Thank you to everyone who has reviewed. I read and appreciate each and every one. I hope to send out individual replies when RL allows.
Special thanks to my beta meridian_rose for this part. She pushed me to add certain scenes, and really the story is better because of her.
The Song of Rhaego Fireborn
Part II: Vengeance Flies Swiftly on Dragon Wings
Once the celebrations of Rhaego's birth were completed, Drogo and Dany turned their attention to graver matters.
Drogo's bloodriders brought forth the assassin who had tried to kill Dany just the day before, though it felt like a lifetime ago.
The khal rose, hand going to the hilt of one of the knives at his belt, but Dany stayed his fury, joining her husband to stand before their prisoner. The hired killer lay bound and shaking, face down in the dust.
"This is the second man," she said in Dothraki. "They will keep coming until the Usurper has word of their progress. Let us send this man back, with a message for his false king."
Drogo gave her a considering look, reaching out to stroke her jaw. "Jorah, give me your words. You know the men of the lands across the poison water."
Jorah stepped forward, his brow furrowed. Dany herself was surprised that Drogo had asked for Jorah's council. She gave him a small encouraging nod.
"It is true, what Khaleesi Daenerys says, my Khal," Jorah's voice rang throughout the camp. "The assassins will keep coming until the men in King's Landing are given a reason to stop sending them."
Drogo nodded. "Then we will send them a message through this man."
Dany stepped forward, bending down to stare into the eyes of the man who would have killed her and her son. Behind her, the dragons guarding Rhaego's cradle stirred, making eerie whistling sounds.
"Tell your king that vengeance flies swiftly on dragon wings."
The man nodded fervently, and Drogo ordered a group of warriors to escort him to the docks.
Jorah watched the assassin being led away, then turned to fade back into the crowd.
He was stopped by Khal Drogo calling his name.
"Brother," the khal addressed him. "Twice now have you proved yourself as worthy as any Dothraki. I have already given you a fine horse for your deeds. Now I make you another gift."
Drogo motioned Daenerys forward. She had Rhaego in her arms and one of the bronze dragons on her shoulder. Khal Drogo took her hand, and placed it in Jorah's.
"You are my brother, Jorah," Khal Drogo said. "And I give you my family. Should I fall in battle, they will be yours to care for."
His throat thick, Jorah squeezed the khaleesi's hand, looking into Drogo's eyes. A silent understanding passed between them. Dany was Drogo's for as long as he lived, but the mighty khal valued Jorah's love for her, for it meant that she would have a protector even after Drogo's death.
Khals did not live long lives.
"I will keep them safe when you cannot, my brother," Jorah answered Drogo in Dothraki, finding his voice at last.
Daenerys smiled at them in approval. Jorah wondered if she fully understood what had just happened, but knew it was not the time to speak of it.
"My sun-and-stars and I have spoken much of you in the past days, Ser Jorah," the khaleesi said in Dothraki. "My son is the Stallion Who Mounts the World, and he has his blood brothers in the dragons, but he is also Rhaego Targaryen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne. A crown prince needs a Kingsguard, and it shall be you, Ser Jorah."
In response, Jorah drew his sword and drove the point into the ground, then knelt and swore fealty to the dragon.
The following months were filled with plans of war and hard riding, but also the quiet joy of watching Rhaego grow.
Khal Drogo and Jorah were often in conference with the warriors of the khalasar, speaking of how much time they had left before winter came to Westeros, of strategic fortresses and castles they would need to capture, of the forces that might be brought against them. Dany sat in on the meetings, occasionally offering details she thought important – but most of her attention was devoted to Rhaego.
The boy grew quickly, unnaturally so. In mere months, when other children would still be struggling to sit up on their own, Rhaego was walking and chattering to his brother dragons in the same clicks and whistles they used. The creatures of legend grew just as quickly, already the size of direwolves. Rhaego often clambered clumsily onto their backs, and could be seen riding them around the camp. It made Drogo proud, and he boasted that his son was a born rider, not only of horses, but of dragons.
Daenerys had pride in her son, but feared more for the day the dragons grew large enough to fly with Rhaego upon their backs. She lived in terror of him falling, or the dragons leaving with him, never to return.
The khalasarviewed all the strange magic surrounding Rhaego as part of his birthright as the Stallion Who Mounts the World. Some of the slaves whispered that he was a demon spirit with his ghostly pale eyes and peculiar rate of growth, but the Dothraki punished them severely for any hostile word. To them he was a legend already, as miraculous as the dragons he had been born with. They accepted all he did and all that he was with wonder and praise, and it became a mark of favor among the people to give an animal to the dragons for their next meal.
Dany worried over him, as a mother cannot help but do, but she was not truly alarmed by the magic that was Rhaego. He was a true dragon. That was enough of an explanation for her.
"We ride now, my Khaleesi," Jorah bowed in his saddle. "The warriors plunder a village to fund the invasion."
Dany looked up from nursing Rhaego. She would have to begin weaning him soon, as he grew bigger and began cutting teeth.
He was not yet a year old.
"I will come with you," she said, pulling Rhaego away from her breast and whistling for his dragon brothers.
Jorah protested, "It will not be a pretty sight – "
"I know this, Jorah. That is why I must go," Dany said in the tongue of Westeros. She continued in Dothraki, "I must not be allowed to forget the cost of the crown we win for my son."
Jorah was silent for a long moment, and then bowed again, deeper than he had the first time.
"Rhaego, go stay with Mirri Maz Duur," Dany told her son, pointing to where the old woman stood in the distance. She had chosen Mirri to be Rhaego's nurse because of her extensive knowledge of the healing arts, though some of the Dothraki protested that the witch would hurt their prince. Dany dismissed their objections as superstition. Rhaego himself was far more mystical than anything Mirri had ever done.
When the warriors returned to the khalasar, they found Mirri Maz Duur bound to a pole at the center of the encampment. Rhaego's dragons prowled around her, gnashing their teeth, smoke curling from their nostrils.
"What is the meaning of this?" Dany called in Dothraki, nudging her white mare forward so that she sat even with Drogo on his stallion.
It was Doreah who stepped forward to speak. "She attacked the prince with magic, my Khaleesi. Blood magic!"
A rumble of disquiet moved through those gathered, the angry sigh of a great stallion as the Dothraki riled at the mention of the forbidden mysticism.
"Where is my son?" Dany cried in the same instant that Drogo roard, "Where is Rhaego?"
"Jinne, ave," a young voice cut through the outraged thunder of the crowd.
Dany turned her head to see a boy with olive skin and shoulder length dark hair, and eyes the color of the sky.
"Rhaego?" she gasped, dismounting to go to him.
She had left behind a boy who grew faster than was normal, but was still a baby, uncoordinated and unable to speak intelligibly. The child before her now was unmistakably Rhaego, but was at least six or seven years old, and naked, having burst from clothes too small for him.
A shadow fell over them, and Dany turned to see Drogo standing there, concern lining his face. "What has been done to our son, moon-of-my-life?"
"My dragon brothers helped me, mother," Rhaego said in his child's voice. "The witch would have killed me. My brothers helped me be stronger."
"The dragons made him grow?" Jorah murmured in the common tongue of Westeros, eyes wide.
"I'm hungry," Rhaego complained, breaking the tension of the moment. He reached for Dany's breast.
"No, Rhaego. You are too big now," she stopped him, voice flat. She felt as if she were dreaming. "Doreah will make you something to eat."
Rhaego shrugged, sullen. Dany wondered how much he understood, how much of his mind had grown with his body.
"Why did you attack my son, witch?" Drogo demanded of the old woman held prisoner by the khalasar, speaking the common tongue of Westeros so that she would understand him.
Dany had almost forgotten the woman in her concern for Rhaego.
"You burn cities, rape women, kill men and children, all in the name of Rhaego Fireborn and his great destiny, and you ask me why I attacked him?" Mirri growled , then spat at Drogo.
"I saved you!" Dany burst, whirling to face the witch.
"What did you save me from? My people are dead or enslaved. My temple is gone, ground to dust under the hooves of these savages. You didn't saveme, girl. You just made me a slave to my people's murderers."
Dany had nothing she could say to that, save that she did not care. Her son's life was worth more to her than a thousand villages, than a river of blood.
It did not make her a monster. Only a mother.
"I will have your screams!" Drogo declared, to the cheers of the khalasar.
"You will not have them," the witch answered, fear in her face.
"I want only your life," Dany retorted, "but we will have both."
Before either the khal or the khaleesi could move to exact punishment on the witch, Rhaego whistled and clicked his tongue to his dragon brothers.
As one, the winged lizards opened their mouths and breathed fire for the very first time, burning Mirri Maz Duur alive with a flame so hot that soon even her shrieks were seared away.
The people of the khalasar fell to their knees before the might of the Stallion Who Mounts the World.
That night, there was a feast to celebrate the first victory of Rhaego Fireborn. His mother braided his hair for the first time, and his father presented him with his first bow.
The dragons crunched the blackened bones of Mirri Maz Duur between their teeth.
They crossed the Narrow Sea within the first year of Rhaego's life, urged on by the approaching winter, and the growth of the dragons. Soon they would be too large to ride on ships, and yet still too small to fly.
The Dothraki and their horses alike were nervous on the great ships they commissioned. To distract themselves, they spent the journey in yet more war council, and told stories of past victories. One particularly gifted story teller wrote a song to commemorate the day of Rhaego's victory over the witch that sought to kill him. It was called Dragon's First Flame, and soon the sailors that manned the ships had picked it up. Rhaego's legend began to spread.
Dany tutored Rhaego from the books that Jorah had given her on her wedding day. He had called them a paltry gift, but the knowledge they provided now made them more precious to her than any gift she had received that day, save for the dragon eggs.
Rhaego named the dragons Quetz, Zu, and Tatsu, though he insisted that he had not named them, but that they had told him their names. Drogo took him at his word, and treated the dragons as if they were Dothraki warriors who could understand him. Dany thought that perhaps they could.
But she worried for Rhaego. Often, he seemed not quite human, more dragon than man. He was not a beast, not without a conscience, yet his concerns and way of thinking were alien to her. She was not frightened of her son, but afraid that he would never be able to find the happiness she had found with Drogo. His destiny weighed too heavily, and what woman would love the dragon truthfully and fully? He would be a handsome man, she could tell, and a powerful king. Many women would seek him out for those reasons, but not for love.
In the calm before the storm of swords to come, Dany wished that her son was a normal boy, with a quiet destiny.
Rhaego threw the dagger his father had given him, letting out a Dothraki war whoop when it struck the outer edge of the target that he and the other children had painted on one of the masts of the ship they traveled on.
Drogo watched with pride before redirecting his attention back to Jorah and his bloodriders. "You see how strong he is, how fast he learns. His hair will never be cut," Drogo boasted.
"He must also learn a king's mercy," Jorah cautioned in Dothraki, watching Rhaego with wary eyes. "If he is to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, we must be careful not to kill, not to destroy, unless necessary. Or we will win nothing more than a ruin."
Drogo frowned, considering. For all that the man seemed a simple savage, Jorah knew a mind sharp as a sword point dwelled behind those dark Dothraki eyes. Drogo's ways were different, but it did not make him an imbecile. The key was phrasing things in a way that he would understand. Honor, pride, victory, strength – all spoke louder to Drogo than concerns of money or mercy.
"We do not wish for Rhaego to look weak in the eyes of his enemies," Jorah continued. "If we raze the Seven Kingdoms to the ground to win the throne, it will not matter that Rhaego conquered and won. Enemies will see only a battle weary khalasar ripe for plunder."
There was a sudden commotion among the children. Jorah looked up to see that an older boy had challenged Rhaego. They circled each other, knives drawn, the other children egging them on.
Jorah began to rise, but Drogo stopped him. "It is his right," the great khal said, eyes riveted on the lower deck where the fight took place. "He could call for you, his guard, or make his dragons attack. But my son is wise. He knows he must prove that he stands on his own strength, not that of others."
The two small combatants danced clumsily back and forth, their movements wild and uncontrolled. After seeing Khal Drogo and his warriors in battle it was like watching two colts vying for dominance in the shadow of stallions.
Until the older boy, with his greater length of arm, drew a bloody furrow across Rhaego's chest. But Rhaego did not yield, or call for help. Instead he threw his head back and laughed in a way that reminded Jorah of Rhaegar and Viserys both. Unskillfully, he threw himself at his opponent, sending both their knives clattering across the deck.
When Rhaego raised his face, it was covered in blood, and for a terrible moment Jorah was sure that the boy would die. And then more blood sprayed Rhaego's cheeks, and to his dawning horror, Jorah realized Rhaego had torn out his challenger's throat.
With his teeth.
"My son is strong," Drogo declared, descending to the lower decks to congratulate the boy on his victory.
"He is the Blood of the Dragon," Jorah murmured to himself without knowing if it was fear or love.
When they landed on the shore of the Seven Kingdoms, the first thing they did was take the port city of Bulwark.
They hid in the belly of their ships until night fell. The dragons laid still on Rhaego's orders, spread across the decks of three ships, covered with rough cloth to make them appear to be cargo. When the city closed their gates for the night, the attack began.
Dany rode upon Zu, the red dragon that Rhaego said was female, and the dominant of the three. Rhaego sat behind her, his arms around her waist, the leather of his vest and loin cloth pressing into her back. Quietly, more quietly than Dany would have thought possible, Zu carried them from the ship to the city wall, and then began to climb it, her enormous claws making a crunching sound as she dug them into the stone and wood of Bulwark's gate.
It had taken much persuasion to stop Drogo's protests at Dany riding into battle. He did not understand that this was her homecoming, that she had to see, to witness, to fight herself so that the spirits of her brothers - both her brothers - and all the other slaughtered Targaryens could be at last laid to rest. He did not understand that she feared for Rhaego's life, and even more that he would become a killer without conscience or remorse. She didn't know how to make Drogo understand, couldn't think of a way to say it so it would make sense to him.
In the end, she had told him that it was a tradition of her House, a point of honor for the mother of the crown prince to ride into battle with him, so she could bear witness to her son's glory. When Drogo turned to Jorah for confirmation of the tale, she had stared him down, daring him to call her a liar, until he had nodded in that slow way of his, his mouth firmly shut.
And so Dany rode on Zu with Rhaego, while Drogo and Jorah prepared to lead their warriors in a charge.
When they were near the top of the wall, Rhaego told Zu to flame, signaling the warriors led by Drogo and Jorah, as well as her dragon brothers. A hundred thousand Dothraki voices were raised in a battle cry, but the sound was dwarfed by the roar of dragons.
There was the clash of steel, and the shouts of men. Dany could not see through the smoke and ash in the air, but the heat of the dragon fire sang sweetly against her skin and made her blood rush through her veins.
Quetz and Tatsu, Zu's bronze brothers, burned the city gate to the ground, blazing a path of destruction for the Dothraki horde to follow. On Zu's back, Dany and Rhaego glided from rooftop to rooftop, until they were behind Bulwark's forces. The soldiers of the city guard found that they were pressed from all sides. No matter which way they turned, they were met with a dragon's jaws and the blood painted faces of the Dothraki.
They would have killed every soul in Bulwark, if Dany had not heard a child cry amidst the chaos of the battle. Without stopping to think, Dany slipped from Zu's back, the months of traveling with the Dothraki giving her strong legs and a certain finesse as she landed, knees bent. Confidently, she strode into the flames that roared throughout the city.
When she emerged unharmed on the other side with the child in her arms, the citizens of Bulwark stopped in shock, and awe. When Dany returned the child to its mother, they laid down their arms. Whispers could be heard traveling through the crowd of a goddess walking among mortals, of a dragon in human form, of magic and legend, but most of all of mercy.
"You see," Jorah could be heard saying, sitting astride his horse with Drogo and Rhaego on either side of him, "mercy is a different kind of strength."
They spent some weeks in the city, fortifying it as their path of retreat, and gathering information. It was there that they learned that the usurper had died, and his son Joffrey Baratheon had ascended to the Iron Throne.
"Moon-of-my-life," Drogo sighed, lying with her upon a large four poster bed in a manor they had taken for their own. He pulled Dany into his chest.
"My sun-and-stars," she replied, pressing kisses to his beard.
"We will ride out soon, to take the Iron Throne for Rhaego." Drogo always said their son's name with fatherly pride.
"We will ride on the backs of dragons to reclaim what was stolen from my people," she replied, her words filled with ice and fire.
A spark simmering between them, Drogo rolled them so that he was on top of her, supporting his weight with his elbows so as not to crush her. "And we will pull down the stone houses, and scorch the earth with dragon fire!"
Dany thrust her hips up to meet his, gasping when he bent his head to her neck, his beard tickling and his lips hot on her throat. "And we will restore the dynasty of my House, and the race of dragons!" She bit at Drogo's earlobes, smiling wickedly when he moaned, and then they spoke no more.
"What do you mean, 'another city has fallen'?" King Joffrey jumped to his feet, face red in rage.
"Precisely what I said, nephew," Tyrion countered dryly. "Shall I say it slower? Another. City. Has. Fallen. We cannot fight the King of the North and the Dothraki horde at the same time. You must make peace with one and ask for their aid in destroying the other."
Tyrion idly examined the bronze insignia that denoted him as Hand of the King, while Joffrey threw yet another public tantrum. They stood in the throne room of the Red Keep. Tyrion's sister, Cersei sat to Joffrey's right, with Sansa Stark standing next to her in attendance as her lady in waiting. Between Tyrion and Joffrey were the kingsguard, though the position usually taken by their captain was noticeably vacant.
Tyrion would never get his brother Jaime back alive if he couldn't bring his horrid nephew to heel.
"Raise my armies! Force farmers into arms if you have to, no one is taking my crown! I don't believe these fairy tales of dragons - we will fight until we have defeated our enemies!"
"Or until we're all dead," Tryion calmly interjected. "Leave us," he added as an aside to the guards and courtiers in that stood in the hall. After a moment of hesitation, they obeyed.
"You too, Lady Stark," Tyrion said to Sansa, not unkindly. She curtsied, a barely perceptible expression of gratitude upon her face, and then took her leave.
"You are a coward!" Joffrey spat as Tyrion made his way up the steps of the throne dais. "If Uncle Jaime were here – "
"Yes, a great many things would be different if Jaime were here," Tyrion interrupted the king's tirade once more, but Joffrey kept speaking, screaming over Tyrion's words.
"I'd rather send my armies to die, rather be dead myself, than seen as a coward!"
Tyrion slapped him. "Life is always better than death, boy."
"You can't do this, I'm the king." Joffrey reached for his sword.
Tyrion slapped him again, "And I'm your hand."
"Mother," Joffrey protested, his hand to his cheek.
Cersei had not moved, nor spoken, merely watched their exchange contemplatively. "I think perhaps you deserved that. But I should have done it," she said at last.
Tyrion's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "There may be hope for us yet, dear sister, if you are beginning to see reason."
"We have worked too hard for the Iron Throne to give it up so easily now," she said, meeting Tyrion's eyes.
With a wry twist of his lips, the Hand of the King answered, "Perhaps so, but to me at least, our lives are worth considerably more than an uncomfortable chair."
Dany sat astride the red dragon, Zu, in a riding harness fashioned by the leather workers of the khalasar. On either side of her sat Drogo and Rhaego, Rhaego upon the bronze dragon Quetz and Drogo on Tatsu.
At their back was a legion of Dothraki warriors, ready to fight and die for their khal.
Before them were the closed gates of a fief on the way to King's Landing.
"People of Westeros, hear me," Dany called in the common tongue. "I am Daenerys Targaryen, and with me rides my husband, Drogo, Khal of the Dothraki, and my son, Rhaego, rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms. You see that we have swords. You see that dragons fly with us. We are here for my son's birthright, and we will fight for it!"
Drogo raised his arm, and the Dothraki let loose a thousand war cries, horses rearing and screaming.
"But you need not die this day!" Dany continued. "To live, all you must do is open your gates to us, and swear to the dragon!"
There was a moment of long silence, and then an arrow was shot from the wall. Zu deflected it with one of her leathery wings, as a lady would swat a fly.
Drogo sounded the attack.
Dany gave the same speech at the beginning of every battle. What good was the Iron Throne if the kingdom was in ruins? She asked this of Drogo whenever he grew impatient, and was echoed by Ser Jorah. Whenever the pair agreed, Drogo listened.
Some fought them, others surrendered after the dragons began to pull down their stone walls and set fire to their crops. Still others flew the Targaryen pennant from their battlements as soon as the shadow of dragons in flight fell over their land.
Always the first chill of winter nipped at their heels, urging them ever onwards. They needed the war won before the first snow, or they would never win.
They gathered allegiants and bannermen to their cause, and conquered those who would not swear. They used Jorah's contacts within King's Landing to advantage, turning noble houses against one another, and then preying on that weakness.
At last, dragons perched on the roofs of the Red Keep, and the Dothraki breached the wall.
The great doors to the throne room were smaller than Daenerys had imagined them to be. Or perhaps it was that she was larger now, in body and in spirit. The Dany who had fled for her life was gone, replaced by a khaleesi of the Dothraki, a blade forged in dragon fire.
Drogo flung the doors open, the tendons in his neck standing out as he hefted the heavy oak panels that were usually opened by two heralds.
A small blonde man sat on the throne at the end of the long hall. He was no larger than a child, though he wore clothes cut in a man's fashion and his face was lined. Dany recognized the metal pin that denoted the Hand of the King affixed to the man's tunic.
Drogo and Dany marched down the long audience hall, Rhaego between them. The knights that were meant to stand between the king and the rest of the hall had fled.
Rhaego took a step forward, his icy-blue eyes seeming to stare through the man on the throne. He cleared his throat, and then began to speak in accented, though carefully pronounced common.
"I am Rhaego Fireborn, son of Drogo, of the House Tagaryen, Blood of the Dragon. And you sit upon my throne."
"Welcome Rhaego, Son of Drogo. I am Tyrion Lannister, son of Tywin, of the House of Lannister, and I sit upon the Iron Throne at the behest of a king who hides in the face of your fury and leaves me to die in his place." The little man smiled ironically, bowing from his seat.
"Jorah has said that this man is clever and wise," Dany said in Dothraki.
"My brother's words are always welcome," Drogo answered, though he never took his eyes from Tyrion Lannister.
In common, Dany asked, "Do you wish to die this day, Tyrion Lannister?"
"No," the dwarf answered at once. "I rather like living."
"Then relinquish the throne, and swear to the dragon." Dany could not tell if his smile was sincere, or mocking.
"I ask only one thing, and I shall do as you bid me."
"Name this thing," Drogo said in common, plainly shocking the little lord, "Tyrion, son of Tywin."
"Do not slaughter my family as yours was slaughtered," Tyrion spoke quickly, persuasively. "Spare them, and I shall be in your debt. A Lannister always pays his debts, and I shall pay mine to you with all the gold you need to hold the Seven Kingdoms."
It was a Lannister who had slain her father, Dany knew that much. She knew what Viserys had told her over and over, so often that the words were written on her heart. Kingslayer.
But Viserys' obsession with the past had earned him an early grave. It was time to look to the future. To the reign of the Fireborn.
"All the gold, Tyrion," Dany answered after a long moment of thought, "and a lifetime of service to Rhaego the Dragon, the Stallion Who Mounts the World."
"Done." Tyrion stood, and bowed.
As he ascended the dais to the Iron Throne, his parents on either side of him, Rhaego smiled and whispered to himself, "Yer athohharar athdikar ovethat she zir zhavvorsa."
Vengeance flies swiftly on dragon wings.
"And so I've sung the Stanza of Fire, of how the Stallion Mounted the World. Next comes the Stanza of Ice, a tale of love and beasts from a frozen hell."
"What happens next?" a Dothraki child called out, enraptured by the storytellers of Vaes Dorthrak, eager to hear more of their people's promised prince, khal zhavvorsa, the Dragon King.
"Soon after Rhaego made the whole world his khalasar, a Nightwatchmen, the men who hold back the snow in the north in the lands across the poison water, brought a frozen hand to court, and flung it down at Rhaego's feet. Our khal of khals was insulted, and rose to address the man – and then the hand moved, though it had no arm, and Rhaego knew that dark things had woken in the heart of ice."
The storyteller moved around the fire, making her voice low and haunting. "The Stanza of Ice is a story of monsters, darkness, and the khal zhavvorsa's first love. But this," the storyteller smiled, "is a tale for another night."
Thank you for reading! Feel free to review, constructive criticism welcome.
Note: There is no Dothraki word for "vengeance" or "wing" that I could find, so the literal translation of Rhaego's final line is "Your defeat speedily flies on dragon birds."
I used .org for the Dothraki translations.