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Longing for home

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Leona 

Leona Tyrell, the golden rose of Highgarden, woke to a golden sunrise that reminded her of home. She rose from her bed, slipped into a robe and called for two of her bedmaids to draw her water for a bath. 

While born a Tyrell, Leona was not born one of the true golden roses of House Tyrell. That good fortune was exclusive only to the descendants of Lord Luthor Tyrell and his lady wife Lady Olenna Redwyne. Leona’s own father was a distant cousin of their lordly son, Lord Mace Tyrell. Leona became one by chance and she would stay one with hard work. 

Leona’s father, Ser Leo, was as true a knight as they ever came and her mother, Alys Beesbury, was the pinnacle of the good lady. Be that as it may, despite their name, compared to the true golden roses, they were little better than well-bred afterthoughts in the game of thrones. Pawns as it were. The pinnacle of her hopes was to marry some knight or lordling of a lesser house. Her father had tried to have her betrothed to one of Lord Paxter’s boys and was rebuffed. What he thought rising to have Lady Olenna’s trueborn grandchildren married to a landed knight’s daughter Leona did not know. Not that her father gave up. When he approached Lord Randyll Tarly, the man refused to entertain the thought of marrying his heir, Dickon, to a mere knight’s daughter.

Leona had accepted her place a long time ago. She always knew that she would live in her cousin Margaery’s shadow and had accepted that too. Her beautiful cousin was easily loveable. The highlight of Leona’s childhood was growing up with her sister and cousins. They hardly spent any time apart until the time came for Margaery to marry Lord Renly. Margaery then left home with Leona’s sister, Alla, and all their unmarried cousins. Leona was left behind. Her mother insisted she was much too young to leave home but Leona knew her mother had hoped keeping her in The Reach would help her catch the eye of some lordling cousin of hers that stayed behind. 

Leona stepped into the hot waters of her bath. Her bedmaids began to scrub her clean. 

While her sister and cousins returned briefly to Highgarden, they left again for King’s Landing for Margaery to become queen. Leona wanted so desperately to go. Highgarden and The Reach were known for their chivalry and pageantry but there was nowhere like King’s Landing for that. Still, her parents refused to let her go. 

Her father died a few months after the girls left and her mother not long after. The bards would say it was grief, if anyone sang about the likes of Alys Beesbury, but Leona knew it was a stomach ailment. 

And if that wasn’t enough loss for a young girl, news came that Margaery and their cousins had been accused of lewdness, fornication, adultery, conspiracy to commit high treason, and in the case of Alla, witnessing their shame and helping to conceal it. No one in The Reach believed those offences of course but Leona thought Cersei Lannister had some smarts to paint Alla as the bystander. Alla was always a meek creature. People thought the same of Leona but that was only because Leona kept her true thoughts to herself. 

So indignant was Lord Tyrell when he heard the news of his daughter’s imprisonment that he pulled back his forces from Storm’s End, refusing to besiege the ancient castle until his daughter was freed. If only life worked as simply as having the greater army and riches. For a long time House Tyrell had thought that to be enough. None more so than the true golden roses themselves. But what is reason to a mad woman? Cersei Lannister blew up the Sept of Baelor. With one well placed fire she blew to pieces the hopes of Highgarden: it’s queen, it’s future and it’s lord. Elinor, Megga and Alla died as well. Megga and Elinor were always considered above Leona and her sister but with no real marriageable pawns left to their House, the golden roses took her in. Lady Olenna was the scariest woman Leona ever met. What she lacked for in physical strength she made up for in her bite. Thankfully, Cousin Willas was there. He was always kind to Leona and protected her from most of Lady Olenna’s tirades, until the woman found use for her. Lady Alerie, on the other hand, was a kind enough woman but when Leona had first joined them she was too lost in her own grief following the deaths of her husband and two of her children. 

When the false dragon, as he was now called, landed in the Stormlands, House Tyrell considered declaring for him until he married the Dornish princess. Lady Olenna refused to bend the knee until he proved himself invincible. He did not have long to prove himself before the unmarried Dragon Queen landed in Westeros. The Reach was the richest kingdom in truth. While the Westerlands had gold, one could not eat gold in winter, and winter was coming. The men, wealth and holding in the Seven Kingdoms that The Reach could give her were too strong a draw for the Dragon Queen to refuse. So she agreed to a betrothal to the Lord of Highgarden, Willas. Leona loved Willas but always thought the Garlan would have been the better consort. He was a true warrior for a warrior queen. 

Leona stepped out of her bath. Her bedmaids began to dry and perfume her. A lady of her standing always smelled nice.

After the betrothal, the queen flew north with her dragons to subdue the North and help them in their war against grumpkins and snarks. Or so Leona thought. Since then, Leona had met enough people who fought in that war to accept that something truly extraordinary happened up there. Something that made the man of her dreams a hero of the songs. Raised a bastard, he was the true born son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Though he looked nothing like the Targaryens in the songs, or the queen herself, she heard how he flew a dragon in battle alongside the Dragon Queen and slew the Great Other himself. 

Leona remembered the first time she ever saw Aemon. 

He was dismounting from his warhorse, his brown hair was blowing in the wind. He had a beautifully long face and haunting eyes that captivated her. When he finally stood near her, she almost drowned in the storm in his grey eyes. She noticed even then how deep his melancholy ran. Those who knew Prince Rhaegar had said he had a similar look of pensiveness to him. She knew that day that this would be the only man she would truly care for. Leona wanted nothing more than to love his pain away. 

Back then however, Leona was merely Lady Olenna’s companion in King’s Landing. The Tyrells had been adamant that the queen took the Iron Throne instead of the true heir as it would have made Willas king. Of course, the queen refused to declare Willas king, but she did name him her Hand following the death of the Imp.

The first day Leona saw the new royal family together, the crowds had cheered for the Tyrells who fed the city and for the queen whose dragons they feared but it was Leona’s Aemon for whom they cheered the loudest. The man who brought together armies to save the realm. The man who let someone else claim his birthright to save the realm from war. The man Leona wanted more than anything. 

Leona sat down in front of her vanity so that her bedmaids could brush her hair. 

Once the queen took her throne and the Great Houses of Westeros all bent the knee, Leona travelled back to Highgarden with Lady Olenna. The betrothals for her hand began to flow in. In a change of fortunes, even Lady Melessa Florent considered betrothing her to her son Dickon. The thought tickled Leona. Once she was of too little consequence to consider a lady for the future Lord of Hornhill but now that the true golden roses had claimed her she was good enough to join the striding huntsmen. Perhaps the striding huntsman is not good enough for me, Leona thought. 

The only man Leona truly wanted was her sad prince. There was something in his eyes that told her he knew pain. She supposed that it had to do with being raised as a bastard. While Leona was no bastard she knew what it was like to live in the shadow of her betters. She wanted to cure his hurts, make him happy and give him a castle full of sons that would make him proud. But being the wife of the heir to the Iron Throne was only that. A dream. 

Only in the songs did a maid like Leona get to be the wife of the prince they called the Last Hero reborn. But Leona Tyrell’s life was nothing if not a song. 

After three years of marriage and not even a single failed pregnancy, Lady Olenna began to question the queen’s fertility. The Spider, the eunuch they called Varys, confirmed not long after that the queen was barren, setting afire all of the Tyrells’ plans to finally have a child of theirs become a king. That was when Lady Olenna began to pay closer attention to Leona. She still remembered the day she was invited for tea with Lady Alerie and Lady Olenna. 

Though they were still in winter, Highgarden was never truly cold. She remembered walking past the beautiful barges that floated along the Mander, past the flowers in bloom and through the shady courtyards and marble colonnades of the beautiful castle. The Three Singers, the three weirwoods of Highgarden, sat in the shade of Highgardens sept which was now the greatest sept in the Seven Kingdoms after the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor. 

Lady Olenna was sitting under one of the great marble colonnades in the company of her good-daughter. 

“My lady,” she said, kissing the Queen of Thorns’ hand before she did the same for the other dowager Lady of Highgarden. 

“Sit, girl,” Lady Olenna commanded. 

“Leona, you have brightened our lives and after the loss of my dear Margaery I have come to see you as my own daughter,” Lady Alerie began. She leaned in to Leona and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “As a Tyrell, organising a betrothal of you falls to us.” 

Who will they marry me to? Leona remembered thinking. Probably someone else who refused my father. 

“As you know dear girl,” Lady Alerie continued kindly, “Prince Aemon is unmarried-”

My prince!

“As a rose of Highgarden you would come with a nice dowry that the queen would not refuse.”

“But-but,” Leona found herself objecting, beside herself, “He’s the prince and I am-”

“You are a Tyrell!” Lady Olenna broke in. “It is time for the boy to marry and there is no one better than you. You come with the strengths and riches of Highgarden.” 

Leona’s heart nearly flew out of her chest. She imagined herself next to her prince, in his bed and under him. He will love me one day, I know he will. 

“My eyes may be failing me, but you are not a sore sight. Entertain the prince, make him desire you and let us do the rest,” Lady Olenna ordered her.

Gladly. I will be his heart’s greatest desire, just as he is mine. 

“I am certain the Prince will be happy to have a daughter of House Tyrell by his side,” she said meekly but in her mind’s mind she did not care for House Tyrell’s fortunes. Merely her own. I will be his wife. They will sing songs of me and my one true love. We will be even greater than Queen Alysanne and King Jaeherys. King Jaeherys did not defeat the Others. She imagined herself running her fingers through his hair, kissing his lips, and holding his hand as well as his heart.

“When all is said and done, a child of this House will sit upon that ugly mangled chair,” Lady Olenna concluded. 

The first time that she saw her prince after that conversation, Leona was dizzy with excitement. It was a tourney to celebrate the queen’s nameday. He is going to be my husband, she remembered thinking but her dreams turned into ashes in her mouth when her prince agreed to marry Lady Sansa Stark, though she was an Arryn by that point. She was widowed and with a child besides. Leona was a maid who had saved herself for her prince and had the riches of Highgarden behind her. She must have bewitched him, Leona remembered thinking. She heard queer stories of wargs and what-not coming out during the War for the Dawn. But Leona also knew her prince was of a kind heart. Perhaps he felt sorry for her. Sansa Stark was a beautiful woman, perhaps only second to the Dragon Queen herself, but so was Leona. People said she looked like Margaery and Margaery was said to look like Lady Lyanna Stark, the woman for whom wars were fought. If Aemon was a man led by his desires he would have bedded Leona a long time ago. He only felt sorry for her. Lady Olenna said there was nothing but air between the girls ears, there’s nothing he could find in her that he couldn’t in me. 

Leona couldn’t believe her luck when the queen and Willas came back from Winterfell with the news that the wedding did not go ahead. Leona could have spent days at the feet of the Maid giving her thanks for her prince’s return to her. Lady Alerie had been the one to break the news to her, telling her of the scandal at the wedding and how Lady Sansa’s day was ruined by her own sister. Apparently the girl held Sansa responsible for the deaths of some smallfolk in their retinue. Leona would never have embarrassed Alla on account of some peasants but she wanted to thank the girl nonetheless for saving her prince from the clutches of the girl Lady Olenna called the Dolt of the North. 

The bedmaids brushed her hair until the brown locks glinted in the sun. “I’d like the green silk gown with gold,” she told them, pointing out one of her many gowns. I am a true golden rose now and the hope of Highgarden. 

Leona spent five beautiful months with her prince in the Red Keep. She learned early on that he liked to spend his time in the godswood and told herself, if I have to pray to trees for the rest of my life, it’s a small price to pay to be by my prince’s side. She would sit near those rustling trees for hours a day waiting for him to arrive. Every morning she would wear her most beautiful gowns. Lady Olenna commanded her to catch his eye and catch his eye she would. He was ever so gallant though. Even when she offered her full bosom to him in her most low cut dresses, he would only look at her eyes. Look my prince, she wanted to say, one day this will all be yours. You can even have it now if you wish. 

She even went as far as spending time with Samwell Tarly just to get closer to her prince. He was truly a kind man to become friends with that sweating ball of lard but there was little Leona would not do for her future husband. For him, she would even befriend the jittering fool. 

Her prince was a quiet man who let her lead most of their conversations but Leona supposed he was weighed down heavily by all the things he’d seen. It didn’t matter, Leona would teach him how to laugh again. 

Then one day, as she sat with the queen, the queen asked her what she thought of Aemon. I love him. Leona spoke about his kindness and courage. The queen smiled at the blushing girl in front of her. Leona knew nothing if not how to play the meek maid. One day I will be queen when you are dust in the ground. Leona never did forgive the snub when the queen allowed his betrothal to Sansa. But perhaps she would learn to tolerate the queen again if she gave her, her prince. Once Leona had a trueborn son there would be no need for the barren queen anymore and Cousin Willas would marry a true and fertile woman to continue House Tyrell’s line. He would of course be her Aemon’s Hand. Still, there was no need for him to know women’s plans. Willas was quite fond of his wife.

“I think he might like you,” the queen said. 

He doesn’t even look at me, but perhaps they are made of different things in the North. 

“Tell me, Leona, would you be agreeable to a match with Aemon,” the queen asked. 

Leona blushed prettily. “I am agreeable to whatever you decide my queen,” she tittered. Leona knew the queen did not bring this line of conversation up herself. She knew that Lady Olenna had a quite frank conversation with her telling her that for all their aid, House Tyrell expected to have one of their own sit the throne one day. By bringing this up to Leona the queen all but confirmed her barrenness. If I was capable of having a child I would never have allowed the Queen of Thorns to threaten me. Unfortunately for her, the queen had no true allies but the Tyrells so she was beholden to whatever they said. Even her Spider was not truly hers judging by all the whispers he brought Lady Olenna. What is the point of having dragons if you let people run roughshod over you? I will make sure no one tries to threaten my Aemon. I will give him sons to secure his throne for him.

Leona remembered the night of the feast when, with the queen's approval, she entered the Hall dressed in the colours of her future husband’s House. She even wore pearls that didn’t go with her dress to pay respect to his Stark heritage. Her prince had not discussed the betrothal with her but Lady Olenna assured her that he would be marrying her once he returned from that snowland he called home. That night, she made a statement to every lady in court. He was hers. Not that anyone still in court was competition for her. With Sansa locked away in her mountain, there was no one else of high enough birth to catch his eye. Leona was a true golden rose now even if she wasn’t one by birth. The only other threat was the Dornish princess but the queen would never allow her anywhere near the Iron Throne. Not after she killed her husband. Leona danced all night with him, lost in the depth of his eyes, until those bastard bitches from Dorne made an appearance. Why her prince gave them the time of day she did not know. He even smiled while he danced with the whorish Nymeria. He was truly a courteous man to give even those bastards the time of day. 

A knock at her door broke Leona out of her thoughts. “Go and see to it,” she commanded one of her bedmaids. Why she had to tell them everything she did not know. 

“Beg your pardons, my lady,” the Tyrell guard said, “but Lord Willas and Lady Olenna have asked for your company to see Lord Redwyne’s latest galleas on Blackwater Bay. I am to accompany you.” Lord Redwyne has hundreds of ships. What’s special about this one?  If Lady Olenna is asking me to meet upon one of them, she clearly has something she does not want overheard to say. 

Leona gathered her skirts, “Please,” she told  the guardsman, “lead the way.”

He offered her his arm as they walked out of the Maidenvault. The man had an unmemorable face but she knew he was in the retinue that came to King’s Landing with Lady Olenna. 

“I don’t believe we have met properly before,” she said. A good queen always left a good impression. Margaery did. 

“No, my lady, we have not.” 

“Are you the son of one of our bannermen,” she asked.  

“I am no one really, my lady,” he replied cryptically. “My father was a stranger to the likes of you. I was born a Flowers.” 

“Oh,” Leona managed. “Well, welcome to King’s Landing. How do you like it?” 

She continued making conversation with the man until they approached the ship. As they strolled through the Keep she knew this place was for her. One day I will be Queen Leona Tyrell, the wife of Prince Aemon Targaryen, the Last Hero and the last King of the North. The wife of a man the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Age of Heroes and this castle will be my home. Oh the thought was so sweet. 

She did not know when her Aemon would return from Winterfell but he was never far from her thoughts. Every night she dreamt of him and there was seldom a moment of her waking day when she did not think of him. She even thought of names he might like for the children she’d give him, names of Targaryen heroes in the ages gone by. She had to admit she did not know much about the North he seemed to like so much but perhaps he would be happy if she gave him a son called Robb after the man he once considered his brother. She even thought of ways she could embroider the golden rose into his personal arms of the wolf and the dragon. That way, everywhere he went, a part of her would be there with him. Her greatest dream was to think about the day he would crown her his queen. 

The nameless guard helped her up the steps to the galley and took a position by the door of the cabin within which Lady Olenna and Willas sat. 

“My lady,” she kissed the old lady’s hand. “Cousin Willas.” She curtsied to her cousin. They were joined by Garlan as well. She greeted him too. They all sported looks of displeasure. 

Willas held a letter in his hand. “Bad news cousin?” she asked, pouring herself some of the wine for which the Redwynes were famous for. 

“Drink. Drink,” Lady Olenna said bitterly, “You might as well give yourself to drink seeing as you couldn’t do something so simple.” 

Leona had to stop her brows from furrowing in confusion. What did I do? 

Willas exhaled heavily, holding his nose with his free hand. 

“Cousin?” she finally managed to croak our, fearing the ire of the old woman. 

Her cousin finally raised his head. “Aemon has married-“

Leona felt her heart break.

“Who?” she interrupted forgetting all her courtesies. Sansa?

“He has taken Lady Arya Stark of Winterfell to bride and,” he unfurled the scroll, “threatened to abdicate his position as heir if the queen disapproves of his marriage.”

Leona had not given the younger Stark girl any thought at all. Lady Alerie said her behaviour at the wedding made her uncouth though Willas seemed to like her. He said she was ever the courteous lady. How can one be uncouth and courteous? He was supposed to be my husband.

“Wha-what does the queen say?” she stuttered. 

“What do you think?” Olenna spat. “She has no other heir beside the Baratheon bastard in Storm’s End, a man who is now married so your pink cunt means little and less to him,” the woman scowled all while Willas blushed at her brazen language. Garlan was silent. 

“The commoners love this boy as do the nobles. Even if he is Rhaegar’s seed he is Ned Stark’s boy. Robert Baratheon’s bastard married a Toland. Have you seen their sigil? The silver queen only sits comfortably because the boy supported her. She cannot lose him.”

“The queen accepts his marriage then?” Leona tried hard to hold back her tears.

“She is unhappy.” Willas, ever the noble, extended his hand to comfort her. “But Prince Aemon has forced her hand by threatening to abdicate.”

“Is the girl pregnant?” That must be it. He is an honourable man. But if he only wanted somewhere to sheath his sword, he only needed to ask me! Leona wiped her tears with the back of her hand.

“She is not,” Willas said with a conviction that surprised her.

“How do you know?” challenged Garlan. 

“If she was with child,” Willas explained, “she would be at least six months gone and yet Lady Arya conducted a progress throughout the North, riding for hours a day. A pregnant woman-“

“If the girl was with child he would have said,” Lady Olenna caterwauled, banging her walking stick on the floorboards in frustration. “Instead, he threatened to abdicate. The boy must be Rhaegar’s.” Leona hated the woman’s scowl.

“Could it be the Starks mean to rebel against the Crown?” Garlan asked, trying to fill the silence. “First they call this council and now they tie Aemon to one of their own…” he let that hang.

“Whatever they are planning queer things are happening behind their walls.”

“What do you mean?”

“Dany has tried to follow their council using Grand Maester Marwyn’s glass candle. The thing has always been mercurial at best but whenever he tries to see what happens behind Winterfell’s grey walls, a shadow covers the castle. He says Brandon the Builder raised the walls with magic and that even stronger magic still resides inside. He’s seen the Lord of Winterfell riding beyond the castle grounds. He says he is the source of that magic, though all the Starks including Aemon share it. I did see giants marching into the castle though, I lost sight of them the moment they entered the gates.” She’s a witch. She’s bewitched him with her wizard brother.

“They mean to use Prince Aemon to take the throne from us!” Leona gasped. 

“Oh do shut up, child,” Lady Olenna chided. “They neither have the men nor the smarts to do such a thing. They’re all younger than Sansa and that girl had nothing between her ears. With Ned Stark for a father they must be honourable fools.”

“They have The Blackfish with them and Lord Edmure was in Winterfell for the wedding,” Garlan reminded them. “Perhaps they mean to unite with their kin in the South to reclaim the Kingdom of the North and the Trident with the true heir to the Iron Throne at their head.”

“Or they have their eyes set on the Iron Throne,” Leona finished for him. Why would Aemon choose them for that? I could give him the riches of Highgarden.

“This is all speculation,” Willas declared. “Prince Aemon strikes me as someone uninterested in the Iron Throne. Perhaps he truly cares for Lady Arya.”

“So that’s it then? I won’t be his wife?”

“Oh do shut up,.” The Queen of Thorns spat. Her wrinkled face looked even uglier when she twisted it in frustration. Leona did as she was told, trembling lip and all. She wanted to shout. You told me I’d be his wife! You brought me here. I never had these high hopes. You introduced me to him and let me harbour these hopes and now I’ve lost him you have nothing to say to me!

“Grandmother,” Willas said softly, “Let Prince Aemon be happy with his bride. Dany and I will have children. You’ll see!” Leona found the hope in his eyes childish. 

“Oh my sweet child.” Lady Olenna raised her wrinkled, freckled, hand to cup her grandson’s cheek. Any kindness the woman had was reserved for her grandchildren. 

When Willas raised his eyes to meet hers, she leaned in to notify him, “The girl is as barren as the Dornish desert. You’d sooner make that bloom than plant a babe in your silver wife. Had we known the truth of her barren womb, I’d never have given you to her.”

“Mayhaps he will take Leona for a second bride. Targaryens have done that in the past,” Garlan offered. “The queen needs our armies for the war she has threatened against Braavos. Leona can be a condition. So long as Leona gives him the first child, it is hers that will sit on the throne.” 

I don’t want to share.

“The Faith will never accept that.” Leona remembered the troubles Margot the Cruel faced for his many marriages. 

Lady Olenna rolled her eyes in annoyance at hearing Leona’s voice. “To hear the way the Septons tell it even the tree worshipping boy’s shit is holy. They will excuse whatever he does. As for your little wife Willas, the girl is stupid for even thinking of this war and my nephew even dimmer for giving her his ships. Cersei tried to refuse the Iron Bank and they left her without allies. I will not see House Tyrell fall by the wayside for your little queen’s pride.”

“Cersei didn’t have dragons, grandmother.”

“Do remind me. Have either of you seen those lizards lately? If they were the threat she says they are she’d have kept them here to remind everyone of her true power. Instead she keeps them hidden away in her stone island. Why is that?”

Willas tried to defend his wife. “Grand Maester Marwyn says they are getting better every day and the visions in the Glass Candles getting clearer is proof of that.”

Lady Olenna waved him away. “Tell me. Does the girl have a chance of winning this war?”

Leona did not want to hear of a war. She wanted to know how they’d give her her prince back. She wiped her tears off with the back of her hand trying hard not to snivel. Lady Olenna hated that. 

“She has sent the Spider off to Volantis to secure her ships. A Pentoshi magister has also promised her all the support she needs.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.” Lady Olenna was getting impatient. 

Garlan the Gallant answered her. “She seems to have the numbers, grandmother.”

“Even without us.”

“Yes.”

“So why would she need us if her little slaves can fight for her?”

Neither grandson had an answer for her. 

“The reality is this. If she falls in battle the crown passes to the boy. And if she lives, the crown still passes to the boy's children. It’s the boy we need. The silver queen will either die in this war. Or-“

“Grandmother!”

“Do be quiet. Your oaf father never listened to me and you know how he ended up.”

“Grandmother, I will not listen to talk of harming my wife.”

“Who is talking of harming her? The girl is going to war. People die in wars.” 

“Not Dany.”

“She still will not give you a child no matter how much you love her, dear.” 

The nameless guard walked Leona back to her rooms all while she tried to swallow her sobs. She’d lost her prince for true. Why would he leave me? I would have loved him. What did she do to force his hand?

Leona cried herself to sleep that night, and the one that followed and the one that followed that until her days and nights all run as one long train of sorrow. 

She tried to avoid court as much as she could, saying that she was unwell for weeks at a time. The queen visited her once or twice but Leona did not truly want to see her. She had failed her twice. 

Then Lady Olenna came to visit her.

“I hear you’ve locked yourself away here. Why?”

“I-I..”

“You. You.”

Leona did not know what to say. 

Thankfully Lady Olenna spoke for her. “Dry those tears, girl. The queen’s guests are arriving. You will go on as you have always done. Host them. Charm them and remember new brides die all the time. The final word has not been said.”

It is only when she left that Leona truly understood what the Queen of Thorns meant. The girl will die and my prince will be mine. Lady Olenna’s word was law. 

Leona donned one of her most beautiful gowns that day, powdered her face to hide her puffy eyes, and lined her eyes. People always said she had the most beautiful eyes. 

She did her duties around the castle, hosted minor courtiers around the Keep for a few weeks along with a Volantene party that arrived with The Spider and Magister Illyrio.

And then slowly the Great Lords began to arrive. 

Leona welcomed Lord Edmure Tully, the bitch’s uncle who had arrived without his wife and son. Though Leona despised him on account of his bitch nieces she spoke to him courteously. 

The former Baratheon bastard arrived with his new Dornish wife and not long after him the snakes of Dorne arrived, unusually with their Princess. She had not been seen in King’s Landing in years. She’d only come once since the queen was crowned. Why ever is she here?

“Lady Leona,” the whore Nymeria chirped.

“Nymeria Sand,” Leona smiled. Bastard.

“It is nice to see you,” their princess lied.

“And you Princess Arianne.” Leona gave them a dazzling smile. I will be their queen one day. 

“Yellow and black,” Elia Sand drawled. “Whatever happened to the Targaryen colours?”

“I believe she’s heard by now Elia,” Tyene tittered. 

“Oh poor girl, you must be devastated to know your wiles couldn’t charm Prince Aemon,” Nymeria commiserated.

“Although, I must say, the devastation is entirely yours. His passions run quite high for Arya. You should know she returns his desires freely. You’d think their fire belongs in Dorne. Oh well, perhaps this time you will not overreach,” Lady Nym added, placing her hand on Leona’s shoulder with a look of false pity on her face. The Dornish were revelling in her hurt. They were all trying to prevent themselves from laughing in her face. How far must I have fallen for bastards to think they can say this to me.

Leona smiled at them, not allowing the cracks to show. “I will take your word for it. No one knows more about overreaching than the Dornish. How have things been for you ever since our queen removed your false king? We haven’t had a chance to speak in a while.”

Their smiles turned to ash. You shouldn’t have started something you couldn’t finish, bastard. 

Both Nym and Elia moved towards her but Arianne held out her arms out to prevent them from passing her.

“Well, Lady Leona,” Arianne said, with a tight smile, “I would love to stay and talk. But we are tired. Do be a darling and guide us to our rooms. I am sure we can tell you about how things have been another time.”

“We can even tell you all about the ways in which you will never rival Arya,” Elia added with a smirk. 

The girl’s reputation has preceded her. Let it. She’ll be dead soon anyway but I will make life difficult for all of them until she is. 

The golden rose picked up her skirts and made her way to the queen. The girl’s Dornish alliances might doom her before we do. Leona Tyrell could hardly hide her grin. I’ve spent long enough around Lady Olenna to know how much a well placed whisper can do for me. 

“Your Grace,” she said, curtsying in greeting. The Queen was in her apartments in Maegor’s holdfast with her foreign handmaids. 

“Leona,” she smiled. “Please, come, sit. How are you?”

“Well enough Your Grace. I’ve just welcomed the Dornish party...the Princess Arianne was with them....”

“Oh.” The queen tried to hide her surprise, “Well, I am glad. I intend to have all the Great Houses of Westeros at my Council. I mean for them all to witness how fiercely I protect their interests.” Leona could see how forced the words were.

“You are right, Your Grace, we are truly thankful to have a queen who protects us. The usurpers never truly cared about the people.” She loves to be praised. “ It takes a truly courageous queen to say no to the Iron Bank. The usurpers would have simply raised our taxes.” She believes going to war instead of raising taxes will make the people love her. She is desperate for the love they freely give Aemon. 

The queen beamed at the praise. 

“Westeros is mine to protect.”

“Your Grace..?” Leona bit her lip.

“Yes?”

“No, no, Your Grace,” Leona shook her head. “It’s nothing.” She looked at the floor.

“Leona. Look at me. Whatever is the matter?”

“Your Grace, it’s just.. The Dornish…”

“What about them?”

“Your Grace, how much do we truly know about the Starks?”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just they had this council and they invited the Dornish..”

“Lord Dayne married a northern lady and Lady Allyria a Northern Lord. They were there for the weddings.”

Leona knew she had to be careful.

“It’s just.. the Sand Snakes went North and now Princess Arianne is here. I know Prince Aemon is good but…”

“But?”

“But what if the Starks have allied with them to replace you with Aemon. Lord Baratheon is married to a cousin of the princess. If they have the Starks, they also have the Riverlands. The Dornish are devious Your Grace and we know nothing of the Starks. They might be hungry for the crown Prince Aemon surrendered to you and-.”

Leona saw her words were having the desired effect. 

With all the meek sincerity she could manage she continued. 

“It’s just...you’re my cousin’s wife Your Grace.” She threw herself on her knees to hold the queen’s hand, tears in her innocent doe eyes. “I just don’t want these snakes to bite you. I wish someone warned my cousin Margaery and I..it’s probably nothing but I just.. I-“ she cried. 

“Don’t worry, my dear,” the clueless queen said. “I have my own plans to ensure the Starks cannot betray me.”

Leona left the room happy with herself. 

The bitch will die and everyone knows no one uses poison like the Dornish. My Aemon will destroy them for that and when he does,  I will heal his wounds until he forgets her.

The last golden rose hummed a pretty song to herself all the way back to her rooms. As she walked, she saw the nameless guard’s eyes on her. I really should ask his name some day. Instead, Leona smiled at him too. Men liked beautiful things. Nothing could destroy her happiness now.