She was a painter, and she was beautiful. Podrick had first seen her when she accompanied her father to the Keep to paint the young Princess Myrcella for her last name day before she was taken to Dorne. The young painter's father had also painted all three children some years past, when Tommen was just born, and again when Joffrey was crowned king. Myrcella's name day was the first day his daughter had accompanied him, and Podrick had been enamored by the young girl ever since.
She was closer to Pod's age, a ripe 16 years at least. She was fair-skinned and fair-haired, a mass of untamed curls spilling into a face set with striking blue eyes. She had a plump figure but her face was thin, her chin pointed. Her cheekbones were high, beautiful precipices for those beautiful blue diamond eyes. Her hips were wide, the kind a man could grab, and they led into the graceful curve of her waist before stopping at her breasts, so sweetly covered by her modest silks. She was so unlike the ladies at court. She was certainly more modest with her dress, but her figure and countenance were a lovely change. Pod decided upon first seeing her that he should try to see her again.
Podrick of course never had cause to go near her father's studio. He was only a squire, and so he had to settle for the occasional visits to the Keep, hoping she would be with her father. Sometimes when Podrick attended Lord Tyrion and his wife Lady Sansa through the city they found a reason to go into the crafts district. They would stop near the painter's studio to inspect silks and trinkets, although the lord and lady never bought anything. Sometimes Podrick wondered if Tyrion did not know how smitten he was with the girl. Since becoming his squire, Pod had learned not to put anything past the little man.
His suspicions were confirmed when Lady Sansa brought the painter's daughter to tea. Podrick served them in the gardens, standing nearby while they talked and giggled, sipping their tea and nibbling at lemon cakes. The party culminated in an invitation from Lady Sansa for the painter's daughter to hone her skills in the Red Keep.
"The gardens really are so beautiful; it would be a waste not to be able to remember their beauty when winter finally comes," she told the girl. "When the snows come I would very much like to have a reminder that there will be flowers again someday. We will pay you handsomely and provide all your paints and canvas."
Podrick thought this was quite an undertaking. The gardens were expansive and sprawling and would surely take some time to complete.
The painter's daughter was eager to oblige and told Lady Sansa as much. Pod listened, enraptured, as the girl chattered excitedly. He loved that she could be so animated in Lady Sansa's presence. When he had seen her with her father she was always quiet, demure, almost shy. Her eyes were always downcast, hands clasped in front of her. Here, extolling her excitement to Lady Sansa, it was as if she were illuminated from within. Her face was golden, glowing; her eyes were alight with such a fierce passion for her trade. And her laugh … oh, her laugh. Musical, light, even whimsical. It was the most playful and joyous sound Podrick had ever heard.
He was broken from his reverie by Lady Sansa's voice. "Dearest Podrick," she purred, "please fetch Gwinn and myself more tea. We seem to have drunk our entire pot and still have an entire painting to plan."
Gwinn. Her name was Gwinn.
Podrick tested her name in his head over and over on his way to fetch their tea. As he loaded a serving tray he said the name out loud and reveled in the feel of it on his tongue.
By evening the plans had been laid out. Gwinn was to paint a large landscape of the garden from the canopy where Sansa typically sat. Lady Sansa reasoned that this way, even when the flowers were dead and brown, she could view the painting and pretend she were sitting in her favorite spot. It would take only a couple days to amass the necessary supplies for Gwinn's endeavor and she would begin in three days' time. She would paint until she was tired of painting and then she would paint again the next day. Podrick was to attend her while she worked and escort her to her guest chambers in the evening after dinner. Podrick was only too happy to oblige.
Every afternoon Podrick stood watch over her; even after more than a week he still enjoyed watching her delicate fingers make delicate strokes with delicate brushes. She would chew on her delicate lip with fine white teeth while her delicate eyelashes fluttered up and down as she looked between the garden and her canvas. Her hair was pinned atop her head, ringlets firing off every which way. She had more freckles than most women liked, but Pod thought he should like to kiss every single one.
At that thought he cleared his throat, his face flushing. The little he knew of kissing--or anything that you would do with a woman, for that matter--came from the women Tyrion had paid to sleep with him. They seemed to like him enough, but he couldn't imagine doing anything so indelicate with Gwinn. She looked over her shoulder at him then and smiled.
"Is something funny?" she asked, turning toward him. "Normally you are so stoic, and now you are laughing behind my back."
"No, m'lady. Just clearing my throat is all."
She gave him a queer smile, clearly unconvinced, and then just stood there, studying him. He was quite tall, much taller than her short frame, and broad shouldered as well.
"I would like to paint you, Podrick Payne," she told him, wiping a brush with a paint-stained rag. Pod bowed his head, body flushing all the way down to his toes.
"You should save your paints for worthy pursuits, m'lady," Pod said, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other. She threw her head back and laughed her free, delicate laugh. He couldn't help but smile.
"I am no lady, Podrick, merely an artist." She folded her rag and placed it over the corner of her easel while her eyes searched his downturned face.
Gwinn turned away from Podrick and studied her painting for a moment. "No, Podrick Payne, I really would like to paint you. I'm afraid I just can't rest easy until you consent."
She was teasing him, of that he was certain. She had such an easy, confident way of speaking that he wasn't used to. She looked like Lady Sansa and spoke like ... well, like the girls who'd done him over. The prostitute girls. He looked down at her feet, swallowing past the lump in his throat.
"You flatter me, m'lady, but it wouldn't be proper. I am your attendant while you are here. It wouldn't .. be proper," he finished lamely. Gwinn approached him, coming so close that rather than looking at her hem he was instead looking at the swell of her breasts beneath the modest woolen dress that was smeared with old paint.
"I am no lady, Pod. My father paints for the king and queen. I paint for a highborn lady. That does not make us lords any more than being a squire makes you a knight. I forbid you to call me m'lady again." He looked up at her, away from her chest, watching her eyes study the planes of his face. "I am lowborn, and I have no doubts as to what the highborn ladies think of lowborn girls like me. Maidens do not exist among the lowborn. At least they don't seem to think so. I have no interest in whether or not anyone in that castle thinks me improper. Propriety is not a luxury we lowborn girls get to have." She gave his chest a quick rap with the end of her paint brush. "Now, will you let me paint you or won't you?"
Podrick looked abashed at her scolding, lowering his eyes once more. "If that is what you wish, m'la--Gwinn."
Gwinn pursed her lips and then smiled. "Wonderful," she said, turning back to her easel. "When I am done here for the day we shall retire to your chambers. I would like for you to be as comfortable as possible in your environment, since you are clearly not comfortable to be under my scrutiny." She looked at him over her shoulder with the most devious smile he'd ever seen on her lips.
If she thought he was going to be comfortable alone with her in his own chambers, she was a naïve one indeed.
Podrick held the door open for Gwinn and waited for her to pass before shutting the door behind them. She had a thick leather-bound book and a small parcel tucked under her arm. The ribbon tying the two items together looked old and frayed. She took in the room, turning in place. In one corner, just below the window, was his simple wooden bed, bedclothes unmade, with an old trunk sitting at the foot. Next to the bed was a small wooden night stand, atop of which sat a half-melted candle in a bronze holder. There was a washbasin and pitcher in one corner and a small table with one chair in the other.
"Sparse lodgings," she commented. "Perfect for you. Yes, this will be just perfect." She unclasped the tarnished silver brooch at her throat, pulling her traveling cloak from her shoulder and draping it over the foot of his bed. She sat on the little wooden trunk, ankles crossed, and gestured toward the only chair. "Sit there at the table. Yes, just like that. With your arm resting ... yes, that's it."
Placing her book and parcel in her lap, she carefully pulled the old rotten ribbon until it came loose. She opened the cloth-bound parcel and Podrick saw that they were drawing utensils, all manner of charcoals. She selected a long thin piece and put the parcel aside. She pulled open her book and from across the room Pod could see that it was quite old and quite full of drawings. The papers were all thick and tan and old.
"You're not going to paint me then?" he said apprehensively. She looked up at him and gave him the sweetest of smiles.
"No, silly boy, I'm going to draw you first. I have to do studies if I want to get your face just right." With that, she bent her head and began to work.
This was their routine for nearly a week. He would attend her during the day while she painted Lady Sansa's garden, and then at night they would retire to his room where she would continue to draw him, night after night. Podrick wasn't sure how many studies it took to get his face right, for he thought his face was rather plain and uninteresting, but if it took her this long to get him right then maybe his painting would be something nice. He said as much on their fourth night together, but she only giggled at him and called him a silly boy. She would never let him see her drawings. As soon as the sun began to set and it became too dark in his chambers to be productive, she would close her drawing book, put her charcoal away, and get ready to leave.
Podrick found that he really didn't mind. When Lady Sansa's painting was done, he might not see Gwinn again for a very long time. Before Lord Tyrion's wife had commissioned her, Podrick had only seen her from a distance on a few occasions months apart. He enjoyed the time they had together and did not really want it to end. It was thanks to these nights that Pod's knowledge of the young painter grew. On the first night they talked about mundane things. Podrick was never much of a talker, but even less of one when he was uncomfortable, and so their conversation was limited to the coming winter and what they were expecting to be served at dinner. However, by the second night he was asking where she was born (in a small village outside of King's Landing), and what happened to her mother (dead in childbirth), and where she got her passion for painting (her father, obviously). It didn't take long for them to broach even more meaningful topics: the state of the city (unclean in all possible ways), the food shortage (not as bad as it had been), and Joffrey's marriage to the Tyrell girl (a lovely match, to be sure). As they spoke Podrick quickly realized just how insightful and knowledgeable Gwinn was. Despite being lowborn, she'd learned to read at a young age and made her own clothing. She had not been in King's Landing during the Battle of Blackwater but had heard of Tyrion's gallantry (about which Podrick was happy to add that he was a part of). She was also familiar with the lords and ladies at court and could even recite all the major houses' sigils and mottos. "I'm a great fan of history," she'd told him.
She was easy to talk to, and Podrick found her more and more to his liking, especially in moments like these. It was their sixth night together. She was talking easily of the village where she was born and her migration from there to King's Landing. Her golden curls were piled atop her head, but an errant curl was loose, brushing against the length of her neck. Podrick had never wanted to kiss a girl's hair as much as he did in that moment. He wondered briefly what her neck would taste like if he were to press his lips to that little curl.
"You're not listening to a word I say, Podrick Payne."
Pod snapped out of his fantasy, his eyes flying to hers. There was an amused twist to her lips as she looked at his face.
"You look like you've been caught doing something you ought not be doing." She closed her drawing book and set it aside, rising from the trunk. She'd decided to wear silk that day. She'd saved up for months to buy the fabric, which was a golden brown. As she came closer to stand in front of him, Podrick could finally see what she meant when she said she'd have to let the bodice out soon. Her breasts weren't large, but the dress had obviously been sewn for a smaller Gwinn. But no--he couldn't stare at her chest. He wrenched his eyes up to look at her.
"I see you staring at me, Podrick Payne. You're not half so secret about it as you think you are." She stepped up to him, into the space between his knees, and leaned forward until her hands were braced against his thighs. "I've been a terrible liar, Pod," she whispered. Her breath smelled of lemon cakes and something sweet and sugary. "I've had your drawing done four nights past. I just didn't want to stop. I wanted to memorize your face, so that I could recall it anytime I wanted to."
She leaned up, face flushed, and eyed him up and down. Certainly she wasn't turning shy, not while this great big ball of dragonfire was roaring inside his chest. Perhaps it was his heart beating its way out of his chest. Surely she must hear the deafening drum.
But because Pod was a man of action rather than a man of words, he reached out and grabbed a bit of dress between his forefinger and thumb and pulled at it until she was within the circle of his legs again. He let go of her dress and instead pulled her hands up, inspecting them. They were flecked with paint and her fingertips were black with charcoal. They were beautiful. He kissed each palm before pulling her down onto his lap. "Pod," she gasped, a near-hysterical giggling escaping her throat. They sat there for a moment, both suddenly shy. Podrick's mouth twitched at the corner, a small smile spreading across his face. Gwinn's fair skin was a rosy color, from her hairline all the way down between her breasts.
His eyes slipped back up the expanse of her breasts and collarbone to her neck, the wild golden hair still loose and carefree. The first thing he was going to do, he decided, was lean in and kiss that curl. And so he did.
Podrick wasn't quite sure how he ended up on the bed, only that he was pressed against his pillows by the woman sitting astride him. Somehow his leather tunic had made its way off his body and onto the floor, and he didn't quite remember that happening either. His shirt he'd taken off himself, just to feel her small, warm hands against his skin.
She sat atop him now, straddling his hips, her silks hiked up far enough that her milkwhite thighs were exposed to his grasping hands. She kissed him with a fervent heat, grinding herself against his length, and Pod was reminded of the way she'd looked when talking about her painting: all passion and fervor.
He groaned, the heat and friction between them almost too much to bear. She broke their kisses, panting, and leaned back to untie her dress. Pod reached up and helped her rid herself of the cumbersome dress and nearly ripped her smallclothes in his haste, spurred on by the intense desire to touch her bare skin.
Gods, she was beautiful.
Her hair had come down in their wild attempt to rid her of her clothes, and her honeyed ringlets dripped down her back like sun-warmed dew. Her shoulders were smattered with those dust colored freckles that he'd been longing to kiss, and they continued across her collarbone, leaving her perfect breasts touched only by pale pink rosebuds that peaked as he leaned up and took one in his mouth.
Gwinn gave a long sigh, her hands snaking up behind his neck to hold him in place.
"Pod," she sighed contentedly as his hands gripped her fleshy hips, pressing himself against her sex. His pants were all that separated him from that thatch of golden curls.
Sensing his need, Gwinn pulled away, away from his hungry mouth. They were both panting as she placed her hands on either side of his bewildered face and pressed her forehead to his.
"I want this," she whispered, eyes boring into his. "But I don't know what to do. Show me, Pod."
Podrick's face softened from bewilderment to a look of such tenderness. He pressed his lips to hers and wrapped an arm around the small of her back, flipping her over so that it was she who was pressed into his pillows and his shoulders were firmly rooted between her legs. Once he finally got his pants off, Pod would show her how it's done.
Gwinn ran her fingers back in forth across Pod's chest, scratching through the smattering of dark hair adorning the area. She had one leg thrown across his, and his arm was around her shoulders, hand stroking her hair. Her maiden's blood was still fresh on his sheets as they sat there in contentment, feeling the sticky heat fading from their limbs.
"I love your hair," Podrick murmured, pressing a kiss to the nest of curls under his chin. Gwinn smiled up at him before rolling over, dropping an arm over the side of the narrow bed. She fished around for a moment, searching for the belt she knew had been discarded there. When she rolled back toward sweet Podrick, his dagger was in her hand.
"Take it," she said, offering him the knife. "Take a lock of my hair. Gods know I have plenty of it."
Podrick took the knife and pulled a lock of hair away from its brethren. "I hate to cut it," he frowned, pressing a kiss to the tight little curl. He reached the knife up and cut the curl in one swift motion. Gwinn watched him place the knife and lock of hair on his bedside table before he reached for her again, pressing his lips to her belly and then to her breasts, first one and then the other, before finally settling his mouth on hers once again.
When Podrick woke, blinking in the early morning sun shining through his window, the only evidence that Gwinn had been with him was the lock of hair on his bedside table and the wide red stain in the middle of his bed. Looking at it, he could easily recall the memory of her face pinched with pain, her hair a halo around her exquisite face as she clenched the pillow with her fist. She'd cried out in pain, but in the same breath had told him not to stop, even as her blood flowed. She was not nearly as delicate as he had thought.
Just as he was pulling his shirt over his head a knock sounded at his door. He covered the telltale sign of his lovemaking before opening the door. Lord Tyrion stood before him looking quite somber.
"Podrick," he said, "I have something to tell you."
Some time later Pod was found exactly where Tyrion left him. He was holding Gwinn's drawing book, flipped to the last page. He'd pored over every page in that book for some time. Every page was covered with faces, never the same one twice. Drawings of smiths and bakers; her father, the painter; children and old mothers; even prostitutes and their babes. The last twenty or so pages were of him. All manner of expression had been drawn down in these pages: Pod laughing, Pod smiling, Pod dozing off. She'd captured every expression. Among them was his look of adoration. He really hadn't been able to hide it.
She said she'd wanted to memorize what he looked like so that she may recall it anytime she wanted. What she hadn't told him, not until she'd written this note on the last page of her drawing book, was that she'd never see him again. Her father, a drunken gambler, had sold her to a brothel; she didn't know where. She had only enough time to complete Lady Sansa's painting before the caravan had arrived to take away all the newly sold women. It was the hardest week of my life, she'd written, knowing that our time together would end this way.
She'd left a similar note with Lady Sansa's painting. She'd finished it the day before and it was just as resplendent as they'd hoped. Lady Sansa couldn't bring herself to have it hung.
Podrick sat in his chambers, holding her drawing book in one hand and twisting her little lock of hair around in the other. He'd never been a boy of many words; never one to show much emotion. What had that ever gotten people? What had it ever gotten Tyrion? Sansa? Anyone? Nothing but pain.
Podrick opened the book to the last page again and gently laid Gwinn's lock of hair between the pages. He placed the book back on his bedside table and pulled on his boots and tunic, ready to tend to Lord Tyrion. He would mourn his love later, when he was alone in his bedchamber with his memories. For now, he still had a job to do.