The whole of court rides north to the Isle of Faces. A royal wedding is an honor to attend, and only the most loyal are worthy of participating in the festivities. Only those in favor with the crown will see the Crown Prince wed Princess Alysanne. The High Septon travels with the Most Devout and the Northern lords travel south to witness the Northern princess wed.
At the same time, Alysanne travels in a wheelhouse with Daenerys and her southern ladies, but it is not the same. Was she right when she wondered if they were spies? Can she trust them at all?
Daenaera seems to sense Alysanne's mistrust, as does Daenerys. Daenaera seems more cautious than before, more reluctant to speak, hesitant in a way she was not before. Daenerys, however, seems to speak more to fill the awkward silence, causing even more discomfort in the cramped wheelhouse. It is while the three bathe together at Maidenpool that Daenaera finally confronts Alysanne.
"I know you do not trust us anymore. But I feel I should inform you that His Grace did not ask me anything about you, nor did he tell me to do anything at all. Everything I have said to you has been my truth."
Daenerys begins to flush, "I feel like a fool. Egg told me I was not to tell anyone you were with us-"
"He admitted that to me, yes," Alysanne sighs and then leans back, the steaming herbal waters of the bath relaxing her rage, "If we are to be family there can be no more lies. Family is the one thing we will have in this world as Targaryens. We only have each other."
Daenaera nods, "I swear it! We will be family, and I only pray that I can repair the damage that I did to our sisterhood, Alysanne."
"Just so," Daenerys says, "I can even kick Egg in the knee, if you would like. When we were young, I used to trip him if we raced because he never let me win."
Alysanne lets out an unladylike snort and then hugs both of her closest friends. If she is to wed a liar –stop. You mustn't think that way – for your own happiness! – then she must make the best of it.
The next day the wheelhouse is far more cheerful and Alysanne dreads her wedding just a bit less. If only her relationship with Aegon was as simple to repair as her friendships with Daenaera and Daenerys. If only he had not lied to her. If only things were not the way they were.
As they travel toward the Isle of Faces, Aegon speaks to her at meal times. He tells her of the past, of all the times he thought of her before he knew she was real. And he tells of her of his mistakes, of all the things he did wrong in their relationship. Alysanne doesn't know what to make of it. Does he truly feel guilty? Or is it another plot to win her trust? Will she ever know what is real and what is not?
It is different this time, as the lightning bugs die, and the grass begins to thin. Aegon is exposed. He shows her the parts of him he kept secret – the places that are dark and terrible; the places that even he did not want to see. She had already known the worst he could be, and the best. Now she knows somewhere in between. The parts of him that see no light.
This Aegon is herAegon. He is imperfect. He is dark and light, and warm and cold. He is only the sum of his parts; nothing more, nothing less.
The Isle of Faces is not what she had imagined during the long days in her wheelhouse. The air is far more humid, the trees unnaturally tall, with spidery limbs that seem to interlock so that it is impossible to see where one tree ends and another begins. The trees are like a thicket, so close that they blot out the light until it is nearly always night beneath their branches. The leaves are as red as the ones at Winterfell, and the bark aged a fine papery white. The faces cut into the trunks are bleeding when they arrive, thick sap coagulating at the roots creating a tarlike pool of red where the northerners must kneel.
It is not the look of the weirwood that has her so on edge. The air is so thick, and the paths so winding that it is easy to lose one's way. She feels as though she is being watched. It is not the curious eye of courtiers, but the scrutinizing gaze of the trees that makes her hair stand on end. Alysanne thinks that perhaps it is the feeling of the Gods.
One thing Alysanne knows, there is nothing romantic about the Isle of Faces, and she struggles to understand why her parents had once said their own vows in the shadow of the trees.
They wed at dusk on the final day of Summer. The air is still warm, but the gnats are no longer biting, and the air is beginning to dry. Her maiden cloak is finished with haste, as both she and her ladies speedily embroider a beautiful gown and cloak.
Her gown is similar to the one that Daenaera had sewn for the Spring Festival. It is red silk with a layer of sheer white gossamer, embroidered with a brocade of golden floral motifs. It is backless, with a high, square neckline in the front. It is one of the most beautiful gowns she has ever handled.
When she walks towards the weirwood tree, arm around her uncle it takes everything within her not to falter. Can she truly live a happy life with Aegon? Without trust?
"The ink is dry," she whispers to herself, so low that no one might hear.
"Say the word, Alys, and I will take you from this place," her uncle says but she simply shakes her head.
"I love him," and it is the truth, because she does love him. But she wonders if love is enough to keep them together, to keep them happy.
Ned's face falls and he speaks ominously, "Love is sweet, dearest Alysanne, but it cannot change a man's nature."
Alysanne inhales and it seems that when she releases her breath she is married by all laws of Gods and men.
"All hail, Prince Aegon of Dragonstone and his wife, Princess Alysanne of Dragonstone."
She is a princess of the blood no longer, but a princess with a crown. One day, she will be Queen. One day, she will birth kings.
When they make love this time, it is not like before. The first time had been awkward, sweet, but both had fumbled. This time, Aegon is meticulous, slow, precise. Alysanne is glad that their first time together was not watched by a Septon, was not confirmed by a man who had no business seeing her nudity.
"One night is not enough," she cries as day breaks and they begin to dress.
"It must be until Spring comes," Aegon soothes, though the pain in his voice is evident, "I like it no more than you, but this is our Lord Father's command."
Alysanne sniffles quietly and allows Aegon to give her a soft kiss, "We are parting before our marriage has even begun." Secretly she is afraid. Will the time that they spend apart undo all the work they have done to repair their relationship? Will he stay true while she is in the north? Can she even bear to leave him for six turns?
They walk slowly to the tent that connects north and south and Alysanne is trying so very hard not to cry.
"I will miss you. I love you."
"I know, my love. I will think of you every day," he whispers and holds her close. He tries to ignore the deathlike glare of Lord Stark to enjoy the last few moments he has with his wife. "I love you, Alysanne. And I will work to be the man you deserve."
Ned begins to pull Alysanne away and she locks eyes with Aegon as her uncle leads her towards the tent. The tears fall freely from her eyes, and continue still as her ladies maids strip her down and replace the fine silks for practical wool and fur.
"We will write down all the things that happen to share with you when you come back to us," Daenerys says, "And when you do come back to us, we will celebrate for days. We can go to the Spring Festival together, and help Daenaera make her gown for her wedding to Viserys."
"Perhaps we can meet your friends," Alarra says with a bright smile, "and write them."
"We will wear our friendship bracelets every day!" Elissa says sweetly, "And think of you."
Jeyne sniffles and then says, "It will not be the same here, without you."
At that moment the girls exchange hugs and farewells and Alysanne is choking on the knot in her throat.
She brings nothing from the south to the north except for a single Kingsguard. Ser Jaime has watched her tears from the moment she awoke on Dragonstone until the moment she is to cross the neck. He has a look in his eyes that Alysanne cannot place.
"What am I to do, Ser Jaime?" Alysanne whispers. Her ladies are gone and Aegon is on the other side of the makeshift crossing between the North and South, a single long tent with a flap between. Just beyond the fabric wall in front of her is the north.
"I do not know, Your Grace," Ser Jaime says honestly, "But I understand your pain."
Alysanne blinks and Jaime smiles sadly, "Cersei and I have shared everything together until she married, and I became a Kingsguard. We were brought into the world together, and yet I have not seen her in so long I would forget her face if it were not also my own."
Alysanne blinks back tears and hugs Jaime fiercely, "And now you may not even write her because you are coming North with me." Her voice drops with guilt but Jaime smiles.
"I chose to join you, Your Grace. I wanted to watch over you and I do not regret that decision at all."
Alysanne takes a deep breath and watches as the tent flaps in the winds that have begun to gather.
"How am I to do this, Ser Jaime? How do I leave my husband behind?"
"You take a single step at a time, Your Grace. I will be behind you each step of the way."
She steps through the tent in her Northern garb and is greeted with hugs from her first friends.
"We missed you," Myha says, "We are so glad to have you back-"
"Wait until you hear what my oaf of a brother did this time-"
"I have been betrothed to Lord Reed's son-"
But Alysanne is still sniffling as her friends guide her into the wheelhouse. As soon as she is out of sight she bursts into tears and Alys hugs her fiercely.
"You love him." It is a statement, and not a question and Alysanne cries even harder.
"With all of my being."
"Oh Alys," Wynafryd sighs, "I know we are no replacement for the Prince, but we love you too."
"I know!" cries Alysanne miserably, "I should not cry but I will not see my husband for six turns of each year and-" She falls into a mess of hiccups and deep breaths.
They hold her for the entire journey north. At Winterfell, her family is waiting in the courtyard with bated breath.
"Alysanne, the Princess of Dragonstone," the herald announces as she leaves her carriage. Princess of Dragonstone. No longer is she simply Princess Alysanne, a princess of the blood. She is different now. And Winterfell is different too.
It feels cold, and Alysanne cannot understand why until she realizes that Winterfell is no longer home.
They try to give her comfort, to hold her close and cherish her while she embraces the flurries of winter. Everyone is different, now. Or perhaps, she is different. Robb looks at her differently, with a gleam in his eye that she cannot place, as though he is trying to understand a complex puzzle. Sansa is growing, head full of stories of knights now, and not princes. Arya is still underfoot, but now she wears trousers when her mother cannot see. Bran's gaze is calculated, while he spends his days under a weirwood tree, no longer interested in becoming a southern knight.
Rickon is the only one who remains unchanged, a toddler who clings to her whenever he has the chance.
She barely speaks to her uncle. He invites her to break her fast each morning, and each morning she declines.
"I have decided that I am under the weather," she says to Ser Jaime, who passes on the phrase he has heard from her many times.
Her only interaction on many days is with her maid who empties the sick in her chamber pot. The days shorten and her waist grows. It is true, she realizes, that those who declare love at the Spring festival are blessed with fertility for a year and a day, and so her ladies begin to sew her wider gowns and soft baby blankets.
This is the first time she truly fights with her uncle, "Please – he does not know and-"
"I did not meet Robb until I returned to Winterfell after the rebellion," Ned says gruffly and Alysanne sobs.
"But you knew – you knew you had a child coming, and that you had a son. Aegon does not know-"
"It is winter, and you reside at Winterfell. Your husband will be made aware of your condition when you cross the Neck and not a moment earlier."
"This is not fair!" Alysanne shouts, face turning red in anger, "I should not be here. I have loved the north and will always love the north. But you cannot keep me from my husband. I should be able to make my own decisions, and I would decide to stay with Aegon! I would decide to allow my child a father!"
Ned's face is impassive, "The King's decision is final, and you should thank him. If it were up to me, the marriage would be annulled, and you would never pass the Neck again."
Alysanne veers back as though slapped and holds in sobs that are ready to fall from her throat, "Fine. But know this, uncle. You lost me the moment I left Aegon's arms."
They fall into a tense silence. Her uncle wants to hold onto her, this Alysanne knows. And when her uncle Benjen pays a visit he says as much. But Alysanne cannot forgive him. Forgiveness, she thinks, is something she has given too freely. She used the last of it on Aegon, and has none left to spare. She is as cold to Eddard Stark as the winter winds.
She watches the seasons change from her window, as the snow becomes heavier and heavier and the shortest day of winter finally passes. It is strange. Alysanne has no memory of being cold in Winterfell, no memory of needing warmth. Until now.
Alysanne barely speaks to her uncle, bitter and angry that he will allow no communication between Alysanne and the father of her child. She sits in the cold, thinking about her possible future.
She wonders if she will share the same fate as her mother, whether these long turns in the North could be the last moments of her life, and without Aegon. Her heart grows colder and colder and the only light in her despair comes when the child within her moves.
"Your papa loves you, just as I love you," she whispers, "Even if he does not yet know you as I know you."
This should be their time together, she mourns. They should feel their child's first kicks in her womb, and watch the changes that spread across her body and rejoice. The bells should ring that a child is nigh. They should feast, and celebrate, and unite as a family.
She loves the north, it is true, but she counts each moment that passes in anticipation. She needs to see Aegon again. Perhaps she would not feel so lonely if only he could write to her. If only she could write Daenerys and Daenaera. If only she could read the giggly words of Alarra and Elissa and the rambles of Jeyne. Then perhaps she would not miss them so much. But it is forbidden. Aegon is not to contact her while she is in the North, just as her uncle is not to contact her while she is in the South. She is to lead two separate lives and it frightens her.
What will happen when the child is born? Will her uncle accept a child's presence for six turns a year? Will Aegon even allow his future heir to leave the safety of Dragonstone? Is she to leave her child behind? There is too much uncertainty, too much chaos.
Sooner than is polite, her trunks are packed for her journey and soon she is entering the wheelhouse. Sansa and Arya join her, and Robb kisses her cheek. She ignores her uncle for the entire ride to the Neck, much to his despair.
Alysanne's stomach is in knots as Jory Cassel helps her from the wheelhouse. Lyra watches her closely, helping her into the tent that Alysanne has been aching to see since she saw it last. Here, in the Neck, on the other side of the river, her husband is waiting. Her friends are waiting.
"You are too nervous, Princess," Alys says, "His Grace is as excited to see you as you are him. I am sure of it."
Alysanne's fears are clear to her ladies. She fears Aegon's love is fickle, that he chose a new lover while his wife was away. They had but a night together before they were pulled apart. And before that, they never truly moved past the lies that built the foundation of their relationship.
She refuses to be unhappy, refuses to be angry at Aegon if only because her future depends on it. She embraces the deception of the south as she sheds the furs and wools of the north.
The silks are smooth on her skin, and sooth her from the humidity in the Neck. She glides across the tent and Uncle Ned stops behind her as she crosses into the South. His face is in a grim line, as though he holds no joy in returning Alysanne to her husband.
A party is waiting for her on the other side of the river. Dozens of horses with knights upon their backs, an entourage of servants, and the Prince of Dragonstone himself stand proudly before her. The chatter is silenced, for the Princess of Dragonstone has finally come South again.
Aegon is the first to shake his shock and dismount his horse. He near runs to her and he presses a deep kiss to her lips before setting his hand on her swollen middle.
"Curse our father and your uncle for keeping you from me." He whispers so low that no one can hear and kisses her ear, "You carried this burden alone. We would have celebrated – a new heir-"
"The ink is dry," Alysanne replies having wept too many times to cry again, "What is done is done. Take me home."
And he does.