The Pearl of Driftmark - kurenohikari (2024)

Chapter 1: I Alicent's P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 118 AC

I rushed through the corridors of the Red Keep, my cuticles bleeding from all my worrying. The moment one of my trusted maids had come to inform me that Rhaenyra had demanded a meeting with his Grace the King with my son, my dear Aemond, the freezing hand of the Stranger got ahold of my heart. I did not wait for a second before jumping on my feet and all but running to my husband’s chambers.

The scene that met me almost made my heart stop. Aemond was shaking as a leaf, as Rhaenyra and the King were glaring at him, fury blazing in their eyes. “What is the meaning of this?” I demanded to know, I was surprised to note that my voice did not waver.

It took graceful steps towards my son, who looked at me with so much relief that it broke my heart. My poor unfortunate boy, the destiny of a second son is always a cruel one. Especially, for such a good son as Aemond, who was born to be King. He was good, dutiful, devout, smart, and honorable. If only he had been my firstborn, then maybe my husband would have already disinherited that whor* of a daughter he has. Yet, the choice for heir to the Iron Throne is a dumb and cruel boy, who continuously breaks my heart. Or a whor* who parades her bastard and lover around the Red Keep, before the blind King.

At least, it was only one bastard, and Rhaenyra finally managed to conceive a trueborn child. My eyes lingered at the little girl of three namedays beside my ex-childhood friend. She was truly a pearl of a princess, even as a small child I could see why the court was already calling her the future Realm’s Delight. Though, if I am being honest, I preferred her other moniker, The Pearl of Driftmark.

When Lucerys Velaryon was born, with her black curls and pale skin, I had dismissed her as another bastard. Yet, at the time it Boremund Baratheon had been at the Red Keep, a rarity on its own as the old Lord barely left Storm’s End in his old age. My father had sent me a letter, encouraging me to get close to him, the Baratheon House was a supporter of Rhaenyra through her marriage to Ser Leanor. Though if I was able to turn the tides on her by getting Lord Boremund’s support at the slight of having a wanton whor* parading bastards as heirs, it would weaken Rhaenyra’s stand as heir and keep my children safe.

However, all those plans were useless, because the moment Lucerys Velaryon was placed in his arms, in the middle of court, Lord Boremund Baratheon cried. The whole court, even his son and heir Borros Baratheon, turned to look at the Lord of Storm’s End in shock. The Lord wept as he cradled Princess Lucerys as if she was the most precious treasure he had ever seen in his life. He then whispered, in a broken tone, that even had me tearing. “Jocelyn…”

Lord Boremund Baratheon then claimed Princess Lucerys to be her sister reborn, to be the spitting image of the dark beauty that had captivated Prince Aemon’s heart. He even claimed that she had the same eyes as his mother, Queen Alyssa Velaryon. And she did, have her eyes that is. The unmistakable proof that my step-granddaughter was a trueborn, she had her grandmother’s hair and complexion, and her grandsire’s Velaryon eyes.

Looking at her now, there was no doubt of the Baratheon blood in her, a blood that even proved true when Princess Jocelyn had given birth to Princess Rhaenys and a black-haired child had been born. Even with the angry pout she wore, Princess Lucerys looked like a porcelain doll. Pale skin like snow, long onyx curls, and the most captivating shade of blue eyes I had ever seen. It was a mix of indigo and sea blue. Her beauty was only highlighted by the delicate and Valyrian features she had inherited from her mother, who, no matter how much I hated to admit it, had earned her moniker of the Realm’s Delight. A small face, heart-bow lips, high cheekbones, and the most melodic voice that have walked the halls of the Red Keep.

Just with her birth, the Blacks had earned House Baratheon’s support and loyalty. Borros might loath the fact of a woman inheriting the Iron Throne, as it went against their holy laws, but he would withstand it if he believed that his blood would sit on the throne and if it was a male heir the one that would come after Rhaenyra. My father had been enraged at Princess Lucerys being proven a trueborn before the whole court. Especially when afterwards rumors of Rhaenyra’s bastard, Jacaerys, started to spread, saying that the boy must have inherited the Arryn blood of his grandmother, the Realm’s precious Queen Aemma.

I was furious as well. Were they all as blind as the King? Did they not see how wonton their heir was? How she flaunted her affair before the full court without any punishment! How she used her own poor trueborn daughter to hide her sins! The only good thing that came out about it is that Helaena will get a companion and Aemond a Valyrian wife. My daughter was… delicate. She enjoyed activities that other ladies did not and she spoke in riddles that confused even me. However, Princess Lucerys had proven herself to be a good companion. Even at only three namedays, she would nod and giggle at my daughter’s weird comments, not once finding her weird. Her daughter, who detested touch, would drag her around Aegon’s garden to look for bugs, and Princess Lucerys would allow it without any complaint.

As for my son, as a second son he would not inherit anything. But if he married Princess Lucerys, he would get to become Lord Consort of Driftmark and my grandchildren would get a grand seat to inherit one day. Not to mention, it would give my sweet Aemond a Valyrian bride, strengthening the Greens, and maybe even bringing House Baratheon to our side. My father had informed me of Ser Leanor’s deviant desires and his inability to be his wife as it is his duty. Princess Lucerys was a fluke, my father was sure there would be no other trueborn Velaryon born from the union of Rhaenyra and her husband. And with Lady Laena’s difficulties in conceiving, she would most likely only have her twins, who were no challenge to Princess Lucerys inheritance.

Unlike my father, though, I did not believe Princess Lucerys to be a fluke. To me she was a gift from the Gods, to pay my son back for his devotion and goodness. She would give my son what he deserved, the perfect bride, children for him to dote upon, and an inheritance to pass on to his heirs. And unlike the rest of her deviant family, I knew that the poor girl was loyal, brave, and true.

I was startled by my thoughts by a screeching, I almost jumped back when I noticed the beast that my son had wrapped around his neck. It was a dragon! My son had a dragon! Though, if I recall correctly, the young beast was called a hatchling. Three of my children’s dragon eggs did not hatch, much to my father’s disappointment. To be honest I had always feared those beasts, they were unholy, and I never understood the Targaryens obsession with them. But like with Aegon’s name and the Green’s plan to betrothed him to his sister, they were a symbol of power. The greatest symbol of power.

A dragonless Targaryen was a weak one. You only need to look at our actual King to see that for yourself. So, I understood my father’s dissatisfaction on the matter. Especially, after Rhaenyra’s bastard’s dragon egg hatched on the crib. With Syrax, Vermax, Tyraxes, Seasmoke, Caraxes, Vhagar, and Meleys the Blacks were in possession of six dragons. It did not matter if the whole realm supported my son, if the conqueror was able to conquer Westeros with three dragons, I shuddered to think what they will achieve with six. Especially, with Maegor reborn on the Blacks’ side. Oh, how I loathed Daemon Targaryen.

Luckily, my fourth child who I thanked the Seven who guided me true, had managed to make his dragon egg hatch into Tessarion, who the court had started calling The Blue Queen. My eldest, who was a disappointment in everything but this matter, had managed to bond with a hatchling when he was young, Sunfyre. And recently, my daughter almost made my heart stop when she sneaked into the Dragonpit to claim Dreamfyre. Oh, the pride I felt when my daughter claimed the dragon of a true queen.

It only left my son dragonless, my sweet Aemond’s dragon egg did not hatch, and Rhaenyra had demanded the only dragon egg left, after Daemon had taken the others to give to his spawns, for her daughter. It left Aemond heartbroken, even my assurances that there were many dragons to claim did not help. I might not understand the obsession with dragons, I might hate and fear them, but if my son wanted one, I would do anything to help him get one. Aemond was the perfect son and deserved one, more than Rhaenyra’s bastard that is for sure.

So, seeing the hatchling curled around Aemond’s neck so contently, left me confused. As there were no hatchlings in the Dragonpen to claim. Now that I looked more closely at it, the hatchling was a gorgeous pearlescent white color, with golden eyes and a golden chest. It was truly a beautiful beast, in a less flamboyant manner than my firstborn’s bore of a dragon.

“You want to know the meaning of this?” Rhaenyra seethed. I looked at her startled, though I collected myself rapidly afterwards. I had almost forgotten that she was there and why I was in my husband’s chambers. “Your son stole my daughter’s dragon egg the thief!”

I glared at my ex-childhood friend when Aemond flinched, I hesitated for a second when the beast continued screeching at Rhaenyra, but I forced myself to stand before my son and his hatchling protecting him as a mother should. “Watch your tone, stepdaughter. You are still talking about a prince of the realm. And correct me if I am wrong, but did you not once tell me that dragons are not slaves.” I raised an eyebrow unimpressed, internally enjoying the dumbfounded expression on her face. “Doesn’t that mean that it is impossible to steal a dragon? If Princess Lucerys’ dragon egg hatched for my son, then that it must have always meant to be Aemond’s.”

“Listen you…” Rhaenyra growled like the heathen she was, finally showing her true colors. I honestly worry about the future state of the realm with her as Queen Regent, it goes beyond just the safety of my children now, I could not in good conscious allow my people to be ruled by a wanton whor* like her.

“Stop!” We were all startled when a young voice yelled.

We all turned to look at Princess Lucerys in shock. She never raised her voice, she was the perfect lady, her voice always melodic and calm, even when playing with her aunt and uncles. Now, she yanked her hand free from Rhaenyra’s bruising grip stomped towards Aemond, she grabbed his hand in hers and pulled him towards the grand window that opened to the balcony. Princess Lucerys then let him go, crossed her arms over her chest, and pouted at us with the most adorable glare a three namedays girl could manage.

“I told you, Arrax not mine! He Aem’s!” Princess Lucerys announced with conviction, huffing at her mother.

There was a deep silence as we stared uncomfortably. She had never behaved like this before, and it shocked us all. I could sometimes forget that she was Targaryen with how well-behaved she was, even Helaena was a fuzzy child that drove me insane. But in moments like this it showed that Princess Lucerys still had the fire of her ancestors in her veins. Finally, I decided to break the silence. “Arrax?”

“My hatchling’s name,” Aemond’s timid response made me turn to my son with a warm smile.

“You finally have your bea… dragon,” I congratulated my son. “Could you tell us how it happened?”

“He stole it! That’s what happened!” I was honestly starting to get tired of Rhaenyra’s shrieking. How can a woman grown, a mother of two, continue to whine like a spoiled child?

“Aem not steal!” Princess Lucerys glared at her mother, making me hide my smile behind my hand. She will truly be the perfect wife for my son. “Egg ready, egg wanted Aem!”

“Let’s all calm down,” Viserys sighed, and I almost turned to glare at him. Now he wanted to be the voice of reason? Until recently he looked ready to send my son to the Wall as a petty criminal! But the moment his granddaughter from his precious Rhaenyra took Aemond’s side, he finally relented. “Son, tell me what happened.”

“Lucy came into the library, she looked excited,” Aemond explained hesitatingly. “She was talking about her dragon egg, I thought that she had come to tell me it hatched. I was happy that I had been the first one she had gone to…” I almost giggled at the bestowed look on my son’s face, but I could also see he had also felt jealous.

“I allowed her to drag me towards thee dragon egg, but instead of standing before the hearth waiting, Lucy pushed me towards it.” Aemond had a strange look on his face. “Before I could ask her what she was doing, she simply said ‘Arrax, yours!’ and the dragon egg hatched.” Aemond looked at Princess Lucerys with awe and gratefulness, I could see that he would worship the ground she walks after this. Like a good husband should, at least I had managed to raise a son correctly.

“My dear, why did you do that? The dragon egg was yours,” Viserys asked Princess Lucerys, making Aemond flinch back with an expression that showed me how destroyed he felt. I wanted to strangle my husband for that, how was it fair that the wanton whor* got all the love while my children suffered the King’s indifference?

Princess Lucerys sighed in a way no three namedays girl should be capable of. She then looked at Viserys with a look that was all disappointment and Princess Rhaenys, if there was a moment, I ever doubted her linage it died there and then. It was honestly quite comical. She then answered. “Arrax, Aem’s! Ghost, mine!”

Rhaenyra finally stopped screeching, only to turn to her daughter in confusion. How a well-behaved child, like Princess Lucerys, was born from her I will never know? “Ghost?”

“Yes! Ghost!” Princess Lucerys beamed for the first time since I barged into the chambers and threw her arms in the air cheering when the balcony’s windows were slammed opened.

I cried in horror as a full-fledged dragon’s snout peaked from the balcony window. I stared horrified at the ruby-red eyes that seemed to look through my soul. The dragon was pale grey-white, the color of morning mist. No, his scales were not grey-white. Now that I looked at them closely, they were the same color of freshly fallen snow. I had only ever seen it once, when I visited the North one time with the King after my marriage to him, but I will never forget my first morning of snow.

However, all I could pay attention to at the moment, was the fact that there was a wild dragon’s maw right before my son and his future bride. “Aemond, slowly get away from t-that, and bring Princess Lucerys with you.”

“Relax! He is Ghost! He is mine!” Princess Lucerys assured me, before going to hug the beast.

I was halfway through a choked cry, when the chamber’s doors burst open and the Kingsguard appeared, sword in hand. We all stared horrified as the young princess approached the wild dragon, we were all expecting her to get eaten when the dragon opened his maw. However, the beast only licked the young princess, making her giggle.

“She claimed the elusive Grey Ghost,” Viserys whispered in awe.

“No, grampa!” Princess Lucerys whined, I winced as she sounded just like her mother for a second there, before snuggling against the Grey Ghost’s maw. “He is Ghost! His scales not grey! White like snow!”

“She is right, look at those scales, they are not grey. Then again, he never got close to humans to get a good look at him, always hiding in the mist. We did not know his eyes were red either!” Rhaenyra exclaimed, before beaming at her daughter in pride. “Look at you go, my princess! You claimed a dragon no rider has ever claimed before!”

“We should celebrate! A banquet in honor of my granddaughter claiming her dragon!” Viserys announced beaming.

This time around I did glare at Viserys, when I saw my son hunch. None of my children got any banquets in honor of their births, egg hatchings, or even dragon claiming. Even Daeron who was only a few moons younger than the bastard and whose dragon egg hatched a little after Vermax, got no banquet. I had to hold my tongue and baby as the court whispered behind my back that a bastard was being celebrated when my trueborn Valyrian looking children were being ignored, yet again. Even Princess Lucerys, who was a Velaryon and heiress to Dirftmark got a royal banquet in her name. It was in it that Lord Boremund Baratheon met her great-great-grandniece. At least she did deserve it, unlike the bastard.

“For Aems and Arrax too!” Princess Lucerys chimed from where she was snuggling Grey… sorry, Ghost. I managed a small smile to the girl, she was such a good girl, the only good seed from that horrid side of the family.

“Right, for Aemond and Arrax too.” Viserys repeated as if only then he had recalled that he had a son who finally got his dragon. “Congratulations on your hatchling, son.”

“Thank you, father,” I almost winced at how frigid and cold my son’s tone was, though the smile he flashed Lucerys was all sunshine and warmth. Luckily, my husband did not notice, or he was oblivious to it as always.

I only managed to relax once Ghost flew away at the request of Princess Lucerys. I even allowed Ser Cole to help me sit down. I smiled and hugged my son warmly when he rushed towards me. Luckily, the beast decided to fly around the room and was far away from me.

“Well, done my son,” I kissed Aemond’s forehead.

Aemond smiled shily, all sweetness and goodness, unlike his older brother, and replied. “Thank you, mother. Though, it was all Lucy.” The look on his face was of a boy bestowed upon his chosen lady, it was a good sign for father’s plan.

“Where did he go?” Ser Harrold asked warily, finally putting his sword back.

“Oh, to the ocean!” Princess Lucerys answered, giggling as Rhaenyra held her in her arms, pepping her face with kisses. “He hates caves or people. Sleeping under the stars is the best!”

“There are records of dragons that prefer open spaces, it is rare but not unheard of,” Rhaenyra hummed.

“Should we not be wary of Grey… I mean, Ghost,” Ser Cole rapidly corrected himself at the glare Princess Lucerys sent his way. My son and I giggled at that. Ser Cole’s dislike for Rhaenyra’s sins was worse than my own, yet even he had been charmed by The Pearl of Driftmark. “I don’t believe that the people of King’s Landing would like to have a dragon free around the city, or even the Kingswood.”

I nodded my head in agreement, almost rolling my eyes when Rhaenyra sneered at my sword shield. As if sleeping with her own sword shield was not enough, she had the gall to disrespect the Queen’s sword shield. Luckily, Princess Lucerys defused the situation again. “Relax, Ghost in Dragonstone. Wild dragon, fly free there!”

“Then there should be no issue!” Viserys announced and I wanted to facepalm so hard then and there. I am sure Princess Lucerys meant well, but you could not trust the words of a three namedays girl about where her recently adquired wild dragon would be. “Let’s start preparing everything for the banquet!”

I waited patiently like everyone, but my son and Ser Cole left the chambers. I then turned to my sword shield, as my son was entertained with his hatchling, and whispered. “Send scouts to check if Princess Lucerys was right to say Ghost returned to Dragonstone. And get me the maester, I need to contact my father. So much has happened, and he needs to be the first to know.”

Chapter 2: I Corlys' P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 118 AC

“How is it coming along?” Rhaenys asked, as she came to sit on the other side of my desk in my office as the official Master of Ships.

Many things had changed since the War for the Stepstones and the wedding of my son to the Crown Princess. As much as I hated to admit it, I had been wrong. I had allowed my slight and pride to get in the way, I should have listened to my wife. Instead of gathering many lords of the Narrow Seas that had been suffering because of the Triarchy, I had requested the support of the crown on my own. I then like a child left King’s Landing, my position as Master of Ships, and went to rage war against three of the free cities on my own with only Daemon Targaryen of all people to back me up.

I lost almost half of my fleet and dragged my son into a warzone, which Rhaenys had yet to forgive me for. Luckily, the pirates had many treasures hidden in the Stepstones. Not only was I able to repay every single soldier that fought for us or pay the families of the fallen knights and sailors, but I was also able to regain every coin spent in this useless war and even pay for the reconstruction of my fleet. That is even with the small fortune Daemon had requested for himself, though I do not begrudge him, as he had been the one to fell the Crabfeeder and his Caraxes had been our greatest ally.

After returning to King’s Landing as a hero, with the King requesting my return to the Small Counsil and gave my son the hand of his daughter and heir, well, it all went to my head. The moment Jacaerys was born, I knew that Rhaenys had been right. I should have listened to my wife and realized that my son was not going through a phase, that with his… preferences, he would not be able to fulfill his duties.

I still believed the words I told Rhaenys, that history remembered names not blood. And I loved my grandson with all my heart, it was the boy that Leanor had claimed as his own and that was good enough for me. Though, it was only when Lucerys was born that I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I felt the ice in my wife’s heart thaw at being gifted with a granddaughter that has his mother’s face. She never got to meet her mother and seeing sweet Lucerys grow up, hearing the stories that Boremund had to tell, had softened her. Not only was she finally acting like a proper grandmother to Jacaerys, but she had also rekindled her bonds with House Baratheon.

As for my son, it was as if life had returned to him. After his… lover had been murdered, at his own wedding at that, a piece of Leanor died with Joffrey. He tried his best, but his whoring and drinking was getting out of control, and there was only so much Rhaenyra could handle or do about it. It amused me how people believed I should have been angry at Rhaenyra for Jacaerys, but none of them realized how much Rhaenyra has been covering for Leanor and for that I will forever be grateful. I cared not about the court wagging tongues, but it was the Faith and their condemnation that worried me.

Leanor loves Jacaerys and Lucerys equally, blood be dammed. However, with Jacaerys there was a part of him that believed that as he was able to take him in and love him as his own, then other men would be capable of doing the same. My foolish son could not comprehend that very few men had his kind heart. So, I knew that there was still a part of him that wished to leave it all and flee to Essos. Maybe going as far as to fake his death, believing that he could only find true freedom that way.

However, the moment his daughter was placed in his arms, a child that carried his blood, I knew then and there that Leanor could no longer run away. Leanor had changed after that; he had started taking his duties as Crown Prince more seriously. He no longer got drunk or slept with half of King’s Landing, and while he did take lovers, he was much more careful, and they vetted before getting close. Leanor had to be cautious now, as his children were involved now. Leanor went as far as to taking a semi-permanent position in Dragonstone, to oversee the island while Rhaenyra secured her position in the Green filled court of the Red Keep. I could not be prouder of my son.

So, when my daughter came to me and told me she did not want to marry the Sealord of Braavos I was thinking of betrothed her to, this time I listened. Maybe I finally learned my lesson… or maybe I just felt guilty about throwing my two and ten namedays old daughter to a man who had just butchered the woman he swore to love after two decades of marriage for a son that did not even live. Not one of my finest moments.

I was not as oblivious as my wife believed me to be, I had eyes, even when I was hardheaded and believed that my way was the best and tried to force it on my children. I could see the flirting and ardent looks Laena kept throwing at Daemon. I knew that there were worse matches for my daughter than a prince of the realm. Daemon was an accomplished knight and dragonrider, he had aided my house at the Stepstones and has a good fortune at the Iron Bank, one that will see my daughter and grandchildren well taken care of. He had even mellowed down a bit after the war and without the resentment of being chained to a non-Valyrian wife.

However, I would not be the Sea Snake if I just accepted things as they are. I would aim high or go home, that is my style. So, with determination I went to have a chat with our King, who was still struggling to find a position for his brother in court. Especially, after the scandal between him and Rhaenyra. I suggested to the King to keep Daemon away from King’s Landing and his daughter, but also allowed that bloodlust of his to good use. They had captured the Stepstones, but their hold on them was still weak. There was a reason as to why the claim over them has been disputed for so long. At one point they were Dorne’s, at another point they were the Triarchy’s, now they were theirs and I was planning on keeping it that way.

I requested as the Master of Ships to adjourn the archipelago as part of Westeros, putting a warden there, just like they kept a Lord Reaper in the Iron Islands. And who better act a deterrent to the Triarchy than The Rogue Prince himself. Viserys had been wary at first, but without Otto whispering poison in his ear, I had been able to convince him. I had also managed to get second and third sons of Lord around the Eastern coast of Westeros to gain their own seats and becoming lord of their own branch houses. It allowed me to maintain my position as a leader figure in the Narrow Seas, which had not been as secure as it had once been after the War for the Stepstones and Jacaerys’ birth.

The first thing I did was ship Vaemond and his sons to Grey Gallows, an isle that was now home for the House Velaryon branch of the Grey Gallows. Finally, Vaemond had his seat, something for his sons to inherit and could finally stop bothering me about marrying one of his spoiler brats to my precious granddaughter. As if I would ever allow them to get their greedy hands on Driftmark Throne and my Lucerys.

I even gave Torturer's Deep to Arthor Celtigar, Lord Bartimos Celtigar’s nephew, so he could rise the seat for House Celtigar branch of Torturer's Deep. Why Torturer's Deep? Because giving anything to a relative to Bartimos, of all people, was a torture worse than death! But at least now that fool owes me one. And I will make sure they pay it back.

After selecting the second sons, third sons, and nephews to the most prominent Lords of the Easter cost of Westeros, and getting the ok from Viserys, I got to work. The Stepstones were only a little better than the Iron Islands, they could plant some fruit and grain but not enough to sustain them yearly. Luckily, they had plentiful bounty from the sea, fish and seafood of all kinds were easily found in their waters. There was a reason they did not starve during the war. But the main income will come from taxes, the Stepstones were after all the gate to Essos.

There was a reason why I wanted to deal with the Triarchy so swiftly and fully. Letting them control those waters would only bring more harm than good. Without Otto around, Viserys finally started to listen to me about it and was more than ready to maintain their control over the newest archipelago of Westeros. Thanks to my work during the war and setting up all of this, House Velaryon will get free nautical passages for trade in perpetuity. It took all of myself not to start cackling like a madman when Viserys signed that decree and gave it the royal seal. No wonder Otto kept such a tight leash on the crown, Viserys was a fool.

By the time I came to Daemon with my offer, a seat of his own and a Valyrian wife, he was so stunned that I did laugh at his face. With the fortunes Daemon had accumulated throughout his travels to Essos and during the War for the Stepstones, the Blood Hall castle was built quite rapidly, and Daemon looked at home sitting on the Blood Throne as he used to on the Dragonstone Throne. Daemon only returned to the Crownlands for his Valyrian wedding in Dragonstone to my daughter and for the announcement of his new position to the court. Otherwise, he, my daughter, and new granddaughters, Baela and Rhaena, preferred to stay in Bloodstone and Pentos.

We both cackled in the privacy of my office, after the swearing ceremony for the new lords, at the astounded face Queen Alicent wore when she received the news alongside the rest of the Red Keep. She had looked as if she had bitten a lemon.

“All houses and new port towns are finally finalized. All paperwork as well. This took much more time than it should have, and I totally blame your family,” I sighed with a deadpan. “I swear, you Targaryens will be the death of me.”

“Prince Daemon Targaryen of the Stepstones, Warden of the Narrow Seas, and Lord of Bloodstone,” Rhaenys would have snorted if the action had not been beneath her. “Who would have imagined that the day would come when Daemon would become a respectable lord of the realm.”

“Respectable? I do not believe that is the right word for it,” I snorted, I did not mind the action. “It was all my hard work, and it is Laena that keeps the new branch of House Targaryen organized. Meanwhile, Daemon is burning pirate fleets on Caraxes and enjoying his vices in Pentos.”

“You say that as if Laena does not join him on Vhagar and in Pentos,” Rhaenys chuckled.

“No! My daughter, is still innocent and sweet!” I was not hearing such blasphemy.

“Laena innocent and sweet? Now that’s the wildest lie I’ve ever heard!” Rhaenys threw her head back and laughed loudly, I turned to her and smiled fondly. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her laugh that freely, at least since the Great Counsil. “Did my cousin sing the royal decree?”

“He did, Princess Baela Targaryen, dragonrider of Moondancer, will be Daemon’s heir and the future Princess of the Stepstones, Warden of the Narrow Seas, Lady of Bloodstone, and wielder of Dark Sister.”

Rhaenys furrowed her brows and pursed her lips. “Not even if a son is born from the union?”

“Not even if a son is born from the union,” I assured her, knowing how important this was to her. “He even decreed it that Dark Sister will become the ancestral sword of House Targaryen of the Stepstones.”

“Good, it’s nice to see that my cousin was not that much of a hypocrite,” Rhaenys scoffed.

I knew better than to get involved when her temperament rises like this, even if her words were borderline treason. It’s not Viserys would do anything about it. He basically is allowing his wife to form a faction to consolidate power to usurp his daughter and heir. King Jaehaerys might have been an excellent king, but he was rubbish when it came to raising his children and heirs. Not even Queen Alysanne was that much better, it still surprised me that she is still known for being a great matchmaker, when all the marriages she had arranged for her family had ended in disaster. And those that did not, well, it ended in tragedy. My mood soured at the memory of Jocelyn, Alyssa, Daella, and recently Aemma.

“He even signed a royal decree announcing that Princess Lucerys Velaryon will be the future Lady of Driftmark and Lady of the Tides,” I continued, trying to shake the solemn memories off. “We no longer have to worry about anyone challenging her position as my heiress.”

“Now all we need to worry about is the Greens trying to marry their Aemond to our granddaughter,” Rhaenys sneered.

I did not like this anymore than her, the idea of mixing my blood with the repugnant Hightower bloodline was nauseating. But I also realized that while Alicent might believe her son to be the Warrior reborn, I have been a young Daemon and Aemond was the carbon copy of his son. Aemond had the same obsessions as his uncle, his Valyrian ancestry, swords, dragons, and his chosen bride. The moment a dragon chooses a partner there was no changing it, Aemon, Baelon, Rhaenys, and now Aemond were proof of that. At one point, I might have placed Daemon in that list, but now I realized that what he most cared about was having a Valyrian bride, more than one bride in specific.

Aemond was different. I could see that there was no stopping it, the moment any of us try to take Lucerys away from him, he will burn all of Westeros to the ground. That if Lucerys died, he will die with her. Just the same way Aegon the Conqueror had. I could also see that my granddaughter felt a connection of a sort with him, she was still too young for me to see if there might be more involved. But who knows, maybe Lucerys would want Aemond too. I will no longer allow pride to get in the way of my family’s future and happiness.

“Weddings might be what we need to stop this from going to war,” I commented in High Valyrian, making Rhaenys snap her gaze back at me. I looked up from my papers and smiled wryly at her, before going back to them. “I mean, if Helaena married Jacaerys, there will still be a Hightower Queen, but there will also be a Velaryon King. If we also marry Aemond and Lucerys, then the next in line through Rhaenyra’s line will also have Hightower blood. As for Aegon’s challenge that is easily taken care of, have him marry an Andal. He is already a half-breed without a Valyrian bride, his children will only be one-fourth Valyrian and will not be able to claim dragons. They will be Tragaryens in only name and will not be able to the worst candidates for the Iron Throne.”

“We both know that the Queen will never allow Jacaerys and Helaena to marry, she is too pious to allow a sullied bloodline to breed her precious and only daughter. The same goes for Rhaenyra in the case of sweet Lucerys and Aemond,” Rhaenyra answered in High Valyrian, after a thoughtful silence. Though I could tell from her frown that she was thinking deeply about my preposition. “But who knows maybe the kids will surprise us and make this miracle happen. It will be easier in the case of Lucerys and Aemond, Rhaenyra will only want her daughter to be happy and Lucerys seems sweet on her favorite uncle. As for the Queen, she would simply say that she knows better, and her daughter knows not what’s best for her.”

“We could even sweeten the deal with the Queen an involve Daeron,” I smirked mischievously. “Second sons are set to inherit nothing, especially when it the heir is the oldest daughter. Third sons in that case have it even worse, and I am sure she would want her Daeron to become a Lord Consort. Marrying Daeron to Baela, will maintain her as a Targaryen Princess and keep the Valyrian blood as pure as they can. I mean knowing that all her children are set to life, a Queen, a Lord Consort of the Tides, and a Prince Consort of the Stepstones, that might mellow her to our preposition. Sullied bloodline or not.”

Rhaenys burst out laughing, looking at me incredulously. “And how will you manage that? Daemon will be worst than you about having his precious heir getting pregnant by a Hightower c*nt!” I raised my eyebrows at her cursing. “Come on! I am simply repeating his words. We both know that Daemon will never allow that to happen.”

“Who knows, maybe the children will surprise us,” I repeated her words right back at her, this time my wife did roll her eyes in exasperation. “Baela might be just like our Laena and be ready to elope to get her way.”

“Daeron might be just like every Hightower and too devout for any of our plans to work,” she challenged right back. “Especially, since he is being fostered there. What allowed Viserys to send his own son so young to Old Town I will never know.”

“I do not think he remembers he has a third son if I am being honest,” I sighed, we might be part of the Black Faction, but it was a sad reality the one Alicent’s children lived. Neglected and forgotten by their own sire. “It was a peace offering after dismissing Otto from his position as Hand of the King. It might get us some good will with the Queen if we find a way to get him back to King’s Landing.”

“We are already planning on fostering Lucerys in Driftmark when she is older to show her the ropes of being the future Lady of Driftmark. If we manage to convince the Queen to allow us to take Aemond with us as our ward, it might be enough. Who would ask the Queen to part ways with both of her sons?” Rhaenys inquired slyly.

I love my sly and lethal dragon-wife. “That might work, especially since Driftmark is so close and we have dragonriders that can fly Aemond from our island to the Red Keep. Making steady contact between family much easier than between Old Town and King’s Landing.”

“Those are some good ideas to think about later,” Rhaenys stood up and straightened her dress. “Right now, though, we need to get ready for the banquet in honor of our granddaughter and Prince Aemond.”

That is right, our granddaughter was the first dragonrider of the elusive Grey Ghost, now known as Ghost. When I started thinking I could not feel more pride, things like this would happen. The future of House Velaryon was bright, and I could not wait to see the heights we will rise to.

Chapter 3: I Lucerys' P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 118 AC

As I gaze into the mirror, I see a reflection that seems almost too perfect to be real. The teal dress, crafted specifically for me by House Velaryon, cascades down in delicate waves, shimmering like the surface of the ocean on a sunny day. The fabric feels soft against my skin, and the color brings out the depths of my blue-indigo eyes, making them sparkle like precious gems.

The bodice of the dress is adorned with intricate lace that resembles delicate seafoam, swirling around me like gentle waves. Tiny pearls are sewn into the lace, catching the light, and adding a touch of ethereal elegance. The skirt billows out around me, flowing like the ocean breeze, and with every movement, it seems to dance around me in a mesmerizing display.

My long black curls frame my face, cascading down in perfect spirals, and the pearl tiara perched atop my head adds a regal touch to my porcelain doll-like appearance. The seahorse necklace, a symbol of House Velaryon, hangs around my neck in pride. As my maids finish dressing me, I can't help but feel a sense of awe at the sight before me. The beauty reflected in the mirror is almost overwhelming, and for a moment, I feel as though I'm looking at someone else entirely. But then I realize that it's me, Lucerys Velaryon.

With a smile that feels as radiant as the sun itself, I twirl around in delight, reveling in the enchantment of the moment. In this teal masterpiece, I am not just a girl—I am a princess. I allowed myself to enjoy this, enjoy the fact that I was back to being a kid and this time around allowed me to be a kid. I still remembered my time in Winterfell, the cold eyes of my siblings’ mother that never left me alone. Had it not been for the War of the Five Kings I was sure she would have sent me to a whor*house the moment my father had taken the position as Hand of the King.

Catelyn Stark, nee Tully, cast a chilling shadow wherever she went. Her demeanor was as frigid as the northern winds, her words like icy daggers that cut deeper than any blade. Though she never laid a hand on me, her disdain was palpable, her scorn evident in every glance she cast my way.

Growing up in Winterfell, I lacked for nothing material—food, shelter, and clothing were provided abundantly. I received an education, learning to read, write, and even speak the Old Tongue under the tutelage of Old Nan. Yet, despite these comforts, I always felt the looming specter of Lady Stark's disapproval hanging over me like a dark cloud.

Her resentment towards me was evident in every interaction, every cutting remark that pierced through my defenses. When tragedy struck and Bran lost the use of his legs, she didn't hesitate to assign blame, cruelly insinuating that it should have been me in his place. Her animosity towards me only deepened as I grew older, especially when I chose to stand by Robb during the war.

In her eyes, I was a constant reminder of my father's infidelity, a living testament to his betrayal of their marriage vows. I was denied the right to grieve for the father and brothers, relegated to the sidelines of mourning while the legitimate Starks took center stage.

When Robb's ill-fated marriage to Talisa led to further tragedy, Lady Stark wasted no time in laying blame at my feet, accusing me of corrupting her beloved son. Her venomous words poisoned the minds of those around her, turning even Sansa against me, though luckily she never managed to turn Arya against me.

Through it all, my solace came from my brother, my true kin in spirit if not in name. But when Robb fell victim to the treachery of the Red Wedding, it felt as though a part of me died alongside him. In the end, perhaps it was a mercy that I too found my end, escaping the cruelty of a world that had never truly accepted me for who I was.

Only to wake up surrounded by dragons who told me that my whole life was a lie, and I was going to be sent back to fix things. Of course, I had been stunned beyond belief to find out that I was never Joanna Snow, bastard of Winterfell, but Visenya Targaryen, trueborn daughter of Rhaegar Targaryen and his second wife Lyanna Stark. I was the Princess that was Promised, by the Song of Ice and Fire. But something had gone wrong. I was not meant to die so early; I was supposed to go beyond the Wall and find out about the Others and find a way to defeat them and their king.

But that did not happen. So, after compartmentalizing the fact that I was not a bastard, but the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and that my father and siblings were my uncle and cousins, I allowed the Gods of Old Valyria to send me back. Before though they explained that I needed to stop the Dance of Dragons from happening, the future, my present? Time travel was hard! To defeat the Others, we will need dragon fire and I could not allow the dragons to die. With that in mind I would be reborn in the body of the catalysis of the Dance that made any reconciliation irremediable.

I was reborn in the body of Lucerys Velaryon. Luckily, this time around the Gods of Old Valyria reassured me I would not have to live a life under bastardy scrutiny. They will make Lucerys Velaryon a trueborn daughter of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Leanor Velaryon. I was very thankful for that, one life as a highborn bastard was enough.

Though, before time traveling, I asked the Gods of Old Valyria if when I died in this life, I would wake up in my original timeline. They assured me that by then I would have fought for them enough and I would be allowed to rest. In this new timeline there will be a Prince that was Promised, and with luck he will be raised as a true Targaryen Prince. Which was fine by me, the bedtime stories of Old Nan about the Others gave me enough nightmares and I did not desire to face them anytime soon, if ever.

The first thing I did when I came back to my senses was to befriend my supposed future killer. Aemond Targaryen was not the kinslayer monster he was portrayed as in history. The war dog of the Greens. No, Aems was a sweet and shy kid, so kind and caring that I could not wrap my mind as to why he turned out the way he did. Though, with time I came to see the reasons. None of them were Aemond’s fault, but adults dragged children into the Game of Thrones.

Aems was just like me, a kid trying to fit in a family of ancient linage and constantly feeling unworthy. With the Starks, my issue was my bastardy, with Aems was the fact that he was dragonless. It also did not aid that Aegon was as cruel as a child as he would become in the future. The only difference is that Aegon the Usurper could be guided to a better path, he did not want the crown his mother kept on pushing towards him and kept on lashing out, which in return hurt his siblings. No wonder, Helaena turned so meek and Aems had to harden his kind heart.

Alicent Hightower, the poor girl playing Queen, truly believed my muña capable of kinslaying. Her father was filling her head with poison and paranoia. She was so devout to the Light of the Seven and held similar ideas of bastards as Lady Stark. I thought I would feel uncomfortable around her, but if anything, I felt sorry for her. The girl’s fingers were constantly bleeding, and she was driving herself mad with worry. She was just a mother who believed she was doing right by her children. I truly wish I get to save her, to save all of them.

First things first, let’s celebrate my first victory! I got Aems his own dragon, he did not have to lose an eye, nor become enemies with the twins by claiming their mother’s dragon while Lady Laena’s body was still warm. When the Gods of Old Valyria guided me to the dragon egg, I found it totally ironic, Aems would become the dragonrider of Arrax the same dragon he would have once upon a time slayed. Oh, well, it was not like I needed the pearlescent hatchling. One last gift from the Gods of Old Valyria, my bonded direwolf had come back with me! I could not wait to ride Ghost through the sky! It will totally ruin horse riding for sure!

“Where’s my princess?” The teasing tone of my kepa, had me beaming. I ignored the giggling maid and rushed towards the door to throw myself in Ser Leanor’s arms. I melted into the hug and my heart burst in love when he kissed my forehead. “Here she is! Looking like the Velaryon Princess she is. Kepa will surely love the ensemble!”

I had never been allowed to act this way with Eddard Stark, not while I lived under Lady Stark’s scrutiny. He was always Lord Stark and never father. It made me wonder sometimes if he ever truly loved me. Did he blame me for his sister’s death? Did he blame me for his brother and father’s deaths? Why did he never tell me the truth or fight for my right to the throne? Why did he continue to defend the Baratheon Usurper and died for him?

Knowing the truth now paints our previous interactions differently. Maybe he did care but did not know how to show it. Maybe he was doing what he thought right to keep me safe. Or maybe he kept me at a distance because he did not know yet which side of the coin I had landed on. Did I possess the same madness of my grandfather Aerys and uncle Viserys? Anyway, I do not think I can look back at him and see him in a nostalgic manner as I used to, while I was still Joanna Snow.

“Ready for the banquet?” Kepa asked me gently, the same eyes I had just seen in the mirror, were sparkling at me with fondness.

“Yes!” I cheered, then I pouted. “I miss Ghost.”

I truly did, back when he was a direwolf it used to be easier. He could stay by my side all the time. When he had landed inside the Red Keep, poor Ghost had not even realized he could no longer barge inside any keep when he feels me though the bond. Right now, he was pouting in Dragonstone, coiled around himself as if he was still a pup. I nudged my companion through the bond, and I could feel Ghost nudging me back, feeling slightly better. It did not matter that we could no longer be physically by each other’s side all the time, we will always have this bond, and no one will be able to take it from us.

“I know, I miss Seasmoke and I just saw him,” Leanor chuckled, as he carried me towards the throne room turned banquet hall. I watched in amusem*nt as a squad of Driftmark guards and maids followed closely behind. Granpa Crolys was very exaggerated. “I will take you to Dragonstone soon so you can spend time with him. But no flying until you are at least ten.”

“But muña rode Syrax at seven!” I pouted, giggling when he peppered my inflated cheeks with kisses.

“And what do we always say, do as we say not as we do,” kepa teased me.

I huffed. I liked having a carefree childhood, or as carefree as it could be with the fate of the world hanging at the balance. But being so young can be a bother. “Got it.”

“That’s my princess,” Leanor laughed, but I ignored him and the fond looks of the Velaryon servants that followed us.

As we approached the grand doors, Jace and my muña stood there, Joffrey was deemed too young to assist to the banquet, as a babe of only a few moons old. I found it hilarious that once upon a time Lady Stark used to call me a wanton bastard, whose only future was to be a slave to lust. When both of my mothers are princesses that went and took what they wanted. Lyanna Stark run away with a married man, and Rhaenyra Targaryen had birthed three children, each one from a different sire. No matter what anyone says about Jace being Ser Harwin's, I have eyes and Jace and Joff only share what they inherited from muña. Jace's brown hair and eyes are lighter than Joff's, the resemblance is only more striking when Ser Criston is close.

Oh, well, that is an issue for another day. Right now, I took in the image of muña and brother. Jace and muña were a striking contrast to kepa and me. While we wore the signature Velaryon-teal, they both donned ensembles predominantly black, with touches of rich burgundy. My muña's attire was a subtle yet powerful declaration of the Targaryen-Velaryon alliance, a visual statement of our family's connections and loyalties. By incorporating elements of the Black Faction into their outfits, she was not only showcasing our association with muña’s faction but also subtly asserting our presence within its ranks.

As I observed them, I couldn't help but admire the way my muña effortlessly blended symbolism and style. Her gown, with its intricate embroidery and subtle details, exuded an air of regal sophistication, while Jace's attire conveyed strength and authority, befitting his role as heir to the Iron Throne. It was a deliberate choice, one that almost had me raising an eyebrow. I did not know that my muña had it in her to be this sly, maybe she had been getting lessons from Rhaenys. It’s been a long time coming that she started playing the Game of Thrones.

It was a small moment, yet one filled with significance. Before we even entered the room, our loyalties and affiliations were made clear for all to see. As the gates swung open and the herald proclaimed our arrival, I had to stifle a chuckle at the sight before me. Each corner of the hall had one faction, a testament to the deep-rooted tensions that simmered beneath the surface.

On one side, the Targaryen and Velaryon heraldry adorned the walls, a sea of black banners unfurling proudly in the air. It was a sight to behold, the black dominating the space with an air of authority and defiance. Here, the presence of the Blacks was unmistakable, their symbols of power and resilience displayed for all to see.

Conversely, on the other side of the hall, the greens of House Hightower and the symbols of the Faith of the Seven stood in stark contrast. The vibrant hues of green seemed almost jarring against the backdrop of black, a visual reminder of the opposing forces at play. Yet, there was an air of determination among them.

It was a scene that spoke volumes without uttering a single word. In the divided hall, the lines were drawn, and the stage was set for the unfolding drama of the Cold War between the Greens and the Blacks. And as I took it all in, I couldn't help but marvel at the power of symbolism, how even the simplest of gestures could carry such weight in the Game of Thrones.

It took all of me not to shake my head in amusem*nt. This is going to be a fun night.

I turned to look at my other side of the family and my eyes zoomed in on the Queen. Alicent Hightower was resplendent in her emerald-green gown, she exuded an air of regal elegance that captivated all who beheld her. The luxurious fabric draped gracefully around her form, accentuating her slender figure. Each fold and seam seemed meticulously crafted, a testament to the impeccable taste and discerning eye of its wearer. Her auburn hair was expertly styled into a high bun, adorned with delicate jeweled pins that shimmered in the soft candlelight. From this elegant coiffure, a few tendrils escaped to frame her delicate features, lending her an ethereal allure that was impossible to ignore.

But it was her pendant, a Seven-Pointed Star crafted from the finest silver and encrusted with gleaming emeralds, that truly stole the show. Suspended from a delicate chain around her neck, the pendant served as a symbol of her faith and her unwavering devotion to the gods of her Gods. As she moved with effortless grace through the crowded hall, her brown-greenish eyes glinted with the same vibrant hue as her gown, casting a mesmerizing spell upon all who dared to meet her gaze.

It came as no surprise that she had captured the attention of a King. Rumors swirled throughout the Red Keep, whispered by servants and courtiers alike, speculating on how the daughter of a lesser noble house's second son had managed to ensnare the heart of a monarch. In truth, her allure was such that one could easily imagine her ascending to the throne even without the clandestine visits to the King's chambers.

I stifled a frustrated sigh as I observed my muña's disdainful expression aimed towards the Queen and her attire. It was clear that she still had much to learn in the ways of courtly decorum—a fact that would undoubtedly necessitate further tutelage from my grandmother. Such behavior was hardly appropriate for one destined to inherit the Iron Throne, and I couldn't help but feel a pang of disappointment at her lack of tact.

Thankfully, Princess Rhaenys had taken it upon herself to oversee Jace's education, and I had no doubt she would extend the same courtesy to me. While I would undoubtedly benefit from her guidance, the bulk of my time would be spent under the watchful eye of my grandsire, as I was his designated heir.

My attention then drifted towards my younger uncles and aunt, who despite their tender years, were already beginning to make their mark on the court. Aegon and Helaena, dressed in matching attire, presented a striking image that spoke volumes of their mother's intentions. Alicent's subtle maneuvering was evident in their coordinated outfits—a subtle suggestion of a future union, carefully cultivated from a young age.

Their garments, adorned in a rich jade hue, bore intricate dragon motifs, a nod to their Targaryen heritage and the symbols of power that defined our lineage. It was a bold choice, considering the Queen's well-known aversion to dragons, viewing them merely as beasts rather than the revered icons they were to many. Yet, Alicent's decision to allow such symbolism spoke volumes about the importance she placed on shaping perceptions and solidifying alliances within the court. Despite her personal reservations, she understood the significance of embracing the potent symbolism associated with House Targaryen, even if it meant setting aside her own prejudices for the greater good.

My eyes turned to the other star of the evening—my uncle, Aemond Targaryen, whose presence was just as eagerly anticipated as mine. His attire, much like the occasion itself, exuded a sense of grandeur and significance. Aemond's Basil-colored tunic, intricately crafted and adorned, showcased a hue that straddled the line between emerald green and deepest black—a bold choice considering the deep-rooted division between the Greens and the Blacks. Though, I should not be that surprised, history books often depicted Aemond Targaryen as a figure cloaked in darkness, his garments as black as his reputedly fierce demeanor.

My heart swelled with pride as I caught sight of Arrax, the majestic white dragon hatchling, coiled affectionately around Aem's neck. In that moment, I couldn't help but feel a sense of happiness for my uncle, wishing him the same profound bond with Arrax that I shared with Ghost. It was a bond forged in fire and blood, a bond that would endure even the darkest of days and the fiercest of battles.

Having uncles and an aunt that were only a couple of years older than me was weird. It made me miss Benjen Stark, the only Stark adult that I ever truly allowed inside my heart. It made me wonder if he knew the truth about my parentage. Somehow, I was sure he did not, that he would rather die than allow the daughter of his precious older sister to be disrespected the way Lord Eddard Stark had allowed. It made me wish I had been raised by Uncle Ben rather than Lord Stark. I had only even wished to be a Stark, but now I am glad I was not and will never be.

I am a Targaryen Princess of House Velaryon and I am proud of it.

Chapter 4: I Criston's P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 118 AC

Jacaerys was no prince, no Velaryon, he was not even a Strong, he was a Waters and did not deserve to train besides my prince. Unlike Prince Aemond, whose natural talent for the sword shined true from the moment I placed a training sword in his hand. Waters is nothing of importance to mention.

I had planned to have Harwin sent away in shame, to goad him into a fight in the middle of the training yard after putting that bastard of his into his place. However, Princess Lucerys chose that moment to appear in the training yard. The training yard is no place for a lady, much less a sweet princess like Lucerys.

I had tried to take her away, but she had been insistent. Princess Lucerys had found a hyacinth that she swore was the same shade as my prince’s eyes, and she could not wait to bring it to him. So, my plan had to be rescheduled for another day, as I had to escort both Prince Aemond and Princess Lucerys away from the training yard and back into the Red Keep. However, the fond smile on my prince’s lips were more than enough to make up for it.

My serious and devout prince never had it easy making friends. He was a second son, whose older brother was a bully. As treasonous as it was to even think that a trueborn prince of the crown was a bully, even her grace the Queen agreed with me. As much as we tried nothing, we did could bring a smile to Prince Aemond’s lips. Not a true one, at least.

Then came Princess Lucerys—a ray of light amidst the darkness that had enveloped my prince's world. With her infectious laughter and boundless energy, she breathed new life into the dreary halls of the Red Keep. She was a whirlwind of color and joy, sweeping my prince and his sister, Princess Helaena, along on adventures they had never dared to dream of. But perhaps most importantly, Princess Lucerys offered them something they had long yearned for: a sense of safety and belonging. In her presence, they were free to be themselves, unbothered by the weight of expectations and protocol that burdened them at court.

Unlike the other ladies of the court who often treated them with disdain or spoke ill of their family, Princess Lucerys accepted them without judgment. Not once did she mock their quirks or oddities, instead embracing them for who they truly were—a gift that my prince and his sister cherished above all else.

If Princess Helaena wanted to play with bugs, Princess Lucerys did not mind, she even helped her look out for some insects she did not have in her collection. If Prince Aemond wanted to share his knowledge about Old Valyria, instead of mocking him and calling him a bore as did Prince Aegon. Princess Lucerys sat there listening to my prince and even asked him questions and to continue telling her more.

I'll never forget the moment Princess Lucerys approached Prince Aemond and expressed genuine interest in his passion for Old Valyria. The look of disbelief on my prince's face was palpable, as if he couldn't quite fathom that someone as bright and radiant as the princess would want to share in his interests.

Every pause in his storytelling seemed to carry the weight of uncertainty, as if he half-expected the princess to mock him or belittle his enthusiasm. But with each question she asked, her curiosity and sincerity shone through, dispelling any doubts that lingered in my prince's mind.

And then, it happened—a smile, so small and delicate, yet so profound in its authenticity, graced my prince's lips. It was as if a ray of sunlight had broken through the clouds, illuminating the darkness that had clouded his heart for so long. In that moment, I found myself at a loss for words, overcome by the sheer beauty of that fleeting smile. It was a smile untainted by pretense or obligation, a testament to the genuine connection that had blossomed between my prince and the princess.

As I watched them interact, it became clear to me that I had never truly seen my prince smile until that moment—truly, openly, and without reservation. And in witnessing the transformation that occurred in his demeanor, I couldn't help but feel a swell of gratitude towards Princess Lucerys for bringing such joy into his life.

My Queen had had to choke down a sob that threatened to leave her throat. She had been there; it was in the early days of my prince and Princess Lucerys’ friendship. She might have been a trueborn, unlike her brothers, but she was still a Black and that whor*’s daughter. We had thought her a deviant like her mother. But it was at that moment that our perception of her changed.

How could a young princess as pure as the maiden come from someone as Rhaenyra Targaryen?

The Queen might say that her desire to betroth her son to Princess Lucerys was because of her heirship to Driftmark, that it would bound the Velaryon House into neutrality and give her son the future he deserves. But I will allow myself the discourtesy to disagree. Heirship or not, I am sure that her grace would have been the strongest advocate of their marriage, because Prince Aemond only smiles like that when Princess Lucerys is around. Because all the Queen has ever wanted is for her children to be safe and happy.

As I escorted Queen Alicent back to her chambers, the echoes of the joyful evening lingered in the air, the memory of Princess Lucerys, Prince Aemond, and Princess Helaena's laughter still fresh in our minds. The warmth of the banquet hall had followed us, wrapping us in a cocoon of contentment as we traversed the corridors of the Red Keep.

The Queen's usual air of reserve had softened, replaced by a gentle smile that spoke volumes of the happiness she had witnessed that night. It was a rare glimpse of vulnerability, a reminder that even the most stoic of figures were not immune to the charms of familial joy.

"It was a good night," Queen Alicent remarked, her voice tinged with satisfaction. Her smile widened as she recounted tucking her second son into bed, the sight of his happiness filling her with a sense of peace. "Less tense than I thought it would have been."

Her words carried a note of relief, a testament to the success of the evening's festivities in easing the burdens that often weighed heavily upon her shoulders. In that moment, as we walked together through the quiet halls of the Red Keep, it felt as though the cares of the world had momentarily lifted.

"I heard Princess Rhaenyra had a fit over the fact that her daughter had to share her celebration with Prince Aemond," I muttered under my breath, though in my head, I could think of a few choice words for her. I knew better than to voice them aloud, especially in a place where I could easily be overheard.

My words seemed to strike a nerve with Queen Alicent, her posture stiffening noticeably as she began to fidget with her fingernails. It was clear that the mention of her rival's actions didn't sit well with her. “However, Princess Lucerys told them that she was very excited to share her celebration with her uncle and that stopped any further conversation.”

"She's oblivious to the world around her," Queen Alicent muttered, her tone dripping with disdain. "She knows nothing of sacrifice or duty, yet she's handed everything on a silver platter, while my own children are left to suffer."

“Prince Aemond finally got recognized, soon your other children will as well,” I offered what reassurance I could, assuring her that Prince Aemond's recognition was a step in the right direction. But the Queen's expression remained unimpressed, a hint of resignation in her eyes.

"If only it were that simple," she sighed, shaking her head with a weary expression. "For now, I'll settle for their safety above all else."

Before I could even think of a reply, we had already reached the Queen’s chambers. I bowed with respect and left her security to the Kingsguard in rotation. I then marched back towards the White Sword Tower, as I needed to rest before having to wake up early tomorrow for my sword lesson with Prince Aemond and Prince Aegon. Though, everyone knew that I would only be teaching Prince Aemond, as there is no way you will ever catch Prince Aegon in the training yard.

But just as I was about to move forward, a piercing scream pierced the air, jolting me into action. Gripping my sword tightly, I sprinted towards the source of the commotion, followed closely by a swarm of guards and gold cloaks who had been tasked with maintaining order at the banquet.

As we reached the staircase, a group of maids huddled together, their faces drained of color, their hands clasped over their mouths in shock. Their wide-eyed stares bore witness to the horror that lay at the foot of the stairs.

Ignoring the guards' inquiries about the maids' well-being, I pushed my way to the front of the crowd, my heart pounding in my chest. And then, I saw it—what had elicited such a blood-curdling scream. Lord Larys Strong lay motionless at the base of the staircase, a sight that filled me with a mixture of anguish and fury. Closing my eyes briefly, I muttered a curse under my breath, dreading the implications of this grim discovery.

His twisted clubfoot leg jutted out at an unnatural angle, clearly shattered, with a bone protruding through the torn flesh—a gruesome sight that turned my stomach. His neck was bent at an impossible angle, a clear indication of a fatal injury, and a pool of crimson pooled beneath him, staining the floor with a macabre reminder of his final moments.

But it was his eyes that sent a shiver down my spine—glassy and vacant, devoid of life, yet frozen in a haunting expression of shock and disbelief. It was as if his soul had been ripped from his body, leaving behind only an empty shell.

We didn't need a maester to confirm what had transpired. As I cast my gaze upon the sleek black cat purring contentedly beside the lifeless form, I knew without a doubt who the perpetrator was. The feline had inadvertently caused the Queen's ally’s downfall, his untimely demise a result of a simple trip and fall.

The Small Council meeting that followed that night was nothing short of grim. We hadn't even had a chance to rest after the banquet when tragedy struck. The air was heavy with sorrow as we gathered, still dressed in our finest attire from the festivities just hours before. The loss of our Master of Whispers, Larys Strong, weighed heavily on everyone's minds, none more so than Lyonel Strong, the Hand of the King, who bore the anguish of a father who had just lost his son.

Beside me sat Grand Maester Mellos and Lord Jasper Wylde, their expressions solemn as they pored over the matter at hand. Across the table, Harwin Strong, whose eyes looked red from mourning his little brother’s decease, and Corlys Velaryon engaged in quiet conversation, heads bowed together in whispered discussion.

Our king, Viserys, looked weary and frustrated, his usually composed demeanor marred by the burden of grief and tiredness. The weariness etched in his features spoke volumes of his decaying health. He’s been suffering lately and nothing Grand Maetser Mellos does seems to work. Staying the whole night up and now this, was not good for his health.

As the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, my role was to observe and protect a silent sentinel amidst the turmoil. I scanned the room, noting the myriad emotions that played out on the faces of my comrades—grief, concern, and determination mingling in equal measure. In times like these, it was my duty to remain ever-vigilant, prepared to act at a moment's notice to safeguard the realm. My Queen would also be very interested in knowing what was discussed in the meeting now that she had lost her most trusted informant.

In the dimly lit chamber of the Small Council, Viserys's voice cut through the heavy atmosphere like a knife. "How did Larys Strong die? I want answers!"

Grand Maester Mellos, his brow furrowed with sorrow, stepped forward to address the king's inquiry. "It's a tragedy, Your Grace," he began, his voice heavy with regret. "As Ser Criston Cole had deduced, it appears Larys was tripped by a stray cat and fell down the stairs, breaking his neck."

A hiss of disbelief escaped Harwin's lips, his eyes flashing with anguish at the mention of his brother's untimely demise. Lyonel, his fists clenched tightly at his sides, trembled with raw emotion. "I can't believe this... My son... gone because of a damned cat..." His voice trailed off, choked with sorrow.

Corlys, ever the pragmatic voice among them, spoke up next. "If there's no foul play involved," he reasoned, his tone grave, "then there's nothing we can do. We should focus on preparing his funeral."

Viserys, his weariness etched deeply into the lines of his face, nodded solemnly, his gaze shifting to Lyonel with empathy. "Lyonel, take whatever time you need," he said softly, offering a gesture of compassion. "We'll handle matters here. Take a fortnight to mourn and arrange the funeral."

Lyonel, his eyes brimming with tears, nodded in acknowledgment, his gratitude evident despite the pain etched on his face. "Thank you, Your Grace," he murmured, his voice barely above a whisper. "I... I need some time to come to terms with this."

And just like that, when the first rays of the sun broke the following morning, on the twelfth moon of the year 118 After the Conquest, Lord Larys Strong, Master of Whispers, was announced dead.

Chapter 5: I Rhaenys’ P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 119 AC

"Your Majesty, Your Grace, Princess Rhaenys is here to see you," Ser Steffon Darklyn announced with a rap on the door of my cousin's chambers, where the King and Queen were enjoying their morning meal.

"Rhaenys? Let her in!" Viserys's voice called out eagerly from inside. With a respectful nod to me, Ser Steffon swung open the door, granting me entry.

As I stepped into the room, I noticed a slight furrow in my cousin's Andal Queen's brow as she rose to her feet to greet me. It was an unspoken rule of court decorum that if the King remained standing, so did everyone else, including the Queen. However, it also states that the King does not stand up or wait for anyone. I shook my head, my cousin never truly learned etiquette as he should, or how to behave as a strong king, which lead us to this meddlesome situation.

"Greetings, your Majesty, your Grace," I acknowledged them with a nod, maintaining the requisite level of respect without stooping to bow before an Andal. As a princess of old Valyria, I will bow to no Andal.

Viserys greeted me with a beaming smile, as he stood up to wrap his arms around me. “Rhaenys! It’s wonderful to see you back in King’s Landing, we’ve missed you.”

It was true that I’ve been away from King’s Landing for a while. But with Crolys having to remain in the Red Keep to help strengthen our son and his wife’s position in court and continue fulfilling his duties as the Master of Ships. Someone had to go back to Driftmark, to keep things under control. Gods know that even with Vaemond away in the Stepstones, there were enough Velaryons coveting the Driftmark Throne as it is. Maybe after seeing me rule the isle with no issue on my own, the whispers about Lucerys’ capacity to be the Lady of the Tides will be silenced.

It’s been five hard moons, but Crolys and I have been doing excellent work. The Velaryon court they’d brought from Driftmark had settled into the Red Keep quite smoothly, helping keep the Greens’ minions and spies at beck. With the bastardy rumors being silenced, and Rhaenyra and Leanor following Crolys advice, the Blacks influence at court has increased, while the Queen’s had decreased. It has levelled the playing field and influenced both factions.

All in front of Viserys, who seems completely blind to the political battle between his wife and heir. It left me speechless and wondering if my cousin learned anything in his decades as King of Westeros.

I settled into my seat as Viserys relaxed back into his own, joining the King and Queen at their meal. "What brings you to court?" Queen Alicent inquired, her expression as unreadable as ever.

"My uncle Boremund is aging, and as one of the few remaining lords who remembers my mother, I've been visiting him more frequently," I explained, a touch of sadness coloring my tone. "I hope to learn more about her, as I never had the chance to know her."

Viserys's expression brightened at my words. "Family is indeed important," he chimed in, nodding in agreement. "I'm glad to hear you're reaching out to your mother's house like that."

I fought the urge to roll my eyes at Viserys's sentimentality. Family important? This coming from a man who turned exiling his own brother into a pastime and neglects all but one of his children. He knows nothing of true familial bonds. Glancing discreetly at Queen Alicent, I could sense her discomfort.

If it weren't for her schemes to usurp my grandson's inheritance, I might have felt pity for her. If it weren't for the fact, she wanted to steal the inheritance from my grandson, I might have felt sorry for her. Trapped in a marriage to a man who could very well be her father, used by House Hightower as a breeding mule to put their blood on the throne, her children overlooked in favor of their half-sister—Queen Alicent's life was a tragic tale indeed.

"Right," I sighed softly, the weight of the conversation settling heavily upon me. "And so, after forging a close bond with House Baratheon, my uncle made a request of me. He asked for the honor of hosting my granddaughter and arranging a feast in celebration of her fourth nameday." Keeping my expression gentle and composed, I continued, "You see, my uncle held a deep affection for his sister, and seeing as Lucerys bears such a striking resemblance to my mother, he yearns to spend more time with her."

A profound silence followed my words, but to my surprise, it was not my cousin who broke it, but his wife. "You intend to take Princess Lucerys with you?" Her voice carried a note of concern, catching me off guard.

As I processed her unexpected reaction, realization dawned upon me. Despite Queen Alicent's disdain for Jacaerys and Joffrey, she held only admiration for Lucerys. My granddaughter had formed close friendships with the Queen's children, with Aemond imparting lessons on history, particularly about Old Valyria, and Helaena teaching her High Valyrian. It was not uncommon to find the two princesses sharing giggles and secrets in High Valyrian throughout the halls of the Red Keep.

Even the Queen herself had extended invitations to Lucerys, hosting tea parties in the garden and imparting lessons in embroidery. The bond between the young princess and the Queen's children had evidently touched a chord within Queen Alicent, softening her stance in a way I had not anticipated.

You'd think my granddaughter was another one of the Queen's brood, the way she dotes on her. It's one more reason why I can't bring myself to despise Queen Alicent entirely. After all, someone who loved and took care of my granddaughter like that, could not be all bad. Queen Alicent was but a child, playing an adult’s cruel game and being tugged in a different direction. At the end of the day, she did not think of it as a Hightower, or a Green. No, Queen Alicent thought of as a mother, putting her children’s safety first and furthermore. And for some reason, the Queen believes her children would be endangered if Rhaenyra were to ascend the throne. It's a concern that weighs heavily on her mind, pushing her to act in ways she might not otherwise consider.

But her worry now isn't solely about Lucerys' well-being. It's about the possibility of my taking her away from the Queen's influence. Everyone knows the Queen has been aiming to match her eldest son with her only daughter, and she's likely hoping for a similar match between Aemond and Lucerys. The thought of me whisking Lucerys off to Storm's End for a few moons doesn't sit well with her—it could disrupt their bond and put a spanner in her carefully laid plans.

Luckily, for her, she had nothing to worry about. As Crolys and I were also hoping for a match between her son and our granddaughter. But I'll keep that tidbit to myself for now. Let her stew in uncertainty for a while longer.

"Yes, and I was thinking of bringing Prince Aemond along," I added, catching them both off guard.

"My son?" Viserys asked, his surprise evident.

It took him a moment to realize who I was referring to, and I couldn't help but feel a pang of frustration. How could he forget his own son's name? I shot a glance at the Queen, who seemed to be restraining herself from giving Viserys a good smack. It was almost amusing to see her display a hint of fire beneath her typically demure exterior.

"Yes, your son," I replied, mustering a polite smile, though I couldn't muster much enthusiasm for Aemond. "I'd hate for Lucerys to be separated from her family completely. I might accompany her, but I won't always be able to be at her side. Besides, House Baratheon has extended an invitation for us to tour the Stormlands with them. It could be a valuable experience for them both."

Viserys nodded in agreement. "Yes, indeed."

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. It shouldn't be this effortless to sway a king. My cousin's gullibility was becoming increasingly exasperating.

"But why Aemond?" The Queen's tone was sharp, tinged with a hint of frustration. I could sense her conflicting emotions—glad that Aemond would be there to keep Lucerys company, yet unhappy about her son being taken away for an extended period.

"Well, Prince Aemond is the closest in age among her uncles here in King's Landing, so Lucerys won't feel lonely," I explained, trying to ease the Queen's concerns. "Joff is still a babe, and Jace is busy with his lessons as Rhaenyra's heir."

"Exactly," Viserys chimed in, nodding in agreement. "Jace has his responsibilities, and Lucerys isn't particularly close to Aegon, while Helaena..." He trailed off, a hint of discomfort flickering across his features.

I noticed the Queen shooting a pointed glare at the King, who remained oblivious to her silent reproach. I couldn't blame her—no father should casually refer to his daughter as "sensitive." Helaena already struggled to find her place in the world, and such remarks from her own father only added to her challenges.

"Aemond is the logical choice, especially considering how close he and Lucerys have become since Arrax hatched and Lucerys claimed Ghost," Viserys continued, a fond smile playing on his lips. "If Lucerys were any older, I'm sure she'd be taking Aemond on flights every day on Ghost!"

I could sense the Queen's internal struggle, caught between her desire to provide opportunities for her son Aemond and the reluctance to let him go. It was evident that she wanted to protest, yet she hesitated, unwilling to deprive Aemond of such a rare chance. After all, my cousin Viserys was hardly one to arrange such adventures for his own sons, and the Queen's influence only stretched so far within the confines of the Red Keep.

The prospect of traveling beyond the familiar walls of King's Landing would undoubtedly be a dream come true for Aemond, offering him the chance to forge a deeper bond with Lucerys. It was a win-win situation for her son, a chance for growth and adventure that couldn't be overlooked.

However, the realization that two of her children would be absent from her side seemed to weigh heavily on the Queen's mind. With Aemond and Lucerys off on their journey, she would be left with just one son and daughter by her side—a thought that undoubtedly stirred up a mix of emotions within her.

"Though I can empathize with the Queen's concerns," I remarked, with fake sympathy. “Having two of her sons gone from home when they are still so young, I cannot start to imagine what she is going through.”

Viserys's sudden attention to his wife's plight suggested that perhaps he hadn't fully grasped the extent of her worry. It was as if he'd momentarily forgotten about Daeron, their youngest son, who had been sent away from King's Landing at a mere three name days old. A sad state of affairs for the forgotten prince.

"Perhaps it's time to bring Prince Daeron back to King's Landing," I suggested, breaking the surprised silence that followed. The King and Queen turned to me, their expressions a mix of astonishment and curiosity.

"It wouldn't do well for the Queen to have both her sons absent for too long," I continued, noting the subtle shift in the Queen's demeanor. "And keeping a prince fostering in one place for an extended period might raise eyebrows and invite accusations of favoritism from other noble houses."

As I spoke, I could sense Queen Alicent's suspicion growing, tempered only slightly by a hint of gratitude. She seemed torn, caught between appreciation for my apparent concern and a lingering uncertainty about my motives.

"In addition," I pressed on, "Prince Daeron needs to begin bonding with his dragon, Tessarion, and delve into his House's Valyrian heritage. It wouldn't be prudent for him to continue his education in Old Town, away from the resources and guidance available here."

Viserys's decisive proclamation broke the tension that hung in the air. "Then it's settled," he declared firmly. "Daeron will return to King's Landing, and Aemond will accompany Rhaenys and Lucerys on their journey to Storm's End."

"An excellent decision, Your Majesty," I remarked, offering a deferential bow while concealing a smug satisfaction behind my cup.

Queen Alicent's conflicted expression spoke volumes—gratitude mingled with perplexity, as she struggled to grasp my motivations. It was a delicate balance, one that left her uncertain about where my loyalties truly lay. Just as I had planned.

As I made my way down the hallway outside the King's chambers, lost in my own thoughts, I felt a sudden presence behind me. Turning around, I found myself face to face with Queen Alicent, her expression guarded and probing.

"What was all that about?" she asked, her tone laced with suspicion. I could tell she was trying to unravel the mystery of my conversation with the King and Rhaenys.

Taking a moment to compose myself, I met her gaze with a calm demeanor. "Just ensuring that everyone gets what they want," I replied, keeping my tone neutral.

I leaned against the ornate marble wall, my gaze meeting Alicent's with a steady confidence that belied the uncertainty swirling within. The dimly lit corridor cast shadows across our faces, adding a layer of solemnity to our conversation.

"Your Grace, I understand you have some questions about my recent decisions," I continued, my voice soft but resolute.

Alicent's expression was a mix of curiosity and suspicion as she regarded me. "Yes, I must admit, I'm curious about your sudden interest in fostering a bond between Aemond and Lucerys."

"It's quite simple, really. I believe it's important for our family to come together, especially in times of uncertainty." I told her half-truths, I might plan to turn her to the Black’s side but trusting her too much from the start will do me no good.

Alicent's brow furrowed in contemplation. "But why now? What prompted this sudden change of heart?"

I took a moment to gather my thoughts before responding. "Well, for one, I've arranged for Prince Daeron to return home. And as for Aemond accompanying Lucerys to Storm's End, it presents a unique opportunity for them to grow closer."

The flickering torchlight danced across our faces, casting fleeting shadows that mirrored the uncertainty of our conversation. Alicent's eyes narrowed slightly as she considered my words. "I see... It's an interesting proposition."

I sensed a shift in Alicent's demeanor, a subtle thawing of the skepticism that had clouded our interaction. "Indeed," I replied, my tone measured yet hopeful. "I believe it could benefit us all in the long run."

Alicent nodded thoughtfully, her expression thoughtful. "I suppose it's worth considering. Thank you for explaining, Princess Rhaenys."

With a gentle smile, I inclined my head in acknowledgment. "Of course, Your Grace. Family is important to me, and I only want what's best for all of us."

As we parted ways, I couldn't help but feel a sense of accomplishment, knowing that my actions had set the stage for a brighter future for my family.

Chapter 6: I Aemond's P.O.V

Chapter Text

Stormlands, Storm’s End – 119 AC

Girls are annoying. That is an irrefutable fact that no one will ever be able to make me change my mind about it. I have no idea why Aegon has been so obsessed with them lately, they are harpies that I am 100% sure only want to feast on your blood.

Though there are two exceptions to that rule: my sister Helaena and my dear Lucerys. I've only been in Storm's End for a fortnight, and I'm already tempted to feed Lord Borros' daughters to Arrax! Well, not really, considering Arrax is still just a hatchling. Maybe when he's big enough, I'll consider it. As for now, I could always offer Cassandra, Ellyn, and Maris as a snack for Ghost. Not that my Lucy would ever allow it. After all, they're her kin. But I think that if I am convincing enough, maybe my Lucerys will turn a blind eye this time.

It's a shame, really. When Mother told me I'd be accompanying Princess Rhaenys and my Lucerys to the Stormlands, I was ecstatic. I've never ventured beyond the walls of King's Landing before. One of the reasons I yearned for a dragon was the freedom to explore Westeros without any hindrance. So, the opportunity to journey to Storm's End was a dream come true. And what better reason for an adventure than to celebrate the day my Lucerys entered the world!

My mother was adamant about polishing my manners and heeding Princess Rhaenys' instructions. She even assigned Ser Arryk Cargyll to accompany me, pledging his allegiance to be my Sword Shield. It was a comforting thought, knowing that a member of the Kingsguard was sworn to protect me. Ser Erryk Cargyll, his twin, did the same for my dear Lucerys. I couldn't help but grin with satisfaction.

We matched!

Promising to uphold my best behavior, I assured my mother that I'd return with souvenirs for her and Helaena. She rewarded me with a tender kiss on the forehead before sending me off. It was bittersweet, knowing I wouldn't be staying longer, especially with Daeron scheduled to arrive in King's Landing a fortnight later. I've missed my little brother dearly, and the thought of reuniting with him filled me with joy. Well, it does not matter now, I will simply have to see them when I get back from the Stormlands.

Princess Rhaenys went above and beyond to ensure our journey was memorable. She had an entire wardrobe prepared for Lucerys and me, featuring a delightful array of colors—Baratheon Gold, Targaryen Red, Velaryon Teal, and shades of silver to accentuate our attire. Intricate designs of dragons and seahorses adorned the fabric, adding a regal touch that made me feel like a true prince. While I appreciated the effort and craftsmanship of the clothes my mother prepared for me, I couldn't help but yearn for a break from the endless greens I had grown accustomed to. Nevertheless, it was gratifying to finally wear our house's emblem and colors, even if black was notably absent from our garments.

What I liked the most about it was the fact that my Lucerys made sure to match our wardrobe for each special event. Like for the reception banquet in Evenfall Hall, seat of House Tarth. The first stop on our tour through the Stormlands. Lucerys decided that we should both don Velaryon-teal attire, accented with elegant white and silver accessories. As we took our seats at the high table, I couldn't help but bask in the honor and recognition bestowed upon us.

Unlike my father, who seldom acknowledges our existence, Princess Rhaenys treated us with utmost kindness and respect, making us feel valued and appreciated. I might be a prince, but my father rarely pays us any attention or threw banquets in our honor. I do not believe I’ve exchanged many words with the King. Not that I minded, I have my mother, my sister, my Arrax, and my Lucerys, that is all I will ever need.

The night was meant to be a celebration, not just for Princess Rhaenys, but for Lucerys and me as well. Flying on Meleys, spending each day in the company of my dearest Lucerys, and receiving lessons from the skilled dragonrider, Princess Rhaenys—it was a dream come true. What more could a boy ask for?

However, amidst the festivities of the first banquet, a challenge presented itself: Brienne Tarth. The girl seemed relentless, trailing after me throughout the evening and persistently asking me to dance. As if I would even consider dancing with anyone other than my beloved Lucerys! To make matters worse, Brienne's older brother, Selwyn Tarth, was also vying for my beautiful pearl's attention. I found myself tethered to the dance floor, holding onto Lucerys tightly to fend off any unwanted advances. After all, nothing could come between us—not even pesky flies like Brienne and Selwyn.

The problem persisted as we arrived at Storm's End, the grand fortress of House Baratheon. On this occasion, my Lucerys had chosen a coordinated ensemble of Baratheon gold and Targaryen red for us. However, Princess Rhaenys ensured the shades were precisely matched, sparing us from the embarrassment of resembling the children of House Lannister by mistake.

The welcome banquet, undoubtedly held in honor of my Lucerys's fourth nameday, took center stage. Even Princess Rhaenys, Lord Boremund's niece, seemed to fade into the background as all attention turned to my precious Lucerys. Not that I minded—any occasion to celebrate my dear Lucerys was a cause for joy in my eyes.

Amidst the festivities, whispers among the older servants caught my attention. They spoke of my Lucerys as if he were the reincarnation of Lady Jocelyn herself. Curious, I inquired about Lady Jocelyn's identity, learning that she was Lord Boremund's sister, the daughter of Queen Alyssa, wife of Prince Aemon, and mother of Princess Rhaenys. It became clear why Lord Boremund held such affection for my niece—my Lucerys was the striking image of his beloved sister.

Throughout the entire nameday celebration, I found myself dodging the advances of Borros's three daughters—Cassandra, Ellyn, and Maris. Their persistent pursuit was nothing short of bothersome! It seemed they harbored fantasies of marrying a prince and ascending to princesshood, akin to their grandaunt. As if such a notion held any appeal to me! The very idea of anyone other than my beloved Lucerys was preposterous. My niece was a dragon, a princess in her own right. The only reason Jocelyn Baratheon had wed Prince Aemon was her Velaryon lineage!

Thus, once again, I was compelled to spend the entire night on the dance floor with my Lucerys, warding off unwanted attention. Thankfully, this time, House Baratheon had no sons to pester my cherished pearl. While I typically found dancing a tiresome endeavor, witnessing my niece's radiant smile as we twirled about filled me with unexpected fondness for the activity. Moreover, the undivided attention she bestowed upon me throughout the night was a considerable bonus.

As the evening drew to a close, I presented her with her nameday gift—a Velaryon-silver brooch fashioned in the likeness of a dragon, with delicate pearls serving as its eyes. The joy reflected in her smile made every golden dragon I painstakingly saved for the purchase worthwhile.

If only the rest of our stay in Storm’s End had been as smooth sailing as the nameday festivities! Thankfully, my Lucerys quickly hit it off with Maris and Ellyn Baratheon, which meant I didn't have to bear the weight of their constant presence. Instead of clinging to my side, they happily kept my niece entertained, granting me some much-needed breathing room.

As our fortnight stay in Storm’s End came to an end, Princess Rhaenys pulled off a major success. She orchestrated marriages between Selwyn Tarth and Maris Baratheon, securing Maris's future as Lady of Evenfall Hall, and Ralph Buckler and Ellyn Baratheon, guaranteeing Ellyn's role as Lady of Bronzegate. The discussions between Lord Robert Tarth, Lord Stannis Buckler, and Lord Borros Baratheon were met with a palpable sense of relief, as Borros realized his daughters' bright futures were assured.

With House Baratheon set to join us on our journey through the Stormlands, I breathed a sigh of relief, hoping to avoid a repeat of their previous habit of following me around like eager puppies. With Maris and Ellyn's destinies now sealed, I could finally bid adieu to the relentless pestering about becoming my princess. It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

Unfortunately, Cassandra Baratheon was still a whole other problem. She was stubborn and no matter how many times I turned her advances down, she did not give up. The only reason why I did not shame her as she deserved, was the fact that I promised my mother to be on my best behavior and to show Princess Rhaenys the respect she deserved. And shaming her mother’s house was not the way to fulfill that promise.

Which is why, I found myself tucked away in a forgotten waiting room, seeking refuge from Cassandra's relentless pursuit. It was a cramped space, filled with dusty furniture and cobwebs clinging to the corners. As I pressed myself against the wall, I heard the creak of the door and the hushed voices of Princess Rhaenys and Lord Borros. Panic seized me as I realized that this waiting room might not have been as desolate as I had once expected. With no time to find another hiding spot, I squeezed myself into a nearby cupboard, hoping against hope that I would go unnoticed.

From my cramped vantage point, I strained to hear their conversation, my heart pounding in my chest. I listened intently, as Lord Borros spoke up. "Princess Rhaenys, I'm afraid the Dornish Marches are stirring once more. There have been reports of increased activity along our borders, and I fear they may be preparing for an incursion into the Stormlands."

"I see...” Princess Rhaenys hummed. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Lord Borros. We cannot afford to ignore such a threat."

My heart quickened at the gravity of their discussion. The weight of their words hung heavy in the air, and my heart quickened with apprehension. The thought of conflict brewing so close to home filled me with a sense of dread.

"What do you suggest, Princess?" Lord Borros asked.

"I propose we pay a visit to Blackhaven, home of House Dondarrion. The sight of a dragon soaring over their lands might be enough to give the Dornish pause." I couldn't help but feel a surge of admiration. Princess Rhaenys was always so quick to think on her feet, to find solutions in the face of adversity.

Yet, beneath my admiration for her resourcefulness, a flicker of fear lingered. What if our visit only served to escalate tensions further?

"A dragon's presence may indeed serve as a deterrent. Very well, Princess. Let us proceed with caution." Lord Borros agreed, before leaving the waiting room.

I was so immersed in my thoughts, that I did not even notice when Princess Rhaenys spoke up again. "Aemond, I know you're here."

I froze in the cupboard, heart racing. "Uh... Princess Rhaenys?"

"Yes, it's me. You can come out now, Aemond." Princess Rhaenys chuckled gently.

I emerged from the cupboard, feeling a mix of relief and embarrassment. "Sorry, Princess Rhaenys. I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I was just trying to avoid Cassandra."

Princess Rhaenys placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. "I understand, Aemond. Cassandra can be... persistent."

"That's putting it mildly,” I nodded in agreement. “But what were you and Lord Borros talking about?"

"Troubling news, I'm afraid. Lord Borros informed me about the Dornish Marches lurking close to the Stormlands." Princess Rhaenys sighed softly.

My eyes widening in concern, I had hoped I had heard wrong. "The Dornish Marches? What should we do?"

Princess Rhaenys gentle rubbed my arm in a calming manner. "We need to be cautious. But for now, Lucerys asked me to take you flying on Meleys while she distracts Cassandra."

My eyes lit up with excitement. "Flying on Meleys? That sounds amazing!" With Princess Rhaenys's guidance, I followed her out of the waiting room, my earlier worries momentarily forgotten in the anticipation of an exhilarating flight on Meleys. I turned to her curiously, before asking. "How did you know I was hiding from Cassandra in that waiting room?"

"Well, Lord Borros might have only daughters, but I've raised two dragons. I know how Targaryens behave. I was already walking towards the waiting room, when Lord Borros caught up to me and requested a conversation." Princess Rhaenys smiled knowingly. “But don't worry, I've already spoken to Lord Borros. He'll have a word with Cassandra about her behavior as the daughter of a future Lord Paramount."

As Princess Rhaenys lead me outside to where Meleys, Arrax, and Ghost are waiting, I can't help but feel a surge of excitement. Arrax chirpped eagerly as I approached, and I can't resist cooing back at him. This hatchling was mine! I finally had a dragon, and I could not be happier. It was all thanks to my beloved Lucerys. My niece was truly a gift from the Gods.

Once I was finally able to part ways with Arrax, I climbed up behind Princess Rhaenys onto Meleys. I felt a rush of adrenaline as the powerful creature took to the skies. The wind rushed past us, whipping through my hair, and for a moment, all my worries and troubles melted away. It's just me, Princess Rhaenys, and the boundless expanse of the sky stretching out before us.

As we soared higher and higher, I began to relax, letting go of my earlier anxieties. I trusted Princess Rhaenys implicitly, knowing that she's a seasoned dragonrider who knew what she's doing. With her at the reins, I felt safe and free, able to enjoy the exhilarating sensation of flight without fear.

Gazing down at the world below, I marvel at the breathtaking scenery unfolding beneath us. The Stormlands stretched out in all directions, a patchwork of green fields, rolling hills, and rugged coastline. It's a sight unlike anything I've ever seen before, and for a moment, I felt like I'm soaring above the troubles of the world, untethered and weightless.

As we glide through the air, I feel a sense of peace settle over me, a calmness born of the knowledge that I'm in good hands. With Princess Rhaenys by my side and the wind in my hair, I couldn't imagine a more perfect moment.

Chapter 7: I Borros’ P.O.V

Chapter Text

Dornish Marches, Blackhaven – 119 AC

The journey from Bronzegate to Felwood was a lively affair, with our whole group marching together through the verdant countryside of the Stormlands. Princess Lucerys and Prince Aemond, ever the energetic pair, led the way with my cousin Rhaenys close behind, her dragon Meleys soaring gracefully overhead, being joined by Ghost when we reached Felwood, the seat of House Fell. The fortnight ahead promised to be filled with celebrations and merriment. House Fell welcomed us with open arms, eager to celebrate the betrothals of Maris and Ellyn to their respective suitors.

For me, seeing the joy on my daughters' faces as they were celebrated and honored filled me with a deep sense of happiness. Some might say that as a lord, I do not appreciate my daughters. That simply because I yearn for sons to carry on my legacy, I am disappointed on my four storms. But they would be mistaken. My daughters were my pride and joy and seeing them find security in honorable houses filled my heart with contentment.

As the festivities unfolded in Felwood, amidst the laughter and music, my thoughts occasionally turned to the matter of my eldest daughter, Cassandra. There had been whispers among the courtiers, speculating about a potential match between her and Prince Aemond. At first, I entertained the idea, hoping to secure a prestigious alliance for my daughter. However, as the days passed and I observed the interactions between the young prince and Princess Lucerys, I began to have doubts.

Princess Rhaenys, ever perceptive, had warned me of Cassandra's persistent advances towards Prince Aemond. That no lady should behave the way my eldest child was. Her words stirred a sense of unease within me, prompting me to reconsider my plans. Despite my initial ambitions, I knew that pressing the matter further could risk damaging the delicate ties between our houses.

I may not possess the scholarly wisdom of maesters, nor the eloquence of courtiers, but I am not blind to the truths that lie before me. There was a palpable connection between Prince Aemond and Princess Lucerys, a bond that seemed to transcend words and logic. The blood of the dragon flowed strong within them, drawing them together with an undeniable magnetism.

Realizing this, I resolved to step back from my pursuit of a match between Cassandra and Prince Aemond. Instead, I reassured Cassandra that I would explore other promising matches for her, ones that would secure her future and honor our house. Perhaps a union with Prince Daeron or Prince Aegon would prove auspicious, cementing our ties with other noble houses and ensuring Cassandra's future. Cassandra moped during our journey to Felwood, but when the festivities started, she seemed to forget all about her anger at not getting what she had wanted.

With that settled, we could enjoy the festivities with no issue. Throughout the fortnight, we feasted and danced, reveling in the bonds of friendship and kinship that united our houses. And as I looked around at the smiling faces of my daughters and their betrothed, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the blessings bestowed upon House Baratheon.

Later as our party made its way towards Blackhaven, nestled deep within the rugged Marchlands, a sense of tension hung heavy in the air. Though the children remained blissfully unaware, I couldn't shake the unease that gnawed at my gut. The recent reports of Dornish activity near the Stormlands had put everyone on edge, me included. I made sure to keep House Baratheon's guards close, always stationing them around my wife and daughters. The safety of my family was paramount, and I would not take any chances, especially with the looming threat of the Dornish Marches lurking nearby. Glancing over at my cousin Rhaenys, I observed her taking similar precautions with Princess Lucerys and Prince Aemond.

Truth be told, the constant meddling of the Dornishmen was beginning to wear on my patience. Their incessant provocations and encroachments upon our lands stirred a deep-seated frustration within me. If I dared to admit it, a part of me wished for the crown to take decisive action, to put an end to Dornish aggression once and for all. But such thoughts were fraught with complexity and danger, and I knew better than to entertain them lightly. The delicate balance of power in the realm hung in the balance, and any misstep could have dire consequences for us all. Especially since the realm had only just come out from war with the Triarchy at the Stepstones.

As we continued our journey towards Blackhaven, I resolved to keep a watchful eye and remain vigilant against any potential threats. The safety of the Stormlands and the honor of House Baratheon demanded nothing less. When we finally arrived at Blackhaven, Lord Dondarrion greeted us with the customary respect befitting our station. His bow was gracious, his demeanor welcoming, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride at the warm reception of my countryman. Lord Dondarrion wasted no time in seeing to our comfort, escorting us to our chambers with a courtesy that spoke volumes of his hospitality. The chambers were spacious and well-appointed.

Later, as the evening drew near, Lord Dondarrion hosted a lavish banquet in our honor, a gesture that did not go unnoticed. The hall was adorned with banners and torches, casting a warm glow over the festivities. The banners of House Dondarrion, House Baratheon, House Targaryen, and House Velaryon stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a vibrant tableau of heraldic splendor.

At the forefront, the banner of House Dondarrion commanded attention with its striking emblem: forked purple lightning streaking across a field of deep black, punctuated by four-pointed stars. Beside it, the banner of my house unfurled proudly, depicting a regal crowned stag in bold black against a backdrop of gleaming gold. Adjacent to the Baratheon banner, the banner of House Targaryen billowed majestically, bearing the fearsome image of a red three-headed dragon soaring against a midnight black background. Completing the tableau, the banner of House Velaryon stood tall, displaying a graceful silver seahorse against a backdrop of serene sea green.

I couldn't help but notice Prince Aemond's attentive demeanor towards Princess Lucerys during the banquet. Midway through the revelry, he quietly escorted her back to her chambers, a gesture of chivalry that spoke volumes of his character. It wasn't surprising, really. With the flurry of festivities, we'd been experiencing lately, it was only natural for the young princess to grow weary. Still, it only proved my decision to warn my daughter as the right one, as it was clear to see the genuine concern and care that Prince Aemond showed towards his niece.

As the night wore on and the celebrations came to an end, after bidding farewell to the girls and entrusting them to the capable hands of Elenda, I joined Princess Rhaenys in Lord Dondarrion's office. I looked around the grand chamber of Blackhaven, my gaze sweeping over the intricate tapestries adorning the stone walls and the flickering torches casting dancing shadows across the room. The gravity of the situation weighed heavily upon us as we discussed the border disputes plaguing the Marches.

"Lord Dondarrion, I must extend my gratitude for your generous hospitality. Your welcome warms our hearts," I spoke with sincerity, my voice echoing softly in the vast space. I might not be the most well-spoken lord out there, but my father has beaten some lessons into me, which only were refined by the gentle touch of my wife.

"It's an honor to have esteemed guests such as yourselves within our walls, Lord Baratheon, Princess Rhaenys," Lord Dondarrion stood tall and resolute, his weathered face betraying a sense of solemn determination. "We face a common foe, and unity is our greatest strength."

Princess Rhaenys, her amethyst eyes sparkling with unwavering resolve, nodded in agreement. "Indeed, Lord Dondarrion. We've journeyed here to offer our support in these troubled times," she affirmed, her voice steady and unwavering.

I returned the nod, my expression reflecting the seriousness of the situation. "Absolutely. With the combined guard squads, we’ve brought with us and House Dondarrion's army, we stand ready to defend the Marches against the Dornish.”

Lord Dondarrion's eyes softened slightly at my words, a hint of gratitude shining through his stoic demeanor. "Your solidarity is deeply appreciated, my lord and princess," he acknowledged, his tone tinged with sincerity. "The situation grows increasingly dire with each passing day."

My cousin leaned forward, her demeanor poised and determined. "That's precisely why we're here, Lord Dondarrion," she explained, her words carrying a sense of urgency. "We propose a bold display of power, a demonstration of the dragon's strength to dissuade further aggression. Seeing me fly around on my Red Queen should be enough to scare those cravens back to their desert!"

Lord Dondarrion’s brow furrowed in contemplation, his mind already strategizing the potential risks and rewards of such a plan. "Aye, it's a daring plan. But we must be prepared for any reprisals," he cautioned, his voice grave with concern. “The Dornish are cunning adversaries, and they won't yield easily," he admitted, his tone reflecting the gravity of the situation.

I squared my shoulders, my resolve unwavering. "We'll maintain vigilance. With two dragons and the watchful eyes of two Kingsguards, we'll stand firm against any threat."

"Let us hope that it never comes to that. But should the need arise, we shall meet it with resolve and determination," Princess Rhaenys offered a reassuring smile, her confidence unwavering.

As I surveyed the bustling camp, a sense of relief washed over me. Five days had passed since our crucial meeting with Lord Dondarrion, and the tension in the air had gradually dissipated. Princess Rhaenys's daily flights atop her majestic dragon, Meleys, had served as a formidable deterrent to any potential Dornish incursions. Lord Dondarrion's spies had confirmed our suspicions: the Dornishmen had retreated back to their homeland, at least for the time being.

With satisfaction and feeling confident we all decided to celebrate with a hunt. The air was alive with anticipation as we started roasting the game that we had just hunted. As the sun began its descent toward the horizon, casting a warm golden glow over the camp, I couldn't help but smile as I observed the lively scene before me. My wife, Elenda, engaged in animated conversation with Princess Rhaenys, their laughter echoing through the clearing. Prince Aemond, ever the stalwart pupil, trained diligently with his Kingsguard, their swords flashing in the fading light. His determination was palpable, he will make a fearsome knight when he grows up, maybe as good as his uncle, The Rogue Prince. Meanwhile, my daughters, Cassandra, Maris, and Ellyn, giggled as they darted around, playing a spirited game of hide and seek. I watched them with a fond smile, grateful for the watchful eyes of the Baratheon guards who kept them safe.

However, as I sat quietly near the edge of the camp, my gaze wandering over the flickering flames of the fire as I savored the brief respite from the day's events, he was taken aback, when lost in his thoughts, Princess Lucerys approached, with her Kingsguard trailing behind, she offered a bright smile that seemed to light up the dimming evening.

"Lord Borros!" Lucerys chirped, her voice carrying a hint of excitement. She then handed me a cup of ale, which I took a large gulp from with great pleasure. "Maris told me how smart she is. I want to be smart like her when I learn my letters!"

My expression was guarded but not unkind, I never did well at treating children, leaving the rearing of our daughters to Eledna. But she was royalty and most importantly blood, I could not simply ignore her. "Thank you, Princess Lucerys," I replied, my voice measured. "Maris is indeed clever."

Lucerys nodded eagerly, her eyes wide with enthusiasm. "She taught me about House Baratheon! Did you know Orys fought with Queen Visenya? She made him a lord!"

I nodded, my interest piqued by the young princess's curiosity. "Yes, Orys Baratheon was a... significant figure in our history."

Lucerys beamed, her face alight with admiration. "I think Orys was amazing! Not many men respect women like he did, right, Lord Borros?"

I blinked in surprise at the directness of her observation, my reservation momentarily caught off guard. "Thank you, Princess Lucerys," I replied, choosing my words carefully. "It is... important to show respect to all."

Lucerys nodded, seemingly satisfied with my response. "You're nice, Lord Borros," she chirped brightly.

I offered a faint smile, touched by her innocence. "Thank you, Princess Lucerys. Your presence is... welcomed."

As the conversation continued, I found myself drawn into the simplicity of Lucerys's worldview, a refreshing contrast to the complexities of my own responsibilities. Despite my reservations, I couldn't help but feel a sense of warmth in the young princess's presence. However, I also found myself lost in the depths of my ruminations, Lucerys's innocent words spoke the truth, a truth that struck deeper than I had anticipated. House Baratheon owed much of its legacy to the strength and wisdom of women like Queen Visenya and Argella Baratheon. They were the architects of our fate, the pillars upon which our house stood.

As I pondered Lucerys's words, a wave of uncertainty washed over me. Who should I support in the brewing conflict between Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Aegon? The answer eluded me, obscured by the tangled webs of duty and tradition. After all, it was Queen Visenya who bestowed the title of Lord Paramount upon Orys Baratheon, not by virtue of his gender, but by his valor and loyalty.

Glancing at my wife, Eledna, and my cousin, Princess Rhaenys, I couldn't help but feel a pang of remorse. They were formidable women, their intellect and cunning unmatched by any man. Yet, my relentless pursuit of a male heir had strained my relationship with Eledna, eroding the bond we once shared. How could I have been so blind to the strength that lay within her, within all women?

The flickering firelight danced across their faces, casting shadows of doubt and regret upon my weary soul. Was having a son truly preferable to having a daughter? The question echoed in the recesses of my mind, unanswered and haunting.

As I pondered my decisions, the tranquility of the moment shattered abruptly. An injured guard, his armor stained with blood and his voice wrought with desperation, came rushing towards us, his urgent cries rending the air.

"Lord Borros!" he exclaimed, his words punctuated by gasps for breath. "They've taken your daughters! The Dornishmen... they ambushed us... took them captive!"

As chaos erupted around me, the world seemed to blur into a frenzied cacophony of screams and shouts. My heart clenched with a vice-like grip as the harrowing news reached my ears like a thunderbolt. Three of my beloved daughters, torn from safety's embrace by the merciless hands of our enemies. The mere thought of my daughters falling into the hands of those cravens sent a chill down my spine, my worst fears realized in an instant.

I could hear Eledna's anguished cries pierce the air, she crumbled, her body shaking with the weight of unbearable grief. I longed to offer her solace, to shield her from the relentless onslaught of agony, but my own anguish threatened to consume me whole.

Time ceased to have meaning as I stood there, numb and paralyzed by the magnitude of our loss. The world around me faded into insignificance, leaving only the haunting image of the dying guard etched into my mind's eye. How long had I been standing there, lost in the depths of my despair? I could not say.

When awareness returned, I found myself astride a horse, surrounded by a sea of grim-faced knights. The air was thick with tension, the scent of blood and smoke hanging heavy upon the breeze. My gaze fell upon the scorched earth, the charred remains of what had once been men.

A surge of fury ignited within me, fueled by the searing pain of uncertainty. Were my daughters among those lifeless forms, their innocent souls extinguished by the fires? The thought sent a shiver down my spine, a cold dread that threatened to engulf me whole. Did my daughters perish while they believed I favored a son over them? The question echoed in the recesses of my mind, a relentless torment that gnawed at my soul. Guilt washed over me like a suffocating wave, drowning me in a sea of remorse and regret.

The only thing that seemed to snap me back into reason was the sight of Princess Lucerys' dragon, Ghost, looming over them sent a shiver down my spine, its silent gaze piercing through the chaos that surrounded us. It was as though the very air had turned frigid, thick with tension and foreboding.

My trembling hands clenched into the reigns as Ghost unfurled his wing, revealing the huddled figures of my daughters beneath its shadow. Maris and Ellyn, tears streaming down their faces, clung to each other in fear, their sobs echoing in the night. But it was Cassandra, my eldest daughter, who held my gaze with an intensity that made my blood run cold. In her hands, she gripped a dagger with a steely determination, her eyes ablaze with defiance as she faced down a squad of my own soldiers.

In that moment, something within me shifted, as if the veil of my own misconceptions had been lifted. I saw Cassandra not as a mere pawn in the game of inheritance, but as a true daughter of House Baratheon—proud, resilient, and unyielding. No longer did I cling to the antiquated notion that only a son could inherit, for in Cassandra, I saw the very essence of Visenya and Argella's legacy coursing through her veins. She was a warrior in her own right, a fierce and formidable heiress who would stop at nothing to defend her family and her home.

With a newfound clarity, I made a silent vow to myself in that moment. Cassandra would be my legacy, my chosen successor to carry forth the proud tradition of House Baratheon. And as I looked upon her now, poised, and resolute, I knew without a doubt that she would make us all proud.

As we bid farewell to House Dondarrion, their gratitude ringing hollow. Gratitude mingled with guilt, relief tainted by sorrow. The journey back to Storm's End was a blur of chaos and relief, each passing moment weighed down by the heavy burden of uncertainty and fear. Eledna remained steadfast at my side, her grip firm and unyielding as she clung to our daughters with a fierce protectiveness that mirrored my own. Her eyes, haunted by the horrors of what could have been.

Princess Lucerys' words brought a bit of comfort in the midst of all the chaos. She said, "I just asked Ghost to look after my cousins. I don’t know what really happened, but I am glad they are safe." Her voice was gentle, and she looked genuinely innocent.

Hearing her explanation, I felt a strange mix of relief and sadness. It was good to know that such a kind-hearted girl like her was shielded from the harsh truths of the world. But at the same time, it weighed heavily on me that her innocent command had led to so much destruction. I swallowed hard, the bitter taste of remorse lingering on my tongue as I grappled with the weight of her unwitting influence. She was but a child, innocent and pure, and yet her actions had sparked a chain of events that would forever alter the course of our lives.

Yet amidst the turmoil and uncertainty, one truth remained steadfast in my mind. House Baratheon owed a debt of gratitude to House Velaryon, a debt that could never be fully repaid. And in that debt, I found a renewed sense of purpose, Princess Rhaenyra will have the swords of House Baratheon to defend her claim.

As the towering walls of Storm's End loomed into view, a wave of relief washed over me, the familiar embrace of home offering solace in the face of uncertainty. Behind those sturdy walls, amidst the familiar comforts of hearth and home, we could finally find true security.

My cousin smirked when I made my request for a royal decree from the king, allowing my firstborn daughter to inherit Storm’s End after me. With her usual wit, she advised me on the importance of allowing my daughters to meet and bond with their future spouses before marriage, a notion I hadn't considered before. It made sense, and I couldn't help but appreciate her insight.

In her generous nature, she even offered to have Selwyn Tarth and Ralph Buckler squire for her son when they came of age. Additionally, she suggested sending Maris and Ellyn to serve as ladies-in-waiting for her granddaughter. The idea struck me as both practical and strategic. By fostering these connections early on, they would grow up knowing each other, laying the groundwork for potential alliances forged through friendship, if not love.

As I listened to her proposals, I felt a sense of gratitude toward Princess Rhaenys. Her willingness to extend such offers not only showed her generosity but also her understanding of the intricacies of noble politics. It was clear that she had my daughters' best interests at heart, and her guidance was invaluable in navigating the complexities of their futures.

With a nod of appreciation, I accepted her suggestions, feeling reassured that my daughters would be well taken care of under her watchful eye. It was a weight off my shoulders to know that they would have such influential allies in their corner as they embarked on their journeys into adulthood.

A moon later, a scroll arrived bearing the royal decree from the King, officially declaring Cassandra as the heiress to Storm’s End, regardless of any future sons born to Eledna and me. Though the possibility of a son seemed distant and uncertain, the decree brought a sense of finality and assurance to our family's future.

As my maester read through the decree, I couldn't help but feel a surge of pride and relief wash over me. The weight of responsibility lifted from my shoulders, replaced by a profound sense of certainty that I had made the right decision. Eledna's radiant smile mirrored Cassandra's, both filled with joy and gratitude for the acknowledgment of Cassandra's rightful place as the future Lady Paramount of the Stormlands.

In that moment, as I looked upon my wife and daughter, I knew that our family's legacy was secure. Despite the uncertainties and challenges that lay ahead, we could face them with confidence, knowing that the foundation of House Baratheon had been fortified for generations to come.

Chapter 8: I Daemon's P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, Red Keep – 120 AC

I sighed heavily, just a moon ago I had been reveling in the freedom of the Stepstones with my beloved family, cherishing the tranquility and solace they had found on Bloodstone. But now, here I was, reluctantly dragged back to the suffocating embrace of the Red Keep. The Red Keep, with its corridors echoing with whispers of betrayal and deceit, had been a prison of my own making. The wounds of past abuses still lingered, a constant reminder of the torment and humiliation I had endured. In the Stepstones, I had finally begun to heal, surrounded by the love of my wife Laena and our two daughters, Baela and Rhaena.

But now, duty called, and I had no choice but to heed its summons. The King's command was not one to be ignored, even if it meant sacrificing the peace and serenity, I had fought so hard to find. With a heavy heart, I packed my bags and flew back to King's Landing, my family in tow. The oppressive atmosphere of the capital threatened to suffocate me once more, casting a shadow over my hopes for a brighter future. Yet, I knew I had to endure, for the sake of my family and the obligations that bound me to the crown.

Yet as I surveyed the lavish banquet hall, I couldn’t help but feel dark amusem*nt. My eyes settled on the figure of my brother's queen, Alicent Hightower, her attempts to sway the lords and ladies of the realm to her cause, to undermine my niece Rhaenyra's rightful claim to the throne, filled me with disdain. Alicent's delicate features were carefully schooled into an expression of regal grace, but I saw through the facade to the cunning ambition that lay beneath. It was a charade that played out before Viserys, our feeble-minded king, who seemed oblivious to the machinations unfolding under his very nose.

I felt a surge of indignation rise within me as I watched my brother's complacency, his failure to protect his own daughter from the venomous intrigues of the court. Rhaenyra had been named the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, yet Viserys allowed her to be torn apart by the vipers that slithered in the shadows of the Red Keep. It was a betrayal that cut deep, not only for Rhaenyra but for all those who held true to the blood of the dragon. How could Viserys stand idly by, allowing his own flesh and blood to be sacrificed on the altar of his own incompetence?

Viserys, my brother, had always been a man of feeble resolve, easily swayed by the whispers of those around him. But even I, Daemon Targaryen, had hoped that his love for his eldest daughter would compel him to act, to shield her from the treachery that lurked within these walls. Yet, as I watched him sit upon his gilded throne, a mere puppet in the hands of my niece's enemies, I felt a bitter surge of disappointment grip my heart. Viserys had always been a coward, more concerned with his own comfort than the welfare of those he professed to love.

I remembered the days when Aemma, his first wife and my dear cousin, still walked among us. She was a gentle soul, kind and full of life, yet Viserys allowed her to be torn apart by the cruelty of this court. They mocked her, called her defective and barren, while Viserys stood by and did nothing to defend her honor. I witnessed the agony etched upon Aemma's face as she endured miscarriage after miscarriage, stillbirth after stillbirth. Each loss was a dagger to my heart, and when she lay dying, her strength drained by the relentless tide of sorrow, Viserys made the ultimate betrayal.

He chose to cut her open, to rip our beloved Aemma apart in a desperate bid for a son, a son who drew breath for but a single day before slipping away into the cold embrace of death. It was a tragedy of his own making, it showed everyone his selfishness and cowardice.

There was a time when my heart swelled with affection for my brother Viserys. I would have moved mountains for him, done anything to earn his favor and respect. But Viserys, blinded by his own weaknesses and insecurities, never returned that love or loyalty. Instead, he surrounded himself with sycophants and flatterers, casting me aside like a worn-out cloak once I no longer served his purposes.

It was only when I claimed the Stepstones, and later, when I held my newborn daughters in my arms, that I came to understand what true rulership meant. I poured my heart and soul into my new domain, earning the love and loyalty of my people in return. They saw in me a leader who truly cared for their well-being, who would not hesitate to fight for their rights and defend their freedoms.

As I watched Viserys allow his own daughter, Rhaenyra, to be mistreated and belittled by the schemers and vipers of the court, I felt a seething anger rise within me. How could he stand idly by while his own flesh and blood suffered? How could he allow her to be cast aside and marginalized, simply because she was not born a son? If anyone dared to treat my daughters with the same callous disregard that Viserys showed towards Rhaenyra, I would unleash the fury of the Fourteen Flames themselves upon them. For a true ruler, a true father, would move heaven and earth to protect their children from harm, no matter the cost.

Viserys may wear the crown, but he lacks the strength and courage to be a king worthy of the title. And if he continues to turn a blind eye to the suffering of his own kin, then I will have no choice but to step in and right the wrongs that he has allowed to fester unchecked.

Then again, that could be my guilt talking. After all I played an important role in Rhaenyra's plight. In my relentless pursuit of a Valyrian bride, I unwittingly groomed my niece into a reflection of my own desires, my own vision of what a wife should be. I pushed her, shaped her, expecting her to fit into the mold I had created for her. When Viserys denied me what I sought, I lashed out in frustration, unleashing my wrath upon those closest to me. And it was Rhaenyra who bore the brunt of my anger, my disappointment. She became collateral damage in my reckless pursuit of my own desires, my own selfish ambitions.

Now, as I reflect upon my actions, I feel a sickening wave of regret washing over me. How could I have been so blind, so callous, as to use my own flesh and blood as a pawn in my schemes? How could I have subjected Rhaenyra to such torment, such anguish, all for the sake of my own desires? It was only after I met Laena, after I fell hopelessly in love with her, that I began to grasp the true depth of my folly. In her gentle embrace, in her unwavering devotion, I found solace and redemption. And in her eyes, I saw reflected the pain and suffering I had inflicted upon Rhaenyra.

My heart aches with remorse for the suffering I caused, for the wounds I inflicted upon my niece's soul. If only I could turn back the hands of time, undo the damage I have done. But alas, the past is immutable, and all I can do now is strive to make amends, to seek forgiveness for the sins of my past. It warmed my heart that despite the trials and tribulations, Rhaenyra had managed to find true love in the arms of her Sworn Shield. Though she cannot wed him, their bond is undeniable, their devotion unwavering.

Watching Rhaenyra with her beloved, I cannot help but feel a swell of pride and joy in my heart. She may not have followed the path the men in her life had laid out for her, but she has forged her own destiny, carved out her own happiness in the face of adversity. And in doing so, she has given House Velaryon a trueborn princess, and the crown two strong princes to be proud of.

I can see the lessons Rhaenyra had learned from Corlys and Rhaenys beginning to bear fruit. She carries herself with a newfound confidence, a regal bearing befitting her station as heir to the throne. She has embraced her role with a sense of purpose, a determination to fulfill her duties to the realm. I am happy for her, truly I am. To see her blossom into the woman she was always meant to be, to witness her growth and maturation, fills me with a sense of fulfillment unlike any other. A sensation I am sure I will not feel until my twins become women themselves.

With this new growth, both Rhaenyra and Laenor had managed to turn the tables on the Greens. The new political landscape filled me with a sense of satisfaction, mingled with a hint of triumph. The balance of power had shifted decisively in favor of the Blacks. Gone were the days when the Greens held sway over the Small Council, their influence diminished to a mere shadow of its former self. Now, only the Master of Laws and the Grand Maester remained loyal to their cause, isolated and outnumbered amidst a sea of opposition.

It was a sight to behold!

Furthermore, the recent birth of Lucerys had dealt a crippling blow to the rumors of bastardy that had plagued my niece for so long. With the legitimacy of her line secured, our enemies had lost their most potent weapon, their whispers silenced by the “undeniable” truth. No longer could they cast doubt upon our rightful claim to the throne. Not that I ever cared about who sire Jacaerys, he was my niece’s son and had the blood of the dragon running through his veins. His dragon egg hatched at the cradle, and he is growing to become a perfect heir for Rhaenyra.

But perhaps most gratifying of all was the recent acquisition of the Stormlands into our fold. With the allegiance of that proud region secured, my niece now commanded the loyalty of five of the Seven Kingdoms: the Vale, the Stormlands, the Crownlands, the Stepstones, and the North.

The news of Lord Borros's unexpected decision to name his eldest daughter as his heir sent shockwaves rippling through the court. Here was a man known for his preference for sons over daughters, defying tradition, and convention in a bold and unprecedented move. The audacity of it all was almost comical, a slap in the face to the Andal law that had long governed inheritance in the realm. And yet, with the royal decree firmly in place, there was little room for dissent. The king's word was law, and no amount of protest or debate could change that.

On the other hand, there was a sense of righteous indignation bubbling within me, a simmering anger at what could have happened. I could care less for the kidnapping of Borros's daughters, or the potential danger faced by my nephew Aemond. But for all my reputation as the Rogue Prince, there were few things in this world that could stir my heart like the sight of five beautiful princesses. Lucerys, with her radiant smile and infectious laughter, held a special place in my affections. So much like her mother, yet with mannerisms that reminded me of my fierce wife. The thought of her in danger, of her innocence being threatened by Dorne, filled me with a cold dread that I could scarcely comprehend.

Even Rhaenyra and Alicent found themselves united in shock and disbelief. For once, their animosity was set aside, replaced by a shared sense of urgency and determination to address the crisis at hand. After all it had being their children the ones who had almost suffered the same fate as Borros’ daughters. Their combined efforts to rally support and demand action from the king shook the court, who had thought them working together for anything an impossibility.

The events that unfolded in the wake of the Dornish incursion were nothing short of remarkable. For the first time in decades, the realm saw House Targaryen behaving like the true dragons they were meant to be. The response was swift and decisive. Orders were issued to bolster the defenses along the borders between Westeros and Dorne, with troops dispatched to reinforce key strategic positions. The Reach and the Stormlands, long vulnerable to raids from the south, received much-needed assistance in their efforts to safeguard their lands. But perhaps the most striking development of all was the sight of Rhaenyra, Laenor, and Rhaenys patrolling the borderlands on the backs of their dragons. It was a powerful display of House Targaryen's strength and determination, a reminder to our enemies that we were not to be trifled with.

I would have joined them, but Laena and I had enough on our plate with patrolling the Stepstones and keeping the Triarchy out of our waters. Still the unfolding developments filled me with a mixture of amusem*nt and pride. I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction wash over me. Finally, House Targaryen was standing strong against the threats that lurked beyond our borders.

However, after seeing how hard my niece was working to make House Targaryen strong and how Viserys was behaving himself at the moment, it only worked to fill me with more disdain. I could no longer be here to see him make a fool of himself. As I rose from my seat, weariness weighing heavily upon my shoulders, I found myself face to face with Viserys, his expression one of cheerful oblivion. With an effort, I summoned a smile, masking my inner turmoil beneath a veneer of politeness. I normally would not give a sh*t about it, but the last thing the Stepstones need right now was to suffer from a tension with the crown.

"Where are you off to, brother?" Viserys inquired, his tone light and carefree.

Suppressing a sigh, I offered a flimsy excuse. “My wife is heavily pregnant, Your Majesty. She could not join the festivities, as such I wish to check on Laena.” The truth was, I simply could not bear another moment in the stifling atmosphere of the feast hall, surrounded by schemers and fools.

Viserys waved me off with a casual gesture, utterly oblivious to the turmoil roiling within me. As I made my way toward the exit, a bitter scoff escaped my lips. How could he be so blind to the machinations unfolding around him? How could he continue to bask in the illusion of his own contentment, while his kingdom teetered on the brink of chaos? Shaking my head in frustration, I turned away, leaving my oblivious brother behind. It was a futile endeavor, trying to make him understand. Some lessons, it seemed, were destined to be learned the hard way.

The scene that greeted me as I approached our chambers was nothing short of chaos. Maids and midwives hurried in and out, their faces etched with concern, buckets of water and blood in their trembling hands. Panic seized me as I pushed past them, desperate to reach my wife's side.

Inside, the sight that met my eyes was both shocking and surreal. My grandniece, Lucerys, a mere five namedays old, stood tall beside the bed, her small frame exuding an unexpected strength. She spoke with a conviction beyond her years, scolding Laena in the ancient tongue of High Valyrian.

"Skoros zȳhon Āeksio Ono! Kēliot ñuhe lēkia morghagon Andalioti! Jikagon ivestragon pōnte āeksio? Hen rūs dohaerir iōrzi! Ābra jurneskes se ēngos ūndegon iōrzi?” (You are a Targaryen Princess! How dare you act like a weak Andal! You want to die as a dragonrider? For that you need to live as one! What does that grey rat know about the strength of a dragon? You will not die if you fight, you do not need dragonfire!) Lucerys's voice rang out, her words laced with authority. "Laena, nyke daor se ibagon yne sagon. Kepa jemoty, nyke averidātās." (Laena, you are not allowed to die. For your daughter's sake, you must fight. I command it, you must survive.)

My heart clenched as I listened to Lucerys's words, accusing Laena of cowardice, of forsaking her daughters. The accusation cut deep, striking at the core of my being. How could my sweet Lucerys, so young and innocent, utter such harsh truths? Yet, as her words echoed in the chamber, something stirred within Laena. Her eyes, once clouded with fear and pain, now flickered with a newfound resolve. The realization hit me like a thunderbolt - Lucerys's words had ignited a fire within her, propelling her to fight, to defy the odds.

I stood there, rooted to the spot, torn between shock and awe. Before snapping back into action and immediately rushing to Laena's side, my heart pounding in my chest with a mix of fear and determination. Her pale face contrasted sharply against the crimson-stained sheets, and for a moment, I felt a surge of panic threatening to overwhelm me. But I couldn't let fear paralyze me. I had to be strong for her. As I knelt beside her, gripping her hand tightly in mine, I could see the flicker of relief in her eyes at my presence. It was a small comfort amidst the chaos unfolding around us, but it gave me the strength to push forward.

Grand Maester Mellos, with a tone that grated on my nerves, dared to suggest a solution that would save the baby but endanger Laena's life. "I can perform a quick incision," he proposed, his voice tinged with an unsettling calmness, "to extract the child before it's too late."

The grey rat just had to go and offered a solution that would save the baby but risk Laena's life. The same procedure that got Queen Aemma killed! Without a moment's hesitation, I felt a surge of rage boiling within me. How dare he suggest such a thing? How dare anyone threaten the life of my wife and child?

In a swift motion fueled by sheer fury, I drew Dark Sister from its scabbard and swung it with lethal precision, severing Mellos' head from his body in one clean stroke. The gasps of horror from the onlookers fell on deaf ears as I stood over the fallen maester, my heart still racing with adrenaline.

"Find Maester Gerardys," I commanded the trembling maids, my voice firm and unwavering despite the chaos unfolding around us. "Bring him here immediately. He will oversee the delivery."

There was no room for hesitation or error. The fate of my wife and child hung in the balance, and I would not allow anyone else to jeopardize their lives with reckless decisions. In a moment of quiet as we waited for Maester Gerardys, Laena's voice, soft but determined, reached my ears. "Daemon," she murmured, her gaze locking with mine, "Ao ynoma zūgus. Rūskor gīmizīlir." (I love you. Please, take care of our girls.)

My heart clenched at her words, a surge of emotion flooding through me. "Līte hontes, Laena," (I love you too, Laena,) I whispered back, my voice thick with emotion. "Hontes ēdrus. Ēdrus mōrionon. Saomion ne. Zūgus." (You will not die. I will not allow it.)

Her fingers tightened around mine, with a tender smile, she nodded, her trust in me unwavering. I simply hope that it was not misplaced and that I had spoken the truth. The moments stretched agonizingly as we waited for Maester Gerardys to arrive, each passing second amplifying the fear gnawing at my insides. I couldn't bear the thought of losing Laena, not after all we had endured together. The memories of my mother's tragic fate and the heart-wrenching loss of my beloved cousin, Aemma, haunted me like specters in the darkness. I do not believe I could survive her death, that our twins could survive it either.

Finally, the door creaked open, and Maester Gerardys stepped into the room. With steady hands and a calm demeanor, he assumed control of the situation. Relief washed over me as Gerardys took charge of the delivery. Later as I stood there, watching our newborn son Aegon being cradled into Laena’s chest, a bittersweet mixture of joy and sorrow washed over me. Laena's sobs tore at my heartstrings, but amidst the pain, there was relief. Gerardys' skilled hands had ensured Laena's survival, even if it came at the cost of Aegon's life.

Watching Laena cradle our lifeless son, her sobs echoing in the chamber, I felt a surge of gratitude toward Gerardys, tempered by the weight of his revelation. Despite the heaviness of his words, the knowledge that Laena would never bear another child, I found myself strangely at peace. Two beautiful daughters, Baela and Rhaena, already graced our lives, and I could not bear to risk losing Laena in pursuit of more.

Turning to Gerardys, I thanked him, my voice steady despite the storm of emotions raging within me. "We have been blessed with two daughters," I told him, my gaze unwavering. "That is more than enough. Your skill has saved my wife, and for that, I am eternally grateful."

With those words, I turned back to Laena, offering her what comfort I could in the face of our shared grief. Though Aegon's life had been brief, his memory would live on in our hearts.

However, Viserys just had to prove once more that he was the worst kind of kin anyone could ever dream of. As he stormed into the chamber, his fury palpable in the air, I felt a surge of frustration mingled with resignation. His eyes fixed on the lifeless form of Grand Maester Mellos, Viserys seemed oblivious to the scene of grief unfolding before him. Laena's tears, her heartrending sobs as she cradled our stillborn son, went unnoticed as Viserys directed his anger toward me. Once again, my brother's priorities were laid bare for all to see: the trappings of power and the allegiance of his Andal advisors mattered more to him than the well-being of his own family.

Viserys's voice reverberated through the chamber, thick with accusation and blame. "What have you done, Daemon?" he roared, his words slicing through the air like a blade. "You've killed the Grand Maester, murdered him in cold blood!"

His accusations stung, but I refused to back down, meeting his furious gaze with steely resolve. "I did what was necessary," I countered, my voice unwavering. "Mellos was prepared to sacrifice Laena's life for the sake of our son. I could not allow it."

Viserys scoffed, his contempt evident as he shook his head in disbelief. "Necessary?" he spat, his tone dripping with disdain. "You've brought chaos upon us all, Daemon. You're nothing but a menace, a danger to this family and this realm."

"I acted to protect my wife," despite his condemnation, I remained resolute, unwilling to yield to his misguided judgment. "I would do it again, without hesitation."

Viserys's expression twisted into a mask of fury, but beneath the anger, there was a flicker of uncertainty, a hint of doubt. As he glared at me, his authority challenged, I knew that the divide between us had grown deeper than ever before.

With a dry, cutting remark, I couldn't help but voice my disdain for his indifference. "It seems that butchering a queen was not enough for the grey rat," I retorted, my tone laced with bitterness, "and he wanted a princess too!"

The tension in the room was palpable as Viserys bristled at my words, his expression darkening with barely contained rage. Yet, beneath the anger, there was a hint of something else: a flicker of discomfort, perhaps, at the reminder of his own culpability in Aemma’s demise.

Lucerys's sudden appearance between Viserys and myself startled us both, her small frame positioned firmly between us. With wide eyes and a trembling voice, Lucerys spoke. "Stop! Stop shouting!" she pleaded, her voice echoing in the chamber. "We need to calm down. We're family, we shouldn't fight like this."

Viserys, his anger momentarily tempered by Lucerys's intervention, regarded her with surprise. Though his features remained stern, I could detect a hint of softness in his gaze as he listened to her impassioned plea. As the tension in the room began to ease, my gaze lingered on Lucerys, a swell of guilt rising within me. I had all but forgotten she had been in my chambers until now. She had seen the execution of Mellos and the stillbirth of Aegon, no child should ever see that.

With tear-filled eyes, Lucerys turned to Viserys, her voice quivering as she spoke. "I've always wanted a big family like my muña," she confessed, her words carrying the weight of her innocence lost to the harsh realities of the world. "But now... now I'm afraid. I don't want to end up like Laena, to suffer as she did."

Her vulnerability struck a chord within me, her fears mirroring my own doubts and uncertainties. And when she turned to me, her gaze filled with gratitude and unspoken trust, I felt a pang of guilt tug at my heartstrings. Guilt for the violence I had wrought, for the innocence I had shattered in the name of duty and vengeance.

But then, amidst the turmoil of emotions, came her words of gratitude, a balm to soothe the wounds of doubt and regret that plagued my conscience. "Thank you," she whispered, her voice barely above a breath. "Thank you for stopping him, for sparing others from the same fate."

Viserys' sigh seemed to carry the weight of the world. "Lucerys," he said softly, his voice tinged with regret as he gathered his granddaughter into his arms, "you have always possessed a wisdom beyond your years."

Lucerys looked up at her grandfather, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. "I only want what's best for our family, grandfather," she murmured, her voice wavering slightly with emotion. "And I believe that Gerardys can help us achieve that. He seems to be kind and I am not afraid of his presence, he saved auntie Laena."

With a nod of understanding, Viserys turned his gaze to Gerardys, his expression grave yet contemplative. "Very well," he said, his tone measured. "Gerardys, I offer you the position of Grand Maester. May you serve our family with wisdom and compassion."

I then watched Viserys depart, cradling Lucerys in his arms, and saw Gerardys, the midwives, and maids trailing behind them. I felt a bitter sense of abandonment wash over me. Left alone in the chamber with my sobbing wife and lifeless son, the weight of despair settled heavily upon my shoulders. In that moment, the disappointment that had long been a familiar companion in my dealings with Viserys, was overshadowed by a seething hatred. The bonds of kinship seemed to hold no sway over his callous heart. How could he, my own brother, turn away from us in our hour of need? How could he accuse me, casting blame without a shred of compassion?

The sound of Laena's soft sobs echoed in the chamber, a haunting refrain that served as a poignant reminder of the life we had lost. With a heavy heart, I wrapped my arms around her trembling form, seeking solace in the warmth of our shared embrace. The tears flowed freely now, mingling with the echoes of our shattered dreams as we mourned the son we would never know. In that moment of raw vulnerability, all pretenses fell away, leaving behind only the stark reality of our grief.

In the dreary days that followed, the weight of grief bore down upon me like an anchor, dragging me into a murky abyss of despair. Each passing moment felt like an eternity, a relentless onslaught of sorrow and anguish that threatened to engulf me entirely.

Surprisingly, amidst the turmoil of grief and resentment, the Green whor* Queen, offered her condolences for the loss of our son. Her words, though perhaps tinged with political calculation, were sincere as well. The irony was not lost on me. Here was the so-called Leader of the Greens, was extending sympathy where my own flesh and blood had yet to do so. It was a bitter realization, a stark reminder of the depths of Viserys' callousness.

As I struggled with the conflicting emotions swirling within me, I couldn't help but feel a pang of disappointment. Our father, Baelon, had instilled in us the values of family, yet here we were, torn apart by petty rivalries and selfish ambition. If only he could see us now, I thought, his disappointment would be immeasurable.

The funeral for Aegon was a solemn affair, Laena, her eyes heavy with grief, emerged briefly from our chambers to bid farewell to our son, her sorrow etched upon every line of her face. But as soon as the last embers from Caraxes’ fire extinguished and all that was left of our son was ashes, she retreated once more into the shadows of our chamber. As I watched Laena withdraw further into herself, her spirit broken by the loss of our son, a profound sense of helplessness washed over me. I longed to ease her pain, to banish the shadows that haunted her, but I knew that such wounds could not be healed with mere words or gestures.

For Baela and Rhaena, our dear daughters, the weight of their mother's anguish was a mystery they could not comprehend. They were too young to understand they what truly meant to lose a sibling. Too young to understand that their mother was very close to joining Aegon. At just four namedays old, they were innocent souls untouched by the cruel hand of fate that had befallen our family. They remained in the care of Corlys and Rhaenys, while we tried to heal from this immense loss.

The air in our chambers hung heavy with sorrow, a palpable weight pressing down upon us, suffocating in its intensity. No one dared to breach the threshold, their fear of my Dark Sister holding them at bay. But Lucerys was different, unafraid to confront the grief that engulfed us. As she entered, we greeted her with weary smiles.

With purposeful steps, Lucerys approached the bed, a basket cradled in her arms. Placing the basket beside Laena, Lucerys spoke with a solemnity that belied her tender age. "Aunt, I know I cannot give you Aegon back… but I hope this makes you happy. I just want you to remember that after even the darkest night, morning comes."

With those words, she departed as quietly as she had arrived, leaving us stunned and speechless in her wake. Laena's gasp shattered the silence as she uncovered the precious gift nestled within the folds of the basket—a dragon egg.

Tears welled in Laena's eyes, mingling with the bittersweet emotions that surged within her. Where did Lucerys get this dragon egg from? We did not know, but this could have been the dragon egg of our son. Now it will be the second chance for our youngest daughter to become a dragon rider.

The moment Rhaena laid eyes on the dragon egg, her face lit up with an infectious joy that warmed our weary hearts. Baela, her ever-enthusiastic companion, clung to her sister's side, eagerly sharing in Rhaena's excitement as they dreamed of soaring through the skies together. It was a moment of pure, unadulterated happiness amidst the lingering shadows of our grief.

As dawn broke on the following morning, with bated breath, we watched as cracks spiderwebbed across the surface of the egg, each fracture heralding the imminent arrival of new life. And then, with a gentle crack, the shell split apart, revealing the delicate form of a pink dragon nestled within.

Tears welled in Rhaena's eyes as she cradled the newborn dragon in her arms, her heart overflowing with joy at the sight of her newfound companion. It was a moment of profound significance, the first glimmer of hope in the aftermath of our loss. And as I watched my wife's smile bloom for the first time since we had lost Aegon, a sense of relief washed over me, soothing the ache of our shared sorrow.

"She shall be named Morning," Laena declared, her voice filled with determination and a newfound strength that spoke volumes of her resilience.

“That’s a perfect name,” I agreed.

Chapter 9: II Lucerys' P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, Red Keep – 121 AC

Turning six namedays brought a mix of emotions for me. On one hand, I was ecstatic about the newfound freedoms and opportunities that came with growing older. Yet, with each passing year, I found myself increasingly constrained by the expectations and scrutiny of those around me. No longer could I easily slip away unnoticed to enact my darker schemes; every move I made was subject to greater scrutiny.

The look of surprise etched upon Larys's face in his final moments spoke volumes. He had underestimated me, just as so many others did. What he didn't realize until it was too late was that there was another warg in the Red Keep. Yes, I had reclaimed my warging abilities, even though, this time around, I had not a drop of Stark blood in my body. It was a gift from the Gods, which I will forever be grateful for. I have missed the deep connection I used to have with Ghost. While the connection between a dragon and its rider is a strong bond, the ability to share a mind and a soul with your bonded partner was on another level.

So, with my warging abilities back, I did not waste a second before honing them through clandestine training sessions with the castle's resident felines. With their help, I had become a silent observer, gathering information, and weaving my own intricate web of secrets. If someone would have once told me that I would end up becoming a quasi-Mistress of Whispers, I would have laughed on their faces. But desperate times call desperate measures. It was during this time that I discovered that the theories of Larys being a warg, though they were only theories in the history books from the North, were true.

Larys's demise was not merely a stroke of luck or happenstance. It was the culmination of careful planning and calculated manipulation. I had seen through his facade, witnessed the depths of his depravity as he wielded his influence over Queen Alicent to fulfill his disturbing feet fetish. The thought of such perversion disgusted me, and I knew that I could not stand idly by while he continued to prey upon others.

As expected from a man like Larys, he had already bonded with the rats of the keep. Not that it worried me, as rats could never dream of matching cats. Slowly, but steadily I sent my feline friends to hunt down Larys’ little helpers and started diminishing his spy net. How he never realized that another warg was targeting him was surprising. You would expect him to be smarter, then again, he must have grown confident on himself by being one of the few people of First Men descendance on the South.

So, when the opportunity presented itself to orchestrate Larys's downfall and cast blame upon his supposed disability, I seized it without hesitation. It was a risk, to be sure, but one that I was willing to take in pursuit of justice. And as I watched the pieces fall into place, I felt a sense of satisfaction at the horrified look on his face when Larys saw the cat’s eyes turned Velaryon-blue as it pushed him down the stairs to his death.

As I reflect on my actions, I cannot help but feel a twinge of remorse tugging at my conscience. What I have done may not sit well with the ideals of honor and chivalry, but in the game of thrones, such virtues often serve as little more than folly. There is a reason so many Starks had died south the Neck. But if I am to ensure the survival of Westeros in the face of the looming threat of the Others, I must be willing to go as far as needed... well, not as far as needed. There are always limits one should never cross and I will never allow myself to become someone like Joffrey Waters of Cersi Lannister.

Though, some choices are easier than others. Killing a rat like Larys? Easy! Now, the decision to thwart Robert Baratheon's birth… not so easy. What I did weighed heavily on me because it meant condemning an innocent soul to never be born. Royce, the only son Borros Baratheon would sire and the future Lord of the Storm's End, did nothing to me or my house. He bore no guilt for the sins of his future descendant, yet I knew that the consequences of Robert's rule would be dire for the realm. His recklessness and ambition would bring naught but chaos and suffering upon the land.

So, with a heavy heart, I procured a vial of poison from Volantis that my good-sister Talisa had taught me about. How I managed that, do not ask. You would be surprised about what a child can manage with warging abilities and House Velaryon’s contacts. The poison was a deadly concoction that would render Borros Baratheon sterile, ensuring that the line of succession would be forever altered. Lord Borros did not even check his ale cup before drinking his alcohol, and the poison within it, in one go.

I did feel guilty because in this timeline Borros was my kin, and we had bonded in Blackhaven. But in the end, I knew that sacrifices must be made for the greater good. Hard choices demand hard actions. Now, if only I can find a way to do the same with House Lannister. Cersi, Jamie, Tywin, and Tyrion were the bane of Westeros. Even worse than House Baratheon, and Robert laughed when he was presented with my siblings’ corpses and called them dragonspawns!

The horror tales I heard about the cruelty of Cersi… killing every bastard Robert ever sired! Even babes! The Rains of Castamere… when I started learning about the houses of Westeros I almost choke on my drink when I heard my maester mention House Reyne. I had gotten used to them being extinct so I did not even think about the fact that in the past, without Tywin Lannister, they were a prominent Western House.

Anyhow, now that I dealt with Larys and House Baratheon, and there is no way I can interfere with House Lannister, as they do not seem to leave Casterly Rock. I could finally turn my attention to the next phase of my mission to safeguard the realm. The Gods had visited me in dreams, revealing the dire need for more dragons to defeat the Night King. House Targaryen required the might of grown and seasoned dragons to face this ancient enemy. In my dream, the Gods showed me the whereabouts of Morning and Daenerys's three dragon eggs. These treasures would be vital in strengthening our forces. The gods assured me that they would guide me on when and to whom Daenerys's dragon eggs should be bestowed.

Despite the weight of responsibility and the paranoia of hiding three dragon eggs from my parents and siblings, my heart swelled with pride and relief as I witnessed the bond between Morning and Rhaena blossom before my eyes. The radiant joy on Rhaena's face filled me with hope and reassurance that our efforts were not in vain. Yet, as the time drew near for Daemon, Laena, Baela, and Rhaena to depart from King's Landing, a sense of regret tugged at my heart. Their presence had brought a fleeting sense of unity and strength to the Blacks, and their absence would be keenly felt. However, I knew that they had to leave before something else would happen.

Watching Aunt Laena give birth to poor Aegon was heartbreaking. It had shaken me to the core. The only reason why I was not begging my kepa to never marry me off, was the assurance from the Gods that they had blessed me with safe pregnancies and births. Otherwise, I would have stabbed any man that dared to think they could impregnate me and then fed them to Ghost.

Other than the fear I felt at seeing Aunt Laena bleed out, as I imagined this is what my first muña must have felt when she was giving birth to me. It had baffled me how callous my muñazma Viserys could be towards his own brother, kēpus Daemon. Yet, deep down, I suspected that muñazma’s animosity stemmed from his own insecurities. Kēpus Daemon embodied everything muñazma was not – brave, intelligent, loyal, and handsome. In contrast, muñazma Viserys was a coward, easily swayed, selfish, and only his Valyrian features spared him from being deemed unattractive. Despite losing numerous children with mumuña Aemma, I had hoped muñazma would show more compassion towards kēpus Daemon.

However, just a few moons after Aegon's tragic stillbirth, muñazma Viserys practically ordered kēpus Daemon and his family to depart from King's Landing. While I found muñazma’s actions despicable, I couldn't help but feel relieved. Kēpus Daemon detested the stifling confines of the Red Keep, and the opportunity to return to Bloodstone was a welcome escape for him. I felt a sense of happiness knowing that he would be safe from the toxic environment muñazma Viserys had attempted to impose upon him.

Putting muñazma Viserys's callousness aside, I redirected my attention to the next phase of my plan: bolstering the North. Though I was now a lady of the Crownlands and the Narrow Seas, my memories of the North remained cherished, despite the bitter taste left by Lady Stark's actions, my memories of the North remained fond. I believed in the potential greatness of the region, with its vast lands and strong culture. However, the North lacked both the manpower and the resources to fulfill its potential.

Yet, I saw an opportunity to change that. By strategically facilitating connections and alliances, I could pave the way for House Stark to prepare adequately for the looming threat of the Long Night. It was a daunting task, but I was determined to see it through. After all, the fate of Westeros depended on our collective efforts to unite and stand against the encroaching darkness.

And it all will start with a simple sea-green handkerchief. As I delicately wove the silver threads into the fabric, I couldn't help but marvel at the simplicity and elegance of the seahorse design taking shape beneath my fingertips. Unlike my sisters, Sansa, and Arya, I had never been groomed for the life of a lady. Those refined lessons in etiquette and needlework had always been reserved for them, leaving me to navigate the world through different means. Arya, in her rebellious spirit, had dismissed such teachings altogether, while Sansa embraced them with grace and skill beyond compare.

Embroidery, however, proved to be a skill I could readily adapt to. Perhaps it was the countless hours spent stitching wounds and mending torn garments during the chaos of the War of the Five Kings that had honed my dexterity. Yet, despite my proficiency, I knew better than comparing myself to Sansa. Her mastery of the craft was unmatched, her stitches precise and her eye for detail impeccable. She had a gift from the Gods that few women have, and I felt no shame in admitting that.

Once the handkerchief was finished, I wasted no time putting my plan into action. I knew that my kekepa was in a meeting with his commerce advisor. Bursting into the room with all the exuberance of a child, I eagerly presented the handkerchief to my kekepa, Corlys Velaryon. "Ah, Lucerys, my dear," Corlys greeted warmly, his eyes lighting up at my entrance. "What have you brought for me today?"

Beaming with excitement, I eagerly handed him the handkerchief, my heart fluttering with anticipation. "I made this for you, kekepa!" I exclaimed, watching his reaction anxiously.

Corlys' gentle fingers traced the intricate design of the silver seahorse on the sea-green fabric, his expression softening with genuine appreciation. "Lucerys, this is exquisite," he praised, his voice filled with pride. "You have quite the talent for embroidery."

I couldn't help but blush at his words, a rush of warmth flooding through me. "Thank you, kekepa," I replied, feeling a swell of pride at his approval.

With a tender smile, Corlys pulled me onto his lap, enveloping me in his comforting embrace. "Join me for the meeting, my dear," he invited, his tone affectionate. "As the future Lady of the Tides, your insights are always welcome."

Settling against him, I listened intently as Corlys and his commerce advisor delved into the intricacies of trade and commerce. I felt a sense of gratitude wash over me, knowing that I was valued and respected in the Velaryon household, in a way not even Robb had managed to make me feel in the Stark household. As the meeting progressed, I found my opportunity when the topic turned to exploring new markets.

"Grandfather," I interjected eagerly, drawing the attention of kekepa and his advisor. "What about the North?" Confusion flickered across their faces, prompting me to elaborate on my suggestion. "The North may not have vast fields for farming, but they use glass houses," I explained, my voice tinged with innocence. "I used to think they were made of dragon fire, like dragonglass. However, when I had asked great-granduncle Vaegon in my letter to the Citadel, great-granduncle Vaegon informed me that glass was made from sand. "

A spark of understanding lit up Corlys' eyes as he processed my words. "Sand, you say?" he mused, nodding thoughtfully. "And the North has the sturdiest metal, aside from Valyrian steel."

Excitement bubbled within me as I elaborated further on my idea. "Exactly, kekepa!" I exclaimed, my enthusiasm growing. "We could establish trade agreements between the North, Driftmark, the Stepstones, and Essos. House Manderly and House Stark would be key allies in such endeavors."

Corlys regarded me with a mixture of pride and admiration, his eyes reflecting his appreciation for my insight. "Lucerys, my dear, you never cease to amaze me," he said warmly, his voice laced with affection. "Your creativity and ingenuity are truly remarkable."

I beamed at his words, feeling a swell of pride at his praise. His commerce advisor chuckled, chiming in with a teasing remark. "Looks like she gets her smarts from you, Lord Velaryon, but the looks from your lady wife."

Corlys chuckled along with him, but his gaze remained fixed on me, filled with paternal affection. "Thank you, my little pearl," he said, his voice tender. "Your insight will undoubtedly lead to great success. What would you like to do with your commission? After all, such a wonderful idea deserves to be rewarded."

Without hesitation, I made my request. "I want to use it to open a learning center in Driftmark," I declared, my eyes alight with determination. "So many ladies send me letters, and I'm tired of reading and answering them all alone. If my maids could read and write, they could help me, and the work would be easier. Plus, when I read to the servants at High Tide, they enjoy it, but they might enjoy the stories even more if they could read them themselves."

Corlys gazed at me with a mixture of pride and affection. Leaning forward, he pressed a gentle kiss to my cheeks, his gesture filled with warmth and adoration. "Of course, my dear," he replied, his voice soft. "Consider it done. Your compassion and foresight never cease to amaze me. I’ll tell you something, I will even donate the same amount to your muña so she can start something similar here in King’s Landing."

“Thank you kekepa!”

Chapter 10: II Corlys' P.O.V

Chapter Text

The North, Winterfell – 121 AC

The North was indeed a chilly surprise. I had always known it to be cold, but nothing could have prepared me for the bone-chilling frost that greeted us, even in the midst of summer. White Harbor, with its biting winds and icy air, was a shock to my system, sending shivers down my spine from the moment we arrived. I had thought Driftmark experienced cold weather during the winter months, but it was nothing compared to the bitter coldness of the North. The temperature seemed to drop with every step further north we took, and no number of layers could shield me from its relentless grip.

As we journeyed deeper into the heart of the North, I found myself marveling at the rugged beauty of the landscape, even as I struggled to keep warm. The snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes painted a picturesque scene, but it was a beauty tempered by the harshness of the environment. I could understand why my granddaughter spoke so fondly of a region she had only ever read about, when until a moon ago Lucerys had only been interested in learning about trade and ships.

Arriving at Winterfell was like stepping into another world. The sheer size and grandeur of the castle complex took my breath away, momentarily distracting me from the biting cold that seemed to permeate every corner of the North. Winterfell sprawled across several acres, encircled by towering granite walls that spoke of centuries of history and strength. Outside the walls, the bustling winter town hummed with activity.

We were greeted warmly by Lord Stark and his young son Cregan, whose eager curiosity reminded me of my own grandson Jacaerys back home. They were even around the same age, maybe I should discuss it with Laenor too foster Jace here at Winterfell. Strengthening the crown’s bond with the North was always a good idea. And what is better than to have a future king and future Lord Paramount of the North grow up as a foster brother.

Stepping foot into Winterfell felt like stepping into a legend come to life. My son Laenor and I exchanged glances, our awe mirrored in each other's eyes as we tried to conceal our surprise beneath polite smiles. Despite the biting cold that nipped at our skin, the warmth of their welcome eased the chill in the air, and we were soon swept away on a tour of the castle grounds. This was unlike any castle we had ever encountered before, a sprawling fortress that seemed to stretch endlessly into the horizon. The godswood itself was a sight to behold, ancient and mysterious, its towering weirwood trees casting long shadows over the surrounding landscape.

As we ventured deeper into the heart of Winterfell, I marveled at the intricacies of its layout. Dozens of courtyards and open spaces dotted the landscape, each serving a specific purpose, from weapons training to archery practice. The inner ward, with its ancient tower and bustling activity, felt like the beating heart of the castle. And then there was the inner castle itself, a marvel of architecture and design, with diamond-shaped window panes added a touch of elegance to the fortress's rugged exterior and the natural hot springs, their warm waters flowing through the castle walls and chambers, offering a welcome reprieve from the harshness of winter.

As the evening descended upon Winterfell, Laenor and I made our way to the Great Hall. I had impressed upon Laenor the importance of dressing modestly, mindful of the Northern preference for practicality over extravagance. So, we arrived clad in attire befitting the occasion, our garments a reflection of respect for our hosts' customs.

The Great Hall loomed before us, grey stone walls and wide oak doors, weathered by time and use, welcomed us into the heart of Winterfell's hospitality. Inside, the hall stretched out before us, rows of trestle tables flanking a central aisle like soldiers standing at attention. Banners adorned the walls, their colors fluttering in the torchlight. And at the head of the hall, the high table, where once used to sit the throne of the Kings in the North. The Northerns were simplistic and practical, but they sure knew how to make an impression with a few details. No wonder they were so feared, this hall on its own was more imposing than anything Viserys had ever tried.

The banquet was a raucous affair, filled with the hearty fare and robust spirits favored by the Northerners. The air was alive with the sounds of music and revelry, the thrumming of drums mingling with the laughter and chatter of the guests. As I sat amidst the jovial crowd, sampling dishes of roasted meats and savory stews, I couldn't help but be swept up in the infectious energy of the celebration. This was a far cry from the refined elegance of courtly gatherings in the South; here, the feasting was hearty, and the merriment unbridled.

Beside me, Laenor leaned in close, his eyes bright with excitement as he took in the spectacle before us. "Father," he remarked with a grin, "Laena and Daemon would love it here, wouldn't they?"

"Indeed, they would, my boy." I chuckled in agreement, casting a fond glance at my son.

The night wore on with laughter and good cheer, but as the festivities began to wind down, Lord Rickon Stark proved himself to be a man of few words. Nevertheless, I found myself engaged in conversation with his son, Cregan Stark, whose youthful curiosity and earnest questions kept me entertained well into the night. As the banquet drew to a close, we bid our hosts goodnight and retired to our chambers, weary but contented from the day's events. Sleep came easily, and I awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and eager for the day ahead.

Gathering in the solar of Lord Rickon Stark, we were joined by Lord Desmond Manderly. The solar itself was a marvel of craftsmanship, connected to the armory by a covered bridge that afforded a commanding view of the castle yard below.

"Thank you, Lord Rickon, for welcoming us into your home," sitting before Lord Rickon Stark, I began, my voice measured yet sincere. "I understand that our meeting might have come as a surprise, but I assure you, it's with the best intentions and a shared vision for our regions' prosperity."

Lord Rickon nodded, his gaze fixed on me with evident curiosity. "Of course, Lord Velaryon. Please, proceed. I'm eager to hear what brings you here."

Taking a moment to gather my thoughts, I continued, "Well, my lords, it's no secret that our lands face challenges," I explained, my tone reflecting both concern and determination. "But I believe we also possess great opportunities, ones we can seize together. My plan is to establish robust trade agreements between the North, Driftmark, the Stepstones, and Essos."

"Trade agreements?" Lord Rickon echoed, his brow furrowing in contemplation. "That's ambitious. What do you propose, Lord Velaryon?"

"I propose leveraging our respective strengths," I replied, my words carefully chosen. "House Manderly's expertise in maritime trade, House Stark's resources in the North, House Targaryen's influence in the Stepstones, and House Velaryon's connections in Essos."

Lord Rickon nodded thoughtfully, showing signs of intrigue. "And what do you seek in return?"

"Access to the resources we need to thrive," I asserted, my conviction growing with each word. "The North requires more glass houses to support our agriculture, and we need glass from Essos. House Velaryon's contacts can provide that. In return, we offer our Northern steel, renowned for its quality, to the free cities of Essos."

As Lord Rickon pondered my proposal, he voiced his skepticism. "It's a bold plan, Lord Velaryon. But why should we trust you?"

"Trust is earned, my lord," I replied, meeting his gaze with unwavering determination. "And I understand the skepticism. But I assure you, my intentions are sincere. Together, we can build a future where our regions flourish, where our people benefit from our collaboration. "

Lord Rickon nodded, his expression thoughtful yet open. "Very well, Lord Velaryon. Let us explore this further."

Lord Manderly then raised an important point, one that struck a chord with the room. "Even if the North wanted to join this business," he began, his voice carrying weight, "the region has some issue about manpower. We possess a lot of territory but not enough people."

As I listened, a memory stirred within me, a conversation with my granddaughter Lucerys. Her unwavering desire to help those in need echoed in my mind. It was then that an idea formed, a solution to the North's manpower issue.

"Lord Manderly," I interjected, my voice steady yet filled with conviction, "you raise a valid concern. But I believe there may be a solution. King's Landing has more people than they know what to do with, and many of them would jump at the chance of a better life."

I could see the Northern Lords exchanging curious glances, intrigued by my proposal. "Flea Bottom especially," I continued, "is overcrowded with people looking for a better chance in life. They could always be invited to move up North. As long as there's an offer of a job and money, they will travel."

The room fell silent as the Northern Lords contemplated my suggestion. It was a bold idea, but one that held promise. With the right incentives and opportunities, we could address the North's manpower issue while providing a brighter future for those seeking it in King's Landing.

Lord Stark and Lord Manderly exchanged uneasy glances, a subtle tension hanging in the air like a heavy cloak. Lord Stark's voice broke the silence, his words measured yet tinged with a hint of apprehension. "Lord Velaryon, Ser Leanor," he began, his gaze shifting between us, "forgive our hesitation. However, our lands are steeped in tradition, and the faith of the Old Gods runs deep in our people."

I nodded, understanding the gravity of his words. The North had long been known as the last bastion of the Old Gods. To introduce many followers of the Light of the Seven into the North would be to disrupt the delicate balance that had endured for generations.

Lord Manderly, despite his allegiance to the Seven, echoed Lord Stark's sentiments. "Indeed, Lord Stark speaks true," he affirmed, his expression somber yet resolute. "In White Harbor, everyone is a follower of the Old Gods," he explained, his gaze meeting mine with a sense of earnestness. "With the exception of the members of House Manderly, and even then, there are some members of the household who convert to the ancient ways."

"I know of someone who will select only the ones who would not mind converting into the faith of the Old Gods or were not that religious to begin with," Laenor interjected, his voice carrying a note of assurance.

His words caught me off guard for a moment, until the realization dawned upon me. The White Worm. Of course. Daemon’s clandestine network of spies and informants had proven invaluable in the past, and I had no doubt that she would be willing to lend her aid once again.

I nodded in agreement, a sense of relief washing over me. The Mistress of Whispers of the Black Faction would undoubtedly possess the discretion and discernment necessary to navigate the delicate intricacies of religion and belief.

I might have not been her greatest fan at once, especially since I’ve learned that Daemon had kept in touch with his ex-mistress even after marrying my daughter. But I trusted Laena to know if her husband had been unfaithful or not, and to deal with Daemon if needed. Lady Mysaria had long since proven herself and her expertise in such matters was unrivaled, honed by years of clandestine dealings and covert operations.

Moreover, the memory of Rhaenys's intervention in the children's fights in Flea Bottom served as a method of earning her alliance. Lady Mysaria did not care much for who sat on the throne, other than surviving and possessing their favor. However, if she trusted that the person on the throne would care for the well being of the smallfolk, the White Worm would do what’s necessary to aid them.

With the White Worm's assistance, we would be able to identify individuals who were open to embracing the faith of the Old Gods, thereby alleviating the concerns of Lord Stark and Lord Manderly while ensuring a smooth transition for any newcomers to the North. The hesitant yet eventual acceptance from Lord Stark and Lord Manderly filled me with a sense of relief and accomplishment.

After wrapping up our discussions and bidding our Northern hosts farewell, I wasted no time in getting in touch with the White Worm once we made it back in King's Landing. There was a sense of urgency driving me, knowing that every moment counted for those seeking a fresh start with the North.

As the plans fell into place, I couldn't shake the feeling of optimism that washed over me. Without hesitation, I rallied the resources of House Velaryon, offering up some of our ships to transport the residents of Flea Bottom to their new home. It might have seemed like a small gesture, but I knew it would mean the world to those whose lives it would touch.

Chapter 11: I Daeron’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 122 AC

As I boarded the ship bound for Old Town, resentment simmered within me like a slow-burning ember. Why was I being sent away? What had I done to deserve exile from my home, from my family? These questions gnawed at me, fueling the fire of bitterness that raged within. Old Town greeted me with its ancient streets and towering buildings, but its grandeur offered little solace for the ache in my heart. Surrounded by unfamiliar faces and distant voices, I felt adrift in a sea of strangers, longing for the warmth and familiarity of home.

Fortnights turned into moons, and moons into years, yet the sting of abandonment refused to fade. I immersed myself in my studies, seeking refuge in the pursuit of knowledge, but even the vast archives of the Citadel could not fill the void left by my absence from King's Landing. Then, one day, I returned. The sight of my mother waiting for me at the docks filled me with a sense of relief and belonging that I had sorely missed. Her embrace was a balm to my wounded soul, her love a beacon of hope in the darkness that had consumed me.

In her presence, I found reassurance and strength, a reminder that no matter how far I roamed, my mother's love would always guide me home. Yet, as I stood before her, enveloped in her embrace, a realization dawned upon me like a bolt of lightning. As I gazed into my mother's eyes, I knew that the blame lay squarely upon my father's shoulders. It was my father who had sent me away, who had deemed me unworthy of his attention and affection. His neglect had driven a wedge between us, poisoning our relationship with bitterness and resentment.

Before returning to King’s Landing, I had been tasked with one special mission by my granduncle Ormund. Despite the warnings from my Hightower kin about not letting the Blacks win and putting Aegon on the throne, I found myself stuck in a bit of a pickle when it came to my siblings. Aegon was already showing signs of his drunken ways, far from the noble knight or righteous king our family hoped for. Raised to see Rhaenyra as nothing more than a loose woman, and looking at Helaena, I couldn't see her ruling the kingdom either.

It was like being caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, I wanted to do right by my family, honor their wishes, and make sure the right person ended up on the throne. But on the other hand, I couldn't ignore what was staring me in the face: Aegon's flaws and the doubts I had about my sisters' capabilities to rule. Caught between the teachings of the Seven and the expectations of my family, I felt like I was stuck in a never-ending limbo. The Seven taught me about righteousness, justice, and the qualities of a good ruler. And when I looked at my family, I couldn't see anyone who embodied those qualities.

Aegon's drunken escapades and Rhaenyra's tarnished reputation clashed with everything I had been taught. Even Helaena, though kind-hearted, seemed too fragile to bear the weight of the crown. It was a bitter realization, knowing that the ones closest to me were not fit to rule.

But then there were the family orders, the expectations placed upon me as a Hightower and a Targaryen. My loyalty to my kin ran deep, and I couldn't simply turn my back on them. Yet, it was the head of House Targaryen who had named his daughter as heir to the Iron Throne, and I couldn't ignore the weight of that decision either.

There was also the issue of navigating the dynamics within my own family, you never knew when someone might set something off. Rhaenyra's icy stares made it crystal clear that I wasn't part of her family. Jacaerys, though, tried to extend an olive branch, but my mom's disapproval always hung over us like a dark cloud. It tugged at my heartstrings to see the yearning in Jacaerys' eyes, to sense that connection between us that could never fully bloom. Mom's strict rules kept me at arm's length from the other kids in the family, even if we shared the same blood.

And Helaena, she was like a mystery wrapped in a delicate shell. I couldn't quite figure her out, her emotions hidden beneath that fragile exterior. Then there's Aegon, always with his mean jokes and wild antics, a constant reminder of the not-so-pleasant side of our family tree. In the middle of all this chaos, I felt lost, craving a sense of belonging that always seemed just out of reach.

In the midst of all that family drama swirling around the Red Keep, I found my solace in an unexpected place: little Joffrey. Sure, he might be another one of those baseborn kids, but there was something about him that just melted my heart. Maybe it was because my mom softened up a bit around him, thanks to Lucerys doting on his little brother like there was no tomorrow. Watching Joffrey toddle around, his little giggles filling the air, gave me a sense of peace that I couldn't find anywhere else. I'd spend hours playing with him, making silly faces, and building block towers, feeling like all the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. It was like he had this magical way of making all the chaos fade into the background, if only for a little while.

As for Lucerys, she was like this elusive legend roaming the halls of the Red Keep, and I swear, every time I turned a corner, someone was whispering about her. They talked about her like she was some kind of magical creature, capable of turning the darkest days into something bright and beautiful. And you know what? I couldn't help but be intrigued. She was my only niece, the only trueborn child of my sister Rhaenyra, and yet I'd never even laid eyes on her. But from the way small folk raved about her, you'd think she was the Maiden herself. They said she had this smile that could light up a room and a laugh that could chase away all your troubles. Heck, even the grumpiest of guards couldn't help but crack a smile when she was around.

I couldn't help but wonder what all the fuss was about. What was it about Lucerys that had everyone talking? Was she really as charming as they said, or was it all just a bunch of hogwash? I had to find out for myself.

So, with every tale I heard about her, my curiosity grew. I wanted to meet this mysterious niece of mine, to see for myself what all the fuss was about. Maybe she really was as special as they said, or maybe she was just a regular kid like the rest of us. Either way, I couldn't wait to finally meet her and see for myself what made her so darn special.

It was only when she returned from the Stormlands that I finally saw her grandeur for myself. Lucerys was like this ray of sunshine that just brightened up the whole darn place. I mean, I'd heard all these stories about her, how everyone adored her, but I never realized just how special she was until I finally met her. From the moment she walked into the room, I could see why the small folk and courtiers couldn't stop talking about her. She had this way about her, you know? Like she could turn even the gloomiest of days into something magical. And I gotta say, she had a knack for bringing people together. Even Helaena, who was always so quiet and reserved, seemed to come out of her shell when Lucerys was around.

And me? Well, let's just say I never thought I'd get along with Jacaerys, what with all the tension between our families and all. But there was something about Lucerys that just made it easy to let go of all that baggage and just be friends. Sure, mother didn't exactly approve of our little friendship, but she couldn't fault Lucerys for wanting her brother and uncle to get along. And you know what? I couldn't blame her. Lucerys had this way of bringing out the best in people, of making even the toughest of situations seem a little less daunting.

So yeah, meeting Lucerys was like a breath of fresh air for me. She made me feel like I belonged, like I was part of something bigger than myself. And for that, I'll always be grateful to her. However, Aemond's attitude towards our niece raised a few eyebrows, to say the least. It was like he was staking some kind of claim on her, and I couldn't help but notice. I mean, sure, she was my niece and all, but the way he hovered around her was just plain weird.

So, I did what any self-respecting brother would do—I made it clear to Aemond that there was nothing going on between me and Lucerys. I mean, come on, she's family! But Aemond was always a bit on edge when it came to her, like he was afraid someone might snatch her away or something. It took some convincing, but eventually, Aemond backed off. I guess he figured out pretty quick that I wasn't trying to steal his thunder or anything. Besides, I had my hands full with Joffrey, anyway. That kid was like a magnet, always drawing people in with his infectious charm.

I don't know what it was about him, but there was just something special about Joffrey. Maybe it was those big, amethyst soulful eyes, he was the only one of his siblings who had inherited his mother’s eyes. Or that mop of curly hair that always seemed to be in a perpetual state of disarray. Whatever it was, I couldn't resist him.

And then there was Aemond, shooting me these knowing looks like he was in on some big secret or something. I mean, what was that all about? Was there something I was missing? I couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it than met the eye, but try as I might, I just couldn't figure it out.

Aemond's knowing glances might have thrown me off for a moment, but I decided to brush them off and focus on what really mattered—my newfound bond with my older brother. When Aemond offered to teach me about our Valyrian heritage, I jumped at the chance. It felt like I was finally getting the big brother I'd always wanted, someone who looked out for me and cared about my well-being.

For the first time in a long time, I felt like I belonged, like I was a part of something bigger than myself. Aemond's guidance and mentorship gave me a sense of purpose, a connection to my roots that I had been missing ever since I left Old Town.

As for Aegon, well, let's just say he had his own priorities. Between his endless drinking and carousing, it was hard to imagine him ever taking on any kind of responsibility. I mean, sure, he was the heir to the throne and all, but most days you'd be more likely to find him stumbling out of a tavern on the Street of Silk than attending to his princely duties.

It was frustrating, to say the least. Here we were, living in the midst of a deadly game of thrones, and Aegon was off gallivanting around the city, drowning his sorrows in whor*s and ale. It was no wonder that his behavior often landed him in yet another screaming match with our mother.

I had decided to pay a visit to my mother, hoping to find solace in her presence amidst the chaos that seemed to swirl around us constantly. But as I approached her chambers, the sound of her raised voice stopped me dead in my tracks. I hesitated outside the door, unsure whether to enter or retreat, but curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself lingering just outside, straining to hear what was being said.

Inside, I could hear the familiar tones of my mother's voice, stern and commanding, as she delivered yet another scolding to Aegon. It seemed like a scene that played out all too often in our household, with Aegon bearing the brunt of our mother's frustration and disappointment. As I watched yet another argument unfold between Aegon and our mother, I couldn't shake the feeling of helplessness that washed over me.

I couldn't help but feel a sense of despair when it came to my eldest brother, Aegon. It was like he was living in a world of his own, completely oblivious to the dangers that surrounded us. I couldn't help but wonder if Aegon understood the gravity of the situation we were in. Did he not realize that our very existence was a threat to our half-sister's claim to the throne? Or was he simply too lost in his own world to see the danger that lurked just beyond the palace walls?

As I listened, my heart sank at the seriousness of their conversation. Rhaenyra was going on a royal progress. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks – this was no ordinary tour. Rhaenyra was traveling to the Crownlands, the Riverlands, and the Vale, accompanied by her husband and three children. The gravity of the situation was not lost on me. Rhaenyra was gathering supporters for her cause.

As I processed the news of Rhaenyra's royal progress, a pang of unease settled in the pit of my stomach. Why hadn't she included the Stormlands in her tour? It seemed like a glaring omission, but then it dawned on me – perhaps it was a deliberate choice to avoid showing favoritism, especially after Aemond, Lucerys, and Rhaenya's recent visit there. The Targaryen House couldn't afford to be seen as playing favorites. At least, that is one lesson she had learned, compared to our father.

But the realization brought with it a sobering truth – if Rhaenyra and her family were embarking on a tour of three regions, they would be gone for at least a year. The mere thought of such a lengthy absence made me wince, knowing the impact it would have on my family, particularly Aemond.

I couldn't shake the image of Aemond's reaction upon learning that he wouldn't see Lucerys for a whole year. The bond between them was undeniable, the thought of them being separated for such an extended period... Aemond would not cope well with her absence. He will feel lost without her by his side and take it out on everyone else. I, myself, was not feeling great about Joffrey leaving King’s Landing for that long.

As I pondered these, I was startled by a commotion nearby. Feeling curious, I followed the maids' whispers and bows, making my way to the hall corridor. Giving them a nod in return for their bows, I peeked through the window to see what had them all worked up.

And there it was, against the blue-sky backdrop, two massive dragons gliding gracefully over King's Landing. Dreamfyre and Ghost, shining like gems in the sunlight, moved in sync like they were dancing up there. I couldn't tear my eyes away. The sight of those dragons soaring was downright breathtaking.

Turning to one of the maids, I couldn't help but ask, "Are my sister and niece up there riding their dragons?" It was more of a rhetorical question, because I knew Lucerys and Helaena's dragons were like giant puppy dogs, always sticking to their riders' commands. But it did make me wonder how folks still called Ghost "mellow" after he torched a whole bunch of Dornish soldiers.

The maid didn't miss a beat. "We reckon so, my prince," she replied.

I let out a sigh, scratching my head in confusion. "I'm pretty sure my sister's never taken Dreamfyre for a fly, and I know for sure Ser Laenor said my niece couldn't ride her dragon until she turned at least ten namedays." It was all a bit baffling, to be honest.

Shaking my head, I shrugged it off. "Ah well, that’s not my problem to deal with," I muttered to myself. No skin off my back. I made a mental note to give Mom the heads up that her daughter had snuck off.

The maids gave me a respectful bow as I turned to head back to Mom's chambers. This time, though, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. Targaryens, dragons—what could possibly go wrong?

Chapter 12: I Leanor’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 122 AC

I watched as my daughter, Lucerys, and her aunt, Helaena, giggled together, their laughter echoing through the courtyard, after the Golden Cloaks had escorted them back to the Red Keep. A sigh escaped my lips as I realized they were up to their usual antics again. I knew I should be reprimanding Lucerys for disobeying my strict instructions. After all, I had made it crystal clear that she was not to approach Ghost on her own until she turned ten.

But as I gazed at her, all wide-eyed innocence and infectious joy, I found it impossible to stay mad. Lucerys had a way about her, a charm that could melt even the sternest of hearts. Who could resist those sparkling eyes and that radiant smile? Certainly not I.

Despite my best efforts to maintain discipline, I couldn't help but feel a pang of fondness as I watched her. She was my little pearl of Driftmark, a constant source of delight and wonder in my life. And while I knew I should be enforcing the rules, part of me couldn't help but revel in her spirited nature and boundless curiosity.

Still there was underline of worry after everything that had happened at the Stormlands. When my news had reached us that three highborn daughters had been kidnapped by Dorne, it had sent the court into dismay. With my daughter, Lucerys, just a few miles away from the chaos, fear gripped my heart like a vice. The mere thought of anything happening to my pearl sent a shiver down my spine. Rhaenyra and I were beside ourselves with concern, our minds plagued by endless what-ifs and worst-case scenarios.

For the first time, the bitter feud between the Blacks and Greens had been set aside in the face of a common threat. The realm was on the brink of conflict with Dorne, tensions escalating with each passing moment. Rhaenyra and Daemon were itching for a war, eager to defend our realm against any who dared challenge us. Luckily, they were reigned in, Westeros could not afford another war when we had just come out from one against the Triarchy.

However, it had been news of Lucerys' involvement in commanding Ghost to protect her cousins, that had left me seething with anger. In that moment, a piece of my daughter’s innocence had been stripped away, replaced by the harsh reality of the consequences of her actions. When my mother recounted the events, telling me how Ghost had unleashed his fiery wrath upon a squad of Dornish soldiers, I was incredulous. Ghost? The same dragon who had allowed the children of Dragonstone to frolic and play near him without a care in the world?

It was unfathomable to me. Ghost had always been gentle and accommodating, a guardian of sorts for the children of our household. Families from Dragonstone would often gather nearby, knowing they were safe under the watchful eye of the dragon. He had even scared off a few ruffians who had dared to approach too close. The idea of him unleashing such devastation was beyond belief.

The realization that Lucerys had unwittingly sentenced men to their deaths weighed heavily on my heart. Her innocence, her purity, tainted. As a father, it pained me to see her exposed to such violence. I couldn't shake off the worry gnawing at me about Ghost's behavior. However, to my surprise, the dragon remained unchanged even after the incident with the Dornish soldiers. It was as if nothing had altered in Ghost’s demeanor. My good brother, Daemon, had remarked that perhaps Lucerys' sea-blood tempered the fire within her, restraining the dragon within until circ*mstances demanded its release.

Whether Daemon's speculation held any truth, I couldn't say for certain. But I found solace in the fact that neither Lucerys nor Ghost appeared to be affected by the events in the Stormlands. It was a relief to see my daughter and her dragon companion remain steadfast in their nature, unaffected by the violence and turmoil that surrounded them.

I shook my head and focused on the task at hand. With a wry smile playing on my lips, I watched as Helaena and Lucerys stood before me, their guilty expressions betraying their mischievous escapade. I couldn't help but shake my head in mild amusem*nt as I scolded them for sneaking away from the Red Keep and taking flight on their dragons without proper supervision.

"Helaena, Lucerys," I began, my tone gentle yet firm, "this is not acceptable behavior. You both know the rules."

Helaena, quick to defend her actions, protested in uncharacteristic cheek, "It was my idea, cousin! I wanted to go to the Dragon Pit, and I dragged Lucerys with me."

I raised an eyebrow in confusion, wondering why she would do such a thing. "Why would you do that?" I asked, genuinely curious.

"Dreamfyre was calling to me," Helaena confessed, her voice tinged with excitement. "I knew it was finally time to answer."

Lucerys, always eager to add her own input, chimed in, "And Ghost was doing the same with me."

I couldn't help but flick Lucerys gently on the forehead, a playful reprimand for her disobedience. "Liar!" I teased, knowing full well that impatience had likely been the true culprit behind their rash decision. "We both know that you and Ghost simply couldn't wait any longer and seized the opportunity to disobey me."

Lucerys, her bottom lip jutting out in an adorable pout, rubbed her forehead where I had flicked her, before offering a sheepish apology. "Sorry, kepa," she mumbled, being too cute that it borderline with being illegal.

Queen Alicent Hightower then came rushing in, her expression frazzled and her tone sharp with admonishment, I watched as she practically dragged Helaena away, scolding her all the while. Despite the chaos of the moment, I appreciated the brief pause she took to ensure Lucerys was unharmed before continuing her tirade against her daughter.

With a resigned sigh, I turned to Lucerys, who stood before me with a mischievous smirk playing on her lips. She knew full well the trouble she had caused, yet there was a spark of excitement in her eyes that I couldn't help but admire. Gently taking her by the hand, I led Lucerys back to our apartments in the Family Wing of the Red Keep. As expected, Rhaenyra greeted us with unbridled joy, her excitement palpable as she learned of Lucerys's daring escapade.

"Lucerys, my sweet girl!" Rhaenyra exclaimed, enfolding her daughter in a tight embrace. "I'm so proud of you for riding Ghost! You've made your mother very happy."

The joyous celebration was punctuated by the arrival of the kitchen staff, bearing trays laden with Lucerys’ favorite dishes. I withheld a sigh as Rhaenyra spoiled our daughter. We should be scolding her and grounding her for misbehaving. But it was not like Lucerys could ever do anything wrong in my wife’s eyes. Rhaenyra had been happy when Jace had been born, she had the male heir her mother had never managed to birth, she could rest for a while. But it was when Lucerys was born that my wife celebrated in joy, she had always wanted a daughter and she got one. So, of course, Rhaenyra spoiled her.

Seeing that Lucerys was Rhaenyra’s favorite, the King also did his best to spoil his granddaughter. And do not get me started with my parents, and lately with my sister and good brother. Ever since Lucerys had somehow found Morning’s egg, she had become the favorite cousin of the twins and their parents. I was so lucky that Lucerys was simply the kindest soul I’ve ever met, otherwise we would have a Viserra-reborn in our hands. As she received like five gifts from each one of her relatives at a time, she would keep one of them, her favorite, and sell the other ones for coin to the various unattended charitable works from the deceased Queen Aemma.

That had only made her more adored by Rhaenyra and Viserys. Rhaenyra was in tears when she discovered what our daughter had been doing. We had been floored and amazed by Lucerys’ grand heart. No wonder, so many small folk have started calling her Alysanne-reborn. Soon afterwards, my wife had taken over the various unattended charitable works from the deceased Queen Aemma, and with it earned the love of the small folk in King’s Landing.

I had worried that maybe the other children would feel jealous about her being so favored. However, Jacaerys took his responsibilities of older brother seriously, and was very protective about his only sister. Joffrey was dotted upon by Lucerys and Daeron, and that was quite a surprise, as much as the older members of the family spoiled Lucerys. Aemond and Helaena were Lucerys best friends, and Baela and Rhaena worshipped the ground Lucerys walked on after giving Rhaena her dragon egg. As for Aegon… well, worryingly I have no idea what he does or feels half the time.

Maybe because I’ve never seen him sober since he hit puberty.

As the night settled in and the children finally drifted off to sleep, Rhaenyra and I found ourselves deep in conversation about the upcoming royal progress across the realm. I couldn't help but acknowledge the importance of this journey, recognizing it as a crucial opportunity to solidify our alliances and garner support for our cause. With each region we visited, we would have the chance to strengthen our ties with loyal allies and perhaps even sway those who remained undecided.

The Riverlands, in particular, weighed heavily on our minds. Unlike the staunch supporters the Greens found in the Westerlands and the Reach, the loyalty of the Riverlords remained uncertain. The region had long been plagued by division and internal strife, with House Tully struggling to assert its authority over its bannermen. It was a region we could flip over to our side.

"Laenor," Rhaenyra began, her voice tinged with a mixture of determination and concern. "The Riverlands will be a challenge, but we need to bring it to our side. And we need to do it without any marriage alliance. I will not sell my daughter to a greedy second son of a weak house like the Tullys."

I nodded in agreement, my pearl deserved to be worshiped not coveted because of the titles and lands in her name. "We will need to tread carefully," I replied, echoing her sentiments. "But I have faith that we can sway the Riverlords to our cause."

However, my wife did not smile in return. Rhaenyra's frustration was palpable as she drained her goblet of wine, her brows furrowed in deep contemplation. I could sense her inner turmoil, she must have been thinking about my mother’s warning. My mother had been adamant in her warnings, urging Rhaenyra to leave Harwin behind in King's Landing. His responsibilities as the Lord Commander of the City Watch were paramount, and his absence would leave a void that could not easily be filled. Though I believe my mother’s warning had been fueled by the fears of past rumors and scandals. Yet, Rhaenyra's heart rebelled against the notion of being parted from her beloved. I could understand her predicament, as such I will also be leaving my paramour in Dragonstone to show Rhaenyra my support.

I reached out my hand to touch her arm, offering what comfort I could. "Mother is right, Rhaenyra," I said gently. "Harwin's duty to the city must come first. If rumors of affair and bastardy resurface, it could jeopardize everything we've worked for."

Rhaenyra nodded grimly, her expression grave. "I know," she admitted, her voice heavy with resignation. "But I cannot simply abandon Harwin. He is my anchor, my confidant."

"Together, we can overcome any obstacle that stands in our path." I reassured her, my voice filled with determination.

With a weary smile, Rhaenyra squeezed my hand in return, gratitude shining in her eyes. "Thank you, Laenor," she said softly. "I don't know what I would do without you."

As much as I would like to leave this conversation at this, we still had one topic to discuss. Sensing Rhaenyra's unease, I carefully broached the topic, my voice tentative as I echoed the words of my father.

"Rhaenyra, love," I began, "my father proposed an idea... He suggested leaving Jace at Winterfell for a time, to foster with the Starks. Lord Rickon Stark will be coming to King’s Landing to celebrate the end of the Crown Princess’ first Royal Progress, he would be taking Jace with him back to the North."

Rhaenyra's brows furrowed in concern, her eyes meeting mine with a mixture of surprise and apprehension. "Winterfell?" she repeated, her voice soft with disbelief. "But... Jace..."

I nodded solemnly, my heart heavy with the weight of the decision we faced. "I know, Rhaenyra," I replied, squeezing her hand in comfort. "It's a lot to consider, but perhaps it's for the best."

"You might be right, maybe it is for the best," Rhaenyra murmured, her voice tinged with reluctance. "We both know that Jace has not been fully accepted at court. Even when the rumors of bastardy began to turn into Jace taking more of after his Arryn heritage…” we both chuckled at that. “Perhaps a change of environment will do him good."

Her grip tightened around mine, her expression troubled as she processed the implications of such a proposal. "I just don't want him to feel abandoned," she confessed, her voice wavering with emotion.

"He won't," I assured her, my own voice steady with conviction. "He'll understand that this is for his own good, and we'll visit him whenever we can. We do have dragons."

"You’re right, will visit him as often as we can," Rhaenyra agreed, her gaze steady and determined. "And we will ensure that he knows he is loved, no matter where he may be."

Her words brought a measure of comfort, but the ache of separation still lingered. Jacaerys was our son, even if he did not share my blood, he was mine. Not like Criston ever did anything for him. It was better for Jace to believe Harwin to be his sire, not that our loyal minded. Rhaenyra had been kind to share her lover with me, it was during one of those nights that she had joined the bed, and we were able to conceive our miracle, our pearl.

Oh, Jaehaerys Targaryen must be rolling in his urn. He had exiled his daughter Saera for her promiscuity and disinherited my mother because of her gender. Now my wife was the heir to the crown, was married to a man of the same house the Councilor hated so much and has borne three children to three different men. One of them a Kingsguard!

No wonder my mother was having so much fun lately!

Chapter 13: I Rhaenyra’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

Riverlands, Riverrun – 122 AC

The Royal Progress started off with a buzz of excitement bubbling in the air. We departed towards Rosby, and I could feel the anticipation dancing in my heart. As much as it hurt to leave Harwin behind, Leanor made me understand that this was for the betterment of our children’s future. This will be my first challenge as the future queen regent of Westeros, and I will prove to everyone that I am the better choice compared to my half-brother Aegon. When we reached Rosby, House Rosby was honored to host us. It felt good to be received with such warmth and hospitality.

As we continued on our journey, our next stop was Duskendale, the seat of House Rykker. But something felt off during this visit. My daughter Lucerys seemed unusually tense, and her nerves were palpable. I couldn't help but worry, watching her closely as we mingled with the people of Duskendale. Yet, as time passed, I noticed a shift in her demeanor. She began to relax, her tension melting away like snow under the sun. It was a relief to see her smile and enjoy the company around her. I couldn't shake off the feeling of unease entirely, but I brushed it aside, chalking it up to the overwhelming nature of the Royal Progress for a young princess of merely seven namedays.

Our journey continued, taking us to Antlers, the seat of House Buckwell. The scenery changed around us as we rode on, each new destination bringing its own unique flavor and atmosphere. The people greeted us with enthusiasm, their cheers echoing in the air as we passed through their lands. It was heartwarming to see the joy our presence brought to their faces.

Finally, we reached the last leg of the first part of the Royal Progress at Sow's Horn, the seat of House Hogg. I knew that cutting our tour through the Crownlands in two parts would pay off in the end. The idea was to come full circle, completing our journey by sailing back from the Vale and docking in Claw Isle, the seat of House Celtigar. From there, we would continue on to Rook's Rest, the seat of House Staunton, before finally visiting my good-family’s seat, Driftmark, home of House Velaryon. It would be a journey rich in meaning and significance, weaving together the threads of our alliances and familial ties.

However, before we could even set our sights on the Vale and the remaining Crownlands, we had the Riverlands beckoning us. It was crucial for us to solidify our hold over this region, to ensure that it remained firmly in the grasp of the Blacks faction and did not fall into the hands of our adversaries, the Greens.

As we deliberated on our route through the Riverlands, I made a swift decision to skip Maidenpool, the seat of House Mooton. The decision was not taken lightly, but the memories of past conflicts and the religious fervor that permeated the air in Maidenpool gave me pause. There had been incidents involving my family in the past, and I was not willing to risk a repeat of those events. The safety and well-being of my entourage were of paramount importance, and I could not in good conscience subject them to potential danger.

As we rode on, leaving Maidenpool behind us, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of regret mingled with relief. Though some may have questioned my decision, I knew in my heart that it was the right choice. Our journey through the Riverlands brought us to our first stop: Harrenhal, the seat of House Strong. Our arrival at Harrenhal marked my first visit to the legendary castle, a place steeped in history and shrouded in mystery. As we approached its towering walls and imposing towers, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and wonder. Harrenhal was unlike any other castle I had seen before, its sheer size and scale leaving me breathless.

I knew little of the inner workings of Harrenhal, save for the fact that the heir of House Strong, my secret lover, was raised within its walls. So, as we rode through the gates of the castle, I couldn't shake the feeling of excitement coursing through me. The halls were vast and cavernous, echoing with the sounds of our footsteps as we made our way through its labyrinthine corridors. Every corner seemed to hold a new secret, a new mystery waiting to be uncovered.

And yet, amidst the grandeur and opulence of Harrenhal, there was also a sense of sadness that lingered in the air. It was a reminder of the castle's tumultuous history, a history marked by tragedy and loss. But even in the face of such darkness, there was still beauty to be found within its walls, a beauty that spoke of resilience and strength.

As we left the grandeur of Harrenhal behind us and continued our journey through the Riverlands, a pang of sadness tugged at my heart. The thought of Harrenhal, with all its majesty and power, potentially passing to my son Joffrey weighed heavily on my mind. He was Harwin's son, born of a love that dared not speak its name in the light of day. It was a cruel twist of fate, one that left me struggling with conflicting emotions. On one hand, I wanted nothing more than to see my son inherit the wealth and power of Harrenhal, to ensure his future was secure. But on the other hand, I couldn't bear the thought of subjecting him to the stigma and prejudice that would inevitably accompany such a title. For to give him the lordship of House Strong would be to brand him as a bastard, a stain that would follow him for the rest of his days.

As the Royal Progress made its way to Acorn Hall, seat of House Smallwood, I couldn't help but feel a sense of regret wash over me. Regret for the choices I had made, the paths I had chosen to follow. If only I had not been so consumed by my obsession with Daemon, perhaps I could have found true happiness with Harwin. Perhaps we could have built a life together, free from the constraints of duty and expectation.

But alas, such thoughts were nothing more than wishful thinking. This was my life now, a life bound by duty and honor, by the weight of my responsibilities as queen. And though I couldn't help but wonder what might have been, I knew that I had to focus on the present, on the task at hand. For the realm was in turmoil, and it was up to me to ensure that my family emerged victorious from the chaos that threatened to engulf us all.

After Acorn Hal, we made our way to the seat of House Tully. As we approached Riverrun, a sense of gravity settled over us like a heavy cloak. This was no ordinary stop on our Royal Progress; this was our first real battleground, a crucial moment that could tip the scales of power in our favor. If we could win House Tully to our side, we would have half of the Riverlands at our back and call, a formidable force that could bolster our cause immeasurably.

As Laenor and I straightened up and got serious, I couldn't help but feel a surge of determination coursing through me. This was the moment we had been waiting for, the moment when our plans would be put to the test. We had to convince Lord Tully of the righteousness of my claim to the Iron Throne. The loyalty of the other half of the Riverlands might be won with the rest of the Royal Progress.

But as we neared Riverrun, I noticed a tension creeping into the air, a tension mirrored in the demeanor of my daughter Lucerys. She had always been perceptive beyond her years, her keen intellect a source of pride and wonder for me. At her age she already spoke three languages, High Valyrian, the Old Tongue, and the Common Tongue. Yet, there was something different about her now, a darkness in her gaze that gave me pause. Even her dragon, Ghost, seemed ill at ease in Riverrun. I made a mental note to keep our visit short, not wanting to risk any disruptions or misbehavior from one of our dragon companions.

As we approached Riverrun, its formidable presence loomed before us, a stark contrast to the grandeur of Harrenhal. Though not as vast in size, Riverrun commanded respect with its strong three-sided walls of red sandstone, rising sheer from the water like a sentinel guarding the riverbanks. Its battlements were crenelated, dotted with arrow loops that spoke of its defensive prowess, while its towers stood tall, offering commanding views of the surrounding lands. The keep was nestled within Riverrun's walls, though it was the Wheel Tower that caught my eye, its great waterwheel turning ceaselessly as the Tumblestone rushed by. Ivy climbed alongside it, adding a touch of natural beauty to the otherwise imposing structure.

We made our way through the Water Gate, the sound of our oars cutting through the water echoing in the stillness of the air. Many boats were tied up within the walls, secured to iron rings that spoke of generations past. We then ascended the water stair, making our way towards the heart of Riverrun. We were greeted by Lord Grover Tully and his grandson Elmo Tully. This was our moment to make our case, to win House Tully to our cause and secure their loyalty for the battles that lay ahead. But as we were escorted to our rooms to prepare for tonight’s banquet, a sense of unease settled over me like a dark cloud.

As I took a bath and prepared for the evening with the help of my maids, I couldn't shake the feeling of apprehension that gnawed at the edges of my mind. As I fastened the golden and ruby accessories around my body, Laenor's words hung in the air like a heavy mist. "Did you notice how Lucerys was acting?" he asked, his voice tinged with concern.

I paused, meeting his gaze with a solemn expression. "Yes, I did," I replied softly, my mind racing with worry for our daughter.

Laenor's brow furrowed as he considered my words. "Perhaps she's just nervous," he suggested, his voice laced with uncertainty.

I nodded in agreement, though a part of me couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to Lucerys' unease than simple nerves. "It's possible," I conceded, my voice tinged with doubt. "But we should keep an eye on her, just in case."

As we made our way to the banquet hall, the weight of our conversation lingered between us like a silent shadow. Lucerys was our daughter, our precious girl, and I couldn't bear the thought of her feeling alone or afraid in this unfamiliar place. It was only when we entered the banquet hall, that I relaxed at the sight of my family gathered. Each of my children looked resplendent, radiating beauty and grace in a way that only they could. They were my pride and joy, the embodiment of everything I held dear in this world.

I couldn't help but smile as I looked upon them, taking in the sight of Jacaerys and myself adorned with accents of red in our garments, a subtle homage to our Targaryen heritage. Laenor, Lucerys, and Joffrey wore accents of Velaryon teal. Lucerys looked positively lovely, her onyx braids adorned with sapphires and pearls that gleamed in the candlelight. And Joffrey, with his bright blue Velaryon cloak and amethyst eyes, was simply adorable. I couldn't help but feel a surge of happiness knowing that he had inherited my eyes, a small piece of me that lived on in him.

While part of me longed to see all of my children dressed in Targaryen red, I’ll suppose that their garments using black as a base will be enough for now. Unlike Alicent I knew how to respect my husband's house and honor our family's traditions. Lucerys and Joffrey were claimed by House Velaryon, even if they have the blood of dragons running through their veins.

We then took our seats at the banquet table, surrounded by the warmth and laughter of our hosts. As I settled into my seat at the banquet table, my eyes met Laenor's in a silent exchange of understanding. We both recognized the subtle message behind the seating arrangement orchestrated by Lord Grover Tully. His great-grandson, Oscar Tully, sat beside our daughter Lucerys. Oscar Tully was a second-born, with his elder brother Kermit Tully set to inherit Riverrun. With nothing to inherit himself, it was no surprise that Lord Grover saw an opportunity to forge a bond between our families, perhaps even hinting at a potential betrothal between Oscar and Lucerys. After all, Lucerys was not just any princess; she was the heiress of House Velaryon, the future Lady of the Tides.

As I observed the interaction between Oscar and Lucerys, I couldn't help but feel a mixture of emotions swirling within me. On one hand, I understood the practicality of such a match, the benefits it could bring to both our families. But on the other hand, I couldn't help but worry about my daughter's happiness, about her future and the choices that lay ahead of her. Lucerys was a spirited and independent young woman, with a mind of her own and a fierce determination that matched my own. I knew that she would not be easily swayed by the whims of others, that she would choose her own path in life, regardless of the expectations placed upon her.

Laenor leaned into whisper to me in High Valyrian, a teasing glint in his eyes, I couldn't help but suppress a chuckle at his observation. "Se syt Dārys Tullīs hen Irȳbas astalta brōzi. (It seems Oscar Tully is quite taken with our daughter)," he remarked, a hint of amusem*nt in his tone.

I nodded in agreement, a playful smile tugging at the corners of my lips. "Skorion, nyke riña jāhor? (Well, can you blame him?)" I replied in the same tongue, my voice filled with mirth. "Lucerys zȳhon vēzȳragon issa. (Lucerys has always had a way of captivating those around her.)"

But as the laughter faded from my lips, a shadow crossed my features, and I couldn't help but feel a pang of regret at the situation unfolding before us. "Ānogār, se zirni, (It's a shame, really,)" I murmured, my voice tinged with sadness. "Jentyssy kīvio ondoso zȳhon Lucerys, hae taqpa ondoso jaqot arli zābriar ajomar ao taqpa jikagon ondosy zūgusy ñuha ziry daor se sahīksy ao se hen. (If only Lucerys' heart weren't already spoken for, a marriage between her and Oscar could seal the deal and secure the Riverlands for our cause.)"

Laenor's smile softened at my words, his gaze meeting mine with a mixture of understanding and sympathy. "Sȳndor nūmāzma, qūbirī rijībagon? (You would know all about that, wouldn't you?)" he remarked gently, a note of tenderness in his voice.

I felt a lump form in my throat at his words, memories of my own past rushing back to me in a tumultuous wave. A niece falling for an uncle was not rare in our family line, I truly hope this time it would not end in tragedy. "Skoriot, (Yes,)" I admitted quietly, my voice barely above a whisper. "Aōhoso ēza. (I suppose I would.)"

As Laenor and I turned to follow a thread of conversation that had caught our attention, we were taken aback by the sight that greeted us. Lucerys, our daughter, stood before Lord Grover Tully, her animated gestures and bright smile captivating him in a way that left us both surprised. When had Lucerys left Oscar's side? It hardly mattered now, as she held court with the lord of Riverrun with a confidence and charm that left us both in awe.

Though, I could tell that there was a tension on her body language, that only we could tell because we were her parents. What did Lucerys have against House Tully and Riverrun? This was her first time here!

I watched with a mixture of pride and curiosity as Lucerys effortlessly regaled Lord Grover with her knowledge of Riverrun, a knowledge that neither Laenor nor I knew she possessed. How had she come by such information? It was a mystery, but one that I couldn't help but admire as I listened to her speak.

"Lord Tully, I read that properly garrisoned, Riverrun can hold supplies for men and horses for as long as two years," Lucerys explained, her voice steady and assured. "However, a garrison of two hundred men is larger than Riverrun requires in most circ*mstances." She continued, describing the guardsmen's attire with precision. "I read all about the guardsmen fish-crest helms, and it was so fun to see them outside of book pages," she said, her eyes bright with enthusiasm. "The helms are a symbol of House Tully's connection to the river and its bounty, right?"

Lord Grover listened intently, his eyes alight with interest as Lucerys spoke. As I watched Lucerys charm Lord Grover with her knowledge, I couldn't help but feel a swell of pride in my heart. She was my daughter, my flesh and blood, and in that moment, she was proving herself to be a force to be reckoned with.

When Lord Grover Tully bid us goodnight, his words of praise for Lucerys still echoing in our ears, Laenor and I shared a knowing glance. In that moment, we understood that there were many paths to earning someone's loyalty, and marriage was not the only answer. Lucerys had shown us that to truly earn someone's respect and allegiance, one must first respect their family and honor their history.

Days passed calmly and as we prepared to depart from Riverrun, I couldn't help but feel a sense of gratitude wash over me. Our fortnight in the Riverlands had been a success beyond our wildest expectations, and it was all thanks to our daughter's charm and intelligence. Lucerys had won over Lord Grover Tully and his house with her knowledge and charisma, proving herself to be a valuable asset in our quest for the Iron Throne.

As we rode away from Riverrun, leaving behind the towering walls and rushing waters of the Tumblestone, I knew that we had gained more than just an ally in House Tully. We had gained their respect and loyalty, forged through the bonds of friendship and mutual understanding. And as we continued on our journey, towards the challenges and trials that lay ahead, I knew that we would face them with confidence and determination, knowing that we had the support of House Tully behind us.

Chapter 14: II Rhaenys’ P.O.V

Chapter Text

Driftmark, High Tide – 122 AC

As expected, the moment Rhaenyra and Laenor departed on their Royal Progress, the court at King's Landing erupted into a flurry of activity. Alicent and the Greens wasted no time in trying to regain the pull and power they once held, scheming and plotting behind closed doors. It was all rather amusing to me, if I'm being honest. The Greens seemed to believe that Rhaenyra was the puppet behind the Black Faction, but in reality, they couldn't be more wrong. They were all fools, blinded by their own arrogance and ignorance.

The Greens planned to use Aegon as a puppet king, but they failed to consider the fact that House Velaryon had similar ambitions for Rhaenyra. My niece may not have been raised for rulership, but she possesses all the qualities of an excellent leader. Yet, Viserys's indulgence and foolishness have left her ill-prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Despite the lessons that Corlys and I have been imparting to her, I know that Rhaenyra will need guidance and influence to make the right decisions.

If left to her own devices, Rhaenyra would undoubtedly make choices that would only serve to further destabilize the realm. I've seen the way she looks at Harwin Strong, her secret paramour, and I know that if given the chance, she would cast aside Laenor and marry him without a second thought. Such a decision would only fuel the rumors of her children's bastardy, further complicating an already precarious situation. Which is why Corly, and I decided to try and influence Rhaenyra as much as we could during her ruling, all while training Jacaerys to be a good king. Let’s hope he becomes the first great king of Westeros, because until now House Targaryen have only birthed great conquerors, weak kings, cruel princes, or grand queens that never got the chance to rule.

As I watch events unfold at court, I know that I must tread carefully. As much as Alicent and her Greens tried to expand their influence, they found themselves thwarted at every turn. With Corlys and me at court, and all our bases covered, they were left scrambling to gain a foothold in the corridors of power. Despite their best efforts, they simply could not match our cunning and resourcefulness. At the Small Council, only the Master of Laws remained loyal to the Greens, a lone voice amidst a sea of opposition. Even when Alicent attempted to place her brother Gwayne at the City Watch to spy for their cause, it ended in tragedy. Gwayne's untimely demise was not orchestrated by any of us—it was a simple twist of fate, a cruel irony that left the Greens reeling in disbelief.

The Gods, it seemed, were playing their own game, favoring one faction over the other with capricious abandon. At one time, it had been the Greens who held sway, their influence spreading like wildfire throughout the realm. But now, it was our turn to bask in the favor of the gods, to seize the opportunity that lay before us and cement our place at court. We had come so far, endured so much, and now, victory was within our grasp. But we could not afford to become complacent, not when the stakes were so high, and our enemies lurked in every shadow.

No, we would need to remain vigilant, to always stay one step ahead of our adversaries. For the game of thrones was a treacherous one, and only the strong and the cunning would emerge victorious in the end. There was a reason why Old Town had survived this long, even with their treacherous nature. So, I was not surprised when House Hightower was willing to use the death of one of their one to expand their power. After the funeral of Gwayne Hightower, which had brought Otto Hightower back to King's Landing, Alicent wasted no time in trying to influence Viserys to allow Otto to remain at the Red Keep. She claimed that she needed his company after the loss of her brother.

I was not going to allow that to happen, without putting a stop to it. I requested a private dinner with the king, a chance for us to reminisce about our family and discuss matters of importance. As two of the three remaining grandchildren of King Jaehaerys, we had much to discuss, and I knew that Viserys would be eager to oblige.

When Viserys eagerly accepted my invitation, a pang of guilt tugged at my heart. Manipulating my cousin in such a way didn't sit right with me, but then I remembered the mess he had made of the political situation we found ourselves in. This was his mess to clean up, and if a little manipulation was what it took to set things right, then so be it.

As I prepared for the dinner, a sense of determination filled me. This was my chance to sway Viserys to our cause, to ensure that he remained steadfast in his support of Rhaenyra and the Blacks. I couldn't afford to let sentimentality or guilt cloud my judgment, not when the fate of the realm hung in the balance. And so, as I sat across from Viserys at the dinner table, savoring the fine food and wine, I knew that I had to tread carefully. Every word, every gesture had to be calculated, designed to sway him to our side without arousing suspicion. It was a delicate dance, but one that I was willing to perform if it meant securing victory for our cause.

During the dinner with Viserys, I carefully planted the seeds of doubt in his mind, subtly weaving my words to provoke a reaction. When the topic of our shared grandchildren arose, I slyly remarked how relieved I was that the rumors of their bastardy had finally been put to rest. I knew it would strike a nerve with Viserys, and sure enough, his anger simmered just beneath the surface.

But I wasn't finished yet. I seized the opportunity to voice my discomfort with Otto's presence at the Red Keep, citing his past accusations against Rhaenyra as evidence of his unsuitability. It was a risky move, but one that paid off when Viserys acquiesced to my request the following day, sending Otto back to Oldtown.

Alicent was undoubtedly displeased by my actions, and I could feel her icy glare burning into me from across the throne room. But I knew that I had done what was necessary to protect Rhaenyra and our cause. Otto's influence over Viserys was too great to be ignored and allowing him to remain at the Red Keep would have posed a significant threat to our plans. As I watched Otto depart, a sense of satisfaction washed over me. Despite losing the favor I had recently earned from the Queen, I knew that I had made the right decision. The safety and security of our family were paramount, and if that meant sacrificing my own standing with the Queen, then so be it.

In the end, the good outweighed the bad. Otto's departure had removed a significant obstacle from our path, bringing us one step closer to victory in the struggle for the Iron Throne. Though, it did come with rapid consequences. It came as no surprise to me when I learned that Alicent had attempted to sow discord between Aemond and me. But her efforts were in vain, for the bond that had formed between Aemond and me during our time together in the Stormlands would be hard to break.

Despite Alicent's best efforts, I continued to spend time with Aemond, taking him and Daeron flying with me on Meleys, as their hatchlings were still young to take the boys into the skies. In those moments, all thoughts of politics and intrigue faded away, replaced by the simple joy of flight and the bond shared between dragon and rider. No matter how hard Alicent tried to tear us apart, she could never break the bond that united us. But Aemond and Daeron were not the only ones with whom I shared the skies. I also flew side by side with Helaena on Dreamfyre, her blue scales shimmering in the sunlight as we danced through the clouds. And on occasion, I joined Aegon and Sunfyre on their flights, the wind whipping through my hair as we raced across the sky.

Poor Aegon, he was a mess that someone needed to fix, and I was more than willing to take on the task. It was clear to me that Aegon had no desire for the crown, nor for the burdens that came with it. All he wanted was to be left alone with his wine, and I could certainly arrange that.

I had observed Cassandra Baratheon closely. The girl was as strong-willed as any Baratheon, with a fierce determination to carve out her own path in life. She had no interest in being anyone's lady-wife or queen-consort—she wanted power and autonomy, to be a regent in her own right with no man dictating her actions. And with Aegon by her side, she could achieve just that.

No one would dare challenge Cassandra's claim as the first Lady Paramount of Storm's End, not when she held the royal decree of a king declaring her as the rightful heir. And with Aegon as her husband, she would have the backing of a prince of the realm. Anyone foolish enough to oppose her would have to face the wrath of Sunfyre, and few would be willing to risk such a confrontation. Moreover, Aegon would enjoy a life of ease and comfort, free from the burdens of rulership. And with his children's bloodline diluted, they would have no claim to dragons, sparing them from the dangers that often accompanied such power.

It was a solution that seemed to satisfy all parties involved. Cassandra would get the power she desired, Aegon would be spared the responsibilities he dreaded, and their children would be free from the burdens of being used as future puppet kings and princesses. Corlys and I had a heart-to-heart about the plan. We agreed it was the best course of action to betroth Cassandra to Aegon. After all, Borros and Cassandra Baratheon owed Lucerys a life debt. They wouldn't dare raise their swords against the Blacks, not even if Cassandra married Aegon. So, we decided to run it by Rhaenyra and Leanor when they return from the Royal Progress, before approaching the King.

Speaking of Rhaenyra and Leanor, their Royal Progress was going off without a hitch. I couldn't be prouder of what I was hearing and the letters my son and grandchildren had been sending me. It warmed my heart to see them thriving, especially in such uncertain times. After Riverrun, Rhaenyra’s Royal Progress continued towards Stone Hedge, seat of House Bracken. Then to Raventree Hall, seat of House Blackwood.

As expected, House Blackwood wasn't thrilled that House Bracken was visited first. There was always tension between them, given their long-standing rivalry. But Leanor, with his silver tongue, worked his charm and managed to smooth things over. He befriended a cousin of Lord Blackwood, which eventually led to both houses pledging their allegiance to the Blacks.

However, I couldn't help but wonder about the nature of the relationship between this cousin of Lord Blackwood and my son. But it wasn't something I wanted to delve into—I had no desire to pry into my son's personal affairs. The last thing a mother wants is to know who their son takes to bed. As long as our alliances were secure and our goals were being met, that was all that mattered to me. And my family’s happiness, of course.

As the updates poured in from Laenor's letters, I couldn't help but feel a mix of anticipation and concern. The Royal Progress was forging ahead, weaving its way through the Riverlands with each stop bringing its own set of challenges and triumphs. The news of the final leg of their journey through the Riverlands brought a sense of closure. Seagard, Oldstones, and Lord Harroway's Town.

With the Riverlands behind them, the Royal Progress set its sights on the next destination: the Vale.

As then they took the High Road towards the Vale. Their first stop in the Vale was The Bloody Gate, a formidable entrance that guarded the path to The Eyrie, seat of House Arryn. Rhaenyra's decision to stay in The Eyrie for a whole moon raised a few eyebrows, including mine. But any murmurs of favoritism were quickly silenced by the court, who saw it as a touching tribute to her late mother, Queen Aemma.

From Laenor's detailed letters, I learned that Rhaenyra's time in The Eyrie was indeed meaningful. She had the opportunity to explore the castle where her mother was born and raised, immersing herself in the stories of Aemma's childhood. They even stayed in the very bedroom where Aemma once slept. As I read Laenor's accounts of their time in The Eyrie, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride that Rhaenyra was finding solace and closure in the embrace of her mother's house.

After departing from The Eyrie, their journey through the Vale continued with visits to Heart's Home, Snakewood, Longbow Hall, and Old Anchor. But it was at Runestone, seat of House Royce, that they encountered an unexpected twist. According to Leanor's letter, the new Lord Royce was firmly entrenched in the Green Faction—a revelation that struck me as more amusing than frustrating. The notion that Daemon had no involvement in Rhea Royce's death was almost comical to me. After all, my cousin Daemon was certainly capable of stirring up trouble, but it seemed this time he was innocent of the accusations hurled his way.

As I read Leanor's words, I couldn't help but find irony in the situation. It appeared that House Royce's allegiance to the Greens was more a reflection of personal agendas and rivalries than any genuine belief in their cause. It was a reminder that politics in the Vale could be as fickle and unpredictable as the winds that swept through its mountains.

Despite the new Lord Royce's affiliations, I remained unfazed. The support Rhaenyra had garnered during their time in the Vale was undeniable. Her warmth and charisma had won over the hearts of the Vale lords and ladies, and it was clear that their loyalty lay firmly with her and our cause. It also helped that Rhaenyra had Arryn blood and was the daughter of a valewoman Queen. The Vale had never forgiven the King nor the Hightowers for the disrespect they showed to the memory of the deceased and still very well-loved Queen Aemma.

After Rhaenyra and Laenor's journey to Runestone, Corlys and I eagerly awaited the arrival of our family in High Tide. It had been a while since we last saw them, and the anticipation tingled in the air as we prepared for their arrival. Gulltown, Rook's Rest, and Claw Isle had been mere stops along the way, but High Tide held the promise of reuniting with our son and our precious grandchildren.

When the time finally came for us to meet in High Tide, it was as if the world lit up with joy. The smiles on our faces mirrored the happiness in our hearts as we embraced our family once more. Lucerys, Jacaerys, and Joffrey rushed into our arms, their laughter like music to our ears. Corlys and I couldn't contain our excitement as we showered our grandchildren with hugs and kisses, eager to spoil them rotten during our time together.

High Tide was abuzz with celebration, with Corlys pulling out all the stops to make it a truly unforgettable occasion. The extravagant banquet at High Tide were like something out of a fairy tale. The halls were adorned with shimmering tapestries and flickering candles, casting a warm glow over the assembled lords and ladies from across the Narrow Sea. It was a sight to behold, with the air filled with laughter and music, and the scent of sumptuous food tantalizing our senses.

As I looked around the room, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at the grandeur of it all. Lords and ladies mingled, their finery shimmering in the candlelight, while servants bustled about, ensuring that everyone's glasses were full and plates overflowing with delicious delicacies.

Among the guests were familiar faces and some unexpected ones too. The Prince of Pentos had graced us with his presence, and then there was Daemon, Laena, and their daughters. Corlys and I were, of course, delighted to have both of our children and all our grandchildren under the same roof.

I couldn't help but notice the subtle tension that hung in the air when Daemon's gaze fell upon Lucerys. When Daemon caught sight of Lucerys wearing the jade tiara he had once gifted Rhaenyra, I saw a flicker of something in his eyes. For a moment, it seemed as though time stood still as Daemon took in the sight before him. Lucerys, oblivious to the significance of the tiara, wore it with the grace of a princess, her youthful innocence shining through. And yet, there was a hint of sadness in Daemon's eyes, as if he had been reminded of a past, he would rather forget. But to his credit, Daemon said nothing, keeping his composure in front of the assembled guests. It was clear that the young girl had him wrapped around her finger, and perhaps it was for the best that he didn't make a scene.

As the young children played and danced, their laughter echoing through the hall, the adults at the high table engaged in a lively conversation in High Valyrian. It was a rare sight, seeing so many tongues wagging in the ancient language.

As Rhaenyra's words danced on the air, her voice carried a hint of sharpness, her jest laced with a vindictive pleasure. " Āeksio Hightower tepagon ondagon, dārys, (Another Hightower meets their end, it seems)," she quipped, her gaze sharp as she glanced around the table. " Skorobnyssa emilun ondilun avy syt ūndan. (Funny how they seem to be dropping as flies lately.)" She continued, a sly smile playing at the corners of her lips. "Āeksio syt Ōtō, ēngoso arlȳñīrī jevi bē pirtra korio syt drējagon. Sȳz daor Hightowerī syt mirre vāedar issa. (And poor Otto, kicked from King's Landing like a stray dog. Seems the Hightowers just can't catch a break these days.)"

Her words elicited a smattering of chuckles from those gathered, but beneath the laughter, there was an undeniable tension. Rhaenyra's sharp wit was a double-edged sword, capable of both amusing and unsettling those around her. The only one who seem to be feeling as pleased as her was Daemon, who looked as bloodthirsty as his dragon.

As Rhaenyra continued to speak, I couldn't help but exchange a glance with Corlys, a silent acknowledgment passing between us. We kept our thoughts to ourselves, allowing the conversation to flow on. In moments like these, it was best to tread carefully, to navigate the delicate balance between diplomacy and defiance.

The problem with Daemon and Rhaenyra, who possess charming qualities, that would make them great rulers, was the fact that they also had the bad habit of holding into grudges. Unlike Corlys, who could use that grudge to push him further in life, Daemon and Rhaenyra’s dragon blood could be their ruin. Luckily, our children’s sea-blood was there to balance it out.

I simply hope that will not end up with neither of my children dead because of them.

Chapter 15: II Alicent's P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 123 AC

This year has been nothing short of a nightmare for me. First off, Rhaenyra and Laenor's Royal Progress seemed to be going off without a hitch. Everywhere they went, they managed to charm the lords and ladies, winning them over to their cause. It was like a slap in the face to see so many rallying to their banner, while we struggled to maintain our own support.

The Riverlands, once a stronghold of neutrality, now seemed firmly in the Blacks' grasp. I couldn't believe it when my father told me the news. It was like a punch to the gut, knowing that so many Houses had pledged their allegiance to Rhaenyra and Laenor. How they managed to sway House Tully, of all houses, to their side was beyond me, and it gnawed at me like a festering wound.

I couldn't shake the feeling of frustration and helplessness that consumed me. It seemed like no matter what we did, the Blacks always managed to come out on top. Their success only served to highlight our own failures, and it felt like we were fighting a losing battle. As I stewed in my thoughts, I couldn't help but feel a sense of desperation creeping in. We needed to turn the tide, to regain the upper hand before it was too late. But with each passing day, it seemed like our chances slipped further and further away.

I knew that we couldn't afford to let our emotions get the best of us, but it was hard not to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation. On top of everything else, the pressure from my family in Old Town was starting to weigh on me like a lead weight. At first, they had been nothing but proud of me, boasting about my accomplishments in King's Landing. After all, I had given birth to four healthy, pure Targaryen-looking children for the king, three of them sons! It was a feat that few could match, and it had brought honor and prestige to our family name.

Not only that, but I had also used my influence to spread our family's wealth and power throughout King's Landing. By donating generously to the Faith for their charitable work, I had ingratiated myself with the influential figures of the city, further solidifying our position at court.

But perhaps my most significant achievement had been in spreading the truth about Rhaenyra. For too long, she had hidden behind a facade of innocence, while her true nature remained hidden from the court. But I was determined to expose her for the wanton whor* that she truly was, to reveal her sons as nothing more than bastards born of lust and deceit.

Yet despite my best efforts, control of the Red Keep had slipped through my fingers and fallen into the hands of the Blacks. It was a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that our enemies now held sway over the very heart of our power. I couldn't help but feel a sense of frustration and resentment building within me. I had done everything in my power to secure my family's position, to ensure our legacy endured for generations to come. And yet, it seemed like all my efforts had been for naught, as our enemies continued to gain ground at every turn.

With each passing day, it felt like the world was crumbling around me, and I was powerless to stop it. Larys's death had brought a sense of relief, but it had also robbed me of my most valuable source of information. Without him, I felt adrift, like a ship without a compass, lost in a sea of uncertainty. Even my influence in King’s Landing as a whole was diminishing, as Rhaenyra’s charities were more popular than mines. Then again that whor* didn’t do a single thing other than throw coin towards the charities that her mother had painstakingly worked hard on.

And then there was Daemon, that vile beast, who had murdered Mellos in cold blood and replaced him with a maester loyal only to him. The Small Council, once a bastion of loyalty to the Greens' cause, was now a shadow of its former self, with only Lord Jasper Wylde remaining steadfast in his support.

To make matters worse, news of my brother's death in Flea Bottom had reached my ears, a cruel blow that left me reeling with grief. And then, just as I was struggling to come to terms with his loss, my father was once again sent away from court, leaving me feeling more alone than ever before. I only had my sword shield by my side, as my loyal companion and confidant.

In the midst of it all, I couldn't help but feel a sense of despair creeping in. It was as if the very foundations of my world were crumbling beneath me, leaving me with nothing but uncertainty and fear. I had never felt more alone in the Red Keep, not even during the early days of my marriage when I still harbored feelings of friendship towards Rhaenyra.

As if everything else wasn't hard enough, dealing with my own children had become a daily struggle. Aegon, my firstborn, had turned into nothing but trouble. He was skipping his training and lessons, spending his days drunk and carousing on the Street of Silk or recklessly flying around on that beast of his, Sunfyre. It was enough to make my blood boil with frustration.

And then there was Helaena, my sweet daughter. She was so fragile, so easily swayed by her emotions, and it left me at my wit's end trying to keep her steady. Her hysterics were becoming more frequent, more intense, and I felt like I was walking on eggshells around her, never knowing what might set her off.

But perhaps the most worrying of all was Aemond, my loyal son, my rock. The year without Lucerys had left him destabilized, his once calm and dutiful demeanor giving way to violence and ferocity. It was like watching a shadow of Daemon emerge in him, and it terrified me to my core. The thought that my own son could become like that monster sent shivers down my spine.

For now, only Daeron seemed to be behaving himself, but even he seemed subdued, his usual bright demeanor dimmed by the absence of Rhaenyra's children. It was clear that he missed his cousins, missed the camaraderie they shared, and it pained me to see him so downcast- even if it was because of the absence of bastards.

As I watched my children struggle with their own demons, I couldn't help but feel a sense of helplessness wash over me. I had always prided myself on being a strong and capable mother, but now I felt like I was failing them, unable to protect them from the dangers that lurked in the world around us. But despite the challenges we faced, I knew that I couldn't give up hope. My children were my greatest treasures, my reason for living, and I would do whatever it took to ensure their safety and happiness. Even if it meant facing my own fears and confronting the demons that haunted us all.

The turmoil within my own family was enough to drive me to the brink of despair. I had tried to discuss the possibility of a betrothal between Aegon and Helaena, despite my reservations about an incestuous marriage that went against my religious beliefs. But I knew that it was necessary for securing Aegon's position as the future King of Westeros. However, Viserys had outright refused, insisting instead on betrothing Helaena to Jacaerys. The very thought of my precious daughter marrying a bastard like Jacaerys made my blood boil with rage.

And as if that wasn't enough, rumors began circulating about a potential betrothal between Oscar Tully and Lucerys Velaryon. The mere thought of Lucerys, my beloved future good-daughter, being betrothed to another filled me with dread, and Aemond's mood only worsened as the whispers grew louder. It was clear that he was deeply troubled by the prospect, and it broke my heart to see him in such pain.

Desperate to find a solution, I visited my husband that night, determined to put an end to the rumor mill. I suggested the idea of a betrothal between Aemond and Lucerys, And much to my relief, Viserys agreed. In that moment, a weight lifted off my shoulders, and I felt a glimmer of hope amidst the chaos.

Despite the chaos and uncertainty swirling around me, my small victory filled me with a sense of relief and even brought a genuine smile to my face. As I found myself amidst yet another lavish banquet in honor of Rhaenyra Targaryen's return to the Red Keep, I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction at the knowledge that my family was one step closer to finding peace.

Viserys, ever the gracious host, had spared no expense in celebrating Rhaenyra's homecoming. The banquet hall was adorned with opulent decorations, the air filled with the sound of laughter and music, as guests from far and wide gathered to pay homage to the crown princess. Lord Lyman Beesbury, in particular, seemed to be moved to tears at the sight of such extravagance, his lamentations over the state of the crown's coffers echoing through the hall. But for Viserys, no expense was too great when it came to celebrating his precious daughter's return.

As I mingled with the other guests, exchanging pleasantries and indulging in the sumptuous feast laid out before us, I couldn't help but feel a sense of irony at the situation. My small victory may have been just that – small – but it was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise uncertain world.

For this grand occasion, I decided to indulge Aemond by allowing him to wear something other than his usual green attire. And I must admit, he looked quite striking in his silver and purple garment, a departure from his usual somber demeanor. It brought a small sense of pride to see him standing tall and confident, a rare smile gracing his lips.

As the evening reached its zenith, King Viserys himself rose from his seat, commanding the attention of all present. With a voice that resonated throughout the hall, he made the long-awaited announcement.

"My lords and ladies, esteemed guests," he began, his voice ringing clear and authoritative. "It is with great pleasure that I announce the betrothal of my second son, Prince Aemond Targaryen, to my granddaughter, Princess Lucerys Velaryon."

The room erupted into applause, the sound echoing off the walls as the assembled guests cheered their approval. But for me, the true victory came in the form of the look of pure hatred and fury that flashed across Rhaenyra's face as she turned towards me. It was a moment of sweet vindication, a silent acknowledgment of the power shift that had taken place.

And as I raised my glass in a cheeky salute towards her, I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction wash over me. This was my moment, my triumph in the face of adversity. And with Aemond's future secured, I knew that there was nothing that could stand in our way.

In that moment, surrounded by the warmth and laughter of the banquet hall, I allowed myself to revel in the feeling of victory. It may have been a small triumph in the grand scheme of things, but it felt like a monumental achievement. For too long, Rhaenyra had held sway over the court, her influence casting a shadow over our family's ambitions. But now, it was my turn to have the upper hand, to assert my family's dominance and secure our place in the realm.

I glanced over at Aemond, the beaming smile on his face filled me with pride. He had faced so much hardship as a second son, and yet here he stood, a symbol of strength and resilience. Yes, I had done good, I had secured a bright future for my son, one filled with love and happiness.

Chapter 16: II Laenor’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 123 AC

Oh, the fury that burned within Rhaenyra was a sight to behold. As she stormed out of the Grand Hall, her rage palpable in every step, I knew that I had to act quickly to prevent her from doing something that we would all regret. With a sense of urgency, I hurried after her, guiding her towards our chambers before her anger consumed her completely.

Once inside, Rhaenyra unleashed her fury upon the room, throwing objects around and screaming her frustrations into the air. It was a terrifying sight to behold, watching her unleash the full force of her fiery temperament. In moments like this, she truly lived up to her House’s namesake, a dragon with flames dancing in her eyes.

As I watched her, I couldn't help but wince, my heart aching for her as she struggled with the overwhelming emotions that threatened to consume her. Rhaenyra was a force of nature, her passion and intensity unmatched by any other. But in moments like this, it was clear just how hot her blood could run, how fierce her spirit truly was.

Despite the chaos unfolding around me, I remained by her side, offering what comfort and support I could as she raged against the injustices of the world. For Rhaenyra was not just my queen, she was my friend, my confidante, and I would stand by her through thick and thin, come what may.

As Rhaenyra's screams began to subside, I held her tightly, whispering words of comfort and reassurance in her ear, as she began to sob on my chest. "I'm here, cousin," I murmured softly. "You're not alone. We'll get through this together."

She clung to me, her tears soaking into the fabric of my tunic as she struggled to find her voice. "It's not fair, Laenor," she finally whispered, her voice choked with emotion. "He didn't even ask us. He just...sold her off like she's nothing more than a pawn."

I nodded in understanding, my own anger simmering just beneath the surface. "I know, cousin," I replied, my voice tight with frustration. "But we won't let him get away with it. We'll find a way to make things right, I promise."

As Rhaenyra's tears slowly subsided, I held her gently, feeling her anguish radiate from her trembling form. "Why, Laenor?" she whispered, her voice raw with emotion. "Why does he always treat me like I'm just a pawn in his game?"

My own heart ached at the pain in her voice, the sense of betrayal that colored her words. "I don't know, my queen," I murmured, my voice soft with sympathy.

Rhaenyra looked up at me, her eyes searching mine for reassurance. "I don't know what I would do without you, Laenor," she said, her voice trembling with gratitude. "Thank you for always being there for me, for standing by my side through thick and thin."

I smiled sadly, brushing a stray tear from her cheek. "You don't have to thank me, my queen," I replied, my voice filled with unwavering loyalty. "I will always be here for you, no matter what. Together, we will weather this storm, and emerge stronger than ever before."

As Rhaenyra finally succumbed to exhaustion and drifted off to sleep, I carefully disentangled myself from her embrace, ensuring not to disturb her peaceful slumber. With a tender touch, I began to remove her jewelry, each piece a reminder of the weight she carried upon her shoulders. As the delicate trinkets slipped from her skin, I felt a pang of sadness for the burdens she bore.

Once her jewelry was safely stowed away, I gently unmade her braids, letting her long locks cascade freely around her. It was a rare moment of vulnerability for Rhaenyra, her usually fierce facade softened in sleep. With a sense of reverence, I dressed her in a simple nightgown, tucking her in with care before placing her on her bed.

With Rhaenyra settled, I made my way to visit Lucerys, finding her curled up beneath the Velaryon-teal covers of her bed. A smile tugged at the corners of my lips as I approached, admiring the peaceful expression on her sleeping face. With a gentle hand, I brushed a stray lock of onyx hair from her forehead, marveling at the innocence and purity that radiated from her. Leaning down, I pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, a silent promise to protect her from the darkness that lurked beyond these walls. Lucerys was my light in the darkness, my reason for hope in a world filled with uncertainty.

But as I pressed a gentle kiss to Lucerys' onyx locks, I couldn't help but notice the softness of her smile as she stirred awake. Sitting beside her on the bed, I couldn't resist the urge to ask her how she felt about the betrothal to Aemond. Her response was thoughtful, her words measured as she struggled to articulate her feelings.

For a moment, there was silence as Lucerys pondered my question, her brow furrowed in concentration. As I caressed Lucerys' hair and hummed a soft tune, I couldn't help but notice the uncertainty in her eyes as she considered my question. "It's okay if you're not sure, sweetheart," I reassured her, my voice gentle and soothing. "You're still young, and you have plenty of time to figure out what you want."

Lucerys nodded slowly, her expression thoughtful as she absorbed my words. "I like spending time with Aemond," she admitted quietly, her voice barely above a whisper. "But I don't know if I want to marry him. I don’t know if I want to marry anyone."

As I continued to stroke Lucerys' hair and hum a soft melody, my mind raced with thoughts of concern for her well-being. A girl of seven namedays should not be burdened with decisions as weighty as marriage. It troubled me deeply to see her struggling with such grown-up matters at such a tender age.

Still, I couldn't help but smile at her honesty, marveling at the maturity she displayed beyond her years. "That's perfectly alright," I said, my voice warm with affection. "You don't have to make any decisions right now. Just focus on being happy and enjoying your childhood."

At my words, Lucerys' face lit up with a bright smile, the weight of her uncertainty momentarily lifted. "Thank you, kepa," she said softly, her gratitude evident in her eyes. "I'm glad I have you to talk to."

Tears welled up in my eyes at her words, overwhelmed by the depth of emotion that filled me. "You will always have me, my pearl," I promised, my voice thick with emotion. "No matter what happens, I will always be here for you, to protect you and keep you safe."

"If ever you decide that you do not want to marry Aemond," I murmured, my voice filled with conviction, "you can always come to me. I will do everything in my power to protect you, to ensure that your happiness comes first." Even as I spoke the words aloud, a part of me hesitated, knowing the challenges that lay ahead. But I was determined to keep my promise to Lucerys, no matter the cost. "I will stop the wedding if I have to," I vowed, my voice firm. "And if that fails, I will take you far away from here, to Essos, where no one can harm you."

To my surprise, Lucerys giggled at my words, her laughter like music to my ears. It filled me with a sense of relief, knowing that even in the face of uncertainty, we could still find moments of joy together. And as I smiled back at her, a weight lifted from my shoulders.

With a final glance at my precious daughter, I quietly slipped out of her room, leaving her to the peaceful embrace of sleep. As I made my way through the corridors of the Red Keep, my steps echoing in the quiet of the night, I couldn't shake the anger that simmered beneath the surface. Viserys stood before me, his smile bright and oblivious, flanked by Lord Commander Westerling. My heart burned with frustration at the sight of him, knowing that he had just made his own daughter cry herself to sleep with his thoughtless actions.

But I knew that now was not the time for confrontation. With practiced ease, I plastered a charming smile on my face, hiding the storm of emotions that raged within me. After all, I was the son of the Sea Snake, schooled in the art of diplomacy and manipulation by one of the greatest seducers of our time. My father did win the hand of a princess, after all.

"Congratulations, Your Grace," I said smoothly, my voice dripping with false sincerity. "You have truly outdone yourself with this match. You seem to have inherited the talent of Queen Alysanne, the Good."

Viserys beamed at my words, oblivious to the hidden meaning behind my shallow praise. Mentally, I couldn't help but draw a comparison to Queen Alysanne the Good, a woman revered for her matchmaking skills. But as revered as she had been, all of the wedding matches she had orchestrated had ended in tragedy. It was a subtle jab, a warning hidden beneath a veneer of flattery.

But Viserys remained blissfully unaware, his smile widening at my words. And as I watched him bask in his own perceived brilliance, a bitter taste filled my mouth. For all his power and authority, he was blind to the pain he had caused his own family, blind to the consequences of his actions.

But for now, I would play the role of the dutiful servant, hiding my true feelings behind a mask of civility. For there would be time enough for reckoning later. And when that time came, Viserys would learn that he could not trample over the hearts of his loved ones without consequence.

As Viserys and I strolled through the corridors of the Red Keep, Ser Harrold dutifully at his side, I couldn't help but seize the opportunity to plant the seeds of my next scheme. With each step, I carefully guided the conversation towards the topic of advantageous matches, knowing full well the power of suggestion.

"It's truly a joyous occasion, Your Grace," I remarked casually, my tone laced with calculated enthusiasm. "Aemond and Lucerys are the perfect match, and I have no doubt that their union will be celebrated throughout the realm."

I could see the wheels turning in Viserys' mind, his thoughts drifting towards the possibilities that lay ahead. And with a surge of determination, I seized the moment, pressing forward with my agenda. "But why stop there?" I continued, my voice brimming with conviction. "Surely there are many more matches to be made, many more alliances to be forged."

As Viserys considered my words, I knew that it was time to strike. With all the finesse of a master manipulator, I subtly suggested a match between House Baratheon and the crown, weaving a web of half-truths and carefully crafted lies.

"After all," I mused, "House Baratheon has not been as close to the crown as they once were. Perhaps a union between Lady Cassandra Baratheon and Prince Aegon could help strengthen our ties with Storm's End. And with Rhaenyra as the heiress to the throne, Aegon would have nothing to inherit. It could be a match made in heaven."

To my satisfaction, Viserys nodded in agreement, oblivious to the strings I had pulled behind the scenes. As he fell into my trap, I couldn't help but smirk internally, knowing that I had once again manipulated the situation to my advantage. And as we continued our conversation, I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction at the knowledge that I was one step closer to achieving my goals.

As our conversation continued, I couldn't help but steer it towards the topic of family unity, knowing full well the tension that simmered beneath the surface. With each word, I carefully crafted my argument, weaving a web of persuasion that would ensnare Viserys in my web.

"It pains me to see the rift that has formed within our family," I confessed, my voice tinged with genuine sadness. "But I believe that there is a way to mend the divide, to bring both sides together in harmony."

Viserys' frown deepened at my words, his concern evident as he considered the implications of our fractured family. And with a sense of urgency, I pressed forward, laying out my proposal with all the charm and persuasion at my disposal.

"I believe that uniting both sides of the family would be the best course of action," I continued, my voice steady and convincing. "Helaena, as the daughter of a king, deserves to ascend to the highest position of power. And what better way to ensure her future than by marrying her to Jacaerys, Rhaenyra's heir?"

To my satisfaction, Viserys nodded in agreement, swayed by my sweet words and the promise of family harmony. It was all too easy to manipulate him, to bend him to my will with the promise of a brighter future. And as we concluded our conversation, I couldn't help but feel a sense of triumph at the knowledge that I had once again achieved my goals through cunning and persuasion.

One fortnight later, after receiving a response back from Storm’s Endd, as Viserys held court, surrounded by the lords and ladies of the realm, I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction as my plans unfolded before my eyes.

With a flourish of his hand, Viserys made the proclamation that would change the course of our family's future. "I am pleased to announce," he declared, his voice echoing through the hall, "the marriage betrothal between my daughter, Princess Helaena Targaryen, and my grandson, Prince Jacaerys Targaryen."

The court erupted into murmurs of surprise and disbelief, the news catching them off guard. But as the shock wore off, a wave of excitement swept through the room, cheers and applause ringing out in celebration of the union.

But Viserys was not finished yet. With a regal smile, he continued, "And furthermore, I am delighted to announce the betrothal between my son, Prince Aegon Targaryen, and Lady Cassandra Baratheon of Storm's End."

The court was stunned into silence once more, three royal marriage betrothals announced in less than a fortnight. But as the news sank in, the room erupted into cheers once more, the courtiers eager to show their support for the matches chosen by their king.

As I watched the scene unfold before me, a sense of pride swelled within my chest. For it was I who had orchestrated these unions, manipulating the situation to my advantage with careful planning and cunning persuasion. And as the court cheered and applauded, I couldn't help but feel a sense of triumph at the knowledge that my efforts had not been in vain.

My eyes met Queen Alicent's, I could see the color draining from her face, replaced by a look of horror and disbelief. It was a moment of triumph for me, a moment of sweet revenge for all the pain she had caused me and my family. For too long, she had underestimated me, thinking that Rhaenyra’s fire was the one to watch out for. Which I liked just fine, because then his enemies never see it coming. Alicent had dared to involve my precious daughter in her schemes, using her as a pawn in her bid for power. And now, I had turned the tables on her, taking both her son and daughter from her grasp. It was a fitting punishment for the woman who had caused so much suffering in my life.

My gaze shifted from Alicent to her sworn shield, Ser Criston Cole, a smirk played across my lips. I could see the fury burning in his eyes, the righteous indignation of a man who believed himself above reproach. But little did he know, he was nothing more than a pawn in my game, a pawn that I would use to exact my revenge.

Criston had taken Joffrey, my beloved lover, from me, tearing him away in a fit of jealousy and rage. But now, I had taken something far more precious from him: his own flesh and blood. Jacaerys would never see Criston as a father figure, for in his eyes, he would always be my son. And as I imagined the moment when Criston would realize the truth, when he would come face to face with the consequences of his actions, a sense of satisfaction washed over me.

For in the end, I had emerged victorious. I had outmaneuvered my enemies, leaving them powerless in the face of my cunning and determination. And as I basked in the glow of my triumph, I knew that no one would ever underestimate me again.

For I was Laenor Velaryon, and I had won.

Chapter 17: I Rickon's P.O.V

Chapter Text

The North, Winterfell – 124 AC

Losing my wife and second son at the birthing bed was a blow I never thought I'd recover from. The pain of their passing was like a relentless storm, battering at the walls of my heart until I felt like I would crumble beneath the weight of it all. But just when I thought I couldn't bear it any longer, fate intervened in the form of Lord Corlys and Ser Laenor Velaryon.

Meeting them was like a breath of fresh air, a ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds of despair that had consumed me. Their energy and determination were infectious, inspiring me to rise from the ashes of my grief and reclaim my vigor as Lord of Winterfell. With their support and the influx of people sent north by the Black Faction’s ally, the White Worm, and House Velaryon, I set about rebuilding the North, brick by brick. Villages and seats sprang up across the land, breathing new life into the once desolate landscape.

With House Velaryon and House Manderly's support, we fortified the western coast against Ironborn raids, strengthening our defenses and ensuring the safety of our people. And when it came time to reward my brother and nephews for their loyalty and service, I knew just what to do. I granted them Sea Dragon Point, a land rich in resources and opportunity, and appointed Bennard as Commander of the Western Northern Fleet. House Mormont will be at their side as their second in command.

My brother, now known as Bennard Seastark, embraced his new role with vigor, pouring his heart and soul into the task of building his own house. Bennard chose House Seastark’s words wisely, "Ever Anchored, Ever Bold". The banner was a grey anchor with its chain coiled around it, set against a backdrop of deep blue waves. I found it amusing that he made no mention to House Stark beyond the grey color of the anchor, Bennard had grown into quite the independent man. Our parents would have been so proud of him. As proud as I felt.

Wintertown also underwent a transformation, blossoming into a vibrant hub of activity and life. Inspired by the traditions of the South, we introduced festivals to our lands, breathing new life into our ancient customs. But we didn't simply mimic the tourneys of the South. Instead, we created something uniquely Northern: the Winter and Summer Solstice Festivals. Held bi-annually, these celebrations brought together people from all across the North, uniting us in joy and camaraderie.

The festivals were a sight to behold, with colorful stands lining the streets, offering everything from hearty Northern fare to exotic delicacies from distant lands. Archery and horse racing competitions added an element of excitement, drawing crowds eager to witness the skill and bravery of our people.

In just two years, the festivals became the highlight of the Northern calendar, eagerly anticipated by all. And as I watched the laughter and merriment of our people, I felt a swell of pride in my chest. We had created something special, something that brought us together as a community, despite the challenges we faced. With each passing festival, the bonds between our people grew stronger, forging a unity that would withstand even the harshest of winters.

Inspired by Lord Corlys's example, I embarked on a mission to bring education to the smallfolk of the North. Together with other Northern lords and ladies, we established learning institutes in villages and towns across our lands, offering opportunities for the common folk to learn and grow.

At first, there were doubts and uncertainties. Some questioned the value of educating the smallfolk, arguing that it was a waste of resources. But as time passed, we began to see the impact of our efforts. The smallfolk became more skilled in trade and commerce, their newfound knowledge opening doors to opportunities they had never dreamed possible.

With their newfound skills, they were able to generate more revenue, boosting trade and increasing tax revenues for the lords and ladies of the North. What was once seen as an expense soon proved to be a wise investment, as the coin spent in the learning institutes returned to us tenfold.

As I watched the transformation unfold before my eyes, I felt a sense of pride in what we had accomplished. We had not only empowered the smallfolk to improve their lives, but we had also strengthened the economic prosperity of the North as a whole. And as I walked through the bustling streets of Wintertown, witnessing the fruits of our labor, I knew that we had made the right decision. Education was not just a luxury for the privileged few; it was a powerful tool for change that had the potential to uplift an entire region.

However, the good fortune of our House did not end there. When the news that House Stark was being granted the honor of fostering a prince of the realm reached us, it filled the North with joy and pride. And not just any prince, but Prince Jacaerys Targaryen, heir to Crown Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen herself, the future queen regent of Westeros. It was a momentous occasion, one that me and the people of the North celebrated with great enthusiasm.

As Prince Jacaerys settled into life at Winterfell, I watched with pride as my firstborn, Cregan, and the young prince became fast friends. They spent their days exploring the vast expanse of Winterfell's grounds, sharing stories and dreams for the future. Prince Jacaerys was not just a prince by birth; he was a good lad, with a sharp mind and a kind heart.

I was impressed by his intelligence and sense of honor, as were many of the lords and ladies of the North. When he revealed that his younger sister, Princess Lucerys, had taken an interest in learning the Old Tongue, it sparked curiosity and admiration among our people. And when Prince Jacaerys himself expressed a desire to learn the language, citing the importance of respecting the culture and traditions of the North, I knew we had been granted a true gem.

Yeah, Prince Jacaerys is a good lad, I thought to myself, as I watched him immerse himself in our ways with a genuine eagerness to learn.

In him, I saw the potential for a future ruler who understood the importance of unity and respect for all the realms of Westeros. And as I looked to the future, I felt a sense of hope and optimism for the bond that was forming between House Stark and House Targaryen, a bond that had the potential to shape the destiny of the realm for generations to come.

As I rode back to Winterfell from Wintertown, Lord Desmond Manderly greeted me with a warm smile, and together we made our way to the covered bridge that overlooked the training grounds. From our vantage point on the bridge, we watched as Cregan and Jacaerys displayed their skill with the bow and arrows, their arrows flying true and hitting their targets with precision.

Lord Desmond turned to me with a gleam in his eye, praising the prince's remarkable skill. "Quite the archer, isn't he?" Lord Desmond remarked, his voice filled with admiration.

I nodded in agreement, a smile playing at the corners of my lips. "Indeed, he has a natural talent," I replied, my tone tinged with pride. "With dedication and practice, he could become a legend in his own right."

Lord Desmond chuckled softly, his gaze returning to the training yard below. "Aye, that he could. The realm would sing songs of his prowess with a bow."

As we continued to watch, I couldn't shake the feeling of optimism that washed over me. In Jacaerys, I saw the potential for greatness, not just as a skilled archer, but as a leader who would guide our realm to a brighter future. And as Lord Desmond and I stood side by side, witnessing the dawn of a new era, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to play a part in shaping that destiny.

As Jacaerys and Cregan transitioned from archery to swordplay, the energy on the training yard shifted. Now it was Cregan's turn to shine, for in the art of swordplay, House Stark had a long and storied tradition of producing formidable swordmasters.

I watched with keen interest as the two young boys engaged in their friendly sparring match, their swords flashing in the sunlight as they exchanged blows. Cregan moved with the grace and precision of a true Stark warrior, his movements fluid and controlled. Jacaerys, though perhaps not as skilled with the sword as Cregan, showed determination and resilience, refusing to back down in the face of his opponent's prowess.

The clang of metal echoed through the training yard as their swords met, each strike met with a countermove as they danced across the ground. Despite their competitive spirit, there was an undeniable camaraderie between them, evident in the way they laughed and joked between exchanges. And when one of them was knocked down, the other was quick to offer a helping hand, their bond strengthened by the shared experience of training together.

Later, once training was over, Lord Desmond and I made our way towards my solar, the weight of our conversation hung heavy in the air. Lord Desmond had shared with me some troubling rumors he had heard about tensions brewing at the Red Keep. It seemed that Queen Alicent was attempting to interfere with the betrothal arrangement between Prince Jacaerys and Princess Helaena, in a bid to betroth Helaena to Prince Aegon instead.

I listened intently as Lord Desmond recounted the details, my brow furrowing in concern. It was clear that Queen Alicent was determined to meddle in the affairs of the royal family, but I couldn't help but feel a sense of defiance rise within me.

"Queen Alicent will not succeed," I declared firmly, my voice tinged with resolve. "Not when the King has already announced the betrothals for the whole realm to hear."

Lord Desmond nodded in agreement, his expression mirroring my own determination. "Aye, you're right," he conceded. "And the betrothal between Prince Aegon and Lady Cassandra was another arrangement the Queen was attempting to disrupt."

I couldn't help but feel a surge of anger at the Queen's blatant interference, but I pushed it aside, focusing instead on the facts at hand. "The King will not entertain such meddling," I asserted. "Only if the parties involved wish to dissolve the betrothals will he consider it."

And from what I had heard from Prince Jacaerys himself, it seemed that he was quite taken with Princess Helaena. I couldn't imagine him willingly breaking off their betrothal, especially not when it seemed that Prince Aegon himself was content with the arrangement.

"Prince Aegon celebrated when news of his betrothal reached him," I added, a note of satisfaction in my voice. "He has no desire to marry Princess Helaena and is more than happy to leave her to wed Prince Jacaerys."

As we reached my solar and settled in to continue our discussion, I couldn't shake the feeling that we were on the right side of history. These future years will make or break Westeros, and I am planning on making sure we flourish into a realm that will make the Old Gods proud.

Chapter 18: I Jacaerys’ P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 125 AC

As we rode towards Kingslanding, surrounded by the familiar sights and sounds of the Crownlands, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness at the thought of leaving Winterfell behind. For two years, it had been my home, and Cregan, my closest friend, had been by my side through it all.

Despite the impending separation, Cregan and I found solace in each other's company, our banter and laughter echoing through the wheelhouse as we journeyed southward. As Cregan and I exchanged stories about our adventures in Winterfell, Wintertown, and the Godswood, the memories of our time in the North made me feel warm from the inside.

"I'll never forget the time we climbed to the top of Winterfell's walls," Cregan reminisced, a fond smile playing on his lips. "The view was breathtaking, wasn't it?"

I nodded in enthusiastic agreement, the memory of that climb still vivid in my mind. "Absolutely," I replied, a grin spreading across my face as I recalled the exhilaration of gazing out over the vast expanse of the North. "We could see for miles in every direction. It felt like we were on top of the world."

Cregan chuckled at my excitement, his eyes sparkling with amusem*nt. "And what about the Winter Solstice Festival in Wintertown?" he continued, his voice filled with nostalgia. "The food was unlike anything I've ever tasted."

The memory of that feast flooded back to me, the savory aroma of roasted meats and freshly baked breads still lingering in my mind. "Oh, yes," I exclaimed, my mouth watering at the thought. “The kidney pie was delicious! It will take me a while to get used back to the food of the royal court."

As we continued to reminisce about our adventures in Winterfell, Cregan's eyes lit up with excitement as he recalled another memorable moment. "Do you remember the hunt in the Godswood?" he asked, his voice filled with enthusiasm.

I nodded eagerly, the memory of that exhilarating experience still fresh in my mind. "How could I forget?" I replied, a smile tugging at the corners of my lips. "That was our first hunt, led by Lord Rickon Stark himself."

Cregan nodded in agreement, a hint of nervousness creeping into his expression. "I was so nervous," he admitted, his voice tinged with uncertainty. "I had never been on a hunt before, and I wasn't sure what to expect."

I couldn't help but echo his sentiments, remembering the butterflies that had fluttered in my stomach as we ventured into the Godswood. "I was nervous too," I confessed, a nervous laugh escaping my lips. "But once we got started, it was exhilarating."

"We did!" Cregan agreed, his voice filled with excitement as we recalled the game we caught. "We even feasted on the spoils of our hunt that very same day."

As we neared the gates of King's Landing our conversation was cut short and my foster father, Lord Rickon Stark, joined us in the wheelhouse. As we crossed the busy streets of my home city, I couldn't ignore the subtle changes that had taken place since my departure. The air was cleaner, the streets less crowded, and the smallfolk seemed to wear smiles more readily upon their faces. It was a stark contrast to the King's Landing I remembered, a city plagued by poverty and despair. And though I knew that much work still lay ahead to improve the lives of its inhabitants, I couldn't help but feel a glimmer of hope for the future.

"Jacaerys, my boy, I see that look of surprise on your face," Lord Rickon said, his voice warm with affection as he noticed my reaction to the changes in King's Landing. "Let me fill you in on what's been happening. With most of the Flea Bottom small folk relocating to the North, the city seized the opportunity to revitalize the area. They've gentrified Flea Bottom, spruced it up with flowers, and even planted many around the streets and other neighborhoods, which is why the air smells much sweeter now."

"Your mother has been working tirelessly to make these changes happen," Lord Rickon continued, a fond smile gracing his lips. Listening to Lord Rickon's explanation, I couldn't help but feel a swell of pride for my muña. Her tireless efforts to improve the lives of the people of King's Landing were clearly paying off. "And from the looks of it, her hard work is really starting to show."

I nodded, a sense of admiration swelling within me. "She's truly remarkable," I replied, my voice filled with pride. "I couldn't be prouder of her."

Lord Rickon's smile widened at my words, his eyes reflecting the same admiration I felt. "You have every reason to be, my prince," he said warmly. "Your mother is making a real difference here in King's Landing."

His words only served to strengthen my resolve to support my mother in her endeavors. Together, we would continue to work towards a brighter future for all the people of the realm. And though I knew that much work still lay ahead to improve the lives of its inhabitants, I couldn't help but feel a glimmer of hope for the future.

Cregan's question brought me back from my thoughts, prompting me to ponder his words for a moment. "Happy to be back home?" he asked, his expression curious.

I couldn't help but smile at the thought of seeing my family again. "Of course, I'm happy to see everyone," I replied honestly, my gaze drifting towards the familiar faces around me. "But I'll admit, I also feel a bit nervous and already tired by the mess I will be greeted by."

"Tired?" Cregan asked, his confusion evident in his furrowed brow.

I nodded, sighing softly. "Tired of it all," I admitted, my voice tinged with exhaustion. "The Red Keep's court is nothing like Winterfell. It's a viper's nest, filled with deceit and treachery at every turn."

Cregan looked taken aback by my words, his brow furrowing even further in confusion. "But why?" he asked, genuine puzzlement in his voice. "Shouldn't lords and ladies be working together for the betterment of the realm?"

I couldn't help but laugh sadly at his naivety. "I wish it were that simple, Cregan," I replied, shaking my head. "But unfortunately, people are not always as noble as they should be. Greed and ambition often cloud their judgment, leading them to betray even those closest to them."

Rickon sighed, a weary expression crossing his features as he spoke. "It's a sad truth, son," he said, his voice heavy with regret. "Not everyone has the same values as you do. Some people are driven by their own desires, and they'll stop at nothing to achieve them."

I couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness at his words. In a perfect world, everyone would be as honorable and selfless as my foster brother Cregan. But alas, reality was far more complicated than that. At least, I know that when I am King and need a loyal hand, I will only need to look North for him.

As I glanced around the crowded court of the Red Keep, I couldn't help but feel a sense of unease settle over me. But the moment my eyes landed on the sight of my family waiting for me, I was filled with a sense of warmth and belonging. Muña, kepa, Grandmother Rhaenys, Grandfather Corlys, Lucerys, and Joffrey stood there, their smiles lighting up the courtyard as they caught sight of us. I couldn't contain my excitement as I rushed forward to greet them, enveloping each of them in tight hugs, and being showered with kisses in return. Even with the continues visits from my parents on Syrax and Seasmoke, it’s been ages since I had last seen them.

"I've missed you all so much!" I exclaimed, my voice filled with happiness.

Their laughter and warm embraces washed away any lingering fatigue or apprehension I had felt earlier. Here, surrounded by my family, I felt safe and loved, ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead. With smiles and laughter, we walked together towards our quarters in the Red Keep, chatting animatedly about my journey down South.

As we reached the apartment that House Stark would be using, muña extended a warm invitation to Lord Rickon and Cregan for supper, her eyes twinkling with anticipation. "We would be honored if you joined us," she said warmly, her voice filled with genuine hospitality.

I couldn't help but feel a swell of excitement for tonight’s supper. As we made our way towards our family apartment within the Red Keep, my muña turned to me with a tense smile. She relayed that King Viserys apologized, explaining that he couldn't personally greet me due to the bustling preparations for his upcoming wedding. Lords and ladies from all corners of Westeros have come to King’s Landing for the wedding of my uncle Aegon and Lady Cassandra Baratheon. No wonder the king and the Small Council were so busy.

I waved away the apology with a smile, understanding the demands of court life all too well. "It's quite alright, muña," I reassured her. "I'll see Grandfather when he has a free moment. I'm just glad to be home with all of you."

Her smile returned, a mixture of relief and affection evident in her gaze. It was moments like these that reminded me of the unwavering support and love of my family, even amidst the chaos of court politics. As we continued our walk, I couldn't help but notice the presence of two ladies dressed in Baratheon colors, trailing behind my little sister, Lucerys. Curiosity piqued, I turned to my mother for an explanation.

Muña’s expression softened as she glanced towards Lucerys and her companions. "Those are Ellyn and Maris Baratheon," she explained, her voice tinged with warmth. "They've recently become Lucerys' new ladies-in-waiting."

I nodded in understanding, recalling the names from previous conversations with Grandmother Rhaenys. "Ah, I see," I murmured, a small smile playing on my lips. "And their betroths are now squiring for kepa, right?"

My muña nodded in confirmation, her eyes reflecting her pride. "Yes, Ralph Buckler and Selwyn Tarth," she replied, before turning to me with a serious expression. "Jacaerys, you will be squiring beside them, under Laenor. You’ve made an ally of the North and for that I will forever be grateful, but you will need allies in the other kingdoms if you wish to excel as the future King of Westeros. Forming a friendship with two prominent future Lords of the Stormlands, who will be in-laws with House Baratheon, is very important."

The announcement took me by surprise, and I couldn't help but feel a surge of excitement at the prospect of finally becoming a squire. To train alongside my kepa and two heirs my age was an opportunity I had long awaited, and I was eager to prove myself worthy of the honor.

"I'm thrilled, muña," I exclaimed, my voice brimming with enthusiasm. "I can't wait to learn and spend more time with kepa."

And that was true. Even after all these years the Greens keep on spreading malicious rumors about my and Joffrey’s possible bastardy. They might not get much tracking at court, but they still hurt whenever I hear the courtiers discussing it. Out of the three of us, Lucerys was the only one who was not scrutinized. She had the Velaryon eyes, and you only had to see her standing side by side with Grandmother Rhaenys to realize her parentage. As for Joffrey, before leaving for Winterfell, I noticed that the King’s favorite had started to shift from my sister to my brother. Muña explained to me that Grandfather Viserys saw his first wife in Joffrey, even Uncle Daemon spoke about how Joff had Queen Aemma’s eyes. And during their time at the Eyrie, I had noticed that Joffrey was starting to look like the portrait of Lord Rodrik Arryn.

But me… well, I do not look Velaryon like my sister, or Arryn like my brother. Staring at muña’s sworn shield, trailing behind us, I could say with assurance that I do not look like a Strong either. Not counting my coloring, I was the one who looked the most Targaryen from my siblings. The one who took after muña the most. As for my coloring, it was easy to disguise as Arryn like Joffrey, as neither of us had the onyx curls of a Baratheon like our sister. However, the shading of my hair and eyes was too light to be Arryn. It did match perfectly with…

No! I won’t think about it! I will squire my kepa and prove to him that accepting me and loving me as his blood son was not a decision he would ever need to regret.

My muña, then interrupted by thoughts, by sharing the news that Ellyn and Maris Baratheon will be attending Lucerys until they reach marriageable age, and they will follow my sister to the Driftmark court to be taught there. I hadn't realized that Lucerys would be leaving so soon, and the thought of her departure left me feeling unexpectedly melancholic.

"Lucerys is leaving so soon?" I asked, my voice tinged with surprise as I glanced towards my sister, who walked nearby laughing with her ladies-in-waiting.

Muña nodded, her smile tinged with sadness. "Yes, sweetheart," she replied gently. "But it's important for her to familiarize herself with Driftmark. After all, she is the next Lady of the Tides, and she needs to know her future home."

I couldn't help but feel a pang of regret at the thought of Lucerys being so far away. She’s my sister and we’ve always been close. Even while I was in Winterfell, we exchanged letters every fortnight and our parents brought me presents from her and sent my presents for her with them. The prospect of her absence weighed heavily on my heart.

"But she'll only be gone for two years," muña reassured me, her voice soft yet firm. "And then she'll return to the Red Keep full-time until she comes of age."

Her words offered some comfort, but the sadness lingered, nonetheless. "I suppose Lucerys could visit us on Ghost," I mused aloud, a faint smile tugging at the corners of my lips. "And Vermax is big enough for me to ride now. I could even go to Driftmark if I ever start missing her too much."

Muña’s smile widened at my words, her eyes reflecting pride and affection. "That's the spirit, Jace," she said, her voice filled with warmth. "Lucerys will always be a part of our family, no matter where she may be. And with your bond with Ghost and Vermax, you'll never be too far apart."

Her words filled me with a sense of reassurance, and as we settled into our family apartment within the Red Keep, I found solace in the knowledge that no matter what the future held, we would always be there for each other.

Later that day, as I readied myself for dinner, adjusting my attire before the mirror, kepa approached with a curious expression on his face. "Jace, how was your time in Winterfell?" he inquired, his voice gentle as he straightened my collar and smoothed out the folds of my clothing.

Turning to face him, I couldn't help but smile at the sight of my kepa's caring demeanor. "It was incredible, kepa," I replied, excitement evident in my voice. "The people, the scenery, the adventures—everything was unlike anything I've ever experienced before."

Kepa's eyes sparkled with interest as he listened intently, his hands deftly adjusting my garments with a practiced touch. "I'm glad to hear that," he said warmly, a proud smile gracing his lips. "It sounds like you had quite the adventure."

As I shared tales of our time in Winterfell, kepa's laughter filled the room, his genuine interest and affection evident in every word he spoke. Despite the distance that had separated us, our bond remained as strong as ever, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of gratitude for my kepa's unwavering support. No matter what anyone said, I was Laenor Velaryon’s son and that’s all I cared about.

With a final adjustment to my attire, kepa wrapped me in a warm embrace, his gratitude and affection palpable in the gesture. "Thank you, Jacaerys," he said softly, his voice filled with warmth. "For sharing your adventures with me."

Returning the embrace with equal warmth, I smiled up at my father, feeling a deep sense of love and appreciation for him. "Anytime, kepa," I replied, my voice filled with sincerity.

The dinner with House Stark proceeded smoothly, not that I ever worried about it. Lord Rickon and Cregan were wonderful people, and I knew that my family would be as impressed with them as I was. Questions about my time in Winterfell flowed freely, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride as I shared tales of my adventures in the North. The time spent in Winterfell had indeed worked wonders for me. I now stood taller, with a newfound confidence and security that I had previously lacked. The challenges I had faced and the friendships I had forged had shaped me into a stronger, more resilient person.

The night ended in a high note, and the following day, I found myself strolling through Aegon's gardens with my betrothed, Helaena, by my side. Despite the presence of chaperones, the air was filled with a sense of warmth and camaraderie between us.

I couldn't help but express my gratitude to Helaena for the letters she had sent me during my time in Winterfell. "Your letters kept me company in the cold North," I said, smiling warmly at my aunt.

Helaena's eyes sparkled with affection as she nodded in understanding. "I'm glad to hear that," she replied softly. "I missed you terribly while you were away."

As we continued our leisurely stroll, Helaena's curiosity got the better of her, and she turned to me with a question. "Did you see any new insects up North?" she asked, her voice filled with genuine interest.

I couldn't help but chuckle at her inquiry, shaking my head in amusem*nt. "I'm afraid not," I replied, my tone lighthearted. "The North is too cold for bugs and insects to thrive, so I didn't see many of them during my time there."

Helaena's disappointment was evident, but she nodded in understanding. "That's a shame," she said softly, her gaze lingering on the colorful flowers that adorned the gardens. "But I suppose it makes sense, considering how cold it gets up there."

As we continued our walk, I couldn't help but feel a sense of warmth and affection towards Helaena. Even though our betrothal had been arranged, I was quite fond of my aunt. She was beautiful and kind, and I cared not for what others thought of her quirks. Yes, she spoke in riddles at times, but if you truly listened to her words, one could find wisdom in them. During my time at the Red Keep she was my principal advisor, and I hope that once we marry such a partnership will continue.

We walked hand in hand through the tranquil gardens, only stopping when Helaena handed me a delicately embroidered handkerchief. My eyes widened in admiration at the intricate black spider design sewn into the rich red silk. "It's beautiful," I exclaimed, my voice filled with genuine appreciation.

Helaena smiled warmly, her eyes sparkling with pride. "I'm glad you like it," she replied softly. "It's a wolfspider. I made it so it would remind you of your time in Winterfell."

The thoughtful gesture touched me deeply, and I couldn't help but beam at Helaena as I carefully tucked the handkerchief into my pocket. "Thank you, Hel," I said sincerely, my heart swelling with gratitude.

In return, I presented her with a bracelet crafted from intricately carved weirwood wood, adorned with rubies that gleamed in the sunlight. The design depicted the heads of a direwolf and a dragon, their maws meeting in the middle with a larger red ruby between them.

Helaena's eyes widened in delight as she admired the bracelet, a smile spreading across her lips. "It's exquisite," she breathed, her fingers tracing the delicate carvings. "Thank you, Jace. I'll treasure it always."

Later while I made my way back to my chambers after my time with Helaena, my thoughts were filled with warmth and affection for her. The exchange of gifts had deepened the bond between us, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of hope for our future together. However, my reverie was shattered as I neared my uncle’s chambers, the sound of raised voices echoing through the corridor. Curiosity getting the better of me, I paused to listen, my heart sinking as I realized the nature of their argument.

As I lingered outside Aegon and Queen Alicent's chambers, the intensity of their argument only seemed to escalate. Aegon's voice rang out, filled not only with frustration but also a sense of triumph that sent chills down my spine.

"You've lost, Mother," Aegon's voice carried a note of triumph, his words dripping with disdain. "Rhaenyra has won, and I couldn't be happier. Marrying Cassandra ensures that our children will never sit on the Iron Throne, and I'll be free from the burdens of kingship."

The venom in his words cut through the air like a blade, leaving Queen Alicent stunned and speechless in his wake. Aegon's hatred for his mother was palpable, and it fueled his desire to see her brought to her knees.

"You need to sit on Iron Throne, Aegon," Queen Alicent's voice trembled with emotion, her words a desperate plea for understanding. “For your safety, for your brothers’ safety!”

Their safety? What did the queen mean by that? I wondered confused. Was someone targeting my uncles?

A cruel smirk played across Aegon's lips as he turned to face her, his eyes alight with a fierce intensity. "Seeing Rhaenyra's victory brings me immense satisfaction. You'll never see me outside of obligatory events again. I'll go to the Stormlands and never return."

With those final words, Aegon stormed out of the chambers, leaving Queen Alicent alone in the wake of his triumph. As the door slammed shut behind him, a heavy silence descended upon the corridor, broken only by Queen Alicent's anguished sobs.

I couldn't help but sigh heavily as I continued on my way, the peace and quiet of Winterfell now nothing more than a distant memory. As I reached my chambers and closed the door behind me, I couldn't shake the feeling of foreboding that settled over me like a dark cloud.

I was already missing the North and it’s only been a day.

Chapter 19: I Mysaria’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 125 AC

King’s Landing bustled with activity as lords and ladies from every corner of Westeros converged on the city. For me and my girls, it was prime hunting ground. Amidst the grandeur and spectacle of courtly affairs, secrets were ripe for the plucking. You see, while the lords and ladies strut about, their servants are the true keepers of the castle's secrets. They see and hear all. Many of these highborn fools fail to recognize the power that lies within their own staff. But not I.

House Targaryen's secrets are well-guarded in the Stepstones, as are those of House Velaryon in Driftmark. However, I know everything that happens behind the walls of House Targaryen of King's Landing and House Velaryon of the Grey Gallows. In the shadows, my network thrives. There's not a whisper or rumor that escapes my notice, for I know the value of information in this game of thrones.

The royal court was never my place, never where I belonged. I'm just a courtesan, trying to navigate a world that sees people like me as disposable. But then Prince Daemon noticed me. It was a dangerous game, but I couldn't deny the thrill of his attention. Yet, I knew better than to think it was anything more than a passing fancy for him. He spoke of giving our child a dragon egg, but I wasn't naive enough to believe he truly cared about me or any potential offspring. In Westeros, bastards face a harsh reality, and I refused to subject a child of mine to that fate.

While Prince Daemon's gaze lingered on me, I played along but kept my heart locked, wary of the dangers that lurked beneath his charming facade. In a world where power and ambition reign supreme, survival is my only goal, and I'll do whatever it takes to ensure my own safety. So, it came to no surprise when Prince Daemon left me in Lys. Men like him come and go, leaving behind only the remnants of their fleeting desires. But I wasn't about to let his absence define me. With the coin he left behind and the knowledge I gleaned from our time together, I forged my path forward.

I became known as the White Worm, a shadowy figure lurking in the depths of the underworld. My network of spies stretched far and wide, surpassing anything the lords and ladies of Westeros could imagine. From the alleys of King's Landing to the distant corners of Essos, my informants whispered secrets into my waiting ears. With each passing day, I tightened my grip on the royal court. They thought themselves clever, but they were mere pawns in my game.

With time my costumers rose in power and prestige, until an interesting figure became one of patrons. Otto Hightower was a curious creature. Despite his outward display of power and authority, he was like a puppet dancing on my strings. His reliance on me for information was almost comical, considering his previous lofty position in the royal court. But men like Otto are blinded by their own arrogance, believing themselves to be untouchable.

His letters to me dripped with venomous words, railing against the idea of female inheritance and denigrating Princess Rhaenyra as nothing more than a whor*. Otto's feeble attempts to manipulate me were nothing short of comical. He painted himself as a champion of Westeros, advocating for Aegon Targaryen to ascend the throne. It was all so predictable, so painfully transparent. As I read his words, a sense of amusem*nt washed over me. He thought he could outsmart me, but little did he know, I held all the cards in this game. Here was a man who believed himself to be in control, yet he was nothing more than a pawn in my game. His grand scheme to sway Prince Aegon's favor was doomed from the start. For I knew Aegon better than Otto ever could.

Aegon was a frequent visitor to my establishment, indulging in the pleasures of the flesh with abandon. He reveled in the company of whor*s, partaking in pleasures that would make even the most seasoned courtier blush. In truth, Aegon had likely bedded more companions than Princess Rhaenyra herself. But in the eyes of men like Otto, such behavior was not only acceptable but expected for male heirs. The hypocrisy of it all was almost laughable. Though, the Green did have one point, Aegon had no bastards compared to Rhaenyra. I had made sure of that. Aegon only came to my establishment, as I possessed the best whor*s in the Street of Silk, and after every time one of them laid with the prince I poured moon tea down their throats. The last thing we want in this delicate political situation was for dragon seeds to roam the streets of King’s Landing.

So, I fed Otto morsels of information, carefully selecting morsels that would serve no purpose to the Greens' cause. And for this paltry offering, he paid a hefty price. But he had little choice in the matter. With Larys gone, he had no other source of intelligence to turn to, leaving him at my mercy. I hold no appreciation for the Green and my fondness for the Blacks does not come because of their figure head. In my eyes, Rhaenyra Targaryen was nothing more than Prince Daemon's spoiled princess. Despite his marriage to Laena Velaryon, Daemon's gaze always lingered on Rhaenyra whenever he graced King's Landing with his presence. It was evident to me that Rhaenyra held a sway over Daemon that few could match. But such matters held little importance to me. I cared not for the intricacies of their tangled affairs.

In my eyes, neither Rhaenyra nor Aegon were suitable heirs to the Iron Throne. They were but pawns in a greater game, mere children playing at rulership in a realm fraught with danger and deceit. Rhaenyra's immaturity and self-indulgence were evident to all who cared to see. She lacked the wisdom and temperance required to rule the Seven Kingdoms. And as for Aegon, he was little more than a pawn in the machinations of those who sought power for their own gain.

I was firmly on Team Black, not out of any loyalty to Rhaenyra, but because of Lucerys Velaryon. I was not deceived by her games, beneath her sweet facade lay a mind as sharp as Valyrian steel, and it was clear to me that Lucerys held the true power behind the Black faction.

Lucerys had both factions dancing to her tune, manipulating the game board to ensure that the Stormlands and Riverlands joined the Blacks. Her influence extended far beyond the walls of King's Landing, with initiatives such as learning institutes and free health centers springing up across the realm. The Crownlands, the Narrow Seas, and even the North were feeling the impact of Lucerys' vision, and it was only a matter of time before other regions followed suit. The Vale and the Stormlands would be next to fall under her sway, I was certain of it.

In Lucerys, I saw a future that I could embrace—a future where the plight of the smallfolk was not ignored, where education and healthcare were available to all. It was a vision that resonated with me, and it was why I threw my support behind Rhaenyra's bid for the Iron Throne. After all, Lucerys Velaryon, in my eyes, was the epitome of what a ruler should be—wise, compassionate, and with a keen understanding of the needs of her people. In my eyes, she was the perfect heir to the Iron Throne, far more suited for the crown than any other Targaryen alive.

Yet, as much as I admired Lucerys, I couldn't ignore the unpredictable nature of those with Targaryen blood coursing through their veins. My time with Daemon had taught me that the dragons were as fickle as the wind, capable of both great wisdom and unfathomable madness. While part of me longed to see Lucerys take her rightful place as queen, I hesitated to take any action that might disrupt the delicate balance of her temperament. If I were to remove Jacaerys from the picture, it could send Lucerys spiraling into a darkness from which she might never recover.

For now, I would bide my time, watching from the shadows and lending my support where it was needed. Who knows what the future might hold? Perhaps fate would intervene, and Jacaerys would meet his end through natural means.

Until then, I will make sure Lucerys Velaryon's virtues are sung far and wide, as they deserved. I made it my mission to ensure that her deeds were recognized and celebrated throughout the realm. I spread word of her efforts to establish learning institutes and free healing centers, ensuring that even the common folk would benefit from her benevolent plans. I had my girls whisper in the ears of lords and ladies, sowing the seeds of admiration for Lucerys and her tireless dedication to the welfare of her people. I encouraged bards to compose songs extolling her virtues, painting her as the Pearl of Driftmark, a beacon of intelligence, cunning, and empathy in a world too often marred by greed and cruelty.

With every rumor I planted and every tale I spun, I sought to elevate Lucerys to the status she rightfully deserved—a leader beloved by all, whose wisdom and compassion knew no bounds. And though my ultimate goal remained unchanged, I took solace in the knowledge that, for now, I could play a small part in ensuring that Lucerys's light shone brightly for all to see.

And see I did. The lords and ladies have come far across Westeros for the wedding of Prince Aegon and Lady Cassandra, yet all the lords and ladies could talk about were the tales of Lucerys Velaryon's virtues, words that were carried by the gentle breeze from one mouth to the next.

"Have you heard?" one nobleman murmured, leaning in close to his companion. "The Pearl of Driftmark has launched a new initiative to provide education and healthcare to the common folk. Truly commendable."

"Aye," his companion replied, nodding in agreement. "I hear she's been working tirelessly to improve the lives of the smallfolk across the realm. It's no wonder they call her the Pearl."

And so the whispers grew, spreading like wildfire as word of Lucerys' deeds reached every corner of the Red Keep. The lords and ladies exchanged knowing glances, their voices hushed with respect and admiration for the young Velaryon heiress.

"She's a true leader," one lady remarked, her eyes alight with admiration. "To think that she's done so much for the people already, and she's not even come of age."

"Indeed," another lord chimed in, his tone filled with reverence. "It's clear that she has a bright future ahead of her. With leaders like her, the future of the realm is in good hands."

As the whispers of praise for Lucerys Velaryon echoed among the lords and ladies of the court, another layer of rumor began to weave its way through the crowd—this time, from the common folk who had gathered outside the castle walls.

"Did you hear?" a washerwoman exclaimed, her voice carrying through the bustling streets of King's Landing. "They say the Pearl of Driftmark is the Maiden reborn, sent by the Seven themselves to bring light and hope to the realm!"

"Aye," a fishmonger agreed, nodding fervently. "I've heard the same. They say she possesses the grace and beauty of the Maiden, and that her kindness knows no bounds."

The whispers spread like wildfire through the city, from market stalls to taverns, from dockyards to alleyways. Everywhere I turned, I could hear the common folk singing Lucerys' praises, their voices filled with awe and reverence for the young Velaryon heiress.

"She's a miracle, she is," a stable boy murmured, his eyes wide with wonder. "To think that someone like her walks among us—it's enough to make you believe in miracles."

And as the whispers of the common folk mingled with those of the nobility, I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that Lucerys' influence extended far beyond the walls of the Red Keep. She was not just a leader to the lords and ladies of the court, but a beacon of hope to the small folk—a symbol of faith and inspiration in a city often plagued by darkness and despair.

Later that day, when the sun set and sin reigned in the streets, I smirked as I heard the first song, I had composed in Lucerys’ honor by a bard being sung in her establishment. All while Aegon and his companions joined him in a night of debauchery before his wedding in the upcoming days. I watched Aegon revel in the pleasures of the night, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of amusem*nt wash over me. Here he was, indulging in the carnal delights of my establishment with an abandon that bespoke of a man eager to sample all that life had to offer. And yet, beneath the surface, I could sense a shift in him, a subtle change in his demeanor that hinted at a newfound sense of responsibility.

It was clear that Aegon was preparing himself for the duties of marriage, for the vows he would soon take with Cassandra Baratheon. But whether he could truly remain faithful to her remained to be seen. After all, Aegon was a Targaryen, and their desires were known to burn bright and fierce, like the flames of a dragon's breath. Yet, there was a curious paradox in the Targaryen bloodline, a streak of loyalty that ran deep despite the tumultuous passions that often consumed them. I had seen it firsthand in the unwavering desire between Daemon and Rhaenyra, and yet they remain faithful to their wife and lover.

So, as I watched Aegon lose himself in the pleasures of the flesh, I couldn't help but wonder if he too possessed that same capacity for loyalty. Only time would tell, but for now, I would continue to observe and wait, for in the game of thrones, patience was often the key to victory.

Chapter 20: II Aemond’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 125 AC

I watched the days slip by, each one bringing us closer to Aegon's impending wedding, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of frustration creeping in. My brother's lackadaisical attitude towards his impending nuptials grated on my nerves. While Aegon spent his days avoiding his betrothed and her family, I found myself enduring endless hours of training with the sons of lords who lacked even the most basic skills on the battlefield. Their incompetence only served to fuel my irritation, as I longed for the thrill of a real challenge, not the tedious routine of training exercises.

And then there were the ladies, with their fluttering eyelashes and coy smiles, attempting to ensnare me in their charms. But I had no interest in their flirtations, for my heart belonged to another, my betrothed, the most beautiful princess in all of Westeros. The thought of Lucerys brought a warmth to my heart, her image clear and vivid in my mind. She was the beacon of light in the darkness of courtly politics, her intelligence and grace shining like a guiding star.

If this is the future of Westeros, I truly despair for the realm. It looks like the only ones with a good head on their shoulders are House Velaryon and House Stark. I am certainly glad that my future wife’s house was one of the few shining beacons of hope left in Westeros. I am starting to think that the only reason House Targaryen survived the Doom of Old Valyria was because of their dragon and House Velaryon… and dragon dreams.

At the moment, I couldn't help but roll my eyes as the familiar scene unfolded before me. My mother was once again in another shouting match with my brother, Aegon. This time, the source of their contention was Aegon's wedding attire. My brother stood defiantly, his expression a mix of smug satisfaction and cheeky defiance as he faced my mother's wrath. His choice of Targaryen red over Hightower green for his garments seemed to amuse him greatly, much to my mother's chagrin.

Mother, on the other hand, was livid. Her face flushed with indignation, her voice rising with each passing moment as she berated Aegon for his defiance. Her eyes blazed with fury, a stark contrast to Aegon's nonchalant demeanor. I couldn't help but feel a sense of detachment from the whole affair. It was a familiar sight, one that had played out countless times before. My mother's relentless pursuit of power and status, my brother's rebellious streak—it was a dance I had grown weary of witnessing.

It baffled me why my mother was so fixated on the color green. From the early days of our childhood, it seemed as though every garment we wore had to be some shade of green. I couldn't help but recall the time she nearly fainted when I went through a phase of wearing all black.

But as we grew older, our tastes diverged. I found solace in the simplicity of black attire, favoring pants and robes in shades of silver, purple, and Velaryon teal. Aegon, always the rebel, stuck to his signature reds and browns, seemingly indifferent to our mother's disapproval. Helaena, ever the free spirit, embraced a rainbow of colors in her wardrobe, each dress a reflection of her vibrant personality. And then there was Daeron, the youngest of us all, his wardrobe remained a sea of green. As only one and ten namedays old, his clothing decision had to go through mother first.

With a tired sigh, I shifted my gaze away from the heated exchange between Aegon and mother, my attention drifting towards the rest of my family gathered in the room. As always, King Viserys was conspicuously absent—a fact that no longer surprised me. I had long grown accustomed to his aloofness, his attention focused elsewhere, on matters that held little relevance to me.

Truth be told, I harbored no desire for my father's attention. Our relationship, if one could even call it that, was characterized by a palpable sense of indifference on both sides. Instead, I found solace in the presence of Laenor, my betrothed's father, who had become a surrogate father figure to me in Viserys' absence. It was Laenor's guidance and wisdom that I sought, his approval that I craved—not that of the distant king who bore me.

Still, despite my ambivalence towards Viserys, I couldn't deny a certain fondness towards him. After all, he had been the one who arranged my betrothal to Lucerys. And later for agreeing with Princess Rhaenys to foster me in Driftmark alongside my betrothed. For that, at least, I owed him a measure of gratitude, however begrudging it might be.

My gaze shifted to Helaena, who sat nearby, lost in her own world as she let her spider crawl between her hands. My affection for my sister ran deep; alongside Lucerys, she had been my closest companion in childhood, a constant source of comfort and camaraderie. Yet, even as I looked upon her now, I couldn't help but feel a pang of frustration at the enigmatic nature of her thoughts.

Unlike Lucerys, I lacked the patience and intuition to unravel the mysteries that lay within Helaena's mind. Her words often felt like riddles, cryptic and elusive, leaving me grasping for understanding. But there was no denying the significance of her dreams—the whispers of dragons that echoed in the depths of her subconscious.

Lucerys had confided in me, revealing that Helaena possessed the gift of dragon dreams, a rare and sacred ability. Though I trusted Lucerys implicitly, there were times when I struggled to comprehend the full extent of Helaena's visions, their meanings veiled in symbolism and metaphor. Yet, despite my uncertainty, I could not deny the profound bond that existed between us—a bond forged in the fires of familial love and shared experiences.

My attention shifted from Helaena to Daeron, who sat nearby with an unmistakable tension etched upon his features. Ever since the impending wedding drew near, I had observed a subtle but palpable unease emanating from my younger brother. Try as I might, I couldn't quite grasp the source of his inner turmoil.

Daeron was still a boy, his betrothal yet to be arranged, but his future is likely going to be bound to one of our distant cousins at the Stepstones in the interest of preserving our Valyrian lineage. Perhaps it was the weight of expectation, the looming prospect of a union he had little say in, that troubled him. Or perhaps it was something else entirely.

A wry smirk tugged at my lips as I considered another possibility. Daeron, ever innocent and naive, believed his affection for Joffrey to be nothing more than a familial bond between uncle and nephew. Oh, how little he understood the power of our Targaryen blood, the flames that ignited passion and desire within us. I had once been like him, convinced that my feelings for Lucerys were purely platonic, born of kinship. But as I grew older, I came to realize the voracious nature of my love, fierce and consuming like the fire of a dragon. Soon, Daeron too would come to understand the depths of his own desires, his heart drawn inexorably to Joffrey's side.

In any case, I harbored no concerns for my brother's future. As a third son with no inheritance to speak of, Daeron was free from the burdens of duty and obligation that weighed upon our elder siblings. Likewise, Joffrey faced a similar fate, his prospects of marriage and succession remote at best.

I was snap out oof my thoughts the moment mother’s gaze settled on me. Mother's voice cut through the air, her words carrying the weight of authority. "Aemond, it's time for your training. Off you go.”

The training sessions had become a tedious routine, one that I had grown to loathe with each passing day. The heirs of the noble houses from the Westerlands and the Reach, with their inflated egos and lackluster skills, tested my patience to its limits. It seemed as though no amount of instruction could penetrate their thick skulls, leaving me to wonder whether their minds were as feeble as their swordsmanship.

I withheld a tired sigh, as I bowed at the queen and left the chambers, ignoring my elder brother’s mocking snickering. As I made my way to the training yard, a sense of frustration gnawed at me. How could I, as the son of House Targaryen, be expected to train alongside such dim-witted fools? It was a mockery of my abilities, an insult to my lineage.

I was so lost in my thoughts, that I almost missed the commanding voice of the Master of Ships calling out to me. "Prince Aemond," Lord Corlys’ voice carrying across the hallway. "How are you doing? It’s been a while since we last talked.

“That it has,” I bowed respectfully, this was not only the Sea Snake but also the grandfather of my beloved Lucerys. “The wedding preparations has kept us all very busy.”

“It has,” Corlys agreed with a hum. “Such a waste of a beautiful day to remain inside, why don't you join me on a walk?"

I hesitated, torn between my scheduled duties and the prospect of spending time with Lord Corlys. Despite my internal conflict, I couldn't deny the allure of his company. Lord Corlys was a man of great wisdom and insight, someone I had come to admire and respect deeply.

"It would be my pleasure," I began, ready to decline politely, but Lord Corlys anticipated my hesitation. “But I have an… appointment.”

"I know," he replied with a knowing smile, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “Another training session with the heirs of houses from the Westerlands and the Reach,” his words were accompanied by a dangerous glint, hinting at his understanding of my predicament. “I do not believe they will feel insulted that the Master of Ships requested the presence of a prince of the realm.” Corlys turned to one of the maids trailing behind him, I noted the Velaryon broch in her dress. “Inform the knights at the training yard that the prince will be absent of today’s training session.”

As the maid hurried off to carry out Lord Corlys's instructions, I couldn't help but smile in gratitude. "Thank you, Lord Corlys," I said sincerely, my voice tinged with appreciation as we began our stroll together.

As we strolled through the courtyard, Lord Corlys turned to me with a frown. "Prince Aemond, I’ve heard the maids and knights comment about your… dislike during the training sessions," Corlys began, his voice firm yet tinged with a hint of reproach, "I understand why you are not happy to converse with prideful, unintelligent heirs, but as the future Lord Consort of House Velaryon you will need to learn how to deal with unpleasant people with a smile on your face. Right now, Lucerys is in a tea party with ladies that do not even know their sums and letters, but as bored as my granddaughter must feel she still does it because it is her duty as a lady of House Velaryon"

I nodded, recognizing the truth in his words even as they stung me with a hint of rebuke. Corlys didn't mince his words as he addressed my behavior, his tone a gentle but unmistakably firm. "It's not always easy," he continued, his gaze unwavering, "but duty often requires us to endure the company of unpleasant individuals, regardless of how we may feel. I’ve lost count of how many times I wished I could simply just stab a Sealord of Braavos or cut the tongue of a Volantis merchant. But doing so, would have not brought me the fame I’ve achieved nor given Driftmark the riches we now possess."

"You're right, Lord Corlys," I confessed, my voice tinged with humility. His words struck a chord within me, stirring a sense of shame at my own shortcomings. I couldn't help but lower my gaze, feeling a pang of guilt for my previous attitude. "I've been... less than accommodating, and I apologize for my behavior."

"It's a lesson we all must learn, my boy," he replied, his voice filled with paternal warmth. Corlys's gentle smile reassured me that there was no judgment in his eyes, only understanding and compassion. "But I have faith that you will rise to the occasion and prove yourself worthy of the title you will one day bear."

I smiled satisfied that I had not lost the favor of my future good grandfather. The two of us continued walking until we reached a group of ladies who were sighing enamored as a comely bard performed. As the bard's melodic voice filled the air with the enchanting strains of "The Pearl of Driftmark," Lord Corlys and I stopped our stroll, and found ourselves drawn into the captivating melody. The lyrics painted a vivid picture of Lucerys Velaryon, her essence captured in each verse.

In the hallowed halls of Driftmark fair,

Where sea and sky meet in the salty air,

There dwells a maiden, pure and bright,

A beacon of hope in the darkest night.

With each word, I felt a swell of pride and admiration for the girl I was to marry. The imagery of her hair as dark as onyx and her eyes as deep as the sea resonated deeply with me, reminding me of the beauty and strength that awaited me in my future bride.

With hair like onyx and eyes like the sea,

She walks with grace and humility,

A daughter of dragons, yet gentle as a dove,

Her heart filled with kindness, her spirit soaring above.

Beside me, Corlys listened with a mixture of fondness and reverence, his gaze fixed on the bard as if seeing his granddaughter embodied in every note. The song spoke to the core of his heart, reminding him of the virtues and grace that defined Lucerys's character. He must have felt a swell of paternal pride, knowing that she was destined for greatness.

She is the Pearl of Driftmark, they say,

A symbol of purity in a world turned gray,

With water in her soul and fire in her veins,

She brings balance and harmony, and e'er remains.

"She truly is the Pearl of Driftmark," I murmured, my voice filled with a mixture of admiration and reverence. "A beacon of hope in troubled times, a symbol of purity and strength."

Corlys nodded in agreement, his eyes shimmering with a paternal warmth as he listened to the bard's lyrical tribute to his granddaughter. "She is indeed," Corlys replied, his voice soft but filled with pride. "And she carries herself with such grace and dignity, even in the face of adversity. She is a true testament to the resilience of House Velaryon."

For where there is fire, there is passion and light,

And where there is water, there is calm and respite,

Together they dance in perfect harmony,

In the heart of the Pearl of Driftmark, for all to see.

With a shared glance and a knowing smile, we continued our walk through Aegon's garden, as the final notes of the song rang through.

So let us raise our voices in song and praise,

To the maiden fair, who brightens our days,

May her light shine ever bright and true,

The Pearl of Driftmark, our guiding star anew.

Chapter 21: I Cassandra’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 125 AC

Today was the day of my wedding. At just fifteen namedays, I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness as I prepared to take this monumental step in my life. I, Cassandra Baratheon, was not just any highborn lady of Westeros. I was the eldest daughter of the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands, the heiress of Storm's End. It was a title that I had carried with pride since I was but nine namedays old. From a young age, I had been taught the responsibilities that came with my station, and I had strived to be worthy of the honor bestowed upon me.

My pride swelled even further when it was announced that my future husband would be none other than Prince Aegon Targaryen. The realization that I was to marry a prince filled me with a sense of awe and wonder. I had always wanted to marry a prince, it was the dream of every girl across Westeros. It was why I was so obvious on my attempts to charm Prince Aemond, not that I succeeded. I still flush in embarrassment every time I recall Prince Aemond’s vicious glares and the scolding my mother had given me after being warned off by Princess Rhaenys. I knew I had been wrong, but I had seen how kind and gentle Prince Aemond was with my cousin and I wanted the same. I later learned that Prince Aemond only behaved like that towards Princess Lucerys, and with everyone else he was cold and distant.

At the end, I did get my dream of marrying a prince. However, the excitement of marrying Prince Aegon was overshadowed by the rumors circulating the realm. Despite his lofty titles, none of them were flattering. The people of King's Landing whispered of his frequent visits to the Street of Silk, earning him the moniker of the Prince of Silk. Meanwhile, the courtiers of the Red Keep spoke of his penchant for revelry, dubbing him the Drunkard Prince. As I pondered these rumors, a wave of apprehension washed over me. Would a life married to a man like Aegon bring me happiness? Would he prove to be a faithful and loving husband, or would I be left alone and bitter?

Yet, despite my misgivings, I knew that I had little choice in the matter. My future was inexorably tied to Prince Aegon's, and I needed his dragon, Sunfyre, to safeguard my position as the future Lady Paramount of the Stormlands. Without the protection afforded by royal blood, my hold on Storm's End would be tenuous at best. My children needed to have Targaryen blood, as to raise a sword against anyone with royal blood was deemed high treason.

I sighed as I stood in my chambers, surrounded by maids and handmaidens fussing over me, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of disbelief wash over me. Was this truly happening? Was I really about to become a princess, bound to a man I hardly knew?

I stared at my reflection in the mirror, taking in the sight of the lavish gown that draped over my frame. It was a sight fit for a princess, crafted from the finest silk and satin, adorned with intricate embroidery and embellishments that sparkled in the light. The style was elegant and flattering, accentuating my figure in all the right places, and the color—rich shades of gold—honored the sigil of House Baratheon.

But it wasn't just the gown that left me in awe. My hair had been meticulously styled into an elaborate updo, adorned with a stunning piece of jewelry—a small crown made of antlers—that added a touch of regal splendor to my appearance.

As the final touches were made to my attire, I couldn't shake the feeling of surrealism that enveloped me. This was not the life I had imagined for myself, yet here I was, on the verge of entering into a union that would forever alter the course of my destiny. Despite my doubts and fears, I knew that I had a role to play in the grand tapestry of politics and power that governed the realm. As the future wife of Prince Aegon Targaryen, I would be expected to embody grace, dignity, and strength—a princess in both name and deed.

Taking a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and straightened my spine. I glanced at my sisters, Ellyn, and Maris, proudly clad in their black dresses, representing the other color of House Baratheon, a swell of pride washed over me. They stood by my side, unwavering in their support, already proving themselves valuable assets to our house by serving as ladies-in-waiting to our cousin, Princess Lucerys Velaryon.

I couldn't help but admire their strength and determination, qualities that I knew would serve them well in the years to come. Yet, even as I felt a surge of pride at their side, a sense of frustration gnawed at me. I had tried to incorporate black into my wedding gown, a subtle nod to our house's colors and my allegiance to the Black faction. But Queen Alicent had recoiled at the mere suggestion, her disdain evident as she dismissed the idea outright. The Drama Queen had even fainted when I had brought it up during our meetings with the royal dressmaker.

In the end, my mother, Elenda, had relented, choosing to keep the wedding gown resplendent in shades of gold—a decision that left me feeling resentful and conflicted. As I grumbled to myself, my sisters exchanged knowing glances, their eyes reflecting a shared frustration. We were proud members of the Black faction, unwavering in our allegiance to Princess Rhaenyra and her rightful claim to the Iron Throne. And though I would fulfill my duty by marrying Prince Aegon, I was determined to ensure that he would never produce heirs capable of challenging our cause.

My admiration for my father, Borros Baratheon, knew no bounds. He had been a pillar of strength and wisdom, guiding me with his unwavering support and love. His teachings had instilled in me a sense of duty and honor, virtues that I held dear to my heart.

But it was Princess Rhaenys and Lucerys Velaryon who truly commanded my utmost respect and loyalty. Princess Rhaenys had fought tirelessly to secure my inheritance of Storm's End, ensuring that I could fulfill my destiny as the future Lady Paramount of the Stormlands. And then there was Lucerys, my cousin and savior. It was her dragon who had rescued me and my sisters from a fate worse than death, sparing us from the clutches of the Dornishmen who sought to sell us to pillow houses. Her bravery and selflessness had earned my eternal loyalty, and I vowed to stand by her side no matter the cost.

While I had accepted my duty to marry Prince Aegon, my allegiance lay not with him or his mother’s house, but with the Black faction and Princess Rhaenyra's claim to the Iron Throne. Though I may not hold Princess Rhaenyra in the same regard as Princess Rhaenys and Princess Lucerys, I recognized the importance of her cause. For me, Princess Rhaenyra represented more than just a ruler; she was a symbol of hope and progress, a beacon of light in a world ruled by men. Her ascension to the throne would pave the way for women across Westeros to inherit lands and titles traditionally reserved for their husbands and brothers, and I was determined to protect that future at all costs.

Even if it meant I would need to kill my own husband one day.

The entrance of my father to my chamber snapped me out of my dark thoughts. His presence seemed to fill the room, and I couldn't help but feel a sense of nervousness wash over me. His eyes lingered on me, and I fidgeted under his gaze, unsure of what he was thinking. But then, to my surprise, a single tear escaped his eye, tracing a path down his weathered cheek.

I gasped in concern, rushing to his side, my heart pounding with worry. My father was not one to show his emotions so openly, and to see him shed tears was a rare and unsettling sight. I reached out to him, a mixture of fear and concern swirling in my chest, but he waved away my worry with a small smile.

"You look so beautiful, Cassandra," he said softly, his voice thick with emotion. "You've grown into such a remarkable woman, and I couldn't be prouder of you."

His words touched my heart, and I felt a swell of gratitude and love for him. With a shy smile, I bowed my head in gratitude, unable to find the words to express the depth of my emotions. But my father simply reached out and took my hand, his touch a silent reassurance that everything would be alright.

Together, we made our way towards the courtyard, my father leading the way with a quiet strength that belied the turmoil in his heart. Behind us, my mother and sisters— Maris, Ellyn, and Floris—trailed closely.

We stepped into the courtyard, bathed in the golden light of the sun, and entered the wheelhouse appointed to us. As we made our way towards the sept, I couldn't help but feel a surge of nervous energy coursing through me. The anticipation of the impending ceremony weighed heavily on my mind, yet I couldn't deny the excitement that pulsed through my veins.

When we arrived at the sept, I couldn't help but marvel at the splendor of the scene before me. The sept had been adorned with flowers and banners, the air filled with the soft strains of music and the murmurs of anticipation from the gathered guests. All eyes turned to us as my father and I made our entrance, and I felt a flutter of butterflies in my stomach at the attention.

With my father's arm firmly linked with mine, we made our way down the aisle towards where Prince Aegon awaited. As I approached, I couldn't help but notice the slight quirk of my eyebrow as I took in his attire. Instead of the customary green associated with his mother’s house, he wore red—a bold choice that seemed to make a statement of its own. In that moment, I felt a flicker of hope stir within me. Perhaps, despite our differences and the looming shadow of the war over the Iron Throne, there was a chance for us to find common ground. Prince Aegon's indifference towards the factions and his desire to distance himself from the conflict offered a glimmer of hope that maybe our marriage was not doomed to fail.

As my father passed my hand to Prince Aegon's, I felt a sense of solemnity settle over me. As the sept's ceremony commenced, I found myself lost in a haze of prayers, vows, and singing, my thoughts drifting in and out of focus as the words washed over me. It wasn't until the moment of the cloak exchange that I snapped back to attention, my senses sharpening as the significance of the ritual became apparent.

Unlike traditional weddings, where the bride would wear the maiden cloak of her own house, I found myself adorned in a cloak emblazoned with a three-headed black dragon—the sigil of House Targaryen. It was a stark departure from tradition, a symbol of Prince Aegon's decision to leave behind his Targaryen heritage and join House Baratheon.

My father, ever the dutiful patriarch, accepted the Targaryen cloak with a solemn nod, his expression betraying a sense of pride at his daughter's union with a prince of the realm. And then, as Prince Aegon placed the Baratheon cloak over my shoulders—a golden cloak adorned with the proud stag of our house—I felt a swell of emotion wash over me.

This, Prince Aegon had insisted, was a requirement of our union—a declaration to the world that he was forsaking his Targaryen lineage to stand by my side as I assumed my rightful place as the future Lady Paramount of the Stormlands. Our children would bear the Baratheon name, not Targaryen. I had been present at the meeting where Aegon had made his demands known, and while King Viserys had shown little interest in the matter, my father had nodded in appreciation. Princess Rhaenyra had been ecstatic, her enthusiasm evident, while Queen Alicent...

I turned to where Queen Alicent stood in the front rows, in her emerald-green gown, her lips pursed in disapproval and a frown marring her features. It was the same expression she had worn when Aegon had first made his requirement known—a silent protest against the union that threatened to reshape the balance of power in the realm. I barely stopped myself from smirking viciously at the Green whor*. Acting all righteous and dutiful when she seduced her way into the bed of a dead woman and babe, her own friend’s father’s bed. I could not believe she had a gall to wear that seven-pointed star pendant when the whole realm knows about her sins and how she sold her body for a crown.

As the ceremony progressed, and the time came for the exchange of vows, I found myself reciting the words with a sense of detachment. "With this kiss, I pledge my love," I murmured, the words feeling foreign on my tongue. There was no love in my heart for Prince Aegon, only a sense of duty driving me forward.

As Prince Aegon echoed my sentiment, declaring his commitment to our union, I listened with a stoic expression. "I take you for my lady and wife," he said, his voice carrying across the sept. And though the words were meant to bind us together in matrimony, they held no weight for me beyond their ceremonial significance.

In response, I repeated the words as required, though they felt hollow and meaningless. "And I take you for my lord and husband," I said, my voice steady but devoid of any true emotion. The words hung in the air, a solemn reminder of the obligations that now bound us together.

As the septon pronounced us man and wife, declaring that we were now "one flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever," I felt a sense of resignation settle over me. This marriage was not about love or passion, but about duty and obligation, and I knew that I must fulfill my role as Prince Aegon's wife, regardless of my personal feelings.

And so, as we sealed our vows with a kiss, I closed my eyes and let it happen, knowing that it was but a small price to pay for the greater good of my house and my family.

I barely paid attention as the lord and ladies of Westeros cheered for us. Prince Aegon escorted me to the open wheelhouse outside the sept, which we rode back to the Red Keep. As Prince Aegon and I paraded through the streets of King's Landing, our faces fixed in fake smiles and our hands waving to the cheering crowd, I couldn't shake the sense of unease that lingered in the pit of my stomach.

It was then that Prince Aegon leaned in close, his voice barely above a whisper as he spoke words that sent a chill down my spine. "I will not touch you tonight," he murmured, his words carrying a weight that belied their softness. My heart skipped a beat at his declaration, my mind reeling with confusion and disbelief.

"Why?" I managed to choke out, my voice barely audible over the din of the crowd. Prince Aegon's gaze was steady as he met my eyes, his expression serious yet unreadable. "Why will you not consummate our marriage?"

"To everyone else, our marriage will seem consummated," Prince Aegon began, his voice low and grave. "But I will not risk your life by bedding you. I cannot bear the thought of you becoming pregnant at such a young age, only to face the dangers of childbirth. It is not worth the risk."

"I have no desire for the Iron Throne," he continued, his tone resolute. "And having you as my wife is the best way to keep me away from King's Landing. Our children’s blood would be too diluted for them to claim any dragons or hatch any egg. If you were to bear my child and die in childbirth, the Greens would push for me to marry Helaena. That is something I want even less than ruling Westeros. I will not allow it to happen."

As we continued our procession through the streets of King's Landing, I forced a smile onto my lips, my hand still clasped in Prince Aegon's as we waved to the cheering crowds. But beneath the facade of celebration, doubt gnawed at me like a persistent itch.

"How can I trust you?" I finally whispered, unable to keep the question from escaping my lips.

Prince Aegon's response was swift, his voice tinged with bitterness and resentment as he. "I hate my mother and grandfather," Prince Aegon began, his voice carrying a bitter edge. " Their abuse has left scars that may never fully heal." His words rang with a raw honesty that struck a chord within me, stirring a sense of empathy for the man who sat beside me.

"I am indifferent towards King Viserys and Princess Rhaenyra," he continued, his tone matter-of-fact. "Let the Blacks and Greens battle it out for the Iron Throne. All I want is a life of leisure, free from the burdens of kingship and the expectations of others."

"With each word I speak, I hope you understand," Prince Aegon began, his voice soft but resolute. "I swear to you, Cassandra Baratheon, I will not stand in your path. Storm's End is yours to rule as you see fit. I want only my freedom, to pursue my own desires without anyone dictating my actions. I want to fly on Sunfyre unburdened. You give me this and we will protect you and your position as the future Lady Paramount of the Stormlands."

As I looked into his eyes, I saw a glimmer of sincerity that reassured me, dispelling the lingering doubts that had plagued me since the before we had even exchanged vows. This, I realized, was the start of a new chapter in our lives, a partnership built on mutual respect and understanding.

And so, with a smile that reached all the way to my heart, I whispered, "This is the beginning of a wonderful marriage." Prince Aegon's laughter rang out in response, a sound that filled me with a sense of hope for the future.

Chapter 22: III Lucerys' P.O.V

Notes:

So, I know that in the previous chapter I left a message saying I was taking a break from this story, but inspiration struck me and now I am truly going to take a break after this chapter. The message will be deleted from the previous chapter, so I will be adding it below for those who have not read it.

---

Hi! How is everyone doing?

I hope you've all been enjoying this story as much as I have. Thank you for all the kudos and comments, they always bring a smile to my face whenever I see the notification.

With this chapter, the first part of this story is over. Now, as much as I would love to continue with these weekly updates, I've been feeling burned out with this story lately. As such I will be taking a small break before going back to finish it. Don't worry, it will be two or three months at most.

Thank you all for your support and please comment!

Chapter Text

Driftmark, High Tide - 125 AC

We left for Driftmark the day after the Baratheon ships headed back to Storm's End. It was me, Aems, and kekepa Corlys, sailing away while mumuña Rhaenys stayed in King's Landing with muña. They figured one of them had to stay behind. With kepa busy with his squires, Ralph Buckler and Selwyn Tarth, Jacaerys will be mostly left to the care of muña. Even taking into account that Jace would be squiring alongside the young lords. Kekepa Corlys and mumuña Rhaenys didn't think muña was the best influence on him, especially since he's gonna be king one day.

So, mumuña Rhaenys stayed to guide Jacaerys, while kekepa Corlys decided it was more important to make sure me and Aems were ready to handle Driftmark. I overheard their whole talk with the ears of a cat, thanks to my skinchanging. It was kinda funny, really. They didn't trust my muña to teach Jacaerys right. And you know what? I don't blame 'em. My muña’s got her own way of doing things, but it's not exactly queen material. So, I was cool with kekepa Corlys and mumuña Rhaenys thinking that way.

I was expecting the next two years in Driftmark to be interesting, arduous with a lot of work, but interesting, nonetheless. What I had not been expected was to go to sleep in my cabin in my kekepa's ship, only to wake up facing the God Arrax. The Ruler of Gods, law, order, justice, governance, and strength. I knew that I was still sleeping in my cabin, that it was my soul the one that was pulled from my body- astral projection the Gods had explained in the previous times that it had happened. Still, it did not stop leaving me feeling dizzy and nauseous.

I bowed at the God, who simply motioned for me to sit down in front of him, so I did. Taking a good look at him, he was like something out of a legend. He had this humanoid shape but with all these dragon-like features—horns, serpent eyes, scales, fangs, pointy ears, forked tongue—you name it. And his skin was as white as pearls, with eyes shining like gold. The Gods had explained to me that when a Targaryen names their dragon after a God, that God takes on the same coloring as the dragon. I found it fascinating and mourned the fact that I could not share this information with my family.

"I must say, I had not expected you to be so effective," Arrax praised me, and I felt my cheeks heat up. Coming from the Ruler of Gods himself, that was a big deal. "You've done an incredible job so far. The Greens' power base is all but gone. If they even try to make a move, everyone will see them as usurpers."

His words hit me hard, though. Sure, we'd knocked the Greens down a peg or two, but war was still on the horizon. I couldn't help but feel a heavy weight settle in my stomach. "So, there will still be war," I said, my voice heavy with resignation.

Arrax just shrugged like it was no big deal, but it kinda pissed me off. Didn't he care about all the soldiers who'd end up dead because of this? "It was to be expected," he said, like it was all part of some grand plan. "The Hightowers won't stop until one of their own is on the throne. They've been at it since Aegon conquered Westeros, and they won't ever quit, especially with the Faith whispering in their ears."

I let out a frustrated groan at the mention of the Light of the Seven. Those fanatics were becoming a real pain in the neck. "They're growing more bothersome by the day. But at least they don't have the same power they did back in Joanna's time. With the Hightowers losing allies left and right, they'll probably try to rally the Faith Militia again. And that might just be what we need to make sure they never get as powerful as they once were. Plus, I finally get a shot at getting rid of the Lannisters for good."

Arrax stared at me for what felt like ages before he smirked, but it wasn't any ordinary smirk. It was a grin full of teeth and hunger, the kind I'd only ever seen on my uncle Daemon's face. "I didn't expect the honorable Joanna Snow to be so cunning," he said, his voice dripping with something dark. "I thought the Starks had softened you too much for that. Especially not after I gave you the life of the meek Lucerys Velaryon."

I blinked, feeling a bit taken aback, but then I nodded. He had a point. "I don't see myself as Joanna Snow, bastard of Winterfell, or Lucerys Velaryon, bastard of Driftmark," I admitted. "I'm the trueborn daughter of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Ser Laenor Velaryon. Granddaughter of the Queen Who Never Was and the Sea Snake. Cunning and bloodthirst are in my blood."

Arrax let out a laugh that sounded like a dragon's roar echoing in my ears. "Well said, princess! You're finally a true Targaryen!"

I smiled, feeling kinda proud of myself, but then my smile faded. "It just saddens me that two lives had to end because of my birth," I admitted, my voice heavy with regret. "Joanna Snow and Lucerys Waters died when Lucerys Velaryon was born... And just like them, Aegon, Viserys, and Visenya will never be conceived."

Arrax fell silent for a moment, his gaze intense. "I can't say anything to ease your pain about Joanna Snow and Lucerys Waters. Your words ring true," he admitted. "But remember, they'll live on in your memory."

I nodded, grateful for his words, but then he dropped a bombshell that left me speechless. "As for Aegon, Viserys, Visenya, Jaehaerys, Jaehaera, and Maelor, they will be born."

My jaw practically hit the floor. "How? My mother won't betray Ser Harwin, and Jacaerys is supposed to marry Helaena!" I protested, unable to comprehend what Arrax was saying.

He nodded in understanding, acknowledging my concerns. "Do you think our pantheon would betray our most faithful followers? We're not like the Seven with their greed and contempt. We adore our descendants of Old Valyria. We didn't agree with everything they did back in the day, and we put a stop to it. We made sure only the good line would survive."

My breath caught in my throat. "You mean... the Doom of Old Valyria was your wrath?" I asked, stunned by the revelation.

Arrax nodded solemnly. "We could have guided Daenys's dream to go to Westeros and build a power base against the Others. We could have done it all without destroying Old Valyria. The Targaryens were always hungry for conquest."

I scoffed bitterly. "Tell me about it."

Arrax gave a sardonic smile before growing serious again. "But their blood magic and slavery? That we couldn't condone. A lesson had to be taught. House Targaryen learned, only to get caught up in other bad habits. Bowing down to the demands of another faith? Not allowing equal rights to women? What a mess!" His frustration was palpable, and I couldn't help but feel a surge of anger towards my own family's mistakes.

My mind was still spinning from the information Arrax had just dropped on me. Once I managed to collect myself, I had to ask, "But what about Maegor the Cruel? Aegon the Unworthy? Or... or Aerys the Mad? How can you say our line was the good line?"

Arrax frowned, his expression grave. "Maegor the Cruel was the result of Visenya dabbling in blood magic, the same magic we punished House Targaryen for. And as for Aegon and Aerys, and all the bad kings in between, they were the result of the lack of dragons."

I tilted my head in confusion. "Lack of dragons?"

Arrax nodded. "Why do you think House Targaryen is so important? We blessed you with magic, but magic without an outlet? That leads to madness. Not all the bad kings can be blamed solely on that, though. Aegon the Unworthy? Yeah, he would have been a horrible king regardless. But Aerys? Your grandfather was a good king... until he was driven to madness."

My face darkened when I realized what he meant. "Duskendale."

Arrax nodded solemnly. "Duskendale was a tragedy that never should have happened, but it did. And the Three-Eyed Raven didn't help matters either."

Confusion creased my brow. "Three-Eyed Raven?"

Arrax waved away my worries. "Never mind, we've made sure he'll never be born. So, don't worry about that." His words offered some comfort, but the weight of everything he'd revealed still hung heavy on my shoulders.

I brushed aside the mention of the Three-Eyed Raven, focusing on what mattered most to me. "Aegon, Viserys, Visenya, Jaehaerys, Jaehaera, and Maelor will be born?" I asked, needing confirmation.

Arrax nodded, his expression serious. "Helaena... we tried to prevent the Dance of Dragons through her once, but it didn't work. We only brought her suffering. This time, we've made sure to give her a husband who will adore her as she deserves. With your help, she's been learning to control her dreams. It'll be good for Jacaerys's reign. It'll be a good reign, I assure you."

A surge of happiness flooded through me as I realized what Arrax was saying. "Jaehaerys and Jaehaera, and Maelor will be Helaena and Jacaerys's children!" I exclaimed, beaming.

Arrax smiled fondly at my joy. "They will be, although I think Helaena will want different names for them. But as for Aegon, Viserys, and Visenya... it's not so simple. Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon's prayers still echo with us, even in this altered timeline. They prayed for her to live, but you see, Visenya was stillborn. She never got the chance to live. It is a big ask to give life to death. A prayer like that comes with a big price."

My heart sank with the weight of his words. I knew what he was getting at. "A life for a life. The Aegon that Daemon and Laena mourned... was Aegon the Broken." The realization hit me hard, a mix of sorrow and understanding flooding through me.

Arrax nodded solemnly. "Viserys and Visenya will be reborn, but since Princess Laena cannot have more children, they will come from Prince Daemon's line."

A fond smile tugged at my lips, though it wasn't as bright as before. "Baela and Rhaena."

"Viserys, who was named after a kekepa in one life, will be named after another in this new one," Arrax explained.

I paused, pondering his words for a moment before it clicked. "Of course! Why would Baela or Rhaena name their child Viserys when kekepa treats their family so horribly? They'll name their son after their kepa, Daemon!"

Arrax laughed, and I couldn't help but join in. It felt good to have a moment of lightheartedness amidst all the heavy talk. "You're getting quick!" he praised. "That cleverness will serve you well in the years to come. Remember, when you turn ten and four, a war will begin!"

With that, I left the astral projection and returned to my cabin, waking up to the gentle rocking of the ship. My head was spinning with Arrax's warning. A war? Why hadn't he called it the war for the throne? Would there really be another war? Gods, what a mess!

Chapter 23: II Daemon's P.O.V

Chapter Text

Driftmark, High Tide - 125 AC

We were gathered in the war room of High Tide, the salty breeze from the sea seeping through the narrow windows. Laena sat beside me, her eyes sharp and alert, while Corlys paced the room, his long robes swishing with every step. News had just reached us that Lord Jasper Wilde, the last green on the Small Council, had met a rather undignified end, impaled by a deer while out hunting drunk. I couldn't help but feel a surge of satisfaction. The greens were losing their grip, and Bartimos Celtigar, a firm supporter of our cause, had taken Wilde's place as Master of Laws.

"Well, isn't that a stroke of fortune?" I said, unable to keep the grin off my face.

Laena chuckled softly beside me, her hand resting lightly on my arm. "Bartimos on the Small Council," she repeated, shaking her head in disbelief. "This changes everything. The tides are turning in our favor."

I watched Corlys with amusem*nt as he finally calmed down and took a seat. The joy and exasperation on his face was amusing, everyone knew about the rivalry between Bartimos and Corlys. Having the two of them in the Small Council at the same time will be intriguing for sure. But even though I was thrilled about the news, I had a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind.

"Corlys," I began, leaning forward, "did we have anything to do with Wilde's death? Was this one of our plans?"

He looked at me, his expression serious for the first time since we'd received the news. "No, Daemon," he replied, shaking his head. "The fault lies squarely in Wilde's own bad decisions. He was a fool, and it caught up with him. It couldn’t have happened to a worse man."

I sat back, processing his words. It was almost poetic justice, the way Wilde had met his end. He'd been a thorn in our side for far too long, and now he was gone, not by our hand, but by his own folly. Jasper Wilde had always been a monster. I couldn't help but wish it had been my blade that ended him. The man had married so many women, bred them to death, and yet he was permitted to be Master of Laws. It was a stain on the realm and a testament to what a bad king Viserys had become.

The memory of the affection and respect I once had for my brother had turned bitter. Love and adoration had curdled into pure hatred over the years. I couldn't believe how much he'd changed, how much he'd let the realm rot from within.

Laena, as if reading my thoughts, placed a hand on my shoulder. Her smile was the same enchanting one that had made me fall for her. It grounded me, reminding me of the good things I still had. I leaned in and kissed her, feeling a warmth that contrasted sharply with the cold anger I felt towards my brother.

Corlys groaned at the sight. "Daemon, you ruffian," he said, shaking his head. "Kissing my daughter right in front of me."

I shrugged, a teasing smirk on my face. "I kissed my wife, who also happens to be your daughter." Laena laughed, the sound light and musical, cutting through the tension. "One day," I said, my voice low but determined, "we'll rid this land of all the monsters, not just the ones like Jasper Wilde, but those who let them thrive."

Corlys nodded, his expression serious once more. "We'll do it together, Daemon. We've come this far, and we'll see it through to the end."

Laena squeezed my hand, her eyes full of resolve. "Together," she echoed.

We spent the remainder of the night in the war room, planning our next move. The next morning, I broke my fast with Laena and our twin daughters, Baela and Rhaena. Lucerys and Aemond joined us as well, the sight of our mixed family warming my heart. Laena smiled fondly as the twins clung to Lucerys, their adoration for her clear. After all, it was Lucerys who had given Rhaena her dragon, Morning. The little hatchling had bonded with Rhaena instantly, and the two were inseparable.

I will forever be indebted to Lucerys. Not only had she saved my daughter from years of being dragonless, the same way I had been before claiming Caraxes. Her words had also given Laena the strength she needed to move on from our son’s death. For those reasons, Lucerys will forever have me by her side.

As the morning light filtered through the windows, casting a warm glow over the room, I found myself locked in a staring match with Aemond. The boy had a cheeky, defiant look in his eye, meeting my gaze without flinching. It was almost amusing, seeing the same fire in him that I had always been known for.

Aemond's spirit was unyielding, a true dragon. I couldn't believe he was born from my spineless brother Viserys and the righteous green bitch, Alicent. How had such a dragon emerged from such weak stock? It baffled me, but it also gave me hope. Maybe, just maybe, there was a chance for him yet.

I remembered my fury upon hearing of the betrothals between Helaena and Jacaerys, and Aemond and Lucerys. It had felt like a betrayal, a slap in the face. But now, watching Aemond, I saw potential. He was strong, fierce, and unyielding. Perhaps he wouldn't tarnish Rhaenyra's bloodline with his Hightower blood after all.

I couldn't help but smirk, breaking the intense silence. "You’ve got spirit, Aemond. I’ll give you that."

Aemond’s cheeky grin widened. "I learned from the best, Uncle."

Laena chuckled, the sound light and musical. "And here I thought breakfast would be a quiet affair."

Baela and Rhaena giggled, their laughter infectious. Lucerys, ever the peacekeeper, nudged Aemond playfully. "Careful, Aems. You don't want to get on Daemon's bad side."

Aemond shrugged, still grinning. "I think I can handle it."

I laughed, genuinely amused. The boy had guts, I’d give him that. "We’ll see about that, young dragon."

As we continued our meal, the tension eased, replaced by a sense of camaraderie. This was what I fought for, what I cherished. My family, united and strong. The greens could plot and scheme, but they would never break this bond.

After we finished eating, the children sent off to their lessons, Laena and I decided to take a stroll through the streets of Driftmark. The sea breeze was fresh and invigorating, carrying the salty tang that always reminded me of home. As we walked, Laena teased me about trying to intimidate Aemond earlier.

"Really, Daemon, trying to scare a boy?" she said, her eyes sparkling with amusem*nt.

I wasn't embarrassed in the slightest. If anything, I felt a sense of pride. "Just you wait," I replied, smirking. "I'll be even worse when boys start trying to get close to Baela and Rhaena." Laena laughed, a rich, joyful sound that always warmed my heart. "He’s got potential, doesn’t he?" I asked.

Laena nodded, her eyes thoughtful. "He does. He’s more like you than you realize."

I arched an eyebrow. "Is that a compliment or a warning?"

She smiled, leaning in to kiss me softly. "A bit of both, my love."

I held her close, feeling a sense of contentment wash over me. I allowed her to pull me by the arm, leading me towards a newer part of Driftmark. I hadn't paid much attention to it before, but as we walked through the streets, I began to notice the bustling activity, the happy faces of the people, the well-kept homes, and the thriving businesses.

"What is this place?" I asked, genuinely curious.

Laena smiled, a look of pride on her face. "This is Lucerys' project for the betterment of the people of Driftmark."

I raised an eyebrow, intrigued. "Lucerys?"

"Yes," she nodded. "She came up with the business idea between the North and Driftmark. Corlys was so impressed that he decided to give her a cut of the profits."

I was stunned. No matter how mature Lucerys was, she was still a child. The business deal between Driftmark and the North had been incredibly successful, bringing in a significant amount of coin to both sides. That much coin in the hands of a child was usually a recipe for disaster.

As we walked further, I saw firsthand what Lucerys had done with her share of the profits. She had used the money to aid the orphans and homeless of Driftmark, creating shelters, learning centers, and workshops where they could learn trades and earn a living. The transformation was remarkable.

"Lucerys did all this?" I asked, my voice filled with admiration.

Laena nodded, her eyes shining with pride. "Yes, she did. She's always had a kind heart and a sharp mind."

I couldn't help but feel a swell of pride and a touch of humility. I had underestimated her, worried that she might squander the money or be taken advantage of. Instead, she had used it to make a real difference in people's lives. She's proven that your worries were for naught.

"She's truly something," I said, my voice softening. "Your brother has raised a remarkable girl."

Laena squeezed my hand, her smile warm and loving. "He has. And she's just getting started."

As we continued our stroll, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. The future was in good hands with children like Lucerys, Baela, Rhaena, and even Aemond. They were strong, smart, and compassionate. They would lead our house and the realm to greater heights.

Laena and I made our way to the learning centers, where children and adults alike were learning their letters and numbers. The sight of the small folk hunched over their work, some with furrowed brows and others with smiles of triumph, was inspiring. Laena's eyes sparkled with awe as she took it all in.

"The idea of teaching the small folk is revolutionary," she said, her voice filled with admiration.

I couldn't help but agree, though I kept my expression thoughtful. This initiative went beyond simple kindness. My informants had reported that the revenue from taxes had grown exponentially in Driftmark, and it was clear to me now that this was the reason. When the small folk understood the value of their products and could quantify it, merchants couldn't take advantage of them. This knowledge made the market more competitive, creating better opportunities for everyone.

Lucerys' project was no longer just a noble endeavor; it had become a clever strategy that had tangible benefits for the entire community.

We wandered through the center, or “school” as Lucerys had named it, observing the students. I saw a young boy proudly reading aloud from a book, his face alight with excitement. Nearby, an older man meticulously worked through a series of arithmetic problems, his concentration evident.

As we left the school, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of awe at my niece's ingenuity. Lucerys had seen a need and filled it, not just with money but with a vision for a better future. She was shaping the community in ways I hadn't anticipated, and the results were already clear to see.

"Laena, this is remarkable," I said, my voice tinged with pride and wonder. "Lucerys has done something truly extraordinary here."

Laena nodded, her expression soft and proud. "She has. She's shown us all what it means to lead with both heart and mind."

I reflected on this as we continued our stroll. Lucerys' approach had made a real difference. By empowering the small folk with education, she had given them the tools to better their own lives. This wasn't just charity; it was a sustainable, impactful change that would resonate for generations.

"She’s a true dragon," I said, the pride in my voice unmistakable. "Just like her mother."

Laena smiled, a hint of wistfulness in her eyes. "And like her uncle."

I chuckled, wrapping an arm around her waist as we walked. Our next stop was the soup kitchens. As we approached, Laena gasped at the sight of the small folk gathered there. They were rough-shaped, dirty, very thin, and tired. Yet, compared to the small folk in King’s Landing, who were often more bones than flesh, these people looked healthier. There was a generous amount of fat on their cheeks, and they smiled as they received plates of fish soup and bread from those in charge.

The moment some of the small folk saw us, they approached, causing my guards to tense up. But there was no attack, only gratitude. They praised Laena and me, showering us with words of thanks. It was overwhelming, this outpouring of appreciation. Especially for Laena’s family and Lucerys. They spoke of Lucerys with such reverence, comparing her to the Maiden herself.

"Princess Laena, Prince Daemon," one elderly woman said, her voice trembling with emotion, "you’ve saved us. Your family has given us hope. Princess Lucerys is a blessing from the gods."

Laena’s eyes glistened with tears, and she smiled warmly. "Thank you," she said softly, her voice thick with emotion. "We only wish to help."

I looked around at the faces of the small folk, their eyes filled with gratitude and hope. It was humbling to see the impact our efforts had made. The soup kitchens were not just feeding their bodies but also nourishing their spirits.

One man stepped forward, cradling a small child in his arms. "My daughter was starving," he said, his voice choked with emotion. "But because of Princess Lucerys’ kindness, she is healthy again. We owe her everything."

I placed a hand on his shoulder, feeling the weight of his words. "Lucerys has done more than we could have ever imagined," I said, my voice steady but filled with pride. "And we will continue to support all of you."

As we walked through the soup kitchen, Laena and I stopped to speak with many of the small folk, listening to their stories and sharing in their joys and sorrows. It was a poignant reminder of why we fought, why we struggled. It wasn’t just for power or glory, but for the people who depended on us.

Laena turned to me, her eyes shining with determination. "We need to do more, Daemon. We can’t stop here."

I nodded, feeling a surge of resolve. "We will. We’ll make sure Driftmark and the realm continues to prosper, and we’ll extend this kindness wherever we can."

The small folk continued to praise Lucerys, calling her a savior, a beacon of hope. Hearing them compare her to the Maiden filled me with a profound sense of pride. Lucerys had shown wisdom and compassion beyond her years, and her efforts were making a tangible difference in people’s lives.

As we left the soup kitchen, the sun was beginning to set, casting a warm golden light over Driftmark. Laena slipped her hand into mine, and we walked in silence for a while, each lost in our thoughts. Our final stop was the orphanage, and the moment we arrived, I was struck by how different it was from any place I'd seen where parentless children lived. The orphanage was bursting with color, with drawings on the walls and children playing joyfully in the courtyard. The matron kept a watchful eye on everything, her presence comforting and reassuring.

As we entered, the matron approached us with a warm smile. She was a stout woman with kind eyes, radiating an air of authority mixed with deep compassion. "Prince Daemon, Princess Laena," she greeted us, her voice filled with genuine warmth. "Welcome to our home."

Laena returned the smile, her eyes bright with curiosity. "This place is remarkable. The children seem so happy."

The matron nodded, her pride evident. "We've worked hard to create a nurturing environment. The orphans here have a better chance at life than most in Westeros. They learn their letters and numbers, and we also teach them trades that will be useful in their future."

I was impressed. The older children were already being taken in by the Driftmark Guard, or serving as High Tide servants. Some were apprenticed to smiths, glassmakers, and seamstresses. The matron spoke with pride, and I could see that she truly cared about these children. This wasn't just an act for our benefit.

As we walked through the orphanage, I noticed many drawings in chalk on the walls, depicting Lucerys and her dragon, Ghost. It was clear that Lucerys Velaryon was deeply loved in Driftmark. The children adored her, seeing her as a figure of hope and inspiration.

"Princess Lucerys visits often," the matron said, following my gaze. "She spends time with the children, tells them stories, and encourages them. They look up to her."

Laena's eyes filled with tears of pride. "She's doing so much good," she said softly. "More than we ever imagined."

I felt a swell of pride in my chest. Lucerys had exceeded all our expectations. She was not just a noble by birth but a leader by choice, making a real difference in the lives of these children.

A young girl, no older than seven, ran up to us, holding out a piece of parchment. "Look, I drew this for you!" she said, her eyes wide with excitement.

I took the parchment, seeing a surprisingly well-done drawing of Lucerys and Ghost flying over Driftmark. "This is wonderful," I said, smiling at the girl. "You have real talent."

The girl's face lit up, and she ran back to her friends, proudly showing off our praise. The matron watched her go, a fond smile on her face. "These children are our future," she said. "And thanks to Princess Lucerys, they have hope."

As we left the orphanage, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of fulfillment. The work being done here was extraordinary, and it was all because of Lucerys' vision and determination. She had given these children a chance, and in doing so, she had given Driftmark a brighter future.

Laena and I walked back to High Tide, hand in hand. "She’s truly special," Laena said, her voice full of emotion. "We’re so lucky to have her."

I nodded, my heart swelling with pride. "Yes, we are. She's remarkable. And if Laenor can do even half as well in King’s Landing, the city might finally start to improve."

The thought of King’s Landing, with its sprawling slums and desperate small folk, often weighed heavily on my mind. I was known as Lord Fleabottom for a reason; I truly did care about them, no matter how the Hightowers tried to paint me. The plight of the common people had always been close to my heart. Seeing the impact Lucerys had made in Driftmark only fueled my desire to do more.

We reached the steps of High Tide, the setting sun casting long shadows across the courtyard. I paused, looking out over the sea, my mind already turning to the future. "I’m planning on replicating Lucerys’ project in the Stepstones," I said, my voice firm with resolve.

Laena looked at me, surprise and admiration in her eyes. "That would be incredible, Daemon. But it won’t be easy."

I smiled, feeling the familiar thrill of a challenge. "No, it won’t. But I’ll make the other lords in the Stepstones follow my lead, or they’ll face Caraxes."

The thought of my dragon, fierce and loyal, brought a sense of confidence. The lords of the Stepstones would learn to care for their people or face the consequences. It was time for a change, and I was determined to make it happen.

Laena squeezed my hand, her eyes filled with love and support. "You have a good heart, Daemon. The small folk are lucky to have you."

I looked into her eyes, feeling a deep sense of gratitude for having her by my side. "And I’m lucky to have you, Laena. Together, we’ll make a difference."

As night fell over Driftmark, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. The legacy we were building wasn’t just for us, but for the countless lives we touched. Lucerys had shown us the way, and now it was our turn to carry the torch.

The next morning, I began making plans. I called for my advisors, outlining my vision for the Stepstones. The same principles that had brought success to Driftmark would guide us: education, opportunity, and care for the small folk. I would ensure that the lords understood their duty to their people, and those who resisted would face the might of Caraxes.

In the weeks that followed, Laena and I worked tirelessly. We met with local leaders, gathered resources, and spread the word of our plans. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The small folk were eager for change, ready to embrace a better future.

Chapter 24: III Corlys' P.O.V

Chapter Text

Driftmark, High Tide - 125 AC

I was giving a sailing lesson to Aemond and Lucerys on The Black Pearl. The morning was crisp, the sun shining down on the port, and I could see the excitement in Aemond’s eyes as he took in the grandeur of the ship. This was no ordinary vessel; this was my gift to Lucerys for claiming her dragon, Ghost. I had built The Black Pearl to celebrate that milestone, and it was heartening to see Aemond so enchanted by it.

I could tell he saw the ship as the perfect complement to Ghost, who was becoming known as the White Pearl. The small folk of Driftmark had started calling them the Pearl Trinity in his mind, and I liked that thought.

The Pearl of Driftmark, the White Pearl, and the Black Pearl, the Pearl Trinity.

But I wasn’t here to indulge in my own nostalgia or to bask in the ship’s glory. I was here to teach them, to pass on what I knew of the sea. Aemond was focused, his late cheekiness replaced by a serious determination. He knew that being the future Lord Consort of Driftmark meant he had to be well-prepared. He was taking this lesson seriously, as he should.

I started with the basics, explaining the different parts of the ship and how they functioned. Aemond was a good student, listening intently and asking questions with a genuine curiosity. I could see the wheels turning in his mind, soaking up every bit of knowledge I imparted.

“Remember,” I said, “the sea is both a friend and a foe. It can carry you to great adventures or swallow you whole. You have to understand it, respect it, and you’ll be able to master it.”

Lucerys was right beside him, her excitement as palpable as ever. She had always thrived in these lessons, love for the sea was as strong as any Velaryon. Watching her grow into her role as heiress of Driftmark had been one of my greatest joys. Her eyes sparkled as she took in every word, and I saw in her the same eagerness I had seen in her father, Laenor, when he was young.

“Aemond, come here,” I called out, guiding him to the side of the ship where the wind was strongest. “Feel the wind against your face. This is the first lesson in sailing: understanding how the wind moves, how it can be your ally or your adversary.”

Aemond nodded, closing his eyes for a moment to feel the breeze. I could see the intensity in his features, the seriousness of the moment. He was aware of the weight of his future responsibilities, and I admired that about him.

Lucerys stepped forward, climbing on the step, so her hands could reach the wheel. “Let’s see what you’ve learned,” I said to both of them.

Lucerys took the wheel with confidence, her movements steady as she adjusted to the wind. Aemond stood beside her, observing her techniques and mimicking them as best he could. They worked in sync, their cooperation a sign of the strong partnership they would need in the future.

“The sea teaches you more than just navigation,” I said as I walked around the deck. “It teaches you about leadership, about being part of something bigger than yourself.”

Aemond absorbed my words, nodding as he looked out over the water. “I understand, Lord Corlys. I want to be the best I can for Lucy and Driftmark.”

I clapped him on the shoulder, a rare gesture of approval. “That’s the spirit. It’s not just about sailing; it’s about the responsibility you will carry. You must be strong, wise, and compassionate. Those are the qualities that will make you a good leader.”

The lesson went on, with Aemond asking thoughtful questions and Lucerys executing the tasks with practiced ease. As we docked The Black Pearl, I felt a deep satisfaction. I had taught them what I could for the day. I looked out at the port, the sea sparkling under the sun, and I knew that Driftmark was in good hands.

“Thank you for the lesson, Lord Corlys,” Aemond said, his voice sincere.

I smiled at him, feeling a warmth in my chest. “You’ve done well, Aemond. Keep that dedication, and you’ll be a fine Lord Consort.”

Lucerys joined us, her face glowing with the joy of the day’s success. “Thank you, Grandfather. This was wonderful.”

I looked at them both, my heart full. “It’s my pleasure. I’m proud of you both.”

Laena then came to pick up Lucerys for her embroidery lessons with Maris, Ellyn, Rhaena, and Baela. The children’s laughter and excited chatter echoed as they left the docks, heading for their afternoon activities. I watched them go, a fond smile on my face.

As they disappeared from view, I turned to Aemond, who was still standing at the edge of The Black Pearl’s deck, his gaze lingering on the water. I could see the eagerness in his eyes, the thirst for knowledge that was all too familiar.

“Come with me, Aemond,” I said, gesturing towards the captain’s quarters. “There’s more I’d like to show you.”

He followed me with a determined stride, his curiosity evident. We entered the quarters, the room was filled with maps, charts, and navigational tools. I could see Aemond’s eyes widen as he took in the sight of the old nautical charts and compasses laid out on the table.

“Sit,” I said, motioning to a sturdy chair. “We’ll go over some cartography today. It’s a crucial skill for any sailor, and one that will serve you well in your future role.”

Aemond took the seat, his attention fixed on the maps before him. I pulled out a detailed chart of the Stepstones, spreading it out on the table.

“Cartography is more than just drawing maps,” I began, pointing to various features on the chart. “It’s about understanding the land and sea, predicting the currents, and planning your routes. A good navigator can turn a journey into a triumph.”

Aemond leaned in, his eyes scanning the map with interest. “Why are you teaching me this and not Lucerys? Isn’t she going to be the Lady Regent of Driftmark?”

I saw the question coming, and I was glad he asked it. It was a sign of the respect he had for the role that Lucerys was preparing for, and that he had no desire to covet Lucerys’ rightful position of power. I leaned back, considering how best to explain.

“Lucerys was born at the Red Keep,” I started, looking at Aemond. “But she was raised as a Velaryon. From a young age, she learned to read maps and navigate the seas. She already had a solid foundation in cartography and sailing, before she even started learning her letters and numbers. But you, Aemond, have yet to build that foundation.”

Aemond’s eyes widened slightly. “I didn’t know that. I always thought that she learned everything she knew from books or from us.”

I nodded. “Most of what she knows, she learned from the sea itself. The maps and the stars, they were part of her upbringing. When she was little, she’d sit at my side and watch as I charted our courses. She knows the basics and more.”

Aemond looked genuinely surprised. “How come she never told me this before? I always thought we were learning together.”

I chuckled softly. “You’ve always been close to Lucerys, and that’s a good thing. But your paths are different. Lucerys has been prepared for a leadership role from the start. Her education was focused on that. Yours is just beginning, and it’s important you build a strong base.”

Aemond nodded slowly, processing the information. “I see. So, this is why you’re focusing on this now.”

“Yes,” I said, taking out a compass and pointing to its features. “This compass, for instance, is a tool for finding direction. But it’s also a symbol of what you’ll need to learn—how to navigate not just the seas, but the challenges you’ll face.”

I showed him how to read the compass, explaining the importance of true north and magnetic north, and how to use them to chart a course. Aemond listened attentively, asking questions and absorbing every bit of knowledge.

“Understanding the stars is another part of navigation,” I said, pulling out an astrolabe. “We’ll have to wait for the night to practice this, but I’ll explain the basics now.”

Aemond watched intently as I demonstrated how to use the astrolabe to measure the angle of the stars above the horizon. I talked about celestial navigation, explaining how sailors have used the stars for centuries to find their way across the oceans.

“It’s not just about knowing how to sail,” I said, as I handed him the astrolabe. “It’s about understanding how the world works. The stars guide you, the maps show you the way. But it’s up to you to use that knowledge to lead effectively.”

Aemond took the astrolabe, his fingers tracing the intricate markings. “This is fascinating. I didn’t realize there was so much to learn.”

I smiled at him, proud of his eagerness. “There is a lot to learn, but that’s what makes it worthwhile. Every challenge is an opportunity to grow. You’ll need to be well-prepared for your future role.”

He nodded, his eyes shining with determination. “I’ll do my best, Lord Corlys.”

“I know you will, Aemond.” I placed a hand on his shoulder. “You have the heart of a true sailor and a future leader. Embrace this knowledge, and you’ll be ready for whatever comes.”

As we continued our lesson, the sun began to lower in the sky, casting a warm light over the maps and charts. I watched Aemond’s concentration and commitment, and I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. Teaching him was more than just a duty; it was a chance to pass on the legacy of the Velaryons, to ensure that the future of Driftmark was in capable hands.

We spent the rest of the afternoon going over the finer details of navigation, discussing the intricacies of sailing and exploring. When the time came to end the lesson, I knew we had made good progress. Aemond had shown that he was ready to take on the challenges of his future role, and I had no doubt that he would continue to grow and learn.

As we left The Black Pearl, the sky was painted with hues of orange and pink, a beautiful end to a successful day. I wanted to take a moment to talk to Aemond. I’d noticed a lot of things about him lately, and I figured it was time we had a proper conversation. I led Aemond to a quiet corner of the ship, away from the bustling activity of the port. We settled on a couple of wooden crates, facing the calm sea. I could see the unease in Aemond’s eyes, something that had been lingering since he first arrived at High Tide. I figured it was time to address it.

“Aemond,” I began, trying to keep my tone casual. “I’ve noticed you seem to have something on your mind. What’s troubling you?”

Aemond looked at me, a hint of surprise on his face. I could tell he hadn’t expected me to bring it up, but he didn’t shy away. He took a deep breath, the weight of his thoughts evident in his posture.

“It’s been a lot to think about,” he said slowly. “My mother always told me that we should never trust anyone from my half-sister’s entourage. She said they were all enemies, that only Lucy was to be trusted because she was to be my wife.”

I nodded, encouraging him to continue. “And what are your thoughts on that now?”

Aemond looked out at the horizon, as if searching for answers in the distant waves. “Well, lately I’ve been doubting her words. Princess Rhaenys and you have only ever been kind to me. You’ve taught me so much, and I’m starting to wonder if maybe my mother’s view was too narrow.”

I could see the conflict in his eyes, the struggle between what he’d been told and what he was experiencing. I leaned back, giving him space to sort through his feelings. “Go on,” I said gently. “What else is on your mind?”

Aemond swallowed hard, then spoke with a quiet intensity. “I’ve been worried about what Rhaenyra might do. I know it’s tradition for Targaryens to marry siblings, but I was afraid she might try to marry Lucy to Jacaerys and name Joffrey as heir to Driftmark instead.”

He looked at me, a mix of hope and anxiety in his gaze. “I was really excited about marrying Lucy. But I’m no fool—I know she only sees me as an uncle, and nothing more. I’m okay with it, though. I know she’s still young, and things might change as she grows up. Until then, I’ll do my best to court her.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at Aemond’s earnestness. “You know, Aemond, I’m surprised by your maturity. I’ve heard people compare you to Daemon—a fiery, reckless spirit driven by lust and obsession. But here you are, thinking long-term and showing patience.”

Aemond’s cheeks flushed slightly, but he didn’t seem offended. “Living at the Red Keep, you learn to navigate the tensions between my mother and half-sister. I understand that it’s a delicate balance.”

I nodded, impressed. Aemond might still be oblivious to the Blacks and Greens dilemma, but he was proving not to be as blind as I had feared. “Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re willing to wait. Lucerys has always been intended as the future Lady of Driftmark. You don’t need to worry about her marrying Jacaerys. Her path was set from the beginning.”

Aemond’s eyes widened, a mix of relief and hope. “So, you’re saying I don’t have to worry about that? Lucerys is meant to stay here with me?”

“That’s right,” I said, smiling. “And as for you waiting, I’m proud of you. It shows strength of character and patience, qualities that will serve you well as you step into your future role.”

Aemond’s face lit up with a genuine smile. “Thank you, Lord Corlys. Your words mean a lot to me.”

I placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Don’t thank me just yet. You’ve got a long road ahead of you, and there will be many challenges. But you’re on the right path, and I believe you’ll find your way.”

He seemed buoyed by the encouragement, a new determination in his eyes. “I’ll do my best to live up to your expectations.”

“Good,” I said, giving him a hearty pat on the back. “That’s all I ask. Do your best, be patient, and stay true to yourself. You have the heart of a dragon, Aemond, and you’ll need it for what’s to come.”

We stood up from the crates, and I could see the confidence in Aemond’s stride. The conversation had been good for him, I could tell. He walked a little taller, his worries a bit lighter. We headed back towards the docks, the sun now a golden orb sinking into the sea, casting a warm glow over Driftmark.

Once Aemond and I returned to High Tide, I saw him in his chambers and left him there with a nod of encouragement. I took a deep breath, feeling the weight of the day’s work begin to settle on my shoulders. There was something to be said for the small comforts of home, and tonight, I looked forward to the simple pleasure of a warm bath.

I walked down the familiar corridors of High Tide, the scent of the sea still clinging to me from the day’s lessons and inspections. I couldn’t wait to wash it away and indulge in the soothing warmth of the bath. Entering my chambers, I was greeted by a gentle steam rising from the bath that had been prepared for me. The scent of rose petals wafted through the room, mingling with the faint trace of the sea, creating a pleasing contrast. I stepped closer to the tub, feeling the warmth radiate from the water as I approached.

The bath was a sight to behold: a large, deep tub filled with steaming water, and floating on the surface were delicate rose petals, their colors a soft pink against the clear water. I took of my clothes and sank into the tub with a sigh of relief, the water enveloping me like a gentle embrace. It felt wonderful to finally let go of the day’s concerns and let the warmth soothe my muscles.

I closed my eyes, letting the soothing warmth of the water melt away the fatigue from the day’s work. The smell of the roses was calming, I took a few moments to enjoy the silence and tranquility, letting the stress of the day ebb away with the steam rising from the water.

I reached for the small vial of scented oil set on the edge of the tub. It was a blend of rose and lavender, perfect for unwinding after a long day. I poured a few drops into my hand and began to work it through my hair, massaging the fragrant oil into my scalp. The oil felt rich and smooth against my skin, and I took my time, working it slowly, savoring the process.

I used a comb to untangle my hair, feeling the tension of the day slowly released with each stroke. The comb glided through my hair effortlessly, and I took pleasure in the sensation of the warm water and the gentle, rhythmic motion of combing.

Once my hair was taken care of, I leaned back against the edge of the tub, letting the water rise just high enough to reach my shoulders. The feeling was blissful, I let my mind wander, reflecting on the conversations of the day and the hopes I held for the future.

As the water began to cool slightly, I knew it was time to start preparing for the evening. I climbed out of the tub, feeling the cool air of the room against my wet skin. I grabbed a towel from the rack, its softness a welcome contrast to the water, and began to dry off. I could still feel the faint traces of the rose petals on my skin, a subtle reminder of the peace I had found in the bath.

I moved to the vanity where a few grooming supplies were laid out for me. I took my time applying the rose-scented oil to my skin, smoothing it on with gentle strokes. I could see the rich, dark blue of my robe laid out on the chair beside the vanity. It was a favorite of mine, elegant yet understated, perfect for a quiet evening at home.

I dressed slowly, taking care with each movement, savoring the calm of the evening. I chose a simple silver chain with a small seahorse-shaped pendant, a reminder of my House’s strength and legacy. The chain lay gently against my chest, a subtle but meaningful adornment for the night.

As I finished dressing, I took a moment to look out the window at the sea, now gently glowing under the light of the moon. With one final glance at the sea, I prepared to join the rest of my family for the evening. However, before heading to dinner, I decided to pay a visit to Lucerys’ chambers. I walked through the grand hallways of High Tide, the rooms were quiet, save for the occasional rustling of fabric and soft voices of the servants as they prepared my granddaughter for the evening.

As I approached Lucerys’ door, I paused for a moment, taking in the sight of her chambers. They were a beautiful reflection of our House’s colors, Velaryon teal and silver. The walls were adorned with delicate tapestries depicting seahorses and dragons, each one a tribute to her family’s history and heritage. I smiled to myself, feeling a pang of pride at the thought of Lucerys growing up here among these symbols of our legacy.

When I entered the room, the sight of Lucerys in her silver dress took my breath away. The dress was simple yet elegant, adorned with intricate patterns of waves and dragons woven into the fabric. It was just the right touch of beauty for a young lady who was to be the future Lady of Driftmark. The soft light from the candles illuminated the silver fabric, casting a gentle glow around her.

Lucerys looked up from where she was sitting on a cushioned chair, her eyes lighting up as she saw me. She squealed with excitement, throwing her arms around me in a tight hug. I wrapped my arms around her in return, feeling the warmth of her affection and the joy of seeing her so happy.

“Grandfather!” she said, her voice full of enthusiasm.

I chuckled, my heart swelling with affection for her. “I’m glad to see you, my little pearl,” I said, ruffling her hair gently. “You look beautiful this evening.”

The servants stood back, their heads bowed respectfully, but I gave them a nod to leave us alone. I wanted this time with Lucerys to be just between the two of us, a quiet moment before the bustle of the evening began.

Once the door had closed behind the servants, I took a seat beside Lucerys on the edge of her bed. I looked around at the room, the decorations, and then back at her. “How are you liking Driftmark, Lucerys?” I asked, my voice warm with genuine curiosity.

Lucerys’ eyes sparkled as she took a deep breath, as if inhaling the very beauty of the island itself. “It’s so beautiful here, Grandfather,” she said, her voice filled with awe. “I love it. It’s like a dream.”

I smiled at her words, feeling a deep sense of satisfaction. “I’m glad to hear that, Lucerys. Driftmark is our home, and I’m happy that you are finding joy in it.”

Her enthusiasm was infectious, and I felt a warm pride swell in my chest. Seeing her happy here, thriving in the environment we had worked so hard to cultivate, made all the effort worth it. I couldn’t help but think of her as the future Lady of Driftmark, the one who would carry on our legacy, and it filled me with hope for the future.

I decided to broach a subject that had been on my mind lately. “Lucerys, have you thought much about what you feel for Aemond?” I asked gently, wanting to understand her thoughts on the matter.

Her smile faltered slightly, a look of uncertainty crossing her face. “I love Aemond, but only as family,” she admitted quietly. “I know that when I grow up, I will need to think about whether I want to marry him or not, but right now, I see him more like an uncle.”

I nodded, absorbing her words. “That’s a very honest answer, Lucerys. It’s important to follow your heart in these matters.”

She continued, her tone more serious. “Kepa told me that if I decide not to marry Aemond, I don’t have to. He said that it’s my choice.”

I felt a rush of relief at her words. “Laener was right to say that,” I assured her, feeling the weight of old regrets settle on me. “No one should be forced into marriage. I made that mistake with your father, and I will not make it again with you. You have the freedom to choose your own path.”

Lucerys seemed comforted by my words, a small smile returning to her face. “Thank you, Grandfather. I’m glad that you understand.”

I took her hand in mine, squeezing it gently. “Of course, Lucerys. Your happiness is what matters most to me. And if Aemond is to be your future, it should be because you both choose it, not because of duty or expectation.”

Lucerys nodded, her eyes filled with gratitude. “I will think about it, and I hope that when the time comes, we can decide together what is best for us.”

“That’s all I can ask for. You have a good heart, Lucerys, and I trust you to make the right choices.” I smiled at her, feeling a sense of pride in her maturity. “Let’s head to dinner,” I said, guiding her gently towards the door. “I’m sure our family is waiting for us.”

Chapter 25: III Aemond’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

Driftmark, High Tide - 126 AC

The first year at Driftmark was a challenging one, filled with new experiences and rigorous lessons. Lord Corlys, true to his reputation, was a relentless teacher. Three times a week, he would take Lucerys and me sailing, instilling in us the art of navigation and the ways of the sea. Each outing was a test of endurance and skill, but I found myself thriving under his tutelage, eager to prove my worth.

When I wasn’t sailing, I was in the training yard, honing my combat skills under the watchful eyes of my Kingsguard. Meanwhile, Lucerys was taking her womanly lessons with her ladies-in-waiting, Ellyn and Maris Baratheon. Unlike my strained relationship with Cassandra, I had no issue with the younger Baratheon girls. They were good company for Lucerys and brought a lightness to her life that made her happy, which in turn made me content.

But it was during Princess Rhaenys' visits that our lessons became truly intense. As the acting Master of Ships in King’s Landing, she could only visit High Tide for a fortnight at a time. She made the most of her limited stays, packing our days with politics and strategy lessons. Maris and Ellyn, destined to be the ladies of their own castles one day, joined these lessons as well.

It was during these sessions that I began to see the broader political landscape more clearly. The tension between my mother and my half-sister, which had always been a murky undercurrent in my life, became starkly apparent. My mother wanted to crown my older brother Aegon, despite Rhaenyra being the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. The realization hit me hard. My mother’s insistence on us always wearing green—the color the Hightower in Old Town is lit when House Hightower calls for war—was a clear signal of her intentions.

The more I learned, the more horrified I became at the treasonous actions my mother was grooming us for. The idea of standing against Lucerys, whom I had come to love deeply, was unbearable. My relief was palpable knowing that Aegon’s marriage to Cassandra meant their children would only be a fourth Targaryen. Their diluted dragon blood meant they wouldn’t be able to claim dragons, nor would they have a strong claim to the Iron Throne. This diluted lineage was a safeguard against my mother’s ambitions.

I loved my mother, but my loyalty to Lucerys and her family outweighed any duty I felt towards my mother’s schemes. House Velaryon was staunchly allied with Rhaenyra, and I had no intention of betraying that bond. The thought of raising a sword or flying my dragon against Lucerys was unthinkable. My heart belonged to her, and I would protect her and her house at any cost.

As the year progressed, I became more and more resolute in my decision. I would stand with Lucerys and the Velaryons, come what may. The lessons I learned at Driftmark weren’t just about sailing or politics; they were about loyalty, love, and the strength to make difficult choices. And I was prepared to make those choices, for Lucerys, for Driftmark, and for the future we would build together.

At the moment, however, I joined Lucerys, Ellyn, and Maris in their lesson. Normally, I wouldn’t care about the womanly arts high ladies of Westeros were expected to master. But if there’s one thing I loved to do, it was listen to Lucerys sing. She was truly talented, so much so that the instructors Lord Corlys had brought all the way from Essos kept saying they had nothing left to teach her. As I made my way to the music hall, I noticed many servants lingering close to the door. Normally, I would scold them for their lack of decorum—they were servants of the noble and ancient House Velaryon, after all. But I also understood why they were slacking. Lucerys’ singing was enchanting, like the sirens Lord Corlys’ sailors often mentioned, luring in anyone who caught her melodious voice.

Lucerys only sang at banquets in High Tide or for the orphans at her orphanage, so the servants didn’t get the chance to hear her sing outside of her practice sessions. People had started calling her voice the Silver Voice, for the high harp with silver strings that Prince Daemon had gifted her as thanks for the dragon egg Lucerys had given Rhaena. The high harp was beautiful, crafted in the shape of a dragon with silver strings. Of course, Lucerys had mastered the high harp as much as she had mastered her singing.

A bear there was
A bear, a bear
All black and brown
And covered in hair

Three boys, a goat
And a dancing bear
They danced and spun
Up to the fair

How sweet she was
And pure and fair
The maid with honey
Up in her hair

He smelled her all
On the summer air
The maid with honey
Up in her hair

As I entered the music hall, Lucerys had just started singing "The Bear and the Maiden Fair." I quietly joined Ellyn and Maris, who were already seated and enjoying the performance. Lucerys’ voice filled the room, pure and clear, each note resonating with a beauty that was almost otherworldly. Her fingers danced over the strings of the high harp, producing a sound that was both rich and delicate.

From there, to here. From here! To there!
All black and brown and covered in hair!
He smelled that girl on the summer air!
The bear! The bear!
The maiden fair!

Oh, I'm a maid, and I'm pure and fair!
I'll never dance with a hairy bear!
I called a knight, but you're a bear!
All black and brown and covered in hair!

He lifted her high in the air!
He sniffed and roared and he smelled her there!
She kicked and wailed, the maid so fair!
He licked the honey all up in her hair!

From there to here. From here! To there!
All black and brown and covered in hair!
He smelled that girl on the summer air!
The bear! The bear!
The maiden fair!

I watched her, completely captivated. Lucerys had an effortless grace about her when she sang, her eyes closed, a small, serene smile on her lips. It was as if she was lost in the music, and through her voice, she took everyone listening along with her. Ellyn and Maris exchanged glances, clearly as entranced as I was. It was moments like these that reminded me why I was so determined to stand by her side, no matter the cost.

And the bear, the bear!
The maiden fair!
And the bear, the bear!

She sighed and she squealed and she kicked the air!
Then she sang: My bear! My bear so fair!
And off they went into the summer air!
The bear, the bear,
And the maiden fair!

From there to here. From here! To there!
All black and brown and covered in hair!
He smelled that girl on the summer air!
The bear! The bear!
The maiden fair!

And the bear, the bear!
The maiden fair!
And the bear, the bear!
The maiden fair!
And the bear, the bear!

When the song ended, the room was silent for a moment, as if everyone needed time to come back to reality. Then, applause erupted. Lucerys opened her eyes and smiled, a light blush coloring her cheeks. She gave a small bow, looking pleased but humble.

“Aems, you made it,” she said, her voice warm and welcoming. “Did you enjoy the song?”

“I did,” I replied, smiling back at her. “You were wonderful, as always.”

Ellyn and Maris nodded in agreement, still clapping.

Lucerys laughed lightly, the sound like bells. “Thank you. I’m glad you all liked it. I was thinking of singing it at the next banquet. Do you think it’s a good choice?”

“It’s perfect,” Ellyn said enthusiastically. “Everyone will love it.”

Maris agreed, adding, “It’s one of my favorites. You always sing it so beautifully.”

I watched Lucerys as she spoke with her friends, feeling a sense of peace settle over me. Despite the tumultuous world outside, moments like these made everything seem simple and right. Lucerys had a way of making everything better, of bringing light into even the darkest places.

I finally started paying attention to the three girls in the music hall and realized that their conversation had moved from the song choice for the next banquet to Maris and Ellyn’s betrotheds.

Maris was explaining how she and Selwyn Tarth had been exchanging letters and discovered they both loved reading and had similar tastes in books. “It’s like we’re meant to be,” Maris said, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “We’ve been exchanging our favorite titles, and I’m actually reading one of his recommendations right now.”

Ellyn, on the other hand, was gushing about how Ralph Buckler’s letters kept her informed of every tourney that happened at King’s Landing. “Ralph’s letters are so detailed,” Ellyn said, a smile playing on her lips. “He tells me all about the matches, who won, who showed the most skill. It’s like being there without actually being there.”

Both Maris and Ellyn agreed that Ser Laenor kept Selwyn and Ralph, alongside Prince Jacaerys, busy with their squire duties and training. I decided to join in on the conversation, saying, “It’s to be expected. Ser Laenor earned his knighthood not because of his dragon, but because he is an excellent knight.” I knew many underestimated Ser Laenor’s abilities and thought he was knighted solely because of Seasmoke, but I would hear no ill speak about my future good-father.

Lucerys giggled and agreed with me, saying, “My kepa knows how to be strict when it’s needed. From my letters from Jace and Daeron, it seems they’ve become good friends with Selwyn and Ralph.” Maris and Ellyn were delighted by this news, their smiles widening.

I tilted my head, considering the implications. House Tarth and House Buckler would love the fact that their heirs were part of Jacaerys’ household now. After all, Jacaerys was Rhaenyra’s heir and third in line for the Iron Throne. What surprised me was that Daeron had also joined them. Then again, I could see the logic. Ralph and Selwyn were not that bad for being non-Valyrian. I could withstand their presence, and they were smart—especially Selwyn—and Ralph was good with a spear. Good friends for Jacaerys and Daeron to have.

Maris continued, “Selwyn writes to me about his training sessions. He says Ser Laenor is a tough master, but fair. He’s learned a lot.”

Ellyn chimed in, “Ralph mentioned the same. He admires Ser Laenor’s dedication and skill. It’s no wonder they’re all so close now.”

Lucerys smiled, “I’m glad to hear that. Kepa always wanted to make sure they were well-prepared, not just physically but mentally too. It’s important to have a strong bond with your comrades.”

I nodded in agreement. “Training together builds trust and respect. They’ll need that in the future.”

The room fell into a comfortable silence for a moment, as Lucerys resumed her practice, her voice once again filling the hall with its enchanting melody. As the afternoon turned to evening, the girls’ laughter echoed through the halls, mixing with the soft light of the setting sun. I felt a sense of peace wash over me.

Chapter 26: II Jacerys' P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 127 AC

The Red Keep was in an uproar as everyone rushed from one side to the other. My grandfather, Lord Corlys Velaryon, was finally returning to the Red Keep after two years absent. Not only was he coming back, but so was my little sister, Lucerys, and my uncle, Aemond. Helaena and Daeron were as happy to see their brother Aemond as I was to see Lucerys.

In those two years, Helaena, Daeron, and I had visited Driftmark for Aemond and Lucerys’ namedays. Aemond and Lucerys had visited the Red Keep for my nameday, as well as those of Helaena, Joffrey, and Daeron. But seeing each other around only two moons in the last two years had not been easy, especially since none of our dragons were big enough to fly.

Well, Dreamfyre and Ghost were big enough for Helaena and Lucerys to fly from Driftmark to King’s Landing, but the adults in our lives did not trust them to travel on their own, even if the distance was not that great. The safety precautions were understandable, but it didn’t make the separations any less difficult.

The excitement in the castle was palpable. Servants scurried about, preparing for the arrival, ensuring that every detail was perfect. I could barely contain my own excitement. Lucerys and I had always been close, and even though we wrote letters often, it wasn’t the same as seeing each other in person.

Every corner of the Red Keep was buzzing with activity. The kitchens were in full swing, preparing a grand feast to welcome them. I could smell the roast meats and freshly baked bread wafting through the halls, mingling with the scent of spices and herbs. The head cook was barking orders, her voice cutting through the clatter of pots and pans. The air was thick with anticipation and the delicious aroma of what promised to be a lavish banquet.

The servants were decorating the Great Hall, their movements swift and efficient. They were hanging banners of House Velaryon and House Targaryen, their colors vibrant against the stone walls. The deep blues and silvers of Velaryon intertwined with the reds and blacks of Targaryen, creating a tapestry of unity and strength. I watched as they draped the long tables with rich fabrics and placed fresh flowers in vases, their petals adding a burst of color to the grand room.

Muña was in her chambers, overseeing the final touches of her attire. She always made sure to look her best for such important occasions. Through the slightly ajar door, I could hear her giving instructions to her maids, her tone brisk but excited. She had a knack for balancing her regal presence with a touch of warmth, and today was no different. The maids fluttered around her, adjusting the intricate details of her gown and arranging her hair just so.

Kepa was in the courtyard, making sure everything was in order for the welcoming procession. He had always been meticulous, and today was no different. I saw him directing the guards, ensuring they were perfectly aligned and ready for the arrival. His voice carried over the courtyard, firm and commanding. The guards straightened their spines under his watchful eye, their armor gleaming in the midday sun.

As I moved through the castle, I noticed the anticipation in everyone’s faces. The guards stood a little taller, their hands steady on their weapons. The maids worked a little faster, their movements precise and purposeful. Even the courtiers seemed to be in higher spirits, their usual airs of aloofness replaced by genuine excitement. It was a rare day when the Red Keep felt so united in its purpose.

The corridors echoed with the sounds of hurried footsteps and hushed conversations. Servants exchanged whispers about the returning guests, their eyes alight with curiosity and excitement. The atmosphere was electric, a palpable sense of something significant about to unfold.

I paused for a moment, taking it all in. The Red Keep, with its towering walls and imposing architecture, often felt cold and unyielding. But today, it was alive with the promise of reunion and celebration. The anticipation was infectious, and I couldn’t help but smile as I made my way to join my family.

The grand doors of the Great Hall loomed ahead, and I could already hear the faint strains of music starting to fill the air. Today was a day of joy and togetherness, a brief respite from the usual tensions and conflicts. And as I stepped into the hall, ready to welcome our loved ones back home, I felt a surge of pride and happiness swell within me.

The five of us were being reunited, and I couldn't be happier about it. I'd always adored my little sister and doted on her. Since she’d been gone, I had grown closer to our younger brother Joffrey, doting on the boy in place of Lucerys, who used to spoil him. But even with how close Joffrey and I had become, I could see that other than Lucerys, the one he was closest to was Daeron.

I turned to my uncle Daeron, who had Joffrey cuddled on his lap. Daeron had a tender look on his face as he hand-fed Joffrey grapes from the fruit platter. That look on Daeron’s face—I’d seen it on Aemond’s many times before. Daeron was in love with Joffrey. The blood of the dragon was calling to each other quite strongly.

As much as I hated to admit it, even if only in my own mind, Queen Alicent was right: Targaryens had some queer customs. I was betrothed to my aunt Helaena, Lucerys to her uncle Aemond, and now Daeron was in love with his nephew Joffrey. What a mess we all were.

I sighed internally, pondering the complex dynamics of our family. Despite the oddities and challenges, there was an undeniable bond that tied us together. Our shared blood, our dragons, our heritage—it all created a web of connections that were both beautiful and burdensome.

I watched as Daeron’s fingers gently brushed a stray lock of hair from Joffrey’s forehead. The young boy giggled, looking up at Daeron with pure adoration in his eyes. Their bond was strong, and it was clear that Daeron would do anything for Joffrey. It reminded me of how Lucerys used to coddle him, always making sure he was happy and cared for.

Daeron caught my gaze and smiled softly, a hint of uncertainty in his eyes as if seeking my approval. I gave him a reassuring nod, silently telling him that I understood and accepted the strange but strong bond they shared. Family, after all, was complicated, and ours even more so.

I looked over at Helaena, who was still quietly embroidering. Helaena glanced up and caught my eye, giving me a small, shy smile. I returned it, feeling a warmth spread through my chest. Despite the chaos and peculiarities of our family, moments like this reminded me of the love and loyalty that bound us together.

“Jace,” Daeron said, snapping me out of my thoughts, “do you think Lucerys will like the dress I picked for her?”

I smiled at my uncle’s earnest expression. “I’m sure she’ll love it, Daeron. You’ve always had a good eye for these things.”

Joffrey looked up from his position on Daeron’s lap, his eyes wide with excitement. “When will they get here?”

“Soon, little brother,” I said, ruffling his hair. “They’re almost here.”

"I can't believe they're finally coming back," Helaena said with a soft smile. "It feels like it’s been forever."

Daeron, who had paused in feeding Joffrey to make a snide comment, added, "I’m just glad that for once, Mother and Rhaenyra are working together to welcome their children back to King’s Landing."

We all shuddered in agreement. The past couple of years had been hard on everyone. Alicent and Rhaenyra had been at each other’s throats, and their disputes had grown even more vicious in recent months. No one could get them to calm down and act accordingly to their stations. Aemond and Lucerys had been the only ones able to level things out, but without them at court… things had gone to sh*t.

Joffrey whined, clinging to Daeron’s shirt and pouting, making Daeron smile fondly. He resumed feeding fruit to his beloved Joffrey. Wanting to lighten the mood, I said, "Selwyn and Ralph were panicking earlier, trying to find the perfect outfits to greet their betrotheds. They’re acting like it’s the most important thing in the world."

Daeron laughed, agreeing with me. "Those two are ridiculous. It's just garments, not a jousting tournament."

Helaena hummed quietly as she continued her embroidery, her usual choice of weird insects replaced by delicate blue roses and silver butterflies. I recognized the gesture immediately; it was a gift for Lucerys. Helaena and Lucerys had always gotten along well, and I felt a warmth in my heart seeing Helaena’s effort to make something special for my sister. I smiled fondly at my future wife, appreciating the quiet strength and kindness she possessed.

I turned my attention back to Daeron and Joffrey. Daeron was talking softly to Joffrey, explaining the significance of the banners that were being hung in the Great Hall. Joffrey’s eyes were wide with fascination, absorbing every word his uncle said. The bond between them was strong, and it was clear how much Daeron adored our youngest sibling.

The sound of footsteps in the corridor drew my attention, and I glanced toward the door, half-expecting to see the returning party. But it was only a servant, rushing past with a bundle of linens. The anticipation was getting to all of us.

“When they arrive, we should take them to see the new gardens first,” Helaena suggested, her needle pausing in mid-stitch. “Lucerys will love the new flowers mother requested to be planted.”

“That’s a great idea,” I agreed. “She always loved spending time in the gardens.”

Daeron nodded, still focused on Joffrey. “And Aemond will probably want to see the training yard. He never could stay away from it for long.”

We all chuckled at that, knowing how true it was. Aemond’s dedication to his training was unwavering, and it was one of the things we admired most about him.

As the minutes ticked by, the excitement in the room continued to build. The Red Keep was ready for the return of our loved ones, and so were we. The past two years had been a test of patience and endurance, but now, at last, we were about to be reunited. The thought filled me with a sense of hope and happiness that had been missing for far too long.

As we talked and laughed, the sense of impending reunion grew stronger. The tension that had gripped the Red Keep began to ease, replaced by the comforting thought of having our family together again. We were a mess, yes, but we were also bound by ties that went beyond blood—ties forged in love, loyalty, and shared history.

The anticipation made the minutes stretch into what felt like hours, but finally, the sound of approaching carriages signaled their arrival. I made my way to the balcony overlooking the main gate, hoping to catch the first glimpse of their arrival. Daeron joined me in the corridor, his face lighting up when he saw me. “Jace, do you think they’re here yet?” he asked, his voice full of anticipation.

“Not yet, but soon,” I replied, ruffling my hair. “It won’t be long now. We better make our way to greet them.”

Helaena appeared next, her usual serene smile in place. “It feels like a lifetime since we’ve all been together,” she said softly, her eyes distant. “I can’t wait to hear all about their adventures.”

“Neither can I,” I agreed, my heart swelling with anticipation. “There’s so much to catch up on.”

Joffrey bounded down the stairs, his youthful energy infectious. “Do you think they’ll bring gifts?” he asked, his eyes wide with excitement.

“Knowing grandfather, he’ll have something special for each of us,” I said with a grin. “But the best gift is having them back.”

The sun was beginning to set, casting a golden glow over the city. Finally, the horns sounded, signaling their approach. My heart leaped in my chest as I leaned over the balcony, straining to see. The gates opened, and the familiar banners of House Velaryon came into view, leading the procession. The sight of the banners fluttering in the breeze filled me with pride and a sense of homecoming.

“Here they come,” I said, turning to Joffrey, Helaena, and Daeron. “Let’s go meet them.”

We hurried down the corridor, our footsteps echoing in the halls. As we reached the main entrance, the courtyard was filled with people, all eager to welcome our family back. The gates swung open, and there they were—grandfather, Lucerys, and Aemond, looking weary but happy. Ellyn and Maris Baratheon only a few steps behind them.

Seeing Lucerys’ face light up when she spotted us made all the waiting worthwhile. I rushed forward, pulling her into a tight hug. “Welcome home, Luce,” I whispered, feeling the weight of the past two years lift off my shoulders.

“It’s good to be back, Jace,” she replied, her voice filled with emotion.

Aemond and Helaena embraced, and then it was Daeron’s moment. Grandfather stood tall, his eyes shining with pride as he took in the scene.

“Welcome home, all of you,” I said, my voice loud enough for everyone to hear, as Joffrey jumped into Lucerys’ arms. “The Red Keep has missed you.”

Chapter 27: II Daeron's P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 127 AC

I laughed as I watched Aemond, Helaena, Lucerys, Joff, and Jace enjoying our little picnic in Aegon’s garden. The place looked absolutely stunning today. Mother had recently planted new rose bushes that she had imported from Highgarden. Their sweet scent filled the air, adding a touch of elegance to the vibrant scene, with petals in shades of pink and red that seemed to glow under the sun.

The spread of food in front of us was nothing short of a feast. There were gingerbread cookies, lemon cakes, duck sausages, fermented crab, candied almonds, and my favorite, candied plums. The rich aromas wafted through the air, making my mouth water. Since most of us were underage—except for Aemond and Helaena—the drinks were non-alcoholic. We had refreshing pomegranate juice to sip on, and it was just perfect for the warm afternoon. The juice was cool and sweet, a burst of flavor with every sip.

The atmosphere was filled with joy. It felt like a perfect moment, surrounded by friends and family, with the beautiful garden as our backdrop. The new roses, the delicious food, the shared stories—it all came together to create a memory I knew I would cherish forever. Helaena was picking petals off a rose and making a little crown, while Lucerys and Joff tried to sneak extra pieces of gingerbread without being noticed.

I took a deep breath, letting the scents and sounds of the garden wash over me. This was what happiness felt like, I thought. Simple, shared moments with the people I loved.

“I swear, the wind was against us the entire time.” Lucerys was in the middle of recounting how Corlys had once let them sail The Black Pearl on their own. “But Aemond here, he was determined. We were out there for hours, tacking and jibing, trying to get the hang of it.”

Aemond chuckled. “And then the sail tore,” he added, eyes sparkling with the memory. “We thought we were done for, but we managed to get back with a makeshift repair.”

“You should have seen their faces when we returned,” Lucerys said, laughing. “Covered in salt and sunburned but grinning like fools.”

Meanwhile, the rest of us caught Aemond and Lucerys up in the latest court gossip from the Red Keep. Jace had a particularly funny story about something that happened on the last tourney father had arranged.

“There was this knight,” Jace began, barely able to contain his laughter. “Ser Garibald, who’s always so serious. He was in the melee and doing quite well, but then he got distracted. You’ll never guess by what.”

We all leaned, even those who already knew what had happened, eager to hear the punchline.

“A squirrel!” Jace exclaimed, bursting into laughter. “A little squirrel darted across the field, and he tripped over his own feet trying to avoid it. Went down like a sack of potatoes.”

Helaena laughed so hard she nearly spilled her juice, and Joff was clutching his sides, trying to catch his breath.

“And the best part,” Jace continued once he could speak again, “was the look on his face when he got up. Like he couldn’t believe what had just happened. Everyone was laughing, even the King.”

The tourneys have been happening less as time proceeded. My father has been getting worse with each passing moon. The last time I saw him, he had lost four fingers to necrosis and wore a half mask to cover the disfigurement of his face, which was now missing an eye. It was a shocking sight, to say the least.

I might not be close to my father. Viserys was never present in my life, and half of the time, he forgot that I even existed. But that didn’t stop me from feeling pity for him. It was heartbreaking to see him falling apart before the court, vultures circling, waiting for the right time to strike. I could tell that even Aemond, who was mostly apathetic towards the king, felt bad for Viserys. Aemond’s shock at seeing our father for the first time in two years had been clear to anyone who knew him. When he got back from Driftmark five moons before, he had confessed to me that if it weren’t for the crown on Viserys’ head, he wouldn’t have recognized him.

Aemond’s shaky words echoed in my mind. “He’s not the same man, Daeron. He’s... he’s barely holding on.”

I shook my head, trying to push those gloomy thoughts away. I wanted to focus on the good things in life. After years of the Targaryen children being at odds with each other, we were finally allowed to be friends without mother or Rhaenyra getting in the middle. It was a small blessing, but a blessing, nonetheless.

Joff was adding his own tales from the last tourney, his voice animated as he described another amusing incident. “There was this one knight,” he said, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Sir Perkin the Flea. He’s not really a knight, just some bloke who managed to sneak in. He got knocked off his horse in the first tilt, and his helmet got stuck on his head! They had to pry it off with a crowbar!”

The image made us all laugh again, the somber thoughts of our father momentarily forgotten. Joff had a way of lightening the mood, his infectious laughter spreading through our little group.

Helaena finished her flower crown and placed it gently on my head. “There, you look like a proper prince now,” she said with a sweet smile. My older sister truly had a way of always knowing what I was thinking. Her kindness was a balm to my troubled mind.

Jace and Joff continued their playful antics, now challenging each other to see who could eat the most lemon cakes. Filling the atmosphere with laughter and mock accusations of cheating.

I took another deep breath, letting the scents of the garden fill my lungs. The gods gave as much as they took from mortals, I thought wistfully. They had taken my father’s health, but they had given me moments of peace and joy with my family. I looked around at my siblings, each one of them lost in their own happiness. Aemond was still talking to Lucerys, their bond seemingly stronger than ever. Helaena was braiding flowers into her own hair now, her eyes sparkling with contentment.

For now, we were free from the weight of our titles and the burdens of the court. For now, we could just be siblings, enjoying a simple picnic in a beautiful garden. And for that, I was grateful.

“Speaking of fools,” Lucerys continued, turning to the rest of the group, “Ellyn and Maris are having the time of their lives with their betrotheds, Ralph and Selwyn. Jace helped organize a chaperoned outing to the city for them. Heard from Grandfather Corlys that merchants are bringing all sorts of interesting things to King’s Landing.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Those boys are so whipped,” I said, shaking my head. “Selwyn and Ralph would do anything for the Baratheon girls.”

Lucerys nodded, a mischievous smile playing on his lips. “You should have seen them, Daeron. Ralph practically tripped over himself trying to carry Ellyn’s things. And Selwyn? He was trying to impress Maris by haggling with a merchant over a piece of jewelry. You could tell he had no idea what he was doing.”

Jace laughed, adding, “Selwyn ended up paying twice what it was worth. But Maris was so charmed by the gesture that she kissed him on the cheek. Poor boy looked like he might faint.”

We all laughed at the image, the camaraderie between us warming the afternoon. I picked up a candied plum and handed it to Joff, who accepted it with a radiant smile. His beautiful, honest face made my heart skip a beat. His eyes lit up with delight, and I couldn’t help but feel a surge of affection.

Joff then moved closer to cuddle up with his sister Lucerys. I watched them for a moment, feeling a mix of warmth and something deeper that I didn’t quite understand. Aemond leaned in closer to me, a knowing glint in his eyes.

“So, you’ve finally figured it out, have you?” he teased quietly. “You’re in love with Joffrey.”

“Keep your voice down,” I hissed at him, my cheeks flushing with embarrassment. “And how is it that you figured out my feelings before I did?”

Aemond laughed softly, his tone gentle. “It’s because I’ve been through the same thing, little brother,” he said, his gaze shifting to Lucerys. There was a longing in his eyes that mirrored the feelings I was just beginning to understand. “You’re not alone in this.”

I looked at Aemond, seeing the depth of his emotions laid bare. It was a rare moment of vulnerability from my usually stoic brother. I felt a pang of empathy, realizing how much he must have struggled with his own feelings.

Joff’s laughter brought me back to the present. He and Lucerys were now playing a game, trying to toss candied almonds into each other’s mouths. Their joy was infectious, and I couldn’t help but smile.

Aemond clapped me on the shoulder, his expression softening. “Don’t worry, Daeron. Love isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. Just take it one step at a time.”

I nodded, feeling a sense of peace settle over me. The garden around us was alive with color and laughter, the roses blooming in vibrant shades of pink and red, the sweet scent mingling with the aroma of our feast. Once the picnic was over, the laughter and joy of the afternoon began to fade into the quiet of the evening. Jace, Lucerys, and Joff were escorted to their mother, who had called for them. I watched as they walked away, their voices mingling with the soft rustle of the leaves and the distant sound of the castle settling into the night. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that the warmth of the garden would soon be replaced by the cool, stern atmosphere of the queen’s quarters.

Aemond, Helaena, and I started to make our way back to our chambers, our footsteps echoing softly on the stone path. None of us truly wanted to go back. Our rooms were at walking distance from the queen’s quarters, and at the moment, none of us were in good relations with our mother. The air between us was heavy with unspoken words and unresolved tension.

I glanced at Aemond and Helaena as we walked. Aemond’s face was set in a thoughtful expression, his eyes distant as he stared ahead. Helaena walked beside him, her usually serene demeanor marred by a hint of sadness. She hadn’t been the same since our mother had tried to turn her against Jace, calling our nephew a bastard. The hurt was still fresh, and it was clear that she wasn’t ready to forgive Alicent for that betrayal.

As for me, I carried my own weight of discontent. I had always been taught in Old Town about how women were not meant to rule, and that skipping the first male son over an older sister was against the will of the Gods. But the teachings of the Seven had never been more than empty words to me. I had seen enough of their so-called divine will twisted and bent to suit the desires of those in power.

No, I had my own beliefs, grounded in the true legacy of House Targaryen. We followed the Fourteen Flames, ancient and powerful, and they did not care about gender. They were not bound by the whims of the Seven. In my heart, I knew that Rhaenyra was not meant for the Iron Throne, but neither was Aegon. If it were up to me, I would have gathered the support of the great houses and held court at Dragonstone. I would have crowned Lucerys, for she was the only one truly prepared for the burdens of rulership.

But Jace was not without merit. Under Princess Rhaenys’s tutelage, he was becoming a good second option. I knew that if I had to withstand a few years with Rhaenyra on the throne before Jace was ready to claim it, then I would. I would bear it, for the future of House Targaryen depended on it. Aegon, with his reckless ways, would only lead Westeros to ruin, drinking and reveling until nothing was left but ashes.

As we walked, the weight of our mother’s recent actions hung heavily over us. I still remembered the day Aemond came back from Driftmark, his face pale and his voice steady as he accused Alicent of treason. He had stood there in the throne room, his eyes blazing with anger as he declared that he would never betray Lucerys’ family. The sight of our mother’s fainting form as Aemond’s words struck her like a physical blow was a memory that lingered painfully.

As we approached the entrance to the queen’s quarters, I could feel the chill of the evening seeping into my bones, a stark reminder of the cold reality that awaited us inside. Aemond’s hand brushed against mine, a small, reassuring gesture. I looked up at him, meeting his eyes. There was a silent understanding between us, I could see the same storm of thoughts swirling behind his eyes, and it was a comfort to know that I was not alone in this struggle.

Helaena walked slightly ahead, her gaze fixed on the path before her. She seemed lost in her own thoughts, the weight of her recent decisions evident in her stiff posture. I wanted to reach out to her, to offer some kind of solace, but the words felt too inadequate to bridge the distance that had grown between us and our mother.

We reached the doors to our chambers, the familiar, worn wood a small comfort. I pushed open the door, and the warmth of the interior embraced us, a stark contrast to the cool evening air. I stepped inside, feeling the weight of the day settle on my shoulders.

Aemond and Helaena followed, and we gathered in the center of the room. The silence between us was heavy, filled with the unsaid and the unresolved. I sat down on one of the chairs by the hearth, the flames casting flickering shadows on the walls.

“Do you think there will be a chance for things to change?” Aemond asked, his voice almost lost in the crackle of the fire.

I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I hope that things will get better, but it’s hard to see how right now.”

“We have to keep believing that there’s a way forward. If we give up hope, then we’re lost.” Helaena answered, her eyes were glazy, as if she was seeing something in the flames.

Aemond nodded slowly, though his face was still troubled. “But how do we keep hope alive when everything seems so dark?”

Helaena’s gaze turned to us. “By holding on to the moments like today,” she said softly. “When we’re together, when we can find joy in the small things, it gives us strength to face the bigger challenges.”

The fire burned low, casting a warm, steady glow over the room. The evening was far from perfect, but it was ours, and for now, that was enough. However, our moment of respite was short-lived. As we were settling into the room, lost in our thoughts and the comfortable warmth of the fire, a servant came in with a somber expression. “The Queen has summoned you,” the servant said quietly, eyes flicking nervously from one of us to the other.

We exchanged weary glances, each of us silently weighing the implications of this unexpected summons. I could see the tension in Aemond’s shoulders, the way he clenched his fists at his sides. Helaena’s face, usually so serene, was clouded with unease. The servant’s words hung in the air like a heavy fog, and I could tell that none of us were eager to face the queen after the confrontations we had had with her recently.

With a resigned sigh, we followed the servant through the winding corridors of the Red Keep, the silence between us broken only by the echo of our footsteps on the cold stone floor. The walk felt longer than it was, our steps dragging as we made our way to the queen’s chambers. The flickering torchlight cast shadows on the walls, and the solemnity of the moment made the journey feel like a march to our doom.

When we finally arrived at the door to the queen’s chambers, the servant knocked softly and then stepped aside. I took a deep breath, steeling myself for whatever was about to come. I could sense Aemond’s tension beside me, his eyes narrowing as he looked at the closed door. Helaena seemed to brace herself, her usual calm demeanor now a mask for the worry that was evident in her eyes.

The door swung open, and we stepped inside.

Queen Alicent was seated in her usual place by the window, a position that allowed her to gaze out over the gardens. Her green dress was as regal as ever, but it was the addition of the black veil that caught my attention. The veil was new, a stark contrast to the vibrant green of her dress, and it draped over her shoulders like a shadow. It was as if she was in mourning, though the three of us were still very much alive. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes mentally at the dramatic display. My mother could be quite the actress when it came to her own perceived suffering.

“Children,” she began, her voice smooth but with an edge of cold authority that made my skin prickle. “Please, have a seat.”

We took our places in front of her, the room feeling suddenly too small under the weight of her gaze. I could see the flicker of candlelight reflected in her eyes, casting an eerie glow that seemed to emphasize the veil she wore. She looked at us with an expression that was a curious mix of hauteur and something softer, perhaps regret.

“I have summoned you here to share some news,” she said, her tone carrying a hint of expectation. “In five moons, your elder brother Aegon is coming to court with his wife.”

The words struck us like a physical blow. I glanced at Aemond, whose eyes widened in surprise, and then at Helaena, whose face was a mask of steel, not revealing what she was feeling. Aegon had not been seen in King’s Landing for years; he had renounced his Targaryen name to take his wife’s Baratheon name and had remained in the Stormlands ever since. None of us had expected him to return, especially not now.

I leaned forward, unable to hide my curiosity. “Why is he coming back now?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady despite the whirlwind of questions in my mind.

Alicent’s gaze sharpened as she met my eyes. “He and his wife are coming to present their son and heir, Orys Baratheon, Second of His Name.”

Chapter 28: I Helaena’s P.O.V

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 127 AC

Ever since I was born, I've been plagued with nightmares. My mother used to tell me that when I was a babe, I would not stop crying. The nights were long, filled with the echo of my wails. As I grew older, I learned to bite my lips, to keep myself from waking up screaming, to swallow the terror that clawed at my throat.

The court thinks I'm a simple girl, not right in the head. Pretty enough, but not like my older sister, the Realm’s Delight. I know what they say about me, what my own mother and father think of me. They see only my Valyrian features, my silver hair, and my dragon, Dreamfyre. But they don’t see me. They don’t see what I see.

In my dreams, I see the future, a future drenched in blood and sorrow. I see myself married to Aegon, my own brother, a man who turns into a monster. His affairs, his drinking, they consume him, and I am left in the shadows, a forgotten wife. Aemond, my sweet brother, becomes an attack dog for Aegon, his loyalty twisted into something dark and cruel. He bears the stigma of kinslayer, a burden that weighs heavily on his soul.

I see my children, my sweet, innocent children, suffering fates too horrible to bear. Jaehaerys, his throat slit, his lifeblood staining the ground. Maelor, my baby, ripped apart limb by limb by the smallfolk, their anger and hatred tearing him to pieces. And Jaehaera, forced to marry her cousin, and later, in her despair, jumping to her own death just as I had seen in my dreams.

These visions haunt me, a constant, unending nightmare that I cannot escape. They are a curse, this ability to see the future. A curse that no one else understands. They think I am mad, touched in the head. But I am not. I see clearly, too clearly. The future is a tapestry of horrors, each thread woven with pain and suffering.

As I stand in my mother’s chambers, listening to her speak of Aegon’s return, my mind drifts. Her words blend into the background, a distant murmur as my thoughts turn inward. I see Aegon, his face twisted with arrogance and cruelty. I see the court, the vultures circling, waiting for their chance to strike.

I feel a shiver run down my spine, the cold fingers of fear wrapping around my heart. The future is coming, and I am powerless to stop it. I glance at Aemond, his face set in a determined line. He doesn’t understand, not fully. He thinks he can fight it, that he can protect us. But the future is a storm, and we are but leaves in the wind.

The dragon dreams are horrible. They come every night, relentless and vivid, painting scenes of fire and blood across my mind. I instinctively know that I am meant to stop them, that these dreams are not mere nightmares but warnings, like those given to Daenys the Dreamer to save our house. But how can I, when I can barely keep myself lucid?

Most of the time, it isn’t just the visions that trap me in my own mind. It’s the exhaustion, the bone-deep weariness that weighs me down. I rarely sleep, and when I do, it’s fitful and haunted by the horrible future. A future I seem powerless to change, because my words are riddles to my family, ignored and dismissed.

I want to scream, to rip my hair out in frustration. Why can’t they understand? If we don’t stop this, dragons will dance, and there won’t be enough firepower when the cold ones come from beyond the Wall. I can barely keep myself sane from the onslaught of terrible dreams that plague me.

In my dreams, I see Aemond leading a brutal genocide in the Riverlands, his once kind eyes turned cold and unfeeling. I see the Ironborn launching a devastating attack on Lannisport, the city burning under their assault. Tessarion, the beautiful Blue Queen, reducing a city to ashes during the Sack of Bitterbridge. So many atrocities, so much pain and death.

And in the end, no one truly wins. House Targaryen loses as a whole, and Westeros’s end is cemented. In the future I see, there will be no dragons to stop the Long Night. No fire to drive back the cold. Just darkness and death, swallowing everything.

I want to warn my family, to make them understand, but my words are jumbled, fragmented. They come out as riddles, twisted and obscure. They don’t see, they don’t understand. And I can’t make them. But even in my despair, there is a flicker of hope. It’s small, fragile, but it’s there. I hold on to it, clutching it tightly, because it’s all I have.

The dreams show me horrors, but they also show me a path. A way to change things, to avert disaster. If only I can make them see. If only I can find the strength to keep fighting, to keep pushing through the exhaustion and the fear.

I have to try. For my family, for all of Westeros. I have to find a way to turn the tide, to stop the dance of dragons before it begins. To ensure that there will be dragons to fight the Long Night.

My mother’s voice pulls me back to the present, her tone sharp and commanding. She speaks of Aegon and Cassandra, their return, their son, Orys Baratheon, Second of his Name. The words are heavy with implications, but my mind is already drifting again, slipping into the dreamlike state that has become my both my prison and my refuge.

In my dreams, I see the Red Keep burning, the flames licking at the stone walls, turning everything to ash. I see my family torn apart, brother against brother, blood spilling on the cold, hard ground. I see myself, standing at the edge of the abyss, the weight of my visions pressing down on me, crushing me.

I want to scream, to shout, to warn them all of what is coming. But my voice is trapped, silenced by the weight of my knowledge. I am alone in this, alone with my nightmares. I look at my mother, her face a mask of determination, her eyes hard and unyielding. She doesn’t see me, not really. She sees what she wants to see, a dutiful daughter, a pawn in her game.

I feel a surge of anger, a fierce, burning rage that I rarely allow myself to feel. I am more than what they think I am, more than a simple girl, more than a pawn. As I teetered on the edge of despair, ready to give up and accept the horrors I saw in my dreams as inevitable, the Gods sent me a gift. They sent me Lucerys.

Lucerys was not the nephew I was meant to have in the original timeline. No, in this timeline, Lucerys was a girl, and she was the reincarnation of the Āeksio ondos pōjoris, the Princess that was Promised. Her presence changed everything.

From the moment she arrived, Lucerys became my beacon of hope. Together, we began to unravel the plots that threatened House Targaryen. My dreams, once a curse, became a tool, and Lucerys’s warg abilities complemented them perfectly. We moved like shadows through the court, eliminating threats one by one.

Larys Strong, with his conniving mind, fell first. Gwayne Hightower, my manipulative uncle, was next. Jasper Wylde, whose loyalty was always in question, soon followed. Each of them toppled like pieces on a cyvasse board, thanks to the combined power of my dreams and Lucerys’s abilities.

As we leave my mother’s chambers, I take a deep breath, trying to steady myself. The future is a storm, and I am but a leaf in the wind. But even a leaf can cause ripples in the water, can change the course of the storm. I will find a way to protect my family, to change the future.

I have to.

The visions will not control me. I will control them. I will find a way to turn the tide, to protect those I love. The future is not set in stone. It is a tapestry, and I am one of the weavers. I will find a way to change it, to save us all.

The dance of dragons that I had once foreseen no longer haunted my dreams. War would come, as it always does with humans, but with dragons by our side, House Targaryen would prevail. We would not dance to our deaths; we would rise like flames in the dark, unyielding and fierce.

Daeron was no longer at Old Town being brainwashed by House Hightower. Aegon, away from the vipers’ nest that was King’s Landing, began to see the world with clearer eyes. And I was betrothed to a boy who truly saw my worth. Jacaerys did not dismiss my warnings like everyone else, he listened and valued my counsel. I could see the future where my words were no longer ignored but were considered invaluable to Jacaerys’s rule. I will become the future king’s most trusted advisor.

And Aemond. My sweet, fierce Aemond. He would not become a kinslayer. The visions of him, eyes cold and heart hardened, faded away. Instead, I saw a future where he stood by our side, loyal and strong. But most importantly, happy. However, there was still a shadow over him, a lingering worry. Somehow, I knew that Aemond would have to close one eye in the future. The significance of this remained a mystery, a puzzle piece that I couldn’t quite place.

Even with my worries about Aemond lingering in the back of my mind, I knew things were stable now. The realm was not as fragile as it once seemed in my dreams. The Stormlands would not rebel, and the Riverlands would not be torn apart by factions. The Crownlands, the Narrow Sea, the Vale, and the North were steadfast in their support for Rhaenyra. This was a delicate balance we had achieved, but it held strong.

My thoughts often drifted to the regions still shrouded in uncertainty. The Westerlands, the Iron Islands, and the Reach remained wild cards in this intricate game of thrones. I knew Lucerys had plans for House Lannister, and I trusted her to handle them. After all, it was the Lannisters who had brought ruin to her previous family in the timeline that will not come to be. The revenge she sought was not just personal—it was necessary for our survival. I would let her weave her schemes, confident in her abilities.

The Ironborn, with their insatiable hunger for conquest and chaos, seemed less of a threat now. The pious Reachmen would not allow their raids to go unchecked, so there was no reason to form an alliance. I felt a strange calm in knowing that the seas might remain still. Yet, Old Town was a different beast altogether. The Hightowers had been striving to place a king of their blood on the Iron Throne ever since Maegor, and they would not relinquish their ambitions easily.

In my dreams, I saw the fires of ambition burning brightly in Old Town, the Hightower standing tall and defiant. The schemers and plotters within its walls moved like shadows, their intentions as murky as the depths of the Whispering Sound. They believed they could shape the future to their will, but they did not understand the true power of the dragon.

I wandered the halls of the Red Keep, my mind half here and half in the realm of dreams. The walls seemed to pulse with the energy of the past, present, and future, all interwoven in a tapestry only I could see. Each step I took felt like walking through a memory, the echoes of past generations whispering in my ears.

Old Town’s machinations were the reason I had warned Aegon before his marriage to Cassandra Baratheon. My dreams had shown me the intricate web of deceit and ambition spun by the Hightowers, and I couldn’t let Aegon fall into their trap. I felt no ill sentiment toward him; this version of Aegon had never harmed me. In the dream world, he had been a broken man, lost in despair, a mere puppet in the prison our mother had created for us. Despite this, I couldn’t find it in me to enjoy his company. His presence was a painful reminder of the nightmares that plagued me.

So, when I approached Aegon before his wedding, I wasn’t insulted by his surprise. My words were often seen as riddles, dismissed or misunderstood. But this time, Aegon listened. He deciphered my advice and understood the danger House Hightower posed to Cassandra and their unborn child. They would stop at nothing to push for a Valyrian marriage for Aegon, even if it meant killing Cassandra and her babe.

Having learned that Orys had been born without any issues, I was overjoyed. Aegon had done right by Cassandra, waiting almost three years until she was ready. But I knew that didn’t mean Orys was safe. Babes die in their cradles all the time, and I had seen it happen in my dreams. This time, I was determined to protect Aegon’s child. No harm would come to Orys if I had anything to say about it.

The court still whispered, still doubted, but I no longer cared. I had found my strength, my voice, my destiny. The dreams that once tormented me were now my guide, lighting the path forward. And with Lucerys by my side, I knew we could conquer any darkness that threatened our house. Lucerys and I became inseparable, our bond forged in the fires of our shared purpose. She was more than my ally; she was my sister in spirit, my anchor in the storm.

In the quiet moments, when the dreams subsided and I could catch my breath, I felt a peace that had eluded me for so long. The future was ours to shape, and with Lucerys, Daeron, Aegon, Jacaerys, Joffrey, and Aemond by my side, I knew we could face anything. We were the blood of the dragon, and nothing would tear us apart.

The days of being a frightened, misunderstood girl were behind me. I was Helaena Targaryen, a Dragon Dreamer, a seer of the future, and I would not be silenced. The Gods had given me these visions for a reason, and I would not let their gift go to waste.

Chapter 29: I Aegon’s P.O.V

Notes:

I would like to thank Jojono and Shynnohwen for their wonderful ideas. I love reading your comments and adapting them into my story. I hope I made them justice in this chapter! ❤️

Chapter Text

Stormlands, Storm’s End – 127 AC

I fidgeted nervously outside of Cassandra’s chambers, pacing back and forth as her cries of pain echoed through the corridors. My good father, Borros Baratheon, was nearby, trying to keep himself occupied with his youngest daughter, Floris. Both of them were clearly on edge, but Borros masked his anxiety by talking softly to Floris, attempting to distract her from her sister’s ordeal.

My time in Storm’s End was the best of my life. The oppressive weight of King’s Landing, with its endless intrigues and expectations, was lifted. Here, I found a sense of peace and purpose I hadn’t known I was missing. I spent most of my days entertaining Floris, who had a sharp wit and a mischievous smile, while Cassandra took on the responsibility of learning how to rule. This new life had curbed my old vices; I no longer felt the need to drown myself in wine or lose myself in the company of whor*s. Though I still enjoyed a good cup of Arbor gold before bed, it was more out of habit than necessity.

There was a bond between Cassandra and me, one forged through mutual respect and understanding. It wasn’t love, but I didn’t mind. I understood that Cassandra’s primary interest lay in power and securing her family’s position, while my own heart would always belong to Sunfyre, my magnificent dragon. Here in the Stormlands, away from my mother’s overbearing presence, I was free to fly whenever I wished. Sunfyre was no longer chained or confined, and I reveled in the freedom. I often soared over the Stormlands, feeling the wind against my face, even venturing to the Dornish Marches to quell insurrections from marauding Dornishmen. It seemed they hadn’t learned their lesson from their previous encounters with House Targaryen.

Despite the absence of romantic love, I cared deeply for Cassandra. She had become a friend, someone I trusted and respected. Hearing her screams of agony now, as she labored to bring our child into the world, tore at my heart. I turned to Borros, my voice tinged with worry.

“Is it supposed to take this long?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.

Borros nodded, though the pain in his eyes mirrored my own. “The first birth is always the hardest,” he said quietly. “The mother’s body is not used to it. It can take hours.”

I nodded, though it did little to ease my anxiety. I felt helpless, useless, standing there while Cassandra suffered. I wanted to do something, anything, to help her, but there was nothing I could do. All I could do was wait, and it was agonizing.

Borros placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “She’s strong, Aegon. She’ll get through this.”

I took a deep breath, trying to steady myself. I looked at Floris, who was watching me with wide, curious eyes. I forced a smile, though it felt strained. “How about we go for a walk, Floris?” I suggested, hoping to distract her and myself.

Floris nodded eagerly, her face lighting up. I took her hand, and together we walked through the halls of Storm’s End, trying to keep my mind off the screams that still echoed in my ears. I told Floris stories of my adventures with Sunfyre, and the tourneys in King’s Landing. Floris listened with rapt attention, her eyes wide with wonder.

But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the worry that gnawed at me. Every cry from Cassandra’s chamber sent a jolt of fear through me. I prayed silently to the Gods, pleading for Cassandra’s safety, for the safe delivery of our child.

Hours passed, each one feeling like an eternity. Eventually, Floris and I returned to the corridor outside Cassandra’s chambers. Borros was still there, looking as anxious as ever. We resumed our vigil, my heart pounding with each passing minute. I squeezed Floris’s hand, drawing strength from her innocent presence.

Finally, the screams stopped, replaced by the sweet, unmistakable cries of a newborn. Relief washed over me, and I exchanged a look of pure joy with Borros. Floris, too, cheered, her excitement palpable. The tension that had gripped us all dissolved in an instant.

Elenda, her face lit up with a wide smile, opened the doors to Cassandra’s chambers and informed us that both mother and child were fine. I didn’t wait another second; I rushed past her, my heart pounding with a mix of anxiety and elation.

Inside, I found Cassandra looking exhausted but radiant, cradling our son in her arms. Her smile, despite her weariness, was brighter than I had ever seen. I moved to her side, my eyes fixed on the tiny bundle she held so tenderly.

"Aegon," she said softly, "what do you want to name our son?"

"Orys Baratheon, naturally," I replied without hesitation.

Cassandra's smile widened. "It is a splendid name," she agreed, her eyes shining with gratitude and affection. I could almost hear her thoughts: My husband is so sweet, wanting to honor my family and house.

I looked down at my son, my heart swelling with pride and love. Black hair, like his mother’s. Blue Baratheon eyes, piercing and clear. He bore no signs of the Targaryen name, just as I had planned.

I thought to myself, A bastard name? Check. The Baratheon surname? Check. My little boy, you are my greatest work yet. And someday, I’ll have a daughter to call Saera. Alicent will be so f*cking angry.

My thoughts were a mix of triumph and rebellion. I had crafted a life that defied my mother’s expectations, a life where I found happiness and purpose outside the oppressive walls of King’s Landing.

Cassandra's voice broke through my thoughts. "Aegon, he’s perfect," she whispered, tears of joy in her eyes.

I leaned down, placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. "You did wonderfully, Cassandra. Our son is perfect because of you."

We stayed like that for a while, the three of us, wrapped in a cocoon of newfound family. For the first time in a long time, I felt truly content. I knew challenges awaited us, but in that moment, with Cassandra and our son, everything felt right.

Eventually, I turned to see Borros and Floris standing at the doorway, watching us with expressions of pride and happiness. I beckoned them in, eager to share our joy.

Borros clapped me on the shoulder. "Well done, Aegon. You have a strong son. The future of our house looks bright."

Floris peered at the baby, her eyes wide with wonder. "He’s so small," she said, her voice filled with awe.

I chuckled. "Yes, but he’ll grow. And with all of us to guide him, he’ll become strong and wise."

As I held my son close, I made a silent vow. I would protect this family, cherish them, and defy anyone who tried to take this happiness away from us. We had forged our path, and I was determined to see it through, no matter what challenges lay ahead.

A moon has passed since Orys was born, and I’ve spent most of it in the nursery, playing with my son and savoring the peace of Storm’s End. There’s something soothing about being away from the chaos of King’s Landing and just enjoying the simple pleasures of fatherhood.

Orys is a beautiful baby, I often find myself just staring at him, marveling at how perfect he was. He’s still so small, so fragile, but there’s a strength in him that promises great things to come. I can already tell he’s going to be a handful as he grows. He reaches out his tiny hands to grab at the toys I dangle before him, his baby laugh a sweet melody that echoes through the nursery.

Borros found me here one afternoon, playing with Orys on the floor. The old man had a thoughtful look on his face, as if he was grappling with something heavy. I paused, looking up at him. “What’s on your mind, Father?” I asked, shifting Orys onto my lap.

“It’s time we took Orys to the Red Keep,” Borros said, his voice grave. “He’s the grandson of the king, after all. He should be introduced to court, it is tradition.”

I sighed, a bit reluctant. King’s Landing felt like a distant nightmare to me now. I had given up my Targaryen name and fled from the cesspool of politics and deceit. The last thing I wanted was to step back into that pit of vipers. “Must we really go?” I asked, hoping to dodge the trip. “Storm’s End is the only place where I’ve found any semblance of peace.”

Borros’s eyes twinkled with a hint of amusem*nt. “I suppose you could avoid it, but Orys is a Targaryen as much as he is a Baratheon. His presence at court is important.”

It was then that a spark of mischief ignited in me. A thought crossed my mind, something I hadn’t considered before but which now seemed like the perfect way to stick it to Mother. I remembered the way she’d always looked down on me, the way she was always plotting to undermine my choices, and it made me smile.

I grinned at Borros, a smirk stretching across my face. “Actually, Father, I’ve been thinking. This could be a perfect opportunity for a bit of revenge. Mother will loathe seeing Orys at court. She’s bound to hate the look of him, the Baratheon name, and the fact that he’s a reminder of her failures.”

Borros looked at me, taken aback by my expression. His eyes widened, and he let out a small chuckle. “That smile of yours—it’s all Targaryen. I almost forgot the dragon that lurks beneath the surface.”

I chuckled, the edges of my smile sharpening. “Dragons are petty creatures, after all,” I said, the words dripping with dark amusem*nt. “And I intend to be just as petty.”

The thought of Alicent’s reaction was deliciously satisfying. I could already imagine her face when she saw Orys, a little Baratheon with his dark hair and blue eyes, paraded before the court. The irony was too perfect. She had tried to keep me chained to the Red Keep, to strip me of my freedom, but I had gotten out and now here I was, returning with a Baratheon heir to stir the pot.

With that thought in mind, I took up the quill and began to draft the letter to King Viserys, informing him of his new grandchild. As I wrote, the words flowed easily, the plan forming into something concrete.

I described Orys’s birth, his health, and his future. I mentioned how he was a healthy boy, and how Cassandra was recovering well. I crafted the letter to be as formal and courteous as possible, but I couldn’t resist adding a touch of pride in Orys’s achievements, even though he was just a baby.

The letter was ready, and I folded it carefully. I handed it to a servant and watched him leave for the hawkery. The anticipation of Mother’s reaction made my heart race. I could almost see the look of horror on her face, the way she would try to mask her shock and disappointment behind a façade of regal composure.

Borros watched me with a knowing smile. “You’re a dragon indeed, Aegon,” he said. “This will be quite the spectacle.”

“Let’s hope it’s a spectacle that’ll leave her seething,” I said, feeling a thrill at the thought of Mother’s discomfort. “It’s about time she faced the consequences of her actions.”

As the moons passed, I busied myself with preparations for the journey. The thought of returning to King’s Landing was still daunting, but it was a small price to pay for the chance to see Mother’s reaction. Floris and I spent the remaining days before the journey playing games and talking about the future. I told her stories of old Targaryen glory, of dragons and knights and heroic battles, though I left out the darker parts of history. She listened with wide eyes, her innocent excitement a welcome distraction from the weight of my own thoughts.

And as the day of departure drew near, I took one last look at Storm’s End, at the peaceful life I was about to leave behind. I hoped that this trip would be worth the trouble, that it would serve a purpose beyond mere revenge. It’s strange to think how much has changed. Storm’s End was a sanctuary, a place where I could finally breathe. Now, as I prepare to step back into the lion’s den, I feel a mix of excitement and trepidation. With a final glance at the nursery, I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the journey back to the heart of the storm—King’s Landing.

King’s Landing would not know what hit it.

King’s Landing, The Red Keep – 128 AC

I carried Orys through the halls of the Red Keep with a swagger that I hoped would be as obvious as the smirk on my face. There was a spring in my step, a gleeful bounce that I couldn’t quite hide. I was about to show Mother just how thoroughly I could rub my victory in her face. It wasn’t often I got the chance to put her in her place, but this moment was perfect for it.

Striding into the Throne Room of the Red Keep, I felt like I was walking onto a stage with all the world as my audience. I had donned the brightest Baratheon yellow, Orys was swaddled in a rich black and yellow cloth, a tiny Baratheon stag nestled in the crook of my arm.

As I approached her, I made sure to hold Orys high and out in front of me, as if I was presenting some grand prize. I could see the way her eyes narrowed as she took in the sight of her grandchild. Her expression shifted from the expected courtesy to a barely masked scowl. It was all I needed to see. The way she looked at Orys was as if he was a thorn in her side, a blemish on her perfect plans.

“Mother,” I said, trying to keep my tone as sweet as honey, “come and see your first grandson.” I could hardly keep from grinning as I gestured to Orys, who was cooing happily. His Baratheon black hair and blue eyes were all on display, a clear sign of his mother’s family. I made sure to emphasize those features, holding him up as if to spotlight them.

“Look at my Baratheon child,” I said, my voice dripping with exaggerated pride. “Not a single Valyrian trait in sight, just pure Baratheon. Isn’t he a sight to behold?” I almost laughed as I saw the looks on the faces of the courtiers. Some were clearly trying not to smile, while others looked genuinely shocked. It was a delicious moment of triumph.

Mother’s face was a mask of forced politeness, but I could see the strain in her eyes. It was as if she was struggling to keep up appearances, her lips twitching as she forced out a smile. Her eyes darted to Orys, then back to me, as if trying to find something to say but coming up empty. I could see the fury simmering just beneath the surface, a stark contrast to the calm facade she was trying to maintain.

Otto was beside her, his face a portrait of barely contained annoyance. I could almost see the gears turning in his mind, trying to find a way to salvage their dignity. But there was nothing to be done. The sight of Orys, with his black hair and blue eyes, was a reminder of how thoroughly I had ruined their plans.

I strutted around the court, letting everyone see me and my son dressed in Baratheon black and yellow. I made a show of it, walking slowly, pausing to let people get a good look. I could see the stifled laughter in my siblings’ eyes, their barely contained grins as they watched Mother and Otto squirm. They knew exactly what I was doing, and they couldn’t have been more amused by the spectacle.

“Mother,” I said loudly enough for everyone to hear, “come and see your first grandson! Isn’t he just the picture of House Baratheon?” I beamed, making sure to emphasize the word “Baratheon.” The smirk on my face must have been practically glowing. “Look at my BARATHEON child,” I continued, practically flaunting the words. “Not a single Valyrian trait in sight, just pure BARATHEON!”

Mother’s face turned a shade of red that matched the Targaryen colors she used to wear. Her eyes darted from Orys to me, and I could see the rage bubbling just beneath her surface. I leaned in a little closer, as if to offer her a better view, but in reality, I was basking in the satisfaction of her visible discomfort.

The courtiers around us were a mix of snickers and stifled chuckles. I could see Lady Redwyne trying to cover her smile with her fan, while Ser Harwin Strong looked like he was about to choke on his own laughter. Even the most stoic of the high lords couldn’t hide their amusem*nt as I paraded my son around, making sure to stop just within view of Mother and Otto. It was a public display of victory, a parade of pride, and everyone could see it for what it was.

“Isn’t he magnificent?” I said, raising Orys just a bit higher, as if he were a precious artifact I was showing off to the world. “A true Baratheon, through and through. Black hair, blue eyes, and the Baratheon name. Just look at him!”

The way the courtiers looked at me—some in admiration, others with poorly masked mirth—made it clear that they saw through my act. They thought I was merely a proud father, eager to show off the baby I had with my wife. But I knew better, and I relished the way Mother’s eyes narrowed as she fought to maintain her composure.

Mother’s gaze was like daggers. She was trying to keep her face neutral, but the tension was clear. Every time I spoke about how Orys looked just like Cassandra, how he was “a fine Baratheon boy,” I could see her anger simmering beneath the surface. I was making her face a truth she had been trying so hard to ignore.

Do you see now, Mother? I thought, feeling a wicked satisfaction. This is what you get for trying to manipulate me. This is what you get for all your schemes and plots. I’m not your pawn. I’m not your toy. I’m a Targaryen and a Baratheon now, and I will make sure everyone knows it.

Then, as if the situation needed another layer of dramatics, a lord from the Riverlands approached. He wanted to discuss some business deal with Storm’s End, but I saw it as another opportunity to needle Mother.

I turned to the lord with my most charming smile. “My lord,” I said, my voice carrying just enough to be heard, “you’ll find that my wife is the one you should address these matters to. I’m just the arm candy here, providing her with lovely children.” I had to force myself not to laugh outright as I saw Mother’s face twitch at the edge of anger.

“You should speak with Lady Cassandra,” I said with a mock bow. “I’m merely the handsome accessory.”

Mother’s eyes widened, and for a moment, she looked like she was about to explode. Otto’s face was a mask of restrained fury, but I could see the frustration in the way he clenched his fists. The courtiers around us looked between them and me, their faces a blend of shock and amusem*nt.

The lord from the Riverlands took the bait with perfect timing, bowing to Cassandra and launching into his business proposal. I stood back and let the scene unfold, a satisfied smile on my face as I watched Mother’s plans crumble.

My siblings were barely holding back their laughter. Helaena had her hand over her mouth, her eyes shining with barely restrained mirth. Aemond’s lips were twitching as he tried not to break into a full-blown grin, and even Daeron had a look of amused disbelief as he watched the whole thing play out. They all knew exactly what I was doing, and seeing it work so perfectly was almost as satisfying as the plan itself.

The more I paraded Orys around, the more I could see Mother’s face grow darker, her irritation bubbling up to the surface. I was savoring every moment, every wince, every strained smile. This was my moment to shine, to remind them all that while I might have left King’s Landing, I was still a Targaryen—one with a new banner to fly and a new family to flaunt.

The more Mother tried to keep her composure, the more I reveled in the little stings I was delivering. I was like a child who had just been given the best toy and was showing it off to everyone. My heart was light, my mood buoyant, and I couldn’t stop the feeling of triumph that surged through me.

As I continued my victory lap, I couldn’t help but notice that my siblings’ reactions had gotten worse. Helaena had her head bowed slightly, her shoulders shaking as she tried to stifle her laughter. Daeron had finally given up and left the room, most likely to burst out in laughter.

Aemond was leaning against a pillar, his hand over his mouth as he struggled to keep from laughing. I could see the corners of his lips twitching, and it was clear he was having a hard time maintaining his composure. Every time I caught his eye, he gave me a subtle, approving nod, as if to say, “Well done.”

When we finally made it back to the quarters reserved for the Baratheon House during our visit to the Red Keep, the moment the doors closed behind us, laughter burst forth like a dam breaking. It was a relief to let go of the composed faces we’d been wearing; I couldn’t hold back my own laughter.

Cassandra was the first to crack, her laughter ringing out like a bell, bright and joyful. “Did you see their faces?” she managed between fits of giggles. “I thought the Queen was going to choke on her own displeasure!”

I grinned at her, holding Orys a little closer to me as I said, “I know! I nearly burst into laughter myself when I saw mother’s face as I paraded Orys around. The look of pure fury was worth every minute of the trip.”

Elenda, always a quiet and reserved presence, was practically in tears as she wiped her eyes. “And the way you just kept flaunting Orys like he was the greatest treasure of the realm! You played that perfectly, Aegon.”

Borros joined in the laughter, his deep, hearty chuckles shaking his shoulders. “Aegon, you’ve outdone yourself. The way you flaunted Orys, and how you managed to turn the business meeting into a spectacle of your own devising—it was masterful.”

Floris, standing nearby and still clutching her stuffed dragon toy, looked up at us with wide eyes, trying to stifle her own giggles. “And the way you made that lord think you’re just ‘arm candy’!” she said through laughter. “I thought he was going to stumble over his own feet.”

I couldn’t help but laugh along with them, the joy of the day’s mischief washing over me. “Honestly, I couldn’t resist. Seeing mother and grandfather fuming in the midst of it all, it was like a feast for the soul. I haven’t had this much fun since I was a boy.”

Cassandra nudged me playfully, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “You were so wickedly brilliant. I never thought you’d pull something like that. It was like watching a great actor perform a dramatic play.”

I took a seat beside her, Orys resting contentedly in my lap, and sighed with satisfaction. “It was good to see them squirm. I haven’t had much chance to get back at them for all the years of their schemes and manipulations.”

Elenda put a gentle hand on Orys’s tiny arm, her smile warm as she said, “And you did it with such style. Not a single Valyrian trait on him and a name that has history. Her Grace must be beside herself.”

Borros chuckled again, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “Today, you showed that you can be just as fiery as Sunfyre himself.”

I laughed, feeling a sense of camaraderie with my family, a shared joy in the small victories we had. “Well, they had it coming. We all needed this, especially after everything that’s been happening.”

Floris bounced up and down excitedly, her dragon toy flopping around. “Can we do it again sometime?” she asked, eyes wide and hopeful.

I ruffled her hair affectionately. “We’ll see, little one. But for now, let’s enjoy the victory.”

Chapter 30: II Borros' P.O.V

Notes:

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to BadAssFemaleFighter for their incredible ideas. Your comment inspired me, and I hope you liked how I incorporated it into my story! ❤️

Chapter Text

King’s Landing, The Red Keep - 128 AC

As Princess Rhaenyra and I walked through the halls of the Red Keep, the faint echo of our footsteps seemed to carry the weight of our conversation. The grand tapestries and gilded decorations did little to mask the tension that lingered in the air.

“I’m disgusted by the way the Queen’s already started spreading rumors about Orys,” I began, unable to contain my frustration. “It’s despicable.”

Princess Rhaenyra scoffed, a wry smile tugging at her lips. “It was to be expected. Alicent is a bitter woman. She’ll use anything to try and undermine us.”

We continued walking, the silence between us comfortable yet heavy. Princess Rhaenyra sighed deeply, her expression softening as she glanced at me. “You know, Lord Borros, many believe that the reason I’m not close to my half-siblings is because Alicent never allowed us to spend time together when we were younger. But the truth is, I didn’t care much about them.”

I looked at her, surprised by her candor. “What do you mean?”

She hesitated, her steps slowing as she gathered her thoughts. “I never meant to harm or mistreat them, but I was indifferent to Aegon, Helaena, Aemond, and Daeron. I was so caught up with being a mother and a political rival to Alicent that most of the time, they were an afterthought. It’s a shameful thing to admit, but for a few years, while Daeron was in Old Town, I even forgot that I had a third brother.”

The sadness in her voice was palpable, and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for her. “That must have been difficult to realize.”

“It was,” she said quietly. “When I finally saw how absent the king was in their lives, I tried to do better. I started having tea with Helaena, helping Daeron with his High Valyrian, and sharing books with Aemond. But by then, Aegon had married Cassandra and moved to Storm’s End. I felt like I had lost the chance to make things right with him.”

I nodded, understanding her regret. “Aegon has changed a lot since then. He’s found a sense of purpose and belonging in Storm’s End.”

Princess Rhaenyra’s eyes brightened with curiosity. “How is Aegon doing?”

I couldn’t help but smile as I thought of the boy who had become like a son to me. “He’s doing wonderfully. He’s the son Elenda and I never had. Elenda loves gossiping with him, though the two of them call it ‘intel collection.’ Aegon respects that Cassandra holds the power in the Stormlands and never tries to speak over her. It’s refreshing to see a man who truly supports his wife’s leadership.”

Princess Rhaenyra smiled, a genuine warmth in her eyes. “I’m glad to hear that. It’s comforting to know that he’s found good parents in you and Elenda, even if the bond was made through marriage and not blood.”

I felt a swell of pride at her words. “We’re proud to have him as part of our family. He’s a good man, and he’s done a lot to strengthen our house.”

As we walked on, the conversation shifted to lighter topics, but the sense of camaraderie between us remained. Despite the challenges and the political maneuvering, there was a sense of hope. Perhaps, with time, the bonds between the Targaryen family could be mended and strengthened, leading us to a brighter future.

As we reached the royal nursery, I couldn’t help but notice the transformation of the room. The once pervasive greens and seven-pointed-star motifs were replaced with red and black, dragons adorning every corner. It was Princess Rhaenyra’s doing, reclaiming the Red Keep for House Targaryen. I also spotted the yellow and stag motifs that I had requested for my grandson. Gods, the Targaryens were finally taking back their legacy.

Princess Rhaenyra stood by my side, eyes softening as she took in the sight of Aegon cradling Orys. "He's very beautiful," she said, her voice gentle. "And fatherhood suits you."

Aegon beamed with pride. "Thank you," he said, his gaze fixed on his son. "I can't get enough of seeing this adorable face. Call me smug, but I swear he's got my smile."

Princess Rhaenyra laughed, a warm, genuine sound. "I can see that. He also has the shape of your eyes."

Aegon's smile faded a bit. "Others don't see it, though. They believe he's not my son. I wouldn't be surprised if Mother spreads those rumors."

My blood boiled at the reminder of the rumors besmirching not only my grandson, but daughter as well. How I wanted to run the queen through my sword, but that was treason. So, I took a deep breath, trying to reign in my fury and focused on the conversation between siblings.

"Been there," Princess Rhaenyra replied, her tone heavy with the weight of her own experiences.

I watched as Aegon held Orys closer, a fierce protectiveness in his eyes. "How do you do it? How do you deal with people who question your children's legitimacy?" he asked her.

"It's not easy," she admitted. "I remind myself that I'm their mother, and I must be strong for them. If I react violently, it would only fuel those claims. Maintain a strong front, and always remind yourself and your son that you are his father. As long as you have that bond with him, nothing will tear it apart."

"Thank you, sister," Aegon said, his voice filled with gratitude.

Princess Rhaenyra stared at Orys for a long moment, a soft smile on her lips. "He looks exactly like Lucerys when she was a baby. I could have sworn I was seeing her in your arms."

Aegon’s eyes widened. "You think you could say that again at tonight's banquet?"

Princess Rhaenyra smirked. "Of course."

"And bring Lucerys," Aegon added. "If they are seen beside each other, people will see the resemblance."

"Your mother will not be happy," Princess Rhaenyra said, a mischievous glint in her eye.

"Even better," Aegon replied, his grin matching hers.

Standing there, observing this rare moment of understanding between them, I felt a sense of pride. Aegon had changed so much since leaving King’s Landing. He was no longer the wayward prince but a father, a Baratheon by choice, and a true ally to his sister. The bond between them was growing, and it was a sight to behold. This was the unity our houses needed, a show of strength and solidarity against those who sought to tear us apart. As they shared their plans and reassurances, I felt a sense of vindication. This was the future I wanted for my daughter, my grandson, and our family.

Later that day, we were all in our quarters, getting ready for the banquet. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched Ellyn and Maris coo over little Orys, while Cassandra paraded him around like the proud mother she was. My heart swelled at the sight. I had missed my middle daughters dearly, but I could see that their time at Driftmark and King’s Landing had done them well. They stood with more confidence and grace than ever before. I just needed to make sure those Selwyn and Ralph boys were treating them right.

What can I say? I’m an overprotective father.

I turned to where Elenda and Aegon were chatting animatedly. When I first met Aegon, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I’d have to keep him in line, worrying he might try to usurp his sister Rhaenyra. But Aegon didn’t care about power or the Iron Throne. Once I realized that, I was simply happy to have another man in the family, someone who gave me a grandson to carry on the Baratheon name.

Elenda had taken a real liking to him, and it was easy to see why. Aegon was completely supportive of our daughter without a trace of ambition for himself. He wanted Cassandra to succeed, and that was enough for me. Now, watching them share the gossip and scandals they’d gathered since stepping into the Red Keep, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Those two tag-teaming were a riot, a nightmare for all their enemies.

“Did you hear about Lady Margaery?” Aegon said, leaning in with a conspiratorial whisper.

“Oh, yes!” Elenda replied, her eyes gleaming. “I heard she was caught sneaking out of Lord Tarly’s chambers last night.”

They both burst out laughing, and I shook my head, amused. It was good to see Aegon so at ease, so at home with us. The bond between him and Elenda was something I hadn’t expected, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Once we were all dressed in Baratheon black, with accents of yellow just to spite Queen Alicent, we finally made our way to the banquet. The king was absent, his health too poor to attend. At the high table, Queen Alicent sat with her father Otto and uncle Ormund, who she had invited to meet Orys. I found it amusing that neither Otto nor Ormund had requested to spend time with Orys, and even Queen Alicent hadn't shown any interest.

Seeing Aegon in his Baratheon black with yellow accents, the looks of anger on their faces were priceless. Princess Rhaenyra, her children, her husband, Ser Laenor, and her half-siblings were also at the high table. Since this banquet was in honor of Aegon, Cassandra, and Orys, House Baratheon was invited to sit at the high table as well.

As the evening progressed, Princess Lucerys held her baby cousin Orys, and everyone remarked on the resemblance, noting how they looked like siblings. Princess Rhaenyra and Aegon exchanged a triumphant fist bump, and I couldn't help but laugh at their antics.

The banquet continued, and Aegon showed just how petty he could be. At one point, a Green sympathizer approached him with a sneer. "Oh, it must be terrible, my prince, to be forced to be subservient to a woman," the man said.

Aegon, with a deadpan look on his face, responded without missing a beat. "Bitch, I am not required to attend meetings. I actually enjoy going to the training yards now, mostly to stay in shape. I have no say in governing. I am borderline pampered like a Braavos mistress. She can step on me, and I'd say thank you. Now leave me alone unless you want a blow-by-blow account of my son's conception."

The look on the man's face was priceless, and I couldn't contain my laughter. Cassandra, always in control, ordered Aegon to stop before he would start oversharing, and he immediately complied, much to the chagrin of the Greens. Their fury was palpable, not only because Aegon was spitting on their preachings about women not meant to rule but also because he was clearly showing that Cassandra was the one wearing the pants in the relationship.

Seeing the Greens' faces contorted with anger and frustration, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. This was our night, a night to celebrate our family and our unity. And as I looked around at the smiling faces of my loved ones, I knew we had won this round. Aegon’s antics, Princess Rhaenyra’s support, and the sheer joy of seeing our enemies seethe made this banquet one for the ages.

We were House Baratheon, and we were here to stay.

The Pearl of Driftmark - kurenohikari (2024)
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