Natan’s thoughts were locked in possibilities, longing flashes of fleeting hope that danced just outside his grasp when he made to grab at them.
Natan snapped up from his reverie and back to reality. Months had passed since Jakhara had betrayed him. Reports came in regularly about her activities. Raids, men killed by silent arrows. None could confirm it officially, but it all pointed at Jakhara.
Natan sighed. He told his lies as best he could and locked himself away when he couldn’t. It tore him apart but he shouldered it. He had to. His other plan was underway as well, had been for just as long, and he only hoped he’d gotten the timing right.
He looked up to find Willem and Brod before him.
“Your Grace,” Willem began. “We’d like your permission to lead a raid to find and take out the traitor, Jakhara.”
Show time, Natan thought, shifting in his throne.
“I think the dragons would be better suited to taking out more promising targets than focusing all their attention on one woman,” he said, inflecting as much command into his voice as he could.
Willem relented, but Brod stood firm. “Your Grace,” the big man growled. “I trained that girl. I watched her fight. And she stabbed me in the back. I’ll be going after her. Alone if it must needs be.”
Natan eyed him carefully. He had to protect Jakhara as much as he could, but he couldn’t give her away. “She will be dealt with, Brod. A traitor will get their punishment. Let her watch as we take away the people she ran back to. Then she’ll know what it means.”
It took him a moment but the tall man nodded and stepped away, him and Willem both taking long glances to the side of the throne room. Natan followed their gaze to Toten Wyl, whose head was dropped in shame.
Natan hurried down hallways towards the stables. One of his wife’s handmaidens had come to him in the night, to tell hi she had seen Toten Wyl preparing his horse.
Natan found his oldest friend tightening the straps on the saddle, armored fully, his spear already slung on the beast.
“Where are you going, Toten?”
Toten paused, looking at Natan’s silhouette in the entrance. “I’m going to go out there and find her. I’m going to either go out there and find my wife or I’m going out there to kill and bring back a traitor.”
“Step away from the horse, Toten.”
“I’m going, Natan.”
“I can’t let you do that.”
Toten flared. “You can’t? You can’t! I’ve seen how people have been looking at me, I can feel it! She slept next to me every night and now this? You’ve been my best friend since before we could walk, but get out of my way, Natan.”
The emotion flared in the king before he could control it. The months of hiding and lying bubbled up in him and he pushed Toten back roughly. “I can’t! I can’t because I sent her out there and now she’s the only hope we might have at actually winning this thing!”
Toten’s mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. “W-what?”
Natan looked around. “Not here.” He grabbed Toten and led him back into the castle, deep into dark tunnels. Again, he reiterated what he had done.
“You sent her out there to die!” Toten yelled at him.
“I sent her out there because I didn’t have a choice!” Natan yelled back. “I’m trying to save the whole country and she’s the only one who could get close enough to do it!”
The punch hit him fast and hard, dropping Natan to the ground. He put a hand to his jaw, wincing at the pain.
“I’m sorry,” Natan said calmly. “But I had to do it. And I’m telling you now because someone needs to know. If anything happens to me, then someone knows and maybe you can find her and get away…” He shook his head. “I’m cracking, Toten. It’s getting to be too much.”
Toten pulled his friend back to his feet. “I get it, Natan. I guess. I’m not happy about it, but I know why you did it.”
Natan nodded and gripped his friend. The lies had been building and telling someone made it feel like a dam had broken and released a flood of relief. He had someone he could confide in, someone to share his secret. And someone who might be able to save Jakhara when the time came.
Things were coming to a head. The passes to the west had held, though to call it a victory would almost be a lie. There weren’t enough men left to make up a dinner party after the fighting had stopped.
And Tommen Lannister was dead. It was Jakhara, and everyone knew it, proof or not. Natan had spent hours locked away, thinking of the tens of thousands of men he had killed by making his choice. Saving the country wouldn’t mean much without anyone left in it.
All reports indicated that the loss had forced Harkto to turn south, and King’s Landing was the next, and probably last battle that would decide the war for all.
It was time.
Natan had sent his father to Casterly Rock. It was the only way Elia would relent and keep herself from going off to die. Natan had sat in his throne and ordered his father away at the crucial time when he most wanted to lean on him, but he needed Elia on a dragon more than he needed his father in his corner. He’d heard the murmurs as he had used his father’s full name and title, he had seen the flare of sadness in the elder man’s eyes. But he also saw the flash of pride before they turned away. He was truly standing on his own now.
And he was going to fight.
So many of them had given up hope, even his own sister. But Natan would not. Determination had seized him, it had driven the fatigue from him and brought a fire to his actions.
He was going to call out Harkto. If it was going to be there end, then Natan would have them make such a stand that Harkto would have nothing left to crush. He would go out and fight them, even if he had to do it alone.
The king marched from the Red Keep and began giving orders, calling every last soul that could be mustered to the capital.
They were going to fight.