You are reminded every day since you remember that within your veins is dragon's blood.
You have never seen a dragon - not really. Your father walks with you and asks you to name skulls that once frightened you, but now you know they are dead. The dragons are all dead, but they live within your family, within your blood and your brother's blood. They aren't so scary after that.
So you memorize the dragons' names to make your father proud. At first, you believe you're only going over the names for the cube of burned sugar your father holds above your head once you get them all right. The names are clumsy on your tongue and so big you can barely wrap your tongue around them. You struggle and you fight them until you can name all of them in three breaths. And it's not for the sweet. It's for the noise your father makes when you get them all right - the quiet huh of approval that makes the candy taste sweeter.
It becomes harder to please him as the years pass.
Your fifth name day flies by without notice. Rhaegar gives you a child's sword, but you can barely lift it. When the tip falls to the stone, arm limp, you look up at him with wide eyes before letting the blade go and kicking it beneath your bed. You have no use for a sword. There is nothing more in the world you want than to recount the dragon skulls that line the great hall.
But you aren't allowed in the main hall any longer. Sometimes, when you pass close enough by, you can smell the fire. It's not fire sprung from tinder like the one that keeps your room warm; it's fire made by man, concocted by the pyromancers and called wild. You don't understand why they call your father mad. You know what anger looks like; you can see it in the Hand's eyes when he thinks no one else is looking.
As you bury your face into one of your many feather pillows, a phantom sweetness burns your tongue.
Rhaegar leaves, and there is whispered talk of rebellion. You've seen the men they name. This Robert Baratheon was the opposite of your brother. As your hate for Rhaegar toils within you, burning and growing and leaving no room for the adoration you felt for him - he's gone; he took Lyanna (Lyanna, who was always as nice to you as your brother) and left you here, you wonder what it would be like if yellow and black banners rose up high to replace the three-headed dragon. The thoughts are bitter and angry and naive, and you hide them away behind a bitten lip. But you still think them.
But you never expect to see the truth of it. You didn't want this, this running by night with your mother and Willem Darry. You didn't want Rhaegar or his lady to die. You didn't want your cousins to die. In truth, you didn't want anyone to die, even the men who put sword and axe and hammer to your kin.
This changes with time.
Your childish innocence is gone by the time you reach Braavos. You see storms, hear curses and stories of the destruction wrought by both sides. And suddenly you're not a boy of eight, but an heir a few years from being a man. You're not the son of the Mad King, but the boy who would overthrow the Usurper. Ser Darry is a loyalist by nature, and when he looks to you, he doesn't see Viserys. He sees the Last of the Targaryens, and that is all you come to know.
Your mother is dead. Your father is dead. Your brother, his wife, his children are dead. Everything you once called home has either been razed or overtaken. The Seven Kingdoms are meant to be yours, but they're beyond the reach of your still-growing limbs. This infuriates you.
If the Kingdoms are mine, why am I not there? you ask. When Ser Darry reminds you of the usurper, you feel the same anger hit you as it did when Rhaegar handed you that too-heavy sword. You feel helpless and weak, and you hate it. But even for a boy, you are proud. You do not cry; you rage.
In an afternoon, you scream and you tear your pillow to shreds. By the time you are done, your bedroom floor looks to be made of feathers and you're exhausted. Instead of asking for another, you stomp into Daenerys' room, stealing hers from beneath her sleeping head and leaving her crying shrilly. You don't care. Whatever is hers, is yours. You're the true king of Westeros. It was your pillow by right.
The knight dies as knights are wont to do, leaving you and your little sister with no one.
You were never taught how to spend money or how to work for it. You sell whatever you can, surviving on that and even more briefly on the 'kindness of others.'
Parting with your mother's crown is difficult beyond measure. You loved her more than anyone, even more than you realized until you are forced to sell her last possession. It feels like you're letting go of the last piece of her. When your sister smiles up at you with uncertainty and tells you that she carries a piece of your mother with her, the only thing that keeps you from slapping her in the crowded city street is the fact that you're clutching the crown with everything you have.
She is the reason your mother is gone. You remind yourself of this time and time again as you live out the next few years. You get older, but you don't feel any stronger. You don't feel any closer to the crown. You can hear the whispers at your heels. Beggar King, that's what they call you when they believe you're not listening, and you smother the black billows of smoke that threaten to snake up your throat. The blood of the dragon burns. You never expected it to burn.
You never give up hope. Your pride may barely hold itself together at times, but when you meet a Magister who swears he will give you every opportunity to regain your crown, it feels real again. You finally do feel closer, like the distance drawn between you since you were forced to flee King's Landing was no more than an arm's stretch away. And for once, you're happy again. You're lighter, and when Illyrio tells you of how the men of Westeros meet in secret to discuss your imminent return, your cheeks flush and you bite on the inside of your lip to keep from smiling.
It doesn't help. You smile anyway.
Things begin to fall into place more rapidly than before. Dany's marriage to Khal Drogo is all the confirmation you need. There is no denying it; you will be king, as it was meant to be. Would that you could open your legs and have a full army emerge from your cunt. You might have been home long ago.
Illyrio gifts you a sword on the day of her wedding. It's fine - fitting for a king, but heavy. Once again, the blade threatens to fall from your hand, but you grip it tightly. Your knuckles gleam white, but it barely drifts downward. You don't realize you're holding your breath until a moment later when you give the sword a curious slash, unable to keep from letting go of a boyish giggle. It is a sign. Surely.
But signs are often misread. Your aching feet can attest to that weeks later after your horse is taken away and you are forced to walk and ride in one of the Dothraki's rickety carts. You deserve better than this. You deserve a litter. You should be being carried on cushions with the sun blocked by swaths of vibrantly colored silks, not riding behind in the mud and filth of your future army. But you bide your time as best you can, eyes cast up to the empty blue sky and daydream as best you can during the bumpy ride.
Your sister finds herself pregnant of all things not long after. Her barbarian husband might have waited until you had your crown, but he was a savage and you know not to expect any better from savages. They had needs that outreached those of normal people. All you required was for Doreah to meet you once or twice a week, to bathe with you and wash your hair and rub your feet and fuck you when the rest was done. Those were simple needs, weren't they? You weren't cruel to her unless she deserved it, which she often did. You weren't unnecessarily cruel to anyone.
On the rare occasion that you wonder whether or not you are too harsh, you remember your father.
It is easy to excuse your behavior when you're not having people splattered with wildfire.
Everything comes to a full stop some time later. You're in Vaes Dothrak, and you have never felt so alone as you do in a tent surrounded by savages. The Bear stands at your side and he's wearing the same sickening expression of awe written over the features of everyone else. Dany works her way through the horse's heart as the crowd's adulation grows. They shout in dothraki, arms raised and bodies shifting together as if they can't contain their emotions and stay still at the same time.
And in one sweeping moment, you are hit with the realization that you have never had this. In all of your twenty-three years, you have never seen this measure of love and admiration and hope directed at you. For all of the empty promises you were fed and the tattered memories you clung to, this was never yours.
I am a Targaryen. I am the last of the Dragons, you mutter to yourself as you hurry to Dany's tent. There is your future. There inside that chest lies your ships and your armies and your crown, concealed in the shape of three dragon's eggs. This is mine. It's always been mine. I'm the king.
I don't care if they love her and not me. I don't need their love.
It's a lie, and you know that the moment it leaves your lips. But you shove the eggs in your sack all the same.
You haven't taken so much as a step out of the tent when Ser Jorah fills the opening, looming over you with a dour face that speaks of so many things without saying a word. Whatever fledgling sprite of hope you'd only just managed to kindle deep inside you is snuffed out after a quick exchange, and you drop the sack at his feet. His face reminds you of how far you've fallen. He doesn't even fear you. He was a knight, and you can barely lift your sword.
Despite everything, you don't realize that night is your last. You get drunker than you've ever allowed yourself, drinking deeply from whatever swill you can find to make the joyous cheering and the sound of your sister's name go away.
You stumble. You shout and curse. You sneer. You do everything in your power to exert a confidence that you haven't felt in months. Not even you can hold onto that glimmer of hope you remember feeling in Pentos.
And there's a brief time when you think, I can get everything back. I can force Khal Drogo's hand. This is my army, not his. Not anymore. He swore to help me get my crown. I have to get my crown. All I need is his men. I don't care if they like me or fear me or if I barely have coin to feed them.
Before you realize what you're doing, your sword is drawn and the tip of is trembling against the swell of Dany's stomach. Your voice is low and somehow you keep that from shaking as well. Your threats are clear. They're clear and burn with an intensity that comes from belief. You can see a flash of fear in Dany's eyes, and you look to the Khal with a twist of a smile.
You've won. This is it. You can feel the weight of your crown atop your head already, but it's not heavy. It's feels right.
You turn to Dany and there is untold relief in your smile. The Khal will give you your crown. That is what your dear sister tells you. You let your sword drop down and take a step back, a shaky laugh leaving your throat and the warm burning of tears pricking the back of your eyes.
But when they fall, it is after the Khal nods and you are seized. You can hear your arm pop out of its socket, and you scream in pain as you're thrust to your knees.
Drogo removes his belt. Thrusts it into a stew pot recently overturned.
Your lilac eyes flash to Dany.
But I'm the blood of the dragon!
I'm the blood of the - I am the dragon!
I'm the rightful king!
"Dany!" Your voice sounds miles away, tunnel vision blurring everything but your sister. No matter how wide you stretch your eyes, no matter how loud you scream for her to tell them to stop, she does not move. She stands as still as stone and cold. She's grown icy and hard and she is nothing like the spotty memories of your mother and Rhaegar. She is not a dragon. Not really. She's fiercer, but she isn't a dragon.
But your thoughts don't change a thing. They never have. She's bone white and dry as the skulls that you still know by heart. She's just as silent. She stands and watches as her husband tosses over the blackened pot of gold.
There is a moment of blinding pain, and you think of nothing.
And then that's all there is.