It was a celebration of red and black that hung in the halls of Storm’s End, a feast to honor Aegon the Conqueror and his sister-wives. The air was thick with Targaryens, the smell of dragon smoke and victory. Three-headed dragon sigils had taken the place of the stags, as if the creatures had been devoured completely. Orys Baratheon was at her side as always, heating up the blood of the defeated Storm Queen into an internal tempest. He was smiling, laughing with Queen Rhaenys, and they were so close. If Argella had the courage, she could stab one of them. But the Targaryen king was ever watchful.
“When shall we expect a wedding?” Aegon asked Orys. It was the first time Argella had ever seen the man blush. “If I recall, you were quite taken with her when you saw her portrait. What’s been the delay?”
Orys’ shook his head, “It seemed too cruel. Her father-”
“Enough time has passed my friend, you have been very considerate. But it would serve you better to take her claim soon,” said Aegon.
There was never enough wine for situations like these, but Argella tried her best to down as much as she could. Tears were already swimming in her eyes, her throat was catching. She turned a thunderous gaze towards her sovereign. “Your highness, I am unwell. Do forgive my departure,” she said and stormed out, almost knocking her chair over. The last that she saw of that glittering scene was Orys’ concerned face.
It was dark, cold, and blue as she raced almost sightlessly up the steps to the castle tower. She climbed onto the large window and looked out at the night, the icy moon peered from the clouds above, and the heaving sea swirled below. The waves’ roars echoed serenely through her, as it had always did. When she was a child there had been no loss. Her father was there, the kingdom was there. Now Argella was merely a guest in her own home, forced to spend day after day with the man who had taken everything. It would have been easier if Orys treated her roughly, if he’d been cruel. She could hate him as much as she wanted and she’d try to kill him at every opportunity. There’d be nothing to live for, and she wouldn’t have to be so tormented by the kindness in his eyes.
She could end it all now if she wanted, finally alone with the ocean. The wind tugged at her gown, just one step into the air-
He had followed her. Argella turned to look, Orys had been running, eyes wide with panic.
“Don’t come any closer,” she said. He obeyed, hands raised and empty.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if we were married,” he said soothingly. “You’d still remain here, with everything you could possibly need. Nothing else will be taken from you again, Argella. You will be honored all your life with a family to comfort you.”
Argella felt her hands loosen on the window frame, so she forced a laugh. “Those are the cunning words of a captor. Have you not shamed me twice over with your chivalry? You know what has been done to me. How can you, as a man, say such things?”
The sadness that came over Orys tasted bitter in Argella’s tongue. It wasn’t fair that he too could show such cloudy-eyed grief. “As a man, I would love you if you’d let me.”
It really was too much, Argella turned away to hide her tears. Those soft words were as sharp as a blade into her longing. She poised to jump when Orys’ arms hooked around her waist and dragged her backwards. Argella stumbled, held fast in his arms.
“Please,” she felt him beg, his face buried in her hair, “My brave, brave, Storm Queen, I would love you. I’ll treat you well, I’ll adopt your sigil. Ours is the Fury. Please.”
Argella tore herself away and looked at him. He was so beautiful in the dark. He was everything. She threw herself at Orys, meeting his startled lips with her hungry mouth. They kissed hard and deeply. She held him close, his arms slid around her waist. At long last, they came up for air and he wiped the tears off her cheeks. It was the second time their faces had been so near each other’s. The first had been when Orys threw his cloak around her naked body. He’d knelt before her trembling form and called her brave. He’d been so gentle.
Orys kissed Argella again, so tenderly she could cry. Their breaths were filled with wine, the warm fragrance of its spices ran down both their throats. The kisses that followed pattered upon her lips as softly as rain. His thumb moved across her cheek, and Argella imagined that it left a streak of blood. She pushed Orys away.
“You killed my father. You stole my freedom. I cannot shame the House of Durrendon by marrying his killer. A bastard no less.”
“You can and you will,” came a voice from the entrance. “Had Argilac not dishonored one of the best men in Westeros, he would still be alive. This marriage was inevitable.” Aegon the Conquerer held his torch up at the couple. “It’s hardly good manners to abandon your guests, brother.”
“I was worried about her,” Orys said.
“That is your right. But if this so-called Storm Queen is as strong and noble as you have claimed, she will do what is best, and marry you without a fuss.” Aegon walked towards Argella. “Do not presume that your honor is any greater for being highborn. Orys is the finest man you will ever know, and if you dare insult this dragon for the means of his birth, I will have your tongue.”
“You don’t frighten me,” Argella said. “I will not be compelled into marriage, your highness. When I choose to wed Orys, it will be because I want him.”
The king glanced at this commander. “Do you want him?”
Argella looked down. “Yes.” It was barely audible, but it was enough to satisfy. Aegon nodded and moved to depart.
“I trust both of you will come down?” he said.
“Soon,” Orys replied. The firelight vanished down the stairs. With the light went the warmth they had felt in each other’s arms. The night felt darker, and both felt lonelier. The sound of the waves filled the tower.
Orys had not heard Argella’s reply, and his expression made her heart ache. “If I could, I’d bring your father back,” he said. “If it would make you smile.” He received no answer from the Storm Queen, so he took her hand and led her to the stairs. The moon watched them go, Argella looked back. The pure whiteness of it seemed an omen of hope. In the end she knew she really had no choice but marry to the bastard dragon.
When he squeezed her hand, it squeezed her breath, making her blood quicken along. When they reached the foot of the stairs she squeezed his hand back. When those indigo eyes turned her way, she smiled. It was a small one, a half smile, all that she could give. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Don’t be. It seems baseborn men have no place anywhere.” Orys was startled to find himself embraced, and was reluctant to allow himself hope by reciprocating. She smelled of wind and lightning, he of smoke and wine. He gave up his resistance, intoxicated. They stood together, half in light and shadows as the sky beyond began to rumble.