This story takes place immediately after the end of A Dragon Reborn.
A Dragon in Chains
"We are going to die, we are all going to die!"
"We won't. It's just a storm."
"We are going to drown!"
The wails of the girl who had lost her head completely grated on everyone's nerves. The ship was being thrown this way and there, as if a cruel god had decided to play ball and it had been this way for more than a day. In the light of a thunder, everyone saw how the huge banner with the sun and spear of the House Martell fell from the main mast right next to their hatchway and the next swirl of wind sent it straight into the roiling sea.
Myriah Uller wept anew. "We are going to drown!"
"Stop wailing!" Daenerys scolded her harshly. "With all this salty water around, your stream of tears crowns all!" she added in desperate humour.
The girl kept weeping but her howls went down to snuffling. Everyone was relieved. With these waves bouncing them up and down and the mass of water constantly brimming over the hull to crash against their tightly shut hatchway, the last thing they needed was Myriah's dark premonitions.
"Everyone here?" the Princess asked after they got to their feet in the aftermath of the next huge wave. "Everyone all right?"
Lady Allyrion, born Melina of Volantis, had a bruise on her forehead. Myriah's gown had torn over a nail they hadn't even noticed before. Lady Delonne Vaith was shaking her head, as if trying to gather her thoughts together after being thrown against the wall of the cabin. Ryon was looking around, wide-eyed. Daenerys had barely held him off from crashing into the hatchway.
"I'll go to see what's going on," the Princess cried, to overshout the storm. "I'll talk to the captain. I'll be right back."
"No!" Lady Allyrion screamed. "Don't go, my lady, it's too dangerous. Let me go instead."
"I'll be right back, Melina," Daenerys said and moved to the door step by step, leaning against the wall and cursing mentally the idea to go back to Sunspear by sea. Really, what was there not to like about traveling by land? They could have seen a big part of the Seven Kingdoms; they could have visited Summerhall where Daenerys had always liked going to, for it kept to her dear memories of her childhood when the young Daeron had lived there and she had spent the summers there with his family. But no, they had to go by sea and here they were, in the clutches of a storm that might have sent them all the way to the Summer Sea, for all she knew.
In front of her terrified eyes, a sailor fell overboard, his mouth opened in a soundless scream. She also screamed, could not hear either his voice or hers, so loud was the roar of the wind.
The captain, an old bear of a man and an old friend of Maron's, startled when he saw her. "My lady," he yelled, "go back to the cabin. It's dangerous here. The storm is not at its strongest yet!"
"Where are we, Ser Silar?" she yelled back as he headed towards her. "How are things going?"
Before he could answer, a new giant wave loomed over them. Ser Silar grabbed Daenerys and squeezed her between him and the helm, shielding her with his body as best as he could. For a moment, the helm cut painfully in her skin and insides but then the wave was dissipating and she was still in one piece and still on board. Some of the sailors were not this lucky.
The captain looked at her and flashed her a daring smile. "My lady," he said, "you gave me a memory to warm me up for years to come."
She laughed, grateful for his attempt to reassure her. "What's going on, Ser Silar?" she asked in the brief hush."
"The storm is very harsh but not one of our devices has been broken this far. If we can wait it out, we have a good chance of survival. If not…" He shrugged and looked around, counting with a heavy heart how many of his men the wind had dragged overboard. Again, he looked at her. "Go back to your cabin, my lady," he said. "I cannot imagine what I'd explain to the Prince if I lost you in the sea."
His words sounded very harsh. He was quite hard by nature and in the beginning, all those years ago, Daenerys had not liked him, for he'd been so different to the courtiers she had been accustomed to at King's Landing. She had not understood why Maron constantly invited him in his private chambers, at his table. How silly I was, she thought. Young and silly.
"I'm going," she said and headed back to find her son looking out through the dark hatchway, horrified and fascinated. Some of the women sobbed softly but after Myriah's outburst of wailing no one made a sound. Lady Allyrion had her eyes closed. She was mouthing a prayer, the ruby shaped as heart on a silver chain that she usually kept out of sight now held to her lips.
The storm kept raging the whole day and night, and the day after that. It was already dawn on the sixth or seventh day of their trial when the ship's movements stilled. Daenerys went out to access the situation. The sky was indigo, and red, and pink, the sea so still that she could have thought the storm had never been – if she hadn't seen the broken masts, the missing pieces of the hulk. Sailors worked fervently to repair them. She sought out the captain.
"We are now closer to Tyrosh than Sunspear, as long as I can say, my lady," he said. "I don't think it wise to land there but it might turn out we have no other choice if we wanted to survive. We'll see."
Before she could answer, the sharp cry of a man in the only surviving mast over their heads startled them both. A ship was slowly coming into their vision. With a sinking heart, Daenerys recognized the black three-headed dragon on red.
The great hall, lit by hundred of torches, was painted in bright colours crashing each other as spectacularly as the clothes and hairs of many of the men present. Daenerys was stunned – was the youth she had just gone past green-haired? And in a red attire, no less! She had heard that Tyroshi loved bright colours but that! She made a point at not looking around as she went between the rows of tables up, followed by her ladies, her son at her side, to the dais where a single large table sat. She could not help but hear the whispers, though. No doubt Ryan could also hear them, see the craned necks of the men straining to see her, the supposed reason for the whole rebellion and their being here. She raised her chin, refusing to acknowledge that she saw and heard.
At the dais, a man slowly stood up and they locked eyes silently, a Targaryen pride clashing with a Targaryen pride. Neither looked aside.
He's so old, Daenerys thought, suddenly realizing how much time had passed. A whole life – her life. And his. At King's Landing, it was not so obvious because Aerys and Aelinor, Maekar, Brynden and Shiera were all so fair-haired that the white did not touch them visibly. And Maron – well, she lived with him, shared his life daily, so she did not notice his aging either. Aegor, on the other hand, had changed visibly, the most obvious difference being the white locks in his dark hair.
The silence hung heavily. All conversations in the hall gradually stopped. They were still not looking aside. She could practically read Aegor's thoughts behind the purple eyes so much like hers: finally, the traitor is here, at my mercy, and I can make her whatever I want her to be. Yes, she had no doubt that he considered her a traitor for not supporting Daemon's rebellion. But how could she have done it? She had loved Daemon, had wanted to be his wife. But the good of the realm always had to come first, that was why she had refused to run away with him and begged him not to do anything stupid. She had been stunned to realize that she had not mattered in the great scheme of things as much as she had thought. Daemon had still rebelled. Yet, the fact that she was not at her side deprived him of part of the support he could have otherwise counted at. Now, many years wiser, she doubted whether it had ever really been about her. Of course, that did not matter right now – all those gathered here believed it was and it was Tyrosh, the home of the Golden Company. Not Sunspear and not King's Landing.
She was surprised when Aegor finally looked aside. Maybe he had melted with age? From what they heard from their informers it was not the case but maybe his recent illness had affected him? Then, he looked at her again and he was the Bittersteel she knew. This man would never give up.
"Sister," he said smoothly and raised her hand to his lips. Daenerys did not draw it back. "What an honour to have you as my… guest."
"I hope I won't burden you for long," she replied. "As soon as our ship is repaired, we'll leave."
He gave her a look of irony. "Why are you in such a hurry? Everyone here is so eager to meet you. You know Haegon, don't you?"
A young man made a step toward them and Daenerys' head reeled. He looked so much like Daemon as she had last seen him that she was suddenly overwhelmed. He kissed her hand and she was suddenly back to reality where she was in the hands of an enemy, along with her youngest and her companions that she was responsible for, and…
"You've been to visit the family at King's Landing?" Bittersteel asked after seating her at the dais. She looked at him steadily, refusing to betray any anxiousness.
"I was going home," she said.
His eyes bore holes in her face. "Indeed. What a thing life it – once, you were so terrified of ever setting a foot in Dorne."
She smiled. "That was before I knew better," she said. "We always fear what we don't know. Such is our nature."
All around the hall, there was a wave of whispers. Aegor and Daenerys paid it no mind, focused only on each other. This bitch, he thought enraged. He's dead because of her and she dares talk as if she's so happy with the result. Daenerys wished she could scream into his face that it was him who was guilty for Daemon's death, for Daemon would have never thought to rebel if Aegor hadn't planted the idea in his head. Yes, he had been prideful. Yes, he had been scornful of the fact that he was only a bastard, albeit a legitimized one. Yes, he had despised Daeron for not being a shiny knight from bards' songs. But he would have never rebelled. He had been actually quite fond of Daeron in the beginning, before Aegor, Fireball and all those disgruntled Houses had started pushing him into thinking that the crown belonged to him.
He looked at her entourage, all torn velvets and stained silks. At least the ladies had had the chance to comb their hair before they were brought here. "Won't you introduce us to your companions?" he asked.
To give you the information which Dornish Houses you can now blackmail, Daenerys thought but of course, she had no choice.
Aegor was looking at a middle-aged woman at the far end of the group. "A sister I didn't know about?" he asked mockingly, referring to the deep violet eyes of the lady. "As long as I know, Father never traveled as far as Dorne."
Daenerys knew who he was talking about even without looking. "This is Lady Allyrion," she said. "She was born Lady Aletta Dayne of Starfall and they are famous for their violet eyes."
Bittersteel looked at her, eyes narrowed. She was being strange – she was talking too much. Daenerys noticed his look but before she could say anything, Ryon made a step forward and all eyes fell on him.
"And who might be this, sister?" Aegor asked, almost lazily.
Daenerys raised her chin. "This is my son," she said proudly. "Ryon Martell, Prince of Dorne."
"Ah." Bittersteel looked at the boy up and down and gave Daenerys another look of irony. "It seems that he carries nothing of our blood. What a pity."
"He takes after his father and I am happy," Daenerys said. "Now, if you'd be so kind, we'd like to retire. It's been a long day and the storm took most of our strength."
"Of course," Haegor Blackfyre said. "There are chambers ready for you and your ladies already. You should go to rest as soon as you feel tired."
Blackfyre shot him a dark look. "Not quite," he said. "We wouldn't want to be deprived of the company of such noble companions so soon. Make room for the ladies," he called to his men and the Dornish ladies had no choice but take a seat next to the exiles who would tear the realm apart as soon as they had the chance.