The wind from Gabrella’s wings beat down, rustling the leaves of the weirwood trees on the Isle of Faces. Below, Natan could see the boat made of bones resting on the opposite side of the island. He landed and stepped out into the clearing in the center of the island.
Across from him stood the most monstruous person he’d ever seen.
And Natan recognized him.
Harkto had been a big man, a warrior in the dothraki horde. He fought hard and without mercy like most of their kind, but there was a streak of cruelty in Harkto that few of his kin shared. Now he was even larger, dead skin sliding eerily over smooth muscle, and Natan could feel in his bones that his cruelty had grown along with his stature.
There were many times when Harkto had sought to end Natan and his friends during their journies with the horde. He had not hidden his contempt for the westrosi. Only his half sister had stopped him. Jakhara.
Harkto’s gray eyes tracked Natan as he made his way through the clearing. The Khal of khals grinned, revealing rows and rows of sharpened teeth.
“We meet again, Natan Lanncaster,” Harkto growled, his deep voice lingering over vowels.
“You look a bit worse for wear since last time, Harkto,” Natan called back, careful to remain out of reach.
“I have been granted certain gifts from the great blood lords in the east,” he drawled. “And now I will use them to burn down your sunset kingdom.” He raised his hand and Natan could feel his blood begin to race, sweat beginning to form on his forehead.
“What is it that you want,” Natan asked, cutting through Harkto’s show. “What will it take for you to leave my lands.”
Again, Harkto grinned his shark grin. “Bow before me,” he spoke slowly. “Offer me your head and I will take it from you, and when my forces march across the ashes of your home, I will make sure there is a place for your son at my side. Perhaps I will even spare him from pain as I rule from atop the crushed bones of your people.”
Natan scowled as best he could and considered whistling for Gabrella to burn him where he stood, but his honor kept him from doing it. Barely.
“I’ll see you on the battlefield then,” Natan said, turning and striding away.
“Oh, and one last thing you should remember, Harkto,” Natan snarled, turning back. “I am a dragon. My blood runs hot.”
Natan flew high over the battle astride Gabrella. Below lay tens of thousands of dead men. The dragons had filled their purpose, breathing fire and blood down on the dothraki, yet Natan didn’t dare get too far from his troops on the ground lest he lose the ability to command them. The spearmen had held well for some time, but the endless thousands of screamers were beginning to batter them down. Natan knew they would not hold much longer.
Even the dragons were starting to feel ill effects. Natan had put faith in the old addage that you didn’t kill a dragon in the air, but it seemed the maesters of old had not seen tens of thousands of arrows fired at a single creature before. Elia and his Aunt Danaerys were faring well across the field, but Natan could see that Rhaegal was becoming agitated. He flew in formation with Gabrella fair enough, but with no rider helping him he was making fitful maneuvers.
Natan gave the signal to wheel around and ordered his men to retreat. As he flew over what was left of his forces he saw that he had lost thousands. The dothraki had lost many more, but Natan’s reserves would deplete far more quickly than Harkto’s. His supply was nearly endless.
Natan lay awake for several nights. Sleep would not come, no matter how much he courted it.
He would not win.
Harkto had made too many swift moves, had cut him off from decisive moves. There weren’t enough men. Not enough food.
And now Natan knew there was no hope of victory.
Natan pulled on his robe quietly, so not to disturb Arya or young Jon. He padded out into the halls and through the Red Keep, careful not to be seen. There were few awake in the castle at this hour, but he had to be sure. He shortly made his way to Jakhara and Toten’s chambers.
He nudged Jakhara awake silently. Toten was a heavy sleeper and Natan had learned how to be quiet in his years abroad. He motioned her to put on her leathers and led her through the castle.
Deeper they went, the flickering light of torches getting farther and farther apart. In a dark hall, they finally stopped.
Natan felt a heaviness on his chest, his words weighted by them and when he spoke they seemed to fall like lead weights, shattering on the rough hewn rocks aound them.
“Jakhara…I need you to do something for me.”
Her dark eyes searched Natan’s face, wondering.
“I need you to go to him. I need you to go to his side.” Natan watched as he reacted. Surprise and shock followed but suspicion.
“I can’t win this Jakhara. I cannot beat this man. I can’t. This is the only way. I need you to go and get close to him. Do what you need to do and when the time comes…”
“…I need you to kill him.”
“Can he even be killed,” she questioned.
Natan’s stomach rolled. “I don’t know.”
He watched the realization in her eyes. That this could be a suicide mission. That even if she were to succeed, she would be in the middle of the entire dothraki army. Her expression was somber as she looked back at him.
“I’m going to go up against him with everything. I’ll find a way to turn his head long enough for you to have your chance. And then,” his voice hardened into something strong. “I’m going to come get you. I’m going to come get you, Jakhara.”
She met his eyes with a serious gaze for a long moment before nodding.
“There’s one last thing,” Natan said. “It has to be real. You’re going to have to do things, fight against us, kill westrosi.” The weight on his chest has turned to a vice and was slowly crushing him. “But you have to do it.” He emphasized each word. “It has to be real.”
Jakhara looked off further into the castle after a moment, towards where her chambers were. Natan shook his head softly. “No one can know, Jakhara. It has to be now. You’ll find Horse saddled and ready in the north stables. Take the Street of Looms straight on the Flea Bottom and then cut through Gin Alley. There’s a sally port five blocks up from the Iron Gate that will be unguarded. Do you understand?”
“Good.” Natan took a deep breath. “KINGSGUARD!!!”
“Shoot me, Jakhara,” he said quickly.
Her eyes stared in shock at him.
“It has to be real,” Natan said again, pleading. Already they could hear the clanging footsteps of armor running towards them. “Now shoot me!”
Jakhara’s hands found her bow and they notched one of her unique red flectched arrows. Natan nodded at her and he saw her expression set as she drew the string. The door at the end of the hallway burst open as Jakhara loosed and Natan felt a searing pain scream into his shoulder.
He fell to the ground, clutching at the arrow buried deeply there as over his head he saw Ser Robrik and Ser Tommen barrel into the hall.
Natan pointed frantically at Jakhara. “She shot me!” he cried. “She’s betrayed us! After her!”
Jakhara was already halfway down the hall. The armored knights gave chase but the weight of their plate kept them from true pursuit.
Jakhara had escaped the city, sighted heading north. She had found a way through the walls and with Horse under her, no one could catch her.
Natan sat on the Iron Throne as Grand Maester Erreck finished bandaging his shoulder. Despite the late hour, the Red Keep was ablaze with activity. Countless people approached Natan, giving their condolences on his injury and swearing vengence upon the traitor. He agreed with each one, issuing his own angry assurances that she would be dealt with accordingly.
Toten Wyl approached near the end, and many hands were upon swords as he did, Ser Jordayne even stepping closer to the king.
The vice had hardened into icy spears that bit into Natan’s heart as Toten fell before him.
Natan steeled himself for what came next, assuring Toten that his lover was a traitor, and that she would be punished with death.
Hours had passed and finally Natan pushed himself to his feet. Ser Robrik shadowed him closely. Natan made his way to the privy and opened the door. Ser Robrik made to follow him.
“I think I can manage myself, Robrik,” Natan said, putting a hand on the old knight’s breastplate.
“I think we should exercise caution, Your Grace,” Robrik replied, looking worried.
“It’s one room and unless an assassin can fit inside the chamber pot, I think we’ll be alright.”
“As you say, Your Grace,” Robrik relented, though he still seemed unsure.
Natan went inside and shut the door. He fell back against the wall and clapped a hand over his mouth to muffle short screams as sobs began to shake his body.
He spent as long as possible in the confines of the room without arousing suspicion and then composed himself. Robrik fell back into close step with him as he emerged. Natan had business to attend to.
Yet one thought remained, even after the screams and sobs had faded, even days and weeks later when sleep still wouldn’t come to him and he lay awake, staring wide eyed into the night.
What have I done?