My sister, Elia, she married Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and became the princess she already was. In Dorne, she walked among vipers and none would bite her. In King’s Landing, she found herself surrounded by lions.
Rhaenys and Aegon Waters, the delegitimized children of Rhaegar Targaryen, return to Westeros after years spent in exile. They mean to take back their birthright, which their father and the usurper both stole from them, and prove that despite being stripped of the Targaryen name, they are still dragons.
Elia Martell spent her time in King’s Landing in contempt of half the royal court, declared frail, considered unworthy of the Silver Prince, nearly died giving birth to his two heads of the dragon, despised by her mad good-father, never safe, friendless but for her children and a husband who was by all accounts a dreamer cursed with an elegant madness… a husband who humiliated her by taking off with a wild woman-child and thrusting the Seven Kingdoms into war.
Sometime during the end of Robert’s Rebellion, she defeated Gregor Clegane, a poisoned quill from a crossbow that entered his brain through his eye and killed him within seconds. She and Tywin’s Heir slayed the Mad King. And why not? Aerys had caches of wildfire beneath the city and would have set every living soul in King’s Landing ablaze. She took his crown and smashed the Rebellion to pieces. Rhaegar and Robert killed each other on the Trident and the Rebel forces scattered like rats. If Elia Martell had not used that crossbow to kill the Mountain, she would have been most brutally savaged by Ser Clegane and Robert Baratheon would have been King. Elia Martell is a fierce and determined woman who crowned herself Queen of the Seven Kingdoms over the broken body of Aerys. Covered in blood with the sun shining down her hair, she crowned herself and even Eddard Stark knelt at the sight.
She has survived an unworthy husband, a mad king, and conspiracies and escaped slew the Mountain That Rides, defanged the Lion of Casterly Rock, crushed the Rebellion beneath her dainty feet and pardoned the crown’s traitors who swore fealty with poisoned spears pointed at their throats.
Elia Martell ruled the Seven Kingdoms with a wise and gentle hand. Beloved by all and protected by her brother’s daughters who declared themselves her Sunguard. She ruled until her daughter, Rhaenys, became of age and ruled just as wisely as her mother. - Maester Howar
elia begs rhaegar not to name their daughter rhaenys. she begs him.
rhaenys targaryen died tortured beneath the hellholt.
the queen that never was died crownless and charred beyond recognition.
so she begs. names have power, she tells him. name her nymeria for her rhoynish blood, or alysanne for the good queen if he must have a targaryen name. but not rhaenys. please, not rhaenys. if he names her rhaenys, she is doomed to horror and mutilation.
rhaegar only kisses her forehead. “she must be rhaenys,” he says simply. “she must be rhaenys.”
Rhaella sees Elia’s neck straighten, her chin raised and her lips pursed as Loreza’s ever had whenever Aerys had said something to irk her. She looks so like Loreza, Rhaella thinks.
Loreza would have narrowed her eyes and hissed at Aerys, king be damned. But Elia simply says, “Your Grace.” She dips into the briefest of curtsies and crosses to Rhaella extending her arms for Rhaenys. Rhaella hands Elia her daughter, then watches as the Princess sweeps from the room, her neck still stiff.
Loreza had once said that any child of hers would have a spine of steel. When first she’d met Elia, Rhaella had wondered if Loreza mightn’t have failed. The girl seemed meek, and quiet–everything that Loreza had frowned upon during her time at court. But as she saw Elia Martell’s skirts whip around the doorframe of the chamber, Rhaella wondered if perhaps she was wrong.
“Not everyone fights with a sword,” Loreza had once said, when Rhaella had tried to convince Rhaegar to work harder in the yards. This was before he’d been determined to train, when he was a quiet and bookish boy. “Some are born for mace or spear.”
Loreza had always said the spear was more of a subtle instrument than a sword. Swords were for hacking at men, for throwing your body at them. Spears could be subtle and strong and could kill a man just as well far or near.
Elia Martell’s spine was a spear. Rhaella did not doubt that her daughter would hold a grudge quite as long as her mother had. Aerys only looked for swords–for the weapons that men brought into his court, especially after Duskendale. He never looked for the distant weapon, whose wielder was just out of arm’s reach.
WHAT FOLLOWED PRINCE Rhaegar’s infamous abduction of Lyanna Stark was the ruin of House Targaryen. The full depth of King Aerys’s madness was subsequently revealed in his depraved actions against Lord Stark, his heir, and their supporters after they demanded redress for Rhaegar’s wrongs. Instead of granting them fair hearing, King Aerys had them brutally slain, then followed these murders by demanding that Lord Jon Arryn execute his former wards, Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. Many now agree that the true start of Robert’s Rebellion began with Lord Arryn’s refusal and his courageous calling of his banners in the defense of justice. Yet not all the lords of the Vale agreed with Lord Jon’s decision, and soon fighting broke out as loyalists to the crown attempted to bring Lord Arryn down. The fighting then spread across the Seven Kingdoms like wildfire, as lords and knights took sides. Many alive today fought in these battles, and so can speak with greater knowledge of them than I, who was not there. I therefore leave it to such men to write the true and detailed history of Robert’s Rebellion; far be it for me to offend those who yet live by presenting an imperfect summary of events, or mistakenly praising those who have since proved unworthy. So instead, I will look only to the lord and knight who ascended the Iron Throne at the end, repairing a realm nearly destroyed by madness.
Robert Baratheon proved himself a fearless, indomitable warrior as more and more men flocked to his banner. Robert was the first over the walls at Gulltown, when Lord Grafton raised his banner for Targaryens, and from there he sailed to Storm’s End—risking capture by the royal fleet—to call his banners. Not all came willing: Aerys’s Hand, Lord Merryweather, encouraged certain stormlords to rise up against Lord Robert. Yet it was an effort that proved fruitless following Lord Robert’s victories at Summerhall, where he won three battles in a single day. His hastily gathered forces defeated Lords Grandison and Cafferen in turn, and Robert went on to kill Lord Fell in single combat before taking his famous son Silveraxe captive. More victories were to come for Lord Robert and the stormlords as they marched to join forces with Lord Arryn and the Northmen who supported their cause. Rightly famed is Robert’s grand victory at Stoney Sept, also called the Battle of the Bells, where he slew the famous Ser Myles Mooton—once Prince Rhaegar’s squire— and five men besides, and might well have killed the new Hand, Lord Connington, had the battle brought them together. The victory sealed the entry of the riverlands into the conflict, following the marriage of Lord Tully’s daughters to Lords Arryn and Stark. The royalist forces were left reeling and scattered by such victories though they did their best to rally. The Kingsguard were dispatched to recover the remnant of Lord Connington’s force, and Prince Rhaegar returned from the south to take command of the new levies being raised in the crownlands. And after a partial victory at Ashford, which led to Robert’s withdrawal, the Stormlands were left open to Lord Tyrell. Bringing the might of the Reach to bear, the reachlords swept away all resistance and settled in to besiege Storm’s End. Shortly afterward, the host was joined by Lord Paxter Redwyne’s mighty fleet from the Arbor, completing the siege by land and sea. That siege wore on until the conclusion of the war. From Dorne, in defense of Princess Elia, ten thousand spears came over the Boneway and marched to King’s Landing to bolster the host that Rhaegar was raising. Those who were there at court during this time have recounted that Aerys’s behavior was erratic. He was untrusting of any save his Kingsguard—and then only imperfectly, for he kept Ser Jaime Lannister close at all hours to serve as a hostage against his father. When Prince Rhaegar at last marched up the kingsroad to the Trident, with him were all but one of the Kingsguard who had remained in King’s Landing: Ser Barristan the Bold, Ser Jonothor Darry, and Prince Lewyn of Dorne. Prince Lewyn took command of the Dornish troop sent by his nephew, the Prince Doran, but it is said that he did so only after threats from the Mad King, who feared that the Dornishmen looked to betray him. Only the young Ser Jaime Lannister remained in King’s Landing. Of the famous battle on the Trident, much has been written and said. But all know that the two armies clashed at the crossing that would ever after be called the Ruby Ford for the scattered rubies on Prince Rhaegar’s armor. The opponents were well matched. Rhaegar’s forces numbered some forty thousand, a tenth part of which were anointed knights, while the rebels had somewhat fewer men, but those they possessed were tested in battle, while much of Rhaegar’s force was raw and new. The battle at the ford was fierce, and many lives were lost in the fray. Ser Jonothor Darry was cut down in the midst of the conflict, as was Prince Lewyn of Dorne. But the most important death was yet to come. The battle screamed about Lord Robert and Prince Rhaegar both, and by the will of the gods, or by chance—or perhaps by design—they met amidst the shallows of the ford. The two knights fought valiantly upon their destriers, according to all accounts. For despite his crimes, Prince Rhaegar was no coward. Lord Robert was wounded by the dragon prince in the combat, yet in the end, Baratheon’s ferocious strength and his thirst to avenge the shame brought upon his stolen betrothed proved the greater. His warhammer found its mark, and Robert drove the spike through Rhaegar’s chest, scattering the costly rubies that blazed upon the prince’s breastplate. Some men on both sides stopped fighting at once, leaping instead into the river to recover the precious stones. And a general rout quickly began as the royalists started fleeing the field. Lord Robert’s wounds prevented him from taking up the pursuit, so he gave that into the hands of Lord Eddard Stark. But Robert proved his chivalry when he refused to allow the gravely wounded Ser Barristan to be killed. Instead, he sent his own maester to tend the great knight. In such fashion did the future king win the fierce devotion of his friends and allies —for few men were ever so open-handed and merciful as Robert Baratheon.
THE E ND BIRDS FLEW AND couriers raced to bear word of the victory at the Ruby Ford. When the news reached the Red Keep, it was said that Aerys cursed the Dornish, certain that Lewyn had betrayed Rhaegar. He sent his pregnant queen, Rhaella, and his younger son and new heir, Viserys, away to Dragonstone, but Princess Elia was forced to remain in King’s Landing with Rhaegar’s children as a hostage against Dorne. Having burned his previous Hand, Lord Chelsted, alive for bad counsel during the war, Aerys now appointed another to the position: the alchemist Rossart—a man of low birth, with little to recommend him but his flames and trickery. Ser Jaime Lannister was meanwhile left in charge of the Red Keep’s defenses. The walls were manned by knights and watchmen, awaiting the enemy. When the first army that arrived flew the lion of Casterly Rock, with Lord Tywin at its head, King Aerys anxiously ordered the gates to be opened, thinking that at last his old friend and former Hand had come to his rescue, as he had done at the Defiance of Duskendale. But Lord Tywin had not come to save the Mad King. This time, Lord Tywin’s cause was that of the realm’s, and he was determined to bring an end to the reign that madness had brought low. Once within the walls of the city, his soldiers assaulted the defenders of King’s Landing, and blood ran red in the streets. A handpicked cadre of men raced to the Red Keep to storm its walls and seek out King Aerys, so that justice might be done. The Red Keep was soon breached, but in the chaos, misfortune soon fell upon Elia of Dorne and her children, Rhaenys and Aegon. It is tragic that the blood spilled in war may as readily be innocent as it is guilty, and that those who ravished and murdered Princess Elia escaped justice. It is not known who murdered Princess Rhaenys in her bed, or smashed the infant Prince Aegon’s head against a wall. Some whisper it was done at Aerys’s own command when he learned that Lord Lannister had taken up Robert’s cause, while others suggest that Elia did it herself for fear of what would happen to her children in the hands of her dead husband’s enemies. Aerys’s Hand, Rossart, was killed at a postern gate after cravenly attempting to flee the castle. And last of all to die was King Aerys himself, at the hand of his remaining Kingsguard knight, Ser Jaime Lannister. Like his father, Ser Jaime did as he thought best for the realm, bringing an end to the Mad King. And so ended both the reign of House Targaryen and Robert’s Rebellion—the war that put an end to nearly three hundred years of Targaryen rule and ushered in a new golden era under the auspices of House Barathe
he is seven again. seven and not frightened, mother tells him that a dragon is never frightened. a dragon is never frightened a dragon is never she cries. she cries but doesn’t cry, not the way he cries. she cries the way that only mother cries, with eyes bright and tears at the corner of her eyes but the tears never fall because mother doesn’t let them fall mother doesn’t let anything fall. do not be frightened she tells him.
he is seven again and rhaenys is there. rhaenys who is three and who follows him around with her cat who follows her around so they are a little train of targaryens, viserys first then rhaenys then balerion who is named for a dragon but isn’t a dragon. he is seven again and rhaenys is crying.
rhaenys doesn’t cry the way that mother cries. rhaenys cries the way that only rhaenys cries, loud and squalling and blubbering, demanding to know where her father has gone, wanting to go see her mother when the maesters say that elia must rest, loud loud don’t forget me i am still here loud crying that only viserys hears.
don’t forget me i’m still here. that’s what her tears meant. viserys knows that now, knows it in his sleep though viserys is not seven anymore. viserys is not seven anymore, but rhaenys still is three.
rhaenys cries when he leaves, cries and hugs him and tells him not to go don’t go don’t go i’m scared viserys don’t go. don’t go please don’t leave me behind please please please.
His hand does not shake as he removes the orange seal. It does not tremble, the parchment does not flutter–everything is still, still as a windless night, everything except his heart which beats a violent tattoo against his ribs.
Your grace, he reads in an unfamiliar hand. I have nothing further to say than what is said below.
Nymor, Prince of Sunspear
His heart beats faster, his hand remains still.
Brother, He knows that hand–knows it well, knows it from the songs she had written to show him, knows it from the letters she had written him over years of war and peace, knows it and had not thought to ever see it again. The color of the ink is different–more brown than black, and it is a poor ink for it chips away and fades too soon. Too soon will her words be gone.
Brother, I live, if this can be called life. I am dead for death is all that remains to me. I see no light save the candles, I feel no heat from the stones. I am broken–broken at the hips from when Meraxes fell, broken–broken in the heart for I know I shall never see my son’s face again, see yours, and our sister’s.
They will not free me. They have made that clear. And the freedom I would take for myself they deny me. Please, brother. Please free me. Let them stand unbowed, unbent, unbroken that I might at last be free.
If ever you loved me, let me die.
She does not sign it. She does not need to. Rhaenys never signed anything. He could recognize her hand blind.
He feels Visenya’s gaze, stern, hard, unyielding. He doesn’t even bother to look at the Dornish Princess, who he is sure smiles for she must know…
He stands abruptly, stands and folds the letter in his hand, watching as his blood–his blood, had he cut himself on the throne?–smears on the back of the parchment. Her blood, my blood, he thinks bitterly. He descends from the throne, marches past the crowds of men come to see the Dornish appeal, out, out, out, into the yard. He finds Balerion and mounts him without a word and they take to the sky, as high and as fast as they can go.
Please free me.
If you ever loved me, let me die.
And when he is high enough that the wind roars around him, he lets out a howl of rage, of pain, and he curls over the back of the dragon as tears stream down his face. His sister, his sweet sister, sweetest sister, his love, his life, the mother of his heir, the bride of his desire. Had he not mourned her enough already? Would he not mourn her for the rest of his life? How could he have mourned her while still she lived, while there had been yet hope she could be returned to him? But if he had not mourned her, surely she would have died. The freedom I would take for myself they deny me.
What demons they are in the sands. What horrible monsters, vipers and scorpions, twisted and poisonous and cruel that they would do this. That they would use her pain, her voice, her death–death for they would not let her live, death for they have broken her so thoroughly she does not wish to–to break him.
And he knows he should not concede. Visenya would have shrieked and had Princess Deria’s head, emissary or no. Visenya would have burned all of Dorne, but burning all of Dorne would not bring peace–would not bring Rhaenys peace.
He lets out another angry howl, and this time, Balerion roars with him, and the dragon’s cry covers the sound of Aegon Targaryen, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First of Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, bowing, bending, breaking.
Rhaenys was a child too. Prince Rhaegar’s daughter. A precious little thing, younger than your girls. She had a small black kitten she called Balerion, did you know? I always wondered what happened to him. Rhaenys liked to pretend he was the true Balerion, the Black Dread of old, but I imagine the Lannisters taught her the difference between a kitten and a dragon quick enough, the day they broke down her door.