She doesn’t seem to be mourning the untimely death of her fine young betrothed.
That worries Jaime, in some primal place near his love of swordplay and his love of Cersei. Shouldn’t women be sad over such things? He thinks Lady Lyanna ought to be grieving the sudden and unexpected demise of her betrothed. Shouldn’t she?
Instead, she’s standing as tall as her steady, stocky frame allows, with her chin proudly aloft and her long nose turned up so high that even Lord Tywin could not match it.
She’s quite plain, too. A plain girl should not be so proud, in Jaime’s opinion. Cersei is proud, but there isn’t a girl in the world to match Cersei’s beauty.
Lyanna Stark looks down that long nose at him, with those fierce, cold eyes, and he startles a little.
He does not think he likes her very much.
“I cannot imagine the gods freed me from marriage to one fool only to bind me to another.”
Jaime pauses - he came to the strangeness of the godswood at Cersei’s request, because their lord father forbid her to wander and she wants to know if the heart tree is as terrible as people say. He did not expect the girl to be here, but refuses to go away until he has done his duty to his sister.
Pausing a moment will do no harm, though. Cersei is always cautioning him to be less reckless, so mayhaps he will linger and hear what his betrothed has to say.
“He doesn’t seem an oaf,” she concedes, which Jaime supposes is high praise indeed. “But has he said a single word without looking first to his father or his sister? I don’t think he has a mind of his own.”
The voice that answers her has not yet broken. The baby brother, then, rather than the bold or the boring. All three have oriented themselves around her, since Jaime and his family arrived, and he wonders at that. Do they think him another Robert Baratheon, who left, Father’s spies report, a posthumous bastard?
He peeps through the trees, and the youngest Starks are hitting at one another with sticks. The boy has more training, that’s plain to see, but the Lady Lyanna is taller and stronger for the moment, and Jaime suspects that she is much, much angrier.
He knows that Cersei’s temper runs hotter than his own - why should Lyanna Stark be any different? Lord Stark is near as stern and forbidding as Lord Tywin, so doubtless Lady Lyanna has as little outlet for her spleen as Cersei does.
“You’re a girl, Lya,” the little boy says. “Girls have to marry. Everyone knows that.”
“Lady Maege isn’t wed,” she grumbles. “Why should I not be as she is?”
“Because you’re a Stark, Lya. Father says you must wed, and so you will.”
“Mother would never have made me marry.”
“Mother had to marry Father,” the boy points out. “And Brandon has to marry Lady Catelyn, and Ned and I may have to marry as well. I don’t see why you mind so awfully much, Lya. How else shall you have children?”
“She doesn’t need a husband to have children, my lord,” Jaime says, stepping forward into the clearing. The heart tree is just as terrible as he and Cersei were told, but the disgusted curl of Lady Lyanna’s lip is worse. “Just a man.”
“Fuck off,” she says, falling into a simply appalling stance. It’s the kind of stance learned from a distance, without any correction, and then practiced into unerring error. It’s the stance of someone who knows how to dance but not how to move across a practice yard, and Jaime tries his best not to laugh at it.
“What are you doing?” he scoffs. “If you’re going to learn things wrong, don’t learn them at all.”
She sinks lower, throwing her balance off more, and Jaime knocks her flat on her backside with a swift knock to her front ankle.
The brother - Brendon? No, almost certainly not, that’s too close to the older one’s name - snickers, and she rises up looking fit to murder them both. Jaime eases his weight onto the balls of his feet, even and easy, and he wonders if she can see his stance to mirror it imperfectly.
She still has her stick. Jaime, as a guest in Winterfell’s strangely warm halls, is unarmed, but he is also unafraid. If her posture is so bad, he cannot wait to see her swing her sword.
She lunges. He catches the stick on his padded right sleeve, tosses it aside, and presses the side of his left hand against her throat.
Her pulse is humming like a bird’s. Her fierce eyes are startled, or perhaps even a little scared, and her long jaw is flushed bright red.
“Get your hands off me ,” she hisses. Jaime steps away. It is quiet, except for her furious breathing and the rustle of the heart tree above them.
“Attempting to fight like that will get you killed,” he says baldly. “You would know that, had you any training.”
“Oh, and I’m sure you’re so very good-”
“The best,” he agrees. “You will be very proud of your husband, my lady, I promise you that.”
His father is not pleased that his betrothed so obviously dislikes him.
Jaime is too intrigued to care. Money and a handsome face have absolved him of any previous sins, but perhaps Lyanna Stark’s gods do not think so kindly of Jaime’s virtues as the Seven do.
And besides - when has his lord father’s displeasure ever truly touched him? That has always been more Tyrion’s lot.
They leave the following morning, betrothal agreed, and arrangements are made for Jaime and Lyanna Stark to dance at Prince Rhaegar’s tourney at Harrenhall.
Perhaps by then, the silly girl will have learned a thing or two.
Jaime is relieved to see that the girl has been dressed and styled in something approaching the current standards when they meet again at Harrenhall. He’s newly knighted, after all, and can’t have his betrothed showing him up.
Cersei’s scheme is still weighing on him. That they might be together, in King’s Landing or anywhere else, was always the ideal - but since his betrothal, Lord Tywin has trusted him with a few meatier morsels than usual, and he has begun to wonder if he and Cersei can afford to rely on the King.
Jaime has seen the King’s madness, and thinks it prudent to cleave to his father in this. Lord Tywin alone seems able to manage Aerys, and his heart is heavy with having betrayed Cersei. Oh, he didn’t say why she was spending such time on whispering to her circle of pretty, power-hungry friends that it would be splendid to have him with her always, or why she was sighing that she would feel safer to have the finest swordsman in the realm nearby to the matrons who so fussed over Lady Joanna’s beautiful daughter. The young and the old gossiped incessantly in King’s Landing, and if enough gossip and rumour reached the King’s ear, he would be convinced to make Jaime a brother of the Kingsguard simply to spite Lord Tywin - or so was Jaime’s understanding of the scheme.
Jaime’s father seemed to think it a plot of Cersei’s to have the Rock for herself, and to say that he was displeased was something of an understatement.
And so Cersei has the Rock to herself, under Uncle Kevan’s watchful eye, with only Tyrion for company.
And so he is here, swathed in crimson and gold, bowing to his winter bloom, with her fierce eyes and her hair in three long, heavy braids down her back. She’s all in shades of slate and snow, with a single gold chain around her neck. He can’t decide if that’s a sop or a statement.
“Lady Lyanna,” he says. “Welcome to the south.”
“Ser Jaime,” she returns, taking his arm. “You must show me what all the fuss is about.”
She is, he discovers, a more than passable dancer.
Jaime is a good dancer because he learned to dance with Cersei, and anything they learned together they excelled at.
Lady Lyanna is a good dancer because she is naturally light on her feet, has an easy sense of rhythm, and genuinely seems to enjoy music.
This is one thing they might enjoy together. She seems less angry, more resigned to him than before, but they still speak very little and her brothers still watch him as if he’s rabid.
Perhaps they think he is. Perhaps they are as wary of the south as he was of the North, before his visit to Winterfell.
She hardly says a word to Jaime, and she certainly does not smile for him, but she has tears on her cheeks after Prince Rhaegar has sung his sad, sad song.
“I would warn you,” he murmurs, leaning close and pressing a handkerchief into her hand under the table, out of view, “that I won’t stand for you fawning over other men.”
She scoffs, but accepts the handkerchief.
The little mystery knight in the squires’ lists is lucky, because her horsemanship outstrips that of any of the boys riding that day.
Her armour is hodgepodge, her shield old and not her own, and between gorget and helm there is a flash of bright crimson and brighter thread-of-gold edging. Jaime prays to his Seven and her trees that no one else saw his handkerchief around his betrothed’s neck, and he slips from the crowds to get to her tent before her when she wins the final tilt - no doubt she’ll have fine, noble, Stark-like words, but Jaime is a Lannister, and they have no time for fine speeches.
Like the untempered fool she is, she comes straight back to her tent. She shrieks to find Jaime waiting for her on her bedroll.
“You,” he says, quiet, cool, more like his lord father than he has ever sounded before, “have put us all in very grave danger.”
“No one will ever know,” she says, “unless you tell them.”
“And give the King cause to order my father arrested and hanged for treason?” he asks, hooking his finger into that damnable handkerchief, right under her chin, and drawing her close. “When he already hates and fears Lord Tywin more than any other man? Don’t be a fool.”
“Then don’t you be a fool,” she snaps back. “Why do you think I borrowed all this old rubbish? No one would ever believe a Stark of Winterfell would be so poorly outfitted.”
He could slap her, but that would make him no better than the King, who leaves the Queen in such a terrible state whenever he has her. He could continue to argue with her, but she’s as stubborn as a mule and twice as like to kick him, so there’s no point.
Instead, he takes the handkerchief from around her neck.
“So be it,” he says. “Let it be your father who burns for your wildness, my lady, rather than mine.”
Jaime rides easily to the final tilt, unhorsing half the Kingsguard and half the realm without ruffling his hair.
He begged Lyanna Stark’s favour before his first tilt, and felt a thrill at the way she bared her teeth at him instead of smiling.
“A lesser man might let the Prince win,” Lord Tywin says, pouring Jaime a congratulatory cup of wine and very nearly smiling, in the quiet of Jaime’s tent. “Well that you are not a lesser man, even if this will only make the King more paranoid.”
“Doesn’t everything?” Jaime reasons, grinning ear to ear.
Lord Tywin raises his cup, and Jaime returns the gesture in kind. He has never sought out his father’s attention and affection as Cersei and Tyrion do, but the confidence Lord Tywin has shown him since his betrothal is… Interesting. He will continue to court his father’s trust, just to see where it brings him.
Jaime rides, and because he’s even better at this than his sweet betrothed, he wins the real tourney. He’s the one who unhorses Prince Rhaegar, the one who collects the crown of powdery-blue roses and lays them in Lady Lyanna’s lap.
He earns himself stern nods of approval from her brothers, and a scowl from her. Some women are never pleased.
Lyanna knows that Prince Rhaegar knew it was her under the helm. She spoke to him before she rode out against those insolent brats, and she talked with him a little after - after her sweet betrothed’s warning.
She had thought that Jaime Lannister was going to kiss her, when he drew her close to growl into her face. She had almost wanted him to.
Robert Baratheon had tried to kiss her, when he visited at Winterfell. Jory Cassel tried to kiss her once as well, and she had let Jory - he would not have tried to get his hands under her gown.
She hadn’t much wanted either one of them to kiss her, and even with the way Prince Rhaegar stared at her and paid her such attention… She hadn’t wanted to kiss him, either.
She wouldn’t have minded Jaime Lannister kissing her. Mayhaps.
But Prince Rhaegar knew it was her under the helm, and so her heart is in her throat as she rides into King’s Landing, with Brandon and Cat at her sides and Ned and Ben behind her.
“Don’t be anxious, Lya,” Cat says, reaching over to pat her hand comfortingly - Lyanna loves Catelyn, truly she does, but she doesn’t dare tell Cat why she’s so nervous. No one but Ben knows the truth of what happened at Harrenhal.
Ben, and Jaime Lannister. Damn him.
“Have you told anyone?” she asks, locking her arm as tight with his as she can while they walk the godswood. King’s Landing is hotter than anywhere else she has ever been, even now that the winter has returned, and her gown is lighter than she is used to. She can feel the hard flex of muscle in Jaime Lannister’s arm through their sleeves, and when his hip knocks against hers he seems warm.
“Told them what, my lady?” he asks, smirking down at her. “That I thought the blue of your crown suited you very well and made your eyes seem brighter? Because it did. I think I might commission you earrings - silver, with blue opals.”
Blue opals are horrifically expensive, and she almost says so before she remembers that he is Jaime Lannister. Money means nothing to the likes of him.
“You will have to wear a piece or two with rubies, though,” he says, patting her hand where it’s resting against his arm. “Such is the price of being a Lannister bride.”
She cannot imagine herself dressed in crimson silks and cloth-of-gold, nor can she imagine herself with garnets and rubies and gold at her throat and wrists.
She has one golden chain, dug out of her lady mother’s near-forgotten jewel case and worn to Harrenhall just to see how Lannister would react to it - not at all, it turned out.
“I told you,” he says, low and sharp. “I will not risk my family for the sake of your pride - you have nothing to fear from me, my lady, not on that front.”
His eyes are brighter than his hair, a fierce sort of green that cuts her like a blade when she catches his gaze.
“I will never do anything to cause my family harm,” he says, cold as deepest winter. “My father, my brother, my sister - I will never chance danger to them.”
“You think yourself so far above me,” she snarls. “Do you think I would risk my family?”
“I think you did,” he cuts back. “I think you made a decision that endangered a great many people because you did not know even half so much as you thought you did, and I think that you are arrogant, and stupid, and-”
He stops when she does, startled by the hand she slaps flat to his breastbone. His chest is hard and flat under her palm, and warmer than his arm. She can feel the steady thud of his heartbeat, unruffled by her attempt to throw him off guard, and wishes her own was as steady.
“I am neither stupid nor arrogant, ser . But I would see my father’s bannermen protected from the stupidity and arrogance of others, that is all.”
“An admirable goal, my lady,” he says, “if you know the whole of your circumstances. The King is mad. You must never forget that.”
“And you know this for true?”
“I live in this city,” he says, his hand heavy on her hip. “I see it every single day - I see the Queen’s pain, and I smell the men the King burns.If you are to be my wife, you must know these things as well. You must be careful, as we all are. Even my lord father is cautious, and he is the only thing in this world that the King fears.”
Ned, standing back aways with Ser Jaime’s sister scowling like a dour spinster on his arm, clears his throat. It is only then that Lyanna realises they must look like, like lovers, standing so close and holding one another so tenderly.
She makes to spring apart, but his hand stays firm on her hip.
“I like you even less than you like me,” he says, “but for my sister’s sake, I will keep your secrets.”
Her maiden’s cloak was her mother’s, and smells of eastern camphor when her lord father settles it around her shoulders.
“I know you are angry with me, sweetling,” he says, clasping the brooches that hold the cloak to her shoulders and settling the thick silver chain against her collarbones, over her gown. Both it and her cloak are white, Stark white, but her overskirt and oversleeves both are dark grey and lined heavy with fur. She feels at least halfway herself still, and will until she is wrapped in Lannister crimson.
“I am not angry, Father,” she says, because it is true. There is no point in being angry anymore, not now. It is too late, now. She will be Ser Jaime Lannister’s well behaved little wife, garbed all in red and gold.
At least he is not Robert Baratheon. At least he will not shame her with bastards. At least he knows her for true, and knows her secrets.
“You will be the next thing to a queen, as lady of Casterly Rock,” Father says ruefully, catching her chin and tipping her face up so she has no choice but to look him in the eye. She looks more like him than she does her dim memories of her lady mother, with the same long, slightly hooked nose, the same grey-black eyes, and there is a comfort in that. She will be surrounded by sharp cheekbones and flashing green eyes when she journeys west, and she already feels a stranger.
She wonders - will her bride’s cloak be the hallowed Lady Joanna’s? And if it is, might Lyanna take that as a sign that she might rule the ever so clever Ser Jaime, as the Lady Joanna is said to have ruled insurmountable Lord Tywin, terror of kings?
His mother’s cloak is too long and a touch narrow through the shoulders, but the proud way his new bride carries herself makes a train of the excess that trails behind her.
The King has absented himself from celebrations, despite his insistence on their holding the wedding in King’s Landing. Prince Rhaegar is watching Lyanna, though, from Princess Elia’s side. Jaime wonders why Prince Rhaegar, usually so disinterested in anything but his scrolls and his children and, sometimes, his swordplay, might be watching Lyanna of all women. There is something enticing in his bride, even Jaime’s terminal disinterest cannot deny that, but the Princess Elia’s overlarge dark eyes and her quick, clever hands are more arresting by far.
“I wonder,” Jaime says, catching Lyanna’s own strong, small hand and raising it to his mouth so no one, not even Cersei, might read his softly-spoken words from afar. “Why does His Highness of Dragonstone watch you, my love?”
Lyanna’s face colours, as red as her new cloak, and Jaime has a horrible fear that he’s been cuckolded before he’s even wed. He has no particular interest in being married, less still in having a woman other than Cersei, but that does not mean that he would tolerate his bride fucking another man.
“It is not what you suppose,” she says, taking his lead and guiding their clasped hands to her own mouth. Her lips are warm and a little chapped as they move against his knuckles. “He knew… He knows my secret.”
Jaime keeps his smile in place only because he’s practiced at it from living at court.
“You,” he says, bending over the arms of their chairs to put his lips right to her ear, “are going to get my family killed.”
She shivers, a tremor so fine he would not have noticed it had he not been so close.
“Not,” she says, turning so that they are nose to nose, “if you keep your mouth shut, my love. ”
When she is dropped into their bedchamber, in one stocking and her stays, but not her shift, she is alone.
Strange. Jaime was herded out of the hall before her, surrounded by Princess Elia’s ladies but not the Princess herself. The Prince did not partake of Lyanna’s disrobing, either, thank the gods, because she does not think she could bear furthering her idiot husband’s paranoia.
He appears suddenly, through the wall. Lyanna has just wrapped herself in one of the heavy blankets from the end of the bed, and she nearly jumps out of her skin.
“Do you remember,” he says, stalking toward her in just his fawn breeches, and those half unlaced by hungry hands, “when I told you the King was afraid of my father?”
“I do,” Lyanna says, backing away from him - and toward the bed. His bright eyes are shining darkly now, and when his hands find her hips through the thick wool of the blanket, she blushes.
“Now,” he says, his breath hot against her mouth, “I think the Prince might be afraid of me. ”
Lyanna finds herself pleasantly surprised when her lord husband does not expect her to wrap herself up in the sort of extravagant gowns his sister favours from the morning after their wedding. She has never worn much in the way of gold-embroidered silk overskirts or velvet slippers, and while she admires Lady Cersei’s wardrobe very much she feels somewhat unprepared for it.
He does, however, present her with a new necklace.
“You mentioned earrings, ” she says, unable to keep from scolding him. How is she to hold her tongue, though, when he lifts the lid of the pearl-inlaid box to reveal a necklace of silver set with smooth, oval-cut blue opals? It is like something Shiera Seastar might have worn, the blue shifting to a sunny pink when he tilts the box to catch the light.
“Well,” he says, waving a dismissive hand. He gathers the near-priceless necklace up carelessly, like it is some little trinket, and tosses the box behind him, toward the bed. “Lift your hair, won’t you - my brother helped me choose it. He thought that since I was already going to such trouble to find the opals at all that I may as well find enough for a necklace.”
It is not ostentatious, not at all what she would have expected of a Lannister - it sits neatly, with the largest of the stones resting right at the base of her throat, cool and heavy on her skin.
“You already had this,” she accuses him. “When you teased me, about the earrings.”
“Of course I did,” he says, rolling his eyes this time. “I was hardly going to allow our marriage to pass unmarked.”
Lyanna has a brooch for him, wrought in gold and bronze but in the clean, straight lines of the Northern style. It is still tucked into the hidden compartment at the bottom of her little jewel casket, along with a lock of her mother’s hair and a pressed, dried blue rose - from the glass gardens of Winterfell, of course, not from the crown Jaime laid in her lap at Harrenhal.
The blue of her new necklace matches the blue of her faraway winter roses perfectly.
“We are not like to love one another as my father did my mother,” he says, settling the necklace’s clasp at her nape. His fingers brush against the skin there, and she is surprised by the thrill that slips down her spine at that tiny touch. They had managed well enough last night, considering she knew what to do only in theory and he had not been as practiced as she’d expected, but that had been in bed.
“No,” she agrees. “Nor as my parents loved one another.”
“But that does not mean that we must be enemies,” he goes on. “Your… adventures at Harrenhal aside, I think we might forge an alliance that benefits both our families.”
Lyanna thinks they might have a better chance at that once his sister is married off and not spitting venom whenever her perfect, poisonous green gaze happens upon Lyanna’s unfortunate head, but she does not say that. She suspects it might throw him off his stride.
“I am not the kind to wander, so I will not shame you with bastards and whores,” he says. “I only ask that you offer me the same courtesy.”
Ah, so the blue opals are a collar to mark her as claimed, for Prince Rhaegar’s benefit. Just as well that she bit her claim into his neck last night, then, so his sister might be reminded that his first loyalty is now to his wife.
“That,” she says, “sounds very fair.”
Stannis Baratheon is at court. Jaime hadn’t realised, or else he would have made a point of telling Lyanna so that she could judge for herself just how blessed she is that his lord father had stepped in while the Baratheons were arranging themselves after Robert’s untimely death.
He’s taller than Jaime - taller than most every other man at court, and him a bare year Jaime’s senior - but so dour that even with his height and his title and his passable enough face, every lady of court hesitates before approaching him.
He is an honoured guest, of course. He is the King’s own cousin. Such a distinction is dubious with Aerys on the throne, though, and it is one Jaime does not envy him. No one wishes to have the King’s attention.
Lyanna’s brother, who she keeps telling him he ought to call Ned, is the only person who freely offers his company to Baratheon. Perhaps it is guilt, guilt over the elder Baratheon’s death high up in the mountains of the Vale. Jaime can’t imagine why else anyone should sit with Stannis Baratheon at dinner.
“I am a little glad of it,” Lyanna murmurs. They have been wed a fortnight, and she has even worn dark red tonight - he likes it on her, surprisingly. She will never match Cersei’s beauty, but there’s something to be admired in her dark grey eyes, the long lines of her face, the heavy tumble of her dark hair over her strong shoulders.
“He looks very stern.”
“And boring, I think.”
“Painfully so. I can’t imagine him letting me at a sword.”
“And I will?”
The sidelong look she gives him, grinning around the rim of her cup, has him smiling in return.
“Well,” she says. “You did have a great deal to say about my stance, ser.”