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The Golden Sun and the Silver Moon [m]

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Lost in her thoughts, the pale-haired young woman strode through the halls at a measured pace. The High Septa’s ominous tale couldn’t help but circle her mind, which was already swarming with the unsavory things she had witnessed firsthand. It had been a dreadful story, no doubt about it, but while it had horrified her, she couldn’t find it within herself to be surprised or shocked.

This was the boy who had went on to kill another lad during a tourney, the same boy who had grown up to be the young lord who had razed an island to the ground, who had claimed mercy as he launched a ship full of innocents into Shipbreaker Bay. How could she be surprised? No, it all made perfect sense, a terrible, terrible sense. Rather than any other emotion, she found herself weary, the same weariness the High Septa had shown for a vulnerable moment. Even the worry and the fear that she should’ve been feeling--this very person was to be her husband in less than a day--seemed to be dulled by the fatigue that seemed to reach the core of her bones.

All she wished was to be alone now, to let herself enjoy the stillness and quiet that would no doubt soon be taken from her, and maybe even coax herself into a bit of slumber. Perhaps there was little reason to wonder why she was so tired; her night had been uneasy and restless, only to crescendo into nightmarish heights. As she turned the corner towards the corridor that would take her to her quarters, she felt herself relax slightly, knowing that the end was soon in sight--

A sharp sound rang out, and Aeranys stopped short in her stride, her heart lurching sickeningly within. All thoughts of sleep left her mind and the princess immediately darted forward, her pace hurried and purposeful as she hounded the sound she had heard--a sound that was all too familiar to her. Even as a child, she had never done anything but run towards such a cry, never once thinking to hesitate or turn the other way.

As she rushed down the hall, she caught sight of a group of soldiers standing beside a door. Not any door--her own quarters. A frown creased her brow, and pursing her lips, she started towards them. What was going on? Could the scream she had heard some from her chambers?

Her question was to be answered as another scream ripped into the air--this time, it did not stop as the doors were flung open and a girl was dragged out by the hair, thrashing and shrieking. It only took a split second for her to realize that the young man who had sent the girl tumbling to the marble below was none other than her own betrothed.

Her shock did not last long, however, because what came hot on its heels was outrage, sparking to life deep in her gut and exploding outwards and giving voice to her fury. “Stop! What is the meaning of this?!” she shouted as she stormed forward, intent on throwing herself over the girl if that was what it took. Unfortunately, it was then that the prince’s trusty knight sprang into motion, coming forth to block her path. Aeranys attempted to brush past him, to no avail. “Let me through,” she hissed, glaring up at the knight, who merely looked down at her, stony-faced. Her attention, however, was completely diverted at the sound of the girl’s voice, trembling with fear and sobs.

“Princess Aeranys, I am so sorry...” the young thing was crawling pitifully towards her and the princess tried to force her way through to her again, trying to reach her. While Aeranys didn’t recognize her, that was hardly the least of her concerns, not with her tears and the split lip dribbling crimson blood--in that instant, she was no different from poor Serra or her own battered mother. “I was told to turn down your sheets, I didn’t mean to spill your wine,” she pleaded desperately, and Aeranys’ eyes snapped up to the prince’s visage. How dare you? they seethed a thousand times over, but before she could say them, the Martell prince grabbed the sobbing girl by the throat, cutting off her pleas.

The girl yelped and Aeranys cried out in unison, now struggling against the knight who was restraining her. She half-feared that he’d kill her then, and that she would see her crumple to the ground like a broken doll, like Serra, dead, dead Serra. “Leave her be, get away from her!” she raged, her hand balling up tight as it once had around the handle of a knife long ago. Get away from her, she’d snarled as she bared her teeth, more beast than girl. I won't let you touch her, not ever again!

The young girl was thrown against the hard floor again, and she barely seemed to have the presence of mind to flinch or recoil. “Don’t touch her--let me go!” she cried, turning to attempt to wrench her arm free of the vice-like grip that kept her from intervening. Aeranys’ desperate gaze then landed on a figure standing by, a soldier at the ready. It was Dame Natari, who only looked on sternly. “Dame Natari--Natari, please!” she begged. How could she watch this girl being hurt and do nothing? But the female knight, who had seemed so good-natured and friendly, did not move until her prince gave the order to take the girl away.

The prince turned to them and Aeranys did not bother to doctor her expression, fixing him with a furious glower, chest heaving from exertion and anguish. He said not a thing to her, barely even glanced at her, only looking to his knight. “Take a walk,” he ordered, spinning on his heel and striding off after the soldiers and the unfortunate girl.

“Come, Princess,” Ser Devran said gently, his hand at the crook of her arm, but Aeranys jerked herself away from him, her jaw tight. While she did not attempt to chase after the prince, knowing all-too-well what would happen, her eyes still bored into the receding figure of her betrothed.

“Where are they taking her?” she demanded of the young man at her side, her gaze never shifting.

“I could not say, princess,” the knight said, also watching as his liege disappeared out of sight. Only then did the young woman turn to the Dornish knight.

“Can’t say? Or won’t say?” she retorted bitterly.

Of course, he gave her no answer. “Come now,” he repeated, his tone slightly firmer, and the pale-haired girl relented in cold silence, her features frosting over into a detached mask to hide what was still churning underneath.



The Water Gardens were beautiful as ever in its lush green and sparkling fountains, but none of it reached the bride-to-be. She sat stiffly at the edge of a fountain, staring at the rippling water at her side. She said nothing, and neither did the knight. She did not look up even as someone approached, handing the knight a tray laden with items. It was Ser Devran who came to her side, setting the platter down onto the edge of the stone fountain. Sitting on the tray was a dish of what appeared to be fig cakes, along with a steaming cup of something fragrant.

“Thank you, but I’m not hungry,” she declined, her words polite despite her clipped tone.

“Just the drink, then, milady,” the knight encouraged. At her reluctance, he continued. “It’s herbal. Meant to calm the nerves.”

Realizing that it was a form of kindness, she finally took ahold of the cup. Carefully, she sipped at the hot beverage, taking in the earthy fragrance it emitted. “Thank you,” she said quietly. A small stretch of silence passed, finally interrupted by a short sigh from the lips of the princess. “I don’t understand how you can stand by his side,” she uttered plainly. While her voice had little trace of the raging fire it had held prior, there was still enough poison laced in her simple words to end a grown man. Ser Devran, however, did not seem much affected. 

“Forgive me if I venture that you misunderstand Prince Mors, milady--though that is not an uncommon thing.”

“Do I? Why don’t you enlighten me, Ser Devran,” she returned, though no part of her expected him to truly elaborate.

“I’ve been with Prince Mors for a very long time, since we were naught but boys. The prince has always been exceptionally skilled at seeing what lies underneath the outer layer of a person, milady, but the opposite is rarely true.” When he saw that the Targaryen girl hardly seemed moved by his words, he pressed on. “I wasn’t raised to be by his side, nor was the position assigned to me. Our paths crossed for the first time in earnest on the training sands. No boy was brave or foolish enough to dare to harm the future Ruling Prince of Dorne, but I was. I was always the stupid one among the boys,” he explained, and there was almost a hint of a wry smile in his voice. “If he were a cruel and vain boy, he could have had me punished for such an offense. Instead, he kept me at his side from that day on--gave me a place to belong. I’ve been by his side for almost the entirety of our lives, and so I can tell you with certainty that he always has his reasons.”

It was a sweet tale, sure enough, but it did not change that the same boy had bashed in his septa’s skull. Aeranys took another draft from her cup. “And so what is his reason for abusing a young girl, pray tell?” she tossed the question forth, her eyes probing the knight’s expression like a knife.

“He does nothing without reason,” he stated again, meeting her unsatisfied gaze. “Perhaps the day you understand that will come sooner than you think, princess.”


*******************


Though she had originally wanted nothing more than to chase down her betrothed in her anger, the moment the doors opened to reveal the figure of the prince, she found that she wanted nothing less than to have to suffer his presence. However, that was hardly up to her. Left alone with her betrothed once more, the young woman did not budge from where she had stopped short, her skirts still brushing against the wooden doors that had been closed on her.

“I’m afraid your chambers have been spoiled,” the prince began. “You’ll be staying here until other arrangements can be made. Aeranys only stared back at him stonily, silent. Spoiled--with spilled wine? Or blood and tears? Even as he went onto to explain that he had already had her possessions moved into these new chambers, she made no move to step further into the room--that was, until he revealed a very familiar item. The black king piece. Daeron’s piece.

Her feet spurred into action, darting two steps into the room before she came to a halt once more, regarding him warily. He only placed the piece down onto the table before him, watching her with those knowing eyes. “I don’t think I forgot anything,” he remarked, allowing a meaningful pause before pulling the chair out from the table, gesturing with a courteous invitation--an invitation that was meant to be little more than a command.

Her eyes flicked to the cyvasse piece, sitting innocently on the opposite end of the table, then back to her intended. After a beat, she finally deigned to obey, moving around the long table and lowering herself into the chair he held at the ready. She said nothing as he seated her, said nothing as he poured her a goblet of wine. She gazed at the ebony piece before her, well within her reach--but she did not move. The instant he moved back into her field of sight, however, her pale eyes were fixed upon him, watching with razor-sharp focus. He seemed unaffected, his demeanor nothing but nonchalant as he sat, carving the meat on the platter between them, serving her first like a perfectly well-mannered lordling would. Aeranys, for her part, did not even bother to touch the silverware in front of her, when she knew she ought to be playing her role, all grateful smiles and charming chatter.

Her mother would have been no doubt sorely disappointed, for the stately queen had never responded to an insult with anything but calm, impeccable manners. All throughout the princess’ life, Queen Rhaella had toiled; she had wrangled a wild child into a demure lady, tempered her into a bride who would suffer a husband no matter how boorish without faltering--and she had succeeded in creating her in her image--or so it had seemed. For Princess Aeranys knew exactly what she should be doing, but found herself exceedingly unwilling to give in.

“Go ahead,” he broke the silence first, giving her permission to dare to ask what was on her mind. “Ask me.”

She said nothing. She only stared at him, letting the air between them curdle into heavy silence. When her gaze finally shifted, it was back down to the cyvasse piece, which she picked up, absentmindedly letting it wander through her delicate digits. “You did,” she spoke at last in quiet challenge, though it was likely not what he had been anticipating, “forget something. My penknife, hidden on the left side of the bed.”

Along with the cyvasse piece and her mother’s bracelet, it was the only other treasure of hers to survive the harrowing journey from King’s Landing to Greenstone to Dorne, and just as she had in her captivity, she had kept it close by, always in reach during her most vulnerable state of slumber. Exceptionally skilled at seeing what laid underneath the outer layer? Perhaps it was so. It was true that he had seen past her veneer more than any other had, but he had yet to see through her. Her fingers closed over the king piece. Yes, he might have dug out a secret of hers, but he did not have them all.

Her lilac eyes met his oddly colored ones as she continued, her words cool and matter-of-fact. “Is she alive?” His answer of affirmation provided little comfort to her. After all, Aeranys had seen that a spared life did not mean one had been forgiven. “Then what punishment did you give her for the grave transgression of spilling wine?” she asked, her tone even despite the anger that flared up in her anew. “Did you take her hands, since she was clearly unable to use them properly?”

She didn’t want to hear his vague excuses; she did not think that he would say nothing that his trusted knight had not already said. Or, was he going to claim this was to remedy some shade on her heart? To make her less lonely? To make her happy? She wanted none of it. “How many more people will you punish in the name of my honor, milord?” the princess demanded sharply, refusing to turn her piercing gaze away. “In our short courtship, the numbers have grown at a frightening pace. How many more will it take? I find myself sick to the stomach at the thought. In fact,” she rose from her seat with the kind of poise that resembled a creature tensed to pounce, “if you would excuse me, I have much to think on.”
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“Is she alive?” Princess Aeranys asked her betrothed. 

“For now.” Mors answered in a measured voice, gauging the reaction upon her pretty face.

“Then what punishment did you give her for the grave transgression of spilling wine?  Did you take her hands, since she was clearly unable to use them properly?” She pressed further.

“No.” He answered plainly.  “Why?  Do you think I should?”  It was obvious by his tone that he was baiting her, provoking her in spite of the disgust and abhorration with which she was already regarding him.  Prince Mors had learned long ago not to waste his breath, trying to convince others that he was anything other than a monster.  What others thought of him was often an opinion not so easily changed.  The same, it seemed, could be said for his bride, his future wife. 

“How many more people will you punish in the name of my honor, milord?” She asked.  “In our short courtship, the numbers have grown at a frightening pace. How many more will it take? I find myself sick to the stomach at the thought. In fact,” as she spoke, she rose from where she had been sitting so stoically.  “If you would excuse me, I have much to think on.”

He made no move to rise from his own chair, but instead replied with a few choice words of his own.  Watching her with his calculating serpentine gaze he spoke saying, “I see.”  Leaning back in his chair he continued his observations, pointing out, “it would appear you seek to change the terms of our agreement.” 

“It is no longer enough that I be good to you,  I must also be good to everyone.”  As he spoke, he set aside the wine he had been sipping, folding his hands in his lap instead.  “A lofty request.”  The heir to Dorne pointed out.  “Especially, since you have failed to hold up your end of the bargain.” Princess Aeranys Targaryen did not reply in words, but instead turned from her betrothed and started towards the doors of the chambers he had made available to her.  As she moved into action, so too did Prince Mors.  Springing from his chair he met her at the threshold, pressing a hand flat against the doors and slamming them shut just as she sought to open them and make her escape.  He stood over her, looking down on her with that even, unreadable expression of calm contentment he so often donned. 

“I can only imagine what you must think of me.” The Golden Fang said to the woman who would be condemned to a life at his side before the sun set on the morrow.  “But that doesn’t change what I told you in the Water Gardens the other day.  I want to make you happy.”  Her expression gave voice to the disbelief she kept caged behind pursed lips.  “If that means small mercies, I will heed your request.”  He leaned forward, bringing himself closer to her, close enough to feel her breath upon his face.  “Will you heed mine?”  At her solemn, measured nod he righted himself once more and removed his hand from the flat of the door, reaching instead for the handle. 

“Until tomorrow, Princess Aeranys.” Bidding her goodnight, he excused himself from the rooms in which he had once been nursed by Mellario Martell, wife of the Ruling Prince of Dorne. 

Ser Devran Toyne stood outside the chambers, his expression one of concern for his liege.  As Mors started down the hallway, Ser Devran fell into step beside him.  Their company however, was short lived, as Mors halted in his stride and turned to his friend with a command upon his lips.  “A penknife.” He said in a voice that seemed tired.  “She hid it on the left side of her bed.  See that Septa Oranea brings it to her before the morning.”

“Of course.” Ser Devran answered.  As his liege nodded to him and started once more down the corridor, the Dornish Knight couldn’t help but trail after him.  “Mors…” He started. 

“Thank you, Devran.” The Golden Fang said quietly over his shoulder to his friend.  “But I’d like to be alone.” Ser Devran nodded and stayed his feet as Prince Mors continued past the candelabras of the hallway, disappearing around the corner. 




As the dawn of the new day sent the radiance of the morning sun sparkling across Sunspear, the Old Palace buzzed with anticipation.  Lords and Ladies of the Dornish court primped and preened for the ceremony to come, ensuring that not a single encrusted jewel or lock of raven hair was out of place as they began their procession to the Sept of the Seven.  Flowers adorned each bare surface, streamers of red and gold hanging sweeping and criss-crossed from the chandeliers.  The High Lords of Dorne took their places within the Sept of the Old Palace, vying for positions that gave them optimal vantage of the proceedings to come.  Those individuals of higher status, namely the descendants of Princess Nymeria of the Rhoyne, were gathered at the head of the Sept where High Septa Nysah stood in patient stillness, clad in gowns of muted colour, detailed in resplendent gold threads.  All that was missing from the ceremony was the happy couple, who had not looked upon one another since the night before. 

The sun sat hot and bright in the sky, in spite of the clouds that gathered overhead, an indication of coming rain.  A sign meant to be a good omen for the coming union, if one believed in such things.  As the minstrels played a soft melody, echoed against the statues of the Seven that surrounded the Sept of the Old Palace, Mors Nymeros Martell entered with his entourage in tow.  He donned fine robes, more heavy and ornate than those he usually wore, the occasion calling for more formal attire.  His clothes were belted with a heavy gold piece, engraved with the Sun and the Spear of his House.  A matching medallion was fixed to the white, ceremonial turban that sat upon his brow, fixing the intricate wrapping in place.  Over one arm, a cloak of yellows and reds was draped.  Prince Mors looked the part of the dashing groom.  Seeing him now, there wasn’t a maiden among the masses who didn’t swoon.  Well, perhaps one…

Princess Aeranys entered the Sept of the Old Palace upon the arm of her Knight, Ser Laenor of House Valeryon.  They walked in step with one another down the centermost aisle that stretched the length of the Sept, Lords and Ladies looking on in curiosity, excitement and judgement alike.  Prince Mors’ father, aunt and uncle all beamed at the young woman as she passed them, though Ellaria Sand kept her expression twisted queerly at Prince Oberyn’s side.  All of their expressions were eclipsed by the giddy young girl who stood amongst her brothers, nodding and smiling in gentle encouragement to the girl who would soon become her sister, bound to House Martell and so too Arianne for all her days.  Ser Laenor escorted his Lady-liege to her soon-to-be husband, lifting her veil and draping it down her back before bowing to Prince Mors and descending the steps once more to take his place amongst the masses.  They faced one another before the Lords and Ladies of Dorne, before the Seven themselves, shimmering golds clashing violently with swirling amethysts.

“You may now cloak the bride and bring her under your protection.”  High Septa Nysah spoke in a clear, ringing voice that sounded more like the resonant tolling of bells rather than the melodious jingling of chimes. 

Princess Aeranys stood still as one of the marble statues from the Water Gardens, her gaze locked on some invisible point in the distance as Prince Mors stepped around her, unfolding the cloak from where it lay over his arm, resting it upon the shoulders of his bride.  The muted oranges of the Dornish desert unrolled themselves down her back, revealing the crimson Sun of Ny Sar pierce by the golden spear of House Martell.  Returning to her side, Mors and Aeranys squared themselves to High Septa Nysah in unison, who looked between the two young people with what must have looked to the distant crowd behind them to be an expression of dutiful acceptance.  Prince Mors could see it for what it truly was; dread. 

“People of Dorne,” she began lifting her gaze from the couple before her, raising her arms to the crowd she addressed.  “We gather in the sight of the Seven to witness the union of two souls.”  Bringing her eyes back down to the wedded pair before her, she looked to each of them as she went on saying, “one flesh, one heart.  Princess Aeranys of the House Targaryen and Prince Mors Nymeros of the House Martell.”  The High Septa brought her hands together before them, holding out a length of finely detailed ribbon, decorated in patterns of crimson and gold.  In unison, with the practiced cadence of two people completing a chore, Mors and Aeranys extended their hands, hers resting atop his. 

As High Septa Nysah wrapped their hands together with the ornately woven ribbon she spoke saying, “before the sight of the Seven, I hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one for all eternity.”  Righting herself, she folded her hands before her.  “Look upon each other and say the words.”

With their hands pressed against one another's, they faced each other before the Dornish court, their shared gaze like the clashing of swords or the striking of lighting.  Yet, in gentle tones they spoke as they were expected.  “Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger… I am hers and she is mine, from this day until the end of my days.”  Their words echoed in unity and as his lips stopped, Mors leaned down, bringing them to her face.  They did not find hers as would be expected during a wedding ceremony, but instead landed softly against her cheek. 

Just like that, she was his wife.  The newly wed couple turned to the crowd, shoulder to shoulder as the ribbon fell from their hands and their fingers drifted away from one another’s touch.  Applause poured forth from the Lords and Ladies of Dorne, but the merriment failed to touch upon the expressions of the husband and wife who stood beneath the Seven Pointed Star.   



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Unable to fall asleep, she turned onto her side for what felt like the hundredth time. Her betrothed had only left her with only more turmoil to rattle about in her head, and as the evening had deepened into night, she had grown more and more irritated--not with her betrothed, but with herself.

She had acted foolishly, and she knew it. Regardless of whether he had done something unspeakable, she should’ve known better than to let herself grow upset. Her mother had taught her better, hadn’t she? Had she forgotten what was riding on this marriage? The fates of her family, of the throne, of all the innocents that hung in balance. Knowing that, she should’ve held her temper at bay. Didn’t all their lives matter more than her silly feelings?

To top it all, however, she was haunted by what he had accused of her--that she had not held up her own end of their bargain. Despite having given him an affirmative answer at his final question, she feared that she didn’t understand exactly what he meant.

She rolled over again, her eyes finding the beautifully decorated ceiling. His mother’s rooms, he’d said. She had met Lady Mellario a handful of times before she had returned to her homeland. She’d always given her the impression of a kind-hearted woman, beautiful and well-spoken. Aeranys couldn’t imagine the lady having had a temper, and now the motherly atmosphere that had been steeped into the walls came inwards to suffocate her, ghostly mothers chastising her for being unladylike, and the princess could not bear to stay put anymore.

Rousing herself, she dressed herself as simply as she could, knowing that there would be more than just talk if she was spotted walking about in her night shift. Once she was appropriately clothed, she walked to the door once more, only to give pause. Turning, she went to a box sitting upon a shelf, and taking it down, she reached within to produce a small jar. Satisfied at last, she slipped out of the room and into the quiet beyond.

It was not so deep into the night, but many had retired early to their beds in anticipation of the long day to come. When she entered the Sept, however, she saw that another soul had been kept from slumber, as she had guessed. Hunched over in the candle-lit gloom, Croll Sand continued to scrub the stone floors, fumbling his way in between seats and decorations alike.

Her steps rang out in the empty space as she made her way down the long aisle--the very aisle she would be walking come morning. Approaching the towering form of the Mother, she knelt and lit another candle, offering up her prayers. She prayed again for her mother, for her brother, for Lyanna Stark and her unborn child. She prayed for the Lannister lioness who had been left behind and her young golden-haired nephew. She prayed for the nameless girl with the raven-colored ringlets. She prayed for wisdom, for patience, for understanding, for all the things her own mother had worked so hard to instill within her--all the things she had yet to master, it seemed.

When her prayers were spent, she stood to look for the unfortunate man, and upon spotting him beneath the Stranger, she approached him slowly, letting her footfalls herald her arrival. “Hello,” she murmured, to which his battered hands stilled, but only for a moment. His first instinct was to raise his face, but perhaps remembering how horribly disfigured he had become, he caught himself in the act, ducking his head down low. He stammered out something that might’ve been a greeting of his own, if his voice hadn’t been so hoarse and mangled with fear. “It’s late. Shouldn’t you retire to bed, good brother?” she asked, keeping her tone as calm as she could.       

“The Sept must be gleaming for tomorrow’s ceremony,” he answered, resuming his work with vigor. “I have been tasked with the floors.”

“They already gleam bright as mirrors,” she assured him, looking about the wide space. “No bride would ever dare complain.” When he still appeared reluctant to relinquish the task he had never asked for, she continued, her tone coaxing. “I would know. I am to be a bride soon.” Finally, his cracked and blistered hands came to a stop, though they still clutched tightly onto the worn brush. She knelt before him, gently sliding the jar she had brought along with her towards him. “This is for you.” His lips parted nervously, and she answered the question that was sure to come, reaching out and unscrewing the lid before placing it back in his reach. “It’s a salve, for your hands.”

In truth, the salve had been given to her by Septa Oranea once they had reached Dorne, meant to heal the bruises and gashes that marred her porcelain skin. She had dutifully applied it for a time, but once her cuts had scabbed over she had seen little use for it. Bruises faded on their own, and as for the wounds on her arm, she knew it would take more than some salve to erase them. If they ever faded, she knew it would take years before they would disappear for good.

After all, she still had a scar on the side of her thigh from an accident she had suffered as a girl no more than ten. Wanting to be like the Targaryens of old, like Daena the Defiant, she had hidden herself in an unused stable and tried to teach herself to shoot a bow. Of course, the draw weight had been too much for her, and when she managed to let an arrow loose, it had promptly careened into an iron pail and torn straight through the flesh of her leg. She had limped back to her chambers, blood soaking the trousers she’d filched from her brother’s wardrobe. Unfortunately for her, Maude had caught her in the act of trying to clean up--and the plump maid had fainted on the spot upon seeing the damage. Mother had her confined in her chambers for three weeks as punishment, she remembered.

She watched as the blind man tentatively brought the jar to his nose, no doubt catching a whiff of the herbs that had been ground into the salve. “Thank you, milady. Thank you…” he bowed his head in gratitude, his tired mouth stumbling about the words. He paused, perhaps debating what he thought to speak next. “...You’ve spoken to me before, haven’t you?” he ventured. Though Aeranys hadn’t been trying to hide the fact that they had indeed met before, it still took her by surprise that he had recognized her by voice alone. “May I ask who has been so kind to me, gracious lady?”

“No one of consequence,” Aeranys replied, unwilling to let him know that she was the reason he could not see for himself just who she was. “Just another girl, here to pray for guidance and mercy.”

“You must be very troubled, then,” he uttered, only to scramble to explain the sentiment that might have offended his mysterious benefactor. “I mean...not many would come to the Sept before such a grand event. So to be here, at such a late hour…”

She uttered a soft laugh, which seemed to put the blind man at ease. “I suppose you’re right,” the bride-to-be admitted. “My betrothed told me today that I haven’t been useful,” she continued frankly, her tone steady despite what she was saying, “and he isn’t very fond of useless things, I fear.” The princess managed to suppress the dread she felt back into the depths of her ribs, only allowing frown to crease her brow as her gaze drifted down to her own hands, folded neatly on her knees. “Truthfully, I don’t understand how I could’ve been useful to him. I’ve been taught to run a household smoothly, to bear and rear children--but there’s little I can do for him before we are wed.”

“Surely there are more uses for a woman than that,” Croll Sand spoke up bluntly, and Aeranys blinked. He sounded quite confused, but also more like a soldier than a broken man. “But being useful likely means something different for each person. Perhaps it means something different for your husband-to-be.” He paused, apparently having realized the words he was speaking. “I mean, not that I would know much about the matters of nobility, milady,” he hurriedly added, but he was once again reassured by the words the young woman spoke, her voice strangely contemplative.

“Yes, perhaps it does.”


***********************


As dawn brought tendrils of hazy pinks and oranges through the clouds, the bride stood leaning against her bed, gingerly regarding the dress before her. It was a splendid, beautiful thing, but the excitement that a young bride might have felt at the sight of it was completely absent within her. If anything, she felt ill, her stomach twisting and turning along with her nervous, homesick thoughts. She wanted nothing more than to hear Maude’s chatter, to feel her mother’s embrace, but neither of them were here on what could’ve been considered the most important day of a young lady’s life. She hadn’t anticipated these jumbled emotions, she, who had been able to put duty above everything else until she had met her betrothed. Still, Aeranys couldn’t back out, not even in her thoughts--not when she knew what was at stake. Everything rested on this, weighing on her delicate shoulders, and she felt it more keenly than ever. She had to carry on, even if her bones should crack and crumble under it all.

A strange clattering sound coming from a window jolted her out of her miserable thoughts. The emotion in her eyes went from alarm to suspicion to shock, and leaping up, she crossed the room to thrust the windows open. There, perched matter-of-factly on the marble sill, was the giant bird from the day prior. “You came back,” she breathed, disbelief in her tone. How had he known that she would be in this room and not any other? The massive bird crooned at her, fluffing its feathers and watching her with its sharp eyes. Carefully, she reached her hand out towards the bird, and it slowly leant forward, a cooing noise rumbling from its large body. Holding her breath, Aeranys felt a smile twitch at her lips at the contact--but just then, a sharp rap sounded at her door. “Princess?” the familiar voice called.

It was time to get ready.

“Come in,” she answered, pulling back from the bird and bringing herself to her collected poise. The door opened and a stream of women entered, headed by Septa Oranea. As they surrounded her to adorn her head to toe for the ceremony ahead, the princess stole a glance towards the window only to see that the bird had disappeared once more.

It was near an hour and a half before the princess was deemed ready by the numerous pairs of matronly hands. They led her down the short distance to the Sept, to a figure standing in wait outside its elaborate doors. Lifting her head, she recognized the young man as Ser Laenor, also decked out in his new suit of armor, looking every inch like a knight of the Kingsguard.

As for the pale-haired knight, he’d always known this day would come. From the moment he had met her, the princess had never been meant to be his, after all. He had accepted that long ago, at least, that was what he had believed.


But the moment he saw her, dressed in ivory and silver and draped in a silken veil, once again she was the loveliest, loneliest thing he’d ever seen. As she made her way to him, nothing less than a heavenly creature of myth, it was all he could do to step forward, for he found that all words had left him. She stopped before him, an apprehensive smile tugging at her lips as her haunting eyes pierced him through, and he felt his heart split wide open at the sight of her, bleeding and broken--and it was in that instant that Aeranys saw the truth laying in his eyes, plain as day.

He loved her, he’d always loved her--how could she have not known? How cruel and ignorant had she been to have him give her away? “Ser Laenor--” she began, her own heart breaking for the knight, but before anything more could be uttered, neither thanks nor apology, it was time for them to enter the Sept. The pair looked at one another for a moment longer, each doing their utmost to push down their complicated feelings. Heartbreak, fear, dread--all of it had to be put aside in the name of duty. Facing the doors before them, Ser Laenor held out his right arm and Aeranys took it, her slender hand resting gently in the crook of his elbow.

Then the doors opened, and they stepped inside. All eyes turned to them as they entered the Sept, a sea of gazes burning with interest. As hard as they might’ve stared, the bride seemed wholly oblivious, only looking ahead towards her purpose. At the far end of the Sept, she could see the Martell prince waiting, likewise dressed in elaborate garb. She too would’ve been forced to admit that he looked the part of a perfect prince and bridegroom, but nothing quite reached her, not with her heart pounding so loudly in her ears.

As she was placed beside her husband-to-be, her hand hesitated ever-so-slightly to slip from the crook of his arm. Still, smoothly, like dancers on a stage, the two foreigners to Dorne played their part. She could not bring herself to meet the knight’s eyes as he bowed, having completed his part--the two remaining, however, had much more left to their charade. They faced each other, their eyes locking together. Neither of them looked away.  “You may now cloak the bride and bring her under your protection,” a voice sounded far away, one that she belatedly recognized to be of the High Septa. Everything felt far away and distant, as if she was drowning. Her gaze shifted to the form of the Mother, but a prayer would not come to her mind; it seemed as if even this Mother could not be with her today.

But then there, nestled against the giant stone shoulder--there was something that did reach her. There, sitting as if it was the only place it should’ve been, was the bird. She blinked, wondering if she was seeing things, but it did not disappear. Another foreigner to this land, just like her--torn away from its family, just like her. Perhaps we could be friends, she had proposed to the bird, and suddenly, as silly as it seemed, it felt as if the creature was encouraging her to take heart, to be strong.

It was with this that she mustered the strength to turn to Mors Nymeros Martell, meeting his eyes over their woven hands as they were instructed to repeat the vows that would bind them together. “Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger…” she spoke in unison with the prince, her voice solemn but unfailingly steady. “I am his and he is mine, from this day until the end of my days.” Then, with a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, they were wed. The crowd applauded, congratulating their union, but to the royal couple whose hands failed to remain laced together, it did not feel much like a union at all.

Of course, just because the ceremony was over did not mean that the wedding was over. No, the day would be a long and arduous one, with a feast and festivities to follow. With the newly-weds at the front, the masses streamed into the Great Hall, their chatter already deafening to the ears. The aroma of the banquet to come was already in the air, but before the eating and drinking could start, there was another tradition to be carried out.

Once again the pair was made to stand at the front of the hall as the prominent lords and ladies lined up to wish them well and present them with gifts. It was a time-old tradition, but for a royal couple, especially for those who would one day rule Dorne, this was a crucial chance to show fealty and curry favor with them. Priceless gifts were offered, pretty words were said, and Princess Aeranys played her part impeccably, humbly showing gratitude with a charming smile. It did not matter how she felt about a gift or the occasion, or even the young man standing at her side--she would play her part, just as her mother before her.

As servants piled the lavish gifts before them, Aeranys allowed her gaze to wash over the long line that still remained. Many of these lords and ladies were unfamiliar to her, some of them having travelled from the farthest corners of Dorne to attend the special day. Fortunately for her, Maester Caleotte stood by, introducing whoever came up to them. Then something in caught her eye--a glimmer of something silver, though not metallic. Hanging from the neck of a Dornish lord waiting a handful of guests away, was an elaborate silver pendant with a large amethyst inlaid into it. The gem was splendid indeed, but it hadn’t been what had caught her attention--no, there was something else there set into the accessory--a thick braided loop of silvery-white that coiled around the jewel. A strange feeling overcame her at the sight of it, a feeling that turned into vague dread as she looked up to the visage of the man who wore it. He seemed familiar, somehow. Just who was he?
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Offline Reigning King

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“Lord Harman Uller,” Prince Doran greeted politely, nodding in acknowledgement from the place where he stood alongside his heir.  Mors cast a glance at the man who stood beside his father, Aero Hotah.  They exchanged words silently in their shared gaze before Mors turned back to the Lord of Hellholt who had come bearing blessings for the young couple.

“My Prince,” Lord Uller offered graciously, bowing to the Ruling Prince before turning to the young man who would inherit the title.  “It has been too long since I last saw you, Prince Mors.” He noted in a voice that was too cheery to be sincere.  “Thank you for having me.  It is fortunate that your wedding guests were already gathered for war…” The prickly aged man turned his cold, dark eyes onto Princess Aeranys next, letting his gaze linger on her for a moment too long.  The silver-haired beauty however, did not meet his eyes.  Instead her line of sight was tuned intently on the necklace Lord Uller wore around his meaty neck.

“Thank you for your presence and blessing.” Prince Mors returned patiently. 

“You’ll have to forgive my wife for her absence.  She is with child and unable to travel.” Lord Uller intoned, something in the twisting smile beneath his grey beard made the words taste like poison. 

“Again? My congratulations.” Mors replied, matching the edged tone of the Lord he addressed. 

“I have no shortage of bastards, but I have learned that it pays to have an extra true-born or two lying around…” The words were painted over with a smile, but Mors could see the murder swimming in his gaze.  “May the Gods see fit to bless you and your wife with many children.”

Prince Mors did not answer Lord Harman Uller.  They stood across from one another, locked in a silent stalemate.  If he was waiting for Mors to apologize for having taken his first true-born child from him, he would be standing there until they both turned to dust.  Instead, it was Doran who intervened, placing a hand on his son’s shoulder and uttering one final, polite, “thank you, Lord Uller.”

“Prince Mors, Princess Aeranys…” He bowed to each one in turn before turning away from them and descending into the crowded Great Hall.  The bastard sons he had brought with him followed in his wake, casting contemptuous glances to the heir to Dorne over their shoulders as they went.  Princess Aeranys stayed silent at her husband's side, only nodding along politely as would be expected of her.  Yet, Mors did not fail to notice how she watched after Lord Uller even as he disappeared into the throngs of wedding guests. 

Behind the newlyweds, their sworn swords stood side by side, watching the proceedings from a distance.  Quietly, beyond the reaching ears of those around them, Ser Devran turned to the pale-haired Knight beside him.  As delicately as the brutish man could, he muttered the quiet counsel of, “fix your face.”

“Fix my what?” Ser Laenor returned, offense pitching his voice an octave higher. 

“You’re too obvious.” Ser Devran pointed out.  Surely, he wasn’t the only one who had noticed the tragically forlorn expression of unrequited longing he had been wearing throughout the day.

“It’s not what you think.” Ser Laenor returned, turning his gaze once more to his Lady-liege. 

“It doesn’t matter what I think.” Ser Devran offered amicably.  “But, for your sake, I hope Prince Mors hasn’t noticed you watching his wife like a dog watches a dinner table for scraps.”

Ser Laenor turned to the Dornish Knight beside him on an inhaled breath, his lips parted and poised to defend his honour, but he stopped short at seeing the compassionate face Ser Devran showed him.  “I just…” he uttered instead, his voice trailing off. 

“You’re a Knight, Ser Laenor.  Be brave for your Lady.” Ser Devran told him. 

“What about the bedding ceremony?  How am I meant to be brave then?” The Knight of the King’s Guard looked to the floor beneath his boots, looking every bit the moody boy that his ramblings suggested.  His mask of lugubrious woe cracked however, when Ser Devran started laughing. 

“Bedding ceremony?” The Dornishman repeated, incredulousness tickling at his tone.  “You really think that Princess Nymeria of the Rhoyne would have allowed herself, or any of her daughters who ruled after, to be stripped down and gawked at by the men beneath her command?” Ser Laenor did not have an answer, which was fortunate since Ser Devran had not been expecting one.  “You Northerners and your strange customs.”

They were reaching the end of the procession now, Lords and Ladies from every corner of Dorne bringing both blessing and tribute to lay at the feet of the new Prince and Princess of the southernmost Realm of Westeros.  Prince Doran allowed his son to give special attention to those Lords he had more favourable relations with, namely the Daynes of Starfall and High Hermitage. There were others who had travelled from beyond Dorne, across the Narrow Sea to honour the Dornish family and their shared agreements of trade and supply routes. One such man approached Prince Mors and Princess Aeranys at the end of the long line of courtiers.

“Illyrio, my old friend.” Prince Doran said pleasantly, stepping forward to embrace the foreign emissary.

“Magister Illyrio Moptis of Pentos,” Maester Caleotte whispered helpfully in Princess Aeranys ear.  “A friend to your husband’s mother.”

“Doran,” Illyrio Mopstis greeted in kind, wrapping his arms around the fragile man who greeted him. “My blessings to you and your family.” He added as he pulled away from the shared embrace.  Turning next to the young people before him he bowed deeply.  “Prince Mors, Princess Aeranys, may the Gods smile upon your union.” With the formalities behind them he righted himself and smiled at his friend’s eldest born child.  “I always wondered what sort of woman your father would choose for you.  It comes as no surprise that he would select only the rarest of roses.” He offered a humble, accommodating nod to Princess Aeranys.

“She is not a flower, Illyrio.  She is a Princess of Dorne.” Prince Mors reminded him sternly. 

“Of course, my apologies.” The Magister of Pentos returned, placing a hand over his heart in sincerity.  With a gesture, the men who had been lingering just behind him stepped forward carrying a decorous trunk between them.  They set the gift before Princess Aeranys and then stepped back once more, keeping their eyes downcast they returned to their place at Illyrio Mopatis’ back.  Though they donned fine linens and silken robes, it was obvious by their manner that they were a chosen few among the Magister's many slaves.

“Princess Aeranys, please accept this gift as a token of my sincere respect for your born name and House.” As he spoke, he crouched to open the lid of the trunk revealing three petrified dragon eggs nested within. 

“Such an expensive tribute.” Prince Mors noted dryly as his new wife stooped to inspect her gifts more closely. 

“For you, Prince Mors, I have something far more precious.” Reaching into the folds of his robes, Illyrio Mopatis produced a letter.  At once, pale eyes grew wide and he snatched the parchment in haste, immediately recognizing the neatly written letters.  “Word from your mother.”

“Thank you, Illyrio, truly.” Ardent sincerity swam in his eyes as Mods looked at the delicate gift he held between his fingers. 

« Last Edit: March 21, 2020, 11:24:21 PM by Reigning King »

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Continued...


The formalities of the evening settled into a more casual affair as the plates for the feast were brought out, accompanied by minstrels and acrobats.  The Bannermen and women of House Martell clapped and laughed, engaging in the frivolity of the evening whilst representatives from smaller Houses approached the head table in staggered groups as the afternoon waned into the evening hours and the rain began to patter upon the stained glass windows of the Great Hall.  Prince Mors sat with his father at one elbow and his bride at the other.  As a rule, the Golden Fang did not like being interrupted while he ate.  Tonight however, he made an exception.

They had indulged the small folk and Palace courtiers alike, polite and jovial.  All the while, a strange barrier of silence lingered between the newlyweds at the center of the head table.  Prince Mors conversed with his father and engaged with his uncle on the other side.  Princess Aeranys bent an accommodating, listening ear to Arianne at her side and indulged the younger boys who sat alongside the table next to their sister.  Now and again their conversations would intersect, running between their invisible borderland.  The practiced pair never permitted the artifice to fade, somehow maneuvering to avoid even having to look one another in the eye.  Due to this atmosphere, or perhaps in spite of it, Prince Mors indulged in the sweet Dornish reds readily replenished into his goblet.

“Princess Aeranys, Prince Mors…” Came the all too familiar voice of the woman who had approached the table, a girl’s narrow shoulder beneath one hand.  “I hope you are enjoying your wedding feast.  The dancers have been especially good, don’t you think?” As she spoke she gestured over her shoulder to the men and women who twirled with red and gold ribbons swirling behind them in the center of the hall.  While Ellaria prattled pleasantries to Princess Aeranys, the girl at her side leered pointedly at Prince Mors.  She wore her dark curls pulled away from her face, hands folded delicately over silky skirts of green and blue.  On her face, she had painted an expression of wide-eyed innocence, yet her treacherous lips, marred by the blemish the Golden Fang’s backhand had left behind, twitched with a hidden smirk. 

“My chambermaid wanted to offer you a word in apology, my Lady.” Ellaria elaborated as she lifted her hand from Arika’s shoulder and placed it on her back instead, urging her forward as though she were naught but a shy little girl.  “Princess Aeranys, this is Arika Sand.” Ellaria introduced. 

“I’m so sorry for any offense I may have caused, Princess.” The sweet-faced girl utters timidly.  “I want only to best serve H-” stammering, she looked over her shoulder to her Lady liege, the paramour of the Red Viper, who offered a kind nod of encouragement.  A nice touch to ensure the overall effectiveness of the performance.  “Houses Martell and Targaryen.” She finished, offering a smile of darling humility.  How could Princess Aeranys, for all her cleverness and daring, not fall for the farce?

“There!” Ellaria Sand said with a triumphant laugh carried on a satisfied sigh.  “Now we can put this matter behind us.  Right, Mors?”  When she looked to the Prince who sat alongside his bride, she found him distracted rather intentionally with his wine.  It was because of this wine that Prince Mors couldn’t keep the venom from his gaze, the soothing ichor making it harder to keep his feelings tucked away behind his mask.  Instead, he elected to remove himself from the effort altogether.  Instead he looked at the Dornish reds in his cup and watched how they swirled in the chalice spun by his fidgeting fingers twirling at the stem. 

“Mors?” Ellaria repeated, irritation touching upon her pleasant tone. 

“Thank you, my Lady.” Prince Doran answered instead, speaking for his son.  “Why don’t you indulge your beloved in a dance?  He has been missing you all night.” At once, Prince Oberyn rose from his seat beside his brother, their mutual understanding of one another having evolved well beyond a quiet word or even a shared gaze. 

“Come, my love.” The Red Viper encouraged adoringly as he stepped around the table and pulled his paramour into the crowd.  Ellaria’s chambermaid was left with no choice but to trail after her Lady, but not without stealing one last look over her shoulder to Prince Mors. Yet, it was not the Dornish Prince she found looking back at her but instead, his new wife. 

As Ellaria Sand and her troublesome chambermaid stepped away from the head table, Mors visibly relaxed, leaning back in his cushioned seat.  Once they were out of sight, he eased his grip on his goblet, though not before taking a long drink.  “I’m surprised the clumsy thing is still alive.” Prince Doran said in a light, conversational tone in spite of the subject matter. 

“I am practicing small mercies.” Doran’s eldest replied as he gathered the remaining pieces from his plate and swallowed them down readily, as though the effort of the passing interaction had made him hungry. 

“That’s a rather sudden change of heart.” Prince Doran observed.

“At the very least, we must try.  Isn’t that right, father?” Mors replied, leaning back in his chair and reaching once more for his goblet after a passing wine-bearer had stopped to fill it.

“As you say.” The Ruling Prince of Dorne returned softly, sliding a glance across his son to the new daughter who sat on his other side.

The feast carried on in merriment.  As the hours passed into the night Prince Mors and his new wife maintained their silent standoff until at last, it was the Golden Fang who spoke to her for the first time on their wedding day since the night before.  “The hour is late.  I’ll make my rounds to my father’s bannermen and then we retire.” He didn’t even spare her a glance as he dropped his napkin into his empty plate and rose from his chair.  As he did, a tiny blond head appeared behind him, tugging on his tunics. 

“Just the girl I was looking for.” Prince Mors said, in a voice that sounded the closest thing he had been to happy all night. Crouching, he scooped his cousin into his arms as he told her, “I have a favour to ask you.” At once, little Tyene wrapped her skinny embrace around his neck, leaning in accommodatingly so that her cousin might whisper into her ear as they strolled from the head table and into the throngs of guests.  Without needing to be told, Ser Devran was fast on the heels of his liege.

Prince Mors meandered through the crowds with Ser Devran at his shoulder and Tyene Sand at his side, holding her hand.  He allowed himself to be carried this way and that across the Great Hall as persons both low and high within the Dornish Court vied for a private word with the reclusive inheriting Prince. Tyene stood patient and pleasant at her cousin’s side and Ser Devran, ever watchful behind them.  Their small phalanx closed ranks and braced themselves as one Lord in particular presented himself before Prince Mors Nymeros Martell, the Golden Fang.

“Prince Mors,” he said as he rubbed greasy fingers against his tunics and licked stray crumbles from his beard.  “Two audiences in one night, surely the Gods smile on me.”

“Lord Uller,” Prince Mors intoned in a suddenly sobering voice.  “I’m pleased to see you are enjoying my family’s hospitality.” As the young Dornishman spoke, the bastard sons of Lord Harman Uller rose to stand around their father.  By comparison, the Lord of Hellholt had the more intimidating faction.  That was the wonder of sweet, little Tyene.  Everyone always underestimated her. 

“I believe I’m owed a bit more than just your hospitality, wouldn’t you say, Prince Mors?” Lord Uller contended with a laugh that spoke of a belly filled with wine.  “In fact, by my account, it’s a son I’m owed.  That is how your father settles disagreements such as ours, isn’t it?  With sons?” As he spoke Lord Uller stepped closer to the young Prince he addressed.  He stood at least half a head taller than Prince Mors, with the physical and moral advantage in every sense.  Yet, when the Golden Fang took his own measured step forward, it was he who seemed the bigger man.  Lord Uller wasn’t wrong in his assessment of Prince Doran’s designs.  It was no secret that Quentyn had been sent to foster with Lord Yronwood to settle a dispute over a lost son in a match with the Red Viper.  Lord Vorian Dayne had always been too noble to offer any insight on what slight may have earned Mors a place by his side, yet it was apparent that such an offense had been made.  Nevertheless...

“I believe I asked you not to wear that heirloom of yours to my wedding.” Prince Mors said patiently, changing the subject completely.

“It is a symbol of the strength of my House. Do not forget that it was my ancestors who held Queen Rhaenys captive and kept Dorne free from Targaryen Rule.” As Lord Uller spoke, his sons nodded along beside him, encouraging their father’s folly.  Had any of them been of sober mind, they may have advised their sire differently.

“As you say.” Mors answered politically.  “Tell me, do you still torture all your prisoners as Queen Rhaenys suffered?” At Lord Uller’s hesitation, Prince Mors filled the silence.  “Is it a skill, passed down through the generations?”

“You know…” Lord Uller began, but it was too late.  Prince Mors had closed the space between them, snatching the necklace and snapping the chain, pulling the pendant from the Lord of Hellholt’s thick neck.  Before he or his sons were given the chance to move into action Prince Mors had handed the necklace off to his young cousin who took flight in an instant, disappearing into the crowd within the blink of an eye.  As anger twisted his expression, and he reached for the hilt of his blade he was given pause when his hand gripped only his own steel, drawing blood from curled fingers.  It was Prince Mors who held the hilt of Lord Uller’s familial sword, having seized and drawn it before the older man had even reached for it. 

“You’ve seen me in a melee, my Lord… would you like to see me in a brawl?” The voice Prince Mors spoke with was even and calm, yet carried with it a deadly undercurrent. The men around Lord Uller reacted belatedly, assessing their sire’s position only after it had been compromised.  For a moment, everyone held their breath, Ser Devran counting targets in silence behind his Prince. 

“I see you’re still the boy I remember,” Lord Uller replied carefully, removing his hands from his belt line and holding them out in casual surrender.  As the Golden Fang sheathed Lord Uller’s blade at his hip from where he had pulled it out partway, the men around them eased their stance, releasing the breath they had been holding.  “Keep the trinket.” Lord Uller said bitterly.  “Think of it as a wedding gift.”

“Thank you, my Lord.” Prince Mors said politely as he took care to straighten the Lord of Hellholt’s tunics.  “And just so you know,” he continued.  “I will slit my father’s throat and take his seat from him before I ever allow my little brother into your halls.” It was with those words that he left Lord Uller where he stood, dumbfounded and shamed amongst his brood. 

As Prince Mors and Princess Aeranys gathered themselves from the head table and made their exit through the Great Hall, hand in hand, the wedding guests paused in their revelry to applaud the young couple as they passed, bound for their marriage bed.  Once they were lost within the corridors of the Old Palace, they dropped each other’s grasp and drifted away from one another to opposite sides of the long hallway.  They did not make it far before they were stopped once more, this time by a small blond-headed girl in a pretty dress, holding a prize bashfully behind her back.  Mors stepped forward and lowered himself onto one knee as Tyene rushed forward to drop something in her cousin’s hand.  He whispered a sweet goodnight and gracious thanks into her ear before kissing her on the top of her head, giving her leave to take off once more into the shadowed corridors of Sunspear she knew so well.  Rising from where he had been knelt, Mors turned to his new wife and stepped towards her, taking her hands into his own.  Into her pale, pink palm he dropped Lord Uller’s necklace.  The lock of silver hair was the same shade as her own, the shining pendant into which it was set reflecting the moonlight in her hands against her lovely face. 

“You’ve been given many gifts tonight, but you haven’t looked at any of them like you looked at this.” He explained.  When her eyes lifted to meet his, there was a certain tenderness swimming in his yellow gaze.  “I wanted to be the one to give it to you.” Mors hesitated for a moment before asking that same familiar question he had asked her before. 

“Does this please you?”

« Last Edit: March 20, 2020, 11:10:24 PM by Reigning King »

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Uller. The name alone was enough to send a chill crawling down her spine like a spindly spider, and she instantly understood why he had seemed eerily familiar. As a Targaryen princess, Aeranys understood very, very well what that name meant to her family. Rhaenys’ blood flowed through the current ruling family, just as it did hers--all descended through the only child the queen had borne before she had perished in Hellholt. The remaining conqueror siblings had taken their own revenge, claiming the lives of four Lords of Hellholt in succession, but the Targaryens had never been able to recover what had been of the utmost importance to them--Queen Rhaenys’ remains. The Ullers had always claimed ignorance, saying that she had never been found, crushed to death in the rubble. And yet, the rumors had always swirled ominously about that the Ullers had captured her alive and done what they were best known for. Cold-blooded torture.

Now she could see that the rumors had likely been true--or at least, they had indeed found the Targaryen queen’s body. Instead of choosing to return her remains to her home for a proper funeral, they had chosen to turn her into a trinket, to boast their desecration of a woman and call it strength. Whatever feeble attempt her mind made to raise the possibility of a coincidence was drowned out by something deep in her gut; it tasted like conviction, like prophecy, spreading quick and hot in her veins.

Her delicate fingers curled into a fist under the shield of her left hand, her gaze locked upon the pendant. She knew what she had to do--it couldn’t have been clearer to her even if the pendant suddenly gained a voice and begged her to liberate it from the prison of humiliation it had been forced to suffer for more than two centuries.

But how?

If he had been any other lord, she would have played the part of a fanciful young bride to be indulged, so enchanted by the beauty of the pendant that she would innocently declare her admiration for it. Most lords would be inclined to gift it to the lovely young woman in a grand gesture, their ego stroked to own something that had caught the attention of the bride.

This, however, was not any other lord. Not only did the Ullers and Targaryens have a history between them, so too did the Martells have an unfortunate history between them and those of Hellholt. That much would’ve been apparent just from watching the way that the Martell father and son interacted with the Lord of Hellholt, but Aeranys had been privy to the root cause of their current strife. The last time she had seen Lord Harmon Uller had been at that tourney so long ago, where her new husband had killed another boy in the melee portion. The man who had risen from his seat in rage and shock, the man who had beseeched her father for justice but had not received it--had been this very man.

The tension in the air was thick as the portly lord and Martell prince stared each other down, and she felt her desperate heart sink into her churning stomach. There would be no way to curry favor with him, not like this, but even so… Her eyes returned to the coil of silver hair. There had to be a way.

Still, there was little she could do as the Ruling Prince of Dorne broke the tension, subtly indicating to Lord Uller that his time was up. As he and his string of boys walked off, she trailed them closely with her gaze, loathe to let what had to be her ancestor’s last remains drift away out of reach. Unfortunately, the next guest was here, and her attention was required. Reluctantly, she averted her eyes and painted a lovely smile onto her lips. There would be many, many more guests to greet.

In the sea of faces and names, one family was quite a joy for her to see. The Daynes had come, but of course, Arthur and Ashara were absent. That was to be expected, but she was surprised to see that young Allyria was also missing. Her polite question to Lord Dayne, however, was dodged most expertly, assuring her that his daughter was in good health before turning his attention to the boy who had grown up with his own. Then onwards to the next guest, and then the next, until the extensive line had finally dwindled to almost nothing. The last man to step up to the new royal couple, however, dressed elaborately in a manner that was even different to Dornish customs, seemed to elicit a response from both of the Martell men around her.

“Magister Illyrio Moptis of Pentos,” the kindly maester at her side murmured as she watched Prince Doran Martell give the man an affectionate embrace. “A friend to your husband’s mother.”

She nodded humbly in greeting at the magister, smiling at his words of congratulations as if her jaws had not begun to strain long ago. “Thank you kindly,” she added.

“I always wondered what sort of woman your father would choose for you,” the man addressed the Dornish prince beside her, “It comes as no surprise that he would select only the rarest of roses.” Though his words would have been regarded as high praise in her own father’s court, she was surprised by the stern reply the young man gave. Not a flower, but a Princess of Dorne. Despite being part of the Seven Kingdoms, Dorne had always been a bit of exception; it was certainly a foreign land she was in, with foreign sensibilities. Any offense he might have caused to the Dornish royals, it was likely soon wiped clean the moment he revealed his offering--this one meant for her in particular.




She was almost struck speechless as the trunk was opened to reveal what they held. Dragon’s eggs--three of them. “They may have turned to stone by the ages, but they are still beautiful,” she heard the magister say. Sinking down carefully in her gown, Aeranys reached out towards them. Gently, she brushed her fingers over the surface of the eggs, feeling the texture of the tightly woven scales. The eggs were warm, she realized--they must have been in the hot sun recently.

Despite the Targaryens having had the age-old tradition of placing a dragon’s egg in a newly born child’s cradle, it had been a long, long time since there had been any eggs to be found. They were larger than she could have expected, glimmering in the light like metal, each with different coloring. The centermost egg was silvery-blue, shimmering like an opal in the sun. The egg on the left was black as pitch, dotted with silver, while the egg on the right was a deep rust red with flecks of gold. Three eggs complementing each other, perhaps even from the same clutch. 

The dragon must have three heads, her brother had always said, and seeing the three eggs lined up neatly in their makeshift nest suddenly struck her with an unbearable sense of loneliness and homesickness. If only…

“Such an expensive tribute,” her husband remarked. Remembering herself, she folded her lonely thoughts away for another sleepless night and rose, turning to Illyrio to convey her gratitude once the prince had expressed his own thanks for the letter he had been given.

“Thank you, magister,” she spoke steadily, but her voice was laced with a difficult emotion. “Your generosity will not be forgotten.” 


************************


“Careful,” the older boy warned. Trystane bashfully prodded at the egg with a chubby finger, carefully gauging the expression of his new sister-in-law, though it wasn’t her reaction he should have been worried about. After all, it was Quentyn who was quick to remind his brother to be gentle. He was the one holding the rust-red egg that had caught their attention, cradling it carefully in his tanned hands as if it were a fragile baby; unlike his younger brother, he was aware of its rarity and was afraid to drop the priceless artifact. “D’you think they’ll hatch?” the boy asked her, his young face serious and solemn in contrast to his younger brother, who only smiled up at her from his spot.

“Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” she replied with a smile of her own. “But unfortunately, they’ve been turned to stone long ago.”

Quentyn nodded as if it all made sense, taking in the information with his studious mind. “I suppose that’s why they feel so cold,” he remarked, looking down at the egg.

“Yes,” Aeranys answered, though a beat too late. The thought hadn’t occurred to her, but Quentyn was right. The eggs were fossilized into stone, which meant that they should’ve been cold as the marble floors adorning the palace. But when she had lifted the egg from the chest and placed it into Quentyn’s waiting hands, it hadn’t been cold at all. In fact--

“Thank you for letting us see them,” Quentyn told her politely, returning the egg to its rightful place. 

“Of course,” Aeranys smiled at the well-mannered boy. “If you should ever want to see them again, you only need to say so.” She stooped to close the trunk, but upon second thought, she brushed a hand over the surface of the centermost egg--then the others. Stone they were, but she felt warmth there still, just as she had when she first laid her hands on them. Wondering at it, she let the heavy lid close over the priceless eggs before straightening back into her seat, turning back to Arianne who was eager to continue chattering away. Perhaps it was she who was cold, hands made icy and clammy from the strain and anxiety of her wedding. Any other rambling thoughts, however, were cleared from her mind as she was called to attention by an approaching pair and she recognized just who the younger girl was.

It was the girl with the curls, from the night before.

Though the fair-haired princess indulged Ellaria Sand’s attempt at small talk, all polite smiles and agreement, her gaze itched to stray to the girl. She seemed unhurt, other than the lip that had scabbed over, and her hands appeared to be firmly in place. The moment the younger girl was brought forward and introduced, uttering a timid apology, Aeranys was more than quick to quiet whatever anxiety the poor thing might have had. “There is absolutely no need for apologies,” she said firmly, her words soaked thoroughly with an empathic warmth as she offered the shy chambermaid a genuine smile. “I am truly glad to see you again, Arika Sand.”

Though both the young girl and Ellaria Sand seemed much pleased by her words, the young man who sat next to her refused to engage in the occasion, only drinking quite heavily from his wine goblet--as he had been for most of the evening. All Aeranys could hope was that she hadn’t spoken out of turn, seeing how fiercely he glowered at the two dark-haired women before them. Once again, however, it was the Ruling Prince of Dorne who intervened to relieve the situation, sending the beautiful paramour off with his younger brother to dance. Arika Sand, being her chambermaid, was likewise dismissed, but the princess did not turn her eyes from her so soon, awash with relief. The young girl turned only once, to which she received another smile from the Targaryen bride.

Her attention diverted, she missed what Doran murmured to his eldest, but her new husband’s words were harder to miss, seeing how close they were seated. “I am practicing small mercies,” was his answer. Aeranys pretended not to hear, of course, though her gaze briefly flicked towards the prince before skittering back away. If that means small mercies, I will heed your request, he had promised her on the previous night.

“That’s a rather sudden change of heart,” his father commented, and Aeranys couldn’t help but agree. A part of her must have not placed much stock in his promise, but it seemed that he had kept his word.

“At the very least, we must try,” the Martell prince answered. “Isn’t that right, father?” The gentle agreement of the older man fell on deaf ears as Aeranys bit her lip, feeling the prick of her conscience as clearly as a reprimanding tap from her mother. Nevertheless, she played dumb, nodding along to Arianne’s rush of words and entertaining her and her siblings as the hours grew longer and longer. Once in a while she couldn’t help but search the crowds for the tell-tale glint of silver, but Lord Uller and his brood were apparently seated somewhere more secluded from the view from the dais. Her wandering gaze, fortunately, seemed to go unnoticed by the Martell princess who was in sky-high spirits, having gained a sister at last. Of course, Aeranys herself had gained three younger siblings in one fell swoop, but the joy she might’ve been expected to feel was kept far at bay by all the other emotions fighting for a place in her heart.

By the time the night had come to a close, nervousness had won out--not that she dared to show it. If anything, the mask of a perfectly composed lady had hardened upon her skin like armor. Unlike her husband, she had barely touched her wine. It would have soothed her nerves, no doubt, but wine also loosened control, addled the wits. The day was not over yet, and she did not have the luxury of letting go of the tight reins she had on every expression made and word uttered. Not yet. She nodded as the prince beside her rose, outlining his plans before they retired. He was off then, little Tyene in his arms.

She watched them go for a moment, taking a deep breath, and Arianne clutched at her hand, offering her another grin. “That was perhaps the grandest wedding I’ve seen,” she sighed dreamily, perhaps thinking of the young man she so favored and their possible union. “And your dress! You know, I used to look at the portrait of Princess Daenerys Targaryen every night and pray that I would be as beautiful as her someday. But now I think I’ll pray to be as radiant as you were today.”

“Oh, Arianne,” Aeranys murmured softly. “You will make an even more beautiful bride someday.” Arianne squealed in giddy protest, not noticing that despite the smile, Aeranys’ eyes were tinged with hidden sorrow. She was not lying; Arianne Martell would be a beautiful bride one day, that much was clear as the sun rising and setting--and there lay the tragedy. Like it or not, the princess knew that the young girl would become a bride.

She could only hope that it would be to a man she loved well.

The fact that there was to be no bedding ceremony was a mercy--once again, Dorne loved her daughters, it seemed. However, it did not change the tension that hung in the air as they made their exit and into the corridors that would lead them to their chambers and what was to be done. They were silent as they moved forward, not even able to keep arm-in-arm once they were out of the public eye, and it was dread that began to rise up in her with each step she took. Then, suddenly, there was a flash of gold--little Tyene, seemingly having come out of nowhere. She said nothing, only dashing over to her favored cousin and placing something in his palm. Having come to a stop once her husband had, Aeranys watched in a dazed kind of detachment as they shared an affectionate goodnight.

When he turned and stepped towards her to place something into her hands, however, she was forced back into reality by shock alone. She felt herself inhale sharply at the sight of it--silver and purple, laying matter-of-factly in her palm. How…?

“You’ve been given many gifts tonight, but you haven’t looked at any of them like you looked at this,” the prince spoke, explaining himself.

She looked up at the young man before her, stunned silent. He’d noticed? How had he even obtained it? When had he gotten it?

“I wanted to be the one to give it to you,” he said quietly, and the eyes that so often only cool and calculating held a strange, earnest warmth. It almost burned to see it here and now. At her continued silence, he went on. “Does this please you?”

“Yes, I…” she began hastily, sounding more distressed than pleased. After all, what had come surging in after the initial shock had been guilt. Recognizing how she must have sounded, Aeranys paused to compose herself, her gaze dropping to the floor below her. “I am deeply touched to receive this from you, milord. I have no words to describe my gratitude,” she managed, her tone much more even this time around. “And yet, it troubles me that despite all the gifts you have given me, I have nothing to give you in return.” Anything of worth she had been sent forth from the Red Keep with had been taken from her, and he did not strike her as the type to be pleased with trinkets anyhow. At the very least, we must try, he had said. She knew those words were true--that had been her determination before things had somehow turned course. But how was she to try with this enigma of a husband?


And yet, another part of her--perhaps the Targaryen queen’s trace in her blood--was wild with the heady sense of triumph. The silvery lock of hair seemed to glimmer bright in the moonlight, rejoicing in being freed from the bloodline of those that had wronged her and being reunited with her own kin. Kin that would know her wish as her own, who could lay her rest. Yes, Aeranys Targaryen knew there was only one thing to be done. “This may seem forward of me, milord,” she ventured quietly. “But am I free to do with this pendant as I wish?” It must have been a strange question, but it was a necessary one. After all, unlike other pieces of jewelry he might have offered to her, this pendant would never again be used as an accessory--not by her, not by anyone. She would make sure of that.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2020, 10:03:10 PM by asterin »
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The turban Mors had been wearing throughout the ceremony and feast sat on the seat of an empty chair within the vastness of his rooms.  Candles had been lit throughout his sleeping chamber, but the light that filled the space came from the fireplace.  Mors crouched before the warmth of the flames he had coaxed to life, prodding at the curling bark of the logs with an iron rod.  It was rare for Mors to keep a fire in his humble hearth.  Even on nights such as this, when the skies darkened and the cold rain trickled from the clouds, the humidity of the southern winds kept the Old Palace of Sunspear warm and inviting.  This pyre however, was born not to heal the chill of the flesh, but rather to ease the heaviness of the heart.  Rising from where he had been knelt before the flame, Mors rested the iron rod against the gleaming stones of the hearth before turning to his new wife. 

“I’ll give you a moment,” he said gently as he stepped around her. 

Plucking one of two goblets of Dornish reds from a table, he padded his way out onto the terrace of his bedchamber.  The rain echoed against the roof above him as he set his goblet against the edge of the stone balustrade and leaned forward onto his elbows.  His head and neck reached beyond the cover of the terrace roof, rain drops falling heavy and refreshing upon his face.  The sound of the rain was nearly overpowered by the sound of the celebration, spilling out from the Palace into the streets of the Shadow City below.  Retreating beneath the shelter from the rain, he dragged a hand across his face, bringing the wetness into his hair.  The coolness eased the itch of his scalp, relieving some of the heat from wearing the heavy ceremonial turban of his inherited culture.

As Prince Mors took his goblet in hand and tipped the wine down his throat, the sky began exploding over the Shadow City.  Shells of gunpowder and coloured combustibles were launched into the air, erupting in the sky and painting the grey clouds in sparkling patterns of red and yellow.  The lights reflected against the young man’s face as he watched his people celebrate his marriage with Princess Aeranys of the House Targaryen.  The Golden Fang, the monstrous boy, the murdering scoundrel, had finally found himself a woman.  If only the revelry were contagious, Mors might be able to bring a smile to his tired face. 

His wife joined him on the terrace after a time.  The expression she wore was one of satisfaction and pride.  The Princess had done right by her ancestors, a fitting conclusion to the evening.  The duty she exhibited in the name of her Royal House was admirable, her present circumstance as a wedded wife no exception.  As she looked out at the brightly glimmering explosions that decorated the night sky, Mors found himself watching her. 

“They’re for us.” He explained, referring of course to the noisy celebration covering the horizon and the inspiring cheers from the people who watched in awe below.  “It would seem that Dorne has accepted it’s new daughter.” He pointed out, turning back to the pulsating city below.  The people were so far they looked like tiny bugs gathering in a colony, but Mors let his gaze touch upon them with tenderness and humility.  They moved about in clusters, some more colourful and lively than others.  The people of Dorne, each one unbowed, unbent and unbroken. 

As quickly as he had settled into stillness, he moved into action again.  Long strides carried Prince Mors from the terrace of his bed chambers back into the warmth of his rooms.  As he went he brought the edge of his chalice to his lips, pouring back what remained of his wine.  Setting the goblet aside he moved busy hands to the belt around his waist, letting it fall to the floor as he began to peel back the layers of his heavy formal attire.  Finely detailed tunics fell to the floor in a crumpled pile of misplaced embroidery until he remained in only his underclothes.  At last he kicked off his boots before reaching for a night robe which he ready pulled over his shoulders in the casual manner with which he did every night.  For a moment, he almost forgot that he was not alone.

Princess Aeranys had gingerly meandered back into the room after her husband.  At the sight of him stripping down into only his shirt and braise, an expression had overtaken her features that Mors had never seen before.  It was with bashfulness that she began fidgeting with the fastenings of her wedding dress, her fingers getting tangled in the ties around her wrist.  He watched her for a moment before at last their eyes met from across the room.  The curiosity that had been lurking in his yellow eyes was overtaken by a wave of sympathy.  With an honourably downcast gaze, bare feet carried Mors across the room to his wife. 

Gentle hands reached first for the veil around the crown of her head.  With slow, deliberate movements he removed the piece from where it was clipped into her hair, setting it aside with great care.  Their gaze met again, yellows clashing with violets as he placed his hands upon her shoulders and turned her around, setting his hands to the task of the delicate lacing that ran down the length of her back.  The Golden Fang was no stranger to the intricacies of women’s clothing.  Thus, it was with experienced fingers that he began to loosen the tightness of her dress from around her waist, untying the criss-crossed binding.  As he reached the lacing on the upper part of her back, his hands paused temporarily, feeling her heart beat hard and heavy against her ribs. 

“Your heart is beating fast.” Prince Mors observed as he unhooked the last of the fastenings on her dress, tugging the edges from her shoulders so they fell down her arms.  “Do I frighten you?” He asked. 

The white dress fell off her body and landed in a pile of lace and silk at her feet.  Where Mors had discarded his own garments carelessly, he instead stooped to collect his wife’s gown as she stepped out of it.  Moving away from the woman he was meant to be ravishing, he laid her wedding dress out over the back of a chair.  Instead of returning to Princess Aeranys’ side  at once, he stopped to collect another night robe, smaller and more feminine in shape than his own. 

“I have done many evil things,” Prince Mors admitted as he moved about the room.  “But I have never taken a woman who didn’t want me.” Approaching her, he draped the robe over her shoulders, pulling the front together to cover her exposed frame, shielded only by a thin white shift.  “I will not begin with my wife.”

Moving back the large bed that adorned the centermost place in the Prince’s large chambers, he pulled back the sheets before blowing out the candle on the table next to it.  “You should try and get some sleep,” he told his wife as he climbed into his bed.  “We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow.”  As he rested his head on the pillow and closed his eyes to the waking world, Mors found sleep ready and inviting.  Perhaps it was the wine, or the exhaustion of the day, or the heaviness of the various masks he had donned for the sake of formality.  Whatever it was, it carried Prince Mors Nymeros Martell on a cloud into the land of his dreams.  Breathing steadily, he fell asleep to the gentle rhythm of the falling rain.



When Princess Aeranys was stirred from her marriage bed the next morning, it was to the sound of her new husband moving about his chambers, readying himself for the day.  He donned clean tunics and trousers, dressed casually given the early hour of the morning.  Splashing water in his face he ran the sweet smelling oils of the basin through his hair as he looked at his reflection in the mirror.  Behind him, he noticed a silver head sitting up in bed.  Turning around he gave a nod to his wife before gesturing to the food that had been laid out on the table before the hearth, only dimly glowing coals remaining of her funerary pyre from the night before.

“Good morning,” he said pleasantly.  “I’ve already had our morning meal brought here.  Septa Oranea laid out one of your dresses just there.” Mors elaborated as he pointed about the room.  He looked away from her to tuck his tunics into the belt of his trousers before seating himself on a nearby stool to tug his boots onto his feet. 

“I have some new guests to welcome into my workshop,” he was speaking of course to the large number of writhing, hissing gifts he had been given the previous evening.  Most were common, but some of the Dornish courtiers had managed to curate rather rare finds for their Prince.  “But I will collect you later from your rooms.” As he spoke he rose from where he had been seated, smoothing out the wrinkles in his clothes.  “We will be attending council with my father and his bannermen.” Turning to leave, he hesitated and gestured once more to the food, some of which Mors had already helped himself to.   

“Eat,” he encouraged, closing the door behind him. 
« Last Edit: March 21, 2020, 11:12:00 PM by Reigning King »

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The roar of the fire was a familiar comfort as she knelt before the hearth, for once seeming to forget to care about the delicate dress she was wearing. Unlike Dorne, King’s Landing could hardly be called of warm climate. Fires had always burned in the Red Keep, whether kept to a fever pitch or glowing red coals. It warmed her bones to the marrow, loosening the stiffness in her shoulders better than the finest Dornish wine could have, and Aeranys drew herself closer and closer to the fire before her. She looked down to the pendant grasped tight in her hand and ran her fingers gently over the silver plait that so matched her own locks. Queen Rhaenys had waited so long to be laid to rest; even after her life had left her, her torment had continued for more than two hundred years now.

Carefully, she placed the pendant into the fire, bearing witness as the flames began to swallow the silvery braid. Despite having been kings and queens for centuries now, despite having styled themselves dragonlords for centuries before that, the funeral rites that had been passed down were not elaborate or grandiose. It was a warrior’s funeral pyre, true to the dragon nature that ran through their blood. Queen Rhaenys, however, had been more than just a conqueror--she’d been a lover of music and a diplomat, a caring mother too. Then surely it was only fitting that she received a proper tribute to all that she had been.

Against the crackling of the fire, the young woman began to sing softly, a lullaby her mother had sung to her as a babe, a song that had been passed down the Targaryen line from parent to child. Queen Rhaenys herself must have once sung this very song to her own precious son, lulling him to sleep with the simple melody that alluded to the ever-circling nature of fire, of birth, death, and rebirth. If that was so, perhaps her soul would be lulled to rest this time by a child of her own bloodline.

The braided lock was gone by the time she finished the lullaby, only leaving behind the silver prison that would burn for much longer. “Ēdrūs, muña,” she murmured. Sleep now, mother. Aeranys allowed herself to sit before the fire for a little while longer before she finally rose to her feet, her lips set into a firm line. One duty to her family name was over, but another of great importance still remained. She squared her shoulders, reminding herself just how far she had journeyed for this very purpose--just how many lives and things had been lost to bring her to this point.

Her hand went to her forearm. Even though it was over the silken material of her dress, the cuts twinged at the pressure of her fingers upon the scabs. Just like that night, she stood upon the precipice. This too, was not the time to be soft or indulge her own selfish wants. With that in her mind, the Targaryen princess turned and walked out into the night air to join the young man who had become her new destiny.





*******************


Aeranys stared at the doors for a moment after they had closed, motionless. When her husband's footsteps had faded into the distance, she fell back upon the coverlets of the bed, looking up blankly at the canopy above. A disaster. That was what this was, a disaster.

Theirs was a marriage only in name. They might have exchanged vows before a multitude of onlookers, but an unconsummated marriage still put everything in precarious balance. Nothing was secured yet and everything was still on the line. She had spent hours lying awake in the dead of night, trying to think of how things had gone so wrong. She knew her new husband was a different creature from most men, but she’d thought that at least in this matter, he wouldn’t differ so greatly. Even if all the other things he considered useful were different from the norm, this, this at least, should’ve remained. After all, he was heir to the seat of Dorne--it was of utmost importance, then, that he had his own heir and a spare as soon as possible. And yet, he’d refused. His grounds? He’d implied that she was frightened of him, that she didn’t want him. Had she trusted her voice to not betray her, she would have lied to his face.

Of course, he hadn’t been wrong. But what maid peddled off to a stranger wasn’t at least a bit afraid on her wedding night? How much did desire have to do with the marriage bed? Very little--she’d been taught that much when she’d still been a lass. This was the done thing, the course most pairs, if not all, took on their wedding night. She brought a hand to her temple, trying to soothe the headache that began once more. Worry or not, she had other duties to attend to as well. Finally sliding out of bed, she began to go about crafting the perfect outer shell that would be necessary to keep her hidden from the closely scrutinizing eyes of the Dornish court.

When she stepped out of the confines of the prince’s chambers, Aeranys was startled to find a certain knight waiting for her at the opposite side of the corridor. “Ser Laenor,” she uttered, somewhat unable to keep all her surprise from her voice. Immediately the knight stood to attention, bowing courteously in greeting.

“Princess,” he addressed her as he came to a stop before her. His eyes were quick to take in the sight of her, trying to infer the state of her mind and emotions, things that she always guarded so vigilantly. She was dressed elegantly as usual, though he admitted that it was still strange to see her clothed in Dornish fashion.

“Have I been summoned?” the princess inquired, her posture straightening as if on instinct.

“No, milady,” the blond knight answered, shaking his head. “It wouldn’t do to leave you unescorted as your sworn knight. I shall accompany you to wherever you might wish to head.”

“I was just going to head back to my chambers,” the young woman answered, but knowing that she would be out of reach there, the knight quickly suggested otherwise.

“Surely some fresh air would do you better, princess,” he said, his brows lifting earnestly. The princess hesitated for a moment, her gaze drifting in the space before her.

“Very well, then. Perhaps a brief outing to the Water Gardens wouldn’t hurt,” she acquiesced politely, though something in her countenance seemed weary. She took the arm he offered, the familiar feather-light weight of her fingers resting in the crook of his elbow as he led her down the path that would take them to the Water Gardens. In this moment, it hardly felt like the events of yesterday had occurred, but the young knight knew better than to allow his thoughts to stray too far.

“Prince Mors,” he began casually, breaking the silence that had settled over the pretty young woman on his arm. “He seems to have many matters to tend to despite the hour.”

“Yes, I was told he was needed in his study,” she replied, though her gaze remained glued to the path before them. Despite always being skilled at keeping a conversation flowing seamlessly, she fell quiet again--something that did not go unnoticed by the knight. He’d watched over her for years now. He knew his princess well, and he knew something was not right. The worry that had kept him awake twisted in his chest, bringing a lump to his throat.

When she did not speak even as they entered the luscious gardens, her eyes refusing to even admire the flowers and fountains surrounding them, he could not help but try again. “Are you feeling unwell, princess?” he asked, concern wrinkling his fair brow.

This time she did look up at him, a small placating smile on her lips, but only for a moment far too fleeting. “I’m feeling fine, Ser Laenor. Thank you for asking,” she told him. She was saying all the correct words, perhaps even sounding as she should have, but he wasn’t fooled.

He stopped in his leisurely pace, turning to the princess he loved above all else. “Milady...has he been unkind to you?” he managed quietly, his desperation beginning to leak into his voice.

“No, Ser Laenor,” she answered him, but her eyes, still refusing to meet his, seemed tired and sad. “He has not.” Her attempt to continue walking the path was cut off by the young man, who clutched her hand with a new angry conviction leaping in his eyes.

“Did he hurt you? If he hurt you--” he began hotly, only for his lady-liege to turn towards him.

“Please,” she pleaded, her voice strained tight as a bowstring. The look in her eyes, despairing lilac misted with unshed tears, was enough to stop the air in his lungs. “That’s enough, Ser Laenor.” There was a ragged breath as she looked away from him, but her next words were soon to be delivered in a devastating command. “You will not speak ill of my husband again.” Stricken, he searched her face for the gentility he loved so, but her features had frosted over into something so severe and distant that he released her numbly, his hand falling limply to his side.

For a long moment they stood like disjointed dolls on a stage, cut so brutally from the script they had been written into. It was the princess who broke the thick silence this time, her poise perfectly in place. “I think I’d like to retire to my chambers now,” she declared. Without waiting for the knight to offer her his arm, she turned and strode back down the paved trail they had walked. It was only a few heartbeats afterward that the Velaryon boy was able to trail after her, though he could not tell how his shattered heart still managed to beat in his chest.
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When Prince Mors arrived to collect his wife from his mother’s rooms, he donned a finely fitted kurta over his previously casual attire.  The tension that had been thick and heavy beyond compare the evening prior had eased itself into something more readily disguised as the newly wedded pair strode down the corridors of the Old Palace, her hand wrapped neatly about his arm.  They made their way to the council chambers wherein Prince Doran had already made himself comfortable in the high backed chair at the end of the table.  Standing just behind the Ruling Prince of Dorne, Aero Hotah stood watching ever faithful over his liege.  Mors nodded in greeting to both men as he made his way across the throne room with his wife on his arm.  They took their places at the opposite end of the table to Prince Doran, his son taking the seat of honour at the head of the long table.  The chair to the left of his own, Prince Mors pulled back accommodatingly for Princess Aeranys.  She lowered herself into the cushioned high backed seat, a picture of grace and decorum.  As Mors pressed his hands against the back of her chair and made to push her into place, a loud screech and the rhythmic beating of wings sent him rearing back.  Stumbling a few steps in mindful retreat, Prince Mors watched in awe as the zaldrīzes hontes he had gifted unto her days ago came swooping into the council chamber from the open window.  Large wings glided about the room upon the late morning breeze before long sharp talons came to grip the backing of Princess Aerany’s seat.  Coming to a stop the great bird rustled it’s feathers as the wide-stretching black wings nestled against themselves.  As the Princess of Dorne looked over her shoulder to remark upon her visitor, the bird lowered it’s red head to meet hers, a sweet, rumbling coo falling from it’s pointed beak. 

“It is good to see that you did not waste your gold, son.” Prince Doran remarked, his expression still a smooth mask of calm contentment in spite of the surprise in his voice. 

“Magnificent, isn’t he?” Prince Mors observed approvingly as Princess Aeranys lifted a hand to her friend who rubbed his beak along her dainty fingers. 

“A most welcome addition.” Prince Doran agreed, a twinkle of amusement in his dark eyes.

The bannermen and women of House Martell made their way into the council chambers in a timely fashion.  While some were bright eyed and prepared for the proceedings to come, some appeared to have indulged more heavily in the frivolity of celebration than others.  They remarked upon the presence of the great bird at Princess Aeranys side in silent surprise, nervous glances exchanged between Houses.  Maester Caleotte scribbled notes onto parchment as commanders sitting around the table listed off their respective numbers.  Soldiers, cavalry, siege weapons and supplies were all accounted for and found to be in good standing.  Prince Doran delegated specific roles to each of the Lords and Ladies of Dorne.  Some would lead parties into war, others would be taking over the stately responsibilities previously assigned to their sires and lieges.  The Household of Sunspear was no exception to this rule. 

“Master Toyne will be leading our forces from the front with my son,” Prince Doran elaborated.  “Dame Natari will be charged with commanding those numbers remaining in Sunspear, acting as Master at Arms in her father’s stead.”

“Thank you, my Prince. I will hold my father’s position with honour until his return.” Natari of House Toyne answered dutifully from her father’s side.

“As you say,” Prince Doran replied approvingly.  “Now, onto more pressing matters…” He continued, his gaze flicking pointedly to his eldest child.

“Our numbers will be ready to march on your command,” Prince Oberyn Martell offered from his brother’s side. 

“Then we will deploy our forces at once.” Prince Doran conceded matter-of-factly.  “The Lord of Highgarden is holding siege at Storm’s End, Lord Steffon Baratheon seems to be giving him some trouble.”  His gaze swept from the various parchments before him, each one sealed with the colours of a different Westerosi House, before returning to those around the table.  “I trust we will be able to aid Lord Tyrell in this effort.”

“He did not pursue the rebel forces North?” Lady Qorgyle remarked, a tisk touching upon the lips hidden behind the silky red veil of her native desert climate.  “Foolish…” She muttered.  Her son, Quentyn, sat beside her, nodding along with his mother’s assessment. 

“We should send our commanders in pursuit at once.” Prince Mors suggested. 

“And the siege?” Prince Doran countered. 

“I’ll need only fifty good swords to break it.” His son confirmed confidently.

“Only fifty?” Lord Jordayne of Tor repeated in a disbelieving tone.  “Storm’s End is a fortress.”  He reminded the young Prince. “Lord Tyrell has ten thousand men, at least, holding it’s gates and you think you’ll penetrate the Baratheon stronghold with fifty?”

“You doubt me, my Lord?” Prince Mors asked his father’s Bannerman, a daring sort of contestation playing across his face.

“My nephew may be young and green, but he has a mind for battle.” Prince Oberyn pointed out, helpfully.  “You saw him take the shores of Estermont.  You were there, you watched the island burn.”  The Red Viper reminded the Lord of House Jordayne.

“One victory does not make a conqueror.” Lady Qorgyle pointed out, her dark, kohl-lined eyes filled with doubt. 

“The ruling seat of the rebel faction is a prize we can not afford to lose in this war.” Lord Vorian Dayne interjected.  “I trust our Prince will not fail us.”

“Fifty men.” Prince Doran agreed, his calculating stare falling to his son.  “I will be expecting the castle to fall within a week’s time.”

“Three days.” Prince Mors returned. 

“Three days.” His father repeated, a gentle, proud smile tugging at the corners of his lips. 

“Most of my men have been dispatched with Ser Lewyn to King’s Landing, at your command, Prince Mors.”  Lord Dagos of House Manwoody spoke up.  There was no doubtfulness in his voice, nor descension in his eyes.  He looked on at the young Prince with naught but respect for the boy raised within the mountains of the Stoney Dornishman.  “My remaining forces will join you in your efforts.  We are… shall we say, familiar, with the plains of the Stormlands.”  The Lord of Kingsgrave kept the Prince’s Pass for centuries, guarding Dorne from foreign enemies.  For generations, the Manwoody’s had warred with not only the Stormlands but the Reach as well, holding the borders of the southernmost realm of Westeros, giving no quarter. 

“Thank you, my Lord.” Prince Mors said, offering the Lord of Kingsgrave a respectable nod of the head which was returned in equal measure. 

“And what of Prince Rhaegar?”  Lord Ormond Yronwood spoke up. 

“He remains in the Tower of Joy with the Stark girl, protected by the Red Mountains within my northern lands.” Lord Dagos Manwoody answered. 

“We will collect the Dragon Prince and march through the Prince’s Pass with your forces, Lord Dagos.” Prince Mors confirmed. 

We?” Came the ever-questioning voice of Lady Qorgyle. 

“My wife and I.” Prince Mors answered in a helpful tone.  “We will travel using the canals…” He meant to go on, but at the mention of the Dornish canals, a handful of Lords and Ladies around the table bristled. 

“Surely, Princess Aeranys should stay at Sunspear where she is safe…” Lord Vorian Dayne offered diplomatically. 

Instead of answering the Lord of Starfall directly, Prince Mors turned to the woman at his side.  “Would you like to see your brother?” He asked her gently.  As she parted her lips to answer her husband, Lord Vorian interrupted again. 

“Princess Aeranys…” He began.

“Can speak for herself,” Mors finished, his voice louder, his eyes dark.  With slow, deliberate movements, he pulled the familiar bone-handled blade from his boot, setting it upon the marble table with a heavy clunk.  Lord Vorian Dayne pursed his lips and cast a sideways glance to the brother at his side, who grinned at him knowingly.  The room fell silent as Princess Aeranys uttered her measured, polite confirmation.  At the sound of her voice, the bird over her shoulder fluttered it’s wings and cocked it’s head to the side. 

“Then it is settled.” Prince Doran agreed, the same bemused smirk still fixed upon his patient expression.  “Princess Aeranys will return to Sunspear on the causeway.  My Lady, upon your return, I would ask you to take your husband’s place at my side in court and council.” Though the words were uttered under the guise of a bestowed honour, the Ruling Prince of Dorne looked to the girl across the table from him as though he were presenting a challenge.  As Princess Aeranys took in a breath and opened her mouth, the first few words falling from her lips, yet another voice interrupted her. 

“It should be a Dornishman who takes Prince Mors’ place.” Quentyn Qorgyle spoke up.  “Someone who knows our lands and people.”  As he looked around the table for support, he found only still lips and blank faces staring back at him.  “Right?” He asked, an incredulous laugh upon his throat.  It wasn’t until Prince Mors rose from his place at the table, taking his knife in hand that he realized his mistake.  “Mother?” He asked, turning to the woman at his side as his eyes grew wide. 

“Be still, my son.” Lady Qorgyle of Sandstone offered in comfort, placing a gentle hand upon her son’s arm.  The expression swimming in her eyes was both dutiful and remorseful.  She knew as well as the others gathered for council what would be coming next. 

The Golden Fang rounded the table, blade in hand, coming to stand over the young heir to Sandstone.  “Your hand, Quentyn.” Prince Mors instructed in a calm, measured voice.  “On the table.” The young lad turned his gaze to the Ruling Prince of Dorne who only leaned back in his chair and folded his hands in his lap, patient and waiting.  The boy couldn’t have been much older than Arianne, and yet there was no mercy to be found in Prince Doran’s dark eyes that looked on in complete acceptance for what was to come.  As commanded, Quentyn Qorgyle of Sandstone placed his hand flat upon the marble table in the council chambers, his breathing becoming short and panicked.  Prince Mors pulled the blade from it’s small sheath, tapping against the boy’s fingers with the steel tip, his grip steady upon the serpentine bones from which it had been carved.  “Pick one.”  He instructed casually.   Shaking, the young man gestured to the smallest of his fingers, looking to his mother in shame.

“Stiff upper lip, boy.” Gerold Dayne of High Hermitage said jovially from across the table.  Lifting his own hand he wiggled three fingers, the empty place where the smallest ought to have been merely a twitching stump.  “We all choose the smallest.  It only hurts for a moment.” He smiled at the young Dornishman, the wicked grin on his lips the only comfort offered by any of the Lords and Ladies within the council chambers. 

Quentyn Qorgyle gripped his mother’s hand as Prince Mors brought his blade down upon the smallest finger of his left hand, severing the digit at the knuckle.  The knife, which Mors had named Fingers in his youth, claimed another prize as its wielder sawed through  flesh, separating the appendange from his hand.  In spite of his youth he did not cry out, instead he clenched his jaws and inhaled sharply as his mother stroked his arm, passively permitting the violence displayed so openly against her son.  Wiping the blood from the blade in his grasp, Prince Mors plucked the end of the young man’s finger from where it lay within a small pool of blood upon the gleaming surface of the marble table as he rounded the council chamber once more, coming to his wife’s side.  Locking eyes with Lady Qorgyle’s first-born son, he held the finger aloft in a flat palm, permitting the bird at his wife’s shoulder to bow his head and snatch up the offering in his beak.  While the black and red feathered creature tipped its head back, swallowing the finger, forever lost, Prince Mors returned to his seat and replaced the knife where it had been sitting upon the table. 

“As you were saying, wife.” He encouraged her casually.  With the blade still poised before her husband, no one dared interrupt Princess Aeranys again for the remainder of the council’s proceedings. 





“Sit.” Prince Mors instructed coldly. 

The council meeting had been dismissed from the Tower of the Sun, the Lords and Ladies of Dorne making a hasty exit from Prince Mors and his curiously quiet wife.  The bird at his wife’s side had taken flight as she rose from her chair, inspiring those around her to quicken their pace and remove themselves from the beast’s path of flight.  The heir to Dorne had not returned to his chambers but instead had walked in silence with Princess Aeranys as he led them to the Grand Library as he had before.  This time, he had closed the door on Ser Devran and Ser Laenor, leaving the newlyweds alone amidst the vastness of tome and text.  He was angry, that much could be discerned from his stormy disposition as he rounded the table and stood over his wife.  Yet, there was also a sort of desperation in his yellow gaze, something beyond mere frustration. 

“Had I not found myself on the receiving end of your tongue-lashings, more than once, I would think you had not a voice of your own.”  The young Dornishman fumed.  “It seems I have overestimated you, Princess Aeranys.” Prince Mors pointed out as he leaned his weight upon the flat of his hands, pressed against the wooden table between them.  “You are not the girl I remember from your father’s court.”  There was disappointment in his steady gaze, but also a sort of sadness that weighed upon his expression, as though he had just been informed of a great loss.  “Small mercies or no, I will not allow my wife to be treated with such disrespect.”

Righting himself once more, he began to pace back and forth along the length of the wooden table.  The windows behind him were open, carrying in the refreshing afternoon breeze left behind from the rainfall of the previous night.  Yet, the sunlight did nothing to lift his dampened spirits as he looked to the floor beneath his boots, his arms crossed over his chest.  He steamed in silence before turning to his wedded wife once more, looking the part of a man at the end of his rope.  “I am not under the pretense that you find yourself here out of personal desire, so why don’t you enlighten me?”  Prince Mors began. 

“What is your purpose here?” He demanded.  “What do you believe your duty is, as my wife?”

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She had expected the council meeting to be another difficult affair. How could she not, when they had all but forced her out the last time the prince had requested her presence? The protests of lords and the condescension of ladies--this, she had foreseen.

What Aeranys had failed to foresee--foolishly so--had been the reaction of her new husband.

As the lords and ladies filtered from the room, her eyes lingered on the form of the boy who was among the first to leave, his mother’s hand at his shoulder. He was but a lad, and now he would go for the rest of his life with a disfigured hand. No one had tried to stop the prince--not Prince Doran, not even the poor boy’s own mother, who had only offered him a hand to hold as his finger was taken from him.

The bird stationed at her side cooed, seemingly asking for attention. Aeranys reached up distractedly, allowing the fierce creature to rub against her hand. When she rose from her chair after her husband, however, the bird also took wing, flying through the spacious hall and off into the outside world. As she reached down to grasp her skirts, her movements suddenly jerked to a halt, her pale face growing even paler. Smeared across her palm in rusty red was the Qorgyle boy’s blood.

Despite the strange haze she was steeped in, the emotion of anger soon pulsed through. She should have spoken up for the poor thing, and yet even Aeranys had been frozen to the spot in horror at the surreal act of cruelty. If she’d said something--if she’d pleaded for the boy, would the Martell prince have shown mercy? It was difficult to say, but the young woman couldn’t help but condemn herself for her inaction. It had been she who he’d offended. She hadn’t even blinked at his words, and yet… 

Why did this keep happening?

Like a girl in a dream, she wordlessly trailed alongside her husband as he strode out of the council room and into the corridors. Behind the royal couple, the pair of knights followed at a respectful distance, watching over their respective liege in silence--and though Princess Aeranys was far too lost in her thoughts to notice, the Velaryon boy’s gaze only swam with mounting desperate concern.

In fact, so distracted was she, it wasn’t until they entered the Grand Library and the Dornish Prince shut the door rather pointedly in the face of their knights that Aeranys realized that her husband was angry. Why in the name of the Seven he was angry, she could not divine.

“Sit,” he ordered, just as he had once done before. Likewise, she again obeyed without question, though she wouldn’t have been at all surprised if he had deigned to kick the chair out from beneath her. Luckily for her, this time he allowed her to sit without incident. Once seated, the princess clasped her hands neatly in her lap--ignoring the fact that one was bloodstained--and lifted her gaze to meet the prince’s, her mother’s mask of infinite patience and attentiveness painted over her delicate features.

Then the storm was upon her. “Had I not found myself on the receiving end of your tongue-lashings, more than once, I would think you had not a voice of your own,” he hissed, frustration clear as day on his face. “It seems I have overestimated you, Princess Aeranys.”

As much as it might’ve stung, as much as indignation burst in her chest, Aeranys bit the words down and kept her silence, her demure expression firmly in place. She wouldn’t repeat her mistake from the night before last--this time, she would not allow him to incite her into acting in a way that would’ve brought shame to her mother.

“You are not the girl I remember from your father’s court,” he suddenly said, and at those words, she met his gaze. There was something other than anger and disappointment in his eyes, something genuine. He was right. The girl she had been in her childhood, before wildfire and madness--she was long dead. A part of her perhaps shared the sentiment deep in his eyes, but there was no mourning who she had been before. It was fortunate for him more than anything else--had she not been tempered by tragedy and her mother’s constant hand, Aeranys would’ve likely pushed him off the ship in the midst of Shipbreaker Bay.

“Small mercies or no, I will not allow my wife to be treated with such disrespect,” he continued, turning to pace in an aggravated manner.

Surely, there were ways to ensure that such disrespect would not occur in ways other than maiming boys, Aeranys thought. Of course, she did not say so.

Her silence only seemed to push him further into his frenetic pacing, until he finally stopped and looked to her again almost pleadingly. “I am not under the pretense that you find yourself here out of personal desire, so why don’t you enlighten me? What is your purpose here? What do you believe your duty is, as my wife?” he demanded, daring to question her about duty.

She knew it well, duty. She had been raised to adhere to it like a lifeline, to consider it of the highest importance in her existence. Finally, Aeranys was moved to speak, meeting his eyes unflinchingly.

“My duty as your wife,” she began, her voice steely as it was steady. “Is the duty of any highborn wife. To bear you heirs, to rear them well. To hold my tongue, to endure any abuse or scandal with grace and patience.” Her eyes flashed as she recited all the things that had been ground into her, the hands clasped so prettily in her lap straining to keep from balling up into fists. “To protect the family from those who would harm them, even it should be you. And finally--above all else--to obey you without question.”

The princess rose from her seat now, lifting her chin spitefully as she continued, her eyes boring into him as she spoke the words as unflinching as her resolve. “This is what my mother taught me to do, milord, by word, by rod, by example. This is what I came prepared to do, regardless of what I might have thought of it. But seeing that you are unwilling to let me perform my duties, I am at a loss.” This time it was she who rounded the table to face him, steps as measured and deliberate as a dance. Coming to a stop before him, Aeranys stared into his oddly colored eyes as if they would at last reveal his secrets to her. “Since I am so useless to you, now you must enlighten me, milord. What is it that you want?”
« Last Edit: March 22, 2020, 09:54:51 PM by asterin »
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“My duty as your wife,” she repeated the words as though they left a bad taste upon her tongue.  “Is the duty of any highborn wife. To bear you heirs, to rear them well. To hold my tongue, to endure any abuse or scandal with grace and patience.” As her violet eyes flashed to him, he met her gaze at first in fierce, rearing challenge, expecting her words to be spoken in sarcastic insult.  When instead he found genuine belief, he found his mask falling away replaced by a blank and unyielding confusion. 

“To protect the family from those who would harm them, even it should be you. And finally--above all else--to obey you without question.” Prince Mors’ boyish face fell slack in wonder.  So honourably and whole-heartedly she described a life of compliant suffering.  His brow arched, creasing the smooth skin of his forehead as he watched her in mystification.  Was this really Princess Aeranys Targaryen?  Could this truly be the girl so mighty and proud she had pushed the Golden Fang to the floor for the slight of a laugh when he had been a mere hatchling? 

“Since I am so useless to you, now you must enlighten me, milord. What is it that you want?” The wife of Prince Mors Nymeros Martell had rounded the table to stand before him, looking down at him from her lifted chin.  Though she stared him down with fire in her eyes, she was met with only a sincere and open expression from her husband.  For a moment, he saw her as he remembered her.  Why was it only here, when she shouted at him, when she scolded him, when she hated him… Why was it only in those moments that he saw the girl he remembered?


“Pardon,” he had said in a serious voice that had sounded out of place in such a small boy.  “Would you do me the honour of a dance, Princess Aeranys?”

Blinking, Prince Mors left the distant memories of minstrels and dances and pretty girls, his eyes returning to the woman who stood before him now.  The eyes that looked up at him, sparkling like amethysts in the sunlight that poured into the Grand Library, spoke only of contempt and displeasure.  Yet, as he stepped towards her, his own face kept that same open, sincere expression.  The answer to her question came easily, falling at once from his ready lips.  “I want the girl I remember.”

For a moment, they stood before one another in their usual, tensed silence.  As violets blended with yellows, her gaze narrowing upon him as though to discern his very thoughts, the expression upon Prince Mors’ face began changing as an idea struck him.  His eyes tore away from hers as his head began turning, roaming the shelves that surrounded him for choice titles.  Lips parted as he raised a thoughtful, shaking finger.  “I would like to change the terms of our agreement,” he proposed as he stepped away from his wife and began moving around the Grand Library. 

“You know,” he began as he plucked various books and scrolls from the shelves.  “There’s nothing in this world I find more disappointing than an obedient woman…” As he spoke he disappeared behind the stacks, returning with an arm full.  He approached his new wife, intention set in his brow as he laid the materials he had collected before her on the table between them.  “The women in my land,” pausing, he permitted his line of sight to meet hers.  “In our land,” he corrected himself before he continued.  “Women are not raised to hold their tongue or endure abuse,” he pointed out as his hands arranged the texts before them as a maester might.  “This is Dorne, Princess.”  Prince Mors explained, his eyes meeting hers from across the table.  “And in Dorne, women rule.” 

Holding her gaze he took the seat he had previously commanded her to take.  Looking up at her from where he sat, he set his hands to the materials before him.  “Teach me how to be good,” he proposed.  “And I will teach you how to be useful.”

When the doors of the Grand Library opened again, it was after a reluctant knock from Ser Devran.  The Dornish Knight eased the door open and inched his large frame inside, surprised to see the pair so engrossed in whatever they studied, side by side within the glow of the afternoon sun, they hadn’t even noticed him enter.  He watched them for a moment, admiring how his Prince conducted his lessons.  Ser Devran took a moment, considering the possibility of leaving the young couple to a pleasant afternoon.  Yet, there were some commands the Knight had no choice but to heed, even beyond his own Prince’s word. 

“My Prince,” he began, carefully.  “I am sorry to interrupt.  Your father has asked for you.” Ser Devran informed, his head bowed.

“Thank you,” Prince Mors said as he rose from where he had been seated beside his wife.  The Dornish noble paid the royal Princess a polite farewell, stepping away from the table and joining Ser Devran at the doors of the Grand Library.  As the pair passed into the corridor, Ser Laenor filled the space, stepping past the doors bound for his Lady liege.  Moving to cross one another, Ser Laenor could not keep the scorn from his eyes as he passed the young man who would inherit the seat of Dorne, and Prince Mors did not fail to notice.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2020, 01:28:45 AM by Reigning King »

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Every time she expected him to grow angry at her, he didn’t. The vexation that had been deep in his eyes and written on his expression had dissipated by the time she had placed herself squarely in reach, having first turned to dumbfounded confusion and then to something much more thoughtful. Her challenge had scarce left her lips before he replied, the words falling from his lips as if there had ever only been one answer for him. “I want the girl I remember,” he told her.

She could’ve thought that he was trying to be clever again, trying to needle her into losing her temper. The girl he remembered from all those years ago--the girl who’d wanted nothing more than to run amok with horses and play just as the boys did, the girl who’d thought nothing of having two of her teeth knocked out before an important event--she was dead and gone, didn’t he understand? There was no trace of her carefree abandon or reckless spirit left in her. Besides, the very reason her keepers had tried so hard to tear her down and make her anew was for the sole reason that a princess of such character would never be acceptable as a bride. How could he stand there and tell her such a bold-faced lie as to claim that it was that girl he wanted as a wife?

Her husband, however, hardly seemed unsettled by the way she watched him, unafraid to have her dissect his words and expression with a gaze that was sharp as a knife. Then suddenly something appeared to dawn on him, and he turned away from her. “I would like to change the terms of our agreement,” he remarked as he darted from shelf to shelf, busily picking out tomes from the extensive collection. Having already been burned on the grounds of their former ‘agreement,’ the young woman couldn’t help but be wary of the notion, and so she kept quiet, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. What he said next, however, uttered musingly as he perused the books, gave her pause.

“There’s nothing in this world I find more disappointing than an obedient woman.”

She drew in a small breath, her gaze flicking to and fro as a realization of her own dawned upon her. Of course, the obvious revelation was simply that her husband indeed was speaking without falsehood--that he truly was something quite different from the lords and lordlings she had been raised to wed. What had also risen in her mind, however, had been the memory sparkling emerald eyes. Ah, so that had been the intent of the green-eyed beauty. She had attempted to sabotage their courtship by advising her to be the thing he hated most. It wasn’t fury or shock that came along afterward--after all, her advice had only been a single grain of sand upon the crushing design of her upbringing. Though what she felt for the girl was nothing near anything vindictive, there was something bittersweet in her expression. However, even that was tucked away as soon as the prince reemerged, hauling a stack of books to her side and laying them out neatly on top of the wooden table.

“The women in my land--in our land, women are not raised to hold their tongue or endure abuse,” he explained, his tone as patient as an instructing maester. Aeranys, for her part, listened carefully, though her arms had risen to cross themselves doubtfully about her chest. “This is Dorne, Princess,” the Martell prince reminded her as he seated himself, “And in Dorne, women rule.” She nodded solemnly, though she could not help but think of the fact that he had yet to mention the so-called terms of his new agreement. Her unease, however, was to be amplified exponentially the moment he revealed his proposal.

 “Teach me how to be good,” he told her, an expectant look in his golden eyes. “And I will teach you how to be useful.”

This time, it was her turn to go slack-jawed, her lips parting for the incredulous words that would not come. He could not be serious. To be good--goodness itself--was a slippery thing to teach, even define. It was not as if she was a septa, able to teach morality through the framework that the Faith provided. She was not adequate to teach goodness in the purest sense, for she only knew what her own conscience and heart told her was good and bad. Goodness differed for each individual, so how was she meant to teach such a thing? Her swirling thoughts, however, suddenly came to a halt and a wondrous laugh escaped her, so brief and faint it sounded nothing more than a breath. But of course! Of course. Being good meant something different to each person, just as being useful meant something different to every individual. It was a fair bargain if there ever had been one.

Her expression was unreadable as she moved to seat herself in the chair next to his. “I find those terms agreeable,” she answered calmly, her tone sounding almost business-like as she angled her body so that they would be able to share a book without discomfort. When she turned to face him, however, the Golden Fang would find that she was smiling, the expectant spark in his eyes mirrored in her gaze.



*****************



The moment the doors opened and the Dornish prince emerged with his knight in tow, Laenor was searching for a glimpse of the princess. The hours of silence had been absolutely unnerving to the knight, who had been privy to the faint sound of Mors Martell venting his frustrations at his bride. Had it not been for the knowing eye of the Dornish knight at his side, he would have burst in there and then, but instead he’d been forced to stand there, driving himself sick with worry.

He hurried through the opening, unable to restrain himself from sending a disdainful glower at the monstrous prince before he headed inside in search of his lady-liege. He found her seated at the table in the center of the library, still focused on the books in front of her. Still, as he brought himself to a stop a few feet away, she seemed to sense his presence, lifting her head from the material she had been so intently studying. “Yes, Ser Laenor?” she inquired, though she did not turn around.

Caught between relief and confusion, he stepped closer to the table, offering her a proper bow before turning his eyes to what she had piled before her. “You seem busy, princess. What, if I may ask, are you studying?”

“How to be useful,” she answered simply, her gaze falling back to the text before her, unaware of the way that her knight instantly bristled at her words.

“Useful?” he echoed, forcing his voice to remain even.

“Yes,” she finally glanced up at him, though her eyes didn’t quite meet his before drifting back away. She was trying to hide it, that much was clear to him--but oh, he could feel her melancholy as closely as he always had. He longed to reach out and comfort her, but she was far removed from him now, more than ever before.  “We are in a different land, Ser Laenor,” she explained, “Dornish sensibilities are sure to differ from those of King’s Landing, isn’t that so?”

“That seems wise, milady,” he ground out, swallowing the fury that threatened to lurch up within him. Princess Aeranys’ orders had been plain, and he did not dare incur her displeasure again, not when something within him withered even now at the recent memory. Of course, he could read between the lines and see the truth of the matter--Prince Mors had dared to call her useless.

He watched her read in silence, taking in the way her brow furrowed low from time to time, a finger guiding her discerning gaze along the text, the way her lips would move silently as if to repeat a segment to herself--and he felt his heart ache for her. It was a cowardly thing to insult a lady when she was without anyone to defend her honor, and to think that the princess, of all people, could be unfairly deemed useless, was an offense he would not let go so readily.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2020, 01:54:20 PM by asterin »
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“Useful?”

“I think she could be.” Prince Mors answered his father as the pair sat across from one another.  The young man held an ointment in one hand, spreading the salve with as much care as possible across his father’s swollen knuckles and wrists.  His face twisted with discomfort to have any pressure, no matter how slight, upon his aching joints. 

“In what way?” Prince Doran inquired patiently upon a slowly exhaled breath. 

“We reviewed the principal Dornish Houses, their histories, unique customs, granaries…”

“Granaries?” Prince Doran repeated, the surprise blending with the telltale pitch of approval in his steady voice. 

“She has a mind for numbers,” Prince Mors elaborated helpfully. “She was very interested in the small folk, how they’re fed and protected.  I was showing her the routes of trade when you summoned me.” As though the man’s hand was as delicate as a sheet of glass, Mors rested his wrist carefully within his lap, reaching for the next.

“It seems I chose the right woman to hold your seat.” Prince Doran remarked.

“You chose the only woman fit to hold my seat.” His son countered, flicking his gaze to his father’s.  Princess Aeranys was no mere woman.  She was a Princess of Dorne, a member of House Martell.  Her children would carry the blood of Princess Nymeria of the Rhoyne, the blood of Dragon Lords of Old Valyria; their hearts would be filled with the burning flame of conquerors.  In the eyes of Dorne, the unbowed, the unbent, the unbroken; she was just as valuable as any of her male counterparts.  Perhaps, with time and guidance, she would become even more valuable still. 

“As you say.” Prince Doran replied in acceptance, nodding his head to the young man who would inherit his title.  “I will be expecting great things from her.”

“As you say.” The Golden Fang replied in kind. 

“Are you afraid?” The Ruling Prince of Dorne asked after a time.  “War has a way of changing a man.”

“I’m not afraid of war.” Prince Mors replied easily. Killing, no matter how senseless, had never been the sort of thing to weigh upon the young man’s conscience. 

“What are you afraid of?” It was a question that the Prince of Dorne has never asked his son before. 

“Failure.” Mors answered, keeping his attention on the task before him, fingers busily dipping into the tin of ointment.  The answer was a simple one, borrowed from a conversation with Ser Devran. 

“Then take heart, my boy, and be brave.” The aging man advised his son.  “A life without failure is a life without lesson.” The cryptically spoken wisdom lingered in the back of Prince Mors’ mind, even as he bid farewell to his father and found himself wandering the corridors of the Old Palace.  Prince Doran would take his supper in his room this evening, but Mors’ wife would be waiting for him in the Water Gardens with the rest of his family. 

Prince Mors neared the doors that would take him into the Halls of the Summer Palace, the sunlight fading from the sky.  Barring his path, two familiar men stood, quibbling in hissing, hushed voices.  Ser Devran seemed to be advising Ser Laenor of something or other, advice that the Knight of the Kingsguard appeared loathed to accept.  Upon spotting the approaching Prince, their voices became louder, their dispute more intense until at last, Ser Laenor tore away from the Dornish Knight and started instead towards his liege. 


“I apologize for this, my Prince,” Ser Devran began, trailing behind the furious young man as he marched towards the Golden Fang, eyes locked firmly upon his target.  “I told him not to…” The Dornishman’s voice fell off as his Prince raised a silencing hand. 

“What is it that vexes you, Ser?” Prince Mors inquired patiently. 

“You, Prince Mors.” Ser Laenor spat venomously as he squared himself to the heir of Dorne.  “You and your disregard for your wife.”  The way he said the word made it sound as though it were an insult. 

“You’ll have to be more specific.” Prince Mors answered casually. 

“Princess Aeranys derves an honourable husband, someone gentle and strong, someone…” As Ser Laenor rambled, the Dornish Prince before him looked on with a calculating stare.  The expression that had started out receptive and patient, quickly turned to seething disdain as a revelation settled, the final pieces of the puzzle coming together, in his keen observation. 

“Someone like you?” Prince Mors finished. 

Ser Laenor met his stern yellow eyes with ferocity, brave in spite of his foolish endeavour.  With accusation on his tongue, he closed in on the Dornish Prince.  “You will be good to her, Prince Mors, or…” He meant to go on, but Prince Mors did not give him the chance to finish. 

“Or what?” The Golden Fang countered.  They stood nearly chest to chest now, men brought to the brink of blows by a shared interest in a maiden’s virtue.  Prince Mors had never cared for cliches.  “What are you going to do, Ser Laenor?” As he spoke, the unarmed Dornishman brought his palms flat to the Knight’s breastplate, giving him a hard shove.  The honoured boy of House Valeryon stumbled back a few steps, finding his feet and turning on the offending party, his face twisting into something ugly and unbecoming.  In a reflexive instinct, he drew his blade from where it had been sheathed upon his hip. 

“Ser Laenor!” Ser Devran exclaimed, shock overtaking his features as he too reached for the hilt of his Dornish steel.  He was halted in place again however, by that same silencing hand, raised so casually.  The Dornish Knight resumed his passive, relaxed stance, hands clasped behind his back.  It was not his liege he worried for, but rather the armoured Knight who stood before him, donning the very chainmail forged on his behalf as ordered by the Prince he dared insult.  What the Knight of King’s Landing failed to realize was the danger in the smile that twitched at the corners of Prince Mors’ still lips. 

“Come then, Ser Laenor, Whitecloak of the King’s Guard.” Holding his arms out before him, he turned smiling eyes to the man who dared poise his blade in his direction, the itch of his bloodlust crawling up his throat.  “Defend your Lady’s honour…”

With shimmering armour and a swinging sword, Ser Laenor surged forward.  The anger burning in his heart gave him conviction, but it also made him clumsy.  Prince Mors sidestepped the Knight’s thrust, reaching at once for his most vulnerable point.  Catching his right wrist as it arched upward, offsetting the momentum of his strike, the Golden Fang squeezed down hard on the tender flesh, fingernails digging into the finely wrapped bandages.  Ser Laenor’s footing failed him as his body curled upon the assaulted stump where his hand had once been, Prince Mors wrenching the wrist around his back, sending pain shooting up to his shoulder.  Turning his head, Ser Laenor brought his angry, indigo eyes up to meet those of his assailant as the Golden Fang’s yellow gaze came rushing in.  He felt his nose crunch beneath the force of Prince Mors’ heaving forehead, pitching straight into the center of his face.  The slender man, who donned only the tunics and perfumes of a Lordling, let the decorated Knight in his grasp to fall limply to the floor, spinning eyes speaking to the black dots that must be spotting his vision. 

“Ser Devran,” he uttered in a low voice.  At once the Dornish Knight was at his side, offering a kerchief from his pocket to the Prince who stood over the boy who had been foolish enough to believe he could teach the Golden Fang a lesson.  “Gather your men.” He commanded as he took the pale linen extended to him, wiping the blood from his forehead and then his hands.  “Have Ser Laenor escorted back to his room.”  As Ser Devran nodded and stepped away from the feuding men, slipping through the doors into the Halls of the Water Gardens, Ser Laenor was stirred from his stupor. 

“No,” he began groggily, blinking against the blow he had received to the head.  “No, Princess Aeranys…”

“It is your rooms or my dungeons, Ser.” Prince Mors reminded him.  When Ser Laenor looked up to meet his gaze, the realization of his folly landing heavy upon his face, he was met with black eyebrows raised in challenge. “You’re surprised?” He asked.  “You are a guest who has drawn steel against his host, a Prince of Dorne, and unarmed Prince of Dorne; I might add.” As Ser Devran reappeared in the corridor, with his men upon his flanks, Prince Mors folded his hands behind his back and lowered himself so that he was close to the crumpled Knight.  Speaking in a voice hushed enough for the words to be for Ser Laenor alone, Mors uttered his final, quiet threat. 

“I’ve seen the way you watch my wife, Ser.”  The Golden Fang hissed with his forked tongue, lips curled over his sharp teeth in a snarl.  “You know nothing of honour.”

“Take him,” he commanded as he righted himself, straightening his tunics.  “My supper is getting cold.”

The blood-stained kerchief was tucked into a pocket discreetly before Mors took his place beside his wife at the long table at the head of the Hall.  The Summer Palace had played host to many of the Lords and Ladies who had joined the masses gathered at Sunspear, answering the call of the banners for the rebellion that intensified North of the Dornish borders.  They took notice of their notorious Prince entering the vastness of the room, as expected, the food before him had gone cold.  Taking a fork and knife to his plate, he began shovelling what would have been a wonderful meal had it been enjoyed warm, into his mouth.  Tension coiled his muscles as he sat stiffly and silently, his even-tempered mask failing to hide his unease.  At his wife’s soft word, he turned to her, a tiny drop of scorn glimmering in his golden eyes. 

“Dinner first.” Answered monotonously, turning back to his supper plate.  “Then you can explain to me why I should show mercy instead of cutting out your Knight’s tongue and feeding it to my snakes.”

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Online asterin

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It was within the grand Sept that the dying rays of sunshine found the princess, pacing down the aisle she had walked just the day prior. The many decorations had yet to be fully cleared away, leaving the surroundings not much changed from her wedding day, but to Aeranys, the events of the previous day almost felt like they had transpired a week ago.

She had only finished up the material she had been studying under her husband’s patient instruction, choosing to return to her chambers to rest before dinner would be held in the Water Gardens in two hours’ time. When she stepped through the doors, she was greeted by the sight of a tray of delicacies, likely placed there by Septa Oranea’s orders, perhaps in case the princess returned to her chambers with an empty stomach. It hadn’t been long afterward that the princess decided to make a brief visit to the Sept. When she opened the doors, she was both surprised and relieved to see that the blond knight was absent from his post. It wasn’t as if she had ever found his presence a burden before, but after she had come to understand the nature of his feelings towards her, it had only made things...difficult.

So it was alone and unaccompanied that the Targaryen princess made her way to the now-familiar spot before the Mother, her sharp eyes having caught sight of Croll Sand scrubbing away at the marble near the base of the gargantuan statue. “Hello, good brother,” she called, and at the sound he turned, keeping his head bowed low. This time he did not seem so startled, likely having recognized her voice already.

“Milady,” he bobbed his head in greeting, though it was hardly possible for him to lower his head any more than it already was. “Are you here to pray?”

“Yes,” Aeranys answered, though her reasoning had been two-fold. There was a brief interlude of silence as she considered her next words.. “You were right,” she began rather simply. At his bemused expression, she clarified, “About my betrothed.” Well, he wasn’t quite her betrothed anymore, but it could’ve been argued that they weren’t husband and wife in the truest sense yet. “We spoke about the matter today, and I think we may have reached a reasonable solution.”

“That is wonderful news, milady,” he replied politely, nodding his heavy head.

“It is. And so, I brought you these as a token of my gratitude.” Carefully, she placed a small bundle made from a cloth napkin against his hand. He seemed to grasp for it out of instinct more than anything else, tentatively bringing the bundle to his nose.

“...Dates?” he hazarded a guess, sounding doubtful. “No, figs?”

“Both,” she affirmed, an impressed smile spreading on her lips. “Dried dates and figs, as well some nuts.”

“Thank you, milady, but…” the man frowned, seemingly at a loss. “Gratitude towards what?”

“For your counsel, of course,” the princess returned matter-of-factly, though there was warmth in her words. “Thank you.”

The confusion loosened from his furrowed brows as he began muttering humble denials, but even with his head lowered so, Aeranys thought she saw a hint of a smile on his broken features. Though he wouldn’t have been able to tell, she, too, felt herself smile.


***************************


Surrounded by the chatter of the multitude of lords and ladies and courtiers alike, Aeranys waited for the missing prince to join them. As Arianne had noted, it was very unlike the Martell Prince to be late for a meal. At first, none had been foolish enough to begin dining without their prince present, but as the food had begun to grow cold, Elia Martell, ever the gracious hostess, had called for the meal to start. As for Aeranys, she had yet to take more than a few polite bites of her food and a measured sip of wine. While it was mostly out of consideration for her husband, the niggling worry was also effective in staying her hand. Indeed, the princess could not help but be concerned about what was keeping him. He had been called away to his father’s chambers the last she’d seen of him. It wouldn’t have been out of the question for such a sudden meeting to mean that there was bad news involving the conflict that had stormed the Seven Kingdoms, and the princess found herself growing increasingly anxious.

The brief moment of relief that she felt upon sighting his figure, however, was instantly muddied as she recognized the signs of stress he usually seemed to be immune to. She allowed him a moment as he seated himself and began to eat, but it was not long before she turned to the young man beside her. “Is everything alright?” she inquired, keeping her voice low lest someone overhear.

He looked at her then, and she saw something dangerously close to contempt lurking in his gaze. “Dinner first,” he told her stonily, “Then you can explain to me why I should show mercy instead of cutting out your Knight’s tongue and feeding it to my snakes.”

Her lips parted, but her words failed her, turned to ash on her tongue. He had already resumed eating, his yellow eyes kept forward, but it took her a second to do the same. Turning to her place, she forced herself to begin eating as if nothing out of the ordinary had been said to her. Though she might have appeared composed, already her thoughts had rushed to the terrible conclusion she had been fearing.

Ser Laenor had done something horribly foolish.

This was exactly what she had been trying to avoid. No matter how furious or upset she had become on account of the prince, Aeranys had taken care to keep those emotions hidden from others, especially from Ser Laenor. He was honorable and chivalrous, more well-intentioned than most, and in that way she imagined he might’ve been the kind of person Daeron could have resembled had her brother not been born so sickly and frail. Indeed, Ser Laenor was much like the knights that gentle Daeron had so admired in the tales and bards’ songs. Unfortunately, she also knew that the world they walked was not so simple as the one painted in those stories. A well-intentioned fool would charge straight to his death, and the moment she’d seen the anger in his eyes as they stood in the Water Gardens, she knew he would do just that for her.

Because he was in love, and love made fools out of men.




The fork and knife that had been moving mechanically finally came to a stop, her slender hands lowering the cutlery onto the cloth napkin beside her plate. For a moment she was still, trying to keep up the ruse of perfect poise she had been forcing herself to uphold, but it was no use. She had to go see him--had to know just what had happened. Swallowing with difficulty, her gaze flicked only briefly to the prince next to her before she rose from the table. Uttering a well-mannered excuse she made a swift exit from the banquet, leaving behind her husband and half-eaten dinner to track down the poor fool she had created.
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Ser Devran stood before the wooden door of Ser Laenor’s rooms.  His hand rested loosely on the hilt of his blade, his eyes straight ahead.  The men that stood on either side of him remained just as vigilant and stoney-faced as their leader.  None moved from their post, not even to adjust their weight from one foot to the other.  They stood as statues, even as the billowing silks of an approaching Lady turned the corner and came fluttering down the hall.  When she reached them, squaring her shoulders and meeting the Dornish Knight’s gaze directly, he stayed unmoving.  If it hadn’t been obvious by her husband’s stormy disposition, then it became so the moment her eyes touched upon the man before her, whose teeth cracked between a clenched jaw.  Her precious Knight had gone too far this time.  Silently, he reached for the handle at his back and swung open the door.  As Princess Aeranys stepped across the threshold into the humble quarters, Ser Devran followed in after, closing the door behind them both. 

The fair-haired Knight sat at the edge of his bed, a cloth pressed to his nose.  The bruising on his face had already begun to turn a sickly reddish blue, his eyes swelling shut so that only narrow slits of indigo peered up at the young woman who had entered his chambers.  The armour that had been decorating his person was laid out upon a nearby surface, leaving the Knight sitting in his tunics, fresh bandages on his absent hand.  With elation lifting his heavy expression, he smiled up at the Princess before him as he spoke her name, whispering it as though it were a prayer. 

“Princess Aeranys,” he uttered, relieved.  “I didn’t think he would let you come.”

Ser Devran couldn’t stop the scoff that came rushing up his throat, pouring from his lips.  At the sound, Ser Laenor turned his attention to the Knight that intruded upon his precious, private moment with his Lady liege.  With asking in his swollen eyes, he turned to the Dornish Knight who had saved him from the fires of Estermont.  “Ser Devran, might I speak alone with Princess Aeranys?”

“No.” Came the curt, cold reply. 

Ser Laenor parted his lips his protest but stopped short upon noticing the stern way the Princess he so loved regarded him.  She stood with her hands folded in front of her, mouth pressed into a hard line.  Tilting her head slightly, she spoke to Ser Devran behind her while keeping her eyes on her sworn sword before her.  “What has he done?” Princess Aeranys asked.

“What hasn’t he done?” Ser Devran retorted sarcastically, barely keeping the exasperation from his voice. 

“No, my Lady…” Ser Laenor rushed to fill the heavy silence, the words that fell from eager lips were blundering and graceless.  “I was only doing my duty, defending your honour…”

“Honour?” Ser Devran repeated, unable to stop himself as he stepped forward into the room, coming to Princess Aeranys’ side.  “Our healers should be preparing for war and instead my Prince sends them to your bedside,” there was incredulousness upon his furrowed brow and anger in his voice.  “He has fed you, clothed you --”

“And imprisoned me, it would seem…” Ser Laenor interrupted. 

“You drew steel upon an unarmed Prince of Dorne within his own walls.” Ser Devran pointed out, his voice rising as he stepped past Princess Aeranys.  “Your head should be on a spike!”  He raged.  The Dornish Knight would have gone on, if not for the feather-light touch of Princess Aeranys’ delicate hand upon his arm.  Exhaling deeply through his nose, Ser Devran righted himself and returned to his post near the door, eyes flicking to the Princess in his company as he moved. 

“I apologize for losing my temper in your presence, Princess Aeranys.” Ser Devran offered, his words more calm and measured this time.  “I’m afraid I’ve grown weary of the claim that my Prince has mistreated you.”  As their eyes met from across the room, a deeper knowing swam within his brown gaze.  Ser Devran of House Toyne knew his Prince, he knew the young man’s heart, perhaps better than anyone else.  The Golden Fang, for all the notoriety, for all the gossips, for all the ill-fated souls who had crossed his path in the wrong moment… Mors Nymeros Martell was not a monster. 


The knock came distantly, long after the sun had set beyond the horizon.  Prince Mors righted himself from where he had been leaning upon the stone balustrade of the terrace, pulling his eyes from the flickering lights of the Shadow City to the opening doors of his chambers and the young woman who inched her way inside.  The expression she wore on her face was difficult to read.  She looked displeased, though not necessarily with her husband, which was a fortuitous change of pace.  By contrast, Prince Mors’ visage had hardened into something beyond mere stone or ice.  Like his Knight, the Dornish Prince had grown weary.  Weary of mercy, weary of accusation, weary of climbing the mountainous challenge that his new wife had proven herself to be. 

“I assume you’re here to plead mercy for Ser Laenor.”  Prince Mors uttered complacently, an exhaustive sigh settling his tensed shoulders.  “You understand, of course, that we are in the midst of a war, don’t you?”  He asked in a tired voice.  “Will you ask me to show the rebels mercy as well?  Should I spare each and every soul until one is brave enough to put a knife through my back?”  Crossing the room to put himself before her, he stepped around her to approach the plush chairs positioned before the empty, cold hearth of his chambers.  There was a practicality to the sentiment he uttered in his sarcastic drawl.  A Lord had to command respect from his subjects.  If they did not fear him, they would not respect him.  This seemed to be a reality that Princess Aeranys was unwilling to accept within her kind, tender heart. 

“Please,” he said politely, gesturing to the seat across from the one in which he sat.  “I am sure you have already concluded as much, but I will tell you plainly,” Prince Mors began as his wife took the empty place before him, meeting the violet gaze of Old Valyria.  “I am not a good man.” He said bluntly.  “I don’t pretend to know what goodness is…” He went on.  “I’ve been told it is a voice that whispers in your ear, an ache in the belly… whatever it is, I don’t have it.”  With another sigh he leaned back in his seat, crossing one leg over the other, his face of weariness not dissimilar to the one Ser Devran had shown her. 

“So tell me, wife, how do you know?  How do you determine who is deserving of your sweet mercy, beyond the selfish desires of your own heart?” 

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