As soon as he left the map room, Jaime knew he had to be quick. If she was bold enough to threaten him, she’d eventually get over her hesitation and bring her full wrath against him. He had no time to make long term preparations. As soon as he stepped into his room, he stripped himself of every piece of Lannister armor he had on. Where he was going, it would do him no favors.
He dressed as warmly as he could, but left all thicker cloaks behind. They would just slow him down and he could always get one as soon as he reached Winterfell, presuming they didn’t kill him first.
He shook the thought from his head. There could be no hesitation. He had to make it to Winterfell. Whether he kept his head or not was up to the Starks, but he had to tell them of Cersei’s plans. I’ll already be a traitor in her eyes, no reason not to cement it. He pulled out every bit of drab clothing he could find and was pleasantly surprised that he had a full set considering he was virtually almost always seen in Lannister red or gold.
Changing his clothes with one hand was always slow. He had gotten better at it and it was made quicker by the lack of armor that he was bringing, but even so he kept expecting the Mountain to burst in at any moment and end him.
He avoided main walkways on his way out and paths that he knew Cersei frequented. Upon entering the stables, a stable boy leapt to his feet and he ordered, “Boy, pack me at least two weeks worth of dry rations.”
“But your horse, Ser - “
“I’ll get it.”
He scanned the selection, feeling a pang as he realized his last horse burned to death at the hands of the dragon. That bone had to be buried, but he wasn’t looking forward to seeing the dragon queen again.
“Fuck loyalty! This goes beyond houses and honor and oaths!”
Brienne’s words had echoed through his head since she said them. Brienne, the most loyal of loyal warriors was willing to forsake everything to fight the coming threat. He shuddered when he thought back to when the Hound kicked open the box and a half-decayed dead person came screaming at them with burning blue eyes.
Fear had coursed through him and then when Daenerys had estimated there to be one hundred thousand wights, his heart had actually stuttered. How were they possibly going to stop an onslaught of that magnitude? Especially when good old-fashioned steel wouldn’t even work against the basic ones. He really didn’t see how they were going to overcome a threat like this, but...they had to try. He couldn’t just stand idly by and wait for his death.
He didn’t give a shit that Cersei was funding The Golden Company from Essos. They were both going to die no matter who won the Great War up north and he’d rather die fighting for a cause that meant something. He had personally never cared about the throne, but it appeared once his sister got an eye on it, it was all she could obsess about.
He selected a jet black mount. It would be easier to hide until he got far enough north out of Cersei’s reach. He checked the shoes and saddled it. The boy popped up with his rations and he stuffed as much as he could into his saddle bags. Two weeks rations was not enough to get him to Winterfell, but he thought he might be able to hunt along the way. A bow would be impossible for him, but setting traps at night should be sufficient for game. He rode up to the gate and the guards instantly lifted it for him. He still couldn’t believe Cersei hadn’t already swooped in to take his authority away.
It dawned on him as he left that Cersei still expected him to come crawling back, but the gate slammed shut behind him with a ringing note of finality. He wondered if he would ever see King’s Landing again, but dared not look back. He rode a short ways north and already felt the cold, dull ache that his metal hand gave him. It was best he covered it anyway and as he did so a snowflake fell and melted.
When was the last time it snowed in King’s Landing? It had to have been at least fifteen years. He nudged the horse to continue and as he went, the snow fell thick and gentle. He quietly cursed himself. “Maybe a black palfrey wasn’t the best choice.”
Jaime rode through the night. The snow fell unceasing. He met not a soul on the road, but with the odd way snow tended to dampen sound, he heard not a soul either. No birds or bats could be heard fluttering or squeaking, not even the howl of a wolf echoed across the fields. All he could hear was a cold dead silence, giving him the impression that he was already the only living soul left in the world. It spooked him.
How much time do we have? Jon Snow didn’t expressly say what positioning was like, but if he was correct then they could take heart that they were still secured safely behind the Wall. The Wall. Even though he knew it existed, it still held the same place in his mind as the Others, grumpkins, and snarks. He remembered vaguely that Jon Snow had gone to join the Night’s Watch the last time he’d been in Winterfell. He’d left with Tyrion.
How did he become King of the North? The Northmen took their oaths seriously, so where did they forgive his oath-breaking?
All through the night, questions floated to the top of his thoughts like bubbles. Brienne looked well. Did she and Pod ever find Arya Stark? What was the Hound doing with the Starks? How did Theon Greyjoy end up with the Starks? Surely after he’d murdered the two younger siblings, they would have demanded his head from Daenerys. I wonder what Bronn’s doing. I had no time to ask him, but would he have come? I won’t have access to the gold I usually do, so probably not. With luck, he won’t be caught in the line of fire when Cersei finally finds her anger.
He ran through all the names that he knew and realized with a jolt that the Vale had gone North on Petyr Baelish’s command. They had given him the Eyrie and he had ultimately sided with the Starks anyway. The Starks may be forced to execute him for the terrible things he wanted to do to Lord Baelish when he saw him.
He was occupied enough that he was able to pay little attention to the cold, but he winced at the tightness in his shoulders. When did I get so old? Ever since his extended stay with Robb Stark, he had never quite felt up to his usual self and he had never had the opportunity to get back to his status quo because Locke, the evil cunt, had decided to remove his hand. He still missed his hand, but he had surprised himself into accepting his new reality. Whatever the world threw at him, he’d find a way to adapt and persevere.
And now I have to survive without Cersei. He was surprised at himself that the pang that hit him wasn’t nearly as severe as he expected it would be. They had been together for so long, endured so much, he thought there was nothing to tear them apart. And of all things...it was the iron throne. His lip curled at the thought of that great ugly chair. If he were being honest with himself - and now was surely the time - he had been seeing her slow descent into madness for quite sometime, but he kept asking himself, Where can I possibly go? He had made far too many enemies to be able to take refuge anywhere. And with his sword arm gone, he wasn’t truly capable of joining a mercenary company across the sea. He would be short-lived and even as much as he deserved death, he wasn’t quite ready to go yet.
Jaime had been traveling for some time when he realized he could see everything in pale gray rather than darkness. Dawn was approaching, but instead of stopping he hopped off the horse and began leading it while he stretched his legs, grimacing once more at the sharp creaks and cracks emanating from his knees. He really should have taken more breaks, but he had been intent on putting as much distance between himself and Cersei as possible. He still probably wasn’t more than a dozen miles out from King’s Landing.
The snow was still falling, piling up several inches. He glanced back to see the long trail his horse had left in the snow and grimaced. It would be nigh impossible to hide his path. He hoped that the road would grow busy with the daylight, but with the onset of the first snow, he wasn’t hopeful. He would have to be very careful from here on out about where his horse tread. At the very least, his tracks were covered up to a point, but the only road North from King’s Landing was the King’s Road and if he wanted to reach Winterfell swiftly, then he dare not stray far from it.
It would take a miracle to get to Winterfell alone and with Cersei’s hounds after him.
He hopped back onto his horse after a while of walking and continued at a brisk pace until he saw the light drawing to a close once more. It was still snowing, but it had yet to morph into a blizzard. The snowfall was gentle and steady. He was grateful because it wouldn’t be quite so bad sleeping out in the snow. He couldn’t trust inns, those would undoubtedly be the first place Cersei had her hounds look. He glanced behind him and then forward and found the road disturbingly empty. As it happened, he saw only a handful of carts, heading south, but no one except him dared to travel alone. He’d just passed through a tiny town of a few scattered houses, but though he could see the flicker of firelight in the windows, he saw no faces. He took the lead and carefully led the horse off the road into the woods. He stopped so that he could just see the road, but so that someone would have to look awfully close to see him.
He did the normal chores a squire would’ve done for his knight, hobbling the horse, giving it a bag of oats, and then brushing it down. He didn’t bother setting up a tent. There was little wind to speak of and most of it was broken by the trees. He laid his bedroll out and wrapped up in his horse blanket.
For the whole day had passed in complete silence for him and the silence now persisted. He was used to the usual commotion of a campsite, the mutter and grumble as people went about their tasks. The only thing he could hear now was the soft crunching of the horse eating.
He never thought he’d miss Bronn’s irritating chatter, but he did. It didn’t take him long to sleep and slept quietly. The night slowly went by around him. It was in the middle of the night when he was jolted awake by the urgent pounding of hooves on the road. He looked just in time to see the dim pin pricks of torchlight.
It’s them.I wish, Jaime thought to himself. The problem with ships is that they never left when you needed them most.
“C’mon, let’s go back to the inn. I wanna cuppa that ale and snatch a few hours a’ sleep a’fore we head out in the morn.”
“Maybe you’re right. He can’t have gotten too far. We rode hard to get here and he would’ve ridden about the same. We’ll catch the gold-handed cunt in our net later.”
He let out his breath when the last of their hoof beats had faded. He had hoped to gain more time on the road, but he should’ve known Cersei would be whipping her dogs into a frenzy to get him faster. There was probably a bonus for who found him.
After tying the horse up to make sure it didn’t wander off, he carefully creeped up to the road. He waited for a few minutes in case anybody came back, but all he could hear was the soft sigh of the breeze in the trees. He stepped out onto the road, finding it empty and carefully examined the snow for traffic.
Even in the night, there was enough light available for him to get a vague idea of group size. There were at least half a dozen men and horses that had trampled through. It had impacted the snow into the mud, creating a hard surface that would be difficult making noticeably new footprints on.
It was risky to use the road now that he knew who could catch him at any moment, but he couldn’t very well walk to the North. He had to take the chance. With his heart in his throat he retrieved the horse and headed up the road, hoping that there was something he could do to throw off the hounds’ scent.