Disclaimer: All things recognizable are property of G.R.R. Martin, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, & company, & the asoiaf wiki.

Emancipation

Aegon takes a breath at the sight before him.

Shadow Tower.

This is the last stop before he returns to King's Landing and he has been away from his home too long. He misses Cassana and their Gaemon terribly. Soon, he tells himself, as he thinks about the last of Cassana's letters to him that had been waiting for him at Last Hearth and he glances at his scabbard where one of her black silk ribbons is tied.

Soon, he will be among those he loves and those who love him. Yet, this tour of Westeros was his idea. Besides, he'd waited four years after he was crowned in truth, hadn't he? A king would not hesitate to show himself to the realm…even if this was the realm's edge.

Cassana and his mother, of course, had been reluctant about this endeavor. But, they did not object. Vis, who had served as his regent for the two years between grandfather's death and his ascension, agreed that he should see the realm. And Vis, who stepped forward when he needed him and stepped back for him, never steered him wrong.

He supposed his mother relented because of that and how she had been headed off to Casterly Rock to care for Rhae in her time and Cassana knows her duties just as well as he does.

Now, however, he is almost reluctant to cross these last few yards.

While he knew some of his forebearers held the Night's Watch in regard, and he tries to do his part in maintaining and improving it when he can, he spent enough time at the Wall. He'd been to Castle Black and to the three newly regarrisoned castles: Hoarfrost Hill, Deep Lake, and Sable Hill. That was only proper. His treasury was supporting those improvements which began in Grandsire's time and through Viserys' regency. Now, he was the king in truth. He told himself he should see what happens in the North.

Yet, there was no true reason he had to stop at Shadow Tower. The closer he had travelled North the question of if he should come here kept plaguing him. When he was plotting his course alongside Vis, Ser Gerion, and Ser Brynden, they had not objected to it, of course, but, the question of his purpose is on their minds. And well, Quent was riding to his left at this very moment. His cousin said that he always wanted to travel. Yronwood was not the world, his cousin said. Yet, he knew his mother, sister, and his cousins. He was touched by their concern. He always would be especially if they were worried for him.

Except, there was no reason to come all the way North and not see his sire. He already was coming north and while at Castle Black, Maester Aemon, who had even spoken about his own Aegon, had asked him about it.

He asked the man what he would have done. He'd been in swaddling clothes when Rhaegar Targaryen left them. He was just starting to ride true horses by the time the man was sent from Norvos to Shadow Tower. Who was Rhaegar Targaryen supposed to be to him?

How do you meet such a man for the first time in so many years? What would he even say? "It is me, Aegon. I am your son."

How foolish. Do men of the Watch even think of themselves as having sons? Would Rhaegar Targaryen think of him as that? He knew that ravens traveled as did patrols and still he wondered if his sire even knows if he was at the Wall.

Though he rarely thinks about his sire or that he has a half-brother at all, he now wonders if Rhaegar would prefer it if his other son, the one born of a Northern woman came North to see him.

The old crow shook his head and burrowed further into his heavy cloak. "My boy, I haven't been able to see a thing since before you were born. But, if you are asking me if you should, you may as well. You are here already. As old as I am, the next time I will have the chance to see my father it will be when I leave this world for the next."

For his part he wondered, "When you have come across him, did he remind you of Maekar? Nothing I heard of him seems to indicate they are anything alike."

The Maester hisses a laugh. "I suppose not, but, if you care to take advice from an old man, it would be a shame to come all the way only to have a memory of snow, stone, and an old, blind man to take back with you."

The Maester was a wise man, he decided, at Castle Black. But, that was then and this was now in front of Shadow Tower.

At any rate, he knew the question would be posed once he got home. Cassana would not hold it against him if he did not. She was her father's daughter after all. Rhae certainly would not. Mother, he suspects, has her own reservations of both seeing his father or avoiding him, but she did not interfere in that regard. She does not want to influence him; or rather does not want to seem as though she has undue influence. Even if he would forever be her baby, he was a man grown, she would say.

Still, he could have gone without this. It was not as though he needed to know if he shared his sire's looks. Grandfather died when he was four and ten; he was old enough to guess what his sire would have looked like when he and Viserys practically grew up as brothers. Robert, though usually tightlipped about his sire, mentioned it more than once. Even Jason recalled seeing his sire.

He also did not need to know what his sire is like. After all, what would change for him? He would still go home, and his sire would remain here. Vows to the Night's Watch are only broken in death.

But, in the end, he came. He takes a deep breath and rides forward.


Once he'd settled Astar, his prized mount who was a gift from Uncle Oberyn, and left most of his belongings, though not his longsword and his spear, his last name day gift from Uncle Doran, with his squire, Monterys, who seemed more at ease in the cold than any other person in his party.

It was a peaceful day, the commander, a Flint of Widow's Watch, most adamantly not of Flint's Finger, had said. The man also said there was no need to court disaster. He heeded the man's caution. Even at this distance he clearly hears "Always be ready for a fight" in his Good-father's booming, jovial voice.

Still, the man had taken him around the Keep, though admittedly, there was not much to see. The Wall looked the same from each vantage point and one "castle" has the same parts as the other though just put together differently.

Still, taking stock of the barracks, the state of the tunnels, and the tables and chairs of the feast hall, he decides that when he makes it back, he will send more provisions. He will have to. He is the king, and these are his people.

But, then, soon, or perhaps not too soon, as it has been years in the making, he was led to a wooden door. The library. Steward Targaryen was usually found in the library the grizzled commander had said with a look both pretended did not contain pity.

Then, he dismissed his Kingsguard to rest. Ser Brynden only enjoyed this voyage because it meant he'd seen his nephew & his nieces and their broods but cared little for the North. Ser Gerion, he knew, was anxious to return South. Quent, as loyal as he was, was of the sun and sand; snow held little of his interest.

Besides, he needed to do this alone.

He waits until the commander shuffles away and pushes open the door to be met by stacks of books.

A distracted, soft voice demands to know, "Who is there?"

"Aegon," he answers.

A heavy silence falls.

It almost seems like a century when he hears the scratch of a chair against the floor and the sound of heavy fabric shifting before a man comes to stand before him with a face that nearly looked like his own. The eyes, though, are full of shock.

Shocked himself, he thinks his sire looks so old. Oh, there was still silver in those close-cropped locks, but, his father's hair was mostly grey as was his skin. His grandsire hair remained silver even at the time of his death. The black furs his sire wore were the same heavy ones he'd seen in the other men milling about, but, the way the furs fell across his body spoke of how slight his sire was. The closer he got he could see harsh lines on his sire's thin face.

Was this what happens when dragons go north? The Maester was a withered man, but, he lived to see seven kings and nearly the same number of wars. What could his sire have desired of the north if this were the result? Then again, he doubts his sire would have ever thought this would be how they found themselves.

There was something in his sire's eyes he thinks were reflected in his own self. Disbelief, he knew, because what else does one feel when seeing their father or son for the first time in nearly 20 years? Apprehension, certainly. There was no courtly protocol for this, and his sire had been a man of the Night's Watch for most of his life. His eyes, so like his own, more than anything, seem so very tired.

But, was there affection or longing in them? He could not say. Was that not sad?

This was his sire, but he could not say he felt anything approaching warmth for the man. He knows he felt it for others. These past months he missed Cassana, who was clever like her mother and irrepressible like her father. He missed, Rhaenys, his stalwart champion. He knew what he felt for Viserys, who was more brother than uncle, and Daenerys, who was more a younger sister than aunt. And his far too kind grandmother. Most of all, his mother, whom he cherished above all…or at least until he married Cassana who had given him the most precious gift a man can have.

For Rhaegar Targaryen, he does not feel anything approaching the affection he feels even thinking of any of them. It is just not there.

He tells himself the sting in his eyes is from the cold.

His sire shuffles forward. "Let me look at you. You have grown so much."

He bites back the retort that sounds too much like Vis in his head: that is what happens when you are not there to see it.

His sire seems to shrink away, and he thinks perhaps his face showed too much. He had not wanted that.

His father had not wanted to be away. That was his grandfather's choice…At least he thinks that before the darker thoughts flow through him. His sire spent the first months after his birth missing and a year in the Black Cells. And now he was before his sire, at the age of twenty, a man grown with a wife and child.

"Come sit," his sire offers him a creaky wooden chair. He says, "You've come a long way."

He says, "A king should see his realm, all of it." What else could he say?

His sire's expression twists, "Your predecessor never came here."

He ignores the jab. "I am not my grandsire."

His sire huffs, but, lets the matter drop in favor of asking, "Why now?"

Why do it now? Or why see him? Why indeed! He settles for saying, "It seemed like a good time, now that things are settled."

"Settled?"

"Officially, I have been king for six years but, and I have ruled for four."

His sire frowns. "My brother was your regent for that time?" So, his sire knew somethings.

He takes a breath before confirming, "Two years."

His sire's eyes narrow and he wonders why. His sire asks, "Is he your Hand now?"

He smiled, despite himself. Vis said those were the longest two years of his life. "No, I thought to offer it and he told me not to bother. I had Summerhall rebuilt for him." It is the least he could have done.

For a moment, his sire looks pained. Then, his sire recovers enough to wonder, "How is he?"

This time, he laughs, "Well enough now that he finally settled on a wife."

His sire blinks as though he could not imagine Viserys being married. Then again, if they had not seen each other in nearly 20 years, it would be the same for his sire and uncle.

"Who?"

"Lady Myranda Royce of the Gates of the Moon. Lord Nester's daughter. Daenerys married Willas Tyrell."

His sire seems to take in that information. But, his father's eyes narrowed. Still, there is hesitation in his voice when he asks, "You and your sister are married too, yes?"

That part was true, but, he thinks he knows what his father is not asking. A king would need a queen and unvoiced as it was, his was decided for him the moment she was born. "You truly do not know?"

His sire's face falls. A sigh escapes that twisted mouth. "News travelled slowly here."

It travels slowly or does not travel to him at all?

Sitting here now, he realized it never occurred to him that perhaps little of what went on in King's Landing would not be known to his sire. Castle Black may know the tidings of major events such as his grandsire's death or his coronation, but, how much and how often would such things travel to Shadow Tower?

As it was, one does not become a man of the Night's Watch without severing their previous ties and his grandsire would not even speak of his sire, let alone write to him. Viserys, of course, would not have deviated from that. He certainly had not thought to change that…until now.

But, if nothing else, his sire deserves to know this at least. "Cassana, of House Baratheon."

"Ah," his father says as he turns away, cheeks turning somewhat pink. Then, his sire reluctantly asks, "Robert's daughter, I take it?"

"Yes."

His sire is clearly hesitant, but, recovers enough to ask, "Are you happy?" There was doubt in his sire's tone.

He holds in a laugh. His sire asks if he was happy married to the daughter of the man whose onetime betrothal he interrupted…Still, thinking of his wife, he smiles, "It is a fine match and she already gave me a son, a healthy boy."

Finally, there was a spark of joy in his sire. "A son?" Under his breath, his father mutters, "I am a grandfather."

He finds himself blurting, "We called him Gaemon." The first of them, called, "the Glorious" was all their ancestor: his mother, his good-father, and his sire. It seemed fitting.

His sire exhales. "It is a strong name." Then, he is asked, "Does he favor you?"

Thinking of his dear boy, who'd given him the tightest of hugs when saying goodbye, a smile pulls at his lips. "He has our hair but his mother's eyes. Rhaenys' boy has the opposite; he's got her hair and Leo's green eyes."

His father blinks rapidly. Were those tears? In the end, his sire asks only, "Rhaenys has a boy as well?"

He finds himself smiling. "Yes, Loreon. She is with child again."

Once more there was that look of wonder…only this time it is replaced with what he thinks is concern.

"Does she-" His sire stops and starts again, "Does she have a difficult time-"

Oh, he thinks, even as he bristles. Of course. It was on the heels of his mother almost dying in the birthing bed that his father decided to sire a child on some other woman!

His ire is only tempered knowing that there was more than one day that he feels guilt for almost killing his mother and he knows too well that both his grandmothers were not always so lucky in the birthing bed.

A woman's fight, he heard it called more than once. But, that had not stopped him from worrying himself sick when Cassana was with child. Perhaps, this was why he waited so long to do this tour. He wanted to ensure that his wife and child were healthy enough to still be there when he got back.

Rhae, though, was made of sterner stuff, than he and he would be the first to admit it. The last time she wrote she said she felt she was as big as a house and complained of nothing else. He almost smiles but he remembers himself, where he was, and who he was in front of.

On some days he feels fortunate he does not remember that time. Rhaenys remembers. Not much, they are not that far apart in age, but Rhaenys remembers what it was to have Rhaegar Targaryen as a father and then remembers what it was like to not have him. He knew, she would not take kindly to his revealing too much about her. Viserys, despite his agreement to his venture, would not take too kindly to his disclosing too much to his sire, as well. Daenerys, of course, never knew his sire.

Because his sire seems apologetic, he allows, "She said she is not."

"Good", his father says, with lips slightly downturned that reminds him painfully of Daenerys. But, then, his father turns expectant. Oh. Right.

He says, "She married Leo Lannister."

His father swallows heavily. He murmurs, "Right, of course."

His father shakes his head and laughs. Though it was not much of a laugh, more a puff of air. "Your grandsire's idea, no doubt. Jaime's boy, I take it?"

"Aye." His brow scrunches. "You sound so certain it was Grandsire's idea?"

His father smiles crookedly. "Your grandsire refused Tywin's daughter for me."

Despite himself, he finds himself asking, "Did you want to marry Lady Marbrand?"

Would you have run away with Lyanna Stark if it were Cersei Lannister he married, rather than Mother? He laughs humorlessly. What a thing to want to ask one's sire!

"Marbrand is she?" His father asks distractedly, then as if just taking his words in, his sire sputters, looking aghast, "What? No. She was half my age when Tywin voiced the idea. Your Grandsire-" His sire stops and swallows, "Said he wouldn't marry his heir to a servant's daughter."

They both wince. Yes, both Grandsire and Lord Tywin were hard men, and as Grandmother and Mother whispered, "stubborn to their cores". Even if he had not been born, he knew of the wrongness that surrounded that tourney which marked the pause of camaraderie between his grandsire and Lord Tywin.

He remembered hearing Tywin refused his mother for Ser Jaime before that too! Due to their rekindled ties, he supposed Grandsire could have wed him to Ser Jaime's daughter if there had been one. Or perhaps not. Grandfather was a firm sort of man when he came down to it, no matter if they had reconciled.

He had heard rumors of how his grandsire acted when Rhaenys was first presented at court. Rhaenys had too. His grandsire claimed to not have been in his right mind. They'd forgiven him of course, but, that was not the sort of thing one forgot. And well, would he be here right now meeting his own sire now if Grandsire had been the type to be lax when it came to slights?

But, his sire's thoughts on the subject…In the end, he does not want to discuss grandsire much. He grew up in the man's shadow and learned at his knee. For the most part, he enjoyed his grandsire's company…and grandsire sent his sire here.

While there were whispers of his grandsire's darker amusements, he had not seen any and few even spoke of them. But, he knew they existed from Lord Tywin, his grandmother, his mother, and even his grandsire himself. From what he himself had seen, he knew Grandsire could be sharp when he put his mind to it, and cruel to his enemies and well. At that time, his grandsire said, his sire seemed to be one of those.

He asked, "And now Grandsire?"

His grandsire huffed, "That business with the Stark girl…he courted more my displeasure and that of your mother's and her kinsmen, the Starks, and that of the Baratheons. He would have had us at war with the Faith. I never denied him anything, books when he wanted to read; arms when he wanted to learn to be a warrior; a proper wife in our shared faith; and when he wanted to remove himself to Dragonstone, I allowed it. Your sire proved he could not be trusted with the privileges he was afforded, and he misused the Kingsguard I allowed him. Even if not an enemy, he proved to be no friend to us."

He pushes all thoughts of Grandsire out of his mind. "Leo is a good man. He loves Rhaenys and adores their little boy."

"That is good to hear, I suppose…." His sire grimaces. "She is not alone?"

He replies, "Mother and Jason went. Lewyn is with them."

At the Lewyn's his father grimaces deeply. He wonders at that. His mother's uncle was like a second grandfather, after all, Mother's father, Garin, died before Mother came to King's Landing.

His father's brows knit together. "Jason?"

This time, he is the one flushing. What usually is so natural cannot be here. Jason has been a presence for years. While Ser Barristan was his knight's master, it was Jason who comforted him when he had ridden out with the vanguard with them to quell the Greyjoys. After the battle and once he tended to Ser Barristan, he escaped to one of Seaguard's towers.

The towers silence was broken by a steady voice. "I heard you fought well."

He turned around. Jason was staring at him. He said, "I killed a man."

He remembers clearly thrusting his weapon into the man even though everything around him was a mess of steel upon steel, the rumble of horses, and the screaming of men. He watched as the man jerked back and fell with a thump. The man's blood coated his sword. He never even met that man.

Jason nods. "I have killed enough in the service of my people and of my home. It is an ugly duty, but, it is a duty."

He considers that. He supposes Lord Mallister is correct. If he did not know that man, then, that man did not know him. They were still charging at each other. Ser Barristan had not said anything different. He asks the Lord of Seaguard, "Is that supposed to make it easier?"

Jason shakes his head. "You're only in the wrong if it gets easier live with."

"Lord Mallister," he says, scratching at his head at his sire's look of utter confusion. He cannot quite bring himself to look his sire in the eye. "Mother's husband."

One sharp inhale is followed by a whispered, "I see."

How much more of this absurdity must he face?

Eventually, his father asks, "Is he good to her?"

He almost laughs at the question. Surely his sire is not asking that!

Then again, this was a man of the Night's Watch, no different than Maester Aemon. Yes, there were ties of blood, but, all other ones were severed so many years ago. But, then, if he must confront knowing was it to have a Mother, a Sire, and Mother's husband, he can allow a man to think it odd that he once married a woman who was now married to someone else.

He considers… that was what father and Lady Umber had claimed once though not quite in the same way. Unlike that time his mother had been free to marry after his father took vows of the Night's Watch. Besides, Jason was a widower with an heir and his mother's children's paths were already decided long before Jason won the tourney celebrating his sister's tenth name day. One year after Jason gave his mother a crown of red tulips, Jason took his mother's hand in marriage with Grandsire's blessing.

Before then, Grandsire never felt the need to entertain his mother's marrying. He never questioned Grandsire changing his mind. His Grandsire knew too well that the Tully's were tied to the North and the Vale. And while the Mallisters were Tully vassals, they were a much older house. Now that he was here, he can see that because Jason with brown hair, now mixed with some white, and blue-grey eyes looked nothing like his sire. Perhaps…

He shakes his head. Picking apart his Grandsire's thoughts does not matter now.

There were many men who shaped his life the way it is. Even his own sire had his own part, as short a time they had truly known each other. His royal grandfather certainly; Viserys was more brother than uncle; his other uncles, the Kingsguard; and even Cousin Robert became his Good-father for the Seven sake! There was also the old Hand now dead, who had been both teacher and taskmaster. But, Jason, was more a friend than father.

He answers truthfully, "He is."

"Good," his sire says, his eyes are faraway, but there is at least honesty in his tone. Then, his sire asks him, "Who is your Hand, then?"

He swallows a laugh. "Uncle Oberyn." From what he knew they had never gotten on.

The look of utter terror his sire gives him now is the same one his uncle gave Vis when after Lord Tywin's funeral, which had occurred one year into the regency. Uncle Oberyn wondered why Tywin never did anything about the stench of King's Landing.

Viserys turned to his uncle, with a wolfish smile, and pressed the pin into his chest, "Do something about it yourself, then."

He'd never seen his uncle so flustered.

Robert turned to Uncle Oberyn, saying flatly, "Take the damn pin. It's going to either you or Stannis and he's been trying to convince me to close the brothels in Storm's End. I have only managed to keep him at bay by reminding him that it fills the coffers, but, he is not going to stop until he wears me down. Is that what you want for all the Seven Kingdoms?"

Mother, Cassana, Rhaenys, and Daenerys snickered. Jason was pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers; his shoulders were shaking.

It's only after Uncle Oberyn turns to Renly, who had taken Ser Gerold's place three years prior, and received confirmation that such a thing was true, that his uncle took the pin, glaring darkly at his other uncle.

Later, he heard from Ari when Uncle Doran heard the news, he locked himself in his solar. It seems they heard chuckling coming from the room for at least an hour.

Now, his sire gapes at him. "Oberyn?"

He laughs. He shakes his head and shrugs his shoulders. "King's Landing has never smelled better."

Seeing his sire not understand what he means nearly makes him sigh.

Still doubtful, his sire asks, "Why not Doran?"

Most would say that was the better choice, after all his uncle is a wise man, but, Uncle Oberyn forged links and he has knowledge of statecraft and warcraft. And he'd heard his mother say Uncle suffers from gout. Ari has taken up most of his duties, besides.

They had, of course, considered Yohn Royce, who'd outlived Jon Arryn, but, with Vis marrying a woman of the cadet branch, they thought better of it.

He tells his sire: "He prefers to remain in Dorne. But, Quent, Doran's son, rode up with me."

His sire nods, accepting the topic is closed. Still, he adds, "It fills me with relief to see all of you thriving."

Does it? Even though he recognizes the wistful tone in his sire's voice he finds himself saying, "When I was at Castle Black, I met with Maester Aemon."

Curiosity is not for him alone. His sire asks, "Oh? Is he well?"

Perhaps his sire's curiosity should not surprise him. Mother had said that his sire wrote to the old Maester often enough. He'd even found a letter Maester Aemon had written in his father's old solar on Dragonstone once.

He replies, "Well enough. I enjoyed speaking with him. He even told me stories of his childhood and when he was at the Citadel and at Dragonstone. It was nice hearing his accounts of the things he had seen. He even told me of Daeron II. Did you know that Daeron once told Maekar that having too many Targaryens is just as bad as too few? It seemed that was why Maester Aemon was sent to the Citadel. I understood why Daeron would think that-"

His sire leaned forward and asked, "Do think he was right?"

He thinks on it. "Daeron II had the Blackfyre problem. I can understand his worry."

His sire shrugged his shoulders. "Blackfyres were only Targaryen only by blood and they stopped posing a problem by the time I was a child."

Despite himself, he says aloud, "You had another son when I was not even out of the cradle."

His sire shoulder's fall and he looked guilty. "I was not trying to replace you, you know."

He huffs, "How could I know? I had not seen one name day then."

Color rises in his father's cheeks. His sire says, "I will never forgive myself for that."

He wonders, "Which part?"

His father replies, "All of it, perhaps."

Perhaps only? "Knowing what you know now?"

His sire shakes his head. "I would have done so much differently."

He tilts his head. "Such as?"

The answer to his question begins with a sad smile. "I could have been kinder to your mother, for a start. After you were born, she was so terribly ill. It nearly cost her everything to bring you into the world, but, I was so caught up in what I believed your destiny would be and what I still needed to do to ensure it that when she finally awoke and asked me to write a song, I told her you already had one."

His sire chuckles mournfully. "Each day on that damned boat to Norvos, all I kept thinking was that I should have just written the damned song."

He sighs. "But, you did not." And that was not his sire's only mistake, but, he's not going to say that, is he?

His father smiles ruefully, "No, I did not and after that it was too late."

It had not been. There were months in between. They both knew it. But, what harm does it do to let a fiction live on at the edge of the world? If it makes his sire feel better, he can allow that. He cannot give him anything else. He does not know if he even wants to.

"Do you sing now?"

His sire shakes his head, "I have not sung so much as a note in years. In Norvos, I had too many tasks to devote myself to singing unless demanded of me. As rare as it was, I hated being forced to do it. Once I got here…there was just snow and books and even more damned snow. That is nothing to sing about." As if it just occurred, to him, his sire asks, "Do you sing?"

He snorts. "Badly, and only after a tankard of ale. Rhae is the singer."

His father smiles with something approaching fondness.

He finds himself asking, "Do you miss it?" 'Did you miss us?', he did not ask. He doubts he will ask. Nothing would have changed even if the answer would have been 'yes'. And he does not want to know if his sire only missed them because they would have been tied with missing out everything else.

His sire's now eyes speak of unfathomable sorrow. "When you miss so many things as I have, it is hard to miss such a silly thing like that."


The next day he can feel the heat of eyes staring as he leaves the Commander's chambers with his sire in tow. He and the Commander had been discussing the current state of this castle. Of the most important were which improvements and adjustments were needed, particularly immediate. This was no different than he had done with the Lord Commander at Castle Black or even back in King's Landing.

His grandsire clutches his shoulder. "In addition to your regular lessons, you'll be coming to Council Meetings from now on. You will also be sitting with Tywin once a week. It's high time and I am not getting any younger, my heir."

This would have been no different from council meetings, or sitting in his grandsire's solar, in the Tower of the Hand with Lord Tywin, or even at Castle Black, except that this was now and the man acting as scribe was his sire.

When they'd left the Commander's chambers, he'd heard the whispers of "Steward?"

It seems Rhaegar Targaryen does not often leave the library until it is time to sleep, eat, or if the Commander of the keep calls him.

He'd seen the looks of confusion growing into one of unease. Enough of the audience realized what he and the Steward were to one another…or rather what they should have been.

Still, he had a duty to fulfill and so he made his way through the training yards, alongside Ser Brynden and demonstrating the finer points of swordsmanship to the newer recruits. He'd done the same at the other garrisons.

Knowing who is in the audience today he thinks back to his youth.

Viserys holds his arm out, smiling. "You'll best me soon, Aeg. I am sure of it."

He grasps on to the extended arm and lifts himself up. As they stood side by side, he thinks that he has at least half a foot to go before he reaches Viserys in height. "You really think so, Vis?"

Vis claps him on the shoulder, "I know so." Vis nudges him, "Come, let us bathe before we must meet our mothers."

He heard rather than saw his Grandsire delightedly remark to Ser Barristan who had been instructing them, "I am fortunate man to have such strong and good boys."

Today, there was no Grandsire, Viserys, or Ser Barristan while he wielded the spear Uncle Doran gave him and the warhammer that was a wedding gift from Robert. Knowing that his sire is watching, he is painfully aware his current sword had been a Name Day gift from Jason.

His own Gaemon was starting to use wooden swords on a dummy. Loreon was, too, Rhaenys had said though, it was under Leo's and Lord Jaime's eyes. He knew what his grandsire saw that day in the training yard. Grandsire had been proud of him, then. Now that he was older and had a son of his own, he understood what a father's pride his son could be.

When he was finally done and watches Monterys pack away his things, he glances up to see his sire standing there unmoving, his overlined face unreadable.

Later, in his rooms, on the cot reading Cassana's letter for what may be the tenth time, he tells himself that yesterday or any of the days before he never knew what it was to be his sire's pride, there is no reason today would be any different.


It is early light on the day he is to leave.

His sire comes to see him off. His eyes harden at the sight of Ser Gerion and Ser Brynden and his eyes furrow at seeing Quent who looks back at his sire nervously.

Then his sire turns to him, his eyes completely soft. "I will pray for your quick and safe journey home."

"Thank you," he says on reflex, but, then, he frowns, "I never heard of your being particularly devout."

His sire chuckles ruefully. "That is because I am not." That answers at least one question, he thinks.

Still, they share a laugh, albeit a short one. He does appreciate the gesture for what it was.

"Before you go", his sire says, "I know I forfeit the right to ask anything of you or your sister years ago, or my other son for that matter, so I am not going to. Even with the best of intentions, I made a mess of things because I went about doing so in the most absurd way possible. I see that now. No matter how much I want to, I cannot change that any more than I can knowing that I will likely never see you again. Still and though I suppose your coming here was probably incidental, I am happy you did."

"It wasn't, not really." He could have avoided coming to Shadow Tower. He could have avoided this entire journey. He chose to do it.

His sire looked pleased, but, when his sire speaks, it was on something completely different. "When you said you cannot sing, I did not quite believe you."

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell him that if he did not believe it, perhaps he should have spoken to Quent who would have set him straight on that accord, probably with a look of horror on his face. He smiles thinking of Rhae once telling him he sounded like a dying duck. Of course, she can't string a harp even if to save her own life. He and his sister are quite evenly matched in that way.

That is not what he asks, however. "Will you hold it against me?" Does it bother his sire that the only thing seems to have inherited from him are his looks?

His sire shakes his head. "I could never, but, even if someone else must sing it, you should write your own song."

He wonders, "You think you'd like anything I came up with?"

A smile touches his sire's lips. "I am certain I would. For what little that it is worth, I think it's a father's prerogative."

Once again, he thinks of Gaemon and how delighted he is by his own son. He nods, "You might be right."

His sire smiles ruefully, "It would be good to be right about something." Then, his face turns stoic, "But, I've kept you here long enough, my king."

And just like that they are no longer sire and son but king and subject. But then, that's all they really were and all they really could be. A few days in the bleakness of the North will not change that.

Once he sets atop Astar, he does not look back, only forward. He'd seen what and who he needed to see. There was little else do to besides leave the ghost of the man he never knew behind to start the journey back home.