Author's Notes: Happy holidays to one and all, my dear readers! You're the best, most awesome readers in the world and I am endlessly grateful for your support with TDR. It's such a lengthy endeavor that I'm not sure I would've gotten this far, this fast without you!
I do have some bad news. This will be the last chapter until March 5th, 2022. Many of you have noticed that the chapters this year were shorter than in previous years. Unfortunately, I've been in part struggling with burnout all year. This January, I have a vacation, and then in February I'm having surgery that I will need a few weeks to recover from. Given all of this, I decided it was best if I should just refrain from posting. I'm very sorry for the large gap.
In good news, I took a little break in November to work on writing projects that are not TDR. It was incredibly refreshing to have something else for my brain to work on. Since December began, I've returned to writing TDR chapters with renewed vigor. The next two chapters both are at least 10 pages. My goal is to have a 5-6 chapter buffer by the time March rolls around.
Last but not least, I want to thank Catzrko0l for being such a stalwart beta reader. Not only are they beta reading for this, but they've even doing it for one of my other wips. They are incredible and I am forever grateful for all their support.
"The Silence and the other Ironborn ships will land by evening," Lord Velaryon had told him earlier that morning.
The Keep was a hive of activity. Servants were dashing to and fro to secure loose items and find a spot to wait out the attack. The noble ladies were sequestered in the Great Hall with an endless array of treats for them to sample while the battle raged. Lady Delphine and a few other noblewomen had appointed themselves the leaders. They soothed the fears of the children and were doing their best to keep order. A mix of the Shepherds and the Unsullied had volunteered to guard the hall.
Under normal circumstances, Daenerys would be there to be a beacon of hope. However, she had the task of keeping the dragons soothed and contained for the evening. The discussion about what to do with the dragons had felt like their first real test. Aemon wanted them in chambers underground, safe from the sound of the Dragonbinder horn, but Daenerys had been beside herself at the thought of her children imprisoned where there was no light and where they could barely move. She insisted they could not be kept underground, not even temporarily.
Both at least agreed that the Dragon Pit was not nearly safe enough at the moment. The soldiers, gold cloaks, and Unsullied would have their hands full fending off the pirates and the Ironborn could not be spared as guards. It was safer to keep them behind the walls of the Red Keep.
After much heartache and stubbornness, they had come to a compromise. The dragons would stay in the godswood, but they were to be chained with an iron collar. Rings had been installed on the walls with a 40-foot length of chain for each dragon. They were there now, unhappily roasting lamb and pork sent up from the kitchens, chained to the ground. Daenerys was there to soothe their tempers and keep them in check. He cautioned her about getting bitten or burned, but she had only glared at him.
His heart still hammered in his chest at the thought of the dragons being seduced by the sound of a mere horn. It seemed impossible and yet he had just demonstrated that the dead could rise. Was it really so far-fetched that the Valyrians had crafted a means for controlling their dragons? But at the price of death? Aemon wondered. Perhaps only a Valyrian was meant to be able to blow the horn and live. Maybe even the lineage was tied to the horn and it wouldn't work for Euron no matter what. But they couldn't take that chance.
He entered his quarters and stripped down to his undershirt. He pulled on Prince Oberyn's gift of the silvery Myrish mail and then his breastplate over top. Ser Barristan helped tie the straps into place. The breastplate was black save for a red field with the three-headed dragon prominent on his chest. His greaves were black with lines of red, and he donned a black cloak. On one hip was Lady Forlorn and on his other a smaller dagger. He had decided it would be too cumbersome to bother with the second sword Jaime had given him.
Once he exited his quarters, he nodded at the other Kingsguard and they all fell into step behind him. It had been decided that Daenerys' own guard would be enough to protect her so that the Kingsguard could be at the front, lending their superior skills to the battle.
Aemon headed towards the walls overlooking the bay. There was an arrangement of catapults with the ammunition of giant boulders and even casks of oil to throw down and burn. The Westerland soldiers were in charge of the catapults and a line of archers was perched underneath. They would pepper the pirates and Ironborn until the battle was joined, then they'd abandon their bows for their swords and join the fighting.
Glancing around, Aemon noticed that Theon was markedly absent from the lines. He had pulled him aside a few days prior and impressed upon him the importance that it would lend to him if he were to kill his uncle. Theon had drawn his mouth into a thin line but had nodded.
"Has anyone seen Theon?" Aemon asked.
"Can't say I have, Your Grace," Ser Barristan said.
"He's an archer. I would think he'd want a better vantage point. A closer one at that," Ser Daemon offered.
Aemon nodded and hoped Theon was just trying to position himself. He looked over the edge to see if he might spot him, but couldn't discern him from the people milling below. His heart thudded again at seeing them. They had attempted to evacuate the city. While some had been eager to heed the warnings, there was a significant segment that refused to budge, most of them merchants fearing that their goods would be looted. Aemon had promised them payment for their grievances should they arise, but few of them had budged. It seemed now that the threat had finally arrived, they were hurrying to make tracks out of the city, but it would be too little too late. He couldn't worry about that anymore.
Lord Velaryon stepped up beside him. "We were able to prevent the worst of the damage to our own ships, but a quarter will need repairs."
Aemon sighed. Yet more coin to commit elsewhere. At the very least, they didn't have to worry about paying the pirates anymore.
They had caught many attempting to flounder their fleet and threw them into the dungeons without a second thought, but those were the only pirates they had managed to catch. Like trying to contain a fistful of sand, the others had slipped through their fingers, disappearing into the back alleys. There were more threats than mere pirates in the dark and two small groups that consisted of both gold cloaks and Unsullied had gone missing. In a bid to minimize casualties, they had decided to hold the Unsullied and gold cloaks until the Lannister army and Reach army had fully entered the city. If the pirates wanted to fight, they would have to come out into the street. Once the Ironborn were sorted, then they would hunt down the rest of the filth.
Aemon put on his helmet and steeled himself. "This is our home! Our families, our brothers and sisters, our children are counting on us to protect them from these vagabonds! Let's throw them back into the sea from whence they came! For King's Landing!" he raised his sword and his voice to the sky.
At the same time, a screeching bellowing reached them from across the waters. Aemon cocked his head in confusion and then his eyes widened; it was the call for the dragons.
|-The Dragon's Roar-|
A shiver ran down her spine at the deep resonating screeching sound that flowed across the bay. She turned back toward the cave entrance and ducked in with half a dozen of her best men following behind her. She took the torch from her second, Burgett, and held it up to see down the dark tunnel, walking swiftly and silently.
The chill dark of the tunnel seeped into her skin and she could feel the stirrings of excitement followed quickly by her anger and frustration. She curled her lip and it throbbed, having been cut by Euron's fist for botching the attempt at sabotaging the fleet. But she hadn't wanted to risk any more of her crew lest her numbers be spread too thin. They were her men and no matter how much Euron Greyjoy stirred the fire in her, she was not about to let him have the advantage in numbers. It had been her primary strength when they had first met, but with the entirety of the Ironborn on his side now, their footing was more equal. It put her in a weaker position and she wasn't about to give that ground.
The tunnels under the Red Keep made her feel fresh and new. These were the type of adventures she had embarked on in her youth as a rising captain, looking for lost treasure and yearning for that sense of unknown.
It wasn't long before they came upon a locked gate. She stopped and turned, beckoning Tolvus forward. He was her last, best saboteur and she was not about to let him risk his life against the Unsullied. In a few minutes, he pushed through and they followed after him. The tunnel continued. They came across a fork; Lucia hesitated only a moment before leading them down the left one. While her boys had caused trouble in the streets, she had explored and mentally mapped the underground beneath the Red Keep. Her fingers had itched to sneak into a nobleman's room and slit a throat or two, but she was conscious about making too large of a splash in the wrong place.
After several minutes, they came to the ladder. Lucia buried her torch in the ground and began climbing up. Eventually, the flickering light from the second torch faded and she strained to see through the pitch black of the cave. Her pace was slow and she took each rung carefully until she felt her head nudge the lid. Although it was not in an open space, there was always the danger of an unexpected visitor. The last thing she needed was alerting a servant and sending them screeching like a crow.
She pushed on the lid and lifted it up a crack to glance around. They were at the back of the Red Keep, near the godswood where few enough were sure to wander. She waited for a few beats but heard nothing save the shouting of commands and the persistent low groan of the Dragonbinder. She gently moved the lid aside and hopped, creeping up the path further to check for intruders. Her men climbed up swiftly and quietly behind her, leaving the lid off for a quick retreat.
They took a right down the path and scurried along, hurrying between columns, keeping an eye on both directions. The first door they came to, they tested the lock and found it open. It appeared to be servant's quarters with a few rough beds, empty save a single woman. She was old and doughty and was sewing a piece of garb. When her confusion morphed into fear and she opened her mouth to scream, Burgett rushed in, clapping a hand over her mouth and putting his knife to her throat.
"Scream and you're dead," he hissed.
Lucia made a signal to remove the hand from her mouth and he instead shifted it down to grip her tightly around the neck.
"The Queen. Where she be?" Lucia asked in a guttural voice.
"The godswood, tending to the dragons," the woman answered, her voice pitched high and tears streaking down her face.
Lucia's smile was rapacious. What luck! They would not have to worry about meeting too many people on the way to the godswood. It seemed the Drowned God was smiling on their efforts. Once she turned away from the woman, Burgett slit the servant's throat to the bone and left her gurgling on her bed. They left as swiftly and silently as they came, stopping to hide behind pillars. Once or twice, Lucia stopped because she thought she heard a stray sound, and she glanced behind them to find their path clear.
She frowned. Was it normally this empty? Granted, these were not usual circumstances. She imagined most of the servants were waiting on the noble ladies hand-and-foot or were otherwise holed up in their own hiding spots. They didn't check the rest of the doors for fear of running into more servants. The fewer bodies they left in their wake, the better.
It wasn't until they slipped into the side entrance of the godswood that Lucia started breathing easier. The trees and the brush were thick enough to hide them. It was just a matter of sneaking up on them to capture the queen. The dragons were making it easy with their aggravated roars. Lucia wondered if it was the Dragonbinder doing its work as it was expected.
After several minutes of carefully picking her way through the forest, Lucia threw herself behind a tree and crouched down, carefully peering around it. The dragons were chained up against the palace wall and they were fighting their mother's attempts to soothe their raging tempers. She'd seen them from afar and knew they were growing, but it was only now that she was mere feet away that she realized just how large they had become in a few short months. The black one and cream one were the size of ponies; their claws left gouges in the ground as they pulled against the chains that held them fast. The green one was a little more than half their size, his attempts at roars still tiny whines by comparison.
She frowned. The chains were a complication they had not been expecting. She knew it was possible that the queen would try to keep them from flying, but she didn't think they'd go so far as to chain them up. Euron would gut her if he discovered that they'd left the dragons chained to the wall, unable to seek out their new master. A cold sweat broke out over her skin at the thought of having to get close enough to loose the dragons. Perhaps if they were kept distracted enough, Tolvus could sneak in behind them and break the chains to the wall. They could worry about removing the collars later when the dragons were pacified and in Euron's control.
But first, they had to capture Daenerys. She was just as feminine and delicate as she was on the ship; they would have no trouble wrangling her into submission. All that was left were the two bloodriders and the old knight. With the seven of them, they could immediately overwhelm them. It would be quicker if they all went straight for Daenerys. If they secured her as a hostage, it would paralyze the guards and they could finish them off with ease.
Lucia tensed as she heard a familiar gurgling right near her. She pulled her knife and turned to stab, but her neck was grabbed in a vice. The thin whisper of a blade sliced her throat and she trembled as she felt the heat of her lifeblood spilling down her front. Her fingers went numb and her knife fell to the ground. The assassin flipped her to lay her gently on her side. She trembled when her eyes fell upon a dark, expressionless mask with a slit for a mouth and two peepholes.
A sob would have left her throat if it could, but tears poured from her eyes all the same. The figure moved back. Just as the last of the world faded, she felt the rough edges of grass and sticks slide across her back as her body was dragged away.