“Lord Jaime! Lord Jaime!” Ser Podrick Payne came dashing down the trail to find Lord Jaime Lannister speaking with the blacksmith. The newly knighted Ser Podrick skidded to a halt in front of the Lord of Casterly Rock and husband to Lady Brienne, the heir of Tarth.
“Pod, what is it?” Jaime asked, placing his only hand on Podrick’s shoulder to steady the lad. Though he may be a knight, it was difficult for Jaime not to think of the young man as the sweet boy he sent off with Brienne as her squire.
“It’s time, Lord Jaime,” he said through huffs. “Lady Brienne, she’s, she’s…”
“She’s in labor?!”
Without waiting for an answer, Jaime mounted his horse and galloped up the trail.
Father, protect her. Mother, have mercy. Warrior, give her strength. Jaime prayed as he crested the hill leading to Evenfall Hall. Hurriedly dismounting, he burst through the doors and bounded up the stairs that lead to their bedchambers. Jaime and Brienne had chosen to reside on Tarth after The Long Night had ended. Casterly Rock was but a shell of its former glory after the war, but Tarth had survived intact. It had weathered that horror with difficulty, but not without dignity. The people of the Stormlands, and especially of Tarth were made of sturdier stuff than most. He should know. He married their Lady.
Cries of pain echoed off the stone halls as Jaime advanced toward their bedchamber. Hearing his normally cool and collected wife scream in pain filled his heart with fear. Guards stood on either side, barring the door.
“My Lord, no one is permitted entrance by order of Maester Eddison,” said one of the guards.
“And just which of you proposes to keep me out while my wife is giving birth to my child?” Jaime snarled, gripping Maiden Fair, his renamed Valyrian steel sword. Even with graying temples and sprinkles of silver throughout his golden beard and mane, the Lord of Lannister cut an imposing figure. Without a word, the guards stepped aside, allowing Jaime entrance.
Maester Eddison and a small army of midwives surrounded the bed where Brienne lay, sweat on her brow, but a smile spread across her face when she laid eyes on her husband.
“Jaime…” Brienne whispered before another contraction caused her to yelp in pain. Jaime rushed to her side, gripping her hand.
“Brienne, you can do this,” Jaime said, sweat now sprouting on his own brow.
“Stay with me, Jaime,” Brienne replied, squeezing his hand.
“I suppose there was no keeping you out,” the Maester chuckled.
Jaime scowled at the man. “Obviously not.” Brienne let out another guttural roar as the next wave of contractions wracked her body.
“Jaime! The baby is coming!” Brienne cried, tears streaming down her face. Brienne’s grip was a vice on Jaime’s remaining hand.
“Easy, wench!” Jaime coaxed. “If you squeeze any harder, I’ll need to replace this hand as well.” Jaime tried to smile at his wife, but his attempt at humor fell on deaf ears as the next wave of contractions cascaded over Brienne.
“Now, Lady Brienne, I need you to push!” Maester Eddison bellowed over the din.
Brienne pushed, crying out in anguish. The midwives bustled about, following the Maester’s orders.
“Almost there, my lady,” Jaime purred into her ear. Her time was near. Brienne was making him a father. A true father.
Please, please, let the baby be strong. Give Brienne strength. Jaime prayed silently, his remaining hand screaming in pain with Brienne’s voice.
“One more push!” Maester Eddison demanded over the roar of Lady Lannister.
A cry filled the air and Brienne’s face no longer held a look of pain, but one of relief. Jaime looked from his wife to the Maester holding their child.
Thanks be to the Gods. Jaime breathed, sighing in relief.
“A girl,” Maester Eddison smiled. “Quite possibly the longest little girl I’ve ever delivered, save for Lady Brienne herself.”
“She has her mother’s legs then,” Jaime laughed. “Let us hope she has her eyes as well.”
“I believe she does,” the Maester replied. He wrapped the up their child in blankets of Lannister crimson. “My Lord, my Lady, may I present your daughter.”
Jaime felt as if his heart would burst. A girl. A little girl for them to call their own. The Maester walked over to the Lord and Lady of Casterly Rock and placed the girl in Brienne’s arms.
“I shall return in a moment to help you settle,” Maester Eddison said. “My Lord, my Lady, congratulations to you both. Please excuse me. I have been asked to tell Lord Selwyn the good news personally.” Maester Eddison turned, but Jaime called to him.
“Maester, a moment, please,” Jaime requested. Jaime rose to whisper something his ear.
“Of course, my Lord,’ the Maester replied. With that, Maester Eddison strode from the room, leaving the Lord and Lady to have a private moment with their new daughter.
“We had not yet agreed upon a name before your time, my lady,” Jaime said, nestling in the bed next to Brienne and pressing a kiss to her temple.
“You know my suggestion,” Brienne responded, and despite the lingering effects of long-endured pain, managed to raise an eyebrow and smirk at her husband. “Have you considered it?”
“I have,” Jaime replied simply, a smile spreading wide across his face as his eyes shifted from his Lady to his daughter.
“And?” Brienne asked.
“I think Zhoe is a beautiful name for our beautiful girl,” Jaime replied, feeling tears of joy roll down his face. “It is the meaning of the name that I find so beautiful.”
“Life,” Brienne whispered. “Zhoe. Life.”
“A life that I never thought I would have. A life we never thought we would have,” Jaime said, cradling his ladies ever closer. “I have been given a second chance and I do not want to take a moment of it for granted.”
Brienne relaxed into Jaime’s chest. He felt the exhaustion and relief overtake his wife. “Thank you, Brienne. Thank you for being my wife, for making me a father, for believing in me,” he whispered into her hair, kissing her all over her face.
“Thank you, Jaime, for loving me,” Brienne said, kissing him in return.
“How could I not?” Jaime replied with a chuckle and kissed his wife once more. Zhoe sighed and yawned. Jaime felt his heart melt once again.
A sharp rap came at the door and Maester Eddison returned with Lord Selwyn Tarth, the largest, kindest man Jaime had ever met.
“Father,” Brienne smiled as Lord Selwyn entered the room. “Meet your granddaughter, Zhoe.”
The Evenstar knelt by the bedside of his daughter and goodson and peered at the bundle in their arms. “Hello, my darling,” Selwyn whispered, grazing the fingertips of his massive hand along the cheek of his first and only grandchild. The Lord of Tarth looked lovingly from his granddaughter, to his daughter, and then to his goodson. Clapping a hand on Jaime’s shoulder, Lord Selwyn burst into tears.
“I have never been so happy,” the broad man howled into Jaime’s shoulder. Jaime was unsure whether to laugh or to be embarrassed at his goodfather’s tears and affection.
“Goodfather,” Jaime began, hoping to divert the weeping man’s attention. “Did you receive my message?”
Drying his tears, Lord Selwyn replied, “Ah, yes I did.” Rising, he crossed the room in two long strides and retrieved a long blue box. Jaime looked to Brienne, smiling.
“My lady, any child of ours, son or daughter, undoubtedly should follow in our footsteps,” Jaime said, nodding to the box. “I had this commissioned for our daughter.”
Lord Selwyn opened the box to reveal folds of crimson within, drawing from them a magnificent longsword. The hilt was golden in color and encrusted with a ruby and a sapphire at either end of the crossguard. A lion’s head pommel graced the end of the hilt, as did her mother’s.
“Jaime…” Brienne gasped. “What a beautiful sword!” Her eyes lit up as the late afternoon sunlight caught the jewels of the hilt.
“She shall learn to use it well,” Jaime smiled. “Just like her mother.”
“And her father, too,” Brienne agreed. She kissed Jaime again, more thoroughly this time.
“I should let you three rest,” Lord Selwyn said, blushing and replacing the new sword in its box. He kissed Brienne and Zhoe on the forehead, and clapped Jaime hard on the back. “I shall look in on you on the morrow.”
Lord Selwyn exited the room and the Maester and his brigade of midwives set about cleaning up, refreshing their bed chamber from the aftermath of labor. Holding their daughter as the midwives assisted Brienne, Jaime marveled at the small wonder in his arms.
Zhoe yawned and cooed, briefly opening her eyes. They were the deep blue of her mother’s, but she possessed Jaime’s golden blonde hair. For being long-legged, she was still so small. Jaime cradled her in the crook of his right arm, resting his remaining hand on the tiny bundle in his arms. Happy tears began to silently roll down his cheeks.
“I love you,” he whispered. “I will always love you.” Jaime placed a kiss on her forehead, and his beard tickled her face. Zhoe cooed again at the caress and Jaime felt his heart melt in his chest.
“Jaime,” Brienne whispered, and Jaime looked up to find her gaze on him. The midwives had helped her back into bed. The way Brienne looked him, it was like she was seeing him with more than just her eyes, but also with her heart. “It suits you, Jaime. Fatherhood suits you. I have never loved you more than I do now.”
“I was about to say the same, Brienne,” Jaime crossed the room and kissed his wife, filling his kiss with all the emotion coursing through his heart. “Your strength was on display today. I thought you were magnificent with a sword in your hand, but this was a different kind of strength, a different kind of courage—a woman’s courage.”
“Jaime…” Brienne murmured into the crook of his neck, placing a tender kiss on his Adam’s apple. “I think it’s time to feed our daughter.” Sure enough, Zhoe began to fuss. Jaime passed their baby to Brienne, a bit of regret in having to hand her over. He watched in awe as Brienne fed their daughter. The things Brienne could do amazed him—she could swing a sword, knock him into the dust, bring new life into the world, and now she was feeding their baby girl with her own body.
“What is it Jaime?” Brienne asked, looking over at him.
“You’re just…wonderful. So wonderful,” Jaime said, brushing back a hair from his wife’s forehead. He held his ladies as the sunlight began to fade. Brienne nestled against his chest, and drifted off to sleep, her work done.
Jaime felt exhaustion creeping in for him as well, but he did not want to give himself over to slumber. He felt like he had the whole world in his arms and wanted to savor a moment of peace he never expected to feel. Brienne was a gift he felt he did not deserve. She had given herself to him completely, but he thought back to words he had spoken to her before, echoing them again.
“I’m yours,” Jaime whispered, kissing her head. “I will always be yours.”