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Chapter 116

Daenerys XVIII

She contentedly brushed the scales under Rhaellon's eye as she held the dragon's head in her lap. Since they had moved the dragons to the Dragon Pit, it had taken less than a week to get them familiar with the idea that she would visit them when the sun was highest in the sky. Daenerys would then settle herself as comfortably as she could on the hard stone. Rhaellon and Rhaegal would swarm her for scratches, trying to push each other out of the way for attention. Drogon would only lean in for a few minutes before he launched himself back into the sky and returned to hunting in the sea. It concerned her that he appeared so much more withdrawn than the others.

Rhaegal, for his part, acted like he was stuck between Daenerys' sweet words and Drogon's company. There were times when Rhaegal would linger longer than Drogon, but eventually, he'd break away to join the bigger dragon. It would leave Daenerys all to Rhaellon, who seemed to indulge in her mother's company.

Daenerys wondered if Rhaellon could sense the change within her. Having been pregnant once before, Daenerys was quicker to pick up on the signs. The nausea was not quite as strong, but she suffered dizzy spells and her breasts were tender. Even so, she sent Ser Jorah into the market for the herbal remedies he'd brought her for her first pregnancy.

She had yet to tell Aemon nor had she confirmed it with the grand maester. She couldn't even say why. While she had been meek and naive the time before, it was obvious how the baby had ended up inside her. Her and Aemon's coupling nearly every night since their wedding meant that a child was inevitable. She thought she had put her pain from Rhaego behind her, but her feelings warred.

A child. She was with child. This child would enter the world without the threat of a sword over its head. Without her brother Viserys to pummel it to death. Without Khal Drogo to weigh its worth. She was certain Aemon would be a wonderful father. She had only ever felt safe in his company and this babe would enjoy that safety too; she was sure of it.

But at the same time, a sadness had enveloped her. Rhaego had come so close to life, but in the end he had merely grazed it, never to be. The pain of their separation and her longing for his company had hit her with such power that she wanted to crumple and weep. But she was a dragon and dragons did not cry.

I will have this one regret, but it is time to put it behind me. Rhaego is dead. He's in no pain, fear, or anger. He is at peace where he should remain, she lectured herself.

Daenerys shifted her legs and Rhaellon grumbled, but as Daenerys continued to move, the dragon lazily lifted her head and arose with a huff.

"You're getting far too big for that now," Daenerys said with an indulgent smile.

Rhaellon recognized though that their time was up and in a few wing beats took to the sky and soared over the city back to the ocean. The dragons continued to fish the sea, but she had learned that they'd taken to the pork and beef with gusto. She recognized that meat was much heavier than fish, so she hoped it went further to take the edge off of their ravenous appetites.

Daenerys dusted off the dirt from her new pink pants-dress and turned back to her guard. They mounted up and started their journey back to the Red Keep. Ser Torrhen Karstark took the lead. Her bloodriders, Rakharo and Aggo, brought up the rear. Jorah would often sit just ahead of them, but this time he decided to ride alongside her. She raised her eyebrow at him but kept her eyes forward.

"If I may be frank, Khaleesi?"

She considered him for a moment before nodding.

"I fear for you."

Daenerys looked at him askance. "And why, pray, would you be afraid for me?"

"I doubt the safety of this city. You'd be best served away from King's Landing."

"I still have not heard any reasons," she replied, her tone now curt.

"You were but mere feet away from an assassin during the assault on King's Landing," he said, his face intense.

"You were too. You would have stopped him."

She saw a flicker in his eyes and his face became shadowed. "I'm concerned about King Aemon and what his intentions are for you."

Daenerys furrowed her brow in confusion. "How do you mean?"

"I said once that when a Targaryen is born, the Gods flip a coin. King Aemon's insanity is showing."

"Are you sure you aren't seeing your own madness?" Daenerys asked, dropping her voice as the crowds thickened. "He has only ever been good and kind to me."

"He fears the assassin too, but he makes no move to make you safe," Ser Jorah replied.

"I wouldn't let him," she shot back. "I am not a flower facing the first snowfall. We are dragons and we will face this threat together."

"But you're still a woman," Jorah said. "Your power is no longer equal. In Essos, you were a queen with no rival and the Unsullied at your beck. I would have you return to that."

"For what purpose?" she asked in exasperation.

"I only meant that … you were better as your own ruler than beholden to a king," he said.

She was quiet for a moment. It had been an adjustment, finding her place in King's Landing. She had insisted on being an active participant in court and Aemon had allowed that. Since their marriage, they had attended court together, never one without the other.

If he had to, would he leave court to me? she wondered. Initially, both in small council meetings and at court, she had largely watched the proceedings quietly. There had already been enough friction upon her arrival that she felt it best to observe and understand the way of thinking in the Red Keep. Much of it was based on tradition, which Daenerys scoffed at, but she had recognized that there were voices who were the antithesis of that. The mistress of coin, Lady Olenna, blatantly rolled her eyes at any call for tradition. Aemon was careful not to show his feelings, but then he had broken tradition to give Lady Olenna a seat on the council to begin with.

On more than one occasion, he had mentioned ruling together. Granted, he personally handled all of the laws and edicts that came before him as was his responsibility as a king. He had occasionally taken matters to her and listened to her input. He had originally wanted to hide the dragons under the Red Keep, but she wouldn't have it. He had relented quickly in her favor. While Drogon had broken away, he had not fallen under the damned horn's spell and had condemned it for good to the bottom of Blackwater Bay.

"Am I better alone?" Daenerys asked, sliding her eyes over to meet Ser Jorah's but there was no pleading. "We were barely scratching a living when the Khalasar broke. Then we lived comfortably by the grace of Xaro Xhoan Daxos, but as little more than paupers. The price I would have paid to stay in Qarth would have been exacting; one of my dragons in fact." Likely Drogon. "Aemon has asked nothing of me that I wouldn't already have to provide by marriage. My dragons are still mine and now they are united with their brother. They are family. For the first time in my life, truly, I have safety and love. I dare not imagine the toll I would have to pay to live with my own crown."

"But the Faceless …"

"Would be a problem regardless of where I go. They are hidden, are they not? Better then to be in the safety of the Red Keep," she replied with a note of finality in her voice.

While Ser Jorah did not fall back in his usual spot behind her, he did remain silent for the rest of the ride to the Red Keep. It took some time to return as Daenerys was stopped by people on the street to shake her hand and she couldn't resist indulging them. They acted like she was a divine creature whom they couldn't believe was before their eyes. She also couldn't resist dropping a few coins for the poorest children who came up to her with their hands cupped and their pleading eyes.

Upon returning to the Red Keep, she made a beeline for the grand maester's solar. Although she was quite certain of her pregnancy, she felt it was time to confirm it. She had avoided giving the news to Aemon long enough.

The encounter was quick. While she personally found Grand Maester Brunal stuffy and he bored her with an endless stream of chatter, he was efficient. He listened to her symptoms, nodding and humming, then endlessly prodded and poked her around her stomach and breasts. As he made notes on a piece of parchment, he spoke at length about what she could expect from her pregnancy and how he advised her to handle it. The instructions were not all that dissimilar from how her handmaids had guided her during her first pregnancy.

"Do make sure to always have a second glass of water at every meal-time. You will need to stay well-fed and well-watered for the sake of the babe," he said. "Rest when you are able and allow your maids to run errands in your stead."

Daenerys rolled her eyes when his back was turned to her. She'd been made to carry on under much harsher conditions in the Khalasar where they rode for miles on horseback day after day. She expected this pregnancy to be considerably easier.

"Are you using herbal remedies to ease the nausea?" Grand Maester Brunal asked, his bushy eyebrows rising up his forehead in question.

"Yes, I am."

"Hmm … I'm sure most brews that your maids know will suffice, but consider staying away from the red flaxis weed. It's on the strong side and in my experience it is a possible culprit of miscarriages," Brunal replied.

Daenerys frowned. "What would it look like?"

The Grand Maester shuffled through his stores, moving containers here and there before pulling a few. "This is the form you're apt to see in tea. It's dark green, has serrated edges, and comes in pairs, as you can see here. This is the powder form ground by a pestle. It's very dark in color and is often more potent since a large dose can be used in smaller amounts. It's quite safe to taste, so you'll find it bitter with a tinge of fire."

Daenerys knitted her brow, but then she smiled and nodded. "I'll keep my eyes out for it."

Once she left, she began looking for Aemon. Much to her surprise, his solar was empty, evident by the fact that there were no kingsguard outside the doors as there always were. He was not in the training yard, but she eventually found Ser Barristan and the Hound outside their quarters. She nodded at them as she entered and she heard a murmuring of "Your Grace" in return.

She immediately noticed Aemon sprawled out in their bed, which she found peculiar, but he had been quite stressed managing the response to the Ironborn invasion. The ships that were now bound for Lannisport had left only a week ago. In a couple of months, she and Aemon would then be bound to catch them there and oversee the formalizing of the Ironborn allegiance to the Seven Kingdoms. It was very peculiar that a kingdom seemingly founded and run by pirates would merit any kind of interest from the mainland, but Aemon was adamant that they had to be folded back in for his reign to be considered successful.

"Has night turned to day? I don't think I've ever …" Her words trailed away as she approached. He was lying quite still on his back and his eyes were rolled up into his head so that she could only see the whites. "Aemon?! Aemon, what's happened?!" she cried out.

In the very next instant, he started and his eyes rolled back. He was peering up at her in surprise. The kingsguard burst into the room, their hands on their sword hilts.

Aemon reached out to her. "Are you well?"

"Am I?!" she said in confusion.

He glanced over to the kingsguard and commanded, "False alarm. 'Twas nothing. Return to your posts."

Ser Barristan looked disgruntled, but he and the Hound did as they were told.

"What was that?" Daenerys asked, trying to calm her racing heart.

"I'm sorry for giving you a fright," Aemon replied, his expression sheepish. "The Starks are descendants of the First Men, a very old bloodline. There are stories of Starks of old having the ability to warg."

"Warg?"

"To see through the eyes of an animal," Aemon explained. "I learned not all that long ago that I can see through Ghost's eyes. I was checking the progress of the train heading north."

"You can see through Ghost?" Daenerys whispered, slowly sinking onto the bed, and she reached out for his hand.

"Yes. It is said that some wargs were so powerful that they could see through the eyes of any animal. But I can only see through Ghost's eyes. I assume it's because he is familiar to me." He squeezed her hand in reassurance. "I know it seems alarming, but I assure you, I am perfectly safe."

"Why didn't you tell me?" she said.

She had never seen him blush before and when he did, it was merely a light tinge of pink to his cheeks. "I wasn't sure how to say it. I'm also afraid of what people might think. Most southrons consider the stories from the North mere fairytales. I was afraid they would accuse me of being a witch-king with ungodly powers."

"They're ridiculous if they do," Daenerys muttered.

He gave her a wan smile in reply. "It's still not common. I'd ask that you keep what I can do to yourself."

"Of course," Daenerys replied, "You can tell me anything."

"Anything?" Aemon said in a voice full of amusement.

She nodded.

His face grew serious for a moment, but then he shrugged. "I'll certainly remember that."

"Does anyone else know?" she asked.

"Jaime does."

She raised her eyebrows at him.

"Truly, only him. Why do you think I sent Ghost north with him?"

She thought about it. There was very little that needed attention on a march to the North. She'd traveled enough to know that very little ever happened during those journeys, but then she recalled the reason Jaime had explicitly been sent up there for. "You want to be able to attend the freefolk negotiations."

"Exactly. I know Jaime can handle them, but it is still useful to see them with my own eyes. The freefolk have respect for wargs, too. My seeing through Ghost's eyes will hopefully endear them to me."

Daenerys curled up on the side of the bed and leaned into him, placing her head on his shoulder. "Do you think we will be able to win the freefolk over?"

"I don't know," Aemon whispered. "I think I could persuade them. They will bristle against Jaime's manners and demeanor, but I dearly hope my uncle's presence will temper that."

"Then why send Jaime?" She asked.

"Because the freefolk respect strength above all. Jaime is the best swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms. If they demand a fight for respect, he'll win it. Of that I have no doubt."

Daenerys threaded her fingers through Aemon's. They were quiet. She was enjoying the moment, but she knew his thoughts were far away with the train north. There was nothing he could do about it but fret.

"I have some news of my own I need to share," Daenerys said, attempting to be serious, but a smile tugged at her lips.

"Oh?" Aemon asked, his eyebrows raising and he searched her face.

"I suspected for some time and today the grand maester confirmed it. I am with child," she said.

Aemon gave a shout of joy and leaped to his feet. He then picked her up and held her in the air. She shrieked with laughter as he twirled her around. She was still laughing as he set her down and he said, "You have made me the happiest man in the world."

"That makes two of us," she said, then she threw her arms around him and stood on her tiptoes for a kiss.