The pain was excruciating. It felt as though all of her nerve endings were on fire as Cersei Lannister laboured through the birth of her second child. One of her handmaidens pressed cool, damp cloths to her forehead and neck as two others supported her legs. Her brother Jaime gripped her hand as she screamed in pain.
"You're doing so well," he said reassuringly as he squeezed her hand and brushed a stray lock of golden hair from her face. "You can do it, just one more push." Despite the pain, Cersei was grateful for her twin's presence. Robert was out hunting in the Kingswood as was his habit when she was in labour, but she cared not so long as her other half was by her side. With Jaime there, she knew she would be fine.
With one final cry and exertion of effort, her child was born into the waiting hands of Maester Pycelle. "Congratulations, my queen,' said Jeyne as she accepted the baby from the Grand Maester. 'You have another boy, a healthy son.' Cersei collapsed against the pillows in exhaustion, her body weak and her mental strength waning. Through the cloud of unconsciousness closing in on her mind, panic set in as she realised that the silence was unnatural. "He's not crying," she exclaimed frantically, "why isn't he crying?"
"Shh, sister." Jaime pushed her hair back and smiled as Pycelle approached the bed with the babe in his arms. "The prince is fine, your Grace, only a little quiet is all. If I recall correctly, I believe your father was the same when his mother Jeyne delivered him."
Satisfied, Cersei gratefully accepted the tiny bundle from the Maester and gathered him in her arms. A little brother for Joffrey and an older one for those yet to come, she thought as she gazed at her newborn. He had her cheekbones and nose for certain, but then she noticed his chin was not her or Jaime's. Reaching to stroke his tiny face, she brushed the blanket away and stopped mid-movement in shock. Instead of the golden locks, she had long been expected, her son had a thick layer of deep black hair.
She looked up at Jaime in surprise and saw he too was looking at the babe's hair with confusion. 'This is Robert's son!' she realised and felt her shock fading and anger taking its place. How could this have happened, Cersei wondered in horror, 'I was so careful...this should be Jaime's child.'
Just as the thought crossed her mind, the baby began to stir in her arms and slowly began to open his eyes to take in the world around him. His gaze focused on Cersei and she saw him smile. Despite herself, Cersei couldn't help but return the smile with one of her own. With both Joffrey and this second son, she had treasured the moment that her son first saw the world. The babe slowly reached out with his tiny hand took hold of the thumb she was using to stroke his cheek with. Whatever remained of Cersei's anger melted as soon as they touched. Though Robert's son he may be, she couldn't bring herself to hate him. This is my son, she told herself, black or golden-haired, this is my baby boy. In his dark blue eyes, she saw everything she used to love about Robert. While she had laboured for a day and a half to bring Joff into the world, this labour had lasted only a few hours. As she reminisced, she watched her son slip into a peaceful sleep.
Robert arrived an hour later, but she hardly noticed that time had passed as none could distract her from her slumbering son. He strode into the room carrying a beautiful deer pelt, which he laid on the bed, distracted as she held his son out for him to take. He took the babe in arms and Cersei watched a smile unlike any she had seen before spread across his face. It was a smile of pure joy. Finally looking up from his son's face, he knelt at her bedside and kissed her forehead. "What shall we name him, husband?" she asked softly, not wanting to disturb his happiness.
Robert thought for a moment and then nodded his head decisively. "Roland."
Cersei took her own moment to mull it over before smiling. "Yes, I think Roland will do nicely." And so, the baby in the King's arms became Roland Baratheon, first of his name, second son of King Robert Baratheon, Prince of the Seven Kingdoms.
Years passed and Joffrey and Roland were joined by Myrcella and Tommen. As time went by, the differences between their two eldest became increasingly apparent. Both brothers were handsome and tall for their ages, that was where the resemblance ended. Roland was muscular in build and mature and cunning by nature, where Joffrey was lean, fair and often cruel and arrogant. Despite both being tutored extensively, Joffrey lacked skill with a sword but excelled with a crossbow and Roland took to the blade as though he had been born with one in hand. Joffrey tended to take his frustrations out on Myrcella and Tommen, and Roland learnt to provoke him first in order to distract his anger. Perhaps because they were so close in age, Roland was never afraid to stand up to his older brother.
Cersei was not surprised by how close Roland and Robert were. As soon as he could command a horse by himself, her son was whisked away by Robert on hunting trips and they enjoyed a practice bout in the training yard most days. Joffrey was not blind to these displays of affection and became first jealous and then hateful. Over the years, Roland leaned more and more towards wearing black with gold accents, to the extent that the commoners and servants in King's Landing had dubbed him the 'Black Prince'.
During his childhood and adolescence, Roland collected two animal companions. A gift from his Uncle Renly on his tenth name day was his black courser stallion, Bane. His hound, Shadow was a whimpering puppy Roland had rescued from the Street of Steel when he was 8. He took personal care of both of them and only relinquished care to another on the rare occasion that he truly didn't have time. Shadow lived up to his name and was Roland's ever-present companion. He spent every night curled up on the foot of his bed.
From a balcony, Cersei watched with fondness and pride as her twelve-year-old sparred with Ser Barristan Selmy. To her right stood her brothers Jaime and Tyrion, who also watched as Roland exerted himself against the legendary Kingsguard. Drenched in sweat, the grin never slipped from his face as he continued to attack.
"That boy was truly born to wield a sword," Jaime commented, glancing sideways at his twin. She agreed wholeheartedly; Roland would be a great warrior someday.
"His mind is as sharp as his swordplay as well," added Tyrion and she barely resisted a fierce urge to glare at him. Despite their tendency to disagree on most things, she had to concede that he had the right of it. The physical strength of a Baratheon with Lannister cunning, a fine combination. Cersei noticed movement on the far end of the courtyard and saw her eldest son, and she smiled before she noticed the way he stared at his brother with jealousy written all over his face. She often worried about her two eldest, and deep down she knew that it was only a matter of time before they came to blows.
The animosity had started when Roland was ten and Joffrey twelve. Robert had taken both his sons on a hunting trip despite her protests. Both were eager to go with their father. Upon their return, members of the party carried a mountain lion that Robert claimed that Joffrey had killed, and Roland's slain boar. Joffrey's sword was still stained with blood, and despite his boasting, she knew that something was amiss. Although she had nagged them several times, neither boy would let anything slip and she was forced to let it go. However, Joffrey never went out hunting with his father again.
As it often did when she watched her two eldest together, her mind drifted to more serious matters. Cersei knew Jon Arryn, Robert's Hand, to be investigating quietly and she realised that he would eventually uncover the truth about Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen's true parentage. If it ever happened, she knew full well that Roland would be her only lifeline. Regardless, she remained calm and had been preparing herself for years. The moment Arryn got too close to the truth, he would learn just how dangerous it is to provoke a lioness.