Corn! Corn! Corn!
The young girl lifted her eyes from the castle wall, towards the tower above. She heard a fluttering of wings from one of the highest windows. A patch of her white hair flew in front of her face as a strong gust of wind blew through the embrasure she was seated on, and she was forced to move it out of the way.
Corn! Corn! Corn!
“Oh shut up,” came the soft voice of Lord Stauton’s maester, somewhere within the tower room. “You’ll be fed when I’m done writing.”
C’aw! C’aw! Corn! Corn!
Rhaena felt a soft grin curl over her lips. The exchange was humorous, and a welcome change from the events. It wasn’t lost on her that, at a place called Rook’s Rest, she was overhearing the cries of a raven that clearly wasn’t receiving any. When all she heard was an incoherent mumble from the maester, suggesting there was nothing else to eavesdrop in on, the girl shifted her body and gazed out at the narrow sea. Below her, the walls of Rook’s Rest castle dropped down, met the cliffs, and continued onward into the rocky shore below. Rhaena did not care – she was, after all a Targaryen, and hence was indifference to the dangers heights possessed. How could one ride their dragon if they were afraid of heights?
Somewhere, out there, was Dragonstone. She had grown up there, under her father and late mother, and later with her stepmother. The family had just arrived a few weeks ago, after being hurried out by their retainers. Her father had explained that there were rumors Aegon was preparing a large army to send towards the island and besiege the castle itself. There were also the concerns of the Free Cities stopping there with all their military might to take the castle before making their way to Westeros proper. Now here they were, in the Crownlands, relying on the hospitality of those lords who had raised banners in the queen’s name.
Rhaena thought to herself. If this is the case, does this make me a princess?
Rhaena smiled at that. Princess Rhaena, issue of the House Targaryen.
It played like a melody in her mind. She could see herself, dressed in the most beautiful of dresses, with fabric purchased from the Free Cities of Essos clinging to her form. Her silver hair would be held up in a bun as intricately done as the greatest of metalworks. She would step into the throne room with her head held high, looked upon by the highest nobles of the realm. They would all see how beautiful and royal she was. She found herself absentmindedly standing up. With her nose high in the air, she turned and began to take graceful, wide steps along the walk. Bit by bit she moved along to the tower opposite the maester’s, and entered through the open doorway.
She jumped and turned. Her twin sister, Baela, stood there. Their likeness was so astounding that, for a moment, Rhaena thought she was looking into a mirror.
“Father wishes to speak with you. They have just finished a grand council of some sort.”
“I see.” She nodded to her sister, then stepped around her to begin her trek to the main hall. “Is father well?”
“Well enough,” Baela answered. “He will tell you himself when you arrive.”
Rhaena frowned at that. It was enough that her father had to deal with matters of war – she could only imagine what it was like for him, with many sleepless nights and constantly having to deal with one message or another. It had seemed, ever since news reached Dragonstone that the king had died and Aegon had been crowned king, that the entire world had spun upside down. Banners were raised for one side or another, and it seemed like every day there was another lord who had joined with one faction or the other. “Greens” and “blacks,” they called the opponents in this strange game of thrones. The names had come from the dresses worn by prominent women at a single tourney.
Men can fight their battles,
Rhaena thought, but women have much more influence than they might realize.
She smiled as she walked. Men fight in armor and die in the name of a woman’s dress.
She was close to the council chambers when she saw her father, Lord Daemon, appear from around the corner. As soon as his eyes lay on her, he forced a grin, even though his eyes betrayed the hard work he had invested in this war. It had been he to organize many of the troop movements as of late.
“Rhaena, there you are,” he said. “I need to discuss something with you.”
Rhaena took a bow. “Baela told me, father.”
“Come with me.” Daemon patted his daughter on the shoulder, beckoning her to walk beside him. “I know many would think me crazy, but you are past thirteen name days now, and no longer a child. I will not hide things from you, and I believe you should have a chance to make a decision.” He kept staring forward as he spoke. “Tell me, do you want to stay in Rook’s Rest?”
“Why would I leave?” Rhaena asked. It was a silly question to make, she realized. She followed it with the correction, “What reason would I have to leave?”
“There are many concerns, as of late,” Daemon said. He sighed and ran his fingers through his silver hair. “Aegon has landed a large army at Dragonstone and laid siege to it. There are rumors that the Three Daughters are sending a massive fleet towards the Stormlands. Aemond One-Eye is moving towards Griffin’s Roost to meet them.” He sighed again. “Most frustrating. Most frustrating indeed.”
Rhaena nodded, but kept herself quiet.
“In the meantime, your mother-” Not by birth,
Rhaena immediately thought. “-has decided to move our forces south, to King’s Landing.”
“What of Dragonstone?” Rhaena asked. “Is Aegon not there?”
“Aegon’s armies are there,” Daemon corrected. “However, he is not. He remains at King’s Landing, and is calling the Lannisters to his aide. Your mother intends to march our army there and lay siege to the city. It might put a quick end to all this if we can find the traitorous bastard, cut him up into little pieces, and hang each bit at every gate in the city walls.”
Rhaena looked down at the stone floor as her father spoke harshly. In her mind, she tried instead to focus on the very real fact that the war would be over soon. If Rhaenyra won, she could stay at King’s Landing, within the walls of the Red Castle. Like a proper Targaryen. “So the armies must leave Rook’s Rest?”
“Yes. We will all be leaving. Myself included. Some of your siblings will be staying here for safekeeping. Your older brothers are coming with us, or heading east.” He glanced her way for a second before turning forward again. “You may stay here, or head east. Tell me what you wish.”
“There is no danger of Aegon or his bannermen coming here?”
“If that happens, our plan is to whisk you and your brothers and sisters to Gulltown. That is unlikely. Most of the northern lords in the Crownlands have pledged allegiance to your mother. Only recently did...”
Daemon’s voice trailed off. As his speech slowed into a stop, so did his steps. His eyes continued staring forward.
Rhaena blinked. Her heart fluttered as she tried to force the next few words out of her mouth. “Father? What is wrong?”
Daemon parted his lips. A sigh left his throat. “I should have remembered. Why did I let it slip my mind?”
Daemon turned now, facing his daughter with his entire attention. “The only lord left to raise his banners is Lord Rhaekar, of Duskendale. And now he has, on a slight condition.”
Daemon sighed again. “Your mother and I held a discussion over it with the council. We all agreed it was for the best. He has become betrothed to you.”
It was as if Daemon had raised his hand and slapped his daughter across the face. She stood there, eyes wide, and lips separated. “Father…?”
“I know this is most sudden, but if this war continues on any longer, it might be for the best. You will be safe in the Dun Fort.”
The Dun Fort is not King’s Landing,
Rhaena wanted to say.
“Besides, that won’t be for another year or two, at the most,” her father continued. When she didn’t answer still, her father’s brow furrowed. “Listen, Rhaena, you were to be betrothed to a lord, one way or another. Be thankful it is a Valyrian kinsman and not some fat, smallfolk merchantman. Believe me when I say that I have much better things to do than worry about this right now.”
Rhaena lowered her gaze. “Yes, father.”
“Think about what you wish, and let me know your decision.” Daemon stared at her a moment. He smiled then, and placed a cool hand on her warm flesh, the palm resting now against her cheek. His thumb ran along the edge of her nose. “You are becoming more and more beautiful. Every day, you remind me more and more of your mother.”
He turned and walked away without another word. He tried to compliment me, to calm me down, like he always does,
Rhaena thought. It didn’t do much to help this time. As she heard his footsteps fade away with his growing distance, it made her think of the passing of their mother. Laena Velaryon had indeed been said to have been a beautiful woman, having a form and demeanor she had inherited from her own mother. Rhaena wished she had better memories of her; she had passed away nine years ago, when Rhaena was only about four. Her father had remarried, this time to his niece, with Rhaena’s mother barely six months dead. She didn’t know about this as a young child, of course – she learned this only too recently, as an older girl. Once a maester had told her the Seven permit infants to teeth as babes because they would not be able to handle the pain at another age – no doubt this was the same mindset for harsher truths.
As soon as even the sounds of her father’s footsteps had left her alone, Rhaena turned and moved towards her chambers. The stone walls had always seemed cold, but now they seemed to be even revolting to Rhaena. This was not her home. It wasn’t even to be her shelter. Her shelter, soon enough, would be the Dun Fort and Duskendale. In a matter of moments, her father and stepmother had decided the rest of her life as easily as one decides whether or not he wishes for another drink of water.
She stepped into her chambers and shut the door behind her. Turning, she saw a familiar sight above a brazier in the middle of the room. It was a large, orange egg with scales all around its shell. It glowed gently from the ember beneath. Rhaena walked over and gave it a slow, gentle pat.
“We shall be moving soon,” she whispered to it. “And your new home shall be Duskendale.”
Her hand moved up to the top of the egg. The palm rested over the apex, and then her fingers wrapped around the contour.
“But not yet,” she whispered. Her eyes lifted up, staring against the dank, dark walls of her chamber. “I am my father’s ward. I will be by his side.” Her eyes narrowed. “And I will see Aegon lose his crown before I lose my maidenhead.”