He wanted to blame her, to truly find the courage within himself to think un-highly of her; to scorn and curse her as she took the opportunity away from him -from them . He couldn’t. His mind could be angry and frustrated, yet never towards her. He cursed his own father, he cursed the King, he could even curse his younger brother -but never her.
The new master of ships stood beside Jaime, all sullen and grey as he had always been; a sharp contrast to the new King, an even greater one to the youngest prince and now Lord of the Stormlands. The man was taller than Jaime, broader and if he had been properly trained mayhaps the now Lord of Dragonstone could have been a decent enough sparring partner. The scoff came naturally as the member of the Kingsguard rolled his eyes at such reaching thoughts. Sword Fighting required more than physical strength: it entailed stamina, blood, character; all things Stannis Baratheon lacked.
Jaime was bored, bored and tired, and desperately aching for his twin; his twin who currently lay abed with their newborn babe at her breast.
Jaime had not been allowed inside the birthing room, but he had stood guard as had been his duty as a member of the Kingsgaurd. His teeth had clenched, his fingers had danced, and yet he had remained standing in his assigned post as he had heard his son come into the world between screeches and shouts being torn out of his dear, sweet sister’s mouth.
A son. He had a boy. A bastard boy with golden hair and probably the greenest eyes the realm would ever be privy to witness. And that had been the problem.
The boy had been born a Lannister in all but name. To the rest of the world, he would be a Baratheon in all but looks; the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. The thought made Jaime stumble as he descended the ship’s stairs unto the island’s docks.
It had always served him well enough, to go inside his mind in times of stress or leisure, to get lost in thoughts of his sister; thoughts of her hair, of her skin, of her cunt. It appeared the tactic wouldn’t serve him as well as it usually did. With what little composure he had left, Jaime descended the ship which had sailed the new Master of Ships along with his personal guard, to the glorious island of Tarth.
Tarth, the Sapphire Isle which had claimed its name from the supposedly intense blue color of its waters.
They seemed blue enough to be pretty, yet nothing to be deemed magnificent. To Jaime, the color of Cersei’s eyes was the prettiest of colors, as was the rest of her.
“Welcome to Tarth my Lord, the Evenstar sends you his greetings, and hopes you found your journey pleasant enough.”
“Enough,” was Stannis’ curt reply. Jaime remained indifferent, hiding his mirth behind a half formed smirk which he had worn ever since he had started the descend.
The island’s docks were large enough for it to host a decent amount of trading ships, both from Westeros and the free cities of Essos. Jaime spotted ships from both sides of the known world. The docks were busier than he would have imagined; the thought pleasing the Knight for a reason he really could not fathom, for he could really care less about ships or about the endeavours of tradesmanship and commerce on the island.
The man who had received them at the docks introduced himself as Connan, a redheaded bastard of the Stormlands who had been in service at Evenfall Hall ever since he had been a boy. The good natured man was either too optimistic or an outright fool, Jaime decided. The older man would not stop conversing with them, ignoring the indifference printed on Stannis’ face and the mockery in his. Jaime found himself pitying the man. A fool he might have been, nevertheless him and his courtesies served as a decent enough distraction from the storm raging inside Jaime’s mind.
A son. A bastard son. A future King.
Evenfall Hall was grander than Jaime had presumed it to be. The architecture of it was both grand and delicate, sturdy and almost beautiful. It was smaller than Casterly Rock, yet large enough for it to give an air of grandeur and reverence to its island's inhabitants. It was a Castle fit for the Kings and Queens of old.
Selwyn Tarth normally enjoyed the view he was blessed with from his chamber’s windows. He could see the vivid green of the hills and the hard brown of the docks, with the grey and black of the dozens of ships and cargo honoring his island with trade and commerce. Above all else he could see the blue and radiant color of the waters surrounding his most precious land. He was also privileged with a good view of the road leading up to Evenfall’s main entrance.
He did not care much for the view on that particular morning. A road normally used by stubborn travelers and his own people, had now become the road of at least one hundred soldiers, all escorting the newly appointed Master of Ships -along with the Kingslayer- towards his home, towards his family.
“We can’t seem to find her, though the guards assure me she has not been seen leaving the Castle grounds.”
The Evenstar gave a strong sigh; he was getting far too old for this.
“I am sure she will come out eventually, she always does.”
The proud looking Septa pursed her lips in known frustration, yet did not voice whichever poisoned thoughts crossed her mind as she curtsied in front of her Lord, before leaving the old man alone with his thoughts.
Septa Roelle was not Selwyn’s preferred servant or employee, yet she had been there for a long time. She had been present for the birth and the passing of his firstborn, and for every joy and tragedy which had fallen upon Evenfall Hall since the passing of Lady Reynia. Above everything, the Septa was loyal, and cared for Tarth’s reputation and prosperity.
“My Lord?” Another voice called; this one warmer, softer, and belonging to a man.
“I can see them from here.” The party of travelers had arrived at the gates. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
“And the Lady Brienne?”
Brienne, child, where have you hidden yourself this time ?
The child had her mother’s spirit, kindness and honesty; traits the little Lady exuded more and more with each passing day. Yet she had inherited every bit of stubborness from him, along with her impressive build and her ardent dislike for politics. At only six years of age, she already fled the rooms every time she heard the words court and curtsy coming out of any of the Septas’ mouths.
“We will claim she is indisposed with a stomach ache, and instruct the staff to look for her around the armory as soon as they are able. You know how she likes hiding behind the old weapon shelves.”
The man nodded, giving the Lord a quick bow of respect.
“Oh, and Ser Goodwin?”
“Yes, my Lord?”
“If you do find Brienne among the swords and shields, be sure to not let Septa Roelle know about it. The poor child has suffered enough by thinking she is being sent away to court.”
The old master-of-arms of Evenfall Hall smiled, soft and honest; and not for the first time, Selwyn was witness to the fatherly affection the man held for his Brienne.
Brienne was being careful, or as careful as she could be as she skipped from behind one shelf to another, always trying to not make a sound, to not let the various stable boys and young Lordlings know where she was. Not out of fear, for she knew she could take on any of the boys currently training under Ser Goodwin. While Brienne was younger, she was as tall as the eldest: a boy of ten who enjoyed pulling her braid when she wasn’t looking. No, she hid because she knew if she were to be found, she would be brought back into Evenfall Hall and would be forced to wear a dress and curtsy for the new Master of Ships and the King’s caravan he had sent to Tarth in order to ensure their loyalty and good politics. The mere thought of the circus was enough to make Brienne's stomach feel sick.
She hated dresses, hated how she could never seem to walk properly in them, always tripping and landing on her face. She also hated how she could barely bend her knees when trying to give a proper curtsy. Most of all, she hated how even at six, she could hear the snickers and sighs as she tried her hardest in being polite and courteous as she had been taught, yet all she ever managed to accomplish was to embarrass herself.
She didn’t want to go to court, her father had once promised she wouldn’t. Yet, she had overheard Septa Roelle discussing the matter earlier that day, as the old woman had helped Brienne's handmaid pick a suitable dress for her, in order to present herself in front of Lord Stannis Baratheon of Dragonstone, newly appointed Master of Ships.
So she had hid.
She had gone to the stables first, waiting and dodging the guards and workers before having decided to move to the dungeons which she had known were kept empty; the same dungeons Galladon had once dared her to enter, just shy of her fourth nameday. She fled the dungeons once she had gotten hungry and had run towards the kitchens, where she had stolen a piece of bread and had proceeded to run off to the armory, waiting by the old weaponry, carefully chewing her meal as she had watched the young boys leave the training ground. She had moved to her current hiding place as soon as the last boy had left.
As her stomach grumbled in hunger once again, Brienne wished she would have thought her plan out far more thoroughly.
She was about to surrender to her growling stomach when she heard footsteps, heavy and determined, fast and unstopping.
With a shriek she retreated to her little nook right behind one of the oldest shelves; carefully positioning herself behind two of the larger shields and right below one of her favorite swords. She watched from the slit, careful in not making too much noise.
She had expected a boy, or maybe one of the squires whom had been staying at Evenfall for the last two moons. She had not expected a man grown -a Knight , to appear.
He was tall, slim, with shining, bright white armour which glinted beautifully in the sun, almost blinding the girl as she stared. He looked magnificent and exactly how a Knight should look like. Brienne thought his hair funny, long and curly, as if he had been a maiden, yet she didn’t think a Knight would be mocked for it. A true Knight wouldn’t ever be mocked for anything .
He was as golden as the sun and as handsome as the stories and songs described.
He was a member of the Kingsguard.
Upon realizing the fact, Brienne let out a soft gasp, for she had never had the privilege of seeing one. She had always been an eager listener of Ser Duncan the Tall’s stories and songs.
She shouldn’t have made a sound.
“Who goes there?”
His voice was calm, but it held a sharpness Brienne wasn’t familiar with hearing.
Jaime grew annoyed as he realized someone was lurking around the armory. He had thought to find it empty; had been itching to hit something for the better part of the day without having to explain his motives for doing so to someone. He now dreaded to find himself the object of someone’s fascination, either by having to agree to spar with them or by having to sustain the judgemental looks that would be thrown his way. He had only wanted a moment of peace.
Brienne moved to her left and cringed as she touched a shield, the contraption moving delicately until gravity became its master, making it fall without grace and without warning. She let out a shriek and jumped out from her hiding place.
Jaime turned with a forced smile on his face, and was pleasantly shocked upon seeing a boy jump from behind a shield. With disheveled hair, ragged breeches and dirty boots, he looked to be no more than a simple kitchen boy.
The boy looked up him with wonderment in his crystal blue eyes.
“Have you gotten lost, boy? Shouldn’t you be in the kitchens? Preparing today’s grand feast for Lord Stannis and the rest?”
Brienne stood rigid in place, her heart beating faster and faster as seconds went by. The Knight did not know who she was, and if she could manage to keep her mouth shut, she would be able to make a run for it and evade further questions or lectures. She refused to go to court. She simply refused.
The boy stood there, frozen in place, his blue eyes wide and stunned. The poor lad had probably never seen a Knight up close. The bitterness Jaime had been harboring since the beginning of his journey which had spat out with his previous comment, dissipated upon seeing the poor fool standing there, looking as if someone would come and beat him for being in the wrong place.
“Or maybe you’re not a kitchen boy? Fancy yourself a squire? You don’t look old enough for it. What are you eight, nine?”
Brienne’s eyes went wide, but her head shook. She was six, six and had to get out of there; she only needed for him to ignore her presence; almost everyone did. And yet the Knight -the Kingsguard- walked towards her. She flinched backwards. She could not let him know she was a girl.
Jaime chuckled upon seeing how the boy simply stared, gaping foolishly at him and at his sword. He wanted to laugh and jest, but the wide and almost innocent gaze the boy threw his way somehow ended up reminding Jaime of his own amazed stare the first time he had ever come across Ser Arthur Dayne.
“Run along now, then.” Jaime unsheathed his sword as he spoke, desperate for a bit of sword play, trying to push thoughts of young idioliasisim and innocence away from his mind. He briefly wondered just what he should allow his mind to wander through, if both thoughts of his sister and his Knighthood now brought him a certain unease.
“Woah,” Brienne couldn’t help the expression from leaving her lips as she took in the image of the Kingsguard Knight holding out his sword. Golden and true, with white as his colors and green in his eyes, he looked like The Warrior come to life.
Jaime turned to stare at the boy; the boy with the highly femenine voice of bewilderment; the boy who had gotten closer instead of fleeing as he had thought he would; the boy who now closer than he had ever been, was in fact a girl. A tall, ugly, broad girl.
Ah, so the rumors were true.
The tease died on his lips. The girl could not have been more than seven, probably six, and her eyes- her eyes were so blue and wide and amazed, Jaime found himself smiling at her instead of scowling.
“A fan of swords, Lady Brienne ?”
Brienne gasped and fidgeted, clearly unsure of her next move, her gaze dropping to the floor.
“I do hope you’re feeling better, child. Your father informed us of your -illness . You look fine enough to me, though.”
All Jaime heard was her breathing; a steady and heavy sound which briefly reminded him of the stance he would adapt whenever he had tried to stop from crying in front of his father.
“I’m better, Ser. Thank you for inquiring.”
She stammered as she started her sentence, but finished with as much poise as she could. She almost tried to curtsy but her feet got tangled and she growled in frustration instead. Jaime had to stifle a laugh. Poor child already had to suffer the reality of being ugly, she didn’t deserve his mocking of her graceless attempts at propriety.
“Breeches instead of laces, dirt on your knees and calluses on such a young hand. You’ve wielded a training sword, haven’t you? Gods, my sister would surely hate the sight of you, if only because she would envy you.”
She still wouldn’t move, her gaze still upon the floor.
“I won’t tell anyone I saw you, my Lady. You have my word, for what little it's worth. I am sure you have your reasons for hiding, same as I.”
She finally lifted her gaze, with red-rimmed eyes which only made the color of her irises pop out. They were as bright as the richest sapphires Jaime had ever seen.
“Thank you." She hiccuped, rather unladylike. “Ser.”
The smile she gave him was small and crooked, but it became her.
Jaime did not know whether to feel pity for the miserable looking child, or a sense of kinship and even admiration for acutely deceiving the entire household and efficiently hiding for the better part of the morning.
He was about to dismiss her once again when he took notice her eyes had indeed looked up, yet had never made it to meet his own stare, but had stayed fixed upon his sword.
He gave it a turn, the blade of it glinting in the light.
Jaime had once dreamed of owning Valyrian steel; of wielding a blade so magnificent his enemies would tremble upon the mere sight of it. Tales of the Just Maid haunted his dreams and aspirations. Foolish dreams of a foolish child. Legendary and magical swords belonged in songs and stories. His family’s own Valyrian steel was lost, and Jaime had learned the art of finding beauty and efficiency in the blade of his current choice.
It wasn’t as magnificent as the one from his greenboy dreams, but it did its job well enough. More importantly, it remained unstained from treason and broken vows.
“It’s not Valyrian steel I’m afraid, but it gets the job done. Here, you can come closer, child.”
The girl looked up at him with wonderment in her eyes, an emotion quickly followed by a hesitance which had probably sprung from hard received lessons in etiquette and formality.
“Ladies aren’t supposed to wield swords, that’s what my Septa says.”
Jaime couldn’t help the chuckle which escaped him, nor the tease which followed. The girl might have been a child, but she would one day grow to be a Lady, and the heir of Evenfall Hall. The quicker she learnt the quips and wit of the world, the better.
“And what else does your Septa say? That Ladies shouldn’t lie to their fathers and to the court? That they should not go around hiding around the armory, wearing ragged breeches and tunics?”
The girl went red with embarrassment; her clear eyes finding themselves filled with a new set of tears as she opened and closed her mouth, desperately trying to get words out and failing miserably at it.
Jaime had not meant to hurt the child. For all her height and broadness, Jaime had to remember she couldn't have been older than seven. She was more an infant than a young girl.
“I hadn’t meant to insult, my Lady, it had merely been a jest. Septas often talk -and when I say often, I mean always- of things they know not of.”
With a sniff, the girl controlled her tears and looked up at him once more, this time confusion plainly written on her homely face.
It was refreshing, to converse with someone who did not hide their emotions, who held no enjoyment in scheming or lying. The young Lady’s face was an open book in a way a child’s expression is.
“But Septas know -a lot.”
“They know some, my Lady, but not all. Here, I’ll let you wield the sword for a brief time, before you head back to the Hall and to your father.”
Brienne recoiled upon hearing of her impending return to her home. She didn’t want to go to court. She wanted to stay at Evenfall and convince Ser Goodwin to let her train with the other boys. She wanted to stay and learn how to help her father be the Evenstar. Most of all she wanted to stay and avoid the mocking and teasing she was sure to receive from the other highborn Lords and Ladies of the Seven Kingdoms.
But the Kingsguard Knight hadn’t laughed, not at her, not really. He had talked about his sister’s supposed hate, and had tried to tell her something about Septa Roelle, which her mind had not been fully able to grasp the meaning of.
Still with a hesitancy Jaime could only attribute to a natural shyness, the girl approached his blade. He offered her the hilt of it and watched as trembling hands grasped it as best as they could.
Jaime observed as the girl weighed the contraption with fierce determination and a wonderment he was sure would never be present when gifted with gowns or laces.
His mood suddenly altered by the invading thoughts of the poor creature in front of him being forced to fit into a society not built for her, made Jaime uncomfortable and instantly drew his thoughts towards his sister, another person who never failed to remind him of the unjust ways of the world, and how women only seemed to play one role in it.
“Have you ever rescued a maiden from terror? Or slayed a beast in a quest?”
It was the most the girl had uttered, and her childlike voice made Jaime raise his eyebrows. She was younger than he had initially believed, and yet, she held out his sword back to him; the entire blade being handled by a mere girl of perhaps about six.
He chuckled and bowed as he took his sword back, safely sheathing it back on his waist.
“A maiden, no, I can’t say I have.”
Brienne furrowed her brows, not quite understanding how the pretty man could be a Knight if he had not rescued anyone.
“But a monster? Yes, you could say I have slayed one.”
And for the first time since he had slain Aerys with his own sword, the words fell freely from his lips, without a hint of shame or justification.