Of White Trees and Blue Roses

I own nothing. This all belongs to GRRM, and I'm just playing with the story he gave us.

~X~

Chapter Forty Six – Choosing Sides

Tower of Joy

Oswell, his white cloak thick with red dust, finally rode through the stone archway leading into the courtyard. His approach had been seen from miles away and his prince, his prince's lady, and his fellow member of the king's guard were waiting to greet him. He couldn't help but take note of the expectancy in their eyes.

Weary and stiff, he dismounted uncharacteristically slow and wondered if his face was already communicating the message he had to convey. He walked straight towards Rhaegar, but his eyes instinctively found Lyanna and puzzled over her state of attire—a gown, but loose fitting and uncorseted. Plus there was a softness about her figure that conflicted with the drawn state of her face—the mental image of her and the time he'd spent training with her previous, admiring her lean and toned form, had often haunted him, and he doubted his memory could be so inaccurate.

"Ser Oswell, what news?" The prince wasted no time on pleasantries and for this Oswell was exceeding grateful, wanting to pass his message quickly and then recover from his long and urgent journey.

After a brief moment to catch his breath, he replied, "The king says no. He will not give his permission for you to take a second wife."

There was a moment of silence. Arthur's eyes met Oswell's and they spoke volumes. There was something different about the atmosphere since he had left on his errand.

Rhaegar withdrew and stared at the ground, before taking Lyanna's hand, but by then she was shaking her head in denial, the bubbling of her anger close to the surface more than visible.

"So this is the answer? He says no." Lyanna's voice had a tremor but there was force behind it.

The prince tried to calm her. "Lyanna..."

"He murders my brother and my father, and yet I live under the same roof as his son and heir. I wait for news of Ned from the servants and do nothing to help."

"In your condition..."

Oswell connected the words with Lyanna's attire and filled himself in on a number of happenings since his departure. Half broken over the finality of any futile hopes he might have held.

"In my condition." Lyanna struggled with something internally. "We are at war, a war which might not have happened if I hadn't left the Riverlands with you, and what have I gained in return for what this has cost my family? A bastard in my belly and a pretty suit of armour that might never fit me again. "

She stormed away toward the tower, but Rhaegar was there first.

"This war is not your fault. The blame lies with me. I should have known your family would have felt slighted, and knowing what I do about my father's frame of mind, I should have handled the matter more delicately. Maybe if I plead with him myself..."

Rhaegar stepped closer and despite the fight she put up—weaker than Oswell would have anticipated—he managed to get his arms around Lyanna and hold her in an embrace.

"I will put things right, my love. I swear it. Our child will not to see his parents' families at war."

Half through courtesy and half to counter the frission of jealousy that ran up his spine, Oswell looked away. Arthur caught his attention.

"It's been a long road and the news was a heavy burden. I can imagine you could do with wine and food."

Oswell was glad of the offer and the distraction so he followed the white cloak in front of him. After he'd taken a large gulp of deep red Dornish wine and enjoyed a few mouthfuls of the spicy cooked food in front of him, he decided he felt more relaxed and talkative.

"The Old Bull travelled with the road with me a little way. We had much to discuss."

Arthur, having a mind as keen as the edge of his sword, looked as though he was reading between the lines. "What news from King's Landing?"

"The king's grip slips more and more. The new Hand cannot stand up to the old dragon."

Arthur took a sip from his cup and picked at a piece of chicken, attempting to look casual. "And what did you say of events here in Dorne?

"The truth. That I could understand why Rhaegar took his lady. I reassured Ser Gerold that the Crown Prince is as safe as ever under your loyal attention." Oswell gave a pointed glance in Arthur's direction, making obvious the inflection in his words. "The king goes to war with the good lady's family and the new Lord Stark's friends, though he will struggle to hear a sensible word poured into his ears."

"You think we will be needed?"

"Ser Gerold tells me that Prince Rhaegar is sorely needed in King's Landing, though I imagine he will be unlikely to risk taking Lyanna into that pit of snakes."

Arthur looked as though he had something he was in two minds to impart. "I believe that the prince might well be weighted with his culpability in bringing war to his future kingdom, though you are right about his unwillingness to risk Lady Stark."

Oswell decided that Arthur had laid enough of his cards on the table to reveal his own.

"Lewyn feels aggrieved over the situation, but I know that you would never allow any harm to befall your friend. The king can always rely on Ser Barristan to be by his side."

"And what of young Jaime?"

"His training goes well, but the king continues to torture him. Still, I believe he will uphold his family's good name."

Arthur nodded, clearly keeping up with the subtext. "Darry?"

"I did not see or hear much of him, I'm afraid. I have no news either way."

Oswell could see his comrade doing the maths in his head.

"And you, Oswell? How do you feel about the situation?"

Finally forced into a corner, Oswell took a moment to weigh up the conflicting motivations, pulling him to one side or another. The king was clearly mad, you couldn't be as close as a kingsguard and neglect to notice. Rhaegar had done nothing worse than fall in love with a woman other than his wife—hardly an uncommon crime. No one was infallible. And knowing Lyanna Stark, Oswell could clearly see that her fierce femininity was an impossible snare to avoid. He himself had found himself feeling increasingly tortured with dreams that could never be acted upon.

"I believe that the prince should return to King's Landing to put things to rights before the entire country falls apart. King Aerys would happily see it all go up in flames." Oswell paused. "And I would volunteer to remain behind, to see the lady comes to no harm. And the bastard prince."