over in his chair.

Flat expression on his lips, Jon Connington eyed the other members gathered in the Small Council chambers… cautiously. "A royal decree is a royal decree." He scratched the flame red hair framing the handsome face.

"But to call Lord Redwyne as well as myself?" The Master of Ships had finally returned from Braavos, the young Paxter Redwyne having handled matters in his absence. "In all my years serving his Grace, he never called a meeting of all of us."

"That's why I figured there was something important on the agenda… major reforms." His gaze settled on Rickard Stark, the Lord conversing with Lady Lyanna. Eyes narrowing. "Besides, his Grace doesn't involve himself in mundane issues of ruling. Rhaegar called this, and for the life of me the only thing I am sure of is that it involves our northern comrades."

Velaryon, loyal to King Aerys since the day he had been crowned, looked at him incredulously. "You mean the Prince didn't tell you the agenda?"

Connington grimaced, but shrugged. Happened more and more lately. His closest friend was being bewitched by the northerners, he knew it. "Can't be helped, but I am still Hand."

"For now." The Lord of Griffin's Roost had little response to that. Especially as the alpha wolf began chuckling at some japing story the future Princess waylaid to him. Gods, first Elia and now Lyanna.

Once the doors opened, the small council stood. Connington looked forward to drowning his sorrows in his work - and yet, this wouldn't spare the pain. In strode the Crown Prince, the Princess Elia holding his arm. Her smile was one that could illuminate a moonless night as she relaid some story, while Rhaegar's laugh covered his face in a carefree joy Connington had never once seen. One that made him more attractive than ever… When did they patch up?

Leaving a sweet kiss on his lips - as if all their problems had evaporated - Elia moved to a seat directly beside her sister-wife as Rhaegar moved to Lyanna. "Dearest betrothed," he said just as affectionately.

His words caused a flutter in Lyanna's chest. "My Prince." Her sultry whisper was followed with a kiss of passion. Sparks shot out that rendered her breathless. Taking her seat as the others did, she glanced at Elia with a huge smile… one the Princess returned. One happy family.

One that felt to Connington like a shard of ice to the heart.

"Alright," Rhaegar remarked as he took a seat at the head of the table. "Shall we begin?"

"Your Grace," coughed the sputtering Pycelle. For those veteran to court, it was as if the Grand Maester was born a tired, perverted old man. "I must protest the inclusion of these…" He motioned to both Elia and Lyanna.

Brandon Stark, having accompanied his father, slammed his palms against the table. "Watch what you say about my sister."

"Brother," Rhaegar lifted a hand, causing the hotheaded Stark to draw back with a glower. "These… what, Grand Maester?" His anger was cooler, but no less powerful.

"You know your father has prohibited women from sitting on these councils."

"My father has entrusted me from these meetings, and I want my wife and future wife to sit in… so I suggest you shut it." Aside from further sputtering, the Maester complied. Both women looked upon their husband with awe, affection… and just the hint of lust. The blood of the dragon had its allure.

"Anyway, my Lord goodfather requested this session of the Small Council to detail a proposal of his regarding the system of justice." And there it is. Connington leaned forward, eyes on Rickard and ears perked. He had a feeling he wouldn't want to miss anything.

Clearing his throat, Rickard nodded. "Aye, but first I'd like to mention word I received from Lord Commander Qorgyle at Castle Black." Being the Wardens of the North, House Stark usually had the best relations with the Night's Watch. "Seems the wildlings are banding together."

"Pish," Connington said dismissively. "Wildlings never form together. They're barbarians."

"They're First Men, blood the same as I… only purer."

A chuckle. "My point exactly, Stark." There was a terse silence.

While Lyanna didn't take kindly to Connington's statement, she clearly wished to move on for her beloved's sake. "The histories tell of Wildlings banding together during times of great danger or sorrow… who are they following?"

"A Watch deserter, one Mance Rayder. Apparently Qorgyle found the Frostfangs and the Burned Men have already pledged to his banner, so to speak."

Rhaegar nodded. "Mace, did your forces take down that massive bandit brotherhood?"

Lord Tyrell blinked. "Yes, your Grace. Fifty prisoners set to hang."

"Take them and two granaries of wheat and ship them to Eastwatch. I'll empty the cells here and throw in five hundred swords and spears for the Watch."

"Thank you, Your Grace," Rickard replied. Beaming, Lyanna caressed his knee in thanks. You'll be a wise, just King my love. "On something closer to home, I have completed my review of the current system of the King's Justice and found it incredibly lacking."

Ah, that's what this is about… "I'm not sure what Lord Stark has found lacking. All major crimes are adjudicated through three judges handpicked by myself. They are fair and efficient." Since Lord Mooton's senility and death, the King's Justice rested on his shoulders.

"The concern I have is related to consistency, not integrity. Various decisions by the judges do not match either rulings in previous cases before the King's Justice, but also fly in the face of local customs of the Seven Kingdoms. I believe we must develop a uniform body of law to dispense with the King's Justice, rooted in both precedent and local custom."

"Such is impossible. The records alone would be impossible to maintain." The Starks will not take away my authority here.

But Rickard knew his background. "Archmaester Ebrose and an Acolyte of his by the name of Qyburn have created a system of paper and parchment making that render each far cheaper to produce. We can prepare the proper records, your Grace."

"I agree," Rhaegar said. "You may go about your changes, but slowly. I do not want a disruption in the King's Justice."

Connington couldn't believe what he was hearing. "My Prince, I argue against making such changes to tradition. In the chaotic atmosphere of the current times…"

"Chaotic atmosphere?" Rhaegar's violet eyes darkened. "Watch yourself, Lord Jon. I would think the Dornish would approve of more consideration for their local customs." Piping down, Connington realized he had lost this fight.

"My Lords," said Lyanna, interjecting. "There is a particular matter I wish to discuss."

"Go on, my Lady," Rhaegar replied, rather quickly after Lyanna spoke.

Smiling at him, Lyanna looked at Elia who nodded. United front? "Princess Elia and I have made trips into the city under our official banner. Making a tour of the various institutions owned by the Crown and the Faith…"

"That is a breach of protocol," stated Lord Merrywether. "No Queen should debase themselves by meeting with dirty smallfolk."

"This journey among our people was necessary, my Lord," said Elia, voice biting. "If we hadn't done so, then the sorry state of our city's infrastructure would have continued to be ignored."

Lyanna nodded. "The Crown orphanage is dilapidated and relying on private alms to merely keep its wards fed and warm. And as you can smell, our city is filthy. There is little fresh water other than a smattering of wells."

"All cities suffer from such," Connington pointed out. Lannisport had the same noxious smell - though far from the level of King's Landing.

"White Harbor does not, largely due to the competent administration of Houses Manderly and Stark." Lyanna crossed her arms. "As such, I propose we seek coin from the treasury in order to not only conduct proper upkeep, but to also construct several aqueducts to bring in fresh water from the Kingswood and Storm Mountains."

Mace Tyrell looked at the two Princesses with his ruddy eyes, seeing their seriousness. "We don't have coin for such expenditures."

Elia narrowed her own eyes. "There's plenty of bullion in gold and silver - the crown mint hasn't issued new coin in a decade… the forges and molds can be fired up once more, Lord Tyrell."

As the Princess and soon to be Princess continued prattling with Mace Tyrell, Connington's gaze shifted to Rhaegar. His best friend, childhood companion, training strenuously in the yard and hunting in the Kingswood together. The most beautiful man I've ever seen… In all honesty, the Hand of the King knew from the moment he laid eyes on the Crown Prince what his feelings were. Unrequited, but no less strong.

When he was simply brooding and quiet - even after the marriage to Elia - Connington could imagine even a secret fulfillment of his deepest desires. But now, Rhaegar stared at his betrothed with the same adoration that Connington saved for him. And even worse still, his gaze at his current wife had a hint of deep affection, more than the Hand had ever seen before. It felt like a knife to the heart.

But his eyes then fell on Lord Stark. Even as his daughter spoke, roping in even Pycelle into the discussion, the Lord of Winterfell only had eyes for Connington. Grey steel hard with… contempt. And Connington's blues only stared back, just as hard.

The entire meeting found itself interrupted as Captain Alliser Thorne of the Household Guard - a tough if enthusiastic professional soldier - entered the chambers. "Forgive me, my Lords, my Prince, Princesses." He bowed at Rhaegar and both ladies. "Prince Oberyn Martell is at the gates."

Face falling, Rhaegar looked at Elia. The Dornishwoman was equally guarded and worried. "Is he among them?"

Thorne shook his head. "No. A rather foul-mouthed bastard girl told me to… um… 'milk a snake's tit' when I demanded his whereabouts."

Rickard Stark hid a smirk, Lyanna giggling softly, while Brandon Stark didn't even bother to hide his amusement. Barbarians. The Crown Prince and Princess kept their composure. "Well, if I know my goodbrother, I know exactly where he'll be." Rhaegar sighed. "Thorne, prepare my horse."

"No." Violet eyes found Elia. "It's best if I do this alone."

"Anything problematic?" Lyanna asked.

Elia gave her a small smile. "Nothing I can't handle, but my brother… can surprise." Understatement of the week.

Cowl draped over her dark locks, Princess Elia wrinkled her nose at the pungent scent of perfume that filled the air. It practically seeped through her skin. "I don't like this, Princess," Ser Oswell said under his breath. As with her dark orange cloak and cowl, he wore the simple armor of a hedge knight. Blending into the crowds, while three gold dragons bought the silence of the proprietor. "Must we meet him here?"

"Red walls have ears, Ser Oswell," she whispered back, halting as a bare-chested whore passed them. Eyes undressing both newcomers with thinly-veiled lust. Yes, his favorite type of place. "Better to get this out of the way…" More lustful stares, though it would definitely have been greater had they known she was the Crown Princess. Best that they avoid the same crowds as before.

Oswell nodded. "Good point, your Grace."

While the main sanctum where the girls put themselves on display for the highborn clients, the innards of the brothel was far less garish. Ser Oswell wordlessly stood guard at the door while Elia entered. Immediately hearing female moans. She smirked. Never change, brother.

Resting atop a large, circular bed were three nubile figures. Two engaged in a torrid embrace, while an equally nude whore flashed goo-goo eyes at a yet unseen entity. "Come back to bed, my Prince."

A throaty laugh responded, one Elia recognized instantly even after all these years. "I have a pressing engagement at the Red Keep, my lovelies. But I'll be back. Court… tends to be boring."

"I resent that," Elia finally made herself known, stepping into the well of the large room. Finding the - thankfully clothed - form of her beloved brother. "The Red Keep includes me, and I thought my brother found my company delightful."

The nude whores scrambled to fall on their knees, while Oberyn's eyes lit up with happiness. "You're dismissed," he said flatly. "Go." Picking up their clothes, skimpy that they were, soon the two of them were alone. "Elia…" Lighter-skinned than most salty Dornish - a trait he shared with Elia, while Doran was a shade swarthier - Oberyn's accent was a heavy lilt. "Couldn't even wait to see me, could you."

Crossing her arms, Elia looked him over. "Why am I not surprised to see you here, baby brother?"

"Ah," he leveled a finger at her, chuckling. "I am older than you by two years." He was clad in loose princely tunic and trousers, a gentle gold rather than the burnt orange Elia favored.

"If you acted older than five and ten, then perhaps I'd treat you such." She clicked her tongue. "What would mother say?"

Another laugh. "Given what she and father enjoyed, I doubt she would have any reason to complain." He made his way to a series of decanters, skipping the wine for a glass of Dornish apple juice. Merry in his wine, women - or men - and song, the Prince of Dorne was smart enough to imbibe his drink sparingly. "But if she was, she'd be proud I have clothes on this time." His resulting smile could light up the room.

Elia rolled her eyes, cringing. "I've lost count of the times I've seen your stones and stick, Oberyn."

Oberyn gave her a cheeky smirk. "One could think that after becoming a Targaryen, you'd lose your disapproval in that sort of thing," he said, flirtily.

Eyes narrowing, Elia ended up punching him hard in the shoulder. "Shut it." Rubbing his afflicted shoulder, Oberyn stared at her for what seemed like minutes before they suddenly laughed uproariously. Unable to keep it up, Elia threw her arms around him. "Oh, brother, I missed you."

"Even my roguish charm?" he asked.

"Especially that. Always did make me laugh." Their embrace was tight, close since their childhood in the Water Gardens - coincidentally, the only times she ever remembered fondly. "I couldn't wait to see you again. Why didn't you send word? I had to hear it from Lord Varys."

The Prince cocked an eyebrow. "Never trust a eunuch. I've found the ones I know to be very… bitter people. But alas, my lover of the voyage was needing to sail to the Driftmark before nightfall, so I had to burn out my energies somewhere." The carefree, sultry expression suddenly hardened. "Best I do that, lest I snap and kill that cunt of a husband of yours."

Sighing, Elia motioned to the bed. "Doran sent you, didn't he?" She kept her hands in her lap.

Oberyn slipped onto the bed beside her, crossing his arms. "I didn't need our brother's order to come here, sister. Not when you're being dishonored before my very eyes."

"You realize none of this is Rhaegar's fault?" Glancing over her shoulder on instinct, the Princess' voice lowered. "His Grace made the order for betrothal. And he refuses to set me aside."

"But does Rhaegar desire this marriage to the Stark girl?" Elia didn't answer. Eyes falling to the ground. "That's what I thought."

"He's a good man, Oberyn. He deserves to have some happiness…"

He scoffed. "And you don't? What happens when the Starks convince him to set aside Rhaenys and Aegon in favor of his bastards from Lyanna?"

From her glare, that crossed the line for Elia. "The only person I've seen that cared for my children more than Lyanna is myself, Rhaegar, and the Queen."

"Might you think she's pulling some sort of mummery?" Oberyn was no stranger to such in his travels. "Fooling everyone?"

This did cross her mind in frantic nights of worry since Rhaegar told her of the King's decision, but seeing Lyanna holding Rhaenys - seeing how affectionate and loving the northerner was without any airs… "I don't think Lyanna would do such a thing, and I know Rhaegar would never dishonor me. Aegon never dishonored either of his sister-wives."

"That's not what the histories say."

"The histories are wrong."

There was silence, the only sound being their breathing. "Well, forgive me for wanting to see it for myself." Elia let out a breath she had been holding. It was a start.

"Authorization to mint one hundred thousand gold dragons?" Lyanna shook her head, eyebrows knit together in frustration. "This is a travesty."

Hand resting on the small of her back, Rhaegar rubbed her spine gently with his thumb. "Calm down, love." She looked just as breathtaking in the light blue gown of the south. Hopefully spring will bring warmer weather. Heat brought outfits with more skin. "That's five times the last allotment the small council has allowed in three years."

Lyanna looked at him incredulously. "One aqueduct alone would cost double that. Not to mention the repairs needed for the orphanage and public baths." Ser Arthur and Ser Barristan trailed several paces behind. "I'll be lucky to simply build half of one."

"You've put a lot of thought into this, Lya."

"Wouldn't you?" She looked up at him, looking forward to simply relax with her beloved. "I'm going to be your Queen, and you trust me to be unchained…" Her eyes sparkled with love. "I have to prove that I can repay your trust in me."

Without saying a word, Rhaegar leaned in and kissed her. It was sweet, short but pouring with affection and appreciation. "I love you."

Her smile was wide. "I love you too." She pursed her lips. "I don't think Connington approves of me."

"He's in a power play with your father, I believe. I'll try and smooth it over, give him some additional authority in other places."

She nodded as they turned the corner into their solar. "Good… and perhaps after mine and Elia's projects are underway I can convince Lord Tyrell to…"

Her words were cut off by a sudden scream… one that erupted from her own throat as a sharp kick sent Rhaegar slamming back-first into the wall. Sharp bronze spearpoint leveled right at his neck. "Greetings, goodbrother," said a tall, fit man with olive skin and a seductive Dornish accent. "Didn't think I'd come after you, huh?"

"Oberyn!" Having sprang up from the couch, Elia looked like she was going to explode with rage. "What the fuck is wrong with you?! Let my husband go!" All around, the four Kingsguards had drawn their weapons.

"Can't do that, sister." Oberyn turned, cocking a quirky look right at the Crown Prince. "Not until Rhaegar realizes how displeased I am in his conduct towards you."

Gulping… Rhaegar almost felt the spearpoint pressed close to his neck. "Goodbrother… It's not what you… ulg… think."

"Put down the spear, Prince Oberyn," Arthur demanded, twirling his two swords and readying an attack. "Don't make me kill you."

Oberyn was less than amused. "Oh fuck off with that heroic shit, Arthur. I just wanna talk to him." He knew the Sword of the Morning wouldn't attack his childhood companion. "You really don't want to know what I think, Rhaegar. You really don't…"

Suddenly, another gasp left Elia when the Dornishman felt cold steel pressing against his own neck. "I suggest you obey Ser Arthur." The new voice was that of the Lady Lyanna, grip tight over the dagger ready to cut Oberyn's throat. "House Bolton isn't the only northern house whos blades are sharp."

Trying not to move too much, Oberyn swiveled his eyes to look upon the woman threatening him. "Is that my knife?"

"Was actually quite easy to remove from your belt," Lyanna responded flatly, voice hard.

He looked back at Rhaegar. "Is this your new bride?"

Pursing his lips, Rhaegar nodded the best he could. "Aye, this is Lyanna Stark."

There were a few seconds of silence before Oberyn grinned. "Oh, I like her. She has spunk." Spear retracted back to his side, the solar was soon filled with the scraping of steel against scabbards. "First person to get the jump on me."

"The family has a talent for it," Rhaegar said, rubbing his neck. "Her brother Eddard defeated Ser Arthur in a spar."

Now this surprised Oberyn. "Don't jape me on that." It was as if two brothers were bantering at this point - Lyanna figured it was a Dornish thing… or a Targaryen thing. Who am I kidding? My brothers act just like that. "Arthur?" The kingsguard nodded, eyeing Oberyn suspiciously even though they were childhood friends. "Well shit, I better meet him." Quickly taking a seat, Oberyn crossed his legs and waited for things to settle. "One can ascertain why I am skeptical of this entire thing, correct?"

Elia placed a hand on his knee. "Brother… I…"

"Doran made me swear to ask you about Aegon and Rhaenys. They better still hold their superior place in the succession, though he's more worried about it than myself."

Rhaegar could answer that easily. "Lyanna and I have spoken about it, and she doesn't wish to contest that." The two of them joined hands, while Lyanna's kind eyes found Elia's. None of which escaped Oberyn's notice. "She loves those children."

"Hmmm… I find that hard to believe."

"Prince Oberyn." Lyanna's voice was kind, but firm. "Those precious children… it's hard not to love them. And I do, very much so… just like their father."

She seems genuine. "That goes into my major concern." Oberyn was not going to mince words here. Laying all the cyvasse pieces on the board, this would give him a feel for how he would conduct his more thorough observations later. "Dishonoring my sister. His Grace's idea or no…"

"He sleeps in her bed." Eyes found Lyanna, many wide with shock. But she didn't back down - honestly, it didn't bother her. Only Elia would she allow in such a position, and while any other would stoke jealousy and anger, imagining the olive-skinned beauty in… Lyanna hid her blush. "My betrothed has shared a bed with his current wife ever since arriving in King's Landing, with my encouragement."

Pursing his lips, Oberyn looked at either royal, looking for a tell. Then at Arthur. "This true?"

Arthur nodded. "Every night, Oberyn. I wouldn't lie."

"No you wouldn't… yet…"

"There is no yet, brother." It was Elia that spoke now. "I know you worry for me, but considering your habits you can't come out with the default conclusion that this is dishonoring of me."

At that moment, the click of wooden soled sandals upon the stone floor filled the room as Ellaria entered. "Your Grace." He curtseyed to the three royals. "The cooks have said that the feast shall be prepared by the time the sun sets, and whether you wish that Princess Rhaenys and Prince Viserys dine with…" She fell mute at seeing the newcomer.

Oberyn quirked an eyebrow. Raking over the new arrival from her hair to her ankles. "Sister, who is this?"

Of course this happens. An amused glint in Lyanna's eyes, Elia sighed. "This is Ellaria Sand, my Lady in Waiting."

"Oh, so you're the famous Ellaria Sand?" Standing, Oberyn approached the now quiet woman. For once, she said nothing - seemingly starstruck. "Lord Uller's daughter?"

Her lip quivered, rendered nearly mute as the handsome Dornish Prince rapidly approached. "Uh… yes, my Prince," she croaked. Despite herself, Elia bit back a laugh. It was just so precious. "And you are Prince Oberyn?"

He chuckled. "Your arrow has pierced true." Oberyn was now only inches away from her sultry form in the dark red wrap of a dress, slitted to expose her midriff in a sort of diamond shape. "I could tell you were of Hellholt - you look like your father… only far prettier."

Ellaria giggled… giggled! "No one would call my father pretty, so perhaps you speak correctly."

Nodding, Oberyn's eyes sparkled before turning to his sister. "Well, this about covers everything. I won't kill you, Rhaegar… for now at least. Just don't do anything foolish."

"Wouldn't dream of it, goodbrother," Rhaegar replied, not bothering to turn around. He would rather not see Oberyn wantonly eye-fucking the equally wanton Ellaria.

"And it was wonderful to meet you, Lady Lyanna," he bowed, drawing a smile from her. "Sister, would you mind if I dropped in on my niece and nephew."

Elia saw nothing wrong with that. "Certainly." Her lips curved into a tiny smirk. "Ellaria can escort you."

"I can…?" she almost yipped, only to compose herself. "Yes, I can. And the cooks…"

"Tell them to set a plate for both my daughter and brother," Rhaegar saved her further words at a shockingly high pitch.

Oberyn offered his hand. "Lead the way, my dear." She slowly looped her arm in his, letting herself guide the Prince to the nursery wing.

Suddenly, Rhaegar let out a laugh once they were gone. "He finally met his match."

"More like she met hers," Lyanna countered, laughing as well. "Was that how I looked when we met?"

"You were worse than that." He grinned even when she smacked him with a cushion.

Letting out a breath she didn't even know she was holding, Elia felt relieved. "That went far better than I thought it would… though Oberyn would be the most likely to support this. Doran… he'll need more assurances on the succession issue just to stay quiet."

"I don't intend on depriving Aegon of his birthright," Lyanna said firmly. "I said it before and I'll shout it from the Sept of Baelor if I have to."

"Optics, Lyanna, optics." The fatigue of the day was getting to her. "This can all be discussed later. Perhaps the Prince would like to escort us to dinner."

Rhaegar smiled. "It's still an hour or so till sundown."

"The gardens then," Lyanna said. "I'd love to see the winter roses in bloom." Both beautiful women looking at him, how could he say no?

Having witnessed much in his young but eventful life, Lord Varys didn't bat an eye at the haggard appearance of the King of the Seven Kingdoms. He looked like he hadn't slept in days, wild glint in his eyes. Ready to hear the words of his Master of Whisperers. "What have you to say, Lord Varys."

Bowing low, the eunuch didn't flinch at the King's condition. He was too valuable to worry, and too smart to put himself in trouble. "Interesting whispers from my birds, your Grace."

"Well? Plots? Another Faith Militant Rebellion? Some Blackfyre brat we missed?" It heartened Varys for how his King understood what threats could materialize. "Those prelude the Doom, you know." Then again, maybe not.

"Nothing that serious, sire. Just… Mace Tyrell has authorized a minting of one hundred thousand gold dragons." He was careful on what information he disclosed. Any man would notice an entire cyvasse piece hidden in the folds of one's robe, but one or two pieces could disappear undetected.

Confusion in the King's glittering eyes. "What? I never authorized this?"

"His Grace, the Crown Prince made the authorization."

"Oh." Aerys scoffed. "Probably wants to pay for a bigger wedding. A hundred thousand dragons is nothing."

Forgive me, my Prince. "Such payment is for a project spearheaded by the two Princesses, Elia and Lyanna. They have been authorized to manage all expenditures of said coin."

Eyebrow raised, the King leaned in. "What are you talking about, eunuch? Those two are weak women." I thought I squashed that bug a while ago. Elia was beaten down and Lyanna was on her way there.

He had to gauge his words carefully. "Northerners are stubborn, your Grace. From what the birds sing, Elia is emerging once more as a favorite of your son, Prince Rhaegar growing closer to her once more."

"That little slut." Aerys slammed his fist on the arm of the throne. "I always knew my son was weak. Swayed by the pleasures of the flesh like his addled uncle."

Nodding, Varys said nothing. Hoping that this report wouldn't cause more pain. "The Lady Lyanna, your Grace. She seems desirous that the Prince get along with Princess Elia."

"Why? What's it to her?"

"My birds don't say that, but not only is she pushing them closer together, but also she is seeking a close relationship with Elia."

Aerys snorted. "Over my corpse does a Dornish slut or a glorified Wildling get control over my domain - Daeron II and my own weak father let their bitches walk all over them and look what happened." Even in his increasing madness, Aerys was proud of how he culled Elia Martell's seductive control over his son before it even happened. Now Lyanna Stark threatened to ruin it. "This is Tywin's doing, I just know it!"

"Lord Tywin has not left the guest manse since he arrived, your Grace."

"That…" Stark… Stark… the same First Man blood as Jenny had… Ah fuck. Aerys' fists tightened, sharp nails cutting his skin. "I should have been more fucking cautious, and look where this balderdash gets me." It was already too late to pull anything before the wedding. "If Tywin sees anything, he'll just swoop in with his maeges and fuck with me."

Varys blinked. "Your Grace, the maeges and mystics are in your employ as you instructed me…"

"Get out. I need to think." Varys complied, leaving the King alone with his jumbled thoughts. That northern barbarian will learn her place. Rhaegar was his son. His.

I won't let Jenny get him from beyond the grave…

"Ghost of High Heart… Champion will ride…"

A cold sweat formed on his forehead. Could the Stark bitch be… No, impossible. Even Jenny couldn't turn a woman into a powerful knight… Head throbbing, Aerys rose. Disappearing back into his sanctum to let his eggs calm him.

Chapter Text

"You actually kissed Ser Arthur?" It was deja vu with the last morning of the King's Tourney… though the roles were reversed this time. Now, it was Lyanna that was styling Dacey's hair into a series of complex plaits around a slender ponytail - the latter on her insistence. "Last time I saw you speak, you were close to hysterics."

Dacey groaned, burying her face in her hands. "I don't know what to say..." Nevertheless, the smile was unavoidable. "But I did kiss him." She giggled. "He was just as flustered as I, and Ellaria says I should go for the kill tonight."

She was certainly dressed to impress. A northern gown of forest green, decorated with blue and white lines. It fit her lithe form perfectly. "What do you exactly want with him, Dacey?" Lyanna asked, finishing up the last plait.

"What you have with Rhaegar," she replied quietly.

Mouth open slightly, Lyanna regarded her Lady in Waiting with new eyes. "Wow… well…" The Mormont warrior was… a great fit for the Sword of the Morning. "Go for it, though perhaps you should wait to go for the kill till we're on Dragonstone. More privacy." Dacey smiled at her, grateful for the advice.

A knock on the door drew their attention. "Everyone chaste?"

Lyanna rolled her eyes. "No Ned, I'm locked in a torrid embrace with Rhaegar as we speak." Her brother entered with a small smirk, tut-tutting his finger at her. But he stilled as soon as he caught her outfit. "Gods… you look beautiful, sister."

Honestly, Lyanna knew that. It had been Rhaella's idea, and the royal seamstresses had done an excellent job. The gown was of a mix of silk, collar high and easing down to a tight black bodice inlaid with rubies and onyx. Skirt red with black lines, the crimson was topped off with an ornate three-headed dragon right underneath her breasts, framed with cloth of gold. Lyanna looked like the Targaryen Princess she would soon be - the only hint of her birth house being a crown of Winter Roses atop her braided hair.

"Well, that's my cue to leave." Dacey stood. "Take care of her, Ned."

The door closed behind her, leaving the siblings alone. "Not that I'm not glad to see you brother, but I thought Elia would escort me down?"

"I just wished to speak with you, sister." They were a study in contrasts, Ned dressed in a grey gambeson and breeches. All simple yet dashing, hair tied back into an attractive bun. Even with the male beauty of the south, Lyanna knew he'd turn heads tonight. "We've both been too busy lately."

"That we have. Fire away."

Ned cleared his throat. "Who else knows… about you being the Mystery Knight?"

Lyanna's good mood turned ashen. "Where… where would you get such an idea?"

"Howland. When I confronted Robert."

Cursing under her breath, the future Queen folded her arms over the dragon sigil. "Are you going to berate me about being stupid? That I shouldn't have done it… because I don't regret it. That joust gave me my Rhaegar…"

"Lya, I'm proud of you." He smiled as her eyes widened. "I just am worried… Lord Arryn warned me about tonight. That the worst of the worst would show up, and if this secret gets out…"

She shook her head. "Besides you and I, no one but Howland, Dacey, Rhaegar, and Arthur know. I swear."

Ned let out a relieved breath. "We need to keep it that way.

"Brandon?" Wandering along the hallways, aquamarine gown emblazoned with the white lace trout of House Tully, Catelyn heard the voices through the tiny crack in the door. "Brandon, dear?" She leaned in only to find it was Eddard. Maybe Brandon is already waiting outside the ballroom…

"I'll have to admit, Lya. It was beautiful seeing you knock that asshole Ser Frey on his ass." Catelyn stilled, unable not to be intrigued as to what her future goodbrother was saying. "I had no idea you could joust." Joust?

"Oh brother, you know well enough that I can ride. What makes you think I couldn't joust too?" A throaty laugh followed, leaving no doubt that the second voice was Lyanna Stark, her goodsister. "In all honesty, the hardest part was when Dacey and Howland procured that armor for me." Armor… wait, she couldn't possibly be…

Ned's laugh followed. "Did he paint the laughing weirwood?" Catelyn's jaw dropped. Lyanna's the Knight of the Laughing Tree? She felt a tingle of glee course through her - the biggest piece of gossip in the Seven Kingdoms… and she was privy to it! "I know he did."

"Oh he did." Suddenly, Lyanna's tone shifted. "You can't tell anyone, brother. Rhaegar… he was ordered by the King to kill the Knight and bring him his head." Whatever glee Catelyn held was halted. Killed by the King? But the Knight didn't do anything? Why would the King order such a thing?

"My lips are sealed, sister."

Leaning back, Catelyn pressed her palm to her lips. She couldn't share this, not in good conscience. Harming her own goodsister… Family, Duty, Honor. The daughter of Riverrun had a duty to protect her family… But… it's just such juicy gossip… Her head spun with the magnitude of what she heard.

"Lady Catelyn?"

Turning around, Catelyn gasped softly and immediately curtseyed. "Princess Elia." Followed by her Lady in Waiting, the wife of the Crown Prince eyed her curiously. "I was just looking for my betrothed, Lord Brandon."

Elia raised an eyebrow. "I saw Brandon head for the ballroom. You can meet him there."

"Thank you, your Grace. It is much appreciated." Rising, she curtseyed once more before making her way to the ballroom. Eager to let her beloved calm the tempest in her system.

Still curious, noticing something off about Lady Catelyn, Elia glanced at Ellaria. "Is it just me or does she seem a bit suspicious."

Ellaria snorted, quite unladylike. "The Tullys irritate me - worst sort of holier-than-thou fuckstains. I bet she's been touching herself and then trying to find the Sept to beg for forgiveness." Her opinion of Catelyn Tully left no room for doubt. "Can't we get this over with, I really want to get to…"

"My brother?"

While a blush adorned her cheeks, Ellaria at least tried to look defiant. "And why not? He's a strong, virile man worthy of me."

Smirking, Elia giggled. "You're perfect for him, I have to say." Moving to face the door, Lyanna and Eddard had just opened it. "Lord Stark," she greeted before embracing Lyanna lightly. "Dearest sister."

Returning the embrace, Lyanna pulled back and looked over Elia appreciatively. "My my..." Aside from the dragon, all the colors on her sister-wife were reversed, sporting a crown of Dornish apple flowers. "Absolutely gorgeous."

Brown eyes also raked over the Targaryen colors. "I should say the same for you."

Behind, Ellaria snorted. They looked just like her when appreciating the female form. As I said, catfight or feast. Too bad they are both clueless.

"My Prince."

Hearing Ned, both ladies came face to face with the most enchanting violet orbs. Darkening before their very eyes, their beloved Crown Prince dressed in the same red and black - outfit hugging every bit of thick muscle and trim waist. Hair free flowing about his shoulders. "Rhaegar," Lyanna husked.

"Husband," Elia husked as well, equally entranced. Ever since their moment in their dining chamber… she was breaking more walls she had erected every day. Unable not to lust for her husband.

"Rhaenys and Visenya reborn," Rhaegar murmured. Making them beam at him, while Ned rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Problem Ned?"

He glared back. "I'd prefer if you didn't lust after my sister in front of me." All three girls giggled at that, Lyanna lightly swatting him in the arm.

Rhaegar laughed. "Since I am the Prince, I shall not follow that command." Lyanna now swatted him, though harder. He laughed louder, holding out both of his arms. "Shall we, my beloveds?" Without hesitation, his ladies took the proffered limbs. Looping their hands in his. They would make a statement entering together, but for reasons both political and personal, all three were absolutely willing to do so.

The grand ballroom of the Red Keep had been constructed during the days of Viserys I - the heyday of Targaryen glory and peace prior to the Dance of the Dragons. Featuring prominently in The Dragons Dance, Lyanna had always imagined how magnificent it was when the heroes of her youth had graced it. Even under the neglect of Aerys II, reality didn't even begin to compare. High windows set inside pointed arches lining the entire chamber, glass chandeliers each holding dozens of oil candles personally lit by the many servants, and a floor of polished marble that could hold hundreds of guests. It was all she could ever have imagined, and with Rhaegar sidetracked with Brandon by Lord Yronwood and Lord Dayne, her escort had whittled down to her sister-wife.

"There's Leyton Hightower, I'm honestly surprised he made it," Elia pointed out a soft-looking man in a fine Reach doublet, speaking with Lord Tully. "Very well-connected to the Faith," she mused sardonically, causing Lyanna to snort. "Ah, and there's Lord Selwyn Tarth of Evenfall Hall." A fit, powerful knight, though Elia spoke of him as if there was some delicious gossip. "He made waves years ago," she leaned close to Lyanna, sprinkling with mirth. "Training his only daughter in swordsmanship."

Lyanna raised an eyebrow. "And that's a problem?"

Her sister-wife squeezed her shoulder. "Women learning how to fight, rare but not unheard of among highborns. But women being raised in front of her father's bannermen. Dressed in boy's clothing and trained as a knight? Scandalous."

"And his liege Lord is Robert." Both of them found the boisterous Stormlander belting out a bawdy song with a cluster of Lords and Knights, serving girl on his arm. "I doubt he'd think women knights should be tolerated."

"Honestly, I doubt that he's sober enough to care." Sharing a laugh, the two women found someone stumbling into their path. "And this is Tyrion Lannister - already famous by reputation."

Flagon of wine in hand, the four-and-ten half-man cocked a charming grin. "I wouldn't think I was the youngest to ever Make the Eight, but I'm honored the future Queen has heard of me."

"Make the Eight?" Lyanna asked.

Elia rolled her eyes. "It means having carnal knowledge with one woman in each of the seven…"

The she-wolf held up her hand. "No need to finish that." On any other man, it would sound piggish, but Lyanna couldn't help but admire the dwarf.

"I haven't actually done it, but I will." He peered up at her. "So this is Lyanna Stark. I can say, if you weren't betrothed to a man who could behead me with Aegon the Conqueror's sword, I would try and properly bed a Northern woman." He shrugged. "A sweet maid in White Harbor doesn't really count, does it?"

Sharing a look with Elia, both of them quite amused when most other highborn ladies would be insulted, Lyanna smirked. "I'm curious, how would you try to seduce a woman such as me? With gold, perhaps?"

"Cause the dwarf can only enjoy a woman if he has coin?" When both ladies were a bit shameful, Tyrion burst out laughing. "Most of my women are whores, so it's true." He rather enjoyed their cross looks. "Anyway, I'm so young so I'm already charming them when I go in with my best grin. Then I show off my lion-emblazoned tunic and then tell them the best dwarf jape I've ever heard. Disarms them."

"Oh really?" Elia crossed her arms. "I like to laugh, tell me your best."

Tyrion drank from the flagon, smacking his lips. "So I walk into a brothel with a honeycomb and a jackass. I ask the madame for a woman, for mine has left me, but they keep eyeing the honeycomb and a jackass. I tell her that my wife prayed to the Seven for three things that they granted her, in a manner of speaking." Both Princesses were engrossed, wondering where he was going with this. The first was for a house fit for a queen, so he gave her this damn honeycomb. The second prayer was that she have the nicest ass in all the land, so he gave her this damn donkey…" Lyanna couldn't help but chuckle at that - Elia was equally amused. "And the third… well... she asked that my cock hang down past my knee." He paused for effect.

Lyanna blinked. "And how does that involve you being a dwarf?"

"I used to be six foot three!" he blurts out, grinning. It took a moment but Lyanna and Elia - to his delight - nearly fell over themselves as laughter rocked their bodies. "Normally highborns don't like that joke. Kills among knights though."

"Trust me, that was rather perfect," the she-wolf said through giggles, hoping they weren't drawing looks. From the side, she noticed her brother waving her over… next to her betrothed, his eyes smoldering as they stared intensely. Mmmmm… "It was lovely meeting you, Lord Tyrion, but we have to go."

Eyeing the group, Tyrion nodded. "Husband calls, eh? I understand." He reached up for their hands, pressing kisses to each of them. "I've never had a highborn tell me they enjoyed my company." And he waddled off to bury himself in the frivolity. Leaving two of the Realm's most powerful women with a positive impression of him.

To say Rhaegar's embrace was warm was underestimating it. "I do wish you'd stay close to me."

"You don't control us." Lyanna's mood countered her words.

"Allow me to rephrase, I would want you to want to stay close to me." Kissing both on the cheek, he lured Lyanna to his and Brandon's conversation. "You already have met Lord Tyrell, but allow me to introduce you to Lady Olenna Tyrell." Beside the finery of the Lord of Highgarden was an older woman. Face wrinkled and swathed all around, leaning on a cane and her green and gold dress sprinkled with decorations of roses.

"The Queen of Thorns in the flesh." It was clear from Elia's tone that the historical enmity between Dorne and the Reach hadn't completely died. "I haven't had the pleasure of meeting her either."

Olenna chuckled. "You do forgive me if I don't see myself welcome at Sunspear, Princess." Her green eyes were charming, but Lyanna could see the deviousness in them. This woman was not to be underestimated. "My my, I can see why the Prince is defying the Faith for you, Lady Lyanna. A handsome family, the Starks." Glancing over at Brandon, her thoughts on him were obvious. Lyanna chuckled while the heir to Winterfell hastily made his exit, mumbling excuses. "Forgive me, but I'm a widower and no one is ever to old to look."

Mace was equally mortified. "Mother…"

"Oh shut up, I'm having a conversation with my sovereigns." The rumors of who actually ruled the Reach looked to be true. "I admire the Starks, Lady Lyanna, the only First Men Kings to actually resist the Andals. Gods… 'Winter is Coming,' those are proper house words. Makes me shudder."

"Your words are rather charming, Lady Olenna," Lyanna offered graciously.

The Queen of Thorns didn't put on airs. "Pish. 'Growing Strong.' Set a rose on fire and it fucking dies. Set a winter storm on fire, and it's blown out. Count yourself lucky that Aegon the Conqueror got the North to bend the knee, my Prince."

Rhaegar laughed. "Oh, I do." An arm wrapped around Lyanna. "I'm also glad that Dorne bent the knee peacefully." His other wrapped around Elia.

"A lucky man, my Prince." Her wrinkles crinkled as she smiled. Someone then caught her attention. "Ah, Lord Redwyne! Mace, deal with him till I get over there." The Lord of Highgarden sighed and left. "A dreadful bore, but he's my goodson," she shrugged. "Do come to Highgarden on your next royal progress. I have an offer that you can't refuse." With that, she was off.

The Princesses leaned in to their beloved. "Well, that was interesting."

"Aye, interesting is the word to describe her." Elia's eyes narrowed. "I also don't trust her. I know Mace wishes his daughter to marry Viserys, but Olenna wants her for Aegon. I'd bet my last gold dragon on it."

Sighing, Rhaegar placed a kiss on Elia's forehead. "We will betroth Aegon to someone he approves of when he's ready to be married, I promise." Elia seemed to relax in his arms. "Now, I believe I owe my bride a dance."

While Lyanna wanted to jump at the chance, she would have rathered they dance first at their wedding. "No, I think you should take Elia." The Dornish Princess looked at her with wide eyes. As if asking if she was sure. "I'm sure, show the world that neither of your brides are strained, my love." Leaning in to kiss her, Rhaegar nodded and led Elia off, the Princess giving one last look at her - one of… gratitude? Enjoy, sister.

Alone, for the first time that night without any hangers on or the presence of her family, Lyanna looked around. Her betrothed and sister-wife had the floor to themselves for now, dancing to a jaunty minuet. Soon, Prince Oberyn joined them… with Ellaria on his arm. The two looked the picture of affection. A quick glance to the right turned into a rather prolonged one as Ser Arthur, 'Ser Stuffy' himself, was laughing at a jape told by Dacey. The two of them rather cozy. Her father and… one brother, were speaking to the Queen, who was watched over by an obviously adoring Jaime Lannister. Love is in the air, I suppose. Even with Aerys, even with the culture shock, Lyanna knew this was where she belonged. With Rhaegar, Elia, Rhaella, Rhaenys, and Aegon. And the other babes… She patted her stomach, hopefully a little dragonwolf would be growing there soon.

"Lady Lyanna I presume."

Turning, the she-wolf came face to face with a tall man. Broad shouldered and with thinning golden hair. He wore a doublet like Tyrion's, roaring lion emblazoned on the front. "Tywin Lannister." If anyone outside of the House Targaryen was known across the Realm, it was the Lord of Casterly Rock. She curtseyed shallowly. "A pleasure."

"Quite." In spite of his reputation, he was polite. "Would you honor me with a dance?"

Feeling it rude not to accept - and Aerys nowhere in sight - she nodded. "Lead the way."

While the minuet was rather spicy and fast-paced, once in his arms Tywin led slowly. "You seem to be acclimating well to court life." It appeared that he wanted to talk.

Lyanna wouldn't deny him, though she fought to keep her expressions in check. "It is difficult, yes, but I have a good support system."

"Ah yes, Princess Elia and Lord Jon Arryn, a fine duo." His moves were impeccable - the very epitome of a cultured Lord. But underneath was a caged lion… she would need to be careful. "They say Starks don't fare well in the south."

"Whomever said that didn't read about Theon the Hungry Wolf, or Cregan Stark… or Torrhen Stark for that matter."

"He lost his crown."

"Not a single drop of Northern blood was spilled… the same cannot be said of Loren the Last."

Expression giving away nothing, the tiny twinkle in his eyes found Tywin looking at Lyanna as if new. "You are right." They changed direction, Tywin spinning her around. "But the saying is out there. One true of all Starks since Cregan - quite confusing since the Blackfyre Rebellions drew nothing yet now your father is in the south. Strange, don't you think?"

Lyanna wasn't fazed. "Winter is coming, Lord Lannister. Best be prepared."

He blinked. "Ah yes, Winter is coming. Very true."

Elia felt lightheaded, as if her world was spinning… hells, she was literally spinning as her husband guided her along the dance floor. The red and black gown swishing over the stone floor - Rhaegar's hand spreading heat through her body with its place at her waist. Looking into his violet eyes, Elia could see the young Prince she had married, enamored with the Princess of Dorne and determined to make her fall in love with him. Only now, a stronger, wiser man. Gods, she felt her insides quiver in his arms. Bright smile infectious as the two laughed merrily.

Twirled around, she noticed the figure of the northern beauty that had so upended their lives for the better… is that Lord Tywin? "Husband… Lyanna…" Rhaegar peeked over her shoulder, then laughed. "That old cat can surprise me sometimes."

Leaning against the wall, watching the husbands or suiters guide their ladies along in the graceful southern minuet, Ned found himself envying his sister. At least one Stark gets a lion. He wasn't one to sulk, but sometimes it got the better of him.

Trying not to be noticed, even for the quiet wolf it didn't always work out that way. "Ah, if it isn't the 'Quiet Wolf.'" Dornish lilt heavy, sure enough Ned found the form of Oberyn Martell sidle up to him, arm wrapped around Ellaria. "They call you that here in the Red Keep, but I didn't know why till now." His longcoat of gold silk fit him like a glove, dotted with embroidered suns. "Your sister and brother are enjoying themselves, and yet you're here on your own." He pointed to Brandon, currently putting on a show for the partygoers with a giggling Catelyn Tully. The girl was clearly shy, but Brandon had a way of drawing people out of their shell. Oberyn had met the elder Stark son, and he was very fun - if disappointing since he didn't swing Oberyn's way. "Why don't you?"

Ned shrugged. "No lady that fancies me."

"Strapping young man like you. Goodbrother to the Crown Prince? The ladies should be flocking around you… or men" Oberyn wiggled his eyebrows, causing Ned to blush a bright red at the implication. "Don't get discouraged. I can tell if someone is that way just from looking."

Ellaria laughed. "A man after my own heart," patting his chest. Unlike the other men here, Oberyn's outfit showed off plenty of skin. "The Prince is right, you know. You'd have any woman you want if you softened that brooding scowl of yours." He didn't, just staring ahead. "Suit yourself."

But Oberyn wasn't deterred - he knew Ned's type well. "Hmmm, I think it's not that simple, my dear," he told Ellaria. "You may fancy a lady you don't think you can fancy." Catching a flicker in his eye, Oberyn followed the young wolf's line of sight until… "Oh." There she was, gossiping with a group of ladies from the Reach. He grinned, rather impressed. "The Light of the West, eh? Bold."

Hunching his shoulders, Ned tried to disappear into himself. "Don't tell anyone."

"My lips are sealed." He wrapped an arm around Ned. "You and I are going to be goodbrothers quite soon in a manner of speaking, so let me give you some advice. I wouldn't worry. Tywin is a hardass and obsessed with social climbing, but I think you'd have more of a chance than you think." Looking back at Cersei Lannister, the beautiful blonde quickly averted her gaze. She'd been staring at Ned. Aye, far more of a chance. "You'll be in her cunt before the week is out, write it down." That earned another flush of red from the quiet wolf and a sultry laugh from Ellaria.

The minstrels finished off the tune, pausing and immediately rewarded with a standing ovation. Breaking apart from Tywin, Lyanna added a northern war cry to the mix. "That was a dance… you know your way around the floor, Lord Lannister."

"It's an art you can never unlearn, only grow rust with," the lion responded, cracking his knuckles. "For what it's worth, I believe you'll be a good Queen." Somehow, Lyanna could tell he was sincere.

"Thank you, Lord Lannister…" she smiled slyly. "Though I believe you should keep that to yourself, considering where we are." Best the King didn't find out. That is a scene I do not want to witness again.

A glint in his eye being the most humor Tywin would display, he then caught movement in the corner of his eye. Servants rushing towards the doors, others pouring wine and setting a fine slab of honey-braised boar on the royal table. That could only mean one thing… "Well, Lady Lyanna. I must bid our conversation to a close." He bowed to her, kissing Lyanna's hand. "It was a pleasure."

Brow rising, Lyanna nevertheless dipped slightly. "The pleasure was mine, Lord Tywin." Watching the lion of Casterly Rock disappear into the crowd of revelers, she was startled by Elia tapping on her shoulder. "A little warning next time."

"Sorry," her sister-wife replied before a pair of thick arms wrapped around her. She beamed, heat rising inside her. "Husband."

Rhaegar had made his way single-mindedly to each of his Princesses, far outpacing his mother and goodfather behind him. Pleased at Elia's reaction, it was joined by Lyanna lighting up at seeing him. "My dears," he said with affection.

Wanting to kiss him but not wanting to make a scene, both let their eyes show their passion - each settling for a single peck on his cheek. "We missed you, my love," Lyanna told him.

"Politics, a cursed business. I know I'd rather be with both of you." A gentle caress of the smalls of their backs made Lyanna sigh in pleasure and Elia shiver. "So I saw you dance with Lord Tywin, what was that about?"

"Lord Tywin?" Rhaella and Rickard finally caught up. "What did he want?" asked the Queen.

Elia chuckled. "I was just about to ask the same thing."

Rickard knit his brows. "Whatever it was, it wasn't good… no offense, Ser Jaime."

"None taken, Lord Stark," Jaime replied. "I love my father, but I serve House Targaryen."

Lyanna took a deep breath. "The dance was fine, he was polite, but… It was all… very strange and pedestrian. Just asking me the most random of things."

"I'm thinking he was trying to see if House Stark was adopting a hostile stance to House Lannister due to the betrothal."

A groan from Lord Stark. "Gods, I barely seek peaceful leverage… the South has no understanding of the Northern ways."

"They barely understand their own ways, sometimes," Elia remarked dismissively.

Nodding, the Queen gently pressed her fingers together, surreptitiously stretching her legs - she was not the prime of youth anymore… though ignorant of a certain admirer that did not care. "Power, coin, and a proper legacy, that's all Tywin really wants." Rhaella shrugged. "It's hard to read him. Even Joanna couldn't."

At Rhaegar's raised brow, Lyanna sighed. "He did ask a lot of questions about father. How he was reaching to the south for alliances. As well as his interactions with the King."

"So that's it, then." Rhaegar pinched the bridge of his nose, dropping to a low whisper. "Father and Tywin never got along, but now he thinks the Lannisters are plotting the Doom of Valyria."

"But that's…"

"Mad? Aye, it is." Eyes closing, the Crown Prince truly felt the weight of the Realm on his shoulders. "I'll try and deescalate matters with him after the wedding, once things calm down." On Dragonstone, away from his father's toxic court, things would be easier.

"Well, his leaving abruptly may indicate he does see me as a threat…" She trailed off as Elia shook her head. "So what do you think that means?"

"Simple, his Grace is arriving." They had little time to prepare before the heralds made their announcement.

"Make way for his Grace!" The song ended in mid tune, dancers and revelers ceasing their merriment and quickly backing up to either side of the room. Large doors opened to Ser Gerold, Ser Jonothor, and twenty fully-armored members of the Household Guard flanking the entrance as the King entered. "Presenting Aerys of House Targaryen, Second of his Name. King of the Seven Kingdoms!" The herald's words were loud and precise. Taking care to deliver the words without flaw for the benefit of the King. He was known to cut tongues of those who couldn't.

Bending the knee while his mother curtseyed, Rhaegar couldn't help but thank the gods that someone had cleaned up his father. The long, stringy hair was trimmed and styled, nails clipped, and a fresh set of red and black robes swathing his thin frame. He looked like an elderly, but regal King - looking so much like his own father Aegon V. "Your Grace," he offered as Aerys approached them at the head table.

"Your Grace." Rhaella took her husband's hand in hers and kissed it sweetly. Answered with a curt grunt. Far better than he could have done.

Unfortunately, Rhaella's relief had been premature. Aerys' gaze had landed on the two Princesses, notably their dresses. The Queen said a silent prayer of grace to whomever was listening once she noticed the flash in her husband's eyes. One she knew very well. "What is this?" he spat. "Is this your doing, wife? Dressing the Dornish Whore and Wildling in our house colors?"

"We thought it would serve well for the unity of our house, your Grace," Elia answered. Both she and Rhaegar noticed with dismay at how Lyanna had drawn back, not willing to speak. No, sister… no. Just as she was about to climb out of it, the Princess saw her sister-wife fall for the same callow as she was forced to adopt years ago.

Aerys snorted in disgust. "Diluting the blood and culture as much as our cunt father and great-grandsire, then?"

Targaryens, Lord Stark, and Princesses eager to just take the abuse and let the King move on, unfortunately the arriving Brandon Stark opened his mouth. "Doesn't Princess Elia have Targaryen blood through Princess Daenerys Targaryen?" One could hear a pin drop, something dark flickering in Aerys eyes at the young Stark before a serene smile appeared. Leaving them with a mere nod before walking off.

As soon as the King sat down at the royal table seated for one, the Lords and Ladies rose from their knees. Beginning to shift and mingle once more. Rickard led Brandon off to lecture him, while Rhaella was escorted by Ser Jaime to converse with the Tyrells. As for the Prince and his brides, all three had to adorn the fake smiles of court as still more Lords and Ladies approached them with congratulations. "My Prince, my ladies." With a smile that looked quite out of place on a quite hardened face, a lord with the look of the Reach appeared in front of them. "Forgive me, Lady Lyanna, for we haven't met. Lord Randyll Tarly of Horn Hill."

Dornish Marches in the Reach… tough warriors, enemies of the Dornish. Randyll Tarly sure looked the part - especially as his scowl was largely directed at Elia. "Pleased to meet you Lord Tarly," she told him. "Where is Lady Tarly?"

"She is at our keep. Just gave birth to my first child - a son and heir."

"Congratulations Lord Tarly," Rhaegar offered kindly. "As a father myself, that is a rather important moment in one's life."

Tarly's scowl turned even more sour… if that was possible. "Ah yes, Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys." His eyes swiveled to the dance floor, where all of them found Oberyn locked in a traditional Dornish dance with Ellaria Sand. "Hopefully they'll take after their father's side, then."

Rhaegar felt his ire rising, especially as Elia averted her gaze. Learned helplessness cowing her yet again. But before Rhaegar could respond, Lyanna cut in. "Why do you think that, Lord Tarly?"

"I've heard about the… perversion of the Martells, Lady Lyanna. Best to keep that away from the Crown. Aegon the Unworthy caused enough suffering with his whoring to repeat it."

Lyanna's eyes narrowed. "On the contrary, Lord Tarly, Princess Elia is as loving a parent as I would hope the heirs to the throne would have. Certainly she wouldn't abandon a babe just having left his mother's womb to ingratiate herself in social climbing, and since his two children are with him in King's Landing…" The she-wolf smirked. "Neither would Prince Oberyn."

Eyes flashing red for a split second, Lord Tarly realized who he was speaking to. "Your Graces," he mumbled, making his exit.

As soon as he was out of earshot, Rhaegar nearly bawled over in laughter. "Finally, someone pushes on that stave up his ass." He pressed a kiss to Lyanna's lips, then hugged Elia. "You're a wonderful mother, my love."

My love… The words from him felt like the sweetest of hugs. "I know… speaking up doesn't always end well for me, though."

"The dragon has three heads, sister," Lyanna told her, remembering an old tale from Aegon's Conquest. "We look after each other."

Their conversation - as were all conversations - stilled as the King rose. His herald smacking the edge of his staff on the stone floor to grab attention. Aerys held a silver goblet in his hand, filled with Arbor gold. "My Lords and Ladies," he announced, voice even and free from even a hint of madness. It heartened the royal family and those on the Small Council. "The greatest thanks from House Targaryen to you, who have journeyed here to celebrate the resumption of the proper history of Valyria. My son, reasserting the Doctrine of Exceptionalism the way Kings Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Strong, marrying the beautiful Winter Rose Lady Lyanna Stark."

A chorus of claps, all eyes on Lyanna. It truly emphasized what an honor she was given, addressed before the Lords of Westeros by the King himself. She smiled and curtseyed at the King, hiding the worry. Masking how guarded she was at the obviously fake words. Her family shared the same thoughts, only wondering whether the King would speak in innuendo or be blunt.

As a smug smile fell on the King's lips, the intent was recognized immediately by the Queen, Princess, and Crown Prince, faces falling. "Interesting thing about House Stark. Their Lord, Rickard, is a fine and loyal man. Fulfilling his obligation under the Pact of Ice and Fire… unlike his ancestors." He snickered. "Had Cregan Stark not been a dawdling coward, Queen Rhaenyra may have won over the usurpers."

Rickard paled, Brandon snapped his goblet in half, and Ned's eyes widened. Knowing exactly what was to come, Elia took Lyanna's stunned hands in her own for support. Seemed no matter who it was, Aerys was determined to humilate and torture anyone that Rhaegar would love. "It's alright," she murmured to her sister-wife, noticing how Rhaegar couldn't even look at his father, hand on the small of Lyanna's back. "We look after each other."

"Honestly, the Starks have been the worst of all noble houses," the King continued. "Staying in their frozen land, not leaving even when the Kingdom was most at threat. Only when Queen Alysanne kissed their asses did they bother to show loyalty to House Targaryen, and I have it on good authority that Alaric Stark merely sought to have an affair with the Good Queen."

You lie! Ned wanted to shout it to the rafters. But he refused to be a fool… he'd been enough of a fool with Robert.

Across the floor of the grand chamber, Cersei Lannister saw the somber northerner duck out the side doorways to the balcony. Once selfish heart throbbing with empathy for him. But she couldn't follow him while the King continued.

"Unfortunately, I have had the displeasure of my son and heir disrespected and maligned by goodfamily." Aerys felt his spirit soar at the suppressed anger from Prince Oberyn, only wishing that he could see the pain on Princess Elia's face once again. "But House Stark has finally learned its place. With this marriage bringing our wayward brothers to the north into our fold, they can finally enjoy the trappings of civilization so long denied them." He held his goblet high. "To Rhaegar and Lyanna!"

Even for the humiliated Starks, there was no escaping the bittersweet toast. "To Rhaegar and Lyanna!"

Hammering a foot against the stone slabs of the main keep, it hurt like all seven hells but allowed Ned to vent his anger. It had become a habit for him since the tourney, still a brooder but enough self-loathing and torment to lash out alone or burn out on the training yard. Rhaegar loved Lyanna with all his heart, but he wasn't the jailer. Likely, he was a prisoner of his father just as Lyanna now was." Gritting his teeth, he kicked the stone once more.

Rushing out as fast as she could without drawing attention, this was how Cersei found him. The emotion on his face even more attractive than the brooding. She was silent, standing just outside the entranceway. Stilled by the close proximity to the young man that haunted her dreams. That she had kissed…

Finally, she spoke. "Lord Stark."

Tensing at the voice, Ned turned and felt the pain drain from his system. Taken over by the golden-haired lioness that has so captivated him. "Lady Cersei…" He straightened himself up. "Forgive me, but I just walked out to get some air. I can move if you wish your privacy." Even after being insulted, he just couldn't be anything but enamored with this woman.

Cersei held up a hand. "No… it's quite alright. Stay." She wanted him to stay. Heart soaring when he did. "For what it's worth, I have been on the end of his Grace's barbs too."

Unable not to chuckle - either that or cry - Ned leaned back on the wall. "Tywin's daughter, aye." He had barely spoken to her, but somehow it felt easy to. "It doesn't bother me, but I do worry for Lyanna."

"She has the Prince's love." Surprisingly, Cersei only felt a slight twinge of pain at admitting it. Perhaps I've moved on… "I don't find that surprising. She is very beautiful… a trait that runs in your family, it seems." The easy praise was so foreign to her, but she wanted to say it. It was true, Ned Stark was very handsome. She could tell that he would grow to surpass his older brother in that regard.

Since Cersei's last words to him were calling him a 'Northern Bumpkin,' Ned wondered where she was going with this. "You are quite beautiful yourself, my Lady." The dress was a simple maroon, hugging her curves and bringing out the golden pleats of her hair.

"Well…" she blushed in spite of herself. "Thank you, my Lord." The way he still looked at her, as if she were a goddess... Cersei chewed her bottom lip, a habit picked up from her mother. "I'd like to apologize."

"Apologize for what?"

"For my rude words in our last meeting." Everyone she knew would be gaping at Cersei Lannister apologizing, but it seemed right.

Ned blinked, surprised himself. "Yes, that was... rather rude." He looked her over, not for the first time imagining her bare. As much as he would want to resume their kiss, his honor emerged. "But you were right, Lady Cersei. I am but a second son - we shouldn't be doing this."

"No... we shouldn't," she finally says, but her green eyes darken at him regardless. "We would have no future..."

In spite of himself, in spite of his words, Ned took a step towards her. "It wouldn't be honorable, for a courtship with no prospects." Closer he walked, an almost magnetic draw.

"It would be for the best" Her voice was rough with desire. Going straight to his groin.

To hells with it. How could something like honor compare to this golden enchantress? With a growl that could rival a direwolf, Ned lunged. Hand quickly wrapping around the smooth column of her neck as the northerner crashed his lips against Cersei's. Plunging into her mouth, desire spiking at the sultry moan of the lioness. A hand moved to cup her rear through the maroon fabric of her dress, guiding her to the wall.

Feeling the northerner push her back, Cersei couldn't be bothered to care. It was as sudden as their first kiss, but there the similarities ended the lioness roared with hunger. A sensual clash of teeth and tongue. Gone was the quiet, brooding Eddard Stark, replaced by a ravenous direwolf intent on making a meal out of her.

When their kiss broke as she hissed, back colliding with the wall behind her, she bared her graceful neck for him to feast on. "Please…" It came out as a gasp… changing to another moan when Ned's hand pushed down the strap of her dress and his lips found the creamy skin.

Stop… visible… dishonor… Words of caution cast aside by the sounds and taste of her. Wolfsblood uncaged within him. Pinning her to the wall, Ned's hands began to wander. Ghosting over places that he only dreamed of feeling on any woman. Trim waist, ample breasts, a tight rear. Leaving her neck, the moment his gaze met her lidded greens did they kiss again.

Falling further into the Stark's embrace, Cersei wrapped her right leg around his hip. Both gasping as his clothed member hit her core over her smallclothes. Am I letting him take my cunt? Ned's fingers touching the bare skin of her shoulder, Cersei moaned yet again. Of course I am.

"Sweet sister." Tyrion stumbled onto the moonlit deck, wine sloshing from his goblet as his bloodshot eyes peered for Cersei. "Father is making his exit, and I believe he wants us to…" What he had once thought was some random couple suddenly came into view. Goblet falling to the floor as he sobered up almost immediately. "Sister?"

The last finally got her attention. Her arousal changing to horror as she pushed Ned off of her. Brows knitted in confusion, the northerner followed the line of sight to find the Imp wide eyed at them. "Fuck…" he heard Cersei murmur while he backed away.

Blinking, Tyrion figured after several seconds that he wasn't hallucinating. "Well, I was worried you weren't enjoying the night, but I can see you're having the best night of all of us." Lips curling upward to chuckle, the amusement died once he caught a glimpse of Cersei's mystery lover. "Wait… Eddard Stark?"

You have got to be fucking kidding me… "Fuck off, Tyrion," she hissed.

"Well, that was what you were about to do, Cersei." Hiccupping, the imp began to giggle. "I congratulate you, Lord Stark. Taming the mighty lioness."

Cool air having calmed his raging desire, Ned was mortified. Not at his and Cersei's passion, but the fact they were caught - not that it made a visible difference. "I should go," he said evenly. "Lord Tyrion, Lady Cersei." Trying not to flush the deep crimson of Cersei's gown, he made a quick exit. Still wrapping his head around what had just happened.

Eyes following Ned like a lost puppy, pleas for him to stay dying on her tongue, Cersei's loss changed to rage as she found Tyrion once more. "Must you ruin everything, you little cockroach?!" She didn't bother to wait for Tyrion before marching inside, body still humming from his touch.

"That went well, all things considered."

A mirthless chuckle left Rhaegar's lips. "All things considered being right. Lyanna truly shined tonight, and my father only hurts his own cause."

Connington nodded, standing right beside the Crown Prince. They made some sight, the fiery black and red of Rhaegar's colors matched by the vibrant inferno of Connington's hair. Both fit, powerful men in their prime. It had become the jape of court that Rhaegar snapped up enough beauties for the both of them. Little did they know… Connington was discreet about that facet of his life. At least to most. "He only redoubled the urge of those who already hate the Starks to continue to hate them. His Grace swayed none." Forgive me, my silver prince, if I don't out myself as in the former category.

"I thought I could get Lyanna to Dragonstone before he aimed his fire on her. Please insure that a boat is ready for the night after my wedding, Jon."

"Consider it done, my Prince." He'd make the command tomorrow, loathe as he was to participate in Rhaegar shackling himself to another woman undeserving of the beautiful future King. "Perhaps you shouldn't leave? You're the only one that can truly control him."

Rhaegar pursed his lips. "He is decompensating before my eyes, aye." He ran his hand down his face, fighting the frustration welling inside of him. A frustration and hurt that Connington had never seen him free of - except when with him as children… and now with his two brides. "But I owe it to my family to get them out of here first. If I could take my mother and brother to Dragonstone, I'd do so." His violet eyes met the Hands, intense with a desperate plea. "You'll have to hold the keep until I return, and protect my mother."

Nodding, there was no way the Lord of Griffin's Roost could disobey that order. "You can count on me, Rhaegar." Skirting the line he had set for himself… the urge simply too strong to completely ignore, Connington placed his hand on Rhaegar's shoulder blade. To everyone else a comforting pat between friends - but in reality… Gods, it was torture for him. Being in the company of the perfect man only to know that he would never be his. Hand lingering, fighting the compulsion to drift lower on the Crown Prince's body.

Noticing his beloved - both his beloveds - Rhaegar smiled softly and looked at Connington… who dropped his hand. "Well, I should take my wife and my bride back to the royal quarters. End the day with the two that I trust best." He chuckled, not noticing the flicker of pain in Connington's eyes. "Goodnight, Jon."

"Goodnight, my Prince."

Watching the small crowd of guards and ass-kissers following his sister, goodbrother, and... goodsister?... heading back to the royal apartments, Ned leaned back in his chair and sipped at the goblet of wine. Cringing at the sickly-sweet taste. "How can the southerners drink this piss?"

Brandon snorted. "Please, this is the best wine the Arbor has to offer." The heir to Winterfell gulped the wine, already deep into his cups. "The stocks at Riverrun can't compare."

"It tastes too… tart for me. Give me a proper ale any day," Ned replied. "That doesn't have the hint of overripe fruit."

"Oh Ned." Shaking his head, Brandon reached over and shook his shoulder affectionately. "What in Seven Hells did you do for all those years in the Eyrie for drink?"

"Mineral water mostly… the Hill Tribes brewed a sort of ale." He shuddered at the memory, but it was better than wine. "Had to just stomach it the rest of the time, all my friends japing me over it."

"I'd jape you over it, Ned. Gods… where's your sense of adventure?" If Bran was angered over the King's insulting speech, he had moved on quickly - or the alcohol and his short attention span made his moods erratic. "We're in the fucking capitol city of Westeros, our sister about to become royalty! Imagine what the two of us could do? Rhaegar could request us to sail the world for him!" His glassy eyes were nonetheless manic with excitement at the very idea.

Ned glanced at his brother with a cocked brow. "Really? You're the heir to Winterfell, brother. The North… and Lady Catelyn, will need you."

He waved Ned off. "Pish, father is healthy - I won't be needed for a long while yet."

"There must always be a Stark at Winterfell."

"I don't plan to be without an heir for long. Catelyn is a good mother, she'll raise the babe well."

She'll raise that babe to be a Riverman follower of the Faith, if you're not there. He bit his tongue though, downing the wine even though it tasted horrible. Wanting to forget. "You're living in a dream world, brother."

Bran looked at him queerly. "What creature bit you in the stones?" His face darkened. "The King?"

"Something like that."

His mood changed on a silver stag yet again. "The gall of him…" Bran at least had the guile even drunk to speak in a whisper. "How dare he attack our House. After all we fucking did for him!"

"He wanted us to surround Tywin Lannister for a… let's just say insane reason. Same reason he had Rhaegar marry Princess Elia, and his treatment of her… is still worse." Even while speaking, Ned wasn't listening. Mind elsewhere. Green eyes… warm mouth… moans that still made his cock twitch just thinking about it.

Stout lot it did me. Consumed by their passion that they were, the words they had spoken still rang true. Any relationship would be impossible between them. Few Lords Paramount would marry their daughters to a second son without a keep, practically impossible if said Lord was as ambitious as Tywin Lannister. You chose to fancy the most difficult woman, Ned.

Thinking more on it, the only regret he had was that they were interrupted… and that scared him. Something about Cersei Lannister made his honor evaporate. Yet... perhaps the greatest honor was following one's heart? Lyanna did, and House Stark was at the height of its power.

"Oh hells," he heard Bran mutter. Turning his head, Ned felt his entire mood sour. Robert. As if his luck couldn't get any worse. Insulted by the King, cock blocked by the Imp of Casterly Rock, and now being faced with the former friend he hadn't spoken to since threatening to cut his balls off.

Unsurprisingly, Robert was tipsy - face flushed and swaying slightly as he walked. What did end up surprising Ned was that tipsy was all Robert was. At this point most festive nights, if not passed out he'd be barely standing and with vomit coating his clothes. But his eyes were alert, hair still well-coiffed, and doublet free of grime. He looked like the proud, handsome Lord of a warrior house that he was. "Ned," he murmured sheepishly. "Lord Brandon."

"Robert." Ned wasn't keen on taking a swing at him. It would only complicate matters, so he kept himself polite but guarded.

Brandon had no such restraint - and it wasn't all the wine. "Lord Baratheon." He looked ready to explode at any minute.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Robert at least had the sense to pick up on the tension. Fuck, Ned was my brother. He felt like shit. "Um… what a night. Sorry bout that business with His Grace… he's my great uncle, so I feel somewhat culpable…" Not that the damn dragonspawn cares. "I guess…"

"What do you want, Robert? I'm in no mood for your drunken nonsense." The night with Cersei had left Ned bitter and sexually frustrated, in desperate need for a cold dunk in the ocean and sleep.

He stiffened his spine, ready to take his rap to the knuckles. "Ned… Lord Brandon… I'm sorry."

The Starks looked at each other before turning back to Robert. "I beg your pardon?"

"What can I say Ned, 'cept I'm sorry. I didn't have my head on straight…"

"No you didn't." Just the fact that Robert Baratheon of all people was apologizing was momentous. The burly stag never let down his pride, and the fact he hadn't drank himself into a stupor that night seemed to mean something. Jon did tell me to not give up on him.

He forced himself on Lyanna.

It doesn't serve Lyanna well to make him an enemy.

"You really expect us to believe you?" Brandon spat. "Fuck you and the stag you rode in on."

Swallowing, Robert looked over at Ned. "You feel the same way?"

"Honestly, Robert?" The quiet wolf pursed his lips. "Yes. What you did… I can't trust you around Lyanna anymore."

"And us? Our friendship?"

"If I wanted to save it, what makes me think that you would be one to trust once more?"

"'Aight," Robert sighed. "Slug me."

Ned blinked. "What?"

"Ya heard me, Ned." He stuck out his face, angling it into a juicy target. "Slug me. I'll give ya a free shot cause I was an ass to your sister. Come on."

"Robert, I'm not slugging you." That was just what House Stark needed, the Princess' brother caught assaulting the King's great-nephew mere days before her wedding. "I'm no brute."

He cussed a blind streak. "When did you become some Lysene buggerboy? Stop taking up the ass and slug me!"

"I'm not giving up my honor…"

"Oh for the love of the gods…" Without warning, Brandon lunged. Right hook leaving a sharp crack into Robert's jaw just before his knee lurched up to ram into the gut. Double blow felling the Lord of Storm's End, wind knocked out of him. "That's for Lyanna, you drunk fucker."

Jaw dropped, Ned stared at his brother. "Gods, Bran."

Brandon narrowed his eyes. "Don't tell me you didn't want to?"

Coughing, wheezing as he struggles to inflate his lungs, Robert manages to bring a finger to his lip, feeling it slip. "Went for a double hit, there," he sputtered.

"Second was for me. Ned already got his licks in."

There's a silence before Robert starts laughing uproariously. "Now that's a punch I can drink to, ya' son of a bitch!" He wagged his finger at Ned. "By the Seven, Ned, are your arms made of ice or something?" Hauling himself up, he grabbed a half-empty goblet of wine off a table and downed it. "Had to let your dashing brother fight your battles for you? Can defeat Arthur Dayne but can't slug me? I get ya' prefer a sword cause yer' pecker's small."

Ned crosses his arms. "My 'pecker' might not get as much work as you, but it's just fine." Then all three of them started laughing. Jon Arryn's words filling Ned's mind, he knew that he couldn't let a hate brew between Robert and he. Never would he trust him so implicitly, never would he allow Lyanna anywhere near him, but the man that was practically his third brother did deserve some consideration after years of being closer to him than all his other siblings. "Come on, let's head to the gardens. Sober up a bit."

"Fuck that, I'm gonna find me another flagon."

"Took the words right out of my mouth," Brandon grinned, mood once again shifting. "Perhaps I'll visit Catelyn when the night is done."

"You and Lady Tully… fuck, she's a pretty thing. A Lady fit for a Lord, I shall say."

A Lady fit for a Lord… Golden hair filling his mind, that flagon of wine did sound appealing to him.

Chapter Text

"You're quiet, wife," Aerys broke the silence, watching her from the looking glass.

Rhaella blinked. "There's… not much to say, your Grace. Not with preparing for the wedding." Danger. Apprehension. Rhaella felt both when her husband showed up - for years, he never graced her bed, her chambers. Preferring to sleep alone in a private solar closer to the Iron Throne.

The King was still sharp and observant when he wanted to be. "You disapprove of what I said about the Starks, don't you?" Jaime tensed from where he stood, gingerly stepping ever closer to Rhaella.

A sigh… there was no escaping this. "While… your words were… truthful." Her lies were seamless, knowing to give him the least amount of rope. "I think our son's betrothal feast wasn't the right time?"

"Wasn't the right time?" The King turned, eyes almost glowing a bright purple. "And when do you think the right time would be, wife? When the Starks have joined with Tywin to surround me?" A deep breath, throat scratchy. "No… they must be nipped in the bud now."

"If you say so, your Grace. I trust your judgement." Rhaella hoped this would be the end of it.

But sadly, she didn't usually get what she wanted. "Lyanna… a little bitch, isn't she?" The Queen said nothing, knowing Lyanna's only crime was loving Rhaegar. "Just like the Dornish whore… I don't trust them." He walked to the window. "Our children, Rhaella, gods - they are strong. Strong with the blood of the dragon."

A sense of loss filled Rhaella at the many babes she lost. "Aye, they were perfect."

"It was Jenny that took them away." He kicked at the wall. "Jenny and Dunk, they killed my perfect babies and poisoned Rhaegar. Turned him into my worthless father." Aerys turned, looking intensely at Rhaella. "Well I won't let that happen, wife. Not with Viserys and not with our new babe."

Stomach dropping into a painful pit, Rhaella felt as if she had been hit. "What?"

"Yes, a girl! It is preordained!" Without warning, he picked her up, pulling her close against him. "A proper dragon bride for Viserys, uncorrupted by Jenny."

Suddenly, he moved to kiss her in full view of his Kingsguard seemed to notice how she involuntarily flinched. Just a slight movement, but the damage was done. Rhaella screamed as Aerys shoved her, knocking her into a table covered in jewelry and sharp silver trinkets.

"You won't deny me, wife!" he snarled. "You will do your duty! And this time you won't destroy Viserys and our daughter as you did with Rhaegar! I won't let you!"

Pain in her arm and food, Rhaella could only nod. Completely stunned at the turn of events.

Staring down at his wife, Aerys' faraway blinked. "Seven hells, I need to think." He needed to be with his eggs. "Clean her up," he barked at Jaime, leaving without another word.

With the slam of the door, Jaime darted to his Queen. "Are you alright, your Grace?"
He easily hefted her back to her feet - delicate frame on his.

Rhaella nodded, eyes filling with tears. "I'm alright," she murmured. "Thank you, Ser Jaime. I just need..." Feeling something dripping down her arm, Rhaella looked and found a long but shallow cut in her arm. "Oh fuck, the last thing I need…" With that, nothing can stop her sobs. Used to her brother's treatment, somehow this was too much to bear.

Jaime had always been the more gentle of the Lannister twins, but rage burned inside him. A powerful protective instinct for the woman he loved. "Let's clean this up," he ground out, trying to keep strong for her. Nodding, one badly-placed step upon the floor caused Rhaella's ankle to twist. With a yelp, she almost tumbled to the ground… only for a pair of strong arms to hef her back up. "Try not to make me do this thrice, my Queen."

She smiled half-heartedly, eyes sparkling from the tears. "I'll try not to…" Testing the waters, Rhaella placed her foot back on the ground… only to wince. Rhaella was a Targaryen Queen. She'd bear it. "Just don't go too far away."

"Fuck this," Jaime finally said, taking matters into his own hands. With a yelp from her, the Lion of Lannister lifted her bridal style. Intent on carrying her to the bed as painlessly as possible.

Forced to wrap her arms around his neck to steady herself, Rhaella opened her mouth to scold him for the breach of protocol… But her objection died on her lips. Jaime was carrying her slight form as if lifting a feather. Her tongue grew dry at the feat of strength, unable not to sigh at the inhale of his masculine scent.

As soon as it began, it was over. Jaime depositing her on the bed and moving to grab a wet cloth. Rhaella shivering in spite of herself, missing his arms handling her so effortlessly. Her tears were forgotten, head spinning with thoughts alien to her.

Returning, Jaime placed the cloth on the wound. Rhaella hissed in discomfort, but a soft stroking of her arm calmed her. It took the knight everything in him not to give in and kiss her there. Inability to truly take her pain away only fueling his own anger. "You shouldn't have to take this… from him."

Turning her head to glare at him, there was no anger in Rhaella's eyes. Just worry. He couldn't help but hold out a forlorn hope. "Don't speak, Ser Jaime."

"You deserve better than a husband who hurts you." Apparently, excoriating the Starks in front of the entire Realm wasn't enough to satiate his rage against Brandon Stark for his comment. It was a common sight, Aerys triggered by something and then expanding his rage to any slight or whatever problem his mind could dredge up. The Queen that Jaime loved was the easiest target. "A husband that doesn't deserve to live."

"When that husband is the King," she replied, praying he would simply let it go. "Kingsguards shouldn't speak ill of the King they serve." Ser Jaime was the only light of her life not of her blood. So much like Joanna that it often shocked her - having him was like having a piece of her long-dead childhood friend and companion.

His unrequited feelings drove him far beyond what his oaths as a Kingsguard determined was proper. What was smart. "It would be easy." Cersei often said he spoke or acted before he thought. This was one of those times. "My sword, his back… your pain would be over."

Violet eyes widening, Rhaella grew red. "Never speak of such things!" Barking with anger, but derived from fear. Rhaella couldn't bear seeing him beheaded… or burned alive. "You are out of line, Ser Jaime, and have been out of line the entire night." She saw him grimace but Rhaella didn't stop. "He is your King. If you cross the line again, you shall be dismissed from my service. Are we clear?"

Hanging his head, Jaime only nodded. "Forgive me, my Queen. I did not know what I was saying." He did feel foolish, but there was the extra pain of truly hurting his Queen. Rising, unable to look at her without shame. "I'll fetch Pycelle for you."

Rhaella felt cold when Jaime left the bed. No, don't go… Almost reaching out and begging for him to stay - but her words actually hurting him, it broke her resolve. More painful to her than even Aerys' words.

Approaching the door, Jaime took one last glance at the Queen, hearing her soft sobs return. Steeling himself in spite of it being a dagger to his heart, he managed to leave the chambers. Stranded in the corridor, suddenly the rage spewed forth. A hushed snarl as he slammed his fist into one of the columns, pain of cut knuckles and sprained bones radiating through his hand.

Now Pycelle would have two injuries to treat.

A fire roared in the hearth, filling the chamber with a toasty warmth. Princess Rhaenys nevertheless burrowed under the goose down. Shivering from the chilly winter's knight drifting from Blackwater Bay. "Muna, I's cold…"

Lyanna could only chuckle. "This is cold? You've never been north of Dragonstone, have you?" The girl shook her head, causing her to lean down and hug her close. "My my, what will happen when you see snow?"

That perked her right up. "Jump in snow!"

"Settle down, little dragon. You still need to sleep." She and Elia had arranged to switch parenting duties each day, trying to get both Rhaenys and Aegon used to Lyanna as a mother So far, it worked wonders… if the princess would go to sleep. "Oh, my sweet summer child. How about I tell you a story of snow… the greatest snow in the history of the North."

Curling into a smile, Rhaenys nodded. Wide violet eyes trained on her new mother.

She closed her eyes for a moment, recalling the words that Old Nan had told her in her childhood. "The snows were so intense that they fell a hundred feet deep."

"Wow." Lyanna doubted that Rhaenys truly knew what a hundred feet meant - a mountain of now taller than even the Wall.

She nodded, continuing - while cleaning up the dark, fearful elements of the tale. Old Nan liked to try and frighten them which in all fairness was what she, Ned, Bran, and Benjen would ask for. Rhaenys… at merely three namedays she wasn't ready for that. "The First Men called it the Long Night, when the sun hides for years and children are born and live their lives all in darkness. A night thousands of years ago that lasted a generation."

"Where was sun?" Rhaenys asked innocently.

"No sun, hidden by the snowclouds."

"Why? Sun awways rise."

"Because of the white walkers, little dragons. Big ice monsters, skinny as bones. They swept through cities and kingdoms, riding their dead horses, hunting with their packs of pale spiders big as hounds…"

She stopped as Rhaenys gasped, pulling the covers over her head. "No muna… kepa and Sewr Awtur save me frwam white walkers." Even with paring down Old Nan's details, Lyanna had scared the princess all the same.

Both adorable and heartbreaking, Lyanna pulled back the covers to pepper Rhaenys' face with kisses. "Don't be worried, little dragon. The white walkers are gone."

Violet eyes blinked hopefully. "Rweally?"

Lyanna nodded. "A great hero emerged. Forging a sword for a hundred days and a hundred nights a sword of burning flame called Lightbringer. With it, this hero took on the white walkers and destroyed them, bringing sun and summer to all of Westeros. All waiting for the dragons to journey from Valyria to become their kings and be all cute." Lyanna began tickling Rhaenys, making her giggle.

"Muna, stop… he he…" Falling back on the mattress with a wide smile before yawning. Arms stretching above her.

"Looks like it's time for bed sweetling." The she-wolf pulled up the covers to wrap around Rhaenys tightly, kissing her forehead. "Goodnight, little dragon."

As she made her way to the door, a soft whimper called her back. "Muna…"

She couldn't refuse the plea. "Yes, Rhae?" Sighing, Lyanna sat in the chair next to the tiny bed. "What is it?"

"Do you wuv me?"

Lyanna blinked, not a question she expected. "What do you mean, sweetling? Of course I love you." She did - she truly did, as much as a child of her own womb. Of this, Lyanna was certain.

But Rhaenys wasn't convinced. "Why?" Suddenly, a tear fell down the girl's cheek.

The sight made Lyanna's heart clench. "Rhae… why are you crying?" she asked, voice catching with fear and worry. "Please tell me." I can't see you like this…

What she ended up saying broke Lyanna's heart further. "I hear red man speak wif owld robe man." Red man and old robe man… Connington and Pycelle? "They say 'Muna Lwyanna no wuv Dorne. Muna Lwyanna get wid of me and Egg'" A soft sob left her. "I wuv you, muna, no get wid of me…"

At that moment, Elia arrived at the door. Wanting to kiss her beloved daughter good night after putting Egg to bed, only to hear her crying. Worried, she almost entered but was stilled by Lyanna's voice.

Now it was Lyanna who was crying. "Oh sweetling… my sweet little dragon…" She kissed Rhaenys' cheek, burying her face in the nest of black curls. The Princess smelled like Rhaegar only with a more gentle scent. "I will never do that to you. I love you with all my heart and soul, just like your father and brother."


"I promise." Why do you love this girl? A nagging voice asked within her, negative and questioning. She is not yours… Lyanna wished to scoff at it, tell the voice to piss off, but… Why did she love Rhae and Egg? Why had they wormed their way into her heart so quickly? "You're just like kepa, you know that?"

Rhaenys smiled. "Kepa is the bwavest, stwongest man."

"That he is," Lyanna swooned. "I love him so much, little dragon." Yes, Rhaenys and Egg were the children of the man she loved, but instinct told Lyanna that they were as much her destiny as the children of her womb - of Visenya, Jaehaerys, Lyarra, and the son as yet to be named. Old Nan and her mother had often said the Starks were a line seeped in the magic of the old gods, so perhaps it was that. "You are practically my daughter, and when he and I are wed you will be in the sight of gods and men."

"I wuv you, muna."

Ears pressed against the door, Elia pulled back. Chest feeling tight. Part of her glad that Lyanna was taken with Rhaenys so selflessly, but there was still that tiny worry. A pain at seeing another woman earn the sort of unconditional love from her precious child. The woman my husband loves too, without the baggage we have…

Mind and heart a swirling cauldron of emotions, worries, and rationalizations that she was overthinking everything, Elia walked back to her shared chambers with Rhaegar. Needing his arms around her. Not hearing the next part of the conversation…

Hugging, Rhaenys nuzzling into Lyanna's neck, all was how it should be. "Don't you worry, my little dragon. Kepa and both your munas love you very much."

"Mmmm…" Something came to mind. "Do me wuving you make me wuv muna no more?"

Brows furrowing, Lyanna pulled back. "No."

"Red man say that. That you twy to take me fow youself… I wuv muna too." Whereas there was sadness before, now there was conflict in the poor girl. A deep confusion as to her circumstances. Had she hidden this for so long?

A burning anger for Jon Connington formed in Lyanna's veins, but that was for another time. "Listen to me, Rhae. Dragons answer to neither gods nor men. Others are normal, but you are extraordinary."

"Extwaowdinawy…" Rhaenys tried but failed to pronounce the word. Gods, I could eat her up!

"Elia is your muna, and she loves you so much. I would end myself before I take you away from her." Her family's sayings kept coming back. "My own muna once said 'The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.' We are part of a pack, and nothing will rip us apart if I have anything to say about it."

One last smile on her lips, Rhaenys drifted off to sleep. Face free of worry for the first time in days.

Lyanna softly kissed her cheek. "Goodnight, my sweet babe. Your pack loves you so." Quietly she made her exit, unaware that Elia had ever been there.

"If there are gods, they truly hate me right now." One moment, Cersei was in her chambers, a glass of wine in her hand and mulling just how irritated and horny she was, and the next brought the most annoying person she knew to disturb such peace… or rather restless silence.

"You don't have to get testy with me, sister," Trion drolled, leaning against the armrest of his chair. "I'm happy for you. Ned Stark is quite the catch if you think about it." He belched, causing Cersei to roll her eyes.

"I thought you were sober?"

He offered a tiny smile of apology. "Mostly sober. Had to have a little liquid courage to get up the gumption to run the gauntlet by seeing you. Personally, I'd much rather make the eight…" Tyrion wiggled his eyebrows.

Groaning, Cersei wondered if she could smother him with a pillow before anyone noticed. Eh, too impracticable. "You're a pig." Why the fuck do we have to be related?

Giggling again, Tyrion looked somberly at his only sister. Certainly better company than Aunt Genna's half-Frey brats with Jaime too busy. At least Cersei had some restraint about her. "At least thank the gods it was myself that found you close to losing your maidenhead and not father… he doesn't need the added difficulty that murdering the brother of the future Queen would give him..."

Sigh leaving her lips, Cersei just wanted this torture to end. "Tyrion, I'm tired and I have a headache…"

"All things that Ned Stark is likely glad you didn't have while he was devouring you." Catching her murderous glare return, Tyrion put his hands up. "Alright, that's my last one.' While normally a debased disgrace to the Lannister name, when he did grow serious Tyrion looked exactly like their father - and with the brains to back it up. "This isn't some infatuation. You really fancy Eddard Stark?"

Sighing, Cersei let her head fall back. "I can't believe I'm talking to you about this." Frankly, since Melara had nothing else to add and their pasts made talking to him… awkward, it was either Tyrion or Gerion. With Gerion away at the moment… "Yes, I fancy him."

Nodding, Tyrion leaned forward. "And why is that? To be honest, he doesn't seem like your type." All dour and brooding, Ned Stark would be quite dashing but wasn't the type to ever flaunt it. Definitely not the kind of man Cersei tended to favor. Quite the conundrum.

"I don't know." It frustrated her sometimes. "With the collapse of my almost betrothal to the Prince… Something just attracted me to the Stark. It baffles me." Much as she despised Tyrion, it did feel good to disclose this. The weight on her chest wasn't as heavy. "Ironic, my first words to him was 'Stuff your apology, northern fool!'"

"That's practically foreplay for you, sister." He grinned, leaning back against the chair like an arrogant lord holding court. But he grew serious. "Do you think it's about…"

Blindsided there, Cersei glared at her brother. "Do not go there, Tyrion."

But Tyrion was determined to explore this - for both his curiosity and whatever clarity Cersei could obtain. "Your outlook, I mean when you left for the tourney you still desired to be Rhaegar's wife, but your entitlement to it was nothing like before father made you drink the tea."

"I told you not to go there!" Her eyes shut tight - Cersei had finally put the pain of that moment to bed, only for her hated brother to bring it up again. "Don't, don't, don't…" She withdrew, almost tearing up.

Tyrion may have been an ass sometimes, but unlike what many - sometimes including Cersei - said, he was no monster. "Alright, sister. I won't refer to it again." There was a silence, allowing her some breathing space to resume her composure. "Personally, I think you should let that Stark boy have his way with you. You'll be far less wound..."

Now the proper Cersei Lannister returned from the show of vulnerability. "When you were a babe, I almost smothered you with a pillow. Wanna see if I can do so now..."

"Alright, Cersei. I know when I've overstayed my welcome." He pushed himself off the chair, hobbling out on his stunted legs. "One last thing. Don't let father's ambitions dissuade you from having your direwolf… he's probably gonna end up on the small council one day. Follow your heart and count yourself as lucky as Lady Lyanna."

Watching Tyrion leave, Cersei rose and walked to her bed. Falling upon it - staring at the ceiling. Gods… Tyrion, little monster that he was, ended up having a point. Perhaps that even as she pined for Rhaegar, little affair with Jaime notwithstanding, there had been a change about her after… Even in her own thoughts, Cersei couldn't bear to think about it. Ned Stark is no dashing prince or handsome knight.

He is handsome… and a fighter. No one that fought Ser Arthur Dayne and won could be thought of as anything different. A good man.

But he is a northern barbarian, a second son of a backwater Lord…

A man who set my loins on fire… Groaning loud, she buried her head in her pillow. Hoping that her sleep wouldn't be disturbed too much by the burning between her legs.

Bouncing the cute little bundle clutched tightly to her bosom, Elia cooed gently. "Sleep little one. Muna's got you close… that's it." Violet eyes that were just like his father looking up at her, Prince Aegon yawned, arms stretching above his head before he fell asleep in her arms. "Rest up, little dragon."

"By the gods, motherhood agrees with you." Walking beside her in the gardens, listening to the hummingbirds buzz around the various winter blooming flowers planted by the groundskeepers, Oberyn watched his sister with a pure smile. He always did love his family as he did life. "Last time I saw you, you were pregnant with the tiny Princess."

Elia chuckled, being with child the first time she felt truly content with her lot in life. The first time Rhaegar and she managed to truly connect, however strained. "You have more experience than than me with childrearing… the bearing, not so much."

Oberyn shrugged. "I saw Nymeria's mother give birth. Believe me, I'm glad I was born with a cock." He smirked as Elia rolled his eyes. "Stop being so prudish, dear sister. It's how our parents made us."

"You sound just like Ellaria… and that isn't a complement by the way." Still bouncing Aegon, Elia looked at a newly planted shrub of winter roses. They are beautiful… She'd come to recently appreciate the wild beauty of the north.

Normally observant, his wistful remembrance of the night he had arrived - nude body tangled with an equally nude goddess in her bed - took his concentration. "Ah, yes. I hope the Princess of the Seven Kingdoms isn't angry that I… sampled her beautiful Lady in Waiting."

She narrowed her eyes. "I hope that you weren't referring to Dacey Mormont." All she got was a quirk of Oberyn's head. The woman that sampled half the Red Keep, sleeping with ten Northern guards and maids since Lyanna arrived in King's Landing… of course she falls for my brother. "I bet she took you to Chataya's."

He shook his head. "No, no brothel. Dear Ellaria Sand was worth ten whores, the way she could do this one thing with her tongue…"

"Alright, that's enough of an image." Elia didn't want to throw up while she held Aegon. "But only one woman for you? I'm surprised, brother." Oberyn grinned in response. "So I take it I'll have to find a new Lady in Waiting."

There was a slight silence. "About that… you need not worry once I leave."

It took a moment, but Elia did a double take. "You little bastard." She was simultaneously in jest and deathly serions. "You defiled my Lady in Waiting and are parting with her without another word?" Shaking her head, at that moment Elia sounded like their deceased mother. Quite scolding. "Why must you do that, Oberyn? She has an attraction to you."

"It was her idea, dear sister. And the beautiful Ellaria is just like me, a free spirit."

The Princess glared crossly, huffing. "I think obliviousness runs in our family if you are that boneheaded."

Smirking softly, Oberyn pointed out to Blackwater Bay. "See there, a thousand lands to explore. I am second in line to Doran, and he already has three children healthy as horses. I'm not required to inherit anything, so why not spread my wings."

"Because you have an actual connection with Ellaria?"

He shrugged again, spreading his arms. "I can't discount that. If we are meant to be, then she shall grace my life again." Oberyn leaned down to smell one of the flowers. "Let's leave it in the gods' hands."

"I think you're making a mistake, brother."

"Many women in my life, dear sister. Two daughters… at least that I know of." Another chuckle, another eye roll. "If there's anyone that knows the vagaries of love, it's me. Now your goodbrother, he's hopeless."

Elia furrowed her brows. Couldn't be Viserys… "Brandon?" No, he's a ladies man… "Ned Stark you mean?"

A nod. "Aye, spoke to him at your betrothal feast. Quite a brooder he is - worse than Rhaegar if you can believe it."

"You spoke to Ned Stark?" Oh, now this I have to hear. They took a turn out of the gardens, wandering close to one of the open yards of the keep. Members of the household guard trained in the distance, supervised by the up and coming knight Alliser Thorne - loyalty to House Targaryen bordering on zealotry. Though she was still miffed about him and Ellaria, Elia had learned in her time as Princess not to hold a grudge for very long. "What did you discuss?" she asked, easing Egg in her arms as he slept.

"Oh, just his pining after Cersei Lannister."

If she wasn't holding Aegon, Elia would have probably fell over in shock. "Eddard fancies Cersei Lannister?" Gods, that is something no one would have ever expected. "I greatly pity him."

"I don't. If he is able to nab the Light of the West, she'll fuck his brains out. A seasoned lover can always tell that type of woman. Cersei is that way… and so is your sister's wife." Oberyn wriggled his brows.

Biting her lip, Elia blushed. "I wouldn't know anything about…"

"Obara!" he barked at a child around eight namedays. "Keep your arms up. You're sparring, not dancing." Matched against a Martell guard, the girl did as she was told - improving greatly. Lyanna would like Dornish custom, I believe.


She looked up to find Oberyn staring at her. "What troubles you, sister?"

"Oh… nothing."

"Don't give me that. Our brother might be fooled, or too oblivious, but you never got to pawn me off so easily." He crossed his arms. "Why are you so pensive lately?"

Secretly craving a sympathetic ear, Elia spilled everything. From what she observed the night before outside Rhaenys' chambers, to Lyanna's monopolization of Rhaegar's adoring gazes, to the slow reconnecting she found herself having with her husband. Speaking of things she was ashamed to say or think… Oberyn wouldn't judge her, so it just came out.

Oberyn merely listened. "Alright," he finally spoke. "Turns out I was right all along about you and Rhaegar loving each other. I saw it when Rhaenys was in your womb and it just took a little push to get your heads out of your asses."

"Enough, Oberyn. I'm being serious right now." Easing Egg in her lap, she ran her fingers through her raven locks. "My mind is spinning and I have no way of calming it."

"Alright. Firstly, you have nothing to worry about."

She blinked. "And why is that?"

"If Lyanna were to try and usurp you, she would have made moves already." That had been proven the moment Lyanna held a knife to his throat to defend Rhaegar. Oberyn could see it in her eyes. "My worries…" A sigh. "You are my first priority, Elle." A name only Oberyn ever had for her. "If Lyanna was usurping you… if the Starks are usurping you, which is still something I can't dismiss at this point in time." Eddard… he was harmless. The man seemed more preoccupied with his own love life than anything political, placing him as a guileless novice at the game. Brandon seemed like an oblivious fun-lover, while Rickard was hard to read. Still have some work to go. "Our brother on the other hand, he ranted to me for a whole day about the need to keep Aegon's birthright."

Elia groaned. "He's always been more obsessed about the family legacy than his actual family." Her confusion about her role as her heart pushed her to Rhaegar but Doran's orders pushed her towards being a spy for Sunspear had clouded her early years. Preventing a true bond with her husband before Aerys began abusing her. She wouldn't forget it.

"Look, I wouldn't worry about Lyanna… while Doran would be stubborn about this, I see her love for your children as genuine. There's no faking that kind of adoration, and I honestly think you didn't hear their entire conversation. You may well be taking it out of context."

Elia had to admit he had a point. "Brother, I'm glad Lyanna cares for Egg and Rhae. I'm glad she cares for Rhaegar… I've had more affection from him now than at any time in our marriage, but would he have ever done so if not for Lyanna?" Her greatest source of dejection at the moment, that Rhaegar's love was just guilt.

"Why are you overthinking it, just enjoy having an actual husband." Of course it wasn't as cut and dry. "Dragons are not deceptive by nature, sister. Not when it comes to family." He smirked slyly. "Do you want to know why it is that you are so emotionally frazzled."

Egg whimpered, so Elia was distracted by him - missing the smirk. "What?"

"I think that you want to make love to both Rhaegar and Lyanna." That caught her attention, jaw dropping. "What? Every girl that tried it in my presence enjoyed herself."

That merely earned him a smack on the shoulder.

Chapter Text

Tonight was the night - a night where he would finally clear his mind before his wedding. Lacing his boots, Rhaegar admired the scuffed leather and rawhide laces that so adorned them. More precious to him than all the fine footwear that lined his closets. Jenny had got them for him. The woods witch turned Princess had guided him through Maegor I's hidden passageways, allowing young Rhaegar a safe place to play his harp. And when he was older… other things.

Even without Ser Barristan this night, he would enjoy it.

"My Queen," Rhaegar heard Ser Arthur say from outside the door. Uh oh. "Forgive me, but Prince Rhaegar is asleep."

"It seems rather early for that," he heard his mother reply. "And why would he be sleeping alone when he has shared Princess Elia's bed since he has arrived." Not waiting for Arthur's answer, Rhaegar found his mother throw open the door before he could dash for the secret escape route.

"Mother…" he managed to stammer, eyes wide. "What are you…?"

Frayed leather boots, trousers splotched and moth eaten. If not for his lustrous silver hair, he would look like a common smallfolk laborer. The idea, I so suspect. "I should ask you the same question, my son." She couldn't help but smirk.

"Forgive me, your Grace," Arthur said from the doorway. "But I don't think you would have wished me to detain the Queen."

Based on how he trembled and shifted his eyes, Rhaella didn't blame either Princess for finding him utterly adorable. "Uh… well…"

Rhaella giggled. He was just as cute as he was when a babe. She walked over to wrap her arms around her eldest boy. "Oh, don't look so surprised, Rhaegar. Did you think that your mother wouldn't notice how often you would sneak out of the Red Keep?" At his embarrassed blush, she smiled. "What were you doing out there to begin with?"

Motioning for his mother to sit down, as he found a chair Rhaegar felt a bit unburdened. "Sometimes I needed some time… to be free of my duty even for a little while." It had been so enjoyable that he couldn't stop himself. "Plus…"

"You wanted to see your domain." At his nod, she leaned over to kiss his brow. "You take so after my father, it's uncanny." Her son was perfect, who would be a wise and just King. "But I didn't come to talk to you about this."

"What did you wish to speak of, mother?"

They were seated close together, Rhaella feeling an overwhelming love and affection for her perfect son. The person that made dealing with Aerys worth it, a worthy burden to bear. "Ever since Lyanna came… I've seen you happy, Rhaegar. Happier than you've been for a long time."

He smiles. "She makes me happy, mother."

"And Elia?" His smile faded into something… unsure. So much history there. "I haven't been blind, my son - how affectionate the both of you are to each other." Obvious explanations such as placating Dorne did come to mind, but Rhaella knew her son. Those moments were genuine. "Everything's changed."

For the life of him, Rhaegar couldn't lie to his mother. She would see through his bullshit. "What can I say?"

"You love her." It wasn't a question.

"She's the mother of my children, my confidant… yes, I do love her." He had seen it in the past, especially of his own family. The political marriage set aside by a stronger royal in favor of a loving, lustful second relationship - be it marriage or a simple mistress. Not everyone has the luck of grandfather, marrying only for love. "I see the pain in her eyes, the bitterness… I blame myself." Rhaegar had tried to keep in his hurt for so long, but Rhaella was always someone he could confide in.

"You don't need to tell me more, my son." Her letters to her uncle Aemon - he had been her rock during the most painful of times, and his stories of the past had brought much knowledge to her. "You are more like my father than you realize, Rhaegar. Even in allowing a place in your heart for more than one."

Rhaegar's eyes widened, shifting from his lap to gaze at his mother. "Grandfather… loved two?"

Rhaella nodded. "It was a trying time for House Targaryen. Plagues, wars, rebellions. Lord Bloodraven kept it together, but only barely. As the youngest son of the youngest son, my father never expected to be King so he sought to marry for love… and he loved his sister. My aunt Rhae." It had been no secret, hence her and her elder sister Rhaelle's names… or why Aegon had asked her to name her son Rhaegar. "They wished to marry, but after all the plagues brought Maeker to the line of succession, he forbade it."

"Why?" While polygamous marriage was forbidden for fear of antagonizing the Faith - Daeron II choosing to alienate his half-brother rather than letting him take two wives - the Doctrine of Exceptionalism still applied to siblings.

"She was promised to another Lord. Someone who would secure our position." Rhaella sighed. "As such, he journeyed the Realm and fell in love with my mother." A chuckle escaped her lips. "But for the entire time of their marriage, Aunt Rhae was their lover."

The Prince was absolutely stunned. How did no one know of this? "His search of the dragons, it was to be able to openly marry Rhae, wasn't it?"

He doesn't need to know the other reason… not yet. "Aye, that was my father's main goal. Tragically, his efforts killed not only himself, but also both of his loves." A tear fell down her cheek. "You, my son, have fortune on your side that he didn't. It's in our blood, don't deny it."

Luck, providence, fortune. Could his duty, as Aemon told him, be loving these two beauties? "Thank you, mother."

Smiling, Rhaella rose and kissed Rhaegar's cheek. "Just make sure Elia knows you love her independent of Lyanna. They will never let you go."

Elia looked at the she-wolf incredulously. "So wait, Arthur never left Dacey's side all night?"

A grin was planted on Lyanna's face, both of the princesses leaned forward on their loveseats - gossiping like two and ten year-old maidens. "He did, not that Dacey sees how momentous this was. All she can do is point at Ellaria and disclose that Arthur tried nothing but a hand on the small of her back rather than fall into bed like Oberyn did." There was no real secret where the Dornish Princess' night had been spent following the betrothal feast. "She's not just smitten with Ser Stuffy. I have little doubt that she's in love with him."

"What is it with you northerners?" laughed Elia, swatting at Lyanna's knee. "Diving in and shaking up matters like a blizzard? Arthur was a stoic septon before the she-bear showed up."

"And Ellaria? I'm sure her teaching Dacey the Dornish ways of seduction didn't have an effect?" Lyanna sighed. "Arthur was as stoic as a septon, while Ellaria had a much easier time of it. At least her target in Oberyn was someone not against a quick roll in the hay."

Crossing her legs, Elia glanced up at the ceiling. "Not a roll in the hay, sister." She paused for effect. "Ellaria's in love with him too… at least that's what I think." An incredulous laugh. "My lady in waiting, the woman that sampled half the cocks and cunts in the Red Keep, in love… and with my brother no less."

"Knowing his reputation, I doubt their wild ways would cease even if they tie the knot."

Blinking, Elia's jaw dropped. "Gods, you're right. That would be scandalous… right up their alley."

They were in Lyanna's chambers, sharing a glass of Dornish Apple and talking about literally everything under the sun. While Aerys and his conduct towards both of them did come up, both restricted their conversation to happy things - the wedding was in the morning… the moment where Lyanna would have her dreams come true with the man she adored since first laying eyes on him. Neither were interested in having a sullen mood prior to that momentous occasion. "Did you ever think you'd get to be here?" Lyanna suddenly asks, causing Elia to blink.

That was an… interesting question. "I'm not sure what you mean, sister?"

"We all know that I never expected this… even in spite of dreaming of something similar for years… but the Martells have married into House Targaryen before. Rhaegar has Martell blood. Did you expect it, or was it a surprise?"

"I…" There were so many competing emotions here. "I thought it a possibility… it's what my father and brother raised me for, but everyone thought Cersei Lannister would end up as Rhaegar's." The thought of the lioness having her paws on the Prince made Elia's blood boil. Possessiveness, a sign of love. Ironically, the inner voice sounded like a mix of her brother and Elia. "I hoped for a happy life as in the songs. That certainly was dashed rather quickly." Elia looked away, fighting a tear.

Lyanna reached over to clasp her sister-wife's hands. "I can see you two together recently, how happy he seems. Things are getting better." A small smile formed on the she-wolf's lips.

Elia shifted her gaze to the northerner. "And it truly doesn't bother you?"

"No. I trust Rhaegar to love me with all his heart alongside you, sister. Does it bother you?"

No… yes… perhaps… I don't know… Most of her didn't, but the nagging view of her brother persisted - a fear for Aegon and Rhaenys. The fear from that night she had listened in. "Not since you showed your love for my children."

"Our children, as much mine as babes of my womb will be yours." It was how Rhaella described Aenys and Maegor while their father and Mother Visenya were alive, and Lyanna wanted the same. Seeing how wonderful Elia was as a mother, her children by Rhaegar would be well raised by her… and it was simply the best way to go forth. One united front.

"Our children," Elia corrected. You may love them… but your family might not say the same. Politics had a way of ripping apart sentimentality. Something in Lyanna drew her notice, as if she was hiding something… "Lyanna. What's wrong?"

A sigh. There was no hiding it. "Connington." Elia tensed. "Rhaenys overheard something he was telling Pycelle… at least I think it was Pycelle. I think the Hand was trying to sow doubt about us, that I would take Rhaenys away from you." Her fists clenched.

Elia noticed this. Years in the Red Keep taught her to read the genuineness of emotion… and Lyanna's was genuine. Was that what all this was about? What I heard? The Princess felt bad now… for misunderstanding. "There's no need to worry, Lya. I know you won't take her away from me."

Do you?


Lyanna felt relieved a bit, but the underlying issue remained. "There's some reason he hates me… and you."

"He's in love with Rhaegar." Lyanna stared at her. "I can tell the looks. They're the same ones you give him."

"Oh… well. Rhaegar can't help him there."

"I know that… from personal experience." The two of them laughed.

Suddenly, a groan could be heard through the walls, followed by an intense creak as one section of stone slabs swung open. Elia practically jumped, while Lyanna both had her heart struck and instinctively moved ahead of her soon to be sister-wife. Facing the threat…

Only for Rhaegar to appear. "Ladies… hope I didn't frighten you."

Both trying to calm their hearts, it was Lyanna that first picked up a pillow to chuck at her beloved. "You cunt! What was that? Where did you come from?!"

"The Red Keep has tunnels created by Maegor, only accessible by the Royal Family…" Elia explained, but not before throwing a pillow herself. "But that doesn't excuse your being a cunt!" another pillow before Rhaegar strode right before them. Making them notice his simple clothes… and how handsome he looked in them. "What… what are you doing here."

He smiled. "Here." A bag was handed to them. Rifling through it, Lyanna pulled out a simple peasent's dress and clothes. Eyes questioning. "We're going out… to the city."

"You can't be serious?" Elia asked more on the practical side than her desire. "Wait… is this what you and Ser Barristan kept doing at night?" That was one mystery solved.

Lyanna would ask him about these trips by Ser Barristan. "I think he is… where are your guards?"

Rhaegar's grin widened. "None. Blackfyre is enough." He patted his sheathed sword before handing Lyanna a personal longsword. "Oh, you'll need this."

How the smirk spread on Lyanna's face made the Dornish Princess shiver.

"Oh, Bran…" A long mewl escaped her lips as Catelyn felt her betrothed's tongue snaking up the column of her neck. Shivering at how madly good it felt. "We should… stop…"

Reaching a patch of skin behind her ear, Brandon suckled it. Enjoying how the Tully girl writhed underneath him. "Why?"

Catelyn's hips bucked up as if on instinct - humping his crotch for relief. Whimpering at the strip of silk that shrouded her womanhood from his nakedness. "Because… not married…" Her mind said this was against the way of the Seven, but gods… her body wanted more.

Noticing this, Brandon chuckled. "We're betrothed." He had bedded many women. While they were generally better at the actual act, gods… seeing the prim and pious Catelyn Tully melt beneath him was amazing. "We shall be married."

"Still… not… mmmm…"

Hands grabbing the hem of the nightdress, her own wool dress having been discarded with his clothes upon the floor barely moments after he entered her chambers, Brandon rid Catelyn of her last strip of fabric. Licking his lips at the sight of pert breasts and a thatch of fire red hair at her womanhood that matched that of her head. "Kissed by fire…" he whispered deeply, attacking her breasts.

"Fu…" Even in passion, she bit back the profanity. "Bran…" Catelyn was teetering on the edge…

"Tell me to stop, Cat." He grabbed his member and tapped it against her entrance. One that only knew his touch.

The jolts through her core ended even the tiniest whimper of protest, and Catelyn bit her lip with a silent groan when Brandon pushed inside her. Feeling an explosion of pleasure that she had never before known. Wordlessly, she wrapped her legs around his hips, surrendering to him as he kissed her deeply. How could something so wrong feel soooo good… Her septas had to be wrong…

Spring in his step, Brandon leaned over to kiss the beauty passed out in his bed. Catelyn shivered in her sleep, snuggling against the pillow while murmuring his name. "I will enjoy making heirs with you, sweet wife," he chuckled. Tying his scabbard on his waist and heading off to meet with Elbert Arryn for a spar before bed, he left his chambers only to stop in his tracks… "Oh, Prince Oberyn."

Smirking, the Prince of Dorne crossed his arms. "I had come minutes ago, but it seemed as if you were busy."

Brandon wasn't Ned or Lyanna, so he only grinned. "Yeah… I was preoccupied with something… or rather someone." They proceeded down the hall, Oberyn walking beside him. Hells, he's fun to be around.

"I wouldn't have imagined Catelyn Tully to be anything less than a Septa."

Blinking, Brandon was only mildly surprised that Oberyn knew who he was bedding - most of him didn't care. "Eh, I'm sure you know what it means. Women not keeping their hands off you?"

Oberyn grinned. "Not just women." There was a slight silence. "Worried about dishonoring her?" At Brandon's quizzical look, he held up his hands. "I'm the last person who could pass sentence, but I'm simply curious."

Shrugging, Brandon clicked his tongue. "We'll be married in six months at the most. She takes moon tea. Harmless sin, and I don't even follow the Faith of the Seven. Uptight fools."

"You and I are kindred spirits, Brandon Stark." This person is probably less of a threat than his brother. He'd push him just a tiny bit more, gain a little certainty. "The moon is beautiful tonight… though I far prefer it at sea. Now there… you are truly able to see the expanse of the heavens."

Brandon laughed. "I envy you, Oberyn. Able to travel the world, see new places, fuck beautiful women of every color and creed… that's the life I was born to live."

A quirked eyebrow. "But you are the heir. Supreme power over the North only behind that of the King… perhaps Rhaegar would even make you Hand?" He'd peg Ned as a sooner pick than Brandon, but Oberyn wanted to see his reaction.

"Pfft…" Brandon snorted. "The North… it's fine cause the people there are wholesome, but King's Landing… I'd rather be anywhere else. Too many unctuous fools. I just hate the pretenses, the guardedness. No one is open or fun down here… like you and me."

Oberyn smiled. "Aye, Brandon, like you and me." Things were going well. "I do wish I could come here more though, to see my sister and her children."

"I wouldn't begrudge you for that, I'll be coming here a lot to see Lyanna as well." Brandon shook his head, smirking. "Rhaegar's a lucky man, two beautiful wives. I'd very much like to be in his place… only, not with my sister…"

He patted the other man's shoulder. "Oh, I understand." Yes, not a threat at all.

Somehow, Ellaria Sand had expected her friend to show up dejected and scowling at her chamber door. "Please, enter," she managed to say as Dacey simply brushed past her, falling on the bed and burying her face in a pillow. "Make yourself at home."

"I don't know what to do, Ellaria," Dacey groaned. "Nothing is working."

The bastard lady was merely thankful that Dacey hadn't arrived half an hour before. Bed tidied, cum stains washed off with a wet cloth, and a still hard Prince Oberyn shooed out of the room. "Tell me what happened." Much as Ellaria would have loved to swoon about her insatiable new conquest in the Martell nobleman, Dacey came first.

"It was humiliating. I batted my eyelashes and presented myself in front of Ser Arthur like some roast boar and he simply escorted me to my room after a few dances. His hand on my back was the only touch I had!" She truly hated herself. Angry for letting herself fall so hard for the unattainable Sword of the Morning. "This was all a mistake."

For a moment there was silence as the more experienced woman digested the information. Ellaria began laughing, deep and throatily. "You are such a delight, Dacey. So nice, so innocent."

Dacey sat up and glared, hands on her hips. "This isn't funny."

"Yes it is." Wiping her face, Ellaria pulled her friend in for a hug. "Oh, Dacey. Calm down - everything is gonna be fine."

"How, you don't possibly know that?"

"Oh, but I do." Sitting on her knees, hands tucked into her lap, Ellaria felt like a young girl hosting friends over in her chambers - or as a teen hosting friends for… other things in her chambers. "Arthur has never coupled with a woman."

Eyes going wide, Dacey suddenly understood. "I had no idea… he seemed so calm and dashing…" Knowing this… it explained their first meeting - how tongue tied he was. "He's never had experience with a lover."

"Let me tell you something about Arthur… he's been able to keep his celibacy for so long where most other knights of the Kingsguard fail because he has an iron will. Ignorant of females that he is, he knows how to resist them." Dacey's face falling made Ellaria chuckle. "But he grew up with the Dornish - the sexiest women in the Seven Kingdoms, but he's immune. Compared to them, those other Andals are nothing." She waved her hand dismissively, "But the wild beauty of a Northerner… earthy and powerful…" Ellaria clicked her tongue. "Know how to use it properly and you'll have him in the palm of your hand."

Gulping, Dacey imagined it. She couldn't picture any lover besides Arthur Dayne, giving her first to anybody but the enigmatic Sword of the Morning. The she-bear finally know how Lyanna must have felt during her courtship with Rhaegar… deeply enchanted. "Tell me what I must do."

A wide grin broke out on Ellaria's face. Satisfied… dangerous. "First," she clasped her head on each side. "You must look him in the eye. Love comes in at the eyes."

Love comes in at the eyes. Dacey nodded. "What else?"

"Always keep your hands on him. Hands or lips." The blush on Dacey's face was just too adorable. She definitely needs a good fuck. "Tell me, have you ever touched anyone before… in any manner?"

"Umm…" It was dreadfully embarrassing - the northern convention did infect Dacey in some manner. "A few guards… stableboys…"

Ellaria rolled her eyes. "Pish. Servants are easy. Touch them the right way and they'll finish right where they stand."

"Finish?" Dacey inquired. At Ellaria's knowing look, she blushed again. "Oh."

"Relax, Dacey." She placed a comforting squeeze on her shoulder. "You're going for a mighty knight, so your touches and kisses will have to be…" Ellaria's voice dropped. "Powerful… seductive…" Her hands drifted down Dacey's arms, leaning to just above the ear. "Overpowering…"

Suddenly, Dacey found herself flipped over. Pinned to the bed. "Uh, Ellaria…" She was silenced when her friend kissed her full on the lips. Tongue entering at her gasp. "Whoa, what?" she managed to sputter when the fellow Lady in Waiting pulled back. "Why did you do that?" More shock than anger.

Still pinning her hands, Ellaria's eyes danced with mirth. "You're wound tightly, Dacey. Not knowing," she said, leaning down to kiss along the Northern beauty's neck. "Just how to let go. To enjoy your body… you don't know just how sensitive your body is." Slowly, Ellaria began to work at the laces of Dacey's nightshirt. An expert for both smallfolk and noble ladies alike. "You must know all before you seek to seduce the mighty Arthur Dayne.

"I…" Dacey may be damned to the seven hells by the Faith for this, but damn if it didn't feel amazing. No deeper feelings other than lust, but Ellaria amplified the latter, playing Dacey like a fiddle. "But… we're friends…"

Ellaria kissed her again. "Shhh… I don't expect this to last longer than tonight." The Dornishwoman peeled off her own thin nightgown. "Just learn, and enjoy." A hiss escaped her lips when their bare skin met - friend as Dacey was, gods knew how much Ellaria wanted her from the beginning… at least only once. "When you are Ser Arthur's Lady, only thank me."

"Mmmmm… alright." Allowing herself to surrender, Dacey pictured that wonderful image as she started to learn more about her body than she had ever thought possible.

"'At'll be five stars, please," said the jolly street vendor, smiling as the coins clinked on the wooden counter of his cart. "'Une moment, ladies." He moved to the smoking portable oven in which the rounded pies cooked to a juicy warmth.

Rocking up and down on the balls of her feet, Elia fidgeted with the blue roundel at the end of her new necklace not for the first time that night. "I have to say it again, Lya. This is beautiful."

Paying two gold dragons for it, Lyanna felt that it had been her that got their coin's worth. "You deserve it, sister. And I have to admit that the bounty of the North compliments you."

"What is the stone called?" It was surrounded by six gold chains hooked to the silver band, nestling the sphere tightly.

"It's called kaskagos. Only found in the north and in some places in the Vale." She patted the pouch in her cloak, gift secure within. "Had to find some way to repay you." A needle-like knife in the Dornish style. Lyanna had almost squealed when Elia dropped it in her hands. Her woollen cloak made as perfect a place to hide it as it did the sword Rhaegar gave her. Perfect to skewer any being that threatened her… and yet no one did. It's safer here than in the Red Keep.

The Dornish Princess in hiding grinned. "Had to give you something for your wedding… and what does Lady Lyanna like more than…" It really meant more than that, as did her gift, but neither of them were able to realize it at that time. Something caught her eyes.

"And 'ere ya' go." Plopping two steaming pies on the counter, the vendor beamed on his chubby face. "Enjoy, though I'd 'ike em spoons back."

Picking up her pie, Lyanna dug the spoon in and drew out a healthy helping of chicken, carrots, and cheese. Searing hot, but her tongue exploded nonetheless. "Gods… this is good." Only Old Nan's kidney pies were better.

"You're right sister… it is good." Elia was scarfing hers down, not caring about propriety. "Have you considered opening a store?" she asked the vendor.

"Maybe, 'after I's get a wife and babe, 'abably." He laughed. "Tell yer' friends bout me. Ot Pie's pies." His belly jostled as he laughed harder.

"Will do… mmmm…"

The marketplace was bustling with people even as the large and bright moon was high in the sky. Shopkeepers and merchants plying their wares, vendors offering all kinds of food - sausages, syrup-glazed fruit, freshly baked breads and pastries, and juicy pies to name a few - and the dozens of minstrels, jugglers, and other entertainers… the intense night life drew those from all over the city. A cross-section of Westeros as was possible - both Princesses could understand why Rhaegar would enjoy coming here. Strolling around while he had 'a surprise' to take care of, they felt more alive than any time in years.

Licking her fingers clean of the bits of grease and flakes of crust, Lyanna looked up to find a small crowd gathering around one of the many fountains dotting the marketplace. "What's that?" It seemed as if dozens of people were flocking towards the commotion, almost all of them clad in the outfits of poor laborers or simple tradesmen.

Herself curious, Elia shrugged. "Who knows?" First instinct leaned her towards a street minstrel - there were several in the marketplace, often in troupes, competing with each other for the coin and attention of the hustle and bustle within the marketplace. However, none seemed to be as popular as the crowd that gathered around this hypothetical minstrel. He could be a quite skilled musician. "Perhaps..."

Sensing the look in Elia's eyes, Lyanna pieced the train of thought together. "You don't think…?" Now this was interesting. "Let's see if you're right, sister."

Both thin and quick on their feet, the two beauties managed to shimmy and wheedle their way through the milling crowd. The smell of unwashed bodies made their noses curl in distaste. Yet, neither cared. People were jovial, laughing and japing with each other. Children racing about with homemade toys or none at all. An earnestness about them that was absent in most highborns, the Princesses feeling more at ease among the former

And plenty gushed about the particular minstrel. "Thought I 'econized 'im."

"E's 'een gone a'hile."

"'Ank 'de gods ee's back."

"He's so handsome." The latter came from a young girl. No older than three and ten by the looks of her.

"Always keeps his head under the cloak," replied a companion.

Lyanna grabbed Elia's hand, leading the hidden Princess forward through the final line of people - finding a hooded figure sitting on the lip of the fountain. Face hidden… but both Princesses knew it was him. Knowing that toned, brooding form anywhere.

"Did you know he did this?" Lyanna's beloved, sneaking out into the city to simply play his harp and sing to the smallfolk? Gods, Rhaegar. I love you. He just couldn't stop being the perfect man. Strong yet caring. Gentle yet protective. She wanted to rush out to hug him, but was unable to root herself from her perch at the front of the throng of people.

"He never told me… but now certain things make sense." Sometimes he and Ser Barristan would disappear, unable for her to find them. Ser Arthur and Ser Oswell would keep her from Rhaegar's personal chambers - apparently both had snuck out of the Red Keep.

"Our man is breathtaking," Lyanna breathed.

"That he is." At that moment he stood up, hair still masked by the cowl but his face coming into view. Smiling softly until those violet eyes - glowing under the torchlight of the market - came in contact with the two women. Elia saw his expression change from surprise to an almost warm glow. She shivered with delight at her husband's attention.

Unwilling to make either Elia or Lyanna wait any further, Rhaegar cleared his throat. "Thank you for coming tonight, listening to me…"

"Sing the Bear and the Maiden Fair!" came one request from the crowd. Lyanna wished to ask him to play Jenny of Oldstones, but that song was for them and them alone.

"The Dornishman's Wife!" was another, words slurred by the clearly drunken man.

Rhaegar nodded at that. "Tempting, tempting," he announced with a grin, eyes boring in on his wife. Elia blushed and shot her husband a cross look. Lyanna giggled in her joy. Reminded that the particular song was a bawdy one. Cheeky bastard…

The crowd kept calling out requests. "Flowers of Spring, Jon!" came the call of the young girl from earlier.

Jon? "Is that his name?" Lyanna asked.

"Aye, Jon Snow of the North. The Seven gave him his voice."

Lyanna's head shifted to Rhaegar in surprise. Jon Snow of the north… by the old gods and new, I'll kill him. Apparently the Crown Prince had hidden his identity as a northern bastard lost in King's Landing…

"Almost meant to be, if you think about it," Elia whispered into her ear.

"I love that man so much." Her sister-wife was right… they were meant to be long before they even met.

Watching Lyanna smile so adoringly, Rhaegar knew just the song. "Prince Rhaegar is getting married on the morrow." There were cheers at his name. "Therefore, I shall dedicate this song to his beautiful wives." He could swear both women swooned.

Fingers strummed at the harp. All noise stilled, drawn to the beautiful music made by the hidden dragon. Haunting, yet almost an intensity about it.

"Search for the glory I knew all along,

"I face the flames, thy touch on my hand,

"Alone facing our final dawn,

"Alone I stand a complete man."

Elia recognized the song. Dance of Dragons, one about a pair of lovers dying in each other's arms during the Doom of Valyria. Normally, it was played by a troupe of minstrels… but Rhaegar's voice was so hauntingly beautiful that no one noticed.

"All I have is one last chance,

"I won't turn my back on you,

"Take my hand, they'll drag me down,

"If you burn then I will too,

"And I will meet the flames with you."

There wasn't even a sound from the crowd, people lured from the rest of the market by the stunning chords of the harp. Rhaegar's voice so beautiful that even the gods had to be listening.

"Our love burns anew,

"There is nothing left,

"I can't face the doom without you,

"There's nothing left to lose,

"Our fight finally ends,

"I can't face the doom without you."

"Embrace me tight until I hurt,

"I understand there's nothing left,

"Pain so close to the heart,

"Lest eternity forgets."

Rhaegar watched as the crowd stilled, enchanted by his voice, occasionally one darting forward to drop a coin into a small sack by the fountain. He closed his eyes, letting his fingers pluck the notes on pure instinct.

"Our love burns anew,

"There is nothing left,

"I can't face the doom without you,

"There's nothing left to lose,

"Our fight finally ends,

"I can't face the doom without you."

He found the figures of both his wife and his betrothed. Dressed as simple smallfolk maidens but just as beautiful. Oh how he loved them. Lyanna, the wild direwolf that filled the hole in his heart. And Elia… at that moment he understood what his grandfather must have felt, the dragonblood in him pulsing with enough love for two. There was still much to repair, but the Prince was sure of what wanted.

Preparing the last of the song, he stared at the both of them. Lyrics tragic, but his expression telling both of them that such tragedy would never touch their marriage if he had anything to say about it.

"Gods be kind,

"Gods grant us grace,

"Don't leave me ever again,

"I'm with you forever, the end.

Tears coated the cheeks of the onlookers, even the most salty character. Men closing their eyes as they were moved by the powerful words, women of all ages melting from the angelic lilt of Rhaegar's voice. Hands still intertwined, Elia felt Lyanna reaching over, seeking to lock together their free hands. Unable not to tremble as their beloved serenaded them. For as he walked about, his sparkling purple eyes never left them.

"Our love burns anew,

"There is nothing left,

"I can't face the doom without you,

"There's nothing left to lose,

"Our fight finally ends,

"I can't face the doom without you."

There was a silence just as the song ended. Hanging over the market like a baited breath… it ended abruptly as hundreds began clapping. Whistling their admiration of the mysterious minstrel of the North named Jon Snow. Dozens came to drop coins in the sack. Bronze stars and silver stags… even a gold dragon every now and again from a well dressed merchant.

Lyanna wiped the tears from her face. "That was even more beautiful than when I heard him first."

"Rhaegar…" whispered Elia, ever mindful in spite of her heart fluttering from his voice. "Whenever he sang, I forgot my pain." She started to sob. "I… I never told him… how much it always meant to me…" Her sister-wife pulled her into an embrace - gods help her, Lyanna's arms were just as comforting as Rhaegar's.

When they pulled apart, he was gone. Crowd starting to disband and go about their business. Lyanna kissed Elia's cheek and tugged at her hand. "He shouldn't have gone far."

They found him in an alley, hidden from the view of the market. Seated upon the stoop of a dark shop waiting for them. At seeing them, Rhaegar smiled and stood. "My loves…" He staggered back when both of them practically charged into his arms. Almost knocking him down with a tight embrace. Lyanna was the lucky one to reach his lips first, kissing him deeply. Rhaegar had barely any time to breathe when they broke apart before Elia sought him out. Her subtle Dornish fragrance oh so different from the wild, piney scent of his northern beauty, but in no way less pleasant to him. "I take it you liked."

Pulling back to stare into his eyes, Elia felt the same spark between them as they shared during their wedding. Before the hope had died… "You were amazing, my Prince." Now, it was slowly resurrecting.

Lyanna couldn't stop kissing his cheek. "Love you. Love you… gods, I love you." Both simply felt giddy, two maidens swooning over the man they loved. "I can't believe you're a simple bard."

Rhaegar shrugged, slightly embarrassed - leading to more kisses from the ladies. "Aunt Jenny got me started on it. My father hated when I played in the Red Keep, so she would disguise me and we'd play for the smallfolk. After she died… Barristan came with me." He pointed to the sack of coins. "I only wanted to practice my music - the coin would go to charities across the city."

"Charity… wait. You're the bard at the orphanage!" Elia grinned, finally figuring it out. "I should have known. Matron Seaworth has high praise for you." She leaned in to kiss him deeply.

Rhaegar chuckled against her lips. "Honestly, this was the largest haul I've ever managed to get for them." He reached his hands out to wrap around their waists. "The two of you inspire me."

Kissing his neck simultaneously, Lyanna finally remembered something. She pulled back, lips crooked in curiosity. "Jon Snow?"

He blushed a deep red. "Oh, Lyanna. No."

While utterly adorable, Lyanna didn't let up on the pressure. "A northern bastard name, Rhaegar? I need to know."

A plea to Elia, all three still locked in an embrace, went nowhere. "I want to know this too." Her accent added an extra emphasis. "Tell us, husband."

Rhaegar closed his eyes, sighing hard. "Needed to keep myself hidden, yet also exotic… Valyrian features aren't common here." Having decided on it years ago, before even Elia, the memories were foggy. "I can't explain it… the name just called to me. As if someone with that name was important in some way…"

A finger on his lips cut him off. "Rhaegar…" Lyanna's eyes glistened with happy tears. Allowing the full weight of the song and how perfect he was to return. "You are mine… ours… I love you so much." Unable to say the words, Elia only nodded in agreement. Both women resumed the tight hug.

Smiling widely, Lyanna leaned into his shoulder. Letting the sweet, generous man she was to marry on the morn make her feel all the love in the world. Is there truly any better? Kind Marya Seaworth recognized them immediately, but luckily she merely winked at them knowingly, the only one besides her, Elia, and the Kingsguards who knew of Rhaegar's charity. Just how amazing he was. That he does it with no public praise only makes him more perfect. Finding it so easy to be affectionate with the man she loved… with no audience but Elia, who by this time tomorrow would be her sister-wife. Never did she think she'd be living out her childhood fantasies, but here she was.

Only Lyanna's mind was whirring. Jon… The name called to her too. Jon… Prince Jon… Prince Jon Targaryen…

Chapter Text

"Agh," Rhaegar hissed, feeling a bit of hair caught in the buckle of his chestplate. "Careful there."

"If you could stand still, I wouldn't be yanking on your hair, you royal dolt," Elia shot back, biting her lip in concentration as she put the finishing touches on the ceremonial set of armor that would clad Rhaegar during the ceremony at the Great Sept. Lighter and more flamboyant than on the battlefield, without plate gloves and topped off with a blood red cloak. "Besides, this is quite distracting."

Nestled alone in the Prince's chambers, the couple enjoyed a quiet moment of affection. One they hadn't truly shared in a while. My fault, Rhaegar thought bitterly. But he wouldn't bring Elia down into melancholy, especially today. "And how is it distracting."

She huffed. "You men, dressing in armor all the time." The strap was pulled through the buckle and affixed to the loop. Elia moved to the second. "Knowing what it does to women between their legs yet always so hard to take off when you decide to ease our discomfort." Finishing the second loop, Elia swatted him lightly. "Men."

"By that logic, it's safe to assume that I am causing discomfort between your legs," he replied, grinning.

Elia's swat was harder this time, yet she smirked. "Cheeky cunt." But she knew he was right. Gods… this man… The dam was bursting, Elia allowing herself feelings long kept under wraps. They were opening up gradually, but it just felt so right. We're going to be hurt eventually… No. She wouldn't sabotage this before it even truly started. "There, all done." Facing him, Elia hugged his chest.

Rhaegar returned the embrace. "You are the perfect wife, my dear Princess."

"And yet you see fit to get another," she teased.

"Doesn't change what I feel for you."

Pulling back, Elia peered up at him. The moment changing from light to heavy. "And what do you feel for me, my Prince?" Her expression was half lust, half guarded curiosity.

Before he could answer, a tropical cyclone burst into the room. "Muna! Kepa!" Each had to brace themselves as Rhaenys slammed into their legs, jumping up and down. "Wedding here! Wedding here! Take me! Take me!"

There was no chance either royal couldn't be charmed by their sweetling of a daughter. "Oh my love." Elia leaned down to kiss her forehead. "You'll have to stay here at the Red Keep."

Rhaenys pouted, as if being denied admittance to the wedding was akin to killing her entire family. "But I wanna see muna and kepa get mawwied, muna."

Laughing, Rhaegar hefted his daughter in his arms. The Princess' mood changing immediately with a flurry of giggles as her father kissed her face repeatedly. "Relax, little dragon. You'd rather not be somewhere that boring. Just a lot of talking and talking and standing still…"

"Ewwww… that bowing, kepa." Elia laughed merrily, wrapping an arm around her husband's waist. He knew just the right thing to say to their daughter. He's such a good man. A man any woman was lucky to have as a husband.

"Told ya, my sweet sweet girl." He held her close. "Muna loves you and I love her. We'll have plenty of time to spend together at Dragonstone together. All five of us."

"Fwive? Muna too?"

Such babble of a toddler, Rhaegar instinctively knew it. "Yes." A strong arm pulled Elia in too. "Muna will be there too. Both your Munas are precious to me." Pressing a kiss to Elia's lips and earning a look of disgust from their daughter, Elia blushed. Looking away, wishing that the moistness between her legs would go away before the ceremony.

Gods… I do love him.

In another part of the Red Keep, Lord Rickard Stark was having trouble with the more mundane tasks of a household. "Father, I see you tie knots in the Winterfell courtyard. How is it you can't braid hair."

"Well…" He cursed under his breath at his third failure. "When your late mother handled it for you… and then Nan handled it for you, I didn't have much incentive to learn such a skill now did I?"

"Yet you can put your hair in a bun?" Lyanna was having fun flustering her father.

"That's different. Simpler, not…"

"Woman's work, father?"

Rickard stomped his foot in frustration after his fourth attempt immolated. "Gods…" he let out an exhale. "Lady Dacey, can you assist me?"

Head up, Dacey shook her head. "Apologies, my Lord. I'm preoccupied with a pressing matter." Her 'pressing matter' turned out to be tossing silver stags into an empty chamber pot several yards away.

Unable to keep in her giggles, Lyanna forgot her nerves. "Dacey, please finish my braids."

The Mormont warrior turned lady in waiting stood, taking the place of her Liege Lord at the Princess' hair. "I'll fix this up quickly. Wouldn't want you to be late at your own wedding, Lya."

"My wedding…" It still didn't cease to amaze Lyanna. That she was finally getting married… to her Prince Daemon. All of her strength was deployed so that she wouldn't scream in glee at the fact. "Father, are you alright?"

Rickard wiped away a tear, trying his best to remain composed. "You… you look exactly like your mother on her wedding day." The Starks weren't the most sentimental of people, but sometimes there wasn't a chance to be anything otherwise. Seeing Dacey had finished in a minute what he had taken thirty to fail, Rickard moved towards a box resting on the table beside his bed. "I have something for you, one from your mother and one from me."

Furrowing her brows, Lyanna gasped when he took out a crown of winter roses. As beautiful as the one Rhaegar had crowned her at the tourney. "Is that…?"

"Aye, this is my contribution to your wedding… besides giving you away that is." He gently placed it atop her braids, making what was already a beautiful bride radiant. "You're already known as the Winter Rose of Winterfell. Why not become what you're called?"

Lyanna wiped away a tear of her own. "Oh, father…"

But Rickard wasn't done. Out of his pocket, he took out a silver pin. Melded into a direwolf… the sigil of their house. "My mother gave this to your mother when she was to marry me, and now I give this to you." He tucked it into her gown, patting it lovingly. "Today, you pass into House Targaryen, but you will always be of the North." Beaming, Lyanna threw her arms around her father, hugging him close.

The bells chimed a total of three times - twin rings per yank of the rope atop the seven belltowers, the Great Sept of Baelor heralding a massive crowd of cheering smallfolk outside the commencement of the wedding of Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and his she-wolf Lyanna Stark. A second bride, but such fact ignored by all but the most highly devout of the city. Everywhere else, the tale of the daughter of winter riding across the dregs of King's Landing with the sun of Dorne with coin for the poor and hugs for the children brought out the adoration of the crowd. Flowers lining the avenue to Aegon's High Hill as they roared their love for both Princesses and the Prince that held their affections.

Inside, the coffered dome overlooked the hundreds of guests, separated into four squares around the great seven-pointed star. The iconography was everywhere, especially right before the altar in casting a mighty burst of afternoon sunlight streaming into the well. It irritated many of the northerners, but they put up with it. It was a long way from Winterfell after all. The High Septon huffed, wiping a sheen of sweat from his face from the heat of his corpulent frame. Standing close to him, the Crown Prince's armor clinked as he wiped the same sheen from his forehead… albeit for different reasons.

A feminine pair of lips curved crossly. "Calm down, husband," Elia whispered, ever so slightly leaning towards Rhaegar. "If you tap your foot any harder, you'll break the stone."

Suddenly noticing his nervous tic atop the marble floor, Rhaegar stilled his foot, crossing his arms over his ceremonial armor. "Forgive me."

Elia giggled softly. "There's no need to be nervous, love." Voice low so that neither the King nor the fat septon would hear her, she quickly kissed his cheek. Seeing him relax. "She's going to show up." If one had asked her two moons before if she'd be both standing there… and alright with standing there, Elia would have laughed. Lyanna Stark… she was a winter's gale - upending everything. "Just as I did."

Turning to her, Rhaegar's nerves melted in the face of her brown eyes simply looking upon him. "Aye, I know." Records of the wedding of Aegon the Conqueror lost to history during the Dance of the Dragons, the only precedent for multiple marriages - that didn't have the bad omens of the Black Brides - in had been the second and third weddings of King Maegor. The small council had studied records of his third with Queen Tyanna, especially in relation to Alys Harroway. As such, Elia was present right at the groom's side. "Thank you, for being here."

She smiled widely. "I wouldn't miss it for the world." She would stay there until the ceremony in which she would wait on the last step before the altar, wearing the red and black wedding cloak of House Targaryen, emblazoned with its sigil. "I…" I love you. Somehow, it died on her tongue.

He took her in, noticing the burnt orange gown of Dorne underneath. Gossamer, giving a hint of the exotic olive skin. Her chest and waist hidden by a colorfully etched red sun. A simple act of defiance from the Princess of Dragonstone, one that made Rhaegar burn with desire. I love you. But as with her, the Crown Prince whiffed. Simply waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Rhaegar's breath left him when the Kingsguards opened the golden doors, revealing his bride to the entire gathering. Dear Balerion above… Hand looped in the crook of her father's arm, Lyanna was the picture of divine beauty - a goddess of ice presented to join with his fire that day. Their eyes met in that moment, and he saw the grey sparkle with love and affection from even that distance.

Making her way onto the floor of the sept, her dress sparkled in the sunlight as onlookers bowed and curtseyed lightly. Breaking from a traditional color of cream, it was instead an ice blue, piercing and vibrant as her personality. Dark blue swirls marked blizzards of snow that sent a chill through most - but the daughter of winter wore her arms bare in showing off the toned muscles of an expert rider and fighter… though only Rhaegar and the Starks knew just how well. Simple braids of her chestnut hair were topped with the trademark crown of winter roses. She is so beautiful…

The two Starks reached the van of the gathered nobles, where the line of royals waited to watch the proceedings. Rhaella greeted her future gooddaughter with a gentle embrace, while Viserys peered at her sweetly. Aerys, for his part, curtly nodded when she curtseyed deeply for him. Both Ned and Brandon hugged their sister tightly - Catelyn Tully smiling at her from beside Brandon. The last time where they would greet Lyanna as a Stark - the white and grey cloak about her shoulders bearing the Direwolf sigil would soon be replaced to match what Elia wore.

Three heads, like the dragon of House Targaryen.

Rickard kissed Lyanna on the forehead, allowing her to ascend the steps. Releasing her from his house to her husband's. As with the wedding of Maegor and Tyanna, Elia embraced her soon to be sister-wife and kissed each cheek. Their hands clasping together for but a moment - both pulling away with a tingle. The moment was over quickly, but leaving Elia in a slight daze, butterflies in her stomach, as she stepped to her place. It's their day, relax.

Absent a veil, now that she was before him Rhaegar was delighted to see her face bare to him. To be able and gaze unobstructed at her beautiful eyes and loving smile. Lyanna overjoyed to see his silver hair and strong jaw - wishing she could reach out and kiss him right there. Surrounded by the massive statues of the Seven and the hundreds of noble guests, the only ones either cared about in that moment was each other.

Clearing his puffy throat, the High Septon began. "Your Graces, Lords and Ladies. The ceremony before the sight of their most Holy Seven shall begin." Turning to Rhaegar with ruddy eyes, he gestured to the large folds of cloth draped over a stand to his left. "You may now cloak the bride and bring her under your protection."

Wordlessly, Lyanna turned, shivering with delight as Rhaegar's strong fingers gingerly removed the direwolf cloak from her shoulders. Much as she loved the House of her birth, there was no stopping her from the exact dream of her childhood coming true. Glancing at Elia, the Princess understood exactly what she was thinking.

Rhaegar folded the cloak with reverence, ensuring the direwolf was proudly displayed on the top when he set it down - the Northerners in the hall nodded and whispered their respect, while Aerys simply snorted. Weak boy. Trying to ignore Tywin's presence so as not to give the upstart kitty cat any satisfaction. Eyes trained upon his son as he took the Targaryen cloak and draped it upon Lyanna's shoulders, hand running down her bare arm. It was official. Lyanna Stark was now under the protection of House Targaryen.

"My lords, my ladies, we stand here in the sight of gods and men to witness the union of man and wife. One flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever." Having run through the step long before, the couple joined hands - a warmth coursing through them - as they stood side by side. The septon produced a ribbon and tied a knot around their joined hands, symbolizing the union of Lady Lyanna into the family of Rhaegar Targaryen. "Let it be known that Prince Rhaegar of House Targaryen and Lady Lyanna of House Stark are one heart, one flesh, one soul. Cursed be he who would seek to tear them asunder."

Ned watched them with a smile. Way to go little sister. Flickering to how Catelyn clasped Brandon's hand with hers, the younger Stark son felt a loneliness about him. Wishing for his own lady to be beside him

"In the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one for eternity." Words that caused both Rhaegar and Lyanna - as well as Elia, all three feeling a sudden connection - to silently sigh with joy.

In the rear of the assemblage, underneath the judgemental statue of the Crone, Cersei had a sigh of her own. Joining her father, brother, and uncle in trying to avoid the King's attention, the emptiness in her soul was unable to escape. Needing something to fill the void, but all options out of reach.

"Look upon each other and say the words."

Robert's hands clenched in a sullen fury. It was he that was supposed to be up there. I'm gonna have to get good and drunk tonight. Wine and mead would be the only weapon he had to fight off his urge to throttle the dragonspawn.

Turning at the High Septon's command, Lyanna basked in the sparkle of Rhaegar's white teeth bared in a brilliant smile. Eyes a vibrant violet from the love and emotion swirling within him. Her own mind in a sort of trance, she couldn't believe that the gods were actually granting her wish. That she could bear her heart and soul completely to the same man that she had dreamed of for so long. A man far better than she could ever imagine in a dream.

Standing beside the statue of the Mother, Jaime Lannister prayed without hope that one day his dreams would be answered. To grant the same enchantment to the women he so boundlessly loved.

Rhaegar and Lyanna spoke simultaneously. "Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger..."

"I am hers…"

"I am his…"

"And she is mine…"

"And he is mine…"

Almost swooning, Rhaella allowed herself to be swallowed by her son's happiness. Knowing the only way she would see such adoration was from afar. Vicariously through her beloved children.

"From this day, until the end of my days." No truer words could ever be spoken. A marriage built on unconditional love. Forged in the same tradition as Aegon the Conqueror, his sword strapped to Rhaegar's side and the spirit of him and his Queens dwelling in all three. No force by man or god could break them apart. Elia could feel it too, a bittersweet moment, knowing that it would be Lyanna her husband bedded tonight - and Rhaegar her sister-wife would bed. Somehow, both thoughts sullied her happiness equally.

Rhaegar began his favorite words of the ceremony. "With this kiss, I pledge my love." Cupping her cheek, locking their gazes, both groom and bride surged forth and crashed their lips together. Uncaring of the onlookers, the passion of the dragon and wolf unavoidable in its intensity.

As the Lords and Ladies clapped, applause thundering underneath the cavernous dome, Aerys scowled. Love, pfft. Love was for the weak.

He had a lot more work to do.

It was said that Northerners made for quite a party. Boisterous, not tethered to social conventions of the Andal knights, once the fiddlers invited by the newly christened Princess of Dragonstone put their bows to the strings all bets were off. And judging from the laughs and smiles from the other Lords, it was quite infectious. Many wished to celebrate the newest member of House Targaryen.

Eyes trained on the table holding the groom and brides, Ned gingerly sipped on his ale - a stout northern lager imported from White Harbor. The three were huddled together after House Velaryon offered their fealty, Elia leaning left nearly on top of Rhaegar to tell a story. Both newlyweds listening intently before bursting into a merry laughter - Lyanna swatting Elia's hand while Rhaegar kissed her chastely, arm around the bride. Can't argue there… that's a happy family. Much as the septons would lambast it, the First Men of antiquity hadn't begrudged polygamy… or incest for that matter. My sister is happy, that's all that matters.

Certainly more than his own happiness, considering how alone he was.

"Ned, mi'boy!" Meaty hand slamming into his back, Ned struggled not to choke down his ale when Robert plopped next to him. Horn of strong-smelling liquor in his other hand. "Yer sittin' alone like a woman bleedin'. Join the fun!"

Wiping the froth from his lips, Ned made a quick look to the royal table. Finding Lyanna raising an eyebrow for a split second before turning away - not wanting to see Robert more than necessary. Good thing I chose a seat far away. "Didn't think you'd be welcome here, Robert?" They did patch things up to an extent, though without the filial intimacy of before. But Rhaegar and the Princesses were another matter.

Robert waved him off. "Gotta represent my Kingdom as it's Lord Paramount." He snorted, taking another swig. "Connington a fart-length ride from Storm's End. He can handle it… or Stannis. He's boring enough to beg for the pass-out conversations." Smirking, he wrapped an arm around his non-blood brother. "That reminds me of a proposition for ya."

"What would that be, Robert?"

"Got plans after this? On what yer' gonna do?"

That took some thought. "Depends on what my father requests… otherwise I have no idea." He could go back to the Vale, or stay here with his family… or go to Casterly Rock and beg Tywin Lannister for… Best to forget that.

But Robert's statement surprised him. "Come down to Storm's End with me. Help me put it to rights." He lightly poked him in the stomach. "Stannis has a stick up his ass and Renly… well… he'd be Lady Renly if he rules." He laughed boisterously. "It'll be like the good old days… Let's make sure they don't fuck up my father's legacy."

Ned smiled softly at that. "While I do remember fondly our time together, I must decline." Robert's face fell. "It is my duty to my house to do what is best for it… and the North."

"Oh Ned, so honorable." Robert giggled at that. "Duty is like moderation. Keeps ya' goin' for a while, but damned if you're not fuckin' miserable the entire time."

Tell that to Mya and gods knows how many more bastards that I don't know of. But he didn't say that. "I can't see myself in a life of adventure, Robert." Ned knew what life he did want, gaze falling on a flash of blonde hair among the Westermen.

"Every son of a bitch makes their mark on the world. Already made mine." Not that Ned would think it was to be proud of.

Ned sighed. "I already did Robert"

"Oh, how?"

"I think I found my lady." It just slipped out.

"Yer' shittin' me!" Robert smacked him on the back. "Good luck to you, Ned! I look forward to the wedding."

Much as he and Robert had already drifted apart so much, the man's pep talks did fill him with confidence. "And I would invite you… if I can get her hand." He finished off his ale and stood, ignoring a motivational comment about a proper bride's tits from the Lord of Storm's End.

"It shall be the happiest day of my life when we are finally family, your Grace."

Rhaegar nodded at the beautiful redhead. "I am sure my goodbrother is also counting down the days."

Catelyn Tully sighed softly, swooning. "I know he does."

"As am I your Grace, Princesses." Hoster Tully had the same expression as his daughter - the two were a lot alike. "Our grand alliance between the great houses of Westeros is the highest honor, and the Prince of Dragonstone is welcome to the hospitality of Riverrun whenever they wish."

Forcing a congenial smile in spite of her dislike for House Tully, Elia nodded with her husband and sister-wife. "Your kind words are greatly appreciated by all of us, and on behalf of myself, the Prince, and the Princess Lyanna, we accept and shall take your invitation to Riverrun under advisement. It would be our honor to be guests of such a noble and ancient House." It left a sour taste in her mouth, but politics was politics.

Both bowing, Lord Hoster and Lady Catelyn left the dias, the former towards a cluster of his noble bannermen and the latter towards her betrothed - Brandon yanking her to him and tugging her towards the dance floor. The Dornishwoman raised an eyebrow at her sister-wife, who shrugged and laughed. Dipping into his cups, the heir to Winterfell was even more boisterous than his charming personality predisposed him to.

Out of the corner of their eyes, someone else began to walk up to their table. Giggling banter between the three royals waned as the figure approached. One whose presence had a sort of aura surrounding her. The music even seemed to dim as almost a third of the guests glanced in the direction of the table. "My Prince... my Princesses." The woman before them curtsied at the three of them, voice different and smokey. Dripping with innuendo and a hint of seduction.

The woman was beautiful, that much the Prince and Princesses could see. Skin pale as alabaster, dark crimson hair styled in an elaborate braid and equally red eyes piercing through a person's soul. Completing the domination of the color was a form-fitting red dress that left little to the imagination, topped by a red-gold choker inlaid with a ruby round her neck. Rhaegar blinked. "Greetings, Lady..."

"Melisandre. Melisandre of Asshai." She spread her arms in a conciliatory gesture. "As the designated representative of the Temple of R'hllor in Volantis, I congratulate you on your marriage vows, Prince Rhaegar and Princess Lyanna." The piercing red shifted to Elia. "And to you as well, Princess, bound here under the laws most ancient."

Peeking at her sister-wife, Lyanna's gaze met hers and they both shivered involuntarily at the implication of the words - unknowing whether it was genuine or manipulated by this woman. A Red Priestess from the Shadowlands… a religion and race known to dabble in dark magic. "Thank you very much, Lady Melisandre," Lyanna declared politely. "That is very kind of you."

"Excuse me, but why is a representative of the Red Temple here?" In all her life, Elia hadn't ever seen the Faith of R'hllor take an active interest in Westerosi affairs. There were some in King's Landing and Dorne, but those were mostly missionaries.

"His Grace personally requested the aid of the one true faith for pressing matter, Princess," Melisandre responded quickly, her gaze flickering between each of the royals. Expression serene. "The Red Temple sent me to answer his request.

Rhaegar exchanged glances with his wives. Outwardly neutral but both sensing his worry. "And what assistance would my father, the King, wish from the Red Temple?" he asked.

"I cannot say," Melisandre smiled cryptically, "But I would have come regardless."

Lyanna could sense it. There was something… off about Melisandre. The tone reeked of someone who was used to manipulating those to her will… or the will of her god as she saw it - but also seemed sincere, strange as it seemed. "Well, we welcome you to westeros, Lady Melisandre and hope you can help his Grace for whatever he wishes." The latter was a lie, but Lyanna hoped it would end the conversation.

However, she didn't leave, instead staring at all three of them. Red eyes seemingly glowing. It was disconcerting. "Um... is something wrong, Lady melisandre?" asked a curious Rhaegar. Subtly, Lyanna motioned to Ser Barristan just in case, who placed a hand on the hilt of his sword.

"The fire was right, Prince Rhaegar. He never lies..."

Elia had heard the stories of the Red Priests seeing visions in fire, so she wasn't as bewildered as her spouses. "What does the fire tells you?" Both Rhaegar and Lyanna looked at her as if she spouted two heads.

She stepped closer, almost leaning over the table. Ser Barristan took another stride forward but there was no threat in Melisandre's expression. Only a… powerful intensity. "Your line…" she breathed, voice low and audible only by the three royals. "Your line will break the Curse of Old Valyria."

Blinking, Lyanna's confusion had not dissipated. Though she did notice how Rhaegar tensed up - eyes wide. "You mean Aegon? Or Rhaenys?"

"Your line," Melisandre pointed to Lyanna. "Your blood, Princess Lyanna. Many great things will come from all of you, my Prince and Princesses, but the blood of Ice and Fire holds the salvation of the blood of the dragon."

While only Rhaegar seemed to know what this curse was that she spoke of, all of them were affected by the Red Priestess words "My firstborn?" Lyanna wanted to know. Jon or Visenya?

"You shall soon find out, your Grace." Bowing low, the Red Woman backed away. "I bid you a joyous marriage, my Prince and Princesses. May the Lord of Light grant you his blessing." At the almost absentminded acknowledgement from Rhaegar, she made her exit into the crowd.

Elia cleared her throat. "Well. She was... something else."

"What's the curse of old Valyria, husband?" Lyanna asked, wanting to know.

Seeming to come out of his daze, Rhaegar blinked. "Oh… oh nothing." He waved it off.

She reached out, placing a palm over his hand. "Tell me, my love."

He groaned. "Just some ancient curse that put an end to Valyria and was said to be the cause of the 'Targaryen Madness.'"

"I've heard of this," Elia said. "They say the Valyrians defied the Gods with their hedonism and lust for power."

"...and to teach them humility they eradicated nearly all of them, yah yah yah… It's a ghost story used to frighten children." He hoped they'd simply let it go. Not to distract from their wedding.

Accepting it for now, Lyanna placed her hand on her belly. Jon… He will achieve extraordinary things... I just know it.

"What's that, my love?"

Did I speak my thoughts? "Oh, tis nothing my dragon, just thinking out loud." Rhaegar smiled, leaning over to kiss her.

Drumming her fingers idly on one of the long tables set up in the Great Hall - chosen over the gardens due to the unnatural winter's chill that still fell upon the capitol - Cersei picked up the jeweled goblet for the Dornish red inside… only to set it down upon only smelling it. Much as she wanted to get drunk… what was the point? It wouldn't fill the tempest in her heart. The parading of the man she was supposed to marry and the sister of the man she fancied all happy and joyous at their marriage. Just reminds me of the shit my life is. Even her twin… any idiot could spot the goo-goo eyes Jaime was making for the Queen. If you think I was forbidden love, brother…

Every path she had ever wanted to take… blocked off. Ended before it ever began, all because she was Cersei fucking Lannister. Daughter of the great lion of Casterly Rock. Her name was once a source of pride, but now she just wished it had been anything else.

As if her situation couldn't get any worse, look who happened to show up. "Beloved niece of mine! Beautiful Light of the West!" Gerion Lannister wrapped his arms about her shoulders, rubbing his knuckles on the nest of braids on her head in what he dubbed a 'noogie.' Fuck my life… "Why so down in the mines? I'd have thought - hic - you lived in Castamere!" He guffawed at his own joke.

"Oh uncle, if that were the case she'd be wet." Tyrion was an almost exact copy of Gerion in personality - Aunt Gemma said he had their father's wit, while Cersei was certain a demon gave him his looks - down to the tendency to drunkenness that so infected them now. "But you know her… everything neat and in place." As he said, her deep-sleeved maroon dress with a slim waist and bronze lion emblazoned both on the bodice and the gold choker round her neck was immaculate. "Mustn't run and mustn't play, lest it ruin little Cer-say." That caused another round of laughs that could only come from drinking.

"Shouldn't father be insisting you keep to your best behavior?" she hissed.

Gerion somehow found even that hilarious. "That old kitten? He won't show himself around here out of expediency, even though the King is wherever the fuck he is." Cersei blinked, noticing for the first time that Aerys wasn't present. "So, why aren't you celebrating?" He turned to Tyrion, sloppily jostling her. "Wittle Cer-Cer isn't even nailed to her brother's side as in these dumb things." A groan left her mouth at the childhood nickname.

But Tyrion's resulting grin, quite sobor in spite of his drinking, that made her skin bristle. "She misses the new man of her dreams. The gallant Florian to her Jonquil!" he sung like a really bad bard. Luckily, no one was listening.

Cersei almost threw the goblet at him. "Shut up!"

This only got Gerion's attention. "Oh, and who is this handsome, handsome man that wants his cock in your cunny?" If he wasn't her uncle, she'd hit him too. Gods, save me from these...

"My Lady." Cersei looked up… only to be struck mute by the familiar, beautiful face of her hero. "May I ask for a dance with the Light of the West?" Ned Stark asked, grinning confidently but trembling inside.

That powerful grin made Cersei actually wet. "Um…" She stood, smoothing out her dress. "You may, my Lord." Taking his hand, she hesitantly matched his smile as they walked to the dance floor.

Two sets of green eyes watched. "Who's that?" slurred Gerion.

Tyrion belched. "That's Eddard Stark, Lyanna's brother."

"Cer-Cer likes him?" At Tyrion's nod, he wiped his eyes. "Shit… well… damn." His niece was finally interesting.

"Who's that my brother is dancing with?" Lyanna asked Rhaegar, pointing to the floor.

Squinting through the dimly lit hall, Rhaegar could almost swear… "That's Cersei Lannister."

"Fuck off." Lyanna couldn't believe it. "Really?"

"It appears," Elia murmured, "That horses have sprouted wings like Bittersteel." Many might not see it, but the three could tell there was something other than politeness there.

The dance was a slow one, northern minstrels replaced by those of the south. Allowing Ned to keep one hand in Cersei's and one on her waist. "So, you seem in a cheerier mood tonight, Lord Stark," Cersei asked haughtily. Trying to recover her composure.

He chuckled lightly. "It isn't every day that one's sister becomes a Targaryen Princess." Guiding her in a twirl, she did so, trying not to giggle from the move. Eddard Stark was a good dancer - another layer to his enigma. "Yet, you seem a bit sad."

Looking away, Cersei concentrated on the steps of the dance. "Just a bit alone. Facing some truths I'd rather not face."

"And why is that?"

Damn him. He seemed to be on a mission to pry it out of her. "Because what I once wanted and currently want are simply unattainable." Her steely look melted at his grey eyes. Staring at her as if she were the only person in the world. Once again, Cersei reflected at how unexpected this all was.

Swallowing, enchanted into near silence by the hypnotic gaze of the lioness, Ned took a moment to find the courage… "Would you…" He took a deep breath. "Perhaps we should take a stroll in the gardens, Lady Lannister. We can talk… freely there."

Cersei's creamy lids fluttered shut, green eyes glistening. Quite conscious of the warm feeling of his hand on her waist. "I think that I would enjoy that very much, Lord Stark."

Chapter Text

"Would you like to sit, my Lady?" Ned asked, gesturing to a low stone bench in the middle of the flower gardens. "I am sure your footwear is quite uncomfortable."

Nodding absentmindedly, Cersei made her way to the bench. Guiding Ned to sit right beside her, his closeness causing her a pleasant shiver. "Thank you, Lord Stark." They had been talking for what seemed like an eternity - from the banal to the political, anything was used simply for them to continue in their little world. Alone together in a surreal daze, where it could just be the two of them. "You were saying… of your brother and sister, the Princess?"

"Aye… I suppose I'll have to think of Lyanna as my sovereign instead of my sister." Ned chuckled, which caused Cersei to smile as well. "Anyway, Benjen and she were only a year apart, and were quite close. Father ended up discovering him teaching her his swordplay lessons."

"Quite the scandal." Tywin would have killed her had she tried to learn swordplay with Jaime.

Ned shrugged. "Father was angry at first, but my mother managed to convince him that Lyanna should learn." It had been Rickard's deathbed promise to Lyarra Stark to let Lyanna train. "Any similar tales between your two brothers?"

Cersei laughed bitterly, it not reaching her eyes. "Aye, those two are thick as thieves. Always listening to Uncle Gerion's adventure stories and then acting them out - Jaime the brawn and Tyrion the brain. Terrorizing everyone and yet charming them at the same time." She shook her head. "I get why they would fall for Jaime's good looks and rapier wit, but that little monster?"

While most who referred to their own kin in such terms would repulse Ned… there was no way this woman could repulse him. He knew on instinct there was something deeper. "I think you may be jealous of their bond, my Lady."

"You had to think to figure that one out?" Cersei remarked sarcastically, glaring at him from where they sat. "Of course I'm jealous. As children, Jaime and I were inseparable. Now, he tends to spend just as much time with him as with me." Granted, that was before he left for the Kingsguard - best that he did that.

"Perhaps he sees that you and Tyrion are all he has left of your mother?" Such was why Ned was close to Lyanna in spite of their age difference. He figured it would be the same.

Blinking, she opened her mouth to deny… but was unable to. That had never occurred to Cersei. Gods, he's right. Most found Joanna's looks in her and personality in Jaime, but for Jaime himself? She was closer to her father or Aunt Genna in personality, while Tyrion's obvious kinship with Gerion belied much of him being exactly like their mother. He loves us no matter what we say about him, just as mother did…

She shook her head. Tyrion didn't deserve Cersei's sentimentality. "Jaime sees what he sees. What I see... he killed my mother."

"My lady, babies can't be kinslayers. They can't mean for that to happen to the women that birth them." He reached out to place his hand on hers.

Cersei recoiled from him, anger raised. "Do you know what it's like to lose a mother, Ned Stark?" she spat. Even after years, losing Joanna was a sore spot… especially after what happened before…

The answer was but a murmur. "I do."

All anger left her at his words. What? Lessons from their maester on the various Northern houses were of little interest for her, so Cersei had assumed Lady Stark was simply at Winterfell tending to the North in Rickard's absence. His mother was lost… Seeing his caring expression grow hard, brooding, she recognized it as one they shared. Cersei bit her lip, suddenly hating herself for ripping her hand away - for snapping at him. Slowly, she eased her hand back under his.

As with her, the wounds of losing a parent would never heal. "My mother died seven years after Benjen's birth - he was a difficult, spring birth, and she didn't survive the next winter." Ned fought the tears in his eyes. "Benjen barely remembers her, while Lyanna remembers less than Brandon or I." A wistful smile came at the memories. "She was the kindest woman, but a wolf when need be... not unlike your own mother my Lady, with what you have told me about her."

There was a silence. "She died from weakness after your brother's birth?"

"No, the gods decided it was her time." He would never blame Benjen, even if she had died as Joanna Lannister. "We were all heartbroken - father most of all - but we cherished her memory as she would have wanted."

Cherish her memory. While she never thought of it before, even Tyrion left a wildflower on their mother's grave on his birthday... the day of her death. "I've never been able not to blame my brother for it..."

Ned reached over and took her other hand in his. Taking a chance to both be closer to her and give her comforting advice. "My lady, I'm sure it must have been heartbreaking to lose her, but please don't judge your brother for a crime he did not commit." He watched her bite her lip, conflicted… and utterly beautiful. "You said Jaime loved your mother as much as you - did he ever blame Tyrion?"

A tear falls down her eye. "No... he never did..."

Seeing the tear, Ned embraced her. Relishing the feel of her in his arms. "Just let all the pain go. It will be fine, I promise."

Even as he almost commanded her to let out the hurt still inside her, Cersei wouldn't. Just couldn't… Much as Ned Stark's words made sense, it was too far of a reach for her. Instead, she merely held him, inhaling his scent. Letting herself relax in the unfamiliar yet simply right feel of the enigmatic northerner. One she had met only a moonturn before. It felt as if she'd known him forever. It felt as if destiny itself was pulling her closer to Ned.

"What are we doing here, Eddard?" It was the first time she ever said his name, and it sounded so good on her tongue. "We'll never be together... yet I can't stop thinking about you."

Ned pulled away, looking into her eyes. "Me neither… Cersei."

She shivered at her name on his lips. "Why... why do you seem to care about me so?"

Blinking, her blunt question stumped him for a moment - Ned decided to be honest. "Most speak of your father, and connect you to him or the failed attempt to betroth you to Rhaegar." Cersei fought back a groan at his mentioning that, but Ned wasn't finished. "I focused on you, the person that you are. You're passionate, intelligent, beautiful, strong, yet delicate and womanly - I can't explain it more than that, but you allure me."

"We've barely spoken..." she ends up blushing. Even Jaime had never praised her so broadly.

That had come to his mind many times before, but for the first time Ned decided to follow his heart. "That's what you are my lady. Even a 'northern fool' like myself can see it."

Gods… A second son, a northern barbarian… a wonderful man… Titles and power suddenly seemed just so abstract to her, while this affection was real. Unable to take it, she pulled him in for a kiss. Getting the closeness she had so craved. It started slow, soft. Exploring each other and committing to memory - but it didn't take long for it to deepen. Tongues battling, hands trying desperately to restrain themselves from shooting to the most intimate bits. Picking up right where they left off the previous night.

They kissed for what seemed like hours, Ned pulling her flush against him. More a chance than I think… Oberyn was right. He could feel himself getting worked up, close to the point of no return. Duty and honor told him one thing, but at this point Ned couldn't seem to care. Fate pulled him in the other direction, the brooding Ned Stark meeting his match in Cersei Lannister. Perhaps love is the greatest duty... "Come to my chambers," he blurted out, blushing hotly when he realized what he said.

Cersei, lightheaded from the kiss, couldn't think straight. But her words were just as unavoidable as his. "Guide me."

"You really want the wedding in Winterfell?" Hoster Tully asked, deep in his cups and slightly surprised. "I can have the ceremony prepared at Riverrun in a fortnight."

Smiling apologetically, Rickard shrugged his shoulders. "While I would love to avail myself to your hospitality, Hoster, Catelyn will be the future Lady of Winterfell. It's a chance for her to settle into her position."

That made sense, but the Lord of Riverrun was less than enthusiastic. "Before the godswood?"


He blinked, shaking his head. "The only sept in the North is in White Harbor, perhaps we could compromise and have it there. Far easier journey by ship than moving up the Kingsroad…"

"Ah Hoster," laughed Jon Arryn. "You're just not wanting to get too chilled from the northern blizzards."

"There is that," acknowledged Lord Tully.

"Then buy a coat," Lady Olenna Tyrell said gruffly. The four of them were huddled together at a table, three Lords Paramount and one de facto Lady Paramount shooting the breeze. "You know it must be at Winterfell."

Hoster sighed. "Very well. Winterfell it is. I shall inform my daughter to begin packing her household." He stood, leaving his cup behind. "Till later, my friends."

"It has been a pleasure, dearest Hoster," waved Olenna, a polite smile worn on her face till he walked out of earshot. Dropping to a sour frown, she leaned to Rickard and spoke bluntly. "He should just put on the folded robes and join the Most Devout." The Lord of Winterfell blinked while the Lord of the Eyrie almost spat out his wine in laughter. Tapping the table, the Queen of Thorns stared intently at her Northern counterpart. "That daughter of his will destroy your house."

Rickard raised an eyebrow. "I beg your pardon, Lady Olenna?" While the first comment had been mindless needling, this one concerned his House directly.

She scoffed. "You heard me, Lord Rickard. Gods, did all the winter blizzards make you deaf?"

A look at Jon Arryn found the old Lord raise his palms in surrender - he wouldn't get involved. Probably smart of him. "I don't see what you mean, my Lady. Catelyn Tully is a kind, dutiful maiden that seems to love my son very much." His eyes found the both of them, Brandon lifting the laughing redhead in his arms, twirling her around while his daughter and her spouses clapped from the dias.

Such a display only caused Olenna to roll her eyes. "Plenty of love matches out there, but there's more to a proper alliance than love. My idiot husband loved me, but he could have fallen for a dunderhead in five minutes and Highgarden would have been a ruin." She sipped at her wine, rather enjoying the Stark's blank stare and the Arryn's giggle.

Unlike Jon Arryn - simply an amused bystander - Rickard was confused by the Lady Dowager of Highgarden's line of commentary. "What deficiency do you see in Catelyn Tully?"

"She'll try to turn Winterfell into the Starry Sept. Push aside the old gods and replace it with her own pious traditions."

Rickard rejected Olenna's assertions. "She respects our traditions my lady." House Tully was a good match for them, both politically and personally.

"Did you bother to ask her?" Such alliances rarely were done outside of conversations between fathers - had it been among southern houses there wouldn't be a problem, but the Starks were northern.

"I am certain she knows that not to would earn the mistrust of the Northern houses," Rickard tried to defend his heir's betrothed.

Olenna shook her head. "That doesn't sound like the Hoster Tully I know. It's been said the Blackwoods make sure to always meet him outside of their keep in case he sees their Weirwood." Jon nodded. Those stories had crossed to the Vale as well as the Reach.

"Ever since we were the Kings in the North, we were steadfast in our ways." He was adamant. "We will not change that, and Brandon will not allow it."

She smacked her wrinkled hand on her face. "Oh you poor, deluded northern fool. Tullys may be many things, but malleable is not one of them. They aren't harpies like the Ironborn and some other houses." Those that were she could recite from memory. "But they are stubborn, bullheaded, and quite impulsive even if it bites them in the ass." Olenna placed her hand on Rickard's. "Be wary, for I doubt your position in the North is as strong as you think."

Rickard's brows furrowed. "What are you talking about?"

Shrugging, the Queen of Thorns pointed to a corner - where Roose Bolton sat drinking in silence with Stevron Frey and Wyman Manderly. "That man, he's a snake. It's too cold for snakes up there, but I know one when I see one. Don't give your heir any leeway for that man to exploit."

Ah… of course. It was a common refrain. When not the Blackwoods and Brackens or the Martells and Tyrells, it was the Starks and the Boltons. Had it been Roose's father Royce, Rickard would have agreed with Olenna completely… the son was more an enigma. Quiet and crafty, but no sign of the opportunistic brutality that the house of the Flayed Man was notorious for. "I know Roose can be sneaky, but he is one of our most important vassals."

"Please, Rickard," Jon cut in. "I worry you are looking at this too rosily. The Boltons are not a house to be trifled with."

He narrowed his eyes. "I'm not looking at this naively, Jon. I actually want to foster his heir in Winterfell when one of them survives past the cradle…" Keeping his rival close could finally normalize relations. "Poor man, he's lost his third already."

"That's smart of you, but beware Catelyn Tully." She poured herself another cup. "I actually think that Lannister bitch would be a better Lady of Winterfell. Tywin's brood, they have no beliefs except for personal gain. Makes them... adaptable."

"Mhm, a lion and a direwolf do make for a mightier sight than a trout," laughed Jon Arryn.

"Brandon would never go for it. Tywin Lannister as his goodfather?" Rickard shuddered. There were some alliances he wouldn't go for - no sense in antagonizing Aerys further.

"You do have another son? Quite the smart one, I believe. Quiet but a lot of potential."

That caused Rickard to shake his head, much as the alliance could be beneficial if in the right moment. "Tywin's no Tytos. he will never wed his only daughter to a second son, even if he is the goodbrother of the King."

"You can decree him to be your heir. It's been done before... Gods wish I had done that," she mumbled about her dunce of a son.

Rickard gasped, aghast at the thought. "No, I could never do that to brandon." And I doubt Ned would ever allow it. "He might drive me mad sometimes, along with his sister, but he is still my heir and he'll make me proud."

Finishing her wine, Olenna grabbed her cane and used it to stand from the table. "Your funeral," she drolled, strolling away to find smarter company. The man's too honorable for his own good.

At the dias, the Queen had finally made her way to congratulate her son and gooddaughters, hugging each of them. "You look positively radiant, Lyanna."

Her smile could light up the entire room. "This is the happiest day of my life. I feel radiant, your Grace…"

"What did I tell you?" warned Rhaella, scolding as a mother would. "Especially now, my name is Rhaella to you."

"Better do as she says, my love," Rhaegar offered, smiling cheekily to a swat from Elia.

The Dornish Princess nevertheless held the same smile at her sister-wife. "I slipped up a lot as a young wife. She never let me forget it."

Lyanna laughed. "Alright, Rhaella." The two shared yet another hug.

Off to the side, Jaime watched the scene with half-satisfaction, half-longing when someone smacked him on the back of the head. "Argh… what the fuck, uncle?"

"Ah, so I finally got yer' attention," slurred Gerion Lannister, somehow able to walk in spite of downing two flagons of Arbor Gold. "Go make your move."

Jaime rubbed the still sore back of his skull. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Even drunk, the youngest of the five Lannister siblings knew when to keep his voice down. "You and the Valyrian beauty. Go ask her to dance."

Face going red, the kingsguard wished Gerion hadn't said that. "Uncle… I like my head the way it is."

"Oh pish, it's just a dance… his Grace won't be alive forever." Gerion shoved him forward. "Now go, or I'll tell your sister that it was your idea for Tyrion to milk his eel into her turtle stew."

Judging the peril of a dance with the Queen was far less likely to have him killed than Cersei's wrath, the Lion of Lannister hastily approached just as the Queen was about to descend the steps. "Oh, Ser Jaime," Rhaella remarked, stopping herself before she could run into him. "I may be a little tipsy."

He gulped. "You look fine to me, your Grace." Jaime bit his tongue and offered her a hand. "Enough for a dance?"

Rhaella blinked. "Ser Jaime…" Not that she didn't want to. She very much couldn't decline an offer to dance with a handsome young knight, but…

"His Grace is retired. I'm probably the only person besides the Prince who could and…" Both peeked at how he listened to Lyanna regaling him about a story of a wildling raid. "He's busy at the moment. Shall we?"

There was a silence before a grin stretched on the Queen's face. "It's been years since I had a proper dance. Lead the way, Ser Jaime."

The corridors were deserted. Hopes for a raucous bedding ceremony having drawn servants, guards, and whatever highborn invitees to outside the official royal quarters, leaving the guest ones practically abandoned. Given that a drunk Brandon Stark would likely be showing up now that the party was slowing down - with or without his betrothed for some post-wedding fun - the two would-be lovers knew to rush. Not making haste, but not at a ponderous pace by a long shot.

Biting her lip, Cersei's heart pounded in her chest. Her velvet lined wooden pumps clicked on the stone floor beneath her, echoing in the cavernous halls. Anything for her senses to focus on. Anything to calm her racing heart against the feel of the pair of eyes undoubtedly staring at her from behind. The soft breaths of the man that had caught her fancy only a moonturn before…

A thought coming to her, Cersei added an extra sway to her hips. Lips curling into a smirk when she heard his breath hitch. Normally, she enjoyed manipulating men - even her brother - to get what she wanted, but at that moment she merely wanted to please him… and glad that she succeeded.

"Do… do you know where you're going, Lady Cersei?"

Her name on his lips didn't cease to cause shudders to go through Cersei. A few nights ago might have been blamed on the alcohol, but she hadn't had a drop to drink tonight. "I've stayed in the guest quarters before… Lord Eddard." Turning the right corner, they came upon a dead end hallway. "Though I need to know what room you're in."

Chuckling, Ned moved to slide ahead of her. Bare hand brushing her waist, causing her to jump a bit. "Allow me to lead the way, this time." The little tug of war between them, a battle for dominance both scathing and so soft as to be seductive, he rather liked it. As if the two of them fit like pieces of a childhood block her hand in his, he gently led the Light of the West towards his particular chambers at the end of the hallway. "Here we are… Cersei."

"Are you nervous... Eddard?" At that moment she was nervous, but not from what an observer would think. Face to face against the enigmatic, brooding, handsome northerner… after the little but no less meaningful contact they shared, Cersei was actually worried she wouldn't measure up. It was an… unexpected feeling.

Ned was silent, merely opening the door. Thoughts clouded by this intoxicating woman now returning with full force. Certain... uncomfortable truths. "Aye," he murmured as she walked into the room past him, closing the door behind him. "I am nervous."

Cersei's face fell. Worried that he might be backing out, the first man she truly wanted since she and Jaime. Wordlessly, she turned away, looking at the open window and the bright moon in the inky-black sky. "Why is that?" she almost croaked. Half-unwilling to know the answer.

Rubbing the back of his neck, Ned decided to be honest. "I… well… you'd be my first woman."

Turning abruptly, the lioness found herself gaping at him. Not in any circumstance expecting that. "You're first…" Someone as handsome as he… this had to be some kind of jape. "Aren't you of twenty namedays?" Surely he's had a smallfolk maiden, lonely older widow, or something?

But his initial statement was the truth. "While Robert often pushed me, I never took any of the women he threw at me up on their offers." There had been quite a few of both high and lowborn, but Ned had refused them all. After meeting Cersei, he realized whom the gods had been saving him for. "You would be my first."

"But your brother…" While not as notorious as some of the other noted womanizers in court, Brandon's flirty nature had gotten around.

"I am not my brother, Cersei."

Thank the gods for that. Regardless of what some said, Ned was by far the more attractive of the two. "Why did you wait?" She wanted to know.

Ned looked away, face resembling a ripe strawberry. "I couldn't dishonor any maidens, or risk shaming my house and myself with a bastard." Cersei gulped. The former isn't an issue for me. "With you… gods, Cersei." Running a hand through his hair, he struggled to find the words. "...I can't help myself. We've only truly spoken twice, and yet you're my clearest weakness." He turned, grey eyes so dark they were almost black. "And I don't regret these feelings."

She shivered. His wolfish gaze filling Cersei with lust. "I shall be your first." She spoke it as if holding some sort of crown. "I… I hope I am up to the task."

Taking big strides, Ned cupped her waist. "You already are… I am enchanted by you, Cersei."

His simple words of passion more incendiary than any of the flowery speeches and lascivious propositions of all past suitors, Cersei closed the distance between them. Fusing their lips together, frantically begging for entrance which was immediately granted.

Unlike Rhaegar, Ned wasn't a bloody poet… but in this he didn't need to be. Lack of experience outweighed by enthusiasm, one hand wrapped tightly round her waist. Pulling her flush to him. Cersei gasped into his mouth as the kiss grew even deeper. The other hand tangled in the crown of braids. Tugging hard, needing the golden locks loose as he began pushing her to the bed.

Cersei felt the pain, and yet it only spurred her on. Delicate fingers fought off the cumbersome long sleeves to ghost over her new lover's body. Admiring the hard planes of the northerner's body that had fought and defeated the Sword of the Morning. Kiss never breaking, devouring his mouth with the hunger of a lioness, Cersei struggled to undo the laces of his doublet and trousers just as her hair fell down in waves and loose braids. Her gold, lion-emblazoned choker clattering to the floor to expose her neck. She needed him bare… impatient to finally feel this man inside her.

To truly see if he could tame the mighty lioness.

Kiss finally breaking when she slid the formal wear off his torso and hips, Ned attacked her neck. Encouraged by her wanton moans while he moved to her own dress. Exposing her shoulders as he pushed it down. Robert had often complained that highborn girls were prudish and inhibited compared to the more earthy smallfolk, but Cersei held no such compunctions. She was pure lust, and it drove something inside him. Brought the inner wolfsblood from beneath the dutiful, quiet exterior.

While it was deliciously tight across her slim body, Ned's insistence brought the entire dress down to her hips, nearly ripping it… not that either cared in the moment. Causing a sharp intake of breath - she wasn't wearing smallclothes. "Gods…"

Shivering under his gaze… hungry with desire for her, Cersei grabbed his head. "Don't speak." She couldn't handle hearing his sweet northern brogue. They fell onto his bed just as she brought him to her chest. Gasping when her wolf - my wolf - latched to a heaving breast. Don't… stop. Licking, nipping, and sucking, Ned's stubble tickled her skin. Bringing her so much pleasure. Inside… please inside...

She was breathtaking. A goddess in his eyes. As soon as he glimpsed her nude form, all honor and propriety was forgotten. Cersei Lannister was his sin, and gods help him he did not care. Devouring her breasts. Hands fondling her waist and stomach, urging a leg to hike around his bare hip. Desperate, wanting to finally feel a woman - this woman - surrounding him, he fished for his rock-hard length and began to guide it towards her entrance… though fumblingly unable to find it...

While it was truly adorable - he was a virgin after all - Cersei could only grow impatient in her lust. Reaching down and batting his hand away, causing a hiss from her lover as she wrapped her digits around his length. Pulling it to her entrance. Locking her legs around his waist so that Ned's only recourse was to slide inside her.

"Fu…" All words were silenced with a kiss, Cersei's hand fisting in his hair to keep him in place. Hot and wet walls sheathed him, an indescribable feeling. The goddess beneath him urging him on, begging him to thrust...

Cersei let out a scream inside his mouth. This was no tender passion, but a mating rut once he slammed into her… and she loved it. Craved it. Yes… yes… yes… Her dreams had been filled with his touch since the tourney, but nothing could compare to the truth. She wedged her free hand between them, finding her nub and stroking at it. Wanting to shatter with him.

Walls tightening around him, Ned increased his force through gritted teeth. Watching Cersei's hypnotic green eyes roll into her skull. It didn't take long for the winter blizzard to howl within him, finding his release buried deep inside her.

Feeling his seed coating her walls as she attacked her nub... the lioness couldn't hold. Shattering around him, a rippling climax coursing through her entire body. Cersei felt him collapse on her, his welcome weight pressing down on her still shuddering body. Kiss broken, room filled with her pants and his grunts. Magical.

And so they found themselves enjoying the trembling aftershocks tightly wrapped together on their sides facing each other. Arms pulling them flush against the other, legs intertwined. Cersei's head was buried in his chest while Ned stroked her back. Fingers delightful on her bare spine. Sighing happily with love.


Yes, love… rather close to it. Never did Cersei feel so loved in her life, not even with Jaime - with them it was merely a taboo thrill, as thrilling as being Queen was to her. With Ned… she could feel herself truly falling for this man.

The reality of their situation hit her like a collapsing castle wall. A tragedy worth a hundred songs.

Unknowing of her thoughts, yet thinking nearly the same, Ned buried his face into Cersei's golden locks. So exotic - unlike anything in the north. "I don't want to ever leave this room," he murmured into her hair.

"Me neither," she responded, inhaling his northern scent of pine and snow. It was simply so easy to be close to him. A man that both understood her feelings and yet tempered them.

"By the old gods… we should run away together." Ned wished to fully confess his love, but it would cause him so much pain. Never break an oath you make… never make an oath you can't keep. He couldn't keep such an oath to her. "You'd love Winterfell... It's boring compared to here, but better - calm and free."

She kissed his chest. "Anything sounds better than being bored to death on Casterly Rock." They shared a laugh. "Nothing much happens there. No drama since father defeated the Reynes."

Ned leaned in to kiss her, skirting the pain of their reality - banished temporarily by passion. "I'd marry you in an instant, Cersei."

"I…" She would have died to marry this man, someone that truly cared about her and not her body or position. But Cersei was like her father in that way. Often killing her sentimentality for the greater good. "Alas the 'Lion of the Rock' would never allow his only daughter to wed a second son. He is no Tytos, Eddard." Her grandfather let her aunt Gemma marry a Frey… not the heir to the Twins. Knowing how Tywin hated her uncle, Ned didn't stand a chance.

Ned sighed, heart heavy. Drifting into his brooding, but the feel of her hugging him tighter banished those feelings. It wasn't fair to either of them to add on to the inevitable. "At least we have tonight." A night he would remember for the rest of his life.

Looking up at his words, Cersei smiled. A smile that turned into a smirk, rolling him over so she straddled him. Pinning his arms above her head and grinding into his crotch. Reveling in the direwolf's groan. "We have tonight…" she purred, bringing his hands to her breasts. "All... night..." Sorrow was once again lost in their passion.

"Make way for the Princess!" Ellaria called out into the hallway, voice loud and dripping with sex. "The night of her deflowering has arrived!"

"Fuck you," Lyanna replied evenly, causing gasps from some of the highborns carrying her in spite of her smile. Such was the compromise with tradition her husband - husband… I quite enjoy that - had insisted on. The women would carry her, while the male guests had hoisted Rhaegar on their shoulders, singing The Dornishman's Wife at the top of their lungs to the Crown Prince's chambers.

"That's what Prince Rhaegar will do to you," grinned Dacey, pretty much all the Ladies Paramount and royal household giggling as they carried her. Two were missing in the group of laughing and singing maidens. Rhaella, she knew, had retired at Ser Jaime's insistence when the Queen was close to collapsing after three fast dances with him. Don't think I didn't see what you did there, Ser Jaime. As for the other... Where is Lady Lannister? Last she saw, Cersei was leaving for the gardens with… oh. Lyanna grinned, which the ladies thought was for their japes. Good for you, big brother… If Ned actually was… intimate with Cersei Lannister, then she had to have passed top muster.

Her thoughts on Ned's sex life evaporated as a male hand smacked against her leg. "Your man is waiting!" whistled Bran, another smack hitting the rup of Catelyn before he joined the other drunk Lords racing back to the great hall. Whooping and jeering. Lyanna rolled her eyes just as the women set her down in front of the Prince's chambers, Ser Oswell and Ser Barristan standing guard.

"Alright, the fun is over. Shoo." Elia practically pushed the ladies away, alone among them to know the gravity of a wedding to a Targaryen Prince. How exhausting it was. "Holding up, Lyanna?"

Gulping, Lyanna nodded. "Aye, I am." She just couldn't stop smiling.

Her smile was infectious. "I'm glad." The two Princesses hugged tightly, bound before the gods to the same man rather than simply by affection. "I'll leave you to your night. Just relax and let him know what is pleasing and what isn't. He…" She blushed a bit. "Knows what he's doing."

Lyanna blushed as well. "I'll keep that in mind." Leaning in, she kissed Elia's cheek. "Tell Rhae and Egg that I love them."

"I will." And with that, Elia shut the chamber door behind her, leaving the newlyweds alone to their wedding night.

Rhaegar was waiting for her by the bed, stripped out of his fancy doublet, breeches, and all the other finery of a prince. A simple maroon sleep tunic covered from his neck to the middle of his thigh, showing off plenty of muscular leg and dark silver hair dotting the top of his chest. Lyanna drew her lip between her teeth at the sight, both scrumptious and intimidating. The wolfsblood inside her urged the new Princess to jump him where he stood, but she was rooted in place. The shyness of a maiden wed suddenly surrounding her.

Hair tied back in a simple bun, in spite of having done this before Rhaegar felt similar. "Um… how are you?" he asked, rubbing the back of his neck. Taking several anxious steps towards her, approaching as warily as one would a growling dog.

Suddenly modest, Lyanna wrapped her arms protectively around her side. "Very well," she practically squeaked. What has gotten into you. A large shadow towered over her, reminding Lyanna very well of what had changed.

"Hey." Rhaegar reached out and cupped her cheek, feeling the newfound tension start to melt as she nuzzled his warm palm. "Are you alright, Lyanna?"

She nodded, warming for the first time - regardless of how hot the fire was. Strolling absentmindedly around him, Lyanna reacquainted herself with the chambers that would now be hers. It was utterly huge. Bigger than the sleeping chambers of her father at Winterfell which had been her previous frame of reference. It could swallow my old room whole! Ceiling high, windows large to let in the ocean breeze, it felt so very airy. Unlike the cavernous rooms in the North designed to trap heat. And so very grand, black and red of House Targaryen inlaid with gold leaf and frescoes. Depictions of various moments of House Targaryen on the walls. Aegon I burning Harrenhal. Aenys gifting Maegor with Blackfyre upon his coronation. Good Queen Alysanne landing Silverwing at Queenscrown in the North. Rhaenerya's triumphant return to King's Landing during the Dance of the Dragons. Daeron II proclaimed King of the Seven Kingdoms. All so gilded, nothing like it similar from Lyanna's childhood at Winterfell.

At long last, Lyanna answered his question. "I'm alright. Just admiring the frescoes." The detail was just so… intricate. "There's nothing like this in the North."

The Prince looked away, embarrassed. "Didn't have time to consult you about your preference," he murmured. "Sorry."

"No…" Rhaegar looked adorable, the way he brooded. "I don't honestly mind."

"My grandfather made them, it was his chambers," he shrugged. "Elia liked them."

Chuckling, Lyanna made her way to hug him from behind. "I love them, husband." She stood on tiptoes and pressed a kiss on his clothed shoulder blade. "Do all your wives seek to redecorate?"

This coaxed a chuckle of his own. "Women like to make their own touch on things."

"So shall I… though I'll consult with my sister-wife." Not keen on banter anymore, she grabbed his hand, urging him to turn and face her. "Why are you brooding, my love?"

He looked down on her, a mighty Valyrian warrior struck out of his element. "I… I can't believe you're in my life... you're a goddess."

Lyanna's heart melted. My Dragon Prince… my Prince Daemon… my Aegon the Conqueror. All her dreams come true, and yet he was the one seemingly out of his league. It made her love him more. Leaning up once more, she kissed him sweetly. One he eagerly returned. "We'll just have to figure it out from here," she grinned, hands deftly tugging at his hair to let the silver locks free about his shoulders.

Disengaging, she walked slowly to the bed. Removing the crown of winter roses and setting it on an ornate oaken table before then pulling her hair out from the northern braids. Lyanna peeked over her shoulder, watching him staring intently. Biting her lip, this time naughtily, with a few expert moves the dress was falling from her body. A tug here and there causing it to tumble completely. Leaving her naked as her nameday. Easing herself onto the bed, Lyanna hiked up one knee. A curtain of hair falling forward to obscure the inviting look on her face, she smiled sultrily. "Come to bed, my Prince."

Mouth dry at glimpsing the toned, milky skin of his bride, Rhaegar padded slowly towards her. Stone cold against his bare feet and cock hard with desire for her, he nevertheless wanted to savor the moment. The sight of her like this, innocent eyes wide yet supremely naughty lips curled into a smirk, Rhaegar wanted to remember it for the rest of his life.

Soon he was beside the bed. "My sweet Rhaegar… you're wearing too many clothes." He moved to doff his tunic, but she stilled his hand. Standing, exposing the entire length of her bare form. "Let me." Fingers fisted the hem of the tunic, lifting it up and off his head, it was now Lyanna's turn to admire the beautiful body of her husband. Toned, muscular, well-proportioned… and a thick length all for her.

"Does the Princess like what she sees?" Her wanton glare surged his confidence.

For want of an answer, Lyanna simply kissed him greedily. Pulling him atop of her on the bed, finally getting the skin on skin contact she so desired. The kiss was short, Rhaegar beginning to lick and suck down her neck and chest - paying special attention to her breasts. Lavishing his love on her nipples, making her writhe with pleasure. Fingers tangling in his hair… the silver locks she so adored. Urging him downward when the ache between her legs grew too much to bear.

Familiar but yet so new, Rhaegar swiped his tongue through her wet core. Juices tasting sweeter than before… Is it from our marriage alone? Devouring her, he figured it was. A moan emerged from her, deep and throaty. Reveling in it, Rhaegar turned it into a gasp as slid his tongue inside of her throbbing cunt.

"Oh, my dragon…" Lyanna purred, feeling his tongue lick her insides thoroughly, pull out and trail up to her tender bundle of nerves, and then thrusting back inside. Deeper and deeper with such relish that she shattered for him. Body humming with pleasure. Desperately, she reached down for him. Begging that he meet her face to face. Rhaegar was more than happy to comply.

And so it was, the moment of truth. No formalities or proprietes, ancient distinctions of law remaining to form a wall forcing her and her beloved apart. In the eyes of gods and men, she and Rhaegar were now one soul

As Rhaegar positioned himself above her, he stilled - eyes searching out her own. "Lya…"

Writhing with lust, Lyanna nevertheless had a clear enough mind to know what was coming. "I'm ready, my dragon."

"It'll hurt." Worry was written in his expression. Knowing from experience that breaking her maidenhead would cause pain. Caring enough to never wish that pain upon her.

"I know…" She looped her arms round his neck, leaning up to gently kiss him. Rubbing his tongue with hers to reassure her husband. "Please don't make me wait, ñuha jorrāelagon."

Hearing the Valyrian phrase on her lips, begging in her sweet northern brogue, all hesitance left Rhaegar. Mindful of her comfort but with pure desire returning to his darkened violet eyes, the Crown Prince guided his head to her entrance. Gently spearing forward, swimming in the copious juices of her arousal as he began to stretch her. Hissing even from the pleasure on his tip.

But Lyanna wanted more - so much more. Squirming, she moaned. "Please, my Prince…" Only for her to bite back a cry of pain when the thick cock finally thrust forward halfway. Spearing through her maidenhead with ease. It stung, tears falling from her eyes.

Rhaegar's mouth was on hers in an instant. Tongue desperately but languidly dancing inside her cavern, hand kneading her breast and playing with her nipple. "I love you," he breathed, kissing down to her sensitive neck. "I love you, ñuha zokla." Letting her stretch for him, making her wetter.

Slowly at first, Lyanna's burning morphed into a burning need. Pain from his cock gradually delicious as it scraped against her inner walls. Reluctance faded to passion, desperation as she yanked him by the hair. Frantically kissing him, hunger returning with a vengeance. "In me," Lyanna growled, eyes a stormy tempest of grey. "All of you, in me now." Rhaegar obliged, Lyanna gasping into his mouth when his long, hard member eased into her to the hilt. A fullness she had never before felt but knew she now couldn't live without. Fuck… Rhaegar… yessssss…

Whatever restraint was left simply dissolved in an instant. Rhaegar lost it - devoid of a woman contracting and bucking around him, his almost instinctive urge to mate and breed consumed his body. Angling his hips, anchoring his arms underneath her shoulders, the Prince thrusted. Hard, slamming her rear into the bed. Cock rising till it almost left her and then right back in. Over and over again, breaking their kiss so he could suck in deep breaths, mouth hot against her ear.

Lyanna' mouth was open in a silent scream. Literally unable to make a sound, the sweet pleasure of his length trying its best to split her in two. "Fuck… Rhaegar…" Nothing could have prepared her for this. Not their fun prior to the wedding, not speeches from Ellaria or Elia - no lesson could top the sweet lovemaking from the man she adored with every fiber of her being. His cock rubbed against every sensitive spot she never knew she had, pelvis slamming against her exposed nub till she cried out. Desperate for more. "More… more… more… Gods! I can take it!"

Sinking his teeth into the join of her neck and shoulder - loving how she screamed his name - Rhaegar pounded his bride like a man possessed. Mind overwhelmed by her vice-like tightness as he kept on thrusting. Ever harder, ever faster. Muscles straining to the point of agony yet nothing could stop Rhaegar. Nothing stopping each of his frenzied, desperate thrusts.

"Ohhh… gods…" His tip was kissing her womb with each thrust. Powerful body smothering her lean frame and teeth likely marking her and she loved it. Craved it. Clenched her teeth to bite back a scream. Lyanna wrapped her legs around him, eager for him as deep as possible. Nails clawing at his back in a frantic effort to beg it of him. She tumbled over the edge a second time, only for his grunting, sweaty movements to bring her right back up the peak. Cunt gushing, legs tightening, nipples tingling from her breasts mashing against his chest. "I love you… love… you…"

"Lyanna… ñuha ābrar... ñuha zokla…" Never had it taken him so quickly to reach the edge, so he pounded into her three times, hard. Praying she would follow him into the abyss. "Fuuuuck!"

It certainly did the trick. Her vision exploding into a complete battlefield of explosions and color. "Yes, Rhaegar… yes… yes!"

Minutes later, aftershocks a pleasant tingle and cries of passion transformed into sweet whispers of love and devotion, the Princess of the Seven Kingdoms fell asleep atop of her husband. His cock still buried inside her so wonderfully. Contented smile on her face, dreaming of the moment in the next few hours when she would wake him up for another round…

And of the dark-haired, violet-eyed or silver-haired, grey-eyed babe that would hopefully quicken inside her that night.

Whatever final revelry from the wedding feast ceased as the door to the King's inner sanctum slammed shut. Lady Melisandre walking calmly in as if she hadn't entered the den of a hungry dragon. "You sent for me, your Grace."

From the cot in the far corner, King Aerys stood up. Finally ready to entertain a gap in his self-imposed solitude since the end of the actual wedding. "Aye, Lady Melisandre… or should it be Priestess?" He didn't care either way, but it was pro forma.

"Priestess is preferable, your Grace. Such is our title ordained by the Red Temple in Volantis." She had been surprised when the High Priest sent her to Westeros instead of someone more… politic, but what she had discovered only led her to praise her Lord for his foresight. "May I be of service to you?" Melisandre asked, hiding her gaze at the line of eight eggs in the center of the room.

"You have claimed to see the future," Aerys hissed, hoping that the Red Witch's blandishments would not be so meandering. "To see the will of your god."

Melisandre stood still, hands clasped together with an emotionless expression. "I cannot be certain as to anything, your Grace. The Lord of Light shows me what he wishes - it is up to me and whomever else he chooses to witness such glimpses to decipher them."

Scowling, Aerys grabbed Melisandre and manhandled her to the brazier. "Here, decipher his will. Now!"

Breathing deeply, Melisandre reached into a pouch of her dress to retrieve two red leather gloves, which she donned. Gracefully stepping towards the line of eggs and picking up the one black with red swirls. "The essence of Old Valyria," she then said in an almost daze, dropping the oval into the brazier. "May it allow your will to appear truer to your humble servants, oh Lord of Light."

Suddenly the flames rose higher, turning from the yellow-orange into a deep blood red. Making Aerys flinch, jerking back and nearly tripping over himself. Eyes widening in sheer entrancement, one only before seen when gazing upon the green flicker of lit wildfire. Is it now that I see my destiny?

A flash of light in her eyes, Melisandre tilted back. Body undulating with the crackling flames. Mouth dropped in a silent gasp. Aerys blinked. "What?" She stilled her form, merely reaching out to cup the fire at a safe distance. Letting it warm her palms. "What do you see?!" thundered the impatient King.

"He… this egg… It shall be the one."

"Spit it out!"

Another shock of power shot through her. Melisandre's head tilting back, a chant echoing through the room. "The one!" Her entire body trembled. "The one to defeat the curse. This egg shall be his."

Wicked grin forming on his face, Aerys wanted to reach out and hug the egg to him. Knowing it would be his. Knowing that it would be he, Aerys Targaryen Second of His Name, that brought dragons back to the world. Not my shit of a father and disgrace of a brother. Me! "What else, tell me what else!"

Eyes flying open, it was as if their color was a pulsing blood moon. "Two among this clutch, a dragon they shall not belong." Aerys' brows knit into confusion. "A wolf owns one… a false dragon the other." The flames retreated to their usual height, egg glowing as would a dying ember. Melisandre sighed. "That's all I can discern from the flames, your Grace, and even these are vague… as you can likely tell."

Frown telling nothing, Aerys hobbled over to his cot in the center of the private room. Back turned to his guest. "Get out," he barked. "Leave me." Melisandre could only curtsey, leaving the King of the Seven Kingdoms to digest the will of her Lord.

Chapter Text

"Muna happy?"

Head turning at the little Princess' sweet voice, Lyanna grinned. Leaning down to kiss who was in effect her daughter on the forehead. "Aye, little dragon. Muna is very happy."

Rhaenys was a ball of excitement that morning. Eager to return to Dragonstone, she had burst into Lyanna's room and never left her side - chattering on and on about all the wonderful things in Rhaegar's Keep. Only now, when she sat on the bed and watched her new mother pack did the inquisitive hatchling observe how Lyanna acted. "Cawse you mawwy kepa?"

Closing her eyes, the she-wolf could only sigh and smile dreamily. Everything felt different now - running her hands along her waist and hips, join of her legs throbbing with a pleasant soreness. Gods… if I knew it would be this good… Lyanna shook her head ever so gently. No, only Rhaegar could make me feel this way. So lovingly and deliciously sated… turned from a maiden into a woman fully grown and flowered. A welcome haze settled upon her as she put away the riding trousers and training breeches she insisted on packing herself. As eager as her daughter to journey to Rhaegar's own Keep…

"Muna… Muna!"

Laughing at her insistance, in one motion Lyanna scooped the child up. "Oh, sweetling." She pressed motherly kisses to Rhaenys' cheek and forehead. "You are a precious hatchling and muna loves you."

"Wuv you too, muna," mumbled the Princess.

A tiny tickle made Rhaenys giggle. "Alright, what shall we do now?" With Elia likely sitting over Egg, it was apparently her that would sit over Rhaenys and Lyanna was looking forward to it.

But even the wild she-wolf couldn't have been prepared for what the little dragon asked next. "Make me a bwabe brudder."

Had Lyanna been drinking anything, she would have sprayed it all over the walls of her and Rhaegar's chambers. "What…" Did I hear her right? "You want to make a babe brother with me for yourself?"

Rhaenys nodded eagerly. "Egg is fun! Want another lwike Nymwiah!" The butchering of Queen Nymeria's name in reference to the stories Elia read to her of the mighty female warrior and her brother generals only served to emphasize how innocent the request was.

Unable to contain herself, Lyanna began laughing uproariously. Trying her best not to drop Rhaenys as she doubled over with mirth. "Oh sweetling…" Still giggling at the request, she set her daughter down on the bed. "While I would love to give you a babe brother or sister…" Instinctively, her hand drifted down to her abdomen. Imagining little Jon or Visenya potentially growing there at this moment. "That's something only muna and kepa can do… alone."

"I can help!" Rhaenys chirped a little too enthusiastically. "I tells kepa to huwwy to make babe!"

Simply thinking of the image threatened to destroy Lyanna. Biting her lip to bite back the chuckles, she ruffled Rhaenys' hair. "You'll find out when you're older that…" A different image, one of dark and sultry skin mixing with her pale alabaster and Rhaegar's silver hair, all intertwined on the bed in various stages of undress… the she-wolf shuddered, shaking her head to compose herself. "...One doesn't want one's daughter to be present in… babe-making." Lyanna's final answer was far different from what she first wanted to say.

"So no wittle brudder?" Rhaenys looked devastated.

"Tell you what. Why don't you go into the closet and find me your favorite pair of riding trousers. Then I'll take you on a ride on Winter when we're on Dragonstone." Eyes brightening, the giggling Rhaenys dashed off to complete the task. Smirking to herself - not to mention a little wet from the image - Lyanna bit it back as she kept packing. Resolved to burn off the desire with Rhaegar the next time she saw him.

"Where are your servants?"

For the second time in the space of ten minutes did the she-wolf turn on a silver stag… the first was for her dragon-blooded, adorable daughter. This time, a raspy, bitter voice caused a far different reaction in Lyanna. "Your Grace," she murmured, dropping into a low curtsey as the King stood before her. Trying not to tremble. "You honor me with your presence."

While the formalities were a must in front of Aerys, he clearly wasn't in the mood. "Where are the damn servants? Or that wildling Mormont bitch, or the perverted Dornish slut?!" He grabbed a folded riding dress from the chest and threw it against the wall. "A Princess of House Targaryen, made to pick up after herself like some smallfolk tramp? Someone's head will be on a pike for this."

Unable to stomach if Dacey or Ellaria ended up executed over this, Lyanna braved the inferno of her goodfather. "Your Grace, it is nothing. I dismissed them." About to rip a pair of socks, Aerys dropped them. No longer angry, but staring at her quizzically. "I like packing for myself. It's relaxing."

Pursing his lips, to her relief the King shrugged. "Northerners. They're all mad." Aerys chuckled, looking at the image of Aegon burning Black Harren. "I was always a proper King and Prince. Squire dressed me each and every time before battle - if those under you don't know their place, they will try and destroy you. Never forget that, gooddaughter. You must show them their place, with the pit and gallows if necessary."

The exact opposite of what she was taught, but Lyanna nodded anyway. "I shall reflect on your advice and change my behavior accordingly."

"Good." Aerys didn't know what possessed him to come here. That Red Witch doesn't know what the fuck she's talking about. As if some wolf like Lyanna could ever gain control over one of his dragon eggs…

"I finds one!" Lyanna watched with a barely concealed dread as Rhaenys skipped out of the closet, a pair of woollen trousers clutched tight to her chest. She skid to a halt at the unfamiliar person in front of her - Aerys rarely mixed with his own children, let alone his grandchildren. Rhaenys didn't know who he was, only that he was scary. "Muna?"

"What is that you hold, child?"

The King's voice was calm… a deathly calm. One that put Lyanna on edge, unknowing of what he would do. "You did well, Rhae. Hand it to me…"

A raised hand stopped her cold. "I want to know what the child has brought for you." He beckoned Rhaenys closer. "Give it to your King." Looking at Lyanna, who nodded reluctantly, the Princess gingerly complied. "Homespun wool?" It was a mutter, but Lyanna could hear the dripping contempt. "Northern rags? Why did you bring this?!"

Rhaenys trembled at the shout. Sure, Kepa, her Munas, and Grandmother Rhaella would often raise their voices when she was far away or naughty, but never this… vicious. "Um… I's find riding twawsers for muna."

Aerys curled his lips in disgust. "Half-breed Dornish. Can't string two words together." Wait… false dragon…

"The Princess means that I shall be riding around Dragonstone. Learning about my husband's keep, your Grace." A bead of sweat formed on Lyanna's forehead in spite of the winter's chill.

He snorted. "A Princess doesn't ride, and neither does a Queen. My bitch mother… my…" Aerys stopped, realizing he was just about to say Jenny's name. Just the mere mention of her by even his own voice stoked his fire. "What the fuck do you think you are doing?! This little brat is already at a knife's edge of being a smelly whore like her mother!" He gestured violently at Rhaenys, who was beginning to tremble in fear. "This," he lifted up the trousers. "Wildling rags! They smell of mud… it all smells like mud and piss!"

Lyanna finds it being thrown at her, mind spinning at how this whole situation spiraled into something… dangerous. Rhaegar… where are you?

This woman would never be a proper dragon's wife, not if Aerys let the wolf remain within her. My weak father let his wife walk all over him… never again! "My weak-willed son may condone this whorish behavior, but I will not!" The King would teach her the same lesson he taught Rhaella the night of the betrothal feast.

It wasn't just Aerys whose dragonblood pumped hotly at that moment. "Lweve muna alone!" It was a loud shout, completely genuine and spontaneous from the young Princess. Utterly terrified, but instinct telling her she had to defend her new mother.

Aerys' eyes were wide with fury. "This is not your concern, brat!" he bellowed, hand shooting out to shove her to the floor. Sending Rhaenys to the ground.

Horrified, Lyanna was up before she could stop herself. "She's just a child!" A protective mother wolf, her hands grabbed at Aerys' arm. Righteous, but not wise.

His violet eyes - so loving and kind in Rhaegar and her children, but crazed and malevolent in the King - were blazing. "You dare touch me? You don't touch me!" She would never forget his reaction, when disrespect turned into something else entirely. Aerys drew back his hand and smacked her across the cheek with such force as to cause her to stumble back. Falling upon the bed. "No wildling cunt deserves to be graced by the King!"

Trembling, eyes filling with tears, Lyanna had no idea what to do. At that moment, she felt he could kill her. "Your Grace… forgive me…" But her voice only infuriated him more.

He was a blur as he lunged at her, one moment glaring at her and the next atop Lyanna, grabbing her by the throat and smacking her over and over again with a snarl. "You little bitch, you and the Dornish whore's false dragon will never have what's mine!"

Hiding behind the bed, Rhaenys had curled into a ball and cried.

Screaming, trying to block his attacks, Lyanna pleaded for salvation. Rhaegar… help me…

Outside, standing by the door in protective fashion, the two Kingsguards heard everything inside. It took everything within Jaime not to draw his sword and run Aerys through - each cry of pain from their beloved Princess causing him to cringe. "Can't we stop this?" he whispered harshly to Gerold.

"No." One who didn't know the Old Bull would think him emotionless, but Jaime could spot the pain in his eyes. The agony that his vows strained against his conscience.

Another cry of pain, this time from the little one. Princess Rhaenys. "It is our vow to protect the royal family."

What Gerold told him would haunt Jaime for the rest of his life, "Not from him." But unlike many, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard wouldn't let it continue. "Find Rhaegar, now." Jaime didn't need to be told twice before he raced off.

The compulsion for Ned Stark was to wake at the crack of an early autumn dawn. Ready for their duties, whatever they may be. But where he was now, two slender arms wrapped around his neck and soft lips melding to his, Ned honestly couldn't care about duties. "Cersei…" he breathed into her mouth as he bucked into the tight sheath of her cunt.

Cersei moaned against his lips. "Don't talk." She wanted no words, nothing to interrupt how madly wonderful she was feeling. So deliciously full. His cock thick inside her, rubbing on her sensitive spots as the heavy wool of her dress was bunched up at her waist. Hurriedly hiked up in their desperation to feel each other once more. "Please…" She got her wish when he trailed his lips down her neck. Head falling back and spearing her fingers through his hair.

Mauling her like a drowning man desperate for air, Ned doubled his pace, lips crashing together to swallow her moans. Pushing deeper as Cersei's legs looped tighter around his waist - humping furiously to take him all in. Ned grunted, her clenching channel forcing his release.

Breathing rapidly, Cersei's head fell onto Ned's shoulder. Feeling his heavy body slump against her and press into the wall… and it felt amazing. Bittersweet. An entire night of lovemaking, more bliss than she had ever felt, only to end soon. Perhaps she should have sent him out… "I can't believe I let you ruin my dress."

Ned chuckled throatily. "My sister's clothes look good on you, lioness." She couldn't very well leave the Red Keep wearing the dress she wore last night. "Rodrick Cassel will ensure you arrive at your manse without being noticed."

"I would prefer my brother do it." Her lover easing out of her, Cersei at once felt a sense of emptiness. Fighting the urge to just pull him back to the bed.

"If you want to leave without being noticed, Jaime Lannister isn't the way to go about it." Seeing her sigh, Ned kissed her brow. "I'll be remaining in the capitol for another week." This woman was turning him mad, but he couldn't keep away. "Can we…"


Sighing, the second son of Rickard Stark felt the weight of the last moon on his shoulders. Letting the cool air of the ocean calm his mind. It was if he was punishing himself, falling desperately for a woman who would never be his. The daughter of a man so ambitious that even a Lord of high standing or a Prince not within the line of succession would be refused without delay. You're destroying yourself, Ned. Both his father and his goodbrother would need him for alliances… but he knew that after Cersei Lannister, none would compare.

Watching Cersei leave, Ned simply stood there for what seemed like an hour. Retreating to the well rumpled bed where they had engaged in their amorous encounters - his first taste of a woman… Ned would remember the night for the rest of his life. If only things were different… gods… But he would recognize reality. Move on he would have to do, much as he hated it.

Emerging from his chambers, Ned was just about to head to the kitchens for something to eat when Ser Jaime raced into the corridor, trailed by Ser Arthur and… "Brother!" Rhaegar's face was ashen, stricken in terror. Darting into his way, he grabbed the Prince by the shoulders. "What is going on?" The look on his face, it was as if a tidal wave was about to wipe out King's Landing.

Rhaegar blinked, frantic as he croaked out the answer. "It's Lyanna." Face going white, eyes wide in fear, Ned barely needed to glance at the others once before bolting for the royal apartments.

Ser Gerold was waiting for them. "Get inside, now." He couldn't stand up to the King, but the Prince could. Even before they entered they could hear the King's screeches. "Mine! Mine!" Aerys straddled Lyanna on the bed, hands tight around her throat. "The dragons are mine, whore!"

On him in a flash, the King thrashed about as Rhaegar grabbed him around the waist and hauled him off of Lyanna. "Father! Father!"

It was no use. Aerys had descended into a full fit, almost convulsing in his enraged delusions. "My eggs! My dragons! The wolf cunt and falseborn bitch won't steal them from me!"

Ned was by Lyanna's side in an instant. "Lya… Lya." He paled further at the dark bruises on her neck, rippling as she wheezed in needed air. "Gods." Pulling her into an embrace, Ned felt her sobs on his tunic.

"Fetch Pycelle," Rhaegar ordered, Gerold and Jaime having gotten ahold of the still ranting King. "Have him fed milk of the poppy and let his Grace recover." His father's snarls echoed through the hallway, increasingly faint. He won't remember any of this. This had happened before and Rhaegar knew what to do, though never had Aerys been violent during a fit.

Elia immediately appeared, face contorted in apprehension. "What in seven hells was that? I heard his Grace…" Peeking inside, she saw Lyanna in the state she was in. "Gods, Lya!" Ned just managed to get up when Elia embraced her sister-wife. Rhaegar not far behind. "I'm so sorry…"

"How…" Lyanna's voice was hoarse from tears and trauma. "How could this happen?"

"Shhh," Rhaegar soothed. "You're fine now."

Watching the loving moment, Ned heard a voice from behind the bed. Walking over, he saw a heartbreaking sight. "Princess Rhaenys?" The little girl, normally filled with life, was a trembling wreck. Tucked into a ball in the corner, shaking all over. "Come here…" She only shook harder. Ned dropped into a crouch. "It's alright, Princess. It's Eddard Stark, Lya's brother." They had only met a few times, and Ned didn't think she remembered him.

But Rhaenys, even in her agony, was smart. "Muna wolf?" She pointed at the direwolf emblazoned on his leathers.

Ned nodded. "Aye. I'm your muna's brother wolf." Seeing her mollified, the Princess burst into tears just as Ned picked her up - the quiet wolf merely holding her close.

The ship had left the docks of King's Landing only an hour before. Bearing the Seahorse sigils of House Velaryon, the loyal crewmen gladly complied when Rhaegar ordered them to set sail immediately - compared to runs from King's Landing to Qarth, ferry service to Dragonstone was easy. The haste had left much of their baggage still in the Red Keep to be brought over on a second voyage, but none of Rhaegar's household complained one bit. Rhaella and Rickard made sure they leave for Dragonstone at once.

For Rhaegar and Elia, it was clear before them why such action was needed. "Is she?"

Sighing from within her narrow bed, Lyanna gently pushed back the curtain of raven hair to see the serene form of the sleeping Rhaenys. "Aye, she's finally asleep." Her cheeks were puffy, tear stains marring them. It broke Lyanna's heart. "Rhaegar… I'm so sorry…" she choked out not for the first time.

Gingerly so as not to wake his daughter, Rhaegar leaned down to press his lips chastly on Lyanna's. Pouring his love and affection for his new bride. "Shhh, my love. It's not your fault… never your fault."

Standing at the foot of the cot, Elia bit her lip. Watching her family in such pain and anguish. Rhaenys had been inconsolable since Ned had first picked her up, bursting into tears every few minutes that led both her and Rhaegar to spend half an hour trying to quiet down. And Lyanna… Elia had seen many horrible things as the gooddaughter of Aerys II Targaryen, but the vibrant Lyanna Stark with hollow, emotionless eyes was likely the worst.

Aerys would always leave me in this state… But looking upon the bruises on Lyanna's neck, Elia finally considered that it could have been worse. Her abuse had been nothing but verbal and emotional, never resorting to the physical. Gods, it will only get worse…

"I'll be the death of both of you," Lyanna sobbed as Elia tuned in back to their conversation. "I'm nothing but a liability."

Elia was quickly by her side. "Sister, don't try to understand his madness." Alone with Rhaegar, they were always candid - it didn't change with Lyanna in the room. "You'll never grasp what causes him to do what he does."

But Lyanna wasn't calming down. Her voice was a half-whimper, half-rasp and it broke their hearts. "I hoped it wasn't too good to be true… I dreamed…" Rhaegar cut her off with another kiss, this one desperate and loving. Trying to purge her of such thoughts. Elia gently caressed her arm, wishing she could do more… imagining being in Rhaegar's stead… No, damn you Oberyn. Ever since he put those thoughts in her head, they popped up at the most inoppertune times.

"Muna…" The soft whisper broke them all out of their concentration, giving the three a heads up when Rhaenys began thrashing. "Where muna?!"

"I'm here, sweetling, I'm here," Elia murmured, moving to hug her.

But Rhaenys didn't calm down. "No. Where my muna!" It was only when she saw Lyanna's grey eyes that she ceased her thrashing, throwing her little arms around her. "No go, muna. I wuv you. No monster get you…"

She knew it was selfish in the moment - after seeing Lyanna being strangled by the King, and gods knew what vile words Aerys had screamed, Rhaenys needed to know Lyanna was alright - but it did hurt. My babe not wanting me… wanting Lya more... Eyes closing, she rose. "I have to put Egg to bed." Kissing Rhaenys and Rhaegar's cheeks while squeezing Lyanna's hand. Quickly making her exit.

As Rhaenys drifted back to sleep, Rhaegar kissed their foreheads. "Goodnight, my loves…"

"No." Lyanna pulled him back down, urging him to hold her. "I'm sorry, my love. Please don't leave me… I need…" Her tears returned, strong personality fading in her vulnerability. "I can't lose any of you… I can't…"

Rhaegar's arms enveloped the both of them. "You have us… you have us till the end."

Pale moonlight streaming through the open porthole, Elia paced back and forth in the cabin. Fists balling at her sides, lips curled in a barely suppressed rage - the more she thought of it, allowed the swirling cauldron of pain and anguish and jealousy to fester within her, the more her anger simply grew and grew to replace it. He's escalating. Rhaella hit, Lyanna assaulted, Rhaenys… It was an image that tore her insides out just to look at, and an image that Elia resolved never to see again. Never again… not on my Lyanna… The fact she referred to her possessively didn't register, so seething was her rage.

Not hearing the steps along the hall, Elia nearly jumped when the door opened. Her husband walking in, brooding frown planted on his lips. Of course he's brooding. He looked so handsome when brooding, but at that anger-fueled moment Elia could only see the passivity, the introverted withdrawal of an indecisive coward. "Well?" she asked, harsher than intended. "How are they?"

"Lyanna is finally asleep. She had to hold Rhaenys, lest our daughter wake screaming." Sensing Elia's rage, he hoped mentioning their daughter would calm her - Rhaegar himself added her mood to the chorus of reasons to hate himself. "She loves Lyanna so much already, as much as she loves us. It brings me joy."

"Joy?" Already on a knife's edge, his attempt to calm her simply set Elia off. "You actually feel joy right now?!." He said nothing, stoking her anger further. She loved Rhaegar, loved him desperately, but at that moment her long suppressed rage just spewed out like a shattered dam. "Your father attacks her and you did nothing!"

Rhaegar was silent. Head hanging in shame and regret. Every bit of their energy had been spent caring for Lyanna and Rhaenys, it only made sense to him that Elia scold him now. "There was nothing I could do," he said simply. "I told the Kingsguards to protect her, but my father's health is declining…"

"He's turning into a monster. The madness consumes him, and your cowardice just puts Lyanna and our children into the way!"

There wasn't anything he could say to that. "We're going to Dragonstone. We'll be safe there."

The mighty, dashing Dragon Prince - image of Aegon the Conqueror… not as Elia saw him in her fury. "Look at you, pathetic." Any other time, saying such would leave her in physical pain, how deep her love for him. The love we truly shared, taken away by that monster. But all was just too much. "I don't know what lies you told yourself to excuse leaving me to the vultures, of letting your Hand spread lies to foment chaos, but I won't let you do the same to Lyanna!"

"Leave you to the vultures?" Hearing that made Rhaegar stand, his ire peaked. Eyes narrowing. "What about Connington? What in Seven Hells do you mean by that?"

"Oh, now he rises," Elia spat sarcastically.

"What in the fuck did Connignton do that you blame me for?!" he asked incredulously.

"Oh, you mean when our daughter overheard him speaking of how Lyanna was going to take her from me?" Elia smirked at his gesture of shock. "Faced with the truth of how you left me alone and unloved while your father drove a girl of five and ten close to slitting her wrists?" She watched in satisfaction as hurt crossed his features, only for the dragonfire in him to combust it into rage.

He clenched his fists. "I never denied you anything, Elia. Comfort, love, affection…"

She laughed bitterly, grinning. Smile not reaching her blazing eyes. "You really believe that, don't you? You moronic bastard. Stupid bastard! Are you just going to do the same for Lyanna as you did with me, sit around and diddle your thumb up your ass when your father kills her?!"

"I'm not going to let anything happen to either of you, not anymore!" he exclaimed hotly. Mind already being driven to the breaking point. Confronting the lies he had told himself for over a decade.

"Oh? And how are you going to do that?" She sauntered up in his face. "By burying your head in the sand and not saying a damn thing like with me?!"

"OF COURSE NOT!" he thundered, rocking the ship. The blood of the dragon in his veins was now on fire.

"Are you going to send her away? Make her sleep alone without any comfort?" Elia knew Rhaegar blamed himself for how Aerys treated her, but she was too angry to care.

"No! I'll comfort her to the best of my abilities! Like I tried to do with you!"

"You barely tried! You left me alone!"

"You forced me away!"

"I was five and ten!" Elia gasped. "I didn't know any better, I was a scared girl who needed her husband to love her, and you were never there!" She would not cry…

Neither would he… "Because it was my fault!" He punched one of the beams, shattering it into splinters and bloodying his hand. Face red with rage at her… or himself. "Your pain was my fucking fault and I have to live with that for my wretched life!"

Mere seconds of boiling tension passed before Rhaegar's hand surged forward. Elia felt fear for a split second that he would strangle her, but instead an even greater surprise as he harshly yanked her by her wavy black locks and crashed their lips together. Tongue forcing its way into her mouth as she gasped.


Rhaegar stumbled back, hand shooting to his cheek, now sporting a throbbing red mark from where Elia slapped him.

Her hand throbbed, having shot up at pure instinct… but at the look in Rhaegar's eyes… a fiery intensity. Elia had seen such in Aerys, but there was no madness or violence in Rhaegar. Only heat, fire, passion… lust, love, desire. Mouth opening to yell at him, nothing came out. Tongue going dry as she gazed upon him. His stare going straight to the now uncomfortable join of her legs…

It was difficult to determine who had moved first, but in an instant their lips had crashed together violently. Rhaegar shoving her against the hull of the boat, grabbing her wrists in one hand and brutishly pinning them on the beams. Elia wasted no time with his open mouth to invade harshly. Tongue seeking out his to suck it roughly. Wetness flooding her core at feeling his cock press against her. Not only was she powerless to resist, but Elia responded so eagerly to him.

Pinning her with his entire body, Rhaegar's hand blazed down the lithe curves of his wife's figure as he took command of the kiss. Fingers reaching the portion of her dress at her core, his eyes darkened from lust when Elia simply spread her legs apart. He hiked up her dress, Elia screaming into his mouth when his fingers speared inside her.

His hand collapsing to hold up her dress, Elia wasted no time. Her fingers attacked his tunic. Needing him bare to her. The Dornish Princess felt a desperate ache to feel his skin against hers, aching to be filled... it had been so long since they last coupled. Even then, their lovemaking was only barely pleasurable. An obligation and a release. Not this… animal passion.

Just as she managed to rip his tunic off, Rhaegar stilled his fingers. Noooo… Elia bucked her hips hard, trying to impale herself.

"My princess…" Normally formal or affectionate, Rhaegar's honorific for her was holding back a torrent of lust and hunger.

My sweet husband… He was the perfect gentleman, but Elia needed the dragon to be awoken. Burning off her anger and his in the furious flames. Staring at him, her eyes black with desire, she dug her fingers into the hard muscles of his back. Nails raking deep gouges. Drawing blood.

It snapped whatever self-control he had left. Roaring, Rhaegar sunk his teeth into her shoulder, so consumed in lust for his Dornish beauty. How could I deny myself this breathtaking woman? As with Lyanna - her beauty equal to yet different to Elia's in his mind - his dragonblood demanded that he claim her for all the world to see. Drinking in how she screamed for him, nails still raking into his back. Hands grabbing at the silk only to rip it clean off her.

A shudder coursed through Elia, in awe at how desperate her husband was for her. How he literally tore her dress to shreds. Yes, Rhaegar, yes… Grabbing his shoulders tightly as he left bites along the swarthy skin of her neck and breasts. Leaving bruises as he lifted her with only a grunt. Screaming when his cock without warning thrust to the hilt in her cunt like a battering ram.

Somehow they made it to the bed without falling over as the ship rode the waves. Falling atop the sheets in a tangle of writhing limbs, kissing like starving beasts. Elia biting his lip so hard that it split, Rhaegar pinned her down and simply slammed into her. Mine… mine… mine... Thrusts hard and violent, claiming her that night as he had Lyanna the night before.

She clawed at his back. She bit his shoulder. She wrapped her legs tight around his waist to force him deeper. Silently screaming as his cock kissed her womb, defiling her… and Elia loved it.

Fingertips bruised her hips, Rhaegar driving hard and fast towards his release.

Teeth sunk into the muscles of his shoulder, sucking hard to drown out the ecstacy rippling through her body.

For over four years they had borne Aerys' abuse in silence. Endured hateful things that they screamed at each other. Smiling yet it never truly reaching their eyes. Burying whatever feelings and affection within them for self-preservation, all the cold, empty nights… Now, Rhaegar roaring into Elia's mouth and Elia's walls clenching tightly, they simply unleashed it all. Vented their anger, frustration, and suppressed lust in one fiery climax.

Elia gasped out a breath when Rhaegar rolled off of her. A sheen of sweat drenched her skin, bruises and love bites marring the olive-toned flesh. In spite of their past couplings being quite good, Elia had never known such pleasure - such intimacy. Gods… this is what it should have been… Like Rhaegar and Lyanna's couplings, which she couldn't help but overhear the night before to her shame - and not a little arousal. Every time she heard the moans, pleas, and shrieks of total rapture… that was the real act of lovemaking, something Elia hadn't truly appreciated until now. Until she simply let loose upon her husband… My husband…

Before she could marshal her remaining strength to turn and face him, Rhaegar made the first move. Pulling her to him, a possessive hand wrapping around her waist. The two of them flush against each other. Elia felt a gentle kiss pressed on her forehead. "I'm sorry, Elia," Rhaegar said, voice low.

The Dornish Princess melted. Cuddling close to him. "I'm sorry as well."

"You don't need to be." Reaching down, Rhaegar tilted her head up so he could meet her glistening brown eyes. "I was so scared, Elia. Scared of what my father would do to my family that I said and did nothing…"

"Oh Rhaegar…" All anger and bitterness washed away, Elia cupped his cheek. Softly kissing his jaw. "His actions were not on you, his abuse not your fault. I was so young, but so were you." Eight and ten when they married, only a year older as Lyanna was now. "You were as much a victim of him as I was." Elia hadn't seen it when they were married - it was only years later that she noticed just how much Aerys put on his shoulder. The vitriol he faced.

His own eyes were wet with unshed tears. "I suppose I knew how much you were hurting, enough to think I was doing the right thing by keeping my distance… by punishing myself. It was my fault." He attempted to pull away, ashamed at himself and how he had hurt Elia.

But Elia refused to let him go. "No." Gently, Elia eased him into the crook of her neck. His pain and self-loathing was breaking her heart - she couldn't see him like this. He's become everything to me… even when I was blind to it. "You cannot blame yourself, Rhaegar. I was wrong too, please forgive me." He was quiet, too quiet and it continued to feel like a stab in the chest. "Rhaegar please… I love you." There, the truth was out.

Her world warmed again when he murmured into her shoulder. "I love you too, Elia." There they rocked together on the bed for what seemed like hours. Elia still felt the weight of their history on her shoulders, but sunlight shone on their relationship for the first time ever. "I also love Lyanna as well."

A flicker of jealousy filled her before it left. "I know, my love. I wouldn't want you not to." She pulled back, kissing her brow. "You're the blood of the dragon. If anyone can love two it is you." She cupped his cheek again. "She's getting the worst of Aerys' wrath. Promise me you'll protect her."

"I promise." Smiling wanly, Rhaegar leaned down to kiss her lips. The two of them losing themselves in their passion. "I missed you, wife." Sharing intimacy with Elia, it felt like his life was falling into place.

"I missed you, husband," Elia moaned into his mouth. Shifting to unleash a flurry of apologetic kisses upon the fading handprint on his cheek.

"I'm going to overthrow my father."

Elia continued to desperately kiss him for several seconds… only to pull away with wide eyes. "What did you say?"

"You heard me, my love." Falling exhausted to his back, wincing at the open gouges in his back, Rhaegar pulled her against his side. Relishing the feel of her nude body on his. This felt nearly right, close to the way it should have been - driving him towards the brutal truth. Towards his destiny. "It is time that I take the throne."

Chapter Text

The inn smelled of unwashed bodies and warm piss. Patrons downing the alcohol, scarfing down the finger food with gusto. Conversation free-flowing. "Did ya see the She-Wolf weeks ago? Beautiful lass."

"Both're beautiful."

At a meek voice referring to the Faith's prohibition on polygamy, a round of jeers followd. "Ah shut it! Prince and Princesses are mi'best."

"If I had two lasses dat pretty, I'd tell da Septon to shove it."

"To Princess Elia and Princess Lyanna!"

"To Prince Rhaegar!" an entire cheer washed over the patrons as they hoisted their drinks high. Smile tinging his face, it fell when Eddard Stark realized that Lyanna was more beloved by the people than in her own family at this point.

Unlike his sister, without a complement of guards he was an anonymous face - while a fragile ego might be put off, he was thankful. It worked to his advantage now that the walls of the Red Keep were… unreliable to keep secrets. Reaching the back of the inn unnoticed, two plainclothes men nodded to him as he opened a nondescript door. Both stalwart household guards. Amazing what five gold dragons could do to seek both the back room of the inn and the right to station one's own men from the innkeeper.

Hopefully the King doesn't have eyes here. Lord Arryn had warned him about the Spider, but undoubtedly this would be less dangerous than the Keep itself.

"You're late," his father said, rising from his chair from where he sat next to Brandon. A third figure rested further away… Prince Oberyn?

Quickly hugging both of them, Ned's eyes focused on the Dornish Prince. The man leaning back in his chair, boots resting on the table, bored. What's your angle? "Had something I needed to check on… but I'm here now."

Rickard nodded. "Good."

"What is Prince Oberyn doing here?"

"Upset to see me, Eddard?" he said cheerily, smiling while he clutched at his heart. "That truly hurts."

Stone-faced, Rickard leaned back in his seat. "The Prince and I spoke and came to an understanding… that House Stark and House Martell share a common interest at this point."

Cackling - a choice between laughter and tears - Brandon smacked his palm on the table. "Oh, certainly, father. His Grace," he spat. "Assaulted and nearly strangled to death my sister." His face grew redder. "You saw the marks on her neck!" Eyes met Ned's. "You saw the King give them to her!"

Closing his eyes, Ned inhaled. "Aye, I did." Yes, he was in control of his emotions now, but a deep rage howled like a winter blizzard just underneath the surface.

Brandon, on the other hand, was close to steam rising from his skin. "That motherfucker isn't going to get away with hurting Lyanna!" He already knew what he would say to Aerys, marching to the Iron Throne and demanding Aerys 'Come out and die!' It would go into the songs of history.

"Bran, you cannot take on the Targaryen King alone. We have no power to do so." Oberyn simply sat quietly, eyes flickering around. A dangerous enemy to have.

"We'll call the banners, champion Rhaegar's claim…"

"We will do nothing." Rickard said simply.

The heir looked upon his father incredulously, while the second son could notice Rickard holding back his emotions. "You would do nothing, father?!"

"Aye, nothing." He clenched his fists several times.

"You are wise, Lord Stark," Oberyn spoke for the first time in the conversation. "For better or for worse, House Stark is forged to the Iron Throne as House Martell is." Much as my brother doesn't think so. "If Aerys falls, we all fall to some hybrid monstrosity that I have no idea what will be."

Ned could only nod. It pained him greatly to have to let it go, but he did what he had to. Lya would understand.

"I won't stand for this!" Brandon threw up his hands in the air. "The North won't stand for its daughter being abused and battered!" Ned moved to calm him down but Brandon shook him off. "I'll run my sword through the King with my own two hands…"

Only a gurgle left him as Rickard was out of his chair in a flash. Hand wrapped around his son and heir's throat, slamming Brandon into the wall. "You will do nothing!"

Choking, gasping for breath like a frog, Brandon desperately tried to escape his father's chokehold. Far younger and fitter, but transformed into a helpless child. "Our honor… her… honor… must… avenged…"

Rickard slammed a fist into his gut. "Were you always this fucking clueless?!" His face was red with anger. Eyes wide with terror and determination. "The King will fucking kill you if you challenge him! I will half-kill you with my own bare hands than see you die, do you fucking hear me?!"

Ned recognized it all if Brandon didn't. A wolf protecting his pups.

As hotheaded as he was, when Brandon had it knocked out of his system he was the calmest person there was. "Aye…" Rickard released him, sinking to the floor in a fit of coughs.

Shaking his head, Oberyn sighed. Doran thinks these people are a danger to Elia? He hadn't yet seen a single Stark that proved the old adage 'No Stark belongs south of the Neck,' wrong. Rickard was smart but unimaginative, Ned was guileless, and Brandon… Gods, I hope that's not what I come off as. "Our families both have very thin needles to thread."

Taking his seat again, Rickard pinched the bridge of his nose. "We're stuck with our position. Too many knives perched at our back, all but a few not by our making." Robert… Tywin… Martells... maybe the Tyrells… Gods help us if Tywin finds out what I did. Ned didn't blame Lyanna for what happened with Robert, but even as they patched it up, he worried about how Robert or his Stormlanders would take the slight. "Connington is our enemy, fucking buggerer," he cursed.

"They can't dare hurt the North," Ned said, remembering the histories.

Oberyn chuckled sarcastically. "Doesn't matter. They can blockade White Harbor and starve us out… or have all of you assassinated and give the North to Roose Bolton."

Pushing himself up, gingerly holding his bruised neck, Brandon looked dejectedly at his father. "So you're saying we have to stay here? While the King could kill Lyanna?"

"Lyanna is under Rhaegar's care, and I am certain he will protect her." The Master of Laws pulled out a note from inside his leathers. "He wishes Ned and I join him on Dragonstone at the end of the week."

"Just yourself and I, father?" Ned asked.

"I'm not sure that anyone else is coming…"

"I recieved such a letter as well, Lord Stark." Oberyn shrugged his shoulders. "And I can honestly say, I'm as clueless as the three of you."

"So it seems we're not alone there, but we can be sure he doesn't trust your brother to be level-headed." Glaring again at Brandon, the older Stark child shrank back in shame. "Meanwhile, we need to cement our alliance with the other Houses. Ned, you are to escort Catelyn Tully to Winterfell from Dragonstone."

While hoping against all hope that he could stay a bit longer, Ned knew this would happen. "With Benjen coming here, I know there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, but why should Bran stay?"

"Your brother is needed with me."

"Father, if Catelyn is to go North she needs me to accompany her. Ned isn't the one she has bonded with…"

"You are in need of further experience in the game of thrones, which you obviously lack," their father shot back. "Being a Lord isn't being strong or charismatic - you need wits and restraint. I can't be there to save you from yourself forever, son." He sighed, trying to calm himself. "And Ned, I'm counting on you to hold the North and prepare Lady Catelyn for her position. If you shall be named your goodbrother's Hand one day, you must be smart as well."

Torn between duty and love, Ned knew which he would have to choose. Not all of us are lucky to have both. "I am at your service, father." Only Oberyn among them knew what he meant, but thankfully the Dornishman kept his mouth shut.

Much later, Ned walked up the rickety stairs of the inn to the second floor - having stayed behind with what he told his family was hungry… but in truth not for food. Knocking on the door of the first guestchamber, a voice bid him entry.

"You're late," Cersei said, voice only slight cross. Truth was she was worried, and elated to see him. Both her brothers would have mocked her incessantly for sneaking out of their manse to meet a suitor in such… plebeian accommodations, but truth be told Cersei didn't care. For sex that good with a man that dazzled her so, she'd go anywhere.

Ned shucked out of his fur cloak. "You're the second person to tell me that." Unlacing his leathers, he sat on the bed next to his lover "I'll have to go back to Winterfell soon."

An intake of breath from Cersei. She was under no illusions that they would not last… but it still hurt. "How soon?"

"End of the week."

Unwilling to allow her feelings to consume her, Cersei grabbed Ned. Pulling him on top of her. "Just fuck me, Stark." Make me forget…

Minutes later, as his tongue lashed at her folds while she rode his mouth, Ned did just that.

The still bright orange-red cast brilliant swirls in the sky, Lyanna's squinted eyes turned from the sun towards the Lord's Chambers of Dragonstone. Running her hand along the smooth dragonglass ore that the ancient Valyrian builders forged the colonial outpost out of. They had only arrived two hours before, but already Lyanna felt at home here.

Inside, Dacey was hanging several of her dresses in the large walk-in closet. "This place needs a feminine touch, doesn't it?"

Lyanna waved her hands. "Yes, but only a little."

The lady in waiting furrowed her brows. "Isn't it a little… dark? Imposing?"

Sitting upon the massive bed, Lyanna offered a wan smile. "Aye, but that's how it's supposed to be." Her eyes glanced at the various natural swirls in the stone. "This place, it's one of a kind. The last truly Valyrian structure left in existance, one of my new House and of the blood that my children will carry in their veins." Lyanna patted her stomach wistfully.

Dacey shrugged. "I guess we Northerners aren't ones to complain. Bear Island… I doubt there's more colors than grey, green, and brown in our keep. Maybe a bit of blue?" The girls giggled at that.

The door opened at that moment and Elia breezed in. Telling her greetings to Dacey before moving to Lyanna's side. Hands going to her neck. "Are you feeling alright, sister?"

Tensing only slightly at the touch, once she processed it was Elia's soft hands Lyanna relaxed. "They're fine… just a little tender."

"Perhaps the Maester should look at them?"

"Elia, I'm fine." The concern in her sister-wife's voice heartened her, but Lyanna was a strong woman. Fading fingertip bruises were something she could handle… "I'll see him on the morrow." She bit her lip, hesitant. Truth be told, she just needed comfort.

Recognizing the same look that had plagued her for years, Elia reached forward to embrace her sister-wife. "It will be alright, Lyanna." The two women held each other gently, silently. "Everything will be taken care of."

"How…?" Lyanna murmured. "How will any of this be fine?" Her voice trembled, worry for the future vocalized. Elia had told her of the abuse she had suffered, but never had Aerys rages towards her grown violent… till yesterday…

Before Elia could answer, they heard Dacey say, "Your Grace." She curtseyed to Rhaegar, who had just arrived. The Lord of Dragonstone looked exhausted, but supremely content in light clothes and with a bundle in his arms. Ser Arthur was behind him, causing Dacey to fluster a bit.

He smiled at Dacey. "My Lady, you may turn in now, and Ser Arthur will escort you to your chambers." Blushing further, she could only nod. Door closing behind, Rhaegar drew closer to his brides, bundle in his arms now squirming. "Egg missed his munas." He noticed how worried both looked.

The worry was put aside when they caught sight of Aegon. Lyanna was at him first, taking the babe from Rhaegar's arms and cuddling him close. Kissing the little Prince's head before handing him to Elia. "I'll put him to bed, my love," she told Rhaegar, leaning over to kiss Lyanna's cheek a friendly goodnight. Moving to do the same to her husband, Rhaegar instead pulled her to a far deeper kiss, making her moan . The Prince found Lyanna smiling softly, biting her lip. The kiss lasted a little longer because of it.

Breaking it, Elia breathed a bit heavily, forehead resting against Rhaegar's. "I love you." He whispered.

"I love you, too," she replied. "Talk to her.. about it." There was no doubt what she meant. There was no need to explain that it was to be Elia who'd sleep in his chambers tonight… after what happened, it was necessary. Babe in her arms, Elia accepted it, much as she longed to share her husband's chambers, craved it. Lucky Lyanna… She waved the thought away as she left for Aegon's nursery, cooing softly at him.

As soon as they were alone Lyanna launched herself at her husband. Arms squeezing his side closely and lips connecting with his. Doing their best to suffocate him in passionate intensity. His arms gently held her waist, matching the kiss with the same passion. "Oh, Rhaegar, I love you," she gasped, kiss broken and instead hugging him close.

He kissed the top of her head. "I love you too, Lya." Squeezing her hips, he smiled down at her. "Let's get ready for bed."

The two of them began to undress silently, Rhaegar unlacing his boots while watching Lyanna drop her dress - the undershift hugging her curves so deliciously. She caught his lustful stare with a smirk. "Eyes up here, lecher."

"I'm the Prince. I can stare if I want to." Boots off, he stood to remove his tunic.

Ready to appreciate him as he did her, instead Lyanna noticed the scabbing gouges in his back, mouth opening in surprise. It hadn't been she that did that. Oh sister… you tricky bride… Laughing, she hugged Rhaegar from behind. Kissing the scabs. "Busy without me, my love?"

Now he hesitated. "Lya, I…"

"She's beautiful, and your wife - Elia deserves happiness. Why would I be upset?"

He took a deep breath, relieved. "You know I don't love you any less?" Rhaegar asked as he turned in her arms.

"Yes, I do." He was so beautiful, muscular and of an ethereal, divine coloring. Having to share him with a kind, loving, intelligent woman that was like a sister to her… Lyanna would take that arrangement gladly. "Love her, Rhaegar, she needs it."

Taking her lips with his, this time the kiss sweet and gentle, Rhaegar knew it was time to tell her. "Lyanna… I need to confess something." She looked at him with her grey eyes, unconditional love and trust in them. "I sent a raven from the ship to summon Ned and your father here, among others."

"Oh? I wasn't expecting to see him so soon but I can't say I'm not glad…"

"They will be here to discuss my plan to overthrow my father."

That was surprising. Eyes widening almost out of their sockets, Lyanna almost figured she didn't hear right. "Did… did you just say…?" Her head looked around, almost fearful the walls might spout ears.

Motioning to the bed, they sit down next to each other. Rhaegar taking each of her hands. "Lyanna, it's time. This perfidy has gone on too long."

"I won't let you be a kinslayer because of me."

Rhaegar shook his head. "With all luck, this will be bloodless." He reached out to stroke her cheek. "My love, the Kingdoms are on a knife's edge. Varys has told me more than he would ever tell my father… discontent has been brewing for years. Only my marriages and the desire of Mace Tyrell to marry into the royal family keeps things together… and even then... " He sighed. "Tywin is building up his forces, the Iron Islands are plotting again, Doran is fortifying his borders. And now with that oaf Robert…"

Lyanna turned away. "That one was my fault… I'm sorry, Rhaegar."

Two hands firmly clasped her cheeks, making her stare into his eyes. "No, my love. Do not blame yourself." Rhaegar averted his gaze. "The fault lays with me. I can't… continue living a lie."

"What lie?" She inched herself closer, kissing the corner of his mouth. "Tell me, my dragon."

"That I can be a dutiful son, but also do my duty as a Prince of the Realm…" Fighting the tempest of emotions that threatened to consume him, it took Lyanna's lips upon his jaw and neck to ground himself. "The time has come to end this nightmare, for all of us."

Regarding him in wonderment, Lyanna ran her fingers down his cheek, his chin, his chest. "You are the most amazing man, Rhaegar. My love, my Prince… my King." Not hesitating any longer, they closed the distance between them. Eager to lose themselves in each other, to bond as husband and wife.

Their lovemaking was sweet and slow that night. Rhaegar's mouth worshipping every inch of skin, Lyanna writhing in unsatiated lust. Fingers spearing in his silver hair when he pleasured her breasts - and then her core, tongue driving her to a magnificent eruption.

At her urging, Rhaegar let his beloved flip them over. Resting on his back and feeling words leave him when the gorgeous creature mounted him. Grey eyes reflecting in the final rays of dark-orange sunlight, her regarding him as one would a god… and she a goddess. "Lyanna," he gasped, feeling her sheath him inside her. Her face contorting in rapture. Gently she set a pace, one Lyanna picked up when he cupped her breasts. A rhythm kept until they exploded, him inside her and she around him. Rhaegar having pulled his beloved bride down to connect their lips as they rode their climaxes.

Feeling her husband settle behind her, a powerful arm wrapped underneath her body to tug her back flush against his muscular front. Lyanna reached to place her palm over his. Drawing it to splay over her lower belly. "I hope your seed has quickened inside me, my love." Little Jon or sweet Visenya, I pray I shall meet you soon.

Imagining Lyanna's abdomen swollen with their babe… Rhaegar's heart hitched. "So do I." Regardless of the gulf between himself and Elia, he had been crushed when Pycelle disclosed her health would preclude a successful pregnancy, yet now the gods had granted him a second chance. "And if not," he breathed hotly against her neck. "We have plenty of time to do so."

Lyanna grinned, grinding her rump into his crotch. Biting her lip as a groan left Rhaegar. Oh, the hold I have over this mighty dragon. "I hope this won't be the end of our wedding night," she purred.

"You're insatiable," was Rhaegar's answer.

"You love it," she shot back, grinding yet again.

"That I do." Dropping kisses on her bare, creamy shoulders, it was Lyanna that groaned now. "I gather you are tired?" Smirking against her skin, a hand slid to cup her bare breast.

Lyanna hissed, the Crown Prince's fingers playing with her sensitive nipple. "Did I ever say I wanted to sleep tonight?" Gone was the shy maiden. Now a sultry, demanding she-wolf in heat. Suddenly, she felt teeth sinking into her shoulder. "Biting, your Grace?"

"Aye… your fault." Rhaegar pulled Lyanna on her back. Letting his silver locks frame his face. "Irresistible and delicious you are, Lyanna Targaryen." Her eyes darkened with a sudden lust at his words. "You like that?" he grinned.

A rush of wetness filling her channel, Lyanna could only nod. "Yes." She bucked her hips, begging silently…

He rewarded her by slipping deep inside her. "Lyanna Targaryen..."

"You've been a bit glum, dear brother."

Leaning back against one of the stone columns that marked off the large promenade of Aemma's Walk, build high above the cliffs of Aegon's High Hill - protected by the lower walls, it was said that Viserys I had it constructed so that his wife Aemma Arryn could enjoy the high winds lost to her when she left the Eyrie - Jaime closed his eyes. Looking up at the orange-purple haze of sunset. "Why do I ever come to you, Tyrion?"

His little brother chuckled. "Because of my charming company, of course." Two warning eyes shot him a glare. "What? If I wasn't such a good distraction from the ails of the world, why else would my family visit me?"

"Could it be that I just want some quiet time?"

Another chuckle. "If that is what you wish, you picked the wrong person, Jaime. Uncle Kevan barely says a word to his own wife, but he's not here. Father… possible but he'd just scold you about taking the white…"

Jaime slapped his palm against the stone. "Would you please shut up?" His head pounded, making his grimace and clutch his temple.

Tyrion, never one to take advice, only peered at him. "It seems my suspicions are confirmed." He placed a gentle hand on his brother's knee. "Jaime…"

"Is this seat taken?" Nary a word was said before Cersei merely plopped down beside Tyrion, not even looking at him.

"Um… no, it's not taken," the Imp replied, though the answer was moot. "Would you like a glass of…"

He wasn't allowed to finish before Cersei grabbed the entire flagon of wine and poured herself a cup. Wasn't the first time she did that to Tyrion and wouldn't be the last. "What in gods' names are you doing here of all places?" she asked bluntly. "Jaime refused to go to the brothel, I bet."

Her twin glared at her - he was always the white knight for Tyrion growing up, holding a soft spot for his 'little brother.' Tyrion, meanwhile, only coyly sipped his wine. "Oh Cersei, I'm not a complete degenerate. A boy of five and ten out in the capitol alone? The pimps and madams would rob me blind." He reached out to pat both of them on the shoulder, Cersei surprisingly not wrenching it away. "Just the two Lannister boys enjoying a drink in the one place father would never go anymore. And now it's the three Lannister siblings doing such." Now it was his turn to eye Cersei over… her face was oddly flush. "But what brings you here?"

Cersei blinked. "Why do you ask, dwarf?"

Tyrion pursed his lips. She only calls me that when she's very mad… or hiding something… "Call it curiosity." From beside him, Jaime hauled himself into an upright sitting position, also curious.

"I was here to inform Lord Connington that we're departing on the morrow," she said, not at all convincingly.

"Hmmm, that would be fine except that father already told him this morning." Damn. "And, how would that cause your hair to be disheveled?" The normally immaculate Cersei Lannister's golden locks were hastily put together, many strands wild and out of place. Seven hells… damn him and his obsession with my hair. Cersei secretly loved how Ned would constantly run his fingers through her hair, but he was just asking for something like this. "I mean, Connington's tastes run in a different direction, so… may I presume Eddard Stark is one happy man right now?" Tyrion grinned.

"What?!" Jaime's jaw dropped. Bad mood forgotten. "Eddard Stark?" He no longer was interested in Cersei that way, but as a brother it shocked him. "You and that…"

The lioness flushed further. "Shut up, Tyrion… care to blab to Aerys next? Or father?" she hissed. "And I don't like your tone, Jaime."

Her twin raised his hands in surrender. "Didn't mean it like that, but, really? You and a second son? I mean, I told you to stop pining after Rhaegar but I didn't think you'd fancy someone father wouldn't at all accept."

Cersei was getting more annoyed. "Oh, and you're one to talk, brother." Her lips curled into a smirk. "Pining after Queen Rhaella like a lost puppy." Unlike her brothers, she kept her voice low so that only they could hear.

"Excuse me, what?!" Tyrion spat out his wine - hopefully not splattering some unlucky guard below.

"It's obvious to anyone that watches you close enough. You seem to have a fancy for taboo love, twin brother." It was her turn to enjoy herself by tormenting them. "Is it completely unrequited or are you cuckolding the King?"

"I don't want to talk about it!"

There was a slight silence, the three of them just staring at the ocean - as domestic a moment between the three siblings as they ever had. "Well," Tyrion mused. "Makes my transgressions at the Lannisport brothel look positively peachy." He downed the rest of his wine. "Sorry sister, I didn't mean to pry too hard."

What she said next surprised him greatly. "Tis fine, Tyrion." She was surprised too at the… somewhat kind words. Ned is rubbing off on me. They had only been lovers for a week. "I'm not exactly planning a wedding myself - the particulars of my situation are not unknown to me." You chose a lover that can never be yours, nor he mine. The sooner she accepted it, the sooner she could move on. One last roll in the hay that day, it would have to stay with her forever.

"Nothing happened between myself and…" he trailed off. Jaime sighed. "I didn't plan on it happening, gods. Who would wish this?"

"No one who wants to keep their head," Tyrion answered. "But she's a good woman, I really can't blame you. If she outlives her husband…"

Jaime shook his head. "This is more hopeless than Cersei and Ned Stark. It would never happen… and the chance his Grace kills her first is higher than anyone would want." There was no stopping the news of Lyanna's beating at the hands of the King. It had already infected the rumor mill, probably halfway to Oldtown by now. "I am a Kingsguard. I must fulfil my oath."

"Even if she throws herself at you?" Cersei asked. "You're a dashing knight, I am certain she's thought of it, never truly meeting her notwithstanding."

"I'm certain." Jaime tried not to be fatalistic… but it was something Tywin passed to each of his children.

Tyrion chuckled dryly. "To the Lannister siblings. Gorgeous and charming, yet hopeless with the opposite sex." That was something each of them could drink to. "I think I'm going to stay here."

Cersei eyed him. "Death wish, Tyrion?"

"Your concern overwhelms me, sister, but no. I think I may apply to work for Lord Rickard, learn a proper skill. And who knows?" He grinned at Cersei. "I could put in a good word for you." Jaime actually laughed at that.

It took everything in Cersei not to shove Tyrion off the side… though part of her hoped he actually did so.

Only a crescent sliver of the moon illuminating the dark chambers, Lyanna shot up in the bed. Ears hypersensitive, head cocking to the side. Something was wrong, something big that had stirred her from here serene sleep. "Rhaegar." Lyanna nudged him gently, causing his muscular form to shift. "Rhaegar, wake up."

"Nnnngh…" her husband groaned. "Go back to sleep." He turned over and pulled the pillow over his head. Dragons weren't nocturnal creatures.

Suddenly, Lyanna heard it again. Eyes widening at what it was. "Rhaegar!" she thumped him harder, causing the Prince to thrash in the bed. "Get up!"

Thinking this was one of the drills Barristan had put him through, Rhaegar was blindly reaching for his sword before reality settled back in. "Lyanna… what's going on?!" His heart was pounding.

"It's Rhaenys." She didn't know how she knew, but Lyanna did. She was already throwing on her shift and robe, racing out of the room. Yanking up his pants, Rhaegar was hot on her heels.

Lyanna turned out to be right. As they opened the door to the hallway, the blood-curdling screams coming from the open nursery drove them further - faces twisted in fear and concern. Lyanna entered first, seeing the two nursemaids trying to comfort Rhaenys… and failing miserably. "Gods, what is this?" Rhaegar exclaimed.

Seeing their bare-chested Prince, the maids both fell to their knees. Rhaenys, on the other hand, reached out frantically for Lyanna. "Muna! Muna!"

Ignoring the maids, Lyanna raced to her daughter. Picking her up and cuddling her close. "Shhh… it's alright sweetling. Muna's here." The girl looked up at her with tear-stained cheeks before burying her face in her shoulder - sobs wracking her body. It broke Lyanna's heart. "How long has this been going on?"

Both trembled under the harsh glare of the She-Wolf. "About ten minutes or so, Princess."

"What?!" Lyanna was livid.

Rhaegar didn't blame her. "And you didn't summon me or their mothers?"

There was hesitation. "We didn't wish to disturb you, your Grace, nor Princess Rhaenys' mother and Princess Lyanna."

"The future King and Queens shouldn't concern themselves with such things," the other added.

Whether Lyanna was more infuriated at that statement or by them not referring to her as Rhaenys' mother, she didn't know. "Get. Out," she ground out.

"Your Grace…"

"You heard her, out!" thundered Rhaegar. Faced with the dragon, they both scurried out. Rage fading, he found his bride and their daughter, Lyanna softly cooing and rubbing Rhaenys' back. Rhaegar embraced the both of them as she still sobbed. "Oh, my little dragon…"

"Kepa?" murmured Rhaenys between sobs.

He kissed the crown of her head. "Yes, little dragon, it's me."

"Don't go!" she wailed. "Bad men come back!" His eyes found Lyanna's, both confused.

At that moment Elia appeared in the door. Dressed only in a wrinkled shift. "I heard screaming… Rhaenys!"

The young Princess even more forcefully reached out for her birth mother. "Muna, muna!" Taking a step aside, Rhaegar allowed Elia to envelop their daughter with Lyanna, Elia kissing her head over and over while the northern beauty kept rubbing her back. "Bad dweam… Bad men hurt me."

Elia wore heartbreak on her face. "Who were these men?"

"They big and mean. Hurt Egg, then you, muna, then big knife…" She sobbed harder. "Monster made them."

"Monster?" asked Lyanna, close to tears herself. Rhaegar had taken a seat across from them, head in his hands.

She nodded strenuously. "Black shadow… like a dwagon, but fwire green…" Rhaenys dissolved into her cries.

"Aerys?" Lyanna asked her sister-wife in a whisper.

The Dornish Princess nodded. "Green fire. He's known for experimenting with wildfire… the others I don't know." Elia pressed her cheek to Rhaenys' raven curls. The presence of her natural mother finally calming her.

"It's my fault." Rhaegar stood, hugging the three of them tightly. "I'm so sorry, my loves."

While his words only hurt his wives further, it was Rhaenys who spoke first. "Kepa… don't go…" Rhaegar settled in, the four of them simply swaying gently and letting Rhaenys' cries lessen.

But when they tried to set her back into her crib, Rhaenys refused to let go of Lyanna. "Sweetling…" She couldn't let the poor girl be so hurt. "Would you like to sleep with muna and kepa tonight?" Rhaenys nodded vigorously.

The royals made their way out of the nursery. "Please take care of her, tonight, sister," Elia said, thinking Rhaenys would want to sleep with only Lyanna, like on the boat.

Only Rhaenys had other plans. "Muna!" she shrieked as her presence faded. "No go!" She wriggled so much that Lyanna was afraid she'd drop her. The mere thought of being without her natural mother was terrifying. Lyanna wasn't in danger. That she knew. "Pwese! Muna!"

"Little dragon, muna needs to sleep..." Rhaegar explained but was cut off.

"No go!" There was no placating her. "Stay wif' kepa and muna."

Both women blushed bright red, Rhaegar rubbing his neck awkwardly. "Well… we can't really refuse her, can we?" the Prince said.

Eyes shifting from Rhaenys, to each other, to Rhaegar, and back to each other, Lyanna shrugged as Elia deflated. "Alright, sweetling." She merely murmured and snuggled deeper into Lyanna.

To say it was awkward would be an understatement. The bed, once holding Aegon the Conqueror and his wives, was more than big enough for the four of them - but space wasn't the issue. After snuggling with her kepa, Rhaenys demanded to be placed between both Lyanna and Elia. Soon drifting off to sleep without even a whimper, her father joined soon after.

Lyanna and Elia faced each other. "I wonder if this is how Maegor's first three brides felt," Lyanna said softly.

"I don't think they slept in the same bed," Elia whispered. "The conquering trio did though…" she trailed off, both women knowing that sleeping wasn't the only thing those three did.

"How does a woman… do that?" Lyanna asked hesitantly. Her knowledge of matters sexual was… quite limited. Relegated to her books and observing Brandon with various smallfolk women.

This caused Elia's blush to redden, visible even in the low moonlight. "Ellaria says… they mostly use finger and tongue" Foreplay for Rhaegar - who was quite excellent at it - but the main event in the case of two women. "It works for some. My great aunt, she only had female lovers..." Elia bit her lip, trailing off.

An action mirrored by Lyanna. "I don't think I could do without a man, though."

"Me neither." As if bidden, Rhaegar turned over, a hand wrapping around Lyanna's waist. "He loves you."

Lyanna reached over to stroke Elia's cheek. A sisterly gesture - but one that caused a tingle in her hand… and core. "He loves you too." She gave a ghost of a smirk. "I, uh, heard you on the boat."

Elia's eyes widened. Oh gods… "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize, I'm glad you're happy, sister." They were both silent for a moment. "We both love him, and I can't bear us to feud."

Elia shook her head. "It would kill the family." Perhaps we should all sleep here… "Alright, alternate nights. You once, then me the next day."

"A sensible compromise, though miss him I will." Lyanna yawned in spite of herself. "Goodnight, sister."

"Goodnight." Letting sleep take a hold of them, neither noticed that their hands clasped together before they drifted off.

Chapter Text

By the thanks of the old