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Feast Day

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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.

“Oh.”

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.

 

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Chapter Text

Addam the Archer's Tale (A Sea of Spears chronicle)

Feast Day (Part Two): Feast and Frisson

 

The scions of House Nymaryen and their Tyrell escorts finally disembarked from their carriages within the courtyard of the Red Keep, their presence announced by Ser Garlan and Lady Olenna. They were admitted with surprising swiftness, getting a brief glimpse of the imposing Iron Throne as they passed the Throne Room, and were surprisingly accorded good seating in the Queen’s Hall, though not until Grandmaester Pycelle took an interminable age to announce everyone. Though it was tedious to listen to him drone on, Addam noticed the announcement of his cousins from House Lugus, and he made a mental note to catch up with Orten at some point. He also heard another name announced that piqued his interest – Ser Lyn Corbray.

Ser Lyn had made an impression on Addam from his first joust against Ser Donnel Waynwood. Addam had seen how talented and skilled the Vale knight was, but it was not just prowess that had gotten Addam’s attention. Addam wanted to know what was behind that dark, inscrutable look he wore, especially after seeing how intensely he had glared at Ser Garlan when he was denied the duel on foot he had so clearly wanted after Garlan unhorsed him. It seemed like he had hated Ser Garlan in that moment, and Addam couldn’t help but wonder why. There was yet another reason, something that Addam had to dig deeper for. Ser Lyn Corbray was very handsome, and if Addam was honest with himself, his dangerousness was oddly alluring. Not to mention the rumours he had heard multiple times now about Ser Lyn’s proclivities. It was said that he was, like Addam, disinterested in women. That had sharpened Addam’s curiosity.

Someone else like me? Getting to know someone else like me would be… good. If someone like him can be like me, then maybe I’m not a lost cause after all. I should find a way to talk to him…

Addam was swept along with his siblings toward the royal table to greet the King before taking their seats, though they had been told that moving around to different seats between courses was permitted and expected, especially as the revelries drew on.

That may present a chance then. Just keep your wits about you.

If this was just a minor feast for those chosen by the King, Addam wondered just how much grander the closing feast for the tourney would be. He had heard there would be eleven courses this night, and looking over the tables, he wasn’t sure how it was all going to be accommodated. The tables brimmed with loaves of fresh black bread still warm from the ovens, bowls piled high with creamy goat cheese, dishes of plum and onion chutneys, and little roundels of fried corn, flecked green with fine slivers of spring onion. It was as delightful to the eyes and nose as the Tyrell’s resplendent manse courtyard, though flowers did not make Addam’s stomach growl like this.

Addam’s attention was drawn from the food when the King’s booming voice rung out. He looked round to see Robert Baratheon lifting Ser Garlan off his feet in a fierce bear hug.

“Aha! You’re much harder to lift than that little brother of yours! But it’s good for Baratheons and Tyrells to be close, eh, though we’re admittedly not as close as your little brother and mine. Where has Loras squirreled Renly off to anyway? I heard he lost a horse in that last tourney! Not you though! All the way to the final!”

“My thanks, Your Grace,” Ser Garlan responded with his usual tact, though neither he nor the King seemed to be aware of the innuendo about Loras & Renly, despite their closeness being one of the court’s most poorly kept secrets.

“Aha! And of course, your grandmother! Lady Olenna!”

Robert bowed over Olenna’s hand and kissed it deftly.

“You are the prettiest rose in all of Highgarden, and I’ll murder any man who says otherwise.”

“And it seems I am the prettiest rose here tonight too,” Lady Olenna replied playfully. “Alas, Pycelle took his time announcing us and it has taken a toll on my poor feet. But luckily, I see you have a chair clear.”

Glancing over the King’s shoulder, Addam saw that the Queen’s chair was empty, and now that he was paying attention, neither she nor any of the royal children were present.

Robert looked for a moment like he might dispute Olenna claiming the Queen’s chair, but he only sighed.

“Ah, the Queen is unwell, and the children are keeping her company in her chambers.”

“I see. Well then, I am sure she won’t mind if I use it. It is rather closer than the one accorded me,” chirped Lady Olenna, not waiting for permission before stepping up to the royal table and sitting in Queen Cersei’s ornate chair beside the King’s.

Titters of amusement rippled down the hall, though Robert seemed to take it in good spirit, another belly laugh erupting out of him and echoing through the room. As it tapered off, he looked over the assembled members of House Nymaryen. This was their first time seeing him up close, and it was far more imposing than simply being bellowed to from across the tourney field. He had gone quite thoroughly to seed since taking the throne, but he was still towering at six and a half feet tall and built like two oxen sewn together.

“Ah, the Dornish dragons! I haven’t seen so much silver hair since I had the Mad King and his family’s heads on pikes,” he said, with a superior smirk. “But, ‘twas long ago,” he added, waving it off amiably, though the air of menace he had planted with that comment did not shift with his tone. He complimented Rhaena and Baela on their performances in the tourney, though not without the bawdy comments that were expected of the usurper King.

“Lucky horses well-ridden,” he purred, raking his eyes over them both lasciviously before lifting each of their right hands in turn to his lips and kissing them. He praised Lucerys for his own jousting performance, and warned him light-heartedly that many a man would be aiming for his sister in the melee, not least of all Ser Meryn Trant, the Kingsguard Baela had defeated both ahorse and on foot.

Pfft, Trant has no chance against Baela, Addam thought. She’ll leave his face looking like a sackful of dented bells.

When his gaze finally fell to Addam, he loomed over him like a great dark-furred bear, all hulking shoulders and bushy beard, and it took most of Addam’s concentration not to shrink back as Robert leaned in to speak to him.

Unexpectedly, the King extended one huge hand out to Addam, offering it to shake. Addam, surprised by the gesture, reflexively took the hand, though it dwarfed his own. Robert gripped Addam’s hand in his tightly and pumped it up and down with a vigour that made Addam fear his arm might be wrenched from its socket.

“Well done on winning the archery contest, lad! Good to see what you can yet achieve despite your…well, I suppose it is still two good feet, at least for standing and shooting.”

Addam gave Robert a small, awkward bow, his awareness of his twisted foot and limping gait intensified a hundredfold  by it being pointed out in front of everyone by the King himself.

“Your esteem means the world to me, Your Grace. Thank you,” he said simply, hoping the King would not dwell on his physical shortcomings.

“Aye, a gammy leg, but you can still do what needs doing. Good lad!”

Robert clapped Addam so hard on the shoulder that it stung, almost knocking him sideways with the force of it.

Robert moved on to congratulating Ser Vanyn on winning the horsemanship contest and defeating another of the Kingsguard, Ser Boros Blount, laughing with him and Lucerys about Vanyn’s canny gambling abilities, which had seen him win over a thousand gold dragons over the course of the week. Addam smiled meekly along with it, but as he looked slightly past Ser Vanyn, he realised he had made a terrible mistake.

I forgot to send Orys to our seats! Shit! He came up with us! Shitshitshit! I was supposed to keep him away from the King!

There was nothing he could do but stand there helplessly and watch as Robert Baratheon came face to face with one of his many illegitimate children, unbeknownst to either of them.

“Seven Hells, boy! You’re even bigger outside of your armour!” Robert exclaimed.

Orys looked anxiously over at Addam for a moment, as the person who had previously kept him on track with etiquette, but Addam was gaping like a fish, trying and failing to speak up.

“Erm, my thanks, m’lord… yer grace?”

Another, more desperate look at Addam, who had finally fought through his panic and managed to use his voice.

“You address the King as ‘Your Grace’, Orys, and bow to him,” Addam hastily advised under his breath.

Oh Gods, please let this be over quickly, without the King realising who Orys is.

Due to both men being extremely tall, Orys had to step back a little to bow, but once he did, Robert laughed and waved his hands dismissively.

“Oh never mind all that. Pycelle is the one who cares about formalities. Everyone knows who the King is,” he trumpeted amusedly. “Anyway, you did well lad, knocking Lancel on his arse, but then doing the same to Hugh, so Jon couldn’t give me any shit for it! Brilliant! I hope you don’t squash your prize courser when we give it to you!”

Orys just stared in panic, like a horse about to bolt, unsure of the King’s meaning, and another ripple of polite but not exactly kind tittering was heard behind them, some of the guests present finding Orys’ rough lowborn manner and dull confusion entertaining.

“The King is just joking, Orys,” Addam whispered. “Nobody actually thinks you kill horses.”

Orys looked only slightly less confused and terrified.

“Ach, it doesn’t matter anyway if you’re near mute, boy, you let your hammer do the talking, hah!” Robert continued. “Good fighting, lad! Good fighting!”

The King then cast his gaze over the room and spread his arms wide.

“Now that all seem accounted for, the Tyrells have made themselves at home, and with House Nymaryen of Wyvern’s Rest in attendance – Pycelle! Sit your bony arse down! You’re off work for the night! Let’s all get down to eating and drinking! Let the feast commence! Go get yourselves sat down!” he added to the Nymaryens, who needed no second telling to scurry to their seats. Robert reached behind to his table, grabbing and downing the nearest drink, which turned out to be that of his brother, Stannis, to the Master of Ships’ chagrin, and the King sat back down in his seat with a loud, raucous laugh.

Addam did not eat heartily to begin with, choosing to be sparing with sampling the first course, knowing there was much more to come. He sipped on straw-coloured beer and nibbled on the fresh black bread, enjoying the sharp tang of the goat’s cheese and the slightly sweet bite of the plum & onion chutney cutting through the cheese’s creaminess. Then he was handed a cup of blackberry wine, and it was so delicious that he barely noticed how quickly and easily he drank it down and asked for more, washing away a little of his cares with each drink of its dark sweetness.

The King seemed not to recognise Orys. That’s good. Need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He’ll likely be too pre-occupied to bother with us for the rest of the night anyway.

The Nymaryen contingent split up rather quickly after the feasting began, his siblings moving off to talk with Myranda Royce and Mya Stone, who had been among their rivals in the horsemanship contest, and whom Lucerys seemed to have an interested eye on. Ser Vanyn peeled off to speak with Ser Brynden Tully - ‘The Blackfish’, and Orys possessively took some food and went off to sit alone. Addam’s heart sank a little to see Orys trudge off just as he was about to talk to him, but he knew better than to follow the surly squire when he went into one of his moods. Addam blew lightly through his lips as he pondered his options, glancing around. His eyes fell upon a gap in the seating in the Vale section, not far from Lord Petyr Baelish, the Master of Coin, and when he saw the face opposite the empty seat, it was as though the Gods had heard his thoughts earlier as he had wandered into the hall. Ser Lyn Corbray sat there with his squire, Mychel Redfort. Taking a deep breath, Addam stood, and walked purposefully over, trying to minimise the appearance of his limp.

As he drew near, Ser Lyn did not notice him, as he was paying rapt attention to Lord Baelish, rather than the ribald joke the Blackfish was telling nearby. However, Mychel Redfort saw Addam coming, and the piece of bread he was holding halfway to his mouth snapped in half in his hand and dropped to the table in his alarm. He frantically nudged Ser Lyn with his elbow, hissing “There’s a fucking Dornishman coming over!”

That did get Ser Lyn’s attention, and he turned his head to look at Addam as he reached the opposite edge of the table. He quirked an eyebrow in mild curiosity, and leaned back languidly in his seat, away from Lady Forlorn, his famous Valyrian steel sword, which sat propped up against the table rather than on his belt, in a flagrant flouting of convention. It was a way of showing he was not threatened by Addam, as he slung one leg over the arm of the chair in blithe disinterest, which briefly pulled Addam’s gaze to his tight leather breeches.

Get your eyes up! And don’t you dare blush right now!

“Ser Lyn. Mychel,” Addam greeted them with stiff formality, keeping his eyes solidly on their faces. “Do you mind if I join you?”

Ugh, my voice sounds so reedy. I sound scared, and stupid. Gods, he looks…

Lyn’s outfit bore the stark white, black and red of his House, the three hearts borne in the claws of ravens in his sigil looking a little like splashes of blood on his tunic. He was even more handsome up close, with well-groomed shoulder-length dark brown hair and keen steel-grey eyes.

For what felt like far too long, Addam kept his eyes fixed on Lyn’s, his request left dangling in the air between them while Ser Lyn decided whether or not to accept. After all, Ser Lyn was accustomed to constantly watching for danger. This young Dornish dragon didn’t seem like a threat, but looks could be deceiving. So focused was he on sizing up Addam that he either did not notice or did not acknowledge the questioning look he was getting from his squire.

Finally, Ser Lyn shifted a little in his seat, gave an unconcerned shrug, and Addam heard the scrape of wood on flagstone as the empty chair opposite Lyn was lightly kicked outwards from the table. Taking it as an affirmative answer to his question, Addam sat down and folded his arms on the table. His right thumb absent-mindedly rubbed at the huge opal he wore on his index finger, its pleasing smoothness grounding him for the moment.

“I was impressed by you both at the jousts,” Addam began, trying to start with a pleasantry rather than diving straight into his primary line of inquiry. He realised too late that, since both Ser Lyn and Mychel had ultimately lost their jousts, his opening statement could be perceived as an insult. Ser Lyn’s expression, which had been like a stone cliff face in its cold stillness turned to a practiced glower, and Addam hastily tried to correct himself. “I mean that, genuinely,” he added, almost stumbling over the words in his rush to get them out.

His attempt to explain himself garnered no response, and he felt his panic rising up again.

You are fucking this up! Quick, just ask him your question before he gets angry!

“I hope this won’t be taken the wrong way, but I have a curiosity that I’m hoping you will indulge. I noticed a certain… tension… the other day, when Ser Garlan did not respond to your challenge. The look on your face was so intense. It seemed like some personal grudge. Would you be willing to tell me why? Is there some history of conflict there?”

To Addam’s surprise, the question elicited a crooked smirk from Ser Lyn.

“Oh no, dear, sweet boy,” he began, in a patronising tone. “That was the opposite of personal.”

He swung his leg down off the arm of the chair, leaning forward and reaching out – slowly enough to clearly show he was not leaping to an attack – and caressed Lady Forlorn’s hilt, his eyes never leaving Addam’s. Whether intended or not, it did feel threatening. And suggestive. Addam felt a sharp tug in his stomach that he wasn’t sure was fear or desire or both.

“Lady Forlorn cares not from whom she drinks. It is only that, whenever I draw her, she gets terribly thirsty,” Lyn said dramatically. “So naturally, both she and I were very disappointed.”

At that, his gaze shifted past Addam, over to where the Reachmen were seated, laughing and talking, oblivious to Ser Lyn’s mirthless glare at Ser Garlan.

“Yes, very disappointed that Ser Garlan did not accept our challenge, in the spirit of the King’s tourney. My Lady won’t get to drink until tomorrow, it seems.”

Addam regarded Ser Lyn somewhat incredulously, eyes narrowed slightly. He found the way Ser Lyn referred to Lady Forlorn quite peculiar, but it was also somewhat intriguing.

“Forgive me, Ser. I have never owned a Valyrian weapon, and so am ignorant of their more unique qualities, but surely as the wielder, it is you who chooses to draw her, so her thirst is within your control rather than hers?”

“Oh, this isn’t any old sword, nor any Valyrian trinket,” Lyn replied, breezing over the question. “Everyone knows about how special Lady Forlorn is. I believe I gave a cousin of yours an intimate introduction.”

It was obviously a test, Addam thought. To see if he’d be riled. It was true that Ser Lyn had killed Prince Lewyn Martell, a Kingsguard and second cousin to Addam and his siblings, during Robert’s Rebellion. But Ser Lyn had not accounted for the complexity of that matter in Addam’s mind. While it was Robert’s Rebellion that had brought House Nymaryen low and lost the House its former glory, it had all happened so long ago that Addam felt he hardly had any personal connection to it. He had never met Lewyn Martell, nor indeed his own parents, who had each been themselves broken by the Rebellion. He had often reflected on how he expected he should feel more strongly about it, but it only felt like a numb hollowness in his heart that did not respond to idle jibes.

“Yes, I have read the accounts,” Addam said flatly, unable to think of a witty riposte. It was a blatant attempt to get a rise out of him, and it certainly made him uncomfortable, but Ser Lyn had miscalculated what threads he should tug on to actually rattle Addam. It felt like a cheap shot, too easy. He almost asked Ser Lyn if that was the best he could do, but decided against it.

“She’s a special blade, with special desires,” Ser Lyn continued. “It’s been quite some time since she tasted the spice of Dornish blood though.” He said it with the air of a cat idly batting a still struggling mouse for sport, and his index finger lightly tapped Lady Forlorn’s pommel, the heart-shaped ruby set in it glinting merrily.

Addam became aware that he was no longer fidgeting nervously. Ser Lyn’s appraising gaze no longer felt like it might scald his skin off. With each little needle Lyn failed to hurt or scare him with, he felt a little stronger. Perhaps it was just the first head rush of the blackberry wine, but Addam felt a little emboldened, and to him, the suggestive sword talk seemed like perhaps it was not merely a test to see if he would be rattled by veiled insults, but also a question in itself. A question about something else altogether, which would imply that Addam did not just have Ser Lyn’s passive curiosity anymore, but that he now had his attention.

“You sound almost disappointed,” Addam said, leaning forward a little.

Let’s find out if we’re still talking about just swords…

“Me? Oh, no, I’m fine, but I cannot speak for her.”

“I see. Well, the King’s peace sustains us, for now, so she may have to do without Dornish spices a little longer.”

Lyn sighed, leaning back in his chair, away from his sword. Addam frowned a little, his attempt at a subtle hint seeming to have failed in its delivery.

“Yes, it does, though stranger things have happened in melees,” Lyn replied, casting his smouldering gaze all around the room with dark intent.

That gave Addam pause. The tone seemed relatively benign, but the wording and Lyn’s eyes carried a threat, one that skirted too close to Addam’s siblings. For the first time in their conversation, he wanted to sling a barb back at Lyn, to tell him there would be dire consequences for anyone who intentionally hurt his brother or sisters. But he knew he could not back up such a threat, and both Lyn and Mychel would laugh in his face for it, so he held his tongue.

Act unflappable. Don’t show him that bothered you. He’s just toying with you. Toy right back. Perhaps that’s the way to get his respect.

“I shall look forward to seeing you in action then,” he said, unconsciously casting his own appraising glance over Ser Lyn. The look did not seem to go unnoticed, as Lyn tilted his head a little, still watching Addam closely.

“Then I hope that watching me in action will indulge whatever curiosities of yours you may have.”

Addam couldn’t be sure, but he thought he detected something accepting about the way Lyn now looked at him. Was it perhaps even approving? The up-and-down look that passed over Addam then was different from before, somehow. Did Lyn like what he saw? Or had Addam merely held his own side sufficiently to no longer be considered a threat or a triviality?

A response leapt to Addam’s mind, and he almost stopped himself from saying it. The Addam who had first arrived at King’s Landing would not have said it, nor indeed the Addam who had not won a royal archery contest. Even the Addam who had not drunk three cups of blackberry wine and a mug of beer would have likely balked, but here he was, loosened by alcohol and fired up by a sense of pride, daring, and the allure of those dangerous eyes.

“I can assure you, Ser Lyn, my curiosities are infinite,” he replied, his voice low and husky with innuendo.

The raised eyebrow that followed from Ser Lyn was much less practiced than the one he had shown at the start of their interaction, and another appraising sweep of his eyes over Addam followed it. Addam was surprised by how much that pleased him. He smiled confidently, though his mind had already begun to race.

Wait, did I just flirt successfully there? I didn’t stammer or anything! And he doesn’t seem offended – he seems…Seven hells this is exciting! But why do I falter around Orys but not with Ser Lyn? Surely I should be more afraid of this man who could and would kill me if I put a step wrong, and not fear Orys at all, who would never hurt me. Why is my heart thumping so hard? Come on, Addam, stay calm. You’ve made an impression. Get out while you’re ahead. Call it good practice for when you go and talk to Orys later.

The decision to break up the conversation was made for him in that moment, as the next course arrived. Four soups were laid out in deep, lidded terrines, and guests spooned whichever they fancied into smaller individual bowls. There was a venison and barley broth, a creamy garlic soup with roasted snails, pea & ham, and pumpkin & honey. Addam inspected them each in turn, glad of something else to look at for the moment, though he felt Lyn’s eyes on him still, and they rooted him to his seat, anxious that he might look like he was fleeing if he left now.

Sit out this course, and then move on. Talk to someone else. What about Lord Baelish? He runs his House and the Crown’s gold quite well, so they say, and Grandfather has put you in charge of the funds for this trip. Perhaps Lord Baelish might share some of his wisdom that will help you be better at your role. You don’t get the opportunity every day to ask advice from the King’s Master of Coin himself.

Settling on a plan of action helped calm Addam’s mind again, and so he set about choosing a soup. The creamy garlic soup smelled lovely, but he had tried snails once before, in White Harbour, and he knew the texture revolted him, so it was eliminated from his choosing. The pea & ham and the venison & barley broth looked appetising, but relatively ordinary, given they were close to some of what he had grown accustomed to while in the Crownlands over the past week. The pumpkin and honey had drawn his eye and nose the most, so he opted for that, at least to begin with. He spooned some into his bowl and tasted it delicately. It was utterly divine, all rich, thick sweetness and silky smooth texture. It was truly one of the best things he had ever tasted.

He swallowed his mouthful, then looked to Lord Baelish, who was enjoying the same soup. He caught the Master of Coin’s eye, and a congenial smile went between them, which Addam swiftly used it to initiate conversation.

“My Lord Baelish, if I may introduce myself, I am-“

“Addam Nymaryen, yes,” Littlefinger interjected, though his tone and expression seemed amiable enough. “Or should we say ‘Addam the Archer’ now?”

Littlefinger gave a crooked smile as Addam blushed shyly.

“You made quite the impression, young Addam. Your siblings too.”

“Thank you, my lord. We are enjoying the tourney a great deal.”

“Good. Though there is a saying here that drawing the attention of those in high places is both a blessing and a curse.”

Addam was momentarily unsure how to respond. Littlefinger seemed friendly, but his words had something of a dark edge to them that he was not sure quite how to take.

“I shall bear that in mind, my lord,” Addam responded, a little hesitantly. “I am certainly not one to ignore the wisdom of someone as esteemed as yourself.”

“Excellent flattery, young man. I see you are as deft with words as with a bow,” Littlefinger chuckled, stirring his soup a moment before raising the spoon to his lips.

Some pleasantries over tasting and comparing the different soups opened and warmed their discussion, each of them able to recount how this flavour or that reminded them of home or of a cherished memory, and a rapport built up between them that let Addam feel more confident in discussing House matters, namely asking Littlefinger’s advice about how to run a House efficiently, particularly in regards to finances. Lord Baelish was gracious in his answering of Addam’s earnest questions, sharing some of what he had learned of running his House and handling the royal coffers, and Addam paid close attention. He couldn’t help but notice though that Ser Lyn was almost pointedly ignoring the conversation, instead focusing singularly on his venison & barley broth, followed by a smaller taste of the pumpkin & honey soup. It made sense, Addam thought. House Corbray was old, but poor, as noble Houses go. Either discussing money was a sore point for Lyn that he wished to avoid, or he considered it beneath him. Either way, he was no longer sizing up Addam, and while Addam had begun to find some strange enjoyment in being under Lyn’s gaze, it was intimidating too.

As the soup terrines were cleared away by the servants, Addam glanced over to where Lucerys sat with Rhaena, Baela, and a coterie of laughing ladies. Luc gave Addam a little beckoning gesture, having been covertly observing his younger brother’s conversation from the other end of the table.

“Do please excuse me, my lord. I see my brother calling me over,” Addam said to Littlefinger. “Thank you for sharing your insight. You have given me much to think on.”

He stood and nodded to Lyn, who had returned to languidly slouching in his seat and talking idly to his squire, though his eyes slid over to Addam upon detecting upward movement.

“Ser Lyn,” Addam said with a respectful but breezy tone, trying to appear casual.

“Thank you for answering my questions about Lady Forlorn. It has been quite fascinating. Best of luck in the melee tomorrow, though I am sure a man of your skill has no need of luck.”

With that, Addam made his way over to where his siblings sat, feeling Lyn’s cold grey stare on him the whole way.

 

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