Cersei was in a rage. Pacing across the stone floor of her room, she glared furiously at anything that came into her line of vision, green eyes sharp as daggers. The wine goblet in her hand had already been refilled thrice now in the span of the last half hour, a true testimony to her mental state. It was now nearing the the last few drops again, meaning she would have to call in a serving girl to refill it, which didn't help her resolve not to accidentally kill someone in her rage.
And why was she so angry, one might ask? Well, there were many reasons.
For one, the traitor Eddard Stark had managed to escape under her very nose, from the black cells themselves. And on the day of his trail no less! From Littlefinger's reports, it seemed as though he was close to discovering her and Jaime's secret, so something had to be done. Now she knew he knew the truth. And he was gone. That was something that would have sent her into a fury in and of itself, but unfortunately it wasn't the only thing that had happened. No, the second thing testing her ability to not murder anyone who came within ten feet of her was the fact that her brother, Jaime, was missing.
No, he wasn't missing per se, she knew exactly where he was.
Kidnapped by the Starks.
It seems as though in their escape from the Black Cells, they managed to apprehend the knight and take him as a hostage. How on earth anyone could have managed that was beyond her. Her brother was one of the greatest swordsman in Westeros. Almost no one other than Barristan Selmy and a few others could best him. Then again, Ser Barristan had most likely aided in Eddard's escape, so she wouldn't be all that surprised if it really was the old knights doing that her brother was captured. But still, he was an old man. He might be good, but there as a point where old age started to really take its toll. She was certain he was at that age now.
But if not Barristan, who could have beat him?
Growling in frustration, Cersei chucked her goblet at the wall, and the glass shattered with a satisfying crash as it met the stone.
It felt good to destroy it. But it didn't help any. Logically she knew she wasn't going to get anywhere by smashing wine glasses. And if Cersei was anything, she would say it was clever and intelligent, so she might as well live up to it.
Sweeping out of the room, she stalked through the halls, focused solely on her destination.
She swept into the council room and was met with four pairs of eyes. "Everyone out," she ordered, green eyes burning cold as ice. "Except Baelish," she reprimanded. "I must speak with him."
The mousy smile she got from him told him he already knew what she wanted to discuss. Slowly, everyone filled out of the room, leaving her alone with the master of coin.
Finally. They had plans to make.
Jaime came to to the sound of something clanking against metal. Slowly, he blinked open his eyes, the sudden light stabbing at his eyes and making his headache worse. The next thing he realized was the incredibly uncomfortable position he was in. His arms were tied behind his back and his cheek was pressed hard against what he assumed was a wooden floor. It didn't seem that whoever his kidnappers were that they were very concerned for his comfort. Slowly, his vision sharpened until he was look at a barred gate.
Great, he was in a prison cell.
Well, judging from the slow rocking and the sound of waves outside he was actually in the brig. Even better, he thought morosely.
The tapping persisted, and he was forced to look up to meet the culprit.
"Aw, good. You're awake."
Standing behind the bars of the cell he was in stood the Targaryen bastard himself, squatting down to be at some semblance of eye level with the knight. He was holding a dagger hilt-side up. That must have been what he'd been hitting the bars with to wake him up.
Jaime scoffed under his breath. Impatient little bastard.
"I see that I'm now your hostage," he grumbled, squirming to push himself up in a sitting position. The movement jostled his aching head and he winced, mouth twisting in discomfort. If the bastard saw it, he showed no signs of sympathy.
"Unfortunately," he replied tersely. "I wanted to kill you, but that would have just made things worse."
Jaime scoffed again. "As if kidnapping doesn't."
"You call it kidnapping, I call it leveredge," the bastard said, making Jaime narrow his eyes. This boy couldn't be older than sixteen, and here he was taking advantage of situations for a tactical advantage. It reminded him of Rhaegar and his brains. It seemed that this boy had inherited that, unfortunately for him.
"So you're taking me back north to your barbaric wasteland?" He surmised, assuming the ship they were on was sailing north towards White Harbor. It only made sense.
"Not quite," Jon admitted. "We'll be making a stop on Dragonstone first, then will depart towards White Harbor and the north."
There was a reason for telling him this, Jaime realized. He wasn't just blabbing their plans. If he was that meant he was incredibly stupid. Which he wasn't. That meant he knew there was no way Jaime was getting out and away from them. Meaning he was thoroughly screwed and stuck with the bastard for the foreseeable future. Damn.
"So why'd you bother waking me at all? Surely you could have left me to rot here until we made port?" He asked bitterly, green eyes boring holes into grey ones.
"You're our prisoner, not a dead man," he shot back, eyes like ice. "Besides, someone had to bring you your meal." It was then Jaime noticed the small plate sitting next to the boy, a meager meal of cheese and bread sitting idly on the metal platter.
"Eat up," he said, pushing the plate under the door. "Can't have you starving to death on us."
Being completely at someone's mercy was not a feeling Jaime was accustomed to, and it infuriated him. A grimace twisted Jaime's mouth and he couldn't help the small grumble that escaped him. "Bastard," he growled out.
His captures lips quirked into an almost smile before he responded. "Not quite," he said smugly.
Jaime only response was to deepen his glare. Jon smirked dryly before standing up, brushing off his knees as he did so.
"Enjoy your meal," was all he said before leaving the brig.
Jaime was tempted to throw the plate at him as he watched the boy go.
Dragonstone loomed before him yet again as the ship pulled in towards the docks. But this time, instead of a bleak sense of despair, Jon was elated. Or, as elated as one could be in the given situation. But his father was by his side, safe and sound, along with Nymeria and Ghost, who's paw was now splinted and healing. The rescue had been a success, and that was wonderful. But they still had to get home to Winterfell, and before that, pick up the girls.
"How is the prisoner doing?" Ned asked, breaking the silence.
Jon let out a small huff. "Not pleased with his predicament," he answered vaguely. His uncle let out a small snort of amusement before they lapsed back into silence.
"Should we tell them?" Jon asked, watching as the island grow ever closer. His father didn't have to ask what he meant before he responded.
"That all depends on you," he said warmly. "I'll stand by you whatever you choose. And if you choose to tell the girls, I'll be there with you."
A hot sense of pride blossomed in Jon's chest, but was quickly tempered by remembering what Cersei had said.
"Cersei will tell everyone," he grimaced. "We won't be able to keep it hidden forever. Better they find out from us than her."
A gramice from his uncle told him he agreed.
The two lapsed into silence again, watching as the ship sailed around the island to the port where he had no doubt the girls were waiting. They hadn't sent a raven ahead, so the two had no idea what the outcome of the mission was, just that their ship was returning. They must be worried out of their minds, Jon figuered.
As the docks came into sight, so did the image of the two Stark girls and Lady, standing impatiently at the end of the pier, watching eagerly, just as he'd thought. Arya was shifting from foot to foot, hands twitching anxiously while Sansa wrung hers nervously, occasionally stroking Lady's fur for comfort.
Jon saw the moment they found their father standing next to him. Arya's face lit up and she started bouncing where she stood, pointing and shouting indiscernible words. Sansa also seemed to have the weight of the world lifted off her as she brought her hands up to her mouth, overwhelmed with joy.
As soon as the ship docked and the gangplank lowered, the girls were off.
"Father!" The girls cried in unison, rushing towards Lord Stark. Jon stood off to the side and watched their reunion, a smile pulling at his face. He watched Lord Stark scoop Arya up into a big hug, setting her down to do the same for Sansa, who blushed fiercely, mumbling she was too old for such things. She clearly didn't mean it though, judging by the wide smile on her face.
"Father, I was so worried," Arya cried, wiping at her eyes.
"Well I'm here now, sweetling," he said softly, brushing her hair aside affectionately. "And that's not all."
Arya scrunched her face up in confusion as Lord Stark stepped aside. Then it burst into joy as Nymeria raced up to her, followed by a limping Ghost, who both attacked her with licks and playful bunts.
"Nymeria!" She squealed. Jon watched with a wide smile on his face as the two wolves covered her in kisses, tails wagging like crazy.
"They've missed you," Jon said with a smile, watching as Arya was dragged to the ground by the two wolves jumping all over her.
Jon looked up at Sansa, who was looking at him with warm blue eyes. "Thank you for coming back."
Jon let himself smile confidently back at her. "Well I promised, didn't I?" The smile she gave in return was by far the kindest one she'd ever given him before.
"Well if that's enough catching up with each other," a heavy flea-bottom accent cut in. "We really must get all the men back to the keep. And there's still that prisoner on the brig we have to worry about."
Jon's smile immediately slipped away at the thought of the Lannister currently being held below deck.
"You're right, Ser Davos," he sighed. "Let's go."
After hauling Jaime Lannister out of the boat and up to the keep, they threw him in a cell and assigned some guards on him to ensure he wouldn't get up to anything suspicious. Not that there was much he could do in a cell anyway, but it never hurt to be precautious.
After that, the girls were sent back to there rooms with the wolves while Ser Davos led them to Stannis Baratheon, who'd been informed of their arrival as well as their hostage. Jon wasn't really looking forward to what the lord of Dragonstone had to say on that matter.
Ser Davos gave the door the Stannis' solar a sharp knock once they arrived. Not even a few seconds had passed before the lord's response came through the reinforced wood.
The door was eased upon and Jon and Eddard stepped slowly into the room. Immediately Jon could sense how tense the air was. He wasn't sure if it was just because two high ranking lords were occupying the same small space, or if it was because of Lord Stannis himself, and the wary edge he gave off. Jon strongly suspected it was the latter.
"Ah, Lord Stark," the lord of Dragonstone said, getting up from his seat. "I'm glad to see you well."
"I'm glad to be well, My Lord," Eddard replied. "I have it in my understanding that you are partly to thank for that."
"And you would be correct," Stannis said evenly. Without giving much pause, he continued, blue eyes cold as the ocean they resembled as he said, "And I have it in my understanding that you brought the Kingslayer here in chains."
It wasn't an accusation, per say, but it sure sounded like one. What he said next only drove the point home further.
"If this is traced back to me, Cersei will be out for my head."
"I assure you, Lord Stannis," Jon tried, jumping to defuse the growing tension between the two lords that now seemed to be choking the room. "We had no intention of putting pressure on you by holding a Lannister. But in the situation we were facing, it was the only option. If we had killed him we would only be faced with more trouble."
Stannis' eyes narrowed at his reasoning, but he didn't appear to be about to argue. Jon considered that to be a win.
"We'll sail for White Harbor on the morrow," Ned suddenly said. "So you won't have to worry about him more than you already have to."
Lord Stannis gave a stiff nod before turning his attention over to Jon, who stood awkwardly behind his uncle.
"I will allow you to use one of my ships," he said, eyes turning back to Ned. "But I'm afraid I must ask, Lord Stark, are Cersei's allegations true?"
Jon frowned, confusion flitting over his face before Stannis went on to explain.
"She claimed your supposed bastard isn't quite what he seems," he said, shooting a hard look at Jon. And if there was still any confusion left over what he was implying, he said, "The son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, that is." Both Jon and his uncle stiffened, but otherwise remained silent. Stannis watched this with his careful, calculating gaze before speaking again. "Now, I'm inclined to believe they're simply the ravings of a woman trying to cling to power, but I must admit they were quite believable." A pause. "Considering the circumstances," he added, giving the warden of the north a hard stare.
So, Cersei had sent out ravens already. It wasn't as if it wasn't to be expected. She would want all the kingdoms on her side for whatever fight she thought was coming. And to paint Lord Stark a traitor in everyone's eyes was the closest she would get to allying everyone as the lioness could get.
Jon swallowed and looked up at his uncle, trying to read his expression. It would be easier to lie to Lord Stannis, but this was Lord Stark, he never lied. Unfortunately. It seemed that Lord Stark was having the same dilema, Jon noted from watching his expression. What would he say?
"Aye," he finally spoke. "It is true."
Both Jon and Stannis stiffened considerably, Jon from uncertainty and Stannis from, well, Jon couldn't tell.
"I see," was the lord's stiff response. "Well then, it seems we have a predicament."
That was one way of putting it, Jon thought.
"I am the rightful king of the seven kingdoms," Stannis said, rising from his seat. "After my brother took the throne from the Targaryen's, his heir, since he had no legitimate children, is me. However, here you are," he gestured to Jon, who almost shrunk away in discomfort. "The child of Prince Rhaegar and Lady Lyanna." His scowl deepened. "I'm afraid you hold no claim to the throne, seeing as my brother usurped it."
"I'm not asking for the throne," Jon replied evenly. "You can have the bloody thing for all I care."
The lord of Dragonstone rose a grey eyebrow, blue eyes raking over him as if searching for any reason to doubt him. Jon gave him none.
"Very well then," he finally said. "Pledge yourself and your family to me and I see no reason this should end in your arrest."
"Surely you wouldn't arrest a guest in your own home," Eddard cut in.
"I will do as the law demands," was he easy reply. Cold and concise. Just like the man himself.
"I thought you were the law," Jon said testily. "Now that you're king." That earned him another cold glare from both parties. He met them both with equal strength. "Besides, I don't have to pledge to anything. I'm pledged to Lord Stark, that's where my allegiance lies. If he decides to pledge himself to you, so be it. But aside from that, respectfully, I owe you no such thing."
The air in the room was tense for a few long moments as the lords took in what Jon had said. It was a risky claim, he knew, easy to end in punishment for him from the proud lord of Dragonstone. But still, it needed to be said.
Jon watched with tensed muscles as he waited for Stannis' response. At long last, it came. And while he might still have been looking at Jon, he knew he was talking to Lord Stark.
"Truly, he has to blood of the wolf," the lord commended. "He speaks plainly, but fairly." Now he turned to Jon's uncle to give him the same hard stare he'd been giving Jon only moments before. "If he's pledged to you then I can not ask him to pledge himself to me. I respect that." A pause, just long enough for both Jon and his uncle to let their tensed muscles relax some in relief. "But, as your new king, I must ask you pledge fealty to me, and that you will serve my house as the Warden of the North."
"I understand, Your Grace," Eddard replied coolly.
"I expect you to do so tonight in the audience hall, so as to make it more official," Stannis continued. Then, turning back to Jon, "You will be there as well, boy," he said. Jon nodded in understanding.
"Good. Now that that is settled," the lord of Dragonstone said. "I will have my servants lead you to your rooms and have baths drawn for you. I expect to see you both tonight."
And with that, Stannis took his leave and swept out of the room, giving them both polite nods before doing so.
The exchange hadn't gone quite as he had thought it would upon landing on the island, but it could have gone much worse, he figured. Stannis was a cold and stern, and possibly even intimidating man, but at least Jon didn't have to worry about losing his head to him. Just from that he was already a better king than his brother Robert. Which in the grand scheme of things wasn't saying much, but it was still something, Jon supposed.
It was still something.