6

RT

Rhaegar's fingers moving fluidly on his harp strings could create music that many deem are unlike any other. Those who were in audience to him claim there was no comparison to the melodies of the prince, and it was impossible to remember that he was his father's son by such contrasting personalities. The king was harsh, distant and cold, whereas the prince found joy in communicating to the public and sharing his gifts with them. The queen knew one day Rhaegar would be the called 'Rhaegar the Loved.'

Today was one of those days Rhaegar spent with an audience. He sat over the castle walls, feet dangling over the edge with a harp on his lap. Unlike the Red Keep, Dragonstone housed more workers than commoners, but there was never a lack of women who swooned over him. After each song, he'd smile and bow his head sweep his indigo eyes through the crowd then start another melody. He had started familiarizing their faces each time he played, making sure he connected with them through his music and always beside him were his two squires, Richard and Myles, who were witnesses to the prince's congeniality.

When the prince had finished his song for the day, he would spend time with children who listened at his feet. Teaching them tricks or telling them stories most from the books he buried himself in when he wasn't in music.

"My lord, it is almost the hour of practice," Richard said beside him. Rhaegar looked up to the sky, assessing the hour of the day, and sighed. He ruffled the hair of the child on his lap and set him down gently. The remaining audiences thanked him before leaving and Rhaegar watched them go with a lightness in his heart.

"Myles, go and prepare my sword and mail. I will be there shortly." Rhaegar instructed. The squire bowed and left leaving Richard behind with the prince.

"One day, Richard, we'll have our own to raise and train, and they'll fight our battles for us. The wheel turns and turns."

"As expected, my prince."

"And I wonder when that should come to an end." The prince swept the golden strands from his face before turning to lead the way back into the castle.

He was a skilled fighter for his age thought it wasn't his favored pastime. In the Red Keep he regularly trained with Ser Barristan Selmy, or Barristan the Bold, and as a result of these frequent jousts, the prince greatly excelled.

"You need to strengthen your stance," Rhaegar instructed Myles, "from here I can tell which side to defeat you. Never let your enemies identify your weaknesses."

The clang of steel on steel echoed throughout the dance pit. Surrounding them were a number of swordsmen awaiting turns to battle with the prince.

Myles fell to the ground on one knee when Rhaegar caught him off guard and landed his blade just to the nape of his neck. Rhaegar smiled, "see what I mean."

The next swordsman came from Rhaegar's side and the sound of steel on steel began again. Within the hour Rhaegar disarmed all of them.

"Tell me, Richard, are these men supposed to protect me?" Rhaegar helped the last one up with a hand when Richard approached him to retrieve his sword.

"My lord, these young men have been training for a fortnight. I hope it is not because you are the prince that they let you win."

"Now that would be a great disappointment as they will face braver, far better warriors on the battlefield."

"You are much too humble, my prince. It is said your skills are not far from Barristan the Bold."

"Not far, but not close enough as I have yet to fight against a Dornish or a Dothraki warrior." Rhaegar said chuckling while Myles helped him out of his rubber armor before stepping out of the dancing pit. "See you on the morrow, friends."

"The Dornish ways are not far from our own while the Dothraki come from a new level of savage." Richard said following close behind Rhaegar.

"I should like to meet them one day. Maybe I could learn a few tricks."

"Perhaps when you become king, my lord. They say the great sea that separates us is just as fierce as the inhabitants of Essos and I think you are too decent to learn from their kind."

"Ah, Richard. The greatest loss is in denying ourselves the chance to learn from our enemies."

"Learning from our enemies lie in the hands of the Master of Whisperer's, my lord, which is why you have them in your council."

"My father's council."

"With respect, my lord, I still think your rightful place is in that council."

"He has his reasons for which to prefer that I take none of my place in that council, Richard. Frankly it pleases me more to stay here where I am close to my mother." Rhaegar stopped by the bailey overlooking the castle and the city streets and rested his arms to lean forward and look down. "Speaking of the council, is Varys still here?"

"I believe he sails for King's Landing in two moons."

"Good. I need to speak to him on the morrow. When he tells my father about the birth of my new brother, I'm sure arrangements will be made for me."

"On the matter of..?" Richard said cocking his head to one side. Rhaegar turned to lean back against the bailey and crossed his arms.

"My betrothal. It will happen soon enough and sooner than I had hoped." Rhaegar said with a sigh.

"I hear Lord Tywin's daughter is a rare beauty." Richard leaned forward as he said this. Rhaegar chuckled and put his hands behind him. "Yes, those gossips have made their way to the Red Keep not so long ago. Her golden hair and green eyes."

"Ser Jamie is her replicate and he is said to turn the heads of many women."

"Yes, but he will never sire children. A pity I have to admit as he is very skilled with the sword."

"You needn't worry him, my lord, he fights for you."

Rhaegar gave Richard a piercing look. "I'm not worried. He fights for my father while he sits on the Iron Throne, and one day he will fight by my side."

Rhaegar repositioned himself again this time gazing over the crowd walking below. His mind still lingered on the idea of the young lady Lannister when his thoughts met his sight focusing on a woman walking below. She wore a rather curious look on her face framed by tangles of dark hair. Rhaegar had almost familiarized every face in the city, but this one, he thought, this one he was certain he had never seen.