Torment - ciemai - House of the Dragon (TV) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

Alicent POV

She picked the side of her nails in nervousness as the maids removed her wedding gown and put her in a thin slip. She tugged the low neckline upwards making sure that her chest is not visible but it only emphasized her erect nipple and she had to hunch her shoulder and let her hair cover her chest.

She stood up and curtsy when the Princess came in. She knows she’s the Queen now and she technically outranks her but years of showing reverence to the Princess of the Blood cannot be removed in just one day.

The Princess bid everyone out then proceeded to comb her hair. She smiled shakily at her. The Princess had been cold towards her since the King had announced their wedding. She tried to talk to her but she was too busy taking over the Queen’s apartments to pay her any attention.

The only time that the Princess talked to the King after their engagement was to asked to be moved to the former Queen’s suites so she can feel closer to her. The King had agreed immediately even if the Hand vehemently tried to talk him out of him, saying that it should belong to the new Queen, Alicent. The Princess said that her rooms need to be nearer to the King so they can make sure that she will conceive immediately after the wedding.

“Housing Alicent in the King’s Wing will give him easier access to her, we need a son from her as soon as possible, isn’t that the reason why the wedding is being conducted so soon after Queen Aemma died?” The Princess said during one of the Small Council Meeting. “Or is there already one in her belly so you don’t see the reason for this?”

She remembers trying to make herself small then when the Councilmen looked at her, her flat stomach specifically. She knows that there had been a lot of gossips going around after the Princess had seen her alone with the King on his bed chamber. She wanted to scream at everyone that nothing had happened and Rhaenyra’s outburst was just that of a child having a tantrum but everywhere she goes people had been whispering about her.

The Ladies had started going to another direction when they see her, mothers snatched their children’s hands and hurried them away when they chance upon her on a corridor. Some Lords had been looking at her lasciviously and a guard had dared to hold her hand and whispered vile things at her. She wanted to shake her friend and make her tell Court that everything she accused her of that night had been lies.

But the Princess had not even deigned to look in her direction again.

Except now.

Rhaenyra motioned for her to sit in front of the gilded mirror and combed her hair softly like she used to do when they were younger.

“I’m glad you’re here, Princess.” She whispered.

“Of course, I will be here.” She said and smiled at her. “The Septa had talked to you about your duty?” she asked.

She felt her cheeks heat up and looked down, still picking at her nails. “Y-yes.”

“Good.” She said. “You have to fall pregnant immediately, Alicent, you need to visit his bed everyday. Even if he does not call for you, you must go to him until you are with child.” She said in a stern voice.

She swallowed the bile that came up her mouth at the picture she conjured in her mind but nodded slowly. She knows her duties, father had been hammering her and her brothers about it all their life. To serve Lord Hightower, to please the Princess and now to carry the King’s children. She knows it too well but it still makes her ill.

The maids knocked and told them it was time to go to the King’s Chamber. She looked at Rhaenyra in a panic and held her hands tightly.

The Princess only smiled at her and removed her hands from hers. “Do your best and please your King.” She said and excited her room.

She can see the Princess’ other Ladies-in-waiting outside flocking her giggling and whispering in her ears while looking back at her discreetly. Johanna Westerling grimaced at her shift and she pulled up the wide and low collar again to preserve her virtue while Lady Allana Tyrell looks at her with pity in her eyes. Anella Strong and Lyarra Karstark did not even look at her and instead hooked their arms on each of Rhaenyra’s as they walked away from her bedchamber.

She feels bitter that the Princess had seemingly replaced her with more Noble ladies. For years it was just the two of them, now the Princess has more companions and she’s here expected to keep the King’s bed and carry his children.

The following day, she was roused by the maids who removed the bloodied sheets off the bed and put her in a robe. She winced as she felt a twinge of pain between her legs and how her thighs shake from being kept open for a long time last night. She saw the maid give the sheets to another maid who will no doubt deliver the sheets to the Small Council. She can feel her face heat up to know that even her father will be witness to the proof of her innocence being taken away but such are the fates of Queens.

The servants informed her that the King had an early day meeting with the Small Council. She was then ushered back to her rooms in just her sticky shifts and robe.

The maids and guards that litter Maegor’s Holdfast all bowed to her but she can see them suppressing their smirks and grimaces. She can see them looking at her soiled gown and her disheveled hair. The maids did not even give her water to washed her face or a rug to wipe her body, they just immediately ushered her out of the King’s rooms. The Head Maid even had the audacity to tell her it is improper for her to stay in the king’s room until morning and it was expected that after the King falls asleep, she is to move herself back to her room.

She understands that now, if she left in the middle of the night no one would have seen her leave his room. Just this one time she thanks the gods that her room is much nearer compared to the Queen’s Rooms which is on an entirely different wing. Otherwise, her walk of shame will be longer.

She entered her room and she washed first, wiping the dried seed on her thighs and the sweat on her chest. The King took her three times last night, something that the Septa did not tell her. She thought after he spilled his seed, she will be allowed respite but King Viserys woke her up two more times, gasping and moaning in her ears. Even worse, he whispered Queen Aemma’s name when he spilled.

She scrubbed harder until the skin on her inner thighs were red and tender and the maid bade her to exit the tub and break her fast.

She was already in a fresh gown when her Aunt entered her room.

“Lady Aunt.” She said suppressing the urge to curtsy at the older woman. Lynese Hightower is a round woman in the fourth decade of her life. Like everyone in the Old Town she wears a gown that balloons on her waist. She wears a crinoline under her skirt that creates a wide, bell-shapedsilhouette. It creates a wide circumference around her that gives considerable space between her and people around her. It is important to the Faith they propriety is properly observe and wearing crinoline allows them to do that.

She always wanted to wear one but she was too young when she stayed in Old Town and here in the Capital crinoline is not in fashion. Mayhaps, she will be the first one to wear it and when the Ladies see her, they will start wearing one as well. She smiled, yes, she can do that.

“Alicent, what happened?” her Aunt asked with a frown on her face.

She looked at her curiously. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“There had been whispers in the halls, the sheets that was presented in the Council Chamber is white!” she exclaimed holding on the Seven-Pointed Star that she wears on as her necklace. “Why did you tell me that nothing happened to you and the King during those months that you were visiting him? We could have avoided this humiliation if only you told me the truth!”

She gasped at that, tears threatening to spill in her eyes. “That’s impossible, Aunt Lynese! I saw the maids take the bloodied sheets myself!”

“Where’re the maids?” her aunt asked loudly.

The maids assigned to her was asked inside and they swore that the sheets they took from the bed was clean and it was handed directly to the King’s groom accompanied by the Lord Commander of the Kingsguards. She wanted to slap every one of them and force them to tell the truth but her Aunt snapped at her saying that being hysterical will not help.

She cried silently, her face hidden in her hands. “What is to happen to me now?”

“Nothing.” Her Aunt answered. “You are the Queen, wedded and bedded, it is done but the humiliation…” she huffed and tried to fan her red face. “It does not matter. Make sure that you serve the King faithfully. Be gentle and kind, always have a soft smile on your face. The King is already fond of you, you only need to make sure he remains so.”

Rhaenyra POV

She smiled as Lady Caswell relayed how many tapestries that depict the Seven Who Are One had been sent by the Hightowers since the new Queen had wed the King.

“I am a devout woman of Faith but it’s ridiculous! The servants had alreadyput two layers of the tapestries on the Queen’s solar and there’s still a lot that they started hanging it on her ceilings.” The older woman said with a grimaced on her face.

Lord Alun Caswell had been the Red Keep’s Castellan since her father had assumed the Throne. Thus, there is no one more knowledgeable of what’s happening in the Red Keep than him. And of course, the more feminine aspect was, most of the time, being handled by his wife.

“Mayhaps, the Hightowers intended the tapestries to be hanged not only on the Queen’s Room, my Lady.” She said innocently.

Everyone gasped. “They can’t seriously want to change the Aesthetics of the Keep?” Lady Darklyn said. “The Keep had been decorated by Targaryen and Valyrian Relics since it was completed, they surely would not want to interfere!”

Lady Massey snorted. “They already interfered, my ladies, that’s why we have a new Queen not even six moons after our Beloved Queen Aemma had left us.”

Even Lady Redwyne snorted in distaste. Alicent’s mother was a Redwyne but the current Lady Redwyne was once a Mathis, her previous companion. She does not have a lot of good things to say to her former friend much less her daughter. Lady Redwyne probably has the sharpest tongue among the Ladies in Court.

She was not supposed to be included on the tea with the other married woman of Court, she was expected to entertain her own Ladies and the unmarried daughters of the Courtiers but she wanted to make sure that the Matriarch of every family that lives in the Red Keep will not forget her so soon after they crowned a new Queen.

Her mother had always brought her to tea with the Ladies at Court, she only eats with them and then play nearby but she was always in their sight, they are already used to her presence so even if her mother is not here, they do not see anything remiss. She will make sure that everyone will look only to her and not to Alicent who is meek as a mouse.

“Oh, Your Grace.” Lady Prunella Darklyn said and everyone stood up to give the new Queen a respectable curtsy.

She smiled at Alicent but did not stand up from where she was sitting. “Sit down, Alicent and join us for some cake.” She said pleasantly.

Immediately the servants procured another chair for the new Queen and served her with food. Alicent smiled at her and nodded at the other Ladies who were looking at her expectantly.

“It is a good thing I was able to see you here, my Ladies. It’s such a nice day for a picnic in the gardens.” Alicent said.

“We’re normally always here in the morning, Your Grace, you would know if you deign to reach out to us after your wedding.” Lady Redwyne said putting honey on her tea.

She can see Alicent’s smile falter at the obvious rebuke. “Forgive me, Lady Redwyne, my Ladies, I’ve been much busy serving the King.”

“Oh, we know!” the elderly Lady Prunella said with a giggle like she’s a maiden. “The servants had been gossiping how for the past two months you had not missed going to the King’s bedchamber even once!”

“And that the King had to turn you away the past three days because the poor man is exhausted!” Lady Massey said.

Alicent looks ready to burst into tears, she’s so red she looks like a cooked lobster. “I’m only doing my duty!”

“Queen Alicent, given that you do not have a mother to teach you these things let me tell it to you.” Lady Redwyne said. “The King has a lot of responsibilities; he needs proper rest and repose. You should have consulted the Maester when the most optimal time of conception is and that’s when you need to bed the King. I believe the King’s servants and grooms are already aware of it and had done their preparation but you constantly forcing yourself on him almost daily is highly improper!”

“And the King will go to your chamber if he has needs of you, you do not have to traipse the Holdfast to go to him like a whor*.” Lady Darklyn added.

Alicent looks horrified, her face pale and wan. “I-I didn’t know—”

“It’s alright, Your Grace, we know your education is severely lacking given your status of being just the Princess’ maid, but that’s why we are here to help you.” Lady Massey said and patted the Queen’s hand reassuringly.

“Oh my, Princess Rhaenyra, forgive us for being blunt, but things like these needs to be corrected early on lest the Maidens in the Keep hear what the Queen is doing and might think it is the proper thing.” Lady Prunella said.

“It’s already hard enough to tell them that climbing a man’s bed before marriage is unacceptable when the person who did it was given a crown instead of being given to the faith.” Lady Redwyne grimace.

“Oh, don’t worry about me, I would gladly appreciate all your advises.” She said and smiled demurely at the elder women. These women are the same one who had been calling Queen Aemma barren and infertile for failing to bring forth a son. Now, they will be her allies in curbing Alicent’s influence in court. Already her reputation and confidence are extremely low. She just needs to keep her docile and meek, she will make sure that this time, Alicent will not have the chance to be that bitter and vindictive woman who put the Realm to the torch for her own ambitions.

She stood up and said her goodbyes to the Ladies who smiled and curtsied respectfully at her while she offered her arm to Alicent like how they used to do when they were younger. She saw her smile cheerfully at her.

“Do not take their words to heart, you know how bitter those hags were.” She said as thy walk back towards the Holdfast.

“Princess!” Alicnet chastised, looking around to make sure no one heard her.

Rhaenyra patted her hand then leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Do you know how my mother died?” she asked suddenly.

Alicent looked at her in confusion. “She died in the birthing bed.”

“But do you know how she died?”

Alicent shook her head no, uncomfortable with the topic.

“The Grand Maester said my brother was turned wrong and my mother was too weak to push. He said if they did not do anything the babe will die so he advised my father to cut my mothers belly open to release the babe.” The Queen looked at her with horror written on her face. “They held her down on the bed and cut her from sex to chest while she begged my father not to do it. The midwives said they still hear her screams sometimes.”

Alicent looks like she’s going to throw up but she held her arm tightly.

“My father had said that Queen Aemma was his one true love, they grew up together starting when she was ten and he still had her killed for a babe that did not even live for a full day. What do you think he will do to you, a plain girl fathered by a landless knight who can only boast of being related to a wealthy House? Let’s hope he will not cut you like a pig the first time he gets you with child.” She smiled sweetly at Alicent and went on her way. She still has embroidery lessons with her Ladies.

Chapter 2

Notes:

I'm telling y'all this story is dark dark, if you're not prepared you can now exit the page lol.

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

She can hear the Queen’s screams of pain as she lights the glass candle with her own blood and a whispered prayer. For the past year since she woke up from that nightmare, she had been familiarizing herself with Maegor’s secret passages. The few servants who knew of it were discreetly disposed of by Ser Harwin Strong, her new Sworn Shield. Larys Strong she personally dealt with. It was easy to wait for him in a dark alcove and pushed him in a steep incline.

He was still alive when she checked and it was easy bashing his head on the stone floor. the man was rather fragile after all. It was much harder pulling his body out on one of the entrances that leads to blackwater Bay and letting him be taken by the waves. Until now Lord Strong had not seen his body yet no matter how many times the man sent his own men to look for his son. He was probably eaten by crows or by the stray dogs. It does not really matter.

When she’s not busy doing charities in the City or helping her father with the Red Keep's upkeep she was ensconced in Maegor’s hidden library devouring Queen Visenya’s books on blood magic.

Oh, the number of things the First Queen of Westeros had left her! There are so many branches of magic, but the fundamental are Elemental Magic. It was written that the Mages in Valyria had been able to control the four elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air.

The construction of Valyria, the ancient and legendary city of the Valyrian Freehold, had used the mastery and manipulation of the four elements in remarkable ways.

Valyrian architects and sorcerers used controlled flames to shape and forge the city's buildings and infrastructure from stone and metal. They employed advanced pyromancy techniques melt and mold stone like clay, allowing for the creation of intricate and awe-inspiring structures with flowing, organic forms reminiscent of dragons or flame. Dragonstone is a testament of their prowess.

The element of water had been utilized for practical purposes such as irrigation, sanitation, and transportation within Valyria. Canals and aqueducts had been constructed to channel water from nearby rivers or reservoirs to supply the city's inhabitants with fresh water for drinking, bathing, and agricultural use. Water magic, practiced by skilled hydromancers, were used to control and manipulate the flow of water, ensuring its efficient distribution throughout the city.

The element of earth had been utilized to strengthen the foundation upon which Valyria was built. Earth magic were used to strengthen and stabilize the city's foundations, protecting it from the seismic activity and volcanic eruptions that characterized the region.Valyrian engineers used advanced techniques of stonecutting, quarrying, and masonry to carve out the city's structures from the rugged volcanic terrain surrounding the Fourteen Flames.

Air magic, practiced by skilled aeromancers, manipulated air currents, create cooling breezes, and even lifting and transporting heavy objects through levitation.

She knows the most advanced mages with most excellent instructors took years to master just one element and she may not be able to do that but she focused on the element that sings to her heart the most. Fire.

Another more arcane arts is Blood Magic which she found out she excels at. Blood magic is a form of magic that involves the use of blood to perform spells or rituals. It is often considered a dark or forbidden branch of magic due to its invasive and potentially harmful nature. The scrolls said the Mages used Blood Magic to bring forth the first dragons. Valyria's greatest creation. The art was already gone but every scholars agreed that Dragons were made by cross-breeding fyrewyrms with a winged creature and then binding them to the blood of the Fourty Families.But the most important thing in any ritual or sacrifices is intent. And she had never been more motivated and driven by purpose since her mother was murdered.

The sole purpose of her existence now is to make the people who hurt and betrayed her suffer. Starting from her Father and his whor* Queen.

She got the golden egg from her satchel and wrapped it around the Alicent’s maiden sheet the proceeded squeezed the cut on her palm. She let her blood dip on the egg and see it sizzle, smoke going up in the air. She recited the chant she had memorized from Visenya’s book as Alicent’s screams from the background goes louder.

She can feel herself go hot, as hot as when this egg’s hatchling burned her and stabbed the egg with all her might with Visenya’s Valyrian Steel dagger. She can hear a loud violent roar that made her ears ring until it faded as quickly as it came.

She was expecting some resistance from the egg but it was like plunging her knife into butter. She opened the sheets to look at the egg but it cracked at the lightest touch. Instead of a dragon, inside was the body of an infant with well-defined facial features, tiny fingers and toes but its skin was translucent and purple, it was absent of breath.

She put her bloodied hand on top of the flame and she can see her wound closing itself. Once not even a mark of her previous wound was evident, she took the sheets with the egg and walked towards the end of the long corridor. It took her effort and she was already huffing when she was able to open the secret door that opens directly to a cliff. She tossed her package carelessly down the rocky terrain. She looked down to see that the sheet was carried by the wind and the small body crashed on a big sharp boulder.

‘Goodbye, Aegon, The Usurper.’

She sniffed with disdain and closed the stone door again with difficulty. It was even more difficult to lower down the lever that will lock it from the inside. She walked back and admired the glowing glyphs on the side of the wall that lights her way. No wonder Maegor killed the builders that built the Keep. There's so many arcane secrets here that the frightful Lords will find unnatural.

She came back to her previous position and turned to extinguish the candle with another whispered chant. She can hear Alicent crying from the other side of the room and the midwives and acolytes whispering. She opened the hidden latch that will enable her to see what’s happening inside.

Her father was already beside his wife trying to comfort her but was unable to look at the babe in her arms. The Hand of the King was whispering hurried command son the Grand Maester and the acolytes, he was pale and there was fear in his eyes. Very far from the arrogant looks he often times wear whenever he sees her since he had successfully whor*d his daughter for a crown. She saw how his hands were shaking as he look at the pool of blood surrounding the Queen's bed.

She chuckled and closed the latch again and went back the familiar way to her own room.

She walked leisurely with Ser Harwin looming at her back. She can see the fearful looks on the servant’s faces. Words of the Queen’s miscarriage had already spread. She sniffed delicately. They should be used to it, didn’t people say that Queen Aemma only bring forth dead babes? Why should this one be any different? The last time they burned her mother’s babe is only a little more than a year ago.

She saw the Grand Maester carrying a box from across the corridor, he will pass a group of unmarried Ladies that are clustered on a bend. She can see Bethany Hightower, Desmera Cuy, Maris Rowan, Lenora Caswell and her own Ladies-in-Waiting Anella Strong, Lyarra Karstark, Allana Tyrell and Johanna Westerling whispering to each other.

“Ladies.” She greeted, they all looked startled but curtsied immediately.

“Princess, are you going to see the Queen?” Lady Allana Tyrell asked.

“I heard—I wanted to see my father.” She said, sadness lacing her voice.

Everyone looked down and whispered their own condolences. She thanked them and said she need to hurry to the King’s said and lifted her skirt to walk in haste only to be thrown back when the Grand Maester suddenly appeared.

“Princess!” The Ladies exclaimed.

It was Ser Harwin’s strong and firm hands that stabilized her otherwise she would have been sprawled on the floor like the elderly Grand Maester was.

“Oh my gods, it’s a monster!” Lady Allana cried and went down on her knees reciting a prayer from the Book of the Seven. Her eyes closed firmly.

She looked down and just a few steps away from her is the box that the gray rat was carrying, the dead remains of the Queen’s babe was splattered on the cold stone floor. It was a dead dragon with the face of a human babe but with a snout. Some scales are missing, exposing raw, tender flesh beneath. The wings, mere buds at this early stage of development, are scarcely more than fragile membranes stretched between slender bones.

The Ladies all flattened themselves on the wall too afraid to get near the thing.

“Is that the Queen’s babe?” one asked.

“Maegor’s babes were said to be like that, half-dragon, half-human.” another one said.

“Queen Aemma’s babes are not like that!”

“This one has cursed blood!”

The acolytes gathered the draconic remain with barely contained disgust and put it back on the box and hurried away. The Grand Maester apologized profusely before he too left but in a more sedate pace.

She looked at the Ladies. “I think it will be better if you go back to your rooms.”

They all nodded and hurried on the opposite and more lenghty direction that the Grand Maester and the Acolytes took to, no doubt, spread words of what they saw.

She thanked Ser Harwin and continued on their way going inside the single entrance to Maegor’s Holdfast. After the Ritual she went back to her room, wiped the grime off her body with a wet cloth and then changed her gown into a deep blood red one then went back to the passages and exited on the Godswood where her Sworn Shield was waiting.

In another life she would love Ser Harwin and he would give her three brown-haired boys that she would love so much. Three strong boys who would be the subject of ridicule and scorn of the whole court that they had fretted going out in public. She would not let that happen this time. No children, no matter how loved they are, should be subjected to the cruelty of the sharp tongues of Court and the mockery of the Seven Kingdoms.

Instead, now she has him on her back as a protector again. A friend who has her trust and someone who will do anything for her including bloodying his hands. She knows he’s loyal not just because of her but because he is one of the Gold Cloaks that Daemon trained and draped his prized golden cloaks on.

Even now, she’s relying on Daemon’s reputation to gather her strength. She can see how stupid she was. She was a Princess of the Blood but she let a plain faced Andal girl and his vile father to run her out of her own home. She did little to shore up her own influence always burying herself in her own grief and making rash decisions after rash decisions. Even after she took King’s Landing she was run off again because of ill-advised choices she made.

She now knows that she was not ready to sit the Iron Throne. She was only a little better than her drunken, rapist usurper brother.

She put a concerned look on her face as she saw her father on the corridor that led to Alicent’s chamber, the Hand of the King with him.

“Father, I heard.” She said as she squeezed his hands. “I’m so sorry.”

‘You will experience more heartbreak, King Viserys. You will prefer being a living corpse more.’

“My daughter, thank you, my dear.” He said tiredly and kissed her on the forehead. “There is nothing to be done here, I suggest you retire to your chamber to rest.”

“I will, father, but I want to see Alicent first.” She said.

The King grimaced, disgust barely concealed in his eyes but nodded at her. “Make sure you will not stay long… the Queen… she needs her rest.”

She agreed and went ahead to Alicent’s room while her father is still talking to Ser Harwin.

Alicent was already changed into a clean sleeping gown. There’s still a faint smell of blood in the air and the servants did not even bother opening even one of the windows to air out the room.

Alicent was reclining on a mountain of feather pillows, she was wan and pale but smiled when she saw her.

“Oh, Alicent, I’m so sorry.” She said as she sat on the chair beside her bed. She saw the Queen lift her hand as if wanting to hold hers but she remained unmoved. “Father is heartbroken.”

Alicent put her hand down and looked at her lap. “I know… I will try harder.”

“I know you would.” She said. “You’ve always been dutiful, Alicent, I know you will give the King a perfect son next and not that… monster.”

She looked up at her horrified.

She smiled at her in pity. “I was with the ladies when the Grand Maester bumped into me and dropped the box they put it in. It looked horrifying!”

“Th-they saw—"

“Don’t worry I’m sure they will keep it to themselves.” She assured her. They both know that will not happen. She knows that Lady Johanna and Lady Allana will be writing home to their parents about the horror that came out between Alicent’s thighs. “You just have to rest and get stronger so you can try again. The next one needs to be perfect.”

Alicent nodded at her, Ser Harwin appeared on the open door.

“Princess, the King advised that you minimized your time with the Queen. He said…” He faltered but braved on. “He said he did not want you tainted by whatever curse or sorcery that the Queen was inflicted with.”

She gasped and stood up immediately. “Right, I hope you recover quickly, Alicent.” She hurried away.

Chapter 3

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

After less than a year of her first still birth, Alicent gave birth to a girl. The King was please he got a normal child but not overly happy it was a girl.

“Isn’t she the most beautiful babe?” Alicent asked, beaming as she held the child to her chest.

“Oh, my Rhaenyra was the most beautiful babe!” The King said. “Other newborn looks red and squished but Rhaenyra already has her features so defined when she was born, her perfect button nose, her small mouth. She was just magnificent!” The King looked at her and held her hand lovingly. “You really are the Realm’s Delight, my dear.” He said

“Thank you, Father.” She demurred, happy to see how Alicent’s face crumbled and how her mouth trembled as if she’s a babe and will start to cry.

“But Helaena is pretty as is all Targaryen. The most important thing is she’s healthy.” The King said and then motioned for Lady Celia Celtigar to get the child. The older woman was her governess growing up, she’s the one supervising her day to day schedule since she was a girl. She’s also the one who advised her father to bring maesters so they can instruct her in the subjects of their own expertise.

Alicent looked panicked as Lady Celtigar took the babe and exited out of the room, she looked at the Hand who was also grimacing.

“My King, it may be better to have the Queen take care of the babe, children thrive better with their mother.”

“No, no… Alicent needs to rest so she can recover faster.” The King said with a nonchalant wave of his hand. “Lady Celia have chosen the best nurses to take care of her, Helaena will be fine.”

The hand and the Queen reluctantly agreed.

“Rest well, my dear.” The King said and patted Alicent awkwardly on the head.

“Come along, Rhaenyra.” He called.

“I will stay here with Alicent for a while, father.” She said.

“No, no, no! I told you to minimize your time with her for your own protection. Order a bath in your room. Scalding as you prefer it?” he said and she just smiled at him. “Better throw that dress as well. We need to be careful.” He whispered but it was clearly heard by the Hand and the Queen who were both visibly upset.

She wanted to laugh at the sour look on Otto’s face. The snake thought he can control the King by whoring his daughter to him but only ended up being the subject of much humiliation and mockery. His daughter is not even allowed to show her face in Court after birthing a beast.

Her father had called the Valyrian High Priest from Dragonstone. She did not know exactly what they talked about but ever since her father had forbidden her to spend a longer amount of time with the Queen. Not that they spent time together more than a few short conversations since the whor* married her father.

She gathered that the High Priest thinks that Alicent’s blood when combined with blood of the dragon corrupts the babe. High Priest Brynden, who was Lord Celtigar’s uncle, said there had been some manuscript and scrolls talking about babe born with scales and tails even some with wings but not one with a babe that is purely draconic in nature. The latest ones were Maegor’s children to his Black Brides but even they were not born resembling dragons to such extent. The High Priest took the babe’s remain so he can preserve and analyze it in Dragonstone.

If there is one more thing that King Viserys looks up to is omens and dreams and prophecies. And the High Priest had drawn him a very scary picture.

The Queen was only allowed three maids to attend her, all of whom were instructed not to interact excessively with other servants in the Keep. She’s also only allowed to visit the gardens a few hours three times a week. The three Septa she has on her employ had been very diligent in making sure that she honors her duty to the gods and they visit the Sept inside the Keep every day. The Septon is said to offer many hours of prayer to remove any traces of devilry on the Queen.

Everyone in King’s Landing was aware of the abomination that was birth by the Queen and they were afraid of what it could mean. Some said she performs black magic to seduce the King and the evil spirits transformed her child into a monster as a toll. Some says that the King was cursed by Queen Aemma as she bled that he will not have any more living children. That every child that comes out of the King’s loins after she died will be malformed or black of heart.

Her Ladies are always giving her outrageous gossips from Court, the only thing they enjoy more than salacious scandals are the dark ones that surrounds the King and the Queen.

She supped with her Ladies and then made sure that all the clothes they will be giving the orphanage in the Feast for the Mother is done. Summer had officially started and she wants to make sure that the children in King’s Landing will have appropriate clothes for the season. Summer in King’s landing can be hot and humid especially in Flea Bottom where there is little ventilation and the shacks are piled on top of the other.

The Royal Seamstress had also collected her spring clothes to be put on storage and filled her wardrobe with new lightweight fabrics with more loose and flowy silhouettes in lighter colors and pastel hues. She will turn six and ten in in a few months and they had tailored her dresses to be that of someone in the cusp of womanhood. Lady Amanda Arryn, her mother’s previous Lady-in-waiting and half-sister, was very particular with that. They need to see her not as a child but as a woman grown who will rule on the Iron Throne in the future.

She bid her ladies goodbye as they finished helping her get ready for bed. As soon as the last one was out she pushed the door that leads her to Maegor’s secret room.

The war of the Stepstone will be over in a few months, she tried to help as much as she can by hastening the greyscale on the Crabfeeder. She thought of infecting all the other Myrish pirates as well but the target is too broad and too far removed from her to act directly, she’s not confident their men will not be infected too and it requires too much of her blood she was not sure she will not pass out here in the belly of the Red Keep.

She lighted up the glass candle with her blood and with a whispered prayer and it showed her Rhea Royce. She’s ten years older than her uncle Daemon, she looks robust and probably as wide and as muscular as Ser Harwin but she has a pretty face. Very far from the sheep her Uncle always describe her as. She’s currently riding in the mountainous tracks in the vale with four more people to keep her company.

She closed her eyes and started praying.

She let Helaenamashed her banana with her pudgy fist before putting it on her mouth. The little girl smiled at her and asked for some more. She put four more cut pieces and a piece of bacon. Helaena has little tolerance with meat preferring fruits and vegetables instead but Lady Celtigar said it is important that she eat meats as well to keep up her energy.

The nurses said in a few months the babe will be toddling behind her. She’s been crawling and climbing every furniture in her rooms that she had ordered everything breakable to be removed.

Helaena is a happy child and this time she will make sure that her sister will remain so. No Blood and Cheese will mar her sister’s innocence this time around.

Helaena is only nine moons old but Alicent is already seven moons pregnant. Due to her delicate condition her sister is only allowed chaperoned limited time with her, something that makes Alicent so bitter towards her.

She does not know why Alicent blames her for the predicament she’s into when it was the King who decided to limit her time with Helaena.

Even being confined and having minimum contact with her Alicent still turned against her. She’s now despising her ability to spend time with Helaena whenever she wants. It was not her fault that the King thinks her cursed. Alicent had been very snappish at her so she stopped visiting her altogether, she does not have the patience to deal with a nasty, vicious cow even if it’s for show.

This Alicent is not a threat to her and never will be.

“Princess, we will take princess Helaena to the Queen now.” One of the nurses said.

She nodded at her and kissed Helaena’s cheeks before she’s taken away to be cleaned.

She moved back towards her solar and started reading through the reports from her agents. Ser Harwin had contacted Mysaria and got her to spy for her. She does not trust her and as soon as Natalia, Mysaria’s second-in- command, has full control of her network she will get rid of the White worm.

She smiled as she reads the first ones.

‘Lord Hobert Hightower was booed going back to the Hightower after attending a service at the Starry Sept.’

‘Some artists defaced the gate at the Hightower with a caricature of maidens wearing gowns stitched with the Hightowers climbing a man’s bed.’

“Gerold Hightower was clubbed by unknown Septas as he was praying alone in a Sept.’

Ever since everyone was made aware that Alicent were visiting the King in his chambers on the night of the late Queen’s funeral there had been rebellions within the Faith. Numerous Septons and Septas had been horrified to hear that the family who had been the foremost supporter and follower of the Faith had technically whor*d out their daughter for a crown.

Even if they constantly pay the Most Devout and the High Septon exorbitant amount of money the regular Septons and Septas do not really see that money. Add to the fact that it was well known what Alicent bore for the King, it just justified her sins in their eyes.

Some Poor Fellow had been heard stating that Alicent will only ever give the King deformed children because the gods reject this union.

The Hightowers reputation had been in tatters. It had caused them trade deals and most officials had been insubordinate. It was just some inconsequential things like the dockmasters not documenting cargoes thoroughly causing thousands of coins lost on taxes, the builders not adhering to their scheduled work hours causing delays in repairs and a lot more.

The Hightowers are losing their hold on the City and they know it. Otto had been busy trying to minimize and prevent more damages but given that he’s not endeared himself to most of the Lord Paramounts and Major Houses spending years isolating the King and undermining them he’s not very successful.

She sighed as she burned all letters on the fire. They will experience more hardships in the years to come. Especially the hand. She looked at the small black book on the side and opened it on a marked page. The Codex of Arcane Rites, belonged to Elaena Targaryen, Daeny's the Dreamer's mother. It lists Invocation Rituals, Elemental Evocations, Divination Techniques, Alchemic Formulas and so much more. It was just a simple blank book but it took her a year of carefully deciphering Visenya's diary to activate it. It only needs a little bit of Tragaryen blood a whispered Valyrian prayer to Balerion the most occult rituals and practices were made available to her.

‘Moonfyre disease is a dark lunar ritual to harness the negative energies of the moon…’

Otto Hightower POV

He grimaced as the Celtigar woman took the babe from her daughter. She is being housed in the Royal Nursery which is on the Queen’s Wing, a floor below the Royal Apartments. Alicent had been nagging him about talking to the King to allow her to spend more than an hour three times a week with her daughter but the King is adamant that the child spend minimal time with the Queen with the ridiculous idea that his daughter is somewhat cursed or contaminated.

As if the Targaryens are not the one with unholy tradition of marrying within their family and has a strange affinity with dragons. If anyone is to blame with the devil that was inside his daughter for seven moons it was the King! He had talked with his brother telling him how scared Alicent is about birthing another reptilian child but he only sent more septas and septons to pray for the babe.

Alicent’s marriage was supposed to bring them closer to the Throne, now he had to work harder to stamped out gossips and whispers about his daughter while trying to convince the King to end Alicent’s confinement and allow her to fulfill her Queenly duties.

Instead, the stupid King had been adamant on isolating the Queen and had the audacity to hand the control of the Inner Court in the care of the Princess. Even as a Hand he does not have the power to meddle in the issues of the Inner Court. The Inner Court mainly surrounds around the Royal family. Their servants, guards, Masters of Rites and Ceremonies. That means now, the Princess controls a large amount of the Royal treasury, she’s also the one planning different feasts and banquets that the King enjoys throwing. She’s the one in control of the security and servants that attend Maegor’s Holdfast. Something that the Queen should be doing.

“Father, please!” Alicent cried as she took a hold of his hands.

“Shut up and composed yourself!” he snapped at her. “If you could get yourself in the King’s graces again he will allow you to be with your child but all you do is brood and wallow in your own misery! You’re pregnant again, Alicent, this one needs to be a Prince so we can get the King’s approval!”

“I’ve done my duty! In two moons I will be subjecting myself to the birthing bed to bring forth his heir, I am the Queen! I want my daughter with me!!!”

He wanted to slap her, all these hysterics and outbursts are just fostering more ill-thought towards her. The servants and guards talk no matter how much coin you bribe them. And as Alicent’s belly grow rounder with child so are her manias and agitation.

He held her shoulders to make her lay on the bed but she screeched and scratched him on the face. He let her go and hiss and look at her in disappointment. There she is again in her sweaty sleeping shift, with her belly so large she looks about ready to pop and still having a tantrum like a child.

“What is going on here?”

He turned around and bowed to the King who must be coming back from his walk with the Princess in one of the gardens.

“Viserys! Please, husband!” The Queen said as she tried to stand up but failed to due to her stomach. “Helaena, I need Helaena! She should be with me, I’m her mother!”

“Helaena is perfectly being looked after by her nurses! You just saw her.” The King said.

“Sire, if I may, the Queen is too far along in her pregnancy to be so distressed. Would it not be better to have Princess Helaena with her to sooth her nerves?” he said appearing humble and subservient.

The King exhaled deeply. “Alright, but only until the sun goes down.” He said.

He bowed at him and thanked the King as Alicent cried in relief.

“Get me Lord Caswell.” The King said to his Head Groom. “Perhaps it’s better to have the Queen moved away from my rooms, it’s exhausting having to hear her always crying and shouting.” He said and left.

He waited for the nurse to come back with Helaena before he went back to the Tower of the Hand. He sighed, it feels like all the progress they had with Alicent being made Queen was all for naught. His brother is already sending him multiple letters a week about the importance of a male Heir.

His brother had already established frequent correspondence with the Westernland in guise of their on-going trade agreement but without a male heir they cannot make more overt alliances. The Faith will also not move without just cause. This pregnancy needs to be successful. Hobert had not only sent him more maesters from the Citadel but also more foods and other things that might help with the pregnancy.

He looked at the overflowing reports and letters on his desk and sighed. He read the scroll from the Vale first detailing the death of Rhea Royce. She was thrown off her horse, her horse run away with her leg still in the stirrup and it took off with her. Her companions were not able to stop the horse until too late. She lingered for three days until she succumbed to a fever due to swelling on her head.

He cursed loudly. This will free Daemon to the marriage market and he cannot allow that. The Velaryons has an eligible and flowered daughter they can offer him but that will mean he will have the riches and the fleet of Driftmark on his back. He needs to inquire for a bride for him. Maybe Daemon will be stupid enough to marry the whor* he had at Dragonstone before?

No, that will not do. It needs to be someone with high enough status but without considerable backing.

He put the letter on another tray and worked on the other reports. The sun was going down when there was a commotion outside his door. He was going to ignore it but Gwayne opened his door with a loud bang.

“What insolence is this Gwayne?” he thundered, his face dark.

“Helaena… the Queen… father, Alicent she—”

“Use your words, Gwayne!” he said and felt satisfaction when he flinched, his son, a Knight grown, who is now the Commander of the City Watch still have fear of him.

“Alicent slept with Helaena besides her but… she accidentally smothered her in her sleep. Helaena is dead father and Alicent is miscarrying!” He said quietly.

He closed his eyes. Seven Hells!

Chapter 4

Notes:

"Italics"=High Valyrian, mainly between Nyra and Daemon

Please read tags and proceed with caution, thanks!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

She watched as the Silent Sisters gently washed Helaena’s tiny body, their hands moving with tenderness as they cleansed away the traces of her earthly existence. With each stroke of the cloth, they whispered prayers for her soul, seeking solace in the rituals of the Faith of the Seven.

They wrapped the little Princess in swathes of fine linen, each fold accompanied by a silent prayer for her journey into the next life. With each layer of cloth, they whispered blessings and incantations, invoking the protection of the Seven to guide her soul safely to the realms beyond. The scent of fragrant herbs and oils filled the air making her head hurt. She balled her hand so tight she can feel her nails biting into the skin of her palms.

She felt Lady Lyarra held her hand to ease her. All of her Ladies begged off going with her to the Burial Chamber due to fear, except for Lyarra Karstark. It’s not surprising though, the Northerners are made of harder stock.

“What happened? Helaena was perfectly healthy when you took her from my room.” She asked coldly.

One of the nurses who were kneeling down in the corner sniffed in fear. “T-he Queen was crying when we took her back to her rooms, she was shouting and hysterical… the King sent his page to bring back the princess to the Queen’s rooms. The Princess was already asleep so we just put her on the bed beside the Queen and then they made us leave the room. “

The younger one continued. “She was there the whole afternoon, we were already worried because she was supposed to get her bottle but the guards said they are still sleeping and then the Queen screamed and said the Princess was dead and that she was sorry and she did not mean to.”

“We really did not see anything, Princess Rhaenyra they refused to let us inside until the Hand and his son came inside the room and then the Grand Maester said she died in her sleep which is normal for a babe as small as her.”

She walked towards one of the silent sister and motioned for her to remain as the other ones left the room, their duties done for now.

The woman looks to be in her fiftieth year, her face was gaunt and wrinkled as she bowed to her, refusing to look her in the eye.

“I know you cannot talk, but can you… confirm how the princess died?”

The woman looked at her with fear in her eyes then looked at the small body wrapped in linen. She then put her hand towards her chest and press hard then looked back at Helaena.

“Was she pushed?” she asked in confusion but the woman shook her head and the put her hand on the stone slab and them pushed down. “Was she crushed?” she asked and the woman nodded. “Was it intentional?” she asked again. The woman shook her head and then curtsied and left.

“You don’t think the Queen purposely did this?” Lady Lyarra asked. “She’s her child! The Hightowers need any kind of legitimacy they can get, that’s why the Hand had been pressuring the Queen to provide children one after the other.”

“Would a girl be useful to them?” she whispered. She’s grown fond of Helaena, she’s a happy girl whose always pleasant to be around. She rarely cries, always smiling and bubbling at her but she knows enough not to let her heart fall in love with the child. She’s still Alicent’s daughter, The Green Queen,who did nothing while her husband toasted the death of her Luke.

“They need any child they could get. The one on the Queen’s belly may not even survive. The maids said the Queen is already on active labor, the Maester couldn’t do anything to stop it. But the child is in the wrong position since she’s only on her seventh month.”

She bit her lip trying not to smile.

The babe was in the wrong position?

That sounds awfully like what her mother had gone through. Who knows, she may not have to do anything for Alicent to be gutted like a pig like her mother was.

She let Lady Lyarra take her back to her rooms where her other Ladies had already prepared her a bath. They know she needed time and space now. She told them to go back to their rooms too and to let her know when the Queen had already given birth.

Or died.

She was awoken by Lady Tyrell to tell her that the Queen had delivered the babe safely but the child had died.

What?

She looked at her Ladies who all looked horrified.

“Tell me.” She said.

“One of the acolytes said the Queen was already too exhausted to push, she was just crying due to Princess Halaena’s death. So they… they… I can’t say it Princess I’m sorry!” Lady Anella cried and put her face in her hands.

Lady Lyarra sat down beside her. “The Maester had to removed the babe out of her in pieces. It took them a long time but they were able to remove all of it and save the Queen.” She whispered.

She plopped back down on her pillow, her face white. She can hear her Ladies calling for her in a panic, Lady Johanna asking for the maids to call a Maester, they probably thought she was so horrified by what was done to the babe but all she can feel is rage.

How is it that her mother, Aemma Arryn, daughter of a Lord Paramount, Daughter of a Princess, Granddaughter of a King and Queen, was gutted like a fish while an insignificant daughter of a landless knight was saved?

She does not know how long she was just staring in space until she felt one of the Maesters took her hand to check her pulse. She pushed him away and stood up and asked to be helped into her riding leathers.

The Maester protested wanting to make sure that she’s alright but Lady Lyarra snapped at him and ushered him out. She put on her leathers automatically only allowing for a simple long braid over her shoulders before she walked purposely towards the Royal Apartments.

She can feel Ser Harwin and Ser Erryk hurrying behind her as she moved past the guards lining every corridor entrance and did not even greet the maids and servants who flattened themselves on the wall to not disturb her. The guards in front of the Queen’s Rooms were not able to react when she threw the door open with a bang.

Her father was still sitting besides Alicent’s bed, the Grand Maester still putting the pieces of what was supposed to be Aemond Targaryen into a box while the Hand was standing behind the King with a pinched look in his face.

“Rhaenyra? What is it child?” she heard the King asked probably alarmed at the look of fury on her face.

“Did you kill Helaena?” she asked loudly. The maids, the acolytes and the midwives all froze and looked at her in horror.

“Princess!” The Hand exclaimed. “That is a serious accusation!”

“Shut up, Otto!” she snapped and looked back at Alicent who had tears running down her face. “I saw the silent sisters wrapped her little body, she had blood on her nose and mouth and her chest was caved in. What did you do to my sister?!”

“I didn’t mean it!” Alicent shouted. “I was sleeping, it was the first time I had her in my arms for long, I did not mean it!”

“Helaena was strong and healthy when she left my rooms and you killed her! Baby killer! Kinslayer!” she shouted like a deranged woman.

She heard her father asking the Queen what she means, seems like Otto had already started covering for her murderer daughter. She continued shouting until the Grand Maester tried to put her on a chair to give her milk of the poppy. She scratched his face and pushed him away from her until she felt Ser Harwin and Ser Erryk took her hand and removed her from the room. She can see the shocked faces of the maids and guards and she know before the sun is down everyone will know that Alicent murdered her own child.

She stopped her hysterics when they reached an empty corridor.

“I’m fine.” She said clearing her aching throat. Ser Harwin looked at her in amusem*nt while Ser Erryk stood behind her like a sentry without any question.

She wiped the tears off her face, closed her eyes and centered herself. “Escort me to the Dragonpit, I will fly today.”

As the rain poured down in a relentless torrent, she clung tightly to the leather reign of her dragon, she wrapped it around her hands tightly a few times that her hands appeared deathly pale, her heart heavy with grief and anger. The wind whipped through her hair, mingling with the tears that streamed down her face, lost in the deluge that shrouded the world below.

Beneath them, the landscape blurred into a canvas of muted gray, the vibrant colors of the realm dulled by the storm's fury. Yet, even as the tempest raged around her, she remained resolute, her gaze fixed on the horizon, where dark clouds loomed like specters of sorrow

The specter of her mother's final moments haunted her, she could almost hear her anguished cries, she can see the horror on her eyes as the acolyte held her down while the Grand Maester slit her wide open. Her poor mother.

She must have been so scared, with no one beside her aside from her husband who ordered her death. She heard they did not even give her milk of the poppy so she may sleep through the procedure. She was fully awake when the bastards butchered her.

Syrax roared so loudly it rivaled the thunder that followed the flash of lightning that appeared dangerously close to them. She startled when a trill sounded from behind her. She looked back only to see a bigger dragon with longer body streaking towards them.

Syrax roared once more but this time in delight as Caraxes answered her with a low whistle. Daemon was sitting behind him smiling down at her but frowned when he saw her face. He shouted something that was lost in the torrential rain and thunder but she nodded as she followed his direction. With a determined tilt of her chin, she urged her dragon onward, its powerful wings beating against the storm as they soared higher into the tempestuous nigh.

It was only a short time until they were landing on the Dragonstone Courtyard. She can hear the guards and servants shouting orders but keeping their distance, four Dragon Keepers were on the Courtyard in case the dragons needs tending.

She looked down at Daemon dumbfounded when he took her hands and uncoiled the leathers off. Syrax had never allowed anyone near her while she’s still in the saddle unless it was her Uncle. She forgot such details given how long he had been away on war.

She let him unchain her and collapse into his arms bonelessly, she burrowed her face in his chest, hiding from the rain.

Byka zaldrīzes, are you hurt anywhere?” he asked

She shook her head but did not look up. She felt him put his arms around her shoulder and the other one under her legs as he carried her like he did when she was still a child running to him whenever her father and mother did not agree to something she wanted.

She heard him barked command to draw her a bath and some warm soup and honeyed milk. She tuned everyone out and pretended that she was a child in his arms again. felt safe here, in her Kepa’s arms. Finally, after years and two lifetimes, she felt safe again.

She woke up feeling warm and protected. She opened her eyes only to see Daemon sleeping on the chair besides her bed, his legs were stretched out in front of him on a low stool, his head in an odd angle.

She missed him so much. It had been years since she last saw him in this life and more on the other life. Theirs may not be the greatest love story but they loved each other. Their relationship was complex and multifaceted towards the end of the war with her paranoia and his stubbornness coming between them but Daemon had always been there to protect and defend her. He’s the one constant thing in her life since she was born. He died fighting for her.

She sat up and leaned on the many pillows behind her. She has not fully settled yet when Daemon opened his eyes.

“Princess, are you feeling better?” he asked.

She nodded. “Thank you for taking care of me.” It’s been too long since someone had taken care of me.

“Who else am I going to take care of but you?” He chuckled and stood up to pour water on a goblet. HE came back beside her urging her to drink.

She smiled gratefully at her uncle and sipped. It was warm honeyed water. He still knows my favorites.

“Now, I know that you are an exceptional dragon-rider by what possessed you to fly in the middle of the storm alone? You almost got hit by a lightning!” He exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, I was upset.”

“Maester Gerardys told me, is this about your sister? I didn’t know you were so close to Viserys’ other brat.” He snorted.

“Helaena is a fine girl, we would have been the best of friends but I know now to guard my heart to someone whose loyalty I cannot guarantee. I will remember her fondly but I’m not broken because of her.” She said then sighed. “It was Alicent, she miscarried. The maids said she was almost unconscious and unable to push and the child was turned wrong…”

“The same as your mother.” Daemon said, his face dark.

Of course he knows immediately what hurts her so.

She nodded and buried her face on her hands when she felt tears on her cheeks. “Why is it that father ordered my mother butchered for the promise of an Heir but he chose to save her? What is so especial about the Hightowers that he always chose them over us? "

She felt the bed dipped and then Daemon’s arms were around her. She buried her face on his neck and cried.

“We don’t know the exact situation, zaldrīzes.”

“If mother was on father’s shoes, she will choose him every time!” she protested.

“A mother is different from a father, a King more so." He said. “But you're allowed to grieve, you’re allowed to hate him here and now but we are blood of the Dragons. We’re all that was left of Great Valyria, we have to stand together so that the Lords and Ladies and the Seven Kingdom may not have the chance the Doom was denied of. We cannot allow them to destroy us.”

“Father already allows every one to destroys this family. He dooms us all!”

“I know first hand how weak and feeble Viserys is. If he’s allowed to do as he wished, or as his lickspittle wishes, our House will be the laughing stock of the Realm. Forever trying to appease every Lord and Ladies in Court. That’s why we have to be strong for when Viserys is not. I did not just go to war to spite your father, I did because Rhaenys needed my help. The Velaryons have three grown dragons, the crown cannot afford to alienate them. It does not hurt that this will bolster my reputation more.”

“Which Otto used to malign you further in Court. They call you warmonger.”

“He, along with his sycophants, can malign me all he wants but how many rebellions did you think ended before it even began with just a mention of my name? The King’s wild and chaotic brother who will not hesitate to turn his sword and dragon on the enemy of his house. Once they learned that the War in the Stepstone is done Otto will double his efforts to undermine me but one thing he cannot do anything about is the fear that the Lords feel whenever they say my name. As long as I am alive, they cannot directly antagonize our House. They’re forced to slick on the ground and work in the shadows.”

“Working in the shadows sometimes brings the most reward, without the recognition maybe, but certainly the satisfaction.”

Her Uncle smirked at her. “And what would you know of working in the shadows, niece?”

“A lot.” She said. “Why do you think I’m still the Heir? Because my father does not have a son yet. I made sure he does not have a son yet.”

She wanted to laugh at how wide his eyes were. She stood up and unclenched her right hand. There, in her palm, is a strip of grey cloth she got when the Grand Maester tried to force milk of the poppy on her.

“Come, Uncle, let me show you what I’ve been doing while you were busy burning pirates in the Stepstones.” She stood up, draped the heavy maroon dressing gown over her sleeping shift and pushed a dragon torch holder on the far side of the room. She laughed as Daemon gasped in wonder as the wall fell away to reveal a staircase going up. “Where do you think Maegor got the idea of hidden passages in the Red Keep?”

Otto Hightower POV

He grimaced as Gwayne slit the throat of the Septon before exiting the holding cell. The man had the audacity to petition the King to set aside Alicent as Queen and marry someone else who according to him is not cursed by the gods.

It was a good thing King Viserys is still smarting from Princess Rhaenyra’s tantrum that sent her running to Dragonstone and it was him who sat the Throne today.

He had reiterated to the King how the Royal Family’s business needs not be aired out in public especially something that was so delicate. Princess Rhaenyra acting hysterical and inadvertently starting gossip about such crime that the Queen did not commit is tantamount to treason. She should have been punished thoroughly for that. Yet the man had refused to have her punished for sprouting things that had further cause the decline of the Royal Family’s image. It would have been the perfect time to whisper to the King’s words how unsuited she is as Heir and he’s sure King Viserys would have agreed and stripped her of her title.

But they needed a son first from King Viserys’ own loins. Right now, the Princess still acts as deterrent between Daemon and the Iron Throne.

He had been drowning in correspondence for months now. People asking the veracity of the Princess’ claims, his brother telling him that he needs to ensure their hold on the Iron Throne or he will be asked to make difficult decisions, the Faith, the Citadel.

Everyone is hammering him with questions that were not even owed to them. But still, he needs to play the politician. As of now their position is very tumultuous. Every miscarriage, every whisper of barrenness especially murmurs of sorcery against his daughter weakens them in the eyes of the Realm and the King.

He wiped his face with his hands in frustration. He was so sure that Alicent marrying the King was the start of the rise of House Hightower. She will be able to make changes and influence the King that even he, as Hand, will not be able to do. Everything had started to go downhill with the Princess finding her in the King’s Chamber. The brat had made a scene then too calling his daughter whor* and other horrendous words that should not even be in a Lady, much less a Princess’, vocabulary.

He was still able to salvage Alicent’s reputation by giving coin to the Faith and the promise of a male Heir had reassured the Lords. But then his daughter birth that… beast. He had already given orders to kill all acolytes and midwives present in the room when the damnable Grand Maester let the Ladies at Court see the abomination in the flesh. And now three dead babes and the City is close to rioting to remove Alicent as Queen.

He does not know where he went wrong. His beloved wife had given him three healthy sons and a daughter. His own mother had five sons. The Hightowers are a fertile family it should not be difficult to give the King at least one son. It does not make sense, Alicent is otherwise healthy, he put two more Maester in charge of her care in case Mellos is somehow sabotaging them.

Still both sons did not survive their birth. He thought he had seen truly horrific scene when the monster was born but to see how Mellos cut the babe that was still inside Alicent and them bringing him out in pieces. First, he took out the foot, then the other, and then the arms. The last one was the skull but he had to crush it first using a forcep. He can still remember how his daughter screamed in pain as the Grand Maester put the pieces of her child in a box, their future King discarded in a mesh of blood, bones, meats and tissues.

There were gossips that the Queen had once again birthed a demon which he silenced immediately but they cannot cut off the tongue of every gossipmonger in the Keep. They cannot even show them the proof that this time the Queen birth a normal human babe because said babe was in pieces.

Months after teh traumatic event, news of his daughter's fourth pregnancy had spread like wildfire through the kingdoms, but it was not the joyous occasion he had hoped for. Whispers of dread echoed in the halls, murmurs of monsters and omens that threatened to further tarnish the Hightower name.

He had seen more nobles going back to their castles, the Lannister Twins, the Redwynes, the Darklyns all departed from the Capital citing various reasons. The Small Council had asked the King to recall the Princess back from Dragonstone. The sight of the Dragon might quell the people’s ire and the King is of similar mind.

The Princess is already in Dragonstone for five moons, her whole household with her. He couldn’t careless what the brat was doing in her gloomy Castle but Daemon Targaryen was also there. The scoundrel did not even deign to show his respect to the King by showing up to the Capital and apologizing for warmongering without the King’s permission. He had advised the King to have his miscreant brother dragged back to the Capital by the Kingsguards to answer for his crimes but the King, soft-hearted fool that he was, declined and said his brother needs proper rest after living roughly for four years.

He still needs to find Daemon an appropriate wife and the more time he spends there with the Princess the more it endangers their plans. He had counselled the King to offer the Princess’ hand in marriage to Laenor Velaryon, a known sword swallower, but the Sea snake’s son was said to still be abed after getting injured in the Stepstones. The other Council members did not find it wise to offer a betrothal to someone who may as easily die.

He cursed silently as he saw one of his personal servants hurrying to him. What now?

“Lord Hand, there is something serious happening in the Rookery.”

“What is it?” he asked tightly as he hastens.

“The acolytes who attended Her Grace… their hands crumbled to ashes! The Grand Maester hands and feet are turning black! They said it was the curse!”

He slapped him so hard he got thrown against the wall. “Do not let me hear you say that again or I’ll have you thrown in the Blackcells.” He said and walked away briskly lest he kill the insolent dolt in the open corridor.

Notes:

RIP Baby Aemond

Chapter 5

Chapter Text

Viserys POV

He poured more wine on his goblet and drunk all of it at once. Daemon and Rhaenyra had been giving him headache since they came back from Dragonstone. The sight of Dragons in King's Landing had quelled the smallfolk's thirst for blood and Daemon frequenting the City certainly help but he decided to drag Rhaenyra to his adventures! Just last night they went out in King’s Landing and was seen fornicating in a brothel! Rhaenyra asked him to wed them and Daemon did the same on separate occasion.

He will not allow Daemon to corrupt his daughter! She’s his only child! Probably the only child he will have given how hostile Alicent’s womb is. Three years being married and all she gave him was dead babes. Two babes all dead and one she killed herself no matter how accidental it was. If only he did not allow her to be with Helaena that day, his dear daughter will still be alive.

The council had been urging him to set her aside and marry again. Lady Laena is old enough now, she’s still betrothed to the son of the previous Sea Lord of Bravos which is something that can be set aside easily. It will give them the largest dragon in the world and will bridge the distance between the Targaryens and the Velaryons. But any children he has with them will be a threat to Rhaenyra.

Alicent’s children will not be a danger to her positions. She’s the daughter of a landless knight, a second son who will inherit nothing. Against dragons the Hightowers are nothing. And the Faith will not allow him to set aside a Hightower.

But if he marries Rhaenyra to another House like the Lannister it will give them a dragon. The greatest military power in the world. The Velaryons already have more dragons than the ruling family he will not allow other Houses to get that kind of power again.

“Your Grace, you once asked me about the best suitable match I can think of for the Princess and I advised you to betrothed her to Ser Laenor.” Lord Strong said looking at him seriously. “I am still of the in the opinion that it is the best match.”

He had invited Lord Strong, Lord Beesbury and the High pPiest on his apartments to consult them with this situation. So far he’s been hearing sound advices, very different to Otto’s advice which only consists of him saying how unsuitable Daemon is and the importance of finding the Princess a proper husband. He had not given him any name at all.

“It will also bridge the gap that had grown between Houses Targaryen and Velaryon since you chose Alicent Hightower as Queen instead of Lady Laena.” Lord Beesbury said. “But doing so the princess will be Rhaenyra Velaryon when she ascends the Throne, noh? And her children after her? In a generation or two it will be House Velaryon and not House Targaryen who will rule from the Iron Throne.”

He recoiled at that violently that he spilled his own drink. “Absolutely not! The Targaryens forged the Iron Throne, only Targaryens are worthy of it!”

The High Priest helped him wipe the spilled wine and poured him another goblet.

“We can make a decree that The Princess will retain her maiden name and her Heir will take the name Targaryen once he becomes the Heir apparent.” Lord Strong suggested.

“Yes, yes, yes, we can do that.” he said as the two Lords nodded, he grimaced when he saw the High Priest shook his head almost imperceptibly.

The Hand and The High Septon had been most agitated when The High Priest become his frequent guest in the Keep. They reminded him that the Faith will not be happy knowing heathens are able to reside in the Palace. He chastised them and reminded them that the Crown is the protector of the Faith, as was agreed upon by faith and his Grandsire King Jaehaerys, however it does not allow them to prosecute and force other people to their religion. Quiet a few influential Houses are still followers of the Old Gods, he reminded them that the largest Kingdom still worships in the Godswoods.

They were not happy but they had no option but to accept his decisions especially after cutting off more than half of the Crown’s donation to the Faith and letting Rhaenyra use it for the Crown’s own charity in the City.

“High Priest? What makes you look so worried?” he asked.

The elder man looked at him in embarrassment, probably not counting that he was observing him keenly.

“Forgive me, Your Grace, as you know Driftmark and Dargonstones are just a few hours apart by boat. Our people freely mingle and interact with each other unencumbered and the supply train from Driftmark and the Stepstones never breaks. We always received news of the war…” he hesitated but hardened himself to continue. “It is Driftmark’s worst kept secret that Laenor Velaryon is… enamored with Ser Joffrey Lonmouth. They share a tent, they shared beds since the time he came to the Stepstones. Even now with Ser Laenor abed in Driftmark due to his injuries it is Ser Joffrey who always accompany him”

Lord Lyman looked horrified, he is a man of the Faith and this kind of relation is abhorrent to him while Lord Strong looks confused.

“Why would it matter?” The Master of Laws said, the Lord of Harrenhal worships the Old Gods, he is more tolerant of things that those devout to the Seven. “I do not like fish much but I will eat it if it’s put in front of me.”

“I know, Lord Strong.” The High Priest said. “In Valyria it does not matter whether a man loves a man or a woman chooses to bed a woman. In the East men can have four wives and woman can have eight husbands if she wants and no one will bat an eye. But it is a well-known fact that Lord Laenor had never lain with a woman. His Uncle, Vaemond, brought him on a brothel when he came of age and the whor*s said he never hardened even after pleasuring him with her mouth for an hour. The Princess will need Heirs. Are we willing to wed her to someone who may not be able to bed her?”

“These talks are most definitely just disgusting allegations!” Lord Lyman said. “Something to tarnish Lord Laenor’s reputation!”

“It came from people of Driftmark, my Lord, they love no one greater than the Velaryons who made them rich. Why would they start these rumors if it was not true?” The High Priest asked.

“If the Princess’ husband is unable to bed her, she will endure the scrutiny of Court, in everyone’s eyes it will be her fault if she cannot provide her own Heir.” Lord Strong said.

He gasped picturing her daughter alone in her bed while her husband gallivants with his Knight, the gossips that will surround her will be unbearable!

“Or worse she will have to turn to someone else to give her said Heirs, it will put into questions the legitimacy of her Reign.” The High priest said.

He looked at him in horror. What if Rhaenyra chose a man with no drop of Valyrian blood? A Baratheon or worse a Martell? Their features are strong, it will definitely manifest in her children and everyone will know they are bastards!

“Your Grace, if I may? I have someone else in mind who will be more beneficial consort than Lord Laenor.” Lord Strong said looking at him queasily.

Bile started to come up his mouth making it water. He has an idea who he will name.

“No.” he said simply.

“Your Grace—”

“No! I will not marry Rhaenyra to that warmongering deviant!”

“Lord Strong has a point, Your Grace. All quality that Lord Laenor has when you consider him as Future King Consort, Prince Daemon already has them.” Lord Beesbury said.

“He’s correct, My king.” The High Priest said. “Prince Daemon is a Valyrian Prince, a dragon rider and a war veteran. He has the love of the smallfolk which will only strengthen Princess Rhaenyra’s claim. It will consolidate the bloodline of Baelon Targaryen and will bring stability to the Iron Throne.”

“The Lords will never accept him on the Throne!” he exclaimed

“But he will not be sitting on the throne, Your Grace, it will be Princess Rhaenyra who will rule. Prince Daemon's reputation will even shield the Princess from Lords who might harbor ill-thoughts of having a woman on the Throne.” Lord Strong said.

“He will try to rule through Rhaenyra! He will make her into his puppet!” he said.

“My King, I’ve been serving in the Small Council since before you were even King.” Lord Lyman said. “I had never seen the Prince try to manipulate the Princess. It was almost always the other way around. Didn’t Princess Rhaenyra delayed his journey on a diplomatic trip to the Free Cities because she wanted him to teach her how to braid her hair like how Queen Visenya did hers? Wasn’t it Princess Rhaenyra who successfully retrieved the Dragon egg the Prince stole even after taunting him to kill her to free his path to the Throne? The Princess that I know is fierce and shrewd, she will not let anyone influence her to everyone’s detriment.”

“I will not hear about this!” He exclaimed banging his fist on the table. “Leave me! All of you!”

The three men all stood up and bowed to him before exiting his rooms.

He slumped on his ornate chair. Daemon will corrupt his daughter! He’s back for not even a month and already Rhaenyra had been testing his patience with the way she questions his decisions regarding Daemon.

He will have to protect his daughter from his degenerate brother!

The courtyard of the Red Keep buzzed with a hushed urgency as he observed the scene unfolding below from the grand balcony. Servants and guards moved with somber determination, well-hidden disgust and barely concealed fear as they carefully loaded the frail form of Grand Maester Mellos on a litter.

Once a stalwart figure of wisdom and knowledge in the realm, Grand Maester Mellos now lay shrouded in a veil of despair. His once steady hands now nothing but stamps with the cruel grasp of an unknown affliction. Dark inky tendrils of despair snaked their way along his limbs, turning flesh to ash as they crept inexorably towards his heart. All of his acolytes were similarly afflicted and had died.

It began innocuously enough—a small, inky stain upon the hands, like the imprint of a dark omen upon the skin. But what started as a mere blemish soon burgeoned into a torment beyond imagining. All afflicted complained that they felt like their veins are on fire. servants said the blackness crept upwards, one by one the fingers turned to tar until they fell off without prompt or crumble to ashes.

With all Maesters adn acolytes afflicted he sent a letter to Lord Rosvy to lend them their own Maester which the Lord happily obliged. They tried to stop the infection by cutting off Mellos hands but after just a week the blackness appeared on the stamp again so he cut the limbs off at the elbow. The Rosby Maester said it is something he had not seen before. Right now, Mellos had already lost all four limbs and is just barely living. The Maester asked for him to be transferred back to the Citadel so he can be cared for properly and to make sure that the infection will not be passed on to someone else in the Castle.

There was no fear of that because it appears that only the Maesters and acolytes in the Rookery were plagued.

‘Everyone that had attended to Alicent’s labors’ a traitorous voice sounded in his head. He can no longer turn a blind eye on the Queen’s failures. Despite all reassurances he doubts the survival of this next child. After she gives birth, he will have to set her aside. He may not be able to do it legally because of the Faith but he does not plan to visit her bed anymore for fear that whatever malevolent affliction is affecting her might transfer to him.

The Maester from Rosby had examined him and just confirmed what Mellos had already told him. His illness is something that has no cure, all they can do is managed the pain and the symptoms but years from now he will eventually succumb to it.

He fearfully whispered to him that his proximity with the Queen might be exacerbating his symptoms.

He had forbidden his daughter from visiting the Queen for fear that whatever curse was in Alicent’s blood be transferred to her. He had Alicent moved to the Vault behind the Sept so the Septon can visit and bless her more frequently but to no avail. It seems her womb is so hostile no child will survive it. At least Aemma gave him his beloved Rhaenyra, she gave him children who survived more than a year before succumbing to infant death but it shows he was capable. That he was capable of fathering children that lives.

Alicent had proved to be utterly useless. She had been a balm to his soul when Aemma died that’s why he did not hesitate to make her his wife but he married her solely because he needed more children to strengthen the House of the Dragon. All she gave him was dead babe after dead babe.

He sighed as he watched the litter bring a loyal subject of the Crown further away. He walked quickly to get back to his own rooms where a hot bath is waiting for him. He looked up when he heard his daughter’s laughter. He slowed down as he saw Rhaenyra sitting in front of a puppeteer performing for her, she was sitting next to Daemon who was leaning back in his chair without a care in the world. The table in front of them were filled with lemon cakes, cut fruits, cheese and crackers and heavy cream. On another table, Rhaenyra’s Ladies were sat with each other, they too are enjoying the show.

“Who’s that?” he asked

“Prince Daemon said the troupe is the most famous puppeteer in Essos. He brought them here to comfort the Princess so she will not be too affected by what happened in the Rookery” Ser Westerling said.

He huffed and turned his nose up. Daemon had always been buying Rhaenyra’s affection with dresses and jewelries, horses, falcons and now a show. He only does it to undermine him in his daughter’s eye. His ambition had always set his eyes on the Throne and he will use his daughter to get it.

He bathed and went to pray on Balerion’s altar, he was surprise to see the High Priest already there.

“High Priest, I’m glad you’re here.” He said.

The older man bowed to him and gave his pleasantries.

“High Priest I am here to talk to you about my worries for the succession. I do not think the Queen will be giving me any living children anytime soon, I am thinking of setting her aside but I know the Faith will not be happy with that so the only way to further my line is through Rhaenyra. My daughter is already of an age to marry.”

“You know my stance in this, My King, I know you’re not happy with it.”

He grimaced. Yes, Daemon again!

“If you would allow me to speak casually, Your Grace?”

He nodded at him and braced to hear more praises towards his brother.

“Both of your Heirs need to marry sometime soon. I know you must be drowning in letters asking for betrothals for both of them. I am still in mind that Blood of the Dragon runs thick and it needs to stay that way. The Velaryons and the Celtigars are Valyrian descent but only House Targaryen had managed to bond with Dragons. Even Ser Laenor and Lady Laena were only able to do so because Princess Rhaeny’s blood runs through them. Even so their Targaryen blood is already too watered down. Princess Rhaenys is only Half Targaryen and her children less. How sure are we that their children will be able to bond to Dragons?

Dragons are wild creatures. They are the strength of House Targaryen but what happens when the time comes that there are no more children who have enough Targaryen blood to control them?”

He looked at Balerion’s skull in contemplation. The only time Targaryens married outside of their House and produced less than stellar children are Maegor’s and himself. He felt faint thinking of having something similar to that monster but the High Priest is correct, removing all politics aside the reason why they intermarried is to preserve magic on their blood and to make sure that they will dragon riding children.

He closed his eyes tightly. Will he have to give her precious daughter to his wicked brother just to preserve their House?

It seemed that is something he will not need to do because the following day they received a raven from Dragonstone that Daemon and Rhaenyra had married in the tradition of their House performed by a Vicar of the Pantheon of the Fourteen Flames and then had another ceremony done under the Light of the Seven this time witness by all the people in Dragonstone.

The Maester wrote that proof of consummation had been given and that the Prince and Princess had tasked him to send ravens to all Great and Major Houses not just in King's Landing.

He had never seen Otto more angry. He had made accusations of treason that he had to reprimanded him severely. He should have known that those two will not just take no as an answer. He should have sent Daemon away! His Hand advise him to strip the title of Heir from Rhaenyra as what she did was direct disregard of his own command.

He scoff at that. Strip Rhaenyra of her title? And what give the throne to the Velaryons? His Grandsire, King Jaehaerys, did everything in his power to makes sure that Corlys Velaryon will not sit the Iron Throne. He reminded the Hand that Alicent has yet to give him a living child and that the one in her belly might just be another still born. That had shut him up.

Lord Strong and Lord Beesbury had congratulated him and said that they believe this unions is still the best they can get without slighting the other Houses again. He sighed and tasked the Maester to send back a raven commanding those two to stay in Dragonstone until he calls for them back. He cannot just reward them for directly disobeying his orders. A few months away will be enough to show them how displeased he was of their selfish decision.

Chapter 6

Notes:

this chapter is graphic, please don't read lol

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Alicent POV

She cried as the pain intensifies, she finds herself gripped by waves of excruciating contractions that wrack her body with searing pain. Surrounded by a team of skilled Maester and acolytes and trusted attendants, she lies upon a bed draped with silken linens, her brows furrowed with sweat as she clenched her fists against the agony. Every muscle in her body tensed with each contraction, and she grits her teeth against the urge to scream.

She had already done this three times but the pain still overwhelms her everytime. Her screams echoed off the stone walls, each one a testament to the excruciating ordeal she endured. For three long days and nights, she had fought against the relentless waves of pain, her strength waning with each passing hour.

Beside her, her father, Otto Hightower, stood steadfast, his weathered hand clasping hers in a silent gesture of support. His eyes, normally steely with resolve, now reflected the anguish of a father witnessing his daughter's suffering. She’s not sure why he’s in the birthing chamber, he never was on the last three times she gave birth, it was against that teaching of the Seven. The birthing bed is no place for a man but still she’s glad that he’s here.

Her father had always been a hard task master. He was strict and most of the time severe in making sure his will is done. This might be the first time she saw his father outwardly show care for her.

The maesters, their faces drawn with concern, conferred with the King in hushed tones at the foot of the her bed, their brows furrowed with worry. They knew that time was running out—that the child's life hung in the balance, teetering on the brink of existence.

"It's the only way," one of the maesters murmured, his voice heavy with regret. "We must act swiftly if we are to save the child.”

She saw the King nod, his head bowed down in defeat. “Do it.” He said and got out of the room without even a backward glance at her.

She wanted to heave a sigh of relief. She did not want her husband to witness her in her vulnerable state. But the way the new Grand Maester and acolytes suddenly went into a flurry of dizzying activities were scaring her. She can see the New Grand Maester, Orwyle, took a big knife from his satchel and it frightened her. She can still remember Rhaenyra telling her how Queen Aemma died. She was cut open to get the babe out of her belly.

She looked to her father, her eyes pleading for reassurance. And in that moment, she saw the love and anguish etched upon his aged face, mirrored in her own heart.

“Please, father, what's happening?" she pleaded, her voice tinged with desperation.

“Everything will be okay, Alicent.” Her father said, his voice thick. His weathered face a mask of anguish as he sought to comfort her in her hour of need. But even his presence could not quell the rising tide of panic that threatened to consume them both.

"Father, please," She implored, her voice trembling with emotion. "I don't understand. Why won't you tell me what's wrong?”

"They are doing all they can, my dear," he murmured, his hand reaching out to brush away the tears that stained her cheeks. "But sometimes, even the most skilled healers are powerless in the face of such trials.”

But she could not be comforted by platitudes alone, her mind consumed by a primal fear that clawed at the edges of her consciousness. She clung to her father's hand as if it were a lifeline, her pleas growing more desperate with each passing moment.

“Save me, Father." she whispered, her voice barely more than a breath as she stared into his eyes, searching for a glimmer of hope amidst the encroaching darkness. "Save me, please!”

She whimpered in fear as the acolytes, their faces masked by solemn determination, gathered around her, their hands moving with practiced precision as they prepared for the task ahead.With a swift and decisive motion, the acolytes moved to restrain the her, their hands grasping her limbs with a firmness born of necessity. Her eyes widened in terror as she felt herself being pulled down towards the center of her bed, her body pinned beneath the weight of their collective strength.

“It’s alright, Alicent, it’s for our family.” Her father said. “It’s your duty to the realm.”

"No, please!" she cried out, her voice echoing off the stone walls in a desperate plea for salvation. "Let me go! I don't understand! Someone, help me!”

But her cries fell upon deaf ears as the acolytes continued their grim work, their faces set in solemn resolve as they prepared to carry out the operation. She thrashed against their hold, her screams of anguish reverberating through the chamber as she begged for mercy.

“Please, I beg of you!" she pleaded, her voice raw with emotion as she struggled against the unyielding grip of her captors. "Save me! Father, please! Viserys! Help me, Viserys! Anyone please, help me!”

But her words went unanswered as the acolytes pressed on, she felt them lift her shift exposing her big belly. Through tear-blurred eyes, she watched in horror as her body was laid bare before her, the sharp sting of the Maester’s knife tearing through flesh and muscle with merciless precision. She screamed and trashed, her pleas for mercy falling on deaf ears. With each incision, each movement of the Maester’s blade, the pain intensified until it felt as if her very soul was being torn asunder. The agony was all-consuming, a relentless onslaught that threatened to overwhelm her very being.

She felt the Maester’s hands delve deeper into her body, manipulating organs and tissues with forceful precision, the pain was so intense, becoming a relentless assault on the senses. Every touch, every movement was met with a crescendo of agony, as if the very essence of pain had taken physical form within her body.

Her vision blurred as she felt the most painful tug in her stomach, she can still see her father still holding her hand, his eyes closed. She is unable to close her eyes but she do not see anymore.

Otto POV

He looked on numbed as the Maester removed the babe out of her daughter. But as the tiny form emerged into the harsh light of day, a collective gasp echoed through the chamber—a gasp of horror and revulsion.

"What manner of creature is this?" one of the maesters exclaimed, his voice tinged with disbelief as he recoiled from the sight before him. "It's... it's monstrous!”

His heart sank as he beheld the child—his grandchild—writhing in the hands of the maester. Its skin was a sickly shade of green, its eyes slitted like a serpent's, and a pair of tiny wings protruded from its back, scales littered it’s little body—a creature born of nightmares rather than the realm of the living.

He heard the acolytes called the King back into the room. King Viserys recoiled in horror as he looked at the child, his face pale with shock and disgust. And then, as if to confirm their worst fears the child let out a feeble cry. It was a sound unlike any other, a mixture of human cries and primal roars, blending together in a cacophony of discordant notes.

“This abomination cannot be allowed to live," the new King declared, his voice cold and commanding. "It must be destroyed, before it brings ruin upon us all." He said and once again walked out of the room never to return again.

He startled when he saw his brother, Lord Hobert Hightower, entered the chamber. The main Hightower line had journey to the capital for the birth of this child. Hobert had been getting agitated with Alicent's every failure to bring forth and Heir to the Throne. He had already issued an ultimatum and this was supposed to be the last. It is their last chance. The Lord of Old Town grimaced at the inhuman creature the Maester had put on the table, still mewling loudly. He looked at the bed, where the Queen was still opened, and shook his head.

“You made a necessary sacrifice today, Otto, but it is not to be.” He said. “Make sure that this does not get out and dispose of this… creature properly. The Crown and House Hightower cannot take anymore hits on our reputation.” He sniffed and left.

He watched detached as the Grand Maester slit the monster’s throat with trembling hands. Two acolytes had to help him because the child tried to claw his hands but they did it. The head was severed from it’s body and it was thrown into the brazier that was burning on the side of the room. It filled the air with a putrid, acrid odor that seemed to claw its way into their nostrils, assaulting their senses with its foulness.

It was a noxious combination of sulfur and brimstone, reminiscent of the fires of hell itself. But as the flames consumed the monstrous creature, the stench grew even more unbearable, mingling with the sickly-sweet scent of burning flesh.

One of the acolytes opened the wide windows to let air in but to no avail. The smell turned stomachs and sent bile rising in their throats—a nauseating miasma that lingered in the air long after the flames had died down. And with each breath they took, the onlookers were reminded of the horrors they had witnessed, their senses overwhelmed by the stench of death and decay.

When the creature is already unrecognizable, he commanded the servants to put the brazier outside and discard it properly. He waited patiently for the silent sisters to come take his daughter to be prepared for burial.

All those years of effort had gone to dust with the death of the Queen. Perhaps he should not have agreed when his brother commanded him to put Alicent in King Viserys’ bed. But to think of his own blood on the Throne, not Hobert’s but his, blinded him on how dangerous it is to deal with the House of Dragons. The dragons and their traditions represent a flagrant rejection of the true faith, a defiance of the sacred teachings of the Seven.

Perhaps this is his punishment from the Father for daring to associate himself with such godless people. For installing his daughter in the center of the den of sin and corruption, a place where heathen rituals and sacrilegious practices hold sway. Perhaps they should all go back home to the Center of Faith and cleansed themselves of the stench of dragon blood.

Notes:

Mind one of the tags :)
who should be our next step-mother?

Chapter 7

Chapter Text

Viserys POV

He drank the contents of his goblet in one full swing and put it heavily back in the table.

Another dead babe and this time another dead wife. Alicent’s demise is an unexpected benefit. He did not have to find a way to set her aside without angering the Faith, it was even her father who told the Grand Maester of a solution to free the babe from her belly. Otto had been a very loyal servant to the Crown. He did what even he could not have done, to serve the Realm.

To sacrifice his daughter…

He shook his head and reminded himself to send Otto the best Arbor Gold they have in the Cellar. He will let him grieve today and tomorrow; the affairs of the Kingdom can wait for his loyal Hand for a day.

Perhaps it is already time to bring his brother and daughter back. It had been six moons since they left King’s Landing and he missed his daughter so. He can definitely tolerate his bothersome brother just to see his daughter’s bright smile again.

The two troublemakers had only stayed in Dragonstone for three moons and then went on a Royal Progress across the Seven Kingdoms without his permission again. They started at Driftmark and stayed there for a week, then they went to Claw Isle, Rook Rest, Duskendale, the Red Fort, Ironoaks, Longbow Hall and are currently at the Eyrie last he knows.

He thought Otto will have an apoplectic when Lord Corlys and then Lord Bartimus sent them a letter praising the Princess of Dragonstone’s graciousness during her stay and thanking him for including their Keep on the Royal Progress.

A Royal Progress needs royal approval as it is something that is done to strengthen the relationship between the Crown and its subjects. As Hand, Otto was supposed to be the one to organize it. He was supposed to coordinate with the Lords hosting the Royalty, assemble the retinues like guards, servants and arranged for transportation and make sure that each host will be able to provide adequate entertainment and hospitality.

Alas, Rhaenyra decided not to have any retinue at all. She and Daemon travelled by dragon back and declined any and all entertainment but for some feast so she can mingle with the Lords.

Lord Bartimus wrote to him and said that his daughter and brother visited the Valyrian Pantheon in Claw Isle and help them translate some of the Valyrian Glyph tablets they had since the doom and they now have knowledge of the step-by-step instruction of a proper Valyrian Naming and Blessing Ceremony. The High Priest’s excitement can be felt on the letter he sent him. He will have to extend an invitation to his friend and asked him to bring the translated works in King's landing.

Lord Corlys had written and said he and the Princess talk long about the Stepstones. He will be journeying to the capital along with his household to discuss it in detail. After the war was done, the men Crowned Daemon King of the Stepstone and his brother then offered the Crown to his daughter and swore fealty to her in front of the Court in Dragonstone. That had caused another stir in the capital. Many Lords and Ladies, especially his Council, worried that the Prince may declare war on the Throne especially when Rhaenyra was very vocal on her opposition against the match since the beginning. When he announced his wedding with Alicent Rhaenyra left the capital and moved her entire household in Dragonstone. She only attended his wedding when he issued a Royal decree and she only stayed a few days before going back to her seat. And when Alicent’s first babe was born he had to issue another decree so she may come and be there for the birth. Alas that was only the beginning of how tragic his union with Alicent was.

He should have seen how ill-omened her second marriage was. Alicent was Rhaenyra’s friend maybe she knew how unsuited for motherhood, much less Queenhood, she was.

But alas it is done! He is rid of the barren union he had with Alicent and is free to pursue his dream of having a son of his own loins! This time he will make sure to get his daughter’s approval. She’s always been blessed by the gods her endorsem*nt might proved to be more fruitful.

Rhaenyra POV

She watched as Lady Jeyne poured her a cup of tea. Jeyne had been raving about the Mistwood Green that was native in the Vale. This tea, she told her, was cultivated in the mist-shrouded groves that dot the landscape, is prized for its delicate aroma and smooth, refreshing taste.

"Princess Rhaenyra, have you ever sampled Mistwood Green tea before?" Lady Amanda inquired, her eyes twinkling with warmth.

She shook her head, her curiosity piqued. "No, Lady Amanda, I have not. What makes it so special?”

Lady Elys, ever the connoisseur of fine teas, chimed in, "Mistwood Green tea is renowned for its delicate flavor and soothing aroma. It's a true reflection of the beauty and tranquility of our beloved Vale.”

She took a sip and smiled. “It's absolutely divine! The flavor is so light and refreshing.”

Lady Jeyne smiled. “Indeed, Your Highness. Mistwood Green tea is a testament to the natural beauty and bounty of our homeland. Its delicate taste and aroma are unmatched.”

“And let us not forget its health benefits! Mistwood Green tea is rich in purifying herbs, which helps to cleanse the body of impurities and restore balance. It's the perfect way to start the day or unwind after a long afternoon of courtly duties.” Lady Amanda added.

“Would it be too much if I asked to send some in Dragonstone? This is truly refreshing.” She said.

“Not at all, your Highness!” Lady Jeyne exclaimed, looking delighted. “We will make sure we send you some every few months, to remind you a taste of home here in the high mountains. You know, the Vale will always be your home too, right?”

She smiled tearfully at her and held her hand. It’s so nice to be surrounded by family.

She and Daemon stayed in Dragonstone for three moons after getting married and being banished from the capital. She started planning for a Royal Progress a month in and sent ravens to the Castles she wanted to visit. Everyone was excited to receive the Royal couple and sent them back their acceptance letter. She told the Lords not to prepare anything grand as she will not be travelling with an entourage. It would just be her and Daemon on dragon back.

She reassured them that their Dragons can hunt for themselves (only Caraxes really) and all she really wanted to see is the day to day lives of the people in each Kingdoms to asses how they can improve it. And what successful progress it is turning out to be!

She had negotiated with Lord Staunton that she will be giving them coin to improve the candle production of the Town and Dragonstone will be receiving free candle supply for two years. After which they can visit negotiations. Maester Gerardys wrote her that they had already sent the first coins in Rook’s Rest and the old Lord is already making improvements on the building and making more molds, dipping racks, and melting pots.

In Redfort they had asked Ser Adrian Redfort to be part of their Household Guards and he agreed. Lord Redfort was very pleased. Ser Harold Waynwood, Lord Waynwood’s third son had also volunteered to serve at Dragonstone and Aunt Amanda had agreed to go back to her service.

They already received a raven that the Queen had died, good riddance to her.

She loved her. Alicent.

But in both life times she betrayed her. She gave Alicent a chance to confessed everything. She took her hand while they were sitting under the weirwood tree and asked her if there was something she wanted to tell her. If she feels vulnerable and if she needed help. But she lied to her face and continued spending her nights with her father. That was the extent of grace she had given her, she will not suffer traitors in her home.

She had decided to cut the Hightowers treason root and stem. Without Alicent to push babes to contest her rule Otto Hightower is a little more than a grasping opportunist who’s drowning on problems he created himself.

Let’s see if Alicent’s death will be enough for him to give up his ambitions. If not… well there are so many Hightowers she can have her pick of which one to kill next.

She also received a raven from one of the new acolytes on how she died and she had sent an instruction to one of Daemon’s bards to make sure that the Demon Queen will be next popular song in the Capital.

They finished their tea and went to one of the courtyard perched precariously on the edge of a sheer cliff. The castle, seemingly built upon the very clouds themselves, offers a breathtaking vista of the mist-shrouded mountains stretching into the distance.

She inhaled deeply the crisp and cool air, carrying the faint scent of pine from the surrounding forests. Wisps of fog dance lazily through the air, swirling around the ancient stone archways and winding pathways that crisscross the space. The courtyard itself is a serene oasis of greenery, with meticulously tended gardens bursting with vibrant blooms and verdant foliage.

Stone benches line the courtyard's edge where Ladies, Lord and knights are resting and mingling with each other. She waved at Lady Waynwood who smiled pleasantly at her. The sound of cascading water echoes softly in the distance, hinting at hidden waterfalls concealed within the rugged terrain.

Amidst the tranquil beauty of the Vale's courtyard, a group of rugged men can be seen, their attire bearing the telltale signs of hunters returning from the wilderness. With sturdy boots caked in mud and cloaks draped over broad shoulders, they carry the spoils of their expedition – the noble trophies of the hunt.

Their presence adds a dynamic energy to the serene scene, their voices mingling with the soft whispers of the mist as they regale each other with tales of their adventures. Some carry bows slung over their backs, while others cradle the weight of freshly slain game in their arms – a testament to their skill and prowess as hunter. She can see the servants and butchers hurrying to bring their prizes inside.

As they make their way across the courtyard, their boisterous laughter and camaraderie fill the air, blending seamlessly with the natural symphony of the mountainside. They pause momentarily to catch their breath, exchanging knowing nods and proud smiles as they admire the fruits of their labor.

She saw her husband immediately as he helped a squat man cut a dead boar from the horse he used. For all the time that Daemon cursed the Vale when he was still married to Rhea Royce he sure found it easy to insert himself amongst the lauded Knights of the Vale. He drunk with them, he went hawking with them and hunted with them. For the past two weeks while she’s charming the Lord and Ladies of the Vale Daemon had been making every servant and men-at-arms fall in awe at him. Asking them about themselves and their family.

He really is the People’s Prince. She found it tiresome to listen to common women complaining about the molds on their bread or how sick their babes are. She has half a mind to tell them to just throw the bread and buy a new one and have a maester look at the child.

She has little patience for their meagre problems that she oft just gives them a charming smile and her uncle is the one to offer solutions to their concerns. She prefers talking about trading Dragonstone salt with grains and wheat from the Vale. The salt that Maester Gerardys had discovered will be the life blood of Dragonstone. By boiling sea water at extremely hot temperature they are able to produce salt now. And it is something that they will never run out of as long as they have sea water and dragon fire.

She knows that the North will fall over themselves on her feet when she offers them salt in exchange for their furs, iron and steel. Daemon wanted to improve the garrison in Dragonstone. Even now as they toured the Kingdoms he had left Ser Harwin to train the Men like how he trained the men in the City Watch.

She smiled as Daemon brightened when he saw her.

“It seems like we would have plenty of meat for the Feast later.” She said.

“Indeed, my love.” He said and kissed her forehead.

She pulled him to seat on one of the benches that was scattered in the courtyard and asked one of the servants to give them wine. “Father had sent a letter, he wanted us back to the capital for the funeral.”

Daemon rolled his eyes. “Too bad that the raven had been late for a day as Lady Jeyne will no doubt write him that we had already departed for the North when they received it.”

She sighed, she wanted to stay a few more days but perhaps they really need to go. They will be staying in White Harbor for a week and then they will fly to Winterfell. The King will surely forgive them for missing his ravens as they’ve been travelling. And by the time they received his summons the funeral would have already been concluded there is no logical reason for them not to continue their progress.

They were already in Winterfell when the King sent a letter informing her that he will be marrying Laena Velaryon in three moons. Lady Stark commented about the King making it a habit of not waiting for the Mourning Period to end before remarrying.

Daemon laughed at that. "Serving a King is an incredibly challenging and uncertain experience, fraught with anxiety and unpredictability… but we all must serve.” He said.

Lord Rickon agreed and they proceeded with inspecting the Glass Gardens.

They stayed in Winterfell for two weeks during which she took a great liking to young Cregan. She remembers how Jace had nothing but good things to say about the future Lord of Winterfell and the two had become fast friends. She wanted to make sure that she will foster goodwill between their families earlier.

She did not really care for hunting but still she accompanied the men and women as they search for games in the Wolfswood. But she did not hunt of course, that was Daemon’s specialty, to charm the men with his wild exploits. No, she talked to the Elder lords about her salt, Lords Karstark, Bolton and Cerwyn had already agreed to trade with Dragonstone.

After Winterfell they will be going to Last Heart and the Wall then to The Twins, Riverrun and Pink Maiden before going back to King’s Landing for the Wedding. She only plan to stay for the until the festivities are done then they will continue with the rest of the Progress this time in the Westernlands and the Reach, then the Stormsland.

Her father can play at Court, she’s here to make sure his Kingdom loves her they will pluck him from the Throne if he so much as hinted at removing her from the line of succession.

The Velaryons are quick to seize a Queenly Crown for their daughter. Rhaenys and Corlys had remained steadfast with her during the war. She never had any quarrel with Princess and Sea snakes and although their children are little more than useless she did not have any grudge against them. Let's see if the Velaryons are better at the Game of Thrones than the HIghtowers.

Chapter 8

Chapter Text

Laena POV

She smiled at her mother as she talks to the Royal Seamstress about the last minute changes of her wedding gown. The Gown is made of a hundred layers of see-through tulle. It was so puffy she wanted to twirl on it the whole day. The bodice is made of hundreds of pearls in varying size and colors, a true embodiment of the daughter of the sea.

Years ago, her father tried to marry her to the King but was stopped by an underhanded tactic of Otto Hightower. Now, with the Queen dead after giving the King demon babes she’s here finally going to wear the Crown that was stolen from her four years ago.

She honestly couldn’t careless if she’s Queen or not, being the daughter of the richest man in the Seven Kingdoms and the rider of Vhagar had given her immense freedom that so few ladies were afforded.

Her father had given her free reign over the treasures they took from the Stepstones and she’s not shy on adorning her dresses with jewels, gemstones and crystals. The Seamstress said that her dresses are even more extravagant than the Crown Princess. She can already imagine the treasures that will be available to her when she’s crowned Queen! And oh the places she could visit! She wanted to go on a Royal Tour like Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon, she wanted to see the elegance of the Reach, the Majesty of the Vale, the sturdiness of the North, the resilience of the Stormlands and affluence of the Westernland.

She startled when a roar sounded from outside. It was different from Vhagar’s and Seasmoke. She heard Meleys answering roar from the Dragonpit. Another sound came then, this time a trill and low whistle.

She looked at her mother who smiled tightly at her. The Princess of Dragonstone had returned to King’s Landing. She smiled nervously and tried to straighten the imaginary folds on her gown. Princess Rhaenys had cautioned her to keep a healthy relationship with the Crown Princess. The smallfolk really love Princess Rhaenyra, there had been no single day that she had not heard the people sing the Ballad of the Realm’s Delight in the streets.

The stupidest thing that Alicent Hightower did was to betray the Princess, one tantrum from the Princess after she caught Alicent in the King’s rooms alone had destroyed her otherwise sterling reputation. The late Queen had never really recovered after that. Foul things after foul things had been said about the late Queen that she does not even know which ones are true and which ones are not.

Because surely no one could birth a baby dragon and live to tell the tales? Wouldn’t their claws and horns shred the mother’s womb? She should have died the first time it happened. But since she lived to birth three more dead babes it was surely just some perverse tale by the servants perpetuated by the bards who only wanted coins for their songs. And of course, the smallfolk love wicked stories especially from the Royal family towering over them.

An hour passed and one of the pages told them that the King requires their presence to receive Princess Rhaenyra in the courtyard.

“Remember, be friendly, charming and courteous.” Her mother said as she combs her curly hair away from her face.

“Mother, Rhaenyra and I used to play everyday in the gardens until father moved us out of the Red Keep after the Council of 101. I think we will be just fine!” she exclaimed.

“This is not the sweet cousin you had who only wanted lemon cakes and fine silk dresses you knew before Laena. This is the Princess of Dragonstone, Heir to the Iron Throne, wife of the Rogue Prince. She’s been alone here in the capital since her mother had passed and despite being surrounded by enemies with barely any ally, she’s been doing successfully for herself. Her charities in the City is very popular, she had revived Queen Alyssane’s projects and that made the people love her. You need her support on your side.” Princess Rhaenys said sternly.

She wanted to roll her eyes at her mother but chose to smile pleasantly at her. The King and his Council was already there and she dropped a low curtesy to the King who looked at her fondly.

Despite the significant age difference between them, she shared a deep connection with the King that transcended mere years. Their conversations flowing effortlessly as they delved into the rich tapestry of Valyrian tales and shared histories that bound their families together. They oft explored the ancient libraries of the Red Keep, poring over dusty tomes and crumbling scrolls in search of forgotten lore and lost secret of their shared ancestry.

The King may be old enough to be her father but she finds him pleasant enough to be around.

As the royal carriage rolled to a stop in the outer yard of the Red Keep, a hushed anticipation swept through the gathered crowd. The heavy wooden doors of the carriage creaked open, revealing Prince Daemon first who offered his hand to help the Princess out.

Stepping gracefully onto the cobblestones, Rhaenyra exuded an air of regal confidence and quiet authority. Clad in a worn leather dragon riding dress that spoke of countless journeys through wind and fire. The supple leather hugged her form, accentuating her lithe frame and the sinewy strength of a dragonrider. Though the dress showed signs of wear, with patches of scuffed leather and frayed seams, it bore the marks of countless adventures and triumph.

Her hair, a cascade of silver-gold strands, was woven into a tight braid that fell gracefully down her back, adorned with delicate braids and interspersed with curls that danced playfully around her face. Despite her best efforts, a few rebellious curls escaped their confines, framing her features in a halo of untamed beauty.

Rhaenyra's lilac eyes gleamed with a fierce intelligence and a quiet determination, reflecting the fire of her Targaryen heritage and the strength of her indomitable spirit. They held a depth of knowledge and wisdom far beyond her years, a testament to the challenges she had faced and the trials she had overcome. Though she bore the weight of her responsibilities as the Princess of Dragonstone and the heir to the Iron Throne, there was a lightness to her step and a spark in her gaze that spoke of boundless confidence and unyielding resolve. In her presence, she radiated an aura of brilliance and power, commanding the attention of all who beheld her with a grace and poise that were unmistakably regal.

The King swept her daughter in his arms not even allowing her to curtesy properly. Her laughter rang out like the peal of bells on a clear morning, joyous and infectious. Each note seemed to dance upon the air, carrying with it a melody of mirth and delight that lifted the spirits of all who heard it. It was a sound that filled the room, banishing shadows and bringing warmth to even the coldest of hearts. With each laugh, it was as if the world itself joined in the celebration, echoing her joy and spreading it far and wide.

No wonder everyone in the Capital seems half in love with the Princess. She really is the Realm’s Delight.

“Cousin!” Prince Daemon exclaimed as he kissed Princess Rhaenys’ hand. “I see you’ve been busy… and swift.”

“I am the rider of the fearsome Meleys of course I am swift.” Her mother answered the veiled insult gracefully.

“Absolutely!” prince Daemon said with mirth in his eyes. “We couldn’t let other inferior creature snatched the price, couldn’t we?” he grinned.

Princess Rhaenys rolled her eyes in exasperation but smiled brightly at the Rogue Prince. Her mother had always been partial to Prince Daemon, she never had anything but a huff and a resigned expression whenever the King is the topic of conversation and she was more fond of Prince Daemon. During the war of the Stepstones the Rogue Prince often go to Driftmark to appraise her mother of the situation and to make sure the supply lines are well and protected. She only did get to talk to him only a handful of times because the Prince was not visiting for leisure.

The only time they talked long was after she claimed Vhagar, the Prince talked about the times when Prince Baelon was still her rider and some advice on how to control the temperamental disposition of the colossal beast.

She curtseys to the king’s brother who gave her a kiss on the hand and a wink. She looked back at the Princess who was busy greeting her mother. She visibly swallowed when her lilac eyes turned to her. Rhaenyra looked at her in contemplation but smiled.

“Laena, goodness, it has been so long cousin!” she said and pulled her into a hug instead.

She smiled in relief. She really wanted to reclaim her lost friendship with her cousin, the House of the Dragon needs to be united once more, she does not want to be the cause of more strain in her family.

The Princess hooked her arms into hers. “I am so sorry I was not able to help you with the wedding preparations, I was travelling quiet a lot you see.” She said.

“In truth, I never did anything at all.” She whispered. “It was mother who made all the arrangements.” She said.

They giggled and left everyone to gossip at the Crown Princess’ rooms.

Rhaenyra POV

She leaned her back at the padded chair and drank deeply from her cup. She’s been dancing non-stop for an hour now, first with her husband and then Ser Laenor, Ser Harwin, Ser Joffrey Arryn and many more that their faces just blurred out to her. She relished the chance to rest her tired feet. Her gaze fixed upon the scene unfolding before her. As her father, the King, twirled his new Queen across the polished marble floor, Rhaenyra couldn't help but feel a pang of bittersweet emotion. She watched as they moved in perfect harmony, their steps synchronized to the lilting melody of the musicians' song. Her father's laughter echoed off the grand walls of the Throne Room, mingling with the tinkling laughter of his new bride. They seemed lost in their own world, oblivious to the weight of responsibility that rested upon their shoulders.

Meanwhile, the nobles of Driftmark, the bride’s family, mingled among the other guests, their faces alight with merriment and good cheer. They spoke animatedly, their voices rising above the music as they regaled each other with tales of days gone by.

Despite the festive atmosphere, Rhaenyra's expression remained composed, her lilac eyes betraying none of the turmoil swirling within her. She was the picture of grace and poise, a silent observer amidst the revelry of the court.

This wedding is vastly different from the previous one. That time everyone was sneering and whispering about the ambition of the Hand of the King. But now everyone is happy to have a proper Queen, one whose Valyrian beauty is renowned not only in the Seven Kingdoms but even across the Narrow Seas. A dragon rider and the daughter of the richest man in Westeros, the Royal family finally has a proper Queen!

The only one who looks miserable is the Hand of the King who decided to seat with his family who all looked like they sucked on lemons. Ser Harrold had told her he protested bitterly when Lord Corlys proposed that the wedding take place after three months. He cited the need to observe the Mourning period which Lord Corlys countered they did not do when Queen Aemma died.

“It’s not as if Queen Alicent is beloved by the people. This wedding will also help the image of the Royal Family… I’ve personally heard the foul rumors surrounding the late Queen’s… births.” Lord Corlys said.

She laughed loudly when she heard that, she can only imagine how red Otto’s face was.

She smiled as her husband sat beside her with a plate of lemon cakes and the bitter drink Lord Corlys loved. He said he got it from the fertile lands of Lhazar, the Black Beans were grinded just before being brewed. Daemon particularly likes it because he claims it awakens his senses and let him keep alert. It’s too bitter for her taste.

“Is this really acceptable to you?” Prince Daemon asked her. “The Velaryons are only a little better than the Hightowers. They’re both ambitious, conniving and grasping. But the difference is they have three grown dragons.”

’More dangerous’ is what he really wanted to say.

“I agree husband but the difference is Rhaenys Targaryen.” She said. “Two Kings had given her offense on two separate occasions and she did nothing. Why do you think that is?”

“She knows she does not have a chance against House Targaryen and the might of the Seven Kingdoms if it comes to war.” Her husband said.

“Maybe.” She said. ”Right now, she has Meleys against your Caraxes, Seasmoke against my Syrax and she has Vhagar. Laenor is a war veteran he will kill Syrax the first time we go against him. She has the might of the Velaryon Fleet and the richness of Driftmark, it will not be hard for them to sway the other Houses to their side but they will not do it.”

“And why would they not?” Daemon asked exasperatedly.

“Because no matter how ambitious Corlys Velaryon is he does not have a dragon. No matter how Princess Rhaenys defer to her husband she is the real power in Driftmark. Why do you think she is still being address as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen and seldom used Lady Velaryon? Rhaenys Targaryen was raised by Aemon Targaryen to be loyal to her House. She is a proud Princess of the Blood no matter how many times the current reigning King seems to forget that. Princess Rhaenys will not move against us the same way even if I marry someone else you will never move against me.”

Daemon rolled his eyes. “A brother is different from a cousin, Rhaenyra. And once Laena had her own brats Rhaenys will be more inclined to protect them than you. I will not suffer any threats to my children’s life, Rhaenyra, no matter who they are.” He said and put his hand on her still flat stomach.

The Maester at Pinkmaiden confirmed that she is already three moons into her pregnancy. Aside from some nausea in the morning and some fatigue she really did not feel any different, something that the Maester said she should be grateful for as not a lot of women has a relatively easy pregnancy as her.

She wanted to snort at that. She’s aware how miserable some pregnancy are, her mother was made pregnant more time than she could remember no matter how feeble her health was.

She kissed her husband in the cheek. “We should give the Velaryons a chance, Uncle, they are family after all. The Targaryens in Dragonstone is the last of the Velaryon’s concern. They have more pressing problem in Court than us.” She said and looked at the Hand of the King who is in deep conversation with Lord Hobert Hightower. They keep on shooting dark glares to the new Queen and Lord Corlys.

Chapter 9

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Queen Laena POV

As the gentle breeze whispered through the garden of the Red Keep, Queen Laena sat gracefully at a wrought-iron table, surrounded by the ladies of the court. Lady Redwyne, Lady Caswell, Lady Darklyn, and Lady Strong, clad in their finest silks and satins, gathered around her, their murmured conversations punctuated by the delicate clink of porcelain cups.

The Queen, resplendent in a gown of azure silk adorned with intricate silver embroidery, held a delicate porcelain teacup in her slender fingers, the fragrant steam rising in gentle curls. Her sea-blue eyes sparkled with amusem*nt as she listened to the chatter of her companions, a soft smile playing on her lips.

Yet, amidst the pleasant exchange, subtle veiled insults danced beneath the surface, a game that her mother, Princess Rhaenys, had said the women at Court are so fond of. Lady Redwyne, her lips pursed in disapproval, casted a critical glance at the Queen's revealing gown, her eyes lingering on the neckline that she deemed too wide for propriety showing her collarbones and the top of her chest. "Your Grace, forgive my candor, but is that gown not a tad... revealing for courtly affairs?”

A soft chuckle escaped the Queen's lips as she lifted her gaze to meet Lady Redwyne's disapproving stare. "Ah, Lady Redwyne, you always have such a keen eye for propriety. But I've always believed that elegance lies in the freedom to express oneself.”

Lady Caswell, her tone dripping with thinly veiled criticism, interjected, "Indeed, Your Grace, though one must consider the expectations of the court when choosing one's attire.”

With a graceful inclination of her head, Queen Laena replied, "Ah, Lady Caswell, but is it not the duty of fashion to challenge convention? To push the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable?”

Lady Darklyn, her voice tinged with skepticism, added, "But surely, Your Grace, there are limits to such... individuality?”

The Queen's sea-blue Velaryon eyes sparkled with amusem*nt as she took a delicate sip of her tea. "Lady Darklyn, you speak true. Yet, where do we draw the line between tradition and progress? Between conformity and freedom?”

Lady Strong, who had been observing the exchange in silence, finally spoke up. "Your Grace, perhaps true elegance lies not in the confines of tradition, but in the courage to embrace change.”

She smiled at the older woman in gratitude. She wanted to roll her eyes at these hags who feels threatened by the sight of a collarbones. If they see the Lengi dresses she owns that shows the entire stomach and with slits as high as her groin they will drop dead for sure.

With her pregnancy she’s always hot and sweaty and will not suffer the heavy silks and high collars of that the women of the Capital seems to favor. Besides isn’t she the Queen? It is her who will be setting the trends in the capital not some pruned old hag whose breast are sagging in their stomach.

She longed for the refreshing relief that the sea breeze brings. She wanted to visit High Tide but the Grand Maesters said it will not be wise to go dragon riding with her delicate condition. By the Gods, she’s not even allowed t walk in the gardens without a bevy of maids and midwives shadowing her!

She wanted to rebel, to shout at them to leave her be, Rhaenyra is already eight moons pregnant and is still Touring the Seven Kingdoms on dragon back. The Princess had been diligent in sending her letters from whichever castle she was staying. After her wedding festivities Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon went to Ashemarke, Golden Tooth, and stayed a week at Casterly Rock then they went to Crake Hall, Golden Grove, Bitterbridge, and High Garden where she stayed for two weeks, Lady Tyrell even prepared a week long Tourney to celebrate their visit. Then they were off to Horn Hill, Ashford, Griffin’s Roost, Storm’s End, Evenfall Hall and they are now in Massey’s Hook based on her last letter. That was two weeks ago, they are probably back in Dragonstone to await the birth of their first child.

At first, she delighted being Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. She loved the adoration of the smallfolk, the respect from the people at Court and the power she now held as the most powerful woman in the Seven Kingdoms.

She gets along well with her husband who is always gentle and courteous. He said that her youthful exuberance and thirst for adventure, brought a fresh perspective to the ancient tales of Old Valyria that Viserys had known since childhood. Together, they reveled in the stories of dragons and dragonlords, of conquest and glory, weaving their own narratives into the fabric of legend.

Viserys, though older and more seasoned in the ways of the world, found himself captivated by Laena's passion and enthusiasm. He delighted in her insights and interpretations of the old tales, seeing them through new eyes and discovering hidden depths in stories he thought he knew by heart.

But little by little the expectations of the Crowns seem to hung heavily on her. Accustomed to the freedom and vitality of life in High Tide and the Free Cities, Laena found herself stifled within the confines of the Red Keep. The ladies of the court, with their rigid customs and strict expectations, scoffed at her more relaxed demeanor and the daring gowns she favored, deeming them inappropriate for a queen.

Forbidden from wandering the docks she once loved, Laena felt as though she had been torn from her true home—the sea—and forced into a life of opulent imprisonment within the castle walls. Her dragon, the embodiment of her wild spirit and independence, was similarly grounded, forced to nest at the beach near the Dragon gate unable to spread her wings and soar through the open skies without her rider to coaxed her to fly.

She wanted to write to her mother to come get her and bring her back to High Tide but she knows her husband will never allow it. With her father gone to the Stepstones supervising the garrison they’re building she cannot ask her mother to come to her instead, Princess Rhaenys is the one sitting in the Driftwood Throne now while Laenor can only visit her whenever he’s not needed at the Stepstones.

As the days stretched into weeks and months, Laena's sense of isolation and despair deepened. She longed for the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, the salty tang of the sea air, and the exhilarating freedom of flight astride Vhagar. Instead, she found herself trapped in a gilded cage, her every move scrutinized and restricted by the demands of courtly etiquette and royal protocol.

When Laena learned that she was pregnant, instead of rejoicing in the prospect of motherhood, she felt only a sense of suffocation and dread. Confined to her chambers in Maegor's Holdfast for the duration of her pregnancy, she grew increasingly despondent, her once vibrant spirit dimming with each passing days.

As her belly grew bigger, Laena's heartache reached its zenith. She yearned for the open sea and the freedom she had lost, knowing that she could never truly be happy within the confines of the Red Keep. And though she tried to find solace in her love for her child, a part of her soul remained forever chained to the waves, longing for the freedom she feared she would never regain.

She walked briskly as she traversed the cold corridor of the Red Keep. Last night Viserys had finally allowed her to visit Vhagar. Rhaenyra wrote that her birth was lengthy but she brought forth a Prince of House Targaryen. It was only two weeks since she gave birth but she had already taken Prince Aegon on his first dragon flight on Syrax. She mentioned that being near her dragon seems to invigorate her and help her gather her strength faster. She had encouraged the King to allow her to do the same which Viserys reluctantly agreed to.

She excitedly donned her leathers that had been outfitted to accommodate her growing stomach even against the protest of her Ladies but when she met the King and the Hand who are going to the Small Council Chamber her excitement was quickly dampened by the voice of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, cautioning against the journey.

"Your Grace, I must advise against this venture," Hightower's tone was firm, his expression grave as he addressed the queen. "The beach near the Iron Gate is treacherous, especially for one in your delicate condition. It would be unwise to risk harm to yourself or the child you carry.”

Laena's heart sank at Hightower's words, her dreams of a seaside excursion dashed in an instant. Though Viserys, her husband and king, sought to placate her with gentle assurances, his words did little to ease her disappointment.

"Otto speaks with the safety of both you and our child in mind, my love," Viserys' voice was soothing, his hand resting reassuringly on Laena's shoulder. "We cannot ignore his counsel, especially in matters concerning your well-being.”

Despite Viserys' attempts to console her, Laena's gaze flickered with resentment towards Hightower, who stood nearby with a self-satisfied smirk playing at the corners of his lips. Though she acquiesced to his counsel outwardly, inwardly, Laena seethed with frustration at the interference of the Hand, longing for the freedom to make her own choices without his meddling. It frustrates her so much that with some sweet words of false concern the King had renegaded on his promise.

She ended up having tea and cakes again with the Ladies at Court. She smiled as she listens to them gossip about the different Couriers. As the ladies exchanged snide commentary about Lord Fossoway's supposed affairs, with his wife’s maid no less, their words then shifted to the unusual closeness between Ser Laenor Velaryon, her brother, and Joffrey Lonmouth. Laena, keenly aware of the complexities beneath the surface, interjected with a pointed response.

"Well, my ladies," Laena began, her tone measured, "Ser Laenor and Ser Joffrey share a bond forged in the crucible of war. Joffrey saved my brother's life in the Stepstones multiple times and my brother did the same. Their closeness is born on the battlefield something that us Ladies will never understand.”

Attempting to steer the conversation away from her own concerns, Laena remarked, "Sometimes, friendships are forged in the fires of adversity. It can be bothersome for outsiders to understand the intricacies of such bonds. Perhaps," Laena began, her voice carrying a note of contemplation, "the closeness between Ser Laenor and Ser Joffrey is not so different from that of the King and his Hand.”

The mention of the King and the Hand struck a chord of discomfort among the assembled ladies, their expressions shifting from casual intrigue to thinly veiled shock. Laena pressed on, her gaze steady and deliberate.

"After all," she continued, her tone measured yet pointed, "the Hand of the King is often at his side, attending to matters of state even in the most intimate of moments. Just last night he roused the King from my bed for some important matters. It's as if he fears the King's attention might stray elsewhere.”

The realization dawned on the ladies, their murmurs of scandal growing louder as they exchanged incredulous glances. Laena's comparison had unveiled a truth they had dared not acknowledge—the Lord Hand's unwavering presence, his eagerness to serve, bordered on possessiveness, a subtle assertion of control over the King's affections. They even talked of the Lord Hand’s influence on why Alicent Hightower was made Queen even though everyone was aware how unsuited she was of the task.

Lady Swyft whispered that he may have done it to cement his position at the King’s side.

She brought the cup on her lips to hide her smile.

Notes:

Who do you think is top or bottom? I just know Otto wanted Daemon to top 😆

Chapter 10

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

She reads her correspondence and smiled as Lord Bartimus had written that the docks and the walls around Claw Isle had already been finished and it will be ready for Daemon to come and fortify it.

They were surprised when Daemon showed more affinity with Earth magic than fire like he was expecting to. He can still wield fire like being able to generate and control decently sized fires with just his mind but it needs greater concentration from him. With earth manipulation he is a natural.

Daemon demonstrated an innate talent for manipulating the earth itself, shaping and molding the ground with ease. He could summon forth rocks and soil, forming barriers and defensive structures with a mere thought. It was as if the earth responded to his will, bending to his command effortlessly. Although he could still wield fire magic, it required greater concentration and effort on his part. Generating and controlling flames was within his capabilities, but it paled in comparison to his prowess with earth magic.

But when she carefully thought about it, she was struck by the parallels between her husband and the earth itself, for in him she saw the same strength, resilience, and unwavering resolve that defined the rugged landscape of Dragonstone.

Daemon's stability and reliability were like the solid bedrock upon which their family's fortunes were built, his steadfast presence a beacon of strength and reassurance in times of turmoil. Just as the earth endured the passage of time and weathered the storms that swept across its surface, so too did Daemon weather life's trials with unwavering resolve, emerging stronger and more resilient with each passing challenge.

But alongside his connection to the land, Daemon also possessed a certain stubbornness and inflexibility—a reluctance to bend to the winds of change that blew across the Seven Kingdoms. Like the unyielding cliffs of Dragonstone, he stood firm against the tide of history, rooted in his convictions and guided by the unshakeable certainty of his connection to the earth.

Daemon had focused countless hours in reinforcing the catacombs, ensuring that they would endure for generations to come. Where once there had been only bare stone, the catacombs now gleamed with a refined elegance, the result of painstaking effort and meticulous craftsmanship. He had added sturdy volcanic rock shelves and alcoves, providing ample space to store the myriad Valyrian artifacts that they had collected over the years.

He had installed a massive door in front of it. The door was shaped in the likeness of Caraxes' head, his scaled skin gleaming in the dim light of the catacombs. His horns jutted proudly from his forehead, while his teeth, sharp and menacing, formed a wicked grin that seemed almost lifelike. It was as if the dragon himself had been frozen in time, forever guarding the entrance to this sacred place.

But it was not just the sheer size and detail of the door that impressed Rhaenyra. It was the ingenuity behind its construction, the hidden mechanism that allowed it to function as a true entrance. You need to add pressure on a certain scale, a scale that only those privy to its secret would know. Only by doing so will the dragon's mouth began to open, revealing the passage beyond.

He installed the same door to the Hatchery, this time with the face of Meleys, who was named after the goddess of fertility. The hatchery is vast chamber bathed in the warm glow of flowing lava. It is a vast expanse of rock and stone, its walls carved by the fiery breath of the volcano itself. Throughout the chamber, clusters of nests dot the rocky floor, each one carefully constructed from woven strands of obsidian and cooled lava rock. These nests serve as sanctuaries for the dragon eggs, providing warmth and protection in the harsh environment of the volcano.

The Dragonkeepers keep the eggs together as clutches. Dreamfyre's last clutch of eggs are four in total, they lay nestled together in the center of the nest, their shells pulsating with the life force within. The heat from the lava below enveloped them in a comforting embrace, keeping them warm and safe until they were ready to hatch. On a smaller egg lies Vhagar’s last clutch of egg that are only two, the heat from the lava below kept the eggs snug and secure, ensuring their survival until the day they would hatch and join their siblings in the skies above.

Daemon wanted to make some repairs in the Castle itself but he found that with the arcane ways and spells that was used to build Dragonstone he had little to nothing to repair. Not even a crenelation had gone bad.

So, he turned his eyes on the Manse the Dragonkeepers lived at. The manse is located outside the walls of the castle but with a stone bridge connecting to the keep. It was on a cliff in the Dragonmont. It houses a hundred Dragonkeepers and more than a score of trainees. He had reinforced the manse and made sure that no earthquake or even lava flow will damage it. The Head Dragonkeeper only wanted him to build them their own forge and tanning House so they do not have to go to the Castle forge and the local tanner to order and repair the dragon saddles.

They found out that more than ten Dragonkeepers are also smiths and thirty were tanners. Daemon was delighted and crafted the most exquisite forge for them. It was made from the blackened remnants of ancient eruptions that he manipulated to form the shape of Balerion the Black Dread's skull. The forge's jaws hang open wide, revealing a cavernous maw filled with roaring flames and billowing smoke. Molten lava flows from its gaping maw, cascading down into a pool below where it churns and bubbles with fiery intensity. The heat from the forge is intense, searing the air and casting a warm, flickering glow across the rocky walls.

Around the perimeter of the forge, rows of anvils and workbenches are set into the rocky floor, each one adorned with the tools of the blacksmith's trade. Hammers, tongs, and bellows lie scattered about, their surfaces shimmering with the heat of the forge.

On the other side of the manse near the enormous room where dragon saddles are being stored. Daemon raised the tanning house hewn from the ancient stone that forms the foundation of the island itself. Built into the natural contours of the land, the building blends seamlessly with its surroundings, its earthy tones melding with the rocky terrain. Thick wooden beams span the roof, supporting a canopy of thatch and turf that serves as insulation against the island's harsh climate. Within the tanning house, the air is heavy with the pungent scent of tanning agents and the earthy aroma of damp hides. Stone vats and troughs, carved directly into the bedrock, are filled with bubbling tanning solutions.

The Dragonkeepers were so amazed by the way Daemon had raised the earth and shaped it as he likes. Most Dragonkeepers are from Claw Isle and natives of Dragonstone so they are sure of their loyalty.

Daemon summoned Lord Celtigar about building a proper fort and fortification in Claw Isle using his newly found terramancer ability. As expected, the older Lord was very excited to find out that someone had awakened their ancient Valyrian gifts and was more than happy to lend Daemon his island to practice.

With the Celtigars they found another loyal and steadfast ally. House Celtigar had become the quiet guardians of Old Valyria's fading legacy. Though lacking the famed dragon-riding prowess of the Targaryens or their affinity to elemental magic, the Celtigars had, in their own way, preserved the ancient traditions and customs of their Valyrian ancestors with unwavering dedication.

Claw Isle, the seat of House Celtigar, held a special significance as the last bastion of Valyrian culture in Westeros. Here, amidst the rocky cliffs and windswept shores, the Celtigars had established the only Valyrian Pantheon in the realm—a temple dedicated to the fourteen gods of Old Valyria. Priestesses clad in robes of white and crimsom tended to the sacred flame; their voices raised in prayer to honor the deities of their forebears.

But the Celtigars' stewardship of Valyrian tradition extended far beyond religious observance. They produce the largest number of dragonkeepers who possessed an innate understanding of the creatures' needs—a knowledge passed down through generations of Celtigar blood. They were the keepers of dragons in all but name, tending to the ancient beasts' eggs with tender care and nurturing them as they grew from fragile shells into fearsome creatures of legend.

Though their influence may not have been as overt as that of the Targaryens or the Velaryons, their commitment to preserving the legacy of their ancestors was no less profound. So they trusted them with their biggest secret and they had proved themselves worthy.

She had taken Lady Celia Celtigar, Lord Bartimus’ granddaughter, as her Lady -in-waiting. Lord Bartimus had also sent her his nieces to act as her maids so they do not have to hide her abilities even in the privacy of their rooms. Valaena and Eleana Celtigar are ten name days older than her and they had been her confidants the previous year more so than her Ladies-in-waiting. They mostly help her gather the herbs and other curiosities that she needed on her rituals and they know when to ask questions and when to hold their tongue. They had also offered their sisters Aelinor and Clement to be Aegon’s primary care taker, they supervised his nurses.

She looked up as Daemon came in from the bathing chamber with Aegon wrapped in thick fluffy towels. She smiled as she took the babe from him and peppered his chubby neck with kisses.

“Did you enjoy your bath with Kepa, my little dragon?” She asked as she put him in the middle of their bed. Valaena had already put out his clothes for him so she worked on making sure he was totally dry before putting him in his stockings to make sure he will remain warm.

Aegon smiled and cooed at her as if he understand what she’s saying. At five month’s he’s already rolling over and able to hold his head up so he’s an absolute delight to play with.

When she gave birth the King and Queen had dragged half the Court to Dragonstone to celebrate. The King left his Small Council thankfully and she did not have to endure Otto Hightower’s bitter eyes. They went back to King’s Landing after a moon but the King had ordered a feast and a tourney to celebrate the birth of his first grandchild and future king so they were back in King’s Landing and had to stay for a full moon. They just came back a moon ago.

Daemon kissed her on the head and laid down besides Aegon tickling his little feet.

“Father will asked us to go back to King’sLlanding once the Queen gives birth.” She said.

Daemon groaned and buried his face on Aegon’s tummy. “Is it not enough that we were there for a moon for his damnable Tourney?”

“You realized that with the birth of his child he will order another Tourney?”

“How does the Crown not beggar itself yet with all his useless feasts and tourneys and hunts?”

“He has an excellent Master of Coin.” She said. “Plus Laena’s dowry.”

Daemon snorted and grunted when Aegon got a handful of his hair and pulled hard. She laughed and carefully opened each of her son’s fingers to free his father from his grabby hands.

“Little menace!” Daemon said and proceeded to blow raspberries on Aegon’s tummy making him giggle.

“Will you be going to Claw Isle?” she asked.

Lord Bartimus had ordered a new stone dock and stone walls to surround his island the minute they ended their visit on Claw Isle during their Tour with the promised that Daemon will come back to reinforce it once it is finished. He knows little of engineering and building so he needs a guide so all he had to do is reinforce and refine it. They also do not want to call attention to sudden fortifications just spring up overnight.

Since Daemon had become a terramancer he had been collecting books and scrolls about great works of engineering. Claw Isle is practice for him, he wanted to do more at the Stepstones. With his ability they will not need to use exorbitant number of coins to have it developed.

Having a husband as a terramancer is a boon indeed more than him having the ability to blow up people. They ate their midday meal while Aegon napped and she had to let Daemon go to Claw Isle to complete his projects.

Artos Celtigar, the Dragonkeeper POV

As Artos watched from afar, he marveled at the sight before him. The walls surrounding Claw Isle, once a mere fifty feet in height, now soared to twice that size which just some flick of his hands. Artos had heard whispers of legends that spoke of the Valyrians' ability to manipulate the elements, but he had always dismissed them as mere fantasy. Yet here, before his eyes, stood proof of the prince's extraordinary talents.

Daemon worked tirelessly, his hands moving with purpose as he polished the rough rocks of the initial wall, reinforcing them to withstand any assault. Along the length of the curtain wall, towers rose proudly, each bearing the sigil of House Celtigar – a crab, symbolizing the island's rulers.

But it was the gates that are truly work of arts. The gate is crafted from packed mud that was reinforced so well he would not hesitate to believe it was made of wrought iron or bronze, with intricate details that mimic the appearance of a giant crab. The gate's framework resembles the segmented body of a crab, with curved panels representing its armored shell. The gate is designed to swing outward on hinges located at its sides, resembling the movement of a crab's claws snapping shut.

Claw Isle is only a small island, their family is rich but not very influential. They are the third of the only three family originating from Valyria in Westeros but they did not have the might of Targaryens who rode dragons or the opulence of House Velaryon. Cracklow Pointe falls under their jurisdiction but the people do not like them and makes it very hard to collect taxes. May of their servants had not come back from treating with the people.

The walls and the docks that the prince had made is a big boon for them. It will make sure that their little island is protected from people that despises their Valyrian culture. And for that his father, Lord Bartimos Celtigar had all been worshipping the Rogue Prince every steps. He knows the Prince is probably just using their Island to practice his ability in secret as every single person here is loyal to the Princess but it does not negate the fact that what he is doing now is more than what every king in history had done for them.

He smiled at the Prince as he finished polishing the last Tower and gave him a water skins.

The Prince took it and gulped deeply and pour the rest on his face.

“You need to rest, my prince, you’ve been doing this for the last five days, the Princess will feed me to Syrax if something happens to you.” He said.

I will not go down due to exhaustion, Artos, I’m insulted you even think so.” The prince said but sat down on one of the crenels as he surveyed his work. “Do you think Bran the Builder was a Terramancer like me?”

He looked at the Prince incredulously. It would make sense. Bran the Builder was said to build the Wall with the help of the giants and children of the forest. He built Winterfell, easily one of the largest castle in the Seven Kingdoms and Storm’s End, there was a rumor that he even built the Hightower.

Given how many feats he had under his name, it is possible. But how can he? He’s not Valyrian.”

“We don’t know if these gifts are given solely to Valyrian, in the North my wife had enjoyed hearing tales of magic from Lord Rodrik. They have stories about wargs, skinchangers, greenseers, wooddancers and many more.”

“That is true, it’s just so frustrating that all of these had been lost to time since the Andals are afraid of anything pertaining to magic.” He said in frustration.

“Their gods are false so they are fearful of the presence of other gods. The Valyrian gods gave us control over the dragons and the element while the Old Gods of the North’s influence were still being felt until today. Even Mother Rhoyne’s wrath was forced upon the freehold in the form of the greyscale and what does the Seven have to show? Nothing.”

He is not learned enough to discuss religion with the Prince so he just nodded. He’s only the third son of the brother of the Lord of Claw Isle, being inducted in the sacred brotherhood of the Dragonkeepers is probably the highest honor he will have. He’s been assigned as one of Syrax minders since the she hatched from Princess Rhaenyra’s cradle and as such been travelling between King’s Landing and Dragonstone whenever the Golden Lady needs him. He was advised that they will be residing in Dragonstone permanently and will only be going back to King’s Landing on occasion.

That was a relief, Dragonstone and Claw Isle is only a few hours by both and during the Princess’ Tour he was able to go home and get to know his cousins again. Being one of the few people aware of the coming back of Valyrian Magic it is both daunting and awe-inspiring. Since the Prince is already familiar with him he was task to accompany the Prince while he work on the wall that surrounds the Island.

He knows that the Prince and the Princess has more elaborate plans for the Stepstone. They’re planning to give the Stepstones to one of their children to make sure that their shipping lanes will no longer be threatened by Essos or Dorne.

He stood up as his Granduncle, Lord Bartimos, approach them with a somber face.

“My Prince, a raven from Dragonstone, news from King’s Landing.” He said.

“What does it say?” Prince Daemon asked.

“The Queen had given birth to twin girls although only one lived, the Realm have a new Princess, Rhaena Targaryen. Princess Rhaenyra bid you come home to prepare for visit in the Capital.”

Daemon POV

Daemon watched silently as Rhaenyra sat beside Laena's bed, her expression heavy with grief as she held her newborn sister in her arms. The baby girl, with her mother's darker complexion and curls, seemed so fragile against the backdrop of tragedy that had befallen their family. On the other side of the bed, Rhaenys sat quietly.

He kissed his own son’s head as he gums on the clasp if his cloak.

"Thank the gods for Rhaenys bringing her maester." Rhaenyra murmured, her voice tinged with relief. "If not for him, I fear Rhaena wouldn't have survived. That Grand Maester is utterly useless when it comes to anything beyond simple maladies because he only has a single link for healing.”

The king, seated nearby, bristled at Rhaenyra's words. "He's done everything he could!” He retorted, his tone defensive.

Daemon, observing the exchange with a sardonic expression, couldn't help but interject. "He certainly did quite a number on you." He remarked, gesturing subtly to the king's missing fingers, a result of the Grand Maester's failed attempts at medical treatment.

The king's face flushed with anger. "You should mind your own business, Prince Daemon!" he snapped, his frustration evident.

But Daemon was undeterred. "I was minding my own business in Dragonstone until I was summoned for yet another royal death." He countered coolly. "You'd do well to ensure the queen rests and doesn't suffer the same fate as Queen Aemma and Alicent Hightower, dying without proper rest and care trying to birth sons for the king.”

The king's anger flared further at the reminder of past tragedies. "You know nothing of the burden of the crown!" he retorted sharply.

Daemon's lips curled into a wry smile. "What crown?" He quipped, his tone biting. "The people of King's Landing say Otto Hightower is the true king as he seats on the Iron Throne more frequently than you, and that you're just the king of your bedchamber.”

“Be careful brother, what you’re saying is tantamount to treason.” Viserys said darkly.

“Why are you getting angry at me?” he said feigning ignorance. “I was just telling you what the people of King’s Landing are saying given that you only venture out of the Red Keep for your Tourneys. It’s not my fault you make it obvious who exactly is governing the Seven Kingdoms and it’s not you.” He said and wipe the slobber off Aegon’s face.

“Peace, both of you.” Rhaenys said exasperatedly. “My daughter just gave birth and lost one of her babes, can both of you not put aside your childish grievances.”

“I should ask the Lord Hand to allow me to visit Vhagar so I can introduce Rhaena to her.” The Queen said trying to change the subject.

“Why would you ever ask permission from the Hand?” Rhaenyra asked incredulously.

“The Hand is an excellent advisor, the King is wise to keep him by his side. All of his decision is sound and I do not want to burden the King of such trivial matters.” The Queen said only justifying what he said earlier.

He laughed loudly that Aegon startled and started to cry, he bounced him gently in his arms soothing his back.

The King was red in the face and tried to cover it up by trying to get his son from him but he pretended he does not see his intent. Instead, he turned to the wide windows and pointed to a cloud that looks like a hare. Aegon tried to eat his finger instead. He endured almost an hour of talk about Laena’s pallor, of her blood loss and her wish to visit Vhagar which was promptly declined by the King due to her delicate condition before they were allowed to retire to their own Chambers.

“Why must you vex my father so?” Rhaenyra sighed exasperatedly as she undo her braids. She’s sitting in front of the big white dressing table he had gifted her when she was ten years old. It has an ornate mirror gilded in gold and rubies as knobs for the drawers. Even after marrying Laena and them permanently residing in Dragonstone Viserys never asked Rhaenyra to give up the Queen’s Wings.

Laena has her own set of Apartments a few corridors from the Royal Solar. In useless things like this Viserys can be trusted to remain firm.

He dangled a sapphire necklace in front of Aegon who was kicking and screaming trying to reach it. The nurses had already bathe him and changed him into his sleeping gown. Laena said their children can share the nursery but he prefers to have his son in their rooms. Unlike in Dragonstone he does not fully trust the people here.

“Because he’s a fool.” He said simply.

His wife rolled her eyes at him. “If you could not get us banished this time that would be appreciated.”

“You can always stay here and look after your father and his wife while Aegon and I get banished in Dragonstone… or do you want to visit the Free Cities?” he asked his son who was looking at him with wide eyes and cooing as if he understands what he was saying. “Aunt Saera will love you, that old hag gives the most extravagant gifts she will probably give you your own pleasure house!”

He felt Rhaenyra push him away as she stole his son. “Don’t listen to your Kepa, he’s a deviant.” She whispered loudly as she put Aegon on her chest and bounced him around.

He snorted and stood up. “I will visit the Gold Cloaks then so that I may have something else to report to your father. Do you think the rumors that he f*cks his Hand in the ass will entertain him more? Or was it him getting f*cked in the ass/ I could never keep up with these gossips.”

He laughed and let the pillow that was thrown on him hit the ground. He left the room and nodded at Ser Darklyn and Ser Joffrey Arryn, Rhaenyra’s two Sworn Shields. Harwin Strong had since been promoted to oversee the garrison in Dragonstone.

Rhaenyra POV

She bounced Rhaena softly to make her sleep, instead she was looking at her with wide eyes, she got her mother’s darker complexion and her curls but she got her eyes from the King.

Violet.

Like Daemon’s eyes.

In another life she would have been Daemon’s daughter, the perfect lady who was supposed to be the Lady of Driftmark along with her son Lucerys. She despaired that Baela did not make it, she does not understand, according to Daemon aside from the usual hardships of carrying twins Laena did not have any complications birthing the twins. How is it that she had better care in the free cities than the Red Keep where the most learned men takes care of them?

She looked up as a sharp knock sounded and the door was opened to admit Princess Rhaenys. She smiled at the older woman who looked at her wearily.

“How is Laena?” she asked.

“Tired.” She answered as she sat down on the chair besides her. “She lost so much blood she still has a trouble keeping awake for long.”

She passed her sister to her grandmother who took her with a smile. She turned to Aegon laying on her side who just discovered his toes and is trying to eat it. “My love we do not ear our toes.” She said gently which he promptly ignored.

“Princess Rhaenys, my husband was calloused bringing up the subject of Laena's health to the King but he was not wrong. My father had a habit of impregnating his wives as soon as they stopped bleeding, it had already cause us two Queens, please help me ensure that Laena will not suffer the same case.” She said.

Rhaenys looked uncomfortable. ”What happens in my daughter’s bedchamber is none of my concern, Princess.” The stubborn woman said.

She wanted to huff and tear her hair in exasperation. Fine. It’s your daughter’s health on the line anyway.

“Let’s speak truthfully, Princess.” The Lady of Driftmark said looking at her pityingly. “You’re afraid that your father will replace you as Heir when he got his most coveted son. That’s why you don’t want him returning to Laena’s bed so soon.”

She looked at the older woman in disbelief. “You think my father will replace me?”

“Why do you think he keeps on marrying and trying for a son?” The Princess asked, her eyebrows raised. “He knows the Lords would rather put the Seven Kingdoms to the torched than let a woman rule,”

“They won’t have a choice.” She said. “My father may be a fickle man but he will stand firm by me.”

The Princess shook her head in disappointment. “Viserys only became King because he is a man, a tradition that was upheld by the Great Council. They already had a chance to put a woman on the throne and they rejected it, why do you think they will allow you to seat the Iron Throne?”

She sighed and cradled her son to her chest. “They rejected you, Princess Rhaenys, but they bent the knee to me.” She said not removing her eyes on the older woman. “You being a woman was one of the reasons why they rejected you during the Great Council. Another, and perhaps the most important one was because you are a Velaryon. The Seven Kingdoms bent the knee to the Targaryens not the Velaryons. That’s also the reason why Laena and Laenor’s claim was passed over. You did well in marrying the wealthiest man in the Kingdom with the biggest fleet but that was also the reason why you did not stand a chance. The Iron Throne belongs to the Targaryen not anyone else.”

She stood up as the woman stared at her in shock. “Anyway, it was my genuine concern for Laena that is why I broached the topic. But who am I to meddle right? I already survived one dead stepmother, what’s another?” she said and smiled sweetly at her then left without looking back.

Ser Darkly followed her on her way back to her rooms, a comforting presence of protection.

She sighed. She thought she got an ally in the Velaryons, it seemed like they did not feel the same way. Daemon will be insufferable when he finds out.

Chapter 11

Chapter Text

Viserys POV

Viserys stood on the windswept cliff, his heart heavy as he watched the solemn procession approach. His infant daughter, Baela, lay in a heartbreakingly small sarcophagus, her tiny form adorned with flowers and draped in silken cloth before it was sealed. She had been taken from them far too soon, her small body was alighted by the flames of her mother's dragon, Vhagar, as per House Targaryen’s tradition yet now she would return to the sea, as was the custom of House Velaryon.

Lord Corlys, his features etched with sorrow, led the procession, his voice steady as he recited the funeral hymn to the Merling King. Viserys swayed slightly, overcome by grief, but Otto was immediately at his side, offering support. Grateful for the steadying presence, Viserys clung to Otto's arm for a moment before regaining his composure.

As the waves crashed against the shore and the wind whipped at their cloaks, Otto leaned in close, his voice tinged with concern. "Your Grace, perhaps it would be best to seek shelter from the wind. The waves are strong today.”

Viserys shook his head, his gaze fixed on the sarcophagus being lowered into the water. "No, I must see this through." He replied, his voice barely above a whisper

Unseen by Viserys, the ladies of the court exchanged uneasy glances. Lady Celtigar cleared her throat softly, her gaze averted as he heard her scold the younger ladies softly.

Viserys's turned on the Ladies and lingered on Lady Celtigar and Lady Fell as they chastised the younger maidens of court, their words stern yet tinged with maternal concern. It was a scene he had witnessed before, but now it seemed to carry a weight he couldn't quite discern. Lady Celtigar avoided his gaze when she looked his way, a subtle gesture that did not escape his notice.

Such occurrences had become increasingly common in court, subtle shifts in demeanor and whispers exchanged behind closed fans whenever he and his Hand were present. Even Lord Caswell, ever a steadfast supporter, now seemed unable to meet his eyes.

Viserys turned towards his brother, Daemon, cradling young Aegon in his arms, the babe bundled snugly in fur lined clothes with a matching hat that covered his tiny ears. Aegon whimpered softly, seeking refuge in the shelter of Daemon's embrace, his face buried against his father’s chest. With a tender touch, Daemon hushed the babe's cries and enveloped him in the folds of his cloak, shielding him from the biting wind. He can see Rhaenyra securing the cloak around her son tightly.

They should have left him in Hightide like he did with Rhaena and Laena. His grandson is much too small to be subjected to the harsh winds of Driftmark but Daemon insists on carting his son everywhere he goes.

He started when Daemon looked at him meaningfully then at the Hand then back at him. He widened his eyes and raised his eyebrow and smiled like a lunatic. He shook his head and turned forward just in time to see the Velaryon guards put the sarcophagus on a raised stone. The Velaryon Priest started his prayers

Oh Merling King, ruler of the sea,

Guide our loved one's soul, set it free.

In thy depths, grant eternal rest,

Guardian of waters, be our blessed

As waves return unto the shore,

And currents ebb forevermore,

So too shall souls find rest with thee,

In ocean's embrace, eternally.

He closed his eyes as the stone casket was pushed towards the sea to rest with her ancestors. He had burned and said goodbye to too many children and the pain had never really gotten easier to bear. He just got better at hiding it.

All his life, Viserys had harbored a dream - a vision of his son, bearing the Conqueror's Crown, as he put him on the Iron Throne. But with each failed pregnancy, each babe lost to tragedy, that dream seemed to slip further from his grasp, fading into the void of shattered hopes.

After the death of his second wife, the dreams ceased altogether, replaced instead by haunting nightmares. Night after night, he was tormented by visions of Aemma, her once-gentle features twisted in agony as blood flowed from her open womb. Her dark eyes bore into his soul, accusing him of betrayal and deceit, a constant reminder of the price paid for his ambition.

Every day since her death, the memory of Aemma's accusing gaze haunted him, a specter lurking in the shadows of his mind. In the silence of his chambers, he could almost hear her voice, a ghostly echo of the past, condemning him for his actions.As he closed his eyes, attempting to banish the gruesome image from his mind, he could feel the weight of guilt pressing down upon him like a leaden cloak. But no matter how hard he tried to escape, Aemma's presence lingered, a reminder of the darkness that lurked within his soul

He let the Lord Commander assist him in going back inside Hightide. Lord Corlys had prepared a simple meal for everyone who attended the funeral at the Hall of the Merling King. As Viserys stepped into the Hall, he couldn't help but feel a sense of melancholy wash over him. The cavernous ceiling loomed overhead like a somber reminder of the weight of their loss, while the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, now closed to shield against the biting wind, seemed to trap the sorrow within.

Despite the solemn atmosphere, the hall was adorned with a spread of food fit for a king's feast. Bowls of steaming claw chowder, platters of succulent buttered shrimp, and trays of boiled clams beckoned invitingly from the long table at the center of the room, their rich aromas mingling with the scent of salt and sea.

Barrels of different wines stood sentinels against the walls, their deep hues promising a temporary reprieve from the pain of their loss. Yet, even amidst the bounty of food and drink, the mood remained subdued, the laughter and chatter of the gathered mourners muted by the weight of their grief.

Viserys watched as Daemon, still holding his son, Aegon, engaged in conversation with Lord Bartimos and Lord Sunglass, their voices low and somber. Aegon, his furry hat removed, seemed more at ease in his father's arms, his innocent babbling a stark contrast to the solemnity of the occasion.

Across the room, Viserys' daughter Rhaenyra sat beside Laena, her silver hair catching the dying light of the setting sun streaming through the closed windows. She looked ethereal, her delicate features illuminated by a soft halo of golden light, yet there was a sadness in her eyes that mirrored his own. Beside Rhaenyra, Laena cradled their youngest daughter, Rhaena, to her chest, her expression one of quiet strength amidst the sea of sorrow.

As he settled onto one of the nearby tables, Viserys felt the reassuring presence of his Hand at his side, a steady anchor in the sea of uneasy glances and whispered rumors. The eyes of the guests turned towards them in unison, their murmurs casting a shadow over the somber atmosphere. Though they quickly averted their gaze when caught, Viserys couldn't shake the feeling of scrutiny that lingered in their wake.

As the King, he was accustomed to the weight of constant scrutiny, but this time it felt different, more unsettling somehow. He whispered a quiet instruction to Ser Harrold to arrange a private meeting with his brother later. Daemon, with his ear to the ground and his finger on the pulse of King's Landing, would surely have insight into any whispers or murmurs circulating among the populace.

Daemon's penchant for gossip and his connections with the guards and smallfolk made him an invaluable source of information. If there was trouble brewing in the city, Viserys knew his brother would be the first to hear of it. And in times of uncertainty, having someone like Daemon by his side brought a measure of comfort amidst the whispers and sideways glances.

Viserys found himself suffocating, the air thick with the stench of blood and fear. He lay paralyzed on the bed, his limbs heavy and unresponsive, as Aemma's dark eyes bore into his soul with accusing intensity. Unable to move, he could only watch in horror as she descended upon him, a vision of agony and betrayal. Aemma's mouth, once soft and gentle, was now twisted into a grotesque grimace, blood staining her lips as she advanced with a gleaming knife in hand. Viserys screamed, his voice trapped in his throat as he felt the cold steel press against his flesh, slicing through skin and muscle with merciless precision.

The pain was excruciating, a searing agony that tore through him like wildfire. He could feel Aemma's hands, slick with his blood, as she reached inside his body, tearing away at his innards with savage ferocity. Every movement sent shockwaves of torment coursing through his veins, each touch a torment that threatened to consume him whole.

With a jolt, Viserys snapped awake, his heart pounding in his chest as he gasped for breath. He blinked, disoriented, as he took in the familiar surroundings of the Royal chambers in Hightide. Relief flooded through him like a tidal wave as he realized it had all been a nightmare, a twisted figment of his imagination.

But as he turned to his side, his relief turned to terror once more. There, lying beside him, was Aemma, her lifeless eyes staring up at him with haunting emptiness. And in a cruel twist of fate, it was his hands that were stained with her blood, his fingers digging into her open womb with chilling detachment.

Viserys awoke with a start again, his heart pounding in his chest as he shook off the remnants of his nightmare. The echo of Ser Thorne's announcement that Daemon is outside lingered in the air, a solemn reminder of the darkness that haunted his dreams. He knew that sleep would bring no respite, for the specter of his nightmares would return to torment him once more.

With a heavy sigh, he sat up in bed and called for Daemon to be admitted. Viserys' frustration simmered beneath the surface as he watched Daemon saunter into the chamber with his characteristic nonchalance. The late hour and the remnants of his harrowing nightmare left him on edge, and his brother's casual demeanor only served to exacerbate his irritation.

He donned his robes with a sense of impatience, his movements brisk and deliberate as he settled at the table strewn with cut meats that had already gone cold and hardened cheese. Daemon poured wine into their cups with an air of indifference.

"You're late, brother." Viserys chided, his tone laced with irritation.

A small smirk tugged at Daemon's lips as he leaned back in his chair, unaffected by Viserys' admonishment. "Aegon was fussy." He explained, his words carrying a hint of exasperation. "I had to get him to bed first, and Rhaenyra was a lready tired from being on a boat for two days. Why you insist on us accompanying you on a boat I will never know, it would have taken us two hours to reach here in Dragonback." he added, his voice tinged with annoyance.

Viserys felt a surge of frustration at Daemon's flippant attitude, but he pushed it aside, knowing that their conversation held more pressing matters than petty grievances. “I wanted to ask you something…”

He looked at him expectantly.

“Lately in Court, I notice that the courtiers have been rather uneasy... more than usual," Viserys remarked, his brow furrowed with concern as he turned to his brother. "Do you happen to know what is going on?”

Daemon raised an eyebrow in response. "What do you mean, unusual?" he asked, his tone tinged with curiosity.

Viserys hesitated, trying to articulate the unease he had sensed among the courtiers. "There are whispers in the corridors whenever I walk by." he explained. "The ladies seem both amused and wary in my vicinity, more so when my Hand is around."

Daemon's expression shifted, a knowing glint in his eyes. "Ah, I see," he said with a smirk. "They just don't know how to react to your... situation.”

.Viserys blinked in confusion, taken aback by his brother's response. "My situation? What are you talking about?" he demanded, his mind racing to make sense of Daemon's words.

But Daemon merely chuckled, his smirk widening into a grin. "Oh, come now, Viserys," he teased. "We are Valyrians, after all. We don't care about things like this.”

Viserys felt a surge of frustration rising within him. "What are you insinuating, Daemon?" he snapped, his patience wearing thin.

Daemon leaned back in his chair, his grin still in place. "No wonder Otto Hightower was always trying to banish me." He mused. "With your family's penchant for marrying siblings, he must have been cautious."Daemon's smirk widened into a grin, his eyes sparkling with mischief. "But fortunately for you, brother," he continued, undeterred by Viserys' growing ire, "you're not my type. Even if you are already growing your own tit*, it does not impress me.”

Viserys recoiled in shock, his jaw dropping in disbelief. "What the f*ck are you talking about?" he sputtered, his voice laced with incredulity.

“That you are f*cking Otto Hightower," Daemon said nonchalantly, as if the words were nothing out of the ordinary.

Viserys felt a surge of disbelief and anger rising within him. "Daemon, I am this close to opening your throat with the Conqueror's dagger. What madness are you talking about?" he demanded, his voice laced with fury.

Daemon merely looked at him with amusem*nt, seemingly unfazed by Viserys' threat. "So you do not f*ck Otto Hightower?" he asked casually.

"NO!" Viserys denied vehemently, his frustration boiling over.

“Does he f*ck you?” he asked again like a simpleton.

He grabbed a plate of cheese and hurled it at his brother in frustration, but Daemon deftly dodged the projectile, adding to Viserys' anger. Before Viserys could interrogate him further, Ser Thorne barged into the chamber, his sword drawn, but Viserys waved him away, his attention solely focused on his brother. The White Cloak closed the door after making sure that he was not in danger.

"Where did you hear that ridiculousness?" Viserys demanded, his voice strained with frustration.

Daemon shrugged, a smirk playing on his lips. "Rhaenyra heard it from the hags at Court, then I heard it from the taverns in Flea Bottom, and heard it again at the Gold Cloaks' barracks," he explained casually.

Daemon's casual explanation sent a wave of disbelief crashing over Viserys. His daughter, Rhaenyra, had heard the rumors? How could he let her know that there had been a misunderstanding? And what about his wife, Laena? If Rhaenyra and Daemon had heard it, surely Laena must have as well. Why had she not confronted him about it?

Viserys wanted to tear his hair out in frustration. No wonder everyone had been acting uneasy around him. But before he could respond, the door opened once again to admit his Hand, Otto Hightower. The man looked from Viserys to Daemon and grimaced.

"Your Grace, I'm sorry for the intrusion but I have something important I need to confer with you." Otto said.

Daemon smirked at the newcomer. "Ah, Ser Otto, my brother's beloved Hand, barging inside his bedchamber without being admitted. I envy your familiarity." He quipped, emptying his goblet. "Do not mind me, Ser. I know when I've overstayed my welcome." Daemon declared as he began to walk away.

But just before he reached the door, he turned back towards Viserys. With a sly grin, he made a circle with his left hand and held up his right pointed finger, inserting it into the circle in a lewd gesture.

“Don't stop your love!" he whispered loudly, his voice echoing in the chamber, before bursting into raucous laughter and exiting the room.

He wanted to throw his own goblet at him but tonight’s revelation had tired him, he looked at his Hand looking at him expectantly, he felt bile going up his mouth and he tried to force it back down. “Whatever it is you wanted to tell me Otto will need to wait tomorrow. I am tired.” He said and the Reachman bowed and left.

“Ser Thorne,” he called to his white knight. “The next time you admit anyone in my room without my express permission again I will exchange your White Cloak to black.” He said. The man looked at him fearfully, murmured an apology and closed his door.

How is he going to right this mess?

Chapter 12

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

She cradled Aegon close, allowing his tiny form to nestle against her neck, seeking solace and warmth. As the morning sun gently bathed them in its golden rays, she recalled the wisdom of Maester Gerardys, who often extolled the benefits of early sunlight for children. According to him, such exposure strengthened their bones and bolstered their immunity against the ailments that plagued the realm.

In the teachings of the High Priest, she found echoes of reverence for the sun, harking back to the ancient traditions of Valyria. The sun was not merely a celestial body but a divine force, the source of their people's strength and the bestower of their most cherished gifts. Dragons, those majestic creatures of legend, were said to be manifestations of the sun deity's favor, bestowed upon the chosen rulers of old.

But for Aegon, oblivious to the weight of tradition and the mysteries of faith, the sun held little allure. Instead of basking in its glow, he sought refuge in the shelter of her embrace, content to hide his face from its radiant gaze.

She looked up as Caraxes swooped down on Seasmoke and the younger dragon careened to the side she was sure he will end up in the sea before he was able to right himself. And then he too tried to push Caraxes but he was swatted in the face by the Bloodwyrms horned tales.

She laughed as she saw the dragons danced in the air once more. “Look Aegon, Caraxes is playing with Seasmoke.” She said trying to make him turn towards the sea. Aegon looked up and squinted towards the sky but then hid his face in her neck again. She chuckled at him.

“I don’t think he likes the sun too much, Princess.” Lady Sam said smiling at them.

“He does not like it glaring directly into his eyes, yes.” She confirmed.

“I hoped to bring Rhaena with us here so she can bask in the sun and breathe the sea but alas the King thought she’s too young to be exposed to the elements.” Lady Sam said with a grimaced. Lady Samantha Tarly had been married to Laenor shortly after Laena and the King was married. She knows it is to strengthen their hold on the Reach. Hornhill alone can field up to ten thousand men-at-arms. A very good alliance as it gives the Velaryons a much needed army on foot while their fleet dominate the Sea.

But what they do not know was that during her Tour she had befriended Lady Sam quickly and they continued their correspondence through the years. Lady Sam knows she wanted to offer her a place as her Lady-in-waiting but that had been halted with her marriage. She knew about their betrothal even before it was announced in Court. Like most women in the Reach she is a devout of the Seven but unlike Alicent, Lady Sam is strong-willed.

She was Lord Tarly’s only child for ten years before her mother gave birth to the future Lord of Hornhill and as such she was given the education and training fit for the Heir. It was too bad that her father never upheld her position when he got a son and chose to follow Andal tradition instead. But being the future lady of Driftmark is nothing to scoff about. She now has access to the riches and connection of House Velaryon and she uses it wisely to further strengthen Hornhill.

“How about you, my Lady?” she asked carefully. “When will you give Aegon a playmate?”

Lady Sam snorted. “If my husband visits my bed half as much as he visits Ser Joffrey's, perhaps I'd actually look forward to his company."

She glanced over her shoulder and caught sight of the two nurses hovering ten paces away, ensuring that Aegon's needs would be promptly met when necessary. They carried satchels filled with fruits, towels, cloaks, and hats, ready to attend to any of Aegon's needs, yet they knew when to maintain their distance would have already been pregnant.” She whispers.

Most of her household and ladies-in-waiting had already sailed to Dragonstone the previous night. The island was only a day's sail away, and she and Daemon would soon follow suit, despite the king's insistence that they permanently relocate to King’s Landing.

“There are ways to ensure that your… coupling will be successful.” She whispered even if no one else was in the vicinity it is still a sensitive topic. “There are fertility tonics in Essos that I’m sure Laenor will be happy to procure for the both of you.”

“It’s not fertility, Princess, its… he cannot perform when he’s with me.” Lady Sam admitted. “It makes me insecure, to see him so repulsed when he held me… it is degrading.”

“Is there no other ways that might make the act easier?”

“We had tried herbs that will increase his libido, he ended up being ensconced in Ser Joffrey’s room for two days without any thought to me. We had already invited Ser Joffrey in our bed. We managed to do it but he cannot spill unless it is in Ser Joffrey’s… person. I really do not know any other ways to help us. I do not know how low I could go debasing myself.”

She looked at her with pity and held her hand the whole way as they walk on the beach.

This was her life. The difference was she did not let Laenor’s incompetence hinder her ability to beget heirs. But her choice of partner had only been a detriment to her. She loved her brown-eyed boys but she put them in constant dangers. She was so arrogant to think that just because her father upheld her as Heir and protected her that other people will simply turn a blind eye on her transgressions. The least she could have done was to shore up her authority and strengthened her position so that no matter the whispers and the rumors they would have no power over her.

“Lady Sam, Dragonstone is only a day away by boat, less time by raven. If you ever need anything of me, know that you will always have a place at my table.” She said sincerely.

“I thank you Princess.” She answered.

There was a commotion when Caraxes landed on the beach while Seasmoke only allowed Laenor to dismount before wading and swimming in the sea.

“Ah such beautiful sight you have granted us!” Daemon said exaggeratedly as kissed her briefly and took Aegon in his arms.

Aegon put both his hands on his father’s face and bubbled while frowning. “Did your Muña wake you up early and make you come here under the morning sun?” he asked

Aegon cooed as if in answer.

“Now, now, Rhaenyra you know how Aegon loves to bask in the comfort of his blankets in the morning, you should not be so harsh as to wake him up so early just so you can have him be baked under the sun.”

“The sunrise is weak in the morning as it is, he will hardly be baked.” She scoffed. They walked together back to Hightide. She can see how awkward Laenor and Lady Sam was with each other, their words stilted and their backs tensed.

As they approached the gatehouse leading to Hightide, they noticed a commotion. A small, pretty woman was arguing with the guards, accompanied by a boy of five with silver locks and Valyrian features clinging to her skirts, and a babe of about two namedays wrapped in layers of linen in her arms. The boy appeared visibly sick, his cheeks flushed, his nose red, and coughing wetly.

“What is this?” Laenor inquired as he approached the guards. The woman turned to them and immediately fell to her knees.

“My Lord, I am Marilda of Hull,” she cried. “I do not wish to cause a scene, but I need your help! My sons are sick, and the money their father gave me for their medicine has been exhausted. They still have not recovered. Please, help my children!”

Laenor regarded the woman and then the children with concern. “We will help you, my good woman, but why did you come here?”

“They are the sons of Lord Corlys, my Lord,” Marilda explained. “He has not been able to visit them in the past moons, so I had no choice but to come myself, to save my children's lives!”

Laenor looked frozen looking at the children who both undeniably looked like Lord Corlys. Lady Sam immediately took control and ushered the little family inside and directed the staff to bring them to the Maesters. Breakfast was already being served in the dining hall and the Ladies saw how the children looked like Velaryons. Rumors are already spreading.

Daemon POV

As Rhaenyra carefully spooned meat broth into Aegon's mouth, Daemon observed their son with a mix of amusem*nt and pride. Aegon seemed to enjoy the taste, eagerly accepting each spoonful, though most of it ended up dribbling down his chin and staining his clothing. His nurses will just have to bathe and clothe him in more appropriate attire then.

Beside the meat broth, Rhaenyra alternated with soft-boiled eggs, knowing it was one of Aegon's favorites. The eggs were a hit with the young prince, who seemed particularly eager to get his hands on them. Daemon chuckled softly as Aegon smacked his lips together in anticipation, his hands reaching for the plate of food.

"No playing with food, little Prince." Daemon whispered to him, knowing full well that Aegon was too young to understand. "We're not in Dragonstone; we're supposed to appear civilized.”

Rhaenyra rolled her eyes at his jest, but her attention remained focused on their son, spooning more broth into his mouth despite the inevitable mess. Daemon couldn't help but smile at the sight—the small family gathered around a round table in Hightide's small eating area, sharing a moment of simple joy amidst the somber atmosphere. He never thought he could have this. With Rhea Royce being a bitch not even wanting to share a meal with him and the King blind and deaf and stupid to his request he had already given up on experiencing domestic bliss. But here he was at four and thirty years old enjoying the joys his small family gives him.

Daemon observed as Rhaenys approached them, her expression a mixture of wariness and resignation. He couldn't help but feel disappointed that Rhaenys seemed intent on stirring up tension so early on, but he understood her motives. She was merely looking out for her own daughter and granddaughter, just as he had supported Viserys during the Great Council despite his closer ties to Rhaenys. Just as he will support Rhaenyra even against his own brother and cousin.

"Princess Rhaenyra, Prince Daemon, I hoped you had a good sleep," Rhaenys greeted them, her tone carefully neutral.

Rhaenyra smiled warmly and wiped the broth and drool from Aegon's chin before responding. "Aegon had a hard time settling down, but he slept through the night. Thank you for your concern, Princess Rhaenys.”

“I heard Lord Bartimos sings your praises constantly for funding the wall that now surrounds Claw Isle. It is ingenious, Prince Daemon, Corlys wanted to travel to inspect the Crab Wall for himself, he said it may e something that he wants done on Driftmark as well.” Rhaenys smiled.

“I did not fund the wall, Lord Bartimos is just very generous of his praises. I only… polished it.” He said with a snicker much to Rhaenys’ amusem*nt.

“And I heard you wanted to do the same in the Stepstones?”

“Yes.” He answered. “Not walls per se but I wanted to Islands inhabited. Pirates is a huge problem in the Stepstones but if we build proper fortification, make the island into a proper livable place more people will be more willing to move there and guard their own homes. The construction is already on going. We have five big islands and nine and ten smaller ones.”

“Seems like an ambitious endeavor.” Rhaenys quipped.

“I’m an ambitious man.’ He smiled. “When I offered Rhaenyra the Stepstones after I won it, I made sure to tell the King that it will be given to one of our children. Our second child will be the next Lord or Lady of the Stepstones. I plan to build the most formidable castle in Bloodstones. If we are lucky to have more children perhaps I will build them their own Castles on one of the numerous island. Our children will not be forced to ask for crumbs from their brother like I did.” He said harshly.

Rhaenys nodded knowing full well how Viserys controlled them for years just because he is the King. Rhaenys looked back at Rhaenyra who was still feeding Aegon and she seemed eager to clear the air. "I wanted to apologized for my words the last time we talked, Princess Rhaenyra. I was distraught when we last had a conversation and did not think carefully on how my words can hurt.”

Rhaenyra's response was gracious, her words laced with understanding. "No worries, Princess. Your straightforwardness was a balm on my soul in a court where everything is said to mean something different. At least we know exactly where we stand with each other.”

Daemon watched as Rhaenys winced at the implication of her previous words. "I did not want there to be enmity between us, Rhaenyra," she admitted.

"Too late for that, isn't it, cousin?" Daemon interjected, a sardonic smile playing on his lips. “It is fine really, you protect your family and we protect ours. It’s as simple as that. But what I don’t understand is why you insist on meddling with House Targaryen’s succession when you have House Velaryon to focus on.”

Rhaenys reddened but looked back at him sharply. “I do not know what you’re talking about.” She said.

“Oh?” he said his brows raised. “It’s been a year and the Tarly girl you married Laenor to still has a flat stomach.”

“I do not concern myself with what happens in my child’s bedroom.” She snapped.

“Then you should at least not treat your good daughter coldly as if she is the one responsible that your house does not have a secured heir yet.” Daemon said with a smile on his face. “Although Lord Corlys did well securing heirs, did he not? He could just legitimize one of his bastards and his line will be secured.”

He saw how tightly Rhaenys held her goblet. He thinks the only reason why she did not chuck it at him is because he’s still holding Aegon in his arms.

“I do not want to discuss my House’s issues with you.” She said.

“Then I hope you do the same.” He said. “House Targaryen’s succession is secured with my wife and the birth of my son. I do not like the way you Velaryons are treasonously trying to supplant my wife with your non-existent male heir. Otto Hightower already tried it and lost his daughter, I hoped you love Laena more to ensure that she will not suffer the same thing.”

He saw how Rhaenys paled and he stood up as Rhaenyra put the plates aside.

“I think we would be leaving early, Princess Rhaenys.” His wife said. “I find Hightide as distasteful as Court lately.” She said and shifted her head as they left.

Rhaenyra POV

As the gentle sea breeze tousled her hair,she watched with a fond smile as Aegon ran across the rugged terrain of Bloodstone Isle. At eleven moons old, he was remarkably sure on his feet, his steps confident and steady as he chased after his hatchling, Stormcloud.

It had been a momentous occasion when Stormcloud emerged from his egg, cradled in Aegon's arms. The Dragon Keepers had kept a watchful eye on the egg's progress, and when it finally hatched, Dragonstone rejoiced. It was the first dragon egg to hatch in years, a blessing that filled their hearts with hope and renewed the bond between dragon and rider. Syrax was the first cradle egg that hatched after their family conquered Westeros so it was seen as a boon even if the Old King was against putting an egg in her cradle. It was only Daemon’s stubbornness that he sneak the egg into her cradle, that stunt had earned him a marriage with Rhea Royce in the Vale as punishment.

Even in King's Landing, the news of Stormcloud's hatching had spread, and celebrations had taken place in honor of the new addition to their family. However, they had declined the King's invitation to yet another tourney, as he was already planning one for Aegon's first name day. Instead, they found themselves here on Bloodstone, where the wild beauty of the island served as the perfect backdrop for Aegon's adventures.

The Dragon Keepers kept a watchful eye on them from a distance, ensuring their safety as they explored the island. It was a comfort to know that Aegon was not alone, that he had loyal companions by his side to guide and protect him.

She looked at the horizon and her breath hitched as the earth started to rumble. She called Aegon to her and cradled him in her arms, she watched in awe as Daemon raised stones and rocks with just a wave of his hand. It was a sight that never failed to astonish her, even after all these years. With each movement, he sculpted what was to be a magnificent castle, a testament to the power of Valyrian magic.

Daemon had spent countless hours speaking with engineers and builders about the design he envisioned. They had all dismissed it as mere fantasy, believing it to be physically impossible to recreate the marvel of Dragonstone but they still humored him. But as she stood there, witnessing the creation unfold before her eyes, she couldn't help but believe in the limitless potential of Valyrian sorcery.

The castle was to resemble Caraxes, the great dragon of House Targaryen, standing proudly with his head turned towards the sky in a triumphant roar. It was a bold and ambitious design, one that seemed beyond the realm of possibility. Yet, with each wave of Daemon's hand, the castle took shape, its horned tail rising to form a majestic staircase leading to its towering walls.

I held Aegon closer, wanting him to witness this momentous occasion. He gazed wide-eyed at his father's display of power, his tiny hands reaching out as if trying to grasp the magic swirling around us.

She watched in awe as the rough form of Caraxes began to take shape. His massive body would serve as the main castle, housing the Throne Rooms, the kitchens, the halls, and offices of our new stronghold. His head, towering high above, would act as a watchtower, keeping vigilant watch over the surrounding lands and ensuring that no pirates or unwelcome guests could approach unnoticed.

The design was ingenious, a testament to Daemon's vision and skill. The Royal family's chambers would be housed in the right wing, stretched parallel to the ground, offering a commanding view of the landscape below. Meanwhile, the left wing would serve as guest quarters, providing comfort and hospitality to visitors from near and far as well as the castle's officers and staff.

As Caraxes continued to materialize before us, she felt a surge of pride and anticipation. This castle would be more than just a fortress; it would be a symbol of our strength and resilience as a house. With its towering walls and formidable presence, it would serve as a beacon of hope for our people and a testament to the power of Valyrian magic.

“Cary!” Aegon said excitedly, his eyes wide with wonder as he took in the spectacle before him.

“Yes, my love, it is Caraxes!” she whispered to him. He was too young to understand the significance of what was happening, but she knew that one day he would come to appreciate the legacy that his father was creating.

Bloodstone was called so because the stones around the island is red, sometimes pinkish. It is the perfect material for a fortress made in the image of the Bloodwyrm.

It took the whole day for Daemon to finish the whole castle. Just a rough image of the Bloodwyrm without any polishing or embellishment. He was so tired he practically collapsed on their tent after bathing and eating. He did not wake up until after the noon day meal the following day and she forbid him to go back to his work, Aegon refusing to get down from his arms was a good enough reason for him to stay put for two days.

Manipulating the earth itself in this capacity is already hard enough both physically and mentally but the chants are also exhausting. It was long and tedious and just getting one part of the chant wrong could bring the whole thing down. They also needed dragon’s blood to seal the everything down. Dragon’s blood is the most important ingredient to make sure that the castle will not succumb to fire or just natural wear and tear. The whole island could crumble and the castle will still stand in a thousand years.

Caraxes gave the blood and he’s still annoyed that he had to bleed on the place where the palace is now standing. Dragon blood is searing hot and it helped Daemon shaped everything according to his will.

It took two weeks for the castle to be deemed livable by Daemon’s standard. The main door was made of wings that folds upwards when opened. The ceiling are so cavernous Aegon had a grand time shouting enjoying the echo of his own voice.

“My Princess, my Prince!” Lord Bartimos said practically skipping towards them. “Everything is absolutely majestic! My fourth son will stay here as Castellan, he wanted to ask you how you want each rooms decorated.”

Adrien Celtigar looked at them in embarrassment. Lord Bartimos is easily excitable, very direct and not at all suitable for Court but he is loyal.

“We would be happy to have Ser Adrien as Castellan Lord Bartimos.” She said smiling at the man as he admires the entire surrounding.

“Yes, yes, my Princess.” He said as if it was already a forgone conclusion that his son is the only candidate for such position. He was being entitled but right now the Celtigars are their greatest ally. “Adrien was here with Prince Daemon during the war so he knows the securities he needs to take to make sure that the island is secured. And he is well versed in the politics of Essos he will not have a hard time negotiating with any envoys the free cities will send us. It’s too bad we will have to leave for King’s Landing soon, I mean no offense to your Grace, I know how important celebrating the first name day of your child is.” He demurred.

“I completely understand, Lord Bartimos, I would rather see what we can do with the place but alas the King commands us to attend his tourneys.” She said.

“But we can come back, Princess, yes? I wanted to see what the Prince will be doing on the big domed building he built.”

She smiled at that. She walked to one of the tall windows and looked outside, a dome building nestled within the claw of Caraxes on the eastern part of the castle. She couldn't help but marvel at Daemon’s ingenuity. He read a book about lighting hitting sands producing glass and Maester Gerardys confirmed it. The Maester also said that it can be done as long as the heat can rival that of lightning and he reminded them that they control the creatures that can do that. Right now it was just a round dome made from rough rocks. Daemon will have to polish it to perfection once they got back from the Tourney.

Maester Gerardys had suggested that the red light that will come from the glass made of bloodstones will have a high potential to improve their yield. Daemon eagerly embraced the idea, eager to see its effects firsthand on the crops cultivated here on Bloodstone.

Their plans extended beyond the Glass Houses. They had identified three mores islands in the Stepstones with fertile soil suitable for agriculture, intending to develop them to ensure the region's self-sufficiency. Additionally, they earmarked islands with ample plains and hills for conversion into pastures, envisioning a diverse and sustainable food supply.

Reports from miners had uncovered rare minerals and gems on select islands, promising economic opportunities for the region. Daemon said he hoped they can find iron ore in one of the island so they can arm their soldiers themselves.

They plan to make one of the bigger Island into a trading hub where merchants from all over Westeros and Essos can sell their wares.

They have so many plans for the Stepstone, the previously thought barren lands only important because it is situated in an area important for trade in the Narrow Sea. They will make sure that this once desolate place will be thriving once one of their children takes over it.

Most of the men who fought with Daemon during the war agreed to stay to garrison the Islands, right now she had channeled her energy and initiated a process of thermal manipulation, subtly altering the temperature and humidity of the air to induce evaporation of water molecules. As the water vapor rose, it encountered cooler layers of air higher in the atmosphere, causing condensation to occur. This condensation formed tiny droplets of water suspended in the air, creating the beginnings of fog or mist. With precise control and manipulation of the atmospheric conditions, she gradually expanded and intensified the fog, creating larger and denser clouds that obscured visibility over vast areas.

They can make sure that for the next months at least Dorne and people from Tyrosh will only ever see silhouettes from the Stepstones. They will not reveal the improvements in the island until they made sure that everything is secured. She wanted to curse her father, she really wanted to stay here and even offered to host the tourney in Dragonstone on a smaller capacity but the King insisted that his first grandchild and the future king’s first name be celebrated with pomp in the Capital. She heard that the invitations had been sent five months prior so that the Lords as far as Last Heart will have ample time to travel.

She looked back at Lord Bartimos only to find him already talking his son’s ear off of what needs to be taken cared of in the Castle. She chuckled at him, better Ser Adrien than her.

Chapter 13

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

As Rhaenyra dismounted from Syrax within the Dragonpit, she felt a rush of relief wash over her. Carefully unchaining herself from her dragon's saddle, she marveled at how cooperative Syrax had been throughout the flight, particularly when Aegon was with her. She was like this even before she found out she was pregnant, it seemed as though the dragon sensed the presence of her son and adjusted accordingly, remaining still and steady to ensure their safety. Even Caraxes who likes to twist and turn whenever he flies are careful whenever Aegon is with Daemon.

With practiced ease, Rhaenyra unfastened the straps securing Aegon to her chest. The fabric of the sling, was uncharacteristically stretchy, it dates down to before the doom, ancient yet durable, hugged them both snugly, while the reinforced leather harness provided additional support and cushioning for her baby boy. Aegon had slept soundly throughout the flight, but as they descended, he stirred awake, his eyes wide with wonder.

He screamed when Syrax swooped down, but instead of crying in fear, his laughter filled Rhaenyra's ears, warming her heart. With one arm freed from the sling, Aegon clutched tightly to the lapel of her flying leathers, his excitement palpable. He never stopped laughing and shouting in delight while talking brokenly the way babes do.

Daemon was immediately at their side freeing Aegon from his harness and lifting him to his own arms. She took his offered freehand and she dismounted Syrax who roared once then followed the Dragon Keepers inside the cave she shares with Caraxes slowly, always looking back at them. Their dragons are never chained now, she had talked to everyone of the Dragon Keepers that both Syrax and Caraxes will be free to come and go and the dome will be left open when they are here. The younger Keepers protested saying that if they do not chain the dragons they may fly someplace where they could be in danger while the older Keepers, especially the ones who were alive during King Jaehaerys reign said that chaining the dragons had stunted their growth and this new found freedom will only be a boon to them.

She does not really linger, she does not care what they think, only that they will obey her commands.

“Princess Rhaenyra!”

She looked up to see Queen Laena wearing her riding leathers and smiling at her.

“Your Grace!” she exclaimed “They finally allowed you to visit Vhagar?”

Laena rolled her eyes but hugged her. “I threatened to have Vhagar land on the Tower of the Hand and have her roost there if they do not let me come to her.”

She smiled. “Very good, Your Grace. Gossips and rumors can only satisfy you much, sometimes a direct attack is necessary.”

The Queen giggled like the girl that she still is. “I specifically come here to tell you something, Princess. Something important.” She whispered.

She looked at her and saw how serious her expression was. She let Daemon assist her to the Royal Carriage and took Aegon from him as they started their hour long travel from the Dragonpit to the Red Keep. He can hear Stormcloud roaring loudly at Daemon for not being allowed inside the carriage but one sharp command from her husband and a roar from Syrax had sorted him out. Stormcloud is now the size of a big dog and he will be staying on a cart with the Dragon Keeper assigned to him.

“Tell me.” She said.

“They stopped all of Queen Alyssane’s projects.” Laena said to her horror.

“What? What madness was my father afflicted with that he agreed to this?” she whispered harshly changing to her mother tongue, Aegon whimpered due to her harsh words, his chin trembling. She soothed him and caressed his back and combed his hair out of his face. “I’m sorry, my love! I’m not angry at you, promise. Hush, now, hush, Muña love you so much.”

Aegon buried his face on her neck but he continued to whimper. She sang to him the Valyrian hymn that Daemon used to sing to her when she’s upset and it worked like magic. He calmed down enough and she let him play with the gold buttons of her riding leathers.

“Laena, tell me again. What was my father thinking?”

The Queen sighed in defeat. “Otto Hightower proposed that all charity by the Crown should be transferred and overseen by the Seven. He said it is to appeased them with your secret marriage to Daemon. He convinced your father that the Seven was greatly offended on an uncle marrying his niece and that this is the quickest way to stop another raise of the Faith Militant.”

She rolled her eyes. “The King seems to forget that his parents and grandparents were siblings and what offense? Has there been any uprising here or anywhere else?”

Laena shrugged her shoulders. “I never hear anything from the guards and merchants from Hightide, all these are all from Otto’s reports.”

“Of course.” She wanted to snort. “My father cannot think anything for himself these days it seems.”

Laena sighed and slumped on her chair. “I tried to take the responsibilities of the project as is my right as Queen but the Grand Maester cited the traumatic way I gave birth and said it may hinder my healing. For f*ck’s sake that my daughter is already six moons and I’m completely healed!”

Thank you for telling me, My Queen. I will… think of something.” She said.

I’m sorry for not being able to help.” Laena said looking out the window. The contrast between the opulence of their carriage and the poverty of the surroundings was stark. Outside, the narrow alleys were alive with activity—mothers calling out for their children, the laughter of youngsters echoing through the air, and the rough sounds of men brawling over makeshift dice games.

The Queen's expression reflected a mixture of sadness and empathy as she observed the struggles of the common folk. Rhaenyra could sense her friend’s heartache, her desire to ease the burdens of those who lived in such harsh conditions. It was a stark reminder of the disparities that existed within the realm, a reminder that not all were fortunate enough to enjoy the comforts of the royal family.

As the carriage rolled on, they passed by a group of men engaged in a heated brawl, overturning crates that served as makeshift tables for their games. The sound of swords being drawn by the guards pierced the air, and Rhaenyra felt a pang of fear grip her heart. But the guards swiftly intervened, breaking up the fight with a firm hand, restoring order to the chaotic scene.

“I thought I was going to make a difference, you know?” Laena looked at her smiling bitterly. “When my father said I am to be Queen as I should have been years earlier I thought I was going to be the next Good Queen Alyssane, creating safe spaces for women, cleaning the cesspit that is King’s Landing, giving my advice on the Council Chamber. Imagine my surprise when every time I think of a project of sort I was rebuke at every turn. I was allowed jewels and expensive fabrics but not a voice of mine own.”

“That’s what they do here, in King’s Landing. They take brilliant maiden from their mothers and made them miserable, a shadow of themselves until their meager light is snuff out at last. They did it to my mother, they did it to Alicent and I’m afraid they’re doing it to you as well.”

The Queen smiled at her. “You don’t have to worry about me, I am the rider of Vhagar, the largest dragon in the world. I will not be cowed so easily.”

She smiled back at her but inwardly sighed. Dragons were indeed a symbol of power and strength, but as her great uncle's tragic fate had shown, even they were not invincible. Aemon Targaryen, a legendary dragonrider, had met his end at the hands of an assassin's arrow, his dragon feasting on sheep nearby, unaware of the impending danger. That is why Caraxes had been fiercely protective of Daemon.Rhaenyra knew that in a world where treachery and deceit were ever-present threats, relying solely on the strength of dragons was not enough. They needed to be vigilant, to be cautious, to anticipate the dangers that lurked around every corner.

She kissed Aegon on the side of his head as he bubbled and show her the buttons of her leathers. She smiled at him and nodded along then turned back outside when he was satisfied with her attention.

She couldn’t careless about the people of King’s Landing. These are the same people who rioted when dear sweet useless Queen Helaena took her own life as if she did anything useful in her life aside from pushing out brats for her rapist. These are the people who killed all their dragons and tore her brave Joffrey apart. If it was up to her she would raze Flea Bottom to the ground and build something better on top of the ashes.

But Queen Alyssane’s projects are a legacy that she wanted to continue, she may not care for the smallfolk but she knows she needs to give them a semblance of happiness so they can stay put and stop fomenting treason. Foods once a day, drinking water and some entertainment will suffice to satisfy them.

Aegon sneezed and whimpered as he smashed his little hands on his nose. Laena immediately closed the carriage window and gave her a perfumed kerchief which she put under her son’s nose. It smelt of flowers not the usual vanilla and cherry she prefers but it is better than to suffer the stench of King’s Landing.

It was a long hour until they entered the Outeryard. She winced as she saw almost the whole court present with her father and the Council at the front. Laena smiled at her in apology and got out of the carriage first. She waited for Daemon to take Aegon from her before exiting the coach, she had not even properly dismounted yet when the King had already take her into his arms, hugging her tightly.

“My precious daughter! My Heir!” he said holding her face on both his hands like Aegon loved doing to them. There are unshed tears in his eyes that she wanted to roll her eyes. Instead she kissed both his cheeks and curtsied deeply.

“Father, I have returned.” She said uselessly.

The king beamed at her and looked back at Court “Your Princess had returned!” he announced and as if rehearsed everyone shouted and cheered her name. “Hail Princess Rhaenyra!”

She kept the pleasant smile on her face but turned to her husband who was trying his best not to laugh hysterically, instead he was egging Aegon on joining the cheer. Her precious son shouted in glee and clapped his hands.

It took a few minutes for the crowd’s enthusiasm to go down, they were dismissed by the King and a promised that the most sumptuous meal will be served at the opening feast tomorrow night.

The King turned to take Aegon from Daemon but her husband turned away from him. “He’s a bit temperamental, Your Grace, I would not want to expose you to his tantrums.”

The King smiled tightly but relented. “What had made him so tempestuous?”

“He does not like the stench of Flea Bottom.” She said and gave the kerchief back to the Queen. “He’s little nose and lungs are not used to the pollution in the City, Your Grace.”

The King grimaced then laughed nervously. “Will he need a Maester?”

“We have our own trusted Maesters and Healers.” Daemon said. “Ah here they are!” he said looking at the carts and carriages that just entered the yard.

Lord Bartimos exited first, he sneezed on his sleeve and then asked for one of the pages to wash his hands with water. With him was her own Ladies-in-Waiting Selene Celtigar, Lyarra Karstark, Elinda Massey, Anella Strong, Allana Tyrell and Johanna Westerling. On a cart was Maester Gerardys, three of his acolytes and two healers from Essos, a Bravosi midwife Healer Alia and a Pentoshi surgeon Healer Helene. They also brought twenty knights and a hundred household guards being lead by Ser Harwin Strong.

They will only be here for a month but Daemon wanted to show the King and the Velaryons that they are not a force to be trample with.

They already sent ahead their servants who would have already ready the Queen’s Apartment for their family. They have their own household here in the Red Keep but most of her servants had relocated to Dragonstone and she do not want to disrupt Aegon’s routine by introducing new faces especially since she thinks her father will once again convince her to prolong their stay if not to relocate back to the Red Keep permanently.

“My King! Allow me to look upon you!” Lord Bartimos said rambunctiously. “The last time I gaze upon you was during your coronation, you were half the size you are now!”

The King laughed with him in jest. “Ah, Lord Bartimos, how come you only graced us with your presence now?”

“King Jaehaerys banished me from the City when I was just five and ten, said my tongue is too sharp.” The older man said without any malice. “I dare say I almost did not recognize it. Why, Flea Bottom is filthier than the slave markets in Essos! The only thing missing are people crucified on the stakes in the docks!” he said and laughed loudly.

The Hand looked visibly upset while the King laughed with the old lord nervously.

Lady Selene looked at her in alarm but she just shrugged at her. Her father needs someone honest to tell him what is going on his own City. Perhaps Lord Bartimos will be the one who will make him see what his Council hides from him. She doubts it though, it’s hard to wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep.

Daemon POV

He sighed in annoyance as he waited for Rhaenyra to be done being ready by her maids. It was already late in the evening when a runner from House Velaryon had requested their presence in the King’s Chamber. The nurses had taken the already slumbering Aegon back to the nursery he shares with Princess Rhaena, he looked on as Stormcloud amble behind to them, not letting his future rider leave his sight. The two Dragon Keepers assigned to him were waiting at the doors.

“What do you think Lord Corlys wants?” he heard Rhaenyra asked as her maids help her into a thick night robe over her Myrish silk sleeping shift. To ensure her modesty, the maids meticulously fastened the ruby buttons, adorning the hoop of the robe, from her chest down to the middle of her thighs. Each button, a gleaming jewel in its own right, added to the resplendence of the garment. The sleeves, trailing gracefully along the floor, bore intricate patterns of gold threads depicting fire daisies, which the seamstress had sewn the littlest of rubies on.

For many nobles, such extravagance was reserved for formal occasions or grand celebrations. Yet here, in the privacy of her chambers, Rhaenyra donned this exquisite attire as her nightly repose. It was a reminder of her status, of the luxury befitting her station as a princess of the realm.

Rhaenyra refused their offer to redo her hair into a new braid and just left it in a long thick braid over her right shoulder. After wiping her face off sleep with room temperature water and putting some oil on it, they were ready to go.

"It better be a life or death situation, or I will personally kill him." Daemon muttered under his breath, a hint of sarcasm lacing his words. He rose from his seat, dismissing the attempts of one of the maids, Valeana, to assist him with his attire. Snapping at her hands when she tried to tie his robe, he left it hanging open, a subtle display of defiance against the constraints of his station.

Offering his arm to Rhaenyra, Daemon led the way through the dimly lit corridors toward the King's Solar, with Ser Darklyn and Ser Joffrey Arryn trailing behind them. The presence of attendants always irked him, a constant reminder of the scrutiny that came with his position. But he understood that as the Princess of Dragonstone, Rhaenyra deserved to be treated with utmost care and attention, even if it meant enduring the suffocating presence of maids and guards. Rhaenyra does not even brush her hair by herself, she knows how to of course, but she does not need to.

Arriving at the King's Solar, Daemon took in the scene before him—Lord Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys Targaryen seated together, the King and Queen on their thrones, and Laenor and Lady Sam on a nearby table. Lady Sam's posture was rigid, as if she had rods on her back instead of a spine.

Allowing his wife to exchange greetings with the royal couple, Daemon sank casually onto the nearest couch, drawing Rhaenyra close to lean against his chest. “Why were we roused from our slumber in this hour of the night?” he asked irritably. All eyes turned curiously towards him.

"I thought it was you who called for this meeting, Princess," Lord Corlys interjected.

His wife shook her head in denial. "We were already abed; Aegon had just fallen asleep. He's not used to the new place."

"Forgive the mummery, Your Grace," Lady Sam interjected, her tone respectful yet unapologetic. "I know you would not have come here if I did not make it appear that the Princess called for this meeting."

Princess Rhaenys bristled visibly at the implication of manipulation. "This is a great imposition, my lady!" she retorted, her frustration palpable she then turned to the Queen and King, her expression contrite. "I'm so sorry I have failed to teach my good daughter basic propriety."

Rhaenyra, ever the peacemaker, attempted to defuse the tension. "I'm sure Lady Sam did not mean anything by it. I am not offended at all, Princess Rhaenys.”

The King, sensing the gravity of the situation, interjected. "You must have something of great importance to say if you went through all this trouble gathering us."

Lady Sam met his gaze with unwavering resolve. "Yes, Your Grace." she replied evenly. "I would like to ask for a divorce.”

Her words hung in the air, heavy with implications, as the room fell silent, each person processing the magnitude of what had just been requested.

“Lady Samantha!” Lord Corlys’ voice thundered. “What madness had gotten into you?”

The King, attempting to maintain order, intervened as a mediator. "My good woman," he began, his tone measured, "on what grounds are you asking for the divorce?”

Lady Samantha met the King's gaze with steely resolve. "It has been more than a year, my King, since Laenor and I were wed." She explained, her voice tinged with sadness. She glanced at her husband, who remained pale and bowed. "We have tried everything, from fertility potions to inviting others into our beds, and yet..." Her voice trailed off, the weight of her words hanging heavily in the air.

"What happens in your marital bed should not be a subject brought up so casually in front of the King and Queen, Lady Samantha!" Princess Rhaenys interjected angrily, her disapproval evident.

“You say that, my Lady, because you are not the one being subjected to such humiliation!” Lady Sam exclaimed, tears running down her eyes.

Princess Rhaenys recoiled slightly at Lady Samantha's outburst, her expression softening as tears streamed down the distraught woman's face. The raw emotion in Lady Samantha's words cut through the tension in the room like a knife, laying bare the depths of her suffering

Laenor reached out to comfort his wife, but she flinched away, her anguish palpable. "I love you as a friend, Laenor, I truly do." she whispered, her voice trembling with emotion. "The gods know we have tried everything to conceive, but it is not in your nature. I cannot bear the utter humiliation anymore," she continued, her voice trembling with emotion, "of having another man... of having another man lay with you to... to arouse you enough to... to penetrate me." Her words faltered, the pain etched on her face, her vulnerability laid bare for all to see.

"It is dehumanizing!" she cried, her voice rising with anguish. "It makes my skin crawl to know that someone else is there, witnessing me in my most vulnerable state, so that we can... so that we can couple!”

The room fell silent, the weight of Lady Samantha's words hanging heavy in the air. Each person present felt the raw emotion emanating from her, the depth of her suffering stirring a sense of empathy and compassion.

Rhaenyra was quick to get up and pull the Lady into her arms where she cried quietly.

Lord Corlys cleared his throat, his expression a mix of regret and resolve. “My King, I am so sorry that the issue of my house has been aired out unnecessarily to you. But we will be taking care of this as a family."

Lady Samantha's protest rang out, her voice tinged with desperation. "No!" she exclaimed, her tone pleading. "I know you love your son, Lord Corlys, but enabling him is part of the problem! Aren't you the one who supplies him with wines and ales whenever he entertains his lovers?”

Her accusation hung in the air, the weight of truth behind her words. Lord Corlys faltered, his gaze dropping momentarily before meeting Lady Samantha's eyes once more.

"I would have been content to be just a pretty decoration in Hightide," Lady Samantha continued, her voice trembling with emotion, "but my health is on the line! Maester Theomore has confirmed that the itchiness and the bumps I have on my private area are a whor*'s disease!”

The shock rippled through the room as Lady Samantha's revelation sank in. The vulnerability she displayed, baring her deepest fears and insecurities, was met with a mixture of sympathy and disbelief.

"Me!" She cried, her voice breaking with anguish. "A faithful follower of the Seven who only has my husband in my bed, no matter how unsuccessful our attempts are, have a whor*'s disease! The maester said it could only be contracted if my partner also has multiple partners, which is the truth! LAenor does not only entertain Ser Joffrey but also Ser Qarl and his many squires, the guards and the merchants and shipwrights in Hull. Do you know how demeaning it is for the Maester to look at me as if I am a harlot and not a victim of my circ*mstances?”

Rhaenys cleared her throat, her expression softening with understanding and empathy. “My Lady Sam," she began gently, "I can only apologize for the way we turned a blind eye to your plight.” Her words carried a weight of regret, acknowledging the failure to recognize and address Lady Samantha's struggles sooner. The room fell silent, the gravity of Rhaenys's acknowledgment hanging heavy in the air. "But a divorce is not the answer," Rhaenys continued, her tone firm yet compassionate. "We will give you the best care we are capable of. We will bring healers from Essos, even. But think of the consequences of a divorce.” She paused, allowing her words to sink in, before continuing. "It will not be Laenor who will be looked on unfavorably. No other man will take you as his wife if they find out about this... disease.”

The truth in Rhaenys's words cast a shadow over the room, the implications of Lady Samantha's condition reverberating through the gathering. Lady Samantha's response was swift, her determination unwavering.

"My father loves me!" she declared defiantly. "He will take me back to his castle.’

"And once your father passed?" Princess Rhaenys interjected gently, her tone carrying a note of concern. "Will your brother's future wife be comfortable allowing a much older member of his family to stay and threaten her position as lady of the house?”

Her words hung in the air, the implication of Lady Samantha's uncertain future echoing through the room.

"Think about it, my dear," Lord Corlys reiterated, his voice tinged with solemnity. "No other man will take you now, if word gets out. They will not believe that you did not couple with other men. Your reputation will be in shambles.”

The weight of his words settled heavily in the room, the harsh reality of Lady Samantha's situation laid bare before them. As Lady Samantha wept once more, seeking solace in her wife's embrace, the gravity of their predicament hung heavy in the air.

‘Of course, they will use this to threaten the girl.’ Daemon thought bitterly, his disappointment in the injustices faced by women in Westeros evident. From the streets of Flea Bottom to the highest chambers of noble houses, women were all too often exploited and manipulated for the gain of others.

He cast a disdainful glance back at Laenor, who remained silent with his head bowed. A sneer crept onto his lips as he contemplated the man Viserys had once deemed fit for Rhaenyra's hand in marriage. A man so consumed by his own desires and self-interest that he failed to consider the consequences for his wife and family.

Laenor may have been a skilled dragon rider, a seasoned commander, and a loyal friend, but he was utterly inept as an heir. If the Great Council had chosen Rhaenys as Queen, Laenor's predilections would have thrown House Targaryen into even greater instability.

In Valyria, such matters were of little consequence. The Valyrians embraced love in all its forms—men with men, women with women, and individuals loving multiple partners. But the strict Andal traditions of Westeros stood in stark contrast, condemning anything outside the norm as sinful and deviant. The fear of the unfamiliar had led to the demonization of those who dared to love freely, perpetuating a cycle of oppression and prejudice.

They ended up taking Lady Sam to see their healers. He left his wife with the still distraught Lady as the Queen and Princess Rhaenys accompanied her to the rooms that was commandeered by Maester Gerardys and the two Essosi healers he bribed with so much gold they can build their own house of healing of they so wanted just for them to go into their employ.

Rhaenys POV

Rhaenys stormed into her son's chambers, her fury palpable as she caught sight of Ser Joffrey lounging nonchalantly on Laenor's bed. "Out!" she commanded, her voice sharp and commanding. The young knight scrambled to collect his belongings before hastily exiting the room.

"Mother, how is Sam?" Laenor inquired, his tone betraying a hint of concern amidst his apparent indifference.

"Don't act like you care, Laeno." Rhaenys retorted bitterly, her anger simmering just below the surface. "You didn't even realize that your own actions gave your wife a whor*'s disease because of your promiscuity!"

Laenor bowed his head in shame, his silence a tacit admission of guilt. "I didn't know." he murmured softly, his voice laced with remorse.

"Because you didn't have her trust!" Rhaenys snapped, her frustration boiling over. "I took the blame for alienating the girl, but you are her husband, Laenor. You should have seen how miserable she is.”

"I'm sorry, Mother." Laenor offered, his apology tinged with regret.

"This stops now." Rhaenys declared, her tone firm and resolute. "You will send Ser Joffrey and Ser Qarl back to their father's castle. No more parties, no more orgies in taverns. You will act as the proper heir to Driftmark that you ought to be!”

Her words hung in the air, the weight of her expectations clear. Laenor nodded solemnly, his expression a mixture of contrition and determination as he accepted the consequences of his actions.

She walked back towards her own rooms, her hands cradling her own destroyed womb. She remembered the Maester telling her that due to the inflammation her womb had suffered she would no longer be able to have more children. She still remember Healer Helene’s sigh of relief when she told her good daughter that her womb was not inflamed and her sickness can easily be healed with proper care. She described in detail another lover’s disease that will render a woman infertile and it sounded exactly like what she had gone through before. She put her hand in her mouth and swallowed a sob.

Notes:

wear condoms y'all! be safe!

Chapter 14

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

She clapped as Criston Cole won his bout against Forrest Frey, Fool Frey they call him when he asked for her hand in marriage the first time they met each other. He was a fool yes but also an excellent Knight, he gave the Marcher Knight quiet a competition. They broke six lance against each other until Cole was unhorsed but instead of accepting his defeat he proceeded to fight on foot. Forrest Frey only lost because he was obviously not used to an opponent that uses the morning star. All in all the futire Lord of the Crossing did good. She would make sure to congratulate him personally later. Daemon was forever entertained how the younger knight fell over his feet on her vicinity.

She turned back to the knight who will be advancing to the final tilt and tried to hide her grimace. Imagine her surprise when the herald called for his name. She had made steps to make sure that this treasonous Kingmaker will not be able to even put a toe inside the Red Keep and here he is riding on the list, sworn shield on one of Lord Baratheon’s daughters

Daemon was forbidden by the King to enter the list since the occasion was in honor of his own child. He does not even recognized Cole as the one he lost to during the Tourney for Baelon’s birth. She will endeavor to ensure that Criston Cole would remain a landless knight, unworthy of any consideration. However, if he were to provoke her sufficiently, she entertained the thought of finding pleasure in his demise as well

It was Cole and Ser Harwin who faced each other in the final tilt and if a decline on the ground suddenly appeared that made Cole’s horse stumble at the last second which made Harwin unhorsed him easily it was really no problem at all. She looked at her husband who was clapping loudly and she wanted to roll her eyes. The man was visibly angry but he had a hard time getting up and was not able to challenge Ser Harwin to arms.

As Ser Harwin approached the stand with the crown of roses, Daemon stood beside her, a smile playing on his lips as he watched the exchange. He and Harwin had been friends for years, drinking and often times devising ways to train their household guards better.

"Your Grace," Ser Harwin began, his voice respectful as he bowed before Rhaenyra, "it is my honor to present you with this crown of roses, in recognition of your beauty and grace.”

Rhaenyra accepted the praise graciously, her regal demeanor unwavering. "Thank you, Ser Harwin. Today your victory in the joust has carved your name into the annals of history. Your unwavering loyalty and chivalry shall be forever remembered and celebrated. May your valor inspire us all to uphold the noble traditions of knighthood.”

Daemon nodded approvingly, his gaze shifting briefly to their son, Aegon, who stood nearby, his chubby hands clasping the folds of his small tunic. "Aegon," he said, gently motioning for the toddler to come forward, "come, assist Ser Harwin in crowning your mother.”

Aegon toddled forward eagerly, a wide grin spreading across his face as he reached out to take the crown from Ser Harwin's outstretched hand. "Yes, kepa!" he chirped, his voice filled with innocent excitement.

As Aegon clumsily placed the crown upon Rhaenyra's head, Daemon watched with pride, his affection for his son evident in the tender smile that graced his lips. "You truly are the Queen of Love and Beauty." he remarked, his voice warm with admiration

Rhaenyra's smile widened at Daemon's words, her heart swelling with love for her family. "Thank you, my love." she said softly, her eyes shining with maternal pride as she leaned down to press a kiss to Aegon's chubby cheeks but never taking her eyes off her husband.

With the ceremony complete, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause, charmed by the endearing sight of the young prince participating in the festivities. King Viserys, standing tall and regal beside his family, raised his voice above the din, declaring proudly, "Aegon will be a fine knight one day and an excellent King, a credit to our house and the realm!" And as the crowd cheered once more, King Viserys smiled so wide she’s afraid his mouth might tear.

She waited for the cheer to die down before stepping forward with a nod from the King.

“My Lords and Ladies, thank you all for joining us to celebrate Aegon's first name day with this splendid tournament! Your presence has made this occasion truly memorable for our family. I know many of our citizens were disheartened with the closure of all of Queen Alyssane’s projects in the City. I understand that the Faith have their own charities being supported by the Crown now but Queen Alyssane’s projects had always been a symbol of hope for our people and for that I am delighted to announced that Dragonstone had legally bought the rights to maintain the Water Fountains and the Food Houses originally established by the Good Queen Alyssane!” the cheers were overwhelming, some mothers were even crying in relief. Older men knelt down and sent a prayer to the heaven while saying a blessing for Princess.

She looked at her husband, not knowing the extent the smallfolk’s reaction but he only smiled encouragingly at her.

"Under the guidance of Lady Samantha Velaryon, The Food Houses will now provide two meals daily to those who will aid in the vital task of cleaning our city streets, particularly in the impoverished district of Flea Bottom. Additionally, the food kitchen will continue to offer sustenance to all in need once a day, ensuring that hunger is alleviated throughout our community.

"I am immensely grateful to Lady Samantha Velaryon for her generous contributions, including crops and provisions from House Tarly, as well as financial support from House Velaryon. Furthermore, I extend my heartfelt thanks to Lord Celtigar for his noble gesture in donating his manor to be transformed into an orphanage named Queen Aemma's Home for Little Children, this institution will provide a safe haven for the youngest members of our society."

She smiled widely as Lord Celtigar bowed gallantly while everyone was cheering him on. He blew kisses and waved at the crowds while leaning precariously on the balustrade. He only stop when his son and Heir had pulled him backwards when he almost tip forward. He could see Ser Daegon whisper furiously in his father's ear but Lord Bartimos' smile never wavered although he was nodding placatingly.

“I implore all members of the nobility to follow the example set by Lady Velaryon and Lord Celtigar by donating what they can to support these worthy endeavors. In turn, their generosity will be forever etched on the walls of these institutions. Each noble donor will receive a plaque of appreciation, which they can display proudly in their homes, as well as another plaque that will be prominently displayed on the outside walls of the orphanage.

Let us come together as a community to ensure that no one in our beloved King's Landing goes hungry or without shelter. Together, we can make a difference and leave a lasting legacy of compassion and care."

As news of the opportunity to have their names immortalized on stone plaques spread among the nobility, a palpable excitement rippled through the crowd. They saw it as a chance to solidify their status and legacy within the annals of history. The people's cheers for Princess Rhaenyra only fueled their eagerness to participate, with murmurs of admiration and envy swirling amidst the throng.

As the people cheered and hailed Princess Rhaenyra with epithets like "Realm's Delight!" "The Mother Reborn!" and blessings as "Seven's blessing to the Dragon Prince!" a sense of adulation and admiration swept through the crowd.

The king, gazed upon her with a mixture of pride and fondness, recognizing the admiration she had garnered from the people. His expression conveyed both paternal affection and acknowledgment of her prowess in winning the hearts of the realm.

Conversely, the Hand of the King appeared visibly perturbed, his discomposure evident in his demeanor. While the cheers resounded around him, his furrowed brow and tense countenance betrayed his discomfort. It was clear that Princess Rhaenyra's popularity and influence were not without consequence, stirring tensions among those who may view her ascendancy with apprehension or opposition.

On the third night of their arrival in the capital after conferences with Lord Beesbury and Lord Strong she arranged a meeting with the King late into the night aware of her father's reduced interactions with the Hand and the banishment of Otto from his private chambers since rumors about their closeness began to circulate, Rhaenyra confronted the king with a fiery determination.

"Father," Rhaenyra began, her voice carrying a fervent urgency, "I cannot abide by your decision to halt Queen Alyssane's projects. They were her legacy, her gift to the people, and to abandon them now is to dishonor her memory."

The king regarded his daughter with a mix of understanding and weariness. "Rhaenyra, my dear, I understand your concerns, but we must consider the greater good. The projects are being transferred to the Faith to ensure their continued success and efficacy."

Rhaenyra's frustration simmered beneath her skin, her passion burning bright in her eyes. "But Father," she pressed on, "by relinquishing control to the Faith, you risk politicizing initiatives meant solely for the welfare of the people. Queen Alyssane's memory deserves better than to be used as a pawn in the game of politics. The people will see this as the Crown passing the burden of caring for them to someone else!”

For a moment, there was silence in the chamber, the weight of their differing perspectives hanging heavy in the air. Then, with a steely resolve, Rhaenyra offered her proposal. "Father, let me purchase these projects and place them under Dragonstone's purview. In doing so, we honor Queen Alyssane's memory and ensure that her legacy remains untainted by outside influence. You can still give the allotted allowances to the Faith to do with it as they please. But I insist that Dragonstone be personally responsible for the Good Queen’s initiatives.”

King Viserys regarded his daughter with a mixture of pride and contemplation. After a long moment of consideration, he nodded slowly. "Very well, Rhaenyra," he conceded, "your passion and determination are commendable. Let us proceed with your plan to safeguard Queen Alyssane's legacy and uphold the honor of our house.”

With Lord Strong facilitating the legalities and drawing all necessary papers and the necessary funds being transferred to the Crown's coffers under Lord Beesbury’s supervision, Rhaenyra took decisive steps to safeguard her family's legacy.

She took Aegon in her arms and let him wave at the people who cheered loudly for him. Let the people know that it is the Princess of Dragonstone who takes care of them now.

Rhaenyra entered the Council Chamber with her father, King Viserys, by her side. As she took her seat on his right, directly opposite Ser Otto, she felt the weight of the room's attention settle upon her. She inclined her head respectfully at Lord Tyland, who returned the gesture with a bow, his eyes not leaving her face.

Lord Lyman spoke with a courtly flourish as Rhaenyra sat beside him. "It is good to have your radiant presence in this droll Council Room, Princess." He remarked, his voice smooth and courteous.

She responded with a gracious smile, her demeanor regal yet playful. "That is why you are my favorite, Lord Lyman." she quipped in return. "You certainly know how to flatter the fairer sex.”

The old man laughed delightedly with her. Lord Strong bowed deeply as she acknowledged his welcome, and she offered him a nod of thanks. However, she paid little heed to the pitifully shallow bows from the Hand and the Grand Maester.

As the King settled into his seat at the head of the table, he looked around at those assembled. His brow furrowed slightly in confusion as he spoke, "Why have we gathered here today?" His question hung in the air, prompting a pause as the others exchanged uncertain glances.

Rhaenyra raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Weren't you the one who called for the meeting, Father?" she asked, her tone laced with surprise.

The Hand cleared his throat nervously. "I called for the meeting, Your Grace, because I wanted to discuss an imp—

"Oh?" Rhaenyra interrupted, her surprise evident. She glanced around, feeling the weight of everyone's gaze on her. "I'm sorry, my Lords," she apologized, her cheeks flushing slightly. "I wasn't aware that the Hand now has the power to call a Council meeting even if the King is strong and capable to lead them." She chuckled nervously. "I've been away from Court for quite a while. I wasn't informed that the Hand had such... privileges now... among other things." Her voice trailed off, her last words almost a mutter to herself.

The Hand, feeling the need to clarify, stepped forward, his expression composed but a hint of tension in his demeanor. "Your Grace, I want to assure you and everyone present that I did not presume to wield such privileges." he began, his voice firm yet respectful. "The King still holds the one true power in the Council, and any meetings convened are at His Majesty's discretion.”He paused, gathering his thoughts before continuing. "The reason I requested this meeting was solely to address pressing matters concerning the Almshouse." he explained, his tone earnest. "It is a crucial issue that requires our immediate attention for the welfare of the realm.

Rhaenyra's brow furrowed as she listened, her skepticism evident in her gaze. "But you did not request the meeting." she reiterated, her voice firm but tinged with frustration. "You called it without the King's knowledge.”

The Hand's face flushed with a mixture of anger and embarrassment at Rhaenyra's accusation. He struggled for a moment to maintain his composure before replying, his tone strained. "Your Grace, I assure you that my intentions were purely in service to the realm." He insisted, though the tension in the room was palpable.

“Now, Rhaenyra, the Lord Hand surely have something important to say.” Her father said placatingly.

“If you say so, father, then it must be so.” She said then smiled at the Hand. “It must be good having the King’s… favor.” She said and smiled happily at him.

She did not let her eye contact with the Hand go, sensing her unyielding scrutiny, the Hand's discomfort grew evident, and he shifted his gaze towards the King, seeking support or validation.

Meanwhile, King Viserys, who had been observing the exchange between his daughter and his Hand, leaned away slightly from the Hand's direction, a subtle indication of his own unease with the situation. His expression remained neutral, but there was a hint of reservation in his demeanor as he observed the unfolding tension between his daughter and his trusted advisor.

The Grand Maester cleared his throat, drawing the attention of those gathered in the Council Chamber. "Your Grace, esteemed members of the Council." He began, his voice measured and authoritative. "I must bring to your attention a matter of concern raised by the Faith of the Seven. “

The King inclined his head, indicating for him to continue. "Yes, Grand Maester?”

"The Faith has expressed feeling slighted by recent actions taken in regard to Queen Alyssane's projects." the Grand Maester explained. "As you know, the Faith has been granted authority by the Crown to provide comfort to the people. They see the sudden announcement of the Almshouse as undermining their efforts.”

Rhaenyra's wanted to roll her eyes but she instead softened her expression with understanding. "I am sorry to hear that the Faith feels undermined." she responded, her tone sincere.

The Hand, sensing an opportunity to address the issue, spoke up. "If I may, Your Grace," he interjected. "The Council would like to know the details of future projects.”

“I had already provided the details when I announced the Almshouse.” She dead panned.

“A more detailed information is what we ask, Princess.” Lord Tyland said.

Rhaenyra arched an eyebrow, her curiosity piqued. "And why is that?" She inquired, seeking clarification.

"To keep track of all expenses and ensure transparency in governance." the Hand replied, his tone diplomatic yet firm.

Rhaenyra paused for a moment, considering his words. "Dragonstone has purchased the Water Fountains and the Food Houses." she stated matter-of-factly. "As they are private property now, the Council does not have the authority to meddle in Dragonstone's affairs.”

Lord Lyonel, ever the diplomat, spoke up, his tone measured and diplomatic. "Your Grace, if I may," He began, "it is not just Dragonstone who is financing these projects, but many houses in the realm.”

Rhaenyra nodded in acknowledgment. "I am aware." she replied calmly. "That is the goal of fundraising, after all." She continued, her voice firm yet diplomatic. "I will ensure that reports detailing the finances and the allocation of funds are sent to the Lords who made donations. If the Crown decides to donate, they will receive a copy as well.’

The Hand, feeling the need to assert the Crown's authority, interjected. "Princess Rhaenyra, Dragonstone is still under the Crown's purview and thus answers to the King." he protested.

Rhaenyra turned to her father, her gaze unwavering. "Do you want me to give you a complete report of the things you had already washed your hands of?" she asked directly, her tone challenging yet respectful

The King sputtered, clearly uncomfortable under her gaze. After a moment of hesitation, he relented. "You don't need to do that, and I trust your judgment." he conceded, his voice subdued.

Rhaenyra smiled brightly at her father and kissed his hand in gratitude before turning back to the Council. "Now that is sorted," she declared, her tone firm. "Perhaps the Council is better off auditing the ten thousand dragons we give the Faith every moon.” She continued, her voice gaining momentum. "I know that the Sept's food kitchens are only able to provide food three times a week, and it is often depleted before noon. Compare that to the new gilded carriage that the High Septon recently commissioned for himself, it is rather… tasteless."

The Grand Maester's face flushed crimson with embarrassment, while Lord Lyman sputtered in disbelief. "Is that true?" he managed to stammer out, his expression a mixture of shock and indignation.

Rhaenyra nodded firmly, her tone resolute. "Yes, it is true," she affirmed. "Daemon visited the Sept himself while supervising the renovations on the Water Fountains and saw the carriage first hand. It was indeed inlaid with golden leaf." Her words were delivered with unwavering confidence, leaving no room for doubt about the accuracy of her statement. She leaned back and watch as Lord Lyman went on a tirade about wanting to personally visit the Sept so he can check the books himself.

She looked back at the Hand who was openly scowling at her. Perhaps it was not enough that he was fielding off rumors about his sexuality, he clearly needs something to occupy himself.

She smiled brightly at the Councilmen who all bowed respectfully at her. She kissed her father in the cheeks as she watched him walk away towardsLord Vorias Vypen and his cousins. Lord Vypren came to the Red Keep for the Tourney and immediately befriended the King along with the three cousins he came with. The King said they bonded over Lady Sabitha, Lord Vypren’s daughter, who prefers milling about in the training yard than attending the luncheons the Queen prefers once a week for the unmarried Ladies in Court.

King Viserys said the lady who is only six and ten reminds him of her, willful, headstrong and Lord Vypren’s headache. She was Lord Vypren’s only child for four and ten years until the Lord's new wife gave birth to a son two years ago. However, the relationship between the young girl and her stepmother was strained, and the new Lady Vypren had begged Lord Vorias to bring Lady Sabitha to King's Landing to find her a suitable match.

Instead of seeking a husband, Lady Sabitha had surprised everyone by asking each of the Kingsguard to squire for them. Rhaenyra had spoken with her once, and found that all the young lady ever wanted to talk about was Syrax and the other dragons. Rhaenyra indulged her, finding her delightful—a breath of fresh air compared to the Court's other ladies, whose tongues were often dipped in honey but harbored sinister intentions.

It is also good that her father had found himself more friends and that he is no longer being isolated by the Hand.

Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

“Princess Rhaenyra.” He greeted with a shallow bow.

“Ser Otto.” She remarked, she pretended to trip and the ever gallant Reacher knight righted her immediately before Ser Darklyn took her arms from him.

“Forgive, me Ser Otto, it is so clumsy of me. Must be the full moon.” She said.

“An old wives’ tale, surely Princess.” The hand said and then made his excuses to leave. She smile at him as she clenched the piece of button she took from his coat.

“Do you believe in the story that the full moon gives off harsh energies, Ser Darklyn?” she asked her loyal Knight.

“My mother did.” The older man said and smiled at her. “Lady Prunella said that we should avoid the direct rays of the full moon as it turns men into wolves.”

Rhaenyra chuckled, sharing in his amusem*nt. The notion of men turning into wolves during the full moon was a story she had heard often during her visits to the North. Lord Stark had dismissed it as mere superstition, suggesting that the smallfolk were likely referring to wargs—people who could cast their minds into direwolves—rather than men literally transforming into wolves.

They had to stay longer at the Red Keep to supervise the building of two more Water Fountains in the City. Daemon was frustrated that he could not just build it himself and had to wait for the builders to finish it before he can polish it himself.

As Rhaenyra entered their chambers after the council meeting, her eyes lit up with excitement upon spotting Aegon playing with his Stormcloud.

“There he is!" She exclaimed, her voice filled with delight. Rushing over and sitting down beside him, she scooped him up into her arms and peppered him with kisses.

Aegon giggled happily as she showered him with affection, his chubby cheeks rosy with joy. "Muña!" he babbled excitedly, his tiny arms circling her neck. Stormcloud roared at her and blasted them with smoke before ambling towards the fireplace.

But Rhaenyra's excitement quickly turned to frustration as she realized that Aegon had been away from her all day. She turned to her husband who was sitting near the fire and eating fruits nonchalantly. "Daemon, you commandeered him the whole day?" she asked, her tone tinged with annoyance.

Aegon, sensing her change in mood, looked up at her with wide eyes. "Muña, big tub!" he exclaimed brokenly, his toddler voice filled with excitement opening his hands indicating that the tub was very big. "Water, like!"

Rhaenyra's heart swelled with pride at Aegon's attempt to share his day's adventures. "That's wonderful, Aegon! Was it so big?" she praised, planting a kiss on his forehead as he nod excitedly. But then she turned her gaze back to Daemon, her glare accusing. "You had him the whole day, and you missed the noonday meal at the keep." she scolded, her disappointment evident.

“We were bored.” He said, a hint of amusem*nt in his eyes. “The Crown Princess and Heir to the Throne was so busy we had to find other things to fill our day.”

She rolled her eyes at her husband, she couldn't shake her frustration. "I wanted to visit with both of you during the noonday meal break. Imagine my surprise when I came here with both of you gone." she explained, her tone tinged with disappointment.

Daemon chuckled and sat down beside her. He kissed her softly, closed his eyes and put his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry, my love, I will make sure that we would be here for the noonday meal everyday. I introduced Aegon to the workers." He explained, his tone gentle yet firm. "It's important for them to be familiar with him as their future king.”

She sighed in understanding then pulled Aegon towards her again, kissing his forehead and wrinkling her nose at the faint smell of sweat. "It seems you've had quite the adventure today." she remarked, turning to Valaena. "Please draw him a bath. He could use a good scrub.”

Valaena nodded, her expression amused as she moved to comply with Rhaenyra's request, she asked Clement to draw the Prince a bath. Clement is another Celtigar cousin who is one of Aegon’s main caretaker. As she watched her son toddle off to the bath she let Daemon assist her off the floor and sat down on the chair he was sitting before.

“Valaena, please draw your Prince a bath too, he stinks.” She shouted and Daemon just rolled his eyes at her.

She heard a faint “Right away Princess!” and she turned back to her husband. He had messed with the plumbing of Maegor’s Holdfast the first days they were here so all the occupied rooms now has unlimited supply of water. He had modeled it to the plumbing in Dragonstone where you only need to turn on some taps and water will be lifted from the supply source directly to their rooms. He was disappointed that there was no hot spring nearby so they can have hot waters anytime, unlike in Dragonstone.

Instead Daemon built an enormous stone water tank where the water is constantly being boiled by a furnace. He then connected metal pipes going to different rooms in the Holdfast to make sure they always have hot water for their baths. All the servants need to do is make sure the water tank is full and heated properly. Right now he only put the pipes in their rooms, in the nursery, The King’s bathing rooms, Laena’s rooms and the rooms that the Velaryons usually used. He also connected the pipes on the servant’s bathing area. The servants were thankful that they did not have to carry pails of water for their bath on five plight of stairs anymore.

"What did you do today?" she asked, her tone gentler now.

Daemon met her gaze with a sense of pride, eager to share his day's accomplishments. "We visited the old Water fountains."he began, his voice carrying a note of enthusiasm. "I made sure that the base is still sturdy, and I changed the composition of the pipes from clay to ceramic to make them more durable.”

As he spoke, Daemon's gestures became more animated, his hands moving to emphasize each point. "The current water fountains only have one filtration system made of gravel, which is good for removing larger particles, at least according to the caretaker." he continued. "So, I added another filtration system made of sand, which allows for finer filtration and the removal of smaller particles and sediment. This will make the water more viable for drinking.”

Daemon's explanation was met with a look of admiration from Rhaenyra, her pride in her husband evident in her eyes. "That's impressive." she remarked, a hint of awe in her voice. "You're always finding ways to improve things, aren't you?”

Daemon looked pleased but just shrugged his shoulders in a rare display of modesty. "How about you?" He inquired, redirecting the conversation back to her. "Did the Council actually allow you to make decisions exclusively? I don’t know why they need any say on the matter of Queen Aemma’s Almshouse. We’re the one funding it. The papers had been signed and the gold transferred.”

She sighed, a hint of frustration creeping into her voice. "It's because donations are coming from other houses so they think they have the right to meddle." She explained. "But I made sure to tell them that we are doing for transparency. All decisions will be made by us through Lady Sam.”

Internally, Rhaenyra agreed with Daemon's assessment. The council's interference was an annoyance, but one they would navigate with ease. She recounted the appointments she had made, assigning overseers to each of their projects. "Lord Thaddeus Rowan will supervise the Food Houses, House Rowan is one of the most prominent and old families from the Reach." She added, her voice tinged with confidence. "It was not hard for Lord Thaddeus to gather more donations from the Houses of the Reach."

“That’s a good choice. He’s jolly and well liked but he knows when to be strict. It will not be hard for him to lead the clean up in the city with the people who rely on the Food Houses. " Daemon said.

It will not be enough of course, the sanitation of King’s Landing needs an established Office, strict implementation and cooperation from the people. But right now volunteers will suffice. It’s not her job to make Viserys look good. Once she’s Queen she will install sewage systems, drains, and latrines to manage human waste and prevent contamination of water sources.

But not yet.

"And Ser Manfryd Mooton will oversee the Water Fountains. He’s a learned man and is very willing to maintain the Fountains.” She continued. "The Orphanage was given under the supervision of Stewardess Isolde Sunglass." She explained, her voice reflecting her confidence in the decision. "She's Lord Sunglass' widow sister, who didn't have any children that grew to adulthood.”

Daemon nodded thoughtfully, recognizing the significance of the choice. "She'll bring compassion and understanding to the role." he remarked, his tone reflecting approval. "The children will be in good hands under her care.”

She agreed and smiled. “In a month we will be ready to open. Lord Celtigar and Lady Selene personally oversees updating the décor in the Orphanage. They put more beds for the children and long tables where they can all eat together. Lady Selene wanted to turn one of the Halls into a learning room where the children can be thought to read and write. I’m not sure if it’s necessary.” She mumbled the last part picking a strawberry and dipping it to thick cream.

Daemon's careful words brought a faint smile to her lips, though her indifference toward the smallfolk was evident. "These children will be loyal to you, Rhaenyra." He said, his tone measured. "They will serve in the Red Keep or act as our eyes and ears in other castles. Is it not worth investing in? Our own spy network?”

She nodded slowly, acknowledging the potential benefits of investing in the orphanage and its residents. Daemon understood Rhaenyra's true motives well. He knew that her efforts for the smallfolk stemmed more from a desire to avoid inheriting a city plagued by problems than from genuine concern for their welfare.

Rhaenyra shrugged nonchalantly, her thoughts drifting between the strawberry tart and the blueberry cake. "Sure, perhaps we can spare one teacher. But you’ll be the one to hire someone."

Daemon kissed her and things would have escalated if Valeana entered to announce his bath was ready. Daemon playfully tried to coax her into joining him, she playfully swatted his hands away, enjoying their lighthearted banter before she pushed him towards the bathing room.

That night, as the moon cast its eerie light upon the Tower of the Hand, Otto Hightower's cries echoed through the corridors, a symphony of agony that sent shivers down the spines of all who heard them. His voice, usually steady and commanding, was now distorted by the sheer intensity of his suffering, each scream a desperate plea for relief.He writhed in his bed, clutching at his chest as though trying to contain the searing pain consuming him from within. Sweat poured from his brow, drenching the sheets beneath him, while his hands clawed at the air in a futile attempt to escape the torment coursing through his veins.

His attendants watched helplessly as he convulsed in agony, his body contorting in ways that seemed impossible. The very air seemed to crackle with the intensity of his pain, as though the very walls of the tower could not contain the magnitude of his suffering.

Through gritted teeth, Otto gasped for breath, his words choked with anguish as he described the sensation of his insides being torn apart. Each moment felt like an eternity as he endured the relentless onslaught of pain, his mind consumed by the fear that he would not survive until dawn.

As the moon waned and the first light of dawn crept over the horizon, a collective sigh of relief echoed through the Tower of the Hand. Otto Hightower's shudders gradually subsided, replaced by a weary calm as the grip of pain loosened its hold on his frail form. Though far from peaceful, his rest was a welcome reprieve from the relentless torment that had besieged him throughout the night.

He was bedridden for seven days. Unable to move without being in so much pain. In the days that followed, hope blossomed anew as Otto's condition showed signs of improvement. His strength slowly returned, and the tremors that had wracked his body began to subside. It seemed as though the worst was behind him, and whispers of recovery spread throughout the tower with a sigh of relief.

Otto's newfound vitality was but a fleeting respite, a brief interlude before the cycle of agony began anew. When the next full moon rose, its baleful light casting an ominous glow over the land, Otto Hightower found himself once again ensnared in the clutches of pain. Despite his valiant efforts to resist, the relentless assault on his senses proved too much to bear. And as the sun rose once more, bringing with it a fleeting reprieve from the torment, Otto knew that his battle was far from over.

Chapter 15

Chapter Text

Otto Hightower POV

Ser Otto Hightower's smile was strained as he watched the King and Queen greet the Lords and Ladies from the elevated dais. His eyes lingered on the Queen, her arms cradling their infant daughter, a sight that filled him with bitterness. Though the child was only nine moons old, she was already being paraded at every feast and ball, a constant presence in her mother's embrace. Yet, she lacked the charm and vivacity of his own granddaughter, Helaena.

Helaena Targaryen, exuberant and sweet babe in her brief time on this earth, had possessed a radiant spirit that lit up any room she entered. Her laughter had been infectious, her smile a beacon of joy that had warmed even the coldest hearts. Otto's heart ached with the memory of her untimely demise. In contrast, Rhaena Targaryen, was a shy and reserved child, always seeming to shrink into herself in the presence of others. She sought refuge in her mother's arms, her delicate features often hidden from view as she nestled against her mother's breast.

The memory of Helaena's passing weighed heavily on Otto's heart. Stupid Alicent, in her heedlessness, had inadvertently crushed the young princess to death while heavily pregnant. If only Helaena had survived, he would have fought tooth and nail for her to ascend to the throne as the first Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, alongside a Hightower King. But fate had dealt them a cruel hand, snatching Helaena away unfairly.

He regretted allowing his brother, Hobert, to influence him into making the fateful decision to cut his daughter to retrieve the babe. At the time, desperation had clouded his judgment, blinding him to the potential consequences of his actions.With her alive, there would have still been hope for another son, another chance to secure the future of House Hightower. They had already saved her once from sharing the same fate as Queen Aemma, he couldn't help but feel that they had not done enough to protect her.

His expression darkened as he observed Lord Vorias being invited to sit with the King. He gripped the stone balustrade. He is in one of the balcony overseeing the garden where the festivities are being held. It’s already two weeks from his last attack and he’s still reeling from the overwhelming pain he is constantly being subjected to. The Grand Maester did not know what is happening to him because aside from the debilitating pain he is being subjected to there are no other symptoms. Perhaps he should have him replaced given how useless he is.

His grimace deepened as his brother's wife, Lynese Hightower, approached him with a concerned expression.

She whispered softly, her voice filled with apprehension, "It seems you've been easily replaced at the King's side, Otto. This Lord Vorias and his cousins has insinuated himself into the King's inner circle, spinning tales of adventure and organizing outings that capture the King's attention.”

Hobert, her husband, joined them, his own expression troubled. "Indeed," he added, his voice tinged with bitterness. "It appears that this Vorias has become a favored companion of the King, exerting significant influence over his decisions and activities lately.”

As Otto's face reddened with anger and embarrassment, Hobert's tone shifted, his voice carrying a note of resignation. "But perhaps it is for the best." he remarked, his gaze meeting Otto's with a mixture of sympathy and understanding. "With Lord Vorias at the King's side, the vile rumors about you will likely diminish. It may be a blessing in disguise, brother.”

HIs jaw tightened at the implication, a bitter taste filling his mouth. Though he knew the truth of Hobert's words, the thought of being replaced by another in the King's favor was a blow to his pride. Yet, begrudgingly, he acknowledged the wisdom in his brother's assessment. "Indeed," he replied, his voice tinged with a hint of sarcasm. "While I may not be as close to the King as I once was, his newfound friendships will keep him occupied. The burden of running the realm falls into my hands, as it always has.”

Hobert nodded approvingly at his words. "Good job." he said, his tone tinged with relief. "After the failure and humiliation brought upon us by Alicent, we need a boon for our house. Your steadfast presence here at the capital will ensure that House Hightower remains strong.”

As Hobert spoke, he felt a surge of anger welling up within him. The memory of Alicent's actions and their devastating consequences filled him with a sense of shame and regret. But before he could respond, Lynese interjected, her tone haughty and dismissive.

She sniffed arrogantly. "I’m glad my daughter, Bethany, is flourishing as the future Lady of the Arbor, with a daughter and another babe on the way, surely the heir. Truly, she is blessed by the Seven, a true credit to House Hightower.”

He seethed silently at his sister-in-law's words, his jaw clenched tight with barely restrained anger. Though he longed to lash out at her, he knew that now was not the time for confrontation. Instead, he forced himself to maintain a facade of composure, his thoughts consumed by a tumultuous mix of resentment and determination.

His smile wavered as he watched the festivities unfold around him. The children from the orphanage had been ushered onto the makeshift dance floor by Lady Sunglass and with a cue from the bard their innocent voices filled the air as they sang the Hymn of the Mother. Despite himself, his lips curved upwards in an automatic smile, though his heart was heavy with cynicism.

Beside him, Lynese Hightower cooed and simpered appropriately, playing the part of the dutiful noblewoman.

Lady Darklyn smiled warmly as she observed the children, her eyes sparkling with genuine admiration. "Truly, Princess Rhaenyra’s efforts have brought such joy to these little ones. They look positively radiant.”

Today marked the official opening of Queen Aemma's Almshouse, a project that would oversee the management of the Water Fountains, the Food Houses, and the Orphanage. The Princess and the Prince had spared no effort to endear themselves to the people, their every action calculated to win favor with the masses.

Yet, to Ser Otto, it all felt like a spectacle—a crude display of wealth and power disguised as charity. The Princess's personal accompaniment of Lord and Ladies who had the potential to donate large sums to the Almshouse, the parading of orphans like mummers to tug at heartstrings and extract more money from wealthy patrons—it all left a bitter taste in his mouth.Even the trip to the water fountains had been transformed into a spectacle, with the installation of an image of the Good Queen Alyssane in white marble at the fountain's source. Otto couldn't help but see it as yet another attempt by the Targaryens to immortalize themselves in the eyes of the people, to cement their legacy for generations to come.

As the festivities continued around him, Ser Otto felt a growing sense of disillusionment wash over him. In a world where even acts of charity were tainted by political maneuvering and self-interest, it was becoming increasingly difficult to discern true virtue from mere spectacle.

Even the Faith is under scrutiny with Lord Lyman insisting that all coins given be accounted for. Those money were supposed to be used by their faction in making sure that Rhaenyra will not sit the Iron Thorne or that her rule will be tumultuousat least. They cannot allow the Targaryens to remain strong. Rhaena Targaryen can still be shaped as future Queen wed to one of Hobert's grandchildren she will be easily manipulated just like her father. But to do that they need to get rid of Rhaenyra and Daemon but they remain far from his grasp in Dragonstone and the Stepstones.

From the corner of his eyes he saw a movement that pique his interest, Samantha Velaryon went on a side door looking around conspicuously. Aside from the Princess she’s supposed to be the main one rubbing elbows with the nobility since she was unfairly chosen to head the Almshouse but she’s here lurking about.

His eyebrow shot up as the Sea snake also entered the same door after looking around carefully, a Velaryon guard then stood in front of it.

Rhaenyra POV

Rhaenyra luxuriated in the soothing heat of the water, a contented smile gracing her lips as she watched Elinda's reaction. The young girl, her loyal companion and handmaiden, had joined her reluctantly in the hot water sunken bath at Dragonstone. Elinda was not accustomed to such luxuries, preferring the simplicity of her own chambers. The Masseys are not a particularly rich house and even years being her Lady-in-Waiting had not changed her reluctant attitude in luxurious things. However, today was special—it marked the grand opening of the public baths in Dragonstone, a project Daemon had proposed himself.

The opening of the public baths in Dragonstone was an event Daemon had been passionate about, driven by his concern for their people's welfare. Winter was on the horizon, and he was determined to ensure that their subjects would not suffer in the cold months ahead.

Daemon, was across the village with the lords, on the bath house for the men, regaling them with his brilliant ideas. He had commissioned two bathhouses: one for women and children, and another for the men. Rhaenyra couldn't help but smile fondly at the thought of him. He was a visionary, always thinking of ways to improve the lives of their people.

While Daemon's compassion for their people was evident, Rhaenyra's own motivations were more self-serving. She had little interest in the day-to-day concerns of the common folk, caring only for matters that directly benefited her and her ambitions. However, she recognized the political value in supporting Daemon's initiatives, and so she had thrown her weight behind the project, eager to bask in the praise and adoration it would bring.

As Rhaenyra reclined in the warm waters, she observed Lady Anella Strong patiently teaching young Aegon how to swim. The boy was eager to learn, but his first experience going underwater left him in tears, clinging to Rhaenyra for comfort for nearly half an hour. Only Lady Anella's gentle coaxing was able to persuade him to return to the water.As she watched, Rhaenyra couldn't help but admire the resilience of both Aegon and Lady Anella. Teaching a child to swim was no easy task, especially when faced with fear and uncertainty. Yet Lady Anella's patience and compassion were evident as she guided Aegon through his lessons, instilling in him the confidence he needed to overcome his fears.

Lost in her thoughts, Rhaenyra was startled when a young common girl approached her, holding out a fire daisy in her hands. With a gracious smile, Rhaenyra accepted the gift and delicately placed the flower behind her ear.

"Thank you, my dear." she said warmly to the girl. "It's a beautiful flower.”

The girl beamed up at Rhaenyra, her eyes shining with delight. "Thank you for the hot pool, my princess!" she replied earnestly before darting back to her mother, who bowed deeply in gratitude.

While she allowed the ladies of Dragonstone to mingle with the commoners, it was on the condition that they have their own separate pool. Rhaenyra was unwilling to subject her ladies to the filth and discomfort of the common people, no matter how beneficial it might be for her image.

The ladies of Dragonstone chattered amongst themselves as they enjoyed the warm waters of their own pool, their laughter mingling with the sounds of splashing and playful shouts from the children nearby. Despite the separation, Rhaenyra made sure to maintain a sense of camaraderie between the two groups, allowing the common folk to feel included in the festivities while still preserving the dignity of her own retinue.

The older ladies like Lady Celtigar and Lady Bar Emmon put their noses up, their disdain evident as they remained only until the High Priest blessed the building. With a haughty air, they promptly returned to Dragonstone, their presence deemed unnecessary once the formalities had been observed. But she was glad when that they allowed their younger daughters and granddaughters to continue enjoying the festivities. The younger generation, unencumbered by the rigid social norms of their elders, mingled freely with the common folk, laughing and chatting as they immersed themselves in the warm waters.

Rhaenyra had instructed the ladies to distribute scented soap among the commoners, a small gesture to alleviate the stench that often clung to those who labored in the salting mine or the fishing boats. The scent of lavender and rose wafted through the air as the common folk lathered themselves up, their laughter mingling with the sound of rushing water.A group of children caught Rhaenyra's eye as they gleefully soaped themselves against one of the walls, where a waterfall cascaded down, providing a natural shower. Their joyful shouts filled the air as they splashed and played, the cares of the world momentarily forgotten in the simple pleasure of the moment.

Lady Althea sat down besides her, she is Lord Sunglass third granddaughter, a very comely girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. "Princess, my cousins have been asking me when Court will be invited to Bloodstones.”

Rhaenyra returned the smile, a warm glow spreading through her as she cradled the small bump in her stomach. "I will be giving birth there." she explained, her voice filled with anticipation. "This next babe will be the next lord or lady of the Stepstones. I will be sure to let your grandfather know to bring you.”

Althea beamed at Rhaenyra, her excitement bubbling over as she expressed her eagerness to see Roarcrest Keep in person. The name had been given by those who had witnessed the otherworldly castle firsthand as Daemon had captured Caraxes roaring into the sky perfectly and the name had stuck.

The people from Dorne and Essos had been particularly impressed by its unearthly beauty, Bravosi engineers asked permission to view the marvel of the keep and many ships had attempted to visit the island, only to be turned away from Port Sentinel Isle or redirected to Tradeport Isle. Daemon had built bridges in between the Island so that their people can travel faster, he got the inspiration from Bravos. The largest of the bridges are called Blood Bridge that can accommodate five carts a breast. It goes from Sentinel Port, passes through Grey Gallows and ends in Bloodstone. The smaller bridges are scattered in between each island not only to make travel faster but to control the passage of ships. Right now, only two passages are big enough to allow ships to pass, that is the one that goes between the Stepstones and the Disputed Lands and the one near Dorne.

They tried ramming a Tyroshi pirate ships on one of the smaller bridges to test its durability and it took them several days to remove the remains of the ships from the bridge. Daemon did not drench the smaller bridges with dragon blood unlike the Keep but him compacting the stones and soil and fusing it with dragon fire seems to be good enough. In two moons time they will travel to Bloodstone to await her labors while surveying the improvements on the islands. Perhaps she may broker trade agreement between the Stepstone and the Free Cities. Who knows she may even invite Dorne into the fold.

Rhaenyra stood at one of the wide windows in Ashfort, her gaze sweeping over the landscape below. From her vantage point, she could see the deep and wide moat surrounding the Keep. Contrary to popular belief, not all islands in the Stepstones were made of hard rocks; there were two islands that were suitable for farming, and Daemon had chosen one of them to build Ashfort on. Another two were made of verdant hills that can be good oastures for farm animals.

Daemon's vision for Ashfort had been ambitious. He had selected a hill in the middle of the larger island and carved the main tower out of the hill itself. Surrounding it were additional buildings necessary for a proper castle, each constructed with meticulous attention to detail and fortified against potential threats. But it was the middle tower that captured Rhaenyra's attention the most. Carved from the heart of the hill, it rose proudly above the surrounding structures, its golden image of Syrax adorning its exterior. The dragon appeared to be curled around the tower, her gaze fixed upon the lands below, a silent guardian over her dominion.

It was in this middle tower that the ruling family would reside, once it was fully furnished and ready to accommodate them. For now, however, it stood empty save for the rooms being used by the Castellan, Ser Braxton Beesbury. A third son of Lord Lyman, Braxton stood to inherit nothing from his father's lands and titles. When Daemon had offered him the position of Castellan, he had been quick to accept, eager to carve out a place for himself in the world.

He had relocated his wife and children here and had been very helpful on figuring out the best way to grow crops better. He was the one who suggested they try using volcanic ash as fertilizer and that had been wildly successful. Dragonstone had shipped sacks of ash to the Stepstones for free, they will revisit a possible trading agreement in five years when the Stepstone had fully established itself. That’s the reason why the island was name Ashcroft Island and the Keep was called Ashfort.

Right now Daemon and Ser Braxton are surveying another island near the Disputed lands that has marshes. One of the merchants from Yiti they allowed in the island had shown them rice. Rice is a slender, elongated grain that grows in large paddies, often in flooded fields known as rice paddies, the merchants said the marshes on two of the surrounding islands are perfect place to plant them.When cooked, rice transforms into soft, fluffy grains that can absorb flavors from accompanying ingredients or seasonings. Its mild, slightly sweet taste would provide a pleasing contrast to other foods such as bread, meat, and vegetables. Lord Braxton said that using rice as their main source of food will greatly decrease their consumption of meat.

According to the merchant, rice can also be used in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory and can be prepared in various ways, such as steamed, boiled, fried, or baked. Properly stored, rice has a long shelf life, making it a convenient and reliable food source that can be stored for extended periods without spoiling.

Rhaenyra found herself drawn towards the enticing aroma wafting from the dining hall of Ashfort. As she approached, she saw Lady Rosalind, Ser Braxton's wife and Lord Alun Caswell's granddaughter, standing by the table where the servants were just finishing laying out an impressive spread of dishes. They had been employed by a Yitish merchant, eager to impress their host with the culinary delights that could be created from rice.

The sight before her was a delight to Rhaenyra's senses. There were dishes she had never seen before, each one more tantalizing than the last. The Yitish cook, a master of his craft, poured a porridge with a smooth and creamy appearance, resembling a thick porridge with a slightly grainy texture.

"What is this?" Rhaenyra inquired, her curiosity piqued by the unfamiliar dish.

Lady Rosalind smiled warmly, gesturing towards the porridge. "This is congee." she explained. "It's a staple in Yitish cuisine, made from rice and often served as a breakfast dish. It can be enjoyed plain or with various toppings, such as meat, seafood, vegetables, or eggs.”

Lady Selene instructed one of the maids to put soft boiled eggs on a bowl for Aegon as she pulled the prince into her arms.

Rhaenyra took the bowl herself, tasted the food and was delighted with the flavor. She then proceeded to spoon some on Aegon’s eager mouth. Her son hummed in appreciation and opened his mouth again.

“He likes it!” Lady Elinda exclaimed as she too started eating her dish.

As the delighted Yitish cook presented the next dish, he explained with pride, "This is our fried rice, a beloved staple in Yitish cuisine. It's made by stir-frying cooked often left over rice with vegetables, eggs, and often meat or seafood. We season it with soy sauce, garlic, and other spices for added flavor.”

Lady Anella Strong seemed to particularly enjoy this dish, eagerly spooning bite after bite into her mouth. The fragrant aroma of the fried rice filled the air, tempting even those who had already indulged in other dishes.

Next, the cook brought forth a tray of rice balls, filled with various savory delights. "These rice balls are a traditional Yitish treat," he explained. "They're made by shaping cooked rice into a ball or triangular forms, then filling them with pickled plum, grilled salmon, and wrapping them in seasoned seaweed.”

Lady Johanna Westerling's eyes lit up at the sight of the rice balls. She eagerly selected one from the tray, savoring the combination of flavors with each bite.

Finally, the cook presented a large bowl of rice pudding, a creamy and comforting dessert that was sure to please even the most discerning palate. "This is our rice pudding," he said, his voice filled with pride. "It's made by simmering rice in milk or cream with sugar and flavorings such as vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg until thick and creamy. It can be served warm or chilled and is often garnished with raisins, nuts, or fruit compote.”

Rhaenyra and Lady Lyarra wasted no time in helping themselves to generous servings of the rice pudding, their faces lighting up with delight as they tasted the creamy sweetness. It was the perfect end to a truly remarkable meal, and Rhaenyra couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to sample such a diverse array of Yitish delicacies.

She will make sure that they can make rice grow here. She can see these dishes being a staple in their Kitchens, it will definitely delight Court who are most used to heavy meat diets that are most often than not bland.

The cook beamed with pride as each of the ladies presented him with a golden dragon in appreciation for the delicious feast he had prepared. Gratefully, he accepted their tokens of gratitude, his joy evident in the sparkle of his eyes and the warmth of his smile.

After bidding farewell to the cook, Rhaenyra and her ladies retired to one of the halls designated for their use, where an abundance of padded couches and chairs awaited them. Elinda, Rhaenyra's young lady, sat comfortably on a floor pillow next to Aegon, who was engrossed in a picture book gifted by the same Yitish merchant. His eyes danced with delight as he turned the pages, marveling at the vibrant illustrations that depicted scenes from far-off lands. Its pages filled with vivid depictions of the mythical creatures known as Yitish dragons. Rhaenyra had pored over its illustrations many times, marveling at the fantastical beasts that adorned its pages before allowing Aegon access to the book, making sure that nothing inappropriate is included on the tome.

As Aegon flipped through the pages, his eyes widened with delight at the sight of each intricately illustrated dragon. Lady Elinda watched with amusem*nt as he pointed excitedly at a particularly vibrant dragon, its scales shimmering in hues of emerald and gold. For Aegon, accustomed to the fearsome dragons in Dragonstone, the exotic beauty of the Yitish creatures was a revelation, sparking his imagination and kindling a newfound fascination with the mythical beasts of distant lands.

Unlike the dragons of House Targaryen, which were renowned for their size and ferocity, the Yitish dragons depicted in the book possessed a distinctively elegant and ethereal quality. Their slender, serpentine bodies were adorned with elaborate patterns and vibrant colors, resembling intricate works of art come to life. While Targaryen dragons were often depicted as formidable creatures of war, the Yitish dragons seemed to exude a sense of mystique and grace, embodying the exotic allure of the distant lands from which they hailed.

Of course, these dragons are but legend while theirs are real and breathing.

Meanwhile, the ladies settled onto the plush furnishings, their laughter and conversation filling the air as they shared tales of their day.

Lady Johanna sat with Lady Rosalind "My Lady you have done wonders on the place! Why I remember just seeing cold wide expanse of rooms months ago!" she praised.

Lady Rosalind smiled modestly, her cheeks flushing with a hint of pride. "We've simply done our best with what the Princess has generously provided us." she replied. "The people from the Free Cities have been eager to travel and offer their wares and expertise to decorate the keeps. Hopefully, when the Princess provides us with another prince to take over Ashfort, we will amass even more furnishings that may be to his taste.”

She feigned an outraged look. “Lady Rosalind! This one has not even come out yet and you’re already thinking of another one!” she said but the spark on her eyes indicates that she is not offended at all.

Lady Lyarra laughed. “You cannot fault us, Princess, you and Prince Daemon produce beautiful children.” She said looking at Aegon who’s straight silver hair is up to his chin now, it curls slightly and adorably in his ears, his cheeks are flushed and his violet eyes sparkling.

She wanted to huff, everyone knows that the only thing Aegon got from her is his lips, shaped like cupids bow. His silver almost straight hair, his violet eyes, his high nose are all Daemon. She wanted to feed Laenor to Syrax when he said that for all of nine months she carried and grew her son in her belly he came out looking exactly like her husband.

But to see the pride glint in Daemon’s eyes as he looked at their first born had been all worth it.

A few months after, in Astapor

Rhaenyra clutched her husband's hand tightly, her heart heavy as she surveyed the gruesome scene before them. Old men, women and even children, their bodies broken and bloodied, were crucified alive on both sides of the bridge, their agonized moans filling the air like a haunting lament. The stench of death hung thick in the oppressive heat, threatening to overwhelm her senses.

The Good Masters said they are punished for trying to run away, from trying to steal from their masters or trying to turn other slaves against them.

Ser Darklyn's reaction was visceral as he beheld the place they were to traverse. Rhaenyra could see the fire in his eyes, a silent condemnation of the cruelty laid bare before them. She had known Ser Darklyn for years, trusted him as he guard her back faithfully, and now she watched as he bristled with righteous fury.For a moment, she thought he might draw his sword and cut down the man who had suggested they walk through the Plaza of punishment where the air lingers with the stench of death. His hand hovered near the hilt, his grip tight with tension as if he were holding back a storm ready to unleash its fury.Ser Darklyn's suggestion to fly their dragon to the Plaza of Pride was met with disdain by the Good Masters, who instead insisted they be guided through the Plaza of Punishment, a grim testament to their cruelty. Scores of armed men will flank their procession through the streets.

Daemon's firm refusal echoed through the crowd as he requested a palanquin for their journey. His voice, though quiet, carried the weight of authority, a command that brooked no argument. Rhaenyra watched as the Good Masters hesitated, their protests silenced by the sudden roar of Caraxes overhead.The mighty dragon's presence was enough to quell any further objections, and soon a palanquin was procured for their use. Rhaenyra felt a surge of relief as she settled into the enclosed cabin, grateful for the respite from the oppressive heat and the sight of suffering around them.

As they were lifted and carried forward by forty men, Rhaenyra clung to Daemon's hand. Rhaenyra's gaze lingered on the gruesome scene outside, where men writhed in agony as birds circled overhead, waiting for their next meal. The sight turned her stomach, and she felt a surge of revulsion at the cruelty unfolding before her eyes.

Though she had little personal affection for the smallfolk of King's Landing, she vowed to do everything in her power to make sure the city will not descend into such depravity. She promised to her unborn child she held in her belly to do whatever it took to prevent King's Landing from falling into the same depths of degradation she witnessed before her.

She’s glad that they left Aegon on their ship, Queen Aemma, along with scores of men and her own Ladies to look after him. Astapor was a place Rhaenyra preferred to keep out of her thoughts, but the need for Unsullied soldiers was pressing. The Stepstones, though flourishing, faced a growing threat as unknown ships appeared on the horizon, likely seeking opportunities to raid their prosperous islands.

To safeguard their newfound prosperity, half of the men who had fought alongside Daemon in the war agreed to return and garrison the islands. They were promised that their families could join them once the Stepstones were secure enough. Grey Gallows served as their military bastion, with two thousand men-at-arms stationed there.

However, even with the formidable force at Grey Gallows, it was clear that they needed more manpower to defend the Stepstones adequately. This led them to seek the purchase of Unsullied soldiers, renowned for their unyielding discipline and martial prowess. Though Rhaenyra harbored misgivings about dealing with Astapor, she knew that acquiring Unsullied soldiers was essential to safeguarding their newfound prosperity and securing the future of the Stepstones.

Ser Harwin had cautioned that this will not be taken well by the Westerosi who abhors slavery. Despite their ancestors being slavers Rhaenyra and Daemon though it distasteful so they plan to free the men the minute they set foot in the Stepstones. She will take five hundred men to see serve as guards in Roarcrest and Ashfort and another five hundred to travel to Dragonstone. They will be part of the Dragonguards, men at arms whose sole responsibility was the Royal Family of Dragonstone headed by Ser Harwin.

Daemon does not like it that the King is only protected by Seven Kingsguards and men from the City Watch whose loyalty can be bought. Their loyalty is to her husband Daemon and not the King and that is not something any monarch should tolerate. It is to their advantage now but it will need to change when she ascends the Throne.

As the palanquin halted abruptly, Rhaenyra's heart skipped a beat, her hand instinctively moving to her stomach. Daemon's reassuring touch helped steady her nerves as he guided her out of the swaying cabin. With a quick glance to ensure her safety, he exited first, checking the surroundings before deeming it safe for her to step out.

Ser Darklyn wasted no time in positioning himself protectively at her back, his vigilant presence offering her a sense of security. Meanwhile, Ser Harwin, ever the vigilant knight, swiftly cleared a path for them, pushing aside anyone who dared obstruct their progress.

Their journey led them to a vast fighting pit, where a thousand Unsullied stood in rigid columns, their disciplined stance a formidable sight to behold. Rhaenyra's eyes scanned the scene before her, taking in the sheer magnitude of the warriors assembled before them. Each one seemed carved from stone, their unwavering resolve evident even from a distance.

The fat man, draped in a voluminous sage-green tokar, waddled forward to greet them with a toothy grin. Despite his considerable girth, he carried himself with an air of authority, his three chins wobbling with each step. His presence commanded attention, dwarfing even the stoutest of lords.

"Welcome, esteemed guests!" his voice boomed echoing throughout the arena. "I am H'zarr zo Galaz, master of this illustrious city, Astapor. We are honored to receive the distinguished Dragon riders of Westeros within our city's walls." he continued, his tone gracious. "Your visit brings great joy to the people of Astapor, and we extend to you our utmost welcome and hospitality.”

Rhaenyra regarded the fat man, H'zarr zo Galaz, with a polite yet distant expression. "I am glad to do business with Astapor." she replied smoothly, her tone diplomatic. She motioned towards the rows of Unsullied standing before them, waiting for their next command.

H'zarr's expression soured slightly at the lack of commendation for his city or himself, but he continued nonetheless. With a hint of pride in his voice, he began to explain the origins and training of the Unsullied.

"Unsullied begin as young male slaves chosen for their size, speed, and strength," he explained, his voice carrying over the quiet murmurs of the surrounding crowd. "Each day, they draw new names at random from a bucket, each consisting of a color and a type of vermin, such as 'Black Rat’. Their training starts at age five," H'zarr continued, his voice carrying the weight of the solemn truth. "From dawn to dusk, they are subjected to brutality designed not only to teach them how to fight, but to strip away all individuality, empathy, and self-worth.

Two Unsullied Soldier came forward and proceeded to fight each other as to show their prowess, but unlike in the melee she wasaccustomed to this one is to the death as one Unsullied skewered the other one with his spear. The man died without even uttering a single sound of pain. Two more replaced them and the action restarted. As the narrative unfolded, Rhaenyra felt a chill settle over her, a stark reminder of the harsh realities of the world they inhabited. She understood the necessity of such rigorous training in shaping soldiers of unparalleled skill and loyalty, yet she couldn't help but feel a pang of empathy for those who endured it.

"Only a third of the slaves to enter training survive to become Unsullied." H'zarr continued, his tone grave. "They are fully castrated, their manhoods burned at the altar of the Lady of Spears.

The implications of such sacrifices were clear. Though physically diminished, the Unsullied's unwavering discipline and obedience more than compensated for any loss of strength. In their unwavering loyalty lay their greatest strength—a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield and beyond.Rhaenyra's stomach churned at the cruelty of the Unsullied's initiation ritual. The notion of young boys forced to endure such horrors was almost too much to bear. She could not bear to think of her Aegon being forced in this kind of situation. She will burn them all before she lets it happen.

"On the day a boy is cut," H'zarr's voice was heavy with the weight of the grim reality, "he is given a puppy to take care of. At the end of the first year, the boy is made to strangle the puppy. Should he fail to do so, he is killed and fed to the surviving dogs. To win their spiked cap," H'zarr's words hung heavy in the air, a"they must take a silver mark, go to the slave markets, and buy a newborn slave child. Then they must kill it before its mother and pay the slave's owner for his loss.”

She swallowed down the bile that came up to her mouth as she felt Daemon held her hand tightly.

“How many Unsullied do you have?” she asked.

“Astapor boasts six thousand fully trained Unsullied at the moment.” The man brags smiling widely at her showing his yellowing teeth.

“And if you include the boys in training?” she asked again.

H'zarr's demeanor shifted as he turned to Daemon, disregarding Rhaenyra's question. “Friends, we know how rich the Sunset Kingdom is, but selling untrained boys as Unsullied would be a shame for Astapor if they failed in the battlefield.

Daemon just looked at him blankly but did not answer which prompted H'zarr to address Rhaenyra once more, his tone pleading. "Please, Princess, understand our predicament.

“I will buy all, including the untrained boys.” she declared, her voice unwavering. “Or I will not buy anything at all. And I will inform the other cities we are set to visit how disappointing your wares are.

The man smiled strained at her and bid to be given time. She gave him an hour. He scurried off to meet with his fellow Masters who looked at them with discontent. Caraxes swooped down with a trill followed by Syrax roaring after him and they averted their eyes.

They left with seven thousand five hundred Unsullied transferred to their names, the payment will be transferred through the Iron Bank. They declined all invitations to stay and celebrate her purchase on one of the pyramids. Prince Regio and the Sea Lord of Bravos had lent them ships so they can transport the Unsullied at once. She do not want to linger in Astapor long. The place gives her the shivers.

Rhaenyra stood on the deck of Queen Aemma, her gaze fixed on the receding shores of Astapor as the Unsullied were loaded onto the other ships. Once they were reasonably away from the city, they would travel to Volantis on Dragon back to visit Aunt Saera before returning to the Stepstones.

As she watched the scene unfold, Rhaenyra couldn't shake the disturbing similarities between the slavers of Astapor and the lords of Westeros in their treatment of the smallfolk. The only difference seemed to be the lack of collars on the smallfolk, but otherwise, they were subjected to similar cruelties – minimal pay, harsh treatment, and the threat of violence at any moment.

The Valyrians had prospered from slavery, sacrificing thousands to the flames in pursuit of their own wealth and power. Perhaps, Rhaenyra mused, it was this very practice that had brought about the Doom of Valyria.Though she was powerless to change anything now as even her position in the Seven Kingdom is tenuous at best, Rhaenyra held onto hope for the future. Perhaps in a hundred years or two, a Targaryen ruler would emerge strong enough to put an end to such deplorable practices once and for all.

Chapter 16

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Queen Laena POV

Queen Laena sat gracefully at the head of the ornate tea table, her gaze sweeping over the assembled ladies with regal poise. Lady Fell, Lady Celtigar, Lady Caswell, and Lady Darklyn—all distinguished noblewomen of the realm—sat in attendance, their expressions a mix of curiosity and intrigue.

As delicate porcelain cups were filled with steaming tea, conversation flowed freely among the ladies, drifting from one topic to the next until it settled upon the rumors swirling around the Stepstones.

Lady Fell, her voice tinged with excitement, was the first to speak. "There are rumors from the merchants that a gigantic castle shaped like a dragon has suddenly sprouted in Bloodstones. How is it possible when they have not conquered it for even five years?" she exclaimed, her eyes alight with intrigue.

Lady Celtigar nodded thoughtfully, her silver hair gleaming in the soft candlelight. "Valyrian engineering is very advanced, my lady." she mused. "One should only go to Dragonstone to find evidence of their marvel.”

Queen Laena, her own memories of Dragonstone vivid and profound, nodded in agreement. "Dragonstone is indeed one of a kind." she remarked, her voice tinged with a hint of nostalgia. "Otherworldly, some might say.”

Lady Darklyn, her dark eyes reflecting skepticism, interjected with a furrowed brow. "Valyrian knowledge has been lost, hasn't it?" she questioned, a hint of doubt coloring her tone. "There is a reason why Dragonstone is one of a kind.”

Lady Celtigar, her silver hair shimmering in the candlelight, offered a gentle smile in response. "Indeed, Valyrian knowledge has been largely forgotten," she conceded, her voice calm and measured. "But it has not been lost entirely. It merely lies dormant, waiting to be rediscovered.”

The other ladies exchanged uncertain glances, their skepticism palpable in the air. Lady Celtigar, sensing their doubt, pressed on. "As a descendant of Valyria myself, I can attest that our heritage endures." she explained. "Though the secrets of our ancestors may be elusive, they are not beyond our grasp. It is simply a matter of seeking them out."

Lady Darklyn narrowed her eyes, her gaze scrutinizing Lady Celtigar with newfound interest. After a moment of contemplation, she nodded in understanding, “If you say so, my lady.”

Lady Caswell, her brow furrowed in contemplation, spoke next. "I heard whispers that the Princess and Princes had purchased slave soldiers," she revealed, her tone somber.

Laena's expression softened, a shadow passing over her features. "It is true," she confirmed. The delicate Ladies gasped in outraged. "But they were freed after their purchase. The Princess wrote that she made it clear to them that they were free to leave, but none chose to do so.”

“I would not want slaves near me.” Lady Fell said as she fan herself vigorously.

“Lucky for you, my lady, the Unsullied will only be protecting the Stepstones and some may be employed in Dragonstone. They will be so far removed from us you will forget about them in a week.” She reassured.

She sighed and smiled as they moved to more salacious whispers in Court.

There’s been a lot of rumors surrounding the Stepstones recently. Her father confirmed about the mythical Castle that had seemingly grew out of the ground overnight as well as more Castles and bridges being built. When before there had been multiple ways to navigate the many islands in the Stepstone so that ships can hide their presence, now there are only two ways to get in and out of the Narrow Sea and it is heavily controlled and guarded.

More whispers of ancient magics being awakened and mysterious rituals being performed stirred intrigue and curiosity among the people. Tales from the Narrow Sea painted fantastical pictures of the Stepstones, capturing the imagination of all who heard them. The remote islands, distant from the seat of power in King's Landing, seemed to be shrouded in mystery and myth, with rumors swirling of Valyria reborn.

Queen Laena couldn't help but feel a pang of curiosity herself, longing to uncover the truth behind the whispers. Yet, her duties as a queen and her condition as a pregnant woman kept her tethered to the confines of the castle. The maesters had forbidden her from venturing outside without an entourage of maids, fearing for her safety and that of her unborn child.She sighed softly, her thoughts drifting to her daughter, Rhaena, who was only two name days old. The memory of Baela's tragic fate weighed heavily on her mind, and she couldn't help but wonder if her own restlessness during pregnancy had played a role in her eldest’s demise.

Determined to protect her unborn child, Laena resolved to maintain a peaceful demeanor, heeding the maesters' warnings and avoiding unnecessary risks. Though her curiosity burned bright, she knew that her duty as a mother came first, and she would do whatever it took to ensure the safety of her child and the stability of the realm.

A young female servant hovered near the door, her gaze fixed on her with a sense of agitation that set her on edge. With a polite smile, Laena excused herself from the gathering, her mind racing with questions about the servant's unusual behavior. As she stepped out into the corridor, the servant followed closely behind, her presence trailing her like a shadow.As she entered her blessedly empty room, she finally turned to face the servant, her gaze piercing and determined. "What happened?" she demanded, her voice firm and unwavering.

The servant's voice trembled with agitation as she continued, her words barely above a whisper. "The Hand is guiding the King and the Councilmen toward the room that Lady Sam and Lord Corlys were using." she murmured urgently. "They are there now!”

Queen Laena's heart clenched with a mixture of anger and disgust as she listened to the mousey servant's whispered words. The revelation of her Lord father's illicit liaison with Lady Sam, her own good-sister, filled her with a profound sense of betrayal.

Laena's lips curled in disgust at the thought of her father and Lady Sam together, their clandestine affair now on the verge of being exposed to the highest authorities in the realm. The implications of such a scandal were dire, threatening to unravel the fragile fabric of their family and tarnish their names forever.

She had once considered Lady Sam a friend, a confidante in the unfamiliar halls of King's Landing. But the discovery of her secret affair with her father had shattered that illusion, leaving behind only a bitter taste of disappointment and revulsion.

Laena had tried to confront Lady Sam about her transgressions, hoping to reason with her and put an end to the forbidden romance. But her efforts had been met with tragedy when her good-sister miscarried her babe, a cruel punishment from the Fourteen for daring to engage in such disgusting behavior.

And yet, despite the tragedy that had befallen them, her father and Lady Sam had continued their affair, heedless of the pain they inflicted upon her and their families. Now, with the Hand of the King on the brink of discovering their secret, Laena knew that their days of deception were numbered. The revelation of their illicit liaison would bring shame and scandal upon their houses, tarnishing their reputations and jeopardizing their positions of power.

With a sense of urgency burning within her, Queen Laena dismissed the servant with a grateful nod, rewarding her with a ruby stone for her timely information. As the servant bowed and retreated, Laena wasted no time, her mind focused on the task at hand.

With practiced ease, she pushed back one of the panels behind a Valyrian Tapestry in her bedchamber, revealing a hidden passage that her mother had shared with her in secret. The narrow corridor was dimly lit, the flickering flame of a single candle casting long shadows along the walls as she hurried along.

According to the books, Maegor's Holdfast was devoid of hidden passages, a testament to Maegor the Cruel's paranoia of being killed in his sleep. But this secret passage proved the historians wrong, offering Laena a discreet means of navigating the castle unseen. Each step she took felt heavy with the weight of her mother's admonition, a reminder of the trust she had placed in her daughter to wield these secrets wisely.

As Queen Laena quickened her steps, the voices of Lord Beesbury and the Hand of the King grew louder, their conversation echoing through the stone walls of the corridor.

"Why do we need to meet in a room other than the Small Council chamber?" Lord Beesbury's voice carried a note of confusion.

The Hand's response was smooth and calculated. "We are in need of a change of scenery." he replied, his tone betraying none of the urgency that Laena felt. "Sometimes, a different setting can inspire fresh perspectives.”

She run.

Her heart pounding in her chest as she tried to put as much distance with them as possible. Finally, she reached the room where her father and Lady Sam were ensconced in their illicit affair. With a mixture of anger and resolve, Laena pushed open the stone slab blocking the entrance, revealing the scene within.

The rustling of fabrics reached her ears, accompanied by the unmistakable sounds of hurried movements.

Her eyes narrowed in disgust as she took in the sight before her—her father's untied breeches and Lady Sam's skirt raised past her hips. The air was thick with tension as they scrambled to compose themselves, their guilty expressions betraying their shock at being discovered.

"Laena!" her father exclaimed, his voice filled with alarm as he attempted to salvage the situation.

"Make yourself presentable. The King and the Council are coming here.” She hissed.

As her father and Lady Sam hastily righted themselves, Queen Laena took a seat on one of the padded chairs, motioning for them to do the same. They had barely settled when the door was unceremoniously banged open, causing Laena to jump in spite of herself.

"Laena?" Her husband's voice cut through the tense silence, his presence filling the room with an air of curiosity.

"Husband!" Laena exclaimed, her voice steady despite the turmoil raging within her. "What are you doing here? I thought you had a Council meeting."

She watched as Otto Hightower's triumphant expression twisted into a grimace as he surveyed the scene before him. "Forgive me, Your Grace," he muttered, his tone tinged with disdain. "I thought this room was unoccupied."

”I'm sure you did." Laena replied sweetly, meeting his gaze with a challenging glint in her eyes. “My father is planning a trip to the Stepstone and we’re telling him what trinkets we would like for him to bring home.” She lied smoothly.

She saw how the Hand curled his lips in disgust before he can smoothen his expression. Though the Lord Hand had once been formidable, his recent afflictions had rendered him less so, his once sure gait now shaky and uncertain.

Suddenly, Laena gasped in horror as a tangent odor filled the air and she watched the Lord Hand's breeches grew wet and a pool of urine begin to accumulate beneath his feet. "Oh my! Get a servant!" she exclaimed, her voice ringing with feigned concern as she took a step forward, only to stop short a few paces from the pooling liquid.

Queen Laena observed with a mixture of disdain and satisfaction as Ser Otto Hightower stared down at the pool of urine at his feet, his detachment evident as the King fussed about his well-being and the need for a Maester.

"I am alright." Ser Otto declared, his voice lacking emotion as he brushed off the concern with a dismissive wave of his hand.

Laena seized the opportunity to intervene, her gaze pleading as she turned to her husband. "Perhaps the Hand needs time to recover." she suggested gently, her words laced with subtle manipulation. "It may be beneficial for him to return to Oldtown to regain control of his faculties.”

A triumphant smile graced Laena's lips as she watched Ser Otto's expression darken with barely concealed hatred. She knew that she had struck a nerve, that her suggestion had struck at the heart of his insecurities.

Turning back to the King, Ser Otto assured him that he was indeed fine, his voice strained as he attempted to maintain his composure.

With the Council meeting understandably cancelled, Laena sighed in relief as the men departed, leaving behind a tense atmosphere in their wake. Turning to her father and good-sister, she spoke with a note of finality in her voice.

"It would be wise to pack your belongings, Father." she said firmly. "You have a long journey ahead of you to the Stepstones.’

Queen Laena watched in silence as her father, visibly perturbed by her command, reluctantly nodded and exited the room. Turning her attention to her good-sister, she felt a surge of anger and betrayal welling up within her.

"I cannot believe that after all the speeches you made against my brother's infidelity, you would do the same to him and to my mother!" Laena's voice was cold and accusatory as she confronted Lady Sam.

Lady Sam met her gaze with a defiant stare, her expression unreadable as she stood up to address the Queen. "Permission to speak freely, Your Grace?" she requested, her tone tinged with bitterness.

Laena nodded her ascent, her eyes narrowing as she braced herself for Lady Sam's response.

"I didn't know you cared what I do, Your Grace." Lady Sam began, her voice tinged with hurt. "You never did before. Neither did your mother, your father, nor my husband. You never cared for me.”

Laena felt a pang of guilt at the truth in Lady Sam's words, the weight of her own indifference bearing down on her conscience.

Lady Sam's voice trembled with a mixture of anger and sorrow as she spoke, her words laden with years of pent-up frustration and resentment. "You and your family plucked me from my peaceful existence in Hornhill and brought me to court with promises of honor and status, but all I found was humiliation and betrayal.”

Her eyes flickered with pain as she continued, her voice growing stronger with each word. "I was promised that my son would inherit the title of Lord of the Tides and Master of Driftmark, but those promises were hollow. Your family used me as a pawn in your political games, using me as a veil to your own brother’s degeneracy. I will have my Heir, Queen Laena, even if I have to suffer your own father’s touch.”

With a final curtsey, Lady Sam turned to leave.

She closed her eyes and placed a hand on her belly, feeling the gentle stirrings of life within her womb. Swallowing back a sob she straightened her shoulders and exited the room too.

The atmosphere in the Tower of the Hand was tense, the servants on edge as they heard the sound of furniture being flung against the walls and the unmistakable crash of glasses shattering. They exchanged nervous glances, fear etched into their expressions as they braced themselves for the wrath of Ser Otto Hightower.

Moments later, the door to Ser Otto's chambers swung open, revealing the Hand of the King himself, his expression dark with anger as he stormed out into the hallway. He was already clad in dry breeches, no sign of his recent accident.

The Grand Maester approached him cautiously, his footsteps slow and measured as he closed the door behind him. He could feel the weight of Ser Otto's rage bearing down on him, the air thick with tension as he prepared himself for the inevitable confrontation.

"I want that bitch dead," Ser Otto declared, his voice laced with venom as he spoke of his intentions. "Make it happen.”

The Grand Maester recoiled inwardly at the command, his conscience protesting against such a blatant disregard for their vows to do no harm. But he knew better than to argue with the Hand, especially in his current state of fury.With a reluctant nod, the Grand Maester kept his eyes lowered, unable to meet Ser Otto's gaze as he silently acquiesced to the command. He knew that he would have to tread carefully, navigating the delicate balance between duty and morality as he sought to carry out the Hand's wishes. As he turned to leave, Ser Otto's frustrated shout echoed in his ears, urging him to depart with haste.

Notes:

Canon Lady Sam is a badass, got into a relationship with her stepson and then had a beef with the High Septon i think. I can't see her just taking all the abuse of the Velaryons without furthering her own ambition lol

Chapter 17

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Laenor POV

Laenor watched from a distance as King Viserys bid a sorrowful farewell to the cart bearing Lord Vorias' lifeless body, destined for the Riverlands. The Lord's demise, a tragic result of a hunting accident, weighed heavily on the King's heart. Despite their relatively short acquaintance spanning only a few years, Lord Vorias had become the monarch's closest confidant and friend.

It pained the King deeply to be unable to escort his fallen comrade back to his ancestral home personally. His health, already fragile, denied him the strength for such a journey. Laenor observed the king's crestfallen expression, a reflection of the profound loss that had befallen him.

The King had instead insisted that Lady Sabitha and Lord Vorias’ cousins take one of the bigger carriages they have so they can travel comfortably. Laenor observed the young lady's inconsolable demeanor, her reluctance to return to a home where harmony with her step-mother was lacking. Despite her distress, the duty to lay her father to rest weighed heavily upon her.

In a gesture of kindness, Laena extended an invitation for Lady Sabitha to join her household, offering solace in the midst of her turmoil. However, the girl's distraught state rendered her unable to provide a clear response, consumed by the sorrow of her loss.

Laenor's gaze shifted to the Lord Hand, standing stoically beside the King, a subtle smile playing at the corners of his lips. A sense of unease crept over the him as he observed the seemingly pleased expression on the Lord Hand's face. Suspicion clouded Laenor's thoughts, and he narrowed his eyes in distrust. He couldn't shake the nagging feeling that this man, with his cunning demeanor and political machinations, might have had a hand in Lord Vorias' untimely demise. Though he lacked concrete evidence, he can feel it in his bones that Otto Hightower had a hand on Lord Vorias’ sudden passing.

The King seemingly clung back to his friendship with the Hightower with Lord Vorias’ passing. All those rumors and whispers the servants and guards spread on his coin are now useless. It does not matter though, their reputation was already in tatters. Every time people see the King and the Hand together looks are exchanged and uncomfortable feeling is left in the air.

He went back inside the minute the gate was brought up again and went to his sister’s room. Laenor stood outside Laena's chamber, taking in the grandeur of the space. It was larger and more opulent than their chambers in Hightide, boasting five rooms solely for her use. However, despite its magnificence, it was not the Queen's Rooms. Those had been claimed by Rhaenyra ever since the passing of Queen Aemma.

Some might have viewed this as an insult to Laena, but she didn't seem to mind. "I’m only the Queen Consort." Laena had remarked once, her tone tinged with understanding. "Rhaenyra is the future Queen.”

Laenor remembered those words as he approached the bedchamber, a sense of resignation mingling with his admiration for his sister's pragmatism. He knew his father's ambitions all too well — to secure their bloodline on the Iron Throne. Betrothing Rhaena to Aegon will be the more strategic move, one that aimed to strengthen their hold on power.

Laenor's thoughts swirled with the weight of his hopes and fears, especially regarding the gender of the unborn child. While a male heir would indeed solidify their family's position, he couldn't ignore the potential challenges it might pose, particularly to Rhaenyra's claim to the throne. A male Targaryen heir would inevitably become a contender in the intricate dance of power and succession.Despite this concern, Laenor held onto the belief that a male child would dissuade Lord Corlys from entertaining any notions of challenging their cousin's rightful place on the throne. The idea of such a challenge seemed not only foolhardy but also potentially disastrous for House Velaryon and its allies.

He narrowly avoided a collision with one of the maids, who nearly collided with him while carrying a tray of tea. He waved off her profuse apologies, his attention already drawn to the stifling atmosphere of his sister's chamber. The room was thick with the scent of incense and candle smoke, making the air heavy and oppressive.

"Laenor!" Laena's voice cut through the haze, and he turned to see her reclining on the bed, a smile on her face. He quickly made his way to her side, settling into the chair beside her.

"It's too cloying in here." Laenor complained, gesturing toward the closed windows. "Why don't you open them?”

Before Laena could respond, the Grand Maester interjected, his disapproving frown directed at him. "My Lord, the cold breeze from the Blackwater Bay may not be suitable for the Queen's health."

Laenor couldn't help but snort at the notion. "The Queen is a Velaryon, Grand Maester, and a dragon rider at that. I assure you, she's accustomed to far harsher winds than those from the Blackwater Bay.”

"The cold winds will make her stomach contract and harden, and that will make everything bad for the Queen and her babe." the Grand Maester responded firmly, his tone leaving no room for argument.

Laenor reluctantly conceded, understanding the importance of prioritizing Laena's well-being above all else.

As Laena cleared her throat after drinking warm water, her discomfort palpable, Laenor's concern deepened. He observed her labored breathing and the constant need to blow her nose, symptoms that had plagued her since the early stages of her pregnancy. His mind raced with worry.

"I've only seen this once before, when Laena consumed strawberries." Laenor ventured, his brow furrowing with concern. "Maester Theomore had forbidden any strawberries in Hightide thereafter. Could that be the problem?”

The Grand Maester's shook his head. "All strawberries had been banned in the castle since the Queen married into the Crown." he explained solemnly. “The Queen also did not have an easy pregnancy with Princess Rhaena, it is just worse this time around.”

Laenor's heart ached as he witnessed his sister's suffering, her discomfort a constant reminder of the fragility of life. His thoughts turned to his own wife, Samantha Velaryon, who seemed unaffected by the same afflictions despite her advanced pregnancy. She continued to work tirelessly in the Almshouse, her dedication to her duties unwavering.

However, Laenor's thoughts soured as he dwelled on Samantha's pregnancy. It was a bitter reminder of the reason he had been ordered to the capital by his mother. Samantha's condition was not the result of their union; she had rejected him after her hysterics in front of the King over a year ago. Since then, she had refused any intimacy with him, turning instead to his own father to conceive a child. The betrayal cut deep, not only to his mother but also to Laenor himself.

He may not like Samantha as a lover but to think that he will dishonor him with his father... it burns him. He would have claimed any child she had with any other man but she only laughed at him.

Samantha's laughter rang hollow in his ears as she dismissed his concerns with a callous disregard. "Having a child with another man would only give your parents a way to dispose of me whenever they want to." she had said, her tone mocking and defiant. "If the child doesn't have a Velaryon look your parent will be quick to discard me, and even if I turned to one of your cousins, they'll only use the child to further their own ambition. No, your father was the only choice for me… don’t worry I made sure he was clean before he touched me. I did not want to repeat the horrible experience of being diseased.”

He still recoils at her callousness, he remembers marrying a sweet lady who only has a pleasant smile for him. Now she treats him like he’s not even fit to lick her boots. Samantha being given the power as overseer of the Almshouse, having the Princess’ favor and having his own father between her thighs seemed to emboldened her.

As the agonizing cries of his sister echoed through the stone walls of the birthing chamber, a wave of helplessness washed over him. Laena had been in labor for three endless days, each passing moment stretching the limits of her endurance beyond measure. With each scream that tore through the air, his heart clenched with a mixture of fear and desperation.

“Laenor!” he heard her call to him, he moved to rush inside but before he could take a single step, he was stopped dead in his tracks by an acolyte barring his path

"The birthing chamber is not a place for a man." the acolyte stated firmly, his tone brooking no argument..

Laenor's jaw clenched as he fought to control the surge of anger boiling within him. "Get out of my way," he growled, his voice low and dangerous, "or I will skewer you with my sword.”

The man paled but before the acolyte could respond, the door swung open, revealing the figure of King Viserys emerging from within. His expression was one of mild surprise at the sight of him.

"Laenor," the King acknowledged, his voice was faint and shaky. "It is not wise for you to be here. Let the Maesters do their job.”

"Laena needs me." He insisted, his voice laced with desperation. “My sister is calling for me, your Grace.”

The King sighed, a weary resignation settling over his features. "I understand, but you must trust in the Maesters. They will care for her, you will only get in the way.”

Meanwhile, inside the birthing chamber, Laena's cries of pain continued unabated as Maester Orwyle and his assistants worked tirelessly to assist her through the agonizing ordeal.

"Push, my Queen." The Grand Master urged gently, his voice a soothing presence amidst the chaos.

Laena's breathing was labored, her face contorted in agony as she obeyed the Maester's instructions. "Laenor!" She cried out between gasps, her voice a desperate plea.

But as Laenor attempted to push past the King and enter the chamber, Viserys raised a hand to halt him, gesturing for one of his guards to intervene.

The urge to lash out, to strike Viserys with all the fury burning within him, surged through Laenor like a raging wildfire. This wingless worm, this feeble king who dared to stand between him and his sister, deserved nothing less than the full force of his wrath.

But even as the flames of his anger threatened to consume him, a voice of reason whispered in Laenor's mind. His sister needed him now more than ever. Despite his burning desire to unleash the might of Sea Smoke upon Viserys, he knew that his first duty lay with Laena.

"Guide Ser Laenor back to his chamber." The Hand instructed firmly, his tone brooking no argument. “As the King said, the Maesters need to focus on the Queen and not be disturbed even by her brother.”

The King just nodded, not looking at him and then went to walk away, his loyal Hand following close behind. He sneered at them, these two arrogant men who cannot even walk without the use of their canes, one who cannot even control his own bladder, thinks they can control him.

Laenor stormed away towards Laena's chambers, his voice commanding as he ordered all the maids to vacate the room. They scurried out in a flurry of skirts and whispers, leaving him alone in the dimly lit space. Laena had once mentioned a hidden passage leading directly to the Birthing Chamber, and Laenor's heart pounded with urgency as he searched for it. He tore through the room, moving furniture and inspecting every inch of the walls until, at last, he found what he was looking for.

With a triumphant shout, Laenor pushed against the concealed panel, his muscles straining as the wall gave way with a resounding creak. A rush of excitement surged through him as he stepped into the narrow passageway beyond.

The passage was dark and cramped, but Laenor pressed on, guided by the faint echo of his sister's cries in the distance.

Laenor's frustration simmered beneath the surface as he watched, through an opening, the Grand Maester and the acolytes exit the Birthing Chamber, they were talking about getting lunch on one of the nearby rooms, seemingly unconcerned about leaving his sister unattended. Anger flared within him as he realized the lack of care and attention given to Laena during her most vulnerable moments.

With a determined resolve, he waited until the coast was clear before slipping into the chamber unnoticed. Inside, he found only the midwives and Laena's handmaids from Hightide, their faces drawn with worry as they tended to her needs. “

Laena's eyes brightened at the sight of him, relief washing over her features as she reached out to him. “Laenor!”

He knelt beside her holding her hand tightly, Laenor's heart clenched with concern as Laena attempted to sit up, her desperation palpable in her voice. He gently placed a hand on her shoulder, urging her to lay back down. "Hush, sister, they did not know I was here." he reassured her, his voice calm despite the turmoil swirling within him.

Laena nodded in understanding, but her determination remained unyielding. "You have to help me, Laenor," she pleaded, her eyes pleading with him. "I need to get out of here.”

Laenor's brow furrowed with worry as he listened to her words. "Laena, you are in labor," he reminded her gently, his voice tinged with concern. "you need to conserve your energy.”

But Laena's resolve was unwavering. "No!" she insisted, her voice filled with desperation. "I still have a month before it is safe for me to give birth. The midwives gave me a concoction that stopped the labor, but every time the Maester fed me something, it starts again!’

Laenor's heart sank at his sister's desperate plea, the gravity of her words weighing heavily upon him. As she spoke of the maester’s sinister intentions and the King's unwitting ignorance, a fierce anger surged within him, threatening to consume him whole.

"They dared—" Laenor began, his voice laced with righteous indignation, but Laena's urgent grip on his hands stopped him short.

"Laenor, they're trying to kill me," she whispered, her eyes wide with fear and desperation. "The Maester talked of cutting the babe out of my womb and the King agreed!”

The revelation struck Laenor like a thunderbolt, sending a chill down his spine. His mind raced with a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, his anger vying with his concern for his sister's safety. He remembers the whispers of Queen Aemma and Alicent HIghtower being butchered to get the King's most awaited son. His father said those are just rumors but it seems it was not because here he is Viserys the Peaceful willing to sacrifice another of his wives to the Stranger.

“The babe is already dead, my lord.” One of the midwives whispered to his horror. “It had not moved for whole day now, cutting her open will just kill her and give the King a dead son.”

"We must tell the King." Laenor insisted, his voice edged with determination as he moved to rise from his kneeling position. But Laena's grip tightened, her eyes pleading with him to listen.

"No!" she cried, her voice trembling with fear. "You have to get me out of here!”

He looked at the midwives. “Will it be safe to get her out in the City?”

“We gave her the root tea to stop her contractions but she's still bleeding and needs to be seen by a more experienced healer immediately. We don’t know what they gave her.”

“Maester Theomore saved Rhaena from your last difficult labor! But can you hang on until Hightide?”

Laena smiled sadly at him then kissed his hand. “Yes, I can. I want to see Vhagar.” She whispered.

He helped the midwives bundle her in a cloak looking worriedly at the blood still coating her thighs but Laena just smiled reassuringly at him.

“My Queen, please…” he heard Laena’s personal handmaid since childhood cried, holding her hand tightly.

“Take care of Rhaena, no matter what, you have to make sure Rhaena is safe.” He heard her sister said.

He looked away as the bade farewell tearfully, Maya had been Laena’s main caretaker since she was born. He’ll just have to make sure she will be on their earliest ship in the morning. He instructed them to have one of his guards go to the exit near the foot of Rhaenys’ Hill with a waiting horse and he carried his sister in his arms towards the passages.

Laenor's heart clenched with worry as he heard Laena whispering a Valyrian prayer under her breath. They had been walking in complete darkness for over an hour, the oppressive silence broken only by the sound of their footsteps echoing off the stone walls

Suddenly, Laenor swayed, his balance faltering, and he careened into the wall. Pain shot through his shoulder, but he gritted his teeth and pushed through, ensuring that it was his own body that bore the brunt of the impact, not his sister's.

"I'm sorry, Laenor, I am too heavy." Laena whispered weakly, her voice barely audible in the darkness. With trembling hands, she reached out and placed them on the wall.

Instantly, the passage was bathed in a soft white glow, illuminating their path with an ethereal light. Laenor's eyes widened in astonishment as he beheld the Valyrian Glyphs glowing on the walls of the corridor.

The gods are aiding them!

“…too heavy…” she said.

"Nonsense, sister! You will always feel like a feather in my arms," he reassured her, his voice filled with unwavering resolve. "I promise you, I will take you to Hightide, and we will never come back to this place ever again. It will just be you and me, with our dragons, and the sky and the seas!”

His words brought a faint smile to Laena's lips, a glimmer of hope amidst the despair that threatened to engulf them. With renewed determination, they pressed on, their path illuminated by the guiding light of the Valyrian gods.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, they reached the opening of the passageway. Laenor stepped out into the cool afternoon air, his eyes adjusting to the sight of the slums of Flea Bottom on one side and Rhaenys' Hill on the other. The bells were already ringing meaning the King is already aware of their disappearance. It was midday when they went inside the passages and now it is already getting dark.

He adjusted his sister in his arms, ensuring that both of their hoods were up to conceal their identities, before descending the flights of stairs that led to the street below. It took them more than an hour to reach the bottom. At last, they reached a gated wall where a guard stood watch, two horses tethered nearby. With a sense of relief washing over him, Laenor approached the guard, his sister still cradled in his arms.

With urgency in his every move, the guard swiftly helped Laena onto the horse, and together they galloped towards the Dragonpit. As they rode, Laenor tried to focus on the path ahead, but he couldn't help but catch glimpses of the blood dripping from Laena's thighs, staining the streets below.

Upon their arrival at the Dragonpit, the Gold Cloaks immediately granted them entrance, and Vhagar, ever vigilant, stirred within her sandy enclosure. Though too large to enter the caves, she remained a formidable presence within the confines of the pit.

Gently, Laenor lifted Laena down from the horse and guided her to sit on the soft sand. "Laena, I will go get Seasmoke, and then we will be out of here forever, hm?" he reassured her, his voice tinged with both determination and concern.

"Thank you, Laenor." Laena murmured, her voice weak but filled with gratitude. "I have always been grateful to have you as my brother. I couldn't ask for anyone more reliable than you.”

Laenor's throat tightened with emotion as he fought back a sob, his heart heavy with the weight of their circ*mstances. He leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to the side of Laena's head, his love for her shining brightly in his eyes.

Though the Dragon Keepers looked on with confusion, Laenor paid them no mind. In that moment, all that mattered was his sister's safety and well-being, and he would stop at nothing to ensure it.

With a sense of urgency, Laenor descended into the caves and made his way to Seasmoke's nest. One of the Dragon Keepers was already there, preparing Seasmoke's saddle. Despite the dragon's agitation, they worked together to secure the saddle in place, their movements quick and efficient.

Once Seasmoke was saddled for two, Laenor led her out of the caves, calling out to Laena with a joyful tone. But his happiness was short-lived as he heard shouts from the Dragon Keepers, their voices filled with alarm.

Turning around, Laenor's heart sank as he saw his sister standing in front of Vhagar, her bloodied white shift a stark contrast against the dragon's scales. Vhagar keened mournfully, her gaze fixed on Laena with an intensity that sent shivers down Laenor's spine.

"Vhagar, dracarys! Dracarys, Vhagar!" Laena's desperate plea filled the air, her eyes locked with the dragon's as she braced herself for what was to come.

As Laena shouted the command to Vhagar, Laenor's heart clenched with dread. "No!" he screamed, his voice echoing off the walls of the Dragonpit as he tried to rush to his sister's side.

But before he could reach her, strong arms seized him from behind, pulling him back with a force that sent him stumbling. He struggled against the grip of the Dragon Keepers, his cries of anguish drowned out by the roar of the flames and the deafening roar of Vhagar.

"Let me go!" Laenor pleaded, his voice hoarse with desperation as he fought against the hands that held him back. But the Dragon Keepers were relentless, their grip unyielding as they restrained him, preventing him from reaching his sister's side.

Tears blurred Laenor's vision as he watched helplessly, his heart breaking as he witnessed the horrific sight before him. He should have known, she was saying goodbye.

He should have reassured her more, that they are going to a place where help will be given to them. He should have known.

Notes:

Laena's death was one of my fave changes that they included in the show. She died in her own terms. It's definitely more badass than her dying on the stairs lol. But I hate that they removed her friendship with Rhaenyra and gave it to Alicent eww. Laena was actually more politically astute here than show Nyra because at least she brought down Otto a peg or two, show Nyra was just taking all the punches lol and they make it look like she did not have any supporters in Court. f*cking tg infiltrating the writer ugh

Chapter 18

Chapter Text

Laenor POV

Laenor's mind felt like a foggy abyss, disconnected from the world around him. Memories flashed through his consciousness like fleeting shadows, disjointed and fragmented.

He recalled the moment he was apprehended by the Kingsguards, their stern faces contrasting sharply with the Gold Cloaks who attempted to shield him. The sensation of being thrown into the Dungeon Tower lingered in his mind, the dank and oppressive atmosphere suffocating him as the gaolers jeered and taunted him, demanding a confession.

Then came the blur of his trial, his mother's furious tirade beside him, the accusations hurled by the maesters and acolytes. The weight of their judgment bore down upon him, suffocating him with its injustice.In the haze of his memories, amidst the chaos of accusations and trials, there were flickers of clarity. The voices of the midwives and Dragon Keepers rang out in Laenor's mind, their testimonies like beacons of truth in the darkness.

And then, as if in a dream, he found himself strapped atop Sea Smoke’s back, the dragon's powerful wings carrying them away from the chaos of King's Landing. He let him follow Meleys as he slumped atop his dragon. The wind whipped against his face, but he felt numb to its touch, his thoughts going back to the very moment Vhagar burned his sister in front of his eyes. Confusion and anguish clouded his thoughts. The events leading up to her demise played over and over in his mind, each detail scrutinized in search of answers that remained elusive.

He couldn't comprehend why Laena had chosen such a fate when they had been on the cusp of safety, on the brink of escaping the turmoil that had engulfed King's Landing. Had he missed something, some subtle indication of her despair that had gone unnoticed amidst the chaos?

The realization hit him like a physical blow, leaving him reeling with guilt and regret. Had he failed to see the signs of Laena's inner turmoil, her silent cries for help that had gone unheard in the clamor of their escape? Was there something he could have done, some action he could have taken to ease her burden and prevent the tragedy that had befallen them?

He knew, deep down, that he would have done anything to help her, to protect her from harm. He would have razed King's Landing to the ground if it meant securing her safety, and yet, somehow, he had been unable to save her from herself. The weight of his failure pressed heavily upon him, a suffocating reminder of his inability to shield his sister from the darkness that had consumed her. In the wake of her death, Laenor was left grappling with a maelstrom of emotions, his heart heavy with grief and his mind tormented by unanswered questions.

Laenor found himself abruptly seated in one of the padded chairs within the private hall of Hightide. The fog of confusion that had clouded his mind began to dissipate as he focused on the figure before him: the King.

"What is he doing here?" he demanded, his voice laced with venom as he glared at the King. The room fell silent, everyone turning to look at him in shock, while the King's expression hardened, his gaze narrowing in response to Laenor's accusation.

Princess Rhaenys was quick to intervene, her voice pleading as she stepped forward to calm her son. "Laenor, my son, please—”

But Laenor would not be silenced. "No!" he interjected, his voice rising with each word. "He killed her! He killed Laena!”

The King's response was swift, his tone stern as he warned Laenor against further disrespect. "Be careful, Ser," he cautioned, his voice carrying a hint of warning. "I pardoned you for your crime of literally carrying my Queen towards her death, but I will not tolerate any more disrespect—”

His anger boiled over as he continued to speak, his words fueled by the pain of his loss. "She heard you!" he shouted, his voice echoing off the walls of the hall. "She heard you giving consent to the Maester to cut her open if the babe still did not come! That's why she begged me to take her away! That's why she chose to die on her own terms, and not like a gutted pig!”

What followed was utter chaos. Laenor watched in shock as his father, fueled by rage and grief, lashed out and struck the King with a powerful blow. The room erupted into pandemonium, the Hand of the King shouting orders for the Kingsguards to protect their liege and apprehend Lord Corlys.

Prince Daemon, found himself surprisingly the voice of reason, swiftly intervened, drawing his sword to prevent further violence. He stood between the two men, his blade poised to defend against any further aggression from either side.

"Get out, all of you!" Princess Rhaenyra's voice cut through the tumult, commanding authority and demanding obedience. "Anyone without Valyrian blood get out! We will discuss this privately!”

But the Hand of the King was not so easily deterred. "Princess! The King was attacked! Lord Corlys should at least lose his hand!" he protested, his voice filled with righteous indignation.

Rhaenyra's response was swift and decisive. "This is a family matter!" she declared, her tone brooking no argument. "You will remove yourself, or I will feed you to Syrax.”

The threat hung in the air like a thunderclap, silencing any further objections. And as the tension in the room reached a fever pitch, a loud roar echoed from outside, its intensity causing the very walls and windows to vibrate.

As the chaos subsided and the room cleared, Laenor found himself once again seated in the padded chair, facing the King whose demeanor seemed considerably more subdued now, his bruised eye a stark reminder of the recent altercation.

"I never gave that order, Ser Laenor," the King stated, his voice strained with a mixture of exhaustion and disbelief.

Laenor's lip curled in contempt at the King's denial. "You did," he retorted sharply, his words tinged with bitterness. "All the midwives corroborated her account. They told me how the babe had already perished for a day by their estimate, yet you still consented to her being cut open like a pig."

The King paled visibly, a look of horror crossing his features as he buried his face in his hands. "She misunderstood, I would never..." he began, his voice trailing off into a murmur of denial.

But Laenor's anger burned hot and fierce, fueled by the memory of his sister's suffering and the sense of betrayal he felt at the King's apparent callousness. "Misunderstood or not, my sister is dead because she did not feel safe in your care!" He spat, his voice laced with venom. “How is it that the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms were having a difficult labor and the minute you left the room all of the Maester and acolytes who were supposed to look after her left as if she did not matter?” He asked

The King looked at him in confusion. “I made sure that Laena was attended by the most competent Maesters with the supervision of the Grand Maester himself.”

“Then how did I get her out of the Red Keep if they truly remained in the room with her?” he fired back. But he knows the King will remain blind to the machinations of the people around him. He does not care anymore, if the King is content being surrounding by people trying to kill the Royal Family, then he was welcomed to it. He will make sure that his own family is faraway from the stench of King’s Landing. “Do you know what they call you in the capital, King VIserys?”

“What?” the King asked in confusion.

“They call you the Black King because everything you touch turns to dust.“ he said full of hate. “Countless children, three wives even Balerion who survived the horrors he saw in Valyria died after just one dragon ride with you. They say that your reign had been filled with mourning because the gods had cursed you for killing all your wives. That they will not grant you more children because you don’t deserve them.”

“Careful, Ser.” The King retorted darkly. “I pardoned you for your crime because I know you did not have any control on what Laena had done but what you’re saying is treasonous and I can have your head for that.”

“You will not.” He heard his mother say firmly beside him and he looked at her only to find her eyeing the King with raw hatred in her eyes. “You will leave Driftmark first light tomorrow and never return. I had already lost my daughter to you I will not lose another child.”

“You cannot banish me from my own Kingdom!” the King shouted angrily.

“I’m not banishing you from your Kingdom, I’m telling you that you are no longer welcome in our Island. You will leave Rhaena here to foster and you will leave quietly if you do not want all your Lords to know how true their jokes of calling you Viserys the Butcher are.”

The King looked at all of them in disbelief but even Prince Daemon and Princess Rhaenyra was not going on his defense. He then stood up and straightened his pathetic hunched self. “I will leave tomorrow but I will bring my daughter with me. She is my daughter, not yours Rhaenys and dragons nests with their hatchlings.” He said in a voice that brokered no argument. “And for punching the King Lord Corlys is thereby banish from the Seven Kingdoms.”

“No.” His mother said. “You are only alive today because I do not want to be a kinslayer like you, you will not banish my husband from his own home. Don’t worry we do not have any intention of going back to your squalor in the Capital. Do not forget, Viserys, who actually is the dragon between us.”

The King huffed in indignation, but ultimately, he had little choice but to leave them alone. With a resounding bang of the door he left. He flinched as his mother tried to take his hand. He looked at both his parents with disgust.

“Do not think that both of you are free of any blame in this!” he whispered angrily. He looked at his father who aged more than ten years. “Your endless ambition made you deliver my sister to the hands of that butcher.” He spat and rejoiced as he saw the hurt in his eyes then he turned back to his mother. “And you— I sent you two ravens begging you to come to the capital, that Laena’s labor is not hard but you chose to entertain your Quarteen trading partners instead of making sure your daughter is safe. All of us killed her.”

It was the first time he saw his mother truly cry. Big heaving sobs that rock her whole body. Princess Rhaenyra was immediately there to comfort her.

He left them to drown in their own misery.

Rhaenyra POV

She watched as Rhaena hid her face in her hand and then opened them and made a silly face to Viserys which made her babe giggle. Viserys is a happy child. This time her second son took his looks from her from the silver blond curly hair, to the pouty lips and his straight nose. Only the eyes were from Daemon, Viserys has the deepest amethyst eyes.

She gave birth to her second son in Bloodstone, which will be his seat someday. She had disregarded the King’s request for her to spend the rest of her pregnancy and give birth in the Capital.

It is already winter and the bite of the wind is already sharp in the Capital, it was even colder in Dragonstone and Driftmark. So, she moved her household in the Stepstone that was barely affected by the winter winds. Her ladies were thankful, enjoying themselves frolicking in the beach without the coldness of winter in Westeros but not having to endure the scorching heat of summer.

She also disregarded the King’s raven asking her to be present for the festivities of Aegon’s second name day. Her pregnancy was too early then and she does not really trust the Grand Maester, she instead chose to throw a feast for the people of Dragonstones, that’s also when they opened the Bath Houses as Aegon’s gift for the people.

IN return for refusing to come back she had named her second son VIserys, after the King, to soothe his growing ire. It worked and Viserys is already the favorite grandchild despite the king not having been able to see him yet.

It was just so sad that she they had to reunite in such a tragic event.

She did not have anything against Laena, she was her truest friend when her family still resided in the Red Keep when they were children and on her other life she also became one of her confidants. She hoped that fate would have been kinder to her but in both lives she perished the same way.

She was gripped with fear at first. What if despite all the changes she had made, she still suffers the same fate? But feeling the weight of Viserys in her arms she had decided to power through her fears.

The news of Laena's demise had come as a shock, delivered by a raven from King's Landing bearing accusations that Laenor had played a role in her death. The very idea was preposterous to Rhaenyra. She knew Laenor’s devotion to Laena was unwavering, and she could not fathom him ever bringing harm to her. The raven said Princess Rhaenys had flown to the Capital to get Laenor out of the Dungeon Tower and that the Princess had beseech them to bring Corlys back to Hightide as soon as they can.

It was the first time she had seen Lord Corlys so stunned he had not said anything even as Daemon strapped him on Caraxes at his back while he has Aegon in front of his chest on a sling. She followed them on Syrax with Vis across her chest.

The Velaryon Fleet had been ready to sail anytime when they touched down at Hightide and Lord Corlys had immediately taken control. Daemon wanted to go to the capital to see what exactly was going on but she said to wait and that Rhaenys will have everything in hand. Their presence in the capital might even make the situation worse.

Daemon cautioned her that should war between House Velaryon and the Crown erupts they will be taken hostage here in Hightide. She laughed at him then, he can level Hightide with a flick of his hand and they have three dragons between them, although Stormcloud is just a hatchling. And they have eight thousand men under their command in the Stepstones, they will make for poor hostages.

Three days after arriving in Hightide Rhaenys and Laenor arrived atop their dragons. Rhaenys looks tired and Laenor was just in shock. Rhaenys had told them how the Hand had imprisoned Laenor for his hand in the death of the Queen but with the Dragon Keepers and the Gold Cloaks testifying in his favor the King had to let him go.

Oh, she knows Otto must have tried so hard trying to destroy the Velaryons based on the tightening of Rhaenys’ mouth but what are their odds against Meleys? But after what happened this afternoon The Velaryons had practically cut themselves off from the Crown.

Another ambitious House brough low for the whole Kingdom to see. And she did not even have to do anything. Otto Hightower did everything for her. Really her decision of not just outright killing Otto was proving to be fruitful for her in this instance.

She was sad that Laena had fallen victim to the game of thrones but her cousin was fully aware of what she was going into when she accepted the crown. It was just heartbreaking that even with a powerful family behind her back they were unable to protect her still.

She hopes that her father’s obsession with a son will stop now. She does not want any other woman suffering the cruelty of being the King’s next breading cow.

“Dragon?” she heard Aegon asked Rhaena as her sister rolled her dragon egg back and forth with her hands. She had presented Rhaena with Moondancer’s egg hoping it would hatch for her but there was no luck yet. But at least the egg did not turn cold.

“Egg.” Rhaena answered with a little frown.

“When the Dragon come?” Aegon asked in the common which Rhaena answered haltingly in the way toddlers do.

She frowned. “Rhaena, do you understand High Valyrian?” she asked.

The girl looked blankly at her and turned back to VIserys who recently discovered his feet and is now trying to eat it. The girl giggled and tried to remove his toes from his mouth but he just kicked the air and then reached for his foot again.

She sighed. She wonders why Laena and her father did not immediately exposed Rhaena to High Valyrian. It should have been her mother tongue. She still remembers her Grandfather Baelon talking to her in High Valyrian while he sat across his knees. It’s one of her earliest memories but come to think of it, it was always Daemon who had taught her everything she knew about her heritage when the Spring Prince died.

When her father became King he was too busy ruling the Kingdom that he did not really have any time to indulge her in stories and talk that is not longer than an hour. Her primary caretaker had always been her mother and Lady Celia Celtigar who was also her governess. The Septas had never been allowed to teach her after Daemon found out that one of them had hit her with a rod in the hands when she was four, he would have killed the woman if not for Prince Baelon. But all Septas had been banned from interfering in her education since then. Her instruction about the Seven was limited to Lady Celtigar giving her a copy of the Holy Book that she read only once.

She looked down as Rhaena climb on her lap. “Mama?” she asked in a quiet voice and she wanted to cry. Her sister will not even have any memory of her own mother.

She hugged her sister close to her. “Mama is sleeping. She is resting now.”

“When she back?” she asked again.

Her breath hitched and kissed her little sister’s head “She will be resting for a long time but she will always be here…” she said as she put her hand atop her sister’s heart. “Your Mama will always be in your heart, mandia.”

Though Rhaena may not fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, she seemed to sense that something momentous had occurred. In the air hung an oppressive tension, palpable even to a child as young as Rhaena. She couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness for the innocence that would soon be lost. Though Rhaena may not understand the intricacies of the events unfolding around them, she grasped enough to know that their lives had been irrevocably changed.

She looked at Aegon who had been trying to climb on the high bed and is frowning at them. She took one of his hands and help him get up. He immediately pushed Rhaena away from her and sat down on her lap instead draping her left arm on him.

“Aegon, we do not push people especially Princess Rhaena.” She admonished but her first born just buried his head on her side looking at Rhaena calculatingly. She scooped her sister back using her free hand and hug her too.

“My heart is big, we can share.” She said and kissed both of their head. That’s when Daemon came in and found the three of them on the wide bed cuddling while Viserys was cooing in front of them.

“Mine eyes are blessed to witness such display of familial love!” he said dramatically and then scooped Viserys in his arms and joined their hug. Aegon squealed and half-heartedly tried to push his father out but ended up giggling when Daemon blew raspberry on his neck. Rhaena was smiling shyly and burrowed deeper on her side.

Then the two children got bored of them and went down to play on the carpeted floor in front of the fire. Daemon put Vis on his chest and patted his back until his eyelid became heavy. She leaned on his side wile watching her son and sister play.

What did the King say?” she asked.

"He’s angry at Lord Corlys for punching him,” came the response. “because it make him look weak and undermines the Crown but he do not want to punish him since he knew he was distraught over Laena’s lost.”

"The Crown cannot be seen not punishing grave offenses like what Lord Corlys did." she stated firmly, her tone resolute. "Putting hands on royalty will have him short of a hand, and the accusations they levied upon the King are tantamount to treason.

“He banished both Laenor and Lord Corlys from King’s Landing.” Daemon said. “They is not to return unless specifically invited by the King. “

“That’s not enough!” She hissed.

“He’s too guilty to do anything, even with Otto whispering poison on his ears Viserys had never been a particularly violent person. HE will not do anything else for fear of angering Rhaenys further.”

She rolled her eyes. “Not particularly violent? He cut two wives and had all but admitted to ordering the same to the third. HE’s clearly not a paragon of virtue.”

Daemon chuckled and wrap his right arm around her making her slot perfectly against his side. She kissed Viserys’ head and nuzzled against her husband’s neck.

“It might as well have happened.” Daemon said. “Corlys was planning to betrothed Laenor’s child to one of Jason Lannister’s daughter.”

She snorted at that. “Lady Johanna has not even given birth yet!”

She was the one who arranged Lady Johanna’s marriage with Jason Lannister and they haven’t been married for a year yet.

“Corlys is certainly efficient.” Daemon said. “He married Rhaenys when he was sure that Uncle Aemon will not have any other Heirs and he will be King Consort. He married Laenor to Samantha immediately after Laena became Queen so they will have the support of one of the most martial Houses in the Reach. And then the Lannisters for their gold and army. He’s making sure that the minute Laena produced a son he will have sufficient support to push for his grandson to be Heir.”

She grimaced. “And they already have the Baratheons who is kin to Rhaenys.”

“And now all of that had gone to the winds.” Daemon said, mirth in his voice.

She rolled her eyes at him. “It’s just too bad that it was Laena who paid for the Sea snake’s ambition.”

“It’s always the innocent who suffers.” Daemon agreed.

They watched as Aegon tried to climb on top of every surface in the room more often than not stumbling down or falling on his back. He had been doing that since he learned how to walk, wanting to explore everything. The first time it happened, she immediately rushed to scoop him up in her arms, comforting him as he cried for nearly an hour. The second time it happened Daemon had forbidden her from going to his side and instead let him come to them for comfort. The subsequent incidents made Aegon just look at them as if wondering if it was okay to cry. But as the incidents repeated themselves, Rhaenyra noticed a pattern emerging. Aegon's tears seemed to stem more from her own distress than from any actual physical pain he experienced.

It dawned on Rhaenyra that Aegon was learning from her reactions, understanding that there was no need to cry after a fall if she remained calm. With each subsequent incident, he looked to her and Daemon for guidance, silently seeking reassurance that it was okay not to cry. Realizing this, Rhaenyra made a conscious effort to remain composed, offering Aegon a reassuring smile and a comforting presence whenever he needed it. She wanted him to know that while independence and fearlessness were admirable traits, he could always turn to them for comfort and support whenever he felt hurt or scared.

Despite Aegon’s cajoling for Rhaena to join him on his play her sister remained sitting on the floor, her legs folded beneath her daintily as she plays with her dragon egg and sometimes with the many toys scattered on the rug. She claps dutifully and cheer on Aegon everytime he successfully climbs atop one of the side tables or one of the taller chairs.

Rhaena is already a little Lady, the perfect princess.

She smiled and looked at the two children while combing her hand on Vis’ curls when Ser Erryk knocked on their door.

"Princess Rhaenys requests an audience, Your Grace." he announced, his voice respectful but firm.

Rhaenyra exchanged a knowing glance with Daemon, who looked visibly annoyed at the interruption. They had both already dressed down for the evening, simply waiting for their children to tire themselves out before retiring for the night.

With a resigned sigh, Rhaenyra rose from the bed and reached for her heavy velvet robe, draping it over her shoulders as she made her way to the sitting room. Daemon followed suit, though he made no effort to set down Viserys, instead reclining on the couch with a casual indifference that bordered on rudeness even putting his leg up on the table.

Rolling her eyes at his behavior, Rhaenyra settled beside him on the couch, shooting him a pointed look before calling for Ser Erryck to admit Princess Rhaenys.

As Princess Rhaenys entered the room, still adorned in the somber gown she had worn for the funeral, Rhaenyra couldn't help but notice the composed demeanor that belied the redness of her eyes. Rhaenys had always possessed an air of unshakeable dignity, tall and regal, with an aloofness that seemed to separate her from the world around her.

Throughout their time together, Rhaenyra had admired Rhaenys from afar, intrigued by the fierce Dragon Princess who had always maintained a certain distance, even during their days living in the Red Keep. Despite her and Laena being thick as thieves when they were young Rhaenys had always kept her distance, maintaining a cool reserve that Rhaenyra couldn't quite breach.

As Rhaenys curtsied gracefully before her, Rhaenyra returned the gesture with a warm smile, her heart swelling with affection as Rhaena toddled over to hug her grandmothet's leg before returning to her play. Aegon, ever the bundle of energy, bubbled excitedly as he showed Rhaena his wooden soldiers, his words tumbling out in a jumble of nonsensical excitement.

Princess Rhaenys sat down in front of them.

"I again offer you my deepest condolences, Rhaenys." Rhaenyra said softly, her voice tinged with sympathy. "And I apologize for any part my father may have played in Laena's demise.”

Rhaenys looked at her with gratitude, her expression softening with understanding. "You bear no blame for what transpired, Princess Rhaenyra." she assured her, her voice gentle yet resolute. “What happened to her was an unfair tragedy.”

When Rhaenys hesitated, Rhaenyra reached out to reassure her, her expression warm and open. "Please, speak your mind freely. We are here to listen, as family should.”

"I would like to ask for a favor, Princess." Rhaenys began, her voice carrying the weight of her concern. "I know you do not owe us anything, Princess, and I did not make any move to shorten the gap between us, but I beseech you to do this. If not for Laena, then for your sister, Rhaena. Please, take her as your ward.”

Rhaenyra felt a surge of conflicted emotions as she glanced at Daemon, silently seeking his counsel. His shrugged shoulders conveyed his willingness to support her decision.

"I will talk to my father." Rhaenyra said.

"He will not allow you to take her." Rhaenys continued, her expression grim. "He's insistent that Rhaena will remain with him in the Red Keep. You have to take her now.”

The weight of Rhaenys's words settled heavily upon Rhaenyra's shoulders. She felt torn between her duty to her family and her loyalty to her father, the king. She may not care much for Viserys but he is still the King.

"You want us to kidnap the King's daughter?" Daemon's voice cut through the tense silence, his anger barely contained.

Rhaenys shook her head adamantly. "You're not kidnapping her, you will be protecting her. The Red Keep is not safe for her, we know that it is really Otto Hightower who rules in the Red Keep. Take her to Dragonstone, or better yet, to the Stepstones where the king cannot reach you.”

"What you want us to do is treason." Rhaenyra admitted, her voice heavy with reluctance.

"I beg you to protect your sister!" Princess Rhaenys exclaimed.

"And what of my children?" Rhaenyra countered, her voice tinged with anxiety. "When we run away with the King's daughter, what will happen to my children? To Dragonstone and the Stepstones?”

Rhaenys's response was swift, yet tinged with uncertainty. "Your father will not hurt you. He will be angry for a few days, but he can never truly hate you.”

Rhaenyra's brow furrowed in skepticism. "You just said my father is not the one really in charge yet you want me to put my position as Heir in jeopardy. What will happen if Otto orders our death without the King knowing it? It will be easy to him to spin some tales with us holding Rhaena as a hostage.”

“Then we will fight!” Rhaenys said. “The Velaryon Fleet is yours as well as Meleys and Sea smoke.”

“You want to plunge the Kingdom to war.” Daemon sneered. “And you’re going to use us to do it.”

“No!” Rhaenys exclaimed and sob escaped her lips. “I just want my granddaughter protected!” she cried as she bowed her head.

Rhaenyra watched in somber silence as Rhaenys's grief manifested in silent tears. Her shoulders trembled beneath the weight of her sorrow, each shudder a testament to the anguish that gripped her tightly in its grasp. Rhaenys's hand rose to cover her mouth, a desperate attempt to stifle any sound that threatened to escape, as if afraid to give voice to the depths of her pain

Her heart clenched painfully as she watched Rhaenys's silent tears, her heart heavy with the weight of their shared burden. She understood the depths of Rhaenys's despair, the fear and uncertainty that gripped her tightly in its grasp.

The sight of Rhaenys, once a formidable figure, now reduced to tears, pierced through her own defenses.

She saw Rhaena tentatively reach for her grandmother’s hand to offer comfort. Rhaenys's arms enveloped Rhaena tenderly, a gesture of comfort amidst the storm raging around them. Despite her efforts to compose herself, the tremor in her embrace betrayed the turmoil within.

Aegon, ever perceptive, also climbed on her lap and embraced her.

"I understand how distraught you are, Princes Rhaenys." Rhaenyra spoke softly, her voice laced with empathy. "But our House cannot afford a civil war. When Dragons dance, everything burns, and the other animals will feast on our remains. I will talk to my father. He will let me take Rhaena in; there is no need for any subterfuge. Trust me, he will allow it.”

Rhaenys's eyes fluttered open, filled with a mixture of gratitude and sorrow. "I'm so sorry, Princess Rhaenyra, Daemon... the last few days have been so trying.”

Rhaenyra offered Rhaenys a reassuring smile, her hand reaching out to gently squeeze the older woman’s hand across the table. "You don’t need to worry, Rhaena will be protected. We failed Laena and we will not do the same to her daughter." She promised. “But this talk of treason will stop now. You are not the only one who has dragons and House Targaryen will suffer no more insult from House Velaryon.” She said firmly.

Princess Rhaenys nodded although her shoulders are stiff. “I promised. House Velaryon and Meleys will forever be in your debt, Princess. You can always look to us as your most ardent supporter.”

It took so many sweet words and compromises before the King agree for her to formally make Rhaena as her ward. Under Rhaenyra's care, Rhaena's education and future betrothal would be overseen, albeit with the king's approval.

However, the king's wishes for them to permanently return to the Red Keep were met with firm resistance from Rhaenyra. Dragonstone, she argued, was her rightful seat, and managing the affairs of the island would better prepare her for the responsibilities she would one day bear as queen. Daemon, as Prince of the Stepstones and Defender of the Narrow Sea, needed to remain there as well, ensuring the stability and security of their newly established territory within the kingdom.

Situated too close to Dorne and Tyrosh, and lacking a dragon to deter potential threats, the island was vulnerable to the predations of opportunistic pirates seeking to exploit its strategic location. The King had reluctantly agreed.

So the following morning, they set back first to Dragonstone to accompany Vhagar back to the Dragonmont. Rhaena was perfectly still as she sat in front of her while Daemon carried Aegon and little Viserys atop Caraxes. They spent ten days in the Island before going back to the Stepstones to supervise their latest harvest.

She had extended her offer to Laenor to stay in the Island so he can heal away from Westeros and he accepted whole heartedly.

King Viserys had been losing powerful supporter while she’s gaining them. She couldn’t be any happier. Otto can try to play King in King’s Landing but everyone knows without a legitimate figurehead his power is empty and temporary. They can keep King’s Landing, she’s going to take the rest of the Seven Kingdom’s at her side.

Chapter 19

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

Rhaenyra observed the bustling Grand Hall, a bittersweet smile played upon her lips. It had been over a year since the passing of Laena, and the wounds of her loss still lingered, casting a shadow over the joyous occasion of her father's remarriage.Her gaze drifted towards the dais, where her father's new bride, Queen Sabitha Vypren, sat with an air of stiffness that belied her youthful countenance. Once a spirited and vibrant presence in the training yards, Sabitha now appeared constrained, as if shackled by invisible chains.

Rhaenyra couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for the young queen, thrust into a position of power and influence that she seemed ill-prepared for. It was a stark contrast to her previous demeanor, and Rhaenyra couldn't help but wonder how such a transformation had come to pass.

The king's decision to marry the daughter of his deceased friend, ostensibly to protect her from the machinations of her stepmother, left Rhaenyra with a sense of unease. Though she understood the need for political alliances and the protection of vulnerable noblewomen, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was amiss. Although Lady Sabitha is from a noble and ancient House, they do not have the political clout needed for a Queen.

“Alicent Hightower was the daughter of a landless knight but she became Queen. Lady Sabitha is at least a Lord’s daughter.” Was Daemon’s answer whenever Otto’s sycophant made a snide remark about the match.

Daemon may not approve of this wedding but he will always be ready to defend his brother, no matter how unworthy the King was of such defense.

She spotted Lord Staunton across the crowded hall and made her way towards him, a pleased glint in her eye.

"Lord Staunton," she greeted him with a warm smile as she approached. "I trust you are enjoying the festivities?”

Lord Staunton inclined his head respectfully. "Indeed, Your Grace. It is an honor to be in attendance at such a joyous occasion.”

Rhaenyra nodded in agreement before getting straight to the point. "I wanted to speak with you about our partnership regarding the chandlary. Our agreement had come to an end, my Lord and I want to renegotiate, this time, I propose providing your house with funds for five years in exchange for discounted supplies of candles for Dragonstone and the Stepstones.”

Lord Staunton's eyes widened with surprise, clearly impressed by the generous offer. "Your Grace, that is most generous of you. We would be honored to accept such an arrangement.”

Rhaenyra nodded, pleased with his response. "Excellent. Rook's Rest has proven to be a reliable and valuable trade partner, ensuring that our candles are of the highest quality. With Honeyholt focusing more on honey production, it falls to Rook's Rest to step up and meet the demand for candles in the Seven Kingdoms. Let us meet tomorrow in my solar, my Lord, so we can draw the proper documents.”

Lord Staunton bowed his head in agreement. "We shall endeavor to uphold the standards of quality and reliability that have come to be expected of Rook's Rest.”

She smiled at him and sighed. Her ventures and partnership amongst different Houses in the Seven kingdoms had been doing good. She had the same partnership with House Massey in Stonedance. Stonedance artisans are skilled in sculpting stone into intricate statues and sculptures, their potters could produce a variety of ceramic wares, including pottery, tiles, and earthenware vessels. Their pottery are prized for its durability and decorative designs, making it a popular trade item among nobles and merchants in the Seven Kingdoms. Most fixtures, decorations and carving in the Stepstones came from Stonedance.

House Butterwell provides them with cows and dairy products. House Blackwood supplies their coal and ink. House Strong supplies most of their livestock needs. The Graze Isle in the Stepstones is a small island that was not affected by the war because it was too small for the fleet to land and the army to occupy so it remained untouched. The island was a patchwork of verdant fields and grazing grounds. The hills rise and fall in a rhythmic pattern, adorned with swaying grasses and clusters of wildflowers. She had let farmers from Kingslanding and the Riverlands relocate to the Island and attend to their livestock.

The people in King's Landing had been overjoyed when she offered to relocate some of them in the Stepstones. The capital is crumped with houses being built on top of each other and work being scarce so the offer of relocation had been accepted enthusiastically.

She finds that she enjoys thinking of what goods to trade with the other houses, she loves watching their newest ventures in Dragonstone and the Stepstones flourish and delight in the overflowing coins and treasures in their vaults.

Rhaenyra had hosted Lord Rickard a few moons ago and the Northern Lord was impressed with Roarcrest Keep even if he did not show it on his face. But more than the magnificent Keep he was more interested in the Glasshaven, that looks like a crystal ball beneath Caraxes' Claw. It is the only place in Bloodstone that they can grow food from.

The North bought their glass from Myr ages ago and with the cost of the actual glass and transportation had not been able to replace the ones that are in need of replacement. Though the process of building glasshouses was limited by the compatibility to the land, the mere possibility of expanding their agricultural capabilities without impoverishing their kingdom filled Lord Rickard with renewed optimism. With Dragonstone already trading salt for pelts and furs with the North, the addition of rice and glass from the Stepstones only served to strengthen their burgeoning relationship.

In exchange for the Stepstones' abundant rice and glass, the North pledged to provide woods and logs, essential resources for Daemon's ambitious plans to expand their naval fleet. Daemon's vision for a formidable fleet that could traverse the Seven Kingdoms and beyond with ships capable of transporting goods to distant shores in Essos and throughout Westeros, the Stepstones would cement their position as a vital hub of commerce and trade.

She smiled as she saw Daemon talking with Borros Baratheon, he’s going to entice the Lord in trading iron ore for rice and salt. They are in constant need of swords, spears, axes, and arrowheads as well as plows, hoes, sickles, scythes, hammers, chisels and saws. They are already trading iron ore from the Vale but one cannot have too much of it.

She almost jumped when she felt someone hold her arm only to find Lady Sam smiling at her.

“Your mind is wondering, Princess.” She said mirth shining in her blue eyes. “That is not good when you are in the capital.”

She almost rolled her eyes but held on Lady Sam’s hand on hers. “Don’t I know it.” She said, they strolled through the Grand Hall and nodded and smiled at everyone acknowledging them and then she turned back to the dais where the new Queen was sitting silently with the King. “How did that happen?” she asked.

“It was her stepmother.” Lady Sam answered. “She wanted to get rid of the girl so she can rule as regent for her son in peace but wanted to use her hand for gain. So she wrote to your father. Thanking him for the condolences he sent on the late Lord Vance’s death anniversary, then talking about how pitifully sad Lady Sabitha is. One of the maids said Lady Sabitha reminded the King of you, Princess when your mother died.”

She grimaced at that. “So, he decided to save her from her evil stepmother?” Rhaenyra questioned, her tone laced with skepticism.

Lady Sam nodded. “I think the King always wanted to be a Knight that will save the lady from a terrible fate.”

The irony of her father's aspirations did not escape Rhaenyra. The image of him as a valiant knight, swooping in to rescue the damsel in distress, seemed almost laughable in light of his own struggles and shortcomings. He had never been able to protect anyone, least of all himself, and the fate of his previous wives served as a grim reminder of his failures.

Lord Bartimos shouted about the wedding and she winced as the new Queen was pulled from the dais towards the Holdfast. Her father was laughing at something Lady Elanda was saying. She knows if anyone looks in her direction they will see a mixture of amusem*nt and disgust danced in her eyes. The sight of the ladies removing her father's outer robes, divesting him of his rings, only to be collected for safekeeping by Lord Cedric Sunglass, the Keeper of the Crown Jewels, left a sour taste in her mouth. It was a spectacle she had witnessed countless times before, yet each time it served as a stark reminder of the indignities of this Andal Tradition. Even pious Alicent and Laena, the rider of the fearsome Vhagar, suffered from it.

"I'm glad I eloped, if only to spare myself the humiliation of a bedding." she remarked to Lady Sam, her tone tinged with wry amusem*nt.

Lady Sam offered a sympathetic nod, understanding the sentiment all too well. "I doubt Prince Daemon would allow anyone to touch you like that, even if you had a wedding here." she whispered in reassurance.

A small smile tugged at the corners of Rhaenyra's lips at the thought of her husband's protective nature. She had no doubt that Prince Daemon would fiercely guard her dignity and honor, sparing her from the degrading customs of the court.

"I had sent one of the older girls in the castle, and she was accepted as a maid in the Tower of the Hand," Lady Samantha whispered with a hint of pride in her voice. "The boy who cleans the hearths in the Tower of the Hand is already in our pocket, as well as the cook and the stable hand but we need someone who can access every room in the Tower of the Hand.”

Rhaenyra's smile widened at the news. "Excellent." she responded, her tone filled with approval. "Having a girl on the inside will be invaluable to our efforts. Keep a close eye on her progress." Rhaenyra instructed, her voice firm. "And ensure that she remains discreet and vigilant.”

Lady Samantha nodded, her determination evident. "Of course, Your Grace. I personally trained them to be discreet and swift.”

The dynamic between Princess Rhaenyra and Lady Samantha had proven to be a formidable force at court. Lady Samantha's foresight and strategic planning had consistently yielded fruitful results and it also irked Princess Rhaenys off. She knows that Lady Sam’s aversion to remaining at Driftmark had been a subject of too many raven between the Lady of Driftmark and her good daughter.

The Princess was left alone in her island with Lord Corlys’ departure on another voyage, as he won't to do whenever a problem in his own House arises. Rhaenyra had also welcomed Laenor in the Stepstones. Under Rhaenyra's guidance, he had been given free rein to select the servants and guards who would attend to Rhaena's needs. Laenor's presence, primarily stationed at Grey Gallows, the Stepstones' military command, had proven invaluable in overseeing the training of their men.

And then there was Sea smoke, the magnificent dragon who had carved out a nest in one of the island's caves. His presence, along with Laenor's expertise, had significantly bolstered their military capabilities, ensuring that they were well-prepared for any potential threats. One can never have too many dragons on their side.

“I must tell you, Princess, this being the King’s fourth marriage the Hand had been… whispering unsavory things to his sycophants.” She saw Lady Sam grimace, her shoulder tensing.

“What things?” she asked wanting to roll her eyes. Even without his daughter as Queen, Otto Hightower still grasp beyond his station.

Lady Samantha cast a cautious glance around them, ensuring they were alone before delivering the troubling news. "Otto Hightower said that the King is displeased about you being away from court for so long," she began in a hushed tone. "And he claims that the reason why the King is... obsessed with getting a male son is so that he can supplant you.

Rhaenyra's jaw tightened as she processed the information but then chuckled. She already lived a life where the King had three healthy Valyrian looking sons and he did not displace her on the line of succession. Otto Hightower’s whispers does not phase her at all.

“Then we just have to make sure there will never be a son.” She said looking at Lady Sam who paled at her words but then smiled back at her. She observed how Lady Samantha's demeanor became alert as she glanced behind her, sensing a shift in the atmosphere. As Lady Samantha excused herself and headed towards the table where the beverages were being replenished, Rhaenyra couldn't help but feel a sense of unease settle over her.

She turned and saw Otto Hightower looking at her intently before he was able to smoothen his features and bowed at her.

"Princess." The Hand greeted.

She put her thumb over the Valyrian Steel ring on her forefinger and pressed. She bit her tongue to avoid from wincing as she felt the needle prick her finger. She then held out her hand to Otto Hightower who obliged and kissed it.

"Lord Hand, such splendid feast you prepared for the King's nuptials!" she praised as she pushed her own bloodied finger on his.

"I'm sure the King would have preferred it if it were you who took care of everything." He said smartly.

She knows that while the Hand enjoys the unlimited power he has while she was away he also loathed that he could not curb her own influence from spreading.

"Alas, I am Princess of Dragonstone and my husband is Prince of the Stepstones so in our Islands we must rule." she said. She took her hand back and press her thumb on her forefinger to stop the bleeding. She gasped as the tangent smell of urine as it pools around the Hand's feet.

Everyone looked at them and she can already hear the whispers from the ladies and chuckle from the Lords. There had been gossips that the Hand had been losing control of himself but it was mainly dismissed, no one can say otherwise now.

"Oh my! My Lord hand, allow me to escort you back to the Tower of the Hand." she exclaimed and tried to come near him only to pull her gown up to avoid wetting it.

Otto was red from shame and he mumbled something and practically fled the Grand Hall. The Castellan had been quick in dispatching a maid to mop the floor and had personally escorted her away from it. She thanked Lord Alun who bowed to her respectfully before calling for another maid for something or another. She looked at Daemon who was chuckling with Lord Boros and putting his hand on his nose as if he can smell anything from his position.

She giggled to herself. The Lord hand should be worried about the gossips pertaining to himself and not whispering about her.Moments later, Lady Samantha returned, her expression grave. "Your Grace, I would suggest we go to the King's apartments." she said in a low voice. "There seems to be some kind of commotion.”

Rhaenyra's brow furrowed in concern. "Is it urgent?" she inquired, torn between her desire to discuss trade agreements with Lord Tully and the potential seriousness of the situation unfolding in Maegor's Holdfast. Lady Sam looked at her full of anxiety and with a heavy sigh, Rhaenyra nodded, her decision made. She glanced over at her husband, who was already watching her intently. Inclining her head towards the door, she silently signaled for them to depart.

Daemon quickly bid farewell to the lords he had been conversing with, his movements swift and purposeful. Rhaenyra felt a sense of reassurance as he tucked her arm in his and guided her out of the Grand Hall. The presence of the four Unsullied Dragonguards, along with Ser Darklyn, who always remained close at hand, provided an added layer of security as they made their way through the Red Keep.

Upon their arrival, the sight of a hundred Unsullied soldiers at their back drew wary glances from those within the castle walls. The Hand of the King, in particular, voiced his protests, citing the presence of slaves within King's Landing as an affront to the Seven. However, Rhaenyra simply smiled and assured him that all of their soldiers had been liberated.

The Hand's objections only served to underscore the fierce loyalty and protectiveness of the Unsullied. No one had been able to breach their wing of the Red Keep without their express permission, not even the King himself, who had once been turned away when attempting to visit Aegon and Rhaena in the nursery.

Ser Harwin, the commander of the Dragonguards, insisted that each member of the Royal House be accompanied by at least two guards while inside the keep and four guards when outside. In addition to Ser Darklyn, Rhaenyra's sworn shield, Ser Joffrey Arryn, also stood vigilant in guarding her. Ser Harwin had been adamant on the need to select sworn shields for their sons, Aegon and Viserys, in the near future. With Rhaena already under the protection of Ser Daeron Velaryon, the task remained to assign trusted guardians to their other children, ensuring their safety and security within the confines of the keep.

Rhaenyra's steps quickened as she observed the unusual tension among the lords and ladies who had participated in the customary delivery of the King and Queen to their marital chambers. Instead of the typical raucous celebration and shouts of lewd suggestions that often accompanied such events, there was an air of unease that hung palpably in the hall.

Concern etched on her features, Rhaenyra approached Lord Bartimos, the Lord of Claw Isle, who appeared unusually animated, bouncing on his toes. "My Lord, what is happening?" she inquired, her voice tinged with urgency.

Lord Bartimos turned to her, his expression grave yet excited at the same time, and leaned in conspiratorially to deliver his unsettling revelation. "The Queen has refused to consummate the marriage." he whispered, his tone laced with concern. "She's standing on the window ledge and threatening to jump if anyone comes near her.”

A wave of shock washed over Rhaenyra as she absorbed the gravity of the situation. She always knew that little Sabitha Vypren is not your usual delicate flower but to threaten the King with her life… in front of witnesses…

She looked over the door of the King’s apartment only to see her husband leaning against it, his arms across his chest, not even hiding the amusem*nt on his eyes. She looked at Ser Harrold and inclined her head.

The Kingsguard immediately ushered everyone out of the hall to their disappointment.

“But we must witness the consummation!” Lady Vypren insisted. “It is just nerves, she’s just a little girl, Queen Sabitha please come down now and do your duty to your house!”

“I would rather kill myself!” was the loud answer from inside.

Daemon chuckled loudly which made everyone look at him but he’s enjoying the sight of his brother in only his robe begging for his new Queen to see sense.

“Out! Everyone out, in the name of the King!” Ser Harrold’s voice sounded, now stronger.

She rolled her eyes at her husband and went inside the room. Rhaenyra's heart clenched as she entered the King's chambers and laid eyes on the new Queen, standing precariously on the ledge of the window. The young woman, clad only in her white shift, appeared frightened and distraught, her grip tight on the window frame.

"My Queen, please..." Rhaenyra began, her voice soft with concern.

But before she could continue, the Queen interrupted, her voice rising in hysteria. "No, I am not the Queen! I don't want to be Queen!" she cried out, her words filled with anguish.

Rhaenyra exchanged a troubled glance with her father, who stood nearby, his expression pale with worry. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she addressed the distraught young woman with gentle reassurance.

“Alright, Lady Sabitha," Rhaenyra said calmly, "why don't we speak calmly down here?”

But the Queen's fear was palpable, her desperation evident in her words. "No! You're going to make me bed the King and then I'm going to die here!" she exclaimed, her voice trembling with fear.

Rhaenyra's voice was soft and comforting as she spoke to the distressed Queen, offering reassurance in the face of her overwhelming fear. "I promise you, my Lady, no one will be making you do anything without your express consent." she said, her words intended to soothe the young woman's frayed nerves.

But the Queen's anguish was edvident as she turned her gaze to the King, her eyes filled with sorrow and desperation. "I am sorry, my King," she began, her voice quivering with emotion. "I know how you love my father, and that you only wanted to protect me... but making me Queen is not the way to do it.” Tears welled in the Queen's eyes as she spoke of the sacrifice she felt compelled to make. "If I had two lives, I would give you one wholeheartedly." she lamented, her words heavy with sorrow. "But I only have one life to live, and I fear I will lose it if I stay in King's Landing!”

"I promise you, my Queen, nothing bad will come for you." the King said.

The King's response was filled with reassurance, but the Queen's desperation remained unabated. "Please," she pleaded, her voice cracking with emotion, "I need you to promise me, for the love you bear my father, that you will let me go. Annul this marriage, my King, and allow me to wed the man that I love."

Rhaenyra's eyes widened in disbelief at the revelation, her mind reeling with the unexpected turn of events. How could such a clandestine romance have blossomed without anyone's knowledge? How could the King not know anything about this? Did he not talk to his bride before putting his marriage cloak on her?

Her gaze shifted to her father, whose expression mirrored her own shock. "The man that you love? I was not aware..." he stammered, his voice trembling with disbelief.

“Who is this man, my lady?" she inquired. "I can have him brought here so he can stay with you, and you will know that all of us only wanted you to be safe."

The Queen's face clouded with confusion and fear at first before she lit up looking at someone behind them. "Forrest! Forrest is the man I'm talking about, Your Grace!" she exclaimed, her voice brimming with happiness.

The revelation left Rhaenyra dumbfounded, her mind struggling to process the unexpected twist. "Forrest... Frey?" she repeated incredulously, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Me?!” a voice outside sqeaked out.

She saw Daemon pulled the man inside the room by his collar, the Heir of the Crossing looked dumbfounded at them.

The Queen nodded fervently, her determination unwavering. "Yes, you are my love," she affirmed, her gaze meeting the young man with a steely resolve, there was a glint of a promise in her eyes. "We were going to marry before we found out how my stepmother arranged my wedding to the king!”

“We were?” Fool Frey asked again but seemed to cower when the Queen looked at him under her eyes. “We were.” He said straightening his back. He turned to the King, confident but humble. “You remember how we always train in the yard, my King? I always accompany Lady Sabitha so the other Ladies will not look down on her and so that the squires will not harass her.”

“Yes! Exactly!” The Queen said immediately, she can see the thread spinning in her mind as she narrates how she fell in love with the Knight when he accompanied her and her father’s body back to the Riverlands and they had continued exchanging letters.

Rhaenyra observed the scene before her with a mixture of amusem*nt and exasperation. As Lady Sabitha Vypren and Lord Forrest Frey spun their tale of hidden love, she couldn't help but roll her eyes at the theatrics unfolding before her.

Daemon's attempt to conceal his grin with a hand over his mouth did little to hide his amusem*nt, and Rhaenyra couldn't suppress a small smirk of her own. These two were clearly weaving a web of lies, embellishing their friendship and correspondence to avoid the inevitable consummation of marriage—a union orchestrated by Lady Sabitha's step-mother.

Though there may have been grains of truth in their accounts, Rhaenyra saw through the facade. Lady Sabitha's tears and Lord Forrest's promises rang hollow, mere ploys to escape the bonds of matrimony that had been thrust upon them.nAs the conversation wore on, punctuated by more tears from Lady Sabitha and fervent assurances from Lord Forrest, the King finally called for the High Septon to annul the marriage. Reluctantly, Lady Sabitha agreed to descend from the window ledge, while Lord Forrest draped his cloak around her shoulders in a gesture of protection.

Rhaenyra couldn't help but notice the tight grip Lady Sabitha had on Lord Forrest's hand, the crescent moon shapes of her nails surely leaving their mark.

As the High Septon annulled the marriage with a grimace on his face, Rhaenyra leaned on her husband for support, feeling a mixture of relief and exhaustion wash over her. She knew that the High Septon would have likely refused if Daemon hadn't been present in the room, his influence ensuring that the King’s word be followed without much questions.

The High Septon then married Sabitha Vypren and Forest Frey right then and there in the King’s Solar before they were ushered to their own rooms. He then married Sabitha Vypren and Forest Frey right then and there in the King’s Solar before they were ushered to their own rooms.

With a heavy heart, her father slumped in his chair, a look of weariness etched on his features as he held his head in his hands. Sensing his distress, Rhaenyra approached him, speaking words of comfort and pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek before retreating to her own chambers.

As she walked away, she caught Daemon's dark gaze, a silent accusation on his eyes. Despite the gravity of the situation, she couldn't help but feel a surge of amusem*nt at his expression. Suppressing the urge to chuckle, she offered him a knowing smile before disappearing into the solitude of her own rooms

The king is his brother long before she became his daughter, he can take care of him.

Rhaenyra sighed heavily as she listened to her maids whispering among themselves while she was being helped out of her gown. She could sense their curiosity, their eagerness to pry into the events of the day, but she had neither the patience nor the fortitude to entertain their inquiries at that moment.

Tomorrow, the Seven Kingdoms would undoubtedly be abuzz with yet another scandal involving the Royal Family. The King, having lost three wives in quick succession, now faced the humiliation of his fourth bride begging to be released from her wedding vows. It was a spectacle that would undoubtedly fuel the imaginations of bards, inspiring countless songs and tales of a king who could not keep a wife.

Exhausted and disheartened, Rhaenyra sank onto her bed, burying her face in her pillow as she grappled with the weight of her father's actions. How much longer would their house be subjected to such humiliation?

Chapter 20

Chapter Text

Lady Elinda Massey POV

She watched as Princess Rhaenys cradled Princess Rhaena tenderly in her arms, watching with a mixture of curiosity and concern as Archmaester Vaegon fed the little princess with strawberries.

According to Ser Laenor, the late Queen had suffered from a severe aversion to strawberries since she was young and he suspects that she was fed it during her last pregnancy. She experienced debilitating symptoms like shortness of breath, itching of the skin, and nasal congestion. Additionally, she suffered from general discomfort and distress, making her pregnancy much more difficult.

Given the severity of the Queen's reaction, Ser Laenor was understandably concerned that Princess Rhaena might exhibit similar symptoms if she inherited her mother's allergy. Over the past week, the Archmaester had systematically introduced the Princess to various foods known to trigger such reactions, including nuts, shellfish, eggs, and wheat. So far, the young Princess had shown no adverse effects to any of these foods, much to everyone’s relief.

Now, with strawberries being the final item on their list, Lady Elinda watched intently as the Archmaester offered the fruit to Princess Rhaena. Three Maesters and Healer Alia stood nearby, ready to intervene at the first sign of distress.

As Princess Rhaena nibbled cautiously on the strawberry, Lady Elinda held her breath, hoping and praying that she would show no signs of the allergic reaction that had plagued the late Queen. The tension in the room was palpable as they awaited the Princess's response, each moment feeling like an eternity.

Prince Aegon chose that moment to get a strawberry as well, she smiled as Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaena, in their own delightful language children tend to have, exchanged words over the strawberries. The young prince's initial grimace melted away as he inspected the fruit in his hand and took another bite, clearly enjoying the treat

Placing the heavy cream within their reach, she watched as Prince Aegon dipped his strawberry and his face lit up with delight as he took a bite.

Princess Rhaena followed suit, dipping her own strawberry into the cream and giggling, echoing the happiness radiating from the older Prince. Elinda couldn't help but notice the relief that crossed Princess Rhaenys' face at the sight, and she leaned in to plant a tender kiss on her granddaughter's temple

“She will be monitored for a few more hours but so far there is no signs of aversion.” The Archmaester said.

“Thank you, Uncle.” Princess Rhaenys said.

The arrival of the Archmaester, summoned by the King himself from the Citadel to serve in the Stepstones, was an event shrouded in intrigue and speculation. It was a departure from tradition, as Archmaesters typically remained ensconced within the scholarly confines of the Citadel, guiding the education of future Maesters. However, when the King's decree was issued, the Conclave had little choice but to acquiesce. Many do not know that it was Princess Rhaenyra who begged the King to bring the Archmaester back to the family as there are so very few Targaryens left.

The Archmaester’s reputation preceded him—a man of undeniable intelligence but also notorious for his short temper and condescending demeanor towards those he deemed intellectually inferior, which seemed to encompass most people in his eyes.

Nevertheless, as he delved into his duties in the Stepstones, Elinda couldn't deny the efficiency with which he operated. Despite his abrasive nature, Archmaester Vaegon wasted no time in scrutinizing and overhauling the trade agreements Princess Rhaenyra had established, ensuring they were fortified to protect her interests.His organizational skills were evident in the rearrangement of household affairs and the implementation of strict schedules for the staff. Roarcrest and Ashfort began to operate with a newfound sense of order and efficiency under his guidance.

While Elinda couldn't help but be afraid and nervous wherever the man was near, she couldn't deny the results he was achieving. It became increasingly clear that despite his prickly personality, Archmaester Vaegon was an indispensable asset to Princess Rhaenyra's court.

She rose gracefully from her seat and executed a respectful curtsy as Princess Rhaenyra entered the hall, her smile radiating warmth and happiness. Beside her was Elara Celtigar, Prince Viserys' maid, cradling the young prince in her arms.

"How are we today?" Princess Rhaenyra greeted cheerfully, her gaze sweeping over the assembled company. Prince Aegon, eager to greet his mother, moved to embrace her, but the Princess deftly intercepted his sticky hands, still coated with fruit juices and heavy cream.

“What do we have here?" Princess Rhaenyra inquired, leaning down to kiss her son's hand affectionately.

"It's called strawberry, Muña!" Prince Aegon declared proudly, his face lighting up with excitement.

"Do you know, strawberries make for a very good cake." the Princess remarked with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"Cake?" Princess Rhaena echoed, her eyes widening with delight as she glanced up at her grandmother. "Grandma, cake!" she exclaimed, her enthusiasm infectious.

The Princess sat down on one of the couches, with practiced ease Elinda assisted in arranging the Princess's skirt around her, ensuring her comfort."I believe we can have strawberry cakes and tarts to accompany the meal this evening," Princess Rhaenyra suggested, her voice carrying an air of anticipation.

Elara, ever diligent, swiftly concurred. "I would alert the kitchens, Princess,. she affirmed, already poised to attend to the task.

As Prince Viserys was passed into Princess Rhaenyra's waiting hands, Elinda turned her attention to the young prince, cutting up some strawberries and offering them to him. His initial grimace and subsequent shaking of his body elicited a laugh from Elinda, reminiscent of his reaction to tasting a lemon for the first time.

The Princess laughed and peppered Prince Viserys with kisses. If Prince Aegon looked like Prince Daemon, Prince Viserys took after his mother from the silver-gold curls, to the straight button nose, to the bow-shaped mouth except for the eyes. He had Prince Dameon’s amethyst eyes just like Prince Aegon.

The Princess let the youngest Prince down and he walked towards where Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaena was sitting, joining them in enjoying the strawberries. Prince Aegon was quick to take the cut fruits from her and he fed Prince Viserys himself.

“You have another letter from the Queen, Princess.” The Archmaester said which cause prompted an eyeroll from the Princess.

“She has sent me a letter every week since she married my father three moons ago asking me to go back to the Capital so I can pay respect to her and I had sent replies back every week that I am needed here. What else does she want now?”

“The same thing but this time it is a Royal Command, she is holding a Tourney and a feast for the king’s name day.” The Archmaester said.

She couldn't help but tense up, a shiver coursing down her spine, as she witnessed the fire that ignited in Princess Rhaenyra's eyes. The Princess was known for her generosity and kindness, but when provoked, her anger was equally fierce, akin to the ferocity of a true dragon.

Princess Rhaenyra's frustration was palpable as she addressed her aunt, her tone edged with impatience. "Your niece is seriously testing my patience. You have to remind her she does not want me as an enemy," she asserted, her gaze unwavering.

Princess Rhaenys's response was swift and cutting, her words filled with a mixture of scorn and bitterness. "Cassandra begged Boros to make her Queen." she retorted, her voice dripping with disdain. "She may be young but her ambition knows no bounds. She is as bold as her father and as entitled as her mother. She knows what happened to my Laena and still decided to share the King’s bed. Teach her a lesson if you need to, Princess," she concluded, her expression a mask of resolve.

"She is still the Queen, whether you want it or not, Princess." came the firm voice of the Archmaester, his words tinged with a subtle warning. "You cannot turn away a Royal Command.”

"They just had a wedding three moons ago, and they're having another Tourney?" Princess Rhaenyra exclaimed, her tone laced with incredulity. "How much was her dowry? I doubt Lord Beesbury will allow the crown to shoulder both the wedding and the King’s name day celebration.

"I heard that the Baratheons paid for the wedding since Lord Beesbury refused another big expense so soon after the farce wedding with Lady Sabitha.” Princess Rhaenys said.

The scandal had caused ripples across the Seven Kingdoms, it's still being talked about even here in the Stepstones where they were already so far removed from the intrigues of Court.

The Princess rolled her eyes then looked at her. “We’ll Lady Elinda, we may have to move to the Red Keep on a semi-permanent basis. I have a feeling I would enjoy taxing the new Queen very much.” She said with a impish grin on her face.

“Of course, Princess.” She said immediately. “I’ll have the whole household prepare to depart as soon as we can.” She said and she left to do just that.

She had seen the subtle shifts that had taken place with the arrival of the Archmaester and Dreamfyre. With their presence, a sense of stability and security seemed to settle over the territory of the Stepstones like a comforting cloak.

The Princess appeared to be growing increasingly confident in the capabilities of her advisors and the protective presence of the dragon, allowing her to consider the possibility of temporarily departing from Roarcrest for an extended period of time. Ser Laenor's vigilant presence in Grey Gallows added an additional layer of protection. He had been overseeing the training of soldiers and strategizing the allocation of resources to enhance the territory's security.

Yes, she thinks that they may be staying in the capital for a longer period especially if this new Queen is so insistent to assert her authority in the capital, treating even the Princess as a mere subject.

As Lady Elinda hurried into the Ladies' Hall, her eyes scanned the room, taking in the scene before her. Lady Selene's workspace was a riot of colors, fabrics draped over every available surface. The new gift from the Volantene caught Lady Elinda's attention, a testament to the Princess' ever-growing collection of luxurious treasures.

Perched on the large window ledge, Lady Lyarra gazed out at the sun-drenched landscape beyond. Her presence lent an air of serenity to the room, her graceful form silhouetted against the warm glow of the afternoon sun.

Lady Allara sat nestled in a cozy corner, her attention captured by the pages of Prince Aegon's picture book. The tale of basilisks and brave heroes seemed to transport her to a world of wonder and adventure, her eyes alight with childlike curiosity, she remembers that she is even younger than her at six and ten.

Meanwhile, Lady Anella sat at her embroidery frame, her needle dancing across the delicate fabric of one of Princess Rhaena's gowns.

“Ladies!” she exclaimed smiling at them as they looked at her in curiosity. “We will be moving in the Capital within a moon’s time, the princess said we should be prepared to stay in a semi-permanent basis.”

Lady Selene groaned and looked at all the fabrics around her. “Now, all of these fabrics are useless! It is too cold in the capital for Volantene silk!”

“Not if it’s fur-lined!” Lady Lyarra said from her perch.

Elinda went to the table she mostly uses and brought out a parchment. “I need to write to the Royal Seamstress to prepare for our arrival. What do we need Lady Selene?”

“Tell her to wash and air out all of the Princess’ winter gowns and cloaks. I think she still have her dresses when she was young that Princess Rhaena can use.” She blonde haired-lady said.

“Or we can ask Princess Rhaenys for some of Queen Laena’s childhood dresses.” Lady Anella said. “The Princess may want to hold on to her dresses for her own daughter.”

She nodded and started writing a list.

Lady Lyarra joined them and abandoned her perched on the window. “Oh, I will miss the beach so much!” she said.

“You mean the half-naked men training in the beach?” Lady Anella teased and they all started to giggle.

“We barely felt winter here in the Stepstones do you think the capital is really that cold?” Lady Allana asked. The girl is still very young and from Highgarden, she may have not remember her last winter.

“Dragonstone was frigid during our last visit, and I suspect the capital is experiencing a similar drop in temperatures.” Lady Anella answered.

"We must write to the Royal Seamstress without delay." Lady Selene said, her tone firm. "Aside from gowns and cloaks, as well as thicker tunics for the Princes, we will need fur-lined comforters and the warmest silk beddings available. The Princess detests linens, and we cannot risk her discomfort during the winter months.”

Lady Allana looked up from her book, her eyes wide with concern. "But what if we don't have enough silk beddings in storage?”

"Then we will have to commission new ones." Lady Selene said firmly. "We cannot afford to take any chances when it comes to the Princess' comfort. But I doubt that will be the case, the Royal storage has a century worth of beddings they can use.”

"I will begin gathering the measurements for the Royal Seamstress immediately." Lady Allana said as she stood up and skipped away from the hall.

“We also have to make sure that the servants and guards are properly outfitted. We cannot afford for them to be sick while we are in the capital.” Lady Anella said, she’s in charge of the household staff.

“It’s a good thing that the Unsullied had already been outfitted with fur-lined leathers and coats.” Lady Lyarra said.

She nodded at that. Ser Harwin has been very good in anticipating things that he is more times than not three steps ahead. That’s a good thing given that he is the Commander of the Dragon Guards. She read through her list and smiled. They have a good start and she’s sure that she will not be ashamed to present it to Lady Amanda, Princess Rhaenyra’s Chief Lady-in-waiting. She hates it when they come up short of Lady Amanda’s expectation.

When she was offered a place in the Princess’ household she was elated. They are not a rich House, the Massey family had fallen on bad times and their pleas for help ignored by the Hand and the King. With six children to feed, their situation had been dire, and Lady Elinda's acceptance into the Princess' employ had been a beacon of hope in the darkness.

Her father's relieved expression upon hearing the news replayed in her mind, a testament to the burden lifted from his weary shoulders. No longer would she be a financial strain on her family; instead, the Crown would provide for her needs as long as she served in the Princess' household, that also includes gowns and shoes and even jewelry and accessories when needed not just food. It filled Lady Elinda with a sense of security she had never known before. And the additional dowry of two thousand gold dragons was more than just a sum of money; it was a lifeline, a beacon of hope in the sea of uncertainty. With it, Lady Elinda dared to dream of a better future, one where she might find a match worthy of her station and her aspirations.

The fact that the Princess had given her family a loan of money so they can invest in making more ceramic wares and tiles had been a life-saver to them. The Princess had also commissioned decorative vases and sculptures for Roarcrest and Ashfort. Every decorative pieces in both Keep are from Massey's Hook. Really, being in the Princess' employ is the greatest thing that happened to her family.

She was expecting to be a glorified maid, taking care of the Princess’ clothes, brushing her hair and making sure her food are warm but instead she was assigned to the oversee the Princess’ treasury because Lady Amanda found out she was very good with numbers. The princess calls her Lady Treasurer.

Her initial apprehension at the vast wealth contained within the Princess' vaults had been palpable. The sheer magnitude of resources, spanning from the Red Keep to Dragonstone and the Stepstones, was enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned of individuals. Yet, she found solace in the unwavering support of her companions.

Lady Amanda's keen awareness and astute judgment were a constant source of reassurance for Lady Elinda. With her by her side, navigating the intricate workings of the Princess' household became a far less daunting task.

And then there was Lord Beesbury, whose accommodating nature and willingness to assist had not gone unnoticed by Lady Elinda. His generosity and openness had made her feel welcome from the moment she had arrived, easing her fears and instilling within her a sense of belonging.

In Dragonstone, Maester Gerardys had proven to be a gentle and knowledgeable mentor. His patient guidance had extended far beyond the mere balancing of ledgers, imparting to Lady Elinda a wealth of knowledge about the intricacies of financial management within a noble household. Under his tutelage, she had blossomed, gaining confidence and skill in her role as stewardess of the Princess' wealth.

She’s sure the knowledge she learned will help her take care of her husband’s Keep someday.

Lady Elinda's travels with the Princess had been nothing short of transformative as well. Beyond the familiar shores of Dragonstone, Driftmark, and the Stepstones, she had ventured forth to distant lands, her senses alive with the sights, sounds, and smells of foreign cultures. The journey to Tyrosh and Myr had been a particular highlight, a whirlwind of vibrant colors, exotic spices, and bustling marketplaces. Amidst the hustle and bustle of these bustling cities, Lady Elinda had marveled at the diversity of people and customs that surrounded her, each encounter a window into a world she had only ever dreamed of.

The Princess' decision to take her into her employ had opened doors that Lady Elinda had never imagined possible. The Princess' generosity had afforded her opportunities for growth and adventure that she would not have dared to dream of before. And for that, she would be forever thankful.

Rhaenyra POV

"She called us to her Solar the moment we set foot on the Red Keep. She did not even allow us to freshen up. She made us curtsey and introduce ourselves to her and her Ladies and welcomed us to the Capital. As if it was the first time we came here." Lady Selene's frustration was evident as she recounted the Queen's formalities to their her arrival.

Her household sailed from the Stepstones a week ago. Daemon and her along with the children had gone to Dragonstone first. Their journey to the island stronghold was not merely a matter of informing the Castellan of their impending return to the capital; it was also an opportunity to ensure the continued success of their secret enterprises.

She did not want Dorn and the rest of the of Essos to know the secret on how they manufacture salt and glass, so they maintained the production in Dragonstone. The salting village, nestled on the shores of Dragonstone, was a crucial component of their operations. Without a traditional salt mine, their reliance on dragon fire for the salt-making process was a closely guarded secret. It was this secret ingredient that imbued their salt with a quality unmatched by any other, ensuring its desirability in the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.

Similarly, the Glassmakers relied on the unique properties of dragon fire to produce glass of unparalleled quality. With no advanced techniques at their disposal, their reliance on this secret ingredient was absolute. A monthly pilgrimage to Dragonstone was all it took to ensure a steady supply of high-quality salt and glass, their methods shrouded in mystery to all but a select few.

It is good that the Archmaester is highly competent and she’s very comfortable leaving the running of the Stepstones in his capable hands, and likewise, Maester Gerardys and Ser Eddrian Celtigar, the Castellan, had proven themselves to be invaluable allies time and time again. Their loyalty and reliability were unwavering, providing Rhaenyra with a sense of reassurance that her interest are protected.

As Lady Selene described the new Queen's assertiveness in the capital, Rhaenyra couldn't help but acknowledge the possibility of an extended stay.

As the carriage door swung open, Daemon extended his arm to assist Rhaenyra, a gesture she gratefully accepted. Before stepping out, she ensured that Lady Selene had a firm hold on Rhaena's hand, knowing the importance of keeping the children close in the bustling courtyard.

With little Viserys cradled in one of her arms, Rhaenyra emerged from the carriage, her gaze immediately drawn to the Small Council standing behind the King and Queen. Behind them, the entirety of the court had gathered, their eyes fixed on the royal family.

King Viserys was already hunched over and engaged in conversation with Aegon, who rode with Daemon. "Father!" Rhaenyra called out, a genuine smile gracing her lips as she approached.

The King turned towards her, a wide smile spreading across his face at the sight of his daughter. "My beautiful daughter!" he exclaimed, his one remaining hand outstretched in welcome.

Rhaenyra embraced her father warmly, pressing a kiss to his cheek before allowing him to greet little Viserys, who shyly buried his face in her neck. “Come on, Vis, this is your grandsire, the King! He’s my Kepa.”

Her babe looked up then and smiled at the King. Her father has actual tears in his eyes as he looked at her youngest.

“Oh my, he looks so much like Aemma!” the Kings said.

Her mouth tightened before she was able to put her smile back on and looked back and reached for Rhaena. Her sister looks apprehensive and held to her hands tightly. Her father kissed Rhaena’s cheeks and greeted her. Her sister was very graceful and executed a perfect curtsey that would make Laena proud.

Rhaenyra's attention shifted as King Viserys gestured towards his side, drawing her gaze to the new Queen standing tall and regal. Cassandra Baratheon's striking appearance commanded attention, her thick black hair and piercing blue eyes exuding an air of confidence.

"Princess, welcome to the capital!" The Queen's smile was polite but expectant as she greeted Rhaenyra.

However, instead of curtseying as expected, Rhaenyra surprised everyone by embracing the Queen warmly and kissing the air between their cheeks.

"Greetings, stepmother! Why, aren't you a beauty!" Rhaenyra exclaimed, her genuine admiration evident in her tone as she affectionately tapped the Queen's cheek. She can see the shock on the Queen’s face as well as the horror on her Ladies-in-waiting.

Turning back to her father, Rhaenyra hooked her arm through his, eager to hear more about the festivities planned for his upcoming name day. "What activities can I expect for your name day, father?" she inquired, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

King Viserys launched into a detailed account of the tourney and feasts planned in his honor, his enthusiasm infectious as he regaled Rhaenyra with the upcoming celebrations. As they walked arm in arm, Rhaenyra couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation building within her. This might be the first Tourney that Aegon and Rhaena can remember. They were too young to remember the Festival for Viserys’ first name day that was held in the Stepstones where aside from the usual contest Daemon had invited dancers from Lys and the Summer Isle to perform. The Unsullied had also performed a complicated dance with their spears that wowed her guests.

She looked back to see her husband following them with am impish grin on his face while Aegon rode on his shoulder and Lady Selene holding Rhaena in her arms looking at her in amusem*nt.

The Queen was still standing where they left her.

Chapter 21

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

Rhaenyra's gaze swept slowly across the scene unfolding below her, taking in the grandeur of the Small Hall. Despite its name, the hall was anything but small; its expansive dimensions were filled with numerous tables, each one a intricately carved and heavy and plush velvet surfaces adorned each table, adding a touch of luxury to the surroundings. The flickering candlelight from ornate chandeliers overhead cast a warm glow upon the assembled guests, lending an air of intimacy to the vast space.

The scent of incense and tobacco hung heavy in the air, mingling with the murmur of conversation and laughter that echoed throughout the hall. At one table, a group of nobles from the Riverlands and the Reach gathered around a game of dice, their faces alight with excitement as they rolled the bones in hopes of a favorable outcome. Nearby, a rowdy crowd of Crownsland knights cheered on a game of knucklebones, their boisterous laughter echoing off the stone walls.

In another corner, a group of card players sat hunched over a table, their expressions masked as they carefully studied their hands in a game of tarot. The flicker of torchlight illuminated the intricate designs of the cards, adding an air of mystique to the proceedings. This table contains women players each one looking more exotic than the last and wearing dresses of foreign cut.

At the center of it all, a grand wheel spun with mesmerizing allure, its polished surface gleaming in the candlelight. Guests crowded around, placing their bets with eager anticipation, their hopes riding on the turn of the wheel and the roll of the ball. In the middle of them all is the King who was sitting down on an ornate wooden chair talking animatedly with the jubilant Lord Bartimos. He claps jovially whenever someone wins and receive a kiss on the cheek from the Queen whenever he wins.

Her Ladies were giggling pointing at each table trying to figure out how each game works with Lady Selene sometimes correcting them. Out of all of them, Lady Selene is the most travelled accompanying her father in the Seven Kingdoms and even in the Free Cities a few times a year when she was younger. She patiently explained the rules of each game, her words accompanied by gestures and demonstrations to help her ladies grasp the finer points. Her companions listened attentively, their eyes wide with wonder as they absorbed the knowledge imparted by their well-traveled friend.

Occasionally, a mischievous glint sparkled in Lady Selene's eyes as she playfully teased her companions, gently correcting their misconceptions with a light-hearted laugh. Her tales of exotic lands and distant adventures added an element of excitement to their evening, fueling their curiosity and sense of adventure.

“Princess.”

Her attention was drawn to her right as she heard the familiar voice of Ser Otto, addressing her. His tight smile and respectful bow indicated his presence with customary deference.

"Ser Otto, how delightful to find you here today." Princess Rhaenyra greeted with practiced civility, her tone betraying little of the animosity that simmered beneath the surface

The Hand of the King, for his part, responded with a polite nod and a tight smile. "Indeed, Princess," he replied, his words carefully measured to convey civility while masking any personal reservations he may have harbored. “These past moons I find myself going through the Small Hall on my way to the Tower of the Hand instead of the Gardens.”

She looked down and her gaze fell upon the Queen, who was laughing vivaciously, her joy contagious. Beside her, the King looked on with fondness

"I didn’t think I would find the Red Keep so… changed when I got back." Rhaenyra admitted, her voice reflecting a mix of surprise and contemplation as she took in the scene before her. The bustling activity and lively atmosphere seemed to mark a departure from the tranquil routine she had grown accustomed to, signaling a shift in the dynamics of the court since her return.

Despite his best efforts to maintain a composed demeanor, the Hand's grimace briefly flickered across his features as he surveyed the scene below, his gaze lingering on the Queen and the lively atmosphere surrounding her.

"The Queen is very popular among the merchants in the City." the Hand remarked, his tone neutral yet tinged with a hint of resignation as he observed the queen's effortless charm and charisma.As he gestured towards a table adorned with foreign women, the Hand singled out one in particular. "The one wearing red lace is Myria of Myr." he continued. "She owns the big building in the Street of Sisters, importing and selling exquisite silk fabrics and garments from Myr.”

Myria of Myr commanded attention with her exotic beauty and refined elegance, her almond-shaped eyes the color of dark amber captivating all who beheld them. Her smooth, olive-toned skin spoke of sun-drenched days in her native Free City, while her glossy waves of midnight black hair cascaded down her back, adorned with jewels that hinted at her affluent background. The intricate lace patterns adorning Myria's dresses added to her allure, evoking envy from those who admired her impeccable sense of style and sophistication.

"The other one wearing blue silk is Sarai of Lys." he explained, drawing attention to the elegant figure. "She owns King's Landing's most prestigious perfume store.”

Sarai of Lys exuded an air of refinement and sophistication, her features possessing a delicate beauty that seemed to transcend the mundane world. Her eyes, a captivating shade of violet, perfectly arched brows added to her regal countenance, while her lips were adorned with a luscious shade of red inviting and beguiling.

She heard of her store and she even have a few bottles of them. As the Head of “Sarai's Scents" Sarai was renowned for her expertise in perfumery, offering a collection of fine fragrances and cosmetics imported from the perfumed city of Lys. Each scent she curated was a tantalizing blend of exotic aromas and luxurious ingredients, captivating the senses and leaving a lasting impression on all who encountered them.

The Hand's gaze shifted once again, this time landing on a woman who stood out amidst the crowd with her striking attire. "The one in fifteen different colors in just one dress is Nalara of Volantis." he remarked, drawing attention to the statuesque figure. "She is the owner of 'Nalara's Treasures,' specializing in imported artifacts and curiosities from across Essos.”

Nalara of Volantis commanded attention with her bold and vibrant presence, her attire a kaleidoscope of hues that seemed to dance and shimmer in the light. Her regal bearing spoke of confidence and authority, her features sculpted with elegant precision and grace.

Her eyes, the color of molten gold, gleamed with a fiery intensity that hinted at her Volantene heritage, while her bronzed skin bore intricate tattoos that told the story of her travels across the continent of Essos. Each symbol and design spoke of adventure and exploration, a testament to her daring spirit and thirst for discovery.

“How did they befriend her?” she asked curiously, not wanting to know who the other women on the table are.

"The Queen had been visiting their shops since she became the late Queen Laena's Lady-in-waiting, and had since doubled her patronage since she became Queen." the Hand explained matter-of-factly.

She looked at the older man. “And how did this come to be? We just had a week of Tournaments and Feasting and now were serving food and drink to… these people the whole day?”

The older man met her gaze evenly, his expression unreadable. "It seems the Queen has taken a particular interest in fostering relationships with the merchants and artisans of the city." he replied diplomatically. "It is not uncommon for royals to engage in such activities, especially in times of celebration and festivity.”

"A gambling den." she exclaimed sharply, her tone dripping with disdain. "You let them turn the Small Hall into a gambling den. Should I expect the Throne Room to be a whor*house next?"

In response, the Hand maintained his composure, offering a measured response. "I am a mere servant of the Crown, Princess." he replied evenly, his words carefully chosen to deflect any blame or responsibility.

She fought the urge to roll her eyes in exasperation as she contemplated the Hand's response. Otto Hightower's actions often left her feeling frustrated and resentful, his penchant for making decisions without the King's express knowledge a source of constant irritation.She couldn't help but scoff at the Hand's assertion that he was merely a servant of the Crown. After all, she had witnessed firsthand how he wielded his influence to manipulate the King into fulfilling his own agenda, often at the expense of others.

To hear him now claim that he did not have enough power to guide the King felt like a blatant contradiction, a thinly veiled attempt to absolve himself of responsibility for the decisions that had led to the current situation.

"I heard you are still afflicted by your monthly... sickness." she continued, her tone deliberately neutral as she shifted the conversation to a more personal topic. She felt the Hand stiffen beside her, a subtle indication of his discomfort. "Has the Grand Maester said anything about its cause and ways to alleviate your symptoms?" she inquired, her words laced with a hint of concern.

The Hand looked at her as if he wanted to fling her off the gallery but smiled at her in gratitude. "They are still gathering knowledge about it, but the Grand Maester's tinctures are a great help." he replied, his tone polite but guarded.

She returned his smile brightly, her words dripping with honeyed sweetness. "That's nice." she remarked, though there was a hint of sarcasm lurking beneath the surface. She continued with an offer veiled in false courtesy, her tone saccharine as she spoke. "Now that I'm here, I may take over—I mean, help you with your task, as it seems you've been much afflicted to prevent... these." She suggested looking at the scenery below, her words carefully chosen to convey the appearance of cooperation while hinting at her own ambition. "Father always speaks in awe of your political acumen; he said you're the man who made him King. Who better to teach the first Queen of the Seven Kingdoms how to rule than the Great Otto Hightower?”

She could practically feel the tension radiating off him, imagining the grinding of his teeth as if they were being ground to dust. Without waiting for his response, she redirected her attention to her Ladies, who had been not so discreetly eavesdropping on their conversation.

"Ladies, time to go back to my Solar." she declared, her tone indicating her desire to depart from the scene. "The smell here is a bit... pungent.”

Turning back to the Hand, she glanced down at his feet with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, observing his momentary panic as he looked down at himself. Suppressing a giggle, she then turned back to her Ladies, hooking her arm through Lady Selene's and leading the way towards her apartments.

"You are especially feral today, Princess." Lady Selene remarked with a hint of amusem*nt in her voice as they walked.

"I was commanded to come here against my wishes, only to find the Red Keep had become unrecognizable." Princess Rhaenyra explained, her frustration evident in her tone. "I find I do not have the patience to maintain my façade of sweetness and naivete much longer.”

“Oh, finally some fun!” Lady Selene exclaimed. “My grandfather will thank you if you make his stay here less boring. Although this room might keep his attention for the next weeks.”

“I trust Lord Bartimos to find amusem*nt on his own. Remember that the main source of gossip we have is him.”

They giggled together and her other Ladies joined in without even knowing what they were happy about.

Rhaenyra settled into her seat with a smile, her gaze meeting her father's fondly. She sat Vis on the tall chair, a gift from the Masseys, positioning him directly beside the King. The Masseys' thoughtful gesture of sending two dozen of these tall chairs had provided comfort and practicality for the royal family across their residences in The Red Keep, Dragonstone, and the Stepstones. It made sure that their children will be abvle to join them for meals more often.

"I talked to the cooks that you brought and made sure that they prepare all foods that the children like." The king said.

"Thank you, father." she replied gratefully

She made sure that Aegon was seated comfortably on her other side, mindful of his tendency to escape down from the tall chair. She remembered all too well the tears that had followed his previous fall, and she was determined to prevent a repeat occurrence.

She heard Daemon already talking to their son. "I know you're excited to play, but we have to wait a little longer until dinner is served and done with, alright?”

Aegon's face fell slightly, his eagerness to play momentarily dampened by the reminder. "But I want to play now. " he protested, fidgeting in his seat.

"I know, I know." Daemon said sympathetically, giving Aegon's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "But remember what we talked about? If you eat your dinner nicely, then you'll have plenty of time to play afterwards.

Her lips tightened imperceptibly as she glanced across the table to Rhaena, who sat beside the Queen. Rhaenyra offered her sister a reassuring smile. "Are you comfortable, Byka mandia?" she inquired softly.

Rhaena's response was a serene smile, her eyes alight with warmth. "Yes, Rōva mandia." she replied, her hands poised delicately with fork and knife, awaiting the arrival of their meal.

It always amuses her how a four year old could be so well-mannered and gentle like Rhaena even if she was constantly surrounded by her energetic and often times unruly sons. She was sitting regally, her silk dressed arranged carefully around her, her hair pulled up with two braids on the side of her head while the rest of her thick curls cascaded down her back. Rhaena loves her hair so much that she hired a woman from the Summer Island who knows how to style and care for her hair better. Rhaena has so many hair oils that it rivals her own, most of them coming from Lord Corlys.

As the servants entered bearing trays of delectable dishes, Aegon and Rhaena's anticipation grew palpable. Rhaenyra wasted no time in ensuring Viserys was served, carefully placing two perfectly formed rice balls and a generous serving of cheesy mashed potatoes onto his plate.

Across the table, Rhaena's gaze lingered on the enticing array of rice cuisine being presented. With a graceful gesture, she indicated her preference for the fragrant rice stir-fried with eggs, shrimp, and a tantalizing blend of spices and a servant immediately put a healthy serving on her plate.

Meanwhile, Daemon, ever attentive to his son’s preferences, expertly portioned out a serving of rice topped with succulent grilled chicken, generously glazed in a sweet and savory sauce, onto Aegon's plate.

"There are so many foods I do not recognize!" The Queen exclaimed, her eyes scanning the array of dishes laid out before them.

Daemon, ever the astute observer, couldn't resist a dry remark. "And so many more that are familiar." he quipped, his gaze drifting to the succulent roasted lamb leg and platters of golden-brown roasted quail in front of the Queen

Queen offered a tight-lipped smile in response, selecting a portion of venison to add to her plate.

"Try the rice soup made with cooked rice, shredded chicken, garlic, ginger, and vegetables, Father." she suggested, her tone warm and inviting.

The King, always open to culinary adventures, readily acquiesced to his daughter's suggestion with a nod of agreement.

Throughout the entire meal, Rhaenyra took on the role of culinary guide, enthusiastically explaining the nuances of each dish to her father. The King, ever gracious and open-minded, eagerly sampled each offering, his delight evident as he savored the diverse flavors.

A particularly heartwarming moment occurred when little Vis, with a childlike innocence, offered his grandfather one of his rice rolls. The King's eyes lit up with joy as he accepted the gesture, savoring the simple yet meaningful gift.

As the meal progressed, Rhaenyra seized the opportunity to share news of her recent endeavors, including the introduction of rice in the North. She recounted how Lord Stark had expressed favorable reception of the Northmen towards the rice, noting its ability to provide energy while reducing meat consumption—a development that undoubtedly piqued the King's interest.

Upon hearing this, King Viserys's reaction was immediate. He vowed to instruct Lord Alun to place rice order without delay and to have Rhaenyra's cooks teach the Royal Chef the art of preparing rice dishes. However, beneath his eagerness lay a hint of hurt. The revelation that the North and the Vale had been the first to embrace this new product that came from her territory stung, stirring a sense of wounded pride in the King's heart.

As dessert was served, Rhaenyra made a concerted effort to reassure her father, ensuring him that any future ventures from the Stepstones would the Crown's would be priority. Her words were met with a sense of relief, the tension dissipating as they focused on the sweet offerings before them.

A smile graced Rhaenyra's lips as she observed the assortment of desserts, tailored to each family member's preferences. Lemon cakes for herself, strawberry cake for Rhaena, and a rice pudding shared between the King and little Vis. Aegon, ever the youthful eater, contentedly nibbled on fresh fruits.

“Should you not be careful with your cake consumption, Princess?" The Queen said, her words were measured as Rhaenyra put her second lemon cake slice on her plate.

"What do you mean, stepmother?" she inquired, her voice tinged with a hint of confusion.

Rhaenyra's initial surprise gave way to a flicker of discomfort as the Queen elaborated. "The court was shocked to see you are not as slender as you were before, princess!" The concern in the Queen's voice was palpable, and she offered a tight smile in an attempt to soften the impact of her words.

This unexpected critique of her appearance caught Rhaenyra off guard. It was the first time someone had expressed dissatisfaction with her physical appearance in such a direct manner. Though she maintained her composure outwardly, inwardly, she couldn't help but feel a pang of self-consciousness.While it was true that her waist was not as slim as before, Rhaenyra knew she was far from being considered overweight. Nevertheless, the Queen's words stirred a mix of emotions within her—a blend of surprise, discomfort, and a touch of indignation.

"My wife birthed two healthy children, it is expected that her body will change from that of a young woman to a mother," Daemon snapped, his voice cutting through the tension in the room as he reached for Rhaenyra's hand.

Rhaenyra felt a rush of gratitude as Daemon's hand found hers, his touch grounding her amidst the tension in the room. His words, though fiery, were filled with a fierce loyalty and admiration that warmed her heart.

"And I love my wife's ripe body." Daemon declared, his voice laced with affection as he pressed a tender kiss to her hand, his hot gaze never leaving hers. In that moment, she felt an overwhelming surge of love and gratitude for the man beside her.

Her heart swelled with pride as Daemon turned his attention back to the Queen, his tone sharp and unyielding. "Not everyone is attracted to women who are as straight as a board who looks more like a boy." he stated with a sneer, his gaze piercing as he appraised the Queen up and down.

“I—I didn’t mean—” The Queen's stammered attempt to backtrack was met with a moment of awkward silence, punctuated only by the soft clinking of cutlery against fine porcelain.

Her father's oblivious interjection broke the tension in the air, his voice filled with genuine warmth and affection. "I actually think motherhood suits you very much, my dear!" he exclaimed, his eyes alight with pride as he regarded his daughter. "My, you are glowing, Rhaenyra! Still the most beautiful woman in the Seven Kingdoms, the Realm's Delight indeed!" he declared with a hearty chuckle.

Rhaenyra felt a rush of warmth spread through her at her father's words, a genuine smile gracing her lips as she soaked in his praise.

“Who is the relms delight?” Aegon's innocent question brought a tender smile to Rhaenyra's lips as she exchanged a glance with Daemon, their shared affection for their children evident in their eyes.

"The Realm's Delight is your mother, Aegon." Daemon replied, his voice filled with warmth as he spoke of Rhaenyra while enunciating every words carefully. "The most beautiful woman in the world." he added, his tone tinged with genuine admiration.

Aegon's eyes widened in awe as he gazed at his mother, a look of pure adoration shining in his young eyes. "Muña is always the prettiest!" he exclaimed with childlike enthusiasm, his words eliciting a soft chuckle from those gathered around the table.

Across from her, Rhaena nodded vigorously in agreement, her own eyes alight with affection as she savored the last of her strawberry cake.

Chapter 22

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

Rhaenyra observed the lively scene unfolding in the Main Hall with a fond smile, her heart warmed by the sight of Aegon and Vis playing joyfully with Monterys Velaryon and the orphans under Daemon's watchful eye. Their laughter echoed through the hall as they ran and shouted, their youthful energy filling the space with an infectious sense of joy.

Rhaenyra couldn't stifle her laughter as she watched Vis's attempts to ascend the grand staircase thwarted by Daemon's playful intervention. With each attempt, Daemon swooped in, snatching up Vis's coat and lifting him high, only to set him down again before repeating the process. The resulting high-pitched squeals of delight from Vis echoed through the hall, punctuating the air with sheer joy.

"Children are so precious." Samantha remarked softly beside her, drawing Rhaenyra's attention back to their conversation.

Rhaenyra nodded in agreement, her gaze lingering on the playful antics of the children below. "Indeed, they are." she replied, her voice tinged with affection. “I just hoped we could have taken Rhaena with us. The Queen practically commanded me to allow her to spend time with Rhaena as she is her mother now.” She gritted her teeth at that. The fact that her father was delighted at the effort the Queen is doing to get close to his children makes her want to claw both their eyes out.

Rhaenyra refocused her attention on her friend. "Princess Rhaenys is still very upset with you for not relocating to Driftmark when they essentially disowned the King," she relayed, her tone tinged with empathy.

Lady Sam's response was laced with a hint of frustration as she rolled her eyes. "It's not like I'm working directly for the King." she retorted. "She just resents the fact that I have something meaningful going on for me outside of being a Velaryon.”

With a sympathetic smile, Rhaenyra reached out to place a reassuring hand on Lady Sam's arm. "Just know that your worth extends far beyond your family name." she offered gently. "You've carved out your own path, and that's something to be admired.”

Lady Sam smiled at her genuinely.

“"How are the things here with winter being so long? It must be challenging for the children, especially with the winter dragging on. I only have three children to look after and the constant request to play outside or for dragon rides are going to drive me insane very soon." she remarked.

Samantha sighed, a weary smile playing at the corners of her lips. "Indeed, it has been quite difficult." she admitted. "The children are eager to explore and play outdoors, but the harsh winter conditions make it nearly impossible. I allowed them to venture out once, but they quickly returned after realizing how cold it was. Since then, they haven't asked to go out again.”

She laughed at that. “I may just do that, if only Aunt Amanda will not lock me outside as well. It's good that you still allow them to visit the Sept once a week." she noted, acknowledging Samantha's efforts to provide the children with a semblance of normalcy and routine.

Samantha nodded in agreement, her expression softening with a hint of relief. "Yes, it's important for them to have some form of recreation and spiritual nourishment. And the High Septon will stop coming here trying to make his image better by eating the foods meant for the children." she snorted.

She laughed at that and shook her head at how ridiculous some people are. "And how are things in the City?" she inquired.

"The price of bread had gone up again." Samantha reported grimly, her tone reflecting the gravity of the situation. "The people were briefly appeased during the King’s name day tournament, as it provided them with some much-needed entertainment. However, tensions are once again on the rise.”

Rhaenyra's brow furrowed in concern as Samantha elaborated on the situation. "The servants of the different shop owners invited to the Keep have been boasting." Samantha explained, her tone tinged with frustration. "They claim that the nobles are being served food nonstop while they are inside saying that they also get to eat any left overs, the smallfolk was amused the first time, clamoring to her more tales about the nobles like how Lord Swann once puked his guts out after learning that he was eating pidgeon and not chicken. Then stuffing his mouth with roasted chicken. But months after of this continued excess and wastefulness, it's just fueling resentment towards both the King and the Queen.”

She huffed. “It’s true. They made the Small Hall into a gambling establishment. The king said it fosters good relationship between the merchants in the City and provide entertainment in Court since the nobles cannot really do activities they normally do in winter but they are just so wasteful.”

“And Lord Beesbury is just fine with it?” Lady Sam asked.

“He’s not, he’s keeping strict records of everything.” She said. “What about this Criston Cole? Did you get any information about him?” she asked.

Rhaenyra's annoyance spiked up as she recall the image of Criston Cole stationed by the door every time she share a family dinner with the King and Queen flickering in her mind like a persistent nuisance. Despite her initial nonchalance of his presence she finds herself reaching out to her children whenever he’s around trying to make sure they will be shielded from his dark gaze. The memory of years of witnessing her brown-eyed boys crying to her after being 'accidentally' hurt in the yard, coupled with the dismissive responses from others who brushed it off as mere training mishaps, her hatred for Criston Cole had been seeping into her conscious in this life.

Despite her efforts to maintain a civil distance, she could feel the weight of his animosity bearing down on her with every passing encounter. The tension between them had escalated to the point where even a glance in Criston Cole's direction set her on edge. She hadn't exchanged a single word with him, yet she could sense the depth of his antipathy towards her. This unspoken animosity only served to fuel her apprehension, knowing that any misstep on her part could potentially provoke a confrontation.

Even more concerning was the realization that Daemon was beginning to pick up on her aversion to the Stormlander. She feared what he might do if Criston Cole were to so much as look at her the wrong way. Her father's unwavering loyalty was a double-edged sword; while she knew he would go to great lengths to protect her, she also understood that he is easily manipulated and would not hesitate to exile Daemon if he does something that the King deems unbecoming.

"He's the son of Lord Dandarion's steward." Lady Sam began. "His father is a native Stormlander but his mother is Dornish. It's no secret that tensions run deep between the Stormlanders and the Dornish and because he inherited his mother’s darker skin and hair, he struggled when he was growing up." Lady Sam said, her tone tinged with a hint of empathy. "His greatest feat? Unhorsing Prince Daemon and some of the Kingsguards in a Tourney. And he's one of the many knights you rejected when you appointed Ser Lyman Mallister to replace Ser Ryam when he died years ago.”

Rhaenyra nodded, her expression carefully neutral, she already knew all of these things she wanted to know what happened after.

“He came back to the Stormlands after he failed to gain the White Cloak." Lady Sam continued, her tone tinged with exasperation. "Apparently, he thinks you spoiled for choosing someone who does not have any battle experience and only a noble name instead of him.”

Rhaenyra scoffed derisively at the notion, her disdain palpable. "Spoiled?" she echoed incredulously, her voice dripping with scorn. "As if I owe him anything.”

"He's angry because the one I chose was the man who defeated him on the list where he unhorsed Daemon.” she remarked with a bitter edge to her voice. The irony of the situation was not lost on her; Cole’s wounded pride had driven him to seek vengeance against her before and it seems it will be his resentment and bitterness that will put him against her now.

Lady Samantha leaned into her. "There are rumors circulating in the City about the close relationship between the Queen and her Sworn Shield." she began, her tone hushed as she glanced around the room to ensure their conversation remained private.

Rhaenyra's brow furrowed in intrigue as she absorbed the implications of Samantha's revelation. "What kind of rumors?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper as she leaned in closer, eager to hear more.

Samantha's lips curled into a knowing smile as she leaned in conspiratorially. "They said that he was the one who took Lady Cassandra's maidenhead when she was very young." she whispered, her words laden with scandalous gossip.

Rhaenyra's eyes widened in shock at the revelation, her mind racing with the implications of such a salacious rumor. "Is it true?" she asked.

Samantha shrugged nonchalantly, her expression unreadable as she offered no definitive answer. "Who knows?" she replied cryptically. "But what I do know is that it's the White Worm perpetuating the rumor."

Rhaenyra's eyebrow arched in surprise at the mention of the White worm, she knows full well who she works for. It seemed that Otto Hightower was not as complacent as she had initially assumed, his machinations unfolding beneath the surface of courtly politics.

They spent more time discussing the gossips in the Capital and as the hours slipped away and the children grew weary, Rhaenyra knew it was time to return to the comfort of the Keep. The nurses took Aegon and Vis for their afternoon nap and she rested on her sitting rooms, a rare occasion that she is not surrounded by her Ladies. Lady Anella was spending time with her father, Lord Lyonel Strong, while the other ones were embroidering clothes they will be donating to the smallfolk for Aegon’s upcoming fourth name day.

The King wanted to have another Tourney but she declined as winter is really hitting the Northern Kingdoms, someone even reported snow in The Twins and Segard. She will be ordering a feast in the Keep and another one in the City, at the Alm’s House’s Office.

Daemon departed to attend to matters in the city, Rhaenyra found herself alone with Valaena, her trusted personal attendant who was vouched for by Lord Bartimos himself. Vaelena and Elaena are sisters, Lord Bartimos niece from a cousin, they and Lady Selene are the only people in her household who knows how deeply she practices Valyrian tradition.

"Princess, I just put the Dragon's Blood Jar in the Vault." Valaena reported, her voice steady and assured. "The moonstones have been crushed to dust, and the moonflower is just simmering in the pewter cauldron. I will check on it after five hours."

Rhaenyra nodded in appreciation, a grateful smile gracing her lips. "Thank you, Valaena." she said warmly. "You are such a godsend.” She said smiling gratefully at her. "Would you be so dear and check if Rhaena had returned from her audience with the Queen? She should be napping now, otherwise she will be cranky later." Rhaenyra gently requested.

Valaena, ever attentive to her duties, responded promptly. "Princess Rhaena has not yet returned, Princess, but her maid arrived back a few hours ago." she reported,

Rhaenyra’s brow furrowing slightly as she relayed the information. She had been adamant that Rhaena's attendants remain close by during her audience with the Queen, ensuring her sister’s comfort and safety. "Can you ask Lady Amanda to accompany Maya to retrieve Rhaena?" she requested, her voice tinged with urgency.

"Of course, Princess." Valaena said. She immediately set about arranging for Lady Amanda to assist Maya in bringing Rhaena back to their quarters.

The thought of a relative stranger having unrestricted access to her sister, sanctioned by the King no less, unsettled her deeply. While she acknowledged the familial tie between Cassandra Baratheon and Laena, she couldn't shake off her apprehension.

Cassandra's youth, barely seventeen years of age, coupled with her newfound position as Queen, left Rhaenyra feeling uncertain about entrusting her sister into her care for extended periods. Despite their familial connection, Rhaenyra couldn't help but question Cassandra's ability to assume such responsibility, especially given her own tender age.

Cassandra had already shown her youthful naivete by repeatedly trying to impose her will on both Rhaenyra and Daemon, only to be met with dismissal. Moreover, her ill-conceived introduction of gambling into the court, under the guise of easing the boredom that had surrounded the members of Court who cannot venture out as they used to due to winter's chill, had only further emphasized her lack of judgment.

Rhaenyra closed her eyes, seeking a moment of respite. It felt like she only rested for a few minutes until her peace was abruptly shattered by a loud, piercing cry. Startled from her rest, she sat up straight, her senses immediately alert. The sound of her door opening drew her attention, and she was met with the stern visage of Lady Amanda, her expression etched with anger. Behind her stood Maya, Rhaena's maid, tears streaming down her face, and her sister in the maid’s arms, her face flushed with exertion as she screamed inconsolably. This was no ordinary outburst; it was a shrill, relentless cry, the strain evident in the hoarseness of her voice after what seemed like hours of unrestrained wailing.

“What happened?!” she snapped as she took Rhaena in her arms who proceeded to sob, big heaving sob, in her chest.

“My—hair… it gone!” her sister said pitifully and then hid her face against her chest again. Her hair was like a bird's nest, it was so tangled and it looked like someone had hacked it off instead of trying to tidy the tangles.

"Who did this?" She demanded, her voice tight with fury.

"The Queen,. Lady Amanda answered, her lips pressed into a thin line. "We could hear the princess screaming as we entered the corridor to the Queen's solar. The Princess has likely been crying for hours.”

Rhaenyra's chest swelled with rage, a primal urge to confront Cassandra boiling within her, but she pushed it aside, focusing on comforting her sister first. "There, there, dear Rhaena." she murmured, her voice softening. "We will have Tya style your hair properly.”

Rhaena's panic was palpable as she protested, "It gone! It cannot braid it anymore!”

Rhaenyra's resolve hardened. "Of course, Tya can still braid it! She's the greatest braider in the world And if she cannot we will find another way to make it even prettier than before!”

She instructed Maya to fetch the Summer Islander and ensure she had her tools to style Rhaena's now much shorter hair. The maid hurried off without delay.”

Turning back to Rhaena, Rhaenyra gently wiped away her sister's tears. "I will personally write to your Grandfather to send you the best oils to quicken your hair growth." she promised.

Rhaena's sobs began to subside, hope flickering in her eyes. "You can do that?” she asked in a small voice.

"Of course!" Rhaenyra replied with confidence. "Lord Corlys has traveled to all the known world; he must have something to hasten hair growth.”

Rhaenyra cradled her sister close as her sobs turned into sniffles. When the Summer Islander arrived, she could see the shock on Tya's face as she took in Rhaena's appearance. Tya had been hired specifically to take care of Rhaena's thick, tight curls, and she wasted no time in getting to work.

As Tya began working, a grimace crossed her face as she assessed the extent of the damage to Rhaena's hair. It had been cut so haphazardly that one side reached just below her chin while the other side hung past her shoulder. Rhaenyra watched with a heavy heart as Tya painstakingly worked to make the cut even, knowing that it would mean cutting even more of Rhaena's hair.

Rhaena cried again as the scissors snipped away more of her hair, but Rhaenyra reassured her that it would be better once Tya was finished. And indeed, it was. The younger princess looked adorable with her short hair, but from the look on Rhaena's face, it was clear she wasn't entirely pleased with the change.

Seeing her sister's disappointment, Rhaenyra sprang into action. "Valaena, fetch one of my headbands, the one full of pearls." she instructed. This tiara was a thick headband, its plush velvet base adorned with strings of lustrous pearls in every sizes. She carefully pushed it put it on her sister's head pushing her short hair away from her face.

"This was given to me by Grandfather Jaehaerys when I was your age and did not like having my hair combed at all. It makes sure that the hair is out of my face at all times. It looks very pretty on you." Rhaenyra whispered, her voice warm with nostalgia and affection.

Tya brought up a mirror, and Rhaenyra chuckled as she watched Rhaena admire the headgear, preening herself in front of the mirror.

"We will commission more, in different colors!" she promised, her heart lightening at the sight of her sister's smile.

Rhaena finally cracked a smile and hugged her tightly. They stayed that way until her little sister fell asleep in her arms. Rhaenyra allowed Maya to take her charge back to the nursery with strict instructions that no one was to take the Princess out without her permission. She then turned to Tya, thanking her for her skillful work and asking her to make a list of products and accessories they needed for Rhaena's much shorter hair.

Rhaenyra stood up, instructing the maids to carefully gather Rhaena's hair before she instructed them to wait for her outside the King’s apartment.

Straightening her dress, she meticulously removed any imaginary lint, her movements precise and controlled. She was still adorned in a thick red underdress embellished with jewels and golden thread. Her outer dress, a formidable garment of thick black leather with a dragon scale pattern, its edges trimmed with luxurious fur.

"Rhaenyra, I know you are angry, but please think of the consequences of your actions." Lady Amanda warned, her voice tinged with concern.

"The only person who needs to worry about the consequences of her actions is the Queen." Rhaenyra declared, her voice firm with determination as she marched out of her sitting room. Ser Erryk fell into step behind her on her right, his hand resting on the pommel of his sword, while Ser Joffrey Arryn, her sworn shield, walked on her left. They were accompanied by four Unsullied, their hands tightly holding on their spears.

Rhaenyra couldn't help but notice the extra Unsullied, a departure from their usual security arrangements within the Keep. Typically, she was accompanied by just two Unsullied, a Kingsguard, and her Sworn Shield. The increased presence spoke volumes about the gravity of the moment.

As they approached the entrance to the Queen's apartment, Ser Harwin stood waiting for them with two more Unsullied, who remained stationed in the corridor, their vigilance unwavering. His hulking presence almost took up the whole corridor and she breathe easier knowing that her loyal friend is with her.

It was Ser Darklyn assigned to the Queen today and she smirked inwardly. Ser Steffon Darklyn had been a constant presence throughout her childhood, his loyalty to her is unwavering. Beside him stood Criston Cole, alert and ready to defend the Queen, his hand firmly on the pommel of his sword.

"The Queen asked not to be disturbed." Ser Steffon gritted out through clenched teeth, his stance defensive.

Rhaenyra's fist clenched, her signet ring jutting out as she remembered the lessons Daemon had taught her. With a swift, calculated motion, she aimed for Cole’s exposed throat, her punch landing with precise force. It wasn't a powerful blow, but she made sure to hit his windpipe, sending him to his knees, gasping and choking.

She turned her gaze to Ser Darklyn, who was barely concealing a smile but remained on his post. It was Ser Harwin who took the initiative to open the door, acknowledging Rhaenyra's unspoken command to proceed.

Rhaenyra stormed into the Queen's chambers, her anger boiling beneath the surface as she confronted Cassandra who was having tea with her ladies-in-waiting, Bethany Hightower and Coreanne Swann. The Queen's thick hair was braided on one side of her shoulders, but Rhaenyra paid little attention to such trivialities in the face of her fury.

"Princess! I did not expect your visit—" Cassandra began, her smile faltering as she met Rhaenyra's steely gaze.

"What the f*ck is your problem hacking almost all of Rhaena's hair off?" Rhaenyra interjected angrily, her voice laced with contempt as she disregarded courtly etiquette. She noticed Coreanne looking at her in shock, while Bethany seemed to shrink back in fright, clutching her pearls.

Cassandra's expression remained composed, though there was a hint of steel in her eyes. "I will forgive your tone and crude language, Princess." she said sternly. "And all of it was a regrettable accident. I was combing her hair, and it got tangled beyond repair. She was moving and crying so much that it only worsened the situation, and we had no choice but to cut it."

Her arrogant nonchalance was feeding her anger further.

"Her hair was so bad I think it was actually an improvement." The Queen remarked, her tone dripping with sarcasm.

With a sudden movement, she seized the Queen by her thick braid, pulling her close despite Cassandra's protests. The ladies-in-waiting recoiled in horror, their cries mingling with Cassandra's own as Rhaenyra yanked her hair from side to side like how she saw Syrax toy with her food. The Queen struggled and screamed, clawing desperately at Rhaenyra's hand, but the princess's grip was unyielding

In one swift motion, Rhaenyra reached for Ser Joffrey's sword, barely needing to draw it fully from its sheath. Using the blade, she cut through the Queen's thick braid with a decisive swipe.

Cassandra fell to her knees, her screams echoing through the chamber as she watched Rhaenyra hold up the severed braid triumphantly.

“I will have you whipped for this!” she screamed. “The King will not let this slide!”

Rhaenyra's smirk remained fixed as she crouched down to meet Cassandra at eye level, the Queen's tear-stained face a stark contrast to her own steely resolve.

"I can slit your throat and stab you multiple times and bathe in your blood and tell my father that it was an accident and he would believe me." Rhaenyra whispered, her voice chilling in its matter-of-factness. "You do not scare me, Cassandra Baratheon."

Cassandra's eyes widened in horror at the coldness in Rhaenyra's words, her own defiance faltering in the face of such ruthlessness. "I am the Queen!" she protested weakly.

"We have had a lot of Queens before you." Rhaenyra retorted, her voice cutting like a blade. "You are replaceable."

The Queen opened her mouth to retort when a powerful roar reverberated through the walls, shaking the room as if a storm was brewing just outside the windows. In the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of gold streaking past. Syrax and Caraxes remained unshackled since their arrival despite the Hand's protest. Her Golden Lady must have sensed her own anger.

The Queen's venomous words died on her lips as she swallowed hard, her entire form trembling with fear, her face drained of color. Rhaenyra's gaze bore into her, unwavering in its intensity.

"You've entered the Dragon's nest, girl-queen." Rhaenyra hissed. "You will burn if you continue to play with fire."

With that ominous warning, Rhaenyra turned leaving Cassandra to ponder the weight of her words. Outside, Criston Cole remained on his knees, blood trickling from his torn flesh where the Unsullied had broken their spears upon his knees, a failed attempt to halt Rhaenyra's advance. She sneered at him contemptuously before striding purposefully towards the King's Solar.

As Rhaenyra approached the doors to the King's Solar, she was met by Ser Harrold and Ser Arryk, with her maid standing nearby holding Rhaena's hair she put in a small silk sheet. Ser Harrold glanced at the thick braid in her hands and shook his head, a hint of amusem*nt flickering in his eyes. With a determined stride, she took Rhaena's hair and exchanged it for the braid from the Queen, passing it to her maid before entering the King's Solar after being announced.

Her father's face lit up when he saw her, but his expression quickly shifted to concern as he noted her thunderous expression. "My dear girl, did something happen?" he asked worriedly.

Rhaenyra wasted no time in voicing her grievances, her anger boiling over as she threw Rhaena's hair onto the table in front of him. "Your wife decided that Rhaena's hair is ugly and hacked it off! My sister was inconsolable, her voice hoarse from crying for hours!" she exclaimed, her voice laced with fury and frustration.

Visibly shaken, the king attempted to interject, but Rhaenyra's fury brooked no interruption. "There must have been a reason—" he began, but she cut him off with a sharp retort.

"I do not care for her reasons!" she snapped, her voice sharp with anger. "She is not to come near my children again, or I will cut off more than her hair next!”

The king recoiled at her words, shock evident in his expression. "What did you do?" he asked incredulously.

Rhaenyra met his gaze squarely, her chin held high. "I did what she did to my sister. It was only fair." she declared, her tone unyielding. "Leash your new wife, Father, or I will feed her to Syrax the next time she so much as thinks of tormenting my children again. I do not care if she is the daughter of the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands and has an army at her back. I would sooner burn Storm's End than subject my sister to her abuse again. Remember that Rhaena has a dragon rider for a grandmother too and the largest fleet in the Seven Kingdoms.”

The king's gaze softened as he looked at his daughter, his determination evident in his expression. "I promise you, daughter, this will not happen again." he vowed solemnly, taking her hands in his. His breath caught when he saw the crescent moon-shaped marks on her hands. "Did she do this?" he asked, his voice tinged with concern as he carefully caressed the bruise blooding on her knuckles.

Rhaenyra nodded firmly. "Yes." she confirmed, her jaw set with resolve. "I also punched her guard because he refused to obey my command that’s where the bruise come from."

Her father's laughter echoed in the room, a mixture of pride and amusem*nt. He called for the Grand Maester to examine the scratches on her hands, ensuring that they were properly tended to. She smiled at her father, King Viserys was a fool yes, but he was her fool.

Notes:

y'all don't punch someone in the throat, I heard something on the news of a student punching another student in the throat and he died.

Chapter 23

Notes:

Please bear in mind that Cassandra is only 17 and has the famous Baratheon temper.

Chapter Text

Queen Cassandra POV

Queen Cassandra sat before her mirror, her expression sour as she surveyed her shortened hair. Once flowing past her waist in luxurious waves, it now barely reached her shoulders. The mere thought of the incident that led to its drastic alteration left a bitter taste in her mouth. How dare that wretched girl, Rhaenyra, lay a hand on her? And to have the audacity to cut her hair and then play the victim, shifting the blame onto Cassandra herself.

As she ran the comb through her shortened locks, frustration gnawed at her. It was all just a terrible accident, she reasoned with herself. She had only wanted to brush Rhaena's unruly hair, but it was like trying to tame a wild beast. The hairbrush had become entangled, and despite their best efforts, cutting it off had seemed the only solution. Rhaena's incessant screaming and crying had only exacerbated the situation, leaving Cassandra no choice but to take decisive action

And yet, here she was, the one being scolded by the King, forced to endure the humiliation of having to apologized to both Rhaenyra and Rhaena. It wasn't her fault that the little beast’s hair was difficult to manage, or that they neglected its care. Why should she be punished for circ*mstances beyond her control?

With a frustrated huff, Cassandra tossed the comb aside, her resentment simmering beneath the surface. She refused to be cowed by Rhaenyra's petty vindictiveness. If anything, this incident only fueled her determination to assert her authority and prove herself worthy of her title as Queen.

When she was Lady-in-Waiting for Laena she saw how her cousin had always seemed to tiptoe around Rhaenyra, her actions governed by fear and deference to the princess's whims. Cassandra, however, refused to be so submissive. She was determined not to bow down to Rhaenyra's dominance, to assert her own power and authority. Rhaenyra may be a dragon but she is the Storm and she had not seen a beast not fall to the might of nature yet.

Her father's words echoed in her mind, a reminder of her own significance in the game of thrones. As long as she birthed the King a Prince, it would be her blood that would ultimately sit the Iron Throne. She understood the gravity of her position, the weight of her potential influence over the future of the realm.

The King's relentless pursuit of a male heir wasn't merely a matter of securing the succession, but a deliberate effort to prevent Rhaenyra from ascending to the throne. If the King had truly wanted Rhaenyra to inherit, he would have ceased his efforts to father a son after his third wife. Instead, he persisted, driven by a desire to ensure that the future of the realm lay in hands other than Rhaenyra's.

As Cassandra reflected on her position within the royal court, she couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction at the progress she had made in endearing herself to the people of King's Landing. Unlike Rhaenyra, whose capricious nature and lack of political savvy made her an unreliable candidate for the throne in the eyes of many, Cassandra understood the importance of cultivating alliances and fostering goodwill among the common folk and nobility alike

Her efforts to forge connections with merchants had proven fruitful, with increasing profits leading to higher tax revenues for the Crown. The nobles, too, were entertained by her social engagements, finding a refreshing energy in the lively atmosphere she cultivated within the Keep. Many had already remarked that the court hadn't been so vibrant since the days of Queen Aemma.

In contrast, the previous queen, Alicent Hightower, had brought a somber ambiance to the Keep with her seemingly endless succession of stillborn children. Laena's idea of courtly entertainment consisted of insipid tea parties with the aging dowagers. She was too consumed by her longing for her dragon and her distant home of Driftmark, she seemed oblivious to the political machinations unfolding around her.

Cassandra saw herself as the antithesis to these lackluster predecessors, a beacon of hope and vitality in a court plagued by stagnation and despair. With each passing day, she grew more confident in her ability to shape the future of the realm according to her own ambitions, determined to secure her place in history as a queen worthy of the Iron Throne.

Cassandra's lips curled into a sneer as she remembers that the Orphanage and Almshouse was being credited to Rhaenyra when it was initiated and spearheaded by the Good Queen. It’s bolstering her popularity and influence among the common folk when all she did was take credit on other’s work.

In Cassandra's eyes, such philanthropic efforts were nothing more than frivolous indulgences, serving little purpose beyond a temporary boost to the Crown's image. What use were orphans to the Crown, after all? They were nothing more than burdens on the kingdom's coffers, draining valuable resources that could be better allocated elsewhere.

The Faith should be responsible for charitable endeavors. Rhaenyra's focus should be on initiatives that will truly benefit the Crown, not wasting time and resources on the whims of orphans and almshouses. By delegating charitable work to the Faith, Rhaenyra could have demonstrated her commitment to the realm's welfare while freeing up resources for endeavors that would directly bolster the Crown's power and influence.

She started she heard the knock on her door, Ser Criston requesting for entry. Even the sanctity of her own chambers felt like an insult, a constant reminder of her diminished status within the royal court. She had expected to be granted the Queen's Wing of the Holdfast, a fitting accommodation for a woman of her station, but Rhaenyra's influence over the king and the castle's servants had thwarted her ambitions at every turn.

Lord Alun, the Castellan, had dismissed her requests outright, saying that Princess Rhaenyra has permanent residence in the Queen’s Wing as future monarch, further fueling her resentment towards her and her hold on power. Instead, the king had allocated her ten rooms in his own wing, a gesture that did little to assuage her sense of injustice. It felt like a paltry concession, a token gesture that fell far short of what she believed she was entitled to.

As Ser Criston entered her chambers, Cassandra's heart sank at the sight of him. His once stalwart appearance now marred by a bruised throat, the indentations of the Princess’ ring etched into his skin. And his limping gait served as a stark testament to the brutality inflicted upon him by the slaves Rhaenyra had brought to the capital.

Ser Criston had been her steadfast companion since childhood, her unwavering protector within the walls of the Red Keep. The thought of him suffering for simply trying to safeguard her filled Cassandra with a deep sense of anger and frustration. She despised the injustice of it all—having to apologize to Rhaenyra and even Rhaena, while the princess showed no remorse for the harm inflicted upon her and Ser Criston.

"Ser Criston, shouldn't you be resting? I have a Kingsguard outside my door." she urged gently, her voice laced with worry.

The knight's response was steadfast, his loyalty unwavering even in the face of his injuries. "Forgive me, my Queen, but another Kingsguard was outside your door when the Princess attacked you, and he did not do anything." he explained, his tone resolute. "I would prefer that I personally see to your protection.”

Cassandra's heart swelled with gratitude at his dedication, and she offered him a sincere smile. "Thank you, Ser Criston." she said warmly, her appreciation evident in her voice.

For so long, she had harbored a childish crush on the older knight. He was everything a knight of the Songs represents, he was gallant and skilled, and he was very handsome with his dark hair startlingly emerald eyes. Before aspiring to be a queen, she had imagined marrying him and escaping her father's harsh upbringing. However, she soon realized the impracticality of such fantasies—Criston Cole had neither a keep nor a title to offer her. Still, she couldn't help but indulge in dreams of him whisking her away from her troubles, even if only in her imagination.

He had been her first kiss, her confidant, and her protector, standing steadfastly by her side through trials and tribulations. And though their roles may be confined to queen and protector, she knew that his loyalty and unwavering support meant more to her than any fanciful dreams of romance.

Cassandra was surprised as Ser Criston drew his sword and knelt before her, a solemn gesture of devotion that moved her deeply. Tears welled in her eyes as he reaffirmed his oath of loyalty, his unwavering commitment resonating with her on a profound level. She extended her hand, and he reverently kissed it, sealing their bond once more.

As her ladies-in-waiting entered, their usual laughter stilled by the solemnity of the scene before them, Cassandra dismissed Ser Criston and welcomed her ladies into her chambers. Her Ladies entered slowly, Bethany looking at Ser Criston until he exited her room before turning back at her with a confused look on her face.

She smiled at them in reassurance, she knows that her Ladies had been very disturbed by the savagery that Princess Rhaenyra had displayed and she wanted to ally their fears.

"It's not very ugly, is it?" she asked, turning to the mirror and scrutinizing her shortened hair. Despite her joke she couldn't help but feel a twinge of insecurity. The reason why she keeps her hair long is because it is so bushy and the length helped keep it down. Right now, when the winds so much as blow she’s afraid her hair will be all over her face. But the maids did a good job pining her hair away from her face.

Lady Coreanne was quick to reassure her while Lady Bethany looked on silently.

“My Queen, is it wise to go out in Court given the recent…atmosphere?” Lady Coreanne asked.

She looked at her in confusion. “What do you mean? What atmosphere?”

The stupid girl just looked down but refused to answer. She looked at Lady Bethany who came closer to her.

“The Princess had sent messages to the whole Court commanding everyone not to say anything untoward regarding Princess Rhaena’s short hair. She said that the little Princess is already upset enough that you had her hair cut against her wishes and Princess Rhaenyra has made it quite clear that any unwelcome comments will result in swift expulsion from Court.”

Her eyes widened in disbelief, her hands clenching into fists as a surge of anger coursed through her veins. How dare Princess Rhaenyra paint her as some kind of villainous stepmother, as if she were abusing her husband's children!

With a sharp inhale, she rose from her seat abruptly, her golden gown shimmering in the candlelight as she smoothed out its elegant folds. "It is imperative that the courtiers witness my presence." she declared, her voice laced with determination. "I must rectify any misconceptions the Princess may have sown against me.”

The two Ladies nodded at her reluctantly but they followed when she exited her rooms. As Queen Cassandra made her way through Maegor's Holdfast she couldn't shake the feeling of unease brought on by the stares of the servants and guards. The Holdfast is isolated from the rest of the Red Keep, only the Royal Family and their retinue are allowed inside. The Royal servants barely interact with the maids that serve the rest of the Castle.

Despite the isolated nature of their location within the Red Keep, news of her recent mishap seemed to have spread. She had hoped to keep the incident with Princess Rhaena quiet, believing it to be an unfortunate accident borne out of good intentions. After all, she had always enjoyed brushing her sisters' hair, assuming Rhaena would feel the same. Yet, her tightly coiled curls had proved more difficult to manage than anticipated.

Now, with Princess Rhaenyra's message casting her in a negative light, Cassandra felt the weight of scrutiny from all around her. The servants and guards, usually distant from the affairs of the royal family, now observed her with a mix of curiosity and judgment. She couldn't afford to let this tarnish her reputation further, especially with tensions already high within the court.

She held her head up high as she traversed the cobbled stones leading to the Small Hall. She had to prevent a sneer from painting her face as she passed the Tower of the Hand. Otto Hightower's presence had always grated on her nerves, even back when she served as Laena's lady-in-waiting. She had heard the whispers, the rumors about Hightower's apparent infatuation with the King, and she despised the man for it.

Though King Viserys had never reciprocated such affections, Cassandra knew the Hand's behavior bordered on obsession. Always vying for the King's attention, always inserting himself into their private moments, always interrupting with matters of state that seemed trivial in comparison to their personal affairs. It irked her to no end, but she held her head high, determined not to let Hightower's presence affect her composure.

She had confided her observations to her newfound friends, trusting that Myria, Sarai, and Nalara would spread her concerns throughout the city. Today, she would recount the harrowing experience of her privacy being violated by the Princess, detailing how she had feared for her life when confronted with a drawn sword and only Ser Criston by her side to protect.

It was time to shatter Rhaenyra's impeccable image, to reveal the monstrous nature hidden beneath her pretty facade. The city deserved to know the truth about the woman who they call the Realm’s Delight. There is nothing delightful about her fat visage.

Cassandra entered the Small Hall with eager anticipation, expecting to be greeted by the laughter and revelry of the Lords and Ladies who had enjoyed her company before. Instead, she was met with an empty room. Where once the room bustled with activity, now it appeared barren and devoid of life. The many game tables and chairs, where guests would gather for amusem*nt, had been conspicuously removed. The long table typically adorned with refreshments and foods had been pushed to the sides, creating an eerie emptiness at the center of the hall. The absence of the familiar furnishings only added to Cassandra's bewilderment as she stood amidst the transformed space.

"Where are my guests?" she demanded of one of the servants who was unrolling a new carpet.

The woman kept her eyes downcast as she replied, "We were told by the Castellan last night to clean the whole place, Your Grace. We were told the Small Hall will not be used for gambling anymore.”

"Gambling?!" Cassandra exclaimed, her voice rising incredulously. "We were not gambling! I was simply entertaining my guests in winter."

But the servant only cowered away from her, repeating. "That is what we were told, Your Grace.”

The Queen, her breaths coming in quick, agitated gasps, swiftly made her way to the Lord Castellan's Office, located on the fifth level of the Keep. She arrived at the open door of his solar, her skirts swishing with each hurried step.

The older man rose quickly from his seat, his expression a mix of surprise and deference. "Your Grace, you should have just called for me and not come here yourself but how may I be of assistance?" he inquired, his tone respectful.

"I demand to know why the Small Hall was cleared." the Queen exclaimed, her voice edged with frustration. "My guests should be arriving any moment now!”

Lord Alun, ever composed, replied evenly, "Princess Rhaenyra ordered everything packed up, deeming it unseemly for the Red Keep to be turned into a gambling den.” It was evident in his face that the old man agreed with the Princess.”

The Queen's anger boiled over, her voice rising to a shriek. "Princess Rhaenyra does not have the authority to undermine my words! I command you to make haste and have everything set up for my guests!”

The Lord Castellan bowed low in response, his demeanor unwavering. "Princess Rhaenyra is the head of the Inner Court, Your Grace. Any feasts, festivities, or activities require her permission.”

"I am the Queen!" the Queen insisted vehemently, her frustration palpable.

Ser Alun, conveyed the situation with a calm demeanor, explaining. "Princess Rhaenyra has been the Head of the Inner Court since Queen Aemma's passing. I have not received any official documents removing her from the position.”

In a flurry of frustration, she stormed down the corridors, her anger simmering beneath her regal facade.

"Where is the King?" she demanded of the Kingsguard trailing behind her, her voice laced with urgency and irritation.

Ser Willis, taken aback by her intensity, stammered out that the King was in the Small Council Chamber.

Without a moment's pause, she pivoted sharply, her heels clicking with each purposeful step. The corridors seemed to blur around her as she made her way, her mind fixated on the confrontation ahead.Disregarding the traditional exclusion of women from the council chamber, she pressed forward with unyielding determination. Nothing would deter her from addressing the disrespect she felt had been shown by Princess Rhaenyra. She barely registered the attempts of Ser Darklyn and the twins to block her path, her focus solely on the task at hand.

Queen Cassandra stormed into the council chamber, the heavy doors crashing open with a reverberating bang that echoed through the room. Every council member turned to look at her, their expressions a tapestry of shock and unease.

Ser Harrold sprang to his feet, his hand gripping the pommel of his sword as if anticipating an immediate threat. Ser Harwin, the Commander of the Royal Guards, ever vigilant, moved swiftly to place himself between the princess and the source of the disturbance. Ser Luthor, the Commander of the Gold Cloaks, stood rigidly, his eyes narrowing as he assessed the situation, while Ser Lyonel's face contorted into a grimace, clearly displeased by the unexpected intrusion.

The elderly Grand Maester and Lord Beesbury, both caught off guard by the suddenness of her entrance, clutched their chests in fright, their breaths coming in shallow, rapid gasps.

Cassandra’s eyes, ablaze with fury, scanned the room until they landed on the King. Tears welled up almost instantly, a practiced skill she had perfected in her youth at Storm's End to escape trouble and manipulate those around her. Now, that old habit resurfaced effortlessly, blending rage with a veneer of vulnerability.

Breaking the silence, the King asked, "What is the matter, Cassandra?”

Her tears now flowing freely, Cassandra replied, "I cannot bear the disrespect any longer. Today, the princess turned away all of my guests, shaming me in front of the entire court. These people are your friends too, and you should not allow the princess to hold her power over me.”

The King frowned, glancing toward the princess and then back at Cassandra. "Is this true?" he asked, looking around the room for confirmation.

Ser Harwin shifted uncomfortably but remained silent, while the Grand Maester and Lord Beesbury exchanged anxious glances. Otto Hightower's smirk, though he said nothing, his eyes gleaming with a hint of satisfaction at the unfolding drama.

Cassandra continued, her voice rising. "This is not just an insult to me, but to you as well. How can I host our allies and friends if the princess undermines me at every turn? You must put a stop to this, my King, or risk losing the respect of those who support our reign.”

The King looked at Princess Rhaenyra, who did not even appear surprised by Queen Cassandra’s dramatic entrance. Her hair was perfectly arranged, half of it braided and coiled around her head like a crown, while the other half cascaded in soft curls down her back. Tiny diamond hairclips adorned her braids, giving the impression of a tiara. She sat tall, her blue dress perfectly arranged in front of her.

“That is precisely why I requested this council meeting, Father.” Princess Rhaenyra said calmly.

The King’s frown deepened, his attention now fully on his daughter. “Go on.” he urged.

“I was checking the books to balance the records after the tourne.,” Rhaenyra continued, her tone unwavering. “And I found some serious discrepancies.”

Cassandra, still standing in the doorway, her tears momentarily forgotten, stared at Rhaenyra in disbelief.

The King’s gaze sharpened. “What discrepancies?” he asked.

“Queen Cassandra had been enthroned for but six moons, and already she had used half of her allocated allowance for the next year.” Princess Rhaenyra said looking directly at Cassandra before turning her gaze back to the King. “Father, in the past four moons, the Queen has hosted constant feasts—grains, meats, wine being served from morning to night for her... guests. She had invited merchants for some… shows just to order her gowns. This lavish spending is evident in the depleted state of the Queen’s coffers.”

Cassandra’s eyes flashed with anger, but she held her tongue as Rhaenyra continued. “I understand your desire to entertain the court, Father, but the people of King’s Landing have noticed the constant revelry. They can barely afford bread for their families while opulence abounds within these walls. Rumors are spreading, not just in the capital but throughout the Crownlands, that you are turning the Red Keep into a gambling den.”

The King’s face paled, his hands beginning to shake. Lord Beesbury, looking grave, handed him a ledger. “Your Grace, the Queen’s expenditures are indeed bleeding the coffers dry.” the old man said, his voice trembling with the weight of the revelation.

The King flipped through the ledger, his face growing more ashen with each passing moment. The council chamber fell into a heavy silence, the tension palpable. Cassandra’s fury simmered beneath the surface, her eyes fixed on Rhaenyra with a mixture of rage and disdain.

“These figures… they can’t be right.” the King murmured, his voice barely audible. “Cassandra, explain this.”

Cassandra stepped forward, her composure cracking slightly. “I have only been doing what is expected of a queen—hosting and entertaining the court, maintaining the dignity of our house. The feasts are necessary to show strength and prosperity.”

Rhaenyra shook her head, her expression stern and unyielding. “At what cost, stepmother? The people are suffering while you squander resources on lavish feasts. This isn’t about showing strength; it’s about reckless extravagance.”

The King looked from Rhaenyra to Cassandra, the weight of their words pressing down on him. “We must address this.” he finally said, his voice regaining some strength. “The expenditures must be brought under control. We need to balance the needs of the court with those of the realm.

Princess Rhaenyra said, her composure unbroken. “Thank you, Father.” she said softly. “The people must see that we are not blind to their struggles. I have instructed Lord Alun that the Queen and her staff will be provided with the basic necessities until we can balance everything. Furthermore, I am willing to lend the Queen some funds from my own coffer to ensure she is not deprived of any essential needs.”

Queen Cassandra gritted her teeth, her frustration palpable. "No need, Princess." she interjected, her tone clipped. "My father can provide for me. I will write to Storm's End immediately to request assistance.”

The princess smiled at her sweetly, a gesture that only served to infuriate Cassandra further. "Of course, dear stepmother." she replied with a hint of sarcasm. "Tell your father we will appreciate his cooperation."

Cassandra’s jaw tightened as she fought to maintain her composure. “Yes, of course, my father will be happy to help, especially now that I am with child.” she said, placing her hands proudly on her belly, her smugness evident as she spoke.

The King's face lit up with joy, his eyes wide with surprise and delight. "Is it true?" he asked eagerly, turning to the Grand Maester for confirmation.

The Grand Maester nodded solemnly. "Yes, Your Grace. The Queen is indeed with child. Iconfirmed last night.”

Viserys' happiness overflowed, and he moved to embrace Cassandra, his joyous laughter filling the chamber. The council members, who had previously regarded Cassandra with barely concealed annoyance, now wore smiles of congratulations, their earlier reservations forgotten in the excitement of the moment.

It was Princess Rhaenyra who approached Cassandra last, and Cassandra couldn't help but cringe inwardly as Rhaenyra put her hands on her own belly. "I am so happy for you, stepmother!" she exclaimed, her voice dripping with false sweetness, she then pulled her closer into a hug and whispered. "Let's make sure that you give the King a healthy living son. You know what happens to Queens who cannot fulfill their duty well?”

Cassandra paled at the not-so-subtle insinuation, her mind racing with the dark whispers of history. She remembered the tragic fates of Queen Aemma and Alicent Hightower, both rumored to have died from having their bellies cut open to retrieve their unborn children. And then there was Laena Velaryon, who had chosen death over suffering the same fate.

She gulped audibly as Rhaenyra looked at her with mirth, a chilling chuckle escaping her lips. The princess’s words hung heavily in the air, a reminder of the ruthless politics and dangers that lurked within the royal court. Despite the congratulations and smiles surrounding her, Cassandra couldn't shake the feeling of dread that settled in the pit of her stomach.

Chapter 24

Chapter Text

Bethany Hightower POV

Bethany Hightower gazed upon her daughter, slumbering peacefully in the dim light filtering through the chamber. The flickering candlelight danced upon the girl's features, highlighting the strands of auburn hair that mirrored Bethany's own. Yet, despite the resemblance, Bethany couldn't help but fixate on the scattering of freckles adorning her daughter's cheeks, a trait inherited from the Redwyne bloodline. To Bethany's discerning eye, they marred an otherwise impeccable complexion, an imperfection she was determined to erase with creams and oils procured from one of the Queen's merchant friends. Though their efficacy remained uncertain, Bethany clung to hope that they would eventually fulfill their promise.

Her thoughts drifted to her younger son, Ryam, the heir apparent with his father's unmistakable Redwyne hair, more orange than red. It seemed fitting, she mused as he was the Heir. She wanted to bring her son to the capital as well but her late husband’s family vehemently disagreed and said that the Heir should be raised in The Arbor. She hated leaving The Arbor but her late husband’s mother will not relinquish her title as Lady of the Castle and Bethany’s father wanted her in the capital instead. Familial duty and tradition held sway, leaving Bethany with no choice but to acquiesce, despite her inner turmoil.

Bethany knew exactly why her father wanted her in the capital.

He had been furious when Alicent married the King, believing that her uncle, the Hand of the King, had been working for their family. Instead, they found out that he had been working for himself, marrying his own daughter to the King without her father’s consent. Bethany had raged for hours upon learning this.

She was supposed to be Queen!

Her father had promised that Uncle Otto was doing everything he could to make her Queen, but instead, mousy Alicent Hightower had wedded the King. The same girl who had once served her food and aired out her beddings, and now Bethany had to curtsey to her. The anger she felt towards her father had led her to not speak to him for a month, until he found her a worthy match. Being Lady of The Arbor was nothing to scoff at. The only one with a fleet bigger than theirs was the Velaryons, and she hadn’t had to move far but it is nothing compared to being Queen.

She did not feel any sadness whatsoever when Alicent had passed. The fact that she continue to birth monsters upon monsters was a punishment from the Seven because she stole what was supposed to be her crown. While Alicent was Queen their family had gone down so far that even her own husband was worried that she may also bring forth deformed babes. But she proved to be fertile, delivering a girl within the year of her marriage and a boy, an Heir, shortly after.

But alas, her gentle husband had died when his ship got caught in a storm, leaving her here in the Red Keep, serving another Queen who was slowly losing favor with the King and Court.

Cassandra Baratheon is an impulsive child. The Queen seemed to believe that the crown upon her brow granted her unparalleled authority, a misconception that Bethany found both amusing and infuriating in equal measure.

Bethany does not like Princess Rhaenyra but one cannot deny the strength of her grip upon the King and the Court. Rhaenyra's influence had persisted throughout the years, even in her absence. Her shadow loomed large over the machinations of courtly intrigue, casting a pall over those who dared to challenge her authority.

She straightened as one of her maids called, "My Lady, the Hand wants you in his solar." the maid announced.

Bethany nodded in acknowledgment, her irritation evident in her expression. "I’ll be there after I changed." she replied shortly, dismissing the maid with a wave of her hand.

Otto Hightower's penchant for summoning her at his whim grated on her nerves, a reminder of the tenuous balance of power within the Red Keep. Nevertheless, she composed herself with practiced grace, taking the time to change her gown and arrange her hair into an elegant braid framing her face, while allowing the rest to cascade in auburn curls down her back.

As she made her way to her uncle's solar, Bethany couldn't help but reflect on the stark differences between herself and her cousin, Alicent. The comparisons drawn between them in their youth had always irked her, for while Alicent may possess a mane of striking hair, Bethany considered herself far superior in both appearance and stature. The notion that she, the daughter of the Lord of Hightower, could be likened to her plain cousin was nothing short of absurd.

Entering her uncle's office, Bethany found him hunched over a stack of parchments, his brow furrowed in concentration. Without waiting for invitation, she took a seat opposite him, idly toying with one of the intricately carved dragon figurines adorning his desk. The obsession of lords with replicas of their house sigils never failed to bemuse her, a testament to their vanity and pride. Her own father, Lord Hobert, proudly displayed the Hightower sigil on every article of clothing: stitched on his doublet, kerchief, and embossed on his leathers, even stamped on their knife and fork.

Her uncle placing a nondescript vial before her drew her attention, and she arched an eyebrow inquisitively, silently demanding an explanation for his summons.

"You will give that to the Queen tonight with her tea." her uncle commanded, his tone curt and authoritative.

"What is it?" Bethany inquired, her curiosity piqued.

She could see the irritation flash across his face at being questioned, a reaction Otto was not all too familiar with being so used to absolute compliance from his children and sycophants alike.

“You do not need to know, just put that in her tea tonight." he replied tersely.

"Or I can give this to the Queen, tell her you asked me to give it to her so she can have the Grand Maester examine it." Bethany retorted tartly, meeting his gaze head-on. She withdrew her hand when he attempted to reclaim the vial.

"This is not child’s play, Bethany!" her uncle snapped, his patience wearing thin.

"I know," she countered defiantly. "If I’m putting something in the Queen’s food, I should know what it is.”

She held her uncle’s eyes, her stare unyielding. While to many people, Otto Hightower was the epitome of intimidation, the second most powerful man in the Kingdom, Bethany knew the truth behind the façade. She remembered vividly how he had once bowed and scraped for favor from her father when she was younger. It was her father who had greased the wheels of his ascent, bestowing upon him gold to facilitate his move to the Capital and securing him a position as dockmaster. Her father's influence had been the bedrock of his rise, propelling him from the humble role to tax collector to the exalted position of Maester of Laws, and ultimately to the prestigious role of Hand of the King.

"It's an aphrodisiac." he confessed reluctantly.

Bethany grimaced in distaste. "I don't think the Queen needs that. The King's appetite is… voracious, visiting her bed frequently even after it was confirmed she was already pregnant.”

"The King will not be visiting the Queen today. He will be dining with the Princess and her family. As you know, Princess Rhaenyra is not fond of the Queen after the debacle with Princess Rhaena." her uncle explained, his expression smug.

Confusion clouded Bethany's features. "So what does she need it for?”

"Are there not other men around the Queen?" he countered, raising an eyebrow pointedly.

Understanding dawned on her. "So you finally decide to get rid of her?” she asked incredulously, trying to prevent a wide smile from showing on her face.

The Hand did not offer a direct response, instead returning his attention to the parchments before him. "Your father wanted you to be Queen." he remarked dryly.

She laughed and adjusted the folds of her skirts. "As I should have been years ago," she remarked bitterly. "If the plans were followed, perhaps Alicent may still be alive today.”

She sensed rather than saw her uncle's sudden eruption of anger as he stopped writing but did not look back at her. She remained indifferent to his reaction. Standing up, she discreetly tucked the vial into the folds of her dress before nodding respectfully to her uncle and taking her leave.

Bethany looked on as Queen Cassandra unbuttoned another button of her dress, her fingers trembling slightly as she fanned herself. The Queen’s normally composed demeanor was slipping, her skin flushed a deep pink. Bethany could see the signs of arousal creeping in, evident in the hitching breaths and the restless pacing back and forth. Cassandra seemed unaware of what was happening to her, an undercurrent of agitation and need radiating from her every movement.

"I'll take it from here." Bethany assured the maids, who had been fussing around the Queen. They hesitated but ultimately obeyed, filing out of the room one by one.

As soon as they were alone, Bethany observed the Queen closely. Cassandra's breath was coming in short, shallow gasps, her chest rising and falling rapidly. Her eyes were unfocused, and she bit her lip as she continued to unbutton her dress, exposing more of her flushed skin to the cool air.

"Good night, Your Grace." Bethany said, her voice calm and steady.

The Queen waved her away distractedly, clearly agitated. "Good night." she murmured, her tone distant and strained. She resumed her restless pacing, her movements erratic and uncoordinated.

Bethany slipped out of the room, the door clicking softly shut behind her. She came face to face with Ser Criston Cole, the Queen's sworn shield, his eyes narrowing suspiciously as he took in the sight of her leaving the Queen's chambers.

"The Queen wants to speak with you." Bethany said, her voice steady and authoritative.

Criston frowned, his brow furrowing deeply. "Alone?" he asked, clearly reluctant to breach propriety by being alone with the Queen in her chambers.

"Now." Bethany insisted, turning on her heel and walking away. She glanced back as she rounded the bend in the corridor, satisfied to see that Criston had already vanished, presumably heading towards the Queen's quarters.

She walked the long corridor and stopped at the common hall then looked back where she came from. Bethany wrung the kerchief in her hands, anxiety twisting her stomach into knots. Otto had not told her what to do after administering the aphrodisiac into the Queen's tea. Should she simply leave them alone? How would they be discovered? The thought of waiting for their indiscretions to come to light made her impatient; she wanted Cassandra Baratheon gone now.

Suddenly, an unmistakable moan of pleasure echoed from across the hall, making Bethany jump. The sound was repulsive to her, and she fought the urge to vomit. She paced back and forth, each step accompanied by the disgusting symphony of coupling emanating from the Queen’s chambers.

She cursed to herself as the corridor was soon filled with laughter—deep, bellowing laughter unmistakably that of the King’s, mingled with a deeper, unfamiliar man's voice. She cannot see him yet but the voice was undeniable followed by the clink clank of the Kingsguards’ armor. Anytime now the King will turn a bend and she will be directly on his line of sight.

Bethany swore under her breath, feeling the walls close in around her. She had to get away from this place. Just as she was about to turn and hide in one of the many rooms in the Queen's corridor, the King and his entourage entered from the opposite end. Her heart pounded as she recognized Prince Daemon among them. She bowed deeply, keeping her eyes fixed on the floor as they passed her without a second glance.

A loud, ecstatic moan echoed through the corridor, freezing everyone in their tracks. The Rogue Prince turned towards Bethany, a frown creasing his brow.

"What's that sound?" he demanded, his voice sharp.

Bethany's mind raced for an explanation, her heart hammering in her chest. "I... I'm not sure, Your Grace." she stammered, struggling to keep her voice steady but she looked back obviously where she came from where the Queen’s door was firmly shut.

Prince Daemon's frown deepened, and he exchanged a glance with the King. Without another word, they strode towards the source of the noise, their expressions darkening with each step. Bethany followed at a distance, her mind a whirlwind of fear and anticipation.

As they neared the Queen's chambers, the sounds of pleasure became more pronounced, more undeniable. The King threw open the doors, revealing the scene within. Cassandra, in the throes of passion, was entwined with a man who was clearly not her husband.

The room fell into a stunned silence, broken only by the heavy breathing of the illicit lovers. The King’s face contorted in rage, and Prince Daemon’s eyes glinted with a mixture of amusem*nt and malice.

Bethany watched from the doorway, her heart pounding with a mix of triumph and dread. The carefully laid trap had been sprung, and now the consequences would unfold. Cassandra Baratheon’s fate was sealed, and the intricate web of courtly intrigue tightened around her.

She gasped as Ser Willis tried to pull Cole away from the Queen, only for her to shout in pain. Ser Darklyn attempted to pull the Dornishman away as well, but both Cole and the Queen cried out in agony. Cassandra was already howling as if her hand were being cut off, while Cole gritted his teeth so tightly that the veins stood out on his neck.

“They are stuck, Your Grace.” Ser Willis said, his voice trembling.

“What do you mean stuck? How hard is it to separate this degenerate from my lying whor* of a wife?” the King demanded, fury blazing in his eyes.

The Kingsguard exchanged uneasy glances before motioning for their brothers to hold the Queen’s legs upright. Bethany balked as the guards lifted the Queen’s legs high into the air despite her cries of pain. Her shift had bunched up above her prominent stomach, leaving her bare for all to see. The Queen cried out again as the men tried to pull Ser Criston away from her, but they would not budge.

“They are stuck, Your Grace. She will not… relinquish her hold on him.” Ser Darklyn said, his face pale.

“Perhaps we should call the Grand Maester?” Ser Lorent suggested, his voice barely above a whisper.

“For the love of the Fourteen!” Prince Daemon cursed, the sound of his sword being unsheathed slicing through the tension. Before anyone could react, the Prince had already severed Criston Cole’s manhood that was still inside the Queen.

Bethany stifled a scream as blood gushed out, splattering the Queen before she could cover her mouth. Criston Cole screamed in agony, collapsing to his knees from the blood loss.

“Daemon!” The King shouted in admonishment, his voice shaking with anger and shock.

“What? You said you wanted them separated, I did.” Daemon then kicked Criston Cole in the head. “Cauterize him; he cannot die yet, he will receive his punishment publicly.” he ordered, wiping Dark Sister with the man’s own cloak before sheathing it.

“I do not think this needs to be public.” the King said, his tone weary.

“You can’t behead a Queen and not tell the public the reason, Viserys!” Daemon snapped.

The King looked away, mumbling something Bethany couldn’t hear.

“You can’t expect this child to be yours when you saw how this mongrel was rutting into her!” Daemon said exasperatedly.

“My King, I promise you, this babe is yours!” The Queen cried, unable to stand and still grimacing in pain. “This is the first time… I did not know what happened… I don’t know what came over me!” she pleaded, her voice desperate.

“What came over you is lustiness, you whor*!” Daemon mocked, his tone dripping with scorn.

“That is enough, Daemon!” The King snapped. “The Queen will be moved to one of the rooms in the Sept and confined there. The High Septon and the Septas will need to see her daily so she can repent. I will wait for the child to be born, and if the child is not mine, then the Queen will face punishment for treason.”

“Or I can take my sword and rip her stomach open so we can see if the child even has a drop of Valyrian blood,” Daemon said lightly, though the cruel glint in his eyes showed he was not joking.

“For Seven’s sake, Daemon, get back to your wife and children. I will deal with the Queen as I see fit.” the King said, though his shoulders slumped with weariness, and his hands, holding his cane, visibly shook.

“Fine, go ahead and show your subjects what kind of ruler you are, trying to save the woman that cuckolded you.” Daemon spat and stormed out.

Bethany flattened herself against the wall to avoid the Rogue Prince and looked back inside the chamber. The Queen was still exposed, wincing in pain as she tried to close her legs while insisting that she did not mean to cheat on the King. The King glowered at her in anger, gave some instructions to the guards, and then he too left.

She jolted when the Queen called for her help. Instead of answering, she hurried out and summoned the maids, then returned to the Tower of the Hand, her mind racing with how everything had spiraled out of control.

Chapter 25

Chapter Text

Princess Rhaenyra POV

In the Ladies' Hall of the Red Keep, the fire crackled warmly in the hearth, casting flickering shadows on the stone walls. A five-member bard ensemble played a soft, soothing melody not far from the gathered ladies, providing a gentle backdrop to their conversation. The long table was laden with an assortment of delicacies fit for a winter feast: spiced wine, honey-glazed roasted chestnuts, a platter of sugared fruits including figs and dates, and steaming bowls of rich, savory stew. Delicate pastries filled with warm apple compote and cinnamon, as well as a selection of aged cheeses and freshly baked bread, added to the bounty.

Servants stood attentively against the far wall, ready to attend to any needs. The unwed ladies of Princess Rhaenyra sat in a circle a few paces away, engaged in their embroidery or, in Elinda's case, drawing. Each of the ladies was adorned in beautiful fabrics: luxurious velvets in deep jewel tones, soft felt with intricate patterns, and rich brocades embroidered with gold and silver threads. Their handiwork was equally impressive, with delicate embroidery depicting scenes of nature, intricate floral patterns, and heraldic symbols.

Elinda, her brow furrowed in concentration, was sketching a delicate scene of a knight on horseback, the lines of her charcoal pencil capturing the strength and grace of her subject.

To her left, Lady Alana was meticulously stitching a pattern of climbing roses on a piece of emerald green silk, the crimson thread standing out brilliantly against the fabric.

Next to her, Lady Anella worked on a tapestry depicting a serene woodland scene, the leaves of the trees rendered in vibrant shades of green and gold.

Lady Selene, with a practiced hand, embroidered a golden dragon on a field of black, her needle moving swiftly and surely through the fabric.

Lady Lyarra had stopped pretending to embroider on the first hour of the tea and was instead enjoying her roasted chestnuts.

Lady Celia Celtigar, her previous governess, is the one who took responsibility to the young Ladies at Court, was sitting with them occasionally giving critique to their works.

Princess Rhaenyra sat at the center of the gathering, her expression a composed mask of polite interest. Around her were Lady Redwyne, Lady Caswell, Lady Darklyn, and Lady Strong, each with a cup of tea in hand. Rhaenyra was already well aware of the scandal that had rocked the Red Keep, but she enjoyed watching the reactions of the other ladies as they dissected the news.

Lady Redwyne leaned forward slightly, her voice just low enough to be heard over the soft music. "My good-niece Bethany was present during the... incident with Queen Cassandra." she began, instantly drawing the attention of the others. "It was she who was commanded to let Ser Criston Cole inside the Queen’s chambers before being dismissed."

Lady Caswell, always quick to react, placed her cup on the table with a faint clink. "Bethany must have been terrified." she said, her tone a mix of sympathy and curiosity. "To be so close to such... impropriety.”

"Indeed," Lady Redwyne continued, her expression grave. "Bethany is a pious girl. She did not want to leave the Queen alone, but a command is a command. She walked up and down the corridor, nervously awaiting any sign of trouble.”

"Did she suspect anything?" Lady Darklyn asked, her dark brows furrowed in concern. "Surely, she must have felt something was amiss from previous interaction between the Queen and her Shield.”

"She was too well-mannered to pry." Lady Redwyne replied. "But her fears were justified when the Queen was found by the King and Prince Daemon. The poor girl was questioned by the Lord Confessor and had to lay down for a full day to fully recover her nerves.”

“Oh, it must have been terrifying!” Lady Strong exclaimed clutching her pearls.

“Oh, it really was!” Lady Redwyne said. “Bethany was so shaken it took the King personally talking to her to reassure her that she is not in trouble.”

She wanted to snort at that. It was obvious what the Hightowers are doing. If Cassandra was even a little bit kinder to Rhaena she might have told them about the curious little vial one of the maids saw Otto gave his niece to be put on the Queen’s tea.

But alas she does not have any sympathy for her.

"It was then that the full extent of the Queen’s affair with her sworn shield was discovered. Bethany has not been able to sleep since. The trauma of witnessing Prince Daemon... deal with Ser Criston in such a brutal manner haunts her nightmares.” Lady Redwyne said with big hand gesture, she was really basking on the moment.

Lady Caswell leaned in, her voice low and intent. "How exactly did it happen? The castration, I mean. Did Bethany see it all?”

Lady Redwyne hesitated, glancing around at the eager faces. "I’m afraid she saw more than any young woman should. The Kingsguard tried to separate the two lovers, but Cole's... um, member was stuck inside the Queen’s... womanly parts. Every time they tried to separate them, they both shouted in pain."

Lady Lyarra, done with pretending not to hear, turned her body fully towards the older women. "How is that possible?" she asked, her eyes wide with a mix of horror and curiosity.

Lady Darklyn's expression turned stern. "Maidens should not be listening to such conversations. You are too young to think about such things.”

Lady Celia, who was overseeing the unwed ladies, put her embroidery down and looked at the older ladies firmly. "All the ladies under my care are educated about the ways of the world, especially since they accompany the Princess to different cities in the East. I would not want my ladies to seem ignorant of worldly matters.”

Lady Redwyne hesitated as all the young ladies looked up at her, their eyes wide with expectation. She sighed, knowing she could not avoid the explanation. "One of the acolytes said that due to the shock of being caught, Queen Cassandra’s... womanly muscles must have contracted around Ser Criston’s member. They had a hard time separating them, and Prince Daemon, in his... decisive manner, had to cut it off… while he was still inside her.”

The young ladies gasped, some covering their mouths in shock, others exchanging horrified glances. Rhaenyra watched their reactions with a secret satisfaction, enjoying the drama that unfolded before her.

"Did they get it out?" Lady Elinda asked.

"How can they get it out?" Lady Anella asked.

"Hold on... you put in there so long?" her youngest Lady-in-waiting, Alana Tyrell said with a grimace on her face. Lady Celia looked at her incredulously, she knows the older woman will be having a one-on -one conversation with her later.

“Prince Daemon had always been very… impulsive.” Lady Darklyn said with a grimace.

"Yet, he is a dragon. And dragons do not forgive easily.” Lady Celia said going back to her embroidery.

Rhaenyra felt a shiver run down her spine, but it was one she embraces fully. "It is a grave reminder of the price of betrayal." she said clearly. "And of the lengths my husband will go to protect our family’s honor.”

The Ladies shifted uneasily, reminded yet again of the immense power that the Targaryens held in their palms. It was a power they could wield at any moment, an unassailable might that no one in the realm could hope to challenge. The memory of Prince Daemon's decisive actions loomed large in their minds, a stark illustration of the ruthlessness with which the Targaryens maintained their authority. As the conversation continued, the ladies were acutely aware of the precariousness of their positions, knowing that the favor or disfavor of the Targaryen family could alter their fates in an instant.

Lady Selene, unable to contain her curiosity, spoke up. "What will happen to the Queen now?”

Princess Rhaenyra responded, her tone measured. "She is in seclusion in the Sept until she gives birth. After that, she will face the consequences of her treason.”

"You should all learn from this. Even being alone with a man who is not your father or brother can bring great scrutiny upon you.” Lady Caswell reminded.

Lady Anella, always practical, interjected, "Each of us has an Unsullied trailing us at all times, so we are quite protected.”

Lady Strong nodded thoughtfully. "Given the scrutiny the knights guarding ladies will be under, it may be better to have castrated guards surrounding the Princess' retinue. The Unsullied are a wise choice, I see that now.”

Lady Caswell agreed. "True, but we must still be mindful of our actions. The court is a place of constant watchfulness.”

The young ladies absorbed these lessons, their expressions a mix of fear and determination. The music from the bards filled the room, a gentle contrast to the dark conversation. The unwed ladies continued their quiet work, now fully aware of the gravity of the discussion.

Lady Caswell broke the silence, her tone lighter. "Well, let us hope for quieter days ahead." she said with a forced smile. "And for Bethany’s sake, may she find peace from her nightmares.”

"Let us all pray for that." Lady Strong agreed, raising her cup in a small toast. The others followed suit, their expressions a mix of solemnity and hope.

As they sipped their tea, the conversation slowly drifted to lighter topics, but the shadow of the recent scandal lingered, a reminder of the ever-present danger of life in the royal court. Rhaenyra watched them with a secret satisfaction, knowing that the intrigue and drama of the Red Keep were far from over

Prince Daemon POV

Daemon leaned against the cold stone wall, the chill seeping through his clothes as he straightened up, trying to shake off the memories of the disgusting conditions in the black cells. He sighed as another guttural scream echoed through the dim corridor, signaling that another of Criston Cole's fingers had been removed at the command of the Lord Confessor.

Cole’s story remained unchanged despite his continued torture everyday for weeks now. He claimed the Queen had seduced him, luring him into her chambers and commanding him to take her. In stark contrast, Queen Cassandra insisted that the knight had forced himself upon her. Daemon wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all; no woman being forced would whimper in ecstasy the way Cassandra had. The sounds they had heard that night left little doubt about her willingness.

Lady Elandra, the Queen's mother, who came from Storms' End with her husband and their retinue, had been telling everyone who would listen that her daughter was taken advantaged of.

King Viserys had tried to keep the scandal quiet, hoping to contain it within the relative isolation of Maegor's Holdfast. But the Hightower girl, Bethany, had already run her mouth, spreading the tale far and wide. Daemon suspected the Hightowers were behind the entire debacle even before Rhaenyra told him what the maid they had at the Tower of the Hand saw.

The Hightowers are making their moves again and he could not help but laughed at their latest attempts. Their desperation was palpable, and he could not help but laugh at their futile attempts to secure more power. If his brother, King Viserys, were to marry another Hightower girl, it would undoubtedly cement their reputation as a grasping, opportunistic family.

In truth, Daemon cared little from which family Viserys’ next wife came. He had no doubt his brother will get married again. Despite being the upstanding brother, Viserys is getting a reputation of being a lecher, marrying women as old or even younger than his own daughter. In his own opinion it actually makes his brother’s reign less bland. What galled him was the sheer desperation of his brother’s actions, a desperation that was beginning to tarnish the Targaryen name. The whispers in the court, the snickers behind closed doors, all served as a reminder that their family's reputation was suffering.

Oh well, the Targaryens had never been known for their upstanding morals. They had seized the Iron Throne through fire and blood, not by adhering to the virtues of chivalry or honor. Their reign over the Seven Kingdoms had been marked by ruthless ambition and a willingness to do whatever it took to maintain power.

Daemon pushed off against the damp wall, grimacing as he felt the slime clinging to his shoulder. The Black Cells were as revolting as he remembered, the air thick with the stench of mildew and despair. He shook off the grime and made his way back to Maegor's Holdfast, determined to rid himself of the filth.

Once in their chambers, Daemon did not have to wait an hour for a bath to be drawn for him. The intricate system of advanced piping, based on the designs from Dragonstone, was one of his most useful achievements. Daemon turned the crystal knob adorned with a red dragon head, allowing hot water to gush into the large, intricately carved tub. He then adjusted the white crystal dragon knob for cold water, though he preferred his bath nearly boiling. The mix created a steamy, inviting bath, filling the room with a haze of warmth.

He stripped off his soiled clothes and sank into the tub, letting the heat soothe his muscles and wash away the grime. He reached for one of the soaps Rhaenyra favored, its rich vanilla scent assaulting his nose pleasantly, and lathered it over his body. He then grabbed a bottle of her luxurious soapy oils and worked them into his hair, enjoying the feel of the thick lather. The simple pleasure of a proper bath was a stark contrast to the horrors of the Black Cells.

He washed himself off of the soap, drained the tub and filled it clean water again. The heat enveloped him, easing the remaining knots of tension from his body as he leaned back against the curved part of the tub. Closing his eyes, Daemon let out a contented sigh, allowing himself to sink deeper into the warm embrace of the water. The gentle lapping of the water against the sides of the tub lulled him into a state of relaxation, and before he knew it, he had drifted off to sleep.

He was jolted awake by the sound of the door opening, the maids entering with fresh linens and clothing. Daemon's eyes snapped open, and he shot upright in the tub, the water sloshing around him. His irritation flared at the intrusion, and he glared at the maids.

"Leave!" he barked, his voice sharp with irritation. The girl scurried away fearfully, and he sighed, sinking back into the water. He didn't appreciate being disturbed, especially not in such a vulnerable state.

Daemon finished his bath quickly, rinsing off the last traces of soap and oil. He stepped out of the tub, wrapped himself in the towel, and dried off. He dressed in a thick white tunic and black breeches, the familiar garments grounding him in their simplicity though he’s aware that the fabrics alone are already a small fortune to some minor family.

He moved to the sitting room, where he found Aegon and Vis playing under the watchful eyes of their nurses.

He smiled as his youngest run to him with a wooden dragon toy. He crouched down and kissed him in the forehead.

“Who is this?” he asked.

“Axes!” Vis babbled.

He nodded his head inspecting the toy, it cannot be Caraxes as it is too bulky, mayhaps Meraxes then.

“Kepa, Grandsire gave us a wheel house we can ride!” Aegon said, he was already sitting inside a wheeled toy that looked more like a child-sized cart than a proper wheelhouse. He was holding a rope that was supposed to be tied to a wooden horse.

Daemon chuckled and walked over to his eldest with Vis hurrying in front of him. “Did he now? Let’s see about getting this horse ready then.’

He knelt down and tied the rope to the wooden horse, ensuring it was secure. As soon as he finished, Aegon looked up at him with wide, expectant eyes.

“Pull me, Kepa! Pull me around!” Aegon demanded.

Daemon couldn’t help but laugh at his son’s enthusiasm. “Alright, alright. Hold on tight.”

He stood and began to pull the cart around the room, Aegon’s laughter echoing through the halls. After a few laps, Viserys, who was only two, watched his brother with bright excited eyes.

“My turn!” Viserys declared, toddling over to the cart.

Daemon carefully lifted Aegon out and placed Viserys inside. Aegon, despite his initial excitement, willingly took the rope and started pulling his younger brother, stumbling a few times but always getting back up with determination.

Aegon looked up, beaming. “Kepa, can we get a pony? We can ride all day!”

Daemon chuckled, shaking his head. “A pony would make a mess inside your rooms, Aegon. Your mother wouldn’t allow it.”

Viserys, not to be outdone by his brother, piped up, “Dog!”

Daemon smiled at their persistence. “Your mother isn’t keen on having a dog inside either, Vis.”

Viserys’s face lit up with an idea. “Vermax?” he suggested, referring to his own dragon hatchling, which was a vivid emerald and orange in color.

Daemon laughed, the image of Vermax ambling down the corridor pulling the cart popping into his mind. “That would be a sight. But dragons are not like horses, Viserys. They are majestic creatures, worthy of respect.”

Aegon, always quick with another idea, added, “Stormcloud can do better because he can fly now. We could fly in the cart!”

He almost choked on his own saliva imagining his children flying in the air on just a cart. “Dragons are not meant to pull carts, Aegon. They are magnificent beings with great power. We must treat them with the honor they deserve.”

Aegon nodded solemnly, and Viserys, mimicking his older brother, did the same. Then Vis looked up with hopeful eyes. “Syrax?”

Daemon laughed heartily. “No, Viserys. Not even Syrax. Dragons are too special for such games. I promised you, once the weather is warmer I would take you on dragon flight for hours.” He said to the children’s delight. “You boys will have to be content with me pulling you in your cart." he said, a playful grin on his face.

He turned to Valaena, who was sitting on one of the low chairs on the side, putting away jars of paints the children had used earlier. Two maids, each appointed as his sons' nurses, were helping her.

"Where is the princess?" Daemon asked.

Valaena looked up and answered in High Valyrian, "She is in the Vault, Your Highness.”

Daemon nodded and told her, "Dismiss the other maids. I will bring the boys to the Vault.”

Valaena did as instructed, standing as if to accompany them to the Vault.

"Stay here and make sure we can exit without being seen." Daemon saw the protest in her eyes, she looked like she was about to argue but eventually kept quiet.

Valaena, a distant Celtigar cousin about a decade older than Rhaenyra, was a widow who had brought some of her children and cousins to be trained to serve House Targaryen in the future. Daemon had a genuine appreciation for her; she was a strict taskmaster, and the maids under her supervision were all capable and loyal. He noticed that she was particularly attentive to the preferences of the children, keeping close the servants they liked and dismissing those they did not.

There had been a soft-spoken and gentle woman from the Crownlands considered as one of Viserys’ maids, but Viserys couldn’t tolerate her, crying as soon as he saw her. Without any prompting from him or Rhaenyra, Valaena had transferred the woman to the staff that served the Keep instead. Despite her competence, Valaena could be insufferable, always hovering when he was alone with the children as if he would drop them at any moment.

It often surprised people how hands-on Daemon was in the care of his children, given his reputation. Most lords delegated the upbringing of their offspring to septas or governesses. Even Viserys had been largely absent in Rhaenyra’s upbringing and even more so with Rhaena. Daemon believed his brother preferred Aegon and Viserys over his youngest daughter, possibly because she was a disappointment to him, not the fated son he had been waiting for.

Many forgot that Daemon had been more involved in Rhaenyra’s childhood than Viserys. It was Daemon who had smuggled Syrax’s egg from the Dragonpit, an act that had earned him his first exile from the Old King. He knew that if the egg had not hatched that same night, Jaehaerys would have taken it back. The King had been adamant that no female Targaryen should be allowed a cradle egg, a decree that Daemon had defied for the sake of his beloved niece.

He was the one who instructed her in High Valyrian, oversaw her lessons with the Dragon Keepers, and even accompanied her on her inaugural flight atop Syrax. Bound by undesired duty to the Bronze Bitch, he had long forsaken thoughts of having children of his own, dedicating himself wholly to his niece. Even across vast distances, he dispatched riches and exotic treasures to her from lands unknown.

Who could have foreseen that the very girl he had showered with affection would one day challenge him on Dragonstone and eventually become the mother of his own children? These much-anticipated offspring, already his source of pride and joy, deserved nothing less than a father who would raise them with the same care and attention as the Spring Prince had once bestowed upon him.

Daemon stood up and lifted Viserys into his arms, the boy eagerly wrapping his small hands around his father's neck. He let Aegon lead the way to the hidden opening in their bedchamber. Aegon shouted in excitement as the secret door slid open.

With some blood from his finger and a whispered prayer of guidance, the Valyrian glyphs at the base of the walls glowed, lighting their way. Daemon reminded Aegon that the stairs were steep and to be careful. His son nodded, too busy tracing his hands over the glowing glyphs to respond verbally.

"Fire," Aegon read aloud, then, "Blood.”

Daemon smiled, impressed. Even he had not learned to read Valyrian glyphs until he was already a dragon rider. "That's right, Aegon. Fire and Blood." he praised.

As they descended the stairs, the air grew cooler, and the light from the glyphs cast eerie shadows on the walls. Vis clung tightly to Daemon, his curiosity mingled with a touch of fear. Aegon, on the other hand, was fearless, his eyes wide with wonder as he continued to read the glyphs aloud.

As they descended to the bottom, they found themselves in a dimly lit corridor that led to the Vault. The door, marked with the sigil of House Targaryen—a three-headed dragon—was adorned with intricate Valyrian glyphs. In stark contrast to the red bricks and stones of the Red Keep, the hidden passages were crafted from pale stones, creating an illusion of brightness even with minimal light sources.

Daemon pressed his palm against the body of the three-headed dragon, unfazed by the prick on his skin. As his blood was absorbed, the door swung open, revealing a round vaulted room with high ceilings. Rhaenyra stood before six cauldrons emitting spiraling smoke. Aegon bolted towards her with a loud shout of " Muña!" only to be halted by the glowing Valyrian glyphs on the ground a few feet from the ancient table. Rhaenyra smiled warmly, setting aside the bronze stirring rod she had been using. After washing her hands in a basin, she approached Aegon and lifted him into her arms.

"What are you doing here?" Rhaenyra inquired gently, her eyes sparkling with warmth.

Aegon's face lit up with excitement as he replied, "Grandsire gave us wheel house! Can we have Stormcloud pull it in the sky?”

Rhaenyra chuckled at Aegon's eagerness, then turned to address his suggestion. "I doubt Stormcloud will appreciate having to pull a cart around," she remarked with a playful glint in her eyes. She leaned down to kiss Vis' hand as he reached out to her, smiling warmly at her youngest son.

"You're just in time." Rhaenyra continued, her tone shifting to a more serious note. "The potion is done, and all I have to do is immerse the rings in it."

The Targaryen family had three signet rings with the three headed dragons, one for each of the Conquerors, all made from Valyrian steel. Rhaenys ring had been lost when she was killed in Dorne, and Visenya's had vanished into the annals of time. Aegon's ring had been traditionally worn by the Kings to stamp their decrees and letters. The King's Official Seal was a larger one modeled from the ring.

Rhaenyra told him how she had discovered Visenya's ring in the private room at Dragonstone, noting the subtle difference between it and Aegon's. Visenya's ring bore twenty-nine scales on the dragon's body, symbolizing her age when she played her part in the Conquest, whereas Aegon's had twenty-seven.

Rhaenyra asked him to approached the table and this time since they are holding the children the protection glyphs around them allowed them to pass. He looked on the six rings sitting on a cusion, One if fit perfectly for him while two were sized for grown men, and one was slimmer, intended for a woman. The last three were fashioned into necklaces made of Valyrian steel, designed for their children to wear around their necks while their rings are too big for them to be worn properly.

Another one is for the Archmaester.

The Archmaester had been a welcome addition to their family. Though he was a cranky old man with the sharpest tongue in all of the Seven Kingdoms, his diligence and intelligence were undeniable. Daemon was pleased to leave the Stepstones in his capable hands. In addition to bonding with Dreamfyre, the Archmaester had proven to be a remarkably adept hydromancer. The surrounding waters of the Stepstones made this newfound skill invaluable to them.

He had already capsized two pirate ships that tried to take Sentinel Island since he learned to control his ability. He had maintained the mist surrounding the Stepstones to deter others from approaching."

"Here they are," Rhaenyra said softly. "Each one is ready, attuned to our blood.”

Daemon picked up his own ring, feeling the weight and craftsmanship of the Valyrian steel. He slipped it onto his finger, noting the way it seemed to pulse with a faint energy. The ring was cool to the touch, yet it fit perfectly before putting it back on its cushion and before Vis can snatched it from his hand.

“To seal the spells and the potion woven into the rings, we'll need blood from each of us." Rhaenyra explained seriously.

Daemon grimaced, cradling Viserys's head against his chest. "Is blood from our children really necessary?" he asked, his voice tinged with concern.

Rhaenyra nodded. "The blood of the wearer seals the potions and spells into the steel, attuning the ring to their blood alone. If anyone unrelated tries to wear it, it will be useless. The rings will act as a sponge to siphon any effects of poison. Any poison that the wearer ingests or comes into contact with will be nullified. They’ll only know it was administered by a faint red glow that will appear on the three-headed dragon.”

Daemon nodded, understanding the necessity but still uncomfortable with the idea of his children shedding blood, even just a few drops. "What happens if it was removed?”

"The rings cannot be removed by anyone other than the one who gave the blood." Rhaenyra explained. "Any attempt to forcefully remove it will result in severe burns, especially for those without Targaryen blood.”

Daemon sighed but understood the gravity of the situation. Rhaenyra gently pricked her finger and let a few drops of blood fall onto the first cauldron. She then did the same for Aegon, who bravely held out his hand, and for Vis, who whimpered slightly but was comforted by his father's soothing words. Finally, Daemon added his own blood to the mix.

Rhaenyra carefully placed each ring into their designated cauldron. Daemon instinctively reared back as the contents began to splutter and cough, sending up wisps of smoke and steam. The room filled with the sound of bubbling and hissing as the potions worked their magic.

A few minutes later, the cauldrons settled down, their contents seemingly evaporated, leaving only the rings behind. The rings now glowed faintly, imbued with the protective spells and potions Rhaenyra had crafted.

“I used Caraxes blood as base for the potion." Rhaenyra said. "The temperament of the dragon will have an effect on the potion and Craxes is the most protective of our dragon so I thought it fitting. They're ready." Rhaenyra said, a note of satisfaction in her voice. She reached into the cauldrons, retrieving each ring and examining them closely.

Daemon nodded, his eyes on the rings. "You've done well, my love. Our family will be safer.” He said and kissed her only to be separated by Vis who was frowning at them both. He chuckled and bounced him in his arms as he let his wife put the necklaces on their children.

"We'll have to collect blood from Rhaena later." Daemon said, watching Rhaenyra secure the necklaces around Aegon and Viserys's necks. "And I'll need to fly the potion and ring to the Archmaester. But for now, I'm content that we've added this protection for the children.”

Rhaenyra nodded, her expression resolute. "It's a start. We'll need every advantage we can get.”

Daemon's thoughts turned to the Hightowers and their constant maneuvering for power. The many Baratheons now in the Keep, waiting for the Queen to give birth, only added to the tension. They needed to be prepared for anything.

"The Hightowers are making their moves again." Daemon muttered, a dark edge to his voice. "I'd be happy to kill every one of them, but another House would just replace them. Better the enemy you know, as the Archmaester always says.”

Rhaenyra sighed, nodding in agreement. "We must be vigilant. But with these protections, I feel more confident.”

They let the children down, who immediately ran to explore the many artifacts in the room. Anything dangerous was kept inside places with protection circles, ensuring the children couldn't gain entry. Daemon listened as Vis tried to name each of the dragons on his ring, his small fingers tracing the intricate designs.

As he glanced around, Daemon's eyes fell on another cauldron on the side. Beside it lay a long braid of hair and a large crystal filled with preserved blood. Curious, he asked, "What is this?”

Rhaenyra smiled mysteriously. "Hair from Cassandra and blood from Cole.”

He grimaced. "What do you need it for?”

"A surprise." Rhaenyra replied, her tone playful and secretive. She picked up a tin can beside with cream inside, closed it, and tucked it into one of the folds of her gown.

Daemon shrugged, knowing better than to press her. Rhaenyra could keep her secrets; she would tell him if she needed help. He trusted her implicitly, and her mysterious nature only added to the intrigue of their bond.

They went back up in the Royal Apartments only to be met by Lady Amanda in the Sitting Rooms with a firm expression in her face. “The Queen had began her labors.” She said.

He looked back at Rhaenyra who sighed, it was too early, the girl should still have two months to go. He shrugged. It’s better that this farce of waiting be over quickly.

Chapter 26

Chapter Text

Otto POV

Otto Hightower looked on as the King took one glance at the babe and left without uttering a word. He was positively enraged, barely able to contain his fury. King Viseryse stormed out of the chamber, his cane forgotten in his hand, and almost swung it at one of the maids in his path.

Stepping closer to inspect the child, there was no denying it—the babe lacked any trace of Valyrian blood. The child’s skin was darker, that of the sandy Dornish, his hair black, and when Otto squinted, he could see the glint of green eyes.

His eyebrows shot up. None of his informants had reported any serious interactions between the Queen and Ser Criston Cole beyond some covert glances from the Knight. It seemed they had been far more discreet than he had anticipated. Truly, the gods seemed to be on his side. He had been prepared to argue for sending the babe to the Faith if the child had exhibited any Valyrian features. Even if it had been a boy, no self-respecting lord would support a child born of a known adulteress.

He turned his attention to the conversation between Princess Rhaenyra and the distraught Queen. Cassandra Baratheon's life was forfeit, but he could hear the princess assuring the crying queen that the child would not be harmed and would be raised at Storm's End. Cassandra was hysterical, insisting that the child was the King's, but appearances did not lie.

"He's the King's son!" Cassandra sobbed, her voice cracking with desperation. "You must believe me, Rhaenyra. He has the King's blood!”

Rhaenyra knelt beside her, her tone firm yet soothing. "Cassandra, listen to me. The child will not be harmed. He will be raised at Storm's End, safe and protected.”

"My father will not allow it! But they will come for him!" Cassandra's eyes were wild with fear. "They will kill him just to spite me. He is the trueborn son of the King!”

Rhaenyra reached out, gently grasping Cassandra's hands. "No one will harm your child. I will ask the King myself. He will be under the protection of House Baratheon.”

Cassandra shook her head, tears streaming down her face. "How can you be so sure? They hate me, Rhaenyra. They will never accept him! Even my father will not tolerate him in his castle!

"I will petition the King to have the child be raised in the Stepstones then." Rhaenyra said, her voice steady. "Your son will be safe. He will be cared for and loved. You must trust in that.”

Cassandra's sobs quieted slightly, her eyes searching Rhaenyra's for any sign of deceit. "But what about me? What will happen to me?”

"You must face the consequences of your actions." Rhaenyra replied gently. "But your son will live.”

Cassandra clung to Rhaenyra, her grip desperate. "Promise me, Rhaenyra. Promise me he will be safe.”

"I promise," Rhaenyra said, her voice filled with conviction. "Your child will be safe at Storm's End or in the Stepstones. He will have a chance at a life, free from the shadows of this scandal.”

Cassandra's sobs gradually subsided into quiet weeping, clinging to her mother, Lady Elanda Caron who was also shedding quiet tears. Rhaenyra's words seemed to provide a fragile thread of hope amidst her despair. Otto watched the scene unfold, satisfaction flickering within him. The Queen's fall from grace and the illegitimacy of her child only strengthened his position, and he would make sure to use this to his advantage.

Otto left the room, already noticing the courtiers whispering about the illegitimate child the Queen had borne. As he made his way down the corridor, he was stopped by Lord Bartimos and Lord Rowan, both shaking their heads.

“Regrettable situation, what happened with the King.” Lord Bartimos remarked, his voice low and concerned.

"Indeed, my Lord," Otto replied, feigning sympathy. "The King is so soft-hearted that people tend to take advantage of his kindness.”

Lord Bartimos looked at him incredulously, then nodded. "Exactly! I'm glad the King has Prince Daemon and Princess Rhaenyra. Support of family is needed in these times, especially when the King is surrounded by opportunistic people on all sides.” He said looking at him directly.

Otto narrowed his eyes at the Lord of Claw Isle but did not linger. He continued to the King's solar, where he found King Viserys already deep into his cups. Otto approached, his demeanor shifting to one of genuine concern. He was glad that the King is alone, too many times Prince Daemon had commandeered the King’s presence often bringing his children to get on the King’s good graces no doubt. But according to one of the maids, the youngest Prince had thrown a huge tantrum not wanting to get down from the Prince’s arms.

"My King," Otto began softly, "You have had a difficult day.”

Viserys looked up, his eyes red-rimmed with drink and sorrow. "Is it too much to ask for a son, Otto? The gods showed me a son who would make the dragons roar as one. He would be Rhaenyra's strength, just as Daemon has been mine. My son would be my daughter's ultimate protector.”

Otto nodded, his expression one of practiced empathy. "You are more than capable, Your Grace. Queen Aemma bore you multiple sons. You can still have more.”

Viserys shook his head, a bitter laugh escaping his lips. "I know I am a weak king, Otto. But I am also a man who wants his legacy.”

Otto's expression softened with understanding. "I understand your longing, Your Grace. All men desire a son who will carry on the family name and legacy. Indeed, Rhaenyra possesses many admirable qualities. But we must be realistic, Your Grace. A female ruler, especially one married to a known warmonger, may not be the ideal choice to secure the stability of the realm.”

The king frowned at him and sat tall, his voice tinged with conviction. "Otto, you must understand, I did not name Rhaenyra heir on a whim. She is worthy of the title. She has proven her worth, handling the Stepstones and Dragonstone successfully and bringing prosperity to the realm with the taxes from those islands. She is capable, and she has shown it.”

Otto suppressed the urge to roll his eyes but he recognized his misstep and quickly shifted his approach. "Of course, Your Grace," he conceded, his tone conciliatory. "Princess Rhaenyra is indeed a credit to House Targaryen. Her strength and leadership are undeniable.”

"But," Otto continued cautiously, "for House Targaryen to endure and thrive, there must be a son to carry on the family name and legacy. A son would ensure stability and continuity for your noble house.”

Viserys regarded Otto with a thoughtful expression, weighing his advisor's words carefully. "You speak true, Otto," he finally conceded, albeit reluctantly. "We must ensure the future of House Targaryen is secure.”

He smiled. “Too true, your Grace, perhaps we might look for someone who had already proven their fertility. There are a number of widows in the Keep you can choose from.”

The King nodded absentmindedly then grimace again. “What are we to do with Cassandra? Daemon will say to just cut off her He\ead but she is still very young, I still think it was Cole’s manipulation that got here in this… trouble. I cannot bear the thought of spilling her blood." he murmured, his voice heavy with reluctance. "She may have erred, but she is still my wife, and I cannot bring myself to condemn her. And the Stormsland can field thirty-five thousand men. I do not want there to be war at our door.”

He wanted to tear his hair out, the King has dragons for crying out loud. He can use his blood thirsty brother to shield him from any scrutiny. Doing so will be in Otto’s favor. If Daemon Targaryen burned thirty-five thousand men just because his brother was insulted, it would just show the realm how dangerous it is to keep him near the Throne.

“Treason has been committed, Your Grace, punishment needs to be meted less the Realm thinks the Crown weak.” He said.

King Viserys, visibly fatigued and troubled, dismissed them with a weary wave of his hand. "We will discuss this further tomorrow," he declared. "For now, I must rest.”

As Otto briskly made his way from the King's chambers, his sharp gaze caught sight of Lady Elanda, her figure tense as she pleaded with the guards to grant her entry to the Holdfast. These slaves that the Princess brought are at least diligent enough in their tasks.

Lady Elanda, her face flushed with frustration and desperation, turned to him with pleading eyes. "Please, Lord Hightower, I must speak with the king." she implored, her voice trembling with urgency.

“Lady Elanda," he acknowledged, his tone clipped but not openly disrespectful. "I regret to inform you that the king is currently resting. Any matters of importance will be discussed by the Small Council, and you will be duly informed of their decisions.” He left her without looking back.

He does not know why the Queen’s mother think anything she says to the King will change anything. The King may be a soft-hearted fool but those in the Small Council is not. The princess, despite the grace she showed the Queen before do not like her and would not loose sleep over her death.

He went back to the Tower of the Hand already thinking of writing a letter to his brother. The next Queen will be a Hightower. The long-standing plans of the powers in Old Town, which had been in motion since the Targaryens' arrival, would finally come to fruition. The realm would see a new order, one where the influence of the Hightowers would be paramount.

Elanda Baratheon POV

Lady Elanda Baratheon’s heart pounded as she opened the door to the nondescript room her daughter was thrown in the Castle Sept allowing Sir Cedric Kellington, a trusted knight from her father's employ, to enter. His presence, a sturdy pillar amidst the chaos, gave her a brief moment of solace.

“Mama?” Cassandra’s confused voice echoed from her bed, where she sat, pale and fragile from the ordeal of childbirth.

“Quickly, child,” Lady Elanda whispered, fetching a thick cloak. “We must hurry.” She wrapped the cloak around Cassandra’s shoulders with urgent care. “The guards have been bribed to be slow during their shift change. We have little time.”

“Mama, what is happening?” Cassandra’s eyes were wide with fear and confusion.

“There’s a boat waiting for you.” Lady Elanda explained, her voice trembling but resolute. “It will take you to Cracklaw Point, and from there, to Pentos. Your uncle’s friend will provide you refuge.”

“But I don’t know anyone there.” Cassandra protested, tears welling up in her eyes. “I won’t know what to do.”

Lady Elanda cupped her daughter’s face in her hands. “You are smart, my dear. You will figure it out. Perhaps, one day, we will meet again.” Her voice broke slightly, but she steeled herself, pressing a kiss to Cassandra’s forehead”

Cassandra clung to her, sobbing. “I’m sorry, Mama. I’m so sorry.”

“Hush, my child,” Lady Elanda murmured, tears streaming down her own face. “I am the one who is sorry. I should have raised you better, prepared you for the treacheries of court. I should have stayed by your side.”

Sir Cedric stepped forward, his presence a gentle reminder that time was slipping away. “My lady, we must go.”

Lady Elanda nodded, watching as her daughter was helped to her feet. Cassandra was still weak, but the fire of determination in her eyes gave her hope. The Baratheons were made of tough stock; she knew her daughter would weather this storm.

As Cassandra was led away, Lady Elanda whispered, “Be strong, my love. Be brave.”

She stood there, composed yet breaking inside, ready to face whatever punishment awaited her. She must have stood there the whole night when the door was forced open with a bang, and men in golden cloaks stormed in. Lady Elanda straightened her back, her heart pounding with fear and defiance.

“What is the meaning of this?” she demanded, her voice steady.

The leader of the guards stepped forward, a look of grim determination on his face. “Lady Elanda Baratheon, by order of the King, you are under arrest.”

Lady Elanda raised her chin, her gaze unwavering. “Do with me as you will. But know this: the Baratheons do not break easily.”

“That would be excellent.” A silky voice came from the door, and her heart hammered in her chest at the sight of the lithe form of Prince Daemon Targaryen. He wore no armor, not even leathers, just a thick white tunic, black breeches, and a velvet coat. His smile was predatory, sending a shiver down her spine.

“It is so boring when people break so easily.” he said, his eyes gleaming with a dangerous light.

Lady Elanda forced herself to meet his gaze, refusing to show fear. "Prince Daemon." she acknowledged, her voice steady.

Daemon took a step closer, his smile never wavering. "You’ve been quite the busy little bee, haven’t you, Lady Elanda? Trying to spirit away a known criminal.”

“I am merely a mother protecting her child.” she replied, her voice hardening. “Surely even you can understand that.”

“Oh, I understand perfectly.” Daemon said, his tone almost playful. “But protecting a traitor from the consequences of their actions? That’s a different matter entirely.”

“The Queen is a child still, I know this blunder is serious and I am willing to beg the King for forgiveness. He must know how precious ones children are.” Lady Elanda insisted.

Daemon tilted his head, considering her words. “Young, perhaps, but not young enough not to keep her legs close for some mongrel. The King will know what needs to be done for the good of the Realm. You, on the other hand, are a Baratheon. A house known for its stubbornness and strength. I wonder, Lady Elanda, just how strong are you?”

“Strong enough to face whatever comes,” she said defiantly.

Daemon’s smile widened. “Wonderful! I hope you give me much entertainment, Lady Baratheon.” He nodded to the guards. “Take her away.”

As they led her out of the room, Lady Elanda cast one last glance at Daemon. She would not give him the satisfaction of seeing her fear. The Baratheons were made of tough stock, and she would endure whatever fate awaited her, as long as her daughter had a chance to live.

Otto Hightower POV

Otto smirked as the disgraced Queen was dragged into the throne room by one of the Gold Cloaks. The imposing Iron Throne loomed behind the King, who sat upon it, a weary expression etched on his face. Cassandra’s once-ornate dress was now dirty and torn, a stark contrast to the opulence of the surroundings. The Baratheons, it seemed, believed they could commit their crimes and simply escape the consequences. Not only was Cassandra implicated, but her father and mother were also drawn into her scandal.

Cassandra, disheveled and desperate, fell to her knees before the King. “Please, Your Grace, spare my mother and father. They had no part in my crimes. Punish me alone, I beg you.”

Lord Borros stood nearby, his face a mask of fury. He looked down at his daughter with disdain and spat, “I have no part in any of this, Your Grace! My House is in disgrace because of this girl who begged me for a marriage with the King. I denounce this girl! She is no daughter of mine!”

The King, looking pained and conflicted, sighed heavily. “I had thought to send you to the Faith, Cassandra, but this blatant disregard for the Crown’s authority cannot go unpunished. You will be stripped of all your titles and beheaded on the morrow.”

As the former Queen wailed in despair, Otto stepped forward, his expression measured and calculated. “After careful consideration, the Crown has decided to pardon Lady Elanda. She acted out of a mother’s instinct to protect her child. However, as a consequence of this incident, part of the Stormlands will be surrendered to the Crown. Furthermore, Lady Elanda will be confined to Storm’s End for the rest of her days, never to leave its walls.”

Despite her fate, Cassandra thanked the King profusely for sparing her mother. “Thank you, Your Grace. Thank you,” she sobbed, trying to reach for Lady Elanda’s hand. But her mother was pulled harshly away by the glaring Lord Borros, who looked as if he might burst with rage.

The King sighed and descended the steps of the Iron Throne, leaning on the Princess for support. Rhaenyra whispered in her father's ear, and he nodded thoughtfully. Otto watched this with a grimace, suspicion gnawing at him. The Princess had a way of influencing the King, often planting seeds of notorious ideas that he, Otto, would have to clean up later.

As Otto moved to approach, he was suddenly jostled. Prince Daemon passed by him, deliberately knocking into his shoulder, nearly sending him sprawling. “Pardon me, Lord Hand.” Daemon said with a smirk, not even bothering to look back.

Otto grimaced, straightened his back, and clutched his cane tightly. Not able to do anything as the Princess whisked the king away.

His thoughts turned to Bethany. Unlike Alicent, who, he now recognized, had been unprepared for the burdens of queendom, his niece was meticulously groomed to manage a household and, more importantly, to take over the court. She would need to be ready to navigate these treacherous waters. The Hightower influence had to be solidified, and Bethany was the key to ensuring their legacy.

Otto's eyes narrowed as he watched the royal family, his mind already plotting the next moves to secure his family's future and tighten his grip on the realm's politics. The Velaryons are already estranged from the Crown, The Baratheons had overstepped, and while they were now paying the price, Otto knew that the game was far from over.

Princess Rhaenyra POV

Rhaenyra stood still, allowing the maids to unbutton her heavy overdress and remove it with care. She sat gracefully as Marya, her trusted attendant, began removing the pins and unbraiding her hair. Rhaenyra smiled at the older woman, whose touch was gentle and practiced. Marya had been taking care of her since she was born, a woman who, despite her age, remained a pillar of strength and reliability in Rhaenyra's life.

Marya, likely ten years older than Rhaenyra’s own father, had once been a maid to Princess Daella in the Vale. Now, she was well into her old age, and Rhaenyra felt a pang of guilt every time she saw Marya’s slow, careful movements. She had insisted that Marya no longer take on the more strenuous duties, appointing Valaena as the head maid to handle the more demanding tasks. Marya was meticulous and knew exactly how Rhaenyra preferred everything, a bond forged through years of dedicated service.

Despite her own aches and pains, Marya had been a constant companion during the frequent moves between the Stepstones, Dragonstone, and King's Landing. Rhaenyra sensed a quiet relief in Marya now that they were to reside in the Red Keep for a more extended period.

“Marya, you should go and rest,” Rhaenyra said softly, noticing the older woman’s slow movements. “Your joints must be aching.”

Marya thanked her gracefully, her eyes filled with gratitude. She gave a few last instructions to the other maids before departing. “Healer Alia’s creams and oils have been very helpful,” she mentioned. “One of the younger maids usually helps me after a long day, applying the oils to my hands and knees, and ensuring I have enough furs to keep warm at night.” she once said to her.

Marya had no family left; her husband had passed away before she moved to the capital with Queen Aemma. Her children were all married with families of their own, and she refused to retire with them, not wanting to be a burden. When Rhaenyra offered to buy her a small cottage, the old woman declined, choosing instead to remain in her service.

Rhaenyra envisioned creating a small village for the Crown's loyal servants to retire to when they became too old or ill to continue their duties. She wanted to employ a dedicated staff to care for them, just as they had cared for her family. Daemon supported her idea wholeheartedly. He had seen too many servants dismissed with only meager gold, left to struggle in their old age without any assurance of proper care.

She let Elaena pin her hair up loosely and allowed herself to be led to the bathing chamber. Divested of her velvet inner gown, she hissed as she submerged into the almost boiling bath filled with aromatic, soothing oils. She leaned her back on the tub and let the maids scrub her skin clean.

An execution is always a nasty business. She might not have been fond of Cassandra Baratheon, but seeing the young girl crying hysterically as the royal executioner led her to the block was disturbing. Rhaenyra remembered being that age and knew the impulsiveness of youth; it was tragic that Cassandra had become yet another victim of the game of thrones.

The Stormlords had left the capital en masse after the execution. Rhaenyra had attempted to soothe relations by taking Cassandra's child and sending him to the Stepstones to be raised in Ashfort. Lady Elanda, the poor woman, had been grateful, but Lord Borros couldn't have cared less. The man hadn't even looked at the child, nor had he flinched when his daughter was executed. He was solely angry about his house's tarnished reputation.

Rhaenyra had already taken measures to ensure that no male heir would come from Borros Baratheon's loins again. The man did not deserve more children for him to later ignore. Someday, the child she had shown mercy to would be Lord of the Stormlands, and he would be loyal to her.

Borros Baratheon, the man who had once let one of her brown-eyed sons be chased to death in her dreams—all for the promise of a marriage to a prince with neither lands nor legacy to his name. She had already arranged marriages for his remaining daughters to minor houses in the Riverlands and the Crownlands. Borros had not protested her not so subtle maneuvers, showing no care for his daughters.

Borros Baratheon would die knowing that his lands and title would go to Rhaenyra's half-brother. He might not have the Valyrian appearance, he may be a bastard in the eyes of the Seven Kingdoms but he is still her brother and she will make sure he will receive his dues that will also benefit and strengthen her cause.

The memory of Criston Cole being whipped while paraded from the Red Keep to the execution square gave her great pleasure. He looked utterly pathetic. One of his eyes was swollen shut, his mouth bloody, probably from having his teeth pulled out, and all the toes on his feet were missing. She had never seen a more pitiful sight. She was sure Cole was relieved to finally be executed. The man mirrored the Kingmaker in her dreams—bitter and vengeful for some imagined slights that was made against him. He had always sneered in her direction, as if entitled to breathe the same air she did. She knew that if left alone, he would become the same bitter man in her dreams, whose loyalty was to himself alone. She would not lose sleep over his death.

Elaena hurried her out of the tub after a few minutes and wrapped her in a warmed robe before dressing her in a heavy fur-lined silk shift with a high collar and long puffy sleeves. A heavy velvet over-robe followed, and she was then seated in front of a marble table adorned with tens of different oils and creams. Sometimes, she indulged in applying these herself, imagining they made her skin softer, but tonight she lacked the energy. Instead, Healer Alia herself smoothed and tapped the various products into her face.

Rhaenyra looked up at Valaena’s entry, noting the familiar tin of cream in her hand.

“How do we dispose of this, Your Grace?” Valaena asked.

“Put it in the dragonfire that is still going strong in the vault," Rhaenyra replied. "Make sure everything is burned before you come back.

Valaena nodded, placing the tin back into her pocket she will wait for her to be ready for bed and all maids to leave to carry out the task.

There were so many curious things in the books that Visenya had left in her vault. One described a whole legion dedicated to spying on rival kingdoms to better defeat them. The Valyrians discovered during their wars with the Ghiscari that dragons alone would not topple a kingdom—they needed to find and exploit their enemies' weaknesses. It took the Valyrians five wars to finally annex the Ghiscari, and history always said that the Freeholders used all their dragons to do so. What they did not discuss was the secret legion who risked their lives assimilating with the natives and gathering intelligence.

Given the Valyrians' unique features, with their silver hair and purple eyes, they used spells and enchantments to trick the eyes of people. Among the most fascinating of these tools was a special ruby with the capability to completely shield one's physical appearance. A man could appear as a woman, an old person could appear eternally youthful, and they could change their hair, eyes, and height. These stones were mainly from Asshai, it was too bad that Daenys had not been able to get her hands on one before moving to Dragonstone though. Visenya wrote that such stones were still used today by the shadow binders, though they were very rare.

There were also potions that would semi-permanently change someone's appearance with just a bit of blood or another body part from the person they wanted to resemble. By combining the blood from Criston Cole and the hair from Cassandra Baratheon, she had created a perfectly looking half-Baratheon, half-Dornish baby. The former Queen’s cream, which she used to prevent marks on her belly, had been laced with these ingredients. It might not be permanent—the babe's hair might lighten slightly in a few years—but he would be safely hidden in Ashcroft by then. No one would know he was Queen Cassandra's son because no one would track down a supposedly bastard boy.

Already, Daemon had flown the child to the Stepstones to be given to a couple who had three more children. The woman was a widow from King's Landing who had taken up with an Unsullied to provide for her children. Her brother would be provided for; he would be the only one of them to grow up in a normal household until the time came for him to take his seat at Storm's End.

She was deemed ready for bed after Healer Alia was done lathering her whole body with creams and she stood up to go back to her bedchambers where the delightful view of her children awaited her. Rhaena was already on the bed hugging her cradle egg to her chest as she looked on while Aegon was helping Vis to coax Vermax to roast his own food.

The young dragon is already the size of a hound and had started breathing fire although still stubborn about when he actually does it. Stormcloud is already the size of a pony and the last time she allowed the dragon to sleep in their rooms they woke up with the curtains on fire because he was trying to go outside. They did not have a choice but to let him nest in the Dragonpit where he will have more space to explore. It also ally her worries of the dragon might get out without proper guidance and be caught in the terrible weather. Throughout Winter the number of times the roof of the Dome was opened was very minimal. The dragons preferred to stay in their cave.

“Vis, Aegon come to bed and let Vermax rest.” She said. The two children looked at her and then back at Vermax who was just looking at them with his head tilted to the side and then back at her again.

She stifled her laugher and got on the bed and immediately cuddled with Rhaena who leaned into her. “We’ll then I guess it will just be the two of us, mandia.”

Her little sister giggled with her. Immediately the boys clambered up the bed with Aegon reaching her first and hugging her from the side.

“Help!” Vis cried as he had a hard time climbing up the bed.

“You sleep there!” Rhaena jested which earned a wail from the little Prince.

She nudged Aegon who crawled back to the foot of the bed and helped his brother up. Vis immediately went to her and pushed Rhaena away from her to her protest.

She scooped him in her arms as he nuzzled her neck while Rhaena leaned on her side, Aegon on the other.

“Where’s Kepa?” Aegon asked.

“Your father had to go back to the Stepstones on Royal business, he will be back tomorrow, so for now we will all sleep here!” She answered.

“We can go too?” Rhaena asked.

“No, my dear, we have to stay here.” She answered.

Her sister huffed. “I don’t like here. Queen is bad.”

“Cold too.” Aegon added.

“Well, the Red Keep is our home. We will still visit the Stepstones and Dragonstone anytime we can but it is time we settle here for the meantime.” She whispered to the children mindful of Vis already falling asleep in her arms. “And Rhaena, you do not have to worry about the Queen. She’s gone and she cannot hurt you anymore.”

Her sister looked at her with a smile in her face and then settled on the pillows. “Good.”

She stifled a laugh. Even as a child Rhaena does not let an offense go easily. A Targaryen through and through. She closed her eyes to sleep feeling content surrounded by her children when Vis poked her in the cheeks. She opened her eyes to find small amethyst ones looking at her

“I thought you’re already asleep.” She said.

“Story?” he said putting his thumb in his mouth. She removed his hand and held it.

“What story would you like to hear?” she asked.

“Dance of Dragons!” Aegon whispered loudly.

She sighed. She had started telling her children the story of the Dance of Dragons as a cautionary tale of the devastating consequences when dragon fought against dragon. This epic and tragic chapter in Targaryen history, although already changed, was crucial for them to understand the dangers of civil war and the fracturing of familial bonds. She resolved to write a comprehensive account of the Dance of Dragons to be preserved in the Royal Library, ensuring that future generations would not forget the lessons learned from this tumultuous tale.

"The Dance of Dragons," she began, her voice steady and soothing, "was not just a war of fire and blood, but a catastrophic struggle for power that nearly brought the House of Dragon to ruin. It began with the death of the King and the subsequent dispute over the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. On one side was the Princess, who had been declared heir by her father, and on the other, her half-brother, who was crowned by a faction of lords and knights believing in male primogeniture.” She said as the children looked at her with wide eyes. “But really the story begun with the tragic death of a beloved Queen… it started with a tourney…

Chapter 27

Chapter Text

Daemon POV

Daemon surveyed the festivities unfolding around him with a detached air, his sharp eyes taking in every detail. They put open-sided tents on half of the docks, their flaps billowing in the breeze like welcoming arms. Beneath these tents, a sumptuous feast awaited, the aroma of the Reach's bounty wafting through the air, tantalizing the senses.

At the long table, platters of honeyed ham glistened under the warm sunlight, their surfaces caramelized to a golden hue, promising succulent bites of sweet and savory goodness. Nearby, venison pies beckoned with their flaky pastry crusts, each filled with tender chunks of slow-cooked meat infused with aromatic spices.

Among the colorful spread, a large bowl of fruit compote stood out, its vibrant hues of red and orange a feast for the eyes. Fresh fruits, simmered with cinnamon and citrus zest, released a fragrant aroma that mingled with the salty sea air, offering a refreshing contrast to the hearty fare. There are circular tables scattered throughout, the atmosphere buzzed with excitement and anticipation. From cozy lounging coaches to makeshift columns adorned with climbing vines, every corner of the festivities exuded warmth and hospitality.

Lord Staunton approached him with a broad smile, gesturing to the extravagant display before them. "Not even Queen Laena's wedding with the King was celebrated with such fanfare," he remarked.

He nodded. “The Hightowers sure love reminding the people how rich they are.” He said noting the absurd number of acrobats and fools entertaining the nobles. The wedding had taken place that morning in the City Sept, and instead of the traditional feast in the Keep, the bride had requested the celebration be held at the docks so that the smallfolk could join in the merriment.

He wanted to snort at that, how can the smallfolk be truly included in the occasion when they were relegated to just look up at them and watch the festivities in the sides?

The docks had been repaired at the expense of the Hightowers, who had also shouldered the entire cost of the wedding. Unlike Otto's daughter, Bethany, the bride, was from the mainline and boasted one of the oldest lineages in Westeros. Of course, she deserved the best, Daemon thought wryly, wanting to snicker at the notion.

Vis put both hands on his face and turned it to one of the performers contorting herself in ridiculous ways. "Marvelous, right, Vis?" Daemon asked, his tone lightening as he addressed his son. Vis nodded and clapped enthusiastically as the tightly clad girl bowed to them.

Winter had finally given way to spring three months ago. The weather was generally mild and increasingly warm, a welcome change after the long, harsh winter. Rhaenyra and her ladies had been delighted to shed their fur cloaks and don their ornate gowns once more.

Daemon watched as his wife mingled with the guests, her laughter ringing out above the din of the celebration. She stood out amidst the festivities like a beacon. She was radiant, as always, resplendent in the blood-red gown she wore, adorned with intricate golden dragon embroidery and numerous jewels that caught the light with every movement. Over her gown, she wore a metal-like black girdle that resembled armor, embossed with the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen. Her dark pauldron, made of dragonglass, shimmered and changed colors as she moved. It was this that connected her gown to her light cape, a see-through red fabric that fluttered in the wind when she walked. Despite the weather calming down it was still a bit cold and most of the women are still wearing long sleeved gowns but Rhaenyra is blood of the Dragon, she can tolerate the climate better.

Daemon watched as Rhaenyra charmed the nobility, most of whom were already entwined with them through trade. He knew that while noble lords might forget their oath they would be loath to lose their livelihood. If, when the time came the Hightowers made a move for his wife's throne, these lords would remember who provided them with gold and assistance in times of need.

Lord Bartimos sidled up to him, nudging his arm. "Look at the King, Prince Daemon. He appears absolutely delighted with his new bride." he remarked, nodding toward Viserys, who was smiling amidst the festivities with his new Queen by his side, surrounded by her family.

Lord Sunglass joined the conversation. "After the unpleasantness with the former Queen, the King deserves some happiness.”

Daemon stifled a snort at that, glancing between the two lords. "Happiness is fleeting in the Red Keep," he said dryly. "Especially when surrounded by those who would see him fall.”

Old Bartimos raised an eyebrow. "You speak as if the King is constantly in danger.”

"Is he not?" Daemon retorted. "The throne is a dangerous place. Alliances shift like the tides.”

Lord Sunglass nodded thoughtfully. "True. But perhaps today, we can allow him this moment of joy.”

Daemon's eyes narrowed slightly as he looked back at the King. "Perhaps. But joy often blinds men to the dangers lurking in the shadows.”

Bartimos clapped Daemon on the shoulder. "Always the pessimist, Prince Daemon. Let us hope that for today, at least, the shadows remain at bay.”

Daemon merely grunted in response. He recalled a conversation with Rhaenyra. He had suggested rendering Viserys sterile to put an end to all the subterfuge. She had only replied, "My mother was made to endure dead children after dead children. Why would I spare him the delight of experiencing the same thing?" Daemon had acquiesced to her then.

Looking around, Daemon saw Aegon playing dangerously close to the edge of the docks. “Aegon, come away from there!” he called, but the boy ignored him, too fascinated by the crabs clinging to the side.

Nearby, Rhaena held hands with her maid, Maya, peppering her with questions. “Maya, what’s Driftmark like?” she said she let her gown swished around her ankles.

Maya smiled down at her. “Well, Princess Rhaena, the docks at Hightide aren’t as grand as these, but they’re much sturdier. They’re made entirely of basalt stone.”

Rhaena’s eyes widened. “Basalt stone? Is it pretty?”

“Not as pretty as these docks,” Maya admitted, “but it’s very strong. Your mother, Queen Laena, loves meeting new people at the docks. There’s always someone interesting arriving.”

Rhaena nodded thoughtfully. “I only remember Hightide.”

Maya assured her. “I’m sure Princess Rhaenyra will allow you to visit on your name day if you asked, Princess.”

“I will!” she said and twirled around making her gown swish around her. Rhaena is wearing Velaryon blue, her dress positively dripping in pearls of every sizes. Princess Rhaenys had two trunks full of luxurious dresses made for her granddaughter sent as soon as winter ended, less the Court forgets how rich the Velaryons are.

It never fails to amuse him how not even five years old and Rhaena already acts like the perfect lady.

Daemon, turned back to his eldest son who was still ignoring him. “Aegon, come here now!”

Aegon finally looked up at him but didn’t move, still captivated by the crabs. Before Daemon could shout again, Aegon tipped forward, and only the quick reflexes of Grey Shield, one of the Unsullied guards, prevented him from falling into the water.

The boy run to him teary eyed and clung to his leg. He transferred Vis to Aelinor, one of his maids and pulled Aegon up his arms. “See what happens when you don’t listen to me?” he scolded, his face stern.

Aegon’s eyes were wide with fear and unshed tears. “I’m sorry, Kepa.”

Daemon sighed, softening a little. “You know how to swim, Aegon. You would have been fine even if you fell in.”

Aegon looked up at him, surprised. “I do?”

Daemon chuckled. “Have you forgotten already? You were always in the water in the Stepstones.”

Aegon managed a small smile, resting his head against his father’s shoulder. “I remember.”

Daemon patted his back, feeling a mix of exasperation and affection. “Good. But still, listen to me next time, alright?”

“Yes, Kepa.” Aegon murmured, his fears forgotten.

Daemon looked up as a man with orange hair and a ridiculous amount of freckles approached. The man bowed respectfully. “My Prince, I noticed the near-incident with the young prince and wanted to make sure he’s alright”

Before Daemon could respond, Aegon piped up, “I know how to swim!”

The man smiled. “That’s good to hear. My nephew also knows how to swim. Perhaps you two would like to be friends?”

Daemon glanced down to see Ryam Redwyne, the new Queen’s firstborn son and future Lord of the Arbor, looking up at them with wide eyes. Aegon waved enthusiastically and wriggled to be let down. Daemon set him on his feet, watching as Aegon and Ryam quickly became engrossed in a conversation about the docks before running off, followed closely by their attentive guards.

The man bowed towards him and introduced himself as Ser Desmond Redwyne, Lord Redwyne’s second son, good-brother of the new Queen.

Daemon smiled at the man, a thrill running through his body. “It’s good of you to look after your nephews given the circ*mstances.”

Ser Desmond nodded, his expression somber. “The boy hasn’t fully recovered from the unexpected death of his father, but attending the festivities has lifted his spirits.”

Daemon’s smile turned slightly predatory. “Yes, it’s unfortunate that your older brother died. Fate can be quite cruel, but it paved the way for Bethany to become Queen. Tell me, was the storm so terrible that a seasoned seafarer like your brother was taken from us?’

Desmond stammered, thinking deeply. “We’ve weathered much worse storms before, my Prince.”

“Curious, then, that only your brother perished while the rest of the crew returned unscathed.” Daemon’s voice dripped with insinuation. “Now Bethany is mother to a future prince or princess, and Ryam here will be Lord of the Arbor. It’s funny how tragedy sometimes breeds opportunities.”

Ser Desmond glanced confusedly at Daemon, then at the new Queen, who was laughing and touching Viserys affectionately.

Daemon’s smile widened. “It’s good of you to train the heir. Will you stay in the Arbor, or seek your fortunes elsewhere? As a fellow second son, I know the difficulties of our position, but I’m sure the Queen will be grateful for your readiness to prepare her son for his future seat.’

Ser Desmond forced a smile. “I’ll do what’s best for my family, my lord.”

Daemon nodded, patting Desmond on the shoulder. “Of course you will. We all must, in the end.” He watched as Ser Desmond walked away, his shoulder strangely stiff.

HE whistled to which Aegon looked up abruptly and run back to him. He took Vis from his maid and held Aegon’s hand with his free one while making sure that Rhaena was following behind him. They went back to the tent where the feast was spread and sat down on one of the ornate chairs the servants had dragged from the Red Keep.

Across from him, Viserys smiled warmly as they entered. The boys, Aegon and Vis, ran to their grandsire and greeted him eagerly.

"Are you enjoying the festivities?" Viserys asked the children.

Aegon replied with a mixture of excitement and nonchalance, "I almost drowned!”

Viserys' face paled in horror. "Drowned? Whatever do you mean?”

Aegon continued, "But I remembered I know how to swim. Can we swim in the sea next time?”

Viserys stuttered, clearly still taken aback. "The sea is still quite cold. You may swim when it’s warmer, my boy.”

The boys settled onto the floor pillows, munching on candied walnuts and cut fruits. Rhaena climbed into Daemon's lap, her small fingers playing with the intricate embroidery on his cuffs. Viserys gave Daemon a tight smile, attempting to mask his discomfort.

"Your new good family have truly gone all out for this wedding." Daemon remarked, his voice smooth and measured.

"Indeed," Viserys replied, a hint of reproach in his tone. "It's a pity you never experienced such grandeur, given your penchant for clandestine nuptials.”

Daemon chuckled, a deep, rich sound. "Ah, but my first wedding was not a secret but definitely quite the spectacle. I had to be dragged to the sept by the Kingsguards, and the Good Queen herself had to recite the vows. That should already be ground for annulment but The King’s words supersedes all, right? I must say, I prefer the solemnity of my second wedding. After all, weddings are not meant to be a circus.”

He then joked, "I daresay I thought you might have been attempting to Complete the Seven with your wives. But by marrying another lady from the Reach, you disrupted the pattern. It would have been more fitting had you chosen a woman from the West.”

Viserys frowned, his confusion evident. "What on earth are you talking about, Daemon?”

Daemon counted on his fingers, a mischievous grin playing on his lips. "Let us see. Your first wife was from the Vale, the second from the Reach, the third from the Crownsland, the fourth from the Riverlands, and the fifth from the Stormlands. I expected you to choose a lady from the West, and then perhaps one from the North next. But alas, you erred by selecting another from the Reach.”

Viserys' face turned a deep shade of crimson, his anger barely contained. "Daemon, your irreverence knows no bounds!”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I just thought you lost an opportunity there, imagine your passage in the History Books! The Seven Wives of King Viserys the first! Quite catchy, noh?”

Daemon's brother looked ready to erupt, his face flushed with barely contained fury. But just at that moment, little Vis handed the king a piece of walnut, effectively diffusing the tension. Viserys accepted the offering with a forced smile, kissing his namesake on the head before the boy scampered back to join his brother. The king glared at Daemon as he put the walnut in his mouth.

Daemon, unable to contain his amusem*nt, laughed heartily, throwing his head back. His laughter was infectious, and Rhaena looked up at him with a curious smile.

"You are so silly, Kepa." she said, her small fingers tracing the dragon embroidery on his arms.

He bounced his knees gently and wiped the corner of his eyes. “You shouldn’t have eaten that.” He said looking at the King.

Daemon turned his attention to the boys still sitting on the floor, just in time to see little Vis suck all the sugar off a walnut before setting it on a separate plate. The sight made Viserys choke, trying to discreetly spit out the remnants of food from his mouth, his face turning redder with a mix of embarrassment and irritation.

Rhaena, sitting on Daemon's lap, grimaced at the sight. She leaned in close and whispered in his ear, "No manners! You don't spit food!" Her serious admonishment only made Daemon laugh harder.

"Indeed, my pretty pearl." he chuckled, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. "But sometimes, even kings need a reminder of their manners.”

Viserys, having recovered from his choking fit, glared at his brother with a mixture of frustration and begrudging amusem*nt. The children's antics and Daemon's infectious laughter provided a brief respite from the tension, filling the air with a moment of lightheartedness amidst the grandeur of the feast.

A sudden commotion erupted outside the tent, drawing Daemon's attention. He couldn't see what was happening but heard the loud shriek of a woman, teetering on the edge of hysteria.

"Bethany?" Viserys asked, standing up and moving towards the noise. Daemon glanced around, spotting Lady Elinda hurrying towards them. He transferred Rhaena into her arms; the little girl clung to her neck, frightened by the sound. Aegon and Vis immediately clambered onto the chair he had abandoned, straining to see what was going on. Daemon nodded to the Unsullied guards, ensuring the children's safety, while Ser Lorent moved closer for reassurance.

Daemon pushed his way through the gathering lords, many cursing until they recognized him. Emerging from the tent, he saw the new Queen, her gown's skirt so wide it looked like she can cover the entirety of the docks with it. The skirt was an elaborate, ostentatious affair, layered with voluminous fabric and adorned with intricate embroidery, making her appear more like a painted porcelain doll than a living queen.

Before, the Queen had been gracious and gentle, conversing amiably with both nobility and servants alike. Now, she was slumped on the ground, hysterically crying. Daemon walked towards Rhaenyra, who stood to the side, her face drawn and upset. He put his arm around her waist and looked down. There, lying on his back, drenched and lifeless, was the little boy Aegon had been playing with earlier—Ryam Redwyne. His small body was already turning blue.

"Why did you not look after him?" the Queen screamed, glaring daggers at an elderly woman kneeling nearby, soaked and shivering from the cold and fear.

"I tried, My Queen, I didn’t know how long he was on the water before I saw him and the current was too strong." the woman stammered.

The Queen slapped her, eliciting gasps from the crowd. "Then you should be the one dead and not my son! You should die! Die! Die!" she shrieked, pummeling the old woman with her fists.

Rhaenyra gasped, horrified, turning in Daemon's arms. Everyone was so shocked that by the time they intervened, the old woman was already dead, her face a bloody mess. The repeated blows to her neck had likely been fatal.

The Queen looked up as she finally regained her wits, she looked up to see the nobility whispered in horror, the servants shook with fear, and the smallfolk, perched on rooftops of establishments around the docks, cursed in disbelief.

Their new Queen had just killed someone on her wedding day, in front of everyone.

The King commanded the Queen be taken back to the Keep. He entered the Royal Carriage with the Kingsguards almost pulling the Queen behind, now pitifully crying out her son's name.

Lord Bartimos shook his head. "A terrible start to her reign," he remarked, then added with dark humor, "But it certainly made the whole affair memorable. People will talk about the Bloody Wedding for years to come.”

Daemon chuckled at the man’s lack of discretion. "Lord Bartimos, remind me again why King Jaehaerys banned you from court?”

The old man looked at him, surprised, then smiled sardonically. "Well, I asked the King if part of his pact with the Faith involved diminishing the number of dragon riders because he refused to place dragon eggs in his daughters' cradles. I had no nefarious intention—I was genuinely curious." he explained.

Daemon's jaw nearly dropped.

Rhaenyra told him she will have the servants ready their own carriage and that she would gather the children. He nodded, watching her leave with a bevy of her ladies-in-waiting trailing behind.

Lord Hobert was in the midst of trying to calm everyone, attempting to garner pity for the Queen and his dead grandson among the horrified Reach lords and ladies. Amidst the chaos, Daemon's eyes landed on the freckled face of Ser Desmond, who turned away from the commotion, his shoulders stiff with tension.

Chapter 28

Chapter Text

Queen Bethany POV

Bethany stared at her reflection in the mirror, feeling a wave of revulsion wash over her. Her face, pale and drawn, looked hauntingly different from the vibrant woman she once knew. Her eyes, once bright and lively, were now rimmed with red, swollen from days of ceaseless crying. Dark circles, like shadows of grief, lay heavy under her eyes, deep and pronounced, making her look as though she hadn't slept in weeks. Her lips, usually a soft pink, were cracked and colorless.

Her wedding should have marked the pinnacle of her ascent, a beacon for her house to rally around. Instead, it had turned into a nightmare. The joyous day had been shattered, leaving only despair in its wake. She sobbed, her body wracked with grief as she thought of her dear Ryam. He was all but six name days and already taken from her. Her bright boy, with a future so full of promise, now extinguished forever.

"Ryam," she whispered, her voice choked with tears. "My sweet boy, my heart.”

She could still see his face, full of life and curiosity, always eager to explore and learn. He had been her light, her joy, and now that light was gone, leaving a gaping void in her heart.

Her good-father, ever pragmatic, had been swift to install Desmond as the next heir, not even glancing at her dear Rosalynd. It was expected, of course. The Reach, with its strict adherence to the Faith of the Seven, prioritized male heirs above all else. But it galled her to see Princess Rhaenyra maneuvering so effortlessly, already betrothing Allana Tyrell to Desmond. The girl was only six and ten and had asked for two more years before the wedding. Yet Bethany knew this would shake the Redwynes' loyalty to House Hightower.

Desmond's newfound proximity to power was unsettling. He had been seen quite a few times with Prince Daemon, hawking and hunting in the Kingswood, and frequenting the taverns in the city. The alliance between them seemed to grow stronger with each passing day.

Her uncle had suggested sending Rosalynd back to the Arbor, a reminder of their family ties to House Hightower. But the thought of parting with her daughter was unbearable. Rosalynd was all she had left, her only solace in this sea of sorrow.

She sniffed as the Kingsguard at her door announced the Lord Hand. Quickly wiping the tears from her face, Bethany stood and moved to the ornate chair near the fire. Her uncle's pinched face greeted her as he entered. He bowed shallowly and sat down without prompting.

"Clean yourself up," Otto commanded, his tone leaving no room for argument. "The King will visit you tonight.’

Bethany reddened but lifted her chin defiantly. "I know my duty." she replied, her voice steady despite the turmoil within her.

Otto looked at her with disdain. "I've hinted to the King about transferring control of the Royal Household and Court to you, to help with your grieving. Staying in your room all day will not endear you to court.”

She wanted to slap him. It had only been two weeks since her son died. Was she not even allowed to grieve? But she squared her shoulders and nodded. "The King is already very fond of me, and he will see that I need the distraction.”

"Good," Otto said, standing and straightening his hand on his cane. "Now you need to invite the other ladies, prepare a luncheon, or employ the royal bard to entertain them. You need to assert your position in court.”

Bethany huffed. "I am a lady of a great house. I am trained for this. I am not some clueless maid that you need to hold my hand for every move." she said with thinly veiled insult.

“Then start showing it.” Otto sneered at her and left without even a bow.

She rolled her eyes. If he thought she was like Alicent, someone he could bully into submission, he could think again. Even her father couldn't make her do anything she didn't want to do.

Bethany pulled the ropes to summon her maid. She needed to please the King, even though the thought made her stomach churn. The first time she saw his unclothed body, she wanted to vomit. His flesh was marred by numerous open wounds, and if the Grand Maester hadn't assured her that they weren't contagious, she would have fled back to the Hightower.

Despite his unsightly appearance, King Viserys was gentle in nature. He had a soft heart that made him surprisingly easy to love. His kind eyes always held a glimmer of warmth and his smile, though often pained, radiated a genuine affection for those around him. Viserys was amenable and considerate, always ready to listen and comfort, qualities that endeared him to many. He possessed a patience that few could rival, making even the most demanding court duties seem manageable under his reign. His gentle demeanor was a balm to the harsh realities of court life, and Bethany knew that beneath his frail exterior was a man capable of great kindness and understanding.

Bethany wore a wide hoop undergarment that shaped her dress like a bell, accentuating her small waist and ensuring she maintained a respectable distance from any male person she might encounter. This was a fashion of the Reach, designed to preserve the piousness of a woman. As the door to the Small Council Room opened, she smiled serenely, trying not to show everyone how extremely pleased she was. Everyone stood, including Princess Rhaenyra, who was clad in a shockingly luxurious gown that showed the tops of her breasts, making it look as if they might spill out at any moment. You would think the princess was dressed for a ball with her light blue gown adorned with golden threads and sapphires.

She followed the King as he entered the room.

Bethany maintained her pleasant look as the princess greeted the King with a kiss on the cheek. When Rhaenyra turned to her, she received the same air kiss, not even a curtsy. She kept smiling as Prince Daemon, who now had a new seat as Master of Defense, commented, "It is highly unusual for queens to be included in the Small Council.”

She wanted to snort at that, as if it were customary for a Council seat to be invented on a whim. The Princess had leveraged the breach of security in the Keep, which allowed Cassandra Baratheon to escape, as a pretext to secure a seat for Daemon on the Council. She argued that if not for the Gold Cloaks, Cassandra would have shamed the crown by managing to flee.

Viserys responded, "It is only for today because I would like to formally transfer the supervision of my household and court to the Queen." Bethany reveled in the frown on Prince Daemon's face, but Princess Rhaenyra's smile did not falter.

Lord Strong was quick to procure the document that will transfer the control of the Inner Court to her. It had taken months for her to convinced the King and the news of her pregnancy was what pushed him to reward her efforts.

She almost jumped in glee as the king stamped his seal on the documents and gave her one copy, she held it reverently.

"Congratulations, Your Grace." Rhaenyra said smoothly. "I am available should you need any help.”

"I will strive to fulfill my duties with diligence and care.” She said.

"Since the Princess will be free of some of her duties, she will be having lessons with the Hand in administration.” The King said.

Bethany noticed the surprise in her uncle's eyes, but Otto bowed.

"Who better to teach the future Queen than the man who taught my father how to be a King?" Rhaenyra added with a smile.

King Viserys looked pleased. "She will also have lessons with Lord Strong in law, with Lord Beesbury in coin management, and with Lord Lannister on our navy.”

Lord Tyland Lannister looked as if he had sucked on a lemon, clearly displeased by the arrangement. "I suppose it will be an... interesting endeavor." he said, his tone barely masking his discontent.

Lord Strong, ever the diplomat, smiled warmly. "It is my pleasure to assist in any way I can, Your Grace." he said with a respectful nod towards Rhaenyra.

Lord Beesbury, his demeanor more genuine, added, "The Princess has been coming to me for years now about matters of the Inner Court's budget. It gladdens me that it will be more formal now. Her insight has always been astute.”

Bethany watched the interactions with a mix of irritation and resignation. This was supposed to be about her, the Queen finally snatching her duties from the Princess’ grubby hands but everyone is fawning at the Princess.

The Princess, ever poised and composed, seemed to take everything in stride. "I look forward to our lessons." Rhaenyra said, her gaze sweeping across the room, settling on each lord with a look of quiet determination.

She was then not so subtly asked to leave but it was no matter. She got what she wanted and it was only the beginning of Bethany Hightower taking over the Red Keep.

She knew that her presence was not warmly welcomed, but that was of little consequence. Power, after all, did not wait for warm welcomes. She had a meeting scheduled with the Castellan, who had always shown a partiality towards the princess.

She summoned the Keep’s servants to the Kitchen Hall. Their curious eyes followed her every movement, a mix of anxiety and uncertainty etched on their faces. With an air of unyielding authority, she began to shuffle their duties, asserting her control over her new domain.

She could see the fear in their eyes, a palpable tension filling the room. It was no matter to her; they needed to know who was in charge now. She had brought her own loyal servant to manage her household affairs, ensuring that her immediate needs were met with unwavering loyalty.

The servants’ apprehension did not bother her; it was, in fact, expected. They would soon learn that their fates lay in her hands. Later, she could win them over with kind words and coins, but for now, they needed to feel the weight of her authority. She would establish her control firmly and without hesitation.

Slowly, she planned to replace the princess’s servants with those loyal to her.

But she had encountered resistance when she tried to change the servants in the King's household. The Castellan, Lord Alun Caswell, was particularly stubborn. He had insisted that most of the servants had been with the King since he was but a small child, many of them inherited or relatives of the servants who had served the Old King.

"The King needs to be seen to by younger staff." she argued, her tone firm.

Lord Caswell shook his head, his expression unyielding. "It takes years to train the servants of the Holdfast. The Royal Household is not some tower with past renown. It is a living, breathing entity, and its staff are its lifeblood.”

Bethany bristled at his words but maintained her composure. "I can employ people loyal to me, people who can learn.”

“With utter respect my Queen, the King’s servants should be loyal to the King alone. They need years of training." Caswell insisted. "Their backgrounds must be thoroughly vetted, and their loyalty secured. We cannot simply replace them on a whim.”

Despite her attempts to press the issue, Lord Caswell stood his ground. Each of her suggestions met with polite but firm resistance. His loyalty to the tradition and stability of the household was evident, and Bethany realized that changing the staff would not be as straightforward as she had hoped.

Another frustration emerged when she attempted to dismiss the Unsullied guarding Maegor's Holdfast, intending to replace them with knights from the Hightower. To her chagrin, she was promptly informed that the security of Maegor's Holdfast, the Red Keep, and the entire city fell under the purview of the Master of Defense. Undeterred, she summoned Prince Daemon to her solar, determined to assert her authority.

Prince Daemon arrived, not alone, but with young Prince Viserys in tow. The boy climbed on every surface he could reach, his innocent mischief contrasting sharply with the tense atmosphere while his father just watched as he sprawled on one of the chairs. Bethany's irritation simmered beneath her composed exterior.

"Prince Daemon," she began, her voice laced with a forced calm, "I must insist that the Unsullied be dismissed. Slavery is not right in the eyes of the Seven. I cannot, in good conscience, allow them to remain in the Keep.”

Prince Daemon's eyes flickered with amusem*nt. "I'm sorry you feel that way." he replied nonchalantly, as he grabbed Prince Viserys, preventing him from upending a pitcher of lemon water on one of the indoor plants.

Bethany took a deep breath, her frustration mounting. "I want the Unsullied gone." she reiterated, her voice firm but controlled.

"That is not possible." Daemon replied, his tone equally firm. "The security of the Keep is my responsibility. The Unsullied makes up of half the guards in the Holdfast. I will not go through the process of recruiting, checking their loyalty, and training new guards just because you are uncomfortable. You are welcome to employ the knights you prefer for your own protection, but the safety of the Keep remains my concern.”

He stood up, reaching for Prince Viserys, who was clutching a small replica of the Hightower in his chubby hands. "Can my little Vis have this?" he asked, a smirk playing on his lips

Bethany forced a smile, though it felt like a grimace. "Yes, he may have it." she replied, her voice tight.

"The children love playing with figures," Daemon remarked, his tone deceptively light. "It will be a great addition to their collection of towers that their dragons can burn.”

Bethany's heart skipped a beat, perceiving his words as a veiled threat. She felt a chill run down her spine but maintained her composure. "I will not have slaves in this Keep." she stated, her voice unwavering.

“Good thing they are no longer slaves.” The Prince finally snapped making her heart thunder in her chest in fear. “If your Seven gods do not teach you to have compassion for those who have endured the very depths of suffering merely because they are a touch different, then I must question the virtue of such deities. Indeed, you might find it prudent to seek a new faith, one that embodies true goodness and understanding.” He said. “Also, kindly reach out to the Grand Maester so he can explain to you the extent of your responsibilities. You are overstepping.”

Bethany watched as he departed, Prince Viserys trailing behind him with the replica of the Hightower getting banged on the walls. She sighed deeply, her breath shaky as she tried to calm herself. The clash with Daemon had not gone as planned, but she would not be deterred. She had come to the Red Keep to assert her power, and she would find a way, no matter the obstacles in her path.

Bethany took a sips of her tea before beginning. “Ladies, I must tell you about my conversation with Prince Daemon. I insisted that the Unsullied be dismissed. Slavery is a blasphemy in the eyes of the Seven, and I cannot allow it to continue within the Keep.”

Lady Redwyne nodded in agreement. “You are absolutely right, Your Grace. The teachings of the Seven must be upheld.”

Lady Strong, however, looked skeptical. “But they are no longer slaves. The Seven also teach compassion, do they not? These men, the Unsullied, have nowhere else to go. Dismissing them to go back to the people who will enslave them again might be more harmful than allowing them to stay.”

Lady Darklyn added, “And let us not forget, they are fiercely loyal and well-trained. Replacing them would not be an easy task.”

Bethany’s eyes narrowed slightly. “It is not just about ease, my lady. It is about doing what is right.”

Lady Celtigar leaned forward, her expression thoughtful. “Prince Daemon made a valid point. The security of the Red Keep is paramount. Who else could we trust as much as the Unsullied? The Gold Cloaks are a little more than five thousand men trying to keep peace in a city of a hundred thousand, taking them away to serve the Keep seems too much.”

Bethany felt her frustration rising. “It is blasphemy to question the teachings of the Seven.” she declared, her voice sharp.

“The Seven teach compassion above all,” Lady Darklyn countered gently. “They would not want us to cast out those who have served the King faithfully.”

Lady Strong nodded. “Given the scandal with Cassandra Baratheon, I am glad my daughter Anella is guarded by men who cannot take advantage of her. The Unsullied provide a sense of safety.”

Bethany’s hand tightened around her teacup. She wanted to shout, to make them see reason, but she forced herself to remain calm. The conversation ended with polite farewells, but as Bethany watched the ladies depart, she felt a knot of frustration tightening in her chest. She had come to the Red Keep to bring change, and she would not be deterred. If persuasion would not work, she would have to find another means to ensure her vision was realized.

Queen Bethany stood in the garden of the Red Keep, surveying her surroundings with a sense of satisfaction. Long tables filled with an array of spring foods stretched before her, a testament to the bounty of the season and her meticulous planning. Platters of roasted lamb and venison, fresh spring greens, poached salmon, and tarts made from early strawberries and rhubarb adorned the tables. Loaves of warm bread, buttered carrots, and creamy leek soup added to the spread, alongside pitchers of chilled wine and honeyed mead.

Today was the Day of the Mother, a significant occasion in the Faith of the Seven. The day had begun with an early visit to the sept, where she had spoken with the High Septon and made a generous donation. The event had been grand, with the holy man thanking her profusely. As she and her ladies paraded back to the Keep, they threw coins to the crowd, their devotion evident in every gesture. Yet, the absence of the Targaryens gnawed at her. They paid only lip service to the Faith, and the King, despite knowing her devout nature, had not bothered to support her.

Her attention shifted to the luncheon she had prepared for the nobility. A thirty-person bard played in the background, their music providing a lively ambiance. She felt a swell of pride as the ladies around her praised the food and entertainment.

“Your Grace, the roasted lamb is exquisite,” Lady Redwyne remarked, savoring a bite.

“And these tarts,” added Lady Darklyn, “the strawberries are perfectly sweet. You’ve truly outdone yourself.”

Lady Celtigar nodded in agreement. “The leek soup is divine. It’s no wonder everyone is enjoying themselves so thoroughly.”

Bethany smiled graciously, her eyes glancing toward the dance floor. Her daughter, Rosalynd, was twirling with Princess Rhaena and Prince Viserys, their laughter mingling with the music. Rosalynd had immediately assimilated herself with the royal children, her charm and grace evident in every movement. Bethany’s heart swelled with maternal pride at the sight of her delightful little lady.

Her contentment faltered as she turned and saw Princess Rhaenyra and her ladies commandeering one of the pavilions. They were being served with food and drinks, the spoiled princess not even bothering to stand up to get her own provisions. The sight made Bethany grimace.

“Such arrogance,” she murmured to Lady Redwyne. “She doesn’t even rise to fetch her own food.”

Lady Redwyne glanced over and sighed. “Rhaenyra has always been indulged. Especially now that she’s pregnant. This is the first pregnancy she spent in the Red Keep and the Court had been very charmed.”

Bethany forced a smile, though her annoyance lingered. “Indeed. It seems some are born into privilege and never learn the value of true service to others.” It was annoying that the princess was pregnant the same time as her, although her looks very small. The Princess does not even look pregnant from the back but everyone stops everything they do just to cater to her.

Lady Cuy, overhearing, leaned in. “Your Grace, the High Septon spoke highly of your piety today. The Targaryens may neglect the Faith, but your example shines brightly.”

Bethany’s smile became genuine. “Thank you, Lady Cuy. It is my duty and honor to uphold the Faith of the Seven.”

As the bards struck up a new tune and the children’s laughter rang out, Queen Bethany took a deep breath, allowing herself to enjoy the moment. Despite the Targaryens’ indifference and Rhaenyra’s insolence, today was a triumph. Her devotion to the Faith and her skill in hosting had not gone unnoticed. She would continue to assert her influence, one gracious gesture and well-planned event at a time. The princess was still the one to organized her children's birthday feasts and even arranged for a day where all food in the city was free for the smallfolk, but Bethany would ensure that the King's upcoming birthday celebration would be the grandest the realm had ever seen.

She spotted Otto Hightower standing to the side, deep in conversation with a lord. With a determined stride, she made her way towards him, her presence commanding attention.

"Lord Hand," she greeted, her tone dripping with false sweetness. "I did not think you would be able to attend today's festivities, given how... overcome you were with your strange ailment.” The first night of the full moon was last night she did not think he would be strong enough to make an appearance.

Otto's eyes flickered with displeasure, but he maintained a courteous demeanor. "Your Grace," he replied, bowing slightly. "It is good to see you as always. I would not miss such an important celebration.”

Bethany knew her words pricked at his pride. It always irked him to show deference to her, a reminder of his position despite his power. She relished this small victory, knowing how much it irritated her uncle to bow to his older brother's daughter.

"Do make sure to control your bladder, Otto." she said, her voice low but cutting. "I do not want you stinking up my gathering.”

Otto’s jaw tightened, his controlled anger evident in the steely glint of his eyes. "Of course, Your Grace," he replied, his voice steady. "I will ensure my presence does not disrupt your festivities.”

Queen Bethany's eyes widened as she noticed the King standing up, seemingly preparing to leave. Princess Rhaenyra and her children walked beside him, their steps purposeful. Quickly, Bethany hurried despite her seven month large belly to intercept them.

"My King, where are you going?" she asked, her voice carefully controlled.

The King turned to her, his expression jovial. "The princess has prepared a small entertainment at the orphanage. We thought it would be a nice surprise to make an appearance. The children will be delighted!”

Bethany's eyes narrowed slightly. "I did not know about this.”

Princess Rhaenyra, ever the picture of innocence, smiled sweetly. "Oh, step-mother, I've been planning this for weeks. You must have been terribly busy not to notice.”

Bethany felt a surge of frustration and barely suppressed the urge to stomp her feet. This was the first major event she had organized in the past seven months, and now they were leaving early! She had wanted it to be a grand feast, but the Day of the Mother was always celebrated in the morning through lunch. Still, she had put so much effort into making this day special.

She forced a smile, though it felt tight. "Of course, Princess. I'm sure the children at the orphanage will be delighted.”

She did not have any choice but to accompany them as everyone seems to be coming down to the orphanage. Bethany sat uncomfortably in the carriage, her irritation mounting with every jolt and sway. She had endured this ride this morning because it was necessary for the public display of piety, but now it was an aggravation she could barely tolerate. Her daughter, Rosalynd, began to climb up the seats to look outside like the two princes, but Bethany pulled her back sharply, glaring. Thankfully, Rosalynd got the message and sat silently beside her.

Bethany watched as Prince Aegon steadied Prince Viserys, wrapping one hand around his younger brother's waist while holding onto the window sill with the other. They whispered to each other in their foreign tongue, a language that grated on Bethany's nerves. She had requested time and again that they refrain from speaking their heathen language around her, only to be rebuked each time. She recalled Prince Daemon's words vividly: she had married into their family and needed to assimilate, and he would not tolerate anyone who tried to suppress their ancestry. Even the King had sided with him, leaving her no choice but to grit her teeth whenever they spoke it.

The littlest prince shouted in glee, pointing excitedly at something outside. Bethany followed his gaze and saw a long line of people at the gates of the orphanage. They were giving out free bread and soup to mothers, children, and the elderly. The makeshift tent where the food was being served looked bustling and well-organized. Large pots of thick, newly-cooked soup were being ladled into bowls, and the bread was fresh, unlike the leftovers Bethany usually sent down from the Keep after every feasts. She wanted to roll her eyes at the sight. Princess Rhaenyra would bend over backwards to gain the favor of everyone in the city, incurring unnecessary costs that, in Bethany's opinion, could be achieved with leftovers.

The carriage stopped and they all got out. The former Celtigar property was vast, sprawling over a large area with a courtyard at the front, two guest houses, and a second courtyard surrounded by lush gardens. The mansion itself boasted twenty-four rooms, and a lower bailey housed the guards and servants. As Queen Bethany and her entourage entered through the back gate, they passed by the lower bailey, its bustling activity a stark contrast to the more refined areas of the estate. They walked along the side of the mansion towards the second courtyard, where people were already mingling.

Upon their arrival, Princess Rhaenyra took to a raised platform to address the gathered nobles and courtiers. Her voice rang out clear and confident. “Dear friends, it is my honor to welcome you all today. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks for your continued support, especially during the lengthy winter we endured. Today, we celebrate the beginning of spring and look forward to our continued partnership in the days ahead.”

The crowd applauded, with King Viserys and Princes Daemon, Aegon and Viserys clapping the loudest. Princess Rhaena was looking at the people clapping, clearly pleased.

Queen Bethany managed a strained smile, which felt more like a grimace. She asked to be escorted to her seat, eager to relieve her swollen ankles and aching back. As she settled down, she flinched at the sight of her darling Rosalynd playing with the orphans. The children wore clean but plain linens, and while Bethany's instinct was to call her daughter back, she knew it would not look good, especially since Princess Rhaena, Prince Aegon, Prince Viserys, and Monterys Velaryon were all playing loudly with them.

“Lady Peake, please fetch me some wine,” she requested, feeling the need for a drink if she was to endure watching Princess Rhaenyra flit about, trying to endear herself to the nobles and courtiers.

Bethany clapped obligingly as a group of theater actors arrived, ready to perform a play. The children were soon seated on little chairs, their eyes wide with anticipation. The actors and jesters began their performance, a lively and engaging tale befitting the Day of the Mother festivities.

The story was about a kind and wise mother who lived in a small village. She had seven children, each representing one of the aspects of the Seven. The mother taught her children virtues such as compassion, courage, wisdom, and justice. As the play unfolded, the mother guided her children through various challenges, helping them understand the importance of these virtues. The jesters added humor and excitement, with acrobatics and amusing antics that had the children laughing and clapping.

In one scene, the mother helped her daughter, representing the Maiden, to overcome her fear of the dark by teaching her bravery and faith. In another, she assisted her son, symbolizing the Warrior, in understanding that true strength comes from protecting the weak. The Clown and the Smith had a particularly hilarious exchange that left the audience in stitches, demonstrating the value of hard work and humility.

As the play concluded, the mother gathered her children and reminded them that while they each had unique strengths, they were strongest when they worked together and supported one another. The moral of the story was clear: the virtues of the Seven were essential in building a strong, compassionate community.

The children were thoroughly entertained, their faces lit with delight. Bethany watched with a mix of emotions, feeling both a sense of duty fulfilled and the lingering annoyance at the princess’s efforts to overshadow her. Yet, she clapped along with the rest, acknowledging the performers' skill and the joy they had brought to the children.

Queen Bethany’s labor began in the early hours of the morning. Despite it not being her first time, each contraction felt more intense and unrelenting than before. She gripped the sheets, her body drenched in sweat as waves of pain crashed over her. Her mother, Lady Hightower, was by her side, holding her hand and murmuring words of comfort.

“You’re strong, Bethany, ” her mother whispered, gently wiping her forehead. “Just a little longer.”

The room buzzed with activity, filled with the Grand Maester, numerous acolytes, and an army of midwives and maids. Their hushed consultations and hurried movements formed a backdrop of urgency. The Grand Maester’s frequent glances toward Bethany revealed his concern.

Bethany’s world narrowed to the searing pain and her mother’s comforting presence. Each contraction felt like a battle, leaving her more exhausted and drained. Despite her previous labors, this one felt new and brutal.

“Keep breathing, my dear,” her mother encouraged, squeezing her hand.

As the hours dragged on, Princess Rhaenyra was summoned to the room. Bethany, already crowning, saw her stepdaughter enter, her own belly swollen with a child due in a month. The sight of Rhaenyra in the birthing chamber, looking concerned and out of place, sparked a flicker of irritation in Bethany. She wanted to shout at her to leave but could not muster the energy or risk appearing cruel.

The struggle continued, with Bethany pushing through the excruciating pain. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she felt the release as the child emerged. Relief flooded her, but it was quickly replaced by a tense silence that fell over the room and the small cry of her babe. Bethany’s heart pounded as she tried to sit up, but another wave of pain pinned her back down.

“Is it a boy?” her mother asked, her voice trembling with hope.

“Yes, it is a boy.” the Grand Maester confirmed, his voice strained.’

Bethany's vision blurred as she strained to see her child. She noticed everyone averting their eyes, their expressions grim. Hushed whispers filled the room, and an ominous feeling settled over her. She caught sight of Rhaenyra standing behind the Grand Maester, peering down at her child.

“Give him to me!” Bethany demanded, her voice raw and urgent. How dare Rhaenyra see her son before she did.

The Grand Maester stammered, “We need to clean the babe first—”

“Give me my child!” Bethany shouted, her voice cracking with desperation.

The midwife stepped forward, holding the baby wrapped in grey linens. Bethany’s heart soared momentarily as she reached out, but her smile faltered as she looked at her son.

The child, who had been eagerly awaited, was now the center of profound grief. He was only half-formed, his tiny body delicate and fragile. The most striking and heartbreaking feature was his head, grotesquely incomplete, as if a butcher had cleanly cut the upper part of his skull off. Where there should have been a rounded, fully developed head, there was only a tragic void, exposing parts of the brain that should have been safely encased in bone and covered by soft skin

Bethany’s breath caught in her throat. The room seemed to spin as she took in the horrifying sight. Her son, her precious child, was a malformed tragedy. Horror and disbelief washed over her.

“That’s not my son!” she cried, almost throwing the child back to the midwife, who caught him in shock. “That monster is not my son!”

Panic and hysteria took over. Bethany tried to climb out of bed, slapping and clawing at anyone who tried to hold her down. Her screams echoed through the chamber.

The door burst open, and King Viserys entered, his face a mask of concern. “What is this commotion about?” he demanded.

The Grand Maester, pale and shaking, explained the situation haltingly. Bethany’s eyes locked onto Rhaenyra, who was staring at her in horror while clutching her own belly.

“You!” Bethany snarled, pointing a trembling finger at her stepdaughter. “You took my son because you're afraid he will overshadow you! The princess took our son, Viserys! Punish her!”

Viserys moved to placate her with kind words, but Bethany was inconsolable, her accusations flying wildly. “No, it’s not true! That monster is not my son, Rhaenyra took my son away!”

Her cries of denial continued until the King, his patience snapping, slapped her across the face. The room fell silent in shock. “You are not to bring any unfounded accusations against my daughter!” he commanded harshly.

Her mother gasped and hugged her to her chest.

Bethany collapsed into sobs, mumbling, “It was not my son… not my son…”

A sudden cry from Rhaenyra broke the silence. There was a pool of water at her feet, and she was clutching her belly in pain. The King was at her side in an instant, his voice urgent as he called for help.

The room erupted into chaos once more as attendants rushed to assist the Princess.

Her face twisted in glee. 'Perhaps the whor* will die and I will be free of her.'

Chapter 29

Notes:

long post ahead lol sorry

Chapter Text

Daemon POV

As Daemon paced the corridor outside the birthing chamber, his nerves coiling like serpents in his gut, he couldn't drown out the echoes of Rhaenyra's shouts, even through the thick walls and sturdy doors of the Holdfast. He had been in the midst of familiarizing Aegon and Viz with the layout of the training yard, pointing out the different weapons and their placements, as well as the off-limits areas without supervision, when a page came racing towards him, breathless with urgency.

With a heart that leaped into his throat, Daemon handed off the children to Ser Luthor and Ser Harwin, his trusted knights, before sprinting back towards the Holdfast. He took the stairs two at a time, his urgency propelling him upwards as if he could defy gravity itself. Confusion gnawed at him momentarily as he registered that Rhaenyra was in the Queen's Apartments, but the sight that met his eyes erased all other thoughts.

There, in the grand chamber, the Grand Maester was attempting to pin Rhaenyra to the bed, his hands hovering over her swollen belly with an air of authority that grated against Daemon's nerves like steel against stone. Without a moment's hesitation, Daemon bodily threw the Grand Maester against the wall, a primal roar ripping from his throat as he swept his wife up into his arms.

Ignoring the protests and splutters of the bewildered Grand Maester and his acolytes, Daemon raced towards their own birthing chamber, the adrenaline coursing through his veins like wildfire.

Inside, the room was a hive of activity. Maester Gerardys, newly arrived from Dragonstone, was conferring with Maester Alar, personally vetted by Archmaester Vaegon. Rhaenyra's numerous midwives bustled about, their faces etched with concern and determination, while Healer Alia and Healer Helene from the Free Cities stood ready at the bedside.

It had been four hours since Rhaenyra began her labor, and Daemon's nerves were frayed to their limit. Lady Selene had informed him that Aegon and Viserys were back in the Holdfast, being entertained by Rhaenyra's other ladies-in-waiting. She also revealed the reason for Rhaenyra's early labor: a vicious accusation from the Queen. Daemon's agitation surged at the thought; if he weren't so on edge, he might have stormed to the Queen's chambers and run her through with his sword.

His glare bore into his brother, the King, who stood uselessly on the side. "If something happens to my wife or child, I will drag Bethany Hightower by her hair through the streets and feed her to Caraxes.”

The King bristled, a flicker of anger in his eyes. "You can't—”

"Who's going to stop me? You?" Daemon retorted, his eyes raking over his brother's weakened form. The King leaned heavily on his cane, stumbling when he kicked it away. Ser Thorne was quick to assist the King, while Ser Fell's hand hovered over his sword, ready to draw.

At that moment, the door opened, and Healer Alia stepped out. "The Princess is asking for you." she said.

The Grand Maester, always pompous and officious, protested, "The birthing room is no place for a man—”

Before he could finish, Daemon grabbed the old man by the collar and lifted him off his feet, hurling him against the open window. The Grand Maester nearly tumbled out, saved only by the quick reflexes of the Kingsguard, who managed to grab his ankle.

Ignoring the shocked faces of the King and his useless maesters, Daemon slipped inside the birthing chamber. The sight that met him was both heart-wrenching and hopeful.

Rhaenyra was pacing back and forth near the side of the narrow bed, her thin, almost see-through slip clinging to her form. Everyone kept their distance, even Lady Amanda, who watched with worried eyes. Daemon, unable to bear the sight, snapped, "Why are you not helping her?”

One of the midwives replied timidly, "The Princess refused anyone's help, my prince.”

Rhaenyra was agitated, tears streaming down her face as she murmured quietly to herself, her hands caressing the bump of her stomach, she was almost hunched down in pain but she refused to lay down. Daemon motioned for the maids to help him remove his leathers until he was left in just a white tunic and breeches. Daemon approached her slowly, trying not to startle her.

"Byka zaldrīzes," he said softly, "let me help you.”

Rhaenyra looked up, fear evident in her lilac eyes. "Kepa! I cannot lose her, I cannot!”

He embraced his wife, who clung to him tightly.

"I did everything right," she sobbed. "There should be nothing wrong, but it's happening again.’"

He didn't fully understand her words, but he kissed her temple and promised, "I'm here, and together, we'll bring this child into the world. Will you let me help you?”

Rhaenyra cried but nodded. He gently helped her onto the too-narrow bed. Healer Helene directed him to get behind the Princess, and he complied. The Pentoshi surgeon pulled up the upper part of the bed so he could lean against it while Rhaenyra leaned on him.

With his arms wrapped around her, Daemon could feel the tension in her body. He whispered soothingly in her ear, "You're strong, Rhaenyra. We can do this together.”

She gripped his hands, her knuckles white. The midwives and healers moved efficiently around them, their faces focused and determined. The Maesters were supervising everyone, ready to assist anytime they are needed but it is Healer Helene who took charge, giving calm instructions to the others while keeping a close eye on Rhaenyra's progress.

"Focus on your breathing, Princess," Healer Helene said gently. "Slow and steady.”

Rhaenyra nodded, taking deep breaths, her body trembling with effort and fear. Daemon's heart ached seeing her in such pain, but he remained a steady presence, holding her close.

Time seemed to stretch endlessly as the labor progressed. Daemon murmured words of encouragement, his voice a constant anchor for Rhaenyra. He felt every contraction with her, every moment of struggle. He can see the agitation on the healers’ faces as the labor prolonged so he closed his eyes and tried to remember that one passage in Visenya’s journal.

He was not as inclined to the Arts as Rhaenyra but he is Targaryen, magic in in their blood. He pressed his thumb against the three-headed dragon on the ring on his forefinger until the pressure broke the skin and blood welled up. With careful precision, he drew a Valyrian glyph on Rhaenyra's lower back, a simple, interlocking design representing unity, strength, and shared burden. The vertical line in the middle symbolized the flow of pain being transferred.

As he worked, he murmured his love into Rhaenyra's ear. When her contractions subsided for a moment, he breathed together with her, their breaths synchronizing almost immediately. He murmured a prayer chant in High Valyrian.

‘In love and strength, we stand as one,
Sharing burdens, till our work is done.
With this mark, our pain divide,
Half to me, as our hearts are tied.’

He repeated the chant three times, his voice steady and strong. Suddenly, the candles in the room flared up, their flames rising high and causing everyone except Maester Gerardys to gasp in fright. The midwives exchanged fearful glances, and Aunt Amanda clutched her hands together, her eyes closed in a silent prayer.

"Continue with your work." Maester Gerardys instructed calmly, his voice a beacon of authority in the tense room.

The next time a contraction hit, the pain flowed from Rhaenyra into Daemon, and he almost shouted in agony. He knew labor pains would be intense, but he hadn't expected this level of excruciating torment. IT was so painful he thought he was going to pass out. He felt Caraxes' fire burning in his chest, focusing on that familiar sensation instead of the pain, he gripped Rhaenyra's hand tightly.

"Push, Rhaenyra," he urged when another wave of contractions came, his voice strained but encouraging.

Rhaenyra bore down with a fierce determination, her grip on Daemon's hand tightening. He could feel every wave of pain as if it were his own, but he held on, sharing her burden. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the baby slid out of her, and a newborn's cry filled the room.

Daemon's pain receded as he looked at their child, tears of relief and joy filling his eyes. He kissed Rhaenyra's temple, his heart overflowing with pride and love.

"You did it, my love," he whispered, his voice choked with emotion. "She's here.”

Rhaenyra, exhausted but radiant, looked at their daughter with a mixture of awe and triumph. "We did it." she echoed, her voice a soft, victorious murmur.

The midwives quickly tended to the baby, cleaning and swaddling her before placing her in Rhaenyra's arms. Daemon held them both, his family, feeling a profound sense of unity and strength. The pain had been shared, and now, so was the joy.

Daemon moved through the corridors with purpose, the excitement of introducing their children to their new sibling coursing through him. He reached the nursery, already hearing the familiar chaos from within. Opening the door, he found Rhaena struggling to fasten the top button of Viserys' nightgown while he stubbornly pushed her away, chanting, "NO! NO! NO!”

Rhaena glared at the younger Prince, her patience clearly wearing thin. "Stop being naughty! We have to be dressed for bed so if Muña comes in to read us stories, we’re already ready.”

Viserys just screamed louder, "Muña! Muña! Muña!" On the other side of the room, Aegon stood with his hands over his ears, the maids hovering around, looking exasperated after likely being rebuffed by the littlest prince.

"What is that noise? It can crumble a tower!" Daemon exclaimed, stepping fully into the room.

Vis immediately got to his feet and barreled towards him, arms outstretched, crying out for his father. Daemon picked him up and tossed him into the air once, twice, transforming his cries into screeches of delight. Hugging him to his chest, Daemon wiped the tears from Vis' face.

"Are you being a pain in the ass for Rhaena?" he asked with a smirk.

"Kepa! That’s a bad word!" Rhaena admonished, crossing her arms in a perfect imitation of Rhaenyra.

Daemon chuckled and set Vis down. "Come on, you lot. It’s time to meet your new sibling.”

The children’s faces lit up with excitement, the maids helped them into their little velvet robes and they followed him eagerly. They reached one of the smaller rooms where the Healers had allowed Rhaenyra to rest after her bath. She would spend the night here, monitored by the midwives before being allowed back to their own apartments. The room was similar to the healing chambers in the Stepstones and Dragonstone, equipped with everything the healers might need in case of an emergency.

Daemon led his brood inside. Rhaenyra was leaning against a mountain of pillows, looking tired but serene, with a swaddled bundle in her arms. His brother, the King, was sitting on the chair beside her.

She smiled warmly as they entered, her eyes lighting up at the sight of her family.

Daemon put Vis on the bed, immediately noticing his son's intent to throw himself into his mother's arms. He quickly leaned down and whispered into his ear, "Be careful, look, our baby is with Muña.”

Vis peered curiously at the bundle in Rhaenyra's arms. "Senya?" he asked with wide eyes.

Rhaenyra smiled, her exhaustion momentarily forgotten. "Yes, my love, this is our Visenya.”

Vis tried to pat Rhaenyra's stomach, only to look confused at how much smaller it was now. His innocent bewilderment made the King laugh heartily. Daemon glanced over at his brother, who looked healthier and more robust than he had in months. King Viserys' eyes shone with pride and joy, the sight of his growing family evidently uplifting his spirits.

"Come, let's join them." Daemon said, assisting Rhaena and Aegon onto the bed as well. They crowded around Rhaenyra, their faces alight with curiosity and excitement.

Aegon, peering closely at the baby, whispered, "She's so tiny.”

“She’ll grow." Daemon assured him, his hand resting on Aegon's shoulder. “You were once as small as our Senya.” The boy looked at him, skeptical.

Rhaena leaned in, her eyes filled with wonder. "Kepa, will she be strong like us?”

Daemon nodded, his heart swelling with pride. "Yes, she will. She's a Targaryen.”

The children settled around their mother, their initial excitement giving way to a quiet reverence as they gazed at their new sister. Rhaenyra looked around at her family, her heart full. Daemon leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead, murmuring, "You did well.”

Rhaenyra's eyes sparkled with tears of joy and exhaustion. "Yes, we did.”.

The children stayed for over an hour, playing and making faces at the baby. Rhaena was already talking about the best clothes she would have the Royal Seamstress make for Visenya.

"I think she needs a dress with silver thread and tiny dragon scales sewn into the hem." Rhaena said excitedly, her eyes sparkling with ideas.

Aegon, meanwhile, was more focused on the dragons. "Can we get her an egg from the Dragonmont? I want her to have a strong dragon like Caraxes.”

Daemon smiled at his son's enthusiasm. "I promise, Aegon, when I go to the Dragonmont next week, I'll take you with me. We'll find the perfect egg for Visenya.”

Rhaenyra had long since moved all the dragon eggs and hatchlings from the Dragonpit to the Dragonmont. After the Archmaester claimed Dreamfyre, the only dragons in the pit were theirs.

Rhaena turned to her sister, still full of energy. "Mandia, can I come too? I want to see the dragons!”

Rhaenyra chuckled softly, shaking her head. "Not this time, Rhaena. But soon, I promise. I need you to stay here with me and help me look after Visenya, okay?”

The little girl nodded and poked Visenya’s face gently and giggled.

Lady Selene and Lady Anella arrived to take the children back to the nursery. Vis tried to cling to his mother’s neck, his little arms holding tight.

"Please, Vis, you need to rest." Rhaenyra murmured, kissing his forehead. "I'll see you soon, I promise.”

With some hushed promises and gentle words, Rhaenyra managed to pacify him. Daemon took Visenya from her arms and placed her in the golden cradle that King Viserys had commissioned. It was ostentatious, adorned with intricate designs but noticeably devoid of any dragons.

Daemon walked alongside the King as he too retired for the night. Once they were outside and away from prying ears, Daemon turned to his brother, his expression hard and unyielding.

"I do not want your bitch of a wife anywhere near my wife and children." he declared.

Viserys looked taken aback, his eyes widening. "Daemon, you cannot be serious—”

"I am dead serious, Viserys. As dead as she will be if I see her anywhere near our wing.”

Viserys took a deep breath, attempting to calm the rising tension. "Bethany is overcome, she did not mean it—”

"Her ridiculous outburst caused my wife to go into early labor. I could have lost Rhaenyra, Viserys. I could have lost them both." Daemon's voice trembled with suppressed fury.

The horror in the King's eyes finally showed he understood the seriousness of the situation.

Daemon continued, his tone icy. "I do not care if she was overcome, she still caused it. I do not want a gift from her or her family, I do not want her to even breathe in the same direction as my wife, especially as she is still recovering. And if she or her family causes unnecessary stress to my wife, I will destroy them all.”

Viserys stared at Daemon, seeing the resolve and the protective fury in his brother's eyes. He realized that arguing would be futile. "I will speak with Bethany. I will ensure she stays away.”

Daemon nodded curtly. "See that you do.”

Viserys sighed heavily, feeling the weight of the situation pressing down on him. "I will make sure she understands the consequences. Rhaenyra’s safety is my priority too.”

With that, Daemon turned and went back to Rhaenyra’s room for the night. Rhaenyra was peering down their daughter on the ridiculous bassinet.

"This one is for show," Daemon remarked, his tone slightly amused. "For the Lady's Hall, where everyone can see it.”

Rhaenyra nodded, her eyes following Daemon's movements. "The cradle that the Masseys made will be the one we use in our own chambers and the nursery. It's made from dragonglass, strong and fitting for a Targaryen."

He turned back to Rhaenyra, who was watching him with tired but content eyes.

"Rest now," Daemon said softly, leaning down to kiss her. "The midwives and I will keep a close watch on you tonight.” He said as he laid down beside her.

Rhaenyra sighed, leaning back against the pillows. "I will. Thank you, Daemon.”

Daemon stood on the balcony, dressed in a simple white tunic and black breeches, carrying his newborn daughter, Visenya. Unlike Aegon when he was smaller, who absolutely abhorred sunlight, Visenya basked in it, her tiny face turning toward the warmth with a contented expression. Despite the chill in the air, he kept her wrapped in a soft velvet nightgown, making sure she was comfortable as they soaked in the morning light.

It had been a month since the traumatic birth of his daughter, and thankfully, it had been quiet. They had withdrawn from court life to ensure that Rhaenyra could rest properly and that Visenya could thrive. Every day, the King visited the children, and Daemon could not fault him for that.

Just a week ago, the Queen had requested an audience. She apologized profusely for her outburst, curtsying so deeply that her knees must have touched the ground. Rhaenyra graciously accepted her apology but refused when the Queen asked to hold Visenya. The King did not make a fuss about it and ushered his vile wife away.

Daemon made sure the servants spread the story not just within the Keep but also in the city. Whenever Elaena went into the city to buy Rhaena's favorite strawberry tarts from a certain merchant, she would recount the harrowing tale of Rhaenyra's labor, emphasizing that it had been caused by the Queen. The people were furious, claiming that the Hightowers only produced trouble for the Targaryens. They spoke of Alicent, who had schemed her way into the royal family by whoring herself to the King, and now Bethany, whose reckless actions had endangered Rhaenyra and her child. The sight of her bloody while punching a woman to death was still fresh in their minds. It was also well known that she had faced no consequences because her family had paid off the old woman's kin.

The common folk were incensed, muttering that the Hightowers' blood was cursed, producing nothing but monsters. This growing resentment was exactly what Daemon had hoped for, ensuring that any future transgressions by the Queen or her kin would be met with even greater public outcry. NO matter how many gold dragons the Hightower paid to the Sept, their reputation were still in tatters.

The people were even angry that the deformed monster that slid out of Bethany’s legs died on the same day that Visenya was born, two days after it’s birth. They said that it tarnished the happy occasion and it should have died the day before or the day after.

Sometimes, the smallfolk are really vicious.

He glanced down into the garden below, watching with a smile as Aegon, Viserys, and Monterys Velaryon chased each other with gleeful shouts. Their laughter filled the air, a comforting and joyous sound. Nearby, Rhaena was hosting a tea party in the newly built pavilion, sharing her dolls and tea sets with Ladies Elinda and Anella. The sight warmed Daemon’s heart, seeing his children so carefree and happy.

The garden itself was a fortress of privacy and safety. Daemon built a winding staircase that connected their sitting rooms directly to the gardens. High walls surrounded the area, cloaked in vines to blend seamlessly with the natural beauty of the space. The only entrance was a small gate used by the gardeners, guarded night and day to ensure their sanctuary remained secure.

He had grand plans for this garden. When summer comes, he intended to build a small pool so the children could enjoy themselves without needing to venture to the beach. He’d done something similar in the Bloodstones, carving a three-tiered natural pool into a rocky hill behind the castle. Rhaenyra and her ladies particularly loved spending time there, and he knew the children would delight in a similar retreat here.

Daemon’s servants were already accustomed to finding new buildings or structures erected seemingly overnight. They barely blinked at the sight of fresh constructions, a testament to Daemon’s constant drive to improve and secure his surroundings. Each household—the King's, the Queen's, and the Crown Princess's—operated separately, so he doubts the other servants have known about the new additions yet. But he didn't really give a damn.

Daemon felt a sudden chill from his ring and he turned back inside. The door to their bedchamber was shut tightly.

The night before, Visenya had been especially disagreeable, crying incessantly and wanting to be held constantly. Maester Gerardys had mentioned something about colic which is completely normal, but the explanation brought little comfort to Daemon and Rhaenyra, who had only managed a few hours of sleep before the sun rose. Rhaenyra is still soundly asleep. Daemon, accustomed to long nights and little rest from his time at war, felt barely affected.

HE crossed the sitting room that housed a ridiculous amount of couches, padded chairs and floor pillows towards the solar. He noticed the ornate mirror they had brought from Dragonstone shimmering ever so slightly. His instincts sharpened, he approached a hidden latch on the table and pulled out a small dragonglass candle. Placing it in front of the mirror, he pressed his thumb against his signet ring until it drew blood, murmuring an incantation.

Flame of ancient fire, ignite,
With dragonglass, bring forth the light.
By dragon's breath and shadow's gleam,
Awake the power, fulfill the dream.

The dragonglass candle flared to life, casting a dancing light across the room. Daemon then whispered another prayer,

Mirror bright, by dragonglass light,
Open a path through shadowed night.
Reflection of flame, bridge the divide,
Connect our words, let them glide.

The shimmering of the mirror intensified, and its surface began to ripple like disturbed water. Daemon watched intently as the reflection within the glass shifted, morphing into the familiar visage of Bloodstone’s walls. His connection spell was complete.

It was the pinched face of Maester Vaegon who greeted Daemon through the shimmering mirror. "Archmaester," Daemon greeted curtly. "Is there any problem?”

The archmaester held up a hardbound book. "I finished it." he said, writing something on the book and then showing it to Daemon before taking out another book with the exact same writings. Daemon raised an eyebrow in question.

"Whatever you write on this book will appear on the other book. We can write the contracts here, and Rhaenyra can put her signature and seal on the other book, and it will appear as a perfect copy here. You do not have to travel twelve hours just to sign a damn trading contract." Vaegon explained.

"Ingenious." Daemon praised, which earned him a frown.

"No, the instructions were in the grimoire. I just had to find the proper ingredients to soak the pages and the ink." Vaegon said dryly.

Daemon nodded. "In a month, we will present Visenya to court, and I can go back to the Stepstones after that.”

The archmaester nodded but did not remove their connection. "Is there anything else, Archmaester?”

"Yes, there are some former slaves who want asylum in the Stepstones.” The older man said.

"I couldn't see why not, we had some runaway slaves before as well and they assimilated fine.” He said.

“They are a bit more than the ten we had last.”

He narrowed his eyes at the Archmaester. “How many?”

“About a thousand.” He answered.

Daemon almost choked and would have cursed up a storm if he were not still carrying Visenya in his arms. "The slave cities will not like that.”

"They are not happy about it." the older man said.

"Archmaester, we do not need war with the slavers.” He said exasperatedly.

"They would not want war with us. We have two dragons in the Stepstones, ten thousand standing army, and a fleet. And I can just capsize their ships on a whim.” He huffed arrogantly. The way the Archmaester had taken to hydromancy was amazing. It was as if he had been able to do it since he was a child. The way he master each technique was something he envied.

"Alright, the former slaves already on the island can stay, but they need to work, either in the establishments or the fields. We are not taking them in to laze around. But be careful allowing more, we do not want to be lax in our security. “

The archmaester snorted. "These are former slaves; they feel uncomfortable not doing anything. Plus, three hundred are soldiers, and an additional fifty grew up in the fighting pits. They will be helpful.” He said then continued. “Also, they brought barrels of seeds with them. We can see what we can do about it. One man said one of the islands is perfect for planting cotton seeds.”

"Just be careful, Uncle. The slave cities might not want war, but they will not take this lightly.” He warned.

"I know. We will be prepared.” The Archmaester said then pulled up what looks like a plan. “The builders are already done with the irrigation system so you can already have it polished. I added some water fountains on each of the islands for the people to get clean water from.”

He frowned. “I feel like I’m being taken advantage of.” He said.

“Blame yourself, you became a stone singer.” The Archmaester said drily.

“As if I have control over that.” He snorted.

“You do.” The older man said. “Your elemental affinity is closely tied to your personality. Good thing too since you make us save on a lot of money and time by building things with just a wave of your hand.

He rolled his eyes at the older man.

Daemon watched fondly as Rhaenyra helped Vis change into his nightgown. The soft glow of evening light filtered through the windows, casting a warm hue over the scene. Rhaenyra knelt in front of Vis, her hands deftly working the buttons of his tiny gown. Beside them, Daemon helped Aegon into his nightgown, the little boy squirming with excitement.

As Rhaenyra pulled Vis’ nightgown over his head, she suddenly stopped, realizing that the buttons were still fastened. With a playful gasp, she exclaimed, "Oh my, where is Vis? What happened to him?”

Vis giggled, his small hands trying to pull the gown down, but his head was stuck. Growing annoyed, he let out a whine. Rhaenyra quickly unfastened the buttons and slid the gown over his head, revealing his face. "Boo!" she said with a smile.

Vis squealed with delight, his earlier frustration forgotten. Daemon chuckled, turning his attention back to Aegon, who was already engrossed in his toys. The Royal toymaker had sent two sets of regiments, complete with tiny foot soldiers, cavalry, and archers—grey for Aegon and green for Viserys, corresponding to the colors of their dragons.

For the past few days, the nursery had been a battlefield, with toy soldiers scattered everywhere, creating a tripping hazard for anyone who walked through. Rhaena had been complaining about stepping on them, so Daemon had commissioned the toymaker to create a large diorama of a battlefield. It was a grand setup, complete with forests, hills, towers, and tents. It now covered most of the southern wall, but at least the toy soldiers stayed in their designated area and not scattered all over the floor.

"Who's winning, Aegon?" Daemon asked, leaning back on his arms as he watched the two children.

"Me!" Aegon declared triumphantly. "I burned all of Vis’ soldiers and tents.”

"No! No, they are not burned, they here!" Vis protested, toddling over to his brother and placing his soldiers back in their spots.

Daemon smiled as he watched the two boys, their tiny hands arranging the soldiers with great care. Rhaenyra joined him, sitting down and leaning against him, her eyes soft with affection as she watched their sons play.

"Do you think they’ll ever stop fighting over those soldiers?" she asked, resting her head on his shoulder.

"Not likely," Daemon replied with a chuckle. "But at least they’re learning strategy and tactics early. Look at Aegon hiding those soldiers under some grass so Vis cannot see them.”

Rhaenyra laughed softly. "Always the warrior, aren’t you?”

"Always," he agreed, placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. "But tonight, I’m just a father watching his sons play.”

Rhaena approached him, clutching a doll in her small hands. "Kepa, can you braid her hair like Queen Visenya’s?" she asked, her wide eyes full of expectation

Daemon smiled at his niece. "Of course, my pearl. Bring her here.”

Rhaena handed him the doll, and Daemon set to work, trying to brush through the tangled hair. His fingers fumbled with the tiny brush, and he was soon met with resistance. He tugged gently, but a large chunk of hair came off in his hand. His eyes widened in horror as he glanced over at Rhaena, who was thankfully busy picking out a gown for her doll.

He quickly stuffed the clump of hair under the carpet, hoping she wouldn’t notice. As he continued brushing and braiding the doll’s hair, he felt Rhaenyra’s amused gaze on him. He looked up to see her chuckling softly, her eyes sparkling with mirth. He glared at her, finished braiding the doll’s hair, tying it off with a small ribbon Rhaena had handed him.

"There, all done." he said, handing the doll back to his niece.

Rhaena inspected the braid with a critical eye, then smiled brightly. "It’s perfect, Kepa! Thank you!”

"You’re welcome, my pearl." he replied, ruffling her hair gently.

I cannot wait for Visenya to be big enough to join me on tea parties, Aegon and Vis cannot stay still for long and Monterys broke one of my cups. They’re all so clumsy.” She said.

“I’m sure Visenya would love having tea parties with you, mandia.” Rhaenyra said also braiding the hair of one of the dolls.

“All she does is sleep now.” Rhaena whined.

“She sleeps so she can grow faster.” He said. “Remember Vis was a small baby too who like to sleep and now he’s big.”

“No!” Vis protested. “I was not baby!”

“Oh but you are!” Rhaenyra said crawling towards Vis who was frowning at them. “You are my forever baby!” she said and tickled him on the sides.

“No! Senya is baby!” Vis shouted and tried to get away from his mother who pulled him in her lap and proceed to give him raspberry kisses.

He laughed at their silliness.

The Stepstones

Daemon surveyed his work and allowed himself a rare smile of satisfaction. The transformation of Bloodstone was nothing short of remarkable. The once rugged and barren island now boasted a sophisticated irrigation system, a testament to the ingenuity of the Archmaester’s visions.

The western part of the island now featured a vast spring, so large it appeared more like a lake nestled in the elevated terrain. This reservoir was the heart of the irrigation network. From it, a grand stone aqueduct extended, an imposing structure with arches and channels that carried life-giving water across the islands. The aqueducts, built with precision, were not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing, their arches blending seamlessly with the natural beauty of the landscape.

Daemon had ingeniously incorporated the stone bridges connecting the islands into the irrigation system. These bridges were not merely pathways but vital arteries of the network. Each bridge had a built-in channel or enclosed stone pipes along its length, designed to transport water from one island to the next. These channels were covered with flat stones, protecting the precious water flow from debris and evaporation.

Upon crossing the bridge to a secondary island, the aqueduct branched into smaller distribution channels made of stone or clay. These channels meandered through the farmlands, ensuring even water distribution to every corner of the fertile fields. Wooden sluice gates, strategically placed along these channels, allowed farmers to control the flow of water to their fields, providing flexibility and efficiency in irrigation.

Daemon took particular pride in the islands used for farming, where water wheels and norias were strategically placed at streams or lower elevations. These devices, through simple mechanical means, lifted water into higher channels or storage cisterns, making use of every drop. The fields were crisscrossed with shallow furrows, guiding water directly to the crops, ensuring that each plant received the sustenance it needed. In some areas, flat, terraced fields enabled flood irrigation, where water spread evenly across the surface, nourishing the soil.

Stone or clay cisterns were scattered around the islands, collecting and storing excess water from the aqueduct for use during dry periods. These cisterns, essential for ensuring a steady water supply, stood as silent guardians of the island's agricultural prosperity.

As Daemon stood overlooking the intricate network from a high vantage point, he felt a deep sense of accomplishment. The irrigation system was more than just a marvel of engineering; it was a lifeline that would sustain the people of the Stepstones, ensuring their survival and prosperity.

Daemon turned around to see Aegon playing with the children of the Aqueduct Steward. He had allowed Aegon to swim in the lake, giving him the rare freedom to play in the water. It had been such a long time since Aegon had been able to enjoy such simple pleasures.

He watched as Aegon slipped and fell into the water. For a brief moment, panic surged through Daemon, but Aegon quickly resurfaced, his mouth quivering. Daemon smiled reassuringly at his eldest, who smiled back. The other children joined him in the water, and soon, Aegon was laughing and splashing, his earlier fright forgotten.

"Wonderful! Simply wonderful! I am a genius." the Archmaester declared, breaking Daemon's reverie.

Daemon snorted at the older man's self-congratulation, earning himself a glare.

"You can use the same water systems in Dragonstone and Summerhall." the Archmaester continued. "Especially Summerhall. It will be easy to divert the water from co*ckleswent to the town and farms.”

The piece of land that Rhaenyra chose for the Crown, confiscated from the Stormlands after Cassandra Baratheon’s folly, was strategically located near the foothills of the Red Mountains. The Palace of Summerhall is being built close to the Stormlands' border with the Reach, to the east of the co*ckleswhent and southeast of the Blueburn. Rhaenyra's decision was deliberate, driven by a shrewd understanding of the region's geopolitical dynamics.

Summerhall's proximity to the border with Dorne made it an invaluable asset for future strategic endeavors. As tensions simmered between the Iron Throne and the Martells of Dorne, possessing a stronghold on the border could prove crucial in any potential conflict or diplomatic negotiation. With its location on the cusp of two powerful regions, Summerhall would serve as a key point of influence for the Crown.

Moreover, the land surrounding Summerhall was fertile, offering abundant agricultural opportunities. The Crown's investment in the region's infrastructure and development could easily transform it into a thriving agricultural hub. With proper management and investment, the next Prince or Princess of Summerhall would find it relatively straightforward to achieve self-sufficiency, ensuring the stability and prosperity of the Crown's holdings in the area.

"I agree, uncle. I will send the plans to the engineers so they can start surveying the land.” He said. “Dragonstone will especially benefit if we can redirect the water from the hot springs. The island is cold whatever the season is, so the smallfolk will benefit greatly." Daemon replied thoughtfully.

The Archmaester nodded, pleased with the agreement. "Maester Gerardys mentioned that they have relocated the smallfolk from their wooden huts to the newly built tenements. It would have been better if we had managed to build them before winter, as winter took twenty lives in Dragonstone due to exposure to the elements.”

The smallfolk of Dragonstone had long endured harsh living conditions, residing in flimsy wooden huts vulnerable to the island's relentless winds and frequent rains. Repairing these huts was a constant struggle, compounded by the scarcity of wood on the island. Recognizing the need for better housing, Daemon took decisive action.

He oversaw the construction of eight tenements, each rising six levels high, strategically placed across the island. Two stood in the salting village, four in the fishing village, and another two on the westernmost bank. These tenements provided shelter for more than five hundred people, offering a significant improvement in living conditions.

Unlike the Stepstones, Dragonstone was not open to accepting more outsiders. The island's inhabitants, descendants of ancient dragonseeds, were fiercely protective of their home and wary of outsiders. Their Valyrian heritage ran deep, and they held tight to their traditions and secrets. Dragonstone is the only place he can practice elemental magic without any fear.

The smallfolk expressed profound gratitude for their new housing, provided free of charge. In return, they were tasked with maintaining the tenements and preserving the peace of the island. Daemon made it clear that any disturbances would result in expulsion not only from the tenements but also from Dragonstone itself.

Maester Gerardys wrote that the smallfolk had used the empty lots between the tenements to plant a variety of vegetables to be used for their own used. They had planted spinach, kale, lettuce, carrots, radishes, beets, chive, sage, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, cabbages and many more.

Dragonstone's main trade revolves around salt, making it the largest supplier of this essential commodity to both Westeros and the Free Cities over the past year. However, the island's limited space and harsh terrain make agriculture challenging, forcing them to import most of their supplies. Daemon constantly pondered ways to make Dragonstone more self-sufficient.

As he stood contemplating these thoughts, the Archmaester interrupted, pointing out that Aegon seemed to be drowning one of the children. Daemon turned sharply and saw Aegon perched precariously on the shoulders of a boy, probably two-and-ten, who struggled to keep his head above water.

"Aegon! Get down from there this instant!" Daemon's voice rang out across the water.

Aegon's head snapped up, and he immediately slid off the older boy's shoulders, paddling quickly to the shore. The boy, relieved, gasped for air as he waded to shallower waters.

“Are you okay boy?” he called to which the wide-eyed boy stared at him and nodded.

Daemon approached the steward's wife, who had been watching anxiously and apologized, she was visibly surprised but said it’s just children’s play.

"Do you have any extra clothes for Aegon?" he asked.

The woman blushed, clearly embarrassed. "I have a simple linen tunic and breeches, my prince. They are not much.”

"That will be fine." Daemon reassured her. "I'll have some clothes sent from the castle for you and the children.”

The steward's wife looked up, gratitude evident in her eyes. "Thank you, my prince. That is very kind.”

Aegon, now dressed in the simple tunic and breeches, stood by his father's side, looking chastened. "I'm sorry, Father." he mumbled.

Daemon ruffled his hair, his stern expression softening. "It's alright, Aegon. Just be more mindful next time. Now, let's go flying.”

Aegon's face lit up with excitement. "Can I fly on Stormcloud?”

“Not yet.” He said “And he’s resting in the caves, flying from King’s Landing to here is vigorous work especially for him. But first, let's thank the kind lady for the clothes.”

Aegon turned to the steward's wife. "Thank you for the clothes." he said earnestly.

The woman smiled warmly. "You're welcome, young prince.”

HE did not plan for Aegon to be swimming in the spring when he decided to bring him to survey the aqueducts but he was already on the water before he can say anything.

Daemon informed the Archmaester that he intended to take Aegon flying for a while. The Archmaester, too absorbed in admiring his aqueduct, merely nodded in acknowledgment without looking up.

As they approached the dragons, Dreamfyre lounged at the bottom of the stairs leading up, her majestic form held proudly as she regarded them. The archmaester's absence seemed to irk her, and she let out a puff of smoke as if to express her displeasure.

"Hi, Dreamy!" Aegon called out, waving excitedly at the dragon. He knew better than to approach a dragon that wasn't his own, especially one as formidable as Dreamfyre.

Meanwhile, Caraxes was further away, his demeanor less welcoming. Daemon led Aegon towards him, taking his son into his arms as they approached the dragon. Caraxes eyed them warily, his gaze intense and predatory. Caraxes was known for his fiery temperament, and he tolerated few besides his chosen rider, Daemon, and Syrax. Even the hatchlings earned a snap or a warning hiss if they strayed too close.

"Hello, Cary!" Aegon greeted cheerfully, reaching out to pat the dragon's face with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Caraxes let out a low rumble in response, a sound that seemed to convey both acknowledgement and warning.

"We'll go on a long ride, my friend," Daemon said to Caraxes, his voice calm and reassuring. "Are you up for it?”

Caraxes responded with a trill, lowering his wing slightly as if inviting them aboard. Daemon carefully climbed up, ensuring each step landed securely on the dragon's ridged scales. His movements were practiced and fluid, a testament to the long standing experience.

The two-seater saddle adorning Caraxes' back was a masterpiece of craftsmanship, meticulously designed for safety, comfort, and durability. Crafted from the finest leather and reinforced with sturdy canvas, it was built to withstand the rigors of flight and the unpredictable movements of the dragon.

At the rear of the saddle, the primary seat awaited the rider, its design meticulously engineered for stability and security. Sturdy chains crisscrossed the backrest, ensuring the rider remained firmly anchored to the saddle even during the most turbulent flights. In front of this seat, nestled within the curvature of the saddle, was a smaller, high-backed seat tailored specifically for the child.

The child's seat boasted padded contours and a highback design, providing both support and comfort for the young passenger. A five-point harness system, complete with adjustable, cushioned straps, ensured the child's safety and prevented any chance of accidental slips or falls.

Connecting the two seats was a framework of robust leather, meticulously crafted to provide stability and balance throughout the entirety of the flight. An additional safety tether linked the child's seat directly to the dragon's saddle, offering an extra layer of security and peace of mind for both rider and dragon.

To enhance comfort, the saddle featured adjustable footrests for both rider and child, allowing them to find their optimal position during flight. The highback seat for the child was curved, providing ample support for their head, allowing them to lean back comfortably if they happened to drift off to sleep mid-flight.

As Daemon strapped Aegon securely into the child's seat in front of him, he could feel the mighty muscles of Caraxes flexing beneath them, a silent testament to the dragon's strength and readiness to take flight. Caraxes was eager to soar through the skies, and Daemon knew that if it were just him riding, they would have been airborne already. But with one of the children accompanying them, Caraxes displayed remarkable patience, waiting for the young prince to be safely secured before taking off.

With practiced hands, Daemon fastened the chains of the saddle around Aegon, ensuring he was securely anchored in place. Despite his eagerness, Caraxes remained still, his immense frame poised and ready for flight as he awaited the signal from his rider.

Once Aegon was securely strapped in, Daemon reached for the skygazer, a specialized piece of equipment designed by the Archmaester specifically for the children's use. The skygazer was expertly tailored to fit Aegon's small face, crafted from supple leather and adorned with intricate metalwork that caught the sunlight and gleamed brilliantly. The lenses, fashioned from polished quartz offered a clear and unobstructed view of the world below, shielding Aegon's eyes from the wind, dust, and glare of the sky.

With everything in place, Daemon and Aegon were ready to take flight. With a powerful flap of his wings, Caraxes launched them into the air, soaring gracefully upward. Aegon's delighted shout echoed through the air as they ascended, his eyes wide with wonder as he looked down at the islands passing beneath them.

As they made their rounds on the island, Daemon guided Caraxes with practiced ease, taking in the sights below with a sense of pride and satisfaction. The first landmark they passed was the basin-like spring created by the Archmaester, nestled on one of the rocky hills of Bloodstone.

Following the aqueducts towards Ashcroft Isle, Aegon pointed at the impressive image of Syrax, wrapped around the Main tower, she looks fearsome as if she will lunge in the air in any moment. Around the castle, the crops flourished, their vibrant green hues agiving life to the surrounding landscape.

The Tradeport bustled with activity, its streets teeming with life as makeshift stalls lined the thoroughfares, each one a hub of commerce and exchange. Foreign ships crowded the bustling harbor, their colorful sails fluttering in the breeze as traders from distant lands conducted their business on the docks. Along the cobblestone streets, merchants from across the known world bartered and traded their wares, creating a vibrant tapestry of cultures and goods.

From the far reaches of Essos, silk merchants displayed bolts of shimmering fabric, their intricate patterns and vibrant colors catching the eye of passersby. Spice traders from the Summer Isles offered exotic blends of cinnamon, cloves, and saffron, filling the air with their heady aromas. On another corner, merchants from Dorne showcased barrels of fine wines and olive oils, their rich flavors enticing those seeking a taste of luxury.

At the heart of the Tradeport, a group of Free Cities merchants set up stalls laden with fine jewelry and gemstones, their sparkling treasures drawing admirers from near and far. Meanwhile, traders from the Reach displayed baskets overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, harvested from the fertile fields of their homeland. And from the Iron Islands, rugged seafarers offered sturdy ships and weapons forged from iron, their goods prized by those seeking strength and durability.

Nearby, a rugged building housed the offices of the island's officials, a symbol of the growing administrative infrastructure. He plans to build a proper castle in the Island too, mayhaps one of their children will be it's Prince or Princess when the time comes.

As they soared over Grey Gallows, Daemon's gaze lingered on the long line of hills, each one dotted with caves that had once served as Cragas' hiding spots. Now, those caves had been transformed into livable spaces for their soldiers, carved into rooms equipped with barracks, offices, and training facilities. The smithy rang with the sound of hammer on metal, the tanning house emanated the earthy scent of leather, and the training grounds buzzed with activity as recruits honed their skills.

Nearby, a sprawling paddock housed three hundred horses, their sleek forms a testament to the care they received. Adjacent to it stood a massive armory, its doors flung wide open to reveal rows upon rows of weapons and armor, gleaming in the sunlight.

Beyond the headquarters, taverns and shops sprang up, catering to the needs of the soldiers who called the island home. Among them, a lively tavern offered respite and refreshment to weary travelers, while a small marketplace bustled with activity as merchants peddled their wares. And nestled among them all, a discreet whor*house catered to those seeking more illicit forms of entertainment.

Caraxes whistled which was answered by a roar from Sea smoke who nests on one of the untouched caves.

He turned to the Ricemead Isle, from above, the fields of rice stretched out like a vibrant patchwork quilt, their lush green hues interspersed with patches of golden-yellow as the grains ripened in the sun. The gentle breeze rippled through the fields, causing the stalks to sway and dance in an elegant rhythm, a testament to the abundance of life that thrived upon the land.

Nestled among the fields stood a sturdy building, its walls constructed of sun-baked bricks and its roof covered with terracotta tiles. Smoke billowed lazily from its chimney, carrying with it the rich aroma of freshly harvested rice. Outside, workers bustled about, carrying baskets laden with grains and carefully stacking them in neat piles.

Within the building, the air was thick with the scent of drying rice, the grains spread out in shallow trays and left to bask in the warm glow of the sun. Wooden beams crisscrossed the ceiling, casting intricate patterns of light and shadow upon the earthen floor below.

In one corner, rows of plows were stored. Nearby, sacks of rice stood ready for transport, their contents destined to feed the hungry mouths of the island's inhabitants.

They reached Sentinel Isles next, standing tall and proud at the gateway to the Stepstones, were a sight to behold from above. Each island boasted a towering structure, known as the Sentinel Towers, rising majestically above the crashing waves of the Narrow Sea. Connected by a sturdy bridge suspended fifty feet above the churning seawater, the towers served as both a symbol of strength and a vital checkpoint for all ships passing through the region.

Beneath the imposing towers, a bustling complex sprawled across the rocky islands. Stone buildings, fortified against the elements, lined the shores, their walls weathered by salt spray and sea winds. Among them stood barracks, armories, and watchtowers, their sturdy construction a testament to the military presence that safeguarded the islands.

Soldiers clad in armor patrolled the docks and thoroughfares, their vigilant eyes scanning the horizon for any signs of trouble. Ships of all sizes dotted the harbor, their masts reaching skyward like a forest of spires. Each vessel underwent thorough inspection by the vigilant soldiers, who scrutinized every cargo hold and questioned every captain that dared to approach.

The soldiers carried out their duties with precision and discipline, ensuring that no ship passed through unchecked and no threat went unnoticed. And as the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow upon the rugged landscape, the Sentinel Towers stood as silent sentinels, ever watchful over the turbulent waters of the Narrow Sea.

As they left the Stepstones, Daemon heard Aegon wave enthusiastically and shout, "Bye, Bye!" Caraxes climbed higher into the sky, the dragon's powerful wings beating rhythmically as they soared over the lush expanse of the Water Gardens. They were so high that he doubts anyone can even see them. From above, the vibrant greenery of the Water Gardens contrasted sharply with the arid surroundings of Sunspear, the capital of Dorne. The gardens, with their intricate fountains, shaded alcoves, and colorful flower beds, seemed like a verdant oasis amidst the rugged Dornish landscape.

Flying past Plankytown and Lemonwood, Daemon noticed the bustling activity below. Plankytown, with its wooden piers extending into the Greenblood River, was a hive of trade and commerce. Lemonwood, known for its orchards of lemon trees, added a splash of bright yellow to the otherwise sandy terrain. The dragon soared higher, leaving the busy towns behind as they ventured towards the Summer Sea.

As they flew over the vast expanse of the Summer Sea, Daemon felt the cool wind whip past them. The sea stretched endlessly, a deep blue canvas beneath them. Aegon, lulled by the rhythmic flight and the calming sounds of the wind and waves, eventually fell asleep, his small body nestled securely in the saddle.

Their journey continued past Sunhouse, a small coastal town with its docks and clustered houses appearing like tiny specks from their altitude. The Arbor came into view next, an island renowned for its vineyards and wines. From above, the island was a patchwork of green fields and vineyards, with clusters of buildings that housed the wine-makers and their families.

They flew over the Three Towers, a trio of tall structures standing proudly on the coast. These ancient towers, though indistinct from their height, were known to guard the coastlines and serve as a navigational point for sailors.

As they neared the end of their journey, Daemon saw the walled city of Oldtown. Sitting on a cliff on the southern shore of Whispering Sound, almost where the sound meets the Redwyne Straits, Oldtown appeared as a sprawling maze of buildings, towers, and streets from his high vantage point. The Hightower, the tallest and most prominent structure, stood proudly, casting a long shadow over the surrounding area.

Even from high above, the Hightower was clearly visible, the tallest structure in the Seven Kingdoms, surpassing even the Wall in the North. This was the seat of the Hightowers, the source of their arrogance, fueling the Queen's audacity to blame Rhaenyra for the monstrosity that slid from her womb. Daemon sneered at the towering structure, this false sense of power that led the Hightowers to think of themselves as equals to dragons.

He closed his eyes, attempting to feel the land beneath him. As a terramancer, he had a natural affinity for the earth, able to connect with it on a fundamental level. He immediately sensed Battle Island, but the black stones forming the castle’s foundation resisted his probing. The stones reeked of old, potent magic. It was almost laughable—these Hightowers, who turned their noses up at the arcane, sat upon one of the most magically charged seats in the realm.

Focusing his mind, Daemon ignored the unyielding black stones and concentrated on the island itself. The old stones and soil responded to his will, and the earth began to tremble. A deep, resonant crack echoed through the air as the island split into two, the ground pulling apart violently.

The devastation was immediate and absolute. The once-solid ground splintered and fractured, sending tremors that toppled the grand tower. The Hightower, a symbol of the Hightowers' pride and power, began to crumble. Massive stones broke free and plummeted to the earth, smashing into the buildings below. The ground beneath the tower seemed to open its maw in fury, swallowing everything on its surface.

The earth rumbled as if in anger, a deafening roar that echoed across the land. Smoke and dust billowed into the sky, a thick, choking cloud that obscured the sun and turned day into night. Screams of terror and the cacophony of destruction filled the air as the tower fell, reduced to ruins. The proud Hightower, once standing tall and defiant, was now nothing but rubble, consumed by the earth it had long dominated.

Daemon opened his eyes, surveying the chaos below. The island, once whole and formidable, was now a shattered landscape of debris and ruin. The Hightower’s demise was a testament to the true power of the dragons and their kin, a stark reminder that no man-made structure, no matter how grand, could ever match the might of the Targaryens’s innate magic.

Chapter 30

Chapter Text

Queen Bethany POV

Bethany savored her tea as she watched Gwayne whip the maid in front of her. The older woman cried out with each lash of the willow branch, her skirts hiked up to reveal her legs, which were quickly becoming a mass of bloody welts. The sound of the branch cutting through the air, followed by the maid’s pained yelps, filled the otherwise serene afternoon.

Bethany took another sip, her gaze never leaving the maid. When the whipping finally ceased after ten strikes, the back of the woman’s legs were a gruesome sight. Blood trickled down her calves, and her sobs had turned into quiet whimpers. Bethany made a slight motion with her hand, and her guards immediately stepped forward to drag the maid away. She would ensure the woman would never work in the Keep again.

Gwayne set the willow branch down on the table, his expression one of mild concern. "You know, if word of this gets out, they will call you all sorts of names again." he remarked.

Bethany raised an eyebrow, unfazed. She took another deliberate sip of her tea before responding. “Then you will have more maids to whip.”

Gwayne sighed, leaning back in his chair. “I’m merely suggesting, Queen Bethany, that you might consider endearing yourself to the people rather than antagonizing them further.”

Bethany’s eyes flashed with anger. She set her teacup down with a decisive clatter. “Endear myself to the people? Have I not prostrated myself in the Sept for seven days and seven nights, mere weeks after giving birth, to atone for my supposed sins? Have I not ventured into the city personally to distribute bread and soup to the needy every week? While Rhaenyra remains ensconced in her chambers post-childbirth, it is I who visits the orphans and reads them stories. It is I who provides mothers with new clothes for their children. They should be kissing the ground I walk on!”

Gwayne shook his head, a mix of exasperation and pity in his eyes. “And yet, all they will see is a woman who orders whippings in her rooms.”

“They won’t know!” she snapped. “All my servants and guards are loyal to me. Unless you run your mouth, cousin, no one will know.”

“You know I won’t.” Gwayne sighed.

Bethany fought the urge to sneer at Gwayne. Her cousin, in her eyes, was utterly useless. Despite years spent in the capital, he had never managed to secure a position of importance at court. At his age, Otto Hightower had already held a significant post in the Harbor. Gwayne should have become the Commander of the City Watch or at least a steward in the Red Keep. Instead, Bethany had to appoint him as the Commander of her Household Guard, a position she felt he scarcely deserved.

Otto Hightower had been an exceptional administrator and a brilliant politician, but his children were woefully unremarkable. Alicent, even when she ascended to the role of Queen, failed to wrestle control of the court from the princess’s hands or produce a son. Bethany’s hand instinctively moved to caress her stomach. She was already pregnant, albeit in the very early stages—just the first moon—but she was determined to ensure this pregnancy was successful.

She craved everything hot these days: her baths near scalding, her food full of spice, and her heart always ablaze. When she confided these cravings to the King, he was delighted, proclaiming that she was carrying a true blood of the dragon. Bethany intended to ask for a dragon egg for her unborn child while still in her womb. The proximity to those beasts would ensure her child would be strong. Despite abhorring the Targaryens' heathen practices, she understood the importance of her child having a dragon of his own. Rhaenyra already had two children with dragons, and she knew that Prince Daemon had placed an egg in Princess Visenya’s cradle.

Determined to secure her position and that of her unborn child, Bethany turned her attention back to the conversation. "Gwayne," she began, her voice a careful blend of authority and feigned sweetness, "you must understand the importance of our actions here. Every step we take is for the good of the realm and the strength of our house.”

Gwayne shifted uncomfortably, his earlier bravado waning. "I understand, my Queen. But we must tread carefully. The people are watching, and they are quick to judge.”

She let out a derisive laugh, her eyes flashing. "The people? They are fickle and easily swayed. I have done more for them than Rhaenyra ever has. They will see reason in time. They will see that it is I who truly cares for their well-being.”

Gwayne sighed, picking up the willow branch again. "Just be mindful. The court is a dangerous place, and we must navigate it with care.”

Bethany's smile was cold and calculating. "Oh, I am mindful, cousin. More mindful than you could ever imagine. And rest assured, I will not let anyone stand in the way of our family's ascent.”

Bethany and Gwayne started when the door opened, revealing her parents. Her mother was crying, her shoulders shaking with sobs, while her father's shoulders were hunched in defeat. Bethany immediately stood up and hurried to her mother, wrapping her in a comforting embrace. This wasn't one of her mother's usual tantrums; the deep sobs and red eyes told a different story. She gently guided her mother to one of the padded chairs, casting a worried glance at her father who had begun pacing the room.

"What happened?" she asked, her voice trembling with anxiety.

Lady Lynesse only cried harder, burying her face in her hands, while her father muttered a curse under his breath. Bethany waited patiently for him to gather himself, but her dismay grew as he slumped into a chair across from her. She had never seen him look so defeated. When Alicent became Queen and Otto's self-serving acts were exposed, he had been furious. When Bethany had given birth to her incomplete son, he was disappointed. But never had he looked so utterly beaten.

Her father's distress stirred a deep sense of fear within Bethany. She had always relied on his strength and resolve. Seeing him in such a state was terrifying. "What is it?" she whispered, her voice barely audible over her mother's sobs.

Her father looked at her with hollow eyes. "The Hightower... it's gone.”

Bethany was so confused that she turned to Gwayne, whose expression mirrored her own bewilderment. "What do you mean, gone?" she asked, her voice growing steadier with an edge of desperation.

Her father's face crumpled further, and he took a deep breath before speaking. "The was a quake in the ground. It destroyed the Hightower. Our home... it's in ruins.”

Lady Lynesse's sobs grew louder, and Bethany felt her own breath catch in her throat. She looked back at Gwayne, who seemed just as lost and helpless as she felt.

"The Hightower... gone." she repeated, trying to wrap her mind around the enormity of the loss. The Hightower had been a symbol of their family's power and legacy, a constant in their lives. Its destruction was unthinkable.

Her father continued, his voice breaking. "The quake struck with such force that the tower crumbled. Many lives were lost. It's... it's all gone.”

Bethany felt a cold wave of shock and grief wash over her. She tightened her grip on her mother's hand, trying to anchor herself in the midst of the chaos. The room seemed to close in around her, the weight of the tragedy pressing down on her chest.

Bethany felt her heart clench as she looked at her mother’s tear-streaked face. "Ormund?" she asked, her voice laced with worry for her eldest brother.

"Ormund was in the city when it happened," her father replied, his voice heavy with sorrow. "But your nephews...”

Lady Lynesse's sobs intensified, her body shaking with the force of her grief. Bethany felt a fresh wave of despair wash over her. She couldn't even picture little Lyonel, Martyn, and Garmund crushed beneath the ruins. Her good-sister had been pregnant, promising that if it was a girl, she would name her Bethany, after her. The thought of that unborn child, of her young nephews, made her heartache unbearable, and she joined her mother in crying.

"And Ser Gunther? His children?" Bethany asked, her voice breaking. Ser Gunther was their Master at Arms, her favorite uncle, a steadfast presence in her life.

"Everyone in the Hightower is gone, Bethany." her father said, his tone defeated. His words hung in the air like a death knell.

Bethany wept, not just for her lost family but for the life and memories entwined with the Hightower. She cried for her lost brothers and nephews, for her favorite bed, and the beautiful garden where she had spent countless hours. Each flower, each room held a piece of her heart and her history.

The Hightower had been more than just a home. It was the seat of their power, the symbol of their family's prestige and influence. Its destruction felt like the end of an era, the collapse of everything they had built and stood for. How would the court perceive this? How would the Seven Kingdoms react to their loss? The Hightower’s fall wasn’t just a personal tragedy; it was a political catastrophe.

Bethany's tears flowed freely as memories of happier times flooded her mind. She recalled the grand feasts in the great hall, the laughter echoing through the corridors, and the sense of security and pride that the Hightower had always provided. The thought of all that being reduced to rubble was almost too much to bear.

Her father's earlier words echoed in her mind. The burden of failure, the expectations of the Crown – they were not just their father’s concerns but hers as well. How could they uphold their family’s legacy without their ancestral home?

"How could this happen?" she whispered, more to herself than to anyone in the room. The Hightower had stood for centuries, a beacon of their strength and heritage. Its loss felt like the shattering of her very soul.

Her father's words cut through the heaviness of the room like a knife. "I will have to go back to help with the rebuilding," he declared with grim determination. "We will rebuild the Hightower. It may not be as grand as the last one, but we will reclaim our heritage.”

Lady Lynesse, tears still staining her cheeks, nodded in agreement. "I will stay to help you with your pregnancy, Bethany," she said softly, her voice trembling with emotion.

Bethany's father turned his gaze to her, his eyes hard and uncompromising. "It is even more important that you give the Crown an heir, Bethany." he stated firmly. "We need to solidify your position.”

Her father's words stung, igniting a fire of defiance within her. More than anyone, she desired to provide the Crown with its long-awaited heir. She had endured countless nights of discomfort and pain, bedding the king despite his wounds and ailments. She was so relieved when she had finally conceived, with their duty fulfilled, relieved that the king no longer called upon her.

But she knew better than to rest on her laurels. She understood the precariousness of her position, the fragility of her influence in the court. The king needed to love her so deeply, so desperately, that he could not think of anyone else but her. She needed him to be dependent on her, to rely on her for everything.

So she played her part dutifully, accompanying him almost every night, listening to his ramblings about his wretched Valyrian models and anything else he wished to discuss. She attended to his every need, personally helping him bathe and tending to his wounds like a devoted wife.

All of this she does for her family.

Princess Rhaenyra POV

She frowns as she noticed the discrepancies. The North and Riverlands are particularly short on their grain and meat provisions, while the Vale lacks enough cheese and fruits. The Westerlands and Reach, though better off, still have significant shortfalls in grain and salted meat. The Stormlands also face shortages in several key provisions.

The shortages on meat and grain had been solved by the North and the Vale purchasing rice from the Stepstones. Lord Stark even said that some of the smallfolk had eaten rice the whole of winter, never wanting to venture out to hunt. She smiled at that, rice is slowly being a staple on the Westerosi table and it was her who introduced them to it. She can fill warmth spreading in her chest.

She scans the scrolls for possible reallocations. Perhaps the surplus timber from the North could be traded for grain from the Riverlands, definitely the gold from the Westerlands could buy additional meat.

Lord Beesbury had been letting her balance the allocation for the Seven Kingdoms for the past months now. They started with her tackling the numbers for the whole city. The coin being delegated for the maintenance of the harbor, the market square, the Guild House, and the Sept, the maintenance of the guard towers and the walls. Each expenditure had its own intricacies, and Lord Beesbury patiently guided her through the maze of figures and ledgers, ensuring she understood the importance of every allocation.

At first, the task seemed overwhelming. The harbor's upkeep required substantial funds to ensure the docks were sturdy and the ships could dock safely. The market square, bustling with activity, needed constant attention to remain a hub of commerce. And the Sept, a place of worship and refuge, had its own set of needs that could not be overlooked.

From there, Beesbury moved her on to the taxes coming from the city. This was a more delicate task, requiring a keen eye to discern patterns and discrepancies. She learned which merchant houses brought in the most coin and which ones were hemorrhaging money, a task that required not just mathematical skill but a deep understanding of commerce and politics. Some merchants were pillars of the community, while others were barely staying afloat, and it was essential to differentiate between them and plan accordingly.

She had also encountered the Alchemist's Guild during her work, and their cooperation had been anything but smooth. They were a secretive group, cloaked in mystery and suspicion. Their records were vague, their contributions to the city unclear. Despite her attempts to understand their workings, they remained elusive, often providing incomplete information or outright refusing to cooperate. Their behavior raised more questions than answers, and Rhaenyra found herself increasingly wary of their intentions.

Now, Beesbury was letting her balance the provision for the Seven Kingdoms. This was a monumental task, far beyond the scope of city management. Each region had its own needs and contributions, and balancing these required a fine touch.

While Lord Strong had been very good in making her understand the nuances of each law while allowing her the freedom to propose new laws as she saw fit. Their interactions were professional yet cordial, and she appreciated the distance he maintained, which fostered a sense of mutual respect.

Tyland Lannister’s lessons include him telling her how many war galleys, dromons, carracks, galleons, longships and cogs the Royal Fleet has. He had no intention of teaching her how to maintain ships, recruit and train sailors. He’s more invested on singing the praises of his nieces who are about the same age as Aegon and Vis than teaching her how to regulate maritime trade routes or organizes the defense of the realm's coastlines. Rhaenyra decided to discontinue their meetings and choose instead to fly to Hightide once a week and pester the Sea snake about everything a Lord Admiral needs to do, making sure to bring Rhaena with her to placate the man.

She would not be alone with the Grand Maester if someone paid her. She preferred to rely on Maester Alar, whose expertise and guidance she found invaluable. Personally vetted by the Archmaester, Maester Alar provided her with the necessary assistance to comprehend any concepts she found challenging, sparing her from the discomfort of one-on-one encounters with the Grand Maester.

Rhaenyra looked up as he turned to the side when she heard lord Beesbury’s laughter echoing across the pavilion then choked on the rice balls he had been enjoying. Rhaenyra watched with concern as he sputtered, quickly reaching for the too-small tea cup, an amusing sight compared to his large frame. One of the maids rushed to his aid, offering a goblet of lemon water, which he gratefully accepted

"Lord Beebee, are you dying?" Rhaena inquired, concern evident in her voice.

Lord Beesbury turned to the side, still coughing from choking on the rice balls. "Ah, Princess Rhaena, just a bit of a mishap." he managed to say between coughs.

Rhaenyra couldn't help but smile at her sister's skeptical expression before she poured Lord Beesbury another cup of tea.

Normally, her lessons were held in her solar, but today was too beautiful to be spent indoors, so she had invited Lord Beesbury to the pavilion. His amazement at the sight was evident, and he confessed to her that the only parts of Maegor's Holdfast he had seen were the corridors and the King's Solar. He had always been curious about where the Royal Family resided. She assured him that, aside from the numerous rooms and halls, there was nothing extraordinary about the Holdfast, except perhaps its beautiful gardens.

As Rhaenyra went about her exercises, Lord Beesbury found himself drawn into Rhaena's infamous tea party, where he regaled he children and the ladies with stories from the time of King Jaehaerys. His tales brought the past to life, weaving a tapestry of history that captivated both young and old alike. Rhaenyra observed from a distance, content in the knowledge that her guests were enjoying themselves, grateful for Lord Beesbury's presence and his ability to entertain with his tales of days long gone by.

“But your brother was killed by the King, did you hate him?” she heard Aegon asked.

She turned away from their talks and looked down at her daughter who was still sleeping peacefully in another golden cradle the King had commissioned. HE had one made for his own room when they visit, for the Small Council Chamber and the Small Hall. It was understandable given that Visenya is the first of his grandchildren to be born and raised in the Keep.

"Look, Muña! Look at flower!" Vis exclaimed, his eyes sparkling with excitement as he approached Rhaenyra, waving the fire daisy proudly.

Rhaenyra turned to him with a warm smile, putting her quill down. "Oh, Vis, those are beautiful! Did you pick them all by yourself?”

Vis nodded vigorously, his eyes wide with pride. "Yes, Muña! They in the garden!”

"You're such a clever boy." Rhaenyra praised, taking the offerings from his outstretched hands. She kissed his forehead affectionately before tucking the fire daisy behind her ear.

Vis beamed at her, his dimples deepening. "So pretty, Muña!”

Rhaenyra chuckled, ruffling his hair gently. "Thank you, Vis. And what about this leaf? Where shall we put it?” she asked pertaining to the wide flame tree leaf on Vis’ other hand.

Vis's eyes sparkled with excitement as he pointed toward the cradle where his baby sister, Visenya, slept peacefully. "For Senya! She needs one too!”

Rhaenyra's heart swelled with love for her youngest son's thoughtfulness. "Of course, Vis. Let's go put it on her.”

She pulled him up so he can see Visenya who was still sleeping where Vis carefully placed the flame tree leaf on Visenya's tummy. It was so large it covered half of her.

Arrax, her daughter's newly hatched dragon, hissed at Vis, attempting to breathe fire but only managing a small puff of smoke. Vis tsked at the dragon, wagging his tiny finger. "Behave, Arrax!" he scolded in his toddler lisp.

Rhaenyra smiled, watching as Vis bounded back to where little Monterys Velaryon was digging fervently in the soft earth. The boys had nearly dug a hole to their knees, their faces smeared with dirt and their tunics stained with grass. She can only imagine the shriek that will come out of Lady Sam’s lips when she sees her son looking like the son of a farm hand.

She turned back to the scroll and meticulously ensured every detail was correct before calling for Lord Beesbury’s attention. The old man approached, settling into the chair opposite her. He carefully perused her work, his expressions of approval and curiosity punctuating the quiet. Occasionally, he would ask her questions about the allocations she had made, testing her understanding and reasoning.

After a long pause, he looked up, a smile of approval softening his stern features. "Your work is most excellent, Princess," he said, his voice rich with satisfaction. "I shall dispatch these to each of the Lord Paramounts forthwith. These are to serve as both suggestions and reminders that the Crown remains vigilant regarding the state of each kingdom. The decision to heed these suggestions lies with the lords themselves, of course.”

Rhaenyra nodded, feeling a blend of relief and pride. She had spent countless hours ensuring that every detail was precise, and to hear Lord Beesbury's praise was immensely gratifying.

"Typically," Beesbury continued, "the lords shall respond with their feedback, offering another report at the period's end detailing the success of the plan and any alterations made. Should a kingdom endure severe insufficiencies, the Crown possesses the authority to question their actions—why our suggestions were ignored, or if adhered to, why they failed. More often than not, however, the lords fail to provide thorough responses. We often receive only curt notes from their maesters, devoid of any real substance or explanation.”

Rhaenyra listened intently, absorbing the gravity of her responsibilities and the delicate balance of power inherent in her role.

"And yet," Beesbury continued with a somber tone, "despite their lack of cooperation, it is they who must bear the burden of any failures. The lords are always expected to succeed, and when they do not, the blame falls squarely upon their shoulders. They will be held accountable for not listening to the Crown's counsel.”

"Thank you, Lord Beesbury," she said sincerely, her voice filled with genuine gratitude. "Your guidance has been indispensable.”

He patted her hand kindly, his eyes twinkling with a mixture of pride and encouragement. "You are performing admirably, Princess. Your father would be most proud.”

As he rose to take his leave, Rhaenyra felt a renewed sense of purpose and determination. She would continue to labor diligently, proving herself worthy of the trust placed in her by her father, Lord Beesbury, and all those who saw her cause worth following.

After bidding farewell to Lord Beesbury, Aegon bounded towards Rhaenyra with youthful exuberance. "Mother, are you done with your lessons?" he asked eagerly, looking up at her with wide eyes.

Rhaenyra smiled warmly, pulling him into her arms. "Yes, my sweet boy, the lessons are concluded for today.”

Aegon's face lit up with excitement. "Lord Beesbury told us a tale of the Old King. He said he was the greatest Targaryen king ever. Is it true, Mother? Was he truly the best?”

Rhaenyra chuckled softly, her eyes distant with memory. "I was but a young girl when he passed, and he was already quite ill by then. But it is said that he was indeed very wise. He crafted many of the laws that still govern our realm today.”

Aegon looked thoughtful for a moment, then declared with a child's earnestness, "I bet you'll be better than him, Mother!”

Rhaenyra laughed and kissed him on the cheek. "You flatter me, my sweet Aegon. I thank you for your kind words. I shall strive to be a good queen, so that when the time comes for you to wear the crown, your reign shall be smoother and more prosperous.”

Aegon nodded seriously, as if accepting a great responsibility. "I shall be a good king, Mother, just like you.”

She smiled at him, her heart swelling with pride and love. "I have no doubt, my son. Now, go and join Monterys and Vis in their play.”

With a joyful grin, Aegon scampered off to join the young ones, leaving Rhaenyra to watch him fondly.

"Princess, do join us for tea!” Lady Selene’s melodic voice called out. “You have been working so diligently since this morning, hunched over your table. You might develop a permanent stoop!" she teased.

Rhaenyra sent her a mild glare without real annoyance but straightened her back nonetheless. She stood up and held onto Visenya's cradle, wheeling it over to where they lounged on the couches. The Massey family had sent her multiple cradles with wheels, as well as push chairs, knowing she loved bringing her children with her most of the time. She often used the push chair for Vis when she wanted to ensure he wouldn’t run off.

She sat down beside Rhaena, who handed her a half-eaten piece of hard bread. Rhaenyra smiled at her sister. "I heard you were regaled by Lord Beesbury with tales of the Old King." she said.

Rhaena nodded enthusiastically. "He has so many stories! But the King killed his brother, and he was not angry at him. I do not understand.”

Rhaenyra sighed softly, choosing her words carefully. "Sometimes, family members do things that go against one's morals or the edicts of the King." she explained.

Rhaena huffed. "It does not matter. If someone hurt Aegon, Vis, or Senya, even if it were their fault, I would hate them forever and ever!”

Rhaenyra laughed and kissed her sister on the head. "You are a good aunt, Rhaena. More a sister, really.”

Rhaena nodded and hummed in agreement, returning to her dolls, each seated in its own ornate chair at the table. Lady Anella poured Rhaenyra some tea while Lady Elinda placed a lemon cake and small sandwiches on a plate for her.

"Tomorrow you will be with the Hand, I presume?" Lady Selene asked.

"Yes, after the midday meal. I will be working with him in the Tower of the Hand, although the only task he assigns me is organizing letters he received years ago." Rhaenyra replied.

Lady Lyarra frowned. "I cannot fathom why you must trail to the Tower of the Hand when he could just come to your solar like the other councilmen.”

Rhaenyra answered with a patient smile, "It is a sign of respect for the Lord Hand.”

Lady Alana snorted. "Who would want a serpent like Otto Hightower in their personal chambers?”

The ladies tittered at Lady Alana's comment and she hid her smile behind her cup of tea.

"Indeed, I would not want to catch whatever the Lord Hand has." Lady Elinda said with a shiver. "Aside from experiencing excruciating pain every full moon, the poor man has developed such a grotesque hunch these past few months. It looks as though he were transforming into a wolf, his bones protruding grotesquely, only to stop halfway.” She looks pale and on the verge of either panic or vomiting.

The ladies around the table exchanged mischievous glances, their eyes wide with delight.

Lady Lyarra chimed in, leaning closer with a conspiratorial grin. "Lady Darklyn said it is a punishment from the gods. Otto Hightower has always been so grasping, making two Hightowers queens in less than ten years.”

“And the High Septon even includes him in his prayers whenever he has a service at the City Sept. Now everyone in King's Landing believes Otto is transforming into a monster due to his greed, they can blame the High Septon who could not keep his mouth shut.” Lady Lyarra said.

"Oh, and did you hear the one about the enchanted mirror?" Lady Allana chimed in, barely able to contain her laughter. "Apparently, there's a mirror in the Red Keep that reveals one's true nature. They say Otto looked into it and saw a snarling beast staring back at him.”

Rhaenyra listened intently, a smile playing on her lips as the ladies exchanged the latest scandalous whispers from the court.

“I heard," Lady Selene began with a gleeful tone, "that the destruction of the Hightower was the wrath of the gods. A comet was seen in the sky just days before, you know. They say it was a sign of divine retribution.”

"That's nothing," Lady Anella interjected, her eyes sparkling with amusem*nt. "I heard that a bastard son of the Hightower, long neglected and bitter, somehow orchestrated the entire disaster. They say he commanded an army of shadowy figures, who undermined the very foundation of the tower.”

The ladies burst into giggles, their laughter ringing through the garden.

Rhaenyra chuckled, shaking her head at the outlandish stories. "The imaginations of the court know no bounds.”

Lady Selene grinned wickedly. “And what about the rumor that Hightower was destroyed by a dragon?”

“Which one?” Rhaena suddenly asked. “Vermax does not like the Hightower figure that Vis brought so he burned it. When Kepa brought another one, Stormcloud crushed it with his foot.”

"Who knows," Rhaenyra said, her smile widening. "In this court, anything is possible.”

They giggled uncontrollably and Rhaena smiled at them in confusion but continued her play.

The ladies' laughter slowly subsided, their faces still alight with mischief. Lady Elinda leaned in, her voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. "And have you heard the latest about the Queen? She parades herself as benevolent, giving alms to the poor and reading to the children. Yet, behind closed doors, she whips the servants of the Keep.”

Lady Lyarra nodded eagerly. "Just last week, a girl was found kissing a stable boy. The Queen had her whipped for being a whor*. She even ordered the royal seamstress to make uniforms for the female servants that cover their chests up to their necks and their whole arms.”

Rhaenyra arched an eyebrow. "That will be a burden come summer.”

"Speaking of summer," Lady Selene interjected, her eyes sparkling, "the Royal Seamstress has finished your summer wardrobe, Princess. All gauzy and flowy gowns with short sleeves for your comfort.”

Rhaenyra smiled, a touch of relief in her eyes. "That sounds wonderful. When can I try them on?”

"We can fit everything by next week," Lady Selene assured her. "You will be the epitome of grace and elegance.”

As they exchanged more gossip and sipped their tea, the atmosphere was suddenly charged with anticipation talking about their own dresses. she had decided that for the summer they all will be wearing pastel colors. The Winter had been long and she is sick of dark tones.

Valaena approached, accompanied by an army of servants bearing a ceremonial robe. As it was unfurled before Princess Rhaenyra, the ladies gathered around to admire its splendor.

The fabric, a deep, lustrous black, shimmered under the sunlight as if adorned with jewels, though none were sewn upon it. Crafted from the Dragonhide of Balerion, the material was thick and almost impenetrable, said to be resistant even to Valyrian steel. The painstaking work of the Seamstress was evident in the faint imprints where Balerion's scales once lay, adding a distinctive character to the robe.

"It's black," Lady Selene murmured in awe, her eyes tracing the shimmering surface that glowed as if adorned with jewels, though none were sewn upon it. "But look at how it shines!”

She smiled as she admired the robe. The Seamstress had meticulously added crushed diamonds and pearls to the dye used on the Dragonhide, creating a mesmerizing effect, especially under the sun's gaze. The black fabric gleamed with an ethereal shimmer, as if stardust had been woven into its very threads. Every movement caused the light to dance across its surface, casting subtle prisms of color that shifted with each step.

"It took ages for the Seamstress to finish," Lady Selene said, nodding knowingly. "Sewing it was a challenge, but they discovered dragonbone needles could manage it.”

Rhaenyra ran her fingers over the robe's surface, feeling the faint imprints where Balerion's scales once lay. "It adds character," she mused.

Valeana opened a chest where three girdles rests that will be used to sinched it to her waist. One gold, one blood red and one silver. Rather than a wide band of metal, it is intricately designed with three headed dragon The Targaryen sigil was meticulously traced and cut from a sheet of steel. Each dragon head is uniquely detailed, with scales etched into the metal and eyes set with small rubies that gleam with an inner fire. The heads are positioned at intervals along the girdle, linked by slender chains of steel that allow for flexibility and movement. When worn, the girdle drapes elegantly over the robe of the wearer, its metal components contrasting starkly against the flowing fabric.

"It's magnificent." she declared, her voice filled with satisfaction.

Lady Selene remarked, "The seamstresses are also working on a gold and red robe, but this black one will do splendidly for now, Princess.”

Rhaena, her fingers gently caressing the fabric, looked up with intrigue. "When will you wear it, mandia?" she asked.

Rhaenyra smiled softly as she admired the robe. holding the long sweeping sleeves on top of her head "I shall save it for special occasions," she replied, her eyes gleaming with anticipation. "When the moment demands the full grandeur of our House's heritage." Her tone held a quiet pride.

Queen Bethany POV

Queen Bethany walked gracefully beside King Viserys as they made their way through the corridors of the Red Keep towards the Small Council chamber. The tapestries adorning the walls, relics of Valyrian heritage, were intricate and beautiful, each a masterpiece of Valyrian craftsmanship, woven with scenes of myth and legend. Yet, as she walked, her eyes were drawn to the tapestries that depicted far more than battles and dragons.

One tapestry, in particular, caught her attention. It depicted a scene of an orgy, its figures entwined in a complex dance of pleasure and desire. The threads were rich with vivid colors, capturing every curve and contour with startling clarity. Figures, both male and female, were intertwined in positions that seemed to defy the conventions of modesty and decorum. Some were engaged in acts of intimacy, their bodies melding together in a display of raw, unrestrained passion.

Bethany’s face tightened with disgust. The images, though beautifully crafted, were a stark contrast to her upbringing and the strict codes of her faith. The scenes of tangled limbs and the suggestive postures were not just a representation of desire—they were a challenge to her moral compass, a blatant defiance of the sanctity she held dear. The very notion of such indulgence made her stomach turn, and she forced herself to look away, her steps quickening.

"My dear," she began, her voice light and pleasant, "those tapestries of Valyrian make could be considered quite suggestive. Perhaps we could commission new ones that better reflect the dignity of the crown?”

Viserys, walking sluggishly with a hand on his cane, glanced at her with a small, tired smile. "Ah, perhaps," he murmured, clearly not eager to engage in such discussions.

Undeterred, Bethany continued to talk about other pleasant topics as they walked. She spoke of the gardens they had passed through earlier that day, now blooming with spring flowers, and the plans for upcoming feasts and festivals that would grace the court in the weeks to come. She knew how to charm him with her words, to distract him from the burdens of ruling and the weight of recent tragedies.

Upon entering the Small Council chamber, Bethany's expression remained composed, though inwardly she grimaced at the sight of her uncle, Otto Hightower. The man was a stark contrast to her own refined tastes and expectations. His hunched figure, twisted hands resembling claws, and grotesque appearance made her stomach churn with revulsion. She could hardly stand to look at him, but she will have to sit through a meeting with him.

She wanted to send him back to the Hightower because she could not stomach to look at him anymore but her father said that with them needing funds to clear the HIghtower of debris Otto needs to stay in the capital.Three moons had passed since the devastating quake reduced the Hightower to rubble, yet the debris still littered the streets until now they have not finished clearing the debris, it will be a long way to rebuild it.

Bethany's attention was forcibly drawn to Princess Rhaenyra. The princess rose from her seat, her gown shockingly low-cut, the neckline threatening to reveal more than decorum allowed. Bethany suppressed a gasp of disapproval; after bearing three children, the princess's ample bosom had gained undeniable weight, making the exposure indecent by courtly standards. Bethany couldn't help but notice the absence of proper restraint—instead of modesty, Rhaenyra seemed to flaunt her figure shamelessly

Lord Strong greeted her with a nod of respect. "Your Grace," he said warmly, inclining his head.

Bethany acknowledged him with a polite smile. "Lord Strong," she replied, her voice carrying a composed demeanor.

The Grand Maester followed with a courteous acknowledgment. "Your Grace," he murmured, offering a brief nod.

As the formalities settled, King Viserys took his place at the head of the table, his gaze turning to Bethany with an expectant look.

Bethany squared her shoulders, her resolve firm as she addressed Princess Rhaenyra directly. "Your Grace," she began evenly, her voice carrying a tone of both deference and determination, "I come before you today to request a dragon egg for my unborn child.” She said as she caressed her stomach.

She paused, gathering her thoughts as she continued, "The child within me craves warmth incessantly. His heart seems to burn even in daylight, and spices are the only relief I find him craving." Bethany's expression betrayed the frustration she felt when she had previously learned of the absence of dragon eggs in the Dragonpit, where she had initially sought one. The Dragon keepers had informed her that all eggs were housed on Dragonstone.

Turning her attention back to Princess Rhaenyra, she pressed on, her tone pleading yet firm. "I understand that Dragonstone is under your stewardship, Your Grace. I had hoped you might grant me permission to acquire an egg for the health and well-being of my child.”

Princess Rhaenyra, her demeanor softened by recent motherhood, replied gently but firmly. "I have recently given birth and cannot travel to Dragonstone myself, nor do I wish to leave Princess Visenya. Prince Daemn is still going back and forth in the Stormsland and the Stepstones. However, you are welcome to send emissaries to the island to request an egg. The Dragon Keepers will try their best to locate an egg for my sibling. I'm sure arrangements can be made. I’m told you are… very close with your cousin, Ser Gwayne. I’m sure he’ll be happy to go in your stead.”

Bethany gritted her teeth at the dangerous insinuation but forced a smile and nodded. "Thank you, Princess. I will make the necessary arrangements." She paused, collecting herself before continuing, "I must also request further financial assistance for Oldtown. The city is still suffering greatly; it was not only the Hightower that was damaged but also the military harbor, Trader's Plaza, and the guild houses.”

Princess Rhaenyra hummed curiously, drawing everyone's attention. Bethany tightened her hold on her hands, disliking the princess's seemingly innocent act.

"Is something the matter, Princess?" Lord Strong asked.

Rhaenyra's eyes sparkled with feigned curiosity. "I'm just curious why the Hightowers need help from the Crown when they are the House that pays the least in taxes and has enjoyed the most tax forgiveness over the past fifteen years.”

"Princess, that is a serious insinuation." Otto Hightower wheezed, his twisted hands tightening on his cane.

"Not at all," Rhaenyra replied smoothly. "Remember, you had me compile all the letters you received for the past fifteen years. I read it all. In fact, I have it here." The Princess motioned for one of the scribes standing by the wall, who handed her a heavy book. She stood up and leafed through the pages, then gave a triumphant cry. "See, in 101 AC the Crown had given Oldtown a full year of tax forgiveness to celebrate Ser Otto's appointment.”

The room fell silent, tension crackling in the air. Bethany could feel the eyes of the council members on her, and she maintained her composed facade, refusing to let the princess see her rattled.

She pointed to the record, and Lord Beesbury opened his own book to the appropriate year. He hummed in agreement. "Yes, it says here the tax from Oldtown was forgiven.”

The Princess leafed through the pages again. "106 AC, tax forgiveness for a year after Alicent Hightower married the King. And another one when Queen Bethany married the King. It just recently ended.”

Rhaenyra turned to Lord Beesbury. "Lord Corlys never told me about any tax forgiveness when Laena married the King, nor Storm's End when Cassandra did. Is that right, Lord Lyman?”

Lord Beesbury harrumphed. "That's because it was never a custom.”

"Ahh, so it was only for the Hightowers?" the Princess asked, her tone pointed.

Lord Lyonel cleared his throat. "If it is the King's will, it must be done.”

Viserys looked angrily at the hunched figure of the Hand. "I never declared that!”

Rhaenyra continued, pointing out, "Only Oldtown sends their taxes to the Crown directly and not through the Lord Paramount. The normal thirty-five percent is sent to the Lord, who keeps ten percent and surrenders the rest to the Crown. But Oldtown only sends five percent. Why is that, Lord Lyman?”

Lord Beesbury fumbled with his book and handed a document to the King. "It was a decree by the King. I never questioned it.”

Viserys, his face reddening with anger, banged his one remaining hand on the table. "I never made that decree!”

Rhaenyra, with a hint of satisfaction, asked, "Where is your seal, Father?”

The King's confusion was evident as he spluttered, unable to comprehend what was happening. Bethany’s heart hammered in her chest as she watched the scene unfold, the tension thickening with each passing moment. She glared at Otto whose face was paling.

The King motioned to the back of his chair, where atop the hearth was a strongbox made of Valyrian steel, stamped with the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen. The King's Royal Secretary swiftly summoned the Keeper of the Crown Jewels, who held the keys to the strongbox. Lord Sunglass arrived after a few minutes, breathless from his haste. He opened the strongbox, revealing it to be empty.

Viserys's face darkened with fury. "Ser Harrold, search the Tower of the Hand for my seal." he commanded.

Otto Hightower, his posture hunchbacked and grotesque, interjected, "I have it for safekeeping, Your Grace.” He confessed.

The King's anger erupted. He seized a goblet and hurled it at Otto, striking the side of his head and causing it to bleed. Bethany gasped in fright at the sudden violence.

"You stole the King's seal to create decrees without my knowledge," Viserys roared. "Do you fancy yourself the King of the Seven Kingdoms, Otto Hightower?”

Otto humbled himself, bowing deeply. "I beg forgiveness for the overstep, Your Grace. I did not act with malice.”

"Shut up!" the King bellowed, his voice echoing through the chamber. He hobbled over to Otto, snatching the Hand of the King pin from his clothes, tearing the fabric. "For the friendship you showed me these past years, I will not kill you. But you will be gone from King's Landing before sunrise tomorrow. Go back to Oldtown, help your brother with your family's ruins. You will never set foot in the capital again, or I will have you beheaded.”

She wanted to intervene but she knows this is something that is so much bigger than her. She will not endanger her position for Otto Hightower.

The Kingsguard seized her Uncle, dragging him out of the chamber. He looked pitiful, his feet dragging on the ground, his bloodied hand clutched to his head. Bethany turned to Princess Rhaenyra, who offered her the smallest, triumphant smile.

Chapter 31

Chapter Text

Princess Rhaenyra POV

Valena’s deft fingers worked through Rhaenyra’s naturally wavy hair, the thousands of candle lights catching the natural silver-gold sheen of each curl. The princess sat patiently, feeling the gentle tug as Valena parted her hair to the side, a touch that framed her face elegantly. Valena’s hands moved with practiced grace, starting on the left side to craft three loose braids. Each braid held the softness of Rhaenyra’s waves, yet stayed neatly in place, a testament to Valena’s skill.

Delicate chains of gold were then threaded through the braids. These chains draped elegantly through the princess's hair, shimmering with every movement. The links of the chains were crafted to resemble tiny dragon scales, adding a touch of Valyrian heritage to the adornment, blending seamlessly with the intricate braids that cascaded down her back

On the right side, Valena repeated the process, this time with two braids, ensuring a perfect balance. Her fingers wove through the hair with the ease of long familiarity. These small adornments, made of fine silver and tiny gemstones, glinted subtly within the braids, adding a touch of understated elegance befitting a princess.

With the smaller braids complete, Valena gathered them at the back of Rhaenyra’s head. She converged them into a single, thicker plait, seamlessly blending the separate strands into one. Her fingers transitioned smoothly into a fishtail braid, each section meticulously interwoven, creating an intricate pattern that showcased her mistress's noble lineage. Occasionally pausing to add delicate circular rings made from platinum which are encrusted with a band of sapphires and diamonds

As she worked, Valena made sure to leave the lower half of Rhaenyra’s hair free to cascade in soft, voluminous waves down her back. The contrast between the structured braid and the natural curls added a layer of sophistication to the hairstyle. Finally, she left a few wisps of hair to frame Rhaenyra’s face, their delicate curls enhancing her features with a touch of natural beauty.

Rhaenyra glanced at her reflection, admiring Valena’s handiwork. The braid was both regal and relaxed, a perfect embodiment of her royal status and her personal grace. She smiled at Valena through the mirror, grateful for her maid’s unwavering attention to detail and her ability to transform everyday grooming into an art form.

Rhaenyra sat before the mirror, turning her head slightly to admire the way the lights danced off the jewels in her hair. She smiled, pleased with the effect. "You've outdone yourself, Valena," she said, her voice filled with genuine admiration. "Your Valyrian braids are unparalleled.”

Valena blushed deeply, a smile spreading across her face. "It only looks so beautiful, Princess, because it is on you.”

Elaena, her other maid, approached with three small chests cradled in her arms. "Which jewelry would you like to wear tonight, Your Grace?" she asked, setting the chests down and opening them one by one. The first chest revealed a set of gold jewelry, the second, a collection of sapphire pieces, and the third, a set of shimmering silver.

Rhaenyra's underdress was a stunning Arryn blue, woven from the finest Lysene silk. The fabric was a deep, rich blue, interlaced with silver threads that caught the light with every movement. The only adornment on the dress was a sprinkling of diamonds across the bust area, and sapphires lining the sweeping sleeves.

After a moment's consideration, Rhaenyra chose the diamond earrings and sapphire necklace. She reached up and removed the Valyrian necklace that Daemon had given her, watching as Elaena placed it carefully back into a chest, which was then locked in a strongbox beside her bed.

Just then, Lady Selene entered the room, carrying Rhaenyra's outer gown. This gown was pure silver, so delicate that it seemed to flow like water when draped over her figure.

"Ah, perfect timing, Lady Selene," Rhaenyra said with a smile. "Let's put it on.”

Lady Selene and the other maids carefully helped Rhaenyra into the outer gown, adjusting the fabric so it draped perfectly over her underdress. The gown shimmered in the light, the silver contrasting beautifully with the blue of her dress. Finally, they fastened the metallic girdle, designed to cinch her waist, depicting Caraxes and Syrax entwined together in a striking image of strength and unity.

Lady Anella helped Rhaenyra put on her shoes, made of soft, supple leather soles to provide comfort during the long hours of the feast. These shoes ensured that Rhaenyra could move gracefully across the hall without discomfort. Small pearl embellishments adorned the edges and the toes, catching the candlelight and adding a subtle sparkle to her attire. The shoes had small, elegant heels, just enough to provide a bit of lift without compromising comfort or stability.

Just then, Daemon emerged from the bathing chamber, clad only in a loosely tied robe. Rhaenyra nodded for her ladies to depart, leaving only Valena behind to lay out Daemon's leather breeches and silk tunic on the bed.

"Don't you look beautiful?" Daemon said, a mischievous glint in his eyes looking at her admiringly.

Rhaenyra stood up and kissed him, Daemon attempted to coax her into deepening the kiss, but she gently pulled away, a playful smile on her lips.

"We can't be late for the feast." she reminded him teasingly.

Reluctantly, Daemon nodded, his eyes lingering on her with desire before he sat in front of the dressing table. Rhaenyra moved behind him, her fingers deftly weaving his hair into loose braids on each side of his head.

"Visenya is too young to attend the feast." Daemon muttered, his eyes meeting hers in the mirror. "There are too many people from everywhere, and I don't want her exposed to their diseases.”

Rhaenyra rolled her eyes as she continued to braid. "Visenya is the blood of the dragon," she said firmly. "She does not succumb to diseases easily. And the Feast is for my honor, I want her there.”

Daemon sighed, but did not argue further. "I still worry." he admitted, his tone softer now.

Rhaenyra finished the braids and brought them together in one plait, tying it at the back of his head with a hair clasps made from polished white gold featuring intricate designs of a dragon in flight. The body of the dragons are studded with diamonds, while the eyes are set with deep blue sapphires.. "There," she said, satisfied. "You look like a proper Valyrian Prince.”

As Rhaenyra helped Daemon don his black breeches and tunic. "You hate every color except black, grey, and red. You would look resplendent in blue!” she lamented playfully.

Daemon snorted. "That's why I gave you two sons and a daughter, so you can dress them like dolls.”

She huffed, but laughter bubbled up as she turned to the open box on the dressing table where the Hand of the King pin lay. It was a symbol of her newfound role—a position that Daemon secured with plates of cheese and a bottle of wine, convincing King Viserys of her capabilities. Trained and proven in bringing prosperity to Dragonstone and the Stepstones, what better preparation to be Queen than being Hand of the King, akin to what Prince Baelon was to King Jaehaerys?

But when Rhaenyra reached for the pin, Daemon swiftly plucked it from her grasp. "Not that one," he said firmly. "Otto wore that for years. It reeks of Hightower greed and arrogance.”

She frowned, considering his words. "What will I use then?" she asked, curious about his choice.

Daemon went to the side table beside his bed and took a silk pouch, carefully retrieving an intricate pin. "This one was commissioned by Jaehaerys himself for my father, Prince Baelon," he explained, his voice tinged with pride and reverence. "The first Targaryen Hand of the King. It was supposed to start a tradition—each heir, once experienced enough, would serve as Hand of the King to prepare them for Kingship. I stole it when my father died.” He smirked.

Rhaenyra listened attentively as Daemon fastened the pin to her chest. It was made from Valyrian steel instead of gold. A departure from the typical Hand of the King pin shaped in the likeness of a hand, this one was stylized, with fingers slightly curved and an open palm, symbolizing both authority and loyalty to the king. Instead of a plain circle, a dragon encircled the hand, its intricate design reflecting the Targaryen legacy.

She smiled warmly at him, touched by the significance of the pin and his words. Leaning close, she pressed her forehead on his and closed her eyes. "Thank you, Daemon." she murmured softly. "This means everything to me.”

"You deserve it, Rhaenyra." he said sincerely. "Tonight, let the realm see the strength of our House and the future we will forge together.”

They left their rooms together and moved swiftly to the nursery, where chaos reigned supreme. Aegon was already dressed in a silver silk doublet, two shades darker than Rhaenyra's, holding Visenya beside him as Lady Elinda deftly tied a bow in her head. She does not have enough hair yet for a braid but she looks sweet with a golden bow on the side of her head. Meanwhile, Rhaena was in pursuit of Viserys, who was gleefully running while tossing his clothes in the air.

"Viserys!" Rhaenyra called out, and the young prince squealed with delight as he dashed towards her. Daemon intercepted him, sweeping him up and tickling his stomach playfully. "Why isn't he dressed yet?" Rhaenyra asked, trying to maintain order amid the playful commotion.

Lady Lyarra bowed apologetically. "The prince refuses to wear his clothes, Your Grace." she explained.

Viserys pouted and exclaimed, "It's itchy!”

Rhaena handed Rhaenyra a the white-collared tunic and emerald doublet for Viserys. “He’s your problem now!” she huffed and went back in front of her dressing table where Maya showed her different jeweled headbands to choose from.

Rhaenyra cajoled him gently, "Vis, you need to dress or we'll be late forMuña'sfeast. You wouldn't want that, would you?" Viserys shook his head but whimpered as Rhaenyra attempted to put the tunic on him again but she noticed that his neck was already reddened.

“Let's find the Prince a tunic without the frilly collar.” Daemon asked the maids who were quick to obey. he was much more eager to comply then. Daemon looked at Viserys curiously, "Why would you wear a green doublet, Vis?”

Viserys puffed out his chest proudly, "I’m Vermax!”

Daemon chuckled, taking in the detailed scales embroidered on the doublet. "You are Vermax, the Emerald Flame!" he exclaimed, lifting his son high in the air.

From his seat, Aegon called out, "I'm Stormcloud, Kepa!”

Rhaenyra smiled at her eldest, admiring how his hair was perfectly combed and his clothes impeccably neat. Visenya, in her pearlescent white lace dress with golden accents, resembled her hatchling, Arrax, who was curled on her cradle watching over her. Rhaena, dressed in pink lace decorated with pearls, matched her own cradle egg’s delicate beauty.

Lady Selene entered, gently but firmly ushering them out. As they moved, Rhaenyra extended her hand to Visenya, despite Lady Selene's protest that it would rumple the gown.

Outside the Holdfast, a carriage awaited them. Rhaenyra was determined not to trek through half of the Keep on foot only to arrive at the small hall drenched in sweat. The ride was brief, and as they approached the hall, the sounds of bards playing and the cacophony of voices grew louder.

They arrived just a few minutes before the King, who came alone. King Viserys was quick to embrace each of them, his face lighting up as he made Visenya laugh. When the herald called for the King, he looked reluctant to leave, but with a final smile at his family, he entered the hall with Rhaena by his side.

Lady Selene tried to take Visenya from Rhaenyra and Viserys from Daemon, but they both declined. Rhaenyra could see the frustration in her lady’s eyes and chuckled softly. She made a mental note to gift Lady Selene with a bolt of silk from the Summer Isles for her patience and dedication.

The herald's voice boomed through the hall, “Rhaenyra Targaryen, Princess of Dragonstone, Heir to the Iron Throne, and Hand of the King!” As Rhaenyra stepped inside, all eyes turned to her. She was acutely aware of those who disapproved of her appointment and those who merely pretended to be happy for her.

“Daemon Targaryen, Prince of the Stepstones and Defender of the Narrow Sea! Along with their children, Prince Aegon, Prince Viserys, and Princess Visenya!” the herald continued.

Even now, she could feel the disapproval of her carrying Visenya as she entered, while Daemon carried Viserys. Aegon stood tall between them, looking very dignified for his age. They reached the dais where King Viserys stood, welcoming them with a warm smile.

Rhaenyra carefully transferred Visenya to Valaena, who placed her on a tall chair beside hers. Vis was next, settling into his own tall chair, followed by Daemon and then Aegon who was whispering with Rhaena suspiciously.

As they took their seats, Rhaenyra looked around the hall. The grandeur of the room was undeniable, with its high ceilings, ornate chandeliers, and walls adorned with tapestries depicting the history of House Targaryen. The long tables were laden with an abundance of food and drink, the aroma of roasted meats and spiced wine filling the air.

Whispers ran through the crowd as they settled. Lord Lyonel gave a subtle nod of approval, his eyes gleaming with admiration. Lady Redwyne, on the other hand, raised an eyebrow, her lips pursed in thinly veiled skepticism. The younger lords and ladies seemed more enchanted by the spectacle, their expressions ranging from admiration to envy.

King Viserys began to speak, his voice filled with pride and warmth. “Tonight, we celebrate not only the appointment of my daughter, Rhaenyra, as Hand of the King, but also the strength and unity of our family. Let us raise our cups to the future of the realm!”

Before everyone could raise their cups, the doors opened again, and the herald interrupted. "Bethany Targaryen, of House Hightower, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms!”

Rhaenyra didn't have a choice but to stand to show respect for the Queen. Daemon, however, did not even bother to pretend, leaning back in his chair and whispering something to Vis. As Bethany entered the hall, the reactions of the assembled lords and ladies were immediate and telling. There was a ripple of whispers, some eyes widening in surprise while others narrowed in suspicion. Many of the ladies exchanged glances, their expressions a mix of intrigue and discomfort. They knew the significance of the green for the Hightowers.

It was like looking at a ghost. Everyone said that Bethany and Alicent looked so much alike, and Rhaenyra never really saw it until now. The one standing before her looked like an older Alicent, wearing a green dress with wide hoop skirts, her stomach protruding prominently. She looked like the older Queen Alicent in Rhaenyra's dreams, the same one who had summoned her immediately after giving birth and the one who demanded her son's eyes. Her hands trembled slightly, and she clenched them to steady herself, trying to focus on the present and not the haunting memories.

Rhaenyra turned to her father, who seemed perplexed that his toast had been interrupted. "The beacon on the Hightower. Do you know what color it glows when Oldtown calls its banners to war?" she asked, her voice carrying a pointed edge. The king turned to her in confusion, and she tried to keep her aggravation from showing on her face. "Green." she answered her own question and turned back to Bethany Hightower, missing the anger that flashed across her father's face.

Bethany approached, her face a mask of polite cordiality. “Congratulations, Princess. This is a most well-deserved honor,” she said, her words dripping with false platitudes. Behind her, Lynesse Hightower and Gwayne Hightower also wore green, as did the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting and knights. The tension in the room was palpable. Many of the ladies covered their mouths with their fans, eyes darting between Rhaenyra and Bethany, eagerly awaiting the outcome of this confrontation. They whispered behind their hands, some even smirking at the drama unfolding before them.

The Queen may not have outwardly protested Otto Hightower's removal from his position, but that does not mean that she accepted it quietly. The High Septon had been giving a sermon about duty and loyalty, praising the virtues of honoring loyal servants of the Faith. His words were a thinly veiled jab at the Crown's dismissal of the Hand who had served for almost two decades. The sermon implied that Otto's removal was a capricious act, rather than a consequence of fraud and outright treason, stirring unrest among those loyal to him.

She wondered who came up with this traitorous idea. Alicent used the same thing to challenge her creating the Black and Green factions. That is something she will not let happen again. There will not be any Blacks or Greens,there will just be Targaryens.

"Thank you, stepmother. Although you look like a walking banner of war. Who are you feuding with?" Rhaenyra's voice was sweet, but her words were anything but. Bethany's smile faltered, not expecting to be called out so directly. There was an audible gasp from several ladies, their eyes wide with shock. Lady Elinda’s fan stopped mid-wave, and Lady Lyarra exchanged a scandalized glance with her companion. This was not the subtle, veiled language they were accustomed to; this was a direct challenge.

Bethany’s eyes flashed briefly with irritation before she composed herself. “It’s simply a color, Princess.”

“Sure.” She said sarcastically smiling sweetly at her.

“She’s trying to be Vermax!’ Vis said loudly and smoothens his emerald doublet as much as his clumsy hands can. “Like me, I am Vermax!”

Rhaenyra smiled at her son and caressed his head. “I truly think so,” she said, then turned back to the Queen, who looked both confused and angry. "I thank you for honoring my House, stepmother, even going so far as to match your dress with the dragon scales of my son's hatchling.”

With a discreet snap of her fingers, the hem of Bethany’s dress suddenly caught on fire. The Queen's eyes widened in panic as she tried to stomp out the flames, but the wide hoop skirts made it nearly impossible. Chaos erupted in the hall. Bethany stumbled down the steps, her movements frantic and uncoordinated.

Rhaenyra shouted in fright taking Visenya from her chair who started crying due to the commotion.

Knights rushed to her aid, but the situation only became more chaotic. Lady Lynesse fainted at the sight, collapsing into the arms of a nearby nobleman. The King shouted for someone to help the Queen, his voice filled with urgency and confusion. A frantic servant dashed forward with a pail of water, dumping it over Bethany, but the dress continued to smolder stubbornly.

Rhaenyra bounced Visenya and soothing her. She held her close, using the moment to hide the small smile playing at her lips.

The flames were finally extinguished, but not before most of Bethany’s dress had been eaten away by the fire. The Queen’s thighs were exposed, the wooden framework of her hoop skirt blackened and charred. Her legs were red and inflamed, but aside from that, she seemed physically unharmed. Soaking wet and disheveled, she looked more like a drowned rat than a queen.

“See, she became a dragon!” Vis giggled happily, his eyes wide with delight.

Daemon snickered next to him, unable to hide his amusem*nt. The sight of the Queen, bedraggled and humiliated, was a stark contrast to her earlier grandeur.

The court was abuzz with murmurs and whispers, the subtle dance of power and influence momentarily disrupted by the spectacle. Some ladies gasped in shock, their fans fluttering rapidly to hide their reactions, while others exchanged knowing glances, barely concealing their smirks.

Bethany, drenched and humiliated, tried to regain her composure. She glared at Rhaenyra, her eyes filled with fury and embarrassment, but Rhaenyra simply looked back with an air of calm defiance. The message was clear: the court was a place of subtlety and power, and Rhaenyra had just demonstrated her mastery over both.

One of the Hightower knights quickly stepped forward, wrapping the Queen in his cloak. The King waved for him to escort her back to the Holdfast.

"Oh my, I don't think green agrees with the Queen." Rhaenyra said, attempting to lighten the atmosphere with a touch of humor. Lady Selene and Lady Lyarra giggled while Lady Elinda tried to shushed them.

Lord Celtigar can be heard saying “I couldn’t have arranged a better entertainment if I tried!”

The King, eager to restore some semblance of normalcy, raised his goblet once more. "Let us continue with the toast," he began, his voice steadying the room. "To my daughter, Rhaenyra Targaryen, Princess of Dragonstone, Heir to the Iron Throne, and now Hand of the King. May you be wise in your counsel, just in your actions, and strong in your leadership. I am confident that the realm is in good hands.”

Rhaenyra felt her father squeeze her hand, his expression one of pride and hope. She raised her own goblet as well. "Thank you, Father. And thank you to all who are here tonight to celebrate this new chapter. I am honored to serve the realm and our family. Now, let us enjoy the festivities. Bards, if you would, please continue with the music.”

She sat down, cradling Visenya to her. The baby cooed softly, her tiny fingers grasping at Rhaenyra's necklace. "Everything is fine now, sweet girl." Rhaenyra murmured, soothing her daughter.

She looked up to find Daemon watching her, his eyes gleaming with barely concealed glee. His satisfaction at the night's events was evident, and it brought a small, private smile to her lips. Despite the chaos, she felt a sense of triumph and unity with her family. The evening's dramatic turn had not weakened her position; if anything, it had solidified it.

As the music filled the hall once more and the guests began to relax, Rhaenyra knew that tonight was just the beginning of her journey as Hand of the King. With Daemon by her side and her children embodying the strength and legacy of their House, she felt ready to begin the changes she wanted to enact.

Chapter 32

Chapter Text

Rhaenyra POV

Rhaenyra descended from the carriage, her cloak billowing around her in the sharp wind that swept over Visenya's Hill. The Alchemist Guild Hall loomed ahead, a solitary structure of rough-hewn stones that seemed to swallow the daylight. Its dark, foreboding presence was in stark contrast to the sunlit skies of King's Landing below. It was the biggest and only structure on Visenya's Hill, as the people had refused to build houses or establish shops there due to the looming presence of the Guild Hall.

Daemon put her arms in his as he survey the area, his expression a mask of disapproval. "This place is a relic," he muttered, his eyes scanning the weathered facade. "A shadow of its former glory.”

Beside them, Ser Erryk and Ser Steffon, clad in their armor, exchanged uneasy glances. They clearly disapproved of this outing, their discomfort palpable as they looked upon the grim structure.

"Are you certain about this, Princess?" Ser Erryk asked, his voice tinged with concern. "This place is... unsettling.”

Rhaenyra remained resolute, her curiosity undeterred by her uncle's disdain or the knights' unease. "I need to see it for myself," she replied firmly. She turned towards the heavy wooden door, which creaked ominously as it opened, revealing the dimly lit interior. She stepped inside, the knights following closely behind.

The main hall was sparsely furnished. Wooden tables, scarred and stained from years of use, stood unevenly on the stone floor. Benches and stools, many broken or missing legs, provided scant seating. Shelves lined the walls, cluttered with dusty tomes, glass jars filled with mysterious powders, and vials containing strange liquids.

"Charming," Daemon remarked dryly, his gaze sweeping the room. "You'd think they could afford a decent chair or two.”

Ignoring his complaints, Rhaenyra moved deeper into the hall. The flickering candlelight cast eerie shadows that danced along the walls, making the space seem alive with dark, hidden secrets. From nearby rooms, she could hear the faint sounds of bubbling liquids and the occasional muted explosion.

As they passed one of these rooms, Rhaenyra peered inside. A cauldron had overflowed with a bubbling, noxious green liquid, now hardened into a crusty residue on the floor. The foul odor made her wrinkle her nose. A student stood nearby, coughing and waving away the lingering fumes, his face etched with frustration.

In another room, shards of broken glass and blackened metal littered a table. The walls were scorched, evidence of a recent explosion. A student with singed hair was cautiously inspecting the damage, his hands shaking slightly.

A third room was filled with thick, acrid smoke. As it slowly dissipated, Rhaenyra saw a student desperately trying to contain a small fire. The remains of a shattered alembic and spilled reagents smoldered on the table, the aftermath of a poorly executed distillation.

Daemon's disapproval grew with each scene. "This is madness," he said, his voice low and tense. "They're playing with forces they barely understand.”

Rhaenyra's gaze was drawn to a corner of the main hall, where an ominous green glow emanated from a series of reinforced iron-bound barrels, with sacks of sands on top of it. The eerie light flickered, casting a ghastly luminescence across the faces of the alchemists who dared approach. The barrels contained wildfire, a dangerous and highly volatile substance. The sight of it sent a shiver down her spine.

"The wildfire," she whispered, a mix of awe and fear in her voice. "It's... beautiful, in a way.”

"Beautiful and deadly," Daemon replied, his tone grim. "A single mistake, and this whole place could go up in flames.”

The alchemists themselves were a ragged bunch, their clothes threadbare and patched. They looked more like beggars than scholars, their faces gaunt and tired, marked by burns, soot, and the strain of countless hours spent laboring over their experiments. Despite their disheveled appearance, their eyes burned with a fierce, almost fanatical intensity.

One of the older alchemists approached, bowing low. "Princess Rhaenyra, we are honored by your visit," he said, his voice rasping. "What can the humble Alchemist Guild do for you?”

“The last answer to my message was confusing at best, nonsensical at worst. Please, bring us to Wisdom Sorin, I would like to talk to him directly." Rhaenyra said, her tone betraying a mix of impatience and curiosity. The student bowed deeply and led them upstairs, the stairs were sturdy but grimy stairs as if it hadn’t been cleaned since the Conquest.

They followed closely as he led them up a wide staircase. The steps were sturdy but covered in grime, as if they hadn't been scrubbed since the Conquest. She gingerly held Daemon's arm with both hands to steady herself on the slippery floor.As they ascended, Rhaenyra observed the dilapidated state of the Alchemist Guild Hall. Broken windows allowed in gusts of wind that whispered through the corridors, and water damage marred the walls with streaks of mold. Despite its disrepair, the structure itself seemed solid, a testament to its ancient foundations.

The man smiled at them apologetically. "Forgive the condition of the stairs, Princess, my Prince." he said earnestly. "Our focus here is on alchemical studies rather than on upkeep.”

Turning her attention to the man who is probably only a few years older than her, Rhaenyra struck up a conversation. "How long have you been a Wisdom here?" she inquired, her tone gentle yet curious.

He glanced back at her, his expression thoughtful. "Oh, I am not a Wisdom yet, Princess," he replied respectfully. "I am still a seeker of knowledge under the guidance of Wisdom Sorin. My name is Seeker Thelon.”

Rhaenyra nodded, noting the distinction. "I see," she said, understanding his role better now. "And how long have you been studying under Wisdom Sorin?”

"Wisdom Sorin," Daemon echoed, his interest piqued despite his earlier skepticism. "A man of great reputation, I presume?”

"Yes, indeed," Thelon affirmed. "He has devoted his life to the pursuit of alchemical mastery. I've been here five years now, princess.”

The Alchemist Guild had once been revered as the foremost scholars of Westeros, their knowledge spanning millennia. However, they had gradually lost prominence to The Citadel, whose strong financial backing from House Hightower solidified their position as the preeminent seat of learning. Now, the Alchemists were viewed as eccentric individuals, straddling the line between the Citadel's teachings and more arcane pursuits.

They had purportedly been entrenched in King's Landing for millennia, yet their contributions to the realm were ambiguous at best. The Guild had not paid taxes since the Conquest, a fact that perplexed Rhaenyra. Why had Aegon allowed them to persist in the heart of the capital, seemingly without providing tangible benefits to society? It was a question that echoed in her mind as they approached Wisdom Sorin's study, the musty air thick with the scent of herbs and arcane experimentation.

She recalled messages requesting funding that had been ignored by previous Hands of the King, a sign of the Guild's waning influence and relevance in the capital.

They seem more preoccupied with their experiments than with any real advancement.

Thelon led them to a weathered oak door at the end of the corridor and knocked respectfully. "Wisdom Sorin, Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon are here to see you." he announced.

Thelon did not wait for an answer and opened the door. The room beyond was a chaotic mess, every surface occupied by books, curiosities, and boxes. Strange contraptions, beakers filled with mysterious liquids, and scrolls of parchment lay scattered around. The scent of herbs, chemicals, and something unidentifiable hung thick in the air.

Rhaenyra and Daemon entered cautiously, their eyes scanning the disarray. Daemon's foot caught on a pile of books, sending it crashing to the floor. He cursed under his breath, his annoyance palpable.

From behind a tall stack of tomes, a man emerged. He appeared to be around sixty years old but moved with surprising energy. His threadbare robes were stained and patched, giving him a somewhat disheveled appearance. Despite this, his face was lit up with a wide, almost childlike grin. He held a glass jar aloft, its contents hidden from view.

"Greetings, Wisdom Sorin," Rhaenyra began, but the man interrupted her with a hasty "Shhh, look at this!”

Wisdom Sorin approached a cluttered table and, with a single sweeping motion, cleared it of its contents. Books, papers, and small trinkets clattered to the floor, causing Ser Erryk and Ser Steffon to tense, their hands instinctively moving toward their weapons.

The alchemist placed the jar of water, which was slightly glowing, on the now-clear table. "Close all the windows," he instructed, his tone urgent.

The Kingsguard hesitated, their mistrust of the eccentric man evident. However, a nod from Rhaenyra prompted them to obey. Once the room was darkened, Wisdom Sorin extinguished the candles and the fire in the hearth. Instead of plunging into darkness, the jar began to emit a radiant glow.

The jar's light was astonishing, akin to holding a torch but far more ethereal. It cast a luminous glow that danced across the walls, illuminating the room with a soft, otherworldly light. The liquid inside shimmered and pulsed gently, creating an effect that was both mesmerizing and soothing, a radiant brilliance that seemed almost magical in its beauty. It fully illuminated the room much more than a torch or a chandelier could.

"It’s magnificent!" Rhaenyra breathed, captivated by the display.

Daemon, despite his earlier frustration, couldn't help but be impressed by the spectacle. Wisdom Sorin beamed, clearly pleased with their reactions.

"This is but a glimpse of what we can achieve," he said, his voice filled with enthusiasm. "With proper support and resources, the Guild can bring wonders to the realm.”

Rhaenyra teared her eyes from the jar and looked up at the older man. Wisdom Sorin was a gaunt man with long grey hair and a beard, both of which he had tied back with a threadbare ribbon. His face was marked by deep-set bags under his eyes, and his skin had a sallow hue, as if he had spent too many nights poring over ancient texts and alchemical experiments. Despite his weary appearance, his bright green eyes sparkled with childlike delight, a stark contrast to his otherwise haggard look.

Rhaenyra looked at the glowing jar, then at Wisdom Sorin, and said, "That is exactly why we came. Is there somewhere we can talk?”

Wisdom Sorin motioned to two wooden chairs in front of the table. The chairs looked about ready to collapse at any moment. She let Daemon help her sit down, but he remained standing, knowing the chairs would not hold his weight. Rhaenyra took her seat carefully, the wood creaking ominously under her.

"Why were the answers to my messages so confusing?" Rhaenyra asked.

Wisdom Sorin looked puzzled. "Which ones were confusing?”

"I asked for any ongoing projects in the Guild Hall," Rhaenyra explained, "but you only sent a message about harnessing the sun.”

The Wisdom's face lit up with understanding and excitement. He motioned to the glowing jar. "Ah, that! This is salt water that has been in the sun all day. The energy from the sun charges the particles in the water, transforming it into a lantern. I will call this... water torch. No, no... water light? Water lamp! Water lamp is good, yes?”

Rhaenyra couldn't help but smile at his enthusiasm, even as she glanced at Daemon, who remained skeptical. "Water lamp," she repeated thoughtfully. "It certainly has potential.”

Wisdom Sorin beamed, pleased with her reaction. "Yes, yes! With proper support, we could light entire streets without fire. Think of the possibilities!”

As Rhaenyra considered the implications, the glow from the jar continued to bathe the room in its soft, mesmerizing light, offering a glimpse of the alchemist's vision for the future.

"Why was this not presented at Court?" Rhaenyra asked, her curiosity piqued.

The Wisdom Sorin huffed in frustration. "The blasted maesters have been a pain in the ass for years now," he grumbled. "They do not want anything from the Alchemist Guild to be recognized. If you show them this, they will call it sorcery.”

Rhaenyra glanced at Daemon, who was engrossed in tinkering with a small mechanical bird crafted from brass and copper. The craftmanship was a marvel of intricate gears and springs. As Wisdom Sorin continued to explain, the bird suddenly chirped and Daemon jumped in surprise, nearly dropping it.

The Wisdom chuckled, albeit nervously. "Careful there, my prince. That little bird tells time; it chirps every hour. Please, put it down gently. You might mess up the calibration.”

Daemon, still slightly startled, made a show of placing the mechanical bird back on its shelf, giving a taunting smile to Wisdom Sorin. The old alchemist, undeterred, turned to Rhaenyra.

"The maesters do not like us," Wisdom Sorin explained with a hint of bitterness. "They are afraid of our inventions. They deem them inaccurate, useless, or outright sorcery. The Citadel has done everything they could to curtail our influence, hoarding knowledge and stifling innovation.”

Rhaenyra listened intently, her expression thoughtful. The conflict between the Alchemist Guild and the Citadel was not unknown to her, but seeing it firsthand brought a new perspective. She knew that the Guild's potential could be harnessed for the betterment of the realm, yet the resistance from the established order posed a significant challenge.

But Rhaenyra had long despaired at the influence of the Maesters in Westeros. They controlled education, health, and communication, wielding their knowledge and authority under the auspices of the Citadel. Supported by powerful houses like the Hightowers, the Maesters held sway over intellectual pursuits and scientific inquiry, stifling innovations that they deemed too radical or threatening.

As she sat in the dimly lit room of the Alchemist Guild Hall, Rhaenyra contemplated the potential for change. The Guild, with its centuries of accumulated knowledge and unorthodox methods, had the capacity to rival the Maesters once more. With proper funding and protection, they could revive their reputation as pioneers of science and alchemy, challenging the Citadel's monopoly on knowledge.

Rhaenyra smiled warmly at the older man, her gaze steady and earnest. "What would you say to teaming up to challenge the Citadel? I can provide you with funds to restore the Guild Hall to its proper glory," she began, her voice carrying conviction. "In return, you will help me establish a place of teachings here.”

Wisdom Sorin regarded her thoughtfully, his grey eyes assessing her proposal. He sighed softly, a mix of resignation and consideration in his expression. "Princess, most of us here do not care for the politics at Court," he replied honestly, his voice tinged with weariness. "We are scholars and seekers of knowledge, focused on our studies and experiments.”

Rhaenyra nodded understandingly, her determination unwavering. "I understand, Wisdom Sorin," she said softly, her tone respectful. "You can continue your work as you always have. But I need your expertise to make a difference in King's Landing. I want to establish Guild Houses where people can learn practical crafts and trades," she began, her voice carrying conviction. "Places where the city's impoverished residents can gain skills to sustain themselves.”

Wisdom Sorin listened intently, his brow furrowing slightly in contemplation. "But Princess, our resources are limited," he interjected cautiously, concern evident in his voice. "Our experiments demand time, focus, and materials that are not easily diverted.”

Undeterred, Rhaenyra nodded thoughtfully. "I understand the challenges," she acknowledged, her tone resolute. "Yet I believe in the power of education to uplift communities. Queen Aemma's Almshouse provides food, but it's not sustainable in the long term. Someone told me that if you Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Wisdom Sorin considered her words, his expression softening slightly. "Education and skills could indeed transform lives," he conceded slowly, seeing the sincerity in Rhaenyra's eyes. "But I know you can do it even without our help."

Rhaenyra nodded. "I need a place of learning and the Guild Hall is just perfect for what I have in mind. Plus all people here are already educated and have experience in teaching. If you let us use the Guild Hall and lend your hand in teaching, we will fun your projects. Rest assured, we will ensure you have the time to continue your already established work."

Wisdom Sorin hesitated briefly, then nodded, a flicker of hope crossing his worn features. "Perhaps with your support, we can make a difference." he admitted, his voice tinged with cautious optimism.

Lady Allana POV

Allana cradled Princess Visenya in her arms, marveling at the wonder in the babe's eyes as they gazed together at the lights dancing against the wall. Princess Rhaenyra had brought home many magical treasures from her visit to the Alchemist Guild Hall, but none quite so captivating as the wooden roundel sitting atop the oak table.

Carved with intricate patterns and polished to a smooth sheen, the roundel housed a mosaic of colored stones—sapphires, emeralds, ambers, and rubies—that shimmered with an otherworldly brilliance. Each gem caught the flickering candlelight placed within its hallow center, scattering beams of azure, verdant green, fiery red, and golden amber across the stone walls and ceiling. The result was a mesmerizing tapestry of color that seemed to transport the room's occupants to distant realms.

The play of light and shadow, coupled with the gentle flicker of the flame, cast a spellbinding aura over the chamber, enchanting all who beheld its magical display of hues. Princess Rhaena, was very fascinated by it and insisted that the roundel be lit whenever darkness descended. Even Allana found herself in awe, feeling as though the stars themselves had descended to play within the walls of the nursery.

As Princess Visenya cooed softly in her arms, Allana couldn't help but smile at the joyous innocence reflected in the babe's wide eyes. In that enchanted moment, surrounded by the dancing lights and the soft murmur of the castle around them, Allana felt a deep sense of gratitude for being part of such a magical family, where even the simplest objects could weave spells of wonder and delight.

Allana watched as Lady Amanda entered the room. Smiling, she stood and curtsied to the older woman before transferring Princess Visenya into Lady Amanda's waiting arms. The babe kicked her feet joyfully, reaching out for the familiar comfort of Lady Amanda’s embrace.

Just as Allana settled back onto the sofa, Prince Aegon burst into the room, a book clutched in his hands. His face was alight with curiosity and excitement. "This book says dragons can be both female and male, and I want to go to the Dragonpit to check!" he declared with the fervor of a young scholar on the brink of discovery.

Lady Amanda clicked her tongue softly, shaking her head. "We cannot possibly go to the Dragonpit now, it's dark outside." she replied firmly.

Aegon, not easily deterred, countered, "We can check Arrax, but we need Visenya to tell him.”

The hatchling in front of the fire held her head up and hissed when she heard her name.

Lady Amanda’s response was unwavering. "We can ask the head Dragonkeepers tomorrow." she stated, her tone brooking no argument.

Allana could see the budding frustration in Prince Aegon, a tantrum threatening to erupt. However, a sharp look from Lady Amanda was enough to dissipate his resolve. Lady Amanda possessed a rare gift—the ability to discipline children without raising her voice or lifting a hand. One stern look from her could quell tears, and a single snap of her fingers could halt any misbehavior.

The children were in awe of her, a sentiment that sometimes made Allana envious. She marveled at Lady Amanda's knack for maintaining order and discipline with such ease, especially now that the children were at an age where they were constantly exploring and testing boundaries. Fortunately, they generally had sweet dispositions and rarely threw tantrums. If they did, the outbursts were brief, unlike her brother when he was younger. She often recalled the exasperation she felt with her brother’s loud, persistent cries, half tempted to silence him by dunking him in a tub.

Lady Amanda glanced at Allana. "Have you already eaten?" she asked.

“I ate with the children, my Lady.”

She spent the whole day with the children because Princess Rhaenyra is meeting with the delegation from the Reach. Princess Rhaena was visiting with the King, while Prince Daemon was at the City Watch Barracks. Prince Aegon sat at a low table with a water lamp atop it, reading his book slowly. Prince Viserys was content, building a fort out of blocks on his miniature landscape that covers half of the southern part of the room. The room was peaceful, the children's quiet activities adding to the cozy atmosphere.

The door opened, and Princess Rhaenyra entered, smiling widely. "Where are my hatchlings?" she asked, her voice filled with warmth.

Immediately, Prince Aegon and Prince Viserys ran to her, bubbling about their day. The Princess knelt down, hugging both boys and kissing the sides of their heads.

"Dragons can be both girls and boys, Muña! Can we go see?" Prince Aegon pleaded

“I want ship!” Prince Viserys said enthusiastically.

Princess Rhaenyra laughed, her eyes twinkling with affection. "We will see about the Dragonpit tomorrow, Aegon. As for the ship, Viserys, I believe we can find something suitable for your fort.”

Princess Visenya squealed, trying to get her mother's attention as Lady Amanda struggled to hold her through her thrashing. Princess Rhaenyra took Visenya from Lady Amanda, soothing her as she turned to Allana.

"Lady Allana, why don't you visit your brother and grandmother?" she suggested, her tone gentle.

Allana smiled, curtsied, and said, "Thank you, Princess." She left the room, her heart warmed by the sight of the Princess with her children, feeling grateful for the respite and the opportunity to see her family.

Lady Allana marveled at the glowing jars mounted high on the corridor walls, each securely held by specially crafted iron brackets. The saltwater lamps emitted a soft, ethereal glow, casting gentle light upon the rough stone walls. She traced her fingers along the nearest bracket, fascinated by the simplicity and brilliance of the design.

These water lamps truly were ingenious. The concept was simple yet remarkable: after soaking up sunlight throughout the day, they would illuminate the entire night. She had seen the wonder in the eyes of both servants and nobility alike. The Princess had thoughtfully placed numerous water lamps throughout their side of the Holdfast, including the kitchens and even the King's apartments.

As she walked, she admired the soft, ethereal light they emitted. The lamps bathed the stone walls in a warm glow, creating a cozy atmosphere that felt both safe and welcoming. She could hear the faint murmurs of the household settling in for the evening, the glow of the lamps reflecting off polished surfaces and casting playful shadows that danced with the flicker of the light..

The servants, usually accustomed to the dim and sometimes foreboding hallways, now moved with a lighter step, their faces illuminated with a sense of awe and appreciation. Even the nobility, often hard to impress, had spoken of the lamps with admiration. The Princess’s innovation had brought a sense of magic to the Holdfast, making the nights as inviting as the days.

Allana felt a sense of pride and gratitude as she continued down the corridor. The water lamps symbolized more than just light; they represented the Princess’s care and thoughtfulness for everyone within the Holdfast. As she approached the end of the corridor, she took one last look back, the glowing lights creating a path of warmth and security.

She went to her rooms in The Vault first, changing into a new gown—a green dress with golden embroidery of flowers and vines on the bodice and sleeves. Emeralds sewn into the bust area caught the reflection from the water lamp, making the dress shimmer elegantly.

Each of Princess Rhaenyra's ladies had a small water lamp in their rooms. Though they might not have the same illumination in The Vault compared to the Holdfast, the Alchemists were working hard to create more. Given the vastness of the Red Keep, it was taking time, but progress was steady.

She walked towards the Guest Tower, where her grandmother and brother were housed. The corridor was dimmer here, the light from the torches softer but still sufficient to guide her steps. She was welcomed by her grandmother's maid, who guided her inside a cozy room where wine, plates of cheese, and fruits were laid out.

Her brother sat tall, slouched slightly when he saw her until he noticed her Unsullied guard standing outside the door. His posture straightened instantly, a reminder of the discipline expected within these walls. Allana smiled at him, appreciating his effort to appear composed.

"Allana," her grandmother's voice greeted warmly, "come, sit with us.”

Allana moved gracefully to join them, the emeralds on her dress catching the light with every step. The room, though simple compared to the grandeur of the Holdfast, felt warm and inviting. She poured herself a glass of wine and took a piece of cheese, savoring the moment of familial comfort amidst the grandeur of court life.

"How did your talk with the Princess go, Grandmother?" she asked, curiosity evident in her voice.

Her grandmother smiled, a satisfied gleam in her eyes. "It went well, Allana. The Hightowers are required to give us forty-five percent in taxes. Twenty percent will go to our own coffers for fifteen years as recompense for the years they cheated us out of our proper due.”

Allana's smile widened. "That's good news.”

Her grandmother nodded. "Princess Rhaenyra's is proving to have stronger political will than the King.”

Allana smiled politely, not wanting to disparage the King. "The Princess has a political mind and will that will rival King Jaehaerys himself.”

Her grandmother's expression turned cautious. "The Faith are doing everything they can to elevate Queen Bethany's image. Even in the Reach, they preach of her piousness, her charities, and the King's love for her. They criticize the Princess's lavish gowns and jewelry." she added, glancing pointedly at the emeralds adorning Allana's dress.

Allana huffed in response. "If the Princess cannot live in luxury, who can?”

The princess ensures not only that she possesses the finest gowns and jewelry but extends this opulence throughout her entire household. Despite the Tyrells' wealth, she remains astounded by the unparalleled luxury of House Targaryen. Their garments boast the richest silks and intricate lace, their dining ware gleams with polished gold, and even the furniture exudes grandeur fit for royalty. As a lady-in-waiting, she is also enjoys such opulence.

Her grandmother chuckled and turned towards large water lamp that Princess Rhaenyra had placed in their rooms. "This lamp is truly ingenious. The Princess gifted us three to take home.”

Allana's smile softened with gratitude. "The Princess's generosity knows no bounds.”

Her brother, Lyonel, looked up from his seat, curiosity evident in his eyes. "How does it work?”

Her grandmother looked at him sharply. "Princess Rhaenyra discussed it with us earlier.”

Lyonel blushed in shame. "I don’t really understand” he admitted, then mumbled, “Her eyes were distracting."

Allana patted his hand reassuringly. "Lyonel, you’re only four and ten. It’s alright not to understand everything just yet. I barely grasp the principle myself, but I’ll try to explain.”

She paused, gathering her thoughts. "The water, mixed with a special type of salt, absorbs the sun’s rays throughout the day, storing the energy within its particles. As night falls, the accumulated energy causes the water to emit a steady, luminous glow. It’s as if the jars have captured the very essence of daylight, releasing it gently in the darkness.”

Lyonel’s eyes widened in amazement. "That’s incredible! And I won’t have to worry about my room burning down if I accidentally leave a candle going.”

Their grandmother nodded in agreement. "Indeed, it’s a much safer alternative.”

Allana continued, her tone reflecting her own awe. "There are many more wonders that the Alchemists have shown us, but they are being opposed by the Citadel.”

Lyonel frowned. "Why would the Citadel oppose such marvels?”

"Change is often met with resistance," their grandmother said wisely. "Especially from those who have long held power and influence.”

“That’s stupid.” Lyonel huffed.

Allana nodded. "The Citadel is wary of anything that could challenge their authority or the traditional ways. But Princess Rhaenyra’s innovations are truly remarkable, and they will bring great benefits to us all.”She then straightened and looked at her brother excitedly. "You should have seen it," Allana began, her eyes twinkling with the memory. "It was night when the Alchemist Guild was granted audience in the Throne Room. The awe in the King’s eyes when they uncovered the Water Lamp was incredible. I thought the Grand Maester was going to have an apoplectic fit. He said it was nothing but sorcery. But Wisdom Sorin simply replied, ‘You do not need to be afraid, Grand Maester. 'Tis only salt and water.'" she said, deepening her voice to mimic the alchemist's tone.

Lyonel burst into laughter, his amusem*nt filling the room. "Can I study with them, Grandmother?" he asked, his excitement palpable.

His grandmother looked skeptical. "Lyonel, the Alchemist Guild is composed of highly intelligent individuals. They’re smarter than the maesters but much more eccentric and their experiments dangerous.”

Anella nodded. "The maids at the Guild Hall say they witness more explosions there than the Dragonpit.”

"I'll work hard, please, Grandmother," Lyonel begged. "I want to learn from them!”

The Regent of Highgarden considered for a moment before nodding. "Very well, I will talk to the Princess and this Wisdom Sorin.”

Allana smiled at her brother, proud of his determination. "You can reside in the Keep near my rooms." she suggested.

But Lyonel shook his head. "It might be better to stay in the Guild Hall like the other students." he said earnestly.

Their grandmother sighed but smiled. "Very well, if it is your wish. But promise me you will be careful.”

“But it’s too dangerous in the Guild Hall, I insist you stay in the Keep.” She said.

Lyonel shook his head. “I don’t want them to think I’m just a pampered Lordling who was there because I was bored.”

“But you are a pampered Lordling!” she teased to which he grimaced and stick his tongue out. She threw a piece of Strawberry at him in retaliation.

They continued their conversation, delving into the latest gossip from the Reach. Lady Fossoway's latest child, they whispered, looked suspiciously more like her husband's steward than her lordly spouse. Meanwhile, Lady Florent had embarked on a rigorous forty-day fast, hoping to convince Lord Florent to share her bed again.

Their discussion was interrupted by a maid who informed Allana's grandmother that the Queen had begun her labor. "Would you like to go to the viewing now?" the maid asked.

Her grandmother shook her head. "No, not yet. A labor can last hours. Call me when she is bearing down.”

Lyonel, his curiosity piqued, asked, "What is the viewing?”

Allana sighed, her face growing serious. "Princess Rhaenyra was very distraught when the Queen accused her of kidnapping her babe and swapping it with one that had half a head. The accusation was so severe that it caused the Princess to go into early labor, endangering he.r life. The Queen later apologized, but she continued to talk about her missing child, and the Princess was so depressed about it that Prince Daemon had to talk to the King” She paused, watching her brother’s wide-eyed reaction. "To prevent such accusations in the future, Prince Daemon proposed that for this birth and all subsequent births of the Queen, there would be a viewing with other nobles present. This way, everyone can see that no children are being swapped. “

Lyonel looked thoughtful. "It seems so... extreme." he said.

"It is," Allana agreed. "But it's a necessary measure to ensure peace and trust in the court. The accusations nearly broke the Princess. This way, we can avoid such terrible misunderstandings.”

Her grandmother nodded. "It's a sad but necessary precaution. The politics of the court can be treacherous, and trust is a rare commodity. But I’m surprised the Queen and the Faith allowed it.”

She huffed. “They don’t have a choice. The Princess almost died along with her child. You will find out, grandmother, that there is very little the King will not do for the princess.”

Lady Tyrell POV

Lady Tyrell arrived at the viewing area, noting with a sense of mild annoyance that it was almost full to the brim. This would be her third day in attendance, and she had already grown weary of the ceaseless waiting. She passed by a few familiar faces, offering polite nods, before making her way to the refreshment table, where she had enjoyed tea and cakes with the other ladies while the Queen labored in the other room.

She recognized Lady Strong and Lady Celtigar deep in conversation, their heads bent together in earnest discussion. Lady Redwyne was slumped in her chair, appearing to have dozed off despite the Queen's shouts of pain echoing through the chambers. Lady Jeyne Rosby offered a courteous smile and gestured for her to join them, a steaming pot of tea in her hand.

The birthing chamber was connected to the large sitting area filled with numerous couches and chairs. The only thing separating the two rooms was a grand archway, offering an unobstructed view of the Queen's suffering. Bethany Hightower lay on a large bed, her legs spread wide with the Grand Maester positioned between her open thighs. The poor girl had been wearing the same shift for three days now, soaked and sticky with sweat and bodily fluids. Not one of the Maesters or acolytes had even attempted to have the midwives change her clothes.

Nearby, Lady Lynesse Hightower was sitting primly, her face a mask of concern as she dabbed ineffectively at the Queen's brow with a damp cloth, her gown is notably fresh.

Bethany's face was a portrait of exhaustion. Her hair, damp with sweat, clung to her temples and neck. Dark circles underscored her eyes, and her skin had taken on a pale, almost sickly hue. Every few minutes, her body would convulse with the pain of another contraction, her moans and screams echoing through the chamber.

When Lady Tyrell first heard of the Viewing, she was horrified. Labor and childbirth are already traumatizing experiences, and for them to be opened to public scrutiny seemed not only scandalous but practically inhumane. Yet, she understood the reasoning behind it. Bethany Hightower truly believed she could antagonize a Targaryen and not face any consequences. With the loss of their ancestral castle, the Hightowers had redoubled their efforts not only to improve their own image but also to sully that of Princess Rhaenyra.

Traveling septons had begun to preach in different towns, speaking of the great indulgences of Princess Rhaenyra, citing her luxurious clothes and jewelry. They heavily criticized her for bringing former slaves into the kingdom, ignoring the fact that she had freed the poor souls first. More criticisms about her appearance were emerging, targeting her thickening waist and her heavy breasts, which she was said to parade in court. Lady Tyrell wanted to snort at such pettiness. If she had breasts like the princess, she would flaunt them too.

There were even a few words whispered about incest and her spawning three children, but those comments were much more discreet. No doubt, these accusations would become more frequent and vicious when the Queen gave birth to a son.

Lady Tyrell took a seat beside Jeyne Rosby, accepting a cup of tea. She sighed heavily as she settled in, trying to maintain a veneer of patience.

“This labor is very tedious,” she muttered under her breath to Jeyne. “Someone should just put the girl out of her misery.”

Jeyne's eyes widened in horror. "My lady!" she gasped, clearly scandalized, looking around to make sure that no one had heard her.

Lady Tyrell rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. I paid good money to be here to view the birth, but three days of labor is truly too much.”

As she sipped her tea, she couldn't help but feel a sense of frustration. The whole ordeal had turned into a spectacle, and she was beginning to doubt whether the Queen would ever actually give birth. Despite her initial interest in the event, she now found herself wishing it would simply be over, for the Queen's sake as well as her own.

Two hours later, the Queen finally began to bear down. Lady Tyrell muttered under her breath and stood, making her way towards the front. Around her, the other ladies erupted in chatter.

"Thank the gods, our vigil is nearly done. i can't believe I paid a golden dragon to be here." exclaimed Lady Stokeworth.

"Is the head really that large?" wondered Lady Rosby.

"I remember feeling like a watermelon was trying to come out of me." added Lady Strong, eliciting a mix of empathetic groans and nervous laughter.

When the babe slid out of the Queen, a flurry of activity followed. The cord was swiftly cut, and the Grand Maester directed one of the acolytes to call the King. Despite her exhaustion, the Queen sat up and anxiously asked, "Is it a boy?”

"Yes, Your Grace, you have a son," the Grand Maester replied, prompting delighted exclamations from the gathered ladies. Lady Lynesse even did a turn in joy then kissing the Queen’s hand who smiled back

But as one of the midwives began cleaning the babe, she countered, "It is a girl.”

The Grand Maester, clearly agitated, insisted, "It is a boy.”

"It's a girl if there's a slit and a boy if there's pillars and stones. So what is it?" Lady Lynesse snapped.

The midwife, trembling, said, "The babe has both.”

The room fell into a stunned silence, with murmurs of speculation spreading like wildfire among the ladies. Lady Redwyne exchanged worried glances with Lady Celtigar. The King arrived shortly after, followed by the Small Council, including Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon. The Queen, looking both confused and frightened, could not answer when asked about the sex of the child.

Confusion reigned between the Grand Maester and the midwife, each contradicting the other. Impatient, Prince Daemon pushed through the crowd and removed the cloth wrapping the babe. It was indeed a girl, as there was clearly a vagin*, but atop it was also a penis. There were no stones though.

Lady Tyrell sighed heavily, muttering under her breath, "Oh great, another abomination coming from the Hightowers.”

Chapter 33

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Daemon POV

Prince Daemon looked around the King's apartment, his eyes settling on Aegon and Vis, who were standing on their tiptoes, trying to peer at the massive Valyrian model that occupied the space where the King's sitting room was supposed to be. Vis reached out to take one of the towers.

"No, Vis, we can't take that," Aegon said in a childish but firm manner. "It belongs to the King.”

"But I want it!" Vis insisted, his small hand still grasping at the tower. "I don't have one yet.”

Aegon sighed, trying to placate his younger brother. "How about some food instead? We have those sweet cakes you like.”

Vis stomped his foot in frustration. "No! I want tower!” he whispered loudly.

King Viserys, noticing the commotion, chuckled softly. "It's okay, lad. Vis can take it, and you can take another one for yourself too.”

Aegon's face lit up with delight. "Really? Thank you, Your Grace!" He turned to Vis. "Which ones do we need for our forts?”

Vis grinned, finally releasing the tension. "This one and that one with dragon!”

As the boys carefully selected their pieces, King Viserys looked at Daemon with a smile. "I haven't seen more agreeable children. They don’t fight much?”

“Of course, they do.” He snorted. “These are dragonlings, their temper can rival the Fourteen Flames. But they know to treat each other right. Rhaenyra and I tried to raise them like how Baelon and Aemon were raised—brothers who will always support one another.”

Though Daemon hadn't intended to sound snide, he saw how his brother flinched. Ever since Otto Hightower's treason was revealed, Viserys had struggled to discern which of the Reachman's words were truth and which were lies.

Their conversation had shifted uncomfortably when Viserys first brought up Daemon's marriage to Rhea Royce. Daemon had seen little reason to dwell on it, as the woman had been long dead before the War of the Stepstones was done. However, Viserys had insisted on knowing what happened, so Daemon had reluctantly explained that Rhea Royce had despised him and their family, a bitterness that had pervaded their miserable marriage. He had told Viserys that his rooms were not even in the family wing and that he had never been allowed to eat with the family when he was there. That was why whenever he was banished to the Vale, he would leave again after just a week. Rhea Royce and her kin despised their Valyrian culture, always telling him to his face that he was born of an unholy union and calling him godless. Rhea hated him so much but happily used her connection to him as his wife whenever she needed to, especially to dissuade her more ambitious family from ousting her from her seat. He suspected the reason she died was because he had been away from the Vale so long that her cousins were no longer afraid of him. They decided to kill her to get her inheritance. In his opinion, they should have done it earlier.

Viserys seemed troubled by this revelation, as if it added another layer of doubt to his already conflicted mind. Daemon tried to steer the conversation back to the present, mentioning how Rhaenyra and he were determined to foster a sense of unity among their children, a stark contrast to the fractured relationship he had endured with Rhea.

Viserys took a deep breath, his eyes filled with regret as he faced his brother. "Daemon, I need to apologize again. I should never have let my decisions be colored by Otto's disdain for you.’

Daemon snorted, ensuring that Aegon and Vis were staying put before turning to look at his brother. "Viserys, let's be truthful. You don't like me.”

"That's not true—”

Daemon held up his hand to stop him. "It’s fine, I’m not particularly fond of you either.” He said and he saw his brother deflate. “It took me years of wondering why you never liked me, but I figured it out. Sometimes things like that just happen. We're too different.”

Viserys shook his head, his voice pained. "Daemon, I... it's not that simple.”

"It is," Daemon replied, his tone steady. "I don't hold it against you that you'd rather be with others and listen to them than me. It's fine. I have Rhaenyra. She's always been on my side since she was born. And I think I'm friends with Ser Luthor and Ser Harwin. I'm not sure, but I enjoy talking to them.”

Viserys sighed, the guilt heavy in his chest. "I'm sorry, Daemon."

Daemon met his gaze firmly. "We all have regrets, Viserys. But dwelling on them won't change the past. What matters is what we do now, how we move forward.”

Viserys nodded slowly, his eyes glistening. "I just wish things had been different between us.”

Daemon sighed, a trace of sadness in his eyes. "So do I, brother. But we can't change what's been done. We can only try to make things better from here on out.”

As Viserys began to respond, Vis came up and pulled at Daemon's tunic, whispering loudly, "I want the strawberry tart.”

Daemon's expression softened as he handed Vis three tarts on a small plate. "Be careful not to drop it." he said gently, watching as Vis went back to Aegon, using a small stool as a makeshift table.

Turning back to the King, Daemon saw the nostalgic look in Viserys's eyes. "What's really bothering you?" he asked.

Viserys sighed heavily, the burden of his worries etched deeply on his face. "Daemon, I spoke with Septon Eustace about the new babe. He says the babe's sex is a cause for concern. Things like this always precede a disaster of epic proportions. The holy man reiterated the need to appease the Seven.”

Daemon frowned, his eyes narrowing. "They want you to kill the child?”

Viserys's shoulders hunched, a look of despair crossing his face. "Not in so many words." he sighed tiredly.

"A child is a gift from the Fourteen Flames, Viserys. Why would you listen to these Andals who don't know what the f*ck they're talking about?" Daemon's voice rose slightly, and he quickly glanced at his children to make sure they hadn't heard. Aegon and Vis were busy sharing food and picking up different buildings on the King's model with their sticky hands

Turning back to his brother, Daemon's eyes flashed with anger. "In the eyes of the Andals, the followers of your beloved Faith, kinslaying is the most vicious crime, and they're asking you to commit that just because your child is a bit different?" he snapped.

“Having both female and male sex is more than being a little different, Daemon.” Viserys looked torn, his voice trembling. "What if they are right? I don't want my reign to be remembered as one that brought the harbinger of death.”

Daemon chuckled bitterly. "Viserys, no matter how you try to be a peaceful king, your reign will be remembered as the King who lost five wives. They already think you killed your first three wives... then there's Cassandra Baratheon. And now you want to add killing your own child as well? You’ll be known as the cowardly Maegor.”

Viserys's eyes filled with tears, but Daemon pressed on, his voice firm. "Here you are again, letting yourself be manipulated.”

Viserys took a deep breath, struggling with the weight of Daemon's words. "But what if they're right?" he whispered. “Already the High Septon refused to bless the child. I know that the Hightowers had bribed the Faith but they turned them away. Bethany said that she does not feel welcome in the Sept anymore.”

“Then kill these Septons.” He answered simply.

“I cannot just kill people indiscriminately, Daemon!” Viserys snapped.

“Then kill the child.” He said drily. “If you think your life will be easier if the child is killed, just let it end. You have to decide or your council will do so for you, like they did when they pressured you to marry Alicent Hightower. You almost did the same to Rhaenyra and Laenor, just because of their opinions.”

He saw his brother grimaced at the mention of Laenor Velaryon. He still had not forgotten the punched the young man gave him years ago.

Viserys's shoulders slumped. "You must think me so terrible, a man with no conviction.”

"Yes," Daemon answered simply. "But I am just your brother. Who am I to question the King?" He chuckled, turning back to Vis, who came over with sticky hands raised. Daemon smiled and pulled out his kerchief, which he had learned never to leave without since he had children. He dampened it with water and then cleaned his son's face and hands. "Did you enjoy the sweets?" His son smiled happily and nodded, his curls flying everywhere. Daemon let him get back to the Valyrian model and called Aegon next.

His eldest was more reluctant to come, but he did. Daemon handed him the damp kerchief, and Aegon cleaned his face and hands himself. Aegon was already quickly becoming independent.

Viserys watched the scene, a mixture of emotions crossing his face. "Daemon, I don't know what to do. I feel so torn.”

Daemon's gaze bore into Viserys with a mix of pity and disbelief. He couldn't fathom how his brother, who had eagerly awaited this child, was now contemplating kinslaying due to the opinions of lesser men.

In Valyria, blood ties matter little. It was survival of the fittest there. The strong survived, and the weak perished. Forty dragon-riding families vying for ultimate power had no time for sentimentalities like blood ties. But blood is also the most important thing. It's why Targaryens marry brothers and sisters—to keep the bloodline pure, so the magic connecting them to their dragons isn't diluted.

That's the contradiction in Valyria. Blood is everything, yet not enough to hesitate to kill our own if it furthers one's ambition. The only thing he likes about the Andals is their reverence for kin. Kinslaying is the most vicious crime to them. His brother had fully embraced their Andal traditions fully, and yet here he is talking about killing his own child to appease the Faith.

Daemon's narrowed his eyes at his brother who was looking at him pathetically. "You want me to kill the child.” His voice was full of anger and disappointment.

Viserys looked at Daemon in shock, taken aback by his brother's words. He began to protest, but Daemon's laughter cut through his objections. The sound was answered with little Vis's happy laughter, drawing a smile from Daemon as he looked at his son. Returning his attention to Viserys, Daemon's expression softened hardened.

"You did this before," Daemon said, his voice tinged with incredulity. "During the Great Council, you came to my room and spoke of your doubts about being chosen because you lacked a dragon. That's why I gathered an army for you." He shook his head, disbelief evident in his tone. "Maybe you're not so stupid after all, Viserys.” He hummed. “"I always forgot that Otto Hightower practically raised you; he must have rubbed off on you." Daemon continued, standing up and calling his children to him. He effortlessly took Vis into his arms and held onto Aegon's hand.

"Father always said home was a person, not a place," Daemon said softly, looking directly at Viserys. "Once it was mother and father, and after they died, I tried to make you my home. But you keep on sending me away. I have my own family now, your Grace..." He bounced little Vis gently in his arms and squeezed Aegon's hand. “I long realized that I will never be very high on the list of people you care about," Daemon said with a rueful chuckle, shaking his head. "But to manipulate me into doing this for you...”

He paused, his expression hardening once more. "For once in your life, Viserys, try to be a dragon and not a worthless worm. If you're going to rid yourself of that child, at least do it by your own hand and don't try to use others to do your bidding.”

With those words, Daemon turned and left, Aegon and Vis waving goodbye to their grandsire. Viserys stood there, stunned and shaken by his brother's rebuke, the weight of his decisions heavy upon him.

Daemon lay flat on his back with a floor pillow under his head, letting Rhaena and Aegon try their hands at braiding his hair. The children had recently learned about Valyrian war braids and were eager to practice on their father. His hair was brushed, tangled, and detangled as the children worked, their small hands moving through the silvery strands with varying degrees of success.

Visenya lay on his chest, slubbering on the laces of his tunic, while Vis was dozing off at his side. Vis was the most rambunctious of his children, always running and climbing on any surface he could reach. Aegon was always behind him, making sure he didn’t hurt himself. With the way Vis had climbed the balustrade of the pavilion andbefore jumping down, it was no wonder he was tired.

"Aegon, your sections are too uneven." Rhaena said, her voice serious as she tried to make her braid look like the ones she had seen in the books.

"I think this part goes here." Aegon replied, untangling a particularly messy section and trying again.

"Ouch!" Daemon exclaimed, wincing as Aegon tugged a bit too hard.

"Sorry, Kepa." Aegon mumbled, concentrating on his task.

Just then, Rhaenyra came in from the open doors of the nursery, her presence warm and comforting. "I’d like my husband not bald, thank you." she said, a playful lilt in her voice

Aegon and Rhaena was quick to run to the princess, kissing her with on the cheeks. Daemon had to assist Visenya so she wouldn’t tumble to the ground as she crawled towards Rhaenyra, who waited for her with open arms and a warm embrace.

Daemon smiled at his children and carefully took Vis into his arms, trying hard not to jostle him too much. He carried him to the bedchamber.

On the eastern side were Aegon and Vis's beds, which had evolved from cradles to beds with raised sides to prevent them from tumbling out. The western side housed Rhaena's bed and Visenya's cradle. This particular room, like the ones in the Stepstones and Dragonstone, only had the beds and a padded couch that the nurses used when the children slept. Rhaenyra wanted the children to associate the bedchamber with sleep, not eating or playing, so they would equate it with a place of rest.

The door on the side opened to where the nursemaids stayed, and one of the nurses hurried to turn down the thick blanket in Vis's bed. Daemon gently laid him down and pulled the blankets up. He turned to the nurse, who was keeping her eyes on the floor.

"Make sure he wakes up in two hours." he instructed.

"Yes, my Prince." the nurse replied.

Daemon left after making sure that the fire was roaring and the room was not too dark, so Vis wouldn't be scared when he woke up. Returning to the main area, he saw Rhaenyra gently rocking Visenya in her arms, humming a soft lullaby. Arrax curled at her feet.

Aegon and Rhaena were busy sorting their hair clips, pins, chains and rings, but they glanced up at him with wide, curious eyes.

"Kepa, did we do the braids right?" Rhaena asked, her voice full of hope

Daemon chuckled and knelt down in front of Rhaena’s dressing table to inspect their handiwork. There are three thin braids on his left side and four ones on the right side of his head. Rhaena used pretty bows to secure her braids while Aegon used hair clasps. "You both did wonderfully." he said, his eyes twinkling. "I might even wear my hair like this to the next council meeting.”

Rhaenyra laughed softly. "I'm sure that would make quite an impression.”

Aegon grinned proudly and looked at his aunt. "See, Rhaena? We did good!”

Daemon sat beside Rhaenyra, who immediately leaned into his chest, lifting her feet off the ground and curling them under her. He cradled her head with one hand as she tucked herself into his arms. With his other hand, he ran his forefinger over Visenya's tiny feet, making her giggle and kick the air.

Rhaenyra frowned at him. "I'm trying to put her down for a nap." she hissed softly.

He smiled apologetically and then glanced at his youngest, who was the spitting image of her mother—from her lilac eyes to her small button nose and Cupid's mouth, though with fewer hairs. Despite being almost a year old, Visenya still had just a tuft of silver-gold fuzz on her head. Rhaena often lamented her niece’s lack of hair, dreaming of the day she could braid it, but in the meantime, she enjoyed sharing her jeweled headbands and bows with Visenya.

Rhaenyra caressed Visenya's small head, trying to soothe her to sleep, but instead of closing her eyes, the baby was more interested in following the movement of the bracelet on her mother's right hand. This is the same one as the Valyrian necklace he gave her. The bracelet, crafted from a series of Valyrian steel links, echoed the fluid, interlocking pattern of dragon scales. This design not only added a sense of continuity and strength to the piece but also ensured its durability and comfort.

The focal point of the bracelet was an array of dragon scales dangling from the chains, each meticulously smoothened and polished to a round shape to prevent any sharp edges. The scales told a story of their own: Caraxes' red scale, the first one shed when Daemon became a dragon rider, stood out with its deep, fiery hue, symbolizing the beginning of their journey together. Alongside Caraxes' scale were the first scales shed by Syrax, Stormcloud, Vermax, and Arrax. Syrax's golden scale glowed with a warm, rich luster, Stormcloud's silvery scale shimmered with a cool, reflective brilliance, Vermax's green scale added a touch of vibrant life, and Arrax's pearlescent scale added an iridescent, otherworldly glow, reflecting a myriad of colors as it caught the light.

He wanted Rhaenyra to have a piece of their children near her wherever she is.

The bracelet's arrangement of colors created a mesmerizing array, a spectrum that captured the essence of their dragons and the Targaryen heritage. As Daemon looked forward to the future, he envisioned adding more scales to the bracelet, each new addition marking the arrival of another dragon-riding child, further solidifying their lineage and bond.

Visenya's tiny fingers reached for the bracelet, fascinated by its shimmering beauty. Rhaenyra let her play with the bracelet but did not allow her to put it into her mouth, not for the lack of trying on Visenya’s part though.

"How was your meeting with Lady Sam?" Daemon asked, his voice soft but curious.

Rhaenyra sighed, leaning further into him. "The High Septon continues to ask for prayers for the Queen and the babe, Jaehaerys. But the regular septons and septas who don't get any of the bribe money are angry. I don't understand why they are so sensitive about it. So, what if the child has both male and female sex? It does not affect them." She rolled her eyes in frustration.

Daemon kissed the top of her head. "It's deeply ingrained in the Faith that anything out of the ordinary is evil," he said. "Same-sex relationships, annulment, lying together outside of marriage, lying together without the goal of procreating. Jaehaerys' condition—they think of it as a punishment from the gods, that he inherited an original sin so the gods punished him. They also see us as abominations.”

Rhaenyra nodded. "Us and our dragons. As if the Conquerors did not stop a hundred wars that their hundred petty kings engaged in before they came. Westeros was always embroiled in one war or another, given how many kingdoms and kings they had. It had never known a moment of peace. The coming of the Conquerors stopped that, the threat of dragons enough to quell their hands.” Rhaenyra sighed again, looking at Visenya who was now dozing off in her arms. "It seems like no matter how much we do for this realm, they always find a reason to resent us.”

Daemon tightened his embrace around her. "It's human nature to fear what they don't understand and to envy those who hold power they can never hope to achieve. But we are Targaryens. We are not meant to be understood by the likes of them.”

Rhaenyra smiled softly, finding comfort in his words. "I know. But sometimes it feels like a never-ending battle.”

He hummed in agreement, not particularly caring if the Andals understood them or not, as long as they obeyed. They were alive today because they bent the knee to the Conqueror. With more dragons, elemental magic, and blood magic, the Targaryens commanded obedience.

"Your Lady Misery is working tirelessly to quell rumors and slander about the Queen and her babe." Rhaenyra said.

He furrowed his brow, momentarily puzzled. Then realization dawned. "Mysaria? Is she in league with the Hightowers?"

Rhaenyra met his gaze with a knowing look. "Who do you think whispered your 'Heir for a day' toast into Otto's ear?”

A pang of regret washed over him. Daemon wasn't known for filtering his words—a trait that often stirred unintended trouble. He understood Viserys's anger; losing Aemma had cut deep. Yet, Viserys is not the only one who lost her, she was his cousin too and Viserys had gone too far, sacrificing Aemma for a child who did not even lived for a day. The revelation that Mysaria, his then long-time confidante, had betrayed him stoked his ire. "That conniving woman," he muttered under his breath. "I funded that establishment for her, and this is how she repays me.”

"Serves you right for trusting such a treacherous soul." Rhaenyra retorted, her voice tinged with scorn.

Daemon rolled his eyes, a mix of frustration and concern etching his features. "What do you plan to do about it?”

“Nothing.” She said innocently. “She’s not a threat.”

The last time he asked her about something like this was pertaining to the child in the Queen’s belly, Jaehaerys. And everyone knows how he came out. Rhaenyra has a sad*stic streak in her that always proves devastating to her enemies. That is something he loves about her. She embraced being a Targaryen whole-heartedly. Rhaenyra possessed a certain ruthlessness that Daemon found both seductive and addictive.

With a gentle kiss on the side of her head, he took the sleeping Visenya into his arms and made his way to the nursery. The nurse, who had been diligently working on her embroidery, rose to her feet. She turned down the blanket in Visenya's cradle, allowing Daemon to lay her down with the utmost care, ensuring she was properly covered.

Arrax, with feline grace, leapt onto the cradle, curling up at Visenya's feet. Daemon noted that the hatchling would soon outgrow the cradle. The maid, visibly uncomfortable around the dragon, retreated to a chair near Viserys' bed.

Daemon proceeded to the side door, revealing a corridor with two doors facing each other. To the right was the resting place for the nursemaids on duty, and to the left, the quarters for the Dragonkeepers. Two guards stood vigilant at the servant’s door to the nursery, and two more flanked each of the other doors.

He looked at the Red Cloak guarding the Dragonkeepers' door, who immediately knocked to announce his presence. The door was promptly opened by Arthron Celtigar, one of Lord Celtigar's numerous nephews.

"Visenya is just sleeping." Daemon informed him.

Arthron nodded with a respectful bow and entered the nursery. He kept a prudent distance from the cradle but positioned himself close enough to intervene if necessary. The previous Dragonkeepers that he’s used to are now in the Dragonpit as Vermax is already too big to stay in the Castle. Daemon, satisfied with the arrangements, left Arthron to his duties and returned to the sitting room.

Rhaenyra was already sitting on one of the many floor pillows around the low table where Rhaena was showing her a drawing of Vhagar.

Daemon settled behind Aegon, who immediately leaned back into his father’s embrace. "Pray, why are these two not napping then?" he inquired with a playful arch of his brow.

Rhaena, adopting a prim voice, replied, "Because I'm well-behaved, Kepa.”

Aegon, not to be outdone, declared, "I am nearly six, and naps are for babies!”

Daemon chuckled, a warm sound that filled the room. "Remember what you said when you’re falling asleep in the dinning table later.” He teased.

“I will not fall asleep!” Aegon protested.

Rhaenyra, added with a knowing smile, "I suppose an exception could be made this once, but remember, my dears, naps help you grow faster.”

Aegon's eyes sparkled with sudden interest. "If I grow faster, may I have a pony?”

Daemon grinned, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "If you are good, my son, you shall have a pony, and I shall teach you to ride.”

With a burst of excitement, Aegon turned sharply, nearly catching Daemon’s chin with his enthusiasm. Aegon held his face with both hands, looking into eyes that mirrored his own. "Do you promise, Kepa? A pony if I am good?”

"Absolutely!" Daemon affirmed, his tone as sincere as his gaze

Aegon let out a triumphant whoop and bounded to his carved wooden horse, climbing atop it with all the grace and determination of a young knight. Daemon watched him with a soft smile on his lips.

Rhaenyra, her expression soft with amusem*nt, turned to Rhaena. "And what of you, my dear? Would you like a pony as well?”

Rhaena, ever the composed young lady, replied with a hint of elegance, "I would prefer a carriage.” She said. “Gilded.”

He laughed at that he’s sure Lord Corlys will trip over his feet to trying to fulfill his Targaryen Princess’ wish.

Aegon grabbed one of Rhaena's dolls, pretending to save the princess from imaginary pirates. Rhaena, not amused, shouted at Aegon for messing up her tea party and marched towards him with determination. Daemon laughed as Aegon, slightly taller but no match for Rhaena's fury, was swiftly beaten and pushed off from his horse. Aegon scowled at Rhaena before getting up, grumbling as he returned to his wooden horse.

"Aww, my little loser." Daemon whispered to Rhaenyra, who shushed him with a smile.

He then lay down, resting his head on his wife's lap. Rhaenyra combed her fingers through his hair, only to get tangled in the mess. "This will take forever to untangle." she sighed.

Daemon chuckled. "I’m sure you’ll do a fine job, my love.” He said. “How is the Archmaester settling down?”

Archmaester Vaegon was recalled from the Stepstones to help with the Guild House. He was so against returning to King's Landing, finding the Stepstones more agreeable, but they need him to oversee the works of the Alchemist. Laenor has proven to be a capable hydromancer as well. He had two years of instruction from the Archmaester and will be more than enough to ensure the Stepstones are protected.

"I put him in his previous rooms on the fifth level of the Holdfast. He commanded ten rooms for himself alone," Rhaenyra replied with a hint of exasperation.

Daemon snickered. "For someone who loathes the pomp of royalty, he sure enjoys its luxuries.” He then looked at her face. “Has he told you his insane idea for Summerhall?”

Rhaenyra sighed then smiled. “HE had been talking my ears off about it. He said that we are already lending money to the other Houses we may as well establish a legitimate bank.”

He nodded. “He wanted me to carve the bank into the Red Mountain. He insists it is the ideal place to store all the vaults.”

“He believes the mountain’s natural fortifications would provide unmatched security.” Rhaenyra added, her tone thoughtful.

Daemon chuckled. "And I suppose he wants the entrance guarded by a dragon too?"

Rhaenyra laughed softly, finally untangling a stubborn knot in Daemon’s hair. "What better security than a dragon?" she said, then sighed. “Though, the Dornish will certainly not be pleased.”

“Hang the Dornish.” he scoffed.

“Daemon!” Rhaenyra admonished, though a smile played on her lips.

“They don’t own the Red Mountain and well use the side facing the Stormsland. They’ll just have to deal with it.” Daemon replied nonchalantly, leaning back into his wife’s gentle ministrations

Rhaenyra shook her head, still smiling. "You always know how to make light of things.”

"Why not?" Daemon replied. "Worrying too much never accomplished anything. Now, tell me more about this bank. What grand visions has our dear Archmaester conjured up this time?”

“The Archmaester insists that the Targaryens must control the kingdom's necessities if we want our dynasty to last," she began. "The Stepstones control trade with the East and wants Dragonstone to have a fleet of its own, saying the Crown should not be reliant on the Velaryons at sea.” Rhaenyra answered then with a twinkle of mischief in her eye, cleared her throat and adopted an exaggeratedly haughty tone, perfectly mimicking the Archmaester. "By establishing dominion over a financial institution, the royal family can ensure that the kingdom's economic policies align with their long-term strategic goals, rather than relying on external banks or financial entities. Such control affords greater flexibility in managing state funds, financing public projects, and responding to economic crises. Furthermore, it mitigates the risk of political and financial influence from external forces, thus bolstering national security and economic independence.”

Daemon's laughter rang out, warm and rich, his eyes sparkling with amusem*nt. "The Lannisters will most certainly not be pleased.”

Rhaenyra huffed in mock indignation, her expression turning more serious. "Jason Lannister has been in secretive discussions with Hobert Hightower about betrothing Prince Jaehaerys to one of his daughters. Lady Johanna wrote to me, frantic with worry, declaring she does not want her daughter associated with a 'beast'—her word, not mine.”

“The Lannister’s audacity knows no bounds.” He spat.

Rhaenyra sighed, her gaze thoughtful. "It is indeed a delicate matter, Daemon. We must navigate it with care. Our strength is not merely in our dragons and our might, but also in the alliances we forge. The Archmaester's vision may grant us the economic power we seek, but our relationships must be managed with equal prudence.”

"To hell with the Lannisters, and the Hightowers too." Daemon declared with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Let’s demonstrate to these insufferable wretches that our strength isn’t confined to our dragons alone.”

Rhaenyra nodded, her eyes sparkling with determination. "The Archmaester has already suggested names to assist us in managing the bank. Surprisingly, two of those names belong to Saera's children residing in Lys. They are key holders of the Rogare Bank.”

Daemon arched an eyebrow, intrigued. "And how, pray tell, did he come to know them?”

Rhaenyra pondered for a moment before answering, "I believe he flew on Dreamfyre and sought her out. She was in Volantis.”

Daemon looked incredulous. "Do they not despise one another?”

"Indeed, they do." Rhaenyra replied, "but they found common ground in the shared family tragedies they were unable to witness firsthand.”

"Targaryens." Daemon exclaimed with exasperation, shaking his head. They both chuckled at the complexities of their familial relationships.

"It will be years before Summerhall is completed, and even longer for the bank," Rhaenyra continued. "We have time to assemble a capable staff. One of our children will need to be prepared for this responsibility."

“Should it be a cadet branch? The Westerosi seem to relish creating new names for cadet branches, like the Karstarks.” He said.

"No!" Rhaenyra's voice was firm and unwavering. "It must remain Targaryen. Targaryen of Summerhall, Targaryen of the Stepstones. Perhaps we can add a distinguishing mark to the banner, but it must still bear the red three-headed dragon on a black field. I refuse to hand over the bank and dragons to another house.”

Daemon's smile was one of approval and pride. "Agreed. The legacy of House Targaryen will remain unbroken and undeniable. We’ll ensure our future generations are prepared to uphold it.”

"When I ascend to the throne, I shall establish strict guidelines concerning the dragons," Rhaenyra declared with conviction. "No one outside of House Targaryen shall be permitted a dragon. Those who wish to possess such magnificent beasts must either bear the Targaryen name or renounce all claim to dragon ownership. Furthermore, every child whose dragon egg hatches will be fostered at the Red Keep or Dragonstone. They shall receive the finest education on dragon care and upbringing, ensuring their loyalty to the crown.”

Daemon nodded solemnly in agreement. "The Velaryons once held more dragons than the crown," he added, his tone resolute. "We cannot afford to dilute our authority again. Our dragons must only serve those who bear the Targaryen name.”

They shared a brief, intense moment of understanding, unified in their resolve to maintain the supremacy of House Targaryen and protect the sanctity of their dragon heritage.

Rhaenyra POV

Rhaenyra watched with amusem*nt as Wisdom Sorin and Archmaester Vaegon hit it off famously, like sparks flying from a well-stoked hearth. They stood inside one of the barn-like structures within the Guild House, huddled around a sturdy wagon. At its rear sat a small, enclosed boiler, wisps of steam curling lazily from its vents. The cart's wheels were robust, clearly designed to support both its weight and the experimental machinery onboard. Along its side, a network of valves and gauges hinted at ongoing adjustments and tests.

Wisdom Sorin, with his scholarly demeanor and hands gesturing animatedly, explained to the fascinated Archmaester, "Controlled fire, fueled by coal or wood, heats water inside the boiler. As the water turns to steam, it builds pressure." His eyes gleamed with the excitement of discovery.

The Seekers, diligent in their tasks, ensured the boilers were functioning smoothly while Archmaester Vaegon leaned in, his curiosity piqued. Sorin continued, "The mechanism: pressurized steam flows into pistons linked to the cart's wheels. These pistons move with the steam's force, driving the wheels and propelling the cart forward." He demonstrated with a simple lever, showing how the operator could control speed and direction.

To Rhaenyra's astonishment, the cart lurched into motion without a horse, drawing a delighted shout from Archmaester Vaegon. But the joyous moment was short-lived as a sudden explosion rocked the workshop. Steam billowed out, and the Seekers coughed amid the chaos.

Sorin, ever composed, remarked, "We still need to stabilize the boiler.”

Rhaenyra, taken aback, instinctively stepped back, her heart pounding with concern. Vis, in Lady Selene's arms, cried out in fear. Without hesitation, Rhaenyra swept him up, cradling him close. His tiny fingers clutched her fiercely, seeking solace in her embrace as he buried his face against her neck, trembling.

Amidst the chaos, a sympathetic Seeker approached with a delicate balancing bird, crafted from the lightest of materials. Its intricate design captivated Viserys instantly. With a gentle touch, the Seeker balanced the bird on his pointer finger, astonishing everyone as it remained steady and poised.

Viserys' eyes widened in awe, his own finger extending tentatively. With practiced skill, the Seeker transferred the bird to Vis' little finger, where it balanced perfectly. Joyful laughter bubbled from Vis as he watched in amazement.

"Well done, Viserys!" Rhaenyra praised warmly, pressing a kiss to his temple. Turning to Seeker Thelon, she added with heartfelt gratitude, "Thank you." The Seeker bowed respectfully, a moment of calm and kindness amidst the workshop's tumultuous scene.

“You must include a pressure release valve and a gauge to monitor steam pressure to prevent the boiler from exploding.” She heard the Archmaester say.

"Vaegon, my dear Archmaester, you're absolutely right," Wisdom Sorin exclaimed with a hint of awe as they stood amidst the bustling workshop. Steam still wisped from the recently exploded boiler, a stark reminder of their experimental fervor. "Seekers, make note of that at once!"

As Sorin directed the Seekers, Rhaenyra stepped out into the transformed surroundings. The once dilapidated area now buzzed with renewed activity. Towers and new buildings were rising, and the foundations of a protective wall were being laid around the burgeoning enclave.

The Alchemists have kept the original Guild Hall for their own purposes. One tower now hosts skilled Smiths, imparting their craft to eager apprentices. Another tower teems with textile artisans, teaching children the delicate arts of weaving, dyeing fabrics with natural hues, and the fine skills of sewing and tailoring.

She had sent for twenty men and women from Rook's Rest, to be thought the skills of the art of crafting water lamps. With the demand for candles waning, she had directed Lord Stauton to be the one to take over the production of the water lamps. Rook's Rest, by the coast, will provide ample seawater, they just need to perfect the salt-to-water ratio. The specialized jars they will be using will be provided by Massey's Hook.

She looked atop Visenya's Hill where a grand new project took shape. Rhaenyra, her gaze resolute, oversaw the beginnings of what would soon be known as the Seven Kingdoms' first Healing House. This establishment, dedicated solely to the art of healing—crafting poultices, brewing medicines, and tending to the sick and wounded—was a bold venture

However, the announcement of this bold initiative had stirred up a storm within the Citadel. Rhaenyra had stood firm in the face of their opposition, declaring to the Grand Maester that Maesters will be welcome in the Healing House, alongside anyone eager to learn. The Citadel may disagree, but they forget their duty, Maesters tend only to nobility, leaving the smallfolk to fend for themselves.

She cared little for the plight of the smallfolk; her aim was greater. She sought to challenge the Citadel's control over healing, knowledge, and communication across Westeros. This was not just about tending wounds but about reshaping power dynamics.

She shall also ensure the art of ravenry is not solely held by the Citadel. Their communication must be secure and accessible to all.

Through the Guild Houses, she shall spread knowledge far and wide. No longer will Oldtown be the sole beacon of learning in Westeros. King's Landing shall become the center of innovation, where all who thirst for knowledge may come.

Ser Luthor approached Ser Lorent with a deep furrow in his brow, his concern palpable as he exchanged a quick glance with Rhaenyra. Ser Lorent swiftly strode over with a sense of urgency.

"Princess, there's unrest brewing on the Street of Seeds," Ser Lorent began gravely, his voice low yet urgent. "I strongly advise we return to the Keep before matters worsen. We'll need to navigate through Flea Bottom instead.”

Archmaester Vaegon interjected with a hint of protest, "Perhaps we should proceed ahead, Your Grace.”

The Kingsguard, unwavering in their duty, insisted firmly that Archmaester Vaegon accompany them back to safety. Though visibly displeased, the Archmaester reluctantly agreed. They boarded a discreet carriage, though Rhaenyra knew Ser Lorent's presence alone would betray their identities.

Inside the carriage, Rhaenyra gently declined Lady Selene's offer to hold Viserys, keeping him close to her chest protectively. The distant clamor outside suggested the situation was more dire than initially reported. She silently thanked the gods that Visenya and Aegon were safe within the Keep—Visenya is too young to be exposed to the questionable chemicals in the Guild Hall, and Aegon was immersed in his riding lessons after receiving a spirited sandsteed pony from Daemon just a week prior.

The journey proceeded in tense silence, the rhythmic sway of the carriage lulling Viserys into a gentle slumber, his fingers clutching the delicate balancing bird tightly. Suddenly, the carriage came to an abrupt halt. Ser Lorent's authoritative voice rang out amidst the chaos outside, met with a tumultuous flurry that rocked the carriage violently.

Rhaenyra gasped in fear, instinctively pulling Viserys closer, her heart racing as she struggled to maintain balance amidst the chaotic upheaval inside the carriage.

Outside the carriage, voices rose in a menacing chorus. "Kill the beast! Kill the demon spawn!" The chilling cries pierced through the air, sending shivers down Rhaenyra's spine. She clutched Viserys close, her heart racing not only for herself but for her innocent son, barely four years old and undeserving of such terror.

Inside the carriage, Archmaester Vaegon cautiously peered through a cracked window while Lady Selene huddled on the floor. With a sudden jolt, the door was wrenched open, revealing a man in tattered attire, his sneer filled with malice. "Here's the demon spawn!" he spat, brandishing a sword with lethal intent.

Before the blade could strike, a swift motion and a sickening thud silenced the threat. The man collapsed forward, a dagger embedded in his back. Ser Lorent, bloodied yet resolute, stood over them protectively. "Princess, quickly now! We must proceed on foot." he urged urgently.

Rhaenyra nodded firmly, accepting Ser Lorent's steady hand as he guided her out of the carriage. Lady Selene scrambled to follow, supported by Archmaester Vaegon who steadied her faltering steps.

Outside, the aftermath of the skirmish lay grim and stark. Bodies lay strewn across the cobbled street, elderly men dressed in drab grey garments adorned with a striking red seven-pointed star—the emblem of their assailants. Among the fallen were brave men of the City Watch and seasoned Unsullied warriors, their valiant efforts no match for the frenzied violence.

Of their original escort, only Ser Lorent, Ser Luthor, three Gold Cloaks, and four Unsullied remained. They hurried through the labyrinthine alleys of Flea Bottom, wary eyes peering from behind barricaded doors and shuttered windows. Fear gripped those who dared to glance their way, their faces etched with dread and uncertainty.

Turning a corner into a narrow alleyway, they stumbled upon a chilling sight: more than twenty men adorned with the ominous red stars sewn onto their clothes. The menacing group stood with intent clear and deadly, their faces twisted with malice and purpose.

As the fray erupted, Ser Luthor Largent swung his sword with lethal precision, decapitating three foes in a single, powerful sweep. Ser Lorent battled valiantly against two burly assailants, their brutish strength matched by his skill and determination. Yet, despite their prowess, the superior numbers of their enemies began to overwhelm them.

The Unsullied, without the protection of armor, fell first, their disciplined formation no match for the onslaught in a narrow alleyway. Next were the Gold Cloaks, their bodies hacked and battered by blunted swords and heavy maces. The ground was littered with the fallen, leaving only Ser Luthor and Ser Lorent standing as a final shield before Rhaenyra.

Viserys's cries pierced the chaos, his small body trembling with fear. Rhaenyra kissed his head, pressing his face into her chest to shield him from the ghastly scene. Her eyes met Archmaester Vaegon’s, who looked deeply concerned as he glanced at Viserys before meeting her gaze. "Grand Uncle..." she began, her voice laced with desperation.

He offered her a reassuring smile. "You will not die today, niece," he said with a quiet resolve. Despite her protests, he stepped forward, facing the six remaining men who, though bloodied and wounded, still radiated a dangerous fervor.

"You bloody Targaryens are the bane of the Seven!" one spat, his eyes wild with hatred. "You brought your beast first, and now you birth monsters too! Death to the Dragons!" They raised their swords, poised to strike.

Archmaester Vaegon raised his hand, then brought it down swiftly. In an instant, the street was awash with blood, as if buckets had been thrown over the cobblestones. Lady Selene screamed and tried to pull Rhaenyra away, but it was too late—the hems of their gowns were already soaked in crimson.

Horrified, Rhaenyra looked around at the scene. The men who had been about to kill them lay lifeless, their bodies reduced to husks of dried flesh, drained entirely of blood.

Archmaester Vaegon took her elbow and guided her out of the alley. "How?" she asked, her voice trembling.

The older man grimaced. "The human body is made up of seventy-five percent water. Remove the water, and we die." he explained succinctly.

She nodded, still in shock. For someone who had the natural affinity with water it must have been very easy for the Archmaester to strip the men of their own blood. As they moved away, she looked back, and with a snap of her fingers, the remains of their assailants burst into flames, reducing the evidence to ash. She knew they needed no further proof to turn the people against them.

Notes:

My sister said to slow down in the innovation but would it not be cool to see Jon Snow holding a gun with dragonglass bullet on the Wall? Arya riding a train to the Wall instead of walking the whole way there? lol
Daemyra divorce children, how are we after ep 2? I know Daemon f*cked up especially since it's Rhaenyra's name getting dragged through the mud but girl, I'm tired of her being so nice. if I was Daemon I would just fly off to Pentos. "Goodluck on the Wars to come, Your Grace. Call me back when you don't think of me as pathetic anymore." lol.

Chapter 34

Chapter Text

Daemon POV

Daemon paced the dimly lit black cells, a sinister glint in his eyes as he approached the hapless prisoner. The warrior's son, a man now broken and disfigured, lay shackled before him. His right hand bore only stumps where fingers once were, his left foot a grotesque mass of mangled muscle and jutting bone. One eye socket was a hollow void.

Daemon savored the fear emanating from the prisoner. He leaned in closer, his voice a silken whisper. "Tell me again," he said, his tone both commanding and cruel. "Who orchestrated this madness?”

The prisoner, gasping for breath, managed to rasp, "The White Worm... she wanted us to speak of the Queen's virtues. But the Shepherd twisted her words... turned it into something dark.”

Daemon's expression darkened further. "The Shepherd," he repeated, his voice dripping with disdain. "He preached of dragons as beasts from the Seven Hells, spreading fear and inciting the need to exterminate the Targaryens.”

The man nodded weakly, his remaining eye wide with terror. "Many believed him... they feared the Queen's children... the freaks.”

“Well, you should have attacked the Queen and not my wife and child!” he shouted and kicked the man in the chest.

Mysaria has been captured at the docks, attempting to flee to Pentos. The same night the riot erupted, he summoned all three thousand Gold Cloaks to sweep the city. He recalled the ruthless efficiency with which the City Watch had raided the City Sept, imprisoning every Septon and Septa. Men bearing the sigil of the red seven-pointed star were apprehended en masse, along with their followers and sympathizers. The dungeon now housed nearly a hundred such prisoners, a writhing mass of desperation and fear. Even those from Oldtown have found their way into these cells. The Queen's own cousin, Gwayne Hightower, resides in one of the more comfortable quarters. Lady Lynesse Hightower remains confined to her rooms.

The prisoner whimpered, his spirit utterly crushed. Daemon reveled in the power he wielded, the control he exerted over life and death. "You see," he said, almost conversationally, "treachery will not be tolerated. The price for betrayal is steep, and mercy is but a distant dream.”

Daemon nodded to the gaoler and exited the oppressive confines of the Black Cells. He would have gone straight to the Small Council Chamber, but the thought of Rhaenyra seeing him in his current state—bloody and covered in mud—was unthinkable. Instead, he headed for the baths, scrubbing himself with such vigor that his skin turned pink. Only when he was thoroughly cleansed did he make his way to the Council meeting.

He was glad he had taken the time, for Rhaenyra had brought Vis along. The boy, who had been unable to sleep peacefully since the riot incited by the Shepherd, was munching on cheese and hard bread. Vis often woke up screaming in the night, his cries disturbing the other children. For now, he slept with them, seeking the comfort and security of his mother’s arms. Daemon hoped fervently that, in time, Vis would forget the nightmares that plagued him.

Entering the chamber, Daemon nodded to his brother and kissed his wife on the cheek before taking Vis onto his lap. Before he could even open his mouth, a piece of cheese was smashed into his face. Vis giggled, and Daemon smiled, gently combing the curls out of his son’s eyes.

Septon Eustace wasted no time, launching into a discussion about releasing the Septons and Septas from the cells. "The people will not take kindly to the holy men and women being imprisoned without trial." he said, his tone earnest and pleading.

Daemon turned his piercing gaze towards the old Septon. "Are you threatening another insurrection, Septon Eustace?" he asked, his tone dangerously low. "Do you have more Warrior's Sons and Poor Fellows lurking in hiding?”

The old man's eyes darted away, and he stammered, "Of course not, Your Highness, I just mean...”

"I don't think Septon Eustace intended his words to be threatening, husband," Rhaenyra interjected smoothly, her hand squeezing Daemon's gently. "If the Septons, Septas, and everyone in service of the Faith are innocent, we will ascertain that during our... questioning. I'm sure these holy men are loyal and have nothing to worry about, isn’t that right, Septon Eustace?”

“Of course, Your Grace.” The old man bowed deeply. Defeated, the old man just fixed his gaze on the table. The tension in the room eased as the discussion shifted to Daemon’s petition to recruit more men for the City Watch and request additional funds for their armor and weapons.

"I am personally overseeing the armoring of the Dragon Guards," Daemon continued, his voice steady. "Leather will not suffice for the Unsullied. I have already sent instructions to the Stepstones and the Guild of Smithy. The two hundred remaining Unsullied in King's Landing will be armored first, followed by every man-at-arms in Dragonstone and the Stepstones.”

Daemon’s grip tightened slightly on Vis, who was busy trying to reach his council sphere. He picked up the ball and handed it to his son, gently admonishing, "It's dirty, do not put it in your mouth." The boy soon lost interest and let the ball roll down the table. Ser Luthor deftly caught it before it fell and gently rolled it back to the young prince. Vis giggled and rolled it back to Ser Luthor.

The King observed the playful exchange with a fond smile, while Tyland Lannister and the Grand Maester looked on with evident disapproval. Noticing their expressions, Daemon flashed a broad, toothy grin, causing them to quickly avert their eyes.

As the room settled, the council resumed its discussions, the weight of recent events hanging heavily in the air.

Rhaenyra had asked Ser Luthor for the names of the Gold Cloaks who lost their lives trying to protect her and a stipend to their parents and wives will be paid for by Dragonstone. Any children who wanted to enter any of the Guild Houses will be accepted immediately. Anyone of age to work will be find a position in the keep.

Rhaenyra had requested from Ser Luthor the names of the Gold Cloaks who had valiantly sacrificed their lives in the noble duty of protecting her. She decreed that a generous stipend, funded by Dragonstone, would be bestowed upon their bereaved parents and wives. Moreover, any children of the fallen who wished to join any of the Guild Houses would be granted immediate acceptance, and those of working age would be assured positions within the Keep. Though Rhaenyra often professed an indifference to the smallfolk, whose devotions she deemed fickle at best, Daemon took great pride in her actions. She had no obligation to care for the families of the deceased; their duty was to protect the city and, more importantly, the royal family. Yet, she chose to extend her kindness nonetheless.

"Lord Lyonel," began Daemon, eyes narrowing slightly, "You propose a deadline for the interrogation of the prisoners. Why? Shouldn’t we be more thorough on our questioning?”

Lyonel straightened, his demeanor as unyielding as ever. "Your Highness, the prisoners are an undue strain on our provisions and the guards required to oversee them. These same guards could be better employed fortifying the security of the Keep. A one-week extension should suffice to unearth the mastermind behind the insurrection.”

Viserys, with a thoughtful nod, replied, "A reasonable suggestion, Lord Lyonel. One more week, then."

Daemon could barely contain his frustration. "Brother, are you so certain that the Shepherd alone is to blame? Do you not see the hand of the Hightowers in this treachery?”

Viserys looked at him, his expression one of patient rebuke. "Daemon, the Shepherd is the one preaching hatred against us. There is no evidence to implicate the Hightowers.”

“No evidence?” he laughed sarcastically. “Every last one of the Poor Fellows we apprehended had said they were sent by the Hightowers, what more evidence do you want?”

Viserys sighed. "Daemon, they were sent to spread the Queen’s name not deface us. It was the Shepherd who twisted his orders, We must deal with the threats we can see and prove. Blaming the Hightowers without solid proof will only divide us further.”

"Divide us?" Daemon leaned forward, his voice a low growl. "It is their machinations that threaten to tear us apart. You are too trusting, brother.”

Rhaenyra, sensing the escalating tension, placed a hand on Daemon's arm. "Husband, let us focus on what we can control. If there is evidence against the Hightowers, we will find it. For now, we must deal with the immediate threat.”

Daemon looked at her, his anger softening slightly at her touch. "Very well," he said, his tone still hard. "But mark my words, this is far from over.”

Viserys nodded, looking relieved. "Agreed. One week, then we will reassess.”

In the end, they found no irrefutable evidence to directly implicate the Hightowers in the riot, aside from the desperate confessions of the Poor Fellows that they were sent to spread good words for the Queen. The Shepherd, in his madness, continued to spout fanatical nonsense about the Faith sending him to exterminate the blight that were the Targaryens.

The sentencing was a grand affair held at the Dragonpit, allowing the smallfolk to witness the justice of the Crown firsthand. These same people had been subjected to the Shepherd's vile preaching and had witnessed the resulting riot. Almost fifty smallfolk had perished in the chaos, nearly a hundred more were injured, and numerous establishments had been vandalized and burned.

The Dragonpit, a marvel of architectural grandeur, stood as one of the largest buildings in the city. Its vast domed structure featured tiers of benches for spectators, all overlooking a central sandpit. This impressive edifice could comfortably accommodate eighty thousand souls, a testament to its monumental scale.

The largest dragon gate faced the tiered seats directly, its massive portal wide enough for even the great Vermithor to pass through with ease. Smaller entrances were designed to allow access for the younger, more agile dragons. Beneath the Dragonpit lay the dragons’ nests, nestled in the caves they had carved themselves into Rhaenys’ Hill. The caves were said to be five times bigger than the ones in Dragonstone. The domed pit served not only to protect these entrances but also to regulate the dragons' comings and goings and to house the esteemed Order of the Dragonkeepers.

Constructed from stones as black as those of Dragonstone itself, the Dragonpit exuded an aura of formidable strength and ancient majesty. Yet, the dome, made of intricate stained glass, added a touch of delicate beauty. When closed, the dome allowed sunlight to filter through, casting a kaleidoscope of colors onto the sandpit below, creating a breathtaking interplay of light and shadow. This harmonious blend of strength and beauty made the Dragonpit not only a functional stronghold but also a dazzling spectacle within the city.

On this day, the dome was opened, allowing sunlight to stream through, illuminating the sandpit where the Dragonkeepers typically instructed the children with their hatchlings. This is where all the conspirators of the riot were lined, all of them kneeling. The first line was the Shepherd whose tongue he already cut, the traitorous whor* Mysaria then the Poor Fellows. Behind them were the Septons and Septas from the City Sept. And then the Knights and Men-at -Arms from Oldtown, including Gwayne Hightower.

Rhaenyra, guided by the wisdom of Lord Lyonel, decreed thatthe Shepherd, Mysaria and all captured Poor Fellows were to be sentenced to death. In a move that stunned even Lord Lyonel, she also banished all septons and septas from the city, sending them back to the Starry Sept along with everyone from Oldtown.

“Princess… that might be harsh—” Lord Lyonel whispered eyes widened in shock,

But Rhaenyra remained resolute. "The Starry Sept will send new ones," she declared, "those who come without an agenda. Oldtown, and specifically the Hightowers, must be very careful in their spreading of propaganda. The Crown will no longer tolerate their conspiracies, no matter their pretense of cleaning the Queen's image.” She spat.

The atmosphere within the Dragonpit was electric, teetering on the edge of chaos. As the Poor Fellows stood awaiting their fate, the crowd's murmurs turned to shouts.

"Bloody Bethany should pay too!" a man roared from the throng.

Another voice quickly agreed, "It was the Princess who was attacked, but it was the Queen who birthed freaks!"

The crowd's anger flared, and soon chants of "Oust Bloody Bethany!" mingled with cries of "Seven Blessings to Princess Rhaenyra!" echoed through the vast structure

The Shepherd, Mysaria and the Poor Fellows were executed swiftly, their heads mounted on the Traitor’s Walk. Caraxes, came out of his cave to burn their bodies, his fiery breath reducing them to ashes in moments to the crowd’s awe.

As they exited the pit, Rhaenyra turned to Lord Caswell. "I want all of the Queen's attendants out of the Keep by morning. They should be put on the next boat to Oldtown along with the Septons and Septas. Please oversee the selection of new maids and servants for her household.”

The Castellan nodded, replying, "I already have a list of names, Princess." He hesitated, then added, "But what if the Queen does not agree?”

“Tell the Queen it is the command of the Princess of Dragonstone, Heir to the iron Throne and Hand of the King.” She said simply

Caswell looked troubled but nodded.

"Why not just kill the bitch?" he inquired bluntly

“My father is already ailing and old. I will need the Queen to care for him, as I will be too busy to do so.” Rhaenyra replied with a measure of pragmatism.

His wife pulled him into the carriage. With a resigned sigh, he entered, foregoing the comfort of his own steed. The only solace within the carriage was the padded seat, yet the jerky movements and limited visibility of his surroundings were a source of continual irritation.

“Do you still have contacts in Oldtown?” she asked as soon as the door was closed.

“Yes.” he responded without hesitation.

“How soon can you send them a message?”

"I can send them along with the banished c*nts." he replied, eliciting a smile from Rhaenyra.

"Good." she said with satisfaction. "I have summoned the High Septon to my audience chamber.” She said changing the topic abruptly.

He frowned at this. Rhaenyra had not moved into the Tower of the Hand, preferring the more secure Holdfast and wishing not to uproot the children from their accustomed surroundings. Yet, she used it to conduct official business with lords and ladies.

"Why do you need to talk to that old, smelly man? I'm surprised he hasn't died yet.” He said callously. The High Septon looks as if he's already passed a hundred name days and smells like he has already died. It is usually Septon Eustace who represents the Faith due to the High Septon's frailty.

She just smiled innocently at him and he rolled his eyes.

He led her to the Audience Chamber, situated on the fourth level of the Tower. The High Septon was already present, accompanied by Septon Eustace. His eyebrow arched in mild surprise as he observed her pressing her thumb against her ring, drawing a bead of blood before taking the High Septon's hand in a gesture of deference.

Daemon Targaryen's evening had taken a delightfully chaotic turn. After a particularly messy supper, Aegon and Viserys were covered head to toe in mashed bananas and chowder soup. Rhaena had looked at them in disgust and took Visenya to the Ladies Hall where Rhaenyra’s Ladies-in-Waiting usually gathers. When he attempted to hand them over to the nurses for cleaning, Viserys clung to him, mashing banana into Daemon's hair. With a resigned smile, he decided to bathe with them.

The copper tub, slightly smaller than the ones in the Royal Apartments, was just large enough to accommodate the three of them. As Daemon settled into the warm water with his sons, Aegon giggled, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

"Father, look! I'm a sea dragon!" Aegon declared, splashing water with exuberant delight.

"Indeed you are, my little dragon." Daemon replied, chuckling as he ruffled Aegon's wet hair.

As Daemon tried to lather soap onto Viserys's head, the little boy grabbed the soap and attempted to eat it.

"No, Vis, you can’t eat that, you’ll die." Daemon said drily, prying the soap from his son's grasp just in time.

Viserys pouted but then giggled as Daemon tickled him under the chin. Aegon continued to splash water, causing miniature waves to cascade over the edge of the tub.

Two maids stood near the door, watching with disapproving expressions, their arms crossed over their chests. Daemon sighed, knowing the water would soon turn cold if they didn't finish. They had already spent more than half an hour playing. She nodded a them and they moved quickly towards their charges.

"Aegon, let's not flood the floor, shall we?" Daemon suggested with a wry smile.

"But it's fun, Kepa!" Aegon replied, his laughter infectious.

"Hold still, my little prince." Aelinor, Viserys’ main caretaker, coaxed as she washed his hair.

"I don't like it!" Viserys protested, wriggling in her grasp.

"Hush now, it will be over soon." Daemon reassured him, kissing the top of his son's wet head.

The once chaotic scene gradually transformed into a semblance of order, thanks to the swiftness of the nursemaids.

Daemon did not protest when the two children were whisked away to be dressed. With a practiced hand, he pulled the plug, emptying the tub. During the months he had spent in the capital, he had been diligently working on connecting the piping of Maegor's Holdfast to the drainage tunnel beneath the Keep. His efforts extended beneath the city, laying the groundwork for a proper sewage system when Rhaenyra would eventually address the issue of proper sewage system in King’s landing.

He turned the red dragon knob, waiting for the almost boiling water to fill the tub, allowing himself a rare moment of solitude and relaxation. His clothes were already laid out, neatly arranged on one of the chairs. Sighing in anticipation, he submerged himself in the hot water, feeling it wash away the days exertions.

Once he was clean and dressed, Daemon exited the nursery's bathing chamber, only to find Aegon and Viserys peacefully drinking their warm milk by the fire. They looked like little angels, a stark contrast to the mischievous hooligans who had thrown food at each other mere moments ago.

"Aegon, Vis, you both appear quite ready for bed." Daemon remarked, a fond smile playing on his lips as he approached them.

"Yes, Kepa." Aegon replied, his eyelids drooping with the weight of impending slumber.

Vis nodded, his head bobbing as he fought to stay awake.

"Did you enjoy your bath?" Daemon inquired, kneeling beside them.

"Yes, it was splendid," Aegon said, a sleepy smile spreading across his face. "Can we do it again tomorrow?”

"Perhaps," Daemon replied, gently brushing a lock of hair from Aegon's forehead. "But for now, it is time for bed.”

The two boys nodded, too tired to protest. Daemon watched as the nurses gently lifted them and carried them to their beds. He stood by the fire for a moment, enjoying the warmth and the brief silence. In these quiet moments, he found solace, knowing that despite the challenges and chaos, his family was safe and together.

Daemon was not pleased with the outcome of today's execution. Though the Poor Fellows had been dealt with and all servants in the Keep with ties to Oldtown had been ousted, Rhaenyra had not allowed him to forge a letter that would incriminate the Queen. His wife had merely patted his hand and told him there was no need to sully himself unnecessarily.

Had this happened more than five years ago, he would have rebelled against it. He would have done everything in his power to implicate not just the Hightowers but also the Lannisters and anyone else plotting against his family. But fatherhood had tempered him. He knew Rhaenyra had her own plans, and he decided to see what she would do. It was reassuring to have a partner who knew when to wield Fire and Blood and when to employ diplomacy.

In the days when he was Viserys's heir presumptive, Daemon felt compelled to act in ways that countered the weakness his brother exhibited, lest the realm believe that the Dragons of House Targaryen had lost their teeth. This compulsion had led to numerous banishments, but it had also cemented his reputation as a rogue. The mere mention of his name was enough to halt treasonous whispers against his family.

Now, it was a relief not to constantly need to appear strong and cruel. There was someone else to handle things when he could not, someone who balanced his fiery nature with strategic calm. It allowed him moments like these, standing by the fire, cherishing the sight of his children at peace, and knowing that together, he and Rhaenyra were a formidable force.

The day's events replayed in his mind as he pondered Rhaenyra's approach. Her restraint, her foresight—qualities he had come to admire and respect. As much as he yearned to strike at their enemies with immediate ferocity, he recognized the wisdom in her methods. The union of their strengths—his raw power and her calculated diplomacy—made them a force to be reckoned with.

Daemon looked into the still-open bedchamber and smiled as Vis, seeing him, went from sleepy to alert. He backed away when Aelinor gave him a sharp look as she caressed Vis' head and hummed a lullaby. These nurses were certainly strict, he thought with a snort.

He made his way to his own chambers and sat in front of the fire, preparing to clean Dark Sister. U Typically, Dark Sister was mounted high on the wall in their bedchambers when it wasn’t at his side, as the children tended to be quick-footed and prone to running off with their parents' things. But with the brats now asleep, he could safely attend to her.

The blade shone with an almost otherworldly brilliance, its color a deep, dark gray, almost black, with ripples of lighter hues dancing along its length. Valyrian steel was renowned for retaining its sharpness, so it did not require sharpening, but Daemon preferred to maintain its edges meticulously. Taking up a whetstone, he ran the it along the blade a few times, the motion smooth and practiced. The sound of steel against stone was almost soothing, a ritual he had come to cherish. When he was satisfied with the edge, he set the whetstone aside and reached for a soft cloth.

He dipped the cloth into a small vial of Firesap Extract, a substance derived from the Firebloom plant. This unique flora thrived in the volcanic and mineral-rich soil of Dragonstone, its vibrant red flowers and thick, succulent leaves exuding a sap that was both heat-resistant and resilient. Only the Dragon Keepers, aside from the Dragonriders themselves, were permitted to harvest it from the Dragonmont. They collected the sap in the late afternoon when the sun had warmed the leaves, causing the sap to flow more freely.

The Dragon Keepers used this sap to oil dragon saddles, keeping the leather supple and protected from the intense heat of dragonfire. They also coated chains with it to prevent rust and ensure smooth operation under extreme conditions. And they provided Daemon with this precious extract to maintain Dark Sister.

Daemon carefully applied the Firesap Extract to the blade, the oil giving the steel an even more lustrous sheen. The blade seemed to drink in the substance, its surface becoming slick and smooth. He worked methodically, ensuring every inch was coated, the sap providing a protective layer that would keep the blade in prime condition.

Satisfied with his work, Daemon held Dark Sister up to the firelight, admiring the way the flames danced along the polished steel.

Daemon looked up as the door opened, and Rhaenyra entered with a bright smile, accompanied by two of her ladies who were giggling softly. One was the Northern lady with a sharp tongue, and the other, Lord Lyonel's daughter, who was always flirting with Ser Luthor. The two curtseyed to him and went straight to the bathing chambers to prepare Rhaenyra’s evening bath.

"I heard you and your sons made quite the mess in the nursery," Rhaenyra teased as she settled on his lap, gently pushing Dark Sister aside. He leaned his sword against the wall and embraced her.

"Your nursemaids are all such terrible tattle tales." he remarked with a chuckle, prompting her laughter as she rested her head on his shoulder.

"How was your discussion with the decrepit men of the Faith?" he inquired.

Rhaenyra let out a sigh. "It was as expected—endless lectures on piety, urging me to pray fervently to the Seven, especially in these times of divine displeasure. He must have repeated himself fifty different ways; it was quite tiresome.”

"And are they still vexed over the banishment of their septas and septons from the capital?" Daemon asked.

"Indeed they are," Rhaenyra replied with a hint of frustration. "He pleaded with me not to hold the holy men and women accountable for the sins of others. As if attempting to take my life and that of our son was a mere accident." she added bitterly. "The High Septon implored me once more to serve the Faith to appease the heavens.”

Daemon's grip on her tightened, a gesture of silent support, before he kissed the side of her head affectionately. Rhaenyra met his gaze, her eyes sparkling mischievously.

"Would you assist me in a venture that would have the High Septon praying day and night to his stone gods?" she asked with a sly grin.

Daemon's own eyes lit up with intrigue. "Ah, my dear, you know how I relish a challenge. Pray, what do you have in mind?”

“Let me just bathe and change and we’ll go to the Vault.” She said, kissed him and almost danced towards the bathing chamber.

Daemon smiled and shook his head, his thoughts drifting to the recent chaos. He had feared that the riot might have had an adverse effect on Rhaenyra, much like it had on Vis, who had become fearful of crowds and shouting. But instead, it had made her more cautious, more ruthless. She was ensuring that she had total control of the Keep; by tomorrow, not even a single cat or dog inclined to the Hightowers would remain.

A surprisingly short while later, they found themselves descending the narrow staircase leading to the Vault. Rhaenyra hadn't even allowed the maids to dry her hair with a towel and braid it; she had left it free to dry. As they walked, Daemon ran his hands through her hair, using his command over fire to dry it gently, lest she get a headache from the drafty air in the Vault. Rhaenyra turned to him, caressing her now dry hair, and smiled in thanks. They held hands and entered the Vault together.

The Vault was a grand circular chamber, lined with shelves and tables, illuminated by the glow of three fireplaces scattered about. In front of one of the fireplaces were chairs, daybeds, and two low tables surrounded by floor pillows, where the children often spent their time when they were here. A protection circle ensured that the children could not leave the place unless accompanied by an adult. It was said that Visenya had used it to keep Maegor contained when he was a child; according to her journals, Maegor had been a mischievous boy who caused more than one explosion when he meddled with the potions in the Vault. Maegor had built the hidden passages to accommodate the Vault, which had been constructed even before Aegonfort.

In the inner chamber, tapestry maps of each of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros were stored, along with maps of the cities in Essos. There was even an unfinished one of Asshai, its details only half-sewn, shrouded in mystery.

That is where Rhaenyra led him. On one side of the wall hung an enormous tapestry depicting the map of the Seven Kingdoms. It was so vast that Daemon had to crane his neck to see the Wall in the north. With a deft motion, Rhaenyra pulled on the tapestry, and to his surprise, it unfurled gracefully. She continued until King's Landing was at eye level, the map of Dorne pooling discreetly on the ground. His eyes wandered upward again, finding the forests and snowy expanse beyond the Wall.

Tracing the intricate threads with his eyes, Daemon thought they were playing tricks on him. South of King’s Landing, Summerhall was beginning to take shape, the threads being pulled together as if by invisible hands. Even the entrance of the Bank he had carved into the Red Mountain was already woven into the tapestry. He looked away, then back at the map, and there it was: Summerhall, emerging in detail. He moved further towards the Reach, searching for Oldtown, and found it depicted with the Hightower in ruins.

"What is this?" he asked in awe.

Rhaenyra smiled, her fingers lightly caressing the threads of Summerhall. "It’s a blood map," she explained. "It was hidden so far back with the other tapestry maps that I only unearthed it last week. Visenya mentioned it in one of her journals. This was begun by Aerion himself, who first mapped Dragonstone.”

She let her fingers walk towards Dragonstone, and even there, he could see the newly built tenements and bathhouses, along with the numerous buildings in the Salting Village. The details were astonishing: the Salt Pans, shallow, flat areas where seawater evaporated, leaving behind salt crystals; the Boiling Houses, structures where seawater was boiled in large pans to accelerate evaporation and crystallization; the drying sheds, sheltered areas where the harvested salt was spread out to dry further, protected from rain and contamination; and finally, the Storage Warehouses and Packing Houses.

"This is remarkable!" Daemon whispered, tracing the intricate threads. "Every detail is here, even every new buildings and features.”

"Indeed," Rhaenyra replied softly. "This map shows the changes wrought by our family’s blood and toil. It is a living history of our realm, ever-evolving.”

Daemon’s gaze returned to Summerhall, still forming on the tapestry. "And this... this blood map, it shows the places as it is now?”

Rhaenyra nodded. “Yes, sewn thread by thread. The blood of the overlord of each place is needed to soak into the map for it to update. Visenya and Rhaenys began to map the Seven Kingdoms during the Conquest, taking the blood of their enemies and adding it to the tapestry. Maegor finished it with the help of Tyanna."

Daemon chuckled, "This map is as important for a monarch as the Painted Table is to a dragon rider.”

Rhaenyra pulled him over to another tapestry map laid out on one of the tables. "During the Rhoynish War, the Blood Mages created a blood map after three dragons were killed," she said. "History claims that three hundred dragons destroyed the City States along the Rhoyne, but they were wrong. Stone Singers shattered the land from afar while dragons rained fire from above. Now, the City States are no more. Once bustling cities have turned to ruins, swallowed by the earth and reclaimed by nature.”

She traced her fingers over the map to a building half-swallowed by the earth, vines growing over the ground that showed what was once a roof. "None remain to call it home again. You did it when you destroyed the Hightower, didn’t you? From afar?" she asked.

Daemon nodded. "Yes, but I was still able to see the structure and feel the earth beneath it. If the geomancers destroyed the Rhoyne all the way from Valyria, they must have been incredibly powerful.”

"Would you care to try now? To see if you could destroy something that isn't physically before you?" Rhaenyra posed the challenge with an air of curiosity and daring.

Daemon regarded her with a mix of surprise and intrigue, allowing her to guide him back to the Blood Map. She pointed out King's Landing, specifically the Red Keep. "The Sept is here, in the middle bailey, between the Library and the Vault. And here, the City Sept on the Street of Sisters. Can you envision them and remove both from my sight?”

His brow arched in bemusem*nt. "Why ever would you wish to demolish such sturdy structures?”

"I have no desire for the Faith to stay in my city, much less within my Keep," Rhaenyra asserted firmly. "If you can achieve this, then one day, I may ask you to dismantle every other Sept in the Seven Kingdoms.”

Daemon chuckled at her audacity, then studied the map intently. "I suppose I could attempt it." he replied, his tone quietly resolute.

"Without the Faith in the city, we would be free to worship the Fourteen Flames, just as we do in Dragonstone and the Stepstones." Rhaenyra mused aloud.

In Dragonstone, they had restored the Valyrian Pantheon, which had been turned into a Sept upon the conquerors' arrival in the Seven Kingdoms. He had all the statues removed despite the Septon's protests, relocating them to the village sept and replacing the wooden idols there. He explained to the elderly Septon that no one within the castle worshipped the Seven, not even the servants, and their presence there was merely neglected.

When the Septon attempted to appeal to the King about the desecration of the sept, he reminded his brother that they had desecrated the Valyrian Pantheon first by installing their Seven statues, in preference to the Fourteen Gods.

He had then ensured that all Septons and Septas were put on a boat back to Oldtown ensuring that no Septon or Septa would set foot on Dragonstone again, regardless of the outcry they raised in the capital.

The first few attempts by these grey-clad fanatics to impose their presence on Dragonstone ended swiftly as they were devoured by one of the wild dragons. After that, none dared return. Such was the tale told, but in truth, Daemon simply opened the earth beneath them and allowed them to be quietly buried, without ceremony.

Standing before the intricate tapestry, Daemon concentrated deeply on the locations Rhaenyra had indicated. He closed his eyes, summoning forth vivid mental images of the middle bailey's Sept in the Red Keep and the City Sept on the Street of Sisters. He could almost feel the weight of the stone the coldness of what was supposed to be a sacred place.

Slowly, he extended his hand toward the map, his fingers hovering above the threads depicting King's Landing. With a focused mind and unwavering intent, he sought to project his will through the tapestry, to see if he could influence these distant structures. Rhaenyra observed him intently, anticipation palpable in the air.

A warmth, almost imperceptible yet unmistakable, began to radiate from his hand, resonating with the blood map beneath his touch. The threads seemed to shimmer in response to his concentration, as if they were alive and reacting to his command. He imagined the stone cracking, the walls crumbling, and the revered halls collapsing into disrepair.

Time seemed suspended as he maintained his focus, channeling his inner strength into the tapestry. Then, as if by some divine force, the threads representing the Septs began to shift and transform. The image of the middle bailey's Sept distorted and unraveled, depicting scenes of destruction. Simultaneously, the depiction of the City Sept on the Street of Sisters mirrored this fate, its threadwork altering to reflect a state of ruin.

Rhaenyra's eyes widened in astonishment and triumph. "You've done it." she breathed, a mix of awe and delight in her voice.

Daemon opened his eyes, a satisfied smile gracing his features. "It appears I have." he replied, still marveling at the feat he had accomplished.

Rhaenyra gasped in horror as Daemon felt warmth spreading across his face. Instinctively, he touched his nose and found it bloodied.

"Sit down," Rhaenyra commanded urgently, her voice tinged with concern. As he tried to stem the flow by pinching his nose and instinctively looking up, she gently corrected him, "No, lean forward. Healer Helen said nosebleeds must be allowed to flow, lest the blood clot in your nose." she instructed calmly. "Breathe slowly," she instructed, her voice steady and reassuring, "and reconnect with Caraxes.”

Daemon complied, focusing inward to feel the comforting presence of his dragon companion within his chest. He understood well the perilous nature of magic—a tool of immense power that exacted a toll on its wielder. Elemental magic strained the body, but blood magic, more insidious, could twist and corrupt if mishandled.

Daemon had seen countless depictions of mages with gnarled, blackened hands, victims of malevolent magic that backfired upon its users. Some were said to transform into beasts due to their endless pursuit of the dark arts. The warlocks of Qarth appeared pale and emaciated, with sunken eyes and unnaturally thin bodies, their meager magic consuming them. Even more terrifying were the shadow binders of Asshai—hands forever stained inky black, fingers curling like talons. Beneath their cowled hoods, their faces were rumored to distort, some taking on the sharp, beaked features of predatory birds, others the brutish snouts of wild boars.

Daemon and Rhaenyra were fortunate—they had their dragons. Bound in a symbiotic relationship, their dragons absorbed the dangerous repercussions of their magic, shielding them from the worst consequences. It was this bond that kept them from succumbing to the ravages that plagued so many practitioners of the mystic arts.

As the nosebleed gradually subsided and he leaned back, Daemon felt Rhaenyra's reassuring presence beside him. "Thank you." he murmured softly.

"No. Thank you, Daemon," Rhaenyra said, kissing him softly. "You did this for me.”

He smiled at her, "I would do everything for you, my love.”

She rewarded him with a radiant smile. "Shall we go up?" he asked. "I want to see the fruits of my labor.”

Rhaenyra laughed, her voice echoing in the cavernous chamber.

Rhaenyra POV


Rhaenyra stood with Daemon on the loggia that overlooked the Middle Bailey. The sun was descending, painting the sky in hues of pink and gold. Though the thick trees separating the Holdfast from the Bailey obscured her view of the Sept, she could see the cloud of dust rising from the rubble. The sound of the collapsing Sept was a symphony of destruction—stone crashing against stone, timber snapping, and the collective gasp of the onlookers followed by shouts from the servants and guards

Turning at the clank of armor of the Kingsguards, she saw her father, looking horrified, followed closely by the Queen and the High Septon. She had heard from one of the maids that the High Septon visited the Queen and the new Prince every evening.

‘Too bad he did not go down with his beloved Sept.’ she thought uncharitably.

"What is it?" the King demanded, breathless and bewildered.

"I do not know, Father." she replied, taking his one remaining hand to steady him.

The Archmaester, emerging from his own quarters, gave her a suspicious glance. She widened her eyes innocently, and he shook his head, clearly skeptical but without evidence.

The ground shook again with the sound of heavy stones falling and frantic shouts to get back. A page rushed up, panting heavily. "It's the Sept, Your Grace, it is gone.”

Rhaenyra gasped, feigning appropriate shock. Putting her hand on her chest.

"What do you mean, gone?" the High Septon's voice quivered with disbelief

"It has collapsed, your Holiness. We also saw the Sept in the city in ruins as well.” The page said.

Rhaenyra savored the moment, relishing the horrified expressions etched across the faces of the High Septon and Queen Bethany Hightower, who seemed on the verge of collapse as she knows the weight of blame will settle on her and her new born son again. The High Septon's eyes sparked with anger, though he quickly averted his gaze to the ground, unable to meet her piercing stare. Meanwhile, the King stood bewildered, grappling with the sudden collapse of a structure that had stood since Jaehaerys' reign.

Stepping forward with poise and authority, Rhaenyra took charge. "Father, allow me to handle everything. You should rest," she insisted, her voice steady and resolute. She wasted no time in issuing directives worthy of a seasoned leader. "I will convene the Small Council and entrust the City Watch with rescuing survivors and providing immediate aid. Guards will be stationed around the fallen Sept in the City to maintain order and prevent any looting. I will task the Master of Works and skilled masons will promptly assess the damage.”

Her father nodded approvingly, acknowledging her swift and thorough plan. "Well done, my daughter." he praised warmly.

Seizing the opportunity to appear benevolent, the Queen interjected, "I shall assist in tending to the wounded.”

Suppressing an internal sigh, Rhaenyra kept her composure. "Of course," she replied smoothly, her tone measured. "I'll have the royal carriage prepared to escort you to the City Sept.”

The Queen's expression betrayed a hint of fear, her thoughts undoubtedly lingering on the recent riot. She hesitated momentarily before murmuring her preference to aid those within the Keep's Sept.

"Very well, Your Grace," Rhaenyra responded graciously, her eyes flickering with subtle amusem*nt. Turning back to her father, she reassured him with a gentle touch. "Rest assured, Father, everything will be managed accordingly.”

The King smiled approvingly as he patted her hand and went back to his quarter’s. The Queen left without looking back at her to do what Queens do when disaster strike. She would have gone back to her own Rooms to change her dress when the High Septon looked sorrowfully at her.

“It had started, Your Grace.” He wheezed. “The tragedy that I was telling you about, the wrath of the Gods had gone down on us!”

Oh yes, she quiet like thinking of Daemon as the Wrath of God. She wanted to smirk in triumph but showed confusion on the man’s instead.

“I do not understand High Septon.” She said.

“I mu—I must act before the fires of hell is unleashed upon us, princess. I will burn as well but I know I will do so for the safety of our Kingdom.” he said as he held her hands.

“I’m sure you will act as the Gods see fit, High Septon, and you will be remembered for it.” She assured him nonsensically.

The old man smiled at her sadly and brought his hand on her head, “Seven Blessing, princess.” He said as he too walked back towards the Queen’s apartments.

She looked at Daemon who was biting his lips to prevent from laughing out loud.

“Absolute lunatic!” he said.

She rolled her eyes at him. “Give him a break, he just lost his house.” She said and hid her giggle behind her hand.

Rhaenyra sat at the head of the Council table, flanked by her two diligent scribes who meticulously recorded every word spoken. She had relayed to the Council what she had already done.

“Your swift actions have been commendable, Your Grace," Lord Lyman acknowledged warmly, his voice carrying a note of genuine admiration. "The way you have marshaled resources and coordinated relief efforts speaks volumes of your leadership.”

Rhaenyra acknowledged his praise with a gracious nod before continuing, "Indeed, Lord Lyman. Now, let us discuss the necessary steps moving forward.”

Lord Lyonel spoke next, his voice steady and authoritative. "We must appoint a trusted advisor to lead an inquiry into the cause of the collapse." he suggested, emphasizing the need for thorough investigation.

Tyland Lannister leaned forward with a thoughtful expression. "Allocating funds from the treasury and mobilizing skilled craftsmen for reconstruction will be paramount," he added, his voice carrying the weight of practicality and experience.

Lord Beesbury was already frowning at the accounts in front of him no doubt trying to move funds to accommodate the rebuilding.

Grand Maester Orwyle interjected softly, "A memorial service to honor the lives lost should be organized promptly. It will serve to unify the people in mourning and hope.”

“I was under the impression that all Septons and Septas were in the dungeon, is it not?” she said and the Grand Maester spluttered and nodded.

She wanted to roll her eyes at the old useless man.

Rhaenyra listened intently to each councilor, her mind already mapping out the intricate web of actions required to restore stability and confidence in the realm. Her scribes, ever diligent, recorded the proceedings meticulously, capturing every detail and decision made.

"As we proceed," Rhaenyra concluded, her gaze sweeping over the assembled council with a blend of determination and empathy, "let us also ensure we communicate effectively with the Lord’s Paramount and neighboring regions. We must demonstrate our steadfast commitment to rebuilding and strengthening our kingdom.”

Now that they had an outline of what needed to be done, they proceeded to talk more of the details. Lord Lyonel and Beesbury were the ones who brought forth ideas, while Tyland Lannister asked questions to clarify most things, making each proposal even more detailed. The Grand Maester merely said yes to everything, still reeling from the loss of the Septs. They were interrupted by a page who was obviously running and trying to catch his breath.

“What now?” she sighed.

The page’s eyes were wide and afraid. “The Prince—Prince Jaehaerys—was killed by the High Septon, Princess!”

Pandemonium erupted in the room. Rhaenyra concealed a smirk behind her hand, feigning heartbreak.

Torment - ciemai - House of the Dragon (TV) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6549

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.