It was an ugly little thing. Cersei Lannister thought, looking down at it in the crib.
She was alone in its chambers. She had no difficulty dismissing the maids, who had the misfortune of taking care of this creature. She understood how to apply the threat of her family's name or her father to get what she wanted.
And right now it was to be alone and undisturbed with this thing.
After all, she was a lioness of the Rock, and she wouldn't allow the word no to be told to her.
It was in a lion's nature to rule not submit.
Less than two weeks had passed since this monster saw the light of day. News had already spread of its deformities and hideousness throughout the Westerlands. While some claimed it had already reached the capital and the king's ear. She had overheard some of the gossip from the guards and servants who had come from Lannisport and how the small folk had already dubbed this thing, Tywin's Bane, The Doom of Lannister.
How dare they, Cersei had quietly seethed upon hearing this. She made sure to note which ones had said what so that those who would utter such disrespect towards her family would be properly punished.
"You will not be my father's bane."
The thing burbled. Looking up at her with mismatched eyes of green and black.
She wanted to shudder at the hideousness of it, but she didn't. She wouldn't allow this thing to affect her.
"You're no Lannister," she told the small ugly thing that resembled an infant. "You don't deserve the name Lannister, but monster."
And it was a monster, she took in its ugly appearance. It was a dwarf, its head larger than its small, weak body, a jutting forehead, mismatched eyes, stubby legs, and coarse hair of black and blond.
"You can't be my brother," she said, after inspecting its features. She already had a brother, a twin, Jaime, her mirror image, with golden blond hair, and emerald green eyes. He was worthy of being her brother, a Lannister, not this thing. Cersei didn't want to be compared to this dwarf. She didn't want to be seen with it. She would be laughed at, and ridiculed by everyone.
"It isn't fair!" She hissed down at the oblivious dwarf. "If the gods are just you'll die soon enough."
"Cersei Lannister!" Standing in the doorway was her mother, Joanna Lannister. She was garbed in crimson and gold, resonating strength and looking regal even after giving a strenuous birth less than two weeks ago. She stood tall and proud. She was a true Lady of the Rock.
"Mother," she silently wondered how much her mother had heard.
If her mother had heard anything she wasn't quick to comment on it. "Why aren't you with your brother and our guests?" She swept into the room. Her crimson and gold robes flowing behind her.
"I don't like them." Cersei knew better then to lie to her mother. She always seemed to know when she did.
"That's your father talking," A touch of amusement seeped into her tone.
Cersei perked up at that, pleased at the comparison to her father.
"Prince Oberyn could someday be your husband."
Never! Cersei wanted to scream. Father, promised me Prince Rhaegar. Remembering her private conversations with him. There father had told her of his plan. It was their little secret. He even favored her a small, but proud smile afterwards. Cersei was determined not to fail him.
She let out a tut of disappointment at Cersei's silence. "You bring no honor to our house sulking in the shadows." She made her way to the crib where the creature was residing.
"I'm not sulking," Cersei argued, offended at the notion that she had dishonored her house. She would never do that, surely mother knew that. "I just don't like the Prince or Princess."
Joanna Lannister didn't reply instead she tended to that dwarf. Fussing over him as if he was actually her son, and not some monster. Some mistake that never should've seen the light of day.
This thing has shamed House Lannister not me, Cersei thought bitterly.
"Your brother has gotten along rather well with them," Her mother observed. "I've seen him spar with Prince Oberyn and walk with Princess Elia along the beach."
Nice try, mother. Cersei wouldn't go after the bait. Mother wanted some sort of reaction from her, to scowl, or shout, or curse or complain, but Cersei wouldn't do any of that. Jaime, her brother was no longer what she cherished most.
Mother had started her down that realization. When she had caught Cersei and Jaime being together, she had stopped them at once. Keeping an eye on both of them, and putting as much distance as she could between their living quarters. At first, Cersei had been upset with mother for doing this. Knowing her mother couldn't understand because she wasn't a twin. She didn't realize how close it made her and Jaime. How they were two halves of one whole. How they entered the world together. They were meant to be together.
That anger towards her mother was soon turned towards Jaime in the following weeks when she and Jaime suddenly found themselves going down different paths. They use to be inseparable, attending lessons with their maester, playing on the beach, traveling to Lannisport, but that all changed. Jaime had different lessons now. He was being taught how to rule and fight which Cersei wasn't allowed to do. Instead, she was taught sewing, and singing, and to play the harp.
It wasn't fair. She hated the roles they were given. She was given a needle and expected to be happy when she wanted a sword.
Whatever intimate feelings she had for Jaime dissipated in that time. Until it was nothing more than a memory, a silly, embarrassing one that she called a mistake and tried to bury.
"I hope the Princess makes him happy."
Mother turned to her, a golden eyebrow raised in silent appraisal to see if Cersei was being truthful or trying to hide something. After a few seconds, she seemed appeased, "A union between the Westerlands and Dorne would only strengthen our House."
"If that's the case then I wouldn't be needed to marry Prince Oberyn."
Joanna chuckled. "If your brother married Princess Elia, then no you would not."
Cersei was pleased with that admission. She was going to marry a prince, but it wouldn't be a Dornish one. No, she was going to marry the Crown Prince, the handsome and gallant Rhaegar, and she would one day be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. That's what father promised her.
"Regardless, if he is to be your intended or not, as a Lannister you are expected to serve as an exceptional host when we have esteemed guests visiting us at the Rock," Her mother's green eyes turned to her.
"I understand, mother," Cersei ducked her head, realizing the ramifications her absence could have on her family. She was determined not to be the one who dishonored the Lannister name. "I'll make you and father proud."
"You already do, darling," she ran her hand through Cersei's hair, who smiled at her mother's touch. "What do you think of your baby brother, Tyrion?"
Cersei's smile curdled at the mention of that thing. Why did mother have to ruin their moment by dragging that creature into their conversation?
Something that didn't go unnoticed by her mother. "He's your brother, Cersei."
"He's a monster," she spat back, "And he almost killed you!" She felt tears in her eyes and was quick to scrub at them. Her father told her that lions don't cry. That they're not suppose to be sad. Never sad, if they're upset then it should be turned into something productive, never to wallow in it.
"Oh, darling," She felt her mother's hands cup her cheeks, raising her chin to meet her mother's green eyes. "I'm here," she soothed, "I'm alright, you can't blame your brother for that."
Yes, I can, she wanted to say, but she stopped herself. "How can you defend him?"
"He's my son."
Cersei was stunned by her mother's sharp tone. Looking up at her to see a fierce lioness with eyes that blazed a challenging hue as if waiting and ready for any further insult or attack on her child. It wasn't a side of her mother she had seen. She felt a sliver of apprehension in her tummy especially upon understanding at the moment, that anger was directed at her.
She was the one who was trying to come between a mother and her child. She was the one trying to separate them. Seeing what it stirred in her mother, a ferocity that couldn't be rivaled. It made her reconsider what she should or shouldn't say. She didn't want to be the target of her mother's ire.
"He needs us, Cersei." She took Cersei's hand in hers and led her to the crib.
She stayed silent, watching as her mother affectionately tousle its hair. Soothing it with a soft hum, before smiling where it then cooed back at her. Cersei felt something in her chest shift when she watched the interactions between them.
"We're lions, Cersei," her mother reminder her. "We're a pride."
"A pride?" Cersei remembered her parents telling her and Jaime a similar story several times. But it was simpler then, it had been just her parents and Jaime. Now it was to include this thing.
"Yes," she affirmed. "You're a lioness and it's your responsibility to defend your brothers, Jaime and Tyrion." Her finger was gently scratching at the baby's tummy, much to the delight of the infant. "Otherwise what sort of sister are you to let someone hurt our family?"
"The Lannisters, our family remains strong because we are united." Her mother continued. "Tyrion is my son, your brother," a smile playing at her lips. "Our little cub, he'll need you, Cersei."
"Yes," Her mother sighed, "The world is cruel to those that are different. Already word has spread of his birth," She sounded sad. "Gossiping and wanting to gawk at him as if he was a means to entertain him." She shook her head, "Not my son, and never a Lannister."
Cersei knew mother was right. Having already heard of what was being said about him. Reflecting on the cruel things they said, brought an unexpected burning feeling to her tummy.
It was anger. But this time it wasn't directed at him, but them…
Reflecting on this new sensation, Cersei looked down once more at the crib to see he was smiling at her. His small hands reaching up at her, his different colored eyes didn't look ugly then. How could they when he looked so happy? So oblivious to what the world outside of this room would think of him. What they would say about him. How they would try to hurt him.
The thought of that brought that simmering anger to grow. He didn't deserve that, she realized in that moment. No one should dare mock the Lannister family or name.
She'd protect him from their cruelty. She'd make them pay if they thought to insult him. The Lannister name was beyond reproach.
Cersei reached out to grab one of his small hands with her finger. He seemed delighted at the touch, and when his face lit up, she didn't recoil in disgust, instead she smiled.
"Hello, Tyrion," she said softly in greeting. "I'm Cersei, your big sister." She carefully applied a small bit of pressure on his hand with her finger for an affectionate hold. "And you're a mighty Lannister of the Rock."
He gurgled in response.
Cersei giggled, "That was a fearsome roar." She rubbed his cheek with her free hand. "You're going to grow up with a brother and sister who'll love you because you're one us. And no one messes with a lion's pride."
"Have you heard the news out of the Westerlands?"
"Tywin's new son?" Daeron asked.
"Yes," Ser Gwayne Gaunt answered. A man with a wisp of hair upon his head, all of it dark, with kind brown eyes, and a bushy mustache that hung over his small mouth which smiled often. In spite of his family's name he was tall and thick, dressed in the white armor of the Kingsguard, with his greatsword strapped to his back. The hilt of which was poking out over his shoulder.
He was often the guard assigned to Daeron. Not that he minded, the prince enjoyed the knight. Ser Gwayne liked to laugh, and wasn't as glum or as indifferent as some of his fellow kingsguard knights.
"You should be Ser Gwayne the Gossip," Daeron joked.
Gwayne chuckled. "I can't help it, my prince. I enjoy a good story." His mustache twitched. "And there's quite the story coming out of the Rock. They're calling it a monster."
Sadly, Daeron had already heard these stories. Remembering how thrilled his father had been when word had reached his ear of the deformity of Tywin's newborn son. Aerys had been quick to call it a just serving by the gods to punish his Hand for his arrogance. He didn't think it wise or appropriate of his father to be so public in his remarks towards Lord Tywin. Seeing as the man was one of the richest and most powerful in the Seven Kingdoms.
Reservations aside, Daeron was quietly relieved that this new story out of the Westerlands had distracted his father's wrath and anger away from his mother, Queen Rhaella. Who was recovering from another stillborn. An incident that had made father curse and shout his frustrations at his wife and queen, and openly wondering if she was being unfaithful to him.
It had taken all Daeron's discipline not to speak out when Father voiced this out loud in the great hall with court in session. Instead, he took the insult of his mother silently. Inwardly stewing at the disrespect he hurled at her while she lay bedridden, weak and exhausted by the botched pregnancy.
That was where he was headed now. Mother was recovering from the trying ordeal, and Daeron didn't want to leave her alone.
"An Oldtown sailor heard from a merchant at Lannisport who's cousin is a servant at the Rock who said it has a tail!" Ser Gwayne's gossiping brought Daeron out of his thoughts.
"How does that sound reliable?"
He frowned at the question. "What do you mean, my prince?" He scratched his chin. "It sounds rather legitimate to me."
They rounded a corner where they were greeted by a pair of soldiers dressed in black armor, the Targaryen emblem emblazoned on their chest. They bowed at Daeron's presence as he passed, he nodded towards them in recognition as he was taught to do before they continued on their way to Mother's chambers.
"Have you seen my brother around?"
"Last I heard he was in the library, my prince."
"Do you know if he's seen the Queen at all?"
"Not to my knowledge, none of the men guarding him have reported going to her chambers."
Daeron pushed away some of his silver hair that had fallen over his face. While trying not to show frustration at his older brother's seemingly indifference to their mother's health. Wasn't he worried? Did he even care for her well-being?
No, he was too busy reading his dusty tomes in the library, he thought bitterly. My brother cares more about what he finds on faded ink in old pages then he does the flesh and blood of the people who surround him.
Rounding the last corner to reach her chambers to see Grand Maester Pycelle exiting them while Ser Harlan Grandison of the kingsguard had the duty of standing outside the Queen's room. Both men were quick to bow at Daeron's approach.
"My Prince," Harlan greeted him, his voice low and deep. He stood short, only about half a head taller than Daeron who had yet to reach his eleventh name day. He was stocky and intimidating despite the white hair nestled atop his head, and the beginning wrinkles that crept along his face couldn't hide the warrior that still remained.
"Ser Harlan," Daeron returned the greeting with a smile. "It does my heart glad to know that my mother has you as her protector this hour."
"You honor me, my prince."
Daeron nodded before turning to Grand Maester Pycelle, who had served as Grand Maester for more than twenty years. The hair on his head was receding. The hair that remained was snow white. His beard was the same color. His eyes were droopy looking like he had just woken from a nap. He was dressed in the robes of his order with more than two dozen chains that he had forged during his time in Oldtown which were stretched from neck to breast.
"Did you need me for something, my prince?"
"No," he declined politely. "How is my mother?"
"The Queen is recovering," Pycelle proclaimed.
"I want to see her."
"She is ill, my prince."
Daeron Targaryen frowned. "She needs me."
"She needs rest," Pycelle countered, stroking his beard. "It isn't wise for young princes to argue with those whose knowledge they don't have."
He felt a flicker of annoyance in his gut at the Grand Maester's scolding. "She is my mother," He insisted, "Now, step aside so that I may pass." He took a step towards him and as predicted so did Ser Gwayne and Ser Harlan turned to the Grand Maester as well.
Pycelle buckled in an instant, realizing he was outnumbered with no allies. He bowed his head, shuffling to the side to allow him access to the Queen's chambers.
"Thank you," Daeron didn't even glance over at the man. "Can you make sure we are not interrupted?"
"Of course, my prince," It was Ser Gwayne Gaunt who replied. Taking to stand on the opposite side of his counterpart, Ser Harlan, who opened the door for Daeron so that he may enter.
The chambers of his mother, the Queen, were posh and ornate. Red and black dominated the room while carved stone dragons watched his movement with unflinching eyes and menacing silent snarls.
He was quick to note his mother wasn't alone. Spotting two of her handmaids attending to her by her bed, which was draped in black and red curtains.
"Mother," his voice hitched in his throat when he spotted her. She looked pale, her indigo eyes, were staring blankly up at the canopy of her bed, dark rings surfaced beneath her eyes. Her platinum blond hair was tangled and dirty. Daeron didn't like seeing her like this. She looked so weak and helpless. This wasn't his mother, the loving, kind woman who he went to when father scared him or Rhaegar ignored him.
"I lost it."
"I know," he grabbed her hand, frowning at how frail it felt in his grip. "How are you?"
"Your father is angry," she ignored his question. Her lips quivered. "Another one of my failures." She croaked, "that's what he calls them." Tears swam in her eyes. "He believes me cursed by the gods."
"No, mother, that isn't true." He was quick to assure her. Feeling an ache in his chest upon hearing his mother list all the cruel things, father said about her. "You've done your duty," he tried to say. "You've given him two sons," he rubbed the back of her hand, "An heir, and a spare," he chuckled.
The mention of her sons seemed to shake her from her reverie. Blinking unshed tears, she turned her indigo eyes to him. "Daeron," recognition caused her eyes to shimmer, "My boy."
He smiled, "I'm here, mother." He looked over to see one of the handmaidens had come over with a bowl filled with water while holding a dry cloth. "I can do that," he insisted, thinking it only right he attend to her. "Set it down, please."
The handmaiden hesitated, torn between loyalty and her duty. In the end, she acquiesced, putting the bowl down on his mother's nightstand before curtseying.
"Where is Rhaegar?"
"He'll be here soon, mother." He didn't like to lie, but he didn't want to hurt her. "He's practicing his harp. He's going to play you something."
It won't be a lie, he thought, I'll make sure Rhaegar comes to see her.
"My sons," She smiled, "Take such care of me."
He dipped the cloth into the water. "We try not to spoil you."
Rhaella Targaryen laughed at that, a fragile sound. "The gods have blessed me."
"They've blessed us too," he told her. "You're the Mother herself," he declared. "Kind and nurturing," he carefully brushed away some of the beads of sweat that had formed, but Daeron was sure some were tears that were shed for the child that had been lost.
The sigh that left her lips was of contentment. "How go your lessons?"
"Ser Willem Darry says I'm improving every day with the sword." He couldn't hide the pride that filled his tone. "And Ser Barristan promised to start sparring with me soon!"
"Oh?" amusement bubbled her question. "Is that wise for Ser Barristan the Bold to fight my prince?"
Daeron laughed. "He promised to go easy on me, mother."
"I want to be his squire," Daeron said suddenly. "Do you think father would allow it?"
"I could think of no finer mentor."
He was determined to get better with sword and lance. He wanted to do something better than his brother.
Daeron thought it could be fighting since he spent all his time in the yard training while Rhaegar preferred books and parchment to swords and shields. That all changed when Rhaegar suddenly took an interest and had decided he needed to learn to fight.
He remembered the day all too well. The day Rhaegar showed up during one of Daeron's lessons with Ser Willem. He looked so out of place, earning a few stares and even a couple guffaws as Rhaegar wasn't even dressed in armor or padding. That didn't deter him from walking right over to Ser Willem, interrupting Daeron's lesson, and declaring, I must learn to fight.
Much to Daeron's annoyance, his brother took to fighting like fish to water, excelling in his lessons with Ser William. His brother fought well, better than Daeron. His age and maturity easily trumped Daeron's raw talent, giving Rhaegar an advantage in their sparring. Besting Daeron with ease whether it be with swords or with lances.
Daeron hated it. His brother was good at everything he did, the perfect prince. That was what they called him at court. And now he had taken what Daeron had always wanted to do. In the end, it didn't matter because Daeron still found himself in his brother's shadow, the crown prince.
My day will come, he thought, unable to deny the feeling of satisfaction he felt that came with the image. It was why Daeron was so excited to learn and squire under Ser Barristan. There was no finer swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms then Ser Barristan the Bold. Daeron would have every opportunity to learn from him, pick up on his skills, and hone his craft. Hoping that when he was finished, he could beat his brother once and for all.
"Yes, mother?" He blinked back to the present, looking to see she was looking at him closely.
"Nothing," he said too quickly to sound convincing.
"Have you and Rhaegar been fighting?"
We'd have to talk to fight. "No."
Thankfully, that placated her. "Good, you two mean the world to me," she closed her eyes. "But now it's time for you to go on to your lessons."
"I can stay."
"Your lessons," she repeated sternly, but there was a softness in her reminder.
"Very well," he let out a dramatic groan and was pleased at the smile that it had gotten from his mother. He stood from his seat. "I'll try to visit again soon." He bent over and kissed her forehead.