Summary: Brienne begins training the lads of Casterly Rock.
Jaime got to the training yard not long after dawn to find Brienne already standing there, pacing nervously.
"Ah, so you came!" he said delightedly and loudly, making her jump. He laughed.
"I- yes. I did," she said warily. "But Jaime, I still don't think this is a good-"
"Shhh," Jaime said, striding up to her and placing a finger on her lips to silence her. Her eyes widened at his touch and she took a step backwards, her cheeks coloring in the early morning light.
Jaime dropped his hand, gave a small awkward cough and continued.
"Brienne, you were born for this role. You'll be brilliant, and I refuse to hear anything else about it until you've at least given it a chance. If you still think it's a terrible idea at the end of the day, we can talk about it. But you're going to try. For the sake of those poor lads, you're going to try. Aren't you?"
She sighed, looking slightly ill. "Yes, Jaime. I'm going to try."
"There's a good wench! Come on, let's get you warmed up," he added, picking up a sword and giving her a playful poke in the ribs with it.
She swatted it away, though she managed a weak smile as she pulled her own sword out of its scabbard. They had opted not to spar the night before, given their need for an early start this morning, and Jaime was glad to have a small window of time to cross swords with her.
They stopped their sparring as soon as the first lads arrived. Jaime still wasn't comfortable having others watch him fight with his left hand, despite the improvement he'd shown.
"Morning," Jaime said brightly to the trio of young boys who had just shown up.
"Morning, my lord," said the eldest of them awkwardly, and the others scrambled to bow and follow suit. "'ave- 'ave you got need of the uh, training yard this morning? Ought we leave?" he asked, looking at his feet.
"Indeed not," Jaime smiled. "It's all yours, lads. I believe your usual master will be out for the count today though. He was deep in his cups last night and I have my doubts that he will rise before the sun sets," he glanced around the yard to see that most of the other lads who trained were arriving too, including Garreth and his young brother.
"It is unbefitting for the future lords and knights of the Westerlands to be without proper instruction. It will fall to you, one day to protect the women and children of these lands, and you cannot do so if your rotten drunk of a master-at-arms only shows up as the day draws to a close. Please refrain from telling him I said that, though," he added, and from the looks of barely concealed horror on their faces, he was sure he had no reason to worry. "The gods know I have enough bloody things to cause me headaches."
He glanced at Brienne, who stood at his side, close enough for him to feel her arm shaking slightly.
"In light of Ser Mynar's less than satisfactory performance, I have elected to put someone with mightily impressive swordsmanship skills to the task of instructing you. At least for part of the time...until I can convince Mynar that he doesn't want this bloody job anyway. It's time you had someone competent showing you how these things are done."
He looked at the lads, and saw that the older ones were eyeing Brienne beside him with confusion and judgment. He scowled at them.
The younger ones seems perplexed entirely, and Garreth's young brother Timeon let out a squeak "Do you mean...you m'lord?" His eyes were wide with excitement and Jaime found it hard to believe that lads still dreamed of crossing swords with the famed Kingslayer, now that he was a defeated old cripple.
He brushed off the strange feeling and laughed heartily, "Gods no! I'm far too busy and important for that!" he said and heard Brienne give a derisive snort at his side.
He grinned at her reaction for a moment before sobering up. "No, lads, I will not be teaching you. That task will fall to the Lady Brienne of Tarth, whose skill earned her a place in Renly Baratheon's kingsguard, and who has spent these past moons aiding your lord in the arduous task of learning to fight with the only hand left to him."
There was a flurry of muttering as the dozen or so boys took in the information. They mostly whispered to each other and it was hard to make out what they were saying but he did catch the word 'woman' more than once. He grew irritated immediately and spoke loudly to be heard over their chatter.
"Lady Brienne is one of the finest swordsmen I've encountered in my considerable years. She will teach you a great many things that will someday save your lives and the lives of others... if you can manage not to be arrogant little shits and give her the respect she deserves."
"Jaime," Brienne hissed at his side, but he ignored her.
"She will be making full reports to me on your progress, and if I hear any of you have behaved with less courtesy than is expected of one of my knights, I will be most displeased," he said firmly. Though most of the boys were looking dubious, they seemed frightened enough by his tone to keep their mouths shut.
One lad, a strong and stocky looking boy of about thirteen was bold enough to speak up, "With all due respect, my lord, do you really think awoman will be any better suited to our training than a drunk?"
Jaime clenched his fist and had half a mind to knock the boy on his arse for his insolence. Instead, he mustered all the calm he could and forced himself to smile.
"What's your name, lad?"
"Gerion of House Banefort, my lord," he said with far too much haughtiness for Jaime's liking.
"Ah, Gerion? Were you perhaps named for my great adventurer of an uncle?" Jaime asked amiably.
The lad must have been uncommonly thick, for though his companions eyed each other warily at Jaime's friendly questioning, Gerion puffed out his chest and said,
"Indeed, I was, Ser," with an expression of pride.
"My uncle had considerable skill with a blade. Do you intend to follow in his footsteps?"
"Aye, my lord. I believe I'm well on my way, too," Gerione said, jutting out his chin.
Jaime had to stifle a laugh at that. He'd observed this cocky little fellow in action when he'd been asking the other boys about Mynar. Though Gerion was strong and aggressive, he'd been sorely lacking in finesse.
"I bet you are. In fact, I am so confident in your abilities and strong sense of pride that I'd like to offer you the job," Jaime said cheerfully.
"M-me, my lord?" Gerion asked thickly. He seemed to finally be realizing something was amiss but was still not quite sure what Jaime's game was.
"Yes, you!" Jaime replied. Then he brought his hand up to stroke his beard thoughtfully. "Although it would be unchivalrous of me to take the opportunity from Lady Brienne without even giving her a chance to prove her worth. No, that simply wouldn't do at all," he said shaking his head.
"Ah ha!" Jaime cried, as if the solution had just dawned on him. "I've got it. I suggest you duel her for it. Winner takes over training. It shouldn't be too difficult, eh? She is, after all, only a woman," he said with a snort.
Gerion's mouth fell open. He finally turned his full attention to Brienne and took in her towering height and her muscular arms. He suddenly seemed much less confident.
"Jaime..." Brienne said quietly at his side.
"What?" he hissed back. "That little arse might be the only one bold enough to say it, but there's others among them who'll think the same until you knock them down a peg or two."
"He's just a child," she whispered, but Jaime was already striding away from her and addressing the other boys.
"What do you say, lads? Want to see your friend Gerion put this woman in her place?"
There was a flurry of whoops and cheers and laughter as the boys made their way to the sidelines to give Brienne and Gerion room to fight.
Gerion was taller and broader than most of his peers, but still at least a head shorter than Brienne.
Jaime almost felt bad about the humiliation the arrogant boy was about to suffer, but his protectiveness of Brienne won out, and he found himself eager to see her to knock the smirk off his face.
Gerion was standing awkwardly in the middle of the yard, a good distance from Brienne, looking nervous.
"Well," Jaime barked. "Get yourself a sword, boy! I'm sure you're eager to teach the rest of these fellows all you know, but you've got to win your title first! I'm sure you'll give us a grand show."
Brienne glared at him from across the yard. Despite all the cruelty she'd faced in her time, he knew she took no pleasure in hurting others, even those who hurt and judged her. She was not looking forward to this one bit.
Jaime met her glare with a shrug that indictated he was not planning to pull the plug on this any time soon. With a last look of fury, she turned away from him. He smirked.
He'd just have take enough pleasure in watching this lad learn his lesson for the both of them.
Gerion's black hair was already sticking to his head with sweat and his freckled cheeks burned red as he went to select a practice sword.
"Go on, Gerion!" shouted one of the boys.
"Show us what you've got!" another yelled. There was a roar of laughter amongst the boys.
Jaime wished for Brienne's sake that they did not find this funny at all, and their mirth only cemented his belief that calling Gerion out was the right decision.
This was a golden opportunity for them all to see what she was capable of. He wanted to extinguish their prejudice in one fell swoop and if an idiot of a boy had to take a bit of humiliation for it, that was his tough luck for speaking out.
Holding his head as high as he could manage, Gerion strode towards her, his blunted sword held out.
Brienne had told Jaime much of her master-at-arms, Ser Goodwin, and how he'd warned her men would try to vanquish her quickly, lest it be said a woman had tried them sorely. The man had advised her to conserve her strength as they wore themselves out trying to achieve a quick victory, and it had been her experience that Goodwin was right.
It seemed idiot boys were no different from arrogent men, and young Gerion dove at her fiercely, all strength and no skill.
Brienne winced uncomfortably and slowly brought her sword up to block him without any trouble at all. She stepped back as Gerion lifted his heavy sword again, growling, and turned her head to meet Jaime's eyes.
She shook her head at him and he knew she was quite unhappy with him for forcing her to publicly shame this lad. He shrugged insolently and unapologetically.
She was still glowering across the yard at him when Gerion swung at her again, and she didn't even look at the boy as she brought her blade up to block his blow. Gerion gave a howl of rage at being blocked so easily.
There was another burst of laughter from the lads. Jaime laughed along with them, before recalling that he'd been just as foolhardy and arrogant the first time he'd fought Brienne, and she had put him in his place in much the same manner.
"Seems to me she could take you on blindfolded, Lord Banefort," one of the boys shouted, laughing uproariously. Gerion turned even redder in the face, fumbled and dropped his blade.
Brienne bent at once to pick it up for him, and held it out with the hilt facing him.
Jaime could tell even from across the yard that she was looking at the boy with that sympathetic, blue-eyed look of hers.
Gerion scowled and snatched the blade back from her, and attempted to catch her off guard by swinging at her right away. She blocked him once again, though her expression was more apologetic than victorious at managing to stop him
"Wow," Jaime heard one of the boys beside him breathe, clearly impressed by her reflexes. He beamed with pride.
That's my wench.
Gerion took a few more impotent swings at her, none of which he managed to land.
Brienne put almost zero force into her parries, just enough to keep the blows from hitting her.
Jaime found himself starting to cringe now, every time the other boys laughed at their peer's futile attempts. It was painful to watch.
Gerion was exhausted and panting, drenched in sweat. But he had spirit and far too much pride, and would not give up. He continued to strike at her, though his movements were slower and weaker than ever.
When Brienne caught his eye once again, glaring, he mouthed, "Just finish it. Have mercy. Just finish it."
She still looked reluctant, but seemed to realize her refusal to go on the offense was only dragging out the boy's shame. Scowling at him, she turned back to Gerion.
This time, when he struck at her, she blocked and pushed back against him with her blade.
It looked to Jaime as though she put less than a tenth of her full strength into it, but even that was enough to send the exhausted youth stumbling backwards. He tripped over his feet and landed on his rear.
"Sorry," she cringed, so quietly that he had to read her lips to figure out what she'd said.
She extended a hand to Gerion, which he ignored. Scowling, he got to his feet on his own, with considerable effort.
He swung at her once again, full of fury, and she met his sword with a half-swing from her own.
His blade went flying across the yard and landed with a clang.
Gerion scowled and spat in the dirt as the lads held onto each other for support, howling with laughter.
Jaime then strode back into the middle of the yard towards Brienne and Gerion, and they all fell silent.
"Bad luck, boy," he said, shaking his head sadly. "Perhaps the lady will be charitable enough to give you the job to you when she retires, if she can actually manage to get through that thick skull of yours and teach you anything."
The other boys laughed loudly again, until Jaime turned around to face them.
"As for the rest of you," he said, as they elbowed each other to fall silent. "You've barely seen a hint of what this woman can do, for she is far too kind-hearted to have given this boy the beating he very well would have deserved. I've fought alongside men such as Ser Arthur Dayne and Barristan Selmy. I have seen the greatest swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms in action, and Brienne still manages to impress me."
He glanced briefly at her, and saw that she was staring determinedly at her boots. Her cheeks were redder than he'd ever seen them, but he thought he saw a small smile on her face as well. He turned back to the boys.
"I assure you, Lady Brienne is more than capable of taking over for that sorry excuse of a master and if you're willing to listen to her and learn from her, she may even make decent men out of some of you. Will you do so?"
"Yes, Ser," they all mumbled rather bashfully.
"Good!" he said. "In that case, I turn it over to you, my lady."
Brienne stepped forward, blushing.
"T-thank you, my lord. Er," she said, biting her lip. She surveyed the boys, looking utterly lost and reminding Jaime of just how young she really was. She's just a girl herself, he thought with a wave of empathy. She'd only hinted at the kind of scorn she'd faced in her life, but Jaime knew enough of men to guess at the rest. Of course she's afraid.
He placed a hand on the small of her back and leaned in to whisper in her ear, "You can do this, Brienne. I know you can. Be brave, girl. I'll be right over there."
He walked off to the sidelines again and barked, "Go on up, lads and see what the lady has to teach you! She's taught me well with only a useless left hand to work with, so if I don't see improvement in you lot, I'll be putting the blame on you, not her."
They scrambled forward, all but tripping over each other as they made their way towards her.
"I- I think perhaps, we ought to get you paired up with- with lads of comparable size and build, so I can er, see what you can do so far," Brienne stammered, blushing. "Find a partner to do some basic sparring with, if you will."
Some of the lads were starting to nod and look around for a partner, but little Timeon looked highly disappointed. "Oh! But can't we fight you, my lady? I want a turn!"
"Yeah," said another boy, older than Tim but younger than Gerion. "I'd like to try as well. How'd you ever get so strong?"
Jaime grinned at the look of admiration in the lad's face as he stared up at Brienne in awe. Brienne blushed.
"Erm, perhaps...later. I think for now, I'd like to see you up against lads your own age," she looked around at the dozen boys, and saw two of a similar height standing beside each other.
"Will you two be a pair? Great, thank you. Why don't you move down to that end of the yard and get warmed up while I divide up the rest of them," she asked and the boys nodded, moving away from the group.
"Tim is it?" she asked the young blonde. "Why don't you go down that way with this young man. What's your name?"
Jaime smiled as he watched her divide them up. She still looked quite nervous but he had no doubts that she'd settle into the role quickly. He stood and watched for a while. Once the lads were paired off and dispersed across the yard, Brienne wandered through amongst them, pausing at each pair to give tips and pointers on how to hold their blades or move their feet.
The boys listened to what she said and did their best to follow her instructions. As he expected, she showed complete patience as she corrected stances and offered feedback, gently assisting them as she lifted arms and elbows into the right position or demonstrated how to swing a sword.
It was a joy to watch, and Jaime could have stood there all day.
But he'd seen Brienne often raising her head up to seek him out, to see if he was still watching. He loved the way she brightened up at his reassuring smiles, holding her head higher and her shoulders straighter, but he felt it was time to leave her on her own. She was doing splendidly and had no further need of him. She had to know that it was her they were responding to, and not their lord's presence.
He walked up to the place where she was assisting Garreth. The lanky boy was staring at Brienne with a look of deep admiration as she demonstrated a graceful move.
"You almost had it already. If you hold your arm just a little bit higher, you'll be right on the mark," Brienne smiled kindly. "Go on and try again." She handed his sword back to him and he mirrored her movement nearly perfectly.
"Excellent, Garreth. You've got really impressive form and the makings of a great fighter. Your build may be lean, but you move with much grace and that can often mean more than brute streng..." Brienne said, trailing off when she saw Jaime approaching. "Ser Jaime," she said with a slight bow.
"My lady," he said, bowing back. He took her arm and pulled her slightly away from young Garreth.
"I know I said I would be here with you for your first day, but it seems I have some pressing matters to attend to," Jaime said quietly. "Would you be very angry with me if I were to leave you on your own? You seem to be doing a fine job without assistance, but I suppose if you really need me to I could push things back."
"Oh," she said looking mildly fearful at the prospect of him leaving. "I- well. Of course. The affairs of the Rock must be your priority. I- I'm sure it will be fine here. Yes, go on. Attend to your duties."
"Thank you," he said. "Send for me if you have a need, but I don't expect that you will. What did I tell you? They love you already."
She blushed. "I...they don't lo-"
"Don't argue, wench," he grinned. He looked around the yard and increased his volume, "Garreth here is glaring daggers at me right now for taking your attention away from him, and the rest were furious with him before I came along."
Garreth, who had indeed been scowling rather impatiently in their direction, blanched and did his best to wipe the sour expression off his face. Jaime laughed.
"She's all yours, lad! I'll see you this evening, my lady."
He left the yard, still chuckling.
Of course, it had been a blatant lie.
For once, he had no major duties to attend to. He'd made sure to have a full day free, in case Brienne had needed him to help discipline the boys, had they proven unwilling to respect her authority.
As he truly had nothing else to do, and was still delighted by the sight of her developing such a rapport with the lads, he merely took a stone staircase up one flight and found a window that overlooked the yard, and elected to watch from there.
Even from one flight up, he could hear the excitement from the boys in the yard and laughed to see Brienne clammoring to meet the demands of all the lads vying for her attention.
"Lady Brienne, could you come over here? I still can't get this right. Can you show me again?"
"Lady Brienne, tell Carlyle he's doing it wrong! He won't believe me!"
"Lady Brienne, watch this!"
Though a bit flustered by the constant shouts of her name, Brienne did her best to kindly tell them to wait their turn as she worked with their peers.
She had an almost constant smile on her face as she made the rounds, though he could see by midday her shoulders were starting to sag with exhaustion. He knew the lads were not willing to let her rest just yet, and Jaime was eager to let her enjoy their obvious worship for a bit longer.
He called to his servants and requested that they bring out some fresh food and drink down to the yard, so they all might take a small break and give Brienne a chance to rest. He laughed when they all but shoveled the food into their mouths, rushing back out of retrieve their swords after just a few minutes, calling to Brienne to join them.
Jaime would make sure that in the days to follow, the lads developed some boundaries and gave Brienne a chance to breathe. But for now, he could see that despite her exhaustion, Brienne was deeply, deeply happy at her positive reception and it filled him with the sort of warmth he hadn't felt in a long time.
Even arrogant young Gerion eventually allowed her to guide his hand as he swung his sword, teaching him how to use precision as well as strength as he moved.
They did not stop until the sun had set. The boys seemed reluctant to quit, even then, but Brienne finally developed enough backbone to insist that they retire for the evening and have something to eat, promising that she'd be there on the morrow.
When it was time for their evening feast, Jaime made sure to catch her in the passageway before dinner.
"Well, my lady," he asked, coming up behind her just as her hand was reaching out to open one of the thick oak doors to the great hall. "How did it go?"
"Wonderfully," she beamed, sounding worn-out but pleased. She had changed out of her sweaty clothes and into the blue gown he'd had made for her shortly after her arrival. The velvety fabric was the exact same shade as her eyes, which were even more astonishing now that they were shining with such clear delight. "There are some truly lovely young lads here. They are so sweet and eager. I believe they will grow into knights that will make House Lannister proud."
"I'm glad to hear it. I had no doubts that you would be perfect. I'm proud of you, my lady," he said, placing his hand on the small of her back, and for once it was Jaime who made her have to look away with the sheer intensity of his sincerity.
"T-thank you, Ser," she said, blushing in the low candlelight of the hall. "H-how was the rest of your day? Did your er- pressing matters go well?"
"What?" Jaime asked, forgetting all about the lie he'd told earlier. He remembered and grinned.
"Oh, right. Didn't have any. Spent the whole time watching you and the boys from an upstairs window, actually."
He grinned even wider at the appalled look on her face. Her mouth hung open in speechless outrage for a moment before she sputtered, "B-but you said- you said-"
"Lannisters lie," he smirked. "You were doing so well, I wanted you to know you could manage them just fine on your own. And you did. They're clearly delighted with you. And why shouldn't they be?"
He smiled at her, and she softened under his praise.
"I only hope they haven't left you so exhausted that you won't be up for sparring with me tonight. I don't want any of them stealing my title of 'Favorite Pupil'! I may only have one hand, but that title better always belond to me," he said.
She rolled her eyes. "Favorite?" she snorted. I believe you mean 'Most Arrogant and Annoying,' Ser."
"I'll see you later, my lady," he said and in a fit of madness, pressed a quick kiss to her freckled cheek. Before she could react, he pulled away and opened the heavy door to the hall, and began making his way toward the high table.
He glanced back briefly as the door swung closed, and saw her still standing outside it, a large hand held against the place where his lips had touched. Jaime's stomach gave a funny turn at the sight, but he told himself he was simply starving and in need of something to eat. He hurried to his seat, his cheeks warmer than usual but his lips quirked upwards in a contented smile.
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