The Storm In a Goblet
Nuncle Duncan had not been the same since the death of his wife, Jenny of Oldstones. Of course, Rhaegar did not know this, not as a small child. He had only ever known his good nuncle as a calm man, a man of little words but great value, a man of sad smiles and sadder eyes, and a steadfast, unwavering way about him.
Yet, he had not always been so, Rhaegar was told.
Duncan had once been boisterous and jolly, a man who could charm the rivers to run backwards, and for the moon to rise at dawn, and for half-mad woods witches to wed him, his mother, Rhaella, said one day.
He once had a wife, a strange but lovely wife, with mud on her bare feet and lilies woven into her fire-kissed hair, and grass stains on her skirts, and Duncan had once smiled so freely, laughed freer still, and-
And it was all scorched away from him in the tragedy of Summerhall.
The day Rhaegar Targaryen was born, in a cloud of soot-smoke and screams.
No one knew what happened that day, or those who did do not speak of it, as if it were so terrible the mere word of it could wrought rot and ruin. Three died in that calamity, his good-aunt Jenny, his grandfather Aegon, and, worse still, the babe that had begun to swell Jenny's stomach round.
Nevertheless, his nuncle survived, half his face burned to some tangled knot of flesh where he had tried to reach his wife and babe, only to be dragged back aflame by Ser Duncan the tall, and nuncle Duncan, Duncan the daring, Duncan the dauntless, Duncan the deathless, as he was named thereafter, was never the same.
Rhaegar felt the loss as if it were his own, long before he knew how to spell grief.
Rhaegar never stepped out of the shadow the tragedy of Summerhall casts. It leached into him from a young age, from the womb some suspect, and his dreams were tinged in ash that caked his tongue in heartache.
And what terrible dreams they were.
They drove him half mad, Rhaegar thought, half mad, half desperate, and half something else entirely. He dreamt of suns being speared by mountains, and winter roses drying out to dust in deserts to be blown away in a howl, and a great hammer, frightfully large, coming right at him, and his blood was not blood but rubies, rubies smallfolk pick and pluck from a river and string into necklaces, and suddenly he was a million pieces spread about Westeros and Essos, lost in the woods and-
He woke up in sweats from those dreams, eight name days old and a shout snared in his throat, and his mother, Rhaella, kissed his forehead sweetly, and sung him back to slumber on those dreadful nights. Her sweet son, her only son, there was nothing to fear, she told him.
Yet, he dreamt on, and they roll in him like a storm, a storm in a goblet, too tight and too close, and he dreamt of something else completely.
A woman kissed by fire, with mud on her feet and lilies in her hair and a stag at her back, and it was Jenny, Rhaegar knew though he had never seen her for himself, it was aunt Jenny, and her dying scream in a flash of green so sickening Rhaegar awoke in a puddle of his own vomit.
He dreamt of a Targaryen babe, silver haired with a ribbon of red-fire hair at her temple, and eyes the colour of wildfire, and the Stranger snatches her from nuncle Duncan's straining grasp.
He dreamt of a beast, something twisted, something warped, something wrong. It hisses and shouts, quasi man and semi-snake, noseless and mouth agape, and it tried to eat that Targaryen babe whole, in one gulp, in one greed.
He dreamt of ogres the size of small Septs, and chessboards that come alive, and men with two faces, horrifying, awful faces. He dreamt of monsters of scale that turned men to stone, and books that spoke back with deadly charm. He dreamt of griffins, and prisons jutting out of a raging sea, and shades that could kiss a man's soul out right from his mouth. He dreamt of mazes, and magic, and death and-
He dreams of her.
The child that died while Rhaegar lived.
Rhaegar was ten name days old when he had the dream. A great dragon, silver scaled, the size of a small city, falling from the sky of Harrenhall to crash upon the ground in an eruption of lily petals the colour of dragonglass and blood.
When the dust settled in his dream, he saw her there, the girl with a slip of fire in her hair, laying on the ground where the dragon had once been, right at his bare feet, Rhaegar always dreamt he was bare footed, cold and pale and dead.
He could not make sense of it, that dream and many others. A dragon, his House, his family, dead at his feet…
When Rhaegar woke up that morn, he put down his harp and picked up his sword.
Rhaegar was not convinced it was in him to be happy. Not in the way other's could be, so much so that it burst from their faces like light from suns. No, that was not him, not quite, not ever. Rhaegar was more moonlight than star fire, nuncle Duncan said, and many would agree.
Music, Rhaegar was likewise told, was the food of love, and love was the greatest joy one could find in the world.
While it may not have been in him to be happy, he still wanted to be.
Wanted so much it burned.
And so he played his harp, and he sang and Rhaegar's music only made people weep, never more so than when he and his family visited Casterly Rock when he was but ten and two.
His father, Aerys, enjoyed the company of the Lord there, Tywin Lannister, an old friend from Aerys's childhood, and his mother similarly admired the Lord's wife, Lady Joanna. His father, Rhaegar was sure, hoped Rhaegar would similarly be inclined to friendship with Tywin Lannister's son, Jaime, a boy seven name days his junior.
At two and ten and five, the two did not, currently, have much in common, and the way Jaime's twin, a little golden haired girl called Cersei, clung to Rhaegar's doublet and demanded another dance with a huff and a stomp with eyes green-
The wrong shade of green, set a spill of something… Aching in Rhaegar's belly.
Rhaegar did not quite remember when the harp was placed in his grip, or exactly when his mother convinced him to sing, but he did remember his hesitation as his fingers lingered over string. He did not sing of maidens that night. Nor gallant knights and tourneys won. Instead, Rhaegar sang of his dreams.
He sang of a girl, with a ribbon of fire in her hair and lilies at her mud streaked feet, sealed in a closet and left alone in the dark.
He sang of a girl born to die, a death so lonely, in a long dreary woods, with the ghosts of her mother and friends watching on.
He sang of a girl who loved deep, and sacrificed deeper, who burned too bright and too hard for her dark, dark world.
He sang and they wept, and they wept and he sang, and nuncle Duncan fled the room with eyes hazy, and his breath short gasps, and a terrible tremble to his hand. They dubbed it Jenny's song, and he sang it only once more to such a large crowd, much later, at the tourney of Harrenhal.
They wept there too.
Yet, two weeks hence, nuncle Duncan came to his bedside one eve.
"Sing me that song, will you lad? Just one more time?"
Rhaegar did, for many evenings, for many years, and nuncle Duncan was the only one to ever smile at his Jenny's song.
Rhaegar was a good son, no one could argue anything other. He did his duty promptly, he learned swiftly, and he mastered the courtly dances of politics more fit for pit vipers than people before his four and tenth nameday.
His Mother and Father were proud. Rhaegar was valent, and noble, and honourable, and a Prince of Princes, countless whispered.
And he only ever broke the expectations of him once.
Elia Martell was a beautiful woman, only five namedays his senior. She came to King's Landing in a cortege of Dornish delight, when Steffon Baratheon had failed to find Rhaegar a Valyrian bride over the Sunset sea. A task that had cost him his life, and that of his wife's, and three orphan children were now Lords of Storms End.
Rhaegar was faultless during her visit. He held her hand and led her on walks through the gardens, he wrote her poetry and gifted roses, he made good with her brother, Prince Oberyn, and delighted her ladies with bows of his silver head in their direction.
And on the last day of their visit, during the feast in the main hall, he danced with her, swept her about the hall in flutters of silk and velvet. When they stopped, both a little breathless, both a little feverish from honied wine and the heat of closely pressed bodies, Rhaegar, staring at eyes not green, and hair not silver and scarlet, at a smile so lovely, but so wrongly lovely, not lopsided enough, not toothy enough, not-
Not enough, he froze like a filly in its first joust.
"I cannot wed you."
It fled him before he could stop it, a rush of something in his chest leaking out, like the storm in the goblet, like his dreams, and Elia, lovely, pretty Elia, so soft and warm in his arms, blinked up at him.
"Have I done something, my Prince? Have I… Displeased you?"
Rhaegar shook his head until the hair at his shoulders whipped.
"No, 'tis not you, my Lady. It is I, I think."
Rhaegar had not expected Elia to smile as brilliantly as she did then, but it eased some of his crushing fear.
She would make a wife like no other, one day.
Just not his.
"Is that not what all the Lords say?"
Rhaegar laughed, despite himself, or perhaps because of it. For the first time in his life, he felt cut loose, a man all his own making, with no kingdom or crown or kin to fear for.
"For this once, I believe it holds true. I cannot wed you, and I… I do not believe I can say why. I just… I can't. And, I suspect, there might be another you would rather see at the altar?"
Her dark gaze flew from his in a dash, over his broad shoulder to the far end of the grand hall, to the shadows and doors where, Rhaegar knew, Ser Arthur Dayne was standing vigil. Her dusky skin flushed a charming pink.
"Am I so obvious, or are you as perceptive as the people say, my Prince? For my pride, I hope it is the latter."
They began to dance again, a soft sway and slip, and it was less stiff this time, less performed, less rehearsed. Just a Prince and Princess doing what they could for the people they profoundly cared for.
"Perhaps it is a bit of both, for both our vanities."
Elia joined in with his laughter. They became friends, he and she, even after Elia left King's Landing to return to Dorne, an easy sort of camaraderie based upon want and wanting, and never being able to have.
Rhaegar with his dreams, and Elia with her sworn Sword of Dawn.
Rhaegar remained steadfast in his judgment, not only for himself but for Elia. Even as his father raged, and as his mother pleaded, Rhaegar did not fold.
He would not wed, not to Elia, not to Cersei, not to a Stark or a Tyrell or a Tully, or anyone else his father could ferret out.
Nuncle Duncan laughed for the first time in years when he heard of, what came to be known in the family, Rhaegar's Rebellion. He laughed until there were tears in his eyes, and his ribs throbbed, and he hunched down deep in his chair. Much to his father's despair, and his mother's unwitting grin, Duncan clapped him up the back and jostled him heartily.
"That's my nephew!"
The people of Lannisport cheered Cersei's father twice as loudly as they cheered for the King, but even that was only as half as loud as the reception Prince Rhaegar received.
At seven and ten, Prince Rhaegar was, finally, not an only son, with the hopes of a dynasty resting in his sole hands. His mother had given birth a few moons hence to a small boy, a round little thing of violet eye and silver curl and lungs that could scream named Viserys, and in celebration, Tywin Lannister held a tournament for the Princes birth at Lannisport.
Aerys had not wished to attend, but relented eventually at the urging of his wife, though she and the babe stayed behind in King's Landing, still too young and too weak for such strenuous travel.
The tourney was held beneath the walls of Lannisport, on stands erected seemingly overnight, below the cheers of the smallfolk echoing off Casterly Rock like thunder. The girl, Cersei, then ten namedays old, believed herself in love with him.
She, of course, was not. Not truly. She loved that Rhaegar was newly knighted. She loved that he was crown Prince. She loved the thought of her own crown one day, and lion cubs on a throne, and all that glittered, as any other Lannister in their long, long history.
Cersei loved the idea of him, not him, the boy with melancholy in his soul and a musicians hand.
She was, also, a child.
A poor child her father kept trying to foist upon him.
It did not work. Anew, Rhaegar stood firmly in his decision not to wed, made even more stony at the thought of wedding a small child. Tywin, in turn, blustered and bristled, but, fortunately, there was nothing else he could do but storm about his Keep in subdued wrath.
He calmed further when Aerys, in an odd bout of perception and cunning, negotiated a contract between Cersei's hand for little Viserys's, should she still be unwed by the time the second Prince reached the appropriate age.
Cersei would be no Queen, and perhaps that was best for all, given what Rhaegar had spied of how she treated her maids already at ten namedays old, but she would be an aunt to Kings and Queens, and that, to Tywin Lannister, was better than a Lady of some far off nameless castle.
She still wailed something fierce when she was told the news, as children who had everything they wished for cried over being told 'no', but, Rhaegar thought, small breaks could make bones stronger, and if the worst was to come, at least she and Viserys could scream so loudly together.
Prince Rhaegar was one and twenty, and still regretfully unwed, in his father's opinion, and haunted by his dreams at the tourney of Harrenhal. Announced by Lord Walter Whent, shortly after he was visited by his brother, Ser Oswell Whent of the Kingsguard, the rewards offered by the Lord were three times greater than those presented by Lord Tywin Lannister in the tourney in honour of Prince Viserys's birth at Lannisport. The lavish prizes, as gold and gilt was often to do, drew hundreds of challengers to his Keep, and Walter soaked it in, boasting his castle and his fine sons.
There were some, however, that believed the Whents lacked the funding for the prizes, and therefore whispered of shadow hosts in dark corners of taverns.
It was Duncan, Rhaegar knew.
The tourney was to be held on the days stretching the same of the tragedy of Summerhall, one and twenty years past, and this, all the music, and the joy, and the merriment to be made, was what should have been so long ago.
Duncan was dancing with his ghosts again.
Rhaegar could not criticize his nuncle for doing so.
Ghosts were not spectres from a land of gods and monsters. Ghosts were guilt. Ghosts were secrets. Ghosts were regrets and failings. Yet, most times… Most times a ghost was a wish.
A wish for a day to have gone differently.
A wish for a life ended another way.
A wish for a story to be told, and to begin again.
A wish of a wife and an unborn babe.
King Aerys, who knew his brother well, who knew he could not, would not, ever speak about that day, let it be and allowed the smallfolk to hiss their imagined plots and conspiracies. Perhaps he too wished to dance with his own ghosts for a turn or two, or perhaps Rhaella, with Viserys at her skirts, once more, talked sense into him.
Dancing or dead, the first night proved to be a pleasant time. A feast was held in the Hall of a Hundred Hearths, and nearly all of Westeros was in attendance. Starks and Reeds, Dustins and Hornwoods, Manderlys and Mormonts, as the Wolf Lords so loved to say, Winter had come, trickling down south of the neck clad in leathers and beards.
Lord Robert Baratheon drank wine with Ser Richard Lonmouth, Tywin Lannister broke bread with Rickard Stark, a wandering crow sought recruits for the Night's Watch, and Benjen Stark teased his sister, a Lyanna Stark, for weeping at Rhaegar's song which he had sung early in the night at the request of his nuncle.
Lady Ashara Dayne danced with Arthur, Prince Oberyn, and Lord Jon Connington, and, eventually, a shy and timid Eddard Stark, who stumbled over his feet when the lovely Lady smiled at him.
And that was about when the screaming started.
It came from a flood outside, from the gatherings of the smallfolk holding their own feasts in the temperate dusk outside the main Keep. The Knights and the Kingsguard were the first sent out to discover the plight by their Liege Lords, and they came back ashen faced and panicked.
"Dragon! In the Skies! A Dragon!"
The Seven Hells broke loose.
People scattered like ash caught in the breeze. Some ran, trampling over anything and anyone in their way. Others cried in fear. Daughter's huddled in their mother's skirts, and sons drew their father's longswords.
Rhaegar gathered his own party in the chaos, snatching at elbows and tugging with demands keen and quick on his lips. By the time he thundered from the Keep, armed and prepared, after urging his mother, father, and small brother out back to the horses, only Connington, Arthur Dayne, Selmy, Duncan, Brandon Stark and Prince Oberyn had followed.
Tents and tables were overturned outside, ruined and wrecked in people's fleeing, food spilled into the mud and casks of wine toppled, horses bolted free from stable to neigh and stomp and kick, and though dusk was falling steadily, there was still enough sunlight to bathe the skies in dull amber light.
Dull amber light that reflected off the smudge of black in the skies flying-
Something was falling from the skies, right upon Harrenhal, something-
Silver. Scaled. Big.
There was a dragon in the sky, a huge beast of wing and fury, falling upon them, and Rhaegar thought he was dreaming all over again because, there, right there, it happened anew.
The beast fell. It skidded into the earth with a quake and a shudder, and a terrible roll, kicking up dirt and stable and all in its disastrous path. It skidded, it trundled, it stopped… and when the dust cleared, Rhaegar saw it for what it was, in a small field of flowers-
It rolled into a field of river lilies, and it did not stay down for long. It scrambled up onto its great forelegs, quivered its immense wings and-
And whined, as it nuzzled something unseen at its razor taloned feet.
A man possessed, half dreaming, half desperate, half something else entirely, he ran. Connington tried to grab him, Dayne called his name, Oberyn reached for him, but he was gone, down the keep, down the hill, to the little field of river lilies.
He only paused a few feet away, as the great dragon's eye, a gem of amber and fire and something coldly brutal, landed upon him and a bone shaking growl echoed in the still air still stained with screaming. The chilling rumbling only stopped as Rhaegar did, a few feet away, heart pounding, palms sweaty, and something frantically despairing swelling in his rib cage.
That's when he saw it. What the dragon had at his feet, what he had dreamed so long ago. A dream, it seemed, no longer. As the dragon's head lifted to roar and snarl, a hostility that broke off to a cautious, almost curious watching at the sight of Rhaegar, the body came into view.
The girl with a strip of fire in her hair laid prone on the ruined bed of lilies, skin so pale it seemed carved from marble, strange clothes a tattered stew of blood and dirt and soot. Her eyes were closed, as if she were in a deep slumber, but her chest was still, so still, silent, unmoving, and-
She burst to life in a gasp, a surge, and impossibly green eyes.
"Bloody hell… That never gets any easier."
A.N/ I was asked by a lovely reviewer from one of my other stories if I were willing to do a Rhaegar Targaryen/Fem Targaryen Harry story. This is the beginning of what I came up with, and I don't think I really need to say this is a strong AU for both Harry Potter and A Game Of Thrones, but, well, it really is. This fic will also contain smut, if you are against that sort of thing, and cousin incest, so fair warning! If Fem!Harry's, a healthy side of smut to go with your fluff and angst, and fics that stray far from canon are your cup of tea, put your feet up, grab a mug, and let's get going!
P.S: Ghosts were guilt. Ghosts were secrets. Ghosts were regrets and failings. Yet, most times… Most times a ghost was a wish, is a quote from a Haunting of Hill House, the Netflix show. It's a wonderful show about loss and grief, with some really beautiful bits of dialogue, so while I wish I could take credit for that line, I can't, and I would advise you guys to go see the show if you haven't already.