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The Queen Gambit

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Everyone in her family treated Margaery Tyrell like a pawn in their machinations. Mace, her overly ambitious father was all about brute force. All he saw in his daughter was a pawn to marry off. He thought if he won Margaery a crown, she would have his best interests at heart, and tug her this way and that like a puppet. She loved her father, but he was better suited to hunting and hawking than ruling, and she liked her heartstrings where they were.

Loras loved her dearly and she loved him, they had always been the closest of the large family...but he was trying to convince her to marry Renly. She was tempted by the crown, she couldn't deny that, but she had her doubts. Renly was brave and handsome...and madly in love with her brother. Certainly, Renly would be kind and noble and array her in gold and silks and give her a crown, but she wanted to have everything, not just a crown. Looking down the line, she saw five years ahead, with a cold bed and no family, or worse, an heir and despite his love, the resentment of her brother. Loras wanted Renly to have everything. He invested everything in Renly. He would see his beloved sister as giving Renly things he could not and start to hate her. Margaery's heart could not bear that. She would rather keep the love and goodwill of her brother over the Iron Throne any day of the week.

Grandmother Olenna who was the only one who imagined Margaery had even a whisper of the mind she did, but even Olenna underestimated her and tried to move her about like a piece on a board. Olenna saw her as her heir apparent, a bright rose in a field of deadheads. She never understood the Tyrell words the way Margaery did. She wanted power for Margaery, not a crown.

Margaery? She wanted it all. She wanted a husband who would be glad to fall into her bed. Children who she could grow and shape and see them flourish like her great golden roses. She wanted a crown, but more than that, she wanted to be the queen. She wanted to be respected by her king, not be a trophy or a broodmare. She wanted to be allowed to be intelligent and move her own pawns, and with all of that, power. Power over her own life, as well as power to help the people she loved and all the small people. She wanted to grow and protect a kingdom, because so often, when people called her the Rose of the South, or the Rose of House Tyrell they forgot that roses have thorns and prick those that try and harm them. She wanted to be the queen no one forgot.

War was moves and countermoves, and while Willas dedicated himself to books and strategy, Margaery had sat in the solar perfecting her embroidery and absorbing everything he learned. Now was her time to move, before someone tried to move her. Renly was out, a Tyrell had his heart and it wasn't her. Joffrey, well, he was either a pawn of his mother who had innocent bastards slain, or he was a monster himself. The rumors of incest didn't help, she wanted her children to be strong and, more importantly, sane. Incest had led to the fall of the Targaryens and was not something she wanted associated with her unless she had no other choice, especially not with how bloodthirsty Lannisters were. She would not be a reprise of Elia Martell.

That left one option. Loras would back Renly, and she...would place her bets on the Starks. Emotion was a great driving factor, and after the mockery Joffrey had made of Eddard Stark at the holy Sept of Baelor; well, even she had an emotional reaction to that. That could inspire people to great heights to conquer even the Lannisters, who had been decimating the Riverlands. She knew the Starks were marching, and so, she planned.

Quietly she gathered people around her: three handmaiden cousins, the apprentice smith, most of the stablehands, and an easy three thousand men her father had expected to take to King's Landing and what Loras had hoped to take to Renly. She then arranged for several wagons to be filled, which raised no eyebrows with her family, given her work keeping the borders of The Reach well-fed and the Tyrells well-liked. She split everything into easy groups which would raise no eyebrows, and headed towards the Roseroad as if on a trip of giving and charity, heading to where all her groups would meet after making their ways there. By the time anyone knew she had left for good, it was too late, and they had no idea where she was going.


 

The plan worked flawlessly, at first. Mace ruled with money and force, Olenna with fear and a sharp tongue, while Margaery wanted her people, every person sworn to her house, to love her, and care the way she cared for them. She had spent years soothing egos injured by Olenna, embroidering layettes for family and smallfolk alike, and feeding them as much as she could. She had won her troops from her father not with golden hands or dragons, but because she cared and they cared back. She had people and she had a plan...but she was not prepared for the weather.

As they moved towards the Riverlands, with an eye on the North, it got colder. Margaery hadn't any gowns fit for even the Crownlands, let alone all the cold coming from the rivers and blowing south. It was a weakness, and she knew it, but she refused to give in, even as she shivered in her seat. She would adapt, she was not hothouse flower to wilt easily. It would get colder, but she had no way to commission warmer clothes that would not hint of where she was headed before she left.

Waving slightly, she stopped her people, and dismounted, drawing two scouts on either side of her. They were the youngest and the fastest. "Garick, Lynten, I want both of you to break off and run ahead. I will give one of you a letter, and he must give it to Tywin Lannister, wherever he is stationed. The other must find his way to the northern camp and give Lord Stark a message. Will you do this for me?"

"Of course, Lady Margaery!" Both boys chorused, puffing up slightly at being given important missions.

Margaery smiled and ruffled both boys' hair. She eyed them both, and due to Garick's heavy shoes, sent him to the northerners, giving Lynten the letter for Tywin. As the boys set off, the men started setting up camp, and Margaery said a silent prayer to the Mother for her scouts, and one to the Smith and the Crone for herself. She would need both strength and wisdom for this. Loras and Renly were likely on the move, but she had a few days on them, at least. If they even bothered to come towards the Riverlands, more likely they went to the Crownlands themselves.

When the camp was built, more ostentatious and obvious than it had been on their journey thus far, and she settled in to embroidering as she schemed and ran through possibilities. Suddenly, there was a skirmish outside her tent and she walked out to find five men in Lannister red, swords drawn, surrounded by Tyrell men. She was unsurprised, they had been coming across Lannister men for awhile, but none had been so stupid as to confront them. She pasted on a smile. "Hello, good sirs." She greeted, surprising them with her presence. "Have my men startled you? I apologise." Sixteen and pretty, even if worn from days riding, she was not whom they expected to be commanding such a force. "I'm Margaery Tyrell, youngest child of Mace Tyrell and Alerie Hightower." She gestured to the wagons behind her. "I come bearing supplies and men for Lord Tywin."

The men did not seem convinced, and the most senior grunted, actually grunted, at her. "The Tyrells have sworn support to Renly Baratheon."

Margaery smiled at him, all doe eyes. "I come on my own loyalties, not those of House Tyrell." So her father had supported Loras, in the end. Smart of him, he was more likely to move the Mander from it's course than Loras from Renly. "With people loyal to me."

The man looked unsure, but the troops before him were none he wanted to take on with only four brothers in arms. "We'll have to report this to Lord Tywin."

"Of course, I expect nothing less." She turned to one of her cousins. "Lynette, pack a hamper from the first cart for these good soldiers, and another to take to Lord Tywin, along with two small casks of wine." The men, long starving in the scorched Riverlands and tired of fish, were glad to see the bounty of The Reach being prepared for them, and Margaery handed the hampers over to two of the men. "Please, eat your fill from one, and bear the other to Lord Tywin with my regards."