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keep your steel sharp and ready

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Between Caraxes' disgruntled shrieks and the clamor of his men's armor--not their voices, they didn't dare speak a word of what had passed, in threat or in jest--the clatter over the constant crash of surf was more than enough to muffle the beat of Daemon's blood in his ears. She had come, and he had turned on his heel from her, too tempted to draw his sword at her goading, not to cut her down, as she challenged, but in a vain and absurd hope that she might draw a dagger from her bodice in return and attempt to strike him down in return. He had forced his expression into something akin to condescending disinterest instead, a practiced conceit and enough to keep his brow from furrowing with confusion at the strange and untoward impulse, and attempted to discard it.

Yet it remained in the forefront of his mind as they strode back up to the keep, persistent and probing, and not a little thrilling. He spared a glance backwards toward the milling knot of bumbling and blustering Otto's attendants, expecting to see them still frozen with uncertainty, but only saw their retreating backs, the brazier holding the egg swinging on long poles as they trudged away. Syrax had taken to the skies once more, but she hovered, her saddle empty.

Rhaenyra fairly skipped up the path, following Daemon with a quick stride, her booted feet sure on the stones, and her gaze fixed on his back. She caught him looking, trapping his gaze, and smiled, pulling Daemon to a stop as his men stumbled awkwardly. He snapped his fingers with impatience and directed them back to the keep with a brisk wave. Whatever she was about, his persistent, prickly niece, he needed no audience for this. She slowed her pace only a little, reaching him only once his men had regained the keep, leaving them alone on the stone walkway, save for the red and gold dragons grumbling at one another and glittering in the thin sunlight.

"I'm not giving you the keys to the castle, dearest neice," he called to her, deliberately eschewing the Valyrian of their previous exchange for the common Westerosi tongue. The syllables felt harsh and sour in his mouth, and the corner of her own curled down with distaste. Still, she answered him in the same manner.

"You can be my castellan, and keep them for me, then, dear uncle. Do see that the stone is kept in good repair, the cellars full, and the steel sharp in the armory," Rhaenyra said lightly, the wind tugging at her hair, briefly obscuring her smile."You jest--" he began, but she interrupted him coolly.

"I do not. Not about this. If you are going to take my place here you had best keep it well until I come to claim it." She reached out to touch the stone of the walkway with her gloved hand, pressing it flat and widening her eyes with unexpected pleasure. Daemon shifted, mimicing her pose, his hand not far from her own.

"It's warm. More warm than the sun should account for..." Rhaenyra said, a hint of wonder in her voice. "Dragon's fire shaped it, and it's still here." Daemon forced a chuckle, drawing his lips into a crooked smile, and she narrowed her eyes at him in silent rebuke.

"A fine imagination you have, princess. And quite a set of demands for a girl alone."

"Am I? A girl alone?" She pulled her hand from the stone and stepped forward to within his reach, tilting her head to look up at him with a discerning, knowing sort of smile.

"The realm thinks so," she continued. "Even our family, even my father. He's no fool," she said, her mouth curling bitterly around the words even as she fixed his gaze with her own.

"But I think you will keep Dragonstone's fires burning," Rhaenyra concluded.

"For me," he replied shortly, and she only shrugged.

"Me. You. Us. You taunt my father and jest with me, but you are his brother and my uncle. Whatever other games you might play." Rhaenyra reached out and placed her hand firmly on his chest. "The dragon's fire burns here, too."