Chapter Fourteen: King's Landing
A/N: Hello, my lovelies! I'm sorry it's taken this long to get out another chapter, but I've been so busy with upcoming exams and...enough excuses. Things are about to take a drastic turn for Mella and Robb...don't worry, they will be together eventually, but for now they each have their own paths to follow before that can happen.
"I've lost one daughter, and now you take another from me." Cersei watched as a sobbing Myrcella was rowed out towards the ship that waited to take her to Dorne. It was the perfect day for a sea voyage, with not a cloud lingering above King's Landing. Yet Cersei felt that it was so very cold, and she turned and glowered hatefully at Tyrion. What gave him the right to sell Myrcella off to the Martells? He was Hand of the King, but she was Myrcella's mother. Surely that should count for more.
"I had nothing to do with Mella's disappearance," Tyrion stated smoothly. Cersei didn't see that an alliance with the Dornish would be beneficial. Doran was still healing from the wounds left behind from his sister's death, and a marriage to a member of the royal family would surely appease him. Besides, it was better that they allied with the Dornish before the Starks or the Baratheons.
"One of my daughters is being held by the Starks and another by the Martells." Cersei's mouth twisted into a firm, angry line. She liked her children to be close to her, where she could make sure they were safe. The idea of both of her daughters being so far from home was distressing to her.
"Mella left of her own free will," Tyrion insisted quietly, causing Cersei to turn on him, emerald green eyes flashing with anger. She looked as though she dearly wished to slap her younger brother, although of course she couldn't get away with such an action in public.
"That is not true," Cersei hissed, "She was upset about the tension between ourselves and the Starks and rode out only to be captured by an opportunistic Robb Stark. Now he holds her political prisoner and would no doubt worry her to secure a claim to the throne."
Tyrion didn't think Cersei believed in herself any more than he believed her. It was clear that Ned Stark had said something to the girl before his execution, and he strongly suspected that it was related to his claims that Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen were illegitimate. Had the revelation of that apparent truth been enough to drive Mella away from her family? She was a girl of seventeen, and more free-willed than the others. Tyrion thought it was a positive thing that Cersei hadn't sank her claws into Mella enough so that the girl would blindly believe whatever her mother told her.
"I want her home, Tyrion." Cersei played with her hands, as she had a tendency to do whenever she was distressed. "Haven't you heard the news from the south? Renly Baratheon is dead. Someone has killed him, and while I'm not complaining, it's only a matter of time before someone in that Stark boy's camp hurts my Mella."
"I doubt that," Tyrion responded coolly. Mella had been quite the popular one around King's Landing. Her mother and brother might have blatantly ignored the people, but she had been the one to raise her hand and wave and smile. Like she truly cared. Tyrion had no doubt at all that she would make a better Queen than her mother, and rule far less ruthlessly than Joffrey. "Besides, you sent Petyr Baelish to negotiate with Catelyn in the Stormlands for Mella's release. I'm sure that the woman would trade your daughter for hers."
Mella's injuries from the attack were not as severe as Robb had expected. Her arms were cut up in several places, but other than that, it would seem she had managed to hold her own against the would-be assassin. He found himself checking on her constantly, determined to ensure that she was well. Mella often picked at the bandages that covered up her cuts. Robb wasn't certain if it was because they were itchy, or because she wanted to check up on the damage for herself.
"How are you feeling?" He sat beside her bed, examining her closely. No longer did he see a defenceless, spoilt Princess. Mella had grown over the past few months, she had matured infinitely. He saw a beautiful, resolute young woman and he wished that he could marry her more than ever. She would make a fantastic Queen, but the Freys would forever hold it against him if he forsook his promise.
"I'm the same as last time you asked," Mella murmured, a slight smile spreading across her lips. Robb's concern made her feel a bit better, and she couldn't forget how protective he had been of her when the assassin was caught. It was a nice feeling, yet it was one she knew couldn't possibly last.
"Robb..." Both of them looked up as Catelyn entered the tent, dirt-spattered and dishevelled like she had been riding hard for days. She was accompanied by a blonde giant of a woman, over six feet tall, however she hesitated when she saw Mella in bed with white bandages wrapped around her arms. Robb immediately pushed himself to his feet, glancing between his mother and the blonde woman.
"Mother? You're back so soon. Did Renly agree to an alliance?"
"I would rather talk about it in private," Catelyn glanced pointedly at Mella. It wasn't that she didn't trust the girl, but rather because the news of Renly's death would unsettle her. Whatever had happened to Mella, she was injured, and the last thing she needed was more stress.
"Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of me." Mella sat up straighter, blue eyes bright and burning. In that instant, Catelyn could definitely see her as a future Queen of Westeros. She didn't think she had ever seen the girl so assertive. When Robb did not comment, Catelyn took his silence to mean he agreed with Mella, and she sighed heavily.
"Renly is dead. He was killed by...well, we don't quite know what. Brienne and I fled before Stannis and his men could arrive. I'm so sorry, Mella. There was nothing we could have done to save him."
Mella stiffened, clutching at her bed-sheets. She suddenly felt afraid. Was this some sort of conspiracy, or was it merely coincidence that she and her uncle had both been attacked within days of each other? A cold chill ran down her spine, but she ignored it and pushed herself to her feet. Robb attempted to help her, but she gently nudged him aside. She would not be seen as weak any longer. She and Renly had been quite close, in years as well as in terms of their relationship. It was a shock to hear that such a terrible thing had befallen him.
"What happened to you, Lady Baratheon?" Catelyn inquired, examining Mella's heavily bandaged arms once more.
"She was attacked also," Robb said heavily, raking a hand through his dark curls and glancing meaningfully at his mother. "An assassin sent by Joffrey. She isn't safe from him. What if he orders someone to try again?"
"What would you suggest we do?" Catelyn inquired, her voice rising in volume slightly as her impatience grew. "The only place she could truly be safe is with her family in King's Landing. Are you suggesting we send her back to Cersei?"
"Perhaps that's what you should do," Mella said evenly, causing both Catelyn and Robb to turn their attention on her. Robb's eyes widened and he crossed over to her, taking her hands in his and shaking his head.
"You don't mean that. Why would you go back?"
A smile tweaked at Mella's lips, but her eyes remained cold. "To gain the throne Joffrey is keeping warm for me."
Mella soon realised that despite her desire to gain the Iron throne, there was a lot that still needed to be done in the north. This was proved when Jaime strangled Lord Karstark's son to death with his chains in an attempt to escape. His actions led to fury all around the camp – Lord Karstark wanted Jaime put to death, while Robb continued to assure him that the Kingslayer was worth more to them alive.
"You can't kill him," Mella insisted as she wandered over to where Robb and Karstark were arguing. She no longer needed to wear bandages on her arms, but even if it hadn't been so damn cold, she would have worn dresses with long sleeves to cover up the still healing cuts on her pale skin. "Robb's right. You need him if you want to get Sansa back."
Karstark spun around to face her, eyes burning like hot coals. "We don't need him. We have you, don't we? I bet you're desperate to get back to your family in King's Landing, little Lannister spy."
"I am not a spy!" Mella retorted hotly. She could understand why Karstark spoke to her so hatefully – she reminded him of everything he was fighting against. She had come to the Stark camp of her own free will...was it right? Or was it really time that she returned home, and attempted to bargain for Sansa's freedom? Yet if Mella knew her mother, she knew Cersei would not want to let the Stark girl go so easily.
"You are speaking to the daughter of Robert Baratheon," Robb reminded Karstark, his voice suddenly turning as cold as winter. "She is to be addressed as Lady Baratheon. I know you have just lost your son, but that is no excuse for disrespect. Mella was not the one who killed him."
"Yet you refuse to bring justice to the one who did!" Karstark exclaimed in irritation, hands clenching and unclenching. Mella could understand his anger – if anyone hurt a member of her family, she would desire vengeance. Well, with the exception of Joffrey.
"Justice will come," Robb assured Karstark, valiantly trying to retain his calm. "But for now, we must be patient. The Kingslayer has value as a prisoner. He's no good to us dead."
Someone shook Mella from her sleep and she immediately flailed, panicking and readying herself to fight whatever attacker Joffrey had sent this time. However when she bolted upright, she noticed that it was only Catelyn. Mella sucked in a deep breath, pressing a hand over her heart as if that could slow its frantic beating. The older woman pressed a finger to her lips and beckoned. Hesitantly, Mella tossed aside the sheets and clambered out of bed.
"Quickly," Catelyn whispered, eyes darting towards the tent entrance. "You must dress. We have something to do."
Mella was puzzled, but hastened to do as Catelyn asked. She did up her dress with clumsy fingers, her arms still sometimes unreliable due to still healing up. Catelyn swept over to help her with the tricky laces, before handing Mella a cloak, which the dark-haired girl wordlessly tied around her shoulders. She pulled up the hood as they ventured out into the frigid night. Mella wrapped her arms tight around herself, and she found that as they approached Jaime's cage, she was growing even colder.
Brienne stood patiently waiting outside, inclining her head respectfully as Catelyn and Mella approached. She wordlessly handed Catelyn the keys, and Mella watched with growing apprehension as Lady Stark opened the cell. Was she going to have Jaime killed herself? Why had she summoned Mella? The thought of bearing witness to her uncle's execution didn't make Mella feel quite as disgusted as she might have before all of this.
"Are you going to kill him?" she asked, her voice hoarse as the words seemed to catch in her throat. At first Catelyn did not answer, but Jaime looked up sharply at the click of his chains being undone. He frowned as he glanced between Catelyn and Brienne. There was suspicion written all over his grimy face, before his eyes rested on Mella.
"You know, I can generally ascertain most things, but as to what you plan to do with me, I really have no idea. Care to explain?"
"Shut up," Brienne stated as she hauled Jaime to his feet and out of the cage.
"You are going to return to King's Landing," Catelyn told Jaime firmly, and Mella realised with a hint of pride that Lady Stark was smarter than she'd first given her credit for. "You go there, and then you will return my daughters to me. Brienne will ensure that you do so. I am releasing you on good faith, Kingslayer. Can I hold you to your word?"
"Considering I swore an oath to Aerys Targaryen and then stabbed him in the back..." Jaime considered this momentarily. "I would say not."
"I'll accompany them." The words were out of Mella's mouth before she could stop herself. Was this why Catelyn had brought her down here, or had it merely been to farewell her uncle? However, now that Jaime was intended to return to King's Landing, Mella could see opportunities for her arising. Of course, Robb would hate her for leaving him, but sometimes sacrifices needed to be made.
Brienne glanced at her. "Forgive me, Lady Baratheon, but the road we take will be too dangerous for you."
Mella didn't care about dangerous. Who would harm the Princess if bringing her to King's Landing would result in far more money than they could ever have dreamed of? Although Joffrey would be greatly displeased, Mella knew for certain that Cersei would be overjoyed to see her again.
"Danger does not deter me, Brienne. I am sure with you and my uncle present, nothing ill could befall me on the road."
"We travel on foot, my lady," Brienne insisted, while Jaime remained uncharacteristically silent. He watched his niece with careful eyes. She was certainly much changed from the shielded young woman who had accompanied her family to Winterfell, what seemed like forever ago.
"If we find a horse, I would be happy to ride the remainder of the journey," Mella stated calmly. She knew that riding alone was practically unspeakable for one of her station, but sometimes risks had to be taken. As an independent party on no one's side, Mella thought it may be possible for her to discuss peace terms with Cersei and Joffrey. However, the more she wanted to believe herself a neutral person, the more Mella started to realise that her allegiance laid in the same place as her heart.