Hello! I'm surprised I am updating this so soon! Thought it was a 1 time a year kinda thing lol
Chapter 4: New Starts
It took all of a night after her liaison with the wretched queen to decide what to do.
Yvonne packed a bag with some clothes, a satchel of her jewels, and her mother's portrait. She took up the old riding dress hidden in the back of her wardrobe, a once golden yellow thing with long sleeves, a high collar, and black swirling embroidery on the hips and wrists. But it had been a long time since she'd ridden, and the yellow had tinged grey and the embroidery had loose thread hanging off. She hadn't ridden in years, never having liked the soreness that came after.
But she didn't want to be raped by the debauched White Cloaks, and didn't want to be thrown into the dark pits of the Black Cells, left to rot.
After speaking so carelessly to the wicked queen, she didn't trust that her safety would be preserved as a member of the queen's court. Or Joffrey's court, whatever.
Not even trusting her handmaiden Jill with this delicate information of her impending escape, Yvonne Rosby took a jeweled ring and an old bracelet from her hag of a good-mother's vanity table, and gave one to a crooked old stable hand in exchange for readying her horse. It was such a small bit of jewelry, she doubted the old crone would notice straight away, and by then, the man would have sold it, and she would be gone. And when or if she saw the frigid old battleaxe again before one of them died, she would proudly tell the woman exactly what had happened to her jewelry. She would, for once, be honest with the cranky wasp.
The rickety old man had been true to his promise, and when she shadowed her way to the stables early the next morning, the black gelding he told her was swiftest, was fed, watered and saddled.
By the time sunlight had started to touch the highest towers of the Red Keep, Yvonne was passing through the gate, out into the world for the first time in what felt like an age.
Although she hadn't ridden in so long, there was a marvelous sense of liberation leaving what had been her home for over ten years. Out on the road, alone, it felt rapturous. She didn't have to twist her words into lies or insinuate her true meaning or pretend. She didn't have to bite her tongue as old Lady Rosby went on about all her failures, she didn't have to watch Joffrey torment and mutilate and degrade. She didn't have to look at the wretched Cersei Lannister and stew in jealousy and hatred. She could leave it behind in the city.
It was a day's ride to Rosby, the little castle erected in the middle of the plains, a brief ride away from the sea. Thank the gods for that, because she didn't much like the idea of camping out on the side of the road without any means of protection. The road she traveled now was scarce of traffic, for which she was grateful. Yvonne was sure questioning travelers would bring questions she did not wish to answer and suspicion which could hurt her.
She wondered what the queen would do—what her hag of a mother-in-law would do—when they learned she had run away. What she feared most was the queen sending guards after her and dragging her back to the Capitol, where the bitch would use her fleeing as a means to accuse her of treachery. But that seemed a bit doubtful as she was a lower lady whose name was often times forgotten.
No, what seemed more likely was Old Lady Rosby riding out here herself and attempting to drag her back to King's Landing by her hair.
The fields were long and endless as the sea, short green shards of grass with some wildflowers colouring the green which the girl in her wanted to run and pick, to horde their beauty all to herself. There was an odd tree lining the boarder of the road, which gave her shade from the hot sun when she stopped the horse to rest.
With a thrilled start, she realized this was the bravest thing she'd ever done on her own. Never had she traveled by herself, without even a chaperone to accompany her. Never had she been the master of her own fate, been the one to choose what she did next. All her life she'd been the pawn men used to their advantage, with them picking the path which was "right" for her.
But had any of their choices been right for her? Her father had told her to marry Garred, and so she had, and became the wife of a moderately wealthy man with his own castle, but never had any possibility for romantic or passionate love. Or any children. Had that been right? Well without it, she would never have met Jaime, but would Jaime have even mattered if she had married a different man? Would another man have let her take in a child when it was clear she could not give him any? Would she have loved her husband?
Shaking her head, Yvonne cast the thought away. It mattered not and would not do to linger on things that never were. It would only make her sad, and besides, it wasn't as if her life was devoid of any sort of contentedness. Her mother said everything happened for a reason, that every bump along the road steered the traveler to their appropriate destination.
Her mother had a heart full of kindness, and had always been able to make the worst thing seem bearable with a few soft words.
This was the path she chose for herself, and whether it brought joy or misery, it would still have been her choice, and no one could take that away. There was beauty in freedom, something light and tranquil when you had all the world at your feet, choice at your fingertips. Of course there was a limit to what she could do, but this limit seemed only as tall as the sky at the moment.
When she was with Jaime, he had been a freedom, quiet and secret though it was. But there was always a foreseeable limit—coming when it was time to part or when she remembered the slut who occupied his heart. But he'd been her comfort, a way to be herself without any real consequences. He made her happy, and she wished to see him again...someday.
It was nearing night when she finally arrived at the castle. She hadn't seen it in nearly ten years, but nothing had changed much apart from the fact that one of the towers' roofs had caved in; one side of the structure had been claimed by vines, and the proud coat-of–arms that was once displayed over the Gatehouse was missing. Yvonne narrowed her brows, wondering if it was this fool begotten war, or if the stewards who kept the Rosby seat had lost their pride.
Riding closer, the Barren Lady found the castle's condition was even sorrier. The stones were dingy, a few actually missing on the outer wall. Behind the portcullis, the main gates were poorly repaired, and the shrubbery had begun to reclaim about the base of the castle.
"Who comes to the seat of Rosby!?" a masculine voice called out from above her. Yvonne looked up, seeing a helm covered head poking between the battlements.
"Lady Yvonne Rosby, and I am glad I did! If my husband was to see this, he would throw the steward responsible into the wild!" she called back brazenly.
"Lady Rosby? Lady Rosby resides in King's Landing!" the same voice answered. Still looking up, she spied a few other heads poke between the battlements out of curiosity.
"Not any longer." She replied. "Now open the portcullis to me before I start to agree with my husband's disciplinary customs."
"How are we t'know you are not a Stark spy?!" a different voice called out. "Why would Lady Ros'by just suddenly 'rrive from the Capitol?" a low murmur of agreement accompanied him.
Yvonne rolled her eyes. "Would a spy have with her, the ring the former Lord Rosby gave his lady wife?" she called out. "The only way I was to get this would be if I had gotten it from the horrid woman myself!" she pulled off her glove, revealing the unique ring she'd stolen from her good-mother's vanity. It was an impressive ring, if she said so herself. It was silver, without a jewel set in it, but as the band ran around the finger, the face of the ring became broad and flat and long, spanning between the first and second knuckle of a finger. On the face there was a beautiful design which made the absence of stones acceptable.
Garred's father had given this to his wife many years ago, when Garred had still been a boy. Old Lady Rosby had worn it until her gout began to swell her joints.
"Where is your escort!?" another voice called out to her. Beneath her, her gelding started shifting impatiently.
"Gone to war! It was a day's ride any child could make!"
"It isn't proper!"
Tilting her head, she huffed, "Are you my septa, here to teach me a lady's courtesy!?" she heard a bark of laughter that was quickly stifled, and a grumbled reply of "no."
"Now please, let me in. The night grows dark and cold!" after a moment, someone shouted for the portcullis to be raised, and the time-worn gates were opened. The reigning captain of the guard inspected the ring; he vouched for her claim and allowed her in.
"Bring my belongings up to my lord husband's old chambers. And find me the steward he placed in charge." She ordered. Stepping foot into the nearly deserted castle, Yvonne remembered back when she had been a green girl—barely twenty—setting foot into the castle and thinking, Yes, this is my new home. A new start.
It was a new start again, and she would see to it that the castle was brought back into pristine condition. Maybe if her mother-in-law came after her and found the castle beautiful and thriving once more, she would hold off drawing and quartering her.
Her arrival was met with a good bit of apprehension on the part of every servant in the castle. They'd grown used to and loyal to the steward who ruled him—Tallholm, his name was. Knowing it would not earn her much love or loyalty sending the man off with his last pay of coins for his "service", Yvonne kept him on a few weeks.
Despite his detestable care of the castle, the portly bald man had kept up with the books, tallying and recording all repairs to be made and all things ordered for the stores. He'd let go much of the staff, stating there was no need for so many servants working for a castle with so few occupants. She sent him to find builders and stone masons straight off, to repair what needed repairing inside and outside the castle.
Next, she sent a few able bodied young men to work with axes and knives to cut away the vines from the walls. They'd fled the war with their families, and knowing this, Yvonne was more than happy to shelter them, especially since the castle had gone empty, with its occupants either driven off or repelled by its sorry state. But the castle couldn't be downtrodden any longer.
It took over a week for Tallholm to return with a few spared builders and masons, and a couple of months for any noticeable improvement to be done on the castle. Once the repair for the front gates was underway, Tallholm was sent off with his last pay of three gold dragons for his service.
Yvonne left the tower with the smashed roof alone, thinking it would be unnecessary funds to fix it. They had to preserve funds for foods, especially now that winter was coming. It was a stretch, but they could survive here, they could withstand the winter with enough supplies. The Capitol was where all the small folk would go for refuge when the snows finally came. There would be little space and little enough rations for everyone there, and she knew disease was likely to spread like wildfire in such close quarters. They'd die quicker there.
With the vines cut away in exchange for shelter, and repairs to the wall structure, gates and piping underway, she sent a few stewards to King's Landing for foodstuff, after hearing advisement that sending them to the closest town of Duskendale was not an option. She loathed to see them go, pride wanting them to stay, as she wanted them to survive without the Capitol's aid.
The seat of Rosby itself was known for providing grain to the castle itself, nearby towns and, to a lesser extent, the Capitol. But much of the crop had failed this last harvest—this was partially why she'd reduced Tallholm's pay. He was, by law, meant to be given five dragons, but she deducted for loss of harvest, and how he let the castle fall into desolation.
Fortunately for her, nothing came from King's Landing but angry ravens from the elder Lady Rosby, demanding that she come back and promising that Garred would hear of all her embarrassments when he returned. She never made mention of the bracelet or the ring she'd stolen, and counted herself lucky for that. If the woman noticed—gods, she'd drive herself into the grave for the hysterics she'd drive herself to.
Late in the afternoon, a fortnight after sending Tallholm off, Yvonne was talking with one of the lads who'd helped cut down the vines about whether or not it would be a fine idea to cut down the little shrubs clustering about the castle walls.
"It's not much good for firewood, but maybe good 'nuff for kindling." He said.
"Should we leave it to grow, do you think, or cut it down soon?" she asked.
"Well, m'lady, I think we ought to cut it now, before winter hits—"
"My lady! Riders approach!" one of the men atop the battlements called. Her head jerked towards in his direction, stepping away from the younger man as she looked up at the guard.
"Banners?" she inquired urgently. Inside her sleeves, her hands quaked. Had the queen chosen to come after her in the end?
"None, my lady." Yvonne clenched her teeth, and hurried towards the stone steps that led up into the battlements. She rushed around the walkway to where the guard had called out for her, and when she finally stood beside him, she spied an approaching party on the road coming from the north. So they had not come from King's Landing, but from the north. Who were these men? Deserters? Disbanded soldiers of the north or south? Villagers? Something had them riding hard towards them, and she feared to know what.
"Make sure the gate is securely barred. If we can't fight them off, we will stand firm within our walls." She told the captain. His mouth thinned, but he gave a short nod.
Theirs was a small group, less than ten she guessed from this distance. And they had no flags and their horses did not sport colours in the dimming light. In the distance, she couldn't see much of their features, but for their darkened clothing. She stepped back as their rode closer, hidden behind the battlements and her guard captain.
"Who goes there!?" he called out to those down below.
"We're loyal to House Lannister!" a man's shaky rattle replied. "Please, let us in!"
"Where are your banners!?"
"We have none!" another voice replied.
"Treachery! You will not come in." The captain called.
"We have a man with us! He needs help!" a softer, more eloquent voiced called up. A high born? Yvonne's brow twitched. An injured man?
The Barren Lady stepped forward again, and although it might have made them look weak to see a lady in the battlements, it was lost to her at the moment. Yvonne peered down, and found six darkly clothed men, all mounted, although she saw that one horse carried two. The one who sat in front was lolled back against the rider behind him, his dark mange of matted hair plastered to his dirty face. Something large hung against his chest, but she couldn't tell what.
"Lady, get back." The captain growled, pressing her behind him with a firm hand. If those down below saw her, they could correctly assume that they were without their lord.
"Don't put your hands on me." She hissed back as she returned to her viewing point.
"Listen to me, woman: you may be our lady, but I am in charge here." He growled from behind her. Yvonne glared into the darkness, not looking back at the horrible sod, but vowing to have his knuckles lashed for daring to touch her.
Her annoyance was pushed back as one of the other guards called out, "We have no maester. Find somewhere else, we have nothing to offer!"
"We do, only we have no supplies to assist him." The first shaky voice called up again. "Please! It is Jaime of the House Lannister in need! His father will pay handsomely if he is returned to him alive!"
All at once, her anger at her own captain was pushed aside, her conversation with the young man moments ago was forgotten and the current predicament of these befouled strangers knocking at her gate was a small thing compared to what they'd just claimed. Her first instinct was to turn away, to order the others to ignore their pleas because anyone who claimed such an impossible thing was only lying to gain entry and do gods knew what.
But her sudden curiosity stifled her initial impulse, and shocked her to silence.
Yvonne did not move for a moment or two as the men beside her muttered among themselves. Jaime was Robb Stark's captive, somewhere up north. He couldn't be here, knocking at her door, asking to be let in. He couldn't be. Jaime was bright and golden, and all the men down there were dark and dirty and wretched looking. It wasn't him. It couldn't possibly be.
Quietly, the men beside her exchanged looks before their lust for gold was agreed upon. Damned be the risks and the dismayed looking lady who stood with them.
"Raise the portcullis! Open the gate!" the captain bellowed, raising Yvonne's far off eyes at once.
Whirling around, she grabbed blindly at the captain, and squeezed his arm hard enough to get him to look at her. "No. You can't do this. I gave you no leave to do so." She hissed to him, her eyes bright and furious. The elder man glared defiantly at her, perhaps daring her to make him stop, before brushing off her hand and walking away in long, confident strides.
Oh, she would do worse than bloody his knuckles.
She stood alone on the battlements as the few guards swarmed about the yard below, simultaneously hauling the rigging to raise the portcullis and pulling open the large oak doors. A horse immediately rode in, followed by two more, then one and finally the last. Each rider quickly dismounted, their words muffled from across the yard to her ears, but she was not listening anyway. Her eyes were trained solely on the horse that bore two riders, who had not yet slid from the saddle.
From here, she there was little else she could discern from the two, but she regarded them carefully. If this was a ruse—which is probably was—she would watch from the safety of the battlements as the quarrel played out.
"This is him. Help him, please." One of the strangers said. They crowded around the two manned horse, talking in low voices among themselves. In was in her mind that she should go down there, to see what happened and greet who had come, but, she thought, I have not invited them, and so it is not I who will host them.
One of her men pulled the limp body sitting in front of the saddle down to the ground, their limp head flopping pathetically. Long, dirty hair fell back as her men looked him over.
A long moment passed, one filled with fear and expectation on her people's side and urgency on the side of the strangers.
Finally, someone (who she distantly recognized as her captain) yelled, "It is the kingslayer! It's him! It's Jaime Lannister!"
How do you know? She thought indignantly. "How would you know?" someone spoke aloud.
"I used to live in the Capitol; used to see him and the other White Cloaks on patrol through the city." Although the king's guard's place was with the king, often they were sent as envoys throughout the city, to assess and report back to Robert.
"Get him inside!" the men swarmed the limp man again, and collectively moved towards the entrance of the castle. All the men who'd come in went with them, and only three of her own men remained in the yard as the others hurried away. Once the body was at the threshold of the castle, the guard who'd ordered them inside rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. "Gods, that's rotten." He groaned.
"He's a cripple now." Someone else said. Yvonne's whirling thoughts were slowly coming back to her. Rotten? Cripple?
"The whole hand?" astonishment was in the captain's voice. "Gods, take my life before you take my sword hand."
A lump suddenly formed in her throat, choking her, making it difficult to speak. His hand? Infected? Oh gods, her stomach turned and goose pimples of disgust rose all over her body at the thought. But she wouldn't picture Jaime as the owner of that tainted hand before she saw him herself.
"Captain?!" she called out, her voice sounding strange and strangled to her ears. The few remaining men in the yard all looked to her, as though surprised she was still there. She bit the inside of her cheek and clenched her trembling hands. "See to it that your guests are well looked after, and that the ailing one gets the treatment he needs."
Alright, Yvonne thought, so the lying, sister-fucking man is here... and, indeed crippled.
She looked down at Jaime Lannister's sleeping face, relaxed and befouled with dirt and mud, especially around the beard he now sported. His hair was no longer golden, and even though asleep, she could see more lines of age carving shallowly into his face. But what was more of a shock than anything—even surpassing the shock of him being here—was the fact that there was a stump where his right hand had once been.
The maester who'd traveled with them—a slight, odd looking man with dark grey hair and missing of his maester's chain, she noted—had cleaned the wound extensively, using the castle's little supply of herbs, and a flagon of wine which had been brought to boil over fire. Even now, Yvonne thought she could still smell the faint aroma of infection in the air. It made her queasy.
She fought the urge to touch him, to run her fingers through his hair as she used to do. She didn't want to wake him and have him see her, not yet in front of this maester and the rest of his company.
"Will he live?" she asked, not taking her eyes from Jaime's sleeping face.
"I believe so, my lady." The maester replied. Something inside her relaxed. "But without your aid, he would not have survived the ride to the Capitol."
My aid? She thought despondently. I didn't even want him here.
"When will he wake?" she asked quietly.
"Uh—hmm," the maester sounded like he wanted to say something, but stopped himself before he could. "I cannot say, my lady. Soon, I should hope."
She was quiet a moment longer, and Jaime's quiet breathing filled the air. "Would you leave me with him?" she asked.
This time it was not the maester who spoke, but rather one of the dirty, brawny men who'd arrived with him. "No, lady, I won't."
"I'm not going to try to kill him. I'm not a coward to kill a sleeping man, especially Tywin Lannister's favorite son. And if I even did have a mind to kill him, I wouldn't have opened my doors to you." She turned to look at the man who spoke. He looked odd to her. Men didn't wear their hair like that, although...she remembered Lord Stark and his men looking odd with their long hair brushing their shoulders like peasants. Were these men...northern?
Unease prickled inside her, but if the gods were good, she hid it. "If you would have it, stay outside the door, I won't even close it fully." She said in the same voice she'd used to speak to young Sansa Stark.
"Why do you want to be alone with an unconscious man so badly?" the man asked suspiciously, gripping the pommel of his sword.
"Perhaps I have things to discuss with this unconscious man." She replied tersely.
"What sorts of things?"
"Matters I believe you would find most tedious."
"God's sake, just get out." A strange, sleep heavy voice ordered half-heartedly. At once, everyone's eyes flashed towards the table Jaime Lannister laid on, wondering he'd truly just spoken or if had been a trick. "Get out." He said again, his voice steadier as he spoke lower.
"Ser, how do you feel? I would like you to have a bit of water and try to sleep again." The maester rushed forward and grabbed a water skin. "Are you in as much pain as before? I believe the lady has provided some milk of the—"
"I said get out." Jaime grumbled, his eyes starting to twitch open. He stared up at the stones, his green eyes standing out vividly through the dirt on his face. Eyes she hadn't seen in so long. "Leave me with Lady Rosby. I owe her my gratitude."
"M'lord, I don't trust her—" the guard advised. Yvonne's mouth opened in shock and she turned to the man.
"I open my home to you and you have the gall to say such things when I am present?"
At the same time Jaime spoke up, tilting his head towards the man who'd spoken. "Well I trust her. I know her from the Capitol, you fool. Now get out." Reluctantly, Jaime's escorts left the room, the last being the odd little maester without a chain.
Finally, they were left alone, and slowly, Yvonne dragged her eyes to his face, and was somewhat pleased to find him studying her as well.
"You look terrible." She managed to say. It was true. Perhaps a good bath would help.
"I know. But you're looking exceptionally well." He replied, some of his old snark brightening his tired voice. It was relieving to hear it, but also set her teeth on edge.
"Who did this to you?" She looked down at the stump. "Who was it?"
"Are you going to avenge my poor hand?" he asked, sounding a little more alert now.
"Good luck finding the little shit." He replied, his head lolling to the side. "He's probably half way north by now."
She considered that a moment. It was strange to talk to him after so long, to talk to him about something that seemed to not matter. There was so much to say, and no time to say it. It was hard to construct a sentence that could quickly explain what she felt—her hurt at him leaving so suddenly without word, her anger, her fear that he would die as Robb Stark's prisoner, her joy at him being here, alive after so long...her anger at how he could be so...casual in this moment. He'd been her lover, and here he was, broken and ill.
"You're so downtrodden I almost don't want to curse you." she told him. Her fingers itched to touch him, but she refrained. Even alone together, she couldn't bring herself to do it, afraid of shattering herself and turning into a weeping mess beside him.
"Curse me? Why?" he looked back at her curiously.
Her nostrils flared. Was he that thick or was he trying to push her? "You left me, in King's Landing without a word. Even my husband, who hasn't touched me in years, bid me farewell." He opened his mouth to speak, but she wouldn't have it. He owed her a goodbye; she deserved more than nothing. "On top of being hurt and lonely, you left me at the mercy of your sister. You know she threatened to have me raped by your own brothers in arms?" this time she wanted him to reply, wanted to know if he would defend his wretched sister for her awful threat.
She was almost afraid to hear his answer, already knowing he'd say something in the wicked bitch's defense. But she wanted to hear how he could defend this, to pick his explanation apart and make him see he couldn't love Cersei.
"Did she go through with it?" he asked. Surprise struck her in the chest, more than she'd even expected. There was something in his eyes that she hadn't seen before—something soft, tender. Worry, she realized with a start. Fear.
"No," she replied. "I fled the Capitol the day after." The strain in his eyes slackened.
"Clever girl." He complimented. "Why did she threaten you?"
"Apparently, I was being treacherous when Margaery Tyrell came to me at a garden party and started a conversation about sailing. And then I was spying when I spoke to Sansa Stark in the same garden after catching her weeping." She explained flatly. She looked away from him, eyeing the wall across from her with far off eyes. She remembered the slash of fear that had gone through her at the queen's threat. She'd always known Cersei to be terrible, but had never thought the woman capable of cruelty to someone she never took a second glance at. But then she'd tormented Sansa during the Battle of the Blackwater with detailed descriptions of what had been to come.
She now felt she understood where Joffrey's wickedness came from. "Your sister is cruel, Jaime." She said softly.
Jaime looked at her. Despite his foggy eyes and his sleep heavy mind, he could see fear on her face. Whatever Cersei had said to her had clearly frightened her, so much so that she'd fled the city. Yvonne hadn't deserved that. He knew her, knew she would never spy to trade secrets of value. She wasn't...like that. She didn't like politics. She did love the Capitol for all it's splendor, and for her to leave it meant whatever Cersei had threatened her with had made quite a large impact. Something pulled in his chest for Yvonne, and for once he didn't try to smother it.
Now he could only pray that his twin never found out about how deep his relationship with Yvonne ran. If Cersei found out, and ever got her hands on Yvonne, a quick death would have been a mercy.
Something shameful stabbed at him at picturing his beautiful wrathful sister. Something he wished he didn't understand.
The Barren Lady wanted to ask him once more how he could love her, but in light of what she'd just told him whatever his answer was, would only hurt and anger her. She huffed, fighting the lump in her throat.
"I missed you." She admitted with a croak, still avoiding his eyes. The kingslayer looked up at her with a start. "I missed you, you arrogant, foolish man. So when you leave again, don't go riding off without a goodbye or else." Her threat was weak and she knew it, but he was in such a sorry state, she couldn't threaten his other hand.
"It's not like I can." He finally replied, his words implying humour, but his voice devoid of it. She looked at him finally, and his green eyes pinned her to the floor with their intensity. Truly, a small part of her felt elated for hearing his agreement.
Gods she wanted all this dirt off his face, so she could kiss him without leaving with evidence all over her lips. Alas, there was not a washcloth in sight, and she didn't know if it would be at all appropriate to kiss him.
She gave him a small smile. "Get some sleep, Jaime. I'll bring you breakfast in the morning." But what was one little kiss? Slowly, Yvonne leaned down, her lips pressing to Jaime's brow in a slow, lingering kiss, as though to savor it. He tasted of salt and dirt and he was warmer than he should be, but she didn't care about that, or how her lips came away from him a little dirty.
It was the first time she'd touched him in a year.
:D Sooooo.., how do ya like it?
I was struck by inspiration like crazy, I literally wrote all this, and scenes from the next chapter in 3 days.