Rhaegar meets her in a secluded public garden, hidden away in the backstreets of Kings Landing.
He'd been stalking about through the streets, hood pulled high and pressed charcoal hiding his distinctive locks from view, just in an effort to get away from his life for a few hours.
All the guards believe him locked up within his room studying, and none knew of the secret passage that allowed him to pass into the courtyard's shadows unseen. But his mind was still focused upon the idea of marriage, that there was no sister, no cousin for him to wed and so now his father was forced to look outside of the bloodline for the first time in generations.
A part of him feels, relieved.
Panic had swirled in his stomach, for what if he sires a son as mad as his father? Already he's starting to descend, and slowly, the kingdom will fall with him, and Rhaegar will be left to pick up the pieces at best.
His mind is a northern storm, the restless sea, and for that reason along, he almost missed her.
In fact, he believes the flash of red from the corner of his eyes to be a flower, and is thus subsequently startled when he realises that mass of fire is not attached to a stem but in fact, a face.
It is a fair face, heart shaped with sharp cheekbones and finely formed lips. The most striking feature is weighed even between the brilliance of green eyes, and the sharp light lines -a birthmark? Scarring?- that span down from her forehead and come to a halt just before the swell of her cheeks.
Mostly though, it is that she is not looking at him, that she sits there and stares up at the wispy clouds stretching across the sky half laid upon the tree at her back. Her hands are folded across her midriff, legs stretched before her and crossed at the ankles.
She appears as if she has nowhere else to be in the world than right here before him. Only, she is not here for him, just resting in this park in a dress lighter than anything he has seen the Ladies of the court wear, but tailored finer than even his own clothes.
He has never seen her before.
The summer sun sets her hair alight most magnificently, burning with dragon fire atop her head, the spectrum of yellow and orange and red. The very sight of it was searing, just how the books described the creature that represented his house.
"Are you quite alright?"
Rhaegar blinks at the voice, and it takes him a shameful moment to realise it is the woman speaking to him. Her dialect is heavily accented, but not by tones he has ever heard before. He, who has met all the Lords of all the Kingdoms.
Brows puckering, Rhaegar lowers himself to sit beside the woman, slowly, so as to not startle her.
As he does so, he notes the great blade that rests beside her leg, unclear to him until he seated himself beside her. It is a marvellous thing, a long stretch of untainted silver, the handle inlaid with rubies as large as a chicken egg. It is a fine piece of craftsmanship, and Rhaegar traces the name encircled upon the blade with his eyes.
He has never heard of such a man, but clearly he was wealthy, to be able to pay for such a fine blade.
"If you're thinking about stealing it," the woman begins, a wry twist to her lips and her eyes sparkle in amusement, "I warn you, it's a cursed blade."
"Cursed?" Rhaegar repeats, searching through his memory, trying to recall all the ancient blades he knows of, along with any curses that he might have happened across in his studies.
To his irritation, his knowledge is woefully lacking, something which he will see corrected.
"The Curse of Recall," the woman confirms with a nod of her head, a smile pooling from her lips, lifting her cheeks and contorting her face just enough for the white lightning to crackle upon it, "should the blade ever be stolen, it will return when it's master calls."
She speaks with a fondness, as if this curse and magic is true, and Rhaegar makes himself comfortable on the earth, ignoring the itch of charcoal upon his scalp.
"I have never heard of this curse," he admits, watching as the woman's smile brightens. Whether it be because he did not dismiss her claims outright, or that he simply continues the conversation, Rhaegar does not know.
He does appreciate when she lifts the blade with a careful, well practiced hand, before offering him the hilt, for inspection.
Accepting the blade, he finds its balance perfect, much to his surprise. Never before has he seen a sword of silver; silver is a soft metal, made into weapons of ceremony, not weapons of war. Yet something within his mind persists with the knowledge this weapon would not falter under strain. Odd.
"It is a fine blade," he grants, offering the handle back to the woman, but mindful of how she grasped the blade. Just because he is in disguise, does not make him stupid. While shameful, it is true that some men just kill for the fun, for the joy that jolts their bones. Rhaegar is under no illusion that woman cannot feel this thrill also.
"My thanks," she murmurs, placing the sword down again before she offers her hand. It is a thin thing, with a protruding wrist bone, with slim long fingers. And as he grasps it within his own, he finds it soft, but scarred.
"Hariel," she states, green eyes asking after a name in return.
He will not give his actual name, not to this strange woman with a face of nobility hidden away in the masses of King's Landing. Always wary of those looking to make a quick coin. Selling him out to his father and guard, telling of his past time and escapes, Rhaegar has no need to see the outcome of that.
Her smile brightens, softening into something a pinch more sincere as she releases his hand. He has never shook hands with a woman before. It is a novel concept.
"What brings you to King's Landing, Lady Hariel?" He says it with a quick twist to his mouth, light humour. But his sharp eyes have not failed to miss the glittering gold upon her right hand; a lord's ring, though the cracked stone inlaid within is perhaps the ugliest he's seen.
Her smile endures, though it strains upon the title he has given her. Not the blushing giggles of the common folk; either a Lady in hiding, or a Lady scorned. Curious, for surely he would have heard whispers, had a woman of such bold colouring been slighted, or mayhap, done the slighting.
"Intrigue," she says, her unfamiliar accent still heavy in her words. Certainly it was refined, a careful pronunciation of each word, and it almost tastes of the mango juice he commonly breaks his fast with. "I was curious... As you can probably tell, I'm not exactly from around these parts..." She winds her sentence off ever so slightly, pausing to reach into the pack that sits beside her.
Her hands return cradling a cloth bundle, and housed within appear to be biscuits. The woman, Hariel does not even hesitate to offer him his share.
Rhaegar sits back against the trunk of the tree, mirroring the woman's posture, fingers aching to hold a good book between the spindly digits.
"And where is it, you come from?"
The question falls from his lips, and he raises the biscuit to take its place. Hariel had no way of knowing she would be running into the Crown Prince today, and he doubts her to carry around poisoned treats for no reason. Not when she already wears a fine blade upon her belt.
"England. It is a tiny country, no bigger than your Iron Islands. The population is asinine, they see no need to develop or explore and so I left." She gives a delicate shrug of her shoulders, which beneath the spiralling red mass of her hair, seem even smaller. Void of braids as it is, her hair feels inappropriate given their location, and he informs her so.
Whereas others would become insulted, she does not grow offended of the comment on her hair, instead nodding along.
"I take it men only see their wife's hair down?"
"It is not a written rule, but commonly accepted, yes."
He does not mention how a man may lay with whores, how their unbound hair is said to sprawl out across the pillow.
Rhaegar has never tangled his fingers within a woman's hair and has no intention of doing so with any other but his wife. While he has never personally seen the string of mistresses his father had dealt with in the past, he had witnessed the fallout in the sharp cracks of his mother's façade.
He would not put another through that.
"Perhaps if we next run into each other, I shall be presentable then," she jokes, and Rhaegar smiles, crumbs of charcoal sticking to the pads of his fingers as he runs a hand through his hair.
"Perhaps," he allows, before focusing on this woman from a land he has never heard of, "would you tell me more of your country? Even if it just be about the climate."
"How about some of the local legends?"
Is her counteroffer, and Rhaegar can respect that, a reluctance to expose the homeland to a stranger. Local legends are perfectly acceptable.
For every tale holds an ounce of truth after all.
They part ways as night finally falls upon them, and though Rhaegar offers to escort the woman back, Hariel shakes her head and simply raises her sword in response.
"It is not just an heirloom."
And then she is gone, leaving the taste of sweet biscuit in his mouth and foreign tales filling his head. His fingers dance across the spine of the book she had given him, one filled with children's tales, retrieved from the bottom of her pack. When he had enquired as to why she carried such a book with her, she had simply said one of the tales tangled with the history of her family.
Though she appeared more than happy to lend him the book, under the promise he would someday return it.
That is how Rhaegar finds himself sat beside Viserys' bed an hour later, reading the tale of The Fountain of Fair Fortune to his younger brother.
The boy does not understand half the words, but clearly appreciates listening to Rhaegar tell the tale, in a voice born of the joining of his singing and of his speaking tone. Viserys' eyes, the same startling lilac as every Targaryen, are half lidded with sleep. But he stubbornly clings on in an attempt to finish the tale.
Rhaegar slowly becomes lost in the twisting words himself, so unlike anything he has ever read before. Tales from another world, across seas in which the maidens are born with fire atop their heads and the green promise of summer simmering within their eyes.
By the time he has managed to pull his head from within the pages, Viserys is fast asleep, drool puddling onto the pillowed fabric that cushions his head.
Smiling ever so slight, Rhaegar reaches over and gently teases Viserys' mouth shut, brushing back the fair hair from his forehead before rising. He has every intention of finishing the book and its tales. Hariel had promised to arrive at the same location the day after tomorrow, giving him an opportunity to return the book then.
And while the pages were few compared to his tomes, Rhaegar has every intention of memorising the writing style, to attempt with his next song.
Two days pass, and once the midday sun is upon them, Rhaegar once again slips free of the Red Keep, ducking into a side street to smear charcoal through his hair and across his face. It will be a pain to wash out later, but this was how he had appeared upon meeting Hariel, so this was how he would appear again.
His fingers shimmer through the dark dust one final time, and Rhaegar checks his reflection once more in a puddle of questionable liquid upon the street. In the worn cloths he had once bought from a struggling merchant, he looks nothing of the Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.
Now, he is just Rhee, a fellow of King's Landing aquatinted with the foreign traveller Hariel.
It takes him mere minutes to arrive at the same gardens as they last met, the heat of the summer sun beating down upon his neck.
With rosy cheeks, Hariel sits beneath the shade of the grand oak, hair a darkened ember against the bark. When she spots him, a true smile lights up her face. It is not the pleasantries of the Lord and Ladies setting eyes upon him, but the joy of Hariel sighting her good friend, Rhee.
He questions, would she still shine so bright were it Prince Rhaegar Targaryen of Westeros she was meeting? He doubts; Hariel's smile seems reserved only for her friends. He wonders how many of them there are. If her joy is as strong for others as it is for him.
Rhaegar pauses at the strange word, having never heard of it before, and the confusion must have been evident upon his face, for Hariel gave a sheepish laugh.
"It's a greeting from my land. We speak the same language, but it seems we each have words the other doesn't particularly know of."
With a nod of understanding, Rhaegar seats himself, noting that several sections of Hariel's fiery mane have been braided into a simple bun atop her head. Her face looks sharper for it, eyes taking centre focus.
"Did you enjoy the book?" She asks, holding out a hand for the thin tome.
He is, reluctant, to hand it over. Books of foreign origins made for an interesting read, the writing style always differentiating between what he had grown up on. But it is the lady's book, and Rhee of King's Landing would have no spare money upon his person, nor any desire to spend it upon a simple book when food was far more precious.
"Thank you," Hariel whispers, tucking the book into the depth of her pack, before pulling out another.
This was larger, far larger, and titled with simple words, as opposed to the pictures that rested upon 'Beedle's Tales'.
Slowly, Rhaegar accepts the tome, running his fingers over the engraved title and raising a single brow. 'A complete history of the Wizarding World 900-1900'. A Wizarding World, fictional or not, that sounded quite marvellous.
"Since you returned Beedle, I figured you were trustworthy enough to lend this too... You seem to like reading, Rhee."
He can hear the under tone, the question lingering.
Peasants did not know how to read, it is fact.
Commoners had more things to worry about than the written word; an evident flaw in his disguise.
Regardless, it has led him to a trove of new reading material, to give it up would smarten.
"I do favour it as a pastime, when I find myself the freedom."
A smile blooms across her face, a shy thing, as if she's unused to this easy talk, this casual conversation.
It has been quite a while since Rhaegar last met a stranger he was unable to avoid the dance with. A constant two step of politics preformed to the same rhythm, the same crowd.
Here, here he could rest his feet, laze upon the grass beneath the oak and enjoy the fire that only stoked his desire for knowledge.
"My thanks for the tome, my Lady."
Instead of responding verbally, she gives a shallow nod, reaching for the journal resting atop her legs, and the quill beside it.
Careful of the ink pot between them, Rhaegar thumbs open the latest book, a lend -how many years has it been, dice someone did not instantly gift him the very first thing that caught his interest?- that will no doubt hold his attention as surely as the last. He wonders if this is a book of fiction, or if half these tales will prove true history, if they are the distant past of Hariel's land. He remains hesitant to ask her though.
Daylight burns away above their refuge, Rhaegar with his legs half curled and book resting atop his thighs, Hariel scribbling away and filling the blank pages with her muses.
"May I ask what it is you are writing?" Rhaegar finally asks when he notes a sketch of his visage upon the pages. It's recognisable as Rhee of King's Landing, though it's no example of drawing mastery. Certainly one would not look upon it and see Rhaegar Targaryen.
Stem green eyes flicker up to look at him, and then return to the pages, a smile teasing at pale lips.
"I'm recording my journey," she whispers through the calm summer wind, adding in the smudges of charcoal that apparently line his cheeks.
Rhaegar watches the ink smear beneath the pads of her fingers, creating the illusion of cheekbones upon paper.
"Your journey?" He ponders on what it would be like, to traverse through the world, unshackled and unchained, free to live as he wanted. All Rhaegar lusts after is a good book and a warm hearth. Alas, born to the Targaryen Royal line, the first born of his generation, he has a duty to perform.
"My journey. I arrived in Westeros in the western corner of the kingdom."
She flicks back through the pages, pausing at a stretch of beach sketched upon the pages. Rhaegar has never been to the western beaches himself, but he has heard tales, read poems, dedicated to their beauty.
Hesitantly, he reaches for the book, and after a cautious pause, Hariel hands it over. Feathering through the pages, he pays no attention to the words, finding the concept of reading the woman's inner musing too invasive.
It is the pictures he pays attention to, though he stops upon the third one.
Not for any significant reason, if anything, this drawing is the crudest yet. Only, something within his soul, his very essence, calls out at the sight before him. Rhaegar doesn't have the slightest understanding why; after all, it is nought more than a rock with a pretty engraving upon it. Almost like scales.
"Would you like to meet again?" Hariel suddenly asks, one smooth tooth pressing into the bitten flesh of her lip. "That is, if you have the time?"
Rhaegar thinks of the glorious castle Hogwarts that he has been reading of, of a world filled to the brim with magic, and of the girl whom this stories fall from like stars in the sky.
"I believe I would like that."
As they're wont to, the weeks pass swiftly, and Rhaegar slips from the Red Keep to visit his latest friend whenever his schedule allows. It pleases him, that he is not due to leave King's Landing for three more moons.
It does not even occur to him that he is slowly becoming more and more enraptured with the Lady of Fire until Arthur brings the point to head. It comes as a roundabout conclusion, when Rhaegar sits plucking at the strings of his harp and Arthur sharpens his legendary blade.
Silence stretches between the two of them, filled only with the music that carries from the Prince's fingers.
"This is lighter than your usual work Rhaegar."
Glancing up at his closest friend, Rhaegar's fingers slow, the strings quieten and he considers go words. Arthur is correct, it seems.
While before his songs had always curled with the weighty heaviness of Summerhall, now, they seem to float with a gentle wistfulness that has otherwise been absent within his life.
Looking to Arthur, his oldest and most trustworthy friend, the Heir to the Iron Throne weighs the consequences of admitting to his escapes from palace life. Arthur would not take his exploration devoured of protection well, yet, to entrust him with his this secret...
"I believe I have made a friend, down near the common grounds."
His knighted companion blinks, slow and sure, clearly working out that he has been slipping his guard so freely. He focuses upon what Rhaegar had offered up though, free information that is usually so difficult to twist from between his lips. Arthur is a good friend, caring first for his thoughts than for his defiance.
However, Rhaegar does not dismiss the knowledge of a scalding to come later.
"A friend?" Repeats Arthur at last. Rhaegar nods, staring down at the familiar strings before him, until his fingers finally reach out once again and being to pull the harp's voice out. The golden three heads, the symbol of his house, glimmer in the lighting.
And then, he thinks of Hariel, Hariel of England, the foreign land he has never heard of. The tilts and twists of her accent, how the words pass through her lips and cascade through the air, and the tune of his harp trace each imagined uplift and drift down.
Arthur quietly listens, as does Rhaegar, as his fingers tease out the rich, exotic tones with which Hariel speaks. The more he listens, the more he hears her speaking, nonsense words strung together, and he wonders if she sings. He would quite like to hear her do so, her thick accent like honeyed syrup would no doubt be unavailable elsewhere.
"A friend," Rhaegar finally confirms, trailing off once again to stare down at his instrument, ultimately deciding that it would accompany him on his next outing to see Hariel. And perhaps if could keep the secret...
"Would you care to join me tomorrow, Arthur?"
Infant clouds dancing in the sky, it is a particularly warm summers day in which Arthur first meets Hariel.
The two of them are disguised, Rhaegar once again as Rhee, while Arthur bears the name Adan. His friend is no doubt furious to learn of how he has been spending his time, a sea of bubbling ferocity beneath that calm exterior, but Rhaegar can barely feel anything towards that.
Not right now, when Hariel is once again within his sights.
He is not blind, not now that Arthur has opened his eyes. Hariel is affecting him, an influential presence that leaves lingering marks upon all of his mannerisms. Just a day past, he had greeted his mother with a hello, much to her startled confusion.
It could have been worse though, it could have been the King he greeted. Thankfully, he never lowers his guard around Aerys, and for good reason.
"Rhee," Hariel speaks, kneeling before the bark of their oak with a knife in hand. There's scatters of tree sap upon her fingertips, and Rhaegar wanders closer to inspect her handiwork, even as Arthur tenses at the sight of the short blade.
Rhaegar is thankful she has started storing the blade of Gryffindor within the tree's hallowed roots, otherwise his friend would have most likely taken her for a threat.
Summer leaf eyes shimmy up to stare at him, before returning to her carving, placing the finishing touches upon tree.
The sight of it leaves Rhaegar breathless.
It has the same crude passion as the sketches he had seen previously, but it is what the image deciphers that holds his every last focus.
A dragon, stood proud, tail curling around it's paws and leathery wings forming a defensive shield around it's torso. Smoke billows from its nostrils in the same way the tree bark naturally grows, and Rhaegar slowly reaches out to trace the creature's spine.
"Why a dragon?" He finally asks, thumb swiping over the beast's forehead and wondering, not for the first time, if he will ever be blessed enough to see such a creature before him in the flesh.
Hariel blinks, slowly placing the blade upon the grass before fully seating herself with a smile.
"It's the symbol of the royal house, no? It seems appropriate." She gives no indication of knowing whom he truly is.
Even if she does know, Rhaegar doubts she would expose him, seemingly content to continue as they are. Just two friends, meeting and enjoy the peaceful harmony of one another's company.
While Arthur was not particularly impressed with him for venturing out unguarded, he said no more, other than to insist he be asked to accompany him for each time afterwards.
Rhaegar agreed, knowing that should he not, every Kingsguard would be informed and tracing his every footstep. The better of two evils, it would seem.
Now, on this night, after having been forced to watch the king burn another for their pretty crimes, the crown prince walks through the streets of King's Landing listlessly, searching for something that he knows not. A part of him, a voice that remains unacknowledged, knows exactly what he hopes to see.
Perhaps that is why his heart wilts upon sighting the empty garden that has become as familiar as the winding paths of the Red Keep.
He makes his way over to the oak, peripherally aware of Arthur's lingering presence. Kneeling beside the trunk, fingertips trace the engravings within the bark, before Rhaegar notices something beneath the glow of moonlight. Whereas before the dragon had been stood proud and protective upon his lonesome, now its tail curled around a small figure, though the only detail he could make from the rough carving was that the figure was a person. How strange.
"It's not really the time to be admiring a carving."
Rhaegar jumps almost out of his skin, spinning around to see Hariel stood not three feet away, and amused smile on her face as she looks upon him, offering Arthur a flighty wave in greeting.
"My chambers are up there," Hariel explains, pointing to a darken window, small and so unlike the grandeur of the Red Keep, "and the two of you are not as silent as you like to believe."
Her smile is a challenging, amused little thing, and Rhaegar returns it, humour curling within his stomach. The cool night's wind howls through Hariel's red locks, the breeze lifting those not held back within a messy bun, clearly thrown up quickly so she could complete her ambush. no goosebumps rise upon her bare arms though, even as Rhaegar shrugs off his cloak and wraps it around her shoulders.
"Why are you not cold?" He asks quietly, hands lingering perhaps just a tad too long as he clasps the cloak closed beneath her chin. Septic with the moonlight, her eyes seem like liquid diamonds, only the slightest glimmer of their usual green. She looks ethereal.
"I was raised in a kingdom where winter was common," Hariel says, and the frustration upon her brow shows just what she thinks of Westeros' fickle seasons, "snow and ice, I'm far more used to that then the constant heat of this place."
He remembers the sweat that glistened on her brow whenever the sun graced them with its presence for the whole day, remembers watching as she downed waterskin after waterskin, the cool beads tracing out the curves of her lips and chin.
Eyes filtering down to glance upon the features in question, Rhaegar takes in the pale lips, the healing scab upon her lip where she has bitten just a bit too hard and injured herself. Barring the lightning that plays across her forehead, no cicatrices mar her face, not like the commoners with their pox scars.
She is beautiful, there's no denying that fact now, and Rhaegar wonders just when the taint of attraction gripped his mind so very tightly.
There had been fleeting fancies, pretty faces that passed by in the palace, but never had he fallen for someone's mind before their appearance. Hariel spoke of tales, of lands and customs and ideas that had never crossed his mind before. Enraptured by her words of magic, yet never did she confirm it's existence within her land.
He would quite like to believe it though, that she was magic, that magic ran thick within her veins, replacing the red blood that they bled. At least then it would make some semblance of sense, would gift him a reason for his fascination.
He was the Crown Prince, and his duty was to marry with the best interests of his family.
To marry for love, those matches were far and few between, and he knew they would never be for him.
Yet, with the woman made of fire, who hailed from a land of ice and snow stood before him, Rhaegar could want, even if it were only for a few moments.
Reaching, he captures her chin in an ever so gentle hold, softer than he even held his mother, allowing for her to break away if she wished. Hariel only leans in, pressing her lips to his just for a meagre moment.
But it is confirmation enough for Rhaegar, that whatever feeling is simmering within his chest, is something shared with Hariel.
And for now, that will do.
"I have something to show you," Hariel had whispered to him, breath cool against his ear when compared to the heat of the summer's eve, "will you meet me at the main gate to the city tonight? Bring Adan if you must, but..." She had trailed off excitedly, sucking at her lips and she had worn the expression of a girl dying to share a powerful secret.
Stood before the mouth of a little cavern in the ground, not a fifteen minute ride away from the entrance to Kings Landing, he could see why.
Arthur gives a shaky breath beside him, whispering prays to the gods and Rhaegar could not tear his eyes away from the sight before him.
A dragon, hidden not fifteen minutes from his city.
A dragon, dazed with sleep but clearly friendly with the young woman who has enraptured him so. Its head is as big as Hariel, and the great big beast presses its nose into her stomach as she laughs, hands running over its tough scales and with fondness brightening her face.
"This is Lyllyan," she says, and Rhaegar would think it a terrible name for a dragon, were he not stunned into shock by its sheer presence.
An honest to truth dragon before him, scales of dark molten gold and burning red eyes, pressing up against Hariel as if she were an old friend.
Rhaegar takes a stumbling step forwards, then another, shaking off Arthur's reaching arm before he completes the third step. If his readings are correct, this dragon is out of adolescence, given the frills it sports in a lighter shade of gold, but it will never stop growing, for as long as it lives.
The dragons growls threateningly as Rhaegar comes to a stop besides Hariel, but he feels no fear. He trusts Hariel, she would never lead him into danger. And dragons do not burn. Fire will not hurt him.
It's an incredible sight to behold, eyes of fire and blood, burning hot to the touch and with a promise of death should he make a wrong move.
Rhaegar breaks eye contact with the creature when Hariel takes hold of his hand, slowly lifting it until it hovers before the nostrils, then finally, she places his palm upon the dragon's muzzle.
Heat tingles at the flesh of his palm, the scales rough beneath his touch. But it is a live dragon, a dragon that draws breath and who's eyes he can stare into, rather than those hollow sockets that hang within the King's throne room.
"Lyllyan, this is Rhaegar, my, friend."
Rhaegar notes her hesitation, and his eyes have but a second to flicker towards her, before he quickly returns them to the dragon once again.
"Rhaegar, this is Lyllyan, and he's my dragon."
And what a mighty dragon he was. A great beast of golden scales, and tense muscle and wide, stretching wings.
Arthur is still somewhere behind him, swearing up a storm beneath his breath, and Rhaegar dares to draw his hand down the dragon's muzzle.
Lyllyan's eyes follow his every movement, paying no attention to Hariel as she rounds on the dragon's other side. Sharp, wary eyes, while Rhaegar is sure his are filled with nothing but fascination, swimming in awe.
A dragon, a real dragon.
Heat pours out from around its glimmering scales, hot to the touch, but it does not burn Rhaegar's palms.
"Would you like to go for a ride?"
Hariel's voice sails down from above him, and looking up, Rhaegar sees she has mounted the dragon's neck, legs tucked neatly into a leather buckled harness. It's not made to perfection, as the King would have demanded for a dragon -a real dragon- but it seems sturdy enough.
Behind him, Arthur makes a noise in the back of his throat, but is too slow, too far away, to stop Rhaegar as he clasps his hand within Hariel's and hauls himself up, other hand gripping one of the dragon's many horns to aid him.
The woman of fire smiles at him, eyes flashing to the buckles of leather that hang loose beside his legs, and Rhaegar understands. Were he not to strap himself in, they would be going nowhere.
Lyllyan gives a burning snort, smoke coiling up from his nostrils in twin plumes, halting Arthur in his tracks. Were it any other day, he would feel pity for abandoning his friend for a few moments of pleasure.
But this was a dragon. An honest to life dragon that he has the chance to fly upon.
Truly, there is no conceivable way to decline such an adventure.
One of Hariel's cold hands -cold like the winter's snow-wrap around his, pulling the limb forwards until she is tucked neatly within his arms.
It's perfection, the feel of dragon heat beneath his legs, the swell of Hariel's hips between his arms, the volcanic scent of her wild red hair.
"Hold tight," she calls as wings spread, and suddenly, Rhaegar is more of a dragon than ever before.
They soar above the kingdom, high in the clutches of the cold night.
Rhaegar understands why only dragons are capable of flight, of carrying a passenger. A horse would be unable to keep a rider sufficiently warmed against the heavenwards chill.
They pass through a cloud once, and then deeply regret doing so as the moisture clings to their clothing.
Hariel breaths slow and steady, ribcage a reliable pattern of movement beneath his arms, and after a moments thought, Rhaegar pulls her the slightest bit back. She nestles against his chest, one hand still wrapped in a leather handle, but the other comes to rest upon his.
Here, high in the air, the two of them are untouchable, and he can allow his mind to fly wherever it wishes, replicating the wind's free spirit. He allows himself to dream, to dream of falling completely in love with this woman before him, to dream of marrying her and watching her belly swell with his seed, offering him the three children promised.
Offering the Prince that was Promised.
She comes from a land of ice, and he is of the fire, that is for certain.
Tightening his hold upon Hariel, he presses a kiss to her jawline, then another to the curve of her neck, smiling as his captive laughs.
"Are you attempting to charm me?"
Even with the passing of a year, her accent has yet to leave her, to deteriorate in any way at all.
"Have I not already?" He asks, almost pensive over the question.
Hariel of England spends her time with Rhee of King's Landing, though Rhaegar has little doubt that she knows who he is now. She is the smartest, most outspoken woman he knows, he's certain she recognised his mask. That she sees right through it.
"I am smitten," Hariel breaths, hand squeezing at one of his own.
"I wish my father was not an obstacle."
Is King Aerys capable of being anything but a problem?
The Mad King. Burning his subjects, making rash decisions, running the kingdom into the ground. It was painful to watch, to witness the ways his mother flinched at sudden movement, at loud voices, at his own silver hair.
Yet, he was not yet in a position capable of dealing with him. He looks at Hariel again, at the sloping curve of her neck at the gentle edge of her shoulder, and it all comes spilling out of him.
Here, upon this dragon, he is untouchable, and his worries of earthbound problems hold no ties within the sky planes.
A gentle thumb strokes over his knuckles as he speaks, until his voice is rasping and his throat raw. He speaks of the prophecy in low, quiet tones.
He does not imagine Hariel's hand tightening over his, and he wonders what grief these words bring to her.
And finally, as he finishes speaking, as Lyllyan begins to dip low over the tree and curls back toward Arthur, his friend speaks.
"Sometimes, a show of power is exactly what is needed. All this dancing to politics, there reaches a point where nothing is being done, and words must be replaced with actions."
Rhaegar clasps her hand as they land, laying a tender kiss upon the tips of each finger, the fingers that have raised this dragon he rides upon.
And slowly, a plan forms within Rhaegar's mind.
Cersei Lannister has never been to the Red Keep before, not within its hallowed halls as she currently is. She has been to King's Landing, has seen its tourneys and its filth ridden streets, but never before has she been within the palace.
At the age of two and ten, she has seen her first woman's blood, and now, her father has brought her to the capital of the realm.
Most importantly of all though, he has brought her close to Prince Rhaegar, and they both have one desire.
To see Cersei become a Princess, and to see her eventually sit beside the Iron Throne, Queen of the realm.
Aware of her beauty, which grows as the summer stretches on, Cersei is confident in her ability to capture Rhaegar's interest. She may not have her full womanly curves yet, but she has her beauty, her quick mind and her ladylike behaviour. Why would Rhaegar, who is but seven years her elder, ever resist?
She had met him once, though they'd shared no words beyond the customary greeting, at the tourney her father held in the Mad King's honour.
But she had watched him, had seen how he was, how kind and noble and powerful. Half the kingdom were in love with Prince Rhaegar, and for good reason. Cersei was determined to be the one person that would gain all of their envy, by marrying the prince herself.
She could already picture how they would appear upon their wedding day, how she would look drapped in the shawl of his house.
The only problem in this, is the Mad King.
Looking at the man now, the twisted creature that has come out of its cave to greet her father, Cersei prays that he will die soon. So that she may be Queen, so that she may become the only person that Rhaegar will ever love.
"...ing well, my King. May I enquired as to where Prince Rhaegar is? I was under the impression he too would be greeting us.." Her father trails off, lips pursed, and Cersei is in silent agreement.
She is more than a little off put that Rhaegar is not here for her, though the absence of the Queen does not surprise her. After all, Prince Viserys is still young, no doubt she is tending to her son, as a good queen should.
"I sent guards to find him," the King grumbles eyes narrowed, as if he suspects something suspicious involving his son.
Her father hums, opening his stern lips to speak, but whatever words were to escape from his mouth, are drowned out by the most dreadful noise she has ever suffered to hear in her entire life.
Her Lord Father swears viciously, looking around for the source, at the same time the Mad King barks for his guards to find him.
Shadows envelope the land, and Cersei recalls the horror stories Jaime had once told her, spine shivering.
Only, the shadow passes quickly, the terrible noise returning, louder this time, and Cersei looks up for the source.
Caught in her throat, her breath refuses to leave, trapped.
For there is a great beast in the sky, circling about, coming ever closer as it descends from the air.
Her father snatches her up, throwing her to one of his men as he scrambles back to the entrance of the Red Keep.
It is the Mad King that has Cersei's attention though.
He is stood, rooted to his place, arms spread wide and a truly frightening grin upon his face. It takes her only a moment to realise why.
The great beast that lands before them is instantly recognisable, for Cersei has only ever heard tales of one creature with those features.
It's scales are molten gold, set ablaze beneath the light of the summer sun. Huge wings, stretching so far that she simply cannot take them all in at once, block the sun from sight as they rear up, before folding in as the creature submits itself to four limbs upon the ground, as apposed to the two it landed upon.
A dragon stares down at them, serpentine neck coiling back and forth as it takes them in with gleaming red eyes.
She has never seen something more powerful.
And then, a voice calls down, the dragon angling it's neck just so, until Cersei can spot a figure upon the beast, and her heart flips.
Prince Rhaegar is situated upon the dragon, braided silver hair windswept and barely remaining within its confines.
When she had last met Prince Rhaegar, he had been composed, refined, with a touch of sorrow hanging within his shoulders. This is not the same prince she once thought she knew. Right now, she cannot steals her eyes away from the sight of him.
"Rhaegar!" The Mad King bellows, though his eyes are still fixed upon the dragon.
A real dragon.
Were they not suppose to be extinct? Dead to the world? However had the Prince managed to find one?
"Father," the Prince murmurs as he drops to the ground beside them, landing softly upon worn leather boots.
Cersei makes a noise in the back of her throat upon noticing the scorch marks that decorate his clothes, but as the Prince brushes at the markings, she realises they are just coal and smoke dust.
"A dragon," breathes the Mad King, and his son nods.
"A dragon. His name is Lyllyan."
There is a moment of silence, as everyone in the courtyard turns to appreciate the great beast. That is when Cersei spots another, another person who sits upon the neck of the great dragon.
At the very same moment, Prince Rhaegar states, "Hariel's dragon."
It takes a moment for the words to register, for the proclaimed ownership to sink in, and by that point, the figure has dropped to the floor alongside Rhaegar. The Prince reaches out, steadying her.
Scarring, is the first thing Cersei registers, scarring that strikes across her face, a lacework that showcases the emeralds she wears for eyes, brighter than Cersei's own. She next notes the womanly figure, curves that are clearly showcased in the riding leathers the woman wears.
Most striking, is the way the dragon twists its head, until the woman is forced to open her arms and accept its clumsy affection.
The soft whisper of the Mad King reclaims all of their attention, and Cersei feels pleasure thrum through her.
The Man King's infamous burnings sound horrific, but if it were this woman, whom Prince Rhaegar holds so close -why, why has he not let go of her yet- then Cersei feels as if she will enjoy such a spectacle.
The next words out of Prince Rhaegar's mouth, come worse than a physical blow.
"I wish to marry her, Father. The Lady Hariel Peverell, last of the Hose Peverell, of England." What in the Gods name was 'England'?!
The Mad King appears to be the only hope for Cersei's future as Queen, and he seems quite happy to open his mouth and disagree.
Yet, Prince Rhaegar is unfinished.
"Her dowery includes six dragon eggs."
The King's mouth snaps shut. Cersei stares at the woman, feeling her heart and dreams shatter within her ribcage.
Never before, has hate so strong wrapped itself around her organs, clawing like an ugly beast raging for freedom.
The woman, Hariel Peverell, does not even have the decency to watch as she crushes dreams. Her eyes are only for Rhaegar, as his eyes are only for her.
The Prince reaches out, tenderly drawing a wayward curl of flames back from the woman's face, fingertips lingering upon her cheekbone for but a moment.
The dragon's tongue licks at his face as if to repeal him and the woman laughs, the Prince joining shortly after.
"Six dragon eggs," the King repeats at last, clouded purple eyes weighing the woman's potential before he nods.
"Tywin, leave us."
Cersei bristles, and knows despite his outwards appearance, her father is just as offended as she is.
"Of course, your Grace."
As they walk away, Cersei fumes, turning upon her father as soon as they are far enough away from the King.
The King, who's greed for dragons exceeds his reasoning.
Why can he not see that she is the best potential wife for his son?!
Her father, though, is the first to speak.
"Cersei, all the gold in the world cannot bind the winds, nor bring the tides to heel. Nor, shall it ever best genuine dragon eggs. Lannisters do not fund losing battles."
"While all the Houses lust for our gold, House Targaryen's lust for their old glory, for the age of dragons, exceeds all else. We would have more chance of creating a union through any child the pair will produce."
White hot anger burns through Cersei's breast as she thinks of the scarred woman of dragon fire, and it is in that moment the young Lannister learns of true hate.
The King had agreed.
Rhaegar can scarcely believe it, even now, as he sits up to the private dinning table housed within his mother's quarters, Mother sat across from him with Viserys and Hariel by his side.
Aerys sits in the throne room, Rhaegar knows, with the humongous bulk of Lyllyan sprawled behind him. Rhaegar is not worried; Hariel's dragon is exceptionally well behaved, and won't hurt a soul unless she wishes it to do so. He is simply present for intimidation, as his father announced his betrothal to a woman of foreign soil.
"I am so very happy for you, my son." His mother whispers, and Rhaegar can see it within her eyes.
She is incredibly pleased, overjoyed, even. Why should she not be? He has what so few get, the ability to marry for love. Even if it is only for the fact Hariel comes with dragons.
The King would have never accepted her otherwise.
"My thanks, mother."
Hariel dips her head too, awkward, not quite sure how to handle parental affection. He remembers he tales of growing up an orphan, and a grimace attempts to make a home upon his face.
For having the bloodline of a Lord, to have been raised in such humble beginnings, used almost like a servant...
She has known hardships that Rhaegar has only heard of in whispers, and he cannot help but think she will make a fine Queen.
As expected, none of the Lords are particularly happy that he's not to marry their daughters.
They dare not make a comment when Hariel hatches another dragon, this one with scales of shimmering silver and eyes as blue as the ocean, as a gift.
He names her Rhaell, for his mother.
To the shock and horror of everyone present the next night, King Aerys dies in an almost pitiful fashion.
He'd burned a man to death once again, angered that Lyllyan had taken leave of the castle to go and hunt down his supper.
Biting into a chunk of chicken, the Mad King had accidentally swallowed a bone, which had become lodged within his throat.
He'd died within the minute, and no one was quite sure what to do.
Rhaegar himself had been in shock, returning to the quarters his mother and Hariel had been sharing for the whole day with the news upon his tongue. The man who has fathered him is dead, and Rhaegar is struggling to accept that.
For so long, Aerys has been a disease, a parasite dragging the kingdom down with his growing madness. The burnings had been unjust, in no way was that King's justice.
It has sickened Rhaegar, to witness such a thing, and know he was powerless to stop it.
But Aerys would, in his depths of paranoia, see him as a traitor were he to speak out, and throw him to the fires too.
Leaving Viserys and his mother to the Mad King's mercy. Something he distinctively lacked.
The very idea made Rhaegar's stomach roll.
Already he could do nought to stop his father from taking what was his, from hurting his mother.
But he could keep Viserys safe, hidden in his chambers under the pretends of telling dragon tales.
To know now, that his mother was safe for as ever long she lived, that Viserys was no longer threatened with the taint of Aerys' madness, lifted the weight that nestled within his stomach.
Of course, then he must consider that he is to become king now.
There will be a coronation soon, and a wedding.
He sits besides Hariel now, upon a rug before the fire within his mother's quarters, whom is off attempting to put Viserys to sleep.
His woman, made of fire but from a land of ice and snow, sits calmly beside him, one hand laced over the top off own, and the warmth of the fire sets her hair ablaze with its light.
"So, King." The word sits heavy in the air, as Rhaegar frowns.
He will be able to fix all the damage Aerys wrought, and with dragons once more within the kingdoms, he is capable of protecting it from all that hangs over their heads.
His mind, once more, strays to an age old promise, the promise of a prince.
Looking to Hariel, the woman who has brought dragons back to the land, who looks like fire but came from a castle housed north, housed in ice, he knows he has found the other half of the song. Just as he looks like ice, with fire burning in his veins.
There have to be three heads.
And Hariel had confirmed that she had always dreamed of three children, that it had always seemed like the correct number to her.
Everything was falling into place oh so perfectly.
"Yes. The wedding and coronation have been set within days of each other."
"I never wanted to be a Queen," Hariel confesses, staring into the flickering flames, as if they might house the answer.
Rhaegar understands, for he has never wished to be King. He was born into the role, it is his duty.
Perhaps it is for the best, neither of them list after power, so they will not fail their kingdom, shall look out for only its interests.
"What did you want to be?" He asks into the silence, thumb stroking the edge of Hariel's knuckles.
The firelight does interesting things to the lacework on her face, the stark white lightning striking against the fire tinged skin.
"I just wanted a family to love, to be happy with."
The first assassination attempt comes barely six months into his reign.
Or should he say, the first attempt he is made aware of.
As it turns out, Lyllyan has already eaten three would-be killers, and Hariel had not seen fit to worry him, not when she so clearly had everything in hand.
Rhaell grew larger and larger as the days passed, and he could see the caution in the Lords eyes now, as they understood that the Targaryen Household was rising back to their former glory.
So yes, this is the first time an assassin gets past Lyllyan, and Rheall is the one who stops him. Already the size of a large hound, that of a small horse, she has no problem cooking the man's face with her dragon's fire before Rhaegar has even sensed the oncoming threat.
Hariel has sheepishly spoken of the others not long after he told her.
Letting out a low sigh, Rhaegar checks over the papers once more, signing off on several accounts and confirming commands.
An unfortunate understanding of Aerys madness sits within him now, and Rhaegar scowls at the paperwork again. The very bane of his existence.
He previously had no disillusioned that Kingship would mean the ability to do whatever it is he wished, but this was approaching ridiculous.
"You seem stressed."
Looking up from the desk, Rhaegar's face eases into a grin at the sight of Hariel.
Dressed in Royal red -and how great a pain it had been, to find a shade that did not clash with her hair- she looks stunning. The swell of her stomach slight, but visible in the way she cocks her body to him.
Rhaegar remembers how they first laid together, how very enthusiastic Hariel had been. It was not an emotion he found leaving her; if anything, as their child grew, so did her appetite for him. He spends almost every night nestled between the sheets, as they take turns worshiping one another's bodies.
The rocking of Hariel's hips, the arch of her back, the scorching intensity of her eyes; he adores her.
Hariel bonds with his mother as she too swells with pregnancy, the last visible proof of Aerys existence, if one discounts both himself and Viserys. His younger brother is excited, joyous at the idea of becoming both an older brother and uncle within months of each other. Nerves are what conquer Rhaegar's insides at the thought, the idea of becoming a father.
Yet, so many men lesser than him are capable of it, they manage fine.
So, he shall learn to manage too, and with Hariel by his side, he knows he cannot raise anything other than the greatest child in Westeros.
For many, marriage is nothin more than an agreement between two parties, to give one another a partial respect, and to procreate.
Rhaegar does not have that.
What Rhaegar has found, is that he and Hariel are a team, two parts of a whole, and when they work together, there is nothing they cannot do.
If that means running a kingdom, it means running a kingdom. If it means raising a child, the raised the child will be.
"I am running a kingdom, stress is inevitable, or so I am told."
Hariel gives a low chuckle, lying one arm across his shoulders and peppering a kiss to the side of his neck.
"I know of ways to relieve that stress."
Rhaegar sits up in interest, cocking a brow at the redhead, who drops into his lap and snatches up the quill.
"I'll fill out these papers, and you can massage my back. Your baby is giving me backache."
"So it's my baby when he's causing problems?" Rhaegar murmurs, but nevertheless complies, the steady weight of Hariel upon his legs was a clear promise she wouldn't be allowing him to just go straight to sleep tonight.
Not that he had much of a desire to do so, what with Hariel's obvious interest in something much more exciting.
"So sure it's going to be a boy," she murmurs, free hand rubbing at her stomach.
"The Promised Prince," he whispers, voice melancholic, as he thinks of the impending future.
The scoff that passes between Hariel's lips reminds him exactly what his wife thinks when it comes to prophecies.
"It'll be a girl." She says it with such conviction, Rhaegar almost believed her.
The subject is soon dropped, as Hariel announces she has finished the last paper, and it is time for them to complete a hasty retreat to the bedroom.
Hariel births twins.
To their grief, one is stillborn.
It doesn't surprise him in the slightest, when Hariel refused to hand her sole living babe over to a wet nurse. That she balks at the very suggestion.
Jaemerys is their firstborn, Hariel's precious son.
And she will have none raising him other than the two of them. Not when he is only half of a whole.
Having expected only one child, they had no name for the young boy they burn, as is Targaryen tradition, though Hariel has all the tears in the world to offer him.
His ashes are scattered beneath their oak, with the carved dragon to watch over his spirit.
No one else knows of his location.
Regardless, Jaemerys grows to become a happy baby, sharing play with his aunt, Daenerys. Viserys watches over them with bright eyes, pausing only to whine over when they will be old enough for him to play with.
Hariel laughs, and then hatches him a dragon for his fourth name day months later.
The subjects have stared whispering her name in reverence, the Queen that freely gives money to orphans, has set up a charity -charity, what a strange concept- to help children off the street and into jobs.
Hariel Dragonflame, they call her. For the fire that tops her head.
Rhaegar often finds himself admiring the blazing locks that sit atop his wife's head, that she has passed onto their son.
Jaemerys has curls of red hair and Rhaegar's dark indigo eyes. Hariel insists he will be a heartbreaker when he grows up, and Rhaegar just nods along, silently amused.
She is a beautiful, wild thing, his wife. Intelligent too. King's Landing has never smelt better than when his lady wife created new plans for the sewers. It bothers the dragons, she'd insisted. She wasn't wrong, Rhaell had constantly turned her nose up at the concept of going into the streets.
Years pass, and Hariel does give him the three children foretold.
After Jaemerys, comes Relaenna, a beautiful little girl wearing her mother's face, but his colouring.
And then, there's Sirius. The only one of their children that bucks the Targaryen naming tradition, though after hearing the tale of the boy's namesake, Rhaegar feels honouring the man is the right thing to do.
His dear wife swears appearance wise, Sirius is as different from his namesake as the sun is the moon. With the waves of silver hair, the same bright green eyes as his mother, Rhaegar fails to picture a different Sirius every time.
His children are more precious to him than the kingdom itself, and he will never see harm come to them.
He has seen seven years on the throne when the first rebellion hits. They're fools. Brave, but fools.
It is the first time he ever unleashes the dragons with the orders to kill.
He doesn't like it, and from the tilt to her lips, Hariel finds it even more unpleasant.
But the rebels, they plan to take their children captive should they win, plan to torture his children to make those parents suffer, and such a thing is unacceptable.
They burn in dragon fire, which raged down upon them with the force of his whole house's fury. Lyllyan, and Rhaell, and Viserys' dragon, Viserion, soar through the skies like omens of death.
His little brother's eyes burn wild with a madness that eerily echoes that of their late father, and Rhaegar makes notes to teach his brother patience and temperament. His mother sees it too, from the thin press of her lips.
Rhaegar will keep a close eye upon Viserys, and even if something should happen to him, his own line is secure with three children.
It would take something beyond a miracle for Viserys to sit upon the Iron Throne, as Rhaegar doubts his wife will allow him to die until he's lived a long and happy life.
He knows that he will sit upon the throne as the realm witnesses its greatest challenge, as the harshest Winter arrives.
But with Hariel beside him, with the dragons that protect his family, Rhaegar can face anything.
So, this was jsut for me to get some Rhaegar feels out. I've only read 150pgs of the first book, and seen the first 8 episodes of season 1, but, here we are. I've read a far few fanfictions of Rhaegar on AO3, and really, I just wanted to see him have a happy ending. Because of these fanfictions I've built up a character in my head that's already dead in the books, so, hey-ho.
Yes, I took two names of Daenerys' dragons and reused them. Her dragon is called Rhaegal, after her beloved older brother. All of Hariel's children have a dragon each too.
While I am a huge fan of the L + R = J theory, it just wouldn't work with this story. And yes, I'm aware I mucked up Dany's birth, but writers liberties.