Chapter Seven

Lyarra's first glimpse of Ser Jaime Lannister had her briefly forget that she was actually supposed to loathe her soulmate.

Their party had ridden through the gates in late evening when the sun had begun to set and cast everything below it in a warm glow. There had been neither pennants nor banners nor waving crowds to welcome them home, reminding Lyarra that she was a bride not to be boasted of by House Lannister, but even then, the wealth of the town took her breath away. The dark-haired bastard did everything in her power to maintain her poise, refusing to move her head in any direction other than straight into the lion embroidered on her goodfather's back (to his credit, her piercing stare did not elicit any reaction at all from Lord Tywin). She would not show herself a wretched, ignorant savage, no matter that she hadn't ever seen so many buildings wrought of heavy gray stone before or so many people congregated together. Even White Harbor took advantage of the plentiful timber in the North to build homes moving away from its central courtyard of white stone.

Lannisport was a bustling, well-ordered, vibrant city filled with smallfolk dressed in good cloth and slim through effort, not circumstance. The streets weren't laid out in a gridlike fashion, having that imbalance of width and length that spoke of a city grown out naturally, but they were swept, of bearable odor and most impressively, claimed an oil lantern pole every half-street. A City Guard was necessary to patrol the streets, independent of the lord's men, which hadn't been needed in Winter Town, as small and minimally populated as it was. In truth, this was a town meant to be filled at any time, unlike her home, which primarily hosted ghosts until Winter came. Once again and entirely not of her own volition, Lyarra Snow was forced to admit that the lord that administered these lands wasn't a fool. An emotion almost akin to admiration and respect stirred within Lyarra.

She reminded herself briskly that even the demons of Lady Stark's faith were efficient and competent and that dispelled any lingering guilt for approving of her goodfather in any way. Lord Tywin was evil incarnate or at least a man her father distrusted and she would remind herself of that often.

Her steed didn't pause it's gait as it trotted over a bridge encapsulating only a single wheelhouse's length to a massive mountain structure. Here, Lyarra's composure broke. She pushed her body backwards, not quite lying flat to peer up a range of sun-bleached reddish stone that exceeded the reach of her gaze. In the simplest terms, Lyarra composed a description of a squat rock settled into the middle of the ocean of a blocky shape with two cabin-shaped parts jutting out akin to lion's paws. This was an entirely unfitting description of this wonderous structure.

'No wonder that it had not been successfully sieged by any House before,' Lyarra marvelled. A soft chuckle reached her ears and promptly had the dark-haired girl straighten to deliver a politely bland smile to the perpetrator. "Have you anything to say, Ser Ferren?"

"I'm merely curious as to how you feel about Casterly Rock, my lady."

"It is magnificent," Lyarra admitted sincerely. More than she had ever expected, yes. Nothing that she had ever desired, true. But if not her own, than a treasure that her own son would rule one day.

The man who would give her that son was standing in front of a cavern carved into the rock as a lion's maw. Well-lit and guarded by a sturdy iron gate, it still led to a shiver that she would be swallowed alive by stone to enter her soulmate's home. A party of individuals, mostly blonde-haired and green-eyed, awaited them but it was the Kingslayer that her eyes fell to first.

'Now he is magnificent,' was Lyarra's first thought. Tall and slender but with muscles that strained against the scarlet silk tunic clinging to his body. Black trousers and an equally dark cape brought out the slightest hint of gold on his skin and the beaten gold of his curled hair. A smile as cutting as the gilded longsword by his side was on a face of perfectly symmetrical features, high cheekbones, straight nose and sharp jaw. He was breathtaking and for a moment, Lyarra was overcome with a brush of glee that it was her the Gods had plucked from Winterfell and brought to Casterly Rock.

The Gods had given her a handsome man.

Then a pair of hollow, darkened emeralds caught her gaze. It was with maidenly virtue that Lyarra ducked her head. It was with a sense of survival that she bit down on her lips before they could twist sharply in disappointment. Her soulmark throbbed on her skin. The Gods had given her a broken man.

"Son." Tywin Lannister addressed the dangerously handsome- or simply dangerous, her mind reminded, Kingslayer- man with a depth to his tone that could even be construed as pride. "I have brought you your soulmate, Lady Lyarra."

'Snow,' the bastard mentally added. The title was enough to uplift her lips in a parody of a smile when the Kingslayer stepped forward to help her down. He spoke not but the hands to bring her down were sufficiently practiced not to jostle her overmuch. They were still a little shorter than her father's grasp though, leading to a minute stumble that pushed her chest towards his, before he righted her. Rather swiftly and without a glance back, he left to approach his father.

'No interest in my body whatsoever,' Lyarra clinically noted. A wave of relief crashed over her. A husband without any interest in bedding whatsoever was even better than one that would seek his pleasure in ladies that made of a profession of the act. She needn't even fear the pox with this one.

A great deal more cheerful, Lyarra moved to curtsy before the figures introduced to her. Ser Kevan Lannister assessed her with a distant but not unkind gaze, while his lady wife offered a small smile. Lady Genna Lannister was a woman whose stature and haughtier extended any of the force of presence her figure did not and Lyarra immediately assumed her to be the lady she would have to most impress. This was likely also the lady that her own presence would displace in her role one day, which wouldn't make friendship any easier a task. Twin boys of gold hair barely older than Sansa looked at her with wide eyes and were introduced as Willem and Martyn respectively. Neither could be separated by look though Martyn at least offered a timid smile to her. A girl-child younger than them, around Bran's age, was the first to offer her a chip-toothed grin, flyaway straw hair in desperate need of a comb. Lyarra's fingers would tingle with the desire to brush those bangs back for her.

The last to be introduced was Lord Tyrion Lannister, who, as Jaime's brother and Lord Tywin's second son, should have been first met to her. Any inquiries to the breach of propriety were answered when a man half the size of Lyarra's own slim figure, with hair of white-gold, mismatched eyes and features lacking all of the pleasant symmetry of his older brother, faced her. Unlike the Kingslayer though, it was with open and alert eyes that he welcomed her. There was no haze of alcohol to disguise a past regret to be wary of here.

Lyarra had time alone to offer a tremulous smile before the Kingslayer lay one gloved hand on the small of her back. Glancing over, she found an unyielding expression directed solely at the slowly opening gates. Well, if that were so…

The dark-haired girl took a deep breath, straightened her back and offered up a silent plea. 'May the Old Gods of the Forests, Streams and Stones guide this child past the hardships to await her.' With that said, Lyarra Snow stepped into the maw of the lion and the future that awaited her.


'If nothing else, I will not want for kindling.'

A richly appointed room had been set aside for her in the family wing. Half again as large as her own in Winterfell, it would serve until she was wed and moved to the Heir's suite with her husband. Lyarra didn't expect to become comfortable there, not because of the short time she would have claim to it, but because it was cluttered to high heaven. To a maiden used to Northern simplicity as she, all the purpose that the many spindly chairs, Myrish rugs, woven tapestries, painted figurines and other amenities had, was to keep the fire in her hearth nice and warm. There were even glass baubles on her dressing table! Baubles made of glass? Lyarra's heart broke a little right there.

Not least amongst her room's features, as her maid had sweetly informed her, was a hidden corridor leading directly to her Ser Jaime's room next door. Why the cobbler's daughter of six-and-ten thought Lyarra wanted to visit the man's room or have him visit her, she did not know. Wasn't maidenly virtue supposed to even more coveted in the South than it was in the North?

Thankfully after a single night of wide-eyed terror, Lyarra had realized that her future husband had no intention of visiting her whatsoever. That warmed her regard of the man considerably. Ser Jaime's estimation as a husband was rising in her opinion day by day.

Unfortunately that was the only positive realization she had in the last sennight. The first was that Lyarra had made a very big mistake.

A Lannisport Lannister was her lady's maid. A Lannisport Lannister handled her personal errands and washed her laundry. A Lannisport Lannister oversaw Frostbite's health and training. Everywhere Lyarra turned, another blonde-haired, green-eyed spy of her father's home was there to greet her with a smile just a tad short of condescension. She suddenly regretted that she had acquiesced to Lord Tywin's plans without any disagreement. The dark-haired girl hadn't wanted to earn his ire then but a little disapproval would have been well-worth the privacy of her own Northern maid at least.

'I will simply have to write Father to bring a lady of Lady Stark's choosing down to the Westerlands to be my lady's maid. Tyana is… not unkind but I have equal chance of acquiring her loyalty as I do breaking the Rock.'

While Lyarra had made it a habit of never relying on her father's wife for any important desire, she knew that this occasion was better left to the judgment of the Southron woman. So far, she had been correct in her estimation of the wariness, disdain, greed and curiosity that the servants bestowed upon her. She'd also been correct that Lyarra would be found wanting by her goodfamily, though she'd misjudged by which degree. Whether due to her bastard nature or the Westerlands unflinchingly high standards in the quality of their brides, Lyarra had not met Lady Genna's approval.

Lyarra's second realization was thus: Lady Genna was an unforgiving task mistress.

On her first day in Casterly Rock, Lyarra was led down by a servant to an even more ostentatious sitting room where the true Lady of the Rock waited with her goodsister. Genna had sat her down, politely offered her cake, studied her body with a decidedly uncomfortable intimacy and then began…

'Is interrogation too strong a word?'

Lyarra didn't think so. A barrage of questions desired to know of her history, heritage, lessons, capabilities, knowledge, taste and so much more. Any claim that she made was verified in full immediately. The woman spoke High Valyrian fluently enough to nod approvingly at her own but then tutted over her grasp of tenses in written form. Her calligraphy was pronounced adequate, her manners unpolished but workable, her grasp of Westerlands' politics 'less dismal than I had feared'. When pressed into playing the harp, Lyarra was shameless enough to move straight to Rains of Castamere and Lady Genna softened enough to offer a smile. Any good will earned there was banished shortly thereafter when Willem Lannister was fetched to dance with her.

'How was I to know the Westerlands prized grace and poise in their ladies?'

The North had different standards to measure the quality of a lady. Carving scrollwork, acceptable riding and a fine singing voice would have earnt her suitors enough in her home. Though she did learn that Westerlands skin was only slightly better at hiding flushed cheeks than her own Northern blood. Lyarra wasn't one to take pleasure in discomforting young boys with her beauty but Willem Lannister was just so cute! She could barely resist cooing in the end when the red-faced boy gallantly bowed to her. His mother, the Lady Dorna, hadn't even tried and Willem fled the room soon after.

When her tests were done, Lady Genna handed over the menus for the dinners planned for the next twenty days. It was the lady's responsibility to handle such matters with the upper level servants and while her future aunt wouldn't be surrendering that task any time soon, Lyarra was supposed to review the plans and spot no less than a dozen mistakes purposefully inserted in the papers. After deciding that cucumber soup three nights in a row was definitely a mistake, Lyarra found herself at a loss of where to start. Mostly she just poked at her papers, while listening in on the training regime being softly discussed between Lady Genna and Lady Dorna. Her duties as the future Lady of the Rock were extensive, including hosting dinners, handling servants, guiding fosterlings, overseeing castle stores and rent collections, almsgiving, settling disputes and much more.

This led very neatly to her third realization. Lyarra's foremost duty as Ser Jaime's wife was apparently to grant Lord Tywin Lannister the Heir he so fiercely desired. Nothing had triggered a greater sense of mingled irony and despair then when her future goodfather looked up from his punishing daily workload, realized that Jaime and Lyarra hadn't exchanged a single word in five days and commanded them find each other mutually tolerable. Not that it was said in such words but a note written in the Old Lion's hand, similar to the script on the letter accepting an invitation her father never offered, implied so. It requested her presence for a walk in the garden the next evening. Apparently Lyarra had not been acting like a properly sinful bastard and seducing herself a trueborn lord to her bed.

'I am the bastard daughter of Lord Eddard Stark. What sort of seductions do they hope I possess?'


Lyarra had been too nervous to take more than a bit of bread and that infamous cucumber soup for dinner. It was a shame. Lady Genna had planned for a delicious roasted quail atop steamed carrots and fresh peas tonight. Lyarra hadn't ever had roasted quail before but it would be served in another five nights, so she took solace in that. Unless that was another mistake the dark-haired girl failed to spot, in which case this was another wrongdoing she placed at the feet of her soulmate.

Who was looking decidedly too handsome and composed, clad entirely in black, as she approached. Black was normally her color but she had chosen to dress in Lannister red today, her pale skin in stark relief against the bloody crimson of the gown tidily placed in her garderobe. The cut was old-fashioned and Lyarra had had to alter it somewhat, tucking the bodice area in a bit while sewing the waist tighter around her and pulling up the hem by an inch, but it fit her well enough. A tiny part of her hoped she looked as good in that dress as Jaime Lannister did now, with the copper lanterns hung from the trees casting a soft radiance to his skin.

"Ser Jaime?" Her voice wavered a bit and while it wasn't her intention, Lyarra didn't mind that it did so. 'Modesty. Virtue. Bashfulness. Nothing that compels him to take your maidenhead until he absolutely needs to but leaves you alluring enough to keep as a trophy on his arm. A few social functions, a single son and you can build out your life as you please.'

To that extent, she had even requested Tyana paint her lips a bold red and darken her eyes with shadow. A touch of blush to her pale cheeks as well as a single chain of gold, her own jewelry from her father, resting on her neck. Arya's voice morbidly pointed out that she'd given the Kingslayer the perfect handhold to strangle her by before her common sense told imaginary Arya to shut up.

The knight was studying the flowers with an air of boredom when her voice moved his head in her direction. When those catlike eyes landed on her, they widened with… was that dread?

"Mother?" The whisper past his lips shouldn't have reached her ears but when it did, Lyarra inwardly smothered the coil of unease in her stomach. Mommy issues, how delightful. Then those emeralds sharpened and Ser Jaime strode closer, a fierce scowl on his face. Imaginary Sansa cheerfully noted that he stood a full head above her and looked equally handsome when furious.

A hand clasped tightly around her wrist. "Where did you get those clothes?"

"They were in the garderobe in my room," Lyarra answered calmly. Her wrist was held tightly, too tightly, in his grip but she refused to wince. "Are they displeasing to you, my lord?"

She judged her actions correct when his ire smoothed, the hand taken away and her own raised to a single kiss of welcome. Ser Jaime's lips twisted afterwards in distaste and Lyarra felt a sudden urge to stick her tongue out at the man. No one was forcing him to kiss her hand. If he didn't want to, then he shouldn't do it. Neither of them desired to be here.

"They are not." Ser Jaime's voice was hoarse. In another case, it could have been a sign of desire. Her eyes flickered down briefly and she decided someone had just been yelled at thoroughly before this.

'At least his teeth are clean,' Lyarra decided optimistically. 'Hoarse voices could come from smoking sourleaf all day too.'

Happy thoughts. She would have all the happy thoughts.

The Kingslayer smirked. He had seen her eyes move. If her cheeks flushed a shade between ripe tomato and bruised cherry, than that was her own business. Lyarra tilted her chin up and nodded to the gardens. "Would you care to escort me around the gardens, my lord?"

"Not particularly." The man didn't bother to offer an arm as he walked forward. As expected, Lyarra followed one step behind. "I know a woman's eyes, bastard. Stop playing lady and walk faster. The sooner we're done with this, the sooner I may return to my business."

'What business? You lost your position when you gained me.' Her smile unwavering, she added. "My lord has long strides, as expected of a knight of his measure. I would appreciate it if he would slow down, so that his lady may follow him without difficulty."

"I am no lord. Call me Jaime or Lannister or even Kingslayer," was the sharp retort.

"Ser Jaime," Lyarra compromised. Her eyes flickered around the garden they were hurriedly traversing. Casterly Rock did not have many places of greenery but those that were set aside for the role blossomed with vibrant flowers and well-tended shrubbery. She imagined that the plants here refused to surrender to poor soil and limited sunlight out of the same sensible fear of Lord Tywin Lannister as everyone else here. When they'd almost reached the halfway point and a marble fountain was fast approaching, Lyarra spotted the first of the watchers she was certain had been ordered there.

'Appease Ser Jaime at the expense of his father or vice versa?' Lyarra wondered. Well, when it was stated that way…

The dark-haired bastard reached out and wrenched Jaime Lannister to a stop by forcefully wrapping her hand around his arm. Maneuvering it until they had interlocked arms, more a child's gesture of solidarity than anything romantic, she dragged him to a convenient bench nearby the fountain. First, she forced him down and then she swallowed her nerves to drape herself against him. Those nerves failed her at the last moment, so she remained sitting close by instead, with their knees brushing. Lyarra turned and offered her brightest, most enthusiastic smile to her soulmate.

Jaime Lannister stared back at her like she was an idiot.

"Your father is watching us," Lyarra stated simply.

The bemused expression did not change. Now she wasn't hoping for a sappy smile or anything alike to it but surely the Gods hadn't saddled her with a pretty moron for a husband? "I'm not afraid of him."

Yes. Yes, they did. Whatever Lyarra had done to deserve this, she was very, very sorry about it.

"I am," the bastard responded with all sincerity. "A few minutes more, Ser Jaime. Speak."

"Of what?" The bemusement was fading away to the sharp humor from before. Lyarra tucked one curl behind her ear and leaned forward in apparent eagerness. "Don't move so close to me."

Ser Jaime Lannister could kindly take a long walk off a short pier. Maybe even the ones below Casterly Rock's main halls where the ships docked to hand over their supplies. Just to spite him, Lyarra scooted closer and notched her smile one shade brighter. Her knightly soulmate furrowed his nose as his much younger cousin did the last few days when Lady Dorna teased him for the dance lessons.

"Any topic should do. Tell me something I don't know."

Jaime Lannister considered that for a moment. "Alright. You're wearing a dead woman's clothes."

Her eyelid twitched. She forced a light giggle from her lips anyway. "Something else, if you please."

"I once caught a rat the size of a baby sheepdog in your room."

Lyarra contemplated that for a second. Her soulmate was a bastard. At least they had that in common. "Were you purposefully trying to catch that rat?"

"Yes." A boyish grin crossed the man's face at her barely hidden disgust. "You're judging me."

"So much right now," the Northern lady informed him. "Why were you trying to catch a giant rat?"

"To win my family's weekly rat fighting ring, of course."

Lyarra's violet eyes widened to painful proportions, as she tried to keep her mouth from falling open. She was successful but the absurdity in her features was enough to lead Jaime Lannister's sober face to break. He threw his head back and laughter, deep, mirthful, honest and almost kind rang from his lips. A pout crossed her own cheeks, blowing them out to comical size, as he continued to laugh.

"Any other lies you'd care to tell me, Ser?"

"I can think of a few," Ser Jaime replied, once his laughter had spluttered down. "There's pirate treasure buried in this garden by mine Uncle Gerion. He secretly seduced the Black Pearl of Braavos' granddaughter and…"

Lyarra tolerantly sat by and smiled shyly as lie after scurrilous lie spilled from the lion knight's lips. The emerald in his eyes had weakened in this light to a more welcoming shade, not yet jade but darker and dimmer than the leaf-green of new spring. If her smile had a hint of genuine warmth by when he ended his claims, the dark-haired girl didn't notice it.

"Have we sat here long enough to assuage your concerns?"

"I think your father will be satisfied," Lyarra answered, ready to stand. As the knight moved to do the same, on a whim, she reached out and laid a hand gently on his arm. "Tell me a truth now."

Jaime Lannister stood still for a heartbeat, then leant directly towards her. Lyarra's own body froze, heart beating rapidly, as he came closer. Was he about to kiss her? Did she want him to? A flip of her stomach and the dampness of her palms didn't have an answer.

'I wish he had.' Lyarra's answer came when Ser Jaime merely brushed their noses together and she plummeted headfirst to disappointment. 'I really wish he had.'

Then the man answered her request. "You're going to die before our first child is born."

The blood in Lyarra's veins frosted to ice, just enough to remind her of who she was. Lyarra Snow, Bastard of Winterfell, daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, a she-wolf of the North.

Keep your eyes up, child. You are a wolf and wolves do not fear hardship.

Lyarra lifted dark violet eyes to her soulmate. Jaime Lannister dispassionately returned it with the catlike eyes of a predator. Eyes that glittered too beautifully, too faelike, too unnatural under the copper-tinted lights hung above them. What a handsome monster the Gods had given her.

'If I die,' the dark-haired girl noted grimly, 'The Gods will ensure you follow.'

She pressed thinly tapered fingers against the crux of his elbow, a silent request for an arm that was soon offered to her. One hand tucked into her future husband's arm as it ought to be, Lyarra raised to her feet. "You're a most amusing man, my lord."

The remainder of their walk passed in silence and Lyarra returned to her room soon after. Not bothering to take off the dress of the deceased Lady Joanna Lannister, Lyarra dismissed Tyana with curt words and threw herself onto her bed. Underneath the pillows, her tears couldn't be seen or heard by anyone else.

A book on the history of the Westerlands' economy arrived in her room the next day. At least one Lannister lord was appreciating her efforts here.


Lyarra's Dress: il/cda5ea/1256247369/il_340x270.1256247369_ ?version=0