Title: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken: The Chronicles of Elia Martell
Disclaimer: Do not own.
Genre: (slash, het, gen, etc.) Het
Pairings/Characters: Elia Martell, Rhaegar Targaryen, Oberyn Martell, Doran Martell, Ashara Dayne, Arthur Dayne, Jaime Lannister, Aerys Targaryen, Rhaella Targaryen, Viserys Targaryen, Prince Lewyn Martell, the Lady of Dorne, various Kingsguard.
Word count: (optional) 30, 150
Warnings/Spoilers: (delete if not applicable) Some ADwD spoilers, if you squint.
If they speak of her, it is only with remorse and pity. If they remember her, it is only because the horror of her end makes it impossible to dismiss her entirely. If they write of her, they write only of her frailty, of her marriage, and of her death- as if there was nothing else at all noteworthy of the pale, sick wife of Rhaegar Targaryen who met a most terrible end . . .
It would stupefy them entirely to know that she was an actual person, all of her own.
Dedication: To kellou24, for stepping up and being my beta-thank you so much!!!!! Also, to skyclearblue, for the beautiful art to accompany the fic.
Bleeding days made the talk of marriage all that more intolerable. Listening to her lady mother on such days took more strength than Elia had to spare.
She shifted slightly in her seat, subtly trying to straighten her spine before the Lady of Dorne could see her slumping. A demeanour of anything other than rapt attention was often enough to set her mother to scolding. And though Elia had little love for marriage talks, they were infinitely better than lectures. No, it was better to put on a show though the pounding at her temples made it nearly impossible to concentrate on what was being said.
Elia was grateful that her thoughts on the matter of her own marriage were never required until her mother put a living candidate before her. She was expected to feign interest, not forced to debate or speculate, and such a light duty was a boon on days when her entire body cried for rest and the oblivion of sleep.
“ . . . Rickard Stark has boys to spare,” Elia strained to focus on the sound of her brother’s voice. Doran was as soft-spoken and even-tempered as ever, even though Oberyn followed most of his comments with loud dismissive snorts.
Elia wanted to go to them both and a place a hand on each of their shoulders; one to will Doran to speak louder, more vehemently, even as the other pleaded with Oberyn for restraint. Her younger brother was all her delight, but Elia knew their mother’s patience with his antics lessened each year Elia remained unmarried. The Lady of Dorne still held Oberyn at fault for Elia’s rejection of all the suitors that had been paraded through the streets of Sunspear.
But the fault lay not with Oberyn, but with their mother. If Elia had no choice in the matter, she could hardly reject the proposals. It was the choice that was at fault, and it set Elia upon thinking and thinking and thinking. Oberyn’s remarks combined with her own doubts made the choice nearly impossible. Life with any of the men her mother brought to her was beyond Elia’s imagination. Whether that difficulty was owed to her Dornish temperament or she simply lacked the strength to persist with the task, this she could not say for certain. Elia did know that as she approached her twentieth name-day, her mother approached the onset of panic.
“ . . . betrothed to Hoster Tully’s girl, but he does have two other boys,” Doran continued to say.
Babes, she thought to herself, thinking of the other two boys in question. The middle one is not so young, though he is six years younger than I am myself. But the other . . . he is of an age with the lion cub, and as I was too old for him, I am too old for this Stark babe.
“ . . . not inherit; perhaps the father would not object to a southern relocation, if lands were involved.”
Elia slid her eyes towards their mother, unsurprised by the scowl she saw there. “Over-proud descendants of weak-kneed lesser kings,” the Lady shook her head in refusal. “Rickard Stark would want her to go north, no matter what we offer.”
Rickard Stark is not Tywin Lannister. Elia blinked slowly and kept that particular name to herself. The Lady of Dorne had not yet recovered from the sting she felt at the Rock and had little charity to spare for lions. She had even forgotten her love of the late Lady Lannister in the face of the insult.
He was nine and I was eighteen-it was not to be. Elia could still picture the little lion cub, Jaime Lannister, in her mind’s eye. A golden child for certain, every bit as handsome as his sister was lovely, but still a child. A nine-year divide between man and wife was not unheard of, but for the wife to carry the years over her husband was little seen. But that was not the real bite the Lady had felt.
She wanted Joanna’s little girl for her little boy, though truly Oberyn has not been a little boy for quite some time. Casterly Rock brought to Sunspear, that was what she wanted. A little Joanna for a daughter, a strong lioness of the west to replace the frail daughter she would send away.
“Elia would not survive one northern winter,” Oberyn objected hotly, and she could have struck him had she the skill or the strength. His words were the words of a protective, loving brother, she knew, but they had the unfortunate effect of drawing all eyes to her.
She had kept her back as straight as possible, and met her mother’s gaze calmly. However, there was nothing she could do to hide the pale pallor of her skin, or the dark circles forming under her dark eyes. Elia knew she was slightly skinnier than she should be, and that added a worn, almost pinched look to her features.
The Lady of Dorne saw everything in one glance, and Elia silently cursed her brothers both (Doran for the talk of a northern match and Oberyn for the stubborn refusal of it). In an instant, she felt more exhausted than what was normal. She prayed to the Seven, to whichever would listen, to end this talk of marriage before she collapsed entirely.
Elia hated bleeding days.
“A princess of Dorne will not marry a landless wolf,” the Lady tore her eyes away from her daughter’s face and glared at her sons. “Dorne will not go begging for scraps at any lord’s table.”
Then why are we here? The uselessness of these talks irritated Elia beyond all measure. No one was good enough, noble enough, prestigious enough for her lady mother. The Lady had been finicky before, but the altercation with Tywin Lannister had made her all the more obstinate. Sons of the great house of Dorne were not enough, sons of the greatest northern Lord were not enough. Perhaps Elia’s fate was to remain unmarried.
I could become a septa, she mused idly. I could remain in Dorne, perhaps teach Doran’s girls, should he have any. And Oberyn’s as well, should he have any legitimate ones.
Nymeria herself would have to rise from the dead and command it before the Lady of Dorne would agree.
“Have neither of you anything relevant to discuss?” Her mother’s mood was darkening by the second. The mention of Elia’s frailty usually had that effect. “You are her brothers-not to mention the princes of Dorne. Have you not a speck of wit to spare for your sister’s happiness? For the honour of your house?”
Both princes stared blankly at their mother; there was never any use in arguing when the Lady was in such a temper. Doran’s serenity could be authentic; criticized as he was for being too soft, no one could deny the elder prince’s unflappable demeanour. Elia suspected Doran could keep a pleasant and unassuming countenance in the midst of a riot. She knew that many people saw this as another fault, some so bold as to say it was indicative of an overly simple mind. Those people were fools.
Oberyn also held his expression carefully neutral, but the tightening of his fingers around his armrest would not escape notice. Her little brother had all of the Dornish temperament, but their lady mother was right; Oberyn had much to learn before he could possess all of the Dornish wits.
He will learn, though; he learns more everyday. People would soon learn to fear him, and they will learn to dismiss Doran. Elia wondered if any outsider could ever understand which of her brothers was actually the most dangerous.
“There is always the Rose,” Oberyn said, a shade too calm in light of his white knuckles. Elia closed her eyes at his words and didn’t bother to stifle the sigh that tumbled from her lips.
“A squalling, steward’s boy?” The Lady’s voice had dropped to an almost indecipherable level. Elia didn’t dare a glance at her mother, but she did level her brother with an angry look. That was too far.
“Willas is not a poor choice for our dear Elia,” Oberyn continued, ignoring both his mother and his sister’s obvious irritation. He turned to share a grin with his brother. Doran blinked and said nothing, but that could be an endorsement for all Elia knew.
“You would wed your sister to House Tyrell?” the Lady asked, a bit heatedly as if that would make her words all that more weighty. “A princess of Dorne to a Steward’s get?”
Oberyn only shrugged. “The boy would become heir to Highgarden, with all its wealth and esteem. And yes mother, esteem they have as the lords of the Reach.”
This could not continue. “Enough brother,” Elia did her best to sound firm instead of breathless; she half-achieved it. “Even if the boy were not a mere babe, younger even than the northern whelps, a Tyrell marriage is not feasible, nor particularly desirable.”
“Gods be good, at least one of my children has sense,” the Lady of Dorne leant back in her chair and frowned disapprovingly at her youngest son. “Oberyn, if you have something other than objections or japes to offer, now would be the time. If not, escort your sister to her chambers; all this nonsense has tired her as much as it has I.”
Yes, Mother, that is the reason I am so tired. Elia mustered a grateful smile from somewhere deep inside before offering Oberyn her hand. She rose from her seat, thanks much more to her brother’s help than she was willing to show. Doran made to join them, but their mother snapped a few words about ‘affairs of the state’, and so he settled back down without a word.
Oberyn could only roll his eyes at his brother’s passivity, amusing in light of his own speed at heeding the Lady’s command. Elia bit back a smile and let her free hand fall to Doran’s shoulder as she walked past. Her fingers brushed lightly over his tunic, her thumb and forefinger pinching together in a quick squeeze. She felt a slight twitch, his only acknowledgement and acceptance of her sympathy.
These were their roles; the resigned heir, the hot-blooded younger brother, and the mild-tempered sister to keep the peace. Their mother might have become the impatient, cold, and calculating Lady, or that too may be an act. The anger and panic was genuine, but the other behaviour could be an act. The Lady herself had drilled the need for composure into them as children.
“You are never alone,” she would murmur into their ears at night. “This is Dorne, and someone is always watching. You must fulfill their expectations, my sweet, forever and always. There is nothing so dangerous as an idle, disappointed Dornishman.”
“She is hatching something,” Oberyn whispered as they emerged from their mother’s solar. Elia tightened her grip on his arm and smiled faintly at the guards waiting in the corridor. Brother and sister turned, Elia urging Oberyn towards the pools to which he relented after a brief scowl. A guard soon fell into step behind them, Elia’s own for Oberyn sneered at the suggestion that he needed one.
“What could she possibly be up to?” Elia finally asked, the guard a safe enough distance behind.
A pair of maids passed them, arms loaded with baskets and fabrics. Oberyn watched them pass, eyes smouldering when the younger of the two caught his eye, blushed, and scampered away. Elia struggled not to laugh, a smile on her face that would be expected of a bemused, indulgent older sister. Only her fingernails, pushing hard into his arm, belied her impatience.
Oberyn smirked and dropped his voice so low that even she strained to hear. “Ravens fly at all hours. She sends messages daily to the Red Keep. They arrive twice as often.”
Elia brushed aside a tremor of alarm. “Our dear uncle resides there,” she countered, forcing a dismissive tone.
“And since when has the Lady of Dorne needed daily contact with her brother?” Oberyn kept his face impassive, but she saw the hard set to his jaw. “She is planning something, and keeping us in the dark while subjecting everyone to these pointless family debates.”
“They’re not pointless,” Elia tilted her head to momentarily rest it against his shoulder. “Honourable candidates were mentioned.”
Oberyn said nothing, but she pressed on, voice rising now that they were onto safer topics. “The north sounds exciting. Did you know, brother, that I have never seen snow?”
“The north is no place for you,” was the curt reply.
“It is just a bit of cold,” she shrugged. “Dorne has withstood dragon fire-a bit of fluffy ice shouldn’t be a problem.”
“You cannot endure a northern winter.”
Her playfulness vanished then, in the heat of indignation. “Are you forgetting who I am, little brother?”
Oberyn’s lips twitched, a smirk desperate to break free. “How can I, sister, when you insist on calling me ‘little brother’?”
Her mood was too sour for a smile. “A princess of Dorne, descended from Nymeria herself-the Lady’s own daughter. I can endure no less than any other Dornishwoman.”
Oberyn’s face darkened, a frown tugging down the corners of his mouth. “Elia, your health suffers here-“
“As it always has,” she lifted her head from his shoulder with a delicate sigh. “Perhaps it is the heat that plagues me so. The north might bring me back to my strength.”
“There are times, dear sister of mine, that I cannot tell if you are serious or not,” Oberyn tightened his hold on her arm for a second. “Could you really leave all of Dorne for a second-best wolf pup and a mound of fluffy ice?”
Leave Dorne, or you dear brother? Even as he neared eighteen, Oberyn still had his moments of petulance. If he had his way, Elia would not marry beyond the borders of Dorne. And yet, this was an improvement from years past. Before he could not abide the thought of marrying her beyond the streets of Sunspear.
She understood his concern. For all her bravado, anything north of the Dornish Mountains seemed daunting. The Seven Kingdoms were vast and diverse, but Dorne stood that much further apart. It was unique, her country, but not all others appreciated its uniqueness. Elia wasn’t sure how she would fare so far from her home; she didn’t know if she could be anything other than Dornish.
“You worry like an old woman,” she admonished lightly. “Enough of this northern talk; you and I will likely never agree. And, more to the point, our Lady mother seems especially disinclined to agree. I suppose I must go without the snow.”
“You wouldn’t know what to do with snow if you ever had it,” Oberyn smirked as they neared the archway to the garden dais. The insolent brat thought he had won the argument. Well, since she hadn’t the energy to keep squabbling all day, she supposed he had, in some way.
It was bright outside, but not as warm as the days can get in Dorne. Winter comes here too, though the chill was nothing like the chill north of the Dornish Mountains.
They would have snow there, she thought absently. Perhaps I should go there to have my snow.
The slight drop in temperature had done nothing to change the way of the gardens, and Elia prayed that nothing ever would. The sounds of splashing and stomping feet were practically blanketed by the sound of childish shrieks and laughter. Elia smiled broadly at the sight of so many children at play. Pure, utter joy was the one thing the gardens had in abundance.
Today, it had that, and even a pregnant good-sister lounging in the middle of the dais, a plate of blood oranges being waved away impatiently. “Take them away, they are overripe!”
“Alas, so are you, dear sister, but I pray that my foolish brother does not dare send you back,” Oberyn turned his smirk instantly into a charming smile. Elia rolled her eyes.
“He would not dare to try,” Mellario of Norvos raked her eyes sharply over the figure of her good-brother and then turned to look at Elia. “Is there any woman in the world he won’t turn that leer on?”
“’Leer’? You wound me, dear sister.”
“Not really, but I could if my dear brother wishes,” Mellario’s voice still carried the slightly heavier accent of her native country, but she looked and sounded utterly Dornish in that moment.
Elia didn’t bother to withhold her laughter, dropping Oberyn’s arm to sink into a chair near the other princess. “You know, sister, he might enjoy that more than you know.”
“He does have a thirst for women of violent delights, doesn’t he?” Mellario took Elia’s hand in her own and frowned before covering it with her other hand. “You’re freezing, again. Will you still not listen to reason?”
Elia felt her smile droop a bit. “Not you as well, Mellario. I have Oberyn and mother for these sort of headaches.”
Mellario looked away from Elia and glared at Oberyn. “Is it too much, in truth? The girl’s blood is thin, and weak. She needs meat, the bloodier the better-not all that fruit she nibbles at each day.”
“I don’t like meat,” Elia did her best not to pout, though she suspected she failed.
Oberyn shrugged elegantly, infinitely more at ease now that he had a partner in badgering his sister. “It’s better than what the maester would have you do.”
“A fool,” Mellario interjected vehemently. “A fool in chains, and you let him poke and prod and pour his vile concoctions down your throat. A bit of meat, girl, and you’ll be fine. We see this all the time on Norvos-and the solution is always the same.”
Elia sighed and patted Mellario’s hand. “The leeches are not so bad, and they do help. And it is only on certain days that I suffer so. Most days are not terrible-“
“How will you birth babes in this state?” Mellario shook her head. “Haven’t you any sense, Elia?”
Elia pursed her lips and bit back a giggle. “I shall worry about birthing babes when there is one in my womb. Though I fear without a marriage agreement, that time is still far off. Birthing babes is more your concern than mine, sister.”
Mellario smiled then, coy and devious all at once. “Since when does it take marriage for a woman to worry about birthing babes? Your brother, I’m sure, can tell you all about that.”
“You make light of my honour,” Oberyn protested with a grin as devious as Mellario’s own.
“Such sparse material can hardly be treated heavily,” Mellario countered, her hand traveling up to cup Elia’s cheek. “I’ll not waste my breath lecturing now, because you never listen anyway. But you will be wanting that meat, sister, when babes are your concern.”
Elia laughed, turning her face to press a light kiss to her good-sister’s palm. “When they are, perhaps I will. However, these days my concerns are reserved for husbands.”
“And the leeches,” Oberyn added, a nod towards the open doorway. “For here comes the aster-he looks like he has a fresh batch for you.”
Her laughter dried immediately, gone in a huff of air and stifled aggravation.
She hated bleeding days.