Chapter 1: The True Battle of Winterfell
As I watch the smoke smoke of the funeral pyres lift up to the sky, tears are falling from my eyes. It is all so overwhelming. The depth of all that was lost becomes suddenly too evident now: the smell of the burning bodies…the sounds of sniffling and sobbing around us…the chill of winter that has came, and that will not leave, though I naively believed it could be defeated.
I stare at the sky now, the smoke reaching the heavens higher and higher. I think of the smoke that surrounded me when Drogo burned, when I stepped into his pyre, hoping for a miracle but not fully confident whether or not I will perish like he had. I remember there being a part of me that wondered if I truly cared if I would die. I remember the smoke, wondering if souls were real, and if they were, was the smoke carrying his body to be up with the Great Stallion. I am reminded that I am still curious, after all these years, if I will ever see Drogo again.Will I ever see my son, as I did in the vision? Did the smoke take all of my fallen Dothraki to the Great Stallion? My fallen Unsullied to the Lady of Spears? The northerners…where did they go once they have fallen? What about Jorah?
So lost in my thoughts, it took me a moment to realize that Missandei has been trying to get my attention, perhaps for a while now.
“Your Grace…” her soft voice now, yet also having more of an edge to it. I shake my head, ridding of my thoughts, and look at my beautiful friend and advisor. Her warm eyes held an expression of worry, as well as fatigue.
Fatigue. We all have been so tired.
I look past Missandei, who has since looked at Grey Worm, a look of worry on his face as well. Past Grey Worm, I notice that many of the witnesses of the great funeral have since left, perhaps going to finally get some rest. I do not see Tyrion or Varys, so I assumed they may have left too. Jon looks to have been glancing my way, off and on, deep in conversation with Samwell Tarly. When Jon looks my way, I notice Samwell looking towards me to…but it is not a look of happiness or affection or concern. It is a mixture of stern-ness, warryness, perhaps fear…
And then I realize that I am so tired.
I tell Missandei that I wish to rest, and ask her and Grey Worm to walk with me towards where my chambers were. I have not been there since the Battle began, but all I can do is hope that it was not corrupted so I can just lay down. Everything felt so cold. As we walk away, I look back at Jon, wondering if he was finished with his conversation. He was now conversing with both Samwell and Sansa. People who did not care for me. But did it matter now? The great enemy has been defeated, and now would be the time where the final enemy, Cersei Lannister, would be defeated. Surely they thought of me different, now that I had lost much of my army and a dragon…
But I cannot bring myself to dwell much on it. I am far too tired.
During the walk to my chambers, Tyrion joins in, slightly wobbling next to Missandei in a struggle to catch up, holding a goblet of what I assume is wine.
“Your Grace,” Tyrion begins, “I know it has been a long couple days. Much has happened, and you look tired…”
“I am” I respond, not feeling like I want to engage in conversation much longer.
“As we all are. I was speaking to Lady Stark and, well, we were discussing that our defeat of the White Walkers, of the Night King, calls for celebration. I know we don’t have much, but it is enough to celebrate and honor the heroes of Winterfell.”
We are now in front of my chamber doors, and I now look towards Tyrion as he takes a pause to drink from his goblet.
“Of Winterfell?” I inquire. “Winterfell was not the only ones who battled. They certainly weren’t the only ones who lost their lives.”
“Of course not, Your Grace.” Tyrion stated quickly. “That is not what I meant at all. Our people have suffered greatly, we have lost a considerable amount of our army…”
“Are they grateful yet?” I interrupt, considering that my voice may have sounded sharp.
“The stubborn northerners. Do they see that I am on their side yet?” I think of Jorah last moments in my arms. I think of our history, all we had been through together, just for him to die protecting me. I did not want that for my Bear. He deserved better. It should not have been so soon. None of it should have been so soon.
“Your Grace, everyone is exhausted and not in the best spirits. I am not sure on the positions now, but I do know that when in low spirits, morale can take time to bring back up, including people’s thoughts on you. I am sure they are all so grateful for our sacrifices. I think that you, as Queen, would benefit from having audience with all who have survived at this planned Feast, a moment to acknowledge the accomplishments of us all, perhaps giving a special thanks to Lady Arya for ending the Night King, a chance to…”
Tyrion keeps talking and talking, but I feel no better. I am not convinced that I am any more loved in the North, after all I have lost.
“Lord Tyrion, I wish to rest now. Please.”
“Of course, Your Grace. But do you approve?”
“…of having the feast tomorrow night.”
Could everything be prepared that soon, giving everything that happened? I did not care to question out loud, though. I could not stand his voice any longer.
“Our host can decide to do whatever they best see fit. I will attend if you are suggesting it is preferred I be there.” I take a deep breath, then open my chamber doors. My chambers looked to be untouched, both from the battle, and from any other possible intruders. Grey Worm checked around quickly before giving me the signal that all is well. I nodded my head in gratitude and then, addressing Missandei, Tyrion, and Grey Worm, stated, “Now, you all must be just as tired as I am. We have experienced unspeakable loss and horrors. Do forgive me if I wish to take a break from conversing and resting. I would like for you all to rest too, and please tell our army the same. Tell them again that their queen is very appreciative of all of their achievements, and make sure they are provided the necessary food and drink. Tyrion, make sure they are invited to this feast as well. After all, it is much deserved,” I think about the many bodies lain around the battlefield. My stomach begins to hurt. “Tell them I’m…I’m sorry that we lost so many…”
“Your Grace?” Missandei walked over to me, noticing the wavering of my voice.
“I am fine. We all must mourn.” I took another deep breath. “With the exception of bringing food, I do not wish to be disturbed until tomorrow evening, unless it is an urgent matter.”
“I will send two Unsullied to watch your door.” Grey Worm stated. I nodded and sat on my bed.
“Your Grace,” Tyrion began, “Are you okay?”
“I just need time alone, Tyrion.”
“I know that Lord Snow wanted to talk to you.”
“Tomorrow. Just tell him I am tired.” I knew Jon would never come in my chambers alone, he wouldn’t dare and didn’t dare since stepping foot back in his homelands. “Thank you for understanding.”
After all have left the room, I lay on my bed and stare at the ceiling. Alone is the only time I get to cry, otherwise it is not considered “queenly” by Westerosi standards. At least, that’s what Viserys always told me. He would assure me of this every time he slapped me, called me names, for no reason other than to test me strength. “Dragons don’t cry, you little bitch. Be a dragon.”
Be a dragon. Was Viserys a dragon during his last moments? He cried when the gold fell upon his head. I shudder, remembering the sight. My brother. He was the worst. He caused me pain. He cared of no one but himself. I hated him so much, and yet I loved him. He was my blood, something to call my own. As was my son that I would never get to see…
“Be a dragon”.
As I say it out loud, I am reminded of Lady Olenna. She gave me that advice. She saw past Tyrion’s alleged cleverness. She suffered loss, too. Her family destroyed by Cersei. She herself was supposedly killed by Jaime Lannister. The same Jaime Lannister that killed my father. My father was an evil man…what am I? Is that what they all think? Is that what being a dragon is all about?
The tears fall from my eyes, and I want be loved, to be held, to go back to the house with the red door. I think of Jon Snow. I think of my burning passion for the man, one that I’ve never had before. And judging by how things have gone so far, I don’t know if that passion will be the same again. “Aegon Targaryen.” The son of my brother. How could it be? How could it be? Does he want the throne? Do other want him to want the throne?
My thoughts become too overwhelming and I desire milk of the poppy to take the pain away. I am hurting inside, but I cannot. I am a dragon. I cannot just simply be. And as I begin to cry myself to sleep, I wonder if being a dragon is nothing but a painful curse. I am lonely. I want to belong.
Laughter erupted around the hall as Tormund made his drunken speech about “crazy” Jon riding a dragon. Jon laughs and smiles dismissively, ale in his hands. But the sunken feeling that U already had during this evening, as soon as I walked into the feast, hits a low. Jon…Aegon…looked over at me, almost giving an apologetic beam. I glanced over at the rest of the hall, to all seeming to be in great spirits. But I could not feel the same. I felt alone. What joy in there in loneliness?
Earlier, Jon had noticed that I was not eating, and asked me quietly if I was feeling alright.
“I missed you yesterday.” His voice was quiet, as I’m sure his family and the rest of the North would prefer him not to speak much to me at all. “Are you well?”
I nodded back, stating “As well as I could be. Everything considered.”
“Aye.” He replied. We were both back to being quiet again, and after the pause, Jon resumed eating. He must not have known what else to say. But what did I want him to say? What did I want anyone to say?
So when Tormund went on and on about the heroics of Jon and Rhaegal, I don’t know why I truly felt surprised. I was not loved and wanted here. But why did it have to bother me so much? Why did I have to care? Have I lost the will to be a dragon?
Missandei asked to be dismissed, and with what humor I had left in me, I teased her about really wanting to be with Grey Worm before dismissing her. I smiled to myself, happy that my friends could at least have some happiness during this time. I looked at my wine and lifted it up to drink it, when I noticed Varys staring my way. I had not talked to Lord Varys since the battle was over, but something about this stare unnerved me. Why was everything unnerving me?
It is true that Aegon’s identity has changed everything in my future. I am no longer the only Targaryen. But why does this make me unhappy? Why does he not seem to want to talk about it? Is he speechless on what to say? Is he avoidant, just as he has been regarding how I have been treated here?
This was all too much, and the realization of how lonely I am has crept upon me. I no longer knew what I could do with all of these emotions. I felt sad, anger, loneliness and rage, hopeless and frustrated…
Am I going mad?
I stood up quickly, hoping nobody else besides Varys saw me. I walk towards the exit by going through a side door, not the main door. I did notice Sansa glancing over my way, but I was too overwhelmed to add thoughts of her glance to my stress as well.
Everything is a lie, I told myself, pacing back to my chambers. We had not run the true Battle of Winterfell, I nervously tell myself. The battle has only begun. The battle was not against the white walkers, the Night king...perhaps it was me against the North all along. Perhaps this was a trap. Perhaps my whole journey was.
I just want to feel safe.
I thought of exiting the castle to visit Drogon and Rhaegal, but I felt that even they could not stand to see their mother burdened like this.
When I reach my chambers, I slam the door shut and take deep breaths, holding my temple. “I am not mad.” I tell myself out loud. “It’s just all too much.”
My door knocks shortly after that, and I hope that I was not followed by Varys. Last thing I need to hear are conspiracies about what awaits us in King’s Landing. Conspiracies? Now I am thinking they are conspiracies.
“I am not mad.”
The door knocks again, and I am tempted to just not answer and lie on my bed. It is much easier this way. Nobody should see me in this state.
It’s him. Aegon. Perhaps he saw me. Perhaps he rushed out, and those who adored him begged for him to stay behind. Perhaps I am a burden. I hope he did not draw attention.
“Dany.” He says again, knocking. “Dany, I just want to see if you’re alright.”
I sigh and open the door, seeing his handsome face. I am reminded of the first time he knocks on my door. I am reminded of the first time he told me he loves me. I am reminded of his touches, kisses, all of his intimacy we experienced together. It seemed so long ago, but it couldn’t have been too long? I remember when he was just Jon Snow..
“May I come in?”
I realize that he is alone, and think to myself how foolish I was to request the Unsullied be off for tonight. Not that Jon…Aegon, would harm me. Or so I think.
“Of course.” I answer, side stepping to let him through the door. I shut it immediately after.
“Is there something you needed, my Lord?” I ask him, trying to focus while ignoring the millions ideas floating in my mind.
“‘My Lord?’ Back to simple pleasantries from when we first met?” Jon asked teasingly. “I thought we agreed to call each other by our true names when we were alone. You assured it, after all.”
“You’re right, my apologies..” I stated back cooly, before adding in shortly after that, “…Aegon.”
He inhaled a deep breath in, clearly not pleased with me using his name. I am unsure if I can blame him or not. He just found out, and it can’t be easy. But he didn’t have to be so avoidant…
“I am still Jon.” He replied back. “If you please.”
“But it is not your true name. You said so yourself.”
“And I am still figuring it all out, Dany. But I would prefer you call me Jon, please.” He began to sound annoyed, and I internally thanked the alcohol he consumed for allowing him to tell the truth. “Anyway, haven’t talked in so long. Not really talk. I missed you. This hasn’t been easy for any of us. I just want to see if you’re okay.”
“What do you speak of right now, when you say this hasn’t been easy?” I inquire.
“Surely you know…the Battle we just had…”
“And are still having.” I respond directly. “ We just found out we are kin. This changed many things.”
“Aye,” Jon responds, “but it doesn’t change what you think it changes."
“What do you think I think it changes?” I challenged,
“I don’t want the throne, Dany. I bent the knee to you. You are still the Queen.”
“Until everyone figures it all out.” I sigh, feeling anxiety creep over me again. “I am not loved here, I haven’t been since day one. And because I am not loved, I am not wanted. But you…”
“And how could you know this?” Jon interrupted, attempting to take my hand, but I move it. Jon notices this and looks up, a change in his facial feature. “We all just won a battle but lost so much in it. Forgive everyone if they aren’t as quick to share their gratitude.”
“Share gratitude, Jon? I came with a huge army to protect them, and I received no thanks. What makes now so different?”
“Because they saw you for what you truly are.”
Jon Snow does not know who I truly am, I realize to myself. Perhaps he never did. He doesn’t understand the depths of my hurt. All I have risked. How easily he can say these things, on his soil, as he is protected and I am not. Not truly.
“You said that when you bent the knee.” I said quietly. “You said that then. And I have felt nothing but hatred and loneliness since.”
Jon looks at me for a moment, his hand attempting to hold mine again. I let him succeed this time, and he then embraces me into a hug.
“It will all be okay. The North is stubborn, but we never forget. You are much appreciated, and we are glad you are Queen.”
“You know not what you say, Jon.” I allow myself to be embraced, but I don’t feel much. “Sansa wants an Independent North. She has made it clear what she thinks of me, as have the others.”
“Whatever you want me to do about it, let's talk about it,” Jon said. “But please don’t think you’re not wanted.”
I look up at Jon and slightly push at his chest to indicate I want out the embrace.
“Am I wanted by you?”
Jon pauses, looking away. He looks guilty, and I suddenly feel again. I feel pain inside of my chest and a lump in my throat. I don’t know what exactly I am, what I am feeling, but I know that this is not what I want.
“You are.” He finally states, “You are, Dany. But I need time to figure out what our…relation means for us.”
I say nothing, and walk over to a table to pour myself some wine. I drink most of it in one swig. Alcohol makes you honest. Perhaps it is my turn.
“I just found out I’m related to you. You’re my aunt. This does not upset you?”
“Runs in my family.” I reply back flatly.
“Yes. That does not make it right.”
“I must be a walking abomination, since my parents are related,” I let myself laugh as I pout myself some more wine. “Of course, you weren’t thinking that when you used me.”
“For my cunt, of course.”
Jon’s eyes begin to darken. “Excuse me?”
“Oh I’m sorry, you’re honorable. What’s a better word to say it?”
Jon takes a few steps to me. “That did not matter to me. How can you say I used you? I fell for you.”
“Like a child.” I said tearfully, after swallowing more wine. “We fell for each other like children. Young lust. That’s what I overheard Tyrion say to others on the boat, when they found out we were fucking.”
“Why are you saying these things?” Jon asked angrily., his voice rising. He was closer to me now. “I just found out we were related, Dany. I JUST found out. Give me a break to figure this out. But I CANNOT have you saying I am a user, that is not me and YOU know it! You know I care deeply for you.”
I shudder at how insincere it all seemed. “Lovers don’t let other people treat their lovers badly.”
Jon sat down on Dany’s bed and buried his head in his hands for s short moment, before looking up at her. “What would you have me do?”
“What you think is right.”
“And that is not good enough for you.”
“Good enough?” I began to feel the dragon after all. “You must be joking. Ignoring and being dismissive isn’t good enough.”
“More important things were at hand. This was the greatest threat Winterfell and all of Westeros would have seen. Forgive me for that being my focus.”
“Yes, Jon, yes, speak truly.” I stated. “And it has always been your focus and end goal.” I felt myself being tipsy, being brave. I found the courage to be a dragon. “You want to know what I think?”
I drank from my cup one more more time.
“I think you fucking won, for sure. You have it all.” Tears streamed freely from my eyes, yet I smiled. “And I was a fucking fool to see it. I was a child, as you said before in that throne room in Dragonstone. You used my army. You used my body. And now you so suddenly know you’re my last living relative. And you expect me not to feel so strongly about that. Especially when I thought we loved each other."
“Daenerys.” Jon said sharply, standing up. He has never spoken to me in this tone. “That is enough.”
“You do not command me!” I argued back. “Or…or maybe you do, King Aegon.” I do a curtsey and grin up at him. “You liked that, didn’t you.”
“You take it all back now.” He snaps. “I never used you. I loved you. And I still do, though you try to desperately to wound me. That is not the man I am. Everything between us was sincere, not childish!"
“But it was, Jon. And this love you speak about, burns. I’m not sure we want anything whatever 'love' this is much longer.”
“You speak out of anger and hurt.”
“And how would you know? You don’t know what I feel. You haven’t checked to see.”
“Oh gods take me, Daenerys! It hasn’t been but a couple days!”
Jon Snow is dismissive, or so I feel it so much at the time, and I hate in that moment that I love him. All the power I have left to make him upset, I want to use it all. I want him to feel what I feel. I wanted to ignore his outpouring of his own hurt, his hurt that was rightfully his.
“King Aegon.” I say again, curtsying, “heir to the Iron Throne.”
“I don’t fucking want it!”
“I’m not sure I do either, Aegon.” I finally said it out loud. “I never wanted any of this. . And more than anything right now, I want to be alone. Away from your fucking land. Away from your people who could have gave a damn less if I lived or died, just as they didn’t care of Jorah, Viserion, or my army. And maybe even away from you.”
I finally said it out loud. I began crying after, though I tried to not do it as hard as I had the night before, alone in bed. He had to know. He had to know how much I HURT.
“You don’t know what you say.” Jon said finally, his voice slightly strained. He looked sad. “You don’t. You truly don’t. I am so sorry you feel this way. I love you.”
“Don’t presume to know what I mean and don’t mean.”
“I love you. And things are complicated. Both can exist.”
“You’re right. But I don’t know if I can accept it.” I walk over to my bed and sit on it.
“I’m tired, Jon. I’m just so tired. Of running all my life, trying to belong, tainted with the stigma of being Targaryen. The stigma is external, internal. Everywhere. I’m not so sure I belong anywhere.”
“You belong.” Jon sat next to me, resting his hand on mine. “Truly.”
Jon remained quiet. He is stroking my hand, lost in thought. He cannot answer the question immediately, and suddenly I feel sad again.
“I wish to be alone now. I have so much to thInk about.”
“Aye. As do I.”
Jon stood up and walked towards the door. I felt an ache that he is leaving me, another ache of desire, and an additional ache due the fact that I care so deeply.
“Can we talk tomorrow?” He looks back over at me.
“About this, Dany. When we are sober minded. Perhaps we will be kinder to each other. We can learn to live together.”
He is then gone, and I am alone again. I think about. My confession to Jon was out, but he had not heard. I truly am not sure I want the throne anymore. It has caused me nothing but pain. So many lives lost. And for what?
Would he tell his siblings the truth? Would he tell his people? What would they think? Surely they want him to be King. Everything I worked hard for will be gone. Yet, those things I worked hard for, seem to faint and far away. The desire seems so distant, if existent at all. And all who have died for the Targaryen cause, have I betrayed them? Have I betrayed myself? I have already suffered so much betrayal…
It all becomes too much as the night carries on. My tipsiness fades, but my mind does not. I decide to face the bitter cold in order to see my children. I stand up, grab my coat, and walk out of my room. I walk out the castle, towards where Drogon and Rhaegal stay. I pass the Unsullied and Dothraki encampments, some of them noticing me. Two unsullied head out my way, asking if I need assistance. I look around, wondering if it may be a good idea for them to join me on my walk, and for them to wait for me after I am finished. After all, as I mentioned earlier, the true battle of Winterfell is not finished. Many may want me dead.
But then I remember my desire for them to rest, and that my dragons could destroy any threat. Perhaps they would think me mad, as Samwell Tarly does. I grimace and close my eyes, before opening them again and dismissing the two Unsullied before I continue to make my way to my boys.
I finally see my two dragons, and I yet again tear up at their beauty. Misunderstood beauty. Beauty taken for granted. Is that what it means to be a dragon?
I pat and hug Rhaegal’s snout before giving him a kiss, and then look over to Drogon. “Let’s go for a ride, my son.”
Up in the sky, I feel free. Winterfell looks so small, and the moon looks bigger and bigger. I realize that I am small, too. Small, yet protected, up here. Memories of my first ride on Drogon emerge in my mind. How safe he kept me, away from those who would wish to see me dead. How I wished that he would have been there in other moments in my life..when I fled with Viserys from city to city as a small child. When I was sold to Drogo, my maidenhead no longer mine. When the witch was on her way to murder my child in just a twist of words. Would I have rained fire and blood on them on? Would they never harm me again as soon as they felt the flame?
Would I be happy?
How much I had wanted to be like other children my age. And it never came to be.
But it can be different now, Daenerys. Those promises were never true. Happiness is not found in power….but happiness is where I am safe. Yet, how many others want to keep me safe? How much can you still protect, including yourself? Who knew power and protection could make me feel so lonely?
Whether the voice in my head is my own or some divine being, I could not say for certain. But I feel a longing for peace, different than the peace I thought was an impossibility before. Maybe Jon’s revelation of his true identity was a positive thing for me. If he is indeed the true heir, he would know what to do. He was a good, honorable man, though it is to a fault. But he would not lead the country to a disaster. He would defeat Cersei and bring justice. Or perhaps Tyrion. Perhaps Tyrion wanted to use me to take down his sister the whole time. Or maybe not…after all, quite a detour to get rid of Cersei has been advised by him. Is it because he wants her protected?
Or perhaps you can make King’s Landing your home.
I do not want it to be home. I want the house with the red door.
Or solitude to figure it all out.
But I am not well. I need to be away. I need to be away now.
I need to be renewed, reacquainted .Who am I? Who can I be?
The ride is over, perhaps too soon. But as we land, I know that I am not the same. Amidst the chaos, amidst the hurt, amidst the confusion, I am not the same.
Perhaps I am reborn.
Perhaps I can give my all…my all, for myself.