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The Crow Speaks Backwards

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"Your Majesty seems in fine fettle," remarked the ever jovial source of comfort which was her good-brother. Lyanna gave him a small half-smile, albeit her attention did not stray from her husband. For the past hour he had been deeply caught in his conversation with the ever so lacking in charm Jon Connington. That she had been thrown over for the company of the man hurt in part because of the closeness of that relationship and in part because she was not quite as blind as she might have wished to be. "But I wonder at your reluctance to accept my invitation."

"My dear Viserys," she answered, looking away from her husband for a brief moment; that much she could afford, "I did not mean to slight you in the least. But though you might find some indulgence for me within your heart, I am not so certain others shall." She patted the obvious bulge protruding from beneath her skirts. Even a higher waistline failed to help. Having been ever the beneficiary of fertility, what had once been youthful svelteness expanded, even more so with a babe in womb. Once upon a time Rhaegar would have jokingly teased her about waddling about as a duckling might. She could not accept further disapproval from him. "Best I stay put."

"Nonsense," her good-brother protested. She eyed him with undisguised suspicion. As a child he'd been an overly perceptive boy, ready to use even the hint of a good mood in his favour. "But if Your Majesty feels too burdened at the moment, then I beg to be allowed to sit down as well. At least until matters calm some."

A decent sister would have encouraged her brother to go and have his fill of dancing with the pretty girls swarming about. Lyanna did not feel decent at all. She felt lonely and alone, missing what should have been close at hand. Viserys gazed at her with unfamiliar eyes in a very familiar face. She could almost convince herself it was her husband sitting down with her, choosing her company, even if for a little while. With one last valiant effort she said, "If you wish so."

The grin her good-brother sported widened. "I was actually interested in having a conversation with you, dearest good-sister. About my guest. You know the one. She has been most insistent in pressing her case to me and in good conscience I cannot put her off much longer. Not when you look so out of sorts."

She laughed, not entirely certain what her answer should be in this case. He was not speaking of his little amusement, she gathered, but of the tall, imposing figure forever bedecked in red. "I shall grant her an audience if I must, but I do this for you." What could a priestess possibly tell her, do to help her? She reached out for her tea, missing the taste of honeyed wine but knowing she could hardly indulge at the moment.

"It is enough for me that I've your promise. Would you be more amenable to at least a walk in the gardens? We needn't stray far, but this heat, I vow, it makes my head pound." He was trying so very hard to distract her. Her poor good-brother should not be disappointed. Biting into her lower lip, she struggled between two impulses. On the one hand, she could not watch Rhaegar from the gardens, on the other not seeing Rhaegar might help calm her raw nerves.

"Very well, just a quick walk to the small garden and back." She rose from her seat with some difficulty, brushing the creases away from her skirts. To no avail, having folded and refolded the pleats, she had done the material a good turn. Strange that, how she had hardly even noticed crumpling the Myrish lace. The gardens her good-brother spoke of were not precisely that. It was simply that without the great hall there was a large terrace covered in plants of all sorts, an improvement over cold stone, but nowhere near the grandness of a true garden. Nevertheless, it found favour with those who wished for fresh air, or a moment of solitude. Or both.

Viserys offered his arm, impeccable in his own garb. Were it not for the eyes, too light a violet to be Rhaegar's, she could have been forgiven for thinking he was her husband. Alas, one must make do with what one had. She placed her hand upon his arm, enjoying the steadying effect it had on her. The sound of metal scratching against metal mad her turn. Ser Arthur Dayne inclined his head.

"I shan't go far, Arthur. You may remain as you were." The knight simply shook his head with a gentle reminder that h had been given his orders. "Ser Jaime can come with us if anyone must. I cannot believe that the night air would you much good after recovering from a head cold."

"I must insist, Your Majesty." She understood even if he did not elaborate and looked to Jaime only to see him shrug.

"If you must," Lyanna allowed none too happily wondering what bat had got into Rhaegar's belfry. She had thought his accusations of infidelity a slip of the moment, words spoken in anger. "Let us away then before my poor good-brother is laid low by his sore head."

Allowing her to dictate the pace, Viserys patted her hand gently with his own. Truly, she did not know why it was she took such comfort in the small gesture.

The cool night air convinced her she should not spend much time without, not only for Arthur Dayne's benefit, though she did not wish him any ill, for he only followed orders. Her breath misted before her eyes. Lyanna looked up, expecting to see the subdued glow of the moon and instead a gasp left her lips, propagating without her volition in the available space. "What is that?" She pointed to the sky.

"Father's beard," Viserys murmured from her side. "'Tis one of those blasted comets. No doubt the masters in Oldtwon are busily charting the thing's direction." He seemed none too pleased with that. It was not precisely that Lyanna had never seen a comment before. But this seemed somewhat different. Instead of the usual reddish glow, it shone a cool, even icy colour. "We shall be hearing all about it before long."

"Sometimes I wish I were more proficient in reading the skies." Some put great stock in the starts and even claimed they could predict one's destiny upon their basis. She simply enjoyed the way they looked.

"A Myrish glass should is all you need."

"Would that such were true." She eyed the rapidly moving object and blinked when the blue flared, slowly bleeding into warmer tones. "I wonder why it did that."

"Some mysteries are bound to remain unsolved." She could not disagree with that logic. And she would not try to, though he nature inclined towards a different answer. Instead she produced a thoughtful sound, glancing over her shoulder to Ser Arthur. The cold was creeping beneath the wool of her kirtle and she imagined it would not be along afore she set to shivering herself.

"It might be good then to return. I have no use for new mysteries." Viserys gave a low chuckle and pushed her gently towards the knight.

"Ser Arthur, I should like to explore the mystery for a few moments longer. If you would be so kind as to take Her Majesty back." Seeing as there was no way the man could refuse, Lyanna found herself on his arm as they made their way back through the small corridors towards the main hall. A frown contorted her features when she finally glanced up into his face.

"Ser, have you even harmed someone?" The knight paused, sporting a forbidding look for a brief moment before it melted into concern.

"It is within the nature of my position that I will harm others from time to time, though I try to tell myself I do not do so without cause." A balanced response, just as she had expected. But he had misunderstood her.

"Nay, I mean, have you ever harmed someone you cared about?" She paused to draw breath and her courage. "Even without necessarily meaning to?" He gave a hesitant nod. "Can one make amends? Would one be forgiven? Would you forgive someone who harmed you?"

"That would very much depend on what harm has been done to me," he answered, tugging on her arm to set her walking once more. "Every person has their own limit, Your Majesty." He was distinctly uncomfortable. Lyanna winced inwardly. Out of all the men she could have approached with this notion. But what was she to do when Rhaegar insisted she be kept away from a man who might answer her directly.

She dared not pose further question for fear of brining suspicion upon herself. Alas, upon her return she found Rhaegar has returned to the foot of the throne. He was not, as far as she could tell, preparing to ascend, thus she gingerly picked her skirts up so she might hurry her pace. He looked as though he were waiting, and she hoped he waited for her. Whatever the case, her superior wisdom kept her from questioning anything.

In the low glow of sconces she could make out a slight flush to his skin, indicating that he had indulged as she had not. Having had years to familiarize herself with the man's behaviour, she breathed out a sigh of relief. Drink made him mellower, as could be ascertained by the almost friendly look he gave her when she and the knight approached. Rhaegar dismissed Arthur and addressed her in a low voice. "I am ready to retire, lady wife."

"I as well, Your Majesty," she replied breathlessly, anticipation stealing away any crumb of control she managed to gather. Silently, she prayed he might make some comment which would indicate he desired her company. Whether it was the wine or his own mind which brought the notion, he did not disappoint.

"Come along then." H offered her his arm and she clutched it with might be too much strength. "Tired are you, lady wife?"

"I feel a bit lightheaded," she murmured. Lyanna hoped he would assume it was fatigue rather than unrelenting joy. Her fingers trembled slightly and she fought to keep her eyes from them. If she paid them no mind, he wouldn't either. She heard the knights behind them and knew she should not cling to her poor husband as an octopus might, but she could not quite help herself. His mood, sweetened by whatever he had consumed, coupled with her own need for affection and the tragic lack of it affected her. He drew her securely into his side, a knowing smile upon his lips. Nevertheless he did not dispute her claim.

He led her through the hallways and kept a most impressive command of himself as he did so. For someone who had obviously imbibed, he was certainly doing a very good job of it. "Do you know, I find myself wondering just how unwise one can be in certain situations," he told her. They were nearing his chambers and he had yet to send her on her way which more or less made his intentions clear. "I also wonder whether I would forgive myself a lack of wisdom."

"If you do not forgive yourself no one else shall," she put it to him as gently as she could. Her answer must not have been what he was looking for as he sobered for a brief moment, regarding her with the usual disregard he had cultivated later in their acquaintance. As quick as the change had been it melted into an inscrutable expression.

"Your making so much sense somewhat scares me." He said not a word to the knights as he guided her into his chamber. Lyanna stepped over the threshold, annoyed when her train caused her to fumble. She glowered at the piece of flimsy cloth and tugged on it.

The thin line of Myrish lace ripped with a satisfying shredding sound. Pleased that she had exacted her revenge, Lyanna turned around to glance at her husband, noting that the troubles of the day were weighing down on him. "Your Majesty," she prodded, hoping to distract him from whatever it was that bothered him, "it has been some time since we were alone like this."

"So it has." He moved around her, tugging on his upper garment. "You seemed out of sorts." And he had decided the best way to lift her spirits was to give her his undivided attention. If he was frightened by her wisdom, she trembled in her boots at the notion of him being so capable of reading her wishes. Nevertheless, she approached and helped him tackle the tunic, more for familiarity than anything else.

"Very perceptive," she noted in a mellow manner. "I suppose I should have known better than to expose myself to the revelry. But I thought it might serve me better than to sit in my chambers."

He took hold of her shoulder and turned her around. Having opted for Southron fashion for the effect of it, Lyanna heartily regretted it once she realised he would have to go through at least three layers of cloth. But how could she have foreseen the change in their situation. The outer layer fell to the ground and she kicked it away, wondering if she could repair those tears in the lace or if she ought to give it away. The thin cyrtle beneath was dispatched of too, leaving her in only her thin chemise.

Unwilling to give more than that for the moment, Lyanna edged away from him and made her way beneath the covers. She heard him chuckle and settled against the mound of pillows, closing her eyes, waiting for him to join her. The subtle scent of spices wafted through the air. She felt his weight settle next to her, the dip of the mattress as he lied down. Heat radiated off of him and she turned instinctively in his embrace, wondering for how long her luck would last.

"Wherever have you gone now?" he questioned gently.

"I am here." Lyanna opened her eyes. His familiar gaze settled over her and she pressed further against him. A yawn caught in her throat. His fingers splayed against her back, just under her shoulder. Using a good portion of her courage, she leaned in to press a soft kiss to his lips, a reminder, a promise of sorts even.

He returned the gesture. It reminded her of better days. She just wanted to sleep there, tucked against his side, safe and sound, well-protected. A woman and a man in their proper state of being. She could not recall having felt better in a long, long time. But then happy as she was, she was also unrepentantly greedy. Her arms locked around his neck, locking her lips to his in a somewhat aggressive manner. Words were superfluous.

Rhaegar responded in kind but managed to shift their positions, supporting her weight. She began protesting, some of her sense returning. But he simply grinned up at her, hands holding her firmly by the hips. "You damn me with faint praise, lady wife. I assure you the burden is of no consequence." Not wishing to seem as though she were giving in too easily, she put up a second, less energetic protest. Then promptly accepted his decision.

A throat clearing broke the bubble of her excitement, hitting against her with enough power that she flinched, looking up to see one of Rhaegar's squires. Her annoyance must have shown, for the youth had the good grace to blush to the tips of his ears. "Begging your pardon, Your Majesties. His Grace, Prince Viserys, insists that you are needed."

She was about to send him on his way, with a blistering ear if need be. Viserys could handle any situation he might encounter on his own. Before she could go forth with her plan, however, Rhaegar pulled her off him, gently placing her to the side. "What does my brother want?" He rose from the bed, and Lyanna clutched the covers to her chest, wondering why the gods were ruining her plans. Nonetheless, she cocooned herself in the covers and followed her husband's example, putting away her resentment for the moment.

"It appears we are missing several individuals, Your Majesty." She stiffened without meaning to. Missing some individuals could mean a lot of things. "The Crown Prince, Princess Rhaenys, Princess Rhaella and Princes Elaena are not in their chambers. Additionally, Lord Stark's son is missing as well. We found the beasts locked in His Grace Prince Jon's chamber."

"What?" Her reaction grated against her own nerves. Lyanna winced and hugged herself. "What are you saying?"

"Another thing, Your Grace, one of the stable hands insists that the beast you ordered confined to his stall was taken by Prince Jon."

Her husband's reaction remained stoic throughout the whole ordeal. But Lyanna was not at all deceived by his silence. He was hard at work, possibly thinking of what to do. The squire opened his mouth and she gave a low moan of distress, her knees going weak. She sat down upon the edge of the bed, covering her face with her hands. If only she could block the sounds as well.

"Where have they gone?" Finally he spoke. To Lyanna it sounded like a death kneel. She simply wondered whether it was her death or her son's. She wilted even further. Somehow, though, she managed to keep her fear at bay long enough to take a deep breath.

"According to Princess Rhaenys' ladies to a woods witch." Lyanna jumped as she heard the sound of ceramic breaking against the floor.

"Leave us," Rhaegar spoke softly. "We shall be with my brother in a moment." The squire made no further comment and took his leave. Lyanna waited for the other shoe to fall.

In the end, he turned his attention upon her and she fought the urge to shrink. At least he was decent. It would have been so much worse to witness unbridled ire. "That horse. That damned thing," she managed through her closing throat.

"The horse is the last of his problems," Rhaegar replied evenly. He pulled her to her feet. "I cannot let this stand. And I will not allow you to evade your responsibility either." He was being remarkably calm.

"What are you going to do?"

"We," he corrected. "We will find out precisely why they thought they could go against the rules."