Chapter 1: Jaime
title: give me my robe, put on my crown; i have immortal longings in me
category: GoT AU
disclaimer: I disclaim.
spoilers: pre-GoT, Robert’s Rebellion.
summary: a world in which the innocent get to live, but only by means of making themselves guilty; or, House Targaryen loses a prince, a king, but not a throne of swords.
notes: what is this even? Ishi’s to blame-she peppers me with plot bunnies and stuff and then forgets about them while I obsess to the point of near unproductivity … anyway, enjoy and stuff.
They let the lions in.
The corridors of the Red Keep never seemed so twisted and endless as they did that night. His focus was on his footsteps, on the sounds of his boots striking the floors. He had no time, no time for any of the other things happening just outside the castle walls. He had no time for the screams, the cries for help, the splintering of wood, and clang of steel on steel. The lions were in the Keep, and yet Jaime had more pressing matters.
Burn them all.
Later, he will laugh at the irony of the moment, of his rush away from the screams and pleas of the dying. He could not stop to save them, because he was too busy trying to save them. Later, he will think of that and laugh and laugh and laugh, and his heart will pound against his chest and his eyes will gleam with something that aren’t quite tears and the panic will swell and rise over and over again. Jaime knew this, he planned on it, because there was no other outcome that his mind could divine.
Some evils must be done.
Burn them all.
His sword was out, gripped tightly in his right hand, firm and steady. The blood had not yet dried, but rather dripped along the blade leaving a trail of scarlet dots upon the stone floor. A line, between one dead man and a man about to die.
The door to the throne room loomed ahead. The screams were closer, the song of steel on steel sharper. He hadn’t the time he thought he would have. He had to hurry.
He pushed open the doors, stepped into the shadows of dead dragons, and then stopped. He looked to the centre of the room, to the person standing rather calmly in the midst of all this chaos. Jaime had come expecting a raving old man, a king long past madness. He expected shouts, screams, and accusations-he had prepared for such an onslaught, prepared himself to ignore it.
But here, none of the things he expected awaited him. No violet eyes burning with suspicion, no thin lips spewing diatribes and spittle in a single breath. Silence reigned in the dragon’s room, silence that stretched and strained against the oncoming cacophony.
Jaime started, opened his mouth to speak and then thought better of it. He moved instead to close the doors, shutting away that which was coming. He turned back around, stepped further into the room, his sword still clenched tightly in his hand.
A quick gesture. “Whose blood?”
He looked down at the blade, almost surprised to see the garish red dripping off the edge. But the surprise was misplaced, because he had been thinking of the blood all the way from the Tower of the Hand. “Rossart’s.”
“Did he deserve it?”
The screams rose in pitch, before ebbing away again. Jaime looked over his shoulder, looked at the closed door, and felt the sting of phantom flames. “Yes.”
“And now, you’ve come to tell your king? To defend him from the lion horde destroying the city?”
His hand flexed, gripped the sword so tight he could feel his bones rubbing together. “I came to kill him.”
The words hung heavy in the air. He looked towards the serene figure once more, not knowing what to make of the smile there. “But I cannot understand why my princess has done the work for me.”
Princess Elia Targaryen smiled softly before kneeling beside the body at her feet. Jaime watched as she wiped the bloody dagger clean on the king’s own tunic before slipping it back into the sheath at his hip. “I believe it is queen at this point. That is how it works, isn’t it?”
- It is a tragedy, but such things happen in war, do they not?”
He faltered, lowered his sword point to the floor. “You would blame my father’s men. Why?”
“Your father’s men have come to kill the king, and to kill my children. Perhaps to kill me as well; who is to say they did not fulfill at least one of their master’s requests?”
“That master is my father.”
The princess, no, the queen stepped forward, hands clasped demurely in front of her skirts. “You have no family,” she corrected with a gentle shrug. “You surrendered all claims to family ties when you let a mad king put a white cloak upon your shoulders. Though, perhaps that is a bit harsh. The cloak would have been just as binding if given to you by a sane king.”
She came to a stop just in front of him, close enough to touch, close enough to kiss. Jaime looked at his princess (no, queen) and thought, perhaps for the first time, that she had some beauty to her. A terrible beauty, but beauty nonetheless.
“Do you remember your vows, Ser Lion?”
The moniker sounded different, less playful, more haunting. There were still people dying outside, but he saw nothing but the brown of her eyes and the dark curl of her hair. Her lips, he realized, were stained an appropriate red this day.
“What would you have of me, my lady?”
She raised one brow, and he wanted to laugh at her insistence on courtesies at this most absurd moment. “Your Grace,” he amended, with no lack of sarcasm woven into his words.
“I would have you do your duty, ser. I have done my part to save my family; it is time for you to do your part. I would live to see the northmen who ride for the city.”
“Where are the children?”
A smile, more sardonic than gentle, quickly swept behind a mask of half-lidded humility. “They are safe.”
“Then they are not here.”
Another smile. “Safe, dear ser. Safe.”
There came a ruckus, obviously just outside the door. Her eyes moved away from his face for a second, but a second of uncertainty for sure. He did not see any of Rhaegar’s sweet wife in that face, none of the gentle lady who sewed shirts and sang lullabies to her children all day. “Who are you?”
She looked back at him, no smile this time. “Elia of Dorne.”
“You are not the Elia of Dorne I have known these past two years.”
She laughed, a curiously carefree sound, and her eyes sparkled with something he could not name. “That was Elia Targaryen; you have not known Elia of Dorne. But you will learn something of her soon enough, Ser Lion. I would treat with your father, after the Stark boy comes to ask for vengeance. Hold him at bay until then, and I will do the rest.”
“And why should I take the word of a person I do not know?”
She raised a hand, trailed a finger along the edge of his cloak to the hollow of his neck. Her fingernail scratches at his skin, digs deep for a second and then ghosts up to his chin just shy of his lips. “Because you are sworn, Ser Lion. You are sworn.”
He thought then that perhaps she was trying to seduce him, for it seemed suddenly that the neckline of her gown dipped lower than usual, the lines hugged her curves tighter, and the red brought made the flush of her skin rosier. Jaime had known no woman but his sweet Cersei, loved no woman but her either; however, in that moment, he thought he could drive this Elia to the floor, hike up her skirts, and fuck her senseless in a pool of dragon’s blood.
“You might be too dangerous to let live, Your Grace.”
She laughed and moved half a step back. “Come now, Ser Lion; you don’t fear me. You want me to live, so you can look upon my face knowing what I have done.”
He looked to Aerys, dead and cooling just steps away from his precious throne. “I have seen this. Is there more?”
And she smiled, a Elia Targaryen smile, soft and gentle around the edges. It was a mask, he realized with a jolt, a mask to hide what laid underneath. He stepped towards her and with a demure giggle, she stepped back. He pursued, followed her in this bizarre dance, not even glancing at Aerys as his boots brushed against the body. He followed and followed, and knew not what to make of the humming in his blood; followed her up the throne steps and gazed into her eyes, desperate for an answer.
“Is there more?”
“Help me live, Ser Lion, and I will show you.”
Later, when the doors were finally broken down and his father’s men flooded the room, Jaime stood before Ser Elys Westerling and Lord Roland Crakehall as the former nudged the dead king with his boot.
“I see it is time for a new king,” Lord Roland craned his neck, attempting to steal a look at Elia just behind his liege lord’s son. Jaime watched him do so, but put a hand upon his now sheathed sword’s hilt only when the man took a step forward.
“There is already a new king,” Jaime shrugged, but did not remove his hand until Lord Roland retreated to an acceptable distance. “Actually, with what I hear of Robert Baratheon, there might even be two. The future is for the gods to decide; we are merely men, and must do only as our oaths and vows of honour will allow.”
Ser Elys looked up from the body. “Your father will not like this.”
“My father will not get here in time for his displeasure to mean much. You should prepare, ser; I hear the wolves howling at the gates.”
Lord Roland remained stubborn. “She is not meant to be here.”
The queen laughed that same falsely sweet laugh from before. “My lord, I am the dragon’s bride and one of Nymeria’s own; I am meant to be nowhere else.”
She declared this from her spot just to the side of the Iron Throne. She had not yet moved to take it, and stood waiting with her hands folded in front of her, as serene as the moment he first stumbled upon her with her hands red and a king’s blood soaking the hem of her gown.
This was how the northmen would first see her, a picture of quiet grace and carefully constructed sorrow.
She is most certainly too dangerous to let live. Jaime smiled at the wolf-lord, hand tight on his sword. “So, it is to be King Robert Baratheon, is it?”
“No,” and this from Elia, her voice still sweet in spite of the steel in her words, “no, Ser Lion, it is not. Come Lord Stark; we have much to discuss and you’ve kept me waiting long enough.”
Ned Stark looked from the body on the floor to the lions lining the room. “Yes, my lady, we do have much to discuss.”
Elia of Dorne smiled and extended her hand towards the wolf. “Your Grace, Lord Stark; I am no man’s lady-not anymore.”
She is most certainly too dangerous to let live.
He guarded her, all the same.
Chapter 2: Eddard
They had to wait for his bannermen to take positions around the keep. The northerners had seen the lions’ work in the city and in the castle, and his men hesitated to leave him with the princess while Jaime Lannister served as guard.
“Queen,” she corrected him, yet again. Elia Targaryen settled down in the middle of her sitting room, a pile of needles and threads strewn across the floor at her feet. This war had shown him many things, but never had Ned Stark thought he would be seated in a woman’s apartments for peace talks.
He was not yet sure these were peace talks. Elia’s intentions seemed to be entirely her own, and her gentle smile gave him no inkling as to her real thoughts.
“Sit, please,” the self-styled queen smiled encouragingly his way, gestured to a chair opposite her own. “Do excuse the mess-it appears someone was looking for me.”
The door had been kicked in, what tables there had been were overturned and broken, vases smashed, flowers trampled, curtains torn. Save for the three chairs, two of which were now in use, it seemed nothing had been spared.
Jaime Lannister stood before the third chair, hand upon his sword and blood splattered across his white cloak. Ned eyed him in open distrust, gave the princess a look that conveyed as much.
“Ser Lion, if you would stand attention at the door? Lord Stark and I have much to discuss, and need no interruptions.”
The knight did not go immediately, rather locked eyes with Ned first.
I am watching you, those green eyes seemed to say.
I am not the one who needs watching, Ned glared back.
The door was too battered to close properly. A gaping hole the size of a boot had smashed the handle inwards. Ser Jaime was outside the room, but not outside of hearing.
“The screaming has faded,” Elia commented pleasantly. “Your men’s work, yes? It seems a pack of wolves is more than enough to scatter a horde of lions.”
“You said we had much to discuss, my lady. Perhaps we should start.”
His temper flared, agitated by battle fatigue and the ghosts of his shattered family, closer to him here than even home in Winterfell where he had saw them last. “I have not brought the North so far south to call another Targaryen ‘Your Grace’.”
“But you’ve come this far to call Robert Baratheon ‘Your Grace’?” Elia laughed, a light sound she tried to stifle behind jewelled fingers. She was dressed well for an embattled princess, he would have to say, dripping in riches and silks as if on her way to a feast. “Lord Stark, have you really brought the wrath of the North to put Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne? You feel this is the best reward for the lifeblood split by your bannermen?”
“It is a fitting answer to the murder of my brother, my father; the taking of my sister.”
It was the mere mention of Lyanna that sent the smile flying from Elia’s face. She sighed, a heavy sound, and leant back wearily against her chair. “My lord, you seem determined to misunderstand me-to ignore the gifts I have procured to show you my goodwill.”
He thought of Aerys, dead in a pool of his own blood. “I fear I have no taste for that manner of gifts.”
Elia shifted slightly, putting her elbow upon the arm of her chair and resting her chin against her palm. “Another misunderstanding, I’m afraid. I haven’t given you your gifts and already you reject them. But you seem to be making a judgement before you hear my offer; let me put your suspicions to rest. I did not have Ser Lion put my good-father to the sword, nor did he embark upon the task of his own accord. The king was dead when Ser Jaime opened the doors to the throne room, a truth that I can testify to as I was there to see it.”
“They say the Dornish are adept at lying.”
“’They’ are right, but then again, all manner of men are adept at lying. It is not merely a Dornish flaw, my lord. But I will swear before my gods and yours that all I have said is the truth.”
His armour felt too tight, and his mind perhaps too exhausted for this game. “Why should I believe you?”
“Why should you doubt me?” she crossed her legs, fabrics swishing as the skirts settled. “It wasn’t by my order, or by my actions, that your father and brother met the ends they did. I spoke for them, or tried to at the very least. Aerys had little love for those who spoke against him, but I was lucky to be heavy with Aegon at the time. He merely had two guards hold me upright while he slapped me for my insolence. ‘A gentle reminder’, he called it, when the Queen rushed to wipe the blood from my face, to help me remember my place for the future.”
He coughed and sunk lower in his chair, no answer at hand for this revelation.
“What? Did you think you were the only one that the Mad King wronged? The list is long, Lord Stark, and the offences many. He had me seated to his right when he burned your father, and for every burning thereafter. Did you think my brother sent ten thousand Dornish spears to hold the realm for loyalty to Aerys Targaryen? I know you are young, Lord Stark; I did not think you dull as well.”
His face felt hot suddenly, the carelessness of her insults too sharp to ignore. “You are not much older.”
“I am centuries older, Lord Stark,” Elia straightened her spine and gave him a pointed look. “We haven’t time to quibble. The truth is you have any army capable of crowning a king, I have a son that needs crowning, and we both know Robert Baratheon would ruin this realm within a fortnight-so, it is time to come to an accord, Ned.”
“I know nothing of you-“
“Nobody knows anything of me-“
“And yet you ask me to surrender the kingdom to a child that most have not seen, on the premise of gifts you have not yet given, and a belief in a widow who appears not so grieved by her husband’s fate. I am not that young, my lady.”
That made her smile. “They told me you were disastrously honourable; they did not tell me you could be witty at times. Don’t smile too broad, lord wolf. Those times still seem few and far between.”
“Is it Dornish custom to keep insulting men until they do your bidding?”
“I have no bidding, only terms, fair terms,” she dropped her smile once more, hands tightening on the arms of her chair. “Three gifts I promised, and they are not easy gifts for a woman to give. But I hope they will show you my true intent. I don’t want the crown for my boy because I want a king for a son. But if I wish to have a son who lives, than I must have a son who rules. There will be no place that I could flee that would be far enough, remote enough, to keep the dragons’ legacy away. I love my children, Lord Stark, and I would have them live. I hear you have a child of your own, a boy that your Tully wife birthed in your absence. You have not yet seen the child, but I dare say you understand something of my feelings.”
“I understand love for one’s family,” Ned conceded, and conceded only that.
She laughed again, but no longer the light sound from before, the false laughter of a courtly woman. This laugh was different, harsher, bitterer; the real laugh of a woman so cornered and with few options. It made him uncomfortable; it made him almost regretful.
“Three gifts,” this time she whispered, closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath before repeating, louder, “three gifts. The first, the hardest to give: my daughter.”
He frowned, stared at the princess in confusion. “My lady?”
“Your Grace,” she shook her head, as if in despair. “And I said my daughter, Lord Stark. I am no fool, though many have long dismissed me as some sort of brainless new appendage for Rhaegar rather than see me as a person of my own. I understand this game better than you think. I am not in a position to issue orders and make decrees; I must ask for mercy and deliver a sacrifice to show my sincerity. Gold is useless, and many lords of this fine realm have double the amount I have in the royal treasury. Treaties are worse, because they are paper and words, and we both know words are wind. What shall I give these lords in my city, lords asking for my son’s crown and my children’s lives? I can give them words, but I’ll write them on flesh rather than parchment; flesh does not rip so easily.”
She leant forward, eyes dark with barely contained violence. “I know of Robert Baratheon’s temperament; I know a brute when I see one, and spare me your empty defence of your childhood friend. I know what I must do, how I must use my children so that they may live, but I will not send them where harm would be done to them. I have said that they told me of your honour, and I have nursed so many hopes on the depth of that honour. My daughter, Lord Stark, as your ward; to be taken North with you when your armies return. Rhaenys is but three years, and your boy some few months; they are young for a betrothal, but it is not unheard of.”
“’Betrothal’?” Ned shook his head. “You think to persuade me with a promise of betrothal, to the daughter of the man whose crimes destroyed my family? You think I would want such a union, that I would allow it to happen?”
“I think you are tired of war, my lord, as am I. Look at this room, Lord Stark, look at it. They did not come here by accident. They were looking for me, for my daughter, and they meant us harm. You came through the city, you have seen their work-they mean to kill us. Tell me, Lord Stark, have I aggrieved you so much as to warrant that fate? Has my daughter wronged the kingdom so much in her short years to deserve the death she would have met at their hands? You are not here by chance, my lord; I have dreamt and prayed for your arrival if only for this reason. You will help me save my children; you will not stand by and let them be killed. Hate us and our house as you do, as you must; but still, you would not let that happen.”
Ned said nothing; there was nothing to be said. She had studied him well.
“My daughter, your ward, your son’s intended-a way to bring our houses together and a way for you to ensure my sincerity,” her hands twisted together in her lap, skin pale and pulled tighter where the fingers pressed into the flesh. “The North is far from King’s Landing; I know that I might not be so lucky as to see her again. But she would live, wouldn’t she? She would be safe.”
He wanted to be gone, to be far away from this woman with iron in her spine and tragedy looming in her eyes. “You said three gifts, my lady. The other two?”
She rose abruptly now, striding to the sole window in the room, taking care to step around the ripped curtains and shattered glass. “My second gift is less burdensome to depart with, but I fear it is one you will have to share with young Lord Baratheon. There is a Dornish army marching from the South, thirty thousand Dornish spears with my hotheaded brother at the head. They will arrive soon, but not before your Robert. Convincing him to remain calm until they arrive will be your duty, and the keeping of peace shall be that of your men.”
“How is an army of Dornish spears a gift?”
“It’s not, well, not a gift for you, my lord,” she pushed open the shattered window, glass scraping along the stone ledge and falling over the side. A breeze filtered into the room and yes, she was right; the screams had finally faded. “My brother rides with your second gift, with Robert’s gift. My elder brother, the prince of Dorne, meant to have the spears here before your arrival, but I asked them to make a small delay, in order to recover your sister from the Tower of Joy. It seems my husband had hidden her away there, with three of his most loyal Kingsguard to keep watch.”
He could not, dared not, to believe her. “Lyanna?” his voice was faint, a whisper. “Lya, alive?”
Elia shrugged, a gentle lift of her shoulders that did nothing to cover her discomfort. Her face was drawn, severe and harsh and sad. “Alive, and mostly well. Apparently the girl suffered from some fever when they first recovered her, and I have not had word from my brother other than that they had taken her from the tower. Fear not, Lord Stark; Oberyn would have sent warning if your sister had passed. He knows how much relies upon her survival.”
He struggled to find words, but the hope blossomed too quickly for him to grasp the words to say. She had him now, this princess did, and they were both well aware of it.
“Lord Baratheon will be mollified with the return of his betrothed, will he not? You will make sure of it, regardless.”
But he was not completely without his wits. “Now that sounds more like an order than a request, my lady.”
“Ashara rides with them,” she continued, as if he had not spoken. “The Seven keep Ashara Dayne, bless her always, because she has done this, has helped me do this. She tends to your sister, day and night my brother said. And I know her, I know Ashara; she is more my sister than my friend, much like you and the storm lord. We have seen each other through things worse than our mothers ever faced; things that lesser women would have crumbled against.”
The name was meant to cut, to cut deep. Ned closed his eyes, regret burning deep in his throat. “The third gift?”
“The third is for you, and only for you, Eddard Stark,” she turned away from the window and came closer. He opened his eyes and found himself staring into the golden threads of her bodice. His eyes travelled upwards, past the swell of her breasts and the hollow of her throat. His eyes met hers and he was not surprised to see a spark of mischief had returned. “The third gift is my help, and my solemn vow of silence, for as long as you shall need it.”
“And what help does my lady mean to offer?”
She smiled, white teeth flashing stark against the blood red of her lips. “Why, help with the child, of course.”
And then Elia of Dorne explained herself completely, and in the plainest of terms. The sun had nearly set by the time they were finished.
In parting, he bade her farewell with a stinted bow and a face as still as stone. “Your Grace.”
She nodded once, regally. “My lord.”
And the deal was struck.
Chapter 3: Jaime
The Queen Regent, or so the Stark boy agreed to call her, had abided his father's men in the Red Keep only as long as it took Robert Baratheon to arrive with his men. Then she had requested (her words, though Jaime knows an order when he hears one) that Westerling and Crakehall depart to find other lodgings, as it seemed the Keep would be packed to overflowing. The combined Stark and Baratheon forces almost overwhelmed Visenya's and Aegon's Hill, leaving only Rhaenys's Hill and the decrepit Dragonpit for the lions.
"She is so politely insulting, is she not?" Tywin Lannister, replete in his golden armour and scarlet cloak, stalked about the ruins of the pits as his men scrambled to erect a proper tent. "Banishes us to a ruined hill, situated above the stink of Flea Bottom, and yet sends my son with the message she would treat with me."
"She says you sent your men to kill her children," Jaime shifted from one foot to another, unsure, as always, in his father's presence. The last time he had seen his father, Tywin had been storming out of Harrenhal with Cersei in hand, leaving behind nothing but the golden pin of his former office. The Lord of Casterly Rock had little to say to his son then, as disgusted with Jaime as he was with Aerys over the loss of his heir.
It was Cersei's plan, and we both fools to think it would keep us together. Jaime remembered how sure his twin had been, so pleased with herself for thinking of a way to end their separation. But in their frenzy to be ever close, they had forgotten their father, forgotten his pride, forgotten his anger.
Harrenhal had started it all, started the end of so many things. The white cloak, the golden pin, the crown of winter roses-the ruin of a realm, all at Harrenhal. Perhaps the place was cursed after all.
"And are her children dead?" Tywin asked, pale green eyes locked upon his son's face. "Were there any dead princes or princesses at the Keep?"
"Only a dead king," and that only because she proved smarter than you thought-than we all thought.
"Platitudes and rebuffs, simultaneously. She's playing the game," Lord Tywin smirked. "She's playing it quite well. I didn't think she could; I didn't realize she even knew the game was afoot."
"She's dangerous," Jaime finished the thought for his father.
Tywin stopped at the edge of the ruins and glared down at the city below. "Where are the children?"
"She will not say."
"And she lives because of you," though it wasn't quite an accusation. "The Stark boy, she treated with him?"
"Her gifts," Jaime amended, and shrugged at his father's confusion. "She was well prepared. She apparently has an army of thirty thousand Dornish spears coming to the city, and the army is bringing Lyanna Stark with them."
Tywin cursed. "You're sure of this? The Stark girl lives?"
"The Queen Regent certainly believes so."
"And she's surrounded the girl with an army to keep her safe; the queen has chosen a fine time to show how smart she is," Tywin turned his back on Flea Bottom and looked hard at his son. "If Baratheon gets his wolf-girl back, there's to be no new regime. We'll have another Targaryen king, one governed by his Dornish mother, and all our efforts have been for naught. What is her purpose, saying she wishes to treat with me? At this stage, she has the upper hand; what is to be gained?"
"Peace," Jaime's hand twitched upon his sword's handle, but he continued nonetheless. "Peace for her son's rule; peace so he has time to grow and become a man that can handle unrest, handle war. I think, Father, she excels not because she is better at the game, but because she plans farther ahead than the rest. You played for a Baratheon king and a crown for Cersei; she played for her grandchildren, for her children to grow old enough to have children of their own."
And she cares for how they will live, not just what they will have. Robert Baratheon, young and handsome, already had a reputation for drinks and debauchery. Barely even twenty, and already with two bastards that we know of.
Cersei would have killed the idiot rather than stay married to him.
Tywin made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "What else does she entice the North with?"
"Her daughter. Princess Rhaenys will go North with the wolves as Ned Stark's ward and future good-daughter."
And at that, Tywin began to laugh. "She thinks herself so much better than me, does she? I have at least waited until Cersei is grown to try and trade her for a crown. The princess is barely three."
"But Ned Stark is known for his honour, his fairness," Jaime kicked at some rocks by his feet. "She said she refused to let Robert Baratheon near her children because he's a brute. She would not send her to you for obvious reason, and that leaves Ned Stark. Disguise the trade as a betrothal and send her to a man that will do his best not to make the little princess feel a hostage."
“We shall see,” Tywin looked towards the sun, already on the day’s descent. “And those were the end of her terms-gifts?”
No, they were not. “Yes, Father.”
His father was silent. Jaime looked up and felt his stomach twist at the expression on Tywin's face. He squared his shoulders and did his best to look a man instead of a chastised boy. His white cloak snapped and fluttered in the breeze, and the sight of it turned his father's face to stone.
"When you go to her, tell her I would be ever grateful if she removed that scrap from your shoulders," Tywin walked back towards the half-constructed tent his squires had managed to put up and glanced once at his song over his shoulder. "See it done."
Jaime stood alone of Rhaenys's Hill, looking down upon Flea Bottom, at the inhabitants, who openly glared up towards the lions' camp as they tried to put their homes back together. It amazed him that these people, considered the cretins of the city, had cause to look upon his father, Warden of the West, with disgust. It amazed him even further that he might share their sentiment. Tywin Lannister was not an easy man to love, but he was a man who easily commanded. And the Sack had been his command.
In all his life, Jaime had never found it easy to obey his father. Of course, he never found arguing with his father to be any sort of delight either.
His was a face that was not particularly welcome in the Keep, filled as it was with wolves and stags. The Stormlords, he had heard, had taken to calling him 'Queenmaker' and not without an accompanying abundance of scorn. They had expected that by rebelling they would gain a crown for their liege lord, and reap the benefits themselves. Jaime had spoiled things a bit.
The wolves dismissed him as a Lannister, a lion that wrecked and then lounged about while they worked to put the city back to order. Jaime could tell them to take their grievances to their most honourable Lord Stark; it was Ned Stark that bade the wolves to rebuild, not he.
The only people who seemed to abide his presence at all were the Queen Regent and the newly returned Ser Barristan Selmy.
"Well done," the Bold had congratulated him, a tad tired and perhaps even sincere. Jaime's failure to protect the king seemed forgivable in the light that Elia and young Aegon lived (though the boy king had yet to be seen). Perhaps Jaime imagined it, but Ser Barristan was even a bit relieved to have Aerys gone, though he would not admit to it. He had laid down his word in surrender to Robert Baratheon and from what Jaime heard, Ser Barristan had been in line to be a Baratheon Kingsguard as well. This world would be easier to swallow, a little less like betrayal. Rhaegar dead at the Trident, Aerys dead in the Sack; Jaime and Barristan fell into the service of King Aegon VI by default, as they would have if the other two had died elsewhere, in other circumstances.
They two were all that was left of the Kingsguard. Prince Lewyn and Jonothor Darry had fallen first, with Rhaegar upon the Trident; Whent, Dayne, and Hightower apparently lost at the Tower of Joy. A Darry remained; Ser Willem Darry had taken the Dowager Queen Rhaella and Prince Viserys to Dragonstone where he fought still to keep them safe. Elia had already put aside a white cloak for him. The cloak would have to wiat until Robert Baratheon’s order to lift the siege of Dragonstone was carried out. That condition had been put before Robert by the queen herself, and Robert (persuaded by his good friend Stark) had agreed. Of course, Robert seemed entirely more agreeable these days, for every hour brought closer the Dornish army who would deliver his beloved Lyanna to him.
In any case, that meant four cloaks still to distribute and already there were whispers that Elia would have her brother, Prince Oberyn, kneel down to accept one. Ser Barristan was now Lord Commander and Jaime felt his leader would not oppose the idea of Oberyn in the Kingsguard. Prince Lewyn and Ser Barristan had fought together many years, the Bold knight could do worse than have Lewyn’s nephew to replace the lost prince.
But the decision laid with the crown, and with King Aegon not yet able of speaking age, the Queen Regent’s will would be carried out. And Elia of Dorne let little be revealed, kept her secrets held carefully against her bosom, and smiled sweetly when denying answers. She had promised the princess to the North, but as of yet had not produced the girl.
“In due time,” she would say when questioned. “When it is safe.”
Safety, it seemed, would only arrive with thirty thousand Dornish spears. Until then, Queen Elia trusted no one completely, and her two Kingsguard only partially. Had her husband lived, this woman could have overthrown him with a handful of grace and courtesies. Jaime hoped his father was ready for ten solid years of Elia’s rule.
First she bargains with the wolf-lord, and now summons me in the dead of the night. Jaime shook his head and resumed his walk towards the godswood. He was not twenty steps from the place when his path was interceded by a cloaked figure. His sword was in his hand the next second, angling towards the intruder when the man began to giggle.
“We are skittish, aren’t we dear knight?”
He knew that voice, and the scent of perfume now pervading the area. “Varys.” He did not put down his sword. “Has the Spider come back to its web?”
Varys, Master of Whispers, pulled back his hood and smiled at Jaime. “How naïve the lion knight is, to think the Spider ever left.”
The eunuch’s voice had not become any more bearable in the past few days. “So, hiding were we? Under whose skirts?”
“Not skirts; there was a sudden shortage of available skirts at the time. I’m sure you understand, hidden as you were behind Her Grace’s silks. No ser, we spiders scuttle up high, into the darker places, until the danger is past.”
“Funny, cravens often do the same,” Jaime lowered his sword and lifted one corner of his mouth in a smirk. “Perhaps this spider should scuttle once again; he may not realize, but he is in danger once more and likely to lose a leg.”
“Threats, how ungracious,” Varys smiled as vacantly as he always had. “I’ve come not to quarrel with you, ser. I’ve come to show you your path. I had tried to dissuade the queen, but she is determined to trust you. And so, you ser get a path.”
“I can barely contain my delight,” Jaime looked towards the godswood. “Now, remove yourself from my path. Can’t keep the queen waiting, can we?”
Varys made a clucking noise deep in his throat and slowly shook his head. “You do not understand, ser. The queen is not there; that is not your path. This has been the path to your path.”
“Fools speak more sense. Be clear.”
Varys sighed and clucked his tongue again before pulling up his hood once more. “A cloak next time, ser. I’m afraid you are rather well known, and some discretion is better in these manners. And that sword upon your hip is not designed for stealth. A dagger for your next trip, perhaps? At least you had enough sense to leave behind your armour.”
The spymaster turned away from the godswood and back towards the castle. He moved swiftly for a plump fellow. Jaime followed with one hand on his sword and one eye on the shadows. Varys continued to whisper instructions, pointing out markers to aid Jaime in retracing his steps in the future. They descended into a deserted corridor, turned a sharp corner, and stood facing a stone wall. Jaime snorted.
“If you mean to deceive me, lead me into a trap, might I remind you that there is no such thing fiercer than a cornered lion.”
“Ah, more threats,” Vary kept his face hidden, but Jaime could feel that insipid smile being directed at him. “Fear not, Ser Jaime; I have no designs upon your life. I merely serve, as all men must. Here, look close.”
Jaime squinted in the dark, watched Varys trace his fingers along the wall before they disappeared between a crack in the stone. “The trigger is well hidden; make sure you press hard.”
There was a faint ‘click’, followed by the rough scrape of stone against stone. Varys pulled at the wall crack, and soon it swung outwards. Jaime shook his head. “A door?”
“The Keep is littered with them,” the Spider wheezed, slumped against the edge of the door. Jaime peered around him, spied the faint gleam of candlelight.
“Never a torch,” Varys warned, straightening as his breath returned to him. “Never a thing to draw eyes here. The Keep is littered with secret holes and passages, but you only get the one, ser. Up the stairs and knock on the door twice. Her Grace is waiting.”
“Her Grace is too suspicious,” Jaime muttered, eying the doorway.
“Her Grace wishes to keep her own secrets,” Varys stepped back and moved to continue back into the corridor. “See that you keep them as well, ser.”
The spymaster was gone in a rustle of fabrics and soft footsteps. Jaime could not help but to scoff once to himself before moving through the doorway. He stepped into a dark, windowless room, bare but for the staircase directly opposite the door and the lighted taper waiting for him upon the first step.
Jaime glanced about once more before closing the door. He studied it as it closed, noted the handle and the iron bar. He slid the bar closed and used the waiting lock to secure the handle. There would be no surprises following him now.
He collected the taper from the step, raised it high in front of him. A door awaited him at the top of the stairs, a door with no handle. Jaime ascended in silence, paused once in front of the door and strained his ears to pick up a sound, any sound. He heard nothing, just the shallow sounds of his own breathing. Jaime raised his fist and knocked twice upon the stone.
For a few moments, nothing happened. Jaime waited, hand upon his sword handle and irritation blooming in his chest. The whole farce was becoming too much.
Then he heard it, soft though it was. The scrape of metal upon metal and the muted groan from long disused hinges. The door swung outwards, just an inch, and more light filtered into the room. Jaime spotted a flash of white teeth, pink lips, and tanned skin before footsteps carried it away.
“Do come in, Ser Lion.”
The Queen Regent beckoned and Jaime answered. He blew out the lit taper and set it upon the last of the stairs. The door was slow to move, even under his hands, but soon enough he stepped into a room much lighter and warmer than the one he had just left.
A room that looked entirely like Rhaegar’s private chambers.
“Ser Lion,” the queen called him, but in a low voice. He glanced about and spotted her seated before a long mirror, pulling a brush through her hair. The queen was in a state that he had never seen her in before. Her hair ran free down her back, black curls like silk coils that fell far past her hips. Her reflection in the glass showed him a face devoid of paints and colours. A red and black dressing robe of satin was wrapped tight around her frame. When she turned to greet him, he caught a glimpse of the sheer white fabric of her shift just beneath the robe.
She rose from her chair to face him, waving dismissively at her appearance. “The maids,” she said in apology. “They would not leave until they were convinced I was ready for bed. They seem anxious to do their work well, particularly as of late. I think they fear being dismissed.”
They fear being left out on the street for lions, even now. “My father awaits word of your pleasure, Your Grace.”
She put a finger to her lips, a soft pink instead of blood red for a change. “Softly, Ser Lion. Ser Barristan guards the entrance, and the maids sleep just outside in the sitting room. There is a room between us and the Bold, and perhaps the maids have drank more wine than their usual amount-but we should still exercise discretion, shouldn’t we?”
He nodded and watched as she made her way to the writing table across from the bed. “Why here, Your Grace?” he couldn’t stop the question from passing his lips.
She laughed, low and short. “My old rooms are in a bit of a state, as are the other royal apartments. They did nothing more than overturn the bed in here, so it seemed best to make use of the chambers for now. I think I may even keep them in the future; they are closer to the king’s room than my own.”
“Are you sure that is wise, Your Grace?”
“Should I be uncomfortable in my dead husband’s rooms, ser?”
“You were uncomfortable in his presence whilst he lived, Your Grace.” And you fought, terribly so, after the debacle at Harrenhal. You could not stomach the sight of him, banned him from your rooms so that he would have to send one of my brothers to bring you here if he had need of you.
“Then it is a good thing that he is dead,” Elia dropped her eyes to the table, hands shaking just slightly before grabbing at papers gathered there. “I have drawn up my terms, Ser Lion. I have not yet signed lest you brought me news of some terms your father sent.”
Jaime had to stop his hand from going to grip his sword again. He made a fist and forced his arm back down to his side. “No, Your Grace. Nothing.”
“’Nothing’?” she repeated, in a tone that belied her amusement. “Not one single request, for the new Queen Regent?”
That she laughed so openly at his poorly veiled lie irritated him fiercely. “My father lives to serve you, Your Grace. He is more than willing to let you set terms as you had done with the Northmen.”
“And how much of my dealings with the Northmen has your father been made aware of?”
“He knows of the Dornish army, the recovery of Lyanna Stark, and the upcoming betrothal of the princess to the future Warden of the North.”
Her lips twitched, obviously. “He seems rather well-informed.”
“My father is a resourceful man.”
“And yet, he is not fully informed.”
And Jaime smirked. “He is not the most resourceful.”
She smiled at that, and then motioned for him to take the papers. “Best to have a look, regardless. I would not want any of the wording to take your father by surprise.”
Jaime took the papers, glanced down at it briefly and felt his eyebrows go high. The urge to utter a sarcastic remark or three gnawed at him, but he forced himself to finish the whole letter before indulging.
Done, he looked up, jaw set angrily. “Have you run out of children to ransom away?”
Elia laughed, fingers pressed against her lips as she looked up at him. “Are you angry with me, ser? It was never my intent to anger you.”
“But it is your intent to seduce me, isn’t it?”
She frowned, perplexed by this new line of accusations. But she recovered, quickly and with another one of her damnable smiles in place. “You think much of yourself, Ser Lion. And just to be clear, it is not my intent, ser. ‘Intent’ would imply that I have not yet achieved my goal.”
He threw the letter back upon her desk, turned and stalked five solid steps away. “So you admit that was your purpose?”
“You fret so, Ser Lion. Is it worry for you honour? Fear not, I have no desire to ruin a maiden tonight.”
She knew, or at the very least suspected. Or maybe she suspected something different and he was giving too much away. Jaime struggled to control himself, but he had always been lacking in matters of restraint. “My sister is not of your concern.”
“No, she is not, but she is your father’s concern,” Elia tipped her head to the head. “Tell me, ser: is it the proposed match, or the fact that there is a match at all?”
“Cersei is not one of your pawns.”
“I have no pawns, only loyal subjects. Or so I’m told, now that my countrymen are upon the kingdom’s doorstep. You mustn’t fret so, my sweet lion knight. I harbour no ill will to young Cersei, only wish to help. And it is an offer, not a demand. Your father is well within his rights to look elsewhere. Though I don’t think he’ll look in the direction you desire.”
“Your Grace, you know little of my desires.”
She rose to her feet, hands pulling at the ties of her robe just enough to give a better look of the shift below. His eyes fell on the soft flesh visible underneath the fabric, caught sight of the curve of her breast, and clenched his hands into tight fists.
“I know that I cannot oblige you in that regard,” Elia came closer, tilted her head so as to look up at him. “From what I have heard of dear, beautiful Cersei, she is no knight. Alas, I cannot bring her here for a white cloak so I must look to other means of honouring her . . . beauty.”
“I would be weary of a woman who uses her family members as chattel, wares for trade.”
“Why?” she smiled again and returned to her desk. “Men do as such with their wives, daughters. No one is weary of them. Does it sting so much that I make such offers, or is my sex such a hindrance to my sincerity?”
She signed the letter with flourish, while he stood idle and fumed. Jaime watched as the queen sealed the letter with her own signet, wondered how she managed to salvage one or if she had another remade. Elia of Dorne was endlessly resourceful.
“Have you no answer for me, Ser Lion?”
“You have no need of my answers, Your Grace,” Jaime stepped forward, crowding her suddenly. She blinked and kept smiling, as if unaffected by it all. “You have all the answers already, Elia.”
“My, so familiar with your queen; it’s almost scandalous,” and she gave a little laugh when he put his hand upon the knot in her robe and tugged it free. Black and red silk floated to the floor as if water and she stood before him, in nothing but a shift that was so sheer it might as well not have been there at all.
“Do you roar, Ser Lion?” she snaked a hand around his neck as he pushed her towards the bed, fingers weaving through the blonde curls of his head. “I know your words, but I do wonder if a golden lion can truly roar.”
He gripped the flimsy fabric of her shift and rucked it upwards, smoothing his hand over tanned silk as soft as silk. She sighed and leant into him, rising up to her toes so her lips grazed his ears. “I shall enjoy making you roar, dear ser.”
He lifted her and dropped her unkindly of the edge of the bed, hands making quick work of his sword, belt, and pants. “Now who thinks much of herself?”
Jaime parted her legs with one hand and braced the other on the bed and pushed right in.