"This is really strange" commented Jaeherys, trying to make sense of Aurane´s message. It arrived to Driftmark just before he set off to Dorne and, after all this days, it still doesn´t make much sense. Robert´s bastards, Jon Arryn being murdered, Ser Hugh being murdered, his uncle being nosy… it looked like the recipe for disaster. And, for some reason, he believed his reasoning wasn´t very far from truth, especially considering his uncle´s character.
"Your Grace" a Celtigar knight entered his cabin, making the boy lift his eyes from the message. "We are about to dock in Sunspear. Please, don your cloak until you are safely inside the castle."
"Of course" he said, putting on his dark cloak. The young king neglected comment that he wasn´t safe anywhere near those vipers, rubbing his sister´s bracelet for luck. Then he prepared himself, mentally evoking the image of Rhaenys and Aegon, reminding himself that this was their family. His family… distant family. Unlike the Starks.
"I´m Areo Hotah" the man who received them in secret announced, not bothering to bow to them. "I´m here to escort the Lady Lyanna´s son to the Prince of Dorne."
"Very well, captain Hotah" Jaeherys nodded, carefully noting his words, but not showing him any signs of being offended by them. After all, he knew that the dornish wouldn´t call him their king so soon. At least not the Martells, who consider him illegitimate and an insult to Princess Elia.
"Jaeherys Sand" Doran Martell said as he received the child of the woman who dishonoured his sister in his private solar. The king´s valyrian escort were outrageous at his disrespect, but this one stopped them with a hand sign. If he let insults like this get to his head, he would have never survived Lady Stark.
"I have used Snow for quite some time. If you are going to use a bastard name for me, I would be more comfortable with one familiar" he continued with the conversation, as Prince Oberyn huffed. He wanted to ran his spear through this child, but at the same time… he couldn´t hold him responsible for the actions of his parents.
"Jaeherys Snow, then" Doran continued, offering him a seat. He was about to say something else, but the boy acted before he did, offering him a little wooden box with the heraldry of House Martell. He opened it only to find Rhaenys necklace… his own mother´s necklace. The last time he had seen it was when his sister donned it at their mother´s funeral, shortly after she became Crown Princess. "Mostly unusual"
"How so?" he asked. "Rhaenys and Aegon were my beloved siblings, returning their mother´s necklace to it´s rightful owners. Besides, I wanted to pay my respects to you and, now that I´m more free to move, offer my condolences to you as a fellow grieving family member."
"Thank you" the prince said, not believing it at all. "I have wanted to know you for quite some time, if I´m sincere. Not all bastards would have returned a necklace like that…"
"With all due respect, my prince, not all bastards are treated as part of the family north of Dorne. At least not like you treat your own bastards" he sneaked a glance to the Red Viper. "And the necklace wasn´t mine to keep."
"True, but no one knew you still had it. BESIDES, in your position, few would grieve the loss of a legitimate older brother and sister, specially when he was left the only acceptable male heir to Throne."
"Few are like me… or maybe not so much here" Jon made eye contact with Prince Oberyn then. "Tell me, my prince, would your daughters ever try to steal their cousin´s rightful place? Would any of them declared herself Princess of Dorne over your niece, the one they love as another sister?"
"It´s the same with me" the young man continued. "I know that my legitimacy is questionable in the best of cases for you, but that doesn´t change the fact that I loved your niece and nephew. We were raised together as siblings, fought together, went everywhere together… I loved them more than I could tell, I still love them now that they are dead and my rage burns deep inside my soul, so much that I won´t stop until I have brought all of the culprits before justice."
"Still found it hard to believe, seeing how much you gained from their untimely death. Now, I´m not saying that you had anything to do with the attack that night" finally some truth. At least they all blamed the same people for this, thought Jon. "But being the sole survivor that night served you right."
"My Prince, I didn´t mean to survive that night…"
"But you did, which serves this family not" Jaeherys frowned. Down to business already, Doran Martell was really a non-nonsense man. "Which brings us here this day."
"I came freely to negotiate, as no one of us want a Lannister on the Throne…"
"That´s the only thing we are together in, bastard" Oberyn talked for the first time since he entered the room, earning a glare from his brother./span/p
"Just tell him, Doran, there is no need to dilate this longer" the Red Viper said, responding to his brother´s look. "Tell him that he would not get the spears of Dorne…"
"Oberyn, wait outside. Areo, make sure he waits outside" he ordered his captain, who quickly escorted the younger prince out of the chamber. "I apologize for my brother´s outburst, Snow, but that´s not far from the truth… which could change under certain circumstances."
"Just tell me it straight, which are your demands for Dorne´s help?"
"Very well" the prince moved a little bit to look at him better. "First of all, your legitimacy is a problem. I know the documents to prove the legal marriage of your parents existed, but many of them would still doubt…" Jon saw where he was going, trying to play him right into his hands. "The acceptation of your father´s first wife´s family could do wonders to render any of your retractor´s claims useless."
"You are saying that I need you more than you need me?"
"You are not the only Targaryen claimant out there, you know?" Doran smiled. "Now, when my nephew died, I sent my brother Prince Oberyn to arrange a marriage between my daughter, Princess Arianne, and the next heir of unquestionable legitimacy, Prince Viserys Targaryen."
"Uncle Viserys?" he knew of the man, but Connington never had anything good to say about him. "I don´t know what you might have heard…"
"We already know about his less than savoury tendencies, so we would like to avoid this marriage" so they wanted a claim to the Throne, but not a madman. "So we, House Martell, are prepared to accept your legitimacy and claim it was Elia´s actual request as long as you accept to marry Princess Arianne and make her your Queen."
"So, the price for the spears of Dorne is Dornish blood on the Throne? When it already is on it?" he asked, knowing full well that he couldn´t accept. He needed the Tyrells, after all, and their price would be their blood on the Throne. He couldn´t content both, not without another controversial marriage that could end his reign before it actually begins. "I can give you a counteroffer."
"I´m afraid this is undebatable."
"Would you at least listen to the counteroffer before deciding to sell your daughter to a madman that would beat his sister?" he said, stopping Doran. "I can give you a betrothal between my heir and a child of Princess Arianne or Prince Quentyn, the one whose age would be more appropriate. And I also can give you my cousin, Lady Arya Stark, as a bride for your son…"
"You can´t promise any of your uncle´s children without their support…"
"My uncle has nothing to do with this, I have Arya" or Aurane was already working in extracting her and bringing her to Dragonstone. "And A Lady of House Stark…"
"We already know what a Lady of House Stark can do, Snow, your mother was a good example of that. Didn´t she broke a vase on Robert Baratheon´s head back at Harrenhal?"
"When the man was trying to rape her and beating her younger brother, my lord" Jon smiled proudly. "Tell me, your daughter wouldn´t have done the same if someone tried something like that on her and Prince Trystane?"
"No, Arianne would have knifed him on the heart"
"But that doesn´t change anything. I can understand Lady Lyanna´s need to escape such an atrocious betrothal and I´m sure Elia could too, but there are other ways. Some of them that doesn´t end with a Princess of Dorne shamed before the whole Realm" the Martell Prince rose as high as his goat allowed. "But it´s all irrelevant. Answer me this, Snow, why should we help you? If you were married to Arianne, if you were family, we would have a reason, but as it is now, we don´t. And as long as I see, not even your own blood uncle would support you."
"Am I not family? Was I not your niece´s and nephew´s brother, who cared for them most in the world?" he was now offended. He has spent years being treated as less than family by the Starks, he wouldn´t stand that now. Not even from far blood relatives. "Rhaenys and Aegon were all I had."
"Family to them, but not ours. And you shamed our sister…"
"Am I not of dornish blood? Of Martell blood?" he continued, fire in his eyes. "I am a descendant of Mariah Martell and Dyanna Dayne, tying me to you by blood. Rhaenys never let me forget my dornish roots, that Rhyonish blood flows through my veins just like in theirs…"
"That was not what she said" he said. "She said that we all were dornish as much as valyrian. Besides, I was raised by two Martell´s side, by a bannerman of House Martell´s daughter. I am as Martell as them" Doran stayed calm. He would be lying if he said that he didn´t see anything Martell on him, but… he could see the northman more clearly. And he wouldn´t let the son of woman who shamed his sister to rise to his nephew´s Throne, not without a dornish consort by his side to secure his interests. "I will win, my prince, for them as much as we. Like Rhaenys herself said, Winter will come for House Baratheon with Fire and Blood and we will rise Unbowed, Unbend, Unbroken."
"Be as it may, but it´s not enough for us. You marry Princess Arianne or the spears of Dorne won´t follow you."
"Princess Arianne shouldn´t be here for the…"
"My prince" captain Hotah returned. Doran was about to scold him for interrupting their negotiations when he saw the expression his guard had. "The Hand of the King has taken advantage of the King´s Tourney to send something to you, the guards are already loading it into the sept."
"The sept?" the man asked, a little bit confusing. "What is it?"
"The bodies of Princess Rhaenys, King Aegon, Lady Ashara Dayne, Lord Jon Connington and the knight that protected them that night"
Jaeherys felt as if a bucket of cold water has been dropped on top of him. The bodies of his family and friends… here? And sent by his uncle? How could… Rage started to wash over him as he realised the reason. Eddard Stark has sent them to find him, to uncover him. He had guessed right that he would be negotiating with the Martells, so he sent the bodies with some of his men to find him and probably return him to the Wall. But he kept it composed. He kept his cold in front of his hosts, because once he was alone in his room…
"THAT BASTARD!" he exploded, throwing things around.
Doran Martell was wheeled into the sept after he arranged the moving of Jon Connington´s and Ashara Dayne´s remains to Starfall and Griffin´s Roost so their families could bury them. Rhaenys and Aegon along with the knight were still in the sept, being cried by many dornishmen and women who were present at the Martell court. His daughter, Princess Arianne, was also there, for once dressed in a conservative black silken dress and veil. Somehow, she managed to look beautiful despite this. How could someone reject her? He asked himself. His daughter was more beautiful than any maiden… He noticed also that Jaeherys Targaryen was nowhere to be seen. How could he not be there? He claimed he loved his siblings so much… then he noticed the northmen between his people. Oh, so that was the reason./span/p
"Father" Ari greeted him, bowing respectfully but with some bite about her. So she was still mad about him not making her the heir. "I´m reassured by your presence in this dark hours."
"Not so dark, not when we could finally put your cousins to rest besides their dear mother" the man answered, gripping her hand. She should get over that, he was trying to make her Queen! "I only wish they would have joined us alive and well."
"As we all do" she continued with the conversation. "Father, I wanted to talk to… what is that?"
Doran and Oberyn, who just joined with the Sand Snakes, also raised their heads when a beautiful sound started to flood the sept, stopping even the silent sisters tending to the bodies. And how could they not stop? It was so beautiful, more now that a voice joined it. A voice that was carrying High Valyrian words, as he could recognize. Mournful and sentimental, the owner sounded even more beautiful than Rhaegar Targaryen as he, on the verge of tears, sang to the dead. A Lament for the Dead, an ancient Valyrian tradition, Doran recognized. And it could only come from a member of the family.
Jaeherys, for his part, continued playing from his hiding spot. He was lucky to find a place in the sept where he could stay well out of the funeral attendant´s view and at the same time be heard by everyone inside. Being dressed in black also helped, as it helped him stay hidden from Jory and other guards he recognized from Winterfell. From his hiding spot, he could see them looking for him, but won´t allow that. Not now that he put things into motion. He only lamented that he couldn´t be openly present there, in his own siblings proper funeral, something that Robert never allowed them to have. Well, no one said he couldn´t stay until late.
Hours later, when everyone had left, the Targaryen got out of his hiding spot. Or at least he thought everybody left. As he knelt down in front of Aegon´s coffin to pray, he saw Oberyn Martell approach him, enraged. He could see the man´s train of thought as if he had expressed it: how did he dare to desecrate his nephew´s resting place?! He who had benefit more of his death! He was mistaken, of course, but… how to show him?/span/p
"Do you want to kill me, my prince?" the boy rose with tears in his eyes. They have fallen all the funeral and didn´t seem to stop. Like he never run out of fresh ones. "I remember him very well from our childhood. He and me… we were like twins. And at the same time, he acted so much like the responsible older brother that I couldn´t help but feel like I was ten years younger." he chuckled. "Or he tried, at least. He wasn´t much responsible outside of court training or politics."
"No?" the older man looked surprised by that. Little Aegon was King, wasn´t he supposed to be responsible all time?
"Oh, no" Jaeherys smiled despite his pain. A sad smile, as sincere as he could, now that he was remembering the good times long past. "The responsible one was Rhaenys. She was all strength and poise, showing her best face to everybody and playing the game behind her mask. Better brains for cyvasse than the collective lot of us together" his smile fell. "She died with a spear in her hand… a true Princess of Dorne until the last moment."
"And the knight?"
"Rolly? He is the reason I´m still alive now" he turned to the last coffin in the room. "He wasn´t a knight when we met him, but versed on the art of swords enough to become our instructor. Jon… Lord Connington knighted him for that. And made him Kingsguard" he bit his lip for a moment, then looked at his hands. "That night… when we were betrayed… he did as he could."
"He choose to save you, not his king"
"Sometimes I wish he had not" he breathed in hard. "The Mountain had already teared a hole on Aegon side, one that I was desperately trying to seal with a bloody rag. Then I saw Rhaenys getting knifed by that Lorch knight… Gods, I wish to forget so much, but I never could" he looked back to the wooden thing. "Rolly must have understood there was no other way, the same as Aegon… but he would never leave him alone, he was his favourite…" tears fell. "Rolly knocked me unconscious and threw me somewhere the attackers won´t worry to look at. And was captured, of course, protecting his king."
Robert Baratheon bashed his head in" Oberyn continued. "And you? What did you do after seeing your family getting killed in front of you?"
"Kneel into the battlefield and scream until I was hoarse. Also search for them like possessed, wish it was me instead of them… I have wished that every night since then" Jaeherys admitted. "What else could I have done? I was like in a trance. It wasn´t until I found this" he showed his ring with the Targaryen seal to the prince. "That I understood what I must do. And it will be done, with or without Dorne´s help" he sighed. "Now, my prince, I think we have talked too long. I will take my leave. I bid you a good night."
"Wait" Oberyn stopped him. "Was… anything you said true?"
"Whatever I answer, my prince, it´s up to you to believe. So I will leave deciding that up to you" the boy answered. "I only have this advice to give you: to cherish the time you spent with your brother. You never know how much time you have left with him."
And he left. Oberyn turned to one of the columns of the sept, from where Hotah wheeled Doran off. The younger prince turned to his brother, that last advice still fresh in his mind.
"Do you believe him?" he asked.
"I don´t know, but… at least his pain was real, I´m confident of that" the Prince of Dorne accepted. "It doesn´t mean I will give him the spears of Dorne without him making Arianne Queen, but... at least we can we reassured that our niece and nephew were beloved by someone before their deaths. Unless he is a pretty good actor, of course, enough to fool me."
"No" assured Doran. "We will invite him to break his fast tomorrow. I will have my answer by then. Oh, and contact the Daynes. I am against on principle of a Stark Princess of Dorne, but a Lady of Starfall… that might work. Specially if she had children who can marry into House Martell."
"Are you really pondering this?"
"There is nothing against making contingence plans"
Meanwhile, the king had returned to his room. Jaeherys was indeed a good actor. He could fake an emotion perfectly, wear a poker face that would put Tywin Lannister to shame and plot someone´s death showing that person a perfectly innocent smile. But that was not the problem there. No. The problem was showing weakness. The problem, he recognized as he knelt down on his room to sob and cry, was that, in this situation, it was real.
Hello! I know I haven´t actualize this fic for quite some time, but I finally got the inspiration to write the encounter between Jon and the Martells, so... why wasting it? Anyway, Jon managed to make Doran accept him as a contingence plan, if everything else fails. And as we know, Viserys is... well, let´s see how that ends. Dear Ned, on the other side... he is no political mastermind, don´t worry. He will still screw it up. He just believed that if he gave Jon the chance to bury his siblings he would be able to find him or rethink his desicion to lay a claim on the Throne. Instead, he was only poking at an open wound on the heart of a furious dragon who is going to soon be let loose on them all. How is that going to end? Merry Christmas to everyone!