Mummers´ Show

pinkolifant

Chapter 046

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Lady Stoneheart

"It was not supposed to go that way," the older voice reprimanded the somewhat younger one under the protection of the darkness, with well practised authority.

"No, it wasn't," the younger one agreed, unwillingly, not loosing the overtone of utmost superiority it almost always possessed. "But it can still be arranged."

High stone fencing, surmounted with iron bars, loomed around two hooded figures talking, gesticulating wildly with three skeletal, bony arms, in the awfully fresh air of the night.

"How?" the older one rebelled. "The queen and the false king should have been in irreconcilable enmity! Not that his Blackfyre sellswords and he in person defend her and slice down the ironborn warriors like animal fat! And even if they did not, her beast would have buried its claws deep in the squid's dead flesh before he ever managed to throw his black cloak upon her and force her to be his wife in front of all."

"Maybe not," the younger voice calculated. "Euron would have cut her throat wide open before the dragon could have landed…"

"So you wanted Daenerys dead, didn't you? Contrary to what you told poor Euron?"

The younger, more stubborn man, did not speak.

"Always loyal to a new master and to none of them fully," the aged voice concluded in unbroken silence. "Be as it may, there was no need for a bloody dragon to land! What with the bastard of the sister of the Sword of the Morning doing the beast's filthy work…." the old manly drawl complained as if he were an elderly woman whose cooking had gone wrong on her daughter's wedding day. "If that little piece of knowledge on Aegon is true at all, and not only something you told me and spread around to foster your own goals, unbeknownst to me."

"As true as when you had Lord Stark's sword re-forged and delivered as a gift to Lord Greyjoy without telling me!" the thinner voice accused, rising in volume over the borders of the precinct, in a garden abandoned at the late hour. Hushed sounds of pleasure, and others, of pain, all of them muted and unclear, penetrated the night air from the house in front of which the two figures were stuck in disagreement.

"It was an unfortunate omission," the old voice admitted. "I suppose you wanted to wear it yourself on the occasion of wedding his daughter. The queen promised you her hand, didn't she?"

"Not in so many words, but she has refused all her other suitors with well chosen elaborate excuses," the mocking voice said, convinced of his superiority. "I care little for the queen, yet I can handle her in need. She will not be as malleable as Aegon may have been in the right circumstances. Raised by a septa… Indeed… I am willing to agree; even I have made a mistake in that regard. If I had known his septa was as feisty, I would have never approached the impostor dragon or the old griffin fool with any propositions."

"Quiet, my friend," the older voice admonished with fear. "The very air in this city has eyes and ears."

"Not so in the back yard of the whorehouse not even Lord Varys knows that I own," the young voice said placidly. "Orton Merryweather runs it for me. And pray, tell me, who would ever dream to look for the High Septon in a place like this?"

"What are you proposing now?" the gnarled voice changed the matter at hand.

"I will speak to Euron before his execution like I spoke to Lemore. I suspect him to be a more willing listener to my pleas. He can still have his revenge, if not the woman he wanted. I know I would want it in his place. His priest did not reveal himself in the crowd. Moqorro can summon the army of the dead on behalf of Euron, to align with the slavers and attack the city when the fools open the doors after the mummery. And when they do, all the dragons in the known world will not be able to help Daenerys Targaryen…"

"And if she accesses her father's wildfire stock before that?"

"As if Cersei would ever tell her where that is. The Whore Queen is the only one who knew it at court, she and Qyburn who is no longer with us. Alas, neither are the pyromancers. My men made short work of the two of them still in existence. Before they died, bravely, I have to say, they confessed everything to my loyal Kettleblacks, who survived not only the fornications with Cersei, but also your gentle questioning, mind you. The dying pyromancers told that the place enjoyed a special protection and could not be easily entered. Soon, my friend and ally, I will be the master of Aerys' wildfire. So, please, spare me your petty worries," Lord Baelish said showing his thin face from under the hood, adorned with a neatly trimmed goatee, its expression becoming more and more confident in the pale moon, who shyly showed her half-rounded face over the garden wasted on selling false pleasures. "You will keep your high duty of the Faith and your head on your shoulders, which is way more than you deserve if you ask me, or the Kettleblacks, for an honest opinion. And I, I will acquire what my heart has always desired."

"What?" the older man spat out like a curse.

"The young Catelyn Stark, of course," Baelish said sheepishly to the night air that stirred. "In the shape of her lovely daughter, who dared lying to me that she was no longer a maid to mislead me."

"Was that why you betrayed the late Lady Catelyn's husband when he asked for your help?" the High Septon did not yet exhaust all his arrows.

"That man did not need my help to die. He did too well on his own," the mocking bird stated.

"Still, septons and sparrows talk much," the insistent old voice insinuated, turned overly prudent, if not any kinder with age. "If I am to send my Warrior's Sons as envoys to the slavers and compromise my head further in this alliance of ours, it is only fair that I know this of you. Have you or have you not betrayed Lord Eddard Stark?"

"You wound me too deeply, Your Holiness," Baelish said. "It is not my fault that my late wife Lisa Arryn, born Tully, wrote to Catelyn Stark, and blamed the Lannisters for her late husband's murder, when it was Lysa herself who served Jon Arryn the tears of Lys with her gentle soothing hand… Amidst soft kisses on his wrinkled neck… It was a hard life, for a young blossoming woman like Lysa to endure the attentions of a man thrice her age."

"A poison procured by a friendly bird-like hand, no doubt, accompanied by whispers of what she could do, and what joy she could feel between her legs if she did it right…"

"An interesting tale and no more than that," Littlefinger refused the notion as a master of coin would turn down an unfavourable loan. "Your rusty sword suffers from too vivid fantasies."

"I am sure your own weapon will be nowhere nearly as dried out as mine when you reach my number of name days," High Septon continued in a vein most unseemly for the highest servant of the Seven. "Not after you sharpen your failing tiny sword at the entrance of your sweet lady wife to be…"

"Enough!" the mocking bird said. "So we do have an understanding?"

"I will send out the sons of the Faith to the faithless foreigners as you wish to be done," the High Septon said. "And when either Lord Euron or a godless slaver receives my blessing as a rightful king, you will tell me everything you know about how Lord Eddard Stark met his untimely death…"

"As soon as you wed me to his lovely daughter and the bedding ceremony is completed," Baelish squeezed through his teeth.

"Before the wedding and the bedding, at the door of the sept if it pleases you, and if you do not choose to tell me earlier," the old man said lazily, striking his final bargain.

"I accept," Baelish said, accomplished. "And now, Your Holiness, I will take your leave. There are still some final arrangements to be made. By the queen's command the mummery will restart tomorrow at first light. And your slavers with my dead should storm the gates at nightfall. There should be no mistakes this time. No saviours or heroes. No dragons either."

"Only the vultures," the High Septon noted, sighing, seemingly having second thoughts all of a sudden. "My lord, shouldn't we consider halting all this? Daenerys still trusts us and she doesn't strike me like merciful for all her innocent expressions."

"She is maintaining a fame of a hard woman by the ill-placed stories of her counsellors, but she is as kind as her brother Rhaegar had been," Baelish dismissed the argument. "And he drowned in the stinky river like a peasant after he had been butchered like a pig."

"Rhaegar had no dragons," the High Septon tried his last weapon.

"No," the mocking bird said. "And his unfortunate sister only has one. Where are the other two that ran away in Highgarden? Why didn't they fly back to their mother like small baby snakes? And who is the hero from all the new songs sung in the Reach? It is not the queen or any of her servants, that much is clear. The bards name him the great and noble knight of broken hands… who sacrificed his life to steal the horn of the dragonlords, or who took Ice from Euron in a fight of giants, or told the wild scaled beasts to fly free… It all depends on whichinsipid songs you choose to listen to. That man, if he exists, must have the mastery over two dragons now, not only one... If I could only list him on our side… The slavers would pay him handsomely in gold for all his trouble in securing the animals for them… I sent out the ravens asking for news, to such men as I trust to pay for their services, but none of them have returned. As if the buggering birds could tell who ordered their slaughter when we needed Lemore to burn…"

"The news from the Reach are just that, scant, my lord, and the songs are just that, songs… Not even Lord Mace knows for certain. His son and heir Ser Willas did not make it to the capital for the mummery. The movement of the enemy companies delayed his travel, before Euron supposedly accepted the peace terms. Only the mummers and the songs arrived from the south before the siege …. And the Dornish who rode through the dead on their reckless horses…" the High Septon sighed, giving an account of things well known.

"Wouldn't this Elder Brother provide you with the knowledge we seek?"

"I'd rather not ask. He was different last time I saw him. More shrewd, less manse than the man I had known for years. Know this too, for it cannot harm me now: if I hadn't the wits and the means to arrange my election to this high office on time, it would have been him your ally, and he carrying the High Septon's crown. His standing among the voting septons had been way higher than mine. My ancient guts are churning, my lord. We should stop while we still can," some wisdom of the old age finally spoke through the mouth of the former wandering septon from the riverlands.

Come what may, it was not to last.

"We cannot stop at the threshold of victory…" verses proper of Lord Baelish started drawing castles in the attentive air, promising honour and glory. "I, the Lord of Winterfell! And you and your chosen Warrior's Sons wearing the High Septon's crown for all times!"

"You are right," the gnarled voice recomposed itself as fast as it had doubted. "I should stop being a coward. There is no turning back."

When the two men moved to the inside of the brothel from the secluded outdoor space where they talked, the night air convulsed in the shrubs. It tumbled with the gusts of a new wind, freshly come all over from the distant sea. Another figure crawled out from the inconspicuous greenery. Furiously, it leaped on the high fence of stone, and slid through the bars to the dirty street below with quaint ease, a mirthless creature of wicked life in death, as it was never meant to exist. The wind could not see her, so swift was she. But a red priest met her further down the street, not the one serving Lord Euron, hiding in the city, but the one who had once rode with Lord Beric Dondarrion, and his short lived Brotherhood Without Banners.

"My lady," Thoros of Myr said, "let me help you leave King's Landing before the guards catch up with us. They should not be lingering far …"

Hissing told him no one could help her, or so his lady believed. One mistake after another, her faded voice may have affirmed. How I erred… My sweet innocent daughter…

"Many people erred and even those who didn't died in the War of Five Kings," Thoros found the courage to oppose her. "Lady Sansa will see the truth of all your actions one day… No, I haven't seen anything about Lord Stark in my flames. Only this abandoned garden, the way leading to it, and a mortal foe of your late husband, meeting an enemy of R'hllor. I had no idea who they would be when I brought you here. The science of the fire is imprecise, as I have told you on many an occasion. Whatever has displeased you so, my lady, I am truly sorry for it."

Thoros of Myr followed his lady back to the plaza of the Great Sept of Baelor. On the way, Lady Stoneheart surrendered to the guards from whom they had escaped in the confusion of the day's fight. Most of the lords and smallfolk retired for the evening, but the prisoners of Daenerys Targaryen only huddled between the legs of her blessed forefather and waited for dawn, not causing any more distress to the their Unsullied keepers.

When the first rays of the rising sun showed on the horizon, a gurgle woke up the servant of the Lord of Light, who once again dared to offer new hope to his mistress. "No, my lady," Thoros disagreed. "Daenerys is the Dragon Queen. The flames favour her steps, as well as those of some others whose faces I have not been able to recognise. But the latest Lord of Harrenhal is not among them. If he suspected only the half of what I have seen, and if any of it will come to pass, he would have stayed in the riverlands."

"He would have never left his seat if he cherished his life."

The sleeping girl

The wolf woke up full of gnawing hunger where the girl could not. In the woods outside the city, lurking at the strange fleet where men were chained to oars and beaten up to row faster.

The healer with dark keen eyes was standing above the girl in the great sept where she was laid to rest by her stupid companion, strong as the boar who had killed the old drunk king his father years ago, after the hopeless rebellion of the silly krakens against the Silver Queen erupted. The eyes of the healer pleaded for her help, for a help of a girl who could not help herself to wake up and see.

The wolf howled on the outside with unhindered emotion, for the intentions of the army it watched were not noble. But their ships were well guarded and the enemies too many. Its pack has not arrived yet from the riverlands.

The girl could not wake, and the wolf could not return to the city to help her. Her real sister, the one walking on two paws, should never know. She was nearby, and she was happy, the girl and the wolf both knew. Sansa… That was her name! She must have already cried for the loss of her younger sister, and she should not be forced to do it once more.

The dark eyes above the sleeping girl had the power to instill her some strength. She stirred and grasped the healer's hand, her grip harder than steel or stone. He wanted to retrieve it but he could not. And the girl marvelled at the heated sensation of an elongated hand, contrary to the icy touch she now possessed, cursed to lie like dead by the unforgiving god of the black and white, whose orders she had disobeyed.

Then again, there might have been hope still. The white part of the door to the temple of the merciless god, whom the girl had once sworn to serve, not knowing any better, had been made out of weirwood. And where weirwood was, the old gods were not far. They may yet protect the girl, and her sister, where no one else would. They were all they had left from their home, and their family, if the knives of his unfaithful brothers had found and pierced Jon's heart as the girl was dreaming before she found herself in the sept. She could see her own body from the outside, as stale air hovering over her own motionless form, and that of the tall healer trying to cure her. If the knives dug out Jon's heart, the two girls were the only ones left. The last members of an old family whose name she could not remember. And only one of them was truly awake.

The warm touch of the monk's hand against her flesh, whispered to the sleeping girl that it was not so. That she was mistaken. How, or why, she did not know, or he was not able to tell her. When he poured a healthily smelling drink in her parched lips, drop by drop, she slurped it expecting poison, most welcome to ease her imminent passing. Instead, she received a gift of an almost dreamless sleep. The older man did not know her, yet he cared for her as her father would have done. He showed her a love almost as great as the one the stupid bastard stag bore her, in his stubborn heart.

No featherbed for me! she sung merrily in her sleep, knowing that the day of her death was approaching with the end of the mummery, if she failed to find a hold strong enough to the world of the living things. The healing hands and the benign potion of the man of the Seven have nearly, nearly brought her back to life. But nearly had never been enough.

The wolf howled again, feasting on a meat of the horse it caught. The animal sailed across the high seas only to end up as a meal to the forest ruler of the far north. Direwolves multiplied behind the Wall, them, and the walkers and their blue-eyed slaves, just like the hair of mortal men and women grew longer, shinier and thicker with the arrival of winter.

The girl fought valiantly to open her eyes. But as much as she strove, her lids remained closed, and heavy. And the man who nearly helped her wake crouched helplessly next to her sleeping form, himself lacking in support she could have freely given.

If only the old gods opened their blinded eyes, to see!

Mance

Mance Rayder nervously pondered the odds to finish his play this time, and expose his plea in full. He was restless since his return to the capital, finding and hiring players, peasants, and props for the greatest song of his life.

After this I can run my own puppet show in Dorne, he thought, wondering why he had thought of Dorne of all places. For when the show ended, if he secured the help he came to seek, he would ride north. Only when the Long Night would be over, he would allow his heart to follow the way back south, and west, to the shores where the Citadel was, if it still stood by that time. By then, if he was still alive, he would be too old to go anywhere else, he reckoned, and much less to Dorne.

He stepped out on the stage before any of his players would, with the sun rising. The morning held a sign of an unspoken promise, and he abruptly decided to invent a short simple song to welcome Daenerys and Aegon, and everyone who patiently gathered one more time to see the mummery.

Mance Rayder hoped there was something of Aegon the Conqueror in both the rightful queen, and the Kingsguard bastard from Dorne. Who by the colour of his eyes and hair, and by the love that linked his parents, must have had more than a flare of Targaryen blood in his remote and forgotten ancestry. If Mance was wrong about the two of them, Westeros would sink to darkness, never to stand up again. The white walkers would rule a realm of wights made of cold flesh, and blackened blood crumbling into dust. Mance would burn before it came to that. But then Jon Snow would perish too, and so would Mance's son. In conjunction with so many others who deserved to live.

Baring his soul, Mance sang, wishing that he, the wildling, the man getting past the prime of his days, could wake up the bravery in the young kings and queens, could call all the three dragons together and send them far north before it was too late. If we do not stand together, we will fall, my lords, he mocked the silk clad cowards who did not see their peril. If only he could open a way to the recklessness of youth in their fearful hearts!

Aegon and Daenerys were watching him closely. They were not the only ones. High Septon and Baelish watched him too, and Lord Tyrell, and Lord Frey, and the dark skinny envoys from Dorne, reminding him of his most recent sin. And the sleeping girl hidden behind the statue of Baelor, in arms of the once gutted lad who would play Robert Baratheon. And one of his mummers behind his back, but he could not tell which one, except that the regard of those eyes had been the most pungent of all. The Hound, he thought, that one still hates my songs. He wondered if the uncouth man had already heard rhymes about his own deeds, spreading to the capital from the green slopes of the Reach, faster than a man could ride, or a raven fly.

Unburdened, Mance Rayder sang disrespectfully.

A son of runaways from Valyria,

Aegon flew from over the seas

On the wings of a black dragon,

His brother and his blood.

His sisters have come along,

Those with snout and claws

And those with slender arms -

His women and his wives.

xxx

For the dragons of old

Mated with each other

Afraid that they would change

Afraid of losing their force

Afraid that love would doom them

If passion led them astray.

xxxxxx

Aegon flew to a realm of men

With no blood of his.

And his siblings with claws

Had made him king.

The dragons made him king

And his wives his queens

xxxxxxx

Torrhen then ruled the north.

His blood was made of ice,

Of winter in his veins,

Of persisting against the tide.

He knelt to the dragon

Not out of fear, nor out of spite;

The dragon had something

King Torrhen had not.

The dragon had the fire

The terror of the cold

The doom of the enemy

From the untamed north

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Torrhen knelt and asked

Asked of Aegon the Conqueror

Asked of his sons and his daughters:

Remember the north!

When the cold winds blow,

When the white walkers wake,

When the Long Night comes.

And Aegon just said: "Aye."

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Many seasons have passed.

Aegon and his sisters were gone

All the dragons were dead

Or banished from the realm

When the evil in the north awoke

Rejoicing, safe and sound.

xx

Hear, oh hear my story!

And tell me at the end

If King Torrhen knelt in vain

To the ruin of his lands!

xx

Hear, oh hear my story!

Of the last dragon

Of fire which burned to melt the ice

Of love between the two.

xx

Hear, oh hear my story!

Of the lost dragon

Of the lost wolf

In whom Aegon and Torrhen stand united

In whose hands there may be hope.

xx

Elder Brother

In the depths of the Great Sept of Baelor, an apprentice pyromancer of Aerys II, a man now older than Lord Walder Frey, finished adjusting the lid of alchemists' glass to the jar of wildfire.

Wiping the excessive sweat from his wrinkled brow, he returned the armour breastplate to the Elder Brother, who would return to quietly observe his work whenever his role in the mummery so allowed. Mance and Jaime were lucky, or perhaps destined to find the old man, hiding in the sept itself, shuddering with unknown terror, unwilling to tell them truly what brought him there. Only one thing was certain, the man who once survived the murder of his king and his brothers in art by hiding in a dragon skull, had managed to avoid a mortal peril once again by the fine skill of endurance he must have been born with.

Mance embarked on showing his work. The mummery was going on very well from what the monk could conclude. The Elder Brother read through the first few appearances of Lord Eddard Stark with only a mild interest, eager to see the pyromancer successful in his efforts before he would devote any more attention to the play. It was the least he could do, and the sense of the responsibility for the danger he had carried to the sept overwhelmed all other considerations and curiosities.

Outside, Rhaegar and Lyanna were about to kiss for the first time in Raventree. The monk would soon need armour to pose as Ser Barristan Selmy, to be defeated by Rhaegar at the tourney in Harrenhal.

"Is it done?" he asked the pyromancer who reacted as if he had been stung by a snake to the first sound of his voice.

"It is, my lord, I mean, brother," the pyromancer took off the elaborate crystal gloves he needed to handle both the jar and the armour. His eyes turned large when the monk fastened the breastplate under his cloak without flinching, without even giving the piece of smith's work a second look.

"Aerys's metal cools down fast," the Elder Brother commented. "Feel for yourself."

"Oh, no my lord," the pyromancer excused himself, as one pierced by hard steel in the guts. The Elder Brother observed with curiosity the wrongness of the treatment he had been awarded once again, not corresponding to a man of the Faith. "I could not do that," the fire maester explained. "I would return to hiding now, if I may. My two younger brothers have been missing for a few days. Whatever destiny has befallen them, I would rather avoid it."

"Go ahead," the Elder Brother relieved the pyromancer of his duties and his worries, and readied himself to be unhorsed in a make-believe tourney.

Sansa

When Prince Rhaegar lay a crown of true blue roses, picked up fresh somewhere on the outskirts of King's Landing by the tireless hands of Mance Rayder,in the lap of Lady Lyanna, she stood up and brought the fragile blue petals of the thorny flowers to the softness of her lips.

Sansa never did that when they read the tourney scene for the first time in front of the melted walls of Harrenhal. Yet on the top of the stairs where her father had lost his life, it was the only thing she could do to respond to a warm gaze of the grey eyes in the slit of the helm they made Sandor wear over his face.

His ruined face which she now longed to explore in plain daylight, somewhere safe where no one would be watching.

She wished he would shiver under the touch of her lips on his scars, where the evening before he trembled only from the exploration of her hands. The puckered skin would be dry and harmless like the animal pelts the cloaks were made of in the north, she knew, yet it would give her immense joy to run her lips through it, for as long as he would let her. She wouldn't spare the warm part of his face, and she suspected she would then tangle her hands in the softness of his long hair. To gather courage and continue leaving a trail of her lips on his neck, and further down his large body, which she wanted to see fully uncovered, washed in light, all the way to the most unladylike place of all that she had never dared to look upon, yet.

Sansa felt her cheeks colour as they rarely did of late, and the eyes of the crowd devouring the image offered by her masked face.

Lady Lyanna was back, and her armour of ice was cracking for all to see. She pressed her lips tighter to the blue of the flowers, before she lowered the wreath to her pounding heart. Prince Rhaegar and Lady Lyanna looked at each other as if their love could tear down the Wall, and the multitude was stunned. Princess Elia, looking strangely toothless, as did the young lady who posed like Rhaegar's first wife, fainted masterfully while the people uttered a collective sigh. Ser Daven approved from the back, buried in parchments he required as a prompter.

Aerys II urged Ser Barristan Selmy with a look of madness in his purple eyes to find him the mystery knight, whom he hated and admired in equal parts. Soon, real Rhaegar saved Lyanna from his father's mercenary wearing the prince's armour, even if Sansa's aunt did not yet know the truth. Sansa was swept off the ground, bent over a powerful shoulder of the man she loved like a sack of grain, regretting like a spoiled child that the path on which she was to be carried could not be any longer. In the Hall of Lamps, where they had to wait with the other mummers not employed at that moment, Sandor Clegane lowered her down, to a distance allowing for some modesty, yet not quite letting her go.

"Did that hurt you?" he asked flatly but she knew better than to believe his indifference.

Sansa shook her head. Making a half turn, she leaned back into his body, innocently allowing both of his arms to support her waist, so that they could both witness the scene Sansa had never seen before, of Ser Arthur Dayne coming home to his sister, Lady Ashara.

His arms tensed when he whispered, "Little bird."

She smiled and settled as deep as she could in his embrace, easing his insecurity with tiny gestures of affection and the slightest of touches she could spare him when they were not alone, guiding his hands a bit up, to the beginning of her breasts, where they fitted better than any lace or ribbon ever did.

She loved the way he didn't take her for granted, the way he didn't take her as a prize he deserved, for either his crimes, his noble deeds or his ancestry, or any other nonsense she had heard when the high lords pleaded for her hand. She loved how he welcomed every favour of hers he had been given, as if he had no right to any of it, yet he desired it anyway.

Maybe, if Sansa knelt before Daenerys when the show was over, the Silver Queen would understand that there was only one man Sansa could possibly marry.

Until then, and after, no matter what, she would love him anyway.

Daenerys

Daenerys did not know what to think of the supplication of the late Catelyn Stark. Unhinged, the shadow of a woman sprang in front of her, barring the queen's way to her seat of honour in front of the Great Sept of Baelor, with some love for her lady daughter suddenly rekindled in her undying heart of stone. And then they claim my father was a madman, she thought, bidding Drogon in her mind, and the Unsullied in her voice to shut up the braying of the Lady Stoneheart in any way they knew how. It was just as she had said to Lord Frey, no more no less; all unimportant things would have to wait until the end of the mummery.

The Dragon Queen was even more confused by the play she had seen so far. She was convinced that her brother Rhaegar died for the woman he loved although the kingdoms or the Usurper may have believed differently. It was one of the few certainties she possessed about her own family, and Ser Barristan never dissuaded her, despite using every occasion to talk to her about the less pleasing features of the other members of her family, starting with her late father. But if Daenerys was to believe the northern singer, then the young Usurper loved Lady Lyanna too, and he acted out of honour, or misconception, when he started and led the Rebellion. None of the two things she could in good faith consider a crime. Than there was the blond knight playing Rhaegar's most loyal companion, the one whose real name she did not learn but whom she remembered all too well; they met at the lake at Harrenhal, and he reminded her strongly of the only brother she had known, Viserys. The golden knight then directed her own words at her, without knowing they were hers; he had never heard her pronouncing them. If I look back, I am lost, he said. And weeks after, he was the one taken by Viserion through the dark clouds above Highgarden when Daenerys feared for her own life and the life of her children far more than she ever did, should the repulsive kraken see through the base treachery of his priest and succeed in mastering the horn of the dragonlords.

Hopefully all this is nothing more than a mummers' farce, she thought. The right decisions would come smoother, then. Things, however, had a way of their own, and most of them did not come easy in her life. Witnessing the confession of Mance Rayder at the henchman's block in Harrenhal, and the capture of the horn in Highgarden, Daenerys was certain. The mummers were much more than they seemed. Mere waiting for their play to start filled her own heart with dreadful expectation of feats yet unknown. Of secrets to be uncovered, shaking the foundations of what she believed in.

When Ser Arthur Dayne greeted his sister, LadyAshara, Daenerys did not understand what meaning the two siblings could have for a song about her noble brother and his love. She noticed Aegon stiffen in the place next to her own. The disgusting squid was tied up in the crow cage hung high up from the stony hands of Baelor the Blessed. It was a good place as any for a man called the Crow's Eye by his own bannermen. Her cherished young prisoner kept dreaming under Baelor's feet in company of one of the mummers. And her ward, her lady ward whom she intended to honour with marriage, became cold and distant in face of her attempt. It would seem that Viserys' lessons from her childhood, on traitor Starks and Tullys marrying for alliance and duty, first and foremost, were not as accurate. Lady Sansa only had eyes for her sun and stars under the white mask, bluer than the sky over Braavos, when the summer was still untouched by the sorrows of the beggar queen who had to leave the only home she had ever known.

"Aegon!" Daenerys finally heard the whispers, unstoppable, and overwhelming. The shouts. The yelps. The cries. "A bastard of Ser Arthur Dayne and his sister! And Septa Lemore is his mother! Aegon! Aegon! Liar! Turncloak!"

"Imagine only!" she could hear Lord Baelish cry out in outrage, speaking louder than the rest of the unsatisfied voices. "He has misled us with his writings to sentence his own mother to death! To conceal his true identity and remain king!"

In the next moment Lord Baelish was prostrated under the queen's feet, begging her to honour him for revealing the conspiracy against her, counselling her to imprison and execute Aegon for motherslaying… Asking again for the hand of the Lady Sansa as a just reward.

Yet, lost when looking back or not, Queen Daenerys had heard the mummers, and she had heard them well. Too well. Rhaegar had taken baby Aegon as his own.

And if Aegon knew he was not Rhaegar's son… Everything changed in the queen's eyes but not in the way the multitude intended. The young man she could never trust before, for both she and Drogon knew he was no dragon, defended her with his life for all he knew. Aegon could not know, had no way of knowing, that Drogon would have burned Euron alive if no one came to his mother's aid. Just like he burned Gregor Clegane in Highgarden for what he did to Princess Elia. And there was also a possibility that Daenerys could have died if Drogon's flames were a second too late falling from the sky.

Rhaegar took Aegon as his own, Daenerys repeated in her mind. It was one more reason very hard to ignore, in favour of acting against her own preconceptions. She looked back where deep in the jeering crowd a woman was hiding. The woman Drogon had brought back from the nest of the eagles deep in the mountains above the Vale, the one Baelish claimed had been Aegon's mother. But she only stared bluntly forward. Septa Lemore's stern gaze turned dark purple, almost charred black, as she mercilessly studied Daenerys's face, judging what her reaction was going to be. As she watched what the trueborn daughter of the House Targaryen would do against the pretender on the Iron Throne.

And Daenerys understood.

How could she, a child of a brother and sister, condemn any other fruit of such union? How could Rhaegar? Especially if all the rumours of the proclivities of the Targaryens in spreading little bastards here and there in the realm were true even in part. Who could measure how much dragon blood ran in lesser lords and where it would create the true love between brothers and sisters? The dragon blood ran strong and it took its toll, it was known. Daenerys found she could not judge Ser Arthur and Lady Ashara, and much less Aegon, if he were indeed their child.

"Kingslayer!" someone shouted rudely from the ranks far away from the players. Someone wearing a shiny sword of a Warrior's Son. "Fucking your sister in life, and in the play!"

And so it was revealed to Daenerys at last who the blond knight was, and her blood stopped flaming in her veins. For unlike Aegon, who was never a dragon, her father's murderer had been saved by a dragon… By a child of her own. And Viserion must have known it all along in his large unclear mind, yet he chose to carry away that man among all the others…. She remembered how Euron called for the Kingslayer to come forth in Highgarden, but Daenerys was so distressed at the time that she did not grasp the kraken's meaning…

What will the mummery still show? she thought, eager for the play to end, regretting how she forced the singer's hand to win the horn. Yet if she did not, she would have been enslaved with Drogon, and no one would have helped her until the end of her time.

Baelish was still talking, but she could not hear him. She turned to Aegon, the bastard of the forbidden love between brother and sister, not guilty of the sins of his fathers, just like she would not appreciate to be judged and sentenced for the way her father had killed the Starks, rightfully fearing their treason, or not.

"Nephew," she called him, and meant it for the first time, for all the realm to hear. "If my late brother took you as his son, I will honour his choice. You are my nephew as much as if you were Rhaegar's and Elia's descendant in flesh and blood."

In a poor imitation of Lord Baelish's most gallant courtesy, Aegon fell to his knees next to the hem of the queen's elaborate yellow dress, made of the softest silks that Meereen could give. Humbled, he started to speak.

"I do not deserve your pardon, Your Grace," he said. "I am still a kinslayer, by rights," he stuttered. "My real mother… She… I… You did right in not letting me see her, if she still lives at all!"

Daenerys took him by the shoulders before he could make his thoughts more plain for the bloodthirsty body of the people. Flustered, she hushed him with her hands. She pushed him gently, wordlessly, to the custody of Lady Jeyne, seated at Aegon's left.

"Beloved nephew," she croaked, hoping her shrill voice of a dragonlady she had become would not sound too frightening. She was an abomination too, a bigger one than Lady Jeyne, Lady Catelyn, or even Lord Euron. She was too profoundly disturbed to pretend to be the young girl everyone believed her to be, revealing her true nature of the beast, if only at that moment. "We will discuss all family matters in private, after the mummery."

"Lord Baelish," she turned to the thin lord who kept asking for favours, just like so many others who would never have unsheathed their steel in her defence. Even the despicable lord of the krakens, robber of my children, has more daring, she knew, hating profoundly the necessity for the queen to have councillors and husbands. Regaining her semblance of innocence with great inward pain, she said, "I thank you for your valuable counsel, my lord, this time, and all the times before. I can assure you that it will not go unnoticed. Let us discuss your just reward and the business of the kingdoms in peace when all the songs are over."

Content that her words made everyone quiet, Daenerys looked back to the stage in the state of sheer apprehension she had never experienced before. The northern singer stood in front of his players, protecting the Kingslayer with his sacred white cloak from morsels of food and rotten turnips tossed his way by the angry watchers. Maybe she had imagined it, or the wildling sent a nod of proud approval her way. A greeting of equals; a gesture of a king in his own right to one he deemed worth of being a queen. The Mother of Dragons responded with a tiny acknowledgement of her own, with newly found respect for the wild man and the fruits of his visions as a bard, where all the world had to offer was fire, and more blood than even her noble sigil could contain, without bursting into death and nothingness first.

Daenerys Stormborn was Aerys' daughter, no one could ever deny that, and the seed of madness was planted within her from the day of her birth. But that was not all. For just as Ser Barristan had predicted, when he swore her his allegiance, his service, and his sword, she was much more than that.

Daenerys was the dragonlady Moqorro must have seen in his flames in Highgarden, mistaking her for a dragonlord.

And Daenerys was Rhaegar's sister.

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