AN: Thanks for your reviews - I didn't think there would be 1000 of them so soon. I'd like to give a special shout out to Yak, for his meticulous proofreading; Jarik, for his continued help; Cheddar, for being awesome; and Celestin, for his suggestions, as well as all the other people who point I things I miss.

Aeryn's POV take place in mid 298 AL, a few weeks or so before Harry's 15th nameday (14 years of age). Myrcella's POV takes place after Harry's nameday. Cersei's takes place a few months after that, before and during the tourney for Joffrey's 16th nameday (15).

Disclaimer: I own neither Harry Potter nor Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire.


It was the loud creak of the heavy oaken door that woke her.

She snapped awake at the sound, indigo eyes sharpening in the bleary darkness. The brazier atop the table had dwindled to but the merest flame, and of all the torches along the wall, only one remained lit. The pale, alabaster glow of the moon streaming through the round windows appeared dim in comparison to the torch's red gleam, and the shadows that crept up the walls seemed to care little for the moon's light.

'Only fire can chase away shadows.'

She thought that mayhaps Harry had returned from his lessons with Lord Tywin, and set to straightening the solar, returning the books strewn across the table to their proper places on the shelves. Maester Wulfric had stressed that point - stressed everything, really, far stricter with her than he was with Harry. She was allowed no mishaps, and no slip-ups.

Absently, she rubbed her fingers across bruised knuckles swathed in white cloth wet with a poultice, and thought of her last lesson, and that stupid fucking stick the Maester insisted on striking her with whenever she made a mistake. He was a harsh, old, fat, cunt, but he knew his medicine, and it was because of him she had learned so much in the last few years at Casterly Rock.

Him, and Lady Genna.

When Harry was having his own lessons with Maester Wulfric and Maester Creylen, or tussling with the squires and freeriders in the training ring beside the tower, sometimes facing two at once, she was with Lady Genna, tending her while she made court with the other ladies of the Rock; the chicken-legged Lady Dorna, quiet and demure; the endlessly grieving Lady Darlessa, always so grim and dour, and the old, sour Lady Shiera, a cantankerous old crone who fussed as often as she drew breath. Lady Cerenna would often join them, with flowers in her hair and pearls about her gowns, and where she went, her crazed sister followed. Lady Myrielle was more bloodthirsty than any lady had a right to be.

They were predators and scavengers, lions and buzzards, and she, their prize and their prey.

Oh, they would applaud her beauty, and clamor over the color of her hair - "like spun gold and gleaming silver," they would say - but so too would they speak of her lowborn status, and the life she had been borne to, their voices sweet as honey, words as rotten as week old flesh. Harry had never seemed to realize what it meant to live in a brothel, what it meant to be the daughter of a whore, and she had never been of a mind to tell him; the things she had seen, had learned - she could only wonder what he might think of her, if he knew.

'He probably wouldn't care.' Harry was like that. That was one of the reasons she loved him.

She tried not to think of those times; hated to think of them, just as she had hated the men who came to lie with her mother, the lords and their knights, in fine brocade, stinking of wine and ale, with cruel, salacious eyes. They were no better than Allar Deem - they only paid with gold, instead of pain.

"They'll be your men to lie with one day," her mother had once told her, "when my beautiful flower has finally bloomed. Chataya will make an event of it; your maidenhead will be worth more gold than you can hold in your fists."

In the end, it hadn't been worth any gold at all. Just a man's life.

'Did your fires tell you that, mother?'

She had lost something precious that day in the Dragonpit, something she had never even really had - the power to choose, even a thing as small and trivial as who would take her maidenhead. She had been prepared for the loss of it, and hoped that she could give it to Harry when the time came, but that choice had been ripped from her hands, like a flower uprooted in a storm, tossed about on fierce winds. 'A flower not yet bloomed. That life was no life for me.'

She had lost something precious that day, but she had gained so much more.

She had gained a prince, a champion of the Red God; mayhaps even R'hllor made flesh. He was fire shaped into the visage of a boy, with a heart that burned as bright and fierce as the sun. For him, she weathered their words, smiled dumbly and curtsied deeply, even while she thought of strangling them. Only Lady Genna escaped her ire; only she, the grandest lioness of them all, seemed to respect that Aeryn was more than her past, more than a girl who would've been a whore. And yet, she made certain that Aeryn knew her place, knew that she would never lie with Harry as his equal, knew that she would never be a lady.

"You will always be the 'the Black Prince's whore'," Lady Genna had told her once. "They will call you a whore to your face, and they will call you a whore behind your back. My advice, child, is to embrace your title - embrace who you are. Better a prince's beloved paramour than some old lord's wife." And then she had smiled, her broad face stretched wide. "Can you imagine spending your life with my husband, the miserable fool?"

'My sons and daughters will be bastards,' she thought, 'but their father will love them, and they will want for nothing. They'll be free to choose a life of their own.'

Her musings were cut short by voices in the room beyond.

"Myrielle! What are you doing?!"

Not Harry, then. That was a woman's voice. 'Cerenna,' she thought. Only she could reach that pitch when screaming her sister's name.

Aeryn left the solar, taking care to walk quietly, and stepped past the protruding section of the wall to look upon the sisters. They stood at the base of the bed, illuminated by the same moon that had seemed so dim before. Myrielle held a white tunic up to her face, and Cerenna stood facing her - even from across the room, Aeryn could make out her disapproving frown. They wore similar gowns of fine silk and lace, the dark, flowing, fawn fabrics accentuating their graceful figures.

"Stop sniffing Harry's shirt!" Cerenna stamped her foot. "Put. It. Down."

Aeryn could've laughed, had the sight of the sisters not angered her so. This was her sanctuary - her's and Harry's. They had no right to be here, no right to be touching his things; their mere presence seemed an affront to all that she held dear. Was it not enough that she had to deal with them when tending Lady Genna?

'Where is Harry?' He'd make them leave, if she asked.

"It smells like cinnamon," Myrielle said, not at all bothered by her sister's sharp tone. She took another sniff. "And nutmeg, and vanilla, and mayhaps a bit of honey."

'Cinnamon and nutmeg to heat the body, vanilla to stimulate sensitivity, and honey to increase desire.' She recalled Harry's tentative touches from the night before, the way he had trailed his fingers along her side and down her hip, unaware of the fire that sparked beneath at his touch. Every night, she made the tea for him, and every night, his hands wandered further, and her fire burned brighter. She could almost feel them now, his hands, curled around her waist, or the rigid heat of him pressed into the small of her back.

'One day soon, I'll claim him, and he will whisper my name into the darkness, as I whisper his.'

"Why must you be so strange?" she heard Cerenna complain.

'Why are they here?' When Myrielle went to sniff the tunic for a third time, Aeryn made her presence known. She slammed the solar door shut with as much force as she could muster; the resulting crash was as loud as the boom of a battle drum.

Myrielle dropped the shirt in fright, and Cerenna near leaped out of her gown. They didn't recognize her at first, staring stupidly with wide eyes, but as she stepped closer into the light, Myrielle began to scowl, and Cerenna followed suit.

"You," the tall blonde spat, stalking towards her. "We've been looking for you."

"Why? Mi'lady," she added after a breath.

Cerenna she liked the least, in spite of, or perhaps because of, her insistence on her and Aeryn being 'close'. She was no more scathing than the other women, less even, in some regards. but she had made her desire for Harry plain, catering to him as if they were already wed. The few times the three of them were together, Cerenna would treat her as if they were friends, laughing and joking, all so Harry would think well of her.

But the Lannister girl didn't understand the fundamental difference between Harry and every other man in her life - where they were beings of flesh, weak and malleable, Harry was a being trapped in flesh, a god of fire made human, so above and beyond any other man he might as well be the sky itself. Cerenna didn't know how to stoke his fires.

Aeryn did.

"You buy spices from that woman in the city, the woman from Essos," Cerenna said, grabbing hold of her arm.

"I do," Aeryn said with a nod, as Cerenna pulled her over to the bed. She managed to keep from frowning, but she stared pointedly at Cerenna's delicate fingers curled around the pale flesh of her arm.

"The other maids say she can see the future. Is it true?"

'So that's what this is about.' She thought it folly to seek knowledge of the future. Nothing was set in stone. Nothing. Better to shape the present to influence the future. "I know many hedge wizards and woods witches who claim to see the future." They always had the best priced herbs.

"We don't care about hedge wizards and woods witches," Myrielle said. "Take us to see her."

She had no desire to go and see that woman. Raylene scared her. Her horrid yellow eyes saw too much, and her dusky beauty seemed but a mask, hiding the truth of the vile, evil beneath. She had the rarest herbs and spices, though, and the freshest ingredients. "I must wait for my Prince to return - "

"He's gone out riding with my brother and his knights," Myrielle said, cutting her off. "He won't be back for a few hours yet. You can polish his royal scepter then."

Raylene's shop was on the seafront, down a long lane of timber and plaster buildings, built atop a jagged stone mound that had been tinted green by algae. It was a quaint building, small and square with a sloping redwood roof and gray, leaded windows. Two men sat at a small wooden table to the right of the door, both in mismatched mail and plate, with brown skin like the color of wet sand. Neither Cerenna nor Myrielle spared them a glance, but Aeryn couldn't help but notice their eyes, clouded and bloodshot, leering at them as they entered the shop. Cloaked as they were, they wouldn't be recognized, but any man with eyes could see that they were women, young and lissome, round of hip and breast.

For that very reason, they'd brought guards; two for each of the sisters, and one for her. Before she entered the shop, she looked back to Terryck and nodded her thanks, but the former sellsword waved her on. He often accompanied her on excursions into the city, citing it was his duty to his Prince's lady.

"I'm not his lady," she would say. 'I'm his whore.'

He only ever laughed in return, humming the rhythm of Harry's ballad. She thought she might have heard him humming it then, but the sound came from in front of her. It was Myrielle. She sang softly as she perused the shelves, smiling strangely at the jars of fish eyes and ox hearts that were arranged atop the rows of wood.

Inside the shop was warm, a stark contrast to the cool breeze outside, and the only source of light was the fire blazing in the hearth across from the doorway. The smell of spices and herbs were thick in the air, and cloves of garlic and garlands of mint hung from the rafters, but they couldn't mask the rancid scent of decay seeping through the stone. It was as if the rock had once been alive, but now lie dead, rotting from the inside out. The room was quiet, eerily so, aside from Myrielle and her humming, but if she listened closely, Aeryn could hear something skittering in the dark recesses of the building, like spiders scurrying about in wooden cages. She hated spiders.

"Finally decided to try my love potions, child? They can warm even the coldest of hearts." Raylene sat at a table off to the side of the room, away from the assortment of shelves spaced haphazardly about the store. She wore bright robes of yellow silk, with green and blue swaths of cloth wrapped about her neck, her arms bare. Her voice, for the briefest of moment, took on two tones; high pitched like the screech of clashing steel, but deep, like the low moans of a man spilling his seed. There was a foreign lilt to her words that made her common tongue hard to understand.

"No thank you," Aeryn replied. She had no need of them.

Cerenna grabbed her arm and walked over to the table, Myrielle at her side. Closer now, she found herself staring into eyes as yellow as piss above lips red as blood, set in a beautiful bronze face that was framed by curled hair black as jet. She pulled away from Cerenna, stepping out of arms reach - she didn't like being touched, unless it was Harry doing the touching.

Myrielle opened her mouth, but Cerenna spoke before she could utter a word.

"I hope this night finds you well, my lady."

Raylene laughed. "I'm no lady, girl. I'm a bastard, just like this pretty one here." She nodded towards Aeryn.

Cerenna was unperturbed, and smiled graciously. "I've heard tale that you come from Essos," she said. "They say that you have certain... talents."

"What sort of 'talents'?" Raylene leaned forward and lay her hands across the table. Her thin forearms were covered in strange, looping designs of black ink, her bejeweled fingers long and thin, the tips colored more hues than Aeryn could name.

"They say you can see the future," Myrielle cut in. "All you need is a drop of blood."

"Tiresome work, seeing the future." Raylene tilted her head, black hair falling over her shoulder. In a certain slant of light, Aeryn could imagine the strands as snakes of shadow, coiled to strike. "And it takes more than a drop."

"We have gold," Myrielle said. She peered down at the rings adorning the woman's fingers. "More than you're liable to make in your entire lifetime." Cerenna's elbow twitched towards Myrielle, but she refrained from hitting her.

"Is that right, child?" Raylene tutted. "Gold is such a fickle thing. I don't much care for it."

"Do you know who we are?" Myrielle questioned, green eyes narrowing in anger.

"Lannister girls," Raylene replied, "touched by fire." She looked to Aeryn again, her gaze heavy. "I'll give each of you one question," she said with a lazy smile. "You can keep your gold, I have no need of it. But there is something else..."

"What?" Cerenna asked. "Whatever it is, we'll get it for you."

"You can't give it to me girl. Only she can," she said, nodding to Aeryn. "Bring him here." She spoke the Valyrian dialect of Lys, but with a strange inflection on her words, as if it too was not her native language.

"Why?" She ignored the looks the sisters gave her.

"I want to see him, this prince of yours."

"What if he doesn't want to come?"

Raylene wrote something down on a slip of parchment, folded it, and handed it to Aeryn. "Give him that. He'll come."

Aeryn slipped the parchment into the folds of her cloak, and nodded to the two sisters. While Cerenna and Myrielle sat at the table, she remained standing, watchful and wary.

Raylene took Cerenna's hand, and with a thin, sharp knife, cut her palm with one deft stroke. Cerrena bit her lip against the pain, but was otherwise unaffected. Blood dripped once, then twice, and a third time, into an empty pewter cup. The wise woman stared at the pooling blood, and the yellow of her eyes seemed to darken before them.

"Ask your question, child." Her voice had grown strained.

Cerenna took a breath. "Will I be the Lady of the Rock?"

'Stupid girl. I know what you want.' Any fool could see. Harry would be the Lord of Casterly Rock one day - Cerenna hoped to be his lady, his princess, and maybe even his queen, if he should sit the Iron Throne. 'You might yet be his wife, but it is I who will have his heart.'

"Lady of the rock," Raylene repeated, "in a sea of golden roses."

"And will I - "

"One question, child," she took a ragged breath, "and one question only."

Myrielle leaned forward and gave Raylene her hand, anxiousness written plain on her face. She barely winced when the knife cut across her palm, staring curiously into the bowl just as intently as the wise woman herself. "Will I be a princess?" she asked.

"Oh yes," Raylene said, "a princess, and maybe even a queen, in a vale of red flowers and sweet lotuses."

Her face lit up, rouged lips spread in a smile. "Did you hear that Cerenna? I'll be a queen with a veil of red flowers and sweet lotuses."

'Not a veil,' Aeryn thought. 'A vale.'

"And you child?" Raylene looked to her, her eyes so dark they were bronze. "Sit and let me see your future."

A part of her wanted to know - burned to know, what might become of her, if she would truly claim Harry's heart, but a bigger part, the part that had been reborn in the fires of tragedy, cared little for Raylene's prophecies. "I'm fine," Aeryn said. 'I will make my own future.' "But I do have a question, and I won't give my blood for it."

The wise woman gave a slow nod.

"What did you mean when you said they had been touched by fire?"

"Just that, child. But beware - you stand closest of all. Best seek distance, before you be consumed."

She thought of Harry, of his beautiful face and glowing green eyes, and smiled. 'Too late.'

Harry didn't return that night, or even the next night. Four days passed before she saw him again, and he had brought men back with him. Lord Lydden had come to Casterly Rock for Harry's nameday celebration, even though it was almost a moon's turn away, and he'd brought his daughter, Elaine, with him.

Aeryn wanted to strangle her.

"So you're the girl from the song," Elaine said, twirling her copper hair about her finger. Her voice was naturally soft. 'Weak.' Her eyes, so brown as to be black, narrowed in derision. "Prince Harry's whore."

Aeryn hid her annoyance behind a wide smile, and dipped her head. "I am, mi'lady." She had thought she couldn't stand Cerenna, but Elaine Lydden was much worse, condescending in a way that made Cerenna's belittlement seem almost endearing.

They sat in the welcoming hall of Harry's own tower, sewing bonnets, and cloaks, and sashes. It had been Cerenna's idea; since their visit to Raylene, the girl had taken to including Aeryn in all manner of mundane endeavors, as if they already didn't see enough of each other.

The room was large enough to seat fifty, with smooth stone floors and redwood paneling about the walls. Gilded chandeliers hung from the raised trey ceiling, glittering enamel winding through the stonework like golden vines. They sat on cushioned marble benches that were arranged in rows on either side of the carpeted center aisle, beneath the darkening light of the evenfall sun as it cascaded through the tall leaded windows that ran about the walls.

"Aeryn isn't a whore," Myrielle said. She didn't bother with sewing, content to sit idly. "Whores lie with whomever has enough coin. Aeryn doesn't care for coin - she only cares for Harry's co - "

"Myrielle!" Cerenna paused her sewing to glare at her sister. "Have you no shame?"

"Oh please." She waved a hand. "We both know what they get up to in that tower of his."

Aeryn almost laughed. They had no idea what she and Harry got up to. 'Nothing more than soft touches and caresses.' But that would change, in time. That was her hope.

Elaine appeared scandalized, her disdain plain to see. "My mother says all whores have a price." She turned her nose up in disgust.

'I'll show you my price,' Aeryn thought, hand twitching for the knife hidden in the dagged sleeves of her gown. She hated wearing gowns, preferring the comfort of breeches, but Lady Genna had insisted.

"She's a mistress," Myrielle said. "That's what Lady Genna said to call her."

"Are they not one and the same?" asked Elaine.

Cerenna looked down at Elaine. She was heads taller than the brown-eyed girl, even when sitting. "Your father has quite a few bastards, doesn't he? One would think he's had many mistresses."

"Before he married my mother, yes, but she refused to bear the shame of living with a whore. He still kept his bastards close though, vile creatures that they are." Her lip curled. "Bastardry is a sin in the eyes of the Seven."

Aeryn's fingers clenched, and she stared down at the needles gripped in her palms. She needn't use her dagger at all. She could just bury the needles in Elaine's eyes, and keep her blood from sullying the blade that Harry had given her.

"Septa Belandra says that too," Myrielle began, "and yet, men still have them. Doesn't seem to be much of a sin, does it? I've heard tale that King Robert has a dozen bastards."

"As long as the woman knows her place," Cerenna said, "what does it matter? For every song about a valiant highborn knight, there's another for an equally valiant baseborn bastard." Though she spoke to Elaine, she was looking at Aeryn.

The meaning wasn't lost on her.

"There'll be no place for bastards in my home," Elaine said. "I'll not be shamed by their presence."

'No one gives a fuck what will happen in your home,' Aeryn thought. She longed to say the words, but then she remembered what Lady Genna had said about propriety.

"You might not be a true lady, but you'll have the manners of one. Always remember courtesy dear, especially when it's the furthest thing from your mind. Men have their swords, and we have our courtesy. Best learn to wield it with skill."

She kept her silence.

"Well," Cerenna said graciously, "hopefully you can find a husband who won't shame you in such a way." She smiled, her lips tight.

Aeryn thought that she might be annoyed with Elaine as well. The girl seemed to live in a fantasy world. If a lord meant to keep his bastard or his mistress close, he would.

"I've already found my husband," Elaine said with a coy grin. It was the most irritating expression Aeryn had ever seen. "I'll be married to Prince Harry."

A fantasy indeed.

Myrielle laughed, and Aeryn had a mind to join her. Elaine wasn't strong enough for Harry. None of them were, really.

"You sound quite sure of yourself," Cerenna said. She sat her needlework down on the bench and regarded Elaine with a considering gaze.

"I am sure," Elaine replied. "The prince thinks I'm pretty." She blushed, a rosy tint spreading about her cheeks. "He said so himself when he kissed me."

That changed everything.

"When did he kiss you?" Aeryn asked before she could stop herself. Harry had never initiated a kiss with her. And he'd never spoken of Elaine Lydden either. Unbidden, something like panic welled in her gut.

"Years ago," said Elaine, her tone nonchalant. "When he visited the Deep Den. We'll be wed, when he's of age, and you," she said, looking to Aeryn, "will go back to wherever you came from. I'll not abide mistresses or whores."

'Calm down,' she said to herself, even as her brief panic warmed into anger. 'If Raylene's words be true, then Cerenna will wed Harry. Unless... unless he won't be the Lord of Casterly Rock.'

Just as well, Raylene could be full of steaming pig shit.

Myrielle laughed again. "Your family is much too poor for you to be wed to Harry. Ser Wenfryd, I think, is a better match."

Elaine frowned heavily, slowly coming to the realization that she had no friends amongst the three. Aeryn delighted in her anger and frustration. 'It isn't pleasant, being belittled, is it?' Her pleasure was corrupted though, as she thought of the children she had yet to have, black-haired and purple eyed, cast out of their homes by their father's highborn wife.

It was anger that finally took hold of her.

"Ser Wenfryd is only the younger brother of a landed knight," Cerenna said. "She's worthy of a lord's son, at least. One of Lord Frey's brood would be a nice match. A weasel for a weasel. What do you think, Aeryn?" She looked to her left, but the space was empty. "Aeryn?"

She had already left the room, without so much as a word, rude though it was.

She raced down the hall, barely sparing a glance to Quinn and Cassius at the base of the stairwell, the clatter of her heeled boots echoing loudly against the arched ceilings. She climbed the steep stone steps of the tower in twos; by the time she reached the top she could scarcely breathe, a thin sheen of sweat glistening on her skin. She found Harry sitting in his solar, his nose buried in an old black tome, stacks of books and goblets sitting about the table. Maester Wulfric was with him. Every wall sconce was lit, and the brazier atop the table burned as brightly as she had ever seen it.

And yet, Harry burned brighter still.

"Harry," she said between gasps.

He glanced up at her, and at the sight of his green eyes, she felt her heart flutter.

"Did you run up the steps?" He was beside her in the next instant, wiping the sweat from her brow with the pad of his thumb. "Has something happened?"

She had to tilt her head back to look into his eyes; he was as tall as Cerenna now, if not taller, and seemed to be growing more every day. He smelled of hickory. 'He's been with Ham, grilling boar, no doubt.' "You kissed Elaine Lydden." It sounded like an accusation.

Concern became confusion. "What?"

She paused, and looked to Maester Wulfric. "Might we have a bit of privacy, Maester? I won't be long; I promise."

He didn't seem about to move, but then Harry turned to him, and with nary a word, the Maester left, grumbling all the while. She waited silently for the sound of the door closing.

"What's going on?" Harry asked her. He looked worried, almost, green eyes narrowed in contemplation.

"You kissed Elaine Lydden." She didn't understand why that fact bothered her so. "You've never kissed me."

"Is that what she's been telling people?" His eyes sparkled with humor. "Elaine Lydden kissed me." He tucked a few strands of loose hair behind her ear. "And I kiss you all the time. Or have you forgotten in the past four days?"

"No you don't," she replied. "I kiss you." She fiddled with the strings of her bodice. "Was it your first?"

He nodding, laughing. "It was." Then he looked at her in that way that only he could, his eyes cutting deep into her soul. It was like he was seeing through her. "Are you jealous?" He sounded incredulous.

"She seems to think you'll be married," she said, ignoring his question. 'Elaine Lydden stole Harry's first kiss.'

He scoffed. "I'm sure a lot of girls think they'll marry me."

"You haven't kissed a lot of girls."

His lips curled into a smirk. She felt the urge to taste them, to fuck him, even as she felt the urge to run back down the steps and slap that red-headed cunt.

"So you are jealous," he said, laughing again.

She frowned. "And if I am?"

"You shouldn't be." He rested his hands on her shoulders, and she felt a tingle all the way down to her feet. "I don't lie with Elaine Lydden."

'No, but...' "You haven't lain with me either."

He tilted his head, and his black hair shifted. Aeryn thought of the shadows in Raylene's shop. "No... I suppose I haven't."

A smile came to her then. She knew just what to do about Elaine. Her mother had taught her many things over the course of her life. "We should rectify that problem."


She laughed. "Yes, now. It shouldn't take long." 'I feel light, all of a sudden. Like I could fly.' She walked back over to the door, and shifted the latch to bar it shut. "Sit on the table," she said when she returned.

He did as she bid, pushing the books and goblets out of the way. "What - "

She pressed her finger to his lips, silencing him. "Just relax," she said, then slipped her hand beneath his breeches.

He grunted as she curled her fist around the length of him, stroking slowly. It was like holding fire in her hands, he was so warm, the flesh throbbing with the beat of her heart. She kept that same rhythm as she stroked, and within seconds, he was as hard and rigid as the wood of the table, his body taut, like the drawn string of her dragonbone bow. With her other hand, she tugged his breeches down to his knees, and ran her fingers through the sparse black curls revealed to her. She never once looked away from his eyes.

"You're going to use your hands?" he asked. His voice was oddly high-pitched.

"No," she said, her lascivious intentions reflected in her smile. "Not my hands."

And then she took him in her mouth.

She had never done it before, though she thought about it often. She knew to be careful of her teeth - she'd seen a girl beaten once, for accidentally bleeding a man - but other than that, she hadn't a clue.

What she lacked in skill, she supplemented with enthusiasm, delighting in his soft moans and low groans, the way his hips twitched when she swirled her tongue around the head of his cock. He seemed to like that a lot, so she lavished the rest of him with her tongue, from base to tip and back again, laughing when his hips bucked clean off the table. She took him back in her mouth, sucking and licking and kissing; her hair shifted, fell across her face. He brushed it out of her eyes, curling his fingers in the locks about the crown of her head. She swallowed him deeper and felt his grip tighten.

This was a power she had never felt before, had never even imagined. When the act was described to her, taking a man in her mouth, she had thought of submission, not of domination, but here and now, Harry was hers to control. He seemed so vulnerable, so open; she saw it in his quivering lips and trembling hands, heard it in his sharp breaths and soft sighs.

He didn't last long, and she was proud for that. With a shudder and a shout borne deep in his soul his seed erupted, his eyes clamped shut, hand still fisted in her hair. The taste was sweet, but salty and thick, burning gently as it slid down her throat. And there was so much of it! She made sure not to swallow it all, and spat the rest in her hand before wiping her mouth on her sleeve.

Afterwards, as he donned his breeches, his breath as short and heavy as hers had been mere minutes before, she let his seed drip from her hand into an empty cup. She watched him in the firelight, as he wiped the sweat from his brow, eyes still closed, and for some inexplicable reason, she thought of Lord Tywin.

He had threatened to hang her once, if Harry was so much as seen with her - what would he say now? Oh, he never spoke with her, never even looked twice at her the few times their paths had crossed, and she was glad of it. Even Lady Genna didn't like him. Loved him, yes, in the special way that a sister loved her brother, but liked? In Lady Genna's words, Tywin was a "thundering fool" - he just so happened to be the sort of thundering fool that towered above the rest. A mountain of a man. But if he was a mountain, then Harry was something even grander. 'Like all the stars in the heavens.'

"We should do that again," she said, smiling. "Maybe even take it a step further?" She sat the cup on the table and wound her arms about his waist.

"I think I can agree to that," he said as he looked down at her, voice soft. His green eyes, once so bright, seemed in that moment as black as twilight.

He kissed her.

She thought that he wouldn't have - she could still taste him in her mouth, no doubt he could taste it too - but he didn't seem to care. When she felt his tongue dance along her bottom lip she near melted on the spot, burning from the inside out and the outside in. 'Is this how Aerion the Monstrous felt when he drank Wildfyre?' Her blood was hot. Power sang in her veins.

She took her leave sometime later, passing Maester Wulfric and Greyhand in the hall. She could feel the maester's watery brown eyes boring into her back as she walked past, saw in her mind's eye his scowl of disapproval. And what did she care? Maester Wulfric's approval meant nothing. Was worth, nothing.

'Only as much as a maidenhead... stolen, by Allar Deem.'

She carried the cup with her, cradling it close. Her mother had told her that there was power in a man's seed, just as there was power in his blood, and with the right ingredients, she could make use of it.

'By blood and fire, you will never be the Lady of Casterly Rock, Elaine Lydden.' She would make sure of it.

The slip of parchment sat forgotten, still hidden in the folds of her cloak, tucked away in the wardrobe.


On days like this, she realized just how much cheer her brother had brought to the Red Keep; had brought to her.

If she said she missed him, she would be lying - missed wasn't a descriptive enough word, wasn't powerful enough. Did you miss your right hand? Your best friend?

Your heart?

Since she could remember, she could always count on Harry to put a smile on her face; to make her feel happy and safe. If ever she were sad, or lonely, or angry, it was to him that she went, seeking the solace of his company, be it in the wildflower gardens, chasing after butterflies in the noonday haze, or running about in the godswood, sword-fighting with oakwood sticks.

He had taken her to see the dragon skulls in the underbelly of the keep before he had left for Casterly Rock. She had been frightened of the dark, of the long shadows slithering along the walls, fleeing the light of his torch, but had said nothing of her fear. She hadn't wanted her beloved brother to think her craven.

It was Joffrey's fault she had been so afraid; he had told her that ghosts haunted the keep, that the Mad King himself stalked the halls, hunting maidens in the night.

"You had best be especially careful," he'd said, his cruel mouth twisted in a grin. "The Mad King likes them young."

She had taken the spindly shadows for the ghost's fingers reaching to snatch her away, to drag her to some nightmarish hell. Fear stiffened her limbs, froze her gait, rendering her unable to move. She had tried to call out to Harry, but her voice came out strained, barely even a whisper. As he had drawn further ahead the inky blackness crept closer, and closer still, till it swallowed her whole. She remembered hearing voices calling to her from the dark; a hundred voices, whispering all at once, and things scraping against the stone walls, clattering all around her. She had thought them the Mad King's claws, imagined that in death he'd become a dragon, come to rend her limb from limb and devour her heart.

Her scream had been loud enough to wake the dead.

Harry had yelled for her to calm down, to stop screaming, but she'd been too afraid, and shut her eyes against the shadows. She hadn't even realized when he'd returned to her side.

"You needn't be afraid," he'd said. "I'm here." She had grabbed hold of him so tight her arms ached.

When she opened her eyes again, at his behest, the shadows were gone. Fire blazed in every brazier and upon every torch. Balerion's massive skull had gleamed like a great black gem.

He never did tell her how he managed that feat; nor had he ever explained how he had managed to write lines that day with Septa Eglantine, without ever once touching a quill. That was how her brother was, she thought. Mysterious. Calm. Strong. He had always been strong, even when they were small; she'd once taken a spill down the uneven steps that led to the kitchens and hurt her ankle, but Harry had been there, and he carried her all the way to Grandmaester Pycelle's quarters, on the far side of the castle near the Hand's Tower. Afterwards, when the Grandmaester had finished setting her ankle, Harry carried her the entire way back to her apartments in Maegor's Holdfast, even though there had been a wheeled chair for her to ride in.

"How will you manage the steps?" he'd said, laughing.

Letters weren't enough, and it had been years since he'd last visited the capital. Three, though it might have been a dozen, for how long it felt. With such little fun to be had, the days passed at a slow crawl, the weeks even slower. Moons seemed as if years.

No, missed was not the appropriate word at all. This was longing.

Worse still, it was time for her lessons. Harry had managed to make those bearable; fun, even, when he would hide Septa Eglantine's books, or snatch her quills.

The woman was probably searching for her now.

"Mother, when will Harry return to King's Landing?" She tried not to sound petulant. Her mother would tell her she was being dramatic, she knew.

They sat in the Queen's apartments. The room was much larger than her own, decorated with Myrish furnishings, cerise rugs with golden tassles, gilded sapphire screens, and furred long chairs stuffed with down. It smelled of sweet perfumes and incense, and she saw sticks of them burning in an urn atop a table against the far wall. There were two garderobes on either side of the room, both overflowing with silks and satin gowns of the finest quality and make, some from as far as Volantis. The bay window on the north side of the chamber opened to a balcony that was decorated with red stone benches and tables wrought of iron, bronze and brass, overlooking the inner courtyard.

Her mother barely stirred, content to stretch her legs down the length of the long chair. "Soon, sweetling. Your father sent word for him to return to the capital."

"How soon?"

"Soon," her mother said again. "He'll be here for Joff's nameday tourney. You and he can sit together in the stands as you used to, and jape at the oafs on their horses. Or mayhaps he'll even compete himself."

She could imagine her brother riding in a tourney, atop a brilliant black mare with golden barding, decked in the finest bejeweled armor. She recalled many a day he'd returned to the keep sweaty and stinking from a day of training with their uncle Jaime. "I hope he competes." But then again, tourneys were so dangerous. She'd once seen a man's arm cut clean off, just as easy as carving a sweet cake. Harry was almost a man grown, but the knights seemed so big on their horses, so fierce with their lances angled to strike. 'I'll pray to the Warrior to give him strength.' "Do you think father will allow it?"

"He might." Her mother sipped from a nacre shell goblet set with rubies. "And if he performs well, Robert might even have him knighted."

She liked that idea. 'Harry was born to be a knight. He would be as valiant as the knights in the songs,' she thought, 'just like Ser Barristan, and Ser Duncan, or even Prince Aemon, the Dragonknight. He would save damsels and champion the weak.' She smiled down at her hands. 'I think I'll make a favor for him.'

A gust of wind swept through the open window just then, sending the curtains aflutter. With it came the putrid smell of the city beyond, an unwelcome guest that marred the room's splendor. Even her mother's perfumes couldn't overpower the scent.

The smell reminded her of Joffrey, the rotten toad. It was a shame that Harry's first tourney might be in honor of Joffrey's nameday; better that he compete in the tourney for her nameday instead.

She'd run across Joffrey the day before, bullying a pair of lordlings visiting with their father from Crackclaw Point. His hound had stood by all the while, watching idly. She didn't like the hound - his face scared her, as ugly as it was, even more than his monstrous size. It was rare to see a man who was taller than her father.

And she hadn't forgotten what he'd done to that poor boy either. She and Septa Eglantine had said prayers for him, to help guide his soul to the arms of the Father. They had prayed for all her brother's friends, even the girl that no one liked to mention. Myrcella had once asked her mother why the boy had to die, and had been wholly unprepared for her response.

"That wretched little boy attacked Joffrey," she had said. "Tried to spear him, like some boar; tried to kill the man who'll one day be your king. There have been wars for lesser transgressions. Lucky that only the boy died, instead of his entire family."

Her mother could be quite cruel sometimes.

'If the Hound had been a true knight,' she thought, 'he would've stopped the boy without killing him.' A true knight always did the right thing - the honorable thing. Harry would be a true knight, just like her Uncle Jaime, who had slain the Mad King.

"How old was Uncle Jaime when he competed in his first tourney?"

Her mother's expression became thoughtful. "Three-and-ten," she said after a moment, "but he was knighted at five-and-ten." She smiled. "Knighted by the Sword of the Morning himself."

'The Mad King had such famed knights as Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Gerold Hightower in his kingsguard, but my father must contend with men like Boros Blount and Meryn Trant, ugly and craven and cruel.' She sighed. "I miss him, mother."

"I know how you feel, love."

She shook her head. "No you don't. You and Uncle Jaime have been together for ages." 'Longer than I've been alive.' "When were you ever apart?"

Her mother shifted and set her cup upon a bronze round table beside her chair. She looked at Myrcella then, really looked at her, and the girl blushed against the scrutiny.

'Why must she stare so?'

"When I was one-and-ten," her mother began, eyes clouded as she began to recollect, "just as old as you are now, Jaime was sent to squire for Lord Crakehall. I was annoyed with him at first, for leaving."

Myrcella had been angry at Harry, but never annoyed - her brother had grand dreams, she knew, and fostering at Casterly Rock was a way for him to realize those dreams. He wouldn't be content standing at Joffrey's back while he played at being king.

"My father brought me to court with him a year later," her mother continued, "while he served as Hand."

"For the Mad King," Myrcella said. She wondered if her mother had been afraid of the crazed Aerys II, and looked at her now, lazing about in a long chair, languid as a lioness lounging in tall grass. She was strong, her mother. Fierce, even as she lay there, sipping wine. 'No, I don't think she was afraid of the Mad King at all.'

"Yes," her mother said, "for the Mad King." Something flashed across her eyes. "I missed him terribly," she started again. "We were born together, Jaime and I. There's no bond quite so strong as the bond between twins."

Myrcella looked down at the floral patterns of her velvet gown, and smoothed the wrinkles from her lap. 'Then Harry and I are twins.' "When were you and Uncle Jaime reunited?" she asked, looking up into her mother's face.

"For a brief time, years later, after he was knighted. He came to King's Landing after riding against bandits in the Kingswood - "

"That's when he was knighted, right?" Myrcella interjected. "Uncle Jaime saved a lord, and fought the Smiling Knight with the Sword of the Morning." Harry had told her the story.

Her mother nodded. "You know the story well."

"So what happened when he came to court?"

"Nothing. He was gone just as quickly as he'd come. But he caught the king's eye, in that brief time, and a month later he was raised to the Kingsguard. I thought we would remain close, but my father resigned as hand shortly thereafter." Her smile was forlorn. "We had only managed to switch places; he, at court with the king, and me, at Casterly Rock with our father. A few years later, Robert rose in rebellion, and Jaime slew the Mad King on his throne. We only came to be together again when I wed your father and became queen."

"It took a war to bring you back together." 'It could almost be a song,' she thought.

Her mother gazed at her with shrewd eyes. "You love your brother very much, don't you sweetling?"

"Very much," she agreed. 'More than anything.' "I wish he was here."

"You were always close." Her mother looked down at her hands. "The Targaryens wed brother and sister," she said, "for hundreds of years."

Myrcella nodded, and found her hands again pulling against the wrinkles of her gown. "They practiced incest. Septa Eglantine says that incest is unforgivable. She says its a sin against the Seven."

Her mother gave a tight smile. "So it is." She peered into her cup, frowning at what she saw inside.

"Is something wrong, mother?"

"... No, love. Nothing is wrong." She looked back up. "You've lessons to attend, do you not? The septa is probably looking for you now."

"But mother - "

"Go, sweetling. You'll want to impress Harry with what you've learned when he returns, won't you?"

Myrcella departed her mothers company, but she didn't seek out Septa Eglantine. Instead, she delved into the heart of the Red Keep, to an apartment on the bottom level. The stone wall beside the single hearth slid open to reveal a narrow passage. It was dark inside - pitch black, almost, but she wasn't afraid of the dark anymore. If ever she felt scared, she only need think of Harry.

She trekked through the hidden passages, crawling when the ceiling drooped too low, shuffling sideways when the walls grew to close. She imagined how nefariously the passages had been used over the years, back when Targaryens still sat the Iron Throne, and fantasies began to take root in her mind. She thought of Mad Aerys and his poor wife, and Baelor the Blessed, who'd locked his own sisters away for fear of laying with them. She thought of Aegon the Unworthy, and his many bastards and mistresses, and the shame he brought to the realm. She thought of Naerys and Aemon.

What would these walls say, could they yet speak?

But then she heard voices where before there had only been silence, and she quieted her breath. She didn't want to be heard, lest she be discovered. Further ahead were peepholes drilled into the stone; she walked to them, mindful to stay silent, and stooped to peer out into the hall.

Two men walked past. She couldn't see their faces, but one was short and slender, his black hair flecked with gray, and he wore a cloak woven from the finest of cloths; the other was tall and thin, with hair the color of hay. His garments weren't nearly as fine.

"... gold, my friend," the small one said. "You bring me those, and I'll see you made a lord."

"And how am I to manage that?"

"How do you think? You take them."

"You've your own girls," the tall one said. "And gold as well." He rolled a dragon around in his palm.

"And I want more. You do as well; elsewise you wouldn't be standing before me now. Are you afraid of the roosters and peacocks?" He scoffed. "Or is it the unicorns and burning trees?"

"No, it's the lions I fear. Roosters and peacocks and unicorns and trees don't have claws and fangs."

"Best be quick then, lest you run afoul of the pride."

How very odd. Roosters and unicorns? Was the man some sort of animal handler? Mayhaps the menagerie from Pentos would return to King's Landing soon; her Uncle Jaime had told her of the show once, of the mummers and their dances, leading creatures through burning hoops. But how could an animal handler be made a lord?

'How very odd indeed.'


'What a disgusting man.'

The High Septon was fat as a cow, his stomach swollen and bloated, sagging teats perched atop the fleshy mound like a pair of pregnant rock doves on a boulder. He stank of must and sweat, and his sweet oils - applied what seemed like every tenth second - did little to mask the rank odor. She would rather not meet with him, but the matter she had come to discuss was exceedingly delicate - one she couldn't trust to anyone save herself.

"Did you enjoy the flowers, your Holiness?" Poor girls. She could almost pity them.

"Yes, yes indeed." Even the sound of his voice repulsed her, thin and nasally and weak. "They had just the right... ripeness," he finished with a chortle. He grabbed a sweetcake with his meaty hand, swallowing it in two bites. Crumbs tumbled down his stained satin robes.

She pulled her lips across her teeth. The expression appeared to pass as a smile, for the High Septon chortled again, and called for more roasted boar. Young boys clothed in thin white robes came to collect the empty trays of food that had been laid out on the smooth stone table, replacing them with more dishes; the requested boar, strips of chicken breasts dressed with herbs and soaked in butter, pickled eggs, and an assortment of pies.

'He eats as steadily as he breaths.' She didn't care to sit with the corrupt fool any longer. Even this small time seemed too long, and her chair, padded though it was, grew more uncomfortable by the second.

And it was a shame, that, because the Great Sept was such a beautiful place, with its white marble floors and curved, vaulted ceilings polished to a crystalline sheen. The curtains over the seven arched windows were wrought of the finest velvet, swaths of rainbow cloth stitched with silver thread. Candles burned atop weirwood tables interspersed throughout the room, and busts of the Seven stood on pedestals arranged before each of the windows.

"I'm glad," she said shortly, insincerely. 'And now to the matter at hand.' "My son has returned to the capital. Will you make his anointment a public event, or would you rather contain it to these," she glanced around, "beautiful chambers?" If given blessing by the Faith, people could look upon Harry's abilities as miracles, and him as the mortal hand of the Seven. The smallfolk would flock to him as they had flocked to Baelor the Blessed, but where the soft-hearted Targaryen king had been weak and craven, Harry would be as Daeron had been, strong and confident, as brave as the fiercest knight.

He would be the Young Dragon, and she, his rider, claiming his strength as her own.

The smile slid from the High Septon's face. "I'm not so certain an anointment is the proper course of action," he said as he began to cut into the boar. "And what you ask... it's unprecedented! To grant a man the power of a Septon, without taking the vows, or adhering to the code... I cannot, in good conscience, allow such a thing."

She narrowed her eyes. "Good conscience?" She scoffed, barely containing the urge to spit in his face. "Was it your good conscience that led you to bugger little girls? I wonder what the realm would think of that." He had the audacity to look shocked, and that made her angrier. "You enjoy a good grilled hen, don't you?" Her voice was sweet, belying the threat of her words. "Could be that one day you choke on a bone." His fat face whitened. "Or maybe you slip in a spot of sweet oil and tumble out the window in the high chambers. Perhaps - "

"I understand," he said, voice faint. "But you must understand, what you ask is not in my power. The Most Devout must agree as well."

She wanted to grab the carving knife and shove it through his beady little eyes. He was wasting her time; he had known all along the Most Devout would need to agree to Harry's anointment. He might have been a corrupt fraud, and she knew of others on the council that were just as rotten, but all eight of them?

A few of the Septons might decide in her favor, if she made arrangements to indulge their vices. Some were truly devout, above both bribery and intimidation; they would have to believe that Harry's power was divine in nature. She knew Septon Torbert, the plump, pious oaf that he was, would agree to whatever she put forth. Septon Reynard too.

The Septas would be harder to deal with. She imagined herself as a leathery old crone, with a cunt as dry as the deserts of Dorne.

They would be much harder to deal with.

"How many must agree?" she asked.

"Five," he said. "Five and myself. A unanimous vote would be better. Your proposal might be contested at a later date, if one of the Most Devout should raise issue."

"They won't raise issue." She could persuade five of the Most Devout to decide in favor of Harry's anointment; the three that didn't, if it be that many, would die.

And the realms would praise her Harry as a child of the gods, blessed by their holy power.

The sun burned bright in the clear sky, beating against the earth like a hammer to an anvil. She cursed the heat, and as if in answer, a faint ocean breeze swept across the tourney grounds on cool, gossamer wings. But the wind was little more than a brief reprieve from the near stifling warmth of the summer sun, and if not for the covering above the stands, and the servants fanning her, Cersei would have remained behind in the comfort of the Red Keep. She could have been relaxing in a cool bath with a flute of Arbor Gold; instead, she had to suffer the stink of sweaty men and their horses, on a day much too hot to sit outside, let alone strut about in full plate.

The horizon was awash with half-a-hundred hues; whites and greens and reds and yellows, the standards of near four dozen lords and landed knights standing tall against the blue expanse. The continuous murmur of the crowd across the field reminded her of the frothing waters of the Blackwater to the south, and the vermin toiling in its muddy banks. She glanced at Robert, sitting to her right, sweating like a pig. 'The vermin and their king.'

The finalists of the joust stood below her, arrayed in a row before their king and queen. Her beloved Jaime, grand and gallant in his brilliant golden armor, was to face Ser Loras.

'Knight of the Flowers,' they called him. She had laughed when she first heard the moniker, and wondered what sort of man would allow himself to be called such. It was unseemly; flowers were pretty things, fit for women and girls, not men and knights. But young Ser Loras was pretty, as pretty as a woman, and lithe too, with a penchant for playing the crowd; she could scarcely count all the simpering girls he'd gifted with a white flower. Tokens, he'd announced, of his victory.

'What a fool. He should be praying Jaime doesn't knock him flat on his flowery arse.'

Ser Barristan, in his white Kingsguard armor, the plate polished to a mirror shine, was to face the Knight of the Owl. The mystery knight was of House Mertyns, from the Stormlands - she knew from the owl emblazoned upon his shield, but he kept his face hidden beneath a winged helm, and had given no name upon entering the lists. He too was lithe, like Loras, but taller, with straight, broad shoulders.

Today, Joffrey held the seat of honor; Robert sat next to him, his fat fingers curled around a drinking horn as he japed with old Lord Walder, about whores and children and whores again, the drink flowing between them like a river.. Jon Arryn looked on, his expression unreadable, wizened face as still as stone, a goblet of iced milk clutched in his hand. The immense Lord Yohn sat at his side, just as stoic as his liege lord, still in his bronze armor. He seemed unaffected by the heat; he had probably fought many tourneys in such conditions, as old as he was. He had claimed the melee of the day before, but had been unhorsed by the Knight of the Owl in the opening rounds of the joust, after breaking two lances against his shield. Renly and Baelish sat amongst them as well, and Tyrion too, the wretched little monster, along with a number of other lords and ladies, all petty little leeches hanging about to curry what favor they could.

If they all died today she wouldn't shed a single tear. Put them to the sword, boil them, bludgeon them, drown them - she did not care. So long as they were dead. Dead, before they could do the same to her.

She felt Jaime's eyes on her then, felt the weight of his gaze as it slid from her face, down the smooth curve of her neck, to rest at the swell of her breasts. His smile was as sharp as the sword at his waist, his gaze so lewd he might as well have taken her then and there. 'Idiot,' she thought, frowning. Now was not the time for such brazen displays, not when death was but a whisper away. Lord Arryn and Lord Stannis had been making inquiries, her spies had told her, asking after Robert's bastards, and their mothers.

She could only think of one reason why they would be interested in such information.

They knew. Or they suspected, at least, and if Robert should ever discover the truth, he would have her killed. 'Joffrey too,' she thought, as she looked upon her golden prince, 'and mayhaps Myrcella as well.'

But not Harry. Any man with eyes could see that Harry was Robert's trueborn son; if not by the jet of his hair, then by the breadth of his shoulders, the sheer strength of him, young as he was. Her bold boy would not stand idly by as Robert lay waste to his family. He had defended her with his power once before; would he do it again, if it came to that?

She remembered Robert flying weightlessly across his chambers, and the wicked snap of his head as it crashed into the wall.

'Yes,' she thought, a smile creeping ever-so-slowly across her face.. 'Yes he would.'

He would defend her, just as he had that fateful day. Her sweet, sweet boy. He loved her.

But she wasn't of a mind to wait and see. It was best to cut first, and cut deep. Lord Arryn would have to die. Stannis as well. And if it be a painful end, all the better; she had never liked either of them. The realm would mourn Lord Arryn's passing - he had been a good Hand to his king, but none would care for Stannis's death. Some might even rejoice.

She searched the stands for him, and though she spotted his Onion Knight two rows below, she did not see the Lord of Dragonstone. Nor did she see Harry. That was... strange. She had thought that Robert would keep him close, after hearing of his exploits in the west.

"Myrcella, darling?" Her daughter sat to the left of her, her mauve gown a mirror of her own, even down to the gold thread winding through the lace. "Where is Harry?"

"With Uncle Stannis, last I saw him."

She felt a shock of alarm race through her. "Where were they?"

"Near the stables," Myrcella said.

Cersei dispatched two of her guards to retrieve them. She didn't like the thought of Stannis with Harry, filling his mind with lies - truths - poisoning him against her. Against Joffrey.

'But that relationship has already withered and died.' Just as Robert's children had, before they could quicken in her womb. All save one.

Harry would never bend the knee to Joffrey. And Joffrey would force the issue. He obsessed over besting his brother, over proving himself more competent; he would come and rant to her sometimes, flushed from summerwine, bruised from sparring in the yard. He came more often now that Harry was back in the capital.

If he knew what Harry was capable of he would be devastated, and should Robert die before she could bring Harry to heel, Joffrey would call on his brother to pay fealty, and Harry...

Harry would rebel. Just as his father had.

Nothing pained her more than to peer into Harry's face and see Robert looking back at her. Not the fat Robert, putrid and disgusting, with wine in his belly and wine on his breath, the scent of some whore's cunt still clinging to his beard; when she saw her black haired boy, she thought of Robert as she had first seen him, when she believed him a true king, a true conqueror; when she thought she could have loved him. Harry was more beautiful than handsome; his jaw wasn't as strong as his father's, his chin more narrow, his eyes more expressive, the hardness of Robert's face tempered by the beauty he had inherited from her. But his fury was the same; hot and powerful, like the searing sun above.

Joffrey should have had his strength. He was willful, her golden boy, and bold, and beautiful, and fierce... but he lacked something intangible that Harry wielded with the skill and grace of a heron dancing in water. She had hated him for it, once upon a time; hated him for being more than her firstborn, hated him as she hated his father. 'If his eyes had been blue,' she thought, 'I might have smothered him in his crib.'

And now she aspired to make him even more; an avatar of the Seven, blessed with holy powers. No, Harry would not kneel to Joffrey, and if she should have to choose between the two -

A blaring trumpet snapped her reverie as easily as a plated fist through glass, scattering the shards of her thoughts.

"Are you alright, mother?"

She looked down at Myrcella and saw concern on her face. "I'm fine, love." 'If Harry will not kneel to Joffrey, he will kneel to me.' He would have to, or else the realm would bleed.

The herald announced the start of the match. Ser Barristan was to ride against the Knight of the Owl. Below her, the two knights clasped forearms with gloved hands, and walked to their respective ends of the ring.

She heard Baelish asking after bets, and Lord Walder, the horrid old lout, put fifty gold dragons on the knight of House Mertyns. "Heh, tis' a strong man sitting atop that horse. Would that I could borrow his seed to take root in my wife; if his sons be half as strong, I'd even legitimize the bastards. And take a new wife, heh. Younger than the one I have now, even."

"Any younger, my lord, and you'll need a wetnurse," Baelish japed.

Lord Frey wasn't in the slightest offended. In fact, he perked up at the thought. "Sounds like fun, heh."

Robert laughed, his voice a thunderous boom. He was always too loud. "You're a lecherous old fool, Lord Frey. Ser Barristan may be old, but he's a damn fine jouster."

"And what say you, Lord Royce?" Baelish asked the armor clad lord. "You rode against the mystery knight."

"He's no stronger than any other man," Lord Yohn said. "It's his ease on horseback that makes him so formidable. He rides as well as if he'd been born atop the damn thing."

In the end it was Walder Frey who laughed last, for in the seventh tilt, Ser Barristan fell.