After months of contemplating what to do now that he was dismissed from the Kingsguard, Barristan Selmy found himself searching for Daenerys Targaryen.
Had Joffrey not cast him aside, Barristan would not have realized that wasn't where he belonged. His place was with the true king… whoever that was. Many men were calling themselves kings these days. Stannis Baratheon was a just man, one who would commit himself to a task unflinchingly, yet he was unable to rally men to join him. If he could not do that, how could he rule a kingdom? There was Renly. who could win friends more easily than his elder brother. But winning friends did not make him fit to be king. Barristan could see Renly sitting in council spouting jests instead of ruling, as he always did when he sat in at Robert's councils. Balon Greyjoy was a fearless man. This was his second attempt at becoming the King of the Iron Islands, but he would turn Westeros into a lawless land, something Barristan could not abide by.
That left Robb Stark. For a boy of fifteen to remain unbeaten in the field was impressive. Barristan knew the Lannisters feared Eddard Stark's son. He saw the fear plain on Cersei's face at Stark's execution. She knew once Stark's head was detached from his body, they would experience Robb's wrath. Barristan could not blame the boy. They killed his father and kept his sisters hostage, and everyone knew what happened to prisoners under a Lannister's care. He understood why Robb was fighting, but the boy was vengeful and more importantly, a boy.
Then he remembered his conversation with Eddard Stark, when the Lord of Winterfell had finally reached the Red Keep and settled in his new quarters. For the past thirteen years, Stark had raised Daenerys Stormborn. He risked his life to protect her, and the man would never know how much that meant to Barristan. "A sweet young girl. My children adore her," Stark told Barristan, bemused when asked about Daenerys.
The description wasn't much, but Barristan trusted Stark's words. He learned, however, that behind her sweetness was a ferocity all Targaryens bore. According to some of the guards who accompanied the royal family to Winterfell, Daenerys defended Robb Stark by challenging both Joffrey and the Hound's manhood. The guards he overhead mocked Robb for needing a girl to defend him, but Barristan understood why she did something so reckless. Stark mentioned his children adoring her, so she must have felt the same. Her loyalty only reminded Barristan of his own. He had seen Aerys and his madness, and while he served him until the end, he thought Robert could be better. Elia and her children should have been the first sign that Robert was no different, but Barristan had been afraid.
It took over a decade, but Barristan found his courage and this courage led him to find his true queen.
For months he traveled down the river road to reach the Starks. Barristan knew the Young Wolf had gathered his northern bannermen to rescue his family in King's Landing. His army only grew larger when he defeated Jaime Lannister in the Whispering Wood. Barristan assumed Daenerys would remain in Winterfell, where it was safer, but rumors of her attempt on the Kingslayer's life made him head for Riverrun. He doubted half the rumors.
When he was only hours from reaching Riverrun, Barristan spotted a scout nearby. The young man looked relieved for some company.
"Can you take me to Daenerys Targaryen?" asked Barristan.
The scout eyed him, unaware of who he was. Not that Barristan blamed him. He had grown out his hair and beard to disguise himself from any gold cloaks, nor did he don the white armor of the Kingsguard.
"And what for?" the scout asked.
"I am here to serve her."
"Ah." The scout began to laugh. "I'd like to 'serve her' too, but she's gone, old man. She's going back to Winterfell I think."
Barristan nodded. Robb must have realized how dangerous it was for her to remain in Riverrun and told her to return to Winterfell. He thanked the scout and continued his journey for his queen.
Nothing could drown out the roaring in Jon's ears as he dragged Robb's limp body away from the assault on the Crag. He was exhausted and wounded from their skirmish in Ashemark days ago, but he could not slow down. Not when Robb was bleeding out from the arrow he was not fast enough to dodge.
He found a boulder and rested Robb against it. Robb groaned and felt for the arrow still penetrating his body. Jon grabbed his groping hand and held it. He didn't think removing the arrow was a good idea.
"Robb," he muttered, when his cousin's eyes fluttered closed. "Robb. Stay awake."
Robb started to laugh, but ended up coughing instead. "You… you haven't called me Robb… since…"
"I know." Since their fight in Riverrun, neither had spoken to one another unless it involved their plunder across the westerlands. He hoped they'd get over it eventually, but he didn't think it would take an arrow wound for them to speak again. "We'll find you a maester and you'll be fine."
"Jon." The soberness in Robb's voice did not bode well with him. "If I don't recover from this… you… you have to…"
He had an idea where this was going. Jon shook his head, wincing from the gash on his right cheek. "You're not dying, so don't talk like you are."
Robb's lips twitched, as if to smile, but didn't speak again. Perhaps he was in too much pain to speak. Jon glanced behind him, wondering if the others had successfully taken the Crag. It was more of a ruin than a castle, and he doubted it would cause much trouble. Of course, no one anticipated the king to take an arrow, but that was a minor setback. At least, Jon hoped so.
Brynden Blackfish eventually found them, tired but unhurt. He immediately went to help Jon heft Robb up. Even as they slowly pulled him to his feet, Robb still groaned in pain. Almost there, thought Jon. They'd reach the castle and find a maester and Robb would be fine—
"He can rest in my room," offered a feminine voice.
Jon hadn't even noticed when they entered the castle, or the girl standing before them. She was around his age, slender with brown eyes and chestnut hair cascading in tangled curls down her back. She wore only her sleeping shift, but didn't seem to care that she was in presence of strange men.
"Jeyne," hissed another woman. Her mother most likely.
"It's fine. I can treat his wounds," the girl—Jeyne—insisted. "Can he make it up the stairs?"
"He'll have to," Jon muttered. He would have smiled if he weren't drained of energy. "Thank you."
Jeyne gave him a tight smile and led them upstairs. Each step was agony, but Jon forced himself to move. Robb could not die. He couldn't lose him too.
Robb was unconscious when they reached Jeyne's chambers. Jon went over to help Jeyne undress him, but Brynden touched his shoulder. "You should rest," the older knight advised.
"I can't. I need to know… need to make sure he's fine," Jon said, shaking his head.
"He'll be fine," Brynden assured him gruffly. "Rest. I'll find someone to clean that gash on your face."
Jon couldn't argue. He sat down heavily in the nearest chair and the moment he was settled, sleep took him. He dreamt not of war, but of the godswood in Winterfell. He sat down on the grass, leaning against the weirwood tree. Lying beside him was Dany, her head resting on his shoulder. Tucked behind her left ear was a winter rose, the blue of its petals stark against the silver-blonde of her hair. There was a calmness in the air that Jon hadn't felt in ages.
She looked up at him, her violet eyes half-lidded and beautiful. The ache in his heart from missing her was sudden and visceral. He only had her ribbon, but that was tattered now. Jon turned away from her, desperate to dream of something else. He wasn't in the godswood anymore. He was in the stables… with Arya. She was chattering about something as she climbed her horse. Once she was mounted, she shot Jon one of her horsey smiles and motioned for him to follow.
No, no, no. Dreaming of Arya was worse. At least Dany was waiting in Riverrun for him. He didn't know where his little sister was. Robb thought she was dead, but she wasn't. She couldn't be. Not many people thought Arya was clever, but she was nimble and Jon knew she could survive until they found her. She had Needle, and she knew how to use it.
Somehow, he drifted somewhere deeper in his mind. He wasn't in Jeyne Westerling's chambers anymore, but outside the castle, edging along the coast where dawn was approaching. Grey Wind was with him. He blinked his yellow eyes at him before leaping forward, tacking him to the ground. They romped around in the grass, nipping and scratching at one another. He and Grey Wind began to fade as someone shook Jon awake.
Another wolf dream, he thought. Jon rubbed his eyes, groaning. He was sore and unrested. He must have slept for two hours.
"My lord?" a soft voice called.
Jon finally noticed Jeyne. She was dressed properly now and her hair was untangled. "I'm no lord, my lady," he told her, rising out of his chair.
"Oh." She fidgeted with her hands. "What should I call you?"
"Jon is fine," he answered, stifling a yawn. He looked at the bed, where Robb laid sleeping. Jon stood and moved closer, noticing the bandages on his bare chest. "You did this?"
"Our maester died two years ago. He taught me everything he knew, in case someone was hurt," Jeyne replied, turning towards the window.
Teaching women the ways of a maester was unheard of, but Jon was thankful she knew. Without her, Robb might have died. Jon shoved that thought back. He wouldn't let anymore Starks die at the hands of Lannisters.
"Thank you, Jeyne," Jon said, truly grateful for her help.
Jeyne turned to face him, her eyes wide. Then she smiled and nodded. When he lingered by Robb's bed, she remarked, "I'd offer to draw you a bath, but you don't seem likely to leave him."
"Not until he wakes," Jon said quietly.
She watched him and when her stare began to feel uncomfortable, she noted, "You're… quite loyal to your king."
"He's more than my king." Jon stared at Robb's unshaven face. It was lax with sleep, the most relaxed he'd seen of him since before the war. "He's my blood."
The Aliandra was a small ship, quite possibly the smallest ship Sansa ever set foot on, but Ser Daemon told her it was necessary if they wanted to reach Braavos in time with Myrcella Baratheon's fleet. When he mentioned that they were to meet with the same Dornish escort as the princess, Sansa considered jumping off the ship.
He must have noticed the color draining from her face. "No harm shall come to you so long as I am your shield, my lady."
The sincerity in his words made her face warm. Sansa couldn't recall any knights pledging themselves to protect her, nor could she remember if any protected her so viciously as Ser Daemon. The merciless way he cut down those men plagued her dreams. The tourney in King's Landing did not compare to the carnage she first witnessed.
Yet Ser Daemon was not a cruel man. He treated her courteously and made certain she was comfortable as they sailed to Braavos. Sansa couldn't even find herself angry at him when he denied her answers to why the Martells were rescuing her when his voice was so gentle and gracious. How could a bastard be so kind when a crown prince like Joffrey was so heartless? She thought of Jon and immediately felt stupid. Her cousin was always kind to her and her siblings, yet she often ignored him in favor of Jeyne Poole and Daenerys. Why had she done that?
He must hate me, she thought, guilt filling her.
Arya must hate her too. The last time she saw her little sister, they had a terrible fight. If Sansa knew that would be the last time she would see her… She blinked back unbidden tears. Who knew she would miss Arya? Wherever she was, Sansa prayed she was alive and finding her way home. When they would meet again, Sansa would hug her until her arms grew tired, even if she was filthy.
"When we reach Braavos, what will happen?" Sansa asked, when she found Ser Daemon on deck in the early morning.
"We dye your hair," he replied. He gestured to her windblown hair. "I am told your red hair is recognizable. We can't have the Lannisters know of your location."
"But if we're meeting the same escort as Princess Myrcella, won't we encounter Lannisters? How can we avoid them?" Sansa questioned, holding on to the railing of the ship.
Ser Daemon hesitated. "Don't concern yourself with that, my lady. You follow me and we will reach Dorne unharmed, where you will be safe."
Safe. That was something Sansa hadn't felt in a long time, but she supposed anywhere far away from Joffrey was safe.
The first time Myrcella stepped foot outside the Red Keep was when her father took them to visit the Lord of Winterfell. Her mother and Joffrey were miserable the whole trip, but Myrcella loved every moment of it. The air outside King's Landing was cleaner and she savored the smell of it. When they ventured through their first forest, she picked wildflowers with Tommen and hopped across a small brook. Her mother had been displeased to find her gown soaking wet by the time she and Tommen returned to camp.
She couldn't forget the morning she and her uncle Jaime found a doe. He held her hand and slowly led her towards it, careful not to scare it off. The doe's ears had flickered, but it hadn't stopped drinking from the brook. Myrcella reached out her hand and laughed in delight when the doe nuzzled her palm with its wet nose before returning its focus to the brook. Jaime grinned and bravely scratched the animal behind its ears. "Lovely, isn't it, Cella?" whispered her uncle. Nothing could ruin Myrcella's day after that, not even Joffrey's complaints or her parents arguing.
Now, Myrcella was in Braavos. Petting the doe was still her favorite memory, but Braavos was soon to become a close second. Everywhere she and Ser Arys looked, there was a show. Water dancers dueled at the Moon Pool, while mummers performed wonderful stories. Women as lovely as her mother strolled through the streets. Some approached Ser Arys and whispered things to him that made his face flush red. He refused to tell her what they said to him.
Ser Arys's face hadn't lost its blush when he was told they were to meet with their escort in a barge owned by a woman called the Black Pearl.
"Why are they looking at us?" Myrcella questioned, noticing the strange looks shot towards them.
"Do not concern yourself with them, Princess. Let's focus on our escort," Ser Arys replied, embarrassed.
Once inside the barge, their escort turned out to be a woman.
"You must be the Princess Myrcella," she said, smiling. She was stunning and slim as a willow, with dark eyes, full lips, and high cheekbones. Her black hair was worn in a long braid down her back. "I am Nymeria Sand, daughter of Prince Oberyn. My uncle, Prince Doran, has sent me as your escort."
"Prince Doran has sent a bastard to escort the princess?" Ser Arys echoed, affronted.
Nymeria's smile slipped from her face. "Bastards are regarded highly in Dorne."
Myrcella glanced between her knight and her escort. "Prince Doran would not send her if he did not trust her, Ser Arys," she remarked, hoping to make the woman feel better. It seemed to work as Nymeria's smile returned.
"Before we board our ship to Dorne, I have a gift for you, Princess," she said, turning around. "Come out, sweetling."
Stepping out of another room, a girl of thirteen approached them. She was almost Nymeria's height, with pale skin and long, thick dark brown hair. Myrcella could not see much of her face since the girl kept her head down.
"Her name is Alayne. She shall be one of your handmaidens," Nymeria explained.
"Hello, Alayne," Myrcella greeted.
Alayne finally lifted her head and for a fleeting moment, Myrcella thought she recognized her. Those high cheekbones and blue eyes… where had she seen them before? She was so sure she'd seen someone with those exact facial features.
"Princess," the girl murmured, lowering her head again.
Nymeria and Ser Arys continued talking, but Myrcella could only focus on her new handmaiden. It was strange. She had never met this girl before, but felt like she had. Where would she have met Alayne? The sensation never left, even as they boarded the ship the Dornish sent for them. It wasn't until much later, when she, her cousin Rosamund, and Alayne were in bed did she finally recognize the girl.
She waited until Rosamund was asleep to speak up into the unlit cabin. "I know who you are," she whispered. Alayne stiffened and didn't move to roll over and face her. Myrcella stared up at the ceiling, trying to focus on the soft rocking of the ship. "I won't tell anyone. I wouldn't want to go back either."
For a long time, Sansa Stark didn't speak. Myrcella thought she had fallen asleep when she whispered back, "Thank you."
Cersei picked up a looking glass and regarded herself for a moment. Her golden hair was tousled, lips stained red from her wine, and green eyes glittering from the light of the candles lit in her chambers. Cersei imagined Jaime staring back at her except his smile was sharper. She set the looking glass down, her own reflection reminding her too much of Jaime. She missed him, and she knew he missed her too. Jaime couldn't be without her for so long. It made her wonder how he was coping without having her in his arms. He needed her, but she couldn't save him and it pained her to depend on Tyrion to bring him back.
She poured herself more wine, resentment suffusing through her. Cersei always dreamed of becoming queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but she hadn't wanted to become Robert's queen. He took from her the man she dreamt of ruling beside her. It was as if the gods made it their duty to keep Cersei and Rhaegar apart. First Elia, who was nothing compared to Cersei with her frail health and flat chest. Then there was Lyanna. Rhaegar and Robert's obsessions with her baffled her. What did a boyish, skinny northern girl have that Cersei lacked? Rhaegar was a strange man to choose Lyanna over her.
When she was at court, Cersei could never figure out what he was thinking. No one could. Of course, Cersei never concerned herself with figuring out Rhaegar's thoughts. She spent most of her time listening to him sing and dreaming of their wedding.
Daenerys Targaryen had her elder brother's good looks. She was half a girl when Cersei last saw her, slim and flat chested, but Cersei knew the girl would blossom into something greater. The mere thought of a girl more beautiful than herself was infuriating. Even if the girl could have been her good-sister had Rhaegar freed himself from whatever spell that wolf girl put him under, Cersei still wouldn't have stood for it. Once her father destroyed Robb Stark's army in the westerlands, Cersei would do what Tywin had done to his father's mistress. She would strip Daenerys naked and parade her through the streets of King's Landing before ending her once and for all.
Before this shameful walk, Cersei wanted the girl to see her long lost brother. See the brother that escaped Stark and Stannis's fingers on Dragonstone for the first time… only to have his head decapitated from his body. At least that execution would be planned. She sipped her wine, considering the second son of Aerys.
Robert had sent countless assassins to kill the runaway prince, but he evaded each one. It enraged him that a child could avoid capture, but the boy must have made friends to protect him from these assassins. The closest to killing Viserys was when Varys suggested using an exiled knight named Jorah Mormont to track him down. Robert died before he could give out the command, leaving Viserys alive long enough for Tyrion to convince Cersei that the last son of Aerys was a perfect prisoner. Especially now that the Stark sisters were missing.
Cersei hadn't gotten a look of Viserys when Mormont brought him to the Red Keep. Tyrion hadn't wanted to make the exiled prince's presence known yet, and for once, Cersei agreed with his decision. Still, she was curious if he resembled Rhaegar. He was a child the last time she saw him. He was a man grown now.
Perhaps it was the wine that possessed her to do it, but Cersei found herself commanding her guards to bring Viserys to her chambers washed and fed.
Her heart pounded wildly in her chest as she waited for Viserys. She drank more wine to distract her nerves and fiddled with her uncombed hair. She was in the privy when they arrived with—what Robert called him—the Beggar King. Her breath hitched as he stepped inside her chambers. What she saw… it left her disappointed. From first glance, he could easily be mistaken for Rhaegar with his coloring, but the longer she gazed about him, she could spot their differences. Rhaegar was taller and fitter, with darker eyes and longer hair.
Give him a few more meals and he could be as beautiful as his brother, Cersei thought, taking in the young man's gaunt form.
"Will you not bow before your queen?" Cersei questioned.
"My queen is dead," he replied, loathing coloring his tone. "All I see is the Usurper's whore."
Before she could even slap him, one of her guards kicked the back of his knees, sending him stumbling to the floor. She walked closer to him and grabbed him roughly by the chin, forcing him to look up at her. Cersei relished the act. It was not often that she towered over men.
"It would be wise to hold that tongue of yours," she warned, sinking her nails into his skin. "I can order your death at any moment."
He stared at her with unrepentant hatred in his lilac eyes, yet made no reply. Cersei tilted her head with a smirk. She released him roughly and straightened her stance. "Send him back to the dungeons, and don't feed him for a week."
That would remind him of his place.
A/N: Not my favorite chapter because of all the bouncing POVs and its relative shortness, but it was necessary. At least we get to see what Jon and Robb are up to. I was going to add Dany's bit in the north, but I'm saving that for the next chapter, where it will be the main focus. Hopefully I can update again before I go back to school. Anyways, be prepared for the next chapter. It's something else. Thanks for reading and please review!