Chapter 33

Brandon Stark arrived at the capital a few weeks later.

No word was received of his coming, no raven or message was sent and thus Lily had no warning for his arrival.

In truth she should have expected the other shoe to drop earlier than this and was surprised it had taken this long for the melting pot that was the realm, to boil over.

After she had returned from Storm's End with the damning crown of flowers, she had presented the evidence to her friend and then had sat with the Dornish princess as she had cried.

Lily held her and comforted her as best she could, all the while muttering threats against the wolf and the dragon who had dared hurt and dishonor her friend in such a manner.

In the back of her mind, Lily was aware that the fact that Lyanna had kept the crown might not be enough to evidence her guilt in running off with a prince who had recently disappeared, everything was hearsay at this point, but it was not enough to absolve her either.

There were just too many unknowns.

What was not unknown however was the news that the Stark heir had arrived in the capital within a few weeks of Lily making the discovery of the crown of flowers.

What was also known was that it had happened when Lily had suggested to Elia that they go into the city for a moment of respite, leaving the children in the care of the queen. She knew how distracted her friend was and thought that perhaps a day at the seaside might be enough to quiet her mind for a time.

Instead it turned out only to be the calm before the storm.

When they had returned to the keep, things were tense and quiet, even more so than usual and Lily felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.

"Something has happened," she said to the Dornish woman without looking at her.

"How can you tell?" Elia asked as they stood in the empty corridor of the Red Keep. "Does….Does it have to do with your magic?"

Lily inclined her head. "Among other things. You should go to your room. I'll try to figure out what I can and then I'll come and tell you."

Elia regarded her for a while and Lily could tell that she was conflicted. She gave the other woman a gentle nudge in the direction of her rooms. "Go. I promise that I will find you after."

"Alright," Elia finally relented and hurried off down the hall with a swish of her skirts.

Lily waited until she was out of sight before cloaking herself with a spell and hurrying in the opposite direction.

She had a feeling that if she were going to glean any information, it would have to be secretly. The keep seemed as if it were full of hidden truths lately and the only way she would have the whole of them would be to follow someone knowledgeable like she had to determine Lyanna's disappearance.

She didn't have to search long.

The moment he turned the corner, Lily knew she had found the perfect person to tell her what had happened.

Jaime's Lannister's golden complexion looked more than a little pale on this day and Lily frowned when she saw it.

For once the swaggering youth with a permanent smirk had been replaced with an anxious boy who looked, for once, exactly his age.

Lily paused upon seeing him but decided she needed to go no further.

She waited until he had passed her in the corridor and gone no more than a few feet before she looked carefully around and released the spell hiding herself.

"Ser Jaime?" she called out and brought the knight to a screeching halt. "What has happened?"

He turned almost mechanically at the sound of her voice and at once the anxious look disappeared. Or at least he attempted to hide it behind what Lily would grudgingly admit was a decent mask.

After taking a few seconds to assess her, he walked slowly toward her, white cape grazing the floor, his expression carefully neutral. "I don't think now is a good time to be out of your rooms my lady. The king is in….a mood.'

There was a wealth of connotations to that one word and Lily had no desire to sift through them all but she knew that she needed more information.

"And what has caused this mood to….come about?" she asked, lowering her tone even more.

For a moment, it looked as if Jaime wasn't going to answer. But then his expression narrowed and he looked quickly over her shoulder and his.

"Come with me," he said in a harsh whisper and then turned on his heel and began striding down the hall in the direction of the gardens.

Lily followed him gratefully. It seemed he had a location in mind which would lessen the chance of there being other ears.

When Jaime led her through the shrubs to the godswood that only she herself had ever entered, Lily breathed a sigh of relief.

No one would hear them here.

She threw up a few silent silencing charms for good measure.

She waited until they were fully amongst the trees before rounding on Lannister. "Well?"

The blonde raked a hand through his hair, sending the locks flopping onto his forehead. It was the most frazzled that she had ever seen him and if Lily hadn't been concerned before, she was well on her way to alarmed now.

"It seems word of Lyanna Stark's disappearance has reached all members of her family."

He was being deliberately cryptic and it made Lily want to scream.

But then she thought about what he had said, coupled with his assertion of the king's mood earlier…and froze.

"And am I correct in assuming that certain members of those family have come to the capital?" she asked, barely moving her lips.

Jaime's face spasmed and though it wasn't her first indication that things were bad, it was the most telling.

"Who is it?" she asked.

He looked around carefully as if he were expecting them to be discovered at any moment and then fixed her with resigned green eyes. "Brandon Stark."

Lily was very glad that she was standing next to a sturdy tree trunk or else she might very well have fallen.

A tiny wintry smile crossed the knight's face. "You mirror the expressions of many my lady at the Stark heir's audacity. He appeared at court no more than an hour ago, demanding a dual between himself and the crown prince, along with the release of his sister. Needless to say….the king did not heed those demands and not merely because his son is not here."

Lily pressed two fingers to her temple. She felt faint. Too many thoughts were swirling through her head at the utter stupidity of everyone involved in this Merlin accursed plot!

"And what….exactly….has been done with the Stark heir?" she asked in a low voice.

Her expression must have been a fearsome one for Lannister took a half step backward before regaining his footing. "He has been taken to the Black Cells my lady. A raven has been sent to Lord Stark to come and plead for his son's life."

Lily barked out a laugh and the bitterness of it surprised both. "As if Brandon Stark will last that long. It will take weeks for Lord Stark to get here and deal with his son's carelessness. And my sister is to marry this incompetent fool?"

A light went on in the young knight's eyes. "I had forgotten that he was to be your good brother."

Lily barely spared him a glance. "What of it? His antics have long preceded him and now he has placed one foot in a trap that he cannot draw it back from. Are all Starks this inane?"

She didn't of course mean Ned and though she had never met her future goodbrother's father, she was certain that he possessed more sense.

Jaime looked wary. "Lady Lilian…do you intend to do something?"

Lily raised an eyebrow at him. "Do something? Just what exactly can I do Ser? I am little more than a child and from your own mouth you have posited to me the king's disposition. I would be foolish to try to attempt anything."

Lannister only looked slightly mollified. "Yes, I suppose you wouldn't."

Lily barely registered that his words sounded less like an affirmation and more like suspicion.

Ω

He was incorrect of course.

Lannister's question had never been given an answer and Lily would never give him one verbally.

He did not need it after all.

Out of all the Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister was the only one who seemed to see her. Perhaps that was because of their similar age or the fact that his prideful façade did indeed hide a sharp mind.

Whatever the case, his suspicion would bear watching.

And that was why Lily waited a full day before slipping unseen into the Black Cells in search of her sister's wayward betrothed.

The time had not cooled her rage, nor had telling the truth to Elia. The princess had insisted that the Stark heir be freed, a sentiment that Lily wholeheartedly agreed with, no matter how idiotic the man in question was.

Elia's concern went well beyond Stark's welfare however and Lily knew why. Clearly the news of Lyanna Stark's disappearance had gone well beyond the standard circle of damage control.

Too many people now knew, and they were floundering.

Lily could see from the dullness in her friend's eyes when she spoke of Rhaegar that she had stopped caring about whether or not he was found or even of his welfare, but a fire seemed to light in her eyes when she looked at her daughters. They were the only two that mattered anymore and she would clearly do anything to keep them safe.

If that meant stopping a conflict that their father had started regardless of how she felt about the man so that it wouldn't affect their futures….well then so be it.

And Lily felt similarly.

That entire plan would begin with her freeing her utterly lunatic soon to be brother in law from the Black Cells.

As she pressed the edge of her cloak to her nose and continued her descent, Lily wasn't sure what she was more fearful of, the future, or seeing Brandon Stark again.

She had hoped to avoid him for all time after the disaster of their last meeting but clearly that was not to be now.

For a moment she considered disguising herself somehow so that he wouldn't recognize her, but then shook off the thought a moment later. At some point he would learn of her magic now that practically her entire family knew.

She crept silently along the dark and stinking passageway, one hand pressing the edge of her cloak to her nose and the other using a faint lumos charm to see.

Lily was entirely too thankful that for the present, the Black Cells were empty. Aerys it seemed, was not so enraged that he had taken to throwing random persons down here for no reason other than their being visible to him.

Yet.

She was not so naïve that she didn't think that wouldn't happen.

Hopefully Brandon Stark would be well away and she could focus on minimizing even more of the damage that his wayward sister had done.

A noise of frustration slipped from between her teeth as Lily hurried along and she clenched her jaw.

All of this…..every bit of it came back to Lyanna Stark.

Lily was going to throttle that girl if she ever had the misfortune of seeing her again.

A dry chuckle from several cells away jerked Lily back to the present and she quickened her step. "Here for more insults you pretentious dog? I would be quite willing to tell your king just what I think of him had you not whisked me off here like the cowards you all are!"

Lily released and enormous breath and stopped in front of the cell, letting her hood down. "I should think that you need to count yourself fortunate that you have not been able to tell the king what you think of him. Would you rather be in here or a pile of charred bones on the throne room floor?"

It was almost worth the trip to see the unadulterated shock in Brandon Stark's face when he caught sight of her.

The Cells hadn't done very much damage to him yet. He was still wearing his ornate clothing complete with grey cape and tall boots. The cot he was sitting on had certainly seen better days however.

The way his grey eyes widened at the sight of her however seemed to mean that he felt his day was now looking up.

"Lady Lilian?"

She hated the way that his words rose when he uttered her name. She placed her hands on her hips. "Don't look so surprised to see me, you knew that I was here."

He scrambled off the cot and lunged for the bars, gripping them tightly. "Well yes I remembered in passing but I didn't know if you would come or if –"

Lily fixed him with a glare. "I see, you think me so dishonorable that I would leave my sister's betrothed to die here despite how much I dislike you."

Brandon had the good grace to look slightly abashed. "I understand your anger my lady but –"

"You understand nothing!" Lily hissed. She waved her hand and the door to the cell swung outward with a squeal. "But now is not the time to continue discussing your ignorance, we'll be here for days. Follow me."

"Where are we going?" Brandon asked as he hastily exited the cell.

"Have you forgotten where you are?" Lily asked incredulously. "You are awaiting a trial for your supposed crimes. Your father has been sent for, but he must never arrive for you must not be here."

"What are you talking about?"

Lily whirled on him after they had gone no more than a few paces from the cell door. "You are to stand trial before the king you fool! On what trumped up charges he will bring, I do not know and I have no desire to know. The best thing for all is to have you miles away from the capital before your lord father can even mount his horse! Now are you coming or not!?"

Brandon planted his feet and folded his arms across his chest, somehow having the audacity to look determined. "I'm not leaving here until I find out where my sister is and what happened to her."

Lily released an explosive breath and turned back around. She strode back up to him until she was staring up into his face, hating all the while how tall he was. "Do you want to know the truth?"

He nodded.

"Your sister isn't here," Lily said savagely. "Neither is the prince. They have absconded somewhere together and no one knows their location, but somehow I don't think you're the only one who's looking."

In the dim lighting of the lumos charm, Lily could see the moment when all the blood drained from Stark's face. She felt a savage amount of satisfaction at the sight of it.

"No," he fairly stumbled back a step as the word tore out of him. "No, she wouldn't."

"Did you see her at Harrenhal?" Lily asked taking a step closer. There was a part of her that knew she was being cruel but she couldn't help it. "Did you hear how she talked about her betrothed? How much she hated him, how much she wished she could change things? How excited she was when the prince handed her the crown that should have been for his wife? Because I did. I heard and saw all of it."

Brandon swallowed hard. "You don't know my sister like I do. You think that she would –"

But Lily had lost her patience at this point.

She lunged forward and seized the Stark heir by the arm, dragging him forward and she blazed a trail back through the dungeons. "You can bluster and pontificate all you want but the truth of the matter is, you know what I can do, at least in part. You know that my abilities make it so that I can learn things and do things faster than others can. What possible reason could I have for lying about something so serious? Something that very nearly cost you your life and could start a war?"

Mercifully, Brandon remained silent as he allowed Lily to drag him along. She hoped he was thinking about all that she had said.

Once they reached the top of the stairs, she turned back to him and slapped her other hand down on his arm. "Hold still."

"What are you –"

"Hush you fool, I'm getting you out of here because the last thing this realm needs is a war because of two people's idiocy."

She muttered the words to the spell that would disguise and nodded in satisfaction as she felt the magic take hold.

Without giving him a chance to process the new sensations, Lily guided the door to the cells open and yanked Brandon through.

He fell after her with a startled oath and then slapped a hand over his mouth that made Lily chuckle in spite of herself. "You don't have to look so startled. They will neither see us nor hear us. But I would rather not linger so if you don't mind?"

She gestured to the hallway ahead of them and hurried off without waiting to see if he was following.

The red head led them on a mad chase through the hallways that were thankfully empty and once they were out into the gardens, she was able to breathe easier.

"Have they taken your horse to the stables?" she asked over her shoulder, not even bothering to look back at him before she answered her own question. "Never mind, it doesn't matter. Any horse will do."

"Lily wait."

He reached forward and seized her arm, halting her from where she was striding forward like a knight toward a battle. That proved to be the wrong move because she wrenched her arm away from him like she had shocked. "What is it Lord Stark?"

He stepped around in front of her and Lily kept her gaze firmly on the tree behind his right shoulder than rather than focusing on his face.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked softly and Lily flinched as if he had struck her. "Have you gone deaf as well as taken leave of your senses? I am trying to prevent a war that will hurt everyone in this realm, a war that your sister and the crown prince might have already started."

His grey eyes narrowed at her. "You don't know that –"

With nothing more than a thought, the crown of flowers was in Lily's hand. She didn't even realize that she had summoned it until she felt the dried petals crunch under fingers and smelt the near stale fragrance.

She held it up in front of both of them, finally holding Brandon's gaze, watching with savage satisfaction when she saw his eyes go wide. "How do you have –"

"I went looking for it," she said through clenched teeth. "Do you think that there is anywhere in this realm that I cannot go because of who I am? I went to Storm's End, I went looking for clues, hoping that I wouldn't find something that would break by closest friend's heart for the final time. And I found this."

She shook the flowers in front of them and the petals rattled slightly in the breeze. "Why would she have kept them if the encounter meant nothing? Why was it hidden away in a drawer as if it was a precious keepsake that she loved? Why did it mean anything at all?!"

Brandon's face at this point was a horrible ashy grey and Lily was certain the truth was now sweeping over him. She felt a momentary stab of guilt that she had been the one to rip the blindfold off his idealistic eyes but it was done.

"If this is true," he said in a shaky voice. "Then I fear that war will have already come to the seven kingdoms."

"Not unless she is found and found quickly," Lily said tersely. She seized Stark's arm and began to pull him toward the stables. He needed to leave and fast, before anyone discovered him missing and sounded an alarm. She could only protect him for so long.

"And that is what you must do," she continued as they finally came within sight of the stables. "You need to take your best men and find her. Find her before anymore alarm bells are raised. Find her before Robert Baratheon sounds the horns of war because he is pawing at the earth even now. Find her, before all of the seven hells break loose on Westeros and we're all submerged."

She dragged him into the stables and seized the first horse her eyes lit upon. "It will take too long to go back north. Either go to the Eyrie, or go back to Riverrun. My family, or your brother and Lord Arryn may be of some help to you. But you must go….now."

Brandon nodded. His face had begun to return to his normal color, enough that his hands didn't shake as he reached for the horse's reins.

Prior to mounting however, he stopped and turned back to her. Before Lily had managed to register who was happening, he had lunged forward and pulled her into his arms.

The red head went as stiff as a board as Brandon's arms engulfed her. "Stark….what are you doing?"

"Thanking my rescuer," his voice sounded close to her ear and Lily leaned away from it slightly. "Is that not allowed?"

"It depends on the manner of that gratitude," she said harshly and then began to shove at him. "Now enough you fool. You need to leave."

Finally Brandon let go and Lily was relieved. She hadn't known what to do with his flirting before and she certainly knew less about what to do with his gratitude now.

She watched him get on the horse, and take hold of the reins, urging the steed into the courtyard. Lily knew she would keep up the spell until he had passed through the keep's doors.

Before leaving however, he turned back to look at her one last time. The look in his eyes floored her.

There was a softness there, a tenderness that shouldn't have been present and yet could not be wiped away. But it was the longing that stunned Lily. He barely knew her, he didn't have the right to look like that.

"You are indescribable, Lilian Tully," he said in a soft voice that she somehow managed to still hear. "I certainly hope that Lord Elbert knows what a treasure he has."

And then, without giving her a chance to respond, he dug his heels into the horse's sides and sprang forward, away from the keep and her.

Lily watched until he was out of sight before releasing the spell cloaking him. As she did so, a stiff wind began to blow causing her to shiver.
She couldn't shake the feeling that this would be the last time she would ever see him.

Ω

So I'm not going to talk about every aspect of the war. That would take far too long and I really am anxious to get to the Lily and Robert part. So I figured I would highlight specific moments throughout it. We've obviously gone fully AU at this point as Brandon Stark was supposed to die in King's Landing. War is still happening though because kidnapped or not, the Starks and Robert still want Lyanna back. That's it for now, don't forget to review!