An impenetrable shade of black.
A void, expansive and empty—the antithesis of life.
A rasping inhale reverberates inside her skull. The sound drags along the contours of her mind like talons, slicing her into fragments. Her body spasms, limbs jerking against something hard, wet, and cold…so very cold. It is only then that Daenerys remembers she has a body, that she is made of more than just smoke and ether.
Pain blossoms in the center of her chest. Sharp. Hot. She gasps, hands reaching to that place—the tips of her fingers graze against naked skin, against tightly puckered flesh, still slick with... She recoils, inhales, chokes on the warm air around her. It is too thick, too ripe with the metallic scent of blood. She cannot breathe. It presses down on her face, her throat, her sternum until she is clawing it away, clawing at the gaping hole in her chest.
Something clamps over her fingers, drawing them away from their violent probing. And it’s like falling beneath the icy surface of a frozen lake, this sensation, this feeling of someone else’s skin against hers. Her violet eyes fly open and blink against the inconstant light. Flickering red shadows dance across the stone ceiling; they skitter and distort as a shadow falls over her.
Daenerys reels back. A scream shreds her throat as she scrambles away, tumbling from a slab of jet black stone. She tries to stand, but her legs refuse such sudden movement, and she crumples to the floor.
Hooded figures surround Daenerys; they waver in her vision like firelight dancing before her eyes. She is naked, stripped bare, her body pressed against the very stone from which she tumbled. Air swims into her lungs slowly, unevenly, hindered by the fluttering of her heart.
The hooded figures move to circle her, one drawing away from the rest, reaching out—Daenerys empties her lungs with an inhuman shriek that vibrates through her bones. The force of her bellow halts the approaching figure. For a moment. A breath.
Dany tracks the movement—a cornered animal—as the figure kneels and slender hands pull back a crimson cloak.
“Mhysa, you have nothing to fear from us.”
The red priestess bows her head. Her sharp features and porcelain skin hint at a memory. Something shifts at the back of Dany’s mind. Sluggish. Slow. Like wading through mud, a name begins to form.
The woman’s head dips further still, a sign of submission, a greeting for a queen. Dany’s eyes dance around the room, taking in the candlelight, the crackling fire, the roughly huen table adorned by strange instruments which Daenerys has never seen before. Her gaze falls on a bowl stained crimson with blood.
“Where am I?”
“With the living, my queen. In Meeren.”
Meeren. Dany inhales, air hissing through clenched teeth. She pushes herself up and winces as the stone bites into her palm. Every inch of her is tender, sensitive… raw, as if someone has flayed the top layer of her skin.
“Careful, Mhysa. Your body is still weak.”
Two more cloaked figures step forward and wrap her in white; their movement is hesitant, even reverent. The pale cloth chafes at her skin; it reminds Daenerys of a funeral shroud.
She feels another memory slither along her periphery. It comes closer with each inhale, an ember that burns with increasing intensity. Her whole body begins to tremble as the image becomes clearer, as time wraps around itself so that she is there, once more, in the ruined throne room of King’s Landing, feeling the sharp sting of metal slide between her ribs and the anguished disbelief which suffuses her soul. The last thing she sees before slipping into darkness is a pair of stormcloud eyes widened in shock, as if they did not watch her bleed out, as if he was not the one to deal the killing blow.
You are my queen. Now and always.
Dany’s jaw shivers open, but no sound escapes. Her eyes fall to the jeweled dagger laying on the table, to the flecks of blood which still cling to its surface. Her whole body burns, so hot that she trembles and the air leaves her lungs in one swift exhale. Rage bubbles beneath her skin, behind her eyes, down her throat. Rage and something far, far worse which she tries desperately to shove away, to ignore. She pulls at the rage, at the inferno of anger, at anything which will prevent that feeling from taking hold. Her hand snaps out, closing around the cursed weapon. She throws it at the far wall and lets out a strangled cry as it clatters to the floor.
Daenerys whirls around to face the red woman. Her vision wavers for a moment and she is forced to steady herself against the stone table. “How am I standing here? How am I alive?”
“The Lord of Light cannot always be understood—”
“I don’t care about your lord,” Dany bites out. “I care about answers.”
“You may not care, mother of dragons, but He has saved you. Your time in this world is not yet done. If it were, you would still be lying on that table and the Lord’s eye would be elsewhere.”
The priestess’s face is inscrutable. Calm. A blank slate. Daenerys’ fingers bite the inside of her palm as she moves towards the fireplace, turning from the woman. She speaks over her shoulder. “If you cannot tell me how I am standing, then at least tell me how I came to be here...with you.”
“Your body was placed on the steps, my queen. By a dragon. His cries shook the city for an hour and then he flew east…only once he was gone did anyone dare to touch you.”
“Drogon,” Dany breathes out. Something uncoils within her, a dread she had not known lived inside of her. Drogon was alive. Alive. She twists around, her eyes focusing on the red woman. “I suppose I should thank you for saving my life.”
“I am merely an instrument of the Lord of Light.”
Daenerys frowns. “But I am… living?”
Kinvara considers the Targaryen, tilting her head as if to weigh the question. “Of a sort. Though your soul is closer to death than most that walk this earth. You have tasted the land of shadows, my queen, and returned. Its mark will forever be upon you,” she nods at Daenerys’ chest, at the place where the puckered knife wound slices under her left breast.
Dany’s stomach twists, unsettled by the woman’s words. Still, she swallows and manages to murmur a quiet ‘thank you.’
“Do not thank me, Mhysa. I could only save your life.”
“And I am grateful for it,” Dany insists.
“But what of the child?”
Heat rushes through Daenerys then vanishes just as quickly, leaving her bone-cold. “What child?”
“There were two lives lost. Two lives I asked the Lord of Light to restore, but he only granted me yours. The child was too young, too unformed, too—”
“Stop,” Daenerys hisses, tremors returning. “Stop.” It is a plea this time, though whether she is speaking to the witch or to her own shaking body she no longer knows. Her head rocks back and forth, a silent denial; she cannot control the movement. She cannot control anything. Her eyelids flutter and she turns from the red woman, trying to focus on the flames licking at the stone fireplace, trying to feel the heat that must be there. She moves closer, closer, closer still until the flames lick at the hem of her white shroud.
“Get out,” the words are hushed, barely spoken through chattering teeth.
Her scream echoes against the high ceiling, percussive and loud. Daenerys screams again. And again. And again. She screams until the room empties, until her voice is stripped raw, until her screams turn to sobs and her sobs turn to silence and the only thing left are the glimmering tracks of tears that run like rivers down her face. She sinks to the floor, head bent towards the flames and mouth ajar on a sob that no longer makes a sound. Numbness seeps into her bloodstream, a soothing darkness that beckons her.
Everything fades in pieces: the pain in her body, the grief in her heart, the small hope for a brighter future. When they are all gone, the only thing Daenerys registers is a cruel rage that does not burn or boil but freezes. It coats her veins in ice, hardening a shell around her heart so that it beats with a stunted rhythm. The arms of frost coil around one decision, one piece of knowledge that keeps her upright, keeps her sane. She is going to raise Westeros to the ground. She will reign fire and death and destruction, and when nothing remains except smoke and brittle bone, Daenerys Targaryen will have her last piece of revenge. She will kill Jon Snow.
It could have been hours, or days, or even weeks; he wasn’t sure. Time stands frozen for him. He stares listlessly at the grey wall of his cell. He doesn’t see the chips in the stone or the mold which crawls through each crevice. He can still feel her blood seeping out onto his hands, still see the light leave her lilac eyes. Those eyes which had entranced him, beguiled him, trusted him.
His hands are stretched out before him, resting against bent knees, upturned like a beggar’s might be, like he has claimed this corner to seek supplication. And maybe Jon has. If anyone would listen, he would beg them to turn back time so he might do things differently.
“You had to do it. You had no other choice,” one voice tells him, argues, justifies. It sounds like Tyrion even in the recesses of his own mind.
“There is always a choice. You killed the woman you loved. Where is the honor in that?” Another voice scolds. This one sounds like his father—like Ned.
But he barely listens to either. He can feel her dried blood caked between his fingers. The metallic odor burns at his nostrils, his eyes, his throat. He had begged for something to wash his hands with when they first locked him up. Greyworm hadn’t glanced back, had given no indication that he heard Jon.
He asked for the Unsullied to kill him, but that too had been ignored. So they left him here, in this cold dark cell, hour after hour, after day, after week; he doesn’t know anymore. All he knows is that every time he moves a piece of her flakes off, falls to the damp floor. So he doesn’t move; he keeps his arms outstretched, upturned, still.
Sometimes his head lulls as a merciless sleep tries to claim him, a sleep filled with images of her, of when he first showed her the North, of her laughing smile, of her small hands pulling him close. Those dreams leave him shaking, quivering, and choking back tears, but they are not the worst. There are dreams, ones that have him heaving onto the damp straw, which are infinitely more painful. In these dreams, they are not alone; a small child laughs from Dany’s arms. Girl. Boy. Jon is never sure. He jerks awake before he can see its face and then stares at the wall for hours, trying desperately to erase the picture from his head.
But it never leaves him. Not when Greyworm brings a plate of foul-smelling slop, not when Jon counts the stones of the ceiling, nor when the metallic smell finally fades and the last bit of her has crumbled to dust on the ground. Not even then. So Jon stares and waits. Waits for the sun to rise in his windowless cell. Waits for the earth to tear open and swallow him whole. Waits for the dreams to stop coming.
Jon Snow stares and waits, and wishes that the Seven, or whatever gods might be listening, will finally just let him fucking die.