Tywin Lannister had not expected a warm welcome from House Stark and he appeared correct to have done so, from the glacial greeting Lord Eddard offered. The Northerner had at least the decency to properly array key members of his household for the visit. At his right, with a four-year-old boy clutching at her skirts, was his wife, Lady Catelyn. From his left, descended each trueborn child by age: the polite yet unhappy heir, the nervous eldest girl, another girl with a fierce scowl on her face and a boy that gave off a faint air of disapproval.
He had to look behind them to locate the bastard. Her hands were clasped demurely in front of her blue, high-waisted gown and her smile was fixed and distant. Tywin noted that her sleeves were firmly lowered to cover the ink-stained mark he knew to be present. Taking the opportunity to study her, the Lord of House Lannister noted that she was a decidedly attractive child, dark-haired, violet-eyed and full-figured, though not yet having grown into her full beauty. There was something familiar about her but the Lannister had met many people as King's Hand and certainly several Starks before, so it wasn't too odd. Her bastard status and unfortunate House values aside, Jaime could have done worse.
There were servants present as well but the lion lord easily dismissed them.
The banalities exchanged were done so quickly and with the mutual understanding that neither party found them sufficient for any pleasure. Tywin even went so far to partake of their bread and salt, a custom that he had never put much stock in but was well-respected in the North. Finally, the Quiet Wolf saw fit to invite them in, to the evident relief of his men. He couldn't deny a desire for the castle's warmth either, not when they had come across a sudden, swift blizzard on the Kingsroad.
A blizzard. In the summer. Thank the Gods that his Jaime's bride would be moving to the Westerlands.
The dinner fare was acceptable but simple enough that Tywin was beginning to suspect that Lord Stark hadn't any intention to invite him north. The Lion Lord was placed in a guest seat of honor with the Stark Lord to his right and the Stark Heir to his left. They completed their meal with minimal discourse and thankfully, Tywin was invited to the Lord's Solar for the negotiations a moment later. He politely didn't question why the Maester was allowed to sit with them.
A few minutes later and Tywin Lannister came to the realization that Eddard Stark was irrationally fond of his bastard.
"They will be married within a moon's turn, regardless of your concerns in the matter!" Tywin snapped. "There have been girls wedded and bedded earlier than five-and-ten namedays."
"While those marriages have occurred, it is well known that birthing a child young places the life of the mother at risk," Eddard replied quietly. "I will acknowledge the necessity of marriage- though, I remind you, not due to the actions of my House- but I would like to put it off until she is older."
Tywin bristled at the accusation. "The Mark will harm both parties lest a marriage occurs."
"Not necessarily." Ned Stark turned and nodded to the Maester.
The white-haired man brought over the heavy text held in his hand and opened it to a marked page on the desk. "According to the writings of Maester Namon, who codified King Jaehaerys' research on the marks, the backlash only occurs if the delay is intended to resist the bond. In the case of Princess Rhaelle and Lord Ormund, the marriage was delayed for six years to allow the princess to acclimate herself to the prospect. Neither party was harmed for the duration."
"Exactly." A glimmer of approval appeared in the Stark's eyes as he gestured for the Maester to leave. "There will be no backlash because this delay will only strengthen the bond later on. Certainly Ser Jaime cannot be pleased to wed a child? He would be far more comfortable approaching Lyarra when time and experience have given her maturity. At twenty namedays, she would be more ready to be a wife and mother."
Tywin glowered. "Do not claim to know my son's feelings on this matter."
Nonetheless, he brought the text closer and read the appointed page. It was, he admitted reluctantly, not an argument without merit. The additional time could be put to good use raising the bastard to House Lannister's standard and easing the idea of marriage to a rather shellshocked Jaime. Tywin would have even advocated it himself had there not been the pressing issue of his daughter's temper.
"I would also be willing to forego the bride price for a marriage delay," Lord Stark added.
"And I suppose you would insist on the bastard being raised in Winterfell until her wedding date?"
"Lyarra will be raised here, yes. Starks don't fare well when they travel south and with the circumstances of their union, I believe it fitting to keep my daughter here."
Tywin regarded the man, his stoic Northern features unable to hide the sheer implication of scorn from the self-righteous wolf, and struggled not to snarl. This man had no right to pass judgement on a lion, no understanding of how Jaime had earned his blasted epithet. Eddard Stark had seen his bloodied and hysterical son and immediately named him oathbreaker, assumed that the Kingslayer had done his deed for self rather than duty. Jaime had saved King's Landing and even now, the Lord that had been chasing after his sister even as an entire city was poised to burn due to his friend's actions, dared to look down on him. Dared to call himself honourable even when his bastard was to be wed.
"Perhaps the southron blood in her will win out then," Tywin snapped. His keen eyes catalogued the wolf's wince, attributed it to Ashara Dayne and took satisfaction in tearing at that wound.
"I would make your daughter Lady of the Westerlands," the Lannister told him.
"Aye. A great honor, my lord, if she should live to accept it," Lord Stark stated wryly. "Let us be frank. I am not happy to accept the Kingslayer into my family."
"Neither I a bastard," Tywin shot back. "No, the Starks are not ones for pretty words, are they? Very well than I shall be frank as well."
The Lion Lord paused to recollect his thoughts, refusing to allow his anger to coat the words. "Your daughter will marry my son. There is nothing that either of us can do to stop this, however much we both desire to do so."
Ned Stark inclined his head in agreement and Tywin continued. "As I have said, I mean to make Jaime my heir and his wife shall be the Lady Lannister. As you have said, there is some risk before she may assume that role. I acknowledge that such a risk exists and that that is why it is imperative for them to marry quickly. As Jaime's wife, she will have the protection of the Lannister name-"
"Are you threatening my daughter?" Ned Stark interrupted, grey eyes flashing.
"Don't be foolish, boy! When would I have done that?" The Lannister looked aggravated.
"You just stated that she will be in danger until she marries your son. Even if you are not the cause of the danger, are you truly unable to control the lions in your own family?"
"Unlike you, I have more than just an errant brother and a brood of children to account for," Tywin answered. "Have no fear of harm from mine's sake. You can entrust her to me."
"I would sooner entrust my daughter to a pit viper than you, Lord Tywin," Ned Stark said plainly.
"Her Dayne blood doesn't guarantee welcome from the Martell's, Lord Eddard," Tywin snorted, noting the barely hidden wince on the younger man's face again. Honestly, it had been five-and-ten years; the Quiet Wolf had to let his affection for the Lady of Stars die. "You haven't any choice in the matter. I am here to pick up my good-daughter and escort her to Casterly Rock. They shall be wed there."
"I refuse to let her be wed immediately. They need some time to learn of each other," Lord Stark protested. "Six moons."
"That is far too long. One moon."
"And that is far too short. Four moons."
"Three and I shall delay any presentation of court until their first child is born."
Lord Stark paused and considered the offer for a moment. He nodded. "They cannot have a child in their first year of marriage."
"I cannot control that," Tywin protested. "However, I know my son and I know of his reluctance to sire a child. When it eventually does occur, it'll likely be your daughter pushing him into it."
At this point, the ghost of a smile crossed the wolf's face. "You have never met my daughter then."
'Wonderful. Not only do I have to manage a marriage between my son and a bastard but now I have to compel them for grandchildren too.'
Tywin sighed and partook of the wine available to him. "Let us discuss the bride price then. House Lannister does not expect a dowry-"
Another paper was presented to him. A quick skim showed it to be a respectable amount of silver, lumber, livestock and animal skins. It was not necessarily equal to Cersei's dowry but respectable nonetheless for a Great House. For the first time, Tywin Lannister considered that bastard or not, his son's marriage was to a daughter deeply loved by the Warden of the North.
"Very well. Now the bride price had been arranged beforehand and will arrive within three fortnights…"
'It could be worse,' Tywin reminded himself. 'I would rather Jaime marry a wolf than a dragon…'
"Don't hesitate to send Carex, if you feel frightened," Robb whispered, referring to her newfound messenger currently flying to Casterly Rock. The dark-haired girl hugged him closer, trying not to let her tears fall. "Remember that I am only one raven away."
"So am I," Bran piped up, tugging at her wrist to pull her out enough to hug her himself, "Remind Ser Jaime that you have two brothers to ride to your side. And Rickon too, I suppose."
"I am certain that he will be very frightened," Lyarra told him, ruffling his auburn locks. She let Arya tackle her next and assured her that she had indeed remembered to slip a sheathed knife in her dress. "You must all remember to write to me."
"Father purchased another two ravens to fly between Casterly Rock and Winterfell," Arya answered. "I'll use them every week. You will tell me all about your training, won't you? And don't let your stupid lion keep you from carrying a sword. He's a Southron. He doesn't understand anything."
"I'll see what I can do." Lyarra managed a weak smile for her mirror-self. She personally doubted that the Lannisters would allow her a blade. At least women were allowed to ride. Father had even been kind enough to gift her Frostbite. "Pay attention to all of your lessons, even the boring ones."
Arya made a face but nodded anyway. Lyarra continued down to Rickon; her four-year-old brother was already sniffling. He did not understand why she was leaving but knew it meant his sister would be gone. His hug was particularly wet and snotty but the dark-haired girl treasured it nonetheless, softly promising to send letters and gifts just for him. When she stood up, it was to Theon Greyjoy looking at her. There was an awkward smile on his face, hands clasped back as he faced her.
"So… I get to keep my shirts now?" Theon had a smirk on his face but it looked almost forced. "That's good, I guess. You keep spilling some nasty-smelling potion on it or the other-"
"I'll miss you too." Lyarra ignored the redness on the boy's face as she hugged him tightly. The Snow was surprised to find that this was true. She may not have harbored any romantic feelings for him but Theon had become a friend, in his own way. "I wish you every happiness Theon Greyjoy."
"I- I do too," Theon cleared his throat. His hands wavered around her waist, unsure where to put them before Robb's cleared throat suggested that perhaps stepping away was for the best. "All the best of luck to you Snow."
Lyarra nodded and moved to her last sibling. Behind her, she heard Robb's voice hiss 'what shirt?' to a flustered Theon. When she stopped in front of Sansa, the red-haired girl merely looked at her silently.
"I wish you a happy life, Sister." Hesitantly, Lyarra reached out to grab Sansa's hand, a brief burst of relief inside her when the girl did not flinch. She squeezed it once and received one in return.
"I will pray for you," Sansa's eyelashes were fluttering rapidly. There was a glistening wetness to her river blue eyes. Lyarra nodded, a little disappointed, as she prepared to move away. Her hand had scarcely left Sansa's when the red-haired girl was barreling into her arms. She slid backwards on the balls of her feet, balancing precariously for a moment and then hugging her sister back.
"Have a happy life… Sister," Sansa told her softly. "I will miss you."
"And I, you," Lyarra assured her. From above the girl's shoulder, she could see an approving smile on Robb's face and a lesser one on Arya's. She moved to Lady Stark next, who offered her a most cordial goodbye and then her Father. The dark-haired girl hugged him most tightly, for she could scarcely imagine a life where she was not under the silent protection that Lord Eddard Stark offered.
"Keep your eyes up, child. You are a wolf and wolves do not fear hardship."
"I am not a Stark," she told him.
"You may not have my name but you have my blood," Ned Stark stated fiercely. "You will always find a home in Winterfell, Lyarra. Never doubt that."
At that point, Lyarra truly did lose the battle with her tears and found herself sobbing in her father's arms, much like she had when she was a child stricken by night terrors. Rickon started wailing in response and then Bran and Sansa began crying too. Arya started rubbing at her eyes furiously while muttering 'stupid' over and over again while Robb started complaining of the dust in the air. The Lannisters merely stared at the wolf pack in bewilderment, most looking rather sympathetic.
Tywin Lannister merely looked up at the sky, wondering what exactly his House had done to deserve this.
Eventually the Lion Lord managed to extract his future good-daughter, looking rather uncomfortable to be in contact with the young woman, and lead her to Frostbite. The party left soon after and Lyarra turned back to see her family once more. A pack of wolves before an ancient castle growing smaller and smaller as she rode south. For a brief moment, she was struck by a complete and utter hatred of Jaime Lannister, of a golden-haired, green-eyed Southron knight that dared to wear her soul mark. And as suddenly as it came, her fury disappeared, cast away to the winter wind. Unknown to her, as she rode south, the dragon shadow on her arm grew darker.
"Lord Dayne, there's a messenger here for you."
It took a moment, as it always did, for him to remember that they were addressing him. No matter how many years had passed, the twelve-year-old Edric Dayne, Lord of Starfall, kept looking around for his father to take the lead. Then he remembered that the duty fell to him now.
"Thank you Moira. Please have the messenger escorted to my greeting hall."
The words received a warm smile from one of the older servants in his employment, one that undoubtedly recalled days where he would run around the castle in abandon, and a curtsy. She hurried out to fulfill his orders while he turned to his young aunt.
"Why do you think they're here?" Edric inquired softly. The approaching delegation embossed with a golden lion had taken them all by surprise. Even if Starfall was at the opposite end of Dorne from Sunspear, no one had thought Lannisters bold enough to march into the sands.
A dark look crossed Aunt Allyria's face. "Knowing the lions, nothing good."
Not in the least reassured, Edric offered her his arm and led her to the open, sunny room. He was greeted by a man in a sweltering coat of red and gold fasted by copper braces. The messenger looked at him dubiously as he entered and the shy boy attempted not to squirm under the look.
"Why have you come to Starfall, Lannister?" Edric questioned, attempting to channel his aunt's betrothed, Lord Dondarrion's, confidence.
"Lord Tywin's letter was too important to be entrusted to a raven," the Lannister replied pompously. "I was also meant to escort the caravans here."
"Joy," Aunt Allyria smirked. "A delivery boy."
Subtly poking his aunt to prevent another jape on the man's behalf, Edric opened the letter and skimmed it over. In flowery court language, House Lannister offered its deepest regrets over some vague 'wrongs', mentioned a soul mark between Ser Jaime Lannister and a cousin he had never heard of before, stated that said cousin will now be married into House Lannister in reparations, and noted that the bride price would be split between them and House Stark. It concluded with another insincere apology for House Lannister's previous actions.
Edric merely had one question left. 'I have a cousin?'
He wordlessly passed the letter onto Aunt Allyria and she read it over even more quickly.
"And what reparations does Lord Tywin think are appropriate for all that we have suffered?" Aunt Allyria demanded haughtily, shooting him a swift look to stay silent.
The man gestures out the open window where he could see several caravans rolling inside. Before he could tell him that this was a mistake and that Edric hadn't any cousins to name, the man started listing them off.
"Five-and-twenty bolts of silk fabric in crimson, gold, violet, silver, emerald and azure. Seven-and-ten caskets of the finest Arbor Gold. Two-and-ten chests of minted gold dragons. Three-and-ten baskets of spices, including saffron from Lys, mint leaf from Pentos, orange blossoms from Myr…"
As the man continues to list off the small fortune that Lord Tywin apparently handed over to them, Edric can merely think, 'I'm not alone anymore.'
I am just about ready to pull out my hair with Dragon's Flight. Every time I write a scene, I find myself cutting it out a minute later because it just isn't right. Since every effort feels like running into a glass wall with my muse cackling above me, I've decided to use this to distract myself.