Author's Note: As always, thanks for the follows and reviews! I also appreciate everyone for bearing with me through these sporadic updates. I'm hoping during these holidays to knock out a few more chapters to keep things moving along. I have the ending all planned out for this fic, but it's just a matter of getting there. This update brings us one step closer! Read on and Enjoy!
The smell of acrid smoke burned her eyes and seared her lungs. Covering her face with the fur trimmed cloak wrapped so tightly across her shoulders, Amarah used her other free arm to retrieve her hidden dagger from the tangled folds of her long skirt and pressed on through the courtyard of Winterfell, now strewn with the dead and fallen from Jaime and Stannis's siege on the keep.
"Are you certain you wish to do this, my lady?" Amarah heard Brienne's voice from behind her as she delicately picked her way through the various corpses lying in mangled positions across the muddy ground.
Amarah's steps halted for a brief moment as she turned to look back at the woman who had voiced the question. "What alternative is there, Brienne?" she asked, her voice devoid of the traces of mockery that could so often be found there. "If I let him live, I have little doubt in my mind he would extend the same courtesy to a 'vile Lannister'," she echoed her Uncle's words from two days before when Jaime had walked into his tent to negotiate the terms of their treaty.
Stannis had accepted their terms of peace just as he had promised and the night prior had launched his attack on the keep with the added support of Jaime's forces ensuring his swift and complete victory. Officially, Amarah had been told to stay back at the camp until the fighting was complete, but she and Jaime had made their own plans in that regard. As the siege was ending, she would sneak inside the keep to finish off her uncle, dealing him the bitter hand of defeat just as he was taking comfort in the fact that his victory was near.
Amarah fully intended to the one who dealt him that particular hand of fate. She had no intention of forcing Jaime to complete the betrayal she had proposed in order to regain Winterfell. No, this she would do herself. Stannis would fall to no one's hand but her own. Some would call it kinslaying, but she called it justice. After the vile way Stannis had ended Renly's life, hiding behind the skirts of his red lady to carry out the deed, it was no more than he deserved. Amarah would end his life, just as he had Renly's, and she would hide behind no one as she slid the dagger through his cold heart.
Brienne must have sensed the determination in her gaze because she responded with a bow of acknowledgement. "If this is what you wish, I will stand by your side."
"Thank you." Amarah whispered the word softly, but Brienne was able to catch the sound. With a nod of her head, she accepted the thanks before ushering them on through the courtyard.
"If the fighting has not yet finished, then we are still in danger by entering the keep," she spoke in low tones from above Amarah's shoulder, informing her of information she already know.
They were still in danger leaving camp before the siege was finished, but it was the only time to catch Stannis away from his personal guards. The eldest Baratheon had not been reckless in much throughout life, save his insistence on being in the thick of the fighting whenever a battle took place. Perhaps, Amarah thought, it was his way of fighting with honor.
Amarah gripped her little dagger a fraction tighter to feel the reassuring press of cool metal against the palm of her hand. "I trust you to keep me from falling on a Ramsey sword," she returned Brienne's warning with a look of absolute confidence. "And I would brave any danger to keep Jaime alive."
She meant to keep walking but stopped abruptly when the larger woman halted completely at that remark. Amarah turned back to give her a puzzled glance at yet another delay and saw something disconcerting lurking in the blue depths of her lady knight's gaze. "These are dangerous times, my lady," Brienne finally spoke, her voice now even softer than before, as if she was almost afraid of speaking her thoughts aloud. "War is no respecter of person or rank. Sometimes, no matter how we might wish to protect them, we cannot save those we love."
Amarah's determined gaze softened for just a moment as she stared at Brienne's face and the blue eyes that shimmered with compassion and fierce loyalty. Brienne had already seen Amarah's grief once, had been the one to take her from Jaime after he had brought her back from the woods moaning and sobbing like a wounded animal over the news of Robb's death. Clearly, Brienne did not wish to ever have to repeat such a task and had chosen this moment to prepare Amarah for the possibility that she might lose yet another man she loved. As a brief image of her Uncle Renly's face flitted through her mind, Amarah knew it was a pain Brienne herself understood all too well.
"I understand the perils of war," Amarah tried to reassure her in a voice free of any waver or tremble of fear. "I know the possibility that Jaime may be taken from me whether I fight for his life or not, but I will not simply stand aside and let him die if I know there is anything I might do to prevent. If he died because I failed to do everything I could, I could never live with myself."
Brienne seemed to think on her words for a moment as her eyes narrowed in concentration. After a moment of silence, her look of resolution seemed to indicate that she had come to a decision. "We should keep moving then."
Amarah was comforted to find the concern she had spotted in the other woman's eyes moments before seemed to have been tempered by her conviction to help Amarah accomplish her task. Though Amarah had acknowledged the possibility of defeat, she did not have to accept that fate without fighting back. Now it looked as if Brienne understood that, as she started down the stone passageway once more and gestured Amarah to fall in step behind her.
Amarah was about to comply with the order to continue on in the knight's wake, when she caught sight of a flash of white behind her and whirled around to see what it was. However, by the time she turned, the stone corridor behind her was empty. Pausing a moment to make certain she had not imagined the movement, Amarah shook her head at her own fancy in imagining shadows where none existed and continued on after her knight.
If the information Jaime had sent to them via one of his trusted men could be counted as true, Stannis had taken it upon himself to rid Winterfell of the bastard Bolton boy while Jaime dealt with his wicked sire, and from the few details Amarah had been able to pull out of Theon Greyjoy that very morning, the nasty boy's favorite place to retreat to when threatened was his lair beneath Winterfell.
From the reluctant way Theon had behaved when Amarah tried to cajole him into telling her about his diabolical captor, the dungeon of Winterfell was a place he had preferred to forget. He most likely wouldn't have told her of it at all except for the fact that it had been her reasoning which had persuaded Stannis to let him keep his head. Not that she was entirely certain Theon was grateful for the life she had granted him, but his gratitude must have extended far enough to guilt him into giving her the information she sought.
With that knowledge of the Bolton bastard's whereabouts in her mind, Amarah marched resolutely through the halls of a home she had once loved so dearly, all the time trying desperately to ignore the sights and scents of destruction that marred her childhood memories of a keep where love and warmth were once found in abundance. Now she could see only death.
"There, Brienne," Amarah spoke in a relieved whisper once she spotted the stone stairwell that would lead to the dungeons she sought. She looked back to give her knight a hard look of determination. "Follow me, and be careful. If the Bolton boy is in that dungeon with my uncle, then we will have to be twice as wary."
Brienne said nothing in return but the hand she laid on the hilt of her sword was reply enough. Amarah turned from her and led the way down the dark, stone passage that reeked with the smell of rotting death. Lifting her cape again to cover her offended nostrils, Amarah sent up a quick but fervent prayer to the Seven that her uncle was here as she hoped. If not, all her efforts would have been for nothing.
When she reached the bottom of the stairs, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the damp dark of the rooms, with only a thin ribbon of light emanating from a lone torch that looked in very great danger of burning out any moment. She glanced away from the single torch in the center of the room and ventured a bit further in as he eyes continued to grow accustomed to the dark. She didn't see the lump at her feet until it was too late.
With a muffled shriek, Amarah's foot caught the edge of the unseen obstacle before she pitched forward and landed with a hard thud. To her dismay, the dagger she had clutched so fiercely to herself, flew further than the spot where she had landed, leaving her weaponless in the dark chamber of horrors beneath the keep. The fear she felt at finding herself weaponless only grew when her eyes caught sight of what is was that had sent her flying face first into the dust.
"Stannis!" Her voice came out only as a strangled whisper when she caught sight of his lifeless face staring up into the dark, a bloody gash nearly separating his head from the rest of him. Though she had planned on ending his life herself, she hadn't been prepared for the possibility that someone else would accomplish the deed before her. Now seeing his lifeless body in front of her and experiencing a sickening rush of dread at the sight, she wondered briefly if she would have been able to end his life as callously as she had planned. She wasn't given long to ponder the thought.
"My lady!" Amarah looked up from her uncle's corpse at the sound of Brienne's warning. Unfortunately for her, the warning didn't come soon enough.
Before she knew what was happening, something latched firmly onto her braid that had escaped from her cloak and yanked viciously on the dangling tail to haul her to her feet. She felt herself collide with a hard form before a punishing grip held her there, and the cold press of a metal blade bit into the tender skin of her throat. She instantly tried to wrestle herself free but was rewarded for the effort with a painful nick that cause a dribble of crimson blood to drip down the dagger under her chin.
Brienne had drawn her blade as soon as Amarah had been pulled further into the darkness but drew to a halt at the sight of that knife digging into her mistress's throat. "Now what do we have here?" a malicious whisper mocked in Amarah's ear, causing her an involuntary shiver of disgust at the depravity and hatred that laced the unseen captor's voice. "A pretty little thing for me to play with, it looks like. If you're who I think you are, lady, then I'll have less trouble escaping this heap of shit than I first thought. The dead stag king there underestimated me. Gods, he didn't even give my intelligence enough credit to bring some men to help him with the slaying he planned. From the sight of your beast here, I see you've given me slightly more consideration."
The recognition finally dawned on her. "You're Roose Bolton's bastard."
His response to that accusation was another vicious yank on her braid before digging the vicious blade even deeper into her vulnerable flesh. "After the Kingslayer does away with my father, I'll be the only Bolton in the kingdoms, bastard or no."
"You'll be dead if you don't take that blade from her throat," Brienne interrupted his gloating as her hand hovered warningly over the hilt of her sheathed sword.
Though Amarah couldn't see his face, she could imagine the lack of concern he would display at such a bald threat. From what she had heard, the Bolton bastard wasn't one to be easily defeated nor greatly deterred by the threats of his enemies. "And if I see your hand reach for that sword one more time, I'll cut her just deeply enough to let the blood slowly leak from her veins, giving you just enough time to wail and scream as you watch her die," he calmly responded, confirming Amarah's suspicions about his reaction to threats. "I wanted some fun while I could still hear her screams but that can all wait until she's dead. It makes no difference to me."
Amarah didn't even want to dwell on what he meant by that. Instead, she chose to respond to his threats in kind. "If you let me go now, I'll do you the favor of slitting your throat quickly rather than drawing out the process."
"So pretty and yet so fucking stupid," he murmured while dropping the knife at her throat low enough to add another shallow cut just above the swell of her breast.
Jaime won't like that, she thought fleetingly before Ramsey's voice drew her attention away from the little rivulets of blood running down her chest. "Every time you speak I'll add yet another, and if I see that beast of yours make even the smallest movement before we are out the passageway leading from these dungeons, I'll put this blade somewhere much worse than these pretty tits of yours."
Amarah was tempted to tell him he could fuck himself with the dagger but ultimately decided that she'd rather not see her breasts disfigured any further. When he saw she meant to comply with his order, he withdrew the hand holding her to his chest and used his curled fist to prod her through the dark past Stannis's corpse and Brienne's still form. The lady knight had taken the bastard's warning to heart, and she moved not the slightest bit as the two cloaked figures passed by her in the dark. Amarah couldn't make out Brienne's features very well in the dim surroundings, but she had no doubt she would merely see a reflection of her own frustration at how dismally her plan had failed. Stannis was dead, but it seemed she would soon be as well.
When they reached the opening in the wall where the stone steps would lead them out, the bastard shoved her in front of him while keeping his eye on the tall lady eyeing them very carefully from the center of the room. Just as Amarah was preparing to turn the corner of the darkened stairway, she caught sight of a blurred form crouched at her feet. She stopped herself from reacting just in time to prevent the bastard from spotting him as well. He was still facing to the side of her, keeping a watch on Brienne, and did not notice the sight of a ghostly white arm extending towards Amarah's hand and slipping something into her grasp. She dimly though that the object felt like the blunt edge of a dinner knife but didn't take enough time to inspect the mysterious object before blindly jabbing over her shoulder in the direction of her assailant's throat.
It must have been sharp enough to do some small amount of damage because her movement was met with a howl of pain. As soon as the grip holding her throat slackened, she latched onto his wrist before throwing her full weight back against him and pushing them both to the ground. "Brienne!" she shouted in command before managing to push his arm holding the knife far enough away to give her knight clear aim.
Brienne was as quick as Amarah gave her credit for, and the hand in the air was quickly disposed of with a slice of a sword blade, adding even further to the bastard's howls of agony. With a smirk of immense satisfaction, Amarah surveyed the damage done to his limb as felt herself lifted from his writhing body and placed firmly the ground again.
"It's safe now, Theon Greyjoy," Amarah called out behind her. Brienne's gaze left the bastard's just long enough to give her a puzzled glance at the command, but her confusion was quickly erased at the sight of the ghostly white figure that emerged from the stairwell a few paces away. "Where did you find that knife?" Amarah addressed the question to him as soon as he had come close enough for the light to fall across his pale features.
Something flickered then in the depths of Theon Greyjoy's broken and haunted gaze, something that looked suspiciously like amusement. "It was his knife. The one he liked to eat with."
"Hmm," she simply grunted in reply. Taking another look at Theon she returned her gaze to the man on the floor. He had stopped howling by now and was holding his severed limb tightly against his chest while shooting a venomous glare at the boy standing by her side. Amarah marveled silently at the cold malice that was contained in that concentrated glare. She had only seen such cold devilry once before, when sitting across Roose Bolton at a feasting table in Harrenhall. Like father like bastard.
She thought he might speak then, aiming some last words of hatred or mockery at Theon before they put an end to him once and for all, but he seemed content enough to just glare in silence. When it was clear he would say nothing else, Amarah bent to retrieve the knife Theon had handed her and rose to place it in his open hand.
"Do with him whatever you like."
Theon's eyes grew large at the order and he looked at her with a disbelieving stare. "Me?" he finally found the voice to question her order.
She regarded him silently for a moment, taking in the pale features of his ravaged face and the depth of pain in his eyes. Yes, he had done her family great harm, but standing here now, she could summon not even one ounce of rage. From the look of it, he had paid for his atrocities. Perhaps more than he should have. "Yes, Theon," she finally answered him with a firm nod. "Who better to inflict his own torture on him than one who experienced it firsthand? Brienne will stay with you to ensure the job is finished."
Theon looked at her with an empty gaze for a few moments longer as her words began to sink in. Finally, he looked at the blunt blade in his hand before turning that concentration to the prone figure at his feet. "We'll need more light."
"I'll see to it," Amarah assured him with a nod before moving away from the trio.
"Where are you going, my lady?" Brienne's voice reached Amarah before she could escape the foul smelling place.
She stopped only long enough to give a reply. "To find Jaime."
"I would have expected him to put up a better fight," Sandor Clegane grunted in disappointment before giving Roose Bolton's dead body a hard kick as if to make certain he was truly dead.
Jaime looked down at the fallen lord before sheathing his bloody sword with a sigh. "Perhaps he would have protested louder if I hadn't sliced his throat open so soon, but I can't summon up a great deal of remorse for that. His attempts to bargain for his life were beginning to bore me."
A rough laugh of amusement escaped Clegane's hard mouth as he gave the corpse one last shove. "Well, you'll not have to be bored further, Kingslayer."
Jaime opened his mouth to give a scathing reply to Clegane's mocking use of his title, but before the words could be formed, he was interrupted by the approach of one of the Baratheon men. "What is it?" he asked, drawling the question in a tone that suggested he couldn't have cared less about whatever the man had to say.
"It's Lady Amarah, my lord," he answered, finally gaining Jaime's full attention. "She's asking for you. We wouldn't let her any nearer to the fighting, so she's back in the courtyard shouting curses at us."
"Of course, she is," Jaime murmured with an amused smile. "Well, take me to her then so I can spare the ears of your men."
With the last of the fighting now over, Jaime could leave his sword in its scabbard as he followed the green and gold cloak that led him to his princess. He heard the sound of Clegane following somewhere behind, but didn't bother to give him a backward glance as they walked along. Once they were in the courtyard, Jaime found himself smirking at the sound of Amarah's raised voice hurling insults at the soldiers just as she had been accused of doing. However, when he approached close enough to see the dried blood caked on her throat and chest, he smirk was forgotten in favor of a fierce scowl.
"What in the seven hells happened to you?" he asked when she was close enough to see him. He didn't give her time enough to answer before he yanked her to him and began inspecting the wounds that had leaked the now dried blood that covered the front of her.
She seemed distracted by his focus on her wounds but quickly waved away his concerns with an irritated gesture. "That's not important now," she hushed his concerns. "I've left Brienne in the dungeons with Theon Greyjoy and that bastard of Roose Bolton's."
"Ramsey is still alive?" Jaime questioned, slightly confused at what she was telling him. When Stannis had hauled the little shit away, Jaime had assumed that would be the end of him.
"Somehow he managed to nearly separate my uncle's head entirely from his shoulders before attempting to repeat the process on me," she informed him with a grim look.
Jaime blinked rapidly as he stared at her bloody face, trying to absorb everything she was trying to tell him. "So you didn't…" he trailed off, leaving the thought unspoken.
"No," she answered with a shake of her head. "Perhaps it's better like this."
Jaime couldn't help but concur. Secretly, he had suspected that the purer part of her nature couldn't have carried through with a cold blooded attempt of murder on the last remaining member of the Baratheon house save herself. "You mentioned the Greyjoy boy?" he prompted her when her look became unfocused as she fell silent.
Her gaze snapped back to his and the grey eyes cleared as she remembered what it was she meant to tell him. "Oh, yes. Theon kept the bastard from killing me, so I supposed the least I could do was to let him inflict some torture of his own on the mean little shit. I usually prefer a swift death, but the bastard threatened to cut off my tits so I wasn't feeling very charitable towards him."
"A fitting punishment then," Jaime agreed softly. "At least we still have these."
Amarah followed the direction of his gaze and gave him a look of wry amusement. "I'm relieved to finally discover what parts of me are most important to you."
"Oh, it's your pretty head I adore most," Jaime informed her with a lazy smile, "but the tits follow close behind."
Amarah simply rolled her eyes at the male response. "Now that we've established your adoration of my breasts, perhaps we should send some men to relieve Brienne from her current post."
Jaime intended to do just that before the sound of pounding hooves just beyond the keep distracted them both from the task at hand. From the the sound of the approaching horses, another army had come to call on the keep of Winterfell. "Your men?" Amarah questioned with a confused look.
"The remainder of my men had orders to stay with Lady Sansa until they received word from me that it was safe to bring her to the keep," Jaime told her, his golden brows drawn together in concern. Whoever rode towards the keep now, they weren't associated with the Baratheons or the Lannisters, and that left precious few alternatives.
"See who's come to pay us a visit," he ordered the Baratheon soldier who had brought him to Amarah. The man bobbed his head in obedience and ran past the gates of the courtyard to greet their unexpected guests. Jaime put his arm around Amarah and pulled her close when he caught sight of a hint of nervousness in her gaze. "If they meant to slaughter us they wouldn't have stopped at the gate first."
"Perhaps they mean to take us by surprise," she muttered but didn't offer any argument beyond that.
Jaime was saved from the need to respond when the Baratheon knight reentered the gates and moved towards them with a quicker gate than when he had left. Jaime's brows rose at the look of obvious urgency on the man's face but stayed silent to hear his report.
"My Lord," the man began, pausing a moment to catch his breath after running the length of the courtyard. "It's the Lord Commander of the Watch. He comes with news beyond the wall."
At that unexpected news, Jaime looked down at Amarah to see her mouth hanging open in an uncharacteristic display of surprise. "Well, Princess, it looks as if Ned Stark's bastard has finally come home."
So a lot happened here, but I'm trying to get the ball rolling in order to get things wrapped up. So stay tuned cause it's gonna be a pretty wild ride from here on out. And for those that have read a Dance With Dragons, I am not keeping the plot twist from the very end of that story, so don't be confused if you don't see that addressed here. Also, Jaime would have been made aware that Jon was the new commander back before he was reunited with Amarah (around the same time Cersei was made aware of it in Feast for Crows), so that is something that happened off page. Expect another update soon! Thanks for reading! Comments are appreciated as always!