A Dragon's Roar
Jaime followed that up by silently cursing Robert. It had been him, who had insisted they drink, and they did and then the wine kept flowing: To celebrate Daeron's victory! Robert had said as if it was obvious.
We drank and we celebrated as if it had been us who had bested the crown prince and won a famed sword, another groan followed, as the hazy images of last night assaulted his mind.
Damn him, Jaime blinked in the dim light of his chambers. His full bladder and grousing stomach making it impossible for him to try to go back to sleep and to pretend that he was well. His decision made, he pushed away the covers, got up and made his way to the chamber pot.
I could refill a half dozen bottles, he thought wryly, after relieving himself of what felt like all the wine he had drunk last night. What a vintage that would be, he smirked, lion's shower, he mused, Lannister Gold, he chuckled, finding the levity a nice reprieve to the gnawing headache. More names came to him while he washed his face and hands. They varied in amusement.
He inspected his appearance of the looking glass that hung above his table. Paled faced, disheveled hair, with green eyes blearily looking back at him. The Heir to Casterly Rock, he silently decreed, he could sense his father's glare, hear the disapproval in his tone if he saw Jaime in such a state. Jaime thought himself brave, but he wasn't foolish enough to risk his father's ire by leaving his chambers in such a state.
A sudden knock at the door got his attention, and caused a brief, but annoying throb behind his right eye. He groaned, sending a glare in the door's direction.
"Ned?" Confused at the unexpected arrival of his friend, Jaime made his way to the door to let him in. When he opened it, he put a fake smile in place to try to mask his current misery.
Ned wasn't fooled for a second. His grey eyes pierced through the deception. He looked him over, a touch of pity flickered onto his expression. "You're not the first person Robert's talked into drinking, you know." The faint hints of a smile played on his lips. "Why do you think I'm here?"
Jaime chuckled, "Never again," he vowed, a moan followed when a fissure of pain wracked through his skull. He stepped aside to let his friend in. "Tell me how does my former friend fare?"
"He's awake," Ned ignored Jaime's insincere claim of him ending his friendship with the heir to Storm's End due to last night's drinking. "Robert's out in the training yard." He chuckled when he noticed Jaime's frown. "He's sparring with some of the guards."
It was bad enough Robert got Jaime to drink so much that put him in this state, but to know Robert was out there without any ailment while Jaime was suffering. It made him inwardly curse the unfairness of it all.
"I felt the same way," Ned seemed to sense Jaime's thoughts. "It was back in the Vale, and Robert and I had gotten into Lord Arryn's larder," he admitted sheepishly, "I was in bed all day, suffering while Robert was back out going through his usual routine as if we hadn't drunken..." He stopped, "It doesn't matter."
Jaime grinned, "Thanks," he meant it, "That helps."
Ned returned the smile, "Aye, I thought it might. I was worried I'd find you in a similar state."
He gestured to himself to show that his friend was right in his suspicion.
"Will you be joining us in the yard?"
"Aye," Jaime was looking forward to it. "Beating Robert may be the cure I need." He tried his best to sound confident, but his scratchy throat made it difficult. "Is Prince Daeron out there with him?"
"No, but I expect he'll join soon. No doubt, he'd like to test his new sword."
"He isn't the only one," Jaime hoped his friend would lend him the sword so that he could have a chance at wielding the famous valyrian steel sword. He was sure Daeron wouldn't object. That was how the Prince was with his friends-generous and loyal.
"I'll let Robert know to expect you," Ned made his way back to the doors to leave.
"Thanks, Ned," Jaime called to his friend, "I appreciate it."
The northerner nodded and smiled, "Just make sure you beat him."
"I will." That would be his tonic- vengeance, and one he'd drink gladly.
An hour later only found Jaime moderately better. He had washed and dressed, breaking his fast on a bit of bread, jam, and bacon. He didn't dare test his stomach, and found it difficult to eat with the pain residing in both his head and gut.
He ate alone. He wasn't surprised not to find his sister, believing she was probably mourning the loss of her beloved prince. I tried to warn her, he thought, to soften the blow and her expectations, he shook his head, she's blind when it comes to Rhaegar.
After finishing his meal, he returned to his chambers, and finished his letter to Elia. He scribbled a few lines about the duel between Daeron and Rhaegar, promising to send another letter soon with more details if pressed, before he signed it, and sealed it.
He hoped it wouldn't take too long to reach Elia in Dorne. Jaime was always anxious after sending them, beginning to quietly countdown until the next one from her would arrive for him. He missed her dearly, and longed to see her.
They were still not expected to marry for another year or more. A wait that seemed agonizingly long and cruel in Jaime's view. So he hoped to at least have her return to the Rock or for him to finally visit Dorne at some point in the future to help alleviate the wait of their wedding.
Jaime hoped his friends were still out in the training yard. Wanting to join them now that he was dressed and able to actually move without the fear of vomiting. He also wanted to thank Robert for his generosity with the wine from last night. His thoughts on his planned revenge on his friend came to a sudden halt at seeing his sister scurrying in front of him, looking frazzled and in a daze.
"Cersei?" He followed her. He had thought she was in her chambers. Expecting her to lock herself in their to mourn and vent her crown prince's defeat for days.
She looked up at the sound of his voice. Her green eyes wide, a flicker of something flashed across her face before it slipped away and was replaced with a scowl. She quickly tried to cover herself with a rough spun cloak that clung to her loosely.
"What are you doing out?" He halted her before she could escape. His eyes taking in her frizzled hair, and pale face, "What's this?" He saw the red on her dress, looking closely to see it was actually the smear of blood on her shoulders. "Who did this?" He growled. Pain and nausea all but forgotten to the anger he felt stirring within his gut at the thought of someone attacking his sister.
Cersei flinched as if struck, "It's n-nothing," she dismissed, covering the scratches and blood stains with her cloak.
"No, it's not," Jaime didn't like this one bit. He put his hand on her shoulder, she recoiled at the touch. "Cersei," his voice, softer and gentler. "It's me," he assured her, "You can tell me." He whispered, his grip on her arm softened, but he kept his hand there to remain reassuring.
"No," her voice cracked, "You can't do anything to help me."
He frowned. "Of course, I can," he argued. "I'm your brother," he reminded her, "They won't get away with this." He gently moved her away from the corridor they were in to an alcove where he hoped they'd avoid attention.
"He already did," Cersei whimpered, ducking her head.
Jaime felt heat pour into his heart-hot and bubbling. He could never remember seeing his sister looking so dejected. This wasn't his strong, vibrant sister. She seemed a shadow of her former self.
"Father must be told."
"No," Cersei's voice hitched.
Jaime frowned, trying to calm the anger that stirred within his chest. He didn't want to sound impatient or unsympathetic to his sister's plight. "Why not?" He asked softly through gritted teeth biting down on his rising frustration at her unwillingness to have him help her.
"Because, you won't be able to do anything." She took a steady breath as if to compose herself before straightening up. Her green eyes determined if not red rimmed, her face defiant if not slightly pale. "It would be wise if you just pretended this didn't happen, brother," She tightened the cloak around herself, "That you didn't see me."
"I can't," he held up his arm to stop her from leaving. "How am I suppose to forget this?" He shook his head in dismay. He gestured to her, "look at you? What sort of brother would I be if I turned the other way."
"The smart one," Her green eyes were pleading.
"No," he refused to believe that. "Please, Cersei," he encouraged, "I can help you. Let me help you."
"Oh Jaime," a touch of sadness in her voice, her hand went to his face. "You can help me by not getting involved."
"Cersei," Jaime exhaled irritably.
"Lord Jaime?" A messenger had spotted them and made a beeline towards them.
It was all Cersei needed to slip out from his grip and leave the corridor, heading in the direction of her chambers. "What?" Jaime demanded, unbridled annoyance lacing his tone at having him being interrupted allowing Cersei to escape him before he could figure out what happened to her.
"My apologies, m'lord," the messenger blanched, "Your father requests your presence-Immediately."
When Jaime had been told that his father requested an audience with him, he expected it to be in his father's solar. That assumption was proven wrong when it was the stables not the solar where he was led to by a pair of servants and a handful of guards. They informed him that Lord Tywin was out in the Kingswood and that was where Jaime was expected to meet him.
So off he rode out of the capital with a retinue of guards behind him to find his father's party in the Kingswood. Thankfully, for Jaime it hadn't taken him too long to see the Lannister banners through the thick foliage of the woods. Slowing his horse to a trot, he followed the path of Lannister red. Seeing guards greeting him with bowed heads, who were spread throughout a small area of the wood to make sure neither animal nor man bothered the Hand of the King.
It was then that he spotted his father. He was standing tall and proud dressed in a crimson doublet with gold trimmings and roaring lions. The golden chain that symbolized his title as Hand of the King hung loosely around his neck. He was walking on the road, a pair of guards behind him. He looked to be deep in thought, but the sound of the approaching horses caught his attention and Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King, Warden of the West, Lord of Casterly Rock, and Jaime's father turned in their direction.
"Ah, Jaime," his father greeted him, even atop a horse while his father was standing Jaime still felt small in his presence.
"Father," he returned the greeting, a guard came forward to take the reins of his horse. He nodded his thanks before dismounting. Jaime looked around the surrounding woods all he could see was Lannister guards fanned out and on patrol. "Was there something wrong with your solar, Father?"
"Lions attract the attention of the lower beasts," His father observed, "and I didn't want our words caught in a spider's web." He then continued on his way down the road that cut through the Kingswood leaving Jaime to follow him.
"Has something happened?" Jaime chided himself for asking the obvious. Of course something had to have happened! Otherwise his father wouldn't have thought it necessary for them to meet and speak here instead of back at the Red Keep.
"Yes," his father confirmed, but offered no further explanation or clarification.
Jaime bit down the frown he wanted to show knowing it would earn him a scolding and would hinder his chances of learning more from his father. He wasn't one for silences, but he understand his father well enough to know he seemed to thrive on them. Tywin Lannister had no problem letting silence settle over any conversation or company he was in for as long as it took to give him an advantage.
He hated silences and was determined to end this one but it was his father who uncharacteristically broke it. "What do you know of Prince Daeron?"
"He's a great man," Jaime answered quickly, putting aside his confusion at the unexpected question. "A true friend," Trying to think on what more could be said about the prince who Jaime saw as his closest friend, akin to a brother, the last part Jaime voiced out loud to his father.
"I once thought the same about Aerys," His father noted softly, "It was I who knighted him. It was he who asked me to do it, and I did so gladly because he was my friend."
Jaime was stunned at seeing this rare slip of reminiscing from his father, who seemed to care little for his past especially when he was younger since it usually related to his father, Jaime's grandfather Lord Tytos. That didn't mean Jaime hadn't heard the stories about his father and the king in their youth, but it had never been from him. It had always come from his mother or one of his uncles or from idle gossip he had picked up whether it was in Casterly Rock or in King's Landing. His father had always been stern and quiet when the subject was mentioned.
"I erred in my judgment," he stopped to face Jaime. "Do not make that same mistake."
"Daeron isn't the king," Jaime argued, felt the need to defend his friend's character from that unfair comparison. He remained unflinching under his father's stern gaze. "He's a better man then him, the Crown prince too!"
His father regarded him silently for a few heartbeats before turning away and continuing walking. "Prince Daeron's shown to be a skilled fighter. His display within the Great Hall will be talked about for some time. As will the sword he earned the right to carry and pass down to his heirs." He pointed out, "However, it was only recently that he's proven his character to me."
"The Prince met with me this morning and informed me what his father did." The flecks of gold in Tywin's eyes seemed to burn at his last words.
Jaime was about to ask what his father meant when it became suddenly clear. "Cersei," realizing now why his sister had begged him not to pursue the topic and wanted it to be forgotten. The thought of the king attacking his sister made his blood boil, he balled his fists at the side. King or not, he couldn't control the lash of anger that stormed in his chest at the image of the king attacking his sister.
"An injustice has been done to our family," Father's voice was soft, but it still easily punctured through Jaime's thoughts. "One I will not forget nor will I forgive." He took a calming breath, a glint shone in the golden flecks of his green eyes. "But It may be something that we can press to our advantage. Reparations could be demanded or threats can be made," he continued. "If he thinks he could get away with abusing my daughter? Then he's madder than I thought." His jaw clenched. "My daughter," he growled, as ferocious as the lion sewn onto his doublets.
Jaime had never seen his father so furious. "Will you resign?"
Tywin shook his hand, "Aerys won't accept it, even if I threaten to let this slip. He'll struggle and fight to keep us close and this quiet. After all, he is still our king." His lips dipped in distaste at his last words spoken. "That still makes him powerful and dangerous. With plenty of sycophants who would pay dearly to see our family tarnished or destroyed."
"What will we do?" Jaime wasn't about to let someone further hurt or threaten their family. He knew his father would've come up with several plans already to appropriately handle this situation and to ensure their family stayed on top.
His father's eyes flicked around the empty road save for a few patrolling Lannister guardsmen before moving onto the trees that surrounded them and then to the branches that swayed over them. In each glance he looked to be trying to spot spies and shadows that were listening in on their conversation. In the seconds of silence that followed before his inspection eventually ceased and he seemed satisfied with the privacy they had.
"There have been whispers from across the Narrow Sea. It seems Lord Baratheon may have found a match for the Crown Prince." Jaime was caught off guard by the unexpected and what he thought was unrelated news to how his father was going to address the king and what he did to Cersei.
"From a Volantene noble family with recent connections to Lys," his father's tone sharpened at the mention of the Free City. "It isn't a coincidence. I have no doubt this betrothal will benefit the Spider. If these whispers turn out to be true and this union goes forward. Aerys will find himself with a potentially powerful Free City Alliance."
His father's tone made it clear his dislike of it. Whether it was the alliance itself or the fact that it meant Cersei wouldn't marry her prince, Jaime wasn't certain. However he figured it was probably both. Knowing his father thought little of the Free Cities, and would no doubt see this as an insult that they were selected over their family.
This will devastate Cersei, Jaime thought, a twinge of sadness followed knowing how much his sister had yearned for a betrothal between herself and the crown prince.
"If Aerys pursues this folly and ties his heir to the Free Cities then we must adjust accordingly," Tywin observed, "We must focus our efforts on his second son."
"Prince Daeron," Jaime understood at once what his father was planning, "You want a betrothal between him and Cersei."
"You are the Prince's best friend," his father reminded him, "You are in the perfect position to help facilitate this match."
Jaime's stomach clenched. On the surface nothing was wrong with the suggestion, but that didn't quiet his reservations on the role given to him. He didn't like the idea of it. As much as he loved his sister he wasn't sure what sort of wife she'd be with her temperament and pride potentially making her a rather poor spouse. And for the sake of his friendship with Prince Daeron a part of Jaime pitied him if he was to be matched with Cersei.
"Do you understand, Jaime?"
He blinked to see the stern gaze of his father looking down on him. Jaime could feel the heavy expectations from his father settling on his shoulders. Despite his hesitation, he couldn't go against his father, "I understand." His father looked down at him with a small but noticeable smile. Jaime hated the swell of satisfaction he felt rise within him at receiving it from him, as it was soon punctured by guilt.
"You are doing the right thing," he assured him. "Family must always come first." His father's hand hovered over Jaime's shoulder before he finally placed it there. "Even in regards to our friendships."
"I could get use to this," Jaime gave Dark Sister a few careful flicks. His eyes never leaving the valyrian blade.
Daeron smiled at his friend's enthusiasm, "It would be wise if you didn't."
Ned chortled from his side while Robert guffawed from where he was standing across from Jaime. There he was dirty and sweating, after having lost in his bout against Jaime, but defeat couldn't puncture his jovial good mood since he blamed his losses on his inability to wield his Warhammer for their sparring.
The friends had met in the training yard to practice. It was their normal routine, the same one they've gone through ever since Ned and Robert first arrived to the capital. There a friendship between the four of them was quick to form and the daily continuous of it allowed the friendship to stick. Now sadly, this was their last day in King's Landing. They were leaving in the morning with Lord Arryn.
Jaime grinned, looking away from the famous sword and back towards Daeron. "Just a harmless suggestion," he explained, while the sword sliced through air.
"Uh huh," Daeron wasn't fooled. "I'll keep that in mind then," he added dryly.
"Can you fault me?" He asked, "It's magnificent."
"I don't think he's going to return it," Ned observed solemnly, but his grey eyes shone with mirth.
Robert laughed, as he dusted himself off. "It's as if you've never seen a sword before."
"That would make your defeat from me all the more humbling," Jaime countered.
Robert grumbled, but it was clear the jape didn't truly upset him.
At watching his friend wield Dark Sister, Daeron's mind drifted back towards earlier in the day when he presented the same opportunity to Jaime's sister, the Lady Cersei. He recalled the warmth in her eyes, the curve of her lips as she was enamored with not just the weapon, but the opportunity itself to wield it. It was the first time that Daeron thought she looked truly stunning. Before her beauty had always been marred, in his eyes it had been hooded by her petulance and her infatuation with his brother. It was in seeing her wield Dark Sister, in seeing her blissfully happy was the veil removed and it gave Daeron a glimpse of the woman beneath.
But then it was gone. When his mind reminded him how this woman cared little for him and had wanted his brother to win their duel. Those thoughts were enough to cast the shroud back onto her and to leave him disinterested.
She wants my brother and she's welcomed to him.
Besides it was another woman who was on his mind-Mina Tyrell. A woman who chose him, who wanted him, and didn't see him in his brother's shadow. Their time together last night was well spent, and he was eager in seeing her again this evening before supper. Just the thought of the her was enough for his pulse to quicken and for a smile to stretch on his lips.
Daeron blinked into the present to see Jaime was returning Dark Sister, offering it hilt first to him. "Thank you," he cleared his throat, hoping they didn't notice his mental drifting.
"Thank you," Jaime insisted, oblivious to Daeron's slip as his friend seemed more distracted by the ancestral Targaryen blade. "It was an honor to wield such a weapon."
Daeron smiled at his friend. "You are welcome," he patted him on the back, "It will not be the last time either if you'd like."
Jaime matched his smile. "I would like that." His green eyes flickering to the valyrian sword before returning to Daeron's face where he tried to compose himself, and hide his blatant interest in it, He shrugged, "If you insist."
Daeron laughed, shaking his head at his best friend's antics while Ned and Robert were quick to join in. Jaime watched it unfold with his cocky grin.
"I'm throwing a feast tonight in the Small Hall," Jaime announced once the laughter subsided, "To celebrate our new friendships," his eyes turned to Ned and Robert, "And to see you off as you leave the capital in the morning."
The reminder that their new friends were leaving brought a sudden pall over the mirthfulness they had just been sharing.
"I'd be honored," Ned agreed quickly.
"Aye," Robert added to his friend's sentiments, "An honor to drink you out of your wine," he laughed, infectious and loud, and it was enough to bring smiles and chuckles amidst the friends.
"A steep challenge, my friend," Jaime warned him through a smile.
"I'll have help," Robert slapped Ned on the back, before turning to Daeron. "Isn't that so, my prince?"
"Of course, cousin," Daeron had no intention of matching his friend in drinks remembering Jaime's mood and tales of how his morning was spent recovering from the previous night of drinking with him.
Robert grinned at his acceptance. "So it's settled," he then turned back to Jaime, "I imagine we can bring guests?"
"Indeed," Jaime allowed, "Despite the name, the Small Hall is large enough for some extra guests even when its forced to house your pride, my friend."
Robert laughed, uncaring of the jape at his expense. "Careful, Jaime, other men, weaker and less assured would see that as a slight," He wagged a finger at him. "Thankfully for you, you have me instead," he winked at that, his smiling turned mischievous when he nudged Ned's shoulder. "You heard Jaime, Ned? So make sure you invite your Dornish beauty for the feast."
"Thank you, Robert." Ned replied stiffly, but his lips twitched, proving the stoic northerner was no match to his friend's charms.
While his friends bickered and bantered about the details of the feast tonight, Daeron's mind went to the beautiful Mina Tyrell where he couldn't help but wonder about the possibility of bringing her as his guest…
"This just proves what fools my family are," Mina Tyrell lay tangled amidst the covers, naked and beautiful. Her hair was a mess of curls that fell around her face, but she didn't seem to care. Her blue eyes were bright and inviting, while her lips curved into that smirk of hers which Daeron found quite irresistible.
"They chase the indifferent dragon while the better one is within reach."
Daeron stood at the table, having slipped out of the bed to fetch them drinks. His back was to her, so she couldn't see the smile that touched his lips at her praise. Her words had a way of boosting his pride. With her he never felt like he was in his brother's shadow. How she looked at him, talked to him, touched him, there was never any doubt in his mind or heart that it was he who she wanted and nothing else.
"My lady is too kind," He poured them their glasses of Arbor Gold.
"Your lady?" The teasing lilt in her tone made his smile widen, "Two dalliances together and you've already claimed me as yours?"
He chuckled, turning to face her to see the mirthful hue in her eyes as well as her distinctive smirk. "I wouldn't be so brave or as foolish to make such a bold claim." He took a seat at the edge of his bed.
"Such a wise prince," her arms wrapped themselves around him from behind, "If such claims were allowed then would that mean you're mine?"
"Possibly," he breathed in her floral intoxicating scent, strands of her hair tickling the side of his face.
"Hmm, to possess a prince," A seductive whisper to his ears, "Now that is tempting."
A shiver of pleasure strummed through him at her touch and voice. "You could do worse."
"I very much could." She moved to sit beside him and took her glass of Arbor Gold and drank from it. "My brother would faint at the chance," She rolled her eyes at her brother's obvious bootlicking ways. "That is why this should remain our secret," A gloss of Arbor clung to her lips, "Only between us," her free hand moving up and down his arm. "I don't want my family or the court to infect this." She proved her point by kissing him. He could taste the Arbor Gold. The kiss was a brief press of her lips to his, acting as a delightful promise of what was to come between them.
"To our secret dalliances," he tapped her glass to his, earning a smile from her before the two drank to their renewed agreement.
"Here I thought all I'd find in the capital is the smell of shit and bad food," She looked down at her empty glass. "I never would've thought to have snared a dragon." An inflection of pride in her voice at the observation. She got to her feet, taking his empty glass as she did before moving towards the table where the half empty Bottle of Arbor Gold awaited.
It was difficult for Daeron to keep his concentration since his eyes followed her graceful steps, the sway of her hips and naked bum as she moved to get them refills. "Snared a dragon?" He found his voice when she poured them a second glass, or was it third?
She looked over her shoulder towards him, smirking, "Just a saying," her voice was reassuring, "Besides if any of us was the dragon during this. It was me," she claimed proudly.
"You?" He bit down on the chuckle that wanted to slip past.
"Absolutely," she said quickly and confidently. "It was I who pursued you," she reminded him, "In this you were the rose and I the dragon," she sounded amused at the reversal of their sigils.
"Mayhaps," he wouldn't confirm her observation, "but it was I who plucked the rose."
She giggled, "That's what you're calling it?" A rueful shake of her head followed, as she turned to him after pouring their glasses. Her eyes shone in amusement, a smile clinging to her lips. "It is clear a sword suits you better than a harp."
He stood up, noticing the way her eyes darted down before returning to his face, causing him to smile. "You have very much enjoyed my sword," His smile only grew when she rolled her eyes at his choice of words.
"If only your wit was as sharp at that new sword of yours," She said unimpressed, but her eyes betrayed her, twinkling in the candlelight.
Daeron took the glass from her before pressing a quick kiss to her cheek. "It would seem my sword is never far from your mind," he winked down at her before taking a sip.
"No, it is not," she admitted wickedly. "That's why I told my family I was at the Sept. I'm lighting a candle to the Maiden. Thanking her for protecting my chastity and virtue or something," she trailed off, waving her hand, the amused glint in her eyes a clear indication of what she thought of it all.
Daeron couldn't help but chuckle at her excuse, "The Sept? That's where they think you are now?"
Her impish smirk was perfection in his eyes when he found himself the center of it.
"They do indeed, my prince," her voice a seductive purr. "That's why I must stay a little longer," she pressed her lips to his. "I have a devout reputation to maintain."
He looked up to see Jaime approaching him, he smiled in greeting towards his friend, "Jaime, are you welcoming all your guests in such a manner?" He hadn't even reached the Small Hall yet, he and Ser Gwayne were still climbing the steps when Jaime spotted them, descending the steps to intercept them.
Jaime returned the smile, "No, I am not," he joked, "so do not let the others know," his expression turned somber and his voice dropped when he continued, "I was wondering if we could speak privately for a few minutes."
"Of course," Daeron was surprised by the shift in his friend's tone. "Ser Gwayne," he turned to his sworn shield, "Will you allow Jaime and I a few moments?"
Ser Gwayne nodded, "Yes, my prince."
Satisfied, Jaime urged Daeron to follow him into a corridor with Ser Gwayne walking a respectful distance, far enough not to overhear, but still able to watch and intervene if the occasion called for it.
Daeron looked back at his sworn shield and then back at Jaime, "What's troubling you, friend?"
Jaime frowned as if confused at Daeron's apprehension. "Nothing," he waved that suggestion off, "I wanted to thank you actually."
It was Daeron's turn to frown. "Thank me?"
"Yes, about my sister," Jaime's voice dropped, "And what you did to protect her."
Shame filled Daeron's gut. He ducked his head as he recalled his father's beastly behavior while trying to push away his thoughts on what he would've done had he not arrived when he did. "Think nothing of it," he said tightly, "If anything I should be apologizing for my-"
"Don't," Jaime cut him off, "He's the king." There was a finality in his friend's tone, and his green eyes hardened. "Let us speak no more of it."
"Very well," he too had no desire to think or discuss the matter anymore. He had meant to say something about it to Jaime, after he had spoken to Lord Tywin, but the day slipped away from him. And when he did find himself in his friend's presence, he allowed his selfishness to overrule his senses because he didn't want the topic to drudge up the fun they were having.
"My family is grateful." Jaime told him, "I am grateful," his smile thawed the stoicism that had covered his expression. He patted Daeron on the shoulder, "You're a good friend, my prince."'
"You as well, Jaime," Daeron returned it, "And my father should be grateful for your family. You have served us well and faithfully." He added, "Westeros has prospered due to the friendships between House Targaryen and Lannister."
"They have," Jaime agreed, "So come let's celebrate that friendship." Jaime's hand remained on Daeron's shoulder steering him to where Ser Gwayne was waiting, "And to the new ones we've made."
"You will visit me in Storm's End?" Robert was adamant in his invitation. "You cannot leave me with only my brothers," he shuddered at the thought of it before dousing his dislike of the notion with more ale.
Daeron and his friends were seated together in the Small Hall, despite their small group they were as raucous and as messy as a group with twice their numbers. They had spent the night eating, and drinking, and joking as the friends relished their time together knowing it would be awhile before they were all together again. Dirty plates and goblets that went from empty to half-filled were the lone remnants of the feast the friends had shared. Which were starting to be taken away by Lannister servants who moved quietly and quickly as they went without disturbing them.
"You speak as if your brothers are Others, Robert," Ned shook his head, looking across the table at his friend with an expression torn between amusement and bewilderment at how his friend viewed his family.
"Stannis is as cold as them, I'll wager," Robert replied, "Gruff and stern, you'd think he'd seen fifty years instead of ten and four."
"Of course, I'll visit, Cousin."
Daeron had never seen the famous ancestral seat of House Baratheon. The seat, they took from House Durrandan after Orys Baratheon helped Aegon conquer Six of the Seven Kingdoms. It hadn't just been the seat of Storm's End, Orys claimed for House Baratheon, but their sigil and words too. As well as taking King Argilac's daughter as his bride.
Robert grinned, clearly relieved that he wouldn't be forgotten in the Stormlands. "You're a good man, Daeron." He raised his tankard in salute before drinking.
"Storm's End does sound like quite the castle," Jaime observed, from his seat at Daeron's right. "Be a shame not to see it."
"A tour and stay of Storm's End for a tour and stay of Casterly Rock?" Robert offered.
"Agreed, Though you're getting the better end of this deal. None better than Casterly Rock," Jaime boasted. "You're invited too," He looked over to Ned, adding the invitation not as an afterthought but as a sincere assurance that his friend didn't feel forgotten or ignored. "And you as well, Lady Ashara."
The Dornish Beauty who was sitting beside Ned smiled at Jaime's invitation. "I would be honored," she ducked her head in thanks, "Though I am sure I'll be seeing it soon since you will be marrying my dear friend."
A slight, but brief glaze could be seen in Jaime's eyes at the mention of his pending marriage with the Dornish Princess, Elia Martell.
Robert guffawed, Ned and Daeron traded smiles while Lady Ashara's purple eyes held a mischievous sheen to them at her teasing.
"I will indeed," Jaime confirmed, taking it in stride. Looking and sounding pleased at his future with Princess Elia.
That earned an additional smile out of Ashara who looked on approvingly.
"Hear, Hear," Daeron tapped his empty tankard against the table. He looked around at his friends who were gathered around him. To one side sat Jaime and Robert, and the other Ned and Ashara, she had come at Ned's invitation.
Lady Cersei had been with them for part of the night, but she had excused herself as soon as etiquette allowed her to leave. Her presence hadn't been missed and despite a weak protest from Jaime for her to stay longer, her departure left the others with no real reaction of regret or disappointment. She hadn't proven to be in the same good mood as her brother or had taken up the responsibilities of hosting this feast as he had.
She was morose and quiet, and though she sat next to Daeron on Jaime's suggestion, the seat he now filled, Daeron spoke few words to her. Finding himself with a difficult challenge of what to do or say since it had only been this morning that his father had touched and terrified her. An act that brought shame and guilt to Daeron, but he wasn't sure that was what the Lady Cersei wanted to hear nor have the incident being brought up at all especially when they were in the company of others. So he kept quiet as well in his dealings with her.
He was ashamed to admit it but he was a bit relieved when she chose to leave. As it gave him the selfish reasons of not having his mind being distracted or dwelling on what had occurred between her and his father. Feelings that he tried to push away, as the sliver of guilt wormed its way into his heart at such self-centeredness.
I am not that man, he told himself, I will never be.
A booming laugh from Robert pulled Daeron out of his thoughts about Lady Cersei to see Jaime was grinning. A certain glimmer in his eyes which made Daeron realize he had just said some clever jape. Ned's chuckling and Ashara's laughter only confirming his suspicion. He allowed himself to smile so as to not disappoint his friend in thinking he hadn't heard.
The smile didn't feel forced or deceitful to him, since it came quickly and naturally to Daeron when he was in the company of his friends. It may not have been Jaime's jape that was the cause of it. However, it didn't mean it wasn't any less sincere since it still came from seeing his friends' together and happy.
"I'd like to say a few words," Daeron cleared his throat to get his friends' attention, finding himself suddenly promoted to speak and to put together a toast for the evening.
"You came to this city as strangers and you leave as my dearest friends. I thank the Old and the New Gods for putting you upon my path. I consider myself fortunate for the friendships we've forged these last few weeks. May they endure the test of time and distance." He raised his glass, "I drink to you, Robert Baratheon, and you Eddard Stark, my newest friends!"
A/N: We'll get Rhaella's reaction and thoughts on the duel between her sons in the next chapter. Sorry if there was any doubt about that.