The prince sat in the manse library as his tutor taught him.
The lessons he received were always long and consisted of a multitude of different subjects. First it was languages: with Aegon being taught the common tongue of Westeros, the various dialects of the free cities as well as High Valyrian. The boy found it frustrating. Each of the Free Cities had their own variant of the language. Much of it was similar with only a few changes, but it was the accent and many times he just couldn't pronounce it properly. It annoyed the boy to no end when he got them mixed up.
After languages it was history, a subject which Aegon much preferred. It was Haldon's idea to go through the history of the Targaryen family in order from Aegon the first to the present. The prince found much enjoyment in learning of Aegons conquest as well as the Dance of the Dragons. Now it was about the conquest of Dorne which Aegon was much looking forward to.
Daeron the Young Dragon was a hero of his, a young conqueror who seeked to do what even the great Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons could not. Then the king was fourteen, he launched an invasion of the independent Dorne. Three armies were sent south. Alyn Velaryon leading an invasion from the sea, he took Planky Town and sailed up the Green Blood; Daeron led his own army down the Boneway; whilst the other was led by Lord Lyonel Tyrell who attacked through the Prince's Pass. That same Tyrell was place in charge of Dorne, but was assassinated which caused a revolt to spread like wildfire. All the young dragons' achievements were swiftly undone. Ten thousand men died in the war, but fifty thousand died trying to hold it. Shows the ferocity the Dornish have, Aegon had thought when he looked it up in Magister Illyrio's library. I'm half their blood. They will fight for me when the time comes.
"We will now discuss the Conquest of Dorne," Haldon said in the calm voice of his. He was a patient teacher, never getting angry and him and always correcting his student when he made a mistake. "I know you've been busy learning it for yourself." He showed a sly little smile. "Perhaps you care to tell me what you've learned?"
Aegon did. The boy listed everything he had read about the conquest: all the dates, all the lords and famous knights and important events. Like the submission of Sunspear and the Dornish hostages which had been sent back to King's Landing to ensure Dornes loyalty, while it worked on the highborn, it didn't stop the smallfolk. The hand of the king, Viserys Targaryen, wanted to execute the hostages after the young dragon was slain, but was refused by the new king, Baelor the first who instead went barefoot to Dorne to forge the peace. After he was done speaking, Aegon leaned back on his chair, smiled a smug grin and waited for the praise to be heaped upon him.
It didn't come.
Halfmaester stood silent. "Wrong," he said abruptly. That surprised the boy, who felt his body freeze at the word. Haldon sighed. "At some parts. Use your own intuitive boy, and learn to separate the lies from the truth. Dorne doesn't have fifty thousand men. Look at the geography. It is one of the least populated kingdoms in Westeros, yet according to the so-called history books, it can field an army greater than the Vale, the North or the Riverlands. No it can't. King Daeron extravagated the numbers to make his victory seem more glorious and impressive than it actually was, and it seems the Dornish aren't rushing to tell the truth of the matter."
The boy was surprised by that, but Aegon was also quite proud of it in a way. They had less men and still resisted the might of the Iron Throne. He showed a smile. I've got their blood flowing through my veins. The snake and the dragon. But the one thing he disliked was their use of dishonourable tactics, like killing the king under a banner of peace or the use of poisons. I will never do that, he had vowed one day, shortly after claiming he would be the most heroic knight. Jon Connington had shook his head, almost hiding a slight smirk whilst Septa Lemore smiled that motherly smile of hers.
Like always, Haldon corrected the boy's mistakes and told Aegon to go back over it. Then the lesson turned to maths and writing. Aegon preferred the latter whilst the former confused him, especially when it became more complicated. At the end the prince was getting restless and was unable to come up with solutions to the problems he was given. Besides a few subtle hints, he was left to find it out on his own.
It felt like forever before Haldon glanced up at the stained glass windows and said, "You may go now, lad. But improve your geometrics. A true king uses the quill as much as a sword."
Aegon thanked his teacher and left the library, almost running through the halls in relief. The servants glanced at him with emotionless eyes, but he didn't care. They never spoke and did as they were told, always without question. The prince headed straight to Jon who had been teaching him the basics of sword fighting since a year ago, just like a page. When he would get older, Aegon would become a squire and eventually a knight, something he wanted since listening to Septa Lemore read him stories about knights like Aemon Targaryen the Dragonknight, as well as ones like Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Ryam Redwyne. All valiant knights he inspired to be. Aegon had dreamed of being placed alongside them and as such, he practised as hard as he could to keep to the ideals. Whilst Jon Connington taught him and arms how to lead, and Halfmester taught him to be a scholar; Septa Lemore taught him about the faith of the seven and how to be a good person, a worthy king and a true knight, one which people would look up to and respect.
As was usual, Jon Connington was waiting outside in the courtyard. He was clad in a padded gambeson jacket and holding two blunted swords. "So you've finally come," the exiled lord said with impatience in his voice. "Has your halfmaester finally taught you how to conquer Westeros?"
Aegon shook his head. "No . . . but I learned about the conquest of Dorne." He took the sword which felt heavy in his hands, but Jon claimed it would get lighter as he used it more.
"With all the time you spend with your head in the books, I thought you would be teaching him," Jon said with a rare smile and Aegon grinned before they practised sparring. The swords rang in the courtyard, with Jon remaining stationary and was more focused on parrying Aegons strikes whilst instructing him. Occasionally he taught the boy different techniques: like half-swording which would have to be used against knights in full plate, as well as how to effectively do a murder-stroke which involved holding the sword blade and using the crossguard like a hammer or mace.
During the middle of their session; Magister Illyrio strode over. His entire belly jiggling as he walked on thick legs. "My friends," he bellowed. Both stopped their sparring lesson and turned to the magister. Aegon was very much thankful for all the merchant prince had done to help him with basically everything, from raising him in his manse when he was a babe to giving him all the skills he would need to take back Westeros from the usurper. "I have news. Tragic, but at the same time, possibly beneficial."
"What would that be?" Jon said in the usual distrustful tone he used when talking with the Magister. For a reason Aegon couldn't understand, Connington didn't like the merchant.
Illyrio ignored the lord's tone and turned to the boy. "You know your uncle and aunt, lad?"
Aegon nodded, even though he was seldom told of them. Both fled Dragonstone when the garrison were going to sell them to the usurper and they had been residing within Braavos for around six years. The prince had asked and begged for Magister Illyrio to bring them here so he could be with his family, but the merchant had just rustled his hair and said it was too risky. "What about them?" A few things went through his head about what it could be. Some were good, but others were bad, such as them being found by the usurper and killed. He begged the latter wasn't the case. "Are they safe," his voice was hushed but desperate.
"Thankfully they are," Illyrio's voice was solemn. "Ser Willem Darry has died and the servants stole what little money they still had."
Aegon's heart sank. They were his family, he may not know them but they were his blood. "What are they going to do now?" His voice started off soft but quickly got louder. "We have to help them. They are my family . . . they are Targaryen's, the blood of the dragon. We can't leave them to roam the streets . . . they can be safe here. Just as you protected me, you can protect them." He was more than willing to beg the magister if he could achieve it. He couldn't let his family down. What kind of king would I be if I can't even protect my family?
Magister Illyrio smiled, showing crooked teeth and Jon placed a gentle hand on the boys shoulder. "No worries, my prince. They are coming here." Aegon was immediately comforted by the news. He could finally see his aunt and uncle. Then the Targaryen's could be united. "I've sent men and they will arriving shortly, if the gods are willing."
"Thank you Magister. Thankyou." Aegon never felt so relieved in his life and breathed a sigh of relief.
"No need to thank me lad," the cheese merchant smirked. "This is just one step or many in order to retake the throne." He did a gentle nod and left, his footsteps somehow light even for the man's massive girth.
When he left, the boy turned around with a wide grin. "Can you believe it Jon. I get to see them. My aunt and uncle."
Connington didn't look as pleased as he hoped. "I just hope this doesn't pose a threat to you."
"Why would it? I was safe for all these years."
The griffins face was stern. "Only because they believe your dead."
That made a cold shiver go down the boy's spine and he looked at the ground. To those in Westeros, he had died when the usurpers dogs had killed him with his sister and mother. When Aegon had asked why his sister and mother couldn't be saved, Illyrio said it was because she was too old and too easily recognisable. A babe was harder to identify and what happened only made it impossible for them. The lad didn't like the sound of that and got mad at the spider for failing to do so.
Aegon felt his face go red. The mere thought if what happened that day. Tywin Lannsiter had tricked his way into the city and killed his family. It was Jaime Lannister who was assigned to protect the king and it was him who had stabbed his liege in the back before sitting atop the throne while the boy's family was killed. "I will kill them. I will kill all of them." He saw his arms shaking.
A low groan came from the back of Connington's throat. His face was screwed up like he was remembering something similar. "Not now and not like this. You will go back to Westeros, with an army standing behind your back. But first you need to learn how to lead, how to fight and how to rule. Like a true king."
Aegon nodded. "I will." Then they continued practising.
It was late morning when Aegon dressed himself in the finest clothes Magister Illyrio had to give him. A soft lambswool and silk tunic. Black and red, the Targaryen colours and a three headed dragon on his breast. He was washed and the manse servants trimmed and neatened his blond hair. All so he could be better presented in front of his relatives.
He had barely slept the night before, spending almost the entire night envisioning how it would all turn out, what they would look like and how they would act. Aegon imagined his uncle being a tall man, with silver-gold hair or platinum, standing proudly like a dragon and with a voice which just made people want to follow him. He imagined his aunt being tall and beautiful, one who would quickly embrace him once she found out he was alive. Aegon didn't receive much information about in terms of what they looked like, so his imagination was running wild. Only exhaustion made him slumber.
The prince stood in front of the doors to the manse. Plump Unsullied lined up on both sides of the stone pathway; each in a quilted tunic, spiked bronze caps and with spear and shield. Six on both sides, each standing like statues. Waiting for the other two Targaryen's was Aegon, Magister Illyrio, Jon Connington and Septa Lemore.
After some time, the boy was beginning to grow restless. The prince had lost time of how long they were waiting. The outriders had arrived before and told them that his aunt and uncle were close. As he was fidgeting, Aegon felt a gentle hand rest on his shoulder. It helped him calm down slightly. The septa was always kind to him and comforted him when he needed it. This was one of those times. Usually a simple acknowledgement of her presence was enough, her urging him to continue and giving gentle pushes of encouragement. He exhaled and continued waiting.
Thankfully not for long.
The wheelhouse came into view, escorted by swords in Illyrio's employ. That was when Aegon felt his legs weaken and knots form in his belly. He felt queasy, and a part of him wanted to run and hide. The doors slowly opened and his heart sank. Two people stepped out, both little in the way he imagined. The first was a man, with harsh features and a cautious look to him, he was clad in soiled wools as well as carrying a small sack which he clutched tightly onto his person. The other was a girl younger then himself, she looked at the manse with large purple eyes and a look of awe.
Neither were the way Aegon had hoped, or even expected. When his uncle's eyes turned to him, they looked at him with venom. The face made Aegon want to shy away and hide. No, I'm the blood of the dragon, he reminded himself. He's my uncle, he will understand.
Magister Illyrio quickly walked over, spreading his arms wide. "Welcome to my humble home. I must say it's more than an honour to have all the Targaryen's here before me. More than an honour, I must say." He smiled wide. Princess Daenerys stepped back behind her brother while Viserys just looked at the magister with distrust, a similar way to Jon. "May I introduce myself, I am Illyrio Mopatis. Magister to this fair city of Pentos and one of your biggest supporters."
Viserys then grinned a cocky grin. "Thank you magister. Remember that I'll never forget my friends by the time I finally get my throne."
"Then stay as long as you wish then," Illyrio said, all smiles and courtesies. "I could never turn away the blood of the dragon—"
"My throne don't you mean," Aegon spoke up.
His uncles response was instant, the harsh face turned to him like lightning. His pale lilac eyes full of both shock and revulsion. It was enough to make Aegon shy away. "Who are you? Some whelp. How dare you talk back to me and how dare you wear my family's colours." He took a step forward.
Illyrio stopped him. "This my dear prince, is Prince Aegon Targaryen. Son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell. Your nephew."
He sees me as a threat. He could see through the different reactions his uncle showed. Surprise, confusion and others, more violent and dangerous. He thought he would be king. He thought I was dead.
"How . . . how is that possible . . . Aegons dead. My nephew is dead . . . him and his sister. Killed by the usurper's dogs."
"No he is not," the exiled lord quickly replied. "I'm Jon Connington. I was a friend to your brother. This is his son. The son which was switched out by Varys and has been kept here."
"Jon Connington," he said the words like he was remembering them. "The one who allowed the usurper to live during the Battle of the Bells?"
Jon looked hurt when Viserys said that. It was among the things the lord regretted most, Jon constantly said he should had done more, should had been more ruthless and should have killed Robert Baratheon there and stop the civil war in its tracks. "It is true."
Before the conversation could escalate further, Illyrio clapped his hands together. "I'm sure you're both tired from the long ride. My servants can escort you to your rooms and you can get properly cleaned, clothed and fed. Ask of them what you wish, none will dare refuse you. Then we can talk further." Viserys glanced at Aegon before accepting the offer, which a servant escorted him into the building. The magister turned to Aegon. "Perhaps you can escort your dear aunt to her room?"
Aegon bowed his head. His younger aunt looked at him with both a mixture of shyness and fascination. "May I have the honour," he asked and offered a hand, just the way he had been taught. The young girl looked at the faces looking down at her. She looked lost and alone, but took the offered hand with some hesitation.
Before he took her inside, Septa Lemore whispered in his ear, "Be gentle with the girl. Be her knight." She had that warm smile. Aegon smirked and nodded.
She walked slower then he would have liked – that was when she didn't walk away to look at anything which spiked her interest: paintings, vases or pedestals holding various relics. Whilst Aegon allowed his young aunt to look, he refrained her from touching anything. He remembered that one time he ran through the corridors and crashed into a pedestal with a priceless figure from Yi Ti. He winced at the thought of it happening again, especially as he remembered Illyrio's wrath. The last thing Aegon wanted was a repeat of the incident with one of his host's belongings being accidently broken.
Then they got to her door, she finally spoke out. "Are you really my mother Rhaegar's son?" Her voice was soft, like she was afraid of speaking.
"I am," he replied gently. Aegon thought it was a stupid question, but he supposed it would be common enough for him too have to constantly answer. He opened the door for her. "I can assure you that I am."
"Viserys said you died . . . by the usurpers hands."
He smiled at her, a forced smile. He didn't like being reminded of that, it always reminded him about what happened with his mother and sister. "Varys switched me out with another."
Daenerys had a curious look on her face as it looked like she was studying him. Then she smiled. "I always wanted a nephew . . . but I thought . . . but I thought you would be younger."
"And I thought you would be older." They both softly laughed at the jest. She was closer to his age then Viserys was, who looked four-and-ten, while Daenerys was two years Aegons junior. The prince turned to the room. It was well furnished, with everything she could ever need and want. "This is your room."
She stared at it with wide eyes before slowly taking a few steps inside. "This is mine?"
He couldn't help but smile at the shock in her voice, like she had never seen a room this big before. Connington had once said that there were hovels in Westeros which were not even a quarter of the size. "Of course it is. Something worthy of a Targaryen princess." With that, she didn't waste time exploring and finishing it by throwing herself on the feature bed, almost drowning in the softness.
While she was doing that, Aegon was watching by the door with an odd fascination. Daenerys turned around with a wide smile. "This is perfect," she almost squealed. "Braavos was much smaller."
Aegon's interest spiked at that word. "Mind if I ask what happened?"
His aunt turned nervous, losing all the original excitement and suddenly he felt guilty. She looked at the floor and her words were soft. He had to get closer to hear. "They . . . after Ser Darry left . . . t-they stole the little we had. Viserys managed to take some of our things . . . before they kicked us out." She looked close to tears.
Be her knight, Septa Lemore's words rang in his head before he comforted her. She clinched his tunic and cried onto his shoulder, mumbling incoherently. Lemore would know what to do, but not him. Aegon just let her get it all out until she pulled away and wiped the tears and snot away with the back of her hand. "Daenerys," he softly said. "You are safe here. You're safe with me. I will always protect you."
The girls face lit up end then hugged him again. "Will you be my dragonknight?"
The thought made the boy smile. "And your king."
She pulled away and then looked puzzled. "Viserys will be king . . . wouldn't he? He said he would."
Aegon was unsure how to respond with that. He was told he was the rightful king, but Viserys was older. "Is he?"
"Viserys said he was named heir by father. That would make him king . . . right?"
Once again, Aegon didn't know how to respond. Before he was so sure that he was the heir and the rightful king, but if Daenerys was right, that would make him the spare to the throne and Viserys was the rightful heir. With the question nagging in his head, Aegon went to search for the answer and found Jon in his chambers, packing his things into a crate. The exiled lord didn't notice him walk in. "Jon," the prince asked as he tugged the lord's doublet. "Viserys is older, does that make him the heir, not me?"
Connington stopped what he was doing and turned around. Some confusion filled his weathered face. "Viserys is a prince, the second son. Your father was the crown prince. The sons of the firstborn come before the second son. Therefor you are the next in line. Why do you ask?"
"Viserys says he is the rightful king . . . that King Aerys had chosen him to be the heir, not me."
Jon rolled his eyes. He hated King Aerys, the one who exiled him. "Aerys was mad, what's why he's called the mad king. He filled his courts with lickspittle lords who were there solely because they praised his every action and he showered them with lands and honours because they agreed with what he said." Connington was clearly mad and his face was red. "Those same lords who spoke ill of your father and fed the kings madness."
The exiled lord turned to him and quickly calmed down as he breathed out. "You are the rightful king. The one who will take back your families throne. Viserys will help you, but he won't be king."
Aegon nodded and then looked into the crate which was full of clothes and resting atop were a few swords. "What is this for? Are you leaving?"
"Yes. We're leaving the manse."
That caught the boy by surprise. "What?" He had never left the manse, they said it was too dangerous and that he needed to remain hidden from the usurpers knives. "Why?"
Jon folded an undyed tunic and placed it on top. "With Viserys and Daenerys arriving here, the usurpers knives will soon follow. If they find you, our secret will be found out. You will come with us, around Essos, one step ahead of the usurpers and their dogs."
Aegon didn't know how to take the news. He was happy his family was here and although they weren't what he expected, he was looking forward to their time together. He was also excited about finally leaving the manse, where he had been restrained since he was born. Aegon had always wanted to leave the protective walls and see what's outside, but he was terrified that the usurper could be following him.
Like he could read the boys thoughts, Jon Connington rustled the lad's hair. "I think you'll like it. You always said how much you wanted to leave and see the world." He showed a small smile. "You will need to learn the world as much as your books."
"But would that mean—"
"—that halfmaester and the septa are with us. Yes, but in a few days' time. To where, I don't exactly know; but you will need to be hidden, your identity, past, everything. No one can know you are Aegon Targaryen. No one can know that any of you are Targaryen's." The lad nodded. "Good. Remember not to mention anything about it once we leave those gates. Got it." The boy looked into the pale blue eyes of Connington and agreed. "You may make a good king yet." He rustled the boy's hair and told him to leave.