Author's Notes: Thank you, readers, one and all, for continuing to support this epic! I am so humbled and pleased with your support!

Thank you for betaing this chapter, catzrko0l! You're the best!

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Chapter 103

Daenerys XIV

She sat down on the elegantly carved stone bench nearly hidden in a corner of the Red Keep's gardens. Ser Barristan had pointed it out to her as a favorite spot for her mother, Rhaella, to sit and be. Apparently, when Rhaella had been pregnant with her and her stillborn siblings, she would rub her stomach and sing to her unborn child in soft, soothing tones. Daenerys ran her hand along the stone bench as if she could tangibly feel the ghostly remnants of her mother.

It was moments like this where Daenerys felt her family's absence keenly. She was on the cusp of yet another marriage, but she was marrying the only family member she could celebrate it with. She thought after so long that she would no longer be mourning those lost ties, but she did feel the slightest inkling of jealousy at the way Lady Delphine Alexandratos had doted upon Lady Brienne during her dress fitting. During her own fitting, she half-expected Lady Delphine to walk in and start ordering the seamstress around. Daenerys was aware that it was uncouth to show up uninvited, but she had hoped Lady Delphine would appear since they had close ties within the same circle of friends. Still, she'd had great fun with Missandei, Lady Margaery, Lady Sansa, Lady Brienne, and Lady Shireen, though the latter two had seemed more bored than pleased to be there.

There had never been other girls of nobility for Daenerys to bond with in Essos while she and her brother were running and hiding. Viserys had scoffed if she had even so much as smiled at a servant girl who helped her.

"That girl is lucky to even serve a Targaryen princess," he had sniped at her. "She would be lucky if I deigned to allow her to suck my cock."

Even for Viserys, there was no such thing as a friend. Anyone who dared hide them away was only ever a "loyal servant" and were not to expect any special consideration. While Daenerys had not been at the Red Keep for long, she did wonder how different their lives might have been if Viserys had been more considerate.

He would be alive for starters, Daenerys thought bitterly. She and Aemon wouldn't be the only Targaryens left.

As it was, she was perfectly aware that the likes of Lady Margaery had ulterior motivates. Lady Margaery clearly expected benefits—influence or favors—by befriending her. Daenerys could hardly blame her. She had been learning about the major houses in Westeros in her free time. The Reach grew the majority of the realm's food, proving its importance as a strategic point in the realm. One was wise to befriend the Tyrells.

Daenerys would admit to herself that she would miss Lady Margaery once she left for the North. Yesterday, she had been working on coordinating the feast for their wedding and found herself at her wit's end with the many food dishes still so very foreign to her. While she had been married once before, all of the details had been taken care of by other people. Margaery happened to pop by and gave her a rundown, specifically mentioning dishes that had been available during the previous wedding and at other feasts. Despite the rushed preparations for this wedding, Lady Margaery had made it all very easy, for which Daenerys was grateful.

"Forgive my intrusion, Khaleesi, but you do not seem happy," Ser Jorah said to her. This was one of the rare occasions where it was just Ser Jorah and her bloodriders on guard today without any of the Kingsguard.

"I am happy," she said, smiling at him.

He gave her a pointed look and her smile was replaced by irritation. She had been thrilled for her marriage to Aemon, but ever since he had revealed the wight, her concerns about that threat hovered at the forefront of her mind. The wight was from yet another one of her visions from the House of the Undying, although much of the memory had faded. She had stepped into the throne room and seen all of the dead scattered about: King Aemon on his throne, Lord Lannister and Lady Brienne were unmistakable now that she knew their faces, and she was certain there were more people here in the Red Keep whose bodies she saw littering the throne room. What rose to mind first were the burning blue eyes staring out of everyone's skulls when they had awakened. The singular figure that had slowly stalked her way, looking like a man carved from ice. The Night King, Aemon had called him. She had been certain she was about to die when her dragons had swooped in.

She shivered despite the warmth of the day.

After the wight demonstration, she and Aemon had walked to the godswood where their dragons joined them and begged for scratches. Their time spent bonding with the dragons was quickly becoming her favorite activity. It pleased her that her children had clearly accepted Aemon and Rhaegal as members of the family. She finally felt like she was where she belonged.

"You don't have to marry," Ser Jorah said.

Daenerys crinkled her brow and stared at him suspiciously.

"I accepted his proposal. He did not force it on me. I am not unhappy about our marriage," Daenerys snapped, rising from the bench to start walking away.

Ser Jorah grabbed her by the wrist. "Khaleesi, please—"

She stopped, her eyes drifting down to their hands and back up to his face. He released her quickly.

"Khaleesi, please, the pirates are still here. If you command it, we will make a deal to have them spirit you away," Ser Jorah said.

"You would make a bargain with those thieves?" she hissed.

"They understand the language of coin," Ser Jorah said, but he still shifted uncomfortably.

"All too well. That's why they continue to infest King's Landing while they wait for the king to finish. Speaking of which," Daenerys said, cocking her head, "we made it here, but if I have a regret, it's buying into Captain Lucia's falsehoods and leading them here. But I have no regrets about finally reuniting with my family!"

With that she swept off, not really paying attention to where she was going, her anger still burning fiercely. She passed the stairs where the dragon skulls were hidden and, although it was tempting, she decided to take her fire elsewhere so that the dead may continue to rest.

Her feet led her to the training grounds. As usual, nearly everyone stopped dead in their tracks to curtsy or bow. A wrinkled old lady bustled over with two of her daughters in tow and struck up a conversation about how excited they were to attend the wedding. Daenerys attempted to politely engage them until she remembered this was Lady Tanda Stokeworth and her daughters, Falyse and Lollys. She remembered her lessons with Aemon that the Stokeworths provided half the food for King's Landing, so she had to carefully cater to them, but they were otherwise a house of little consequence, more like a fly that would constantly be buzzing around King's Landing.

At the sight of their conversation, more noble ladies rushed over for a chance to speak with Daenerys. She was abruptly reminded why she had sought out such a quiet corner in the garden initially. Most of the time, the ladies were good about not swarming her, but she rarely touched the training yards and it seemed this place lacked the decorum expected elsewhere.

Daenerys was not wholly absorbed in the conversation and kept looking about. She noticed Lady Delphine standing with a tall red-haired woman, overlooking the training of her children with Lady Brienne, Lady Dacey, and Lady Maege.

She had been waiting for an opportunity to speak with Lady Delphine at length and she thought this might be her chance. After some nodding and polite excuses, she finally broke away from the crowd of noble ladies and headed over to the two women.

Lady Delphine did a doubletake upon seeing her and nudged her red-haired friend. They both dipped into curtsies. "Princess Daenerys, it is lovely to see you," Lady Delphine said, "Allow me to introduce Leona Allard. She and her husband are merchants with the Shepherds."

"It is an honor, Princess," Leona said, smiling excitedly at her.

"It is a pleasure to meet you," Daenerys replied with a nod of her head. "Lady Delphine, I was wondering if you would join me for a walk in the gardens. I was hoping you might help me with some of the details for the wedding."

Lady Delphine raised her eyebrows in a pleasant expression and said, "Of course. Pardon me, Leona, you don't have to watch the kids. I already know they're in good hands."

"I must admit to taking pleasure watching Monty and Matthias wail on each other," Leona replied with an amused shake of her head.

Lady Delphine chuckled as they walked away. "Now, how may I be of service, Princess?"

"With the wedding comes the wedding feast. There are a hundred details to sort out and it's not something I am familiar with. I was wondering if you could help me in my selection?" Daenerys asked sweetly. She steered them toward the banquet hall. They spent some time going over tablecloth decorations and seating charts. For her assistance, Daenerys arranged for House Alexandratos to sit at the second table with the Starks and the Tyrells.

"You are too kind, Princess. We are grateful to you," Lady Delphine replied with a dip.

Daenerys hovered over the healer's name. As a member of the small council, he was also invited to the wedding feast. Daenerys was certain she had seen him at all of the feasts that had been held since her arrival, the celebratory ones anyway. He was conspicuous in his simple clothing as he refused to indulge in finery even for the sake of appearances. She could admire his dedication to his ideals.

Aemon had told her of his conversation with David. The healer had in fact remembered seeing her in Illyrio Mopatis' manse. Apparently, he had taken great offense to the magister hosting a khalasar and refused to strike a deal for his patronage. After her time in the khalasar, it was easy to understand the many who recoiled in anger or fear. Despite that easing her concerns, she couldn't shake his presence from the vision she had at the House of the Undying. Of all of the visions for it to show her, why would a meeting between a healer and the magister be important?

"Can we expect Healer David to be there?"

"Most likely. He is not so much a fool that he'd be willing to snub the king and queen on their wedding day," Delphine replied, amusement coloring her voice.

"If you don't mind my asking, what do you know about him?" Daenerys asked.

Lady Delphine cocked her head and she said, "My husband and I have been members of the Shepherds for twelve years. While we know where he has been and what he has been doing in that time, he has a past that goes further back than that. He's only ever offered little more than scraps of it. I get the impression that those years were years of struggle."

Daenerys frowned. "Do you know when he started the Shepherds?"

"Not more than a year or two before we joined him. It was a small ragged outfit—still is to some extent—but it has really grown since our joining. It used to be that my husband, Cyrus, would bring in at least half the coin from his performances for the nobles. Eventually, David's reputation started to exceed his and he was called on to personally heal some nobles," Lady Delphine said. "Why so interested in him? Do you require his services?"

"Perhaps," Daenerys replied, "I find him interesting and his … goals worth exploring. King Aemon has mentioned that he will be a custodian of the brothels that were left behind by a traitor usurper. It's difficult to reconcile someone with a healer's heart who would be willing to bear the apparent shame of owning a brothel."

Delphine chuckled. "David is … not that complicated, I think. He does what he feels is correct with little care as to what anyone thinks. He is forced to care a little so that the nobility will continue to patronize his healing. He wishes he could be bound to no one." Her expression was almost wistful. She shook her head and then said, "I think his tune is changing though. This … threat … has him mobilized in a way I've not seen. His fervor has reached a keening pitch."

"King Aemon and I are grateful for his enthusiasm," Daenerys said. "These wights are truly a horror. My hope is that we can stop them in their tracks at this Wall everyone speaks of."

"Are you familiar with the Wall?" Lady Delphine asked.

"I only first learned of it the day the wight was revealed."

"I had long heard rumors about it. I thought it fanciful at best. A wall of ice that crosses the content and it's so high you can't separate it from the sky? Mind, I grew up in Mereen. Snow is naught but a myth to us. King Aemon speaking about it was my first real knowledge of it. I have since been reading the few books in the library about it."

Daenerys' eyes lit up. "That sounds promising."

"I'm afraid there's little more information available. The Wall is 8,000 years-old, but the books in the library are only a couple hundred years or less. I came away with the impression that the Wall's importance has been lost to time," Lady Delphine replied.

"Even so, I would like to read those books. If you could provide me the titles, I would be most grateful," Daenerys said.

"I will do that. Lord Jaime insists on House Alexandratos accompanying him North. Why in the heavens would we need to be in the North, I'm not sure, but he is our lord. I will send the books to you before I leave."

"You are most kind, Lady Delphine. Thank you for your help with my wedding preparations."

"Princess," Lady Delphine said with a slight bow and headed off.

Daenerys watched her leave before turning on her heel to return to her rooms. It occurred to her in the course of the conversation that she need not necessarily wait to read the books. Hadn't Aemon said her great uncle was at the Wall?

It's high time I sent him a letter, she thought.

Her conversation with Lady Delphine about David had been illuminating, but still revealed little about the healer. Despite her friendly tone, Lady Delphine was clearly guarded about the healer's history. In her conversation with Aemon, he recounted a time when Lord Lannister had deliberately pried into the healer's affairs and narrowly avoided a confrontation. Did she dare pry further?

She drew herself up in determination. If she wanted answers, she would have to.