Chapter Eight

Jaime didn't know why Tyrion was so upset with him. Cersei was as well but her ire was easy enough to explain; she took offense at his busy schedule of practice jousts and how little time that left them together. To his knowledge, she still hadn't taken another man to bed though he kept his eyes and ears open to the possibility. In doing so and particularly while seeking out men that beared a passing resemblance to himself, Jaime found, to his surprise, that there were a great many men clad in Lannister colors in the Red Keep. For every guard dressed in the black-and-gold of the royal family was another two dressed in Westerlands armor and marching with a lion on their chestplate. It was a little unnerving to see just how many men his twin could potentially replace him with.

Most of these men Jaime knew passingly from his time before joining the Kingsguard but it was with surprise and sincere pleasure, for he hadn't known how lacking he was for company when neither of his siblings sought him out, that the knight greeted one. Lord Addam Marbrand had been a fellow squire at Casterly Rock. "Addam! How are you?"

"Jaime?" The copper-haired knight broke out into a smile and returned his one-armed hug. "I'm well, old friend. Here to take that gilded armor of yours for ransom and earn myself coin sending it back."

"I hope you don't have any plans for that gold for you're as likely to win it as a whore would a tip from a miserly Westerling," Jaime teased. "Have you brought your better half here with you?"

"No, Ryla chose to stay behind with the babes," Addam answered good-naturedly. "Never had a taste for court, you know."

'She didn't visit the Rock all that often when the royal court was there either,' Jaime remembered. "Shame. It's been too long since I could share my sympathies for being stuck with a lug like you."

"At least I have a favor to remember her by." The Heir to Ashemark proudly gestured to the bronze handkerchief tied around the hilt of his lance with the burning tree of his crest crookedly stitched on. "With the work of the two most beautiful ladies in the realm pushing me on, I'm certain to win. Ryla did most of it but my own little Lisanna helped."

The blonde knight nodded. "Yes, very good work for a girl of… five namedays?"

"Six," Addam smirked. "Should I assume that my childhood friend forgot my daughter's years or that you've taken one too many blows to the head in these tilts?"

"I've just arrived from a war, man, show some mercy!"

"Certainly. I have nothing but pity for the man that has to watch the king fuck his whores all day. Did you get a favor of your own or will you have to beg one off your squire again?"

"I was five-and-ten then, Addam," Jaime replied exasperated. "You have to let that go. Do I remind people of that time you were convinced your House stood at the precipice of the Old Gods and the Fire One and tried declare yourself priest of Old R'hllor?"

"I was drunk and my sigil made so much more sense then." Addam groaned before turning their talk to the other competitors they would face today, hoping to tease out a few hints from Jaime's greater familiarity with them. The blonde knight cheerfully lied his ass off and was midway done with a soliloquy on the martial prowess of a man that couldn't ride his way out of the rings with a sword to cut his way through when the trumpet blew. They'd have to prepare for the first bout. His hand instinctively reached to his trouser pocket to remove the cooled wax that would keep his ears safe when he withdrew instead a scrap of fabric.

The bastard's handkerchief. Jaime had forgotten he carried it around with him most days. Sky blue and carefully embroidered with lingonberries and skylarks, it honestly clashed awfully with his crimson and gold armor. He couldn't help the small upturn of his lips anyway or tucking the handkerchief into his tunic pocket instead, right above his heart, where it would be covered by his breastplate. He could hardly carry another favor so publicly with Cersei watching him.

When he looked back up, it was to curious hazel eyes. "Is that your favor then?"

"I suppose so," Jaime shrugged, affecting a casual demeanor as looked to the crowds. "Ready?"

Addam dropped the subject but the whisper of sparks across the back of his neck spoke of that puzzled gaze still focused on him. He didn't know what had elicited such interest but Jaime didn't care for it as he rode into the tourney field. The knight looked up to the crowds. Fervent smallfolk, they had always loved a good and bloody match, were marching to their seats while the noble boxes were overfull with people in a medley of colors. The centerpiece had his royal goodbrother, sweating in his silks but eager for the matches to begin, even if he was too fat and slow to ride himself any more. His sister took her throne beside her husband, perfectly golden and distant from everyone in the world. She offered a tiny smile to him and Jaime returned it, for all that his heart twinged in guilt. To which lady, he could not say.

As the day wore on, any enthusiasm that the lion knight had slowly dripped away. He did well on the matches, progressing one bout after another with that scrap of fabric burning a hole against his chest. Jaime wondered if anyone knew about the conflict inside of him as he rode on? Addam progressed too, neither ashamed of nor hiding away his favor as Jaime was his own and perhaps he did derive some strength from its presence. Soon it was between the two Westerlander knights to win the tourney and as Jaime looked at his friend from across the field, mere slits in the helm revealing that bronze and copper detail, he suddenly had the thought that his snow spirit would find all this silly.

'Why do you Southrons want to play at war?' The dark-haired girl had huffed when he explained the tourney system to her. At the reminder, Jaime let his own body fall lax, deciding that little Lisanna's efforts on her father's favor couldn't fall to waste. A second later and there was a sharp pain against his gut as he flew backwards in the air and had to tuck and roll out of White Knife's way.

The blonde knight recovered his feet a moment later and denied any assistance as he limped his way to the sidelines. As the victor, Addam looked nothing but surprised as a crown of yellow and red roses landed in his hands. As neither his wife nor daughter were in the audience, he awarded it to the highest-ranked lady in the audience as was only proper. Cersei accepted it with dignity, a sincere smile playing at her painted lips as she was chosen the Queen of Love and Beauty.

'In the end, she'll be happy as long as she gets her crown.'


It was with the brisk footsteps of a lady with places to be and things to do that Lyarra traversed the cobblestone paths of Winter Town's sole market square. In truth there was nowhere that she had to be and nothing that she needed to do but the dark-haired bastard did like walking this way. It made her feel Important. Father always walked this way when he was out in the village and while she secretly suspected it was to keep from talking to any people, it also made him look Important.

Robb tragically did not understand the importance of looking Important and therefore, trudged his footsteps until they walked at a normal pace whenever they visited the market together. He couldn't come today though because Winterfell had a rare perfectly sunny day yesterday and that meant all of her half-siblings were busy counting their freckles. Lyarra, whose near-translucent pale skin neither burned nor tanned nor stained, had taken Jory and left to town to avoid Lady Stark's dirty looks for the day. She'd return in time for supper but since she had her allowance for the sennight and Father had generously broken down one of the ludicrous coins Ser Jaime's brother had given her into smaller currency, Lyarra decided to indulge.

Two maple sticks of candy later and Jory stopped complaining overmuch about all of the heavy wrapped packages he was forced to bear.

"How am I supposed to defend you if I'm worked like a glorified pack mule?"

"You don't need to defend me," was Lyarra's absent-minded reply, as she took a closer look at the wicker polish on sale. After some consideration, she decided to buy it. The wicker baskets in her room were soon to fall apart and since House Reed's shipment would arrive in another moon or so, she could buy enough reeds to make herself a few new ones or repair her existing two. "I'm a bastard."

"That doesn't mean Lord Stark won't ransom your return," Jory argued, grunting as that oilcloth jar was added to his arms. "You're costing your father a fortune."

"I'd cost five silvers at most." Lyarra argued, "You're just trying to get out of your rightful work."

Her guard opened his mouth to dispute this, to which the dark-haired bastard swiftly responded by shoving another maple candy into his mouth. The sticky sweet would keep his teeth shut for awhile, by which he'd have forgotten why he was upset with her in the first place. She had a pouchful of them by her side and was inspired by Lady Stark's deft handling of Arya's tantrums by them. It was times like this that she truly admired her father's wife's brilliance. If only she had thought of this when Jaime Lannister was here!

'Then again, knowing Ser Jaime, he'd likely as not sit down and demand to be fed every piece I had.'

She dismissed her brief thought of her odd Southron friend and headed to the next stall in the square. This one had bolts of fabric and while Lyarra wasn't as enamored of fashion as her middle sister, she did take a moment to appreciate the glossy silk and well-woven cotton on display. Her hand brushed over a sunshine yellow bolt that felt smooth and dry under her fingertips.

"An excellent choice, Lady Snow," the merchant enthused, taking in her Northern features, fine gown and accompanied pack mule and attributing them to Ned Stark's bastard daughter. "May I say though that these muted colors-" and here he gestured to darker forest greens and understated indigos, "Would show off that minute glow in your skin marvelously?"

"I'm really just looking," Lyarra stated, her sole protest as additional cloths were shown off to her. When the merchant offered to bring out a better collection from the back of his store, lumber and stone preferable in the Northern cold than the easily assembled wooden stalls of the South, she hesitated a bit but eventually nodded. Many of these bolts were lovely and she was almost nine namedays old now…

"Jory, do you think I'm old enough to start working on my trousseau?"

The brunette guard appointed to her protection looked like a startled doe caught before a hunter's arrow at such a question. "No matter how I answer, Lyarra, I will be disappointing one wolf."

The dark-haired girl rolled her eyes. "I won't tell my father."

"He'll know," Jory spoke solemnly. "Fathers always do."

Deciding that was a positive so far as her question went, Lyarra returned to her perusal of the cloth. The merchant had overheard the exchange and looked quite content to be showing her around his many wares, knowing that the lack of competition in the market here meant he would be the beneficiary of most if not all of her purchases. While the dark-haired girl intended to stock up on her next trip to White Harbor, she did eventually settle on four yards of indigo fabric, six of dove grey, two of that sunshine yellow cotton that could be turned into an airy blouse and, after some consideration, five yards of a bright red cotton.

'If I'm preparing a trousseau for marriage, I ought to work on it in full,' Lyarra determined, admiring the cloth briefly before it too was folded up in reed leaves and handed to Jory. Taking pity on her guard, she took a few of the packages herself and marched back to the castle, mind spinning with all of the possibilities for her work. 'I'll wed in the North, of course, and it'll be years till Father demands anything of me, so I have plenty of time for my preparations. I'll need cloaks, gowns, scarves, gloves and all of the other trappings of my wardrobe. Tapestries, curtains and rugs to decorate my home and maybe a few furniture pieces? I can commission bookshelves from the woodcutter in the Wolfswood and make vials of ink to write my own scrolls.'

The North didn't necessarily appreciate an educated highborn lady, not as Dorne did with their famous insistence on recording any transactions in their land but Lyarra had hopes for a husband that appreciated her cleverness regardless. Just because most of the realm was indifferent doesn't mean every man there would be, right? She was bound to find one that could esteem her bookish self.

'If I cannot find even that, then I will simply refuse to marry at all. Robb needs someone to throw away all his silly hair pastes anyway.'

The bastard blamed Jaime Lannister for this. Those flowing golden locks of his evidently gave her brother dangerous ideas where acceptable standards of hygiene were. The infamous knight of the Kingsguard could get away with looking like a Southron Ponce but the Stark Heir could not.


Tyrion mustered up a tired smile as his brother clasped his shoulder in goodbye. If his older brother had to bend his knees a bit to do so, well, he didn't draw attention to it and Tyrion appreciated that. The dwarf contemplated his actions before swiftly pressing his latest scroll from Ned Stark's bastard to his brother's hand. While he inwardly cringed over being unable to read it himself, Tyrion had made a personal request to the lady that she write in larger letters and use changing inks. No doubt she considered him an eccentric but with the rates he paid, it didn't matter. Lyarra Snow had done so.

Jaime's expression brightened briefly when he saw the familiar writing on the scroll and that made Tyrion feel much better about his decision to continue his plans. They would need altering no doubt and allowances would have to be made for the fact that one party was essentially a child but… Jaime had smiled. His brother rarely smiled truly and each occurrence that he'd do so was to be treasured. He'd also never shown any inclination to a female that wasn't his twin before and while it was unfortunate that this lady hadn't even flowered yet, Tyrion would make do. He always did.

'This may even be for the best,' the dwarf thought optimistically, using a step stool to climb into the wheelhouse. 'Jaime will need more time to accept that someone can come before Cersei in his life.'

It was a shame that he'd have to leave the Red Keep but his father's patience with his bane publicly walking the halls of court had run out. Neither would Cersei tolerate his presence any longer, though Tyrion inwardly cackled in glee that his sister was slowly- glacially almost- being replaced in Jaime's heart by a Northern bastard girl that hadn't even reached her ninth nameday yet! It was a delightful mirror, having lost her chosen husband, Rhaegar, to Lyanna Stark and then her most devoted lover, Jaime, to the she-wolf's niece. Tyrion couldn't wait until his sister learnt the full truth of it.

That would come in time though. He was embarrassed to admit that for a brief moment, all of two minutes worth, he'd been horrified by the assumption that his brother had… strange inclinations towards children. Tyrion could excuse almost any sin in his beloved older brother but that demanded an allowance of faith that not even he could muster. Than his mind had reasserted itself and reminded him that Jaime had never shown any interest in a child before or a woman or frankly anyone. The dwarf would have even accepted fighting the king's youngest brother for the ridiculous Knight of Flowers had that dragged Jaime away from his poisonous half. Everything else considering, that Jaime had a non-romantic fascination with a bastard girl was perfectly acceptable.

'All I have to do is keep repeating that until I believe it,' Tyrion decided as he settled into his plush cushions. He was all set to crack open a book when he became aware of another man sitting across from him. "Ser Addam?"

"Lord Tyrion," was the curt, if polite, nod that he received in return. In explanation, the Westerlander knight added. "My ribs were bruised awfully in the tourney and I felt riding a wheelhouse home would be easier."

"Of course. Let's dismiss all these amicable half-truths and land on the true reason for why you're here, shall we?" Tyrion waved his book around. "I have other subjects that require my attention and we both know that you're as prideful as my brother. Neither of you would accept a wheelhouse instead of a corsair unless you were on the verge of death. And even then, you'd insist that you were merely obeying your wife's dictates out of concern for her emotional well-being."

Addam Marbrand looked offended by this entirely accurate account of his nature but Tyrion was frazzled enough from half a day's packing to sharply request through a gesture that the other man speak. When he did so, it was a question the dwarf was startled enough to actually give thought to. "Do you know where Jaime got that handkerchief from?"

"Which one?" Tyrion asked innocently.

Marbrand sent him a chiding look, unamused and deeply inquisitive if his eyes were anything to follow. "The light blue one with the bird and the flowers and vines? The one he checks repeatedly when he thinks no one's looking?"

"Oh, that one," the dwarf said with exaggerated realization. He flashed a toothy smile at his brother's friend and now wary lord's heir. "A lady he deeply admires."

At the man's expectant stare, Tyrion decided on his next step. He would lay the foundation and Jaime would build it up to a keep worthy of the lady he chose. Not that he could afford many details revealed but those that were would be disassembled in-depth by lords such as these. Addam Marbrand rarely visited the court but he had clout aplenty in the Westerlands and was well-liked by many of his father's bannermen. He was the sort of man that others liked to follow.

"I will not tell you of her name for I do not know it," Tyrion lied. "But I know my brother met a dark-haired maiden recently that has captured his fascination unlike anyone else. I inform you this in confidence-" Tell your wife, she'll spread it everywhere. "-but it is a one-sided affection. Mostly because my brother's method of pitching woo is to stare longingly at her from afar and considering his naturally disdainful expression? She thinks him secretly disapproving of her from afar."

Addam winced. "Poor Jaime."

"Eh, he'd have to learn someday that a pretty face doesn't guarantee all maidens would swoon at his feet, right?"

This brought out a huff of laughter. "He doesn't know how to court the lady?"

"As a Kingsguard member, he cannot exactly do so," Tyrion pointed out. "He has spoken of her to me though. She is a scholarly woman with a love for children and, these are Jaime's direct words, 'eyes that should be banished from any part of the Seven Realms'."

The copper-haired knight blinked. "Are they so unsettling?"

The dwarf snorted. "They upbraid him often enough but that may be because they're too lovely for Jaime to accustom himself to. Unfortunately that's all I know."

"I see," Addam Marbrand looked contemplative. "I've much to think of, Lord Tyrion. Thank you."