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In The Wolf's Den

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The sun almost completely sank when she slipped down from her mare; the red, orange and purple tinge in the sky hurt her eyes. She didn’t know how long she hasn’t slept. Even if she could close her eyes, the slightest sound would make her jerk in surprise and choose to climb the mare and spurred away. Now the mare is angry and refuses to move.

“If I were you, I’d be angry at me too,” she sighed, trying to caress its mane but the mare trotted away to graze.

Her gown grew dirtier each passing day and she never felt so filthy in her whole life. She never passed a day without a bath and look at her now; her golden hair is tangled and sticks to her sweaty scalp, adorned with leaves and twigs. The stockings under her gown were torn few days ago but she still uses it for keeping her legs warm at night. Her skin started to feel hot and flaking.

Five days had passed until the mare refused to go further and stopped abruptly by the bank of the river filled with brown reddish mud. She dragged her sore feet to the river, pulled off the stockings and dipped her legs into the cold water that instantly feels like balm on her dry broken skin. She washed her face, her neck and even dipped her hair to at least shed some dirt away. She was tempted to strip out of her dirty gown and cloak but being alone in the woods at dusk worried her, so she contented herself at least her face and half of her hair were out of dust. She could ease her thirst, too, if she could make a fire and boil the water.

The provisions she stole from Ser Arys had ran dry two days ago, and she had not eaten anything save for berries and other fruits she found on the forest floor. Her stomach rumbled now, and for the third time in that afternoon she questioned herself of her reckless, impulsive plan to go to Casterly Rock.

They were shipping her off to faraway land, Dorne, they say, to marry a man she never got to meet. Her mother had fiercely fought for her to stay in King’s Landing, even going so far to threatening Tyrion Lannister, her uncle, whom she truthfully fond of.

“I am the Queen, my only daughter stays with me, or I’ll have your head!” her mother had said.

“And when Stannis and his armies landed on our shore, what will you do then? Let them take your children?” Tyrion replied, “They’d kill Joffrey and Tommen, a quick death for sure, but Myrcella? They’d rape her first before they cut her throat.” She had shuddered with dread by her uncle’s honest reply.

“So you seal my daughter— my only daughter —in a crate and ship her away?” Cersei breathed venom.

“We need Dorne to supply soldiers, provisions, or at least to make sure them not declaring to our enemies. Myrcella will be safer in Dorne, away from the war your kingly son started.” Tyrion’s voice soften at her sobs and turned to her, taking her hand in his. “Believe me, Myrcella, I myself hate doing this.” he looked pained as she stared into his mismatched eyes.

She could only nod back then.

She might be young, just passed her fourteenth name day and not yet flowered to her mother’s delight, but she understands war enough to realize the reasoning in Tyrion’s plan. As a Lady—a Princess , nonetheless—she was also expected to marry and winning alliances for her brother to win the War of The Five Kings.

She is not closed to Joffrey ever since she could remember. Joffrey is cruel, deep down she knew it. The War of the Five Kings started not long after her father’s death and the beheading of his Hand, Lord Eddard Stark, by her brother for treason. A foolish decision whispered by resentful peasants and highborns alike since thousands of people died, and thousands more starve because the war it kickstarted.

The war is a three-way battle for the Iron Throne; fought between Joffrey who now King of the Seven Kingdoms and their father’s younger brothers Stannis and Renly Baratheon. Alongside there are also two independence movements; the North and the Iron Islands, each naming their own Lords as Kings.

“What if that Dorne prince turns out like Robert?” Cersei demanded. “What then?”

“We will send a Kingsguard with her.” the imp walked on his stunted legs towards the door. “If the city falls when the enemies come, at least she’d be safe there.”

And so they sent her away, choosing ser Arys Oakheart as her escort. Her imp uncle had devised a clever plan; sailed her to Dorne and made a sent-away ceremony for the whole King’s Landing to see her off abroad the royal vessel. Only when she settled in her cabin, ser Arys informed her than she’d be snucked ashore again at midnight to Duskendale, circling the capital through the Kingsroad and passed the Roseroad before finally reach Dorne by horse.

Ser Arys had her dressed plainly, stripped from all her highborn attributes and advised her to conceal her face and hair in the hood of her cloak.

“Is my brother going to win the war?” she asked the kingsguard then, as they trotted down the road.

“He might be, Princess.” Ser Arys answered. “For the good of the realm, he must.”

“If war comes, won’t I and Tommen be safe in Casterly Rock?” she was tempted at the idea; Casterly Rock is way much better than being in Dorne. Last time she heard, uncle Jaime was sent there to gather supporters for Joffrey to defend his throne. Uncle Jaime is always kind to her, he would not turn her away if she show up.

“Dorne is the safest place right now, Princess. This war is already knocking on our door.”

A war started by my cruel brother, she choke back her anger. And I was among those who paid the price.

“Are you not happy with the imp’s plan, Princess?” Ser Arys had asked her.

Am I not? she asked herself then, and now. For years she heard her mother’s fury for being a broodmare, even her cries at night if her mother thought no one heard. Despite what people whispered about Cersei Lannister, she knew how fiercely her mother loved her children. Even though she appreciated uncle Tyrion’s goodwill and understand the need to secure alliances for his brother’s war, she couldn’t help but reminded on how bitter her mother grew in the arranged marriage. Septa Eglantine had taught her to be dutiful, as women of noble birth are expected to marry for alliances, but…

I will never marry for love.

The sole reason she hadn’t betrothed to anyone before this Dorne Prince was because Cersei had wrestled and fiercely fought every marriage proposals from other Houses. Her not being flowered become the main excuse her mother used. Now, even her mother had to yield to the idea of marrying her off to this foreign man.

And here I am, she thought sadly as she walked to collect leaves and bark, anything dry enough to start fire. Only once did she successfully make a fire but the process made her palms bleed. Now they are still sore but she is too weak and unable to pass the night without any warmth.

Yesterday night she thought she saw yellow eyes peering at her through the trees. It might just her imagination, starving and sleepless, that her mind gave in to imagination. But she is terrified nonetheless.

As soon as the sun sets the forest became filled with sound; owls hooted and crickets creaked with the sound of river. She shivered and knelt in front of a tinder nest she made, praying the Gods are good to grant her fire again tonight. She just rolled the spindle between her hands when it tore her blistered skin, making it bleed again and she screamed in pain. The thought of giving up scares her; remembering a set of yellow eyes watching her last night it best if she has fire nearby.

“Please, please, I need to make fire…” she started to cry, biting her lips to resist the pain when she maintaining pressure as the spindle rolled between her hands.

After several minutes of trying she accepted her defeat; no fire tonight, no food and no clean water to drink. Either she died of starvation or killed by wild animals. Myrcella sobbed silently, soaking her torn hands in the cold river water.

How foolish I was to run from ser Arys. Maybe if I accept my fate and go to Dorne, I would not ended up like this, she thought. It is too late now.

She had ridden for days but she couldn’t find the right direction to Casterly Rock. She realized she had been circling the same area and now she was too weak to continue her journey. Along the way there were no other travelers, and all the inns were either burned to the ground or abandoned. It was her hunger that drove her into the forest, seeking fruits to eat, and now she was lost in it.

The mare shifted anxiously.

Myrcella lay on the ground by the river, her muscles ache and she closed her eyes.

She thought of her mother, pretty and grand and how people used to compliment her like the younger version of her mother—she thought of her sweet younger brother Tommen, barely ten but quirky and sweet… the bush rustled from the wind. She could hear the mare whined nearby but she doesn’t care anymore.

“You can go,” she said softly, her eyes too heavy to open. “I am sorry I dragged you this way…”

The mare whined louder.

She opened her eyes to see the bushes front of her whistled by the chilly wind. A pair of yellow eyes stared back at her from behind the shadows of the trees, illuminated by the moonlight. She was too weak to move, laying motionless by the river. The mare let out a shriek and trotted away, leaving her, as the eyes coming out slowly from the shadows of the trees.

A wolf, she realized.

The beast sniffed the air and looked back at her, and her last thought was how unusually big the wolf was, not that she saw wolves everyday.

She closed her eyes again giving in to the inevitable.

Chapter Text

Her body feels light.

Somehow she no longer feel the cold of the night or how hard the ground was beneath her.

Maybe I was dead, she thought.

Something soft poked her cheek and neck—she remembered the yellow eyed beast coming from the trees. Its gray fur bristled with the wind, the extraordinary sharp teeth bare at her, ready to attack.

The wolves came to feast on me… but why I didn’t feel pain at all?

Instead she recalled it was no longer cold, like she was enveloped in a pile of feathers.

The nudging continued as in purpose. She groaned, trying to move her legs.

“She is alive, my lord.”

I am alive?

“Can you hear me? Can you stand up, girl?”

“Wolf…” she managed to say, her voice was hoarse and sounded like someone else’s. The sun hurt her eyes and she groaned, shutting her eyes again. Several men stood before her, the one who spoke to her was on his knees and held out a bag of water.

“Yes, yes, wolves roamed this area, girl. You are lucky not to be eaten alive last night, sleeping under the sky with no fire.”

“You are only frightening the girl, Locke,” a man behind him sneered.

She blinked few times to adjust her eyes to the sunlight. Each of the men surrounding her wearing thick armor and coats made of furs. Their faces pious and stern, some looked at her suspiciously. She took the waterbag from the man and gulped the water down greedily, thankful for the cool liquid on her sore throat.

“Are you hurt, girl? Why are you alone in the woods in this dire time?” the man on a horse asked, not unkindly.

“No, my lord. I—I am lost, my lord.”

“Where are you heading?”

She couldn’t say Casterly Rock, so she instead uttered, “King’s Landing, my lord.”

The men looked at each other unseasily but the man on the horse not even looked surprised.

“You are highborn, dressed like a wench,” he said softly as if to himself. “What is your name, girl?”

“J—Jayne Stone, if it pleases my lord.”

The man’s strange eyes pierced into hers, strangely paler than stone but darker than milk. She has never saw any eyes like those. She shuddered beneath his cold stare.

“Jayne,” the weird-eyed man spoke softly but she could hear every words easily. “A bastard from the Vale, so far away from home, lost in the cold Red Fork. Are you alone, Jayne?”

“No, my lord, I was with my father…” she swallowed hard, worried that the men would catch her lie. They do look at her warily. “Thank you, my lord, for… for the water. I should continue my journey…”

He looked thoughtful. He wears rich fur and on his cloak there was a sigil; a red man hanging upside-down on a white X-shaped cross on black background. I knew that sigil, she thought, wrecking her already exhausted mind to recalled Grand-Maester Pycelle’s lessons.  Before the men could utter a word she bowed and trying to walked away. Locke snatched her arm, jerking her to stop on her track. She whimpered at the strength of the older man’s hand.

“My lord is not done with you, girl.” Locke smirked.

“What is your father’s name?” the weird-eyed man asked.

When she cannot answered fast enough, Locke’s arms grew tighter on hers.

“Is this your father, Jayne?” the weird-eyed man on the horse threw a ball at her and she blinked in confusion as the ball rolled on the muddy river banks, missing her feet by the inch. The ball had light brown fur—she thought for a moment before realizations dawns on her.

It is not a ball.

His comely face now a ruin, missing most of his skin. She saw the red flesh and muscles and even in such grotesque ruin she knew who it was. She didn’t remember if she scream, of just black out where she stood, she only remembered how unforgiving Locke’s arms seized her and the cold chuckle from the weird-eyed man.

“Take her.” he ordered.

The next thing she remembered was chains on her hands, on her feet, and they even gagged her. She was put on a brown horse with Locke.

“In my family we say: a naked man has few secrets, a flayed man, none. ” she heard the weird-eyed man spoke to her. “Your father, if he really was your father, was a strong man. We flayed most of his face to his shoulder but he didn’t break. We have to chop his head instead. But it was fun while it lasted. Now,” he gazed at her for a moment, judging silently. “I’ll take you and let’s see if you really are what you told. Though I highly doubt so.”

They rode hard without stopping; Locke gripped her waist so hard he might have bruised her. Sometimes his hairy hands sneaked up to her breasts and kneading softly before roughly pulling his hands again. She wanted to vomit every time she felt Locke’s hands on her breasts, but there was nothing she could heaved because her stomach was empty. The chains they put on her rattled noisily, drowning out every sobs she couldn’t muffled.

On the evening they finally came into a castle and rode through its sluice gate. The castle stood proudly like an island surrounded by rivers, its wall rise so high from the waters and its towers command opposites shores. She recognized the castle right away: Riverrun.

Once inside they unhorsed and Locke pulled her arm and half dragged her into the great hall where more men-at-arms gathered. The castle’s great hall was decorated and furnished richly with red and blue. Tapestries and shields and banners decorated the walls; she saw Tully’s silver trout and Stark’s grey wolf hanging majestically behind high chairs placed in the center of the dais. A man with fiery red beard was sitting on one of the chairs, listening to a Maester.

“Lord Bolton.” The red bearded-man looked up and acknowledges the weird-eyed man as they rolling into the hall.

“Lord Tully.” the weird-eyed man nodded.

“It is past time to have you back, my lord. My nephew the King is expecting you.”

“Ah, yes. I will meet him in his solar, then.”

“No need, my lord.” another voice came from behind the dais. “I saw you riding into the castle.”

All the men in the great hall bowed deep as a young man appeared from the upper end of the hall located beyond the dais.

The King in The North’s appearance favors his Tully side with stocky build, bright blue eyes and thick red-brown hair. His eyebrows furrowed as in deep thought, making his young handsome face looked troubled. A gray-haired wolf with golden yellow eyes followed him and settled near his feet as the young King took his seat next to Edmure Tully. His blue eyes wandered to the weird-eyed man.

“Did you find the girl, Lord Bolton?” he asked the weird-eyed man.

“Girl? What girl?” Edmure Tully couldn’t conceal his confusion.

The King ignored him.

“We did find a girl, Your Grace.” the weird-eyed man regarded as Lord Bolton nodded and signaled Locke to bring her upfront. The gag was removed from her mouth, but not the chains on her feet and her hands. She was shoved in front of Lord Edmure Tully, who glared at her, and the young king.

“Is this the right girl?”

Both the King in the North and his giant wolf looked at her and she recognized his wolf as the beast that came to her last night. Are they expecting her? Are they going to kill her like they killed ser Arys? she thought wildly, confusion and fear clasped her heart.

The King nodded, “Thank you, I can always rely on you, Lord Bolton. Is there any entourage?”

“It was, Your Grace. But they didn’t travel with the girl. It seemed that… they were looking for the girl, too.”

“Any prisoners?”

Lord Bolton shifted on his feet. “No, Your Grace. We… took care of them.”

They chopped ser Arys’s head, murderer! she wanted to scream.

“My father outlawed flaying in the North.” the King in the North said, staring coldly to his bannermen.

“We are not in the North, Your Grace. And we did pull some informations.”

“Such as?”

The weird-eyed man gazed at her before looking back to his King.

“Did you know who is this girl when you sent us to find her?” Lord Bolton asked.

“It is none of your concern, my lord.”

Lord Bolton bowed.

“And the informations?” the King asked impatiently.

“Well…” Lord Bolton chose his words carefully, “Though the leader died not disclosing anything important, but one of the guards travelling with him did say some things. Princess Myrcella Baratheon was travelling to Dorne for a betrothal. On their second night on the road, the Princess managed to escaped her entourage. The guard and his leader thought she might try to go to Casterly Rock.”

The King’s eyes met hers and she looked away.

“You are saying that this wench is Princess Myrcella Baratheon?” Edmure Tully raised his eyebrow. “How can we sure this is Myrcella Baratheon?”

“She is, I assure you, Uncle.” the King said, never waived his eyesight off her. “We’ve met in Winterfell, when King Robert came to ask my father to become his Hand.”

All eyes in the great hall now fell on her; anger, distrust, disgusted… but mostly anger. She is half Lannister anyway, the House that is said to have beheaded the Stark patriarch, took his daughters hostage and might try to kill their crippled sibling.

There is no love for Lannisters here, she might ended up like ser Arys; flayed and beheaded and given to wolves.

“Good plan I’d say,” Lord Bolton continued, “to dressed her like a wench and travel without any banners, like common folks. Not sailing to Dorne because Stannis’s fleet might intercept the royal vessel… The flaw was the girl has her own will, and mid-journey ran to Casterly Rock.”

“Then no need to chained her, she’s just a girl and a Princess, my lord.” the King stared coldly at Lord Bolton.

She thought she saw anger too on his eyes but she does not dare to interpret further. Her legs felt weak standing under the gaze of the men in the room. Her hands ached under the iron chains, and the wound in her palms throbbed painfully. If they keep talking like that she’d succumbed to darkness once again. A man (she gave silent thankful prayer it was not Locke) came forward to remove the chains and shackle from her wrists and ankles.

“Just precautions, Your Grace.”

“Thank you, Lord Bolton. That’d be all.” The King dismissed the court.

She was left in the great hall, now under the staring eyes of Edmure Tully, the maester, and the King in the North himself.

“I knew you are Princess Myrcella Baratheon.” Robb Stark said to her, softly.

She didn’t know what to reply, so for politeness she curtsied.

“You will be safe under my roof, I guarantee that. Unfortunately in this dire time you will stay with me here in Riverrun, as my sisters are in your brother’s court. Do you understand?”

“Thank you, Your Grace.” she murmured.

“I am sorry for your… guards and sworn shield.”

Tears rolled down her cheek again at the mention of ser Arys and her household guards.

“You will be treated with respect and given appropriate accommodations suitable for people on your station. Maester Vyman, please make sure the cuts and bruises are tended to. She’d need bath and food, too, I’d wager. See to it.”

The old maester nodded and bowed, summoning two handmaids to take her away from the great hall. As per the King’s order, the maester cared for her wounds; applying ointment on her cuts and making sure she is not in any mortal danger before sending her off to her solar.

It was a guest room in Riverrun; spacious with large bed and private bathroom which she sighed in longing as the maids poured pails of hot water into a large wooden tub. She was stripped from her dirty dress and soaked herself in the tub. A maid has dropped perfume oil so that the water smells of fresh citrus and mint.

Leaning against the tub, she closed her eyes and remembered that she had to stay in Riverrun during the war, as his two sisters were in King’s Landing as Joffrey’s prisoners.

“My lady?” a maid’s soft voice was heard behind her and she turned. “Uh, Princess? I was told to bring you to dine with the King if you are done bathing.”

She nodded. “Of course. Thank you.”

The late Lord of Riverrun, Hoster Tully, had two daughters who later became Lady Stark and Lady Arryn. She was given one of their old gowns, ones that look decent and fit to her. It came in dark green even though she suspected the real color was more bright green. It doesn’t feel dirty or musty, and she wears it gratefully.

The King was waiting in his solar guarded only with the gray beast that sniffed at her before took its place on his master’s heel.

“I hope my direwolf didn’t scare you, Princess.”

“He did, but now I understand he didn’t mean harm.” Myrcella replied, curtsied.

Robb Stark smiled and for a moment she was confused of why would a King smiles at his hostage. Joffrey surely never smiles unless the event was to humiliate or to torture someone, which he indulged.

“Please take a seat. You must be hungry.”

“I am. Thank you… Your Grace.”

Warm corn soup, piles of soft buttered bread, mutton and beef, trouts baked with herbs and lemon juice made her mouth water. She tried to eat politely even though her stomach rumbled loudly as the smells of the food in front of her reach her nostrils. Robb seemed as if he was suppressing a laugh.

“It might not as grand as what you have in King’s Landing,” he started, “but in war even nobles and mostly King have to look after his people. His men cannot go to bed hungry, or go to war knowing the families they left behind are starving.”

“You are very kind, Your Grace.” she took a spoonful of the corn soup and almost cried on how delicious it taste.

“My direwolf—Grey Wind—saw you circling in the forest. You almost freeze to death last night, if not for Grey Wind kept you warm with his body heat. I sent Lord Bolton and his best hunters to go find you. You are very valuable to keep my sisters safe.”

The buttered bread suddenly was hard to swallow.

“Tell me, about my sisters.” he demanded. “Are they treated well?”

Yes, she wanted to say, but something in his eyes stopped any words spilling out from her mouth. Was it sadness she saw? Longing? She had heard about how the young Robb Stark, eldest son and heir of Lord Eddard Stark, had called his bannermen and marched south to avenged her fallen father and rescued his sisters, while announces that the North will be free from tyranny of the iron throne.

“No,” she said, barely a whisper, and the young King tensed.

“No?”

Joffrey made his kingsguard beat Sansa bloody, and Arya… we cannot find Arya, who’s missing and presumed dead since the purging of your household in Kings’s Landing…

“Tell me.” he urged. “You’ve my word that you will be treated with respect, no matter what you will say, as long as you tell the truth.”

“T—They beat Sansa,” she finally speak, feeling ill and remorseful. She only saw the afterwards of course, how the purple welts peeked beneath the Stark girl dress. How wobbly she’d walk after the beatings she endured in the throne room. Once she thought she saw the oldest Stark girl’s broken lip, but when she asked her mother she was dismissed. She never asked Sansa directly of course, but more than twice she had heard how Joffrey brags about it. “Everytime you won a battle, my brother would ordered his Kingsguard to beat Sansa.”

“And Arya? What about my sister Arya?”

Was that pain that I saw in your eyes?

She shook her head. “I heard that she’s missing, the day… the day Lord Stark… challenged Joffrey’s reign.”

They sat in silence. A minute passed, then two.

“I am truly sorry… Your Grace…” she offered meekly. “I understand I did not deserve your kindness, not after...”

“Which I’d still offer, nonetheless,” he cut her off. “But when I marched to King’s Landing, I’d have my hands on your brother to make him answer for the crimes against my House.”

She shuddered. “My brother is not an honorable man, but he is my brother still.”

One of the tableware is a small knife used to grease butter. The pointy end is not too sharp, but maybe if you plug it in with the right strength and angle, it might be quite hurtful. She could defend herself with it, giving a little resistance if they mean to hurt her.

But what about the direwolf?

The direwolf’s golden yellow eyes kept lurking towards her, as if it could reading her mind.

Before she could react, Robb Stark swiftly pulled his dagger and stood up from the table to grab her hair, which hung loosely on her shoulder. She shrieked in surprise as he cuts a strand of her hair with his dagger.

Robb calmly took his seat again—securing the hair he cuts from her on the table. Without a word he produced a necklace from his cloak. She instantly recognized the necklace; made of pure gold mined from the depth of Casterly Rock and chiseled with a motif of roaring lion. Her mother gave her the necklace as a gift for her betrothal. To remind me that I am a lioness, she thought. Ser Arys had her strip from all her sigils and jewels but she had asked him to keep the necklace safe until they reach their destination.

“Are you going to have me beaten, too?” she had to ask, hating the fact that her voice trembled.

Robb looked disgusted and offended by her question.

“No. But I need to send raven to your mother and brother about you.”

“I am your prisoner, I am at your mercy.” she said, before added, “Your Grace.”

He looked at her sadly. “Yes, and we are at war. I will keep you safe and alive. But I cannot guarantee the same treatment for Joffrey, or the Queen, when I get to them.”

Suddenly she didn’t feel hungry anymore. She asked if the King still has any needs of her, besides a few strands of her hair, because if not she’d like to retreat to her bedchamber.

“My guards will escort you safely to your chamber, Princess.”

“Thank you, Your Grace.”

The three guards took her back to the front door of her solar, opened it before shoving her unceremoniously inside. She heard the sound of a key being turned and sat on her bed, alone in the dark but warm with roof above her head. She envied Sansa Stark for having a brother that raised an army to save her, to avenged their father. She saw it now, how the older girl always looked hopeful whenever the King in the North was mentioned or brought into conversation without Joffrey within earshot.

How the table had turned, she said to herself, in irony and self-pity. I wish now I had Sansa Stark’s courage and faith that her brother would win the war and come to rescue her… but now I only feel dread. My own brother would not come to save me, not while he was busy cutting cats and torturing his prisoners, starving his people... I should just tell the King in the North to kill me and be done with it. Joffrey wouldn’t care much I was alive or not.

She gave in to sleep. Her dreams was filled with strange yellow eyes lurking at her behind the shadows, headless guards in their crimson and gold armors, before a knight in gray armor and black-brown furs that looked sadly to her with his bright blue eyes.

 

Chapter Text

Eight days later she learnt it was not Joffrey who raised an army to safe her. It was her grandfather, Tywin Lannister, and her uncle Jaime Lannister who marched to the Riverlands with sixty thousands men-at-arms, demanding her release. King Robb had sent for her to join him and Lady Catelyn for supper where she learnt the news.

The look Lady Catelyn gave her could freeze even the hot Dorne desert when she entered the King’s solar, escorted by three northern men-at-arms. It was the first time she met Lady Catelyn again after Winterfell a year ago and the situation cannot be more awkward as the supper progressed. Lady Catelyn didn’t even try to hide her displeasure having to share a meal with her.

“Thank you, for lending me your dresses, my lady.” she tried to offer her gratitude, only for the older woman to nod curtly.

“It was old dresses… Princess. ” she replied.

Robb gazed his mother a look and Lady Catelyn added, “I hope my old dresses are more useful to you, before we find a seamstress to make you a better one. Though I am afraid the current situation is not feasible if a prisoner of war wears such luxury.”

“Mother, Princess Myrcella Baratheon is our guest.” Robb cautioned.

“Is she?” Lady Catelyn raised an eyebrow. “I thought she is Lannister all over?”

Robb shifted in his seat, his direwolf at his heel.

“My mother is a Lannister, my lady. But my father, King Robert, is Baratheon.” Myrcella said, feeling like a little girl under the Stark matriarch glaring eyes.

“You are Lannister all over when your kingly brother beheaded my husband.” she said with wrath on her tone. Lady Catelyn opened her mouth again to say more before her son put a hand on hers and she looked away, pursing her lips together.

“Please excuse my mother.” Robb said, “She just returned from Dragonstone, on my behalf. She is exhausted.

“I truly understand, Your Grace, my lady. I hope your journey went well.”

Lady Catelyn did not look at her but continued to eat, which she also did. She felt stupid saying what they must have known already, but the young King and his mother’s behavior were tense as if there was something she does not know. And she didn’t blame how Lady Catelyn react to her; her heart ached too, knowing how scattered Lady Catelyn’s family now. To have her eldest son marching south to freed Lord Eddard, only to received news that Joffrey chopped his head… one daughter missing and presumed dead, the other beaten on daily basis on Joffrey’s court… the rest of Lady Catelyn’s sons are alone in Winterfell. If she were Lady Catelyn she’d be mad at the nearest Baratheon-Lannister, too.

Among the news of Tywin Lannister raising his armies, also news that Jaime Lannister attacked some of the riverlords that were sent by Edmure Tully into the westerlands at Golden Tooth to prevent the Lannister army from crossing into their lands. The King in the North think that Jaime Lannister was ordered to attack the Riverlands by Tywin Lannister after receiving raven about her. The battle ended gruesomely on the riverlords’ side, as some of the high lords were among the casualties and the rest were forced to retreated to Riverrun.

“They are coming for you, Princess.” Robb said, looking at her calmly. “Your uncle’s victory at the Battle of the Golden Tooth allowed Tywin Lannister to moved northwest through the Riverlands unimpeded. They will be here soon.”

“What are you going to do, Your Grace?” suddenly she was afraid. For what, she does not know.

Robb Stark’s blue eyes emitted a ferocity she had never seen in the eyes of another man. Maybe some seasoned warriors, like Joffrey’s sworn shield The Hound, or ser Barristan Selmy.... but those are much older than Robb Stark, and more seasoned.

A green soldier boy, her mother laughed when she heard Robb Stark marched south.

But no, his eyes are just like them, Myrcella thought. Like those seasoned warriors, who had seen blood and hungry for more. A boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders, she suddenly realized. Was it the war, or the crown they placed on his head that made him grow so fast?

Candlelight emanates from Robb Stark’s eyes, making it look bluer and the depth of it makes her short of breath.

“You will be safe here in Riverrun,” he said, and she was too drawn to his eyes that she almost missed his next words. “I leave before the first light.”

She spent her days in her room, reading and sometimes sewing. Robb Stark had been kind enough to let her borrow any books she wanted from the Riverrun’s library, under Maester Vyman guidance and supervision. On her first morning in Riverrun, the King in the North came to her solar to made sure she was comfortable enough as his guest of honor. It was then he realized that she didn’t have much to spend her time with and made the gesture to opened up the library for her. At first she was wary, but then she grew to appreciate his effort.

Before their awkward supper with Lady Catelyn, Robb Stark has already used to invite her to dine with him in several occasions. They’d eat their food in silence, the sound that was heard was the clatter of their cutlery or the sound of his direwolf chewing bones under the table. He seemed lost in his own mind, sometimes out of blue he’d ask about his sisters, his late father or the household guards that were slain in King’s Landing.

She knew he invited her to eat with him because he wanted to hear about his family, without other company to eavesdrop.

She didn’t spend her time much around the younger Stark girl, Arya, but she knew Lord Eddard hired a bravoosi man to trained the girl in sword-playing. Robb Stark was delighted to hear it and a rare smile appeared on his handsome face. When she told him that sometimes she envied Arya for having a father that was so open minded he allowed his daughter to lift a sword (even a wooden one), Robb’s face shone with pride. They quickly changed to a stern and angry one if she told him about Sansa. Among the Stark girls she spent more time with Sansa Stark, for their love of needle work. One time she asked Sansa if the older Stark girl would like to visit the King’s Landing’s godswood with her, which Sansa accepted.

“...but Sansa’s needle work is much better than I do,” she once said, and again she was rewarded with his smile.

“She is a gifted seamstress,” Robb replied, for a moment he slid off his kingly mask and become the boy in his age talking proudly about his little sisters. “thank you for spending time with my sisters, with Sansa especially, after she lost everyone she knew.”

The day Robb Stark and his army marched out through the Riverrun gate was a cloudy day, the wind blew hard and rain drizzle down since dawn. He left her with three Stark household guards who looks at her like she was some annoying dirt on their boots, but she paid no mind to them. As day after day progressed, she dine alone in her solar, finding that she missed Robb Stark’s presence. He was the only person in the huge castle that ever speak to her, aside from maester Vyman.

Three days after Robb gone, a raven came and Lady Catelyn rode out with ser Rodrik Cassel to meet Robb somewhere between the north and the riverlands, or  wherever they camp. She wanted to ask maester Vyman where could they been but she didn’t dare so under the hawking eyes of her three bodyguards.

So instead she read and she sew—until one afternoon she looked up to her window and saw a vast riders galloping towards the castle bearing Stark and Tully sigils. She knocked on her solar’s door and one of the guards opened it from outside, looking irritated.

“I saw riders coming through.” she said.

“Aye, the King arrived.”

“I’d like to go to meet them.”

“What for?”

“I am not a prisoner, am I?” she asked, and her guard grumbled.

They followed her to the great hall where almost all riders gathered. Serving maids were already busy giving glasses of ale and wine to the soldiers who had entered the great hall. A few lords sat in long wooden chairs and Myrcella’s heart started to pound as she saw them covered in mud and almost all dripping blood. Two men carried their comrade, his left foot missing and Myrcella took a sharp breath at the sight. She located maester Vyman who was treating the wound of a large white-haired man with four chains linked by a central ring sigil on his breastplate, blood flowed from his temples which was torn by his opponent’s sword. More wounded soldiers came through the door and filling the great hall. Everywhere she looked she saw bloodied men-at-arms. Those who were missing a limb moaned and screamed, the rest just sat on the stone floor and sipped their wine.

Did they win?

If that so, then what about the Lannister troops?

Is uncle Jaime and her grandfather safe?

In a short time the great hall was filled with wounded soldiers. Some still carry arrows caught  in their bodies, others suffer from open wounds that pour blood on the floor.

“We need to amputate that leg!”

“Don’t! Please don’t take off my foot!”

“Wine for the wounded, and milk of the poppy only for those who need amputation!”

“Strip them out of their armors! Fetch more water and bring me sterilized needles! Hurry, these men need their wounds to be sewn!”

Maester Vyman’s voice pulled her from her eerie and she hurriedly came to the old maester. Her three guards looked uncertain as they followed her.

“Maester Vyman, Is there anything I can help?” she asked. She had too. The old maester and the servants were overwhelmed by the sudden flood of men and more are coming through the castle’s sluice gate.

“Princess, you shouldn’t be here.” maester Vyman answered. “You better go back to your solar.”

“I can help. Please, I want to.”

The maester looked doubtful but he nodded, “Fine then. Can you sew wounds?”

“I can try.”

Maester Vyman gave her threads of silk and sterilized needle to sew. A young soldier was brought on a stretcher in front of her, stripped from his armor from the waist up to show a gaping wound on his shoulder. The sword’s wound was deep and he groaned in pain even though he was half subdued by wine. She had to resist the nausea when she saw his flesh peeking out from the wound. A woman brought a bowl of water for her to wash her hands and put needles that have been boiled in hot water on the table.

Under the maester guidance she cleaned the wound first and while the bleeding thankfully has stopped, there’s still a giant, gaping wound in the soldier’s bare shoulder. She needs to sew it to reduce the chance of infection.  

“Just like when you sew a dress.” the maester said as she carefully pushed the needle through the soldier’s skin.

It was different; she could feel the flesh beneath her finger shuddered to reject puncture after punctures she carefully took. While garments are easy to penetrate and stay still, but not human flesh. They are thick and resilient as she tried to sew above the fat, and when she had gone deep enough she twist her hand so that the needle starts coming up on the other side of the wound. Her hands were shaking the whole affair but thankfully she managed just fine--or at least she thought so.

“Good,” the maester nodded, satisfied. “Pull the tip of the needle until you have about one or two inches of the silk left on the right side of the wound, before you release the needle.”

She did as the maester instructed and created a simple overhand knot with two loops to secure the silk. It took her ten minutes to patch up the soldier, and when she is finished another was brought to her. By her second soldier, maester Vyman had long gone to tend other wounded men.

She had just finished patching up her seventh soldier when cries was heard from the castle yard.

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

She stood up, the front of her dress and hands covered with blood but she couldn’t find any clean water to soak them.

The King in the North!”

Even the wounded scattered in the great hall shouted for their young king in jubilant cries. The sound of warhorns was heard along with the sight of Stark and Tully and Umber and Bolton and other banners fluttering in the wind. She followed several soldiers who could walk into the castle field to see the arrival of the King.

The King in the North!”

Both Northern lords and Riverlords shouted their salutations as Robb Stark rode into Riverrun, his face and his armor covered in blood and dirt. By his side was his giant direwolf, stood as tall as a grown man’s waist, its snout the color of human’s blood.

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

“The King in the North!”

That day Robb Stark had won more battles in a year than the Lord of Highgarden had in twenty.

 

Chapter Text

She was brought into the King’s solar. Robb was standing by the windowsill, still wearing his usual grey-brown surcoat over his bloodied armor when she entered the room.
“Welcome back, Your Grace.” she said, curtsied deeply.

His face was tired but he stood tall. “Thank you, Princess. I heard you helped maester Vyman with the wounded soldiers.” he eyeing her soiled dress.

“It—it was the right thing to do, Your Grace.”

Robb gestured her to sit, which she complied. “Those are not your men.”

“They are men just the same.”

He looked taken aback by her response and she wondered if she had crossed a line.

She bowed her head, apologetic. There was dry blood smeared on his sculpted jaw that he had not washed yet. She had to resist the urge to stared at his hardened face.

“I should thank you, then.” Robb said, still standing despite there were vacant chairs.

“There is no need to thank me, Your Grace, I should be the one thanking you. You have been kind enough to me.”

She realized they are alone in his solar. No servants or guards, even his direwolf was not present. Everyone seemed to be busy with themselves after a battle.

“Is there anything you need of me, Your Grace?” she asked.

“Yes. I want to informed you firsthand that we slain hundreds if not thousands, of Lannister men-at-arms.” Robb said. “I’ve promised the Queen regent and your brother that if my peace

terms are not met I’ll litter the south with Lannister dead.”

“M—My grandfather… is he...?”

“Beaten at the Green Fork. I heard he retreated to Harrenhal with tails between his legs and arrows poking from his back.”

“And my uncle…?”

Robb’s bright blue eyes pierced into hers.

“The Kingslayer fought bravely. We took him alive, but unfortunately not before he cut down Lord Kastark’s sons.” he added grimly.

She nodded. “Thank you for telling me, Your Grace.” she hates war and what it brings.

“You have the right to know.”

“Are—are you going to kill us? My uncle and I, I mean…” she hates how her voice trembled.

“No. You are both more valuable alive.” he said plainly.

“Can I meet my uncle?”

“Not this time, I am afraid. We put him in the dungeon.”

She nodded. “Is there anything else, Your Grace?”

“No.”

“If you will excuse me?”

“Of course, Princess.”

She curtsied and was about to open the door when Robb called her.

“Princess Myrcella.”

“Yes, Your Grace?”

“Don’t wander too far.”

 

The castle was again loud and busy with thousands of people gathered; soldiers told stories about how Robb Stark split his army into two and delivered chaos to the Lannister armies. Servants and stable boys talked about how men flocked onto the Young Wolf’s cause, the northern lords, riverlords, and now news came about Lady Catelyn’s success on bringing Stannis Baratheon’s fleet. Lady Catelyn has gone again on another lobbying, this time to her sister Lady Arryn in the Vale.

Now with the danger kept at bay by the King in the North—or the Young Wolf, she overheard the common folk say in admiration—people seek Riverrun as refuge. The war had left bitter taste surrounding the riverlands, while the western and the crownlands are soon approached by it. The King and his army would soon marched south again, this time with Stannis Baratheon’s army and maybe the knights of the Vale, if Lady Catelyn secures an alliance. The victories Robb collected for the riverlords owned him yet another title; The King of the Trident. She mused how a young man just barely two or three namedays older than Joffrey, could make such an impact.

Her three guards followed her to a small sept built by the Tullys in Riverrun, beside the maester tower. She light a candle in front of each of the seven statues but more in the feet of the Stranger, offering prayers for the fallen men-at-arms. Lannister, Baratheon, Stark, Tully, Karstark, every houses were the same in the eyes of death. No matter highborn or lowborn, all men bows to the Stranger. She prayed for Sansa Stark too, for she knew every time Robb Stark won a battle Joffrey would summoned her to the throne room to have her beaten by his Kingsguard. Tears dripping from her eyes as she imagined Sansa Stark’s fate at the moment.

On the other hand, she was relieved that Robb Stark came back safe and whole from the battlefield.

How strange was that, she thought, as she rose to her feet after her prayers. I shouldn’t pray for the enemy who keep me and my uncle hostage. I should pray for my own brother’s win so that I could come home… but to what? What is home? They’d send me away again against my will.

She was about to left the sept when a heated argument was heard outside. A bearded old man with his dented and bloodied armor bearing white sunburst on a black field was arguing with her guards. Three other men stood behind him, their swords at hand.

“Move,” the bearded man warned her guards.

The younger ones looked wary and took a step back, but the oldest of the three— Walton, she remembered—shook his head and unsheathed his sword.

“Apologies, my lord. The King has ordered us no one to approach the Princess.”

“You are a good northern man, Walton. But I only want Lannister’s blood, not our own.”

“No. King’s order, my lord.”

“So you are laying your life for that abomination?” the old man shouted.

“Can I help you, my lord?” angry eyes turned to look at her as she stepped out from the sept.

“Your father killed my sons!” the old man yelled. “Blood for blood, you little bitch!”

“I don’t know what you are talking about, my lord, but if you please sheathed your swords in this holy place…”

Before she know it the old man launched at her with his sword, but Walton moved quickly to fend off the deadly strike from the iron tip. The two younger ones were shocked by the sudden blows, but regained their flexes quick enough to fend off the three men brought by Lord Karstark.

“My lords, please!”

Her pleas fell to deaf ears as the men kept ringing their steel onto each other, Lord Karstark attacked with such ferocity that Walton was pushed back defending himself from the old man’s sword. It was clear which party has the upper hand and she screamed as Walton lost his footing and fell.

“Yield!” Her two other guards immediately threw their swords to the ground.

“Bring me the girl!”

Two men-at-arms grabbed her by her arm and shoved her kneeling in front of Rickard Karstark.

“You little abomination,” he spat as he grabbed her by the hair. “I will happily presented your pretty head to the Kingslayer! See if he likes you on a golden plate.”

Before she could reply a wave of grey hit Lord Karstark until the man let go of her hair before falling backwards. Grey Wind stood above the man, holding his chest on the ground with its paws. The direwolf growled loudly, its muzzle just inches from the Lord’s neck.

“Grey Wind, to me.” another voice was heard and the direwolf leaped from Lord Karstark’s body to stood beside Robb Stark.

Robb, along with his battle companions of highborn warriors, appeared from the castle. His companions already drew their weapons but he calmly stood, his hand rest on the hilt of his sword. Though he remain calm but Myrcella sensed his anger, the way he clenched his jaw and how primal the growl his dire wolf gave out, its golden eyes never leaving Rickard Karstark.

One of his companion helped her to her feet and lead her to the young king.

“I believe you meant no harm to our guest, my lord?” Robb asked the older man coldly.

“Guest?!” Lord Karstark screamed. “She is an abomination! Lannister filth!” he spat. “She better rot in the deepest dungeon with the Kingslayer!”

“I understand you are grieving, my lord, as does everyone here. Your sons fought gallantly and yet, they fell. I cannot ask for a more loyal and courageous warriors like your sons, Harrion and Eddard.”

At the mention of his sons’ names, the older men broke into tears.

“My sons!” he screamed in agony. “No fathers should bury their sons!”

“No father or mother should, my lord.” Robb said solemnly. He turned to her with concern in his eyes. “Are you hurt, Princess?”

She shook her head, “No, Your Grace.” She breathed a sigh of relief seeing Walton standing up, apparently not injured.

Robb reached out to confiscate the dust that spoils her cheeks. When his hand touched her skin, she felt like she was electrocuted, hypnotized by his blue eyes which seemed to glow under the afternoon sun. Robb has not removed his leather gloves, and she could smell blood and the sun and sweat emanating from it. She swallowed hard.

Robb turned his attention to Lord Karstark again, who still grieving his dead sons but didn’t give resistance as two men seized him.

“Let him go, ser Donnel.” Robb said, to Lord Karstark’s surprise. “I understand your grief, my lord. But this accident will not happen again without severe consequences. Those we held hostage will be exchange with our northern friends, fathers and sons. Don’t hurt them. Grieve, my lord, and return to battlefield with me to avenge the fallen.”

Lord Karstark threw himself to the ground again near Robb’s feet, sobbing.

Her chest almost burst with affection as she watched the young King; dark and solemn, poised with the weight of the world. War truly had chewed a boy and spit out a man.

But not my brother, she thought.

“Take her to her chamber.” she heard him say, before a firm hand of Dacey Mormont nudge at her. “Clean yourself, Princess. Today is a tiring day for all of us.”

The incident with Lord Karstark made Robb doubled her guards, with Patrek Mallister and Daryn Hornwood assigned to check on her periodically. Walton and other Stark men never left her side and at night they stood guard in front of her door (they still locked her inside her chamber).

She still hadn’t allowed to see her uncle as Robb had ordered her to stay in her chamber. Library and the sept are the only place she still could visit from time to time, with her guards flocking around her. Lady Catelyn hasn’t returned from the Vale yet and no ravens from the eyrie either. The war keep raging in the riverlands and westerlands borders, led by Gregor Clegane—the Mountain That Rides, they say. More and more refugees are coming to Riverrun and Myrcella knows it only a matter of time before Robb Stark marched again. She had heard the atrocities that became the Mountain’s reputation.

But it is not what troubled her, which made her feels selfish and mean.

It was what Lord Karstark had said when he attacked her in front of the sept, which troubled her sleepless nights. She had heard it whispered in the Red Keep; spiteful accusations and mean gossips. None of it was true… wasn’t it?

She remembered her late father, King Robert Baratheon, first of his name and all of those titles… she remembered how big and strong her father was tossing her in the air and catching her, an act that made her squealed with with joy but her mother seething. But Mother never liked anything about her father, though, did she?

She remembered her uncle Jaime, proud and gallant and always smiling to her. Come to think about it, she realized she does not resembled her father at all; Robert was dark and coarse, while her uncle… well, just like her.

Before she even realized it she had come to recalled nostalgic memories of her uncle—she remembered he held her for hours when she was crying after Joffrey did something terrible to her, how uncle Jaime would smirked to her from across the room as if telling her I’m here inaudibly. He’d be the one she is looking for whenever she was sad or just plain happy to share something. He was always near her, or her mother. Even though she knew Cersei never liked it whenever she caught her with uncle Jaime, but Myrcella knows her uncle loved to spent time with her. She had loved him for that, for being the father figure she never had from Robert.

I have to see him, Myrcella thought. I have to see uncle Jaime.

Her chance came three days after the incident with Lord Karstark, when Robb came to her chamber. He looks tired but his eyes woke with caution.

“Your Grace,” she dipped into her curtsied before Robb waved her a hand.

“I’d like you to stop doing that,” he said with a chuckle. “I never used to it.”

Robb stared at her and suddenly she feels self-conscious.

“My mother’s old gowns are no longer fits you. There is a seamstress among the refugee, I already tell her to make you some decent gowns. Do you like that, Princess?”

“Your Grace is too kind. But if it pleases you, I rather have something other than new dresses. The ones Lady Catelyn lend me are enough.” She had to ask. She need to see uncle Jaime.

“What is it?” Robb looked surprised.

“I want to see Jaime Lannister, Your Grace.”

Robb looked at her, sizing. “Is something troubling you?”

“I just want to see familiar face, Your Grace.”

He sighed. They sat in silence for a moment. When she thought the Young Wolf might never grant her request (which she understands because she is his hostage after all), Robb called to Daryn Hornwood to escort her to the dungeon.

The dungeon was dark, empty and cold; its cells stood silently and the ceiling drips. It was as if the cells were made right under the river. Jaime Lannister was placed at the further end of the tunnel, chained inside the darkest, smallest cell. She almost cried when she saw him; malnourished and dirty, Jaime Lannister’s clean shaven face now overgrown with whiskers and messy beard. He was dressed in rags, his armor out of sight.

“Is that you or am I dreaming?” his voice a low growl, hoarse from his chapped lips.

“Uncle Jaime,” she threw herself to him and hugged her uncle’s neck.

Jaime Lannister was chained to a stone wall he couldn’t move, but he pressed his cheek to hers.

“Don’t,” he said, “You will ruin your dress. I sit on my own shit.”

She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. His uncle was more concerned about her old borrowed dress. “Are you well, uncle? They didn’t treat you right.”

“As long as they treat you good, or I’d strangle them with their own guts.” he spat.

“They are kind to me, uncle. Robb Stark make sure I am safe.”

“Does he?” Jaime Lannister let out a crook laugh. “Well, he better be.”

“I will ask Robb Stark to provide better treatment for you,”

“I doubt it, my dear. I’ve killed dozens of his followers. But you, I hope you stay safe.”

“Uncle,” tears are now streaming down her cheeks. She was relieved that the cell was so dark that maybe her uncle couldn’t see her crying. There’s so many things I’d like to tell you, she wanted to say.

“Myrcella,” he sensed her sadness, her doubts. He tried to leaned to her but his movements was cut short by the chains around his neck and his wrists.

“I wished I didn’t run away. I—I thought if I seek you in Casterly Rock you’d shield me from being sent to Dorne—,”

“It’s okay, Myrcella…”

“No, it is not! I hate seeing you like this,” she sobbed.

“Listen, Myrcella,” her uncle’s voice rising, “I’d do it again, do you hear me? I’d crushed the enemy’s gate to keep you safe. I’d fight everyone who try to send you against your will. Do you understand?”

I know, her heart whispered. You always have my back. Always.

"It's enough, Princess Myrcella. Time to go." Ser Daryn's voice interrupted.

“Be strong now. Lions will come to get you. A Lannister always pays his debts.”

She hugged her uncle again, tighter, and felt his head caressing her wet cheek.

“I will try to see you again.” she whispered.

Her uncle smiled, a sad and tired one. “Be safe, my dear. Know that I’d kill anyone who tries to harm you.” his eyes flicked to her back, to the Stark guards staring at them and to ser Daryn Hornwood. “Tell the King in the North I’d come to get him if he lay a finger on my niece.”

“You have tried, Kingslayer.” ser Daryn mocked. “You are welcome to try again from this cell.”

Before ser Daryn could pulled her from the cell, she kissed Jaime’s cheek and promised she’d try to see him again. She’d trade the comfort of her chamber, of her hearth and her food if it meant she can see her uncle, to have him fed and warm. She needs his strength, her kin… her father figure.

When she returned to her chamber she was surprised to see Robb Stark was still there, waiting for her.

She was too exhausted and too wary it made her broke down again. This time strong hands envelope her in one warm embrace, the grey and brown fur surcoat tickled her nose.

Chapter Text

She found comfort in helping Maester Vyman tending the sick and wounded, men-at-arms and common folk alike. Reading and sewing are indeed her favorite past time activities, but over time she cannot concentrate on what she reads or sew. Her mind always returns to Robb Stark. So being around other people at least put the Young Wolf out of her mind, though at night she tossed around on her bed, restless everytime she recalled his smile her heart ache for something. It was the time when she gave up trying to sleep and pick up her needles. She was given threads of linen and wool to sew with, and decided to made something just to be busy. 

The night Robb embraced her had left her feeling lost, confused and uncertain. He had been kind to her, and after he let her go she whispered a weak “ thank you, Your Grace.” which he only nod in reply. His eyes shone with such intensity and a gentleness she couldn’t described, she almost yearns to be lost in it forever. Or maybe she already was.

A few days after her visit to the dungeon a squire found her in the maester tower as she was helping maester Vyman overseeing stitch wound to some soldiers. Robb had allowed her to visit Jaime Lannister again in the dungeon as long as she was accompanied by one of his kingsguard companions and other guards, another gesture she was thankful for.

“Please tell the King that I am very grateful for it.” she had said, and the squired bowed before leaving the maester tower.

Robb doesn’t invite her to dine with him again as he spend his time locked in his chamber with his companions and other lords. She usually eats in her solar alone, but after days of eating alone she finally couldn’t stand the silence and decided to break her fast at the great hall. Taking care of the sick and wounded make her surrounded by people, but they don’t talk much (other than groaning in pain) and she longs to really talk to people. She had tried to make small talk with her maids whenever they helped her bathe or get dressed, but the women ignored her. Even her guards only snorted in annoyance if she speak to them.

Every morning, long wooden tables were placed inside the great hall for soldiers and lords to break their fasts together. This seems to be a habit in Winterfell and Lord Edmure Tully is kind enough to extend it in Riverrun. Piles of bread made of barley and oats were served on the table, along with milk, honey and dates, pork sausages, eggs, and fish porridge; Robb Stark has been true to his word, they were simple meals but are appreciated. Soon she was surrounded by conversations around her; soldiers with sleepy faces chewing bread, lords scooped up porridge with their wooden spoons while chatting in loud voice. A man burst out laughing across the table. Several serving maids paced around the tables pouring ale and carrying dirty dishes. She had never been surrounded by so many people and conversations, sitting by herself on the bench like other common folk. She rathers enjoyed it.

The only disappointment was she didn’t see Robb Stark on the dais, only Lord Edmure and some other lords with their porridge bowls. She had hope to see Robb, to thank him herself for allowing her to visit her uncle again. She used her visitation allowance yesterday after she had finished helping maester Vyman.

“Do you know where the King might be, ser?” she turned to Walton after she finished her meal. Walton seemed to resist rolling his eyes at her question.

“How did I know?” he replied rather irritably.

At that very moment Patrek Mallister had come to check on her. The young man has sandy brown hair and a smirk that always decorate his plain freckled face.

“There you are. Walton, Stop being so sullen, you shouldn’t have the time for it, guarding such beauty.” Patrek Mallister remarked. This time Walton really rolled his eyes.

“She wanted to see the King.” Walton said in bored tone.

“What business you have in mind with the King in the North, Princess?” ser Patrek asked, rather curiously.

“Just want to offer my gratitude for his kindness, my lord.” she replied. “I have not seen him for days.”

“He is busy planning our next move.” ser Patrek said, but offering his arm for her to hold. “But why, I could take you to him. He is in the Godswood.”

“Godswood? There’s Godswood in Riverrun, too?”

Ser Patrek laughed at her widened eye. “Aye, there’s one in here, Princess. The only one left in the riverlands. But of course, there’s more in the north. Come.”

The Godswood was located at the further east of the castle, separated from other building and towers its almost forgotten. The only access was through a narrow uneven path with weeds and grass grow irregularly along the way. From the entrance she could see the top of the weirwood tree and its blood-red leaves, glowing in orange hues under the morning sun. Falling leaves tumbled from the interlocking branches, barely letting in gaps of sunshine through. Ser Patrek nodded towards the weirwood tree. She noticed Robb Stark’s grey and brown surcoat, his auburn hair was dark under the shade of the laughing tree.

Robb sat with his sword on his lap, honing it with whetstone using a slow and flat stroke. He seemed to concentrate on his work and for a moment was unaware of their presence. Grey Wind stood up from where he lay and smelled the air before his eyes moved towards ser Patrek and Myrcella, who both stopped on their track. It was then Robb looked up and saw them. His eyes widened with attention.

“Apologies, Your Grace. Princess Myrcella would like to see you.” ser Patrek said.

“Is there something wrong, Princess?” Robb asked, putting away the whetstone as he rose. He was half shadow under the laughing tree leaves. Robb has donned his armor; grey pauldrons on his shoulders and wolfskin tunic underneath brown gorget with leather strips that hold his coat in place making an X over his gorget. Not a full armor like southron lords and knights would wear, but enough steel to provide protection without reducing one’s agility on battlefield.

“I—,” she begin, suddenly feeling imprudent and nervous to have intrude Robb’s lone time.

“Leave us.” Robb told ser Patrek and Walton, who both bowed and without a word retreated to the Godwood’s entrance.

“I want to thank you, Your Grace.” she said, brushing away her embarrassment after they were left alone, out within earshot. “I went to visit my uncle yesterday, and I am thankful you give the opportunity to…”

“I am glad you are, Princess.” he cuts in, but not impatiently.

She must have been blabbering and she blushed crimson red at the thought.

“Are you going to battle again?” she asked, eyeing his armor.

“Maybe I am.” he answered.

Robb stood up straight as an arrow and he is a lot taller than she thought. Well, she knew how tall he was when he hugged her… and how warm and how strong those arms could be around her shoulders. She blushed at the memory.

“Does this Godswood here the same as the one in King’s Landing?” Robb suddenly asked.

For the first time she looked around, reluctantly tearing her eyes off him.

“I think it is smaller here.” she answered. “And much more abandoned. More lonely, I guess. But they are beautiful, in their own way.”

“The Godswood in Winterfell is the largest in Westeros. Three acres of forest within the walls of Winterfell.” Robb said, and she notes a tinge of longing in his deep voice. “Our weirwood tree standing over a pool of black water. Even in the coldest winter the pool never freeze.”

“I heard because there’s a dragon in the ground!” she chirped in and Robb had to laugh.

“So they say,” he said, sheathed his sword and gesturing her to sit under the tree.

She sat on a giant root that stretched out from the ground and Robb sat opposite of her. They stared silently for awhile until Myrcella blushed and had to looked away to where Grey Wind lay near the Godswood entrance.

“Do you know I was named after King Robert?” Robb asked.

“You are?” she knew Robb’s father was best friends with her late father since they were Jon Arryn’s wards. But she never thought that Robert was Robb’s namesake.

Robb nodded.

“I was born here in Riverrun, when my father fought beside king Robert in his rebellion.” there was pride in his voice. “When the war was over my mother finally brought me to Winterfell, where I grew up. Well, until raven came bearing news about my father’s imprisonment.”

“I am sorry to hear that, Your Grace.” she said meekly. “I never offered you my condolences. Lord Stark was a good man.”

“He was.” Robb said. “And he was also the most honorable man I’ve ever known.”

“You do resembled him a lot, Your Grace.” she said earnestly.

He smiled at that.

“I am truly sorry that my brother murdered your father.”

“Murder?” Robb cocked his head. “I’ve never thought I would hear that from you.”

“Why? Because you also think that I am a Lannister through and through?”

“No, because I think you’ve been shielded your whole life and just swallowed whatever they chose to fed you.”

“Maybe I am, but I learn.” she said a bit defensively.

“You remind me of my sisters.”

“Sansa?”

“Sansa and Arya, both of them.”

“I will take that as a compliment, Your Grace.” she said boldly, smiling.

“Yes, you should, Princess,” he, too, replied with a smile. She admitted that she likes seeing him smile. It felt good and somehow it was easy to talk to him. They may called him King; the King in the North, the King of of the Trident, Lord of Winterfell, or whatever title they bestowed upon his shoulders, but to her… he is just Robb, who longed for the north and his sisters.

Robb reached down to pick at buttercup flowers that grows wild on the forest floor. Its glittering yellow petals reflecting the morning light, as golden as the Lannister’s lion. He handed the flower to Myrcella who took it shyly. For a second their fingers brushed to each other, sending warmth that spread instantly to the rest of her body.

“Buttercup flowers.” she said.

“Yellow, like you.” Robb mused, his eyes moved to her golden hair. “Did you know that my father proposed your hand for me, instead of Sansa’s for Joffrey?”

She was shocked by the revelation and Robb’s soft lips stretched into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“You didn’t know then. But of course, your mother was against it and King Robert decided to joined our Houses through Joffrey and Sansa. I think the King thought his best friend’s daughter as Queen of the seven kingdoms is more prestigious than having you in the cold north. It’s an honor, truly, betrothed to the crowned prince.” he sounded almost sincere about it.

“I think the honor would be mine, Your Grace, if it happened.” she said it without thinking.

“No. The honor would be mine, Princess. Though maybe in another life.” he said softly.

“Do you miss home? Winterfell?”

Robb searched her eyes—for what, she didn’t know, but his bright blue eyes twinkled with the gentleness she started to easily recognized.

“You think I am fighting this war so they’ll sing songs about me?” he asked her back. “I want to go home.” he answered plainly, his voice filled with emotion it makes her heart ache again. “I want the men who following me to go home.”

She didn’t know what possessed her; maybe the silence of the Godswood, or the sunlight peeking out from behind the leaves made Robb Stark look angry and vulnerable and sad at the same time she wanted to give little comfort for the young man, that she reached for his hand.

“Then why don’t you?” she said.

Robb twitched under her touch and she realized maybe she had said the wrong words.

They are enemies, after all. Their families hate and kill each other.

“Because we will never safe until Lannisters are defeated. And because I believe in justice.”

Of course you are, she said to herself. And I am a Lannister all over, like your mother said.

Robb pulled his hand from her grasp as footsteps was heard stepping on the dry twigs on the ground.

“Yes, Walton?”

“It’s Lady Catelyn, Your Grace. She has come back.”

Chapter Text

CATELYN

The Vale won’t declare for neither side; the King in the North, the King of Iron Island, the rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms, nor the King of Highgarden. They despise the boy King on the iron throne too, so no, the Lady Regent of the Vale made sure that the Vale would stand clear of any Kings and any war for the sake of Jon Arryn’s young sickly heir, Robin.

“At least they won’t declare for our enemy.” Greatjon Umber grumbled.

Robb had gathered the northern and riverlords in his chamber that noon. The spacious room was crowded with men standing around a large wooden table in the middle of the room, with Robb at the head of the table between Edmure Tully and Roose Bolton.

Lady Catelyn looked at her son with heavy feelings. “The North along with Stannis Baratheon and the riverlords’ support have amassed seventy-five thousands soldiers. Dorne has not declare neither side. If we could give them Princ—,”

“We are not sending back their Prince’s betrothed if that what you are suggesting, mother.” Robb replied.

The lords around the table looked at each other uneasily but they didn’t say a word.

“Our numbers are not enough to attack Casterly Rock nor King’s Landing.” Lord Bolton reminded him. “And even if we succeed, the King of Highgarden might attacked us easily and made us bend the knee again with his fresh ninety-thousands soldiers.”

“I can see that, my lord.” Robb said sharply. “And we are not attacking Casterly Rock, yet.”

“What are you going to do, Your Grace?” Greatjon Umber asked.

Robb thought for a moment before he spoke, weighting every word. “I knew you are hungry for blood, my lords.” and Lord Karstark stood straighter at his words. “I will give you blood and independence. We will deal with The Mountain first, before we set eye to Harrenhall. Did your scout find anything, my lord?” he turned to Lord Bolton.

“Getting closer to Riverrun each day, Your Grace. Ten thousands men-at-arms, will be at Stonemill village before the sun sets on the morrow.”

“Good. Let him come. And Lord Edmure, did you do as I bid?”

Lord Edmure Tully stroked his red beard and nod grimly. “Yes, Your Grace. Farmers are running for the safety of our walls at this very moment.”

Gregor Clegane or The Mountain That Rides, aggressive and lacking self control as he indulge in murder and rape, have been easy to lure. As per Robb’s instruction Lord Edmure had drew every riverland’s men-at-arms from the location that was approached by the Mountain. “Let him take the mill and the village,” Robb had said, and Lord Edmure (after a heated debate he lost to Robb and Brynden Tully) reluctantly agreed. “I’ve sent two thousands men to die, and I will do it again. I will let the Mountain have a mill, a village, or an inn if that meant I can have Tywin Lannister’s mad dog’s head by noon.”

Catelyn gazed at her first born, seeing how the softness of his face had long gone. He is not a boy any longer, she realized with sudden sadness. He is seventeen now, a man grown.

They hutched over the wooden table; a wide map of the riverlands and its surrounding borders sprawled over under small wooden pieces sigils that represent their position and enemies. Maester Vyman handed a scroll to Robb.

“A raven came yesterday, my lords.” Robb said as he opened the scroll in his hand. “Stannis and his fleet has landed and take over Maidenpool from the lions. We will meet their troops in Harrenhall, carrying the Tywin’s mad dog’s head.”

The men around him cheered.

Robb moved a wolf and a trout on the map.

“Uncle Brynden, you have the honor to lead the cavalry with Lord Karstark.”

Brynden Tully—famed as the Blackfish—and Rickard Karstark bowed at the notion. Robb looked at the map, considered something, before he lift and moved another wolf and trout.

“Lord Cerwyn and Lord Brecken, you will ride with me. We will meet the Mad Dog from this western mountains where he’d passed after the Stonemill to get to us.”

Medger Cerwyn grasped his battle-axe tightly, “Your Grace. My axe and I are honed and ready to serve you.”

“We will have the mad dog’s head, Your Grace.” Jonos Brecken said.

Robb nodded. “We will need his head to sway Dorne to our cause, my lords. Make sure to bring his head. That way we won’t lose a valuable hostage, yet we might struck a pact with the dornish.” with that revelation he gazed to Catelyn.

Robb took another wolf piece, “Lord Bolton, take the infantry and meet Tywin’s mad dog in the vanguard.”

They are using the flanking maneuver with several variations. She sees that Robb is trying to flank the Mountain and his men by attacking him from three sides, at an angle to the enemy’s direction of engagement. The pincer movement executed by the attacking army, led by Lord Bolton, in front. Both flanks will led by her son and his companions, while the Blackfish and Lord Karstark finished in the rear with their horses. They’d encircled the Mountain’s men. Each lord will bring a legion of three thousand men, while the rest marched straight to Harrenhall led by Lady Maege Mormont and Lady Catelyn Stark on his stead, after leaving some of the riverlords’ army to garrison Riverrun.

“What about the Kingslayer?” Edmure Tully asked. “And that little princess?”

All eyes fell on Robb.

“I won’t keep all my treasures in one purse to make it easier for those who would rob me. I will bring the Kingslayer. The Princess stays here in Riverrun.” Robb said.

So it was decided; the strategy, the commanders, even hostages. They will ride before the first light. She chose to sat silently for the rest of the meeting, listening to Lords’ advices, Robb’s replies and maester Vyman’s report. Seeing Robb so calm and confident leading the war council made Catelyn’s heart filled with pride and sadness at the same time. The one at the end of the table should be Eddard Stark, and Robb at his side; learning, listening. They should be in Winterfell, not in the midst of war, faraway from home.

But don’t they prepared him enough? So much that the first thing he did when the boy King on the iron throne summons him to King’s Landing Robb had said, “His Grace summons me to go to King’s Landing. I’ll go to King’s Landing. But not alone. Call the banners!”

Ever since Robb left Winterfell she had to watch her first born became the man he is now. After their shock and anger upon Ned’s execution, the north refused to swear fealty to the iron throne. They had bent the knee three hundreds years ago to Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons, but now Targaryens and dragons were history. So they put the bronze crown decorated with nine black iron spikes shaped like longswords on her son’s head and hailed him “ The King in the North!” as she watched. Now even the riverlords followed him too. Catelyn prays Gods be good to grant him strength, but most of all wisdom to lead them all.

It was Robb’s decision to sent her on his stead to Dragonstone. Stannis Baratheon is the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms and the enemy of their enemy is their friend, as musing as it was. Ned was killed because the truth he unearthed about Cersei’s children and for his support to Stannis. Honor made them can’t swear fealty or declare to Renly as he was the younger brother of Robert and Stannis, even when Renly commands a bigger deal number of army, backed by the wealth of the Reach.

Gods be good, as brooding stern and single minded as he was, Stannis is a man of honor himself. Ned has once said that Robert is steel, but Stannis is pure iron, hard and strong but brittle, the way iron gets. Renly was copper, pretty to look but soft. During Robert’s Rebellion Stannis held Storm’s End with only a token garrison against the mighty Tyrell and Redwyne forces more than a year.

“I learnt a great deal from Stannis,” Robb told her the day she sets sail to Dragonstone. “Stannis held House Baratheon’s ancestral seat during Robert’s Rebellion. Should it fallen back then, Robert’s supporters would slowly bleeds away. Who wants to follow a man who cannot defend his own home? I am tasking the Reeds and the Menderlys to guard our land. Stannis is the man we need to take in our side, mother. Father trusts him. And he’s got ships, though lack of men. I have men, but no navy. We can be ally.”  Robb had said.

Robb was right.

A man of little humor, Catelyn could sense Stannis Baratheon is not easily slide over the law for nobody or nothing. She had her doubts when she sailed to Dragonstone. Stannis has declared himself King, the rightful heir of the iron throne, and might have think Robb is an usurper demanding the freedom of the north. As far as she knew, Stannis is a man of law. He broke it only once, when he rebelled against the Mad King for the sake of his brother.

She had heard it from the hard man himself in Dragonstone, “...a hard choosing; my blood, or my liege?” Stannis told her, his voice a low baritone, standing beside his maester when he received her. “My brother, or my King? I don’t want the throne, but it is not a question of wanting. The throne is mine as Robert’s heir. That is law. After me it must pass to my daughter, unless Selyse should finally give me a son. I am King. Wants do not enter into it. I have a duty to my daughter, to the realm. Even to Robert, who loved me but little, I knew, yet he was my brother. The Lannister woman gave him horns and she may have murdered him as well as she murdered Jon Arryn and your husband Ned Stark. For such crimes there must be justice, starting with Cersei and her abominations. I mean to scour that court clean.”

Stannis had asked if Robb would bend the knee, though, but Catelyn knew the north would have none of it. Independence must be on the table, aside from the safe delivery of Sansa Stark, Ned’s and their household’s remains, and Ice, the Stark’s ancestral greatsword.

She had helped Robb swayed Walder Frey to Robb’s cause, and she’d do it again if it helps him take the south to rescue her daughters. Of course Stannis was called Stannis the Mannis for naught, as he was harder to sway than the old Lord of the Crossing.

If Walder Frey had asked Robb and Edmure to marry one of his daughters or granddaughters with the addition of putting some Frey boys as wards, Stannis wants the North under his command. Their negotiations were tough as expected, although in the end Stannis and Catelyn agreed that as long as Robb supplied army and supplies, the independence of the North at the end of the war would be considered granted. The reality that Robb succeeded in uniting the northern and riverlords was a factor of considerations. She had to thank the lowborn knight who acted as Stannis’s Hand though; the white haired man with sleepy eyes was the one who give Stannis a second opinion, to see the bigger picture, that finally made Stannis and Catelyn reached an agreement.

Catelyn had heard of Robb’s plan to bring Dorne to their side through the Mountain’s head. That is not impossible, come to think about it. Dorne has long held their grudge in silence of the brutal murders of Elia Martell and her children. Maybe they stood a chance to win this war, she thought, welcoming a slight hope and courage.

Finally when Robb dismissed the lords (and Lady Mormont) to their rest on the eve of battle, Catelyn rose to meet his son at the table. He is still hovering above the map, his eyes furrowed as if trying to find flaw in his plan.

“Robb,” she called softly and her eldest son looked up.

“Mother, I thought I’ve send you to rest.” he said.

“Is there any news about Arya?”

When Robb told her that the Lannisters lost Arya the day they murdered Ned, her heart raged with fear of Arya’s fate. But she knew Arya; how wild and smart her little girl was, and a glimmer of hope overcome her fear. Robb had secretly sent some of his trusted knights to look for his little sister. They did this quietly so that the Lannisters were not suspicious that they already knew the Queen regent lost Arya.

“Ravens came bearing news about the war, but no, still no Arya.”

“There’s outlaws roaming the riverlands to westerlands.” Catelyn said. “If they caught Arya…”

“Arya is smart, mother. Even if they caught her, their chances are better if they bring her to us rather than to Joffrey or the Queen regent.”

“You’re right, Robb.” she sighed. “I am so worried of her, alone out there…” she trailed off before her tears fall. “I’ve never told you that I’m very proud of you.” she said, trying to be strong. She must, for Robb’s sake. For all of them.

Robb looked surprised.

“Your father would be too, if he had the chance to see you now.”

“Thank you, mother. We will find Arya and take Sansa home.”

You grew too fast, my son, it seemed like only yesterday they pulled you out of my womb.

“Be safe tomorrow, Robb.”  

“I will see you in Harrenhall, mother.”

“Yes, you must.” she said, planting a kiss on her son’s cheek before leaving his chamber.

Hours have passed, the sky was already dark when she slipped out from the Lord’s residence tower and into the castle’s yard. Men shouting orders as they prepared to march, horses were brushed and saddled by stables boys. She walked passed men honing their swords and put up her hood to conceal her auburn hair.

Her son is blood of the north who worshipped the old God. She’d need to pray in the Godswood for her son’s safety. The old God will hear her prayer and keep him safe and whole until they meet again. Some of the northern men might seek the weirwood too before they march, so she better not wasting more time.

The noise began to dwindle as she walked to the abandoned part of the castle that housed the only weirwood tree left in the riverlands. To her surprise, she saw three men already stood in the Godswood entrance.

“Ser Patrek?” she recognized one of them as Robb’s highborn battle companions.

The young man bowed at her. “Good evening, Lady Stark. I hear you’ve come back from the Vale, my lady.”

“Yes, ser, just this morning. I didn’t see you in Robb’s council earlier?” she asked the knight.

“Ah, yes, my lady. The King has ordered me to guard Princess Myrcella.”

“Princess Myrcella, is that her in the Godswood?”

Patrek Mallister nodded, the same awe as her. “Yes, my lady. Been in there for hours.”

She did find Princess Myrcella kneeling in front of the laughing tree, almost like praying. She didn’t try to hide her presence and soon the southron princess saw her. The girl’s green eyes widened at sight of Catelyn and she hurriedly stood and curtsied.

“Lady Stark, I didn’t see you.” she said shyly.

“Of course you didn’t see me, Princess, you have your back towards the entrance.” she didn’t mean to reply so harshly but the girl didn’t seem to mind.

Catelyn took a place beside her and she retreated politely to make room for her in front of the tree.

“Have you been praying?”

She blushed. “Yes, my lady. I heard the King marched on the morrow. And they are busy preparing for… battle.” she sounded so fragile and for a moment it reminded her of her own children, young and scared and scattered across the continent.

Catelyn nodded, though she still couldn’t hide her curiosity. “I thought you Lannisters worshipped faith of the seven?”

Myrcella seemed hesitant upon replying. “The King is of the north, my lady.”

She prayed for Robb, she realized in disbelief.

“Are you going to ride with him, my lady?” she looked at her like some lost child and her heart ached— if those eyes were blue, I’d mistaken her as Sansa, she bitterly thought. Or if her hair was dark she’d be like my Arya…

“Yes. Do you know what expected of you?”

“Ser Patrek said the King has ordered me to stay in Riverrun.”

“That is right.”

She turned to face the weirwood tree. The white bark shone under the moonlight and its blood-red leaves whistled in the wind. The face carved on the tree’s bark was smiling at her, teasing the southron blood in her. Catelyn has never feel ease in the Godswood, as she feels like the old Gods knew she is not daughter of the north.

But my son is, she prayed. My son is the blood of the first men, and of the north.

If you hear me, please… I beg you, protect my son, Robb. Bestowed strength and wisdom upon him. Protect Sansa and Arya for me. Protect Bran and Rickon, I beg you…

Let Robb bring back my daughters.

The atmosphere was so quiet at the Godswood, untouched by the hubbub of people preparing for battle. Catelyn almost forgot the presence of other people nearby. When she finished praying she saw Princess Myrcella sitting not far from her, on a giant root that stretched out from the mossy soil.

“We better get back to the castle now, Princess.” she said.

“Lady Stark, if I may…” Myrcella said reluctantly. her voice soft and almost unheard.

“Yes?”

The girl took out a small package from behind her coat and handed it to Catelyn.

“I might not able to see the King before he goes to battle, my lady.” she said as Catelyn took the package from her. “If it pleases you, to please give this to him. I will pray for his safe return, and for this war to end soon.”

Catelyn opened the package and soon a handkerchief lay in her hand. She had to peered through the Godswood dimness to pay attention to the embroidery details, which was a howling grey wolf in exquisite detail. The girl had also embroidered a lion on the other side of the wolf, its golden mane met the wolf’s grey in beautiful burst of white, brown and yellow.

“I am sorry for your loss, my lady,” the girl continued as Catelyn stared blankly at the handkerchief.  “Lord Stark was a good man. I wish things would turn out differently.”

“You naive girl. Do you honestly think a piece of cloth with our sigil and yours would mend what was already broken? Your brother murdered my husband. Your mother held my daughter hostage. Stannis Baratheon sent ravens to all high lords of Westeros, announcing Joffrey is neither a true King nor a true Baratheon. Do you know what it makes you?” her words turns out angrier and more bitter than she intended.

Myrcella stared at her, clearly shocked and speechless, and Catelyn had to squeezed the handkerchief to keep herself from throwing it to the ground.

“You should pray for your own family, because when this ended, Gods help them for mercy.”

She did it. She managed to tear the little girl’s feelings in front of her.

She is a Lannister, she reminded herself. She is enemy.

But still, as the girl finally recollected herself and curtsied even gracefully though she noticed her eyes gleaming with tears, Catelyn feel ashamed. She should not berated the girl for her family’s sins.

Catelyn clutched the handkerchief in her hand tightly as she made her way back to the castle. Part of her wants to throw the delicate needlework into the hearth, but a small voice inside her forbid for doing it. She stood alone in the spiral staircase leading to her and Robb’s chambers in the Lord’s tower. The flame from torches hanging on the stone walls gave enough light when she opened her palm to observe the handkerchief again, the neatness of the stitches reminded her of her own daughter, another hostage.

She finally settled her heart and continued towards her chamber, closing the door behind her slowly.

 

Chapter Text

MYRCELLA

She saw Robb Stark and his bannermen riding out of the castle gate.

She has been laying restless in bed, unable to sleep as the voices from the courtyard echoed loudly. The room where she was put is located in highest tower and has a wide window overlooking Riverrun’s gate. The darkness of the night was split by torches illuminating the sky, and from afar Myrcella could see Robb Stark on his black destrier. Grey Wind was never far from his master’s side.

Her eyes followed the beast and before Robb kicked his destrier to a gallop, Grey Wind looked up to her direction. Please protect him, she whispered. For a moment she thought the direwolf understands. There have been enough bloodshed from house Stark and she remembers clearly how hatred spilled from Lady Catelyn’s eyes everytime the older woman laid eyes on her. Soldiers marched out the gate, so many it seemed it won’t finished until the sun rises. Their temporary barracks outside the castle had been dismantled, its residents marched to follow their respective commanders.

Among them was her uncle, chained and locked inside a horse-drawn carriage. When ser Patrek informed her that Robb Stark was taking Jaime Lannister with him, she was devastated.

“What are they going to do with him? Are they going to kill him?” she asked, scared with the answer.

“Well no, I think, Princess. His Grace have said you and the Kingslayer are more valuable alive.”

She gave in to sleep just before the sun rises and woke up when two women put her breakfast tray on the table, startling her.

“Good morning.” she said.

As usual they paid her no attention. After breaking her fast, another woman came in to help her clean herself and get dressed. Turns out the woman was the seamstress that Robb had mentioned, who came to measure her body. She did not expect Robb to be serious about his promise to make her new clothes, considering he had been very kind to her. He doesn’t beat her, even going so far protecting her from his bannermen. He doesn't chained or starved her, either. What more she could expect? Obviously not new clothes from him.

She meets maester Vyman in his chamber regularly, an activity Robb himself permitted. The old maester has been kind enough to trusts her with giving medical aid that every day she’d be found contently in the maester’s tower. She gladly tended the sick and wounded, but wouldn’t mind if given another duties. It takes her mind off any intrusive thoughts about the war, her family, and mostly off Robb Stark.

They sit across the table with parchments, bottles of ink and writing quills scattered around them. That morning she was assigned to help make new copies of many old scrolls and manuscripts before they completely rotted away, the informations lost forever. The stack of old scrolls sent dust and decomposing smell whenever she turned a page. Yet she contently copies every word onto fresh parchments, drowning in history of the First Men and the Andals, riches of Qarth, and the Order of The Maesters (she couldn’t imagine how much time, books, and practice every apprentices had to passed in forging a maester’s chain).

It was when she began to copy folklore stories, that the movement of her hand began to slow down until she stopped completely. Not because she was tired, even though she had writing for hours now, but because the story she read was so interesting. She did not remember whether her mother or her septa ever told her about it as a child. Apparently not, because she did not remember she had ever known the story of Sultan the loyal dog, or the story of The Goose That Laid Golden Egg.

“Sees something interesting, Princess?” maester Vyman looked at her questioningly, a fatherly smile on his thin lips.

“I am sorry, maester, I got carried away.”

The maester chuckled. “Well, I can see that. What are you writing just now?”

“Folklores, maester.”

“Ah, yes, I remembered that was one of the late Lord Tully’s daughters favorite. Lysa’s, if my old mind is not mistaken. Lady Arryn now.”

The weather was nice and though she prefers an open window but Maester Vyman likes to close his chamber’s windows, so the wind won’t knocked off his precious bottles and vials. The maester’s room was filled with hundreds of it, arranged neatly on wooden shelves. His thin and sharp writing marks each bottles and the room always smelled of sage and salt. When she asked about those fragrance plantation, he told her about medicinal plants and herbs that grows in Riverrun’s garden, even in the Godswood; echinacea, meadowsweet, wild bergamot, thyme… all strange but beautiful to her. Here and there she’d look up from the book she copied and asks more questions. The maester seemed pleased with it.

Sometimes when ravens came she paid close attention to maester Vyman’s reaction, even though the man never said anything to her, hoping a slight expression would tell her what might written in the brown parchment. After every reading the maester neatly fold the paper and put it in a box, tucked away inside a locked drawer. She was tempted to ask for any news from the battlefield but didn’t dare. They’d tell her, if anything big happens, right?

After helping the maester, she visit the sept to pray for her family and spending the rest of the afternoon in the Godswood. Its beautiful forgotten little garden and the stillness calms her somehow.

She loves sewing in the Godswood which always bright and airy, a welcome change of her dim stone walls. By the third time she sat on the giant root to sew, she already knew the surroundings; tall redwoods spread dappled shadows across the pathway, birds sang from hidden nests, and the air spicy with the scent of flowers that grow on the mossy ground. Buttercup flowers is her favorite among all. She never noticed it before, but after Robb gave the flower to her she paid more attention to the yellow bud.

Hours became days and days changed to weeks... Even ser Patrek, her most friendly guardian, never tell her any news from the battlefield nor the south. She understands they kept her in the blind, a hostage provided with comfort and hospitality, and she should be grateful for it. Yet her heart ached for any news about her family and—a tiny part of it—about Robb Stark.

Robb Stark, she said his name quietly to herself as she sew.

She should not forget who he is. Even during their brief time with each other and she thinks she somehow sees the young man beneath his kingly persona, it won’t matter in the end. Whoever wins the War of the Five Kings would not wiped clean all the bloodshed between their families. Lady Catelyn is right, very right... How foolish of her trying to believe what is not supposed to happen.

He is a Stark, she reminded herself every time she sat on the giant root, sewing or just reading a book. Yet her hand continued to embroider a lone wolf figure. She uses black, grey and white for its fur, and yellow for his eyes. Grey Wolf, she said to herself. It was a warm afternoon. Walton and her other guards stood silently at the entrance, out within earshot.

“Robb Stark,” she whispered his name, smiling faintly to the mossy ground and buttercups flowers that grew wildly on the soil. She took a yellow thread and began to embroider a buttercup flower.

“Yellow, like you,” he had said.

She took a mental note to tell him a story she read about buttercup flowers.

Will he like it? Or will he think I am foolish? He is leading an army, and here I am stupidly wanted to tell him the ridiculous story I found in old scrolls.

No, I shouldn’t thinking about you, Myrcella shook her head.

But his name sounds good when she says it, even though quietly like telling a secret. And she admitted she likes thinking about him. Something flutters in her belly whenever she recalled his bright blue eyes, and how his thick eyebrows furrows in thoughts just a second before he replied anything.

“Robb,” she whispered again, after glancing nervously to the entrance. Walton and her guards are talking among themselves, paying her no attention. She giggled.

No, he is Robb Stark, a voice in her head reminded her. He is riding south to sack King’s Landing and kill your brother. Robb Stark is enemy.

Her fingers trembled as she embroidered. Her back began to hurt but indeed she hadn’t felt good these past few days. Maybe it's time to call it a day and retreated to her chamber. Myrcella gathered her needles and her threads, putting them into a basket and stood up. Suddenly a deep pain pierced her waist and abdomen, so intense and so sudden that she shook and had to hold to a weirwood branch to stopped her from falling, groaning. She heard Walton’s approaching boots stepping on dried twigs.

“What is it, girl?” he barked, his sword at hand. The man had never bothered to call her with titles, and since the incident with Lord Karstark he became easily upset.

“Nothing, ser.” she replied, hand on her stomach. “Just… I think I am not feeling good.”

“I am not a knight,” he said gruffly and sheathed his sword, frowning at her stomach. “I better take you to the maester, then. Couldn’t risk you die under my supervision.” he grumbled.

She smiled at his reply. “I knew someone who would say such thing.”

“What? Taking you to a maester?” Walton took her arm gently and ushered her from the Godswood. Three Tully guards followed them silently.

“No, but someone who said that he was not a knight.”

“I am lowborn, girl. Father was a farmer. Nothing like you or other m’lords and ladies.” he rolled his eyes, mocking.

She smiled, “Yes, you do sounds like him.”

Walton looked irritated. “Fine then, who is this man? Do I know him, eh?”

“He is my brother’s sworn shield. He is called The Hound.”

“Oh, him?” Walton was not impressed. “Aye, heard about him. And his monster of brother. The King is after that mad dog.”

“Is there any news from the war, ser?” finally the question came out of her mouth.

Walton glanced uneasily behind them, to the three Tully guards walking just two foot away. He shook his head and they climbed the maester’s tower in silence. Every step she took sent uncomfortable pain to her back and her stomach, and she grimaced. Walton knocked at the oak door, announcing their presence to the maester.

Maester Vyman looked up from a letter he wrote and smiled at them.

“Good afternoon, Princess Myrcella. I didn’t expect to see you so soon after our session. Can I be of help?”

“She’s got stomach bug.” Walton answered for her.

“Are you?” maester Vyman raised his eyebrow. He told her to lay down as he checked her pulse. “You do look a bit pale, Princess. Is your back hurts?”

“It is.”

“Your lower back?” he pressed gently on her stomach and she cringed.

“Yes.”

“Has this cramping upset you in the past few days?”

“Yes…”

“Princess, how old are you?”

“I am fourteen, maester Vyman.”

“Ah.” The maester mumbled to himself as he rose to find something in his drawer.

“She won’t die, right?” asked Walton.

“Oh Walton, you’re very funny,” the maester took a jar of dried leaves. He pinched a little, put it in a chalice and poured hot water from a kettle above the fireplace. Before he handed the chalice to Myrcella, he poured milk. “Here, Princess. Carefull, its hot.”

“It won’t look good on me if she dies under my protection.” Walton insisted.

“No, Walton, she won’t die.” maester Vyman huffed. “Drink, Princess, it will help soothe your upset stomach.”

She obediently took a sip, then another, and it sends warm into her stomach. She feels instantly better though her back makes her want to lie down again. Once she finished the drink maester Vyman patted her shoulder.

“You will be okay now, Princess. Rest earlier tonight. If the cramps come again you know where to find me.”

“It is not life threatening, isn’t it?” Walton asked again.

“No, Walton, it is not.” maester Vyman answered patiently before ushering them from his chamber. “See you on the morrow, Princess. I’ve got more manuscripts for us to copy.”

“Thank you, maester.”

The sun has not really sets, but she decided to retreat to her chamber. Along the way Walton glanced at her, as if he made sure she would not fall dead on the cobblestone.

“Thank you, ser, for taking me to maester Vyman.” she said as they ascended the stairs to her chamber.

“Name is Walton, girl, not some sers. I’d be one when the Young Wolf or his knights knighted me. Which I hope would be soon.” he said. “Of course it only happens if I keep you alive.”

“All right, then, uh, Walton.” she said, not sure if it was polite enough to call him by his name. He seemed quite old with his messy brown beard, a look most northerner have. Walton has a face like he is thinking hard which makes him a bit unattractive. She wonders if the man ever smiled in his life. If he did, he’d look nicer.

Walton shrugged nonchalantly, “I am answering to the King if anything happens to you.”

“You seemed very fond of him.”

He scoffed. “All of us do, girl, and to his father before him, before you Lannisters chopped off his head.”

That again, her heart sank. Everyone wants to remind her of her family’s crime.

Walton left her in her chamber as that night four Tully household guard stood in front of her door. Sleep has not been good to her and she shuddered on her bed as the cramps revisits. It become near unbearable near midnight and she curled up on her bed; a wolf howls in the distance.

She was dreaming of a tall knight in grey armor and fur surcoat, who carries an oak shield decorated with a direwolf’s head. The knight unsheathed his greatsword. It was wide across a man’s hand, the valyrian steel blade has a dark and smokey appearance. She couldn’t see his face. Danger radiance from the knight as he advanced to her.

“I am so sorry,” she heard herself cried. “I am so sorry,”

The knight came at her, the iron crown on his auburn head glistered with blood. She screamed as the knight raised his hand and swung his sword. A piercing pain stab her stomach where the tip of the sword was lodged, and something warm ran down her legs.

She woke up trembling to sweet metallic scent caught her nostrils. As she saw the blood she frantically jumped from her bed and hugged herself tightly, thinking the knight had finally managed to hurt her. It was then when her toe hit the wooden bedframe and she yelped in pain, that she realized the blood was not from her severed torso.

It was just her moonblood.

 

Chapter Text

CATELYN

The ride to Harrenhall has been slow. Not all men seated on horse and they couldn’t travel as fast as they wanted. But it shouldn’t be long before they reach their destination. Ser Rodrik said they’d reach Harrenhall in three more days, weather is good and there should be no obstacles in their way. Catelyn hoped the man was right. They had been on the road for three days now, two hundred horses (Robb took most of their riders) and more than seven thousands men-at-arms. There’s a reason why Robb and Stannis agreed to combined their forces at Harrenhall. It is because the old burned castle is the biggest in Westeros and in good direction to King’s Landing. Tywin Lannister and his army currently take hold of the castle, but Robb and Stannis agreed to attack and scattered the old lion’s forces. 

A raven found them yesterday and Lady Maege Mormont announced Stannis’s forces are preparing to march in Maidenpool. Maege is a short, stout, grey-haired woman and a fierce warrior, whom Robb trusts to led them to Harrenhall and to Stannis. The she-bear dresses in patched ringmail and her bellowing voice barked orders to her men as they reached the middle of high ground to make camp. Scouts were dispatched and posts and guards were placed before they settled the night. Robb trusts his vassals and it was a good thing, to Catelyn’s relief. 

Along the way she sew a prayer wheel; this is the third time she made it. Once, she made it for Jon Snow, Ned’s natural son when the lad was barely ten and laying sick of smallpox. The second time, she made it for Bran after he fell from a tower that claimed his legs. Now she made it with Robb, Sansa and Arya in her mind. 

She is afraid for Robb, fighting in battle against the Mountain, maybe at this very moment. She is crying for Sansa, beaten and humiliated by the man her daughter was betrothed to. She is in constant worry for Arya, lost and never heard of.

Please let us come home and forget this horror, she whispered her prayer as she sew, sometimes stopped briefly to get rid of the tears dripping on her cheeks. Bran and Rickon, too, deep in her thoughts. Her babies are alone in Winterfell and the first thing she’d do after she made sure Robb doesn’t need her anymore is to ride hard for Winterfell.

Their supper was as simple as a bowl of stew and mead. Afterwards she joined ser Rodrik, Maege Mormont and other lords in the commander’s tent to discuss the situation. They’d wait until their scout comes back with any information about Harrenhall and to send message to Stannis that they’re ready. The riverlords knew well their land and it should be their advantage. The place they made camp was well hidden by rows of trees and their men stood guard in three. Maege Mormont will lure the old lion from Harrenhall and when Tywin is busy dealing with them, Robb would sneak in the rear to break straight into Harrenhall. They’d just bid their time.

They have been lucky so far, so help us Gods to keep it, Catelyn thought as she sat beside ser Rodrik, the prayer wheel at hand. She almost finished it.

Their camp was dark; Maege Mormont doesn’t allowed much torches or bonfires. They were forced to squeeze shoulder to shoulders around a small bonfire every twenty meters. Darkness protects them from lurking eyes. If they cannot see the enemy, it is better if the enemy has difficulty spotting them too. Also there were outlaws for them to be wary. Though small chance those outlaws would dare approaching an army. 

What was it the Esossi say? That the night is dark, and full of terrors… Catelyn mused as she clutched her prayer wheel. How true was that?

“You should rest, my lady.” ser Rodrik’s kind voice pulled her from her reverie. They are standing in front of her tent. “I will place more guards in front of your tent for the night.”

“Thank you, ser Rodrik, and you too.” she replied, casting the older man a thankful smile.

She lit a candle inside her tent but the light too small to keep darkness at bay. At least she didn’t alone with her mind in pure dark. In the distance she thought she heard wolves howling, but she was not worried. Wolf— direwolf, even —is the protector and the sigil of house Stark. Wolves won’t hurt them. They are pack. 

It took three days later when the first scout came back bearing news that Tywin Lannister has amassed forty thousand men-at-arms at Harrenhall. He saw they seemed preparing to march, but saw nothing further as he had to fight and thankfully killed two Lannister scouts on his way back. Upon hearing the report, Lady Mormont placed archers on each posts and checkpoints, if there were spies or scouts coming too close. They cannot risk Tywin know they are planning to take Harrenhall. And besides, Tywin’s forty thousand men-at-arms are just too many. 

Tension felt thick among the men, preparing for the worst. Robb has not sent any raven and neither does Stannis. They are put on hold, waiting, and waiting… Until the morning when she finally finished her prayer wheel and put it near her sleeping pallet, that ser Rodrik found her in the tent. 

“Yes?” she asked, trying to push back worst thoughts.

“A message came today, my lady.”

She hurriedly went with him to the commander’s tent, where Maege Mormont and several other lords already waiting.

“Message from the King.”

“Which King?” There’s too many Kings right now.

Maege smiled. “ Our King.” and Catelyn let out a breath. Mage handed her the small parchment.

Passed the fork and cuts the lion’s claws. We sent most of livestocks to the Fish in the trident. The old lion will return to its den to protect the rest of the house.

“What—,” Catelyn was dumbfounded, reading the message. Robb’s handwriting are remarkably strong, written with symmetrical lines. It didn’t convey much information for fearing being intercept by the enemy.

“They are plundering the westerlands that was left open.” Maege explained to her. “Killed most Lannisters and captured livestock and sent the cattles back to Riverrun. I am sure the King is in attempt to lure Tywin Lannister away from Harrenhall and leave King’s Landing open for an attack.”

A guard walked into the tent, apologising. “M’ladies, m’lords,” he huffed. “A scout has returned.”

“Bring him in.”

The skinny man entered the tent, clearly rode hard all night long to reached them in time. “They are moving.” he even still trying to catch his breath. “The Lannister host moved from Harrenhal in an attempt to make it to the Westerlands.” 

“It seems that His Grace’s attack on their land made Tywin move away from the castle.” Maege pondered. “My lords, tell the troops to get ready. This is the signal we’ve been waiting for. Send riders first, to make sure our path is clear. How many men-at-arms did you see coming out of Harrenhall?”

The scout looked nervous. “Thirty thousand, milady. At least.”

“We need to send message to Stannis, and fast.” 

“Lady Mormont, what do you think?” Catelyn asked anxiously.

“We are approaching King’s Landing, my lady, and if Stannis want to sit on that iron throne,” the she-bear huffed, “he better get hurry, time is our biggest enemy right now. I’ve heard news that Renly’s troops is in Bitterbridge already.”

“That boy is playing King,” Catelyn reminisced her encountered with Renly. A young man of twenty and one, handsome and jovial, Renly is loved by many, men and women alike. That is the only traits he has that make him believe he’d be a good king, better than Stannis and Joffrey. The last time she saw Renly was when she visited Ned in King’s Landing. Renly was grand and dressed so lordly even she could see the man was not build for war. Put a sword in his hand and Catelyn sure he’d break. 

“What about Robb?” she asked the she-bear. 

“He will know what to do, Lady Stark. Besides, the King’s order has been clear for us to march to Harrenhall. Which we will do so, on the morrow.”

“Do we have enough men?”

“I am sure we do. If the scout is correct, the Lannister forces are now split in two just like what he hoped for.” Maege is smiling ear to ear. “Your son is a very good tactician.”

“And very lucky, I must admit,” Catelyn bowed her head humbly at the she-bear praise, “yet I dreaded his position, my lady. Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster. And not many people can keep their balance on it, I’m afraid.” 

That’s why I prayed every night, for the old God and the new to protect Robb. 

Victory after victories cemented Robb’s ways in front of his followers, but his enemies might grow bolder to cast him down. Catelyn shuddered at the thought; is she being paranoid, or is it her instinct trying to tell her something? Robb rode into war surrounded by loyal bannermen and thirty highborn knights at his side, acting as his unwritten Kingsguard. He should be safe… he should be.

Another raven found them near dusk. 

Dark wings, dark words, Ned once whispered to her. 

A king was dead, and to her relief (she hates herself for feeling it because she knew the man was actually a good one and should not have died so soon) it was not Robb, or Stannis. 

It was Renly Baratheon.

“What will happen, then?” Lord Mooton asked.

“I will ride to Bitterbridge.” Catelyn offered.

“But—,”

“Those lords and their armies are now leaderless. They cannot return their fealty to the iron throne. They are the stormlands’ bannermen. Swore an oath to Lord of Storm’s End whose name is Baratheon. Stannis is the only Baratheon left.”

Catelyn knew it is the only right thing to do. Thousands of men-at-arms to Stannis and Robb’s side is a very appealing idea. She hates herself more for silently thanking the old Gods and the new for Renly’s sudden and mysterious death.

“The King’s order was clear—,”

“Lady Mormont,” Catelyn cuts in. “please. I knew what my son had ordered us to do. Just by this morning you reminded me of it. But now I see opportunity to bring more men to our cause. I shall ride to Bitterbridge on the first light to meet Renly’s bannermen.”

“I cannot send many men with you, Lady Stark.”

“Ser Rodrik and twenty good men of my house will suffice. It won’t take long to reach Bitterbridge from here, my lady.”

“You’ll be too close to King’s Landing.” Maege seemed hesitant.

Catelyn smiled. “I will do whatever it takes to take my son win this war.”

A cruel dusk wakes Catelyn from sweet dreams of happy family life. She is wary of riding and being strong, but she cannot allow herself to be weak. Not today, and not this time. And so she ride at the first light, wind blows cold on her face and she shivered despite the heavy cloak she wore. She doesn’t know what awaits her in Bitterbridge but she knew she have to seek them. Her party includes some of best Winterfell men and five lordlings; ser Wendel, ser Perwyn Frey, Lucas Blackwood and Robin Flint, to add weight and honor to her negotiations with Storm End’s vassals.

Raven was dispatched to Stannis, informing of her travel to Bitterbridge. It was a castle in the Reach, controlled by Tyrells of Highgarden. Renly was married to Lord Tyrell’s daughter, gaining military advantage. 

It took Catelyn almost four days of heavy riding and when she finally reached a windmill where the roseroad crosses the Mander, a mounted man with twenty men who later introduced himself as ser Colen of Greenpools intercepted her. The man seemed wary of her and almost showing no welcome gesture. Yet for the sake of the King in the North’s banner and pure curiosity, he led them to what was left to Renly’s camp. It was immense, though Catelyn saw nearly half of the men already departed to their respective Lord’s castles. 

She didn’t see any Tyrell’s banners.

“What was left of us.” ser Colen admitted. “We’re leaving to our land when we saw you approaching… Most of us were gone now, and the Tyrells… well, they bent the knee to the iron throne, now.”

To the Lannisters, Catelyn thought, afraid she might came too late.

“What happened to King Renly, ser?” Catelyn asked, knowing that if she uses the right word to address the late Renly Baratheon, his men at least won’t be offended. They dismounted at the center of the camp where what was left of Renly’s royal tent erected.

“Assassin, my lady.” he almost looked ashamed. “Some believed it was sent by the Lannisters, though we didn’t capture him. Slit the King’s throat inside his tent and slaying two of his Rainbow guards.” ser Colen shook his head in disbelief. “The Tyrells took lady Margaery and left last night, to King’s Landing to bend the knee. Only the Fossoways and the Florents remains in the Reach.”

“Ser, I will need to speak to these Lords, in the name of Robb Stark the King in The North and Stannis Baratheon, the rightful king of the Iron Throne.” Catelyn herself hear her voice tensed. “We don’t have enough time. If you will kindly enough to assembled these Lords and Ladies of what was left from King Renly’s army, I’d be very grateful.”

Ser Colen looked at her for a moment but then nodded his head, to Catelyn’s relief. Less than an hour later Catelyn joined ser Colen in the royal tent, looking at uneasy faces of Fossoways, Florents, Conningtons, Carrols, Hastys, Gowers, and many others. They are leaderless now— kingless, even, Catelyn wondered—and have not declared to neither side since Renly’s death. She realized most of Storm End’s vassals were angry at the possibility of Renly being killed by Joffrey. They did not want to swear allegiance to the iron throne. Once Catelyn reminded them of the last Baratheon in Maidenpool, ready to strike the Lannisters to take the throne, she gained favor almost immediately from them. Stannis won’t be happy but he will thank her nonetheless for bringing in more men to his cause.

Two large houses of the Reach—the Fossoways and Florents—are not easily persuaded, though. Just when things were heated up, finally house Florents agreed to joined Stannis’ cause just because Stannis’ wife is a Florent. 

Why you didn’t think of it when you choose Renly’s side, Catelyn thought but keep her tongue in check. 

Two ravens flew that night to find the King in the North somewhere in the westerlands, and another to find Stannis in Maidenpool. She waited until dawn comes and when its blue hues appeared in the dark sky, ser Perwyn Frey helped her mounted her mare. Trots turned to gallops as soon as they left the Mader, and soon they are into a vast savanna near the Blackwater Rush. Once they reached Stoney Sept they decided to make camp for two nights, regaining strength and honing their weapons. 

It was there when Grey Wind found their party. Catelyn breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing the beast, realizing Robb’s army must be less than a night ride from them. They stayed for another night waiting for Robb. 

“I told you to ride to Harrenhall.” Robb said, when on the third night Robb’s troops found their camp. 

“Good to see you, too. I bring more men.” Catelyn answered.

Robb couldn’t hide his smile. “I can see that.” 

They would hug each other if not eyes of Robb’s men staring at them. Tens of Storm End’s vassals standards flipping in the wind. Their Lords knelt upon seeing Robb and his giant direwolf, half afraid and half shock to witness such beast now almost as tall as a destrier. Even Catelyn realized her son grew taller in the past few weeks. He is now sporting a short, polite beard cropped close to the face, perfectly befitting the title of King in the North. 

Robb found her in her tent that night. “I need you to do something, mother.” he said, his voice low and she knew what he will asked of her. It is the only reason her son came to her unscarthed. 

“Robb, you know I will do whatever you asked me to.”

Four men came with Robb, carrying a large wooden box sealed with wax.

“What is inside the box?” 

Though she thinks she knew the answer.

“The Mountain’s bones.” Robb answered. “Which I need you to deliver to Dorne, mother. I cannot trust anyone else but you.”

“I will do it.”

“I know you must be exhausted...”

“I said I will do it. Anything necessary for us to wipe clean every Lannisters from this world. And to get your sisters back.” Catelyn firmly replied.

“We are supposed to meet in Harrenhall, but your impromptu travel when you received Renly’s death makes us to meet earlier in here, mother.” 

“I hope you don’t regret it.”

“I don’t. Thank you, mother.”

“I will leave early on the morrow. Be safe, Robb.”

“And you, mother.”

Everything she did, she does so for her family. Like her house words; Family. Duty. Honor. 

Speaking of honor…

The Kingslayer was locked inside a barred cell on the back of a wagon. His neck, ankles and wrists are bound with rope and chains, to her satisfaction. Two men standing guard near the wagon and Catelyn couldn’t help but stares at the now dirty, skinny prisoner sat silently inside his cell. He used to be dashingly handsome, or so she remembered from his visit to Winterfell some years ago when King Robert asked Ned to be his Hand.

Jaime seemed aware to her stare because suddenly he looked up and a set of green eyes looking back at her defiantly. A smirk crossed his handsome face, which now full with dirty scraggy greying beard. 

“Going somewhere, my lady?” he called to her. 

Catelyn knew she better to walk along to her mare, yet her eyes fixated at him. 

“What? You’re now too honorable to speak to me? Now that you’re mother of a king.”

“Don’t speak of honor to me.” she almost spat, glaring at the Kingslayer with all hate she could muster. “You have no honor.”

“Oh, aye, I have.” he replied cheerfully as if he is not bound and chained and they were just talking casually in some lord’s great hall. “Honor. I defended my family. I only lay with one woman whom I love so dearly… but how about you, my lady, or your late husband? Isn’t it ironic the man they deemed honorable brought home a bastard? A reminder that your honorable husband fucked a whore.”

“Lady Stark. It is time to go.”

If not ser Rodrik’s firm tone behind her, she’d strangled the Kingslayer with his own guts.

“Where are you going, lady Stark? Dorne, perhaps?” Jaime called her again. “Sending those snakes some nice souvenirs? Are you looking at me to say goodbye?”

She could see bruises, old and new, scars that began to scab in the Kingslayer’s body. Even his left eye was swollen. The men have not treated him so well. 

“Did they beat you?” 

“Well, a man or two doesn’t seem to like me. That old lord Karstark, too.” 

“You killed two of his sons.”

“They were on my way to kill your son. Any knight would have done the same.”

“You are no knight. You have forsaken every vow you took.” she said coldly.

“Ah, so many vows. They make you swear and swear. Defend the King, obey the King, obey your father, protect the innocent, and defend the weak. But what if your father despises the King? What if the King massacres the innocent? It’s too much, lady Stark.” 

“You are a man with no honor, Kingslayer.”

“Kingslayer! And what a King he was! Here’s to Aerys Targaryen, the second of his name, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, protector of the Realm, the last Targaryen, and to the sword I shoved in his back!” he began to laugh bitterly and choke on his own saliva, spitting the drool to his beard. 

“My… my niece… Myrcella,” he said after his laugh subsides. “are you going to trade her for your daughters?”

Your sister doesn’t have Arya, she said to herself but managed to remain calm. 

“It is none of your concern, Kingslayer.”

“Do to me as you like, but don’t hurt her.”

“You seem so fond of your sister’s daughter.”

“She is my niece, what’d you say?” his chains rattle as he tried to move. “Like you, I also will do everything to keep my… blood ... safe.”

“It is not my decision about your daughter , Kingslayer. Yes, don’t you think Stannis will be silent knowing that Cersei’s children are yours?” she raised an eyebrow at the Kingslayer, who tried to jump at her but caught by the chain wrapped around his neck. He fell before he even could get more than an inch from where he was tied. Ser Rodrik and his guards unsheathed their swords in unison. “It is the King’s decision about her, and about you, as a matter of fact. If he wants to give your daughter to wolves or horses, that is none of my concern.”

“You!” he screamed. “I will kill you! And your son!” he spat and cursed but Catelyn already turned and walked towards her mare. She could hear the Kingslayer’s screams from behind her, his anger shook the iron bars he was tied to.

“The Kingslayer is not one to be messed with, Lady Stark,” ser Rodrik said softly as he helped her mount the mare. 

“I don’t, ser Rodrik. I only told him what he needed to hear.”

Her entourage mounted their horses and together they trotted from the camp. Two black horses pulled a wagon with the Mountain’s bones and inside Catelyn’s robe is a letter from the King in the North for the Prince of Dorne.

 

Chapter Text

MYRCELLA

“Where do dead men go when they die?”

Maester Vyman looked up from his parchment with a wonder look. “Well, the faith of the seven didn’t actually say, and obviously we never had the dead to tell the tale.” 

“So there is no afterlife, after death?”

Maester Vyman put down his quill with a smile. “If we do good deeds and keep our prayers close, you shouldn’t fear what surely coming for all of us, Princess.”

Myrcella smiled, “Of course, maester. I was just curious.”

“Curiosity is what fueled us to grow, Princess. Embrace it.”

They sat across each other, still making copies of old manuscripts. Now piles of dusty scrolls is getting low and Myrcella is optimistic they will finish it before the day is over. People who were injured and need stitches are now in good condition, and most who come are people with sore throats and flu. She couldn’t help much and maester Vyman forbade her to be in the infirmary, fearing her to contact any disease. He taught her a little about medicine and healing though.

“How about the old God?”

“The only religion that might have explicit believe in life after death is R’hllor, or known as the Lord of Light. That is a prominent God in Essos.” maester Vyman responded.

“The God of Light.” she said in awe. “I’ve heard about it from some knight with a flame sword in King’s Landing.”

“I am sure you do. But then, the religion itself is basically unknown in here. They believe after our death the soul leaves its body to… uh, the Maker, R’hllor itself, and so they preserved the physical body of the deceased. But the process is not for very common to be act upon.”

“How was it?”

“Well… a priest or priestess of R’hllor insert a hook through the nose to pull out the deceased’s brain. They also removed all internal organs but leave the heart inside. The body is then wash with spices and wine to keep further decay at bay.”

“And the deceased body will preserved?”

“It seemed so. Sometimes the bodies preserved so well it looks like they’re just sleeping.”

Myrcella’s eyes widened at the explanation. 

“By the way, how is your cramps, Princess?”

“Getting better, thank you, maester,” she blushed. A few days ago she asked for a potion to reduce discomfort due to her moonblood. This was the second time she had it, and she was embarrassed to remember how panicked it made her the first time… Her mother should be by her side in this situation, sharing experiences and giving womanly advices. She would even welcome Lady Catelyn’s presence, but she was alone. When the maids saw bloodstains on her bed and her nightgown, they looked at each other silently and took her to maester Vyman. 

By the second time her moonblood came it was not as frightening as the first time as she had prepared mentally (and technically). It still brought her cramps, though, which maester Vyman said was normal and expected.

She opened her mouth to ask more question when a raven squeaking noisily from behind a window, clawing on the glass to get in. Maester Vyman hurriedly opened the window and let the raven in. Tied on its leg was a small parchment and as soon as the message was untied the raven flew to the bird-stand. Myrcella took out a bag of corn to feed it.

“Direwolf.” maester Vyman muttered, breaking the seal to read the message.

“Was that from…” Robb, she almost said, but hold her tongue mid sentence.

“From the Young Wolf,” maester Vyman confirmed as he read. “Hmmm. They have reached Harrenhall few nights ago.” he mumbled. “Light casualties, well that's good to know… Ah,” he stopped. Maester Vyman looked up to her and her heart pounded faster. The look on his face was not very happy, but a concern one. 

“Maester Vyman?” she asked.

“It’s your uncle,” he said, hesitate to tell. But she knew he had to. Something Robb’s written on the letter was meant for her.

No. Please don’t. Gods, please don’t let him die. 

“The King in the North won Battle of the Fords. He had reached Harrenhall and joined forces with your uncle, Stannis Baratheon… However,” he cleared his throat.

“Yes?” she asked, afraid.

“Jaime Lannister was injured. The King ordered you to ride for Harrenhall as soon as his message is received. I will need to inform Lord Tully.”

It was a blur; Edmure Tully consulted briefly with maester Vyman before telling the servants to pack her belongings (not that she has many). She left Riverrun that very day escorted by Walton, ser Patrek Mallister—who were happy to return to battlefield—and some household guards lent by the riverlords. One moment she contently sat in the maester’s chamber inhaling the sweet salty scent with fresh parchment under her palm, and a moment later she found herself settled behind ser Patrek’s back on his grey destrier. She was told that for the sake of safety they’d ride hard, stopping only once in High Heart to rest. 

High Heart is a very tall hill sacred to the Children of the Forest in the riverlands. Around its crown stands a ring of more than thirty weirwood stumps. The hill is considered a safe place due to its height, compared to the very flat surrounding land. It nearly impossible to be approached unseen and soon her entourage dismounted. She could sense the power of the place, eerily silent but comforting like the Riverrun’s forgotten Godswood. Walton never took his eyes of her, glaring and rolling his eyes whenever she tried to engage him in conversation. The man must have wanted his knighthood really bad, that he put up with her for so long. 

Even though her guards treated her decently, she was watched night and day. Before someone helped her dismount Walton always made sure to tied her wrists to his using a long rope. “Is that necessary?” she overheard ser Patrek asked Walton. 

“Aye.” Walton replied, glowering at her. “better than she try to escape when we sleep.”

The rope was long enough for her to wander five feet away from Walton to make water. She still felt violated somehow, relieving herself as Walton grumbled and tugging the rope from behind the bush, telling her to hurry up nonverbally. 

The trip to took them only two days—considering they rode their horses like mad men. When the slender figure of Harrenhall towers that had burned out hundreds of years ago began to loomed in the distance, she felt nervous. As the stories told Harrenhal is indeed a huge castle, the largest one in all Westeros. It looked bigger than the Red Keep itself but her mind might failed her as she began to forget the details of her home. Even when Harrenhall is already within sight her entourage refused to slow down before they breached into its safe perimeter.

She saw a flash of grey running next to ser Patrek’s horse and Myrella realized it was Grey Wind. The destrier shrieked but ser Patrek is a skilled rider he didn’t has difficulties maintaining his pace. She felt at ease looking at the direwolf who in two moons turn seemed to grow bigger. Its terrifying figure running so near to them, the orange sun shone on its fur. It was a magnificent sight.

Harrenhall outer post consists of trenches with pickets patrolling the perimeter. Robb also placed guards posts and hundreds of tents lined up in front of the castle to house thousands men-at-arms, the men parted to gave way to their galloping horses.

“Riders coming through!” 

Two sigils flutters in the wind; Stark’s direwolf and Baratheon’s crowned black stag. She noticed her uncle’s sigil now enclosed within fiery red heart of Lord of Light. 

“Ser Patrek, welcome to Harrenhall.” a squire, a servant and three stable boys are waiting for them in the yard. “As soon as the scout saw you approaching, the King has waiting. If you will follow me?”

Ser Patrek nodded, “And Princess Myrcella?”

“She will be escorted to her room, ser.”

“Very well, then.”

Myrcella was about to ask about her uncle when Ser Patrek excused himself and she was left with Walton and the servant girl. The girl bowed her head in respect. She is pretty, with brown hair she secured into a mangled bun, high cheekbones and full lips. She almost laugh when she caught Walton staring at the servant girl, his eyes almost fell from its sockets.

“Milady, my name is Pia. If it pleases milady, I am here to take you to your room.” Pia oddly covered her mouth as she spoke.

“Thank you, Pia.” She smiles.

Harrenhall has five towers of dizzying size, each one equally with monstrous curtain walls. The walls are incredibly thick, and she was put in the upper floor in the Tower of Dread. It was not a pleasant name.

”It’s okay, milady, it’s just a name.” Pia assured her upon seeing her reaction. “People would say ghosts of Harren and his sons roamed this castle, but no, milady. I’ve live my life in here and never saw any ghost.” she smiles reassuringly and Myrcella nodded, thankful for the friendly servant.

Pia opened a wooden door to her chamber which are built on a scale that would be more comfortable for giants than humans. It was huge and plain, as the rest of the castle who seemed too big to be handled properly. After making sure that she was attended properly by Pia and some other chambermaids, Walton took his leave to stand guard in front of her room. A wooden tub was brought in and Pia helped her discarded her cloak and her gown. It feels nice to soaked herself in clean warm water and Pia even washed and brushed her hair afterwards. It's been so long to have someone helped her with her golden curls which now had grown to her waist. She is used to its length now, despite her mother never lets her hair grew long past her chest. What are you, a peasant that cannot afford a hairdresser? she could hear her teasing voice from the back of her head.

“I’ve never saw a hair so yellow like you, milady.” Pia remarked as she took a comb to brush her curls. “ Lannister gold , they say. Now would you like a southern braid?”

“You can do it?” she was surprised. 

“Well I can try… would you?”

She thought for a moment and shook her head. “I’ve forgotten how I look with that heavy braid. I think I prefer the northern hairdo, if you can, as it is simpler and easier. No one braid my hair in Riverrun until you offered it. Thank you, Pia.”

“My pleasure, milady.”

Pia continued to brushed her hair until it shone before she made a half twist fishtail braid on each side of the younger girl’s temples, twisting it to the back of her head and secures it with hairpins. She let the rest of Myrcella’s hair hanging loosely. Afterwards Pia took out several dresses from the chest Walton carried into the room, containing Myrcella’s clothes.

She chose to wear a greenish-white gown made of soft fabric, long and loose. The fabric was simple, obviously not as fancy as what she used to wore in King’s Landing. She liked it though, preferred the practicality over luxury.

“I really like your hair, milady.” Pia sighed as she helped Myrcella into her gown, shifting the golden locks to Myrcella’s shoulder so she can tie the corset. “Just like your uncle, Jaime Lannister. Oooh I remembered perfectly when the old king gave him his cloak, he was so handsome in all white. I was a slip of a girl that time. Not that he is not handsome now, after what they did to him—,” 

“Did you see my uncle here?” Myrcella turned so fast it caught Pia unaware.

She saw the reason why the servant girl always covered her mouth whenever she speaks. Something, or someone, seemed had smashed at least five of her front teeth. The servant quickly covered her mouth again.

“Oh my Gods, Pia,” Myrcella gasped. 

Pia looked away, ashamed. 

“What happened? Are you… okay?” 

“I… I’m fine, milady… it just… I haven’t use people see me… like this…”

“Who did that to you?”

“The Mountain.” her voice a whisper and both girls shuddered at the name. “When your Grandfather took residence here and he brought that monstrous man.” 

“I am truly sorry…” guilt, anger and shame squeezes her heart every time she heard the atrocities of her Grandfather’s banner man. 

“No, milady. It was my fault. I was speaking when he wants silence. He hit me with his mailed fist. Almost broke my nose too, but thankfully not.” the servant look down.

“It was not a reason to assault you just because he can. I—I am truly sorry,”

Pia shook her head. “The King in the North has avenged me, milady. He made sure that beast won’t do harm anymore.” the servant smiled at the memory, forgetting to cover her mouth. “I—I hope I am  not a disappointment to you, milady? I always wanted to be a handmaid.”

Myrcella’s heart softens for the servant girl. Pia has every reason to hates her, she is a Lannister after all. Her Grandfather’s man brought Pia shame and pain, yet the servant still want to put her service on her willingly. 

“I am very happy to have you, Pia.”

They exchanged smiles and Myrcella remembered what Pia had mentioned earlier.

“You spoke of my uncle Jaime Lannister. Do you know where is he?”

“He is in other tower milady, near Qyburn’s chamber. He was feverish the day they bought him here.”

“Did you know what happen to him?” 

“Milady, I—I am not sure I am allowed to—,”

“Please tell me, Pia,” 

Glancing at the door and noticing they were alone in the big chamber, Pia let out a breath and stared at the floor, beaten, “I heard he tried to escape, milady. I think he made it, because Locke boasted how he caught the Kingslayer… and—,” she hesitate. “Ah, I think it’s better if you not hear this from me.”

What did they do to him? Did they hurt him? 

The servant brought her food and a glass of mead, but Myrcella doesn't feel like eating. Apparently she had to wait to hear the news directly from Robb Stark, or someone who is willing to tell her what really happened. Hours later she finally got what she wanted when supper was cleared from her table. A knock was heard and Pia hurriedly opened the door to show Robb standing at the other side of it.

“Princess,” he said, as she curtsied. “I came to see if you have settled in your new room.”

“I have, Your Grace. Thank you.” she replied and she dared to look Robb Stark in the eye. His bright blue eyes that sometimes came to her dreams sending tingling feelings within her. He has the most beautiful eyes she ever laid eyes on which shone intensity, honesty, and gentleness. He appeared more lean and muscled under his jerkin, or was it just her imagination? His face is the kind that would stopped a maiden on her tracks—solemn and defined, hard yet gentle. Any woman would be lucky to be his Queen. 

And what did he say? That Lord Stark had tried to betrothed Robb to her, rather than Sansa to Joffrey. She imagined another life which such betrothal took place. His pale, thin lips framed by beard cropped close to the face kissed her under the shadow of a laughing tree as he cloaked her with his coat of protection...

No. What was just I thinking?

She had to avert her eyes from him, before it betrayed her mind. 

“May I know what happened to my uncle Jaime, please, Your Grace?” she meekly asked.

“Please take a seat.” Robb said, and as they settled down Pia moved around to pour them mead. After the servant filled their cups Robb nodded his thanks and dismissed her.

Myrcella waited patiently for Robb to continue.

“The Kingslayer tried to escape.” Robb finally said. “It happened after battle of the ford. We slain many Lannister men that day, sparing only one. Alton Lannister, if you knew him.”

She didn’t.

“Ser Alton’s mother is a lesser branch of Lannister. We didn’t have enough pen to held prisoners, and the night before we depart to Harrenhall he was put with the Kingslayer. It was a mistake.” Robb sighed apologetically or so she thought. “That night the Kingslayer beats him repeatedly with his shackles, killing ser Alton, to distract his guard into his cell.”

”No!” Myrcella gasped.

”He also killed the guard, strangled him to death, before escaping into the night. Lord Bolton’s hunters found him the next morning.”

Robb paused. Myrcella didn’t like where this going, especially Pia had mentioned Locke earlier. She decided to dislike that man.

“Can—can I see him?”

Robb exhales. “He is not in the best mood.”

Silence come between them as she processed his words. 

“Did you order Lord Bolton’s hunters to hurt him?” her voice trembled.

“No.” came his reply.

But you didn’t tell them not to hurt him, either.

“When I sent for you, I thought the Kingslayer won’t make it. But then last night he overcame his fever and Qyburn said he’ll survive.”

You were afraid you will not have any valuable hostage if he was dead.

“He lost his sword hand.”

The news startled her. Her uncle had been a passionate knight. He was the youngest to donned his Kingsguard cloak and Myrcella knew he took pride in it. People called him the Kingslayer but they didn’t know him like she does. 

Behind closed doors he’d tell Tommen and her stories about valor, knights and their maidens, favors and gallantry. Jaime indulged her to such stories and to her he is the epitome of knight in shining armor. When she asked him then why he killed the Mad King, his eyes had been shone with sadness.  “My Princess,” he said that time, maybe when she was still a girl of seven or eight running to found him after she learnt how the court whispered Kingslayer behind her beloved Uncle’s back. “It was not a good story. You wouldn’t want to know it.”

“I want to. You are my knight, uncle. Why did they call you that?” 

“If I trusts you with my secret, will you guard it truly?”

“With my honor.” she had replied solemnly and her uncle smiled.

“Have you heard about Wildfire? The Mad King was obsessed with it.”

“Yes.”

“The Mad King loved to watch people burn, the way their skin blackened and blistered and melted off their bones. He burned lords he didn’t like. He burned Hands who disobeyed him. He burned anyone who was against him, and before long half of the country was against him. Aerys Targaryen saw traitors in every corner. So he had his pyromancer placed caches of wildfire all over the city, from the slums of Flea Bottom to beneath the Sept of Baelor. Under people’s houses, stables, taverns. Even beneath the Red Keep itself. Rhaegar Targaryen has fallen in the Trident and my father your Grandfather arrived in the capital with the whole Lannister army at his back, promising to defend the city against the rebel. Sadly, I knew him better than that. He’s never been one to pick the losing side and I told the Mad King as much. I urged him to surrender peacefully but the King didn’t listen to me. So we opened the gates and my father sacked the city. That was not something I was proud about. Once again, I came to the king, begging him to surrender. But…” she remembered he had been silent for a moment, searching for the right words. She sat quietly, transfixed to hear her uncle’s story. “But he told me to bring my father’s head. Then he turned to his pyromancer… ‘Burn them all’ he said. I was asked to kill my own father and stand by while thousands of men, women, children burned alive. So I forsake my oath… to make sure that didn’t happen. Do you understand now?” She reached to his cheek then, tears streaming down her eyes upon the revelation. She had not tell a soul about it, though she despised every time she heard Kingslayer was mentioned. Her beloved uncle is her hero, her true knight. He had lived with the shame for more than fifteen years and had his honor spat upon, when in fact he’d been a hero for preventing mass murder.

And now he lost his sword hand.

“You will be able to visit him on the morrow.” Robb’s voice pulled her from her reverie.

“Thank you Your Grace, for your generosity.”

He stood up and she followed suit, thinking that the Young Wolf was done talking to her. 

Robb studied her face for a moment. When his eyes slowly descended from her face to her neck, then looked at her from head to toe, Myrcella had to look away to hide her blush. It seemed like he was taking her in like she did when he entered her room. She was grateful his gaze didn’t linger in uncomfortable place.

“Do you like the dresses?” he asked, to her surprise.

“I do, Your Grace. Thank you.”

He smiled.

“I am glad you didn’t get hurt in battle, Your Grace. I prayed for your safe return.” she meant every word, not just to fill the silence between them.

“Is that so?”

“I know you are fighting for a good cause. First for your father, your siblings… then for your people.”

He exhales quietly. “Don’t we all?”

“My brother don’t.”

Robb never waived his eyes off her. “I am glad you seemed well, Princess. I heard what you did in Riverrun. Maester Vyman told me in his reports that you helped around a lot. You seem to like being a healer.” 

“Maybe I’ve decided to be one, someday.” she said wistfully. “Going to Citadel, forging my maester’s chains. Or build a small house where all people are welcome to seek shelter and medical aid.”

“Easier for the latter.” Robb acknowledged.

“You’re King. You should tell the Citadel to accept women, then.”

“I will try my best.” he bowed solemnly and she giggled. “If you were like your king brother, it’d also be easier, too.” Robb gave her a tired smile. “Good night, Princess. It is good to see you again.”

She chose not to pressed further what he meant. “Good night, Your Grace.”

He was already at the door, ready to yank it open when he stopped and turned his head to look at her from his shoulder. She waited for him to say something—anything. They stare at each other that felt like eternity and her breath quickens, before Robb finally opened the door and disappeared behind it.

 

When Walton escorted her the next morning to visit Jaime, the man lay in a big bed with his eyes staring at the ceiling. The room was dark and smelled of urine. Jaime blinked few times, trying to focus his gaze on her face when she called to him. 

“Are you well?” Jaime asked softly, strength has gone from his voice.

“Stop asking me that whenever I visited you.” she hushed him. His skin warm under her touch, sweat soaked his forehead. Myrcella took out a handkerchief and wiped Jaime’s face. “Are you in pain, uncle? Do you need milk of the poppy?”

“No, no poppies.” he hissed. 

“I have cleaned the infected flesh,” a strained croaked voice of old man was heard from across the room. A man revealed himself from the shadows. His thin frame was badly clothed under a black maester robe but he has a fatherly smile on his old face when he looked at her. Though the man wear a maester robe but he didn’t wear any chains. “I intended to amputate part of his arm, but he didn’t want me to. Strong man, and a suspicious one. Doesn’t want to drink a drop of poppies out of fear I’d still take his arm.”

“Who are you?” she inquired. “You are not a maester.”

The old man nodded. “Aye, child. My  name is Qyburn. I used to to be one, though. The Citadel stripped me of it.”

“How is he now?” she asked.

“He will live. I just changed his bandage. Now we just wait for the wound to dry.”

“Myrcella.” Jaime called, and she turned her attention to her uncle. Jaime raised his right arm and to her horror she saw no part of the wrist down. Only a stump, concealed under his long sleeve tunic.

“I will leave you two, then.” Qyburn walked towards the door. 

“What happened? They hurt you…”

“Doesn’t matter what they did to me.”

“They told me you were trying to escape…” Tears blurred her eyes as she caressed Jaime’s cheek. “Why?”

“Are we alone?” 

She looked around and nodded. “Yes.”

“They told me they’d hurt you.” he replied, shuddered at something he left unsaid. “I’ve to take you out of this place.” he hissed, trying to rise from the bed. His attempt failed miserably as he groaned in pain and fell back to the bed. There was a clinking sound and she noticed Jaime’s feet were chained to the bedposts.

“No, the King treat me well. I don’t want you to do something foolish, uncle.”

“It is only a matter of time, Myrcella…” Jaime sighed. “Either we escaped, or waited until the war is over—doesn’t matter which side won—if you stayed here, they’d hurt you for their last resort. This boy has been lucky,” Jaime laughed, a hoarse and bitter one. “with Renly dead and with the Mountain’s bones he’s trying to bring Dorne to Stannis.”

“Uncle Renly is dead?” she trembled.

“A pretender King, aye,”

“He was always been kind to me.” she said with sadness, recalling the youngest brother of king Robert. 

Jaime gripped her with his left hand. “Myrcella.” he whispered, dragging her to his chest. His haggard breath caught her ear. “Everyone here will try to hurt you to get to your family. Don’t let them. Can you find yourself something sharp?”

“Uncle Jaime—.”

His grip tightens. “Can you?” he asked urgently.

“A—a knife?”

“Or some sort. Anything sharp and small enough to conceal in your dress. Always bring it everywhere with you. We’re in the wolf’s den. I—I can’t protect you.” his voice filled with shame, looking at his stumped hand.

Myrcella cupped his uncle’s face that is now gaunt and pale.

“You always worried about me.” she tried to smile to soothe him but instead her words made Jaime pulled her closer. Fear emanating from his green eyes. The same eyes as Mother, and as her…

“They told me they’d rape you.” he suddenly whispered. “These northern… savages… they’d hurt you. Even that honorable Catelyn Stark said she didn’t care what they’d do to you.”

“Was that what make you trying to escape? To protect me?” emotion filled her throat.

“Aye, that what I tried to do, ever since you came into this world.” Jaime tried to laugh. “Your grandfather raised an army to pillage the riverlands because you are a Lannister. I will keep you safe because you are of my blood. Robb Stark killed the Mountain. He destroyed your grandfather’s army. He took Harrenhall. He will take Stannis to your brother.” he whispered hoarsely.

“The war that Joffrey started! He killed Lord Stark!” she snapped at the mention of her vile brother. “All of this won’t happening if Joffrey is not King. If only Tommen is King...”

“Aye, what a jape Gods have.”

“Robb treated me good, uncle. He is honorable. I don’t want you to do something that might hurt you further.”

“No. I am alive and drunk of sunlight.” he caressed her head with his left hand. Jaime loved her curls. “That Stark boy just hasn’t had the chance to hurt you, that’s all.”

“Robb is kind and he is fighting for his people…”

“Listen to me. Listen to me carefully.” he jerked her arm to him with surprising strength and she whimpered. Jaime releases her immediately. “These are people who want to see us hurt and they may use you to get to us. To your mother and your brother.”

“Uncle Jaime—,”

“After Harrenhal your grandfather will know this war is not something we’d won in battlefield.”

“What do you mean?”

The door cracked open before Jaime could answered. Walton stood by the door and she knew her time is up.

Jaime gently pulled her one last time to what she felt was a hug. “Remember what I’ve told you.” he whispered.

 

The only thing brought her peace was Harrenhal’s Godswood, though it no longer housed any weirwood tree. It is walled and spread twenty acres, located across the ward from where the Barracks Hall and the armory are. It has a small stream running through it. 

“What happened to the weirwood tree?” she asked Pia when she settled on a big stone by the stream. She turned her gaze to its skeletal branch, crooked and dark as charcoal in the white shafts of daylight.

“Aegon and his dragons.” Pia answered, looking at what used to be a three-thousand years old weirwood tree. “When he burned this castles hundred years ago, milady.” The servant stood a feet away, with Walton facing to the entrance. 

“What a pity.” she sighed. “Come sit with me, Pia.”

Pia looked surprised and she had to smile.

“No one talked to me in Riverrun. Well, except for maester Vyman and Walton.” she laughed when Walton rolled his eyes. They’d stuck in its sockets one day. “I am grateful for you. Come.”

They sat together on the stone, enjoying the warm sunshine. Plants grew close to one another, trees and and flowers alike. She easily spotted buttercups flowers grew wild among the grass, giving the garden bed a striking yellow dots on green field.

Unlike in Riverrun where she could roamed the castle as long as she was escorted by her gaolers, Harrenhall is just too massive to have her walking around. Walton was reluctant every time she left the Tower of Dread and there is no sept for her to pray for her family. The battle of Harrenhal had left its sept in ruin. The soldiers also roamed around the castle and everywhere she goes she saw unfriendly faces. Jaime’s warning made her shivered. Fortunately Pia was assigned to tend to her and she was thankful for her cheerful and kind spirit. It was very needed since there is no library and she missed maester Vyman dearly. 

They shares interest in needlework and Pia supplies her with more colorful threads. In return she told the servant-woman about living in King’s Landing and the King’s court. Though she realized she tells the experience not in longing, but disdain. Living in the capital as a royal indeed has its own pleasure. She slept on goose feather pillows and cotton blankets. The seamstress made her clothes adorned with gems and the food on the table was always rich and savory. 

Oddly, she does not miss any of those.

“Your Grace.”

They turned to Walton who bowed his head as Robb and his direwolf walking into the Godswood. Both women raised to their feet and Myrcella curtsied, Pia bowing her head. 

“I know I can find you here.” Robb said to Myrcella. She felt her heart skip a beat. “Maester Vyman wrote in his report that you spent your afternoons in the Godswood.” he explained. 

“Yes, Your Grace. I like it.” she said. “Godswood, I mean.”

Pia retreated respectfully and together with Walton they are waiting at the entrance of the Godswood to give them privacy.

Grey Wind padded to Myrcella and took a sniff at her hair. She giggled when Grey Wind stretched out its tongue to lick her ear, its tongue is quite thick but long and soft. 

“He likes you.” Robb sounded amused.

“I like him, too.” she responded through her giggle, Grey Wind has not stop licking her ear.

“Grey Wind, to me. Don’t torture her further.” Robb smiles and Grey obediently left to rest at his master’s heel. She was left flushed and she took a deep breath to compose herself. 

“Do you need something of me, Your Grace?”

“Oh. Aye. No. I mean...” he shifted his weight from left to right, the tip of his foot tapped the earth mound below. He cleared his throat. “I also like to spend time in here. Away from the crowd and Lords and other people. Just me and Grey Wind.”

“Ah, forgive me, Your Grace. I will leave then.” she offered apologetically and ready to excuse herself when Robb raise a hand to stop her.

“It’s all right. You can stay. This place is for everyone who seek the Old Gods, isn’t it? Shame there is no more weirwood tree.”

She hesitated. Half of her wanted to go to the place Walton and Pia were waiting at the entrance, but the other half wanted to stay and enjoy the afternoon with Robb.

“Unless you wanted to go, of course. If not, I’d gladly welcome you here, Princess.” Robb offered. He scratched Grey Wind’s ears.

“I liked it here.” she admitted. “I wish I knew the beauty and solace of Godswood and its weirwood tree sooner.”

“Do you plan to abandon the faith of the seven?” Robb jokes.

“I still pray to them. It's just… different.”

“Princess,” he begin.

“Myrcella. Please.” 

He raised an eyebrow but smirking upon her reply. “Very well. Myrcella,” 

She found she likes the sound of her name on his lips.

“Yes, Your Grace?”

“Have you met the Kingslayer?”

“I have, Your Grace, thank you for letting me sees him.” 

The mention of Jaime made her remembered what he had told her few days ago. She flinched at that, feeling uneasiness grew. Don’t trust them, she almost could hear him say at the back of her mind. Enemy. Enemy. Enemy, she told herself million times. Yet when she looked at Robb she doesn’t see the enemy her uncle warned her about. Not even the slightest.

“How is he?”

“The man who treated him said he’ll live, Your Grace.” she took a step back, unconsciously trying to make distance between her and Robb. “Though he will live his life a cripple.” 

They hurt uncle Jaime and they will hurt you to get to your mother and brother, the voice in the back of her head said.

“Lord Bolton’s hunter said he engaged him in a duel. It was self-defense.”

She took a step back again, refusing to meet Robb’s eyes.

“Yes, Your Grace.” 

“You can call me Robb, too.”

I don’t think you understand how much I cannot do that.

“I think it won’t be appropriate, Your Grace.” 

“What is inappropriate is you refused to see me in the eye.” he teased but not unkindly.

She held her gaze on his foot and saw he took a step closer to her. 

“Then forgive me, Your Grace. I am your prisoner.” she said as she raised her head to meet his eyes, coinciding with Robb already standing in front of her with his finger under her chin.

He had touched her face once, back then in Riverrun, just after Lord Karstark’s wrath. At that time he was wearing his leather gloves. Now Robb’s rough skin touches her skin directly. His index finger was placed softly under Myrcella’s chin, while his thumb was just below her lips. 

“You are not my prisoner.” he said softly.

“Can you let me and my uncle go?” Myrcella felt audacious to say it, looking unwavering into his blue eyes.

I am afraid I’d be lost in it.

“Unfortunately not.”

She tried to turn her face away but Robb’s fingers on her chin held back her movements. He was so close, even too close to be proper. Soon after Jaime told her to find something sharp she had stolen a small knife she found near the carpentry. Walton was talking to Pia when she saw the opportunity to snatch it. 

The blade is thin and shorter than other knives, but it was sheathed and it matched what Jaime had requested; sharp and small enough to be tucked behind her dress. Every time Pia finished helping her to dress Myrcella slid the knife behind her corset. She could reach it now, Myrcella thought. He is so near and all she needs to do was draw the knife quick enough to stab him in the neck.

Do it, the voice commanded. Do it and end this war.

Her eyes flew to Grey Wind, who returned her gaze as if the direwolf could read her mind.

“Are you going to trade us for Sansa, or not?”

He thought her words for a second. “Perhaps, the Kingslayer will do.”

“And what of me?”

They will hurt you to get to your mother and brother, the vicious voice in her head whispered again. Do it, before he does.

“Are you going to… hurt me?” she asked again when Robb did not answer straight away. She hated to hear her voice quivered.

“This is the second time you asked. Don’t you trust me? Is this how little you think of me?” he suddenly looked upset. 

The silence that came after was deafening. She could hear the breeze rippled the water gently down the stream. Grey Wind whined behind Robb and the sun slipped behind the horizon. His blue eyes become a shade darker under the cloudy sky.

“Your men hurt my uncle and killed ser Arys.” she said, rather a statement than question.

“If they lay a hand on you, I’ll break their every bone before I have their heads.”

It was not an answer she expected. Anger flashed in his face. Robb exhales and she realized she had held her breath too. 

“I understand you are concerned about the Kingslayer. And who knows what he whispered to you while you visiting him. Vicious hogwash, I’d wager. But I didn’t order any murder nor killings. Never.” his voice softens when she blinked away the tears that started to dwell in her eyes. “but when killings have to happen, do you think it didn’t haunt me? The two thousands men I’ve sent to their graves, thousands more who fell fighting beside me, my friends, my kin?” his voice vibrating with anger and sadness. “They haunt me.” he hissed.

Grey Wind’s ears perked up at their tension but the direwolf remained silence in its resting place. A drop of tear dripped onto her cheek. Robb’s thumb moved from her chin to wipe the offensive tears from her cheek. 

“So why should you add more blood to your hand if it’s not necessary?” he whispered, eyes locked on her cheek. Robb is taller than her and he had to lower his head when he looked at her face. She could see how long and thick his eyelashes are.

“Forgive me, Your Grace.” she finally muttered. 

“Robb.” he reminded her, his voice soft but powerful enough to send thousand butterflies flutter in her belly. 

She didn’t answer. Her skin tingled where Robb’s fingers lingered and her heart still beats erratically so hard she thought it might fly out her chest. It felt bizarrely good. 

What is happening to me? she pondered.

Chapter Text

Twice, Robb Stark said he will not let harm comes to her. Twice she had questioned him about it, and twice she had thought to hurt him herself. It brings her shame knowing that Robb is only being honorable like his father. Myrcella realized she witnessed the outrages Joffrey and his men committed for so long, that it made her almost lost trust and respect to lords and Kings. She had seen how Sansa Stark lives in fear of Joffrey’s wrath. She tried to comfort the older Stark girl, still befriends her somehow, yet she understands Sansa already wear a mask in the form of politeness and courtesies to avoid torture. They used to be friends but it withered right away when Lord Stark loses his head and War of the Five Kings broke loose.

Myrcella thought about Sansa a lot, and Arya, and Lord Eddard and ser Arys. She thought of Tommen and her mother, sometimes she had to stifled her cry in the night, afraid Pia or Walton and her other guards would heard. Pia slept in a small room connecting to hers.

Nightmares came frequently to her. It came in the form of a crowned knight, mocking her, sometimes trying to reach her with his great Valyrian sword. She still dream of headless knights in crimson and gold, groping, dragging her… 

“I’m so sorry,” she pleads to her ghosts. Other time she dreamed of a bed covered in buttercups flowers on which she laid pale and motionless. Like she was watching herself died. Every time she’d jerked awake and trembling, terrified to close her eyes again.

She didn’t visit the Godswood anymore, not after she learnt that Robb also liked to spend time in there. She has not has the courage to see him in person. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss Robb and the feeling is strange to her.

Oft times she break her fast in the main hall that contains some thirty hearths. The hall was so huge, too crowded, and too noisy that she could almost go unnoticed. Hundreds men-at-arms filled the main hall, chattering, singing bawdy songs, one or two would make a move on Pia who Walton angrily shooed away. 

“I don’t get it.” Walton grumbled as she and Pia helped themselves with fish porridge and bacon, sitting happily on one of five long wooden bench. “Why you can’t just stay in your room and let the servants bring your food? This place is no place for girls like you. Not even if your try to conceal those golden hair under a hood.”

“He doesn’t meant it, milady,” Pia’s eyes throw daggers towards Walton who rolled his eyes in dismay. “It is fully your rights to break your fast in the main hall. I don’t mind it.”

“Well, I do.” Walton refused to back down. “Look at these men. They ogled at you two like hawks eyeing a prey!”

Pia sighs dreamily at Myrcella’s surly gaoler. 

“It won’t look good on me…” Walton started, “if something happen to Princess Myrcella under your supervision, yes, Walton, we knew.” Pia swiftly finished his sentence for him and Walton turned beet red.

“Thank you, Walton,” Myrcella said sincerely. “Please sit next to Pia and try this porridge. It can make your mood better.”

“It won’t,” he grunted but sit next to the pretty servant anyway. 

Ignoring Walton, Myrcella tidied the shawl that covered her hair while stealing glances at the giant table at the end of the main hall. Anticipation was a strange energy; the kind of nervous one that tingles through her, sending warm vibration from her head to toe. There is only a reason why sometimes she chose to break her fast in the main hall, even when she shared Walton’s concern about ogling soldiers. 

Robb sat at the center of the long wooden table, talking with Lord Bolton on his left. He is nibbling on his bread while listening to what Lord Bolton said. She just wanted to take a good look at him. Myrcella could see the top of Grey Wind’s pointy ears from where she sit, the beast is too big now to be covered completely under the table. Robb’s blue eyes combed the entire room, nodding and greeting his men. Sometimes he stopped long enough to listen and converse with them.

Look at me.

There were always a brief time which Robb held his gaze across the hall, observing his men. She ducked her head then, heart humming fast behind the rib cage. 

No, please don’t notice me.

Normally she waited until Robb rose from his seat and left with his lords and companions. Then she could swallow whatever food in front of her and went back to her chamber with Pia and Walton. The rest of the day will be spent with them in her chamber, as she avoided the Godswood like a plague.

That morning was not much different than previous mornings though a bit peculiar. The main hall was not as packed as usual. Only few dozen men scattered in five long tables in the room. The troops looked alert and their movements began to look more agile. She sensed something is happening but she doesn’t really understand what that is.

Myrcella sat between Pia and Walton (who still grumbled for the hundredth time), a bowl of porridge and hot bread on her plate. She doesn’t see Robb nor other high lords. Sighing and slowly nibble on her bread, Myrcella tried to hide her crestfallen expression from her two friends.

Friends, she thought contemplatively. Pia and Walton constant presence have been dear to her. Walton defended her from Lord Karstark ill-meaning plan, and though most of the time the sour guard whined what a mundane duty he was assigned to, Myrcella know he is good-hearted and loyal to his King. Since they came to Harrenhal she even noticed Walton’s surly expression softens. One or two rare occasions she caught him smiling ear to ear with Pia. The servant is such a sweetheart; cheerful and eager to please. Myrcella made sure Pia doesn’t have to feel embarrassed about herself. Everyone have scars too, it doesn't reduce one’s worth.

They have grown dear to me, my only friends in the wolf’s den. Well, aside from Robb Stark, for being honorable, whatever our relationship is. 

“Walton, do you know where the King might be?” she dared ask, though hopefully her voice didn’t betray any emotion.

“Why?” Walton narrowed his eyes to her.

“He is not in the hall.”

“So?”

Sometimes Walton can be as thick as a bull.

“King Robb and King Stannis locked themselves in the council room since last night.” Pia answered for her. “I think they are planning something. I heard Martha delivered wine and food to King Robb’s chamber this morning.”

“You are very observant,” Walton said to Pia, in such tender voice that made Pia smiles. Only in front of Myrcella and Walton, Pia recently began to speak without having to cover her mouth with her hand. It was a very big leap of trust.

Myrcella went back to her food, her mind flew to Robb and her uncle Stannis. She has not seen Stannis yet since she arrived in Harrenhal. But again, Stannis never bothered to know her and she was just a child the last time she saw him in King’s Landing. The only memory she remembered from her grim uncle was how serious the man was. Serious, never smiles, eyes as sharp as a sword.

Stannis Baratheon sent ravens to all high lords of Westeros, announcing Joffrey is neither a true King nor a true Baratheon. Do you know what it makes you?

Lady Catelyn’s words suddenly came to her and unintentionally her hand shaken so hard that she dropped her tankard of honeyed milk. The white liquid spattered onto the table and the front of her dress.

“Milady?” Pia looked concern, dabbing her dress with handkerchief. “Are you allright?”

“Can we go back, please?” she rose to her feet without waiting for an answer.

“Right away, milady.” Pia, too, rose and glared at Walton who hurriedly stuffed his last chunk of bread into his mouth.

They escorted her back to the Tower of Dread, with Myrcella walks faster than usual. Suddenly she just wanted to be alone in her chamber, solaced by the silent grey stones of her walls as she mend her aching heart. Lady Catelyn’s words had awoken something inside her, but what was that she doesn’t want to confront it. Not now. 

She turned in the corner where the entrance to the Tower of Dread is, when she saw him.

Robb stood in front of the spiral staircase, conversing with ser Patrek and two other knights in mailchains she didn’t recognised. They all looked at her and bowed. 

“Your Grace, good morning.” she curtsied deeply. 

“Let’s talk about it later.” Robb said to his companions, and with that they bowed their heads again before taking their leave. 

Robb turned his attention to Myrcella. “I looked for you in the Godswood.” 

“My apologies, Your Grace. I don’t want to intervene your space.”

“Don’t,” he said. “Don’t give me space; that’s the last thing I want with you.”

Me, too. But I can’t. I was afraid to meet you there.

“Are you mad at me?”

His question startled her. 

How can I mad at you? I am angry at myself.

“No, Your Grace.”

“So it is now Your Grace ?” he smirked. “It is not fair. I shall call you by your title again.”

“Have you break your fast, Your Grace?” she chose to change the topic. “I hope everything was well.”

“It was well. I just need more time than usual to sort some things lately.” 

“Of course, Your Grace. You don’t have to always eat in the middle of the crowd.”

“As do you,” he replied, smiling. “Think I didn’t notice? You’re hard to be missed, even under that shawl, Princess. ” the last sentence made her want to crawl under a rock.

“Do you always break your fast among your men, Your Grace?” she tried to keep her voice calm and unwavered under his intense gaze. 

“Aye. A lord needs to eat with his men if he hopes to keep them. Know the men who follow you and let them know you. Don’t ask your men to die for a stranger. My father taught me so. It was a habit in Winterfell.” His smile still not leaving his face.

“Lord Eddard raised his children right, Your Grace. I grew to admire him.”

Can you please stop smiling? 

“Are you well?” Robb asked. He must have noticed the dark circle under her eyes.

“I am, Your Grace. If you will excuse me, I need to get back to my chamber.” She gestured at her stained dress.

“May I escort you?” Robb offered his arm. Myrcella took it warily, hoping he didn’t offer such courtesy. That weird feeling whenever Robb stood too near to her always made her belly turned upside down. 

“Yes, you may, Your Grace.”

Walton and Pia followed in respectful distance as they made their way ascended the spiral staircase. Every step of their way up made their shoulders rub against each other. Fortunately it took three floors away from the ground to her chamber, since only the bottom fifth of each tower was occupied and continued to serviced. When they reached her door Myrcella quickly pulled her hand from Robb’s arm. 

“Thank you—,” she begin, but Robb turned to Walton and Pia who just reached the end of the stairs.

“Walton, I expect Princess Myrcella in the west stable this afternoon.” 

Walton bowed his head. “Aye, Your Grace.”

“Your Grace—,” Myrcella spoke up again, bewildered, but this time Robb addressed Pia.

“She will need warm dress and a cloak.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Pia nodded her head.

“I beg your pardon—,” Myrcella looked at Robb in disbelief.

The Young Wolf instead retreated to the staircase. “I will see you this afternoon, Princess.” he said casually, deaf to her complaints. Robb soon disappeared behind the stairs, leaving her dumbfounded.

Later that day Pia spent hours offering to brush her hair but Myrcella shook her head. Myrcella lay on her bed hugging herself tightly under the blanket. She had been like that since she was back in her chamber. A tray of lunch went untouched as her stomach couldn’t process a bite let alone finishing a whole bowl of venison stew.

Hours passed; soon she know Walton would come to take her to Robb.

“I don’t want to go.” Myrcella said sternly as Pia brought out a wool dress to her. Its light blue color compliments her fair skin and green eyes, but Myrcella was unwilling to even regard Pia’s effort on dressing her. 

“But King Robb summoned you, milady.”

“I don’t want to.” she hates being stubborn but she’s afraid to be near Robb again. It was strange. Even though Myrcella knew it wasn’t Robb that scared her, but her own heart. “He can have my head if my refusal angered him.” Myrcella added, to Pia horror. 

A soft knock was heard and Myrcella knew it was Walton.

“She doesn’t want to go,” Myrcella heard Pia told Walton from the door and his guard’s gruff voice.

“Then you and me will be in trouble.” Walton said sourly.

“Let it be. She is… exhausted.”

“The King won’t be happy. I shall take the girl to the stables by force if need too.”

“No, you shall not!” Pia hissed. “Just tell King Robb, milady is not feeling well!”

“Are you crazy, woman—,”

They started to argue and Myrcella sighed.

“Fine, I will go,” Myrcella called from the bed, sighing in defeat to stop Walton and Pia arguing.

Relief, Pia immediately helped her get dressed afraid she would change her mind again. Afterwards the servant brushed her hair and braided the long hair into thick fishtail braid crown. Myrcella only own one simple black cloak given by the seamstress in Riverrun, and Pia tied the cloak around her shoulders. As usual she slipped the small knife behind her corset. She is good to go just then.

Walton rolled his eyes when she finally emerged from her chamber.

“Come on now, girl, I don’t want to make The King waiting!” he grumbled but say nothing more as Pia shot him a look.

Robb undeniably has already waiting in front of the stable. He wears his grey armor under the fur surcoat. 

“I thought you wouldn’t come.” he said as a greeting when Myrcella approached and gave a half-hearted curtsied. 

“I did consider not to come, Your Grace.” she admitted, gestured to Walton and Pia behind her. “They made me.” 

“I am glad they do.” Robb smirked.

A stable boy brought out Robb’s warhorse from inside the stable, a tall black horse already saddled. The warhorse’s muscles rippled from freshly groomed and it hooves on its powerful legs. From close range the warhorse looks tall and menacing, befitting for a King.

“Do you mean to take me riding, Your Grace?” Myrcella looked uncertain at the horse. No way she could mount such thing.

“Do you trust me?” he asked as he stretch out his hand to her. She rolled her eyes and Robb grinned. “That was not so ladylike. Your Septa will be disappointed.” he remarked. 

“No, it was Walton-like.” She could see Pia suppressing a giggle and Walton grumbles incoherently. 

Robb laughed. His teeth shone in the bright pool of light by the afternoon rays. They were neat and shiny, and she was mesmerized by his carefree laugh. Myrcella took his outstretched hand. Robb helped her climbed onto his black destrier. 

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“I don’t like surprises.”

“Every girl like surprises.” Robb replied as a matter of factly.

“I am not a girl anymore.” she muttered to herself.

“No, of course you are not, Princess.” Robb gave in, looking up at Myrcella atop his horse. He sighed, running his long fingers through his auburn curls. 

Robb mounted the destrier to sit behind her. Soon she was engulfed by his body heat. He smells nice, too, which is a huge notice to the butterflies in her belly. Her back was on Robb’s chest and she tried to keep her distance but Robb’s hand on her shoulder gently led her to lean. She tensed at his touch.

“Relax,” he said softly, mistaking her discomfort as fear. “Have you not ridden on a warhorse before?”

“No. Not in this position.” Myrcella shook her head.

Isn’t this too… intimate?

Myrcella throw a pleading look towards Pia but the servant smiles encouragingly. 

Robb chuckled. “Stop shaking your head. Your hair tingles.” he scratched his nose.

“This is a bad idea,” she blurted out. “Put me down. Please.”

“Too late now Princess. Don’t worry, I won’t let you fall.” 

Robb kicked the destrier and soon they are galloping out the portcullis and into the woods.

She waited for his hand to roam like Locke once did, but instead Robb kept his hands on the reins. Yet his shoulder and arms lean towards her in a protective manner, unwilling to risk her slipped and fell from his horse. He only once seizes her waist, to keep her balanced, when his warhorse leaped on a dead tree trunk.

Grey Wind howls in the distance. The direwolf emerged from behind a tree, sniffing, before running to meet them. The beast was fast; only a blur of grey she couldn’t perfectly catch up as Robb urged their horse faster to keep up with his direwolf. She held onto Robb’s arm.

In a little while they are leaving the woods and into a prairie. As flat as a table, as wide as an ocean… there were no mountains or hills, nothing to block the breathtaking view to the horizon and huge field of waving grass and wildflowers. She gasped at the beauty in front of her eyes. She knew that Riverlands are fertile, but did not expect there would still be such green expanse before her eyes, untouched by war.

Slowly the pace of the horse slowed down until it stopped completely in the middle of the prairie. Robb’s black warhorse neighed softly as his master pulled its rein. He dismounted easily, gliding down from the big horse with ease and grace. Myrcella turned so her stomach was against the side of the saddle and her legs are next to each other. She looked down doubtfully—Robb’s warhorse was just too huge and too tall for her to dismount easily. 

Reading her expression, Robb placed his hand on her waist again. 

“Gently,” he said.

Myrcella slide down and plunged directly into Robb’s arms. Robb held back most of her body weight so she would not fall to the ground. As soon as she steadied her foot Myrcella withdrew from Robb, didn’t dare to see him in the eye.

The prairie was glorious. She couldn’t contain her excitement as she ran to meet the wind that caressed her face. The tall grass—thick and lush—rustling gently in the breeze. The sky was bright and blue, dancing merrily with white puffy clouds above their heads. Rows of pine and apple trees surrounded the prairie. Purple hyssops, white asters, harebells and buttercup flowers seemed competing to fill the prairie with vibrant eye-catching colours. 

“Well?” Robb ran after her. “Beautiful, isn’t it? Do you like it?” He catches up with her easily despite his armor and the long sword hanging from his belt.

“I loved it!” she exclaimed and for a second their eyes met. 

“If you keep running like that, I’d think you try to run away.” Robb teased but he sounded pleased at her enthusiasm. Myrcella stopped to catch her breath. 

Robb gave her a small smile.

I like your smile, too, the thought came to her uninvited. 

They let the horse grazed at its heart content as Myrcella sat in the middle of the field, collecting flowers into a bouquet. Robb examined her from a distance, letting her be. 

“How did you find this place?” she looked up at him, still standing few feet away. “I thought you were busy with your lords and lieutenants, Your Grace.” she meant to tease but Robb looked serious.

Robb’s direwolf emerged from the woods and joined them in the prairie. Grey Wind greeted his master before padded to Myrcella and nuzzled at her hand.

“I saw it in my dreams.” he answered after a moment, watching Grey Wolf sitting next to Myrcella. The direwolf closed its yellow eyes enjoying Myrcella’s hand scratching behind its ears.

“What do you mean, you saw it in your dreams?”

“I just saw it. Like I saw you that night.” Myrcella realized Robb was talking about the night Grey Wind found her in the Red Fork. She had thought the direwolf was going to devour her back then. “Sometimes I felt like I don’t sleep.” Robb continued. “I was him. I ran with him. I see what he sees. We hunt together as one,” he smiled at his direwolf. “Do you think it is strange?”

“I don’t know what is strange anymore.” she replied honestly. “But I think it is nice. At least your dreams don't scare you.”

“What about yours?”

“If you sit with me maybe I’d tell.” she said boldly and Robb complied. As soon as the man sat next to her on the grass, Myrcella felt the butterflies in her stomach flutter again. It was meant a tease; Myrcella never thought Robb would follow.

“Well?” he raised an eyebrow, waiting.

She cringed. “My dreams were not as fascinating as yours. I—I feel guilty all the time... Gold, red, and grey. Ser Arys. My family. You, sometimes.” she felt stupid and vulnerable of telling him. 

“Me? What am I doing in your dreams?” Robb looked puzzled.

Trying to kill me.

“You know I am going to keep you safe, right?” Robb said softly when she didn’t answer.

Myrcella nodded. “Yes, Your Grace.”

She cast down her eyes and continued making a bouquet while Robb took out a whetstone from the saddle bag and started honing his sword. For awhile they were busy with their own commotion. 

When Myrcella didn’t hear the soft rhythmic of stone hitting steel, she looked up to find he was already staring at her.

“What will you do when the war ends, Your Grace?” Myrcella asked.

“It will be nice to take my sisters home. Almost a year since I last saw my baby brothers… I will need to prepare my people for the upcoming winter, and… I have to marry my betrothed.” Robb replied, betraying no emotion as his blue eyes pierced her green ones. He sheathed his sword. “Just back to normal life, I guess.”

“I hope you succeed and your betrothed make you happy, Your Grace.”

This time it was Robb who didn’t answer. 

It was like invisible hands squeezed her heart and tearing it to pieces. Realizing that he is promised to another woman—which if life does not say otherwise she could be that woman—somehow made her feels miserable.

“Have you meet your betrothed, Your Grace?”

“No. But Lord Frey said I could pick any of his daughters or granddaughters.” there was no excitement in his voice.

“Why are you running to Casterly Rock instead of Dorne?” Robb asked casually.

“I don’t want to get married without love.” 

“Me neither.”

They lay on their backs, side by side, and let their eyes wandered upward to the sky. A thick grey cloud came to cast shades on them. Grey Wind yawns, stood up and ran towards the woods. 

“When I was leading campaign in the Ford, every time I saw buttercup flowers I think of you.” 

Myrcella was surprised at the confession. She turned her head to Robb but he lay still with his eyes closed. 

“Your awful dreams… I wish I could take it all away.” he said tenderly behind closed eyes.

She was touched by his honesty and his kindness. How could she think of hurting him? The knife tucked behind her corset fid uncomfortably. She wanted to grab the knife and throw it away. Their arms lay straight down at their sides. If she extends her fingers she could touch his...

“I am willing to give everything to end this war. I even give anything if it can return your father.” I am so sorry for my family’s sins...

Robb sighed.

They continued to lay there on the lush grass, enjoying the weather. 

“It is very peaceful in here. Thank you, Your Grace.” she murmured sleepily. 

“Pleasure is mine, Princess.” his voice, too, sounded drowsy.

Odd, Myrcella thought. I am sleeping with the enemy... yet here is more comfortable than any feather bed.

Myrcella was half drifted away when she felt the first wet drop fell on her eyelid. She jerked awake instantly. 

“It’s raining!” she shouted as cold water suddenly poured from the sky.

“I can see that!” Robb shouted back, grabbed her hand and pulled her towards the trees. They ran as fast as their feet could take them on the damp soil, laughing as the water droplets showered their heads. Those drops were fierce and coming down as hard as the rain bore down mercilessly upon the prairie. In few seconds the grass became muddy and her shoes glided, but Robb’s firm hands on hers prevent her from slipping. He fared better than her as Robb wears his leather boots.

“Oh my Gods, what was that?!” she yelped as they finally reached the nearest shadows of an apple tree.

“The last of the summer’s rain.” Robb said, smirking. 

Myrcella shivered under her cloak. They were soaked as they ran to seek shelter under a row of apple trees at the end of the field. She could see Robb’s curls were messy and damp, a few auburn strands stuck to his forehead. He carelessly runs his fingers through his hair. Myrcella swallowed and look away as if Robb was doing something scandalous. 

Realizing she must be a mess too, she tried to tidy up her dishevelled braid with trembling hand.

“Your cloak is too thin,” Robb mentioned as he observed her wet cloak.

“Apologies, Your Grace, I forgot to bring a decent one from King’s Landing.” she replied indifferently but Robb only chuckled.

The cloak was indeed too thin to her liking in the Riverlands weather, with summer coming to an end. The black cloak was fastened across the front with a cord on her breastbone height. Robb’s long fingers traced the cord and pulled until the bond was released and Myrcella’s wet cloak fell to the her feet.

Robb reached to his own fur surcoat and unfastened the clasp that made an X on his gorget. Before she could say a word, Robb takes off his surcoat and puts the thick garment around her shoulders. The wolf’s brown and black fur sewn on the top of the coat rub her cheeks, but Myrcella sank into the warmth. 

It has Robb’s scent too and it was so intoxicating she almost felt herself drunk. He smelled of leather and freshly cut timber, intermingling with cinnamon and pine and new parchment combined. It was too heavenly she couldn’t get enough of it. She found herself inhaling the aroma deeply as she stares into Robb’s blue eyes.

He returned her gaze with equal intensity.

“I—,” she begin, but soon forgets what she was about to say. She tried to lowered her eyes politely but instead they rest on his lips.

The sky began to open, dark clouds moved to make room for the sun to peek through the clouds. A dazzling glare of orange and gold afternoon started to appears, stretches far and wide. 

It was the magic hour when the sun dyed everything in the color of a blazing hearth. The rain stopped as quickly as it came; clouds partially disappeared. Her back rested under the apple tree, beneath the shade of its branches and thick leaves. Robb stood before her, his hands rested on her shoulders. His auburn hair glow under the afternoon sun like a crown of halo. 

The sight of it filled her with a calm happiness she never felt before...

“What if I want to keep you here, for myself?” he asked out of blue.

“I am your hostage. I am at your mercy.” 

Was that what he wanted to hear?

“No.” he shook his head. “You are not my hostage. I said you are my guest, didn’t I?

He did.

Myrcella nodded.

“Myrcella,” he begin after a while.

“Yes?” she asked, her heart pounding. For awhile she doesn’t realize he didn’t use her title.

“I am going to lead another campaign soon.” Robb said, finally letting go of her. As soon as his hands leaving her shoulders she felt a pang of sadness.

Myrcella blinked her eyes. 

He is leaving again.

“I will pray for your safe return, Your Grace.” 

Come back to me alive.

Robb smiles. All she wants to do was to be drown in his arms again.

“Thank you.” he replied. “But your will come with me.”

“Your Grace?” Did she hear him all right?

“Bear with me a little longer, will you?” Robb crouched on the clammy ground, his face tired but determined. “I want you to trust me.”

 

Chapter Text

THE SERVANT

Pretty Pia, it was the name people used to call her. Yes, she was pretty; at least she was comely more than other girls she knew. 

Once she dreamed of marrying into a good family, to a kind knight. Even though she grew up being a washer woman like her mother before her, she never shied away from such dream. All of that thanks to the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister, whom she witnessed was raised to the Kingsguard and stood cloaked in all white by the last Targaryen King. Jaime was tall and muscular; a proud and handsome man with curled hair the color of beaten gold. His smile cuts like a knife. Pia always thinks Jaime is the knights in stories… she often dreamed about him, and then when she grew older she imagined it was to him she made love with.

And she got laid regularly as men lined up easily to get into her skirts. She has the looks, the body, and the willingness to sleep with them. She never been picky; as long as she closed her eyes Jaime Lannister’s face sprung to her mind. 

Pretty Pia —some meant to belittling, other perhaps compliment though she never give any thoughts. As years went by Jaime Lannister’s face became a fading memory. When the Lannister troops taken Harrenhal by force from her former liege, House Whent, she thought she’d seen Jaime again. Not that she hoped to struck any relationship with him, no, Pia always knew her place. She just wanted a glimpse of him, the handsome knight from her childhood. But there was no Jaime in the flood of men Tywin brought.

There were horrible knights, though.

They gathered women and children, separate them and give them work to do. Men were mostly put to sword unless they were proven valuable like a blacksmith or carpenter. The pretty ones were separated again and at night she endured being used by the soldiers. 

They were never gentle. They were harsh; beating her, bite her, one even keen to slap her face during love making. Pretty Pia was popular among the men. 

Men who wanted to fuck her could line up from dusk ‘till dawn, but after the Mountain smashed her face she became Broken Pia. No one wanted to look at her. Once, she overheard men talking about how they’d fuck her only at night when her face became bearable.

Not long after the liberation of Harrenhal by the joined forces of Stannis Baratheon and Robb Stark, Jaime Lannister himself came into Harrenhal chained in his stretcher. He was delirious from fever; his right hand was covered and bound into a bloody bundle that gave off foul odor. He was weak from imprisonment and chained mercilessly despite his wounds. Lady Whent’s maester was slain by the Lannisters but there is this old man they called Qyburn among them. Pia helped Qyburn took care of Jaime; she put on fresh garment on him, clean his chamber pot, change his bed sheets, sometimes she feed him fish porridge. Jaime was in and out consciousness most of the time. When he was unconscious, Pia observed the scars and bruises all over his body. He was beaten up frequently by his captors.

As soon as she heard women at the buttery cleaning a room in the Tower of Dread which was meant to be occupied by Jaime Lannister’s niece Princess Myrcella Baratheon, Pia chose to offer her service as the princess’s servant. All women refused to serve the princess since they still upset from the Lannister occupation. Most rivermen has lost husbands, children, friends or someone they know who were slaughtered by Lannister forces. 

Pia might lose her childhood dream of marrying a kind knight, but it doesn’t mean she cannot be near a girl who will be lucky enough to live her dream. It will be an experience itself, serving a real princess, rather than wasting her time washing clothes. Plus as a servant she is given a small room connecting to the princess’s chamber to sleep. She feels safe sleeping apart from the other people, especially from men who infiltrated her bed hoping to get into her skirt.

Sometimes one or two who knew her previous reputation would try their luck. One evening a man took her refusal too personal and decided to force her. Fortunately the Princess’s guard was there to fend his fellow soldier away. 

“I heard what they did.” Walton said in his gruff tone as she smoothed her clothes with trembling hands. His bearded face was plain like most northerner, but she recognized his kindness. “I am sorry that happened to you. It won’t happen again.”

She was close to tears so she could only nod in thanks. He seemed sincere and most importantly he respected her. Walton rarely smiles. Yet now and then they’d struck small conversation about his home in far north, about this Winterfell castle where he proudly serves since a little boy, and his hopes of knighthood. She knew Walton felt guarding the princess keep him away from battlefields where valor and knighthood lingers. He does it anyway for the sake of honor and loyalty to his King.

“Are there many knights in the north?” Pia couldn’t resist her curiosity. Walton and she were standing at the gate of the Godswood, where the Princess was inside with King Robb and his direwolf. They had time to talk while waiting.

“Not really,” Walton answered, scratching at his beard. “We northerners aren’t knights. Many lords are not knighted but there are exceptions. I know that house Manderly and Mormont have some knights. My uncle Rodrik who served as master of arms in Winterfell is also a knight. My cousin Jory and I grew up dreaming of being knighted. But truth be told, not many knights in the north.”

“And you want to be one?”

“Aye.”

“Why?”

“Being knighted means a man demonstrate bravery, loyalty, and devotion especially to his liege. Prestigious, too, though in reality I can’t afford a knight’s armor and warhorse.” Walton grinned.

“You are more brave, loyal and kinder than any knight I knew.” she told him bluntly. Walton opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, Pia even thought he’d rolled his eyes at her but no words came out and his eyes widened at her. “It’s true,” she blushed.

And life goes on in Harrenhal; a better one after the liberation. 

Pia likes to take care of Myrcella’s needs. Although there are other servants to help the princess, Pia prefers to take care of everything herself. She woke up at dawn to heat the princess’s bath water. If the princess wants to eat in her chamber, Pia will go to the kitchen to tell other servants to bring food. Even though later the princess didn’t break her fast in her chamber but rather joined in the main hall.

Their days were spent pretty much peacefully. They sew and talk over tea. She loves her story about the king’s court the most; how the women dresses in rich velvet, hairstyles that were popularized by Myrcella’s mother, the inlay of gemstones and willow carvings on pillars that supported the Red Keep… Pia imagined it with awe. She’d then looked at the princess who sews in front of her, all smiles while she told her the story, and wondered if she ever missed all those things. 

“No, I don’t.” Myrcella answered plainly when one day she dared to ask the question. “They were kind to me, of course, I am the princess. Now I realize that it was only on the surface. I don’t really have a friend, or someone to really talk to aside from my little brother. But then he only sees ten namedays and I want to protect him. My mother is perhaps the luckiest woman in seven kingdoms; she is Queen married to the King. But she is not happy, I know that. We wore luxurious and fragrant clothes. We always have plenty food on our table. But everyone in my family was unhappy. When enough is enough?”

The princess woke up early because she couldn’t sleep. Sometimes from her small room she could hear the princess’s cry at night. Both kings only permitted Myrcella to visit the Kingslayer once, when she just arrived in Harrenhal. Pia knows the girl missed and in constant worry of Jaime’s condition, yet there is nothing she could do.

Every day Pia helped Myrcella take her bath. Her golden hair shines even more as she combs diligently. They chatted lightly every time, moving and spending their days in routine. They pass a lot of time together. She learn about her and get to know her.

The princess is humble and kind; smiling continuously at servants and guards who looked at her sarcastically and suspiciously. She praised every braid Pia made. She continued to engage Walton in conversation even when his reaction was cold and inclined to underestimate the young girl. Kindness spark in the princess’s smile, a gentleness Pia rarely saw in her life.

For whatever reason Robb treated her honorably, Pia is grateful the princess was kept away and guarded by good men like Walton. Lannisters forces and her brother in the iron throne have caused a lot of suffering which inflict deep resentment on most rivermen and nothernmen. They remembers and Jaime Lannister experienced it firsthand. Pia shuddered to recalled what the soldiers and stable workers said when they talked among themselves about Princess Myrcella. 

The young girl inhaled sharply as Pia pulled her corset tighter and helped her into a dress, with every evening Pia aided the princess undress and pulled her nightgown. Then suddenly Myrcella doesn’t want her help, though she asked Pia to loosen her corset but proceed to get out of her dress on her own. 

Myrcella thought Pia doesn’t know. 

It could be the reason Pia chose to turn blind eye of what the princess hiding under her clothes. Pia didn’t know how Myrcella could get the knife but given the threats and lewd talk among the men, she decided not to ask questions or report the princess. She hoped she had something to hurt the Mountain when he took her by force. How stupid she was for to saying no to the monster. When he smashed her face with his gauntlet fist she only laid frozen—while choking in her own blood—afraid for her meaningless life. She should have fought back and die.

Every woman has the right to defend herself. And God helped any man who laid a finger by force on Myrcella; she hoped the girl and her little knife give him good resistance.

 

“Stannis will definitely kill all Cersei Lannister’s children. He believed them to be bastards borne of the Queen’s incest with the Kingslayer.” Martha whispered. “I heard him m’self when they talked.”

“King Robb will not kill my princess.” Pia argued. “She is under his protection, he took her himself, not King Stannis.” 

Martha shrugged. “Say what you will, Pia. But hear me; your dear princess is a Lannister. Everybody knew it.”

Martha might have been very sure that Stannis would harm Princess Myrcella once he took the iron throne. However, Pia also believes that Robb will not let that happen. She knew the Princess is Robb’s hostage, not Stannis’s. 

It must be so, because Stannis is going to King’s Landing with the Kingslayer who is actually also Robb’s hostage, Pia thought to herself. If not, why bring the princess to a Westerlands campaign, instead of the old lion’s heir?

She had received order that Robb will bring Myrcella when he is marching to Westerlands. Whatever reason or strategy was agreed upon by the two kings, Pia felt Robb deliberately brought Myrcella to prevent Stannis from touching her. Since yesterday the entire castle was busy with preparations to march. The main hall was packed with soldiers so Walton advised Myrcella to break her fast in her chamber. Pia had gone to the kitchen to fetch bread, bacon, and cheese. 

She learnt that the two kings placed several trusted lords and lady in one another’s forces. Lady Mormont, Lord Cerwyn and Lord Karstark are among the nobles Robb put into Stannis’s, with Lord Durrandon, two of Lord Swann’s sons and Lady Tarth put into Robb’s. She had seen Lady Brienne of Tarth, heir of Lord Selwyn Tarth of Evenfall Hall. Just like Lady Mormont, she is unusually tall and muscular for a woman. Yet unlike the other warrior lady, the heir to the sapphire island wears full bodied steel armor in brilliant, deep blue cobalt. 

Martha and several kitchen maids had to go back and forth from the kitchen to the room that was used by the two kings as council chamber. Sometimes Stannis and Robb shut themselves up for days inside. The servants could hear their arguments, tired and tense faces, but there wasn’t much to eavesdrop. A pretty woman clad in all red never left Stannis’s side, at first she thought she must be his Hand, until Martha said that she is Stannis’s priestess. That explains why Stannis’s sigil now contains an element of R’hlor, although Pia doesn’t really understand the foreign religion. Brynden Tully was also never far from Robb’s side, acting as his Hand and Master of War. 

They marched with Robb’s forces when the sun goes down. House Whent owned several carriages and few survived the Lannister occupation. Yet no carriage for the princess to travel by reason of efficiency. Horse-drawn carriage required more maintenance and greater care, not to mention that it also troublesome as a means of transportation during military campaign. So a wagon was arranged as the princess’s quarters during their marching.

Myrcella didn’t even look bothered as she sat in the corner inside the wagon, hands on her lap as Pia climbed in. At least the wagon is clean and Pia tried to make the march comfortable enough for Myrcella by stocking up blankets and extra pillows. Walton will ride on his brown horse with other men next to their wagon. 

The girl sat huddled beneath a dark surcoat with brown-black fur; something she realized became Myrcella’s habit every time she felt anxious. That surcoat belongs to the King in The North until few nights ago. Pia remembered when she and Walton waited on the west stable until the sun had fully set. Robb’s great warhorse entered the gate with Myrcella curled up almost hidden under the thick surcoat and Robb’s arms around her. They were damp and the princess’s dress clung tightly to her body. No questions were asked; there were not many words exchanged between them when Robb helped the girl off his horse. Pia caught Myrcella’s eyes lingered a bit longer on Robb as the man walked to different direction. The next day she shyly asked Pia how to clean the surcoat, which at that time was stained of dust and dry mud. She showed Myrcella the bath house where washerwomen also use as laundry. Just outside the stone bath house were wooden troughs. Walton helped Pia poured pails of hot water to the lye and white clay in the troughs. King Robb’s surcoat was finely made so Pia didn’t retrieve the wooden bat to beat the cloth. Instead, she showed the princess how to wash the surcoat by placing it in the trough, part with the fur facing upward leaning against the side of the trough so it was not submerged in the water. The dirty cloth needs to be rubbed with soap, soaked, and then rub again before finally rinsed with warm clean water. She refused when the princess insisted on doing it herself, but let the girl tried on rubbing the cloth with soap.

As soon as the surcoat was dry Pia delivered it to the King’s chamber. She witnessed the young king’s face softens when he laid eyes on the clean surcoat, but insisted that the princess needs it more than he. On several different occurrences Pia noticed how the Young Wolf’s eyes often wandered to Myrcella; they seemed to stare right into her but the princess hardly noticed...

Who could blame him, when the princess shines as bright as a sun? she thought proudly. 

Even though it was rather strange she thought the two of them gazed at each other when they thought the other is not looking.

She now watched Myrcella closely as the girl wrapped herself with the king’s surcoat as the wagon lulled them gently along the road.

Since it was a military campaign in war between kings, bringing a bathtub is too troublesome in spite of Myrcella’s station. The princess had not taken a bath since they left Harrenhal almost seven days ago, but Pia didn’t hear her complain. Highborn ladies often bathe with soap and herbs or oiled perfume, a luxury cannot be obtained by women in Pia’s station. Lady Whent herself used to soak in hot water every evening with lavender oil. She thought the princess would grumble, but the girl seemed relax and calm. 

One time they came by a well in front of a burned inn. Pia asked Walton to halt for a moment. She draws a bucket of water for the princess to wash her face. Myrcella’s face lit up upon seeing the fresh water. “Let me try to draw water too so you can wash your face with me.” she had said.

It was not the first time Myrcella wants to help. Her keenness was so great and she quickly followed the habits of the north and rivermen. Pia taught her how to braid and sometimes they braided each other’s hair.

A thin layer of canvas served as their wagon’s roof. Throughout the day sun rays penetrate into the wagon and at night the wind blows in through the loose fabric. As days went by the march penetrates deeper into the Westerlands border. 

“Where are we?” 

Walton shook his head every time she asked questions. They keep on riding and only stopped to hone the weapons and rest before marching again. 

On the ninth day Walton finally informed that they would stop and set up camp. This time for how long they’d make camp he cannot be sure. She has never set foot outside the Riverlands and now they are surrounded by the mountainous Westerlands.

“I am sensing we will attack soon.” he said.

“Are you going to ride off to battle?” 

“No. King Robb said my place is to protect both of you.”

“I am happy that you do.” Pia admitted, warily glanced to a dozen men scattered not far from the pavilion they shared with Myrcella. She felt safer knowing Walton will be with them.

The princess’s pavilion was set up using two poles and twelve ropes and stakes, the overlapping door closures provide privacy and protection from the wind. She slept side to side with her as Walton took his resting place just outside the entrance, hand on the hilt of his sword. 

It was a blessing that a vernal pond located not far from the princess’s tent. The seasonal pool of water stretches ten meters wide with a depth of a grown man’s waist. The crystal clear water is cold and the pond is well protected by pine trees and sagebrush. They waited until the sun sets before they told Walton they are going for a bath. The water was colder then, but Pia didn’t want any men to see the princess bathing.

“Whistle if you hear or see anything coming close. And don’t look, I will know if you do!” she warned Walton who rolled his eyes and grumbled as usual.

“Just do your business and be quick about it!” he sat behind a pine tree, his eyes scanned the land before him for any unwanted visitor. “And don’t worry I won’t let anyone came to you.”

He is kind of sweet , Pia thought. 

She helped Myrcella stripped from her soiled gown, decided to wash it tomorrow since they have made camp and proceed to undress herself. 

Both girls squealed excitedly as the cold water splashed on their skin and Walton had to hushed them. They giggled at his annoyance. Soon they swam into the middle of the pond and soaked their bodies in the cold water. It feels fresh after days of not washing themselves. Finally they can wash up the dirt and grimes from their journey. 

She had passed twenty-five namedays but Pia has never felt so alive than now. Was it because she found a friend in her princess, or was it the warmth she felt in her heart every time she laid eyes on Walton? 

She has been a simple girl; do her work as best as she could and found little solace by sleeping around. 

Pretty Pia the washerwoman was a slut who was working her way through every knight she met

What does she has now? Only emptiness and ruined teeth, used and beaten by every knight she knew. Even her father who now rots in hell used to beat and hurt her every night. She feels sorry for herself.

Broken Pia.

Only two men treated her humanely. The first was her childhood knight, Jaime Lannister. She had came to his bed not long after he surpassed his fever. Crippled and bed-ridden as he was, Jaime still the most handsome man she had ever seen. And she wanted to give him little comfort she could offer; herself. Jaime gently refused and as she laid on top of him, naked. 

“Am I not to your liking, m’lord?” she asked, her hand covering her mouth. “You can fuck me and I won’t open my mouth. Not once. I swear I’ll be good to you, m’lord.”

“It’s not that. You are one pretty lad.” he said. “Truthfully. You are beautiful to me, but I can’t. And it should be you to be treated good, not I.” Perhaps Jaime saw the fear in her eyes or the little girl longing for a knight inside her, scarred and scared. Yet she appreciate the righteousness in his voice. “You need sweet words and gentle touches, girl. I am not the man to offer you all of that.” 

She left his chamber heart-broken, but oddly hopeful.

The second was Walton.

Sullen as he was but he made sure the princess and her are safe. He shooed away his bawdy comrades. He took care of her in his own way; helping her carry heavy things, shielding her every time they walked around the castle and now the camp. He knew her previous reputation no doubt, yet Walton never took any liberation on her. She learned that he was a simple man himself who lives to serve his liege. He seemed kind to her and she wondered how does it feel to sleep with a kind man?

“Have you lain with a woman before?” Pia teased him as Walton went with her to fetch the princess’s lunch from the camp’s kitchen.

His face turned red as he glances anxiously around him. Thankfully no one is listening to their conversation. 

“Why the sudden question, woman?!” he replied angrily.

“Do you have wife and children? Bastards?” 

“No, no, and no. Why are you asking?” he grew uncomfortable. 

“Do you like women?”

“I am not answering more questions!” Walton shouted nervously and two or three heads around the bonfire turned to them.

“Do you?” 

“Aye, aye, I like women,” Walton grumbled. 

“I like you .” she said honestly. “Do you like me?”

Walton grumbled but she heard him mumbled under his breath, “What kind of imbecile that doesn’t like you?”

Pia smiled without parting her lips, sliced a rabbit’s thigh and put it on her princess’s plate along with some peas and potatoes. She felt Walton’s eyes glued on her back as they walked to Myrcella’s pavillion. She has liked it more, lately. His rare smiles, the muscles she noticed on his chest and biceps when he lifted bucket of water for her… She even treasured his brooding demeanor.

Walton usually stands in front of the overlapping canvas door. But tonight it was not him who stood guard, which meant Walton is resting nearby. The princess’s pavilion was set near an old oak tree—the trunk so big and wide, exceeding the width of three adult men lined up. Its branches are strong and shady. During the day it provides additional protection from the sun above the princess’s tent. Pia found him sat behind the tree trunk, hidden from view.

“Walton?” she called. 

He was sleeping when she peered closer.

“Walton,” she called again, though softly still for the last thing she want is startling him. He stirred. Walton’s eyes lazily started to rolled open, but before she straddling his hips. 

“What—,” he reached out to his sword but her hand stopped Walton’s movement as the other brought his face closer to hers. Walton tried to stand up but sunk dejectedly as their lips met.

“Pia—,” 

She cut him off by kissing his lips again. He kisses back, fiercely at first, before tenderly brushed her lips with his. She half expected him to thrust into her roughly, shove her to the ground and took her right there, but to her surprise Walton let her ride him. His hands crept from her breasts to her skirt, slowly, too slowly for her… 

“The girl…” he started again, glancing towards Myrcella’s tent.

“Lady Brienne of Tarth is with her. We don’t have much time,” she whispered, lifting her own dress to her waist.

Under his gambeson Walton wears chainmail that covered his torso to thighs. The steel was cold to her bare skin as she straddled him and she shuddered. She rubbed the inside of her thigh on Walton’s manhood.

“What are you doing?” suddenly he sounded irritated, withdrawing his hands from her thigh. “I won’t let them touch you again. And you don’t need to give me anything in return.”

“This is not about it. I want you, I want to feel you inside me.”

“Do you want this? With me?” he asked hoarsely. For a moment she pondered what he meant, until she realized that Walton asked for her consent. As an answer she nodded, raising her hips again to sit right above his cock. Beneath chausses and undergarment she could feel him hot and hard. She led Walton’s hand to her chest again. Following her direction he squeezed her breasts and buried his face there. Her breath started to quickens. The bodice she wears has an underbust design with shoulder straps and laces in the front and Walton quickly loosen some of it ties to access her breast. He then fumbled with his breeches and soon Pia felt the tip of his cock on her opening.

“I am too old for you,” Walton suddenly said, “I could be your father.”

She felt angry then; she will not let him reject her. 

“Nonsense. Kiss me again,” 

He complied.

Men she had been with never let her took control; they either fuck her from behind or from above her, pinning her with their weight. It was different with Walton. She slides down onto his lap, taking him entirely inside her. She could feel his satisfying size, hard and wonderful.

He let her in control, asked her consent, but most importantly he thrust into her gently. She was already wet for him. It feels so good. She moans and Walton put a finger on her lips while thrusting into her, gently, ever so gently until she couldn’t take it anymore and bucking her hips faster. He rocked her hips following her cue, nibbling on her neck. Swayed by the sensation, Pia put her arms on Walton’s shoulders.

They were covered by shadows of the night. Bushes shielded them from prying eyes as they tried as quiet as possible making love. The nearby tents were deserted, its occupants busy huddled by the campfire.

“I’m close,” Walton whispered to her ear.

She was, too. Her climax made her shuddered violently and fell limp. Walton caught her, planting kisses on her face, her neck, her breasts… No one ever kisses her like that. She felt safe and happy in his arms. Walton tensed and a second later she felt him swell up and explode inside her.

They sat there for a while, breathing into each other with her still straddling him. He hugged her still when she thought he’d send her away.

“Thank you,” she finally said, kissing his cheek.

Walton looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. She saw tenderness in his grey eyes. It felt like she was whole again, like she was Pretty Pia instead of Broken Pia. Perhaps she even sees… love? The warm feeling engulfed her from within is stronger than just admiration or mere lust. But she had never felt love before. 

Whatever it was—the way he look at her and the way his arms took her in—made the little girl in her wanted to continue curled up in Walton’s arms. Several soldiers passed by where they sat, talking noisily among them. She knew she must immediately return to her princess, too.

Just a moment, she thought as she snuggled to the crook of his neck. 

 

“Pia,” Myrcella called softly. “Are you asleep?”

“No, milady,” she answered, though sleep almost claimed her. “Is something wrong?” She opened her heavy eyelids to look for her princess in the darkness of their tent. “Do you need something, milady?”

“I’m fine,” she whispered. “Do you know what is happening out there?” she bit her lip after the question and Pia sensing her distress. 

It was already midnight but the sound outside are still loud; soldiers busy sharpening their weapons, their horses rubbed and saddled, their brunts piercing through the tent. 

“Walton said we’ll attack soon, milady. But I don’t know anything further.”

How long has they make camp, three days? Was it already five days?

They kept her in the wagon and now in her pavillion most of the time for her safety. She is the king’s prized hostage, after all. For days Myrcella only communicated with her and Walton. She now has a habit of wearing the king’s surcoat almost every time, not just when she is sleeping.

“I know you must be worry for your family, milady,” Pia whispered and she thought she saw the girl’s eyes glittered with tears.

“I worry about everyone,” she admitted. “I have not seen the king for days. Is he… allright?”

Pia found the question rather odd but she nodded. “He must be, milady.”

“I can’t sleep. Are we going to war on the morrow?”

“I think they are going to go this very night,” Pia whispered.

“Is King Robb going?”

“He always is, milady…” she answered and Myrcella bit her lip again. 

Pia rose from her sleeping pallet and glanced towards the tent’s entrance to where she saw Walton’s stoic shadow standing outside. She breathed a sigh of relief. 

Since they made love a few nights ago she always wanted to be near Walton. She felt selfish because she’s glad Walton was assigned to be with them at the camp, instead of riding to battlefield.

“Shall I fetch you something, milady?” Pia offered but Myrcella’s hand softly discourage her. 

“No need, Pia. But will you pray with me?”

“Milady?” 

“I wish there’s a weirwood tree nearby.” Myrcella muttered sadly.

She was not sure by her request. She is not a religious person, never be. But Myrcella was already raised from her pallet while pressing Robb’s surcoat onto her nightgown. Pia lit a few candles to provide better lighting.

Afterwards she knelt clumsily following Myrcella’s lead, bowing her head. Their hands intertwined with Pia awkwardly noticed how delicate the princess’s hands are compared to hers. There is no weirwood tree, no statue or image of the seven Gods but Myrcella closed her eyes and a moment later she started to hum.

It was the Song of The Seven. Myrcella’s soft voice fills the tent with sweet melodies, her tune dancing with the glimmering candlelight.

The Father’s face is stern and strong, he sits and judges right from wrong

he weighs our lives, the short and the long and loves the little children

The Mother gives the gift of life and watches over every wife

her gentle smile ends all strife and she loves her little children

The Warrior stands before the foe

protecting us where e’er we go with sword and shield and spear and bow

he guards the little children

The Crone is very wise and old and sees our fates as they unfold

she lifts her lamp of shining gold to lead the little children

The Smith, he labors day and night

to put the world of men to right with hammer, plow and fire bright

he builds for little children

The Maiden dances through the sky

she lives in every lover’s sigh

her smiles teach the birds to fly and give dreams to little children

The Seven Gods who made us all are listening if we should call

So close your eyes, you shall not fall

they see you, little children

just close your eyes, you shall not fall

they see you, little children

She felt very peaceful that she wept.

Chapter Text

THE QUEEN REGENT

She woke up to a wailing baby only to find she was alone in her bedchamber. Shadows loomed above her bed, tall shapes with chainmail stood at the end of the bed. She had dreamt of babies after Janos Slynt reported the purging; all faceless, screaming and wailing… 

Robert’s bastards, she thought, spiteful. Their ghosts followed even in her dreams. 

Joff was only protecting me from shame, she said to herself . My golden son; born to be King. He’d wipe away all his enemies who challenge his reign. The first was to get rid of all Robert’s bastards; a threat to his power and shame that tarnished her face for years. 

Then she remembered the man in her chamber.

“Jaime?” she called.

The voice who answered was not Jaime’s. Well of course not, she shook her head to scatter the remnants of her dreams. Jaime is certainly still in Casterly Rock, with Father, gathering sympathizers and preparing their vassals to defend Joffrey’s throne. Now that pretender kings are looming in every corner of the kingdom.

No Jaime, but no Robert’s bastards, either. Aren’t you proud of your son’s first decision after being appointed King, my love? 

The sun has just risen. Its golden tinge peeks lazily from behind the horizon. The air was still cold as night, making her tremble under her crimson silk. She loves the color of her house. 

“What is it?” she asked, getting out of the bed. Her servant Senelle quickly put a bedrobe around her shoulder to cover her body.

Ser Mandon Moore has a cup of wine in his hand.

Instead of giving her an answer, he pressed the cup to her. “Please take a sip, Your Grace. And if you will follow me? You are needed in the Council room.”

“So early in the morning? Give me a moment to dress…” she answered, still confused and not fully aware. She sipped the wine anyway.

As she followed the kingsguard to the back of the throne room which led to a room used as council meetings, Cersei took mental note to ask Pycelle for some sleeping draught tonight. To her surprise, the council room was packed. Did she forget there’s a meeting this early?

Petyr Baelish or who they called Littlefinger, the Master of Coin, rose from his seat. He planted a kiss on the back of her hand, murmuring soothing words. Varys the Master Whisperer, too, rose and bowed and led her to a chair next to Tyrion Lannister. She saw Grand Maester Pycelle and the small box on the table. A flagon of wine also present on the table and Tyrion pour a cup for her.

“Not too early for you, I hope.” he said as she took the cup from him.

She grew annoyed. “What is it? Where is Joffrey? Are we under siege already?”

“Ah, not yet, thank the Gods. The King is still sleeping in his chamber,” Tyrion said, looking stern and tense. “We received a message from Riverrun.” when she didn’t say a word, Tyrion pushed the small box on the table in front of her. The wooden box was plain and doesn’t look expensive. No trout carving either if Tyrion said it was sent from Riverrun. She opened the lid.

The face of a roaring lion carved on the necklace was the first thing that caught her eye. Next to the necklace was a strand of golden hair, bound with small straw. The face of her only daughter flashed before her eyes as she abruptly stood up from her chair.

“You said this is from Riverrun?” she shouted. “RIVERRUN?”

Tyrion didn’t even flinch. “Yes.” he confirmed. “Robb Stark has Myrcella.”

She must have lurched to the Imp, blind with rage, that it needed ser Mandon and two of Lannister guards to shield him from her claws. Littlefinger held her back as she seething; hatred and fury smoldering. 

“Don’t touch me!” she wrenched away from Littlefinger’s grip. She wants to hurt Tyrion so bad. It was his idea to send Myrcella to Dorne. Now Robb Stark has her? What in seven hells is this, a bad jape? 

Pycelle took a small parchment from inside the box. She didn’t notice the parchment before, too shock upon seeing her daughter’s hair and necklace. He read the letter for her; his ragged old voice made her wonder which breath would be his last.

To Cersei of house Lannister, Queen Regent of the six kingdoms and her son Joffrey;

I, King Robb of house Stark write to you on peaceful terms. I hereby demand the release of my sisters, along with my father’s body and our ancestor’s sword and all other hostages as well as northern people remains who died in King’s Landing. The North will be an independent region, separate from the iron throne. If my peaceful terms are not met I will litter the south with Lannister dead. Princess Myrcella is treated well and provided with every comfort. Harm will not come as long as my sisters and other hostages treated with honor and civil care...

“That boy has the nerve. Six kingdoms, he dare say, calling our King by his name!” Pycelle slammed the parchment onto the table. The grey direwolf sigil was facing up, mocking her.

Robb Stark has my daughter. How could this happen?

They have not received any news from the Dorne. Long journeys often took more time so they still waited for ravens, until the message from Riverrun arrived. Tyrion’s plan was to let the whole King’s Landing watched as Myrcella boarded the royal ship. Ser Arys and some of Lannister guards would then snucked her back to Duskendale and rode to Dorne. It was a rouse to keep Stannis off her track if he has any ill meaning to her children.

The lies he sent to all corner of Westeros, Cersei grimaced at the memory of another letter she had long burned. Calling me whore and my children abominations.

She was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the seven kingdoms, yet Robert was not taken with her beauty. Her husband had called on a dead woman when he did his marital duty. Jaime is the best man she ever knew; gentle, loving, took care of her pleasure and she was proud to have his children. They are not abominations.

“That boy wins every battle he rode in so far. That boy held hostage my niece. That boy is marching south to us.” Tyrion replied austerely and Pychelle grimaced. 

“Explain,” she hissed. “Myrcella is supposed to be in Dorne. I swear to God I will kill you if these northern savages hurt my daughter…”

“We don’t know why Myrcella strayed too far into the Riverlands. The directions are very different.” the Imp pondered. “No words about ser Arys and her guards as hostages, so let us assume they were all perished. But most importantly, Robb Stark mentioned his sisters. A good thing he doesn’t know you’ve lost Arya.”

“Listen, Imp! Robb Stark must have attacked them!” she screamed. “Thanks to your clever plan of sending my daughter! If she stays in King’s Landing—,”

“Then she must be dead when Stannis took the city!” Tyrion shouted back. 

“At least she’d be here with me!” she wants to strangle the stupid Imp, hearing his bones break under her clutch.

“No way had the northern forces reached our border without rousing any attention.” Varys said.

“We should let Lord Tywin know,” Janos Slynt interrupted. She has not paid attention to the bald man who stood at the farthest end of the table. 

Her father was just left the capital with Jaime and left Tyrion acting as Hand of the King in his stead. Tywin felt from the beginning that Stannis Baratheon was a greater danger than all other kings combined. Varys has heard whispers; Stannis is building ships, bringing a shadowbinder from Asshai, massing armies in Dragonstone—it was enough to made Tywin left with Jaime to Casterly Rock to amassed army for Joffrey.

“Raven already on the way to the Rock, thank you,” Tyrion raised an eyebrow to him, sounded displeased. “Bring me the map.” 

A large map of the seven kingdoms was laid on the table. Tyrion looked closely at the territory that is Lord Hoster Tully’s. His index finger skimmed the map, lost in thought. 

“Duskendale,” he muttered to himself, tapping his finger on the map. “Kingsroad,” the finger moves, made a slide further to the middle of the map and now stopped right above Riverrun. He was silent a long time as his mismatched eyes skimming the map. His finger moved again, now strayed far to the west. “ Casterly Rock,” he let out a breath, surprised. 

“What is the meaning of this?” she became increasingly impatient. “We should storm Riverrun at this moment! Robb Stark abducted my daughter!”

“Casterly Rock,” Tyrion looked up from the map and their eyes locked. “Myrcella went to Casterly Rock.”

“And why she did that? My daughter was abducted!”

“The timing was right,” Littlefinger chirped in. “Lord Tywin and Lord Commander were in the Rock when the Princess was sent on her way. Has she not pleased of being sent to Dorne? Perhaps, she made a detour.”

The room fell silent. 

Cersei turned to her Imp brother; the mismatched eyes stared back at her unwavering. It has been his plan to ship Myrcella to Dorne, to have her travel so long on dangerous path… It was his fault that Myrcella was taken away from her. If only they live in a world that treated women more than just breeding tool…

She clenched her fist so hard, her nails dug into her flesh.

“One day I pray you love someone so much; when you close your eyes you see her face. I want that for you, oh I do little brother. I want you to know what it’s like to love someone, to truly love someone, before I take her from you.”

“They won’t hurt her. She is just a little girl.” he managed to say. His audacity was unnerving.

“Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls.” she said.

It was a dream, a bad one. Her drunkard whoring husband was gone, his bastards were gone, but in exchange of her only daughter...

My sweet, perfect daughter.

Senelle made sure wine are flowing to her chamber. Lancel tried to soothe her pain but instead the stupid lad only made it worst. She sent him away, hating his touch and his poor attempt on top of her. She wants Jaime. She only and truly feels whole when her brother was inside of her. They belong together, the sole reason why she let his seeds quickens.

“I warned you, Cersei of house Lannister. Leave King’s Landing tonight for I intends to tell Robert about your scheming. Take the ship to the Free Cities with your children. Save them from Robert’s warth.”  

“All Robert Baratheon’s children are not true Baratheon.”

No. No. I won’t let them harm my children, she angrily tried to shake Ned and Stannis’s words from her memory. My children are not abominations.

She should wear the armor and made her enemies screamed as she tear their flesh. The heavy velvet and silk on her body suffocate her; she yearns for a dirk, sword and lance, whatever. She’d kill them all.

Her anger was the same as when she realized Jaime was given swords and bow, while she was not. Her hatred rises again when she remembers her life would be spent with a man she hates, who hits and fucks prostitutes, while Jaime is given Casterly Rock. Her daughter has the same fate; sent by force to marry, so she had to escape halfway.

She wrote to Jaime begging him to save Myrcella. Robb Stark has our daughter. He cuts her hair, what further harm he’d wreck on her? He killed her sworn shield and guards. I am afraid for her life. Please do something. Do something!

Cersei stroked the pendant in her hand. The gold felt cold in her palm, the roaring lion chiseled there lost its passion. How long she has not seen her daughter? Myrcella’s wide smiles and her carefree laughs that she used to take for granted made her heart ache even more as she recalled them

I have not taught you enough, she said to herself. You were taken too soon from me. My daughter is the young lioness on prairies… Delicate yet fierce, she was so much more than I ever did. She was gentle, trusting and good. From her first breath she was so sweet. When Jaime held her, he said she smiled at him as if she knew who he was. She was nothing like me; no meanness, no jealousy, just.... good. 

Please save her for me, she’d pray to the Seven. Even to Stranger she begged to take Robb Stark’s breath if it meant to bring her daughter back. 

A mother never loved anyone like her first child, but Myrcella is different. While Joff is robust and Tommen is weak, Myrcella is a better person of herself.

“Your Grace, you summon me?”

She held the necklace tightly in her fist before turning to see her guest.

Sansa Stark stood by her chamber’s door, a girl just a year or two older than her Myrcella. The girl’s auburn hair was arranged up in a complicated style. She herself made sure that Sansa’s servant styled the girl’s hair in the most southern manner as possible. She will not suffer any northern audacity in this city. Sansa was clad in all gold and red; heavy velvet and flowing silk with gemstones and gold jewelry as befits her station of noble birth and Joffrey’s betrothed. 

She is a pretty girl , Cersei mused as she gestured the girl to join her in the balcony. How will her brother dressed Myrcella? In rags and wolf’s furs? she pondered bitterly. My daughter looked best in gold, red, and green...

“Yes, little dove. Come sit.” 

Sansa obeyed. Her hands on her lap trembled slightly as she took the seat. Ser Merryn who escorted her waited in the balcony arched door, sour and sullen under his heavy eyelids as always. She paid no mind to the kingsguard.

“How are you?” she asked and the girl in front of her looked puzzled.

“I—I am fine, Your Grace. Thank you for asking.”

Cersei leaned on her chair as she looked at the view from the balcony. The whole King’s Landing stretches far and wide, thousands of people pressed in its alleys. The poorest of them packed in Flea Bottom, thank Goodness was located on the other side of the Red Keep.

“I was thinking,” Cersei said, still choosing to fixate her eyes on the horizon instead of Sansa. The mere presence of the girl brought her anger and yet she needs to talk to her about this. “What do you think of your brother, Robb Stark?”

“Your Grace. You know I don’t think about him at all. He committed treason and I am loyal to my Joffrey.”

My Joffrey, you mean.

“I know, Little Dove. Do you know that he took Myrcella hostage? Your brother attacked my daughter.”

“I heard, yes, Your Grace. But I am sure Joffrey will smash his forces.”

“I expected it, yes.” she replied plainly. “I see you are a woman grown now, Sansa. Do you think it is time to wed you to my son?” If she was surprised by her sudden proposal, Sansa didn’t show it. The girl just sits silently, nodding her auburn head. “Shall we send for a royal seamstress to make you a wedding gown?”

“I will be happy to wed my prince, Your Grace.”

She is a terrible liar, Cersei thought sadly. 

“Tell me, Sansa, and tell me truly. You are treated kindly here. Do you think your brother will do the same to Myrcella?” She finally looked at the girl who squirmed in her seat, as her eyes trying to pierce through her veil of blankness. 

“Yes, Your Grace. Even though he is a traitor but he must treat Myrcella properly.”

It is not enough.

“I am asking you to write to you brother, Little Dove. Tell him that you are treated kindly here. And to ensure that Myrcella, in return, will be treated with honor.” she pushed the parchment and quill on the table to Sansa. 

The girl’s hand trembled as she raised the quill, dipped it in ink and writing word by words that Cersei says.

Dear Robb,

I beg you again; come to King’s Landing like King Joffrey said. Please stop further strife between our houses. The Lannisters are treating me very well and provide me with every comfort. I hope that you will treat Princess Myrcella with honor and kindness as her family does for me. Your faithful sister, Sansa.

She re-read the letter again until she satisfied. 

“You may go, Little Dove.” 

The girl was already on her feet when she noticed her wobbly walk. Joffrey must have taught her a lesson again, especially after he heard about Myrcella. Robert used to hit her, too. A King should never lay a hand on his Queen , that much she told Joffrey. But Sansa is not yet married to Joff, no. 

She was restless; she commanded Littlefinger and Varys and their spies and whatever tools they have to bring any news on her daughter. Just anything. 

Where is she now? How did they treat her? Why Robb Stark had not send her any reply? 

Tommen cried all day for his sister and her whining hurt her ears. At ten he is a plump, tender hearted boy. She knew her youngest tried his best but he is not as strong-willed as Joffrey. She had to leave him with his kittens and his servants. Tommen will be fine eventually; other things needed to be tending to.

Joffrey needs regent to rule until he comes of age. She has council meetings to attends to on behalf of her son. Stannis is still a threat that should not ruled out. The last letter Jaime wrote to her was that sixty thousand men-at-arms marched from Casterly Rock to siege Riverrun and torched the Riverlands. It was about time, since the Stark boy didn’t send her any reply. She was satisfied, then. 

Fine, let them burn. How dare him.

Just when she think it couldn’t getting any worse, Robb Stark captured Jaime and destroyed his army on the Green Fork. Her wrath was violent when she received the news; no wine in this world could ease her pain. Pycelle prescribed her more sleeping potions to help her calm down. Their forces was scattered and cannot reach King’s Landing. Kings were in every corner in the realm. 

“How could that boy defeat sixty thousand Lannister’s soldiers?” she screamed as her goblet flung from her hand to the wall.

They are surrounded by enemies. 

Tywin’s army was cut from the Crownlands by Robb. Stannis has landed in Maidenpool, taking Harrenhal and more than half of Renly’s army after he died. The blade that cut through Renly’s throat was a blessing from the Gods. The only thing they gained from this mess was fewer kings and the Tyrells...

Now even those over-smelling roses give pains despite the thousands army they brought to Joffrey. She hates how that little bitch Margaery bat her eyelashes to her son, the deep plunge of her gowns meant to attract the attention of men and women alike. The little bitch’s laugh was insult to her ears. Yet she has to bear them for the sake of the army her father, Mace Tyrell, brought.

Scheming roses, who married off their daughter to Renly, only to run back to them when Renly was dead. I will never trust those roses. 

She instructed every smith in King’s Landing to labor night and day making armors. Soldiers were sent from Rosby and Stokeworth and surrounding areas so they needed the best armor and swords. Alchemists were arranged in the dungeon to manufacture vast amounts of wildfire, while the City Watch is tripled in size. Stags and wolves are coming, but the lions will be prepared. With Tywin’s army still restrained in the west they must strengthen their defenses as foremost as possible. It was the only thing she and the Imp are agreed upon. Catapults, scorpions, bows, arrows, steel, swords, horses—she wanted to be ready when they come. 

Unbeknownst to others she has also keep a small vial of Essence of Nightshade. She hope she’d never has to use the poison, but she won’t let anyone made her die miserably should the battle lost and the city falls. What happened to Elia Martell will not befalls on her. 

And speaking of the Martells, she was informed Dorne was not happy. They were promised a princess but no princess came. They have not brought to the iron side of this war. Tyrion sent Littlefinger and some lords to meet Prince Doran, yet rejection and closed doors were obtained. It was Oberyn Martell, Prince Doran’s brother, who met them at Sunspear with spear in his hand and denied them the guest right.

“Do you know why all the world hates a Lannister? You think your gold and your lions make you better than everyone. We don’t trust Lannisters and their creatures anymore. A Baratheon-Lannister princess was promised for my nephew. Where is the promised bride?” 

Without Myrcella, they can kiss the already fragile Martell-Lannisters alliance goodbye. 

The plump eunuch informed her that Stannis and the Stark boy were on the move separately. His powdered face betrayed no emotion as he told her this. The outrageous colored damask he wears smelled of lilac when she brought her head closer to Varys to hear the information. They were in Joff’s chamber.

“No sighting of Princess Myrcella among Stannis’s forces.”

“Do you think the boy took her with him?”

Varys bowed, “It occurred to my mind, yes, Your Grace.”

“We knew that our men killed Stannis’s scouts just this morning.” she pondered. 

“Stannis will be here soon, yes.”

“And does my imp brother have anything to say about it?”

“The Hand is at the street of steel this very moment, Your Grace.”

“Ah, the iron giant chain?”

“Yes.”

“Jaime… any news about him?”

“My little bird only saw a glimpse of him, once. Chained inside a barred wagon.”

My Jaime is a lion, a dangerous one, she thought proudly. No chain can hold a lion as strong as Jaime for long. He will find a way to come back to me and bring our daughter back…

“Where is Grandfather?” Joffrey called from his chair. The new crossbow he played has a golden lion, the sigil of house Lannister, on the prod.

“Lord Tywin is still at Casterly Rock, Your Grace,” Varys answered.

“He took some time to gather men for me,” Joff snapped. He reloaded a red bow inside the lever. “Now my enemies are marching to steal my crown! Where is he? Did he capture my usurper uncle Stannis? Tell him to send Robb Stark’s head so I can give it to Sansa!”

“Sansa is your betrothed, Your Grace.” she said, “It is not wise to do so, especially when they have your uncle and your little sister.”

“My stupid uncle and my useless sister,” Joffrey sneered. “My father won’t let himself captured by his enemies!”

Her hand lashed out without her noticing and slapped the side of Joffrey’s face. Both of them were surprised and she could hear Joff whimpered. Her son touched his cheek, red with the mark of her palm where she struck him. Joffrey’s eyes flared like wild animals and for a moment Cersei thought he would aim the crossbow at her. It was loaded.

Varys bowed low, eyes on the floor upon seeing their surprising exchange.

“Hit me again and that will be the last thing you do, mother.” Joff snarled.

“Forgive me, Your Grace.” she managed to say, though curtly.

Joffrey might be strong willed but not the brightest. When he was supposed to keep Ned Stark alive in the dungeons, he chopped off his head for mere public entertainment. When he supposed to send ravens and asked for parley or whatever thing they do to exchanged hostages, he did nothing. 

She had begged Joff to send raven back to Robb when he intended to send the Stark boy his sister’s severed hand as a warning. Thank the Seven the whole council opposed to Joff’s idea. She even considered to write Robb Stark herself again, even after the boy didn’t reply her first letter, accepting his peace terms as long as Myrcella returned to her. Joff and Tywin would have none of it.

Finally when Jaime was captured, the Imp arranged for a delegation to deliver Ned Stark’s bones and his Valyrian sword in good faith to asked Robb to withdraw his troops. They have not heard from the delegation yet. Whether they reached the Stark boy in time or no, they didn’t know. War keeps on raging with each passing day Jaime and Myrcella’s lives at stake. And now Vary’s little bird said their enemies are on the move again. They are still cut from Tywin’s army.

How many moons have passed since they woke her up that fateful day? 

How long she have to wait until she holds her daughter again and to feel Jaime fulfilling her?

How could she trust these stupid men milling about before her? 

They have power only because of the cock between their legs.

She retreated from Joffrey’s chamber with Varys on her heel, as they made their way to the Tower of Hand. Senelle confirmed that Tyrion has come back from the street of steel. He sat behind the Hand’s desk as she strode into his solar, not bothering to knock. She is the Queen Regent, after all.

“Ah, Sister, Lord Varys,” Tyrion inclined his head but not raising from his seat. “What do I have the honor of being visited by you two?”

“You told me you will free Jaime. Where is he?” she demanded.

“With Stannis Baratheon and Robb Stark, safe and under guard.”

“That was not funny. How could he let himself be captured by a boy?” she felt her sadness and anger swelling inside her but trying to keep herself calm. “And where is Father? What took him so long to come? I trusted him. Yet he ran back to Casterly Rock, sitting idly.”

“Look again, sweet sister.” Tyrion replied, trying to smile reassuringly. “If those usurpers took our ancestral seat, what good bound to happen to our vassal? He might look like he sits idly; but yet, wars are won through paper and quills too. Sooner or later the lions will have them,”

“Are you sure, Imp? While Father plays lion through whatever you called it with the Stark boy, Stannis is marching up the Kingsroad! He could be at our gates any day now! Didn’t you see the heads of his scouts on the ramparts?”

“The city will not fall a day.” Tyrion sighed, massaging his temples.

“My little birds said that in less than fortnight, Stannis will be here. Not to mention that he and the Stark boy struck some kind pact.”

“Ah, I bet so. His father supported Stannis as heir to the throne, so why the son not supported the man his father died for?”

“I prayed to the Stranger to take Robb Stark’s breath. Put some arrow or dagger to him, too, just like Renly.” she said coldly. “We should… send another assassin.”

“Sister, while it’d make our enemy fewer, but assassin is expensive. You’ll need to pray harder to the Stranger for Stannis, too.” Tyrion scratched his beardless chin. 

Her father, her brother and her had different opinions on whose King was the most dangerous opponent. While Tywin claimed it was Stannis who at the time only had Dragonstone on his side, Tyrion believed Renly had the best bet to defeat them. The youngest, more popular Baratheon’s marriage to Margaery Tyrell secured the wealthy of the Reach and cut the food supply coming to King’s Landing. Their battles in the Riverlands made both Robb’s and Tywin’s side lost men. This made Renly the king with the most powerful troops.

Soon even Tywin was forced to see that while Robb Stark ravaged their troops in the Westerlands, Renly starved them in the capital. Tyrion suspected Renly deliberately kept them starving and desperate that the inhabitants of King’s Landing, fed up with Joffrey’s cruelty, will open the city gates for Renly’s troops. The possibility sums up to Renly arriving in King’s Landing when the people’s disgust reached its peak. Their forces were killed by Robb Stark on battlefield before reaching them in time, exhausted and spent while Renly, thanks to the Tyrells and Storm End’s vassals, had nearly one hundred thousand fresh and well-fed men-at-arms. 

Assassin do come at a dear price. They had their one chance and they used it on Renly. She doesn’t know what it cost Tywin Lannister for such act, but the outcome was as intended. Renly’s forces split up; they have the Tyrells and their army now. The Capital is saved, for now, from hunger and desperation. Most Storm End’s vassal went to Stannis but it was pretty much logic and expected since he become the last Baratheon with Renly’s death. 

“What will you do then?” she sneered. “Sat idly like father?”

“No,” Tyrion sounded insulted. “I was just writing a letter when you came in uninvited.” he raised an eyebrow to her as he folds the parchment in front of him. “Like I’ve said before, wars are won through paper and quills, too.”

“What did you write? To whom?” she demanded, but Tyrion only tsk- ed and fold the letter. He collected the rest of papers scattered on his desk, throwing them all into a wooden box. For an instant Cersei thought she saw some golden kraken on a black field in one of those papers.

“I have an idea,” Varys chimed in softly and two golden heads turned to him. “If not assasin, why not send a little bird?”

“A spy?” she snatched the idea. “Yes, yes, why not? We can send someone to pierced into  Stannis and those northern savages!”

“Not Stannis, but the Young Wolf.”

“The Young Wolf?”

“Robb Stark, Your Grace. They called him the Young Wolf.”

Tyrion rolled his eyes, “Aye, aye, they say he rides into battle on the back of a giant direwolf.”

“So he is, my lord,” Varys bowed.

“And your idea?” she asked impatiently. 

“Well, right now he is ravaging your father’s army in the Westerlands, Your Grace. Put a spy, if possible with a background or knowledge of northern culture, into Robb Stark’s circle. I heard he attacked Ashemark. Lord Damon Marbrand was slaughtered.”

“That was unfortunate. He was always been nice to me.” Tyrion said sadly. “His son and heir, Addam, was good friends with Jaime. I hope he survives.”

“Ser Addam was with Lord Tywin in the Rock, my lord.” Varys answered.

“Surely no one expected this Robb Stark to be a very capable commander.” Tyrion sighed.

“Father will beat him. I am sure he will.” she said stubbornly.

“Come to think about it, our beloved father is not known for his strategy, but to his ruthless.” 

“What do you mean? You dare say he is not capable to beat the Stark boy?”

“No, I did not say that,” Tyrion looked exhausted. “What I was saying, father was known to have— ah, different —approaches. Remember the Tarbecks? The Reynes?”

“Everyone in the realm knew it, my lord,” Varys smiles dryly. “Who has not hear the Rains of Castemere ?”

She knew the look on the imp’s face—how his eyes furrowed on his ugly head, the mismatched eyes narrowed to a point in the distance. His fat little finger tapped on the table as he thinks.

Tap. Tap. Tap. 

She hates it.

“Well?”

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“I am talking to you, imp!”

“And I heard you the first time.” Tyrion looked annoyed. “One of us got to think, all right?”

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“I will write to father.” he said suddenly and without expecting his visitors to react, Tyrion swiftly pulled a new parchment.

“You are never close to father,” she scoffed. “Making you Hand in his stead doesn’t mean you are valuable enough in his eyes. Your brother and your niece were taken hostage, thanks to your plans. I’m getting fed up with your clever plans as long as they don’t bring Jaime and Myrcella back! Do you even love your family, Imp?”

“Why, sister, you wound me.” Tyrion sighed. “I do love my family even you when don’t believe so. Although you are very annoying, but I admit the love you have for your children is a redeeming quality. I promise you; father and I will make it right.”

“My lord Hand is Lord Tywin’s son.” Varys chimed in. “Our enemies will soon make a mistake, no doubt.”

“What about the spy?”

“You will have your spy, sister.” Tyrion said impatiently. “Lord Varys will see to it, won’t you my lord?”

Varys bowed. “My pleasure, my lord.”

“I want full report on this.”

“And you shall have it. Now if I may return to my work?” Tyrion raised an eyebrow.