Chapter Three:

The Northerner


Aegon Targaryen I


V.

The serenity of the early morning was misleading. The sun had scarcely climbed above the horizon, and many of the Smallfolk were still breaking fast, the maids of the Red Keep would be only now turning fires in hearths, and preparing baths of herb scented waters, airing out linens for the guests arriving three hours hence.

Aegon should have been within his Keep, by his wives' side, arranging the days affairs. Instead, he stood upon the low-down hook of the coast, spared from the onshore winds of Blackwater Bay only by the cloak of hefty wool and downy furs swathed over his form.

His feet were bare in the shoals and dirt-sand, he had not time, nor much thought, to grab them and lace them up upon being awoken by a word from one of his squires knocking upon his chamber door, who brought him news of a fisherwoman telling tales down in the favelas of King's Landing.

Usually not something a King would concern himself with, but neither were these usual times or a usual King. Aegon Targaryen had his own way, perhaps not always the right way, but it was his, and he would see this through.

Perhaps his haste had been necessary, significantly required, Aegon thought as he crooked down low on his flanks, fingers stretching for the earth below, spread far, touching the displaced ground and salt crusted stones before him.

His hand snatched back to his side as if the land itself burned him, if he could, in truth, ever be burned.

A Targaryen could be lost to sickness, and madness, and folly, but never fire.

Aegon stood once more just as the clatter of hooves thrusting pitch came roaring out from behind him. Visenya, hair loose and wild, scowling at the coming sun, came riding over the hill and down to the shoreline, garbed as if she had ridden straight from her bed to here, much as Aegon had. She grumbled at him as she dismounted.

"What urgency made you believe calling me here at this ungodly hour was any idea to be had?"

Aegon merely nodded to the ground before them.

A footprint was smashed into the supple soil, clawed, three advancing digits, one recessive, backward placed.

A dragon's imprint.

Visenya huffed, exasperation rinsing cheeks raw.

"Balerion has left a footpath. How does this concern me?"

Aegon shook his head, short silver locks fluttering in the sea breeze.

"I roosted Balerion three caves out of Kind's Landing to the north. We have not gone flying for the last fortnight, for we have all been taken arranging the festivities for today. This was not him, and it was not me."

Visenya stole another glance at the imprint in the sand and stone, and, finally, saw what Aegon had upon first glance.

The footprint was shockingly large, greater than anything Vhagar or Meraxes could make though they were no small dragons themselves, the latter capable of having a horse rode down its open maw and still have room for a lance at alert.

There should be only one dragon capable of making such a footprint: Balerion, and yet, Aegon knew, it had not been his own dragon.

He had not ridden Balerion for over a hebdomad, and even longer since had he taken to the skies to the south east of King's Landing, as the Smallfolk called his Keep and the area that surrounded it.

Squinting up to the diminutive crowd dallying on the shores incline, most only there to get a glimpse at their King, Aegon waved forward a haggard women shielded by his Kingsguard, knitted with trawling nets and hooks and poppers, a fisherwoman with salty skin and wiry hair bleached a dull grey by labour and life. The Kingsguard brought her closer, where she bowed as low as her crooked back allowed her to.

"Tell Queen Visenya what you told me, my lady."

The woman reddened a joyful pink, delighted at being called lady, the first and only time in her long life, but speak she did, whistling slightly from missing four of her front, yellowed teeth.

"It came overhead last night, my Grace. I saw it as I was crabbing. A giant white streak in the sky, like a cold comet. A dragon. I saw it with my own two eyes, my Queen. Bigger than a castle, it was, as fast as lightning too. There and gone again in a blink. It landed right where we stand now, and then it slunk into the Blackwater bay with the girl on its back. I hid behind the incline until the sea was quiet, and then made haste to the Red Keep."

Visenya edged closer.

Vhagar was a summer green.

Meraxes was a dark silver, like blacksmithed iron.

Quicksilver, Aenys's ride since childhood, was hammered grey.

Balerion was as black as a night's sky.

There was no dragon, or none that they knew of, and as the only dragon riders left surely the ones to know, a wintry white dragon, like a cold comet.

"Girl?"

Visenya asked and the fisherwoman's head bobbed.

"Aye, my Grace. A girl… I think. It was dark, and the shadow small, but the moonlight was just high enough to get a taste. A small girl, thin, silver-haired like star-shine, nearly as bright as her dragon. But both girl and dragon were gone as soon as they came, into the still waters."

A nod from Aegon saw the Kingsguard leading the woman back to the crowd, just as Visenya's jaw gave a roll like the sea ahead of them.

"Waters? Could they have swam to the caves? Nested there?"

Aegon hummed, low, quiet.

"I have my men searching, but it could take days. There are a hundred caves over this stretch of coast, and a hundred more we may not know of opening below Blackwater Bay."

And then Visenya hardened, sleek and cold like marble.

"Or there is no cave at all."

Aegon glowered, dark gaze lapping violet, gesturing down to the ground at their feet, to the very much there dragon's footprint.

"You doubt your own eye?"

As swiftly as Visenya hardened, she softened swifter still. A step closer, and her hand rose, palm slipping across the bend of a strong jaw, fingers lacing through a silver beard.

"You do this every year, my love. Smallfolk and Lords alike come tattling with tales of girls with moonlight hair, and you lose all sense. You search, and search, and search, and find nothing. You give them coin for their stories, and silk for their lies, and they give you nothing in return but shattered hope. I…"

She winced, pained, hand falling, clenching into a fist.

That was Visenya through and through, Aegon believed.

Softness forged to iron.

"I cannot see you do this to yourself again. I cannot see you do this to Rhaenys, or Lily, or to myself either. Each time… It hurts all that more. It always ends the same. Not this year. Not again, Aegon. Enough is enough."

Aegon drew back as if she slapped him.

Perhaps she had, in a way.

"I have given nothing to these men and women. Nothing at all. They have no reason to lie to me. What would you have me do, Visenya? Disregard an opportunity that could be our only chance? Do nothing and sit inside my Keep, lamenting empty words? Or should I, like you, fill my nights with cups of wine and-"

Visenya broke, crashing on the shore.

"I lost her too!"

The crowd on the incline burst to hisses and whispers, and being watched, always being watched as a King or Queen was, Visenya stilled her beating heart and tried to gain her bearings.

"I lost her too, Aegon, and I grieve more than you will ever know. I may not wear my sadness as tears on my cheeks, but you do not dare tell me my heart is not broken. I loved that child as if it were my own, as does Rhaenys, as does Lily with Maegor and Aenys, for she was my own too. It was I who gave that babe her name, Haraella. It was I who held her first, and sang her songs to slumber… She was as much a product of my love, of Rhaenys's love, as she was yours. I loved her deeply… And I miss her every day. But this is not the way. Chasing every shadow will only make us lost. The more we look right, the less searched the left is. We must come together."

Sluggishly, Aegon nodded his accord, daring close enough to plant a soft kiss upon a temple, he spoke into her brow.

"Sometimes I get so tangled up in my own grief, I forget it is not only mine, and that I need not bare it alone. Forgive me, my love… Perhaps you are right."

Visenya laughed raucously, a woman who never did anything by half.

"I am always right. Now come. We are needed at the Keep, and celebrations begin in the hour. We must prepare. Lily… she is not faring well. I do not think she slept last night."

A peck at his chin left Aegon sighing.

"She will feel better once Maegor and Aenys are here. You know how well the boys distract her during this time."

Visenya nodded into the crook of his neck.

"Then let us go home and be done with this folly of footprints and fades."

Aegon turned to his Kingsguard one last time.

"Search the coves and toil this soil until the imprint is gone. Only come to me if you find the dragon or the rider… If there is to be such found."

The Kingsguard bowed and set to work.

They would find nothing.

That was all there ever was.

Nothing but dashed dreams.

Aegon and Visenya took to their steads, a battering ride back to the Red Keep, unaware of the hidden cove below their very feet nesting a slumbering cold comet white dragon, shielded by the dim waters of the bay, and the shadow of a drenched girl making her way back to land from up the coast.


Haraella Targaryen


VI.

It was suffice to say Haraella Targaryen did not know where the fuck she was. She knew she had been flying upon the back of Kilgharrah, chasing a scent, hunting a smell, but, quite suddenly, Kilgharrah had shifted route somewhere over southern France, taken them over open seas, and Haraella had only realized they had been soaring somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean sea far too late.

Too soon they were headed straight into the heart of the Bermuda triangle.

And just like that, the world flipped.

A sickening lurch, a flash of fire, the roar of a thousand souls perishing and-

Well, wherever they landed, it definitely wasn't Kansas, Toto.

From upon high, astride Kilgharrah, the peninsula was a wrecked and thrashed thing, bordered by a sea of summer blue and waters that smoked sour vapours that choked Haraella fiercely. There was a ruined city below, Haraella spied from the skyline, a collapsed and crumbling hollow encased by cliffs where the island had broken away from the mainland in what appeared to be the earth rupturing. The city itself had been pretty, poisonous but pretty, fumes billowed in the air, rank and lethal, spilling from topless towers, the charred faces of half-formed stone sphinxes peering from the black smoke.

Mountains, there had been mountains with their tops blown clean off, seven of them, Haraella had thought, so perhaps not mountains at all but volcanoes.

Of course she got the hell out of there.

One did not need to be a witch of any power to sense the dark magic lingering in the place.

Dark magic potent enough, Haraella believed, to rip asunder a country into a fiery doom, tear into the fabric of the world itself, a tiny split in the makeup of life, just enough to slip through from one place to another-

From one world to another.

Their Bermuda triangle, conceivably, was an imprint of this place of ruin, like the impression of people after Hiroshima and Nagasaki was struck by the atomic bombs, their outlines forever etched in black, this doomed land had blown and left just the barest of traces in her own world, just enough to link the two, just enough to slip through.

Dark, violent magic indeed.

Haraella much preferred her blood without worms, or her skin not rotting, or her organs unshrivelled, thank you very much.

Kilgharrah, still scenting the lock of copper air, took them west, where, upon a bay of dark waters, they landed.

Uncertain exactly of where she was, or what sort of reception she would get by landing in a possibly muggle land on the back of a large dragon, Haraella had taken to finding a cove out, nesting her weary dragon in the dark safety of sea and stone, to rest from their tiring journey, where Kilgharrah could sleep out the vapours they had both drank in over that cursed city, nothing more than a little tired from the noxious poisons thanks to both their magical natures, and she swam back ashore by day break after a little rest of her own.

What she found was a city unlike anything else she had ever seen.

A city in the making.

A square point sprawled across three hills, the city was walled, open only at seven places of iron-worked gates. Upon one hill, the tallest, sat a castle of some kind, bricked in red, though its once timber foundations still peeped from the bottom, construction harrying its sides into anthill slopes, where carts of stone were being levied and lowered. The second highest hill, funnily enough, housed the second biggest building, a slip of glass and gold, unfinished as the castle, like bony fingers creeping from a grave. The last hill, the smallest but plumpest, was crowned with something circular, as incomplete as its brethren, pillars and turrets linking in a string of a ring, an amphitheatre of some kind, Haraella would guess, if it were ever completed.

Between these hills and these immense buildings were the city itself, a warren of narrow streets and alleys, ramshod huts and tilted shanties, most made from wood and various types of yellowed plaster, few hewn from stone.

Unquestionably, the most interesting thing about this strange city in an even stranger land were the people themselves. Some wore doublets made of velvet. Others wore caps of linen dusted in soot. A few men sported crimson stockings, others black cotton. One lady had a silk dress, Haraella had saw as she peered out from the back of a horse drawn cart, bejewelled in pearls. One rider, astride a white mare, had peacock feathers jotting out his jaunty cap.

It was a bloody renaissance fair.

Where the hell was she?

Finding a dark corner, which was all too easy in this labyrinth of a place, Haraella set to work.

Wherever she was, she needed to blend in, and her jeans, quidditch jersey, and white-silver hair, along with her very prominent mismatched gaze, did little to stop the curious glances thrown her way in the middle of the street. One enthusiastic man going as far as gasping and running, shouting something that sounded like pineapple or tardigrade, or something else entirely.

No, it was for the best that she blended in.

The clothes were easiest to spell. Leather breaches and a plain cotton shirt under a cloak seemed good enough. The features, however, less so. It took Haraella a long while to glamour her face to something unextraordinary, something easily passed over, something plain and unforgettable. In the end, her hair was a dirty brown, her eyes even duller, caught between English rain and a stormy sea but missing all the spark. She left herself no scar, no freckle, not so much as a birthmark or mole, nothing to identify herself with if someone should look back and try to describe her.

Totally, utterly, unmemorable.

Only when she was sure her wand was strapped safely to her thigh, beneath her cloak, did Haraella venture back out, lock of copper hair at her breast, and begin her search in earnest.

Kilgharrah must have led her here for a reason.

She was going to find it.


VII.

Haraella found out about the celebrations entirely by accident, by luck or destiny, or a misplaced step. She had not been looking where she was going, she had turned a corner too fast and bumped into a woman, young, covered in flour and balancing a cake on a platter.

The platter tipped, cake slipped, and just before it could splatter on the cobbled, dirt strewn road, Haraella had reached out to balance it right once more, grimacing.

"I'm so sorry, I wasn't look-"

"My apologies! I was not-"

The two spoke at the same time, scrabbling to balance the cake, scraping to be repentant, having, clearly, put the other quite out by their interruption, and in the end, all the two could do was smile at each other.

Haraella had always been a touch clumsy, a bit too gauche Sirius had called it, and, glancing about herself, to the lively masses twisting about the narrowed streets, Haraella was surprised she had not bumped into anyone else beforehand.

Why was everyone so busy?

Even the girl Haraella had knocked into appeared harried, making her way to the bend of the lane, to a horse drawn cart ladened with trays of pies and biscuits and cakes and something sweet still steaming. Helping the young girl heave the platter onto the back of the cart, the least Haraella could do for the bruise surely forming on the girls' shoulder from Haraella's thump, she broached the subject.

"Excuse me, can you tell me what is going on?"

She was young, perhaps no older than fourteen, pale and blonde and freckled in flour. A baker of some kind? Or, at the very least, a baker's daughter. Once the tray was perched on the cart safely, she wiped her stained hands on the patchwork apron around her waist, smiling ear from ear.

"It is the Princess's Name Day!"

Haraella blinked.

"The Princess's… Name Day?"

Name day? What in the name of Merlin was a Name Day? Nevertheless, Haraella knew she was in some place that still had a monarchy now. Not England, definitely not. Monaco? Andorra? Liechtenstein? This girl did look a little Austrian…

The girl nodded.

"Yes, at the Red Keep. We must hurry if we are to get there on time before the procession."

She was off again, the young girl, barrelling towards, what was clearly now, the bakery door of the small inn, plucking up the crates stacked by the entrance. Haraella trailed her, taking a crate or two herself to aid the young girl.

"Procession?"

The girl glanced at Haraella from the corner of her eye, and perhaps it was one silly question too many, for when she spoke next, it is in a slow drawl, as if Haraella was both hard of hearing and a little bit dumb.

Hermione, if she were there, would say it was the latter.

As bewildered as Haraella currently was, she would agree.

"The ride of the King, Queens, and Princes. They come from the South Gate, and the Red Queen gives out coin as she passes each year. My friend, Betha, she's the blacksmith's daughter, and she said last year the Red Queen had given her a five golden dragons. It was enough to see them move to the upper-streets, closer to the Keep, and now her father makes the armour for the Kingsguard."

Bending down, Haraella helped dump a bag of flour, half the size of a full grown man, onto the cart. The cart creaked but gave no more protest.

"The Red Queen… Queens… I'm sorry, you've lost me. Where am I?"

The girl's hands furrowed into her apron pocket, for once delaying in her ardent filling of the cart, quite clearly fretted.

"King's Landing, me Lady. Are you not feeling well? You are speaking ever so strangely… My father is in the bakery, and he can-"

Shit.

Before the girl could go and retrieve her father, before she could so much as take a third step away, Haraella reached out and snatched at her elbow, tugging her back, laying on the most charming of smiles she could.

"No! No, I am fine… I just… I have had a long and hard journey."

Suddenly, the girl shifted, something keen kindling in her blue eye, the worry and fear gone with the wind as if everything made perfect sense now.

Haraella was happy it did for one of them.

"You're from the North, are you not? You have the hair and eye for it, or so I am told. I have not seen a Northerner myself… I heard they did everything backwards up there, speak to trees and ride direwolves as if they were steeds, and the ladies wear leather."

With a pointed glance down to Haraella's breeches peeking out from under cloak, she flushed. Peering around to the weaving crowds and… Yes. Dresses.

Women here wear dresses, apparently.

Rookie mistake.

And yet…

Haraella nodded fiercely.

"Oh, aye, I'm a Northerner. The far, far, far North. The most Northerner Northerner you will ever meet. Very… Northern-y."

And Haraella promptly winced.

She truly was a terrible liar.

Nevertheless, the girl seemed too thrilled over possibly meeting this 'Northerner' to worry about the dreadful turns of phrases, perhaps delighted all the more by their strangeness, as she practically bounced where she stood, clapping her flour dusted hands together.

"Then you must come to the celebrations and see the South in all its glory, me Lady! Never has there been a grander affair than the Princess's Name Day! Queen Visenya brings dancers and only the most excellent bards, and Queen Rhaenys sings each year, and she has such a beautiful voice, me Lady! Exquisite! And King Aegon dances with any who ask him to, and Queen Lily puts flowers in her red hair, and allows children to pick their favourite to have and-"

The girl kept talking, Haraella knew she did, and yet, that was all she heard.

The rest bled out.

King Aegon.

Queen Lily.

Queen Lily.

King Aegon.

Kilgharrah had led Haraella here for a reason.

Haraella had always believed desperation to be something hollow and cold, barren, but here, hearing those names, names that could be common here, ordinary, and yet-

Desperation burned.

She cut across the girl.

"What did you just say?"

The girl hesitated only for a heartbeat.

"I said the fool will tumble about the tables, stealing ladies handkerchiefs and-"

"No, before that, about the King and Queens… What were their names again?"

The girl frowned, a crumpled knot of uncertainty, and though it would be unkind, though it would be hopeless, Haraella wanted to grab her by the shoulders, shake until all her secrets fell loose, she wanted to know, she needed to know, she needed…

She needed to find home.

"King Aegon? His wives? There is Queen Visenya, as fierce as she is beautiful, and Queen Rhaenys, as soft and gentle as a lamb, and Queen Lily, as giving and warm as the fire of her hair and-"

No, Haraella had not imagined the names then.

They were there, right there, close enough that Haraella could kiss them, taste them, hold them greedily.

Aegon and Lily… And two more names. This Visenya and Rhaenys… Could it be? Truly?

"I need to go to these celebrations. Can you take me there?"

The girl seemed all too overjoyed at the prospect of company.

"You can ride with me in the cart. It is not much, but it will get us to the Red Keep. Me and my brother are meant for the kitchens, to help prepare the evening feast, but you can take the northern courtyard down to the south side and see the procession come in towards the end. Oh, Northern-y Lady, you will enjoy it immensely! Come, come!"

The girl dragged herself into the back of the open cart, legs swaying from edge, barefoot and mud stained, and Haraella, all too soon, found herself sitting beside the flour speckled girl as a plump boy came storming from the bakery, towards the horse upfront, only sparing the presence of Haraella in his cart a momentary glance, as if he were used to his sister picking up strays, before they were off, rocking down the dank and winding boulevard.

After all this was said and done, Aegon and Lily or not Aegon and Lily, Haraella was determined to show the same kindness back to the baker-girl. Perhaps she could magic her some pretty shoes, a hundred of them. Perhaps she could charm a golden coin to a hundred, and see her, like her friend, moved to the upper-streets. Something worth in measure of what the girl had shown her.

Compassion.

"And you will see the Princes too. They are ever so handsome. Never a finer face, me mother said, may the Mother watch over her."

Haraella hummed as they took a rather sharp corner.

"These Princes, they are Aegon's children?"

The girl nodded and toyed with a wisp of wheat-hued hair.

"With Queen Visenya and Queen Rhaenys, though it is said…"

Her voice dropped low, conspiratorially quiet.

"Queen Lily was the one who fed them from her own breast. The magic made them strong, some say. The Red Queen has the old gods in her blood, it is thought. Prince Aenys had been sicklied as a boy until Queen Lily fed him, then he was as healthy as any other babe. And Maegor… Well, he's been fighting men thrice his age and skill since he was barely out the cradle, never a better swordsman in all of Westeros me father told me. Great magic our Queen has, but she only ever uses it for good."

The wand hidden at Haraella's thigh seemed poignantly cool against her heated flesh.

"You believe in magic?"

The girl scoffed at her heartily.

"Believe in magic, she asks! Is the North so remote?! I do not believe, me Lady. I know, as do we all. We've seen it with our eyes. The Red Queen wields it, and dragons breathe it, and the Old Gods sing it. Queen Visenya is decent at sorcery too, though that is only a tale, and only said by the nastiest of men, and much unlike Queen Lily's magic. How do you think the Targaryen's won the throne? Fixed Seven Kingdoms into one? Even Dorne fell… Aye, they're a canny, smart lot, but no matter how smart you are, a dragon wins in the end, and a spell even more so. Although it is said they kept their Princes and Princess, and are terribly fond of the Red Queen."

Targaryen.

There it was.

A final name.

Her name echoed back from the stories of strangers.

"Dragons?"

The girl laughed at her, a clicking soft noise that creased her cheeks to dimples.

"Oh, now I know you are jesting. Even your North bowed before the shadow of Balerion the Black Dread when Aegon flew for Winterfell."

Another corner, and Haraella was not entirely sure the lurch was from the bend, or from the precipitous hurricane raging inside her. Magic and dragons, Westeros and Dorne, Winterfell and Sorcery and-

It was almost too much.

And as it constantly was when things were too much, more came.

It never rains, it pours.

Haraella finally clocked on to what was said, nearly choking on her own tongue.

"When you say Queens, do you mean Queens? Married to the same man? This King Aegon?"

The girl's retort was just about lost to the sound of the pounding hooves of horses, and, a small part of Haraella, almost wished it was.

"Of course! Me father baked the pies at their bonding feast. It was a beautiful ceremony, held on the waters edge of Blackwater Bay. Not surprisingly, Aegon had already wed his sisters a few years prior, and no one expected either of them to take a third wife, but I am told they are a merry bunch and-"

Haraella was, without a doubt, truly choking now. The girl, alarmed by Haraella's sudden spluttering and waxen face, patted her on the back.

"Are you alright, Northern-y Lady? Do you need a drink or-"

Haraella waved her off, trying to catch her breath.

Sister-wives.

Sister… Wives…

Wives that were sisters…

Where the fuck was she?!

"This Princess, the one who's having a party today, is she a sister or a wife or…?"

The girl did not seem to understand the term party, but she must have felt the sense of it, as, anew, she frowned blankly.

"Princess Haraella Targaryen? Surely even the North knows? Terrible thing it was, Northern-y Lady. She was snatched from the cradle, and spirited away before she cut her first tooth. Hurt the King and Queens proper it did, and her elder brothers. Prince Maegor refused to leave Dragonstone, the place of her abduction, for an age after, and Prince Aenys flew Quicksilver over the Bays in search for a child's wail. They found nothing of course. Not so much as a lock of hair. Gone the babe was. Each year they hold these celebrations on her Name Day, in hope the lanterns we set out will guide her home. You do have your paper lantern, do you not? Everybody must have one, and everybody must set it free come midnight, and… You are ever so pale. Are you sure you do not wish for a drink? I have a skin here?"

Said skin was a bag of leather topped with cork and wax, and something sweet but tangy within.

After a sip of wine, or more of a hearty gulp if Haraella was telling the truth, her hands did not shake as much, although there was something stirring horribly in her belly.

Perhaps the man that had fled upon the sight of Haraella did not shout pineapple and tardigrade at all.

Perhaps he had said Princess and Targaryen.

Because it was funny, Haraella thought as if her thoughts were far away, made from fog and smoke and bog moss she could not hold properly, that it was, if her dates were right, and she had only flown for two days on the back of Kilgharrah, this Haraella Targaryens birthday today, as it was Princess Haraella Targaryen's Name Day.

If desperation burned, then hope erupted.


VIII.

The castle known as the Red Keep was a mash of timber and red-stone, being reconstructed into something sharper and greater, but not quite there yet. It overlooked the mouth of the black waters Haraella had swam only hours prior, rested upon the tallest hill, with seven massive drum-towers capped with iron ramparts not yet fully circulating the tops. Men in strange cloaks of gold buzzed about the place like angry-hoary wasps, or stood vigil at doors and archways.

A massive curtain was being erected around the heart of the castle, but could only envelope its back presently, and little timber constructs of nests and crenelations for archers dotted its crown. The walls had great bronze gates, and burnished portcullises, with narrow postern doors nearby. Cornerforts peppered its belly, scattered across an immense barbican and a cobbled square, behind the walls smaller yards, vaulted halls, winding bridges, barracks and dungeons and granaries and kennels and stables for horses and dogs.

The castle itself was its own little city.

It was through this barbican Haraella made her way, across the cobbled courtyard, and the inner terraces, and up the serpentine steps to the southern wall where, by the gathering of the crowd at wall, one could look down and watch the Southern Gate procession.

She swore she only used a few discreet stinging hexes to see herself to the front, where the best view was to be had, and there, between two protruding crenelations, Haraella waited with bated breath.

Taliya Tyde, the baker's daughter who Haraella learned the name of as she departed, had headed towards the kitchens in the belly of the red-bricked-beast a little while ago, and Haraella was already missing her company. Without her there, Haraella only had her own thoughts and voice, and this voice, as it often did, told her what a fool she was being.

Haraella must be confused.

Perhaps she had hit her head in the low hanging cave as she swam out.

If not, then surely this would be a different lily, and a different Aegon, and definitely not ones that set paper lanterns to the skies in hopes of seeing her one day, for nobody every wanted Haraella, not Petunia, or Dudley, or Albus above needing a sacrifice, or Snape for more than the ghost of her right eye, or Sirius, who died before they could make that home, or Remus, who never visited, not once, his childhood friends daughter, or-

Haraella only realized she had stopped breathing as she gasped in a lungful of air.

Panic.

She was panicking and-

Breathe.

Calm. She would see it was a different Lily, and a different Aegon, and then she could carry on her search, because that was what Haraella was.

A starving dog snuffling for food, but one that would not know what to do with it if she ever got her hands on it.

So, she waited and breathed, and breathed and waited, and then, a roar of the crowd lining the streets below and-

There they were.

It was easy to spot the King, not only because he rode in the forefront, ahead the petals and ribbons of red and black being thrown under his black steeds' hooves, but because there could be no other King. He was a tall man, taller than most, strong shouldered and formidable in appearance, with violet eyes and trimmed-short silver-gold hair, and a grey spun beard neatly trimmed to hollowing jaw. Contrarily, he was both a charismatic person, and commanding, tempered by a dimple to his cheek, but hardened by the slope of his brow. He wore black, only black, speckled with belts and gems of crimson, a gigantic sword at his hip, a crown, a simple circlet of dark steel with square cut rubies topping his head.

Haraella had his left eye, and the dip of a dimple, and, she thought by the cast of his mouth, his smile.

The two men that came riding behind him appeared at odds with each other, perversely divergent.

The first was as tall as the King, yet slender and lithe, with long, nimble fingers tangled into the reigns of his horse, piano fingers Sirius would call them, something more apt at art than war. His own lilac eyes were lighter than the King's, lighter than Haraella's left violet eye, and they peeked merrily out from a twist of ringlets that fell to his shoulders. He grinned widely, waving to the crowds, adorned in silk and samite and a slash of cherry velvet.

Haraella had his lopsided grin, the same fingers, the same curl to their boisterous silver-hair, though hers was a shade lighter.

The second man on his right could not be more dissimilar. He was an absolutely gigantic man, a head and shoulders above even the towering King, and he did not wave, he did not smile, he glowered dead ahead, to the bronze gate. Lofty, expansive, he took up space not with just his immense frame, but his mere presence alone, something fearsomely resilient, intense, and strong, as dark as his mauve stare. His hair was shadier than her own and the two other men, a tantalizing moonlight shone through rain clouds and thunderstorms, a sombre-silver beard, as clearly his father had, deftly trimmed to a keen-cut chin. He only wore leathers, no gems, no velvets, not a single sign of softness to him.

Haraella had his glare, and his arched brows, and the same cattish shape of eye.

Behind them came three more horses.

The far-left boarded a woman with long silver hair bound up in golden rings and braids, her gaze the darkest of them all, an almost black flecked with amethyst and heliotrope sparks. She had a harsher, ascetic form of splendour, carnal and impassioned as she was formidable, severe, and merciless in her own leathers.

Haraella had her build, lithe and sharp like a knife's edge, and her nearly dazzling white tinted hair.

The other on the far-right was smaller than the rest, and beautiful in the way beauty could hurt to gaze upon. She wore her hair, as sleek and wilfully wild as Haraella's, loose and down her back and waist, her gaze somehow brighter, lighter, than those she rode beside. Slender, she had a gentle mien, elegant in her ride, playful in the twist of her wrist as she too waved to the crowds, with a curious, almost reckless, flight to her lips.

Haraella was the same height, had the same reckless impulsivity, her journey here prime example, had the same button nose and bowed cupid's bow.

It was strange, ever so strange, to see herself there, bits and pieces scattered amongst the faces of strangers, a Frankenstein of something foreign stitched with the echoes of the past she never knew she had.

She wasn't alone.

She was there, and here, and everywhere at once. Her nose was coming to the gate. Her smile was beaming to the crowd on the right. Her hair was bouncing over a chestnut horse.

And then there was her.

Between the two women sat Lily Evans on a black mare. She was older here, older than the woman in the sparse few photo's Haraella had. She had a speckle of grey in her hair, a streak of it at her temple, like the men and women around her had milked into her and stained her with their own colours. The rest, however, was still a waterfall of fire, cerise and copper clashing under a hot sun, with gilt freckles across pale flesh, and-

Haraella saw the most valuable thing she had ever saw before.

Laugh lines.

Lily Evans had laugh lines arching about her mouth, thin, papery marks that were barely there, and they were more than just mere wrinkles, more than a shallow mark on a pretty face, they were proof of a life lived, of laughter had. Wrinkles meant age, and age meant life.

Lily Evans was alive, and right before her.

Her mother was here, tossing coins into the crowd, smiling at the children, laughing.

For one foolish moment, Haraella thought of vaulting over the wall, pushing through the crowd, racing to the front of her horse, waving her arms about her head like a lunatic, screaming it's me, it's me, look, it's me!

She, of course, does not do this.

She cannot move.

She can hardly breathe.

Instead, Haraella clung to the wall, knuckles white with tension, the only thing keeping her upright, and she looked down upon those laugh lines, and she wept.

Ugly, jarring, sobbing.

She cried so hard the people around her, the few that were close enough to hear over the blaring throng below, which were not many indeed, shied away from the mad maid bawling her eyes out.

Her mother was alive, and her father too, and there were brothers there, and other women, other parents, more family, and… and… She wasn't alone.

It didn't matter then.

Sister-wives, and Dornes and Winterfells, sorcery and black magic and dragons, none of it mattered a bit.

They were here, and she was here, and what more could anybody ask for?

Her mother rode on, oblivious, as did the women at her side, as did the King and-

One of the men slowed, the big one with a bitter bite, and it was only as he pulled on his reins and bridle that Haraella understood he was looking up to the top of the gate, to the crenulations, to her.

The King called to him, bewildered by the break in the parade.

"Maegor! What are you-"

Yet, he did not glance to the King, no, he locked his dark gaze with her own and, somehow, someway, he saw her.

Haraella did not know how he did it, how she knew he did it, but she did know, through the thick magic and the glamours and charms and lures, he saw her, and he frowned deeper still, fiercer yet, something there in those eyes, something deep, and-

"Haraella?"

She could not hear him, not from upon high as she was, but she saw the way his mouth moved, imagined his voice to be as deep as his stare, twisted over the syllables of her, and the small group around her splinters, turning this way and that, peering for who he was looking at, who he could possibly be calling.

"Haraella!"

This time she could hear him, and she was right, his voice was deep, deep and profound, as he drew on tight against the collar, stalling his horse from going further, and Haraella did the only thing she could do.

She let her magic recede, fall back into the core of herself, break and fold and flicker away, and suddenly, she was there, with her own face, and her own mismatched eyes, and her own white-silver hair and lopsided smile and she-

She waved down at the Prince on horseback, turned tail and ran, she was small but she was fast, sprinted for the serpentine stairwell down the wall, her loose cloak sinking from her shoulders to flap to the ground forgotten, the only proof she had ever been there, unhearing of the gasps and gulps around her, the confused murmurs and whispers, only focused on getting down to the courtyard below, to the big bronze gate, to where the horses were riding in.

Haraella very nearly broke her neck more than once leaping down the tilted stone steps, but it did not stop her, and it did not slow her.

Nothing would.

Around the bend was everything she ever wanted or dreamed.

By the time she got to the last curve down the spiralled stairwell, she could hear the pandemonium from the courtyard, the sound of hooves thumping against cobble, the huffing and puffing of stallions, clashing to a stop, the yells of the gold-buzzing guards, the scrape of swords coming unsheathed.

"Maegor! Son! Please, be still and calm and tell-"

"Perhaps our journey from Dragonstone has tired you more than we first believed and you should-"

"You spoke of funny waking-dreams for a while now, perhaps we should-"

"I saw her! Haraella! She was on top of the wall and she waved down at me and-"

"Get a Maester and some strong ale! We need to-"

Haraella skidded from the stairs into the stone courtyard, a little breathless, a little dazed, a little desperate.

There they were, through the bronze gate, dismounting and clustered, shielded by guards, and Haraella took the last step out into the sunshine from the shadow.

Maegor was the first to see her, as he had been on the wall, deep and intense and severe, and he pointed.

"I am not dreaming. She is there!"

Aenys scoffed but took a glance back, and went to turn back around to his brother only to double back again, wide-eyed and blinking like a newborn foul.

No one else turned, caught up in the suggestion of a sickened Prince.

"We'll get you some rest, a nice warm supper, and we-"

"Uh, mother…"

"Where is that Maester? Do I have to-"

"Mother…"

"Guards, go and fetch-"

"Mother!"

Aenys had a gentler voice, a poet's voice, downy on velvet, smooth and soft even when he yelled.

"I believe Maegor is quite alright. Haraella is here… Right here, in truth."

The shorter woman glanced to him, and then followed his line of sight, chest stilling, little gasp from a rose-bud mouth.

One by one, the others looked, what felt like a million stares heavy.

Haraella grinned, a mixture of old and new hurts ablaze in her chest, and waved anew.

"I heard there was to be a party, and Sirius always told me it is rude for the guest of honour not to be present. I don't suppose there's any treacle tarts around here?"

As it was, it appeared Haraella had gotten her speed from her mother, for one moment Lily was across the courtyard, beside her husband, and sons, and wives, and then she was a flash of copper and freckles, upended before her, seizing her face with frantic hands that trembled terribly, cradling, summer green eyes searching, probing, looking between the planes of Haraella's face, between the scars, and nooks, and twists of muscle, to find something familiar, something older, something recognisable.

She found it in her eyes, the incompatible gaze of green and purple, and Lily moaned, almost as if she were struck fiercely.

"It is you… It is you."

Haraella shook her hand between them, among the folds of her plain shirt, to the unseen pocket at her breast. Between her fingers she dragged free a tress of ginger hair long since discarded, longer had it grown out, and she held it up, an offering, a plea, just once to be seen.

"You left this behind."

Lily took it, thumbing the strands for the barest of moments, and then, feverishly, instantly, Haraella was being hauled to a sobbing chest.

"It really is you!"

It was a cry that seemed to crawl the others from their stupors, the sound of rushing feet, a hand on her back, and another in her hair, one more on her shoulder, and Haraella could not tell who was who, or what hand belonged to what body, or whose voice laughed and who's was crying, and which one patted her cheek.

For the first time in her life, Haraella hugged her mother, held her, clasped on tight, and she wept, and she laughed, and she was a little mad and desperate, and finally home.


A.N: Just a friendly reminder, before we head into the meat and potatoes of this story, that this fic should not be taken too seriously, and I do not condone all that happens in this fic (i.e the incest). As I am sure George R.R Martin does not condone the cutting off of heads and the stitching of wolf skulls onto said bodies, or any of the other gruesome, nefarious things that go down in the World of Ice and Fire. It's fiction, mine is mediocre at best, and is only meant to entertain and make a few smile for a little while.

For all those who followed, favourited and reviewed, thank you all so much. I have so much fun writing this, and I hope, even if it's just one line, you found something that made you laugh or feel good.

If you have a spare moment, please drop a few words into the little box down there. They keep the muse from whining. Until next time! Stay Beautiful! ~AlwaysEatTheRude21