A/N: This is the ENNNNNDD!
Let me first say how thankful I am to all my readers and reviewers. Near the end of this story I lost my way a bit and life sort of happened but thank you for sticking with me and for all the positive AND negative feedback. Every little bit helps. It's been a pleasure. I hope to see you soon and don't forget to let me know how you liked it. Now, on with the show!
The wind rushed across the long grass and swept her hair about her head and across her brow. It was a beautiful day for a tourney, Arya thought, as she stared out over Shipbreaker Bay. There were beautiful gray and blue clouds cluttering the sky before her and strong winds, tinged with salt, rushing off the sea and up the rock face to sweep over the encampments and rebound harmlessly off the stalwart walls of Storm's End. She brushed her hair out of her eyes and breathed in the sea salt air. It was cooler than the winds off the coast of Braavos, but it tasted the same on her tongue. A fortnight ago she received a raven from Bran, sent on the eve of their leaving for the Kingsroad and heading to Storm's End for the tourney. They arrived last night. His letter, sent with a white raven, spoke of the fresh, thick winter snows and the boundless white of the North. He described how sky and land all blurred together to paint and endless sea of swirling snow and Arya cried.
She missed the snow.
They'd trudged through it to and from Sansa's wedding but she hadn't seen a speck of it in Braavos and she'd left Westeros before anything but a light flurry had touched the Neck. She wasn't likely to see a more than a snow tinged gale in Storm's End either. The Storm Land's were in the alley of the South between the hot and sticky mountains of the Dornish Marches and the cooler, drier Reach. It was often warm and wet in the summer, explained Maester Allo to her when she arrived, and cool and wet in the winter but no where near the frigid cold of the North or the oppressive heat of Dorne or Braavos. At the time he had been surveying her impressive array of thick Northern clothes she'd brought from Winterfell and the few thin, airy garments she'd brought with her from her time across the Narrow Sea-none of which he seemed to deem fit for her time as a Lady of the Storm Lands.
"My lady, shouldn't you be in the castle, preparing for the tourney and arguing with my nephew?"
Arya swung her eyes and torso from the sight of the bay and back towards the voice that called out to her.
"Yet you're out here, in training leathers?"
"I like the view, and I was training with Ser Jaime earlier this morning."
"My brother does get up early, earlier than I ever did. I'm convinced it was all that time he spent in the Kingsguard before Robert took the throne-Aerys was an early riser as well. No rest for the wicked, I suppose." Arya didn't respond, she just turned back to the sea and let the Imp come up to stand beside her. "You look like Jon in those leathers, although you appear to be getting more use out of yours than he is as of late. What is that?"
He gestured to her stained jerkin with a sweep of his hand. Arya looked down at herself, admiring the smudges and smears, all in variations of brown, green, and black, before turning to him.
"Mostly mud and blood I think," she paused and pointed to a smudge of brown near her collar, "but this ones Meereenese chocolate I think." She laughed.
"We'll make a lady out of you yet, Arya Stark."
"Not bloody likely," she replied with a smile. "You always call Gendry your nephew, why?"
Tyrion looked at Arya for a long time before answering. So long she wasn't sure he would answer at all. "Robert was my good-brother, even if my sweet sister and he didn't share any children. Gendry was his son and that boy needs a father. It's unlikely any of the Baratheon men are going to climb from their graves so he'll have to do with two incomplete uncles. I figure together we're worth at least one decent man."
"He likes you and Ser Jaime, you're good men."
"Well, he is a good man, he's what Robert should have been."
"But wasn't," she finished for him.
"No, he wasn't." Arya looked away from the mismatched eyes of Tyrion Lannister and back out to the sea. "Why not?"
"For many reasons, none of which are a good excuse for the way he ruled, my sister was one of them, maybe Jaime, maybe me." He looked at the ground before fixing his eyes on her face again at last. Tyrion brought fingers to her wrist and lifted her hand to his lips. "Gendry won't be Robert, don't fear that my Lady."
"I'm not afraid."
"Of course you're not. So, can we expect to see you in the melee, my Lady?"
She turned to him with a smirk, "I wouldn't tell you if I was."
"Wise decision. Can I escort you back to the castle, my Lady."
She only turned and began striding in the direction of Storm's End. The castle stood high over the many tents that lay between her and the gates. The gray stone of the walls looked pale compared to the bright silks of the banners and flags that flapped in the wind-the golden stag and grey direwolf of houses Stark and Baratheon flew highest of them all on the ramparts of Storm's End. The rest flew beneath. The white stags, the black nightingales, the great horned owls and the battling swans from the Stormlands-there were flocks of ravens and fish of all types, red salmon, and crowned catfish, from the Riverlands. Arya's eyes lingered on the crowned dragons of house Targaryan and the golden lions of Lannister but there were so many others, eagles and bears, beetles and dogs. Arya even saw a sea lion. All snapping in the strong gales that swept up from the bay-a veritable den of beasts sewn in silk, splattered with mud, baring their teeth. All come to honor the new Lord and Lady of Storm's End.
When she reached the gate Arya tilted her head up to the mid-morning sky to observe the blue clouds, fat with rain, hanging over the tourney grounds. Tyrion was beside her, she'd slowed her pace so as not to strain him. Her guards, which had hung back surreptitiously as she admired the bay earlier, moved ahead of her to clear their way back to the castle and then gathered in a semi-circle around her. The guard was a necessary annoyance that she didn't mind as much as she thought she would. Her sister had offered for her to take some men from Winterfell with her to Storm's End if she chose. She took two of the dozen or so that volunteered, one of those being Harwin. He's protected her to the best of his ability when she was with the Brotherhood and he had returned to Winterfell and fought beside Jon during the Long Night and after the Burning.
"Harwin, would you inform Gendry that I'll meet with him at the start of the tourney, I have…something to take care of first. Harwin nodded and went on his way. Once Arya and Tyrion were safely inside the castle walls she dismissed her guard and told Tyrion she would see him at the tourney.
"You will indeed. Your Lord Gendry has, I think on the insistence of my dear brother, asked if I would honor him by speaking at his tourney."
"You're going to Herald?"
"Gods no, I'm not nearly tall enough. I'm just there to assist in Lord Gendry not making a fool of himself before court and the smallfolk."
"He wouldn't," Arya started but Tyrion raised his hand.
"I know he wouldn't, but he doesn't yet. He'll become more confident, give the boy some time." Tyrion chose this moment to bow to Arya. "My lady, I shall look for you in the box."
Arya rolled her eyes, Tyrion had better manners than Sansa but it always seemed to be almost a mockery.
He and Arya entered the central tower and parted, Tyrion headed to his chambers above the stables and Arya went in the opposite direction. She knew that many of the knights would be in the lists the knight she needed to see would go down at the last possible second to avoid close scrutiny. He was entered in the joust and that would be the last even of the day. Archery, the first event, she figured would be starting soon. That didn't leave her much time.
When Arya finally left the castle she was met with deafening cheers and cat calls from the direction of the tourney grounds. She made her way, adjusting her uncomfortable bodice as she went, towards the box where she knew her husband would be sitting.
Yellow, black, and grey banners topped the towers of the tourney grounds and snapped in the brisk winds off the bay. Arya headed straight for the open air box at the end of the grounds, it was edged in draping silks of black and grey with a bright yellow tend top on the back, protecting the occupants.
Her Lord, sat in one of two chairs, carved specifically for them. His was wide and strong, like him. It had great antlers on the back that curved for forward over his head. Beside him sat an empty chair, smaller but just as strong. It had paws for legs and a beast of a direwolf howling on the back piece. Beside the chair lounged the beast it was modeled after. Nymeria laid still, Arya told her not to move with a flick of her wrist. Tyrion, Edric, and the Dragon queen sat to Gendry's right and to the left of her chair were Sansa and Sandor Clegane. All of them were craned forward, staring intently at the melee, all but Sandor. He leaned back casually with his arms across his chest. As she crept forward she heard him mutter, "she ain't there."
Tyrion was in splendid red gold armour that Gendry had a hand in forging. He was whispering to the Dragon Queen and pointing to the field. Her violet eyes, the same color of her Essos styled dress, followed the melee rapidly. Sansa was staring at the field almost as intently as Gendry, although less obviously. Her eyes never blinked and her hands never stirred from her lap but Arya knew how Sansa's lips parted, just so, whenever she was truly focused. She looked like their mother.
Jon had offered earlier to take Rickon and Bran down to the lists to meet with the knights, which explained the few empty spaces near the back. She used these to hide herself as she crept forward. Arya made it so far into the box without notice, she snuck up between her own chair and Gendry's, swiftly she leaned forward to place her lips beside his ear.
"Looking for someone?"
Gendry stood so fast he almost knocked his chair over.
"Arya!" Sansa shouted, standing up in a flurry of motion and swirling skirts.
"Where have you been?" Gendry whispered, ignoring Sansa's outburst. His face was concerned but his voice was more strained then she expected.
Sandor leaned back and slung his arm over the back of Sansa's chair, "I told you she wasn't down there," he said gruffly.
Sansa smacked him.
There was laughter all around but Arya cut her own short when she noticed how angry Gendry looked. "Why are you so mad," she asked, plopping into her seat. "It took a really long time for me to get ready."
"Oh, is that it? You were getting ready? All through Archery, you were getting ready? While we waited for you? And then, you weren't here when the melee started. I thought you might actually be down there-fighting!" His whispers increased in volume as he spoke. "Where have you been? Where have you been really, Arya?"
"I told you, it took me a long time to get into this stupid thing." She gestured down to the dark blue dress she was wearing. It had irritating boning in the bodice and was hemmed in a delicate cream silk. She'd warned them she would get it dirty but they hadn't listened. Around her neck was a pendent, a wolf and stag in a heart fashioned from antlers. It was iron, like her Braavosi coin. It as the first thing Gendry forged at Storm's End. "Why would you think I was fighting in the melee?"
"You bloody love the melee! You think I haven't noticed how hard you have been training with Ser Jaime and Lady Brienne? The secret trips to the armory? What have you got Ser Robyn making for you? He won't tell me and I'm his Lord, Arya." He stopped and his face scrunched up, his brows knitting together and his mouth turning down. "Wait, what were you doing if you weren't trying to get ready for the melee?"
"Why aren't you in the melee?" She said, "you're better with an hammer than any of these knights are with a sword."
"Allo wouldn't let me," he replied, his voice gruff and his eyes downcast.
Arya smiled and pointed at the tourney grounds, causing him to turn his head. Everyone else in the box had already turned back to the melee to watch as a single knight finished off the remaining combatants. "Looks like you have a winner, my Lord."
The knight stepped forward and stood before the box. Gendry stood and went to the rail. He was silent. Arya starred at his back urging him to speak. Finally, to her relief, he did. "Congratulations, Brienne of Tarth. You fought valiantly." Arya knew Brienne would win, she had watched Brienne and trained with her. She was the most capable fighter Arya had ever witnessed in Westeros.
"She did indeed, well fought my Lady," Tyrion said, standing up beside Gendry.
Brienne removed her helm, "Thank you, My Lord!"
"No, thank you, we shall see you after the joust, my Lady."
The large woman nodded to the box, her short blond hair tumbling into her eyes, and walked off the tourney grounds.
Once the fallen knights from the melee were also cleared off the field a group of young men, knights, and squires flooded the field. A few sandwiches were brought into the box for the Lords and Ladies to eat as the grounds before them were transformed for the joust. Arya could hear the shouts of vendors join the cacophony as observers left their seats to find refreshment as well before the joust began. The sandwiches and Brienne's win successfully distracted Gendry from his line of questioning, that and Tyrion's running commentary on the Tourney for the Dragon Queen. Daenarys was unfamiliar with the particulars and hadn't bothered to have a Tourney in Kings Landing upon her acceptance of the Iron Throne. It's a good thing because Arya'd never really thought about what she would tell him. Truthfully, she hadn't even realized he noticed her slipping away to train and checking in with their smith.
She thought Gendry had been too busy, he'd been hard at work since they arrived learning how to be a good Lord for Storm's End. She helped as much as she could, which was fairly a lot, but Allo had done much of the training. Gendry was doing well from what she could see. The small folk loved him, all the Lords of the Storm Lands were in attendance at the Tourney and to Arya they all looked to be having a fine time. She'd heard that Gendry had done well in all councils and Arya herself saw that he knew about the land and the basic up keep of a large castle. She didn't think he'd had time to spy on her and he hadn't asked her any leading questions. In fact, she thought, he had shown more restraint than she thought possible.
Once the joust was set the final event of the tourney began. Arya had always preferred the melee to the joust but she had to admit, there was something more personal about the joust that she admired. It made her think of valor and the years before the war. Arya willed her mind to relax during the joust. She simply cheered and laughed, ate and drank with her neighbors. Gendry was not drinking too much, thankfully, but Tyrion, Daenarys and Sandor were all well in their cups by the start of the final event. The crowd grew louder as the joust continued, each fall earning another ear-deafening cheer. After some 15 matches two squires swept the field for splinters from the numerous broken lances. And when the two remaining knights entered the field, Arya held her breath.
A tall knight in dirty armour, a mystery knight, had made it through to the final match. He was jousting against a valiant and well-sat knight from the Neck, a Ser Oswin of House Cewffle. He had shiny armour, dented on the breast plate from an earlier tilt, and his lance was green with a ribbon of light blue wrapped around the length. His shield was quartered the same colors and in the right quadrant there was a willow tree.
The mystery knight, Arya noticed, had a plan black shield and a lance that was also painted black. It had no decoration save for a short blue ribbon tied to the tip, a favour. Arya's heart beat wildly as the first tilt started. It was over in a matter of seconds.
A hit for both.
The second tilt started in a matter of minutes and the mystery knight unseated Ser Oswin with an easy sweep of his lance.
The crowd roared.
Not one person remained seated, except Ser Oswin, who lay on his back for several seconds after falling from his mount and was only able to leave the field with help from several squires.
Ser knight, let us see you face so that we may award you!" Tyrion shouted down to the field but the knight left his helm in place. Gendry stepped up to the rail and stood beside Tyrion.
"Winners," he shouted over the din of the crowd, "you have done well today and have earned our gratitude. Ser Ossifer, for your fortitude with a bow this afternoon, may I present to you a gift?" Gendry made a sweeping motion with his hand, which Arya noticed up close was shaking but doubted anyone else did.
A young boy brought Ser Ossifer a bow made of Weirwood and a small pouch. "We are honoured to grant you a bow hewn from a Weirwood, for you to practice your craft, and fifteen gold dragons!"
The crowd cheered and Ser Ossifer accepted his gifts with many thanks and kneeled before the box where he would remain until the end of the ceremony. Next Brienne stepped forward.
"My Lady Brienne, you fought valiantly and well today, no less than I would have expected. Please except my gift, a donation from the Lord and Lady of Winterfell. It is called Oathkeeper, as I believe you are aware." Arya smiled. Oathkeeper was a sword of Valyrian steel and one of the finest, most well crafted, in all of Westeros.
"My Lord," Brienne began but faltered, "thank you. And thank you Lord Sandor and Lady Sansa. I swear to you this sword will never harm a member of your house." She took the sword solemnly and kneeled.
"You are very welcome," Sansa said with a smile.
She had told Arya upon their arrival of another sword, said to have been forged from pieces of their father's greatsword, Ice. It had come into Sansa and Sandor's possession not long after their wedding. It was a sword Sansa remembered being forged for Joffrey in Kings Landing, he'd called it Widow's Wail. Wanker.
Really, Winterfell needed only one sword and the newly named blade, Lady, would do just fine. Arya had laughed when she heard the name but quickly remembered her father and his last moments with Sansa's wolf, and knew the title was perfect. She thanked Sansa before informing Gendry who was also thrilled. The prize was contingent on Brienne winning the melee. If she had not the winner would receive 30 gold dragons and the promise of new armour, forged by Lord Gendry's personal smith. Although, most probably, forged by Lord Gendry himself. The smallfolk were already gossiping at how well their new Lord worked a piece of metal, it wouldn't cause any harm.
"And finally, our mystery knight, a gift for you is in order. Please except our gratitude and our offer of 50 gold dragons. I also ask you to accept this dagger of Dragon Glass, one of the only ones you'll find south of the Neck and deadly sharp. Though before you receive your gifts I believe it is your duty to name the Queen of Love and Beauty!" The crowd was back to roaring by the time Gendry finished speaking. "But first, your helm!"
They stamped their feet and cheered as the knight, who had failed to remove his helm or his shield, stood silent before the box. When he finally removed his helm there was an audible gasp.
"The winner of the joust is Ser Jaime Lannister!" Tyrion was standing on his pedestal next to the banister, shouting down to the field. "Brother! You performed well today!"
"Thank you, brother." Ser Jaime replied as a squire helped to remove the shield that had been strapped to his right arm.
Cheers came from everywhere, including the box. Queen Daenarys, and Sansa too, were shouting, "well fought!" While Sandor and Edric merely clapped and nodded.
Once the crowd quieted somewhat Gendry made himself heard over the crowd. "Ser Jaime! You are the winner of the Joust and the Champion of my Tourney. Do you accept our gifts today?"
Jaime was supposed to say, 'Thank you, my Lord.' But instead he said, "No."
The crowd grew silent.
"I am sorry, Lord Gendry, you have always been a good friend to me, but I don't need money and I don't need anew dagger."
Gendry faltered. "What-what is it you would have of me then?"
"Of you, nothing, but something instead of Queen Daenarys, if I may?"
Daenarys stood, her white blond hair rushed around her face and head in the wind.
"Of course, Ser Jaime, you are of my Queensguard and the champion of this tournament. What would you have of me?"
"I ask to be relieved of my vows. You offered it once, when you took the Iron Throne, and I was too proud to accept. Now I ask your Grace, please release me from your Queensguard."
He bowed his head. His green eyes were staring at the rich, black dirt of the field when she answered.
"When I was Khaleesi, I had a special guard. They were my life, my blood. When I accepted you into my Ka, you too became blood of my blood. I could never hold you too your vow if it was not what you wanted in your heart. Your request is granted but on one condition, you remain long enough for me to choose a replacement."
The crowd roared again and Jaime smiled back, a smile larger than Arya had ever seen.
"Thank you, your Grace."
A squire ran out and handed Jaime a crown of flowers. Arya recognized buttercups and snow drops among then blooms but it would have been impossible to name them all.
"And now, for my Queen of Love and Beauty!" His cry brought a cheer once again from the stands but all was quiet as he surveyed the crowd. "I see many here who would do honour to the title."
He walked back and forth before finally stopping back before the box Arya sat in.
"I see three such beauties in this box alone, and yet each and every one is taken." He was back standing where he'd been originally, in front of the other two other champions. "It'll have to be the wench, then." He casually placed the crown on the head of the kneeling knight beside him. Brienne looked up, blushing furiously as Ser Jaime pulled her to her feet.
"Our Queen of Love and Beauty, the Lady Brienne of Tarth!" Tyrion shouted before the field erupted with applause.
Gendry held her hand as they exited the box and headed back to the castle for the feast. The sun was going down and Arya was positively starving.
"Do you think," Gendry leaned over and asked her as they walked, "we'll be invited to a wedding at Evenfall Hall soon?"
"Sooner rather than later," she replied.
"Why that?" He stopped at the entrance to the hall.
"Why what?" She said, adjusting her bodice irritably. Her stupid clothes grew tighter across her bosom everyday.
"Oh. Because," Arya said once her dress was comfortable again, "once I start showing you won't let me out of your sight until the baby is born."
When the doors to the hall were flung open the crowd was greeted with the sight of their new Lord kissing his Lady wife with more exuberance then they had yet seen.