I feel like I'm turning into GRRM, promising you all speedy updates and then failing so appallingly. Please forgive me.
"You lied to me."
The words stung bitter and true, and never had Gendry been so angry with her.
"I did not want-"
"I don't care," Gendry cut across her, and he could feel his fury rising. He could not bear to look at her. "You sent the Brotherhood after him. You gave the order, without my consent, knowing I could not be reached. I was in the black cells and you-"
"I had to act quickly," Arya argued. "If I hadn't, he might be in King's Landing by now-"
"You took advantage of me!" Gendry roared, whipping round to face her. "You lied to me, you betrayed me-"
"I did not betray you!" Arya shouted back. "I did it for you! We need him and I feared Bolton might not be trusted. If I didn't act quickly it would be too late, and I could not reach you. I would have told you after, but I could not be sure the Brotherhood would even succeed in finding him."
Gendry stared at her in cold rage and resentment.
"You can never do that again," he swore in a low voice. "You should have told me when Robb released me. I asked you, and you lied. If you ever lie to me like this again, our marriage is over."
"I'm not the only one," Arya protested and there were tears swimming in her eyes. "When we rode with the Brotherhood you didn't tell me about the Kingslayer either, or my mother."
"Is that what this is about?" Gendry shouted. "You wanted to make us even?"
"No!" Arya cried. "How can you even say that? I just... I just..."
"No more lies," Gendry snarled. "No more secrets. This ends now."
She glared at him as tears splashed down her face, her arms crossed over her chest, barring him out. But a few hours ago they were lying in each other's arms and now they were at each other's throats. Will I ever get a full moment's peace and comfort? Gendry glared cooly back at her and swept up his sword belt.
"Now if you'll excuse me I must attend to this mess," he snarled, storming out and slamming the door behind him. After leaving Arya's presence, all he felt was weariness and exhaustion.
He had talked to the Maid of Tarth first. Hardly a fair maiden, though, Gendry observed when he appraised her from the door of her cell. She had not been graced with good looks of any kind; her locks were like straw and sawed short, her body broad and almost bigger than his. Gods she was tall too, but when she turned to face him Gendry noted the surprising blueness of her eyes. They reminded him of his father's.
She did not speak to him. As soon as their eyes met, hers dropped to the floor of the cell. Gendry closed the door and bid the guard to step a few paces away so that he and the lady might talk.
"Please," the Maid of Tarth spoke up, "I am no lady."
"Then what would you have me call you? Surely not Kingslayer's whore," Gendry inquired and she bristled, her face turning hot.
"I was only following Lady Catelyn's orders," she insisted, humiliated. "I'm no... I'm no Kingslayer's anything, Your Grace."
You're Jaime's something, Gendry thought with a frown. He had heard all there was to know about their relationship. Could it be that they really were lovers? But no. His uncle Jaime had shared a bed with Gendry's mother, not this woman. The thought left a bitter taste in Gendry's mouth.
"That is good to hear," Gendry said instead. "In truth I cannot fault your loyalty to Lady Catelyn. She did what she thought was right, and you were following orders. I see no reason for harsh punishment."
"That is kind of you, my lord- I mean Your Grace," the Maid of Tarth said, and then, blushing further, she added, "you may call me Brienne if it suits you."
"Brienne," Gendry echoed. "It suits me well, I think. You need not stay here a second longer. I will turn you over to Lady Catelyn."
"Thank you," Brienne's blush was running from her cheeks to her neck. In humility, there was almost a quivering smile at her jagged lips.
"You served Renly, did you not?" Gendry asked. Brienne's eyes dropped to the floor again.
"I was a member of his Kingsgaurd," she said, and there was no mistaking the deep pain there.
"A false Kingsgaurd," Gendry snapped coldly, wrestling down the bitter and icy feeling her devotion to his deceased uncle ignited. "It's a pity you pledged your loyalty to a usurper."
"He was your uncle," Brienne said quietly, her blue eyes wide.
"He was no uncle of mine," Gendry swore, his anger mounting. "If he had been, than he would have pledged his sword to me, not gone around giving himself crowns."
"King Robert was his brother, they said you murdered him-"
"Do not try to justify his actions for love of my father," Gendry spat. "He cared not for him. Renly was greedy. He took what was not his for love of attention and greed, nothing more."
"I cannot believe that," Brienne protested, stubborn as a big ugly mule. "King Renly was honorable-"
"My dear lady," Gendry cut across her with loathsome coldness, "how valiantly you defend his name. Perhaps it should have been you they crowned queen."
Brienne's face exploded in a harsh blush and there was no denying the utter humiliation she felt at his words. She seemed to shrink in the shadows; smaller and away from him. It served her right, having the audacity to call Renly 'King' right in front of him. She should be grateful yet she sings his praises. Renly 'had honor.' It was laughable. How could a man that abandoned his own family and defied bloodlines be called honorable? At least Stannis was next in line for the throne if Gendry had in fact been a Kingslayer. It almost would have been better if Brienne really was Jaime's lover, though Gendry could hardly envision that with what stood in front of him.
"I will inform Lady Catelyn that you are now under her charge completely," Gendry told her curtly. "She will decide what to do with you from this point forward."
He swept himself from her presence before his anger could get the better of him. It was not her fault, he knew. She did not know, could not possibly know, the hurt he felt and the betrayal... Besides, there were greater monsters than Brienne of Tarth waiting for him in the black cells.
He's just flesh and blood, Gendry told himself as he descended the stairs, but somehow that made it worse.
Gendry drew in a long breath. The dungeons at Riverrun were dark, but there was a faint light coming from the barred windows at the top end of the hall that reflected off the stone almost reluctantly. It was cold there as well, and he felt it, deep in his bones, though he wondered whether this coldness was entirely to do with the wet stones. His hand trembled slightly, and he tightened it around the hilt of his sword. The moment seemed to drag on forever, but it was barely a heartbeat he stood there before he strode forward and placed a firm hand against the rotting wood of the cell door and pushed it open.
Gendry hardly wondered what he expected to find, but what he saw was not it. He had barely caught a glimpse of his uncle before Robb Stark threw him in a cell, and the sight of the change in him was arresting. Gendry drew up short, and his robes swayed slightly. For a moment, he and his uncle stared at each other.
Then Jaime laughed.
He was not much more than a corpse. His golden curls were caked with mud and no doubt full of fleas and other things, the handsomeness of his youth that Gendry was sure would never leave him was quite gone at first glance. But he was still there, somehow. His face was scarred and in some places still ripe with wounds, his body thin and his clothes barely more than rags, yet... And yet he laughed.
"Your hand," Gendry blurted out before he could stop himself. Jaime regarded the stump with a resigned coldness that did not quite reach believable.
"Yes," he sighed, but Gendry knew his uncle far better than that to know the loss of his sword hand was a petty grievance. "I lost it saving a wench, though she was hardly worth it."
So the rumors were true then. Gendry slowly appraised the man he once thought he knew, trying to take him in. Trying to think clearly when all he could feel was mounting and bitter rage. Betrayed my father... Made a fool of him... Betrayed me...
"I'm surprised they didn't take your head with it," Gendry snarled coldly, but it wasn't coldly enough. Jaime was too shrewd, he saw right through, and he laughed again.
"I am much more valuable alive than dead," Jaime pointed out.
"But she's not."
It was the cruelest thing Gendry could throw at him, and as he said the words, he wondered if his uncle would react at all. I lost it saving a wench, he had just said, and there was something about Jaime Lannister's tone, though it was mocking and full of bite, that Gendry could not mistake. A fondness. Though, Gendry thought to himself, that was liable to be a mistake after all. How could such a man as his uncle feel fondness for someone like Brienne of Tarth?
"Release her," Jaime snarled at once. "She was only following the orders of the wretched Lady Stark. She was trying to save your bride!"
Gendry felt rather staggered and could only stare. He cares for her. Gendry could not understand it. Jaime Lannister, who had slayed kings and bedded his own sister, who mocked Ned Stark and Gendry's attachment to his daughter, oathbreaker and betrayer, straining against his chains for some ugly girl who kept him prisoner? It just didn't make sense.
"Catelyn Stark is a traitor," Gendry said, pressing further. He watched Jaime very carefully.
"Well so is Robb Stark," Jaime said lazily, leaning back in his chains again. "Usurper, even, if you think about it, which I'm sure you have. Tell me true, dear nephew, did the King in the North welcome you to Riverrun with open arms?"
Gendry smiled mirthlessly.
"I think you know the answer to that," he said. Jaime smiled brightly back at him.
"And now you're clasping hands like brothers," he said in mocking tones. "It warms the heart."
"As does your attachment to Brienne of Tarth," Gendry countered, deciding he was tired of dancing around the issue. Jaime scowled at him.
"What would you have done," Jaime spat, "when they dragged her kicking and screaming into the woods? Would you, the honorable heir to the throne, have sat back and let them?"
"I am not a Kingslayer," Gendry said.
"No," Jaime chuckled. "But you wore the title for a bit. Tell me, did it fare you well?"
Gendry's jaw tightened.
"No," he admitted. "It did not."
"I thought not," Jaime said with a low laugh. "Not for our honorable Outlaw King. Gods, it must have pained you to hear it. The unjustness of it all, when you so obviously had nothing to do with King Robert's death-"
"So you knew," Gendry cut across him, a white and horrible rage ripping through his entire body. "You knew all along what they were planning."
Jaime looked up at him, and for a split second Gendry felt a flicker of hope lick at the underside of his chest like a fool. He did not want his uncle to tell him, yet he already knew. The truth of it crushed him.
"Of course I knew," Jaime said. "I'm a Lannister. We hold our family very close."
"Not all your family," Gendry choked out, sure he was shaking from head to toe but realizing that he held himself very still. Jaime gave him a pitying smile.
"As if you ever had a bit of lion in you," he said.
"I do though," Gendry nearly shouted. "It wasn't enough that you bedded my mother, but now you had a hand in my father's death as well?"
"Yes," Jaime sighed. "I bedded my sweet sister many a time, or really I fucked her, but who's to say the difference? I would've had her every night if I could, screaming my name-"
Gendry jerked forward violently and nearly pulled his sword from its sheath, but stopped himself just in time. It was what Jaime wanted, to provoke him. To make him angry. These were the things he did when backed into a corner.
"What are you going to do?" Jaime mocked. "Are you going to kill me? I'm sure no one would blame you. Seems like you have more a reason to than any."
"That wench of yours might find a reason," Gendry said, throwing Jaime's words back at him. For a moment his uncle paused.
"How can you expect her to shed a tear for the Kingslayer?" he said almost bitterly. "But tell me true nephew, what are you to do with me? Keep me locked in these sorry dungeons until my father comes for your head?"
Gendry took a moment to appraise his uncle in full.
"I'm going to have you fight for me," he said.
Jaime blinked, and then he burst into roaring, harsh laughter.
"Oh nephew, you are a fool," he chuckled. "Gods, they had always said so, but I had never fully believed it until this moment."
Gendry stood firmly in place, not backing down, as Jaime's laughter dried up. His amusement soon vanished at the determination he saw on Gendry's face. The Kingslayer stilled and raised his brows.
"Surely you can't be serious," he said. "Let's forget, for a moment, that I've got no sword hand, and that I've been wasting away in different cells for the gods know how long-"
"I've seen you fight," Gendry replied firmly. "You could learn with your left."
Jaime rasped with laughter again.
"What makes you ever think I would take up a sword for you?" he demanded, and there was no denying the snarl there. "Against my family, against Cersei? I would sooner have you chop my head from my shoulders."
"I think you would if you thought it could save them," Gendry pressed. Jaime's eyebrows jumped again.
"You're saying you would spare her?" Jaime demanded. "You're saying you would let the woman who murdered the King, your father, live if I joined up with your worthless band of miscreants and thieves?"
"I'm saying she might hold a better chance if she had someone to stand for her," Gendry said, but he knew Jaime was not convinced.
"You are as brainless as you are good looking nephew," Jaime scoffed. "I'll take my chances with my sister without your noble support."
"You think she'll want you now?" Gendry scoffed back. "What use to her without your sword hand?"
"What use am I to you, nephew, without my sword hand?"
"Everything," Gendry said before he could take it back. For the first time, there was something almost soft in Jaime's demeanor. At least his mocking smile was gone, and his body less tense. But there was something else pulling at his features... An almost bitterness and resentment, something deep and dark that Gendry could not place.
"You think you can save me," Jaime accused him sharply, and it was so biting Gendry could almost feel a physical sting. "You do. You think you can save me, and your stupid hedge knights, and the Stark girl. Stannis Baratheon as well, I'm sure. You think you can save us all."
"Who says I can't?" Gendry demanded.
"I do!" Jaime snarled. "I do, damn it you stupid fucking idiot! Did you wake up and see the sun rising in the West and setting in the East? What kind of world do you think we live in boy?"
Jaime's anger was so sudden and unexpected that Gendry could only stumble, with no response that was worthy.
"You think you're so honorable," Jaime spat with disgust. "Well this is no country for an honorable man. Honorable men die in their beds, or lose their heads like Ned Stark. Do you think you won't end up like him? Well you're wrong! You think you can just stand there and call yourself king, and suddenly we're so very far apart. We are more similar than you might think, nephew. I once had dreams of honor too, but what is honor in a world built on dishonor? Nothing."
"You stabbed the Mad King in the back," Gendry said. Jaime barked with derisive laughter.
"Always it's the Mad King," he said, shaking against his chains. "Come tell me, when you've had to kill a man, and his blood is fresh on your hands, so fresh they're still wet with it, come to me then and try to ask me about the Mad King."
"I've killed men," Gendry said, thinking of the guard at King's Landing.
"Look at you," Jaime growled in deep loathing. "You think it can't touch you. You think you can walk through this war with your head held high, but it'll be brought down soon enough. If not from an axe, then from your own doing."
Gendry found no words to respond with. Defensiveness poked under his skin, making him want to insist that what Jaime said was not so, but he thought of his mother, and a vague memory of her smile flashed soft and painful into his mind. He knew that his uncle was right. There was no way to save them all. Everyone wanted blood, and if he did not spill some from his enemies, then it would surely be his own.
"Forgive my foolishness," he said, and it escaped from his lips as a plea.
Jaime just glared at him.
The struggle was useless. Gendry would sooner bring his father back from the dead than coerce Jaime into being allies. Whatever daft dreams of them being family he had clung to were gone. The man that sat across him in chains was a war prisoner, a murderer and a traitor. Gendry was his King, not his kin, and he wasn't even really Jaime's King at all anyway. It should be easy, but Gendry couldn't help but wonder why it was so impossibly hard to hate him. Jaime was spiteful, cruel and ruthless, yet he was trapped in chains and missing the only thing that he had ever held dear to him. The only source of pride he could cling to when they all called him Kingslayer.
"As long as you can wield a sword, no one can hurt you."
It had been so long ago when Jaime spoke those words, but they rang in Gendry's mind as though Jaime had whispered them in the dungeon. So long ago, when he was just a boy afraid of wooden sticks and Jaime had taught him to love steel. But that uncle was just a fantasy from a song, and he was no longer a child.
"How you must have despised me," he said softly, his hand against the cool handle of the door. He dared not look at Jaime.
"I thought of smothering you in your sleep," Jaime admitted unapologetically.
"Why didn't you?"
Jaime looked at Gendry plainly.
"Because she loved you," he sighed. It cut deep.
"Forgive me if I find that difficult to belief, Ser uncle," Gendry said, wishing he could remove the drowning amount of self-pity that was so clearly in every word. Then, not wishing to hear anymore, he opened the door.
"Release the wench!" Jaime Lannister called after him. "She had no part in my wrongdoings."
"I already have," Gendry said, and with that he shut the door behind him, bolted it, and then slid the key into his breast pocket. His heart beat a million miles a minute but the sound of it seemed very far away. Jaime was gone now, he was locked away and Gendry might not ever visit him again. Don't be a fool. Ghosts always had a way of coming back around.
"Look at the blade, take a good long look."
His uncle Jaime had looked like something out of a song book, or a god, with his golden curls and his face glowing in the soft light of the forge fires. Gendry had been six or seven, the exact age lost him now, but despite being tall for his age he was quiet and mistrustful of everyone. Men like Jaime were meant to glow in soft fire light, and boys like Gendry were meant to hide in the shadows away from disapproving looks and disappointed frowns. His baby brother Joffrey already looked more golden haired and promising than Gendry ever had.
"Well?" Jaime had asked him. "Are you going to look at it or not?"
Gendry shook his head. Swords scared him. His father had forced him to watch a sword fight when he was four in honor of Robert's nameday, and the Mountain had cut a man's head clean in half. It had dripped with brains and blood and Gendry had vomited all over his doublet. Cersei had screamed at Robert, and it was the last time that she took Gendry in her arms and rocked him until he fell asleep. She never did that again. Since that day, Robert couldn't even get Gendry to hold a wooden sword.
"He's soft," Robert grunted in disgust. "You've made him into a useless, sniveling coward."
"If you hadn't been so brutal-" Cersei cut across sharply, but it had just been angry screams after that, and somehow steel became all the worse until he could barely stand the sight of it. The irone throne, his father's crown, the breast plates knights wore and the swords they held at their waists. Anger came with swords. Death came with swords.
"Very well," his uncle Jaime had sighed, setting the sword down. "Come have a look at this though."
It was strange, his uncle bringing him down to the smithy. There was the obvious reason that Jaime Lannister had no reason to care at all about where swords came from, only that they were placed in his hand, but there was also the puzzling fact that his uncle had never taken interest in him at all. Renly was the only one who really enjoyed playing with Gendry, though Tyrion was always game for a vulgar joke and Stannis, when he visited, was careful to place the appropriate time aside for his nephew. But Jaime... Jaime was the Kingslayer and he was dangerous and intimidating, but also had a quality that was amiable. But Jaime did not show an inch of interest in Gendry, not until this day where he had found Gendry alone playing with a bit of charcoal and had told him to come with him to the smithy. Spending time with Jaime Lannister was a foreign experience and Gendry was not sure he liked it.
"See that?" Jaime said, and in the glowing light of the fire, with his golden curls, he looked very much like the Queen. "What do you suppose that is?"
Gendry peered down at the stone pot sitting amongst the flames. The substance inside burned orange, warming his face and stinging at his eyes.
"Steel," he said. Jaime shook his head.
"It's anything you want it to be," he said, taking up the sword again and swinging it around with practiced ease. His uncle stared at the sword as if it were a god. "As long as you can wield a sword, no one can hurt you. Remember that."
It was a twist of humor how those were not the words, but rather the ones that came before, that stuck with Gendry long after he and Jaime left the smithy. The steel could be anything he wanted it to be, just how his life could not. It was wonderful, and suddenly the world opened up to him like an expanding fist. He had always been grateful to Jaime for that. Now he would have to let go of his gratefulness too.
"I WANT HIM DEAD!"
Not the second Gendry had emerged from the dungeons and there was already chaos and mayhem. I just wanted a quiet day in bed with my wife, he thought to himself, but even thinking it sounded like a joke. Sighing, he went up to the great hall and braced himself for what promised to be a vicious struggle.
"As do I, but we need-"
"HE MURDERED MY SON! I WANT JUSTICE!"
Robb's disgruntled reply was cut short by Gendry entering the room. There was a moment's hesitation, and then Robb bowed his head.
"Your Grace," he said respectfully, and other's did the same. They all watched Gendry carefully. Mistrustfully.
"He's a Lannister," a man with a shock of a white beard and a menacing set of jowls snarled. "He's probably released the Kingslayer already."
"I have not released the Kingslayer," Gendry replied evenly, trying to keep his temper. "And my father was Robert Baratheon, not Lannister. You would do well to remember that."
"Aye but your mother is," the man spat. "The whore-"
"Lord Karstark that is enough," Robb barked sharply.
"He shares the Kingslayer's blood," Lord Karstark said, and when he looked up at Gendry there was such hatred in his eyes. The empty, bottomless kind. Karstark. Jaime murdered his son with his chains. "How can we expect justice from him?"
"Because I am your King," Gendry said. "It is my duty to deliver justice where justice is due."
"I want him hanged!" Karstark shouted. "I want to take his head from his shoulders with my blade!"
"The Kingslayer will be punished for his crimes," Gendry vowed. "But when the time is right and this war is over."
"I want it done now!" Karstark demanded. "Tonight!"
"The Kingslayer is to be our hostage," Gendry said firmly. "No harm will come to him until we take King's Landing and can properly dispense justice."
Karstark laughed, but it was hollow and filled with rage.
"Properly dispense justice," he scoffed. "Practiced those words well, haven't you?"
Gendry raised his eyebrow and appraised Karstark coldly.
"If we all got the justice we wanted, when we wanted it, than I would be ruling in King's Landing at this very moment with my enemies dead and gone," he said to Karstark. Do not let him see your anger or the fight is lost. "Justice must be patient, Lord Karstark, or we would never be able to dispense it."
Karstark gave him a long look and than spat at his feet.
"How dare you?" Robb shouted, but Gendry shook his head.
"Put him in a cell," he ordered. "Maybe a night in chains will allow him to reflect on how to properly avenge his son."
"I'll order my men to slaughter him in his sleep!" Karstark shouted as they dragged him away. "Won't even have to order them! The whole North wants your precious Kingslayer's head!"
The meeting was dismissed, but Robb lingered. When the last man left the room Gendry sighed and it felt like he had not been able to breathe for a very long time. Robb looked exhausted too.
"It's a pity he told us his plans before he executed them," he said to Gendry with a hint of a smile playing at his lips. Gendry shook his head.
"I don't like this," he said. "Karstark is too volatile. Even if he does see sense, there's no telling how long he'll be able to keep his hands off my uncle's throat, and we need Jaime."
"Aye we need the Kingslayer," Robb agreed. "But we also need Karstark. It's a long March down to Dragonstone, and we pass King's Landing on the way. If Tywin Lannister wants any chance at winning this war, and he does, he'll send all the forces he can to keep us from reaching Stannis, and we will need Karstark's men."
"I don't like it," Gendry sighed, chewing his lip. It reminded him of Arya.
"It doesn't matter whether you like it or not," Robb said with resolute pragmatism. "Being King isn't about getting to do what you like."
"I know," Gendry said, turning to look Robb in the eye. "That's what my father always said."
A flicker of empathy darted across Robb's face but it left as quickly as it came. This was war, and Robb had suffered the loss of a loving and involved father, something that Gendry was sure was far more painful than his own. They left the room together in silence, preoccupied with their thoughts and parted silently as well, Gendry to his chambers and Robb to Lady Catelyn.
Gendry was loath to face Arya again after coming to blows with her, but it could not be avoided. When he entered the room, she leapt to her feet, fully dressed and all agitation. When she saw the look on his face, she sank back a few paces, her face falling. She bit her lip, threw him a cautious look, but he could already see her moving to speak.
"What news?" she asked tentatively.
"Lord Karstark swears to murder my uncle in his sleep," Gendry snapped. "A sentiment you no doubt share."
It was biting and accusatory, but Gendry was too sore with her to feel proper humility. Arya glared.
"What are you going to do with him?" she asked as Gendry took off his tunic, throwing it down on a chair and then stripping himself of his boots.
"Haven't you heard?" Gendry asked sardonically. "I'm going to make him my new hand. He seems to have lost one so I thought I'd give him another."
"Don't be stupid," Arya snarled, apparently done with being courteous. "You would be killed in your sleep if you did that."
"How observant of you," Gendry said, undoing the laces of his breeches.
"Don't," Arya said suddenly as he moved to take them off.
"It's nothing you haven't seen before, even on me now," Gendry said. "It's been a trying morning and I would like a bath before my war council meeting."
He held her gaze almost defiantly and for a moment he saw it quiver there, between them. They were fighting and suddenly he wanted them to be fucking. He was angry with her, she had betrayed his trust. Seven hells she was angry with him as well, but her eyes traveled quickly down the openness of his shift and down past the base of his naval. She flicked her gaze back up to meet his, and it was questioning. Should we? Could we? Can we?
"But," Gendry heard himself say. "I can change and bathe behind a screen."
Arya gave a jerky curt nod and everything was coldness between them, but perhaps less prickly.
"May I join you at the war council?" Arya spoke up as he went behind the screen, the bath water already drawn but cold. It mattered little to him in this state.
"You are Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, you may go wherever you please," Gendry grunted, his body seizing at the chill of the water.
"The question was a formality," she said. "I am trying to be polite."
That won't last long, Gendry thought bitterly, dipping his head in the water and lathering his arms with soap. When he was rinsed and clean he drew himself from the tub, trying not to think of how badly his body wanted to abandon their bickering for a quick coupling beneath the sheets. He did not need further complications.
The war council was terse with the tension of Jaime's arrival. The feeling of edge was no doubt helped by the frost that remained between him and Arya. They were overly polite to each other, something that had never occurred before. It was almost worse than bellowing at each other. At least that seemed honest.
"Karstark is going to be a problem," Robb said in hushed tones, pulling them aside after the council meeting. "He swears that he will not be kept from the Kingslayer, and I heard rumors that he plans to gather his men tonight to strike."
"He can't do that, it would be treason!" Arya said at once.
"Maybe it is a revenge worth treason," Robb said, and Arya grew quite and did not speak on his uncle's behalf further.
Worse than treason, if Karstark did decide to attack it would put Gendry in an impossible position. He was already unpopular with the Northernmen, Jaime's arrival had made him even less so, but if Karstark were to strike, then he could very well upset the very strained peace that Gendry had worked so hard to build. This was not to mention the chaos that would ensue after Jaime's death under Gendry's protection.
"I will make sure that doesn't happen," Gendry swore.
"How?" Robb asked. "Double his guard?"
"No," Gendry said. "I will guard his cell."
"Gendry you can't," Arya hissed at once. "Don't be an idiot."
"I can," Gendry told her. "And I will."
The sun was drawing low over the horizon when he made his way to the Brotherhood. They were down in the yard, grouped together and talking just as lively as they had in the forest. Anguy spotted him first and hit Tom until he stopped singing. A silence fell and Gendry couldn't help but feel quite displaced about it.
"Well don't stop on my account," he said awkwardly, suddenly painfully aware of his fine doublet and new boots.
"You looked like it was important," Anguy said.
"You look fancy too," Jack-Be-Lucky said with a wink. "Not an outlaw King no more."
Gendry scowled at him and laughter rippled through the Brotherhood.
"It is important," he conceded with a sigh. "I need your help in protecting someone. You won't like it."
By the look on their faces they knew who it was before he said the name.
"Lord Karstark has promised to take the Kingslayer's head tonight," Gendry said slowly, hoping beyond hope that they would understand the gravity of this. "I need to be sure that doesn't happen."
"Fuck that," Lem said, spitting on the ground. "I ain't protecting no Kingslayer."
"You will if he orders you to," Edric Dayne spoke up, almost swallowed up by the crowd. "You are sworn to him and he is your King."
"Look," Gendry sighed, "I don't want to force any of you against your will. If it is repulsive to you, than you need not stand guard. I, however, will be stationed outside his cell for the entirety of the night and would appreciate it if some of you would stand at the entrance to the dungeons as an extra precaution."
"You're standing guard?" Tom asked in disbelief.
"Yes," Gendry said. "The Kingslayer is under my protection, so I will protect him."
There was an uncertain silence and he saw many of the brotherhood shift from foot to foot. exchanging doubtful looks.
"I will stand guard Your Grace," Edric Dayne said, stepping forward.
"And I," Lord Beric said with a decisive nod.
"I suppose I will as well," Tom conceded, "to keep them awake."
"Seems a waste to go to all that trouble and then let him die," Anguy sighed. "I doubt my bow will be of any use in dungeons but you have it, Your Grace."
"Thank you," Gendry said. "Truly."
"We will meet at the dungeons at dusk if it please Your Grace," Lord Beric said.
"Why not walk down together after supper?" Gendry inquired with a frown. Surely that seemed more logical. Lord Beric gave him a small smile.
"We're not allowed in your Lord brother's fancy feasting hall," Anguy said before Beric could explain.
"What? Why?" Gendry demanded at once.
"I doubt the Northern Lords want to break bread with a gang of known thieves and outlaws," Ned explained.
"You're not thieves and outlaws!" Gendry said and that caused a ripple of laughter.
"We are thieves and outlaws," Tom replied.
"No," Gendry said firmly. "You are my men, and you deserve to eat at my table."
"That is kind," Lord Beric said, getting to his feet. "But perhaps misguided. We leave for Dragonestone in a fortnight, and than feasting in halls will be of no concern. Do not anger the Northern lords over such a trivial matter."
"What sort of King am I if I cannot have my men at my table?" Gendry demanded. "You will dine with me tonight, and every night. That's an order, and if the Northern men don't like it, they can dine in the yard."
"I wouldn't tell that to the Noblemen," said Lord Beric, but they agreed to meet Gendry at the dining hall anyway.
Robb seemed hesitant, and there were mutterings everywhere, but Gendry did not care a wit. Having the Brotherhood there made supper finally enjoyable, instead of bearable, and since he and Arya were still in the middle of their argument, it allowed him an excuse not to pay her attention.
"Would you pass the wine?" Arya asked loudly after their second course of roasted trout, and Gendry handed it to her with forced politeness. She poured her cup full, handed it back to him and then turned back to talk with her lady mother.
"Back to normal I see?" Tom said, leaning in and raising his brow. "What happened? Was the bedding-?"
"The bedding was fine," Gendry said hastily, hoping Arya had not heard. "It's not that."
"Well then what can it possible be? We leave you for a week and already things have fallen apart," Tom said.
"Things have not fallen apart," Gendry snapped, though Tom did have a point. "I'm just... She did not tell me that she had sent you for the Kingslayer until he arrived."
"Ahhh," Tom said knowingly, sitting back. "Well we had wondered. But it's for the best, don't you think? Can't have him running loose back to the capital with his maiden fair."
Anguy snorted loudly with laughter at that and Gendry glared down both of them.
"You will be kind and respectful to the Lady of Tarth," he ordered firmly. "She was just following orders, as you were."
"Looked like she was doing more than following orders to me," Tom said, but he caught the look on Gendry's face and shut up about it.
After supper, Gendry bid Arya a formal goodnight, and then he and most of the Brotherhood made for the dungeons. Night had fallen around them, and the yard was dark, the sky overcast and not a single star peeking through.
It was Brienne of Tarth who called for him, making her way down the steps and looking as though she wished herself a thousand times smaller. There was still that resolute stubbornness there though, and resilient determination as she crossed the yard to meet him, standing tall when she did.
"Lady Brienne," Gendry replied courteously, bestowing upon her a short bow. "What is your business?"
"I would like to offer my services, Your Grace," she said, her eyes darting towards the Brotherhood, who stood back a few paces. "In guarding the Kingslayer tonight."
"I bet she would," someone said to much laughter but Gendry ripped around and they fell silent.
"Thank you, my lady that is most generous of you," Gendry said. "You must ignore my men. I am grateful for your sword."
Brienne nodded, but he saw that she was blushing and there was no denying her utter humiliation. Again Gendry glared at the Brotherhood, but he doubted very much this would be the last of their taunts.
They all trooped down to the dungeons, and Gendry relieved Robb's men of their posts for the evening. The Brotherhood settled into their positions, Gendry discussed briefly with Lord Beric what should happen if Karstark's men did want to pay the Kingslayer a visit, and then he beckoned for Brienne to follow him.
"Kingslayer's whore," Anguy muttered as she passed.
"Say that again and you'll be eating in the yard," Gendry snarled. "Apologize to the lady at once."
"My apologies milady," Anguy said reluctantly and Brienne jerked a nod but would not meet his gaze.
Gendry sighed, taking up a torch, and then he and Brienne made their way down the winding steps to Jaime's cell. A silence fell between them, and when they reached the cell doors, it stayed.
They sat in the dark, he and Brienne of Tarth, neither of them saying a word. Jaime was locked behind the thick wooden doors that their backs were against, and though neither of them could see him, his presence weighed heavily in the silence. A dozen times Gendry wanted to ask her something, but every time he glanced her way, he could almost feel her tightening against him, blocking him out. Mayhaps asking her about the Kingslayer with the Kingslayer so close was not the wisest of ideas. Besides, if he did speak, Jaime was likely to comment, and Gendry was in no mood for his mockery.
He could feel his joints going stiff as he watched the torch light flicker off the damp walls, when Brienne tensed and he heard it too. Footsteps echoing towards them.
Brienne was leaping to her feet before Gendry could even scramble onto his knees, her sword glistening in the dull light as she held it out in front of her. There was a shadow, and Gendry leapt to his feet too, preparing for attack.
"Stand down; it's only me."
To his utter amazement, a slightly disgruntled and most definitely flustered Arya drew herself into the light. What was even more surprising, was that she had Needle strapped securely at her side.
"Apologies milady," Brienne of Tarth said, lowering her sword. "I feared it might be Lord Karstark."
"If it was Lord Karstark, you'd hear him from miles away," Arya snapped, and had Gendry not been so baffled by her being there, he would have laughed at the indignant look on her face. "And besides, he's in a cell tonight just like the Kingslayer, though I called for us to meet with him in the morning to discuss terms of a possible compromise."
"What are you doing here?" Gendry finally blurted out, having not come to a substantial reason by himself. For a moment, Arya didn't seem to know herself.
"I thought you might need some help," she said briskly. Gendry could feel Lady Brienne's eyes on him, and out of the corner of his vision, he saw the glint of her sword in the dark.
"Help?" Gendry repeated dubiously. "Arya, forgive me, but you believe he pushed Bran out of a window."
"If Lord Karstark comes down here tonight, intent on killing the Kingslayer, who do you think he will listen to?" she demanded. Gendry blinked. "Her? You heard what they're calling her. They'd gut her too. That leaves you, of course. Killing the King would hardly be a wise idea, so likely they'd over power you when they storm the cell. Robb refuses to come between, but his power is slipping. The only person Karstark will listen to is the North, and that's me."
"After all that, what makes you so sure he would listen to you?" Gendry asked. Arya's grip tightened around Needle and a darkness settled itself into her expression.
"Because I can promise him something that neither of you can," she swore bitterly. Gendry felt his insides go cold.
"And what's that?" he almost did not want to hear her answer.
"His death," Arya said.
Brienne drew her sword and Gendry stepped swiftly in front of Arya, not sure which one he was supposed to be protecting.
"I said I came here to keep him safe," Arya snapped over Gendry's shoulder.
"So you can slaughter him in the morning," Brienne accused through gritted teeth, refusing to lower her weapon.
"Well that would be an utter waste of time," Arya said sardonically. "I'm not an idiot. I know we need him in order to win the war."
"But you promised to kill him," Brienne said. "And I swore to Lady Catelyn that I would keep him safe."
"It's lovely to listen to you all wrestle with these dilemmas," Jaime's voice sounded from behind the door, indicating that he had been listening to the whole exchange, not that it was surprising. Arya scowled.
"Lower your weapon," she ordered Brienne. There was a moment of tension, and then Brienne finally lowered her sword, though her mistrust was evident in her gaze. She never took her eyes off Arya, wary of her every movement.
They all sat back down, Brienne's eyes still on Arya, who ignored her entirely, Gendry wedged between the both of them. What a pleasant night this was turning out to be. He almost would be surprised if Lord Karstark didn't come and murder the lot of them. With the way things were going, his arrival was almost essential.
"Is my mother really the reason why you're down here?" Arya asked of Brienne, her voice cutting loudly in the dark. The lady tensed, and there was no mistaking the quick and fretful look she threw at the door behind her. "You know I'm safe now, and we have a better chance of getting Sansa out without using him as a bargaining chip."
Lady Brienne was silent for a moment, wrestling with herself. Jaime's presence was so thick amongst them that they all might have been inside the cell with him, rather than shut outside. Gendry half hoped his uncle would make a jape to answer for the Maid of Tarth, but perhaps he was keen to know her answer as well, for there was only silence.
"I swore an oath," she said finally, looking intently at the stone of the dungeon floor.
"So did he," Arya cut sharply. "He swore to protect people too."
Brienne of Tarth had nothing to say to that. If her face were more readable, Gendry might have been able to guess what she was thinking, but as it was, he hadn't a clue. For someone so plain and uncomely, Brienne was a mystery of complexity indeed. Catelyn told him the woman had ridden off cursing Jaime Lannister, and now she was losing sleep to protect him. Jaime had always been hard to figure out, but Brienne was another thing entirely. Gendry didn't even think Cersei would sit outside Jaime's cell all night for him. So did the maid love him? Again, Gendry searched her face, trying to find a hint of what he knew of himself in her, but again he came up empty handed. Her cheeks merely reddened and she kept staring keenly at the floor.
They lapsed into silence for some time. Gendry realized, as he had more time to think than he had for quite a while, that the last night at this very time he and Arya had lain together. He wondered if she thought this too. It was unlikely, since the Kingslayer was so very near, and her thoughts were likely to be only of him, but when he caught Arya's eye, she blushed.
"You are a boring lot," Jaime spoke up unexpectedly from inside the cell, making them all jump. "I might die of boredom before Lord Karstark can have a proper go at me."
"Keep up your yapping and I'll lead him here myself," Arya snapped. Brienne jerked violently, as if to again do battle with Arya.
"We're not here for your entertainment," Gendry said quickly, trying to draw the focus away before either of them did each other any harm.
"Well that much is obvious," Jaime replied in a drawl. "Not a single amusing thing said between the lot of you."
"Oh because you're so amusing," Arya spat scathingly.
"I fancy myself something of that kind," Jaime said.
"Then perhaps you could tell us a story," Arya snarled. "I hear the story of the bear pit is most exciting."
That gave Jaime pause. Brienne's face grew to an even more ruddy color in the dark.
"Is it true that she was naked? I did hear that tale. I also heard she offered her maidenhood in return for the favor." Arya's voice was growing louder and louder. She would wake the whole of Riverrun.
"Arya," Gendry admonished, but she did not listen to him.
"It was you," she swore softly in the darkness, her entire body trembling with rage. "Wasn't it? I always said, and they never believed me. It was you who threw my brother from the Red Keep."
"Pushed," Jaime corrected her in his usual way, but his voice faltered. "But yes, it was me. Very clever of you to figure it out."
Arya did not speak. She gripped Needle tightly, and in the torch light Gendry could see tears swimming in her eyes. Whether they were of fury or grief he did not know. She would not meet his gaze.
It seemed to be a mutual and silent agreement amongst all of them that they would not speak again. Even Jaime, who was always so quick to throw in a biting comment, held his tongue. Old ghosts were thick amongst them tonight, and Gendry fancied that Jaime had quite a few of his own to preoccupy his mind. There was a change in him, Gendry could feel it. A small desire poking through, something. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.
The sun came up and when the light streamed thickly through the windows, Arya stood. Brienne and Gendry followed suit silently. If Jaime was grateful for their protecting his life, he did not voice it. The silence carried as they took their leave of him and a Stark man passed them on his way to guard the Kingslayer's cell. It was a strange, tense, and eerie atmosphere. The merriment that had floated through the air from his wedding to Arya had vanished completely now. He was sorry to see it go.
They were waiting for them in the great hall. Karstark, Robb, Umber, Lady Catelyn. All of them. For a moment, Gendry wondered if he should dismiss Lady Brienne, but thought better of it. Arya walked up to the table. All eyes were on her. And she thought she could never be Queen.
"Why is that great, ugly cow in my sight?" Lord Karstark growled. "Kingslayer's whore."
"Her name is Lady Brienne," Gendry told him sharply "and you will address her as such or not at all."
"Not at all then," Lord Karstark said defiantly, and Gendry could feel his anger bubbling inside him, clenched his fists, and ordered himself not to say anything at all.
"Lord Karstark, I am here to negotiate the terms of the Kingslayer's captivity," Arya's voice rang out sharply. "Your insults are not only unwelcome, they are unhelpful. Let us do this quickly and be done with it."
"There's nothing to negotiate," Karstark snarled. "He killed my son."
"He pushed my brother from a window," Arya said fiercely. "He stabbed the Mad King in the back. He committed incest with his sister and adultery against the King. I do not need to be told what he has done, Lord Karstark. I already know."
"Then you side with him?" Lord Karstark demanded, throwing a hand in Gendry's direction. "Because he's your husband's uncle we should just let him walk free? Ehh? Is that it your highness?"
Arya appraised Lord Karstark coldly. Robb's jaw was taunt but he stood aside and did not come forward. Both Lady Catelyn and he remained in shadow, when they were usually both so active in Gendry's war councils. There was a shift, and Robb looked like he wanted to step to Arya's, but Lady Catelyn put her hand against his and nodded towards his younger sister. Give her a chance, this silent nod seemed to say.
"Gendry and I are married," she said in a low voice, the sound a wolf made before it went for the kill. "That is true. But I will never be just somebody's wife. I am your Queen, Lord Karstark. I command respect."
Lord Karstark opened his mouth to speak but Arya was not finished.
"The Kingslayer will have justice," she swore, raising her voice so that it rang sharply around the room. "He will not be pardoned for his crimes I swear to you here and now. He will answer for them in the way the North has always done with oathbreakers, murderers, and traitors. I swear by the old gods and the new, when this war is won, he will feel our justice. For my brother, your son, and all those who he has harmed before."
The room was silent. Gendry found himself captivated, unable to move. The fierceness and conviction behind her words was staggering. Jaime Lannister's days were numbered. In the thin morning light Gendry could almost see his blood on her hands.
"But there cannot be justice if we lose this war," she said. "The Kingslayer is a means to an end, Lord Karstark. We need him. He is Tywin Lannister's son and heir. Do you think he truly means to give the Rock to the Imp? You are dreaming. With the Kingslayer in our captivity, we have Tywin Lannister's balls in our grip. When we bring Stannis into the fold we've as good as won this war. Cause any harm to the Kignslayer and we've lost. Not only the war, but my sister. I am sure you know what would happen if you cost me my sister's life. Kill him now, and your son will have died for nothing. Do you want that?"
Lord Karstark looked as though he'd gladly like to argue with her, but his mouth remained shut. There was a long, swelling silence. For a moment, Gendry could see the panic on Arya's face that she might not have convinced him. They all waited.
"When the war is won," he finally said. Relief rushed through Gendry.
"When the war is won," Arya swore. "You may decide his justice yourself."
Lord Karstark's mouth was a thin line and it was evident in every facet of his being that he did not want this.
"And his whore?" he demanded gruffly. "What of her?"
"Lord Karstark I must remind you to watch your tongue," Lady Catelyn said sharply. "Brienne is in my service."
"She is my lady companion," Arya said at once before Gendry could leap to Brienne's defense. "I need her by my side at all times. She will be of great service to me I am sure."
Lord Karstark's gaze darkened. His alliance was one that was near a breaking point. Gendry wished they could just cut him off now. He was too volatile, too enraged, and diplomacy was crucial to their victory. He was a loose canon, and it was a shame since they needed his men desperately.
"As you say, Your Grace," he relented begrudgingly. This was not the last they would hear on the issue, but at least he wasn't about to go hacking off Jaime's head. The meeting was adjourned and he moved to take leave of the hall along with the other men.
"Oh and Lord Karstark?"
"Her name is Lady Brienne," Arya said, her hand on Needle. "See to it that you don't forget."
The door slammed behind him, leaving Arya, Gendry and Lady Brienne alone. Arya sank into one of the chairs at the table, looking exhausted.
"Your Grace," Gendry corrected in quiet yet firm tones. Brienne's face went blotchy shades of scarlet.
"You grace," she stammered out. "That was kind of you, but I cannot accept."
"Don't be stupid," Arya snapped, sounding much like when she was a child. "They all want you dead. I can't protect you any way else."
"That is kind, my-Your Grace, but I am not in need of your protection," Brienne stuttered on stubbornly. There was a pause. "Renly was my King."
"And you serve my mother, who in turn serves Gendry and I," Arya said, standing up again. She looked close to furious. "By all logic, we are your sovereigns now, unless you wish to defy my mother?"
"Please," Brienne was both bashful and determined, "I do not wish to cause offense but as I said, Renly was my King... Stannis killed him. I-I know you must ally yourselves with him, but I cannot."
"It gives me no great pleasure to ally with Stannis myself," Gendry admitted softly. "I understand your predicament my lady."
Arya glared at him, though Gendry was not sure what he had done wrong.
"This is ridiculous!" she declared hotly. "Fine! Do what you will. Go ride off and get yourself killed for your precious Renly, it matters not to me."
She stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Brienne was examining the stone of the floor with great concentration. The atmosphere was tense and awkward. Gendry felt a spark of Arya's indignation. Brienne was surely mad to reject the leaps of hospitality both he and Arya had thrown her way. What would make her be so disrespectful?
"You loved him."
The Maid of Tarth looked as though she had been slapped.
"He was my King," she gasped out, but Gendry just shook his head.
"More than a King," he said. There was a moment of intense vulnerability in Brienne's blue eyes and Gendry felt a rush of sympathy towards her. It was true pain to love a closed heart, this he knew. "I loved him too, you know."
Silence stretched between them.
"He was kind to me," Brienne blurted out in spite of herself, "when no one else was. He showed me the utmost curtesy and respect."
"Renly was a good man," Gendry agreed, meeting her gaze. "His betrayal cut deep."
Brienne's blush spread to her neck and she had the good grace to look ashamed. If she wanted to defend her King, for the first time she did not. Perhaps she realized the selfishness behind Renly's actions, or maybe she was just prudent enough to know not to poke a festering wound.
"Lady Brienne, I must ask you one final time to rethink your refusal," Gendry said, pressing his advantage. "If not a lady companion, than a member of Arya's Queensguard. I'm sure she would not object to that."
"If you leave he might die yet," Gendry said, having exhausted all other forms of persuasion. "You're the only one he trusts."
"He does not trust me," Brienne mumbled sullenly, but there was no denying the little intake of breath she gave.
"He cares for you," Gendry said, and Brienne's eyes jumped to his in surprise. "He rescued you from the bear pit. He lost a hand for you."
"Not knowingly," she cut in quickly. "If he had known then mayhaps..."
Mayhaps. Mayhaps the Kingslayer would have held his tongue and let them do what they willed with her. But he hadn't. He had saved this woman's life, more than once, and there was a connection there. Maybe it was one that no one understood, but it was there and that was important. Gendry could not just let the Lady of Tarth go.
"Please don't go Lady Brienne," Gendry beseeched her in one final plea. "Fulfill your vow and deliver him safely to Kingslanding."
He left her standing there with a torment of conflict on her face. I hope this trouble is not for nothing, he thought to himself, exhaustion creeping across his skin. Part of him wished that Jaime had just made it to Kingslanding. He would have much preferred Sansa's company in his uncle's stead. At least she was courteous and Lord Karstark wasn't lusting after her head. Sansa would be helpful, whereas Jaime was only trouble and a bitter reminder of what he had lost.
He reached his chamber and heard the clicking of heels against stone. When he opened the door he was met with Arya's agitated pacing back and forth. She barely looked up when she heard him come in and he bolted the door while she methodically paced from one end of the room to the other, brow furrowed in thought.
"You saved his life," Gendry heard himself say, all disbelief. He still could not quite fathom how that was possible.
"Yes," Arya affirmed briskly, unbuckling her sword belt and setting it on the table. She was turned away from him, her silhouette in the dark as she stood by the window. Silver sunlight caught the smallest strands of her hair and made her glow.
The answer was obvious. For the war. To win. They needed the Kingslayer. But all this had already been said and was not at the root of her stepping forward for his uncle. Arya did not forgive easily, if she ever did at all. Gendry could not have imagined the pain she endured sitting outside Jaime's cell while he mockingly confessed to crippling her brother. And yet she had born it all with conviction.
Arya turned to face him.
"When Cersei drugged you, and you lay delirious in your bed, I came to visit you. It was only for a moment. You did not recognize me," she recalled with a certain deliberation. Gendry nodded. "I held your hand and Varys asked me a question. He asked me how far I was willing to go for you."
Gendry found himself wanting to ask, and yet knowing he should not.
"What did you tell him?" he said in spite of himself.
"Nothing," Arya said. "He already knew."
The moment stretched taunt between them.
"To the ends of the earth," Arya admitted almost sadly. "Until the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Even if it means letting the Kingslayer live a while longer."
Gendry found himself unable to muster a response for her.
"That," Arya said, "and for my sister. If Jaime is harmed than we would be her murderers."
She gripped her fingers into a tight fist.
"I hate the thought of her trapped there," Arya snarled. "I cannot bear it. You have to understand why I needed to have the Kingslayer back. You have to know he cannot be trusted. He would never return my sister to us."
Gendry was not sure what he knew. Uncle Jaime. Maybe Arya was a better authority on the Kingslayer than Gendry was. Beneath her angry words, Gendry saw a pulsing truth there. You cannot be trusted, he realized rather suddenly. He could not trust himself to do what must inevitably be done in the end, at least not yet.
"I didn't want to betray you," she was saying, and there were tears shimmering in her eyes. "I didn't know what to do. I need my sister back. They would have killed her if they got him back. You know that Gendry."
He didn't. Not really.
"I forgive you," he said. "You acted like a queen back there with Karstark, and I am grateful, truly, but if we don't trust ourselves, then they will win. We are nothing without trust, and I trust you, Arya. In spite of all this, I trust you. Do you trust me?"
She bit her lip and nodded.
"Yes," she swore. "I will never lie to you, or not tell you the whole truth, again. You have my word."
"Then we can only move forward from here," Gendry said, though he wasn't sure where forward was exactly, and neither did Arya, it seemed. They both stood there, feet apart, unsure as what to do.
"You must be tired," Arya spoke up finally.
"You must be as well," Gendry replied. Again she chewed her lip and nodded. They were so unfamiliar to each other in this sort of way. Everything was unnatural. If they were back in King's Landing, he would bid her leave, and then they would attend feasts together and dance and gradually fall back into their old ways but this was different. There was no separation, and he had... He had been with her and everything was changed now.
"It seems like ages since our wedding," Arya said.
"It does, doesn't it? And it was only two days ago," Gendry wondered aloud, shocked. Had it really been only two days?
"I hate when we fight," Arya said. "I told you we would fight."
"I know," Gendry smiled. She had been so completely Arya that night in the Peach. Telling him to marry her, and then telling him all the reasons not to. "It's not going to be perfect overnight, Arya."
"It almost was," she sighed, and it was the first time that their consummation had been brought up since it happened. Gendry blushed.
"It was far from perfect," he said, embarrassed. Arya shrugged.
"It was still nice," she said. Then it was her turn to blush. "We just need practice, like swordplay."
"Arya Stark," he said. "Are you asking me to bed?"
"Are you saying no?"
"Good," Arya said, and then she undid the laces of her shift and pulled it from her shoulders, leaving herself naked from the waist up, cocking her head to one side and enjoying the look on his face.
"Oh is this how it's going to be?" Gendry asked, stepping forward.
"Well don't be shy," she teased, and he picked her up, squealing, and carried her to bed.
They marched for the Twins in less than a fortnight, but Jaime had been complaining loudly about the state of his cell for days, and Gendry was tired of constantly hearing his guards moan about it. On the morning five days before their departure, he sought out Brienne of Tarth, who was sharpening her sword in a corner window, for assistance.
"There's no one I trust with him more than you," he said. "Will you do me this service?"
Brienne seemed reluctant but ultimately willing, and so with her help he was able to get Jaime out of the cell and hopefully with his mouth shut. Just one day of peace, Gendry thought as he walked down a corridor. But, as if on cue, he heard the sound of Jaime's voice ringing out from below, and he went to a window to inspect.
"Why is the Kingslayer roaming freely in the yard?" Arya all but shrieked, marching furiously towards Gendry, red in the face. He sighed.
"He's hardly roaming free," Gendry said warily. "There are chains around his wrists and he has a guard."
"He strangled his last guard with his chains," Arya snarled, looking ready to go down into the yard and strangle Jaime herself. Or Gendry. She was glaring at him with such ferocity that he was surprised he did not crumble into dust.
"Well I don't think he will this one," Gendry told her. "It's Brienne of Tarth. And nearly the whole of Brotherhood is in the yard. He will not escape."
"Why is he not in his cell?" Arya demanded violently through gritted teeth.
"It needed cleaning," Gendry said. "Surely you would not have him sit in his own shit for weeks on end?"
Surely she would. The expression on Arya's face made it very clear that was exactly what she would have him do. One day of peace, apparently, was far too much to ask.
"Do you want Lord Karstark to put a sword through your eye?" she demanded, clearly not finished yet. Gendry let out all the air through his nose and turned to give her what he hoped was a thoroughly irritated look.
"Lord Karstark is becoming more trouble than he's worth," he grumbled.
"The same could be said for the Kingslayer," Arya said.
"I wasn't the one who brought him here, remember?" Gendry reminded her. Arya frowned, and to Gendry's surprise she looked disappointed.
"I understand that you're King," she said. "But I thought you knew better than to assume that means you can do what you want. Karstark challenged your authority, but putting the Kingslayer out in the yard and testing his limits isn't helping anyone. I brought the Kingslayer here so he could bring some justice for once. Don't destroy it just because you want to exercise your rule."
Gendry blinked. For a moment, he wanted to argue with her, tell her that she was wrong. He was just cleaning Jaime's cell! How could she even accuse him of being so childish? But the more he thought about it, the more he realized, horrified, that she was right. He was acting foolish, and what was worse, there was no excuse for it. He could have put Jaime in another cell, or better yet gagged him. I wanted to help my uncle yes, he thought, but there was also a small part of him that rang defiant and that troubled him deeply. This would be something that Robert would do, like having whores in his bed overnight when Cersei could hear, and he was not Robert.
"You're right," he said. "I will remove Jaime from the yard at once and put him back in his cell."
Arya opened her mouth but whatever she was going to say was drowned out by voices in the yard.
"The Kingslayer and his whore! There's a song you could write Sevenstrings!" Someone shouted from below, and Gendry let out a loud groan. This would need his attention immediately.
Arya followed him doggedly down the steps and out into the yard. But when they burst from the corridor, they were met with shouting and confusion. Gendry blinked in surprise and looked around, trying to figure out what was going on before he remembered that he was the King, and could easily enough find out for himself.
"What is the meaning of this?" he bellowed and the fighting seemed to come to somewhat of a halt, but there was still a commotion at the center of things, and Gendry marched through the crowd to see what it was.
Arya in tow, he passed behind Brienne of Tarth whose face was bright red, her hands gripping the rope that was tied to Jaime Lannister, who, of course, seemed to be the source of the trouble.
Both Lem and Anguy held him at his shoulders, but he was struggling fiercely, shouting abuse at a man who bore Karstark's colors. Gendry exchanged a look with Arya before fully stepping forward.
"Apologize to her, you sorry bastard or I'll rip your fucking throat out!" Jaime was shouting at the man, who laughed and then spat at his feet.
"With what? Your stump? Your threats are empty Kingslayer," he sneered and Jaime leapt forward again, Lem and Anguy bracing themselves and wrenching him back.
"That's enough," Gendry barked sharply, and the man stopped laughing. "What has happened here?"
No one spoke. Jaime just seethed and Brienne stared firmly at the ground.
"This one gave me a suggestion for a new song," Tom spoke up, "and the Kingslayer didn't like it."
Gendry looked at Jaime who glared him down, as if it was somehow his fault this offense had occurred.
"Slobbering like a milkmaid after that ugly fucker," the Karstark man snorted, shooting Brienne a look of disgust.
"Watch your tongue!" Arya swept forward. "Brienne is a member of my Queensguard and you will treat her with the respect she deserves."
"I won't treat no Kingslayer's whore with respect," the man snapped.
"Call her that again and you'll have a wooden cock!" Jaime bellowed and Gendry resisted the urge to sigh loudly. Why can't he just keep his mouth shut?
"Ser," Gendry said sharply, stepping forward. "Your Queen gave you an order. Are you saying you disobey it?"
"I might be," the man said sullenly, but when Gendry took another step towards him, he took a step back.
"Do you know what I do to people who disobey orders? Who disrespect my wife?" Gendry asked him in a low voice. "No? Well, first there's the flogging, and then if you haven't learned your lesson, you get to be dragged behind our horses when we March for the Twins. Do you want to be dragged behind the horses?"
"No," the man said.
"No what?" Gendry demanded, and there was ringing silence in the yard. The man swallowed hard and when he turned his eyes to Gendry's there was fury there.
"No Your Grace," he said.
"Good," Gendry leaned back. "Now apologize to the Queen."
"My apologies Your Grace."
"And the lady."
The man's snapped up in surprise, but Gendry raised his eyebrows and waited. Behind him he could sense Arya glaring as well. He could almost see her arms crossed over her chest in expectation and the thought made him fight a smile.
"My apologies... My lady," the man forced out.
"Good," Gendry said, smiling at them all, though the tension was still thick in the air. "You are free to go."
Karstark's men stormed off, and Gendry was not sorry to see them go. When they were gone, Lem and Anguy let Jaime go and he wrenched free. Brienne stood in the same spot, still holding Jaime's rope and still silent.
"You should have had him flogged," Jaime snarled.
"And you should learn to keep your mouth shut," Gendry told him. "I let you free for one moment and then you're attacking men in the yard? You took advantage of my kindness uncle."
"I was defending her name," Jaime snapped, jerking his hands towards Brienne.
"There was no need," she spoke up unexpectedly. She looked angry. Gendry couldn't understand it. Jaime, though pig-headed and foolish, was in some ways, being rather gallant. Yet Brienne of Tarth it would seem wanted none of it. "His grace is right, you should learn to keep your mouth shut."
Jaime looked equally angry.
"On second thought Kingslayer's whore has a certain ring to it," he shot back, scowling at her. "Though wench suits you better, I think."
"Consider this a warning, uncle," Gendry said, tired of their bickering. "Brienne, kindly escort him back to his cell."
"You didn't even give me a bath!" Jaime protested. "I stink of shit."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw a quick movement, and turned to see Arya plunge a bucket of water in the rain barrel, stride back to Jaime, and then threw it in his face.
"There's your bath," she said while the Brotherhood roared with laughter.
"Brienne," Gendry said, and she nodded, yanking Jaime back down to the dungeons still spitting water from his mouth.
"I hate him," Arya said, narrowing her eyes after them.
"Well you'd better get used to him," Gendry told her. "We march for the Twins soon, and after that he'll be with us all the way to Dragonstone, and I intend to keep him close."
If the Stark family members seem like they're in the background, keep in mind that this is Gendry's POV. He doesn't know them yet, there's distance. Next chapter is Ayra and we will see much more Catelyn and also Robb. Also I think it's important to note that the next chapter will start off with a Sansa POV because it is esstential that we know what the hell is going on in King's Landing. Rest assured, Arya will follow quickly.
To all of you that have stayed with this story: Thank you! Thank you for your lovely comments! Keep them coming :) they help support the muse