Addam the Archer's Tale (A Sea of Spears chronicle)
Feast Day (Part One): Thorns and Thoughts
The carriages rattled along the wide cobbled street leading into the tastefully ornate courtyard of the Tyrell manse in the heart of King’s Landing, jostling their passengers lightly. Once through the gates, the wheels rolled easily over broad, flat, well-maintained flagstones, and came to a halt before the squat but stately manse. Addam, his siblings - Rhaena, Baela, and Lucerys, and their wards, Ser Vanyn Rivers and Orys Waters, clambered out of the carriages and took in their surroundings with quiet awe.
As one might expect for the Tyrells, the courtyard was adorned on all sides with flowers; climbing trellises of ivy up the courtyard walls, almost hiding the protective iron spikes atop them, pink and red rose bushes along the borders, long baskets of peonies, pansies, sweet peas and lavender all along the balconies of the manse, and large standing pots of ferns, hyacinths, irises, and lilies placed on either side of the manse’s doorway. The whole place was infused with a panoply of floral fragrances.
In the centre of the courtyard was a small fountain, carved with Tyrell roses around the base, each five-petalled rose painted gold. Now that Addam looked more closely, the Tyrell golden rose was all over the courtyard, from the ornate gates to the great oak doors of the manse itself. Just on the tasteful side of opulence. The refracted water from the fountain made the little pools of gold glisten faintly in the early evening light, and its clear water babbled invitingly. He imagined how peaceful it would be to sit on the edge of the fountain of an afternoon, his head buried in a book. White Harbour’s famous fountain, Old Fishfoot, which featured a huge statue of a bearded merman, brandishing a trident and flanked by jagged-toothed sea serpents, was more stern and imposing than peaceful, and being in the heart of the city, was not a good location for relaxing.
There was not much time to enjoy this little haven from the bustling streets of King’s Landing though, as Ser Garlan Tyrell emerged from the manse to greet them, clad dashingly in the House colours of green and gold.
“Lady Olenna will be down shortly. She needed a little more time to prepare. You know how she is. She only goes anywhere or does anything when she is exactly ready,” he explained, with one of his easy smiles that set the hearts of daughters and sons from Winterfell to Starfall aquiver.
He began exchanging pleasantries with Rhaena, until the distant click of a cane on stone signalled to Garlan that his grandmother was finally ready. He walked back towards the manse to meet Lady Olenna coming down the front steps. They heard her before they saw her, the tip…tip…tip of her cane echoing from the manse into the courtyard.
Addam could not help but stare for a moment at Ser Garlan’s retreating back, his eyes inexorably drifting further down before snapping back up reflexively like a hand slapped in chastisement, his face pink with embarrassment. He tore his eyes from Garlan’s fine contours to glance nervously at his siblings, who had thankfully not noticed his ogling. He took a few deep breaths, willing the colour out of his cheeks, and he mercifully felt the heat ebb out of his face.
Garlan sidled back over to them with his grandmother on his arm. The siblings of House Nymaryen and their companions had met the Queen of Thorns once before, yet the nature of that last meeting had left Addam with an intense trepidation of her, as she had been quite scathing towards him and his siblings, and had broached the subject of marriage with them, which had awakened fresh horror in him. He folded his hands neatly in front of himself, ready to bow eruditely to their hosts, though in truth, his heart felt like a jangling mess in his chest.
Ser Garlan smiled broadly at them all, though he was a little focused on trying to aid his grandmother in crossing the courtyard to meet them. Lady Olenna, however, seemed irritated by Ser Garlan’s attention, and as they drew close, Addam could hear her complain to him that she was perfectly capable of walking around herself.
“Stow it, Garlan. No need for formalities. They know who I am,” she grumbled, hobbling away from her grandson, who shrugged it off amiably, a little amused. She waved him off as he stood back, turning her astute gaze onto the young Nymaryen siblings. All bowed deeply to her in greeting. She approached each sibling in turn, like a general examining his troops, her steely gaze boring into each of them as she critiqued their appearances, using her cane like a swagger stick, gesturing and punctuating and jabbing for emphasis as each of the Nymaryen contingent received her pointed comments. Rhaena shouldn’t dress “like one of Cersei’s hussies”, Baela was “too flat”, Lucerys was to “refrain from sullying the goods” before they could be “sold off”, referring to his reputation as a frequenter of pillowhouses, and she even commented on how he was no longer dying his “absurd Valyrian hair”. Though, this time, she managed some praise for their achievements over the week, mostly their tourney wins. It gave Addam hope that perhaps she would not sear his face off with her disdain.
Addam had done everything he could to ensure she could not find fault with how he looked, at least. He had chosen a high-necked dove grey linen doublet with darts of silver and black thread making an undulating geometric pattern across the centre panels. A fine silver chain hung around his neck and dropped to mid-chest level before looping back on itself to attach at the left shoulder, pinned by a small curved wyvern clasp. The clasp in turn attached the doublet to a silver silk half cloak that was so thin it could almost be seen through. His shirt was black linen, with a silver Myrish lace jabot at his throat, the sleeves loose in the main body of the arm but with long, tightly-laced cuffs that accentuated his pale, elegant hands. He had opted for high grey calf’s leather boots with a tiny silver cap on each pointed toe. His silver chain belt was fastened with a silver clasp that matched the wyvern clasp on his cloak, the wyvern curving in a figure eight. On the index finger of his right hand he wore a silver ring set with a smooth, rounded opal of frankly obscene size. He had seen the ring on his first day in King’s Landing and had coveted it intensely, until his tourney winnings finally allowed him to make the purchase without any hint of guilt at the extravagance. He had chosen deep black linen breeches, close-fitting around a high waist and from the knee down, but looser in the thigh to give a tapered appearance, accentuating his slender legs and waist. He had thought that using linen would help him to keep cool, and the slight looseness in the thighs and upper arms would facilitate freedom of movement, though in his excitement at putting together the stylish design, he had not really considered his impaired ability to dance because of his crippled left leg.
Still trying to live your old life, came the unwelcome voice at the back of his mind. Foolish boy.
He shuffled awkwardly as he awaited his turn for scrutiny. He did not need to wait long, as Lady Olenna finished commenting on his brother and sisters and her gaze fell at last on him.
“It’s a pleasure to see you again, my lady,” he greeted her, attempting what he hoped would look like a charming smile.
She eyed him warily for a moment.
“Hmmm, you’ve gotten better at lying,” she intoned coolly.
He felt the heat creeping up his neck to his face under her fine point focus, frantically searching his brain for a response.
“I… it was no lie, my lady,” he managed, in a half splutter.
“And you are getting better at hiding your fear,” she continued, though her tone did not give away whether or not she considered it a good thing.
“Well, you are a lady of considerable influence. Surely it would only be natural for a young man to be somewhat… intimidated,” he replied, certain he was cornered now. Any moment, there would come the verbal lashing. But instead, there was a look on Lady Olenna’s face that surprised him. Something that almost looked like approval.
“You are placing your words as carefully as you place your arrows. Good. I told you to find another hobby besides being the clever one, and you actually managed it. Perhaps you really are the clever one. Good work, Addam the Archer.”
Her use of his newfound byname made Addam almost visibly puff up with pride, but he only smiled modestly and gave another little bow.
“Thank you, my lady.”
Before she moved on to Vanyn, she gave Garlan a signalling glance so brief that Addam almost missed it, and Garlan called over Orys to talk with him and Lady Olenna’s bodyguards, whom she only ever referred to as Left and Right. They were bigger even than Orys, impressively, but they smiled at Orys as he sidled over. Ser Garlan drew his sword and handed it, hilt first, to Orys, and the four of them began chatting animatedly about weaponry, Orys’ usual sullenness vanishing quickly when presented with Garlan’s fine blade to admire and a subject he knew well to discuss.
Lady Olenna, meanwhile, was relatively effusive in her praise for Ser Vanyn, and Addam thought for the moment that they had all gotten through the barrage of criticism without anything too devastating being said to them. But Olenna had sent Orys away for a reason, and the greater discomfort was now upon them.
“You’ll need to mind your manners when you go up to the Keep, and when I say mind your manners, I do not mean general etiquette, I mean mind your manners around Robert. He’s a fickle drunkard, so in his presence you must be seen to be doing what he likes and approving of what he does. To that end…”
Her piercing gaze fell on Addam once again.
“…it may not be a good idea to bring your giant bastard with you. Tell me why that would be the case. Come on, clever one. Be clever,” she demanded.
Addam did not need to search his thoughts for the answer. It had been creeping up on him for days. Ever since he laid eyes on Mya Stone, and learned who her father was. Ever since he had seen her stand next to Orys, and saw in her the strong jawline, broad nose, and eyes of that very particular shade of blue that he had come to not only recognise in Orys, but which formed some of the finer details of his infatuation with him. There was no doubt in his mind that she and Orys were related, and Alys Royce had only borne one child, so it had to be their father they shared. And Mya’s father was no secret. Still, Addam knew that saying it out loud was dangerous. It had implications he could not yet calculate for. Besides, saying it out loud would make it real, which would mean having to deal with it. Would it mean losing Orys, once he knew? Things certainly wouldn’t be the same. How could anything stay the same once the object of his most hidden affection knew he was the son of a King? Not just a King, but the King. The King of Westeros. Would Orys be upset? Would Orys abandon him, as his friends at White Harbour had abandoned him after his accident, moving on to greater things and leaving him behind?
He realised he had been silent for several seconds, and Lady Olenna looked like she was about to whack him with her cane. He had to give an answer, and it had to be correct, but he could not bring himself to speak plainly.
“…One might... say that he has… the wrong ‘look’…my lady,” he offered, cautiously. “By which, I mean his striking resemblance to… Mya Stone.”
He gulped as she planted the tip of her cane down with a thump on the flagstone with all the surety of a conqueror planting a flag on a battlefield.
“Most of you are cleverer than you look, so it cannot have escaped your notice that your looming oaf of a squire is the bastard son of King Robert Baratheon, first of his name and so on and so forth, who just cannot keep his cock in his wife!” Lady Olenna squawked.
“Forgive me, my lady,” Addam said, his head dipping deferentially. “I was trying to be subtle.”
“To be fair, my lady” Lucerys piped up. “With any bastard in King’s Landing, that is a distinct possibility.”
Addam did not respond to the comment, though his eyes urgently conveyed to his elder brother that he was not helping.
“Don’t worry, my dear,” Lady Olenna answered Addam, ignoring Lucerys’ contribution. “The walls of King’s Landing may have ears, but the ears in the walls of this manse are mine, so we may speak freely, perhaps for the last time. Orys is Robert’s bastard. I gather that House Royce has visited you a few times and told you who his mother is. Or is it ‘was’? I can never remember with Silent Sisters, whether or not they keep their names.”
Most of the rest of the discussion was a blur in Addam’s ears, but there was speculation about why Lord Maekar Nymaryen and Ser Will of the Bells - the knight Orys had been adopted by and squired for, and still thought was his father - would keep the information from Orys for so long, and speculation on how to keep Orys from attracting the wrong kind of notice in the Keep while the scions of House Nymaryen dined so close to the King. Addam, however, was lost in his thoughts, his mind playing out the moment where Orys would discover his true parentage. He watched over and over as Orys’ pensive scowl turned to confusion, then anger, then turned away from him forever. Addam knew then that he couldn’t let that happen. Not yet, not when he had come so close to finally letting Orys know how he felt.
Back in the Nymaryen pavilion, after Orys won the final of the squires’ joust, Addam had almost spoken up then. Orys had strode in from the field and sat on a stool in front of Addam, and Addam had been the dutiful ‘acting squire’ and removed his helmet. Clutching it in both hands, Addam had almost tossed the thing aside and kissed him, his heart was so full of pride and admiration. Orys was everything Addam was not; strong, tall, broad, masculine, happy with simple things, humble. These differences, rather than alienating Addam, only made him long for Orys even more, long to be held by him and feel safe in his arms, to take joy in simplicity and leave behind the complications of nobility, if only for a little while. He wanted to yank off Orys’ breastplate and press his face to his damp chest, to inhale his scent, all sweat and leather and horse.
But he had been too afraid. He had only set the helmet aside neatly and continued to help Orys out of his armour. He had worked silently, dutifully, as though conducting a solemn ritual, consecrating this statuesque man who was rough and solid in contrast to his own soft and effete form. Kneeling worshipfully at Orys’ feet to remove the last of the steel plate from his greaves and boots had filled him with a reverence he was sure was sinful. He had hid his face from Orys then, ashamed of his desires, of the blasphemy they surely contained. The Seven’s teachings were clear about that sort of thing. Those thoughts had kept him from saying more than a few benign words to Orys since then.
He was brought sharply back to attention by another loud tap on the flagstones from Lady Olenna’s cane.
“So, just keep him away from Robert, and make sure he doesn’t try to pound any pebbles into that Mya Stone, understood?” she instructed them. All nodded vigorously, and Addam hurriedly joined in.
“I, I, I will see to it personally that Orys stays out of trouble, my lady,” he stammered. Already a thought intruded on his mind of Orys locked in a coital embrace with Mya, and the flush that bloomed on Addam’s cheeks then was equal parts embarrassment and jealousy. He lowered his head instinctively, hoping no one had seen.
He needn’t have worried, for the conversation had already moved on. Addam’s siblings were agreeing with Lady Olenna that no one should tell Orys until after the tourney, when it could be left to Lord Maekar and Ser Will to break the news, Olenna referring to it as “pre-emptively cleaning up the mens’ mess” as she herded everyone towards the carriages, so they could begin the journey to the Red Keep. Lucerys called to Orys, and he obediently rejoined them. He had, thankfully, been too far off to hear the conversation, by Lady Olenna’s design.
Addam could not have said exactly what it was that compelled him to get into the same carriage as Orys and Lucerys. The unwelcome thoughts in his mind would normally have driven him to avoid Orys, but he found himself climbing into the carriage with them almost in a daze. His sisters and Vanyn got into the carriage just ahead, and Lady Olenna and Ser Garlan took the carriage at the very front of the procession. Addam silently watched the fountain, the rose bushes, and the fine ornate gates swing past the carriage window as the horses trotted forward into the street.
“You left the girls with Vanyn…” Lucerys said, giving Addam a questioning, almost accusatory look and interrupting his reverie.
Addam turned his head from the window and blinked at his brother.
“Why is that a problem? What could they possibly encounter that Vanyn couldn’t handle but I could?”
Lucerys sighed bemusedly and shook his head.
“Oh, so many things, brother,” Lucerys chuckled. “It’s fine, but I do have something I need to speak about with Orys.”
Addam only realised then that he had inadvertently intruded on what was supposed to be a private conversation.
“I noticed, Orys, that you were eyeing some lass – quite a big one, actually – at the tourney grounds. Mya Stone…”
Lucerys left the words hanging, waiting to see what Orys would do with them.
Orys blushed beet red and glanced guiltily between Lucerys and Addam.
“I, I wasn’t eyein’ nobody. I jes’ never seen a girl that tall before… an’ wearin’ breeches… tha’s all.”
Moved by Orys’ visible discomfort, Addam leapt to reassure him.
“We are not judging you, Orys,” he said gently, though his heart was judging a great deal, that same feeling he had felt two nights ago at seeing Vanyn give Orys a share of his prize money and seeming closer to Orys in friendship than Addam had ever gotten, ugly possessiveness bubbling up inside him again.
“When the maiden is made flush, there is no harm in looking, Orys,” Lucerys reassured the hulking squire. “But I just thought we should talk about it.”
Orys stared at Lucerys, trying to work out his meaning.
“I’ve done it before, if that’s what you’re gettin’ at. When Woolly Will was sure I was six an’ ten he took me out on what he thought might be my nameday, and I was made a man of at some brothel, so I don’t need yer to tell me where nuthin’ goes an’ the like.”
Addam deeply regretted his choice of carriage in that moment. He wished for all the world that he could just sink through the floor and drop out into the street like a clod of earth. He didn’t know what he had expected. A ruggedly handsome young man of eight and ten like Orys was hardly going to be a blushing virgin. But still, the explicit, confirmed knowledge of this particular difference between them – experience, and also an interest in women – did not endear or reassure Addam at all. The claws of his jealousy dug harder into his heart, as more distressingly lewd images came unbidden to his mind and he felt his own inadequacy enveloping him like a cloak of fetid rags.
Addam glared out of the window as Lucerys continued.
“No no, that’s not what I meant. More that we should talk about where things should and should not end up.”
“I ent gonna father no bastards either if thas’ what yer worried about. I’m not gonna do what was done to me ma.”
“…Very well,” said Lucerys, after a short pause, giving Orys a pat on the shoulder. Addam got the impression that Luc had decided that was close enough without giving an explicit warning. However, this would likely mean still keeping an eye on Orys and Mya, just in case.
“Actually, Addam, while we’re on the subject, you spent your formative years up in White Harbour. Did they ever take you out to celebrate your nameday in such a way?”
Addam’s head whipped round, his expression guarded, almost affronted.
“No,” he said, a little too hotly, belying the sensitivity of the subject.
Lucerys looked genuinely surprised. “There’s no shortage of places, even in the North, as I understand it. Have you known a woman?”
His brother’s tone was earnest, but the question nonetheless made Addam’s whole body feel like it might cave in on itself. He lowered his head, not daring to meet his brother’s eyes, lest he see too much.
“…No,” he replied, thickly. “I was more focused on training, I suppose, until the accident. It just… didn’t really come up, and Ser Marlon never talked about it. The North is very different from Dorne, or even King’s Landing.”
There was even some truth to all that. His eight years at White Harbour had left Addam feeling almost more Northern than Dornish or even Valyrian, but he was not about to say such a thing to Lucerys or anyone else in House Nymaryen. They were all so proud to be Dornish and dragon-blooded, and while he wanted to feel that way again, the cold, stoic North had changed him, made him build a wall around his heart, and he was not sure he could go back to how he had been before.
“Is it… not something you want?” enquired Lucerys, sensing his brother’s discomfort. “You may have spent a lot of time up North, but we are Dornish. We don’t have the same hang-ups as the Northerners.”
Seven Hells, this ride is long! Addam thought, cursing and rueing his decision to ride with them more intensely each moment.
“I have spent almost more time at White Harbour as I have at Wyvern’s Rest. And, as you say, the past eight years have been more… formative. I suppose in a way, I am a person of two worlds.”
“I understand,” Luc nodded, and he was sincere, himself having spent the best part of a decade in King’s Landing as squire to Ser Aron Santagar, the Red Keep’s Master-At-Arms, absorbing the different culture there.
“It’s just not something that really crossed my mind,” Addam added, still panicking at the line of questioning. “I confess I… Gods, this is embarrassing!”
He puffed out a breath and inhaled sharply, trying unsuccessfully to calm himself. He let his eyes meet his brother’s for a moment.
“I just… don’t know what I would do. I’d probably just panic. I can’t even be casually assessed by Lady Olenna without being in abject terror. I doubt I could cope with someone… assessing me intimately.”
Lucerys put a hand on Addam’s shoulder and smiled at him.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll find you a nice Dornish woman and she’ll sort you out.”
I have spun a web of lies that is going to consume me. Now I’m going to have to disappoint some poor woman as well as my family.
“Erm… alright, Luc,” Addam conceded, his voice squeaking with anxiety as he spoke.
Anything to stop the questions! You can figure out how to escape this later.
“Just, perhaps not tonight?”
“No,” Luc replied, perplexed that Addam had even thought that. “I was thinking more like tomorrow, maybe. In fact, there are these Summer Islander girls at this place I like who are so flexible and gorgeous and adventurous…”
“Yes, well, beauty is one of life’s great joys,” Addam interrupted sardonically, eager to get off the subject, his eyes flicking nervously across to Orys, though mercifully, Orys had been looking out of the window, trying to give the siblings the closest thing to privacy he could in the circumstances.
“Look, I know the accident robbed you of the full use of your leg,” Luc said cautiously. “But that does not have to limit you in what you want and what you get to do as much as you think it should. You won that archery contest. It was impressive. It will generate interest in you.”
“Thank you,” Addam said, shyly. “I am quite proud of that. You are right though. I do worry what someone I try to get close to will think of it – my being crippled, I mean. What if nobody wants me?”
It was something he had thought many, many times. Since the Maester at White Harbour had sat by his bedside, two days after the accident that had almost killed him, after working day and night to keep Addam alive and put his shattered leg back together as best he could, and told Addam that he’d have a limp for the rest of his life. That had been the death knell of his squirehood. His knight, Ser Marlon Manderly, had been relatively kind about it, but the fact was Addam was no longer physically whole enough to be likely to achieve knighthood, so there was no longer any point in keeping him as a squire. It had broken his heart, but the salt poured into the cracks were the thoughts about the loneliness he saw stretched out ahead of him. Even if he was interested in women, what woman would want to marry a cripple who could not fight to protect her properly? A man who had a leg covered in ugly, ragged scars from where razor-sharp icy rocks and shards of bone had torn through the flesh. Whose left foot twisted inwards enough that he couldn’t walk or dance gracefully anymore. And when added to the fact he exclusively preferred men, which the Seven forbade, it seemed all the more certain that he was doomed to never know intimacy or love. He knew about what the Septons said was in store for ‘deviants’. He knew what people called his sort, how cruel they could be about ‘pillow biters’. He had heard his own friends say some of those cruelties, laughing while he silently let their mocking lodge in his heart like shards of glass. He could go to brothels for physical release, given the courage and desperation, but he didn’t want to deal with some beautiful man’s pitying gaze on him. Besides, no amount of gold would buy him love.
Addam was content to let Lucerys think that his leg was his sole concern when it came to being intimate with a woman. He was not ready to admit the deeper truth yet. He had almost told Baela when he had his jealous outburst two nights ago, when he had felt like Vanyn had bought Orys’ friendship away from him with tourney gold. He’d need to tell them all eventually, but not yet.
“Little brother, if, after your incredible display of archery, people still judge you on that leg, then they don’t deserve to be close to you,” Lucerys stated, like he’d never been more sure of anything in his life, and with it, a block of ice in the wall around Addam’s heart slid out of its place and melted away. Addam’s eyes almost welled up. He had been so caught up in his self-loathing and doubt that he had been caught off-guard by his brother’s tenderness.
“Thank you, Luc,” he said, very softly, not quite trusting his voice not to crack with emotion if he spoke at a normal volume.
“An’ if they need a good kickin’ fer it, jes’ tell me,” Orys piped up, grinning.
Both Addam and Luc could not help but let out a bark of laughter, and some of the tension dissipated from inside the carriage, lifted off by the moment of shared levity. Addam even chanced a smile at Orys, and to his delight, Orys smiled back. Orys’ blue eyes glinted with mirth, and his unguarded smile made him look so pure and good that there was nothing Addam wanted more in that moment than to just clamber into Orys’ lap and curl up against his chest like a cat, to be held and protected and to have those big strong hands stroke his hair and to feel the safety of his presence deep in his soul.
Addam was too busy grinning inanely at Orys to notice that Lucerys was looking between them thoughtfully. He sensed how Addam seemed to feel safe around Orys, and the pair seemed to have bonded closely since they both returned to Wyvern’s Rest from their respective travels a little over a month ago.
I’ve got it. I’ll get them both laid. That’ll fix everything, Lucerys thought to himself, pleased at having found an easy solution.