“You’re as quiet as a mouse, Cara.”
“Mice aren’t quiet.”
A cool, gentle hand cupped her face and Cara closed her eyes, reveling in the feeling of safety that Joanna Lannister somehow managed to radiate. It wasn’t a feeling she was accustomed to as of late and she would take it where she could get it.
Cara shook her head quietly, searching her Aunt’s green eyes. Her eyes. Her mother always said she’d been blessed with her Aunt’s eyes. “They’re loud in the dark, they bite hard.”
“The tonics Maester Randyll has been giving you aren’t working?”
She shook her head again and Joanna brushed her thumbs gently over Cara’s cheeks, studying the young girl. “You’ve been sleepless for many nights… you should have told me. I reassured your mother than I would care for you as though you were my own daughter.”
Cara lowered her eyes at that, “I did not wish to be a bother.” It was the truth of the matter, she was the broken one. The youngest daughter of a nobleman’s bastard. Unimportant… and yet somehow important enough for her Aunt to save.
Joanna shook her head with a small smile, “You’re no bother, kitten. Now let’s see about increasing the strength of those tonics.” She wasn’t used to being carried, but she certainly didn’t have any arguments when Joanna lifted her gently. She smelled of roses and the silks she wore were soothing to the touch.
Far from the scent of leather, blood and sweat.
Bruises faded, bite wounds and gashes scarred.
Cara Mason crouched on one of the many piers of Lannisport, watching the ocean water with fascination. She glanced over her shoulder at the call of her name; her cousin, Cersei, was standing in front of three Lannister guards, hands on her hips with an impatient air about her. “Will you hurry up? I’m not allowed to leave without you.”
The small blonde shook her head and returned her gaze to the ocean, recalling the way the Mord’Sith were sickly on their journey to deliver her to Lannisport. Her cousin could do with a lesson in patience, even if it wasn’t by the touch of an agiel.
A gloved hand touched her shoulder and Cara jolted forward; she would have hit the water if it were not for the hand tightening upon her crimson cloak. “Careful there, little one.” The accent was vaguely familiar to her; Cara’s brows furrowed together as heavy boots fell on the wooden pier.
“Unhand her, woman. You’re touching the niece of Lady Joanna Lannister of Casterly Rock, Shield of Lanni-”
“The Shield of Lannisport and many other titles following that. I am well aware of this fact, you buffoon, and if you had been watching the girl you would have noticed her far too close to the water.”
She could be D’Haran with the way she talks to men and how she looks. The woman was pretty. Very pretty with fair skin, curled, blonde hair and striking blue eyes; her accent was nothing like that of what she had heard growing up in Stowecroft, however. She isn’t D’Haran… what is she?
The guard stumbled over his words and Cara straightened herself, attempting to fix her cloak. “I-of course. I was…”
“He was guarding my cousin, m-adame.” Mistress… it had nearly escaped her lips.
A habit of course, she had the air of a Mistress, she just needed an agiel and leathers.
Cara shook her head in attempt to rid herself of the thought; there were no Mord’Sith in Westeros, and certainly not in the Westerlands. The woman gave her a gentle smile and a pat on the head, “I’ll see you again, little one.”
She’s Lyseni! I heard that accent when the ship docked in Lys and the Mord’Sith stopped at a whore house. Cara’s eyes widened in realization and her lips twitched upwards, proud of herself for recalling where she recognized the accent.
It was only a few hours before she did, indeed, see the woman again in the company of a huge, dark skinned man with long, black braided hair. He had a pair of blades – one curved and one straight, both looking extremely deadly. The leather wrapped around the hilts were worn from years of use, she’d seen the hilts of a few older knights. Something moved and Cara lowered her eyes, spotting a brown-eyed, freckled girl – bow slug over her shoulder. The woman and the man were both listening to Joanna speak with serious looks upon their faces – Cara chanced a half-smile at the girl.
Her heart leapt a little when the girl returned it.
The Lyseni woman was speaking now with animated hand gestures, drawing Cara’s attention for but a few moments. A look of approval had painted itself over Joanna’s features at whatever the woman was talking about; Cara returned her gaze to the girl once more who was fingering the string of her bow absentmindedly.
“Ah, here’s the little one.”
She could feel eyes upon her and Cara lifted her own, meeting Joanna’s; the older blonde woman was offering a hand and Cara accepted it, moving closer to her Aunt. “It is a pleasure to meet you again, Madame.” Cara bowed her head respectfully; she would not embarrass her Aunt. The woman who was constantly doing so much to help her.
“Cara, these are your tutors, Visenya and her husband, Jhaqo. This is their daughter, Garen.”
A blush crept over Cara’s cheeks when her eyes met the other girl’s once more, ducking her head in embarrassment. Joanna chuckled and moved her hand up to rest atop Cara’s head, brushing her fingers slowly through the loose, blonde locks.
“I don’t like that girl. Don’t talk to her.” Cara turned her head, chewing slowly on a lemony weed, frowning at her cousin. They were riding for Casterly Rock and, as usual, Cara was riding next to Cersei. The two girls had bonded on the first night Cara had been delivered by her captors.
Cara stood silent in her grubby clothes between two Mord’Sith, careful to avoid the two Agiels. A beautiful blonde woman was in front of them with green eyes and a kind face; there had to be a hundred men in polished armor standing behind the woman in formation.
She dare not move without being told to do so, her body was still sore from the Agiel strikes she’d received during the journey here. Every infraction still earned her the touch of an Agiel.
“The girl weighs six stones.” Mistress Jillian growled, her red gloved hand coming to rest upon the back of Cara’s neck, squeezing painfully.
The blonde woman in front of them nodded once, motioning with her hand almost boredly. Cara watched in awe as the soldiers parted upon wordless command, two armored men moved through the ranks – a chest between them.
“This should be sufficient.”
Mistress Sarah moved forward to check the contents of the chest and after a few minutes of muttering the Mord’Sith nodded approvingly. “It’s all here.” Mistress Jillian shoved her forward, snorting when Cara stumbled, landing hard on her hands and knees.
The scent of roses surrounded her and Cara tensed as a shadow fell over her. Gentle hands came to rest upon her shoulders and Cara lifted her head, frowning at the sight of a girl her age with golden hair and green eyes. The girl wiped at her cheeks, kneeling in front of her.
There was wetness on her cheeks.
Crying was a weakness, “Forgive me, Mistress. I do not mean to be weak.”
A courteous and concerned smile appeared on the girl’s face, it was so similar to the one Dahlia had first given her when they first met. Back when Cara still cried about scraped elbows and defenseless animals in need of saving. “I am not your Mistress. I am your cousin, Cersei…”
Family was not to be trusted.
She learned that much from her father when he sold her to the Mord’Sith.
“Cersei. Take your cousin to be bathed and tended to by Maester Randyll.” Cara tensed at the woman’s words, even more so when Cersei tried to guide Cara up into a standing position.
“Come with me. My mother won’t let anyone harm you. There’s dozens of archers trained on those two women.”
Cara took a breath before looking into Cersei’s green eyes; something pushed her to trust her cousin, maybe it was the look of concern. It reminded her so much of Dahlia.
Cersei helped her stand, wrapping a tight arm around Cara’s waist and holding her secure.
“Are you jealous, cousin? Jealous that someone else is paying attention to me?”
Cersei pursed her lips and glowered haughtily, “You’re my cousin. She’s lowborn and shouldn’t even look upon you.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, cousin, I’m as lowborn as she.” The look of irritation that passed over Cersei’s features was definitely worth the hard smack on the thigh she received. “Well it’s true, and you know it.”
“But she’s a commoner. Your mother is my mother’s sister. She’s a noble bastard. That girl is a-”
“Commoner. So you’ve told me.” Cara muttered, letting her head drop back as she basked in the sunlight. The seasons were so different here; she’d heard tales about winters lasting entire generations. According to Maester Randyll, Westeros had not experienced a winter in nearly four years.
“Just don’t talk to her. I don’t like her and I don’t want you to talk to her. You’re mine and I don’t want you to smell like the common rabble.”
Cara sighed at that and just shook her head; her cousin could be utterly unbelievable on occasion. Thankfully Cersei took the sigh as one of acquiescence and resumed prattling on about some lord’s son she’d met in Lannisport. “But of course he isn’t as handsome as Jaime. One day Jaime will be a knight and songs will be sung about him.” Cersei sighed wistfully; Cara rolled her eyes, cocking her head to the side and glancing towards her cousin.
“Don’t let Aunt Joanna hear you speaking about Jaime like that. She’ll marry you both off and separate you forever.”
Cersei’s eyes widened comically at the thought before narrowing her eyes in suspicion, “Is that a threat?”
“No.” With that Cara nudged her horse forward, urging it to move ahead of her cousin.
Over the course of a few weeks Cara found that her tutoring was nothing like what her cousins ever received. Visenya, the Lyseni woman, tutored in her studies – languages, history, battle and the ways of court. She even promised to teach her the ways of pleasure when she flowered. It was something most learned on Lys, even the sons and daughters of noble families.
Jhaqo taught her to wield traditional Dothraki weapons and once she was good enough her Aunt had one of the blacksmiths create a set just for her. It was the bow that she excelled in, however; her attention to detail and focus was helping her become skilled markswoman.
Every bruise and cut she received was a new lesson, so she made sure never to make the same mistake twice – something Jhaqo recognized and fostered.
Fine feathers tickled her cheek as she pulled the arrow back, watching her target for any sign of movement. There wouldn’t be any movement of course, apples didn’t move of their own accord. She took a deep breath instinctively before letting the arrow fly. Cara lowered her bow with a proud smile upon her lips.
Her arrow had struck home, pinning the fruit to the wall from the sheer force behind her shot.
She never got verbal praise from Jhaqo, son of Cohollo and she preferred it that way. His praise was in the form of a nod or telling her to do it again. Cara learned that fact after the third practice.
Cara closed her eyes as she straddled the stone lion jutting out from one of the highest places she had ventured climbing on the fortress that was Casterly Rock. She leaned forward, letting her arms, legs and head dangle over the creature – staring out at Lannisport and the Sunset Sea. It was all so pretty as night began to consume the day.
“What if you fall?”
“Then I die.” Cara turned her head and peering over her shoulder to squint at Garen.
“Are you so careless with your life?” Her lips twitched upwards and Cara shook her head, resuming her original position, shifting a bit to get comfortable once more.
Garen shuffled around behind her to sit on the stone railing of the balcony. It wasn’t that she was loud; it was simply that Cara’s ears picked up the slightest sound after months of listening for the coming of rats. “I’m not careless. I just don’t fear death anymore.”
Cara pushed herself up slowly, leaning back against Garen’s legs, “Before I came here I was sold to the Mord’Sith for training.”
A sound of confusion escaped the girl behind her, “What’s a Mord’Sith?”
“They’re the elite warriors of Lord Rahl, he’s like the king of D’Hara – the land I’m from.”
Cara nodded her head quietly and one of Garen’s hands came to rest on the top of her head. She knew she wouldn’t have to explain further right now, Garen was good at reading emotions – something she herself would never be able to do.
Someday she’d be able to talk about the rats that nibbled at her in her dreams and her father dying by the Agiel clutched in her hand. Not now, however. Not now. It was all still too fresh.
They stayed like that for the better part of an hour, watching the waves crest. When rain began to fall Garen helped Cara over the banister safely and escorted her into the fortress the Lannisters called “home.”
A bath and lots of giggling later found both girls tucked into Cara’s bed; Garen’s mother and her Aunt Joanna had decided to make Garen Cara’s companion since they spent so much time together anyways. Cara snuggled up to Garen’s side, the girl was a year older, a bit taller and always warmer than she was – Garen always joked about how it was the Dothraki in her.
“We should go exploring tomorrow.” Cara yawned, resting her head on Garen’s shoulder sleepily.
“But my mother is tutoring you tomorrow.”
“I’ll finish my lessons early, and then we can go exploring.”
Garen nodded her assent and Cara grinned, leaning up to plant a kiss on the other girl’s cheek.
Cersei never wanted to go exploring with her.
She didn’t pay much attention to the tourney with Garen curled up against her, fast asleep; there were many more days of the tourney ahead of them, she could miss out on the first day. They were seated in places of honor near the Lord of Highgarden and King Aerys II thanks to her Aunt’s heavy hand and pulling of strings. Cara knew Joanna would have preferred it if Cersei were in attendance as well but the girl had fallen ill with fever a few days after the arrival of Lord Tyrell’s messenger.
Cara wrapped her arm tight around Garen to keep her from falling over in her sleep before finally lifting her gaze towards the jousting knights on the field in time to see Prince Rhaegar unhorse a Tyrell lord. She brought her hand up and down slowly against Garen’s side when the other girl stirred in attempts to lull her friend back to sleep.
Jaime leapt up and cheered with the rest of the crowd when Prince Rhaegar unseated the man once more, winning the match and effectively waking Garen. She let loose a disgruntled sound and turned her head into Cara’s side, muttering about boys and their games. Cara bit her lower lip and watched as Prince Rhaegar circled the arena, his arm raised in victory.
Maybe Jhaqo could teach her to joust, though she highly doubted that he knew a single thing about jousting. Cara bit her lower lip in wonder, Ser Tygett was an excellent jouster and he always preferred it when she called him Uncle…
A hand came down upon her shoulder and Cara turned her head, panicked at the sudden touch. Garen was up and standing as soon as her brain registered that someone caused her to start. The taller girl drew a dagger partially, whirling to face whoever had startled Cara, relaxing when she saw that it was Leo Dane, third son to Lord Jon Dane of Forestgate. “Don’t touch her again or I will have your balls.”
Cara composed herself and glowered at Leo, eyes narrowing slightly. “What is it that you want?”
She didn’t particularly like Leo; he was always staring at her oddly, like she was a little puppy in need of a hug. “Might I attend dinner with you, m’lady?”
“I’m a bastard, not a lady. The daughter of a stone mason and a seamstress on top of that,” Cara snapped; if she had been fonder of him she was positive she wouldn’t have been so short with the other boy.
“Er… might… I… might I attend dinner with you, then…?”
“I want all of you to be polite to him, he has no friends here.”
“Yes, mother…” Jaime sighed, leaning back against the chair with a bored look upon his handsome face.
Joanna Lannister looked pointedly at the two girls in her presence, “all of you.”
Cersei’s lower lip jutted out in a pout, “yes, mother.” Cara nodded, a soft muttered acceptance escaping her.
“I don’t see why not.” Cara shrugged and turned to look for Jaime, hand finding Garen’s instinctively. The blonde smiled when she spotted her cousin eyeing a young boy who was tightening the straps of a saddle for a gruff looking Tyrell knight. “Jaime, what’re you doing?”
“I will become a knight one day.” Jaime breathed, smiling at her.