Welcome back everyone! Not a whole lot to say here as I'm in a hurry to get this out this morning. So just my normal disclaimer, a huge thank you to my beta reader, and a thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review, or who have added this story to your alerts or favorites! When I started this project, I didn't imagine it would get this long! Nor would it have gathered such a following! But you all have blown me away with your support! I can only hope to continue to post things you all enjoy! And now, here we go!

Chapter 32

The heat of the midday Dornish sun was almost unbearable, especially as Jon knelt in the middle of the desert, his hand running softly over the coarse grains of sands as he let the Force flow through him and into the ground. Closing his eyes, and doing everything he could to ignore the heat, Jon focused on sensing those who'd come through this area just before them. "Find anything, Jon?"

Not opening his eyes, Jon nodded to Ygritte's question, "Yes." Opening his eyes, he brushed off his hands and rose to his feet. Standing just behind him were no more than twenty Dornishmen, Prince Oberyn and Ygritte. All of whom were staring expectantly at him as he turned and pointed off into the distance. "The trail is faint, but noticeable. They passed through here less than a day past."

Nodding, Oberyn motioned for the men with them to mount their horses. "Then let us not have these bastards get any further ahead. Mount up, men! Our wolf has caught their scent, and they will not be getting away from true men of Dorne!"

Moving over towards his horse, Jon took a moment to help Ygritte up into her saddle before swinging up into his own. As he did, he had to shift the light clothes that were covering him almost completely, leaving only his eyes exposed. A look that was being mirrored by Ygritte and many of the Dornishmen despite the heat of the day. At first Jon had baulked at the idea of wearing clothing from head to toe in the heat of the Dornish sun. But then Oberyn and Arianne had both explained to him and Ygritte that the Dornish sun could kill a man as readily as the cold of the north. Taking them at their word, both had donned the clothes provided, and too Jon's surprise they were light and cool, which just confused him. But that still didn't stop Ygritte from reminding him that the moment they arrived back at the Sunspear she was going to shed all of her clothing and go bare as the day she was born for the rest of their time in Dorne.

Snapping his reins, Jon urged his forward so that he was riding alongside Prince Oberyn. "Any thoughts on where they might be heading, Prince Oberyn?" he asked as Ygritte, slightly fighting to control her own mount, rode up alongside them.

"Yes," Oberyn nodded as they urged their horses to a light trot. "There is a ravine that is well known not too far from here and in the direction you say the brigands are heading. There are a few caves that they could hide in, but more importantly it's the only source of shade and water for days. I'd be willing to bet three days' stay at Sunspear's finest brothel that these brigands have set up camp within those caves."

"A fool's bet if I ever heard one, Oby," Ygritte countered back, referring to the shortened version of the prince's name that she'd given him early in their time in Dorne. "If there be shade in this place, den those fuckers will be hiddin their asses in it. So, let's go and kill them so we can have some fuckin shade for a change."

"I agree with the sentiment, if not her words," Jon added slowly, the prospect of shade and water making him want to urge his horse forward at a faster pace.

It took them the entire morning and well past midday to reach the ravine Prince Oberyn had mentioned. And the moment they saw it, Jon wanted to do nothing more than to descend into the ravine beneath the sands and hide in the shade provided by the stone cliff edges. But just as they were about to lead their horses towards the path that would lead them into the ravine's depths, Jon felt a jolt from the Force race through him with such force that he nearly pulled his horse right around.

"You alright there, white wolf?" Oberyn asked, having pulled his own horse to a stop.

Jon didn't answer the Prince, instead he stared hard at the ravine while trying to feel the area out with the Force, trying to find why he'd received such a…premonition of danger from the Force just as they were about to find shelter. He didn't necessarily see anything out of the ordinary, neither within the ravine nor around the cliff edges lining either side. Yet still, the sense of danger and…death from the Force persisted. "Ygritte," he said, his eyes still tracing every facet of the ravine looking for something, anything that might give him and explanation to what he was feeling. "Put an arrow into something that looks…unnatural to you."

Nodding, Ygritte took out her bow and quickly strung it before notching an arrow and pulling it taught. No one said a word as Ygritte slowly moved her aim, her eyes fluttering closed as she exhaled. Without warning her eyes opened and the string snapped. Jon tracked the arrow with his eyes, watching it sail through the air towards one of the cliff edges. The arrow struck what looked like a lopsided boulder. But instead of breaking or bouncing off the rock, the arrow sunk in deep. A scream tore through the air as what looked like a boulder was tossed aside, revealing a man who'd been using a blanket to disguise himself. He was clutching at the arrow that was now embedded into his ass.

"It's a trap!" Jon yelled, drawing his lightsaber and bringing the white blade before moving his horse so that he was between Ygritte and the ravine.

As soon as the words left his lips, all the hells broke loose as dozens of men revealed themselves from their hiding places along the top edges of the ravine. All of whom had bows with arrows notched and ready to draw. Letting go of his reins, Jon raised his hand just as the first dozen or so arrows flew into the air towards them. With a quick push of the Force, Jon was able to knock almost all the arrows that were heading towards them to the ground as the men of House Martell behind him quickly regained their wits and began mounting a proper defense.

Their attackers, to their credit, didn't seemed phased at their arrows suddenly stopping in midair as many abandoned their bows or crossbows and instead raised their spears or drew their swords before charging forward. The air next to his face whistled as two of Ygritte's arrows passed him by so close, he could almost feel the fetching against his face. Both arrows struck true, finding their marks right into the eye of two of the advancing bandits. Killing both before they could hit the ground.

Bringing his horse around, Jon deflected a spear that'd been thrown at him, cutting the shaft clean in half. Without pausing his movement, Jon brought his lightsaber down, cutting clean through the spear that'd been about to skewer him, and the man who'd been holding it. By the time Jon had killed his second bandit that'd managed to get close to him, Prince Oberyn and the men of House Martell had finally joined the fray. While the bandits had had the advantage of surprise, they were clearly outmatched as the combined skill of Jon, Prince Oberyn, Ygritte, and the men of House Martell quickly cut down all who came within reach of their blades.

But there was one that stood out more than the others. He wore full plate mail with the fringes of a purple undercoat showing beneath. His head and face were completely covered by his helm, but Jon could see wisps of white-silver hair coming out the back. And the way the man was wielding his longsword, his movements, the way his body twist and feet moved, they were all familiar to Jon. Kicking his heels into his horse's flanks, Jon rode quickly towards the armored man reaching him just as the knight managed to cut down two of House Martell with a single cut.

Normally Jon was not one to attack a man from behind, but as his Master had said, in the thick of battle the only thing that mattered was surviving the fight. And honor could wait for the blades to be sheathed. But the armored man either sensed or heard Jon's approach, as he ducked and rolled across the ground just as Jon's blade passed through where his head had been a moment before. The move saved his life, but the roll had loosened the straps of his helm enough that when he came back to his feet, his helm stayed on the ground, revealing the strange knight's face for all to see.

"Gerold Dayne!"

Prince Oberyn's shout brought a quick and abrupt end to almost all the fighting as the men of House Martell and the bandits alike all turned as one to look at Ser Gerold Dayne. The knight of House Dayne lifted a hand to his face, feeling for his missing helmet for a moment before smirking and rising to his feet. "I suppose hiding my face no longer matters. I have already achieved what I have set out to accomplish."

"What you've set out to accomplish?" the Prince of Dorne hissed, leveling his spear at the knight in one of the few times Jon could ever remember seeing the man so visibly angry at anything. "And what pray tell could you have possibly hoped to accomplish by turning brigand? By betraying House Martell and House Dayne and Dorne herself with this stunt? Speak now, Gerold! …Because my patience has nearly reached its limit and it's taking all I have not to run you through here and now."

Gerold's face twisted into a snarl as he pointed his blade towards Oberyn. "I have not betrayed Dorne! I am more a true son of Dorne than you and your brother who have done nothing to avenge the fate of your own sister! No. Saying you've done nothing would be doing you and Doran justice! You two have gone and done worse than nothing! You've made friends with the Usurper's fucking dogs of the North to the point where you're even willing to let your own niece Arianne end up as nothing more than a piece of meat to be fucked and bred by this mangy dog here and his bitch!"

Ygritte made to lung forward, her right hand with the talisman raised as flames started to dance around her fingers. But Jon's outstretched hand prevented her from taking even two steps forward. Jon was angry. No. Angry was too soft of a word for what he was feeling. He was angrier than he had ever been in his entire life at the insult delivered not just to himself, but to his family, Ygritte, and Arianne as well. But strangely he also felt…calm. Even with his anger turning his veins to fire within his being, his anger was not clouding his sight.

Sliding down from his horse and into the soft sand, Jon kept his lightsaber alight and off to the side as he slowly, deliberately, approached Gerold Dayne. "This is what you set out to do, isn't it, Gerold?" Jon asked, purposefully leaving off the man's family name and status, stating without stating that he was not worth his name nor title. "All of this. The killing of innocents. The raiding of Dorne. It was all to draw me away from Sunspear and out into the desert, wasn't it?"

Gerold's grin was feral, one of a mad beast, not of a man. "What do you know…? The mangy dog has some semblance of a mind after all."

Deactivating his lightsaber, Jon held out his hand and wordlessly summoned one of the men of House Martell's sword. "Apologies," he said to the man before turning towards Oberyn. "Prince Oberyn. For the insult delivered upon House Stark, the North, and upon your niece, I ask your leave to deal with this brigand personally."

Oberyn looked between the two of them, and the rest of the bandits who had all given up by this point and were kneeling in the sand with their hands on their heads as they were disarmed. "Normally he would be taken back to Sunspear and my brother would deliver his judgement upon him. But…I do believe we can make an exception this time. Do with him as you will, Jon. And I will handle my brother. I must say, though… Are you sure you wish to take him on without your sword?"

"Yes," Jon answered without hesitation, his eyes never leaving Gerold as he swung the blade around in a few lazy movements in order get a feel for the sword and its balance. "I have no need for my lightsaber to defeat him. Even this sword is a bit much."

Gerold clearly did not like his words as the disgraced knight didn't wait before charging at Jon with his blade raised in a high guard. "You'll regret your arrogance, boy! We're not in the yard this time!"

Jon barely had to sidestep to avoid the downward strike from Gerold. He then slid his right foot back through the sand, putting just enough distance between the two of them so that Dayne's follow up diagonal cut missed Jon's torso by a width of a hand. The man was fast, and good. There was no doubt about that. But when compared to Master Nox, who even Jon had been able to start pressuring, the man might as well have been standing still and shouting out each movement he made before he made them.

In truth, Jon found he hadn't even had need of the sword he'd borrowed. He was more than capable of dodging just enough so that each of Gerold's attacks struck nothing but air. The few times he wouldn't have been able to dodge, all Jon had to do was hold out his hand and stop the man's sword with the Force for a moment to give him the time he needed to move. 'Have I truly improved this much?' he idly wondered as he once again calmly deflected Gerold's thrust away with a Force push. 'Last time I was in Dorne and fought against him, it was all I could do to best him. But now… Now, he's not even a challenge.'

As their fight pressed on, and with each of Jon's inactions, Gerold's anger steadily grew until the man began losing all sense of control and finesse and instead just started slashing wildly at Jon. "Fight me like a man, you cowardly mangy fucker!"

Holding out his free hand, Jon once again stopped Gerold's blade. Countering for the first time, Jon slapped the flat of the sword against Gerold's hand, forcing the man to lose his grip on his sword before Jon threw him away with a Force push. "Perhaps if you were actually a challenge, Ser Gerold, I would take you seriously." Digging his foot into the sand underneath Gerold's sword, Jon kicked the blade over to the downed knight with the hilt land right next to him. "As you are now, I truly believe that even my youngest sister can put up a better showing than you."

Growling, Gerold leaned over and grabbed the hilt of his sword before flicking it upwards, sending a wave of sand to blind Jon. The attempt was for not though as Jon was able to push the sand aside with a simple wave of his hand. Gerold was on him before the sand could settle, the man's eyes alight with rage.

"Enough of this," Jon hissed, shifting himself so Gerold's thrust missed him once more.

Performing a thrust of his own, Jon buried the tip of his borrowed sword between the plate mail right above the man's knee. Yanking the blade out of the man's flesh, Jon let his momentum carry his next attack as he slashed up at Gerold's forearms. His plate mail prevented him from taking his hands, but the strike was still enough to draw blood and force the sword out of Gerold's hands. Still flowing in the same direction, Jon swept his left foot around, catching Gerold on the back of his now injured knee and sending the disgraced knight to the sand. In the time it took most to blink, Gerold was disarmed and on the ground with the tip of Jon's blade pointed towards his exposed throat.

Gritting his teeth, Gerold continued to glare up at Jon even from his place on the ground. "End it."

Jon wanted to, gods knew he did. But he didn't. Instead, he pulled the sword back and tossed it carelessly towards the man he'd taken it from. "Bind him," he said simply, turning his back on the downed former knight, "Prince Doran Martell and Princess Arianne will be the ones to decide his fate."

Jon had only a moment warning from the Force, coupled with the shouts of alarm coming from everyone around him. But it was more than enough time for him to react to Gerold's sudden attack at his exposed back. He didn't turn, he simply reacted with the Force, capturing Gerold mid-lunge with his hidden dagger poised to run through Jon's back and into his heart.

A trail of fire lashed out like a whip, it's warmth enough for Jon to feel even in the heat of Dorne as it passed him by. Gerold's scream, followed by the soft sound of something heavy falling to the sand was all Jon needed to hear to know that the former knight was now down an arm. Looking to the side, he saw Ygritte grinning at him, her right hand held aloft and twisting in the air as the trail of fire curled back around her hand like a rope. "How many times do da Sorcerer and ye father have to tell ya?" she asked, shaking her hand and making the fire disappear. "Ye only turn yer back on a corpse."

By the time she reached him, the men of House Martell also reached the fallen knight and proceeded to bind his one remaining arm behind his back with a piece of robe. "I was never in any danger," he tried to justify, only to receive a hard look from Ygritte followed by a quick flick of her fingers against his head.

"Yer cockiness will get ya killed, Jon. Yer good, but ya not that good yet. I'd hate for ya to do somethin stupid and end up loosen yer life cause of it. I've gotten far too accustomed to ya in me furs. And I'd hate to go through the trouble of findin a suitable replacement for ya."

Shaking his head, Jon turned to watch as Prince Oberyn and the men of House Martell began the tedious process of tying their prisoners to the horses. Forcing the brigands to walk back to Sunspear in the heat of the desert almost seemed…excessive to Jon. But honestly, he couldn't find himself to care. Not for this lot that turned to brigandry and harmed so many innocents over one man's need for some form of vengeance. "I will take your words to heart, Ygritte."

"Ye better," she said with a grin. But suddenly her grin faded as she drew an arrow, notched it, and let it fly with only the briefest of glances in the direction she was firing.

One of the brigands had managed to slip away during the duel and had made it perhaps three hundred paces or more away from them before Ygritte's arrow caught him. The man didn't even have time to react as her arrow struck him clean in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Shaking his head, he glanced at the former wildling who'd managed to claim his heart just as Arianne had. "And you just told me not to be cocky. Pray tell, how much longer were you going to wait before taking that one down?"

Smirking, Ygritte began the process of unstringing her bow. "I said dat ye ain't that good yet, Jon. I never said I wasn't dat good already."

Standing in the middle of the stone tomb, Nox tilted his head back, blocking out all noise from the outside world as he focused on the living Force flowing around him. Given his time on Korriban, and under the Apprenticeship of Zash, Nox was no stranger to tombs. Even here on this world, he had descended into his fair share of them. But this tomb beneath Winterfell, the one intended for the Jedi Master Bran Stark, this tomb was far different than any other he'd seen. The tomb was in a constant flux of light and dark Force energies flowing through it. Not battling one another. But rather…in harmony with one another. A conundrum. And one that he would've preferred to study alone. But…given just who this tomb belongs to, that was not going to happen anytime soon.

"Master Nox? Is what Robb said true? Is…Was our ancestor from your homeland?"

His concentration broken, Nox turned his attention away from the ebb and flow of the Force, and back to the Starks that'd come with him into the tomb. Ned and Robb were standing next to one another staring down at the once empty tomb. The duo having just completed a small service for their late ancestor who's bones now rested in the once empty tomb in the center of the room. Beside the two older men was Sansa, her hands folded before her as she offered her own prayers for her departed ancestor. The two youngest Starks had quickly lost interest in the ceremony as soon as it'd concluded, and both were now right beside Nox peppering him with one question after another.

"Are we related somehow?" Arya asked, which was followed almost immediately by Bran.

"Can you tell us what all this writing says?"

"How did he come to be in the North?"

"Did he fight against the Others like in the tales of old?"

"Are you—?"

"Arya. Bran. Enough questions for now." Ned said, not harshly, but with a tone that immediately silenced both youngsters.

But even though the two younger Starks were silent, the same could not be said for the eldest. "Master Nox," Robb said slowly. "I…I recognize this writing on the walls of the tomb. It's the same as on the…the tablet I recovered from the Wall. Can you read it? Because not even Talisa can make any sense of your people's writing."

Frowning, Nox focused his sight onto the walls of the tomb and the writing scrawled across it. "It's not that simple," he countered, walking over to the nearest wall and running his fingers across its textured surface. "Linguistic drift has played hell with my ability to read this, even though it's 'my peoples' tongue, as you put it."

"Linguistic…drift? What's that?" Arya asked, looking around. "If this is the tongue of your homeland people, then you should be able to read it and speak it, right?"

"If it was recent, say only a few hundred to a thousand years old, then yes, I would be able to quite easily," Nox nodded. "However, over time languages, even the same tongue, can change. This change is known as linguistic drift. Words change meaning, or phrases fall out of use and are replaced by others. Or even spelling of words or sentence structure can change over time. If you were to pull a Stark from perhaps five hundred to a thousand years ago to the here and now, while you both would technically be speaking the same tongue, it is unlikely that you would be able to understand each other all that easily. And this…this writing is nearly eight thousand years old. I can make sense of some of it…but only a small portion. It will take time, perhaps even years, to transcribe everything within this tomb and translate it into a dialect we can understand."

"Oh," Robb answered, rubbing the back of his neck, his disappointment evident in both his physical form and through the Force. "That's…unfortunate."

"Get used to it," Nox said back, walking to a particular part of the text written on the wall and concentrating on trying to decipher it. "In life, very few things are done so simply. Just because you reached the finish line does not mean your task has been completed."

"A good lesson to impart, Nox," Ned nodded. "As a Lord and my heir, you should never stop nor rest on your laurels just because you reached a certain point. There is always more that must be done."

The children all went quiet as they took in their father's words. "So," Arya, being the most daring of the bunch, was the first to break the silence. "Can you read any of this then?"

"Bits and pieces," Nox answered, motioning with his hand towards the small section he was currently concentrating on. "I believe that I was right about your ancestor in that he was originally a Jedi…but he followed the old way, the Je'daii."

"You…just said the same word twice," Arya spoke up again, "Jedi and Je'daii…what's the difference? I know you said the Jedi only used the light side of the Force, but who or what are the Jed'eii?"

"Je'daii," Nox corrected her. "And for the sake of being simplistic, the Je'daii are basically what I'm trying to turn you lot into. Followers of both the light and the dark side of the Force. It's a delicate balancing act, but one that so far you all have been up to the task of maintaining."

"Oh…well that's…umm…nice?" Arya said awkwardly, drawing an exasperated sigh of her of name from Sansa.

"Can you spot any mention of Bran the Builder's last creation, Master?" Robb asked, his eagerness returning as he parted from his father and made his way towards Nox.

"Not yet" Nox answered honestly, waving his hand around the tomb. "All of this seems to be a telling of his life and teachings. Though unlike in a book where you could simply flip to the end to find one's last act, or in this case creation, here it is not so simple."

"Why not, Master?" Sansa asked curiously.

"Simply put, I don't know where the beginning and the end even are in all of this." Nox replied. "And if you were to put all the text from these walls into a book, you would have easily one of the largest books in Winterfell's library. This…is going to take a lot of time to learn what we need to know." 'And let us hope that we have the time to learn what we need to. By the Force Bran Stark…if you're last creation isn't worth it, I'm going to pull your sorry Jedi ass out from the aether of the Force just so that I can kill you with my own hands.'

Holding onto the reins of her mare tightly, Daenerys Targaryen watched with a critical eye those that she now considered 'her people', the Dothraki. If she were being honest with herself, they were not entirely what she'd thought they would be, nor what she'd heard they were. Sure, they were violent at times and even in the brief time she'd been with them her husband had already led two different raids: one on a village and one on a larger town. But most? The followers or the young? They were just people living their lives. Not demons or monsters or whatever else people called the Dothraki. They were just people living their lives as best they could. Just as Jon had told her when he compared the Dothraki to the Wildlings of the North when she'd brought up her potential marriage to Khal Drogo.


Glancing to her left, Dany kept her face impassive as the man who'd sworn his sword and service to her, Ser Jorah Mormont, rode up to her side. She still felt…conflicted about the man from the North. Part of her was comforted by his presence. Perhaps it was because of his accent? After spending time with Jon in her meditations, then with Domeric at his estate and then again with Lord Nox, hearing the Northern slur to the man's speech was mildly comforting. But another part, the part that knew the truth of just why Ser Jorah had been exiled, a tale she'd heard from Jon just a night past when she asked him about the man during one of their shared dreams, was uneasy with the man. And given the fact that while he'd pledged to see House Targaryen return to the Iron Throne, he'd offered his sword and services to her. The act was a contradiction of his pledge, seeing as how it was her brother who would be returning to rule the Seven Kingdoms, not her.

"Ser Jorah," she replied politely as Jorah slowed his horse to match her pace, allowing the two to ride together, an act that normally would not be allowed, but one Drogo tolerated after he'd learned that 'Ser Jorah the Andal' had promised her his sword and service.

Neither said anything for some time as they rode in a slightly strained silence. "Tell me, Ser Jorah," Dany said after a short time, "you told my brother at my wedding that you served my father and wish to serve the rightful King again one day. Did you find honor and satisfaction in your service to my father?"

The question was a trap, and Ser Jorah walked right into it, "I did, Princess. And I hope to serve the rightful king of Westeros once more again with honor."

Frowning, Dany sent a hard look in Ser Jorah's direction. The man froze at her gaze, making him loose control of his horse for a moment before he regained his senses and managed to get the beast back under control. "My brother and I have traversed all the Free Cities, Ser Jorah. In our most recent stay before Pentos, we were given shelter by a sympathetic individual, though they refused to provide any long-term aid. During our stay, this individual told me, very bluntly, as to the true reasoning behind the Rebellion and my family's forced exile from Westeros. And from what I heard of my father and brother, no true man of the North would say that they 'honorably and willingly' served my father. Not after my brother absconded with Lyanna Stark with no explanation. And certainly not after my father brutalized and murdered Brandon and Rickard Stark for demanding Rheagar explain his actions."

Ser Jorah swallowed nervously. Clearly, he was not expecting her to actually know the truth behind the Rebellion. "Forgive me, Princess. I merely wished to spare you the pain of your family's past."

"I am not my brother, Ser Jorah," Dany replied sharply. "I do not need constant flattering nor assurances of what I believe my place and right to be. Lie to me again, Ser Jorah, or try to feed me empty platitudes and flattery, and you will find that you no longer have a place by my side."

Ser Jorah nodded subduedly. "As you say, Princess."

Riding in silence, Dany decided to give the former man of the North one more chance. "Tell me, Ser Jorah, how is it that you came to be so far from the North?"

The man hesitated, and she could tell that he was debating on whether to tell her the full truth. Which of course she already knew after she'd asked Jon about the man the first night they reconnected in the world of dreams after her wedding. "I was forced to flee my home because I fell in love with a woman who did not love me in return," the older man answered honestly. "After the Greyjoy Rebellion, I participated in the tourney that was being held in celebration, a tourney which I won. During the tourney, I caught the eye of a woman, who I thought was the most beautiful woman in the world at the time. After winning the joust, I approached her father and asked for her hand, which he gave. For a brief time, I was in bliss. But I was a fool. My House never had much coin, even by Northern standards. And my wife, she came from one of the wealthier Houses in the Reach and new only comfort and warmth. I did what I could to see to her desires, but eventually I brought my House to near financial ruin trying to do so. Things eventually reached a point where my own cousin volunteered to go with the Sorcerer when he announced his plans to explore the ruins of Valyria."

"While she was gone, my House's coffers went almost completely dry. I was growing desperate…and eventually was approached by a man I had known for almost my entire life with a possible solution. I'd had a group of poachers languishing in the cells on Bear Island, waiting my judgement. This man suggested that instead of executing the men, or sending them to the Wall, that I…sell them into slavery. At first, I outright rejected the idea. But then the coin was presented to me and, thinking of bringing my wife joy and filling my House's coffers again, I accepted the deal."

Dany remained silent as Ser Jorah told his tale, but as the older man looked down in clear shame, Dany pressed him to continue. "And your act was discovered?"

"Aye, Princess," Ser Jorah nodded. "The laws of the North are not lenient, to the nobles or even the Starks. When Lord Stark learned of what I'd done, he demanded I present myself to him in Winterfell and explain my actions. But I knew going would have only one of two outcomes. My head on a spike. Or being exiled to the Wall. So…to my shame, I ran. My wife and I collected what little possessions we had, though I had to physically stop her from taking so much that it would leave my family in complete ruin. And we boarded a boat belonging to a sympathetic captain and left."

Part of her couldn't help but feel sorry for the man. But at the same time, instead of standing up and facing the consequences of his actions, he ran. "And where is your wife now, Ser Jorah?"

At this, there was clear anguish across the older man's face. "After we fled, we ended up in Lys. I ended up selling my services as a sellsword, and while I was off fighting to bring her coin to keep her well, my wife took a merchant prince as a lover and moved into his manse. I returned after over a moon's turn of fighting expecting to find my lovely wife waiting for me, instead I found her in the arms of the merchant prince, who proclaimed that unless I gave up my wife and left Lys, that he would have me enslaved for my debts. I…I tried to talk to my wife, but she pointedly ignored me, going so far as to even begin the process of…copulating with the merchant prince in front of me. Unable to take the sight of the woman I loved doing such an act…I agreed to his request, gave up all rights I had to my wife and left Lys behind."

Now Dany truly did feel sorry for the man. He'd given up everything for a woman he loved, his wealth, his home, his family, and his honor. And in the end, she jumped into the arms of the first man she ran across that could offer her a better life. "I am sorry for what you have had to go through, Ser Jorah."

"I appreciate your sympathy, Princess," Ser Jorah nodded, his eyes still downcast and his tone heavy.

Shifting in her seat, Dany turned and cast a glance towards her handmaidens, who were walking just a few paces behind her. She could tell that her three handmaidens were all growing tired, as were many of the others who were on foot behind her. "Jhiqui," she said, calling out to the larger of her handmaidens. While her skill with the Dothraki tongue was coming along, she was still far from proficient in the tongue and still required Jhiqui's help to translate. "Tell the column to stop."

Jhiqui immediately nodded and turned to relay her command.

"For how long, Princess?" Ser Jorah asked.

Dany didn't hesitate. "Till I command them to continue."

There was the slightest of upturning to Ser Jorah's lips. "Now you're sounding like a Queen."

"Not a Queen, Ser Jorah," Dany countered as she began leading her horse away from the column and her people that were starting to unpack for a quick respite. "A Khaleesi."

Ser Jorah just nodded and moved aside as Dany led her horse into the tall grass and away from the column with her handmaidens following quickly behind her. They were not alone in their wandering as Dany noted Rakharo, a member of her khas, or bodyguards, that her husband had assigned to her quickly made to follow her off into the grass. 'Good,' she thought as she kept her head held high, riding out a fair distance until she could just barely make out the column. Pulling her mare to a stop, she quickly dismounted and handed her reins off to Irri before watching Rakharo effortlessly slide down off of his own horse and join her. Despite being younger than many of the others in her husband's riders, the young Dothraki was extremely skilled in both riding and fighting. The latter of which, was the reason Drogo had ordered him explicitly to be amongst her khas.

Turning towards Dorea, Dany felt a familiar rush run through her as the blond woman held out the hilt of arakh for her. The rush only intensified as she drew the blade and faced off against Rakharo, who had his own blade drawn and held at the ready.

Normally, women within the khalassar, even the Khaleesi, did not wield weapons. But, as Dany was quickly learning, her husband Drogo was far from a 'normal' Khal. A few days after their wedding, he had happened upon her early in the morning while she was going through a few of the exercises and sword forms that Nox and Jon had taught her. When she realized that Drogo was watching her, and had apparently been watching for some time, she'd at first been fearful at having been caught. But then he surprised her by picking up a thick stick from the ground and motioning for her to raise her training blade. There had been, and still was, a language barrier between the two of them, but his intent was clear. He wanted to see what she could do.

And while she was more than willing to show her husband that she was no mere weakling, her desire to prove herself quickly turned to mortification as her husband repeatedly humiliated her, besting her with nothing but a stick. But to her surprise he didn't seem to gloat, he merely pointed with his stick or used his body to show what she'd done wrong. And each time he did, she corrected herself, which seem to draw a look of approval from her husband. But despite being happy with her improvements, it didn't stop her humiliation as Drogo again and again bested her no matter what she did, often ending the bout with a quick smack to her backside accompanied by a grin.

Eventually her humiliation overrode her desire to learn and her anger at not being taken seriously boiled over. Receiving one last smack to her backside, Dany let go of her sword with her right hand, threw her palm out and screamed her rage. The Force responded to her call, rushing through her, and seemingly feeding off her anger and humiliation as the dust, leaves, and whatever else was in the immediate are flew as if pushed forward by a strong gust of wind. But to her utmost surprise, her husband just crossed his arms before his face, leaned forward and…took her attack head on. His feet dug into the ground, leaving a trail embedded into the ground as he was pushed away from her. But then her anger was quickly dispersed as Drogo dropped his arms and moved faster than she had ever seen anyone move in her entire life. One moment he was a good twenty paces away from her, and the next he was sweeping her legs out from underneath her and tossing her training blade aside.

Before she could even raise her face out of the ground, she felt his rough hands grab her waist and tear her pants away while forcing her up onto her hands and knees. Knowing what was coming, Dany braced herself as she felt her husband enter her swiftly, taking her fast and harder than she could ever remember him doing before. Gritting her teeth, and not willing to admit that a small part of her was thrilled at what was happening, Dany waited for Drogo to slow before making her move. The moment he showed signs of slowing, Dany threw her back into his chest, surprising him just enough to knock him off balance. Taking advantage of the distraction, Dany turned and pushed him onto his back before straddling his hips and mounting him, keeping her eyes locked firmly on his.

Dany had no idea just how long the two of them continued their fight for dominance, but eventually Drogo's experience and endurance won out and she was left as little more than a quivering and exhausted mess on the ground. But instead of just walking off, as she expected him to, her husband instead wrapped her up in a blanket and gathered her up in his arms before walking back to the column. She'd been…surprised by his tenderness. And the surprises kept mounting as, after he'd brought her back to their tent, he called in the young rider Rakharo. She'd needed Jhiqui the full exchange later, but Drogo had claimed that his 'true dragon wife had claws and needed to learn how to use them properly'. And hence, Rakharo had not only been assigned to her as part of her khas, but also as her teacher in the ways of the blade.

Back in the present Dany narrowed her eyes as Rakharo began bouncing on the balls of his feet before rushing forward in a flurry of movement. Dany was by no means an expert in sword combat, or any combat for that matter, but she was not a complete novice. Her brief time under Nox's tutelage, not to mention Jon's few lessons, had given her the starting point for her. Though the sword 'styles', which she honestly hadn't realized was a thing, between the Dothraki and Lord Nox were vastly different, there was a similarity between the two. Especially between the Dothraki way of fighting and the style that Lord Nox referred to as 'Ataru'.

While Dany did find the form amazing to watch and useful, it was not her. She was not as fast as others, and the form required a great deal of stamina, something she did not have. Instead, she found herself favoring the defensive form that Nox referred to as 'Soresu', which prioritized defensive parrying and deflection over speed and brute force. The first time she'd used the form against Rakharo he'd made a comment about her being too stiff and not moving around enough, but after holding him back long enough to make him take her seriously, he didn't comment on his apparent dislike of the form again.

After a few tentative probes at her defense, Rakharo began his attack in earnest, his arakh moving almost faster than her eyes could track. If it wasn't for her lessons under Nox with the using the Force to help predict where her enemy would attack, she knew for a fact that she wouldn't have even lasted five moves against the young rider. Yet with the Force acting as her guide and eyes, she was able to deflect, dodge, or straight up counter every attack that was sent against her. After perhaps a few dozen attacks on his part, Rakharo seemed to think she'd advanced enough for him to go even faster than before. Which was something he'd been doing more and more with each lesson he gave her. He would start out slow, then slowly speed up his attacks and the strength behind said attacks until she faltered. She was lasting longer this bout than any before, and she was starting to get her hopes up that perhaps she would finally claim a victory against her khas. But just as that hope came, so too did a sensation from the Force that was so sudden that she couldn't help but take a step back and raise her hand in a signal for Rakharo to stop, which the young rider did immediately.

Dany's heart hammered in her chest as anxiety quickly built within her as her brother charged headlong out of the tall grass and into the small clearing she'd claimed for her training session. "What in the hells do you think you're doing!?" Her brother shouted, clumsily sliding from his horse, barely managing to get his feet beneath him before charging straight for her. "How dare you command me! Me! The king of the Seven Kingdoms to halt just so that you can play with a blade! I am the King! You do not command me, sister! And now…now you have woken the – the – akk!"

Throughout his rant and charge, Dany stood her ground, even going as far to wave off Rakharo who was ready to step between them. But she did not need her khas's protection from her brother. Not anymore. Just before he was within arm's reach of her, Dany calmly held her hand at level with her own neck, and when he was close enough, she curled her fingers inwards ever so slightly. The Force reacted immediately to her call, feeding on her anger and lashing out, bringing her brother to a complete stop so quickly his feet almost left trails of dust as he began clawing frantically at his throat, his eyes bulging as he tried desperately to gasp in breaths of air.


"Quiet, brother," Dany hissed, twisting her hand, making her brother's body contort slightly as she applied more pressure to his neck. Just as she felt he was about to faint, she released him, letting him fall face first into the ground gasping for air.

Stepping close to her kneeling and coughing brother, Dany slowly squatted down so that she was looking directly into Viserys's eyes. "You are my brother, Viserys, and I can forgive much regarding your transgressions. But remember, I am now Khaleesi to Khal Drogo. His people are my people, and they are not as forgiving as I. Continue abusing your privilege as a guest amongst my people, brother, and not even I will be able to save you from the repercussions of your actions."

Rising, Dany cast a quick glance towards her handmaidens and Rakharo. Each of whom were wearing identical looks of respect and pride as they observed how she'd handled her brother. "Irri," she called to her handmaiden who'd been teaching her how to ride like the Dothraki. "Take my brother's horse. Perhaps some time on foot will teach my brother some manners."

Irri nodded as she led Dany's mare over towards her so that she could mount the beast. "For how long, Khaleesi?"

Putting her foot into the stirrup and hoisting herself up into her saddle, she glanced towards her brother. Viserys was still kneeling on the ground, one hand clutching at his throat as he stared up at her in fear. "Until I feel that he has learned his lesson," she replied, touching her heels to her horse's flanks and urging her horse to move back towards where she knew the column to be.

The office of Triarchs was one that was held in the highest of esteems in the city of Volantis. The people choose those amongst the ones eligible to rule over them. And of the three Triarchs, Malaquo Maegyr had held the position longer than either of his counterparts. In fact, he had held the seat for longer than any other from the Tigers before him. It was a distinction he held with pride. Even if he was not proud of the fact that he'd had to play the Elephant's game to ensure that he maintained his seat of power. As he sat at his desk with various reports scattered before him regarding the state of the Tiger Guards in the city and beyond, he found himself reflecting, and even slightly mourning what it'd cost him to maintain his power.

His daughter, his first born, his lovely little Talisa, gone from his sight for the gods only knew how long. He knew that sending her away was for the best, both for herself and for their family given her mindset on one of the primary cores of their culture. But still, he missed her. Missed arguing merits with her. Missed her keen mind and caring heart.

He hungered for any scrap of information he could glean from the North regarding her. The few letters she sent were read time and time again like they were the coldest cup of water presented to a man dying of thirst in the middle of the desert. But from her letters, and from what he'd heard, his daughter had not only found a place amongst the Northerners, but she'd grown. Grown to heights not even he had thought possible. From the little bits he had managed to hear, the Sorcerer had taken her under his wing. Not to teach her magic, but rather to just teach her what he knew outside of magic. And with their two minds combined, they managed to find a cure for Greyscale! A cure that, while the primary component needed to be procured from the North, was relatively easy to utilize. That one feat alone, with her name attached to it, had helped him secure nearly half of his votes the last time his seat was to be voted upon.

Then there was the glass trade, or at least the threat of the glass trade, with the North. With word reaching Myr that his daughter was residing in northern Westeros, the only other region known to create high quality glass, Myr had been quick to secure their trade through Volantis and further south. But even with the new favorable trade deals, that did not halt the expansion of the Northern glass trade. And now Myr was doing everything they could to try and protect their primary trade resource, lest they get overrun by their neighbors, who were both just waiting for the slightest show of weakness to pounce.

"Honorable Triarch, I have a missive for you."

"Come," Malaquo said, not bothering to face the door as the slave walked into his study, "leave the missive on the desk and leave."

The slave didn't say a word as he silently set the rolled missive down in front of him before making a quick retreat. Passing a glance at the rolled missive, Malaquo felt his heart quicken as he noticed the seal imprinted on the wax. A wolf's head. The sigil of House Stark of the North.

Immediately cracking the wax sealing and unfurling the missive, Malaquo expected the worst as no one from House Stark had ever written him directly, but instead he was met with confusion as he saw his daughter's neat script on the missive. 'Why would Talisa write a missive under the seal of House Stark?' He pondered, starting in on the letter.

But as he finished the letter, his confusion over why she'd used the sigil of House Stark was set to rest. Replaced instead with an influx of conflicting emotions. Pride. Joy. Rage. And frustration. His daughter, his first born…was set to be married. To the Heir of House Stark and future Warden of northern Westeros, Robb Stark. And yet…that was all there was. Just Talisa informing him that she was getting married and that, if it did not impose too much of a difficulty on him, that she would appreciate his and her family's attendance at the ceremony.

He was proud of his daughter for finding such a match on her own, and joy that she was finding happiness. But at the same time, he felt a deep rage. This…boy…was taking his daughter from him. A boy he had never even met yet. A boy who had not asked for his permission to marry his daughter! And frustration born out of the actions of his daughter. He knew his daughter well enough to know that there would be no stopping this union, even if he wanted to. This was clearly her decision. And as she'd demonstrated to him time and time again, once she'd made up her mind regarding something there was no changing it.

But even as frustrated and proud of Talisa as he was, he knew that this union was going to cause just as many problems for him as it would opportunities. But those could wait for another day. Right now, he had something far more important to worry about. Writing down a series of instructions, he picked up a bell on his desk and gave it a single hard ring before setting it back down.

Almost immediately, the doors to his rooms opened once more, revealing the same slave that'd given him the letter from his daughter only moments earlier. "How may this one be of service, Honored Triarch?"

"Inform my second that I have need to speak with him immediately," he said, not bothering to look up at the slave as he took out a fresh piece of paper so that he could begin writing down his instructions to be passed on. "Then go to my estate and inform my wife and son that we will be travelling. At the same time, I must find us a ship captain to take us to northern Westeros."

The slave didn't question the orders as he immediately bowed and departed, leaving Malaquo alone once more. Pulling out several more sheets of paper, Malaquo went about writing down multiple instructions. The last thing he wanted, or needed, was for some fool to try and take advantage of his absence to undo what he'd accomplished.

Walking to the chambers of the King, Jon wasn't surprised when he saw Ser Barristan and Ser Oakheart standing guard outside the king's rooms. What did surprise him however was the fact that he could not hear the sounds of a whore applying her trade from within the chambers. And his surprise was increased ten-fold when Barristan held out his hand and stopped him from even knocking on the chamber doors, something the Commander of the Kingsgaurd had not done since early in Robert's reign.

"The King has a visitor," Barristan explained before he could ask. "And he has commanded that he not be disturbed until his 'guest' has left."

Frowning, Jon was just about to ask who this visitor was when his question was answered as the doors to the king's chambers opened, revealing Grand Maester Jeorge. "Grand Maester," Jon said, clearly surprising the man who jumped at his voice, making his multiple chains and large stomach bounce.

"Lord Hand," the Grand Maester bowed in greeting. "Forgive me, I was not expecting to see you waiting for the King."

"I just arrived," Jon answered, frowning at the Maester. There were only a few reasons why the Grand Maester would be summoned to the King's chambers, and none of them were good. "What did the king wish to discuss with you, Grand Maester?"

The Grand Maester frowned and met Jon's eyes without blinking. "Forgive me, Lord Hand, but such information is privileged and will remain between myself and his grace. Should the King wish to divulge the nature of my visit, then that is his choice. But my oaths will not permit me to speak."

Jon was impressed, and annoyed, with the man's response. "Then you have already proven yourself a far better Grand Maester than your predecessor."

Jeorge's face twisted as if he'd just smelled something foul. "Not that I enjoy speaking ill of the dead, Lord Hand, but that is hardly a complement. The former Grand Maester was a well-known rat who would sell out his own mother if it meant that he would gain even the slightest bit of advancement. Honestly, his appointment to the position of Grand Maester was a shock to almost all within the tower who knew him. Though given the exposure of the Order of the Guiding Hand and Pycelle's involvement with the foul Order, I suppose it is no great mystery as to how and why he was offered the position over the others who were far more qualified. Now, if you will excuse me, Lord Hand, I have inquiries that I need to make on behalf of the Crown."

"Then I will not keep you any longer, Grand Maester," Jon said, stepping aside and letting the Grand Maester waddle past him in the direction of the Maester's chambers.

After watching the man leave, Jon turned and walked into the King's chambers without even a second glance towards Barristan or Oakheart. Within the king's chambers, Jon was further surprised and confused to find the king sitting on the edge of the royal bed in only a loose-fitting shirt while he stared silently out towards his balcony and the city of King's Landing below. Closing and latching the chamber doors, Jon slowly approached Robert, who didn't even turn or seem to acknowledge Jon's presence in the room.


The King didn't move, or even acknowledge him. He just stayed silent, staring out at the city below. "I can't remember the faces of my parents." Robert said suddenly, giving Jon a fright at the sudden and unexpected words from the King. "I can barely even remember what Storm's End looks like. And with the gods as my witness…I can't even remember what Lyanna looked like. But what I can remember is that day on the Trident. That day I buried my hammer into that dragon fucker's chest. I felt like a god amongst men that day. No, I was a god amongst men that day. Even with the wound Rhaeger had given me in return, I felt unkillable. Like I could take on the entire army and they would be able to do nothing but cower in fear, waiting for my hammer to end them. And it was on that day, perhaps one of the greatest days of my life, that I realized that that moment was the type of moment I wanted to die in. But…as you're so fond of reminding me Jon…we rarely get what we want in life. Or even death for that matter."

Jon took a step forward to comfort Robert out of whatever brought on this strange brooding upon him, but he stopped as the King began coughing almost violently. Robert covered his mouth with a cloth until the fit passed. And when it did, Jon felt his heart drop as Robert removed the cloth from his mouth. A cloth that was now covered in the King's blood.

"Sickness of the lungs," Robert said, holding the cloth aloft. "My death. Not the death of a warrior…but the death of an old sickly man. No offense intended, Jon."

Jon felt his stomach plummet to his feet as he stared at the bloody cloth. "How…How long?"

Robert shrugged. "The Maester isn't sure. Says it depends on how…aggressive it is. And it's still apparently in the early stages, so it's hard to say. He's given me five years. Maybe ten at best before this sickness claims me. And that's if I follow the Maester's treatment exactly. And even then, it's not a guarantee."

Despair began creeping in on Jon as he stared at his foster son and King. He was losing his son in all but name. But perhaps worse, the realm was losing its first non-Targaryen King. And Joffrey was nowhere near ready to take up the throne…if he would ever be. He hated having to resort to this option, but it appeared that he had no choice. The Realm needed Robert. Jon needed Robert. "Has…Has word been sent to the North? Perhaps this…Nox might know something."

Robert waved him off. "Jeorge is already heading to send word to the North and ask for the Sorcerer's insight. He believes that the elixir that Nox and that foreign girl created to cure Greyscale might help. But the shit hasn't been…how did he put it…tested against sickness of the lungs. So, he doesn't even know if it'll even work. So, for now, there is nothing I can do besides sit back and watch as a fucking sickness brings me low. Not some mighty warrior or during a battle…but a fucking sickness I can't even see. What a way for the 'Demon of the Trident' to finally meet his end."

For the first time in a long time, Jon felt lost. This was not some ploy he could overcome or an enemy he could outmaneuver. This was a sickness. The true assassin of Kings. "Robert…We need to discuss—"

"Not today, Jon," Robert countered, rising from his bed for the first time since Jon had entered the room and making his way over to where his normal clothes laid in a neat pile. Normally a King's groom would aid in dressing the King, but Robert was never truly one for formality or the ways of court. "I just learned I'm dying…and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. The last thing I want to deal with today is counting coppers or playing that fucking game."

"Then when, Robert?" Jon asked as Robert dressed himself. "Now, of all times, you must—"

"I know what you think I must do, Jon!" Robert all but yelled. "But right now…There is something else that I truly must do instead of whatever horse shit you'd have me do."

Just as Jon was about to ask what that was, whores he'd bet, a set of knuckles rapped on the king's doors. "Your grace," Barristan's voice came from outside the doors. "Your children are here."

Jon's argument died on his tongue as Robert gave him a glare that said that Robert knew exactly what, or rather who, Jon thought he was about to do. "Send them in, the Lord Hand is done with me for the day." Robert called out, walking past Jon with nary a look as the doors to the king's chambers were opened, allowing Prince Tommen and Princess Myrcella to enter.

"Lord Hand," Myrcella instantly curtseyed to him, the young Princess wearing a dress made of black and yellow silk in honor of House Baratheon, much to the ire of the Queen no doubt. "We can come back if you are busy with father."

"No, no, kids," Robert cut in before Jon could answer, stepping past Jon. "I promised you two a walk through the city so that you can look at the merchants without having your mother constantly shooing you away from them. And that's what I intend to do today. Jon, whatever you want to discuss, we can do that later. Today I promised to my children…and speaking of, where is your brother, you two?"

Both children's faces fell as they shared a look with one another. "We don't know, father," Myrcella answered with Tommen nodding along. "We saw him when we broke our fast and told him that you intended to take us out into the city today. But he said that he had better things to do today than walk with a couple of children."

Jon had known Robert long enough to tell that he was not pleased, though he hid it well in front of the children. "Well, it's his loss then," Robert sighed before leaning over so that he was eye level with the two younger royal children, "I guess that just means that the coin I intended to spend on him can be split between you two then."

Both Myrcella and Tommen smiled widely as Robert stood back up. Taking both children by the hands, Robert walked out of the royal chambers with the two. Silently, Barristan and Oakheart fell into step just behind the king and the children as they made their way down the hall. Watching them go, Jon was struck once more by the stark contrast between the King and the children. The king was a large man, not just with fat, but just large with pitch black hair that had only a few wisps of grey starting to show. The two children however, with their slender frames and golden hair, were all their mother. And as he watched them walk, the same nagging doubt that something was very wrong began eating away at him once more.

Once they were out of sight, Jon turned and made his way towards the Maester's chambers. Nodding at the odd guard as he walked, he began to truly notice just how lopsided the rotation of the guards were within the Red Keep. For every one man of House Baratheon or House Arryn, there were easily two to three of House Lannister. And while it wasn't unheard of for the Queen to have men of her own House in the Red Keep, the numbers were…not of the norm. 'No doubt Tywin Lannister fully intends on influencing the Royal children once myself and Robert are…out of the way,' he thought to himself as he continued onwards, his mind racing on how to try and mitigate House Lannister's influence in the Red Keep. 'Not an easy task. I've been so busy trying to keep the realm together I hadn't even realized the amount of influence Tywin has slowly been slipping into the Red Keep. Both King's squires are of House Lannister. Nearly half the guards that are not Goldcloaks…and who knows who else is under Tywin's influence. The only place he hasn't managed to gain an ear is the Small Council. But even then, I fear that it is only a matter of time before Tywin places one of his own amongst the council in one capacity or another.'

Reaching the Maester's chambers, Jon forced the thoughts of the Lannisters and their influence on the side as he knocked on the heavy wooden door. Almost immediately, the door opened to reveal the Grand Maester with a rolled scroll in his hand. "Lord Hand," Jeorge greeted him politely, bowing as much as his girth allowed him too. "If this is regarding the King, then I—"

"The King has informed me of what you two spoke about. And of the timing," Jon said, trying to tell the man that he knew the King was dying without saying it. If those words were ever to be spoken aloud in the Red Keep outside of the King's chambers, then by the end of the day word of the King's demise would reach every corner of King's Landing.

"I see," Jeorge nodded, wisely not elaborating further on the subject. "Per the King's request, I am sending word to the North to see if he has any insight on the matter."

Jon again had to grit his teeth to keep himself from saying what he truly wanted to say. The man was useful, but in his mind the Sorcerer had far outlived his usefulness and was reaching the point where he was a danger instead of an asset. And that was without even considering his magic, which went against the Faith of the Seven in more ways than Jon cared to count. "Perhaps he will have something. But I have not come to discuss the King's private matters. Rather, I have a request of my own for you."

Jeorge nodded. "Of course, Lord Hand. I am at your disposal. Perhaps we can talk while we walk? I fear far too many years in the Citadel has slowed me down considerably, and the ravens tower is a fair distance from here, and I must send this missive out as soon as possible."

"This won't take long," Jon countered, "I just need you to locate a book, and have it delivered to the Tower of the Hand…discreetly."

Jeorge tilted his head curiously, but he didn't ask questions. "Discretion of the King, Hand, and Royal Family is paramount to the Grand Maester, Lord Hand. Just let me know what book you want and I will see it delivered."

"Good," Jon nodded, handing the Maester a small slip of paper with the book he wanted written on it. "See to it that this stays between us."

Glancing down at the paper in his hand, the Maester's brow furrowed, but he nodded. "Of course, Lord Hand. It will be delivered to you immediately. I will see to it personally after I send the raven to the North."

Sipping slowly at the glass of fine Arbor Gold in his hand, Petyr Baelish did his utmost to ignore the almost deafening sounds of cheering going on around him as perhaps a hundred or more unwashed and loud men and women watched, cheered, jeered, and laughed at the spectacle taking place before them. It'd taken Petyr more time and gold than he cared to admit, especially after having to cut ties with the slavers from Slaver's Bay after the accursed sorcerer stumbled upon him, but eventually he'd managed to clean out a large underground area amongst the maze of sewers and tunnels beneath King's Landing to create this arena. An arena that he'd paid good coin and services to the Gold Cloaks to make sure it was kept secret, or as secret as it could be. An arena where the men and women of King's Landing, both smallfolk and noble alike, could come and sate their appetite. An appetite for blood.

Hearing another loud cheer, Baelish glanced down at the ring that'd been set up in the center of the chamber he'd found. A ring that had surrounding iron bars to prevent any fighter from leaving until one or the other was dead. The premise was simple. Baelish had acquired a small number of gladiators from the slavers during their brief partnership. Each night the desperate or foolish of King's Landing could put themselves forward to challenge one of them. The prize? A small chest of nearly a hundred gold coins to any man who could best one of his champions. And despite being in operation for over a moon's turn, the prize had yet to be claimed.

A cry of agony sounded as the current fool cried out in pain as the night's Champion broke his knee, then his arm with the club in his hand. In any other circumstance, such an injury would end the fight. But unfortunately for the fool, there were two factors that prevented the fight from being ended. The first was that the only weapons that were to be used in the ring were not quick and effective like swords, spears, axes, or even daggers. No, instead the only weapons available were clubs, maces, mauls, flails, and spiked gauntlets. Weapons designed to maim and cause injury and pain instead of a quick death. And the second factor was just whom the chosen champion for the night was, a particularly vicious gladiator under his employ that simply went by the name 'Face-Taker'. A name he'd earned seeing as how he always took the face of his victim, before he killed them, and then wore it over his own face during his next fight.

Watching as Face-Taker grabbed a dagger that was being offered to him through the bars, Baelish turned his head away from what he knew was about to happen and towards the only other occupant in the small private seating area normally reserved for the high born who wished to watch the festivities in secret. Sitting on the edge of his seat, the young Crown Prince Joffrey was almost giddy with excitement as he watched with rapt attention as Face-Taker held the screaming and begging fool to the ground and proceeded to collect his…trophy for the night. Behind the Crown Prince stood the two men of House Lannister that were in his pocket completely. Normally the Hound would be guarding the young Prince. But Baelish knew that that man's loyalty could not be bought so easily, and that he would report what he saw to the King, or worse to Tywin Lannister. So, he had to wait until the Hound's watch was over for a time and these two were assigned to the young Crown Prince before bringing him down to his little show.

"I do believe that you won our little wager, your grace," Baelish smiled, while ignoring the pleas and cries of the loser and handing over a small pouch of gold coins over towards the young prince and motioning towards the small sand dial next to them. "The fool didn't last until the last grain dropped. Just as you predicted, your grace."

"Of course, he didn't," Joffrey replied, grinning like a mad fool as Face-Taker shot to his feet, his new bloody trophy held in his raised hand much to the delight of the prince. "When I'm King, I'm going to make that one a Kingsguard."

Frowning, Baelish swirled his wine around in his cup as Face-Taker picked up his flail and proceeded to end his victim by crushing the man's chest with multiple strikes. "While I can agree that the champions here are all good at fighting, they are little more than beasts by this point, your grace. Rabid beasts at that. Should you wish to claim them when you rightfully ascend to your throne, then it is your right to do so. But I suggest you place them in roles more suited to their disposition. Perhaps the King's Justice? Or perhaps your King's Enforcer or Questioner? But they are not suitable as guards."

Joffrey frowned as Face-Taker left the arena, leaving the small group Baelish kept employed to clean up the corpse and spread-out dirt and sawdust to soak up the blood. "Perhaps you're right, Baelish. Something I'm discovering is common when I speak with you," Joffrey commented, making Petyr smile inside as he realized his work was paying off as he'd started to gain the boy's trust. "I just don't understand why my father hasn't made this, what did you call it? Fighting pit? Why he hasn't decreed it to be out in the open."

Bealish knew he had to be careful with his next words. "Forgive my saying so, your grace, but I fear that your father has lost much of his strength in recent years. To be sure, your father is a man to be idolized. He did bring down the Targaryen dynasty, after all. But victory has defeated your father. That and the whispering of the likes of Jon Arryn and Ned Stark have weakened him to the point where he would no longer allow something like the fighting pit to be practiced out in the open."

Joffrey frowned. "When I am King that will change. I will not allow the crown to defeat me!" Joffrey said with as much conviction as one who truly didn't understand what they were saying could. "I will surpass my father's legacy! I will become a King that is remembered not just as Robert Baratheon's son…but as King Joffrey Baratheon! The strongest and greatest King the Seven Kingdoms have ever known! And I will start by opening a fighting pit in the ruins of the dragon pit. Put that pile of rumble to good use for a change, and erase some of the last remnants of the dragons from this land."

Setting his glass down, Petyr eyed Joffrey. "I do believe your father intends to have the Dragon Pit restored and gifted to the Sorcerer when he finally comes to King's Landing and takes up the position of Master of the Arcane."

Joffrey's eyes flashed with anger. "That will not happen!" the boy snarled. "The Sorcerer is an abomination! He hordes magic away from the crown, where it belongs! And you're right Baelish…the man is far too Valyrian in appearance not to be a dragon sympathizer. When I'm king, his appointment to the Small Council will end with the removal of his head!"

Picking up his wine, Baelish used his cup, and Joffrey's sudden renewed interest in the fighting pit below to hide his smirk. Everything was starting to fall into place. A few more pieces, and he would be ready. And then…chaos. Sweet chaos. His ladder to ascension. "I see we have a new volunteer," he commented, nodding towards the entrance to the pit where some of his men were half-leading, half-forcing a new volunteer into the pit. "One thing about the small folk, there are plenty who are desperate enough that they will do anything—anything, your grace—for even the hint of coin."

"It seems so," Joffrey smiled as the foolish smallfolk began begging to be let out as Face-Taker, now wearing the still bleeding face of his last opponent, walked back into the pit. "Let us put another wager on this fight, Baelish! Ten dragons says that he dies before the last grain of sand falls."

Smirking, Baelish nodded and flipped over the sand glass as Face-Taker picked up his favored flail while his newest victim shakily picked up a bloodied club and awkwardly held it in front of himself. "I will see your bet, my Prince."

Kneeling before the raging inferno before her with her head held low in reverence of the flames, Melisandre, Priestess of R'hllor, ignored the cries of sacrifice in the flames as she focused her sight into the deepest recesses of the flames, searching for a sign from the one true god. But even as the sacrifice expired and the flames began to dim, no vision from the great lord came to her. But while many might be disheartened, she was not. No, she was elated.

Nearly a full moon's turn ago during a similar such offering to the one true god, she had been blessed with a vision. A vision of the future and of the dangers that lay ahead not only for her and the followers of R'hllor, but for all men. The Great Enemy had awoken from its long slumber. And without the great hero, R'hllor's chosen champion Azor Ahai to stand against it, the world of men would fall. But as R'hllor preached, the night was dark and full of terrors, but there was still hope to be had. And she had seen that hope. Azor Ahai had been reborn! She could not see his face, but her god had gifted her with the knowledge of his rebirth, and of the trials that both his chosen champion and she would have to endure before the Great Enemy could be defeated.

She had seen that the champion would be reborn amongst salt and smoke, and in a land far from the blessed darkness of Asshai. A land where one can travel from the heat of the summer years to the coldest of the winter and never leave the land. And there was only one such land that she knew that fit such a description. Westeros. A land of recent turmoil, but also a land where many tales of the Great Other were said to originate. It was there that she would find the chosen champion of R'hllor. Unfortunately, it would also be the land where she would find…him. The so-called 'Northern Sorcerer'.

Ever since that man had made his existence known, his mere presence had caused multiple rifts to form amongst the true faith. There were a good many amongst R'hllor's faithful that thought the man to either be a prophet or even a direct agent of R'hllor. After all, how could he use a blade of frozen fire or work his magic if not with R'hllor's blessing to aid him? There were others though that were convinced that he was not an agent of R'hllor, but rather a false prophet, and that his acts of magic were mere sleight of hand or perhaps similar to the warlocks of Qarth. Then there were others like herself, who unfortunately represented the smallest number of the faithful, that recognized the man for what he truly was. An agent of the Great Enemy, a Deceiver. And he was why Azor Ahai Reborn needed herself, or one of the faithful, at his side. For only they, the blessed by R'hllor, hoped to stand a chance against the Deceiver.

Rising from her prostration on the floor before the great pyre, Melisandre cast one final glance towards the dying flames and the still burning corpse within, thanking the man for his sacrifice in service to the great R'hllor, before turning her back and leaving the sacrificial chamber. "Did R'hllor bless you with another vision sister? Or perhaps the sacrifice wasn't to R'hllor's liking?"

Slowing her pace, Melisandre didn't need to turn to see who it was that was waiting for her. She would know her Priestess-sister anywhere. "Kinvara," she replied in greeting. Like all the other Priestess in service to R'hllor, Kinvara wore a dark red dress in honor of the one true god. The only piece that set her apart from the other Priestess was the gold neckless with the large red stone in the center, much the same as the one Melisandre wore around her own neck. "The sacrifice was sufficient. But R'hllor did not bless me with his sight. He had no need to do so as he has already shown me what I need to do."

Her words were the truth. While many would be disappointed to not receive R'hllors blessing after such an offering, Melisandre was not. To her, not receiving any sight from the one true god only meant one thing. That he had already given her what she needed. And that it was time for her to do her part in his great plan. "Your vision," Kinvara replied flatly.

While she loved Kinvara as her fellow Priestess-sister and devotee of R'hllor, Melisandre couldn't help but feel anger at her oldest friend for not seeing the truth as she had. Kinvara truly believed that the Deceiver was in fact an agent of R'hllor, perhaps even Azor Ahai himself. And she would entertain no notion that did not adhere to this belief. "We have talked of your vision sister, many times at length. And just because you have interpreted what you saw a certain way, that does not mean that it is what R'hllor truly meant. You, above all others, should know that R'hllor's visions are never as simple as they seem."

Kinvara was right. The visions of R'hllor were never simple. But her Priestess-sister was wrong about her vision. The vision that Melisandre had been blessed with was, albeit clouded at times, but it was clear. Azor Ahai would be reborn amongst smoke and salt and he would wield Lightbringer, shining brighter than ever, against the darkness. But there was more to her vision than just R'hllor's Chosen. She saw a figure cloaked in darkness whisper in the ears of a beast, a wolf, earning it's trust and offering gifts, only to betray the wolf as the darkness descended upon the land. She saw two figures wielding blades of fire; one living and one frozen, locked in combat against one another. The living fire was Lightbringer, there was no doubt in her mind on that. And there was only one she knew that wielded frozen fire. And what was more, the darkness whispering to the wolf, offering it gifts only to betray it? She'd had her doubts before that vision, but now she knew for certain. The Sorcerer was no prophet of R'hllor, nor an agent of any other false deity. He was a Deceiver sent by the Great Other to destroy Azor Ahai. And that was something that she—no, that the world of men—could not allow. It was just a shame that so few of her brethren believed her. But they would, in time.

"I know what I have seen, sister. And R'hllor has not corrected my interpretation of the visions he granted me," Melisandre replied evenly as she began walking towards her chambers so that she could begin preparing for the long journey ahead. "And perhaps, sister, you should consider the idea that your interpretation of my vision is merely what you want, and not what the one true god desires."

Kinvara kept her chin held high and her face impassive, but Melisandre had known her long enough to know the unease that rested just beneath the surface of her calm façade. "I cannot talk you out of this path it seems," Kinvara sighed as they approached her chambers. "Then it is here that we part ways, sister. For I cannot walk the path that you have set upon. Not when I know that, while you believe this to be a path set to you by R'hllor, it is not the true path. I wish you good fortune, sister, for this is a path you will be walking alone."

"I am never alone," Melisandre commented, turning towards her Priestess-sister and idly touching the ruby at her neck. "R'hllor stands with me. And in his light, I shall know no darkness."

High in the Tower of the Sun of Sunspear, Jon Stark stood stock still in mild shock as he stared down at the letter in his hands. Being a bastard, even if he was only one for his own protection, Jon had understood at a very young age that many of the options that would be awarded, even handed, to his siblings would be forever denied to him. The one thing that he knew would be forever denied to him would be marriage. As a bastard, his best hope would perhaps be to marry a fellow bastard, or not even marry at all. Even during his time with Arianne, he had been half expecting to one day have his heart broken by hearing that she was betrothed to another. After all, as his father had often told Jon and his siblings, as a noble they had expectations upon them that were not on those beneath their station, such as the available choices of their future husbands or wives. And Arianne as a Princess of Dorne and its future ruler…her hand was one that was highly sought after. And now…

"Jon? Are you going to stand there collecting flies all day? Or are you going to say something?"

Shaking his head, Jon tried to collect himself as he tore his eyes away from the small but life-changing scroll in his hands, and up to the dark-haired beauty standing before him. Arianne, the Princess of Dorne and its future ruler, was staring at him, her hands held in front of herself. She was calm on the surface, but he had known her long enough, and well enough, to tell that she was nervous. The tightness around her eyes. The slight rubbing of her hands together. Gods, why was she so uncertain? If anything, he should be the one nervous and anxious, not her. "Arianne…this is…gods," he breathed, still not entirely sure how to give his thoughts voice. "Is this…Is this what you truly wish for?"

Arianne's face twisted as she gave him a skeptical look, as if trying to figure out if he was saying what he was actually saying. "By the gods, you actually do doubt that this is what I want," she breathed. Stepping up to him, she roughly grabbed his tunic and pulled him down, sealing her mouth to his in a searing kiss. "Does that…answer your question, Jon Stark of Winterfell?"

"I…gods… This is really happening? Isn't it?" he asked, more to himself than her. "We're…Our families…We're betrothed."

Arianne smiled in his arms. "Yes, Jon, this is real. And it's happening."

Smiling with her, Jon lowered his head and fully intended on continuing what she had started, but he was pulled up short as a groan sounded from the bed nearby. "By the gods…If ya two are gonna have a celebratory fuck, do so somewhere else! I'm tryin to sleep here!"

Tilting his head so that he and Arianne were touching foreheads, Jon glanced sideways towards Ygritte, who was laying sprawled out naked as the day she was born across Arianne's…well…their bed. "You are more than welcome to join us, Ygritte," Arianne smiled, but Ygritte just waved her off.

"It's too hot to fuck," she murmured, laying her head back down amongst the silken sheets. "An ye two wore me out last night. And I don't get what yer celebratin for anyway. We already stole each other, what do some words muttered by some old fuck mean anyway?"

"It's tradition, Ygritte," Jon answered, still holding Arianne in his arms, partially because he was afraid that should he let her go, then this wonderful dream he was experiencing would fade.

"Traditions that you will need to start learning, Ygritte," Arianne said pointedly, removing herself from Jon's embrace, but keeping a firm hold on his arm. "After all, it wouldn't do for the paramour of the Princess and Prince Consort of Dorne to not follow traditions and local customs."

Ygritte sighed, dropping her head heavily onto the pillow. "Fuck…ya mean I gotta learn all yer noble shite to stay with ya now?"

"Some, yes," Arianne nodded with a smile. "You won't be…held to the same standard as Jon and I. But a certain amount of proper decorum will be expected from you. And while that might not seem appealing to you, it does come with certain benefits."

Ygritte lifted her head off the silk sheets and glared at Arianne from under a curtain of red hair. "Like what?"

"Being able to tell others what to do, for starters," Arianne commented. "And being able to continue sharing my and Jon's bed as well."

Ygritte kept her gaze on the two of them for a long while. "Fine," she sighed defeatedly before rising to her feet. "I suppose I can learn a few things. Gods damn…if it wasn't for his cock and yer tongue, I wouldn't even be entertainin the idea of learnin yer noble shite…So, I hope ya two appreciate what I'm doin for ya."

"We appreciate your horrible sacrifice, Ygritte," Jon remarked with a smirk.

"Get dat smirk off yer pretty face, Jon Stark," Ygritte growled. "Ya pretty. But ya ain't that pretty to get away with talkin ta me like that. Now, if ya two are gonna get to fuckin, then I'm gonna go find a nice cold bath to lay in. I swear, I don't know how I'm gonna live in dis fuckin heat!"

"Ygritte!" Jon yelled just as his wildling lover opened the door and stepped outside. "Your clothes!" But he was too late as he heard the door click shut, followed by a shout of surprise from the guards outside, followed by the rushing of feet as said guards no doubt began rushing to give Ygritte something to cover herself with.

Next to him, Arianne began laughing softly, covering her mouth with the back of her hand. "And here I thought that my Uncle made life at Sunspear interesting. I can only imagine just how exacerbated the guards and servants will become trying to keep up with both my Uncle and Ygritte's antics. Or how fast my father will lose what is left of his hair."

"Aye," Jon nodded, though thoughts of her father brought his joyous mood down slightly, "Arianne…Does your father…Does he know about…well, me?"

Arianne's mood sobered almost immediately. "He does," she answered honestly before raising a hand to his face and cupping his cheek. "But he knows where I stand, and where you stand, Jon. I've told you many times, whether you remain Jon or Jaehaerys, my place is by your side. Whether as your Princess or as your Queen."

Leaning into her touch, Jon revealed in the sensation of her cool hand against his face. "I don't want to be King, I never have. Not even after I learned the truth of my mother and my…my father. Gods, even just thinking about sitting on the Iron Throne…It's not what I want."

"Some would say that you not wanting to be King would be exactly the reason why you should be King," Arianne said, making him start. "But those people are idiots. The best kings are not the ones who didn't want the throne in the first place, but rather those who honor and respect the power of the throne and rule wisely."

Nodding, Jon wanted nothing more than to loose himself in her. But his mind was still filled with worry over the future. He knew that Dorne had more reason than any to hate the Baratheons and the Lannisters for what happened at the end of the Rebellion, but they had never been able to act because they did not have the support to do so. And now with him betrothed to Arianne, they could gain that support. Not just from the North, but also from those who would go to war to see a Targaryen, even an unwilling one, put back on the throne. One wrong word spoken in an opportunistic ear…and the gods only knew what would happen.

Arianne's cool hand on his cheek pulled him from his thoughts as her dark eyes bore into his. "I told you, Jon, I will protect you from those you cannot see who would seek to use you for their own gain. Even my own family if need be. Because, and I don't know how much longer it'll take for this to sink into your thick Northern skull, but you're worth it."

"I think…I think I might just be starting to believe you, Arianne," he replied softly.

"Good," she said, giving him a smile that held a much different type of warmth. One that he'd come to recognize as one that meant he was not about to get any rest. Not that he minded in the slightest. "Now, I do believe we have some celebrating to do, my betrothed. And without our paramour with us this time, I expect your full and undivided attention."

Smirking, Jon moved quickly, sweeping and arm behind the back of her knees while keeping the other behind her shoulders so that he was carrying her across her room and towards her spacious and soft bed. "As my Princess commands."

Doran Martell was not one to give out praise lightly. So, when he did feel the need the praise someone it wasn't because they'd done what was expected of them, but rather that they exceeded his expectations. But his daughter, his heir unless certain things changed, had well earned his praise this day. To expand her education on ruling, he'd given her the task of sitting in judgement of the 'Darkstar', Ser Gerold Dayne, while he sat from a secluded balcony and watched. When his daughter made her entrance into the audience hall of the Tower of the Sun, Doran had needed to rub his eyes to make sure they weren't playing tricks on him. His daughter had seemingly…blossomed in the span of less than a day. It wasn't her dark purple dress, nor the circlet with a sun and spear upon her brow that made her stand apart from the crowd. Nor was it the ornate string of ringlets she wore on her right hand. But rather, it was just…her. Her presence. Her entire being had changed. Gone was his little girl. And reborn in her place was a woman who very much honored their ancestor, Princess Nymeria of Ny Sar.

But if her mere presence and the way she carried herself wasn't enough to cause more than a few tongues to wag in the main hall, then those accompanying her sure did. His brother's daughters, Tyene and Nymeria, were acting as her handmaidens, walking in fine dresses as befitting their status as bastard daughters of a Prince of Dorne. Walking just behind them was a trio that drew perhaps the most attention. Obara was walking tall and proud, her Valyrian steel sword-spear attached to her back. And next to her were the two Northerners, Jon Stark and Ygritte of the Wildlings. All three were wearing a combination of fine leathers and chainmail with their weapons, while not in hand, were still in clear view and easily accessible. And walking at his daughter's side, or rather her hip, was the oversize albino wolf Ghost, who'd seemed to take his job that day as serious as any experienced guardsman he'd ever seen.

When Arianne had taken her seat upon the dais, her little entourage immediately took up positions around her, with the giant wolf sitting down next to her hand so that she could run her fingers through the fur on his head. The herald quickly called the assembly to order as soon as Arianne was seated, and Ser Gerold was dragged before Arianne in chains and forced to his knees before her. Arianne didn't waste time as she called out the man's name and listed the charges levied against him. Brigandry. Murder. Breaking of his oath to his liege lord and even his own House. After laying out the charges against him, Arianne had then demanded an explanation for his actions.

To the surprise of no one, at least not to those who knew him, the disgraced knight spat on the floor and proceeded to spew forth a string of vile accusations at Arianne and House Martell. About how they'd disgraced themselves by not seeking revenge for what happened during the Usurper's War. How they were all weak and pathetic. And how Arianne was little better than a whore for bedding a 'heathen from the North'. His words held such venom and hatred and were so vile that even Doran was having difficulty keeping himself seated as the urge to kill the man himself grew with each word that spilled from his lips. And he was glad that he'd had the foresight to send his brother out into the city for the day. Otherwise, he was sure that Oberyn would've already had the man impaled on his spear. But to his great surprise, Arianne, and those she'd chosen to stand with her, all stood by passively as they let Gerold spew his vile nonsense. And once he finally ceased, Arianne's only response was a simple 'Is that all?'

When Gerold did not respond, Arianne took her time in responding, her fingers idly dancing across the fur of the great direwolf as she spoke. She spoke of how what happened during the Usurper's War was a tragedy, and any who thought that House Martell had forgotten or forgave what happened was a fool. But Dorne could not move forward if it was constantly looking back. Despite the pain of the past, House Martell and Dorne would remain unbowed, unbent, and unbroken. No matter the tragedies that fell upon them. She then said that all his vile words were but a cover for the true reason he went brigand. He didn't do it to strengthen Dorne or out of some sense of vengeance. No, his acts were spurred by a single simplistic emotion. Jealousy. He wanted Arianne, and she'd spurned his advances in favor of another.

When Gerold made no motion to defend himself against the accusation, Arianne turned her attention from the kneeing man and towards the assembled crowd. She loudly and clearly proclaimed her sentence. For his crimes against the people of Dorne and against his liege Lord, Gerold Dayne was hereby stripped of his title of Knight and was sentenced to death by the hangman's noose. The fate drew no shortage of whispers as Gerold Dayne was led away kicking and screaming, demanding an honorable death. The hangman's noose was a fate usually reserved for simple smallfolk who broke the law. Nobles were executed by beheading, a quick death. By sentencing him to die in such a manner, Arianne was clearly stating that Gerold Dayne was no noble, and that he was no better than a simple commoner who broke the law.

After Gerold Dayne had been escorted out of the hall, Doran had expected his daughter to dismiss the court, but she surprised him. In a move that made him realize his daughter was truly learning how to play the game, she loudly and clearly announced to all those present that Jon Stark, son of Lord Eddard Stark and Apprentice to the Northern Sorcerer, Lord Alim Nox, was as of this day her betrothed and the future Prince Consort of Dorne. And that any action taken against the future Prince Consort or their shared paramour, Ygritte of the Free Folk, would be treated as if they were acts taken against House Martell. While many would think that her words were a warning to any of Dorne who might take issue with the betrothal, Doran knew exactly who she was speaking too. Himself. Arianne had just loudly, and publicly, declared Jon and Ygritte to be part of House Martell. They were family. And family did not put family in danger. 'Clever girl'.

"Prince Doran. Lord Ansel Dayne is here to see you."

"Send him in," Doran called out to his faithful guardian, Areo Hotah as he poured two cups of fine Dornish Red for himself and his guest.

As the door opened, allowing the slightly aging Lord of House Dayne entry to Doran's private solar, Doran took stock of the Lord. The Lord of House Dayne was one who carried far more than the weight of lordship, and it showed. It was understandable of course. His younger brother, the famed Ser Arthur Dayne, was considered perhaps the greatest swordsman and warrior Westeros had ever seen. Plus, his young sister, Ashara Dayne, had long been heralded as one of the greatest beauties of the land. Despite being the elder of the two, Ansel had always lived in the shadows of his two younger siblings. And with their deaths, those shadows had only grown larger.

"Prince Doran," the Lord of House Dayne said, immediately dropping to a knee before him.

"Rise, Lord Dayne, there is no need for that here," he said, motioning for the man to rise and also signaling to Areo that they were not to be disturbed.

"My thanks, my Prince," Lord Ansel nodded, slowly rising to his feet. "Forgive me, my Prince. I fear time is starting to take her toll on my person."

"As she does on us all," Doran nodded, motioning towards the two glasses of wine. "Have a seat and quench your thirst, Lord Dayne."

Nodding, Ansel sat down across from him and picked up the offered cup. Picking up his own cup, Doran eyed the man who was of age with Doran. "I want to start by stating that I, and House Martell, find no reason to hold House Dayne accountable for the actions of Gerold. The man's actions were his own and will remain that way. Provided there are no…repeated sentiments from you and your vassals."

"Of course," Ansel nodded, taking a sip of the wine, "Gerold set off on his own some time ago. His disappearance wasn't out of the norm for him, so I thought nothing of it. Had I known what he'd intended, my Prince…"

"As I said, his actions were his own and will not be held against you or your House, Lord Dayne," Doran said. "And I did not call upon you to speak of Gerold. But rather of something else."

Ansel's head tilted. "What do you wish to speak of, my Prince?"

"Truths," Doran stated evenly, staring directly at the Lord of House Dayne. "Tell me, Lord Dayne, which is the greater truth? The 'truth' that everyone knows? Or the truth that only a few know?"

Ansel blinked, but Doran could see the slightest bit of recognition in the man's eyes. "I…suppose it would depend on the matter of said truth, my Prince."

"Then let us start with the truth of my daughter's betrothed, the future Prince Consort of House Martell, Jon Stark," Doran said, making Ansel start, though the man hid it well. "For example, it is well known by now that his mother is none other than your late sister, Ashara Dayne. The timing does match up well. It is known that she was intimate with the Starks at Harrenhal and that she was heavy with child by the end of the Usurper's War. And that when Lord Stark left Dorne, he made only a single stop at Starfall, and when he was seen next, he had his bastard son, Jon, with him. The tale has spread and has become truth, and you have not refuted that 'truth' yet either. Despite the seeming dishonor it brings upon your late sister. Yet, we both know that this is but a truth that everyone knows. And not the truth that only a few know."

There was no need for Doran to elaborate further as Ansel set his glass down. "In this instance, my Prince…I believe the truth would be the one that does not bring pain and suffering to the people. Which is why I have accepted this…truth."

"And I am of a similar mind," Doran replied, clearly to the surprise of Lord Dayne. 'At least for now. The boy is not yet ready for what is ahead. And I'm sure that that is the true reason as to why Nox has not pressed his game further.' "And it is a truth that we shall hold to."

Lord Dayne was clearly relieved to hear his stance on the matter. "As you say, my Prince. Is there anything else you wish to discuss?"

Setting his glass down, Doran turned towards the falling sun. "I see that you have brought your son, Edric, and your youngest sister, Allyria, with you. I've also heard tales that you are in talks with Lord Beric Dondarrion for your sister's hand and as a potential knight for your son to squire under."

Lord Ansel licked his lips. "Yes, Lord Dondarrion has proven himself a fine man. He will be a fine husband. And an even better knight for my son to serve under."

"To be sure," Doran nodded. "Though, this is yet another…truth. Is it not? And I wonder what effect the lesser-known truth would have on such an announcement? Especially given recent developments regarding my daughter's chosen suitor and his family."

Ansel didn't move, save for the slightest tightening along his jaw. "An alternative perhaps, my Prince? Nothing has been written yet, merely talks."

Nodding, Doran poured each of them another glass of wine. "My daughter, despite having my nieces as support, is in need of a capable handmaiden. My brother Oberyn has recently parted ways with Daemon Sand after knighting him at the Wall and the man's subsequent departure to Bear Island. He would be more than willing to take on your son as a new squire."

Lord Dayne leaned back in his seat, picking up his new glass and swirling its contents as he thought over the offer. "House Dondarrion will have to be compensated for House Dayne's breaking of the offer."

Doran leveled a look at the man. "As you said, you were merely only in talks, and nothing had been decided as of yet. If compensation is demanded by House Dondarrion, it will be slight."

Lord Dayne nodded, realizing that he had no other choice. After what Gerold did, House Dayne was fortunate to even be allowed to step foot into Sunspear. And yet here he was, the head of House Martell and ruling Prince of Dorne, offering two members of House Dayne positions many would kill for. "I will inform Edric and Allyria of their positions that you have graciously bestowed upon our House, my Prince."

"Good," Doran nodded. "They can begin immediately as both my brother and daughter are here in Sunspear. And if it calms your mind, my daughter's betrothed, despite staying far longer than what was planned due to these unfortunate events, will be returning to the North soon. Or perhaps we should arrange for your son and sister to meet with Jon Stark, the so called 'White Wolf' of House Stark?"

Lord Dayne pursed his lips. "One day, my Prince, I would dearly enjoy watching you interact with one who is as capable of playing the great game as yourself."

Raising his glass, Doran hid his smirk behind his cup. 'You're too late to see that interaction, Lord Dayne. Though I am looking forward to once again playing with Lord Nox.'

Sitting alone in her spacious tent that she shared with her husband, Daenerys Targaryen stared transfixed on the four eggs laid out before her. The largest of the eggs, the one given to her by Domeric though where he obtained it from, she had no idea, was midnight black in color with tips of the scales colored blood red as if the scales had been carefully dipped in blood to give them their coloring. The other three eggs, given to her by Illyrio, were quite different than the one given to her by Domeric, both in feel and looks. For starters, they were all slightly smaller and lacked the warmth that the one Domeric had given her. They were also all one solid color: one black, one green, and one cream-and-gold colored. Taking her attention away from the three petrified eggs, Dany focused all her attention on the one that felt alive, for lack of better terms.

Picking up the egg carefully, Dany held it as if it were a newborn babe as she walked across the tent and towards the low burning fire that was little more than a pile of embers within the tent. 'Dragons are creatures of fire,' she reasoned as she slowly, carefully, set the egg down upon the pile of embers before taking her hands away from the warmth of the fire. 'It would only make sense that fire is needed for them to be born into this world…and at least Jon agrees with me on that point.'

It took several moons after her wedding to Drogo before she finally worked up the nerve to talk to Jon about the eggs in her possession. To her mild surprise, Jon hadn't known about the egg that Domeric had given her. And to her mild anger, Jon admitted to her that he too had a dragon egg from Valyria, a midnight black egg with grey stripes along the tips of its scales. But unlike her, who'd immediately gone about trying to bring life back to the egg, Jon had instead hidden his egg away in Winterfell and all but put it out of his mind.

She'd been furious with him. He'd had a dragon's egg for years! The very thing her househad built their legacy upon! And he'd simply tucked it away and put it out of his mind! And when she'd told him as such, he'd fired right back at her. He asked her while the dragon was a mighty beast, hatching one in the middle of Westeros would only invite disaster. The people were still recovering from the wounds inflicted upon them by her father and brother. And if a dragon were to suddenly re=emerge, many would immediately think the Targaryen's, or another Dragon Lord had found their way into Westeros and were planning on taking back what they believed was there. There would be war. War that would tear the realm apart again. So no. While he said that he had the egg and might one day try and hatch it, for now it would stay hidden.

But that didn't mean that she wasn't about to let her eggs sit idly by. No, these eggs were her chance to help bring about the return of Valyria! And while Jon had appeared uneasy about the idea, as he has still not forgiven the Targaryen family for what happened before and during the Rebellion, he had not pressed her not to pursue her goals. Instead, he simply gave her a warning not to hatch more than a single egg. When she'd asked him why, Jon went into a lengthy explanation about what they'd found in Valyria in terms of some of the knowledge that'd been lost when Valyria fell. According to Jon, one of the lost pieces of knowledge that they'd partially recovered was how the Dragonlords of Valyria bound their dragons to them. Apparently, the bond was not unlike a Force ability that Lord Nox referred to as 'Beast Control'. With this, the Dragonlord could bend the dragon to their will. But unlike other creatures, dragons were apex predators and very, very strong willed. Because of this, the Dragonlords quickly discovered that one could only bond a single dragon to a rider. Binding more than one dragon could—and would—cause the rider's mind to be overtaken by the primal dragons' minds and eventually they would go mad. Usually by unleashing their dragons and destroying anything and everything in their path.

The warning was one that Dany had taken to heart. And so, while she truly wished to try and birth all the dragons she had with her and bring them back into this world, she resisted the urge and instead focused on the largest, and only egg that held a bit of warmth to it.

As she sat back on her heels, Dany watch silently as the embers and small flames nestled against the egg, providing it with warmth. She felt…something fall over her. Like a warm blanket being draped over her shoulders as she watched the embers and flames dance around the egg. Almost as if she were in a trance, Dany raised her hand, fingers outstretched towards the egg smoldering in the embers. Part of her was screaming at her not to touch the egg, but those words were faded, far away and went ignored as the tips of her fingers got closer and closer to the warmth of the flames and the egg within.


The fog over her mind disappeared, and Dany was left blinking confusedly as she stared at her outstretched hand. Her fingers, all the way down to her palm, resting against the egg in the flames. Yet, she felt no pain. Only the heat, yet it wasn't overbearing. It was comforting.

"Khaleesi!" the voice, one she now recognized as Irri, shouted again.

Then there was a second hand, darker in skin, grabbing the egg from underneath her fingers and pushing it out of the embers onto the ground. Irri hissed and cried out in pain, and Dany was immediately there for her handmaiden, the egg on the ground momentarily forgotten as she stared in horror at the blisters forming on Irri's hand.

"Gods…Irri," Dany murmured, trying to think of what she could do, or what should be done. "Ice…no, water… Something cold an—"

"I – I can handle this, Khaleesi," Irri said, though her words were stuttered due to the pain her handmaiden was feeling. "But, Khaleesi, why were you touching that…? Khaleesi…Your hand. Why…I…?"

Blinking in confusion, Dany looked down at her own hand that was touching the egg in the flames. And was met with her normal pale smooth skin. Not even a touch of redness to mar her skin against the heat. Her mind scrambled, trying desperately to understand what she was seeing. Both Lord Nox and Jon had suggested trying to manipulate small candle flames with the Force as a means of practice, but neither had ever spoken about using the Force to protect oneself from the heat of fire. Yet, there was one thing that her mind immediately latched onto that could explain what'd happened. "Fire…cannot hurt a dragon." Yes. Yes, that was it. Dragons were creatures of fire, and fire could not hurt a dragon.

Irri, her injured hand held closely to her chest, was staring at her in wonder. "It is known that the Dragon Lords of old used fire magic to control their great mounts. You…You truly are a Dragon Lord reborn, Khaleesi. And through you shall come the Khal of Khals, the Stallion Who Mounts the World."

Dany had heard the tale before, the prophesied one for the Dothraki, a Khal who would unite all the Dothraki beneath one Khal. Many believed her husband Drogo to be this prophesied Khal, as he had united more Dothraki beneath himself than any other Khal before him. And while her husband had admitted that he would be honored to be the Khal of Khals, he did not think it was him. But rather his son that would come from her. A Dothraki Khal born from a daughter of Valyria. A Khal who could mount the mightiest of beasts and would unite all Dothraki beneath him. That was her husband's true ambition.

Pushing such thoughts aside, Dany focused on her injured handmaiden. Taking her hand and slowly pulling it towards her, Dany winced as she saw the angry, blistered red skin. Calling back on Lord Nox's lessons on how the Force was only limited by the individual, Dany closed her eyes and pulled deeply on the Force. Immediately, she could feel the torrent of calm and rage wash through her. But she forced back the rage, focusing only on the calm. Her friend needed her help, now was not the time for anger or rage. She needed to be calm. Peaceful. Feeling the torrent calm to a trickle of a stream, Dany guided the Force through her and into the hand she held.

Irri's sudden intake of breath nearly broke Dany's concentration, but she held firm, focusing on the guiding the river of the Force through herself and into her friend. 'Irri needs my help…your help.' She wasn't sure just who she was speaking to or why, but the Force seemed to almost…respond to her request. She didn't know how or even why, but she felt something shift in the flow of the Force coming from her. And when Irri gasped again, Dany opened her eyes and let her concentration break as she felt an almost…satisfaction from the Force.

When her eyes could focus once more, she was met with unbroken, unmarred skin on Irri's hand. Letting go, Dany felt herself sag slightly, just barely able to hold herself upright as Irri tentatively poked at her palm. When she felt no pain, Irri's widened even further, something Dany didn't think was possible. Then her friend did something…utterly embarrassing. Irri went to her knees, put her hands flat on the ground, and pressed her face flat to the ground. "Khaleesi…I – I am unworthy of this gift you have given me!"

Moving over to Irri, and hiding the effort it took to do so, Dany forced her handmaiden to raise her head. "I only did what was right, Irri. What anyone should have done. You were injured through my negligence. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me."

Irri didn't seem to truly take her words to heart as the young girl again pressed her face to the ground and continued to mutter thanks after thanks for her gift of healing. Eventually Dany's gaze slowly shifted off the prostrating young girl and towards the dragon's egg laying on the ground next to the fire. She wasn't sure why, but something was different about the egg. Reaching out to the egg through the Force, Dany had to bite back a gasp. The egg still had the same warmth as before. But now there was something else besides the warmth. She could feel…life.