Not a Sun
i. I had often wondered if perhaps my parents were mistaken, if it was possible that I was not a Martell of Dorne.
Curtains of silk danced with the breeze that blew off the water as Elia gazed out the window. Sunspear was alive with excitement.
The merchants were peddling their wares in the cobblestone streets below, children weaved in and out of crowds, laughing and shouting. Elia wheezed softly as she watched. 'The people below look so light,' she thought, 'they aren't weighed down by their responsibilities and their shortcomings.' They were ignorant and selfish, not unlike indulged children, and she loved them even more for it. They were Doran. They were Oberyn. They were Elia. They were all of them, in another life.
ii. Mayhaps I had been destined to be born in the North, for no words sound as right to me as the words of the Mormonts of Bear Island, Here We Stand.
Doran often spoke of The Free Cities, of places far past the horizon. Their names fell from his lips like the names of old friends, Myr, Norvos, Volantis, but on Elia's tongue, they tasted bitter and coppery. They tasted like loss. "...and some day, when you're in good health, I will bring you with me. I will show you the glass vendors on the streets of Myr, the festival in Norvos, where they have a bear dance down a path they refer to as the Sinner's Steps, and we'll stroll across the Long Bridge in Volantis. The Long Bridge goes over the mouth of the Rhoyne; we could look down upon the waters of our ancestors..." Doran's voice faded in and out like fog, it was pleasant to see him so exuberant; he was usually so quiet and placid.
Elia smiled and continued to listen to his lies. She would never be healthy. She would never walk the streets of The Free Cities. She could listen though; she was capable of that at least. "Pentos however is truly enchanting, the city has a sweet aroma due to all the spice traders, and it has ships with colourful silk sails." The only silks she would see were her curtains, of that Elia was certain.
iii. Alternatively, could it be that I was supposed to be a member of House Codd of the Iron Islands, whose motto was Though All Men Do Despise Us.
Maesters filtered in and out of her life, as the ships filtered in and out of the port of Sunspear. Each of them had a cure, a permanent solution. Her parents were hopeful fools and fell for the ruse every time. One maester had her drink a concoction of mint and wormwood; it tasted foul and was for naught. Another had her apply a salve of mustard, poison kisses and blue coldsnaps, which left her with a rash. By age seventeen Elia had seen three winters, and was quite done with Maesters. "Elia, my sweetling, please listen to sense," her mother pleaded, "Maester Lsyantil is confident he can provide aid to you."
"Mother, I love you, I truly do. However, I do not see the purpose of pretending that I can be fixed. I am what I am."
"And what do you presume that is?" replied her father curiously.
"I am Elia of Dorne. I am the daughter who should not have survived but did. I am the Sun that was punctured by the spear," she spoke softly, but in that moment as Elia swept up and out of the solarium, it echoed as if she had yelled.
iv. Could it be that those in the Riverlands were my true kin? Above The Rest felt like it could fit, if given time. Maybe I should seek out the Mallisters of Seagard, for it seemed possible that they were the family I should have had.
The letter arrived in the morning, she had been cooing over her favorite niece, who she had taken to calling 'Nym'. As she giggled and peered up at her through dark eyes that were the colour of Sandbeggar trees, Elia knew she would grow up healthy and lovely. Sounds of crinkling parchment drew her eyes across to the other end of the hall, her parents sat up on the dais exchanging proud looks as they scrutinized the letter. Handing Nym off to Oberyn, she strode across the hall. "Pray tell, what is the news?" she inquired.
Her mother's face was alight with a smile, as she walked towards her with her arms outstretched, "Elia, my dove, we have received wonderful news, written in the King's own hand."
Confusion bloomed on Elia's visage, "Really? What is it?"
"King Aerys, seven bless him and his reign, has seen fit to ask for your hand in marriage on behalf of his son, Prince Rhaegar," said Sarella excitedly.
Elia's knees quivered and her olive skin paled as her mother's words sank in, "That is a most gracious offer," she said, inhaling deeply and trying not to wheeze on her stilted exhale of breath.
"Indeed it is, my dear. It is better than anything your mother or I dared to hope for," her father said, not unkindly.
"When?" was all Elia could stutter out in reply.
"You'll be married within three moons, in the Great Sept Of Baelor. The whole realm will be in attendance of course, and we'll have to have a proper wedding dress commissioned immediately,"Sarella jumped through thoughts much like a tiger did a flaming hoop, quickly and without warning.
Limply Elia moved towards the ottoman by the window. Bonelessly she sat and looked out, her mother's voice washing over her like water. Dark emerald eyes fixed on the harbour below, all Elia could see was silk painted with lies and broken promises.
v. At times I wished I was of House Redfort, and lived out my days in the Vale, for their saying was As Strong As Stone, and I would have liked to be so resilient.
King's Landing smelled of shit. It had a repulsive odour, and reeked of opportunistic vipers. Standing in the Hall Of Lamps, Elia stood clothed in a dress of red and yellow with white Myrish lace, and her Martell cloak. She stood poised with all the regal pride she could muster, her onyx hair braided to the side, jewels of garnet and gold placed throughout. She looked like a true Dornish princess-if only she felt like one.
Her almost-husband stood at her side, brilliant in his appearance, a simple black tunic with the Targaryen sigil embroidered over his heart, and a crown of gold sat upon his brow. Somehow, the prince had managed to look politely bored throughout the ceremony; if they ever became friends, Elia would have to have him teach her how. After the vows were said and they escaped the spectators, they retired to Rhaegar's chambers for the bedding. It was awkward, and it was painful, but he held her afterwards as she cried; merely greeting her sadness like an old friend.
Perhaps their marriage would not be a cruel one, Elia dared to hope.
vi. Possibly, I was a long lost Peckledon, of the Westerlands. They had only one word, I envied the simplicity. Unflinching.
Elia awoke cold and alone. Rhaegar wasn't beside her and even though King's Landing was said to be warm, it wasn't comparable to the true heat of Sunspear. Shivering, she climbed out of bed and pulled on one of Rhaegar's ruby coloured tunics, rubbing heat into her limbs with her hands she sat by the window and looked out at the water. It was early morning and the sun's rays were just creeping over the horizon, spiraling and swirling over the inky indigo sky. The sky was breathtaking. It reminded her of her marriage. It reminded her of compromise. She watched for a long time, until the union of light and dark had ended; and all that remained was a vast robin blue.
Rising and preparing for the day, she called for her handmaidens and had them dress her in a gown of crimson and black lace. They fashioned her hair into a gaudy elaborate southron design, painted her lips and applied rouge to her cheeks before pronouncing her finished. She didn't feel finished, she felt like a flower that had been bent must feel, ruined. Straightening her spine, she strolled down the corridors until she reached the throne room. It was queerly silent. That didn't matter, she had to find Rhaegar. Elia had important news for him she had meant to mention it the night prior, but he'd been up until the late hours researching some legend from the east. The sound of silence hit her like a wave, that, and the acrid odour of burning flesh.
Barely suppressing a shriek, she locked eyes with a handsome man. He had brown hair, the colour of oak trees, eyes the colour of smog. He had flesh that was melting and cries that would be echoed in her dreams for the next fortnight. A gentle hand took hers and rushed her away from the horror, as she was hurried down the hall the world went black.
She came back to herself some time later; she was in her solarium, with Rhaegar. "Elia? Elia? Darling, if you can hear my words, you must tell me," his voice was quiet but dripped with urgency.
"I am not an invalid, I can hear you quite well," Elia snapped.
Her husband looked much more relieved than insulted. Then it all rushed back, the man, the throne room, the lack of objections, and the fire. "...there was a man, my prince, in the throne room. He was melting. I could see it, like a candle, he was burning and his wick was igniting too quickly. He was there, and then he was gone," she softly uttered.
"Yes," Rhaegar replied looking ill, "yes, his name was Ser Edmund, of House Waxley, of the Vale."
They both fell silent, hands entwined they sat in the sun for a long while. Elia's hands trembled, and Rhaegar cried. The sun was high in the sky, before either of them spoke. "Why...?"
He didn't answer right away, and she feared she would have to repeat herself. She doubted she would be able to. "He, Ser Edmund, he asked fath- King Aerys if he could give him consent for his Lord father to annul the marriage of Ser Edmund's sister her husband is unkind to her, it seems. My fa-the King was enraged by the fact a mere knight, was demanding a King anything, then he-well you saw the end result."
Tears slipped down his cheeks, and he buried his head in her black locks. Salt bathed her hair, as she squared her shoulders and lifted her head high. Turning to look him in the eyes, she cradled his face and waited until his senses came back to him. Royalty didn't have the luxury of crying.
"I am with child."
A smile broke across his face, and his tears restarted, this time mixing with hers. Pulling her close to him, his arms enclosed around her. Cradling her close and he mouthed words into her hair. He crouched in-front of her and began placing kisses to her stomach, each in a different place, with a different promise. "You will be glorious, strong, and better than any born before you."
He punctuated each with a kiss, and despite it being her own body, Elia felt like an intruder. Ushering her up and into their bedroom, he positioned her on the bed. Their coupling was slow, and long, by the time they were stopped it was dark out. They laid their intertwined in silence, and it was only after Rhae had fallen asleep that Elia realized, 'neither of us came...' Letting out a quiet chuckle she snuggled close to her husband and drifted off.
Elia did not dream of burning men that night, as she thought she would. She dreamed of a son, as fierce as the first men, a daughter as wise as the High Septon. She dreamed of a healthy child.
vii. I believe, in a better life, I could have been a Bulwer of Blackcrown, of The Reach, they have a motto worth saying. Death Before Disgrace.
Childbirth was horrid; Elia had never wished to be a peasant more than she did whilst she was in labour. If she was, then she could choose to have but one child and then stop if she wished, but she knew, Elia of House Targaryen had no such liberty. "Push! Push! Push princess, you are so close!" ordered the Maester.
Somewhere in her head, she heard the echo of a past thought, 'was quite done with Maesters,' and with that she let out a laugh that turned into a cry, when she gave a push that turned into a rip. Then all she knew was black.
Eyes of green opened, and her world had changed. She was alone, and the walls were pressing in on her imposingly. She remembered blood and pushing then nothing sitting up, she called out."Hello? Can anyone hear me?"
A man rushed into the room, old, bald and altogether quite surprised looking. It sounded like the beginning to a funny Dornish song, but life was not a song. "Princess!" he crowed, "Princess!"
The man was a regular scholar, obviously very smart and aware of his surroundings. "Yes, may you fetch my husband. I would have words with him."
'Perhaps Rhaegar will have a clue what the sevens is happening,' she thought scoffing quietly.
"Oh-Yes, but of course, yes, right away!" the man stuttered and fled, and she was glad to be rid of the fool.
Rising into a more regal position, she tried to attain as much dignity she could before Rhaegar arrived. The door opened timidly, and a blonde head poked in almost shyly. It was Rhaegar, and by the seven, he was more beautiful then she had remembered, how long had it been? A day? A day and a night? A fortnight? She knew not. "El ..ia?" his voice was shaking, and failed in the middle of her name.
"Rhae, my dear, I fear you must tell me what has happened within our city, whilst I slumbered. Last I recalled, Princesses deserved the finest Maesters in the realm, not bumbling, stuttering fools!" Elia snarled. "Where is our child, what name have they been given? Did I bare you a son? A daughter? A stillborn?"
Rhaegar looked shocked, and took a second to shake his head before replying, "The King, is worsening I fear. We will speak at length, at a later time, you have missed much my Elia, you have slept nigh on three weeks. We kept you alive with honey and milk of the poppy we feared you wouldn't wake," his voice trailed off, before he cleared his throat and continued, in the nursery, "Rhaenys is in the nursery, she's-gods Elia, she looks like you, she is beautiful, and perfect. She's a bloody Sun, a spear of fire."
He stepped forward and took a seat beside her on the bed, linking their fingers and holding her close. 'Perhaps, he has gotten more mature whilst I slumbered,' she wondered. A gentle trickle of tears, slipped down her face, they were not her's. 'Perhaps not'.
Freeing a hand, she lit a candle on the bedside table, the room smelt of illness and death, and the smoke and cinnamon was a welcome scent. Amidst smoke and salt, Elia of House Targaryen was reborn anew.
She sat there a while, until the sky cleared and the rain stopped, before looking up at her personal cloud. Rubbing at his bloodshot eyes, Rhaegar looked so much younger, and she could physically feel the two years older that she was, he was still but a boy of nineteen, and her a woman of twenty-one. Stifling a cough, "Bring Rhaenys to me, at once. I would look upon our daughter."
Rhaegar smiled, and she was sure the snow beyond The Wall melted, before he rushed off, out of sight. Paling she collapsed back on her pillow, coughing, hacking, and choking on her sickness. When the coughing had finally ceased she pulled back her hand; it came back red, red with blood. Elia laughed, for the first time since labour, and then wiped it on the bedding of Targaryen colours. Red was good for something after all.
viii. If I had been born a member of House Lonmouth, of The Stormlands, my words would have been The Choice Is Yours, but I was not, so it is not.
Elia was twenty-five, when the world fell apart around her. She was perched upon a makeshift throne that had been placed at the top of the platform that was raised for the nobility to be seated. Sitting comfortably conversing with Lady Ashara Dayne, she held her daughter's hand. Re-adjusting Aegon upon her knee, she steeled herself, Rhaegar was up in the lists next.
He'd been quiet lately, reading all through the night, distant in every meaning of the word, and Elia was frightened that it would influence his performance in the tournament. Glancing at the Wailing Tower, at it's stones that had cracked due to the heat of dragonbreath, she restrained herself. Dragons had conquered Harrenhal, and Rhaegar was a dragon.
He rode out, pale as white fire, with a smug look in his eye. He rode back with the crown, and past her, to that Stark girl, Lyanna. Aegon felt heavy in her arms, the babe weighed her down, as did the stares of those around her. The crown dropped into the girl's lap and Elia feared she would drop her son.
Inhaling deep, she forced her face into a smile and pushed back the resentful gleam in her eyes. Internally, she scoffed, lovely and striking as Lyanna was, she was but a girl of thirteen, and Rhaegar was a man of twenty-two, and though not unheard of it only added to insult. If he was to cuckold her so publicly, why did he have to do it with a girl a decade younger than his wife?
Positioning Aegon on her hip, she stood. Supporting her son with one arm, and holding Rhaenys' hand with the other, she took her leave. Insulted as she was, Rhaegar was the weeper, not her. Dragons may cry, but the Sun wept no tears.
Her husband avoided contact with her for the following weeks, only speaking to her in court or in other necessary occasions, Elia was not as childish. She was polite, cruel in her kindness, lathering on the coating of a gentle princess so thick, even she began to be unable to tell where her skin ended and the armour began. As their problems worsened, gardens overgrew until mockingbirds were said to sing in all ends of the castle, and rooms of the keep went untidied until spiders were spotted in every dark crevice.
Then one evening on her return from court, only four burnings today, he crept up behind her and took her hand. She accepted and waited silently for him to speak. "I apologize."
"Do you?" she replied, amused.
"I do. I am about to do something, that will upset you, will upset the realm."
Elia chuckled, "I am aware, my silver dragon. You are going to run away with The Northern wolf and have pups."
He flinched, and then righted himself, staring at the tapestries upon the wall before responding, "How? You knew? But I tried, I fought, I looked for a different option, I didn't want to choose her!"
Nodding, she let a smile of silk burst on her face, bitter and rueful. "I know that too, but after Aegon, I can't have any more children, and 'the dragon has three heads'."
That time Rhaegar almost stopped walking altogether out of shock, turning to look her in the face, as they strolled the keep aimlessly. "I do not understand, I never mentioned that to you, I had hoped to solve it on my own."
Elia threw her head back and howled with laughter, "You aren't the only educated member in this marriage, my sweet. I am capable of reading as well, particularly capable when you leave scrolls open upon our table in the solar."
Halting them both, he took their joined hands and just stared at the differences, at the similarities. Dark, where he was pale, soft where he was calloused, yet strong, whilst he was weak. He smirked ruefully, and wondered who really was Elia, they'd been married almost six years, and he felt like he still had no clue who she was.
They walked back to their shared chambers together and laid in each other's arms as they fell asleep, they ate breakfast together, played with the children together, then walked to the River Gate together in silence. Sharing one last kiss and embrace as husband and wife they both looked upon each other mournfully, and as Rhaegar climbed upon his pale mare and road out onto The Kingsroad, Elia thought, 'it must be so nice to have the ability to make choices, Rhae. If only all of us had that luxury.'
ix. Looking back, it was not impossible that I had been a Martell the whole time, and just been unable to see, but as the mountain grew until it reached the Sun, I felt that it didn't matter anymore.
Gazing at arachnids on the other side of the throne room, Elia stared meaningfully, and then bowed head in gratitude. She looked away before checking that the round faced man had noticed. Strolling down the steps until she stood in front of the throne, Elia locked eyes with The King. "Yes?" he rasped.
"My King," she spoke dutifully, "I would speak with you."
"My good-daughter, we are speaking now, or has your constant illness robbed you of your sense?"
Chuckling spitefully, she straightened her spine. "Your grace, you undoubtedly have heard of my husband, your son's, demise?"
"Yes get to the point girl, my patience weakens!"
"You refuse to give me leave to evacuate with Queen Rhaella, and your son Viserys, your grace. I hoped you might grant me this one boon?"
"Might I wear the mourning colours? Estranged as we were at the time of my husband's death, we were fond of each other."
"So this is what the realm has become, a world of traitorous fools, a realm of righteous idiots, a kingdom overrun with Dornish whores! No, you may not! You will wear the Martell colours, as you were never, and never will be a true Targaryen Princess!" The King rose from his throne of swords screaming.
Soft as a gentle breeze, Elia patted down her dress, seemingly defeated. "Then what of you, my King?" voice growing with every syllable, "you are a true Targaryen, correct?"
"What are you getting at, harlot? Of course I am!"
"Yes, you are. You, Aerys the second of his name, will be the last Targaryen on that throne for a very long time. For you, are a sick man. A crazed dragon. A mad King, and I pity you, because you will die, and no one will mourn you." The Sun was scorching hot, and Elia was not finished. "The realm will remember you for years to come, that is true. However, no songs will be sung for Aerys, the last of his name. They will sing of Rhaegar the Fool, Lyanna the stolen, Targaryens the shamed, and they will sing dirges of Elia the unbowed, requiems of Elia the unbent, they will sing of Elia of House Martell until breath leaves their lungs. They will recite elegies of Elia of House Targaryen, the unbroken." Red faced, and dressed in silks of flame, the Princess strode out, down the hall, and no one stopped her.
Later as the Mountain dashed the orphan boy's head against the wall, Elia pleaded and begged for mercy for the son that wasn't hers, for he was someone's, and no one deserved that, and when Amory Lorch entered covered in blood, but with a black eye, and scratches down his cheek. Elia knew that she and her daughter would never be forgotten and when the mountain moved in and out, and the pain was too much, she hoped Gregor Clegane would live, because Aegon would come back, and she wanted him to have the pleasure of watching the landmass bow, bend, and break. She wanted the world to remember the Martells, because the Martells would surely never forget.
As the summer colours faded, and her world went dark, Elia thought she saw a glimpse of a ship with sails of silk, sails the colour of winter roses, hidden in the blink of a blink, and she laughed.
Elia of Dorne died with a laugh on her lips, and felt content with never being finished.
x. I think I might have loved my husband, for in our last moments together he was less a dragon and more a man. I might have loved the man. I might have been a Targaryen.