Deliquescence

Prologue

He never thought he would see this barren wasteland of a kingdom again. The great stone walls rose grim above a foundation of frozen ground and served as home to the so-called Kings of Winter in ages past. The shackles were cold against his wrist and ankles and snowflakes stuck to his long blond locks. The dungeons in King's Landing, unfortunately, did not include the services of a proper barber.

Years ago, he had ridden through these walls at the head of a royal march. His sister and children sat quietly and safely in a carriage behind him, followed by the rotund king on a mount that barely supported his weight. Jaime's own armor glistened in the northern sun and when he took off his helm, the whistle of the winds in his ear sent chills down his spine. He wanted to turn around and gallop as far from Winterfell as he could that day. It was a strange feeling, the way the wind trapped him in its own design in the midst of the great expanse of the North.

Yet now, in chains, Winterfell was his last option before the Queen's justice. Her dragons were not as merciful or swift as Ser Ilyn's blade. In the darkness of the dungeons in King's Landing, he could still hear the screams of the red cloaks set ablaze and mutilitated at the Battle for Harrenhal, the outcome of which forced the remaining lords to bend their knees to the return of the old bloodline.

And of his own bloodline, the proud lions of Lannister, the former wardens of the West, he was the sole survivor.

The cart creaked to a stop before yet another indistinguishable stone wall, Jaime noted, and his escort unlocked the door. He was uninterested in all the goings-on around him - the children who had gathered to see the fallen knight, the adults for whom a taste of hatred for Southerners still lingered on their tongues - and remained in his private jail cell of the past moon, his back resting against the wooden bars that he could once easily break open.

"Out with ya, Kingslayer." He heard the coarse voice of the guard and felt his hands pull at the bare threads that covered his body, but paid him no mind. "I said out-"

"Enough." A song of a voice cut through the loud winds and the rough hands on his forearms loosened their grips. "I will have the keys, please."

She crawled into the mobile cell with him, the smell of urine and sweat soaking through the knees of her blue dress. From the periphery of his vision, he could see strands of red hair, bright as the red of his house against the midday sun, and a coal black key in lily white hands. The locks gave way with a 'click' and she was gone with a quick order to a steward. "Escort him to the stables and show him his duties. Gently, if you please."

"My Lady, I fear for your safety-"

"Your concern warms my heart, ser, but I am a Stark in Winterfell and am in possession of all my limbs." With that, the woman who had granted Jaime Lannister his life and freedom returned to her castle without a backward glance.

Lady Sansa of House Stark had seventeen years now, and commanded the lords of the north with her nimble, seamstress hands. He couldn't help but notice just how much her hair reminded him of her mother, one of few women in the world who had ever gotten the best of him. Even as a girl, she always had a nice figure. For the first time in a long time, Jaime drank in the shape of a woman against the falling snow as though it were a glass of fine-

"Hurry it along, Kingslayer." He fell forward from the sharp shove of his captor, but with a grace that only came from members of affluence, he rose and brushed the dirt from the cotton of his sleeves.

Northerners never did have a sense of romance.