Mark of Conciliation
In a world where soul marks are reparations from one House to another, Jaime Lannister cannot, for the life of him, understand why his family was punished on House Stark's behalf. Or where the Kingslayer finds redemption in a Targaryen Princess but neither are aware of that little fact. fem!Jon, Soul Marks AU, Jaime x Lyarra
Jaime had thought them spared.
He had held his breath for eight years, hoping and praying that Jaehaerys' Mark, the Curse of the Conciliator, never stained Cersei's wrist. He had rejoiced when Viserys Targaryen's fifteenth nameday passed without note and not a single blemish formed on the pale flesh of his twin sister. Neither she nor any other Lannister had gained a dragon tattoo overnight, an indelible mark that the Gods, Old and New, had judged their House and found it wanting. Even his Father had released a breath of relief when seven nights and seven days had passed and none of their own had their fates irrevocably tied to an exiled dragon prince.
Soul marks were an invention of the gods from long before Aegon the Conqueror landed in Westeros but it was not until Jaehaerys I, the Conciliator, studied them that their true purpose became known. They were prettily dressed to represent hope and peace between warring families but in truth, Jaime found them to be cursed reparations of ink and magic. It was rare, near-so as tamed shadowcats and direwolves, for them to appear. One selection of each noble house, a son and a daughter to be stained by a mark when the injured party reached his or her fifteenth nameday and tied irrevocably by fate thereafter. Bards could sing of star-crossed lovers and soulmates as they pleased but Jaime had shuddered at the thought of Cersei being forever bound to a madman's pauper son for their sins.
The memory of Rhaenys and Aegon reminded him that there were many Lannister sins to pay for.
Robert had used the passage of Viserys' nameday and the lack of any soul marks to viciously crow over the righteousness of his Rebellion. That had only alienated the Martells even further and was probably the reason why no ships from Sunspear were among their fleet. The Greyjoy Rebellion was in its ending days now and, at its conclusion, might even produce another stain to add to the several that popped up after the Rebellion ended.
The war had ended only eight years ago so the next generation hadn't grown enough to pay for the sins of their fathers. There was still time for a Lannister or Baratheon to be marked but Jaime was far more confident about their chances now. After all, if Viserys Targaryen wasn't worthy of divine reparations then how much greater a chance had his younger sister?
The issue of the Gods judgement therefore concluded, Jaime returned his attention to ordering his men and destroying the Iron Fleet.
Seven years after the Greyjoy Rebellion ended, Jaime Lannister found himself staring at his wrist and regretting his former cheer. He began to mentally curse the Seven, the Old Gods, House Lannister, House Stark, Robert Baratheon, Jaehaerys Targaryen, and anyone else even remotely associated with the situation. For on his flesh, in ink of grey and silver, stained a wolf near shadowed in snow and hail, piercing him with eyes of violet fire.
And the only thought that could possibly form in Jaime Lannister's head was thus: 'In the name of the Seven, what in hell had the Lannisters possibly ever done to House Stark?!'
Lyarra Snow woke up on her fifteenth nameday with the same indifference that she had on any other day of her life. Not because she considered herself too old to celebrate such matters as namedays but because her Lord Father had never been quite certain of when her nameday fell. She had celebrated her fifteenth two moons ago, alongside her elder half-brother Robb, and had been happy enough to receive the swaths of fabric, sewing needles, fresh herbs, and handheld dagger then. All of her gifts were of an entirely practical nature, which Lyarra preferred.
Lyarra herself was a fairly pragmatic individual. She didn't share her sister's dreams, whether for handsome princes to sweep her off her feet like Sansa or adventures in faraway lands like Arya. She was a baseborn daughter that was fortunate enough to be raised and educated alongside her trueborn siblings. Her marriage, though including a modest dowry from her Lord Father, would bring little in the way of influence and leave her entirely to the mercies of her husband. If she could not find a good man to marry her (and truly, her pickings were rare in the modestly-populated Winterfell) then Lady Catelyn would have her enter the Silent Sisters, which, in addition to being a service that did not interest her, involved a faith she did not follow.
Better than, to learn as many useful skills as she possibly could and venture southwards to find her own fortune. Lyarra had heard tales of bastards- even women!- rising above their humble beginnings to open shops and learn trades of their own in Dorne. She knew how to read and write, manage sums, sew and mend clothing, identify herbs and make poultices, swordplay and even hunt! Surely if there were boys and girls of little marketable skills making their way up the world, Lyarra had talent enough to do the same? With a little starting capital, a lot of hard work, and a dash of luck, Lyarra could make something of herself! She could buy her own land, choose her own name, be more than a bastard…
The dark-haired girl shook her head from side-to-side as they became enraptured by her ambitions again. Alright, so perhaps the tendency to dream was a trait shared by all three sisters…
However fanciful, Lyarra desired, fiercely, with all the passion of the wolf's blood, to make it reality. It would have been easier had her dowry been released to her but she knew that her Lord Father was too protective to ever entertain those fantasies. Her older brother wasn't much help either and her other siblings would either disapprove of working around their father (Sansa) or fight against her leaving (the others). Strangely enough, it was Theon Greyjoy who had been most helpful to her either from a desire to rebel in some small way against Lord Stark or because she gave him a cut of her gold to support his manwhore tendencies. Whatever the reason, Theon had loaned her his plainest clothing, snuck her out of the gates, helped her ply her medicines and fresh meat, and even given her advice.
Admittedly, it was the like of "dress up as a man, you're flat-chested enough to pull it off" and "you hit like a girl so don't get into bar fights" but he tried.
In return, Lyarra had promised to never reveal that the Ironborn's rude manners and outlandish boasts hid a kind, admirable young man. Theon had then stomped off with reddened cheeks and her laughter ringing in the air.
Hidden under her bed was a small chest filled with copper pennies and silver stags and even the rare gold dragons. Another year and perhaps a few moons more and Lyarra would have enough. Thinking fondly of the efforts, she considered her tasks for the day.
'Marla will need another fire swallow mix for her cold. Etna is giving birth next fortnight, a paste for her back and extra dewdrop tinctures to stem the blood-'
She pulled off her shallow dressing gown and shivered in the cold of the dawn.
'-Shredded alihotsy leaves for Calton's humors. Grounded willow bark for Jorah's cough-'
She chose a dress of dark green for the day. It was layered thrice and the skirt easily wrapped around her waist for Ser Rodrik's lessons.
'I should look into more moon tea then. Honestly, how much service do those whorehouses get?'
Her canvas trousers were rough against bare skin but well worth it for their warmth and protection. A simple wooden comb brushed through long, soft, dark ringlets. Her hair was the one feminine quality she afforded time and effort to.
'The rabbit traps need to be checked too and I should put some time aside to skin them before- did Arya play a prank on me?'
Lyarra paused in her gestures as her wrist became clear to her. Where once the flesh was milk-skinned and unblemished was now a remarkably well-drawn image of a rearing golden lion casting a shadow. When she looked closer, the shadow took the shame of a dragon with wings outspread. It was far better than Arya's typical artistic efforts.
'Hmm, Sansa has the talent but surely she wouldn't do something as unladylike as prank me… or even acknowledge her bastard sister…'
Not to mention that Lyarra was a light sleeper. Robb mayhap could rest through this but not her.
'Do I speak to her of this?' She was reluctant to do so. Sansa may have been ashamed of her but Lyarra's reluctance was borne of her pain. It hurt. It hurt that the little sister that had freely adored her as a child decided one day to forswear her altogether. 'I'll just wash this off then.'
The maids had placed a bowl of cold water to freshen herself by every morning. She went to the basin beside her bed and dipped her hands in it. Yet no matter how much she rubbed, the ink wouldn't fade.
'Mayhaps it takes time to fade away?'
Lyarra didn't mind the image overmuch- it was beautiful- and she really didn't want to face her sister. So she merely allowed her long sleeves to cover the image and went about her day. When she tried to wash off the image at night, it refused to fade again.
By the second day, Lyarra was starting to become concerned.
By the third, she was looking into the library for means of removing ink stains.
By the fourth, she drew up her courage, took a deep breath, and had Arya question Sansa for her.
"What are you talking about? I never pranked anyone!"
Sansa having never been one to lie, something about the ability being improper for a gentle and honest Lady such as herself, was believed by her.
"Then who drew on Lyarra's arm?" Arya did not share such confidence.
"I don't know but it certainly wasn't me," Sansa shot back. She looked over at the loitering Lyarra curiously. "You have a drawing on your arm?"
Lyarra drew her sleeves up. Sansa stared at the lion blankly for a moment. Then she gasped and began to wail, "No! That's not fair! Why does it get to be you?!"
Her eyes welling up with tears, the redhead pointed at her accusingly. "I'm telling Mother!"
Lyarra and Arya exchanged brief looks as their sister fled to the family corridor. Then the two dark-haired Starks started running down to Lord Stark's solar. If Lyarra was about to be accused of something she had no understanding of, then she wanted her own side heard first.
Less than half an hour later, Arya and Sansa were being ushered out of the Warden of Winterfell's solar, as her Lord Father and Lady Stark sat across from her.
"Lyarra, you need to tell me when this mark came in. Did you share it with anyone?" Her father's face was even more somber than usual while Lady Stark's was nearly white in fury.
Fear rising sharply, she hurriedly shook her head. "I discovered this three days ago and only shared it with Sansa and Arya. What does it mean? Is it going to hurt me?"
"No." Lord Stark's hand squeezed her shoulder comfortingly. "It won't hurt you but it may change things. You don't know what this mark means, do you?"
Lyarra shook her head numbly. Honestly, it was surprising that Sansa knew if she did not. Her sister wasn't dim but they had shared the same lessons and the younger girl had never spent much time in Winterfell's library. The only areas where she was more proficient was in Southron customs, ladylike behavior and songs of knights and princesses.
"This is a Mark of Jaehaerys and it's meant to be a… peace treaty of sorts. The Mark of Conciliation is another name given to it and it binds our House and, from that mark, likely the Lannisters."
'Jaehaerys' Mark… why does that sound so familiar?'
"Wasn't there something about Stannis Baratheon fighting with the Tyrells about a mark?"
"Yes, that was the most famous case in modern times," her father smiled wryly, "A mark between Shireen Baratheon and Loras Tyrell over the actions of both Houses in the Rebellion."
"I… see?" She didn't.
"It's a soul mark that binds the son of one House and the daughter of another in order to keep the peace between warring factions," Catelyn Stark said sharply, "Since it arrived on your fifteenth nameday, it means that House Lannister is to owe reparations to a true daughter of House Stark."
Her husband looked at her sharply but Catelyn did not back down. "You've been claimed then."
"Claimed?" Lyarra wondered if she meant for it to sound as threatening as it did. "But why would I be- why would House Lannister owe us anything?"
There was a flicker in her father's eyes before he answered. "I do not claim to understand the Gods."
"What does being claimed even mean?"
Her stepmother was blunt. "You shall be married for the family's sake."
"Married?!" She didn't care if her voice broke. This- Lyarra never planned for any of this! She was a bastard daughter. Bastard daughters were not married off for anyone's sake. This was a fate for trueborn daughters who could bring prestige and legitimacy to the position!
Her father looked away. "Not immediately. You've only seen fifteen namedays. I'm sure there will be a courtship period or perhaps-"
His words were lost on her. Fifteen? Fifteen?! Etna was fifteen! She had made ten copper pennies from her pregnancy so far!
"I don't want to get married." Not to a stranger. Not a House that her Father had never spoken of favorably or that had somehow wronged her family in someway.
"You don't have a choice," Lady Stark's cool words were somehow more comforting than her father's kinder but futile promises. "The Gods have spoken and I will not see you shirk your duty and honor."
That the third word of the Tully motto was not applied to Lyarra was not lost to her.
"I will need to write to Lord Tywin and learn who your betrothed it to be," Lord Stark stood up and walked to the door. He made to open it. "Everything will be alright- Arya?"
He opened the door. Sansa and Arya both fell through.
Lyarra ignored the subsequent scolding to look back down at her soul mark. Suddenly the lion's pose shifted from prideful to menacing, the colors from vivid to poisonous. Her stomach fell as she considered her future. All of her plans, all of her work, all of her dreams about to be ripped away from her for some foppish golden prat that would look down on her at best. Her fingers clenched into a fist. She felt sick and angry and hopeless all at once and one person was the inevitable target.
Lyarra didn't care if he was her soul mate, she was going to deck him.
'Be careful what you wish for' was a lesson that Tywin Lannister was becoming painfully aware of as he stared at his son's marked wrist. He had desired for years now that his stubborn son be compelled to leave the Kingsguard and take up his position as heir. He had done everything in his power to separate Jaime and Cersei, to smother their unnatural inclinations that he was careful to never fully acknowledge. He had marched beautiful women, one after another, in front of his disinclined progeny in the hope of trueborn grandchildren to inherit the Westerlands.
And now Tywin had gotten what he wished for. Jaime would be forced to step down from the Kingsguard, wed a girl that didn't share his blood, and, in all likelihood, father a child or two. It just so happened that the future Lady of the Westerlands was a baseborn Northern savage that House Lannister was given as punishment. Or perhaps more accurately, his son was to be awarded to her as reparations though Lord Tywin couldn't possibly think of a reason why. He had oft fought with Rickard Stark and liked his foolish son little better but House Lannister and House Stark had allied in the Rebellion. For all the distasteful necessities involved, he had done the Starks no wrong.
Mind the Seven, when Tywin had first seen the Stark direwolf almost invisible on his son's flesh, he had foolishly thought that it was a jape. His memory of House Stark informed him that while Ned Stark's eldest had indeed reached his fifteenth nameday, the child was a boy. A male wouldn't have been marked beside his son and the Stark's eldest daughter was too young. It took a few minutes to recall that the man had fathered a bastard too and then, Tywin had little choice but to take a deep breath, release it, and pour himself a glass of red wine.
"Cover your mark. Show it to no one else. Leave me now. I need to think alone."
The first two orders may have been unnecessary. Jaime may not have been as quick-witted as the Imp but he didn't share the dwarf's arrogance or Cersei's shortsightedness. His eldest was son was perceptive, self-assured, and clever enough to know when and of whom to solicit or disregard advice. Perhaps more soft-hearted than Tywin had wanted him to be, Jaime was still not yet naive enough to share this news with his twin. In her temper, she would have sent an assassin after the girl and likely doomed her brother to a short and terribly painful death.
It was not blood-for-blood, mark-for-mark alone that suffered. Throughout history, leaders had sought to prevent soul bound unions by killing the other party or occasionally their own kin. Even if Tywin had been a kinslayer (and he was not; if he could refrain from throwing the Imp into the seas, then he could spare his favored son) he would not have gone this route. A death intended to break a bond suffered backlash to all related parties, had they a hand in the matter or not. Should the Snow girl die of accident or plague or even men wholly unconnected to the Lannisters, his son would be free.
'And when have I ever been that lucky?' Tywin took another deep drink. 'My preferred heir wed to a wench born of a tavern whore- and for what? Me and mine had done no wrong to the Starks. I may have stood aside as the father burned and the son choked but I was hardly the only courtier to still my tongue and look away.'
Perhaps the indignity had been offered by an ancestor of his. Knowing the history of his family and the notorious thin skin and honour of the Starks, Tywin could well accept that explanation. Though it remained a question of why reparations were demanded now and between his son and a bastard of all things. It's not as though Lady Stark's fertility had been lacking; six children and two prospective girls were available and Jaime was hardly the only Lannister alive. The eldest trueborn daughter was even a mere three years away from reaching her own fifteenth nameday.
'Unless I am merely assuming that my House's indignity is to the Starks. The father embodies the direwolf well enough but the child was brought over from Dorne. And those violet eyes earned Lady Ashara Dayne praise enough at court.'
He couldn't recall any significant offense from House Lannister to House Dayne either, though they fought on opposite sides of the war. Perhaps due to Jaime's slaying of Aerys; though putting down a rabid dog, Tywin believed, should have no such repercussions. Nonetheless, an oath had been broken to both House Targaryen and one of Jaime's fellow Kingsguard brothers, Ser Arthur Dayne. Did that make it any more fitting for Jaime to bear the mark?
'Does it matter? The Gods have spoken and there's little more for me to do.'
There weren't many options for rejecting one's soul mark after all. They burned when one attempted circumvent them, whether by words or deed. They prevented the bearer from finding pleasure in another or siring any children and while that may have been acceptable to a celibate Kingsguard, they also tended to be finicky when the bearers didn't put forth any effort to find their shared mark. Not to mention the scorn of the people should it be revealed that House Lannister was trying to rebuff peace accorded by the Gods…
Tywin removed a fresh sheet of parchment and inkwell from his desk before penning a missive to his younger brother, Kevan. He informed him of his intent to travel North to Winterfell in the utmost secrecy and ordered him to prepare all such necessities for the journey. Then he prepared a letter for the young Warden, accepting his offer to visit the North. Regardless of whether said offer had been extended or not (and since Jaime had received his mark merely three days ago, the Quiet Wolf's raven should be here by now) Tywin needed to assess the girl. It would be to his fortune if she were to be meek and simple and capable of bearing sons alone.
'If nothing else, at least this means Jaime can't put another bastard in Cersei's stomach.'
I know I'm working on another story at the moment but this was a very spur-of-the-moment chapter inspired by Dark Serpent Cat. Thanks for the inspiration and I hope you like it!