Rhaenyra's night terrors over the years, and who helped her through them. HotD oneshot.
It had all begun when Rhaenyra was still very young, no older than four. Daemon had been wandering the halls of the Red Keep late at night and heard screaming coming from his young niece’s rooms. He rushed past the guard who just stood at the door to find Queen Aemma trying to reassure her flailing and screeching daughter while the maids and the Septa looked on.
Rhaenyra’s hair was a mess and her eyes were wide open, but she did not seem to be able to see anything. And she screamed in absolute terror, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“What is wrong with her?” Daemon asked.
Aemma looked at him. “Night terror. She gets them sometimes.” She tried to embrace Rhaenyra. “It’s alright, Rhaenyra. You’re safe.” But she was already strong and ended up kicking her mother hard in the stomach. Aemma nearly fell off of the bed at the force of the blow, but Daemon managed to step forward and catch her.
“Can’t you wake her up?” he asked, immensely distressed by the way Rhaenyra’s face was contorted in fear and pain.
Aemma shook her head. “Trying only makes it go on longer.” She rubbed her daughter’s back. “The only thing to do is be here until she calms.”
And, just as she said, Rhaenyra eventually quieted. In minutes that felt like hours, the screaming turned to sobbing, the flailing to trembling, and she slowly drifted away. Aemma gently pulled her blankets up to her chin and brushed the tears from her cheeks. She stood at the side of the bed for a moment and Daemon stepped away, feeling like he was intruding on a private moment. She leant down to kiss her forehead and then joined him at the window.
“How often does it happen?” he asked quietly.
“Every few weeks,” she said. “And then sometimes not for months.”
“And the maesters have no cure?”
“Milk of the poppy will make her sleep peacefully through the night,” she said. “But it does not provide the same type of rest that natural sleep provides. Besides–” She looked over at the now quietly sleeping Rhaenyra. “She will not remember it in the morning. It does not cause her any pain or distress.”
Daemon followed her gaze. “Only to those who care about her.”
Aemma had never particularly liked Daemon, but after that night, if she was ever unable to be with Rhaenyra on those nights, she had told the Septa that he be called instead.
So, some months later, when Aemma was large with child and ordered to rest, it was Daemon who was woken in the middle of the night and led to Rhaenyra’s rooms. The maids stood aside when he entered the room, watching him as he approached the bed. He found their gazes a little unnerving but soon forgot all about them. Rhaenyra was in the throes of fear once again, only this time she sat up straight in bed, eyes fixed on some invisible thing that made shuddering sobs wrack her small body.
Daemon’s hand went automatically to where his sword would normally be, to ward off this monster that terrorized her. But that was not what she needed. So he sat down on the side of the bed and reached out a hand to rub her back, as Aemma had done.
“It’s alright, my little dragon,” he murmured. “Nothing can hurt you now. There is nothing to fear.”
Her hands were clenched tight around her blankets, and he could feel her heart racing inside her ribcage.
Daemon continued to whisper reassurances to her, in the Common Tongue and High Valyrian. Eventually, finally, she began to curl into him, still sniffling a little, but calming down considerably. Her little hands clung to his shirt. He let her lie against him for a while, his arm wrapped around her until he was sure the night terror had passed. Then he gently laid her down and tucked her in. He brushed her hair out of her face, just because seeing it at peace meant a lot more to him now. And, before he could change his mind or think about the maids who watched silently, he pressed a kiss to her forehead, just because it felt right.
The maids curtseyed to him as he left and all he could think was that he never wanted to see her like that again.
But of course, he did. Many times over her childhood, he was called to her room to comfort her, and after each time, he would have to take a walk through the moonlit gardens or read in the library – something to get his mind off of it.
Then, for some time, they stopped. As Rhaenyra grew from a child into a young woman, she was no longer plagued by the night terrors. This was common, according to the maesters, with whom Daemon had often spoken about it. Most children grew out of it.
Daemon was relieved. Seeing Rhaenyra in such distress and being able to do nought but comfort her until it was done, was something of a waking nightmare – one he had to remember.
So he was surprised – and concerned – when one night, a few days after Aemma’s death, he was woken by a guard.
“It’s the princess,” he said. “She’s having another–”
Daemon was out of his bed before he could finish the sentence, tugging on a shirt and slippers before heading out the door.
The maids seemed much more worried this time, likely because Rhaenyra, being larger and stronger, was at much greater risk of hurting herself or others. As Daemon entered the room, she nearly smashed her head against the backboard of her bed, stopped only by a maid who just managed to hold her back.
Daemon nodded his thanks to her as he took over. He tried to hold onto her, tightly so she couldn’t wriggle away but not so tightly he would hurt her. She pummeled him with her fists, probably leaving bruises, but Daemon held fast. He rocked her back and forth, humming a lullaby into her hair that he vaguely remembered from his childhood.
When the fight finally left her and she fell into a calmer sleep, Daemon laid her down again. Even though she had grown up a fair bit since he had last seen her like this, she still looked so small as he tucked her in. She was nearly a woman, but as she slept, she still looked like a child.
“Sleep well, little dragon,” he whispered as he kissed her forehead. “Let no more monsters plague your dreams.”
The next morning, Rhaenyra could not figure out why everyone was acting so strangely around her. She half-expected her father to tell her some terrible news at breakfast, but there was nothing.
“How did you sleep last night, princess?” Daemon asked as she sipped her tea.
“Quite well, uncle,” she said, looking at him curiously. “What about you?”
He smiled wearily. “Decently well.”
She gave him one more bemused look before focusing on her breakfast.
When the Grand Maester asked her the same thing later that morning, she could not stop herself from asking, very bluntly, “Why are you asking me this?”
He stammered a few syllables before saying, “I believe your mother told you about the night terrors you had when you were young.”
“Yes, she said they stopped when I was nine.”
“Well, you appear to have had another last night.”
“Last night?” Rhaenyra frowned. “But I slept quite well last night.”
“The mind is a curious thing, your highness,” he said. “It does not recall the things you do while you sleep.”
She nodded and he turned to go. “Wait, my Uncle Daemon seemed to be aware of it?”
The Grand Maester turned back to her in surprise. “Why, he was the one who helped you through it. Did your lady mother never tell you that he was who we called when she could not help you?”
She thought back to her mother’s begrudging respect for Daemon, even when everyone whispered that she disliked him. It made sense now that she had never seen that dislike. “Of course. It must have slipped my mind. Thank you, Grand Maester.”
“Of course, your highness.”
Rhaenyra did not know how to bring it up with her uncle, so she didn’t.
The night terrors continued, more often now than they had ever been. The Grand Maester said that they were probably aggravated by the grief of her mother’s death. Daemon had to agree. The few times that there were intelligible words in her sobs and cries, they were blood and muña – mother.
All he wanted, the nights when he held her struggling body close, was to be able to stop the night terrors from happening altogether. To help her work through her sadness. To find out why she was so incredibly afraid.
Sometimes he wished it was some curse or spell because those had a specific cause and cure. People he could threaten or torture until they told him how he could make her better.
But no. All he could do was sit in her bed, stroke her back and tell her there was nothing to fear.
In the end, he was the coward who left. It was not just because of the night terrors, of course, it was just one of the contributing factors. A lot of them seemed to revolve around Rhaenyra, however.
Viserys had never been able to handle her night terrors, so in the beginning, he had been grateful that Daemon had stepped into the void that Aemma had left. However, as time went on, he regarded Daemon’s closeness to Rhaenyra with more and more suspicion.
What made it worse was that the suspicion was not entirely unfounded.
It was another factor in Daemon’s leaving.
In the end, he did not say goodbye. He passed by Rhaenyra’s chambers one last time, to make sure she slept soundly, and then he left.
He wound his way through the Seven Kingdoms, and then eastward across the Narrow Sea. He explored foreign cities, packed with strange smells and foods and beautiful women whose tongues curled around languages he did not understand. And he tried not to think about Rhaenyra facing new terrors in her dreaming mind without him at her side. With the maids who were only there to make sure she did not hurt herself.
When he heard that she had married Laenor Velaryon, he wondered if perhaps she had found someone who could help her through her night terrors. Then he recalled the rumours that Laenor preferred the company of men, and so Rhaenyra likely spent her nights alone.
Rhaenyra woke one morning with a bandage wrapped around her knuckles. “I hope it was not you that I hit last night,” she said to one of the maids, Staria, when she came in to draw her bath.
“No, your highness,” she said with a smile. “That would be Ser Harwin.”
“Ser Harwin? What was he doing in my chambers?”
“My apologies, your highness,” Staria said. “But he was passing by and heard the commotion. He wanted to help.”
“No need to apologize, Staria,” Rhaenyra said, stretching and getting out of bed. “I was just curious. Normally it’s the Kingsguard who need to deal with my night terrors, not the City Watch.”
Ser Harwin was sporting a marvellously purple bruise on his jaw when Rhaenyra found him in the gardens.
“Your highness,” he said, bowing as she approached. “I trust you slept well last night.” His eyes twinkled as he grinned at her.
“My sincerest apologies, Ser Harwin,” she said. “I hope it isn’t very painful.”
“Not at all,” he said. “Though your highness has a stronger right hook than one would expect. Have you ever thought of taking up boxing?”
Rhaenyra laughed. “If I ever find myself in want of a job, I shall certainly consider it.”
And so Harwin became the one who held her as she cried out in fear, who stroked her hair and reassured her. Since the rumours could not get much worse than they already were, he was the one called to her chambers, like Queen Aemma and Prince Daemon before him. He may not have understood the High Valyrian words that slipped out between the unintelligible screams and sobs, but he knew how to help her.
One night, a particularly bad night terror woke a young Jacaerys, who padded down the hallway to his mother’s room. He slipped past the guard at the door and froze when he saw his mother, hair unkempt and eyes wide in fear, sobbing and begging some unknown threat to stay away.
He knew Ser Harwin but was surprised to see him here, at his mother’s side, holding her to his chest and rubbing her arms like she was cold.
“What’s– What’s wrong with her?” he stammered to the Septa, who stood with two maids by the door.
“She’s alright, young princeling,” she said. “You need to be off to bed now.”
Rhaenyra cried out again and Jace slipped out of the Septa’s reach, running towards her. “Mama!”
“Careful, child,” Ser Harwin said, reaching out an arm to stop him. “She doesn’t know it’s you. Everything’s a monster to her when she’s like this, even people she loves.”
Jace clung to his hand, refusing to leave until his mother had settled into sleep again. Harwin stepped aside reluctantly, letting the maids tuck her back in.
“I’ll take the young prince back to his room,” he told the Septa since Jace was still holding his hand.
As they stepped out into the hallway, Jace asked. “Is she sick? With fever?”
Last winter, he had seen his father, Prince consort Laenor, sick in his bed babbling about things that were not in the room. He had found it frightening until his mother had explained that he was simply sick and would soon be better.
“Not exactly,” Harwin said. “Sometimes your mother… gets scared.”
“She’s not afraid of anything,” Jace interrupted with utmost conviction.
“Everybody’s afraid of something, child, even Princess Rhaenyra,” Harwin said with a small smile. “And sometimes the fear comes while she sleeps and makes her think she’s awake when she isn’t. Her eyes are open, but she can’t see.”
“And she dreams monsters?” Jace asked.
“When I dream monsters, I try to wake up,” Jace said proudly.
“And that is very clever of you,” Harwin said earnestly. “But your mother’s dreams are different. All we can do is be there for her until her dreams grow calm again, so she can sleep in peace.”
They entered the princes’ nursery. “Can I help again next time?” Jace asked as he climbed into bed.
Harwin smiled. “Maybe when you’re a little older. You’re a growing boy and you need your sleep.”
“I don’t–” Jace’s words were interrupted by a big yawn. “Well, maybe tonight I do.”
“Goodnight, Jace,” Harwin whispered, taking advantage of the privacy to tuck him in and ruffle his hair. “Sleep well.”
As Rhaenyra settled into her somewhat unconventional, definitely scandalous life, the night terror came less often. There were fewer mornings when she woke up to concerned faces and questions. For the first time in a long time, the fear ebbed.
And it continued to ebb, for over ten years.
But as the tide fell, so it must also rise, and when Daemon came back into her life, it was not like a barrelling storm as she had expected – especially in the months following his departure. His return was more of an afterthought, riding on the tail end of their twin tragedies.
Daemon realized that there had been a man to hold Rhaenyra through her terror-filled nights, not with jealousy but relief. He was glad to know that she had not been alone all those years. Then again, he was just as eager to go along with her plan that would put him in that position once again.
The night before the funeral, Daemon had been once again wandering the halls when he heard the cries from Rhaenyra’s room. Somehow, they were more heartbreaking than her cries as a child. Children are supposed to be afraid of the monsters that appear in their dreams, but Rhaenyra’s monsters had just grown up with her. She was one of the strongest people he knew, and her fears brought her to her knees in her dreams. He was not surprised when he burst into the room and heard fire along with blood and muña in her cries.
As always, the maids stood by, ineffectual, but it was a young man – a boy, really – who sat at her side, trying to hold onto her. “It’s alright, mother,” he whispered, his voice choking a little. “The monsters aren’t real.”
As Daemon approached, he saw that Jace was crying too. “I can take it from here,” he said, laying a hand on his shoulder.
Jace turned and looked up at him. “Do you know how to…?”
Daemon nodded. “Go back to bed.”
Jace squeezed his mother’s hand one last time before stepping away. He watched Daemon take his place on the bed and pull Rhaenyra close to him. He didn’t hold her the way Ser Harwin had, he thought, but he still could see that he knew what he was doing and felt safe leaving her with him.
On Dragonstone, the walls ensured that echoes would bounce and reverberate forever. Eventually, they hung up enough tapestries and laid down enough rugs that it was slightly muffled, but those first few weeks were difficult.
Jace explained his mother’s night terrors to Baela as they both comforted their younger siblings in their new unfamiliar home. Baela led them in a few songs that Rhaena tremulously joined after a while; Jace tried to recount the less scandalous stories he had heard the guards tell each other at the Red Keep, Luc sitting at his feet.
And Daemon held his wife – his wife – and prayed that they would someday be so content that her fears would not visit her so often anymore. That not every childbirth would be plagued with memories of her mother, that not every departure of a loved one would bring on the fear of never seeing them again.
But for now, he held her close and stroked her hair, and reassured her over and over again that he would protect her from all dangers and comfort her from those he couldn’t fight, reciting it like a marriage vow.
The morning after the first night terror on Dragonstone, the four children, newly siblings, had gone down to the kitchens and, with a little help from the servants, made some breakfast to bring up to their parents. And even though they were really all too old, they all climbed into the bed, accepting the proud compliments of Daemon and Rhaenyra, and then one by one dozing off as their parents ate.
Daemon and Rhaenyra smiled at each other over their too-sweet tea and settled into their new life together.