Chapter 7

The Lannisters rode hard the night they escaped King's Landing, an eye always cast behind them to watch for pursuit. Yet, days passed and no one came after them.

Fools. They thought imprisoning their father would leave the rest of the pride tame. Cersei vowed to herself that all of Westeros would soon find that the lion cubs were just as fierce as Lord Tywin ever was.

But whenever their party stopped for rest, Uncle Kevan would discuss plans with Jaime and pay no heed to any of Cersei's suggestions. She wanted to call the banners immediately and destroy their enemies quickly. Cersei had no training in military tactics, but she knew enough to realize King Robert's armies were weakened from a year of battle and the chief portion of the soldiers returned home. Lord Tywin had only utilized a fraction of the west's strength to take King's Landing. Their forces were still fresh and numerous.

Kevan would hear none of it. He wished to focus on their father's trial and sealing alliances with marriages to fortify their House for the coming storm. As if that would rescue Father!

"The best course will be to offer your hand to Janna Tyrell, Jaime," their uncle said as they dined within his chambers at the inn. "That will bind us to the Reach. And we can bring the Iron Islands to our side by wedding Cersei to one of Lord Balon's brothers or even one of his sons. They are not so much younger than she."

Jaime looked as though he would wretch at this line of talk. "Marriages will not free Father. Swords will."

"Yes," Cersei said. "We must muster our strength and march in force."

"Not without more Houses at our side," Kevan insisted. "By the time we roused the west, your father's trial would be done and settled. But Jaime, you might just have the right of it. This could all be solved with your sword. Mayhaps I was too hasty in our flight. I thought the king might take it into his head to imprison us all lest we flee west and make moves to oppose him. But if he has not sent men after us by now, he is not like to and that is all to the good. Jaime, you will return to King's Landing whilst Cersei and I continue on to the Rock."

"And what, Uncle?" Jaime turned to him lazily. "Take the city on mine own? That should be a fine trick."

"Offer to champion your father in a trial by combat."

Now their uncle was finally speaking sense. Cersei knew no one could best Jaime. Once he slew the champion who dared come against him, their father would be free by all laws of men and gods. Then they would take their vengeance.

"Whilst in the capital, you must treat with Mace Tyrell as discreetly as possible," Kevan continued. "He wishes for his sister to wed the king, but even your father grew to accept that Baratheon would not set Lady Lyanna aside. Tyrell must see the impossibility of that as well. Now that you are heir to the Rock once more, you will be an attractive prospect for any lady. Binding House Lannister with the Tyrells and the Greyjoys will make us a force strong enough to challenge and perhaps remove our new king if needs be."

Cersei was impressed. "These were Father's plans, were they not? He shared them with you somehow?"

"No, it is mine own plan," Kevan said. "Your father wished to wed you to Lord Stannis so long as he received Storm's End as well as Dragonstone. Lord Jon was still-"

"Stannis?" Cersei had thought not to hear of that again. "But why bother himself with the second son when the king himself would soon be unpromiesd? Did he make plans for Robert Baratheon to die as well as the Stark girl?"

Kevan turned his gaze upon her with more than a touch of impatience. "Are you saying you believe your father to be guilty of attempting to murder Lady Lyanna?"

The twins exchanged a glance that ascertained their unity on the topic.

"Why, yes." Jaime turned to their uncle. "I believe my sister is saying she believes our father did this. As do I. Are we wrong? Is there some other mysterious culprit?"

Their uncle sat back in his chair and closed his eyes for a moment.

"Tywin Lannister is many things, but a fool is not among them," Kevan said at last. "Why would he order the Stark girl's death when he would be the first one suspected? You must learn to do more than swing a sword, Jaime. You must learn to think."

As Cersei settled into her room at the inn that night, she wondered who might have hired those brigands if not Father. Mace Tyrell had reason but the man had milk for blood. He would never dare make so bold a move. The Martells perhaps. Mightn't they blame Lyanna Stark for her part in Elia Martell's death? If it were not for that Northern slut, the princess never would have encountered Gregor Clegane. But whoever did it, they were fools. They botched the job and the whore lived.

Jaime came to Cersei that night just as she knew he would.

He barely said a word as they came together, their bodies knowing each other better than a lion knew its own fur. Jaime moved with her even more fervently than usual, this being their last time before parting.

When they finished, Cersei let him hold her for a time.

"Will King Robert fight you himself, do you think?" she asked.

Jaime laughed. "Only if he is a fool. So yes, sweet sister, he may. Lord Stark will undoubtedly ask the right to take up the challenge too. It was his wife they killed and that would be the only honorable thing, wouldn't it? And Ser Barristan has wanted to taste my blood since the first time he called me Kingslayer. He won't easily let an opportunity like this pass him by. Yes, Selmy will do. His twisted honor will make him stand for the Mad King and the Usurper too. Yes, I can see the three of them squabbling over the right to die at my hands."

"See to it that the king wins that honor," Cersei said.

"Stark would be the easiest to best."

"And how would his death help House Lannister?" Cersei rested her chin on Jaime's chest to look up at him. "His younger brother will become Lord of Winterfell in his stead. We have no gain in that. There is naught to be gained with Selmy's death either."

"Our king has two younger brothers to take his place too."

"One is a boy and the other spent a year starving behind castle walls while their older brother was out covering himself in glory. Neither will be taking King Robert's place if he falls. Neither of them will be a rebel hero who fought for his right to the throne. The rest of the realm need not follow them."

"So no Storm Kings?" Jaime kissed her forehead. "More's the pity."

"The realm knelt to dragons." Cersei reminded him, her mind drifting to Prince Rhaegar and his sad lilac eyes. "Lions might have bedded down with dragons. But why should the lions kneel to the stags? Go to King's Landing. Free our father. And make the Lannisters kings again."


In the days that followed Catelyn's funeral service in the Sept of Baelor, Lyanna found she didn't just mourn her for Ned and Robb's sake. She truly missed her good sister. Odd since she had only been in the capital so short a time and they had not become fast friends. Lyanna knew Lady Catelyn had sought her company as a duty because she was her sister by law and would soon be her queen. But Catelyn had never been false or scheming like many of the other ladies who endured Lyanna's company. She was honest and blunt, even when Lyanna had no liking for what she had to say. A woman like that could only be valued. Yet she was gone now.

When other ladies dutifully came to call on Lyanna in her solar while she recovered, she tried to be more courteous and interested in them, remembering some advice Catelyn gave her about the importance of forming friendships or at least positive relations with women from other Houses. But even after three days of trying, most of them still seemed to stare at her through fake smiles. Their shrewd eyes studied her every move as though she were a wild animal who was like to charge at them.

The only ones who seemed genuine were Janna Tyrell and Mina Redwyne. Both of the Tyrell sisters had the same love of horses and hunting as Lyanna, and wanted to make plans to go hawking with her once her arm healed.

Other than Robert and Benjen, they seemed to be the only ones who enjoyed her company anymore. Even Eddard was growing more distant, retreating into himself even further as he struggled to heal from yet another loss.

Then there were the Tullys who blamed her for Catelyn's death, as well they might. Lyanna could feel the accusation in their blue-eyed stares. If not for her, Catelyn would be alive. How was it that while others continued to die around her and for her, Lyanna continued to thrive? Though none of them said anything outright, the rift was felt in other ways.

Lysa only grudgingly allowed her to see Robb, whom Lady Arryn had immediately taken charge of. Lyanna didn't press so as not to make things worse for the grieving girl or to

The Tully men always greeted her with stern courtesy and little warmth, even Edmure. When the river lords first arrived in King's Landing with the northmen, the heir of Riverrun and Benjen had been near inseparable. Edmure had seemed to worship the older boy, following him about. But no longer. They were barely polite now.

"He is a little shit," Benjen said stiffly when Lyanna asked.

She wished for some way to heal the rift growing between their Houses, but short of summoning Catelyn back to life, there seemed to be no way of doing so. The only action she could think to take could only put a balm on the wound.

"Have you considered Ser Brynden Tully?" Lyanna asked Robert one evening while they sat together on the cushioned couch in her solar and he shared his troubles with the council, particularly the difficulty of assembling completely fresh Kingsguard.

Being king seemed to be more trouble than it was worth, but Robert couldn't share his frustrations with Jon Arryn because he was part of the troubles. He also couldn't burden Ned, who was grieving. So he had taken to talking with Lyanna about the tediousness of it all. In turn, she told him of her own irritation with trying to say the right things with these women who had very little in common with her.

"The Blackfish?" Robert's thumb absently rubbed circles in the palm of Lyanna's hand. "That old man?"

"Old? He is younger than Ser Barristan," Lyanna said. "He proved his worth in the War of the Ninepenny Kings and in the rebellion."

"That he did." He paused a moment. "Mayhaps he will do. The other names brought before us are lordlings known for nothing, but keeping to the edge of battles where it's safest. We need someone who knows what to do with a sword besides polish it."

Lyanna couldn't help smiling. "The way men deem each other worthy. It is odd thinking of you, Jon, and Ser Barristan assessing how well other men swing and polish and sheath their swords."

Robert stared at her a moment before letting out a booming laugh that soon had her joining in. They probably laughed longer than the small jape warranted with one of them starting up again soon after they had both stopped.

Shoulders still shaking, he pressed Lyanna's hand to his lips. "We should be married by now."

Lyanna's heart tightened at the words and all of the mirth from moments before fled. You should be fucking me by now, you mean, she thought as she drew her hand away.

As much affection as she was beginning to feel for her betrothed, the thought of laying with anyone made her feel uneasy.

But Robert was not completely wrong though. If not for the Targaryens they would have married a few moons after Brandon and Catelyn. If not for Tywin Lannister and his hired brigands, they would have wed the day after her attack. Instead, they had to put off the wedding. As necessary as the delay was, she could almost understand his frustration.

Lyanna rose and strode to the window looking over the capital. "The Others take Catelyn. How dare she die right when we were to marry. If she had any kindness she would have waited until after the wedding feast. Or better still, the bedding ceremony."

Robert let out a groan as he approached her from behind. "Oh, Lya, you know I meant no such thing." His thickly muscled arms wrapped around her. "I merely want you to be my lady wife."

"It is only respectful to wait." Lyanna's heart pounded painfully against her ribs. She tried not to think of how much bigger and stronger than her he was. She tried to keep her voice calm and powerful. "We will marry in a fortnight. That is still rather soon considering."

"We need not wait for everything," he whispered and kissed her neck.

"Don't!"

Lyanna jolted sharply away from him. She was rewarded with a searing pain in that damnable shoulder.

"Seven hells!"

Guilt streaked his face as he helped her back to the couch. "Forgive me," he mumbled awkwardly. "I did not mean to hurt you. I- I will send for Pycelle."

"No." She took his hand and pulled him beside her. "Stay."

He kissed her hand again. "A fortnight will pass quickly."

"It will," she agreed.

The two weeks would slip by. Soon enough the men of the court would tear the clothing from her body during the bedding ceremony. The thought of it frightened her and she hated herself for being frightened. Perhaps Robert was right, in his way. Perhaps they should start now so she could be brave by then.

Having made up her mind, Lyanna leaned forward, careful not to put any strain on her wounded shoulder. She kissed him quickly.

Robert blinked in surprise before moving in on her.

Lyanna held out her good hand. "Wait. We shall begin slowly. Just kissing."

He nodded.

It was quite awkward at first. With her left arm bound across her chest, Lyanna could only embrace him with the right arm. Robert attempted wrapping his own arms around her gingerly so as not to put pressure on the wound. Once they settled, they stared at each other. Robert snorted and laughed.

Lyanna found herself laughing again as well. "This isn't the way it's supposed to be, is it?"

Still chuckling softly, Robert cupped her cheek and kissed her again. He wasted little time in deepening the kiss and running his tongue along the line between her lips, pushing for entry.

Lyanna pulled back. "Are you trying to put your tongue in my mouth? Should I be putting mine in yours too?"

Robert's blue eyes regarded her in surprise. "I- What?"

"I want to do this properly."

"Properly? Well, we just do it, is all."

This time when they kissed, she opened her mouth and tried to mimic his movements. They were settling into a pleasant rhythm until Robert began leaning her back into the couch.

She turned her face away again. "You're pushing me down. Stop that."

He looked at her queerly again, but he heeded her request … for a few moments. Then he began to ease her back again.

Lyanna smacked his shoulder with her right hand. "I said stop. I won't have you forcing me down."

Robert growled in frustration. "Here." Lyanna's stomach leapt as he lifted her by the waist and swirled them about in one swift movement, settling her in his lap so she straddled him. "How is that?"

She adjusted her skirts awkwardly as she looked down at him. His strength and size no longer felt so unnerving with him beneath her.

"It will serve," Lyanna said before lowering her mouth onto his once more.

For the next few days, they spent part of the evening wrapped in each other and Lyanna found that she rather liked it… when he wasn't trying to tug at her bodice or jerkin. But sometimes she was so caught up in his heated kisses, she allowed him to grasp at her through her clothes and run his mouth down her neck to the tops of her breasts. On the third day, she even allowed him to slip his hand between the folds of her skirt, mostly out of curiosity to see what he meant to do.

Robert eased his hand between her thighs and cupped her there. She gasped shakily.

"Gods you're hot…" he rasped against her neck, pressing his palm for firmly against her through the smallclothes.

Of their own accord, her hips moved against his hand.

Robert laughed. "You like that, do you?"

"Shut up," she said before covering his mouth with hers.

As his fingers moved against her through the fabric, she couldn't help but moan into his kiss. A maddening heat coiled in her belly, tighter and tighter until-

Lyanna's nails sank into the skin along the back of his neck as her body seized and succumbed to shudders. She pressed herself close to him as the foreign sensation flowed over her.

"If you liked that," Robert said when her breathing began to steady, "there are other things we can do that will cast no shadow on your virtue."

"How sweet of you to speak as though I have any virtue left," Lyanna said, wondering how many women he had ruined with those words.

"Lya-"

Gracelessly, she moved away from him. "Thank you, that was- I liked that very much. But we should stop for tonight."

As usual, Robert tried to dissuade her, but soon left when she showed no sign of giving in.

Lyanna watched him go wondering if he would sate himself on someone less difficult. She had to remind herself that she didn't care one bit who he laid with.