This return is marked with a (shocking?) surprise. You'll see.
Can wait to read your reactions.
As usual, thank you for your feedback and the continued support. Always glad to know you are enjoying the story.
Chapter 42 : Interlude III
Through the castle, the fury of the Queen could be heard and felt. Even if she tried to keep her composure, she had not been as good at hiding her rage as she thought so.
"It's not possible!" she had screeched at her father, Hand of the King, who with usual calmness had informed her of the news. "How could you believe the words of a whore?"
Tywin Lannister looked disinterested. He could not care less about who his favorite son – sometimes only son, he thought – slept with. That Jaime had fathered a child was not the most scandalous rumor he had heard, but certainly one of the easiest to ignore. It was by far more disturbing to know about his grandchildren's origins.
"Are you saying a man, even the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, does not have urges?" He stood up slowly, watching as she tried to reign on her emotions. "Frankly, I'm surprised there aren't more claims of alleged fatherhood all over the kingdom."
"How?" he interrupted with an intimidating arched eyebrow. "Is Jaime not supposed to bed women? He is not promised to anyone. He might have sworn not to sire children, but he certainly can lay with a woman."
Cersei clenched her fists. Her muscles were taut with utter fury as her father spoke. She knew no one understood the deep connection she shared with Jaime. They were one soul, destined to be together from the womb. No one was powerful enough to break them apart.
"He is loyal to his king."
Tywin cupped her face and his long and hard fingers pressed her cheeks as if she were a child and he was disciplining her, forcing her to understand.
In a low and harsh whisper, he told her, "Do you know how long I have ignored this sickening situation? How many times I have covered up your indiscretions?"
The fear in her eyes was honest. She probably feared him the most out of all the men in all the Seven Kingdoms and beyond. Her father was a strong man, smart and cold. She could not remember the last time he had allowed his heart to make decisions, and often wondered if the time came, she would become as disposable as his servants.
He let go.
"In case everything fails, that girl, Jaime's babe is the only thing that could keep us with our heads over our shoulders. If that moment never arrives… she will be disposed. But be sure that I take that decision. Not you."
She had not replied and knew better than to contradict him in that moment. But she would plan something. A whisper could travel far if the right sum was paid to certain people. In every corner there was someone willing to sell their soul and honor for the right price, and once she found the right person, that babe would disappear. For good.
"You should be occupied with your son's wedding. I'm sure our King has some demands."
Cersei bit her tongue and just agreed.
Sometimes these games called for silence and waiting for the right moment to make a move.
Somewhere north of The Neck
After riding for hours, Jaime had decided to find a place to spend the night, alone in the darkness of the North, where cold seemed to grip your bones and the wind to whisper frightening tales in your ear.
He was not fond of those lands and missed the times he found the warm body of a woman in his arms, a woman of those lands whose cheeks the wind tinted pink. Daughter of the merciless weather, a fighter born in one of the most inhospitable places of the Seven Kingdoms; Dacey was certainly one he would consider worthy of being called brave.
Some nights, as they laid in bed detangling their limbs in the dark, he could not help to compare her to Cersei and other women he had bedded. She was like none of those. Graceful like a lady, but strong and independent. She did not let him take her as if she were a toy to play with. She refused to serve him. It was a struggle, a fight and a dance he enjoyed. She challenged him and rewarded him when he responded according to her expectations.
Dacey had not been the enamored lady who begged for sweet nothings and promises of eternal love. Her body was not the flawless map Cersei possessed. Scars made her real and formed the details he marveled with. Her body was sculpted and firm thanks to battle, yet blessed with the subtle and feminine curves of a woman. She smelled like the forest, dirt and sweat, not like she bathed in sickeningly sweet oils.
Dacey was the embodiment of war, luring and real; he was just a warrior. Her kisses were urgent and she never pretended to be shy about her desires. She took what she wanted.
"I'm the enemy. Are you not scared of being called a traitor?" he asked once.
"I'm your enemy, as well."
Her long dark hair cascaded down over her shoulder, free of the braid she used in the battlefield, partially covering her naked body. The pale skin was a contrast, almost glowing under the candlelight. His finger traced that scar on the right shoulder.
"I'm a man," he replied as explanation. Men took what they needed, no matter what, and for that sole reason he should have been forgiven. What man in his right mind would ever refuse the favor of a beautiful woman?
She smiled and laughed. "I'm a woman." She leaned over him and kissed him, softly and without fear because, even if they had never said it aloud, people knew they shared the bed. "You are not my enemy unless you chose to be. You are my prisoner."
He chuckled, amused by her words. "Your prisoner?" She nodded, with her eyes twinkling with mischief. "This must be punishment, then." His hands wandered down her body and she slapped his chest enough to leave a mark of her hand.
"Punishment is to listen to your jokes."
"You should shut my mouth." This time he pulled her to him and kissed her, freely and without hurry.
He knew then that she was right. He was her prisoner, because even then, alone in the cold night, he could not escape her. Jaime just could not stop thinking about the power she had over him. And even if Cersei believed she knew everything about him, Dacey could read him well enough to guess his next move.
At that moment, though, he doubted anyone could have guessed his next decision. He was not even quite certain of what he would do. Before, children had not been his burden, even if he knew perfectly well that all of Cersei's golden haired children were his. It was easier to live foregoing to those claims, making himself believe he had no responsibility.
Now a newborn girl was somewhere in Bear Island and she was all his.
He was leaning against a tree, careful to keep just a small fire near, enough to keep him warm, but not too big to call for unwanted attention. Taking a bite of dried meat, Jaime listened to the sounds in the dark and carried by the wind, he thought he heard a wolf howling and ignored it. Many hid under the night's blanket, so he paid little attention.
It was not until his head lolled back against the trunk of the tree that he heard voices, far and in a foreign tongue. When his eyes opened, Jaime could see the faint glow of light far away. The fire in front of him had died already.
For a moment he wondered if the Young Wolf had been lying, and his promises of not following and taking his head had not been just a trap. But that boy was too honorable; Robb Stark had become a man with a pristine sense of honor and justice. And despite of that, he could also remember the same King of the North beheading Walder Frey without a second thought after the decrepit man had betrayed him.
With one hand placed on the handle of his sword, Jaime carefully and stealthily made his way towards the source of light, promptly realizing it was a bonfire. There was people around it and, as he approached the place, he could hear the voice of a woman speaking loudly.
Jaime was more careful with his steps when at the distance he recognized Stannis almost hidden in the shadows.
It was not much later than the sounds of a babe's cries reached his ears and with that he wondered what was happening and what role the small creature played in all that.
Even if he wished nothing more than to spoil the plans of Robert's older brother, Jaime was alone and he could count at least fifteen men at plain sight yet removed from the fire and who he assumed was the Red Woman. He could not act unless he had a death wish.
The babe's cries grew louder, as if it were frightened. Jaime had to wonder if his daughter would cry like that. Would she face danger when his father found out? Dacey of course would protect the child with her life, but what if that was not enough?
Horses running, approaching, could be heard and Jaime only hid himself further into the shadows.
"These are my domains and I will not allow you to sacrifice that child!" Robb Stark's voice boomed, overpowering the scene unfolding in the forest.
"You are afraid of my god," the witch replied in an eerie and calm voice that seemed foreign to her own. "And you are afraid of the rebirth of Azor Ahai, but your time has come. This will be the beginning of a new era."
Jaime could only imagine the fury in the King in the North's face, as his direwolf growled. The man had always protected the weak and defenseless, and a babe was both of those. The head of the Starks fought battles that did not involve to him with the same courage as if it affected him directly, something Jaime had never fully understood.
"I want that child unharmed," Robb's half-brother, the bastard, had spoken in a low and solemn voice. "He does not belong to you."
"Isn't a life that is barely starting a small price to pay for a marvelous era, for the return of a hero?"
It was then that Stannis voice was heard, when he ordered his men to, "Kill them!"
With Robb and the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch had come a group of men; they had been obviously aware of the possible fight that would take place. But as they fought, the Red Woman proceeded with her rite, taking the babe in her arms and presenting him to the fire as an offering while she continued talking in some foreign tongue.
Stannis and an uncomfortable Davos Seaworth protected the woman as the battle took place, but when Jon Snow got too close, Davos had to step away.
It seemed like more of Stannis' men kept showing up, leaving their hiding places in the forest and joining the battle in which Robb Stark would finally lose his luck. If that happened, Jaime could not imagine what the supporters of the Young Wolf would do; he certainly could not fathom the rage of Daenerys and the subsequent revenge that would surely take place.
None of that would happen, of course. Robb Stark and Jon Snow, together with their direwolves, were holding up for the time being, and as the babe cried over the sounds of sword against sword, of blood being shed, Jaime made up his mind.
Stepping out of the shadows, he moved swiftly towards his target with only a small golden dagger in hand.
"Stop or I'll kill him!" Jaime warned as he pressed the cold blade to Stannis' neck. "They do not call me the Kingslayer over nothing," he quipped with an easy smirk as the Red Woman screeched with hatred. "False or not, I have no reason why to keep him alive, so give me one."
"You cannot kill him!" Melisandre shouted.
"Do you want me to try?" Jaime snorted a laugh and pressed the knife a little tighter, enough to draw a few drops of blood.
"You will die before your next breath if I say so," Stannis threatened.
"Not before I slice your throat open," Jaime warned. "Leave the babe. Make your men retreat and I'm sure the King in the North will forgive this… insolence in his lands. Isn't that right, Young Wolf?"
Robb's blue eyes were hard and cold as steel. "I'm sure an agreement can be reached, as long as they leave the North as soon as possible."
Stannis looked at Melisandre still holding the babe, and at Davos being subjugated by Jon Snow. He knew he had to pick a better moment and let this one go, no matter how much he wanted to keep on fighting.
"Give them the child," Stannis ordered through clenched teeth. "There will be another."
Melisandre did not obey immediately and perhaps weighed her options, as Grey Wind growled at her, as Ghost showed his fangs at her. She finally relinquished and placed the child on the ground; he was quickly picked up by Robb.
"There. You have what you wanted," Stannis uttered.
"What I wanted?" Jaime wondered aloud. "That was merely me paying debts. What I want is for this to be over. Thanks for making it easy," he whispered before gritting his teeth and feeling his muscles tense up. His knuckles turned white, and after one forceful movement, he felt the warm droplets splash the side of his face. A hot stream of blood bathing the hand holding his prisoner before it slackened.
Jaime Lannister slit Stannis Baratheon's throat without a warning.
Melisandre screeched with fury, like some hurt beast, swearing she would take her revenge and much more, but Jaime could only look at the lifeless body at his feet, listen to the choking sounds and the bubbling blood pooling around Stannis as his last breath left the body.
He wiped his face with the back of his hand and realized the witch had vanished, disappeared in a second, leaving behind ashes and smoke.
"I'm leaving for Bear Island," Jaime told Robb. "The Witch is your problem now. All my debts have been paid."