Me (in Jon Snow's voice): I'm sorry. I'm so sorry …. that it took me forever to update.
Lies. Just a sentence of untruth cleverly presented and men fight each other and burn whole kingdoms down. Lifes forever destroyed due to a few words. Weapons may have the potential to kill a body but words hold the power to murder humans. Outspoken death sentences, verbal disputes, truths and lies. But lies not just kill. They can harm you in a different way. Interfere with your life, mold it into something unrecognizable. And the worst part is that you aren't even aware of it. You don't know that you are living a lie. And therefore, - when you finally learn the truth - , your entire world comes crashing down.
That's how Dany felt. She had spent her whole life in foreign countries, expelled from her own land due to a lie. She was still in the chamber with Bran and Sam. The cracking of the fire the only sound after Jon's tempestuous departure. All of them kind of worn out after the life changing conversation that took place just minutes ago.
"Can I see the book?", she asked Sam. It wasn't that she accused him of lying but more so the fact, that she needed to see it with her own eyes to process it faster. Her thoughts were rambling. Jon was a Targaryen. He was the heir to the Iron Throne. The wall fell. The Night King turned Viserion into a monster. These informations overcame her like a surprise attack and she couldn't decide on which news to linger first.
"Of course. I'll fetch it for you", he answered and left the room. Leaving Dany and Bran the only remaining people.
"He just needs time." Bran stated after a few seconds of silence passed.
It was the second time this evening that she had heard this words. All the Northerners needed was time, all Jon needed was time. She was sick of this expression. Because what they most definitely didn't have was time. They would face the Night King and his army sooner rather than later and if they wanted to win, everyone, - Jon and herself included, needed a clear head. But how could they when there were news like this? And lies, so many lies. Here she was again not capable of shaking the word out of her mind.
"His whole life is build on a lie," Dany just responded not entirely convinced that it would be that easy for Jon to come to terms with this revelation.
"Yours too," Bran replied with a deep voice.
"Yes. Everything could've been different."
For the first time since the revelations she was able to hold a thought and an image of what her stolen life might have looked like appeared in her mind. She could've been been raised in Westeros. Her family wouldn't have been slaughtered. House Targaryen would still rule over the seven kingdoms. Her brother Rhaegar, beloved by the whole kingdom, would've been the successor of her father Aerys II. And she, just the third of his children and a girl on top of that, would not even have been considered for the Throne. And as much as she disliked her own unimportance in this scenario, she would've had her family. It would have been a whole different but less lonelier life.
A loud crack of the fire brought her back into the present and she stopped her trail of thoughts. People tended to simplify things in order to comfort themselves and it wouldn't do anything good to dream up a what if.
If Robert hadn't lied about Lyanna's abduction, would she really have lived a happier life in Westeros?
It would be easy to blame him for everything. But that would be another lie, a lie to herself. It wasn't just Robert's untrue claims that made House Targaryen come tumbling down. It was a chain of lies and wrong decisions, piled on top of each other until everything fell apart.
The years-long secretiveness about the madness of her father and the inactivity of everyone around him. The actions of her brother Rhaegar to fled with his love but not confess to it and the untrue version of the events told by Robert Baratheon, who took his chance and overthrew the King.
No, it didn't do any good to dream up a what if. What if's, as alluring as they were, were swells of remorse and sorrow in the end. She lived in the here and now. Her life hadn't been like that. And nothing could change it.
"Why did you tell me?", she asked Bran suddenly curious. It would've been wiser to leave her in the unclear about her reduced position in the line of heritage to the throne. After all Sam and Bran didn't know her. They couldn't be sure, that she wouldn't sneak into Jon's room at night and kill her predecessor.
"He would've told you anyway." Bran stated and looked at her without any identifiable emotion on his face.
"But how can you be sure, I wouldn't hurt him?", she asked the question surely everyone else would be wondering about in a matter like this. But Bran didn't even flinch, he just looked at her with a knowledge glistering in his eyes.
"I'm the three eyed raven. I can see things of the past and the present. I saw you Daenerys Targaryen", he explained. "You wouldn't hurt him."
A shiver went down her spine and she opened her mouth in response but the words stuck in her throat. Jon had told her that Bran had visions and she even witnessed the truth of them herself when she had flown beyond the wall but nevertheless she was taken by surprise that he had watched her.
"You thought you were the only Targaryen left. You're not." Bran added after a few seconds of silence and the truth of his words hit her hard.
For years she had thought that she was the last of her house, alone in the world. She had come to terms with it, been proud of being the last of her kinsman to be still standing. It gave her strength and made her believe in herself even more. And she had used it as a shield, like the day Jon had come to Dragonstone. She had thought to herself then, that no matter what this King in the North would or wouldn't do, he couldn't hurt her or let her self-confidence waver. Because she was Daenerys Targaryen, the last of her kind.
But deep down, in parts of herself she showed rarely, because people and sometimes even she herself tended to interpreted it as weakness, she had always longed for a family. Aside from Viserys she knew of her own only through books and stories. She had never met her parents or Rhaegar. But now a piece of her unknown brother unexpectedly found it's way back to her. Everything she had learned tonight might be overwhelming and put her whole world upside down but she couldn't be mad at this revelation, because now she had a family again. Someone she was bonded by blood with. The man she loved already.
"Here it is." Sam rushed back into Bran's chambers with a huge book in his hands.
What followed was a formality. Because by now Dany knew, that everything this two men had said tonight was true. Jon being a Targaryen answered so many questions she didn't realize she had. It was as if the last piece of the puzzle that was Jon Snow was solved. Sam put the book on a table and turned a few pages until he found the right paragraph and showed it to her. She looked at the written words and nodded in acceptance.
"Thank you, Sam."
"No problem, your grace", he grabbed the book and looked at her again. "I will go talk to him."
Her heart longed to say, that she was the one who should go. But her brain sensed, that Jon needed to contemplate everything. She might gained a family member but he had lost a father, he had looked up to his whole life. She didn't mind that they were related but in his family it was rare that you were with someone of your own blood. And then there was the matter of the crown, that she had fought for these last years and that should suddenly be his ...
She wouldn't give it up.
She just knew that she was born to rule the seven kingdoms, felt the confidence in that buzzing through every fiber of her being. But she also knew, that Jon believed that too. He had chosen her as his queen even though it would've been wiser not to. He gave up to be a King, - for her.
They might had discovered tonight, that he was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne but he would never take it from her. She was sure of it because she understood the way his mind and his heart worked. He wasn't a man hungry for power, he just wanted people to be save. It was one of the reasons she had fallen in love with him.
She wanted to talk to him about everything. Wanted to help him come to terms with it. But he wouldn't want to talk to her, not the way he had let go of her hand and left without a glance. So she just nodded and watched Sam heading off towards Jon's chambers.
"I will retire for the night then too", she excused herself to Bran shortly after. Fully knowing, that she would lie awake the whole night thinking. And wishing Jon would lay beside her.
The crypt was dimly lightened but Jon could still make out Ned's stony face. He nestled against the opposite wall of the statue with Ghost at his feet. His fingers buried deep in the fur of his direwolf who purred satisfied at his master's touch. Jon was far away from that feeling, but at least Ghost's presence consoled him after everything that went down last night. The wall behind him pressed cold into his back, even through the sick layers of his winter coat. But he didn't mind. He had tried to sleep but after hours of tossing and turning, he had finally given up and left the warmth of his chambers for the place he felt the presence of his father the most.
The first shock was over but now realization set in and there were too much thoughts that bickered for his attention. The meeting would start soon and he hadn't been able to come up with a good idea how to approach the Night King and his army. At the word king his thoughts always trailed off, to the new information that he was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. He wished he could have laughed at the absurdity of it all, but all he was able to do was to sink deeper into his stormy sea of thoughts.
"Here you are. I was looking for you." Davos accent filled voice cut through the heavy silence. His adviser entered the crypt and came to a halt beside him."Everything alright?", he looked down on him, a half smile plastered on his face, clearly oblivious to Jon's bad mood.
"Actually, no." Jon answered honestly without lifting his head. Most other people he would've sent away but he trusted this man he had grown so close with and could use his life experienced advice.
"Not the answer I'd expected but okay." Davos sat down and waited patiently for Jon to explain himself, who needed a moment to decide where to begin.
"Davos, we've known each other for some time now. And you've been a good friend and adviser to me."
"I, at least hope so." Davos chimed in.
"You've to promise me to not tell anyone, what I'm about to tell you."
As far as Jon knew there would be five people alive knowing about the secret, after he would've told Davos. And albeit Jon tried to live as a honorable man, he wasn't sure when and if this secret was something worth spreading. He despised lies. Lies were the reason for so much chaos in the world. Even for the situation he found himself in now. And a part of him scorned himself for just thinking to add something to the ever growing bulk of untruth that surrounded them all. But he just didn't know what to do with his new knowledge. At least not yet.
"Bran told me something last night."
"That sounds ominous." Davos joked lightly and Jon couldn't help but shot Davos a look that signified: This was something serious. The older man fell silent immediately. And Jon turned his gaze away because otherwise he wouldn't have found the courage to say the truth out loud. He eyed Ned's statue again. It didn't look like him at all. But it didn't matter because when Jon shut his eyes he could conjure his features without effort. He remembered his kind eyes and his proud smile. All the lessons he had taught him, the love he had given him. And Jon realized that these things weren't all lies but some part of him tried to make out which parts were. What had Ned been thinking this whole time, when he had looked at him? And did he ever planned to tell him the truth? Jon was aware that he would never get answers to these questions. Ned had been gone for a long time and the answers with him.
"I'm not Ned Stark's son."
His words followed a heavy breath. They sounded wrong coming from his lips. Ned Stark was the only father he had ever known. When people had dismissed him as a Bastard, he had always reminded himself that it didn't matter as much because he still descended from something good, - his father. Except now Ned wasn't his father anymore. "I'm the son of his sister Lyanna."
Davos stayed silent for a moment, as if to ease down everything Jon had just said.
"So you still a Stark then", he finally concluded.
"Aye." Jon confirmed and needed to take a deep breath in order to say the next sentence. "And a Targaryen."
He didn't say it with conviction. He was a Stark, a Snow. Not a Targaryen. Dany was the Targaryen, not him. And at the thought of her he got on fast with his news in an attempt to push her emerging image from his mind. "My father was Rhaegar Targaryen", he almost swallowed the words. That was definitely a sentence he never had expected to say in his life.
"He is sure about that?" Davos asked carefully. Where his expression was collected a second ago, his eyes were now opened wide in a mixture of disbelief and concern. Jon just nodded in response. It was hard for him to tell the news he had gotten tonight. A part of him felt the uncomfortable truth of them slowly sinking in but another part felt like he was telling the tale of someone else's life.
"I'm not even a Bastard." The words tumbled out of his mouth, arduous and messy. As if they were glued to his tongue. He was a bastard, was all he could think of in that moment. He was a bastard. It was the one thing that he had been reminded of incessantly during all his years.
"But that would make you …" Davos caught up with the meaning behind that revelation and Jon could just respond with a simple, "Aye."
Silence spread between them, both of them processing this new truth.
"That surely is someinformation." Davos finally admitted after some time.
"I don't want it. I didn't even want to be King in the North. I don't want to be King of all these kingdoms and besides there's a good chance I won't survive the coming war. So all of it doesn't matter anyway." Jon spat out all the words that lingered inside him the moment Bran had declared him heir to the Iron Throne. He had never chased power, it had always been given to him and he shouldered it's burden every day. He tried to take it with grace, to be worthy of the trust all his people put into him, to do the right thing and save them all. It was never power he had longed for, instead he was yearning for righteousness and peace.
"I know you don't see yourself as a ruler. But you're a good one. And you would make a good King for Westeros."
Jon just shot Davos another side eye.
"Does the Queen know?"
Dany's image appeared before his eyes again and he needed to swallow. She was the one destined for the throne not him and he was aware that he should tell this to her. But this was the only answer he got right now and it wasn't enough.
"She was with me when Bran told us."
"And?" Davos stared at him expectantly.
"I haven't talk to her since. I wouldn't know what to say. I have a claim to her throne and", he paused a moment and breathed in deeply before he could say the words that sounded so false on his tongue, "we're related, Davos."
"Oh, that's right." Davos murmured as if he hadn't thought about that. "Well, at least she's not your sister."
It was something absurd to say but it lightened the mood, both of them not capable of keeping a straight face even if it were just indications of smiles and sad one's at that.
"She's my aunt." It pained him to say these words out loud. He loved Dany. Loved her like no one else before. In the beginning it had scared him how deep he could feel for someone. How someone that was a stranger just months ago, could suddenly be this essential to him. But with time he got to understand this feelings better and learned to trust them. Up to the point where he could finally imagine things he had thought weren't in the cards for him. A wife, a family. But could he still want any of this now that he knew what they did was condemned as wrong?
It was so strange to just have these thoughts. It was as if he didn't recognize his life anymore. Some years ago he was a boy who's biggest problem was the disdain of his father's wife and now he pored over problems like how to save humanity, a heritage to the throne and incest. Suddenly his whole body felt cold and he was on the verge of shaking.
"In House Targaryen it's not uncommon to marry someone of your own blood."
Davos stated matter of factly and Jon was astonished by his lack of disgust. But then he remembered, that Davos had lived at times were the Targaryen's had reigned over the country and it was accepted by everyone that they chose someone out of their own bloodline to be with.
"Marry?" The word escaped him with a sigh. He had thought about marrying Dany before but that seemed so far away now.
"Oh com' on. I'm no fool Jon. I see what's happening between the two of you."
It wasn't really a surprise to Jon that his adviser knew about everything. He had been aware that he was bad at hiding his affection for her. This was just the confirmation.
"Besides a marriage would solve that crown problem for you." Davos continued. "You could rule together. I would say so far you both did a good job as allies."
Jon couldn't denounce that. But this was an option he couldn't pursue right now. Because he needed to find answers on his other questions first.
"I don't know what to do, Davos", he admitted in a tone, that left no speculation that he was absolutely overwhelmed by all of this.
"How about you go to that meeting with me first?" his adviser suggested friendly and rose from his sitting position. He outstretched a hand to Jon who looked at it for a few seconds, as if he needed time to push away all his thoughts in corners of his mind where they won't disturb the important meeting ahead of them and took it.
They met in the Great Hall. Just a few of them, the leaders of their armies, like Greyworm, their advisers and some of Jon's battle-tested lords. Dawn was breaking and it's dimmed light found it's way through the openings in the wall of the castle. As did the coldness of the icy temperature outside that even the fireplace couldn't cast out. And Jon saw the man from the warmer countries shivering from time to time, even though everyone dressed in their thick winter coats.
Tyrion was standing beside him, both of their gazes fixed on the map of the north on the table in front of them. Dany and Missandei hadn't arrived yet and Jon found his gaze wandering to the door continuously. Where her presence had started to calm him in this last weeks he was now nervous again at the pure thought of confronting her. He willed his mind to focus on the map again and not be overpowered by his troubled emotions. The people in the north needed him. And what they were preparing for was bigger than Dany or him or whatever was between them. So he tried to study the map.
"There should be here by now", Jon pointed to a spot in front of the drawing of the wall.
The Night King was marching towards Last Hearth and they needed to help the people who lived there. But with their armies it would take 10 days to get there at least and the army of the Undead could get there in 5 to 6. No matter how fast Daenerys and he prepared their armies for departure. They couldn't get there in time.
The wooden doors of the room opened with a loud creaking and Daenerys and Missandei walked inside. At her sight Jon's throat tightened. She looked beautiful as ever and also regal and dignified. There were no visible signs that suggested she got life changing news last night. And a part of him was jealous that she had her emotions so well in check but another part was proud of the dignified queen she was. She belonged on the throne no matter his heritage.
"I think we're complete then", he declared promptly and looked away from her. It was easier to concentrate at the task ahead when he was not looking at her. In a few words he told them about what Bran had seen the other night and urged them all to act quickly.
"Bran had seen them last heading towards Last hearth. We need to help them", he finished.
"But we won't make it there in time with our men", Sir Jorah came to the same conclusion as Jon.
"Yes." Jon admitted.
"With my dragons I can be there within a day." Daenerys proposed and he could help but flinch lightly at her words. He had known that she would suggest it even before she spoke it out loud. She was willing to do anything to defeat the White Walkers and although he admired her unwavering boldness and hope, he feared for her safety.
"It's too dangerous, my queen." Tyrion objected. "For you and for your children."
"I know that it's dangerous", she cut in directly. "But it will buy us some time till our armies arrive."
"He is right, my queen. It would be a suicide mission." Varys sided with him.
"Than what are you proposing, we should do?" she asked with a sharp voice.
"Cersei's men should be in the north by now. Depending on their location they could get there faster than us." Tyrion presented his idea and in Jon's head it still sounded crazy that they spoke of the Lannister Queen as an ally in this war. And he recognized that a lot of the faces around him looked unconvinced. Dany's included.
"That's not a plan, that's a vague hope", she said and Jon couldn't denounce that. They needed a real plan, with feasible actions and no wishful thinking. "I can fly there", she added confident.
"And what if we lose another dragon?" Tyrion asked plainly and the whole room fell silent. Despite his intentions Jon's gaze lingered on Dany. He saw the battle between her determination and fear right across her face. She had not only lost Viserion, she learned that he had become a monster and she was still in pain about it. As if she sensed him staring her eyes fell onto his. Guilt washed over him like a wave. She was in pain and he had left her alone. Too absorbed in his own emotions.
"Last hearth just has a few hundred men for defense. You wouldn't stand a chance", he finally admitted with soft spoken words. "If we lose another dragon we're done."
Their gazes fixated onto each other across the huge table. She didn't like the idea of doing nothing that one was clear but she also realized the truth of his words. It took her a while but then she nodded in acceptance.
"So does anyone else has an idea?" she asked into the group. And they all looked at each other with expectant faces.
"They could leave." Missandei suggested after some time and everyone looked at her for further explanation.
"You mean they should abandon Last Hearth?" Dany asked.
"Yes. The Night King doesn't want the land, does he? He wants the people on the land for his army."
"They don't need to defend their property, that's not what he is after." Tyrion approved pensively.
Jon's gaze fell back towards the map. Missandei was right. They didn't have to get to Last Hearth in time, they just needed to meet the people of Last Hearth in time. And a place benefiting for a fight.
"They could march towards Long Lake, we could meet them there. It's a good location for a battle." He declared and pointed towards the huge lake on the map.
"How many days would it take us to get there?" Dany asked already on board with the plan.
"Depending on the weather. 4 to 5 days." Jon answered her and they started to discuss the details.
"Nevertheless, we should inform Cersei and ask her to join us there", Jon concluded.
"You really think she will help?" One of his lords asked in disbelief. And he didn't know what to respond. So he looked at Tyrion in hope that Cersei's brother had an answer. Who nodded in understanding.
"Not out of her good heart", Tyrion explained, "that's for certain. But even she doesn't want to die at the arms of a dead man and become one herself. So yes, she will."
The lord nodded but his face showed that he didn't believe a word. And Jon couldn't blame him. He didn't trust her either but he tried to be confident about their alliance.
"We will send her a raven. We need all the help we can get", Dany decided with confident words but Jon recognized that she did it with reluctance.
"There's one more problem." Jorah warned them with caring eyes. "We don't have enough weapons ready."
Jon had thought about that too. The blacksmiths did all they could to forge real weapons like swords and axes out of the Dragonglass. But it took time and there wouldn't be nearly enough weapons ready for every soldier when they set off tomorrow.
"We simply don't have the time to forge weapons for everyone. We need to leave tomorrow or we won't make it to Long Lake in time", Jon answered. The dissatisfaction about it clearly audible in his voice. "Most men will have to fight with the rough pieces of Dragonglass we have."
"I could wait with my departure." Daenerys proposed, her gaze wandering over Jorah, Tyrion and Jon. "I could stay at Winterfell for a few more days. It would give the blacksmiths more time to forge weapons. My dragons are strong enough to transport them to Long Lake and I could catch up with you in time."
It sounded absolutely reasonable and Jon knew he had to be in favor of the plan, because there was no logical reason to be against it. Nevertheless, he wasn't font of the idea to leave Dany alone at Winterfell, even if it was his home. Jorah, who always advocated Dany's safety, was right. There were still Northerners who wished to harm her and he feared that without him, the Warden of the North, they would be more inclined to do so.
"Then I will stay by your side, my queen." Jorah volunteered and Jon wasn't surprised. It was obvious that he cared a lot for her. Maybe a little bit too much for his liking. He watched them exchanging looks, a wordless conversation only confidants where capable of, and felt that familiar sting of jealousy. But had he still the right to feel that way?
"Me too." Tyrion declared. "It's a reasonable plan. We need all the weapons we can get."
Dany's gaze fell on Jon and he realized that to the others it must look exactly like her previous exchange with Jorah had looked to him. Intimate. She wanted to hear his opinion.
And he realized something else. They worked well together, carving out a solution until everyone was satisfied. She was the solid ally he had needed in this war, but hadn't allowed himself to hope for. They might not know each other a long time but in these past months they had been through so much. It glued them together. Both of them could never simply step away from that. And because of it he had to stop his cowardness and talk to her.
"I will make sure you got everything you need for your prolonged stay, my queen", he approved.
When the meeting was done and the group dispersed he walked over to her. Her eyes evidently taken aback by his sudden approach.
"Can we talk?", he asked and his heart ached with a dozen emotions regarding her.
"Sure." Her voice sounded almost calm but the trembling of her lips betrayed her. And at the sight of her lips the last bit of his calmness vanished. Everything inside him yearned to be with her and call this self-imposed distance bullshit. But he knew it wasn't that easy.
"Tyrion and I want to talk to our army first, but afterwards?"
"Ok. In the godswood at midday?"
She agreed and left the room with Tyrion. He looked after her, although she was already long gone.
After the meeting Jon walked through Winterfell with Sansa, both of them supervising the preparations for their approaching departure. Sansa put him up to date with everything and he was proud that she fitted so well into the role he entailed her with. They went by the blacksmiths and saw Gendry working with the others to forge the Dragonglass into weapons. They worked quickly but precise and it was easy to identify the quality of their work. It would be good to have as much of these weapons as they could get.
"Jon", Arya's voice sounded from behind him and he turned around. It was still extraordinary for him to hear her calling his name again and lovely ordinary simultaneously.
"I want to come with you", she stated confidently and stepped towards him.
For a second he thought he hadn't hurt right but then he recognized her determination in the way she held her body and elongated her chin. She meant it and it reminded him once again, that she wasn't that little girl he used to know anymore.
"Where I'm going it will be very dangerous." He told her even though he knew that she wasn't naive but the caring brother inside of him just wished her out of harm's way.
"I know", she assured him and her once innocent eyes mirrored now the harsh reality with all it's pain and brutality.
He had heard some of the things she had done and the skills she acquired and it wasn't hard for him to imagine his fierce little Arya as a strong-willed warrior. And they needed every capable soldier they could get. But still, - a lot of people would die in this war and he didn't want Arya to be one of them. She recognized his hesitation and draw her sword.
"Than let me show you why you should take me with you", she dared him playfully but nonetheless resolutely and he couldn't help but be surprised and impressed by it.
The moment she faced him with needle he had been aware that it would be useless to try to talk her out of this idea. She had already made up her mind and wouldn't back down. And who was he to bar her from fighting? She was her own person. Always had been even when she was a kid. And he had always known, that she wasn't build for fine dresses and housekeeping but for adventure. So he didn't back down from her challenge and drew his sword too.
"Ok. Show me what you got", he prodded her.
She was the first to make a move which he warded off easily. But so did she when he tried to attack her. It was rapidly clear that this would be an even fight. They didn't haste any of their blows. Instead they encircled each other, learned how their counterpart moved and considered their strikes. The longer their fight endured the more fun Jon had with it. Arya and him had always been playful with each other and he was glad that maturity didn't change that. And after everything that had happened the last 24 hours, it was a welcome distraction from all the sorrow gnawing at his heart.
With time their fight got more fierce. He pushed her backwards but she spun out of his reach with an almost elegant move. Blade clashed on blade. And although hers was small in comparison to Longclaw she used needle very wisely. It got on like that for minutes but when she tried to grab her dagger from her belt to finish him off he used her one second of inattention and brought Longclaw to her neck. She stopped her motion immediately and looked up to him. At first she seemed upset about losing but then a big smile spread on her face, which he could only reciprocate.
"I would have been disappointed if you'd lost", she teased him and he let go off her.
He had recognized that she'd changed but he hadn't fully understood it till now. She was a fighter, no doubt about that and he would be lucky to have her join him in this war.
"You can come", Jon finally agreed and her smile grew even wider.
The few people around them started to cheer and they put their swords away.
"That was really cool." Gendry praised from behind his anvil.
"It was." Jon agreed and if he didn't know better he could have sworn that his fierce warrior-sister blushed.
Winterfell wasn't pretty, thought Dany as she wandered over the estate. The gray stone that peaked through the snow couldn't hide it's roughness. Everything here was colorless and hard. But that didn't mean that she didn't like it. Though it was hard, fireplaces had never been so cozy to her and though it was colorless it made the deep red heart tree located at the godswood even more breathtakingly beautiful. She had read about this trees and what they stood for and she comprehended that they were special to the people in the North.
A chilly blast dragged at her clothes and whirled the loose streaks of her braid around. The coldness didn't exactly bother her but she felt it increasing with every passing day and it became an analogy for her: the colder it got, the closer the army of the dead got. Their meeting had proved it. Time had been running out. The great war was here.
For weeks she had known that this moment would come but with everything that had happened between Jon and her, she wished she had more time. Because even though she was fiercely determined to defeat the Night King, she was also no fool and knew that the risk that one or maybe even both of them could lose their life in this endeavor, was real.
She came to a halt near the heart tree, still quite some distance away. Here he was with his head bend down in thought. They were so many things she wanted to say to him. So many things she wanted to do. But it would all need to wait, perhaps even forever. What she would give to have just one more morning with him, like the ones on the boat. Snuggled beneath a blanket, wrapped in each others arms. On the verge of night and day. When they were not ready to let each other go yet and used every precious minute to steal a kiss, a touch, an intimate conversation more to endure the looming day.
Jon recognized her before she could speak and shot her a woeful glance. He didn't meant it in a rejecting way, there was still an intimacy in his eyes, but it felt colder than the icy wind around her. Since the moment they had met they'd gravitated towards each other, a little bit closer every day, but now it seemed the pull between them had ended and, for the first time, he withdrew himself from her.
"I'm sorry I ran away last night. I don't know what came over me. I was just overwhelmed I guess", he admitted and Dany saw the guilt in his eyes and wished she could wipe it away. He didn't choose any of this but still he felt responsible for it. It was a behavior she noticed often with him. He burdened himself with responsibility, always trying to right the wrongs.
"It's okay", she assured him. "That were some tough news for both of us."
"I would never take the throne from you", he clarified with firmly spoken words.
Did he really think that was her biggest worry? That she could lose power?
"I know. That's not what I meant", she breathed in deeply starting to form the right explanation in her head. "I meant that I learned that my brother wasn't the kidnapper everyone claimed him to be and that I had lived a life in exile because of lies on both sides."
He looked at her and she saw the understanding glimmering in his eyes. Both their life's had fallen victim to false words, which had held so much power that their courses had been forever changed.
"Does anyone tell the truth anymore?", he said in a low voice more to himself than to her. And she could imagine what he must be thinking. When even Ned, the most righteous man he knew, lied in this huge proportions was there anyone left in this world not capable of lying?
"You do." It escaped her lips quietly but firm.
"And I'm a fool for it, aren't I?"
"No. No it's one of the things I admire about you. This life hasn't twisted you yet. You're something pure in this messy world."
He shook his head with a wry smile on his face.
"Pure", he led the word dance across his tongue. "I killed hundreds of men, I haven't kept my vow and slept with a wildling woman, I died and my body rotted for days until I was resurrected and", he paused for a moment and caught her gaze, "I fell in love with my aunt."
Dany needed to swallow. It was the first time he used that word. Love. Yet she imagined it always under different circumstances. Not necessarily happy ones but in her imagination his declaration was always an acknowledged truth. Something powerful they both hang on to. Now it sounded like a problem to him.
"I'm not pure. Far from it."
Involuntarily she stepped a little bit closer. There it was again, the never ending pull she felt towards him.
"You're to me. I know you don't want to be a Targaryen. But I don't mind. Since my brother died I always thought I was the last of our blood. Alone in this world. But now I know that I'm not. That you, - you of all people", she couldn't stop her eyes from watering, "are my family."
Jon looked at her again and all iciness vanished, replaced by this soft look of him that tugged at her heartstrings.
"I want to be your family. I want that for some time now but in a different way."
It hurt her to hear this confession and get it ripped away from her the same moment.
"I don't know how to feel about all of this yet. I'm sorry. I wish I would be as certain as you but I'm not." His voice almost cracked and her heart beat so heavy in her chest every breath seemed hard.
"I understand that." She wished she could be angry with him. That she could hit him with harsh words to lift some of the pain she was feeling. But how could she be mad at him when she got where his rejection was coming from? "I was raised as a Targaryen. The idea to be with someone of your own blood was never foreign to me. But it is to you. I get that." Even though it broke her heart.
"It is foreign to me but you're not. But I just don't know what that means", he explained with a note of despair in his voice.
"So what now?", she asked even though she knew she would get the answer she hated so much.
"Just give me some time."
And of course she would give it to him. Because what else was there to do beside being patient and hope that someday he would love her again without shame?
The raven arrived at dawn. A strong bird with feathers as black as the armor of the Night's Watch and as thick as the fur of the Northerners. It was without a doubt one of the Bastards ravens, Cersei thought when she caught the sight of it ascending to the castle. She was standing on the balcony, a glass of red wine in her hand, looking over King's Landing. It looked so different in the winter. Were it once was colorful and warm it was now gray and cold. But beautiful, she contemplated. It looked beautiful. Like a kingdom made of ice. It didn't take long for one of her servants to arrive with the massage in hand.
"A massage from Winterfell, my queen", the young girl said and bowed before her.
Cersei didn't even recognize the respectful gesture, she just grabbed the scroll of the girls hand and send her away. Curiosity took over when she opened the scroll in a hurry. Of course it was from Tyrion and not the Bastard himself. Her darling brother really seemed to think he could influence her.
The Undead broke through the wall a few days ago. We're gathering our troops immediately and will walk towards Long Lake to meet there with the men of Last Hearth. We're asking you to do the same.
Her lips curled up in a half smile. He actually believed she would help them from now on. It would almost be sweet if it weren't so pathetic. He could ask all he wanted, even begged her if he liked, but she would never help that bitch of a wannabe queen and her lapdog, the Stark Boy. Her fingers crumbled the paper in her hand. She would answer them that her army would be on their way. Should they think that she was willing to help and be terrified when they finally understood that no help was coming. It would be just one lie more. It didn't matter to her. In this never ending game of thrones everyone was a liar. And she was a good one.
With her plan in mind she took one more sip of her wine. Should her idiot brothers confederate with the Dragon Queen, she didn't need them. All she needed was herself. There might have been a time when she had been acquainted with loneliness and Jamie had been the only one capable to cast it away. But this time was gone. It didn't matter to her anymore how good it had felt to be fucked by him or how much she had loved the power she had over him. How he had never been able to resist her advances and always caved into the sensation of taking her hard and making her scream in pleasure. No, nothing of it was important anymore. She pushed all of these memories aside, locked every feeling deep away in the dark corners of her heart, she neglected. Jamie had chosen his side and forfeited every possibility of reconciliation with it.
She was stronger than any nostalgia or affection he could evoke. Stronger than Jamie. Stronger than both of her brothers. She gulped the rest of the wine down her throat. They would see that no one messes with Cersei Lannister.
At night Winterfell got quiet. The people hid behind closed doors, the noise ebbed away with them and the light, almost dazzling at day due to all the snow, faded into darkness. Dany walked over the floor to her chambers. She had paid a visit to her men, preparing them for their departure in the morning. Her whole body and mind ached in exhaustion. Since they had arrived yesterday everything had been chaos.
The lords who didn't want her as their queen, the information that the army of the Undead was nearer than they had thought and the reveal that Jon was a Targaryen. It had been a long 48 hours and all she wanted to do was sleep. Last night her stirring emotions hadn't let her but now her body started to feel heavy and it would claim some much needed rest as soon as she'd laid down. It would be for the best. She didn't want to stay awake with all the thoughts rambling through her head and the sadness that loomed over her heart. That was the problem with love, Dany contemplated. You felt everything more deeply. The good and the bad.
She sought for her room with a candle in her hand, lightning her the way. Winterfell was much larger than she had imagined and it took her a while to get the right one. As most doors at this place it made a light creaking noise when she opened it and she stepped inside. She saw the big wooden bed in front of her and she couldn't wait to lay down in it's soft and warm blankets. Even though she yearned for an entirely different warmth, if she was to be honest. But she didn't knew if she would ever feel it again. How could she already miss something as if it were essential to her, if she just had it for a short while anyway? And when had Jon's and her life entangled so much with each other that it was impossible to disjoin them ever again?
The door closed with a dull thud behind her and she moved over to the bedside table putting the candle down. She wouldn't find the answers to this questions tonight but hopefully she would find some rest instead. But the moment she ended that thought a noise from behind startled her. Dany turned around instantly. Not thinking about her movement, just acting out of instinct.
The room was incredibly dark but she spotted the shadow rising up in front of her regardless. Her eyes widened in shock and her heartbeat that was calm just seconds ago pounded almost hurtful in her chest. She wanted to scream, to make herself known to the others that laid just a few meters distance from her but everything happened so fast, she didn't get a chance. The dark figure grabbed her hard and she saw the blade in it's right hand, shining in the candle light. The intruder would shove it into her body if she didn't act fast. It's pointy end was already moving towards her heart.
Her throat went dry. She needed an idea. Now! With shaking hands she grabbed the candle from behind her and pushed it into the figures eyes. It cried out in pain and let the blade slip out of it's hands in an attempt to fumble for the injury. Dany used the second of distraction to run for the door. But her attacker recovered quickly and stopped her before she even got close, clasping her body with strong hands like a bird in the grasp of a lion.
"We know no king but the King in the North whose name is Stark", the voice of a man whispered agitated into her ear. Some drops of his saliva rained down on her cheek and her whole body shivered in disgust. But somehow this awful sensation awakened her survival instinct even more. She hit him hard with her fists, scratched him with her fingernails, kicked him with her legs. Every small action that came to her mind. All the while she thought, that this couldn't be the end for her. Not after everything she'd been through. She reminded herself of all the situations in which her life could've ended and that she had come out of all of them stronger than before.
No! She wouldn't die like this.
She felt herself calm a little bit and then she was finally able to scream.
I really am sorry, that it took me forever to update. This chapter was a hard nut to crack. It has only a few similarities with the one I had in mind first. (But I think that's the exciting part of writing because you never really know, where the story might take you.) And when I finally finished this chapter, I lost my beta reader and needed to find a new one. So I want to give huge thanks to my dear friend Nancy for correcting!
I sincerely hope that it will never again take so long for a new chapter to be published. I just want to affirm you that I love writing this story and I will not abandon it.
And lastly I want to thank you for your patience and I hope you liked the new chapter. I know that there was a lot of drama and angst in it. But I promise it won't be like that for too long :-)