Dany has always been insecure.
Some might not see it, for she hides that part of her behind a veil of cheeky grins, tinkling laughs and witty retorts. Yet underneath all that, she's always been an insecure little child.
Most people give her kind compliments; sing her praises that should've made her feel otherwise – pretty and precocious little Dany, that's what they called her – but no matter how hard she tried, she could not bring herself to believe them.
How could she when her own brother had it ingrained in her mind that she's just a worthless piece of trash; nothing but an utter disgrace to their family?
For as long as she could remember, Viserys has always treated her with the utmost disdain, for no apparent reason at all. It's as if he just hated her for merely existing. She never completely understood why, but perhaps, it's just that simple – he hated her solely for being born. She supposed that it has something to do with the fact that she was doted upon by everyone in their family, while they had left him on the sidelines all by himself. Not that they actually had, but regardless, that's what her brother made himself believe things to be.
Viserys has always yearned for attention.
And she practically ruined that for him when she decided to grace this world with her much-resented existence, Dany would sometimes think bitterly to herself.
She remembered, back when she was younger, she had found a photograph tucked between the pages of one of her father's books. It was a little copy of their family portrait, taken when she was still but a babe in her mother's arms. In that picture, her mother and her other brother, Rhaegar had looked upon her with unconcealed adoration in their eyes and even their stern and mostly indifferent father had this glazed look of quiet fondness in his as he gazed upon her, but Viserys... he had looked at her with such blatant contempt, it was as if he was peering at a stain he's disgusted with, rather than his own baby sister.
Time and again, every chance he'd get, Viserys would torment her. It morbidly delighted him to see his own little sister suffering from his own hands. And had it not been for their older brother, Rhaegar, she knew, she would've gone through much worse.
Sometimes, she thinks the gods too cruel for giving her a brother like Viserys. She already has one older brother - a brother who loves her and does not hurt her. So, why did they still deem it necessary to bestow upon her another which she considers more as an atrocious curse rather than a part of her family?
But then, after thinking that, a spiteful voice, somewhere in the deepest recesses of her mind, would tell her that she has no right to feel that way. Viserys had been born before her, so if anything, she should feel sorry that she was born.
It didn't help that, when she was younger, her brother kept on telling her that she was just adopted.
Sure, it was just one of his many petty and immature ways in riling her up and making her life miserable, but it certainly used to get to her more than anything.
It was a dreadful seed of doubt that Viserys had deeply planted in her young mind. Just the idea that her whole childhood could turn out to be mere pretense all along had troubled her greatly; she oftentimes loses sleep just pondering over it. She feared that she was, in truth, merely an outsider to the family she grew up believing as her own. But most of all, she feared that they would grow tired of her and just abandon her entirely the moment they all decide that they don't want her anymore.
As she grew older, however, she ceased believing the lie that Viserys has repeatedly entrenched in her mind.
Of course, she wasn't adopted. She knew that now. She looks too much like her mother to be one. But she can never forget that time when Viserys almost had her believing that she was...
She had only been around four years old then, just a few more months before turning five, if her memory serves her right.
She remembered it being a bright and a particularly pleasant morning as she pranced about the hallway to her room, feeling giddy with happiness for some silly reason.
Flapping limply on her back was a pair of leather dragon wings that her mother had made for her. It had been that year's trick-or-treat costume and although Halloween has already come and gone, she still wore it every day, imagining herself a dragon flying aimlessly amongst the clouds.
As she was busy with the whims of being a child, she happened upon the door of Viserys' room and a sudden urge to go inside bloomed within her when she saw that it was half-opened. She knew, she's not supposed (or allowed, more like) to touch even a single toe to his room, but something caught her attention from inside: a flicker of light that seems to be winking at her and beckoning her to come and look closer.
Slyly, she peered in through the gap and slowly pushed the door farther open, a soft creak sounding from its hinges. Justifying what she was about to do as simply the result of an irrepressible curiosity of a child, she tentatively took a step inside. She padded along the floor farther into the room, enthralled by the shimmering light coming from the small object and as she drew closer, she only grew more amazed by it.
It was a small crystal statuette of a dragon that was perched on the ledge of Viserys' window and it had caught a sliver of sunshine coming through the glass pane, making a rainbow of splintered light bounce off along the walls from the dragon's prismatic crystal scales.
It's beautiful, she remembered thinking.
And she couldn't help herself as her hand reached out for the glimmering thing to pluck it from where it was placed.
She was admiring the pretty little ornament in awe, turning it here and there in her hands when it suddenly slipped from her hold and fell with a muffled thud on the carpeted floor. Her heart skipped a beat as it landed, but the shock immediately turned into relief when she saw that it didn't break. She was thankful it didn't shatter, for if it had, then only the gods knew what would happen next. She could just imagine the horror that would befall her if Viserys ever learns that she had been in his room and that she had broken one of his things.
She shuddered at the thought.
However, as she bent down to pick the figurine up and return it to its previous place, Viserys' screeching voice unexpectedly sounded from behind, startling her and causing her to abruptly turn to where he stood. Wide-eyed and frozen with fear, she watched as her brother made his way lividly towards her.
"You little wretch! What are you doing here?!"
When she saw that his face had become red with fury, a stuttered apology immediately flew out of her lips, but Viserys – possibly losing his sense of hearing from anger – didn't catch a word she said. Not that it mattered much anyway. It wouldn't make any difference even if he did hear her. Viserys would still be mad, all the same.
He closed the distance between them with long, brisk strides and the moment he reached her, he forcefully grabbed her by her arm and then promptly shoved her down onto the floor. The force and the pain from being jostled took the breath out of her lungs, making her squeak when she landed with a loud thump on the floor.
"Who gave you the idea that you could even step a single foot in my room and touch my things, huh?!" He demanded as his looming figure hovered over her.
"I-I'm s-sorry, Viserys! I didn't break anything, I promise! I just wanted to look. I promise I just looked!" She blurted out in panic as she raised her arms over her head in a defensive manner.
Viserys snatched the crystal dragon she was clutching in one of her hands. "Don't you touch any of my things with your filthy hands ever again!"
"I promise, I promise, I won't!"
"You just can't do anything right, can you?! I don't get why mum and dad even bothered adopting you. It's not like you have much use. You're just a nuisance to our lives! A bloody waste of space!" He snarled.
His words had shocked her. Adopted? Despite her young age, Dany already knew what the word meant. And the weight of the revelation had her feeling numb.
Her chin shook from the tears she was trying so hard to hold back.
"I'm not adopted." She countered tremulously, trying to glare at her brother with clear defiance.
"Of course, you're adopted! You can never be a Targaryen! We're dragons! How can you be a dragon when you're just a pesky and disgusting little maggot?" He seethed through clenched teeth with such malice in his eyes.
"Stop it!" She sputtered pitifully, on the brink of bawling.
Seemingly more fueled by her distress, he kept on spitting his insults. "They should've left you in that pile of shit your real mother dumped you in."
"I'm not adopted!" She repeated, louder this time, more for her own reassurance, rather than an assertion to her brother.
He let out a snide scoff. "How pathetic. Even your whore of a mother doesn't want you, you poor little thing."
His face contorted into a frown of mock-pity as he said those vile words to his own sister without even a single qualm much less a pang of remorse.
He then lifted his hand, poised to strike her, but Rhaegar suddenly came bursting through the door, calling Viserys' name with a reprimanding voice.
Not for the first time, Dany felt immensely grateful and relieved to see her brother coming to her rescue.
My brother... Dany thought, and she can't help thinking if he really was.
"What do you think you're doing?!" He was suddenly in between her and Viserys, instinctively pushing him away from her.
"I'm teaching that little maggot a lesson!" He spat as he pointed an accusing finger at her, his lip curling in annoyance.
Rhaegar looked at Dany then and the sight of his little sister on the floor, close to tears had him simmering in suppressed anger.
"Get out!" He snapped at Viserys in a low voice.
"I'm not the one you should tell off! That little bi--"
"Get. Out." He repeated sharply, cutting Viserys' words off as his nostrils flared and his lips pressed into a thin line. "Don't test my patience, Viserys."
Viserys threw his sister a withering glare. "Why do you care so much about that hell spawn?!"
"She's our sister!" Rhaegar bellowed, appalled. "Now, go before I throw you out of this room, myself!"
And so with a derisive snort and a parting look of undisguised antipathy, he grudgingly walked out of his own room, muttering profanities to both his siblings under his breath.
Dany quietly released a sigh of relief the moment he left and Rhaegar slowly bent down to help her up on her feet. He started to guide her to sit on Viserys' bed, but she only shook her head.
"I want to go to my room." She sniffled, wiping unshed tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
Rhaegar didn't say anything, but he took her small hand in his and quietly led her outside and back to her room.
Seeing her bed brought her calm. With its fluffy blue sheets and white pillows shaped like fat clouds, she almost believed that the sky above had been conjured up into her own room. She headed straight to it and sat on its edge with a soft flop, Rhaegar following to sit right beside her and making the mattress droop lower under his added weight.
"So tell me, what happened?" Her brother asked evenly.
Her hand absently sought for one of her cloud-shaped pillows, pulling it to her lap and squishing it with a light embrace, if only to occupy herself with something before she could detail everything that happened.
"I went inside his room..." She began with a subdued tone.
Rhaegar nodded for her to continue.
She started rambling then. "I was just curious. I just wanted to look at that crystal dragon. I saw it from outside, because his door was opened. I just wanted to see what it was. So I went inside and took it. Just to look, I mean, and not to actually take and keep it... but then I dropped it." She looked at her brother with imploring eyes. "I swear, Rhaegar, I didn't mean to. It just slipped from my hands."
"I believe you." He assured her with a kind smile.
"I didn't do anything wrong, and besides, it didn't even break. I was just returning it when Viserys saw me and then he got mad..."
Rhaegar heaved out a sigh and patted her head awkwardly. "Don't worry. I know it's not your fault."
Of course, it wasn't Dany's fault. Viserys just tends to overreact about every single thing especially wherever their little sister is concerned. He goes berserk over the most trivial of matters that Dany is involved in. And that has always bothered Rhaegar. It was as if Viserys just mindlessly hates their sister and he takes pleasure in seeing her distressed.
Rhaegar veered from his thoughts. "A crystal dragon, you say?"
"Uh-huh." Dany nodded animatedly, seemingly back to her sprightlier self. He found his sister's fickleness quite amusing. "Have you seen it? It's so pretty." She enthused.
"Sure, I've seen it. I have one, too. It was a gift from Grandpa Jae and Grandma Shaera." He said offhandedly.
"Oh..." She mumbled as her face fell, before timidly asking, "You both have one, then?"
The look of sheer disappointment on her face almost broke Rhaegar's heart and he chastised himself for being thoughtless with his words. It wasn't that Dany didn't have her own dragon; it's just that it wasn't given to her yet.
He immediately mollified his little sister, trying to bring back her livelier spirit. "It's not like what you think, Dany. You'll have your own dragon, too, but you'll only get it when you turn ten. Just like we did."
For some reason, their idiosyncratic Grandpa Jae had decided that he would only give those jewel dragons to his grandkids on their tenth birthday.
"Really?!" Dany beamed.
"What does your dragon look like? Is it as pretty as Viserys'? Do you think mine would be as pretty as that, too?"
"Well, mine's made of emerald and its colour is a brilliant green. I'll show it to you later, if you want..." She nodded her head eagerly. "And I'm sure that yours would be the prettiest, Dany. Just like you." He grinned and poked her cheek.
He had expected, at least, a smile from her when he said that, but was disappointingly met with a look of doubt colouring her countenance.
"Do you really think I'd get one?" She asked uncertainly.
"Of course." He replied, without missing a beat. "Grandpa Jae said that since it's our family sigil, it's only fitting for each of us to have our own dragon."
"But... Viserys..." Her words faltered as tears started to well up in her eyes once more. "Viserys told me that I'm only adopted. That I can never be a dragon, because I'm not a real Targaryen." She muttered despondently.
Rhaegar keenly regarded her with narrowed eyes, but not without warmth. "And do you honestly believe that?" He asked.
Dany didn't answer, only sheepishly looking down at her swinging dainty, bare feet. Her brother gave her a comforting smile as he gently lifted her onto his lap.
"Well, you shouldn't." He said, lightly tapping the tip of her nose with his forefinger. That earned him a small teary-eyed smile.
"Because whenever I look at you, it's like I'm looking at my own reflection... only a lot smaller and way, way cuter." He gushed as he fondly pinched her cheek, grinning. "If you're adopted, then that means, I'm adopted, too... which, of course, I highly doubt, because I've been told many times before that I'm like mum's clone."
Dany looked at him then, sniggering adorably, with tears still sparkling on the tips of her lashes. "A clown? People used to tell you you're like a clown?"
"Not a clown, silly. A clone." He corrected her with a playful glare.
"What does that mean?" She asked, gazing at him curiously with misty eyes.
"It means, a duplicate. A replica."
She shook her head and pursed her lips. "I don't understand those words either."
Rhaegar hummed, pausing to think of an explanation that Dany would understand. "It means that I look so much like our mother, I'm almost like an exact copy of her. There, do you understand better now?"
Dany considered his words for a while, before she finally nodded. "Mh-hmm. "
"So, you see, if I'm like mum's clone, then you're like mum's clone, too. We're both like mum's clone. How can you possibly be adopted when you look so much like us, huh?" He looked at her with squinted eyes, as if peering at her features studiously. "You know, you're actually like a miniature version of her."
"There you go again with those words, Rhaegar!" She scoffed exasperatedly with a roll of her eyes, which only made her brother laugh amusedly. "What does minuchur mean?"
"It means..." He said, dragging out the syllables, "...small, little, tiny, itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny..." Trailing off, he playfully prodded her in the ribs with his fingers. She started to giggle and squirm on his lap as he tickled her, but was abruptly cut off by the sharp pain she felt.
"Ow!" She yelped clutching at her shoulder, immediately catching Rhaegar's attention. He stopped tickling her right away.
"Wha--why? Did I hurt you?" He asked with such brotherly concern, it tugged at Dany's heart. It's a good thing she has a big brother like Rhaegar, she thought fondly. How wretched her life would have been had Viserys been her only brother.
"My shoulder." She explained with a slight moue. "Viserys pulled me by my arm earlier and my shoulder popped..."
Rhaegar's brows furrowed, clicking his tongue as he tried to carefully examine his sister's injury. "Let me see."
She let him with a bit of reluctance, wincing feebly as his lithe fingers touched her shoulder with fixed attention.
As he was busy with his ministrations, Dany can't help but think about how much her two brothers differ from each other. While Rhaegar was gentle and affectionate, Viserys was crude and aloof. Then again, it might be just her he was being difficult to. The gods know she has tried to form a more harmonious relationship with her brother, but he just dismisses her every time she does, or worse still, he only alienates himself further from her.
Not for the first time, she wondered about Viserys' unabashed hatred for her. "Why does he hate me so much? What did I even do to him, Rhaegar?"
Her question gave him pause and he looked at her with serious contemplation. He didn't know for certain why his younger brother's ire was directed mostly to their little sister, but what he did know was why Viserys has such violent tendencies.
After taking a deep breath and clearing his throat, he answered with much hesitance, "Viserys... he's... he's not well, Dany."
That had her frowning confusedly. "What do you mean he's not well? Is he sick?"
"Yes, sort of..." He muttered vaguely.
Viserys is not mentally sound. They had learned that early on. Ever since he was little, Viserys would frequently get these episodes of temper tantrums that were far more severe than the normal tantrums most kids have. As he had gotten older, Viserys became more prone to violent outbursts of anger that were, at times, almost uncontrollable and it had only grown significantly worse around the same time Dany was born. He's been going through medication and therapy ever since they learned of his disorder, but much to their dismay, he hasn't yet shown much improvement.
"He looks okay, though." Dany's little voice broke his musings. "Sure, he's thin, but he still looks healthy to me. And he likes to eat his greens, so why would he get sick? Mum said that if we eat our greens, we won't get sick." She droned on with an endearing tone of innocence that Rhaegar can no longer bring himself to tell more about Viserys' real condition.
Not yet, at least. He thought.
"It's not as simple as you think." He sighed deeply, unsure of how to explain such a sensitive matter to his little sister, so he decided to just dismiss it entirely. "You'll understand better when you're older, Dany... No more questions, for now."
She must have heard the tone of finality in his voice, because she merely murmured an "Okay". There was a pout on her lips and a hint of disappointment in her voice when she said that, though. But still, she thankfully acquiesced without further protestations. Rhaegar gently let go of her arm, then.
"I don't think it's dislocated. But to be sure, I'm still taking you to the doctor to get it checked."
She nodded meekly, but Rhaegar noticed a flicker of hesitation on her eyes as her gaze flitted down to her feet once more. Something was still bothering her, he could tell.
"What is it? Come on, you know you can tell me anything, right?" He urged her kindly.
She was quiet for a while, before she finally voiced her thoughts, "I'm not really adopted, am I?"
Viserys' words must have really gotten to her badly, Rhaegar thought sadly.
"Of course, you're not. You're my little sister, you understand? Our brave baby dragon." Rhaegar murmured against the top of her head as he placed a light kiss upon it. "Look, you even have wings." He added as he playfully tugged at the dragon wings Dany was wearing.
Seemingly more reassured, the corners of her lips lifted into a faint smile and she promptly thanked her brother with a loud peck on his cheek.
"Now, off you go and get yourself ready." He shooed her playfully, gently pushing her off his lap.
That had been three years ago...
And here she is today, sitting sullenly in the backseat of one of her father's luxury cars, looking out the window and absently watching a pattern of trees and houses pass by in a blur, with Viserys, who was as sullen as she, sitting right beside her and their chauffeur the only other company they have.
Oh, what thrilling company. She thought sardonically.
Rhaegar wasn't with them. He hasn't been for quite a while, now. He'd gone off to Oldtown to study at The Citadel University around two years ago.
She still remembered how hard she cried and how tightly she clutched onto Rhaegar's arm that day they saw him off at the airport. She only let go when they had appeased her of promises that Rhaegar would visit as often as he could and that he would spend the holidays with them.
The first few months of him gone had been rather hard on Dany, preferring to sulk her days away in her room all by herself. At that time, she had felt utterly sad and scared and a little bit angry at Rhaegar for leaving her all alone with Viserys.
However, after some time, she learned to accept it and get on with life. Besides, it wasn't like Rhaegar would always be there to protect her from Viserys and everything else she needed protecting from for the rest of her life. She knew she had to do that herself, eventually. Regardless, she must admit that she misses Rhaegar terribly.
The thought had her sighing inwardly. The things she'd give just to have her favourite brother's presence in this suffocating car ride.
They're on their way to move to some place called Red Keepville in the city of King's Landing.
The name doesn't sound too promising, she thought wryly.
It sounded so phony, it's almost like some made-up place that one would only find in movies. It made her think of an eerie and affluent suburban village with too lush and too green lawns and creepy subservient housewives constantly cooling homemade pies on their windowsills...
When she did a little research (Googling, being the more apt term, she reckoned), she found out that Red Keepville is an opulent district in King's Landing where almost all of the elite families in Westeros lived.
At first, she hadn't been too ecstatic when she learned that they'd be moving house, – Dragonstone was, after all, the only place she has ever considered her home. It was where she was born and raised in and it's not exactly easy to just let it go – and yet, as they drew closer to their destination, she can no longer deny the tinge of excitement that she felt at the prospect of having new adventures, meeting new people and making new friends in the place she was going to call her new home.
She only hoped that she'd find solace there just like she had at Dragonstone. She wished that the days she'd spend there would be worthwhile...
I got carried away in writing this chapter and made it way longer than what I initially intended. Hope you didn't find it too tedious... :)