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When Cersei was a young girl, she went out into the forests by the Rock to see Maggy the Frog. For a copper, Maggy would tell girls their fortune, and even though Cersei didn’t believe in magic, she was a child, and she wanted to know her future. She found her in a tent, and she ducked within the tent flaps to see that the woman was just a woman, if with thin hair.

“Young Lady Cersei,” she said, and her voice was strong. Cersei held her head up high and told herself that all the smallfolk knew of Lord Tywin’s daughter. “Do you have the payment?”

“Yes.” She dropped the copper upon the table, and Maggy shook her head. “It is enough.”

“No, young miss, it isn’t,” she said, and before Cersei knew what was happening, she had her hand in two strong, gnarled paws. Though she struggled, Maggy took her ring finger and pricked it with some needle, letting her blood drip once, twice, thrice upon the table before sucking the last drop into her mouth. She hadn’t any teeth, and Cersei would have screamed at that had she found her breath. Instead her eyes went wide as Maggy’s turned into round black disks. This was magic, Cersei knew, and she stood entranced while the woman let the magic take her. “Three drops, three questions. Ask.”

Cersei knew what she would ask before she entered the tent, of course.

“Will I be queen as Father says?” Her voice trembled. Oh, how she wished to be queen. If she were queen, she would be free.

“No,” Maggy said, “Though they shall call you so. Storm Queen, they shall call you, with respect and fear. Lion Queen, with less respect and less fear. Two drops, two questions. Ask.”

She had been going to ask how many children she would bear, and if she would die in childbirth as her lady mother had. Now, though, the shock of being told no for the first time in her life had her mind scrambling for answers.

“If not me, then who will be queen?” she asked. Maggy snorted.

“First a wolf who wears blue roses, guarding the dragon as it grows. Then the lion you bear, whose fury is her own and will wear no shroud while you yet live. The Queens of Summer and Winter will be kin to you, and your kin kings for centuries to come. One drop, one question. Ask.”

Cersei did not know what to ask. Her daughter would be queen, not her, and it seemed that she would have a long reign. Cersei vowed at that very instant to raise her daughter to accept nothing but freedom, if she would never have it. But…

“Will I love my husband?” she asked, voice small. Sometimes, now that Mother was gone, she thought she could love no one but Jaime. Even then it was less like love and more like reflection, for they were the same person, really, in different skins. Her Septa had been very clear that she should not expect love in the marriage bed, but she had always secretly hoped that her husband would love her as Father loved Mother. She certainly hoped that if she did die, her husband would refuse to remarry as Father had.

“Yes, though it will take a trial you cannot foresee to grow into love. You will love him, and he you, but more, you will respect him, and he you. His power will be yours, his heart will be yours, and you will give both to him in return.”

Maggy slumped over then, and Cersei, terrified that she had died, ran from the tent. The words beat like a drum against her heart, you will give both to him, and she hated that more than anything. What little power she had was hers, not anything for a man to usurp. She would claw her way to power if she had to, and if her husband decided that she had enough, she would go after him like the Lions of the Rock did during a dispute.

As she grew she became more beautiful, and her father spoke of Rhaegar Targaryen until the man married Elia Martell. Cersei wanted him, but then, every girl wanted him. Maggy’s words stayed in her mind even when she denied how right they felt: Storm Queen.

The last Storm Queen had lived three hundred years before, and now House Baratheon controlled the Stormlands. She heard that Robert Baratheon was strapping and handsome, and she directed the conversation toward him sometimes, without drawing much attention to it. Her aunt Genna’s eyes twinkled, though, and Father said he would think on it. He intended for Jaime to marry some Tully girl, though, and that would not do at all.

Cersei would never in her life regret the actions of her youth. In the end it saved the realm from burning, and all her plans along with it. Still, it would turn her stomach while she explained love to her daughters, and she would never speak of it with her husband.

Still, she hated herself in the moment, knowing that she would be separated from Jaime forever.

Lord Whent’s tourney was meant to be Jaime’s great victory, not some mystery knight’s – and a woman’s, at that. Cersei leaned forward in her seat, eyes going to Aunt Genna to ask the silent question. She nodded and leaned to speak with Lord Tywin, whose eyes glittered with mirth that a woman was making Mad King Aerys so incensed.

The Knight of the Laughing Tree won all of her bouts and refused the prize, insisting that the knights teach their squires honor of all things. Cersei glanced toward the stands of the only Northern family in attendance and smiled to find the youngest daughter missing. So did the Silver Prince’s, though she would not know of that for years yet.

It was when the crowning of the Queen of Love and Beauty came that Maggy’s words rang in her ears. A wolf who wears blue roses. Cersei was the only person in the crowd not smiling for their prince as he was handed the crown of blue roses. She was the only one who knew exactly whom he was approaching as he rode past his wife.

The little wolf girl was pale with fear, and Cersei thought it a pity that she truly was beautiful. They would not see what Cersei saw, these men around them, the red hands that gripped a lance as well as their prince. They would only see the girl’s beauty, call it frigid and cold because that was what the North was.

In that instant, Cersei Lannister felt pity for the first time in her life. It was quite unexpected, and she quashed it immediately.

“He crowned her to spite his father, not his wife,” Genna insisted, later. Tywin, in his cups for the evening, snorted inelegantly. Cersei almost followed him.

“It wasn’t spite,” Cersei said. Both Genna and Tywin turned to her, and she sighed. “His father sent him to find the mystery knight. He...”

“Did not wish to kill a girl, so instead honored her for her bravery?” Lord Tywin’s voice was dripping with mockery. Cersei stood her ground, knowing that she was right. Her father did not bow his head, but neither did he laugh. “I suppose that may be the case. Still, the girl was more embarrassed than honored. If only she had slapped him like she so wished.”

Then she would be dead, Cersei thought. And possibly her entire family with her. Cersei didn’t truly care for Lyanna Stark, even if she would be queen one day, but the thought of slaughtering a whole family for one person’s anger made her sick. King Aerys did that, sometimes. Even now, there were whispers that he had only attended the tourney because his son was seeking to depose him.

Cersei prayed for that. Then perhaps Father would return to King's Landing, and Cersei would be with her twin once more. Whatever else they were to each other, they were twins first. Together since before their birth. They should stay together.

But Rhaegar never raised the people against his father. Robert Baratheon did that, after Lyanna Stark was ‘taken’ from Winterfell and her father and brother slaughtered. Eddard Stark did that after Robert himself was slain along with Rhaegar at the Trident. Her father did that after Eddard Stark swore to release Jaime from his vows in return for their loyalty. So many men went to war against the mad king, but not Rhaegar. Never Rhaegar.

“He was his father,” Aunt Genna pointed out. Cersei shot her a look in the mirror.

“And if the rumors were true, Rickard Stark was his good-father, and Brandon his good-brother. And kinslaying is a crime against the gods themselves.” They shared a brief eyeroll before Cersei continued. “The people would have understood his actions, had he joined with the rebels. There would not be this… uncertainty.”

Lord Eddard Stark had been named King of the Seven Kingdoms, and he had promptly ordered Tywin’s armies to break the siege of Storm’s End, but then he had vanished into the Dornish deserts. His sister had been taken to Dorne, the whispers said. He would do anything for his little sister, others said. He had only stayed in King's Landing long enough to personally execute Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch, who were stripped of all lands and titles as well, for killing what Lord Eddard called the rightful King, the Queen Mother, and the crown Princess.

It had left everyone very nervous as to what King Eddard would do when he returned. He had taken Jaime with him, because he wasn’t an idiot and knew Father would try to take the throne with his son if given the chance.

Seeing Lyanna Stark at the head of the column, three Kingsguard around her at every moment, Cersei thought that they had been right to be nervous.

She snuck away to the nursery once, to see the boy-king of the Seven Kingdoms. Jahaerys did not look at all like a Targaryen, more like the Jon that his mother called him sometimes. He smiled up at Cersei, in her servant’s garb and cap over her bright hair, and she smiled back at him. Her father would have put a pillow over his head if given the chance, but Cersei did not. She had Maggy’s words in her head, and knowing that she was to be married to Stannis Baratheon, she believed them.

Her daughter would be the Queen of Summer, she believed, for surely a woman of the North was the Queen of Winter. The Starks had held the title of Kings of Winter for generations. Now they had a Queen.

Cersei journeyed to Storm’s End with few women for company. Aunt Genna stayed in King's Landing, recommending brides for Jaime before they traveled back to Casterly Rock. Father accompanied her, of course, and some of their household, but more men than women surrounded her as she embroidered her maidencloak without anyone to help. She had loved embroidery from a young age, and she was determined to look as beautiful as the Queen her people would call her one day – for she had no doubt that it would take years for them to accept her as a Storm Queen, instead of the lioness that she was.

They will love me, for I am beautiful and can sometimes be good, but I can also be as furious as a Baratheon.

Stannis Baratheon was not as handsome as his brother had been, and she had to remind herself several times that he had been on siege rations for months. He had wasted away from a strong young man to this, and she would see him come into his health again. He did not smile at her, and she rarely looked his way at the feast that celebrated their coming. Several of the guests, all having been there during the siege, were sick from the rich food they consumed. He was not one of them.

Her father respected him, Cersei knew, even if he thought the man could have claimed much more as his due. He wanted Storm’s End, not the realm, and neither Tywin nor Cersei Lannister could understand that lack of ambition.

“But he is a second son, so it is to be expected.” Tywin paused at her doorway. For the first time in years, he seemed almost unsure. “He will be a far better husband than any other prospect, and you will be a credit to your House.” It was a command, not a comfort, but Cersei chose to take it as one. She smiled at her father, and she watched as he hid his flinch at her mother’s smile on Cersei’s face.

She spoke with her intended but once before the wedding, when he explained why it would take some time for the wedding to be held.

“I have no female relatives to sew the marriage cloak. My loyal knight Davos Seaworth’s wife took it upon herself to make one, but she insisted on having materials befitting your status sent to us.”

Men mocked the Onion Knight. Cersei had even japed with one of the few servants she had brought with her about his standard. Still, this woman had thought of her, and she had few friends as of yet.  She nodded graciously and almost reached for Stannis’s hand.

“I’m sure it will befit a Lady of Storm’s End when it is finished,” she said.

“It will. She is a fair seamstress.”

And that was the end of that. A moon’s turn passed, and Cersei did not speak to her betrothed at dinner. He refused wine even now that it was available, and she found herself requesting only watered wine so that she would not look the fool in front of his bannermen. A shy girl was added to her household as a maid, and she informed Cersei the day that Marya Seaworth finished the cloak. Three days later they wed in the Sept, and Cersei wondered if Maggy hadn’t been wrong after all. She could never love someone as cold as Stannis, even if she would bear his children.

They were sober at the bedding, at least, and it seemed that they were the only two for whom this was the case. Cersei lost her beautiful dress on her way to the rooms, but she kept the marriage cloak, with its beautiful stag sewn in half-a-dozen colors, gold and green and brown upon the butter-yellow of the leather. She would have to thank Marya, or have her maid do it for her should she be unable to find the woman.

She was not shaking as Stannis was deposited by the ladies of the house into their rooms. He wore only his smallclothes as well, and it was right that they came into this equally naked. She stared him straight in the eye when he tried to avoid hers, and that calm blue gaze reassured her.

She did not love her husband, and perhaps she never would. But lying with him would be no torture.

He was careful, if not considerate, and she bit her tongue on her thoughts before deciding that he could be scandalized all he wanted, if he would only do it while touching her there. Perhaps he was grateful that she knew her own body, at least, for he did not question her either during the bedding or after, when no blood found its way to the sheets.

(“Your mother wasn’t a maid when she came to our bed,” he would tell their son several years later, and she would choke on her pear. “What matters is the marriage bed, not what happens before. But if you get a bastard on some girl, you will acknowledge that child, so please do not.” They would never speak of it again.)

It took two moons for her to become sick with child, and she hated it. She was not made for pregnancy, she decided, wandering the halls while her child kicked at her ribs and made her need to make water at all hours of the night. Little Renly would accompany her often, and she told him to always appreciate his wife during her time of trial, because otherwise he would end up like Stannis, exiled from her rooms for an ill-timed comment. He nodded solemnly and kissed her hand like a gallant knight instead of the boy he was.

“What will you name the child?” her husband asked her one day. She stilled and put her book down. The babe had quieted for once, and she was using the peace to read poetry. Stannis knew better than to interrupt her, and yet…

He sounded almost timid, and she looked up at him. His calm blue eyes were becoming familiar to her, almost as familiar as the green she had seen in the mirror every day. Every Baratheon she’d met had those eyes, and she wondered if her child would as well.

“I had thought to name a daughter Myrcella, my lord,” she said. He nodded. “Most husbands would insist on naming their children without their wife’s opinion, my lord.”

The calm in those eyes vanished, and she wondered if he would rage as his brother had. She had never seen him angry.

“I am not delivering the child, my lady,” he said, still restrained. More’s the pity, she thought. “It seems only right that that honor go to the mother. I would, however, make a request of you. Should you bear a boy, I would have you consider calling him Steffon, for my father.”

She had been considering Joffrey for a boy, but she nodded. It was a Baratheon name, and the servants had started calling her the Lion Queen behind her back where they thought she would not hear. It was never said with reverence, usually when she punished servants for taking liberties that even their lord overlooked. They did not love her, though her maid, Alys, insisted that they didn’t love Stannis either.

Her people didn’t love her, but they did love Myrcella Baratheon. She was born after only (“Only?” she shrieked when the maester said that.) eight hours of labor, and Cersei looked into her infant-blue eyes, surrounded by raven-black hair, and saw her mother’s face. Her eyes became a queer green, not the bright green of Cersei's but with a blue edge to it. As she grew, laughing at everything in her path, the people said that she was like to surpass even her mother in beauty. Cersei loved her with a ferocity that surprised her, even when her daughter’s anger was brilliant enough to burn.

Myrcella was two when her brother was born, and Cersei had decided upon Joffrey until the moment she saw her son’s face. She looked down at a boy who looked nothing like her, and she laughed. Steffon Baratheon did not laugh with her yet, but he was young. He would fill the halls with his laughter just as his elder sister did, and they would be constant companions even as they grew into their respective roles.

Stannis smiled when she told him their son’s name, and for the first time in their marriage he surprised her. The kiss to her brow was gentle, and she smiled under that silent thanks. A moon later she decided her body had healed enough to resume marital activities, and she joined him in his chambers.

She didn’t love Stannis a year later when their second daughter was born, named Joanna in honor of her mother, but she did respect him. He was no mummer to jape all day, but sometimes he could be funny, and he delighted in his children in a way that her own father never had. Joanna was born with the same dark hair of her siblings, and her eyes were even queerer than Myrcella’s, one bright blue like her father’s, but the other an even darker green than Cersei’s.

“They are striking, milady,” Alys said. Cersei thought of Tyrion and his mismatched eyes, and she prayed that this did not mean her daughter had something wrong with her. She could not bear it if her husband turned away from his daughter the way her family had from Tyrion. “One for Lord Stannis and one for you, I reckon.”

“Perhaps it is as you say,” Cersei said. Steffon’s eyes were bright blue, even if he reminded her more and more of her uncles back in Lannisport, with their easy smiles and gentle natures. The people delighted in their little lord, as they should.

She received letters from Jaime and the rest of her family, but running a castle was much more difficult than she had thought it would be, especially with three children to attend to. She ought to give her husband a second son, even if the maester said that Steffon was a healthy lad who would likely stay robust. So many things could go wrong with children so young. Joanna caught the pox, and Cersei thought that she would die. She prayed for hours on end, finding her husband joining her for the first time in their marriage.

“I do not know if I believe in the gods,” he confided as they made their way out of the Sept. “But I can do nothing else.”

“It is the same with me,” she admitted. He smiled at her, and she felt that perhaps she liked her husband.

They were united in their love of their children as they were in nothing else. She hoped it was the same way for Jaime and his wife, the only daughter of old Lord Lefford. Their son Tommen was of an age with Steffon, and Cersei could imagine Jaime playing with a child of his own, laughing and happy as he was in their youth. Stannis wasn’t much for playing, but he treated the little games Myrcella played as deserving of attention, which made their daughter light up.

Joanna survived the pox, and she seemed to not have felt it at all. Soon she was running, getting into trouble with her brother and sister, and she seemed to be more trouble than both of them put together.

“Do the Mormonts have a son?” Cersei wondered, after Joanna had found herself up yet another tree. She was still a toddler. Cersei was heavy with child, and she hoped that this one would be peaceful.

“No,” Stannis said. He was on edge these days, as war seemed to be brewing with the Iron Islands. The Stormlands did not hold the whole of the King’s Navy, but they were a large part of that force, and if the King Regent commanded, they would raise their banners. He would have to leave her here, even if it meant leaving her to give birth alone, which he had not done since she screamed for him while Myrcella was being born. He stroked her hair, and she leaned into the comfort of his arms as was her custom during her pregnancies. “Though… the Northern Houses would be more accepting, if she continues like this. Myrcella is already promised to the King.”

“If we are serious about betrothing her to a northern House, the Starks would be appropriate. Considering what the Queen Mother did, they could use some stability.”

Even at Storm’s End the gossip had been high in the air. The Queen Mother, Lyanna Targaryen, had run off with Oberyn Martell and his paramour (leaving during the day this time, at least), and had returned moons later as Lyanna Martell, big with her second son, named Torrhen Martell of all the ridiculous things. The King apparently doted upon him as well as his bastard half-sisters, as much as a boy of six could dote upon anyone.

“Joanna isn’t going to bring anyone stability, my lady,” Stannis pointed out. Cersei would have hidden her triumphant smile at that from any other husband, but the pride in Stannis shone through as well. The babe kicked her as if in agreement, and she sighed.

“She is only two. We can hold off on betrothing her to anyone for some time.”

“I suppose we can at that,” Stannis said, and they fell into silence.

Before her marriage, Cersei had never believed that silence could be comfortable. In her household, Tywin’s silences meant rage, and the rest of the family took their cues from him. Here, though, she could sit with someone else, and he could be silent, and she would not expect any punishment for her or her children. Stannis believed in just punishments, and even at five Myrcella knew better than to complain about the trouble she got herself into, but he would never use his children’s weaknesses against them.

She did not love him for that, though perhaps she should have.

Shireen Baratheon was born perfect, with her mother’s face and her father’s dark hair. Cersei felt a deep sense of unease when she looked on her a week after her birth and she was too still, and she immediately called for a healer.

“Greyscale, my lady,” the healer said. “She won’t survive it.”

Cersei slapped him about the face.

“If you can’t save her then someone else will,” she screamed, raging, and proceeded to call in healers from her past. Stannis did not deny her, even going so far as to call in his own healers. Greyscale was a horrible disease, had killed her uncle Gerion, and healer after healer told them that Shireen was lucky to have survived this night, that night.

Luck had nothing to do with it. Cersei’s daughter was strong, and with a treatment from a woman from the Free Cities she grew well again, though the scales on the left side of her face would never fade.

Cersei looked upon her daughter for the first time in weeks and expected to feel horror, anger that the perfect child she had birthed was no longer so. Instead a fierce love welled up in her breast, and she found herself crying into her husband’s jerkin and blabbering nonsense about how she was still perfect. The love never faded, though, burning brighter and brighter every moment Shireen continued to smile and grow.

Then the King Regent called the banners; Lannisport had been attacked by Ironborn raiders, and her brother had raised his in response. The realm was going to war again, and this time there was no righteous cause to back the rebels.

(“Mother, why is it called the Fruitless Rebellion?” Myrcella asked once, after a lesson with her Septa. “Didn’t the rebels win?”

“They did, my little lion,” Cersei said, and she drew all her children to her. Shireen was still unsteady on her toddling feet, but her bright blue-touched-green eyes were sharp as they looked up at her. “But in the end, there is a dragon on the Iron Throne. The singers forget that his mother was a Stark, that his uncle remains with him as his regent. They only see that a Targaryen was on the throne in the beginning and in the end, and nothing of what happened in between.”

“That’s stupid,” Myrcella said.

“Perhaps it is, but the singers have never claimed to be wise.”)

The day before Stannis left, her usually dour husband once again looked unsure in her presence. She remembered being heavy with Myrcella the last time he looked at her like that, and she wondered at it having been almost six years before. Sometimes it felt as if no time at all had passed since their wedding day.

“You should know,” he finally said, before flushing red. “I never expected to find love in my marriage. But I have.”

He probably would have left it at that, but she caught him by the arm and kissed him full on the mouth. They rarely did that outside of his bedchambers, preferring to show affection in other ways. But this time she felt it appropriate, and he clearly agreed, for he pressed his body into hers with a force that would have surprised her years ago, before she learned of his hidden strength.

“I love you too,” she said, and she was surprised to find that she meant it.

He left her and their children, and it was near a year later that he returned victorious. Myrcella, Steffon, and Joanna ran to him, but Shireen hung onto her skirts, not knowing this father of hers. Cersei remembered being timid like that, so she pulled Shireen into her arms and brought her to her father. He looked stunned to have been accepted by his children like this, by his own wife like this, and she loved him.

Someone wrote a song about it, though Stannis refused to listen to it even at the celebratory feast. In it he was the Storm King, and his wife a queen in her own right. Left to rule these people, she had found her footing in this place at last. They were her people, though she would always be a Lion of the Rock. After weathering the storm for her daughter, then keeping her people safe with courtesy and poise during the war, they loved her.

When Myrcella asked her if she thought King Jahaerys would love her, Cersei let her sit down at her mirror and began brushing her hair. It was thick and dark and lustrous, and Cersei knew it reminded Stannis of his mother as much as Myrcella’s wit reminded her of hers.

“He should, and if he does not, it means nothing,” Cersei said. “You are a Baratheon of Storm’s End, and they called the Targaryens brothers once. You come from kings on both sides, for the Lannisters were kings of the Westerlands before the dragons came.”

“But I want him to love me,” she admitted, something Cersei had never had the courage to do as a girl. She was glad that her daughter did, and she smiled.

“You will write to him, then. Your father did not love me when we wed because he did not know me. You must know a person first, before you can love him.”

“And he has to love Shireen too,” Myrcella said. Her three eldest were very protective of their youngest sister, though she would be able to defend her own honor one day. Cersei nodded, pulling her hair back to plait it. She could not manage the intricate fashions without at least two other women, but she could manage something.

They said King Jahaerys, called Jon by the smallfolk, had a good heart. He would be kind to Myrcella, and Cersei hoped that he would love her.

That was years in the future, though, and Cersei would not worry over that now.