Hey all! Hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe. The world is a crazy place right now. I know updates have slowed, and this might be the norm for a bit because of life and the sudden breakthrough for the sequel to Storm Prince. I can't do strict plot outlines, so the muse working overtime means I am bouncing between stories as I write.
"You are well beyond burning the midnight oil, my dear," Ignotus called. He was seated comfortably in his portrait, stopping his conversation once she entered the solar.
"And you portraits are far too lively at this time of night," Elia countered, a smile softening her words. Ignotus laughed in response, eyes cutting to the where Ralston sat in Henry Potter's portrait.
The solar was more cluttered than it had been since their arrival; the original two portraits had been expanded to three, giving way for a Potter, Peverell and a Black to offer their words of wisdom when necessary. There were two shelves between the tapestries, each holding the books Elia had turned to time and again as she made and remade her plans. Sheafs of parchment were stacked at the corner of the desk, a locked drawer containing the more sensitive correspondence.
It was that drawer she reached for, the wood sliding open at her touch. Maester Garth had brought ravens to take any letter Elia wished to send yet it was to Tweak and Winky she turned when discretion was required.
"Have the others left for the night?" Elia asked. Her hands smoothed the scrolls addressed to her, dark eyes running over the familiar words written in Monford Velaryon's careful script. Beneath that scroll were others — reports gathered from the Dragon's Men over the years, detailing the names of the customs officials in Duskendale, Gulltown, King's Landing, and Maidenpool. Elia had been unsurprised to see reports from Lannisport and Oldtown; Lord Velaryon had assured her the group had men placed across the Seven Kingdoms even if they were most active in the Crownlands. It was the reports of White Harbor that surprised her, not expecting that they would brave the North.
"Cassiopeia is off bothering someone, no doubt," Ralston said. "Henry is doing his rounds near the guest rooms."
Shireen Baratheon had arrived earlier in the day, her mother stiffly holding onto the little girl's hand. Elia had pried as much information as she could from the maester after receiving Harry's letter detailing Stannis' requests, knowing the little girl had been subjected to all manner of treatment since her unfortunate exposure in Storm's End.
"The guards are on alert, however little trouble we expect from the two ladies," Elia said.
"Not in the presence of so many guards," Ralston conceded. "Now. Will you tell us what has you awake before the sunrise?"
"I thought I'd get another look at things," she answered absentmindedly. Robert's Master of Coin has done an abysmal job, she thought; twenty-five thousand dragons on a single tournament for the winner of the joust, won by a man who would become one of the Dragon's Men. Another writing a gloating report of having spent three tourneys in King's Landing, winning some thirty thousand dragons altogether. The more Elia looked into the scrolls Lord Velaryon had forwarded, the more she realized they would have their work cut out for them.
"In the middle of the night?" Ignotus questioned. There was a gentle smile on his face, the ancient Peverell correctly guessing what kept her awake.
"They will take the city with nary a scratch on them," Ralston said confidently.
"All it takes is a stray arrow," she pointed out. As confident as she was, there was a lingering worry that something could go very wrong. A worry Ralston clearly did not share.
"Against magic?" Ralston scoffed. "They don't have a single wizard among them. Harry has a full-fledged wizard in Teddy and three elementals with him - two of which carry wands!"
"Magic in a Muggle war is a terrible thing," Ignotus said quietly. "Have you forgotten the costs, Ralston? William of Normandy showed us what can happen when magicals take to the field alongside armoured knights. His grandchildren's war very nearly decimated the magical families that were in place. It was not uncommon for magical families to pay weregild, and blood feuds amongst magical families often arose from cases where weregild should have been the solution but was deemed unacceptable by either party."
Ralston grimaced in apology. Elia shared in his misery. Ignotus was a genial man, but there was a darkness in his golden eyes that had come from the wars of his youth. Another Dance, they had explained. Magical inheritances ran differently depending on family, and the tenuous alliance William the Conqueror had forced on the differing magicals broke apart as they were dragged into a war of succession. Ignotus had lost his brothers in the chaos of the Anarchy – one to violent death, the other mourning a lost beloved until he could no longer bear the separation of death. That Antioch's missing wand would fall into the hands of several Dark Lords had been another blow to the man.
"Well, you'll not have to fear a prolonged war here," Ralston offered. Slate grey eyes glanced at her, the portrait tipping his head in her direction. "Aegon is to usher in a new reign, undoing the wrongs of the past. As we speak, they should be close to securing the capital. We'll hold the upper hand in any negotiations for peace."
She pursed her lips, staring absently at the letters before her. She had mulled over the question for moons - since Lord Tarly's battle plans had shown a willingness to negotiate with the three more northern kingdoms. Lord Stark would not easily sue for peace; not now that his friend had lost. Elia had no intention of making the Baratheon children a rallying point, nor Stark a martyr for continued war.
There had been four others with Brandon Stark. The Glover boy had been tortured in the Black Cells, Elia recalled. The others had been swiftly beheaded as the court watched, grateful that they were not to witness another burning. Green flame flashed in her mind, the sight of Brandon Stark choking as his father burned seared in her memory. What little mercy Aerys held for those he considered traitors had been ended with Brandon Stark's companions.
"That gives us four Houses to consider," Elia murmured. "Lord Stark may not take gold; the man is prickly with his honour, from all accounts of him." And gold is a pittance when compared to a life lost.
"Lands? A marriage? Perhaps a renegotiation of their taxes or another charter," Ralston suggested. "Something to ease relations between the Iron Throne and those most harmed by Aerys Targaryen. Stark has already lost the war, even if he does not yet know it. His father-in-law may take a cue from him."
Jon Arryn was in King's Landing with his wife and heir. Eddard Stark would require a more delicate negotiation, she knew. The other three Houses were bannermen to the three kingdoms she expected to holdout.
"A marriage would be...unwise." Elia doubted Eddard Stark would agree to a Stark-Targaryen union, no matter her own reservations on the matter. She would not force a betrothal that could end in disastrous relations, nor would she bend over to hand the Starks any number of advantages.
"Lands, more likely. Stark supposedly has two sons with no holdfasts to give them." Moat Cailin was a ruin that would take years to rebuild. A difficult fortress to pass as a ruin, she had no desire to see the Northerners given a full fortress to defend should they entertain thoughts of rebellion.
"The Iron Throne is millions of dragons in debt as it is," she continued. "Payment by way of a tax relief for them might be best. Mayhaps a charter for Seagard – though they'll have to consider the Ironborn threat."
"How many millions does the Crown owe in debt?" Ignotus asked.
"I cannot say for certain," Elia answered. "Not until I have the books before me."
"There is gold enough to alleviate the most ruinous debts," he suggested. "That too without making a sizeable dent in our own coffers."
"Gold that is separate from the Iron Throne," Elia countered. She could only guess at how much of the debt came from the Lannisters – a debt they would not see returned – but it was the others that worried her. She would not see them beggared for handling the debts of Robert Baratheon. "The Potter-Black wealth is the inheritance of Teddy and Lewyn, with a portion for Aegon, Rhaenys and Maia."
Perhaps some of it could be used to provide some relief should the Lannister portion of the debt not amount to much. Elia much preferred to have Aegon's inheritance remain separate from the treasury, lest her son find himself dependent on his lords.
"Gold that you may very well need," Ignotus said. "For all that Bloodstone has been full of surprises, I doubt you'll find the necessary gold hidden beneath the castle. Ignoring any outstanding debts to the rebel houses, there may very well be money owed elsewhere."
"I beg your pardon?" Ignotus blinked, exchanging a confused look with Ralston.
"Castamere. It is an old tale," Elia told him. "Mother told Oberyn and I the story on our journey to Casterly Rock. Lord Reyne had roused the lion's anger with their rebellion and hid in his mines after the fall of Tarbeck Hall. Lord Tywin had his men dam the river and flood the mines, killing every man, woman and child of House Reyne and Castamere. They still sing the song as a point of pride. The mines are likely still flooded."
Tywin Lannister had cemented his fury with that act, sending his singers out as a warning whenever someone got it in their head to defy him. There was little doubt in her mind that King's Landing would have turned into another warning for the Lannister.
"He drowned them and left the mines under water?" Ralston looked aghast.
She saw Ignotus shoot an irritated look at Ralston.
"What?" he defended. "Oh, come off it, Grandfather. You've hung in Potter Hall long enough to know the world was just as cruel when I lived as it was during your wars. More, perhaps; the Statute of Secrecy wasn't just for our protection. We were nearly on the brink of breaking the Accords and fighting the Muggles. The man sounds positively brutal, I'll grant that much. He also appears rather shortsighted. Why bury all that gold beneath water?"
"He has more gold than he likely knows what to do with," Elia said. Lord Tywin was stingy with his gold except when he saw a benefit to being open-handed.
"More gold than bloody sense," Ralston muttered. "He hasn't granted those lands to someone else? A brother or younger son?"
"Unless he has done so in my absence, no," Elia answered. "Doubtless he's not yet found a way to remove the water."
Ralston snorted in disdain. "If Lord Lannister has no use for gold, House Targaryen might as well claim it."
"As a royal holding," Elia corrected. "The gold and silver in the mines can be claimed for the Crown, and whatever villages belong to Castamere will be granted royal oversight." Water was a simple matter of vanishing charms for them; the bodies would require a more careful inspection and burial if there were any left.
"A Westerosi duchy," Ralston joked. "Though perhaps you should avoid giving those lands to a younger prince in future."
She made a noise of agreement. The blood of the dragon was united now, but there was no reason to tempt fate with a wealthy mine. Perhaps she could rebuild Summerhall.
Breakfast was a tense affair – one neither Elia nor her guest could ignore.
She had invited the Ladies Baratheon to join her, the two sitting stiffly amongst them. Elia knew it was an odd experience for them; where Selyse had been the Lady of Storm's End, her daughter now held the title, the mother left in the unfortunate position of having to defer to a Targaryen monarch's decisions on what would become of her family. That her brother and uncle were currently fighting alongside Elia's own family to firmly bring the Iron Throne under the rule of the dragons once more only served to make it tenser.
She would be glad when the message came, assuring her that everything had gone well and the city had been secured.
"Are your rooms to your liking?" Elia asked, turning to face Selyse.
"Yes, Your Grace," she responded stiffly. "Your hospitality is appreciated."
Elia smiled politely. "Of course. Lady Shireen is family, however distant the relation."
Elia saw Daenerys' questioning look before the older girl spoke quietly to Maia.
"Are you ready for your lessons?" Elia asked.
Dany nodded, purple eyes flicking to the quiet younger girl. "Would Lady Shireen like to join us?"
"The maester holds Daenerys' lessons after we break our fast," Elia told Selyse. "I believe they were working through the Houses of the Stormlands, if Lady Shireen would like to join them."
There was a small, unspoken exchange between mother and daughter before Selyse nodded. Elia smiled at the shy young girl as she excused herself, hair falling in her face to cover the greyscale as Dany beckoned her forward.
Selyse spoke once the three children had left. "In the interests of family, Your Grace, I should like my daughter to have more family with her as she learns to rule the Stormlands." Her voice was stern yet polite, lips pulled together in a moue of dissatisfaction.
"She'll not want for family," Elia replied. "Ser Richard and her other Lonmouth cousins are close at hand."
"Ser Richardis a man eager to see his blood in Storm's End and with a hatred for my family," she retorted. Her face flushed unpleasantly, lips moving soundlessly for a moment. "I apologize, Your Grace."
"There's no need," Elia said. "I understand the want to have one's brothers close at hand." How many times had she wished for her own tempestuous brother as her shield?
A bitter expression crossed her face. "My lord husband has appointed a smuggler from Flea Bottom as her regent."
"A loyal man," Elia said. "From all the reports on Ser Davos, his loyalty to your husband is unquestioned."
"He owes Stannis his good fortune," she countered.
"And is no threat to your daughter," Elia reminded her. There was a cold look in Selyse's eyes, her disdain for the lowborn smuggler clear. "Unfortunately, Ser Richard is not like to be the only one to voice complaint should a Florent beyond yourself gain the regency." Even Selyse's regency would have been contested, and a Florent in charge of the contentious Stormlands would have sent their loyal kingdoms in uproar.
"Of course, your daughter and yourself are welcome in King's Landing," Elia said lightly. "Daenerys will need several ladies about her, and Lady Shireen is not much younger. Your brother would be welcome as well."
Selyse gave her a tight smile, seeing the offer for what it was. "We would be honoured."
She had parted ways with Selyse at the sept, stepping inside for a moment to light a candle at the foot of the Warrior. It was not nearly as grand as the septs of her youth, but Elia saw the effort that had been put in the carefully crafted statues and the charmed windows. There was no need for her guest to know everything had been conjured with magic.
Her feet carried her to the room they had turned into a seating area. Ashara was seated on the settee, a babbling Lewyn in her arms.
"You'll need a nursemaid for this one," Ashara said as she entered, glancing at her with amused purple eyes. "A Septa as well."
"An entire household, and a small council to boot." She sighed; there were positions she would have to fill, roles Elia could no longer take sole charge of. "Would you mind terribly if I asked you to play Septa?"
"Only if you don't mind a rather scandalous Septa for your children. The Faith will be in uproar."
"I've brought a wizard to the Seven Kingdoms," Elia pointed out. "How much worse could it get?"
Ashara snorted. "I'd rather not tempt the gods."
She sat beside her friend, dropping a kiss on Lewyn's unruly locks. "What do you know of Robert's Master of Coin?"
"Littlefinger?" Ashara laughed at her confusion. "He's a Vale lord from the smallest of the Fingers. All the Riverlands knew Lord Hoster's ward as such."
Ah. Brandon Stark had likely told her that, in days long past. Elia could see the shadow of grief in Ashara's eyes for her lost babe, even as her other child rested comfortably in the Water Gardens.
"A Vale lord," she mused. "Likely exceedingly loyal to Lord Arryn. I'll have to replace him."
"He'll not make it easy to rid yourself of him," Ashara warned. "Petyr Baelish owns half the brothels in King's Landing. Remove him from the small council but be prepared to have him hang about."
"The more the merrier," she said. "Jon Arryn can live out his days at the Wall alongside Renly Baratheon."
"And who will you replace them with?"
"Lord Monford as Master of Ships," Elia said. "House Velaryon has been ever loyal, and it's practically a hereditary position for them. Viserys can sit as Master of Laws."
Ashara's brows rose in surprise. "Is he not a bit young?"
"He's twenty," Elia replied. "What were we doing at twenty?"
"Not sitting on the small council," Ashara retorted. "I do believe you were running about the desert."
Elia laughed at the teasing glint in her eyes. The Water Gardens had been the location of her youth, but she remembered many a days swanning about Dorne with her sand steed, going from castle to castle on family business while Doran spent time with the newly born Arianne.
"Viserys is old enough to take a position on the council," she said. "Robert's brother is younger and sits in King's Landing. What better time for him?"
His wedding to Arianne would be held after they had secured their hold on the kingdoms. Elia knew the older boy wanted to see Aegon seated comfortably on his throne before he took his leave of King's Landing. She would gladly let him whip the gold cloaks into shape beforehand.
"Aegon plans to name him his Hand," Ashara guessed.
"Eventually," she admitted. "A Targaryen Hand for a Targaryen King." And his other kin beside him, she knew. Her son was not yet comfortable with their customs, no matter how he learned. That Viserys would help was unquestioned. It was the other two she worried about, wondering what the three were plotting amongst themselves as to their place alongside their brother. "I am sorely tempted to keep Lord Randyll as Hand."
"And deal with the haranguing Tyrells?"
"Lord Tyrell is overreaching. His son can sit as Master of Coin," Elia said. "I've not forgotten the man kept his army seated before Storm's End." Had anyone else been sent to relieve the siege at Storm's End, Elia may not have had a contingent of Reachers eager to see the dragons restored.
"He'll bring his daughter to King's Landing," Ashara said lightly.
"Of course he will," Elia muttered. "I do hope he's prepared for all the Dornish lords crawling about the keep and all the other maidens vying for Aegon's attention."
"Doran is your brother," Ashara warned. "Many will see it as favouritism."
It was perhaps selfish of her, but Elia wanted a Hand whose loyalty was unquestioned. That Doran would come to King's Landing was certain, and her little brother and husband could spend whatever time they needed making certain the Spider's little birds were no threat to them.
"They can make all the accusations they wish; I have just over a year to ensure the court's loyalty. Doran is not like to fall under the Spider's sway," Elia sighed. I am, as ever, a loyal servant of the realm, he had written. "Varys is useful, but a spider can only be trusted so far."
The door crashed open, startling Lewyn into crying.
"Shh, sweetling," Elia murmured, taking the little babe into her arms.
Maia froze, glancing at Elia in surprise. Lewyn began to quiet, her hand soothing him as Elia hummed an old lullaby.
"You're not finished your lessons, little sun," Ashara said, grabbing Maia's attention.
"Maester Garth said I can get a book," she said.
"In the sitting room?" Elia questioned.
"The library," she insisted. "I can't reach it Mama. Can Aunt Shara help?"
Elia hid her smile in Lewyn's curls, seeing the wide-eyed look of innocence Maia sent them.
"She's terribly good at this," Ashara murmured quietly.
"She's had years to practice," Elia answered.
"Come along then," Ashara said, standing with a long-suffering sigh. "I suppose I canhelp you."
Elia laughed, seeing Maia's bright smile as she grabbed onto Ashara's hand.
"What do I do with your sister, hmm?"
Lewyn's only response was a pitiful hiccup.
Elia stood before the dragons, her palm resting comfortably against Stormbringer's scaly jaw. They were as docile as dragons could be in her presence, no longer as snappish as they had been in those early days.
She cast her eyes toward Caelyx, the red dragon sulking a ways from them. Intelligent and vicious creatures they may be, but Elia could not see beyond their sullen behaviour.
"You are still too small to fly into battle," she told the dragon. "The both of you." They towered over Elia, the magic of Bloodstone helping them grow quickly, yet there was a fragility to them that suggested they were not ready to bear weight.
Caelyx snorted, a warm gust of air leaving him as he turned his head away. She rolled her eyes in exasperation. I am dealing with five children once more, Elia thought; this time, the youngest was a babe and the only walking parselmouth in the castle was her mischievous five-year-old. She adored Maia, but Elia had no illusions as to what her daughter would do should the dragons obey her.
The sudden shift from the dragons alerted her to her visitor, the soft clink of chains echoing in the godswood as his footsteps crunched against the floor. He wouldn't come any closer, hoping the dragons did not take offence to his presence.
"Your Grace," Maester Garth spoke.
Your Grace, she thought. The remnants of Aerys' men called her that, deferring to her once status as the queen-in-waiting. Garth was different, more meticulous in his address though he had not known Elia before her return.
"Bloodstone is not a kingdom unto itself," Elia said lightly. She had humoured him for the last weeks, ignoring his insistence on referring to Lewyn and Maia as he did, but it seemed she could no longer ignore the words.
"Yet it cannot be part of the Seven Kingdoms, Your Grace." The words were returned in equal measure, bearing the familiar tone of an old argument. "Not now when Princ—forgive me, King Aegon is so near to restoring his throne."
"Have our Essosi friends said anything?" Elia asked.
"Not officially," Garth replied. "Once His Grace is officially installed in King's Landing, the Three Daughters may seek an answer to the question of the Stepstones. Or they may decide it is in their interest to secure the island when it is so…loosely defended."
"Bloodstone will hold," Elia told him. "We have four ships in harbour and three hundred men-at-arms, Maester Garth. The dragons may not be able to bear the weight of a rider but I daresay they can cause enough damage on their own."
"For now," Garth warned. "There are others who practice magic in Essos, Your Grace. Foul magicks that the Three Daughters would have no qualms using if it meant wrestling the islands from your hold and seeing those dragons destroyed."
"Bloodstone will hold," she repeated. The wards around the island kept any unwanted visitors away and there were no other wizards with the knowledge of magical wards in their vicinity – not on the scale of the magicals she had known.
Unless there were Unspeakables running about Essos, Elia felt more than confident that the wards created by generations of Potters would keep the island safe from any intruders.
"I would be remiss in my duties if I ignored the possible threat, Your Grace," he persisted. "In that vein, while I would suggest letting the Three Daughters quarrel amongst themselves, the Iron Throne gaining dominion of the Stepstones may be one such issue they are willing to renew their allegiance over."
"The island is not beholden to the Seven Kingdoms," she conceded. "Yet it is in the interests of the kingdoms to have it remain out of the hands of the Three Daughters — an interest the other Free Cities may share. They have no love for the Triarchy."
"It is not highly unusual for the King on the Iron Throne to call another king brother," he said. "Bloodstone – the entirety of the Stepstones, truthfully – belongs now to the Houses Potter and Black; houses under a lord whose lordship is not recognized in the Seven Kingdoms. If the idea of a King of the Stepstones is too quarrelsome, the Rhoynish titles can be adopted instead."
She made a noise of agreement, swiftly changing the topic lest he begin to natter on about potential betrothals. He was a dutiful maester, careful not to overstep his boundaries, but the man was persistent in certain regards.
"How is Lady Baratheon?" she asked, giving a final pat to Stormbringer before turning to leave. Garth fell into step beside her as Elia made way for the far end of the castle, relief in his eyes. The maester did not have a Valyrian steel link, but he had taken surprisingly well to the oddities of their household that Elia near always forgot his discomfort in the godswood.
"She is well settled, Your Grace," Garth confirmed. "Her lady mother keeps her close, though I fear the young princesses will find some way to coax her into their play beyond the lessons she has joined."
"Perhaps for the best," Elia replied. "Daenerys and Maia are rather difficult to deny; a friend may do her some good. Have you made any progress?"
"Not as yet," Garth replied. "Lord Linfred has been a great help; still, it is not something they are intimately familiar with. The skin can perhaps be easily treated, Your Grace, but Lord Linfred worries - rightly - that the disease may linger in her organs."
He saw the look on her face, hurrying to explain himself. "There is no fear of spread, Your Grace, however we must find a treatment for the underlying issue or it may return."
No fear of spread, she thought. A comforting thought, though she worried on how the girl would handle a potential resurgence of her illness.
"We'll not speak of it to the Baratheons until you are certain as to a treatment," she told him.
"Of course," Garth agreed, quieting as they entered the gatehouse. The two guards straightened, hands tightening on their spears.
"Princess," Ser Ulrick greeted, his helm held at his side. "Maester."
"Ser Ulrick," Elia smiled. "No troubles here?"
"None at all, Princess," Ulrick answered, a slight grin on his face. "The dragons come and go as they please and the princesses do the same."
"They've not bothered you, have they?" Elia questioned.
"Not at all, Princess." The knight shook his head, an amused glint in his eyes. "The elves make sure they head right back to the keep when they come."
"Do let me know if any troubles arise," Elia said, leaving the guard with a final smile.
They took the longer route to the inner keep, winding their way through Bloodstone's halls. They were like tunnelled caverns, large enough to hold four horses abreast and tall enough for three men to stand atop each other, and the few windows on the lower floor faced the godswood.
"There are other matters I should like to bring to your attention, Your Grace," he said, voice echoing in the corridor.
"Beyond your research?" she asked, smoothing her brow as she led the way through the keep.
"Of King's Landing, Princess," Garth said.
"What of King's Landing?" she asked, pinning him with dark eyes.
"There was a raven," he began. From the Citadel, she guessed. Elia had not yet heard from Harry - had not seen one of the elves disappear to answer his call - in spite of their having taken the city. No ravens would fly from King's Landing to Bloodstone.
She buried her unease, trusting that her family was safe.
"What does the order of maesters wish to discuss?" Elia questioned.
"Grand Maester Pycelle's dismissal."
She forced herself to keep walking, smiling as two guards hurried past. Maester Garth straightened, his circle of chains hanging below his waist. He wore the rough-hewn wool of his order, almost as if the maester's were merely humble servants and not purveyors of knowledge. Had she not been intimately familiar with them, she might have confused them for Unspeakables.
"A Grand Maester's continuance in their position is a matter for the Conclave," Elia stated. That had been one of her earlier lessons as a child, learning the power the council of maesters wielded.
"The Conclave does not deny their right to appoint or remove a maester," Garth conceded. "However, should the Crown decide it was in their best interest to retain Pycelle as Grand Maester, the Conclave would strongly disagree; his actions are a reflection of the Citadel – acts the Conclave cannot possibly condone."
"I should think a maester's position of counsel was one the Citadel would agree with. No matter the results of the Sack," Elia said. She continued through the winding halls closer to the inner keep, mind racing as she thought on his words.
"Perhaps. Yet it is not the Sack I speak of," Garth told her, "though his incompetence has lent greater scrutiny toward his decisions."
An echo of a memory came to her; Lewyn's birth had been more difficult than Maia's, but Elia still remembered Garth's surprise through the haze of pain.
"You speak of my children," Elia guessed.
"The Citadel was told you would never again bear a living child, Your Grace," Garth replied.
"Something that was no doubt mentioned by Maester Hallyn," Elia retorted. Dragonstone's maester had been a singularly determined man, insistent that another child would be the death of her.
Garth looked surprised. "Maester Hallyn was most insistent on the dangers to your health, Princess, but that was all. The report came from King's Landing. Your womb had been damaged by the births of Princess Rhaenys and Prin-forgive me, King Aegon, and to birth another child would be impossible. Prince Lewyn's birth has categorically proven that false."
Of course it has, Elia thought. They would never know that a healer had seen to her health, all those years ago. Nor that the healer's concern had not been for her womb. It was almost grating to have to face scrutiny for her ability to birth heirs after years away.
"So he lied," Elia stated.
"More than mere lies, Your Grace. With the outcome of the Rebellion, the Citadel has no choice but to regard Grand Maester Pycelle's decision-making as compromised and to the greater detriment of the Targaryen rule."
"And what, Maester Garth, does the Citadel propose to do?" Elia asked.
"The Conclave is to meet at this very moment, Your Grace. A selection will be put forth and the chosen maester sent to King's Landing. The Conclave only asks that the Iron Throne support the decision to remove Pycelle."
Plots within plots, she thought. The Citadel rarely cared for royal assent – Elia could only guess at how many archmaesters Pycelle had irritated.
"When you next correspond with the archmaesters, a Valyrian steel link would not be unwanted in King's Landing," Elia said. She couldn't yet influence the Citadel as she would the Faith, but Garth was a known presence - one with the favour of the archmaesters, if Caleotte was to be believed. "Preferably one of their number."
"Of course, Princess," Garth bowed.
"Is there anything else that needs my immediate attention?"
"Only the younger princesses lessons," Garth said. "Princess Daenerys is well-versed in High Valyrian. Her knowledge of House sigils is sound, though she has several minor bannermen to relearn."
"Of which kingdoms?"
"Mainly the Westerlands," he answered. "She knows all of Dorne, and her knowledge of the Crownlands is just as good."
They turned a corner, the bright flare of light in the widening corridor illuminating the portraits hung on the walls. Half of them were empty, their occupants likely wandering the castle or meeting with their many relatives.
"The Potter portraits have insisted on seeing to Princess Maia's lessons," Garth said. She had a snort from the portrait ahead, vaguely making out Julius Potter's features before he disappeared. No doubt he'll be crowing about it to the others, she thought. Elia could guess well enough that the lone Black portrait would see it fitting for one of their blood to have those titles.
"There are certain things Maia can learn only from them. I'll see to it that they don't deprive her of a well-rounded education, Maester."
"My thanks, Your Grace."
Elia dismissed him as she came closer to the great hall. It was largely empty, but for the three girls in the centre. There was a soft buzzing sound, growing louder as the snitch flitted past her.
"Mama!" Maia bounded forward, a grin on her face.
"Are you girls having fun?"
"Yes, Your Grace," Shireen said, dropping into a curtsy. "I sh-"
"There's no need to stop playing," Elia told her, waving away her apologies. "I'll not interrupt you girls. Dany, a word."
Maia tugged on the older girls hand, dragging Shireen into chasing after the snitch.
"She doesn't like me," Dany said.
"She doesn't know you," Elia corrected. "Has she said anything?"
"No," Dany admitted, eyes flicking to where the two younger girls were running. "She's quiet."
"It'll take some time, Dany," Elia said kindly. "Shireen is not used to people playing with her."
"Because of her scars?" she asked quietly. "Maia thinks they're interesting. That's not bad," Dany said hurriedly. "She's not going to morph. I made her promise."
Elia would have to remind her daughter as well. Maia morphed out of affection, but Shireen's scars were not appropriate to mimic.
"Keep an eye on them, will you? Shireen may be joining us in King's Landing. I'd like for you all to get along."
Daenerys' lilac eyes were solemn as she nodded. "I promise."
It would take three days after Lady Shireen and Lady Selyse's arrival before Elia received word that King's Landing had been taken, the Red Keep once more in Targaryen hands.
She ignored Ralston's snort of amusement as he goaded James' portrait, eyes scanning the letter in hand as Ashara's careful eyes watched her.
"He'll be perfectly fine with it," James argued. "Teddy's not an idiot."
"The boy dislikes being called a lord," Ralston laughed. "He's been Heir Potter-Black his entire life; not a prince, not yet a lord for all that he would have taken those titles eventually. Call Edward a prince and he might finally be rendered speechless."
"Teddy is not in England anymore," James retorted.
"He's also not you," Ralston pressed. "Prince Potter, hmm?"
James' voice held an offended tone. "If keeping Aegon's reign secure means Teddy lays claim to the Stepstones as a separate ruler, he will do it. He loves his sib—Elia? Is something wrong?"
She blinked, glancing at the portrait to see concerned hazel eyes. Ralston was stood beside James, his own grey eyes crinkled in worry.
"You've gone pale," Ralston noted. "Are Harry and the children well?"
Damn you, Aerys, she thought.
"I have to go to King's Landing," she said.
"King's Landing?" James asked. "Has something happened?"
"They're fine," she answered, sitting heavily in her chair. "There's wildfire under the city."
She heard Ashara's sharp intake of breath, the growing horror in her eyes a reflection of Elia's own.
They would have to clear out the caches from Aerys' pyromancers. All this too while an army gathered and likely prepared to lay siege to the city.
"Ashara, I'll ne—"
"You don't have to ask," Ashara interjected. "I know."
Damn them all, she thought.
A small note: muggles and magicals living together means that this is an AU interpretation of Wizarding History. The Anarchy was a civil war between Henry I's daughter and his nephew. The Accords Ralston references are what kept Magical Britain largely self-sufficient until the Statute of Secrecy was in effect. It lets the Wizengamot exist and govern Magical Britain while keeping the magicals out of muggle wars. They came into effect around the same time as the Magna Carta. This may or may not come up again later on.
To answer any questions/comments:
YDdraigGoch94: I love the idea of them as friends. The focus will mainly be on the characters and their relationships, especially once they get settled in King's Landing. The Graftons are playing their cards close - we'll see the Vale lords in three chapters. Barristan is weird, because nobody thought twice about him bending the knee to Robert. Varys is still around, but he's got greater scrutiny on him. Marwyn is going to pop up soon.
osterreicher97: Glad you liked it! Jaime's got a few things to answer for.
era-romance: Jaime is conflicted. He'll pop up soon, but Elia and the kids surviving and his having to fight against loyalists did a number on him. Joffrey is not his, and Myrcella and Tommen are a result of his giving in to Cersei. In canon, I always got the sense she was the more dominant twin, and Jaime at the end was slowly breaking away from her.
Flamingp0tat0: lots of valuable hostages. The Vale lost their lord and heir. The Reach is already on their side. It's more a matter of dealing with Tywin (via battle) and sueing for peace with the other lords. Glad you liked the battle! Euron is still out somewhere in Planetos. Jon is going to be more like book Jon. Lol, Baelish is going to walk in expecting to get his way and be surprised.
red demon161: Teddy is a big prize. Maester Garth wasn't lying about Bloodstone needing to be kept separate from the Iron Throne unless they want war, and he's more than done his part in keeping his men alive. Viserys is a knight, Teddy will likely earn his spurs soon. Just the Targs as dragon riders for now, but more magic in Westeros mixed with the small amounts of Valyrian blood from Elia could change the future.
Famond: glad you're enjoying so far. Shireen will get as much help. We see Renly next chapter. The Starks are owed reparations, but no king would bend over backwards to appease them. Teddy is a young guy with all the world before him. He's not too keen on marrying just yet. Val is always an option.
Freelook: Ned has no reason to like the Targaryens. He chose his king before the Trident, and there was no horrifying murder of Elia and her kids to get between them. That said, there was about 6 years of war that opened his eyes to the lengths certain people are willing to go to. We see Ned in ch.66, so we'll see his thoughts. And others aren't as willing to continue fighting.
artemis926: Cheers! Jaime will pop up soon. Myrcella and Tommen are his, but Joffrey being trueborn throws off any suspicion.
krasni: Varys is playing his game. The other kingdoms might not be so eager to ally with each other; we'll see them in ch.66. Less Robb saving Rhaenys, but they will interact.
javi30: Tywin is seething. We'll see all the other players in ch.66 and look at their mindsets. Varys is playing the long game.
Duner89: Ned is not going to be thrilled.
Miltonius: Shireen's gonna win them over eventually.
Up next; Harry Potter vs the Small Council.