Aegon wakes, five and ten all over again.
He knows from the nick to his skin, right at the crook of his elbow, a small slice he'd gained during his last day at four and ten, but without the scar from sparring with Visenya at six and ten.
He wakes cocooned in Balerion's warmth, Vhagar and Meraxes a short distance away, but still visibly breathing. Both painfully absent of their riders.
His head swims with misinformation, with different thoughts that keep warring back and forth, pushing and pulling like waves.
Meraxes should not be here. But it doesn't sound like a fact in his mind, more a hazy recollection. The last remnants of a dream he can only half recall.
But there is no Visenya here, no Rhaenys. He need only look into the eyes of the dragons to know for certain. They are unbound beasts, looking to him for cues as a duckling glances to its mother; familiarity. Perhaps were it not for that, the two would have already flown away.
Aegon reclines back into Balerion's side, his mount far more docile than he has ever known him before. There's a softness to the great dragon now, the black dread that is smaller than he remembers. His mind, Aegon is finding, is far from reliable right now. He needs to know what is happening, why he recalls a murky future when he is but five and ten. There are battles, names of men and declarations of victory that he... he cannot claim for certain. All that and more is slotted away within his head and it makes no sense.
He needs more information.
Information and clothes.
It is night when Balerion soars across the mainland, Meraxes and Vhagar near enough to nip at his heels. The sensation of flight is as exhilarating as always, though the chill bites deep beneath his skin. He does not know how Rhaenys could love it so. The thought of her brings a stabbing pain to his chest, a reminder she is not here now.
But he will find out where she is soon enough, where both she and Visenya are.
He lays himself against Balerion's neck, the scorching heat of dragonscales scraping sharp and hard against his skin. The crude loincloth he'd fashioned from grass and leaves offers a terribly low amount of protection from the bite of the elements; were it not for dragon heat, he would have undoubtedly fallen ill from the high altitude's chill. And that is in the best case scenario.
Meraxes roars behind him, echoed by Vhagar a moment later. In comparison, Balerion's is uncharacteristically silent, nothing but the steady thrumming of his beating wings creating any form of sound at all. It discomforts Aegon, leaves him uneasy; it is almost as if his mount is... mourning.
The knowledge that Meraxes and Vhagar are without riders weighs as heavily upon his shoulders as the moon's guiding light.
He spots Harrenhal first. Aegon has no idea where he had awoken, nor does he understand how he knows this place when he has never once visited it before. (But... he has? There's flames, the scorching heat of dragonfire billowing out of the windows, stone cracking beneath the pressure and the screams. Oh by the Seven, the screams). Balerion swoops low, wings stretched large and wide, appearing almost twice his current size with the motion. Aegon can understand why the screaming begins but a moment later.
Harrenhal is occupied by an elderly woman, the last of her family who is all too happy (fearful?) enough to offer Aegon a pair of breeches. Pulling the material up his legs, Aegon fastens the ties with a neat bow, Balerion's hot breath misting across his back. The woman introduces herself as Shella Whent, last of her family and good-sister to Ser Oswell Whent. She says this name as if it holds weight, as if Aegon should recognise it and favour her for that connection. But it means nothing to him, soars clear over his head with the ease of Vhagar. It is becoming more and more obvious that this place (this time?) is not his own. The large, sprawling ruins of this castle keep overlapping with the mental image of a newly built fortress, swapping back and forth in a way that has Aegon's head pounding. He is missing something, something is not quite right and he only has Blackfyre and three dragons to his name. Some would proclaim that more than enough. But Aegon is painfully aware of the sister shaped hole on his left, the sister shaped hole on his right. There are two voids in his life and he hasn't even got the right questions to begin searching for answers. Shella Whent calls for the great hall to be prepared; Aegon denies their intentions of sharing a heath with him (equip with no armour and no sworn swords? No, he shan't be leaving the protective company of his dragons for a long while now). The castle's skeleton staff are quick to suggest a picnic instead, their fearful eyes never once leaving Balerion's intimidating bulk.
They refer to him as Rhaegar's son (Aegon does not have the slightest clue who this 'Rhaegar' is), constantly pointing out the handsome cut of his face, the dark violet of his eyes. Aegon allows them to fall beneath their own assumptions, allows them to continue spinning their own web as others ask if he shall be recreating the War of Conquest. (That was his war, Aegon thinks while another part of his mind screams that cannot possibly be so). He makes no true commitments, no promises pass through his lips. However, the knowledge that Dragonstone has been taken, that it resides beneath the banner of a stag where it had once been (and should always remain) a red dragon, that sets his blood boiling. In the very least he shall be reclaiming the land he grew up on, the land where Rhaenys and Visenya spent their childhood. He can feel Balerion at his back, his bulk comfortingly scorching in a way no other being could be. No, he'll retake Dragonstone and then consider his options from there. Reclining backs against Balerion, Aegon runs his fingers across the tough scales that reside there, indigo eyes flashing. He has the bare bones of a plan.
A few hundred miles away, Lyarra Snow wakes with a gasp, the images of fire, the black dread and a silver haired boy seared into her mind.
Lyarra Snow gasps, pressing her hand hard to her fluttering chest, feeling the pounding heart beneath. For a moment she had been all-powerful, fire on her tongue and the air beneath of her wings. There had been two others, one smaller by mere feet with the other significantly larger. Both equally as fearsome but she had known instinctively they would not cause her any harm. Yes, she had not been alone. There had been to others; two others… And a boy. A boy near a man grown but not quite there yet. Hair unlike any she's ever seen before, a blond so light it has become spun silver, a face that can only belong in Sweet Sansa's tales. And… And eyes not unlike her own. Dark, capable of passing off as nothing but dark in the near sun-less North but when struck by light… They shimmer a deep pool of near mystic purple. What's worse, she knows the name of the other, it resides upon the tip of her tongue like an old forgotten song, teasing at the back of her mind.
"Aegon," she breathes to the silence of her room and something like longing blooms to life in her chest, a place such an emotion has no right to occupy. Not in a bastard such as her. It doesn't prevent Lyarra from praying for further dreams.
Morning comes all too soon and though she had managed to drift back off to sleep, dream had eluded Lyarra. It doesn't remain that way for long. The next night she has barely closed her eyes before she finds herself soaring through the air again. Wind kisses at her eyes but they do not water. Her legs are tucked beneath her body, tail lashing through the open space to her back. The clouds are tasteless upon her maw, leaving droplets of cool water upon her tongue that does nothing to suffocate the fire in her chest. The other two are there again, soaring beside her and... the boy is there too. He rides upon the back of the dark one, hair that she had seen as shoulder length waves blasting out behind him as they glide through the sky. His body moves with the muscular neck of his mount, fluid and familiar and it hits Lyarra then. It's wrong. She's not dreaming in her body. She doesn't have wings or a tail. Alongside her two dragons fly; she can make a good guess over what body she currently inhibits within her dream. But why would she dream as if she were a dragon? It makes no sense. The dragons are dead and even if they weren't... she's a Snow born of Stark blood. And the Starks has never once married into the Targaryens or vice versa... had they? Nowhere in her history lessons (given at her father's insistence) had their been a mention of such a pairing. The only time Stark and Targaryen had interacted was... was Aunt Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen.
Lyarra goes through the next few days in a discomforted haze, unable to understand why it is she would dream of dragons when it is Aunt Lyanna that got caught up in those of dragon's blood. She valiantly, oh so valiantly, tries to ignore the smaller thought that is slowly taking root, that tiny suspicion that is now beginning to rattle bones, to pound against the cages of her ribs. Lyarra goes about her day and tries to instil as much normality as possible into her expression. From the looks Robb sends her way, he's not fooled. But he is the only one. Lyarra doesn't share what remains on her mind (what has taken over her mind) but she does find an outlet. Soon enough her sketch is overflowing with pictures, the two dragons she explores the skies and earth with, the boy who resides upon the black beast. He's on the pages at a distance, he's staring out the page with hypnotic indigo eyes, a solemn, firm set to his face. It makes him look older, a man grown instead of just on the cusp.
She's smoothing the edge of a cheekbone down into the jawline when there's a sharp intake of breath over her shoulder. Lyarra slams the book shut but it's too late. Robb's staring at her, eyes not quite comprehending and she wonders what he thinks. What conclusions he has leapt to.
"Theon's going to be disappointed." It's a joke. But even for a joke, the mere concept- Lyarra grimaces, disgust pooling in her stomach. No, she has no desire whatsoever to be bound to Theon and even if she's a bastard, F-Father would never gift her to a traitor's son.
"Don't joke about that, Robb."
"Purple eyes, huh?" Lyarra flinches again before she forcibly steels her nerves. What could Robb possibly decide from her drawing? All that is coloured are the eyes, there are no features that are otherwise specifically Targaryen (if one discounts the abnormal beauty her muse possesses)... and that is the first time that Lyarra has acknowledge just what family the boy of her dreams hails from. It's not like there are any Targaryen males alive barring Prince Viserys and he is already a man grown if she recalls her lessons correctly. Lyarra finds the best defence here is none at all, instead simply smiling solemnly at her brother until he grows bored and stalks away, muttering about leaving her to those 'girlish daydreams'.
Seated before the statue of Lyanna Stark in the crypts and still riding high on the latest dragon dream, Lyarra can ignore her runaway thoughts no longer. Eddard Stark has never truly named her his daughter. 'She is of my blood'. That's it. That's the way he'd always referred to her and before she'd believed it because he did not wish to sully his honour any further by clearly claiming her a daughter. By claiming her his daughter. But... what if that's not all it is? What if... what if she truly is just of his blood? Not his daughter but... but his niece. It makes a startling amount of sense. The reason she looks so much like Lyanna Stark as so many Northerners have claimed, why her eyes are that very same deep purple as those she peers into within her dreams... could it be possible that she is not a Lord Paramount's bastard, but the bastard of a prince instead?
Lyarra sucks at her lips, the leftover tang of lemon cake that Robb snuck her flavouring the skin. Slowly, she rises to her feet, to the very tips of her toes, and pressing her palm to Lyanna's cheek. It's cold, the stone rough. She wonders if Lyanna Stark would have loved her- had loved her. She wonders what Rhaegar Targaryen would think- he had kidnapped her aunt, taken with her beauty some of the braver men in Winterfell had whisper in thought-deserted corridors. If he had loved Lyanna Stark, despite his political marriage to Elia Martell... would he have loved her too? Perhaps it is easier to believe this concept, to believe this tale than to think Eddard Stark allows his wife to continue with her snide words and cutting behaviour. Tracing the curve of Lyanna Stark's lips, Lyarra tries to mirror the expression. She falls short, unable to match the long-faced frown.
Perhaps the Last Dragon had once frowned as she does.
The Lord to which Dragonstone has been entrusted is not present when Aegon arrives upon the shore. The night is a heavy blanket of darkness, the thin lick of moon hidden behind the rolling storm clouds. It is only a matter of time until a fang of lightning sliced across the sky, illuminating Balerion's bulk, exposing the two free dragons that circle in the open air. As things stand, Aegon has two feet planted upon his homeland, clothes in borrowed armour with his sigil hastily stitched into it by the servants of Harrenhal. Lady Shella has gone out of her way to accommodate him, no doubt fearful of history repeating itself. During his few weeks, Aegon had torn through the library, devoured the abridged events of the past three hundred years. Is he Aegon the Conqueror reborn, or Aegon the Sixth who holds memories of a past ancestor? He cannot day for sure, the memories of this body's life between his birth and awakening beside Balerion are absent. Perhaps he shall never know. It's not relevant right now. Hand upon his sword, Aegon begins striking forwards across the dull sand, eyes lingering on the flickering of a settlement by the sea. It shan't be long before they realise he is here. If the gods truly do look down upon him, there shall still be Targaryen support here.
The first few guards boasting the Baratheon colours do not so much as twitch at his appearance. It's understandable why; Valyrian blood runs true upon this land, he is far from the only one with silver hair. It is only as the light from a nearby inn bleeds across his torso and exposes the crest upon his chest that they begin to react. That is when Balerion makes his presence known. His roar rattles the very earth, extinguishes the sparse littering of outdoor torches. It terrifies the few people who remain out so late at night. Then, then it is no longer night at all. Balerion sets the sky ablaze, flames slathering across the storm clouds until lightning rumbles, lacking a visual but undeniably audible. Undeniably present. People flood out of their houses, out of inns and brothels and they quake in fear at what their eyes meet. There are a brave two who draw their swords; Balerion scorched them. Soon enough there is more screaming, women begging and children crying. Already several knights and guards have thrown down their swords and knelt, swearing loyalty, that they had always been loyal and were simply biding their time. Aegon has little care for their promises; that age old saying of actions and words rings true here.
"Silence!" His call is echoed by Balerion's roar, his fearsome mount twisting his neck so that his head may reside beside Aegon. The dragon could swallow him whole with ease but that is far from a reasonable fear. He is the very last human Balerion would ever care to eat. As he requested... ordered. As he had ordered, the people fall silent, all but the screaming babes. That Aegon can deal with. One hand upon the hilt of Blackfyre, Aegon grasps for one of Balerion's horns with the other, holding tight as the dragon rises again. Once he has a sure footing upon one of Balerion's other horns, Aegon looks out across the crowd, taking note of just how many people stand quivering before him and the selection that showcase classical Valyrian features. "My name," he clear, voice as loud and clear as he can make it, not that it matter as those that do hear him shall surely whisper of his words for weeks to come, "is Aegon Targaryen, and I have come for what is rightfully mine." That's it. There is another moment now, one where it seems as if the whole world holds its breath at the declaration. Here he stands, half atop a dragon with nought but a Valyrian sword at his hip and a face to match his name, laying claim to the very land upon which they all stand. Eyes liger on his form, on Balerion's larger than life bulk, until one trembling man comes forth. His legs near buckle as he drops to his knee but it is with the utmost reverence that he looks upon Aegon.
"All hail Aegon Targaryen, Sixth of his name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm." Lilac eyes, Valyrian eyes, stare reverently up and Aegon dips his head in acceptance of the first to swear fealty. One fool attempts to draw his bow; Balerion's teeth close around him before the fool can do much as notch an arrow. Following that, the vows of fealty come swifter. Allowing Balerion to lower his head so that he may once again stand upon the dirt-path of a street, Aegon eyes the man that was the first to bend the knee, taking careful not of their similarities.
"Aurane Waters, bastard of Driftmark, of House Velaryon, Your Grace." House Velaryon. He remembers a woman, her soft face and beautiful voice. The mother of Aegon the First. If there is any House he can trust, it is this one.
"Contact your Lord. I would have him meet me at Dragonstone as soon as he is able." Eyes turning upon the looming castle (home, his home) in the distance, Aegon lays his hand once more upon his sword. Dragonstone belonged to the Targaryens even before the first conquest. He would see their banner fly their once again.
He meets little resistance as he makes for the castle; only two fools attempt to oppose him and Aegon cuts through one with Blackfyre. The bastard of Driftmark takes the other. His form is good and he's quick to kill in Aegon's name. On one hand, that's promising. Yet, is it for old loyalties, or is it because Aegon is at present the bigger threat with a dragon to his back? Will the man turn upon him the second he shows weakness? It is not a question he can truly answer right now, one he won't be able to answer until some time has passed them by to affirm loyalties. As much as the passage of time is able to, that is.
The doors to the Chamber of the Painted Table are pushed open for him by submissive guards, Balerion's bulk visible outside the slit-like windows, a pitch-black shadow against the otherwise dull night. Aegon strides forwards, hands still upon the pummel of Blackfyre; it's not like he's safe here, not like he can afford to offer that kind of trust to those that have so easily bent the knee. True some may be honestly loyal to the Targaryen dynasty. It's not a chance he's willing to take just quite yet. Back straight and shoulders firm, Aegon stalks forwards towards the raised seat that resides upon the map where Dragonstone rests, seating himself to better look upon the expanse of carved land the map represents. At this moment he holds Dragonstone, though that grip is a tentative one. He fears no outside usurping; they would require boats to reach him and wood burns when faced with a single airborne dragon, nevermind three of them. No, it is only those present upon the island that pose a potential threat, be it by physically attempting to arrogate his rightful position as Lord of Dragonstone or by leaking information to others. He shall need to deal with the ravens first, inform the maesters that no bird is to leave Dragonstone unless it carries Aegon's words alone within its claws. That required them to cease all contact with outside agencies, including that of the Citadel and the Faith. While Aegon is loathed to turn his back upon the latter, it is imperative right now. Dragons have returned and with them, magic shall soon follow, if it isn't already present. Neither the Citadel or the Faith shall react well to such a thing, especially given that Aegon the Conqueror (him or his ancestor whose memories he shares, Aegon is unsure) thumbed his nose up at their laws regarding marriage.
"Your Grace, is all well?" The bastard of Driftmark stands to attention by the foot of the map, hands clasped behind his back and face set. He certainly looks Valyrian enough to be a Targaryen loyalist. Aegon is no fool though, he shall hold off judgment, hold off offering his trust, until later.
"For now, it is. The seat of my ancestors…" Aegon runs the tips of his fingers across the armrest of his seat, plants his boots upon the varnished ocean that borders the main body of Westeros. "Tell me, Aurane Waters. What do you believe is to happen next?"
"Next, Your Grace?"
"Yes. I have reclaimed Dragonstone, a land that has belonged to House Targaryen for hundred of years, twice as long as my family have ruled Westeros. It is this place where I can lay my greatest claim uncontested. However, do you believe I shall stop? Do you believe I should?" Tilting his head to a side, Aegon drums his fingers atop the armrest, the sound muffled by the refined wood. The bastard of Driftmark is slow to respond, lips thinning, eyes shifting to a side, undoubtedly wondering if this is a test. Or perhaps if this is a test that can be passed or only failed.
"No. No, I don't believe that you will stop, or that you should. Dorne will answer your call without question. They'll be thrilled you've lived at all nevermind that you wish to press your claim for the throne; undoubtedly Prince Oberyn will be chomping at the bit to wage war against the Usurper." The way the title falls from his lips, the disdain in Usurper, indicated Waters has been calling the Stag King this long before Aegon came along. "The Reach were staunch supporters of the Targaryens in the war, but I am unsure if they would be willing to so eagerly join without the promise of concessions. Such as-"
"Marriage to a daughter of the Reach," Aegon concludes, a frown darkening his face. Marriage to a flower of the Reach (Gardner or Tyrell, he cannot recall which rules at present)… flowers burn within the presence of a dragon, a delicate flower plucked from the Highgarden is not what he requires in a Queen, not what he requires in a woman that is to birth future Targaryens. He thinks of Rhaenys, of her sparkling wit and the dragon-dreams she had walked with such ease. He thinks of Visenya, all hard edges and sharp steel. "No. The Reach will fall in line without that particular concession or another Field of Fire will see a different House ascend to Lord of the Reach." Waters nods, a shallow thing that acknowledges Aegon's words but clearly isn't quite sure what to do with his response.
It is with a hesitance to his voice that he continues, "the Crownlands are questionable. While they loathed the Aerys, they adored your father and Robert Baratheon has done little for the common folk."
"The common folk won't win a war." Dragons will.
"Too true, Your Grace, but they shall certainly help you keep a kingdom running." On that, Aegon can agree. "Given the Baratheon king and his Lannister queen, the Westerlands and Stormlands will be against you. The Warden of the North is honourable and was rightfully disgusted with the fate of Princess Elia and Princess Rhaenys, but the King still calls him brother in all but blood. Where the North goes, the Riverlands will undoubtedly follow. The Iron Islands are recovering from their own failed rebellion; I doubt they shall care to get involved with either side."
"I have, at best, two kingdoms that will fall in line," Aegon concludes, elbow on the chair's arm and fist pressing into his cheek as he supports his head. Already his eyes are threatening to droop; he has been awake for near and entire day. Yes, it is time for sleep now that he has a general idea of what lays before him. He has, after all, worked with less than two kingdoms, one at worst. How ridiculous, relying upon the Dornish. (His heart aches at the thought, despair when he thinks of Rhaenys, but it flutters away before he can understand why. A desperation for the sister of his hazy memories or the sister of this body?)
"I will retire now, Aurane."
"I ordered servants to prepare a room-"
"All the same, until there is some foundation of trust, an assurance that I shall not be stabbed to death in my rest, I shall take my sleep beneath Balerion's bulk."
"… Of course, Your Grace."
They're on an island now. Lyarra doesn't recognise it, has never seen the ocean before but what else can that massive body of water be? Where else could the salt in the air be sourced from, what other expanse could create the waves she hears lapping in the distance? Exhaling, the bastard rises slowly, feeling the talons of her back legs scrape against the rock. It's discomforting when all that she has previously experienced is air gliding freely across her. To her left, a large castle is looming, decorated by the rising sun from the east. Lyarra twists her neck, more muscles than should be there, to better gaze upon the cresting sun. It doesn't burn her eyes as it would in her waking moments.
"Meraxes?" Lyarra stills at the name, curling around to find the source. It's the boy, Aegon, staring up at her through sleep-riddled eyes, one hand pawing at his lower jaw to wide away the trail of drool his slumber has left decorating his face. He's as beautiful as the first day she saw him, perhaps more so, bathed in the dawning of a new day. Meraxes… is not her name. It must be the name of the body she inhabits, the name of the… dragon. Flexing her wings, shoulder joints rotating and cracking with the movement, Lyarra observes the steam that continues to rise from the two beasts Aegon surrounds himself with, their blistering heat visible in the chill of early morning. "Meraxes!" Aegon's voice cracks like a whip and Lyarra feels her lips curl with intent that does not belong to her.
At the sound of his bonded's voice (how does she know that? How does she know the black dragon has laid claim to the boy that is almost a man?), the biggest dragon lifts his head and roars. It is ear-splittingly loud and dominating; it is both Meraxes and Lyarra who lower their head in submission. She aches to get back into the air, to taste the remaining wisps of storm clouds. She doesn't belong here, doesn't belong with Aegon and the other two dragons. But, but she does? No, there's something missing, something- Lyarra. Lyarra is missing.
Jerking up in her bedsheets, Lyarra gasps, clutching hard to the furs that had covered her sweating body (she never feels the chill, has never felt the chill but now she wakes in a nervous sweat. Even having ever left the North she knows in her bones that the Southern heat of summer will never affect her either) and focuses on just breathing. Her heart hammers, ribs an anvil holding or mayhap molten metal, pounding and pounding until she fears it shall fly free of her chest. She can still feel the other presence, lingering in the back of her mind. The dragon; there's a dragon lurking in the back of her mind and she can share its body as she sleeps. It feels as if, should she wish hard enough, that she could share that shell in her waking moments too. A desperate kind of laugh bubbles free of her throat, tears gathering in the corner of eyes that are not Northern, eyes that are not from a lady of Starfall at all but are in fact the same melancholy violet as that of the last Dragon. She can ignore it no longer, not when ever other sign points to the truth. She is not Ned Stark's bastard, cannot possibly be so when all her slumber greets her with is that of dragon dreams.
She is the bastard child of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and out there somewhere, Aegon Targaryen is about to rekindle the War of Conquest.
...it wouldn't leave me alone then I heard Imagine Dragons' 'Natural' and that was the final nail the coffin. It needed to be written.
Enjoy? (it shouldn't be too long, I'm tentatively saying 4 chapters).