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Swan Song of Reflection

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***Buffy-1***


 

It was Sunday, a sunny day and a picture of the perfect warm spring day. The sky was blue, cloudless, and birds were singing their songs.

It was a weird thought … but she was glad to be dying on such a day.

Her two previous deaths happened in the dark.

Her first death was when she was merely sixteen years old – as a Slayer she was about two years old at the time, and she died away from home and she left them, her friends and family alone with danger. She didn't want to die on that day.

Her second time was at daybreak; she had nice view on the rising sun when she jumped from that tower. As of wanting to die at that time – she is still unsure if that was what she wanted but she knew that she could not let Dawn jump. Her little sister had her whole life ahead of her. A family of her own and a little house with picket white fence – the whole nine yards.

In comparison, what did Buffy have to look forward to?

Death that's what and she made peace with that fact – that she would die before her time. So she jumped, because now she could save her sister from dying – and it had nothing to do with saving the world. Besides unlike before with her first death when the Master walked – Glory most certainly did not.

Though she was still bleeding out, from the gunshot wound, she wheezed in amusement. Just like now.

Warren was somebody that will be caught by the police … no matter their incompetence when dealing with the supernatural – Warren Mears was not supernatural, crazy yes – supernatural no.

"Hang on, Buff." Xander was kneeling beside her on the grass, which smelled very nice, as freshly mowed grass usually does; oh and there were violets and daisies that the lawnmower missed because of their low steams. They smelled very nice too.

Xander pulled his T-shirt off and pressed it to the gunshot wound on her upper chest. It didn't hurt. She didn't feel anything, though she could feel blood pooling beneath her back. Another white blouse ruined by blood. But hey nothing lasts forever in her line … of work that she gets no pay for, only bills.

When she thought of dying … before being handed the death sentence – being called as The Slayer, she hadn't thought about it.

Death was an abstract thought.

Until Celia died in the hospital.

Then she was chosen and at the beginning death was something to be scoffed at. It won't happen to her; how can it when she is stronger than the ones she fights?

Others died - people, teens, and her schoolmates. And then her Watcher sacrificed his life for her.

It was no longer a game.

She didn't want to … no, she didn't want to be the Slayer any more, but she did want, desperately even, to help, to save people from the vampires that massacred her friends at the school dance.

She did that – staked Lothos and hunted down his remaining minions, before her trip on the back of the Pike's motorcycle to Vegas.

Then when Giles read that prophecy … she died again, but she went there by her own choice. She thought that her choice was an informed one. It wasn't; it was a pity that Giles was focusing on the big print, and forgot to explore the angles or little print, if he did then the Master would have never walked out of that cave.

And now Warren Mears, one of the nerd trio, apparently decided to go to the dark side of dorkiness, not the cute kind …the evil kind.

The sky was blue, with hardly any clouds and like before, when she took the leap to save Dawn, she knew that her family will be all right in the end.

R.I.P.

Warrior of the people, friends, and sister

Buffy Anne Summers – third time’s the charm, may she find peace in the afterlife

Born January 19, 1996 – third death on the 19th of March 2017


 

 

***Tara - 1***


 

It was nice to be woken by sunlight and the songs from birds and her lover waking up with her again. Tara was content. She and Willow were together again and she was back in the Summers' residence. It was hard being away from Dawn and Buffy; her family, her sisters, by choice. She smiled at Willow who pulled on a white shirt. She idly wondered how long it would take for this shirt to retain its pristine snow white color.

"Hey, clothes," Willow said, and Tara's smile winded.

"Don't get too used to them."

"Yes ma'am." Willow reached over to her and pulled her into a kiss. The kiss was full of softness, tenderness, and love.

Opening her eyes, Tara saw Buffy in the garden – through the window – poking at something. Perhaps Buffy will take up a hobby of gardening. Maybe she should suggest it to her; Buffy was stressed to a breaking point, and patrolling was hardly a healthy stress reliever. And then she saw another figure approaching Buffy from behind.

"Mmmm…Xander," she murmured. Willow pulled away and gave her a very funny look.

"Okay, not quite the response I was fishing for." Willow pouted.

Tara smiled. "No, silly, he's here, look." Tara went closer to the window, Willow following close behind – they looked to see Xander standing before Buffy and talking to her.

Willow looked over her two best friends with hopeful eyes, "Think they're making up?"

Tara sighed, how she wished that they would. But both had a point, and neither was really wrong or entirely right.

"I hope so," she told Willow as she turned her back to the window, feeling the warmth of the sun.

"That is the best part," she told Willow.

"Yep, except, they are not at all the couple-y kind of best part," Willow started to babble, and Tara smiled at the quiet normalcy of the day.

The babble of her lover was interrupted with a THUNK sound in the window behind her, and a searing – but short pain at the middle of her back, between her shoulder blades – then she felt nothing.

One moment she was talking to Willow, the next she was hearing Willow's distant voice calling for her and seeing Willow's front splattered in blood.

Her happy Willow face was twisted into horror and pain now. Was she hurt? She was splattered with blood.

Tara took one step; she was losing feeling in her legs, her arms, but all she saw was the blood on Willow's white shirt.

"Your shirt …" she heard herself say from a great distance and then … black spots colored her vision

R.I.P.

Gentle soul, lover, and friend

Tara Maclay – may she find peace in the afterlife.

Born January 16, 1995 – died on the 19th of March 2017


 

*** Cersei - 1***


 

Queen, I am a Queen, no I'm The Lannister Queen, she thought as she stood before the mirror that hung on the wall, one of many in the Queen's Ballroom. She liked to spend her time here.

The main room was spacious and connected to the gardens, with fourteens, trimmed shapes of shrubbery and all manner of roses. The solar itself was enormous, the size of two solar that her father had at Casterly Rock, and there lined with mirrors that reflected light, so it was bright inside for the entire day.

Spending time here always brought peace to her, especially now when her movements were restricted due to her condition.

Fortunately, Robert was leaving her alone now that she was with his first child. And yes this child was his, not her darling Jamie's. Robert was even now finding company with various ladies, taverns wenches, and whores. She could already picture a half dozen bastards being conceived at this very moment to compliment the already existing ones.

He better be a good father to this little one, Cersei thought as she smoothed her hand over her big abdomen, as Robert was already proving to be a horrid husband to her. But that was the kind of man Robert Baratheon was, with his drinking and then taking her without regards to her opinions, her thoughts, like she was just a piece of lamb spread for his pleasure. Like those tavern wenches, serving girls and really any women that crossed his path.

She was not a lamb, or a doe to his stag; Queen Cersei was a lioness of Casterly Rock. And no Stag King would demine her so. She'll not allow it, she thought, her nails biting into her hand when she clenched her fists, and then patted her protruding belly when she felt movement from her baby in her womb.

The child was due to be born any day now or so Maester Pycelle says. When Maester Pycelle informed her that she was with child, Jamie was in the Eyrie doing a task appointed to him by Robert's Hand Lord Arryn, and he was there for three months already. So Cersei was certain this child was Robert's.

How Robert boasted his virility that he managed to put a child in her in the first month of their marriage. She was tempted, for a moment, to use Moon's Tea, to purge herself of his seed, but the risk of using it, at that point of her pregnancy, stopped her hand. Besides this was still her child as well.

"You are still beautiful, sweet sister," a deep voice of her twin, her dearest love, interrupted her. "Even, when you are about three sizes bigger than normal," Jamie teased her, as he always did, when she had grown the size of the Iron Throne.

"He is going to be big," she stated, watching him in the mirror as he approached her. His steps fluid and long, his golden hair shone in the sunlight and nicely offset the brilliant white of his cloak.

"Or a she," Jamie added, and hugged her from behind, leaning his chin on her shoulder and looking at them both in the mirror.

She shook her head. "Maester Pycelle stated that it's a boy, a Prince. It is why my belly is so big, and why I crave meat so much." She looked down sighing. "I cannot even see my feet and my back is aching terribly."

"Pain in the foot, sweet sister?"

She shot him a pleading look. "Yes."

"Well, now, what kind of brother would I be, if I didn't relieve my sweet sister's pain?" With those words, Jamie guided her to a settee, where she usually reclined in a half seated half lying position. He used soft plushy pillows to back up Cersei's aching back and took off her slippers to massage her foot. Something he was doing a lot lately. All the while Robert was whoring, eating, and drinking. If he continued like this he would lose his attractive physique, his only redeeming quality – Cersei thought with spite, who'd have known that under that coal black haired, with sapphire blue eyes, all broad shouldered and muscled like a maiden's fantasy, hid such a whoring drunkard of a foolish buffoon.

"So where is my husband? Hunting boars or fucking whores?" she asked just for courtesy sake, she really didn't care at the moment.

"Hunting boars with spears, I bowed out of that, fortunately," Jamie informed her with a smirk and a kiss on her lips. She bit back a moan of pleasure. Jamie's mouth, while often demanding, was always gentle and he always took care to smell fresh of peppermint. Not rough and hard like Roberts who often stank of drink, other women, and sweat of a horse and men.

But that was Robert; he left all concerns of the realm to his Hand of the King and small council … but barred her from attending in his place. He didn't even attend council meetings. All he cared about was fucking, eating, drinking, and hunting.

"Don't scowl so, sister," Jamie said, tearing her away from her thoughts of Robert. "You'll get wrinkles."

"Yes well…" she winced as a pain cut through her, spreading like fire in her back and lower stomach. It was worse than the pain when her moon's blood comes. And suddenly there was a puddle of water beneath her.

But Jamie was already yelling at her ladies in waiting and maids to fetch the Maester, and he lifted her up and took her to the room that had been prepared for birthing beforehand.

"What in Seven Hells is going on?" Robert Baratheon's voice boomed.

"Queen has gone to labor, Your Grace," Jamie answered for her.

She however could only glare – but in the small corner of her heart, a corner where there is a wish for a happy marriage – despite Robert's insistence on whispering another woman's name at night – she hoped that her husband would stay and support her through the ordeal.

Robert just looked at her and then turned away – that beastly man. Robert could boast about blood and conquest and old battles, but when it came to Cersei's battle in the Bed of Blood, he turned away.

He could brag about how he defeated Prince Rhaegar Targaryen at the Trident, conveniently forgotten that the dragon Prince left him heavily wounded after their battle. All what mattered was that Robert spilled his enemies' blood.

But he cowered at the mere mention of a woman's blood.

Cersei stifled a groan as a sharp pain washed over her once more and tightly fisted the sheets beneath her in repose of that pain. She won't scream; the pain was not so unbearable.

"I'll go on the hunt, to celebrate my son's birth!" Robert exclaimed to the Kingsguard standing outside. "We'll hunt a stag for the Royal table tonight. Saddle the horses, gather the men, and bring the hunting dogs, we'll leave the Queen to her women's work."

With that he left and Grand-maester Pycelle walked in, maids with fresh linen following behind him. His bald, spotted head, with sparse hair – unlike his hair, his beard was long and snowy that ran down to his chest, where his two dozen maester's chain laid. Forged from: six links of Valyrian steel for magic and the occult. Six links black iron for ravenry. Six links of yellow gold for math and economics and six links of silver for medicine, healing, and the functions of the body. All this came out nicely on his wears, not the boring grey robes worn by most masters. Pycelle, who was her father's man, wore a red velvet robe with an ermine collar and golden fastenings.

Her observations could not distract her from the pain and she screamed.

And Septa told her that ladies don't scream, she thought as a pain like she never felt before ripped through her abdomen, like her insides were on fire.

If she saw that Septa again after giving birth, she'll throw her in a cell for being a liar.

Feeling a wet cloth on her scalding forehead, cooling the fires there, Cersei looked up and saw Lady Bella, her mothers Joanna, cousin from Lanisport, dabbing her forehead.

Lady Bella Lannister, Cersei thought, was as old as her mother would have been if Tyrion didn't kill her. Sometimes she wondered why lady Bella wasn't married or became Septa, since she was highly educated, if she had been born a man she would surely have become a maester. In any case Cersei was glad that she decided to stay with her at the capital. Perhaps she'll takeover as a governess for her children.

***

Cersei had been in the birthing bed for hours at this point, screaming, grunting, and panting every time she felt her womb tighten. Once she gives birth to her golden son, she'll become a real Queen and the most powerful woman in the realm for mothering the Crown Prince. And if her husband died, she hoped that he would fall off the bed of some whore and break his neck, and then she could be the Regent and rule for her son. It was the only thoughts that kept her from losing consciousness and just give up on the whole process.

"I can see the head," Maester Pycelle proclaimed, "girl fetch a linen blanket for the babe," he commanded. Then he turned his beady eyes to her.

"It's time to push, Your Grace; I can already see the head of our Prince," Maester Pycelle, who was kneeling in front of her, said.

Cersei hoped so, because that brought on more pain. It was a type of pain, which bubbled in her abdomen and dug in like the sharpest dagger which shot through her veins. Her muscles clenched and she felt tears stream down her cheeks and mingle with the sweat that dripped down her forehead.

She felt a big, rough hand grab her right hand… Jamie, she knew without looking – Septa and a maid helped with supporting her legs.

"One more, sweet sister, one more and everything will be over…" Jaime whispered in her ear as he continued to hold her hand, and her eyes squeezed tight and were lined with wrinkles. She could feel her skin stretch and tear as the baby moved out. It burned more than the fires of Seven Hells.

"Ahhhhh!!!" She roared as the lioness she was and worked with force that she had pushing the baby outside of her body.

There was a loud cry.

"It's a boy, a black haired boy," Pycelle states, taking the wailing baby and washing it up, and then giving him to the maid to wrap in swaddling linen.

"You did it sister," Jaime whispered again and kissed the crown of her head before wiping the cold sweat from her brows.

But Cersei had no time to demand her son; she let out another surprised scream as another wave of rolling pain hit her, and reflexively she pushed again.

"Maester! There is another head!" called out Septa; well maybe, Cersei won't throw her into the cell for her previous remark.

"Hmm, oh!" And with that Pycelle hurried back at his place, to pull another baby out of her. "Push again, your majesty," he urged her.

And with a grunt and another yell she did just that –

"By the Seven," Cersei heard Septa whisper. "There are two."

The maid that was supporting her leg turned around and grabbed linen to wrap up the two new babies, the first of them that Pycelle was washing. The second one Lady Bella Lannister was carefully washing in the basin.

Those babies were quiet, not making any sounds. There were no cries at the birth, like there were with her boy. Only silence.

"Why are they not crying?" she asked. Fear gripped her as she saw Lady Bella call for the maester; Maester Pycelle's reaction when he came over to her didn't calm her down.

They were looking at the third baby, now cleaned of blood, with a shocked expression on their faces.

"Err, hem," Pycelle coughed delicately as he quickly swathed the third bundle that came out of her.

"What's happening!?! Why are my babies not crying?" she asked in a panicked tone and the maester and Lady Bella suddenly snapped from their trance.

"Nothing's wrong with the two Princesses, Your Grace. Their hearts are beating normally," Maester Pycelle answered and scrambled about with a baby in his hands.

So she had a son and two girls. But why were Pycelle and the maids, and now Lady Bella, looking at her third daughter so strangely. The thought that there was something wrong with her child was like a barbed-vice sneer constricting her heart.

"You heard what they said, Cersei, your daughters are fine; you should stop shaking. I'll go check on her," Jaime said as he let go of her hand and went to Maester Pycelle, who was just standing there with her youngest, her older sister already linen-wrapped in a cooing maid's arms. Cersei wanted to tear the child away from her and slap her – but she was too focused on the worry of the strange looks aimed at her third child, which remedied that violent need.

But her confusion only grew as Jaime shared the same look as Maester Pycelle when his eyes landed on the baby in the Maesters arms.

"Jaime?" she called out. "What's wrong?" she asked again.

"Nothing's wrong, sweet sister," he said as he took the baby now wrapped in a warm white fabric from Maester Pycelle. He walked towards her, still looking shocked and confused, and his eyes never leave her last baby.

"Give her to me," she commanded and Jaime handed Cersei her daughter, "and bring the oldest daughter and my son as well. I want to see and hold all three of them," she said as she sat up, her hair plastered and clinging to her face, chest, and neck. Cersei didn't care; nothing would keep her away from holding her babies, not even her sweaty and tired appearance.

Jaime carefully placed her tiny, youngest daughter in her arms and Cersei furrowed her brows; there seemed to be nothing wrong with her daughter. The child was looking intently at her with dark blue eyes, like a sky that was darkening into night, and she smiled as she traced the baby's pinkish small, round face.

"She's so beautiful," she murmured as she gently removed the white cloth that covered the baby's body to check if her limbs were complete and to find out what was the reason why the people surrounding her looked so shocked by her perfect daughter.

But a gasp suddenly escaped her lips when she removed the part of the fabric that covered the baby's head.

Her youngest didn't inherit Robert's jet black hair like her boy, as she half expected, instead her hair was blonde, not like the golden blonde hair of the Lannister's but it was the silver gold hair of the Targaryens. Then she blinked, spotting a streak of ebony locks among silver. She heard Jamie chuckle, and then her middle child was thrust forward.

Curls dark as night and eyes green as emeralds greeted her, and a shot of silver hair was among the dark.

"It appears that your two daughters are mirror images of one another," her brother proclaimed. Cersei watched in wonder of how the two infant girls seemed to regard one another, like two lion cubs.

"Your grace, the King is here!" the page outside the door announced and Cersei, along the people surrounding her, glanced to the door.

Robert entered the room, bringing the stench of sweat, dogs, filth, and alcohol with him. His doublet and breeches still bloody from the blood of the animal he had probably killed in success. Cersei frowned disappointedly at the appearance of her husband; didn't he even consider that she and the children were sensitive to dirt and surroundings? That they could still die of fevers?

He had fathered a lot of bastards and she bets that he didn't even care about the birth of those children, she scorned, what he knows other than making them.

"Where's my boy?" he then asked in his slurry voice that made Cersei glare at him, not that he noticed it; he was already drunk.

Maester Pycelle cleared his throat, and then motioned at her son. "Here is the Prince your grace. The Queen gave birth to one son and two daughters."

"Three babies," Robert inquired, "Show me the first born and work down the line," he commanded, a wide smile stretching across his face, a white line in his coal black beard.

"The oldest is our son, my love," Cersei inserted coolly.

"Oh, then show me my boy!" he commanded and Pycelle complied, handing Robert his son. Robert uncovered his son's face, which made baby cry again.

"Oh you'll be a soldier and a fine King." Robert smiled at the crying infant, then handed him to the maid, who stepped forward to take Cersei's son to be fed by a wet nurse that was called in. Cersei knew that the woman was a scullery maid that had given birth five days ago. Idly she wondered if the brat was another one of Roberts.

"He'll be named Prince Steffon the First of his name. Now which girl is next? I'll name her Argella!" When he saw the child he did not comment on the silver streak of her hair among Baratheon black. If he even noticed it in his drunken state; at the corner of her eye she saw Jamie shift.

"And this little one is our youngest." Cersei lifted and showed him the third bundle.

"And her name will be Elenei," Robert ruled as he kneeled by her bed. "Now show me the youngest, give her to me." Cersei carefully handed him the baby and as the man received and studied the princess Elenei, Cersei noted that his face turned into stone as he removed the swaddling cloth and saw the silver hair on their youngest daughter's head.

"She has your eyes," Cersei stated, before he could utter another word, "and" she reached forward to run her fingers through her silvery hair, marveling at the thickness and softness of the texture, to the streak of ebony black "Some of your hair coloring; the other is from your own grandmother Princess Rhaelle Targaryen," she remarked holding that single black strand of night for Robert to see.


 

***Tara – 2***

 

After the pain vanished – she was shot and died in her lover's arms - she found herself floating as though she was immersed in a soft liquid, yet she was not drowning.

Her time passed in quiet conferment, not that she could tell if it had been days, weeks, months, or even hours.

Was she in Heaven?

She felt warm and loved and surrounded by her family – but then a shudder went through her, like a silent whisper – a footfall on her grave- but then another warmth, familiar, bumped by her and the dreadful feeling was gone, and she was again contently floating.

But the wrongness returned, something tugging at her – the warmness beside her felt it to and stirred in worry. Tara recognized the flavor of the tugging that was coming for her … and for Buffy – the Warmness beside her was Buffy.

And so Tara threw up protection after protection around herself and Buffy against the Wrongness. She managed to save herself and Buffy, whose hand had closed on hers.

Some time passed and the space around them, Tara discovered that there was another beside them, shrank around the three of them. Now it felt as if she was in some sort of container – she was suspicious of this, the walls felt fleshy and sometimes she could hear muffled voices behind those walls.

Then an opening appeared a bright light – the other, the person that was with Buffy and her, went and vanished. And then Tara felt a strange urge to rush after; she felt Buffy's finger wrap around her ankle … progress toward the light was gradual and then – light blinded her and for a moment she could not see or hear anything.

Though she could feel the cold air and big hands holding her and then washing her in warm water … tiny body? Was she a baby? Was she just born along with that other person and Buffy as a middle child of triplets?

Goddess! Buffy and her were reincarnated into another life? And she had trouble seeing clearly, all of it was just one big colorful blur. She could hear well though, and her sense of touch was okay. Now she regrets not making sure to remember what she learned in Health class about baby development.

"Why are they not crying?" a woman's voice asked, afraid.

"Err, hem. Nothing's wrong with the two Princesses, Your Grace. Their hearts are beating normally," the gravely old man's voice… wait 'your grace' and 'princesses'?

"What is happening!?! Why are my babies not crying?" she heard the same woman's voice demand; Tara guessed that this was her new mother.

"You heard what they said, Cersei, your daughters are fine, you should stop shaking. I'll go check on her," a man's voice said, this one younger than the first.

Cersei … her new mother's name sounded familiar, why? She heard movement and saw a golden-white blur move towards what Tara assumes was the bed.

"Give her to me," the woman's voice commanded again – but this time Tara could see the colorful blur that was her mother, - Tara thought the woman's hair was a dark blonde and she was lying in a big bed. The man-a gold white blur- gave her something; startled, Tara saw that that 'something' was a baby.

"And bring the oldest daughter and my son as well. I want to see and hold all three of them."

With those words, the woman that was holding her brought her to the bed; Tara could see better the shape of things now. She noticed that the man-gold and white had on golden armor and a white cloak. And blonde hair, and now he was looking her over and Tara could see now that he had green eyes.

And he was grinning and letting out a quiet laugh, and then he brought her all the way to the bed.

"It appears that your two daughters are mirror images of one another," he proclaimed with a suppressed laughter. Tara now had a very good view of her new mother … and a baby … a baby that had a familiar feel, a familiar soul … and that was watching her just as intently as Tara was watching the baby. Tara knew … the other baby WAS Buffy. Without any doubt now Tara settled into the man's arms watching Buffy.

"Your grace, the King is here!"

Everybody faced the entrance – assuming that the bright area everyone was facing was an entrance.

And suddenly there was a – black and green- huge man in the room.

"Where's my boy?" He had a booming voice that slurred a little. Tara shrank back slightly; maybe she made a sound, because the gold armored man – he might be a knight related to her new mother; they do kind of look alike - holding her bounced her a little.

"Here is the Prince, your grace. The Queen gave birth to one son and two daughters," the old man's voice said - he was white and red and gold accompanied by clinking sounds when he walked.

"Three babies," the man inquired, her new father, Tara deduced. "Show me the first born and work down the line," he commanded, and she could see that he was smiling – a white upturned line in the black. He had a beard Tara decided, and very white teeth.

"The oldest is our son, my love," her mother inserted coolly.

"Oh, then show me my boy!" Her father sounded so joyous, and she could see that he was bending over the bundle another woman was holding.

So she had an older brother…again. Tara hoped that he'll be a better brother than Donald was.

"Oh you'll be a soldier and a fine King," her new father said as he straightened. Then he turned so that he was facing her mother, who was holding Buffy, and to the knight who was still holding her.

"He'll be named Prince Steffon Baratheon the First of his name. Now which girl is next? I'll name her Argella!"

What!

Baratheon!

Cersei!

Those names! Now she knew where she heard them. It was in the series of novels that she had read.

Were they born to Westeros – the world that only existed to her in the form of novels!?

As in A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels!?

Oh my Goddess, Tara thought … she was an incest baby!!!!

Robert Baratheon was peering very closely at her and she could see him more clearly … which she supposed was normal, her vision was not yet developed for distance.

Her imagination didn't do the man justice, yes he was handsome, his face was square with a strong chin – or at least what she could see through his coal black beard. He had equally colored coal black hair that fell to his broad shoulders. And his eyes were the color of a deep sea blue and deeply set into his face under bushy eyebrows.

"And this little one is our youngest." Cersei – her mother was Cersei Lannister – and she was a beautiful woman with an oval face, crowned by thick curls of old gold, and had a pointed straight nose above full lips, and large emerald eyes with thick and long eyelashes - lifted and showed Buffy to Robert Baratheon.

Buffy who made a strange face? Did she read the books as well? Did Buffy know where they just got reincarnated to?

She never mentioned reading or even having the books!

"And her name will be Elenei," Robert said, he kneeled by her bed. Tara pitied the man; he obviously cared for his children – even if they were all incest babies.

"Now show me the youngest, give her to me." Tara saw how Cersei carefully handed the baby-Buffy over.

But when he removed the swathing cloth - Buffy had silver hair! And then Cersei reached forward and lifted a strand of black hair?

"She has your eyes and," Cersei said as she let the black locks curl around her finger. "Some of your hair coloring; the other is from your own grandmother Princess Rhaelle Targaryen."

Cersei then carefully covered Buffy's head. "Besides that, Robert, sweet Argella has a strand of silver among the Baratheon black, just like dear Elenei has a strand of black among the silver."

Okay so they were not incest babies?

Then Tara remembered Willow perfected telepathic connection magic; maybe she could reach Buffy?

She made eye contact – tried to make her tired new brain work- Tara suspected that she would soon fall asleep, like a baby.

 

'Buffy?' she sent mentally, hoping that the connection link Willow did was still intact even in this new life.

'Tara? I thought it was you.'

'Thank the Goddesses, this worked.'

'Yeah – so just so you know, if I ever get a whiff of Warren he'll wish he was dead. I mean Game of Thrones – I suppose Star Wars would have been worse.'

'How could that be worse; we are incest babies Buffy and …'

'Nope first born – our brother suppose was a true born in the show. He died of a fever later – besides you have black hair.'

'Show?' Tara asked, she could admit however that she forgot that Cersei mentioned that she was born with dark hair.

'Don't sweat it, Tara, you were in shock. And I watched all six seasons, in fact I was going to watch the last episode, but Warren ruined that by shooting me.’

'Us; I died by gunshot – I think –as well.'

'Oh.'

'Yeah – I didn't know there was a show, I just read the books.'

'There are books?'

'Yes, had been for years. Though how did you get … oh perhaps that rumor about King Aerys II Targaryen and Joanna Lannister were true no matter what Pycelle claimed.'

'What rumor – no wait, let me guess that they were lovers while our grandmother was at court?'

'Was that in the show?'

'I don't think so, I'm not sure though. But I was hearing theories that Tyrion is the son of the Mad King.'

'That's unlikely, for one Joanna was not at court when Tyrion was conceived; she was when the twins were however.'

'It would explain my hair color; I got a dose from two lines of grandparents.'

'And the eyes …I think you don't have dark blue but indigo.'

'You do know that indigo is more blue than violet – besides it's its own color in the rainbow.'

 


 

***Buffy – 2***

Well this was officially weirder than usual for her.

One moment she was watching Xander and the blue sky above as he tried to stop her bleeding out from the gunshot. Then the blue turned to white and then black. And now she was floating away in some kind of a liquid cushy thingy.

But she was not alone; there were two others.

Huh that kind of reminded her of the time she was in Heaven, in fact it was the same feeling. Safe, warm, and floating freely without care- and time held no meaning - only before she was alone. Now there were two more people with her.

One of them felt familiar – the gentle feeling she felt around Tara! Did Tara die as well? Then who was the third; she or he didn't feel familiar?

Her days –or hours or months or years – passed in tranquility. She occasionally felt Tara and the other person turn. Because their space was shrinking steadily – but she didn't feel any concern at that fact; in fact there was anticipation inside of her – this was what was supposed to happen.

Then she felt dread – Willow!

She was doing it again!

Pulling her from her Heaven!

But Tara was there and together – but mostly Tara, because Tara apparently still had her magic, Buffy could feel waves of protection rebuffing Willow's grabbing magic and suddenly Willow was gone and the peace returned to their quiet corner.

But then there was a nudge inside their crowded bubble – sometimes she could hear a woman's voice, an old man's voice, and a young voice – and names –that were freakishly familiar – and OKAY she knew NOW that Tara, the other person, and she were in someone's womb. They were unborn babies!

Buffy wondered upon that realization if that happened the first time around and that Willow meddling caused a miscarriage or stillbirth in resurrecting her.

Then a bright light appeared –opening- and she knew that it was time – the third person – no the first born was already on its way followed by Tara, and she just went with the flow and grabbed Tara's kicking heel –

By the way, being squeezed through your, new, mother's vaginal channel was … wiggy and traumatizing – if you knew what was happening. Buffy pretty much imagined that she was squeezed through a tube to preserve some of her sanity.

It was still wigg worthy enough that Buffy didn't make a sound when she popped out –

Huh should an infant's eyes be so sharp?

Because her vision now was just as good as it was when she was … alive…before the shooting incident.

"Why are they not crying?" a woman's voice that she most often heard lately demanded. Maybe she should cry a bit. No need to scare her new mother.

"Err, hem. Nothing's wrong with the two Princesses, Your Grace. Their hearts are beating normally." The gravely old man's voice was familiarly annoying in their groveling quality.

Though the lady bathing her was very pretty, with rounded doe like eyes and a rounded face was all she could see, because besides her face, the woman was completely covered with rough, blue-steel grey, shapeless clothing. Like some sort of nun …and her round mouth was open in disbelief.

Then there was another lady, an older, about forty, she was tall and graceful, with golden hair and grey pinned down at the top of her head and jade eyes, she had a bit of age lines around her mouth and eyes … and she stared as well at her, or rather her head.

Buffy tried to reach the top of her head to see what was so shocking that now two people were staring like they could not believe what they were seeing.

"What is happening!?! Why are my babes not crying?" she heard the same woman's voice demand; curious she looked in the direction of a voice and saw a woman on the bed and a man beside the bed.

Both with golden hair.

Both had green eyes.

Twins!

He was in golden armor and had a brilliant white cloak.

Buffy's thoughts spun at the implication – she had a strange urge to laugh hysterically, because this was so out there – on second thought, being reincarnated into a TV Show was no different than slaying vampires every night! And stopping multiple apocalypses!

"You heard what they said, Cersei, your daughters are fine, you should stop shaking. I'll go check on her," he, Jamie freaking Lannister, was saying and Buffy's eyes zeroed in; he was holding another infant that he passed to another girl standing by – yep it was that creepy maester what's-his face, who was fussing around with another black haired infant. But that infant with blue eyes was looking around a bit more intently – so Buffy guessed that the baby could have been Tara.

But then Jamie was holding her and yep, there it was – expression of shock that really was starting to get old. But boy he was hot! Also apparently her uncle, because if she remembers correctly, the first born was black haired beauty of a boy – well now it was three beauties, a boy and two girls!

"And bring the oldest daughter and my son as well. I want to see and hold all three of them."

Called it!

Jamie gave her to Cersei to hold, and Buffy could see her new mother's face and wow! Her looks would make Scarlett Johansson jealous!

And why did everyone looked so shocked? Buffy wished that somebody would say something!

Then Jamie chuckled and brought over the infant the creepy old pervert had before, all the way to the bed.

"It appears that your two daughters are mirror images of one another."

Ok, she was wrong, she thought as she stared at the bright emerald eyes. Tara was the black haired baby with green eyes and not the one with blue eyes… and was there a lock of her hair that went from the top of to the left side her forehead that was silver?

"Your grace, the King is here!" that came from the door and everyone else turned toward there and …okay Robert wasn't fat yet.

"Where's my boy?" His voice was the same as in the show – though he looked better, yet she really didn't see why there was such fuss about Robert Baratheon-he looked average – he was rugged with mesmerizing sapphire eyes and a square face with skin of the man that was out a lot, oh and sooty black hair and beard.

"Here is the Prince, your grace. The Queen gave birth to one son and two daughters," what's-his-name the old pervert said.

"Three babies, show me the first born and work down the line," Robert said.

"The oldest is our son, my love," her mother inserted coolly and wow was she pissed about something.

"Oh, then show me my boy!"

Buffy angled her head so that she could look. Yep the bouncy baby boy – big brother- had black hair. Ugh that was not hygienic, she thought as she watched Robert poke the fussy child.

"Oh you'll be a soldier and a fine King." Nope, canon says he'll die of a fever. And Joffrey, well Joffrey was not his son – biologically -would be king.

"He'll be named Prince Steffon Baratheon the First of his name. Now which girl is next? I'll name her Argella!"

Tara got a pretty name. Buffy hoped that she'll get a pretty name as well.

She felt the hands holding her shift. "And this little one is our youngest," Cersei said – huh, she'll have to call them mother and father at one point.

Robert came closer, "And her name will be Elenei," he proclaimed, "Now show me the youngest, give her to me."

She supposed the name was pretty enough – Elenei. Not bad, not bad at all. And now King Bob's face was – ruddy and his mouth had gone thin. She gave him her best innocent are-u-mad look.

"She has your eyes and," Cersei said as she ran her fingers through her hair. "Some of your hair coloring, the other is from your own grandmother Princess Rhaelle Targaryen."

Ahh, well Bobby-boy, Karma is a bitch – Buffy was pretty sure that the people from Robert's Targaryen side of the family were laughing themselves silly in their graves – oh yeah royal's tombs- over this curve.

"Besides that, Robert, sweet Argella has a strand of silver among the Baratheon black, just like dear Elenei has a strand of black among the silver."

So, Buffy thought with amusement, we are like total mirror image! Cool.

 

'Buffy?' The sudden voice in her head was startling, but at the same time... comforting.

'Tara? I thought it was you.' She was half expecting something like that. Even though Tara never started this linkage in Sunnydale – it was always Willow.

'Thank the Goddesses, this worked.'

'Yeah – so just so you know, if I ever get a whiff of Warren he'll wish he was dead. I mean Game of Thrones – I suppose Star Wars would have been worse.'

'How could that be worse; we are incest babies, Buffy and …'

'Nope first born – our brother suppose was a true born in the show. He died of a fever later – besides you have black hair.'

'Show?' Tara asked.

'Don't sweat it, Tara, you were in shock. And I watched all six seasons, in fact I was going to watch the last episode, but Warren ruined that by shooting me.’

'Us, I died by gunshot – I think –as well.'

That bastard! He has shoot Tara! 'Oh.'

'Yeah – I didn't know there was a TV show, I just read the books.'

'There are books?'

'Yes, had been for years. Though how did you get … oh perhaps that rumor about King Aerys II Targaryen and Joanna Lannister were true no matter what Pycelle claimed.'

'What rumor?' then she mentally scoffed –'no wait, let me guess that they were lovers while our grandmother was at court?'

'Was that in the show?'

'I don't think so, I'm not sure though. But I was hearing theories that Tyrion was the son of the Mad King.'

'That was unlikely, for one Joanna was not at court when Tyrion was conceived; she was when the twins were however.'

The irony was strong with this one; Tywin hated Tyrion – but prized Jamie and his twin sister. To think he wasn't the natural father of the twins. Oh yeah the irony was strong with this one.

'It would explain my hair color; I got a dose from two lines of grandparents'.'

'And the eyes …I think you don't have dark blue but indigo.'

'You do know that indigo is more blue than violet – besides it's its own color in the rainbow.'

                                       


                                                                                                               

***Somewhere in the darkness of a Great Riff at the Equator of the world***

 

"Well now," a youthful looking man in pointy green hat smiled as his baby-blue eyes landed on the chirping soul birds – Rukh – swirling about.

 "There was another change in the world, just like two years ago. How interesting!" His eyes swam with excitement, and then his eyes closed.

"But I don't wanna leave here; it's nice and dark and quiet!" he fell on the side, his long- braided flaxen blonde hair flopping down like a tail of a despondent puppy.

Yunan really didn't want to leave his cottage in the Riff. Though sometimes he had to – once two years ago to raise a Dungeon for a chance that a child born there would, eventually, capture it.

And now on the other side of the great Riff another King Candidate that had the potential to change the world needed to be guided.

There was one problem however; Yunan was not good with people, crowds and the like. So guiding his King candidate was always problematic for him.

So when Rukh told him to go somewhere, he went, wandering this way and raising Dungeons. And sometimes he dropped a hint to promising individuals.

And the Other side of the Riff was even more loud and chaotic than This side of great Riff.

"But then again," Yunan perked up. "Perhaps I can find a new blend of tea! I haven't been to that side – Westeros or Esoss in a score of centuries."

To be continued.

Next chapter: Slice of Life part 1: Father

(POVs: Ned Stark, Badr of Parthevia, Ren Hakutoku, Sixtus Alexius (OC father of Muu Alexius)

Chapter Text

 

***Eddard Stark – 1***


 

Eddard Stark was standing in the warm sun, while a cool breeze ruffled his brown, shoulder length, hair; his steel-grey eyes focused on the yard below. If somebody looked at him now, Ned supposed, they'd say that he had a grave expression on his face.

It had been, nearly, two years since the death of his father and brother. One year since the Rebellion ended and he bringing his sister's, Lyanna, remains home and burying her bones in the crypts of Winterfell.

He was standing besides the railing watching his men drill with swords in the courtyard. He imagined that his son Robb and Jon would be joining them in the yard in a couple of years; they were only two years old now.

Though because Jon had shown some interest in letters and the maester indulged him, Catelyn then demanded that Robb should learn his letters as well.

"Will you come inside, my love?" his wife, Catelyn of the House Tully, asked from behind him. "It is getting cold."

Ned turned around to look at his wife, who was still dressed in the cape that his mother wore in the harsh winter and not in the spring. Her hair and face were covered with a shawl-only her eyes could be seen. They were blue, not as blue as winter roses that his sister so loved and that had grown in Winterfell; Catelyn eyes were more of a dainty blue hue.

That was to be expected however for somebody that came from the Riverlands, from the south of the Neck. Spring in the north was as cold as winter. It would take awhile for his wife to grow accustomed to the cold of the North.

"I'll be in, in a moment, Cat," he answered. He listened to her footsteps as she went back inside. Then taking a breath of familiar cold air, Ned smiled, glad to be home, in the North.

Glad that the war was over.

But bleak of the lives that were lost: his father, his older brother, his sister, the Targaryen princes and princess, Elia Martell, and countless others that would not have died if King Aerys II Targaryen was not mad.

"What is ailing you, my Lord?" his wife asked the moment he stepped inside. Her long auburn hair tumbled loose down her back.

"Nothing is ailing me, my lady. What about you, my lady?" He sat down and regarded his wife as she stood by the lit fireplace. "Still cold?"

"Yes, my lord," she answered, her expression dejected. At least that was an improvement, Ned thought. She had a downcast expression when they married, albeit the lady tried to hide it.

But then again she was meant for Brandon, and only because of his elder brother's wolf's blood and the king's madness she had to marry him. As custom dictated; if the older brother dies, the duty falls on the next in line.

"Maester Luwin said that,” Catelyn started to say, and Ned wistfully thought about his son, Robb with his round face, reddish brown curls, and striking shy blue eyes, he named him after his best friend Robert, when they were still close, before he condoned the butchery of the Targaryen children, calling them dragon spawn. "Robb mastered to write his name."

"That is good, and Jon, how does he fare?" he asked and his wife's eyes flashed biliously at the name. Sometimes he wondered if she'd show more compassion for the motherless child if she knew who Jon's mother was.

But again- that secret was dangerous as most secrets were. And once told, they were no longer a secret at all. No, it was best if the words never passed his lips; Jon was after all of his blood and he made a promise to keep him safe.

He would keep his promise for the love he bore to … she was so alike, lady Lyarra, his own mother as she laid there dying. Lyarra Stark died from a fever a week after giving birth to Benjen – maester later told their father Rickard that there was a malady that took hold of Lyarra's blood, tainted it so that the wound after birth didn't close well.

"Jon has mastered his letters as well," she said contemptuously. It appeared that Jon did better than Robb; he supposed he will have to insure that the boy won't become stunted because of his wife's scorn for the boy.

The boy with dark brown curls, a pale face, and big dark eyes. Eyes, which were such a dark slate grey that they appeared black as the night sky.

And sometimes under certain light, he thought he had seen a fleeting flash of indigo in child's eyes.

Those times he had uneasy thoughts of the past of the Tower of Joy, of the tourney at Harrenhal where the prince's actions of crowning Lyanna as Queen of Love and Beauty came as a shock to everyone. Because, crowning another maiden instead of Princess Elia of Dorne, was so uncharacteristic of the dutiful Dragon Prince.

Later Ned found out that Prince Rhaegar merely rewarded Lyanna for her valor and skill and so the Prince's behavior was not so uncharacteristic in crowning his sister. Eddard could not even feign surprise when he found out that Lyanna participated in the joust at the tourney.

He should have known when she complained of the pains and decided to lay down in their tent.

The Mystery Knight's shield should have been his second inkling on what his sister was doing; Lyanna always claimed that the heart trees would look better if their faces were laughing. Her stitching always portrayed a laughing heart tree, along with blue winter roses and their house words 'Winter Is Coming'.

And the last inkling should have been the ransom that the knight declared; "Teach your squires’ honour," the same squires that bullied the crannogman.

And the third: Thorn – a favourite stallion that Lyanna rode – the same horse that the Knight of the Laughing Tree had rode in the jousts against a member of house Haigh, a member of house Blount, and a member of house Frey of the Crossing and defeated them all in that succession.

"My lord," Catelyn interrupted his thoughts. "When Jon is of the age to be fostered, would you consider fostering him to house Whent?"

A Stark going to the south again, like Rickard and Brandon. No, none of his boys, or men, of Stark blood will go south again.

Jon least of all.

He promised he'd be safe. He was not safe in King's Landing or in the South.

He promised.

He had made a lot of promises about Jon to her.

He could not keep them all.

But he would keep this one at all cost.

Jon must be safe.

"We'll see when the boys are older." He gave an uncommitted answer. "Then if they'll be fostered they will be fostered together."

He saw his wife lips thin in displeasure, but she did not make any comment about this. But Ned had plans, to rebuild and resettle the abandoned holdfasts in the New Gift and Moat Cailin.

So Jon will get an education befitting his station to takeover Lordship at Moat Cailin or the holdfasts in the New Gift.

 

***

 

He was in his father's – no his study – he still slipped sometimes, wishing that Brandon, Lyanna, and their father were alive, when a knock came.

"Enter," Ned said, and Maester Luwin, the new arrival from Citadel and replacement for Walys, who became an Archmaester, walked in.

"Here was a raven from King's Landing; it is a general notice to all Wardens from Grand Maester Pycelle."

Ned held up his hand; honestly he was not surprised that Robert wasn't talking to him; in a matter of fact Ned certainly didn't want to do anything with Robert or to receive the personal missive.

They hadn't spoken since that senseless murder, butchery, of the Targaryen children and Princess Elia Martell. Ned broke the seal and skimmed the message.

 


 

'To Lord Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North,

We are glad to announce that a week ago Queen Cersei Lannister gave birth to:

Prince Steffon Baratheon, hair to the realm. The boy is of good health, black of hair, blue of eye.

Princess Argella Baratheon. Black of hair, with streak of silver on her left side and green of eye.

Princess Elenei Baratheon. Silver of hear, with a streak of black on her right side and blue of eye.

Grand Maestr Pycelle

 


 

Ned leaned back at the chair. So Robert had a son and two daughters. Then he startled, and reread the message.

It appeared that Robert's Targaryen heritage, that enabled him to keep the Iron Throne, ran true in his daughters, and truer still in Princess Elenei. He wondered how Robert felt about the reminder that Targaryen blood runs through his veins.

Then he remembered the rumors about Lady Joanna Lannister and the King, supposedly she was his paramour – though all denied it was ever so. Perhaps, but Ned supposed that in the end it didn't matter.

Thinking about the Targaryens – Ned's mind wandered to Rhaegar Targaryen; he wondered what the Prince would have thought about this.

"Is something wrong, my Lord?" Luwin asked, his face inquisitive, standing there like a grey shadow.

"No." Then Ned looked up. "How are Robb's and Jon's studies going?" he changed the subject

"They are merely two year old. But Jon is already taking in his letters and numbers. He is progressing quickly. But bastards do grow quicker than trueborn."

That was true; bastards did learn quicker, Ned thought, but Jon could have simply inherited his father's leanings to quick study.

"Very well, maester."

Ned debated quietly if he should share the news of Robert's children in the Great Hall. He supposed he should even if it was usual, at least in the North, to announce such news when the child was at least a month old.

He supposed that he at least should call for a toast, for his household to drink to the health of the King and whole Royal family.

 

***

 

Two months had passed since the last Royal notice from King's Landing; Ned however was living peacefully and ruling the North as its Lord Paramount when the second message came via raven from Maester Pycelle and another soon after from one of his bannerman.

The lord in question was Lord of Dreadfort Keep, who wrote that he'd like to meet with Ned.

He wondered why that was.

Perhaps he should ask if Lord Roose's son Domeric, who was four years old now, would be amendable to be fostered, when he's eight years old, at Winterfell so that his son Robb and Jon would have company of other highborn boys.

Robb was a Stark, and it was important that he should learn about his future bannerman.

There was another missive that concerned him. It was true that Robert and he were friends no longer, but Ned grieved for his loss as he read:

 


 

'To Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North,

We deeply regret informing you that Prince Steffon Baratheon has passed away from a fever.

Grand Maester Pycelle

 


 

And that was the main reason why Ned didn't mention that Robert had children. But he supposed that he'll have to announce that Robert had two daughters in two months time. That would have given sufficient time to see if the little princesses live past the danger of being taken by the Gods.

A firm knock made him look at the heavy wooden door.

"Come in," he called and his steward Vayon Poole entered.

"My Lord," Vayon bowed as he greeted. "Lord Bolton's banner was sighted from the watchtower.

"Very well," Ned stood, and then, "Vayon." The man turned to look at him.

"When things calm down, before winter comes, we'll need to repair the burned tower. Start making the arrangements."

"Aye, milord. Winter is coming."

Yes, Ned thought, winter is coming, and considering this was the longest summer in living memory, it was known that after a long summer came an even longer winter.

When Ned went into the Great Hall, Vayon, Septon Chayle, and Maester Luwin, who were already present, stood up in reverence to their liege lord. He nodded at them and joined them at the Lord's Table that was facing the entrance of the Great Hall.

Then he motioned a page over and ordered him to bring his wife to the Great Hall, since it was custom for the Lord's wife to be present and an actively participating in ruling just as much as Eddard was.

"My Lord." Luwin turned around, his hands hidden into his sleeves, as was his habit; he had all sorts of trinkets, Eddard found out from Robb and Jon, in those billowing grey sleeves. "Did the missive from Lord Bolton explain why he wants to meet?"

"No," Ned answered shortly, his gaze on the papers that were laid down on the table. "But I say that we'll be informed of the reason shortly; meanwhile, Poole, you were saying about lack of servants in the kitchens. What's being done to correct this?"

"Aye, I dispatched pages, into villages surrounding Winterfell; they will bring in the people, but it'll be your wife Lady Catelyn who oversees them."

"You wanted to see me, milord?" Catelyn asked as she entered the hall; she was dressed in Tully blue and mud red, a gown that was trimmed with fur for warmth.

"Yes," Ned confirmed as he stood, and guided his wife to a seat on his left that was reserved for the Lord's wife. "Since you're settled," he started to explain, "It's time to take over the duties as a lady of Winterfell."

"But Robb …"

"Robb is perfectly safe with Old Nan and the Septa Mordane that you brought from the South," Ned ruled, as he seated his wife to the chair and then took his seat.

"Besides, Robb and Jon are old enough to be without a mother's presence."

He saw her blue eyes flash at the mention of Jon; resisting the urge to remind her, yet again, that just because she doesn't like the motherless child's presence, it does not mean that he will cede his will to her in this.

No, it was final. Jon will say at Winterfell with Robb or go to be fostered with Robb. There will be no middle ground in this.

Then the Page opened the double doors, "Presenting Lord Roose Bolton of House Bolton of the Dreadfort," the page announced and the lord stepped inside.

Ned was always surprised when he saw Roose, though he often heard his father Rickon cautioning Brandon to make sure that the Bolton's knew their place as bannermen of house Stark.

"Lord Stark," Roose Bolton greeted in his soft voice, his pale eyes alert on the high table. Roose was dressed in his customary attire, black ringmail and a spotted pink cloak.

"Lord Bolton, you had sent a missive that you wish to talk about something?"

"Yes, milord. It's about the Wilding incursion and a bit of other troubling news about the Greyjoys that reached me via a traveling bard that entertained my wife, son, and myself."

Eddard straightened, and then he turned to the boy that currently served as a page. "Reginald, summon our master-at-arms and captain of the guard to come into the Great Hall."

"Will do, milord." The page bowed and hurried out of the hall to summon Ser Rodrik Cassel and his nephew Jory.

"Lord Bolton, please sit down, have some bread and mulled white-spiced wine, it came from White Harbor."

Roose nodded shortly and with a soft "Thank you Lord Stark," he walked to the side of the table and sat down. Servers quickly brought bread, sheep cheese, salt, and mulled wine to wash it all down.

 


 

***Badr of Parthevia – 1***

 

Badr pushed a tuft of dark purple hair out of his eyes. For the next couple of hours better visibility and mobility would be vital for this plan to succeed.

He'd been in the front-lines of this war between Parthevia and Reim Empire for two years and a half. His son had no memory of him despite Badr being present when Esra had given birth to their boy.

Right now however he was playing a game of dice with soldiers and the other captains. They were waiting for General-of-too-many-names for Badr to care about- Katanon, to return from the meeting with the other generals.

"Captain Badr, it's your turn," one of the younger captains under General Dargul called out.

Badr smiled. "So it is." Badr picked up the four cubes, dice with equal number of plus, minus, and blank sides, and rolled them.

"Well now, Das, it appears I won, again." Badr smiled charmingly at the older captain. Captain Dasrin Pervell Nol Os Dumid. One man Badr actually bothered to remember the name of. He was also one of the few Nobels that gave a shit for the common ground soldiers.

"If I didn't know better boy I would think you are cheating," Das grumbled good naturedly, his yellow eye sharp on Badr's golden ones.

Badr leaned back and put his hands behind his head. "It's all in the wrist and luck, old man."

"Yes, yes, you have uncanny luck." Das stood up. "Now since it is getting late, and I have a feeling that the meeting between the generals will come to an end soon, it's time we turned in. Badr walk with me for a moment."

The way to the tents was quiet for a bit. Badr took a lungful of night air, smiling as he thought back on the grumpy older captain that was walking beside him. Das was in his sixties but he was still a strong man with graying hair that was once dark moss-green, according to Das.

"You advanced in rank quickly, Badr," Das said suddenly.

Badr scratched the back of his head, slightly embarrassed by the man's sudden praise "Hey you did teach me things," he trailed of with a slight chuckle.

"Not many, the most you already knew."

"Oh did I?"

"One of these days; I will drag out who your mother was."

Badr leaned back, a care-free smile still firmly in place. "Ehhh. Not my father?"

"I know who your father was boy, he was dark haired like most of the Partevian commoners. But you have your mother's coloring, don't you?"

"My mother's eyes were blue, old man. Uch!"

Das slapped him upside the head, "I meant your hair colour, you goofball." Then Das shot him a gimlet stare, "but you knew that, you tend to act as an idiot when you don't want to answer something."

"I respect you, sir, too much to lie to you."

"Fair enough, but I'll still drag your mother's history out of you."

Old threats, from an old man, Badr thought. Still Das was persistent and since Badr was drafted, the man took an interest the moment he saw him.

All because of his hair colour, then again, Partevia's Ruling family had varying shades of pink hair. Dragul and Kartanon families had green coloured hair.

Badr himself had purple hair, like his mother and like his mother's twin brother who, according to her, had purple hair so dark that it appeared black. Neither twin had eyebrows though, which along with his eye colour, Badr inherited from his father.

 

***

 

Weeks after that conversation with Das, Badr was on a horse and was leading a detachment of fifteen men that were picked out to go behind enemy lines.

They would attack from behind before the main force of Parthevia soldiers descended on them. Badr had a very good idea, that their number of fifteen, sixteen with him included, was not expected to survive this mission.

Well the General Kartanon could just forget it. He had every intention in winning and surviving this mission. By any means necessary. He was not above using everything his – mysterious to everyone but Badr - mother taught him.

"Now listen up," he whispered to his men that were clustered around him, his golden eyes gazing intently on them. "We have a slight change of plan."

"But our orders …"

"Our orders were to attack Reim's soldiers from behind," Badr said with a cheerful smile at the soldier, which shut him up. Badr hoped that this youngster who couldn't be older than fifteen; a wide eyed kid that on their ride here was rambling on what he would do after this one decisive battle – would survive said battle."

Realistically the Poor boy was all to green to understand that they were not meant to survive this mission. This was the reason why he was elevated to command of this particular group of young men. That nobody would miss and who were not connected to any of the important Partevia families.

Badr himself was a son of a lowly fishermen of Tison village, so he had no importance, but he was knowable enough of war, and he lead a smaller group of five men to take over a fortress that was vital, and heavily guarded, for winning this war – they were the ones that took initiative to sneak around the back, scaled the walls and opened the door to the main force.

"Now this is what we are going to do …" Badr laid out his plan.

"You can not just send soldiers to pick flowers, we are not women…" The soldier that opened his mouth staggered back a couple of steps when Badr looked at him, golden eyes cold – "You will pick those flowers, soldier, because the juice that we will extract can color our hair yellow – the hair color that is prominent in Reim – so that we can go into camp and taint their water with a sleep powder …"

Then he gave the soldier a slightly evil smile. "And for your sake, I strongly suggest you don't go around telling people, women especially, that picking flowers is a woman's job." Then his smile really turned downright evil. "Unless, you really don't want to attract any ladies."

"We don't have any sleep powder …"

"Yes we do."

"But…"

"Pick the damn flowers, soldier that is an order." Badr's eyes flashed in irritation, "I will worry about the details."

It was a good thing that he packed an assortment of useful things in his saddlebags. Some ingredients for medicine there could be used to make a sleeping powder.

After the soldiers picked those flowers, Badr instructed them on how to make the paste that they put on their hair and were to leave there for a half an hour. It was good that it was required for a serving soldier to have a short hair or they'd be held up for weeks with that paste on their heads.

 

***

 

The battlefield was utter chaos, even when they halved the Reim force with sleeping drought, they still outnumbered them.

But the Patevia soldiers had better armor, stronger swords and spears, and their archers were more accurate.

But then again, there were Reim archers on higher ground, sniping down his men. Well Badr decided to do something about that.

He galloped toward the chasse of Reim crossbowmen – leaping from the horse's back just as arrows impacted the poor animal, which fell to the ground riddled with armor piercing bolts.

The Reim crossbowman were no match for Badr's skills with his shamshir, so they were dispatched in a matter of minutes.

 

***

 

The war was finally over and it was about damn time too.

All of the fifteen men and the main force of ten thousand strong died with the soldiers of Reim in that one decisive battle but they brought victory and the end to the war.

Badr didn't remember much, it was all a blur of blood, screams, and dying men, and he knew that he killed a lot of people. But he was alive, which was mostly thanks to him mastering Magoi Manipulation – so he could stop his blood from spilling out of his body when his leg was severed during that battle.

Magoi Manipulation saved him on that day, a technique taught to him by his mother; Zeruya Jehoahaz Abraham was a very old woman, who retained her youth and beauty for centuries before meeting, and then settling down, with his father Ardeth of Parthevia.

His father Ardeth, who was a fisherman in Tison, taught him how to live off the sea and the land.

It was Zeruya, however, that taught him how to fight with a sword, how to read, how to fight hand to hand, and speak and read the Torran language.

But most importantly she taught him how to use Magoi, how to listen to the Rukh, and how to ward himself from his uncle.

His uncle was the reason why Badr set up traps into his infant son before he was dispatched; after all there was no guarantee that Badr would survive the war to teach his son all the things Zeruya taught him.

For example: the truth about Alma Torran and the whole truth about David Jehoahaz Abraham, Zeruya's twin brother.

If Uncle David attempted to posse his son he'd have lots of trouble and maybe, just maybe Sinbad would be able to contain him safely. Provided that Badr doesn't return, or die before teaching Sinbad his heritage.

But it appeared that he would survive to teach his son something, since he was returning home.

Without a leg and full of scars, but alive to return to Esra and their son, who he hadn't seen since he was a month old. He still remembered the night Sinbad was born – he was there after all - Esra nearly crushed his hand.

***

Badr hummed, sprawled on his side, as the cart with him and his things carried him through the desert toward Tison village. He would be home soon.

He walked with a help of a walking stick to their little house at the south of the village. When he neared the structure he noticed a figure working in the back on the garden. He walked by a clucking chicken and a rooster that Esra kept for eggs.

She herself was tending to the legume and salad that grew in abundance this time of year.

"H..." Badr started to say, when Esra let out a shriek, turned around, and threw a pitcher of water right at his head.

"Not a welcome I expected," he commented while rubbing his head, the clay shards from the water jug spread out around him. Badr was pretty sure there was some of the pottery tangled in his heir as well. "Hello love." He smiled up at Esra who was watching him bug eyed.

"I thought ... Badr …I" She fell on her knees beside him. "I'm sorry; I didn't know it was you. I thought that it was dratted Thessal again."

"Meh I rather get a pitcher in the face from my wife than a hug from that girl in the tavern."

"You, you're home now. You won't be dispatched again?" Esra asked her amber eyes locked on him. He was almost certain that she hadn't noticed his lack of leg yet. It was a good thing that he wore robes that reached his ankles – but then again, Badr supposed it would be good to tell her and not let her discover his injury.

"Esra, they discharged me because, well, they really have no use of me, unless it's for bait."

With that he patted the place where his leg once was, and Esra paled. Badr winced. This was the expected reaction, he supposed.

"You – you idiot!" she screamed, tears falling as she tackled him into hug. That was an expected reaction as well.

"I'm fine, I'm here."

"He told me you were dead. That all who fought at the border was killed in that battle." Her voice was muffled, but Badr could hear Esra clearly. He ran his hand, to comfort her, from the top of her raven head, and then lightly tugged her plait.

Something he'd done since they were little children playing. Esra usually chased him with a stick, after he played a prank on her.

"I'm the only one who survived," he told her quietly. Even Das died in that battle, though he lived long enough that Badr told him bits and pieces about his mother, before the old man died.

Including that she still lived, probably. She just left sometime after Badr and Esra married, and that she was about 1,800 years old. That made Das spit out the alcohol he insisted on drinking while dying.

"Do you want to see Sin?" Esra suddenly asked, then stood up and offered him a hand with a wide smile. "He has grown so much."

"Of course he did, I haven't seen our son for two years." Badr accepted his wife's help, not that he really needed help to stand up, he did fight with his leg severed off, and not that Esra would ever hear that detail.

But it was a nice feeling, Esra's hand in his, her wide smile, laughing amber eyes in a heart shaped face.

"Mama, who's thiz?" a small voice said; Badr studied the little guy, big gold eyes, purple hair with one strand sticking up, a chubby baby face, as Sinbad studied him in return.

"You are my papa, aren't you" Sinbad stated, looking directly at Badr. He could only nod, he couldn't speak, even after the boy leaped into his arms, yelling papa and hugging him fiercely.

 

***

 

Months passed and Badr settled down into the quiet life in the Tison village. Mostly fishing with his father's old boat and net and helping his wife where he could.

At noon he usually went to the tavern to sell some fish and to find out what's happening in Partevia and to have a drink. He usually got a drink and food and company if he asked for it or not.

"Hey there Badr." One of the tavern's serving women sat down beside him. "Did you know," she leaned tantalizingly over, so that he could see deep down into her cleavage, "that King Davashadill IV proclaimed for all the Partevia that we are standing at the turning point in our history…"

"Mah Margo," the other serving girl, sat down at his other side, draping all over his lap, almost, "you are telling Badr something he already knows, after all he is a War Hero."

Badr sighed, ever since the war ended, soldiers were going around giving people money. Esra had come home with a heavy bag of gold, already. Badr knew that this wouldn't go on for long; sooner or later the Nobles would demand something more precious than money as a payback.

"What a blessing!" a man with a bandana at the nearby table shouted. "We can live like this because of the war."

The other man – this one with his hair loose and free- with that man laughed. "The country gains more territory and we get money."

"This is like heaven!"

Idiots, the lot of them. Badr drained the tankard of ale. "Whahaha" – he laughed. "Bring more alcohol!" he called out to the girl that was not hanging onto him.

"Oh talk about luxuriates," The man with loose black hair said, smiling at Badr. But his dark eyes flashed enviously at the food and drink spread before Badr. He knew that guy; that one was the one Esra wanted to really throw that pitcher of water at.

The man with the bandana grinned. "That is because he is the hero of our village. The only man to survive that mission at the border – Badr."

"Yes and Thessal – the guy with him was sniffling around his wife while he was away. The man was so persistent in pestering Esra to marry him, because she was a widow, that it annoyed his normally peaceful wife into thinking violent thoughts – which resulted in broken pottery and Badr with messy and wet hair.

"Oh! You are here" – Soldiers entered the tavern; he didn't know the commanding officer but he knew why they were here.

"Sir Badr! We've been looking for you. You are the only one in this village who hasn't claimed the reward. Please come and take it," the captain was saying.

"Bring them in," the Partevian caption called to his soldier's outside- who then brought in five heavy sacks of silver and gold coins.

The captain then stepped forward again. "These are the King's reward to Sir Badr," he said with flourish.

Badr eyed the money, while the tavern patrons discussed the battle; the amount of money – he had enough of that – Esra got the bag of gold. They didn't need much for the simple way of living they liked.

Badr stood up and with one step he was by the soldiers and clapped them on the shoulder. "Sorry, I don't need it. There is no reason for me to accept a fortune like this."

Then he smiled at them. "Thank you for bringing them all the way to Tison. But I'm not taking them."

"But-but, according to the rule ..." the captain looked perplexed. Taking pity on the solder, Badr nodded.

"Ahh if that's the trouble, I see. Well then, I'll use it to buy drinks for everyone in the tavern. Then it won't cause you problems."

And with that he walked outside, without turning back. He walked all the way to the shore, where his boat was tethered to the pier.

War huh, he thought. Everyone was so delirious about the war. Then again they didn't fight, they just received money – the starvation, cold, and thirst didn't touch them.

Is it all right to continue like this? He asked himself this question many times. But no matter how many times he thought of it, he could not change the way this country was headed. Solomon forbids the Dungeon rising somewhere near Partevia.

He really couldn't do anything else but continue with his life, head to the sea, catch tasty fish and head home - To his wife and son.

Badr thought as he sailed away, because Esra and his son were precious; turning, he grabbed a net to catch that tasty fish … only to stare at his sleeping son. His three year old son, who sneaked into his boat and fell asleep, who was blinking awake …

"Daddy!" he shouted, jumping into his arms with the enthusiasm of a three year old boy.

Badr finally found his voice. "Sinbad WHAT are you doing here?!!!!"

His freaking out was ignored by his child, completely. "Daddy, daddy! Look sea!"

Sinbad darted from one end of his fishing boat to the other. His golden eyes were wide and full of wonder when he watched the sea.

Badr sighed; the boy was like he'd downed a gallon of coffee today. "Yes, yes, it's the sea. But Sin, you can't come with me."

A blink of big golden eyes was all that Badr got from his son.

"Nah, never mind," he ruffled Sinbad's purple hair, sighing; he didn't understand, Badr thought, "It's daddy's fault for not being careful." Can't blame the three year old…a distant thunder made Badr look in the distance; it was not good, there were dark clouds rolling toward them.

"Daddy there …land," Sinbad said.

"Don't worry; daddy will get us to safety." Badr then made sure that Sinbad was safely tucked in the boat. "Now be a good boy."

It was a crazy storm; Badr had a hard time steering, but the most troublesome thing was visibility, it was so dark he could not see the bow of his boat. At this rate, they both would capsize, Badr thought, and if that happened, that would mean … both of their deaths. It was a sobering thought; he must somehow make sure that the boat didn't capsize.

"Daddy," came his son's voice, and then Sinbad pointed at something in the distance. "It's this way."

The child spoke with confidence, so Badr decided to go the way Sin pointed out.

And suddenly they were out of the storm.

"Howlay daddy!" Sinbad laughed happily.

Now that was simply amazing … and a bit worrying, since a lot of potential meant a very big target for Badr’s uncle.


 

 

*** Ren Hakutoku – 1***

Hakutoku was standing on the balcony of the palace in his country of Liàn Kingdom. The kingdom he was left to rule in place of Empress Toku, his mother and her royal consort; Piandao, his father - who was a general in the army, master sword master, calligrapher, and sifu.

They both passed away; his mother from an assassin attack, and his father died when he confronted those assassins.

Hakutoku could not prove it either way but there were only three suspects that he suspected who could send those assassins.

His mother in law, Hong Shuunki – she was the head priestess of an order that called themselves 'Ath-Thāmin' – eight pointed star'. He was unsure of that woman's motive, but she was always strange. It was a good thing that his wife Gyokuen wasn't slotted to take her mother's place. In fact Shuunki told both of them that Gyokuen would never head that order, that she could personally guarantee that.

His wife was glad of that, and privately Gyokuen confided in him that while she loved her mother, she was feeling unease while around her or any of the order's priests.

Hakutoku shared her concerns; Shuunki was, when you meet her, poised and graceful and kind. Always a perfect lady of Liàn Kingdom –but sometimes when she was present, he felt a shiver run down his back.

At such a time he would take a hidden glance at his wife's mother. Sometimes Shuunki would look at him from the corner of her eyes, just like he did, and have smile on her face, which she either hid behind the sleeves of her clothes or showed openly, disguising it as a courtly smile for the ambassador. Sometimes her face would change, her eyes and mouth would become like a face of the statues that littered the palace – demonic - At moments like this he felt like the person before to him, the person in front of him ... was not human, but something vile, wearing the skin of Huang Shuunki. The thought itself seemed so ridiculous that he did not believe it himself. It was just a sudden feeling when he looked – but then he blinked and nothing was out of place.

The other possibility was Kai Kingdom; their ruler was always trying to assassinate members of his family. Ever since Toku's younger sister Ursa married Lu-Ten, the ruler's son of that kingdom. If all the heirs of the Ren family died, Lu-Ten would have been ruler of Liàn Kingdom.

The third possibility was Gou kingdom, the daughter of that kingdom married his younger brother Koutoku, having a wife however didn't stop his brother to make his wife's servants into his concubines. He already fathered three daughters with them. Fortunately, his wife had given birth a month ago – they named the boy Kouen. It appeared that naming him 'crimson flame' was appropriate for Kouen inherited eye and hair color from his mother – all Gou people had hair and eyes in varying shades of red.

But to prevent further strife, something would have to be done. For the sake of his two sons, for the sake of his wife, for the sake of his brother's family, and for the sake of his people

The three nations must unite as one. Liàn kingdom must unify the two neighbouring kingdoms Kai and Gou under its banner, forming a unified Empire – The Kou Empire.

"Are you worried?" Gyokuen voice interrupted his thoughts. He turned to see his wife dressed in a pale blue hanfu; silk rustled as she came closer, her braided and pinned up black hair swaying as she walked, with, almost a three year old Hakuren in her arms.

And their first born, Hakuyuu, who was already passed his sixth birthday, was walking by his mother's side.

Gyokuen's silver-blue eyes sparkled in humour, "We came to rescue you from your dreadful thoughts. Didn't we, dears?" she directed the last at their two sons.

"Father," Hakuyuu said in a sombre tone. Hakutoku smiled, his eldest was, even at such a young age, such serious child, and he read like a grown man and could reason like one as well.

He knew what his advisors were saying; that only two children were not enough, and he should take another alongside Gyokuen. But really that was not necessary. Two were enough.

Gyokuen could still have children, according to Falan the court Magician – there was a cure for her weakened constitution after Hakuren's birth.


 

 

***Sixtus Alexius - 1***

He was getting married today, to a former slave, much to the annoyance of his family. But he really did not care.

Meliora was the love of his life, a mother of his three year old son Muu.

He fell in love with her when he was a boy. She was at the time the one the standing on the auction platform, to be sold.

Sixtus could remember that day clearly; seven slaves were standing on a revolving stand and around each slave for sale hung a type of plaque describing his or her origin, health, character, intelligence, education. Hers said: Meliora : Age: 5 years approx –Fanalis from Dark Continent- healthy as a horse; strong – stubborn – For: hard labor/or fighting.

His father bought her as a present to him, since he heard that Fanalis were very a strong race and he deemed them useful for guarding his son and Meliora was young enough to be trained to be a perfect guard dog.

But, she was never a guard dog to him. No, for Sixtus, Meliora was a beautiful person with cute kitty eyes under her red hair. She had a sense of humor, and loved to eat fish. So they went fishing a lot, whenever they could.

But then he caused a scandal, by freeing her – and now he'll cause) another by marrying her.

Sixtus could not be happier; they would be a family, Him and Meliora – and Muu would receive his name – he was already his son, now he would bear his family name – Muu Alexius.


 

"The Father's face is stern and strong,

he sits and judges right from wrong.

He weighs our lives, the short and long,

and loves the little children."


 

 

Chapter Text

 ***Ren Gyokuen-1***  


                                                                                          

It was a beautiful place, the gardens in her husband's palace. Her home as well, ever since her marriage to Hakutoku and after giving him two sons: Hakuyuu the heir to the kingdom and three years younger Hakuren.

From her perch on the balcony, she had a great view over the inner garden of the palace; large pools, filled with blooming water lilies – red, pink and white, were built in the center with pavilions standing around and winding corridors connecting with each other.

The pools themselves were replenished by the endless water streams and brooks – and were home of koi fish and black swan birds. On the banks there were cranes – who were one of the most graceful birds Gyokuen ever saw.

The green of the meadows was splashed with colourfully blooming, sweet smelling white, orange, and red Roses, jasmine, lilies, lavender, and many other kinds of flowers.

During spring, there were blooming fruit trees as well; cherry, peach, apple, plum, and oranges.

But what was a more beautiful sight was watching her seven year old son, Hakuyuu, heir to Liàn Kingdom, teaching Hakuren ride a bay pony. The boys were inseparable, ever since Hakuren was born. Hakuyuu took to his baby brother instantly; he was, even as a baby and later as a young child, of serious disposition, prone to thinking and had the severe nature of his father.

She found little, then three year old, Hakuyuu in the baby's nursery often enough. He was usually talking, with all the seriousness a little boy could muster, about how it would be when they would be both old enough to help their father bring end to the stifle between Liàn and the two neighbouring kingdoms of Kai and Gou.

Hakuren was a joyous soul; Gyokuen could see him laugh when he was an infant, and he was always smiling and trying to make other people, but especially his severe older brother, laugh. Sometimes he succeeded in producing a tiny smile on both his father and elder brother.

Sighing she leaned against a red painted, carved wooden railing looking at the cloudless sky. It was a lazy day, so she let her mind wander – to remember.

She remembered that when she was a small child, Hong Gyokuen dreamed of adventure that white and golden birds chirped about.

They were chirping about distant lands, deep stormy sees, strange creatures, and wonderfully different cultures. It was very exciting to listen to them.

Once she mentioned the birds to her mother Shuunki.

Her mother just smiled in indulgence and then explained that the birds were called the Rukh.

"Rukh is the home of souls. While we live, it is every man for himself. But when you die, all go back to one place, this is Rukh. When humans die, their bodies return to the earth, don't they? The souls return to Rukh, the home of souls," her mother explained at the time. Gyokuen was eleven years old then and her mother allowed her to run after the soul birds freely.

Shuunki often left to meet with a man she called Ithnan and sometimes with a robed and veiled woman that her mother called Falan.

They were always so secretive … and sometimes Gyokuen thought she saw black birds flutter around them. Those were usually gone when she looked again, so she was newer certain of what she saw.

She never asked her mother what those black Rukh were, what they meant. Something deep inside always prevented her from asking.

Was it fear or was it something else?

Then her marriage was arranged on Gyokuen's nineteenth birthday by her mother between the Hong and Ren families. She was glad to leave her home. Bright Rukh sometimes swirled protectively around Gyokuen, when her mother was coming near, but fled when she came into the line of vision. Like it was – afraid of Shuunki – Gyokuen never could fathom why that was. Nor did she ever ask.

Regardless, her marriage into the Ren family which was the ruling family in the Liàn Kingdom, provided an escape from whichever religious sect her mother and her friends were apart of. She married the heir of the Ren family, Hakutoku.

Hakutoku had a younger brother named Koutoku. She heard whispers that their mother Toku named her eldest because he was peaceful as a white night and the youngest because his hair when he was born was crimson red.

Toku was the only daughter of the old ruler of the Liàn Kingdom.

Gyokuen didn't particularly like Koutoku. He was a slimy young man. Oh he was handsome but the looks he gave her made her feel uncomfortable.

She rather liked her husband. He might be a stern man, but he was kind and handsome. With black- blue tinted, like ink - long hair and slate grey eyes.

Soon they were blessed with a son – that as custom demanded, had a little of the Royal name in his own. Like her husband, who carried a part of his mother's – and so they called their firstborn Hakuyuu.

She knew however that a month after the birth of Hakuren, her second son it was a difficult birth, and the healers, Falan, who turned out was a Magician, among them said that she probably wouldn't be able to give birth again and live – that her body was too frail to give birth to a third child.

Her mother just shrugged the news off and said that it didn't matter in the long run. She was strange when she said that. Gyokuen had a bad feeling around her mother for a while now, she did not like the way she was looking at her at times and sometimes her eyes would switch from blue to black and glow red; she would always turn around smiling after that.

A strange occurrence happened about a month after Hakuren's birth. Rukh swarmed and swirled wildly about. From the chirping of the Rukh, Gyokuen could tell that something had changed on that day.

Shuunki was mad and stalking the halls, for weeks after that event – muttering something about birth of First Class Singularity and the chatter of Rukh was so widespread and coming from all directions that the Magicians could not pinpoint the First Class Singularity position.

Whatever that meant, it was true however that the Rukh were very much excited on that day, chirping in excitement of things to come. A bit more mild reaction from the Bright Rukh however happened less than a year ago, her mother was absolutely fuming on that day.

Falan came soon after and told Shuunki, Gyokuen overheard them by accident, that as far as Clairvoyance Magic can discern, there were two children born one after the other to the same mother and father on a continent that was far, far away.

"Mother," her eldest son interrupted her musings; she turned, her black braided hair swaying, to look at her Hakuyuu. My, she thought, did the boy grow fast; he was seven years old already and he grew in strong resemblance to Hakutoku, same hair color – dark blue-almost black, severe and serious features – but with her eye color and mole in the same spot as her and his younger brother Hakuren.

"Yes Hakuyuu? What is it?"

"Can I start to teach Hakuren to swordplay? Father said he can learn when he is older – and he is four now."

Gyokuen pretended to think it over. "Yes, you may," she said somberly and when Hakuyuu went out and opened the door; Hakuren, who was clearly eavesdropping, fell on his face into the room.

"Well, now. It appears that someone was curious," she said smiling, and then with the rustle from the silks she wore, Gyokuen kneeled by her four year old son. "Who could that somebody be, hmm?"

"I was leaning on the door," Hakuren muttered, and then grinned. "I wasn't eavesdropping though." Then he looked at his older brother, "So did you manage to ask mother if we'll get a practice horse from Tenzan Plateau; those are the most safe, aren't they mother?"

"If you teach them from when they were colts. But no, Hakuyuu didn't get around in asking that."

"I didn't know I had to ask," Hakuyuu replied.

Hakuren laughed, "Oh then I forgot to tell you." Then he blinked up at Gyokuen. "Can we Mother?"

Gyokuen looked up, pretending to think it over. "I don't see the reason not to. So yes, you'll get your practice pony."

 

***

 

After taking an evening walk and talking to the various ladies in the palace, to set up schedules for tomorrow's work, she went to search for her hardworking husband. He often spent his time in the library when the day was coming to a close.

With a light knock she entered the brightly lantern lit library. "Hello dear," she greeted as she neared his sitting form.

"Hello," he greeted back, his voice even, without emotion, but there was a slight upturn of his mouth, a sparkle that lit in his eyes that told Gyokuen that he was glad to see her.

"Come, Gyokuen," he beckoned "help me to arrange the papers."

"What are you looking for?"

"Trying to learn from the mistakes our ancestors made, so I don't repeat them." Hakutoku showed her maps of the known world. "So, I've been thinking, joining Liàn with Kai and Gou will be relatively easy; we have similar customs and similar rules and similar way of life and what we don't have in-common, we can readjust comfortably for our people because for most people, their way of life won't change."

"So what keeps you up?"

"Simple, after Liàn, Kai and Gou are joined into the Kou Kingdom, I was thinking of expanding it into an Empire. With other words from shore to shore there would be one big empire – the Kou Empire."

Gyokuen nodded in understanding "And the further from Kou, our starting point, the difference of culture increases."

She ran her hand over the distant islands in the far south Imuchakk – that were, as reports said, covered in snow and ice – many parts of the far south were also unexplored, the same as it was with the Dark continent and the Savage Land Seas.

"We probably should not even bother conquering the Dark Continent and Imuchakk people." Her husband it seemed followed her hand, "Though seeking alliances with those various lands would not be amiss."

"They are so far away," Gyokuen whispered.

"This is also a reason why conquering them would be a bad idea. Besides forcing different people to accept your point of view by force or culture and subjugation will crash and burn sooner or later." Then he rubbed his eyes, "there are also the Torran people and Shambhala tribes that are scattered around the world."

"True and it would be a shame if different cultures would disappear; it would make the world boring, everything l in the same colour," Gyokuen mussed.

Hakutoku smiled. "Yes boredom, however boredom is not the only reason; a different outlook means different ideas. How can a word progress and evolve if everybody is the same?"

"So diversity is necessary."

"Yes," Hakutoku said, "without diversity there is no going forward, just stagnation before everything rots away."

Then she ran her hand over the Partevia Empire, Musta'sim Kingdom, and Reim Empire. "Those two counties were at war since my great-great grandfather's time," Hakutoku remarked "and Musta'sim Kingdom had held prejudice toward magicians for centuries, one of these days the nobles and their King Duran will push them too far in their abuse of them."

"Why are Partevia and Reim at war for so long?" Gyokuen asked.

"Partevia didn't want to be a subject of Reim anymore. Reim still wants it back in the fold even a century later." Hakutoku smiled, "it's the same situation when Kina, Liàn, Kai and Gou refused to be a part of the great Kouga Empire in the distant past. They were forced into the Empire just like Partevia was into Reim."

"And this is why subjugation and forcing people to accept your view won't work?"

"Well, it could for generation or two, but after that, that kind of empire would break apart." He pulled a scroll and opened it on the table.

It was a map Gyokuen saw.

"Also there is a possibility of undiscovered lands, beyond the horizon and passed the Savage Land, our Wise Ones, thought that like sun and the moon, the place we live on is round and not flat and on the back of the turtle as the Kina Kingdom believes."

Gyokuen looked at him, "that is…"

"I know it's unlikely that…" Hakutoku started but she put her finger on his lips, shaking her head, her hair ornaments clicking softly.

"No, that's not it, I – last year – I overheard my mother talking to one of priests that are in her circle about a continent that is far away –"

"What was that exactly about?" Hakutoku straightened and turned fully to look at her, giving her his undivided attention. Gyokuen was reminded, yet again, that her husband had an extreme dislike and deep distrust of Al-Thamen and anyone affiliated with them.

Hong Shuunki especially, Gyokuen still recalled, how stony his expression was when her mother suggested that Al-Thamen could help them achieve unification of the three kingdoms into the Kou Kingdom.

His answer was an ever unchanging NO. She could not help but agree; the people her mother was with always sent shivers down her spine when they looked at her when Shuunki introduced her to them for the first time; she was four at the time.

Except Falan; the female magician looked at her with such pity and sadness that made the then four year old Gyokuen cry. It was Falan, who soothed her fears on that day. Shuunki just stood there, her black brow up and there was a mocking look in her eyes and on her face that was directed at Falan.

That look from those sad lime green eyes and Falan's soothing voice stayed with Gyokuen to this day, along with her mother's behaviour – it was after that that Gyokuen had bad feelings around her mother for the first time and she made a friend on that day – Falan often visited her and was relaxed around her enough to remove the veils so that her bright orange hair tumbled lose. The female magician told her about her son Tess, that she lost a long time ago, and of her husband Wahid.

"My mother was talking to Ithnan." She couldn't name Falan as a member of Al-Thamen to her husband; the woman still visited her, telling her of faraway places she'd been. Places Gyokuen would, probably, never see in her life.

"And he mentioned that two special children were born in a continent far, far away." That was what Falan had said to her mother then.

"Magi?" Hakutoku asked, interested.

"I don't think so," Gyokuen denied, "there is one that travels – Yunan the Travelling Magi." There were reports that this Magi, consciousness and memories intact, kept being reborn, after dying, into the same body, somewhere on the Dark Continent. "One is in Reim and she’s serving as High Priestess of the Reim Empire." Scheherazade, the Magi that prolonged her life by cloning her body, "and the one that lives at the edge of the far south of the Gou Kingdom, on the banks of the Myanmar river."

Not that Gyokuen meet any of the famed Magi; she heard about them, sometimes by listening to conversations her mother had and sometimes Falan would tell her about them as a bedtime story.

"Yes. I do know of her, in-fact I spoke with her on one occasion," Hakutoku revealed, smiling slightly.

Gyokuen eyes went wide with wonder. "You did?" she breathed.

Hakutoku gave a sharp nod. "Yes, I asked her if she'd raise a dungeon for me."

"And?" she asked with bated breath. That was huge news, if her husband would be chosen as a King Vessel and conquered a Dungeon …their plans in unifying the three kingdoms into the Kou Empire could be realized immediately, and without too many lives lost on all three sides.

"She said, that time for raising Dungeons is fast approaching and that when the Travelling Magi raises the First Dungeon, and after that Dungeon is conquered, only then will she come to me, and raise it for me to attempt my hand in," Hakutoku explained. Gyokuen smiled at the thought, ignoring an uncertain pang; she read in ancient scrolls that many people can die in those places.

"So she chose you as her King Vessel?" she asked instead; if her husband was chosen by a Magi, as Magi's King Candidate, which meant that he had an advantage in conquering the Dungeons that the Magi would raise for him.

"I believe she did, yes."

"What's her name?" Gyokuen asked, excited at learning more about the world.

Hakutoku smiled, "Her name is Hayma. It means forest in Torran."

The Torran Language was different; every person on the continents spoke the same language; from Imuchakk to Partevia and Reim, even the Fanalis from the Dark Continent all spoke and wrote the same language.

The only exceptions were the Torran Tribes that lived all over the world. Gyokuen wondered if there were any of the Torran that lived beyond the Savage Land Seas on that far away continent whose existence people here only speculated to exist.


 

 

***Esra of Parthevia – 1***

 

Being a mother to a son in Tison village during a war was difficult. Not because they could not survive, they could with the help of the neighbors’ that had the same difficulties. Since her mother's bow broke and Esra could not fix it, and had no knowledge how to make a new one – she and Sinbad had to make do without meat of any kind. Unless Esra managed to catch wild rabbit in a snare and beat foxes or jackals to a trapped animal.

Being a woman in Tison was slightly easier; according to her mother Amira, since Tison village was a fishing village, and mostly got by with that and what womenfolk grew in their gardens. She, however, was additionally taught other skills by her mother; who moved from Plains of Partevia to more inland, where there were pastures for horses and steps on which horses, sheep, goat, and cattle grazed along with wild animals such as deer, wild goats, and hares.

In her youth, her mother Amira rode her horse from the steps beyond the Karluk Mountains in the Far East of Partevia to be married when she was twenty years old.

Her groom, Rostam, was eight years younger than her. Amira arrived with her trousseau - that contained two horses, clothes, two carpets she made herself, intercity shaped bread, and bow and arrows with iron tips.

Rostam was an apprentice to a wood carver at the time of their marriage; when they were married for five years they moved to Tison village and had her. Rostam got commissions for his woodwork like wooden chests, doorpost, front doors, transom, window frames, posts, and ancons all carved with various shapes of nature.

So Amira was left to look after the house; she used a lot of that time to catch hare, that she smoked or cooked and then shared or sold the excess to make money to buy other necessities for living for her family of three.

Soon as Esra was old enough, her mother taught her how to cook, how to bake bread in a makeshift oven outside, and tend to their garden and animals. But most importantly, how to use a bow and arrow, how to set up a trap for wildlife – and how to make a shelter in the wild.

It was when Amira was teaching little Esra how to shoot a bow, they stumbled on a mother and her son – and the rest as the people are wont to say was history.

Though Esra's first impression of Badr was "That icky Mellon head that pulls my hair," not very flattering. But back then Esra thought all boys had cooties.

Only later, as years passed Badr become "That alluring purple head that drives me up a wall with his carefree attitude."

He was charming and kind – and kept up with his habit of tugging her plait - So she did something about it. She married the man. That was the best decision she ever made!

Parthevia was at war with Reim and every able bodied man was called by the Royal family to serve as a soldier in that war.

Her husband was no different.

At least he got to hold his newborn son before he was shipped out to the battlefield. She remembered that day, four years ago; there was a storm when her contractions started; fortunately her mother was still alive then and she was able to take on the role of a midwife.

That was four years ago. Three years ago her husband returned, after the tanner's son Thassall said that he was dead, and Esra should marry him.

Thassall was very adamant that Badr would not return and that he was dead when notices of deaths of sons and fathers came to the surrounding villages and towns.

Badr's death notice however hadn't come. So the conclusion was that her husband lived – so until she didn't get a notice and the casket with her husband's body – her Badr was alive.

And that was final – no matter what tanner's son was saying.

Esra contemplated violence the next time he'd called on her, so when she heard footsteps and a male voice, she flung the pitcher full of water at the annoying intruder, only to see that is was her husband.

Badr had returned home and like then, the weather was good for the vegetable garden she tended to, Esra thought, as she wiped her brow and looked up at the sun to measure the time.

A shadow fell over her …

"You know when I left you, you were a bit more on the …chubby side," a familiar voice said; she froze then absurdly stood up and …There stood Badr, her husband, the man that occupied her thoughts just now and, Esra's amber-brown eyes narrowed, did Badr just call her chubby?

"I am not chubby," she muttered while hugging the daylights out of him as she always did, when he returned from the fishing and then going to the larger port towns to sell his catch. They were able to live comfortably, even if they didn't have a lot of material things. Their little house was made from rocks, with a tiled roof, on the outskirts of Tison village; they had a vegetable and herb garden, a flock of hens, and one very mean rooster; for meat and eggs and of course along with the fish and other seafood Badr brought home. Badr also brought an olive tree sampling, so that now they could make their own oil.

"Need. Air. Dear."

"Oh shush you," she grumbled, and then pulled away, when Badr, as usual, tugged gently on her dark brown braid.

"Mama?" came a small voice from behind them. Both of them turned and looked down.

"Sin," she said when she knelled by the child, Badr beside her. "Did you sneak again onto your father's fishing boat?"

Sinbad developed a habit to stealthily sneak on Badr's boat every now and then since Badr came home.

Big golden eyes under a mop of purple hair regarded her and Badr solemnly. "Nope." The four year old shook his head.

"You cannot go fishing with me yet, Sinbad, you are not old enough." Badr ruffled their boy's wild spikes, "Do you understand, Sin?"

"I understand." Sinbad nodded. Esra really had to bite her lip then; she just knew that her son just found a loophole in his father's words – something Esra figured out she'd have to look for after that incident with the rooster and hens when Sinbad was two and a half when her son discovered the concept of the loophole.

 

***

 

When Badr came home that day, from his fishing expedition, she bit her lip again to prevent laughing out loud when she saw little Sinbad slung over her husband's shoulder.

"Supper is ready," she informed both of them, and then there was a knock on the door, and little Sin went to open it, revealing a neighbour.

"Ahh," Esra said, when she looked at the squat, big and wide woman – "Hurem, is something the matter?"

"An announcement was just made in the middle of Tison," Hurem said elatedly, "by one of the Partevia Army Messengers, we are going to war!" she exclaimed happily "all citizens are inquired to participate in war efforts."

Hurem went to the door. "I need to inform the others that weren't there." And with that she pivoted on her heel and left, leaving only silence behind.

"Papa, Mama, what's war?" Sinbad asked, breaking the heavy silence that fell when Hurem dropped the news.

Esra hugged her little Sin, closing her eyes, if this war took years again, Sinbad could be drafted, like his father was, perhaps even Badr would get drafted, even with his lack of a leg.

"War is a bad thing, Sinbad. A very bad thing," she heard her husband say.

Yes, Esra thought, war was a very bad thing.


 

***Cersei Lannister – 2***

 

It had only had been two weeks since Cersei had given birth to her golden Joffrey and he was finally responding to her voice; her two sweet daughters responded and recognized hers immediately. Pycelle said that Joffrey was progressing as he should and he was a strong heir to the throne.

He said the same about Steffon, and then three months later tragedy stuck. Cersei remembered.

Steffon died in his crib. One moment he lay down with a fever that rivaled the Sun in Dorne – the next, he was as cold as ice in the North.

Cersei could her Robert raging at the old maester. That he had been gone the day before and returned to their son's corpse.

Robert was gone – to the brothel – That man didn't deserve another child from her body.

Robert barely paid any attention to Steffon and Argella, but he completely disregarded Elenei. Pretended she didn't exist. Every time he came to Cersei drunk there was another woman's name on his lips.

Lyanna Stark.

What in the Seven did Robert see in her? What did the Dragon Prince see in her?

She was not much of a beauty. She had pale skin, almost like porcelain and silver grey eyes on a long face, and straight dull brown hair. And she didn't have much to her curves; she was slim and willowy like a boy.

Almost the second day after their birth, Steffon was more like how Joffrey was right now, but Argella and Elenei, her precious daughters; a black and a silver lioness, always knew when she was near and they were still very curious and watched her all the time and when she looked at them they smiled and clapped their little hands. They rarely cried, even then. They fussed when they didn't like something, but they didn't cry; unless they soiled their linens. Then they wailed so loud that the maids immediately changed them.

She was glad that Robert didn't pay much attention to their youngest child or to the babies in general, because then his displeasure of the little ones' appearances would sour even more.

Then Cersei decided that she should given Robert another chance to father a son with her, after he held her and comforted her on the day they took Steffon's body away.

Her boy was so pale and cold and still, his eyes wide and dim when they took him away. The girls were crying silently too – for a moment Cersei feared they got a fever as well, and that they were too weak to even cry. But her fears were for nothing; both girls survived to see their second name day and to get their brother – by Jamie – Joffrey.

Robert did not deserve to get any more children from her body.

Not after treating her like a common doxy, like her feelings didn't matter.

Not after coming to her drunk and stinking of another bed.

Not after whispering the other woman's name.

Not after his brutish behaviour toward the then one year old Elenei. Her girls were such smart, precarious children, and Robert wanted them to stick with playing with dolls, Elenei especially.

It happened on a day just like this one, just a year past.

Joffrey hadn't yet been begotten, as Cersei still held hope for some consideration from her husband – more of the fool she; she should turn to Jamie eminently after the death of Steffon.

Cersei was standing by the baby's enclosure, where her daughters tried to stand up with the aid of the wooden bars that held back the toddlers from dangers, when Lady Bella Lannister called her to the far end of the room.

They were only shy of a year old, and they were developing so quickly.

Leaving her two daughters to the care of the Septa and the wet nurse - who was still in her employ despite her children eating solid foods already, but Cersei, welcomed an extra nanny for her children – they were entitled to have the best of everything.

"My Queen," Lady Bella curtsied. Cersei nodded regally at her mother's cousin. Lady Bella was considering returning to Lannisport, and from there to take a ship and travel to Essoss.

"I thought about the position offered to me, and after spending some time with Princess Argella and Princess Elenei; I decided to take on the Governess position," Lady Bella informed her with a slight smile.

"It will be my honour and privilege to teach such talented children," she continued; that surprised and pleased Cersei.

"What do you mean?" She winded her arm under Lady Bella's as they walked out onto the balcony, down the stairs, and into the gardens, "talented, they are barely a year old?" Cersei nodded in greeting to the passing ladies of the court. Some of them had been her Royal Ladies in Waiting. She would have to appoint one Royal Lady in Waiting for each of her daughters. She'll make sure that they were chosen from families of her father's bannermen.

"When I read to them, they listened with great intensity and sometimes I saw them look at the letters. I do believe they are prodigies, Your Grace." Lady Bella's green eyes sparkled like stars. "And I won't have such minds go to waste with being only limited to arithmetic, religion, and theology, Lannister/Baratheon family genealogy, grammar, history, reading, spelling and writing in common tongue, and learning of domestic skills such as dancing, embroidery, good manners, household management, music, needlework, and singing – I will leave that for the good Septa to teach them."

Now Lady Bella looked like a Warrior Lady that Cersei wished to be when she was small, like those Ladies, Queens, and Princesses of old, who fought and ruled alongside men.

"It seems," Bella said with a quiet voice, and a wicked smile, "that I binding my bosom flat and cutting and dying my hair black to study in the Citadel for a year was worth it, for I have found two pupils to pass my knowledge to."

Cersei gaped at her great aunt – she was pretending to be a man to get into the Citadel at Oldtown; that was amazing.

"I –I'm amazed, Lady Bella. When did you...?"

"Engage in that particular bit of mummery? It was during the time I had, supposedly, traveled all over Westeros. I came across a Maester named Marwyn, well he proposed that I should study in a Citadel, said that it would be a shame for such an enlightened mind as mine to go to waste, because most grey sheep bleat about women being full of whimsical notions and are unable to muster resolve, wit, and want to study on the level of a maester."

Cersei took a sharp breath; here was a lady who snuck into the male dominated Citadel and studied on par with men that forged their links. "And you weren't discovered?"

Lady Bella shrugged, "People often see what they want to and overlook the signs that do not align with the perceived order of things. No, I was not discovered, besides when Marwyn became an Archmaester - and I was appointed his Acolyte – that is like a steward and cupbearer combined with an apprentice," Bella elaborated at Cersei's inquisitive look.

"Did you forge any links?" Cersei asked, entrapped by her aunt story; "What were they?"

Cersei wondered about the meaning of the metal in which those measter chain links were forged.

"Well, considering that it was Marwyn who was my patron of sorts, the first link I forged was of Valyrian steel."

Cersei knew that that stood for magic and the occult. She felt a bit disappointed that Bella had the same link as Pycelle. Besides, Magic was all but gone from the world; she certainly hadn't seen any proof of it.

"The second link I forged was one of platinum" Cersei visibly perked up, that was something she didn't know the meaning of.

"It means achieving a high learning of writing and speaking the various languages of Westeros and Esoss – that is something I intend to teach to the two Princesses; High Valyrian, Ibbenese, Old Tongue, trade tongue, Dothraki and Rhoynar tongue and the tongue that is called Torran, which is present on the isle of Estermont and far away from the shores of Sothoryos at the edge of the Known World."

"How many different links did you forge dear Aunt?" Cersei asked, wondering and hoping that she did manage to learn more.

"Ohh, in the year and a half that I was there..." She looked in the distance, then smirked that Lannister smirk, that told to all that a lion was about to pounce on a particularly juicy prey. Cersei saw that expression, often, on her father's face, on hers, Jamie's, and many of the Lannister kin – even distastefully as it was in Tyrion.

"Fourteen different kinds of metal," came the answer.

That meant she learned it all – the wonder of it all took Cersei's breath away.

"If you want, you can join the lessons, when you are free of duty as a Queen …" Bella offered, squeezing her forearm – Cersei appreciated the sentiment, but her duties as a Queen took a lot of her time. Robert hadn't managed to foul all of it – yet. But perhaps he won't and Robert will come to rule the seven kingdoms as a true King, and not taking the route that leaves everything to his Hand of the King, while he was out chasing whores and hunting boars.

"That would be lovely," she said instead, maybe she would join in her daughter's lessons, after all as a Queen it was expected for her to educate her own children along with the Septa. Nobody would be the wiser that she was receiving additional education as well.

"So what," Cersei started, "what, besides language, will you teach my daughters? And what do the rest of the metals stand for; I already know what black iron, yellow gold and silver stand for and just now I also learned about platinum and Valyrian steel."

"Hmm, oh yes; the brass link is for the care of botany and zoology." At Cersei's questioning look, Bella elaborated that that is the care for known plants and animals. "Bronze for Forensic Science and Anthropology–that is more a advanced medical field, copper for canon and civil law, iron for warcraft, lead for chemistry and alchemy, pewter for economy, red gold for geography and cartography that is knowing the way of the land and how to map it, steel for metal work, and tin for astrology." Cersei's head spun with all the new information. "Naturally, I have every intention to pass on the knowledge of cooking, dancing, drawing, embroidery, good manners, lace-making, music, needlepoint, sewing, spinning, and weaving- to you as well My Queen if you so wish it."

Did she wish it … yes she did. She'd like to learn all what Lady Bella took from the Citadel. She hoped there would be time for her to learn it all.

Soon after, Lady Bella started to read to the little princesses in High Valyrian, and this is how one day – and three days before Joffrey was begotten – Robert came upon them in the gardens.

Cersei was at the time with her sweet Argella, reading in the common tongue about Herb Identification and Appellation, while Lady Bella was reading slowly word by word, with little Elenei on her lap, who was tracing the words as Lady Bella spoke them with her little fingers, in High Valyrian.

When Robert saw that scene, he bellowed somewhat fiercely at the Lady Bella Lannister; his voice carried so, that all the birds flew off in fright.

Cersei saw red on that day; he had no right to interfere in her girls' education. So she put down little Argella, whose green eyes were wide and she was shaking in fright;

"Septa Herenya," she called the woman that was meant to teach her children faith, etiquette, embroidery and other things that young ladies were supposed to learn, the things Cersei herself had learned. "Watch over Princess Argella."

Ignoring the Septa's protest, she marched over to her bellowing husband; on the way she grabbed a goblet of Arbor Gold and then poured the wine on her husband's head.

"What in Seven Gods' names woman?!" Her husband turned on her, and Cersei regarded Robert in cold fury.

"You have absolutely NO right to interrupt the education of High Ladies, Robert, you are being unreasonable. And lower your voice, you startled the children shouting like a beast," Cersei hissed, maintaining eye contact; what's more she closed her distance to her towering husband, who, she was delighted to note, took a step back.

"What are you blathering about woman, I will not let her teach her …" Robert bustled.

"Say our daughter's name Robert; you have been ignoring that child enough, and to not let lady Bella teach Elenei High Valyrian?" She didn't let him finished. "High Valyrian is taught at court, like it or not, just because you never wanted to learn it – it was offered to you by the maester stationed in Storm's End, was it not Robert? Wasn't it?"

The expressions that flickered on Robert's face let her know that he was at a loss for what to say to rebuke her accusations.

"Why did you come here?" She asked instead, still fuming at Robert who slanted a look over Elenei, who was half buried in Lady Bella's kirtle, then to – and that sent her into a rage even more – Argella whose eyes had a suspicious wet shine to them.

Robert looked uncomfortable at that, but he reached into his belt and pulled out a rolled up parchment.

"It's from your uncle Gerion Lannister; he is coming to King's Landing," he told her still avoiding her eyes, while he held up a parchment for her to read.

"Ahh Robert you are back."

Cersei turned toward Lord Arryn who just walked into the garden, his stride long; he was accompanied with his dull Tully wife – Lysa was her name -who had face in permanent sullen disposition.

Seeing she won't be reading her uncle Gerion's message, she unfastened the belt pocket and secured the letter there for later.

Lysa Tully was thin and pale as ghost grass, but she apparently lost a child that Arryn put in her. But she was always by turns shy and fearful around Cersei and her ladies in waiting - but vicious toward servant girls.

When Lysa Arryn saw her, she stalled for a heartbeat, and then bowed, fearfully looking around before joining her ladies in waiting that were standing around and talking.

"Right," Robert declared, "I have Kingly matters to discuss with my Hand of the King. My Queen." He bowed to her and left with Jon Arryn followed by the Kingsguard Commander Barristan Selmy.

But before Robert could escape from her, an old nobleman appeared, wearing an emblem of a turtle standard on his doublet.

"Robert!" he shouted as he caught a glance at them, and then something curious happened; Robert scuffed the ground like an errant child.

"Look at how you grown, since I last saw you." The old man, with a white head of hair and deep white bearded, and then turned to her, his green eyes gleaming in mischief, "and who are these three beauties?" He looked at her two daughters, his white brows ruffled at the distress the children were displaying, but as he lifted his gaze to hers, he greeted her with a smile and then looked Cersei in the eye, his gaze warm and friendly.

"Lady Cersei, it is good to finally meet you and I apologize for not being present at your wedding." At that he set a sharp look at Robert. "This beauty is lost on you, Robert, but then you could never stick to one bed now could you and apparently you only know how to sire brats, but not know that you mustn't below like a bull around them."

"Grandfather!" Robert cried in dismay. Cersei stifled a laugh at Roberts's very uncharacteristic behavior.

"But hmm, I forget myself; I haven't yet introduced myself; I'm Mycheall of House Estermont of Greenstone and current lord of Estermont Isle. And your husband Robert's maternal grandfather."

Cersei nodded, smiling slightly at the man. "Pleasure is mine, milord."

Then the man crunched down, to be at the level of her daughters. "Now let me look at my grand-grand-brats, come on." He beckoned to little Elenei, who was now peeking around Bella's kirtle.

Cersei bristled when Lord Mycheall called her children brats, but calmed down when she saw that Elenei was smiling and quietly giggling behind Lady Bella's skirts.

Mycheall chuckled himself, a deep warm rumbling sound. "That's right, little minx, no need to fear this old man." He beckoned, "Now which one are you hmm?"

"Elenei," her daughter stated in her small clear voice, without the lisp that accompanied her when she said her first words.

"Elenei, huh, after the daughter of the god of sea, Osé and goddess of the wind, Sytry. And you little one?" he asked the shyer of the two.

"I'm Argella." her first daughter said, speaking slowly so that she could pronounce her name correctly.

"After the last Storm Princess, huh, I must say, Robert that you chosen good names for your brats. So what in seven ehh, did you yell about?"

Robert looked sheepish and he avoided everyone's eyes, "Well, I … err."

Jon Arryn looked uncomfortable; Jamie was smirking at the scene. She caught his green eyes and made a sign that they used when they wanted to meet at a secret place; his smile widened – the message was well received by her love and Cersei was doubly pleased.

"I see. If you can't answer, it was for a foolish reason, but next time when you decide to bellow at your daughters out of your own folly, I might impart with this detail: they might had inherited the Baratheon cousin hair BUT they have my daughter Cassana's, face – you would not be so beastly toward the woman who brought you into the world, wouldn't you, boy."

That was the moment that Cersei loved her father's- father – in law.

But what had made Cersei prouder of her children happened at nightfall, when she and Lady Bella tucked the little lionesses into their beds.

They shared a room, at the moment; later when they reach their seventh nameday, they'll receive their own, separate, rooms with their own servants and attendants, handmaidens, - Ladies in Waiting and of course as well as each own Chief Lady of Bedchamber to supervise the household.

"Mother," she looked down to the upturned round face of her youngest child. Elenei's dark eyes glinted with mischief.

"Yes, sweet Elenei?" Cersei asked, while making sure that blanket was safely tugged in place.

"Avy jorrāelan muña." Elenei said; she looked at Lady Bella, Cersei supposed, in conformation that she spoke the Valyrian words correctly.

"You said them correctly little one." Bella then looked at Cersei, "Princess Elenei just said, 'I love you Mother,' in High Valyrian. Perfectly."

Cersei smiled, her youngest daughter was talking in High Valyrian before her second name day.

"Princess Argella," Lady Bella called. "Say something to your Mother."

"Myrdys muña, avy jorrāelan."

***

 

"Your Grace," the voice of the Septa in charge of her son interrupted her memories.

"Yes Septa Freia, how fares the Prince?" she asked for her son. She had come before Joffrey was born, so that Septa Herenya was still in charge of Argella and Elenei along with Lady Bella Lannister, who was acting both as Governess and Chief Lady of the Bedchamber in Cersei's daughters' court.

Her uncle Gerion Lannister arrived, with his bastard Joy Hill – so Cersei set Joy, who was a year older than her girls, as a Maid of Honor – Joy also acted as a playmate and chambermaid for Elenei. Cersei supposed that the sweet natured Joy would make excellent confidant to her youngest daughter, not child, she thought with a smile; Joffrey was her youngest baby now.

Cersei even allowed Robert's bastard daughter Mya Stone from the Vale to join the children's Court, as far as Robert thought, Mya was a Lady in Waiting for Argella, in truth Cersei set her up as a 'Whipping Girl' for both Argella and Elenei, in addition to having chambermaid duties.

Not that 'Whipping' was needed; both Princesses had good manners Septa Herenya often reported, though their dexterity was not yet enough for them to learn Lady Occupations, such as needlework. They acted in a curtly manner as befitting of their station.

"Very well, Your Grace, Prince Joffrey can focus his sight on the objects that are ten inches away, which is good progress for a two week old baby," Septa reported.

That was disappointing; Elenei and Tara were already recognizing different faces at this point.

"How do you expect the development to proceed?" Cersei asked, and if Septa Freia was surprised by the question she didn't show it.

"In his third week he should be able to control his own limb movements, in the fourth, Prince Joffrey will start to use his vocal cords for other sounds than crying. In sixth week you can expect the boy to recognize you as his mother and smile at you."

Again there was a shock, when she remembered that her daughters had shown recognition of her being their mother before they were supposed to – again proud feelings swelled inside her – her precious daughters.

"I see," she said, "thank you, Septa, you can retire and leave Prince Joffrey to Lady Daniela," with that Cersei turned and summoned her Chief Lady of the Bedchamber.

"Lanna," Cerise called her Lannister relative from her mother Joanna's side.

"Yes, Your Grace?" The Chief Lady curtsied, her silken skirts in Lannister colours rustled like leaves.

"Time to prepare for today's banquet," she told to Lanna, and then as other ladies swarmed her, she leaned over to her, "I hear that Lady Lysa is expecting a child again."

"Yes, the poor woman is growing paler and more fretful, and fatter, as days go by," Lanna Lannister remarked, and then she smirked, "I hear that Maester Pycelle ordered her to take Milk of the Poppy, because her erratic behavior does more damage to the child than the sleeping draught ever could because Lady Arryn was not 'the strongest and most disciplined of minds' or so Pycelle was heard saying."

No, Cersei agreed, Lysa was dumb as a post, she had fish brains to boot, why ever she could make goose eyes over – Petyr Baelish, apparently he was so good at his old post as Lord of customs at Gulltown, increasing the Gulltown income tenfold, that Lord Arryn decided, to bring him to King's Landing.

And apparently, as whispers of Lysa Arryn servant-girls, who held no loyalty toward a mistress that mistreated them with stinging slaps and vicious words, even when it was not deserved – and most of the time it was not – told to Elizabeth Cooke, one of Cersei's Lover Ranked Maids of Honour – she had a score of them, all unmarried maidens of lesser houses in the Crownlands.

"And our esteemed guest; did him and his family arrive yet?" Cersei asked.

"The travelling carriage came barring House Tully colours and banners," came the reply from the Lady in Waiting.

So house Tully arrived to the Royal Feast. If she recalled all the male Tullys agreed to come to the capital: Lord Hoster, Lord Paramount of the Trident, his younger brother Ser Brynden Tully left King's Landing just a day before and was staying at the Eyrie.

Ser Edmure Tully however was traveling with his father and would be present at the banquet.

"Your Grace," Lady Bella's voice came from the doorway.

"Ahh, Bella, are my daughters ready?"

"Yes, Your Grace. The Princesses are in their finery and are ready …" Lady Bella trailed off. Cersei eyes winded as the lady gave a signal that they had to speak in private.

"Leave me alone, with Lady Bella, for a couple of moments, ladies," Cersei commanded. When the ladies in waiting and serving girls went out and the door closed, she motioned for Bella to sit.

"Thank you, Your Grace." Lady Bella nodded, and sat down with some difficulty Cersei noted. "I have trouble with my hipbones. I made my own ointment that helps with the pain in my joints," Lady Bella said, answering the unspoken question.

"Not to worry, this is not fatal just an inconvenience and discomfort for me especially when the weather changes."

"Oh."

"Yes, well – getting old is like winter, it's always coming." Lady Bella then sobered, "Princess Elenei had a night terror."

Cersei temper began to burn; did her daughter suffer from Robert again?

"She woke up suddenly, with a yell; when I asked her, she said it was silly nightmare. And then complained why she could not dream of unicorns."

"What's a nightmare? And why would she want to dream about such an unsightly beast as unicorn."

Bella let out an amused laugh. "I asked her that – she said a silly-night terror and her unicorn is not the beast we know from Skagos," with that she pulled out a sheet of parchment, the kind her daughters did their water coloring on, and there was a picture of a white graceful horse with a horn, on a black dark blue ground, with a silver moon above and black tree trunks.

"This is Elenei's unicorn." Cersei breathed, she didn't (know) that her daughter had such skill with water colors. But Elenei's unicorn held no similarity with the unicorns from Skagos, for one it was not remotely goat like.

"Yes, I can see why she'd like to dream about a creature like that, see…she named it Lady Amalthea."

"Yes," Cersei said, "and the night terror. Did she tell you what the night terror was about?"

"She maintained the notion that it was silly, but she worried anyway, it was about – she was sitting on a very big green turtle, then a huge cuttlefish attacked, wrapping its sword waving tentacles all around her, but then Elenei freed herself by taking one of its swords – and then she was in a dark cave looking up at a blue giant that held a three pronged spear and had a lower body of a Seahorse from the waist down."

Cersei frowned, that was a silly dream, as Elenei herself had said, but then again … there was... there were the words, the prophecies that, that old wood hag said, after tasting a drop of Cersei's blood.

"Like the Princess said," lady Bella continued, like she'd read Cersei's mind. "It was silly, but it did frighten her."

"Thank you for informing me, now can you bring the Princesses here?"

"As you wish, You Grace." With that Lady Bella went to do Cersei's bidding, and her maids, reentered to finish preparing her for her banquet.

When her daughters entered with Joy Hill and Mya Stone, Cersei ran her gaze quickly over the two baseborn girls' attire; finding it satisfying, she turned to look at her daughters.

Argella wore a pale blue gown with wide bell sleeves from the elbow; red embroidery and pearls were at the hems. Her ebony black hair was twisted and coiled against her head and pinned in place with pearl clips.

Elenei's gown was pale green, with white lacing at the end of long, winglike sleeves. On her silver hair rested a golden diadem, with an emerald at its center that lied on the child forehead. Her hair was loose down her back; only her front bangs were braided and pinned to the back of her head.

They looked as how Princesses should, so Cersei was satisfied. But …

"Lady Lanna," Cersei calls, "the box."

Lanna complied and Cersei opened the ornamentally carved wooden jewelry box. She ordered two pendants from the Jeweler at Casterly Rock – someone her mother commissioned the pendant Cersei wore since she was a little girl herself.

"Argella, Elenei – these lockets I ordered for the two of you; they are unique; there are no two of their kind."

Cersei then opened the latch, and placed it around Argella's neck first; then she held up the oval locket up so that Argella could see a black engraving of a lion rampant on a red gold surface, complete with a long golden chain.

Elenei's pendant was engraved with a platinum lion rampant on a golden surface, also with a long golden chain.


 

 

***Catelyn Tully – 1***

Her rooms were always warm; her Lord husband insured that at least. After she gave birth to Sansa a month ago – her daughter was only two moons younger that Prince Joffrey – who knows she might be betrothed to a prince!

Her daughter Sansa could become the Queen of the realm.

Catelyn consulted with Maester Luwin – and he agreed to broach topic of betrothal between the King's son or daughter – Robb could marry a Princess – King Robert had two daughters, who are but a year younger than Robb.

Now only her lord husband had to mend fences with Robert Baratheon. But that had to be approached by the maester, because she was frightened to ask him.

Eddard frightened her last night; she asked him about the bastard's mother, wanting to know who she was. Catelyn heard from the servants' talks that her lord husband's bastard was born in Dorne, to Lady Ashara Dayne of the Starfall.

Lord Eddard commanded her with a hard, cold voice to never again ask him about Jon, that he is of his blood.

So Catelyn obeyed her Lord Husband – but her misgivings festered and so her resentment grew – especially because despite Lord Eddard's claims of his bastard being born after Robb, his trueborn son, Catelyn was not so certain of that- he looked older than Robb when she first beheld him in that Dornish wet-nurse's arms.

Now if the boy was truly younger than her sweet Robb, Cat would not feel such a threat to her family from the bastard. Highborn Bastard – he had no place in her household. It only took a slip of paper from the King, and the bastard could be legitimized.

Family. Duty. Honor. Her house words.

Jon Snow was NOT family. He wasn't HER duty nor was he an honor to her home.

 

***

 

Catelyn was among the women of the castle, supervising, sorting wool – it was shearing day, so wool was in abundance at Winterfell.

That was what people in the North wore – clothing made chiefly of hides and leather, bast, wool, flax, and hemp. Common women, Cat saw, wore long skirts, down to their ankles, in mostly grey or black colors. The long sleeves of the checked-pattern woolen shirts were gathered up at the wrists. Men wore narrow trousers and tunic-like shirts of linen, down to their knees or their mid-calves. The footwear consisted of primitive shoes woven of bast or made from raw leather.

She wore a thick wool woven overdress with velvet underdress and a cape with fur trimmed sleeves and hood.

All of the household were helping with the wool; men were shearing wool from the sheep, while the children of the servants were cleaning the wool, while the Winterfell Bastard was carding the wool.

Cat decided that was enough study for him and that he should help out the servants.

The woman of Winterfell would then spin yarn on high wheel – dyeing it over cooking fire and loom weaving it into fabric from which the women of the keep sewed up trousers, coats and dresses, knit caps, mittens and stockings.

If there would be enough woven cloth, Catelyn decided on starting to sew Sansa's maiden cloak, that she'd wear before her husband - hopefully Prince Joffrey – would drape his House cloak around her shoulders.

"Fields produced a lot of flax so there will also be allot of linen produced this year, My Lady," said Vayon Poole wife – Marei.

“Thank you, Marei," Cat said.

"Boy!" she called to her husband's son, who was walking around the piles of wool, paper and quill in hand. "What of cotton?" Catelyn asked; she needed cotton; at Riverrunn they had it imported from Dorne – in the North, Lord Manderly imports the bales of fabric from the Reach. "Do we need to send an order to Lord Manderly of the White Harbor?"

Looking at her husband's base born son hurt, because every day he looked more and more like her Lord Husband.

While Robb, sweet Robb, had a Tully look. Visiting Northern Lords often mistaken Jon for Robb, and Robb Stark was mistaken for a bastard.

Somehow that made it worse.

Jon's mother had been... Lord Eddard must have loved Lady Dayne fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away. It was the one thing she could never forgive him.

"No," the bastard answered, his finger going up and down through the list – at least the boy was useful, even if he bested Robb in sums and letters.

"No?" she said sharply. The boy looked down at her sharp tone.

"No, My Lady," he mumbled, that was better, Cat decided.

"Jon!" came a shout from Rodrik Cassel – and soon the man himself stepped into the working room they were using.

"My Lady," he nodded to her in greeting. "Lad, get yourself back to your studies without delay."

"Yes Ser."

"We are not finished with sorting wool, Ser Rodrik."

"Ned ordered it – so hurry up lad."

 

***

 

She decided to bathe together with Sansa, her four month old baby loved to bathe – like the little lady she was.

Cat watched as Sansa relaxed in the warm water, securely holding her in her arms. Sansa was still so small, Catelyn thought as she stroked Sansa's auburn curls. Her daughter loved bath time, unlike Robb, who yelled and waved his fists when it was time to bathe.

The Bastard never made a fuss, he was always clean.

With that thought Cat stood up, and exited from the tub on the wooden planks the bathing room itself was warm – and took linen towels and wrapped up little Sansa first and then she dried herself and put a linen shift on.

Dressed like that Catelyn she dried her baby and then wrapped the blanket around her small body. Sansa looked at her with her big sky blue eyes – a summer sky, Catelyn thought.

 

"The Mother gives the gift of life,

and watches over every wife.

Her gentle smile ends all strife,

and she loves her little children."

 

Chapter Text

*** Jaime Lannister -1***


 

 

Life in White Sword Tower while being in the Kingsguard off duty was simple and tediously boring, in Jaime's not so humble opinion.

They get up, do their duty as Kingsguard, and protected their Monarch. At least one of the Kingsguard had to be with the King at all times. The others were spread out amongst the King's close family – the Queen and their issue. At the moment, the issue was four year olds Princesses Argella and Elenei and two-year old Prince Joffrey.

The duty of the Whitecloaks was not nearly as glamorous as he imagined it to be as a youth, or what bards sing about in their songs. Real life often didn't make it into those songs sung so beautifully, making young men dream of becoming knights, winning honourable battles and young dames' regards, and causing little girls to dream of princes and knights in shining armor and romantic love.

Jaime usually stayed in his assigned chamber when he was off duty and when Cersei didn't need him. It's not like he had any hobbies. He didn't enjoy books and women like his dear little brother or King Robert Baratheon. Well, that meant he wasn't with any other women besides Cersei. His sweet beloved sister, his twin and his lover. Jaime was loyal to her and only her, no other woman could hold his love, and he could love no others as he loved Cersei.

His assigned chamber was, because of its small size, functional and practical and sparsely decorated. But then again as a soldier, Jaime didn't need much décor.

A place to sleep, a place for his battle armour and helmet he used on tourneys and war, the white armour and the golden armour he used as a Kingsguard, along with an ornate lion's helmet - A place, where in one corner sat a plain and sturdy wooden chest where he stored his spare white cloaks, a weaponry cupboard where his swords, daggers, and a lance of golden wood stayed, and a simple wooden chest where he put clothes, tunics, breeches, and boots, as well as cloaks, one of black velvet and one of crimson embroidered with a golden lion.

However, waking on this day, had been different than his usual start of the day - today when he opened his eyes, instead to a plain wooden ceiling over bed, he woke to see two pair of eyes blinking down at him.

One pair of emerald green framed with ringlets of black hair.

The other so dark blue that they were almost indigo under silvery tresses that curled at the ends and arched black eyebrows.

Both sets were sparkling with mischief as they chorused as one. "Good Morning, Uncle Sunshine!"

His two nieces found their way to the White Sword Tower. Jaime still didn't know how two three summers old Princesses managed to stole away from their nursery rooms all the way to the tower and how it was that nobody saw them do it.

So he did what any good uncle would do, he showed them around the Tower. Just as he was shown around years ago when he was just a green-boy of one and ten, he dreamed of living in this slender structure overlooking the bay. His Lord Father, at the time served as Hand of the King to King Aerys II Targaryen, so that made it possible for Jaime to see the inside of the tower. Cersei was spending her time mooning over the Dragon Prince, since Tywin Lannister told Jaime's twin sister that he would make sure she married Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.

He even went to see the Round Room – Ser Oswell Whent has shown him inside. The wide eyed youth that he was, Jaime was excited to see a circular room with whitewashed stone walls hung with white woolen tapestries embroidered with the standard of the Kingsguard – golden crown with seven white swords encircling a golden crown.

At the exact centre of the Round Room was a large weirwood carved, white table in the shape of the shield with seven chairs. Ser Oswell remarked that it wouldn't be bad for their behinds if the chairs had cushions. Now after some sitting he'd done over the years on that exact chair – Jaime agreed with Whent completely.

It was also the room where Jaime was induced into the Whitecloaks, when all seven of them were present – that was after King Aerys by rite induced him into his Kingsguard. His sworn brothers held their own ceremony; the Lord Commander, Ser Gerold Hightower, the White Bull himself, gave him his white cloak and shield in this very room.

"Looks uncomfortable." Jaime looked down at the silver head that studied the chairs. Princess Elenei inherited the Lannister high cheekbones, but he could see an echo of Queen Rhaella, not that Princess Argella didn't share the same characteristical eye slant and curve of her forehead and nose shape – on Elenei, however, the resemblance was more pronounced because of her hair coloring – if not for sweet Argella's black hair and that streak of black in sweet Elenei's – Jaime would have thought that his sweet sister had that much desired child of the Dragon Prince.

"It is sweet girl, it is," he answered his niece, his hand resting on top of that silver head.

Funny thought: he was more of a father figure to his two nieces than he was a father to Joffrey. Albeit Joffrey was his son, his flesh and blood. What a jape that was. He was more of a father to a daughter of a man that was married to his sweet Cersei than to his own flesh and blood.

"Needs a soft cushion," Elenei remarked; her nose wrinkled in pique.

"It does," Jaime agreed with that assessment.

"Maybe I should bring couple of them," Elenei continued, while Argella nodded, "and perhaps a vase with cut flowers to brighten the room," Argella said wisely. Elenei nodded at her elder sister words.

"Jaime did you … ahh here they are," came the voice of his uncle Gerion, his tall frame, crowned with copper-gold curly hair – he was the only son of Tytos Lannister, who somewhat inherited a hint of Jayne Marbrand's, his Lady Mother, coloring. House Marbrand was known for their copper hair coloring, just as House Targaryen were for silver, Baratheon for black of hair, and Lannister for their golden color, his tall frame, leaning on the door frame of the Round Room.

Gerion Lannister and his daughter Joy Hill arrived months ago. In eight months, Ācatl, 287 AC. Gerion planned to leave on an expedition to the ruins of Valyria in search of Brightroar, the Lannister ancestral Valyrian steel great-sword.

"Uncle Geri!" Jaime nodded, grinning at his favorite uncle, mostly because unlike Uncle Kevan, Gerion, like Aunt Lady Genna, who married Emmon Frey by Grandfather Tytos's arrangement, was never unfailingly obedient to Jaime's father.

"Hey there are the wayward little cubs," Gerion laughed merrily, and stepped into the room, ruffling black and silver heads in affection. "Are the princesses having fun with their Uncle Jem?"

Jaime smiled when both girls waved and chorused the greeting to his favorite uncle. "Uncle, I'd appreciate it if you would not call me Jem." Getting only his uncle to laugh in reply, Jaime shrugged well naturally.

Gerion was both Jaime's and Tyron's favorite uncle for a reason and he was immensely grateful that he and his daughter Joy Hill were in King's Landing. Joy was a lovely child and the same age as Princess Argella and Princess Elenei. In fact Cersei appointed Joy to be the Maid in Waiting to her daughters.

"You know what?" Gerion asked as he crouched by the two Princesses. "You two are getting your sworn shield today."

Jaime nearly sat down in surprise, sworn shield – knights, that will act as personal guards; when Cersei was young she only had handmaidens and companion maids from their Lord Father's bannermen daughters. But then, his nieces were princesses of the realm. Cersei was merely the daughter of Lord Paramount of the West.

"Oh, why?" Argella asked cutely, her dark jade eyes blinking quizzically. Argella was a very shy and timid girl; in contrast Elenei was a very gregarious and outspoken child. This was surprising, since Robert was very neglectful and often ignored his youngest daughter. Jaime thought that it would have been the other way around that the kingly Father's neglect – and some of the courtiers who had the minds of sheep and emulated the King - would have caused Elenei to be shy and timid. That did not mean that the youngest princess could not be demure, she was, but that was by choice and not by nature.

"Or somebody" Elenei smiled charmingly up at him and Gerion "could teach us archery and how to use a sword," Elenei proposed. Gerion started laughing, "Ohh little Princess, you think you could learn to wield a sword."

"Yes."

She sounded so certain of it.

Argella nodded "Elenei could," she stated.

"You could to you know," Elenei huffed in mock expiration. It was then that tipped off Jaime that the sisters had this conversation before among themselves.

"So did either of you shoot an arrow, or do you even know how a sword is used?"

Dark brows over indigo eyes arched upwards, and Elenei smiled. "In a nutshell, you stick them with the pointy ends."

At that, Jaime and his uncle burst out into laughter. By the Seven, Jaime decided then – he'll definitely make time to teach them how to shoot an arrow and how to wield a sword or a dagger.

"Well if the princess wishes," Gerion bowed, "but in the meantime, Ser Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard appointed two knights as sworn shields to both of you, Ser Richard Horpe for you Princess Elenei and Ser Harold Grandison for Princess Argella."

Jaime cast his mind to the two men, neither were Whitecloaks, but Harold was a squire to Ser Barristan – he was a young lad of one and ten summers.

Ser Richard Hope was a knight from House Horpe, a noble house in Stormlands and thus a sworn house to the Baratheons of the Storm's End. If Jaime remembered the rumors, correctly, Ser Richard was a squire to Ser Herbert heir to House Bolling and wanted to join the Kingsguard, eventually. Jaime knew that Cersei spoke against him. Jaime wondered if this was Cersei's idea or if Robert decided to make a jab at Jaime's sister.

"Shall we go meet my nieces' sworn shields then?" Jaime stated.

"Gerion nodded, "Yes they are waiting in the hall, that's why I rushed here to find you Jaime so you'd help search for the Princesses. The King and Lord Commander are there, and I saw Varys in the shadows; they are waiting in the Throne Hall."

 

***

 

When Jaime, Gerion, and the two Princesses arrived to the Throne Room, Robert was sitting on the Iron Chair; Cersei was on the smaller, padded wooden chair, seated at the base of the dais. The Kingsguard were fanned at the foot and the sites of that ugly chair on dais; Jaime went to join them. The King's dour brother Stannis Baratheon, along with his Florent wife beside him Lady Florent was as tall as her husband, and just as thin and dour as him, with big ears were standing and conversing with Lord Commander of the Whitecloaks. Two knights stood behind them, one with blazon and per chevron engrailed grey and bone, three death's head moths counterchanged on his leather tabard.

The other one Jaime knew was Barristan Selmy's former squire.

So Jaime watched the other unknown knight, Ser Richard Horpe. Ser Richard was lean and unremarkable in looks, dark-haired and hard-eyed. His face was marred by pockmarks and old scars.

"Ahh," Robert boomed, from the throne a chalice full of wine in his hand. Jaime noticed a cup bearer standing to the right with an amphora in his hands, waiting to pour more wine to the King's cup no doubt.

"Ser Harold Grandison, Ser Richard Horpe your charges have arrived. Come, come children meet your sworn shields." The King beckoned to the Princesses to come nearer.

Jaime watched the two Princesses step closer, watched as Robert smiled to Princess Argella, and gritted his teeth when Robert turned away from Princess Elenei – who wore a neutral cast – in fact she looked both bored and Jaime was sure that he saw a defiant glint to her eye. As he watched, he saw Elenei pivot on her heel and walk up to Ser Richard Horpe, who Jaime judged was a couple of moons older than Stannis Baratheon, and like Stannis, Ser Richard was lean, dark-haired, and hard-eyed.

"Hello," she chirped, "My name is Elenei Baratheon, and Father said you are to be my personal shield, Ser Horpe. I am pleased to make your acquaintance." She nodded, her hands clasped before her, and Jaime felt proud of his niece. Not for the first time he felt proud of either of his nieces.

However with younger princess, he felt more of a kinship, since the way King Robert acted with Princess Elenei was similar to how Jaime's own Lord Father acted towards Tyrion, his little brother. Although, while Robert was merely ignoring Elenei's existence, Tywin Lannister was openly cruel to Tyrion.

If Jaime knew what cruelty towards his little brother his Lord Father Tywin was capable of he'd never have agreed to lie to Tyrion about Tysha. He never dreamed that his father would go so far with his hatred for his youngest son, and … through that fate that poor innocent child suffered by his father's decree rang similarly of the presumed fate of Princess Elia Martell of Dorne, and her and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen's two children; three year old Princess Rhaenys and one year old Prince Aegon Targaryen.

He never imagined that they would die; he thought that his father would become Regent for Prince Aegon. If he did, he'd do anything to get Princess Elia and her children out of King's Landing. He'd go immediately to them after stabbing King Aerys and Rossart the pyromancer who was appointed as Hand after Lord Qarlton Chelsted was burned by the King.

He always thought Lord Chelsted was a craven and stupid follower of the throne – which was the reason Lord Chelsted poisoned King Aerys's mind against the Dragon Prince, inflaming the Mad king's paranoia - but in the end Lord Chelsted found his courage somewhere deep down, he did everything to turn the King's mind from burning King's Landing with wildfire. Chelsted reasoned, he jested, he threatened, and finally he begged. When that failed he took off his chain of office and flung it down on the floor and the whole throne room stilled and was silent. Jaime could not breathe - Aerys burnt Lord Chelsted alive for that – his screams as his flesh melted and burned still haunted Jaime, just as much as the deaths of lord Stark and his eldest son did, but not as much as Queen Rhaella Targaryen's cries through the oaken door he could hear while guarding as Aerys raped his wife. Her cries were worse than Lord Chelsted's screams as he was burned alive.

The next day the Mad King hung the chain of office about the neck of Rossart, his favorite pyromancer and made him Hand of the King.

Still seeing three mutilated, beyond recognition, bodies wrapped in Lannister red cloaks that his Lord Father presented to Robert as Princess Elia and her children drowned away, any shred of love and admiration for Tywin evaporated. Only fear and apprehension toward his father remained.

Later Jaime overheard Robert and Tywin discussing the bodies that both Varys and Pycelle were confirmed being the Dragon Prince Lady Wife and children. Tywin wanted to burn the remains and send the ashes to Dorne. Robert, the bloodthirsty savage that he was, wanted to send the bodies in the caskets as they were.


 

 

***King Robert -1***

 

He was King, by the Seven, Robert grumbled in his mind as he stormed down the halls, Lord Commander Ser Barristan Selmy at his heels, and two other Whitecloaks close behind. He should be out hunting and not – whatever his Small Council needed him for. They could function and do real things just fine without him.

But Jon sent a messenger that caught up to him just before he left to the hunt. His shrew of a wife again was very sparing with her affection on this night. Then again he was drunk again, and his cattish Lannister wife hated that.

However, seeing his youngest daughter's hair reminded him yet again of those bloody Targaryens and it stroked his fury at those dragonspawn anew – so that was a good reason as any to drink – and he liked to drink – perhaps he would visit Chataya's house in Street of Silk later in the day as well. It was a new establishment; but Robert liked it already, he liked the owner too; Chataya - handsome, tall, black skinned with sandalwood eyes from the Summer Isles's women, and very gifted with her hands and mouth – normally Chataya didn't entertain clients BUT for the King she made an exception. That and as she told him on one occasion:

"The gods made our bodies as well as our souls, is it not so? They gave us voices, so we might worship them with song. They gave us hands, so we might build them temples. And they gave us desire, so we might mate and worship them in that way. My people hold that there is no shame to be found in the pillow house. In the Summer Isles, those who are skilled at giving pleasure are greatly esteemed. Many highborn youths and maidens serve for a few years after their flowerings, to honor the gods." Chataya's smooth with her accented voice resonated in his mind; he liked those words, it made Robert want to go and become a Sellsword in the Summer Isles.

By the Seven, he needed a drink and a woman or better yet a drink and a woman at the same time. Lots of cups and lots of women and being King of the Seven Kingdoms, he would have both and more.

But Jon Arryn was his Hand, and the man raised him, along with Ned, and he said this was important.

Robert trusted Jon Arryn that was why he named Jon his Hand of the King – instead of Tywin Lannister like Cersei wanted. – Robert really didn't like Lannisters, they were everywhere – serving as pages, as handmaidens – he could not walk the halls of the Red Keep without stumbling into a golden haired, green eyed person.

If only Lyanna Stark was alive, and his wife, he thought in one breath and cursed Rhaegar anew.

He still killed Rhaegar almost every night in his dreams, when he dreamed of The Battle of the Trident. Ahh and how vivid those dreams were; he remembered every detail, every feeling, and he savored it with savage pleasure.

He vaguely recalled that the Battle itself was a narrow victory as a whole, but Robert didn't care about it, oh no. What Robert wanted was to fight that Dragon Prince. Robert was still filled with fury from the defeat that Lord of Horn Hill, Randyll Tarly, gave Roberts's army at the Battle of Ashford(;) the victory at Battle of the Bells later appeased him only a little.

Robert had eyes set only on Rhaegar Targaryen - the Fighting Dragon Prince - that was mostly on Robert's mind when he was recuperating at Stony Sept and enjoying his down time amiably – he had fond memories of his time in The Peach - an inn and brothel – two of his favorite things. That was a life Robert thought - wine and women.

Robert had meet Jon and Ned and they combined their armies and headed toward Crownlands, meeting the Targaryen forces at the crossing of the Trident in battle. When Robert saw Rhaegar in his night-black plate armor, with red three headed dragon wrought with rubies and with a helmet decorated with gold, orange, and red silken streamers resembling flame flying behind him, Robert shouted in glee and gave his horse a kick with his spurs.

It had made him all that more angry and furious, when Rhaegar unhorsed HIM, Robert, with his lance amidst the battle – that was something that still made him seethe in fury, that a man who had spent more time with playing music on his harp, who hadn't seen real battle until now and taking long rides to Seven knows where, could unhorse a warrior of Robert's caliber and then Rhaegar dismounted, sent his black stallion war horse away and meet him in mêlée combat that was long but made Robert feel alive – it was a cursedly long battle, and not easily won in the crossing of swords and axe with that trice cursed dragonspawn – Rhaegar, he was quick and precise and newer at the place where Robert had swung his battle hammer.

Finally, after their battle moved into the Trident waters, Rhaegar managed to land a blow that was nearly Robert's undoing, but the Gods smiled down on Robert that day, for as Rhaegar swung his broadsword he lost his footing on the slippery rocks – that was enough for Robert and he swung his war hammer and caved in the dragon-spawn's chest with his hammer. The blow sent rubies from that black armored chest flying and falling into the waters of the Trident. Robert had heard that people were still looking for those red precious stones.

The Loyalist army broke ranks when Rhaegar lost, but wounded and heavily bleeding, the Stag Lord's victory over the dying Dragon Prince turned to ashes and salt with the whispered name on the dying dragon's lips. 'Lyanna.'

Lyanna, the wolf maid that was meant for him, a woman that was so sweet and who would bind the Baratheon house to Ned – his brother in all but blood – was lost to him forever. Lyanna, who wrote to her brother in the Eyrie when Ned and he were boys fostered together by Jon Arryn. He got to know the sweet maiden, and Ned and he were delighted when Ned's father Rickard Stark agreed to the betrothal.

When he first saw Lyanna, Gods, she was much prettier than Ned, and sweet when talking to him. Her eyes were a glittery silvery grey – like the sky of the North. He celebrated his luck that the maiden was as sweet to him as she was sweet toward Ned with, what was that woman’s name; she worked at the stables in the Winterfell. He could not wait to be wedded and bedded.

He never had Lyanna – Rhaegar won – he died but Rhaegar still won. It was a bitter thought.

Robert won the Iron Throne; he married a Lannister – Cersei with her fair skin, a slender, graceful figure, and with that silky curled hair the color of beaten gold with large flashing cat-green eyes. She wasn't bad to bed either. But still, he longed for a woman that he never had.

Lyanna Stark -Gods damn it. That thought plagued him – Rhaegar had Lyanna, they were together in death.

"Ahh, your Grace," Jon said as Robert marched through the opened door, noting that his Small Council was gathered in full.

Jon Arryn, his Hand of the King, had graying hair and sunken eyes that betrayed how tired the man was. For a moment Robert felt a pang of guilt, as he mostly let Jon handle the appeals in the Throne Room alone, his old frame sitting on that uncomfortable Iron Chair.

Grand Maester Pycelle, who served the Mad King before, but Robert decided to pardon the old man; besides as a maester, Pycelle was working for the realm, and for the King – him. So the old man had his uses.

Petyr Baelish, the new Master of coin, appointed to that position by Jon himself. Now that one was a short fellow, with grey green eyes – Robert wondered if there was a Lannister somewhere in the Baelish family - deeply set into his sharp featured face – that reminded Robert of a bird of prey - pointed chin and dark hair.

His grandfather Lord Mycheall of House Estermont accepted appointment of Master of Laws until Renly was ready to take on that position. Robert's Lord Grandfather did say that he was too old to play politics for long. He said that he only accepted to spend time with his great-grandchildren.

The Master of Ships' title belonged to his middle brother Stannis, who was usually on Dragonstone. That was Jon's idea, Stannis holding Dragonstone and being its liege lord, even if Stannis wasn't his heir apparent anymore with Joffrey's birth, and thank the Seven that his hair was blonde and not silver.

Jon set it up so that Renly was betrothed to Margaery Tyrell from Highgarden in the Reach.

Come to think of it, Jon Arryn made those marriage alliances between the Riverlands and North with Ned marrying the Tully; Jon himself wed the other Tully sister, Lysa – when they rebelled – so that some of the Riverlands' lords joined the rebellion.

After the war, when Robert was crowned king of the seven kingdoms – Jon Arryn nagged Robert to wed Tywin's daughter Cersei, which brought the Westerlands into the fold– that was one of the reasons why this man was his Hand and guiding the realm. Robert still didn't know what Jon promised Prince Doran Martell – nor did he particularly care for it. Dorne was so removed that it was redundant to appease them in anything. They certainly didn't contribute to the crown.

Varys the Spider, Master of Whispers. He was the Mad King's Master of Whispers that came from Pentos. The man was round –all around – round body, round face - completely bald – with powdered face and perfumed; the smell of some kind of rose always waffled behind him and he pranced around in his outrageously colored robes. Robert didn't like the Spider much but the man was useful with his spies. Besides he didn't know of any lord that could hold the title, so when the eunuch sweared the fealty, Robert allowed him to stay in the Small Council.

Barristan Selmy, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard – now that was a worrier, Robert thought. Pardoning him and allowing him to join Robert's Kingsguard was the best out of all the ideas.

Still …Robert really wanted Ned with him, like how he had him in the olden days, when they were both fostered, but Ned was still pissed at him because of those dragonspawn. Even if they sort of bonded over Lyanna passing, Ned was still frosty toward him. Good, old honourable Ned, he really should have changed his house words into 'Wintry high honor.' Robert chuckled at the thought, drawing looks from his small council.

Ignoring their questioning looks Robert sat at the head of the table, all other members of his Small Council sat in their chairs by the table as well.

"An urgent matter from Dorne has arisen," Jon continued, souring Robert's mood. Robert scoffed; of course it was that, Doran Martell was always bleating about something. Mostly demanding punishment of the Lannister bannerman; now normally Robert wouldn't mind hoodwinking Tywin – the old lion was entirely too smug in buying the Crown with his daughter and gold – but the bannermen in question should be rewarded for ridding the world of Targaryens.

"What do the Snakes want now? You did say, Jon, that you made pacifying gestures toward Dorne." Robert turned to Jon Arryn.

Jon nodded. "Yes, the bones of all the Martells that died in the war have been shipped to Dorne, including the bones of Princess Rhaenys and Prince Aegon Targaryen along with their Lady Mother."

Dragon-spawn, even after the demise of Rhaegar, he is mocking me, Robert thought. From his daughter's seven damned hair color to the pestering of Dornish. At least the Reach behaved.

***

After a long tedious discussion in the Small Council chamber - Robert was drinking in his solar, the fine Arbor Gold wine. It was a good vintage, old too. He was leaning on the padded chair, and enjoying a good wine.

One of his favorite pastimes to date, drinking, but unfortunately he was also dealing with the yapping of Pycelle, Jon, and his brother Stannis.

"And Dorne relations are still cold with the Crown. Even with the taxing concession that we allowed during our latest meeting," Pycelle said; the old maester should just go back to the Citadel, before he falls over because he has fallen asleep.

"They demand justice," Stannis gritted his teeth; his brother was always braying for Robert to put Ser Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch on a ship bound for Dorne so that the justice would be served, and switch the Kingslayers' white cloak for black. Robert was in opinion that justice was served and the matter on that closed.

"Still," Jon Arryn was saying, "it would be better if the eldest Princess wed Willas Tyrell, to tie the Reach to the crown, and Princess Elenei to Prince Doran's brother Prince Oberyn or better Prince Quentyn Nymeros Martell, and Joffrey either to Tyrell or ..."

"Ned has a girl, and a boy Robb," Robert said; it didn't sit well with him to ship his youngest daughter to Dorne OR to the Tyrell House. They were too loyal to the dragon-spawn. If he had to marry her off … it better be further away from any of the remaining dragon-spawn loyalists.

Jon shook his head. "Eddard needs to marry his heir to a Northern lady, since his Lady Wife is from the South."

Robert completely forgot that, oh well. "He has another boy, your namesake," he said next, and then took another generous gulp of wine.

"Jon Snow, your grace?" came the question from the old maester.

"That's the boy, yes. I'll legitimize him, and hmmm … Harrenhal, I'll make him Lord; it is about time that holding gets into proper hands, since the last of the Whent's is Lady Shella and she is an old woman without a son to inherit."

Besides House Whent was a dragon loving house –perhaps the cool northern breeze could freeze them out.

Pycelle gave a little cough. "But he is merely a base born, Your Grace, and may I remind you of Blacfyre rebellion, and besides Harrenhal and the keep lands belong to House Whent."

"Bahh," Robert waves his hand, "it's still barely a ruin. Whent can go to his other keep – yes I know House Whent has it. Harrenhal will go to Ned's boy. No arguments, the boy may be a bastard but he's Ned's son. Pycelle perhaps, since you are so insistent that the bastard cannot do good …"

Robert trailed off with a smile, when a thought came to him; yes that was a perfect solution.

"Which is two faced when you say that since maesters are bastards." Robert gave a balusters' laugh at the old maester's fumbling.

"But let's give young Jon a princess for wife. Joffrey will marry Sansa Stark, and Elenei will wed Ned Stark's son."


 

 

***Badr- 2***

 

Badr was looking out at the sea; he had just returned to the shore of the Tison village, after a whole morning of fishing. Today's weather was perfect, and he caught a lot of fish but … he grabbed his growling stomach.

"I'm starving, because I forgot my lunch…ugh," he said out loud; maybe if he lit a fire, he could roast some fish … though he was so hungry he could have ate it raw.

"Daddyyyyyy!"

That was Sin's voice; Badr turned and yes, there was his five year old son, running very fast and carrying a cloth pack in his hand that was about half his size.

"You forgot your lunch!!!!" Sinbad was yelling as he ran – right into Badr's legs.

"Thanks, Sin," Badr said, as he took and spread out the food Esra prepared, meat skewers, green peppers, hard boiled eggs, and flatbread.

"You did really great bringing this; here take some Sinbad, it is enough for both of us. I was starting to think I'd have to eat all the fish I already caught."

Badr saw Sinbad glace at the net and the fish that he already caught.

"Really, daddy," Sinbad was saying cheeks puffed with the food he was munching on, "daddy is always spacing out, if it wasn't for me what would you do?"

Badr chuckled, "Sorry."

"Daddy." Sin put the bread he was about to bite down. "Are you still going to catch fish today?"

"Yep," Badr answered nodding, "since I'll be selling these at the market in Preside - port town down the coast, later. I thought I'd catch some more … so I'm going."

"Are you going out on the boat?!" Sinbad asked, excited, and Badr had a feeling where this was going.

"Daddy," his son said very seriously, but he could not calm the excitement shining in his eyes, "Let me go on the boat today!"

He knew it. He knew Sinbad would ask this, mostly because he was too big to sneak on unnoticed now. But his son was still talking.

"I'm five years old now! I'm not a kid anymore! I can help daddy out. I'll be a great sailor too; I'll absolutely show you I can be of use! So let me ride with you, daddy!"

Aww, Badr thought, Sinbad was so cute and so tiny for his age… so Badr reached toward his son.

"Yeah," he said smiling, and then ruffled Sinbad's purple hair, "No way."

Now that was a funny sight… Sinbad's face went as red as a ripe tomato, clashing with his hair.

"You are so stingy, daddy!" The five year old started to wave his little fists around. "Why can't I go?!"

"You'll be in the way, how can I let a kid ride with me?"

"I'm not a little kid. I'm already five!!!"

"That's what a world calls a kid."

"Why! You're stupid daddy … I just ...I just … I just want to help my daddy who has only one leg."

Aww that was still so cute – Badr smiled, "I see, so you've been worrying about me huh," he said looking softly down at his son.

He patted his leg, right above where it was severed. "This leg is result of my own actions; it is no one's fault that I wasn't fast enough to dodge or that I didn't see that blow coming. For me it acts as a reminder that I am still alive."

That, and the reminder of the men who lost their futures on that battlefield, "So you don't have to worry about this, okay, besides when the time comes I will really put you to work." And training, but not just seafaring, oh no, he'll teach Sinbad everything he, himself learned. "When you get a little older and bigger, I'll take you with me as much as you want!"

Sinbad's expression at his words eminently brightened. "Okay Daddy!"

Crisis averted, Badr thought. "And that is why," he continued, "Why little kids should be little kids while they can be, got it?"

"Yep daddy." Sin nodded, and that long, thin strand of hair, which stuck unruly up near the top of his head, bounced up and down.

"Hey you!" a gravely voice called behind them. Badr turned around to see seven people standing there – two grey haired older women, one little boy, three men in their thirties and a young women, all of them looking worn and gaunt - he knew these people. They were Tison villagers – who had given everything to the war – their positions, they didn't think that they might need them themselves for everyday living; they were too drunk by the idea of war.

"Don't tell me … you wouldn't be fishing here, would you?"

And their shortsightedness and desire for riches that pervious won war brought was making them unreasonable and hateful.

"Oh are you guys from the village?" Badr asked with a slight smile, yeah he just knew this wouldn't go well – with a discreet push and a bit of Magoi, he hid his catch of freshly caught fish, because it appeared that he wouldn't be selling them- and so Esra would have to smoke them.

Badr would probably have to make another boat – "What a coincidence," he continued without missing the beat, careful to keep his voice calm and even …

"All you care about is fish!" one of the villagers yelled in desperate anger – Badr disagreed with that particular assessment – just because everybody lost their minds and then blamed anybody that thought about providing for his family in the future – to make themselves feel better.

"Hmp, disgraceful …" muttered a young woman – huh, Badr took a closer look, yep that was the one that was hanging on to him when those soldiers brought back gold. My, my how quickly the lack of gold raining into their hands for 'free' changed their minds.

"You have some nerve – you expatriate!" old woman said, no, that was actually an older man dressed as a woman to avoid enlistment – what a hypocrite.

"Is there something wrong with fishing here?" he asked an easy smile still in place.

After that first skirmish with Reim was won – Partevia expanded its borders and started to call itself an Empire instead of a Kingdom. But Reim didn't take the loss of their protectorates lying down and started to take them seriously – the difference in resources became more and more apparent as the war dragged on.

As a result Partevia soon fell into an economic pit of despair – elevated taxes. The people's property, food supplies, nation's manpower was all taken away with the promise of a better life and riches when the war was won.

Fools – what good will winning do if villages like Tison are slowly dying. He saw the blow coming – but avoiding that would make people even angrier and they might harm Sin- and that would mean for Badr a capital offence and broken bones for all of the attackers. He'd rather not take away what little ability they have to support their families.

Besides – Magoi Manipulation was awesome for preventing crippling damage – pity that it didn't prevent pain … and oh they were talking.

"In effort to help the war everyone gave up their fishing boats, yet you kept yours…" Badr nearly pointed out that he was supplying the villages with his catch, and he built this boat after the soldiers took the other boats- but pointing out their own hypocrisy AND laziness that they could do the same - would make them angrier.

"Don't give me that 'because you are a retired veteran bullshit!" yelled one of the villagers – who obviously had hearing hallucinations, because Badr hadn't said a word since asking if it was wrong for him to fish here. They were obviously seeking a fight- well he wouldn't give them what they wanted unless they went for his son – then he wouldn't give them no quarter.

Still he could not help himself, he burst into loud laughter. Badr knew that would piss them off, again. But he needed to wrap this thing up and go home; it would be dark in a while.

"What are you laughing about!?" He was right, that pissed them off – well this would really piss them off, but what the hell – they were hyped up anyway – it would take a miracle for the point that 'War is not a good thing for anybody' to hit them in the face like a smelly week old fish.

"Unfortunately I have absolutely no interest in what's happening in this country," that was not strictly speaking true – he just didn't care about war - "Will tomorrow be a clear day? Do I want wine with dinner?" He grinned at their standard wide eyed expressions. "I honestly don't think of much else?" Again half truth; would this be enough for dinner tomorrow? Would we have a good crop this year?

"It is unfortunate for war-addicts like you – I pity you."

"STOP MESSING AROUND WITH USSSS!"

 

***

 

"Daddy, wake up… daddy; are you all right, daddy..."

Oohh owww, really he needed to figure out how to manipulate Magoi for NOT hurting so much when letting wakened villagers use him as a punch bag – ouch.

"I'm all right Sin – oww, they sure put up some theatrics to try to do me in, you okay?" he muttered, looking around to assess the damage – Badr had a feeling that Sinbad would not understand how could he? He was merely a three year old boy.

"Yes, daddy."

"Uhuh, your mother's lunch and blanket got ruined; she is going to be mad. I wonder if the bread is still edible – perhaps if I remove the sand – yes it is, dry sand just falls of, hey Sin…"

"Why …" his son started. Badr fought the urge to sigh loudly, yes, he expected this. "Why didn't you fight, daddy; you are retired soldier aren't you? If you got serious you could take them all out in one go. Why didn't you do anything?"

Half truth – "There is no way I could win with just one leg against an entire village."

"Being called such mean things," Sinbad continued, openly crying now. "Why didn't you say anything back? You just stood there and laughed. That was uncool, daddy."

Then Sin turned around and fled. "You are an idiot, daddy!"

"Oh dear," Badr muttered. Then his gaze rested on his poor ship – a ship that he wouldn't be fishing in for a while.

 

***

 

Badr was sitting during their late dinner – fish soup with vegetables and bread buns. He could see that the little tyke was still fuming, and eating, with angrily puffed cheeks were funnily adorable, in Badr's opinion.

Esra was giving their son funny sideways look. "What's wrong Sin?"

"Nothing." With his cheeks puffed, Sin turned away, making Badr laugh.

"Ohh still mad at me huh, Sin?"

"I'm not mad at all!" Sinbad yelled, getting flushed with irritation at Badr's teasing tone, he gave Esra his plate with an "I'm done!" But Badr wasn't done with the fuming five year old. "Oh Sin, there is not much water left in the jug, could you go to the well and fill it up? It is a simple task that even a kid like you could do right?"

Sinbad stomped to the mentioned jug, and lifted it up, then stomped toward the door. "I'm not a little kid! Unlike daddy, I'm a proper man! Collecting water from the well is a piece of cake!" and with a slam of the doors behind him, the grouchy son of his left in a huff.

"Oh my," Esra breathed, "darling, you should not tease him like that."

Badr was laughing so hard that he had tears leaking from the corners of his eyes, "its fine," he said to her, while wiping the tears of laughter away. "He can take a little teasing now and then."

Which, judging by Esra's angry expression was the wrong thing to say, "Aren't you the reason he acts like that?" she said, the angry tone in her voice evident.

"Are you really fine with the way of things? It is clear that you are being treated as an expatriate," not that he ever pulled that card; "Sinbad is already five years old. Do you think it's easy for him to see his father belittled?"

If things progress like this, they would move away– there was space for two adults and a child on that boat – when it would be fixed of course.

"Let them think what they want about me," Badr started.

It’s not just about you; please think about our situation!" Esra interrupted. "Until now we were able to make a living with fishing. But what about next year? Or five years from now …? We haven't been able to put away any money, so how will we be able to keep on living?"

Her hands clenched on the fabric of her skirt. "To see you being looked down upon, being called expatriate, I can't take it anymore …"

"I get it, Esra, what would you have me do?" Badr asked.

Esra smiling, "Ahh, let's start with helping the war effort, even if we don't agree with the war – but that would stop us from being branded as expatriates, perhaps offering our boat to the military – I can help you build a new one later and …"

That would work … but "I'm sorry, Esra, but that is impossible."

"Why!?" Esra exclaimed, and grabbed at his robe lapels, fisting the white fabric. "Do you want the villagers to keep calling you expatriate?"

"No that's not …you see, the ship is broken and so I cannot give it away," Badr explained to his shell shocked wife.

"Huh, the ship is broken … how?"

"How is it broken? Well, while I was passed out, a couple of villages went and broke it …sorry," Badr sheepishly explained. "Ah but let's keep that as a secret, I mean, we really don't have a choice. More importantly, I've got to do something about fishing tomorrow." He looked at Esra to see that her eyes occupied half of her face – and the pallor of her normally olive skin.

"Hey Esra are you listening …" no reply, just staring with those big eyes of hers.

"Gghhhhhhhuhhhh," came from her mouth as she went down like a ragdoll; Badr caught her before she could hit the mat. "Oi Esra, hey, hey, don't worry I will fix that boat. Hey get a hold of yourself."

"I'm back, what's wrong with mom?" his son's voice from behind startled Badr for a bit.

"Welcome back Sin - She decided to take a small nap," he answered as he lowered Esra to the mat and turned to his son, only to notice that he was unusually subdued.

"You really became quite a young man," Badr said as he watched Sinbad take the jug full of fresh well water, "being able to do that alone, you didn't fall in did you? How was it? Sin?" he asked to the back of his little son.

"Daddy," Sinbad muttered, watching the water in the jug as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. "There is something I'd like to show you."

Now that was curious, Badr thought and stood up. "Show me then, Sin. Lead the way."

"Yes, daddy."

What Sinbad showed him at the well was surprising – a large and tall bear like man, with short yellow hair, a dark green hair band, thick yellow eyebrows, and a scar around his square face which crossed his wide nose. What concerned Badr were the man's injuries – which were extensive and by appearance still bleeding. That he was of Reim nationality – the yellow hair was pretty damning evidence – was obvious, but he could just be an innocent merchant or a traveler set off by bandits or attacked by war-high strung villagers.

"Okay let's move him to the house," Badr said as he crouched near the unconscious man and hoisted him up, supporting the man's weight fully. "Again Sin, lead the way … and then run ahead to prepare a cot for this man, alright?"

"Yes, daddy." Sinbad nodded enthusiastically and sped off towards their house. Badr hoped that Esra was feeling a bit better – then again seeing a citizen of Reim would probably knock her out again. Or she would knock him out with a punch.

Nudging the door to their stone house open, Badr entered, carefully maneuvering the man through the door frame and deep into their home.

"Sin is your mother up yet."

"No, daddy, she is still asleep, do I bring a spare blanket and cushion?"

"Yes, and put it down on the palate in your corner – you'll be sleeping with Esra and me."

"Alright, daddy, I'll do it."

 

***

 

Next day, the first thing Badr did was check on their new guest; soon he was joined with his son, who went to look very closely, so closely that his small nose nearly touched the man's face. Esra was frowning, but Badr did not miss the flash of fear in her amber brown eyes when she first caught a glance of their guest.

"It'll be all right, Esra, nobody saw us," Badr attempted to reassure her.

But Esra just watched the man, "I'm against this," she whispered fearfully, and really he understood her fear. The man could be innocent, but he could also be Reim spy. "We have to hurry and get this person out of here."

"Esra, don't say such things before Sin," he said, while figuring out if he could have hidden the man in a cave nearby.

"Mom, let's change the bandages."

Esra was startled by the sudden request from Sinbad. "Y-yeah," she muttered and turned to fetch bandages and honey infused with healing herbs for disinfection of the wounds.

"Ahh-" the sudden exclamation from their son drew both his and Esra's gaze to the boy, only to see that the stranger was awake.

"Mister, you are finally awake," Sin said with a wide smile as he sat by the yellow haired man, who sat up.

"Huh," the man said, as he looked around blinking, and then he ran the palm of his hand across his bandaged torso. "I must thank you for your help."

Badr shook his head, "This boy found you passed out by the well." He patted Sinbad on the head. "Because you had such awful wound ...if he'd found you any later, you'd have been beyond saving. So if you have to thank somebody it is this boy."

Badr watched the man's eyes –blue as expected – zeroed in on Sinbad; the man kneeled before Sinbad and took his little hands into his big ones.

"Thank you, little boy, I owe you my life," he said – sniffled really and Badr could see that those blue eyes became misty.

Sinbad was looking a bit cross eyed, and then he grinned. "Mister, you may be a big guy, but you sure are a softy, huh?"

The man rubbed his face free of tears and smiled at all three of them. "My name is Darius, I'm a traveling merchant." Then he bowed. "You saved my life, and I am truly grateful."

"My ship," the man, Darius, started to explain his, supposed, misfortune, "was wrecked and when I came to, here I was. It seems all my cargo washed away …"

Now that was a misfortune, if it was that, Badr thought, Darius could have been a legitimate merchant as he said or soldier of Reim that decided to escape the fighting and death … something Badr was not really torn about – some people just weren't cut out for the soldier life.

"I don't know what I should thank you with," Darius finished, well Badr thought – he can only hope that this merchant from Reim is actually a merchant. But the man expected some sort of reply…

What a disaster," Badr stated the obvious, "we'd love to help as much as possible," he put an emphasis on the world possible. Because really, besides plain food, medical help, and a bed to sleep in, and relative safety from villagers - they really didn't have much to offer.

"Darling …" Esra hissed, while Darius was talking she seated herself behind him, and now she was leaning closer. "I don't think we should get anymore involved."

"But it's not nice to leave somebody in need. Right?" he whispered back; for a moment Esra seemed to consider something. Badr wondered if she had some intuition about their guest; he would ask her when they have more privacy.

"That's not wha…"

At the sound of flesh hitting flesh, they both turned to Darius, only to see that Sinbad was standing at the base of Darius's neck, nearly standing on his head, with one of his little hands slapping the side of Darius's head. With a very serious expression on his face Sinbad delivered another slap – somehow, Badr thought, this scene appeared very comical to him. His little son looked to be on the verge of discovering something momentously life changing, like…

"This is serious, Mister," Sinbad said very seriously, with a somber expression on his round face, "I've never seen this before. Why is Mister's head yellow?"

Momentously life changing as the yellow color of his hair – Badr bit back a chuckle. His wife would surely scold him if she'd heard; luckily for him she was too busy being mortified by what their son was doing.

"Sinbad!" Esra finally freaked out. "What are you doing to Darius? Come down!" She started to make rapid and fast gestures for Sinbad to climb down from Darius – who started to laugh and then helped Sin climb down.

"It's all right," Darius said. "Sonny," he addressed Sinbad whom he put before him. "Have you been outside the village?"

Sinbad shook his head so hard that it became a blur…"No, going outside is strictly for grownups. Because there are scary monsters that eat children, daddy read it in a book."

And then Esra wondered why he wound up teasing his son; it’s so amusing, Badr thought as he watched their guest laugh with amusement of his own.

"There are barely any monsters," Darius explained with a slight smile, "I'm from somewhere even further than your village, from another country entirely."

Sinbad's golden eyes however were shining in excitement when Darius explained further. Badr thought that that story only fired up his boy's desire to explore. Badr only hoped that Sin would have that opportunity to travel the world and have some adventure.

"Outside in the world there are all kinds of people, who have different hair colors and different cultures. The differences do not exist only in people's appearances and customs, but also, there are animals and plants you have never seen before, fruits and food you have never tasted; the world is filled with things yet to be discovered."

Then Darius saw the wide eyes of Sinbad. "Was that too complicated?" Darius asked, Badr nearly snorted with loud laughter right then and there, if anything Darius hadn't told him enough.

"No!" Sin immediately denied it, like Badr knew he would. "It was very interesting, you told me lots of things, and I haven't been excited like this in a long time!"

Oh Badr could have recalled the pestering for stories, soon he'll have to teach his son to read, first common then Torran.

"Hey Mister tell me more!" Now that demand from his son was very expected. What was not was Darius's shock at that. But then again perhaps Darius wasn't used to small children.

"But …I" the man actually stuttered.

At this point Badr decided to speak. "It's all right." Darius's wide blue eyes looked up at his voice. "Tell the boy your story; I don't mind if you are foreigner, you can stay until you heal." But not a moment longer, it was not safe, even if he was a traveling merchant. "However, we live on hand to mouth here, so don't expect much." Then he sent the man a sharp stare that made the man lean back – good, he still got it – "One thing I want in return is for you to NOT cause any trouble. Can you promise me?"

The yellow headed man bowed, now that was a bit annoying, Badr could not see Darius's eyes, so he had no idea if the next words out of Darius's mouth.

"Y-yes," Darius stuttered his answer.

"Welcome then," Badr said with a slight smile as he watched Sinbad pester Darius for more stories.

"Darling I'm against this," Esra whispered into his ear, "What would the villagers do if they find out that we have somebody suspicious. To make matters worse we are already being discriminated as expatriates, I can't imagine if something happens..."

Badr sighed; really he understood Esra concern… "So would you have left him there to die last night?" he asked and watched as Esra's eyes widened in shock.

"I would never…" she started to say.

"Then it's fine." Badr smiled soothingly at her. "If someone is in trouble, help him. If someone is wounded, treat him. We are only doing the natural thing humans should do. And there is no wrong in that. Anyway let's just wait and see, okay?"

"Okay."

 

***

 

Darius was getting stronger – in the seven days that passed, every day he told Sinbad stories of faraway places.

"You'll be leaving us soon yes?" Badr asked one evening, when Sinbad was already snoring and tossing around on his cot.

"Yes, I'm almost healed," Darius answered, folding his spare clothing into a satchel made from fabric. "I was thinking of departing two days after tomorrow."

"Sorry for not letting you outside, but with the hostilities between Reim and Partevia – the villagers might have jumped on you like as a locus on greenery," Badr said. "So take care to leave before most people wake … or under the cover of nightfall."

 

***

 

The next day Badr left very early to check on traps, since his boat still was not repaired or rather it needed to seep in, so that any holes were taken care of. Soon, a day at most, and he would be able to go out to the sea, and fish again; he would make sure to catch a lot of fish, before turning the boat over to the military; he would also have to drag in some timber so that the new boat could be constructed.

 

***

 

Three days later, Badr was returning from Contastia, a port city, where he ended up selling his latest catch of fish; he also managed to find oysters that had grown pearls attached to rocks where he laid down traps for crabs and was able to sell it all.

As well as giving the boat to the military, the lieutenant in charge of the barracks was surprised, but he took it all the same. In fact the lieutenant was so kind to let him ride in the cart to the harbor, where he would take a boat back to Tison.

"Lieutenant, do you think we will find a spy?" one of the soldiers, who was standing around before departure, asked.

"We are sending all soldiers around to the settlements …" the lieutenant replied to the soldier's question.

"Excuse me, lieutenant," Badr interrupted. "I have a question, if you'd be so kind."

"Naturally Sir, I'm always glad to answer questions from our old veterans."

"I'm not that much older than you."

"Forgive me I…"

"Ha-ha, don't worry about it lieutenant, you didn't offended me. What I wanted to ask is, was there any merchant ship that didn't make it –"

"Not that I am aware of, why?"

"There is traveling merchant in my home that claims that his ship capsized," Badr started to explain, "I had no reason to doubt the man's claim, but …"

"But you heard about the spy?"

"Yes, it might be nothing and the man is who he says he is…"

"Very well I'll check if any merchant ship disappeared; when did this man appear –"

After a number of questions asked by the Partevian lieutenant, Badr headed toward home.

 

***

 

The village was mostly abandoned when he arrived; accompanied by an apprentice of the stable master stationed in the barracks, that Lieutenant insisted to come with, along with carrier pigeons. Lieutenant couldn't discover any information by the time Badr went home, so Badr agreed in taking the young boy with his birds, just in case Darius was a spy and not a merchant.

No not abandoned, he thought when he saw a cluster of villagers on the main street; they were all facing the same way.

"Hey mother of this kid," Darius's voice boomed down the street. "Make the arrangements for my escape from the soldiers …Get to it!!"

Well it appeared that Darius's chances of being a spy and not a merchant increased however there was still the possibility that the guy got cornered by the villagers. It was out of his hands now; Badr thought as he pulled out parchment and started to write a message.

'Merchant, spy more possible, I'll see if I can ensure a living one.' He scrawled on the narrow slip of parchment then gave it to the boy, who fastened the leather sheath onto the pigeon's leg and released the animal. They both watched the carrier pigeon make a beeline toward the harbor.

"Please save our son!"

That was Esra's voice. Badr whirled around. "Stay here boy, if any soldiers come, show them the orders from the Lieutenant, understand?"

"Yes Sir." The teenager nodded and Badr made his way to the circle.

"Each of you is useless, huh," Badr heard Darius say … "Out of the way you FILTH!"

Badr saw that Darius was swinging a long thin dagger at the villagers and he was holding Sin.

"Could you not leave yet?" Badr stated calmly, and Darius froze; he could see the man's back go ramrod straight. "Will you let the child go first? Release Sin …now." Or he'll have to kill him – but the Partevia army would like the spy alive and will not be happy if Badr ended up skewering him.

Though if it came between the decision of saving his son or the life of a spy that will get executed in the end anyway – between Sin growing up, and Badr getting drafted as punishment for failure to deliver a live spy?

No contest, Esra and Sin would win this every time.

"Darling…" Esra sobbed; he didn't like to see her so frightened, and Sin was still in danger.

"Darius," Badr addressed the man making sure that he was watching the man directly – what Darius would do would be written on his face – the yellow haired man might have been acting a lot during his stay, but he wouldn't be able to hide certain ticks of the face. "Didn't you promise not to cause any sort of trouble?"

"I see…" by the look on Darius's face, Badr would have to kill him. All right then, fortunately, the distance wasn't so great between he and Darius, and he sharpened his dagger; Badr only needed to get into a favorable position to reach it and perhaps make Darius feel superior…

"Then once again I beg you …" he said, as he went to – knee- bracing himself to the ground with his left hand, while his right went for that concealed blade. "In this manner, please release that boy…" He let his forehead touch the ground.

But for the sake of Sin's innocence, he needed to give Darius a chance. "And one more thing," he looked up, the cold blade concealed under his arm, drawn and ready. "I beg you please surrender peacefully."

"Whaatt! Surrender peacefully! Don't screw around!" Darius became so red in the face and he was yelling. Maybe if Badr told him how helpless he really was… his common sense might kick in, or he'd go completely desperate.

Well Badr was prepared for both.

"Darius, you of all people know our family is labeled as expatriates, using that boy as a hostage would do you no good. Besides the whole village lacks resources – we have no boats for you to escape…the army is already on the way, you have nowhere to go."

Make the man desperate enough, and if Darius valued life he would surrender. If not. Or if the man really was a spy and not a desperate merchant for Reim, he wouldn't surrender either.

"Darius, if you surrender, your information might be useful, if you cooperate with the army, your life would be spared. That doesn't sound so bad, right?" if you are a merchant, Badr thought.

Darius was ginning, "Yeah, I see now," he said "what a good idea." Perhaps Badr wouldn't have to kill him.

"…is what you thought I'd say."

Or not…

"DON'T FUCK WITH ME, YOU EXPATRIATE!!!" Darius roared; wow the guy certainly had big lungs big lungs for a big guy. Though Badr had to bite his tongue to not utter a flippant reply to what Darius just shouted. Darius was very angry and was shouting, but Badr kept his eyes firmly on his target.

Then Darius, to Badr's horror, pointed his thin sword at Sin.

"I DON'T TAKE ORDERS FROM COWARDLY EXPATRIATE!!"

Badr moved … his left palm was bleeding as he cut himself when grabbing the blade that Darius was threatening Sinbad with. His own dagger however was buried in Darius's heart.

"Huh…" Darius was looking wide eyed at him; disbelieving blue eyes flickered from Badr to the blade buried into his chest.

"Darius," Badr whispered, "I have no interest in war and I really don't care what happens in the dealings of this country." He had more than enough share of it, in that battle that killed everybody but him, "that's why being labeled expatriate or being belittled doesn't really matter to me …"

Badr twisted the knife and pulled the blade out, simultaneously showing Darius and grabbing his son from the falling man.

"However," Badr added in a stronger voice, "if someone for any reason tries to harm my family, I won't forgive them."

"Trickster …" Darius pointed a shaky finger at him, as he lied on the ground dying. "Hiding his strength, this whole time … you …pretending to be a sissy, I was completely deceived."

Well Darius pretended to be a traveling merchant so Badr called them even.

"Mister," Sinbad was clutching at Badr's robes, but the boy's voice didn't shake. "Mister's adventure stories, I really liked them …"

"Shut up brat …and don't cry…"

Well who'd have thought, Darius wasn't so bad after all, as enemy spies went.

 

***

 

"Good morning jailer!" Badr greeted; it had been a week since the soldiers, who were fashionably late as always, collected Darius's body; fortunately they were late enough for Badr to give Esra the money he got by selling his catch.

The interrogations were unpleasant accompanied with long days of lashing, weatherboarding, and sitting in the dark cell.

Fortunately that Lieutenant had shown up, and spoke for Badr, after that they let him be.

"You are free to go," the jailer said – a man without an ounce of humor, but he took pride in his work – a bit too much in Badr's opinion. "You and your family were cleared, but you will be deployed to war."

Nothing unexpected – though his expected return from this war was now considerably lower. But he would try to come back. At least they'd allow him to say goodbye to his son and Esra and spend a couple of days with them before the day of deployment came.

 

***

 

"Here they come!" Badr heard as he walked between two armored guards out of his house two days later. He was given a day to spend with his family. Which he spent with Sin and Esra, and the boat; they managed to make a rough row boat – a raft really but it would have to be enough, for fishing by the coast at least.

For the day of his deployment, every villager was present, Badr noted as he hobbled along– his stay with the kindly torturers didn't help the issue of his lack of leg – and stumbled between two fit solders. That, he had spectators, did not came as a surprise to him. It was irritating how war scrambled their minds – like scrambled eggs, though that was an insult to scrambled eggs.

That was an uncharitable thought, but he wasn't feeling particularly charitable toward the villagers at all. He had his limits – those limits were crossed a while ago.

"Expatriate Badr!" one of the soldiers shouted. He apparently forgot that he and his family were cleared.

"As of today, we'll be transporting you to the capital city army headquarters…" the solder droned, "Let's go!"

Apparently Badr zoned out during the bore speech because one of the guards flanking him pushed him. Weakened as Badr was – he- well toppled to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

And being the bullies that they were the soldiers were quick to add to it…

When Badr finally stood up, he saw that Esra and Sin coming out of the house.

"Go away!" One of the villagers, the same some one that wrecked his boat, stepped forward and alternated between pointing to Badr and Esra – now that won't do.

"Hurry up and leave!" one of the villagers yelled – a tall man with a turf of white hair among dark brown.

"That's right, that's right." Many villagers nodded.

"All of this happened because of you." And it went on and on.

"That's right, you expatriates…" And on and on….

Sheep mentality at its finest, it was a bitter thought – but there was a way to flip them because of that mentality and Badr really did not have any other opinion.

"That spy infiltrated us because you expatriates are here!"

Really now – and since when was Tison on the front of this country's secrets, a backwater poor village that nobody cared about?

He took it back; Badr thought they were as reasonable as scrambled eggs.

"If we lose the war it'll be your fault!"

"You, all expatriates get out of the village!!"

Before Badr could get a word in between. Sinbad materialized in front of the villagers. "STOP IT! DON'T BAD TALK MY DADDY!"

Ahh Sin, Badr thought, you make me very proud. Pity Badr won't finish teaching his kid all that Zeruya had taught Badr.

"Daddy protected us…and yet … why?"

"Shut up!"

And hell no…Badr thought when he saw the villagers reaching for his kid.

"STOP IT!" Badr yelled, all froze and he even caught a couple fearful gazes thrown his way – good.

"Don't lay a hand on my son, or my family." He was using his commander voice – by the look of it, it made even the two soldiers flanking him blanch and back away from him.

"Listen here everyone, from now on, I'll be going into war. The war you are so worked up over, have such zeal over – however you are completely ignorant of what kind of thing exactly war is. Remember this well…"

Badr trailed off as he reached to his robes, loosening the ties, so that the upper robes fell down his shoulders, revealing his injuries and his severed leg. By the looks of horror on the people's faces they could see the extent of his wounds clearly. As clear as day – this unfortunately was also the first time Esra and Sinbad had seen the extent of the damage his body suffered and for that he was sorry.

"Look!" he commanded, and they could not help but obey him, he saw. "This is war! This body you have such trouble to look at and covered by scars. It's a product of war!"

He was standing alone before the villagers, the soldiers retreated back – and with only a waistcloth hanging on to him, but he was making a point.

"Now I ask everyone," he continued, without pausing; it would only be a matter of time before the soldiers move to shut him off, because they definitely wouldn't like his next words.

"What has war done to you? Is it because thanks to war, this country flourished? Or that you've received money for everyday novelties? Open your eyes; the money wasn't simply won over from the country we invaded. It is a deception!" he yelled – the villagers were all wide eyed but they were listening.

"In the shadows how many thousands of people had been hurt or cried or even died? What about your struggles now? Your tools for honest work along with your boats, that feed your families; your money, your food - have been taken; my body became like this because of war – that's why I kept my family away from the war, being labeled expatriate, or being beaten until I coughed blood … better all of that than seeing my wife and child starve and toil on the land with no tools … I've sworn that I will protect my loved ones from starvation and the hurt that war brings with my life!"

Then he motioned to the villagers who were avoiding looking at him. "What about you guys?" he asked, and watched how the contrite villagers were observing the dust patterns on the ground.

"I see …."

But he could not utter another word to the villagers, and really there was no need to say anything else. He made his point, opened their eyes. The flanking soldiers came out of their stupor with a blow to the back of his head.

"Truth hurts doesn't it," he said loudly so that everybody heard which enraged the soldiers more.

"Watch your mouth!" one of them shouted.

"Attention!" hollered the commander of this small contingent of soldiers. "Let's go," he commanded.

"But Commander," one of the idiots whinnied – he actually whinnied like a puppy.

"We go, now!" the commander's voice brook no argument; he probably sensed a shift in the villagers as well and didn't want to provoke the desperate people, smart man. As they herded him along the path, he turned around slightly, but kept on walking.

"Sinbad!" he called and saw Sin's head snap up. He meet Sinbad's tearful golden gaze directly. "Fight as a man to protect those precious to you. And I'm counting on you to look after your mother," he finished with a smile.

That would ensure the kid to not give Esra too much trouble.

 

***A year and a half later***

 

Badr blinked awake to the stone walls of the little house he was living for a year now already. Alone and waiting for the day he could go home – to Sin and Esra.

He was whisked out of the battle that raged between Partevia and Musta'sim Water Magicians – which Reim had hired, at sea. The battle went well to the point, but many men were thrown overboard, Badr among them. He was saved from drowning - really, he knew he should have been dead – and Badr was informed that a casket with his sword and belongings was delivered to Tison when he stopped coughing the sea out of his lungs.

Badr wanted to return immediately, but … that was impossible as he was in another corner of the world. Besides Partevian Military would not be … pleased, and that was putting it mildly, with Badr hightailing it back at this point in time. Besides what he saw of his much unexpected saviors, things would go just fine without him.

Until then, he was now a fisherman that told stories to children of the isle, which was on the other side of the world. Where the people never heard of Partevia, or Reim or of any of the Kingdoms Badr was very familiar with.

It was a funny sequence of events that caused it, and robbed the Rukh of his presence. Not that Badr was NOT grateful for not being dead, but now he had to wait for years to see his son again. Sinbad would go and conquer a dungeon before Badr could see him again.

Perhaps Yunan would visit again today; he liked to drop by to talk with Badr, something he was glad about, since Yunan kept an eye on Sin and Esra for him. The blonde Magi Yunan was, still is, strange like that – he enjoyed dark, small places and he liked to drink tea. Badr's house was small, crippled shack made of brick and stone.

So naturally that attracted the strange man - and so Badr waited on the continent known as Westeros on a small and mountainous island in the narrow sea east of Cape Wrath in the Stormlands called Estermont.

Waiting for … Eli and Brienne, so that B3 will conquer the 57 Dungeon Osé that was somewhere below this island, in a cave. Yunan assured him that when the time comes, he'd help all three of them to reach the cave where the entrance was.


 

 

***Ashara Dayne-1***

 

Violet eyes were staring at the horizon, her long, black hair dancing freely on the ocean breeze.

Ashara was standing barefooted on the island of what Torran people named Val'ster, far away from the Known World, watching the sea.

It has been four years since Robert's Rebellion ended as the people were calling that undeserved war caused by a rash decision from a couple of chivalrous hotheads, her late husband among them, and madness and paranoia by the King Aerys.

Princess Elia Martell called it unnecessary bloodshed even now. Ashara's friend settled well into her life among the Torran, she even birthed a post mortem son, to Prince Rhaegar, and it was a jape from the gods, after all Elia used Moon Tea to prevent just such thing. When she learned that she was with child Elia wept for days in fear of the life of her unplanned child, as Grand-Maester Pycelle informed the Princess of Dorne and her husband that any attempt at third pregnancy would end up with the baby's and Elia's death.

But the Torran Tribe had better Healers, and what a Healer could not cure, with his or hers, herbs, Life Magicians could.

So Prince Asherion, named after Ashara herself, was alive a thriving along with his mother, and two older siblings. Unlike Rhaenys, who bore none of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen's looks, and unlike Aegon who was a perfect image of his father, four year old Asherion was a mix of both Rhaegar and Elia. The four year old had olive skin and the body build of a Dornishmen, but with a darker shade of lilac and platinum hair.

"Aunt Ashara," a sweet voice of the six summers old Princess Rhaenys Targaryen called her from behind.

"Yes sweetling?" Ashara asked, sitting on the warm sand. Here it was a bit warmer than in Dorne, so they were dressed as natives of this island, in cool linen that was made from a plant.

"I miss papa, and Balerion and uncle Badr, and Sin, and my cousin!" then she kicked a bit of beach sand with her sandals. "When will uncle Badr came with Sin and Cousin Eli?"

Ashara closed her eyes, with a tingle of pain.

Elenei should be hers, hers and Brandon's.

It came as surprise when she had first meet Elenei, by the cliffs behind the Starfall; Ashara was going to the cliffs behind Starfall to end it all.

The pain Ashara held at bay, since the birth of her still born daughter, since the death of her husband Brandon Stark by fire, since the news of the murder of Princess of Dorne and her children and Dragon Prince has reached Starfall. The news that Eddard brought her of Princess Lyanna and of her own brother Arthur overwhelmed her completely.

She replayed the scenes of when she and the Princess of Dorne first met the Starks of Winterfell on that fateful Tourney at Harrenhal – that lasted for ten days, with seven day long competitions. The first day, lords and ladies arrived and raised their tents and made merry, and after midday the first competition – tourney of singers took place and lasted till nightfall.

At the feast that night Prince Rhaegar sang and played on his silver string harp – leaving many a woman crying.

On the second day, Aerys II Targaryen the Lord of Seven Kingdoms, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, announced the beginning of the tourney – started with seven-sided melee with seven lords; the lords had five men bearing their colors of the realm competing in an ancient style that simulated a battle on the horseback.

The third day was an archery contest, an axe-throwing contest and a horse race, and on the fourth day, the jousting matches started - there was five days allotted to the joust.

At the end of the second tourney day, Lady Ashara Dayne of Starfall had meet Lady Lyanna Stark of Winterfell. Lyanna was the first of the Stark's that Ashara had met.

Lyanna might not have been a great beauty, like Cersei Lannister, the lioness with her long gold hair, emerald eyes, and curvy figure and a face that turned many a man unwise enough to look deeper than her looks and see ruthless ambition underneath.

But the daughter of Winterfell made a striking and lasting impression to all that took the time to get to know her. She had curly dark brown hair, very fair skin, and enchanting large silver grey eyes.

It was the meeting Ashara wouldn't soon forget; she was careless not asking her brother to accompany her, the second part of the jousting would have started the next day, and even the nights were hot – so Ashara stepped out for a bit of fresh night air.

It was an eventful second day of the jousting competition, and the third day of the Tourney of Harrenhal. The appetence of the Mystery knight – that was dubbed the name of Knight of the Laughing Tree, who was named thus because of the blazon on his shield – a smiling weirwood heart three. He arrived in the late afternoon and challenged three knights that won their place among the champions – with a booming voice that reminded Ashara of the plays she, her brother, and younger sister played. Allyria would put the iron bucket over her head and shout as she searched for them– her voice boomed just as well as this mystery man's voice did.

The knight, even with his small stature and mismatched and shabby armor, won all three tilts against the Knights of Houses: Haigh, Blount and Frey. Winning custody over their horses and armor, none of them were particularly popular, so the smallfolk cheered for the mysterious knight. When the defeated trio sought to ransom their former property, the knight declared his intriguing terms;

"My Lords!" his voice boomed across the field, "You but only have to teach your rude squires honor. And then you may keep your belongings."

True to form, the trio of defeated lords proceeded to chastise their squires sharply right then and there.

She closed her eyes for but a moment when a drunk lording approached her. Ashara did not recognize him at first. Not until he stepped closer to the light.

It was Lord of Storm's End, the man that won a seven-sided melee in ancient style on the second day of the tourney. He unhorsed many and taken opposing Lord's as hostages; they had to pay him golden dragons or surrender their horses and armor.

Beside him was Ser Richard Lonmouth, his drinking companion, Ashara remembered them boasting about how they would unmask the Knight of the Laughing Tree.

"My Lady," the dark haired, blue eyed man slurred. Ashara's nose wrinkled, yes she was not a virgin, and yes she was Dornish and Dornish don't frown on sex between two consenting parties. But she was drawing a line before drunken lusty pigs, who only think of their own pleasure and not of their partners as well.

She was a Lady in Waiting for Princess Elia and she knew well of what kind of man Robert Baratheon was.

"My Lady," Lord Baratheon slurred his words, "you know what I like in a woman?" he asked.

Ashara raised both her eyebrows. "No, nor do I care too."

"My dick," he laughed uproariously.

"And your humor is sorely lacking … now if you would excuse me…"

"Hey, hey lady..."

"Unhand me right this instance," Ashara hissed, but Baratheon paid her no heed, neither did his wandering hands; alright then, she thought, and twisted in his hold reaching downward and squeezed.

"This is all of me your dick will ever have."

Robert yelled and pushed her away, and then his companion advanced on her.

"Hey, leave her alone!" a woman's voice shouted, and something rectangular hit the advancing lordlings – hard – because they toppled to the ground cursing to the seven hells and clutching their heads.

The woman had a cape with a hood that covered her features. "Come on, hurry." She beckoned. Even more intrigued Ashara followed her, but then as they passed Princess Elia's tent, she halted the woman, "This way," Ashara whispered.

"Ash what's wrong" Elia stood up from the chair she was sitting in by the fire.

Ashara quickly grabbed her rescuers wrist, before she could flee back into the night. Then Ashara heard a soft curse as the veiled woman curtsied before the Princess.

"Your Highness," Ashara greeted, "I was just assaulted by Lord Robert of Storm's End and his little friend." Interesting, at Robert's name the woman flinched. "This woman here hit him with this and we fled away." She motioned to the object in the woman's hand.

"You rescued my dear friend, would you entrust us with your name?" Elia said kindly.

"Yes your highness." The woman rose to her full height, which wasn't much; she was smaller in stature than Ashara and Elia were and pulled her hood down.

"I'm Lyanna Stark."

After that she and Lyanna with Elia talked until the Prince came to see his wife. It was Prince Rhaegar who noticed what the object really was and deduced Lyanna's connection to the mystery knight.

In the end they hidden the shield in Elia's tent and when the King declared the mystery knight his enemy, and the manhunt began, Rhaegar brought the shield to his father and spun the tale of finding it in a tree.

It was during the tourney when Ashara was introduced to Brandon and they carried well enough together. Well enough that Brandon Stark proposed to her, and considering she was carrying his child, she agreed and at the end of the tourney they wed at the Isle of Faces.

The days after their meeting passed, and then months, she had given birth at Starfall; she kept quiet because she wanted to surprise Brandon with their child. But it wasn't meant to be – their healthy daughter that was kicking strongly in her womb – was stillborn.

That was not the end of it…Elia had written of the King's displease and threats he uttered to the Princess – she was fearing for her life. Lyanna feared for herself as well, because apparently the betrothal between Robert and her was blessed by the King. Lyanna however didn't want to marry Robert Baratheon. Ashara could sympathize Robert would not make good husband to any woman.

Then one day a letter came, where Elia wrote that they found the solution to their problems; Rhaegar would wed Lyanna, making her and Elia sister wives.

Ashara agreed, having more than one wife was not forbidden for a Targaryen by the Faith of the Seven. They tried, but even then the High Septon was an uncle to the King's Wife. So it was prestige the High Septon was concerned about.

Lyanna and Rhaegar wed by the heart tree on the Isle of Faces; the witnesses of the procedure were Princess Elia Martell, Ashara's her brother Arthur Dayne, Ser Oswell Whent of the Kingsguard, his brother Lord Walter Walter and Lady Shella Whent, along with the woods witch that lived on the isle.

 

***

 

It was too much for her now, first she lost Brandon, and he intended to end the betrothal to the Tully girl because he married Ashara in secret, at the Isle of Faces before the Old Gods, when he rode for Riverrun on that day. But then all reason left him and he went to King's Landing and committed treason by calling for royal blood.

If there was a sane King sitting on the Iron Throne, Brandon Stark might have survived his folly. But it was not so, for King Aerys II Targaryen was descending into madness and paranoia as the years progressed.

Brandon Stark and his father Rickard died on the same day. Some months later, after singing Dornish lullabies to her kicking child – her daughter was born – it was a stillbirth.

Then Eddard Stark, her husband's younger brother, brought the great sword of the house Dayne, Dawn, to Starfall and with the Dayne family's sword news of the death of her brother.

Arthur was dead, Lyanna and Elia were dead, their babies with them, and her daughter was stillborn; she had nothing to live for – so one day she decided to end it. Humming the lullaby she always hummed to her unborn yet daughter, she made to jump off the cliffs.

But then strong, slim hands wrapped around her and pulled her back. Ashara landed on top of that person that pulled her back in the tangle of her skirts.

"Let me go," Ashara shouted and struggled, but stilled as the person that was holding her finished the song she was singing, the same song she so often sang to her unborn daughter.

"I remember this sound you know," the girl whispered in her ear, and Ashara turned to see a girl about four and ten, with her silver hair in a sideway ponytail, and laughing dark violet eyes. "I'm sorry if my friend Willow's meddling caused my soul to leave before being born to you."

"What?"

"I'll show you … but before that …" Ashara heard shouting and she turned to see what was going on.

"Elia," she berthed when she saw the Dornish Princess rushing towards her. Followed by a tall boy with purple hair – long purple hair that he wore in ponytail and a man that had only one leg, but moved surprisingly well.

 

***

 

"I'm sorry aunt Ash; I forgot how not seeing Cousin Eli makes you sad." Rhaenys looked down, her onyx eyes on the golden sand, while her curly dark hair was lifted up in the slight breeze.

"It's all right sweet," Ashara reassured the girl. "I know we'll see all of them, your uncle Badr and eventually your real Uncles Prince Doran and Prince Oberyn, and Sin and Cousin Eli."


 

 

***Jon Connington-1***

 

Vrays had visited him, while Jon was amassing a force to go to the young exiled brother and sister of the Dragon Prince to Essos. Where they fled after the Usurper took the Iron Throne.

There the eunuch tracked him down and revealed that he managed to secretly save the young Prince Aegon, now a child of four summers - The only surviving son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Princess Elia Martell of Dorne and the heir apparent to the Iron throne.

With a woman, Septa named Lemore and a man Haldon, called Haldon Halfmaester, who were the child's tutors and caretakers.

"I want revenge, The Seven help me," Septa Lemore once said to him when they were alone. "On Tywin Lannister most of all," she said with barely contained hatred. While the former Hand of the King harmed many in his lion pride, it was strange that some woman would harbor such anger toward the man.

"For the sake of my dead brother, hidden and exiled sister and son."

"You are Septa. You lose the surname when you join The Seven."

"Aye, that is true. But Varys promised me revenge for my house and so I bared a son to continue my family legacy. The eunuch secreted him in the Stormlands with my sister."

"What was your house My Lady?" Jon Connington asked, a thought worming into his mind that this woman was not simply a former peasant but a lady of a good house.

"House Reyne of Castamere, Ser Connington." He must have gave a surprised look for Lemore, if that was her real name, smiled, "Little Prince and you Ser are not the only one who must hide."

Red Lions of Castamere, Jon thought. "I had thought that your entire house perished along with house Tarbeck."

"It was a mistake that Tywin made, one that he'll regret."


 

 

Bonus: Esra PoV

Esra was staring at the open casket – her son peering inside as well. The casket came along with the notice of Badr's death, and the military put his belongings and sword in a wooden box and sent it to her.

No body.

Just an empty box.

The only good thing was – after Badr was taken away, his last speech he had given woke the villagers to the truth. No one called them expatriates anymore and what's more the whole village formed a cooperative organization and was secretly against the war.

A bitter consolation, she'd rather see Badr alive goofing off at the table, teasing their son….

"The Warrior stands before the foe,

protecting us where e'er we go.

With sword and shield and spear and bow,

he guards the little children."

 

Next chapter: Slice of Life Part 4: Crone

Point of Views: Shella Whent, Hayma (Magi before Judal), Old Nan of Winterfell, Zeruya Jehoahaz Abraham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

***Hayma Ro -1***

 

She was in the forest gathering herbs – it was haying day, and wives, mothers, and daughters of the farmers would come for potions and such to cure the ills and wounds that their husbands, fathers, and brothers earned with the work.

Not that the people of this small village at the border of Gou kingdom knew that the old woman, who provided medical aid for food and occasional help, was one of the three Magi in this world; they thought of her as a simple Magician or a Witch Doctor – that lived in a small stone cabin in the woods.

Alone and seen as an elderly woman –a granny of the village - who helped the village folk with her tinctures, balms; and herbs, told them what the weather would be a week later, gave advice to the young, and told stories to the children.

As clichés went, Hayma thought, she fit the description of a witch doctor the best. That and she had never shown that she WAS anything more than what she appeared to be.

Old and short, with a round wrinkled face, and her grey hair in a bun on the top of her head; most people didn't see the difference between Magician and Magi. They couldn't really tell the difference between Magician and Shaman or a Witch Doctor. They were after all, simple people with even simpler provincial lives.

But then again you'd have to see the Rukh to tell the difference. Magicians and Magi could turn Magoi into other substances without the help of Magic Tools or Household Vassals or Metal Vassals. The difference between the two was that Magi could use Rukh indefinitely; unlike Magicians who could run out of Magoi, Magi could pull it out of environment.

And that Magi were charged by Solomon in finding, choosing, and guiding the King candidate. This was something engraved into Magi's very being – Choosing King Vessel. There were requiems to this: having enough of Magoi to support the Djinn was paramount, but also certain sensitivity to Rukh was needed as well. After all Rukh guided Magi to choose their King in the first place and the King was meant to mend his or her people's lives.

Just as it did guide Hayma four years ago to Ren Hakutoku, a young ruler of the Liàn Kingdom; she did send him off with a promise of raising a Dungeon for him – after he'd learned some Magoi manipulation.

Hayma hoped that he found some member of the Shambala tribe to teach him some of their Magoi manipulation techniques – though to truly master it, people needed years of training and it was better to start young. Not too young – it was best to start around age ten to at least eighteen; any older, like Lord Hakutoku, and you wouldn't learn past the basics of the Art.

"Mimah Ro!"

A young boy yelled, running towards her down the hill - for children of the village, she was a kindly old woman that told them tall tales that were actually true. Like about Magi and their chosen King Vessels.

For the younger generation of grownups she was a constant source of potions – love potions, abortion potions; silly nonsense but she had fun making those.

"Ahh, Aki," she greeted the youngster, who beamed at her. Hayma could see that his front teeth were missing. "What do you need?" she asked.

"Mother sends me, she is having a baby! Now," he said, and how the time flies; the boy was now nine years old and he nearly reached her chin – come to think it, she'd soon have to travel to the Liàn Kingdom, as she promised to Ren Hakutoku.

The man managed to combine the neighboring Kingdom – the Gou Kingdom fell to the Liàn kingdom army; now Prince Koutoku lived in previous capital of the Gou Kingdom. It was the birth of the Kou Kingdom, when Liàn and Gou became one kingdom, and now the Kou Kingdom was in open war with the Kai Kingdom. That war – battle was something that Hayma was sure Kou would win.

When it does, Hakutoku would get a visit from a Magi – her - and she would raise a Dungeon for him. Hayma had just the appropriate Djinn in mind. Granted they would have to teleport to the right location in the Central Desert of the Eastern Continent, some leagues away from the Balbadd Kingdom, where Hayma could then raise the seventh Dungeon where the fire Djinn and the Djinn of Politeness and Austerity were – Amon resides and waits for an appropriate King Candidate.

Hayma Ro had no doubts that her King Candidate could capture that Dungeon. Ren Hakutoku was worthy of being King Vessel – he was wise and brave, with a great understanding of the world.

"Well then, lead the way youngling," she said, as she quickly grabbed her bag, where she put the herbs she had picked.

After couple of steps, Aki pulled at her skirts. Hayma slowed down – thinking that he could not keep up.

"Mimah Ro?" Aki asked; she slanted a look at him; he in turn looked at her with curiosity in his dark eyes.

"Yes?" she prompted the youngster.

"What is a Magi?" he asked, her steps nearly faltered, and if not for experience she would have probably stammered gibberish at that question. Hayma never introduced herself as a Magi. She had no desire to choose Kings or travel; she enjoyed her peaceful uneventful life in this small mantis village.

"Hmm?" she hummed. "Why do you ask?"

"A strange man came to the village today; he wore a turban – like the people in the Oasis cities in the desert, or Balbadd do – he had long hair too, oh and he had a black and gold checker mask. And there was a white cloth that covered the lower half of his face; he didn't gave us a name, said he was a traveler, and he was asking if we knew where Magi was," Aki said with excited hand gestures.

The boy must have had seen this visitor to be this excited; their village didn't get much of those, and naturally new people drew  curious children as honey did with bees and ants.

"Ahh, is that so. What make you think I know of this…Magi?"

"Because you know everything, and nobody in the village knew the answer, and the man left, saying that he won't bother us again," Aki prattled on. Now this was interesting, probably another who read rumors, but unlike Hakutoku, he got turned away before even starting.

No matter.

"I wouldn't say I know everything, Aki. But I do know something about Magi. You see there are only three of them in the world. And of all three of them only one stays put - Reim High priestess Scheherazade. The job of all Magi is to select the King Vessel – and lead their vessels to become king."

"What is a king vessel?" Aki asked with lots of curiosity.

"Not a what, who, a King Vessel is a person, Aki. The alternative address of that person is King Candidate and he or she can be either common born or royal, rich or poor. It doesn't matter," she lectured to the wide eyed youth as she rushed towards Aki's house.

"I don't understand … aren't they Royalty, like those Ren family of Liàn, Dikumenowlz of Partevia, and Seluja of Balbadd?"

"A King Vessel is usually a person that, to put it simply, fixes things; Magi has to find people who read, some are conscious of this ability." She had a suspicion that one such individual was born six years ago and the other four years ago. "The flow of the Rukh guides them to the Dungeon, where the person would pass tests that a Djinn would devise, and then he or she would be contracted to the Djinn, and then be furthered guided by their Magi to save and protect the world from bad things."

 

***Months later***

 

Months later, Hayma received a strange guest and she didn't know what to make of him.

Yunan the Wandering Magi paid her a visit. Currently he was sitting across from her, drinking one of her herbal blends of tea.

This is the first time she had seen this particular Magi. Not that she had ever seen Scheherazade either. She heard of her, yes, but never saw her.

As for the wandering Magi sitting across from her - he was a pretty, delicate boy in loose-fitting green and white clothes, including thigh length boots, along with an elfin face, that many a woman would like to have. His pale blonde hair was in a long braid that almost swept the ground as he walked and had soft blue eyes under that grass green magician hat.

He took a dainty sip of his tea. "Do you wonder why I'm here?" he asked as he looked at her – how can blue eyes be so soft?

"The question had occurred to me," Hayma said, "especially because I'd like to have a visit from a senior Magi when I was staring as one myself."

The bitterness of learning about herself never really went away. She had incites on how to raise the Dungeon for her King Candidate – she never found one worthy before Hakutoku. But when he appeared Rukh whispered to wait, that it wasn't time yet.

"I'm sorry I should have …" Yunan trailed of, and sighed verily as an old man, "the fact of the matter is, I am tired of the same thing. That is why I came now, to make amends and explain."

Sighing Hayma took one of his smooth, youthful hands into her garland, spotted, old ones. "I know you are only one of us that is naturally born with all the knowledge of your lives," she said.

She also knew that Scheherazade was cloning her body, so she could have nurtured Reim, the Kingdom her first King Candidate created around 253 years ago. It wasn't exactly a secret.

"Ahh yes." He looked down at his tea, sad.

"That must have been miserable."

"My second King Candidate … Shirin, she conquered the Dungeon of a Wind Djinn, Sytry. She was a good person, kind and …"

There was something sad – tragic longing in his blue eyes.

"You loved her," she finished for him. "What happened to her?" Hayma asked.

Yunan smiled; it was a sadder smile. "I never told her. I was never very good with crowds, open spaces, and talking to people."

"You are talking to me."

"You are not people," Yunan said. "You are Magi. And I never, not once accompanied any of my King Vessels to the Dungeon. Not even Shirin. In any case, her, and later her husband Shariar, who was also a Dungeon capturer – only he was chosen and was guided through the Dungeon by the Magi that preceded Scheherazade, left across the sea. Last I heard of them they settled on the continent – that people who live there call Westeros – and they had one child, a daughter who married King Durran."

And now she was wondering why Yunan was telling her something so personal - like the unvoiced love he had, and if Hayma's suspicions were correct, Yunan still loved Shirin to this day.

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because things are changing – slowly, but fate is turning in other directions. And I need you to understand the past. One of us will raise multiple dungeons in the couple of years; Scheherazade lost her ability to raise Dungeons, or rather she can – but the clone that does it dies immediately after. So it is …"

"I'm too old to go around and pop the buildings out of the ground," Hayma stated flatly – she would raise Amon's Dungeon for Hakutoku Ren, but that is it. She doubted she would find more King Candidates in her lifetime. If Hakutoku hadn't insisted in finding her, she would not have chosen any King Vessels in her life.

Yunan crystal blue eyes grew wide and he started to wave his hands. "I didn't mean you! I'm sorry!" He was actually crying tears now.

Hayma shook her head; this guy was supposed to be a Magi – who got ALL his memories at his many rebirths, and here he was crying a river and blubbering like a five year old child.

"Just tell me. Please, straight out," she said softly, not wanting to distress him further.

Yunan hiccupped and nodded; pulling out a white linen tissue he dabbed his eyes and then started to tell Hayma everything she should have been told years ago.

"As you know there are only three Magi in the whole world. Out of three, I'm the only one who regains his memories of my past life not only that, when I die, I usually awake, fully grown at the bottom of the Riff."

Hayma heard of the Great Riff; it was located on the Dark Continent – separating two sides to it - a vast land that is unexplored. One can go there using ships from the Kingdom of Balbadd or the Reim Empire– the latter of the two had two outpost-cities there, such as Cathargo, the reputed home of Fanalis, and Maurenia.

More inland, where vast steppes of grass stretched out with gnarled acacias and ficus trees, are settlements of the Torran people and Fanalis – if any remain free, Hayma was not certain, but Reim flourished on slave trade, and Fanalis were much sought for.

On the north of the Dark Continent, there was the Heliohapt Kingdom.

The other side of the Great Riff is much larger, possibly even rivaling large empires such as Reim's or even combined with other countries.

"No, it is not what you are thinking, the Great Riff doesn't divide known continents, that is the ocean –or as we are fond to call it Savage Land." Yunan leaned back, slumping down then straightening up quickly. She had grown accustomed at her fellow Magi's eccentric shifts of mood; sometimes he seemed like a child, the other times he had the feel of a tired, old widower.

"The Great Riff, I have a small wooden house at the bottom, was established when the Mass Exodus of the people of Alma Torran took place; on the other side of the Riff are tribes of species that were unable to convert from their original forms to that of a human."

What?

She must have asked this out aloud because Yunan made himself comfortable, with a swish of his fishing rod like wand and conjured up comfortable puffy chairs for the two of them.

"That is a long story, a tragic one of Alma Torran, its beginning and its ending," he started when they were both comfortably seated.

"Alma Torran was once a world with several independent and intelligent species. Each established their own prosperous society, however as their population increased, and they expanded their borders, the vast majority of the species started fighting each other for supremacy, some even joined forces. The stronger species began destroying the weaker, the latter becoming a food source for the stronger ones, and the weakest specie of all was the humans."

That was some beginning, Hayma thought, as she listened carefully to this previously unknown history.

"The conflict between the different species grew to colossal scale," Yunan continued, "that Ill Ilah, the creator of Alma Torran, had to intervene to save the world from destruction. Ilah chose to save humanity from extinction, by giving the five hundred surviving humans the power of magic and seventy-two divine staves to rule and unite the world. They stopped and prevented wars with other species and guided them to peace. Then within the next eight hundred years, the Orthodox Church was established by David Jehoahaz Abraham…"

She knew that name … she heard that name when she was just a little girl, merely ten years old when she had meet that person, who bared the same family name.

Jehoahaz Abraham.

Zuraya Jehoahaz Abraham.

Hayma still remembered that purple haired, blue eyed woman. Zuraya was the one who told her of Yunan and Scheherazade, who told her that Hayma was the third Magi. It was Zuraya whom taught Hayma some of the magic.

"This is not the first time I heard of this family name," she muttered; at Yunan's startled look she elaborated.

"When I was a young girl I met a traveler, a woman, the Rukh itself was turbulent around her and she practically shined like a thousand suns." Poetically put but true; Hayma was nearly blinded by the Rukh that swirled about the young purple haired woman.

"Her name was Zuraya Jehoahaz Abraham," she finished; the young woman was probably old or dead since she was years older than a young girl Hayma was at their meeting.

"You have meet Lady Zuraya?" Yunan squeaked, eyes wide with wonder.

"She is dead of old age probably…" Hayma muttered, but Yunan was shaking his head in the negative, a content smile curving his mouth.

"Was she tall with blue eyes, darker, much darker than mine, tanned skin, and purple hair?" Yunan asked that same smile still present.

"Well yes," Hayma answered his question, wondering where he was going with this line of questioning. Zuraya couldn't be alive, could she?

"Oh well," Yunan nodded, with the content expression that reached his eyes. "Good news, she is not dead of old age. And she is older than me – and she is the twin sister of David Jehoahaz Abraham."

She probably gaped open mouthed at the fellow Magi, but she didn't care one iota; this was all too strange and wonderful, and not to mention, Hayma could have met Zuraya again. She had many questions to ask her … if only she would be some years younger, she might look for Zuraya. Hayma never wanted to travel, but …

"How is that possible? That would mean?" she breathed, she needed answers and Yunan was the only one who could answer Hayma's more pressing questions.

"She is, as was her twin brother, one – and only- surviving from the original humans that were touched and given magic by Ill Ilah. That is because David discovered how to stretch one's lifespan, by slowing down the aging process."

That was incredible, Hayma thought awed by it all. "She must have been lonelier than you," she said to Yunan, who slouched again, trying to disappear into the chair folds.

"No, because Lady Zuraya has no reservation in forming bonds with people; in her long life she got married twice, once fifty years ago and the second time to a fisherman named Ardeth Bay from Tison village in Partevia. They had a child named Badr."

Then he slumped forward, "I decided to raise a first Dungeon Baal for Badr's son. At the moment the boy is seven years old, so it is at least six years before I will do it," Yunan said.

"Then I'll wait for six years, though unlike Elder Lady Zuraya, I'll be no spry chicken," Hayma muttered.

"I can prolong your life, Hayma, Lady Zuraya taught it to me – I know how to do it," Yunan said. "It won't make you younger … or stop the aging, but it'll prolong your life for the next 800 years."

"That's great; it will also disturb that group's Al-Thamen was it? Plans in getting magi for themselves?"

"Yes and oh? I haven't yet finished the tale of Alma Torran … lets us see, where was I?"

"Orthodox Church and David," Hayma reminded him.

"Oh," Yunan perked up, smiling, positively sparkling in the Rukh, "thank you, yes, Orthodox soon forgot their noble intentions and began to enslave other species, depriving them of their intelligence and self-awareness, rendering them mindless monsters for the Orthodox to control."

"That's horrible," Hayma muttered, "And where was Zuraya during that time, why didn't she stop her brother?"

"Nobody knows," Yunan said, "I haven't asked her or Ugo, of Lady Zuraya's whereabouts at that time. Even when resistance against the Church was founded by David's own son – Solomon, Zuraya was not present. Though Ugo …"

Perhaps she didn't like what her brother was doing but hadn't had the power or backup or heart to stop her brother. Or she, at the time agreed with him, but changed her mind later.

"Who is Ugo?" The name was familiar, like a brush of a flower petal. "This name is …" she continued and trailed off, chasing the familiarity.

"All of the people meet Ugo when they become part of the Rukh," Yunan said his eyes softening; "he was one of Solomon's three original Magi on Alma Torran. But I was telling you about history and Al-Thamen's beginnings,"

Yunan took a deep breath and continued with his tale.

"After meeting the last Dragon of Origin, Solomon Jehoahaz Abraham, son of David, started to understand the truth of the Orthodox and felt sympathetic towards the other species. He was only ten years old at the time. With his best friend Uraltugo Noi Nueph and a servant woman named Arba, they successfully destroyed several Towers and freed more avatars of the divine staffs, like the girl that was called Sheba. They also liberated the other species and all of them took shelter in one big city. However, the dilemma of leadership fell onto the minds of the resistance magicians and members of the other species alike. To truly unite Alma Torran, Solomon had to become the ruler as he was the one the people most trusted."

"The city was attacked one day when Solomon and his resistance fighters were attacking the headquarters of Orthodox – only to find out that was a trap laid down by David. Orthodox torched Resistance City to the ground, women and children of all species reduced to burnt husks."

"After the final battle with Orthodox and Elder David – Solomon became King of Alma Torran. But the Dragon of Origin and Lady Zuraya told them that Ill Illah was dying, and Solomon, Arba, Sheba, and Ugo ventured into another dimension to see Ill Illah dying and tainted black. While there, they were also forced to acknowledge the fact that the Rukh which flowed from Ill Illah would define everyone's fate regardless of their intentions and ideals. Solomon then decided to replace Ill Illah and change destiny, establishing the White Rukh and distributing it equally amongst every individual, thus cancelling the power of the divine staves given by Ill Illah and creating his three Magi: Arba, Sheba, and Ugo. Arba, who was left completely changed after Solomon supplanted Ill Illah, established AI-Thamen, along with other discontent members of the Resistance, and war erupted between Arba's and Solomon's followers."

Yunan lapsed into contemplative silence, and Hayma had let him, because she had a lot of information to digest. But how did humans come into this world? After all, Yunan spoke of Alma Torran as a whole other world, separate from this one. Also this world didn't have the species that he mentioned inhabited Alma Torran.

"Then AI-Thamen developed a way to create Black Rukh, soon after they used that Rukh to create life- combining it with Ill llah's tainted Rukh. They used this life, the Black Djinn, to fight Solomon and his household members who had to become Djinns in order to fight AI-Thamen and the resurrected Ill Ilah."

Hayma sat up in attention at that, Djinn were … that was an explanation of sorts, about Dungeons itself and the origin of Djinn.

"So when Magi, us, raise a Dungeon, we are connecting with Alma Torran?"

"Yes. That is correct, in the end of the Final Battle, Ill llah and Al-Thamen were sealed in an alternate dimension by Solomon, but the cost was high. Alongside Queen Sheba and King Solomon, many of the people of Alma Torran died while the surface was left barren and lifeless. The surviving species retreated underground where they existed and despaired. Until, after five years, Magi and best friend of Solomon, Uraltugo Noi Nueph created dimensional tunnels between this world and Alma Torran's underground complexes. While passing through the Dimensional Tunnel, the forms of all the sentiment species were made into one, and so was the language – Common Language, that was the same as it was on the continent where there already were indigenous people to this world, human life. There were some exceptions – some were resistant to magic – some of the original humans kept the memories of the Alma Torran language – and even now they continue to use it – the Torran language."

Yunan paused, and raised a teacup to his lips, drinking, while Hayma thought all of the new information over.

"Ugo established the Dungeon system so that a new King could be chosen whenever he was needed and so that the chaos that occurred before and after Solomon's reign would not happen again. He also established the Magi system so that one touched by the Ruhk of previous Magi could guide the would-be Kings. However, Al-Thamen was resurrected in the new world with plans to destroy it. Ugo became Djinn and was unable to intervene in the world's affairs as the Guardian of the Sacred Place."

Then he gave a small, sad smile in Hayma's direction and suddenly she had a bad feeling.

"Ugo also didn't calculate what that move would cause in the long run to the continent across the sea," he offered; Hayma hated it when she was right if that Mass Exodus of the people of Alma Torran included a bit of land, and she knew that was entirely possible.

"The mass exodus and the creation of the lands here caused seismic tremors..."

She knew it – there was some land transferred with the people.

"...that resonated across ages – that in itself would not cause harm, but, the people called Valyrians, dug too deep into a volcanic vein – that combined with the seismic vibrations of our arrival still resonating through the planet, well, the result was catastrophic. Every hill for five hundred miles exploded in Valyria. Filling the air with ash and smoke and fire. Earthquakes destroyed palaces, temples, and towns, while lakes boiled or turned to acid…"

Hayma bowed her head and closed her eyes.

 

***A day later***

 

She was watching her reflection in the lake – she saw an unassuming short and round elderly lady with a wrinkled face, dark brown eyes, and long ears - and thought over what she learned from Yunan. She was at risk, or rather the Magi that would be conceived the moment she would die, would be at risk at being taken by a group of people that called themselves Al-Thamen.

She knew their history, what that group wanted to achieve – Yunan brought a warning that they were aiming at the only Magi that died and who had his/her soul reincarnated into a new body.

Hers.

It was a terrifying thought – A Magi in Al-Thamen's grasp. She knew what that group was capable of. All of them were originally Magicians of Alma Torran.

Yunan told her of the words Al-Thamen lived, breathed, and slept by: We are those that will continue to create darkness in this world, we, the community of the true nation, made by our father, as written in Al-Thamen's agenda.

What was worse, Al-Thamen's members lived all around the world and one had to strike down their real body, and that was hard because the members used clones that would turn into a matryoshka doll after being defeated and would die only if their real body was killed. They exchanged Rukh with themselves to share information, making the majority of them spies.

It was making Hayma paranoid of that suspicious stranger showing up in the village looking for a Magi.

She felt hunted.

It wasn't a good feeling at all.

 

*** Shella Whent - 1***

 

The room was brightly lit, even if it was a bright day outside. Shella and her youngest daughter, and only surviving child, Sorha were doing needlepoint. Sorha arrived yesterday with her husband Patrek Mallister heir of Seagard. House Mallister was sworn to House Tully just as House Whent was.

Ser Patrek, young fool that he was, was often at Harrenhal – Shella was not entirely certain that he didn't fancy himself the keep's Lord in the future. What an overreaching fellow.

But Harrenhal was far too large of a keep for only her and her servants; the castle of Harrenhal was always woefully understaffed. Even if it was burned by Aegon the Conqueror's dragons when he and his sister-wives invaded Westeros, and some of it was too dangerous to live in, but there was still so much space and her House was too small to fill its vast halls.

And they were vast; she and her late husband used only the lower thirds of two of the five towers. The rest was barred, and only sometimes cleaned and maintained. Most of the keep hoverer was unfortunately let go into ruin.

"My Lady."

She looked up from her needlepoint to see Maester Tothmure in the doorway holding a parchment in his hand.

"There is an urgent missive from King Robert Baratheon, and …"

"Well then don't let us wait, old man, read…" Patrek exclaimed, in his impatient and rude way.

"Maester Tothmure," Shella intersected, her voice silencing Ser Patrek, and he reddened; she did not know, nor care, if it was from embarrassment or anger.

But the maester knew who ruled here, so he bypassed the young oaf completely and proffered her the folded parchment; she saw the red and yellow wax sealed with the royal stamp – a crown stag and lion combatant.

She broke the seal and read, ignoring her son-in-law fidgeting. From the corner of her eye she saw her daughter's quick smile. Good, it appeared Sorha hadn't lost her spirit. But the writing. This was interesting …

"Well?" her son-in-law demanded.

"Patience is a virtue young one, or didn't you learn that at your teacher's knees?" She watched Patrek's face turn purple. "I have no need for more of theatrics from gallant fools like you, Ser, in MY home." She held his gaze when she saw that…saw him blanch at her sharp words, even if her tone was kind as a stiletto blade hidden in silks.

"King Robert bids me to accept Lord Eddard Stark's natural born son as Lord of Harrenhal," she deadpanned and waited for it. It didn't take long for the lad to explode.

"This is an insult!" her son in law shouted, as he passed by where she was sitting; she watched him pace around like a caged wolf. Her surviving child Sorha was without children. Children could still come; her daughter was not past her childbearing age.

"And you are not lord of Harrenhal, so please desist with the theatrics," Shella said, making the man bristle. Oh, her husband should have never betrothed and later married their daughter to this one. Not that he was a bad sort, just overly proud and entitled – southern heir. It became the rage for young Southern Lords to emulate King Robert in partying, indulging in wine and women.

Though in one way, her son-in-law was correct, it was an insult. A great insult in fact.

King Robert legitimization of the Northern bastard son of his friend from boyhood and then giving the boy of six summers his own keep with rich lands.

The silver lining of all this was however that Shella had known all four children of Rickard and Lyarra Stark. Something about the tales she heard of Ned Stark from his sister Lyanna while she was with Shella at Harrenhal ran contrary to the tale of him fathering a bastard in Dorne.

She'd expected this from Brandon Stark, but not Eddard. It was all so very strange.

Unless, all this was a clever ruse, the age of the boy in question, matched, and so did the place and first appearance of the babe. To be certain, however, Shella Whent would have to venture, first South to King's landing – fortunately she was being summoned by the Hand of the King Jon Arryn, and then, she intends to travel North to Winterfell – Eddard was one of those who hid a lie within a truth. Fortunately, or for lord Stark of Winterfell, unfortunately, Shella was very good at reading people – a minute expression on the person's face, how he stands – she never lost a card game in her life.

A bubble of excitement shot through her. It had been a while since she was part of exciting events – last time she and her, now late, husband Walter Whent were a part of something so exciting, and secret was a wedding between Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lady Lyanna Stark.

This might have been a saving grace. Her daughter was childless and Shella didn't want her daughter's nitwit husband's family inheriting Harrenhal.

That and Jon Snow – now a legitimized bastard of the North, effectively voided Harrenhal from House Tully.

House Whent may still have been a sworn House to the Tully's of Riverrun, but Jon's was not.

"In any case, I'm going to King's Landing," she stated, her dimwit of a son-in-law brightened up, the greedy fool.

 

***Days later***

 

Couple of days later, Shella was on Kingsroad, and by the look of it she'd soon be wheeled in House Whent's wheelhouse into King's Landing and then into the Red Keep.

Her wheelhouse, with mounted knights and pages, slowly moved towards the Dragon Gate, their entrance to King's Landing. Shella had been in King's Landing before, accompanying Princess Elia home after that clandestine wedding on the Isle of Faces between Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.

Princess Elia was excited and relieved by having a sister-wife – that was what both Lyanna and Elia used for addressing one another – and for the two women, Elia took to Lyanna as she would to a little sister, while Lyanna, Shella knew, because even before the wolf-maid meet the royal couple, she lamented the lack of a female sibling, as Lyanna had only brothers.

Shella didn't know if they could work, their three way marriage – but there was a lot of respect and affection – and beginnings of love blossoming between the prince and his second lady wife.

Regardless they striked a beautiful image; tall and handsome Prince Rhaegar with his broad shoulders, indigo eyes, and silver hair. Princess Elia, in contrast, was a head shorter, slender, with copper skin, dark, almost black, eyes, and black hair. Lyanna completed the pretty picture with her wildly curly, rich brown hair, pale complexion with healthy rose cheeks, and sparkly silver-grey eyes.

That came as a welcome surprise; Elia and Rhaegar were fond of each other but what bound them was duty. They managed to produce two lovely children; however King Aerys became more and more displeased by Elia's delicate health. According to Varys who told the Prince that his father bid the Spider to start the search for another wife for an Heir to the Iron Throne.

They feared for Princesses Elia then, and Lady Lyanna wanted to escape the impending marriage to Robert Baratheon.

To convince King Aerys to accept Elia and Lyanna as co-wives, they wanted to play on the prophecies made by the woods witch of the High Hart who made the prophecy of the Price that was Promised, a Prince that would come from the line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen and the Prophecy of a "Song of Ice and Fire" by Daenys the Dreamer.


Not to mention that the marriage would tie the North to the Crown, and considering that the Starks were very loyal to their own - it should move the King to not make much of a fuss – especially if it calmed the King's paranoia about House Stark becoming ambitious with its Southern matches.


The second angle of their reasoning was the saying "Dragon has three heads." Elia could not have anymore children – a second wife was necessary for the third head of the dragon. And for the last part, "Prince that was promised," if the first child Lyanna would have had had been a boy, he would have the title of a Prince, while Aegon would inherit the title of a King.

Shella was saddened when the rebellion broke out – due to Brandon Stark's folly – if there was a sane monarch on the Iron Throne, things would have been different – Stark's heir would still be arrested for treason, he did threaten the heir to the throne - but perhaps he and his father would not have been killed in that mockery of the Trial by Seven.

There was a ray of hope when the message from King's Landing arrived at Harrenhal. Princess Elia wrote that Rhaegar arrived, and that King Aerys was pleased with his son, that he got married to a Stark – who was guarded by the three Kingsguard – Shella's own nephew among them in Dorne, and was expecting a child.

"My Lady," the coachman called, interrupting her trip into the past. "We are nearing the Red Keep."

"Good," she called out to the coachman. "I'm getting cramps here."

 

***Inside the Red Keep***

 

She didn't wait when she found out just where the King was located; she marched straight to his location, and was disappointed– she remembered a tall, black bearded fellow – a maiden's dream, some would say, if you'd like a rough and tumble type of Lord.

"You Highness, Lord Arryn," the Spider intoned when she swept into the room – first rule of engagement, don't be what your opponent expects you to be, that was true in battle, a duel, or at simple meetings such as this.

"This is a private meeting, Lady…" Jon Arryn, The Hand of the King, furrowed his eyebrows in thought. She was not surprised by the lack of recollection; they were introduced but once, and after that they hadn't crossed paths again – until now, that is.

She dropped into a curtsy and finished with, "Shella Whent." She introduced herself, and by the surprised expression on the Spider's face and the sudden darkening on the King's, her arrival was entirely unexpected.

Good, let them be out of balance.

The King scoffed, "Now, I made my decision; Jon is to become Lord of Harrenhal, that is my final and"

Unfortunately for the King, Shella didn't come all this way in a stuffy wheelhouse to be dismissed with a wave, oh no, she had things to say, things to settle and a mystery to solve.

"Yes, yes, I agree." She waved her hand and smiled at the dumbfounded royal, "Jon Vermilion formerly Jon Snow is the new Lord of Harrenhal."

That took steam away from the King so badly that he faltered.

"Err …" He looked to his Hand of the King who looked just as stumped, Varys – The Spider, looked like he was having a fun time with this development, and only now did Shella notice Grand maester Pycelle and another Lord with the Estermont sigil emblazoned on his tabard.

"You cannot have a Stark south of the Neck, your grace, the Tully's would go berserk. You probably displeased them with this move as you effectively removed Harrenhal from their province. Not only that, the Holster's eldest daughter is married to Lord Stark and you legitimized her husband's natural born son."

House When were vassals to the House Tully, and so Harrenhal fell under them, while if it go to the Starks – so Shella asked the woods witch and her own maester to look for an extinct House from either the Stormlands or the Crownlands. Together they found House Vermilion of Stormlands – and since the King was formerly Lord of the Stormlands – all lads belonging to Harrenhal were now a part of the Crownlands and not the Riverlands."

With those words there was silence - King Robert looked uncomfortable; Varys's face was a picture of politeness, and the Lord Hand sported a pinched expression, like he'd was on the verge of a terrible migraine. It looked like they didn't considered Lord Paramount of Riverlands.

"Now for the boy, I'm familiar with the boy's closest family; I knew all of the Stark children – Lyanna Stark spent a very long time at Harrenhal after the tourney and -"

"Really, my Lyanna stayed at Harrenhal? How was that, tell me about her?" King Robert demanded eyes feverish. He looked … a bit demented. Something she only heard about – about how King Robert Baratheon always raved about his lost great love and raged about Targaryens.

"I was under the impression," Shella intoned, "that you and the lady in question were betrothed, and so spent an ample amount of time together …"

"I'm afraid my grandson was not the chivalrous sort, and ignored the poor girl completely at the tourney, and indulged in drinking games …" the man who was sitting by the window interjected.

"Grandfather, do not ruin my Lyanna's memory; she was taken from me …"

"Yes, yes, so you say. But considering that you didn't court or woo the lady, just her brother – she was hardly taken from you – but you have a wife and three children anyways; let the dead rest in peace and move on with your life."

Then he turned to Shella and bowed his head. "Now who is this handsome lady? Mycheall of House Estermont of Greenstone. At your service -" he kissed her knuckles. "And I'm a widower with a grown son."

"Charmed, my lord – I'm Shella Whent, Lady of Harrenhal, my husband and sons died in the last war, and my daughter has married."

"Hmm, I wasn't thinking about your or my children."

"Oh I know, my lord."

Lord Jon Arryn cleared his throat, breaking the moment between them; the King looked even more disturbed and he averted his gaze when Mycheall gave him an appointed look. There were undercurrents there, and it appeared that the King had lost this argument, whatever the argument was.

"Lady Whent, you started to say something about my namesake?" Lord Arryn asked, rather, steered the conversation back on track.

Shella nodded, "Your grace, I'm sure that Eddard Stark's son is a good boy, but he cannot be lord of Harrenhal – not as a Stark – there was a house, formerly in the Stormlands in the Age of Heroes that called itself Vermillion, let the boy take the name of that long ago extinct house, as for the sigil, there is no reason for it not to retain some of the elements from House Stark. In fact, I have it here –"

Shella unruffled a long cloth – a banner – Shella made this one herself: a two facing passant direwolf with their paws touching- one grey, the other red - on a half cardinal, half ice-white field with a grey border.

"This solves much, your grace," the Spider said, as his little eyes looked over the embroidery. "It also allows legal transition of Harrenhal and its territory from the Riverlands into the Crownlands

"I'll write the documentation," Lord Arryn ruled, after he looked to King Robert, who gave a short nod. "I'll leave it to you." With that the King left the room.

"Lady Whent," Lord Arryn started to say, but Shella interrupted him.

"I will go to Winterfell myself, and I will help the young lord with his duties – see Lord Arryn, Robert's rebellion cost me my heirs, so Jon Vermillion will be my heir as well."

 

***North***

 

They made a short stop before reaching Winterfell, where they had a change of clothes. Shella and Mycheall shared a room for the night, like they did for the entire trip from King's Landing.

Looking at her reflection in the mirror, she had her family's colored best woolen kirtle and bodice and cloak, along with a fur lined shawl and gloves for warmth; to the casual observer they would have seen a slender, elderly lady with a handsome, careworn face and artfully coffered long white hair, black eyes, and eyebrows.

When she exited the wheelhouse, she and her entourage arrived a day and night later at Winterfell - judging by Lord Stark's expression when she stepped out of her wheelhouse, he was taken by surprise and it was not exactly a welcome one. His wife however looked delighted.

Shella suspected they had a quarrel, and hadn't mended their grievances just yet.

"Lady Whent, your arriving comes at a surprise." He bowed over her hand.

"It's been years since you last saw me, Lord Eddard," she said kindly, while she gave the lord of Winterfell a warm smile.

"It was at the tourney at Harrenhal was it not? You returned to the Vale, with Lord Arryn and Baratheon, your brothers returned here to Winterfell, and your sister Lady Lyanna stayed with my husband and me."

"Lord Stark!" her companion shouted when he dismounted; Lord of Estermont decided to accompany her – and they had come to an understanding; it was a thrilling experience to have that closeness that she shared with her dearly departed husband again, but this time it was with Mycheall.

"My grandson spoke of you as if you would hang his moon and stars," Mycheall said next, making Eddard Stark even more uncomfortable.

"Mycheall, dear, poor lad doesn't know who you are, or who your grandson is," she intersected, making Mycheall laugh. It was a wicked laugh, but she learned that the man loved to tease Robert and everyone he came across really.

 

Shella nearly doubled over, but she disguised her mirth with a cough, as she turned back to Lady Stark.

 

***Old Nan - 1***

 

The cold air was a constant presence in the North; it settled around the corners of the halls, where the warmth of fireplaces or the warm water springs couldn't reach.

It didn't do her any favors, not at her age. Sometimes she longed for the desert, of the sands and sun of Dorne.

If not for her love of the Stark children, three generations of them, she would have gone home years ago.

So she sat on her rocking chair by the fire knitting, sitting, and watching over young Robb Stark and Jon. Little Lady Sansa was with Lady Stark, who was seething somewhere in the keep.

Yesterday Lady Whent arrived at Winterfell, bearing King Robert's seal of legitimization for little Jon Snow – now named Jon Vermilion Lord of Harrenhal.

"Lady Stark was not amused at that. Not at all, Nan observed her lady – just because she was old, so very old, that didn't mean she lacked in wit or experience.

She was young once; she had a profession that paid well, at least until Prince Aerion Brightflame broke her fingers, so she could no longer perform puppet shows anymore. Resetting the bones had been painful, and she lost the dexterity and agility to move puppet strings with precision."

The reason Lady Catelyn was seething alone, and being cold to her Lord Husband, was because Jon was legitimized, not as a Stark but as a high lord of his own right. The other reason why Lady stark was upset was that the castle of Harrenhal's holdings are some of the richest in Westeros, claiming vast tracts of green fertile land.

That and Lady Stark probably thought that one of her own children or her brother Ser Edmure Tully or sister Lady Lysa Arryn would have inherited Harrenhal. After all the Lady Mother of Lady Catelyn was a member of House Whent, before she wed Hoster Tully, the Lord Paramount of the Trident and Lord of Riverrun.

 After Lady Whent had words with Lady Stark in the privacy of the Lady chamber – Ned was unaware of what Lady Whent had said to her Lady, but Lady Stark grew even more frightful and was giving little Jon alternative cold and guilty looks.

Nan wondered why?

Nan … she nearly forgot her name … Tanselle was her name and she came to the North years ago with her son Duncan. She styled herself as a widow, seeking somewhere to settle, because she wanted to raise her two infant sons. But she was never married – she was in love with a Knight, named their son after him, but Tanselle believed Duncan to be dead. So she changed her name to Nan and headed North – if there would not work out, she could always return home to Dorne.

That wasn't what had happened; she had become a wet nurse to young Brandon Stark, son of Lady Lyanne and Willam Stark, who was Lord of Winterfell, after Lady Stark died in her bed of blood. The Little Lord followed his Lady Mother three years later – due to a summer chill – Tanselle was now named Nan, since the Little Lord couldn't pronounce her name, and he shortened it to Nan and it stuck.

She supposed that the younger generation of Lords, Ladies, and servers did not know her real name – she was Nan, Old Nan to all of them. After little lord Brandon passed away, she stayed on as a nanny to Edwyle, and later, when Lord Edwyle became the Lord of the Winterfell and wed Marna Locke, she was the nanny to his son Rickard - the father of Brandon, Lyanna, Ned, and Benjen.

 

***Zuraya Jehoahaz Abraham - 1 ***

 

Zuraya was sitting cross legged on the ground talking to Mother Dragon. The sheer beauty of her friend never ceased to amaze her." Eyes as dark as the night sky, framed with long eyelashes, brilliant white gold scales that glittered like stars in which Zuraya could have seen her own reflection, as one could in a full body length mirror, in those large eyes. She still looked the same – tall and slender, light brown skin, with a sharp face and long ponytailed wavy purple hair, along with sky-blue eyes.

Mother Dragon was also as wise as she was beautiful.

It amused her when her twin brother's son Solomon came to defeat Mother Dragon eons and another world ago.

"Perhaps it is time for me to return to the world, what do you think Mother Dragon?" Zuraya suddenly asked.

Her elegant head rose on that long neck. "Does my company bore you, little one?"

Snort escaped her before she could hold it in. She and Mother Dragon shared a lot of history. After Zuraya sought refuge with the Origin Dragon when the great Move happened – Zuraya was able to crystallize time around herself so she could stay with her dragon friend through the centuries.

"That is impossible, but I need to check up on my kids. I've been away from them for so long."

"Very well; I will carry you to the Continental Riff boundary."

"I thank you." Zuraya bowed.

 

***Days later***

 

After days of flying on top of Mother Dragon, Zuraya crossed the border. If she remembered correctly she was south of the Yambala tribe … at least that's what it was fifty years ago. They tended to move a lot.

Fortunately, Zuraya knew where their home – of all the tribes was located. Sometimes it paid to be a long living human from Alma Torran; all right so she was a founder of the Yambala culture.

After the Great Exodus most forgot that it happened, except for Yunan, the Torran people, and herself. Zuraya wandered a lot … when she settled; she came across a hidden settlement of people that called themselves the Yambala.

She taught them the ability to manipulate the energy created from Rukh, Magoi, within one's body, the same thing she taught centuries later to her son Badr. The concept of having a family was still strange and wonderful to her.

That was something the humans in Alma Torran did not have. A family – all children were in commune and when they reached maturity… well, they were expected to have lots of children of their own. As many as they could have as fast as they could.

They knew what they were.

The bottom species of the food chain of ALL the species of Alma Torran.

Until Ill Ilah, the God that created Alma Torran, reached from the sky and bestowed magic upon the five hundred surviving humans along with seventy-two divine staves to rule and unite the world. Seventy-two divine staves represented the seventy-two species of Alma Torran.

She and her twin brother David were there – they saw Ill Ilah descend from the sky with tendril-like extensions growing from its body. It was large in size, and could overshadow a group of fully grown ogres.

And then one of those shiny bright and warm tendrils of Ill Ilah wrapped around her and she felt power welling through her.

With help of the magic, those five hundred humans quickly mediated peace among the other sentient species.

That was all and well, until David, her twin brother, discovered how to use his stave to enter the dimension where Ill Ilah resided. Zuraya accompanied him on that day – the day the world stopped making sense and at the same time woke both of them to reality that Ill Ilah was not some secret benevolent being that cares about his creations – no it was an omnipotent being without will.

Perhaps she should start to write down her memories. Like her twin did. Only she'd write only her thoughts not the prophecies that basically said "I will overthrow the Ill Ilah and become a God!"

 


 

BONUS PoV:

***Tywin Lannister ***

Tywin was sitting in his solar that overlooked all of Casterly Rock and Lannisport. He was in the highest tower, which was situated in the center of his keep, facing the window and watching the sun set – a crumpled parchment in his fist.

Tywin had mixed emotions about this message carried by a raven – from King's Landing, that was written, in secret for Tywin's eyes only, by Pycelle.

On one hand he felt like history repeated herself, a member of his family, his legacy, was betrothed to someone lower than her station.

Robert, that buffoon of the King, with indulging the Hand that was Lord Arryn, made a betrothal between the legitimized Stark bastard with Princess Elenei. Just as Tywin's father Tytos Lannister made Genna, his sister, wed a Frey Emmon, a mere knight, not a lord or heir to the Twins.

At least the base born boy was given Harrenhal.

He'd wait and see how the new Lord of Harrenhal would turn out and then he would decide if Princess Elenei would keep her husband, alive, after the birth of an heir and a spare.

 

"The Crone is very wise and old,

and sees our fates as they unfold.

She lifts her lamp of shining gold,

to lead the little children."

Next: Slice of Life Part 5: Smith

 

Chapter Text

***Tyrion Lannister-1***

 

King's Landing - 290 AC

 

It was summer. The sun was high in the sky, the day was bright, and he had to squint his eyes when he looked outside. There were no winter or rainy clouds in sight, despite the House Stark's words of 'Winter is coming', and Tyrion Lannister was being housed in King's Landing, left behind by his Lord Father Tywin Lannister, Lord of the Rock. That had come as somewhat of a relief, being left behind by his father- and he had Jon Arryn making him a castellan of the Hand of the King, to thank for that. It was also a relief to not be in charge of the sewer and plumbing system of Casterly Rock; it became tedious and besides, the other people could do just as good of a job. Castelian for example, once Tyrion presented the man with plans and schemes that improved on the keep's plumbing system, everyone had more time on their hands.

Yes he was that good with innovations – Cersei had her high cheekbones – and her love for her children, Jaime had his sword, and Tyrion had his mind, and all of the Joanna Lannister's children put good work in their redeeming qualities. Tywin returned to Casterly Rock more than a year ago; he came because King Robert legitimized Eddard Stark's bastard son and betrothed him and his daughter, Tywin's granddaughter, Princess Elenei Baratheon. His father did not like this, but he had no ground of influence to change it either. At the moment, now that was an ominous thought. His lord father plotting never ended well for innocent bystanders. Tywin's reason for leaving his dwarf son behind: to keep an eye on Robert – who took to drinking with him on a regular basis, though how could Tyrion persuade the King in annulling that betrothal, he doesn't have an inkling – nor did he particularity want to after all, as Tyrion often said – he had a fondness of cripples, bastards, and broken things. Besides, Tywin hadn't planned to stop the betrothal – he liked the notion of Harrenhal keep and lands in Lannister hands through his royal granddaughter.

Lord Jon Vermilion, formerly Snow – he should have been Sand, since his mother was rumored to be Ashara Dayne of Sunspear. His father truthfully investigated that possibility – and concluded that it was possible, that lady Ashara Dayne, after giving birth to that stillborn daughter of a Stark, conceived again and that Lord Vermilion of Harrenhal was indeed their second child. In addition, Tyrion was sure that the fact that Lord of Harrenhal was acknowledged as the natural born son of Lord Eddard Stark – which meant that, if all male children of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn Stark died – the male offspring of Jon could get to be Lord of Winterfell.

That was meagerly more acceptable to Tywin Lannister. Tyrion's Aunt Genna mentioned to him, that his father had a similar reaction when Tytos Lannister married Genna into House Frey.

Fortunately for Tyrion disposition, he was very glad when his father was not around; Tywin returned to Casterly Rock without him. Thanks to Lord Jon Arryn. Tyrion will be forever grateful to the Lord of the Vale, who served as Hand of the King to King Robert Baratheon. Tyrion poured himself a goblet of Arbor red wine, and went to the balcony window. He had been in King's Landing for over a year now, he thought as he swirled the red liquid in his golden goblet and watched the sun set over the city from the balcony of his suite – a magnificent view, a small suite with good furniture for comfort, and low shelves full of thick leather bound books and scrolls that his father appointed … or rather asked for him. The problem was Tyrion had to climb many spiraling stairs to get to the levels where other noble born were located.

Tywin settled him in the rooms of late Princess Elia Of Dorne, equally late daughter, which explained the low shelves. Most of the rooms in this wing of the Red keep were walled in by stone mansions that King Robert – or rather on the king's orders to his Hand of the King, except of the one at the top. Robert Baratheon did not want any reminder that the Dragon Prince and his wife and children existed, so all rooms with the exception of Princess Rhaenys solar and attached suit of rooms were walled in just as the poor dead had left them - poor child, she probably just received the rooms before she died.

Robert Baratheon did not want any reminder that the Dragon Prince and his wife and children existed, so all rooms with the exception of Princess Rhaenys solar and attached suit of rooms were walled in just as the poor dead had left them - poor child, she probably just received the rooms before she died. She was stabbed half a dozen times by Clegane when she escaped Ser Amory Lorch – Lorch for some reason could not carry out the deed, and immediately after the war ended, he joined the Sparrows. Lorch spouted that after he dragged the little girl from under her father's bed – a part of Tyrion was jealous at the dead princess; she felt safe around her father, something Tyrion did not have with Tywin, neither did his sweet older sister and brother he was blinded by a bright light and when he opened his eyes the little girl was nowhere in sight. Unfortunately, the little princess had escaped into her mother's rooms where Ser Gregor Clegane committed the unspeakable deed, probably by his Lord Father's order. Truth Spider eluded that there was a lost secret passage that nobody has found yet.

Those words were said in the presence of the royal children that were playing nearby. Joffrey began spouting words like 'Dwagonspawn' and 'When I will be king...', Argella attempted to corral him with soft words, but he pushed the six year old away from him … When the black haired girl stumbled, somehow from somewhere a splash of water landed on Joffrey's crown of golden hair, soaking the four and a half year old princling. He then became wroth and started to throw things about, making a mess that attracted the Septa's attention, and who then grabbed the boy by the back of his collar and started to scold him sternly.

"This Septa won't last long, unfortunately." Tyrion heard Varys mutter, and he agreed.

Cersei would hear that the Septa was disciplining her son and she would throw a fit and have the Septa dismissed.Which was a pity since Joff needed some discipline in his life, and not an absolute indulgence he was getting from everyone in the keep – Cersei was saying that as her son and heir to the Iron Throne he deserved everything her precious Prince Joffrey desired. Just like how some maesters wrote history books in the Lannister's favor – or rather in his Lord Father Tywin Lannister's favor. Maester Yandel, for example, claimed in his writings of history books that Princess Rhaenys was killed in her bed by her own mother, and the same fate met little Prince Aegon before the Dornish Princess took her own life.

However Tyrion become intimately acquainted with the cruelty his Lord Father was capable of inflicting on any and all perceived slights to Tywin Lannister's pride. Especially that his youngest son – supposed heir, though Tyrion was sure that Tywin still planned on setting up Jaime as a Lord of Casterly Rock – was born a dwarf. It rankled Tywin that he had sired such a son, as well as coupling that Tyrion was a dwarf with the death of Joanna; his mother reportedly bleed to death after he was born. Aunt Genna said that men fight their battles in wars, and woman fight theirs in a bed of blood, and just as a man can lose his life during his battle at war, a woman can easily lose in her battle in a birthing bed. That time Joanna lost her battle – Tywin never forgot or forgive his son, and his siblings stopped trying to reconcile Tywin with the fact that Tyrion was not at fault after Tywin refused to speak with the sibling that tried to talk sense into him.

His Lord Father often imposed restrictions on Tyrion – making sure that he was not seen too often in public. Tyrion did not consider himself a hermit, but his Lord father inspired in making him one, denying him being able to study in a Citadel or having a tour of the Free Cities – and the woman who loved him and wed him, Tysha, who was still Lady Tysha Lannister in his thoughts. Never out loud of course, or his father would do something even more beastly than what he already did to that gentle and kind girl Tyrion had married when he was thirteen – his two nieces were a year old or so when Tyrion met Tysha when he was traveling with Jaime on a lonely road near Lannisport; she was attacked by bandits, and Jaime drew them away with his sword.

Tysha was slim and willowy, with a small round face - like the moon - and had long straight dark brown hair, with a bit of copper when she was outside and the sun rays hit her hair along with her bright blue-green eyes. Her skin was tan where she was exposed, but where she was not it was flawlessly white. She had small teeth, healthy; she told him that that was because she enjoyed eating raw carrots. Her mother often said to her that she was her little 'moon rabbit'. Tysha had a beautiful singing voice, and she loved to sing 'The Seasons of My Love'- and sometimes he found himself humming the words while remembering her reasons for why she sung such a simple lyric.

His mouth opened and he started to quietly sing the words:

"I loved a maid as fair as summer,

with sunlight in her hair."

Tysha's hair smelled of the sun; she loved to say that the sun can warm the coldest of hearts, like how it melts ice into water. Pity that that didn't work on his Lord Father – he was getting colder and colder as a years passed him by.

"I loved a maid as red as autumn

with sunset in her hair."

 

Her lips were a natural gentle red, and she always had rosy cheeks on her otherwise bronze complexion that came from being outside so much, and there was a copper shine in her brown hair, similar to the leaves in autumn – and she looked marvelous in simple red velvet dress his brother Jaime brought for Tyrion and Tysha's wedding – where Tyrion wrapped Tysha in a red and gold cloak of the Lannister house.

"I loved a maid as white as winter

with moonglow in her hair."

 

When the last notes ran out, Tyrion reached up and wiped away the moisture that found itself on his face. He never saw her in white – but she was white as milk after that night…and all he could remember of her was her whited out face, pale as snow and the full moon that was bathing the terrible scene that his Lord Father orchestrated for him and his wife in the Lannister soldier's barracks … casting everything in silver … just like the silver coins that spilled out of his wife's pale limp hand. And one golden stag … that bloody cursed golden coin his father pressed into his hand and forced… Tyrion cursed his father and he cursed himself too for believing him, just for a moment, for who would have ever love a beastly dwarf. His Lord Father and Queenly sister certainly despised him, hated him even, but even if it would have been true, that Tysha was a whore, she did not deserve that kind of treatment. No woman did.

Tyrion's hand clenched around the goblet, his nails digging into the hard surface with a force that made his nails break and his fingers bleed. He hated his father and he knew that he would never ever have that parental love he so craved from Tywin. Sometimes Tyrion doubted that Tywin was even capable of love for any of his children – he was only concerned about the Lannister name and only that, the rest could have burned in the Seven Hells as far as his father was concerned. Well Tyrion could suggest who his father should start with – by looking at himself in the mirror.

His Lord Father always overreacted at perceived slights to his person or position – something that Cersei emulated, only she was not as clever about it. Her hatefulness towards these slights were often overreactions and misinterpretations of words said of her. She often took offence when there was no reason to and schemed to activate her little games – like she did to that poor servant girl who gave birth to King Robert's bastard twins. Tyrion made sure she and her children were provided for with a job at his Uncle Kevan's abode in Lannisport. The very same song played out with House Tarbeck and House Reyne. Tyrion knew that action and steps should have been taken to insure that the revolt of those two houses did not occur, but he also knew that Tywin deliberately escalated the hostility and then didn't leave any opening for a peaceful resolution. He could have petitioned the Crown in removing Tytos Lannister from seat of power.

Aunt Genna once told Tyrion that her elder brother Tywin felt that to be a successful and respected Lord of Casterly Rock he needed to be feared. Respect would come later or not, the important thing was that Tywin Lannister was feared by all so that nobody would have dreamed to go against him. The same happened with Tyrion's Lord grandfather Tytos' mistress – Tytos gave her expensive gifts of jewelry and appointed her as a mistress of the Rock, but after Tytos died, Tyrion's Lord father stripped the woman of everything she owned and sent her to make the 'walk of atonement' through the streets of Lannisport to the docks and to the ship that took her into exile. Dismissing her with only the clothes on her back and a small pouch of coins would have been enough. There was also a slight delivered by King Aerys when Tywin suggested a marriage between Prince Rhaeger and Cersei. The King laughed and said that wherever did Tywin hear that a servant girl could have wed a prince, an heir to the Iron Throne. Tywin Lannister felt slighted and humiliated, and that hostility towards the insult delivered by the King turned toward the Martells.

When King Aerys made the marriage pact with the Martells of Dorne, an innocent suffered yet again from Tywin Lannister's wrath – misplaced as it was. Jaime and Cersei, the Golden Lannister Twins. Tyrion did not begrudge Jaime; he loved his older brother. Jaime taught him to ride, and he often played with him and shielded him from Cersei, something that his Lord Father Tywin should have done. Cersei was the other person, his own sweet sister, tall and golden with beauty compared to a Targaryen that hated Tyrion's very existence. He often caught her looking at him with her wildfire green eyes that burned with hatred.

As for his Lord Father? Tyrion's very existence was an offence to Tywin. So he was always treated with disdain by his father, and Tywin, as was his habit, lashed out at another innocent – this time Tyrion's own Lady Wife, Tysha. Tywin Lannister always compensated for his father's, Tytos', failings. Tytos Lannister wanted to be loved by everyone – Tyrion can understand his grand sire's feelings of wanting love; it was a precious and rare thing, love. But unfortunately Tytos picked a generosity to the point of stupidity road. He was indulgent and entirely to lenient with his bannerman. The small folk loved him though, Tyrion discovered that most often it was the smallfolk that made sure that the various bannerman didn't take too much advantage of their liege lord.

They'd been together; Tysha and he, happily wed, for three moons, before his father found out about it, and when he did, well… It was a bad day and an even worse night; the only bright spot was that all his uncles, Kevan, Tygett and Gerion, along with his Aunt Genna were at The Rock, and that they had soon found out the truth about the whole affair. Tyrion was hiding in his room after Tywin's so called lesson, when his Uncle Gerion came for him and took him to a small room that was beside his father's solar and bid him to listen quietly. His Uncle Tygett's argument with his father and his other Uncle Kevan was what Tyrion overheard. Uncle Gerion was with him, in fact Gerion was the one that led him to the small niche where a small hole was located so that they could see inside in his father's solar and hear every word spoken. Tyrion Lannister squeezed his eyes shut remembering that dreadful conversation between his two Uncles and his Lord Father that took place at his lord father's solar at Casterly Rock years ago. It wasn't like the song that was sung by bards, a song that was secretly composed by his Uncle Gerion. 'Little Lion and His Fair Lady'. And the attributes given to Little Lion and fair Lady did not match – for example Tyrion was not as tall and as strong as an oak tree nor did Tysha have Lips red as the rose. Hair black as ebony. Skin white as snow.

 

***Casterly Rock 286AC***

 

Thirteen year old Tyrion was sitting by the niche with his Uncle Gerion, looking over Tywin's solar at Casterly Rock and listening to the conversation between the three brothers: Tywin, Kevan, and Tygett Lannister. Uncle Tygett was practically circling his brother in rage; Tyrion could see his uncle's stiff posture. Among the Lannister brothers, Tygett looked the most like a lion, with his thick, curly and long yellow hair. His face was scarred in the battle of Ninepenny Kings. Almost without thought, young Tyrion leaned forward to better hear what was going on; his Uncle Gerion didn't explain, just telling him that he should hear what was going on. Tyrion was still reeling after what he witnessed and what Tywin ordered him – go last, pay a golden coin – he had trouble remembering it; it was all a big fog – he recalled thinking, 'Is that really Tysha?'

"Can you explain this horrendous behavior toward your own son, Tywin?" Tygett sneered at his brother, jolting Tyrion back to reality.

He looked to see that his father was industriously writing something and not paying any mind to Tygett. But even Tyrion could see from that secret niche that his father was angry; his hand was stiff, and he was pressing the tip of an ink-pen a bit too hard on the paper. His Lord Father mastered the skill of pretending to ignore what he didn't wish to hear – of all of the three children of Tywin and Joanna Lannister, it was Tyrion's sweet sister that inherited all the proud personality and need to rain revenge on every slight, real or perceived, from their Lord Father and none of Tywin's intelligence. Though she thought herself as clever and as cunning as Tywin.

"Tygett," Kevan hissed at his brother, and then he turned to Tywin. "Brother we really need to talk about that girl – Tysha," he said, respect for Tywin coloring every word. Uncle Gerion once told Tyrion that Tywin was very prickly about his pride, which Gerion delighted to shake and Tygett to anger, while Kevan worshiped Tywin ever since they were children. Tywin Lannister was sitting behind his desk, writing a letter without acknowledging Tygett, but he looked up at Kevan's words.

"The matter is over," Tywin said, his voice cold and clipped. "This marriage was annulled; the girl is gone, and Tyrion will never try to find her, and he WILL remember it the next time he wants to marry a whore." Tyrion flinched and bowed his head. Suddenly, he found that he had difficulty swallowing, and when Uncle Gerion's hand landed on his small shoulder, he shuddered and was surprised when he felt something wet trail down his cheek and chin.

Why was he crying?

"That child was no whore," Tygett exploded, the sound echoing around Tyrion – and the word's meaning reverberated through his mind, leaving him to gasp and reel back. He would have fallen to the ground if Gerion didn't support him with a firm hand. "A lowborn orphan girl, yes. A daughter of an honest crofter on your lands; she was one of your own people… but you certainly made an innocent into a whore didn't you. And now you are forcing your firstborn son to cover your mistake. To lie about the girl Tyrion wed! You are forcing Jaime to say a lie that the girl was a whore meant to make a man out of Tyrion for his thirteenth name day." Tygett was shouting into his brother's face, blocking Tyrion from seeing his father – not that Tyrion could see anything – he was staring through that hole not seeing or hearing anything; his mind however was racing like a prized Dornish sand stallion.

Tysha loved him. She really loved him, and she was, she was … Tyrion put his head in his hands, shivering despite the warmth, and taking shallow, shuddering breaths – he wanted to curl up into the nearest dark corner. He heard steps and the his Uncle Kevan's voice; he looked up and through the peephole to see that Kevan stepped forward, cutting off his brother Tygett's raging.

"She was no prostitute, Tywin," Kevan said. "I spoke to her myself before sending her off to a ship bound for Essos. She was genuinely interested in Tyrion, and she loved him and only wished to be happy with him."

"The only thing," Tywin interrupted Kevan, "that interested her was Lannister gold, and she received some of it – for services rendered to Lannister soldiers. That makes her a whore. I'm not going to allow my children to wed this kind of woman, and this girl's happiness is none of our concern, and Tyrion, he needed a lesson. He will marry a suitable wife when the time comes," Tywin said in even voice, his face as hard as stone, but Tyrion was already married – by the Septon and in the light of the Seven. He had draped the Lannister cloak about her thin shoulders.

Tygett snorted, a great huff of air. "You've tried to marry him several times up to now. Lysa Arryn, Elia Martell, a Hightower, a Royce, you failed each time," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand and a sneer aimed at Tywin, whose lips thinned in obvious displeasure.

"Why not allow Tyrion to be wed to that girl?" Kevan asked and implored his older brother, which earned him a furious look in return, but before Tywin could form a retort -

"Nay, Tywin delights in making Tyrion miserable for the sake of his prickled pride in siring him," Tygett remarked slyly.

At that Tywin abruptly stood – with a force that sent the massive throne like chair on which he was sitting upon crashing to the floor. "I won't listen to any more talk of the harlot that was married to Tyrion!"

There was a pure hatred at Tyrion's name in his father's words, which froze him to the bone, hearing that tone, though he was starting to grow accustomed to it – and angry at his father and disdain that he was showing, and another thought came to Tyrion as he watched the solar. Tywin hated him so much that he would deny him even a sliver of happiness.

"The Lannister name will not be connected to any such talk of whores marrying Lannisters again," Tywin continued with a quieter, cold, fury.

"The girl didn't even know that Tyrion was a Lannister and they'd at least be happy; I can still stop the ship and bring her back and we can make her presentable so nobody will know of her humble crofter origin…" Kevan started, but he was never able to finish his suggestion.

Kevan's words were silenced when Tygett's fist connected with Tywin's table; it was a good thing that the table was made of a strong oak, otherwise it would have surely been damaged. Tygett lunged forward and with his other hand grabbed his elder brother's lapels, pulling Tywin's face in line with his own. "Perhaps because you tend to pay for everything, including the women you smuggle now and again into your rooms, you think now that everyone is a whore or can be bought and sold. Joanna would have been disgusted by your actions, to have a girl that loved your son that she gave her life to bring into this world, brutally raped by soldiers, and then forced Tyrion to go last – she would rightly call you a monster!" With that Tygett dropped Tywin back in his chair and stalked out of the solar without anymore words spoken.

His Lord Father had a stony expression but his eyes conveyed his anger in green fire. "I'll command my son," Tywin's voice was freezing cold; when he looked at Uncle Kevan, he stepped two steps back. "He will tell Tyrion that the girl was a tavern whore which services Jaime purchased for Tyrion's birthday." Those words uttered by his father so coldly made Tyrion bolt from his Uncle Gerion's side and as far away as his short legs could carry him.

 

***King's Landing 290AC – Mazātl, first month in the year***

 

Later, when Jaime told him those words, Tyrion acted as if he'd believe him. He knew that his brother didn't really have a choice, and as far as Jaime knew, Tysha was a gold digging wench taking advantage, except that she wasn't. Then once again, Tyrion was approached by his Uncle Gerion, along with his Aunt Genna and Uncle Tygett– that conversation had given him more hope.

They told him that while Kevan Lannister had spoken the truth about putting Tysha on a ship bound for Essos, Tygett and Gerion managed to whisk away his wife from that ship and place another girl – Shae was her name, or so Gerion said, who was looking for adventure and a change of scenery in foreign lands, so the Lannister brothers put Shae in Tysha's place and the girl sailed to Essos. Tyrion wished her a happy future. She certainly made him happy in going and Tysha staying. His Lady Wife, however was placed in his Uncle Tygett's Holdfast - Melusine, a keep that was located right before the border between the Westerlands and the Reach. Tysha then begun her long and hard road to recovery in Tygett's keep – safe from his father – Tyrion learned after the fact that she had arrived delirious and catatonic and bleeding. Fortunately, the Maester that was stationed in Castle Melusine – Maester Rion – had ample experience in healing women that were brutally raped by many men. When she healed her physical wounds and some of the internal ones, Measter Rion reportedly said that sometimes the inner-soul's scarring was far more dangerous to the patient, and that the patient needed to be delicately treated with respect and with no blame- as it wasn't the girl's fault – and with a hefty dose of understanding, care, and calming droughts and with a dose of Dreamless Sleep Drought before going to bed, so that the victim was not plagued by nightmares. Aunt Genna, and Tygett's wife Lady Darlessa Marbrand, started to slowly teach Tysha how a noblewoman must conduct herself. Genna confided that for a lowborn she picked out the trappings of nobles well and this coming from his sharp-tongued aunt was quite a compliment.

Uncle Kevan, and his wife and their children, had gotten Castamere – Kevan ordered the still flooded halls to be dried where possible and if not filled with sand and stone. Now the holdfast was inhabitable or at least the upper part; the subterranean halls that had been able to be salvaged however were water damaged and they would have to be repaired. It had been a while since Tyrion saw his Tysha and it was the miracle work done by the combined efforts of Maester Rion, Tyrion's Aunt Genna, and his Uncle Tygett's wife Lady Darlessa that she had recovered and hadn't lost their child, her life, or her sanity or her love for him – the news that Tysha was with child and was indeed a month pregnant when Tywin found out about their marriage filled him with both wild joy and black dread- and added some more white into his hair – after that night some of his golden hair turned white..

What if baby was a dwarf like him?

Would Tysha still love him then – and how in the name of the Seven if that happened would they hide that Tysha was still in Westeros and bore Tyrion a dwarf child from his father and uncle Kevan? What if the same fate that had befallen his Lady Mother awaited for his wife? When their little girl was born – fortunately she inherited the color of her mother's hair so the mint green eyes of a Lannister stock were not as obvious as a feature for his daughter. His little Sabrina, named after Tysha's mother, who died of Summer Sickness that razed a lot of smallfolk in Westerlands. Not that his father did anything to help the peasantry. Tytos often dispatched Maester Creylen to help the afflicted people. His father however did no such thing.

"My little fair lady," Tyrion muttered, as his thoughts rested once again on the memory of Tysha holding little Sabrina. It was a wonder that Tysha still loved him, after her ordeal. He didn't deserve her; he did not protect her as a husband should then from his own father – BUT he won't fail again.

Aunt Genna had not cautioned him that he should be patient, and in time they, he and Tysha, could have resumed their life together as the family that they were. However, there was one price to that: when Tyrion and Tysha are finally together, Tyrion could never acknowledge little Sabrina as his blood, for his family safety; to the rest of the realm, Sabrina was orphaned daughter of a Landed Knight from the Riverlands. 

Tysha now lived under the name of 'Lady Regina Chavasse,' a rich widow with a daughter, who lived with her distant relation Darlessa Marbrand and her husband Tygett Lannister because they had nowhere else to go, since the dwelling passed to a distant relation of her husband's. She'd stay out of sight until the right time and meanwhile she would receive Lady training – and all right there was a bet raging between Uncle Tygett and Uncle Gerion if it was indeed possible to turn a lowborn into a genteel woman. Aunt Genna said that Tysha was coming along nicely, and she had natural grace uncommon to lowborn; his aunt made an additional remark that there was a possibility that Tysha was a descendant of a noble house – through a bastard line.

Tyrion didn't really care; he loved her regardless and she loved him back. They shared a conversation where they talked about… everything. Tyrion also found courage to apologize to his wife for believing Tywin's words about her intentions for a moment. She just hugged him tight as a response. It wouldn't be long a year at most… when they would finally be reunited. He would have to plant careful seeds with the King and Jon Arryn so that they would support him in marrying a widow in such a way that his father – if he happened to, unlikely as it was, recognized Lady Chavasse as Tysha. He turned away from the setting sun and back to his suite in King's Landing, completing yet another obstacle his father concocted with the location of his rooms. It pained his legs, walking up and down that staircase that connected his suite to the main hallway, unfortunately, so he spent most of his time in his rooms reading and/or thinking.

That was until Varys showed him a passage that rendered those stairs void, somewhere a grown man or woman could not go – but he was not the size of a grown man. The Spider was crafty and a very intelligent individual, who approached him with care. At first Tyrion thought that this was because of his stature – or lack of it– but soon he discovered that Varys was very enjoyable company – not a trusty one, but Tyrion didn't trust a lot of people. This trust included Jaime, and now his two nieces. He was still reserving judgment on little Joffrey; there was definitely something unsettling about the boy. The same "Something" that Tyrion sometimes felt in a lot of the older Clegane brothers. His father's most trusted bannerman – Ser Gregor Clegane or what people were dubbing him as the Mountain That Rides.

He was knighted by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen himself. Not that Tyrion meet the Prince – he wished he did though; there was a certain mystery clinging to all the mess that was attached to Robert's Rebellion. "Enough about that, time to see the family," he said to himself – funny how in the absence of people to talk to he tended to speak aloud; he really should stop doing that. People might start whispering that he was mad.

They already say that he was a demon monkey. The last thing he needed was an added appellation of 'mad'. Mad demon monkey didn't have flare to it. It sounded like a bad joke.

 

***

 

As Tyrion descended the stairs, he should have been grateful for his suite; it was fit for a royal. It might have looked nice on the surface, but as most things he received from his Lord Father, it was poison underneath. Part of Tyrion, the childish part, that was starved for daddy's approval, wondered if his father would ever accept him as more than a dwarf, only to dismiss it all a second later – Tyrion could not afford to lie to himself about his father's lack of love for him. His wife and daughter depended on him being a realist about his father and to not cling to a foolish and futile hope of Tywin ever regarding him with a modicum of parental love. Tyrion had been in the Red Keep for just over a year now since he arrived with his Lord Father. It was quite the experience getting to know his two nieces and his nephew and getting to know the people of King's Landing; yes many called him 'Halfman' or 'The Imp' behind his back or to his face.

That wasn't new.

People had been calling him names behind his back for as far back he could remember. What was new, was that he found love within a family that resided in King's Landing, not with Cersei of course. His sweet older sister still hated his guts, or all of him really and wanted to spill his guts, and his Lord Father despised the very ground Tyrion trodden on with his stunted booted feet - in fact out of his closest family, only Jaime loved him as a brother. But now he had an additional two little women. His nieces; when he talked to them for the first time – Tyrion was under the impression that he had just talked to grown ups and not two girl-children of five summers.

They fascinated him.

They were two years older than Sabrina – and admittedly Tyrion was not around children so young that much, but he was reasonably certain that they didn't talk like his two nieces could. Like grown women. Tyrion sought many conversations with the two princesses; he even played Cyvasse with them and while they shared a similar face and body build – though all that might change as they grow and have their individual personality shine through – they were different as day and night. Argella was a polite and quiet child; she preferred a quiet book in the corner and often joined him in the Red Keep's great library. Her favorite topic was history and herbal lore. They had many lively conversations about Kings of the past. Sometimes her younger sister joined them in conversations. Argella was sweet and gentle and a smart girl, and sometimes she talked with a slight stutter when around rough and loud speaking people she was unfamiliar with. Nevertheless there was a bar of iron underneath all that demure personality and inner toughness that was at odds with her age. Elenei was different; she could be kind, sweet even, but she possessed an ironic and evil sense of humor – like playfully teasing Tyrion when he was hungover - and could turn bitingly sarcastic with people she did not like. Elenei also had a mind for tactics and sometimes he had a feeling that there was a much older soul behind those dark eyes of hers, and unlike Cersei she was pretty good with manipulating people. She took immerse pleasure in outmaneuvering the courtiers that ignored her or whispered poisonous words behind her back. When he first sought her out to give her a shoulder to cry on and give her some sage advice – it turned out that she had come to the conclusion that people would never forget that she has a Targaryen look and that her father would always be resentful of it all by herself. She still thanked him for his support. At least she was not as lonely now – some noble families had sent their daughters to serve as handmaidens and Maids in Waiting to the two princesses; all of the noble little ladies were approximately the same age or a year or two older than his two nieces. Each brought a gift for each Baratheon Princess as was the custom; a gift had to represent the region from which the lady came from and it had to be a womanly gift – jewelry, silk, wooden jewelry box, and the like.

Traditionally, the gift was given upon the lady's entrance into the Princess of Blood service and in the privacy of their private chambers. Each brought a gift for each Baratheon Princess as was the custom; a gift had to represent the region from which the lady came from and it had to be a womanly gift – jewelry, silk, wooden jewelry box, and the like. Traditionally, the gift was given upon the lady's entrance into the Princess of Blood service and in the privacy of their private chambers.

At the moment, the two princesses' shared Child Court consisted of: Two handmaidens, both bastards of the noble houses they were being trained by Cersei's Mistress of Robes that served as governess for the two Princesses, Lady Bella Lannister distant relative of Joanna Lannister, his late mother, to take Chief Lady's Housekeeper, the woman who runs the ladies' household. Joy Hill – Uncle Gerion's daughter, green eyed, golden red hair that fell down in large ringlets. Mya Stone from the Vale and one of the King's many bastards. She wore her coal black hair short. These two were with his nieces first, and both Argella and Elenei were fond of them. Sometimes they even called Mya Big Sister in High Valyrian. Never within Cersei's hearing though, which Tyrion found wise of them.

Then there were the Maids-in-Waiting, or the future Ladies-in-Waiting: Lady Carellen Smallwood came from the Riverlands; she arrived first along with Ser Bryden Tully or as he was commonly known, The Blackfish. She was the same age as Lady Stone, a tall young lady, with rich brown hair and cinnamon colored eyes, who was as graceful as a swan and a voice to match the most musical of singing birds.

Then there was Lady Jeyne Swann from the Stormlands; she was the eldest of the noble ladies that came to serve with her seven and ten summers.

Lady Leona Tyrell from the Reach; she had light dark brown curls with big sky blue eyes in a heart shaped face, and was a distant cousin of the ruling branch of house Tyrell. In addition there were two ladies that hailed from his Lord Father's lands – Westerlands – the eldest daughter of lord Gawen Westerling and Lady Sybell Spicer – Lady Jayne, a shy girl with chestnut curls and doe brown eyes. Her scheming mother probably hoped that her eldest daughter serving as a handmaiden to the Princess Royal would up her chances for a good match – she wasn't wrong.

Baratheon's were honor bound to see to good marriage prospects of the yet betrothed noblewoman serving royal blood. The other lady from Westerlands was Lady Joanna of House Swyft, and was a lady from his Uncle Kevan Lannister's wife's family and shared many characteristics with Uncle Kevan's Lady Wife Dorna – small face with a tiny chin, thin limbs, and wide forehead – with hair the color of wheat and close set sunken cobalt eyes. She was not a great beauty, nor would she ever be one, but she was a sweet, kind, and simple soul. Both his nieces were very kind to Joanna.

Later in the beginning of the year 291 AC, in the month of Ehēcatl, there would be another noble lady joining the Child Court – his daughter Sabrina, when she and Tysha arrive – the plan that would let them live as husband and wife will finally come to fruition. The noble girl from the Crownlands came from House Rosby, Lady Rabarbara. Her hair was a thick mousy brown; she had very pale skin and a small thin face. Woman from the Rosby family were considered delicate – waif like- and prone of dying during childbirth. Lady Mira of House Forrester from the North arrived with Lord Mycheall the current Master of Laws, since Lady Whent stayed at Harrenhal for a time, she had every intention of traveling back to King's Landing – the budding romance of Lady Whent and the grandfather of the King made much noise in court. Not that the Master of Laws paid them any mind – to those brave souls who showed disapproval to the Lady and/or Lord in question – well they were hiding in the dark, licking the wounds from the tongue lashing they received. The meddling fools. Still Tyrion had many, many laughs at their expense.

The last lady came from the Vale – Lady Myranda Royce. She insisted on beeing called Randa. Everything about her was round; she had a round face, a round small mouth, round brown eyes framed with long, thick eyelashes under bushy eyebrows, and crowned with fat brown curls – she was six years older than his nieces – a maid of three and ten. Now they only needed a maid from Dorne. Perhaps he should suggest it to Lord Arryn, one of the bannermen of house Martell could have an eligible daughter that would be willing to come to King's Landing. After all, the possible marriage to bring Dorne back into the fold was in the process. Princess Argella was to marry one of the Dornish princes.

 

***Red Keep – Ātl or the third month***

 

"Now, now princess ..." the smooth oily voice of Petyr Baelish interrupted Tyrion's walk as he ducked into the shadows – only to find The Spider already hidden there. Varys gave him an acknowledging nod, and then he turned his attention to the people in the stone archway. Tyrion observed that Lord Baelish was standing there , smiling down to the equally smiling princess – while Elenei's sworn shield helped a young redheaded girl, dressed in simple brown clothing, the kind worn by Flea Bottom residents, back to her feet.

"Lord Baelish." Elenei smile was decisively not friendly, "care to explain why you are harassing one of my handmaidens?"

"Begging your pardon, your grace, but this girl ..."

"Rosa." Elenei smile could freeze the entire room. "You see Lord Baelish I am very aware of my handmaidens, and take their well being very personally."

"It is a pity," Tyrion heard the eunuch mutter above him.

Tyrion looked up to see a curious expression on the Master of Whispers' face; he was fixedly watching Tyrion's niece half wistful and half relieved, like he could not make up his mind on how to feel about his own feelings. Sometimes he could see the same conflicted look on Barristan Selmy's face. Lord Commander of the White Cloaks often watched little Elenei with wistfulness and guilt – a bit different palate of emotions but nevertheless there. Tryion wondered at times why Ser Selmy, Commander of Kingsguard, looked at his youngest niece this way.

"What is?" Tyrion asked equally quiet as they observed the Master of Coin trying, and failing, to outmaneuver the princess. Tyrion was willing to bet mountain of gold coins that Rosa was not one of Elenei's or Argella's handmaidens, he knew them all, but she would be. Varys smiled and gave a bit of a bow, an inclination of his round bald head.

"That that Princess was not born a Prince." Then Varys turned to him and lowered his voice ewen more to merely a whisper. "Did you know that both princesses between them do a job that the Queen, and King, usually does, in secret," Varys whispered, a secret smile pulling at his lips. The man dealt with secrets like Tyrion's good brother dealt with drink and women.

"That I did not know." But Tyrion honestly wasn't surprised. Cersei was mostly indifferent towards the denizens of King's Landing – treating everyone that wasn't a Lannister, Tyrion being an exception, like they were weeds or an enemy, and King Robert – he did precious little ruling – he demanded tourneys, feasts, partaking in both with gusto – and bedding women was his routine. "What did they do?" Tyrion asked curiously with his head tilted to the side to better see the eunuch's round face.

"Well...for one they are often visiting, covertly – though sometimes Ser Barristan accompanies Princess Elenei along with her sworn shield," with that the eunuch giggled conspiratorially.

Tyrion had the feeling that Varys knew why Ser Barristan was giving the youngest princess such looks. "When she went down to Flea Bottom, she managed to set up a couple of Septas with pay of five silver coins to teach the orphaned children to read and write. Princess Argella set up a fund so that those same boys and girls can receive coins upon reaching the age when they'll be let go from the orphanage, so that they can pay admission for becoming an apprentice to someone. And they have plans to educate and make life easier for the people that live in Flea Bottom, with giving them access to work and education."

 

***3 days later***

 

What Varys told him on that day, Tyrion honestly was not surprised – the two tiny Child Princesses set up education for the orphaned children and created Septa run kitchens that fed the poorest in the town. In exchange for labor – creating work force, and with that last thought, he signaled the page – some cousin of his, Loncel, Lancel, something with L - or other; definitely Lannister though by the livery and looks by the door to the hall that he wished to enter.

"Beloved family," he greeted as he beheld them upon his announcement as he stepped through the door and saw his sister the Queen and her husband the King sitting at the High Table, breaking their fast with courtiers and other assorted Lords and Ladies. Including the Hand of the King – who returned from his journey to Dorne - and his wife Lysa, who was glowing and round with child. Lady Lysa often showed certain reverence to Princess Argella and Lady Bella Lannister – Argella mentioned that she chanced on Lady Arryn weeping because she lost yet another child. As a result of that chance meeting, Princess Argella introduced the woman to Lady Bella Lannister – soon after that Lady Lysa was found pregnant again. Elenei mentioned that Lady Bella had shown her how to nurture the ingredients needed and how to brew those same ingredients for moon tea and mothers tea. Two opposites, one to take or prevent new life, the other to nurture and enable life.

His sister's husband was already in his cups and he was gulping down a suckling pig; if Robert continued with this vein, his girth would expand to resemble an ale barrel. At least the King took Lord Eddard's message seriously – to NOT make public the betrothal of Princess Elenei with Lord Vermilion of Harrenhal before the elder Princess and the Heir to Iron Throne were betrothed or wed. Something Tyrion had a feeling would go right over King Robert's head if it came from somebody else. Fortunately, Cersei was unaware of plans pertaining to her children. Tywin made sure that she would not be told until it would be too late for her to do something … foolish, as Tyrion's Lord Father said – like ordering a catspaw to kill Jon Snow – now Vermilion.

"Lord Tyrion," King Robert waved the chicken leg at his direction, laughing. Cersei just gave him a cold look while Jaime gave him a nod from his guarding place. His nieces said him sweet hellos and wished him a good meal. Joffrey just blinked at him and resumed with his meal; already at five summers the Crown prince was emulating his mother with his dislike of his own uncle...that and that business with the kitchen cat. It made Tyrion wonder if the Seven Gods flip a coin for Lannisters as well.

 

***

 

Later that day, Tyrion sat in front of the Lord Hand, in the Tower of the Hand chambers - siping his cooled wine, while Lord Jon went through papers he unearthed.

"Well, this is it then … I say we made a narrow escape," Jon said when he put down the document. "Yes I agree; what did Prince Doran say?" Tyrion asked, curious at how the talk between the Prince of Dorne and the Lord Hand went in Sunspear. Jon Arryn rubbed his chin; he looked tired. Dorne's climate did not agree with Robert's Hand of the King.

"As well as expected, he threatened with Dorne's separation from the Seven kingdoms."

Tyrion frowned. "Considering that since King Robert sat on the Iron Throne, Dorne was part of the realm in name only," he said, swirling the last swallow of Arbor red in his goblet – that and the fact that they married into Targaryen Royalty, they never were conquered and they never surrendered. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, indeed.

"He said that he'll give the matter some thought," Jon Arryn said. Tyrion could not be surprised at the man's answer–Prince Doran Nymeros Martell was a cautious man and he distrusted anyone with the name Lannister even before Robert's Rebellion. Tywin Lannister especially.

"Do you think he'll accept?" Tyrion asked;

Jon sighed. "I told him I cannot give Dorne back Princess Elia ..." Here Jon Arryn paused; no doubt his sense of honor rebelled at what Tyrion's father's bannermen had done and at the actions of the King after the fact, much like Lord Stark did. "Or the man responsible, but ..." Jon Arryn was worried, Tyrion observed as the man spoke.

"You are worried that the Martells will harm the princess?" Tyrion asked.

Jon looked startled. "Oh no," he denied, "Prince Doran and his younger brother assured me that 'They do not harm little girls in Dorne' and I believe them. They won't extract their vengeance on the children … but," Lord Jon trailed off, looking into the distance, no doubt looking for a solution. But Tyrion knew that short of handing Ser Gregor Clegane to the Martells, with a written apology from Tywin Lannister, they would never stop plotting.

"But that doesn't mean they'll stop plotting against my Lord Father or King Robert."

Jon Arryn sighed then his bright crystal blue eyes meet Tyrion's mismatched ones. "That is what I'm afraid of. If not for the hatred Roberts holds over the Targaryens, I'd propose a marriage between Prince Joffrey and Princess Daenerys Targaryen. But Robert would never hear of it."

No, Tyrion thought – this was the Baratheon madness, the unrelenting fury at the former ruling house – in that they were akin to Tywin Lannister overreacting at any slight, perceived or imagined.

 

***290 AC of Xōchitl or 5thmonth***

 

"Well," Tyrion said as he raised his wine to salute Jaime, "To little Myrcella, with her golden curly crown of hair and her green eyes." Jaime's grass green eyes glinted. "Sometimes brother I wonder about you," he said with amusement. "My beloved brother, you do know how I love my family." It was for Jaime and Argella and Elenei and for Uncles Kevan, Gerion, and Tygett as well as for Aunt Genna's sake that he put up with the other family members like his sweet sister and Tywin.

 

*** 291 AC Mazātl or First month***

 

Tyrion found his stay in King's Landing bearable when talking to the people he liked. When he was not performing his duties as 'deputy' Hand of the King – he made a jape to Jon Arryn – or Lord Jon, as the man insisted to be called – that King Robert needed two hands instead of one; Lord Jon laughed and agreed, and piled Tyrion with more of a workload. At first, when Tywin commanded Tyrion to accompany him to King's Landing, Tyrion thought that his father wanted his old job as a Hand back …and he found himself hoping that he would have it, because then Tywin would not be stalking him through the halls of the Rock. But fate was a curious and fickle thing, and sometimes the turn of the wheel of fate was in his favor. Jon Arryn offered Tyrion a position that Tywin could not refuse. That of the castalian for the Hand of the King, moons after his arrival, all because of a jape and later advice that he'd given to Lord Jon and King Robert. That and he could out drink the King himself under the table, something that amused his good-brother and infuriated his sweet sister. King Robert was only slightly miffed that Tyrion did not partake in whoring, or hunt with him – he muttered then something that Tyrion 'was just like Ned', he assumed that with Ned, King Robert meant Lord Eddard Stark – Tyrion would take that as a compliment.

Everything that pissed Cersei and anything that twigged Tywin was good in his mind. Tyrion liked his position; he liked thwarting various power hungry courtiers, like Petyr Baelish, finding secrets, and making alliances. He enjoyed conversing with Varys – though sometimes Tyrion felt that Varys was the best friend he had in King's Landing and sometimes he felt that Varys was his worst enemy. Tyrion sat in on the Small Council, with Jon Arryn, who most often served as King Robert's proxy, since his royal good-brother often drank and whored his days and nights away, and rarely ruled the Seven Kingdoms.

Petyr Baelish managed to grab the position of Master of Coin, and was in charge of the Royal Treasury; Tyrion decided to keep a sharp eye on that. Stannis Baratheon held the title of Lord of Dragonstone and served as Master of Ships and was charged with the command of the Royal fleet. Grand Maester Pycelle was in the small council as a maester; Varys acted as Master of Whispers, a position he held since the days of the Mad King's rule. The only position that wasn't yet filled was the Master of Laws. Tyrion knew that the King wanted to gave the title to his younger brother Renly. In the few last months, Cersei's belly swelled with child again – a child that Tyrion knew WAS not King Robert's, but of his older brother Jaime's. The only children that the King sired with Cersei were the first three. The son died – when he only numbered among the living for a couple of moons, the black haired Prince sickened and died. Only the two princesses survived and thrived, and two years after the birth of the triplets, Cersei gave birth to a boy Robert named Joffrey.

Speaking of boys – Jon Arryn gave him a job, tracking down a tome of Laws. There were boys -pages, as many he could have roped in to help in searching the needed information through old scrolls and leather bound books. Sometimes his nieces helped with research, Tyrion didn't mind the help. He also did not mind giving hints about what he and Lord Jon discussed behind closed doors: namely bringing Dorne back to the fold through marriage of Princess Argella Baratheon and Prince Quentyn Nymeros Martell, the second child of Prince Doran of Dorne – Tyrion knew that they won't tell it to anyone, or Seven forbid their mother – he knew what his sister would do when she would hear that one of her daughters was betrothed to Dorne and the other to a former Northerner bastard – well, he'd make sure there won't be any assassination attempts on any party, or prospective grooms. Cersei could be quite unreasonable when it came to any of her children. If she could, she would have locked them all away in the tower where nobody could harm them.

 

***Small Council Chambers***

 

"Good morning, my Lords, I apologize for my lateness," Tyrion said as he stepped into the chamber. "I do hope you haven't waited too long."

"My Lord Tyrion," Pycelle bowed his white head, his chain clanking as he did so. "We waited for you because Lord Hand ..." Jon Arryn waved his hand, interrupting the maester's slow speech.

"We didn't wait long, besides I did give you a task ..."

"Yes, well," Tyrion held up a book, "I found what I was looking for, finally. Perhaps we should go over this at a later date." "Yes," Lord Arryn nodded, "this matter was shelved for more than seven years, it can wait for a day more." Tyrion nodded and took a seat.

"The King," Jon Arryn started, "sanctioned the creation of another post in the Small Council, the Master of Commerce. That position will be appointed to the emissary that the Dorne will send– the person will arrive to the tourney held for Princess Argella and Princess Elenei's name day that is held in Highgarden."

Tyrion nodded; it was Jon Arryn's idea that the Royal Family would travel the realm each year to another region –this year they'd be in the Reach – then, next year they would travel to Dorne, where Princess Argella would remain as Prince Doran's cup bearer, that she may grow accustomed to Dorne until her nine and ten name day when she and Prince Quentyn would wed.

"I hear that congratulations are in order, Lord Tyrion," Baelish drawled, interrupting Tyrion's thoughts. Tyrion looked up to lock gaze with Lord Baelish, his a paler shade green eyes gleaming with the same light as those of a mockingbird – Petyr Baelish's self made personal sigil. "I hear you are to wed some widow a day after tomorrow."

"Yes," Tyrion said, "The King himself will attend the ceremony instead of my bride's father – who is deceased, and my brother Ser Jaime will stand in as my father." Aunt Genna found an old maiden cloak of the Chavasse House, since Lady Regina, as Tysha was called in public, was the sole woman grown in that house, even if she married into it and had a child, daughter of five summers with dark curls and emerald green eyes. The House Chavasse's words were 'The Big eat the Small' and their coat of arms was a forest green silhouette of a shepherdess on the cloak of dark blue. Soon the green shepherdess embroidered on the dark blue cloak would be replaced by the red and gold cloak of the Lannister House. Before anyone could have said anything else, there was a knock on the door.

"Come in!" Jon Arryn called and a page bearing the colors of House Arryn slipped inside.

"Begging pardon, My Lords, but Maester Colemon bid me to tell you that Lady Arryn made a successful birth of twin girl babies." There was silence; Tyrion guessed that Lord Jon hadn't (known) that his wife had gone to the 'bed of blood'.

 

***291 AC Ācatl or 9th month – Iron Throne Room***

 

"I still don't get it - who would want to sit on a lightning strike hazard?" Then his niece paused for a bit and slanted her look to him who came to King's Landing for the Princesses Argella and Elenei's name-day.

"And it's ugly, cold, and edgy." "Aegon the Conqueror melted down the enemies' swords with dragon fire, and made the Iron Throne, saying that rule should never be comfortable."

"And he wanted to show off with the trophies of his defeated enemies." Elenei shot him an amused smile, her dark damson eyes shining as she jumped down from Iron Throne with a grace he never saw before in a mere, nearly, eight year old.

"That's not in the history books," he remarked, smiling slightly; it would not surprise him if Elenei was right about Aegon the First of His Name's reasons. He had to admit though, Tyrion liked to talk with both his nieces; they were witty and kind. Though his favorite was Princess Elenei - but then he had a fondness for 'cripples and bastards and broken things'.

Though Elenei was not a cripple or a bastard or a broken thing. Far from it. But because of her Targaryen looks, the King often pretended that Princess Elenei didn't exist. She was an outcast in her father's eyes because of her looks, just like Tyrion was in his father's. Tyrion once heard Joffrey call her 'Dragonspawn' to her face once. The children were alone; there were no Septas or minders watching them. And they didn't see him. He wanted to chastise his nephew. But what Princess Elenei did next made him double over in quiet laughter. The girl smiled sweetly, and with honed tones, reminded him that if he called her dragonspawn, he called himself AND the king the same. But then Joffrey sneered at her and made a threatening step toward Elenei with his fist falling ... and Tyrion could not follow what happened next - but Joffrey ended up on the ground in his small clothes, and his breeches, shirt, and doublet were makeshift flags on the nearby trees.

"The history books are written by the victor and they are never the entire truth." She waved a hand for emphasis. "I'm pretty sure lots of things got exaggerated and people demonized but then again, everyone is a hero in her or his own story."

"Do you look forward to celebrating your sister's and yours eighth name day in a moon time?" Tyrion asked instead. Elenei hummed, her hands clasped behind her while she looked up at the ceiling of the Throne Room.

"I've never been anywhere but King's Landing; it'll be nice to see other places in the kingdom. Truth is my sister will be sad to go and leave the Arryn twins behind, even if it will only be for two week turns. How about you, uncle Tyrion; will you be with us in Highgarden with your Lady Wife and your step-daughter?"

That was true; Argella was quite taken by the strawberry blonde twin daughters of Jon and Lysa Arryn – the babies were named after Lord Jon's mother and Lady Lysa's – Rowena and Minsa Arryn.

"We'll be there – I wouldn't miss my favorite nieces name day."

"We are not your only nieces you know; we do have a little sister," Elenei pointed out with cheerful smile. "Yes, well this is our little secret, isn't it?"

 

***House Forrester ***

289 AC North – Wolfswood

 

In the middle of the Wolfswood, a small castle stood; this castle was very special, for its walls and halls were made from ironwood. That was a special kind of wood that was sturdier than stone and steel and it did not burn – except for Forrester blood – then it produced blue flames instead of red and orange and yellow ones. Current rulers of the castle were Lord Gregor Forrester, a broad shouldered man with a dark brown beard, that was trimmed short, hiding the sharp hard lines of his face, and charcoal grey eyes. He was strong even as a lad, when he arm-wrestled with Galbart Glover for the position of the man's squire.

His Lady Wife was Lady Elissa, from House Branfield, a minor noble house from the border between The Reach and Crownlands. She wore her sorrel brown hair pulled back in a way of Tyrell women - away from her square shaped face with a strong chin and wide forehead – she was not pretty in a conventional way, but she was a homely woman with an intelligent light in her lidded and narrow cornflower colored eyes.

She was married to the Lord of Ironrath in year 279, and gave birth to their firstborn and heir Rodrick Forrester in the year 280 After Conquest. Rodrick inherited his father's Northern looks with a hint of his mother's blue in his steel grey eyes. Two years later, Lady Elissa gave birth to a boy with light ash brown hair and aquamarine eyes. They named the baby Asher. The boy was rebellious even at his tender age of seven summers, raising Lord Gregor's ire with his daredevil adventures. Elissa often heard her husband say that Asher would turn his hair grey before it was meant to.

Their first daughter came into the world at night on the first day of the year 285. They named the child Mira. Of all current three children of House Forrester, she was the most Northerner, with her longer oval facial shaped pale grey eyes, and a dark and thick sable brown. She was a bright child that learned the ways of a Northerner lady quickly; how to spin wool, how to run the household and her lord's correspondence, skills that were required to run the keep and its lands in her lord husband's absence, how to defend herself with a short dagger and archery. Lady Elissa thought of sending a letter to Lady Olenna at Highgarden to take on Mira as a handmaiden for her six year old granddaughter Lady Margaery Tyrell.

In 287 AC when there was a snow storm, and before birth, during this fourth pregnancy Elissa was having a reoccurring dream of giving birth to a daughter with a voice like summer rain. When she took to the birthing bed, when the snow storm was at its highest, she gave birth to a boy with dark locks and blue eyes of Elissa's father's house. Gregor named the boy Ethan, but the boy had wailed for hours and no matter what they had done he would not stop – until another labor pain shot through the Lady of the House, and then another until a little girl was born – Lady Elissa named her Talia, after her own mother. Talia was a summer rain in Elissa and Gregor's family – with eyes of summer sky and hair of dark honey-dip. Currently Lady Elissa was bent over her needle work; the twins were asleep with the nanny to look over the two year olds. She was sewing embroidery on a scarf for Mira, when Lord of Ironrath Lord Gregor Forrester entered the room with a rolled up paper.

"My lady," Lord Gregor called; his Lady Wife looked up from her work, and at her husband's expression, she put down her work. "Something troubling you, husband?"

"We'll be having guests, Lord Stark of Winterfell, his young son and heir Robb, Lady Shella Whent, and Lord of the Estermont Island with their party are arriving to Ironrath." Elissa was stunned; Lady Whent was traveling to Ironrath castle along with Lord Eddard Stark with his eight name day old son Robb. Whatever for, she hadn't seen lady Shella since Elissa served as lady in waiting to Elia of Dorne.

"How long do we have to prepare for our guests arrival?" Elissa asked her husband as she leaned over his shoulder to read the message. Considering that Lady Whent traveled by wheelhouse, they still had some time to prepare their halls for receiving and feasting their Lord Paramount and his heir.

"I know Lady Whent," Elissa said,as she nodded toward the letter, her blue eyes thoughtful. Why would Lady Whent travel so far North? The Whents were the same as her father's house, a minor House of the Riverlands as was House Branfield, a minor Southern house in the Reach. What was of most importance was that House Whent of Harrenhal were Targaryen loyalists just as her father's house was. Their loyalty, however, to the Targaryens has costed Branfield house dearly. Their lands and wealth were destroyed, their holdfast razed to the ground, and her own brother Malcolm, last scion of the House Branfield, was living with her since he had nothing to inherit. Branfield castle and its lands were given to some sell-swords that fought in Robert Baratheon's army. "We better prepare for Lord Stark's arrival," stated Gregor, his thick brown eyebrows furrowed, calculating the amount of meat he and his hunters would have to fell with their spears and arrows.

"Sister and good brother,..." Her brother Malcolm, a tall and slim man with sandy brown hair and crystal blue eyes, entered the room.

"So who died?" "Nobody died, Ser Malcolm," her husband huffed. "Stop making japes of my expressions,"

"It's by no fault of yours that your visage is always dour and downcast … it is how you are," was Malcolm's quick witted replay. Ser Malcolm Branfield was quick in a sword fight and quick of wit, tempered by a kind heart. Her husband treated Malcolm as his own blood brother, something Malcolm returned, so their barbs were always in good spirits, despite how it may appear to outsiders.

"I'll inform the kitchens to roast two pigs instead of one; it is good that they'll arrive just before we usually dine at the table," Elissa said while throwing a telling glance to both men.

"Did we just get the 'boys behave' look from my dear sister?" Malcolm asked with an amused smile, his eyes shining mischievously. "I believe we did, Malcolm, we are getting guests from houses Stark and Whent; could you take the hunters to hunt a stag and some snow fowl and hare. I'll gather my brood." "For a brood, you'll need a couple of more children – you could always bring ..."

"I haven't yet told my wife, and … I'm a bit concerned at how she'll react." "I think you are doing Elssy great disservice –we are from the South of the Neck, yes, but from the Reach, not the Riverlands, and our grandmother was a Tyrell. My house never made any difference between children born outside the marriage. Just think on it – I know and I hold no ill will toward your two natural born children – their mother or you."

"I'll tell her … but not now, after the visitors leave..." With that Gregor left to collect his two sons Rodrick and Asher. They were supposed to be with the Master of Arms at the practice yard. Mira was supposed to be there as well, practicing her archery.

Leaving Malcolm to take care of the hunting. Well Malcolm had no clams in providing wildlife for the table. He understood his good-brother's reluctance in telling his Southern wife about his two Snow children he had with a spearwife – or one of the Free Folk or Wildlings, concerning how usually Southern ladies treated husband's bastards of the North. That had some merit, since in the North an acknowledged bastard of a noble could rise to be a lord or in a higher position more easily than in the South – the stigma that bastards are evil was more prominent in the south because of the Blackfyre Rebellions; the bastards were unjustly vilified. The new Lady Stark – Catelyn Tully from Riverrun was known for her view of bastards. There was friction between the Warden of the North and his Lady Wife where Lord Eddard's natural born son Jon Snow was concerned. Lord Eddard was much admired in the North for bringing young Jon to live in Winterfell, because according to the rumors, the Lady that had given birth to Jon died in childbirth – the baby had no home. That was not the case of Gregor Forrester's children. Spearwife Ersella lived with Gregor at Ironrath when his friend's father still lived. She bore him two children, a boy Josera and a year later a girl, Elsera Snow. When the news came that Gregor would marry a lady from the South – the wildling woman packed her children and left for her home in the North Grove, the protected area north of the Wall. Malcolm had meet Josera, a tall lad that could be mistaken as one of the Starks, with his long face and stormy grey eyes. Josera was a Warg, like his mother was; his younger sister inherited the other side of her mother – Elsera Snow, like her own mother Ersella was before her death, was a spearwife and a woods witch with an ability to wield blood magic from afar.

 

***Four hours later***

 

After dinner was shared with their guests, the adults were sitting around before the brightly lit fireplace while the children, Robb Stark and the older three Forresters, played with wooden toys on the fur rug. The twins were tired and had begun to fuss, so their nanny put them to sleep Lord Stark was asking about ironwood and about House Forrester with their longtime rivals of House Whitehill of Highpoint.

"Karl Whitehill died of greyscale a week ago," Gregor said. It was a pity, for young Karl was a fine lad of six and ten, and with him at the helm of House Whitehill, the competition for ironwood would have been over, because Karl was looking for alternative means to support Whitehills of Highpoint. Gregor even considered a match between Karl and Mira to heal the rift between the two houses completely.

"He contracted the disease in the caves - cold and damp - when he was squiring for Lord Roose Bolton, the liege lord of Whitehill house. Lord Ludd sent his second born son to the Citadel, when Karl yet lived, and the lad cannot inherit because he is forging his chain. Fortunately, Ludd has another boy and a girl...and his wife gave birth to a fourth son."

There was an awkward silence, only the children playing – their laughter was heard by the adults, that was until Lady Whent gave an annoyed huff in Lord Stark's direction. Lady Elissa often wondered what would happen to Westeros if Lady Shella Whent of Harrenhal and Lady Olenna Tyrell had met and became allies.

"What Lord Stark is trying to say," Lady Shella said, "is that he would like to discuss a possibility of betrothing little Robb here with your daughter Mira. Since she is one of the Northerners that is following the Old Gods, and in addition to that well … the children seem to be getting along fine as you can see."

"We'd be honored, but ..." Lady Elissa started to say. Shouldn't the Stark heir marry a Northern lady from a principal house, such as House Glover of Deepwood Motte, Manderly of White Harbor, or Karstark of Karhold – those Houses had higher statuses than House Forrester and they had daughters of age with Robb Stark. Lady Shella inclined her head toward Lady Forrester, "The betrothal would stand as a determinant for the King in making a proposal of marrying a princess to the Stark heir. And I know Elissa, dear, you always wanted to foster relationship with the Reach and the Tyrells since they are your family" – there Lord Stark shifted uncomfortably and pressed his thin lips together. He was well aware of Elissa's family's alliance and he appeared irritated at the reminder. Not that Gregor or Elissa could have blamed Stark – he lost a lot in the war – and Gregor was unaware that the late Lady Lyanna wed the Dragon Prince. "But," Lady Shella soldiered on like a force of nature, and it was so reminiscent of the Queen of Thorns that Elissa could not help but smile at the familiarity; she loved Lady Olenna, her sharp wit and tart tongue.

"It'll be better if you sent Lady Mira to be a Maid in Waiting for the Baratheon princesses in King's Landing," Lady Shella finished and then she waited. Elissa and her husband stared, then Gregor turned to Lord Stark for confirmation.

"It is so," Lord Eddard said his face inscrutable. "There is also a fact that a Stark has never wed a Forrester, and while Lord Manderly has a daughter and that the house hasn't married into House Stark either - some still look at them like newcomers to the North. House Glover lost their daughter in the woods - and she remains unfound - Wildling raiders are suspected, and Alys Karstark is betrothed to Daryn Hornwood heir of Hornwood."

"Dear," Elissa looked at her husband, hoping he'll agree to the betrothal; not only will Mira be the next Lady of Winterfell, but this marriage could protect House Forrester from the Whitehills and the Boltons. Besides they could have still eventually send Ethan to be a squire to Highgarden and Talia to be one for Lady Margaery Tyrell. "Lord Stark," Gregor Forrester stood up, then knelled.

"House Forrester accepts the proposal."

 

***Ironrath, nightfall***

 

"Lady Whent, you wanted to speak with me?" Lady Elissa rapped the door where Lady Whent would be staying for the night before making the trip back to Harrenhal. Elissa received a small note – pressed secretly in her hand by Lady Shella before she retired. The Stark party would be staying for two days with them and then Lady Whent would travel back to Harrenhal with her second son Asher, who would be a companion to Jon, Eddard Stark's natural born son, and Mira, who would continue with Lord Mycheall of House Estermont of Greenstone to King's Landing, where she would serve as lady in waiting to the two Baratheon Princesses. Which was a better position to serving as handmaiden to a daughter of Lord Paramount. Speaking of natural born children, she wondered when her husband would confess to her about his two bastards he had somewhere. She became aware of them, and yes, she was hurt – but not because her husband had children – but because he didn't tell her.

Yes, bastards were more accepted in the North, than in South of the Neck with the exception of Dorne...and Reach - though that was not widely or commonly known.

"He is Lyanna's," those three words, that Lady Shella said with barely a breath, and with a tight lipped smile those  words stilled Elissa's mind … 'he' could only be Jon Snow now Vermilion.  and with hers brown eyes firmly locked with Elissa's. Then her mouth pulled further into an ironic smile. "And Robert just betrothed Princess Elenei Baratheon to Prince Jacaerys Targaryen , son of the Dragon Prince and his Lady Wife Lyanna Stark," Shella Whent breathed for only Elissa's ears.

To think, Robert betrothed to wed his Stag to a real, breathing Dragon of the North.

Elissa must tell her brother this – Malcolm had meet Prince Rhaegar; he was even knighted by the Dragon Prince, and like Elissa, who was, before her marriage to Lord Gregor Forrester, a Lady in Waiting to Princess Elia Martell of Dorne, was present and witnessed when Prince Rhaegar and Lady Lyanna wed in the Godswood before the Heart Three.

"Baratheon oaf of a man engaged his youngest daughter to him for one reason only - that it is known - that Jon is Ned's is only a bonus in Oaf King's mind." Shella's jaw clenched at those words she uttered in silent anger as she lifted her chin, "He wants to rid himself of Princess Elenei's presence."

"But why! She is his daughter! His blood!" Elissa exclaimed her eyebrows arched high in disbelief; what reason could King Robert have for disliking his child, why she could not be older than six name days.

"You haven't heard the rumors about the youngest princess?" Lady Whent looked surprised. Why? Was the Princess disfigured – did she had some alignment or did have unfortunate displeasing look? Or was she simple minded, or …

"She has a Targaryen look." Elissa didn't expect that – it was a jape from the Gods – old and new – for King Robert spurned his flesh and blood in the same way King Aerys did with his granddaughter for looking Dornish.

"That is ridiculous..." Elissa muttered, "Is Jon a good lad?" The last thing the little Silver Stag Princess needed was a secret Targaryen of the worst - mad- kind as her husband to be.

"He is a good lad," Lady Shella said smiling at the memory of the small boy that she left behind, hopefully in a warmer climate now after she had that talk with Hoster Tully's girl.

Chapter Text

***Jon Arryn- 1***

****King's Landing 289AC Cuāuhtli/10th Month****

 

He was massaging his temples, trying to ward off a headache, his elbows on the table full of papers, ledges, and scrolls.

It was much easier when he was simply the Lord of the Vale, when his first wife Jayne yet lived. They were friends since they were children – when they were grown, it seemed only natural for them to wed, and both, his house and House Royce, were pleased by this match. But then dear, sweet Jeyne died when she was laboring to bring their child into the world. They both perished, mother in the bed of blood and a baby– she never even drew her first breath. Jon, after a period of mourning was observed, married his cousin Rowena – she shared the same name as Jon's own mother. They both died of winter's chill on the same year only days apart. Jon privately thought he was cursed – and half resigned himself that the lordship of the Vale would pass to his sister Alys who wed Elys Waynwood. Or to his brother Ronnel who was married to a lady from House Belmore.

With seventy summers under his name, he was too old for this.

It was lucky that he had any hair left! His teeth were not so lucky; the maester that served House Arryn made him some teeth out of porcelain. He was not sure if that made it better or worse.

First he had to after the war he started, because he had no intention of surrendering Ned and Robert to King Aerys when he had called for their heads. At first, he thought that the King had lost his battle with the madness that started to consume the charming man he used to be after the Defiance of Duskendele. The sad thing was Aerys wanted to be like Tywin – which also resulted in reenactment of the Reins of Castamere for House Darklyn - or rather, he was jealous of him since they were boys. Tywin did not see this, he saw it as another slight when Cersei was rebuffed as a possible match for Prince Rhaegar or when King Aerys made comments about Lady Joanna – it was an open secret in the court that the two were sweet for each other– nobody spoke of it to Tywin, not even the men who despised the Lion. When his and Robert's forces joined up with Ned's after the Lannister Sack of King's Landing – Ned was colder than a glacier when Jon saw him with Jaime Lannister, and it only went downhill when Tywin entered with Lannister soldiers carrying the bodies– he had to prevent another war, this time between his foster sons. He understood Ned's cold anger at the Lannister's butchery; he even shared it – not only did the savage act create political nightmare with Dorne, but stepping on the pride of Tywin Lannister and sending his oath breaking son to the Wall was a bad idea at the time.

Jon knew that Princess Elia was butchered to prevent the possibility of Robert wedding the woman; it was for the same reason Princess Rhaenys was murdered – to make way for his daughter. It turned out to be true, after Lady Lyanna Stark was confirmed dead, Cersei Lannister was the only opinion, the only highborn woman that Robert as King could have wed.

King Robert Baratheon – the way he became King on the battlefield was a mistake.

They should have not crowned him then and there, that action sealed the fates of the Princess of Dorne and her children. After the war, they should have gathered the Great Council to determine the inheritance to the Iron Throne – Robert could have still won the crown though. He had the claim through his grandmother Princess Rhaelle Targaryen, daughter of King Aegon the Unlikely. But things went as they did, and it was impossible to make an egg whole again once it was cracked, and Jon had to placate Dorne, because word had reached Jon that Prince Oberyn Martell was raising support for Prince Viserys Targaryen.

 

***Dorne 284 – Sunspear, seat of the House Nymeros Martell***

 

"The penalty for treason is death, Prince Doran," Jon was sternly saying as he watched the man seated across from him on a comfortable bamboo chair. Prince Doran wore an ocher hued tunic with long sleeves that hid his hands and was covered in blankets – Jon recalled that the man suffered from gout. Or as it was usually called 'The Rich Man Disease'.

"Apparently not," a voice said from behind, making Jon Arryn almost start – but he was too good a courtier to react,or let a little fact like the entrance of Prince Oberyn Martell startle him. "Or Jaime Lannister would be executed or take the Black, and Gregor Clagene would have been brought to justice."

Jon turned to face the new arrival and the man that was the cause of this particular visit.

"Prince Oberyn," Jon greeted politely. Oberyn did resemble Doran, his elder brother, a great deal. Both had heavy lidded black eyes and tanned skin that was the trademark of Salty Dornishman – lean, lithe, and deadly. The only difference between the two brothers was that Doran was aging more quickly due to his illness and was more frail - while Oberyn was full of vitality and causing Jon more gray hairs than was necessary.

Damn Tywin, he had tied Jon's hands neatly. He isolated Robert from his staunchest friend and ally within two moves and pissed off Dorne – the region in the Kingdom that could easily declare independence and Robert could do nothing about it. The Sack of the King's Landing and securing Robert's rule took care that Dorne would never truly support either the Baratheon or the Lannister rule.

Tywin Lannister marrying his daughter to the King, insuring that his grandson would sit on the Iron Throne. Jon knew that the Lion would use any means necessary to insure that outcome. No matter the cost to others like causing alienation of the foremost northern region and foremost south region. North and Dorne. Ned was still seething in the far Winterfell. Jon could understand the Shy Wolf's feelings– but it still hurt him that the two boys, who were fast friends – brothers even and whom he saw as his own sons, were not on speaking terms.

Oberyn walked toward the sofa and threw his body on it, placing his booted feet, crossed at the ankles, on the table. "Tell me, Lord Arryn," Oberyn drawled lazily, his dark eyes intense on Jon Arryn's face.

"Tell me why our cause should be considered as ignoble treason, while Robert Baratheon's war against King Aerys was a righteous and honorable one?" he asked, a black eyebrow raised.

"It sounds like a threat." Jon stated calmly, and coming from Oberyn, you never knew – no Jon did know. It was a threat, no, a promise. Even if Jon managed to bring Dorne in today, neither brother would stop plotting against Tywin Lannister.

"Ohh," Oberyn smirked – but his eyes were hard, "it's merely a remainder of events passed."

"Aerys was mad," Jon was inclined to point out.

"Yes, his paranoia from being betrayed that started at Defiance was well known in court," Doran stated, his hands stepped before him, his eyes intent. "Our uncle Prince Lewyn Martell of the Kingsguard kept us informed of the folly that started the fires so to speak – Young Lord Stark rode with a posy, bearing arms and shouting for Prince Rhaegar to come out and die."

Jon sighed, that was treason – even if it was just, probably meant as a challenge to duel...

"And," Doran continued, "Prince Rhaegar was not at King's Landing or Dragonstone. He was in the Red Mountains of Dorne."

"What?" The Martells knew where the Prince was when the war broke out and they did nothing.

"Aerys ordered my sister and her children to come from Dragonstone after Stark and his companions were detained and a missive was sent to Lord Richard Stark who was at Riverrun at the time. Fortunately, the ship hadn't arrived – so neither Elia or her children witnessed the end of the two Lords of Winterfell. After that, Elia served as a hostage for insuring support to King Aerys from House Martell and her husband."

Jon straightened his spine, maybe this was it, the opportunity to bring back Dorne to the fold. "Aerys Targaryen's crimes were against the realm and his own family. Why do you still support the Targaryen rule? Surely Aerys forfeited the right?"

"And the next king should have been Aegon with a Regent ruling in his stead. But Robert Baratheon saw to that."

"King Robert had no involvement in those tragic deaths!" Jon shouted and stood up. No, Robert had not; he knew Robert since he was but a boy, he could not do such a thing. He may have his vices but he was no baby killer. Jon looked from one brother to the other. Doran hadn't moved; he did not even blink – there was no expression on his face as he watched Jon with his black, viper - intelligent eyes.

He never noticed that Doran Martell had the same eyes as Oberyn. Oberyn watched him lazily, his posture relaxed – he was still sprawled over a sofa as if Jon had not just stood up and shouted at his elder brother.

"Lord Robert may have not ordered the deed but he approved of it – something I hear even Lord Eddard Stark disapproved of and argued that the proprietors must face justice."

Jon really could not dispute that. Ned still hadn't forgiven Robert; he paid his respect as a liege lord should to his King but the friendship was not there.

"And what had Lord Robert done – not only had he turned away from the bodies of the butchered children, he did not bring their murderer Gregor Clagene to justice," Doran stated his voice even.

"And Tywin Lannister was well rewarded with the butchery of my sister and her children," Oberyn's cold voice rang in the lull of silence, like a loud bell, after his brother finished talking. "Tywin's dream of seeigng his daughter Cersei wed the man on Iron Throne – was his dream came too – since he considered himself slighted by sweet Elia marrying the heir to the Iron Throne and not his golden lioness. Ordering the murder of women and children for slights on him, is Tywin's way after all."

Jon sat down, he was afraid of this. He knew that pressuring Dorne would fail, since they were such a remote region – and Robert was unwilling to surrender Ser Gregor to Dorne. They had no leverage over House Martell.

"King Robert will do what he must to keep peace in the realm, and Dorne is a part of that realm," Jon said, his voice even to hide his growing worry that he will not be able to persuade the Martells stop trying to put Viserys Targaryen on the Iron Throne. "Dorne became part of the Seven Kingdoms through marriage – even the Targaryens with their dragons could not conquer Dorne," Doran stated. "We have no ties to either the Lannister House or the Baratheon's." "Then I suggest binding House Martell to the Royal Baratheon line," Jon said. "The queen is expecting a child. If the babe is born a girl, the child shall be betrothed with a Martell."

 

***289AC Kings Landing - Red Keep***

 

Now the latest of Robert's moves has him facing a flurry of messages from the ravenry penned by Lord Tully about losing a chunk of land. It was perfectly understandable – his good father's fury but Robert would not be dissuaded from this course. He didn't know if he should have been grateful or wary at Tywin Lannister's meddling in smoothing Hoster's anger over losing Harrenhal. Lord Edmure get promised a bride from House Lannister -not the main branch, one of the Queen's cousins. She'd also bring a hefty dower to the Tullys and connections, since she was one of Queen Cersei's Ladies in Waiting.

The wedding would take place this month – it would be a quiet ceremony. Lord Tywin seemed accepting of the union between Princess Elenei and Ned's boy. But Jon was wary of the Great Lion of the Rock. The man could be just biding his time, though for what end eluded Jon and that was the cause of concern. Tywin was a powerful and prideful man and a cunt. Jon was aware of that, even before Tywin arrived a day before with his youngest son. The Imp.

Jon was pleasantly surprised by the lad – what he lacked in stature he made up with his intelligence in spades. He'd make sure that Tyrion Lannister would have a place in his household – he spoke with Robert and he was granted his request. Tyrion Lannister would become his castellan. Meaning that he could take Jon's place in governing as Hand of the King if Jon was unable to for whatever reason; perhaps at the moment the Lion would just observe. It helped that Ned's boy had been given a name that tied him to the Stormlands and given him Lordship over Harrenhal and its lands, creating a triangle in the Riverlands – since Harrenhal and its lands were now attached to the Crownlands. That however made Hoster Tully rightfully agitated. His good-father was worried about a bastard inheriting – so Jon had to pen a note that the King was betrothing young Jon to his daughter. The documentation was drafted by Jon, and signed by King Robert and Lady Shella Whent – who acted as proxy for Lord Jon Vermilion and then Lady Whent took the papers to Winterfell for Ned to sign and press his sigil on.

 


 

 

***House Stark***

***289 AC Winterfell***

 

Ned was not joyful.

He had no reason to be.

His Jon was made Lord of Harrenhal and betrothed to Princess Elenei Baratheon.

Lady Shella Whent came with Lord Estermont – Robert's maternal grandfather, bearing the documents about Jon's legitimization and ownership documents for the keep and lands, Jon Vermilion, as he was called now, and Coat of arms. Everything a noble House needed. Almost all, as the Words of House Vermilion had yet to be noted down – that was Ned's task.

He held up the embroidered flag with his Jon's sigil, and the words came tumbling from his lips: "When the white wind blows, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives."

"What is it, my lord?" Maester Luwin asked from his table where he was running numbers.

"I'm trying to think of the words for Jon," Ned answered.

"I think those need to be shorter than that," the Maester remarked … "If I may," he held out his hand for Ned to give him the banner.

Ned did so, and Luwin regarded the coat of arms. "Wolf Pack Survives," he finally said, "to remind Jon that even if his seat is in the South he, and his future children, are part of the Wolves of Winterfell."

Ned smiled. "Yes, thank you, Maester Luwin."

Luwin smiled. "I bare great love for young Jon; he is a clever boy." Then his expression became grave. "What of the boy's household? Surely my lord you will apoint some Northerners to take residence at Harrenhal and the land that Jon will be Lord of?"

Ned gave a grave nod at that, he did. He made a decision when intercepting the shipment of orphaned boys from the south that were bound for the Night's Watch; he would send at least half of those to Harrenhal. Then he sent messages to his bannermen if they had any second sons or natural offspring that would be willing to move to Harrenhal.

"Ah my Lord what about your heir?" Luwin asked his face set into a sympathetic frown. Ned rubbed his face; he knew very well that sooner or later Robert would match up his heir with the other princess. That was if Ned did not betroth Robb to a lady of one of his bannermen and it was necessary that at least half of his children, and his heir especially, married a Northerner. His friend desperately wanted to tie the Starks and Baratheons together in a strong bond. Ned once shared that dream – when Robert and he were to become good-brothers, trough Lyanna, his lovely sister. But that was not meant to be. Even if Lyanna had not met the Dragon Prince, Lyanna had a touch of wolf's blood, and Ned could not persuade her of Robert's regard of her, that he would change for the love he bared for her. He would never forget the words she had said on that day in Winterfell, before the betrothal was announced as accepted.

 

*** Winterfell 280 AC***

 

Lyanna Stark was walking from the window to the door and back again, her curly stable brown hair flowing behind her and her slim frame trembling in fury as her eyes flashed like the fangs of a she-wolf chasing the male she did not want, away.

Lyanna was not bothered by the child in the Vale – Mya Stone – she was bothered by Robert's deeds, or lack of them. His apparent lack of concern for women he bedded – and the children as some of the poor girl's belly swelled. Mya Stone and this babe in the Marion belly would not be his only child at the rate he was going through the scullery maids at Winterfell. Fortunately, Hullen, son of Master of Hoses Hurin, agreed to wed Marion before she started to show that she was with child.

"Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it won't change Robert's nature," she had said to Ned at the fire place this evening, when their father told them, that when she reaches the age of six and ten, her betrothal to Robert Baratheon would be announced. Poor Ned was ecstatic for both of them. Robert hooted in glee and gave a hearty slap on her brother's shoulder.

Did anybody ask her?

No.

Did Robert himself talk to her during his stay? Not a word was exchanged between them, except greetings, during his stay.

Her father?

No. He was to enamored with his ambition of marrying all his children into the South.

Brandon was to be wed to that Tully girl. Lyanna had met Catelyn and Lysa Tully when she traveled with Brandon and their father to Riverrun Benjen stayed behind as a Stark of Winterfell-the two redheads were as interesting as fishes.

Brandon was bored with the girl – who was all sweet smiles and courtesies. Brandon complained that that was all his betrothed was, sweet as a lemon cake and nothing else. Her older brother Bran was not at Winterfell currently – or Robert would already be black and blue because of his behavior. Benjen's glares at Lord Baratheon when he ignored her as he groped the poor serving girl that passed him should have frozen him to the spot – if the look could have done that, there would be an icicle in Robert's place. Rickard now set up the betrothal of herself with the Stag. As if a she-wolf would mate with her prey. She'd rather marry Roose Bolton. Or run away to the Summer Islands and work as courtesan. Or make sure that a Wildling would steal her away. She did harbor one – Mance he said he was called. Apparently he was of the Free Folk and he was raised by the Night's Watch. The next marriage victim of her father was Ned – quiet Ned.

Father sent a letter to Tywin Lannister asking for his daughter Cersei's hand for his second son. Ned was set to get Moat Cailin. Or, if Lady Cersei Lannister was not available, he had already written to Lord Luthor Tyrell for his daughter Lady Mina's hand. If the Lord of the Rock sent his refusal, he'd send a letter to the Reach; if Tywin should accept, Lady Mina would get a proposal to wed Benjen, her baby brother.

Her angry stomping across her room was interrupted with a timid rap on her door.

"Lya? Are you asleep?"

"No, I'm not, Ned."

"Can I come in?" She wanted to tell him to go away, to return to Robert or better yet that Ned should have wed Robert instead of her. That would have solved many problems, and with that thought she opened the door.

Ned took a step back when he saw her face. "This is a bad time … I just … I mean..."

"Come in, Ned," she said, when he slipped passed her, she caught her reflection in the mirror in her room. A wild look in her eyes, a wide smile that showed her teeth, and an all around wolfish expression on her face. No wonder sweet, calm, and quiet Ned wanted to run from her. She smoothed her expression into something sweeter and clasped her hands before her, like she often saw her mother Lyarra do when she was alive. That seemed to do the trick in calming her brother.

"What did you need, Ned?" she asked as she sat on her bed while Ned took the chair.

"About Robert, Lya, he is a good man and as handsome as a maiden would dream..." Ned started to say and it took a lot of Lyanna's patience to not toss her brother into Robert's bed.

"Ned, I don't want to hear your wax poetry of Robert's virtues ..." she finally snapped.

"He'll be a good husband to you."

"No," she asserted. "He is not going to be a good husband – it is not in Robert's nature to be a husband," just as it wasn't in Lyanna's to be a meek lady, and she knew herself well enough to know that this match would be a disaster.

Robert craved constant praise, attention, and admiration. It is why he and Ned were such great friends; their natures just meshed well, like bread and milk. Even if she turned a blind eye to Robert's philandering the Heart Trees know he'll never stop chasing skirts and decided to uphold the Northerner tradition of bastard treatment – that any natural born Child of the Blood has to be taken care for – she'd probably bankrupt House Baratheon. No it was complete disregard of her as a person that she resented Baratheon for.

"If this is about Mya Stone ..."

"Ned, I'm of the North – if you recall we do not blame child for their parents' deeds. And any child of the Stark house is well provided for. Just look at Dalla Snow – our half sister … ahh you did not know; she was born two years after Benjen. Also Brandon has got a son with a miller's daughter – father arranged for the girl to be wed to a crofter and paid twenty golden dragons for the child's upkeep."

 

***289AC Winterfell***

 

Ned left back to the Vale with Robert soon after that.

Robert never spoke to Lyanna but spoke a lot about her and how happy their marriage would be to Ned and his father Rickard. Ned himself saw Lyanna a year later at the Harrenhal tourney – Brandon and Benjen came as well, since their father stayed at Winterfell. Robert asked about Lyanna everyday when they arrived back to Eyrie but then after that he forgot, as was his habit practiced in arms and visited the kitchen maids. Ned convinced himself that Robert was only going there in the evening, and sometimes he stayed the whole night to visit his child Mya. Sometimes he succeeded in this endeavor. The hand on his shoulder pulled him back.

"My Lord?"

"Yes, Maester Luwin..." "Forgive me, I called you but you did not seem to hear."

"No matter, it was nothing. Is there anything else?"

"No, my Lord, I think we covered everything … My lord, it came to my attention that if your heir Robb is not betrothed in a year's time or two – our good King might demand the match between the Princess and Robb."

"You heard correctly, Maester," Ned confirmed, and he had an inkling of where Luwin obtained this information.

"May I suggest that you take House Forrester into consideration?"

"House Forrester of Ironrath?"

"Yes, Lady Whent mentioned that Lady Forrester thought of sending her eldest daughter Mira to Highgarden to serve as a handmaiden. Lady Whent intents to travel to Ironrath to propose for Lady Forrester to send Mira to the Red Keep to serve as a Lady in Waiting for the Baratheon princesses instead."

"I think," Ned said after some thought; it was not a bad prospect, "I'll accompany Lady Whent with Robb. And when there, I'll make the decision. Now where is my Lady Wife?"

"I believe she is in her chambers," Luwin answered.

Ned stood up, gave a short nod to the maester, and left for his five chambers. He would need to tell his wife … he did not need to imagine how furious Cat was that it was Jon who had gotten legitimized and given lordship. He ordered Harwin son of Hullen – he was the master of horses at Winterfell and father of three sons Harwin, Harper, and Hotch and a daughter Hera. Harwin was a stocky, clean-shaven lad, with vivid blue eyes and dark brown hair, so dark that it was almost black. He was sometimes reminded of his friend Robert with his bold approach to life. When Ned arrived at his Lady Wife's chamber he knocked and entered when there was a voice beckoning him inside. It was not his Cat who called – it was Lady Whent, who was holding knitting needles and was knitting, watching him with slight mysterious smile. Cat was sitting on a sofa, her Tully eyes unfocused and staring like she had just saw a ghost.

"My Lady?" he went to her; he called to her … she did not respond.

 

***290 AC Riverrun***

 

They had arrived at Riverrun for a fortnight – Ned and herself with the household for Jon and of course the boy himself. Jon would be staying with Lady Whent, learning how to be Lord of Harrenhal. Catelyn honestly did not know how she should feel about Jon … now that Lady Whent had told her the truth and Ned admitted that he was not the boy's father, but his uncle.

She felt elated that her husband she grew to love, loved her in return and was never unfaithful to her or even loved another.

She felt shame, for not going through with her promise to the Gods, Old and New, when she promised that she'd see the boy legitimized as a Stark, when the boy was sick with fever.

Afraid because Ned told her - he said that he didn't want to tell her before she found out about Jon; how Northerners view bastards. Bastard daughters can marry true-born second or third sons and form a branch house. Bastard sons can marry Lords' daughters – and if the daughter is an heir– takes her House name for his own, and apparently Brandon Stark had a son with the miller's daughter, and then there was Dalla Snow – Ned's half sister, now married to Vayon Poole – they had a daughter, Jayne. She had not known! Ned meant for Jon to take Mount Calin, forming a branch house, and marry one of Manderly's daughters, or one of Mormont's She-bears of Bear Island.

Now, Catelyn Tully-Stark was praying in Riverrun's Sept and waited for Septon Osmynd – the man was her spiritual teacher, since she was achild, who taught her about mysteries and prayers of the Faith of the Seven. She needed guidance of the Faith.

"My Lady," the quivering voice of Septon Osmynd made her turn from the altar and greet the Septon of her childhood. Osmynd was an old, thin man with a liver spotted head and tufts of white hair. He was clean shaven and his face was lined with a crooked long nose, and when he sang the hymn of the Seven, his voice was thin, quivering, and very high – his robe was a mud brown and he wore moleskin boots.

"Septon," Catelyn curtsied before him, a sign of her devotion to the Seven in their domain and their servant. "Osmynd, I am in need of the wise council."

"Yes, come child – let's settle your fears in good faith," Osmynd said and led her to a small niche with a door. Catelyn knew that nothing could be overheard in this area; the door was of massive oak wood, and the walls were thick stone. What would be said here, would stay here, and hopefully she would have absolution of her sins.

"Now," Osmynd said as he sat down on a bare wooden chair. "I assume this is about your husband's sin?"

She flinched at the word … Jon Snow lived as her husband's bastard at Winterfell; the babe and a Dornish wet-nurse were already there when she arrived with her sweet Robb. Later, she had heard rumors of Ashara Dayne being her husband's bastard's mother. But now...

"My Lord Husband," she started, pausing to collect her thoughts, "Jon Snow is ..."

 

***289 Winterfell***

 

Catelyn was seething.

The bastard of Winterfell was legitimized, given a holding as prestigious as Harrenhal and would be marrying a Princess when he reaches nine and ten summers old.

What of her sweet Robb?

What about Sansa?

Catelyn started to pace her room.

She somehow has to secure a better match for her sweet babies. Perhaps her sweet Robb should wed the Tyrell – she heard that Lord Mace Tyrell's daughter Margaery was in age with her son. As for her sweet Sansa – the future King or the Heir of Highgarden Willas. She must find a way to persuade Ned to travel South with her and Sansa, perhaps to visit her father at Riverrun. From there she could send inquiries to House Tyrell. Or she could look further South for a match for her little redheaded lady – Dorne. Then Sansa would have the title of a Princess. At the smart rap to her door, she flew toward the barrier to give whichever serf that dared to disturb her, when she clearly ordered that she wasn't to be disturbed, a tough lashing he or she richly deserved. Only for the words to freeze like a lake during winter.

"Lady Whent," she greeted her visitor.

"Lady Stark." The lady of Harrenhal sat down on the sofa and Catelyn sat across from her.

"My, my child," Lady Whent smiled at her, "how you've grown into the role of the Lady of Winterfell – as was your fate with the Stark husband you were meant to wed."

Those words shocked Catelyn. Was Lady Whent becoming addled to the head in her advanced years?

She was meant to wed Brandon Stark and not her Ned.

The old lady tittered in amusement. "Brandon Stark had married Lady Ashara of Starfall after the tourney at Harrenhal. And he was on the way from Winterfell to tell your Lord Father of the changed Lordship in Winterfell."

"But ..." her mind felt feverish. Wasn't Ned in love with Ashara Dayne?

Wasn't Jon the son of the famous Dornish beauty?

"And young Snow was never a Snow. Though Ned was not aware of the fact when he claimed Jon as his own and given him his name – Jon Snow. The boy was named Jacaerys by his parents – to symbolize a Stak going to live South.. " Shella Whent continued – then she reached over and petted her hand. "You need not worry about Jon unsurprising your children's place; for one Brandon waived his right as Lord of Winterfell, and for another reason, Jon has his own inheritance and his own house to mind now."

Why didn't Ned tell her?

Didn't Ned trust her?

"Cat, are you … Lady Whent?"

Catelyn was startled, and her eyes flew up to see her husband in the middle of the room; when did he enter? His face was grave and etched with worry as he looked her over.

"Are you all right, My Lady?" her husband asked.

"You Lady Wife is in shock; after all she just was enlightened to your sibling's secret wedding." Lady Whent smiled as Ned's face lost all of its color, his face became sunken and all light went from his eyes – it was like her sweet Ned lost his head.

"It is not everyday that a Wife finds out that her past intended married another and that a boy her husband took in is not of his seed." Ned sat down heavily on the chair and blow the air from his lungs – it seemed as if life was breathed back into him.

 

***290 AC Riverrun***

 

"What are you saying my lady?" Septon Osmynd rasped, his eyes wider at what he just heard.

Catelyn gave a sharp nod. "Jon was never a bastard. Ned was not aware that Lady Ashara Dayne wed Brandon Stark when he found Jon." He told her that, and Lady Whent confirmed that she had bared witness, with her husband, to Jon's parents' wedding along with Princess Elia of Dorne, her two handmaidens, and two of the Kingsguard – one of them Lady Ashara's brother Ser Arthur Dayne. She never saw Ned so white faced; he kept saying he did not know. So she hugged him and told him it was alright that he did not know. It was the day her little Arya, who was born this year, was conceived.


 

 

***Bella Lannister-1***

 

***King's Landing, 291 AC Cuāuhtli or 10th month****

 

Bella took a bow before her Queen, her friend Joanna's daughter, and retired for the night. Sometimes Cersei reminded Bella of her natural father, granted Joanna was not certain at the time she was carrying, or even after, which man was the natural father of the twins. King Aerys II Targaryen or Lord Tywin Lannister. It was Bella who knew what transpired between her cousin Joanna and the King – and later made the connection. Both Cersei and Jaime had Lannister coloring and some of the features, but for anyone who looked more closely, there were echoes of features of Valyria on Cersei's face. But not on Jaime's.

Could it be that the twins had different fathers?

It was never documented in humans, but it was quite possible in the animal world. It was a possibility then that Cersei was Aerys Targaryen's daughter and Jaime was fathered by Tywin. After all, Joanna, upon leaving court, stopped drinking the Moon Tea that Bella brewed for her twice a day one she drank in the morning and the other at high noon. Because Queen Rhaella might have turned her head at her husband's paramour, but she could not abide a child to come into being from the union of Aerys and Joanna. Bella remembered the conversation between the three of them; she was present on the day that Lady Joanna joined the then Princess Rhaella Targaryen as a Lady in Waiting.

Bella Lannister was serving as a handmaiden to her cousin and came to court after Joanna served for two moons.

 

***Red Keep, King's Landing 259 AC -3th Month/ Ātl***

 

Bella arrived to King's Landing as a handmaiden of Lady Joanna Lannister, her cousin, two moons ago, and now she was standing behind her cousin in the presence of Princess Rhaella – while they were drinking tea and eating cakes in Princess Rhaella private chamber. There were only the three of them. Joanna served as Princess Rhaella's Lady in Waiting since before the wedding of Prince Aerys to Princess Rhaella. Bella had, while serving as her cousin's handmaiden, the opportunity to observe the Royal Family – and breathe a sigh of relief when she saw that the Grand Maester that served in the Red Keep had not seen the Citadel in years, even the youngest of the maesters that served in King's Landing did not look familiar.

That was good; until her hair grew back in full, she could have been recognized – or not, as Marwyn was found of saying "The people who ran the Citadel are of the mind that knowledge is the greatest power. And the world they will build has no place for magic, prophecies, and dragons. But they can be woefully blind to reality – like blind to a little girl studying in the Citadel."

King Aegon the Fifth or Aegon the Unlikely was tall, slender, and handsome with shoulder length beaten gold hair with strands of silver – and gray. With eyes so dark purple that they were black. Her Master Marwyn often told her that the King Aegon was the greatest King because he honestly saw peasantry and lowborn as people. His wife Queen Betha of House Blackwood did not hold to the Seven, and so the Septon was not particularly pleased with her as a Queen. When King Aegon was merely the fourth son and fifth child of then Prince Maekar Targaryen and his five Dyanna Dayne – it was none of the High Septon's concerns whom Prince Aegon wed. Queen Betha was a high spirited woman – with raven dark hair and coal colored eyes; her moniker as Black Betha was well deserved because of her coloring. They had five children together; Bella had met them all.

Prince Duncan, their first born, was as black haired as his mother, but he inherited his father's eyes and body build. Bella thought that he was a good man and would make an even greater King than his father if he did not abdicate the crown, but Bella supposed, the love he and Jenny, strange, lovely, and mysterious Jenny of Oldstones held for each other was worth losing the Iron Throne.

With that, Prince Jaehaerys became the heir to the throne. Unlike Prince Duncan's dark looks, Prince Jaehaerys was sickly looking, with large and protruding purple eyes, pale skin, and long platinum hair. He married his sister Princess Shaera – who was a real beauty with her slim curvaceous figure and long Targaryen silver-gold hair and a heart-shaped face. The beauty that her daughter Princess Rhaella shared, she was wed to Prince Aerys – her elder brother.

Next of Kings issue was Prince Daeron, who was fond of horses and swordplay. He had a pretty face with light lilac eyes and hair like polished silver – he was often found in the yard with his friend Ser Jeremy Norridge. Prince Daeron refused to marry Lady Olenna of House Redwyne, preferring to remain unwed. Lady Olenna married the Hair of Highgarden instead of Targaryen Prince.

The last child, Princess Rhaelle, was a future Lady of Storm's End – unlike her sister, Princess Rhaelle was more rounded in body – though her face was sharper than her sister Shaera's. Her hair was more golden toned than silver, and her eyes were dark purple as were her father's.

"Lady Joanna, is your handmaiden…trustworthy?" the Princess suddenly asked, pulling Bella back to the Princess and Lady Joanna's conversation.

"Yes, Your Grace," Joanna confirmed.

Well of course she was trustworthy, as it was she who brewed Joanna's Moon Tea ever since her and Prince Aerys ...

"Joanna," Princess Rhaella sipped her tea daintily, "I'm aware of your liaison with my brother. No, you don't need to say anything only listen … I'm with child for four moons now, and I am well aware of my brother's and husband's fondness of you."

"I'm taking Moon's Tea, Your Grace," Joanna interrupted, her face closed off. Bella was aware of the Princess Rhaella's violet gaze on them both.

"I'm brewing it myself, Your Grace," Bella demurred, her eyes downcast; it was discontenting when that violet gaze settled on her.

"My cousin is very talented, Your Grace," Joanna assured the Princess who was still studying her – Bella could feel when Princess's gaze stop at her short hair.

"Lady …?" the Princess trailed off, the wing-like silver eyebrow raised, questioning.

"Bella Lannister, You grace." Bella said and curtsied. "I'm a distant cousin of Lady Joanna," she elaborated.

Her grandmother was Alysanne Farman's first wife and Gerold Lannister's daughter; they had a son they named Cellion Lannister. Cellion wed Rochelle Reyne of Castmere, and Bella was their only offspring for many years.

"Lady Bella, what happened to your hair?" Princess Rhaella suddenly asked.

"I cut it off, Your Grace," Joanna answered, praying 'please don't ask me why I did that.'Because the usual answer she gave was lice infestation.

"I see," Princess said, and Bella almost asked what is it was she saw. "There will come a time when you'll wed Tywin Lannister – then you will have to stop taking the tea." This was directed to Lady Joanna.

"No, Your Grace," At that, the Princess's eyes winded and her face took a curious cast. "Don't get me wrong, Your Grace – I would like to have children eventually..."

"But not with your husband? Or rather, the first child you'd want fathered by a man you love – the man you surrendered your maidenhead too?" The Princess smiled at Joanna's shocked expression. "As I've said, I'm well aware of the regard you bear for Aerys and the regard my brother bears for you – ever since you had seen each other before our marriage. I know my brother and what I saw when he was …." the princess bowed her head. "I know my duty; I will give my husband an heir – but I won't – I can not love him as a wife should, and I never will. Aerys feels the same – if he had an opinion he would have married you, Lady Joanna." Then she met Joanna's eye – green meeting violet. "After you marry Lord Tywin, you may stay for a year and a half, then I will request for you to leave my services."

 

***King's Landing 8th Month/ Ācatl***

 

It was a somber affair – empty funeral piers for the royal family were burning for King and Queen, for Prince Duncan and his wife Jenny of Oldstones who perished in the fires that took over Summerhall. Right before the burning piers was King Jaeharys, the Second of His Name, wearing his grandfather's King Maker crown with his sister-wife Queen Shaera. Their heads bowed in mourning.

Behind them stood their surviving brother Prince Daeron and their son Aerys and his sister-wife Rhaella who was holding her son Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. However, Bella was happy for her friend and cousin Joanna, for her marriage to her first cousin Tywin Lannister – Heir to Casterly Rock was postponed for another year.

 

***260 AC***

 

Bella still lived in the Red Keep; there was a War of the Ninepenny Kings that claimed the life of Prince Daeron. Tywin was knighted. The death of Maelys Blackfyre was one of two good things that came from this war …. the other was the postponement of marriage of Joanna to Tywin. Because Tywin was … occupied with war.

 

***261 AC***

 

Marriage postponed, again. This time because there was some domestic issues. Joanna advised her that showcasing that she was related to the Red Lions of Castamere was not prudent. Bella still recalled the fierce rivalry between Lady Ellyn Lannister from House Reyne and Lady Jejyne Lannister of House Marbrand, wife of Tytos, father of Tywin Lannister. Bella mourned her family – the guilty and innocent when Tywin and all bards that Bella heard sing that accursed song. They developed a case of sore throats – singing birds turned into croaking frogs at least in King's Landing.

 

***262 AC***

 

Bella felt vindictive pleasure when the marriage again postponed because King Jaehaerys died of illness and then because Aerys was crowned. The new King named Tywin Hand of the King. She was half tempted to start brewing tincture that would render Tywin unable to sire children.

 

***263 AC***

 

This year bared witness to two sad events in Bella's humble opinion.

Tywin married Joanna. Bella was developing quite a dislike for Tywin and his hanger on and bootlicker Pycelle. The Grand Maester was constantly singing praises about him. He conducted a physical search on Joanna because Tywin lamented lack of begotten an heir.

Pycelle had given her a tonic that should have solved the problem – but there was none so they poured it into the privy. Bella ruffled Pycelle's feathers, asking to give Tywin a physical inspection if he was the one with the inability to sire children. The sputtering that resulted in that was entertaining. The other sad news was that Queen Rhaella had another miscarriage. Bella was present and the baby was too young to survive outside the Queen's womb.

It was a beautiful babe it was a shame that it was no longer of this world.

 

***265 AC / Tititl ***

 

Two years passed and in the seventh month – Tititl – Bella accompanied Joanna back to the Rock. They were on the Kingsroad in a closed wheelhouse.

"I will miss him," Joanna whispered.

"At least you'll be able to stop taking it," Bella whispered back – and by it, she meant the Moon Tea. She brewed this tea for Joanna many times that she was beginning to worry about Joanna's health, as her moon's blood almost disappeared. Bella had to gradually lower the dosage of ingredients before they left King's Landing. Now Joanna had two bleeds a month and one month without any. Bella hoped this would correct itself, otherwise Joanna would be fertile, twice, only every per second month. Fortunately, the man she loved and the man she was married to both stayed in the Red Keep. It would be a while until Tywin returned to the Rock.

 

***Westerlands; Casterly Rock 265 AC 14. Month/ Izcalli***

 

There was a great hunt held in Westerlands. For the Westerlands were known for three things:

Lannisters – The Golden Lions of Casterly Rock.

The gold that rested in their mines.

And lions, the great felines that hunted the plains and mountains and hills of the region. And it was because of those lions that Tywin and the King would come to hunt. Bella was watching the tapestry that depicted the lion hunt. Men mounted and on foot and driving chariots carrying spears and swords and bows. The hunting dogs bred specificity to hunt lions ran before them.

"Lady Bella," the serving girl bobbed her head, "Lady Lannister wishes to see you."

 

***Hours later***

 

Tywin rode to the Rock to warn of the coming of the Royal hunting party, and Bella managed to do what Joanna bid of her – to give King Aerys a sealed letter from her lady, requesting a meeting. The King wrote a quick reply... That she handed to Joanna in the privacy of her rooms.

"He agrees to meet," Joanna said.

"Of course he does," Bella nodded, "and I'll make sure I'm seen with him."

"If that is alright with you, for some men …."

"My lady, I have no desire to marry anyone. There is enough Lannisters, and as Lady Bella Lannister, my dowry is meager, and I can not claim my mother's heritage."

"I'm sorry, Bella." "Don't be, Joanna."

 

***Casterly Rock***

 

The night had fallen, and Bella was holding a candle at the secret entrance to The Rock. She was waiting for the King and his most loyal Kingsguard to arrive, and sure soon from the dark, two riders appeared. Strange that she hadn't... ahh, now she saw they they put cloth around the horses' hooves to muffle the sound.

"Your Grace," she curtsied, then she offered him her hand and they left the Kingsguard with the horses.

"Lady Joanna is waiting for you, Your Grace," she whispered to the King.

"Lady Lannister," the King was whispering as well. "To who are you loyal to? And why are you doing this?"

"Your Grace, you can trust me to never betray Lady Joanna. You can trust in the fact that I neither respect nor have any love toward Tywin Lannister."

"Can I ask why, Lady Lannister." "My mother was from House Reyne of Castamere. I am unsure if Tywin is aware of this or not, but Lady Joanna is, and she never agreed with her then betrothed's action – he should have spared those who had no hand in Lady Ellyn Reyne-Tarbeck's animosity toward House Lannister."

 

"Aerys."

"Joanna."

 

Bella left them then and made sure they had cold refreshments brought later. She also made sure that the hunting party didn't return too early.

 

***10 Weeks Later***

 

Joanna was pacing the room.

Maester Creylen sent a raven to King's Landing to the Lord of the Rock and Hand of the King, that his wife Lady Joanna was expecting a child.

Joanna was elated, because it was a high possibility that the child was Aerys's own. Still, she fretted.

"What if my child has Valyrian features, Bella?" Joanna asked her in a whisper.

"Unlikely, Joanna." Bella looked through the window, "Targaryen blood would have won out if your grandparent was a Dragon. But you are Lion through and through."

 

***266 AC 8. Month/Calli**

 

Tywin arrived just before Joanna gave birth and went back a week later. He was just around for the naming of the children. Joanna gave birth to twins: Cersei, a baby girl, with hair the color of spun gold and cat green eyes. But the shape of the baby's skull, her nose, and chin … was that of a Valyrian baby.

"Two golden haired, green-eyed babies," Bella muttered as her green gaze switched to the girl's twin, her younger brother Jaime.

"I'm glad – but Bella ..."

"It doesn't matter; there is no way to know for sure ..."

"Bella? What is it?"

"I saw Queen Shaera's daughter as she was stillborn – your daughter looks just like that babe.

" "It is possible then, that ..."

"It is, however, Jaime has pure Lannister looks."

 


 

 

BONUS PoV: ***Arba AND Gyouken AND Shuunki Hong***

 

Arba griped the staff she took from Sheba so long ago a world away. It was time to leave this body, she decided. If she did not take Gyouken over soon, the fool of a woman would die, and Arba would be without a body and would have to use a wooden doll again. But first she had to stage the tragic death of Hong Shuunki. How sad. She smiled.

"Falan! Ithan!" "You called!"

"Yes, Lady Shuunki." Arba smiled. "It is time for Hong Shuunki to leave this hateful world." Then she laughed at Fallan. Foolish girl … but still, missing her husband and son … how redundant. "I think that kidnapping King Hakutouku's Law Mother by rebels from the Kina Kingdom will raise some rage, don't you agree?" Arba said.

Ithan smiled, and sympathetic, foolish Fallan closed her eyes in regret.

"All we do is for our Father," they coursed together. "Lady Arba, your will will be done." They both bowed before her and left. Now she had her own abduction and tragic death to plan. How sad. But as she was not without mercy, the body of Shuunki would already be dead when an explosion and resulting fire would finally take her.

Because she would be the cause of the explosion; it was simple really. All Arba had to do was to manipulate the Rukh in her vessel's body to start heating up, before she left to take over another vessel, until the body was so hot that it exploded.

***Palace***

Gyouken was playing in the garden with her two sons and a little dog she adopted.

"My Lady Gyouken!" A palace girl came running. "My Lady, grave news; your mother has been abducted by spies sent from Kina!"

 

***Stable-house***

 

Hong Shuunki blinked opened her eyes; it felt like she was waking up from heavy years of long sleep. She looked around in confusion.

"Where am I?" She tried to move, but with growing horror, she discovered that she was chained. "Is somebody there?!" Then it suddenly became hot inside of her … hotter and hotter ….and memory of the past, that she had not lived, but remembered just the same, clearer...

 

***Palace***

 

Gyokuen paced her room, the puppy yipping and occasionally licking her hand as she passed him. "It will be all right, Momo," she soothed the pup. It was a small white fluffy thing, with two almond eyes and a black nose and snow white fur.

"They will save ...they …" she heard a whine and felt a warm puppy tongue on her face as Gyouken's eyes closed and darkness consumed her – it was like falling into darkness... she felt nothing, heard nothing, and ….

Her eyes snapped opened, and she abruptly got back on her feet when she heard a growl and felt small teeth close on her ankle. She kicked the white fur-ball away, grabbing a hair pin as Gyouken's mutt started to charge her, and pointed it at the canine as it jumped.

"Har-Har Infigar," she commanded ... and the jumping dog was engulfed in a flame that sprang from her hairpin. The mutt howled until it collapsed into dust and ashes. Arba smiled. Now in her new body, she would create and give birth to her next vessel and Al-Thamen would become a real power in Kou.

 

"The Smith, he labors day and night,

to put the world of men to right.

With hammer, plow, and fire bright,

he builds for little children."

 

Next chapter Point of Views: Princess Elenei Baratheon (Buffy Summers), Princess Argella Baratheon (Tara Mclay) & twoPoV's from Magi


 

Names of Months in Westeros:

1 Mazātl (Deer)

2 Ehēcatl (Wind)

3 Ātl (Water)

4. Atemoztli (Descent of the Water)

5 Xōchitl (Flower)

6 Malīnalli (Grass)

7 Tititl (Stretching for Growth)

8 Calli (house)

9 Ācatl (Reed)

10 Cuāuhtli (Eagle)

11 Tecpatl (Flint)

12 Quiyahuitl (Rain)

13 Toxcatl (Dryness)

14 Izcalli (Encouragement for the Land & People)

Each month has 4 weeks, week has 7 days.

Chapter Text

***Princess Elenei / Buffy-3*** 291 AC Kings Landing Atemoztli/4th month

 

Buffy was spending her time in Bella's Stillroom again. It was her favorite place in the Red Keep. It was located in one of the many tower structures in the castle. The room itself had a tall ceiling – where bushels of dried plants were kept. They were accessed by ladders. There also were wide wooden shelves and on them sat wicker baskets of all shapes and sizes, full of herbs, bark … various preserved plants.

There were also storage of jars, caskets, boxes and bottles for storing – made of glass, leather, sturdy fabric, pottery and porcelain, and silver and tin. There on the ground level, where there was the largest amount of light streaming through one lone window, was a long work table with two high chairs and under the table there was a bookshelf with leather bound journals where recipes were kept. On the table itself, there was a wooden book holder, where you could put a journal and leaf through recipes, as well a knives, vials, distillation contraptions, table brewer, and mortars and pestles of various sizes and weights. In the foremost northern corner of the room – where it was always dark and cold, were bottles of various substance, that were used as medicine or cosmetics or spices in the kitchens, sat on the left of the table, was a large cabinet full of small pots with various balms for various uses. Also small bottles and boxes of medications and cosmetics: Like perfume and rose water, salves, gels, ointments, essential oils, tinctures, creams and lotions, face powder, soap, sachets, grounded or cut herbs, and even tubes of lipstick made from beeswax and Red ochre. Though Buffy was fond of the woman, she was sometimes iffy and cautious of what she said around her. But that was true for every woman, child, or man in the Red Keep. It was like Hermy High School politics +10000. Still Bella or Great-aunt Bella, since Bella was cousin to grandmother Joanna was a very good teacher – better than Sunnydale High's teachers by far. To be fair, Buffy didn't have to split her attention between studying, slaying, and party time or socializihhhng anymore.

That might be a factor as well. Buffy even assisted Tara – and it was awesomely cool that they were sisters, almost twins with her spell work. Tara even joked that Buffy would make a nice Wicca, though Buffy still had the mindset that her and magic were un-mixy things. But potions, she could do – how very Snape of her. Strangely, Astronomy and Herbology were Buffy's favorite subjects, followed by Languages she was becoming fluent in High Valyrian and Torran. She also had done well in Geography of Westeros and Healing Arts at the moment Bella let her do an autopsy on cats and pigs – as well as History, at least the parts that did not make her sleep that is. That had not changed. History – there were lots of books and scrolls in the main library, and many times Tara and she joined their Uncle Tyrion. Tyrion was there to read and find information for Lord Hand. They, however, were trying to find information on the Long Night- and Tara said that there were prophecies hidden somewhere as well, and that they had to find them and read them. Now, Buffy would like to say that Tyrion looked exactly like the actor did on television – well, not exactly; he had mismatched eye color, one green the other black, and he was a bit rounder and his hair, beaten flaxen gold with white highlights – old guy white, not the Targaryen kind. She actually had silver hair like some kind of animated character and it curled at the ends; it looked very pretty even if left on its own – it didn't have split ends, in fact nobody had, and she looked!

Anyway, in the Stillroom, she had some measure of peace before the idiotic sheep came, Harmony Kendall seemed more intelligent than some people here. It was a good thing that Buffy was technically a twenty something year old or she'd be emotionally damaged from the barely hidden disdain her 'sperm donor' leveled at her every time he saw her, as well as some of the sheep of the Royal Court. King Robert Baratheon, the First of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men OR The Big Baby Bob could not get over the fact that his daughter inherited his own grandmother's hair color. Oh alright Buffy once made couple of comments about lots of female Targaryens marrying into the Baratheons, in almost every third generation or so, and even the first Baratheon was half Targ and these comments were always said where Robert could hear her. King Bob turned an interesting shade of purple every time... but he did not dispute her words...or yell at her. He could hardly argue because it was the truth – written even by the maesters. Still it was interesting that both Tara and herself inherited the silver hair of Old Valyria. Tara just had a streak but still.

The supposed "Seed is Strong" thing should still hold unless there was a hefty dose of Valyrian genes in the other parent – that usually brought the Targ features back into plain sight. So they, Tara and herself, made a little bet – not for any material stakes though, it was more for internal bragging rights about which theory turned out to be correct:

A) The Lannister twins were secret Targs!

B) Tyrion was a secret Targ.

C) There was no explanation – and the DNA was seriously more screwed up in Westeros than they thought it was.

That brought her to another reason why she was here today, feeling like Hermione Granger, another character from the books Dawn loved to read and equate it to all who would listen to her. Her task was to sneak off with ingredients for a potion. Tara managed to find out the equivalents herbs for the potion that Buffy wouldn't try to pronounce, but it would, hopefully, prove one of the theories both her and Tara were going back and forth on. Speaking of of their relatives, they had plenty on the Lannister side. The Baratheon side was not so numerous the legitimate side that is; they had plenty of half-siblings all over Westeros. Legitimate however, they had two uncles. Stannis Baratheon, who was Lord of Dragonstone – she'd like to visit the place at some point. He was married and had a daughter Shireen. She was two years old, being born in 289AC. They hadn't met their cousin yet, but there were whispers that both mother and daughter were summoned to the Red Keep. Well both Tara and her decided to help their little cousin feel more comfortable. And then there was Renly Baratheon, who they hadn't yet meet. He was staying at Storm's End – she would like to visit that place as well.

Actually, Buffy felt the desire to travel and to explore a lot. Back to where she was and what she was doing: The Stillroom was located in the tower, west of rookery where ravens were kept. Pycelle's, the old perverted goat, rooms were beneath the rookery – he had objected to teaching either of them saying that as Grand Maester he hadn't the time nor the physical ability to keep up with young children. When Lady Bella Lannister demanded this room, for her use as a Stillroom at the time when Tara and Buffy were still unable to walk – that time was frustrating as hell – she received it, and Pycelle was very much annoyed. It was entertainment for the week. It was a dry, airy, and spacious room – that was before one of the smaller unused libraries in the Red Keep. Buffy felt a pang of nostalgia for the high school library in Sunnydale, even if it was literally located on top of the Hellmouth - Boca del Infierno – as was the town's name given by Spanish settlers. Of course the actual entrance was right under the school library. Talk about having a Hell of a time at school.

As for her new life as Elenei Baratheon – A Princess, literally this time and not her daddy's princess as she was to Hank Summers. He was at least a father to her. Robert Baratheon – not so much. On the bright side, it appeared that she'd be taller this time around. She was tall for her age now– eight – but still not tall enough – and that was sooooo annoying. But the silver lining was that both Tara and hers new parents were not short, but neither Buffy or Tara inherited the outward beauty of their Queen Mother. They were the spitting image of Gramps's daughter Cassana.

Or so said Gramps.

 

***10 minutes later***

 

"Princess Elenei, today you will learn how to make a Dreamless Sleep drought. Now this is for people who have terrible night terrors – like a war veteran, people who suffered or witnessed tremendous tragedies, women that have been raped ...." Lady Bella was lecturing, while Buffy payed very close attention as always. She was a much better student here than she was in her previous life – but then again, there was not much else to do.

No TV or dance clubs equaled Buffy learning about herbs, remedies – how to make them, how to grow them, and how to find them. How to make bread, how to live off the land ... how to shoot a bow. Yeah she knew how to use a bow – or crossbow and how to use the short sword – Uncle Jaime helped with that.

"Now, I will tell you what we'll need and you will retrieve it from the ladder and make it by my instructions," Lady Bella lectured. Buffy nodded, knowing herbs were important – and since Pycelle went all frown-y at Lady Bella Lannister, she was unsure of what kind of relation Buffy and Tara were to their governess. They only knew that Lady Bella was Lannister born and was a companion to Joanna Lannister when she served as Lady in Waiting for Queen Rhaella – the fact that Lady Bella showed Pycelle that she was just as knowledgeable as he was, was even more entertaining for Buffy.

"Yes, I'm ready." Buffy nodded determined; she would do everything right today – she did do everything right today; she so earned brownie points – why oh why doesn't Westeros HAVE chocolate!

She had been craving the thing for years!

Bitter dark one, white one, filled with all sorts of things one, salty one, sweet one, milk one, rice one ... she needed chocolate! Buffy thought ... then pinched herself; craving chocolaty-goodness would not make it magically appear. She had taken the training, any training seriously.

Because as her favorite house in Game of Thrones said "Winter is coming"... and if the recurring dreams--the stupid Slayer kind – were any indication – things would get interesting for her before winter comes.

Wasn't she lucky?

Not.

Speaking of Northerners, one of the handmaidens in the Child Court of Tara and hers was from the North - Lady Mira Forester. Mira was a year younger than Buffy and had dark brown hair with bluish-gray eyes on a long porcelain oval face, and she arrived in what Buffy understood to be a usual outfit for a Northerner Lady, split woolen skirts and homespun woolen tunic that was usually lined with fur in the winter. Now Mira wore simple cut gowns made of silk and brocade in blues, grays, and blacks with white embroidery. She did not wear any jewelry but a heavy embroidered rolled collar-scarf that was thicker at the back of her neck it reminded Buffy of torc style- and she was engaged to Robb Stark!

That did not happen on the TV Show .... and it didn't happen in the books either according to Tara. But then the light fact that the Westeros had fourteen months instead of twelve came as a surprise as well – and that a month had seven weeks and a week had seven days. Faith of the Seven certainly peddled the number seven wherever it could. A welcome surprise came when the handmaidens came from all over Westeros - well almost from all around, Dorne was absent - to serve in their Child Court, and it was custom for the lady to bring the princess a gift upon entering the service. Buffy's absolute favorite was a forty-eight inch re-curved bow made from ironwood, and with pressed deerskin leather belt-quiver full of arrows with iron tip points.

The bow was so durable that it would not break if it was hit by a sword ... unless the sword had been made from Valyerian steel. How she wished that she had this when she visited Flea Bottom. Even if that foray brought her face to face with Varys in disguise, maybe then those poor sods, as Spike would say, would not have had to die– they died by her hands. Granted they wanted to kill her – she hoped that was what they wanted, not just rob and possibly beat her. She was used to somebody trying to kill her, but there was ... a little detail – one of them ripped apart the beaded bracelet she had on her left wrist.

Now the bracelet was not worth much, in fact it was not worth a dime. The beads were made of chunks of aspen and blackthorn wood and dragon bone; it did have some sentimental value – since Tara and Buffy made the bracelet together for the purpose to suppress her more active powers as a Slayer. Tara picked the wood, aspen, because it symbolized Strength through Diversity, and was needed to stranglehold the suppressing spell that was placed on the dragon teeth Buffy brought from catacombs under the Red Keep. She played dentist on one of the smaller – the ones that were the size of cats – skulls. Blackthorn wood symbolized Constraint, and it held the spell on Buffy when the wood and bone were in contact with her skin. She usually wore it as an anklet, not a bracelet – it was easier to hide it that way. However when she sneaked out at night to the Flea Bottom, she put the bracelet on her wrist, just in case she had to take it off. When the man ripped the bracelet and the beads ... all that suppressed power came roaring in with unrestrained fury– no pun on her Lannister and Baratheon houses' words intended and those three men payed the price.

Buffy did not even remember the fight clearly – just flashes of blurry moves ... and in the end the three men lied dead on the floor...and an ice blue eyed, tall, coal haired boy staring at her holding a rock. That boy, as it turned out, came to help her – not that she needed help after that bracelet got torn and the beads scattered. Buffy managed to find all the beads, so that Tara could reinstall the spell when the bracelet would be whole again. The boy took her to his meeting place – the spot at which he was supposed to meet a man about an apprenticeship. A man with the name of Ulther had offered him an apprenticeship at the master smith named Tobho Mott – when she heard that name she knew who that boy was. Not that he introduced himself, she had to ask him for his name– he definitely inherited Robert's slow brain – he forgot to introduce himself, and then he asked for hers AND he called her lad. He thought she was a boy. Well she was in no hurry to correct him, and the name she gave him was Eli Summers from Lys, the same name she later gave to Master Mott and his friend Ser Ulther – of course Ulther's name was as real as her being from Lys. Buffy was worried at first that Varys would tell on her. But he did not. Probably because she hadn't let out that she recognized him.

She was aware that he did recognize her, that he would not know who she was, was out of the question – she did not cover her face after all. She told Tara everything though– about meeting Gendry and that Varys knew that she was at Flea Bottom. After that, there were some suspicions and unexpected help that came from Braavos, a water dancer by the name Rayro Velorn, who taught Tara and Buffy Water Dancing, along with some sort of martial art that employed any object that was within reach. So, both Tara and Buffy were of an opinion that Varys approved of the public education Tara and her were setting up. Giving what Buffy knew of Show Varys, that was in character for the Spider; book Varys was a bit more mysterious according to Tara – and his motives and plans were entirely unknown.

Back to the favorite present of hers. The bow was carved with a Direwolfs head shaped string nook at the top and a Stag head-shaped string nook on the bottom. She was tempted to whack Robert on the head with this bow – it certainly was hard enough – yep she had daddy issues; in fact her daddy issues had daddy issues now. First Hank with his cheating on mom thing and then ignoring Dawn and her completely. He did not even come to her mother's funeral! Yes Buffy was passed eighteen at the time but Dawn was still a minor – he could have at least called. But there was no call – or a postcard ... nothing.

Then Giles with leaving when she needed him the most for the most ridiculous reason imaginable. Did he forget that she actually studied psychology? Professor Walsh might have turned out to be a Dr. Frankenstein esque psycho BUT she was good at her job at teaching psychology. Then she got reborn and her new father was giving her a glowering stink eye because of her coloring? Hitler much – he did have Targ ancestry; it was what, every third generation some Valyrian marrying a Baratheon? With the original Orys -or whatever his name – being the half brother of Aegon the Conqueror – the Dragonlord, the man with many names – Buffy was pretty sure he had more aliases than Dany did in the TV Show. Or not. The man who commissioned the Iron Throne – or a thunderbolt hazard as she told Tyrion. An uncle that was, like, deputy Hand of the King, now that was a canon divergence. All right, granted that was caused by the sudden arrival of Tywin Lannister and the youngest uncle to King's Landing.

Both Buffy and Tara liked both of their uncles; they both gave awesome presents to both of them: two half ponies – the stallion was a pony while the mare was a Dornish Steed bred. Tara's was a mare foal with a red coat and yellow mane and tail, that put cherries to shame. She named her horse Cherry Willow. Cher for short. And Buffy's was a stallion foal with a creamy colored coat, with a mane and tail as white as snow. Buffy nixed the idea of getting him gelded – she named him after the Australian cartoon horse she remembered, Thowra. Her horse shared looks and temperament with that fictional horse. Uncle Jaime was teaching them to ride and how to shoot an arrow while on horseback.

Another canon divergence was that Uncle Tyrion got married to a widow with a kid. She was pretty sure that neither Tara nor her had any direct impact on that one. But both were happy for their uncle and Lady Regina. Indirectly. What was that saying about the beat of butterfly wing and a tornado? Regina was a pretty woman and polite she kinda reminded Buffy of Disney's Snow White, with her dark hair and fair skin. Her daughter Sabrina joined the Child Court; she was a bit younger than Buffy and Tara. Lady Sabrina Chavasse had the dark hair of her mother, but unlike her mother's sea blues, she had bottle green eyes. She brought two dressing caskets made from ivory and sandalwood with carved decoration and engraved silver. They were for traveling toilet service, made from tortoiseshell, ceramic, or silver toilette. There were an oval mirror that could be held in one hand or set on the table, small chunks of perfumed soap in silver boxes, various silver pots with lotions and cosmetics – like powder and rouge various sized pencil brushes, tweezers, small silver scissors, water in a glass bottle, one basin and ewer – for washing, all made from silver. There was also a candle and a very cute short with a wide saucer-like base and a loop or handle candlestick made from brass, as well as two hairbrushes – one round with a ceramic, for heating, base. The other was a boar bristle brush, to smooth the hair. Then came the assortment of silver, mother of pearl, and tortoiseshell made decorative hairpins and combs. Buffy's favorite was a silver comb for keeping her hair in place. It was adorned by two swans made from ivory – it was special in a way, because after removing the decor – which was actually a stopper – perfume could be poured into the opening in order to moisten the teeth of the comb and thus her own hair. It looked pretty and smelled nice too. Thinking of new arrivals, Lysa Arryn had twin daughters with the Hand – now that was because of Tara. Mostly. Buffy helped a little by assisting in brewing the tonic for Lady Lysa with Lady Bella.

Continuing the baby boom, Myrcella, their sister, was born. Cersei took care of the little one herself; she didn't allow the nurse maid to nurse the baby girl. Even if it wasn't training in how to shoot an arrow – from a bow that Buffy received as a gift from Lady Mira Forrester a Northern girl that arrived to be Tara and hers handmaiden, Buffy could freely admit that she was intrigued by the Northern ways. But now she really should get her head on here and now .... or else Lady Bella would scold her. "For the base you need cherry juice, or if you don't have fresh cherries, dried chamomile blooms. Considering we don't have fresh cherries, take two rounded spoons of dried flowers." Buffy did just that. She climbed the ladder, found the right herb bushel of dried chamomile, and brought the bushel to the working table, where she took two tablespoons worth of flowers – after that she returned the bushel to its proper place. Then did what she always did – jot notes down – she told Lady Bella that this was for herself and it was – but she also shared her notes with Rosa and couple of the other girls and boys. Buffy was reasonably sure that a couple of those kids were actually Varys's Little birds and reasonably sure that he was aware of her escapees outside of the Red Keep, in fact Varys was her main suspect on tipping Selmy and now Lord Commander of the Kingsguard to accompany her on her – almost nightly runs.

"You need to crush the Valera root ..." Lady Bella said next, "so that it releases its juice,and then add it slowly while stirring ..." Valera root looked liked a garnered purple carrot; it was brought to Westeros from Old Valyria by Targaryens. Yet another thing that was never mentioned in the show – it might be in the books, but Tara's memory was not perfect – neither was her own. Which was why they had noted down events that happened in the books and the show. So far – it was a mixture of both book and show ... with some surprises thrown in. She was OK with that. In fact more than OK; it'd be a too predictable life if it was exactly like the TV show or even book.

 

***Princesses Rooms***

 

When Buffy came back after her lessons with Lady Bella in the Stillroom, Tara was standing with Lady Smallwood by the large window in their 'living room' that was connected to their bedrooms. They each had their own bedchamber now; the difference was the prevailing colors; Tara had more of a red and green scheme while Buffy's was more red and blue. The common 'living room' was done in mix of Lannister and Baratheon colors.

'Tara,' Buffy sent, 'I'm back'.

'Did you get it?'

'Yep, have it right here.'

The little glass vile of certain extract was safely hidden under her skirts; she would give it to Tara later. She needed it for the paternity spell; they finally had all the ingredients needed. The hair of their two uncles, their mother and father, and their own. Pity that they could not get any from Aerys. The hair would be put into separate crystal glasses, with clear water, and be left to steep in a solution Buffy had made under the full moon. Then they would take the locks out and put it on paper. A few drops of their blood ...and it'd show the relations between the persons whose hair was steeped into the mixture of herbs, oils, and blood. 'It's always the blood' as Spike would have said – did say.

"Your Grace." Carellen curtsied when she saw her approach; the other girls stopped what they were doing to curtsy as well. Buffy smiled and greeted each in turn. Lady Carellen Smallwood was from the Riverlands, a tall and willowy girl with russet-brown curly hair and heavy lidded blue eyes. She usually wore gowns with the colors of her house: browns and bright yellows. The style was also typical for the Riverlands, fitted sleeves with a full failing skirt and with a thin leather belt across her hips. Her hair was usually braided and pinned at the nape of her neck in a sort of swirly coil. Smallwood's family dispatched their daughter to be their lady in waiting – with a present that Carellen had gifted them. When they had their privacy, they found two medium chests made from beech wood, carved and polished and engraved with tiny acorns and with Tara's and her names. Or rather the names they were called in Westeros – Argella for Tara, and Elenei for Buffy.

Carellen said that they were for things that would be part of the Princess Royal Trousseau – in other words, the dowry for a wedding - the horror, which brought back the memory of a conversation Tara and her had with Varys. Well Buffy did – Tara was listening in through her link... Apparently Jon Arryn and Big Baby King Bob planned to hitch Tara with a Prince in Dorne to make a marriage pact similar to what it was between the Targaryens and Martells. Buffy did not care which Prince of Dorne it was– he'd be getting the famous 'Shovel Talk' – Varys said that talks would take place at the Highgarden Tourney for Tara's and Buffy's name-day. She'd make sure that she and the prince would have a long talk. Somewhere private. As for Buffy's prospective hubby – well, Varys said that she should not worry that it'd be fine in the end – still it was a bit frustrating not knowing – but Varys wouldn't say, and Buffy was not an idiot to push … not that it mattered what he knew or what he schemed, or what Big Baby King wanted, since Buffy had a definite feeling that it wouldn't matter in the end. That it was without counting the looming Frozen Zombie Apocalypse Part Two that would hit Tara and Buffy's new home, perhaps Buffy should invest in coal and fur and internal heating. No, what made Buffy so certain that it would not matter was the weird and repetitive dreams she had. Dreams that got more detailed over the years she had them. For example now she knew that the blue giant was not a giant but a genie – like the one from the Disney movie Aladdin. Only he had much longer, and white beard and hair along with a tail like a seahorse and wasn't granting wishes … and he had a crown in shape of a starfish.

"My Princess," the lady from Stormlands stood up and gave Buffy a courtesy.

"Lady Jane," Buffy greeted in return, siting by Tara. Lady Jayne of House Swann resumed her sewing. House Swann's gifts to Buffy and Tara were garments. Jayne was a tall willowy girl, with black eyes and hair and dressed mostly in silver and black colors that brought out her eyes. Buffy liked the fashion that was in the Stormlands, fitted sleeves, decorative scarfs that fell from one's shoulders like wings. The dresses themselves had three parts – to better protect a person from the winds, neck high silk and ruffled lace blouse over a corset and matching pantaloons that tied at the ankles. Then came a cotton and wool made slip under the dress and then a silk brocade overdress that was held together by a wide leather and metal belt. Tara received a cowl garment of brocade with silk lining– a long hooded garment with wide sleeves that fastened at the front with cords and clasp pines. Buffy's was from an olive green brocade with burgundy red lining and embroidered flowers at the hem and collar; the cords and clasps were made from silver thread and silver respectively. Tara's was a navy blue brocade, with embroidered leaves, and lined with yellow silk. Clasps and cords were silver as well. They'd have to grow into them, since they were for an adult woman – so both of them put them in those chests that Lady Carllen brought them. The Stormlands. There, people wore cowls for protection against the wind. Ladies' – or women's – dresses did not sweep the ground, but ended above the ankles, and they wore woolen stockings. They had loose fitted sleeves with v necklines mostly made from cotton – they also wore sturdy boots made from elk skin, treated by resin to make them waterproof. Jayne as well as Mira Forrester were closer to Tara than to her.

"Princess Elenei."

Buffy looked up and met the eyes of her friend from the Eyre. The older girl was introduced into the Child Court by the Hand of the King, Jon Arryn. Myranda Royce from the Vale hung with Buffy a lot. Buffy could honestly say that Randa was her true friend and had a very outgoing and warm personality. She was also a bit boy mad and gossipy but Buffy liked that. Randa was twelve years old. Her gift for Buffy and Tara were bolts of dyed fabrics – brocade, silk and mohair that would be made into clothing. Myranda was a round girl, with fat curly brown hair and doe eyes. Buffy liked the Vale dressing style, wide falling sleeves, square necklines, and dresses were belted under the bust line.

Then there was Leona Tyrell from Reach. She had pale blue – like a cornflower eyes. She had a very pretty oval face with a small button nose. Her sorrel-brown hair was very long and pulled on top of her head and left loose to fall in ringlets down her back. Like Randa, her gifts were bolts of fabric and thread of Ramie and Cashmere. There were also two lacquered sewing boxes for traveling, containing sewing needles and white thread, along with silken threads of various colors and golden needles for knitting and embroidery. Leona was sweet and nice to Tara and Buffy. They had a suspicion that the Tyrell's directed her that she cozy up to them. Which was fine – both would have been surprised if it was not so for all of them.

Jayne Westerling – another Jayne this one was often snubbed at court since she had a more humble origin; her mother descended from that of merchants. Tara told her, when they were introduced to Jayne, that in the books she was the one that married Robb Stark. That was unlikely to happen now since Robb was engaged to Mira Forrester. Still, Lady Westerling from the Westerlands was shy – nearly as shy as Buffy remembered Willow being when they meet. She had chestnut curls and a heart shaped face – and chocolate brown eyes. Buffy avoided looking at them; God she missed chocolate. Buffy must say that she also adored the fashion that was in the Westerlands – something Cersei wore as well. The dresses were very like kimonos, with swinging sleeves, and made from a single bolt of fabric, usually printed and embroidered silk brocade and wrapped around the body and tied with a wide belt, though not nearly so complicated to put on. Jayne's gifts for Tara and Buffy was a portable apothecary chest for each of them. The chest was small enough that Tara could carry it and it had nine ceramic drawers and a door, where there were compartments that held bottles. Tara's was made from mango wood and the ceramic drawers' fronts were accented with a decorative butterfly motif. And here with Buffy's it showed that somebody in the Westerling family made an inquiry because Buffy's apothecary chest was bigger. It was still portable – but it had to be carried as a backpack. It had inlaid porcelain slabs, six drawers and six shelves for bottles and all could be closed by a door. It was made from the lightest and sturdiest wood known in Westeros – foxglove wood. The chest was in a warm red wood tone with beautifully hand painted floral and scroll designs and sturdy leather straps and linked chains for carrying it. Lady Elenor of House Cressey came from the Crownlands. She was an eight year old girl with straight and thick brownish red hair and hazel eyes. She brought, as presents from her house, two a sewing boxes full of sewing essentials; the handy, lightweight box contained removable wooden compartments. Both boxes were dressed in fabric featuring intertwining Lannister and Baratheon sigil.

And finally Arenyes Velaryon of Driftmark. Her mother Velora was the twin sister to Lord Monford Velaryon who was the current Lord of the Tides. Arenyes had silver-gold hair in a long braid and dark purple eyes. She was also the most richly dressed out of all the other girls, in white and pale green-blue silks embroidered with silver and gold thread. She brought two small jewelry boxes made from shells and silver, each containing tear drop pearl earrings. The pairs of pearls were in yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple, and black. A long silver chain was added to the assembly, along with seven round silver pendants with matching, to the earrings, pearls in the middle. Buffy could freely admit that she often wore a combination of pink pearl drooping earrings with a combination of a silver/black pendant. Pity there were no red pearls.

'Must you provoke father?' She could practically see Tara's eye roll, even if her sister/friend's back was turned.

'He doesn't even look at me – so no provocation,' Buffy sent back.

She found that she gained a vicious streak – which honestly looking back, she had it before. It was not new; she was much, much worse than Cordelia Chase ever was when Buffy went at Hermey. But before that viciousness was vented by slaying vampires or making biting remarks to said vampires before she staked them through the heart. Here there were no vampires – but there were courtiers aka botlickers that made some cutting remarks within her hearing about her. She could have told Cersei, what they said about herself and her mother – but that would sooner or later result in the idiots' deaths – and they honestly were not worth that effort. So … there was a word dropped here and there, and suddenly there were caught into minor scandals of their own. And nobody suspected the quiet silver haired child except for Tara, who knew from the moment Buffy started to mess with them. It was difficult to hide from somebody with whom you have a mental link with – and of course Varys was not fooled. But he was just observing and sometimes helped...she sometimes found a scroll with useful information under her pillow about her targets. 'Anyway, after Hour of the Wolf, we'll go to the room,' sent Tara, while she turned to Mira to answer the Northerner lady's question. 'I can agree to that,' Buffy answered while flashing a thankful smile to Randa who stood up, so that Buffy could sit in the circle of the Maids in Waiting. Randa fetched another padded chair for herself.

"Princess Elenei," Mira curtseyed in greeting, when she and Tara joined them in the sewing circle.

"Sister," that came from Tara. Buffy nearly huffed in irritation at the formality, if not for a flash of gray in the corner of the room. Septa. Or the Love Child of …

'Buffy! That's rude, and she is not that bad.'

'I'm standing with my assessment.'

"Elder Sister," Buffy inclined her head in greeting, while Randa passed her own nearly finished needlepoint canvas. It was green cloth that Buffy started to embroider a week ago, now it already had trees and three stags: one, the most buff, with large horns – it looked more like a moose than a stag was prancing about while the two smaller ones were locking horns. One of the smaller ones carried a wreath of yellow roses on its head; the other had a shadow and burning yellow red eyes. She quietly debated if she could add a lion stalking them or even a pack of dire wolves circling them OR Killer Frost. She already sneaked in a dragon like cloud above them, shadowing the two squabbling stags.

"How were your studies with Lady Bella Lannister?" Tara asked next. 'Don't even think about doing that.'

Buffy fought a pout from becoming visible. It would have looked awesome. 'You are spoiling my fun. Can I at least add a unicorn?'

'You mean the one from that cartoon Last Unicorn? Yes, that you can.'

'Why thank you so very much, spoilsport.'

'Hey I didn't say anything at the representation of Robert, Stannis, and Renly in those stags that you stitched on.' 'I did do a great job, didn't I?' Buffy found that she was pretty good at generic lady persuades, such as watercolor painting, sewing, embroidery … she thought, and Tara agreed, that this was mostly due to the spell that was cast on Buffy long ago in Sunnydale, where she became a generic noble lady of the eighteenth or nineteenth century for one night.

 

***Secret walled room***

 

There they were sitting on the bare floor. They rolled up the carpet – it wasn't as dusty than it was when they first came here and on the cushy chair, on the large silken cushion, was a large black cat that watched down on them. Sometimes the tomcat deemed appropriate to let them pet him. Sometimes he found the time to sleep on Tara's bed. Once even on her head – she woke up with her mouth full of cat hair. But speaking of that time …

"Ahm Tara," Buffy said to get the raven head's attention when dark blue eyes met hers, "you do know that soon we will be unable to crawl into this room right? We are getting too big to fit into the tunnel."

"Yes, we should start making hidden places in our rooms for Rhaegar's books and scrolls and some other things that could prove useful." Like Buffy's favorite, a double edged Valyrian steel dagger with a dragonbone hilt adorned by a star sapphire and a moonstone– the blade was long as Balerion's – the cat not a dragon – tail. With the blade came a dragonbone made scabbard – fortunately there was no dragon engraved on it, but there were four golden sphinxes engraved on the scabbard proclaiming dagger's Valyrian heritage – not that the dragonbone and Valyrian steel did not. "I was thinking of finding an opportunity to give the papers to the Martells. It's meant for them anyway."

"Well, I think there will be a certain Oberyn Martell at the tourney at Highgarden for our birth – no, our name-day." "Right that should do." It was a pity that they'd soon be unable to enjoy the privacy of being here, where they could be Tara and Buffy, and not Princess Argella and Princess Elenei. Here being in Princess Elia Martell's rooms. The same rooms where she and her year old son died in. The set rooms of the Dragon Prince were walled with brick and stone. But it could be accessed through coal shafts, something Buffy and Tara discovered by chance … and all right, because Tara had a bleeding heart and Buffy was bored and itchy. At the time the strength of the suppression spell was not top notch as it was now. But that was about three years ago.


 

***288 AC Red Keep***

 

It was one of those days when nobody paid attention to them … Cersei was busy with Jaime somewhere in the Red Keep; Uncle Tyrion was in his part of the tower reading; Septa was - wherever – and they didn't have any lessons today.

"I'm so bored," Buffy muttered, "up for exploring?" She turned to Tara who was already getting out of her dress; they were supposed to sleep – Septa's orders, and there were pages standing before the doors so that nobody would disturb the sleep of the two Princesses.

"That was the plan," Tara said matter of fact.

"You are not tired, right?" Buffy asked, the pants in the face was the only answer Tara gave her. "I take it that as a no, then."

Buffy quickly undressed and pulled the pants on in record time. Then they braided each other's hair, and made Princess Leia buns to keep their hair out of the way. Last time they went exploring, they, by accident, discovered – or rather they followed a large black cat, who had half an ear – the entrance into the walled up rooms belonging to the Dragon Prince and his immediate family. Tara said that it was probably Balerion when they first saw the cat, and considering that every time they called it that name, the large tomcat paused and sometimes turned his head to watch them with one eye, Buffy thought she might be right on target with that.

One day the cat slowly paced through the deserted hall, and they were following him – the cat was well aware of it, but did not run. He even waited for them when they turned the corner. There was a shaft, probably for laundry, that was big enough for them to follow after the black cat and ...they discovered the rooms that belonged to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and though the main door to the hallway was stone covered, through side doors they could go to Princess Elia Martell's rooms. Floors were blood stained. Though surprisingly there was no smell … and Buffy had a lot of experience with this … even the bloodstains were … odd.

"Still brainstorming about the stains?" Tara asked when she came behind Buffy who was staring down at the bed – they were in the Prince's room, where Princess Rhaenys Targaryen was supposedly hiding under and from which Amory Lorch pulled her out, but for some reason could not kill her, and the little princess ran to her mother's room, where she was killed alongside her mother and little brother by Gregor Clagene.

"Yeah, they are just ...wrong somehow, and there is something wrong with this entire picture and I do not know what." Not only that but according to Tara - Amory Lorch was supposed to kill Rhaenys, yet he had not – there was no weird stain of blood and Lorch was not a knight or a lord; he become a Septon. For some reason he felt the need to find his Faith and forswore all material possessions.

"Maew," with that, the black tom cat jumped onto one of the plush chairs and started purring and kneading the fabric with its paws.

"See Balerion agrees with me," Buffy said, waving in the cat's direction who just turned its back on them both and went to sleep. "So shall we begin," Tara said, eyeing the shelves of books. "Yep. You can continue with the bookshelf, and I'll go through the chests … and ...huh?"

"Buffy, what is it?" "Heh, ahh, can you hold this vase for a bit?"

"Why?"

"Well there is something," she lets out a breathy giggle because this was just ironic, "Deja vu." Buffy was rocking the small closet/table now. "Perfect memory of ..." and then a bottom fell out with a loud crash, that made Balerion growl and hiss at them for disturbing his sleep. "That," Buffy finished as she reached under the table/closet and pulled out a small chest.

It was made from Dornish yew wood – which had a warm tone of reddish sand. There was a sigil of House Martell carved on the lid - .a golden spear piercing a red sun. "What's inside?" Buffy carefully turned the latch and the lid popped up slightly, so that Buffy could remove the lid, revealing a stack of papers inside. The top slip of paper was address to...

"Buffy?" Tara asked. Buffy shook her head, then let out a resigned breath.

"That is what the slip of paper says … Buffy it is addressed to Buffy." "What, oh … well read it then, it is addressed to you after all."


 

 

***291 AC Red Keep – Walled up Room, Red Keep***

 

"So Tara, did you have to name this Neo-Paternium potion?" Buffy had to ask this, because really, "nobody is drinking this." She made a face when she motioned to the vials sealed with wooden stoppers and with wax. The liquid inside was red, like blood – expect there was not a drop of blood in there at all.

"What would you call it then?" Tara asked while smiling; Buffy was sure that the witch was amused with her.

"Theory solver deux machina," Buffy offered. That earned Buffy a giggling fit, that made Tara topple to the side, laughing.

"So shall we -" Tara asked.

"Yep, prepare to lose your bet sister-dear."

"Hah, I still think you are wrong!"

"Let's just get on with it, or are you scared?"

"No," Tara's lips twitched into small smile, a smile that was equal parts happy and sad. Buffy knew that Tara was remembering the good times with Willow when she pulled face like that. "I have this in my witchy bag."

"Not a pointy hat?"

"Shush, and let me concatenate." Tara sent her a reproachful look.

"Sure."

Tara took a sharp knife, that was usually used for peeling apples though Tara made sure that it was purified in crystal glass and salt water before it would be used for a spell and six inkwells. She used the blade to prick her finger and let a drop of blood fall into the inkwell that Buffy was holding up for her. Then Tara cleaned up the knife in pure crystal water and salt. Then Buffy took the blade and pricked her thumb and let a drop of her blood fall into an inkwell Tara had passed to her. Then in each inkwell Tara poured the entire liquid contents; each vial had cut hair from Tywin, Tyrion, Robert, Joffrey, Cersei, and Jaime. This done now, she gave each inkwell a shake while repeating a chant. Then she again pricked Buffy's and her own fingers and wrote their names – Argella and Elenei at the bottom of the paper. Then Tara put Tywin's inkwell at the top and wrote his name above it; after that she repeated the same thing with the others. When she was done, she then turned it over so that the liquid started to drip out. The lines that formed started to glow blue for a sibling connection and green for a parent child connection, and black for a more distant relation; then lines shot toward different names and wove a pattern, connecting names to each other. Tara and Buffy leaned over the paper, looking at the family tree. There was no surprise; they were connected to Cersei and Robert with green; Joffrey's name was connected with a green line to Cersei and Jaime, and there was blue line connecting Tara and Buffy with Joffrey. There was also a blue connection between Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion. Then it got interesting. Buffy tilted her head to the side, observing the filial connections.

"Well this is unexpected," she commented then pressed her lips together in thought. Tara mirrored her thoughtful expression, only the Wicca added closed eyes to it.

"Yes." Tara nodded when she opened her eyes and took another long look at the results.

"Hem, is that even biologically and logically possible, they are twins after all?"

Tara gave a short nod, her eyes never leaving the paper. "Well yes. It is a one in a million chance but yes, it is possible."

"Well … so grandfather Tywin Lannister is not our bio grandfather. But he is a father to Uncle Jaime and Uncle Tyrion," Buffy thought out loud then she turned to Tara, "Darn ...does that mean I lost our bet."

Tara shook her head, her black hair moving along with the movement. "I don't think so, your bet was that Tyrion is the only child Tywin has."

"Yeah but you haven't lost either; Cersei is not Tywin's biological daughter."

"Truce then."

"Yeah, hey could we, like, get confirmation of Cersei's daddy, while there is a black line between her and Robert, there is also a black line between Robert, Jaime, and Tyrion and even Tywin."

Which made sense since the Lannisters and Baratheons were married into each other's houses in the past. Tara lifted up another inkwell, then wrote the name Rhaegar Targaryen. Tara nicked her finger and added a drop of blood, then she gave the knife to Buffy so that she could do the same. A black line connected to four names, linking Rhaegar Targaryen with Robert and blue linked Rhaegar to Cersei, then through both Robert and Cersei, it linked Tara and Buffy with black, while a lone black line traveled from Cersei to Joffrey.

"Well …" Buffy then reached up and rubbed her temples as a thought nagged at her. She reached into her hair and aggressively ran her fingers through her silver curls. "Hey does that put us in the line for that Prince/Princess that was Promised prophecy?"

If it does that would majorly suck – she hated prophecies, and cryptic messages. Tara tugged at her ear in thought then nodded.

"I think so, since the prophecy stated that the prince or princess that was Promised would come from the Rhaella and Aerys line."

"Yeah but it says 'and', as in together ..." Buffy said hopefully.

"No, it doesn't matter since Rhaella and Aerys were siblings - in terms of magic in the blood, they were the same person."

Well darn it. Hopefully it didn't concern her – prophecies were nothing but trouble. But knowing their luck … this would be just right up their ally, wouldn't it? Fortunately there were more candidates for it; there were Jon and Dany and perhaps …. if they made it out, according to that note meant for herself and letters addressed to Oberyn ... two more.

 

***291 AC Cuāuhtli or the 10th month – Highgaden in the Reach***

 

Buffy was walking with her cousin, the now three year old Lady Shireen Baratheon, on her father's side. Shireen joined the court, she came with her father and mother. Buffy, she had been in bed, having been struck by a fever, and as such was not present when Uncle Stannis came to court with his wife and daughter and presented them before the Iron Throne. They were the Baratheon side of the family that resided on Dragonstone.

What can Buffy say about them?

Stannis was large – though he was thinner than her father, also more sinewy – he also had a darker shade of blue eyes, and heavy and bushy brows. He also had male pattern of hair loss; he was bald at the top of the head, but the hair he had was cut short and was black as ebony. He also had a strong and protruding jaw line and jaw itself; thankfully he had a beard. And like Tara had said: when things displeased him, he had a habit of grinding his teeth. Buffy wondered how come he didn't shatter any of his poor molars; they must have been made of iron or something. He dressed as a sellsword though, even at court a gray or tan linen tunic, a dark red or brown mantle and leather jerkin over it, and breeches of brown or black roughspun and deer skin boots.

His wife Lady Selyse of House Florent was like those caricatures that are drawn thin and tall with a big head and even bigger ears and a sharp beaky nose – she was pretty much like that, but what she was not a sheep. She treated Buffy the same way she treated Tara. Something which Buffy was glad for. Selyse was always wearing an ermine mantle and lots of jewelry. Lady Selyse was also deeply devoted to The Seven, something that showed in the gift that Shireen had given to Tara and herself: obsidian figurines of the seven and books and a Heraldic carpet of the Baratheon family tree that Selyse made. She wouldn't forget the way her cousin – and yes, it was painful having a cousin again, especially knowing that in a couple of years Mel-what's her unpronounceable name Woman in Red would burn Shireen while Stannis and Selyse watched as she was burned to death. Yeah, not happening here … nope, if she'd have to kidnap Shireen to save her life – she'd do it in a heartbeat.

Tara liked Shireen very much as well and was horrified by what happened to TV version of their little cousin. The little girl was like a perfect blend of her parents, not a conventional beauty – she had clear as crystal blue eyes, a bit too large ears and a square, jutting jaw on her small, thin face. The left half cheek and most of her neck was cracked, gray and black – but that could be covered with her thick raven hair and a scarf. Buffy could see it, the girl growing into the her looks over time, and while Shireen would never be a great beauty she would still be a pretty young woman. If she lived that is – and if Buffy had any say in this, Shireen would. But for now they were together sightseeing at Highgarden and being shown about by Willas and Margaery Tyrell.

"And this is a hothouse where we grow orchids from Essos," Margaery was saying, "there are also Esossi kinds of butterflies. Do you want to see them, your Graces?"

"That would be lovely, Lady Margaery," Buffy said smiling back at the brunette – unlike TV Margaery, this one's eyes were golden – like Arbor Gold the Redwynes were boasting about. Or rather how the Maid in Waiting Lady Desmera Redwyne did; she brought some china stuff as a gift, when she joined their little court along with Samwell Tarly as a page at the child court – Lord Tarly was proud of his son then, a bit, at least they hoped. Tara had asked Robert for this because they found out a while ago that Jon Snow was now Lord Jon Vermilion of Harrenhal. How that came to be neither knew, but they decided then and there that they would make sure that Sam wouldn't suffer at the Wall either. Lady Desmera was betrothed to Buffy and Tara's several times removed, maybe, cousin Daven Lannister. Not that either had known him or even meet him.

"What do you think, cousin?" Tara turned to Shireen with that question.

"That would be lovely," Shireen said with a quiet voice and a small smile – she smiled more since she came to live in King's Landing, Buffy noticed. It also helped that her mother was busy being Cersei's Lady in Waiting. She also noticed that Willas Tyrell was not bad to look at either – he was not as pretty as Loras was, or Garlan. Both younger brothers inherited the lighter hair color of the Hightowers – who were either blond or silver haired. Not the Targaryen silver, but close. While Willas and Margaery were considerably darker – to make again the chocolate analogy, Garlan and Loras were white chocolate, with no surprises hidden in the sweet golden-yellow, while Willas and Margery were hazelnut chocolate. Brown with flecks of gold. That if you were not careful could have broken your tooth on.

"Princess Elenei?" Willas Tyrell stepped beside her. Buffy had no trouble matching his steps, all right – she was small for one, so even with his lame leg Willas could take longer steps than her. "

Yes, Lord Willas?"

"I hear from my cousin ..." he started. Buffy mentally snorted, while she smiled prettily, inviting the Heir of Highgarden to keep talking – and of course he did hear things. It would surprise her very much if he hadn't heard it from one source or the other … while Tara's possible, impending engagement to House Martell was an open secret, her own match was never discussed. In fact if it wasn't for Varys's off hand remarks to her, she'd be on the same level as the rest of the realm.

"That you and your sister like to ride out. And perhaps you would like to do the same while in Highgarden. Might try your hand at hawking as well."

"That would be nice, thank you, My Lord," Buffy answered. And she did mean it – it would have proven nice – uh, uh she spotted the Queen aka her mother marching down the path with her entourage – and she did not look happy. She looked like her head would explode any minute now. Dressed in crimson and gold, her hair was pulled up into an elaborate braided bun, endorsed with heavy golden jewelery. It looked like Cersei was marching into Battle Royal.

"You Grace." Willas bowed before her mother, as she stopped before them.

"My Queen." Margaery Tyrell curtsied, while both Tara and Buffy greeted their mother with the formal 'Lady Mother', as the Septa instructed them to greet her in public. Cersei's green eyes darted from Tara's face to Buffy's own and then back to Tara's.

"My sweets, do you like Highgarden?"

"We hadn't seen all of it yet, mother," Buffy said, smiling slightly. Yeah it was a breach in protocol that the Septa installed, but it mollified the Queen somewhat – calm Cersei was better than a livid one. For anybody else but her children that was.

"Well enjoy your tour, because the beauty of Highgarden is without peer in the Crownlands and the Reach," Cersei said then walked away, the crimson guards of House Lannister following close behind.

'This is worrying, she already sees the Tyrells as enemies,' Tara sent.

'That, and perhaps Tyrion dropped the bomb about you marrying into Dorne. By the way, any sign of Oberyn?'

'Not yet,' Tara answered as they continued their walk through gardens of every type of roses, of all shapes and sizes. The Tyrells really liked roses; they were everywhere. On the china, on the paintings, on the tapestry, even the Lannister's didn't slap lions on everything in sight. There was a flouter of blue and green silks, and on the lawn there were chairs and … Margaery, hand under Tara's, darted forward toward a pagoda, where various ladies of the Highgarden were sewing … and was that.

'Tara, I thought I saw Lady Olenna.'

"Princess Argella, Princess Elenei, Lady Shireen" Margery said once Willas and Buffy caught up with Margaery and Tara.

"May I present our grandmother Lady Olenna of the House Tyrell and our mother Lady Alerie..." Margaery then proceeded to introduce the other ladies, but both Tara and Buffy were busy talking to pay attention to the other names.

'I did, I did see Lady Olenna!'

'Not a pussy cat?'

'I'm not Tweety and the Queen of Thorns is not Silvester.'

"Well children let me look at you," Lady Olenna beckoned to the three of them. "Now which is which?"

"Grandmother" Willas raised his hand, that was holding hers, and Buffy gave a shallow curtsy. "This is Princess Elenei ..."

"Ah, you are a pretty one," Olenna said.

"Thank you, Lady Olenna," Buffy answered.

Then the Queen of Thorns turned to her granddaughter and Tara.

"Then you must be Princess Argella."

"Yes, Lady Olenna." Then she turned to Shireen.

"And you must be Lady Shireen Baratheon; come closer child, no need to be afraid or ashamed of your face." Then Lady Olenna turned to her grandson.

"Oh Willas do bring yourself a chair, we are all friends here." He did, and he sat himself between Buffy and Shireen, while Margaery drew Tara in with a conversation.

"So Princess, how do you like Highgarden?"

 

***Next Day – Tourney Proper***

 

They were in the Reach for the tourney that celebrated Tara's and her own birth... no not birthday – eighth name day. She still, sometimes, slipped; thankfully not out loud anymore. On another note, Highgarden was beautiful – like a cross between Universalizes in France, Buffy saw many pictures depicting that, and ...Minas Tirith, or whatever that city was where Aragorn and Arwen married in Gondor. It was Tara's idea to write down any literature or movie that they'd remembered in a mixture of Torran and High Valyrian words. The only exception to that was anything to do with Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire trivia – that was written in Latin – Tara had to teach Buffy the words. Buffy was a bit surprised that she could immediately know things that she struggled with in High school and later UC Sunnydale – like math. In fact she was even more surprised when Tara and her discovered that Buffy was still a Slayer – with powers she had the moment she died her third death – that was dangerous – so Tara bound the strength aspect of her Slayer powers. Now she was only slightly stronger than the average girl her age. As for the tourney, it was a big event.

The collections of pavilions belonging to the Baratheons, Tyrells, Lannisters, and some minor houses looked like colorful mushrooms, easy to get lost in … on purpose, it wasn't hard. Buffy was already dressed in pants under her dress; she just pulled it down, bundled and folded it up, and put it carefully in the preplanned backpack. With a small cap on her head, she looked like a small boy – perhaps a squire of some landed knight. Now Buffy only needed to find the tents that belonged to Dorne. Hopefully Oberyn Martell was not somewhere in the cat house. Though if she had to go there … she would.

"Hey you, girl!" some snotty voice called, and a squire – two towers, House Frey stepped toward her …what how did you know? Buffy wanted to ask before giving him a concussion and possibly amnesia. But the Frey squire marched right past her, and even went so far as to hit her shoulder with,

"Watch it brat."

Buffy turned.

"What do you want, Frey?" The swarthy, rat-brown haired girl glared at him. Her eyes were pitch black and almond shaped. She was tall and muscular, with ripped broad shoulders, and long muscular legs.

"Come on now, Sand, you are a Sand, aren't you? ..." the squire cajoled, his voice sickly sweet.

Buffy rolled her eyes. Then gave the girl – the young woman really; she looked around twenty, a proper look. The leather clad girl with a spear and the surname Sand… oh heh jackpot. Buffy might have found one of the Sand Snakes – Tara made sure that she knew the Book version of them as well. Now which one was she – she could be Obara, the eldest, or Nymeria, the second eldest.

"What is it to you?" the Sand Snake demanded, gripping her spear. While spear fighting wasn't exactly Buffy's thing she preferred knives, swords, bows or rather crossbows, and stakes though she did not need them anymore – it was similar to staff fighting enough, so yes she could appreciate as pointy deadly thing for what it was. Well, she needed to talk with Oberyn anyway, so ...

"Wow, you are really stupid, aren't you?" Buffy said, smirking when the Frey jumped and turned aground, but then relaxed when he saw her. Oh poor guy, not.

"Butt out, boy, this is ..."

"Prince Oberyn's daughter?" Buffy let her dark eyebrow go up, "and if you are lucky, Frey, you will walk out of this unhar..." She ducked and sidestepped the kick and a backhand from the Frey squire, then caught his hand and pressed on a certain point so that he yelped.

"That wasn't nice," she chided, then yanked backwards so that the guy had to go on his knees, or risk a broken bone "... apologize or I will rip your hand off and beat you with it."

"I apologize, you brat, auuu..." Buffy yanked again. Harder this time, not enough to break something, but enough that she knew that she was putting strain on the bone and muscle – he was going to need a bandaging.

"I apologize, boy."

"Better, now to Lady Sand."

"Why would I have to apologize to a bastard...auhrrrrrrr." "I don't like that word … it is reserved for my dad, and a couple of other people, and you ..."

"I'm no bastard."

"You are to me, now apologize."

"Apologizes, Sand," Frey gritted out, "will you let go of my arm, brat?"

Buffy shrugged. "Sure." The Frey squire didn't know what hit him, literary.

"Interesting solution." The Sand Snake looked at the sprawled man on the ground; Buffy kinda, sorta knocked him out.

"My name is Obara Sand."

"I'm Eli," Buffy introduced herself. "And he'd just annoy us both if he was conscious. Now if I didn't have to give a message to Prince Oberyn Martell, he'd probably wake up naked, his hair shaved off, and parading around on the horse ..." Obara laughed, a threw her head back and was loud kind of laugh.

"I like you, kid."

"That's fine; I like you too."

This version was alright; the TV one could walk off a cliff for all Buffy cared.

 

***House Martell Pavilion***

The Dornish pavilions were a sea of reds, yellows, and oranges, and there in the center of it, where a sand steed of ebony black coat with a flaming red mane and tail stood – there was (a) red sun, speared through with a yellow spear, the sigil of House Martell. Obara entered first, Buffy following behind.

"Father," an accentual voice called. Buffy looked toward the voice to see a girl that looked to be around fifteen years old, with fair skin, oval face, thin black eyes, and braided shiny black hair.

"Obara, who is your friend?" the girl then asked. "This is Eli, he is here to give father a message. Eli, this is my sister Nymeria Sand."

"Hi," Buffy waved.

"Aww he is so cute," Nymeria Sand cooed and threw her arms around Buffy, "can we keep him? Father can we?"

"Thank you," Buffy said dryly, then she felt Nymeria's hand go up and her cap fell down… "er, hey!"

She was treated with raised black brows over black viper eyes all around the room – it was an interesting sight, to say at least.

"Oh...you are not a boy."

"Nope, though I still have something that belongs to your father ..."

"And what would that be Princess?" a male voice said this time. Buffy again turned to see a sharp featured man, with tan skin, thin black eyebrows, and … yep The Red Viper himself and with him was a woman, with black hair in ringlets, olive skin with large brown eyes and dressed in yellow and orange.

Buffy gave a little bow. "Your Grace, Lady." Then she frowned. "How did you know ...oh there are golden pins in my hair."

"That and you have the Targaryen look, with a streak of black," Oberyn noted.

"Yeah that would be a dead give away." Buffy nodded, "hence why I was wearing a cap, that somebody had to pull down."

"And why would Princess Elenei Baratheon look for a Martell, I wonder. Dressed as a boy. You are a tad to young for my taste."

"Love, behave," the lady admonished Oberyn, who in turn kissed her hand but otherwise didn't avert his eyes from Buffy's face.

"But where are my manners, Princess Elenei – my paramour Ellaria Sand."

Buffy smiled at Ellaria, then give her a short nod. "Hello, Lady Ellaria, and I simply giving something that you, Prince Oberyn, are supposed to have."

"Oh?"

"Is he always so articulate and trying to be mystically nonchalant?" Buffy turned to Ellaria, who's full lips twitched.

"Oh yes. My love excels in this."

"It is one of my many charms," Oberyn intoned, while still watching her intently.

Yeah she could see why though; she was not acting as an eight year old should, princess or not. But Buffy decided that it would be better in the long run especially if the Martells would be Tara's in-laws, and Buffy's allies that she should be as truthful as possible.

"Thought so." Then Buffy shrugged off her backpack, pulling out a yew wood box.

"My sister Argella and I had found this box; it belonged to your sister, and with that was a letter and well – it is better if you read this ..." Oberyn's sharp intake of breath, when he opened the box, was breathtaking in its agony.

"This is my sister's handwriting," he whispered. "Where did you ..." Oberyn Martell breathed, his black eyes wide.

"In the walled room," Buffy answered, while swinging her legs – Nymeria was braiding her hair – the Dornish way. She said it was called a scorpion tail braid.

"I see ..."

Now that was a suspicious look from the Dornish prince. "That is for free …" Buffy rolled her eyes. "And if you say that the Lannister pays or collects his/hers debt, I'm going to kick you. But you are right, I do want something in return – but that can be discussed later. It is nothing bad – in fact it is probably something you'd do as well."

"Did you read any of ..."

"You sister's letters. No though it was odd-" here Buffy stopped, pausing, should she tell Oberyn all of it? "I read only one note, the one addressed to me."

Written by Buffy for Buffy.

"You? How?"

"Don't know why or how, and frankly, I really don't care – and if what was written in my note is true, there is a chance ..."

"It is unbelievable. Arryn brought my sister and her children's bones."

His hands were shaking, how could they not – his sister Ellia and her children might be alive somewhere.

"And there were blood stains, but ..." All or nothing. "But there is something odd about them – doesn't blood become darker? I mean … when the king still participated in the melee, there was blood and ..." she shrugged looking down at her lap.

OK yeah, she was not technically present for that; they were too young for that – but that is a better explanation than: oh in the past life, I saw blood and gore, and not just from human beings, dried and fresh. Oberyn hmmed, so Buffy looked up.

"It does, it looks almost black," he answered.

"Well the stains are still red. Bright red."

Not exactly, but they were redder than dried human blood – or mammal -- was supposed to be and combining that with the note she got from herself.... Buffy nearly groaned then and there, as in right now it sank in – in order to write that note, she would have a case of time travel. Ohhh. Joy. Not only that but according to that note, to jump start this, she would have to be around fourteen – oh excuse her – four and ten.

"Who was the note from?" Oberyn asked, staring at letter – wait this was in the note too. Buffy had written that when Oberyn asked she had to be truthful.

"Myself."

At Oberyn's incredulous look, she shrugged.

"I know it sounds unbelievable, but the note – I know I didn't write it, yet there it was – my handwriting. So I had written that note years before I was born – yeah it doesn't make sense now," she rambled. Oberyn nodded, then his dark eyes fell on the letter again, first of many – the last letter Princess Ellia of Dorne had wrote before hiding that box. Buffy knew what the letter said, she read that letter, for it was not sealed. It looked as if the Princess of Dorne was in a hurry – and then sealed it with orange wax and Ellia's seal, just as the rest of the letters in box were sealed.

"Ellia wrote that she was going with a four and ten girl, with Targaryen coloring and a streak of black in her hair. And that Gregor Clagane was in some sort of trance.... how is that possible?"

"I'm eight."

"I know, Princess."

"No, Prince Oberyn, this may have happened, but it has not yet happened for me. I have no answer about your sister or her children. Yet. But apparently I will at four and ten, along with Tyene Sand, Brienne of Tarth, and a man named Badr. According to the note, Tyene Sand joined as my Lady in Waiting two years from now in Dorne, under the name Aliandra of House Briar."

"Father, what the child is saying ..." Nymeria trailed off, not knowing what to say – or at a loss of words.

"Perhaps, my love, you should read the rest of your sister's letters." Ellaria put the open box on Oberyn's lap. "Perhaps the answers are there."

"Besides," Obara interceded.

Buffy nearly jumped; she was so quiet in her corner, that she almost forgotten she was there.

"Princess Elenei,"

"Whatever happened to Eli?" Buffy grumbled. "Eli, she is sitting here with us, but Princess Elenei will have to be at the tourney in hours. How will you accomplish that?"

"Well I have a detachable skirt ..." "Really, which seamstress made it, oh that is a good idea, detachable skirts," Nymeria exclaimed.

"Well, I made it, with my sister's help."

"Nym, talk to Tyene, she is good with sewing. I'm still waiting for an answer," Obara said, looking pointedly – it was a familiar look, though Buffy was never the recipient of this look. It was a 'tell your older sister everything' look. Sighing, Buffy caved, that and for the sake of practicality. It would be easier if she had some help to go back – preferably without landing in some sort of trouble with the Septa, that is.

"The plan was to get dressed and then pretend that I got lost," she said, "this would serve in getting that box to your father and letting go of the Septa – she drinks a lot, sometimes even with Robert – normally that would not bother me, but she is supposed to watch after Myrcella as well, and she is still a baby."

 

***Couple minutes later***

 

While Oberyn was reading, Ellaria leaned over his shoulder, her eyes on paper. Buffy was having a blast talking to the two Sand Snakes.

"Here is the stitch: my father plans to marry off my sister into your family," Buffy said to Obara – but considering she felt two pairs of eyes on her, she turned to the two adults that watched them with bemused expressions. A black eyebrow went up, and Ellaria was looking on with interest. Having the adult's attention, Buffy pointed at them. "But I have better idea, I'd like for the two of you to marry my sister." Oberyn blinked while Ellaria chuckled.

"What?" he asked, his thin eyebrows climbing all the way up to his hairline.

Buffy shrugged. "Argella likes ladies, and we'd like to not marry somebody we did not choose or to not marry at all." In her own case anyway, she never entertain the idea of marriage, and when she did, there were a series of nightmares that she had – so Buffy and marriage were un-mixy things.

"With Westeros's obsession of marriage match ups, well … so would you two marry my sister?"

Obara laughed again. Nym, as she instead to be called, still wanted to adopt Buffy, called her adorable and giggled as well. Oberyn was smirking.

"And why should I marry her? She could be just as happy with my nephew."

"Well, she might not – like I said, she likes girls, and I don't know if she is even … is comfortable doing it with a guy, and with your nephew there would always be pressure for them to have children. And you already have them – by the way, Nym here would like a baby sister."

"Aww," Nymeria purred, "I'll just adopt you as one."

"Well if your dad marries my sister – you kinda will anyway."

"I'll think about it," Oberyn said, smirking once again.

"Yeah, perhaps you should think of your nephew, I could scare him for life with the shovel talk."

"Shovel talk?"

"Hurt my sister and I'll beat you with a shovel, then use the same shovel to bury you."

Oberyn burst into loud laughter, followed by his daughters and his lover. "Nice," he wheezed through his laughter, while Ellaria leaned on him for support as she giggled

"What about you?" Nym asked, "I mean, I know House Martell and Baratheon are set to form a marital bond, but I haven't heard any other ..."

"Well, Robert wants a Baratheon/Stark marriage, and"

"You call the King by his name, and not ..."

"Father?" Buffy filled in after Ellaria trailed off. Obara frowned. "You mentioned before, with the Frey, that you would call your father a bastard?"

"So I did – for me the word doesn't mean a kid born out of wedlock, I really don't care about that. And I really need an answer, will you Prince Oberyn Martell and you Lady Ellaria Sand marry my sister Princess Argella Baratheon?"

"And you will, but I still need to know what is in it for me," Oberyn said.

"Well, you brother might stop nagging you to take a wife … and perhaps legitimize some of your daughters?"

"Valid point, Princess, valid point. All right, if your sister will agree when the time comes, my paramour and I will join with her in marriage. And I'd appreciate it if you kept this between yourself and your sister."

"I will."

Chapter Text

***Princess Rhaenys Targaryen - 1***


 

 

***Isle of Torran - Val'ster***

 

It was a warm day as Rhaenys ran toward the sea, following a sandy footpath, her bare toes sinking into the warm sand while she ran. She could already taste the sea's salt on her tongue; she loved the crashing of the waves, the warm sand under her bare feet, the gently swaying palm trees and tropic fern... It reminded her of her Uncle Doran's Water Gardens in Dorne. Full of lush greens, soft grass, and cool, sweet streams, and surrounding the island was a blue-green sea. Rhaenys barely recalled her two uncles' faces, but she remembered the sound of her Uncle Oberyn's laughter and how warm Uncle Doran's hand on her head was. She knew they had the same skin tone as her mother, herself, and her youngest brother Ashaerion and Lady Ashara Dayne.

They lived on this island since she was four name days old or as the Torrans called it, since her fourth birthday and her brother Aegon, or Egg, was a two year old baby in their mother's arms. Ashaerion however was in their mother's womb at the time– her littlest and youngest brother was born on Val'ster; her mother was not aware of him when they moved here. They usually called him Rion for short just as they called Rhaenys, Rhea – Ashaerion was named after Ashara Dayne, or Aunt Ash. She was one and ten today by her mother's reckoning. They would celebrate her birthday after … since Torran didn't celebrate birthdays.

Princess Elia Martell – her mother was a graceful, slander, tan skinned woman with sharp features, dark and warm lidded brown eyes, and lustrous ebony black hair, that was now streaked with white now. When Elia told them about Dorne, about home, she said that there were three groups of Dornishmen - the Salty Dornishmen who lived along the coasts the Martells fall in that group, as they are lithe and dark, with smooth olive skin and long black hair. Then there were the Sandy Dornishmen who lived in the deserts and the long river valleys. With faces burned brown by the hot Dornish sun, they were even darker than the Salty Dornishmen. Lastly there were the Stony Dornishmen who lived in the passes and heights of the Red Mountains. They were fair of skin, either freckled or burned in the sun, and had brown or blond hair.

Rhaenys was taught by her and Lady Ashara on what a noble lady and royal Princess has to know; sometimes Egg and Rion joined her, but they were mostly care free and played with other children – learning to sail, swim, hunt for their food, cook, how to mend their clothes and nets, how to fight with spears and knives, and how to shoot a bow. Rhaenys inherited her mother's coloring; she knew that she had her father's shape of face – and apparently she inherited her father's height as she already was a tall girl for her age. Ashara said that she would probably be taller than her Lady Mother. She also wanted to joke that she was a Viper, all in her temper. Elia agreed – Rhaenys was very much like her Uncle Oberyn.

Egg, however, was all Rhaegar – in coloring and temperament according to their mother. Even at ten years, his eyes were purple – like mulberry. His eyelashes and brows were thick and dark, the top of his head was crowned by platinum hair, his fair skin didn't burn under the sun but did not tan either. He already spoke and read High Valyrian, their Lord Father's tongue, Torran, the tongue of people that took them in, and Rhoynar - the tongue their Lady Mother fluently spoke. The only thing that Aegon apparently inherited from their mother was her eye shape and lean and slender body type.

Her youngest brother – Ashaerion was a perfect mixture of their parents; black eyes, curly silver hair, olive skin, and he was short for his nine years. He was an intelligent little boy – and according to Padme, the Senior Magician, he had shown promise in magic – more specifically, he had an affinity to water. Rion was not a particularly strong Water Magician, but in time his power would grow.

Padme had six students, all ranging from five to eleven years old – Tane, Kanaloa, Lono, Rangi, Nandi, and Rhaenys' little brother Rion. Tane was five along with his twin sister Rangi; Tane was a Red Magician or a Magician that had an affinity to heat and fire. Rangi was a Black Magician; she had the affinity to perform strength magic. They both had spiky gray hair with blue eyes. Egg had the affinity for water magic which made her brother a Blue Magician.

Then there were two boys: eight year old Kanaloa, the White Magician, meaning he had an affinity to Wind Magic. He had startling green eyes and blood red hair that went to his waistline; he normally wore it braided down his back. Then there was a ten year old, who was green haired with eyes the color of garnet; The Orange and Yellow Magician, as Lono liked to present himself, was immensely strong in Light Magic and Lightning Magic. Eleven year old Nandi was a slim girl with gray eyes and burnt orange hair; she had power over life, or rather over plants, which made her a Purple Magician.

Rhaenys played with the Torran boys and girls her age. They all had brown skin, and green or blue or purple or brown eyes – and oddly enough, their hair color varied from black to blue, to red and brown, to yellow and green, and to even purple. Kane was a boy who was thirteen years old, blue haired with red eye color, coloring he shared with his younger sister who was the same age as Rhaenys – her name was Tanii – and she was the Targaryen Princess's best friend and often played with the other children of the village.

While the Torran people lived in Westeros, they were only a footnote in Westorosi history, so the exiled didn't know much about their culture – or so aunt Ashara and Lady Mother told Rhaenys - but that was mostly because their numbers were few in Westeros and virtually nonexistent in Essos. Besides, as far as the Targaryen family were aware, the Torran only lived on the island called Estermont. They had various shades of brown hair and green-blue eyes. In addition, they never played any role in history – they didn't appear in any of the songs; they didn't venture out from their little island – the first notable figure that was of Torran descent was Lady Cassana – who married Lord Steffon Baratheon and they had three sons: Robert, who now sat on the throne that belonged to their family, to her brother Egg, then there was Stannis who was now holding Dragonstone, the seat that would have gone to Rion, and the youngest of the Baratheon brothers, Renly who held Storm's End. All this she learned on her mother's knee, while the Princess of Dorne was often sad – she never hid it from her children – when Rhaenys asked her mother once why this was, Elia Martell answered, "Sweetling, life comes to us in all kinds of flavors – it can be sweet as sweetened wine or bitter as a lemon, but we must never shy away from it."

Aegon, however, started to ask about their father. Rhaenys told both of her brothers what she remembered – and Elia conceded that all of three of them were now old enough to know all that had happened. Mother even permitted that each of her children should bring their closest person as support as she would bring Ashara Dayne into their house tonight, after the coming of age celebrations. With that last thought ...she burst through the last of the green foliage, her split knee length skirt enabling her quick run, and her chest warped in a wide scarlet red top garments that would) not get in her way. Rhea spotted a crowd already gathering by the shoreline, the whole village was preparing for the celebration of the good harvest and the coming of age for all children above ten - this celebration was held every nine years or so. Which meant Egg and Nandi, along with Nohea , Kane, Pekelo, Ku, Makani Papa, Rongo, Tu, Laki and the girls Wainani Tane, Elusu, Dilga, Houmea, Moana, Tanii, Lani were already waiting for her. Though she was not the last to arrive since right behind her came a round boy of thirteen - Lokepa was a good nurtured boy who liked to cook for others but also liked to eat. She spotted her mother beckoning her to the straw hut that had been especially prepared for this occasion.

 

*** Preparation Hut***

 

"Mother?" Rhaenys asked her mother later when she was braiding her black curls out of the way. Rhaenys' inherited the famous Rhoynar curls, very pretty and almost impossible to tame.

"Yes, sweetling?" Looking at the polished glass stone in their small house, Rhaenys watched as her mother Princess Elia of Dorne braided her black hair into two braids and wove long steamed red and white colored flowers into them – there was a festival held later today, where various Torrans would take part in games like surfboarding on the crests of waves, swimming, wrestling, boxing, spear throwing, coasting while standing on narrow sleds, bowling, and running. This year the Martell/Targaryen family would join in the competitions, a mark that meant the Torran looked upon them as one of their own. Which was not a small feat.

 

***Nightfall – Targaryen/Martell house***

 

Come nightfall Rhaenys brought into her home her best friend Tanii, and she was closely followed by her brothers Egg, who brought Nandi – much to the amusement of Aunt Ash and their mother and Rion, who brought his friend Tane. As the children settled in their beds, Ashara and Elia sat down on the armchairs made from woven stalks of a plant – that most of furniture was made out of; the material was sturdy and tough and yielding so they were not hard to sit on. They didn't even require padding, just a linen cloth where the body would come into contact with the stalks.

"Mother?" Rhaenys looked up, her dark eyes intended on a round blue mark that resembled an eye on her forehead, gleaming proudly. There was a history about that marking – a leftover from a place the Torrans called Alma Torran, the original world. Any child that was aged ten to fifteen during the celebrations received this mark.

"Will you tell us?"

Elia smiled at her."What would you liked to hear first?"

"Far away places?" Egg offered like he didn't know what this was about; she frowned at her brother, who just smiled innocently back at her. "How you and father met?" Rion pipped in.

"Adventures?" that was Tane - the boy had a hunger for those. The Elder of the village often dragged him from the deep water fishing boats. Tane was brave and a skilled boy but he was too young to hunt Abareumiushi, Abareumigame, or Abareikkaku. The sea creatures were so enormous that they could down battleships like famed dromons of Dragonstone with their side fins. Abareumiushi looked like strangely shaped sea slugs; Abareumigame looked vaguely like turtles, and Abareikkaku looked like menacing narwhals. All creatures shared an enormous body covered with hard coral. Their meat was the best source of protein and it could feed everyone on the island. It was also perfect for preserving for long storage, like jerky, sausage, and salt-cured meat. Their bones and fangs and scales were used for building boats or covering roofs on houses. Their hair was made into clothing, rugs, and ropes. Its fat was enough to extract ten buckets of oil, good for, for instance, fuel and cooking and making scented soaps with a combination of blooms found on the island. Their horns and thinner bones could also be used to create daggers, spears, and swords, or kitchen utensils.

"I'd like to hear a romantic story, please," Nandi pleaded, turning hopefully to Elia, who smiled at her oldest son's friend, and if Rhaenys interpreted her mother's and Aunt Ashara's whispering right – romantic partner. Though when Rhaenys asked her brother Aegon and Nandi, well she got that it would be yucky and too weird as they were best friends.

Aegon said, "Romance is for girls!" the last bit was aimed at Nandi, with a dark brow raised in challenge to the orange haired girl. There was also a glint in her brother's eyes.

"I am a girl, idiot!" Nandi huffed, her gray eyes flashing in annoyance.

"Alright settle down; Aegon, stop baiting Nandi please," Ashara intervened, but her violet eyes were laughing.

"Aww, Aunt Ash, but it's fun," Egg wheedled but was stopped when a small fist grabbed his shirt, and said fisted hand pulled the fabric – and Aegon – closer to the furious orange haired girl.

"I can slap you again. That was fun."

Ignoring the innocent play between her son and the Purple Magician, Elia tucked the other children down, while sadly muttering 'just like my loves' and 'hopefully theirs will be a happy end' as said children turned all their attention to the Princess of Dorne. Rhaenys knew that her Lady Mother was thinking of her husband and hers and her brothers' Lord Father and mama Lyanna.

"Well, I might start with the players of my story – there was the Mad King, his gentle and wise Queen Rhaella, Prince Rhaegar -"

"That is our father, right Rhea?" Aegon asked excitedly as he turned to her.

"Yes Aegon, now listen to mother."

"Egg," Rion admonished, "don't interrupt."

"Yes, that is your father. Shall I continue?"

"Yes, please," came the assent from all the gathered children.

"Lyanna Stark, her brothers Brandon and Eddard … and Robert Baratheon. And the story of all of us starts just before the tourney at Harrenhal. You see, Mad King Aerys was unhappy with his first son's marriage to me, since I was always to sickly to bear Rhaegar more children, never mind that his son was fond of me ..."

"Didn't your husband love you?" Nandi asked.

"No, we were more of the best friends type than husband and wife. And our marriage was more of a political nature – you see, my mother originally wanted for me to marry Ser Jaime Lannister and your Uncle Oberyn to wed Jaime's twin sister Lady Cersei. But King Aerys and Lord Tywin, the Lannister twins' father, prevented that from happening. Since the Martell's of Sunspear carry the blood of the Dragons, Aerys deemed me a suitable wife for his son."

Nandi pouted because of the lack of romance, Rhaenys knew, while Egg patted Nandi's shoulder in comfort.

"Anyway," her mother continued, "Rhaegar and I had a comfortable life, then Rhaenys was born." Elia smiled at her, "you weren't named after the first Rhaenys Targaryen as many claimed and thought, but Rhaegar and I named you for the Queen that Never Was; your father always loved the passage that Archmaester Gyldayn wrote about her."

"Miss Elia," Tanii's voice probed, after the silence stretched for a bit. "What was it?"

"Mmm, oh sorry I was lost in thought. It was written: Beloved daughter of Lady Jocelyn Baratheon and Prince Aemon Targaryen, faithful wife of Lord Corlys Velaryon, mother and grandmother, the Queen Who Never Was lived fearlessly, and died amidst blood and fire. She was fifty-five years old.'"

"She sounded like a great person!" Egg mused.

"She was; she made a habit of helping out the smallfolk, building dams and bridges and the like with her dragon Meleys, using dragon flames to fuse the stone together. But you wanted to hear how we came to be here, on this island among the Torran were you not?"

At the general nodding, Elia Martell closed her eyes and restarted her tale.

"Lady Lyanna came to me with your Aunt Ashara, who was accosted by the drunk Lord Robert Baratheon, but Lady Lyanna had bashed the drunken lord with her shield."

There was quiet laughter from all the children; they heard that tale before, quite often in fact. How brave and gallant Lady Lyanna Stark defeated the three knights at jousting at the tourney as the mystery knight. How she had beaten, before that, those same knights' squires because they were abusing her Lord Father's bannerman with a tourney sword.

"Later, Rhaegar, the She-wolf, and myself talked all night in the Royal tent. We became fast friends, and well Lyanna and Rhaegar slowly became closer than friends." Elia smiled softly, then she continued her tale.

"It was sweet to see a Dragon and a Wolf come together like that. And I was glad for them, for I was fond of both of them. Lya shared her discontent with marrying Robert, and she was already preparing to leave Winterfell and seek asylum with the Mormonts, where maidens who didn't wish to marry traditionally escaped that fate in the North." At the questioning looks from the children, her mother elaborated, "House Mormont of Bear Island, the legend in the South is that King Rodrick Stark won Bear Island in a wrestling match with an Ironborn King. In the North, however, there is a different tale."

"What was the tale, mother?" Rhaenys asked.

"Well, as Lya explained, during the reign of King Rodrick Stark – at that time Stark kings had four wives, while more wealthy bannerman had two or three, since winters were more harsh and deaths were more often than they are now. They also fathered many bastards. King Rodrick heard of a Mormont Clan – where the Head of the Family was named Ursa Mormont. Lady Ursa had thick brown hair and gray eyes and was considered a strong warrior and a beauty. Lady Ursa decided that the man she'd wed had to defeat her in a wrestling match. If the man lost, he had to surrender either a horse or a herd of sheep or goats. The lady's clan was very rich in the herds. King Rodrick heard of this, heard of the Lady's strength and beauty, and as he had only two wives, he decided to wrestle the lady for her hand."

"That was so romantic." Nandi smiled and sighed a little.

"Well that was what the King thought, but like many of the men, he thought that he would be different than the rest. And so when he meet the Lady, he said, ' the King will win' your hand and that Lady answered, 'If he loses, his forfeit has to be greater,' and the King agreed. He would give the Mormont clan a land where they could settle. The Lady asked for Bear Island and a boon - a law that she'd demand of him if he loses. Smiling, the King swore to this before the heart tree and the Old Gods. He lost soon after."

Rion laughed and exclaimed,"That's awesome!"

"The King then helped the Lady and the people settle on Bear Island, and named Lady Ursa Mormont, the She Bear. There is, still to this day, a craving made from ironwood of her likeness on the gate wearing a bearskin with a child in one arm, suckling at her breast, and a battleaxe in the other. Then Lady Ursa asked that any woman or man that lived under Stark who didn't wish to marry could become a Mormont. And since then the asylum of running brides to be was granted."

Aegon looked deep in thought. "I suppose that that is equal to becoming Septa or Septon in the North?"

Ashara gave a little laugh. "Not exactly, for one celibacy is not required. So if Lyanna ran to Bear Island, she would have become Lyanna Mormont, and any children, if she wished them, would be called Mormont."

Elia nodded in agreement then she continued her original tale. "Rhaegar shared his own troubles with both of us. The growing paranoia of King Aerys and his helplessness in curtailing his father's descent into madness. The general backstabbing that was going on with the nobles, pyromances and Varys who was abundant in court at King's Landing. The tidings of Uncle Aemon, who was the Maester at Castle Black, and Rhaegar's night visions of a place that was a vast whiteness and coldness and where he could feel the death that clung to those visions. He told us of writings left behind by Daenys the Dreamer and a prophecy from the Woods, which told Rhaegar's grandfather that the prophesied savior, The Prince that was Promised, would be born into the line of Aerys and Rhaella."

"And I shared the troubling news of the Mad King becoming discontent with me and my very Dornish daughter and my fear of the consequences of this. When I said that, Rhaegar told both of us of how Varys warned my husband that the King mutterings were becoming more and more drastic, and it could end with the endangerment of my life from the king himself."

 

***King's Landing Year 281 After the Conquest (281 AC) ***

 

There three people, so unlike in appearance, sat in silence as they tried to solve the puzzle life had given them. Winterfell's She Wolf, her silver-gray eyes downcast, her wild brown curls unbound, her shield with the emblem of a laughing weirwood heart tree all but forgotten at her feet. She had a problem– with her unwanted marriage but that was easily solved; she only needed to get through with the plan without getting caught by her Lord Father, which was to travel to Bear Island and ask for asylum – then renounce the name Stark and become a She-Bear. Let Robert try getting her to wed him then – Maege Mormont would talk to him with her mace. Her new friends though had more complicated problems.

"I'm sorry," Lyanna broke the silence, "I wish I could help you -" then she blushed because she was only talking to Rhaegar … but Elia was smiling – knowingly, which only deepened her blush. "Both of you," she amended lamely.

Elia reached out to the younger woman; after all, during their long talk, she felt like she knew Lyanna fairly well. Then she gasped, and her gaze flew to her husband, who looked at her with a questioning purple gaze.

"You could," Elia started, "marry Rhaegar."

Lyanna's eyes comically widened. "But aren't you ..I mean..."

"Lady Lyanna – you are aware of history, are you not? The Targaryens practicing polygamy was never forbidden. In fact, any kind of polygamy is not forbidden by the Faith of the Seven. Neither, I believe, is it in the Old Gods religion?"

“No, I ...the Free Wildling folk still practice this, and some of the mountain clans and hill clans in the North as well. The Old Gods do not forbid a man taking many wives, or a woman from taking many husbands. We just do not do it any longer."

"Truthfully," Rhaegar said, his long legs extended before him, "the Faith doesn't expressly forbid polygamous marriages, even for the Lords, since before my forebears." With that, he flickered a small smile at Elia, who smirked knowingly in return. At Lyanna's questioning look, Elia smiled, "Aegon is not named The Conqueror in Dorne – since Dorne was neither conquered, as were most of the Kings in Westeros, or bent their knee to save their people – like the King of the North did."

Rhaegar sighed with fake annoyance. "As Elia is fond of repeating to me, 'Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken'." Rhaegar nodded in his wife's direction, "But back to the topic at hand, the reason why polygamous marriages are rare, is because it's more about politics than anything else. It is difficult to determine the line of succession and also difficult to keep peace between the spouses, especially if there is competition among the families."

"Are you certain..." Lyanna asked, then quickly tacked on, "My Prince."

"It's Rhaegar," the Prince of Dragonstone amended, "And if we take this route, Lady Stark-"

"It's Lyanna," said the lady, scowling, eliciting a giggle from Elia and a small huff of amusement from Rhaegar. "But if I remember my history … didn't the Septon once refuse to perform a ceremony?"

Rhaegar closed his eyes for a moment, searching for that particular memory; it was fortunate that he never forgot what he once read, then he blinked his eyes open. "Ahh yes, this was about Maegor the First, son of Aegon the Conqueror and his sister wife Visenya. Maegor had six wives – the only reason why the Septon refused to officiate the marriage was because, as Queen Visenya wrote, he didn't want to make an enemy of the High Septon, who had enormous influence, wealth, even a private army – Faith Militant, and High Septon was also the maternal uncle to Ceryse Hightower, wife of Maegor. When Maegor would take a second wife Alys Harroway of Harrenhal, Ceryse, who was declared barren, would not become Queen. If Aegon was still alive and Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, the High Septon would not have protested; however, King Aenys was a kindhearted, courteous, charming, and soft-spoken man, who wished to be loved by everyone and always sought to please. And that made the High Septon bold; he merely needed to be friendly to the King and the King sent an ultimatum to his half brother: set Alys aside or go into exile and -"

"Dear," Elia said with exasperated air, as she patted her husband's forearm, "you can continue the lecture later," then Elia turned to Lyanna, "Lyanna, when he gets into his 'lecturing' like some old and wise archmaester, your best bet is to either stop him or distract him – that is, if you don't want to hear every detail he read in a book."

Rhaegar took a deep breath, "I'm sorry, sometimes I get carried away when debating." He inclined his head in apology to both women present. "Lyanna, we have to spin the political benefits, as I doubt Lord Stark, my father, the King, or Prince Doran would relent in allowing us to..."

"Sometimes, dear," Elia smiled, "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission." Her dark eyes sparkled the same way her brother Oberyn's did when he was contemplating in causing some sort of mischief. "I think Lord Stark would be amenable to wedding his only daughter to the Dragon Prince if it meant that his grandchild, or his grand-grand child, would be sitting on the throne. As for my brothers, you leave them to me. Because out of all of them, I think the King is the largest unknown in all of this. He could agree to all of it or he could burn us all."

Lyanna shivered, for she had seen the King and she did feel uneasiness at seeing the Old Dragon. She hoped that the coin, as it were, fell on their side. "My father," Lyanna started, swallowing her fears of the Old Dragon's possible damning decision, "Listens to Maester Walys' advice ever since my Lady Mother died. He is bent on securing alliances with the South. My eldest brother Brandon is engaged to Lady Catelyn Tully of Riverrun. And now he waits for a reply from Casterly Rock as he petitions Lord Tywin Lannister for his daughter Lady Cersei.”

"Tywin will never consent to that," Elia muttered, "The old Lion is set to marry Lady Cersei to Rhaegar, and the King might agree to that now that Pycelle has pronounced me barren." Elia put her right hand on her belly – where unknown to anyone but her and maester Caleotte a babe grew. Maester Caleotte was formerly Caleotte Sand, who was granted an education as a small boy by the mother of Princes Doran and Oberyn and Elia herself – Mariah Martell, the Ruling Princess of Dorne. He wasn't loyal to the Citadel – his loyalty lied with House Martell.

"And my Father is ever more fearful in Lord Stark's move to betroth all of his children to the South. He feels threatened by this," then he turned to Lyanna, "Is the Maester from the South?" Rhaegar asked. "And I'd never marry Lady Lannister because then the number of days Elia and our children lived would be cut short."

"Dear..."

"I'm not paranoid; I just found it interesting how Pycelle ..."

"I know, why do you think I wanted a second maester's opinion on the matter," Elia answered – it was why she traveled to Sunspear to meet with Caleotte. Only to find out that she's with child – unexpected news but a welcome one.

"What is going on?" Lyanna asked.

"Well, it's about Queen Rhaella's births," Elia started, "in short, because that is a problem for another day. While there is a danger to both mother and child in the bed of blood, the only children that were not born still were the ones that weren't helped into the world by Maester Pycelle. Rhaegar was born when Summerhall was burning, then there were miscarriages, Princess Shaena was kicking right until she was born but was then declared still. And there were other strange happenings. Rhaegar looked into the matter right after the Queen was carrying Prince Viserys, but at this time the king made sure that no one was alone with them and the child lived."

Rhaegar then straightened in his chair. "It's growing late, Lyanna -" "I don't need a chaperone to reach the Stark tents, thank you, Rhaegar. My brother Benjen is waiting for me."

"You can leave your shield," Elia offered, "nobody will look for it here." Lyanna smiled at them in thanks, and then slipped out of the Dragon Prince's tent, quiet as a shadow.

"Well?" Elia asked, "do you like her?"

"I don't dislike her."

"That's not what I asked."

"I know, Elia. She is – are you alright with this?"

"It's either Lyanna or you know that your father will -"

"I know."

"Rhaegar, when I was visiting my brother, I found out that I'm with child."

"Your Grace!" Barristan Selmy's voice rang outside the tent.

"Ser Barristan, you can enter."

"The King is asking for your presence," he said. "I see, thank you, Ser, I will be there in a moment." Rhaegar then gave a little bow to his wife and exited the tent. As he neared the King's tent, he could already hear his father's shouts.

"We will find him, my King," his cousin Robert was saying. Rhaegar frowned at him when he saw the unmistakable drunken appearance of his cousin, only to receive a rude hand gesture in return. He clamped down on his irritation at his oldest Baratheon cousin, for Rhaegar preferred his cousin Stannis, at least he didn't try to force Rhaegar to partake in silly drinking games and into brothels.

"Ah my son," King Aerys crowed. All his previous charm and vitality long giving in to hollow cheeks and paranoia. It was heartbreaking to see his father turn to ruin, every time Rhaegar returned from Dragonstone he came to King's Landing at least four times in a year and stayed for several weeks at court. "Lord Baratheon said that he would unmask my enemy the Mystery Knight; his shield was mocking and laughing at me."

"Of course, father, nobody shall mock you," Rhaegar soothed.

When his father, and king, was in this state, it was best not to contradict him. But things couldn't go on like this – if his father's condition should worsen.

Next day, all the lords and ladies were seated in the arena, but the Knight of the Laughing Tree didn't show up. As Rhaegar, Elia, and Lyanna had known.

Aerys predictably wanted the Knight found – so the search was commanded. As Rhaegar made previous agreements, the shield was brought before the king by him.

"Father, I found this mocking shield leaning on the tree – shall we melt it down?"

A thunderous expression yielded to giddiness, as the king watched a smith melt the shield before him.

"Son," Aerys muttered for Rhaegar's ears only, "your cousin disappointed me. The Starks are plotting, and I suspect that Jaime Lannister was the one to bare this shield."

Rhaegar shifted closer, a plan forming. "Then I shall deal Robert an disappointment to him, stop the Stark plot, and humble the Lannisters in one swoop."

"How, my boy?" Aerys' mad eyes widened.

Time to use Varys' whispers of plots against his father. "As you know, I financed this tourney to find out of the plots against the Crown."

Not the reason, but his father, did not need to know that.

"Varys was correct – only he ..." Aerys looked lost, hurrying Rhaegar who sought to reassure and calm him.

"Father, I am but an obedient son and I'm not a kinslayer. I hadn't informed you because I didn't want you to worry. As for my plan – as you know, Tywin wants to marry his daughter Cersei into our House."

Aerys hissed like a cobra poised to strike but was otherwise attentive.

"And he wanted to wed his son to the younger Tully girl. You prevented that in your wisdom, father. Because Lord Tywin wants to rule through his daughter."

"You'll never wed her."

"As you say, father. But as to the Stark – he seeks Southern marriages to support the North during winter. But those could be used by more ambitious lords, like Tywin and Lord Rully, to blockade the Crown. The eldest Stark is to marry the eldest Tully daughter, and his daughter to cousin Robert. For the rest of his children, Lord Rickard is still negotiating."

"And how do you plan on stopping this plot?"

"Simple, I take Lady Lyanna Stark as my second wife. Any child she'll have will come after Elia's if the babe she is carrying is a boy. Besides, if I have a son with the Stark girl, his song will be 'of ice and fire' as was foretold. Aerys was quiet – then he cackled.

"I approve, my son."

Rhaegar bowed, "Now by your leave, father, I have to leave for my matches."

 

***Final tilt***

 

Ser Barristan was an exemplary knight and an excellent horseman; Rhaegar was excellent with a lance and horsemanship as well. He also had more hanging on this tilt. For one, Lady Stark deserved some recognition for her efforts as the Mystery Knight, and for one more petty reason, Rhaegar wanted to needle his cousin Robert Batatheon, who throughout the entire tourney hadn't even looked at Lyanna – his own betrothed. All he was doing for everyone to see was drinking, eating, and fondling the serving women. If the woman was willing or not. As Rhaegar unhorsed Ser Barristan, he then rode the length of the horse track in victory to receive a wreath of ice blue roses from previews Queen of Love and Beauty, daughter of Lord and Lady Whent. The young maiden smiled at him, as he removed his helm and as he tipped his lance, and the young Lady Whent took the wreath from her own head and slipped the roses onto his lance. Rhaegar bowed to Lord and Lady Whent and their daughter, then spurred his station. It was time for him to crown another. Passing Elia, who was smiling at him, he rode to where the Starks sat, again Rhaegar tipped his lance and the wreath of roses fell on the She-wolf's lap. Rhaegar could see that she was surprised and so was everyone else.

"Lady Lyanna Stark," Rhaegar intoned, "I pronounce you a Queen of Love and Beauty."


 

***Val'ster – present ***

 

There was much giggling.

"Were they really so shocked?"

Elia nodded, her black eyes shining, while Ashara's shoulders were shaking from suppressed laughter.

"Yes, some even had their mouths wide open, and the song of crickets was the only sound, besides the whining of horses and the barking of dogs. Lyanna was most amused by the reactions."

"Why didn't it become known that the Prince only wanted to reward her for her skill at the tourney? It wasn't forbidden for a woman to participate was it?" Nandi asked.

"Ahh, but you see the Mystery Knight was accused of treason and so her identity had to stay a mystery. So shall I continue with the wedding?"

"There was a wedding at Harrenhal?"

"There were two, one during the tourney between Ashara and Brandon Stark – she later went to Starfall because she was pregnant and nobody knew that she was married."

"The King knew- he even approved since that tweaked the alliance further in his mind," Ashara said.

"You never told me that, Ash."

"I'm sorry, Elia, so much was happening that I .."

"It's alright, Ash." Elia smiled at the children. "The second marriage took place four months after Aegon was born. Just as the new year started."


 

 

***282 AC – Harrenhal**

 

The wedding took place during sunset – since the newlyweds and the eight witness would spend the bedding at Harrenhal and then take a journey to either King's Landing or to Dorne. Queen Rhaella, Princess Elia, and her ladies had sewn Rhaegar's cloak that would be draped over Lady Lyanna's shoulders. It was made from black velvet with an embroidered vivid red three headed dragon with red trimmings and was fastened with golden cords. But the underside of the cloak had gray silk linings, and there, in the upper part, was an embroidered head of dark gray wolf, wreathed with ice blue winter roses. They were standing under the goodswood, before the old, bone white barked heart tree, right across from the face that was carved and its eyes and mouth stained with red sap. The Septon was standing a bit to the side, so that he didn't block the tree. The three branches reached over them like a roof of blood red leaves.

"Father, Smith, and Warrior. Mother, Maiden, Crow, Stranger. I am hers, and she is mine," Rhaegar said.

Lyanna spoke similar lines. "Father, Smith, and Warrior. Mother, Maiden, Crow, Stranger. I am his, and he is mine." Then they faced each other; their eyes met. "From this day and to the end of my days."

Later, the newly weds retired to the bathhouse, a low-ceiling room filled with great stone tubes and it only had one entrance. They were alone in there.

"This is ..." Lyanna looked around, "I have no words."

"I have read that Winterfell always has warm water due to hot springs under it."

"You read correctly, perhaps when we visit Winterfell we can take a bath in them."

"I would like that.


 

*** Val'ster present***

 

"And that completes my story," Elia finished. Rion pouted. "I wanted to hear how we got here, and how you met." He bit his lip and cast a furtive glance at Ashara. "It's alright, Rion," Ashara soothed, "perhaps you should ask your sister for she was there." "Me, well, I was looking for Balerion – he was sleeping in our father's room when I heard yelling and screaming so I hid under the bed."


 

***King's Landing 283 AC Robert's Rebellion***

 

Rhaenys was kicking at the hands that pulled her from under her hiding place. Just as the knife was descending – he was a portly man with a pale pig face and squinty pig eyes he just stopped and the knife fall from his slack fingers. His eyes were vacant as he stared at her – but Rhaenys was sure that the bad man didn't see her.

"Hello there," said a voice – and then Rhaenys saw her. Well, them, for there were two – but only one was silvery white and transparent, hovering over the girl's right shoulder. The girl had long dark red hair that curved and pointed upwards into featherlike tips, like a great bird that ladies in Dorne often kept as pets. A large golden ornament, in the shape of a crescent moon with numerous, small feather shaped rays radiating outwards, rested on that red hair. The girl had a strapless bandeau and the bottoms were covered with a sarong type of skirt.

"Princess Rhaenys, I'm your cousin Elenei. Pleased to finally meet you."

Rhaenys had a hundred questions – Elenei had dark purple eyes, she could see that in the light from the fireplace.

"How?" Rhaenys asked.

"No time, just well Obara has an unhealthily love for a spear that she likes to throw at puffer fish in the shallows." Those words, those were the same words her uncle said when he told her about his daughters. Rhaenys let Elenei lift her in her arms, and only then she noticed a weapon her cousin held – it was not a sword …

"It's a scythe," Elenei offered as an explanation;Rhaenys blushed.

"Let's find your mother and brother and my friend that went to help them."

As Rhaenys was carried toward the room, an unfamiliar voice rang out from her mother's room. Rhaenys noticed that the door was broken down and lying in many splinters.

"Bararaq Saiqa."

Then there was a dancing light, and a smell that usually Rhaenys could only smell during storms when she was on Dragonstone. Then silence. When her cousin entered the room, she saw a boy standing over a giant.

"Is he still alive?" she asked the boy.

"Yes," the boy answered but didn't turn away from the giant - he was standing just out of the giant's reach, his sword in hand. He had a scaly blue glove, like a dragon's hand, and his sword glowed in a blue light, lightning dancing along the sharp edge of his sword.

"OK, my turn," Elenei said, and then that ghostly twin drifted over to hover over the giant lying on her mother's rug.

"Rhaenys?!" her mother's voice called out.

"Mommy." Rhaenys wiggled in her cousin's hold and then ran to her mother who clutched her to her chest. Her mom was crying. Why was she crying, and where was her brother?

"The baby is still breathing; Sin, can you watch if somebody is coming?"

"Yes."

With that, the boy walked to the entrance while Elenei shimmered in a golden light, and … there stood a silver haired girl that had a steak of black in it. She was wearing leather black trousers, high boots, and a jacket. Then she held up her left wrist; there was a pretty golden bangle, engraved with vines and roses clasped around it.

"Spirits of Ethics and Phytotherapy, I order thine ancestors to use my Magoi to give me power, Come Out, Forrasis!" Elenei chanted.

Then a whirl of leaves hid Elenei from Rhaenys' sight, and when the leaf whirlwind died down, there stood Elenei. Only now she had leaf green hair, vine markings spiraling around her arms, and a wreath of red flowers in her green hair. Along with a golden choker and necklaces. Bangles. Ringed bracelets. A sea green cropped tube top revealed her midriff and her navel, along with sewn-in sleeves for her arms, matching pants, and light sea green curled shoes. She now had pointed and upswept ears with two large golden earrings that dangled from her ears, completely covering them. As she watched, Elenei knelt by her wheezing brother and then leaves warped around him and the wheezing stopped.

"Princess Elia," Elenei said when she turned, holding her wiggling brother in her arms, "your son is all right now, but we have to go."


 

 

*** Val'ster present***

 

"Then we left – first to the Tower where Lyanna was, but the tower was empty, then we went to Starfall and your aunt Ashara joined us, then we seeked shelter here on this island. And soon after that, Rion, you were born..." Elia finished her tale, looking at Rion.

"I wonder when they'll come – I mean, Eli promised, didn't she, Rhae?" Rion appeared deep in thought, as he chewed on his lower lip.

"Yes, see ..." She pulled out a golden chain with a pendant of a silver lioness engraved on the golden oval surface, and showed it to her youngest brother. "She gave me this for safe keeping, until we meet again."

 

BONUS Pov: Oberyn Martell

 

Oberyn Martell was riding on his prized sand steed– the one with a coral red mane and tail and a coat as black as night. At the head of the column was him and his paramour Ellaria Sand. Her head was covered to prevent her from falling sun ill, since she was discovered to be carrying their child. It was convenient that he had trained in the Citadel - on a genteel mare along with his three Sand Snakes Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene. They were nearly home – they already crossed most of the sandy terrain to reach Sunspear and then he'd be able to talk with Doran. Oberyn had interesting tidings and observations to share with his older brother. He felt, more than heard, Ellaria's steed stop by his flank.

"My love ..." she hesitated, "I would not be averse for you to wed Princess Argella." Ellaria spent some time with the oldest princess, and Oberyn had a distinct impression that she liked the child.

"She is a child," he felt compelled to point out, not that either princess acted like a child.

"Perhaps ...but she won't be a child forever." Ellaria's dark eyes glinted impishly. "Besides, she may have a body of a child, but there is a young maiden in mind and heart."

Oberyn hummed in thought. "You like her – Princess Argella then." Oberyn didn't talk much with Princess Argella; he was too busy agonizing over and craving to read Elia's letters – the ones she, for some reason, didn't send and puzzling over Princess Elenei's words – something the child perceived and properly, and discretely, kicked him in the shin.

He later retaliated in throwing a grape at her – after that a very discrete, underhanded food war took place between them – much to bemusement and exasperation of Ellaria and Princess Argella.

He was liking the little – he couldn't call her a lioness; he liked the girl too much and she showed that she would give a fig to common people, something no Lannister did. White sun – white summer... he'd think of some poetic nicknames for his adopted princess. After all, he had one for all his daughters, his nephews, and his niece Arianne. He completely agreed with his daughters' decree of adopting little Eli.

"I do." Ellaria smiled then gently urged her mare forward into a light gallop. Smirking, Oberyn nudged his stallion and the beast leaped forward.

 

***Sunspear***

 

Later, with Dornish red in his hand, Oberyn was sitting by the fountains with Doran. The fountains were perfect for having private conversations, for the hum of the water masked the voices, and guards posted at strategic locations prevented a person coming upon the two princes.

"It's Tywin Lannister's fault." Doran raised a dark eyebrow; it was nothing new, Oberyn knew, he uttered this many times to Doran – his older brother didn't always agree though.

"How did you come to that conclusion, Oberyn?" Doran asked.

By that tone, his brother agreed with him, but he also wanted for Oberyn to explain his reasons. Gahhh, he hated to do that – it was the truth of the universe, 'go back far enough, and there are Tywin's paw prints all over it,' and his brother wanted a reason for that?

"Simple … he failed in siring the Queen," Oberyn stated matter of fact – but considering that Doran did a spit take and sprayed dornish sour all over the small table, he didn't expect that.

Nevertheless, Oberyn continued, "Therefore, I'm honor bound to consider very seriously in marrying Princess Argella, as her sister asked me to – if nothing else to spare my nephew the dreaded shovel talk," he finished with a grin.

He was pleasantly surprised by the tourney at Highgarden – one of his daughters made a friend that said friend's lion and stag blood was cheerfully ignored; instead, Oberyn focused more on the echos of dornish and dragon blood that he could see in both princesses' features. It came as a surprise that he could see the same in Cersei Lannister but not in her brothers Jaime and Tyrion. For all Queen Cersei Lannister's coloring, her face was similar to Queen Rhaella Targaryen when she was younger and when the burden of being a wife to Aerys didn't drain her life away. As for her body build, he'd seen the statues of Daenerys Targaryen, daughter of King Aegon IV Targaryen; there were similarities there as well.

Chapter Text

***Princess Argella (Tara)-3***

 


 

 

***Kings Landing 291 AC - Month Xōchitl***

 

It could be said that their plans for the tourney at Highgarden were a success. They met with the party from Dorne and gave them Princess Elia Martell's box of letters. And Buffy became friends with Oberyn and Ellaria and his daughters – Obara and Nymeria. Buffy went a step further and convinced Prince Oberyn to consider marrying Tara, instead his nephew doing it, something Tara noticed the Dornishman considered seriously. They hadn't spoken in length, as there would be time for ironing out the details and of course to see if Tara could have married Prince Quentyn. While yes Tara felt more attraction toward the female gender, but she had also considered Rupert Giles attractive once upon a time– so in theory she could grow to like a man in a sexual way if she absolutely had to. It just would never ever be a preference for her. Both Buffy and Tara herself were riding among the Kingsguard toward King's Landing.

Their father was at the head of the column – which was just as well, since Buffy was and Tara currently is blaming Prince Oberyn for increasing the 'Spit into Stag's eye' attitude.

'Are you still annoyed at me?' The mental question from Buffy nearly made Tara jerk the reins; it was so sudden.

'I wasn't annoyed,' she sent back, and she wasn't, no matter how underhanded Buffy was with approaching Prince Oberyn with the suggestion of Tara marrying him instead of his oldest nephew Prince Quentyn. Prince Doran's son and second child, who in the books, went to Essos to try to get Queen Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, to marry him and was burned by one of her three dragons.

'And please try to not antagonize Robert; I'd like to ride to King's Landing,' she finished.

'Why do you think I'm keeping the hat on?' came the reply, and true enough Buffy's hair was tucked under myrish lace snood. Which was odd. Very odd and it made Tara a bit suspicious. And worried for Robert's blood pressure – or if he decided to hit Buffy then well, her golden coins were on Buffy.

'What are you planing?' Tara inquired of her sister.

'Not a thing,' came the reply, but Buffy was smirking and looking ahead, right at Robert's back, and again that made Tara suspicious. 'At the moment.'

And that definitely was not reassuring! Tara thought – by Buffy's wince she could see that the volume of that thought was immense, which meant that they'd have to smooth some more of the kinks and glitches with their mental link connection.

'So you won't let your hair free for Robert to see?' Tara tentatively inquired.

'Robert won't see a thing,' Buffy reassured her again and why didn't she find this reassuring and true, Buffy's hands didn't go near her head. But she had made sure that her silver blonde hair fell loose at the time where there were lots of people present. The smallfolk, and Tara disliked that term – it implied that those people were small in every way, even if she used it because everybody did. For a while both of them tried to flip the term to citizens of King's Landing. It didn't take off. The people of King's Landing cheered when Buffy passed, her silver hair loose, and waved at them her wide smile, and there were lots of flowers thrown her way from the cheering crowds all the way to the Red Keep. Robert was positively purple with fury, but Jon Arryn and his grandfather Lord Estermont made sure that he didn't blow up then and there. Lord Estermont even pointed out to his grandson the King, that Princess Elenei's looks added to the legitimacy of Robert Baratheon's rule, because even though he seized the Iron Throne by conquest, he was keeping it through the blood right of the Targaryen Bloodline, Robert being the closest of relative to the former ruling House. That had been a cadet House since the first Aegon Targaryen's half brother Orys Baratheon founded it in the first place.

'Because you know me?' Buffy offered amused.

'Did I broadcast that thought?'

'No, but I know you too well.'

After that, the hooves hit the reddish brown paving stones of the King's Landing as they rode through the main gates and towards the Red Keep. When Robert rode into the yard, the Kingsguard fanning around him, both Buffy and Tara urged their mounts forward so that pages dressed in Baratheon blacks and yellows could hold the reins of the horses, allowing mounted knights and ladies to dismount.

"Welcome home, your Grace."

The Hand of the King bowed along with the Small Council that had stayed in King's Landing, while the King and his family, with the assorted knights, pages, and other personnel, were at the tourney at Highgarden. After the tourney, the Royal progress toured around the Reach's countryside. It was no wonder that the Reach is rich in crops; it had fertile land with crops like wheat, barley, orchards, and vineyards – as well as rolling hills where pastures were full of cows, horses, and sheep. Buffy told her that Willas Tyrell's hobby was breeding hawks, hounds, and horses.

Tara was tempted to ask for a dog – but she had a genuine fear of Joffrey harming the puppy since the pregnant cat incident – though on the other hand, THAT could have been solved better by Robert. Joffrey emulated Tywin and Robert … he was invited, both Tara and Buffy were not allowed, to the butcher's tent, where Tywin skinned and opened a doe. Joffrey wanted to do the same with that cat; he even showed the butchered animal to Robert. That did go the same as it did in the books. Robert hit Joffrey so hard that he lost some teeth, fortunately all were Joff's milk teeth. But the King's action invoked some unpleasant, to put it mildly, memories of Tara's life with her own family. The Court stopped at Oldtown, after the tourney, and on the way to King's Landing. There uncle Tyrion and Samwell Tarly, the new page of the Princess Court, bonded over books. Sam was a nice person – his father reminded Tara a bit of her own father, and brother, and uncle. Which was one of the reasons why Tara asked Robert for a boon of a page in the form of Sam. But the initial idea was Buffy's; she said that since for some reason Jon Snow was legitimate now and Lord of a castle, there wouldn't be anyone at the Wall to help Sam. So the bookish big boned boy joined the Princess Household.

"Anything happened while we were gone?" Robert asked while his heavy charger was led away, along with the other horses.

"Nothing pressing, your Grace, we received a missive from Prince Doran. He agrees with our proposal, however he asks for a reprieve of a year's time," Lord Arryn answered.

"Oh very well, it will soothe my wife to have our eldest daughter with her for one year more than first said." Then Robert gave a disgruntled puff as he watched Cersei exit the wheelhouse, followed by her ladies in waiting, and a Septa holding the one year old Myrcella– a Septa that was new. Her name was Eglantine, who they picked up in Oldtown since Cersei threw the old one away, literally, when she found her drunk one night at Highgarden.

"It looks like my wife's wish of the children seeing Casterly Rock will be granted."

"Your Grace?"

"The next name day of Princess Argella will take place at The Rock. At the time perhaps your twin girls will be able to travel to the Westerlands," Robert ruled. Not that this was something he had decided himself, their mother sent a letter to Tywin and he agreed to host a tourney; also she nearly shocked him – the twin girls of Jon and Lysa Arryn were barely seven months old, being born in the third month of the year, Atemoztli.

They were way too young for travel.

'Wow talk about idiots,' came an exasperated mutter, loud and clear. Tara glanced to the left, and Buffy was standing among the ladies and Samwell Tarly who was trying to hide how much riding had tired him. Soon they were joined by Septa and Myrcella, who latched at Buffy's arm.

'Did you hear that – or are you eavesdropping through our mental link?' Tara asked, 'And is Sam all right?'

'Two words: Slayer hearing. I can hear just fine from here. Sam is dealing; I'll slip Sam an ointment for the sore muscles later … now shush. I can do two to three things at once but four is pushing it.'

Just as well, since the conversation between the King and the Hand was getting interesting. And they were joined by Maester Pycelle and grandpa Mycheall, he was actually Tara's great grandfather – being Mycheall Estermont, he was the actual grandfather of Robert, Stannis, and Renly.

"Yes, your Grace – but what of Prince Joffrey and Princess Myrcella, who will have their own namedays?" Jon Arryn asked.

Tara's attention went back to her father and the Hand of the King, and yes, she could understand why Lord Jon was concerned; that many celebrations must weigh on the Royal treasury. Or rather the namedays themselves would not dry up the gold, if Robert didn't insist on a party almost every month or so. Every month there was a tourney OR a hunt or just some sort of celebration. It was good that Uncle Tyrion suggested that for the name days, of Buffy and herself, the court would be attending a tourney in each region followed by a tour of the same region after the tourney was concluded. This year it was at Highgarden and the Tyrell's hosted the tourney.

Next Cuāuhtli 292 AC, when their birthday hit, they were supposed to celebrate at Casterly Rock.

"Seven Hells, Jon! Perhaps a tourney at Casterly would be more appropriate for Joff. It's about time that Tywin does something for his grandchildren, instead of skulking at that Rock and shitting gold. And for Myrcella will have a hunt for her name day here in the Crownlands, as she will have her nameday five moons time from Joffrey's."

Joffrey was born in the first month of the year 286.

"That is doable, your Grace – but..." Jon Arryn started, but was interrupted by Robert waving a hand in dismissal. "And before Princess Myrcella, we will be celebrating the birth of another Prince or Princess, as the Queen is with child," Robert's voice boomed through the courtyard.

 

***Nighttime***

 

After the whirlwind of the day, a feast was thrown after the King's proclamation, and Tara was tired. As soon as her head touched the pillow of her bed, she had fallen asleep. It was dark and quiet when Tara suddenly woke up, because she could not breath. Feeling fur on her face, she nudged the belligerent cat; he hissed at her, but he moved. Then something came from the link; excitement muffled, so that she wouldn't wake, but Buffy was wide awake somewhere that was not her room or her bed.

'I should have known,' Tara sent.

Apologetic feelings flowed through their link along with the inquiry, 'You were asleep, did I wake you up?'

Tara huffed. 'No, Balerion did,' she answered, then was not amused by the sheer giggly feeling coming from her sister. Belarion never sat on her head. He didn't hiss at her either – Tara sometimes thought that the cat saw them as some sort of substitute for Rhaenys Targaryen.

'Did he make a bed out your head again?' Buffy asked.

'Not funny,' Tara's mind grumbled, annoyed by the giggles that were coming in loud and clear through the link '– do you know how irritating it is when you wake up because you have a face full – and mouthful of cat hair?' she asked irritably.

There was silence for a couple moments then, 'Nope' came the laughing reply. At times like that Tara really wanted to hit Buffy with a pillow – repeatedly. To make herself feel better she visualized the biggest pillow hitting Buffy in the face, then she sent the imagery to her sister. All she got back was a peel of laughter and imagery of a cat sitting on top of her own head, its black tail tickling her under her nose. Time to change the subject.

'So what are you doing?'

'Visiting a friend, getting said friend to make a staff for another friend. Things like that.'

Translation: Buffy snuck out of the Red Keep to visit Gendry and get something for Sam, but …

'Why a staff?'

'Well you know how Sammy is afraid of pointy and sharp objects, so swords and knives are obviously out – oh do you think he'd make a good slingshot?'

'You do know his sight is not very good, right?' Tara wryly pointed out.

'His sight is fine – he was observing bees at the distance. So I think it's in his head, or perhaps he pretended to have poor sight so that he didn't have to partake in a hunt or something. Or perhaps it's that he closes his eyes when he swings a training sword.'

Yes, that would do it – Tara felt like sighing and shaking her head at Samwell Tarly. But he wasn't hopeless; away from the influence of his father and having a chance to pursue things he loved and was good at, along with friends, Samwell Tarly blossomed into a man that slew the White Walker and protected Gilly and her baby.

'Oh fine," Tara sent to Buffy, who was probably nearing the smithy by now. Once or twice she had mentioned that she climbed the roofs, jumping from rooftop to rooftop – like some sort of ninja.

Also, wasn't House Tarly's sigil a huntsman with notched bow? Wouldn't it be poetic if Samwell became very good with a longbow?

'Though instead of a sling shot, I'd recommend a longbow,' she sent to Buffy – a sense of stillness came from her sister; it looked like Tara's words made her think some of her plans over.

'I won't give him my ironwood bow, but I think there is a goldenheart wood longbow in storage, I'll ask Ser Barristan for it.'

'Will you tell him what for?'

'Yes, I'll also tell him that I can see great potential in Sam – if only one could gave him confidence, which he lacks – thanks to his dad.'

Wow, that was pretty short for Buffy, since the last time Samwell's dad came up Tara was treated to a RANT that lasted for hours – absently she wondered who would win the Worst Parent of the Year Award in Westeros.

'Do you want to hear my...?'

'No I'm going to sleep, tired now. But do what you like.'

'Good night, Tara.'

Tara yawned, 'Night.'

With that, the link got silent – like a grave; it looked like Buffy muted and blocked her side of it.

 

***Midday next day – in hidden enclave by the sea***

 

They slipped from the Keep down the winding path and to the sea – Buffy mentioned that it looked like the spot where Jaime trained with Bronn after he lost his sword hand. It was easier to slip away in the middle of the day, as most of the attention was on Joffrey and the pregnant Queen. Also the Septas were focusing more on little Myrcella. It was also the spot where Sam hid himself most of the time, to escape mocking squires and pages when he wasn't doing his duty of being her and Buffy's cup bearer. Samwell Tarly was round, with dark hair and pale blue eyes. There wasn't much else to say about his appearance. But he was also kindhearted and a very intelligent boy. And right now he was terrified – after all, both of them startled him, and well, he had thrown a book at Buffy in fright. Not that her sister was hit; she, in one motion, caught the book and tucked it under her arm. Samwell's eyes went wide and he started to tremble all over, then fell into a bow that nearly toppled him over; he was shaking so hard.

"I'm sorry, your Grace," he whimpered – Tara felt a bit sorry for him when she had agreed to Buffy's plan. But they could have hardly approached Sam out in front. The other pages did look down on the boy, and if princesses intervened directly, it may have gotten worse for Samwell and they didn't want that – besides how could Buffy train him in staff fighting if they'd have an audience?

"You are Samwell, eldest son of Lord Randyll of Horn Hill, correct?" Buffy asked the boy as she returned his book to him.

Poor Samwell started to bow again, and he nearly tripped forward – and would have, if Buffy hadn't stopped his fall. Which made poor Sam even more fearful. He was trembling and hugging his book. "Y-yes, your Grace," he stuttered.

As Buffy tossed him a bo staff, the poor guy fumbled with the polearm, his finger clumsy, until they found a firm grip on the weapon. "This is made from steel and tipped with dragonglass," Buffy said at the staring boy, "you did say you don't like sharp things – well a staff is not sharp but you can still easily trip a swordsman and clobber him on his head. You also have a longer reach."

"..." Sam still stared, his round eyes flickering from Buffy to her.

Tara smiled reassuringly at him when he looked at her again. "You are a brave person, Samwell," she said, and his eyes widened then he shook his head.

"No I ..." Samwell stammered, "my f-father, he..."

"Sam," Buffy intervened before he could deny Tara's words or tell them what his father said to him.

Tara knew how Buffy would react to that – she didn't want to listen to an hour long rant about any fathers or uncles pretending to be fathers for a while. Buffy already rammed Sam's dad up, down, and sideways. Robert and Tywin got on that list as well. And surprisingly Ned Stark – that made her uncomfortable since Ned was, IS, a good guy. Buffy agreed with that but also pointed out that Ned made pretty big mistakes with Jon – he should have come clean about his heritage before Jon joined the penal colony in the books and show which was what the Wall was at this point.

"Being brave is not the absence of fear." Buffy smiled at the end of her sentence; Tara wondered if she just quoted something from pop culture, then Buffy continued, saying to Sam, who didn't stop trembling but he was listening to Buffy, "You may call yourself a craven – others may label you as one, but saying that you are craven and admit that you don't like blood – that is brave. Not many people – men or women would admit their own weakness. That is brave."

Then she tapped the staff."You hold it that way." She positioned his hands into a wider grip - Samwell squeaked "Your Grace?" he hurriedly looked around his eyes big, and round and terrified.

"Sam, if I shouted at the top of my lungs, nobody would hear a whisper – nor does anybody come here … well except us."

"But, Princess ..." Samwell stepped back in retreat."I don't know, what if you get hurt?"

"As of now, I'm not your princess, your grace or even a lady – but your teacher – So do as your teacher says, because I have no intention of letting a nice guy like you walk around with a big sign saying: I think I'm defenseless, kick me! And besides I know much about staff fighting."

With that she pulled out another staff – from somewhere – and twirled it … Now this was always puzzling Tara and the others in Sunnydale, where did Buffy hide her weapons? Buffy pulled off her detachable skirt – revealing leather pants and high boots.

"Now make sure you stay firm, with your feet apart – good like that..."

Tara wandered to the side and sat down, watching Buffy instruct Sam in bo staff stances, how he should step and – and apparently she was having the time of her life.

"Now most people think – oh with a staff only hands and upper body matter. But that is very, very wrong. What your lower body is doing affects your upper body. Look, I'll show you."

Then Buffy put her right leg out, knee slightly bent and left leg straight, and her back was straight, leaning forward. "This is called a long front stance; it also enables a more powerful thrust with a your hands are holding a staff in a normal hold, one palm should be facing up and the other down."

Sam did that, albeit awkward, so Buffy readjusted his hold a bit saying, "No worries, Sam, if you don't get it at first. It's like starting to read it takes only practice and patience."

"Now I'll show you the over head front strike. Now after you do the head front strike, you immediately settle back into the long front stance, all right.” Buffy brought her knee up as she simultaneously brought her staff to rest on her shoulder so it was parallel to the ground and struck, then she settled back into the long front stance in one graceful movement. Sam repeated the movement. It was clumsy and he wobbled a bit, but Buffy nodded and smiled at him.

"Right now we will repeat that a couple of times, faster this time; after that I'll show you two more strikes and two more stances. And then we'll repeat those every day."

'And after that, I'll ask Gendry to make some weights,' Buffy said privately to her.

Tara tilted her head in question.'Weights?'

'To fasten on his ankles and wrists. Come to think of it, I think I'll tell our half brother to make four pairs of each. And maybe some for himself, not that he needs them,' Buffy elaborated, while guiding Sam's strike down.

'I'm afraid to ask -why?'

'Well for you, me, Sam, and Myrcella,' Buffy replied, while blocking Sam's strike, then showed him how she did it.

'You're going to teach our sister to fight?' Not that Tara was surprised; Buffy loved their little sister partly because she missed Dawn terribly, and partly because Myrcella herself was kindhearted and very smart. She already talked in full sentences and could recognize letters and used spelling to read short sentences, much more than Joffrey was able to do when he was her age. Also Myrcella glared at Joffrey when he stole her doll; she didn't cry when he returned it headless but had thrown it back at him instead.

'Yes,' Buffy answered her after a while "Sam, keep your eyes on your opponent, move your hands with the shifting of your weapon, but have a firm grip before you strike," she said, instructing Samwell.

'You do know Myrcella probably won't go to Dorne, since I'll do that,' Tara pointed out, not that she feared poisoning, after all it seemed that at least Dorne was more from the books than the TV show. There was also some sort of friendship between the Sand Snakes and Buffy.

'Sure,' Buffy answered, 'she could be shipped somewhere else where we won't be so I would feel better if Cella would know how to defend herself.'

Ah, all right. 'What will you teach her?' Tara asked, since she knew that Buffy would somehow find a way to teach Myrcella, even if Tara passed on the lessons. Not that she would it would be a good thing, knowing some self defense.

'Well, something Merrick started teaching me - Hankido. Come to think of it, I'll teach you that as well.'

'What's that, and how is it done?'

'Hand strikes, kicks, throws, and pressure points. Though I'd suggest throws to be the last thing to learn, since if you do it wrong, you can be injured. Maybe add in some needles that could be used as a stabbing weapon.'

Translation: normal person could be injured badly, the Slayer not so much.

'I'll start with hand strikes and pressure points,' Buffy stated after a slight pause as she gave a couple of slow strikes that Samwell deflected.

'Why?' she had to ask – though it would be nice to know how to defend herself even if they were at the top of the food chain.

'Stupid question, Tara.' She could just feel Buffy's snort at her question, 'We are in Westeros that should be reason enough.'

And it was – it was death to the unwary, the weak, and the poor. Speaking of poor, Buffy said that she'd teach her about pressure points, and Tara had heard of how scary those can be in martial arts.

'Ahm, Buffy, how deadly are pressure points?'

'Depends on which point you press,' came the reply.

'Did you use any?'

'Yes.'

'On vampires?'

'Sometimes if I had to fight a group of them; it would by me some time. It didn't kill them but it did knock them out of the fight until I could drive a stake through their hearts.'

'How about on the living?'

'At the tourney at Highgarden I got in a fight with a Frey. I used it then to cause pain, so that he could not move.'

'Oh, I didn't know that; what are the advantages in us learning this?'

'For one, your opponent's strength doesn't matter, since martial arts uses flowing motions to deflect and use your opponent's power against themselves.'

 

*** Four weeks later***

 

They were sitting on the balcony, overlooking the yard, where pages and squires practiced with their chosen weapons. The boys were on foot – and the pages and cup bearers skills were on display in case a knight would take them on as a squire.

"Princess Elenei, will you grant me a favor?" asked the lording, first son, of some house in Crownlands; Tara forgot the squire's name. He was one of the squires that served the Kingsguard.

"I'm sorry, Ser, but my sister and mine's cup bearer Lord Tarly already carries it," Buffy stated and sure enough there were colorful – their colors – scarves wrapped around Sam's upper arm.

'He does?' Tara didn't remember giving it … oh, she nearly laughed, and the amusement coming from Buffy was almost overwhelming.

'Well, I did hit him, so I needed your handkerchief and mine to bind his wounded area.' Buffy then inclined her head.

"But you can take it, if you can?" she said – taunted really with a slight smile.

"Oi, Tarly – give it up, you can't win the sword fight with a stick!" shouted the squire as he rushed with his practice sword toward Samwell.

'Oh I can,' Buffy sang in Tara's head. 'And so can Sam now.'

And on reflex Samwell swatted the charging squire to the side, then tripped another, and soon they were dancing around to Samwell's tune.

'We'll leave it to Sam this time.'

'As it is his fight,' Buffy agreed. 'or dance. He is a good dancer and loves it – did you know his sisters taught him to dance?'

 

***Mazātl 292 Casterly Rock***

 

They finally arrived to their mother's home – as it became some sort of tradition for Tywin, their not-grandfather as Buffy was fond of remarking, to hold a tourney at Lannisport for Joffrey's nameday. It was very comfortable traveling in a wheelhouse, though both of them would prefer riding with Robert, Sam, the Kingsguard, the knights, and Joffrey.

'He is going to be a pain now that he is allowed to ride,' Buffy groused crossly.

Joffrey was becoming more and more like canon Joffrey – but then again his education was entirely in Cersei's hands. Sometimes it was months since they saw him or their mother.

'I thought you were asleep,' Tara noted. In fact, she even wondered if Buffy's nightly free running had happened – after she returned with Ser Barristan who accompanied her on her excursions to the orphanages in King's Landing. Buffy pointed out that she had been doing something similar at home, while her mother – Joyce was still unaware of her daughter's destiny.

'Nah I'm avoiding having conversations with people right now,' came the surprising reply. What now? What did Buffy do – or was scheming to do? If she didn't know better she'd think that Buffy was affected by King's Landing miasma of backstabbing or catty or anything in between political wise. Until Buffy pointed out that there wasn't much difference when she was at Hermy High before becoming the Slayer, only possibly with higher stakes.

'I'm people,' Tara was compelled to point out. No response … 'What's wrong?' Tara asked, thinking back, training Samwell to use the staff bared fruit and he managed to defeat many pages and squires. In addition Ser Barristan Selmy told the King, when Robert asked how Samwell had gotten the staff to fight with, that as Lord Commander of the Kinsguard, Barristan could not allow for the page to be unable to defend the Princesses. Barristan said to the King, and anyone present, that he gave Sam the staff since he seemed suited to that type of weapon, so their involvement was a secret. Also Myrcella and Tara trained together; they were getting pretty good as well. So she was pretty sure Buffy was not agonizing over Samwell and them not learning fast enough.

'He was with me when I went to the smithy to take it,' Buffy mentioned then – Tara took half a second to figure out that she meant the staff; the switching of the topic was so abrupt.

'He was?' Tara was not surprised at that. She was hoping that Buffy would eventually come around to tell her what was bothering her.

'Yeah.'

'You still didn't tell me what was wrong?' Tara pointed out. There was a mental – depressing sigh.

'It'll ruin your mood.' Now that made her attention sharpen. It also made her more worried.

'Sister,' she needed to know just what the problem Buffy saw was. They made many plans during their infancy, and backup plans for those plans, so it must have been something that they hadn't discussed then. When they were merely infants, they had lots of time and they had to keep their sanity somehow – even if their dignity went out the window so they plotted and discussed and then plotted some more.

Something had slipped through their attention during that time, but what was it?

'Did you notice how more and more we are referring to each other as sisters,' it was not a question, Tara decided, Buffy stated this – and had avoided answering yet again, 'and sometimes you use Ilia, and I, use Ella when we mind speak.'

'I also call you Eli,' Tara pointed out. 'And sometimes you call me Ara.'

'I had a thought.' Buffy sounded a bit, dare Tara say, hesitant.

'Yes?' This had got to be it, the issue that Buffy was dancing around.

'What will happen to Free Folk? Jon is not going to the Wall and neither is Sam. So what will happen to Gilly, to Tormund, to Wun Wun, to Yigritte?'

Tara frowned – that was a serious question and she didn't have an answer. They never covered that part, because they assumed that Jon Snow would go to the Wall, as he did both in the books and TV show. But now, first they found out that Jon Snow was legitimized and given Lordship over Harrenhal and its lands – that caused some irritation for Hoster Tully, Lord of Riverrun, since before, House Whent had lordship over Harrenhal, and the Whents were bannermen of House Tully of the Riverlands. Now the lordship passed into the hands of a newly established House – and since in the distant past, House Vermilion was from the Stormlands, Harrenhal fell under preview of House Baratheon.

'See, I told you it'd ruin your mood,' Buffy muttered dejected, 'not to mention Ramsay Snow or is it Bolton?'

'That depends,' Tara mused, 'if it's going by the book or show – if book, Roose has a son named Domeric Bolton.'

"Children, my sweet daughters," Cersei called to them, "we are nearing home."

Cersei was pregnant; she had started to show, but she still traveled for Joffrey's tournament that would be held in Lannisport. Tywin sent a letter to Jon Arryn that he agreed to hosting a tourney for Prince Joffrey. When they first saw Casterly – well while Highgarden looked like a mix of the City of Gondor from Lord of the Rings and Cinderella's Castle, the Rock looked like Beast's castle, from Beauty and the Beast, on a bare mountain top. Which kind of looked like Pride Rock from the Lion King – and there were a lot locations that reminded Tara of Disney films, how odd was that?

'It is a rock,' Buffy noted, deadpan, 'while it looms – I think I prefer Highgarden, thanks.'

'Don't tell mother,' Tara warned warily; it would be bad if Buffy blurted that out loud.

'Do I look stupid to you?' Buffy retorted – as they were introduced, like they hadn't met, to Tywin Lannister.

"Father this is Joffrey, my son," Cersei introduced him first, "Joffrey, this is your grandfather Tywin Lannister."

'He doesn't look anything like TV Tywin,' Buffy remarked, again.

Tara agreed; he was tall, his head was shaved, but the lack of hair was compensated by two beaten gold side whiskers – it was like his head was trapped between two golden face sized earmuffs. His eyes were not bottle green as Cersei's and Jaime's were but a lighter green with golden flecks – like rotten green apples. The welcome was not overly warm – they were mostly ignored by Tywin and most of their relatives as they were all focusing on Joffrey. It was the same throughout their entire stay in Casterly.

They were left, or rather the girls were left mostly to themselves – they sometimes joined Septas and other Lannister ladies for sewing and music and dancing lessons. But other times it was like they were invisible – all the focus of Tywin and his brother Kevan was on the Crown Prince and the King. Tara then concluded, and shared with Buffy, that they were dealing with the book version of Tywin Lannister as that Tywin didn't see any use in them, besides marrying them off to further House Lannister. On the good side, the four weeks were full of training in secluded corners of Casterly Rock.

Until on the last day when all four of them attracted redspots the Westerosi version of chickenpox – that swept through Lannisport; some adults contacted it too and died. Cersei stayed cosseted up, so that she didn't get sick – it was a precaution because she was carrying a babe in her belly, even if their Lady Mother and Uncle Jaime also had redspots when they were children. So most of the time they Buffy, Myrcella and Tara were left alone – only three maids came in to handle the linen, dressing them in simple cotton sleeping frocks and Septa came once a day to read to them from the Seven Pointed Star for an hour and trice a maester Creylen came to put ointment on the red spots on their skin. They also wore soft and thick cotton gloves so that they didn't scratch at their skin. The rest of time they were left alone – all of the forty nine days. So Buffy used this time to teach them some more self defense moves.

 

***Ehēcatl 292 AC Casterly Rock***

 

They stayed at Casterly– with 'they' Tara meant the redspots inflicted children – not that they still were, they were healthy now and the very much pregnant Queen – not that she was anymore. Yesterday she had given birth, and today all of Cersei's Royal Children were clustered around their mother's bed.

"She is ugly," Joffrey sneered, his eyes pinched and nose in the air.

"All babies are like that brother," Myrcella pointed out, causing Joffrey to sneer again, then he winced as Buffy kicked him in the shin – ignoring the stare down happening between the two, Tara hurried to distract Cersei.

"What's her name, Mother?" Tara asked.

Cersei smiled. "Robert wrote that if the baby was a boy, he should be named Steffon for his father and the babe's dead brother; if a girl, Robara."

So she is Princess Robara Baratheon, black of hair. Blue eyes. The baby that Cersei birthed was most definitely not Jaime's – since she had black hair.

'This is not Robert's baby, you know?' Buffy sent.

'How do you figure?' Tara asked.

'For one, Cersei is way to happy. And well, baby has a prominent brow ridge, and even if it's small, her nose is hooked, just like Myrcella's sword shield Ser Osmund Kettleblack, who came at the recommendation of Petyr Baelish. Time matches perfectly,' came a smug reply.

That was a bit convoluted. Tara was pretty certain that this baby girl was Robert's.

'Should I make another test?'

'Along with a bet?' Buffy's gleeful question made Tara raise her brows. 'What are we betting now?'

'Bragging rights?' Tara offered, 'and whoever loses owes the other a favor.'

'I'm OK with that – so I say Kettleblack and you say...?'

'Robert.'

'You're on, Tara.'

 

***King's Landing***

 

As for a bet – again Buffy and she made the test again – yeah little Robara was their half sister all right, but uncle Jaime was not the father. Much to Buffy's glee – and Tara could not fault Buffy when she revealed that on one of her free runs, she saw through the window, when she scaled down the wall, Cersei and Kettleblack going at it. Part of Tara was a bit annoyed that Buffy didn't tell her, but the baby was another divergence that Tara could not for the life of her figure out how it came to pass. Just as the strange influx of characters that joined Tara and Buffy's household; each of them had their own sworn Joffrey got Sandor Clegane, while Myrcella had Ser Osmund Kettleblack. Baby Robara was still a baby, so she was in the care of Septas and nursemaids and a wet nurse. One of the newcomers to court and semi member of the Princess Household was Ser Lyn Corbray from the Vale; he had a Valyrian steel longsword named Lady Forlorn, and he was about Lord Baelish's, aka Littlefinger, age. He served as a knight-guard. Another knight joined Jon Arryn's staff with his squire Lord Horton Redfort, along with his squire Domeric Bolton.

Domeric was nothing like what Tara or Buffy expected; he almost eminently struck a very close friendship with Samwell. The young man of eleven or twelve had dark, long straight dark brown hair and pale wide set gray eyes, so pale that they appeared white, under heavy brows. He also had a long square shaped face with a high and wide forehead, a strong jawline and chin, and pallid, almost translucent, skin. It was an absolute relief to see the Bolton heir if he was in King's Landing that meant he was safe from his half brother Ramsey. It would also make him wary – in fact it already did; meeting and dealing with Joffrey and various other characters in the Red Keep made Domeric cautious in his dealings with people. Hopefully it would make him wary of Ramsey.

 

***Xōchitl 292 AC King's Landing***

 

Myrcella's nameday hunt came and went. She also asked for a garden as a nameday gift– she loved watching the flowers she tended to from seeds or seedlings. Father, the King, granted her a plot of land in the Royal Gardens. It was walled patch of land – half of it was in the shade – it reminded Tara of the garden from the novel 'Secret Garden'. Tara wondered if she should get some rare flowers, like Winter Roses from the North, and import some from Essos or from Highgarden.

 

***Cuāuhtli 292 AC En route to Winterfell***

 

Joffrey and Robara stayed in King's Landing, and so did the queen as she was expecting to give birth again any day now and was unable to travel for Buffy and Tara's ninth nameday. So they Buffy, Myrcella, and Tara along with their two handmaidens Joy Hill and Mya Stone, four Maids in Waiting which included Lady Mira Forrester; excluding her from the trip North would be cruel, for not only would Mira see her family but also her fiance Robb Stark then there was the always cheerful Myranda Royce, their cousin Shireen Baratheon, and lastly Lady Jeyne Westerling.They had the wheelhouse all to themselves all the way to Winterfell. Robert was riding with some of the Gold Cloaks and Red Cloaks along with knights from the Stormlands, the Kingsguard, which consisted of Barristan Selmy, the White Swords Commander, along with Uncle Jaime Lannister and two of their brothers. There beside his King-brother rode Stannis Baratheon, Master of Ships, Lord of Dragonstone, and Shireen's father. Ser Osmund Kettleblack – Myrcella's sword shield and Ser Richard Horpe who still acted as Buffy's sworn shield – was there and with them rode the sole heir of House Grandison – Ser Harold Grandison.

Ser Grandison at the moment still acted as Tara's sworn shield. She would require a new one when Ser Harold returned to his holding in the Stormlands along with Mya Stone, their half sister, to wed her. Robert decided that he would legitimize his oldest bastard daughter; she and Ser Harold Grandison would quietly wed after the tourney at Winterfell in a small Sept that Ned built for his wife. Mya already picked out her very short lived surname – Lady Mya Highstone and Buffy helped her make her wedding cloak, a white doe in the field of black. The white was for House Arryn, where her mother worked - the doe signified that she was a daughter of a Stag and the color black represented a bastard of House Baratheon.

Though they'd have to stay the night at the Crossing before they reached the North.

'Ugh Freys.' Buffy's mental groan reminded Tara that Buffy met one of the many Freys at that tourney at Highgarden. '

Do you think there is a chance that the squire could recognize you?'

'No,' Buffy's mind grumbled as she readjusted Myrcella's head from her shoulder to her lap – since their sister was taking a nap. 'I just hate stopping at the Twins; the Red Wedding was one of the most jarring events I saw. I hate Walder Frey.'

'Try to ignore him – it's unlikely that he'll try anything.'

'He can try and he'll die,' came Buffy's reply.

Buffy from Sunnydale would be horrified at the intent and promise of those words, that Buffy was a protector and was forbidden by the Watchers to harm humans – her focus had been only on the supernatural threat. The Buffy that had grown up in Westeros did not have this handicap. After a while there was a rap on the door of the wheelhouse.

"Your Graces, we are nearing the Twins," Ser Horpe informed them.

"Thank you, Ser Horpe," Buffy called out, then gently roused their baby sister. "Cella, wake up, we are stopping at the Twins for a couple of nights, for the horses to rest and for our people to rest as well."

 

***On the Road toward Winterfell***

 

It had been two months since they set out from King's Landing. Lady Walda, Fat Walda as she was called Frey joined their gaggle of Maids in Waiting along with her relative Lady Roslin Frey. The keep of the Starks was massive; when they stopped for a moment, the scouts reported that they were two hours away from reaching Winterfell.

"Oh my, it's bigger than father's Twins." Roslin Frey, the fifth daughter of the Lord of the Twins, gasped in wonderment as her big brown eyes looked in the distance in wonder. She was smaller in stature than both Tara and Buffy, who were tall for their age, albeit Roslin's birthdate was a couple of months before theirs. Roslin Frey was very not like the weasel faced relatives of House Frey; she had milk-white skin, along with a small and dainty straight thin nose, and she had a small gap between her teeth – that little imperfection made her look even more charming. But her best feature was her long, thick and curly doe brown hair.

"Here," Tara heard Buffy say. As she turned she saw Buffy giving Lady Walda Frey something – Fat Walda, as the other Freys called her, was the granddaughter of Walder; her father was Walder's ninth son.

"I cannot possibly eat this, and it's a shame that it'll go to waste." With that, Buffy pushed the griddle cakes into Walda's hand.

"Thank you, Princess." Walda curtsied, her yellow hair gained a bit more shine and lost some of its limpness, since leaving The Twins. Now if their mother had been present, those two would never have joined their Court. Or if they did, their attachment and easing into their rules of being Maids in Waiting for the Princess would have been more of a difficulty. This way Randa, since she had a similar build, lent some gowns to Walda.

'Randa and Walda,' came Buffy's voice through the mind-link, 'Did you know that they had a nice laugh at the way their names sounded when said together?' 'No but I'm glad that Walda is fitting in.' 'Yeah, both of them are way too nice to be stuck in that hellhole,' Buffy groused, Tara was compelled to point out, 'So some Freys are redeemable.' Buffy snorted, 'Some, sure. Roslin and Walda definitely are. Roslin is very kind and sings like a nightingale bird, or so that bard that is with us claims, and Walda is a cinnamon roll. The knights got saddled with a couple of Frey squires, but those Freys are the Knights', that took them on, problem. Not mine.'

 

***Winterfell Tourney***

 

Winterfell was magnificent; Tara was sure that it was larger than the Red Keep itself – Robert and Eddard Stark embraced. 'This is almost like the first episode, only there not all the Stark children are present – or Jon or Joffrey or Cersei or Tommen,' Buffy commented through most of the was escorted by Eddard, while Catelyn was escorted by Robert, following by Buffy and Robb, followed by Myrcella and Bran. The tourney itself was held outside the walls of the keep. Unlike in every region in the south jousting was not on the tourney's list. There was archery, both stationary and mounted – Buffy was itching to compete; under her skirt she jiggled her leg a lot.

There was endurance cross-terrain horse racing with knights wearing full armor – not surprising that a Northerner Lord won that race. There were also throwing competitions javelin throwing, ax throwing svaika - that was a game that was only played in the North. It was a game in which a marlinspike-like spear was thrown to land in the middle of a metal ring lying on the ground some distance away and of course melee.

When they came home, minus Mya and her husband they were at her husband's keep when their party found out that the Queen gave birth to twins; another golden boy – they named him Tommen, who was born first followed by the black haired Lyonel Baratheon, who had a crooked nose and mismatched eye color – one green, the other onyx.

Long live Prince Tommen Baratheon.

Long live Prince Lyonel Baratheon.

Soon after the birth of the twins, Tara and Buffy, while exploring and mapping down on paper the secret passages, came across a section of a tunnel that came close to Cersei's private rooms. It was then that they overheard Cersei and Jaime quarreling.

 

***Nighttime***

 

They were mapping the tunnels that were woven over the Red Keep and where they led– and if they were in service. Sometimes they were used by the serving maids – which was probably the reason why the lower tier servants were rarely seen doing their work, yet work was done.

Buffy's neat "I can see like a cat in the dark" came in handy – they were also accompanied by Balerion the Tomcat.

"How could you!"

'Uncle Jaime's voice.'

'I know.'

'Should we listen in.'

'Oh definitely.'

"I had to, Jaime!" Cersei cried.

"Had to?" Jaime was practically growling, "Fuck Kettleblack the first time and then fuck him again like some slut?!"

There was a sound of flesh hitting flesh.

'Jaime got slapped,' Buffy noted.

"I did this for us!" Cersei hissed furious, then there was sound of heel steps and clinking of a glass and bottle. It was Tara that offered the next commentary.

'She poured herself a glass of wine.'

'That is one large glass,' Buffy remarked dryly; she'd know, she had sharper ears.

"Explain it to me then," Jaime demanded – but his voice was cold.

"Don't take that tone with me; I am your Queen!"

'Ouch.' It was a sentiment that was said at the same time. Poor Jaime but maybe he'd break from Cersei sooner? One could hope.

"Kettleblack knows about us – so I bought his silence twice over. He won't betray us to Robert now."

Then there was silence and then heavy armored footsteps and slamming of the doors.

"Fool," Cersei spat, then there was another sound of clinking glass crystal.

'She is drinking now,' Buffy noted, 'and again, let's move on.'

 

After that, Jaime was avoiding his sister like the plague, and Cersei alternated between pleading and having a downright nasty disposition toward her twin brother.

 

 

***Cuāuhtli 293 AC Riverrun***

 

Tara wondered if they'd meet Jon Snow this time, the Lord of the Harrenhal, since the keep and its lands were near. Well near enough – he might come to the tourney as well with Whents.

"Lady Mira?" Their sister Myrcella for a three year old was pretty and smart and they'd make sure she didn't die like on TV or was disfigured as Tara read in the books.

"Did you know that Mira received a letter that she'd leave for Winterfell after the tourney at Riverrun?"

"No."

"Yes, she'll be married to the heir Robb Stark, when they become adults."

When she bleeds, Tara thought, but considering Mira was eight and Robb was ten or eleven, it would still be some time before they'd be married.

"Oh, I'm saddened to hear that," Myrcella demurred, her voice soft – their little sister took a shine to Mira.

"Cella," Buffy called to them, quietly as to not wake up the Queen who was sleeping – she slept a lot lately, come to think it. She had been taking frequent cat-naps when she was pregnant with Joffrey and Myrcella, and Robara and the twins. Could she be pregnant – again?

If so who the heck was the father this time?

"You know, we'll be getting another Northerner instead instead of Mira."

"Who, what is she like, tell me please, Elenei," Myrcella implored.

Buffy scooted closer to their little sister, and carefully tucked away a stray lock of golden hair behind her little ear. It warmed Tara's heart to see that gesture – it was something Buffy often did to Dawn.

 

***Fifth day – Water Jousting***

 

On the last day of the tourney – the sun was warm old Lord Hoster Tully declared … "My King, Queen, Prince Joffrey and Princesses, and my Lords, today on the last day of the Tourney in Honor of Princess Argella and Princess Elenei's nameday, I declare the beginning of Water Jousting."

"What stupid thing is that?" Joffrey scoffed disdainfully, "is that something only fish do?"

He laughed; Cersei just patted his hand. "It is the last day my love," she soothed her son in a very syrupy sweet tone – Buffy sent her a mental image of gagging, and Tara sent her a reproachful rebuke to behave!

"Let the Lord of Riverrun pander his sport, it's not like it is as prestigious as jousting," Cersei finished, cajoling the Lion Prince.

'Don't ruin Disney's Lion King, Tara,' Buffy chided her – but she was half serious in this, despite the cruelty that Joffrey exhibited, he was not so bad – he called Buffy Dragon-spawn but only once after Buffy's flippant remarks about his own dragon-spawn status and he shut up about it. He tried physical bullying next, but that ended badly for him. He was so humiliated, that he didn't even tell father, or mother – Tara still didn't know what Buffy did; it was frustrating because Buffy was being all 'Can't tell you, it is a secret.'

Myrcella leaned forward, watching the happenings taking place on Riverrun's lake-river proper."It looks interesting."

Joffrey scoffed at the young girl's words."Jousting without horses is not jousting," he proclaimed.

"Well horses cannot run on water – though maybe you can, do you think to try it out, brother dear?"

Joffrey glared."Elenei, nobody asked you."

Buffy merely raised an eyebrow and smirked at their half-brother."My nameday so you don't have a say," she said, her tone as innocent as fallen snow, but Tara would bet that her eyes were mocking – judging by Joffrey's darkening expression, he saw that as well. Suddenly the King who sat beside Cersei who sat with him on the platform while their children sat on their padded chairs that were on a platform that was lower than the King and Queen's said.

"Silence!" Robert boomed, "Elenei apologize to your brother."

Joffrey smirked at Buffy; Buffy however just shrugged."I apologize for your ignorance."

"That is not an apology -" Joffrey's face was tomato red now. It was not a good look on him.

"It had the word apologize, therefore it is." Buffy's reply was cool and collected – she learned that that tone of voice infuriated Robert to no end – what was more was that Robert's outbursts later earned him critical reproaches from both Jon Arryn and Robert's grandfather later on. In fact said grandfather had his attention on his eldest grandson. Robert went red in the face.

"Close your mouths. The both of you!" he bellowed; people turned and Lord Hoster frowned in worry and sent his son Edmure toward the Royal Box.

"My love YOU are making the scene with your bellowing," Cersei hissed. "You'll shame us."

"Is everything all right, your Graces?"

"Nothing is amiss, we are just curious about the joust that takes place on the water, and father is getting inpatient."

"Ah, is that all, Princess Elenei?" Edmure Tully bowed before the King."Your Grace," he bowed to Cersei and Joffrey, who sneered, then Edmure turned to the flustered Robert, whose anger simmered down because of the sudden inclusion of the heir of Riverrun and because his blue eyes connected with the infuriated gaze of his grandfather.

'Somebody is in trouble, oh no,' Buffy sang.

Tara sighed, 'Must you provoke him?'

'Yes.'

'Why?' Tara asked curious; Buffy's tone when confirming had been serious – deadly serious.

"My King, the joust is about to begin. If I may, Water Jousting is only present in the Riverlands. It's jousting where the adversaries, carrying a lance and protected only by a shield, stand on a platform on the stern of a boat. The boat is propelled by oarsmen, the aim of the sport is to send the adversary into the water whilst maintaining one's own balance on the platform. As the two competing boats draw level with each other, each jouster, protected by their shield, uses their lance to push their opponent off the platform and into the water," Edmure explained, and just as he was done, the two boats lurched forward.

'Because he needs to be fed up with me to send me to stay on Estermont Island. Or Elia Martell and her two children will die; now I don't know what kind of role Estermont plays, but I need to be on that island soon after you stay in Dorne.'

Tara could say nothing to THAT.

 

***Later at the feast***

 

Mira approached with a tall young girl about their age – the girl had tawny colored eyes, freckles, and shoulder length wild hair the color of polished copper. She was dressed in a simple northerner woolen gown in black and green with red trimmings.

"Princess Argella, Princess Elenei, Princess Myrcella," Mira curtsied, "may I present my replacement from the North, Lady Lyra Mormont."

 

***294 AC Dorne ****

 

They left by ship – from the Royal Fleet of Dragonstone the ship was a war galley called Seaswift, accompanied by three others, a war galleys Bold Wind, Lady Lyanna, King Robert's Hammer, and Lionstar.

Upon their arrival, they were greeted by a delegation of Dornishmen and women; one of the Dornishwomen stepped forward as their party was face to face. She was olive skinned, honey blonde with sapphire blue eyed, and was dressed in a sheer floor length kaftan in gentle pink, with lots of myrish lace and seedling pearls embroidered on the gauzy silks. Her hair was masterfully braided up and pinned with ivory hair needles. She inclined her head, to the present court, and curtsied, a shallow curtsy – as was custom of Dorne; they never bowed to the King that sat on the Iron Throne or his family – as they were never conquered and they never surrendered.

"You Grace, welcome to Dorne; Prince Doran Nymeros Martell wishes you welcome and a pleasant stay. My name is Lady Aliandra of House Briar, since I will be leaving as Princess Elenei's Lady in Waiting, Prince Doran appointed me to be your guide.

'That is Tyene,' Buffy stated.

'Are you sure? You didn't meet her then.'

'No but I did tell Oberyn and the others that Tyene Sand would be going with me under an allies.' They were shown to their mounts sand steeds were very pretty horses. There were also mules and camels.

 

***En Route***

 

They were all on horseback, except for Robert; he insisted on riding in full armor so no sand steed could carry his weight, so he had to ride on a camel – their trunks were being carried by camels and pack mules. Dorne, the place where she would stay as Prince Doran's coup bearer and later marry his oldest son, or Ellaria and by extension Oberyn. Cersei was frowning and harrying anyone that would listen before they set out – and in the end, her, Joffrey, Myrcella, Robara, Tommen, and stayed in King's Landing.

Robert was grumbling about the heat, "Why is the blasted sun so hot!" and he was definitely green tinged in the face. He did discard his helmet and shield a while ago.

'Because we are in the desert, idiot,' Buffy cattily commented, then added in a waspish tone, 'at least he won't be frying any of his brain cells – 'cause he doesn't have any.'

Tara had to agree – what was Robert trying to prove; it was posturing, yes, but to the Dornish, his behavior was downright silly and also foolish.

'And dangerous,' Buffy observed, and there was a hint of worry, 'perhaps he'll get a sun stroke.'

 

***Sunspear***

 

Upon their arrival – Robert and half the court dispersed Buffy and her were shown to their room, a room that would be Tara's own, when the King left after the tourney.

"So what do you think?" Buffy asked out loud, but before Tara could answer there was a knock on the door and their ladies – the ladies that would stay with Tara entered; both Frey ladies, lady Carellen Smallwood, and Lady Arenyes Velaryon, and lady Jayne Westerling, closely followed by Lady Myranda Royce who would be returning with Buffy to King's Landing – and then travel to the Vale, where she'd be wed to the man she was betrothed to– her uncle Jasper Royce.

"Princesses, your father took to bed to cool down. We were sent here to get you ready for the welcoming feast."

 

***Tourney***

 

The tourney opened with a Dornish horse race – no other knight competed, neither did the King attend. Which was just fine since Buffy enjoyed the freedom and had a good time with all the Sand Snakes and the Red Viper. After the race they enjoyed a whole afternoon with a game called Dornish Horseshoe; the game had nothing to do with horseshoes, but it did have bottles and a frisbee – it began with the first team tossing the frisbee, aiming it towards a glass bottle that was placed on top of the stake opposite them. Buffy was on that team, so naturally Tara cheered that team on.

Then Oberyn's team threw the frisbee at the first team's bottle. The rules were that the team gained points when the frisbee hit the stake or the bottle, when the bottle was knocked off the stake and hit the ground, or when the receiving team failed to catch the frisbee. Playing continued until one team had reached a twenty-one points, beating their opponent by at least two points. Then they all moved into the cooling pools in the Water Gardens. And finally both Buffy and Tara managed to swim and splash around like normal girls, and not like princesses. The second day of the tourney was jousting – Robert participated in that, grumbling that it was a pity that the Dornish didn't have melee fights. The third day was archery on horseback and jousting games, and the last day the Dornish set other knights versus Dornishmen and women in a polo match.

 

***The highest balcony overlooking Dorne***

 

Tara was watching the departing caravan; she was staying behind and she was watching Buffy leave, accompanied by her new Lady in Waiting – a blue eyed, golden haired Dornishwoman Lady Aliandra of House Briar, who was actually one of the Sand Snakes in disguise, Tyene Sand.

 

***295 AC Sunspear – Dorne***

 

Tara was sitting in the Water Gardens when a series of images came to her from Buffy.

 

***Buffy in (King's) Landing***

"Elenei, this cannot go on, I'm sending you to Dragonstone to foster."

"Oh, I always wanted to go and live on Dragonstone island."

Robert face darkened in anger, "Bah, you won't go there ..."

"Oh where will I go, father, to grandfather Tywin's? I'd like to visit Casterly again. How about at Winterfell? Oh the Storms End that would be exciting!" Buffy exclaimed, bouncing on her toes, then she added more quietly, but still audible, "Not as exciting as with grandpa Mycheall; he said that I'd be miserable there."

"It's settled," Robert bellowed, "you are going to be fostered by my Lord Grandfather until the day comes for you to wed."

***Back to Tara in Water Gardens***

 

Thinking over the conversation she had with her sister, Buffy was excited to go grandfather's castle on Estermont island.

On purpose.

Robert wanted to send her to Stannis on Dragonstone, then Buffy manipulated him into NOT sending her to either Dragonstone, Casterly Rock to Tywin Lannister, or to Storm's End to Uncle Renly. She traveled from King's Landing with Samwell Tarly and his Lady Wife Lyra Mormont, Ser Domenic Bolton, Tyene Sand – who was under alias and Buffy's sworn shield Ser Richard Horpe.

 

***296 AC Dorne – Water Gardens***

 

Tara was reading a letter from Lady Mira Forrester.

-She was visiting Winterfell for the crops celebration and and apparently there were changes in canon – again Tara could not see how they – Buffy and herself caused such divergences BUT the Starklings now had Direwolf pups. And Benjen Stark was followed around by the pups' mamma wolf – a pepper gray with reddish brown markings that Lord Benjen called Liia. Mira sent a copy of the drawings to Buffy on Estermont as well. Mira rendered all the wolves and Starklings in watercolors. Each Stark was rendered in a portrait holding their direwolf, except for Lord Benjen, his was only the head of his direwolf with Benjen Stark's.

Windblown red-brown hair with a square face, high cheekbones, prominent chin, and upturned nose, with a vibrant wide set of steel blue eyes and pale skin, holding a dark gray and black direwolf with yellow eyes – the inscription below in Mira's handwriting read Robb Stark and Night.

Robb Stark, Tara thought – Mira Forrester's fiance and Heir to Winterfell. Buffy had a theory why that happened, since Robb was not engaged in the TV show or books. It could be that the heir to Winterfell had to take a Northerner bride, because his mother was Southerner. She absentmindedly wondered if Sansa would make a Southern match or if she'd be engaged to one of the Stark's bannermen.

On the next sheet of paper, there was another boy, with curly, almost in ringlets, dark brown hair, fair skin, sharp cheekbones, and a high forehead with a long face and sparkling slate gray eyes, holding a solid reddish brown with black paws and legs and black eyed pup. Below it was written Jon Vermilion, Lord of Harrenhal and Specter.

Then there was a girl with a heart shaped face with deeply set glacial blue eyes, and creamy skin framed with straight and smooth copper red hair. In the pretty girl's arms was a gracefully poised cream pup with black markings and blue eyes. Below it was written Sansa Stark and Lady.

In the next and last portrait was of a pallid, long face child-girl with brown hair and wide and lively storm gray eyes, and in the arms of this lively girl was a dark amber eyed, silver furred direwolf pup with dark gray markings. Inscription on the painting was Arya Stark and Amber.

'Tara!' Speaking of willful rugrats.

'I'm not short this time around, ya know!' came a indignant thought shout.

'You sound flustered, did something happen?' Tara was curious; Buffy was well agitated and flustered about something.

'Something oh yeah. Stupid, stupid – puberty hit – I keep forgetting I'd have to go through this again. And I wasn't looking forward to it!'

'You got PMS?'

'Nah, not that – though I should enjoy the reprieve while it lasts. Nope I got hit by a crush, darn it.'

'Oh.' Tara covered her mouth with the palm of her hand to stifle giggling that seized her. It was similarly humorous situation that occurred with Spike– when they started to have nightly sex trysts and Buffy was similarly flustered when she told Tara that she was having sex with Spike.

'Not funny,' Buffy hissed.

'It kinda is.'

'Fine, it is. And argh are you alone? Can I send you a memory?'

'Yes.'

'Memory coming right up.'

Tara closed her eyes – and soon enough images came to her mind's eye. She saw Buffy as she and Tyene Sand swam around the coves of Estermont. Along with very humorous meeting with, an admittedly very handsome, man that was very obviously bare chested and well ….

'As Cordelia would say; Hello Eye candy. Salty goodness.'

Tara agreed with Buffy.

'He is also smart, sassy, and funny.'

 

***Months Later***

 

Tara was helping the Prince Doran with the documents – she, as usual, dealt with correspondence after tending to Doran's leg with maester Caleotte – the maester was impressed by Tara's knowledge and asked for her assistance with caring for the Prince's troubles with gout.

'Tara! Its happening now!' The sudden voice in her head made her jump.

'What is happening?' she asked Buffy, reeling in sheer furry of emotion that flew from Buffy's side of the link.

Outrage, giddiness, exhilaration, and glee.

'Oh the annoying attack from the squid aka Greyjoy aka Captain Hook wannabe,' came the cheerful reply along with the image of a man, pale and handsome – black haired with a black patch over his left eye; his right eye was the color of the summer sky.

Tara's brain stalled, 'What?'

'He has an pirate-y eye patch … at the moment no hook instead of hand, I might have to fix that.'

'What?'

'Busy setting his ship on fire, and ohh Brianne is awesome and Tyene is not a slouch either, and Dom just joined the fray …. catch you later when I finish unleashing one hell of a whoop ass on Ironborn!'

Tara might have been mistaken but she definitely did not imagine the cackle and sheer glee Buffy let out. She really felt sorry for the Ironborn at this precise moment – Buffy was chomping at this bit for years, and it looked that she went Hell Hath no Fury like an Unleashed Buffy on those poor, poor Ironborn.

"Princess, did you say something?" Doran's voice was jarring as she was pulled away from the images of Buffy dancing with – was that a Valyrian steel short sword? - about the ship with a red hull and black sails flying a golden Kraken, the sigil of House Greyjoy.

"My sister – the Estermont Isle was attacked by Ironborn, she says that Balon Greyjoy crowned himself King of the Iron Islands."

 


 

 

“The Maiden dances through the sky, she lives in every lover's sigh.

Her smiles teach the birds to fly, and gives dreams to little children.”

Chapter Text

Spider Webs

If you wish to live and thrive, Let a spider run alive.

-from old English nursery rhyme

 


 

***Hoster Tully***

After legitimization of Jon Snow

 

 

Hoster Tully was furious, pacing the length of his study. His graying, reddish brown hair curled, cropped at the nape. He was clean shaven – just as he always was; he wasn't like his brother who wore a deep beard and long hair, black fish of the family indeed.

"This is preposterous!"

He hadn't been so enraged by a person since his foolish brother Brynden spurned his marriage prospect and gave himself that ridiculous name of a Blackfish.

"What is it, my lord?" the maester asked.

Hoster pushed a set of papers into the man's hands and resumed the pacing and mutterings. "This is outrageous!" he spat.

What got him the most was that Lady Whent accepted this without a fight – when he inquired as to why, she replied that she was not getting any younger!

What about the woman's daughter's legacy?!

Not that Hoster cared about Lady Shella Whent's godson – but still, a bastard being Lord of Harrenhal! What was more, the bastard threatened his own grandchildren's legacy. His poor sweet Cat, and now that seed of lust and betrayal stole his lands and keep.

"It's outrageous!" he exclaimed again.

He needed to counter this; pity he didn't have any daughters, or granddaughters, from Edmure to wed to that Northerner's whelp. Pity Edmure wasn't born a female; he could wed them then. Perhaps one of Lysa's ... she was with child, now, perhaps she'd birth a female baby.

"Father, you wouldn't believe ..." His bumbling boy rushed into his solar, like he was a lad of ten summers instead of a man fully grown. "Father, what's wrong?"

"You are getting married within the year," Hoster stated – he didn't know to which lady – but by the Seven he would wed his son. And while he was at it, he'd check his bannerman; somewhere there had to be a lady with Tully blood running in her veins, and then that Lady would be wed to Lord--, Hoster checked the parchment and ignored his son's indignant sputtering, Lord Jon Vermilion.

If the Lord of Harrenhal wed a Riverland Lady with blood of the Tullys, then Harrenhal would fall back into the jurisdiction of House Tully.

"Father! You cannot mean to wed me to a Frey woman!" Edmure's wail brought his attention back to his son.

"Fine then." His son was right, if he were to be wed so soon, it could only be to a Frey, and that would not do, he'd rather burn in the Seven Hells first than allow Walder Frey into House Tully's main bloodline. "You won't wed this year, but I'm giving you ..." Hoster trailed off, calculating, "Five years to find a suitable Lady."

 

***Five years later***

 

They were hosting Princesses Argella and Elenei Baratheon's nameday, and Hoster had his eye out for an eligible Lady Wife for his only son. There were a couple of ladies that had showed promise, Tyrell's cousins, the Redwynes, then there was the daughter of Lord of Driftmark, … there were some eligible ladies from the Stormlands and even Dorne.

"Father!" Edmure ran to him; he looked so exited at something. Whatever did the boy wish to discuss?

"I found myself a Lady Wife," he stated proudly.

Hoster stared at his bumbling son … "Did the Lady know of your suit?" he asked, then thought for a moment, "Which is her House?"

Edmure practically bounced on his feet, and his Tully blue eyes were shining – Hoster would probably disapprove. Edmure looked just like he did when he asked for something, like that time he wanted to spend some time with the river fishing boats – which was not a pastime befit of a heir of Lord Paramount.

"Her name is Lady Rosalinda Locke; she is the daughter of Ondrew Locke, Lord of Oldcastle," his son said excitedly.

"Tis not a noble House of the Riverlands."

"No, Father. It's a Northern House; they are sworn bannermen of House Stark. And... well Rosalinda's mother is from House Glover, which is a masterly banner House of the North."

Hoster raised an inquisitive eyebrow, that sounded like a very promising venue. "Right son, you can court the Lady." Now that grandchildren from his last child were on the way, his sweet Cat had three already and Lysa birthed twin girls. Which meant that he could focus on getting the bride that would tie Harrenhal back to House Tully.

 


 

 

 

***Varys***

Takes place during Buffy's first meeting with Gendry

 

He was hurrying through the hidden corridors and into the streets of King's Landing. It was late in the evening, and the Small Council concluded their meetings for the day. But he had another task, he would make sure that the King's bastard would get an apprenticeship with a smith that knew how to forge Valyrian steel. Tobho Mott was always on the lookout for lads with strong hands. And Gendry Water's hands were made to wield hammers.

Nearing the spot where he was to meet the young lad, he heard threatening voices; quietly creeping forward, he saw a small figure standing before six burly dwellers of Flea Bottom. Then the small lad moved – and fought and won. Varys never saw someone fight like that; the small body danced and jumped and twirled in a whirlwind of punching small fists and kicking of feet. When the last man fell, Varys spotted Gendry, who was standing by the side, ready to help the slim lad – a firelight from the torch revealed a face...a familiar face. A face Varys hadn't dreamed in his most vivid dreams to see here, in this place, at this time.

Varys did a double take; it was no lad but the younger of the two princesses – Princess Elenei Baratheon dressed in leather trousers and a jacket and her hair was covered by a leather cap. Varys was looking on in growing amazement and respect for the child, of royal blood, and not much older than his birds. The Princess Elenei – in the guise of a boy started talking to her half brother Gendry.

Before Joffrey was born, when the Queen's affair with Ser Jaime began, Varys started to give his full attention to finding and protecting all of the King Robert's bastards sons. He might have his favorite contender for the Iron Throne – but that didn't mean that all his opinions should be, as merchants would say how, 'Having all eggs in one basket is foolish!'

Granted most of his plans did revolve around young Griff, his red and black dragon that waited in the wings. But now he might have to rethink the contenders for the Queen; the Queen who should consolidate Aegon's power and bolster his legitimacy. For that, the top contenders were Princess Arianne Martell and Princess Daenerys Targaryen.

Looking on however, Varys started to develop a third possibility, Princess Elenei.

Someone who could come with the support of Dorne, after all her elder sister was, since she had been in a cradle, engaged to be wed to Martell. Princess Elenei must have stowed away from the Red Keep through secret passages. That raised an eyebrow, he didn't peg the quiet princess to be so bold; he should've known that Dragons venture where other beast does not and this one also had a share of Lion and Stag in her.

Being already in disguise, and having to meet Gendry, he decided to follow them and observe the Princess some more. It came as a surprise to see a little Princess fight in that alley. He wasn't aware that she could fight – and fight so well.

"My name is … Eli from Lys," said the princess to her own half-brother, not that the boy was aware of the princess but she may figure out his lineage, since the boy was remarkably similar to her Kingly Father. A similarity that Prince Joffrey Baratheon lacked, not that that was a wonder, considering that they shared only a mother but not a father. Prince Joffrey was a Lion from a Lion and a Dragon union. King Aerys might have fooled the Old Lion, but Varys' little birds nested in Casterly Rock and brought songs about a Lioness and a Dragon, making a child under the Lion's nose. He had certain documents, with Aerys' seal, that legitimized Cersei as a Dragon. If he used those papers or not that remained to be seen.

"Where did you learn to fight like this?" the boy asked. His voice broke, indicating that his voice was undergoing the change that would be there until he'd mature.

"An old man named Miyagi," the Princess answered.

Varys could see that this was a truthful answer, and just who was this Miyagi person, Varys wondered in an afterthought. That didn't sound like a Westerosi name, or even Esossi name. Yi Ti perhaps? Hopefully not, because those people were very secretive, and in that case, if a Yl Ti man decided to, for some reason, teach... He'd have to send out his little birds to watch over the Princess, or both of them, it wouldn't do good to underestimate the elder Princess since the younger one was turning out to be such a surprise.

"And what's your name?"

The boy straightened. "I'm Gendry, Gendry Waters."

It appeared that he figured out that ''Eli'' was not who she appeared to be.

The Princess inclined her head. "Well, Gendry Waters, aren't you in a hurry to get somewhere, and thank you for your help."

Gendry looked confused, "I didn't ...you didn't need my help, m'lord."

"It's the thought that counts, Mr Gendry." Then the princess paused, "and I'm no lord."

"Then your father is," the King's bastard stated.

Princess Elenei cocked her head to the side – something Varys often saw Queen Rhaella do. Considering the dalliance King Aerys had with Lady Joanna Lannister– that wasn't much of a surprise. The twins were indeed Black scaled Dragons. The irony of King Robert Baratheon siring two children with a Dragon made Varys titter silently, it wouldn't do if he was discovered, in amusement.

"Hmm, tell me what gave that away?" the Princess asked, and Varys just knew that she would learn from that.

He could respect that; it was rare for a royal to venture out into the city's lover levels. The last time there was a Royal personally interested in the common citizens was Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. He often walked the city in disguise or rode out with Ser Arthur Dayne into the Crownlands' countryside. Or even further on – camping at the ruins of Summerhall – then venturing into nearby towns.

Once, Varys got a report from one of his birds that the Prince helped a local fishermen at the Stormlands coast, other reports stated that a prince and a knight helped farmers during the haying. Pity the Prince died in that battle; he could have made a better King than his Royal Father or his cusin that even now sits on the throne.

Varys could admit that he made a mistake there. He should have started helping the Prince sooner, before the tourney at Harrenhal. He still had had hopes that the King would not have worsened so rapidly. Prince Rhaegar planned to disturb the power block that was forming – not that there was a plot to overthrow the King between the Paramount. It was just that the North needed allies in the South and had begun to seek that out through marital bonds with the Riverlands, Stormlands, and the Reach or Dorne. Through the Heir of Winterfell with Tully's oldest daughter. Through Lady Lyanna Stark with Heir to the Stormlands. Lord Eddard Stark would then marry either a Lady from the Reach or Dorne. The youngest Stark however was slotted to wed a Northern Lady.

He at least tried to minimize the damage, when it all went wrong with Brandon Stark riding, bearing steel, and shouting on the yard of the Red Keep for the Prince to come out and die – that was utterly foolish and even if the King was a sane man, that act of treason would have gone badly for Lord Brandon Stark. He however would have gotten a choice between the Wall, Exile, or Execution. Regardless, the title of Lord Paramount of the North would fall to Lord Eddard Stark. Varys should have at that time, when Lord Stark came to court, intervened and reminded the King that since the Lady, no the Princess Lyanna, was now Aerys' goddaughter, he would have committed kinslaying. Perhaps then the King would have set a knight to fight as champion and not a fire. Perhaps. Who could say, as the King's paranoia was inflamed with Lord Brandon's rash actions and somehow the King had a thought that the son of the Lord of Winterfell was actually the Knight of the Laughing Tree, coming again to threaten the Blood of the Dragon. At least the union between the Wolf and the Dragon didn't bear any fruit.

"The way you talk," Gendry started, slowly, awkwardly, like he had trouble putting his thoughts into words. "And while your clothing is of plain cut, it is of rich material," he listed on his fingers.

Varys raised an eyebrow – that was astute of him. But he didn't notice gentler pitch indicating a noble female– or maybe Gendry thought that it was some kind of accent from Lys, which was a possibility, after all how could a lad from Flea Bottom ever met a noblewoman?

There was silence for a moment then the Princess smiled and asked, "Were you not in a hurry, Mr. Gendry?"

Varys frowned – Master Mott desired punctuality of his apprentices, and while Gendry wasn't running late just yet, he would be late if he didn't start walking towards Mott's smithy.

Gendry shrugged. "I'm no Mister; I'm just a bastard."

The Princess was quick to answer. "And I'm just Eli from Lys."

"So Eli from Lys, can you show me?"

"Show you what?" There was a flash of something; it was so fast that Varys was unable to describer that expression.

Gendry made a gesture toward the alley where the bodies of the thugs lied. "How you fight like this?"

"Weren't you in a hurry to get somewhere?"

Gendry looked confused – he was his father's son all right. "Oh right … I have to meet Tobho Mott for an apprenticeship."

"Let's walk there together – oh and I don't fight."

But she did fight – quite well, Varys might add – though she looked disturbed when she had to kill. She didn't freeze, but after that, she treated the bodies with respect, put them to the side, and placed pebbles on their closed eyes as was the custom in Westeros.

"What?" Gendry looked disbelieving.

"First thing I heard Miyagi say was that you don't train in martial arts to fight, you train so you don't have to."

Ahh, yes this man was definitely from the Yi Ti kingdom. The thing was that Varys could not recall seeing a man of any age that hailed from Yi Ti at the Red Keep. Varys wondered just where did the Princess meet this Miyagi character, and what's was that she learned from him, besides defend herself.

Gendry shook his head in obvious confusion. "I don't understand."

"Do you know your letters? Your numbers?" Elenei then asked.

"I'm lowborn, m'lord," Gendry pointed out.

"And there is an orphanage sponsored by the two Baratheon Princesses and the Septas there teach numbers and letters."

Varys' eyebrows, again, rose in surprise; this he didn't known. He learned some interesting things this evening. Very interesting. He would have to readjust and include the Princess into his plans. For his plans to work, it was a good thing that Princess Elenei was born a girl and not a boy. His plans of putting a King on throne, who was taught how to rule, the duty that comes with it, and become the King that joined House Targaryen and House Blackfyre, ending the feud between the two houses. Princess Argella Baratheon would wed into Dorne, to bring stability between the Baratheon & Lannisters Houses and the Martells.

Maybe he should visit Dorne and hint to Doran that it would be good if House Martell binded themselves to House Tyrell and House Stark through marriages. It'd be most advantageous if his Aegon Targaryen married a true Baratheon princess that had more than a half of Dragon Blood in her. But first he would have to watch the Princess closely to see if she was good enough to include into Varys and his friend Illyrio Mopatis' plan – to finally put a descendant of Daemon I Blackfyre on the Iron Throne. That however caused a problem – or two, namely Prince Viserys and Princess Daenerys Targaryen. He loathed to write them off, and so he wrote to his dear friend to find the two.

Illyrio found Prince Viserys and Princess Daenerys Targaryen – at the moment the two children were fine where they were, under the care of Ser Willem Darry in Braavos. Varys' mice that were left in Illyrio's employ informed him that Prince Oberyn Martell visited the exiles, and together with Ser Darry, and the Sealord of Braavos as a witness, signed a pact promising that Viserys Targaryen would one day wed Princess Arianne Martell in return for the support of Dorne in winning Viserys the Iron Throne. That would not do at all. Varys would need to, regretfully, foul up that pact. The best way to do that would be to get rid of Viserys, but he was loathed to do that. Besides, Prince Viserys could still be given to Dorne as a way to sideline him; however he would have to bring Prince Doran Martell true tidings of Aegon Targaryen … he would have to wait and see. Meanwhile that document would have to be disposed of, along with good Ser Willem Darry. Shame really, he was a good man. A good knight and true – a true rarity. With that, he stepped forward, drawing the attention of the Princess and her bastard brother.

"There you are, Gendry. Come, I shall introduce you to Master Mott." Varys said to the two youths.

Gendry gave a little bow, followed by the Princess; Varys didn't miss the flash of recognition in those damson colored eyes. So the little princess recognized him. He nearly winked at her – that wouldn't do, it was better if she didn't know yet that he recognized her as well.

Varys might even make amends, to Prince Rhaegar's memory, in helping his niece rule side by side with the worthy King on the Iron Throne. That would make up for when he stood aside so many years ago, letting Lords Qarlton Chelsted and Symond Staunton inflame King Aerys' suspicions towards the Dragon Prince. This was something he didn't prevent at the time, because he didn't deem it urgent. Because he believed that Aerys for all his madness would never harm anyone carrying the blood of dragons. Perhaps the Dragon Dynasty would rise again, all branches united under one ruler. That was the reason for why Varys came to Westeros and accepted the position of Master of Whispers, for joining the red scaled and black scaled dragons under one banner.

Red and Black.

House Targaryen and House Blackfyre.

 


 

 

 

***Tywin Lannister ***

Tyrion's wedding to Lady Regina aka Tysha

 

 

Drumming his fingers on his oak writing desk, in the highest tower at Casterly Rock, Tywin regarded the letter spread out before him. The letter arrived a fortnight ago from King's Landing. It was an Edit from the Hand of the King– a marriage sanctioned by King Robert I Baratheon for Tywin's son – not his Golden Boy – Jaime still persisted in his harebrained idiocy in serving as a glorified bodyguard but his other one. Tyrion. The one who killed Joanna and was a dwarf. The one that dared to marry a lowborn gold digging whore. The one that was not fit to be Lord of Casterly Rock. Now that abomination married some minor nobleman's daughter.

There was a knock on the door.

"Enter!" he called, and as expected his sister entered his study.

Genna Lannister was a strong and proud woman with a quick and intelligent mind, a true Lannister, and his father ruined that in wedding Genna to a Frey, who was so far down the line of inheritance that he could have been a bastard son of Walder Frey. Her broad and smooth face lit up in a smile.

"Good day, Brother, you called for me?"

Her green, small eyes glittered in intelligence under the expertly pinned up hair in nets dotted with pink pearls and red ribbons. Genna was always attired in the Westerlands' fashions, which was Andal with a Yi-Ti influenced way of dress; Genna could even tell a tale of how that came to be. Tywin didn't particularly care about how Yi-Ti came to influence the Westerlands, but the severe lines of doublets and jackets appealed to him.

"I did, yes!" Tywin nodded, as he leaned back in his high chair. Now he'd see if the Lady Regina was worthy of the Lannister name. Tyrion's very existence shamed him; he wouldn't permit more shame from his youngest. "What do you know of House Chavasse, or rather Lady Regina Chavasse?" he asked his sister who sat on the plush chair facing him.

Genna tapped her full lower lip, as she usually did when she wanted to think things through, a habit that she had since they were children. "House Chavasse, well it was not much of a house, just a landed knight who died and left his young wife, that would be the Lady Regina, who was one of the distant Marbrand cousins. Little Regina was one of my fosterlings," Genna concluded, then she blinked and added. "Her husband died fighting brigands; he was a landed knight with some income, and they had a daughter that is a little older than Cersei's girls. I believe the child is named Sabrina. And since the keep of her husband went to his brother, the Lady Regina and her daughter were placed with our brother Tygett and his Lady Wife."

This sounded like Genna kept in touch with her former fosterling, Tywin decided that this was an excellent opportunity to find out about his new goddaughter. It also spoke well of her that Genna spoke so fondly of her and kept up with correspondence.

"Then you know the Lady?"

Genna smiled at him warmly then answered, providing details without his prompting.

"Yes. Lady Regina is a slim girl, her hair is dark brown, and she has light blue-gray eyes. She is of twenty summers. She knows how to run a household and knows her sums and her letters.” In other words, Tywin thought, Genna trained her fosterlings well. Perhaps this should redeem the loses he suffered from Tyrion's embarrassing existence. Should his goddaughter bear him a healthy, normal grandson, the child shall be groomed by Tywin Lannister himself to become his heir.

"I see." Tywin's brown flecked green eyes meet Genna's leaf green in an unwavering stare. “The King sent me an Edit." Tywin picked up the parchment and started to read what was written to his sister.

"King Robert Baratheon, First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, decrees that Lord Tyrion Lannister, Secretary of the Hand of the King, and acting Master of the Right Hand..."

After some deliberation that position had been created by Lord Jon Arryn, Tywin thought, and his youngest got that post and acted as a helper of sorts a Hand of the Hand, as Tyrion explained in the letter.

"Married Lady Regina, of House Chavasse."

 


 

 

***Doran Martell***

Takes place after tourney held in Highgarden; when Oberyn comes home after the tourney

 

 

He was sitting in the Water Gardens, watching the fountain spurt water – the Spider left back to King's Landing. Varys wanted to be present when the Usurper returned from the tourney that celebrated Princess Argella and Princess Elenei Baratheon's nameday. The eunuch brought some interesting tidings about Aegon Targaryen, that was not his nephew – but a Targaryen nonetheless. A son of House Targaryen from his father's side and House Blackfyre from his mother – she was the last of that house. Still Varys planned to put a descendant of the Blackfyre female line and the great-grandson of Daemon Blackfyre who was slain by his cousin Maelys – the last Blackfyre who attacked the Seven Kingdoms and died in the War of Ninepenny Kings.

Aelora, granddaughter of Daemon Blackfyre, wed the grandson of Maegor, son of Prince Aerion Targaryen and Princess Daenora Targaryen, Aerion's cousin. Varys planned to put that Aegon on the Iron Throne, since the boy was training to be a perfect monarch – and for the stability of this Aegon's region, Varys spoke of binding, in marriage, Princess Elenei to tie house Baratheon and Lannister to the throne. Doran could, and did, applaud that plan – but what of House Martell? – Doran asked the Spider.

The Spider answered …

 

***291 AC – past***

 

Doran was just relaxing and bathing his gout inflicted leg in a warm salty solution when there was a knock on his door. The guards bared the man, but Doran recognized him – though was surprised to see him.

"Release the Master of Whispers," he commanded the guard, then waved them away. "Shall we move this conversation to the fountains of the Water Gardens?" Doran asked pointedly, while Varys tittered.

When Varys was in the service of King Aerys, the Spider never knew what was discussed in the Water Gardens. A fact he never mentioned to King Aerys. But Doran knew – it was mutual acknowledgment.

"And that acknowledgment is why I'm here, my Prince," Varys said and bowed his bald head. Doran raised his eyebrow, "Well then, Varys, what is your business in Dorne?" and motioned to the seat.

"Aegon Targaryen, that is not your nephew," the eunuch said the moment he touched the cushion.

Doran frowned, his temper spiking slightly. He wouldn't lose his temper – but every time he heard the name Aegon, or Targaryen, he thought of Elia and her babies. Their brutal murders infuriated him. The lack of justice flamed his desire of vengeance. Just as the wounded pride of his mother inflamed the former Ruling Princess of Dorne when Tywin Lannister spurned her two children – Oberyn was to marry Cersei, and Elia was to marry Jaime. That was what Joanna Lannister and Doran's mother wanted. After the death of Joanna, the letters came – Doran recalled his mother's fury when she read the letter the Old Lion had penned.

'No woman of weak womb will be Lady of Casterly Rock.'

'My daughter shall be a Princess, and later the Queen.'

The letters had said. It made his blood boil in anger even now.

"What do you mean?" Doran asked the Spider.

Varys shrugged. "I want peace. Nobody prospers in war and chaos. And there is no reward in ruling over ashes. I would like for Dorne to acknowledge Aegon as kin."

"And marry my daughter to the King?" Doran inquired.

He could see the appeal, after all he intended to do just that with Viserys Targaryen, but Varys shook his head. "No need to if you acknowledge the boy as your nephew. And your daughter could marry Prince Viserys and rule over Dorne after your passing."

Thus tying Prince Viserys away from Iron Throne. "What of Princess Daenerys? Should she wed Joffrey Baratheon?" he asked; Varys tittered. "The Princess Daenerys could have married a Storm lord or a lord from the Reach. Or the North. To seal the pact of Ice and Fire."

"Only that pact was already sealed. Albeit it was the Dragon binding himself to a She-Wolf and not the Targaryen Princess to the North," Doran commented off hand. It was a test of Varys' knowledge of certain events.

Something flickered in the eunuch's eyes. "I see," he muttered, looking at his clasped hands for a moment.

Doran almost smiled, so the Spider was not aware that Lyanna Stark, Princess of Seven Kingdoms, spent her last days in Dorne with her husband. Then he must not be aware that Elia's stepson lived still. It was doubtful, since Varys was here suggesting to put a false Targaryen on the Iron Throne.

"I still don't see what Dorne gets out of this." This was it, the next words out of the Master of Whispers' mouth would decide the future of Westeros.

"Kin on the Throne," Varys started to list. Though, Doran didn't verbally point out that that was not enough; he merely raised an eyebrow. "As far as everybody, but you, me and one other, is concerned."

Ahh, Doran thought, that was clever, even the lad knows not of this plot and believed himself to be Elia's son. "The Hand of the King promised your son a Baratheon Princes," Varys continued, "That opens Dorne to a later alliance with both the Westerlands and Stormlands."

After the Usurper and Tywin Lannister die. Before that, any kind of alliance was impossible - the entirety of Dorne was still a seething pit of anger over the death of Elia and her children. After justice for the murder of the Princess and her babies was served then any kind of truthful alliance was possible between the Baratheons, Lannisters, and Martells. "If your second son Prince Trystane weds Stark's daughter..." Thus binding the North and South. Doran raised his hand, to stop Varys.

"That is well and good, but why would I support somebody not of my blood. What's more, why would I acknowledge some Pisswater Prince?"

"Aegon Targaryen is no Pisswater Prince. He is the grandson of Prince Aerion Targaryen and Daemon Blackfyre," Varys revealed.

Stapling his fingers together, Doran thought - Daemon Blackfyre, that could only be the last Daemon Blackfyre, once captain of the Golden Company, the man that was slain by his cousin Maelys I Blackfyre.

"And that would mean the end of the riff between House Targaryen and House Blackfyre." Doran stated, "Very well, I agree to the mummery. You of course are aware that the boy will need a proper wife?"

Varys smiled. "Why, he will marry a Princess of course. After all, House Baratheon is a cadet House of House Targaryen just as House Blackfyre is."

 

***Present***

 

Oberyn walked in breaking Doran out of his trip down memory lane of the Spider's visit.

"Brother, I'm back!" he sing songs – annoyingly. Doran sighs, he cannot say he missed Oberyn's theatrics and drama his little brother made just by breathing.

"You are in a good mood," Doran observed, "Did something happen during the tourney?" He hadn't heard of any sudden deaths.

"What!?" Oberyn mock gasped, clutching his heart in mummery of a grave offense. "No hello, how are you, and you're glad to see me safe at home? For shame, brother dearest!"

Doran, by dint of effort that would make the gods stare in awe and envy, ignored his brother's jape. "What did you find out?" Hopefully it was good news – like Tywin Lannister dropping dead.

"Well." Oberyn sat down and across from him, so Doran could see if somebody was coming upon them from his field of vision, and Oberyn could see far and wide from his. The murmur of the water from the fountains would mute any words spoken between them. Then for a while Oberyn did not utter a word as he poured himself a glass of Dornish red; knowing that would take a while for Oberyn to settle, Doran refilled his own glass.

"It's all Tywin Lannister's fault," Oberyn stated matter of fact. Doran just raised an eyebrow, most of the things that happened and were unpleasant were Tywin Lannister's fault ever since they were children visiting Casterly Rock where Tywin insulted Elia and their mother – the Ruling Princess of Dorne.

"How did you come to that conclusion, Oberyn?" Doran inquired.

Interested in the answer, he leaned back and took a sip and then another. "Simple, he failed to sire the queen."

Nobody should blame Doran for wasting perfectly fine wine by spitting it out and choking on it because of a proclamation like that. "W-what?" he coughed out.

Oberyn nodded imperiously. "Yes, and if Tywin did his job and sired a Queen, I would not be honor bound to marry Princess Argella when her little sister asked me to."

Doran leaned back in his chair, regarding Oberyn – his shock subsided and he was already adjusting some of the Plan.

"It looks like Lady Joanna Lannister had an encounter with a dragon and a lion and conceived one child with each."

Doran asked after the silence between them stretched, "Is that possible?"

Oberyn nodded. "It is a rare occurrence but it's possible; it has been observed in animals – it stands to reason that the same is possible with humans." His little brother would know as he did forge several maester chains, before leaving the Citadel.

"What did you mean with 'marry Princess Argella'?"

"Hmm, well Princess Elenei found a way to my tent, brought Elia's letters that she and her sister found – by Elia's letters, she and our niece and nephew hadn't died in the sack. And they are in hiding somewhere."

"You aren't making sense," Doran observed wryly.

Oberyn was prone to be dramatic, even as a child, he never grew out of that phrase – Doran ignored the faint hope that shot through his side, like a warm ray of sun, when Oberyn said 'Elia and her babies live'. Oberyn put a box, a familiar box Elia's nameday box that Doran himself had gifted to his sister.

"I have letters -" Oberyn started, but Doran flipped the latch and opened the box and took out the first folded sheet of paper.

"This is Elia's ..." Doran's eyes flew down the parchment, reading the looping writing of his dear sister – dear ALIVE sister.

"As far as I know," Oberyn continued, "Princess Elenei and Tyene, my daughter, who will be under an alias, will travel back to the past and save Elia."

Doran, no matter how mad this was, could only agree … after all when you have eliminated the possible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Even something so outlandish as time-travel. However this meant some rearranging with the plan, but then again no plan survives when it meets the enemy, and if the plans for their kin restoring them as the Ruling House of Westeros and obliterating Tywin Lannister's pride and joy– and by kin, he meant House Targaryen. He would readjust his plans however many times it would be necessary.

"We were visited by the Spider while you got that marriage proposal," Doran divulged; things had changed now – when there was a possibility of Elia and her children living somewhere. He wouldn't keep the secret about Aegon Targaryen from Oberyn now as he didn't know how Oberyn would react to a nephew pretender.

Oberyn's eyebrows met his black hair.  "Oh and what did the eunuch say?"

The next part Oberyn would not like. Or perhaps he'd find a wicked satisfaction, after all his brother was not predictable. Dramatic and passionate, yes, a man with deep love and scorching hate, yes. Predictable – not in the slightest.

"That he has a boy from a cadet branch of House Targaryen waiting in the wings with Jon Connington – pretending to be our nephew Aegon."

"Come again?" Oberyn leaned forward, his eyes narrowed.

"The original plan was to marry my daughter Arianne to Viserys. So my daughter would be Queen, and I would raise Quentyn as my heir for the Ruling Prince of Dorne. When Varys revealed Aegon, the plan changed and Viserys would then marry Arianne to tie Rhaegar's brother to Dorne as a Prince Consort of the Ruling Princess. My son Quentyn would be given to a Baratheon princess," here Doran paused as he remembered Oberyn's statement about Princess Argella, "… why would Princess Elenei ask you to marry Princess Argella and why are you accepting?"

"Because," Oberyn answered, "I promised."

There was more to that, Doran thought. Oh granted his little brother always kept his promises and never made a promise he could not keep.

"So this Aegon – you planned to endorse him, confirming him to be Elia's? Why?" Oberyn's tone was curious, though Doran had no doubt that if Oberyn did not like the answer he would throw a very dramatic temper tantrum. He was really getting too old for his younger brother's dramatics.

"To bolster his legitimacy, however I would not betroth him to my daughter – she would be wed to Prince Viserys, to keep him from the Iron Throne."

"And what of Princess Daenerys?"

"Well Aegon could marry her, after he weds Princess Elenei," Doran suggested, "it's not like it stopped the Targaryens from having multiple wives," he was compelled to further point out to Oberyn, "Especially when the last Targaryen was our own godbrother, and Elia herself saw Prince Rhaegar wed Lyanna Stark by the Septon."

Oberyn pulled his mouth into a disgruntled pout. "I still don't like that the silver haired ponce did that."

Doran fought the urge to sigh, or kick Oberyn in the backside – sighing in exasperation it was, his leg hurt too much already. "It was Elia's suggestion," he pointed out; Oberyn gave him a mulish look making Doran shoot him a vexed glare. "You were all right with this when it was happening."

"Elia was alive then," Oberyn grumbled. "And she used logic to convince me," he pouted.

Yes she was and that she did, Doran thought, amused by the memory of Elia lecturing Oberyn. She even pointed out that Oberyn was being a hypocrite – why could he and Ellaria envoy sexual freedom but she and Rheager could not?

"So what is the plan now, brother?" Oberyn asked.

"Well, by this," Doran held up one of his sister's letters, "it's obvious that we have at least one other red scaled dragon in Westeros, probably with the Starks."

"You mean Eddard Stark's bastard?" Oberyn snorted, "men have bastards you know."

"That is only one of the possibilities. I do not know." But Doran had met a young Eddard Stark mare weeks after the Usurper called himself king, stepping over the slain bodies to two innocent children. After Lord Eddard returned Dawn to Starfall, he came to Sunspear, alone, to see Doran, compelled by his rigid code of honor no doubt. Lord Eddard had left the baby at Starfall, with one of the companions by the name of Howland Reed, with ten horses and four women; one of them was a wetnurse that Lord Stark and Lord Reed brought from the Tower of Joy. Lord Eddard claimed the boy as his then, to all who wished to hear, and those that did not – but it had not added up until later, when Doran's quiet rage and grief over the loss of his sister, his niece, and nephew calmed, and he could think it over. Doran hadn't known that at the time, but he sent his sister's bones, along with his companion and a baby and it's Dornish wetnurse, by ship straight to White Harbor from the port at Starfall. Lord Eddard came before Doran – contrite and apologetic.

 

***283 Sunspear – Ruling Prince audience Chamber***

 

"What is it that you are apologizing for Lord Stark? Did you kill my sister and her babes?" Doran asked, then did not give the young Lord time to respond. "Of course not. You did not kill them, and you did not condemn their murders."

"I came here to apologize for the dishonor that my sister's actions …"

"Your sister didn't bring any dishonor either to my sister or Dorne," Doran cut through whatever ridiculous notion the boy had. "Only one person was slighted by this and that was Robert Baratheon."

"But – ..." there Lord Eddard's voice dropped to a shameful whisper, "when the Prince rode at the tourney and crowned Lyanna instead of his Lady Wife."

"For the gods sake!" What in Mother Rhoyne's name do people think of this days, "that is not a crime. And the only reason it was such a shock, was because that was so utterly uncharacteristic of my godbrother. Furthermore, it was honoring the young Lady's sense of justice when she rode in that tourney."

At Lord Eddard's floored look – his mouth dropped open in shock Doran continued. "My sister wrote me all about it. And why do you think you found your sister hiding in Dorne?"

Lord Eddard Stark clasped his bloodless lips together and paled. For a moment Doran thought that Lord Eddard Stark expired in that very spot. Eddard cleared his throat awkwardly, "Nevertheless I regret the passing of Princess Elia and her children …"

"And her husband and your sister, yes thank you for your condolences. I," there Doran bowed his head, "offer my sincere condolences of the murder of your Lord Father and death of your elder brother."

No matter how foolish Brandon Stark had been in not only shouting like a half-wit for the Crown Prince to come out and die, committing treason, but also for not inquiring about his sister first OR even inquiring about the Prince's whereabouts.

Didn't the Stark possess an ounce of common sense between his ears?

"Whatever your brother's foolish actions, he didn't need to die that way, nor your Lord Father – it was unjust of a King to chose fire as a champion when Lord Rickard Stark demanded trial by combat."

 

 


 

 

 

***Olenna Tyrell 291 AC***

A day after Royals leave the Highgarden

 

Olenna was watching her grandchildren play in the garden. Garlan was using a wooden sword to chase Loras around the trees, while Margaery was sitting on the grass before Willas who was bent down over the ledges. Always had his nose in account books, or history, or some other book – that was Willas. He was also intelligent – he had a hobby of breeding good horses, hawks, and hunting hounds – not those yappy useless lap dogs, though Olenna conceded that they were gaining much popularity, especially those little, white or orange or black furry ones. They looked like a fluffy ball with four legs, a pointy snout, and two perky ears – and that she already had two was not of great importance at all. Her two little oranges. Loras had already shown that he would become exceptional with throwing men off the horses with a stick and was her son's favorite child. Garlan was cheerful and gallant, the perfect knight. Margaery, the youngest of her son's, Mace progeny, was acting like a lady – with brains and wit and the will to use them. Not like those silly gooses with their heads in the clouds and songs. Her roses, she was proud of them all. Willas and her sweet Margaery were not oafish like their parents. Loras, was her son's favorite, since he was a knight, and Willas never saw the attraction of knocking other boys around with a stick, even before that Martell – all right she knew that it wasn't the Martell's fault, he was even Willas' friend, but still the Dornish grated on Olenna's nerves. But Willas was still heir of a Lord Paramount, and despite with his useless leg, he was still a good catch. Fortunately the tourney showed some prospects in the way of possible brides for Willas. They were all younger than him – and only were three truly spoken for, Princess Argella, who was spoken for one of Martell Princes. Then there was Lady Myranda Royce, who would wed her uncle Lord Royce, and Lady Mira Forrester who was betrothed to Lord Robb Stark, the heir of Winterfell. Olenna tapped her walking stick to gain Willas' attention. Tawny eyes regarded her seriously for a moment, under the dark honey hair that fell straight along his clean shaven face.

"You called, Grandmother?" Willas was tan – not pasty as Mace had turned, as her oafish son sat for most of his days, feasting at the table. Willas and Margaery went out boating, hawking, riding, so they shared a healthy and warm honey complexion. Which set dear Margaery's azure eyes off nicely under her golden brown curls. In contrast of their darker look, Loras was a golden boy – with light, sandy brown curls and blue eyes of the Hightowers and lastly five years older than Loras, Garlan, at four and ten, inherited the full look of House Redwyne and had honey colored eyes and chestnut hair with an orange undertone. He was already an expert swordsman – and finally grown into his broad frame, as he was plumb child and unlike Loras he didn't play with sticks. Though that boy was better than any of his brothers at knocking others down with a stick. Willas might have been great too, though he didn't enjoy it, if he wasn't crippled by a Red Viper. Olenna didn't – or she did in a way, but it irritated her – like the friendship between her favorite grandson and the Dornish Prince.

"Come, Willas, walk with me," she commanded and curved her left arm around Willas' left forearm while her right arm held her walking stick – so that Willas could do the same. Not that he needed a stick to walk – or to wield the sword that was hidden within his walking stick. Mace was ignorant of Willas' ability, but Garlan helped him hone his skill in secret. Olenna approved of this piece of mummery, let them think that the heir to Highgarden was a cripple, unable to walk on their own peril. Willas quickly took her arm and they started to walk around when they came to the highest wall – a wall where nobody could eavesdrop on their conversation.

"Your thoughts?" Olenna prodded. They didn't make any overt plans when they heard of the royal family's visit for the tourney that House Tyrell made in honor of Princess Argella and Princess Elenei's nameday.

"My sweet sister should not marry Prince Joffrey," Willas stated.

Olenna's eyebrows went up – granted she thought of the Prince as an overly indulged brat – but Margaery was willy and smart enough to guide him – besides she would be Queen and raise a future King.

"Oh, should we leave the Stag to marry a Wolf?" she prodded. Her grandson's tawny eyes met hers.

"That may be for the best," he affirmed, "Margaery would do better to wed some other High Lord."

"Oh?" Olenna prodded again; there were few High Lords that would be good for their Little Rose. The heir of Riverrun was unattached – though she heard that Lord Edmure Tully was a silly oaf of a boy. Then there was the Lord of Storm's End, Renly Baratheon – a sword swallower through and through. Then there was the new Lord of Harrenhal. But the best match would have been the Crown Prince.

"The Crown Prince has the same affinity as the King who ruled before his father." That statement that came from Willas damned the Crown Prince; a madman would be a severe deterrence to a marriage between the Ruling House and House Tyrell.

"I see," Olenna muttered. She didn't bother to deny Willas' claim; she knew her grandson, "how about you, dear Willas, do you see the end of your bachelor days?"

"Perhaps." Willas looked in the distance, then returned the shrewd gaze of his, so like her own, back to her. "You may write to Lady Whent – if the Lord of Harrenhal would be amenable to tie House Vermilion and House Tyrell."

Now that would be a risky move – even if the Harrenhal lands were prosperous, and largely independent from other regions, since they didn't pay a tithe to the Septs or to Riverrun anymore as Lord Vermilion wasn't Tully's bannerman – they paid their tax directly to the Crown. The cost of Harrenhal's upkeep and rebuilding would cost much. But House Tyrell could afford it – and Margaery.

"And why should your sweet sister wed the legitimized Northern bastard?" and what did that have to do with her question. "Get to the straight point – you need not your silvery honeyed tongue," she said in a commanding voice.

"As my Grandmother, Queen of Thrones, commands." Willas bowed, a smile pulling at his lips.

Olenna hit him in the shins with her walking stick for his cheek – Willas was the only one who called her 'Queen of Thorns' to her face. Nobody else dared. After chuckling, as a young boy not a man fully grown, of six and ten, he finally stopped teasing his poor grandmother.

"There are three reasons for wedding Margaery to Lord Jon Vermilion: one is that being a Lord of Harrenhal gave an agency to that position."

That was true, the Lord of Harrenhal was always in a unique position – not quite a Lord Paramount, but close in esteem to one. Unless the House was under the Tullys, like when House Whent held Harrenhal, the keep and lands – since the Whents were the Tully's bannermen, they paid their tithes to the Lord Paramount of the Trident. Before the Whents however, House Lothston from King's Landing held Harrenhal – and the tithe was paid directly to the Crown and Lord Tully was not their liege Lord. Lord Vermilion was now in the same situation. He owed no allegiance to any Lord Paramount, only to the King. Besides, since the Lord – a boy of ten took residence, there had been an influx of second sons and smalfolk from the North. She knew that Willas, covertly, sent provisions, cattle, herds of horses along with the families of smallfolk who wished to relocate, and she had gotten the news that Tywin Lannister had done the same. Some hedge knights turned up and became Landed Knights, and at the moment Harrenhal's economy was thriving. They even managed to make some repairs on the keep's infrastructure – thanks to Willas, since he sent stonemasons and smiths along too. Olenna narrowed her eyes – it looked like Willas had been making investments while she wasn't looking.

"The second one is that it takes Lord Vermilion off the marriage market and frees the Princess to marry someone else," Willas listed.

Olenna smirked and so removing a possible competitor, as it was no secret that King Robert wanted a family bond with Lord Eddard Stark. It was the sole reason why Lord Oaf of the Stormlands sent a proposal North to Lord Rickard Stark for Lady Lyanna. As if the oafish Stag could tame a wild She-wolf, she could see that the moment she attended the Harrenhal tourney.

Something tingled down her spine at that moment. A memory? Or was it …

"And third?" she prompted.

Willas responded with a question of his own. "Have you met Lord Eddard Stark?"

"Yes, a dull and honorable lad, sullen and dutiful." She could not believe that a lad like that would have it in him to even sleep with a woman other than his Lady Wife, let alone put a Snow in the other woman's belly – a Dornishwoman if rumors of Ashara Dayne were to be believed. She would believe that of his elder brother, but the Snow's age didn't match.

Willas looked to the sky, tracing the flock of wild birds that flew overhead. "And he rode with the baby from Dorne," he murmured.

Given the rumor that Lady Ashara Dayne was the mother, Olenna knew that the dates of the) birth however didn't match. And just one dance doesn't make a baby. Or a couple. Willas arched his eyebrow – just what was her grandson thinking?

"I wrote to Prince Oberyn, inquiring if his brother would be amenable in making a match between Garlan and Princess Arianne Martell. Olenna thought that over, carefully, Garlan was a happy and smart lad, a lad that would always strive for a happy life for himself. Perhaps Willas had a point – it was about time for the Reach and Dorne to bury the hatchet in the sand and shake hands.

"Hmm, perhaps a match between a scorpion and a rose would be beneficial," Olenna allowed, then she continued slyly, "I can see that you're eliminating the competition for the hand of a Child Princess."

Willas shrugged, a graceful lift of his shoulders. "I do not plan on being a bachelor forever, grandmother. And besides she won't be a child for long."

Olenna hummed in agreement; the Princess was a comely intelligent child. "And what of Stannis Baratheon's daughter?"

"The Lady Shireen?" Willas closed his eyes in thought, "she is a sweet child, but …"

"Loras could be betrothed to her," Olenna suggested slyly.

Willas sighed, "Grandmother ..."

"Oh I know he is Sword Swallower through and through," Olenna waved away, "but that doesn't mean he could not make a match."

"He could join the Kingsguard," Willas suggested.

Olenna gave him a reproachful stare. "Only if dear Margaery would become Queen. But you yourself are against that notion."

"Father may insist on it."

"Leave your oaf of a father to me."

Maybe the match between sweet Margaery and the Lord of Harrenhal would not be amiss. Knowing what she did of the Oaf King, he probably still dreamed of a match between his one true love, Eddard Stark's blood and his own - if that Oaf King did not chase after every kirtle that crossed his path, Olenna would think that Robert Baratheon was stricken by love toward his Northerner Lord. Considering that sudden legitimization, Olenna was guessing that the Oaf King wanted a match between his second daughter and Lord Eddard's son.

 


 

 

***Gendry Waters***

After Highgarden tourney: Buffy has her run, while Tara was asleep and gotten awake because Balarion decided to take a nap on her head.

 

Gendry didn't know who his father was when he was living in King's Landing's Flea Bottom, after his mother's death. He still remembered his mother's laugh, when she was alive and working in the ale house, then suddenly was coughing blood when she was ill with some lung ailment. Then she passed away, and he was left to fend for himself. A man approached him one day and after that, Gendry had suspicions that his father was somebody important. He suspected that the man who led him to Tobho Mott, to be his apprentice, was in his father's employ. But he found out that he was the son of Robert Baratheon from his half sister no less. That was even more of a surprise – all right he had a suspicion that so called Eli of Lys was a noble. It was just the way that ''boy'' talked and how ''he'' looked dainty and girly like a girl.

The fact that Eli was a girl came as surprise, that she was his sister, half sister, not so much – but that she was a Princess and daughter of Robert Baratheon had floored him.

"A golden dragon for your thoughts, brother?"

"You don't need to call me that, m'lady-" but he was interrupted with,

"Don't call me m'lady." The Princess then threw him a purse, a heavy and clinking purse.

"What's this, your grace?" Gendry asked.

"Will you stop that? I'll kick your ass." The Princess glared at him. "This is for a staff; make it from iron and top it with these."

That well could happen considering that she fought and won a fight with a group of men. She downed them with startling speed and ease. "Your wish is my command, I'll do what you say, sister."

But he knew she'd never hurt him – she even showed him some moves. And also showed him where he could learn his letters and sums. He could read now and do some sums, and he was proud at this accomplishment.

"You know, brother, I preferred it when you didn't know that I was a girl," he heard her say, as he turned his back to her. He chuckled, who would have thought that a Princess and a Smith's Apprentice would get along so well -

"It's always about blood," his sister stated sagely. He nearly missed the iron he was hammering, and at her words, he turned.

"Did you read my mind?"

"No, stupid," she huffed, her fisted hands on her hips as she glared at him, "you were talking aloud."

He regarded her for a moment – that was not the first time she did that, voiced what he was thinking. Did he really say that out loud? She was rolling her eyes at him. "Your eyes will stay like that one day," he warned her.

"Need help with that?" Now it was his turn to roll his eyes at her request; she always asked that, and he always replied the same way. "This is no work for a princess."

"Can you roll your eyes harder? I don't think they reached the ceiling," she laughed at his sour expression; he should have known that he wouldn't win this. When she finished with her merriment, she picked up one of the lighter hammers and a thong.

"Now show me," she nudged him with her elbow. It was always strange when she stood so close to the fire and did not sweat, or when she started swinging that hammer, making shapes from molten iron, or making beads from bronze and brass.

"Yes, your grace, your wish is my command."

"Yes it is."

At his surprised look, Princess Elenei smiled at him – in was not a smile he usually saw the highborn ladies do, all proper like, closed and demure. Princess Elenei showed him one of her toothy smiles.

"Hey if I have to pull rank to learn something new that could prove useful someday, I will pull rank."

Now why, Gendry asked himself when he showed his royal, little, half sister how to bend the shape of a dagger she was making today, would a royal Princess need to know her way around a forge?

 


 

 

***Ghost of the High heart***

Riverrun Tourney

 

 

She was hiding in a grove of old willow trees by the river bank, among gnarled roots, and the curtain of falling branches whose leaves touched the slowly running river water. There was a noisy tourney held in the Riverlands today – for a couple of days even. It was just her misfortune that her bones were old and she could not retreat back to her house under the trees, at the Isle of Faces island she shared with Green Men and some of the Children of the Forest. Maesters liked to say that the Children were all gone and that the Green Men were nothing but men that wore green clothing and antler headdresses.

The Maesters would be wrong.

On both accounts.

The Children's numbers might be dwindled – but there were still younglings among them – the last youngling was born when Aerys the First ruled, a year before her own birth – but then her own Grandmother, who lived still, was one of the Children. The Island of Faces was populated by First Men, Children of the Forest, and their combined offspring. Mix and pure. Her mother, and grandmother, named her He'mele'mele, but the name she went by was Mavis; the name had the same meaning – a song thrush. She was so old that she sometimes forgot her own name. She was even older than the man that called himself "Bloodraven," and she was ever called a Ghost or High Heart or a witch. Never her real name ... she'd forget her name if she didn't name herself while talking to the heart tree on the Isle of Faces. Jenny of Oldstones, her friend knew her name she herself told the young girl - and so did the prince of Dragonflies. After Jenny died in that blaze that took her husband … there was the Black Prince, who sometimes came seeking solitude and security from court life. Sometimes he played the harp for her – when she wished to hear the song of her dear departed friend Jenny and her Prince. And now another knew her name and another after him.

And now grass green eyes were watching her under black curls … "Hello, Old Mother."

Such a curious greeting. Such a curious … child. For the body was that of a child, but the eyes revealed a far older soul. "Who are you, Old Child?" she rasped. It was curious this child – there were traces of blood of Rhoyar those were measured in drops some of the blood was Andal and some of Old Valyria those were more present – however surprisingly the blood of the First Men ran most true in her, along with …

"Malihini, mai ke kai"

"Excuse me?" "Nothing, Child, I was just ..."

"Tara!"

Another child, this one with the look of Old Valyria, with the same face and with the same old eyes – though this one's were even older and harder.

"Oh." Somber dark blue eyes regarded her for a moment, "Hello, Old Mother."

Mavis' dried lips twitched. "This is the second time I've been called that."

She got an answering smile, a smile that lit those dark eyes into a softer color – almost violet. "I'm Buffy; this is Tara. What's your name, Old Mother?"

"My name is Mavis, Old Child." "If we've disturbed you, we will retreat."

Mavis shook her head, "You haven't. Please share this hour of the day with me." She motioned to the roots of the gnarled old willow tree. Buffy sat to her left, while Tara sat on her right.

 


 

 

 

***Cersei Lannister***

After King left for Dorne with his two daughters

 

Robert was gone, Cersei thought, as she pulled the brush through her golden mane. She was in her room in the Red Keep, before a mirror, preparing for her day.

Yesterday Robert, her most hateful husband, went with the Royal Progress to Dorne, taking her two oldest children. The only children of her body that were from Robert's seed, she thought when she added some rouge to her lips, were also the only ones Robert took. And when he returns, Argella would stay behind in Dorne.

Off hand, Cersei wondered why she didn't feel that protective surge she had felt only a year ago – but back then both her daughters resembled Jaime and herself, but now their faces took on a foreign cast. Cersei didn't like that; she hated the way the girls smiled, a dimpled smile – Lannisters did not possess dimples in their cheeks!

They didn't have her own oval face, but they had more prominent and higher and sharper cheekbones, more diamond shaped face. Though Cersei liked diamonds, she misliked to see her daughters' faces taking the shape of them. The more she looked at Argella and Elenei, the more differences she found.

They were her silver and black lionesses no more.

In the end, she was relieved that they left, as she wouldn't bear witness to more of those disagreeable changes, and Robert wouldn't be coming in her bed, stinking of wine and wenches. Not that his husbandry duties were very common now that the Crown had an heir, in her golden Joffrey and a spare in her sweet Tommen. Tyrion will not produce a male hair, she will see to that herself and Lyonel could rule Casterly Rock. Her Lord Father would surely agree to that, as Cersei knew that Tywin hated the very thought of that little monster ruling the West. Cersei frowned at her reflection; she took her time with brushing her golden hair out. She'd rather see Jaime do that, her other half their three children were a perfect reflection of her.

Her golden lions … She thought of Joffrey, her sweet son, a golden and shining example of a Lannister Crown Prince, and nothing at all like that brute she married. Her little Lion Prince. He would be her Lion King.

Argella was lost to her as she would be buried in the sands of Dorne. She just knew that Robert would get rid of her next daughter as well, and both Argella and Elenei would be lost to her. Were already lost to her, as Cersei couldn't see much Lannister in them.

Joffrey, Joffrey was all she had now. Joffrey was a true Lion of Lannister.

Him and Myrcella and Tommen, all of them fathered by her darling Jaime. Her twin, the man that was her own reflection, her own perfection.

Robara and Lyonel, sired by that oaf Ser Kettleblack who in his clumsy groping of her person reminded her of Robert's attempts to bed her. Only she would be soon rid of him, one way or another. At the moment his silence was bought by the lives of the children that came from his seed; they were proof of his treason. Lyonel was the son that so reminded her of Tyrion with his mismatched eye color. She could not stand the sight of either of them. Even if they were not Robert's, they were a payment for that man's silence. As for Ser Osmund Kettleblack, he would suffer an accident; after all, the man drank a lot. Just like Robert, but her own husband was to well guarded. After Ser Osmund was gone those two children would be fostered at Casterly Rock because Robert doted on them so. He would feel what their absence feels like. Just as he had made her feel. She smiled at the thought as she rounded the corner then abruptly halted.

It was nearly a coincidence– Cersei walked around the corner and saw a familiar woman talking to some serving wench. What was that witch doing here? Meggy the Frog, the woods witch that she visited when she was a girl of eleven namedays, she and two others, Fat Jayne Farman and bold freckled Melara Hetherspoon. Melara who wanted to take Jaime away from Cersei, Melara whose prophecy was to die, Melara who chatted about Jaime all the way back from the dirty tent of the witch – Cersei had pushed her away from herself in annoyance that day, and she fell down the hidden, dried up well -

"You!" Cersei bellowed; the wench scurried away. But Cersei was blind to anything but that woods witch. "You lied to me, what you told me was false!" she screamed in the woman's face.

"How did I tell you something false?" the old hag had the gall to say. "I told your friend that she'd never marry and did she marry?"

Cersei wanted to strike her. Yet that part was true. Melara died, she fell into that well, and Cersei let her drown. "And I told you that you would not marry a Prince, but you would marry a King."

The yellow eyes were mocking her, Cersei knew. "I thought I would marry a King. Instead I wed that …"

"King?" the witch nodded, " aye you wed the King. He has children and you have your golden heads."

"You said I would have only three children," she pointed out – Cersei wanted to hear from the cursed woman that a different outcome, that a younger more beautiful Queen would not take all she holds dear – her power, her three children, and her twin.

"Aye, and you do – only three that are yours alone. Gold will be their crowns and gold their shrouds," the Frog said.

Cersei felt rooted in her spot, then the witch whirled around and continued.

"Until there comes a younger and more beautiful Queen to take all you hold dear. And when your are drowning in tears a Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale throat and choke the life out of you – that is what I said to you at that time. Something of that changed however … now I see only one golden head crowned and one golden shroud...as for the Valonqar, it will depend when your path crosses with hers."

"Guards!" She would make sure the Frog Witch loses her head this time.

Then she would take precautions; she would get rid of Tyrion – her Valonqar, in time, and then all would be well.

 

 


 

 

***Tyene Sand***

Before Robert and his court land on Dorne shores

 

Sunspear was her home; it was in her blood. Every grain of sand, every serpent, every animal, every man, woman, and child was precious to her.

"I issued an order," her uncle said, as she and all of her sisters, her father, and his father's paramour were sitting Prince Doran's solar. "As of now, Tyene Sand will be known and referred to as Lady Aliandra of House Briar, and after the Usurper comes, she will be leaving with his court as a Lady in Waiting to Princess Elenei Baratheon."

"So it's time," Obara stated from her spot. Nym looked excited as well, and her father and Ellaria were coiled as two snakes readying for a strike. Tyene wished that she was present when her two older sisters met with the Usurper's daughter. The little Stag Princess made such an impression on them that both Obara and Nymeria considered her an adopted kin.

"Father," Nym turned to the Viper, "should we tell the rest of my sisters?" Not to mention, spend some time cosseted in the Water Gardens discussing secrets with Uncle – secrets that no other Sand Snake, nor Princess Arienna Martell, was privy to.

"Yes," Uncle Doran allowed then placed his fingers together and regarded all of them from his slightly elevated chair. "At the tourney in Highgarden, your father, my brother, was approached by Princess Elenei in secret," Prince Doran revealed. Tyene knew this much, both Obara and Nym shared that information – as well as asked of her to make them detachable skirts, an idea that Princess Elenei Baratheon apparently used all the time but they hadn't shared what was disused as both father and uncle swore them to secrecy.

"The princess asked my brother," Uncle's voice became amused, and father scowled in his direction, then turned that good natured scowl towards a smirking Obara, a giggling Nymeria, and a very much amused Ellaria Sand. "If he'd contest to wed her elder sister Princess Argella..."

A chorus of "What!" went around the room, while Obara and Nym started to laugh so hard that they had to prop themselves up, otherwise they would fall down. "Before your sisters," father started sardonically, sending Obara and Nym into another peel of laughter, "regain their breaths, I said yes. Now can we move on, please?"

"Father, why would you say yes?" Sarella asked curiously, in her soft Dornish drawl, her big black eyes wide. She cut her curly hair close to her head and started to wear boy's clothing – when asked she just smiled and said, that she would soon start her own game that she'll play in Oldtown.

"Well..." Oberyn drawled dramatically, and all of them leaned forward for an explanation.

 


 

 

 

***Sinbad – the Future King of Sindria***

Partevia – Tison Village

 

He managed to sell all of yesterday's catch of tuna. He also bartered some olive oil his mother made for beech weed flour and some dates and fresh fruit. He managed to save some silver from his work in the harbor. It was fortunate that he followed the couple of sailors on that passenger boat; some farmers wanted to relocate to some island in Partevia waters – he offered to guide their ship, and then he had gotten a reward for bringing those families to their destination ahead of scheduled time. His mother had gotten sick, the doctor was brought to see her, and the medicine was expensive, and Sinbad would do everything to ensure that his mother was healthy. So a generous portion was set aside for those expensive medicinal herbs that were imported from the Kina Kingdom. That was a Kingdom that Sinbad had no knowledge of; Darius never told any stories of this Kingdom he told of Oasis Cities, he talked of three countries in the East: Kou, Gou, and Kai, he told of Reim, and of Musta'sim Kingdom.

"Hello!" a female seller of medicinal herbs greeted when he bent over her wares. "What can I offer?"

"Hello, how is such a pretty lady doing?" he asked with a smile.

The bored looking, handsome middle aged lady looked up surprised, and he gave her a slight smile and a respectful nod as he took her palm between his hands. "I would like to buy a bushel of dried kinin," he asked, "for my mother, and I'm sure a lady such as yourself has a batch that she can sell to me."

She put her hand on her cheek and chuckled. "My oh my," and as she withdraw, she accidentally threw bushels of herbs on the ground.

"Let me help with that." Sinbad offered.

Well, Sinbad thought as he exited the herb shop, it pays to be polite and flirt with older women and lend the occasional helping hand – before, when he was younger, he was considered cute when he wanted to barter fish, and other fruit of the sea, for whichever item his mother and he needed at the given time. After his father was taken, after Badr delivered that speech about war before the army dragged him away, at first the Tison villagers were cautious – and they avoided his mother Esra and him, avoiding meeting their eyes, but then a short time after – they came at night at first, leaving some items that his mother needed, a jar of honey, new linens, or a bag of flour. Then Esra was stopped in the street by the neighbors … and slowly the whole Tison village didn't discriminate – they even helped deserters hide, or hid young men that didn't want to enlist.

They were against the war – secretly.

 


 

 

 

***Roose Bolton***

Year after Greyjoy Rebellion

 

Dreadfort was quiet, as it was wont to be when Lord Bolton was inconvenienced by something.

There it was, standing before him, a choice.

Ever since his son, Domeric, was lost at sea and sent to the Krakens, Roose was without an heir to Dreadfort. Writing to Lord Stark, that he wished for Ramsey to be legitimized as heir of Dreadfort, was a prospect he was loathed to do. Not because the boy was a bastard, nor because he enjoyed the same things and ways of inflicting punishments the same way Roose did, but because the boy had no measure. He was wasteful in his sports. Instead of having his fun, covertly and say once a month if there were no criminals to deal with, he had his 'hunts' whenever it struck his fancy.

The other choice was for Roose to remarry. He could have wed Gwyn Whitehill, but she wed Rodrick Forrester to heal the riff between the two Houses. And Lady Elaena Glenmore wed Torren Whitehill heir of Lord Ludd of Highpoint. Could a third marriage be Roose's lucky charm. It wouldn't be amiss if his new bride was of rich and fertile stock. He made the inquiry and there were several possibilities from the Reach from the like of House Fossoway with Lady Leonette. Or the Lady from House Mooton or House Tarly. Though there was a slight problem with getting a flighty wife from the Reach - there was a cautionary tale of Jorah Mormont and Lynesse Hightower and that was a mark against that match. The other was that Asher Forrester, a bannerman of Lord of Harrenhal, was interested in making a match with the lady. He supposed he could wed Barbrey Dustin, his godsister, as she wasn't yet past her childbearing years. Or he could look for a Stark in the Stormlands. There was an aunt of Eddard Stark that wed Harrold Rogers. They had issues and one of them was nine and ten summers old maiden, who was yet unwed. Her name was Lady Bernna Rogers. First he would ride out and meet and talk with the Lady of Barrowton. He would take her counsel on this matter, after all he and Barbrey got along very well. He was not so young anymore – he had to marry swiftly and sire an heir; a childless Lord was no good for the land.

Barrow Hill castle in the town of Barrow town, the residence of his godsister Barbrey Dustin, sister of his late wife and Domeric's mother. From the battlements, the flags flew in the slight wind the personal arms of the Lady of Barrowton, the spiked crown and the crossed long axes of House Dustin quartered with the golden horse head of House Ryswell.

"Who goes!" the sentry at the battlements shouted.

One of Roose's people rode forward to yell, "Lord Bolton, to see your Mistress of this keep and lands." It was a standard calling card between the Lords of the North to greet each other. "Come in and welcome," and with that the heavy ironwood doors swung open, and Roose rode forward with his posse; they were shown to the great hall and given bread and salt, along with northerner ale. After that he was showed into Lady Dustin's study. The study belonged to her husband, but now she ruled in his steed, ever since her husband died in Dorne.

"Welcome to Barrow, Lord Bolton." Lady Dustin looked from the documents that littered her writing table, standing up and motioned him to sit on the settee by the fire. "What can I do for you, Roose?" Lady Barbrey asked.

"I have two choices," Roose said without preamble. He never prerecorded his decisions for another time; it was not his way to postpone things that should be executed promptly. "Marry the Stark cousin in the Stormlands or yourself. The other choice is the legitimacy of Ramsay Snow. What say you?" Barbrey regarded him for some time in silence, then she sighed and leaned forward.

"You are aware that Eddard Stark will not acknowledge your kinship if you marry the cousin from the Stormlands," she stated.

Roose gave a short nod, that wouldn't be surprising even if the Lady was a distant cousin of Eddard Stark. "And yourself?" he asked her.

"Only if you do not wish Ramsay to become a Bolton."

"I do not." his answer was cold as the wind; she regarded him for but a moment.

"I would suggest that you foster the lad, your bastard somewhere south of the neck – either Harrenhal or King's Landing. As far away as you can muster to send him. For I hear some disturbing things about that lad."

Roose nodded, "What of the Vale?"

"It would be better if you sent him to Dorne," Barbrey remarked tartly, then, "I have some acquaintances in the Westerlands, that wrote saying some landed knight needs a new squire."

She pulled the parchment from the pile on her desk and handed it to him. Roose then started to read the missive: 'Dearest cousin Barbrey,' the letter started, and continued with the inane chatter of a Southern lady, nothing of note until he got to the line. 'Poor lad displeased the favorite of Lord Tywin and paid the price with his life. But what should be expected from Ser Gregor.'

"You suggest that I should send Ramsay to squire for the Mountain?" Roose leaned back in thought – this had merit, and it was true that if he remarried it was better that Ramsay was far away from his new bride as possible. That was if his suit succeeds, and who knows, his heir may someday own Winterfell; just because Eddard Stark would not consider Roose kin, he might with the children he would have with the Stormlands' Stark cousin, he'd wed.

"Yes."

"Will you pen a letter to whoever runs House Clagane? While I establish correspondence with the Stormland, I can even travel there, after all it already showing that winter will be long when it comes, and looking for provisions long before hand would not be amiss."

 


 

 

 

***Myrcella Baratheon***

Two years after Greyjoy Rebellion

 

King's Landing

Myrcella was walking through her small garden toward the enclosure where the sun never reached and where the soil was always cold. There she put the bushel of frost colored Winter Roses, a gift from her elder sister Argella before she left for Dorne. Looking at the frost blue petals of the rose brought Myrcella closer to her sister. But she also had letters; she had nothing else but memories and Purple Belles, blooms that Elenei brought from Dorne and gifted to her. She was nine namedays today; nobody had given her a seedling or seeds for her garden – her Secret Garden, as Elenei said, and then her elder sister told her a tale about a garden with that name. Myrcella loved hearing that tale, and she demanded that same tale be told many times; Eli always indulged her.

"Hello there." The sudden voice made her turn; there was a funny looking man – he had long very pale golden hair, it reached his heels, in a braid and was decorated by a white bird feather at the end, and kind but sad blue eyes, and he was dressed in green. He had a funny pointed hat too.

"Hello," she greeted. Myrcella was watching this stranger – but she sensed that whoever this was, he'd never bring her any harm.

"It's so quiet and dark," the man smiled, "I like it here. Oh my name is Yunan; I'm a wandering traveler."

"I'm Myrcella."

Yunan regarded her – and impossibly his eyes softened even more. "Hello Myrcella, would you mind sharing your Secret Garden with me? I quite like the serenity and quiet of this place."

"You may," Myrcella allowed.

"Do you like tea?" Yunan suddenly asked.

"Ah," Myrcella was surprised by the sudden question, "yes, my favorite is made from rosehip cinnamon and apples and oranges." As she talked, Yunan waved his thin and long stick that had a rope twined at the top. Suddenly there were two delicate cups, with small plates, and a steaming tea pot and a small round table and two chairs before her. There was also a small cake with her name written on top. Her eyes widened and flew up to meet soft blue ones.

"Your sister Eli wishes you a happy birthday," Yunan stated, then he pulled out a curious plant from thin air. "She said 'Give this to my little sister, she loves flowers and tea and quiet, so you'll like her' and she was right," Yunan smiled.

Myrcella could not breath, her sister, Elenei, who had been missing for two years, ever since Euron Greyjoy attacked Estermont Island, and her sister disappeared along with her Dornish Lady in Waiting, the Lady Brienne of Tarth neither of who Myrcella had met, not even the Lady Aliandra of House Briar who lived in the Red Keep, as her elder sister's companion and Ser Domeric Bolton from the North.

Their Lady Mother, the Queen, was furious at the attack and all surviving children of Balon Greyjoy were taken from the Iron Islands to be fostered. Mother demanded that the squids should be cut from the sea for their entire lives, or at least as long as their father lived. Theon Greyjoy was sent to the Vale, his sister the Lady Asha was sent to Winterfell, the Lady Yara, her twin, to Dorne and to Hellholt. The last one made her mother almost giddy, and Myrcella heard her say to one of her Ladies that she hoped that the Dornish sun would shrivel and dry the squid girl for daring to spill Lannister blood, just as her sister's blood would freeze up in the savage North.

Yunan handed her the potted plant; the plant looked like a pretty pink and green sea urchin, covered by white gossamer hair. "This plant, Eli said that it needs to be planted in dry rocky soil," he said, giving the instructions. Then she held another with stately white and blue flowers and with wide leafs; they were as big as her father's palm! "This one can grow ten meters tall, and needs lots of space. They grow in Sindria as a tree, …"

Another pot joined the two this one had large star shaped petals of bright lilac and pink blooms, with sharp and pointy strap shaped dark green leaves. "This is your sister's favorite flower," Yunan had said, "Elenei has those planted on her balcony."

 


 

 

 

***Tysha***

Four years after Greyjoy Rebellion – Casterly Rock

 

Tysha was resting on the fluffy feather bed; she just had just given birth to her husband's child, just like she did with Sabrina. This time it was a boy.

"Are you ..." Tyrion's hesitant voice brought her back to wakefulness.

"I'm all right, m'lord," she mumbled sleepily. "Did you see our boy?"

Tyrion nodded. "Maester says that he is a picture of health."

"I'm glad. How is our daughter?"

Tyrion chuckled, "She is piling up books that she will read to him. Even when I said that little Loreon is but a baby and he won't understand a word."

Tysha smiled, even if they had to move to Casterly Rock from King's Landing. The Spider informed Tyrion that the Queen intended to give Tysha the same potion Tyanna of the Tower gave the Black Brides. Tyrion's own sister wanted for her own blood to be born deformed. It was fortunate that Sabrina's nameday gift from Princess Elenei, that she brought from Dorne, sensed the poison in Tysha's meal.

Tysha was furious at the little desert fox when the animal spilled the soup all over the carpet – but then Tyrion noticed that soup was curdling into lumps of jelly when it got cold. After that letter was sent to Tywin Lannister, he gave the marching orders for his son to return to Casterly Rock. That was a bit distressful for Tysha when her godfather measured her with his cold eyes – she remembered the same cold eyes of that … night.

Only the hand of her husband that was holding her, and Lady Genna Lannister's kind and encouraging smile, reminded Tysha that Lord Tywin Lannister knew nothing of the mummers show of disguising a simple crofters daughter into Lady of Quality.

"Remind me dear husband to give Roxy fresh milk with honey and egg," she rasped, "in thanks."

Tyrion's mismatched eyes glinted. "Oh yes," he humored her. She knew that watching the little desert fox brought him pain, after all it came from his niece that disappeared during the Greyjoy rebellion.

Then he sighed, "I know I'm distressing our daughter with my, admittedly unreasonable, manner toward her pet." He ran his hand through his hair in a nervous habit. 

Chapter Text

 

***Qarl the Maid**

 

Iron Islands -Months before rebellion-

 

Euron was standing by the window, looking out at the sea with his arms clasped behind his back, when Qarl entered.

"So did you enjoy my niece?" Euron asked before the young man could say anything.

Repressing the irritation, he gave a short bow to his lover's uncle. "Lord Euron ..." Qarl really wanted to tell him that it was none of his business what Asha Greyjoy and he were doing, but he was interrupted again.

"It’s Captain Euron," Lord Euron insisted; he sounded vexed, "never mind if Asha wants to do what Asha wants to do, it means nothing to me."

Then why was he opening the conversation like that; what was more, why call him at all?

"I have a mission for you," Euron stated, "Normally, I would send one of my own crew but they all lack one attribute for this task."

Qarl mentally scoffed; they lacked the ability to talk, he thought. "And the task is?" he asked his Lord’s brother.

"You shall travel to the Stormlands, specifically Estermont Island. There you will learn the layer of the keep and keep track of Princess Elenei Baratheon whereabouts."

 

***Weeks later***

 

Qarl was missing Asha already. But he supposed having been given an infiltration mission for raid held a certain honour among the raiders, and as a grandson of a thrall that had only just elevated his position among the Ironborn, but this mission was sanctioned by Asha's Lord Father, King Balon Greyjoy. Qarl had no choice but to accept the mission given to him by Captain Euron. That meant that he was alone here on Estermont island and was currently spying on a little girl, considering that she hadn't flowered at her two and ten years yet. Asha flowered at ten, and she had a womanly figure unlike this coltish slip of a child he was watching from the cliff.

Qarl missed Asha in ways that was not fit of either an Ironborn or a grandson of a thrall. He still remembered how he came to serve on Lady Asha Greyjoy’s ship, Black Wind, and how she called his attempt at growing a beard ‘peach fuzz'; at the time he didn't even know what a peach was. Asha had showed him the world; together they traded with the Fair Isles, Lannisport, and Arbor – there he sampled peaches for the first time, and Asha and he had become lovers they also took to raiding Stepstones and Lyseni pirates.

 

 

***Euron Greyjoy – 1***

 

 

Iron Islands 296 AC

-Beginning of Greyjoy's Rebellion-

 

 

Euron was standing on the cliff overlooking the harbour where his galley Silence was anchored.

 

Its black sails were folded, and the dark red hull glittered ominously in the blue sea. The other Ironborn ships were anchored around the Silence, his fleet that he'd command in the war to come. Perhaps he should think about his personal coat-of-arms, a Kraken was all well and good, but he wanted people to recognize him on sight. Pity that his brother forbade that the other ships’ crew would be silenced – as there would probably be a mutiny; Euron hated when Balon was right. Ahh bless the silence, nobody talked back at you; there was just the murmur of the sea, and he loved that sound.

 

He always set himself apart from his brothers, by personal appearance and by the way he commanded his ship. Image was important. So he made sure that his clothes were the best quality an Iron Price could buy. He made sure that his beard and mustache were neatly trimmed close to his skin, and his hair was at a length that was practical and suited him.

 

Euron decided then and there that he would attack the Stormlands’ coast – for his informants told him that there was a silver doe among the turtles. Euron’s Green Rock Wife would be important – pity that the older one got shipped to Dorne. But no matter – Balon could keep his Sea Throne and crown made of driftwood and iron – Euron would swap being a brother to Balon the Iron King, for the Iron Throne and to shut up other regions he’d get the Baratheon Princess for a wife – styled as the Green Rock Wife.

 

A thin smile pulled on his lips as he thought of the battles to come. Which aligned to his battle plans, he and his portion of the Ironborn fleet would attack the coast and islands of the Stormlands. His sea blue eyes looked in the distance when salty wind pulled on his long black hair – at last, Euron thought – the Iron Fleet would be the dread on the greenlanders’ lips. At last they would rule the seas and all would tremble before the) Ironborn just as they trembled before the Dragons when they came and conquered the whole of Westeros. The Dragons were gone – their rule broken by the Stags, Wolves, and Trout’s.

 

And while his future – hostage, he should say little doe was a tad too young to be anything else, at the moment she had the resemblance more akin to dragons than either to stags or lions. She'd be easy to control – she was but a girl of two and ten, and while having her as a hostage he’d made sure that his future wife would be baptized by Priests of the Drowned God. Then all he had to do was kill all her other relatives and then he'd be King of Westeros and the Seas!

 

Since Euron's elder brother Balon took Pyke after their father had died in Robert's Rebellion, they had been plotting. Balon thought it was all his idea – to crown himself as King of the Iron Islands. In actuality Euron was dropping tiny hits – polishing the pride of being an Ironborn and having Drowned Priests preaching the Old Way – getting rid of septons and septas and maesters. Well perhaps the maesters could be as useful as the thralls, tending to the sick and wounded and attending women while they laboured in the bed of blood.

 

"Here you are, brother."

 

"Victorian." His stupid brother, Euron thought as he turned to regard the man. Victorian was tall and broad at the chest and narrow from the waist down, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a sharp shaven face. In battle he always wore full armour, as he had no fear of drowning, and was as dumb as a post and easy to manipulate for Euron. He wielded a battle axe in battle and had an enormous helm in the shape of a kraken.

 

"Congratulations of your nuptials," Euron said to his brother, who inclined his head.

 

Victorian took a Rock Wife a year ago - finally, as Euron thought that his stupid brother would forever be a cherry boy. She was of House Drumm – and round as a drum too and just as stupid as Victorian. They made a nice pair of dullards.

 

"Thank you, brother," Victorian said. Euron raised one black eyebrow then he felt approaching steps. Looking down he saw his youngest nephew – Theon. Balon's youngest, born in 280 on the same day when the Baratheons died in that shipwreck. An good omen for his young nephew.

 

"Uncle Euron."

 

"Hmm?" he prompted the lad of eight and ten – he was proficient with a bow but he wouldn’t take part in the raiding or in this rebellion; he and his sisters, Asha and Yara, would sit this war out on Pyke. Much for both the annoyance of his nephew and nieces – Asha had her own ship; that she commanded the Black Wind and Yara, but somebody had to stay home.

 

Asha was defying the conventions – but at the same time the woman of one and twenty, still unwed, was more Ironborn than her two older brothers. This was fascinating to Euron. Now she would make some lucky Ironborn a fine life companion. If only he could find a woman like that!

 

"Is it true what Marlon says, that you sailed all the way to the ruins of Valyria?" Theon asked, his murky blue eyes curious.

 

Euron looked at the sky in irritation; Maron had been telling tales again to the lad of six and ten.

 

"I sailed to the shores of old Valyria and found a dragon egg and a dragon horn," Euron started to tell the starry eyed youth. His nephew and niece were very much like his Lord Father, their grandfather.

 

***Coasts of Stormlands***

 

 

They sailed in the dead of night, nearing a blinking red light – located on the island Greenstone where Qarl sailed two months ago to make sure that their target was at the place where she could be picked up, before the alarms were raised. It would not do if the Silver Doe escaped into the Keep.

 

Euron elected to stay on his ship and sent only a small group of six men, including Qarl, that made six companions to grab the Princess and bring her aboard his brother’s galley.

 

 

 

***Badr – 4***

 

 

Estermont Island 296 AC

 

 

Weather here was different than it was in Partevia. But he had more resources as well – beside the fish, the sea around Estermont was full of crabs and shells and sea turtles – there were also pearl bearing shells. Sometimes the fishermen banded together to catch a whale or a shark.

 

But now, Badr was fishing by the cove when the bells in the lookout tower started to toll, signalling an attack from the sea.

 

"Ahh it’s time." A familiar, gentle voice made Badr turn.

 

"Yunan?!"

 

The Ancient Magi was floating above the sea in the air, light as a feather. Soul butterflies or Rukh, and singing birds chirped around him.

 

"It’s time," Yunan repeated, while he pulled the rim of his pointy green hat and the songbirds took to the sky, to shade his eyes from the glare of the sun. Badr stared; he could not believe that the moment had finally come. Granted, he knew as soon as he had met Eli and her friend Tyene.

 

 

***295 Estermont Island***

 

 

When Badr cast his net he did not expect to pull in two females – one young girl and the other was a young lady, which were arguing on his boat. The Young Lady was dressed in some excuse for fabric that really did not hide anything. The Girl however had on some sort of two piece cloth covering her chest and lower region. And despite showing more skin, she was covered up.

 

"Well you are not any kind of fish," he remarked.

 

"We are not ..." came an indignant shout.

 

"Oh, I don't know –" a woman with golden hair and eyes blue as the sky purred, "we should take that as a compliment."

 

"This is the last time I let you talk me into going swimming." The girl blinked her sapphire eyes at him, her silvery curls floating like a veil behind her. She was familiar – in fact if she'd been a little older, and her hair shorter, Badr would think she was...

 

"Wouldn't you be, per chance … Badr?" she asked. At his nod, she continued, "So if I said the name 'Buffy,' would that mean anything to you?"

 

Badr's amber eyes widened in realization "You are...?"

 

The silvery blonde girl nodded. "The ones you are waiting for? Yes!" She pointed at her blonde companion. "This is Tyene Sand; in all-truth she is using another name, Aliandra Briar. I'm Elenei Baratheon, and sometimes I use the nickname 'Buffy' or ‘Eli.’"

 

"Well then," Badr smiled, giddy. He would see Esra, his wife, and his son who he hadn't seen since he was a mischievous and smart five year old – soon now. What are a couple of months more, or weeks even, of waiting for a reunion with his wife and son?

 

***Present***

 

 

"A young man grabbed Tyene and Elenei; I was hidden under the illusion of an old, one legged fisherman." Yunan smiled, “then I raised the alarm."

 

"We have to hurry then."

 

"Yes. Two friends are already on the way -" Yunan hummed, and then his soft blue eyes meet Badr's amber ones, "I'll send you to the Dungeon’s entrance, just wait there, and I'll bring the rest of them."

 

 

 

***Euron Greyjoy -2***

 

 

*** Later***

 

 

The two row boats docked by the Golden Storm, a longship that was captained by his brother, Aeron Greyjoy.

 

Aeron amused Euron greatly, especially when he heard what his brother wanted to mount as a ram for his ship. Pity Balon was such a cunt to threaten to hang Aeron, upside down, from the mast.

 

"Were you successful?" Aeron asked the lad when he climbed up from the rowboat, pretty as a maid – which was why the lad was called Qarl the Maid. The lad was the grandson of a thrall and was on his way to distinguishing himself as an excellent swordsman and raider. A true Ironborn.

 

"Yes, Captain Aeron, Captain Euron," the lad nodded in his direction in greeting. "We managed to capture the girl."

 

"Were you seen?"

 

"Only by a crippled fisherman; he lacks a leg, therefore we have time ..." Qarl hadn't managed to finish when the alarm went through the air – a piercing wail of a horn.

 

Aeron sucked in a lungful of air and bellowed, "All hands prepare for battle!"

 

His brother’s orders were quickly relayed throughout the ship … and signalled to other galleys, whose lights lit. It was useless to hide from the Greenlanders now that they were discovered.

 

"Sound the drums!" First Mate of Golden Storm shouted. The order was sounded through Euron's fleet. He was the Commander of this expedition, he and his brother were supposed to rave along the Stormland’s and Crowland’s coast after securing Euron's future wife – not that Balon was aware of that. Euron didn't even tell Aeron until they were at Estermont's Island.

 

Euron ignored the battle/raid preparations as he turned to the men that finished hauling two – females onto the ship. They had two burlap bags over their heads and tied at their waists.

 

"Let me see them," Euron commanded. Qarl the Maid waited for the men to push the two females into a sitting position on the deck and then untied the bags and revealed them.

 

Euron smiled, for the larger female was a beautiful woman with golden hair and blue eyes – an hourglass figure in a Dornish cut dress. The woman was a vision in white and silver; she would do nicely as a distraction while he waited for the little Princess to flower.

 

With that, he bent down and pulled the girl upwards so that Euron could inspect his future wife, unlike the Dornish woman, the girl-princess was dressed in greens and browns.

 

The little silver headed Princess was not struggling in his hold – he'd known that she'd be easy to control. He lifted her head by grabbing her hair and yanked her up. She was a pretty girl all right; she would definitely blossom into a beautiful woman.

 

"Now listen well, there will be no demands and no crying; you'll do exactly what I tell you, when I tell you." He really did not intend to remove her tongue, but well, if she had an annoying voice or could not be quiet when he told her – having a silent wife would not be amiss.

 

Suddenly a small hand grabbed his wrist. "Sorry, Captain Hook wannabe, not happening."

 

Twisting it, she slipped under him, and suddenly his back hit the deck. His hand throbbed … Sparing a moment, he looked to find that three of his fingers were bleeding stumps.

 

"Do not mess with my hair! Or clothes, got it?!"

 

She had a pretty voice too – and she cut off his fingers … and was that his Valyrian steel she was pointing at him.

 

"Only if you'd been Captain Jack Sparrow," she added as an afterthought, while parrying two sailors, and kicked a bucket into the third.

 

What was she talking about – and who was this Jack Sparrow?

 

As he watched, one of his crew members grabbed her by the hair – in one swift movement, the Princess twisted – her scalp must have burned and slashed upward with her – stolen from him short sword.

 

The sword sliced his man from the waist in a upwards diagonal motion to the throat – she lost her plait to that slash since her braided hair was still being held in the dead man’s hands.

 

Pausing for a heartbeat, the girl regarded the carcass, then shifted her stance and faced the oncoming crew members.

 

"Squid," she muttered, and then palmed her face while nailing Asha's former lover in the groin – Qarl folded, whimpering; she did that without looking, Euron might add.

 

"I should have freaking known. Need to inform Tara, now."

 

With that, she grabbed a small dagger, from her boot, and threw it beside the blonde woman, who then used that knife to free herself and then – where did the blonde got those thin throwing knives?

 

"Tyene!" the Princess called out to the blonde -Tyene who threw some kind a glass vile that shattered by the attacking men's feet, releasing greenish smoke; the men fell down like flies.

 

"Give me some room!"

 

"Will do!" Tyene yelled back, as she pulled throwing knives from her sleeves and threw them at the advancing men. Each blade met its mark.

 

Euron however was too busy watching his future wife to care to join in on the attempts to restrain either one. They would tire eventually; the Princess was young yet and she had many things to learn about being his wife and later Queen Consort. He'd enjoy teaching her.

 

Reluctantly, he tore his gaze away to look at how the Dornishwoman was doing, if the men had managed to circle the blonde woman – but no they hadn't restrained her – she was killing them with her throwing knives.

 

As Euron watched, the men who were killed by knives slicing their throats were his crew members that came from the Silence; Euron frowned – he gave them explicit orders to stay put and prevent any ship from Estermont from reaching the Golden Storm and rescuing the Princess. If those men were not dead, he'd hang them from the main mast!

 

A sudden scream went through the air; Euron turned to see a strange creature – a female, that was broad-chested and flat, with coarse features, and she just ran through one of Aeron’s crewmen and beheaded the other with a broadsword that she wielded in one hand, in one smooth swoop.

 

The Ugly Blue Giantess – that must have been Brienne of Tarth, the only child of Lord Selwyn Tarth; Euron had heard about that one.

 

His one eyed gaze went back to his little Silver Warrior Princess, who was now swinging on the ropes, and kicked some of the crew into the sea.

 

During a brief moment, he saw her hesitate – she was looking at something in the sea. For a moment Euron wondered if sharks had come to feast on the men that had fallen overboard...

 

Euron tilted his head when 'his wife' picked up an empty bottle; he thought that she'd break it and use the glass shards as a weapon. But no, she dunked it into the cheap alcohol barrel, the barrel where they left medicinal herbs to steep in alcohol. They used that alcohol to treat wounds and open sores, not to mention rope burns, and on his ship, the Silence, it was used to rinse the mouth after tongue removal.

 

Pulling her arm out of the barrel, retrieving the half full bottle, she then put a rag in and lit it... and then threw the bottle, so that it impacted with a wooden mast.

 

The mast caught fire like dry straw.

 

The men rushed to put out the fire and Euron started to move to stand up.

 

"The ship is sinking!"

 

"Every man for himself!"

 

 

***Aeron Greyjoy***

 

 

 

Aeron was holding onto driftwood, waiting in the water with his brother Euron for the crew of the Silence to pull him and the rest of the surviving men out of the water. His longship Golden Storm was a sad charred husk, sinking behind them.

 

Balon was wrong to stop him, maybe if the battering ram Aeron wanted to mount in the first place had been accepted than maybe it would be possible to put out the fires. But no – Balon wanted a kraken on the prow; anything else would be unseemly. And now his poor ship sunk. He needed a drink.

 

"I think I'm in love." Euron's voice was breathless, and he was grinning madly, while droplets of blood dripped from his nose, where the little princess had punched him.

 

"Brother, there is something wrong with your head. The child of two and ten just sank my ship, and cut off your fingers with your own Valyrian dagger, and you are in love with her?"

 

Euron, the crazy idiot, just smiled and Aeron promised himself that he would make himself scarce if Euron actually found This One again – Aeron may not be a history expert but when Ironmen mess with a Dragon, well just look at what happened with Harren Hoare and Harrenhal, and what happened today with his poor ship.

 

A keep taken by the flames, and now his ship, all thanks to the silver haired, violet eyed dragon wielding fire. Never mind that this time the Dragon was disguised as a Stag and she did not have a fire breathing beast, or the whole fleet would have burn, Aeron was sure, and he thanked the Drowned God for that mercy.

 

"Just think brother ..." Euron started to drone on about his high flying plans. He sighed, now his little brother would be unbearable – perhaps Aeron should rethink his life; he loved singing, drinking and dancing and partying and fighting and horse riding - perhaps he should fund a sellsword company, only one that would be for hire as a ship as well... all he knew was that he had enough of this! Perhaps his Lord Father was onto something with looking for alternative ways to live than raiding the Greenlands.

 

Because if Balon lost, and it’s a high probability that he would, Aeron had had enough of his older brothers; he'd find his own way.

 


 

 

***57 DUNGEON: Osé ***

 

 

 

After some aggressive negotiation on Greyjoy’s ship, as Her Grace called it, they jumped from the sinking and engulfed in fire longship; one moment they were swimming towards the shore and in a blink of an eye they were standing in some sort of cave.

 

"Well," Princess Elenei drawled, "this is new." Then she turned to face him, her expression a bit peevish.

 

"Dom’s being polite again?"

 

The statement was formed as a question; Domeric sighed. "There is nothing wrong with being curtly, Your Grace."

 

Not that Domeric adhered to this when it was just them. Gods did he miss Sam at this point; his smarts would be welcomed, but there was Lady Aliandra and Lady Tarth. And Badr who never acted as a member of the smallfolk – for one, he could read and he was a skilled orator; in addition he walked like a warrior, the fact that he had only one leg meant little.

 

"Dom, Badr won’t care. I don't care. We just left a burning ship where we pretty much kicked the Ironborns’ collective asses. In fact, can we please dispense with formalities?"

 

"I could not agree more," Lady Aliandra added to Elenei's words. "Also my name is not Aliandra of House Briar, but Tyene Sand, daughter of Prince Oberyn Martell."

 

At that Brienne of Tarth, who somehow was known to the Princess Elenei and got commissioned as her sworn sword – Elenei had yet to explain why she insisted on them going to Sapphire Island a couple of months ago – other than meeting Lady Brienne and taking her into her service put herself between the princess and Tyene.

 

"Brienne" Elenei put a calming hand on the Lady's leather plated shoulder "please stand down. I’ve known who she is since the very beginning. In fact now you Lady Brienne Tarth and Ser Domeric Bolton have a decision to make. Tyene?" With that, the princess motioned the, now revealed, Sand forward.

 

"The reason why I will be staying with the Princess ..." Here the Princess made a small hem, hem noise. "Eli" Princess Elenei nodded in approval "is because after the tourney that took place in Highgarden, my father came home with letters written by my Aunt’s, Princess Elia Martell, hand. In them she wrote that she, and her children, was saved by a four and ten girl with Targaryen colouring but with a strand of black in her silver hair; in addition the girl introduced herself as their cousin, Eli."

 

Then before they could say anything or question anything, the princess herself continued the tale. "The letters were discovered by my elder sister Argella and I in a walled room. All were addressed to Doran and Oberyn Martell, but one – one letter was addressed to me, written by my own hand, and it described some of the events that would lead to future me meeting the Princess of Dorne such as: King Robert sending his eldest daughter to Dorne and his next to Estermont island along with her Dornish lady in waiting where she'd meet a man named Badr and encounter the Greyjoy Rebellion."

 

"I can infer that this Dungeon is part of it?" Domeric asked shrewdly, "and judging by Eli’s mention that Lady Brienne and I have to make a decision, we are not listed in that letter?"

 

"That is correct." Elenei nodded, "I know that myself and Tyene and Badr will be alright, but I cannot guaranty what will happen to you two if you pass through the Dungeon gates."

 

Brienne kneeled. "I made a promise of fealty, of my sword and shield, to you, my Princess, and I hold to it."

 

"You should know before you make a decision that we will be absent for many years from Westerosi shores, and your futures if you stayed - Brienne would go on to serve my Lord Uncle Renly, as his personal guard, and Domeric, if you return to the North, you'll die of poison or so the rumours said, because of your half brother Ramsay, who has inherited all of Bolton’s characteristics of cruelty without mercy and none of the restraint your Lord Father possesses."

 

Domeric looked around to the other people present, as he was thinking over Elenei's words, as Brienne reaffirmed her vows, determined to follow. Domeric applauded the woman's loyalty and honour. As a pragmatic man however – returning North forewarned changed things. He may be a nicer Bolton but he was a Bolton, and he could still hire people to bundle up his half-brother straight to the Wall upon his return to Dreadfold.

 

Finding proof of Ramsay's misdeeds toward innocent smallfolk would not be too hard, not if he really does the more barbaric Bolton traditions of flaying men alive. Domeric did not doubt Elenei's opinion of Ramsey as she had no reason to tell tales, besides she was his friend – almost a younger sister to him. 

 

Still, going on an adventure with the Princess Elenei that would take him far beyond the known world had a certain appeal. A thought occurred to him, was it possible that Badr was actually from the land beyond the horizons of the known world? And he knew Princess Elenei and Lady Aliandra – no Lady Tyene often went to visit the odd man.

 

On some occasions Domeric joined them, and sometimes he met with Badr on his own. Domeric was a good judge of character, and when he met Badr for a first time, he thought him odd, but pragmatic and honourable and literate – sometimes Domeric had a feeling that he might not be a simple fisherman. In any case, Badr was somebody Domeric found that he could admire; in his weakest moments he even wished that Badr was his Lord Father. He certainly respected Roose Bolton but he could safely say that he didn't hold any 'fluffy' feelings toward the man.

 

"Here," and a feminine looking man put two bundles into his hand, "it’s your harp and sword; you will need this."

 

Unwrapping the leather, he noticed that, yes, it was in fact his sword and his small harp … "How did you get this? And who are you?" and how did you know I decided to go?

 

"My name is Yunan; I'm a traveller." Then he waved his fishing rod in the direction of stairs, "The only way out of this cave is through there."

 

"Yunan," the Princess called. Domeric blinked at her attire; she was now wearing leather pants and boots combined with a leather jacket – and her hair was at a very short length, and she had a belt with a long dagger around her waist. She looked like a boy.

 

"Can you explain the Dungeon to me? And what Magi are? Badr says that that's what you are."

 

Brienne stepped forward; she wore the same leather clothing as the Princess and Lady Briar, but she also had some blue plated armour along with a helmet in her hand, something she hadn't been holding before. In addition to the weapons, he found his long daggers, and Elenei held an ironwood longbow with a full quiver of arrows – come to think of it, their clothing should be wet, but it was not. Domeric suspected that this Yunan the Magi was the culprit of these miraculous and welcomed events.

 

"Ahh yes," Yunan smiled – they were all standing by the entrance – entrance to what? "Magi? Magi's job is to select a King Vessel and lead their vessels to become king. He or she can then change the fates’ flow and there are only three of us in the world."

 

Then he pointed first at the princess and then at the one legged fisherman. "Both of you have the ability to support a Djinn and become a King Vessel, but first you need to get to the Treasure Room and -"

 


 

 

***&***

 

 

As Yunan was explaining about the Dungeon and Magi and Rukh – who could have thought that the butterflies that sometimes appeared and chirped, that nobody but Tara, Mavis, and herself could see were called Rukh - Buffy was giving Yunan a suspicions look. The way he talked about how a Magi's job was kinda like Merlin’s to King Arthur kinda deal, the way the guy was inching away – she had a feeling that he usually shrinks the 'guiding the King' part.

 

That and what future her wrote on her cheat note from the future/past. Yunan was a bit more helpful than say Whistler was in her previous life, but that didn't say much about Yunan – since Whistler only dropped one measly cryptic message then disappeared and he was never seen by her again.

 

What surprised her were the two additions. The Cheat Note said that only three people would be travelling across the world to a continent, far, far away. Only Badr, Tyene, and herself were written down – and Yunan but he was well established in the Dungeon, so he hardly counted, but Domeric and Brienne?

 

Those two were unexpected additions – she only hoped that their decision to join in this adventure spanning the whole world wouldn’t bring some unwelcome changes – like a different path, but then again the letter was pretty specific about what needed to happen. First trick Yunan into trading favours; he must raise a specific Dungeon for 'stupid funky hair pain in the ass, melon head' whoever that was. She sounded irritated when she wrote this.

 

 


 

 

***&***

 

 

 

"Ehh?" Yunan blinked at Elenei Baratheon – the one who carried the same name of his very first chosen King Vessel’s daughter …

 

"Well" she smiled up at him "you can explain the details on the way."

 

Before Yunan could react to the casual arm that landed on his shoulder, it became a headlock, and he was hurled through the dungeon gate.

 

He was staring at the ominous blue ball suspended in the black nothingness that he was hurling though – he closed his eyes so hard that he could see red behind his eyelids.

 

"No, no, no..." he chanted, "I don't want to go through the Dungeon!"

 

Suddenly he was falling and arms wrapped around him in a warm hug – it made him feel better.

 

"Sorry Yunan," Elenei's soft voice murmured in his ear, "but future I said you have to, that many events hinge on it."

 

Yunan blinked his eyes open to meet the girl’s his King Candidate's dark, soft, sapphire eyes. "I can promise you however that you won’t make another Dungeon dive, and you'll always have your own spot to have peace and quiet wherever you live."

 

"Promise?"

 

"I promise.”

 

"Eli, you mean child, you pulled me into a Dungeon."

 

"And it is in your Magi job description, isn’t it – to guide your King Candidates, meaning guide, and not dump into a DUNGEON-"

 

"So mean!"

 

"And after you raise the 17th Dungeon for somebody that I call Idiot Hair Melon Head, you don't need to deal with people anymore."

 

Yunan blinked, that made sense. After all, the future version of Elenei Baratheon and Sinbad from Tison village did visit him at the Great Riff and left Badr in his care – with …. But they didn't inform him about being forced into a Dungeon. Yunan pouted – why did he pick a couple of King Vessels that were so mean to him?

 

This meant that Botis, Djinn that can manipulate Time and Sand, could only be Sinbad’s Djinn. But then Ugo did mention that a Magi can lead to three people with the ability to read the flow of Rukh through the people they interacted with, and fix the problems in the currents of Fate. Out of three that he chose, Sinbad had the highest level of needed Rukh sensitivity.

 

 


 

***&***

 

When Brienne of Tarth was asked to join with her Lord Father from their overlord Lord of Estermont island, Lord Mycheall, grandfather of King Robert, Brienne thought that her petition to not be Lady in Waiting to Princess Elenei would be accepted upon seeing her unsuitability and lack of desire for such a position. Her Lord Father and she were surprised when the Princess praised Brienne's prowess with martial arts. She called her Lady Knight, that she should be held in high esteem for her skills with a sword, her honour, and her chivalry.

 

She could recall that moment, though a year and a month had passed, clearly, and it all started when her Lord Father sent for her; she was fresh from the bath when a maid knocked at the door of her chamber.

 

 

***295 Tarth island, Evenfall Hall***

 

 

Brienne was just finishing her fighting drill with the Master of Arms, Ser Goodwin, who her Lord Father commissioned to teach her. Lady-like things were awkward for her; she felt more at home in plate armour and with a sword and shield than in a gown and with a needle and thread. Besides she looked awful in a dress; she did not possess a feminine figure. She was too tall, and still growing at ten and five, no six; it was her sixth and tenth nameday today. She was already as tall as Ser Goodwin, and just as heavy and broad shouldered, and much to her relief also flat chested. It would be a nightmare if she had a fuller bosom.

 

"Milady," a maid called from the door, "your Lord Father is expecting you in the Blue solar."

 

"I will be right there," she called and then pulled on doeskin pants, a linen shirt, and blue gambeson, and belted it with a leather and steel belt with a dagger on the side.

 

When she entered her father’s solar, he wasn't alone; standing there was a bald man with a spotted head, a hawk nose, and of proud bearing.

 

"Ser Humfrey Wagsraff, may I present to you my daughter Lady Brienne," Lord Swlyn introduced to him. Brienne almost turned around on her heels and marched right out. She knew why this man was here; this was another one of her father’s attempts to find her a husband.

 

"Well, daughter, I have to pen some letters. Lord Renly's nameday celebration is approaching so I have to see to the gift for our Lord Paramount; there is also a correspondence from Lord Estermont. Take care of Ser Wagsraff, won’t you, dear?"

 

Brienne frowned; she might not be proficient in politics, but father looked like he would not begrudge her if she'd turned this suitor down.

 

"So, my Lady, we are betrothed. I expect you to wear only dresses when we wed in a fortnight, or you'll be severely chastised if you won’t be at your proper place as my wife."

 

"Ser, I will accept any punishment from a man that can beat me in a fight and no other," Brienne stated, her chin held high. Ser Humfrey's face turned dark purple in anger. After a minute of sputtering, the man scowled at her.

 

"Very well, my Lady, I will fight you, but we will fight with blunted weapons of my choice. You, milady will wield a mace, while I will fight with a sword, and when I win, I'll teach you a woman's proper place."

 

"As you wish – I'll take my leave now to prepare."

 

With that, she went back to her room and donned her practice armour – Ser Humfrey probably thought that she only played with swords, and he would be in error to think that. She was receiving the same level of training a young squire did … or a knight, since she could swing un-blunted weaponry.

 

When she came to the training field, her opponent was not there – and that was good, she would have time to choose the perfectly balanced weapon, which was important in any fight.

 

When the man finally arrived, he marched to the rack where the blunted swords were and just grabbed a random one. She decided not to say anything; he was old enough to know that he just made her victory easier.

 

"Well, Lady Brienne, I am ready."

 

As an answer, she donned her helmet and struck her mace on her shield. Ser Humfrey didn't bother with a large shield; he picked a wooden buckler – did he want his shield arm to be broken? Or did he think that she would be unable to swing a mace to its full effect, that she did not have the arm strength required to swing a mace?

 

He charged her and brought down his sword with both hands, to lend strength to the blow? She caught his strike on her shield, deflecting the blow like a raindrop; it hadn't hurt. In terms of the strength of the blow, Ser Humfrey was not a strong fellow. As Ser was adjusting his follow up blow, this time from below, she hit him with the but of her mace just below his shoulder armour – where it was the weakest. At his yelp she followed up with two quick blows with the mace to his torso.

 

As Ser Humfrey fell she planted her foot between his shoulders; it was then that she heard clapping. Brienne turned, still holding Ser Humfrey down with her foot on his back, to see a girl dressed in the Stormlands’ fashion.

 

"That was wonderful!" Then the unfamiliar girl turned to Ser Humfrey, "I think there are two lessons for you right there, Ser – women can weather pain better; try to birth a child through an opening smaller than your brain, if you need a reminder. And second, a more skilled warrior woman can and did just break your ribs and collarbone."

 

Ser Humfrey glared at her, "You ..."

 

"Are absolutely correct," the girl smiled, "Am I not, gramps?" With that, she turned to the tall, white bearded man in Estermont livery.

 

"Correct," the man said – no it was Mycheall of House Estermont of Greenstone and King Robert's grandfather on his mother’s side. She met him a year ago when he came to see her father.

 

"Ser Humfrey," Lord Mycheall said, "I believe you’ve overstayed your welcome with Lady Brienne. Besides, my great-granddaughter has decided to employ Lady Brienne as her shield. I must say," With that he turned to Brienne herself, "that I now believe that you are a chivalrous, honourable young knight – Lady Brienne, kneel."

 

Brienne kneeled, and Lord Mycheall drew his sword and first touched her right shoulder. "Lady Brienne, do you vow to defend the weak, obey your lord, and uphold the honour of your House? Do you vow to obey the laws of the Seven Kingdoms and your King? "

 

Brienne bowed her head, scarcely believing that this was happening to her. "So I vow."

 

The sword touched her left shoulder. "Then I, Mycheall Estermont, Lord of Greenstone, dub you, before all witnesses here, a knight. Rise Knight Brienne of Tarth."

 

"Let me be the first to congratulate you for winning your spurs," said the girl – no it was Princess Elenei Baratheon! How could Brienne not have noticed the silver hair and that shot of dark that the Silver Princess was so known for?!

 

"Let me offer salutations as well," a woman with a Dornish accent drawled. Brienne felt a pang of uneasiness, as the Lady was so dainty and naturally graceful and beautiful with her sapphire eyes and long golden hair; she looked like the Maiden in the flesh.

 

Then there was a pale and dark haired girl with dark brown eyes; she wore dark brown leathers and a belt with a long dagger. She was smiling at her. "Glad to find another shieldmaiden and warrior-woman South of the Neck. They are rarer here than direwolves. I'm Lyra Mormont of the North; this is Samwell Tarly from the Reach."

 

"He- hello," Tarly stammered. "Congratulations on y-your match." Brienne could feel that his earnest words were true, and she felt sympathetic at Lord Samwell's stammer, as she had the same thing when she was but two and ten when she could not greet her betrothed, Ser Ronnet Connington. The head of the House of landed knights of Griffin Roast was then ten years her senior and she was the same size as him and looked huskier. He gave her a single rose and told her that this rose would be all she'd have of him.

 

"Your Grace, my Lord of Greenstone." Her father came to them, giving a proper bow to the Princess of Royal Blood and then to the Lord of Estermont island.

 

"Mycheall, please, Selwyn we did squire together."

 

"Ahh and here I thought that having a grandson sitting on the Iron Throne would be beneath you to converse with the lowly knight you squired with."

 

Lord Estermont’s white and bushy brows drew together, and he threw a quelling look at her Lord Father. "Oh that is bold of you, Sel, do you want to chide me of something?"

 

"You don't write you don't come to a visit ..." her father said in a mournful tone, but his eyes were full of mirth. "I should be offended, Mych, that you forget your friend so."

 

"Still a mummer man, aren't you?" groused Lord Mycheall, while her father laughed quietly, "I was busy making sure that Robert didn’t blunder and turn rug-shot all over Jon Arryn and all of the Seven Kingdoms. And it would be easier to teach cats to sing like nightingales. Arryn is completely indulgent to my daughter’s youngest brat."

 

 

***Present***

 

 

Nobody praised, except her own father, Brienne for being herself, nobody but Princess Elenei and her retainers – and Brienne sworn her sword and shield to the Baratheon Princess in truth. She had made friends in Samwell Tarly of the Reach and stood witness for his wedding to another friend of hers, Lyra Mormont.

 

Now she was standing in a place straight out of the legends of old, the Stormlands knew the legend of Durran Godsgrief and his bride, the daughter of the Sea God Osé and the Goddess of Wind, Sytry. And now Brienne was standing in a place where, according to this Yunan character, the power that Osé could grant was locked in the heart of this structure- but first either Her Grace or Badr would have to earn it by clearing the Dungeon.

 

"Ahh," Yunan gained her attention, "do you need your armour? I have it here..." and true enough suddenly she was clad in her deep blue cobalt custom made steel armour and felt the familiar feel of her own velvet, doublet quartered rose-and-azure breeches and boots and a fine-tooled sword belt that held a fine double edged broadsword and a larger buckler with the quartered sun-and-moon heraldry of House Tarth engraved and painted on the shield’s surface.

 

As she was thanking Yunan, who was admiring the picture of her heraldry, the Princess and Badr were standing by a slab of stone – on the stone there were some strange writings.

 

Suddenly an arm wrapped around Yunan’s neck. "Surrender or the he-whore dies!"

 

"So mean!" Yunan wailed.

 

The three men that flanked the man that held Yunan hostage were clearly Ironborn raiders, through they were not well armed. They only held sticks and daggers.

 

"Ahm," Brienne heard the Princess comment in a deadpan voice, "I wonder if it’s wise to take hostage a person who can turn you into sea slugs?"

 

"Not very smart, no." Badr nodded, smiling slightly, which made the Ironborn holding the Magi swallow and shift a bit, while the others shifted slightly away from them...

 

"What a bunch of idiots – also they are wide opened for ..."

 

The Ironborn yelped and released the Magi as he was hit by scalding water, and a sphere circled the blonde man.

 

"This" Princess Elenei nodded, and then she turned to the still screaming man "could be worse; you could be cuttlefish right now."

 

"You three," Badr stated with steel in his voice that Brienne often heard her father command his soldiers with, "and the three who are not so quietly trying to circle us – do you want to live or die?"

 

"It is a simple question," Lord Domeric commented, while he casually pulled his sword out of his scabbard and faced the two that tried, and failed, to sneak up on them.

 

"To simple?" Badr asked his voice mild again, though not with the carefree tone that he had before.

 

It was the Princess who answered, casual but poised to deliver violence. "Nah, my three friends and I just torched their ship...and the ones here have no arms."

 

"All right." The Ironborn raised his hands; the rest of them came out of hiding. "It seems you have an advantage."

 

"Hey you? What’s your name, the one that took me and Tyene to that Captain Hook wannabee?"

 

Brienne blinked and wondered who her Princess was talking about, but it was Ser Domeric who asked. "Captain Hook?"

 

"From a story, he was a pirate captain with one eye covered with an eye-patch, and a boy of ten and two cut his hand and threw it to a lizard lion," the Princess explained off hand and without taking her eyes off of the Ironborn.

 

Ser Domeric nodded. "Apt." Brienne could agree; after all, the Ironborn Captain had an eye-patch and the Princess did cut off three or so of his fingers.

 

"Very, yes," the Princess nodded, "I'm still waiting for that name – or should I name you myself? How do you feel about being called Jan, Joan Janny, and Mr Gordo ..."

 

"I'm Qarl."

 

"Hello Karl."

 


 

 

***&***

 

 

Tyene Sand thought on all of this existing – right out of her father’s adventures stories, only with a lot more magic. She still kept a wary eye on the Ironborn that joined their group. She did not trust them, but at the moment they needed them – there were two boats, Badr called them canoes, anchored at the shore. The water however was a strange milky white colour.

 

"It appears to be Torran language," Badr said sometime later, after inspecting the writing on the wall. Trailing his eyes over the surface as he read … "But it’s odd..." he muttered.

 

"Badr," Elenei called from the back, "it appears to start on one side and continue on the other ..."

 

"What does it say?" Tyene asked, watching the slab of marble in wonder – no it wasn't marble, she decided as she ran her hand down the surface, feeling the indents of the words – Torran letters etched into the mother of pearl surface. How did people manage to put words into so fragile a surface; Tyene could not comprehend.

 

"Can you read the line on your side, and when you get to the cut off, you say"

 

"‘Cut off,’ and you'll continue?"

 

"Let’s make it just the word – Cut."

 

"Right, I'm starting," Badr announced, "In the clear blue water, here a helper for the end can be gained," he read out, "CUT."

 

And Elenei continued. "But take heed, do not take from the blue; look for the green heart. CUT."

 

As you travel down you must go up. CUT."

 

"Here you may find a friend for life however you need to listen for cries of help. CUT. "

 

"What looks like danger is false, what looks weak is not, take heed. CUT. "

 

"Beware of a merry tune, play and dance to your own song. CUT."

 

"Beware the salty shore, take head or you'll be cursed to stone. CUT."

 

"Beware of the long figures that lurk in shallow water or you'll drown in cold water. And End, “Elenei ended with the reading, "This sounds like instructions."

 

"Oh they are," Yunan nodded, "Going into the dungeon is dangerous and you cannot get out until it’s cleared."

 

"Any idea what those warnings mean-"

 

"Nope, I never went into any of the Dungeons, they are dangerous and loud and bright, and there are people in them. It’s good that you know Tran, or I'd have to translate and everyone would have stared at me."

 

"And that would be bad?"

 

"Yes."

 

"You are weird, you know that right?"

 

"Anyway, we gain nothing by arguing; we better get moving" Domeric noticed that the Ironborn already got into one – the bigger canoe and started rowing. "Well looks like we will take what’s left."

 

Badr just shrugged. "It’s sturdy and light and it balances well on the water; theirs might be bigger, but that is also its weakness. Besides good things come in smaller parcels, as my mother used to say."

 

"I finished taking notes of the Tran writing on the wall," Domeric said as he came to them; Yunan followed behind, almost hiding behind Brienne, "just in case we need to know the exact wording."

 

"Good thinking," the Princess praised him, "where did you get the parchment?"

 

"Yunan."

 

"Ahh, figures, thank you, Yunan."

 

"Welcome!" The man with the green pointy hat actually shined as he beamed a happy-childish smile. Tyene honestly could not place this person, one moment Yunan was like a child – happy, full of foibles and caprices and innocent. In the next, he was like a frightened Lady that jumped on a stool to avoid a bug, and sometimes he had an air of a wise and tired widower that had travelled the world.

 

The tentative peace settled between the two canoes as they followed the river around the bend. The water had gotten clearer; they could see the bottom, and the bottom was littered with blue colored stones. Sometimes she could almost see... But that was probably a trick of the light and nothing more. It was a strange thing however – she didn't see any sea life, no fish or other critters that populated the banks – birds and otters.

 

"Just to remind you all – do not take anything from the river -ANYTHING. Clear!" Elenei suddenly yelled – Tyene looked up from her spot where she was rowing to look down the boat – she was seated in the middle, Yunan sat right behind her, and Badr sat at one end of the canoe, steering the long boat, while Domeric sat just below the prow of the ship, in the lookout position, while Eli sat right behind him, followed by Brienne.

 

But Elenei's shoulders were tense, and Tyene could see that she was, probably, glaring daggers at the canoe before them.

 

Even from her position, Tyene heard the Princess mutter something that sounded like 'Red shirts' and 'cannon fodder'.

 

"Badr?" Princess Elenei suddenly asked. Tyene wondered what she wanted to say with just a name. Then the Princess turned – and Tyene could only marvel at the silent conversation taking place.

 

"If you can," Badr said. If you can? What?

 

Elenei shrugged, "I think I can – but only one."

 

"Do it if necessary."

 

Do what?

 


 

 

***&***

 

 

Buffy almost sighed – and no, the little ghost-y silhouettes that followed them under water like a pod of dolphins were not a danger, at least, so far her senses identified them as neutral. Like Clem in Sunnydale.

 

Or those butterfly thingies – Rukh that kept on chirping words. Sometimes they were annoying, like now when they giggled and fluttered about her chanting "Annoyed, annoyed" or when she was looking at Badr, they chirped "Pretty, Pretty, Candy"... that took all the fun out of her crushing on Badr. Sometimes they were helpful – like chipping about Karl "Good Boy," and sometimes they warned of something "Bad, Danger, Bad".

 

Back to these Water Ghost things – persons really; they were people shaped, male and female, completely translucent beings. They sometimes peaked out when a wave came up; they were right under the surface – but she just knew that the others could not see them. They kinda reminded her of baby seals – they had big and round watery eyes, and if she wagged her fingers a bit, they waved back. Rukh also giggled playfully around them.

 

Now if only the idiots in the first boat – and she could almost see that boat having a mini Titanic crisis sooner or later. Just because they worshiped quote the Drowned God un-quote that did not mean that they were experts on the Dungeon – she wasn't either but she was dreaming of this often enough to know what would probably happen, plus this was Indiana Jones’ style of things, only they were in a cave that somehow became a path – wormhole – that went between the worlds. Yunan said that Dungeons were located on Alma Torran, wherever that was.

 

What she gotten from that Tran inscription on the wall was that there were three levels – and this was suspiciously like a Dungeons and Dragons thing, fortunately Tara was sort of a fan of the game, and she 'played' it with Buffy; it was either that or Buffy would go insane from boredom when she was an infant and then a baby and then well into her toddler years. At least she felt great sympathy for teething children now; no wonder they cried when their teeth started to grow.

 

That was annoying as hell, like persistent irritation in her then toothless gums that was both painful and itchy and burning hot at the same time – fortunately Bella brought some shaved ice that she put in a piece of cloth and then formed a sort of bud that Tara and Buffy could gnaw at. Ice cooled their gums into pleasant numbness.

 

Her musings were interrupted when they landed next to the first boat that was rowed by the Ironborn – how they got here and when she didn't know, nor did she particularly care; if she was, she'd ask Yunan about it. She didn't, as it really did not matter. What mattered was that she already had to yell the reminder to not touch the water aka the blue that was mentioned at the beginning of the journey. They could only touch green stuff. As of now everything was in one or another shade of blue.

 

Sensing future trouble brewing as it was only a matter of time before some idiot in the other boat would do something stupid after all. In Karl's case, yes she knew his name was really Qarl, but potato-patato... one of his crewmates just pulled one of those ghosties out of the river.

 

She was on her feet and moving in an instant.

 

Just as well because she could see a bigger silhouette approaching – she noticed this creature in the murky waters when they passed the parts of the river where the bottom wasn't visible. Inky depths that swirled ominously showed a bear sized creature with flippers, a horse-like tail and walrus-like tusks, and shaped like a hairless koala. It was stalking them or there were more than just that one, either way, this creature was setting her 'Here be monsters' radar off like nothing else did.

 

"Idiot!" she yelled when she landed in the other boat, before the man could empty that bucket, and wrestled the barrel from the Ironborn’s hands. She threw it overboard, and then she grabbed Karl by the scurf of his neck.

 

Pulling him to his feet, she then threw the bottle that she hadn’t used up – and threw it in the maw that was just opening. The blast that resulted was just enough to catapult her and Karl off that boat just as a fin, the size of a galley, smashed the canoe into kindling.

 

Yunan used his magic to make sure that neither she nor Karl touched the water’s surface and safely guided them into their boat.

 

"What did Badr and I say?!" She whirled on Karl. "Did we not say that in no way should anybody pick up the shiny, blue things? Well Karl?" she asked and was really not impressed when Karl pulled a small knife – a dirk on her.

 

"My name is Qarl," Karl sneered, and waved threateningly with that blade – it was like a cuttlefish waving its tentacles at a sea otter.

 

"I did not ask you your name," Buffy gritted out and was a hair's breath away from kicking his ass off this boat. "We did tell you the do NOT'S and DO'S at the beginning of this journey and as soon as the first rule came up, you idiot squids – which is an insult to them since they have more brains than your lot ..."

 

"Silence!" the squid barked and then waved that dirk, his eyes mad and bloodshot – Buffy did not even need to think, she merely grabbed and twisted his wrist; the dirk fell from his fingers in the process – and then she pinned him down, his arm twisted around to his back and his face flat on the deck.

 

"First, don't wave sharp things at me, you'll poke your eye out – or cut a finger, just remember what happened to Euron, if you need an example of idiocy."

 

Then she frowned regarding her captive; she tilted her head and focused her hearing. "Caution, Danger, Sound," the Rukh chirped.

 

"But then again –" she said, calm and thinking, "you did not strike me as stupid. Does anybody else feel off kilter?" She looked around.

 

Tyene shook her head, while Brienne said, "No, your Grace. In fact I feel much safer here."

 

"Headache for me – and I feel a bit more angry," Badr offered, frowning – it appeared that something was influencing them now. Domeric frowned and nodded – Yunan just slid on the deck and almost disappeared under that hat of his – did that pointy hat somehow grow and swallow him up?

 

Just great. And she could almost hear a violin … wait! Rukh were chirping about sound.

 

"Does anybody hear music, a violin?" she asked.

 

"Yes, I hear a charming melody," Tyene said; Brienne nodded. Badr stilled then he looked at the green ball that was Yunan, took a breath, and …

 

"Yunan, we need wax, for our ears NOW," Badr yelled.

 

Yunan complied; it wasn't perfect but they were able to fight the influence. And they could see a man dressed in blue robes dancing and playing the violin. Around him there were merpeople - mermen and mermaids all singing a slow melody, a lullaby. That was so NOT GOOD! Cliché sure, but so not good.

 

Buffy turned to Dom next. "Domeric, can you play your harp and I'll sing something that will overpower this lullaby."

 

He pulled the harp out and Buffy started to sing – yeah it was not a song she wrote, nor was it one that was native to this world; it was however was a Fight Song. And that was most important. So she started to sing:

 

 

"Like a small boat

On the ocean

Sending big waves

Into motion"

 

 

It was ironic that she even recalled a song that mentioned water, but this was the song Dawn often hummed, and Buffy could not get rid of it. It stuck in her head and sometimes she even caught herself quietly singing it while on patrol. And after being brought here, she did not want to. It was one way to remember the pain in the ass – Pumpkin Belly Dawn that stole her clothes and gotten kidnapped every Tuesday.

 

"Like how a single word

Can make a heart open

I might only have one match

But I can make an explosion"

 

 

She didn't recall which singer sang this. Buffy knew that it was a she though– Buffy thought her name started with an R – Raquel, Rachelle, Rachel … she didn't recall. All she knew was that Dawn loved this song.

 

Domeric managed to catch the uplifting tune of the song as she sang, and she joined in with the ore she was rowing with, along with occasional stomp of her foot. She was glad he joined them on this adventure. In fact she never imagined that she'd ever like a person with the surname Bolton.

 

Domeric was practical, sometimes edgy, great with a sword – full of tricks when they spared. He kept her on her toes during them; he even hid his daggers in places even she wasn't aware of. She was glad to have a friend like him, and Domeric saw the value of Sam, that certainly gave him lots of brownie points.

 

Buffy would miss Samwell and Lyra; on the other hand, imagining Randyll Tarly's face and fit when Sam would come home with his wife, it made her cackle in evil glee. She made Lyra promise to write all about Randyll's reactions in detail to her and Tara.

 

 

 

"And all those things I didn't say

Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time?"

 

 

 

It had come as a relief though that this was finally happening. She had this dream for so long, and then she found that box with the letters and The Letter she herself had written in the future, but even that future had now changed somewhat – in the letter, it was only mentioned that Badr, Brienne, and herself entered the Dungeon, as well as Yunan getting dragged in, but there had been no mention of Tyene going with them and there was no Domeric Bolton either.

 

But she was glad of those changes; it meant that the future was not in any means written in stone. It was written with a pencil, and she could sometimes stretch it like a rubber band around a certain event. Now she only needed to find the other person. At first she thought that that Person was Badr; he had purple hair, but after a while, and after rereading the Letter, she came to the conclusion that the purple head was younger. A relative of Badr’s perhaps, maybe even his son … he might be the right age, even if Badr only recalled a ten year old.

 

 

 

"This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I'm alright song"

 

 

 

The violin and singing finally stopped, and after a while, the guy with the violin started to follow Buffy's song. Also a mermen and mermaids started to swim by the boat; it moved faster, forward, onward, even up the waterfall.

 

 

"My power's turned on

Starting right now I'll be strong

I'll play my fight song

And I don't really care if nobody else believes"

 

 

The water ghosts followed too, underwater.

 

 

"'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep

Everybody's worried about me

In too deep"

 

 

Yunan was smiling – and his hat was smaller and on his head where it belonged.

 

"But there's a fire burning in my bones

Still believe

Yeah, I still believe"

 

 

Badr was again steering the boat, and he had a small smile. It took a while for Buffy to figure out that he was smiling proudly – at her. That was new; she grew warm, and it had nothing to do with her small crush she had on Badr. It had been a while since an older guy was proud of her, in a way a father would be proud of his daughter.

 

Robert was useless as a father, even more than Hank ever was. Hank at least helped raise her until the divorce happened. Giles was more of an uncle, which never had children of his own, but then took a gaggle of teens on as a sort of mentor.

 

"Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time?"

 

 

Domeric was still playing, the flowing sound of his harp blending seamlessly with (the) violin.

 

 

"This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I'm alright song

My power's turned on

Starting right now I'll be strong

I'll play my fight song"

 

 

Now the merpeople were singing in sync with her.

 

"And I don't really care if nobody else believes

'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

A lot of fight left in me"

 

"Like a small boat

On the ocean

Sending big waves

Into motion

Like how a single word

Can make a heart open"

 

"I might only have one match

But I can make an explosion"

 

 

Now they were sailing through an archway with blue vegetation. It was a beautiful sight, with beautiful shades of blue, but she was getting sick of blue.

 

 

"This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I'm alright song

My power's turned on

Starting right now I'll be strong"

 

"I'll play my fight song

And I don't really care if nobody else believes

'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

Know I've still got a lot of fight left in me"

 

 

As the last line of the song faded so did the sight of the merpeople and the man with the violin. It appeared that they cleared the second level. Though, they still didn't find that 'companion for life' or 'green beating heart' that they could pick up.

 

And forward they went.

 


 

 

 

***&***

 

 

Badr was smiling; he could not help it, he was proud of little Eli. He hadn't known her long, or very well, but she was a constant visitor at his cottage, after that first meeting, soon after Elenei Baratheon came to Estermont Island.

She told him something of herself and he told her of Esra and his son. He liked how she could make fun of her infatuation; she called it a crush, with him. At first she was a bit awkward when it came out, but then she just rolled with the punch. He could respect that. What was more, she shared the Letter with him – and he managed to put in even more information. After all, in the future or past, older Sinbad, Badr believed his son would be about sixteen, and Elenei would come to a battlefield between Partevia and the Musta'sim Kingdom, saving him from dying and relocating him to Westeros.

He worked in the trenches, as his injury was what it was. Not that Badr was any slower moving, or any less deadly; the officers and lords in the Partevian army just assumed it so. Still being trapped in a trench while Musta'sin soldiers were using Magicians to flood the valley … needless to say he'd be done for if not for his son and the girl he was watching right now.

Then a scream ripped through the air.

Badr turned to see a pretty maiden and handsome man – both had woolly hair decorated by oleander and mock orange blooms. They were pulling at the tail of some lizard creature – that was obviously a puppy. The young lizard was dark blue with orange eyes and about the size of a small cat; dangling from its neck was a small pendant. The pendent pulsed like a beating heart and was green.

He moved – trusting Elenei to handle things in his absence, and smiled when she hadn't hesitated and put Brienne in the steering position and tasked Yunan with keeping an eye out in case Badr would need assistance like being pulled back on the boat.

He used magoi manipulation to evade the attack from the woolly haired people and scooped up the baby lizard.

 

 


 

 

***&***

 

 

Qarl wondered how in the Drowned God's mercy he ended up in this situation. Alone. And among strange Greenlanders. He had specific orders:

 

First order was to get on Estermont Island without alerting anybody that he was an Ironborn. That he completed successfully. Then he had to observe Princess Elenei Baratheon, her movements, and when she was most vulnerable; only then he did he have to report all of his findings to Asha's uncle Lord Euron Greyjoy.

 

This was also done, and a couple of weeks later his new orders arrived.

 

Qarl needed to signal the stealthiest fleet, led by the Silence, when they were near – then he needed to guide a rowboat to the shore and help the men acquire the Princess.

 

At first it went as planned – it was almost too easy. Securing the Princess and bringing her to Euron on his younger brother's ship, while Euron's crew on the Silence began the attack on Estermont Island, it wen well.

 

Then disaster struck and he and a couple of men from the ship were thrown overboard by the two and ten year old Princess and her Dornish Lady in Waiting. The two were soon joined by a tall woman that wielded a sword like a demon and a pale eyed man that was unmistakably of the North with his longer face that was common for those of the First Men descent.

 

Then as he fell into the waves, the ship itself caught fire and then he was in this strange place. Where everything was in one or the other shade of blue. He wasn't alone; there were four other Ironborn, all older than he, Stygg, with bath breath and missing teeth, he also had a long goatee beard. Then there was Todric the Fat – he was the fattest raider that Qarl had ever seen. Cadwyl with cauliflower ears and missing fingers, and Urzen, a sinewy man that had long arms and legs; he was also thin of body and thin of face.

 

When they were looking around, they happened upon the Princess and the others – they moved to subdue them. Only it hadn't worked – they thought to grab the weakest looking, not the Princess or her Lady in Waiting nor the tallest and armored ugly woman, but the frail looking, long haired man in strange green garb. It tuned out that the frail looking man was a sorcerer.

 

Seeing that they were currently at a disadvantage and it appeared that there were several strange instructions written on a wall, that apparently only the one legged man and the Princess could read, they decided to join forces – but only temporarily.

 

Out of five Ironborn, only Qarl still lived, and now a creature joined them. Saved by the one legged Greenlander.

 

The little lizard had two sets of wings – it could not possibly be a dragon; dragons only had four limbs, and their wings where of the like of bats. This beast had four limbs and two sets of wings; the main set was at its shoulder blades, the other smaller set was at the base of its long tail, but instead of it ending in a tip, like a normal lizard, there was a fin, like those of a whale's, only it was membrane like.

 

And soon after the one lizard joined with ten others: all of different color, albeit they all had the same shape.

 

The one that Badr saved had dark blue colored scales with gray marks like a manta ray’s at its sides and round orange eyes that were slit like a cat's. Then there were light sky blue ones with dark green stripes and green eyes, and dark pink with green eyes, and there was one lilac with a swirl pattern that was the color of rubies, and lavender with aqua eyes, and there were two metallic blacks with bottle green eyes, and green with red dots, and two reds with green patterns that looked like stars.

 

"Hey Badr," the Princess said. Qarl heard her, but he did not turn around; after that incident when he was saved, he ignored all of them, and they ignored him. It made him wonder why the Princess saved him when she did.

 

He had no intention of asking her why, either.

 

"I think we'll have to go on foot now, since the river ends there."

 

Qarl looked ahead, and sure enough there was no river anymore.

 

"I don't like how that grass looks – it’s similar to the ones that I saw grow at Neck's swamp when we were on the way to Winterfell," the Princess warned. Qarl could not help but agree; the grass was waist high and thick.

 

"Not a problem," the sorcerer pipped in, "I can shrink the canoe, and we can carry it in one hand … any volunteers … ahh thank you, Brienne."

 

The lizard that was in Princess Elenei’s arms chirped, she named it 'Moana', and then jumped off and ran toward – Qarl's breath caught and he felt his stomach clench in fear.

 

The creature was larger – and obviously a grown up lizard specimen of the little ones it was about thirty-one feet long, with at least a forty-eight foot wingspan with its bat like wings, and with metallic brown scales, and on its sides there was a crimson swirl pattern. Its head was shaped like a 'Walking Fish,' a breed of gecko that lived on the Iron Islands; they were very good swimmers and could stay underwater for hours. There were two arm-long ear like appendages at the back of its head. Qarl worried about its massive teeth that looked like those of a shark. The young ones did not have any teeth and it wasn't a concern to him.

 

"Hello," the Princess greeted the creature like it would understand her. The creature’s almond shaped, lime colored eyes zeroed in on her. "Are those your kids?" the Princess asked – spreading her arms as someone would to another person to show that they mean no harm.

 

The creature actually nodded, as it understood.

 

"My name is Eli; what’s yours?" the Princess continued.

 

The creature just shrugged; its ear like appendages twitched as it tilted its head.

 

"You don't have a name?" The princess moved closer and the little light blue one – Moana came back and wound around Princess Elenei's legs until she bent down and picked it up.

 

The adult however shook its head, no – answering the Princesses’ question.

 

"Well, how should I call you – I called that little one," with that she patted the little lizard’s head, "Moana, it means, 'ocean'. Would you mind if I call you Kiara – it means 'bright’?"

 

The lizard smiled, showing the row of pearly white and sharp teeth!

 

The Princess smiled back. "I take that as a yes."

 

With that, the now dubbed Kiara rubbed its head on the Princess’s side, like some sort of cat. Moana jumped onto Kiara's back, which was apparently a signal for the rest of the little creatures as they climbed on its back too – with that the adult creature spread its massive wings – then started to hack, like a cat that had fur stuck in its throat. But instead of a ball of fur, Kiara hacked up a green jewel, then she nodded at it – Princess shrugged and picked it up, and the creature jumped and flew off.

 

After a short delay they walked through the tall grass. Qarl really wanted this to be over. He had plans to confess his feelings to Asha, and if there was some reward in this endeavour, he had every intention of benefiting from it. Her sister Yara would be annoyed, but then again, Yara kept a Salt Bedmaid, who went by the name Erin they been bed-mates for two years now, and so perhaps she would not notice and try to influence Lord Balon.

 

Something gray and long caught Qarl's gaze; it was just a sliver of movement and something red – he would take a better look...

 


 

 

***&***

 

 

Domeric was sad to see Red go that dark pink little dragon that spat globes of plasma and could retract its needle like teeth. But the little one belonged with its mother. Domeric give it a head rub and Red gave him an affectionate nip with his gummy mouth and a rubbing with its head, very cat like.

 

After Yunan used magic to shrink the boat and put said boat into his pointy hat, they continued their trek on foot. Brienne went first and hacked at the tall grass with her broadsword, followed by Eli, Tyene, and then Qarl; after the Ironborn walked Yunan, and then Badr, and Domeric walked last.

 

The creature that grabbed Qarl was a small green humanoid with sharp little horns and green teeth that bit off Qarl's head.

 

Seeing that they would be no help, they hurried forward.

 

They soon came across helite cemented pebbles. "Rock salt," Badr said, "careful, this lake is dead." The fact that there was a warning – as cryptic as it had been then went unsaid, but this was the last leg of their journey, and they hadn’t suffered any loses yet.

 

As Domeric thought that, darkness fell on them, and the smell of salt increased - at first there was no shape, just a smoky mass, then out of the centre of that cloudy mass, eyes of fire appeared, followed by a fanged mouth.

 

Soon the light twinkled into revealing a massive, long scaly body, armored by helite cemented pebbles. Unlike serpents, this creature had two thin arms that started just below its snake like head, which had seven round spots – six were flat, the seventh however was pulsing with a red light. Domeric assumed that this was probably this creature’s weak spot.

 

Before he could shout to draw attention, some sort of glob of blue impacted and exploded by the snake's head. Domeric looked up and saw the dragons diving – their wings folded close to their body, and they released blasts at its target, making a sharp turn and repeating the process.

 

"Dom, get on the dragon." The Princess's voice woke him from observing the awe inspiring tactic of the dragons; he turned to see that Eli was straddling Kiara, while the others were doing the same with others of Kiara's kind.

 

Not wasting another second, he was on a dragon and they flew off.

 

 


 

***Treasure Room***

 

 

"And this is the Treasure Room," Yunan said, waving grandly at the – the stone, the plates, the ornaments. Anything and everything in the Treasure Room was made of stone.

 

Yunan waved his fishing rod and from the tip, a light beam flew out and hit a seashell on the altar made from smaller shells.

 

There was a horn made of seashells – it was a big thing, as big as a person's head. Yunan just tapped that and finally a blue giant, that Buffy was dreaming of for years, appeared in all his bushy and long aquamarine hair, three pronged spear, lower body of a Seahorse, and a golden, five-pointed crown that resembled a sea star on his head glory.

 

"I am Osé, Djinn of Tranquility and Rage. Who will be my King?" The blue giant spied Yunan, who was hiding behind Brienne.

 

"My, my I haven't seen you at all, Magi – but I do know you; you were the Magi that chose Shirin, a woman my King Shariar married, didn't you, the one that came to this shore with him."

 

"Ahh yes, I am Yunan, and Shirin was my King Candidate years ago," Yunan answered, "and now I'm standing before you with two Candidates to choose from. So can you please choose so we can go home?!"

 

Osé ran his hands through his aquamarine beard watching Badr and then Buffy. Then he shrank to human size.

 

"So tell me about yourself, names, likes, dislikes, hobbies – I already know that you are both decent human beings, or you would not have made it this far if you were not, but what would you do and need to achieve if you were granted my power?"

 

Badr motioned with his hand, "Ladies first."

 

"Thank you, my name is Elenei Baratheon. I like my sisters, my two brothers, my friends; I like going on adventures. I dislike the lack of chocolate and coffee and shitty dads, or wars for gain, or religions … War in general I dislike very, very much. As for hobbies – preventing the world from falling into any apocalypse scenarios, be it the icy type with a dash of the Zombie Apocalypse, and helping Badr, who is also my friend."

 

"That is weirdly specific; also thank you and call me Uncle Badr."

 

"Well, it will happen. The Icy Zombie Apocalypse in a couple of years will be here in Westeross, which is one of the reasons why need the power of a Djinn."

 

"Thank you." Osé turned toward Badr, "And you."

 

"My name is Badr, I'm a simple man. I only require power to get back to my family and get them away so that they can thrice in peace and prosperity."

 

"That is not very ambitious. The King Vessel that I chose has to have a goal, an ambition on a greater scale – Elenei Baratheon, I chose you."

 

"Thank you – err can you transport us to where Badr’s family is, see ..."

 

"Consider it done; you will be given a ship." In those blue hands appeared a bottle with a ship inside.

 

"When I release you from the Dungeon, this ship has all that you will need. Now where specifically would you like to start your journey?"

 

Buffy turned to Yunan. "Hey Yunan, where is Badr's wife, and Osé, could you please start the journey a the couple of days in the vicinity of that spot?"

 

 

 

Dungeon Osé : CONQUERED!

Reward: Ship AND relocation across the globe.

 

 

 

 

***Euron Greyjoy***

 

 

He was standing by the steering wheel, rotating it toward Esoss. Euron knew what he saw, a giant wave, and in that wave a ship and on that ship his little princess.

 

He'd find her again and when he does, he'd keep her.

 

 

***Yunan***

 

 

Yunan was lounging in his personal barrel on a sailing ship that was set to sail to Partevia. It would be only a couple of days until they make port – after all, upon the request of Princess Elenei, the Djinn threw the ship across the world.

 

The ship itself was named by Elenei, the Green Dawn. Yunan thought it was a peaceful name, but what pleased him the most was the barrel that was just the right size. It was dark and cozy and he didn't hear any noise when he was inside.

 

While Yunan was basking in his barrel, both Badr and Elenei saddled the dragons that joined them in the Osé Dungeon with every intention of flying in a straight line to Tison Village. Yunan had informed them all that Esra’s, Badr's wife, health was failing.

 

Badr wanted to rush at her side immediately, but Yunan suggested a solution. They needed Life Magic – ergo Yunan suggested that he would raise two Dungeons, with both Djinn having Life Magic.

 

First he would teleport himself and Badr to 68 Dungeon Belial, the Djinn of Truth and Conviction. He knew that Belial didn’t test physical strength and he had faith in Badr’s passing the Djinn's tests, and Badr came back bearing the pointed star of a Djinn, like Yunan knew he would.

 

Then Badr and he returned to the Green Dawn, the crew of four, plus twelve grown up dragons with each pair having ten little cat sized hatchlings which had grown since he and Badr left.

 

While they were gone, the rest managed to free some slaves and sink the slaver's ship that came from the Dark Continent. Which was just as well since Yunan raised another Dungeon that housed a Life Magic Type Djinn.

 

In the 31 Dungeon went Elenei, a Fanalis female named Razol, and Domeric Bolton; they came back out with sacks of gold, jewels, and other treasures. Elenei herself had a new bangle clasped on her left wrist. The bangle was golden with engraved roses and vines and an eight pointed star.

 

He now had three Metal Vessel users chosen by Djinn. Sinbad – who was still in the Dungeon. Baal's dungeon still stood, but Yunan had a strong feeling Sinbad would come out of that bearing the star.

 

If everything went right Badr and Elenei would make it to Esra in time to heal her illness; they had the means to do it.

 

 

 

 

And that concludes the Slice of Life Arc

 

Chapter Text

***Catelyn Tully Stark – 2***

 

Winterfell 299 AC

 

Catelyn put some more logs on the flame; it was always colder during spring here in the North, even in her own chambers, which was the warmest room in the keep. The middle chamber that she shared with her Lord Husband was even colder because her Ned liked to open windows during morning hours or even during the night when it was the summer. But he granted her this chamber, that was situated above the bakers so the floor was always warm in the mornings, in addition to warm walls. She marvelled at Winterfell’s infrastructure; the very walls of the keep were warmed, somehow, with the hot water from below Winterfell.

She felt a rush of fondness towards her husband – not only did he build her the Sept, but he was considerate of her distaste of the cold. She knew – or rather, Petyr opened her eyes to the possibility that the reason Ned was so indulgent of her was that he felt guilty of fathering a bastard with some woman. A woman that he loved dearly as he decided to raise Snow as a trueborn would be. At the beginning, the servants and guards of Winterfell whispered of Ashara Dayne, and of the battle that took place with the Sword of the Morning, and it was for the grief of Eddard taking their son, combined by the news that her brother was slain by her lover’s hand, that the beautiful Lady Ashara jumped into the sea from the highest tower at Starfall to her death.

There were also whispers that Eddard Stark was forced by her Lord Father to wed Catelyn. She confronted Eddard about that, and the way he looked at her frightened her fiercely. "Jon is of my Blood. He will be raised befitting the name of a Stark," Ned had said in a cold voice, and then he commanded her that she would not ask him further about boy's mother. And her heart ached at the thought that she was unwanted, and she was so very afraid; the bastard looked more like a Stark while her boy, her sweet Robb, who was born and anointed in the Sept with Seven oils, looked like a Tully. When the boys had grown and the bannermen visited, the boy was often mistaken for Robb. She was afraid that a boy tainted, as all bastards were, with a lust for power would usurp her sweet Robb’s rightful place, and nobody would care! Her handmaidens, and other serfs that came with her from Riverrun, that were picked by her Lord's Father hand, reported to her that bastards were not regarded as a product of sin, as they were elsewhere, but could be given a title; even a female bastard could marry well if she had a Lord for a father.

In fact, Celia, Robb's own nursemaid, who travelled with her from Riverrun, reported that a bastard of House Tallhart wed the sole daughter of House Branch. The bastard even took the name of his wife! He was now named Benjicot Branch instead of his rightful surname – Snow.

The Northerners were strange people ... well, she would not have it. She'd make sure that the Snow boy will not rise above his station, above his proper place. She threw another log on the fire. Yet later it turned out that Jon's blood was not tainted. It was Lady Whent who revealed the truth about Jon, the truth that Jon Snow was not a Snow at all but a true born son of Lady Ashara Dayne by Brandon Stark, the Heir to the Lord of Winterfell. She was shocked when she had it confirmed by Ned, that indeed Jon was the son of his sibling. And that Brandon was indeed wed to Lady Ashara. Upon Catelyn's return to Winterfell, she shared the truth of the boy's origin to the good Septa. After all the boy would have to know the Seven since he would hold an important position. Septa Mordane said that it was the Will of the Seven that Catelyn's children wouldn’t be betrayed by that wicked boy. Her Lord Father was partly appeased, and he added some land to Harrenhal – though she suspected that that was more so that Jon Stark, no he was now Lord Jon Vermilion of Harrenhal, would not be tempted to demand Winterfell.

There was some change done by King Robert when he found out that Jon was legitimate, and she shuddered to think what they said about her at court; after all, she was a Lord Paramount’s oldest daughter that was jilted in favour of a Dornish house. The King made an amendment, and he added Stark to the Vermilion, to honour late Lord Brandon, and now Jon was of the House Vermilion-Stark. She wrote that first letter to Petyr after her hopes for a Southern wife for her sweet Robb were dashed by Ned and Maester Luwin betrothing Robb to Mira Forrester and Jon being legitimized and set to wed Princess Elenei Baratheon.

To find out more, and to make sure that her Robb, and all the children she had bear and would bear to her Lord Husband, would receive their due to them as scions of House Stark and House Tully, she wrote to her friend from childhood, Lord Baelish, and her sister Lysa. She inquired if there was a possibility of a match with her sweet Bran and one of the Princesses, Princess Myrcella or Princess Robara, or perhaps the King would deem that Sansa was to wed Prince Joffrey. Lysa wrote back, and so did Petyr.

Lysa's letter was full of reproachful words and was not particularly to Catelyn's liking. First Lysa reprimanded Catelyn of not writing to her for years which was not fair accusation as Lysa hadn't written to her either. The barb of Catelyn writing to Lysa only when she wanted something and that was the only reason why Catelyn remembered that her younger sister exists, made Cat furious. Her House words were Family, Duty, Honor – but Lysa was always full of whimsy and was easily offended. Which Lysa confirmed in her own words committed to the parchment, refusing to talk of anything regarding what Catelyn wanted to know, just like she refused any contact with their Lord Father.

Lysa also had the gall to remind Catelyn that she herself had two healthy daughters and for Cat to ask for a Royal Match and to snub the daughters of the Hand of the King was beyond rude. Catelyn wrote back that normally she would not oppose a match between one of Lysa's daughters. The Tullys and Starks already had links to House Arryn through Lysa’s marriage to Lord Jon Arryn and through Cat's own marriage, and she would have agreed to the match, if not for her Lord Husband’s bastard that would wed a Princess Royal. Her little sister refused to even consider bringing the suggestion to her husband … and refused to see that as a legitimized bastard, Jon Snow could usurp her own blood’s and Lysa's nephews and nieces rightful place. Catelyn could not understand why Lysa believed that there was no danger.

The missive that she received then was delivered by a raven, and it bore only two sentences: 'If your son's place is not secure, that is not the bastard’s doing. It’s the person’s that heaps the blame on an innocent child.' Lysa had changed; Cat could not imagine what could make her younger sister so jaded towards herself and their Lord Father. Seeking answers, she sent inquiries to her father, the Lord of Riverrun, to her little brother Edmure, and to uncle Brynden that lived in the Vale and served as a Knight of the Bloody Gate to guard the entry to the Vale of Arryn. From Petyr however she received much more forthcoming news. One exchanging of letters became two and then ten and on it went. He spoke of Prince Joffrey, and Cat was warmed by the idea of a match between her sweet, eldest daughter and the Heir to the Iron Throne. She told Petyr how alike Sansa was to her, of her grace and accomplishments as a lady; she wrote him that she followed the Seven, and not the Old Gods. Sansa was her only child that came to the Sept with Catelyn to pray with her, Septa Mordane, and the servants she brought from Riverrun. She recalled the words she sent to Petyr about her daughter in that first letter:

'Sansa was a lady at three, and she is always so courteous and eager to please. She loves nothing so well as tales of knightly valour and of dashing princes rescuing their Ladies. Many here would say she has my looks, but I can see that she will grow into a woman far more beautiful than I ever was. Petyr, you will see it when we come to the capital. I often send her maid away so I can brush her hair myself. She has auburn hair, lighter than mine, and so thick and soft that the red in it catches the light of the torches and shines like copper. Her eyes are different than mine as well, the colour of a summer sky – the hue that is so familiar to us – remember how we used to be, Petyr, I miss those days of ours at Riverrun. I miss the warm sun on my face and the warmth of the summers we spent together. Also, Petyr, what did you mean with the words about Jon, my nephew, usurping Robb's inheritance and seat? He is the Lord of Harrenhal and engaged to be wed to the Royal Family, which will grant him similar prestige and income as Lord Paramount.'

Catelyn looked from the letter and leaned back in her padded chair, watching the fire burn the wood and warm her room. She was the Lady Stark, wife of Lord Paramount in the North, and while she hadn't wed the Stark she wanted – her life was good. She learned to respect and love her husband – who was the polar opposite of his elder brother Brandon. Lady Lyanna and Lord Brandon came and stayed at Riverrun after it was decided by Lord Richard that the betrothal between his only daughter and Lord Robert Baratheon would be next year, and Lady Whent offered to help Lyanna adjust to the life of a Southern Lady. Cat still remembered his smile, and how dashing he seemed that day at Riverrun when he came with his Lord Father and his sister. It was then that little Petyr challenged Brandon to a duel for her hand in marriage. She always found it endearing when he trailed after her, as Lysa trailed after Petyr. They were like little ducklings trailing after her. And yes they played a kissing game when nobody was watching; she hadn't had an inkling that Petyr carried such strong feelings for her. Not that he was the appropriate groom for the eldest daughter of a Lord Paramount.

Lord Brandon Stark was a dashing, young Lord, who was heir to the Lord Paramount; he was one of the rare suitable matches that a high born Lady could land. Jaime Lannister was the other opinion, something that her Lord Father was working on; he was in talks with Tywin to wed Lysa to Ser Jaime. While Lord Brandon's brother, whom she hadn't heard about much, was being fostered in the Vale. Cat didn't see much of Lyanna Stark – she knew that she went on long rides out into the Riverlands, sometimes all the way to Harrenhal to call on Lady Whent, and that she'd talk a lot to Uncle Brynden, but hadn't joined the sewing circle with Catelyn and Lysa much. And she knew even least of Benjen Stark, the youngest brother, who was staying at Winterfell with Lord Rickard Stark. When Petyr challenged Brandon, the dashing Northerner laughed and refused at first, but Petyr insisted on the duel. In the end, Brandon removed most of his armour and agreed on the fight. Then Petyr was injured and shipped back to his keep; she didn't hear from him before – or rather Petyr sent her a letter, when she was still at Riverrun, but for the wedded and bedded wife of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, it was improper to receive correspondence from an unmarried man, and so when she received her letter from Petyr, she threw it away ... she wondered what he wrote in there. She had been too embarrassed to admit that she had thrown away the letter so she pretended that she never received it, in hopes that Petyr would have written what he had written before again – he never did. The second letter she wrote contained the truth of Jon's origin, the letter she sent from Riverrun after talking to the Septon about it; she wanted Petyr to know; she wanted to share this bit of good news with her friend from childhood.

As before Petyr was quick in his reply, and she felt a pang of guilt for throwing his first letter away without reading it. Petyr reply to her second letter was that he was glad to hear of that she did not need to worry about the bastard’s taint and expressed a wish that her fears of a usurping from Jon would not come to pass. She wrote back asking what he meant by that, as Jon had a large keep and the land surrounding it was greatly enlarged by her own Lord Father and the Crown, as part of Princess Elenei's dowry was paid in unclaimed lands Harrenhal bordered with and now .... she hoped that Petyr’s response to that letter would be quick.

"Lady Stark!" a maid called as she rapped at her doors. "The runner just delivered a letter meant for you, My Lady."

"I'll be right there, Neena," Cat called, then she stood and hurried to the door, opening it to receive the letter.

The servant girl curtsied and Catelyn closed the door on her and bolted it; she didn't want to be disturbed while reading Petyr's letter. Turning the parcel around, she saw that there was a letter from Petyr, her uncle, and her brother, and even her Lord Father. She decided to read Petyr's letter first; she was starved for information from King's Landing.

'Dearest Cat,' she read Petyr's sloping writing, neat and thin words that painted the expensive paper. It was of high quality and Catelyn was glad that Petyr was doing so well. 'The search for Princess Elenei was called off, and after all these years, it is to be expected to presume her lost to the sea, and the only one who scoffs at that notion is Princess Myrcella – the sweet summer child, such faith in her elder sister.' Catelyn expected this news; it had been coming for a while and she never made too much out of the strange telling of Ned, after he came back. The King’s forces interrogated the crews that were captured in the Stormlands.

Lord Estermont himself, the King's own Lord Grandfather, managed to pull sixty Ironborn men out of the bay waters … they were only normal sailors and second sons of minor Iron Island Houses. Euron Greyjoy was nowhere to be found, as Ned found out from the captured men.

Euron had sailed his ship of mutes, aptly named Silence, to the Sunset Sea. Ned said that he probably wanted to escape justice – and King Robert put out the reward of bringing him back dead or alive. If they found and bring them, Euron Greyjoy would be beheaded. Aeron Greyjoy, the youngest of the Greyjoy brothers, surrendered and was given a choice from King Robert – the Wall or Exile for life.

The man chose Exile – the reports said that he created a sellsword company, that could operate on land and sea, in Essos. The company was called The Partyman Company. Before he sailed, he told Ned some story that Princess Elenei, with her Dornish Lady in Waiting, Lady Brienne of Tarth, and the Bolton's heir sailed in some odd ship that flew into the distance over their heads.

Victarion Greyjoy, as far as Catelyn was aware, was freed when he bent the knee along with his elder brother Balon – who was allowed to stay the Lord of the Iron Islands, but all his surviving children were taken as hostages.

Theon Greyjoy was sent to the Vale. To be a ward, a hostage, to House Royce of the Gates of the Moon. Sometimes she wondered how the lad was doing; she heard from the Septa as a young girl that Ironborn could not abide being so far away from the sea.

Asha Greyjoy was living with them since Ned brought her to their home. Catelyn did not appreciate the girl who spat on everything Cat held dear to her heart – also she made sure that Arya was not around her – which was the reason why she agreed to foster her daughter to Bear Island. She was certain that Arya would learn to be the lady there – after all, one of Lady Mormont's daughters was Lady in Waiting to the Princesses. Septa Mordane was trying, unsuccessfully, to civilize the Ironislander, to bring Lady Asha Greyjoy to the Light of the Seven, but Lady Asha was a rude, uncouth savage, even with years of affords on her and Septa Mordane’s part. The girl clung to her ways and the Drowned God the more they tried to teach her the true faith.

Yara Greyjoy was sent to Dorne, to the house that was known to be mad – House Uller. Catelyn was not very fond of the Dornish, not only did a Dornishwoman take her Brandon, the man she was to marry, but she bore him a son that looked like a Stark. Ashara Dayne left almost no mark on Jon Sn-Vermilion, with the exception of his Rhoynar curls and the tinge of purple in his grey eyes. He was also of a prettier face than her Robb – a fact that stabbed her in the heart when she beheld the Lord of Harrenhal when he rode with his friends to visit his Uncle and cousins on the day just like this one, two years past. Soon after Jon's arrival, her darling Robb hadn't set foot in the Sept. When she took him to the task, aided by the Septon and Septa, Robb rebuked all three of them saying he was of the North, like his Lord Father. Bran and Arya were the same, and the twins were merely four summers old. And if she wasn't mistaken, she was with child again; she'd go to Maester Luwin to confirm it first, and then she'd inform Ned. Shaking her head at the image the thought of another child had conjured, she bent over Petyr's letter.

'I am obliged to inform you that Jon Vermilion-Stark arrived at the Red Keep and struck a friendship with the Master of Laws, Lord Samwell Tarly, and Lord Tyrion Lannister, who returned to the capital to resume his duties. Not only that but your nephew managed to secure a place of squire to the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard for himself and he spars regularly with the Queen's brother, Jaime Lannister. I retain secret information; it is what you suspected, dear Cat. Because Princess Elenei is presumed dead or lost, Princess Myrcella Baratheon will take her place and wed the Lord of Harrenhal. There is also talk of betrothal between Prince Tommen and Lady Shireen Baratheon ...the King is inclined to agree to that match, especially since it appears that Lord Stannis will not have any more children. However, I think that King Robert deeply misses your husband; perchance could you implore him to visit King's Landing with you; your eldest is old enough to be left alone managing Winterfell, is he not?' she read next.

She looked up from the words, deep in thought. Jon was making alliances with the Reach and the Westerlands. That could mean he was forging alliances with the Lord Paramount, and if, as it was custom, since Princess Elenei was declared lost, the next in line to wed him was Princess Myrcella and that would mean Royal Support. What's to stop her husband's nephew for arranging accidents to befall her son?

Nothing but Ned's belief, something that her sweet son Robb shared, that Jon would never do such a thing. But he could; Catelyn knew that with the might of the Reach and the Lannisters and wed to a Princess Royal, he could claim Winterfell as his own. There was also that as the only legitimate son, of the previous heir, Jon Vermilion-Stark would be within the right to inherit before Robb. The only reason why that wasn't so, was because Ned was not aware of the documents that showed that Brandon Stark, Heir of Winterfell, had wed Lady Ashara Dayne of Starfall and the fact that the King legitimized him while Jon was perceived as bastard of Eddard Stark. Perhaps she could leave to King's Landing, with Ned and their Sansa and Bran. She was loath to part with her favourite son, but any travels would have to be postponed until she, if she was indeed with child, gave birth to another wolf.

Perhaps the King would declare Sansa and Prince Joffrey’s betrothal – and her Bran always dreamed of becoming a knight. She'd write to Uncle Brynden if he'd take on her sweet boy as his squire. Catelyn looked back to the letter.

'As for your inquiry as to why Lord Vermilion would want what is rightfully his, since he is the son of Brandon Stark, it might be because he lived so long under the impression of being a bastard. He might have, unfortunately, learned and adapted their grasping, greedy nature.' She stilled, that was her greatest fear – that the taint seeped into his being, regardless of him being legitimate, and now he became friends with the Heir to the Rock, Tyrion Lannister, and the Kingslayer.

Petyr warned her all the time about the Lannister's ambition, and Tywin Lannister had a reputation of being an ambitious man – in one of the letters, Petyr alluded to the Old Lion wanting the office of the Hand of the King; he expressed the fear of Jon Arryn suddenly dying. But surely it must be enough for Tywin that his son worked so closely to the Hand of the King? That his daughter was the Queen and the mother of a future King of the Seven Kingdoms, a Prince that was his grandson? That his granddaughter was to wed Lord of Harrenhal? '

Sweet Cat, I hope that my words did not cause you to worry, and if they did, know that you will always have my support. Sincerely Yours, Petyr.'

Catelyn rubbed her eyes. "Oh Petyr, thank you for your friendship," she whispered and then put the letter with the others that she had received from her dearest friend. She then turned her attention to the letters from her family ... Her firstborn son's wedding would be in four moons time, a day after her twins would have their fourth name day celebration. Catelyn felt very much blessed – she was a mother of four strong lads, three had her Tully looks – red haired and blue eyes while Jonnel had brown hair and grey eyes of the Starks. She claimed three beautiful daughters to her accomplishment, Sansa, Arya – who would come for her brother's wedding from Bear Island with the rest of Mormonts, and Jonnela, twin sister of Jonnel. Suddenly the door opened and her Lord Husband entered holding a stack of letters.

"Cat!" Ned shouted; she could see that he was pleased with a missive that he was holding in his hand. In a couple of long strides, he caught up to her. "All bannermen will send someone to Robb's wedding, and Jon will come as well. In addition, the Royal Family will set out from King’s Landing; they will arrive on the fifth day of the wedding."

"It will be a great honour to host the Royal Family," Catelyn said, then after a bit continued, "Perhaps when the time comes you and I should travel to another wedding – a Royal Wedding since our son is old enough to be a Stark in Winterfell."

And Jon – her husband’s nephew, it still bothered her, even with knowing that the boy was not a bastard but the legitimate child of Brandon Stark and Lady Ashara. After her shock at that had subsided the new fears festered within her. The other unease came from Lord Roose Bolton and Lady Barbrey Dustin; they appeared to have joined forces after Roose wed Ned's cousin from the Stormlands. The new Lady of Dreadfort, Lady Lynara of House Rogers from Stormlands. Even her Ned looked uneasy; after all Lady Lynara looked a lot like the long deceased Lyanna Stark, except her face was rounder, and her eyes were green. Cat, however, resented Lady Bolton's personal coat of arms – quartered sigils of House Stark, as Brenda Stark, cousin of Ned who married Harrold Rogers, the sigil of House Rogers being nine silver unicorns around a silver maze on a black field, then her Lord Husband’s coat of arms, and lastly a silver unicorn head on the pink field - just as Lady Dustin irritated her, Lady Maege Mormont scandalized her. If not for Asha Greyjoy stay in Winterfell, and Lady Maege's daughter serving as Lady in Waiting to the Royal family, Arya would never have been fostered with them. They would all attend her sweet boy's wedding to Lady Mira Forrester.

How she wished Robb would marry Margaery Tyrell, forging the alliance to the Reach. Now that would have been a match worthy of her son – if he could not have secured a bride from the Royal House that was.

 

***Robb's Wedding***

 

 

Catelyn knew that weddings in the North took a while, but then Maester Luwin and Old Nan enlightened her that for well to do smallfolk a wedding lasted a day, for a Lord and Lady at least for two days, but for Robb, who was heir of Winterfell, the wedding would last as long as a week.

Her own wedding was done in a couple of hours – Eddard Stark rode to Riverrun, and then they wed in Sept and that was it. They spent two nights together and then Lord Eddard Stark rode to war. She stayed at Riverrun, and moons later she had given birth to Robb – she named him in the Sept in the Holy Light of the Seven.

Now Jon Snow – even now that she knew the truth of his parentage and knew that he was legitimate, she couldn't bring herself to think of him in that way. There was a small, short-lived relief when she found out that Ned, a husband she did not want, didn't love or know – but had grown to respect and grew to care for never betrayed her and had never fathered a bastard.

But it was Brandon Stark – the handsome, dashing older brother that turned his back on her, the daughter of the Lord Paramount of Riverlands, to marry a Dornishwoman from the lower nobility of all people. She felt slighted! Not to mention now that the offspring of that same Dornishwoman was poisoning her own son against her.

She just knew that it was that woman, who stole her intended, whispering into her sweet boy's ear and now her sweet Robb wanted to wed that Forrester girl in the Old Gods’ way and not in the Light of the Seven like he should.

And now she had to appease the Holy Septon and Septa Mordane, who were only worried about saving souls...

"Lady Stark, it is outrageous." Both Septa and Septon stood before her, their faces red in outrage.

"I'm sorry, Septa Mordane, Septon Benett," she turned to the Septon, who faithfully served in her little Sept since it was built, "but Robb decided to hold the entire ceremony in the faith of the Old Gods."

No matter how much she pleaded with him to wed the Forrester girl in the Light of the Seven, he was adamant that as they were in the North and his bride was a Northerner and that he was the future Lord of Winterfell, the wedding would be of the North as well.

"But My Lady!"

"I'll talk to my son again," Catelyn said, but before she could begin on her promise to Septa and Septon.

"I believe I expressed my wishes on this very well," her son's voice held them all in place. Then they turned and there were her son and Jon. And her sweet Bran – her heart squeezed in pain as she observed how he clung to Jon. He was blind and he blindly trusted Jon Vermilion-Stark; the sight only made Catelyn more afraid.

She knew that this was all Jon's fault, especially Robb's defiance of the Seven – just as Petyr warned her, the boy wanted it all. And being the legitimate son of the previous Heir of Winterfell he had a chance. Catelyn would take a knife to the heart first rather than allow that to happen to her Robb.

"Robb," Catelyn admonished.

"Young Master, you must marry in the Light of the Seven!" exclaimed the Septon.

They were drawing a crowd...of bannermen; they were all watching intently. Catelyn draw herself to her full height – she must make Robb see reason.

"Septon, I will not marry in the Sept," Robb said with a clear voice that rang across the yard, like a bell from the Sept.

"My Lord Father and Lady Mother married in Sept because it was wartime and deemed their marriage done. My wedding in the Godswood in the Old Way is just as valid; in fact, Septon, the Sept only exists because of the love my Lord Father bears toward my Lady Mother. But I am a Northerner and a Stark; my way is the Old Way," he declared loud and clear, and then turned on his heal and marched toward the assembled bannermen.

Catelyn wanted to call to him; what was he doing – how can Robb... this was all Jon Snow's fault … and she silently cursed the boy when her blue eyes briefly meet his dark ones, and then something strange happened. The bannermen swarmed around Robb, laughing and clapping his forearm or patting his back.

She would never understand the way of her husband's people.

 


 

***Robb Stark -1***



His wedding day arrived, and he was glad that Mira and he met and spent a lot of time together after she returned to the North from King's Landing, where she served as Maid in Waiting for the two Baratheon Princesses. This way he was not a wedding a stranger, but a good friend. Somebody he cared about and trusted, and all right he liked her in that way as well.

After the two-month preparation and finding out what traditions there were for a wedding between the Heir of the North and a Lady of the North. Robb asked Old Nan to write a letter to his Uncle Benjen and wrote an inquiry letter to his kin, the Flints from the mountains – his grandmother's family was glad to share and help with his wedding before the Old Gods.

Another thing Jon pointed out to him was that his Lady Mother and Lord Father wed before the New Gods, and they did not have a wedding before the Old Gods later either. Mostly because there had not been time – and some bannermen could use that to point out that Robb was not a legitimate heir. So being wed only in the Old Way granted credibility to his rule.

Robb felt unsettled using this against his mother, but if he wanted to rule the North, and not lose the respect and love of his bannermen, he would have to be less of the South and more of the North. She was offended and hurt, and Father had become quiet – later he heard his father telling his mother and Maester Luwin that he never thought of it, but it was correct. What was more, Maester Luwin brought out the marriage contract that was signed between Rickard Stark and Hoster Tully – it specifically stated that Catelyn could worship whatever Gods she deemed fit, but her children would be raised in the Old Way.

His Lord Father forbid mother and Maester Luwin from mentioning this anywhere, and when Robb confronted them, his Lord Father said that the Sept was built for mother and he was unaware of the stipulation in that contract.

Robb decided then and there that he would somehow make sure that the Sept would be removed from the courtyard and have a greenhouse built in its place. The Sept would be moved to the spacious room that was near mother's solar – the room the Septa used for teaching Sansa and Arya, even four summers old Jonnela joined them in the lessons now. That and perhaps to balance the Southern influence on his sisters; he could make an inquiry about some old Northerner Lady that was a widow or never wed to teach the Northern old ways.

Unfortunately for him to do it, he'd have to be in charge of Winterfell. But that might come now that he was wed, and Lady Mother mentioning with some frequency to Lord Father, that she'd like to introduce Sansa to the court … and propose a match between Sansa and Prince Joffrey.

Speaking of his dear sister, she was taking dainty steps, and her head held high, her blue and grey woollen gown held in her hand, and in the other was a bundle of cloth, walking just as he saw Septa Mordane teach her when she was a small child of four.

"Sansa," he greeted her, his three years younger sister. At thirteen she was said to be the fairest maiden, with eyes the colour of Winter Roses, and hair the colour of the heart tree. It was Jon who coined this description and who talked to both Robb and Sansa – Sansa was sceptical then and she still was now; however she did amend some of her behaviour towards Arya. She even took more to ride on the hunts – much to their mother's distress. She was still the only Stark born child that prayed to the Seven at the Sept. Robb and his younger siblings, especially Arya and Bran, started to follow their Lord Father to the Godswood. Bran was more enthused in praying at the Godswood, when he found out about the Bolton's Heir, Domeric – no Ser Domeric Bolton was anointed Knight and a follower of Old Gods, something their Lady Mother said was impossible. Conceitedly she was wroth when Jon told Bran that that wasn't so. As she was wroth with Jon for opening Robb's eyes – that he had to work to win his future bannermen. They respected his Lord Father – but that was mostly because there was no alternative; Uncle Ben was at the Wall; Uncle Brandon and Aunt Lyanna were dead.

When he made his own inquiries, at Jon's prompting, his brother was still observant, there was some unease among the people that the Starks were becoming more Southern and the Sept being erected on Winterfell's soil was regarded with suspicion, unease, and in some cases hatred. To find out why such reactions existed, Robb and Jon went through the library at Winterfell – it was not a surprise that Jon found the books they were looking for – for before he became a Lord, Jon often hid in the library. Robb wouldn't be surprised if his brother didn't read every book there was since when he came to visit he sometimes could be found with Maester Luwin.

"Robb, I finished stitching the two Rushnyks for your wedding." She then proceeded to unravel the cloth bundle. First, there was the rectangular shaped hemp made rug, that had embodied northerner knots, and images of wirewood trees.

This was called pidnozhnyk – or to translate to the common tongue, the Step-on-Towel, and it would be on this that Mira and he would stand when saying their vows under the Heart tree. Then there was a palm wide piece of white linen, where embroidered in the red thread with Sansa's delicate hand, were diamond shaped designs – which the Old Nan said was an old agricultural symbol. At the centre of the cloth was a pair of ducks holding a heart between them – symbolizing a bride and a groom. This piece would be used for handfasting.

"You did good work," Robb praised her. He knew that she felt unease doing the Northerner style of knotting and sewing embroidery. As it wasn't so elegant as those of the South, and both Septa Mordane and their Lady Mother deemed it too plebeian for a good bred Lady of the Great House.

As for the cloak that he would drape Mira with, his Lady Mother started sewing it long before he was engaged to be married. Robb knew that his Lady Mother was not happy that he'd wed a daughter of a minor bannerman; she'd rather see him wed a daughter from a Southern House.

It was not until he had that long conversation with Jon, two years ago, when Jon had ridden from Harrenhal to celebrate Robb's nameday.

 

Winterfell 297



It was Robb's four and ten nameday celebration, and Jon, no matter who his parents were, would always be his brother, a twin almost. At the moment they were sitting in the Godswood reminiscing about the prank they pulled the last time Jon was visiting.

"It’s been a while since we were all like this – remember, when before you left, we played a prank on the girls and Bran?"

At that time Jonnel and Jonnela could not walk well yet, so Bran was the youngest child, the baby of the family. Bran loved to hear scary stories from the Old Nan, and Arya liked to toss with monsters and Lady Ursa Mormont.

So on the day before Jon would ride back to Harrenhal with his retinue of knights and pages, they decided to play a prank on their younger siblings.

In the crypts, Robb was to lead them there, and Jon was hidden with a white sheet thrown over him, and his face and hair painted white with flour.

Bran hid his face in Robb's pants, Sansa ran away shrieking, Arya started to throw things – and missed at Jon, while Asha went still and white as a sheet. After Jon revealed himself, Arya laughed and punched the both of them; Bran pretended that he knew all along, they let him and Asha Greyjoy ...

Jon laughed, "I remember how Asha nearly broke your nose after," he remarked amid his mirth. The ass his brother was, he found that funny. Robb had a suspicion that his kind of girl would be the likes of a Warrior Queen like a Queen Visenya Targaryen or Queen Nymeria of the Rhoyne.

"She didn't come close!" Robb exclaimed, indignant.

Jon shrugged and leaned back against the old willow tree that was a stone throw away from the Heart tree – in fact they could see the carved face of the heart-tree from here. "So you claim," then slate grey meet light blue, "you wanted to talk in private?"

"Ahh yes, I was talking with Mira ..." then Robb sighed, "she wants to marry in the Old Way, and not in the Sept."

He was fond of Mira, and he knew her since they were children. She visited Winterfell every week and stayed there and when she travelled to King's Landing and became Maid in Waiting to the two Princesses, they exchanged letters. If Jon was his best friend, then Mira was his friend and so getting married to his other friend wasn't a chore in the slightest.

"Well, brother," Jon said after a small spell of silence, "both you and your bride are of the North. Even I pray in the Godswood, and my Lord's seat is in the South, speaking of my lordship..." here Jon paused and grimaced, "the King sent another decree, since I'll become his godson, I was named, or rather the Lord of Harrenhal is now called the Lord Paramount of Crownlands."

Robb gave his brother a surprised look; he wasn't aware that Jon became Lord Paramount. "So what are you called? Father is called Warden of the North, and Tywin Lannister is called Shield of Lannisport, grandfather is called Lord Paramount of the Trident, Lord Tyrell is called Defender of the Marches. I don't think that the Great House of the Stormlands has another title than Lord Paramount of the Stormlands."

"No, it’s the only region that has only one epithet. And you are forgetting Dorne, brother," Jon prompted, and Robb rolled his eyes.

"Ruling Prince or Princess of Dorne and Lord of Sunspear." he nudged Jon with his elbow."Well?"

Jon breathed a deep suffering sigh. Oh, this would be good, Robb mentally crowed.

"Did you know that for my title they had to dig through history since I'm not exactly of equal standing with a Lord Paramount, but perhaps half a step-down? The Maester's finally found the title in the old records, dating back before Targaryens came to Westeros."

"And..." Robb prompted his brother yet again; he nudged his brooding brother/cousin with his foot for good measure.

"Archduke of Harrenhal," came the answer, finally. "The title was usually reserved for primary Houses just below in the Storm King's kingdom."

Then Jon paused, "While I was looking up, just where the Maester found this title, I also discovered some books that dealt with the history of the North."

"Of course you did," Robb muttered.

Jon huffed a laugh, "Is that so strange?"

Considering Jon was better at letters and sums when they were learning them, it was not that much of surprise, was it. He also hid either in the library with Maester Luwin or at the armoury practising his arms, the two places where Robb's Lady Mother disapproving stare didn't reach Jon.

"Anyway, there was some account, on the Isle of Faces, with the Greenmen, of how the Andal invasion went."

"They didn't come North," Robb pointed out.

"There was no Sept built ever in the North," Jon said quietly, "the Stark's were defenders of the Old Gods as surely as the King of Westeros is the defender of the Andals, Roynar and the First Men."

Robb felt cold settle in the pit of his stomach when he saw the worry in his brother's eyes. The worry Robb understood immediately, and he wondered how did his Lord Father miss this.

"You know how many second sons or farmers in the North went to live at Harrenhal lands? I sometimes go out to talk with them, and I hear whispers that, well, people are not happy with a Sept at the heart of the North. And that is to put it lightly, Robb."

Robb took Jon's words and mulled them over, then decided to have a talk with his Lord Father and Maester Luwin.

"All right," Robb said, "I will ask father."

Jon gave him a grimace.

"What?"

"When I was … asking him again of my mother yesterday, he said when I was older. How much older does he think I will have to be for him to say my mother's name? I don't know if she is dead or alive, Robb."

"Weren't Uncle Brandon and Lady Ashara your parents?"

Jon huffed an irritated breath, "This doesn't go any further. Lady Whent told me, that while Uncle Brandon and Ashara did wed, I am not their son, and that I need to hear my Lady Mother's story from Lord Stark himself. Father confirmed it when I confronted him but refused to divulge anything else. He also swore me to secrecy."

"Maybe he is worried about my Mother's reaction?" Robb suggested.

"What, does your Mother think that I'll take Winterfell from you? Logistically I cannot be in two keeps at the same time." Jon shook his head. "And why so much secrecy around my Mother's name?"

Robb sighed, his Lady Mother was always unreasonable when it came to Jon. One would think that the revelation that he was not a bastard of Lord Father but a true born son of Uncle Brandon– except now Robb found out that Uncle Brandon wasn't Jon's father... who would think that his brother's origins were so complicated and shrouded in mystery would have settled his Lady Mother’s mind.

"Perhaps ..." Robb trailed off, "your mother is somebody who's name is dangerous to know..." he suggested.

"And who could that possibly be; Father is Lord Paramount!" Jon gave him a look that was half inpatient and half peevish. Robb could understand Jon's impatience and frustration as Eddard Stark evaded talking about who Jon's mother was since Jon was a babe.

"A Targaryen perhaps," Robb joked, while Jon stilled and suddenly he was met with a wide-eyed stare of his brother/twin/cousin/friend – all that and more.

"What?" Jon yelped and whirled around to meet Robb's startled river blue eyes.

Robb was bemused at the sudden sharp look that settled on Jon's features, then as suddenly as that the expression appeared, his features took a neutral cast.

"There were no female Targaryens at that time; there was only Queen Rhaella. And there are more pressing matters than my origins … besides Lady Whent also told me that if Lord Stark won't tell me till next summer, she will."

"All right, I assume that you wanted to tell me something else."

"Aye, the fact is Lord Stark doesn't like to … " Jon paused there, "it’s like he doesn't trust us. You are his Heir; did he take you to listen in on meetings with his bannermen – or include you in running the North?"

"No. Ser Rodrick trains me in arms, and Luwin takes care of other lessons." Robb frowned; how could he be sure that his Lord Father wouldn't just dismiss his concerns and send him away? "Do you have some suggestions?"

"Task Maester Luwin in finding the marriage contract for Lady Catelyn and Lord Stark, or any writings of Northerner ways, then present those to Lord F-Stark."

"He is your Father as well, Jon," Robb reminded him. Eddard Stark treated Jon the same way he treated Robb while Jon was at Winterfell, much to his wife’s displeasure, Robb knew.

He only got a melancholy smile, that made Jon's eyes seem bottomless and black. "I'm not a Stark. I may have Stark blood, but that is not my House."

Robb heaved a sigh, he had many a conversation like that with Jon – one more reason why he thought his Lady Mother's claims of Jon ever usurping Robb's position was ridiculous.

"Of course you are a Stark, you may be called Vermilion now, but you were always a Stark," he reassured Jon, but Jon just closed his eyes and leaned back to the tree's trunk.

"I don't know who I am, Robb. Am I Jon Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark, or am I a trueborn son of Brandon Stark or am I neither?"



Present time



A few weeks before the twins’ fourth nameday, they and Bran fell sick. Jonnela and Jonnel got better without consequences, but Bran – Bran lost the sight. He could not see. It saddened Robb when he observed his little brother being led around the table and shown to his seat for the wedding feast.

Or rather the reception of guests that arrived for his wedding. There were all men here – they were celebrating the last hours of his freedom, with wine and various pies. The women had similar celebrations but separately.

Even Sansa and Jayne Poole, despite not being flowered maidens, were deemed old enough to join the bride and other women and maidens. Not Arya though, who used lack of the Septa’s and Lady Mother’s attention to secrete herself to the archery range, or Jonnela, who was in the care of Lady Mother’s main handmaiden that she brought as a part of her household from Riverrun.

 


 

***Sansa Stark – 1***



Sansa clapped her hands at the musicians and bards that sung and played on the various instruments for all of them. Well, there were all womenfolk here in the tower, as was Northerner custom - Lady Mira would spend the last day before the wedding ceremony amid the women that came to her wedding. It was exciting for Sansa to be included, while not a maiden flowered, she was considered old enough to join, while Arya was sent away with the other children.

She learned a score of things already as married women told of their life, something that her Lady Mother disapproved of her hearing, but for once she could not order her to leave or to silence the other women. She just glared, her mouth thin, but none of the other women paid Lady Stark any heed.

That came as a shock to Sansa, as her Lady Mother the daughter of Hoster Tully, who ruled the Riverlands as Lord Paramount, was Sansa's guiding light, the woman that could do no wrong, the perfect Lady and the one that Sansa tried to emulate in her behaviour. When Septa Mordane praised her stitching and her pose to Catelyn Tully, Sansa glowed under her Lady Mother's proud blue gaze.

To see her mother so displeased at the proceedings and not do anything stumped Sansa. How could this be?

Her mother was the epitome of a Lady; the wives of Lord Father's bannermen should defer to her. Instead, they paid her no mind; they talked amongst themselves, to her brother's betrothed, even to Sansa herself. But they seemed to ignore Septa Mordane, who had a Seven-pointed Star on her lap and was reading psalms of the Seven, and her mother who was sitting closest to the fire – all the others were sitting by the open windows and stitching a shirt for Bran. Sansa herself was seated by her mother, uncomfortably warmed by the fire at her back, as she embroidered a kerchief for little Jonnela.

The shock faded and she stilled and listened with wide eyes of marriage and other things – apparently, the bride had to have knowledge of what would happen in the marriage bed, that was told by Lady Mormont and Lady Forrester.

Sansa wondered if when her time came if there would be a gathering such as this … but her Mother promised her that she'd wed a Prince and become a Queen. She sighed – her mother's friend wrote from King's Landing; she read a letter that he wrote to her, enclosed in a letter that arrived for her mother.

Mother handed her the sealed missive with a smile – it was written by Prince Joffrey himself. A couple of words, offering congratulations for her nameday. Sansa read and reared those couple of short words a hundred times.

"Mother, mind there are young Maidens present," her brother’s betrothed objected, her grey eyes dancing. And Sansa stopped dreaming of Her Prince and focused back to the company.

"Oh Sansa is old enough to hear it, while not yet a woman flowered, these things will be of use to her when she will be wed. After all, it’s not good if a young wife is too naive and unknowing of life," Lady Forrester dismissed her daughter's words.

Her Lady Mother cleared her throat, "Perhaps it’s time for my future god-daughter to get ready for her wedding?"

"Lady Catelyn is right," Lady Mira demurred, "Mother?"

"Ahh yes, the wedding gown – as you know the wedding gown is sewn by the women of the House that the bride is born into. Usually, it is a reworked gown that the bride's mother wore. Of course, we will have to make vinok from periwinkle, poppy, frostfires and all framed with wood fern. Robb will himself add Winter Rose at the centre."

With that, Lady Elissa Forrester went to the ironwood chest that lay by the window – it was lovely workmanship with a chiselled House Forrester sigil of a white ironwood tree on the black field, embellished with a black sword pointing down, and their family’s words 'Iron from Ice'. Lady Mira followed her mother, and she and one other maid vanished behind the screen that two bannermen's wives pulled across the room.

Sansa wiggled in her seat in anticipation; she heard that Lady Elissa's wedding gown was a masterpiece made by the same seamstress that had sewn dresses for the Targaryens. And she hadn't known that the North possessed such elaborate wedding customs. Septa Mordane and her Lady Mother described the rites and wedding gowns of the South, never of the North, so Sansa assumed that there was no elaborate weddings rites – just two people handfasting before the Heart tree.

She was finding out how wrong she was … and that meant that Septa Mordane was wrong and her Mother was also in the wrong, and that was the strangest thought of them all...

And then Lady Mira stepped out, and Sansa gasped. The gown was gorgeous. Made from shimmering satin and chiffon and delicate Myrish lace – her entire neckline was covered in its delicate webbing, giving the dress a high neck – the sleeves were of similar design; they were billowing and bell-like. The bodice hugged her waist and then flared like a musician trumpet at the bottom. At the back, there was a slight train, made from white cotton, that dabbled as a half cape as it was lined with white fur. The whole look was rounded with a sequined around the shoulders and beading of pearls and semi-precious stones that caught the light and shimmered as Mira walked.

Her hair was tightly braided and in the middle of her dark brown braid sat an arched halo headpiece, filled with a woven basket-like style, ground in metallic burnished copper with hints of gold atop a partial decorative skullcap. This was where the fresh flowers would be put.

"You make a lovely bride, Lady Mira," her Lady Mother allowed as she stood, "It’s time for you to marry my son," Catelyn declared to the room.

All the Ladies stood up, Sansa lurched to her feet, smiling wide … until Septa Mordane let out a little cough that made Sansa look at her; she was met with a disapproving stare from the Septa. Chagrined, Sansa gave a little curtsy in the Septa's direction, then schooled her features into one of serenity, as she was taught a Lady should have, and clasped her hands before herself – a sign of a demure lady, with a back straight and true.

 

Godswood



After the procession that followed the bride from the keep and into the Godswood stopped and Lady Mira joined Robb under the Heart-tree, Sansa went to stand with the rest of the family.

Her Lady Mother stood at her Lord Father's left, while Sansa stood as first of their children at Robb's usual place as Robb was standing under a canopy of the Heart tree's red leaves, right before the white face of the wirewood tree, which was seeping red sap from its eyes and mouth. He was wearing a wreath made of white wirewood and ironwood branches, decorated with dark blood-red, five-pointed leaves. In his hand, he was holding a single Winter Rose from Winterfell's glasshouse. The Rose was the colour of blue frost which he put at the centre of Lady Mira's headpiece of periwinkle, frostfires, and wood fern.

Sansa was pleased that her own gown matched the colour of the Winter Rose, and she was glad that she decided to embroider roses on her sleeves, neckline, and made a rope belt in the shape of roses. Lady sat beside her, just as Night sat beside Robb.

Beside her, as third born, stood Arya in her finest dress, that was as grey as a snow pigeon’s wings, and its hem was embroidered and lined with silver rabbit fur, her wild-eyed direwolf Amber sitting beside her equally wild sister. Beside Arya stood Bran, who was dressed in his finest leathers, and lastly Jonnel and Jonnela, in their child-smocks, who were watched over by Septa Mordane, who was frowning with tight-lipped disapproval at the ceremony taking place.

Specter was quietly sitting beside Jon, who was standing at the other side of Robb, facing her Lord Father. Beside him stood Ser Asher Forrester, Mira's older brother, who was living as a retainer of the Lord of Harrenhal and his maternal uncle Lord Malcom Branfield with his Lady Wife Leonette of House Fossoway. The elderly Lady Whent sat beside them, her servants standing beside her.

Lady Leonette was dressed in a resplendent teal gown, with a sweetheart bodice with bronze trim, maroon and red heavy embroidery on the skirt and bodice; the sleeves of the gown were long and sweeping the ground with crystal-shaped prints. Her hair was expertly braided in a crown twist bun and held together with red ribbons. Unlike her Lady Mother, Lady Leonette wore a dusting of purple colour on her eyelids along with magenta tinted lips and cheeks.

She didn't understand why her Lord Father wasn't happy with Lady Leonette's Lord Husband; she could see her Lord Father wearing the most peculiar look when he saw Lord Branfield. Or was that when he saw the banner, the field of black and red and an iris flower proudly shining in purple in the middle? It looked lovely; she didn't know that House Branfield had such striking colours in its sigil.

"Who goes there?" her Lord's Father voice boomed.

"Robb Stark, here before the heart-tree to be wed to Mira Forrester," her brother said, and as soon as he finished, Lady Mira stepped beside him, a loaf of bread and a clay pitcher in hand. She handed the pitcher to Lady Mormont and a loaf of bread to Lord Umber.

"Mira Forrester here to be wed before the heart-tree to Robb Stark."

"Are you here to join hands and live together in the eyes of the Gods?" asked Lord Greatjon Umber.

"We do," Robb and Mira replied and faced the heart-tree. Lord Greajton broke the bread in half and gave it to Robb and Mira – who ate it.

"To cherish and respect till death separates you?" asked Lady Maege Mormont, when they made their last swallows...

"We do," they answered, and with that Lady Mormont took the pitcher and … Sansa only now realized that in that pitcher was fresh blood – poured it on the roots of the heart tree.

"Do you, child of my womb," Lady Elissa Forrester stepped forward, "wish to tie your life to Robb Stark?"

Lady Mira – Sansa's future godsister held up a hand, palm facing downward. "I chose Robb Stark to be my husband out of my free will."

"So be it, daughter," Lady Elissa replied and deposited a cloth that Sansa embroidered for just this occasion, at Mira's wrist, so that it dangled from her wrist.

Then Sansa's Lady Mother stepped forward and with clear voice asked, "Do you, a child of my womb, wish to tie your life to Mira Forrester?"

"I do," Robb said and interweaved his fingers with Mira, only his hand was palm up.

"So be it, son." With that, Catelyn took the ends of the cloth and tied their hands together. As soon as she was done, her Lady Mother stepped away.

"Now meet Lord and Lady Stark!" her father boomed, and the thunderous applause and yells shook the air, while her brother kissed Lady Mira under the heart-tree.



Hours later



"Cheers!" Greatjon yelled, and every man and some women drank deeply from the distilled clear liquid from the small flask. Her Lady Mother had forbidden her to take a sip, but Robb secretly gave her some … it tasted horrible; it burned so badly that it made her eyes water and she had a coughing spell.

That was when he wasn't kissing Mira, since every time some of the gust yelled 'cheers' they had to kiss while the guests drank. Sansa thought it romantic in very unladylike, and not knightley at all like way. She would prefer a wedding in the South, for herself, to a Prince or the Heir of Highgarden he was yet unwed, her Mother told her, and she made sure that Sansa was aware of every major House in the South with eligible heirs.

The Martells appealed to Sansa as well – she'd be a Princess. Though she'd rather be a Queen.

There was also the Westerlands – with Lord Kevan Lannister’s sons that were of an age with Sansa. The Stormlands, the Lord of Storm's End was yet unmarried – Lord Renly Baratheon, King Robert's youngest brother. She supposed that being wedded to the brother of the King would not be amiss either. She heard that Lord Renly was a handsome man.

Sansa was glad that the Imp was married, she shuddered; she would dislike being married to an ugly, short man. Then she regarded her Lord Father's bannermen – most of them had some shade of brown hair, long faces, and various shades of light blue or grey eyes. And they were all pale, with tall, and a slightly stocky body structure, large and high noses, and deep beards.

She'd prefer a cleanly shaved husband or at least one with neatly trimmed whiskers and beard. She heard Mother complain once or twice of how Lord Father's beard was scratchy.



Next day in the stables



"I don't understand. And neither Lord Father nor Lady Mother wants to explain ..." she was telling to Lady, as she was sent away so that her parents could converse. They announced it at dinner, Robb and Mira were sitting together, their hands still tied together – and would be for the whole night! Her Lord Father announced that King Robert would arrive in four days, and when the King left, her parents and herself would travel first to Riverrun and then all the way to King's Landing with the King!

And she would take Lady with her, while Robb would be a Stark at Winterfell. Most importantly Arya would stay behind as well.

"What is it, child?" Lady Forrester asked. Sansa winced; she did not want to ask this out loud, the words just tumbled from her mouth – unwanted and unlooked for. But leaving this unanswered would be unladylike.

She curtsied, "I was wondering why does Lord Father seem displeased in Lord Branfield wearing his House sigil?"

The lady blinked at her. "Child, first of all, the curtsy is required only for the Royal Family. No need to curtsy to any other Lady or Lord. It puts you in a subservient position even if you are Lord Paramount's daughter. It was very graceful Lady Sansa, so chin up child."

Sansa felt Lady Forrester's hand on her chin – she only did as Septa Mordane instructed her, a Lady always must look demure!

"If you are to go live at King's Landing," Lady Forrester continued, "you must keep these things in mind – true friends are almost impossible to find; everyone wants something from you and will lie to you in your face with an honest smile and kind eyes. All nobles play a Game of Thrones, and in it, you are either a helpless pawn or a player. It will do you no favours if you put yourself in the pawn position from the start."

"But Septa Mordane ..."

"The good Septa was neither at court nor was she in the position you are in, Lady Sansa. She cannot advise you on a subject she is unaware of." Lady Elissa's voice was pure iron when she said that. "Septas and Septons have no business in politics."



The arrival of the King or 5 days later



They were all in the courtyard, facing the gates and lined up. In the first row stood her Lord Father, then on his right was her Lady Mother. Then stood Robb with his Lady Wife Mira, then Sansa, beside her stood Arya, her hair mussed terribly – and Sansa could swear that she saw straw tangled in her sister's brown braids. Bran stood beside Arya, his sightless eyes staring forward and a blackbird was perched on his shoulder. Then stood the twins with Septa Mordane just behind them, her hands clasped on each of the twins’ shoulders.

Then stood Jon with Lady Whent and others. In the second row stood the high ranking serfs, the visiting bannermen, and Lady Asha Greyjoy.

The first knights that rode in had gold cloaks then came the ones that had crimson, and finally in rode the Kingsguard. They were followed by an enormous black stallion bearing the King; a wheelhouse drawn by four horses pulled to a stop.

King Robert dismounted, quickly followed by the Kingsguard and others. She kneeled as was the Northerner custom, grimacing at the thought that her knee was touching the ground. Another Northerner custom she disliked; she preferred to curtsy. Only, Lady Elissa instructed her that with other Ladies of the Court she was to incline her head. She might be unwed and not yet flowered but she was a Lord Paramount's daughter; curtsying was reserved only for the King and his Royal Family of Westeros or the Prince or Princess of Dorne.

King Robert marched toward her Lord Father – she watched him under her lashes, then she turned her attention to the wheelhouse doors that were being opened by a servant. Emerging first was a boy – no it wasn't just any boy, it was Prince Joffrey!

He had shoulder length curly golden hair that shone in the sunlight. Eyes as green as an emerald and full lips – he was the perfect prince. Handsome and tall and golden. He wore the crimson vest with a stag embodied on front.

She stood up when everyone did. Sansa brought her attention to the King as he embraced her Lord Father, kissed her Lady Mother's cheek, nodded at Robb, congratulating him on his wife's beauty, and commented on how pretty Sansa was. She felt a blush and gave a curtsy and averted her eyes.

She watched how the queen was helped out by Ser Barristan the Bold; she wore a heavy crimson damask gown trimmed with fur, with a cloak made from the rich fur of red foxes. Then one of the younger princes, he was tall for a boy of eight summers, jumped out and helped Princess Myrcella out of the wheelhouse. The ten summers old Princess was dressed similarly to the Queen, and then the boy turned so Sansa could see him clearly.

He was a scrawny boy, she decided, very unlike his beautiful older brother and Heir to the Iron Throne. He had a lean body and stick-like limbs. His black hair had a dusting of gold among the dark, and it curled at the end, and one eye was solid black while the other was a dull green colour. Unlike his brother, he wore a woollen tunic and greyish green pants. He also had an embroidered crowned stag on his front. This must have been Prince Lyonel Baratheon; he was rumoured to share similar eye colouring with his uncle the Imp of Casterly Rock. Prince Lyonel also had two braids with glass beads braided behind his left ear.

"What's your name, lass?" Sansa heard King Robert ask; she looked out of the corner of her eye to see him bending over Arya. Who was glaring at the King!

"Arya," her sister replied rudely. Sansa winced and looked back at the Queen and her children. While she was occupied with watching Arya, she missed the disembarkment from the Royal Wheelhouse of Princess Robara, who was as tall as Princess Myrcella despite being a year younger. She had straight black hair and black eyes; she was dressed in Baratheon colours of yellow and black. She had a hooked nose – that marred her otherwise beautiful face and she had crooked teeth. Sansa noticed this when the Princess smiled to her brother – the brother was plump with white blonde, curly hair and emerald eyes. It was Prince Tommen Baratheon, King Robert's youngest child, and the only one of the King's sons that was betrothed; he was to wed his cousin Shireen Baratheon when they'd be of age.

King Robert then turned to her blind brother. "And you must be Brandon Stark."

"Yes, Your Grace," her brother, her sweet poor blind brother, nodded solemnly.

The King then turned to Jon, who bowed at the waist like a proper knight.

"Jon, it is good to see you again," the King greeted Jon, who gave a solemn nod to the King.

"Likewise, my King."

"I hear what you did on the road with the brigands three moons ago from Ser Barristan," the King continued while watching Jon. "So I'm going to do what I wanted to do at the first tourney you won – kneel."

Sansa watched as King Robert knighted her brother or – a cousin if she recalled the rumours of a wedding between Brandon Stark and Ashara Dayne. She never paid it any mind nor did she ask her parents or any of her siblings. Jon was removed from her thoughts when he went away, and her Lady Mother was content with Jon's absence. Sansa, being the dutiful daughter, was glad for her Lady Mother.

Queen Cersei, wrapped in fox fur, approached then; Lord Father kissed her ring followed by her Lady Mother doing the same.

"I want to go to the crypt, to pay my respects." King Robert was suddenly looming over his queen, whose lips thinned in disapproval.

"We were travelling at a fast pace," Queen Cersei said, "my love, surely the dead can wait."

The King ignored his wife and turned away from her. "Ned!" called the King.

"Yes, Your Grace," her Father said and walked toward the Crypts.

"Your Grace," it was Jon who stepped forward to stand before the Queen, "you must be tired of your journey; why don't we go to the Great Hall? I'm sure that the Princesses would welcome the warmth that Winterfell offers."

The Queen gave a tight-lipped smile and then turned to Sansa's mother. "Right this way, My Queen." Lady Catelyn bowed before the queen and Robb offered the Queen his elbow while Jon and Bran did the same for Princess Myrcella and Princess Robara.

"My Lady." Prince Joffrey was standing before her with all his splendour; Sansa sighed internally at the sheer romance of it … she must prevail upon her Lady Mother to ask Father so that Sansa could be Prince Joffrey's bride and later his Queen. "Let me escort you inside."

"Yes, Your Grace," she curtsied and took his hand. From the corner of her eye, she saw Arya being escorted by Prince Lyonel and Jonnela by Prince Tommen while Jonnel walked with the Septa.



At the Feast



Her Lord Father escorted Queen Cersei, who wore an elaborate crimson gown with golden trims and golden jewellery about her throat and wrists. King Robert led Lady Catelyn to the High Table.

Then next came Robb with Princess Myrcella, followed by Jon and Princess Robara; Sansa was led to the table by the golden Prince.

Joffrey was so charming; she'd ask Lady Mother if she'd convince Father to ask for a betrothal. She would very much like to wed Prince Joffrey and bear him golden-haired children.

Arya was escorted to the table by Prince Lyonel, and Jonnela by Prince Tommen, while Jonnel walked with their godsister, Mira.

Before he sat down the King bellowed, "Hear all of you! Today I announce a betrothal of my daughter, Princess Myrcella, to the Archduke of Crownlands and Lord of Harrenhal, Jon Vermilion-Stark. Now bring on the ale, damn it!"

 


***Samwell Tarly - 1***



King's Landing 299AC



The King's procession just disappeared from sight; they were en route to Winterfell. The entire Royal Family left for the wedding of Lord Robb Stark to Lady Mira Forrester.

Sam was standing in the Tower of the Hand; he just came to deliver some documents to Lord Arryn. Since Lord Tyrion was at Casterly Rock, he took over some of the Lannister duties. His new friend Lord Jon Vermilion-Stark set out to Winterfell moons before the Royal Family from King's Landing, where he squired under Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard.

Sam winced when he remembered that Ser Jaime was no longer part of that Order. He was dismissed by King Robert soon after Sam and his wife Lyra arrived to stay in King's Landing.

It was a jape of the Gods that two heirs were disinherited and left to make their own path. After all, Sam and his wife arrived straight from Horn Hill, where Sam refused his father's demands and left his father’s halls. While Jaime left, not for Casterly Rock, but to Esses- spurning his own birthright in favour of his younger brother.

Sam still didn't know why and how that came about. There were rumours and guessing games among the Lords and Ladies of the Court. Even Jon didn't know all of it, but Sam knew that Ser Jaime left a letter for Jon … not that Jon shared its contents with him; he hadn’t been close with him then.

It was funny that Sam's first inclination was to stay away from the Lord of Harrenhal – but his wife Lyra of House Mormont went and sought the Lord out, as she knew him from before they wed, and then Sam met and talked to him, and Jon became a friend to Samwell as well.

"Sam!" his Lady Wife’s voice penetrated his thoughts.

Sam turned around to see Lyra standing behind him in her usual attire of long robes, the same fashion the Queen was seen wearing, only Lyra made it more simple, more streamlined and not so heavily embroidered. She also wore it in such colours that she showed homage to House Mormont and House Tarly, and a belt with a silver chain that clasped together with a golden bear head – beneath the airy fabric of that robe however his wife wore pants and long knives. And probably a mace, if he knew his wife. He approved of her arms however, King's Landing was a dangerous place. Though most of its danger was removed now that the Royal Family went North.

"Yes, dear?"

His wife circled him, and he stood up; even when standing up his wife was a head taller than he. "I’ve been calling you for a while, where were you?" she leaned in.

Blinking Sam leaned towards her. "Er, I was thinking of Jon," he murmured just as Lyra kissed him.

"Should I be jealous?" she asked teasingly when she pulled back. And Sam was not ashamed for the foggy thoughts, and the fact that it took a while for his thoughts to clear from that fog.

"What!? No," Sam yelped and then scowled when Lyra descended into a peal of laughter. "Not funny, Lyra!"

"Yes, it is," she gasped out between the laughter. "You should see your face."

"You wouldn't say that to Jon," he grumbled.

She smirked, like Sam supposed a She-bear would right after she spotted a beehive that she'd empty of its treasure. "Actually I did, though your reaction was more entertaining."

"What did Jon say?" he asked, curious to how his friend took the teasing of Sam's wife.

"Well," she finally came down from her mirth, though her eyes still sparkled in mischief. "At first he stared, then he said that he prefers his love life women shaped."

Then there was a polite cough and they turned to see Lord Arryn watching them, his eyes lit with amusement. Sam blanched at the thought of Lord Jon Arryn hearing his conversation with Lyra.

"Lord Hand," Lyra greeted the old Lord, "we didn't hear you come in."

"That's all right, Lady Tarly, no harm done. Lord Samwell?" It was a question; Sam heard it clearly, and he supposed since they were at the Tower of the Hand, and in Jon Arryn's workspace, that wasn't so odd – what was, was that Sam got so distracted first by his thoughts and then by his wife. And what was Lyra doing in the Hand's Tower?

"I'm here to deliver these reports," Sam answered while showing Lord Arryn the parcel of scrolls.

Lord Arryn's sky blue eyes winded. "That was fast..." he muttered. "Good work," he praised him.

"Yes, I had help," Sam said then he smiled at Lyra. "My wife." His wife, while not a big lover of the written word, helped him often so that his workload didn't overwhelm him and he had more time for personal pursuits.

"Ah," Lord Arryn nodded. "Yes, I can attest that Lysa helps me on occasion as well and the work is sooner done with her help," Lord Arryn said, "though she tires all too easily now."

Considering Lysa Arryn of House Tully was with child. This would be her fourth child; Samwell knew that they were hoping for a boy – a boy that would inherit the Eyrie in case something – Gods forbid happened to Robert Arryn who was now a seven summers old lad, with blond hair that had some copper lights and with big blue eyes Arryn sky blue and not the deep water Tully blue. And when the Royal Party returned, Lysa’s niece Lady Sansa Stark would be fostered with the Arryns in King's Landing.

"How is Lady Lysa?" Lyra asked. "Can I call on her?" For some reason, Lady Lysa Arryn took to mothering the She-Bear and for some unfathomable reason, Lyra allowed that. Something that Queen Cersei sometimes openly mocked, which Lyra ignored and Lysa didn't pay any mind to.

"I didn't want to impose on her."

"I'm sure my wife would say that she is only pregnant and not an invalid," Lord Arryn said with some humour. "Keep the visit short, my Lady, so that my Lady Wife doesn't tire too greatly in the last moons of her pregnancy," he warned Sam's wife.

"I won't; I simply tell her tales from Bear Island," then she smiled, "if she births a daughter, she'll probably insist in calling her Ursa."

Lord Arryn groaned, "I hope she won't be as wild as her namesake."

Lyra Tarly nee Mormont chuckled. "Would that be really so bad for her to be like the woman she would be named after?"

Jon Arryn pinched the bridge of his nose, "No, I suppose I would not mind. But the world would be hard on a Lady such as her."

His wife, it was still surreal for Samwell Tarly to say that – his wife. Especially since he knew that his Lord Father meant for him to join the Night's Watch when his service to the Baratheon Princesses would be done. He said as much upon the day of Samwell's departure– that he had no hope that Sam would man up and become worthy of Horn Hill

Randyll Tarly wanted Dickon to inherit Horn Hill. Dickon who was the perfect son, and in their Lord Father's image. His Lord Father was not happy when Sam came home with a wife – and because they wed in the Light of the Seven, by a Septon, and had been married for a couple of moons, he could not annul the marriage, but he did pull Sam aside and say that they would have a hunt – a hunt from which Sam would not come home. Unless he renounced his place as heir and husband by taking the Black.

Samwell, the person he was before, … before Princess Elenei coached him in wielding a staff and told him that he mattered, that he was brave, and that his father was foolish to not see the value of Sam.

The Samwell that somehow got the courage to talk with the Bolton heir – and discovered a kindred soul in Ser Domeric. They shared a love of books and had demanding and overbearing and cold fathers.

Samwell who spared with Brienne of Tarth, who was a better swordswoman than Ser Hyle Hunt and even Dickon were swordsmen. Not that they would have admitted it even if she'd beat them in front of the crowd, and she was somebody his Lord Father would have found unnatural since according to Randyll Tarly, a woman belonged at home and could do only things that were appointed to them in the Seven-pointed Star.

Obedient to their betters – their father and later their Lord Husband.

Depended on their protection – a woman need not take arms, she only needed to run her Lord Husband’s keep and bring heirs to the world.

That Samwell Tarly would have set out on the journey to the Wall the next day. He wasn't that Samwell Tarly no more.

He was different; he discovered when he heard his father speak so ….



Horn Hill 296 AC (Lyra Mormont PoV)



Lyra Mormont no Lady Lyra Tarly, she and Sam married only a sennight ago on Estermont Island and were on the way to meet members of her new House. They were travelling towards Horn Hill, from Estermont by horses via road.

Sam told her a little of his family on the way; she knew that Randyll Tarly disproved of his eldest son, and he would be displeased by Sam marrying without his input, and Sam warned her that there was a slight possibility of Randyll disinheriting Sam.

"Would that pain you?" she asked when Sam finished talking of how Lord Tarly tried to discourage Sam from going to the Citadel, where he would join the Maesters at the Conclave in Old Town.

Sam looked started and lost, so she elaborated her question, "To be disinherited, and not inheriting Horn Hill?"

She didn't care for being some dainty Southern Lady – that was not her; she was a Mormont born, a She-Bear and a Lady of the North. She wasn't afraid of some hardship and working alongside her husband. Why on Bear Island there was no such thing as gender work division; if you had talent and capacity for that talent, it was nurtured, being male or female. Oh, cousin Jorah was groomed to take over after Uncle Jeor, but it would hardly matter since he didn't have a capacity to lead and sooner or later poor, unfortunate cousin – who was another example of why it was a bad idea for Northerners to marry for political gain to the Lady of the South … at least before said Lady was equated in just what she was getting into by marrying the Northerner.

The same should be said for men; Lyra did warn Sam all about the climate and that there was a possibility that he'd have to work – like chop wood. Sam said that it didn't matter and that he was willing to work hard if it meant being with her and books...her Samwell went through those like some men – like King Robert, the King of Whores as he was known in Flea Bottom and the Crownlands went through women and wine, or the likes of Jaime Lannister and his swords.

"No," Sam said with wonder, "I don't believe it would."

Lyra nodded, "Besides, it wasn't like we'd be left adrift," she said, "We'll always be welcome in Bear Island with me and my, now your, family. My mother is very interested; we haven’t had a scholar in the family, that was always the Maesters preview. So a noble that is very learned would be welcome. We could also travel to Dorne to be with Princess Argella. Or return to Princess Elenei's side and you know she'll always welcome both of us."

Sam was genuinely touched by the notion. It hurt to see the boy-man that she first became friends with, and later developed tender feelings for, so elated by a simple reassurance that he had friends that loved and cared for him, just the way he was.

"Or apply to help the Hand of the King in King's Landing," Sam suddenly added. Lyra raised an eyebrow at her husband who blushed – his round face never before resembled an apple as it did then.

"Oh," she prompted, along with a nudge to her husband's ribs.

"Ah, Princess Elenei wrote to her Uncle Tyrion, about me and … well, the Princess suggested in her letter of me taking place in some capacity at court." Sam fidgeted for a bit, "The reply from Lord Tyrion arrived just before we left, so I haven't gotten the opportunity to discuss it with you yet."

"And you thought nothing would come of it," Lyra stated, knowing her husband lacked confidence at times. Confirming her thoughts, Sam nodded.

"Well, apparently you thought wrong. Being in King's Landing might be good for you; you could fix the problems of the realm in your own way. Now tell me more of your family I'm about to meet. What of your Lady Mother?" she asked, "and you have siblings, yes?"

Samwell's face brightened, "My Mother is from House Florent; her name is Lady Melessa. She is very pious, but she is also kind."

That was a rare quality; there were not many pious ladies that Lyra had met that didn't look down on her for being from the North and worshipping the Old Gods only. Catelyn Tully learned that in a hard way – she had no friends among the Northern noblewomen, and as far as Lyra noticed on the rare occasions she visited Winterfell, Lady Catelyn didn't even realize it now. Lyra's mother once made a comment that Lady Tully expected for the North to be like the South, where wives of Lord Paramount were in charge of the household and the wives of bannermen, and when she finally realized that things were not as she expected them to be – the northerner servants gossiped that Lady Catelyn and the serves and lady's maids she brought from the Riverlands were paying tithes from their own allowances, something even the Manderlys stopped doing in the first years of settling North.

Lyra could not understand why Lady Catelyn never even visited the White Harbor.

They had a Sept there, granted there was no Septon or Septa in White Harbor, but still … ever since the Lady of Winterfell found out that the congregation members preach in the Sept and that they do not pay tithes, she never again brought the topic up nor asked for her to visit the Sept – and she was not the first wife from the South, though she was the first that had a Sept in Winterfell, something other Northern Lords eyed with unease, and she was the first that raised the future Starks in both religions.

"My sister Talla inherited our mother's sweet nature," Sam continued, "she is also very smart as she often read with me. She especially liked to read the topics of healing and Valyrian poetry – she is fluent in High Valyria," he said with a fond smile, then his face darkened.

"Until Father forbid other books to her but The Seven-pointed Star texts. Then there are Rehela and Melara. They are quiet girls, or that is how I remember them; my Father didn't allow for much else with them than to study with the Septa. Then there is Dickon. When he was born Father ignored me – those were the best years of my life and then the Royals came to Highgarden and I was taken in as a Page for the two Princesses."

"You must miss them."

"I miss my sisters and my mother," Samwell said flatly, "And would you be disappointed if I said that I feel heavy and weary just thinking that soon my Lord Father and I will speak face to face?"

Lyra thought on all she knew about Randyll Tarly, from Samwell and Princess Elenei.

Then he jumped because there was a rap on the top of the wheelhouse. "Lord Samwell, we arrived at Horn Hill."

"You heard the man," Lyra said to Sam, who again retreated into himself, "let’s meet my new family ."

Lyra smiled … now, this should prove interesting. Perhaps she should look at this as some sort of battlefield, where she doubted she’d win the approval – nor would she seek it, as she really doesn't need it – she had Samwell's approval.

Lyra's first impression of the fort, it was not a castle – it was a fort on the hill. Granted the fort itself was made from mud-red stones and tiled with red brick and had high and well-made archer towers.

But as a fortress, Mormont's Bear Den was a more fortified structure, and she highly doubted that there was warm water running through the walls as there was in almost every older castle in the North. Not that they needed it for warmth. But those poor servants who must lug (the) warm water for the baths.

"Sam!" came a shout, and a tall and lean, dark-haired young lady came at a brisk walk towards them, but her smile was kind and welcoming. Which was proven when she rushed to Sam and hugged him tightly.

"Talla! Where is Father?" Sam asked.

Lyra knew that Sam expected Lord Tarly to be in attendance. But as she observed her husband converse with his sister, Lyra was finding that she rather liked her god-sister. Talla Tarly had a passing resemblance to Sam, with those unfortunate too large ears that all Florents seemed to have. The too large ears were inflicted on Lord Stannis Baratheon's wife and his only child, Lady Shireen Baratheon.

When she was a Lady in Waiting in King's Landing, Lyra often heard Princess Elenei saying that the ears of Florents would not be so noticeable on her sweet cousin, if Lady Selyse did not insist on Shireen having braided hair up and around her head, so that her ears were even more prominent along with the scaring, which was a pity because little Lady Shireen was comely child, despite her scaring.

"They went to the wedding," Talla said, "your letter said that you were visiting a day after they left." Then she smiled, "Father left Dickon in charge, but our brother left on a hunt and has been gone for days now. Mother took Rehela and Melara with them to the wedding of Aunt Rhea to Lord Leyton Hightower and charged me to look over the household."

"Ah, so they are unaware that I ..." Sam trailed off.

"No. I didn't even tell Dickon, though as soon as the wheelhouse was spotted I ordered for your rooms to be ready, with additional rooms prepared in mind of your marital status." Then she beamed, "Congratulations, little brother."

Talla turned to Lyra next, "I am unsure what welcome Lord Father will give, and Dickon tries to emulate father in everything, but know that Mother will welcome you with open arms. And so do I."

With that Talla hugged her as well and then released her, and Lyra was out of breath – there was a lot of strength in that hug, and judging by the slightly pained twist in Sam, her husband had some pain in his ribs as well.



Day's later



Lyra still did not forgive her god-brother, which she proved when she knocked the arrogant ass on the floor.

Twice.

"For the last time," she said calmly, "I am no delicate flower, as I’ve proven to you days ago or did the jousting stick knock the wits out of you? You say I am delicate ...'delicate' only gets brought in when a man like you is bested by one of my sex; are you afraid and insecure with yourself that women can whether pain better than men do? When you see her, apologize to your mother - as she had to push a babe out from her opening that is smaller than your mouth and did that five times. What is so delicate and weak in that?"

Talla came to them then, "Father’s banners were spotted on the road; they will be here soon, Dickon. You must prepare for Father's arrival."

"Yes, of course, I'll go to my rooms to make myself presentable. Is Samwell ready?"

"Yes."

Dickon scoffed, "I suppose that he doesn't sweat much being in the library with Maester Allen."

"I wouldn't say that god-brother," Lyra drawled, "I would not challenge him in archery or staff fighting," though she did when she needed to spar; her Sam was very proficient in archery and staff fighting – but he hated the hunt and the sight of blood still.

She blamed her Father in Law for it the more she thought of Princess Elenei's words on the subject. Samwell didn't like the hunt, but he was not sick at the sight of blood until Lord Tarly brought Qartheen warlocks to bathe him in aurochs’ blood. After that, for a long time the sight of blood, and even the smell of it made Sam sick. He was better now, though her Sam still preferred books to swords.

"Surely you jape, Father said that …."

"He is a craven? Aye Sam told me that on the second day we met … and it takes a special kind of courage for a man to admit to fear, for only a fool is not afraid, and only frightened men can be brave."

It was the second saying the whole North held to, the first being 'The North Remembers'. It was another frivolous thing of the South, she supposed, though not nearly as appalling as the sheer food waste that happened in every Southern castle.

"Challenge him then if you disbelieve me," Lyra said, finally done with this green boy who thought that just because his brother didn’t like fighting and avoided conflict was somehow of lesser worth, same as how most Southerners thought that bastards were evil or some such nonsense. As if the status of one’s parents decided on men’s or women’s character, why if that would be so, Darcy, her elder sister, would not be their Mother's heir. In fact, Lyra knew that each of her Lady Mother's daughters had a different bear for a father. And sometimes even Mother. Lyra's sister Lyanna Mormont’s birth Mother died at childbirth and Madge Mormont named and took her as her own, just as she claimed Gwendoline when she reached Bear Island. Another Northerner Lady who come to seek freedom - this one from her abusing husband.

"I need to get ready; after all, this is the first time I'll meet with my Lord Husband’s Lord Father and Lady Mother."



***Hour Later***



Randyll Tarly was a thin, balding man, who had a beak of a nose with a greying beard and whiskers that were trimmed short. Lyra would have been impressed by the dutiful man but … well, he really should not make so many disparaging comments, hidden as they were, to Sam and his hobbies and his marriage.

Granted Sam and she wed without his parent's blessing; however, they did receive a Royal Permit, signed by King Robert himself.

"I would expect for you to change Samwell but I still see the same son I sent to King's Landing to be a Page to the Royal Family."

These Southerners always had some funny ideas about who was useful and who was not, based on their perception. Now while Sam would never be a warrior, that didn’t mean he'd be a bad Lord of the Keep. He was smart with finances; he knew which avenues to peruse to increase the coffers. Sure at times, he'd get lost in books, but she found that endearing. Also, he discovered an interesting fact – like the North being rich in mines of iron, tin, and copper. Something that was forgotten over time.

Why he found that there was an untapped gold vein on Bear Island. If they could find the vein and mine it, it would certainly help their living, and there were some other things he discovered or re-discovered, something Lyra wrote her mother for. Apparently there were two herbs that had grown in abundance on Bear Island and were considered a weed – one was Medria or chicken weed, which was actually a medicinal herb, and Sting hair plant, which could be used in food and drink, but also for making clothes – and to think that they had forests full of this nettling plant.

"So you say, Father, but I know that this was a time well spent," Sam said. His Lord Father looked like he'd have a fit of some sort …

"Dear, we just arrived, and we need to clean ourselves from our journey," His wife Lady Melessa had said while laying a gentle hand on Lord Randyll’s forearm. The man frowned at her.

"As Mother says," Sam said, his voice level – it seemed that her husband had made some sort of decision now that he was facing his Lord Father.

"Dear, what's the matter?" she asked when her husband joined her in their rooms. Sam seemed pale but resolute.

"I'm not staying here," he said with conviction, his pale hazel eyes meeting her own darker brown ones. "My Father had said that I'm not worthy of his lands and titles and that I should take the Black, if not we will have a hunt, where my horse will stumble and throw me off."

Lyra snorted; her Sam rode a Northerner bred horse that was not nearly so prone to getting startled. Also, she felt insulted that she would be cast aside like yesterday’s linen smallclothes.

"Ah, did it escape your father that you are married and that you'll be a father in a couple of moon turns?"

"He thinks that....what?!" Sam's eyes grew in size and his mouth dropped open in shock. Lyra shrugged; it wasn't such a surprise that she could be with child, after all, they were lovers.

"I'm late with my moon blood," she said matter of fact, "now what did you say to your Lord Father?"

"That I want not either his titles or his lands, that I will find my own way in the world. My way. And with my wife at my side."

Then he smiled, "And I accepted the Hunt – but I did remind father that he should hold in mind that the Gods curse kinslayers. But I refuse to stay a moment after the Hunt – I accepted Lord Tyrion’s offer for a position at court."



***The Hunt***



She liked the expanse of the woods in Horn Hill; it reminded her of home, only that the woods were more of a leafy variety, and weren't wirewood trees that had red leaves in the height of winter or evergreen pines, hemlocks, white tipped spruces, cedars, pines, and larches that grew in abundance on Bear Island.

When they all mounted, Randyll Tarly's displeasure was clearly seen as his face was sour and unpleasant, partly that was why she was present – according to him a woman would be permitted to hawking, not the hunt for boars and Harts. She informed her godfather that that might be true for faint of heart Ladies of the South who were as useful as garden flowers, but Northerner Ladies were as hardy as the North itself.

That was promptly proven later when she tracked the boar, a magnificent beast that was the size of a greyhound. Lyra was grinning as it was her Sam's arrow that tagged the gigantic boar and her axe that fell the beast.

The best of that was the stony face of Randyll Tarly extended by an opened mouthed stare, that he closed with a click and then there was a flicker of irritation. There would be no 'accident' during this hunt. She inspected the saddle and the reins that were her husband’s.

"My Lord!" the maester greeted Randyll Tarly when he rode before them. Lyra didn't like the man. As a rule, Bear Island sent a young man every ten years, it didn't matter of his birth if he was competent and willing to learn, to the Citadel and he returned a maester when he forged his chain. And those returned men trained their helpers; it didn't matter if they were male or female; all it required was talent.

"Yes."

"Raven's from King's Landing."

"Very well, I will read them in my study." Lord Randyll waved towards the castle while dismounting from his warhorse. But the maester stepped back, suddenly evasive and a bit fearful.

"Begging your pardon, my Lord," he spoke just above a whisper, but Lyra was still able to hear him clearly, "but the missive is for young Master Samwell."

Lyra smiled, she knew that the letter carried their future; she wondered if Sam would inherit Horn Hill regardless of his Lord Father's wishes or if he would truly forge his own, independent path.



***King's Landing 299***



And the rest was history. They left the same day, bidding his mother and sisters goodbye; his father stubbornly went to the hunt for hart buck with Dickon.

It was in King's Landing that they learned of the Greyjoy Rebellion and of Princess Elenei Baratheon, Ser Domeric Bolton, Lady Aliandra of House Briar, and Brienne of Tarth's disappearance. Other disappointing news was that Lyra was not with child; it was a false alarm, but then they discussed things and decided together to wait for a better time to have a child of their own. Meaning that Lyra was now on Moon Tea to prevent a pregnancy.

"Samwell, I have her decree from Robert. If you sign this, there is an heir-less Lord of House Cargyll that past away. The keep itself is located south of Harrenhal; you would be vassal to the House of the Archduke of the Crownlands. You can take the name, keep, and lands. But you will have to give your inheritance to Horn Hill and the Tarly name up."

"Lord Arryn, when I asked Lord Vermilion-Stark for this, to see if something could be done in regards to me being independent of my Lord Father who doesn't want me to inherit Horn Hill in the first place – I accepted this for what it was. Where do I sign?"

The Hand of the King sighed, and regarded Sam in fatherly fashion – sometimes Sam wished that Randyll Tarly would have fostered him to the Vale then spread out the parchment bearing the sigil of House Cargyll, a golden goose on a blend of black and red; under the arms of the House was writings done by Jon Arryn’s hand, signed and sealed by Robert Baratheon.

"Here, and here."

Sam put his signature to the parchment, and Jon Arryn pressed the seal of the Hand on the other side and added his own; the King's seal and the signature were already present.

"Congratulations Lord and Lady Cargyll," Jon Arryn said, while his wife Lyra’s dark eyes glittered.

"I expected this moment moons ago and asked for your wife's, Lady Lysa's, help so this was ready in time." With that, she pulled a parcel from her skirt pocket and unwrapped the cloth.

"I figured the new incarnation of House Cargyll will need a new banner," Lyra said when she held up the cloth.

Sam stared; it was fitting. He thought that his new house had no bearing to House Tarly, but favoured greatly with House Mormont, his own wife’s House, and House Florent, his Lady Mother's.

On the burnt brick red background, there was a sleeping onyx bear, circled by lapis lazuli flowers. And in the corner, there were the words: 'We Learn. We prevail.'

"I also have a small note from Lord Vermilion-Stark; I had informed him before he travelled for Winterfell, as it's my duty of pending new banners he could gain," Jon Arryn had said while passing the rolled up parchment bearing a wax seal of House Vermilion-Stark.

Sam took the rolled paper, breaking the seal, and read:

'Sam,' Jon had written in his loopy and long hand, 'if you’re reading this, congratulations to the new Lord and Lady Cargyll. I'm immensely glad that I made such a good friend as you Sam, and I am doubly fortunate and honoured to call you my bannerman. I came to an arrangement with Castilian of Wing Hall – that is the name of the keep and the seat of House Cargyll to fill the keep with necessary staff and to prepare for you and Lyra. They eagerly await their new Lord and Lady. See you soon. your friend, Jon.'

Sam blinked a couple of times to still the tears that stung him; he was so moved by the gesture his friend had made. It seemed that he needed to send a thank you letter to his sire for fathering and disinheriting him after all.


 

 

***Jon Vermilion – 1***



King's Landing 298 AC

 

Jon was circling the knight, the freshly knighted Ser Loras Tyrell, or the Knight of Flowers as he was called by the masses. The people loved the flashy knight and the man that knighted him, Lord Renly Baratheon.

Loras was a skilled swordsman; Jon was good as well, he knew, but Loras managed to win points from him, not that Jon hadn't returned the favour. Loras was also very popular with the ladies of the court; they were sitting on the walls and tittering and chattering like flocks of songbirds when Loras was sparring at the arena. Grudgingly Jon acknowledged that yes, Loras was pretty and gallant – Sansa would fall in love with Tyrell's third son at first sight.

But he was also a showy man – that his armour was made from silver, or at least the surface was coated in silver; Jon hoped that a more sturdy metal was behind the polished and glittery surface that was decorated by sapphires and twisting black wines. There were also solid gold roses on his helm. And where Ser Loras was, Lord Renly was not far behind. It was odd though; Jon could understand why Tyrion always bet on Jaime at the tourneys, but Renly never placed a bet on any of his brothers, when King Robert still rode in a joust, and when Lord Stannis bothered to; he only ever placed bets on Loras.

"Point for Lord Jon Vermilion-Stark!" the page that kept score yelled and the other page placed a flag bearing his house colours and crest. He now had six points to Loras' eight, three golden roses on a green field. And this was the last match.

"Well fought, Ser Loras," Jon congratulated and praised the young Tyrell, who was a year his senior.

"And you as well, Lord Jon," Ser Loras grinned, then his light brown eyes, that were almost gold, lit up.

"You both fought well," the voice of Renly Baratheon came from behind, and also Jon knew that look Ser Loras held when he looked at Lord Renly. It was the same one some of the ladies bestowed at Loras, and some at Jon himself, it was love.

He carefully filed that knowledge for later examination and storage, just as he did other tidbits about people that inhabited King's Landing; some information was about the Royal family and prominent Lords and Ladies of the Court, some were of the clergy, and some of men and women that served them.

For example the small observations of Ser Jaime Lannister and the Queen Cersei, who once were as thick as thieves, and seemed closer than many of the siblings that he saw when he first came to squire under Ser Jaime.

That changed later, and it was soon after that Ser Jaime told him he was feverish and delirious from dream-wine and some injury he got in the swamp where he and Jon hunted down the brigands that plagued the King's road … he told him why he avoided the queen and the other thing. Jon did not judge or condemn them for their actions – after all, why would the queen be faithful if the king was not?

He only needed to imagine his Aunt Lyanna in Cersei Lannister's place and he lost all sympathy for Robert Baratheon. Robert Baratheon still proclaimed his love for Jon's Aunt, to Jon when he met him in the halls of the Red Keep while coming from one of his rooms full of giggling whores from Chatya's. Jon heard the stories that while Aunt Lyanna was missing when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen took her, Robert Baratheon was fighting to save her and in his free time he was drinking and fucking any kirtle that crossed his path.

With a husband like that, could he really blame the Queen for seeking love and devotion and a man that would be faithful to her elsewhere? It made him wonder if Aunt Lyanna ... it was not good to think it; it was in the past, and they were both dead.

Before Jon found out the reason for Ser Jaime's sudden coldness towards his sister, and before King Robert sent Jaime and him to hunt those brigands, Ser Jaime avoided the Queen and usually Jon was the excuse, though Jon would prefer for the Queen not to send him poisonous glares and words. It was good that he was a prominent Lord now, and not some Northerner Lord's bastard.

Queen Cersei was always haughty towards Jon, and others that were not Lannisters, even the King was under her contempt. Her son Joffrey – the oldest of the Queen's children, that Jon knew – he never had met Princess Argella, nor Princess Elenei; both were away in Dorne or Estermont Island, respectfully. Joffrey was much like his Queen Mother, haughty and cruel and very much a blend of the worst characteristics of the King and Queen.

He was as vain as the Queen, who was ordering silks from Essos, instead of fine cotton from the Reach or silks from Dorne, and oblivious in his own ignorance of the realm, just like the King who was either in his cups or on some hunt, or with the kitchen maids, or ladies from Chataya's House.

Princess Myrcella was as sweet and fair as a Princess should be. And she took care of her younger sister, the Princess Robara. Who was the perfect contrast to Princess Myrcella. Where Princess Myrcella's hair was all golden curls, Princess Robara's was straight and dark. Where Princess Myrcella's face was heart-shaped, with a high forehead and cheekbones, Princess Robara had narrow cheeks, a long pointy nose, and a high and wide forehead. They shared their fair skin tone, their eye shape, though not the colour Princess Robara's were black, while Princess Myrcella's were green.

Princess Myrcella loved to work in her garden – usually, she was accompanied by one of the Kingsguard but only to the gate to Myrcella's garden. She insisted to be alone in there, not even her ladies, all of them from the Westerlands, was with her.

Princess Robara, however, enjoyed the hunt – hawking. She knew how to shoot a bow. Sometimes Lord Renly and Ser Loras went hawking with her. Then they usually returned with a couple of hares or fowl.

Jon had more than a passing familiarity with Prince Lyonel, the young boy around Arya's age. Though, the second Prince prefered making his gadgets. Some were even functional; he made improvements on an "enlarging glass"; now they could see the distant stars as they looked at letters. And a couple of other things – like blocks of letters from wood that he put together to form a sentence and then pressed them on parchment; the Prince named that "wooden writings" or "press words".

It was Prince Lyonel however that showed him a small library full of scrolls and books in leather bindings and pretty much commanded him in helping him go through it ... and Jon hadn't regretted it. That small dusty library was a treasure trove of information, most was written in High Valyrian though. Luckily both of them were proficient in that tongue.

Prince Tommen wasn't around Jon much. He didn't particularly like when people or animals got hurt. Once he found a fawn after the hunt and took it home and nursed the young stag to health. But then one day Prince Joffrey skinned the poor animal, who died in torment, while Prince Tommen watched. Joffrey then commanded for the skin to be put in his brother's rooms and the meat served for the Royal Family’s private supper.

Prince Lyonel and Princess Robara were ignored by the Queen completely, though she paid some regard to Prince Tommen and Princess Myrcella. But fortunately for them not too much. There was talk that Princess Myrcella and Robara would be visiting their sister, Princess Elenei at Estermont Island when there would be a tourney at Storm's End. Jon could freely admit that he was curious about both Princess Elenei and Princess Argella. He heard many a story about the absent princesses, most notably that they were driving forces in making King's Landing a better place for the common people. The only ones in the Baratheon family that gave "two shits about the common folk" as one man in Flea Bottom said to him.

And then there was the King, Robert Baratheon, who was nothing like a man of his uncle Ned's stories, except for his love of a fun time. Eddard was always vague about that, focusing more on his foster brother’s martial powers when he talked about him. Meeting the King in person was a disappointment for Jon. Instead of a jovial, hammer-wielding giant of a “maiden's dream type of a Knight”, as Eddard Stark described him – there was a lush of the man that cared not one iota of the Realm, his wife, even if she was a harpy or his children. He all but forgot about to having them. He acknowledged Jon himself more at court than he did any of his blood.

Stannis Baratheon, Master of Ships and Lord of Dragonstone. And the middle brother. He was a stern, uncompromising man. An unbending man. Jon had conflicting feelings about him – he liked him for his honour, but it seemed that Lord Stannis’s unbending character was both a credit to the man and his largest flaw. If he ever got it in his head that it was his duty to rule, he'd do it no matter the cost to himself or others. His dealings with Ser Davos Seaworth were a prime example of Stannis’s Nature. His wife was unlikable; she reminded Jon much of the attitude of Lady Stark when she dealt with him or with a serf or anyone that she thought was treating Jon as a son of the Lord Paramount.

Then there was Lord Renly, the youngest of the King's brother's and the Lord of the Storm's End, and his squire Loras Tyrell, the third son of Lord Mace Tyrell. Where one was, the other was not far behind – and there were whispers of their adventures together in bed. Considering that he saw them share an embrace and a kiss, Jon was inclined to give credit to those whispers.

Members of the Small Council were interested in the way of watching deceptively weak poisonous creatures that slowly leech the life out of the unwary. Some of them were decent people, trying to help the Realm, like Lord Jon Arryn who served as Hand of the King, but in truth, he guided the realm while the King was absent. And the King was always absent. Lord Arryn's right hand, Lord Tyrion Lannister, who when Lord Arryn was acting as King, Lord Tyrion acted as his Hand.

Then there was Varys – The Spider, the Master of Whispers. Who sometimes gave aid, with timely information. Jon was wary of the Spider, mostly because he didn't know what the man wanted. He had some kind of agenda, but for the life of him, Jon could not figure out what that was. And so Jon was wary and slowly built his own information network. Strangely or not so strangely – one of the maids of Princess Myrcella, Rosa, who was his informant, told him that he picked up the 'Silver' network.

It was raining ...



Some months past



Jon was blinking. "Silver Network?" He was puzzled, and a bit amazed, since it hadn't been a day since he made tentative inquiries with his own people about a certain individual, and now there was this slip of a girl, who caught him unaware in his own chamber with an offer of an information network.

Rosa nodded; her freckled face stretched into a smile and russet curls bouncing, "Yes M'Lord, and you have the blessing of the one who made it."

Now he was intrigued; he knew that this probably wasn't the Spider's work, because he doubted that the Spider would just give somebody his spy network. "Who?"

"I can't tell you their name, however, you can guess the person's identity," was the impish reply. "They said that you'll need it more than they do." Then her expression sobered, "Make no mistake, M'Lord, we will make reports to them as well as you. Unless your inquiries would be of personal nature; your mistress for example."

"I don't have a mistress."

"It was an example," Rosa sighed something sounding like 'you know nothing'.

Ignoring her muttering, he decided to move forward. "And you will tell me if I'm right?" Jon was sceptical. Would Rosa really tell him?

Rosa nodded again. "Aye, Silver commanded it and singled out two people we are to report to. You are one of them."

"Male or Female?" Jon asked, the suspicion forming in his mind as to who this person – or two could have been.

"Pardon, M'Lord?"

"This Silver – are they he or a she?"

"Cannot say that, M'Lord."

"Can you gave me a hint?"

"Silver refers to their hair colour. And Silver is on the island," then Rosa paused, "and Sable is in the desert."

"Estermont Island?" Jon paused as well. "And Dorne." If he was right and judging by Rosa’s smile, he was.

"Yes," the red curls bobbed.

Could it be ... "It’s Princess Elenei and Princess Argella?"

Rosa smiled. Jon took this as an affirmative answer, and then gave Rosa – who told him the key to the cypher that the Silver Network worked into their messages the name he wanted investigating – truthfully.

The name was Petyr Baelish for starters; the second name on Jon's list was Varys.