The Golden Squire
Jaime Lannister sat with his chin on his fist and his back against a rough log. It wasn't the most comfortable of positions, but it did allow him to survey the band of men that had come from King's Landing near five fortnights ago. He saw most of the soldiers were whispering around the fire. They're merriment could be heard in their voices even though they tried to keep quiet. Near the lights edge sniffled Merrett Frey, his squire mate under Lord Crakehall. The large squire had caught the pox early in their stay in the Kingswood requiring near constant attention and care, much to the distress of their comrades. However, now that the pox was gone, the whimpering squire was a nuisance. The Frey still expected special treatment even after his sickness had passed.
Stupid oaf. Jaime couldn't find it in himself to help the large squire out, as he had discovered the Frey was a bully back at Lord Crakehall's home.Jaime could tell that the other soldiers were sick of Merrett Frey as well. Lord Crakehall was the only one paid his "sick" squire any extra attention, if only to satisfy his duty to look after his squires, but even he was starting to grow tired of his squire's antics.
Speaking of his Lord. He and Ser Arthur Dayne were patrolling with a group of men around the perimeter of their camp making sure no outlaws tried to sneak up on them in the dead of night. They paid special attention to the settlements nearby, knowing that the smallfolk who had taken up residence in the Kingswood did not think too highly of the King's band of soldiers. To hell with the lot of them. Jaime thought that the insolent peasants should be thrown into the prison under the keep. Maybe that will teach them some respect.
When Ser Arthur had first approached the smallfolk for information the woodland people had nearly spat in the Kingsguard member's face. Jaime had almost drawn his sword. How dare these fools talk to the Sword of the Morning like that. He had seen the famed knight's younger brother from the corner of his eye. Even the normally blank faced Alexander had a small frown tugging at the corner of his lips. Lord Crakehall had placed a firm hand on Jaime's shoulder and shook his head, which stopped him from stomping over to the disrespectful peasant and teaching him some manners. If Ser Arthur was troubled, he did not show it. The white cloaked knight merely motioned for Lord Crakehall and sent the rest of the men, including Alex and Jaime, to the outskirts of the settlements to prepare camp. Ser Arthur wanted to reason with the fools.
Loud laughter drew his attention back to the large campfire in the center of camp. The soldiers were telling lude stories now. Jaime smirked. The Brotherhood had not been seen since their stay in the woods, helping the men to relax. Jaime wasn't too worried. The Brotherhood had probably heard of the group led by the Sword of the Morning and ran or hid. Outlaws were cowards. The Brotherhood couldn't fight a decent knight unless they snuck up on him. Although, Jaime had heard interesting stories about some of the members of the Brotherhood. He had been looking forward to fighting some of the more esteemed members of the outlaw group, but it looked like it was going to be a boring stay in the outdoors instead. So far from Cersei. Oh, how he missed her. His dear twin sister.
No. Best not think of her now. It would only make it more painful. Jaime shifted, stretching his legs out, the soles of his feet faced the fire, absorbing what little warmth the fire offered at this distance. He needed to distract himself. If it wasn't night he would have asked Alex for a spar, but it was much too dark. And the sounds of clashing steel would only frighten the poor fools living nearby. Jaime peered into the shadowy outskirts of the camp looking for the black haired squire. At least he could try to figure out the enigma that was Alexander Dayne while he was here in these forsaken woods.
Alex Dayne could often be found on the edge of camp whenever his brother, the Sword of the Morning, was away on patrol or whatever else lead the knight away from camp. Alex seemed like any other squire, although, much more serious and even better at the sword than he was, not that he would ever admit it out loud. But there was something off about him. He was so alert. So much more aware than anyone he had ever known. Jaime remembered he had woken up in the middle of the night to take a piss. He had thought Alex to be sleeping, the young man was so still. Jaime, crept along the camp to the edge of the woods in order not to awaken anyone not on watch, but Jaime was naught but ten feet away from Alex when the black haired squire's two bright green eyes opened and stared through the darkness right at Jaime. Those eyes. They seemed to shine with a light of their own and were so deep. There was a coldness in them as well, that sometimes his father would have when he spoke of the King. But there was much more in these eyes. A sense of agelessness. Jaime shuddered. No man should possess those eyes. But as just as suddenly as those eyes opened, the coldness disappeared and he was staring at darkness again. "Do your business Jaime. You just startled me." Jaime had heard. You certainly didn't look startled. You looked about ready to kill me.
But apparently those eyes ran in the family. At least according to Ser Arthur. The Sword of the Morning had said that Ashara, his and Alex's sister, had haunting eyes that drew the attention of any man that looked her way. Ser Arthur and Alex had both laughed at that. No, Alex didn't laugh, that would be an exaggeration. In fact he had never seen the black haired youth more than chuckle briefly in all the time he spent around him.
Jaime finally spotted the subject of his thoughts. Alex was always so hard to spot. He just sort of blended into the background. How, Jaime knew not. Alex certainly looked better than most people with his noble upbringing. But then again, Alex didn't look like the blonde Ser Arthur, so maybe that was why. Jaime was about to shout Alex's name to get the boy's attention, but Alex was already walking in his direction. Good. Saves me the trouble of raising my voice. When Alex drew close enough that the Jaime could hear his footsteps, Jaime sat up and waved his hand. "Alex, how goes it?"
Alex stilled and looked his way. "Fine." The young Dayne said.
"Come. Sit with me. You're not getting away with another one of your silent nights again. And bring me some of that wine. I saw you eyeing it." Jaime scowled playfully. Alex, seemed conflicted. He looked to the barrel of wine for a split second and then back at Jaime. Jaime patted the ground to his right. "Come on. Don't be a spoil sport. Might as well talk to someone. You have to admit, it's been boring since we got here." Jaime's words seem to have helped make up Alex's mind, as Alex filled two wooden bowls with drink and sat down next to him.
"Here." Alex said, handing one of the bowls to Jaime, which he gladly accepted, downing half of the liquid in one gulp.
"Don't know why your brother ever paid those smallfolk for the wine the soldiers took. It's not that good anyway."
"He's a knight." Alex shrugged, sipping on his own bowl of wine. "It is his duty to look after the King's subjects."
Jaime snorted. "After what those fools said to him? They deserve any misfortune coming to them. Especially after what Lord Crakehall said."
"That's only a suspicion." Alex said. Jaime gave the black haired a searching look from the corner of his eye. Alex can't be that naïve can he? "Alright. It's definitely more than a suspicion. But still, Arthur is a true knight. Even if you don't want to be one, he is held up to a higher standard." Conceded Alex.
Jaime took offense at that. I don't want to be a true knight do I? "Who said I didn't want to be a true knight. I'm just saying that people shouldn't disrespect your brother like that. He is the Sword of the Morning after all." Protested Jaime.
Alex smiled at that. "I'm glad you think so highly of my brother. But he hardly needs protecting from the words of a few ignorant smallfolk."
I'm glad to be doing the King's work with Ser Arthur, thought Jaime. Me, Jaime Lannister, working with the greatest knight in the Seven Kingdoms. Of course I think highly of Ser Arthur. Jaime laughed. "With the way things are going here, words will be the only thing we have to worry about."
Alex apparently found that funny as well and started chuckling. Jaime gave Alex a thoughtful look. This is the perfect time to ask him about himself, now that he's relaxed. Alex was surprisingly reticent about his own life. Any time the soldiers tried to talk to the dark haired squire about himself, Alex would lead the conversation in a different direction. Anything Jaime knew about the younger Dayne came from the Sword of the Morning, which wasn't that much, because Ser Arthur was gone from much of Alex's life. The two Daynes were surprisingly on edge in the Kingswood, even though the only signs the Brotherhood was here at all were old camps and rusty swords. Jaime sighed. "You aren't what I expected." Started Jaime. He sipped from his bowl of wine. "Do you know what I thought the moment I heard about you?"
Alex set his wine down and shook his head. Jaime smiled inside. He's interested! Let's see if I can get something out of him.
"I thought you were a false squire riding on his brother's fame."
Alex made a humming noise in his throat. Disappointed at the lack of reaction, Jaime continued, trying a different strategy. "I'll admit that your skill did take me by surprise. But you looked more a girl than a knight to be." Insulting him to his face. That should annoy him at the least. He might let something slip in his anger. This time Alex did react, but not in the way Jaime expected. Alexander chuckled, enough so that even his eyes seemed to glimmer with mirth. Jaime frowned.
"Well, I certainly look more like Ashara than Arthur." Alex said. "And act like her more too." Jaime thought he heard some wistfulness in Alex's voice.
"You love her a lot don't you?"
Alex turned to Jaime. There was surprise in his eyes. "Of course. Don't you love your siblings?"
Jaime knew that question was rhetorical, but he wanted to answer anyway. He didn't love his siblings the same way. Little Tyrion was his younger brother. He certainly loved Tyrion more than any other family member loved the boy. But Cersei. She was different. His twin. His second half. He wouldn't find anyone he loved more in his whole life.
"Yes." That was all Jaime could say. Alex gave him an amused smile and nodded. A nod of understanding. He loves his sister more than he does Arthur. Just as I love Cersei more than anything else. Just then Jaime thought that, maybe Alex and him weren't so different after all. That they shared a connection more than just being squires. But, no Alex couldn't have known the kind of love that Jaime had for his sister Cersei. They shared an intimate bond beyond brother and sister… Beyond even lovers.
An annoyed scream shattered Jaime's reveries. He turned his head towards the source of the sound. It seemed his squire mate Merret had finally broken the patience of the soldier he was tormenting with his whining. Merret Frey was on his back legs in the air like a flipped turtle, struggling on the leaf covered ground. It appeared that the unfortunate soldier he had annoyed had pushed the Frey off the log he had been lying on. Jaime burst out laughing, joining the merriment of the other onlookers. That stupid oaf. He shouldn't have been milking his sickness for so long. He looked at Alex. Even his black haired companion had an amused grin.
Suddenly a feathered object appeared in Alex's right shoulder knocking the young Dayne's shoulders back into the log they had been using as a backrest. Time seemed to freeze. Both he and Alex stared at the arrow with startled eyes.
"To arms!" The battle cry of Ser Arthur and Lord Crakehall rang across the camp springing every man to action. Time unfroze and Jaime scrambled to his feet. He drew his sword and peered away from the camp fire and into the woods. From the corner of his eye he saw Alex do the same. Oh thank the Seven. I thought he was dead! Apparently Alex was perfectly fine, as the black haired squire took up a ready stance with a more annoyed expression than anything else. Sounds of fighting could be heard from across the camp. Jaime was about to run to join the action when another arrow flew and hit the log he had just been leaning on. Out of the darkness charged men. The Brotherhood.
His first challenger was easily dispatched with a quick parry followed by a two handed backhand slash across the man's mid-section. It seemed under all the leafy camouflage the outlaw was only wearing leather. Jaime's second opponent was not as easy to beat. The outlaw obviously had some training and was matching him blow for blow. Another member of the Brotherhood came from the side with his sword raised. Jaime did not have time to deal with the brigand. Just as the sword was about to come down on Jaime's unprotected left flank, Alex blocked the strike, engaging the sneaky outlaw. Jaime saw an opening and thrust his blade straight into the neck of his opponent. As the man dropped to his knees gurgling blood, Jaime noticed that Alex had force his opponent to his knees as well. But his man was not yet dead or dying.
"Surrender. And I will give you mercy." Alex said. Jaime gaped. He couldn't believe it. He was offering to let the enemy go. Thankfully, Jaime didn't have to yell at Alex, as the outlaw spat at Alex and shouted, "I won't take mercy from you, King's filth."
"So be it." Alex looked at the man with pity, then chopped the man's head off with a single blow of his sword. Blood sprayed into the air covering Alex's chest and arms. The blood looked nearly black in the flickering light of the dying campfire.
Laughter filled the air. The two squires looked out into the darkness and saw two tall shapes strolling their way. "What do we have here?" Asked the taller one.
"Two boys so far away from home." Said the wider one.
The two outlaws stepped out of the gloom of night. The two recognized the taller one. It was the infamous Smiling Knight. He wore a dark chain vest under a smattering of brown dry leaves. His sword was drawn in his right hand and it towered towards the sky. Obviously the outlaw had an insanely strong arm to be able to wield such a long sword in one hand. Jaime shuddered. Not at the appearance of the Smiling Knight but at another fact that wasn't seen, but was known throughout the Kingdoms, the Smiling Knight was as deadly as he was mad. And judging from the deranged smile the man wore, he was very deadly. The wider one jabbed the now revealed Smiling Knight's side with a large wooden war hammer. "Eh. They recognize you!"
The Smiling Knights smile grew wider. "I'll take the dark haired one. You take the blonde. Let's make short work of these boys." The two outlaws approached Alex and Jaime. Just as the four swordsman were about to clash, Lord Crakehall stepped over the log behind the two squires and walked between them. Lord Crakehall stood in front of Alex and Jaime facing the two outlaws, with his sword drawn. It seemed their Lord had also been fighting, as his sword was coated in red.
"Big Belly Ben and the Smiling Knight you are both wanted by the King's decree. It is my duty as a Lord and under my King's command to bring you to justice." Lord Crakehalls deep voice drowned over the sounds of clashing swords and dying men. "However, if you surrender and give me information leading to the capture or death of your fellow outlaws I will allow you take the Black. If not. Then may the Seven judge you fairly in death."
The one called Big Belly Ben shifted his war hammer from hand to hand and looked at the Smiling Knight, who's smile had disappeared. Suddenly a wide grin stretched across the dirt covered face of the Smiling Knight. "Sounds like we'll have some fun here! I came to kill two boys and caught myself a Lord. What a lucky night!"
Big Belly Ben laughed. "It seems we're outnumbered. I'll sort this out." Big Belly Ben then turned his head to look back into the woods from where he and his companion emerged. "Men!" He yelled. A dozen leaf covered outlaws formed a semi-circle around the combatants.
"Now, now. Just keep the boys distracted. We'll handle the Lord." Said the Smiling Knight mockingly.
"Handle me?" Scoffed Lord Crakehall. "You will not find me so easy to kill." With that Lord Crakehall charged forward quickly parrying the Smiling Knight's longer reach and sidestepping Big Belly Ben's large war hammer. Jaime and Alex sprang into action at the same time engaging the dozen leaf covered outlaws. The outlaws weren't very good with their swords, but they had numbers. By the time Jaime and Alex had ended four of their numbers the two squires were forced to fight back to back in order to cover each other's weak spot.
"Jaime!" Whispered Alex. "You go help Lord Crakehall. He's having some trouble."
Lord Crakehall was indeed having trouble. With every swing of his war hammer, Big Belly Ben pushed the Lord back another step. Lord Crakehall's arm was getting tired too. Each strike of the war hammer sent shockwaves up the Lord's arm, deadening his muscles. The Smiling Knight wasn't even engaged anymore, more content on laughing than fight. Jaime was worried. He glanced backwards at Alex. "You sure you can take on six?"
"Don't worry about me. Just save your Lord!"
Jaime nodded with a determined look in his face. He charged forward delivering swift jabs towards his opponents, forcing them to move to the left. Taking the opportunity, Jaime sprinted past yelling, "I best find you alive when I return!" All he heard in a reply was a chuckle and Alex's calm voice. "Surrender and I will give you mercy."
Jaime didn't have time to look back and see if Alex was seriously considering letting the six men go. How can he think of mercy at this time? Let alone think that he can kill six men? But Jaime had to focus on the view in front of him. Lord Crakehall had tripped and was on his back. Big Belly Ben had his war hammer raised and was about to slam it down upon the unfortunate Lord's head. Jaime managed to place himself over his Lord and block the fatal blow with his sword, which shattered it into two pieces, leaving only about six inches of his sword in his hands. The war hammer's momentum was so great that it struck Jaime's forearm, nearly forcing him to drop what remained of his sword in pain.
Jaime let out a pained grunt. That's going to bruise. Surprisingly the pain disappeared. His arm guards had taken most of the force but there was going to be a deep bruise as a result of the blow. Taking advantage of the surprise, Jaime stabbed what remained of his sword into Big Belly Ben's stomach with both hands. The wide man fell back groaning. Picking up Lord Crakehall's sword he stood defensively over his fallen Lord.
The Smiling Knight had stopped laughing at this point. He looked as if he were about to attack, but responding to some unseen signal behind Jaime, the Smiling Knight helped a stumbling Big Belly Ben to his feet before running off into the forest. Jaime, panting hard with adrenaline, watched the two outlaws depart still frozen in his defensive stance.
"Boy. Help me up."
Jaime dropped the sword and helped Lord Crakehall to his feet. His arms protested as Lord Crakehall gripped his bruised forearms. Once his Lord had dusted himself off the he surveyed the battlefield. "Seems we got off pretty lucky." Said Lord Crakehall.
Jaime looked at the camp. There were men strewn across the ground, some were still twitching. But all the men that were standing were King's men. Jaime didn't say anything. Lord Crakehall placed a hand on his shoulder. "You did good Jaime…" But before Lord Crakehall could finish what he was about to say, Ser Arthur Dayne and Alex approached them. Jaime was surprised to find that Alex looked unharmed and had a serious look upon his face. If there wasn't any blood on the younger Dayne's body, Jaime would have been surprised that Alex was in a battle at all. It seems he took care of the six outlaws afterall. Ser Arthur, however, wore a grim expression. "We lost twenty-odd men in the surprise attack." Said Ser Arthur.
Lord Crakehall frowned and again surveyed their previously tidy camp, before replying, "Could have been worse. I'm surprised we managed to keep as many men as we did. I was surprised the Brotherhood decided to retreat. But lucky for us they did. I was in a tight spot myself, if it wasn't for Jaime here."
Jaime perked up at that, regaining his customary smirk. Ser Arthur Dayne nodded at Jaime, which swelled his pride even more. Then Alex spoke up, "Where's Merrett?" Ser Arthur's grimaced, seriousness returning in full. Why Alex. Why can't you let me bask in my glory? Then the full gravity of what Alex said hit Jaime. He hurriedly surveyed the camp again. Merrett Frey was nowhere to be seen.
Ser Arthur spoke in a stiff voice. "They've taken your squire, Lord Crakehall."
Lord Crakehall grunted angrily and spat onto the dirt, turning to peer into the woods, as if he would find his missing squire. Alex followed the Lord's gaze to look into the woods with a determined gleam in his eyes. That stupid oaf. Was all Jaime could think as he shook his head with pity.