Feeling the weight of half the eyes in the kingdom upon her, Janna Tyrell smiled and cast her gaze down modestly as the tourney champion slid the ring of yellow roses into her lap.
Not for the first time, Janna wondered if her secret betrothed was a madman who wished to return to his fetters and bring his Tyrell saviors with him.
Do lions know nothing of subtly? she thought as she watched Ser Jaime quit the field in the clanking disguise of his mystery knight armor.
With a grin that all but concealed the concern in his brown eyes, Mace stood up and clapped loudly along with the rest of the audience in the stands around them. Beside her, Mina helped settle the flowers in Janna's brown curls. The sisters exchanged a brief look of understanding before turning to those around them with matching smiles.
When Janna had watched Ser Jaime slow his steed before Queen Lyanna, she couldn't decide whether crowning her with the champion's laurel would be wise or no. Hadn't naming her queen of love and beauty two years past led only to trouble? But passing her over during a tourney celebrating her marriage and coronation might also be seen as a slight.
Either way, that would have been much preferred to singling Janna out for this "honor." If that bloody fool were discovered, she might be thought to be in connection with him. Which, with great thanks to her brother, she was.
Janna hazarded a casual glance at the royal box to weigh the reaction of the king and queen.
They appeared pleased enough. The king applauded briefly before rising and preparing to depart. The queen smiled along with everyone else. When Janna caught her eye, she shouted her approval. She could be certain the young queen's response was genuine because the girl was hopeless at the art of false courtesy. There was no pretense or artifice in her manners. Everything she truly felt or thought was what came bursting from her.
She regarded the girl for a moment. Lyanna Stark was so young. Just six and ten and already a mother, a wife, and a queen. Janna would soon turn two and twenty with naught but less than desirable prospects. One of which could end in her execution if he kept making reckless choices.
Janna rose along with everyone around her to make her way to the archery range for the next competition. She slipped her arm through Mace's as they walked. Mina followed behind with her husband.
"Won't you congratulate me, Brother?" she asked as they strolled.
Mace still donned the brilliant smile to hide the unease that had touched his handsome features. "Well done, sweet sister. He chose well, that mystery knight. This is your third crowning, is it not?"
"My fourth." The last time had been at a tourney in celebration of her last betrothal to a man who never returned from the Rebellion to marry her. Her betrotheds had a bad habit of dying on her. "My first crowning by a mystery knight though. It must take a heedless, rash type of courage to compete in secret and risk being unmasked. If the mystery knight has something to hide, it would take a great deal of madness."
"Or valor," Mace insisted, though even he sounded less than certain.
"Valor is good. Common sense is better."
She allowed that to marinate upon her brother for a moment of silence. If Mother was there, she likely would have said something more obviously cutting. But Janna had found that the best way to sink her brother into the shame of his own stupidity was with subtly. After the Kingslayer's performance as the mystery knight, surely even Mace had wit enough to see how foolish it was aligning their house with the disgraced Lannisters.
Unfortunately, their situation was beyond correction at this point.
Mace guided the topic of conversation away from the mystery knight to the variety of competition assembling upon the archery range.
Lyanna had spent very little time with her good brothers since arriving in King's Landing. Little Renly spent his days serving as a page or with other children his age. With Stannis, she was certain he loathed her when they first met until she realized his clipped conversation and aversion to even passing physical proximity were extended to nearly everyone, not just her. Even then, the only times they were thrown together were thrown together were at feasts with Robert between them.
The melee provided the first opportunity to spend time with the brothers – for better or worse.
Without so much as a by-your-leave, Renly took up the high seat beside Lyanna that would have been Robert's were he not competing. This incited a battle within the royal box even before the challengers took the field.
"You ought to sit in your own place," Stannis said. "The high seat is for the king."
Renly laughed. "He will have a hard time riding in the melee from here, won't he?"
"It makes no matter, you have no business sitting there."
The boy ignored him and turned to Lyanna. "Melee's are bloody and gruesome. You can hold my hand if you become frightened, good sister."
Benjen barked out a laugh at that. She turned to glare at her little brother and saw even Ned smiled.
She gave Renly a nudge. "I should be telling you that, little man."
He laughed. "I'm not little. I am taller than all the other pages. Before long, I will be taller than you as well."
He wasn't wrong. Though only a boy of eight, the youngest Baratheon's head of thick black hair rose well above her shoulder. Earlier in the tournament events, he won a prize, riding at rings against boys as much as three years older. There was no doubt he would outstrip her soon enough to be as tall and strong as his brothers.
A collective gasp shot through the stands, drawing Lyanna's attention back to the field. Thoros of Myr, that bald red priest Robert was growing so fond of, came riding forth wielding a sword of emerald flame. The initial flare seemed to outshine the sun with its fierceness. Straight away, a few of the knights nearest him let out the most ungainly cries and horses whinnied in terror. More than one stallion reared up, dumped his rider, and fled.
The Blackfish laughed from his place behind Lyanna. "That priest is a madman!"
"And his madness is catching like a sickness," she said. The frenzy grew into complete mayhem within moments. The typical blend of mud and blood and chaos had multiplied with the addition of the fire. It was all quite thrilling. "I've never seen a melee this wild."
While most of the competitors seemed irritated or frightened, Lyanna saw that Robert seemed to enjoy the heightened danger of it all. She could hear his booming laugh above the cacophony of sounds.
But though he seemed to be enjoying himself, knocking men from their seats with a blunted hammer, his brothers seemed determined to be unpleasant.
"The melee is beginning," Stannis said, his jaw clenching. "Take yourself back to your seat. Sitting in the king's place is unseemly."
"Leave off." Renly waved his hand dismissively. "I'll sit where I like."
A lengthy argument ensued that stretched beyond the high seat and somehow made its way to who ought to inherit Storm's End or Dragonstone. While Renly was quite the little shit, bragging over the fact that Robert gave their ancestral seat to him, Stannis looked no better for verbally sparring with a child.
Lyanna wanted to scream, "Shut up, the both of you!" But that would only cause a scene – as would a reminder that both holdings could be taken and set aside for her children, leaving them with nothing to bicker over.
She glanced behind to where Ser Brynden Tully stood guard garbed all in white scale armor and a snowy cloak pinned with a black fish. It was unnerving to have one of the White Swords with her at nearly every moment since the wedding. But she liked Ser Brynden.
"Ser, if I were to give my good brothers each a clout on the ear to quiet them, would you take up their cause and protect them from me as the king's blood?" she asked, instantly drawing their attention. "Or would you side with your queen?"
The Blackfish graced her with grin, a rare sight since his niece's death. "If truth be told, Your Grace, I'm about ready to give the pair of them a clout on the ear myself."
"What and break your vows?"
"They are making me miss the bloody melee."
Renly carelessly shrugged. "He started it."
Stannis just glowered. "If he would just do as he was-"
"Seven hells…" Lyanna muttered. She stood up and reached out a hand to Renly. "Out of the chair."
Scowling, he took her hand and stood. Lyanna guided him to her own seat and took Robert's for herself. That only seemed to please Stannis slightly more than Renly sitting there, if his clenching jaw was any indication. But he kept his peace.
"Don't worry, good brother," she whispered to him japingly. "If I am frightened, I won't try to hold your hand."
He regarded her suspiciously.
They sat in silence for a time before she broke it again.
"I never thanked you for your kindness after the wedding feast," she said, watching him redden. "You were quite gallant.
"It was no kindness," Stannis said, glaring straight ahead. His blue eyes were so like his brothers', but completely lacking any amount of good humor. "Robert asked that I carry you and ensure your honor was preserved. That was what I did."
That nothing had saved her from the discomfort and mortification of the bedding ceremony, what with Roose Bolton, Eldon Estermont, and all the other men advancing on her. Stannis had put a halt to the grasping and tugging, and insisted that he would carry her up on the king's orders. No bride had entered a bedding chamber with nearly so many garments still upon her body. He took his task so seriously – and was so uncomfortable holding her – that she had been relieved of only her slippers, part of her left stocking, and her circlet crown, which the fool had donned as he charged ahead of them.
"Whether you call it kindness or duty, thank you she said.
Lyanna returned her focus to the melee where her husband unhorsed a knight with a square blow to the chest and a thunderous laugh.
"This melee is good for him – your brother. His spirits rise with every man he fells. He hasn't been this pleased in some time."
"For good reason," Stannis said. "Robert ought to be out felling enemies, not these men here."
"He would rather be chasing down real enemies," she said. "But he has to be seen as strong and secure in his in front of the people. If he wasn't here, everyone would think something was wrong."
"There is something wrong."
"But not everyone can know that."
"Finding the Lannisters is more important than putting on pretenses."
As an avid hater of pretenses, Lyanna wanted to agree, but she found herself forming an argument against his.
Ser Brynden interrupted them to announce the arrival of Jory Cassel. The young guard would stay with her in King's Landing as part of the queen's household guard.
"Your Grace." He took the knee beside her seat. "I've looked throughout the tourney grounds. I can't find the mystery knight anywhere about. He hasn't even come to claim the champion's purse nor has he collected ransoms from any of the men he defeated."
"More madness," the Blackfish cried. "How wealthy must this mystery knight be that he would forgo 40,000 dragons and all manner of winnings begotten by ransoms? The man must be out of his wits."
"Mayhaps it was best you couldn't find him," Lyanna mused. "We wouldn't want someone out of his wits serving in my household guard. But gods, he rode so well. I could forgive most anything of a person who could ride like that."
Stannis gave her a stern look.
"A jape, good brother."
The melee stretched on for nearly three hours. During that time, Renly clapped and hooted beside Lyanna as Stannis grew bored and irritable. By the end, Thoros' fire had died, leaving him with nothing but ruined steel that held no contest for Robert's blunted hammer. The priest became intimately acquainted with the muddy tourney ground after taking a blow to the chest. The king laughed as he jumped down from his black stallion and pulled Thoros to his feet. The two clasped each other in a hug, both laughing as the crowd roared in the stands.
Her husband's good humor remained through the feast that night. He partook heavily in wine, making toast after toast throughout the night as wine and strong beer flowed liberally amongst the guests. Lyanna drank to each toast and then a bit more besides. She was growing fond of this southron wine, though once it had been too sweet for her tastes.
But as the night wore on, Lyanna's own high spirits began to diminish as a string of bards regaled them with various ballads about the war. She wondered if they truly thought to please her with verses describing her imprisoned in a tower, longing for her love.
"To Lyanna, the wolf queen!" Robert roared, not for the first time.
The guests echoed the toast and some of the northmen howled. Lyanna returned the call after draining her cup. A pretty serving woman with loose red hair quickly refilled the glass.
"Lya," Ned said in a hushed voice beside her. "How many glasses have you had?"
She stared at him. "Ned."
A smile touched his mouth but he held her glare. "Sister."
"I can drink as much as I like."
He nodded. "Yet there is a difference between can and should."
"Then you ought to advise you friend. He long ago outstripped me."
She turned to husband, to bring him into the exchange. She found Robert laughing with the serving girl. He held up his goblet and her hand covered his to steady it as she poured. Yet, when the wine sloshed at the goblet's rim, her hand remained over his as she laughed about some story he was in the middle of regaling her with. A moment passed. And then another. The woman's hand remained and Robert made no attempt to pull away.
Lyanna felt blood rush to her face as she watched them. Her fingers flexed, itching to dump her own wine over his head.
As though he knew what she was thinking, Ned rested a hand on her arm and leaned forward to say something to Robert, but Lyanna cut him off.
"Forgive me for interrupting," she said, bringing the king's attention back to her.
Startled, Robert pulled away from the woman so fast, some of the wine splattered on the table. "Lya…"
But she addressed the serving woman. "Would you like to sit?" She rose and the feasting tent seemed to sway beneath her like a boat in harbor. She gripped the chair to steady herself. "Here's a seat for you. Right beside the king so he might flirt with you at his leisure. Or do you mean to pull her into your lap?"
Robert stood up laughing and rested a hand on her shoulder. "Lya, it's nothing. I was merely telling her of-"
"You, Your Grace, are an ass," she said.
Robert's face darkened as though a thundercloud had passed over his face, swallowing his easy grin.
He turned to the serving woman. "Go. You're upsetting the queen."
"Aye, go and send a serving man in your place," Lyanna said. "I can flirt with him and that too will be nothing. Make certain he has a beard, if you would be so good."
She turned, meaning to stomp away, but she found the ground rocking beneath her again. Instantly, Ned and Robert were grasping her arms to keep her upright. She could feel Ser Barristan Selmy step closer as well from his position behind them. The old knight had taken up Ser Brynden's post, allowing the Blackfish to spend the feast with Lord Hoster and Lady Lysa.
"I am fine, I am fine, you can let me go," Lyanna said.
Once they released her, she stood for a moment attempting to regain her composure. Lyanna looked out at their guests. A few at the nearest tables looked away under her gaze, but the rest of the room seemed oblivious to the scene playing out on the dais. So many laughed and shouted amongst themselves or watched the fool dance and sing in the far corner. Stannis had long ago retired. Renly slept on top of his folded arms.
"The ground feels slanted," she said.
"Course it does." Robert's grin had returned. "You, my queen, are drunk."
"You? You accuse me of drunkenness? You?"
Robert laughed. "Aye, me. Who better? Now sit and finish your pie. That ought to help."
"No." She slipped her arm through Ser Barristan's. "Help me outside. I need air. And space."
The king began to protest, but Ned intervened. "She needs air. Let her have it."
As Lyanna and Ser Barristan strode toward the entry of the tent, they passed the table where Mace Tyrell and his sisters sat. Lyanna stopped to congratulate Lady Janna.
"And they're golden roses too!" Suddenly that seemed quite funny so she laughed. "You were meant to win them. I hope they don't still have thorns. Mine did. Did you know him? The mystery knight? My men have been in search of him."
"Truly, Your Grace?" Janna smiled sweetly. She always smiled so sweetly. "Was he some outlaw risking all to compete for tourney winnings like Simon Toyne?"
"I think not." Lyanna strengthened her grip on Ser Barristan's arm. Mayhaps Robert was right and she was a bit drunk. "An outlaw wouldn't have disappeared without his winnings. I hoped to bring him into my service. A man who can unseat a knight of the Kingsguard deserves a place in the royal household guard, if not a white cloak of his own."
Janna's smile deepened and she exchanged a glance with Mina.
"I am sorry, Your Grace," she said. "I do not know him."
Lyanna bid them farewell and called back, "Be careful with those thrones."
"We always are."
Outside the great feasting tent, the air was fresh and sweet. Lyanna breathed it in as though she had been underwater for hours. Ser Barristan guided her toward Robert's pavilion.
"No, I would return to the city, to the Red Keep." She pulled him toward the area where her mare was tethered. "I haven't seen Rickard since the tourney began."
She had meant to go back and forth between the tourney grounds and the castle to visit her son, but she never did.
While the white knight followed her lead, he protested. "My queen, the hour is late and… you are not in the best state for riding."
They reached the white mare, tethered beside a few others. Lyanna had named her Ice for her family's great sword. She conceded it wasn't very imaginative, but the name fit.
"Truly, Your Grace," Barristan said, "the hour is very late."
Ice was still awake. The horses could scarcely sleep with all the noise from the feast, no doubt. The mare leaned into Lyanna's touch as she stroked her side and neck.
"Where is her saddle," Lyanna asked, suddenly very confused. She leaned a bit against Ice to stop the world from swaying again.
"The groom is likely off in his cups somewhere. Your Grace, I am sworn to protect you. I cannot allow you to ride this way. Allow me to-"
"You are sworn to protect me, but you are also sworn to obey me," Lyanna said. "That's true isn't it?"
The White Sword looked down at her with uneasy eyes. "It is."
"How do you knights of the Kingsguard decide which vows to keep and which to break and when?"
"We-we try not to break any vows, Your Grace."
"But you do." The words came out louder than she intended making Ice shy away. But the words didn't stop. "All of you White Cloaks, knights- You, Hightower, Dayne, Whent, Lannister-"
"I would not name the Kingslayer amongst that company," Ser Barristan said, a sudden steel in his voice.
"Why not?" Lyanna demanded. She was angry all of a sudden, but couldn't say why. Was it all that wine? Or was the feeling of being followed about by men in white scale armor grating upon her, making he remember? "You are oath breakers all. You swore to protect women and children. Defend the weak. Protect your king and the royal blood. Obey royal commands. Which of those vows haven't you broken?"
Ser Barristan blinked at her. Discomfort radiated from him like a stench. His discomfort soothed and shamed her in equal parts. Barristan Selmy was always so kind and courteous with her. She had no reason to speak so rudely to him. Yet...
"Were you there when the Mad King murdered my father and brother? You are sworn to obey. Tell me the truth."
In the torchlight, he looked even older than his forty some years.
"I was," he said.
"Did you try to save them? Knights are sworn to defend the weak and the innocent and to be just."
"I wa- I am sworn to obey and-"
"Defend the defenseless. Could they defend themselves when they were in those devices?"
Ser Barristan said nothing. Lyanna turned back to Ice.
"But that's not what we were discussing, was it?"
"We were discussing retiring to your pavilion, my queen," he said.
"No, that wasn't it." She traced her fingers along the mare's neck. "We were speaking of which vow you will break. Do you mean to escort me to the pavilion, disobeying my orders? Or will you let me ride home, breaking your oath to protect me?"
She dully realized that when she said home, she envisioned Winterfell. If only she could simply ride home.
In the end, Ser Barristan finally managed to escort her to the royal pavilion.
Lyanna dropped face down into their bed furs. She laid there for a time willing the world to stop rocking about.
She didn't know how long she laid there before she heard the rustling sound of someone entering through the flap. Lyanna didn't move as she felt the bed shift under Robert's weight.
He ran a hand along her back. "You're still dressed. Here let me set that to rights."
Lyanna shrugged away from him. "Shouldn't you be off somewhere pushing that woman's skirts up?"
Robert groaned and moved away from her. "Damn it, I did nothing with that woman."
"And you weren't looking her over either."
"A man has eyes."
"And hands, a mouth, a cock…"
"And they are only for you." He brushed her hair aside and kissed the back of her neck. "You have no reason to be jealous."
"Aye, I know," Lyanna said, trying to keep her voice even. "I already told you I didn't care who you fuck."
Robert cursed. "I've lain with no one but you."
She rolled onto her side and stared at him over her shoulder.
"Since you arrived in King's Landing," he said. "No one but you."
Lyanna rolled back onto her stomach and stared at the golden pavilion wall. They both laid in silence for a time before she finally fell asleep.
The morning after the tourney, Lady Janna found Ser Jaime breaking his fast in the solar. From the doorway, she regarded him for a moment. He scarcely resembled the great Lion of Lannister she had seen cloaked in white at Harrenhal and decked in gold upon his return to King's Landing to fight his father's cause. His hair was dyed a rich soil brown to help him blend in with the men of the Reach should he ever be seen without his helm. A had even grown a beard, marring his once clean-shaven face. Though he dyed that as well, the hair grew so quickly, the roots appeared white in places, aging him some fifteen years at least.
Entering the room, she donned a smile. "Good morrow, ser. I trust you slept well." She slipped into a seat across the table from his.
Ser Jaime returned her smile, his face flushed with drink. "Yes, there is nothing quite like a hard won victory and a scolding from a father to guarantee a peaceful sleep."
"I hope Lord Tywin wasn't too wroth with you," she said filing a plate with an assortment of fruits.
She already heard from her mother that the Lannister men had argued quite fiercely over Jaime's decision to joust. He had been denied the Tourney of Harrenhal. He would not be denied this chance no matter how stupid it was. Lady Olenna had been just as furious – not mention terrified – as Lord Tywin. She loathed this ill-gotten alliance with the Lannisters as it was. This only cemented her belief that she was right and Mace had blundered again in his eagerness to grasp for what power might be had now that the Targaryens were overthrown.
When the Lannisters angled for the new king to wed Lady Cersei – causing uncertainty over who the new queen would be – Mace had thought it would be a good idea to throw in Janna's name for consideration. That had been rather humiliating. And the lengths he went to could have caused devastating results for their House. But luckily the Lannisters took the blame.
That ought to have taught him to keep well away from such overt plots. It hadn't. Now they shared their apartments with fugitives and, if all went according to plan, the realm would proceed into another civil war. Their only consolation was that Mace was quite pleased to be involved in the plans of the great Tywin Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle.
But Janna could not let her irritation show. Ser Jaime was to be her husband, and it was best they got on well.
"Even if you had been discovered, you rode so well in the tourney, even the queen would have thought it a shame to try you," she said.
He laughed long and mirthlessly before taking another drink of wine. "Would this be the former Lady Stark who looked down her frozen nose at me for slaying her father's killer?"
"She cheered you as loud as anyone yesterday."
"Oh, yes, they all cheered me as though I were the second coming of Aegon the Dragon… when they didn't know who I was," he said. "But if I had worn no disguise, how they would have sneered at me, even without the charges laid at my door. They would have loathed me for existing and scowled all the harder at my success. And how I would have laughed. The people have no liking for true heroes. They only worship at the altar of a man who led thousands to their death for a pretty face… and to sate his pride. But I kill a few men to save thousands of lives and I am reviled."
He must have been deep in his cups despite the early hour. But that was more to the good. He might be more inclined to share more.
"Saved thousands of lives?" she laughed. "You drank too much of that fine red."
"Does my lady impugn my honor? Oh wait. I have no honor!"
He laughed again, but drank no more.
Janna did not press lest she make him suspicious of her intentions. Besides, silence often reaped a finer harvest than questions.
She focused her on her grapes, peaches, oranges, and apples. She always asked the servants to lay out such an assortment for breakfast, though each time the meal made her long for Highgarden and the impossibly fresh fruits that burst in one's mouth. The food in King's Landing tasted as thought they were stored too long in the barrel. Probably because they had.
Every so often, she glanced up at Ser Jaime whose face seemed to flicker between a smirk and a grimace. Finally, he took another drink and refilled his glass.
"I saved thousands," he repeated. "And my father…"
His thick lips curled.
"He doesn't appreciate you?" Janna prompted.
Jaime green eyes glared past her so fiercely, she turned to see who he might be staring at. There was no one.
"He means to undo my great work." Jaime abruptly rose and strode from the solar.