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a solution of ink

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“Aegon,” he said to a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. “What better name for a king?”

“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.

“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.”

He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.

:48, A Clash of Kings – Daenerys


Daenerys wishes to move onwards – to go on past the great bronze doors that showed her such an illusion – but the music does not end, turning into a stronger sound. Another vision manifests in front of her eyes of that same man, but laid upon a bed with his arm around a different woman’s shoulder.

She is young, Daenerys thinks, as young as me. The girl has dark brown hair and bright eyes as she gazes upon the lute player, a new man with an almighty greatsword by his side. He sings a song in a tongue Daenerys recognises as Rhoynish but cannot decipher.

“The babe likes it,” the woman states with a curling grin that bares her teeth, hand resting upon her swollen belly. “He kicks.”

The lute-player finishes his song swiftly, reaching forwards to press his hand to her stomach. “My son knows how to appreciate good music.”

The woman laughs and entwines their hands. For the first time, Daenerys sees their soulmarks – wolves swallowing suns, identical and as heart-stopping as the first time Daenerys saw matching marks. Bonded, she thinks in sorrow, thinking of the dragon that flies across her back, greyed and dulled from Drogo’s death. Bonded with child.

It is too much to bear, but the first man – Rhaegar – bats their hands apart. “Come, Arthur, I’m paying you to protect your wife, not to smother her, though even I’ll admit the music was entertaining while it lasted,” he clearly jests and laughter echoes among the three as the vision fades.

Tears run cold down Daenerys’ face and she wipes them away, stumbling down the corridor – but it seems her reluctance to leave has triggered something and more and more bronze doors appear, opening before she can do much more than look in their direction.

Images of the past, Daenerys thinks as she sees her brother present her with that dress and of holding her dead son in her arms. The door shuts only when she looks away from her pain, another opening to reveal a wedding of two Westerosi Houses.

“Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger...” the bride and groom say as one and Daenerys cannot think in the moments after, as she recognises the Stark direwolf upon the bride’s wedding cloak. Her eyes search the room they are in, pausing on a golden kraken, a young man standing at the back of the Stark groom, before she finds a banner of twin blue towers on grey that is unfamiliar to her.

Is this the present? Dany wonders, before the image dissolves into a land of ice and snow. A girl with hair like fire dressed in grey furs whacks a boy in black on the arm with a long, heavy greatsword – the same sword that the man, Arthur, had laid beside him when he played the lute.

“If you know what to say you might just make it through the night.” She hits him with the sword again, “Not talking’s not the way to go!”

“Careful with that,” the boy says, “you might cut yourself.”

Daenerys sees it before it happens – the girl swinging again and the boy ducking with a grin.

“Never swung a sword before, have you? You look like a baby with a rattle?”

The girl goes to face him once more, but a shout from a newly-appearing figure in the mist – among many others, all dressed in the same grey furs except one, a man dressed in black like the boy. Prisoners, Daenerys thinks before it all devolves from there, the second man in black stealing a sword and pouncing for the boy, seemingly eager to end his life.

“Stop!”

“Why, traitor?” the man screams at the boy. “So you can give Mance Rayder an invitation to Castle Black?”

The boy is thrown his sword by the girl and Daenerys watches him wield it expertly, disarming the man within half a minute. Forced to the ground, the older man spits.

“Your traitor uncle teach you that? Did Ned Stark spar Ice against Dawn? You’re as much a traitor as Ser Arthur Dayne – of course an Oathbreaker would sire another.”

“I am no Oathbreaker,” the boy says, greatsword not falling an inch in his firm grip. “My parents were soulmates.”

“He was Kingsguard,” the man bares his teeth, “and they don’t take no wives, no matter the marks they bear. Your mother was little more than a whore-”

The boy reacts quickly in defence of his mother’s name and no sooner does the old man’s head leave his shoulders, does the vision vanish.

“…and now you see,” a new voice says and Daenerys turns abruptly, almost screaming at the sight of the old man in front of her. He stands there with red eyes and a grey Weirwood tree upon his brow, a sign of a lost soulmate. “The ink bled and so the future and the past were rewritten, to set the worlds to right. Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains.”

“Who are you?” Daenerys questions.

“I am the Three-Eyed Raven and I shall be for many years, yet,” the old man says, looking down at her with haunted eyes. “My days were to end. Now, they will not. Tell me – what did you see through the bronze doors?”

Daenerys hesitates, before saying, “My brother. Rhaegar. I saw him and his son, Aegon, my nephew.”

“Aye, that you did.” The Three-Eyed Raven asks, “What else?”

“…Ser Arthur Dayne, my brother and…” Daenerys thinks who the woman might have been and in truth, only one answer could be the truth. “And Lyanna Stark.”

“Aye,” the Three-Eyed Raven smiles sadly. “Then after, you saw the King in the North wed Frey, an alliance created and held, Theon Greyjoy at his back and his brothers safe ruling Winterfell. The Riverlands remain that of the North. Arya Stark will be found and kissed by her mother, as she was by the Many-Faced God – but they are bound to another fate, one the Old Gods have limited sway over.”

“Who are bound? Arya Stark? The Stark family?” Daenerys questions.

The old man smiles, before it fades. “No-one. No-one at all. The Undying cannot see me, here, but they will see you, soon. We have little time. The future is uncertain, but eventually, the ink will once again dry. You must do as you will to prevent the end. The Long Night approaches and yes, it is full of terrors – but R’hllor leaves Westeros to combat those awakening in the Grey Wastes, where shadows lie. The Red Woman is dead at Stannis Baratheon’s hand as he is at hers and now does Princess Shireen, rightful heir to the Iron Throne rule Dragonstone.”

Daenerys’ blood runs hot like dragonfire. “This princess is the niece of the Usurper. How is she the rightful heir? His son sits the throne.”

“Joffrey Hill is the bastard of the Lannister Dowager-Queen, as are his siblings.” The Three-Eyed Raven looks down the long passageway where the Undying Ones stay. “Shireen is good and gracious. Ally with her and with the King of Winter and they shall see you sat on the Southern Throne. My blessings upon you, Daenerys. Gods have it that I will have the strength to reach your brother and niece this same way.”

And then, the Three-Eyed Raven disappears in front of her eyes and the only thought left in Daenerys’ mind is thus: what brother and niece do I have left in the world? Surely Rhaegar and Rhaenys are dead.

“Surely,” Daenerys utters to herself, before walking the long corridor to the Undying. Surely?

Chapter Text

Their marks mean nothing to her. The twin bands of blue – sapphire – fire around his wrists are always hot at their close proximity and the sensations spike whenever they touch, their souls alight with a need to be bound. Ignore it, Brienne says, it means nothing. It tears him apart to think of it, of not bonding, but the reality that he has actually met his soulmate means more.

Jaime Lannister never thought he would have this, no matter that like everyone else on their sixteenth birthday if it hasn’t already formed, his soulmark appeared in a blaze of blue glory.

“After years with my sister saying she was my other half, it is certainly a relief to find you, wench,” Jaime says in the silence, starting this conversation up once more, just to see where it could go – but oh, he does find himself loving how she reacts to his teasing, otherwise. “Cersei is unusually fixated on soulmarks,” he even says, shocking himself at the candid mention of his sister.

Brienne of Tarth ignores him and his shock. She cooks a rabbit on a spit and looks only at the crisping skin, instead of giving any sign she’s listening – but Jaime knows she is. They’re the only two people for at least a league and besides, they’re bare feet apart. She couldn’t stop hearing him if she tried.

“When did yours appear?” he asks her, trying to gauge her age. “You’re younger than me, I can see that without asking. Oh, let me guess – twenty-five? Twenty-nine?” Her eyes flicker in his direction and he shakes his head with a smirk. “No, that’s not it. I’m close though, aren’t I?”

“…I’ve had my soulmark since I was a toddler,” Brienne eventually says, causing him to blink in confusion.

“Pardon? A toddler? How old are you?”

Jaime can’t guess solely on appearance now – not when she’s said that. Truly, Brienne is a brute, with wide shoulders and a square, freckly face. Not even long hair could soften that ugly mug. Jaime finds he doesn’t care though, not after seeing her fight those Stark men over him and those hanged girls – it raised his blood in a truly awfully magnificent way.

But, toddler? Really? Jaime tries to count in his head, frowning. She’s perhaps twelve years younger than me, then, fourteen at the most and I’m thirty-three. So- so eighteen?

“Eighteen?” he guesses out loud, finding it hard to believe.

“…nineteen,” Brienne grunts.

“Nineteen,” Jaime repeats thoughtfully, before shifting on his rock for a chair. She’s ginormous for a nineteen year-old, but I suppose it explains her naivety. She’s sworn herself to as many sides as I had, at her age. “Any chance I could get a chance to bathe in the river, wench? There’s no shame in seeing your soulmate naked – though I suppose I’d be the first you’d ever seen like that.”

Brienne flinches.

“Ooh, got that right, I think,” Jaime puts his hands to his face, cupping his dirty bearded cheeks. “Maybe I should be the one scared for my virtue! I’m the pretty one out of the two of us, after all. Are you going to try seducing me, Lady Brienne?”

“Enough,” she finally snaps, glaring at him. “Quiet yourself, Kingslayer. We may be soulmates, but I will not let that get in the way of my oath. Lady Catelyn will have her daughters back in exchange for you.”

Jaime lowers his hands, scoffing. “It won’t work. Father might want me back, but he’d never trade two hostages for a son who’s bound to the Kingsguard like I am. I’m never to be his heir, no matter how much he wishes.”

“You were Arthur Dayne’s squire,” Brienne says, then. “He still had a son, the whole country knows that and he was Kingsguard like you. You’re no cheap hostage. Sansa and Arya shall be returned to their mother.”

“Right,” Jaime mutters, not happy to be reminded of his only needed skill, there. Father knows I can do it, too, he thinks miserably of Cersei’s children. Jonric Dayne – I can’t believe Fat Robert legitimised his dead Lyanna’s bastard.

The problem there is that Jaime’s met the poor kid, a poor, good kid – just like his father in temperament, enough that Jaime quickly became uncomfortable with the boy’s nervous questioning – but who would rather join the Nights Watch than ride for Starfall. Ned Stark truly was a fool, raising that boy to think the North fairer than the South – and letting him take Dawn to the Wall, too! Edric Dayne at least should have gotten the sword alongside Arthur’s body.

Now, that sword shall probably be lost to the cold winds of Wildling Land, along with young Jon bones.

“Is it true you met him? Jon Dayne?” Brienne questions him, after a moment. “Is he really the Sword of Morning?”

“We met,” Jaime grits his teeth. “It’s true, he could swing it as well as a boy of fourteen could, but I’d never call him the Sword of Morning. That’s a title he doesn’t deserve, not yet, probably not ever. He’s never been South and he’s never learnt to be anything other than a Stark, despite his name. Dawn should never have been his.”

“It was his father’s sword.”

“Doesn’t mean he should have been the Sword of Morning,” Jaime snaps. “Enough. Why are you so interested, anyway?”

Brienne frowns deeply, making her face even more unpleasant to look at. You can see every thought as it runs across her face, Jaime thinks, half-angry and half-fascinated by the visual honesty, used to a lifetime of courtiers – of ladies and lords playing the Game of Thrones, who would rather cut out their tongues than show their true faces.

“My sister-in-law,” she eventually says, “she likes hearing about the world. She’s not left Tarth since she came. She’s always been fascinated by the Rebellion, too careless…” Brienne falls silent, something Jaime plans to remedy.

“Sister-in-law? You have siblings?” Jaime queries, before prodding, “At least your father doesn’t have to rely on you to produce an heir, if you have a brother.”

“…true,” Brienne grunts. “My brother already has three children by her. Duncan, Rhianne and Aemon.”

Jaime’s eyebrows rise. “Aemon? Aemon of Tarth – now, that must have pissed off Robert when he heard.” The strange thing is, though, Jaime can’t remember Robert raging at a child being named for the dead Targaryen’s. Tarth belongs to the Stormlands, too, Jaime frowns. He definitely would have heard, if it happened.

Brienne shifts uncomfortably. “Nyssa is from Dorne and- and Dorne’s memory is long.” She says the words like she’s said them before, reaching forwards to take the rabbit from the spit.

Dorne’s memory is long. Elia. Rhaenys and Aegon. Jaime’s stomach twists and turns, remembering Rhaenys’ smile – so like her mothers – and baby Aegon who could barely do more than lift his head as he wriggled on the floor, stomach to carpet. He was learning how to crawl. The image of them both lying there in front of the Iron Throne, bloodied and unrecognisable, is enough to make him want to throw up, marring his sweet memories of them.

They eat in silence and Jaime can’t help but be drawn into his old memories – the traumatic memories when he couldn’t go into that safe place in his mind, when Aerys ordered him to murder some poor innocent and insulted him in the same breath; when he stood outside Queen Rhaella’s door, trying and failing to ignore her screams; when he saw those three mutilated bodies on the stone floor of the throne room.

My princesses, my prince. Jaime is numb inside, his tears long shed. Robert had asked him to confirm the bodies to be those of the Royal Family and Jaime hadn’t spared them more than a glance before throwing up, shaking and sobbing. No-one had come to his aid – no-one dared help the Kingslayer in front of Robert Baratheon, who called the unrecognisable bodies of Aegon and Rhaenys dragonspawn with vitriol and hatred.

He shifts where he sits, the blue fire around his wrists that rises up nearly to his elbow clear and visible, even under the dirt – the nature of soulmarks. They can’t be hidden for long, unless they’re Grey. Cersei used to say they were shackles, but Jaime likens them to armguards in his mind. Rhaenys had her marks, he remembers, recalling the ocean waves that spiralled across her collarbones, the largest mark he’d ever seen.

Rhaenys thought we were soulmates, Jaime thinks with a chuckle, attracting Brienne’s attention as he peers at their shared marks. Same shade of blue, after all.

“What’s so funny?”

“Ever wanted children, milady?” Jaime asks in return, winking at her. “They can be precocious little buggers, you know. I was recalling some fond memories. This little girl I once knew – she thought we were soulmates, didn’t know any better. Adorable.”

“Who was she?” Brienne asks, as if that isn’t the hardest question in the universe to answer.

“…just a girl from Casterly Rock,” he lies, shrugging. “One of the servant girls’ daughters. She was nobody.”

Nobody. Rhaenys was not ‘nobody’.

Jaime can’t keep his mouth shut, though. He goes on, talking about Casterly Rock and all his family members – his Aunt Genna, his uncles Kevan, Tygott and Gerion, his cousins like Lancel and Joy – complaining about old things of the past. Brienne doesn’t listen attentively – Jaime thinks she actually falls asleep on him at one point, something Jaime could have predicted with how far they’ve travelled and how much time she spent guarding him through the night.

He keeps talking though. He can’t stop it. He’s bursting to speak, to have an actual conversation with anyone that isn’t you’re going to die, Kingslayer or did you really fuck your sister, sister-fucker? Jaime was in a cell for a year, gods preserve him and his sanity – is it so much to ask to have someone to speak to?

The next day, Jaime starts up a new-old line of conversation: fucking. He tells her how much he wants to find the nearest warm body and fuck them into the new year and how he doesn’t even care if that body is Brienne – that he’d like to see what her cunt’s like, if she’d get wet for him and let him lick her till she screamed.

It’s the only conversation that actually gets a reaction out of her. She gets angry, annoyed and extremely embarrassed – her face flushes and it stays that way for ages, all blotchy and pink. Jaime gets terribly amused by it, though he does notice that she is quiet or at least only stuttering, rather than shouting at him to shut up if he mentions some form of sex act she’s obviously never heard of.

“Come on,” he walks by her side, nudging her arm as he smirk at her, “you can’t say you haven’t been tempted. It’d be a good plot, too, excellent blackmail. My father would give you anything you asked for, gold, a castle and yes, the two Stark girls. Probably an army to take North permanently, too.”

Brienne glances at him, seemingly confused. “What? Blackmail? What does- what does using you for sex have anything to do with Lady Catelyn’s daughters?”

“Are you that dumb, wench? A child,” Jaime says. “You could keep me here in this damn forest until you were fat with child and Tywin Lannister would give you anything, if you gave him an heir to the Westerlands.” Her face twists and to his interest, it’s not all horror. “You’re thinking about it,” he goads, sidling up to her, bound hands pressing against her shoddy, mismatched armour. “We’re soulmates. You wouldn’t even have the threat of a five thousand dragon bounty on your head – Father wouldn’t dare kill my bonded.”

Her bright blue eyes – truly, the only pretty things she can claim – are wide and she steps back a little, obviously intimidated. Jaime smirks, knowing he’s got to her. Oh and it just so happens that he’s hard.

“Let me fuck you,” he demands, the rising sense of victory in his chest becoming instantly crushed as Brienne, panicked, pushes him away from her.

“No!” she shouts, dropping the rope she’d been using to tug him along and rushing backwards through the forest. Jaime, flying back onto the ground, lays there stunned for a moment before sitting up, realising she’d actually let him go.

“…right,” he says, surprised at himself. His cock still aches between his legs, except somehow, Jaime feels guilty. I actually scared her off with my advances. A frown forms on his face and absentmindedly, he rubs at his soulmark because in no way had he meant to actually scare her. Though I suppose she might get threatened a lot by men who feel emasculated by her, Jaime thinks, getting up onto his feet.

Brienne has all the supplies and all their weapons. Jaime won’t last a week without her – especially in manacles. He might as well be asking to be taken prisoner again. They aren’t even out of the Riverlands yet.

Looking in the direction she went, Jaime slowly picks up the rope, trudging in the direction she fled. He’s gone about twenty yards when his marks start to pulse, burning. Brienne, he thinks, picking up speed. He runs, hearing the clang of swords in the distance, smelling smoke from a fire as he bursts into a small clearing in the ruins of some old watch-tower.

Brienne stands over four bodies, breathing heavily. There’s a large gash on her forehead, but her attackers are down, one slowly catching alight from where they lay, arm in the firepit.

“Wench, what happened?” Jaime questions, demanding an answer. “I’m sorry if I got on your nerves – but you can’t just run off whenever you get embarrassed.”

Brienne looks at him incredulously. “Embarrassed? You- you asked to- to fuck me!” She says it like it’s unbelievable, like he hasn’t been imagining out loud what her cunt looks like for the past fortnight. “Why would you do that?”

Jaime presses his lips together, moving forwards to kick the dead man’s arm out of the fireplace, stamping on the alight cloth of his shirt. It would do neither of them any good if that smoke trail in the sky got any bigger or darker.

“If I hadn’t made it clear, wench,” he starts, “I know you’re ugly as sin. That doesn’t mean you’re unfuckable. I’ve seen you swing a sword and to be honest, it’s one of the most marvellous things I’ve ever seen. Women in armour. Who’d have thought you’d be my type? Or maybe I’m just that desperate for a fuck, it’s been a year after all.” He jests at the end, but what he says is the truth – seeing her completely pulverise her attackers gets his blood up, despite the macabre nature of such an action.

Brienne turns away from him, moving the bodies. “We’ll camp here tonight. There’s a storm coming.”

Jaime glances up at the grey sky. He sniffs, but it isn’t the same as in Casterly Rock – the air doesn’t smell like brine and the clouds aren’t the same. He wouldn’t know the signs for a storm in the Riverlands if it were an hour in front of him.

“I’ll trust you,” he says, before doing something useful and helping Brienne haul the bodies off, away from their stolen camp. The dead men don’t look like soldiers or even bandits – probably just travellers that got very unlucky, trying on Brienne when she was in the process of fight or flight. Once the dead men are away, they check out the camp, adding some provisions to their own and resetting the two tents they’d set up, making one large one.

When they’re getting their sleep-rolls set up, however, Jaime can’t help but make a crack, “So, that’s a no, then? No pity-fuck for the prisoner?”

“…no,” Brienne mutters.

“How about bonding? You’d be able to keep a better eye on me,” he tries to persuade, not even knowing why he’s asking. Jaime supposes it’s natural – everyone wants to bond with their soulmate. The face Brienne makes is uncomfortable, though and Jaime shrugs. “Fine. No pity-fuck and no bonding. Life’s so fun with you, isn’t it, wench?”

“Don’t call me that.”

“It’s either that or milady, you take a pick, milady.

“Neither,” she proclaims, before going to warm up some fresh pies the dead men had in their bags on the dying fire.

“Neither,” Jaime mutters, becoming determined to fuck or bond with the wench, if not both. The journey to Kings Landing will take another two months if we pick up speed, longer if we don’t. I have time. I can convince her.

Jaime will have Brienne, one way or the other.

Chapter Text

The Tyrell party is quick to swarm the Red Keep. Sansa watches from a balcony one evening as a group of ladies flutter about a fountain, laughing at a lewd joke on of the handmaidens makes. Sansa recognises one of them, to her own surprise. Mira Forrester, a dark-haired maiden only a few years older than Sansa herself, is tucked into the side of a fair lady with rose lips and flowers embroidered beautifully onto her Reach-style gown.

From afar, Sansa can see shapes spiralling up across her skin, barely hidden by said gown that dips down in a sharp V to her waist. She’s already sixteen, Sansa thinks, or at least, her soulmate is. The soulmark is new, Sansa guesses, for the lady has a sheer shawl draped around her neck to distract from it. There are many strange fashions of the South that the Stark girl now knows of – ones meant to put soulmarks in places of pride or even to hide them. The North has no such compulsions. Soulmarks are matters of the heart and rarely is anyone ever forcibly bound to those that don’t match, unlike here.

Before, Sansa had wished her soulmate could be some gallant, Southern knight or gods willing, a prince. I was so childish, Sansa thinks now, morbidly happy that her soulmark has come in and that no, Joffrey does not match her. Surely everyone in the kingdom would have heard, if King Joffrey’s soulmark came in early.

Unwillingly, she reaches upwards, caressing the mark hidden beneath her high neckline. Sansa had awoken with it burning into her skin a moon before and she knows she’s not been successful in hiding it from the servants – Queen Cersei summoned her that very day, spending the evening meal with her in silence before banishing everyone.

Oh, little dove, the Queen had sighed quietly upon seeing it, having Sansa show her. For once, Sansa hadn’t been scared of her – she’d cried in relief, even, the Queen bundling her into her lap. Cersei’s hand had brushed through her loose hair like her mother’s used to and Sansa had felt safe, at peace. Joffrey has no mark, yet, the Queen informed her. Hide it from him, dove.

Sansa had hidden it. Her servants had bustled in with new gowns in the following days, ones that reached up past her collar, wrapping around her neck. Cersei wore similar dresses and Sansa tries not to think about why – though, Cersei’s arms are marked with hundreds of green circles, like the suckers of an octopus. Sansa hasn’t seen her soulmarks before and like many in court, finds herself staring at them whenever the Queen is in sight.

It’s a good distraction. People copy the Queen’s new styling, discarding their sleeves and adopting high collars. No-one notices how Sansa is barely a day behind her, that the Queen has sacrificed that secret she’s held for decades, just for a little girl.

In the privacy of her own mind, Sansa thinks of Theon and his golden krakens – of his brothers and uncles who still live, one whom must be the other half of Cersei’s soul.

The Tyrell’s below shift, bodies pushing and shoving lightly with shared laughter before someone slips – that lady in the middle, the centre of attention, falling back into the fountain with Mira Forrester on her arm. They’re drenched in an instant and the laughter barely pauses as the lady cackles childishly, reaching to pull others into the low, wide basin with her.

Sansa’s heart leaps when the lady looks up, seeing her on the balcony watching them. She wants to join them all of a sudden, to be a child again and her feet even move to go down the nearby steps – but then her guard grunts in warning and Sansa wilts like a winter rose in the South.

The next day at court when Joffrey sees to the heroes of the Battle of Blackwater, Sansa sees the lady again – standing behind Loras Tyrell as he asks for a place in Joffrey’s Kingsguard and his brother Garlan who claims his sister, Margaery, is still innocent despite her marriage to the false king Renly. He reaches out for her, Margaery taking his hand as she professes her love for Joffrey, even with her soulmark hidden by the pale green-brown of her shawl, glittering pearls outlining her radiant, womanly figure.

This is not a fairytale or story from my childhood books, Sansa thinks. Set me aside, Joff, oh please do so. Let this Lady Margaery have your so-called affections and love.

“The gods are good – I am free to heed my heart,” Joffrey proclaims, except there’s a look in his eyes, one that Sansa does not like nor trust. “However, there is one thing which may yet prove our match unseemly. The Lady Sansa is thirteen namedays, like I. Time will tell if our love is true, even if her brother’s actions have proven her unworthy of my heart. Lady Margaery, how old are you?”

oh no.

Margaery instantly drops to her knees. “Your Grace, I am sixteen.”

“Your soulmark. Do you know who shares it?”

“I could only guess, Your Grace,” Margaery presses her hand to her collar, shaking her head.

“Show us,” Joffrey orders, to the hushed whispers of the court.

“Joffrey,” Cersei starts, voice loving and gentle, “It would be cruel. Such a girl who loves you should not be forced to leave you for some…other, who she does not want.”

“She’s never met them and you still married Father, despite your own kraken,” Joffrey argues, pointing at his mother’s green circles. Cersei leans back abruptly, quiet as Joffrey turns to Margaery once again. “Show us.”

Sansa and the rest of the court watch as Margaery carefully peels back her shawl, letting go of Garlan’s hand to delicately push the side of her dress away, preserving her own modesty and some of the tattoo, as well.

“All of it,” Joffrey orders, smirking slightly.

“I must protest, Your Grace – my sister shall not show off her assets to the court,” Garlan says shortly.

“I agree,” Lord Tywin adds, voice gravelly as he stares balefully at his grandson from where he stands by Cersei’s shoulder.

“…fine,” Joffrey says petulantly, waving Margaery closer. She steps forwards once, then twice, standing close to the steps leading up to the Iron Throne. Joffrey, standing, moves closer as well, head tilted as he peers at her soulmark.

It’s in the same place as mine, Sansa realises belatedly, heart racing, and the same colours.

“Roses and wolves,” Joffrey says loudly, giving a bark of laughter as he sneers. “Your wish is denied, dear Lady Margaery. Your love shall not be returned.”

Roses and wolves.

Roses and wolves.

“Are the Tyrell’s trying to deceive me?” Joffrey questions Garlan as Margaery backs away. “Your sister has a direwolf upon her breast. The Stark’s are enemies of the crown.”

“Your Grace-” the heir to Highgarden begins, but Joffrey shakes his head, turning on Sansa all of a sudden.

“What would your brother do if I were to capture his soulmate? Would he give me the North?”

Sansa is too lost in her own head to answer. Somehow, Cersei’s gaze meets hers and the Queen, oh Sansa can tell she knows – other than servants, Cersei is the only one to have seen Sansa’s mark.

“Answer me!” Joffrey barks. “What would Robb Stark do?”

She’s not Robb’s soulmate, she’s mine. Sansa shakes her head at his question. “You can’t be sure,” she says, voice barely more than a whisper. “His nameday passed months ago, Your Grace. Not to be- to be clever, Your Grace, but surely if Robb’s soulmate were Lady Margaery, the Tyrell’s would not have come to your aid.”

Silence.

“You speak the truth,” Joffrey purses his lips. “But your other brothers are dead by the hand of the Greyjoy’s. What other wolf lives?”

“There’s one right in front of you,” Petyr Baelish jests, but his joke cuts too close to the truth and Sansa flinches.

Joffrey’s expression is one of revulsion. “Two women? Your whores make you strange, Lord Baelish.”

“It is not an uncommon occurrence, in actuality, Your Grace,” Lord Baelish says, making things worse. Sansa is appalled and doesn’t know what to do – can she stop this conversation? Can she, can anyone distract Joffrey before he does something? Just marry her instead! She wants to scream and Lord Baelish glances at her. He sees her panic.

“Huh,” Joffrey then says and no, no, no, that cannot be good. Sansa braces herself for whatever deed he will commit, despite the dozens of knights, lords and squires waiting for their rewards all waiting and watching.

“Your Grace, the Tyrell’s request can be tabled, for a time,” Lord Tywin says. “The Lady Sansa can remain your bride for the time being. There is no need to make a decision in this moment, here and now.”

“But Grandfather, I must,” Joffrey replies.

“No, you must not.”

“Yes, I must!” Joffrey snarls, glaring at his grandfather. “I am the King and you are the Hand. You offer council – you do not order me to do anything. I will not marry Margaery Tyrell, but neither will she leave Kings Landing – not until it is proven that Robb Stark is not her soulmate.”

Sansa’s heart drops.

I am still the future Queen.

Joffrey stalks back to the Iron Throne, seating himself on his velvet cushion. He glares at Loras, his new Kingsguard, sending Garlan away with a bark. He and Margaery swiftly disappear into the crowds as Joffrey calls forth the other Heroes of Blackwater.

Later in the day, Sansa is sitting in the Godswood. She curls up away from her usual spot, resting in the roots of the great oak that replaces what should be a weirwood. People think her devout, when they see her kneeling or seated on the nearby bench with her hands clasped and her head bowed. Red dragon’s breath grows all around the base of the tree and sometimes, in her happier days, Sansa imagines that she might braid her hair in the Northern style and tuck those scarlet flowers into it.

Hearing people approaching – an odd occurrence in the Red Keep’s Godswood – Sansa turns her head, but the thick roots of the great oak and all the smokeberry vines make it hard for her to see much.

“-supposed to be here, they say she prays.”

“I don’t like it, this place is strange – can’t we go? She’s not here, Lady Margaery.”

“It’s not strange at all.”

“Enough,” says who Sansa recognises as Lady Margaery. The other two ladies quiet themselves and Sansa wonders why they’re looking for her. She also wonders if she should get up and get it over with – to greet them with poise and grace rather than let them find her sitting down in the dirt.

The gods aren’t kind to her, however, as she takes too long to decide. Margaery skirts around one particularly large root, one nearly as tall as a horse, only to stop at the sight of her. The sheer brown scarf is gone, discarded and Sansa gets a better view of the edges of her soulmark.

Like mine, she thinks, before Margaery’s companions follow her around the corner. Mira Forrester is one of them – probably the one who said the Godswood wasn’t strange.

“Lady Sansa,” Margaery greets, curtseying. “Our apologies for interrupting you.” Sansa, frozen, doesn’t say anything, lips sealed shut in fright. Margaery’s brow furrows, her hand rising as she looks to her ladies. “Please excuse us. I’ll join you again at the edge of the wood.”

“Milady-” the unnamed lady starts, before Margaery gives her a sharp glare. It’s starkly different from the kind, demure face radiating devotion that Sansa saw in the throne room.

Her ladies disappear.

Sansa thinks it above a lady of Margaery’s standing to sit in the dirt, but it’s what she does. She sits near Sansa, splaying her skirts around her practically, not sitting on them like Sansa. There’s a quiet for some few minutes, before Margaery holds out her hand. Sansa immediately takes it.

“You know, don’t you?” Sansa asks. The Rose of Highgarden nods.

“It wasn’t hard to find out, sweetling,” Margaery says, “Servants talk and my grandmother has spies in Kings Landing. I knew before Blackwater.”

A horrid feeling tears through Sansa and she takes her hand back, elbow smashing against the tree as her eyes fill with water.

“You knew? And you still wanted to marry Joff?

Margaery looks at her critically. “You’re young. Probably too young to understand properly, yet. As Queen, you can do many things and I had planned many. That won’t be happening anymore.”

“Clearly,” Sansa glares.

A small laugh bubbles out of the other girl, a smile tugging at her lips. “You think I didn’t wonder about you? That I didn’t care? Whispers escape the capital every day – they say the King is cruel.”

“Joffrey’s a monster,” Sansa says with no remorse. Her soulmate smiles at her forthrightness.

Margaery comes closer, bunching her skirts in one hand as she settles beside Sansa, draping her legs across the younger girls lap. It startles her, but not so much as Margaery pressing her hand to her collar does. Heat runs through her mark, awe manifesting mere moments afterwards.

The first touch of soulmates! It’s everything she dreamed of and yet not, for she expected a knight and Margaery is no knight – but it is warm and feels like home, just like her father described.

“Hello, Sansa Stark,” Margaery murmurs, before she tucks a strand of hair behind Sansa’s ear. “You’re a wolf pup, I know, but if you’d allow it, the Tyrell’s can protect you. I promise, they would. My family loves each other dearly and you’re one of us, now, whether you like it or not.”

“Family,” Sansa whispers, imagining how her own family might react. Her father would have surely treated Margaery like his own daughter – if he had lived, he would not have cared for the sin of it. How could he, when his soulmate was Robert Baratheon himself? He loved Sansa’s mother, but that came with time, as every arranged marriage did. They were lucky.

Sansa fears her mother’s reaction, however. She never approved fully of Father and King Robert’s shared marks, but then again, she didn’t have a mark herself – not one that was full of colours, at least. Mother’s mark was grey and dead, just like their Uncle Brandon.

Robb would be jealous, Sansa thinks, peering under her lashes at Margaery. My soulmate is more beautiful than the snows of Winterfell.

“You promise me?” she asks.

Margaery nods.

“How?”

“First, we must devise a way to get us both out of Kings Landing,” Margaery murmurs, barely able to be heard. The Godswood is quiet around them, the crows above in the boughs of the great oak strangely silent. “Sansa, who has seen your mark in detail, outside of your servants.”

Ice pours down the back of her spine. “The Queen,” Sansa says, numbly. Cersei saw it. Cersei saw Margaery’s too, today.

“Oh,” Margaery says, hand coming to rest on Sansa’s collarbone again. Her face is blank, but Sansa can see the conflict in her eyes. “I- I see. That is a complication. We cannot steal you away in the night, then.”

The last part of her sentence is clearly a joke, but Sansa seizes on it. “Why not? Why can’t you steal me? Can’t the might of Highgarden protect both of us? Please, take me from this place. I hate it, please, take me away-”

“Sansa, no, sweetling,” Margaery leans forwards, kissing Sansa’s forehead before she bundles the Stark up in her arms as she starts to cry. “I can’t do that. The kingdom is in turmoil and Joffrey obviously keeps you to himself like a selfish child with his favourite toy. You’re a hostage as much as you’re his bride.”

Sansa reaches between them, for that space on Margaery’s collar they both had decided on, reaching down as far as she dares for more – she knows as well as Margaery how far down her chest the tattoo goes, all the way to each of their hips. Margaery holds her tighter, whispering platitudes as Sansa shakes and cries into her lap.

“I’m sorry, I can’t do anything yet. I’m sorry, Sansa.”