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The Golden Sun and the Silver Moon [m]

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Offline Reigning King

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The doors to the Grand Library creaked open, but it was not the Dornish Prince who slipped past them and into the room but instead the High Septa.  She looked to the silver-haired young woman who stood within before turning her head to the knight who stood watchful over her.  “I’d like to speak with her.” She told him.  When he nodded dutifully but made no move from his post, she turned her body, squaring her shoulders to him.  “Alone.” High Septa Nysah added sternly.

“Prince Mors…” Ser Devran started.

“I serve the Seven, Ser.  Not your Prince.”  There was a proud authority in her words but still, Ser Devran stood as an immovable statue.  “It was he who told me where to find the girl.  You can ask him yourself.  He should be along any minute.”  The two stared one another down for longer than a mere moment before finally, Ser Devran relented.  He removed himself from the library, leaving only the High Septa and Princess Aeranys within the stillness of worn parchment and old words.

“Come here, girl.” The High Septa called to the Princess.  “I should like to take a good look at you.” Obediently, the Targaryen Princess stepped forward, her silky skirts billowing behind her as she moved.  She held a tome against her chest.  The Collected Histories of The Sun and Spear, a curious choice or perhaps a well-calculated one.  The High Septa said nothing at first.  She looked on at the pale-faced girl before her, circling her like a Master from across the Narrow Sea sizing up a slave for purchase.  When she faced her again, her eyes fell pointedly at the bruising on her face.  “Did he do this to you?” She asked, gesturing to the offensive blemish with only a subtle nod of her head.  At her words, the older woman relaxed her shoulders, but only just.  “That is well.” She observed thoughtfully as she moved away from the Princess and towards one of the large windows spilling sunlight into the Grand Library. 

“Your intended is… he can be a difficult man to understand.” The High Septa spoke in a clear, high voice that would seem gentle if not for the power behind her intonation.  “As High Septa, I speak for the Gods, but they speak to me as well and often of our Prince.”  She turned away from the window again, light reflecting against the golden thread of her robes.  “Mors Nymeros Martell.  When he is crowned Prince of Dorne, he will become the third of his name.”  Her feet carried her back towards the foreign bride that would one day rule the Realm she guarded and the countrymen whom she loved.  “The Seven speak to me of his heart and who shall have it… a flower, breathing fire…” She said the words as though she doubted them even as they fell from her pursed lips. 

“Do you pray, Princess Aeranys?” The High Septa asked.  “Perhaps, it would do you well to visit with me in the Sept of this Old Palace.  The Seven may have answers for you that we mere mortals cannot divine.”

The doors of the Grand Library opened again, this time is was Prince Mors who stepped into the room, accompanied not only by Ser Devran but also his twin sister.  “I hope I’m not interrupting.” He said, unsmiling but polite nonetheless. 

“I was just leaving.” The High Septa assured him, turning from the Targaryen girl, her robes swept across the parquet wood beneath her feet.  She did not pass greetings to the Prince or his companions as she made her swift exit from the library, Ser Devran closing the doors behind her. 

“She’s so scary.” Natari whispered audibly to her brother as the High Septa Nysah departed. 

“No, she isn’t.” Mors replied stiffly as he moved to a clear table.  He carried his collection of documents from the council meeting along with several others that he had gathered along the way.  Setting them down on the table, he spread them before him in a manner which called to mind images of a tutor preparing a lesson for a pupil.

“Maybe not to you.” Natari returned, the tone of jest upon her voice.  “I was one of the little girls she used to whip for not remembering the right words from our readings.” She explained.  Acknowledging the Princess in the room, she tilted her head towards her as she elaborated further, “she was merely a Septa of the Faith in those days.”

“I never had a Septa.” Mors reminded his friend. 

“Just the one.” Ser Devran corrected, earning him a stern glance from his liege. 

“Just the one.” Mors confirmed.

In the uncomfortable silence that followed, Ser Devran’s sister moved to introduce herself formally to her friend’s intended bride.  “I am Natari of House Toyne, your Grace.”  She smiled warmly as she greeted the Targaryen Princess, a stark contrast to her ever-serious brother.  When Princess Aeranys offered her own polite greeting in return, she chuckled light-heartedly and brushed her short black locks from her face, revealing the closely shaved pieces underneath.  “Not a Lady, your Grace.” She corrected sweetly.  “In the Dornish court they call me Dame Natari, but you may call me a friend.”  The Toyne daughter had the look of a warrior.  She stood as tall as her brother with shoulders nearly as broad and strong.  She donned lightweight leathers and her hair was cut to accommodate the helm of her armour when she wore it.  If the Princess was surprised to be encountering a female knight, she did not permit her expression to reveal it.  Perhaps, she was relieved to have someone, anyone, within the Dornish court to show her the respect that this one woman in particular believed she was owed.

“Away with you, Natari.  I have need of my betrothed.” Prince Mors interrupted. 

“So grumpy.” Natari chided, her tone light and friendly.  “You’ll be an old man before your time, Mors.” The Prince only grunted distractedly in response and so, with rolling eyes, Natari turned back to the Princess.  “Should you ever need a boot to fit into his rear, you will always find mine in the armoury or upon the training sands.” She told Princess Aeranys playfully, before making her exit, a kind smile upon her handsome mouth.  “See you later, little brother.” She added, thumping a fist into Ser Devran’s shoulder as she passed him. 

Little brother…” Ser Devran repeated mockingly, shaking his head.  “She was born two minutes before me…”

“And she will never let you forget it.” Mors pointed out before turning his golden gaze onto his future wife.  “Come here.” He instructed her.  As she approached the table at which Prince Mors stood, the tome still held fast against her chest, Ser Devran resumed his post at the doors of the Grand Library. 

“Give it back.” Mors said firmly.  When she hesitated, he tilted his head, fixing her with angry eyes.  Finally, she surrendered, opening the pages of the tome she held and producing the letter from within.  She handed it back to him and he took it readily, setting the parchment down amidst the rest, his eyes settling briefly onto the finely written words. 

Tell Mors, I am sorry.  My place is here.

The letter regarded Princess Aeranys’ older brother, but it was written by the hand of the man whom Mors considered his own. 

“Sit,” he ordered of her, gesturing to the chair opposite himself across the table.  Obediently, she did as she was bid.  Looking up from the pages before him, Mors fixed her with an inscrutable stare.  He watched her in thought for a moment before hissing another order at her.  “Stand.”  At once, she complied.  With the cadence of a predator circling prey, he rounded the table to place himself before her, closer than usual.  The last time they had been this close, she was shouting at him from the belly of a warship.  “You will be useful,” he had told her.  His head tilted, one brow arched over the other studiously as he regarded her.

“Sit.” He ordered again.  When she moved to seat herself in the chair however, Mors kicked it out from under her.  She did not stumble, but instead righted herself again, watching the wood topple end over end into the middle of the library.  Her expression was asking, but her lips remained stayed. 

“Nevermind…” He muttered with a bitter sigh.  “Get out.” Prince Mors turned away from his intended, returning to the pages containing precious information; information that Princess Aeranys was surely eager to know. 

“Come, my Lady.” Ser Devran urged, stepping forward. 

“Not you, Devran.  I have need of your counsel.”  The Dornish Prince told his knight.  “Spend your hours as you please, Princess.” Mors told her without bothering to spare her the respect of meeting her gaze with his own.   “Ser Devran will collect you from your rooms when the sun begins to set for supper.  If he should have to go looking for you, I will be disappointed.” It was only when he noticed her hesitation at the doors of the Grand Library that he looked up to her again.  This time, the anger in his yellow eyes was obvious and palpable. 

“Get out.”

As the doors closed heavily behind Princess Aeranys, Mors let the veil of fragility pass temporarily over his boyish features.  His fingers came to touch upon the words Ser Arthur had written.  Tell Mors, I am sorry… Black brows furrowed beneath the weight of the morning, eyes darkening in storms of frustrating indignation.  “I hate that he’s always right.” He muttered.

“Mors?” Ser Devran pressed gently, concern slipping into his tone. 

“Arthur is owed some gold-dragons.” Mors said quielty. 

Ser Devran did not press the matter further but instead brought his hands to the documents Mors had spread out on the table before him.  “Shall we?” He asked patiently.  Nodding, Prince Mors Nymeros Martell set aside his disappointment in favour of his duty.


King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Offline asterin

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*********

Barely three moons had passed before word of a suitor had reached her ears--a Volantene noble, eager to claim a likewise Valyrian princess as his own. Unable to keep her calm, she had burst into the council room where her father had been meeting with a few of his closest advisors and Rhaegar. Choked with tears of grief and rage alike, she had screamed like a girl gone mad, a bereaved beast pierced through the heart. Her father’s own fury had not stopped her, even when he had struck her so hard that her cheek had split open and the nail that had cut her had broken in half. While Lord Tywin and Lord Steffon had been frozen stiff in their seats at the sudden chaos, Rhaegar had stepped between the crazed pair, scooping her up into his arms like a broken child and rushing her away--still screaming furious accusations--to his chambers.

For a while she’d wept openly in his arms, sobbing in a way she hadn’t allowed herself since Daeron had died, and he’d rocked her, blotting the tears and blood running down her face with his sleeve. Once he had successfully chased her tears away, she had looked up at him with a stony resolve in her eyes. “I will not marry, not now, not ever,” she had told him, her voice as cold as death itself. “I’d rather take the Stranger as my husband.”

“You, a silent sister? You’d break the vow of silence within the first hour,” he’d returned lightly, a jest not well-received by the girl, who had struggled out of his embrace to stand defiantly, hands balled into fists.

“I will not marry,” she’d repeated herself. “I don’t care what father will say or do. I will not be sold to some stranger, Rhaegar.”

His face had softened then, and her brother had risen to his feet as well to give her a kiss, tenderly brushing her hair away from her swollen face. “No, you will not be sold,” he’d echoed her words. “I’ll never allow it, I promise. I’ll fix this, you’ll see.”

And he had. By some miracle, Rhaegar had done the impossible and swayed their father into turning down the proposal he had been so adamant about. She’d leapt up and hugged him when he gave her the news, but when she’d asked how he’d managed such a feat, he’d only given her a bemused smile and an affectionate kiss. I made you a promise, didn’t I? he’d said.

He’d made her a promise…

At the sound of the doors creaking open behind her, she closed the heavy tome, hugging it close to her chest as she turned. It was not her betrothed who walked in, but the steely-eyed High Septa of Dorne that strode him, commanding even the silent and still air within the Grand Library as well as a queen, even overriding Ser Devran without as much as a blink. The older woman was quick to call her to attention, however, ordering her closer so that she might be able to appraise her. The High Septa circled her as she stood demurely, silent and compliant under her piercing gaze. “Did he do this to you?” she demanded sharply, nodding at the bruise still marring her otherwise pale complexion.

“No, milady, I was injured during the siege of Greenstone,” she replied evenly. The powerful woman seemed much relieved by her answer, but as the princess watched her turn away, she couldn’t help but wonder if the High Septa had good reason to ask such a specific question. She recalled the sight of Vellysa Sand’s teary eyes, then the way the Dornish Prince had stepped towards little Nymeria in the dust.

Nevertheless, as the High Septa continued to speak, she put her own thoughts away for a suitable moment. The woman of faith began with what felt like an obvious statement to the princess by now: that her betrothed was a difficult man to understand. “As High Septa, I speak for the Gods, but they speak to me as well and often of our Prince,” she explained, her voice carrying through the large library.

The dark-haired woman turned to her, her gaze lingering on her thoughtfully. “The Seven speak to me of his heart and who shall have it… a flower, breathing fire…” she mused, though her voice dripped with doubt. Aeranys found herself momentarily taken aback by it, though it did not show on her face. Perhaps her doubt should not have surprised her so much. The Targaryen Princess had never been spoken to by the gods--at least, if they were, they were not the Seven. Like many Targaryens before her, Aeranys dreamed; as a girl she had been so certain of those dreams, but after seeing the horrors within them pass, she no longer wished to believe in them. Of course, what she wanted did little to change whether her cursed dreams came to fruition or not.

As for the so-called prophecy the High Septa had received from the Seven, she could not say whether she believed it or not. Perhaps the gods did speak to her. Perhaps the woman was merely trying to reassure her. “If the Seven will it,” she responded mildly.

“Do you pray, Princess Aeranys?” The High Septa asked.

“As all faithful should, milady,” the pale-eyed girl answered, collected as ever.

“Perhaps, it would do you well to visit with me in the Sept of this Old Palace.The Seven may have answers for you that we mere mortals cannot divine.”

She nodded, her expression carefully thoughtful. “I will be sure to do so, milady.”

Just then, the doors opened once again, and this time it was indeed her intended, flanked by his usual shadow and another, a woman who had been present at the council meeting as well. The princess was not directly addressed, so she stood quietly as the High Septa took her leave and the other three stepped deeper into the library, trading quips and retorts as old friends would.

It was actually the only one she did not know by name who spoke to her first, coming to a stop before her to introduce herself. Natari of House Toyne. Now that she had seen them side by side, it was clear to her that she and Ser Devran were siblings. They shared similar features, though the air that each possessed differed so much that it was admittedly difficult to see the resemblance at first glance. She was not a perfumed lady in silks, standing there steady in leathers with hair cropped short. She was everything Aeranys had looked up to as a child, a woman warrior in the likes of Visenya, Nymeria, and Daena--and as far off as those days felt to her, she could not help but feel a hint of the same admiration even now. “Lady Natari,” she smiled back with a respectful dip, a reserved but pleasant quirk at her lips. ”It is an honor.”

“Not a Lady, your Grace,” the tall young woman returned. “In the Dornish court they call me Dame Natari, but you may call me a friend.”

Her polite smile grew a little warmer at the word friend, though it had initially been received with an amount of surprise. Friend. Arianne had uttered the same sentiment when they had first met as well. It was almost a marvel, how easily they used that word, friend. “Thank you, Dame Natari,” she replied, trying out the unfamiliar title. “That is very kind of you.”

Before much else could be exchanged between the two young women, however, the prince dismissed the female warrior. Natari hardly seemed bothered by him, demonstrating a carefree sort of familiarity as she gently teased him. “Should you ever need a boot to fit into his rear, you will always find mine in the armoury or upon the training sands,” she grinned at the princess, who only smiled back innocently. Still, Aeranys’ eyes stayed on the young woman as she left the library, interest hidden in her gaze.

The Dornish Prince called her over to his side, where he sat with parchment after parchment spread out in front of him. “Give it back,” he demanded. She paused, reluctant. Of course, she’d expected him to notice that the letter was missing, being sharp-eyed and focused as he was. Still, she’d hoped she’d get to keep it a little longer… When he turned to glare at her, however, Aeranys produced the stolen letter from within the pages of the tome, though an apology did not leave her lips. He took it from her readily, setting it down among the other carefully arranged documents. “Sit,” the dark-haired young man told her shortly, and she obeyed, taking the chair across from her. For a moment, he regarded her as a stern tutor might an unruly pupil, but then something else passed over his face. “Stand,” he ordered next.

Not understanding, but complying without a flicker of displeasure in her pale eyes, she rose. He then stood as well, coming face to face with her in a few angry strides. “Sit,” he commanded once more, as if he were training a hound or a lap dog. Just as she began to lower herself into the chair, however, his foot lashed out, sending the chair toppling to the floor with a noisy clatter. Luckily, she did not lose her balance, only straightening herself to her full height and meeting his strange gaze in silence. If he struck her now, she thought to herself, she would not flinch.

It was not to be, however. “Nevermind…” he breathed moodily, turning away from her. “Get out.” Ser Devran immediately called for her, but her betrothed commanded him to remain, apparently intending to chase her out of the library alone and unescorted. He couldn’t care less what she did with her time...as long as she was back in her room to be taken to dinner. Seeing that he was finished with her, she turned, heading toward the doors that waited for her. Aeranys turned back only once, but her gaze was met with anger flashing gold in his eyes. “Get out,” he repeated, and she did not need to be told again.


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


At first, she’d meant to find her way back to her chambers, but she’d soon realized that this was a rare chance indeed to be free from the ever-present eyes of her keeper. With that in mind, she’d continued on to wander for some time without a particular destination, walking through the many unfamiliar corridors and passageways of the palace. Everywhere she went, people eyed her and whispered to each other when they believed she would not notice, and indeed, Princess Aeranys never once gave away the fact that she could.

It was the Sept that greeted her at the end of her lone journey, grand and beautifully decorated. She let out an inaudible sigh of relief to see that it was nearly empty, save for a sister tending to the candles and another figure busily scrubbing the floors. Her steps, light as they always were, rang out in the domed sept as she led herself to the towering statues and the altars below them. The middle of the day had not a particularly popular time for prayer in the Red Keep, and it seemed that it might be the same case in Dorne. It was different from the royal sept, or even the Great Sept of Baelor, but something about septs had such a similar hallowed air within them that if she closed her eyes, she might be able to pretend she was back home.

She knelt before the Mother first, as she always did, lighting a candle with a practised hand. Praying for the safety of her mother was near second nature to her now, and in the past weeks, she had added Rhaegar’s name to those prayers. Despite the letter, despite the implications that lay heavy and sharp in her chest, she prayed for him still. She looked up at the graven face of the Mother Above, a familiar visage of tender mercy and humility. After a moment of hesitation, she prayed too for young Lyanna Stark and the unborn babe within her belly.

Aeranys had visited the royal sept on a regular basis to offer up her prayers, but she could not deny that there had been a time when she had been much more fervent with her prayers to the Seven. She’d prayed nightly for the end of her mother’s abuse when it had become clear that no one else could protect her from her father; she’d prayed every hour of the day when Daeron lay dying, beyond the reach of even the most skilled of Maesters in King’s Landing. It had all been for naught. Still, the princess that not turned her back on the Seven. It was not in her nature to blame others for things that she herself could not do--even if they were gods.

Suddenly, something knocked into the side of her folded legs, and her eyes flew open in surprise. The man who had been cleaning the floors had accidentally driven his arm into her as he scrubbed the stones below. He skittered back away from her, still on his hands and knees, head bowed low as he stammered out an almost incomprehensible string of apologies.

“It’s alright, good brother, there was no harm done,” she reassured, but the cowering man’s distress did not recede as he began patting down the floor in a growing panic; he was looking for something. She soon spotted what he was searching so frantically for--the brush, which had tumbled only a small distance away from him. Realizing that he must be blind, she picked up the grimy brush before kneeling next to the man, gently touching the man’s hand, blistered and red from labor. “Here you are,” she murmured, pressing the tool back into his hands.

His fingers curled tightly around the brush like a drowning man clinging to a branch. “Thank you, milady, thank you,” the poor man repeated, over and over again, raising his head up as if to instinctively meet her gaze.  When he did, however, her gracious words withered to nothing in her throat in stark horror.

Where she had expected his eyes to be, clouded and unseeing, were nothing but deep blackened pits. His eyes--his eyes had been put out, she realized faintly. That was not all. Something about him seemed...familiar.  The man quickly ducked his head down, mumbling more thanks before he turned from her to continue his thankless task, but the little of what she had seen of him had been enough. Still knelt on the floor, she stared, wracking her brain for answers. Where had she seen that face? As she watched the man crawl underneath the fire-red glow of a stained glass window, all at once it became clear.

Greenstone--she had seen him on Greenstone, bathed in gloom and hellish torchlight, amongst the screams of women. A hand rose to the bruise on her cheek, fingers cold against the tender flesh. The soldier who had struck her and left her for dead.

Her stomach turned. Her betrothed had asked her who had dared to raise a hand against her. She had kept her silence, and yet how…

Stumbling up, she turned and left the Sept as if to flee the scene of a crime--but the sight of those blackened pits stayed with her the entire way.


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


When Ser Devran came to collect her for dinner, the princess had very little desire to eat--but she knew that mattered not a whit. Dressed once more in harmless soft silks, she was led to where her intended and his family waited, a veritable feast laid before them. As usual, she was seated beside the prince, who hardly looked her way. Typically, that would have suited her well enough.

The princess hadn’t quite known what to do about what she had witnessed in the Sept. Sequestered safely in her chambers, she’d rationalized to herself that out of all the days, this would not be the wisest day to press her betrothed any further--not after the disastrous events at the council and the library afterward. Yet, now that she was in his presence once more, she was unable to keep her silence.

“I was fortunate enough to spend my time in the Sept, milord,” she started conversationally, her head tilted slightly towards the young man at her side. It was a rare thing indeed for the princess to speak to him unprompted, but she carried on as if it was the most ordinary occasion. “It was quite beautiful, but I saw a curious sight.” Nonchalantly, she took a sip of her wine before continuing. “There a man, scrubbing the floors on the Sept. I noticed that his eyes had been put out, and I couldn’t help but wonder, milord--” her gaze flicked to his face at last. “Why he had been made to suffer so.”

“We can speak of such trivial matters later,” the prince answered dismissively. He did not even bother to look her way.

Trivial matters. Her fingers tightened around the stem of her goblet, but she forcibly kept her calm. “If it is so trivial, surely there would be no harm in speaking of it now, milord,” she reasoned.

“We will discuss this later,” he repeated curtly, clearly finished with the topic.

Aeranys knew she had already tread on the line of his patience. She knew it would be foolish to test him any more. And yet, at the all-too-fresh memory of the soldier’s face twisted with fear and pain--at the memory of Serra, toppling over like a discarded doll--she found that her own patience, seemingly bottomless, had run dry.

“No,” retorted, rising from her seat to stare him down, her eyes aglow like a dagger in the light. “We will discuss this now.” The conversation around them dwindled, but the princess did not care. His odd golden pupils finally met hers, and for a moment something flickered deep within them. Satisfaction? Approval? She remembered that look, the look in his eyes as they stood near chest-to-chest over spilled ink and ruined letters, her finger stabbing accusingly at his heart; the look in his eyes as she stood over his crumpled form, glowering indignantly. Then it disappeared behind his mask of calm, and he rose to his feet, uttering no complaint as she lead them away from prying eyes and gossiping mouths.

Once they were sufficiently out of sight, the princess turned to him, her voice level but still pointed. “Why?” she demanded once more.

“He clearly wasn’t using them,” he supplied, almost matter-of-fact.

The words were scarce out of his mouth before she continued. “Did you have any proof that he was the one?” Aeranys questioned next, not at all comforted by his clever response. Her eyes bored into his, refusing to look away; behind the paper-thin disguise of calm, her anger seethed. “Even if you did, even if he was the one, did you perhaps think that I would never wish for such retribution, milord?” Was he as foolish as to think that she would be pleased by such a horrible act? The image of her nightmare, of the prince laying the slaughtered at her feet as tribute bubbled up in her mind’s eye, and her jaw tightened.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2019, 01:28:06 PM by nevermore girl »
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Offline Reigning King

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“Do you have any proof he was the one?” The Princess stood before him, playing the role of interrogator.  There was a fire burning behind her pretty eyes, her lithe body tensed as if preparing to receive a blow from a charging enemy.  “Even if you did, even if he was the one, did you perhaps think that I would never wish for such retribution, milord?” Teeth cracking beneath a clenched jaw, she stared down the Dornish Prince before her as though she were the sun itself and he an unfortunate traveller lost in the desert, wilting beneath her unforgiving heat. 

“You are kind, and merciful.” Prince Mors observed as he stepped towards her, closing the space between them with one careful step at a time.  While she might have expected him to bristle at her defiance, he instead rose to meet it with a cool, calming pleasantness.  In coinciding curiosity, while he might have expected her to retreat from his advance, she stood fast and unmoving in the wake of his approach.  “That is becoming of a Princess and many will love you for it.”  His words stopped short long with his stride, keeping a breath of distance between them for the sake of propriety.  “But others will think that you are weak.”  It was not often that Mors deigned to explain himself, but he was not prepared to discourage the behaviour that his betrothed had displayed.  Especially not when it had been displayed so openly.  “If they do not fear you, I will make certain that they fear me.”  Lifting his chin slightly, yellow eyes looked down at her from beneath the black lashes that blinked against his cheeks. 

“His name is Croll Sand.  He is a good soldier.” Mors elaborated further.  “He confessed his crimes and accepted his punishment with great dignity.” His gaze turned inquisitive as he prodded at her, searching to see if there was any more flame to be found in the violet coals searing within her gaze.  “He didn’t even scream… much.  He is fortunate that I have a steady hand.”  Standing over her in silence, he tried to gauge her emotions as they passed along her soft features, but only for the usual moment of uncomfortable tension to which Princess Aeranys was likely becoming well accustomed. 

“Is that all?” He asked as he stepped away from her, turning his body sideways as he gestured along the corridor that would return them to their waiting meal.  “My supper is getting cold.”

As the pair returned to the food that awaited them upon shining plates within the Hall, the subject matter of the conversing Lords and Ladies had turned from routine banter to shared gossip.  They leaned across the table, elbows upon the chairs of arms so as to better hear the whispers being released openly over their supper meals.  Their chatter carried on even as the young Prince took his seat alongside his bride.  The subject matter would hardly be considered an appropriate table exchange at a formal affair, but the Dornish court was more relaxed than most in private settings.  “Well, you know that he didn’t just execute them right?” One Lord said, the beginnings of a story upon his forked tongue.  “I thought he burned them with wildfire?” Another interjected.  “One of them, anyway… the other…”

Clink.

The sudden silence that filled the Hall was deafening.  The only sound that could be heard was the scrapping of knife and fork upon porcelain dishes as Prince Mors Martell carried on eating his supper as though he were none the wiser.  With all the subtlety and nonchalance of a man indiscreetly adjusting breeches bunched around the ankle, he had reached into his boot and produced a blade which he then promptly set before him on the table.  It was an impressive piece of steel, though small.  The handle was carved from bone, two short fangs belonging to the deceased snake from which it had been made were embedded into the hilt.  The eyes of those seated about the young Dornishman looked first to the blade before turning to the man himself, who met not a single gaze.  That is, except for the woman at his side, to whom he slid a subtle look as he sipped on his wine.  Voices rose slow and hushed at first, before resuming their usual volume of general merriment, though the topic of discussion was decidedly different. 

“Mors…” Came a high, sweet voice from beside him.  Looking to the elbow on the opposite side of Aeranys, he saw a young pretty face staring up at him with wide, asking eyes.  She held folded papers in her small hands and at once, Mors looked away from the girl with an exasperated huff falling off his stern lips. 

“I’m eating, Nym.” He told her dismissively. 

“Oh, please…” She begged.  “Father is cross and he might make us retire early this evening.  I won’t be able to ask you later.”

“You know not to bother me while I’m eating.” Mors returned firmly to his cousin as he pierced another piece of bleeding meat to devour.  “Go ask one of the other girls.”

“They don’t do it as well as you do.  Septa Oranea lectures me when she has to brush the knots out of my hair.” Nymeria was sweet-faced and smart.  Mors often wondered if his cousin was too smart for her own good.  “Please…” She tried again, dragging the word out into a whine. 

“Fine.” The Martell Prince relented with a sigh, surrendering to the will of a nine-year old little girl.  The transition from one mask to the next was seamless, to blink would be to miss it.  Yet, when he turned to Nymeria there was a gentle softness resting across his boyish features like a warm blanket on a cold night.  With a victorious smile painted across her face, she let herself be pulled into her cousin’s lap as she set the paper sculptures she carried in her hands into her own.  They were small birds, folded into shape and tied off with a short stretch of yarn, one wound into the other.  It was a trick that she had learned from the daughter of some merchant-or-another who had passed through Sunspear, though Mors had forgotten his name years ago.  She had taught herself to fold all kinds of shapes from parchment, but her favourites were the birds.  She liked to have them fixed into her hair so that when she ran, she could feel like she had wings.  At least, that was the way she had explained it to the cousin who combed her long straight black hair with his fingers before separating it into sections.  The practiced, calloused hands that had carved eyes from sockets and smashed skulls beneath an axe braided the little girl’s hair as she hummed to herself and kicked at his shins distractedly.  As he wound the twine and attached paper-birds into her hair, she smoothed out their shape and passed them to him over her shoulder. 

“You did well today.” Mors told her conversationally. 

With her face twisted dramatically and a pout upon her lips, she turned her head to look over her shoulder at her cousin’s yellow eyes.  “You were mean.”  She returned, accusation in her delicate, furrowed brow.

“I know.” Mors answered patiently. 

Accepting the response as though it were an apology, Nymeria turned back around, returning busy hands to the paper-birds in her lap.  “I’ll be better tomorrow.” She assured him confidently.  There was no trauma, no fear nor tears to be found in Nymeria Sand this evening.  She would be a deadly thing one day; a beautiful nightmare haunting her enemies across worlds, waking, unknown or otherwise.  For now, she was still a little girl.

“I know.” Mors answered again.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” She said in her sing-song voice to Princess Aeranys when she caught the silver-haired beauty flicking her gaze in their direction.  “I wish I had hair like yours.  That would be really pretty.” Nymeria remarked with an expressive raising of her eyebrows.  When her father took the empty seat on the other side of Mors, her gaze slid in his direction whilst trying her best to keep her head straight and still for her cousin.

“Trouble tonight, uncle?” Mors asked of Oberyn Martell as he pushed his dinner plate away from him and reached for his goblet instead.

“I can’t find Tyene, Obara has found the wine, and Ellaria has divined new reason to be upset with me…” The Red Viper muttered into his cup. 

“Sounds to me like your usual state of affairs.” Mors remarked casually.  Though his face was unsmiling and stern, his voice bearing only it’s usual bleak seriousness, Oberyn found something in his nephew’s expression that made a smile spread across his own lips following the laugh that tumbled from them. 

“It does, doesn’t it?” Oberyn returned, the implication of a joke upon his voice.  “You know, you should do yourself a favour and forget how to do that.” He pointed out, gesturing with his goblet towards the mass of black locks Mors braided before bringing the edge of the goblet to his waiting, laughing lips.  His daughter stuck her tongue out at her father who scrunched up his nose playfully and returned the gesture, inspiring a giggle from the little girl.

“I braided Ashara’s hair every morning for nearly seven years.” Prince Mors reminded his uncle.  “It is a skill I will not soon forget.”  Quick fingers tied off the ends of Nymeria’s long braid with the final pieces of twine before patting her shoulders with his strong hands.  “All done.” He told her.  She patted along the length of the braid and upon deciding she was satisfied with the results she turned over her shoulder to drop a kiss on her cousin’s cheek before hopping off his lap and running at once away from the table and into the Hall. 

“Nymeria, if you see you sister… Nymeria, wait… Nymer--” As Oberyn turned away from the daughter who had taken off running, his nephew at his side returned to his meal.  “Seven Hells.” The Red Viper swore, taking his goblet in hand once more before noticing a distinctly blonde head peering over the edge of the supper table.  “There you are!” He exclaimed.  “Where have you been?”

Mors lifted his yellow eyes from his plate to see a pair of blue one staring back at him.  The little blonde-haired creature slid her gaze over to her father, but didn’t bother to answer him.  Instead she looked back to her cousin and asked the insisting question of “when?” with her small voice.  She was taller than the table over which she looked but only just enough for her nose to be visible.  If Mors could see her mouth, he knew it would be pressed into a firm, demanding line. 

“When I am done eating.” Mors answered after swallowing the food he held in his mouth, sapping the last few drops of patience he had left into his tone.  At once, the little girl took off again.

“Tyene, no!” Prince Oberyn Martell barked as he rose to his feet.  “Get back here!” He called, but the girl had already vanished from sight.  “Mother’s tits!” Oberyn swore again, shoving at the flatware on the table.  Unaffected, Mors carried on eating as his uncle drained the last of the wine from his goblet and stepped around his chair, meaning to go after his daughters once more.  “Pray the Father sees fit to bless you with sons, Mors.” He told his nephew.  “Princess Aeranys.” With a bow, he bid the girl who sat on the other side of her intended a polite farewell, only acknowledging her once he was already leaving. 

“Actually,” Mors started as he turned to Princess Aeranys.  “I wouldn’t mind daughters.  Would you?” He looked to her as he set aside his knife and reached for the wine, watching her from over the edge of the goblet as he poured the reds over his lips.  There was a challenging quality about his stare, prodding her further with silence dripping in nuance. 

As the meal drew to a close and the Lords and Ladies of the Dornish court began taking their leave, Prince Mors and Princess Aeranys gathered themselves to follow in suit.  Tyene did not make another reappearance within the Hall, nor did any of her sisters.  Mors could only assume that the Red Viper had reigned in his willful daughters and sent them off to bed, where they could become the headache of another keeper.  The last thing he did before excusing himself from the table, was to collect the bone-carved knife from where he had laid it earlier in the evening.  It was hard to say whether or not Princess Aeranys noticed the way the tides of conversation changed as he replaced the blade within his boot, like the flow after an ebb.  “So what was it you were saying about the wildfire?” One Lord asked.  “It wasn’t just wildfire, the son was strangled… It’s a neat little invention really.  You see, they way they fasten the chain makes it tighten the more you struggle…” They had least had the decency to wait until Prince Mors had escorted his betrothed from the room, her hand looped into the crook of his arm, before divulging the more sinister details of their gossip.  They had followed the rules that Mors Nymeros Martell had written in his younger years.  His knife, which he had lovingly named Fingers, would go hungry and unbloodied for another night.   

Tyene found her cousin in the corridor, with Princess Aeranys upon his arm and Ser Devran trailing behind them.  She guided a goat along with her on a lead of rope.  The little girl smiled brightly at her cousin when she saw him, but the sentiment was not returned.  “You shouldn’t go to the pens without me.” Mors scolded her as their respective parties met beneath the dim glow of the candles fixed upon the stone walls.

“I wanted to pick one all by myself, this time.” Tyene explained with innocent eyes, stroking the head of the fodder she held to her side. 

“Goodnight, Princess.” Mors said to his intended as he dropped her hand from his arm and offered her a shallow, polite bow.  Tyene held the goat in one hand and her cousin’s in the other as the pair strode down the hallway, away from Princess Aeranys and Ser Devran. 

“Is he big enough?” Tyene asked. 

“Yes, Tyene.  Good choice.” Mors affirmed in a doting voice as they rounded the corner and descended the staircase, bound for his workshop in the lower reaches of the Old Palace.  The clopping of cloven hooves echoed in their wake.

“Would you like to visit with Ser Leanor before retiring for the night, Princess?” Ser Devran asked of the silver-haired girl as he stepped up beside her.  “Has been clearer today, and asking for you.”

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Offline asterin

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The princess had been prepared for him to lash out at her. Her father had never taken such challenges lightly, even if they came from those closest to him--and whenever her own anger had been fanned to life, hot and blazing, her father had never once answered with anything other than his typical wildfire rage, uncontrollable and all-consuming. Therefore, what her intended responded with--a measured, almost amiable tranquility--was perhaps the last thing Aeranys could have predicted.

Still unmoving in her defiant stance as he encroached upon her, she took in his steady words as they fell from his lips. Her mercy and kindness might be seen as weakness, and so he would ensure that those would did not fear her would fear him. Her lips pursed, and a streak of bitterness passed through her. Fear. Was fear so necessary? Aeranys knew what a court ruled by fear looked like; she knew what a family ruled by fear looked like. She wanted no part of that. Intent on spitting forth those acerbic thoughts, she opened her mouth--only for her voice to leave her at his next words.

The name of the soldier--Croll Sand.

“He didn’t even scream… much. He is fortunate that I have a steady hand,” he told her placidly. His eyes probed her face, and despite the way her blood had gone cold, her expression did not give way to her emotions. Perhaps she should have known better than to think that he had simply given the order. After all, she had seen him, a demon ravaging the battlefield--and yet, to think that the hands that had often been offered to her over the past few days had carved out the poor soldier’s eyes… Aeranys no longer knew what to say. The prince seemed to pick up on this, turning back towards the corridor that led to the hall they had left, asking if there was anything else she wished to say. Dinner was getting cold. Wordlessly, she joined him, striding back towards the feast that awaited them.

Mere minutes ago, the princess had tossed away all thoughts of what the lords and ladies of Dorne would think of her, but as she sat back down at the table it was clear that she would now have to face the consequences. “Well, you know that he didn’t just execute them right?” a lord was saying, blind to the way the Targaryen princess’ eyes shot to him. She was quick to look back away, however, pretending not to hear. Unfortunately, no matter how skilled of an actress she might have been, it did not stop their poisonous words from crawling into her ears.

“I thought he burned them with wildfire?” the conversation continued, and she could smell it on the air again. Twisting, burning, sickly green. She could hear the screaming.

 “One of them, anyway… the other…”

The other. Brandon Stark, he meant. She didn’t need the lord to continue speaking to know how it had all happened. He’d called for his father even as the noose had tightened, until his words had become nothing but gurgles. Every digit of his hand had trembled with strain as he desperately reached for the longsword just out of reach--

Clink.

The entire hall went deathly silent, syllables fading into ash even as they were spoken. Released from her nightmare-like memories, she too turned her gaze first towards the weapon that had been placed abruptly onto the table, then towards the prince, who pretended that he had done nothing of the sort. His golden eyes met hers for a split second as he drank from his goblet, ignoring the stares of all others. Though his eyes left hers, Aeranys continued to stare, now her turn to scrutinize his mask-like expression for a hint of what lay stirring underneath. In the background, the conversation cautiously began again, the topic readily changed to some other juicy scandal in Westeros.

She looked to the knife that lay before them--a small knife, but unique and distinct in design. Fangs of a snake decorated the hilt, overlooking the blade that glinted sharp in the light. She’d been too caught up in the nightmarish memories that she had not even seen where he’d produced it from, but having been so acutely aware of the conversation that had been going on, she’d immediately caught on to the effect that the knife had.

If they do not fear you, I will make certain that they fear me, he had told her.

She had no love for the fear he inspired. Even when he had come to Greenstone as her savior, a scourge to be released upon those who had held her captive, she had felt nothing but horror and indignant fury at the fear he wielded. Only moments prior, she had condemned it in her heart. And yet, for the first time, she felt as if he had come to her aid, cutting her free with that knife called fear. The emotion that was conjured forth felt much like relief, like gratitude; at the same time, however, she could not help but be disgusted by her selfish hypocrisy.

Her fraught emotions were interrupted by a voice as high and sweet as a silver bell, calling her to attention as it did the prince beside her. It was Nymeria, the girl she had seen collapsed in the dust, a mess of tears and sweat as she begged her cousin to relent. Her face, which had been warped by strain, fear, and exhaustion, was now looking up at the same young man without a trace of those emotions. Holding her bewilderment at bay, she discreetly watched as the girl managed to persuade her cousin into braiding her hair like a nursemaid might--watched the prince pull her up onto his knee, the very picture of an indulging caretaker. Happily, she hummed a tune to herself as she occupied herself with fiddling with her folded parchment figures.

It was almost like the scene she had witnessed in the morning had been nothing but an illusion. However, the next exchange that passed between the cousins proved that it had not been a strange figment of her imagination. There was no hesitation as they spoke of the events of the training. There was no fear from the girl; there was no cold dismissal from the prince.

Now, she couldn’t help but look directly at the strange scene unfolding before her.

Sharp-eyed little Nymeria was quick to notice. “Pretty, isn’t it?” she crooned, having assumed that the princess had been looking at the folded-paper birds she held.

“Very pretty,” the princess agreed amiably. For a season, Elaena had been absolutely taken with amusing herself by folding a variety of things from parchment--dogs and cats, castles and roses. She had attempted to fold a dragon for her mistress, but the young girl had never been able to craft the complicated shape, only producing something that resembled a misshapen swan. The memory brought a faint smile to her lips.

“I wish I had hair like yours,” Nymeria continued, her dark eyes enviously resting on her pale locks. “That would be really pretty.”

“Is that so? I think they’re prettier in your hair, actually,” she disagreed gently, smiling. “It’d be hard to see the birds in hair like mine. In yours, they stand out beautifully.”

The girl’s smile widened in turn, her round eyes resting on her curiously until Oberyn Martell took his seat on the other side of the prince, looking positively fed up. Favoring the cup of wine over the platter of food that awaited him, he grumbled complaints to his nephew, who hardly seemed alarmed. Politely, she turned her attention to her food, pretending not to hear their exchange until a familiar name was uttered.

Ashara. Ashara Dayne, Arthur’s younger sister. At first, Aeranys had been glad to hear that Ashara would be Cersei’s lady-in-waiting, thinking that she would be at the Red Keep. Unfortunately, Rhaegar had moved himself and his bride to Dragonstone not long after, whisking the Dayne girl away with them. It was strange indeed to think of her betrothed, braiding Ashara’s dark hair just as he braided his little cousin’s. As the young girl pressed a grateful kiss to the prince’s cheek before scurrying away, heedless of her father’s pleas, Aeranys wondered what Ashara would say about the Dornish Prince whom she had grown up with. Would she defend his honor as strongly as Arthur had? There was no way she would be able to know now, even though she was in Ashara’s homeland; she was far away, no doubt still one Dragonstone, taking care of the abandoned Lannister and her son.

She had only held Joffrey briefly when he’d been presented at court. The princess wouldn’t have been able to hold him for long anyhow, seeing as he’d been as fussy as he was healthy. From the moment he’d been taken from his mother’s arms to be placed into the queen’s, he’d started screaming, red-faced and angry. He hadn’t relented when he had been passed to Aeranys, and she’d barely been able to brush his fine, blonde hair away from his scrunched eyes before Cersei had reached for the wailing babe. Surely, he would be much bigger now.

A blonde head reminiscent of Joffrey’s suddenly poked up at their table, big blue eyes intently peering at the prince--much to the exasperated relief of the Red Viper. Only uttering a “when?,” she disappeared as quickly as she appeared after she had obtained the answer she had wanted from her oldest cousin, ignoring her father’s cries just as her sister had previously.

Swearing, the Red Viper rose to his feet. “Pray the Father sees fit to bless you with sons, Mors,” he muttered, leaving them with a hurried farewell to chase after his youngest. She watched him go, amusement lurking behind her polite facade. He certainly had his hands full with the spirited girls. Aeranys knew well what the ladies of King’s Landing would think of them, but she could not help but hope that they would remain just so when they grew into women.

“Actually,” her betrothed began at her side, “I wouldn’t mind daughters. Would you?”

Having turned to dutifully heed his words, the princess blinked in surprise. She had never been asked to consider daughters. Sons, on the other hand, had been of the utmost importance. As the only daughter of the royal family, she had well understood that the paramount duty of a wife, particularly of an important family, was to produce an heir and a spare. Daughters, at best, were political pawns--at worst, proof of a failure. Daughters weren’t meant to inherit, but to be raised to be the wife of a man who could, then to be the mother of a son.

But not in Dorne.

Dorne loved her daughters, prized them as well as her sons. The ruler of Dorne could very well be a woman as well as a man. Her daughters were free to be whatever they wished; a fierce warrior or a cunning flower in silk veils. As that recognition settled within her, she met his intense golden gaze. “If they would be anything like your cousins, milord, I believe I would very much like to have daughters,” the young woman answered, and even she was startled to hear the strange warmth that lay hidden in her voice.

Dinner ended without any other event, that was, until they rose to retire and the prince retrieved the odd knife from where it had been put on display. “So what was it you were saying about the wildfire?” the question came rushing back out, as if a seal had been lifted. The gruesome conversation took its natural course, but luckily, she was not forced to listen any further. Locked in perfect poise as ever, Aeranys left behind the gossiping lords to enjoy the horrors they hadn’t witnessed in person. If they had, she knew they would never speak of it so gleefully.

A small figure waited for them within the halls--little Tyene, who had a goat with her. A pet? It certainly was not a typical pet to be had, but… As the young girl spoke with the prince, it seemed clear enough that the goat was not a pet, but to serve some other purpose. What that purpose was, she could not divine. She bid the young man and his charge good night, watching them walk off together, hand-in-hand. “Is he big enough?” Tyene asked innocently.

“Yes, Tyene. Good choice,” she heard him say.

Big enough for what? Though nothing concrete came to mind, a veil of unease fell over her. It was put aside, however, when Ser Devran spoke up.

“Would you like to visit with Ser Laenor before retiring for the night, Princess?” he asked. “He has been clearer today, and asking for you.”

Princess Aeranys turned to the handsome knight, briefly regarding him with an assessing look. After what had occurred the night prior, it was unexpected for him to suggest such a thing. Had the prince instructed him to do so? Or was he simply being a dutiful keeper? It was difficult to say. “Yes, then I believe I shall,” the Targaryen girl responded politely, though her pale eyes remained guarded, giving nothing away.


*********


The knock was quiet, almost apologetic, but the sound immediately roused him from the doze he had lapsed back into. “Y...yes?” he called out weakly, his voice still hoarse. The maesters had told him that the smoke had damaged his throat, something he himself could confirm. They had assured him that in time, he would recover his voice, but he had yet to see such signs.

The door creaked open slowly, revealing the slight figure of the princess. “Milady,” he breathed, struggling to pull himself up into a sitting position as she came to his side.

“No, there’s no need for that,” Princess Aeranys told him, a dainty hand at his shoulder to stop him. Giving in, he allowed himself to return to his former position, lowering himself into the pillow. “How do you fare tonight, Ser Laenor?” she inquired.

“Better, milady,” he replied, taking in the sight of her. It felt like ages since he’d seen her last with a clear head, and she looked so different now, in flowing Dornish silks and her long hair gone.

“I’m sorry for waking you,” she apologized, but the knight shook his head.

“These days, I do little else than sleep, milady,” Laenor explained wryly. “It is a welcome thing to be able to do something else.” The long hours he spent sleeping was partially out of need, but also because there was little else he could do. A maester would come morning and evening to change his dressings, to check on his ruined stump of an arm and the burns that traversed his body. He was brought breakfast, lunch, and supper, and then he would be left to solitude. Fortunately, he’d been in a drugged haze for the majority of the time, but as his condition improved, the maester had been attempting to wean him off of milk of the poppy.

It mattered little. Regardless of whether he was clear of mind or deep in the swamp-like pull of potions, when he was not asleep, his thoughts always wandered back to her. She had come to him the night before, that much he remembered. He didn’t remember much of what they had spoken of, but the memory of her candle-lit face and the featherlight weight of her hand had stuck within his unravelled mind.

He watched her as she seated herself onto the simple chair beside his bed, his gaze never once leaving her. In his brief visits to court as a boy, he’d admired her from afar. Like any noble boy he’d been half in love with her, the sort of childish infatuation that simply sprang from the fact that she was a beautiful princess who would never be his. A frivolous, fleeting thing. That’d been all.

When he’d turned fifteen, only half a year before Prince Daeron fell ill, he had been brought to court to squire for his eldest brother. Everything had changed then. After a hard day of training, he had been heading back when he’d stumbled across the sight of the princess stepping out onto her balcony. Without thinking, he’d come to a stop to watch like a man under a spell as she stood there, looking out into the sunset. Perhaps thinking herself to be alone, she had let her iron-clad composure slip. Her perfect smile had faded away and her shoulders had slumped ever so slightly, a sad, wistful longing glinting in her eyes--and all at once, she’d been the most loneliest, loveliest thing he’d ever seen. He’d wanted nothing more than to protect her, to make it so that she might never look so weary and sad. To achieve that dream, he’d become the youngest member to join the Kingsguard.

And yet, every time, he’d failed to protect her.

Her hair was carefully arranged tonight, but he remembered what had concerned him so the previous night. “How have you fared in Dorne so far, milady?” he began cautiously. “Has Prince Mors been kind to you?”

“Of course,” the princess responded serenely, dodging past what he truly wished to hear about with expert ease. “I admit the politics of Dorne elude me, but I will learn in time.”

“And your betrothed, milady? He hasn’t been...ungallant?” Laenor asked once more. She paused, seemingly taken aback by his bold question, and the blonde knight rushed to explain. “You were hurt when I saw you last night, milady. You were not hurt the last time I saw you in the stable.”

“I was injured during the siege, by a soldier,” the princess explained patiently, but the way the words left her lips sounded practiced, as if she’d spoken them before. “‘Tis nothing but a bruise, Ser Laenor.”

“Forgive my impertinence, but...if your betrothed were to be ungallant, you would tell me, would you not, milady?” the young man pressed, an edge of desperation slipping into his tone. “I serve you; I’ve been bound to protect you. I do not answer to Prince Mors.” Even as he spoke, he knew it was silly. Absolute folly--as if he could do anything now, as a cripple. It was a terrible, frightening prospect, and yet, he could not stop the wave of worry that washed over him.

“Thank you for your concern, Ser Laenor,” she assured him, her voice soothing--but it only sounded distant to him. “But he has not been ungallant towards me.”

The young man sighed, knowing he couldn’t insist any further. “That is a relief to hear, milady,” he conceded, though he was far from convinced. Perhaps the princess did not know, but he had watched over her for nearly six years; for most of those six years, she had been deeply unhappy. Princess Aeranys might have been adept at putting on a brave face, but he had come to understand the depths of her emotions--and now, he feared for her. He feared she would only grow more lonely and unhappy, and he would be absolutely powerless to stop it.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2019, 10:38:24 AM by nevermore girl »
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Offline Reigning King

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Mors stood at the receiving end at the docks of the Old Palace.  In the distance, just a spot upon the horizon, the red and gold sails of Martell ships inched closer and closer with each passing minute.  The wind was with the sailors on this day, filling their canvas and drawing them forth.  The same wind sent the dark curls that framed Mors’ face fluttering about him, brushing against the cheek of the man who stood at his side.  The Red Viper had been rather quiet on this particular morning, which was unusual for the talkative man.  Mors paid him no mind for the time being, though he could feel his brown eyes watching him in careful consideration.  He was eager for his father’s return, but more so eager for his counsel.  Elia stood with them as well, but her silence was an expected and welcome comfort. 

“You should cut your hair.” Oberyn Martell told his nephew, piercing the veil of tranquility.

“Curls get tangled in chainmail.” He added.

“Yes, uncle.” Mors answered plainly.  The patient silence enveloped them once more but Mors did not fail to notice the way his Aunt Elia nudged an encouraging elbow into her brother’s side. 

“Mors…” Oberyn began again.

“Yes, uncle?” He repeated the words in his usual, even-mannered tone.

“How fares your intended?” The question was asked with a casual, conversational cadence.

“Fine.” Mors answered quickly.  “Why do you ask?” As he spoke, his golden gaze slid suspiciously to his aunt who looked away from them innocently.
 
“Well, there was that business at dinner last night…” He began cautiously. 

“You told her about that, did you?” Mors asked his uncle at once.  Oberyn returned his pointed gaze with an apologetic one, but the accusation was enough to stir Princess Elia Martell from her passive position at her brother’s side.

“Of course, he told me.” She insisted.  “You should be more gentle with her, like you are with the girls.” Elia encouraged.  Though her tone was light and conversational, her lips were pursed and her brows knitted together in concern. 

“They are children.” Mors pointed out.

“What about Arianne?” Elia countered. 

“Little sisters will always be children to their older brothers.” He explained patiently, eyes still fixed to the horizon.

“He’s got you there.” Oberyn agreed, flashing a quick grin to his own sister.  She rolled her eyes at him in response, as only an older sister could.

“Still, I think she would respond better to a more tender approach…” Elia tried again. 

“You think she’s weak.”  It wasn’t a question, merely an observation. 

“Well, she’s a Lady, Mors.  King Aerys court is far different from your father's and I think you should consider…” Princess Elia Martell wasn’t given the option to finish her thought.
 
“She is not some delicate flower, Aunt Elia.  Princess Aeranys is a dragon.  She will endure.”  While Mors didn’t altogether understand his betrothed, he had learned one thing: the future Princess of Dorne was not weak.  Kind and merciful, perhaps - but not weak.

“I’m only trying to help.” There was a softness to her words as she spoke.  Mors knew at once that he had hurt his aunt’s feelings.

“And I am grateful for the advice, but this discussion is over.” His eyes were fixed to the horizon, but he could hear the boisterous chatter of the approaching Ladies, Arianne’s voice recognizable among them.

“I know, I know.” Princess Elia conceded with an exasperated sigh.  “Not in front of Arianne.” She stole a glance over her shoulder to the entourage that descended the steps onto the docks before looking back to her eldest born nephew.  “You’re more like your father than you know, Mors.”

“You’re late.” He said quietly to the mass of dark curls that bounded up beside him.  Though he maintained his stoney disposition, eyes tuned to the encroaching sails upon the horizon, his quick hands caught the boys that came crashing in at his legs. 

“Am not.” Arianne countered at once as she took her place at her brother’s side, smoothing out her skirts.  “I’ve been standing here all morning, like a nice, young lady.” The nasally voice she put on to mock their father was a poor imitation, but Mors warmed in the glow of his little sister’s playful nature nevertheless. 

“Up…” Trystane nagged, tugging on Mors’ arms. As Ellaria and her retinue of ladies set to calming down The Red Viper’s willful daughters behind him, Prince Mors turned his attention to his needy little brothers. 

“No, Trystane.” He scolded.  “You’re a big boy, stand like one.  Yes, like Quentyn... shoulders back, that’s it.” Mors stood with his brothers before him, a hand on the top of each of their curly heads.  Behind him, his cousins prattled to their sire.  Training had been set aside in the place of a more formal affair, leaving the little girls bursting with excess energy gone too long unspent.  By the afternoon, they will no doubt have tested the limits of each keeper’s patience. Among the herd, one lovely creature separated herself from the flock.  Coming up behind Mors, she placed a hand upon his shoulder, leaning forward and pressing her full bosom into the Dornish Prince’s back. 

“Have you missed me?” She whispered into his ear.  As he turned to fix her with a pointed look, his aunt and uncle cast wary glances at one another upon seeing the scary expression he wore upon his stern face.  “I’ve missed you.”  The pretty young thing continued, the hand she left on his shoulder dragging its way down his back slowly.  He caught the offensive appendage at the wrist and wretched it away from his person, giving the girl a hard shove. 

“Dismiss your chambermaid, Ellaria.” He advised sternly, no warmth to be found in his severe, yellow eyes.
 
“Come, Arika…” Lady Ellaria began, handing the squirming toddler in her arms off to her father. “You are not wanted here.”

“Why must you always be so cruel?” She spat venomously, ignoring the woman pulling in gentle desperation upon her arm. 

“Into the Palace or into the sea.  You decide, my Lady.” He said to Ellaria before turning away from both women, returning his hands to the tops of his brother’s heads. 

“Now, Arika!” Ellaria snapped.  She knew better than to test the extent of Prince Mors’ affections, and while the young man had no further use for the comely maiden, Lady Ellaria would be saddened to see her disposed of on this particular morning. 

“She’s right.” Arianne commented as Arika stomped back down the deck towards the steps that would return her to the Palace of Sunspear.  “You’re being cruel.”

“You should stay away from Arika.” Mors cautioned in a serious voice. 

“First Vellysa, now Arika… you can’t just bed my friends and then send them away.” She muttered petulantly, her lips pursed and her arms crossed. 

“I think you’ll find that I can.” He returned coldly.

“Every Lord at court has at least half a dozen consorts, some even more…” She was looking to contest the subject with Mors, but her stoney-faced brother had already made up his mind.

“Not every Lord.” He reminded her.  “Besides, a good Prince would set a better example for his Lords.”

Groaning, Arianne rolled her eyes at her brother as only a little sister could.  “You’re just like father.” She huffed. 

“So I’ve been told.”

The boys who fidgeted impatiently in front of Mors stayed in their upright, straight-backed poses as the Dornish sails neared the coast, her hull docked and secured along its shores.  Once Prince Doran stepped off the ship, Areo Hotah at his side, he looked down the length of the docks to the family that stood together waiting to receive him.  Mors could tell by his hunched posture that the journey had been taxing on his fragile health.  In spite of this, he extended his arms and smiled warmly to his children.  At this beckon, Mors lifted his hands from his brother’s heads, giving them leave to race along the wooden planks into the arms of their father. 

“Come, sister.” Mors said, putting an arm around Arianne and urging her forward.  “The Ruling Prince of Dorne has returned.”

Prince Doran greeted his loved ones with warm smiles and patient words, keeping the evidence of his condition at bay as they made their way back to the stoney embrace of the Old Palace.  Even once he was sequestered alone in his rooms with only his eldest born as company, he maintained a peaceful and pleasant disposition that contradicted the way his frail body collapsed into the nearest armchair.  They caught one another up on their affairs, though the Ruling Prince of Dorne always divulged information with am certain vagueness that incited in Mors both admiration and frustration.  Once the conversation of more stately matters had concluded, Prince Doran offered his son a few moments of comfortable silence before pressing for intell of a more personal nature.

“So, tell me.” He began, a soft smile upon his tired face.  “What’s she like?”

“Who?” Mors returned casually. 

“Who do you think?” Doran volleyed back in return. 

“She’s a good woman.” Mors elaborated, fidgeting with the vials of medicine upon his fathers end table instead of meeting his gaze directly.  “Kind and gentle of heart…”

“You sound disappointed.” The Prince of Dorne observed. 

Mors only shrugged in response, yellow eyes still tuned to the clutter he touched upon distractedly.  “What’s this?” He asked, lifting a glass receptacle to hold before his father, the contents of which he did not recognize. 

“Don’t change the subject.” Doran scolded tenderly.  “Tell me,” he pressed.

“I’m not sure that she will be of much use to me.” He relented, meeting the older man’s gaze at last. 

“What does Elia think of her?” For Prince Doran, there was none whose counsel he trusted more than that of his younger sister.  Except for perhaps, his eldest son. 

“She’s fond of the Princess.” He answered passively, pausing briefly before continuing further.  “She thinks I should be more gentle with her, but she that’s only because she doesn’t understand her.”

“How can you be so sure?” Doran countered.

“Because I don’t understand her either.” He answered simply.

“Tell me, my boy, do you miss your mother?” Prince Doran asked his son.  When Mors only narrowed his yellow gaze in response, his father continued saying, “this isn’t a test.  Answer me truthfully. Do you miss her?”
 
“Sometimes.” Mors admitted.

“And what about your sister.  Do you think she misses your mother?” He inquired further.
   
“Desperately.” Mors answered quickly. It was no coincidence that Arianne’s rebellious streak had become far more obvious along with their mother’s absence. 

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about your mother.” As he spoke, the Prince of Dorne leaned back into his chair as though the weight of his words were a physical burden.  “It is my greatest regret that I was not able to make her happy.”  Mors leaned forward, listening intently to his father’s words.  It was rare for the young man to see his sire in such a state, vulnerable and open, speaking only plain truths. 

“I don’t need to tell you that life isn’t a song.” Doran continued, his eyelids becoming heavy.  “True love is a rare flower that most of us will never find.  But you must try.” His eyes snapped open of a sudden, his own emotions once more locked behind the tightly sealed vault of his passive manner.  “Elia is right.  At the very least, you have to try.”

“Yes, father.” Mors answered dutifully. 
 


When Princess Aeranys opened the door to her chambers, she found a pleasant mannered Martell man standing before her.  Though he looked as serious as ever, there was a tranquility about his demeanour that marked his mood decidedly improved since the day before.  Such was the effect that Prince Doran Martell had on his first born child.  Soon enough, Prince Doran would hold court in the Tower of the Sun within the Old Palace.  For now, the fragile man was in need of rest.   

“Good afternoon, Princess Aeranys.” Mors greeted politely, offering the pale-haired woman before him a polite bow.  The usual knightly shadow which typically accompanied Mors on most days was curiously absent from his side on this particular afternoon.  “Would you like to take a walk with me in the Water Gardens?”  He asked her with a casual cadence.  “It is too lovely a day to spend cooped up in your rooms.”  His tone was gracious but the ever-present sternness he wore upon his visage implied that his respectful request was to be interpreted more as a coarse command.  They passed idle chatter between them as they ventured out into the sunlit, stone pathways of the Water Gardens. Mors pointed out fountains and sculptures of import, educating Princess Aeranys on the native flora as they passed particularly colourful clusters of exotic flowers. 

“My father insists that we should be married at once.  The day after tomorrow, in fact.” Mors began conversationally as they walked side by side.  He strode with his hands clasped behind his back, shoulders proud and straight.  The robes he wore this day were a shade of purple reminiscent of the curious colour of Princess Aeranys’ eyes, detailed with shining gold thread.  The colours were complimentary of the yellow gown the Targaryen Princess donned, an unintentional but fortuitous accident.  As always, they walked through the gardens looking the part of a smartly matched young couple. 

“My healers assure me that your knight is progressing quickly upon the road to wellness.  I thought that perhaps he could give you away at the ceremony in place of your brother.” Pausing, he let his eyes come to rest upon the pale haired beauty that strode alongside him.  “Would you find such an arrangement agreeable?” He asked her. 

Mors waited for the polite, measured reply from his intended before continuing saying, “That is well.”  Mors stayed his lips for a time and while his expression was still pleasant and warm, there was a wrinkle between his brows that gave hint to the quiet contemplation taking place beneath the surface.  “I’m afraid I am not very good at this…” He said quietly, a drop of vulnerability bleeding into his steady voice.  “With your permission, I will speak candidly - and please stop me if I should speak out of turn.”  Mors stopped beneath the shade of a towering fountain, the likeness of a maiden carved from its marble.  When Princess Aeranys halted her steps beside him, he squared his shoulders to hers and lifted his eyes from where they had been lingering upon the ends of his boots.

“I know that as a suitor, I have made an unfavourable impression upon you… more than once.”  With each word he spoke, he gained more confidence.  Emotionality was forgein territory for the serious young man, but there was a curiosity lurking in the violet eyes that watched him that gave him a glimmer of hope for this perilous undertaking.  “I’m sure that, had we been left to decide for ourselves, we both would have chosen differently.”  He took a measured breath before continuing, the wrinkle between his brows growing deeper.  Taking a moment to consider the action before committing to the gesture, he reached out to take her hands in his.  Though they regarded one another with an air of awkwardness, it was impossible for Mors to ignore the way her dainty digits fit ever-so-neatly into his enveloping grasp.  “If you have questions, I would like you to ask them.  If you have objections, I would like you to make them known.  If you have thoughts and opinions, even those which conflict with mine, I would like to hear them all the same.”  Yellow eyes glowing golden in the afternoon heat looked down to the pale hands he held within his own sun-tinted ones.  “In two days time, you will be my wife and I will be your husband.  I don’t imagine our marriage will be much like the sort written in songs, but…”  His gaze flicked to the statue that towered over them; Princess Danaerys Martell, immortalized in marble by her husband, Prince Maron Martell.  “But, I think I could make you happy.”  Mors’ serpentine eyes searched Princess Aeranys’ expression, questing for validation.  Something resembling satisfaction settled onto the Dornishman’s face at her words.  As he curled the arm of his intended around his own, continuing in step through the Water Gardens, the statue of Dorne’s first Targaryen bride watched over them. 



« Last Edit: January 05, 2020, 11:32:40 PM by Reigning King »

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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The grand doors were held open before them as Mors Nymeros Martell stepped into the Great Room in the Tower of the Sun with his bride upon his arm.  At the head of the hall, the thrones of Dorne stood glistening in the sunlight that streamed in from the windows which overlooked the seas beyond the shores of Sunspear.  Ruling Prince Doran sat upon the throne which bore a shining, golden spear.  The one next to him, adorned with a golden sun, remained empty.  Once, his wife Mellario had taken the place of honour at his side.  Now it was his heir who occupied the cool marble from which the throne had been carved, decorated in plated gold.  Each eye in the room fell upon them as they crossed the threshold and stepped further into the hall.  Absorbed in his own thoughts, thinking over the carefully chosen words uttered by the Princess on his arm in the quiet of the Water Gardens, Mors almost didn’t notice when his father addressed him from the throne upon which he was seated. 

“There you are.” Prince Doran said, silencing the chattering voices of the court.  “At last.” 

Mors stepped forward with Princess Aeranys, taking the centermost position within the crowded decorous room.  “Father,” he began in warm greeting.  Uncurling her hand from where it sat in the crook of his elbow, he placed a guiding hand upon the small of her back and urged her forward, offering his bride up for scrutiny.  “May I present my betrothed, Princess Aeranys of House Targaryen.”

“I have heard many rumours about you, my dear girl.” Doran Martell said mindfully, leaning back against the golden spear of his namesake and folding his hands against his chest.  “From every corner of the Seven Realms, Lords and Ladies whispered of the great beauty born unto the King.  You would think she must be the loveliest woman in the world for how quickly the tales spread.”  Leaning forward, Prince Doran offered the silver-haired Targaryen girl a gentle, paternal smile.  “It is a marvel to see that for once, the gossips were right.”  Small clusters of whispers erupted throughout the room, shared in hushed voices amidst varying groups.  When compared to his first born son, Prince Doran’s manner was tremendously underwhelming and non-threatening, at least on the surface.  The aging man was all warm smiles and polite words, never raising his voice or losing his composure.  He did not succumb to the fragility of his health, but instead wore it like armour.  He did not hide his weakness, but instead forced those who came before him to stare it directly in the face; daring them to tread upon his broken toes.  It wasn’t so much his illness, but instead the contradictory confidence, the incorruptible certainty with which he carried himself in spite of it that gave others unease.  By the time the warmth had soured, he would have already gotten everything he ever wanted out of you, and it would be too late.   

It was no great shock to see the Targaryen bride so readily accepted by their Ruling Prince, especially when considering that it was he who arranged the union.  When he lifted his hand to beckon to the young thing before him, the sleeve of his tunic slipped down to his wrist, revealing swollen, knobby knuckles and misshapen joints.  His condition had worsened a great deal in a very short period of time, but you would think he had not noticed the gout for the way Prince Doran sang, “Come here, my Lady,” across the hall.  When Princess Aeranys climbed the few steps to stand before the Ruling Prince of Dorne upon the gold encrusted stone of the dias, the man who occupied it’s seat reached out to take one of her hands with both of his own.  He bowed his head to her from his seated position first before parting his palms like a blooming flower to lay a kiss upon her hand. 

“You’ll have to forgive me, my Lady.  My knees are not what they used to be.”  He said quietly, as though the words were meant for her ears alone.  Pulling his hands from hers, he leaned around her to summon his son forth, gesturing to the empty seat at his side. 

“I hope you have been made to feel very welcome in Dorne, Princess Aeranys.  We are all looking forward to seeing how you take to the Dornish climate.”  The proud man before her, offered the Princess an impossibly sincere smile as his son climbed the dias to seat himself upon the throne beside his father’s.  “Many foreigners find it unbearable, but you, my Lady, you are a dragon. The ability to withstand fire is in your blood.”  Leaning back against the golden likeness of a spear fixed into the high back of the Dornish throne in which he sat, he bowed his head to her again, this one a dismissal.  “I’m sure you will fare well.”  Folding his hands upon his chest, his eyes slipped past her to those who gathered in the hall behind her.  There were many voices to be heard upon this day and Prince Doran Martell only had so many hours left before he would have need to take rest again. 

As Princess Aeranys moved to pass across the dias, her betrothed caught her by the wrist and leaned up towards her as she leaned down to meet him.  “It will be war proceedings for the most part.  You don’t have to stay, but if you do…” Pausing, he gave her wrist a gentle squeeze.  “Do not let them talk over you or down to you.”  Releasing her wrist he leaned back against the throne in which Princess Aeranys would one day sit, once he was seated in the one his father currently occupied.  He watched her pass into the crowd, his little sister finding her new friend quickly, before turning his stern gaze on those gathered before them.  The court of the Red Keep in King’s Landing was different from that of Dorne’s Sunspear in many ways, but Princess Aeranys was learned the functions of High Society.  They would begin with an open hall, wherein Lords, Ladies and other representatives for the smallfolk of Dorne would bring their problems to their Prince.  Given that war-time was upon them, the impending rebellion was sure to be the main subject of concern.  Fortunately, their fears were easily quelled, as war would not be coming to the shores, deserts or mountains of Dorne.  The men seated in the thrones before them had each done their part to make certain of that. 

“You spoke with her, I gather?” Prince Doran asked his son, pulling his attention from the yellow silks that passed amidst the crowded hall.

“Yes, I did.” Mors answered.

“That is well.” The aging man said, placing a misshapen hand upon his arm and giving it a paternal pat.  “You are already a better man than I.”

As Mors looked to his father, the brown hues that had been gazing at him adoringly looked away, his gentle touch withdrawing into the folds of his sleeves.  His expression of fatherly love settled into the hollows of his face, sinking behind his usual countenance of calm contentment.  It was that neutral face after which Mors had constructed his first mask, his oldest facade, the one he reached for each morning as he started his day in a world that wasn’t able or willing to suffer the person he was beneath.  Mors mirrored his father’s actions, his own calm expression a reflection of the one beside him.  He didn’t notice the way his father’s eyes flicked back to him every now and again.  In many respects, Mors and his father were alike.  However, Prince Doran Martell had done his best to make sure that the young counterpart seated next to him was not merely a reproduction, but an improvement upon his own shadow. 

Looking to the young man at his side now, he watched yellow eyes as they found violet ones from across the room.  Already, Mors was a far better reflection than the one his own father had been forced to face in the mirror.  When Doran and Oberyn had been younger men, they had decided that if one brother was the viper, the other must be the gently swaying grass that conceals it.  Grass is not quite the sort of thing to be illustrated heroically in stories, or romantically in ballads.  You had to feel to be a hero.  The only thing Prince Doran Nymeros Martell ever felt was rage; endless, unclipped, soaring rage.  His first born son had inherited plenty of that from his father, but it was his vulnerability that would make him more than anything Prince Doran could have ever hoped to become. 

“We can spare four masons and ten builders for two weeks. Will that be sufficient to repair your battlements?” Mors asked of the castellan before him. 

“Yes, m’Lord.  I would like to extend my master’s most sincere gratitude.  We understand that the rebellion is not expected to reach Dorne, but we must ensure our people feel safe.”  The man before him said, replacing the edge of his head scarf over his shoulder after it slipped out of place while he bowed. 

“Your people and my people are one and the same, my Lord.”  The heir of Dorne returned humbly.  “Please make yourself comfortable while you are here in Sunspear.  The preparations for your journey home will begin at once.” The Maesters standing alongside Prince Doran muttered to themselves, scribbling information upon parchment and sending errands boys running off with commands as the next representative of their beloved Realm was ushered forward. 

Prince Doran sat quietly, permitting Mors to handle smaller matters quickly and efficiently with all the intuitive forethought his father and taught him to value so well.  He acted, not out of charity or fairness but a strict code of personal morals.  The trick, as Doran had learned of his perfectly peculiar son, was figuring out on which side of the fence between good and evil did those morals lie.  None could say for sure, not even the Ruling Prince of Dorne himself.  Yet perhaps there was another, more equipped to handle such a tedious task among them.  She meandered through the throngs of people, Doran’s own clever little girl at her side.  He had taken care in his decision and for his own son he had chosen only the most fitting prize.  Mors was many things, but he was not mad.  Princess Aeranys had survived her father this long, she would be able to survive Prince Doran’s favourite son.  Maybe, she wouldn’t simply survive him.  Maybe, she would give his son the purpose that the Lady Mellario of Norvos had once given him.  Princess Aeranys may be the woman strong enough to hold on to it in return, when his own wife could not. 

Yes.  An improvement, indeed. 




King Kade - Reigning from the North


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“Good evening, Ser Laenor.”  There was no polite knock, nor slow prying of easing hinges to announce the sudden appearance of the young Dornish Prince.  The Knight of the Kingsguard had heard enough stories about the man that was to become husband to Princess Aeranys, but not enough to know his face.  The man who accompanied him into the small room however, the burly one who closed the door behind them, he recognized him well enough. 

Wake up, White Cloak…” He had grumbled in a hoarse voice, shaking him awake to a bleary haze of fire and smoke. 

Am I dead?” For a moment, the knight had allowed himself to consider each and every sin that may have resulted in the Father passing judgement and sentencing him to the Seven Hells. 

Unfortunately, not.  Well, not yet, anyway.” The knight had answered before turning to his comrades.  “Let’s move him out.  Quickly!” Their touch had been rough and unapologetic.  They had handled him with no great care and though he had only been following the orders, this Dornish knight had saved his life all the same.  It was upon this man that his proud indigo gaze fell as he began to rise from his bed, elbows weak and weary. 

“Please, no need for that.”  Prince Mors offered accommodatingly as he took the cushioned seat at his bedside, occupied usually by healers or Maesters and on the rare and most special occasions, Princess Aeranys herself.  It seemed sacrilege somehow to have this man, this monster, seated in her place.  He had not been of a state to witness the brave and bloodthirsty Golden Fang take the shores of Greenstone, but he had heard the stories. 

“After all, I see that you are still bedridden.” There was a certain tone as he spoke, something nuanced in his words that made them sound as if they were meant as an insult.  Ser Laenor regarded him with a calculating sort of scrutiny, preparing for the blow.  “Tell me, did they take a foot as well as a hand?” He asked, his utterance condescending in nature.  Not a particularly fierce strike, merely a soft-paw thrown out to test the extent of his reach.  The Valeryon-violet eyes of his descendants flicked between Prince Mors and the Dornish Knight of his Guard who stood behind him, waiting for the second hit, but it didn’t come.  At least not right away. 

“My Lord…?” Ser Laenor began when the silence had carried on for a longer period than civilized social conduct would permit. 

“My healers tell me you haven’t left this bed.  Much less this room.  Do they speak falsely?” He asked.  The curious demeanor with which he spoke was infuriatingly even-tempered and impossible to read.  It was difficult for Ser Laenor to discern whether he was being tested or toyed with. 

“There are no windows in this chamber, my Lord…” The young knight allowed his final words to hang in the air, the implication already acknowledged by the enigmatic man seated before him who settled into a position that called to mind images of a scolding tutor. 

“Nor bars, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”  Something like curiosity settled onto Prince Mors’ boyish face as he crossed one leg over the other, folding his hands together upon his knee.  “Or maybe you’ve also noticed that this door locks from the inside, or that you’ve been sleeping on feather pillows.” He continued before gesturing to a table against the opposite wall.  “Your sword, your effects, they are all just there.” Pausing, the young Dornishman tilted his head to the side, watching the crippled knight before him with a patronizing amusement.  “You are not my prisoner, Ser Laenor.  You are my guest.”

“My armour…” He tried, but the heir to the Realm of Dorne was speaking over him. 

“Lost to the fires of Estermont, I’m afraid.  We’ve readied a new set for you, but of course my blacksmiths require measurements to finish an adequate suit of armor befitting a Knight of your renown.”  The young Prince of Dorne was mocking the sworn White Cloak whose own actions had bound him to this bed, and he was doing so unapologetically.  “You are the Knight I’ve heard about, aren’t you?” He carried on, the same snide nuance to his every word.  “The youngest boy to be Knighted and sworn into the King’s own Guard?  Duty-bound  sword of the beautiful Princess Aeranys Targaryen, only daughter to the King of the Seven Kingdoms…” Prince Mors paused to sigh, leaning back against the cushions that lined the chair Ser Laenor so wished the very Princess he spoke of was sitting in now.  “Truth be told, I was expecting to see you clawing your way to the training sands before the healers even got the chance to touch you, and yet…” The dismissive contempt dropped into his paced speech like a rock falling from the sky.  The pale brown eyes that watched him were a blazing golden in the setting sun of the evening, filled with accusation and scornful judgement. 

“My Lord, I… I was not given leave to…” Once more it seemed, Prince Mors cared little for what little personal defense Ser Laenor could give.

“Ah, permission.” He concluded, his tempered snobbery keeping him from holding the knight’s gaze as yellow spheres went rolling around the room.  “A disappointing excuse, but a fair one, I suppose.  If it is permission you need, than you may have it.  You are free to roam the grounds of Sunspear as you please, Ser.” As he spoke, he rose from the chair upon which he had been perched.  “Training with your left hand can seem a daunting undertaking, but we have some skilled fighters who may be able to help you…” This time is was Ser Laenor’s turn to interrupt the Dornish Prince instead.

“I’m left handed.” He uttered quietly. 

“I’m sorry, I must be losing my ears.” Prince Mors began, the cadence of what might have almost been a joke tickling at his features.  “Did I just hear you say that you are already a trained off-hand swordsman?”

“My Lord.” Ser Laenor confirmed, nodding. 

“I stand corrected.  Not disappointing… pathetic.” The Dornish Prince spat, his venom obvious now and dripping from his gold-tipped fangs.  “You will be taking the place of honour at Princess Aeranys side, escorting her through the Sept of the Seven for the wedding ceremony the day after next.”  Pausing before starting for the doorway, Prince Mors straightened his tunic as he said, “I suggest you use the time to find your footing, Ser.” 

“What?  Wait, please!” Ser Laenor started, calling out for the pair that turned to face him, lingering in the threshold of the knight’s dark, pathetic rooms.  “What is this?” He asked, desperation of a sort bleeding into his choked voice.  “Is Princess Aeranys in danger?  Is there something I should know?”

“All you need to know is that with you holed up in here, Princess Aeranys is being guarded by my men instead of her own.” He began in a patient yet still patronizing voice. 

“Are you saying your own men are inadequate?” The knight asked in return, unable to resist the temptation of an opening to take a jab. 

“Only death could ever keep my men from their sworn duty, and maybe not even then.” Prince Mors countered, taking a stride into the room which, though casual, felt threatening.  As he spoke, Ser Laenor watched the face of the Dornish Knight who stood behind him, the one who had rescued him from the flames at the bidding of his liege.  He was a picture of honour and duty if there ever was one, someone to whom Ser Laenor owed a great debt.  Yet, the olive-hued face before him regarded him with an expression that mirrored his liege Lord’s own distaste.  In King’s Landing, he had been a shining prodigy of promise.  In Dorne however, he had been found wanting.  “Which is how I know,” Prince Mors continued, encroaching on the bedridden Knight of Songs.  “That if my men were ever in a position to choose between me or my bride, they would choose their sworn liege every time.  I should like to have someone standing next to Princess Aeranys, who would choose her.  Wouldn’t you?”

“I… I just…” Ser Leanor had no words for the Dornish Prince who stood before him.  He had come this night to see just who it was that was sworn to protect his wife-to-be, the future Ruling Princess of Dorne.  A rather dismal dowrey, to say the least.  He was right of course, which was the final blow, the knife in his side.  He could have been more cruel, the fact that he wasn’t only made the blade slide that much deeper. 

“I hope you find your feet before the ceremony, Ser.” Prince Mors said, returning to his initial calm and even-mannered tone as he righted himself and straightened his tunics, moving once more towards the door.  “To leave the Princess alone on her wedding day would be rather ungallant for a Knight.  Don’t you think?”  A confused anger fluttered across the blond knight’s face as he searched for words, but the knife in his side had been twisted so quickly and so harshly that it had stolen the breath from his lungs. 

“Good evening, Ser Laenor.” Those were the words that Prince Mors left him with as he stepped across the threshold and into the dimly lit corridor, the sun-stained knight who followed in his wake closing the door behind them.  Ser Devran started down the hallway at once, but paused and waited for his liege who lingered at the wood of the door for the telltale grunt of a man rising from his sickbed.  Satisfied, he followed after his knight.  It would be in poor taste to keep his bride waiting for him, after all.  More importantly, his supper was getting cold. 




King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Offline asterin

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She woke at dawn to a ripple running through the court, the sound of feet hurrying down the halls in preparation for something to come. It was alarm that filled her head first, chasing the haze of slumber away and causing her to push herself off of the large bed she claimed as her own. Hurrying to the window, she had pushed the embroidered drapes aside, half-dreading the sight of the sea filled to the brim with invading ships. Fortunately, there had been no such sight. In fact, there seemed to be nothing on the dawn-kissed waves. Still, Aeranys waited alone in her chambers for an hour in case she would be abruptly summoned, pacing the marble in unease.

When she next showed her face to the rising sun, pinched with concern, this time she saw what had sent the palace up in a frenzy. On the very edge of the sea, teetering on the horizon, was a telltale dot. A ship. There was only one figure the Dornish court raise such a commotion over--at least, only one that had been absent. However, her suspicions were not confirmed until well into the morning, when Septa Oranea came to deliver the news along with a tray laden with her morning meal.

Indeed, it was Prince Doran Martell, the Ruling Prince of Dorne, who had been spotted on the sea at the break of dawn. He would be arriving on the shores before midday, and his family had been gathered in anticipation of his arrival. It was an affair she would have no part in, which was to be expected. She had yet to be properly received by the Ruling Prince himself; it wouldn’t do for their formal introduction to happen on the docks of all places. Despite the Septa having yet to hear of what the protector of Dorne would do upon his return, Princess Aeranys had little doubt that court would be held before the day was gone, and she would be presented to him.

And so it was that when her betrothed came knocking early in the afternoon, the princess opened the doors fully prepared--both mentally and physically--to be summoned before Doran Martell. However, the prince had come to request a walk in the Water Gardens, a command play-acting as an invitation. As usual, she stuck to the script, adeptly play-acting a gracious acceptance as if the option of turning it down had ever been a possibility. The matter settled just as it was meant to be, they strolled off together hand-in-crook, a pair of marvelous actors.

The flow of pleasant, meaningless chatter was unforced as they made their way leisurely through the winding paths of the beautiful Water Gardens. His calm, measured explanations of the architecture and flowers were received with all the correct responses to be expected from a demure lady--and while Aeranys could have been content to play this tedious game she had been taught to excel at, she knew that her betrothed had not brought her here to talk about fountain poetry and plants. No, there was news to be heard, and the knowledge of that made her chest tighten with hidden unease.

That news made itself abundantly clear the moment the prince changed the subject. “My father insists that we should be married at once,” he told her, the casual way he spoke the words failing to conceal the weight they held. “The day after tomorrow, in fact.”

The day after tomorrow?

“I see,” was all she could manage at first, for her mouth had gone dry. Then, knowing that it was faux pas for the perfect bride to sound as apprehensive as she had, she was swift to make a false clarification: “I only wish that my lady mother and older brother could be here to see it,” she mused softly, her pale gaze downcast for a moment. To call it a false sentiment would have itself been a lie, but Princess Aeranys wasn’t a fanciful girl. She had known from the moment she had heard of this arrangement that her wedding would be far from what she had once imagined; a ceremony at the Great Sept of Baelor, with her loved ones at her side. She had long accepted that she would be entering her new life very much alone, far away from the place she had once believed would be her lifelong home.

You belong here, little sister, Rhaegar had remarked once, after she had managed to chase off another potential suitor. You were born to be the heart of the Red Keep. Never should you be torn away from it. Indeed, if Daeron had not perished, she would have wed him and spent her days at court. Even after he had died, she had thought to do so, to remain at the Red Keep, keeping faithful watch at the side of her mother.

Of course, none of it was meant to be.

Prince Rhaegar sends his apologies to his sister…

Pushing down the bitterness that threatened to well up in her anew, she turned her lilac gaze back towards the prince who would be her husband, lending a dutifully attentive ear to what he spoke next. “My healers assure me that your knight is progressing quickly upon the road to wellness,” he began, and at first it seemed that he had pivoted the conversation away from their upcoming wedding. “I thought that perhaps he could give you away at the ceremony in place of your brother,” the Martell prince continued, proving her wrong. “Would you find such an arrangement agreeable?”

Her brows arched ever-so-slightly, but her moment of surprise was soon to be tucked away. While she had no qualms about the young knight standing in for a family member, in truth, she hadn’t even thought of the matter. It seemed so very trivial compared to everything else that raged about the whole affair--it was somewhat unexpected that he had given such a detail so much thought. “It is indeed agreeable, milord,” she started, her words carefully selected, as usual. “But only if he is well enough for such a task in two day’s time.” She paused, concern briefly clouding her expression. “He is healing, yes, but he is still bedridden, and I would not wish for his condition to worsen needlessly on my account.”

“That is well,” the dark-haired young man acquiesced easily, but Aeranys did not miss the smallest of frowns that hovered about his brow, or the way he fell quiet. Just as she began to run through the words she had spoken, intent on finding the offending sentiment, his halting voice brought her back to the present. She succeeded, with some effort, in maintaining her iron-clad composure as he asked for her permission to speak candidly--a request that seemed utterly uncharacteristic to what she had observed of him. If all he had spoken of prior was him being restrained, it was difficult to imagine what he would say when unfettered.

Strangely enough, however, buried in his courtly words was not a thinly veiled farce or command, but something that felt much like sincerity, even vulnerability. “Speak freely, milord,” she assured demurely, slowing her stride and turning to her intended. “If it is my permission you seek, you have it.” 

He spoke reluctantly at first, conceding that he had made a poor impression upon her multiple times, and how had circumstances been different, they would not have chosen one another to wed. Typically, this would have been her cue to step in with pretty words to deny, but it was clear that he was not done speaking. He reached for her hands and she relinquished them without complaint, allowing him to cradle them with his own; though it was not the first time they had held hands, there was an awkwardness that made it feel as it was the first, perhaps from the fact that the prince before her seemed to be trying to make an attempt at expressing something difficult for him.

“If you have questions, I would like you to ask them. If you have objections, I would like you to make them known,” he finally managed, the words flowing freely now. “If you have thoughts and opinions, even those which conflict with mine, I would like to hear them all the same.”

What he was suggesting, however, ran counter to everything she’d ever been taught a perfect lady and wife should be. It was almost enough for her to wonder if he was making a fool of her, but the sincerity held strong in those eyes. He meant every word, as difficult as it was to believe. “In two days time, you will be my wife and I will be your husband. I don’t imagine our marriage will be much like the sort written in songs, but…” There was a pause. “But, I think I could make you happy,” he concluded.

There it was again, that word--happy, first uttered to her as he directed her attention to his little sister, dancing with the boy she’d so fancied. In truth, she had long forgotten what joy tasted like, the kind of elated burst of emotion she had seen Arianne exuding. It was a feeling that was long removed from her person, tempered by years of training and tragedy, and Aeranys wasn’t sure if she was even capable of mustering such a vibrant emotion anymore. Oh yes, there’d been a time, before wildfire, before mad kings, before dead brothers--but that time had passed her by already. If she could be content, then it meant she was happy. The fact that he had thought of her happiness, the fact that he was saying that he wanted to make her happy--it was more than she could have asked of him. Indeed, it sent a gentle feeling washing over her, a desire to reassure that almost anxious spark in his golden eyes.

“Yes, I also do not imagine that our marriage will be anything like the ones in the songs,” she admitted honestly, only for her voice to turn kind. “But no marriage is, milord.” Marriage was not a song--life was not a song. Despite what people might have thought of her, assuming her to be a sheltered maiden with a head full of songs and tales, she had very little use for such frivolities. He needn’t fear that she expected her husband or their marriage to be like the romances in the bards’ songs.

“As for happiness--you have already made me happy with what you have just said, milord,” she offered him a smile, a soft, contented warmth stirring in her eyes. “I only hope that I might be able to do the same for you.” And with that, a benevolent peace seemed to fall over them and they resumed their stroll, the second Martell prince and Targaryen princess pair to walk the beautiful lush gardens.


+++++++++++


As the grand doors opened before them, the Targaryen princess drew in the lightest of breaths to cement her poise. All eyes turned to them as they walked into the Great Room, the very picture of a perfect royal couple. Even their clothes seem to tout how well matched they were, each wearing the color of the other’s eyes. Of course, while that was little more than a coincidence, the princess’ silken gown--golden yellow in color--was no mere accident.

Knowing that she would more likely than not be presented to Doran Martell, she had chosen her garb with plenty of thought and purpose behind it. With an official recognition from the Ruling Prince, there would be no more room left to contest a betrothal, and indeed, unlike the cooler, softer colors she had worn prior, her the hue of the dress, vibrant and warm, was undoubtedly a Martell color. It was an important part of their sigil, making up the golden spear that pierced the sun, and yet, still a far less provocative color compared to the crimson sun or the field of orange it bled upon. It was only more fitting now that she knew that it would only be two short days until she would wed the Martell prince.

Unlike the young man beside her, the moment she’d stepped into the hall, her pale eyes had been fixed to the figure on the golden throne above--Prince Doran Martell, the Ruling Prince who had returned to Dorne. As he called them forth, her betrothed was the first to speak, presenting her to his father in a most courtly manner. As for Aeranys, she curtsied just so, sinking down gracefully to greet the aging man who leant forward in his seat to gaze upon her. “From every corner of the Seven Realms, Lords and Ladies whispered of the great beauty born unto the King.” There was a mild, good-natured smile playing on his face, his voice equally warm and fatherly. “You would think she must be the loveliest woman in the world for how quickly the tales spread. It is a marvel to see that for once, the gossips were right.”

“You are far too kind, milord,” she murmured, eyes modestly lowered. His flowery words were more for the sake of the Dornish court than for either of their ears, this she knew. After all, Prince Doran Martell had seen her only a few years prior, cordially invited to King’s Landing under the pretense of attending Rhaegar’s wedding. He knew well what she looked like--in fact, she imagined most lords of any import knew what she looked like, what with the number of painted miniatures her father had commissioned.

Commanded to come closer, the pale-haired princess obeyed readily, stepping up to the dais and coming to a stand before the protector of Dorne. He took her slender hand in his painfully gout-ridden ones, pressing an affectionate kiss to the back of her hand. What a far cry he was to her own father! He was a man who appeared soft in all manners, mild and calm, but contrary to what her father and many other lords had thought, Aeranys and Queen Rhaella had never taken the Dornish prince as a toothless fool. It was not some god-gifted wisdom that had allowed them this insight, but simply the perspective they had as women in her father’s court--no, even more so as Targaryen women. It was not so difficult to identify another of their kind when they themselves were dragons taught to appear meek and harmless in silks, after all.

Curiously enough, it seemed that Prince Doran also seemed to pick up on the strange irony that connected the two of them. “We are all looking forward to seeing how you take to the Dornish climate,” he was saying, fatherly anticipation in his tone. “Many foreigners find it unbearable, but you, my Lady, you are a dragon. The ability to withstand fire is in your blood.”

Aeranys met his eyes, the deeper, earthier hue that made a sharp contrast to the odd gold of her betrothed’s pupils. “Thank you, milord. I will take your words to heart,” was all she uttered, a humble recipient--there was a time and a place, and the script did not call for her to be verbose.

“I’m sure you will fare well,” he reassured her one last time before he bowed his head, a timely cue for her to leave. She too sank into another deep curtsy before moving to step down from the raised dais--only for her intended to stop her, a hand about her wrist. Accommodating as always, she leaned down to hear his message, murmured into the space between them. Seeing how well the last political meeting had gone, she half expected it to be another dismissal, this time from the court proceedings, but the words he left her with only rang with the opposite sentiment. Do not let them talk over you or down to you.

She glanced down to him as the words sunk in, silvery lilac on gold. “I understand, milord,” she replied after a brief pause. His crossness during the council meeting and his behavior in the library afterward--it started to make some amount of sense. Toying with the possible realization, she left him with a respectful incline of the head, descending the stairs to join the masses below.

They parted around her as she slipped in between them, but she was not to be alone for long. It was Arianne who darted forth from the crowd, easily linking her arm with her own as if this was the hundredth time they’d done so. “Now that all that boring ceremony is over with, I have some girls I have to introduce you to,” the younger princess bubbled, willfully dragging her along with her towards her goal.

“Oh, I--” Aeranys began, but it was a different figure altogether who brought the enthusiastic young princess to heel: though the majority of the crowd had parted before them, one figure had chosen to stay right in their path.

“Princess Aeranys,” the woman intoned, her striking eyes peering down at her above her satin veil.

“Lady Lexia,” she greeted back cordially, nodding.

“Princess Aeranys,” she said again, a hint of something mocking twisting in the depths of her eyes. “Light of King Aerys’ court. Sweet as she is beautiful. An exquisite crown jewel in every way--the perfect Targaryen beauty.”  The veiled woman settled into her proud stance with the confidence of a lioness on the prowl. “Having heard these rumors, what a shock it was when you appeared, hair chopped short as a page boy’s! I was made to believe that the women in King’s Landing prized their long locks so. Was the Dornish heat that unbearable, milady?”

Arianne stiffened beside her and began to tug at her arm, perhaps intending on leading her away before another insult could be volleyed at her. It was admittedly not a terrible solution, and Aeranys would have been inclined to let the Dornish princess whisk her away from the uncomfortable situation--if not for one thing.

Do not let them talk over you or down to you.

She laid a gentle hand on the younger princess’s hand and Arianne stilled, her worried brown eyes on her. The Targaryen princess, however, did not seem to share her concern, turning to the lady before her with her mother’s calm. The words that fell from her lips, however, were neither that of her mother, her mad father, nor even her clever brother. “No, milady. While imprisoned on Greenstone, I cut my hair so that I could switch places with a kindhearted maid and make my escape,” she replied, her tone as steady as it was frank. “As you say, northern girls are quite fond of their long hair--but with a war brewing, it felt petty to focus on something like hair. I thought it would be a small sacrifice if I could buy my freedom and prevent needless bloodshed.”

As she spoke she reached up to stroke the trimmed edges of her hair, only for the movement to cause her silken sleeves to slide back, briefly bringing to light the ugly gashes that had just begun to heal over into scars. Hawk-eyed as ever, Lady Lexia’s gaze flicked to them immediately, her dark eyes shining with a vicious triumph to have found another vulnerable spot to dig her barbed talons into. However, when she looked back to the girl to mock her, she was only met with the calm, steely gaze the Targaryen princess was levelling at her, signalling that the Dornish woman had only seen what she had been meant to see. Here was a bride who should’ve been worried sick about how she might look on her wedding night, and yet, there was no shame or embarrassment in her eyes. “In fact, no price I could have paid would have been too high,” she spoke knowingly, a weight behind those words. “But I am sure a lady of your courage and wit would have done the same and more.”

It was clear to the Dornish woman then, that unlike the bruise that had begun to fade away from her pale face, those ghastly cuts had been this dainty princess’ own doing--an image that turned the insult on her tongue into ash. At last, Lady Lexia, lethal and deadly with her poisonous tongue, had nothing more to say. Clicking her tongue irritably, she turned away with her head high in the air, taking her leave with as much dignity as she could manage.

Watching the viper-like woman leave, Aeranys released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Arianne, once again latched onto her arm, was now bubbling with indignant remarks and reassurances alike; though the silver-haired princess nodded along, her eyes had been caught by a different Martell sibling. From across the room she had felt his stare, and indeed when she lifted her gaze, she found him looking her way. As usual, his face was an inscrutable mask of courteous calm, but she could read the emotions swirling in those golden depths--a hint of satisfaction and admiration. She held his gaze for a moment longer before she looked down and away, appearing as meek as ever if not for the strange smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
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Offline asterin

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+++++++++++

With the patriarch of the Martell family returned, the atmosphere at court seemed to settle a bit further, stars and luminaries orbiting in their rightful paths. The effect was not limited to the courtiers alone--Doran Martell’s presence appeared to calm his family just as well, notably his siblings and eldest son.

Supper had been nothing extremely out of the ordinary; a few toasts had been drunk to the health of the Ruling Prince of Dorne, then to the soon-to-be wed pair, but once the eating and the talking began it all fell back to the usual rhythm she had come to expect. While her betrothed sat next to her, Arianne was seated on the other side of her, and so the majority of evening meal had been spent giving ear to the younger girl’s enthusiasms, whether they be about the Dalt boy or her indecision over what she should wear to the wedding. The moment the young prince had finished his meal, he was led away by his youngest cousin, her small fingers curled tight around his. Unable to keep her curiosity at bay, she had asked Arianne where the pair were headed off to each evening. Arianne had been quick to answer her, explaining how her brother had a ‘workshop’ of sorts down in the basements below the castle. Her tone had been flippant and light, expressing how damp and dark it was down there, and how she didn’t understand why Mors insisted on such a location--but then all of a sudden, her pretty face had grown serious.

“Oh, but let me warn you--you should never interrupt him while he’s in there,” she had told her, her voice lowered into a grave murmur. “Never.”

As far as she was concerned, all was well. Even as a child, she had never had an issue being left to her own devices--if anything, she’d wanted nothing more than to be free to run amok when she’d been a small girl. Of course, that was impossible now, but she didn’t mind having some time to spend as she pleased.

With Ser Devran trailing behind her, she made her way to visit Ser Laenor just as she had done the two nights prior. She imagined he did not yet know that the ceremony was to take place in less than two days, something she would pass along to him. At the same time, the princess decided that she would ask of his condition before saying anything about a certain role he might play at the wedding--after all, Ser Laenor was not the type to turn down such a request from his liege.

Finally coming to a halt before the door, she carefully knocked upon the heavy wood and waited for a response. None came. She knocked again, a little louder--but there was only silence. “Ser Laenor…?” she called softly, a crease settling into her brow. Was he asleep? It seemed too early for him to retire. After a few moments of hesitation, the princess slowly let the door creak open to peek inside.

He was gone.

Not only that, all his things were missing.

It was surprise and worry that rose up in her first, but they were quickly pressed down as she turned to her betrothed’s faithful watchdog. “Ser Devran,” she began calmly. “Where is Ser Laenor?”

“I do not know, milady," he replied, looking back at her bemusedly. "Why would you believe that I do?”

“I doubt anything much happens in this palace without your lord knowing,” she retorted patiently. “And I also doubt that little happens around Prince Mors without you knowing. So I’ll ask again--where is Ser Laenor?”

"The last I saw him, he was here, milady,” Another roundabout response--perhaps intended to test her patience.

If it irked her, it did not show on her face, which remained sweetly serene, along with her voice. “I see. And when was this, pray tell?”

“I saw him before the evening meal, milady.”

“With Prince Mors?”

The knight went silent, refusing to answer--but it was more than enough. “Very well,” she remarked. “Good night, Ser Devran.”

With the courteous greeting she turned away, striding down the halls once more, but soon it became evident to the knight that she was not headed to her chambers. He hurried after her, the question quick to leave his lips: “Where are you going, milady?”

“To see my betrothed, Ser Devran,” the princess replied matter-of-factly. For a moment the knight relaxed, knowing that his liege was not to be so easily found, but as she passed by the corridor that would lead to the prince’s quarters and headed towards a different hall, he felt his unease grow.

Indeed, she might have witnessed the prince and his young cousin heading off in a certain direction each time he’d bid her good night, but without knowing the specifics, it would have been like wandering in the dark. Instead, here was someone who knew their goal, if not all the steps towards it.

Though it took some time to find a staircase that led downwards, it was clear that her journey was still not over. The dark corridors sprawled before her, lit only with burning sconces. She wandered through them as Ser Devran hung back at a distance, only watching. Most of the doors that she reached were locked, or devoid of human presence. However, when Ser Devran stepped in to stop her as she reached for another door handle, she knew she had found her destination. “This is not wise, milady,” he warned grimly, standing before the door.

“Has he commanded you to keep me from this room?” Aeranys queried mildly.

“No one is to disturb him,” the Dornish knight insisted.

“Then can you tell me where Ser Laenor is?” she demanded, her voice finally ringing like a blade unsheathed. “Can you tell me what could have driven a man ravaged with burns to rise from his sickbed with a sword in hand?”

Silence.

“If not, step aside, Ser Devran. Whether Prince Mors gives me the answers that I seek or forbids me from entering ever again, I will hear it from his own lips.” For a tense moment they stared each other down, neither ready to surrender--but it was the willowy young woman who prevailed, the stoic knight moving to stand off to the side. He watched her with those dark eyes, still silent as a shadow, perhaps waiting for her to open the door and unleash whatever he and Arianne had tried to warn her about.

However, there was no turning back now. Squaring her shoulders, Aeranys reached up and rapped out two quick knocks, barely giving those within any sort of warning before she thrust the forbidden door open and strode right in. 

It was Tyene she spotted first, hair like spun gold in the candlelight. She was perched on the prince’s knee, who sat with her at a desk, on which a glass lens sat before them. And in his hand--she realized all at once that it was a snake he held firm between his fingers, fangs glistening with dripping venom. Most would have screamed, flinched back--but Princess Aeranys was a girl used to the sight of horrors. Though she paled, eyes fixed on the small girl who would surely be bitten should the prince’s hand slip, her composure did not crumble.

“Milord,” she addressed him, the greeting more clipped than polite. She did not apologize for interrupting him--her intent would have been clear from the fact that none would have been foolish enough to let her stumble in on him without issuing a stern warning. Instead, the fair-haired princess stood there as her mother would have before her father, ready to weather the storm of mythical proportions of which she had been repeatedly warned of.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2020, 12:30:56 AM by nevermore girl »
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Offline Reigning King

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Two quick knocks upon the door to his sequestered stone room were followed swiftly by a curt and measured, “m’lord.” The young woman who stood at the threshold of his workshop with a calm, yet unflinchingly serious expression upon her face, was none other than Mors’ own bride. 

“Princess Aeranys.” Prince Mors greeted politely.  “What a pleasant surprise.”

“You shouldn’t be here.” The girl who sat upon his knee said at once.  She rested her small hands upon the table before her watching the Targaryen borne maiden with accusation in her fierce little face. 

“Tyene, where are your manners?” Mors scolded his cousin gently. 

Hopping off her Mors’ knee, she dipped into a quick, shallow curtsy before righting herself at his side, a hand upon his knee.  The second youngest of the Red Vipers willful brood was especially attached to her eldest cousin, and especially protective over their quiet hours shared in his workshop.  “Princess Aeranys.” She greeted politely before reiterating, “you shouldn’t be here,” in the same accusatory tone. 

“Princess Aeranys is to be my wife, Tyene.  Anywhere that I may tread, so too may she.” Prince Mors explained.  As he spoke, with Tyene at a safe distance, he adjusted the materials he held before him.  Fingers held fast upon the jaw of the serpent he pinched in his grasp.  Setting aside the beaker that had been filling with its venom, he lifted the twitching tail to his forearm so that the horned reptile might find a more comfortable perch.

“Anywhere?” Tyene asked, her blue eyes swimming with unspoken inquisition as she looked to her cousin. 

He held her gaze meaningfully for a moment before telling her, “say goodnight to your friends.  Ser Devran will take you to bed.” 

“But it’s so early…” She whined, a pout falling on her lips.  Her cousin didn’t answer her, but instead permitted a layer of frost to settle upon his warm expression.  She turned away from him glumly, having received her answer.  As she fluttered about the room from one cage to the next, like a bee buzzing to and fro between blossoming flowers, whispering sweet nothings to her slithering friends, Mors rose from his seated position.  Only once Tyene had stepped away from him did he loosen his grip on the horned snake he held by the open jaw.  Any other man may have anticipated the venomous creature would lash out to strike or slip away in escape upon being freed from the uncomfortable grasp.  Mors however, was not like other men.  The snake held its head aloft, waiting patiently as Mors brought his hand up to his collar, whereupon the yellow and brown scaled serpent slithered itself across his shoulders, coiling around his neck.  The creature, not known among scholars for being loyal or loving, rested itself loosely about its masters neck like a scarf, flicking out a forked tongue against the flesh beneath his ear. 

Mors stepped around his work table as Tyene doddled about the room, moving towards a heavy wooden door which rested against the far wall, tucked in the shadows of the workshop.  He padded his way to the door, reaching not for the handle but instead the brass key which sat in it’s lock, a golden chain hanging from the end.  Quick fingers latched the door and pulled the key from its resting place, returning the chain to the place around his neck where he kept it always.  The snake fidgeted beneath its weight, wiggling as the chain slipped through the scales and came to a stop upon his chest where it hung beneath the large fang next to which it had sat beneath his tunics and robes each day of his charmed young life. 

“Goodnight.” Tyene said passively, casting a jealous glare towards Princess Aeranys before allowing herself to be received and guided away by Ser Devran.  Before the Knight departed, he closed the door to his liege’s workshop, leaving Prince Mors and Princess Aeranys alone in one another’s company.  For a moment, like he so often did, he allowed the silence to linger in the air around them.  The only sound falling deaf and dull into the cavernous workshop was the hushed but ever constant hissing of the tall shelves and the cages they held to their breast. 

“So tell me,” Mors began as he leaned himself against the edge of his work table, crossing his arms over his chest.  His cadence was calm and casual in spite of the intrusion; in spite of the deadly beast coiled around his neck.  “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

The answer his received came easily, albeit with some disappointment.  “Ah, Ser Laenor.” He noted flatly.  “Of course.”  Ser Laenor, the ubiquitous who of it all.  Mors knew that the interrogation had only just begun. 
 
Where?

He uncrossed his arms and set his hands against the edge of his work table, suddenly very aware of the contents hidden within its drawers.  “I should hope that your sworn sword has found his way to the armoury. I expect my smiths are toiling away, fitting him to the plate and mail I had prepared upon our return.”  There was a distrusting nature about her words as she spoke them, but Mors had a measured answer prepared. 

When?

“I visited with Ser Laenor this evening before supper.  I would assume that he left his rooms not long after.  He’s free to come and go as he pleases, after all.  Much like yourself.”  Apprehension clouded her pretty face in a storm of suspicion.  “I can assure you, my intentions were wholly pure in nature.”  Even though he addressed her with an open, warm expression, the narrowed quality of her gaze indicated she didn’t believe him. 

How?

“No amount of pain can keep a man of honour from his duty.”  He pointed out, voice dripping with sincerity and patience, an art he had learned from his father.  Though his bore a curiously prickly edge which was better suited to a young man of his disposition. “I merely reminded Ser Laenor of that duty.”

Why?

“You seem lonely, Princess.” Prince Mors told his betrothed, something that might have been kindness creasing his brow.  “I thought it would please you to have your own man at your side.  Someone who will act in your interest instead of mine.”  He watched the revelation settle onto Princess Aeranys’ face, his own fleeting feelings passing over his ever-stern expression. 

“Is that all?” Mors asked, the same patient quality to his tone.  “Well then, in that case.” Leaning forward he righted himself and closed the space between them in long, purposeful strides.  Reaching out, he took her hand in his and bowed himself forward gentlemanly to meet it.  As he did so, the thin, translucent end of the tail resting beneath his chin began to shake, an ominous rattle echoing against the stone walls. He waited for her to flinch or pull her hand back as he pressed his warm lips against the cool skin that covered her knuckles.  Curiously enough, his intended maintained her steely calm, even as reptilian lips parted to seethe audibly, black curls rustling as a horned head rose from within their veil.

All at once, he stepped away from her and righted himself.  “Goodnight, Princess.” Prince Mors spoke politely as wandering fingers stroked at the yellow and brown mass of scales resting in the hollows of his collar bones.  The snake around his neck had calmed as quickly as the Golden Fang had pulled away.

“I trust you can find your own way back to your rooms.”  The words were spoken to the rear of his workshop, showing his back to his bride as he circled his work table once more and seated himself before his beakers and burners.  Still the snake at his neck remained ever faithful, licking at his damp flesh adoringly in opposition to its nature. 

“Give Ser Laenor my regards.” He added cryptically, his final words to her before Princess Aeranys passed again through the sacred threshold she had so brazenly crossed, shutting the door hard behind her. 


“I have a surprise for you.”

When Princess Aeranys next saw her betrothed, he stood before her open door with his hands clasped behind his back and a pleasant expression upon his face.  He looked enthusiastic, at least, as much so as he had ever looked, still maintaining the hint of his ever-present stern scowl.  Golden eyes looked upon her with a calculating study.  She did not look displeased to see him, but instead studious herself.  Her pretty lavender gaze lifted to Mors black locks, or rather the lack thereof.  In the time since she had seen him last, a razor’s edge had been taken to the tendrils that had dangled at his shoulders by candlelight the night before.  Raven coloured strands sat close cropped upon his head, making the sharp line of his jaw and the harsh angle of his brow more obvious.  His hair was short enough not to require maintenance; short enough not to get tangled in chain mail.

Princess Aeranys said nothing.  Instead she returned her steady stare to his own, matching his pleasant, passive demeanor.  A silent exchange.  The sort which Mors liked best.  Thus, it was with what might have almost been that elusive ghost of a smile, he turned to offer her his arm.  “Come.” He beckoned softly. 


Prince Mors Nymeros Martell escorted the young woman to whom it had been arranged he would be married to a parlor in the Tower of the Spear, followed closely by the young Dornishman’s brawny shadow, Ser Devran.  The doors on the far wall opened to a terrace upon which Mors had once taken his afternoon meal in between his lessons with Maester Caleotte as a very young boy.  Tall glass doors remained closed, something moving beyond the men who laughed as they leaned against them.  Upon realizing they were not alone, both men quieted and faced the pair that approached them.  Though they presented in a manner of decorum, the joke they had shared still lingered on their lips as they smiled to one another. 

“Nephew,” the Red Viper greeted in his usual air of casualness.  “Princess Aeranys,” he offered next, pairing the breezy words with a quick bow.  “This is my friend from across the Narrow Sea.”

“I am, Lysos Orlinar of Lhazar, my Lord, my Lady…” As he spoke the merchant offered humble yet courteous formalities to the patrons presented to him.  “It is my great honour to serve the Sun and Spear.”

“The honour is mine.” Prince Mors returned in good manner, before pausing and turning to the silk-clad flower upon his arm.  “Actually, the honour is hers.”

“For the Lady?” The merchant inquired rhetorically, arching his brow pointedly and casting his gaze about the room, searching for signs of another joke in the faces of fellow men in his company.  “Very well.  In that case, it is an honour to serve the House of Fire and Blood.” He corrected himself in a measured manner, eyes lingering curiously on the Princess before him.  “Please,” he said courteously, gesturing for the young woman to join him. 

“I choose only the strongest hatchlings from each nesting.  My beasts are the finest in the known world, I assure you there are none which can match the size and strength of the creatures I breed.”  As he spoke, he guided the fair-haired woman beside him to the doors of the terrace.  Nearing the paned glass, large wings of black and red rustled just beyond. 

“He is my most glorious.  In all my years I can’t think of a finer bird than he.”  Pausing he turned his gaze to the woman to whom he would bequeath this wondrous and expensive gift.  “He is of the zaldrīzes hontes.” He explained. 

“Dragon bird…” Princess Aeranys replied thoughtfully, easily translating the High Valyrian words the merchant had uttered. 

“Precisely, my Lady.” The Lhazareen merchant reiterated excitedly.  “These creatures are as old as time itself, as ancient as the dragons your ancestors rode.”  When she reached for the handle that would open the windowed doors onto the terrace, Lysos pressed a flat hand against the door to stop her. 

“It is good that you are eager, but these beasts have a law of their own which we must obey.” He elaborated, an expression of serene servitude painted across the leathery, sun-dried wrinkles on his face.  “He has been kept blind for all of his days.  You must understand, they imprint upon their masters through sight, and your face must be the first he will ever see of this world.”  Squaring his shoulders to hers, he talked with his hands as he explained the laws of the zaldrīzes hontes to her. 

“You will remove his blinders and speak to him.  It does not matter what you say, only that he hears you and sees you.  When he stretches out his wings, you will know that he has accepted you.  Then, and only then, may you untie the tethers that hold him in place.”  A seriousness settled into the deepest parts of his gaze as he fixed Princess Aeranys with his meaningful stare.  “He will serve you.  He will protect you.  He will die for you.  You need only claim him as your own.”  At last he let his hand fall from the terrace doors. 

Princess Aeranys turned the handle and pushed the paned glass upon its hinges, stepping out onto the terrace.  Behind her, Lysos of Lhazar reached out to close the door behind her.  The men who lingered in the chamber looked to one another in silence.  While Lysos and Oberyn wore expressions of apprehension, Prince Mors presented a visage of calm contentment.  His Knight stepped upon beside him, the furrow in his brow silently communicating the concerns he shared with his liege’s uncle and the enigmatic merchant he had brought to their shores to bequeath a monster unto his bride. 

“Are you sure about this?” Ser Devran asked the Dornish Prince he served. 

“The zaldrīzes hontes are formidable beasts…” Prince Mors conceded in agreement.  “But so is she.”  None within the chamber were brave enough to utter any word in contestation to that particular remark.  When an echoing screech ripped through the quiet from beyond the terrace doors, it was Ser Devran who rushed forth first, a hand upon the hilt of the blade at his hip.  He shoved open the glass and strode through readily, only to see Princess Aeranys leaning upon the stone balustrade, looking out at the dark figure soaring through the sky, growing distant as it passed over Sunspear and into the sprawling horizon. 

“Are you hurt, Princess?” Ser Devran asked as he stepped up beside her, his hand falling away from his sword. 

“Fear not, my Lady.” Lysos Orlinar assured the young woman, the silent asking expression on her face giving enough hint to her concerns.  “He will return.  He is yours now, after all.” Folding his hands before him, the serenity of his features melted away into something playful yet somehow more severe.  “You know I demand payment in full…” He uttered, casting his gaze towards Prince Mors, who stepped forth to drop a purse of coin into his waiting hands, eyes tuned keenly onto his bride. 

“Come, my friend.” Prince Oberyn said, throwing an arm around the merchant’s broad shoulders.  “Let us drink until we can no longer stand.” 

“Then we will sit, and drink some more.” Lysos of Lhazar returned, the whimsical chuckle returning to his face as he bounced the clinking coins in his hands.  Oberyn laughed along with his friend as they returned to the shelter of the chamber, Ser Devran following in their wake.  Mors however, crossed the terrace to stand beside his betrothed.  Mirroring her form, he placed his hands upon the cool stone of the balustrade and looked off as she did to the distant wings in the clear blue of the morning. 

“Does this please you?” He asked her.  As she uttered her polite reply, Prince Mors reached out a hand to lay atop hers with an uncharacteristic gentility.  When her violet eyes met the golden resplendency of his own, he couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps she looked a little less lonely.

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Offline asterin

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She had been promised a storm. She’d braced herself for the worst, piecing together every time she had seen her father lash out with the few times her own betrothed had grown less than pleasant; she had imagined wildfire and thunder, venom and fangs. But as the Dornish prince turned to her presence, there was nothing there to indicate even the slightest hint of displeasure. The hostility she had been expecting, however, came in the form of the small girl her betrothed sat on his knee. “You shouldn’t be here,” little Tyene spat, a disgruntled gatekeeper to the haven she had disturbed. Before the princess could say anything in return, her eldest cousin spoke up, chiding her like a wizened Septa.

“Princess Aeranys is to be my wife, Tyene,” he reminded her. “Anywhere that I may tread, so too may she.”

“Anywhere?” the precocious young girl volleyed back, the very same skeptical question that had risen in her own mind. Somewhat unsurprisingly, there was no real answer to be had as he instructed her to bid her friends goodnight.

Friends?

Her attention, which had been so intently focused on the pair and the venomous snake in the prince’s grasp, finally expanded outwards to the rest of the candle-lit room. Aeranys was all at once all too aware of the feeling of eyes surrounding her and a chorus of quiet hissing. It was clear enough that the multitude of cages that filled the room all housed serpentine creatures of varying species and sizes, all cold eyes and flickering tongues. The vague sense of dread that the realization brought upon her was beaten by swallowed surprise as the golden-haired lass went from cage to cage without a drop of fear, only adoration on her face as she cooed and whispered to the deadly things within. Then again, she thought to herself, perhaps that was only to be expected. Little as she might be, Tyene was no different from her sisters in one way--she was daughter to Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper himself.

A viper had no need to fear other serpents, it seemed, and it would also appear that her betrothed had the same daring ease with the venomous creatures. The snake he had been holding--the snake that had looked nothing but absolutely furious to her untrained eyes--was not gingerly tossed into a cage, but placed lovingly onto possibly a most vulnerable perch. The serpent responded more like a trained lapdog than a dangerous beast, curling comfortably about the collar of the prince’s tunic as if it was the one place it was meant to be.

When Tyene finally took her leave with one last ‘good night’ and a resentful glower directed her way, the door behind her closed with a note of finality, indicating that they were alone. As the silence fell heavy around them, her eyes returned to the face of the prince before her. Once again, she steeled herself once more for outrage, for chaos; it was more than plausible that Prince Mors had simply not wanted to lose his temper in front of his young cousin, after all.

But once again, it did not come.

It did not come even as she demanded question after question of him, even when she did not bother to feign belief in his in all-too-ready answers. His tone was nothing but cordial and patient--so unlike what she had been warned of--that she could not help but wonder if he had been expecting this all along. The idea irritated her, but it would not derail her from asking the question that remained on her mind.

“Why?” the princess demanded at last, the same question she had confronted him with in a corridor only the night prior.

He did not give her a clever, ironic answer, but something else entirely. “You seem lonely, Princess.”
 
“Lonely?” she echoed before she could quite catch herself. This would have been the correct time for the ideal bride to wave off such a notion with a gracious remark about how she could not possibly be lonely, not with her betrothed and his family surrounding her, but the words would not come.



Her lips pursed, settling into a tight line. Lonely. She hadn’t thought of such a notion in a long time, but in truth, any sort of loneliness she might have exuded was not due to her removal from home--at least, not entirely. Loneliness had lined her bones for a long time now, to the point that Aeranys no longer quite recognized its hollow presence. Unfortunately for her, now that the veil had been ripped off, it was difficult to ignore just how true it was.

“I thought it would please you to have your own man at your side,” he explained, looking nothing but sincere. “Someone who will act in your interest instead of mine.”

In some way her suspicions had not been incorrect--he had done this in an attempt to please her at the expense of Ser Laenor’s well-being. His reasoning, however, had been far deeper and considerate than she had assumed. Indeed, he was right. It should have pleased her to have someone on her side, someone who would be loyal to her first and foremost when the rest of those around her loved their prince over some strange Targaryen girl. What might have been a natural desire had seemed to her a luxury she had no business chasing after, something she had put aside from her mind before she had even considered it.

On the other hand, he had thought of it--thought of her. It would have been touching if not for the way she felt exposed. Yes, princesses bruised just as hideously as scullery maids did--they had hearts vulnerable as any other, hearts that could break or split wide open with tragedy and loneliness. It was all true, and yet it was meant to be a perfect princess’ best-kept secret, things kept deep under skin-tight masks and impenetrable armor. Unwilling to incriminate herself any further, the young woman finally averted her eyes from his piercing gaze, falling stubbornly silent.

“Is that all?” her betrothed asked in his measured tone. At her silence, he stepped closer to take her hand, raising it to his lips for a courtly farewell. However, the moment he did, the slim snake that had been so comfortably resting about his neck came to life, the rattle at its tail began to sing out a lethal warning as it reared back. Refusing to give in to her body’s first instinct to shrink away, Aeranys raised her eyes to meet its beady reptilian gaze with her composure firmly intact, locked in a deadly standoff. As the serpent bared its fangs, the hissing rising from a warning to threat, the prince stepped away from her to calm the snake. As they exchanged polite parting words, she watched the creature melt under his touch, curiously content to once again lie docile as a lamb. What sway he had over the snake, it was hard to say, but that was hardly the most pressing issue at hand. With one last curtsy, she turned towards the door, her mind on the injured knight. She would have to find him and apologize for what he had been subjected to on her behalf--

“Give Ser Laenor my regards,” the prince called after her, almost as if he had read her mind. She paused at the threshold, tempted to look back to see if he was wearing that same smug expression he had been that night so long ago--but it was her self-control that won over in the end. Head held high, she made her exit, only answering the words hanging in the air behind her with a pointed slam of the door.


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


Finally in her own chambers at last, Aeranys let out a pensive sigh. Though she had nearly traversed the palace from end to end, her valiant efforts to find her knight had been less than fruitful. At the end of her search, she had visited his room in the hopes that he’d returned to rest for the night, but the only thing that had greeted her was the sight of an empty bed--a sight that sent morbid unease crawling her spine. Defeated by the deepening night she had made her way back to her own rooms, but what awaited her there was far from a peaceful respite.

Laying crammed to one corner of the large bed, the princess looked to the window. Night had long since fallen, and the moon was high in the sky, illuminating the spiraling towers of Sunspear in its cold glow. In her fingers, the black king piece twirled this way and that, following the same frenetic pace of her mind. Finally growing aware of her restless movements, she forced herself to stop, staring hard at the lone survivor of her beloved cyvasse set. “I am to be wed, Daeron,” she whispered, words she had uttered the day she had left the Red Keep. Though she had thought that she had fully grasped the situation back on that day drenched in dying sunset, it was a different sense of apprehension that seized her now. Her fate had not changed one bit, but now it was not some vague inevitability, but a concrete, visible reality.

The day was gone, and soon, the night would pass into a new day--and then, there would only be but one more setting and rising of the sun before she would be wed. Her churning thoughts and emotions led her to stumble through the corridors of her mind, keeping her awake; it was only when she had exhausted herself of worries that her eyes fell shut in slumber.

And then she awoke anew.

It was dark, but she could hear the sound of rain falling to the ground down below--feel it on her face, strangely hot. She thought she could hear--no, she could hear her name being called.

“Aer,” the voice came, faint and muffled, delirious, and for a moment she doubted her ears again before it sounded once more. “Where are you? It’s so cold. Aera…? I can’t breathe…”

She scrambled up blindly off of the ground--had she been lying down? It didn’t matter. In the pitch dark, she turned this way and that, searching for the voice.

“Aera, please. I’m scared.”

It dawned on her that the voice came from the ground beneath her. Throwing herself to the dirt, she clawed at the muddy ground like a madwoman, giving no thought to the way the grit tore into her nail beds, focusing only on the voice that was calling for her.

“Aer...I’m so cold…”

And then all at once he was in her arms, deathly cold and covered in soil, but alive. Alive, breathing, here. Caught up in a haze of disbelief, she dazedly pulled him to herself, her mind struggling to fathom it all. The rain streaked down her face, splattering onto his muddy cheek. “Daeron,” the trembling name bubbled up from deep within her before it fell from her lips, at last belonging to a boy who was not dead. “Daeron, Daeron, Daeron…”

His hands were weak as they clutched at her, his voice feverish and faint against her ear. “Don’t go, Aer,” he begged, and her heart sank at the sight of that familiar glassy look in his pale eyes. She knew that look--knew these words. “Please don’t leave me…” he whispered, sounding like a frightened little boy, and she burst into tears. These had been the words he had uttered in that last hour, fading in and out of delirium. Aeranys, for her part, could do little more than to repeat her own lines in a horrible encore.

“I won’t,” she pleaded desperately, her voice strained with sobs. She held him tight, craning her body over his as if she could forcibly prevent his body from giving up his soul. “I promise I won’t. I’m right here, Daeron. I’m never leaving you. So please don’t...”

But there was no fixing what had already been written in the past.

“Aer?” he asked, turning to her. The fever had left his eyes, and there was only an abrupt lucidity there. She knew that look, remembered the words he had breathed next, his last words filled with nothing but sweet concern--but those were not what fell on her ears next. “Liar,” he moaned, the anguished accusation ripping forth from his fragile body. Stunned, she could only hold him as he continued, staring up at her with an emotion he had never once held in his gaze. “Why did you break your promise? Why did you leave me? How could you abandon our home to wed another--how could you betray me like this?” he despaired, eyes brimming with hurt, and she too felt herself plunge into the same dark abyss.

“No, I--Daeron, please,” she choked out, but it was pure frantic horror that cut her off as he suddenly began to decay in her arms, his cheeks sinking and rotting as maggots burst through the pits of his eyes. The rain turned to blood as she began to scream, drenching her and blotting the world out in hot, steaming crimson.

She woke with a start, yanking herself free from the confines of her sheets and nearly tumbling straight to the unforgiving marble below. It was dawn, and she could see the sun as it teetered on the horizon, hemorrhaging red into the ocean--an image that only turned her stomach. Tendrils of hair clung to her face uncomfortably, damp with cold sweat and tears, and desperate to collect herself, she tried to push them away with shaking fingers. It was a dream. Nothing but a bad dream, filled with nonsense.

Still, her chest was tight as she forced herself to take in a slow breath, her movements purposefully measured as she retrieved the king piece from its place under her pillow. Squeezing it until she could feel the hard edges grind into her bones, she repeated the truth to herself like a mother would comfort a frightened child. It didn’t mean anything, that horrid nightmare. She knew her brother, didn’t she? She knew what sort of person Daeron had been. Kind, gentle, sweet--surely, he would have never blamed her for making the choiceless choice she had been given. And yet, no matter how much she tried to recall his last words to her, she could not get the sound of his dead, dead voice out of her head, accusing her--liar, liar, liar.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2020, 09:25:27 AM by nevermore girl »
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Offline asterin

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*********


Not an hour later she emerged from her rooms, looking composed and collected as ever. Striding down the halls of Sunspear with her usual grace, she noted the great number of servants working madly to bring every inch of the palace to a brilliant shine for what would come on the morrow. Even in their rush, their eyes did not fail to trail over her as she walked by, though she never indicated that she noticed.
Her destination, however, was to disappoint her again, for when she knocked upon a certain door it yielded no answer, and what was within was--once more--an empty bed. However, the state of the bed was different from the night before, and with that reassurance giving her heart, she resumed her search.

She found him at last on the training sands that she had once seen little girls ground into, going through the forms she had seen many a young man being taught. Coming to a stop at the edge of the sands, she watched for a moment. As she had feared, he wasn’t able to move with the fluid grace he had been so lauded for, no doubt having been weakened throughout his imprisonment and illness. And yet, he seemed tireless in his exercise, enough for her to speak up sooner than she had meant to, fearing he would overexert himself. “Good morning, Ser Laenor,” she called. He turned toward her voice immediately, eyes wide.

“Princess,” he began, and it was clear from his expression and tone that this was perhaps the last place he had expected her to be. He bowed hastily, sheathing his sword as she approached him. “Milady, you will ruin your dress,” he added, eyes on the ground below.

“It is only dirt, Ser Laenor,” she assured him, but the knight was quick to lead her off the training sands and onto the paved stone rimming it.

“You’re awake early, milady,” the knight began conversationally, seeming rather eager to distract her from what he had been doing.

Unfortunately for him, his liege had little intention of letting the topic slip her by. “Yes, I seem to be waking at dawn recently--the sun seems brighter here than in King’s Landing,” she answered, keeping her voice cordial even as her eyes took on a knowing glint. “But I could say the same of you, Ser Laenor. I was looking for you.”

“Looking for me, milady?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “Last night, and this morning too.”

He fidgeted under her serene gaze, his eyes flicking away. “Forgive me, princess, I…” he struggled to find the right words that would explain his sudden absence without revealing what had occurred.

“I know my betrothed came to speak with you yesterday evening, to tell you about the ceremony tomorrow,” she admitted honestly. “I would be honored to have you by my side, but I didn’t mean for it to happen like this. I’m truly sorry, Ser Laenor,” she continued on to apologize, concern marring her brow. “I don’t know what he said to you, but I apologize for any offense done to your honor.”

For a moment the youngest knight of the Kingsguard seemed conflicted, but it quickly left his expression as he spoke. “He only spoke the truth, milady,” he remarked, tone solemn.

“Pardon?”

“If there is someone who should be seeking forgiveness, it is I, princess,” the knight bowed his head, eyes lowered to the ground. “I swore an oath to protect you, and I have been shirking my sworn duty.”

Aeranys, however, was quick to disagree. “It is not as if I am left unprotected, Ser Laenor. You are hurt, and I won’t have you making those injuries worse in the name of duty--I could never ask that of you,” she insisted firmly.

“I know you wouldn’t, princess,” the young knight smiled in a strangely bittersweet way. “Perhaps I allowed myself to be indulged by your kindness. But Prince Mors reminded me that a knight is loyal to their liege above all else.” His eyes rested on the face of his princess, whom he’d been devoted to long before he had entered the Kingsguard. “In a dire situation, his knights would choose him over you without hesitation. He wanted someone by your side who would choose you each time.” The Targaryen girl remained silent, her pale eyes studying his face as if to check for falsehood. “If talk of duty cannot sway you, please think of it as granting a wish of mine, milady,” he added, a formal plea. “Allow me to be selfish, if you will.”

After a drawn-out pause, Aeranys finally relented, albeit reluctantly. “If that’s what you truly wish…” she murmured.

The knight bowed at the waist, remaining ever-so-gallant despite it all. “Thank you, milady,” he returned, his tone quiet but heartfelt.

A hush fell over them, brooding and heavy as they both fell into their own thoughts. It was Ser Laenor who broke the silence, giving voice to what had been lying heavy on his mind. “Prince Mors,” he began, a complicated mixture of emotions flickering in his eyes at what he was about to admit. “I think he wants you to be happy, milady.”

“Yes, so he’s said,” she replied demurely, though the air of detachment couldn’t go undetected. The blond young man glanced at her lovely face which remained unaffected and unreadable.

“I think he means it,” he found himself saying, even as he wondered why he felt the need. After all, right or not, his opinion of the Dornish Prince that would be marrying his princess was still a far cry from favorable.

“It’s strange,” she remarked. She paused, then turned to meet the knight’s confused gaze. “I don’t see why he’d concern himself so much with that.”

“With your happiness, princess?” Laenor confirmed, looking rather stunned. For the Velaryon boy who wanted nothing more than her happiness, who thought she deserved nothing less, her dismissive attitude was a shock. Of course, he could never tell her so, lest his heart give itself away. “Isn’t it natural for one to want their bride to be happy rather than miserable, milady?” he asked, picking his words carefully.

She looked at him and smiled, gentle and sad, but her eyes were far away. “Perhaps it is,” was all she said.

*********


When he had collected her from her chambers with the word ‘surprise,’ she hadn’t known quite what to expect. Indeed, never in her wildest dreams could she have anticipated the creature that now perched before her, tethered to a sturdy stand. It was possibly the largest bird she had seen, its plumage obsidian black and a fiery orange-red. While there were no reptilian features on the bird, she could see why they called these birds zaldrīzes hontes.

Slow and steady, she approached where it was bound, and though the bird was kept blind, it turned to the sound of her footsteps, keenly aware. “Hello,” she greeted it softly. Carefully, she reached up to tug at the straps that held the blinders in place that had supposedly been there from the time he had been hatched. The bird blinked its red-rimmed eyes, likely blinded by the sudden brightness that surrounded it, but within seconds it was watching her warily. “He said you were from Lhazar,” she continued, her tone calm and soothing as she spoke conversationally to the fearsome bird. “All the way from Essos. You’re a long way from your home and family, aren’t you?”

The bird craned its head forward, looking at her almost questioningly. “My name is Aeranys,” she supplied. She took a breath before she spoke up again, quieter this time. “I’m a long way from home, too.”

The creature, in turn, merely watched her unblinkingly. For a stretch there was only silence as they watched each other, a delicate princess and a fierce bird of prey, seemingly the most unmatched pair in the world. “I was told you’d serve me, that you’d die for me,” Aeranys began again, recalling the words Lysos Orlinar had spoken so grandly to her. “But I don’t need that. Perhaps we could be friends, instead?”

The suggestion had scarcely left her lips before the bird made a soft cooing noise, spreading its powerful wings as if to envelop her in its feathers. Aeranys blinked. Was this the signal she had been instructed to wait for? Taking hold of the tether about its large claws, she fumbled with the tie until it loosened, finally releasing the bird. For a moment it only looked at her, but then with an ear-splitting cry it took the sky in a burst of energy. She whipped around to follow it, but the stunned alarm she felt was quickly overridden by another emotion. It surged through the air, gliding on the currents that hoisted it upwards, and delight streaked through her like lightning. A bird had no place in a cage or tied to perch, she thought--it was meant to soar through the sky with no master but its own heart.

Her wistful thoughts were abruptly interrupted as the doors behind her were flung open, Ser Devran rushing to her side with blade in hand. “Are you hurt, Princess?” he asked, and Aeranys turned to see the rest of the men step out onto the balcony.

“No, I’m fine, but…” she trailed off, her gaze going from the merchant to her intended. The triumphant admiration she had felt dripped away into a rising sense of dread. The bird had been a gift, one with considerable effort and planning behind it, seeing that the merchant had travelled personally from Essos--a gift that she had lost.

“Fear not, my lady,” the merchant immediately reassured her. “He will return. He is yours now, after all.”

“I see. Thank you,” the princess nodded, but her eyes were already back on the bird, soaring higher and higher into the blue above them. Despite the merchant’s words, she could not help but wonder if the bird truly would return--in fact, she knew she wouldn’t be disappointed if it went on its own way, travelling the world at its own whim. How could she, when it looked so free?

While the chatter moved away into the distance, Aeranys knew she was not alone. Her intended came to her side, also leaning against the edge of the stone railing to look up at the bird swiftly growing smaller in the distance. “Does this please you?” he asked.

“Very much so, milord,” the young woman answered dutifully, loathe to look away from the sight above. But when his hand found hers, so gentle and warm she could’ve mistaken it for the touch of another long gone, she turned to meet his peculiar gaze. “Thank you,” she uttered softly, the simple words an apology and acknowledgement alike.
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Offline Reigning King

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“Don’t drop your shoulder.” Mors said as he circled his cousin upon the training sands of the Old Palace.  She held her form, adjusting as instructed, muscles tight and tense with muted force.  Obara had always been formidable, even as a small youngling.  She was broader and stronger than her sisters, with a handsome face and a short temper.  Standing alongside her sire, the Red Viper, and his other daughters, she seemed out of place.  She was not lithe and nimble as they were.  She had not the mind for politics nor a single romantic bone to be found within her imposing frame.  Mors often wondered what sort of woman her mother had been.  When considering her father and his lean, agile stature; it could be argued that she must have been a beastly barbarian of a woman.  Yet in her eyes, Prince Oberyn Martell shines through, cunning and quick of wit.  All four girls had the same eyes.  Regardless of the colour, they all looked on at the world through their father’s familiar, steady gaze. 

“Good.” He uttered encouragingly, shoving at her back to ensure stable footing and solid core from his pupil.  “Now, from the beginning.” Stepping back from the eleven year old, Mors raised his sparing tools, which consisted of a short blunt staff and a wooden practice shield.  She squared her shoulders to him and compensated in kind with her footing, dark eyes locked firmly on her eldest cousin. 

“Parry right,” he instructed, holding out the wooden staff for her to knock away.  “Left,” he said next, moving the wooden staff to her opposite side.  As she counter moved against him, warding off the short staff, Mors raised the wooden shield before her.  “Strike.” He added at last, bracing himself against the powerful blow from her blunted training spear.  She had been growing more robust and tenacious.  Already, at the tender age of eleven, the top of her head reached as tall as Mors’ shoulder.   Obara would grow taller still before she reached womanhood.  Her awkward footing in recent days and the soreness behind her knees indicated she was due for another growth spurt. 

“Parry left, right, strike.” Mors continued, moving around the young warrior.  “Parry right, left, strike.”  He added variance to the height and distance at which he placed her targets, forcing her to improvise her footing.  “Parry left, right, strike.” She moved fluidly, each step and accompanying thrust of her spear controlled.  “Parry right, left…” As she moved to counter the staff her cousin held out to her, quick feet side-stepped the brawny girl and caught her in the side beneath her ribs.  She grunted and stumbled back, furrowing her brow and glowering at her cousin. 

“That’s not fair.” Obara complained as she rubbed at the tender place where Mors had stuck her with the end of his staff.  “You tricked me.”

“A clever opponent will always try to trick you.” Mors returned, twirling the staff beneath his arm before falsely lunging right only to tap her again on the same sore spot on her left.  “Watch the feet and the hips.  They will tell you what’s coming.”  Taking a deep, calming breath through her nose Obara squared herself to her cousin once more.  This time, her eyes flicked to his lower half in studious calculation. 

“Parry right, left, strike.” Mors repeated, running once more through the training exercise.  “Parry left, right, strike.” He said again.  “Parry right…” As he spoke, his body moved in the direction opposite what his words had suggested.  Ever the quick study, Obara watched his feet, expertly countering with her own footing before she parried her cousin’s staff forcefully.  Following, she darted around him, aiming to return the favour and strike Mors’ in the side, but he was faster than her and blocked the blow with the wooden training shield.  “Very good, Obara.”  Mors praised, an approving satisfaction painted across his sweaty face.  “Very good.” He said again.  “You’re getting much better.” 

“Thanks to you.” Obara replied, a smile that could have almost been sweet tugging at the corners of her lips. 

“No.” Mors corrected his cousin, dragging a sleeve across the dampness of his forehead.  “Thanks to you.  I could teach technique to anybody, but you’re a true warrior.  You always have been.”  As he spoke he tucked his training staff under his arm and reached his free hand out to muss the ratty brown hair she had bound into a loose knot.   “Let’s take a break.” He said next, the tender moment inspiring a touch of compassion.  “Where’s your sister?” Obara replied by pointing off to another area of the training arena where Ser Laenor moved through his formations, Nymeria standing just behind him.  She held her right hand against the small of her back, following along with Ser Laenor, utilizing her left hand exclusively as she imitated his formations.  As Obara sauntered off to replenish her waterskin, Mors set aside his staff and shield to meander over to where Nymeria stalked the foreign knight. 

“Ser Laenor,” Mors called as he approached, inspiring the young man to look up from his feet.  “It would appear you have a shadow.” He said.  At his words, Ser Laenor looked over his shoulder and at last noticed the little girl who had been pursuing him across the training sands, secretly learning from his left-handed wielding.  Upon being spotted, Nymeria tucked both her hands behind her back and smiled up at the blond-haired knight in her darling fashion. 

“Oh.” Ser Laenor remarked, surprise making his face awkward and asking.  “Hello, there.” He greeted politely. 

“How did you lose your hand?” She asked at once. 

“I think what my cousin means to say is,” Mors began as he placed a stern hand on her shoulder and pinched at the muscle in subdued chastisement.  “Hello, my name is Nymeria.”

“Hello, my name is Nymeria.” The little girl parroted obediently. 

“Good day to you, my Lady.” Ser Laenor returned playfully.  “I am Ser Laenor, Knight of the Kingsguard.” He stepped back and bowed to her. 

“Ser Laenor lost his hand protecting Princess Aeranys.” Mors informed his cousin, his grip on her shoulder loosening into a gentle touch.  As Ser Laenor nodded along in confirmation, something brave and inspired landed softly upon Nymeria’s pretty face. 

“My sisters and I will help you protect her.” She affirmed, holding a closed fist over her heart in solidarity.  “Five hands are better than one.” Nymeria added with a cheeky wink. 

“Right, you are.” Ser Laenor replied, smiling.  “Thank you, my Lady.”

“You’re welcome.” Nymeria returned with a nod before slipping out from under her cousin’s hand and darting after her elder sister, seeking similar refreshment from the water basins. 

“Your cousins are remarkable girls.” Ser Laenor noted, his indigo eyes flicking to Prince Mors.  “They train as hard as any man.  No doubt they’ll make challenging wives for lucky men one day.”

“You think my uncle asks me to train his daughters so they’ll make good wives?” Mors asked, arching an eyebrow and looking to the knight as his side in curiosity.  Ser Laenor had no response beyond a blank stare to return.  “My, what a curious world you come from, Ser Laenor.” He observed. 

“I would say that your world is the curious one, my Lord.” Ser Laenor said carefully. 

“You should take a break.” The young Martell Prince said suddenly, changing the topic.  At Ser Laenor’s visible reluctance he added, “what if I should command it?”

“I recognize no command save for that of Princess Aeranys.” Ser Laenor replied.

“As you say.” The Golden Fang returned, approval touching on his features and inspiring a returning smile from the Valeryon Knight.  It had been a test and Ser Laenor had passed. 

“Mors!” Came a voice, shouting across the training sands.  Prince Mors looked over his shoulder to see Ser Devran rushing towards him in haste.  Casting a sideways glance at Ser Laenor, Devran leaned in close and whispered into his friend’s ear.  At once, a dark shadow fell across Mors’ face.  Exchanging a meaningful look with his sworn sword, Mors turned to shout at his cousins from across the yard. 

“Girls!  Train with Master Toyne.  I have business to attend.”  The young girls nodded in unison before turning to the Master at Arms, who bowed to Prince Mors and waved to his son beside him before stepping onto the sands himself.  “Ser Laenor.” Mors added in polite parting. 

“My Lord,” Ser Laenor uttered, returning the sentiment. 

As Prince Mors Martell marched down the stone pathways that would carry him to the decorated halls of the Old Palace, Ser Laenor wondered into whose flesh the Golden Fang would sink his teeth this day.


The Dornish Prince allowed himself to be escorted through the palace, the stone halls leading him to Princess Aeranys’ own chambers.  Guards stood at the doors to the Targaryen bride’s rooms.  They stepped aside and readily allowed Mors to step across the threshold and into the bedchamber whereupon he saw Arika, lounged upon a luxurious chair meant for his future wife, her dark curls cascading over her narrow shoulders.  At the appearance of the Lordling to whom she had played courtesan, she rose from where she was seated, her thin lips painting a coy smirk across her comely face.  She was flanked by guardsmen, Dame Natari among them.  As Mors glared at the girl who stood before him, Ser Devran’s sister broke from her ranks and stepped towards her liege.  Once at his side, she handed off a small vial to him.  It took only the briefest of glances for Prince Mors to discern at once what was contained within the glass receptacle.  Rage mounting, he waved a dismissive hand to the guards in the room who made a swift exit, Ser Devran and Dame Natari the only ones to remain at the Dornish Prince’s side. 

“Where did you get this?” Mors asked the girl before him, but she only stared back at him in silence.  “I assume you’ve poisoned the food, the wine and her wash basin as well.” He mused out loud, voice tensed like a coiled snake.  “What else?”

When Arika only shrugged in response, Mors continued saying, “I could have your head for this.  You know that, don’t you?”

“Just so long as you promise to kiss me before you slit my throat.” Arika replied mischievously, pushing her curls back behind her ears to expose her neck to her lover. 

“Ellaria won’t be able to protect you this time.” Mors cautioned the petulant teenager. 

“You don’t scare me, Mors.” Arika returned, resting her weight against one hip and crossing her arms over her chest.  “You may have everyone else fooled, but not me.  You’ve never cared for delicate things.” 

Prince Mors Martell let the heat of his anger evaporate into the air, replaced by a steely indifference.  Turning to Ser Devran he gave the quiet instruction of, “have Princess Aeranys moved to my mother’s rooms.”

“You would bestow an honour like that upon her?” Arika scoffed and rolled her eyes but Mors did not react to her words.  He didn’t even flinch.  “She doesn’t love you, Mors.” Arika continued, pressing the young man before her, looking for something -- anything, from the Prince she so adored.  “She’ll be lying awake in your mother’s bed dreaming about fucking her dead br--”

He struck her. 

The blow from his backhand took her feet from under her.  Arika fell to the floor as her curls spilled into her face, clutching at the assaulted side of her visage as a yelp of pain echoed through the rooms and out into the hallways beyond.  No one uttered a word in protest.  The three who stood around the bastard-born consort merely looked on in mutual, detached disdain.  She took a few ragged breaths before steadying herself and rising once more to her feet.  He had split her lip with his knuckles, but she permitted the crimson to trickle down her chin and spill onto her chest unhindered.  Turning to the Dornish Prince who had abused her, she offered him the same coy smile she had given him at the outset. 

“I’m usually wearing less clothes when you get rough.  Should I take off my dress?” As the fires of rages were stoked back to life within his yellow gaze, Arika stretched her lips over her teeth and smiled triumphantly.  She tensed herself, preparing for the next blow, but what came next was not what she had been expecting. 

The Golden Fang poketted the glass vial subtly before reaching out and seizing Arika by her raven curls violently.  Without care he wretched her forward, dragging her from Princess Aeranys chambers none too delicately.  Screaming and kicking, her skirts tangled between her legs as he pulled her into the hallway, throwing her onto the floor.  She rolled onto her back and looked up at him, bracing herself for whatever violence came next.  The attention of both parties was captured however, by the sudden outcry of protest that came flying down the corridor towards them.  Ser Devran at once stepped forward, blocking Princess Aeranys’ path as she shouted her challenging opposition.

“Princess Aeranys, I am so sorry…” Arika began, crawling on hands and knees, tears pooling in her eyes on command and spilling down her cheeks, mixing with the blood dripping from her lip.  “I was told to turn down your sheets, I didn’t mean to spill your wine, I’m sorry, I’m so --” She yelped again as Mors reached down to take her by the throat. 

“Enough,” the Dornish Prince spat, thrusting her back onto the cold, stone floor.  The act inspired further objection from Princess Aeranys, who fought against the knight who held her back.  “Get her out of my sight.” He commanded.  It was Dame Natari who stepped forward first, her usually warm and smiling face iced over into an expression of scornful contempt as she grabbed the young girl under the arm and hoisted her to her feet.  The men beneath her command followed in kind, surrounding the bleeding, wailing creature they hauled off to some far reaching corner of the Old Palace. 

Turning back to his betrothed, still wearing the sweat of his afternoon spent training with his cousins, he didn’t bother to offer her any words of comfort.  Instead he turned his attention to his knight, telling him, “take a walk.”

As Prince Mors showed his back to Princess Aeranys and stalked down the halls in the direction in which they had dragged off Arika, Ser Devran turned to the courtly Lady he had held at bay.  “Come, Princess.” Though his voice was gentle and asking, she wasn’t really being given a choice. 

« Last Edit: February 13, 2020, 10:44:58 PM by Reigning King »

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Clunk.

Ellaria Sand sat at a finely crafted table topped with painted glass as a small vial was set upon its surface.   Her dark hues flicked from the trinket to the young man who had placed it before her.  She pursed her lips, reclining against the chair in which she sat, crossing one leg over the other.  Folding her hands upon her lap she looked up at her lover’s nephew with a pleasant expression that contradicted her pointed gaze.  Smiling at him she asked, “have you brought me a present, Mors?”

“How did she get it?” The heir to Dorne asked in return harshly. 

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ellaria answered, the same pleasant expression held upon the lovely face that had captured the Red Viper’s heart. 

“No more games.” Prince Mors returned sternly.  “I want her gone.”

“Arranging a suitable match can take time.” She countered, some of the pleasantness slipping off her face, replaced with irritation and dread. 

“I can think of many Lords who wouldn’t mind having another consort in their court.” There was no warmth to be found in Mors Martell’s serious voice, only anger brewing in his golden eyes.  Whatever Arika had done this time, she had pushed him too far. 

“A month ago she was the apple of your eye.” Ellaria pointed out with a wry grin.  “Now you’d see her made into a nobleman’s whore?”

“She tried to poison Princess Aeranys.” He told her bluntly.  The surprise in her face at the words seemed genuine, but Mors could never be sure what was true and what was false with the Paramour of Oberyn Martell.  It was safer to assume that the clever woman knew everything, especially with regards to her troublesome chambermaid.  “I’d sooner see her dead.” 

“Please Mors, be reasonable.” Ellaria tried, uncrossing her legs and leaning across the table.  “You had to know this would happen.  Arika is a very sensitive girl, and she loves you dearly.”

“Like I said, no more games.” Mors replied as he reached out to replace the vial within the pockets of his trousers.  “Find a new place for her, or I’ll find a hole in the desert for her.” With those words, he left Ellaria Sand to her solitude. 

It wasn’t until the afternoon had waned into the early hours of the evening that Ser Devran and Princess Aeranys left the Water Gardens and returned to the Old Palace.  It had been a squire who had found the pair and whispered secretive instructions into the knight’s ear.  When he escorted his charge back to her quarters, they were not the ones she had grown accustomed to, but a different set of rooms altogether.  The doors that he guided her to were much closer to the Prince’s own chambers than her previous accomodations had been.  Turning the handle and swinging the intricately carved wood inward, he gestured for the Princess of King’s Landing to enter but as she passed Ser Devran to step across the threshold she hesitated.  Perhaps, it was the small feast prepared and laid out upon the long table within that gave her pause.  More likely, however, it was the young man who stood at the opposite end to the room with his back turned to the door, gazing out at the flickering lights of the Shadow City beneath.  He donned fresh, clean tunics and smelled of citrus oils.  Turning at the sound of the opening door, he wore his usual mask of inscrutable emotion. 


“Thank you, Ser Devran.” Prince Mors said calmly, looking past the young woman who stood before him.  Bowing, the Dornish knight made his exit, practically closing the door against Princess Aerany’s backside. 

“I’m afraid your chambers have been spoiled.”  He told her as he moved from the window to step around the table, his hands clasped behind his back.  “You’ll be staying here until other arrangements can be made.”  The voice he spoke with was calm and even, reminiscent of the version of Mors that Princess Aeranys had first encountered in her father’s court so many years ago.  The warmth had gone from his gaze along with whatever nectar Mors had been trying to sap from his black heart in recent days.  “I’ve had your effects moved on your behalf.”  Stopping his stride at one of two places set at the table, he pulled his hand out from where it had been resting behind his back to position a single piece from what was surely once a well-crafted cyvasse set upon the table’s surface, alongside the silverware.  “I don’t think I forgot anything.” He mused knowingly, allowing a finger to linger on the piece’s top before reaching for the chair, pulling it back from the table invitingly. 

“Please.” Prince Mors said graciously, gesturing to the cushioned seat.  He could feel the tension growing thick between them as she neared him and lowered herself at her place, her betrothed tucking in her chair.  Next, he moved for the wine, reaching around her and uncorking the bottle with a muted pop.  As he poured the Dornish reds into her goblet, his pale eyes, golden in the candlelight, found hers. 

“These rooms were once my mother’s.”  He told her, his cadence casual in spite of the heavy atmosphere.  “I trust you’ll treat them kindly.” He added as he lifted the edge of the bottle’s mouth from her goblet and crossed to the other end of the table to fill his own.  Mors did so in silence, taking his seat across from Princess Aeranys with all the nonchalance of a seemingly carefree man.  He cut into the meat which was situated on the table between them, portioning out his own plate whilst his intended sat stoically; silent and unmoving.  Mors let the quiet linger for a little while longer between them, filling the painted porcelain before him, until at last he broke the tension. 

“Go ahead.” Prince Mors Nymeros Martell prompted the Princess he dined with, bringing his goblet to his lips and sipping at the wine.  “Ask me.”

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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When Princess Aeranys was led back to her room, she was greeted by the sight of a half a dozen seamstresses, all-too-eager to get their hands on her. What with the ceremony being on the morrow, everything had to be finished before dawn broke. Unfortunately, the beleaguered dressmakers knew that they would be working their fingers to the bloody bone until the late hours of the night to complete what was currently only a loose shift of a dress. They had only just finished the orders for the princess’ wardrobe, now filled to the brim with fine Dornish silk gowns, but they were well aware of the fact that this dress would be the most important of them all. Much like the princess that they layered silks and pins onto, they hadn’t thought that the wedding would be happening so soon. Their panic was almost palpable in the air, and the pale-haired girl stood as silent and compliant as a doll throughout the whole frenzied ordeal.

The moment they rushed off to continue working in earnest, it was Septa Oranea who came to collect her next, taking her down to the Sept to guide her through the path that she would be walking during the ceremony. The Sept was also bustling with activity, dozens of people bringing every inch of the grand place to a shine. They parted for the towering Septa and her willowy charge as they stepped through the vast space, but they never failed to steal a second glance towards the girl who would officially be wed to their beloved prince.

Aeranys was careful to pay attention to Septa Oranea’s measured words as she explained what would be expected of her during the ceremony. Though her calm and stern tone was one that inspired attention, once the Septa moved onto the proceedings of the wedding ceremony itself, which the princess was more than familiar with, Aeranys found her focus slipping.

As her gaze wandered over the constant rush of workers, she could see that the flow was momentarily disturbed on one side as people mindlessly stepped around an obstacle. As her eyes probed the odd spot, she could soon make out a certain figure in between hurrying legs and swirling skirts--he worked with his head downturned, facing the floor he could not see as he scrubbed away the filth that might have never been there in the first place. Even from the distance she could tell that his hands were red, worse off than the cracked and blistered skin she had seen only a few days prior. Her chest tightened, but before she could quite act on the feeling--or even put a name to it, in fact--another figure had approached her, commanding her attention.

“Princess Aeranys,” the High Septa greeted her, standing tall and elegant in her white robes.

The princess curtsied respectfully, offering her own demure greetings, but it could not compare to the way Septa Oranea greeted the High Septa, pious and reverent.

“I’ve been waiting for you to arrive,” High Septa Nysah continued, her voice ever-stately. “I assume your other matters in the Sept are finished?”

Aeranys turned to look up to the dark-skinned Septa at her side, who only bowed her head before excusing herself, leaving her alone with the High Septa. “Come,” the older woman intoned, only a touch of warmth in her stern, ringing tones. Following her lead, the princess trailed up the winding stairs at the very back of the sept, leading to a secluded second story that looked down upon the bustling ground floor below. At this height, they almost stood as tall as the Seven themselves, able to peer upon their graven faces with a greater intimacy than anyone knelt among the candles would.

The High Septa strode to her elaborately carved writing desk, sitting down before reaching up and removing the glittering headpiece that adorned her head. Though such an action would have made most figures pale in regality, the way the High Septa sat in her seat, poised and collected, did more to speak to her character than any of the things she wore. After a beat, she gestured to the cushioned seat before her, beckoning the young woman to sit. Aeranys obeyed, feeling the High Septa’s piercing dark gaze resting measuringly on her face. “You seem to be faring better with our prince,” she started, a note of reserved approval tucked away in her voice. “Have the Seven blessed you with words of guidance?”

Faring better? It was difficult to say if that was true, but by all public means, it must have seemed so. In that case, Aeranys was not foolish enough to break that illusion. “If they have given me guidance, it was in a way other than a direct message,” she answered humbly. “Unfortunately, the gods do not speak to me as they do you, milady.”

“Other ways?” the dark-haired woman repeated, her brows arching ever-so-slightly. “Have you received counsel by those who know our prince well?”

“Why, yes…” Aeranys trailed off, pausing as she thought of what to say.

“Speak up, child.”

The words were stern, truly the tone of one who had brought those unruly and headstrong to heel, and the princess yielded the answers she sought. “I hesitate to call all the counsel I received to be from divine knowledge, milady, as some of it proved contrary to the fact.” The septa said nothing, but her gaze prompted her to explain further. “I was told by more than one person privy to the prince’s inner circle that I must never disturb him while he was in his private study. And yet when I did not heed their warning, I was greeted with nothing but courtesy.”

Unlike her former answers, this one seemed to unsettle the High Septa in some way. “You went into his underground study?” she questioned, her voice ringing more like iron than hymns. “Is that true?”

“Yes, milady. Just the night prior.”

“Then I imagine you saw what was inside,” she concluded, her lips pursing together.

“If you mean the serpents, milady, yes,” Aeranys responded, keeping her voice calm and neutral despite the feeling that she had made a misstep in some form. “He seems to have quite an affinity for them.”

High Septa Nysah only fell into a brooding silence, her gaze elsewhere as the seconds passed. Clearly, this all meant something to her--what, Aeranys could not venture a guess. When the stillness was finally broken, it was by the older woman, who had turned back towards her with something different in her eyes. “This time I have counsel for you, Princess Aeranys. Will you hear it?” she inquired.

“Of course, I welcome your words of wisdom,” the young woman responded, speaking what would have been the only acceptable answer to give.

The septa nodded, but her eyes already seemed far away. “Our prince has always loved those creatures,” she started, her voice strangely subdued. “Even when he was a little boy. His lady mother, however, abhorred them. They terrified her, but her son would take any chance he had to bring them inside them to make them pets. She didn’t want them near her--she didn’t want them near him, either. And so she instructed his Septa to act accordingly.”

There was a pause, a breath, and though she still appeared lost in her memories, another emotion flickered by her hard face. “I knew her. I knew her well, his Septa. Septa Maygen.” A smile, sad but warm, dawned on her lips. “There wasn’t another septa that embodied the Seven’s graces as she did. She was my dearest friend, one that could never be replaced.”

For a moment there was another pause, longer than the former. This time, the warmth seemed to seep from her face with each word spoken. “I remember the day like it was yesterday. He found a small green serpent in the grass during his lessons, and as he was wont to do, he picked it right up. He’d done so many times before, and Maygen had warned him time and time not to do so. So when she saw him playing with the creature, she snatched it away and crushed it under a rock.”

“It was but a little thing,” she uttered a half-hearted laugh, her dark gaze finally meeting hers for the first time since she had begun to tell her tale. “Others wouldn’t have given another thought to it. I wouldn’t have. But when we ate our midday meal together, she told me she felt troubled about the whole affair. That was Maygen--she could be so soft-hearted, even when she had acted in discipline. I remember once she took a rod to another child, and afterwards she was so upset…” the High Septa trailed off, but then having caught herself straying in the corridors of memories finer than the one she was recounting, she straightened her course. “She went up to the dormitories to rest, and it wasn’t long before I followed. I thought--I thought I would be able to comfort her.” There was another heavy silence, heavier than the rest, dripping with the dread of what was to come.

“When I entered our room, there was our prince, a boy of only six years and a handful of moons. Covered with blood from near head-to-toe, a bloody rock at his feet. And in her bed, my Maygen lay. But at first I could not believe it was her, because her face…” she swallowed harshly, then forced the truth into the air between them. “None of her features remained. I tried to save her, but she was already long gone.” The memory was reluctant to fade, but when the septa looked away, the princess could see that she had returned to the room, though spent and heartbroken.

“You loved her,” Aeranys said quietly, because there could have been no other truth. She knew what loss sounded like, what it felt like to have such a large part of one’s heart torn away all at once, and she could recognize it so plainly written in her dark eyes, the way she spoke of her Maygen.

The High Septa looked up, meeting her gaze without shame or surprise. “I did,” she confirmed matter-of-factly. “I would have given my life for hers in a heartbeat if I’d been given the chance.”

“I’m sorry,” the princess offered solemnly. There was no more to say. She had been given many words during her period of mourning, fancy, pretty ones that had never meant a single thing--none of those eloquent sentiments would bring her brother back from the dead, nor would they plug his absence.

“As am I. But I did not tell you this for your sympathy,” the older woman answered, her posture straightening as she put her grief back into the casket buried deep in her chest. “Our prince loves those creatures, perhaps more than his own kind. His mother learned that the hard way, at the cost of Maygen,” she spoke, and a weary, wan smile ghosted above her lips. “Tread carefully, princess. One never knows if there lies a snake in the grass under your dainty feet, and one never knows the price you’ll pay, should you step upon it.”




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« Last Edit: March 14, 2020, 06:36:51 AM by asterin »
.。*゚+.*.。bury me in the stars +..。*゚☾+