Author's Notes: Good evening, my dear readers! I'm sure you're surprised to see this chapter pop up a Friday evening. Well, at my normal posting time, I will not have access to either a computer or the Internet. Discord and Facebook overwhelming voted to have the chapter sooner rather than later, so here it is! Enjoy!

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Chapter 107

Aemon XXXVIII

Aemon was finding it difficult to concentrate in his solar now that the Red Keep had emptied. The frenetic pace set by the nobility and servants alike going to and fro had diminished to the trickling of a brook, and Aemon slowed with it. There were considerably fewer demands on his attention, which allowed him to get through the majority of the parchments more quickly, but he frequently found himself distracted.

He missed his family, he missed Jaime. He had done little to branch out and rub elbows with the remaining lords in the Red Keep, a failing he would have to overcome to foster their support in the Crownlands. However, he was a newly married man and his wife posed the largest distraction.

Daenerys had been warm and open about the wedding, but it didn't escape him that they hardly knew each other. He had done his best to bridge that gap before their wedding by inviting her to a variety of meals and walking with her around the Red Keep to solitary spaces, like the godswood. She had liked him, been pleased with him enough to agree to marry him, but he hadn't dared believe it was love. It had only been a matter of days since their wedding, but he thought that they just might both be in love.

His heart hammered whenever he saw her, no matter what she was doing or what she was wearing. She in turn would give him a glowing smile. With every opportunity they had alone, she would sashay across the room, lust in her eyes, enticing him to join her in bed. At night, she would often already have her clothes off and did not hesitate to encourage his arousal. He felt like a man dying of thirst having found an oasis and did not hesitate to dive in.

She moaned and sighed throughout their lovemaking, her eyes half-lidded with her pleasure. They spent their evenings rolling in the sheets, trading off control. In the mornings, he doted on her and they would take walks to the godswood to rouse the dragons. He enjoyed the slow, measured start to their days. She always looked her softest in the buttery yellow light of the rising sun.

Apart from their wedding day, they had yet to leave the Red Keep together. He had been so busy in the aftermath of the coup and the preparations for the march North, that leaving the Keep for several hours at a time had not been possible. The Long Night was pressing, but not that pressing. They had time still. Years in fact. He could spend a day riding in the kingswood with his beautiful queen.

And now that she was queen, she could attend the small council meetings. At her first session, she was quiet as she listened to matters being discussed. He encouraged her to make her opinions known by asking her thoughts. He could see a half-smile threatening to show on her face whenever he did this, making it clear that she was aware she needed no permission.

He suspected that she would be much more active in future meetings and he could guess the focal point of her concern: the Unsullied and the orphans in Flea Bottom. Much like Margaery Tyrell, she spent her days sewing toys or clothes for the orphanage and holding tea parties with the ladies remaining in the Red Keep. She mentioned that she was doing her own reading of the history of the Targaryen house and the history of Westeros, and had also perused passages regarding the Wall. While it was up to him to answer letters, sign laws, and approve spending, he appreciated that she had taken initiative in remaining active in the matters of the Wall and of history. It seemed it wouldn't be long before she surpassed him in his understanding. He would have to pick up reading again.

She was also making it a habit of visiting him in his solar to discuss the documents. Aemon would ask her about her activities and she would dole out what she learned about the ladies and by extension their lord husbands. She was proving to be a valuable font of information and had a keen ear for pertinent details. In a matter of days, he had an improved understanding of the nobility wandering his halls. He and Jaime had mostly paid attention to specific threats and pointed David in the direction of concerns. This is how the word on Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister got past us, he thought bitterly. He would have to do better about casting a wider net for less specific threats.

In his newly available free time, Aemon had taken up his sword and renewed his training with Ser Barristan and the Hound. His squire, who had been the picture of patience and understanding, happily joined them. He was still looking for a keep for Olyvar to have once he was knighted, but he was now more certain than ever he would be a staunch ally and a good fighter when the Long Night set in.

There was still more work to be done, yet there was no point in his other life where he had felt this hopeful. Even if the Ironborn proved impossible to reason with, they had more than enough soldiers combined to mount a sizable resistance against the Night King and his army of the dead.

A knock sounded on his door. "Theon Greyjoy is here, Your Grace," Ser Daemon Sand said.

Right on time, Aemon thought with some amusement. The only people whom Theon gave consideration for their time were whores. Jaime's threats appeared to have worked.

When Theon walked in, he was pale and was fiddling in his nerves, but it was nothing like the milky white fear Jaime had previously instilled in him.

"Theon, thank you for joining me. Now that our forces are heading North, I want to focus my attention on the Ironborn. What can you tell me about your family? Your father?"

Theon's mouth worked for a moment and he shifted his feet. "Well, my father is … was very proud. He felt the Ironborn had no equal. It, uh, it devastated him when my brothers … died, but we Ironborn especially admire those who die at sea."

Aemon frowned. He had naturally called upon Jaime, his uncle, and Ser Barristan to give him details about Greyjoy's rebellion before they had gone their separate ways. He wondered if Theon had forgotten his second brother had died on land. It had been nearly ten years previous, so perhaps he had.

"I have a sister, but she's of little consequence," Theon said, smirking at the memory. "She wouldn't even be able to tempt a fish to kiss her."

Aemon gave a brief chuckle. "It has been ten years, Theon. I wouldn't be so sure about that." Yara Greyjoy had been a formidable force in the time before and he wouldn't be surprised in the least if that remained the case in this lifetime. He hoped for it anyway. "Keep going. I understand the Ironborn follow the Drowned God. What does that entail?"

Theon furrowed his brow in confusion and he was silent for a time. "I … remember little. It's preferable to die at sea. If we are to die on land, then our bodies are meant to be committed to the sea. It is said when an Ironborn dies that the Drowned God needed a strong rower. Not much else to it that I can recall."

Aemon made a note to check with the Grand Maester. He hoped someone among the maesters and acolytes he'd brought would have a greater understanding of the Drowned God.

"What about the iron price?" Aemon asked.

Theon furrowed his brow. "It's from the Old Ways, from ancient times before we became part of the Seven Kingdoms. We were marauders, thieves … pirates. We take what we want."

"Doesn't taking things the Old Way denote status?"

"I-I don't remember," Theon replied. When Aemon narrowed his eyes and cocked his head, Theon grew panicked. "Forgive me, I do not recall. It was so long ago!"

Aemon was reminded again that he no longer had Jaime at hand to suss out the truth and lies from the chaff. He would have to make that determination himself. Theon was breathing harshly and his skin had paled to the same shade as when Jaime last threatened him. It had been more than ten years since the Greyjoy Rebellion and Theon had been living peacefully, albeit raucously, with the Starks. It seemed likely he wouldn't remember.

"Very well. We'll have to find out then. But remember this, Theon: you are your father's heir. Think about what would need to happen for him to be proud of you. Not to have you back, but to be proud after spending so long among the Greenlanders. He will think you lost."

Theon blinked at him, but then his face shadowed as the words sunk in. He nodded.

"You're dismissed."

Theon gave him a rather short bow and left.

Aemon watched him go as he tried to dig through his own memory about what being an Ironborn entailed. Theon had talked little about his people after all he'd been through. Aemon would have to do some digging to find someone who had the knowledge he sought.

A knock at his door startled him from his thoughts and Daenerys walked in. She smiled. "I saw Theon leave your solar."

"Yes, we were discussing his people."

Her smile grew. "You've mentioned that they have still not declared their allegiance. I know that Lord Lannister was pushing you about going to them."

"Indeed," Aemon replied with a frustrated sigh. "He can't leave well enough alone."

"Would you say he overstepped?" Daenerys asked, her eyebrows raising.

"It would be a bit far to say that. He is … annoying about his opinions," Aemon said. Daenerys' laugh was like the tinkling of bells. He briefly wished he was better at japes so that he could hear it more often. "But he has his own concerns. This one is mine. It's time we paid them due attention."

"When will we be leaving to meet them?" Daenerys asked.

Aemon raised his own eyebrows at the "we," but said, "Oh, not for a couple of months. I need to know more about what to expect. The Ironborn are ill-equipped for a prolonged fight, but they're dangerous. I can't afford to underestimate them. I was hoping Theon would know more about the Ironborn, but he is too far removed from them. He was only a boy when he was placed as a ward with my uncle."

Daenerys' eyes became shadowed. "They're pirates, correct?"

"Of a sort," Aemon replied.

"Perhaps there is an Ironborn among the pirates already here that you might question."

Aemon rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Perhaps," he said, "But there are all kinds of pirates. The Ironborn are specific to the Iron Islands."

"Ironborn can run away and be cast out," Daenerys rejoined.

"Very true. I'll consider pointing, uh, Varys in that direction," Aemon said. He'd almost mentioned the healer. He rather preferred the healer to Varys, especially these days. But there was little he had specifically instructed Varys to do at this point. It would be interesting to see if he could find an Ironborn among the scores of pirates already skulking in King's Landing.

"Varys is the master of whisperers," Daenerys said, sitting on the edge of his desk. "What does he do for you?"

Aemon frowned. He was certain that Ser Barristan or even Ser Jorah would have told Daenerys all about the council positions. Then he remembered that she had fostered a habit of getting her information from multiple sources. "A master of whisperers handles information. Usually, information that would be harmful to my family or my reign. I know he has a web of what he calls his 'little birds.' They're servants within and outside of the walls of the Red Keep. There's no telling who these servants are," Aemon said, hoping that the implied warning would reach her. By the way she pinched her eyes, it had.

To get back to more lighthearted territory, Aemon picked up a note and waved it to her. "I received news this morning that the Dragon Pit is ready for the dragons to be moved there."

Daenerys smiled, but it did not reach her eyes.

"What's wrong?"

"I like that the dragons are so close at hand," Daenerys said, her features becoming soft.

"They don't have to go immediately, but it should be soon. They can't live in the godswood forever. They need to acclimatize to their new home."

Daenerys sighed. "I suppose you're right."

Aemon rose from his chair and walked around to where she was sitting, to hold her hand. The sadness left her face for the moment and all felt right with the world.

|-The Dragon's Roar-|

Daenerys XVII

"A letter for Your Grace," Grand Maester Brunal himself handed her the rolled parchment.

"Thank you," she said, returning the kind gesture with a smile. She hadn't expected him of all people to deliver mail. Perhaps it was because of who the sender was. She had been on one of her morning strolls that she nearly always took alone. In her haste to read, she found a nearby stone bench.

She excitedly untied the string holding it together and swiftly unfurled the parchment:

Queen Daenerys Targaryen,

Your Grace, it lightens this old man's heart to know of your existence and return to Westeros. Many congratulations are in order for your marriage to King Aemon I.

You hatched dragons? And His Grace as well? I would not have thought such a feat possible anymore these days. You both must have the strength of Valyria running in your veins. The maesters in the Citadel have long suggested the dragons disappeared with the magic of the world. That magic seems to be returning, like the waxing and waning of the moon.

None too soon. It's good to hear the realm knows of the Others and their awakening. Though few of the Watch venture beyond the Wall these days, there seems to be a noted harshness in the weather. It feels colder, the coldest I've felt in all of my long years here. Hearing there are dragons to combat the winter warms my heart.

A separate letter will be sent with what I know of the Wall, but I must warn you: there is little knowledge to be found here. The Night's Watch has long been in disrepair. Not everything was taken from the abandoned castles along the Wall. Books and parchment were left to rot. Maesters are also not keen to be stationed here, which means record-keeping has been scant. This is thought to be a place of little consequence.

I wish I could tell you more about your family, but I only ever met King Aerys and Queen Rhaella. I am happy to speak of my generation and the Targaryens that came before. Is there anything else specific that you were interested in?

I hope one day I will be able to meet you and your dragons.

Love,

Maester Aemon of Castle Black

Daenerys wiped away tears that had formed in her eyes for fear of staining the parchment. Through his words alone, he sounded like a kindly man. I will meet you, Grand Uncle, and you will see the dragons, she promised herself. Her heart ached with love and longing at having reconnected with yet another member of her family, even one so far removed. Since much of their attention was going to be on the Wall, it seemed likely that she and Aemon would one day be able to visit and reunite with their uncle.

With any luck, it would be before he passed. Aemon had impressed upon her that Maester Aemon was very old and quite frail. It made her heartsick to think he was subject to the bitter cold. But he had lived there all of his life, so perhaps he was able to weather it.

"Is it good news?"

Daenerys startled and looked around to find Lady Sansa had happened upon her. She tried to think of words to say but instead smiled and shrugged. Sansa's smile fell so slightly and she curtsied. "My apologies, Your Grace, I did not mean to startle you. It was rude of me to inquire."

"Nuh-no, it's fine. I just received word from an uncle," Daenerys replied.

Sansa's eyes went wide. "Oh, how lovely! I'm sure it was wonderful hearing from him."

Daenerys nodded and rolled up the parchment. "It was. Forgive me, Lady Sansa, but I have business to attend to."

"Of course, Your Grace," Sansa said with another dip. The girl's cheeks were flaming.

Poor girl, Daenerys thought. She thought she heard Ser Daemon Sand who was guarding her chuckle. She hadn't meant to be so abrupt, but she had wanted this time for herself. She would have to see about making it up to Sansa. Now, though, she pointed her feet towards Aemon's solar and started walking.

Just as she entered the hallway, the doors opened and the healer walked out. She picked up her pace to join him.

"Healer David," Daenerys called.

His turnabout was abrupt, but he relaxed when he saw her and bowed. "Your Grace, how might I assist you?"

"Walk with me," she said.

He quirked an eyebrow and a smile played on his lips, but he fell into step with her.

"I understand you were given Lord Petyr Baelish's brothels to manage."

"Yes, Your Grace," he said.

"Well, I would be curious to know how well that is going."

He chuckled. "We only moved in yesterday. I can say that the girls no longer suffer now that they have my protection. My men will guard the inside and the outside to ensure safety. It's not normally within my comfort to allow strangers under my roof, but the ladies and I are working on compromises. They will be allowed to maintain their livelihood after all."

"Aemon told me that crime has been an issue."

David sighed. "Yes, those bloody pirates are a nuisance. I have banned them entirely from the establishment. Lord Willas should no longer have to hear about any bloody brawls within those walls at least."

"That is good to hear. Wait here," Daenerys said to her guard. She led him into the godswood. The dragons fished all day and could be expected to be gone, but she had heard from Aemon that few still were brave enough to venture in there when the dragons could arrive at any moment. It seemed safe enough for what she wanted to ask.

Once in the middle of the godswood, he turned to her. "So then, what did you really want to ask me?"

"You remember me?"

"Of course! Those of Valyrian descent are rare and unmistakable," he said nonchalantly. "I'm surprised you remember me."

"I have a good memory," she murmured as she thought back once more to her vision. It had recalled to her the memory of seeing him the first time, but he had made no impression then. In the vision, though, his eyes had lingered, his expression cold and calculating. There had to be significance to that.

He remained quiet and waited.

"I find you interesting," she replied. "There are very few people whom I have known for even months at a time who reappeared in my life. Who are you?"

David cocked his head. "I know you spoke with Lady Delphine."

"She can only tell me about the parts she was there for," Daenerys replied, allowing a coldness to slip into her voice. "I want to know the rest."

He chuckled and shook his head. "You want more? There is nothing more. I am a healing nomad who has wandered a good part of Essos. That is all."

Daenerys frowned. "I am queen now. If it's a matter of price, there are things I can offer."

David regarded her for a moment, the smile only growing on his face. "There is nothing you have that I want."

She scowled. "I was suggesting favors."

"My answer remains. Information usually does have a price, but there is no price to pay for nothing."

"I need answers," she replied.

"You won't find your answers in my past."

She narrowed her eyes. "Are you so sure? You don't even know the reason for my questions."

He remained silent, still shaking his head in amusement. Her temper flared at his mocking, but she had to keep her head about her.

"Good day, Your Grace," he said with a short bow and started walking away.

She fumed silently. She desperately wanted to use her authority to order him back before her, but she knew it would be useless. The healer was already aware that she could neither hurt him nor kill him without consequences. He has established his roots in King's Landing. It seems likely he will be here for years to come. So all I have to do is wait, watch, and listen. I'm bound to hear something, she thought in disgruntlement. Patience was not a strength, but she would cultivate it if she wanted answers.