“Is it true?” Jaime growled at his father, who simply continued to sip his wine, looking calmly at his offspring.
“Is what true? You have to be more specific.”
“Did you have Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys killed?”
After all the effort he had made to keep his charges safe from his father’s first murder attempt, his relief at the arriving Stark forces and Lord Eddard’s sense of honor, it was all for naught. They were dead. How foolish of him it had been to think that they would be safe now. And his father, the bastard, did not even make the attempt of looking guilty or remorseful.
“You mean: did I have the good sense to correct your mistake? Yes, I did - and you should be thankful for it. In return, King Robert will take your sister as his queen. You are dismissed from the Kingsguard and free to become my heir, as you should have been. Rejoice, boy, you are a hero and brother to a queen!”
His father looked extraordinarily pleased with himself and, for perhaps the very first time, Jaime felt disgust well up inside him. Tywin Lannister was a hard man; he had known that. But this was such a vile act that any good man should shudder in revulsion. Not his father.
“How could you?! Aegon was just a babe! The princess just a young girl!”
“Young they might have been, but a threat nevertheless. Best to squash the problem before it grows - remember that.”
“You disgust me.”
Tywin snorted disdainfully.
“You have yet much to learn about what it means to rule. As Lord Lannister, it is my duty to look out for what is best for our house. We have gained much in this war and lost little. Someday, you will have to make these decisions.”
And those last words stopped Jaime cold. For just a moment, he imagined himself ordering the deaths of innocent children and other vile acts. What would he be in ten years? An unfeeling monster just like his father? Jaime had killed Mad King Aerys to save lives. It might have gone against his oaths, but it had been the right, the honorable thing to do. Would he have any honor left as his father’s heir in ten, in twenty years?
I don’t want to be like this, he thought and a decision solidified in his mind.
“...no?” There was a dangerous undertone there.
“I won’t go to Casterly Rock. What you did was the vilest of murders.”
Jaime turned away, but stopped at the door, hand on the handle, as his father’s words reached him.
“I have forgiven you your mistake of saving the Targaryen children. It was the folly of youth. But if you leave now, know that I will not take you back. Casterly Rock shall be closed to you. I will consider you a Lannister no more.”
For a moment, Jaime hesitated, but then opened the door and left.
The furious argument that took place between King Robert and Lord Stark, newly returned with his sister’s bones, would be something for the legends. Servants and soldiers alike whispered of the confrontation, of how Lord Stark had accused his friend of breaking his oath to him about keeping the Targaryen children safe and King Robert’s reply. Some even said that swords had been drawn and that it was only the intervention of Lord Arryn that saved blood from being spilled.
But the aftermath of the deaths of the last Targaryens in King’s Landing certainly had a fallout, no matter what had truly happened. The Stark host was leaving King’s Landing and heading back North.
“And I offer you to come with us, Ser Jaime,” Lord Stark told him solemnly.
“So everyone in the Red Keep already knows about my falling out with my father? Gossip,” Jaime snorted, “spreads as quickly as a King Landing’s whore spreads her legs, it seems. I don’t need your pity, Lord Stark.”
“It is not pity, Ser. I know that you could not be woken for hours after their deaths.”
“An insurance by my father so that I would not make another youthful mistake.”
“No doubt. But had you been awake, you would have tried to save them. You saved them the first time and you saved King’s Landing.”
“Fat lot of good it did me.”
“You are an honorable man, Ser Jaime. Perhaps the only honorable Lannister there is. The North is much different to what you are used to, but it is not a viper’s pit like the South. We could use an honorable and good man such as you and you might find the North to your liking in return.”
“I will think about it, Lord Stark. Thank you.”
And think of it he did. For a whole night and not finding any sleep. The North. He had never thought about going north. But what was there for him here, in the South? He was no longer a Kingsguard and so there was no place for him in King’s Landing. Cersei was lost to him. Casterly Rock was equally lost to him. Tyrion would manage without him and perhaps even come north later on. Whatever had driven him to confront his father in that way, whether brilliance or madness, was done and over with. His father would not take him back; that he knew without doubt. But the North...he had liked Lord Stark and they had seemingly bonded somewhat in the short time they had together. He was a good man, an honorable man, and perhaps the only chance Jaime had of not losing himself, as he feared he would if he remained here.
Decision made, he joined the Northern army as it left King’s Landing, still in his golden armor but with a simple grey cloak, having left his white one behind. The Northmen welcomed him well enough, especially after they noticed that their lord was friendly towards him.
“Where’s your cloak, Heroic Lion?” the Greatjon Umber asked, his voice loud and boisterous.
“Left it behind in the city.”
“Heh! White’s not your color anyway. You are too pretty by far as it is,” the large man japed. “Why, I could mistake you for a woman!”
“Then you must be desperate for a woman’s touch. What, do the whores run away from you when faced with your ugliness?”
“Only when they see that I’m too much for them, Lion.”
The Greatjon then threw something in Jaime’s direction.
“Here! You are a Northman now, Lion. If you wear that flimsy thing, you’ll freeze to death and we wouldn’t want to deprive the North of your prettiness, now would we?”
It was a warm grey cloak lined with a strange reddish fur.
“It’s the fur of a mountain lion,” Lord Stark explained and his lips almost twitched up in an almost smile.
A mountain lion. The Lion of the North.
It had a nice ring to it, Jaime decided and fastened the cloak around his shoulders.