It’s a known fact in Westeros that Tarth has to be avoided.
Some people say that when the lamented prince Aemon Targaryen died there while trying to stop Myrish pirates along with the last Evenstar, his parents’ grief cursed it.
Some people say that it wasn’t that, that it started a bit later, during the dance of dragons, because the gods just knew that if the prince hadn’t died then the dance would have never happened, wouldn’t it. Some people said Rhaenyra herself cursed it knowing it was the cause of her woes, but no one quite remembers because no one set foot on Tarth after the prince’s body was brought away.
What is known for sure is that some dragons landed on it at some point after the prince died, scared off the few sailors still fishing around it, flew away screaming in grief, and since then, well.
Since then, the entire place was riddled with monsters and no one dares come close to it from the Stormlands, and it’s been decades since the dance, and the island still looks very green, surrounded by those lovely sapphire waters on a regular summer day… except that no ship dares passing nearby.
There are things in the water, all the sailors who couldn’t avoid those waters in the centuries said. Things I care to never see in my life ever again. I’m not going back there. Not ever.
You wish the pirates just took it was whispered fairly often, in most of the inns in the Stormlands and beyond. Whatever those dragons did in that island? I don’t want shit to do with it. Any knight who wants to slay those things, they’re fucking welcome. I have a wife and children to feed.
Some curious people would search for the few who’d dare say they did come close to it and would talk some about it.
But what monsters, they would ask. What creatures, how do they look like, you cannot be serious, they cannot be that bad.
You ever heard of a knight coming back from that bottom of the Seven Hells?, the sailors would reply, or something along those lines, and then completely shut their mouth about the topic after.
Some knights did try to go there, indeed.
It’s also true they did not come back.
Still, most people wondered. It looked so peaceful from the coast, so harmless. But then at night sometimes weird lights would appear nearby on its horizon, and all those men thirsty for adventure would shake their head and decide to find their luck somewhere else.
Best not to wake up anything that wasn't meant to, after all.
It’s a known fact, after all. And it stays a known truth for a long, long time.
“Are you sure?"
“How in the fucking Seven Hells would I be making that shit up, lad? Believe me, it’d take plenty more fucking imagination than what I was born with. If I had that I’d have become a fucking singer.”
The entire tavern just a bit east of Rain House stays silent as the Tom Rivers, the lad serving the old shepherd the ale that he just downed at once, pulls his mouth in a tight line, acknowledging that maybe, with things put like this, he might have asked a stupid question.
Still, Tom thinks as he goes to get another ale for the man who loudly proclaimed he wanted more, what is anyone supposed to think when someone bursts through the door shouting that a sea monster ate half of his sheep and that monstrosity came from Tarth for sure?
Well, the man also added that the thing sort of looked like a woman, in the sense that it had the face of one, albeit not a very well-looking wench. Certainly not like those sirens of old you hear about in stories from Essos, that is for sure. The shepherd is swearing left and right that she was huge and she didn’t have legs and she rose from the sea with green skin and seaweed hair and that she had sharp, filed teeth dirty with blood and that she tried to talk but he ran away with the rest of his sheep, as any sane person would have done, and he’s never ever ever going to bring them on that side of the shore, that’s for fucking sure.
“Tarth,” the man spits after he takes another sip of the beer Tom just brought him, “really fucking best left alone. You’d think bloody Tywin Lannister would send a few knights already to deal with it, if the damned king won’t.”
“Did you forget,” some other client whose name Tom absolutely does not remember, he’s not a regular, “that there have been a fucking whole lot of ‘em that went to Tarth and none of ‘em came back?”
“Well,” the shepherd replies, “isn’t that what they fucking signed up for, takin’ those vows and all? Bugger that. I’ll have whatever stronger stuff you’ve got, this is nowhere near fucking enough.”
Tom gets the message and goes to the counter where the owner, Harry, has what looks like a hefty glass of whiskey ready, and brings it over to the shepherd’s table.
He still thinks that it sounds entirely too exaggerated to be real, but.
It is true that each single knight that went to Tarth never came back. What does he know?
He shudders, looking at the rain pounding on the windows of the inn. Tarth cannot be seen now, in between that and the darkness of the night, but whatever it is that old man saw, Tom decides, he was right about one thing.
It’s a knight’s business. Certainly not his own.
“Lord Robert,” the woman kneeling in the Round Hall weeps, “please, we need a knight to go to Tarth.”
Stannis, who was not supposed to be present at Robert’s weekly hearing but who came anyway because he knows Robert can’t care less for it and would rather be out showing Ned Stark the woods around Storm’s End than hearing the commoners, immediately notices that Robert is about to tell her to stop bothering him with fairytales, and that since her kid is alive he doesn’t get what she wants from him.
“My good woman,” he says before Robert can open his mouth — his brother might not care for the commoners but no one in this family needs bad reputation when it comes to hearing them —, “at present, I do not think any knight in Storm’s End is willing to go there.” He knows that for sure — no one has set foot there in the last five years since Ser Gawen went and… well. Never came back nor sent word. “I suppose we could… plead your case at court.” Not that he thinks it would amount to much, considering that since Rhaegar Targaryen’s nuptials with bloody Cersei Lannister no one in court worries about anything but the first child she’s going to give him in… well. A few moons. But still, at least it will be something he can tell her that’s not whatever dismissal Robert would have given her, and the woman looks out of herself with worry — he thinks no commoner has ever looked at him so gratefully in his entire existence. “But I will need a more detailed account of what happened.”
“My lord,” she blurts, “of course, of course, well. Well, you see, my little girl, Alyssa, she was playing on the shore with a few friends three days ago, it was her name day, you see, and we come from near the Straits, so it’s facing that island, my lord.”
Stannis knows, but he nods and motions for her to go on.
“So, it started raining and they were about to leave except my girl was runnin’ a bit behind, and then — and then I don’t know what happened exactly but she ran home and she was crying so much and she said that a monster picked her up and wanted to eat her and she only barely managed to escape when she touched dry land. And I wouldn’t — if it was a child’s flight of fancy I wouldn’t have come all the way here botherin’ my lords, but a shepherd a few months ago said that a monster who looked like that ate his sheep, and my girl described it the same way — lookin’ like an ugly woman with greenish skin and sharp teeth and no legs and she was sure that thing would eat her right on the spot. And I know that old man, he never — he wouldn’t make it up. An’ who even knows how many others it hurt or killed that couldn’t live to tell the story. My lords, please, we need knights. No one from the village is goin’ to Tarth, but we can’t — we can’t let it roam free.”
Stannis nods. “I see,” he says, trying to not sigh or sound too cold or aloof. “We — we will bring the matter to King’s Landing. I cannot guarantee they will send someone, but I will personally ask the Hand of the King, and we’ll see.”
“Thank you, my lord,” the woman replies, breaking down in tears all over again, and then she leaves the main hall.
“You aren’t,” Robert says, “seriously thinking of going to Tywin Lannister with that stupid story, right?”
“Well,” Stannis says, “you certainly won’t, so someone is going to have to. And since I am not the lord of Storm’s End, you won’t lose any reputation.”
“As long as I don’t,” Robert shrugs.
Stannis grits his teeth.
Tywin Lannister is absolutely not going to take this seriously, but — well. At most he can see if any sellsword around Flea Bottom might consider taking the job if he pays well.
As predicted, Tywin Lannister laughs in his face, tells him that he shouldn’t waste the Hand’s time with stories from commoners, that Tarth has been abandoned for decades and whatever these smallfolk made up is most likely some flight of fancy, if people don’t come back from it then well, obviously it’s been abandoned because it can’t be inhabited and it’s not his business to investigate as to why, and there’s a reason why people stopped trying, and he’s not going to entertain such a stupid notion as sea monsters any longer.
As predicted, Stannis thinks, gritting his teeth as he leaves the room. Well, then he should… try to find a bloody sellsword, even if he loathes the prospect of having to do with anyone from that ilk. But it can’t look like Robert doesn't care for his people, even if he doesn’t, and so if he cannot find a knight, well. The next best thing it will have to be, won’t it —
Stannis stops dead in his tracks, turning to his side, and —
Now what would Jaime Lannister want from him?
“Ser Jaime,” he says, keeping his tone neutral. Now that he looks at him… well.
For being only two years younger than he is, Stannis decides, Ser Jaime looks positively terrible these days. More specifically, like he hasn’t slept decently… at least since he was taken into the Kingsguard, given how dark the bags under his eyes are, and his green eyes look so dull, Stannis can’t help being slightly concerned at least even if he has no sympathy to spare for his family.
“Can I help you?” He asks, when Ser Jaime says nothing for a while, and then he blinks, and —
“I am off duty in a short while,” Ser Jaime replies. “I would like to hear more of… whatever plagues your lands. I was passing outside and I knew my father would have dismissed you, but. I would like to hear it.”
Well. That’s more than Stannis had thought he’d get, honestly.
“I was going to Flea Bottom,” he says, “to… find suitable help. If it please you, Ser, I will be in Shadowblack Lane shortly, and maybe I can tell you more there.”
“That would suit me well,” Ser Jaime replies. “I will see you shortly, then.”
Stannis nods and Ser Jaime disappears at the far back end of the hallway.
Well then. At least someone is taking him seriously, he decides, and heads straight for the outer yard. He won’t find other help here anyway.
“So,” Ser Jaime says, “you are telling me that the commoners in your lands are being… slaughtered by some monster from Tarth?”
“Well,” Stannis replies, “I wouldn’t go as far as saying slaughtered, some sheep were for sure, and a lot of children were scared out of their mind, but they point out that if others have been slaughtered then we can’t know about that if — this monster hid the bodies. Or threw them in the sea.”
“Sounds fair,” Ser Jaime nods, barely sipping at his ale. Stannis hasn’t ordered anything, he can do without alcohol differently from his brother, but something in the way Ser Jaime obviously ordered the drink just for show is sitting wrong with him. “So, what did you ask my father?”
Stannis sighs. “If he could spare sending a few knights to have a look at the situation. I mean, no one has been on Tarth in years and certainly no knights from the Stormlands will go. But maybe some here might.”
“Let me guess, he told you in less blunt terms to go fuck yourself, didn’t he?”
“… Yes,” Stannis shrugs, not bothering to sugarcoat it. It’s not like it would change the situation.
“I see,” Ser Jaime says. He sips a bit more of that ale, then licks his lips, moving a hand over the short beard barely growing on his face — it’s slightly more unkempt that anyone in the Kingsguard should wear it, but it won’t be Stannis pointing that out. Then he looks back up at Stannis with green eyes that are slightly less dull. “Can I know what was your plan in case talking to my illustrious father failed? Going to Flea Bottom and…?”
“Find a few sellswords and offer them adequate compensation to at least go to Tarth, see what in the Seven Hells is happening there and report to me, if they cannot kill… whatever this thing is. Because if just one person had sight of it I could dismiss it as a flight of fancy, but as it is? I hardly can do that.”
“And you’re doing this and not your brother because…?”
Stannis would really like to know the point of all this questioning, but then again here is one person in court who didn’t tell him to fuck off, so. “Because my brother thinks it’s a matter below his interests and he’s more focused on courting Lyanna Stark than he is on caring about his subjects.”
Ser Jaime nods again, his fingers tightening around the ale’s glass.
“Let’s just say that I am interested in the job.”
Wait, what —
“I beg your pardon? You want to go to Tarth?”
“I do,” Ser Jaime replies. “Or better, I don’t specifically want to go to Tarth, but I want to do something worthwhile with my stupid title, and — let’s just say being in the Kingsguard is not… is not what the songs say. Let’s leave it at that.” He takes another drink. “Also, I would… be glad to be far away from the court. For the time being.”
There is a lot he’s not saying, Stannis thinks, but he won’t press. Whatever he thinks of the Lannisters in general, there is no doubt that Ser Jaime is good at his trade. And one person is not what he had hoped for, but he’d rather have one anointed knight than ten sellswords that might just take his gold and run.
“Let’s say that I am exceedingly glad to hear it. What are your conditions?”
Ser Jaime shrugs. “That you find someone who’d bring me there. I cannot exactly sail a boat and if the waters around Tarth are as infested with monsters as people seem to think or say they are, I can hardly afford to drown before I solve your little problem, can’t I?”
“That’s fair,” Stannis replies. “Nothing else?”
Ser Jaime gives him a small shrug. “I need to be away from here at least… at least six moons.”
“It would be very unusual for a Kingsguard to be away from court that long.”
“I know. So, if I solve your little problem in less time than that, I ask that you find me another little problem to solve of that kind, or at least to make one up so I have an excuse to not be in King’s Landing. Are these terms fair to you, Lord Stannis? Because if they are we can find someone in Flea Bottom to sail that boat for me and we can be gone on the morrow, for what I care.”
This… is not what Stannis had expected.
Still, if Ser Jaime does solve that problem for them… he doesn’t think making up some excuse to keep him at Storm’s End would be that hard.
“We have a deal,” Stannis says. “Shall we head to Flea Bottom next, then?”
“Lead the way, my lord,” Ser Jaime replies, and he sounds a little less detached now.
Stannis does not, in any way, shape or form want to know what is Ser Jaime’s problem. Or well, the first of a lot of them.
He stands up and leads the way out of the tavern — they do have a smuggler to find, after all.
At least with that, they’re quite lucky — it only takes a bit of asking around to find out that a Davos Seaworth whose name Stannis heard of at times associated to notorious smuggling feats, wants out of that life because it doesn’t come with enough money to feed four children, or at least not all the time, and would not object to going to Tarth if it meant being able to have a respectable trade.
Stannis, who admittedly could use competent people in between his sparse entourage and who, after talking to the man for a short while can see he’s definitely as trustworthy as a smuggler can be and definitely means to change his trade, decides that for once he’s not going to point out that a former criminal shouldn’t be able to raise up in any ranks without a proper punishment and tells Seaworth that if he delivers Ser Jaime to Tarth and brings him back either in one piece or not, there’s a knighthood for him waiting and maybe a small piece of land and a ship in Stannis’s service. Seaworth is more than happy to accept and they agree to meet on the morrow at the Iron Gate so they can head for Tarth as soon as possible.
“Ser Jaime,” Stannis asks before the man heads back to the Red Keep, “are you sure they will actually let you come?”
Stannis isn’t quite sure he likes how sharp is the smile that he gets in return. “That really won’t matter, I think. See you on the morrow, my lord.”
Then he turns his back at Stannis, white cloak floating in the afternoon breeze.
The next morning, Stannis notices that he has a split lip. Seaworth absolutely notices it, too, his eyes zero in on Ser Jaime’s mouth, but neither of them asks about it. They do look at each other in puzzlement as he rides ahead of them.
Stannis shakes his head all over again. He just wants to be done with this.
And he sure as hell hopes that whatever is on Tarth, Lannister manages to slay it and bring him some peace of mind, and if he’ll have to host him for the next six moons, well. It could have been worse. It could have been his sister, after all.
“Are you absolutely sure that it’s a good idea, Ser?”
Davos wants to bite his tongue the moment he speaks that sentence — fine, Ser Jaime doesn’t look like the stuck-up kind of lord, and Lord Stannis doesn’t either, small mercies, but all things considered maybe he should have kept his mouth shut and let the lad go to his almost sure death on his own terms. He’s not so sure he was supposed to talk back to the Hand’s son —
Except that Ser Jaime lets out a bitter laugh and doesn’t look at him in disdain.
“Well,” he shrugs, “it’s admittedly a fairly shit plan, I’m not going to lie about that. But,” he adds, “you said it yourself. That you’re not exactly a swordsman.”
“There’s a reason,” Davos says cautiously, letting their small boat sail towards Tarth — in the light of day, it seems absolutely average-looking, truthfully —, “why my trade is smuggling goods and not killing people for money. But —”
“Then,” Ser Jaime goes on, “you’d just slow me down and if you ended up dying while we fight… whatever it is that we’re heading against, then how would I go back? It’s not like if this beast is real I want to face it on my own, but I cannot be worrying about someone else if I can’t trust them to handle their own against it.”
“That’s fair,” Davos nods. “I just — you’re right. There is no other feasible plan.”
He stares ahead — he can see the ruins of Evenfall Hall in the long distance, but much closer he can see the skeleton of an old watchtower, looming over a small bay. The island is luscious green and obviously no one has been on this side of it for a long time, considering how unkempt the grass is near the ruins, but it also looks very quiet and secluded, and most of all, none of the waters they just passed by looked dangerous.
“Very well,” Davos nods, “I will leave you in that bay then. How long will that food last you?”
Ser Jaime glances at the sack that he brought from the kitchens in Storm’s End this morning, when they left.
“They said a week if I was cautious with it, and it seems like… an adequate amount of time to deal with whatever is the trouble. If it’s just one beast, either I slay it or it slays me, but it cannot take that long. However,” he goes on, “that island looks… well. Whatever it is and whatever it became, it doesn’t look like nothing grows on it. If everything else fails, I’m sure I can hunt or find some food to last until you’re back.”
“So I should be at this bay a week from now?”
Ser Jaime nods. “If you don’t find me there, assume I’m dead and tell your lord to only expect my brother to miss me.”
Well, Davos thinks, that sounded pretty damn angry. “Your — only your brother?”
Ser Jaime shrugs minutely again, dull green eyes staring ahead. “My father hasn’t looked at me like he cares since I took the white, and how I wish I hadn’t. My sister… my sister only has eyes for Rhaegar Targaryen. She won’t care. And I’ve been thrice the fool for ever thinking she would.”
The way he says it… this isn’t how I’d talk about my sister not caring about me, Davos thinks. This is how I’d talk if I thought Marya had stopped caring for me. He knows he would. The embittered way he speaks, he just —
Davos shakes his head.
Honestly, better not asking any further.
“Very well,” Davos says, “I will tell him, but I hope to find you alive when I come back regardless.”
“Well, Davos,” Ser Jaime half-laughs, still staring ahead, “not counting my brother, you might be the only person who has expressed such sentiment concerning me in a very long time. If I do survive I’ll make sure to tell Lord Stannis to reward you well.”
He says nothing more and Davos sails on.
Sure as the Seven Hells, Davos thinks, as much as I might have envied the Lannisters their money, right now I certainly wouldn’t trade my own life with any of theirs for all the gold in Westeros.
He’s halfway sure that Ser Jaime would trade his own with anyone else’s in a heartbeat, but that is nothing he will ever ask.
He leaves the lad on the shore and doesn’t sail away until that white cloak disappears into the grass.
As he sails back towards the opposite shore, Davos can’t help thinking that he has never seen anyone look as lonely as Ser Jaime had in that one moment as he walked towards whatever monster awaits him.
For being supposedly cursed, this place certainly doesn’t look like it, Jaime thinks later that evening as he sits down on the beach and bites into a piece of bread and cheese he got from his pack. Of course that means nothing and it’s still not quite sunset yet — maybe this famed monster only comes out at night?
Or maybe monsters, he wonders, swallowing down food he’s barely even tasting.
Not that it matters and not like he doesn’t quite hope it’s more than one, if only — well.
Honestly, he only came because it was either glory or death and he doesn’t know which one of the two he wishes for right now — since Cersei married Rhaegar and he realized she hadn’t quite cared for him
as much as he had thought and as she had told him when she convinced him to take the white, he’s honestly just wanted to either be recognized for his skill or be fucking done. The year he spent guarding Aerys before the marriage was enough to make him forget about all the notions he once had about how he would have loved a Kingsguard life and right now… he has no title, he has no Cersei, he can’t certainly opt out of his trade, no one but Tyrion actually does care about him and it was made abundantly clear, and the only thing he gained out of all this was nightmares about how poor Queen Rhaella used to scream at night while he had to stand outside the door just before she died birthing her last daughter.
Sometimes Jaime wishes they sent him to Dragonstone with the crown prince where they’re staying to recover from such a blow, but of course they didn’t, not when people still look wrong at him because — well. Because he was standing outside the door when after being deposed by his eldest son, Aerys Targaryen put himself on fire screaming he’d turn into a dragon and he only noticed when it was too late, but what was he even supposed to be doing? Guess it? Read the fucking former king’s mind?
They didn’t send him to Dragonstone.
And as it is the last thing he wants is seeing Cersei glowing as Rhaegar’s child grows inside her, and so — well. Thank the gods he doesn’t believe in for Stannis Baratheon, he supposes. If he can slay the monster, or monsters, at least he will go down in history for something. If he dies, he’ll have died a knight. All in all, he could do plenty worse.
He swallows the last of his food and tries to take a better look around the place. He’s walked a bit along the beach, but it’s pretty tranquil, not counting the fact that it’s obviously abandoned. Has anyone lived here since prince Aemon died, he wonders. He doubts it’s cursed, people just… left because of superstition most likely, but still, it looks… a waste. The land is obviously fertile, the waters are brimming with fish, he did see it sailing up here, and so what if a crown prince died on the shore? That stuff happens.
He shakes his head again. It’s not a very big island and there used to be some villages, not counting Evenfall Hall. It might have been a couple centuries since anyone was here, true, but… maybe he can find a bed. Or something. He stands up and starts walking along the shore, and he doesn’t pay attention to the sounds of rippling water nearby — it’s night and it’s an island. It’s probably some fish prattling around.
He does eventually find the ruins of a village, but no bed. He ends up sleeping inside an abandoned old stable, and if he has the vague feeling of someone watching him from across the shore as he closes his eyes for a few moments, he’s probably making it up.
The morning after, there are a handful of fresh apples outside the door of the stable.
He’s plenty sure there weren’t, the night before.
Or maybe I didn’t see them because it was dark, he reasons as he reaches down and eats one.
Well, surely they taste pretty damn good, he decides, and eats all four of them.
Then he sets for Evenfall Hall.
“Well, fuck,” he tells to the empty yard in the castle long hours later — he reached the ruins and they were all empty, and every village he ran into along the way was empty and he has seen a few wild animals around, but no monsters for sure. There are some old weapons laying around the place, and it’s obvious that the Evenstars used to be rich back in the day from the castle’s halls and furniture and what’s left of its tapestries, but other than that… there’s absolutely nothing around the place and it’s maddening, because then there should be more animals, except he only has seen the small ones on the outside and has only breathed dust and dirt and all right, the view from here is lovely, the sunset making those sapphire waters gleam pink and warm golden orange as he makes his way down towards the shore, but that’s not what he came here for.
If there are no animals around besides the small ones inland… it does kind of add up with the theory that something is lurking around, because there is no way that most of this island’s fauna was made of squirrels and other small rodents before Aegon died. There must have been… horses, dogs, cats, anything you’d find someplace inhabited, and there are none. Maybe the infamous monsters ate them all and now they’re heading for the coast because they’re running out of food?
That would… make sense, if it wasn’t for the utter lack of monsters, and the fact that he was sure that those apples weren’t in front of the stable when he went to sleep.
Also, his armor is heavy and it’s too warm even if evening is falling down — well, he decides as he reaches the beach just under the castle, he’ll chance it. He takes it off, putting on a piece of rock that will keep it away from the tide should it rise too much, though he doesn’t take off his sword, and then sits down on the sand. It’s white, but it looks as pink as the sunset makes it as the light hits it. He wonders if it’s why the Tarth sigil used to be blue and pink before, well. Before they went extinct.
“What,” he says, breaking the silence, “are you getting so bored here that you terrorize kids in Storm’s End now, o infamous monster I am here to slay?”
“No,” a voice suddenly says coming from — from he doesn’t know where, he thinks it was behind him, but before he can panic or grab his sword something cold has grasped his waist and his eyes are closed and everything goes black.
He blinks his eyes open.
He thinks he’s inside a cave. There’s rock over him, so it has to be. It also has to be night, because the dark blue stone is brimming silver, and wait, maybe there was a cave’s opening on the shore now that he thinks about it, but —
He tries to stand.
He can’t move.
What the — he can’t, at all. He can breathe, sure. He can move his head to the side and nod, sure. But he can’t raise his hands or feet or move his entire body and what in the fucking —
“Please don’t scream,” a — a pleasant female voice says, and — a female voice?
Coming from in front of him?
Jaime tries to raise his head — he can.
He can feel wet cold rock under his back, so that’s where he’s laying, at least —
And then he sees —
He sees —
Stannis’s commoners certainly weren’t making things up, because here is the infamous monster in front of him.
It almost matches up to the descriptions. As in: it’s large, a bit more than an average human, and — well, maybe it’s a she, since the large chest with wide shoulders clad in muscle has small breasts and as much as her neck is large and she’s wider than he is, there is… no doubt about that. Her face… well, it’s ugly as sin, with a broken nose, probably more than once, large, full lips, cheeks covered in freckles that move down through skin that has a slightly green tone to it or so it looks in the moonlight, with a pair of pretty, large blue eyes the only somehow redeeming feature, but still — definitely looks like a woman.
What doesn’t look human is… whatever’s underneath her waist.
Which looks — looks like — well.
A whole lot of dark blue, shimmering tentacles that she’s resting on, and now he can see that she’s — well. Considerably larger than an average human, considering how fucking many of them there are.
And some of them are holding his ankles steady against the rock he’s laying on, even if he’s sure they’re not what is making sure he can’t move the rest of his body.
He would have screamed, in any other situation. But she… asked. And she sounded polite as she did.
And she’s looking at him like — well. Like she doesn’t want to kill him. Actually as if she hopes he doesn’t scream.
He bites down on his tongue.
“I won’t,” he says, “but can I know what is going on here and — stupid question. You are the monster terrorizing the Stormlands, aren’t you?”
She looks down, seeming ashamed.
“Well,” she replies, sounding miserable, “yes… but that’s not what I meant to do.”
“You didn’t mean it.”
It’s just, the hell, this is so fucking absurd, he can’t fucking believe she looks about to cry when she’s —. whatever in the Seven Hells she is, except she does, and she sounds like she’s honestly sorry about it, and —
Just fucking wait.
“You know what,” he says, figuring that she’s not going to kill him and if she does, well, it’s not like he can do anything about that now, can he, “let’s just — start from the beginning. Who are you, what does it mean that you don’t mean it, and what’s going on in this damned island?”
“My name is Brienne,” she replies, and now she sounds hopeful again, what the fucking fuck, “and — uh. I guess I should answer the last question. So, if you’re from Westeros, I suppose you heard that this island was cursed after Prince Aemon died.”
“… I always thought it was bullshit.”
“It… wasn’t. You do know King Jaehaerys was… in bad relations with one of his daughters.”
“I vaguely remember that. So?”
“So, when her brother died, she… found some powerful mage to curse the island to get back in his favor. That… didn’t work, but it turned my entire family into… this.”
“Wait, your family — you’re — you’re the Evenstar?”
“My father would be, if — if he were still human. I’m his heir, yes, for what it's worth. All of us have been since then. A lot of the villagers fled the island because they were scared of us, even if we weren’t going to hurt them, and we survive on fish and whatever livestock is still on the island. The ones who stayed… turned into this, too. We… keep to ourselves, but.”
“But I don’t want to. I mean, it’s stifling being under the water or just trudging around here all the time, and so some times I’d swim towards the shore, and I’d see people in trouble, so I thought — I thought I’d help them, you know?”
“Wait, so you didn’t want to eat those children?”
“… No!” She sounds horrified. “One of them was drowning. I just wanted to make sure she was safe! And well, the last time I helped a shepherd, some wolves were about to eat his sheep and I scared them away, but the wolves had killed some already and I imagine he thought I had eaten them.”
“He said your teeth were dirty with blood,” Jaime points out.
“Oh. Well,” she shrugs, “I did eat the wolves. Not the sheep.”
“With that pearly crooked white teeth of yours?”
She half-glares at him, then smiles slightly and bares her mouth.
For a moment, her teeth look… normal. Then, though…
Then they turn into sharp, sharp fangs, longer, definitely not crooked, not unlike a real wolf’s except way bigger.
Then they change back into her regular teeth and she closes her mouth. “With these pearly white teeth of mine, Ser…?”
Right. He didn’t even tell her his name. Maybe he should.
“Jaime,” he sighs, “Jaime Lannister.”
“You’re in the Kingsguard, aren’t you?”
“You know what it is?” He exclaims.
“What do you think your other fellow knights did when they arrived here?”
“… Die?” He asks, wincing at how unsure he sounds, but the way she’s looking at him, he can feel that it’s a very stupid question.
She — rolls her eyes at him.
“No,” she sighs. “They were all properly greeted and when the situation was explained they gave up on trying to kill us, also because they realized they were no match for any of us, they told us how things were going inland since we couldn't know otherwise, and then — well. They all decided they were done with Westeros, informed us of how bad things were going over there and asked for help getting to Essos. Or the Summer Islands.”
“And — you or your relatives brought them?”
“We swim fast,” she shrugs. “I personally never have, but my father has, more than once.”
This is so absurd, and yet — yet it’s obvious she’s not lying. He can hear it.
“What,” she asks, “is that what you came here for?”
“… And what brought you to that conclusion?”
“That it was the first thing you thought of asking and that it sounded like you were sort of hoping for it?”
… How is some kind of sea monster who has known him for a whole lot of… well, less than a day, read him so well?
“I can’t even say you’re wrong,” he sighs. “I’ll tell you,” he decides, because at this point what does he even have to lose, “just… why can’t I move now? And you left me those apples?”
“I did,” she says, “and you can’t move because, uh, I injected you with… a small amount of poison. The tentacles, they… can do that. It’s nothing deadly, just paralyzes you for a bit. I didn’t want to risk you running off or screaming or getting yourself killed if you tried to fight me.”
“Getting myself killed?”
“If you threw yourself on them to attack me, the immediate reaction would have been flooding you with poison. I can’t control it if it’s a perceived danger. And it would have been enough to kill you, so.”
So — she knocked him out to make sure he lived?
Seven fucking hells.
He takes a deep breath.
“Well,” he starts, “long story short, yes, I’m in the Kingsguard. I don’t know what’s the last you heard of it, but as it is… it’s nothing like they make it up to be.”
“The knights said it was only for the most honorable of them,” Brienne says.
“No,” he says, “it’s full of cowards who won’t do the right thing because they swore they’d protect the king even if the king is mad.”
“Is… the current one…?”
He shakes his head and realizes that he can’t skirt around this without telling her that he and his twin sister used to be lovers.
He tells her. If anything, he can hope that whatever she is she won’t… judge him for that. Do sea monsters judge people because they commit incest? He hopes fucking not.
To her credit, she listens, her eyes going wider once in a while, but she doesn’t say a word until he arrives to the damned point.
“So,” he says, “after I spend a year outside his door, listening to Aerys rape his wife before Rhaegar finally decides to depose his father, Cersei marries him, tells me that we can’t absolutely have an affair going on while she’s the Queen, you know, and turns out that she actually… had always planned on marrying him, or hoped she would, and now she’s bearing his child and I had to listen to them actually, well, attempting to have one, and I have renounced my title on top of that and I’m not even doing… what I swore my vows for. So, when the lord of the shores you are visiting so often showed up telling me there were sea monsters to slay on Tarth I figured that at best I would do that and I’d come back having… done something worthy of a knight, if I died… it would have been honorable. There you have it.”
Her eyes go even wider at that.
“Your… sister told you you’d always be together if you took the white when she already knew she was likely to marry the crown prince?”
“Maybe she did,” Jaime shrugs.
“That’s…” She starts, then doesn’t go on.
“What? Stupid of me?” He asks when she keeps on being silent.
“No,” she shakes her head. “But she’s your sister and I’ve known you for less than a day. It would feel exceedingly rude to say what I want.”
“Just say it,” he sighs, “I doubt I’ll get offended.”
“Well, she sounds vile? Why did she ask you to give up your inheritance if she knew she wouldn’t have… uh. Been with you?”
“You sound… remarkably unconcerned by something that would get me killed where I come from.”
“Jaime Lannister, my entire family is… what we are because of a centuries old curse that no one can break just because one of my ancestors was unlucky enough a Targaryen prince died on his island and people loathe my sight and think I want to eat them when I just want to help, excuse me if I cannot care less for that. I care that you… seem like you want to help people and be a good knight and no one is quite letting you and that she treated you very unfairly to put it mildly, not about… that.”
His tongue suddenly goes dry.
“You just want to help?”
She shrugs, and — are her cheeks flushing? Can sea monsters flush?
“I did hear a lot of those knights talking about their vows,” she says. “It — sounded like something I would have wanted to do instead of swimming around the same piece of land for my entire life. But people are always terrified and — the ones you heard about were the most recent times I tried. But… I mean. I went towards Essos, too.”
“You weren’t any luckier, I suppose.”
She shakes her head. “No. Also… well. They’re better equipped to try and kill us there. More pirates than I’d care for. So I stopped. But… that’s what I’d like to do.”
“Just — explain me something. Is it just your family and… some of the villagers lingering under the island or —”
“Yes,” she says, “everyone who refused to leave the island back in the day also turned, which is how we are fairly thriving, we just… stay away. But… I’m not exactly, uh, a good prospect for anyone, if you were wondering why I’m trying to save people on the shore instead of being with my family or having one myself.”
He’s sure he must have made a face because she shakes her head as if she hates that she can’t explain herself… which fair enough, he probably isn’t making sense here, but… well. All right, not counting the tentacles she’s definitely not what you’d call an attractive woman where he comes from, but… well. They’re sea monsters. He can’t believe that would matter, too.
“We used to be human once,” she sighs. “We are half human. Well. I mean, for what it’s worth. I know I would be ugly for your standards. But I am also for ours.”
“… Entertain me a moment, what would be your standards?”
“Not counting that I know my… human parts would look ugly to just about anyone, and I mean… we’re still half-human. So.” She shrugs. “I, uh.” A few of the tentacles move. “These are… more than average. A lot more. My, uh, lower side. Is a lot bigger than average, for us. I took after my father. In girls it’s… seen as threatening. Also…” She raises a tentacle, moving it closer to his face. “Can you see the color?”
Before, it looked dark shimmering blue, but now that he has it right in his face and the moonlight is directly hitting it… uh. No. It’s actually the same color of her eyes. That pretty, pretty blue that looks just out of the waters of her island during the day.
“Yes. And? I mean, is there anything wrong with that?”
She shrugs. “Everyone else has silver ones. There have been a few people here and there who didn’t… and they were considered ugly, too, but well. They didn’t have… both sets wrong. I guess.”
“The fuck,” Jaime blurts, “it’s a pretty color?”
What did I just tell her, he thinks when her eyes widen.
Then her skin flushes.
It legitimately flushes red even under that greenish shade and wait is she blushing, what —
“No — no one ever told me it was pretty.”
It is, though. It is. And she’s been… nothing but nice to him. Why would he lie to her?
“It is,” he shrugs. “It’s like the waters around the island. It… just is, I guess. So… well. I don’t know about your family or islanders or whatever, but that’s nowhere near ugly.”
“Oh.” She looks down, then back at him. “Thank you,” she blurts, sounding as out of place as he’s feeling, and then —
Then he feels something against his cheek, something warm and solid and —
“Oh, damn, I’m so sorry,” she blurts, and the warmth moves away, and —
It was one of the tentacles that she immediately took back.
“I’m sorry,” she says, “it’s just, that happens when I’m flustered, I —”
“It felt nice,” he says before he can stop himself, because it did, and for a second he thinks about being enveloped in that warmth and —
He has no fucking clue what was going on but thing is, he didn’t want her to stop.
“It… did?” She says, tentatively, and then two tentacles reach his face and touch his cheeks so very gently, and — yes. Yes, they feel good, and you’d think they’d be slimy looking at them but no, they’re warm and solid and such a pretty shade of blue, and he swallows down while the tendrils go gently down his face and neck, and —
“It does,” he blurts, and then he realizes he’s hot all over and —
And then Brienne’s looking down at the dent in his trousers and —
He had thought he couldn’t get hard for anyone other than Cersei, but.
But it’s obvious that it’s not the case, because he is and he'd really like it if Brienne did something about it right now and he can’t move and the problem is, he doesn’t think he minds at all.
“You… want me?” She asks, sounding completely bewildered.
“I mean,” he grins nervously, “that’s… what usually happens when it’s the case. Fuck, gods, they feel so good,” he blurts again as more tentacles touch his hips tentatively, curling around them as if they’re half-afraid to. Fuck —
“They do?” She asks, sounding just a bit bolder, and then he looks at her very intently, and —
“Is it me,” he asks, “or is your hair flying?”
Because the mass of soft, blonde hair falling on her shoulders is literally floating in the air, and then she blushes harder —
“That’s, uh.” She swallows. “The… equivalent of…” She nods towards his groin without finishing the sentence.
“Does that mean,” he asks slowly, “that you — want me, too?”
At that, she looks at him like he’s lost all his wits at once. “You’re — well. Very beautiful,” she says, “I mean, I think you are, and you’re the first person who actually liked me, and I can see you’re… kind and honorable.” He wants to laugh when she says that except he has more tentacles around his waist. “I do. Want you.”
Well the, fuck that. “Then I say you can take me,” he says, and he doesn’t even know what he has agreed to because he has a feeling she doesn’t have a cunt and he has no idea how this would work but god the way she looks at him, he wants it —
“The poison,” she says, “it won’t let you move for a while yet —”
“Do I need to?” He asks.
Her eyes go very, very, very wide.
“Well… no,” she says, “but —”
“Then I don’t give a fuck,” he says, and at that she —
She starts moving forward, that mass of pretty blue tentacles wrapping around his legs and pulling down his breeches and smallclothes and letting his cock go free as —
As a pair of tendrils tentatively wraps around it and starts stroking him oh fucking gods he can’t move and she’s jacking him off with them with those wide intent eyes and — the tentacles feel a bit warmer and better than his own fingers always had because they’re circling all of it at once, and she looks like she hasn’t done this before ever but she’s eager to try, isn’t she and —
And he barely has time to realize he’s leaking all over whatever tendril she has around his dick before her hand gently, gently cups his face and it’s large and it manages to hold his entire cheek as she leans down. Her hair falls down over his cheeks and it’s soft, and now that he looks at it better and closer… it’s blonde, yes, and it might look like seaweeds but he thinks he likes it and he can’t wait to touch it later, and then her mouth is on his and her tongue is touching his own and it’s slightly rough and big but warm, and her crooked teeth don’t feel wrong against his mouth, and he kisses back at once, it’s the one thing he can do after all, and she moans a little into his mouth as her other hand cups the other half of his face, and he’s entirely aware she could snap his neck just like that but she’s kissing him so very gently instead, while all those tentacles wrap around his thighs and ankles and they’re still not slimy at all but they also aren’t coarse, just… smooth and warm and curling around him while the tendrils wrapped around his dick keep on pumping around it faster and faster and faster as she takes confidence with it, and he thinks, if she’s not using her hand she could just do it for hours couldn’t she and he grows harder in her grip just as he thinks about that.
She moans into his mouth again and he thinks he can feel her breasts getting firmer against his chest and god Cersei’s fingers never felt as good as this he thinks as that tentacle keeps on stroking and stroking and stroking —
He screams into her mouth as he comes against it, hard, his entire chest spasming as those tentacles wrap around him tighter and don’t let him go and holy fucking Seven Hells when she moves her mouth away he breathes in hard and hard and harder and —
“Fuck,” he blurts, “fuck.”
“I have to deduce,” she says, smiling, “that you liked it?”
“Oh,” he says, “did I give you reason to think different?”
She moves away a bit, raising the tentacle that is covered in his come oh fuck oh fuck —
She wraps her mouth around it and licks it off.
He thinks just that makes his dick go back to life at once.
“Huh,” she says, “salty.”
“I hope the good kind of,” he breathes.
“Oh, yes,” she says, and then another tendril moves closer to his mouth and closer, and —
Fuck that, why the hell not, he thinks, and parts his lips as she slides the tentacle inside his mouth, and —
It’s warm, and it’s just a tiny bit wet, and it’s sweet.
He sucks at the tip, experimentally.
She moans back so fucking loud he stops for a moment, but then —
“Please,” she says, “go on,” and that sounded like an order, please or not, and that makes him fucking harder again and he’s going to think about it later, he decides as he opens his mouth wider and sucks at that tentacle some more as it completely fills his mouth and Brienne moans harder and louder as he does it.
Fuck it to the Seven Hells and back, it tastes good and fine, it’s not the same as licking cunt, obviously, but maybe if he runs his tongue along the base of it might work, shouldn’t it —
She moans again. And again. And again, over and over and over as if she’s this close, and so he sucks at it harder —
And then the tentacles around his legs are spreading them gently but surely and another one is wrapped around his dick and another is touching the inside of his thighs, making his way towards his ass and —
Oh fuck fuck fuck, he thinks as he sucks at that tentacle some more, tongue licking at that smooth sweet surface over and over, and she moves his legs back a bit enough that the tip of another tentacle runs along the rim of his ass and now it’s somehow wet again, making its way inside it slow, just the tip going in and then becoming larger, oh, oh, he can’t help moaning around the other tentacle in his mouth while she twirls and twirls and twirls and twists the one that’s going inside him, and going in deeper with each turn.
Gods it’s leaking something inside him that’s making it slide in smoother and slicker and it’s way more than warm now, it’s fucking scalding hot, and the tentacle in his mouth is too, still honey-sweet as he swallows down whatever’s leaking from it, because something is and it tastes fucking delicious and he can’t stop, and the thing is that he should be terrified that he can’t do anything about it because he still can’t move at all, and instead —
Instead he just wishes she’d fuck him harder, and maybe she reads his mind or something because that tentacle inside his ass becomes bigger and it pushes into him deeper and all of the others are still keeping his legs wrapped so very tight and oh fuck another tendril is rubbing at his dick again while she keeps on fucking him and fucking him going in and out with that one tentacle that’s completely filling his ass, and then —
Then the tip of the tentacle hits some place inside him that makes him fucking scream for how good it feels, and if he could have moved he’d have probably jerked up but he can’t and still it feels like he just did — he sucks at that tentacle harder and at that point Brienne’s eyes go a bit darker and she smiles a bit wider and he thinks he sees a hint of fangs in her teeth as she starts fucking him faster with the tentacle in his ass, hitting that spot again and again and again, and at this point he’s not even telling himself that the fang baring didn’t make his dick leak harder, and then the tentacle around his dick starts matching the pace of the one inside him, and when he looks up at Brienne her eyes are wide and her mouth is parted and she’s moaning so fucking loud it’s going straight to his dick again and he’s so fucking close to coming apart at the seams he’s going to actually fucking kill her if she stops now —
And then she fucking lifts him up with all of those tentacles wrapping around his back again, dragging him towards… her lap, he supposes, the tentacle in his ass fucking him harder and deeper while the one around the front keeps on stroking him and stroking him and stroking him and the honey-sweet one in his mouth keeps on filling it and pouring down his throat, and then one of her hands is on his face again and the other is around his back and he doesn’t even fucking care that she’s moving him around like a rag doll because this is the fucking best sex he’s ever had and he doesn’t give a shit that she isn’t human, and then the tentacle swelling in his ass goes faster and keeps on hitting that sweet, sweet spot just as his mouth is filled with that sweet, sweet taste —
He comes so fucking hard everything goes white behind his eyelids — it takes him all at once, his dick exploding into her touch while she gives a deep, deep thrust into his ass and seems to have filled his entire mouth, and he feels slick everywhere — his, hers, he doesn’t care, honestly he fucking doesn’t — and he’d have screamed her name if he had his mouth free and then he’s shaking all over and she’s holding him through it and his entire body feels on fire and he just can’t fucking stop coming all over those pretty blue tendrils, and then the tentacle in his ass takes one last thrust, and he manages to moan around the soft, sweet flesh in his mouth, loud, as he throws his head back and shakes and shakes and shakes, and then —
“Are you all right?”
He blinks his eyes open.
“Fuck,” he groans, his voice hoarse, as he realizes that he’s basically curled on her tentacles, and he can move now, sluggishly but he can, and that he passed out on her.
He fucking passed out on her.
“Yes,” he croaks, “I just, uh. That. That happens to us when… it’s particularly good,” he manages to say, feeling exactly how empty his ass is now that she retreated, and — christ. Her entire… groin area or whatever you call it is coated with his come. Gods. Gods.
“Oh,” she smiles, flushing again, and does she look pleased?, “Well, then — I mean, it was…”
“What, I don’t compare to your… species?”
“No, uh, all the contrary, I mean, er, I — I never actually, you know. Did anything. With anyone else. And… it’s not like this for us.”
“… It’s not.”
“It’s… a lot faster and not about… feeling good during it, it’s about having children only, but — never mind. I was… well. Going on instinct. But like, even if I had done it with anyone from my species, this… would have been better.”
Jaime isn’t sure he’s not dreaming this, nor that she reaches out with one tentacle, grabs a fish from — somewhere in the water and eats half of it, fangs coming out.
“Sorry,” she says after munching on it, “uh, that… happens. For us.”
“… Let’s put it like that,” she says, fangs closing around the remaining half.
This shouldn’t go to my fucking cock, he thinks, except that the idea that she can do that and he’s basically at her mercy and she’s handling him so gently is just — fuck.
“So,” he says, “I can deduce I was a satisfactory first time?”
“I mean,” she says, half-shyly, “I wouldn’t mind if there was a second. Or a third. I, uh, I kind of really wanted to put two of them inside you, but —”
Jaime’s dick fucking twitches at the thought, even with how fucking spent it is. It hurts a bit, but gods, wasn’t it fucking completely worth it.
“Let’s say,” he interrupts, “that we can do it as many times as we want, and that I am absolutely fucking willing to let you work up to it because Seven Hells it felt amazing, but. I was thinking.”
“As much as I’d rather do anything else than discuss why I came here, someone is coming to get me in a week and I will have to tell people something and I really don’t think I want to kill you, especially if… you just wanted to help, didn’t you?”
She shrugs minutely, blue eyes finding his again as she licks blood off her lips. “I mean… those knights who came here. I liked their vows. I wanted to be like them. But… I just scare people, don’t I? I should just stay here and let you have a tentacle so you could say you killed me.”
“What? Wouldn’t that hurt?”
“Oh, they grow back again. That’s not —”
“Wait,” he says, “just you wait. I’m trying to think even if you fucked me so well it’s kind of a bit hard to, but.” Thing is… it’s obvious she does want to help, and with her… skillset, well. She could if people let her. And… honestly, don’t they want the very same thing? And doesn’t he want to just get the fuck out of King’s Landing? And wouldn’t he hate leaving her behind? He knows he would. There’s no point in telling himself differently.
“Right,” he says, “listen to me a moment. Let’s say that I explain Lord Stannis the situation and that you come with us when his man comes back to get me. Like, swimming calmly. Not showing up the way you have before. Then you talk to him. I mean, he’s… well, stern, but he’d hear you out. Then — well. I asked, if I succeeded in… dealing with the problem here, that he’d let me just stay there a while because I don’t really want to see my sister. Which would mean, finding an excuse to keep me in the Stormlands, which also would mean sending me around to to knightly things, you know.”
“I’m following,” she nods, her eyes going wider, maybe she understood where he’s aiming at —
“Well, just… we could do them together? There are rivers in Westeros. I could just… vouch for you so people wouldn’t be scared, and I mean, Stannis could do worse than having you defending the Stormlands or something.”
“You’ve known me for hours,” she objects, though she sounds like she really would like to say yes.
He shrugs. “I can see you mean that. Also, you’ve been more understanding to me than most people I know in the… hours we knew each other. Also, sex with you is fucking great and being a hedge knight with you honestly sounds amazing, in comparison to… well. Whatever I’ve been doing up until this point. Also, a week from now, when Seaworth shows up… I will have known you way longer than hours.”
She thinks about it for a moment.
Then she grins at him, her lips meeting his, giving him such a sweet kiss his knees would have crashed to the ground if he had been standing.
“I think I really do like your plan, Ser Jaime,” she says, and then he’s kissing her again, his hands finally touching that soft, soft seaweed hair, and —
Yes, he thinks. Yes, this is the best plan he could have come up with. And he likes how she calls him like that, meaning it and without any of the scorn people usually put on the first word, these days.
Good thing that Seaworth seemed like the kind of man who would not blink too much at this turn of events, he decides, and then he kisses her harder and decides he’ll care about that later.
Seaworth actually doesn’t. When he shows up, a week later, on that beach as agreed, he hears the entire story, nods at the both of them, then shrugs. “Well,” he says, “then I suppose the… lady would wish to swim back with us?”
“That would be lovely,” Brienne smiles back, and does swim next to their boat all the way to the shore where Stannis is waiting.
When he actually sees her and hears the story, he blinks once.
Then he grits his teeth in a way that Jaime finds frankly alarming, then —
“You are the whatever the Evenstars turned into,” he says, staring at Brienne.
“Yes, my lord.”
“And you want to help my people. With him.”
“Yes, my lord. If you’ll let me. I swear I —”
“No swearing, I can bloody see it. Gods. Davos, I am not hallucinating this, am I?”
“No, my lord,” Seaworth says sympathetically, “she’s been with us since we left Tarth. Pretty sure she’s real.”
Stannis grits his teeth again.
“Well,” he says, “Robert has been off to Winterfell for days to try and court Lyanna Stark again. He’s not going to be back for months. I guess it can’t harm if the both of you slay bandits on my account. Then — then I suppose that we can see how it goes. Just — never mind. You can stay on the shore in Shipbreaker’s Bay I guess. Wherever it’s more comfortable. And now I think I will go and have wine for the first time in years,” he mutters, and then he goes and turns his back on them.
“I’ll go after him,” Davos smiles back at them, “just… you can bring him to the bay, right?”
“Sure,” Brienne says, “thank you. I suppose we’ll see each other soon?”
“Oh, I am quite positive of that.”
He disappears after Stannis, then Jaime has to grin.
“So,” he says, “are you giving me a ride to Shipbreaker’s bay already?”
“Of course,” she smiles back, the sun making her hair glow while her slightly green skin has the same shine as a bright pearl’s, and — honestly.
He doesn’t think he’s going back to King’s Landing anytime soon and he’s entirely glad of it.
“Excuse me,” Tywin Lannister grits through his teeth, “my son is doing what?”
Stannis tries to not sigh loudly. It would not do in front of the Hand of the King.
“You have the raven, my lord. He says he wishes to resign from the Kingsguard as he has not been here for a full year and does not plan to come back, and that he’s perfectly happy roaming the Stormlands and the Trident along with the last Evenstar.”
“The last Evenstar.”
Stannis shrugs. “Technically she is one, but I can assure my lord Hand that she is actually quite competent to discuss with.” He’d know. She had better ideas for actually helping the commoners than most of his advisors. He wishes he could make her one.
“Competent. She’s an abomination.”
“She’s a useful one,” he shrugs. “Also, your son does not seem to agree.” Not that Stannis needed to know that those two apparently are in love or — whatever else they are, but he does know, and rubbing it in Lannister’s face when he completely scorned his request for help, well. It feels a bit vindicating.
“He does not seem to agree.”
Stannis shrugs again. “What can I say,” he clears his throat, “they… seem to get along quite splendidly. Once he said he wished he could knight her, but alas, that might be a problem. Anyway, my lands haven’t been this peaceful since they started their… little arrangement, therefore I am more than glad to host him as long as he likes.”
“And what does your brother say about it?”
“My brother is more interested in pursuing Lyanna Stark than your son’s business. That said, I am only referring you what he told me to. If you want to discuss it with him, I am afraid you will have to come to Storm’s End.”
“Leave,” Lannister says.
Stannis only nods and does, and if he actually enjoyed the look on Lannister’s face throughout the entire conversation… well. No one has to know.
“Jaime, this is unacceptable!”
Jaime, who had not been looking forward to talk to his sister but had been forced to when she showed up in Storm’s End with their father, having left her firstborn in King’s Landing with Rhaegar, merely shrugs and gives her the kind of lazy smirk he knows she hates.
“What exactly?” He says.
“You — you — are consorting with that thing?”
She gestures towards the window and the beach where Brienne is currently resting on a rock, snacking on a whole lot of fish that someone from the kitchens just left there for her, but at this point everyone in the castle likes her and they bring her as much as she needs once per day.
Those pretty blue tentacles are glowing bright in the sunlight.
He almost smiles, looking down at them.
(He almost smiles wider, thinking about having had three of them inside him two days ago before Cersei and his father showed up.)
“Yes,” he says, “so what?”
“You — you would rather be with that than —”
“Waiting outside your door and staring at you from afar while you give Rhaegar his heirs? Cersei, you’re bearing his second child and you’re asking me this question? Honestly, please. She wants what I want, she’s exceedingly good company that I happen to enjoy greatly and I’ve been happier with her than at any point in my life. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“Staring at you from afar my entire life is not what I want, Cersei,” he says, shaking his head. “Die mad about it if you wish, but I made my choice.”
“Jaime, you’re not —”
“I’m going down,” he says, “enjoy being Queen,” he adds, giving her that smile again, and then he runs down the stairs until he reaches the beach.
When he grabs Brienne’s neck and kisses her at once after climbing on the rock, he knows Cersei is watching.
He hopes she chokes on whatever it was she was drinking when he came into the room.
He really, really does.
“Did you hear that Tyrion Lannister married a crofter’s daughter?”
Davos, who had been getting a drink in peace in one of his favorite old taverns to find contracts that he’s just visiting now because he missed their ale and Lord Stannis is having another hearing at court he is not invited to, catches the conversation between the two men behind him.
He shouldn’t eavesdrop, but.
But he’s kind of curious to hear what do people say about that.
“Yeah,” the other man replies, “and I heard the old bastard hates that he can’t do anything ‘bout it because when his eldest is roaming the Trident with an abomination with him… it’s not like he can force the youngest to leave her.”
“Serves him right,” the first guy shoots back. “The way his daughter looks at us whenever she’s in the city, she might be Queen but I’m only glad if the other two are being his fucking bane.”
“I’ll drink to that,” the second man replies, and they clash their tankards together.
Davos smiles into his glass.
I’ll drink to that, too, he thinks, and downs the last of it.
The stars do look beautiful tonight, Jaime thinks as he lays down on the banks of the Trident, curled into a whole damned lot of those soft, warm tendrils, his head resting on Brienne’s shoulder while her fingers thread through his hair.
She’s smiling at him, he can feel that, and so he turns down towards her to look at those small lights reflected in her pretty, pretty blue eyes, and — yes. She was. And she looks so much happier than she had back on Tarth, not that he’s not either. He knows he is.
“What were you thinking about?” She asks, her voice soft.
He shrugs. “Just that I’m really glad I decided to go to your island. Wouldn’t change this for the world, you know.”
“I do,” she replies softly, her mouth meeting his, those full lips so soft and sweet against his as he moans back a little into the kiss, both of them tired because they spent the entire day locating a bunch of bandits that had already raided five villages around the are and killed all of them and well — they did celebrate later, on the banks of the river. Enthusiastically enough that his ass feels it, but he enjoyed every damned second of it.
“Good,” he says, “because I want to do it for a long, long time.”
“How interesting,” she smiles into the kiss, “me, too,” she says, and then kisses him a bit harder, and harder, and —
As her tendrils start to run along his back, pulling him closer, he knows they are not stopping anytime soon.
Good. That’s everything he wants. And he’s pretty sure it’s everything she wants, too.