Author's Notes: Good day, everyone! The end of the year is swiftly approaching! I wanted to let you all know that I will in fact being posting Chapter 110 on Christmas Day this year, so you can look forward to that! I hope you all have a wonderful December and continue to enjoy the holiday season.

This chapter has been beta'd by the lovely Catzrko0l. If there are any mistakes, I claim them for my own.

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Chapter 109

Jaime XXXV

He refused to look back, but he left his thoughts in the Red Keep. As a younger man, especially in his life before, he had enjoyed his jaunts away from the city. As soon as he reached the tree line, he breathed in deep the fresh air that was no longer tainted with the smell of shit. Even sleeping on the ground had been preferable to sleeping in the White Tower. He could lose himself in the fighting, forget the ostracism, and soothe his anger.

That was behind him, at least. Every once in a while, he thought he heard a stray "Kingslayer" from one of the lesser nobles when he passed, but he did not bother with them. In such cases, it was easier to draw on his father's old motto: The lion doesn't concern itself with the opinions of sheep.

But now his duties had sent him elsewhere, far beyond the king's reach. He had to trust that Aemon could look after himself and that Tyrion and his Uncle Gerion could stand with him under any circumstances. He had to remind himself that Aemon was not a boy anymore and was now a man. He could at least sleep a little easier knowing that his father and Baelish were no longer alive to pose a threat, but it just meant that other, potentially more dangerous and unknowable threats could be lurking in the underbelly of the city.

Jaime would never admit it aloud, but he held a grudging respect for most members of the small council Aemon had assembled. For the time, it behooved the majority of them to keep Aemon as king. It wouldn't stay that way for long, but by then the dragons should be at a formidable enough size to cause even the bravest at heart to wilt.

Despite all of the reasons to be confident in Aemon, his shoulders remained tense as he tried to fight the urge to turn around and head back.

"They will be fine."

Jaime started from his thoughts and turned to Brienne, who was looking at him with a smile and a raised eyebrow.

"Did you say something?"

"I said, 'they will be fine.' His Grace is married now. Queen Daenerys is a woman of courtesy and grace. You left your brother to be the king's hand. They will be fine."

"I know not what you're talking about," Jaime said, drawing himself up.

Brienne scoffed.

"Oh please, Jaime, you look like that one time we ate eel for dinner. Anyone who isn't a halfwit can tell where your thoughts are," Ser Addam said from behind.

Jaime turned back to glare at his friend as Brienne struggled not to laugh.

If it was that plainly obvious, then he had to do a better job of getting his mind off of matters of the Red Keep. He focused on Brienne. She had been quiet the last several days as they rode. He had seen her eyes roving the scenery and she seemed relaxed even in her armor.

"Would I be correct to assume, my lady, that you have never been inland?" Jaime asked.

"Yes, though inland is not all that different from Tarth. We have trees, too, after all," she replied.

"True enough, but I imagine on an island you can always hear the ocean. Now it's just the birds and the crickets."

"Aye, it is quieter," she said. "I am still getting used to this earthen smell when I've only so long smelled the salt on the air."

"And the shit," Jaime muttered under his breath.

She swatted him on the arm and Ser Addam laughed.

"Don't you have your own conversation to attend to?" Jaime shot back at him.

"Do I? I am rather content here."

"Rude," Jaime muttered.

Brienne giggled before stifling it, her cheeks going pink with her mirth.

Jaime grinned but felt a pang in his heart. He initially thought that once they were married and there were no longer barriers against their intimacy, the easy partnership they had forged in the previous life would return. But something felt like it was missing. The Brienne before had carved out a sizeable portion of his heart in the time that he'd known her, but this Brienne hadn't fully filled the hole. There were mismatched edges that jarred during moments in particular that jogged a memory from the life before. He'd eagerly turn to mention it to her when his smile would fade as he remembered that she was not aware of that life.

Only a few weeks earlier, Tyrion had asked him if he was going to tell Brienne of the time before. He'd initially balked at the suggestion. Already, Jaime felt too many people were included and it would take only an errant word from any of them to bring suspicion down on them. Any more hints and it might unravel the entire scheme. At the very worst, he figured he and Aemon could be executed for their delusions, for fear of another Mad King.

Then again, perhaps not, Jaime thought. Aemon had explained to him that he had invoked the Old Gods and claimed to receive a vision from them to the Northerners. Then he fought Greatjon Umber and split his sword in two with untold power. Jaime was a little surprised that the news hadn't made it around, but the southern lords were more likely to dismiss it as a new legend. Aemon had certainly not done anything to spread it further afield and so it withered on the vine.

Initially, Jaime was content to indulge in the carnal pleasure that he could engage in with Brienne, which soothed his wild heart. But now that they were sharing a tent among thousands and thousands of men, Brienne was far too bashful to make love. Jaime let her be in peace, but it only made the emotional chasm between them wider.

He trained with her in the snatches of daylight afforded them once camp was broken. He asked her about her home time and again. She asked about Casterly Rock, but he found it to be a dead end. He had last visited when he was recruiting his own father as an ally to gather outside of King's Landing, but then he had set sail the very next day. The Rock was the same as it had always been, but it had been decades since he had last been familiar with its day-to-day running. He wasn't even sure if the cooks and the head maid were the same ones he'd grown up with or if they had since died and been replaced.

When they would bed down in their tent for the night, Jaime found himself restless as his heart warred with his mind and it was hours before he fell asleep. He kept telling himself to wait. To be patient. But his patience felt like it had finally run its course. He had waited so long to see Brienne, to court her, and marry her. He was done with waiting.

"Is something the matter?" Brienne asked.

Jaime shook himself from his thoughts and said, "Of course not."

"You seem … quieter than usual," she said.

"It seems the hustle and bustle of King's Landing grew on me," he replied, with a twisted smirk. "I forgot how droll these long roads can be."

"Have you traveled this road much?"

"Not North, but certainly to the Westerlands a fair few times. I've only been to Winterfell the one time. Before that, I'd only ever gone as far north as Riverrun. Then, of couse, I was raised to kingsguard at Harrenhal." The malformed castle rose to the forefront of his mind and he felt a sudden burst of inspiration. Harrenhal. Where he had first confessed the secret of the wildfire to Brienne. He didn't think he'd be allowed into the baths, but perhaps he could take Brienne off on a brief sojourn to jog his own memory. At the moment, they were traveling on narrow roads through dense forest, the trees only occasionally giving away to fields. But Harrnehal's grounds were spacious. He could easily take her somewhere on those fields with a mile view of the surrounding lands to ensure their privacy.

"Aren't you supposed to be looking after His Grace's direwolf?" Brienne asked.

Jaime frowned at her. "What's there to look after? He's a direwolf."

"We haven't seen him since he left the city," she said.

"Because he frightened the other horses. We don't want him to cause a stir again. Besides, he's been holed up in King's Landing for almost a year. Let him have his freedom," Jaime said.

She raised her eyebrows at him. "You seem rather relaxed about the direwolf's whereabouts considering your king charged you with his care."

"He's nearly the size of our horses. There is nothing for that wolf to fear in these woods. Besides, Robb's direwolf is probably with him."

Since the Starks were the Wardens of the North, they led the train. As Warden of the West, the Westerlands army was second behind the Stark army. If Jaime had so desired, he could have easily ridden at the front, but he'd disdain Lord Stark for company.

Now that they were finally heading north to address the threat of Roose Bolton, Jaime's ire had started bubbling to the surface with regards to Lady Catelyn. She awaited them at Riverrun with the Starks' youngest boy, Rickon. He would look forward to her explanation on why she had forsaken her duty to House Lannister.

He turned to hide his glare and breathe in the fresh air, glad it was no longer tainted with the smell of shit. Thinking about the fate of his son, Cassian, made him hostile and bitter. He wouldn't subject Brienne to his anger again, especially since she was not the cause of it.

His temper leaked away and he put his thoughts once more into his excursion with Brienne at Harrenhal. It was still a few weeks further before they would reach it. He had to hope and pray that Brienne would be more understanding than his brother.

|-The Dragon's Roar-|

Aemon XL

He and Daenerys walked hand-in-hand to the small council meeting, but their pace was urgent and their faces were solemn. They were the first to arrive and took their seats. Aemon remained at the head of the table, but Daenerys preferred to sit next to him rather than take the chair at the far side. The other members started trickling in, throwing them curious looks.

Lord Steffon Frey was the last to arrive as was typical, though all of them appeared a little harried since he had called an emergency meeting straight after breakfast.

"What seems to be the trouble, Your Grace?" Lord Velaryon asked.

"I have received word from Lord Varys that the Ironborn have held a Kingsmoot and made Euron Greyjoy their 'king.' He set sail from the Iron Islands with the entire Ironborn fleet. They've been spotted just outside Blackwater Bay," Aemon replied.

The entire council seemed to draw in a stunned breath.

"Are we sure they'd be so foolish to attack? This seems awfully bold for an Ironborn," Lady Olenna said. "They're thieves. Raiders. Cowards. They strike like snakes and then retreat."

"Yes, this is unlike them," Lord Velaryon agreed.

"I don't disagree, but those are the facts. Unless, Lord Varys, you have more?"

Lord Varys cleared his throat. "My little bird insisted that Euron declared they were going to take King's Landing. They seem to think they'll be able to enslave the dragons."

Prince Oberyn chuckled and shook his head.

Aemon tensed. "Does he now?"

"Indeed. One of his men got the attention at the Kingsmoot by blowing on a large horn. Euron Greyjoy claims that it's a horn that can bring the dragons under control."

"The Dragonbinder," David whispered. All eyes turned to him.

"That's just a myth," Tyrion said.

"Do you know of this?" Daenerys asked.

David blinked and shifted in his seat. "I'd heard of it. It's thought to be an artifact of myth. The myth—or rumors, if this is true—say that the one who blows the horn can control the dragons. However, it is said to have a great curse upon it. The one who blows the horn dies."

"Yes, my little bird said that the man who blew the horn collapsed and died, bleeding from his chest."

Aemon frowned severely. "How does that work then? Is it enough that Euron Greyjoy is in possession of the horn or can the dragons only respond to him if he blows it?"

David shrugged. "I can't say, Your Grace. I prefer not to speculate, but if I had to, it would be safer to assume that the one who merely possesses the horn—not the one who blows it—may have the ability to control the dragons."

"Hmm," Aemon started stroking his chin. "That must be the reason for why Euron is being so bold. He intends to turn the dragons against us."

Daenerys turned to him, her brow furrowed in worry. "I know you said the Dragon Pit was complete but is it secure?"

"Not secure enough to reassure me," Aemon replied. "They're still young. Vulnerable. Best keep them at our sides. David, Grand Maester Brunal, should this horn be blown, do you know if the sound will be able to snag the dragons from afar?"

"Your Grace, the Dragonbinder was thought to be an artifact of legend. I've told you all I know," David said.

"Hmm … yes, I have not heard of this Dragonbinder horn. The Citadel prefers to deal with the known world. Much of what we know of Old Valyria is a mixture of myth and history. Impossible to separate," the Grand Maester said gruffly, with an exasperated shake of his head.

Steffon Frey groaned. "The pirates we have are already a nuisance and now we're to have more."

Aemon stiffened. He looked around the table and saw the same realization come into nearly every eye. "I'm afraid my knowledge of pirates is bare. Am I correct to assume that the pirates currently within the city may clash with the Ironborn?"

"It's certainly possible, Your Grace. Pirates have a tendency to be territorial. They could just as easily believe that Euron is going to steal their gold out from under them."

"Euron Greyjoy is not a fool and we should not underestimate him," Lord Varys said. "He has to know that there are pirates already in the city. At worst, I expect they'll be neutral to him, but his reputation will have spanned the breadth of the ocean. They will surely recognize him."

"Should we not expect the worst and imprison the pirates?" Daenerys proposed.

"Yes, we could round up pirates! Thin their numbers before the fight even begins," Willas said.

"Good idea! Do what you need to get pirates off the street," Aemon ordered.

"Would it be prudent to recall the forces heading North or at least part of them?" Lady Olenna asked.

Aemon grimaced. "They're already seven days from King's Landing. They would not reach us in time. Besides, Lord Lannister left the bulk of the Westerlands army here. With the combined strength of the Reach, the gold cloaks and the Unsullied, we should have more than enough to combat the pirates."

"And what if they … take the dragons?" David asked with a tense expression.

Daenerys blanched and Aemon tried to think of words.

"We cannot kill the dragons!" Daenerys cried out.

"We need them for the Long Night," Aemon said.

"We cannot let Euron Greyjoy have even one dragon," David said.

"I will not allow you or anyone to kill them," Daenerys shot back. She turned to Aemon. "Tell them!"

Aemon's heart pounded beneath his breast. He could only imagine the death and destruction that Euron Greyjoy would unleash upon the world with a dragon. He had never met the man, but Jaime's words about him from the time before were less than kind. He was ruthless. Not even mad, but evil. He had been exiled in the time before and he reappeared just after Balon Greyjoy's death, having sailed the world. Jaime was certain that Euron had been the one to kill Balon Greyjoy, forcing the issue of the Kingsmoot so that he could push his claim. He was a probable kinslayer. There was no greater sin in the eyes of the Seven.

He numbly shook his head. "We cannot risk the safety of the dragons. We need them for the Long Night. All three of them."

"Very well, Your Grace, I will make it known to the men that they are not to harm the dragons, no matter whose side they are on. But if one does turn, an order may not be enough to stay their hand," Willas replied, his voice low and his expression troubled.

"There will be dire consequences to any who does," Aemon said, his voice just as low.

"Worse than getting burned to death by dragonfire?" Tyrion asked, his eyebrows lifting in surprise.

Aemon remained silent on the issue. "We'll make sure it doesn't come to that."

"They will heed me," Daenerys said. "All of them. I'm sure of it."

"Then you'll be in charge of keeping the dragons safe during the fighting," Aemon said, reaching over to grasp her hand and squeeze it gently. He had always known her to be so calm and collected, only seeing the crack in composure when the Night King had felled Viserion. She's already lost one child. She shan't lose another, he thought.

"What of our strategy?" Aemon said.

There was quiet for a moment as the council members all traded looks. This was usually the business of the master of war, but then Lord Velaryon cleared his throat and said, "There are a few catapults on the wall. We can find ammunition for them. I think we should have an abundance of flaming arrows available, then they'll have to contend with fire raining down on them as they sail."

"We should consider evacuating the city," Tyrion spoke up. "We don't want the people at risk. And, if I may, I know that we were on the cusp of planning our own invasion of the Iron Islands. Might I suggest that we take this opportunity to … prep young Theon Greyjoy?"

Aemon furrowed his brow. "What do you mean?"

"Ideally, Euron Greyjoy will perish in this battle. The Iron Islands will need a new lord," Tyrion said.

Prince Oberyn had been sitting quietly, watching the exchange but this drew his attention. He leaned forward, "He will have to fight. The Ironborn follow the strong. It's clearly why those chose Euron Greyjoy despite him living in exile. Theon must prove himself."

"I'm not sure how fighting against his own people can possibly improve his standing in their eyes," Aemon replied dryly.

Lord Velaryon had started rubbing his chin and said, "No, no, but … Lord Tyrion and Prince Oberyn may have the right idea. Euron Greyjoy was exiled."

"He's their king now."

"Still exiled. He's no longer considered a part of the Greyjoy family. Were Theon to kill him—"

"That would prove his strength to the Ironborn," Tyrion finished.

"Isn't that best done in single combat?"

Lord Velaryon scoffed. "The Ironborn are cowards. Few of them can stand even with a knight of the realm. It may just work."

Aemon grimaced. The last thing he wanted was to set Theon to be pitted against his own family, exiled or not. But they had few choices and even fewer opportunities. "I will discuss it with him."

"Oh good, that should bring the Ironborn back into the fold without tarrying," Olenna said.

Aemon felt his throat stick and merely nodded. Despite the plans and the advantage of preparation, he felt trepidation of the dragons being at risk. He would have to pray to the Old Gods that this Dragonbinder horn was as mythical as it sounded or it could prove fatal to more than Westeros for even one dragon to fall into the wrong hands. He shook the thoughts from his head and refocused his attention.

They continued to discuss the plans for evacuation and preparing the armies, then dispersed. Aemon was to call another meeting later to speak with Gerion, Ser Kevan, and Ser Garlan Tyrell to draw up more detailed plans. They had only briefly discussed the issue with the dragons. Daenerys insisted that they should not be caged, but Aemon was wary of keeping them in the godswood if the drifting sound of the blowing horn was enough to entrance them.

It had taken a mere week in the army's absence for the fragile growth of peace to wither and die.