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The Colour of Always

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Offline asterin

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From that night onwards, a strange sort of routine had been formed for the assassin. Instead of spending her evenings restlessly hoping to be called away to the Usurper’s bed, she devoured book after book curled up on her newly designated spot by the sill. Many of them were children’s tales and songbooks, but that did not bother the young woman at all. In fact, they were such a novelty in her eyes; fanciful fairytales, legends and well-known lullabies were subjects foreign and so contrary to her learning and upbringing. One of the books even had Ruwena’s lullaby in it, she had noted one night with a tinge of fondness.

The red-haired girl was another constant among her days—it was rare that more than two day passed without the bubbly young woman seeking out her company while her dear Lady Sansa was receiving lessons, and Esen was…glad for it, she supposed, though it made her vaguely uncomfortable admitting it even to herself. Ruwena was the only one who had an inkling of what was truly going on in the prince’s chambers every night beside the two involved. The assassin had not explained everything in detail to Ruwena, for that would indeed be a foolish thing to do, but the implications she had offered were enough to ease the motherly redhead who had worried so for the other girl’s well being.

It was easy to see that her new profession was kind to Ruwena; Esen thought she grew happier and prettier with each time she came to see her. She would chatter away excitedly about the things that had happened during the day and the things she and Lady Sansa had done together; Esen would offer a listening ear, interjecting a few comments here and there to commiserate or make the redhead laugh with a clever quip. It was another one of these sessions they were in the middle of, the two young women seated on the pallet they had once shared. The topic was of the Hand’s Tourney, as most topics of conversation around the Keep were bound to be, seeing that the grand scale event was the day after.

“That many dragons for the champion’s purse—I can’t even imagine how much that really is!” Ruwena was gushing, her eyes wide and filled with wonder.

“It certainly is a grand prize,” the raven-haired girl responded, though her voice was not filled with the same excitement. It was an incredible expense, an expense that could not be truly afforded, not according to the numbers she’d seen here and there lying about the princeling’s desk. The Usurper liked to put on a show of wealth, but it was running the coffers dry. The announcement of the ridiculous prize had reminded her of just how undeserving Robert Baratheon was of the throne and of her mission. Her unique position as the prince’s assumed favorite whore indeed kept her in the Red Keep without interference from shrewd Littlefinger, but it also meant she had next to no chance of being sent to the Usurper’s bed as just another whore. This was not going to stop her, of course. Failure was not an option, and neither was an execution that was not flawless.

“Lady Sansa has been talking about the tourney for weeks now,” Ruwena was saying, and the assassin was forced to return her attention to the cheery girl at her side. “She wants it to be just like the songs she’s grown up on. And by the Seven, I want it to be like that too.”

“I hope it is, then, for your sakes,” Esen found herself smiling a little, even though her head was still crawling with another particular subject. She had noticed that Ruwena and Sansa were somewhat of a similar temperament, though Ruwena was much more openly mothering outgoing. It was wondrous how despite the life she had gone through as a whore, the red-haired young woman had remained so cheerful and still chose to dream of songs and tales. She couldn’t help but feel a slight twinge of envy; just as she opened her mouth to comment upon it, she noticed something in the corner of her eye. “Actually, I just remembered I have something I need to do,” she frowned apologetically, wringing her hands.

“Oh no, don’t you worry about it, it’s about time I stop chattering and get back to Lady Sansa. There’ll be a lot to prepare anyhow,” Ruwena waved her hand dismissively, springing to her feet. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Nasira!” With that, the girl was gone, leaving Esen thankfully alone in the room.

After glancing about and making sure the door was shut firmly, she moved to the slats that acted as windows and slipped her hand through the narrow opening. Sure enough, a bird landed on her forefinger, carrying a message attached to its leg. Her slim fingers quickly dislodged the tiny roll of parchment, drawing it back inside and flattening it on the sill. To an unassuming eye it appeared blank, but on the farthest left corner there was a tiny black dot. She had expected a message of this nature any day now; she drew her old knife from her person and without a hitch, made a clean cut in the pad of her thumb. Scarlet blood beaded up from the small wound and using the point of her blade, she planted a red dot on the bottom right corner, as small as the black dot on the opposing side. That was all that was needed before she rolled the scrap back up, and managed to secure it back onto the messenger bird through the slats. With the rustling sound of wings the birds was gone, off to carry her response back to her masters.

The question had been simple, and her response had also been equally simple. There was no need for long, cryptic messages relayed—the red dot conveyed many a promise for such a seemingly insignificant thing. It was the only response that her masters expected from her: she was alive and she had not been compromised. As long as those two conditions were met, the result was ensured.


****************


When evening fell, she rose and made her way down the now-familiar corridors leading to the prince’s chambers. No one stopped her to question her, she had been sighted quite too often for them to doubt her presence. The room was empty, as it sometimes was—the tourney was most likely keeping the prince busy like everyone else. She settled down on the seat beneath the sill after she had taken two tomes from the shelf; this time, they were not the books of stories and songs, but one for each house, Baratheon and Lannister. She could not become complacent and forget, she rebuked herself harshly—an assassin did not have time nor use for the soft and tender things of life.
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Offline Reigning King

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“Everything’s ready then?” Lyan asked as he trudged across the duelling ring. Beside him, his uncle Renly walked in tandem with his own footfall. He wore a more dashing tunic on this day, though Renly typically dressed sharply, and it was evident to Lyan that he had recently trimmed his beard.

“As ready as it can be.” Renly answered. “I might be a genious, nephew, but I’m no miracle worker.” The last he said with a smile tickling at his face.

Lyan and Renly had always gotten on like a house on fire. They were close enough in age for their camaraderie to be appropriate but also raised under circumstances that mirrored each others. Renly, having been treated like a spoiled child well into his adulthood, and Lyan having been forced to act as a seasoned warrior from a very young age. In each other they found what the other lacked. In Lyan, Renly found a companion who made him feel more his age. In Renly, Lyan found a companion with whom he could act like a boy. The other sons of house Baratheon were very different from Renly. His uncle Stannis had been hardened so completely by war that he, himself had turned into stone, caging his own madness inside the mountains of Storm’s End. His father, Robert, drank himself into a stupor in order to avoid the brutal memories of battle. Renly, however, had not taken part in the war, and grown into a man from the bosom of luxury and privilege. Therefore, he was softer, kinder and far more gentle. Lyan liked to think of him as an ally, but he knew his uncle well enough to know how wildly his ambitions sometimes ran.

“Will you be competing then?” Renly asked him.

“No.” He answered with a scoff. “It would be unfair. No one is going to dismount their crowned Prince, they would just let me win.”

“Loras wouldn’t.” Renly added with a smirk. “He’d knock you flat on your back.” The recent arrival of the formidable Knight of Flowers likely accounted for Renly’s groomed look on that day.

Lyan laughed and nodding he answered, “he most certainly would.”

Renly allowed himself to smile broadly at that in front of his nephew. Though Lyan had never uttered a word on the matter, nor made any hint of having knowledge of the subject, he knew. More importantly, Renly knew that he knew. Above all however, Renly knew that no one else knew, which made his little secret very safe with Lyan. Of course, the Knight of Flowers, the jewel of Highgarden was utterly smitten with his beloved friend’s nephew. This, naturally, only made the bond between them stronger.

After overseeing the last of the preparation for the tourney, the pair made their way to the Keep, wherein they sought the doors of the Great Hall. They paused at the doors, knowing full and well what they would be walking in on. Looking to each other, they had a silent argument over who would lead the way in. Losing the wordless dispute, Lyan rolled his eyes and pushed the doors open. The Great Hall was bathed in the light of the setting sun, casting the perfect red and orange glow over the scene, and what a scene it was. The King was standing, his crown sitting on his head crookedly and wine spilled on the front of his tunic. Across from him Lord Stark sat, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.

“It’s too much.” Lord Stark insisted in a voice that was growing more impatient by the instant. He looked not much better than he had that morning, in fact, he looked worse.

“Its not!” The King barked. “If I want to pay a man to beat another man bloody then pay him I will, won’t I?!” He turned his attentions now to Lord Baelish who sat quietly, his hands folded in front of him.

“The sum has already been added to the crown’s debt, the dragons delivered just this morning.” Littlefinger explained smoothly. “I’m afraid there’s no way now to return it.”

“It would be foolish to promise such a purse and then provide only half.” The Queen chimed in. “It would make us look weak and petty.”

“You see Ned, weak and petty.” His majesty chided, gesturing to his wife with his goblet still in hand. A bit of red liquid splashed out and onto the table beneath him.

“Ah, gentlemen.” Lord Tyrion said, finally bringing the attention of the small council to the two young men standing apprehensively near the threshold into the Great Hall. Renly had likely been mulling over the same thing Lyan had, to turn and run from the Hall before anyone could take notice to their arrival. Unfortunately, they had no such luck on this day.

“There they are!” King Robert exclaimed with a gurgled sort of tone that suggested he was already drunk. “My pathetic brother and my idiot son. What a pair the two of you make. Come, sit sit, join in the fun.” Lyan took the empty seat between Lord Stark and his uncle Tyrion. Renly took the seat across from him between the Queen and Lord Varys. “Now then!” His majesty continued. “How many barrels of wine in the cellar?” He asked Lord Baelish.

“Forty, your Grace.” He replied gently.

“I want them all brought up for the feast.” He insisted.

“Robert…” Lord Stark began.

“Shut up, Ned!” The King snapped. “Right, as for the feast…”

As the King continued to rant and rave about all the various added expenditures he sought to attach to the tournament, Lyan turned to Lord Stark at his side. The aging man was leaning forward, strong, meaty fingers rubbing at his temples. His eyes were flitting back and forth across the table, something clearly troubling him. Lyan placed a comforting hand on the man’s arm and whispered to him, “are you alright, uncle?”

Suddenly, the Queen was on her feet, her chair flying out behind her. “For the last time, he is not your uncle!” she roared. At her sides her hands were balled into fists, quivering from the rage painted across the sharp features of her pretty face. The table had fallen silent now, Lyan’s father’s rantings interrupted by the sudden outburst from his wife. He looked between his son and his Queen, neither one of them breaking their steeled, predatory stares.

“I want you to say it.” She hissed. “I want you to say he isn’t your uncle.”

“No.” It was a curt reply, short and cold, leaving no room for contestation. It was a dangerous tone that his mother elected to ignore.

“Say it!” She demanded.

“Lyan…” Lord Stark began quietly at his side.

“No.” He said again.

“You’re no son of mine…” She said lowly, her eyes never leaving those of her eldest child. “You’re the offspring of a ghost and a monster, grown inside my body like a parasite. I should die a saint for this wretched curse the Mother saw to punish me with.”

Now it was Lyan’s turn to stand. He did so quickly, threateningly, a fist coming to crash against the table in front of him as he did. It was enough to make his mother flinch, a feat he was both proud of and ashamed by. Ashamed, because wouldn’t it be nice to have a mother who loved him like she ought? Proud, because she had been the first to show weakness, and so he had won. She was the first to break the stare, with a snarl she turned on her heel and left the Hall. It had become more and more difficult for her to hold her son’s gaze in recent days, harder to stay in his presence.

Slowly, Lyan lowered himself back into his chair and once more turned to Lord Stark. “Are you alright?” He continued.

“I’m fine,” Lord Stark answered. He was looking at Lyan strangely, as though seeing him truly for the very first time.

“You know, I would never encourage and lad to raise hand to his own mother,” the King began, “but given the—”

“Don’t!” Lyan snapped viciously. He had had just about enough of this foolishness. In his anger though he did not fail to notice how Varys watched him, and oh how he ever watched him.


When Lyan finally began his journey to his private chambers, the hour was so late that it had become early. In naught but five hours he would have to awaken again in order to attend the opening ceremonies of the tournament. He would be forced to attend them because his father was most definitely not going to awake in time to attend them himself. Rubbing a hand across his face he attempted to smother his frustrations. There had been enough anger coursing through his veins for one day. The planning for the tournament had come to an end, but he had then been forced to attend a meeting with Lord Baelish regarding his plans in the Vale. After that, he had travelled to his sister and youngest brother’s chambers, both refusing to sleep until their eldest sibling read them a story. Now finally, it was time for Lyan to read himself a story and fall blissfully into sleep.

“Tired, my Prince?” Came a velvety voice from the shadows of the corridor. Lyan recognized it immediately.

“What do you want, Varys?” He asked lowly.

“So serious today, your Grace.” He noted. “It’s been weeks since I’ve seen that handsome smile of yours. What is it that’s got you so prickled?”

He was right of course. The Baratheon Doe had not reared it’s naked head within him in many a night. Instead this creature, this beast made from sharpened velvet, covered bone, teeth, claw and hoof alike roamed instead. His kind eyes were too tired, narrowed into an icy glare. His soft mouth gone too long unheard, open now and roaring full of cutting fangs. His gentle hands left idle, had balled into ground-beating hooves, prepared to charge. He had become something that was not altogether himself, yet also more like himself than he had ever been. Yet he was not about to share any of this with the Spider.

“What do you want, Varys?” He repeated.

“What do I want?” He echoed. “Why, my sweet child, I want only for the good of the Realm.” His hands were folded together in his sleeves, a hood covering his bald head. The assaulting smell of lavender wafted off him and penetrated Lyan’s nose without permission. “Only for your own good, your Grace.”

“I don’t have the patience for riddles, Varys. Come to plain words or leave me be.” His tone was impatient, but tired enough that it had lost some of it’s bite.

“There are treacherous workings afoot in the Keep, your Grace. I fear for your safety, and that of the King’s as well.” He explained. He stepped forward, closing the gap between them until he was no more than an arms length away. Lyan was uncomfortable with the proximity but craned a listening ear to the Spider’s whispers nonetheless. “There are those who would see you dead, a bastard seated in your place instead.”

“A bastard?” He repeated, confused. “Is that what your little birds have told you?”

“Oh, but my birds are reliable, your Grace. They are reliable because I can make a bird of anyone. Even that exotic flower of yours if I wanted to.” He said slyly.

Before he had the chance to utter another word, Lyan had seized him by the front of his robes and slammed him into the stone wall, hard. His fist gripped tight, pressed against the base of his throat. If he wanted to, Lyan could squeeze the life from him now and be rid of another skittering pest. Varys knew it too, which is why he did not resist against the act of aggression.

“You stay away from her.” He warned, the bite back in his voice.

“You would care so much for a girl, and yet still not take her to your bed? Such a peculiar boy you are, your Grace.” Varys hissed beneath Lyan’s fist.

“I’m warning you.”

“And I will heed that warning,” Varys agreed. “Will you heed mine?”

At once, his expression went slack. He released his grip on Varys’ robes and let him fall away from the wall. He clenched and unclenched his fist, unsure how to respond. Finally, a simple, “alright,” tumbled from his mouth. Varys only nodded and smiled weakly in response. Rubbing the sore spot at his throat, he slunk back into the shadows from whence he had emerged, leaving Lyan both confused and eerily aware.

When finally he reached his chambers and his precious study, he found Nasira inside waiting for him. This was the second time she had beaten him to his books, which was unsurprising. Surprising however, was that she was still awake. In her lap a tome was open, her fingers following along with the words she read. The moonlight fell through the window down onto her, the candle beside her burned to the stump. She must have been reading for quite some time, yet she looked how she always did, comfortable and oddly serene.

Stepping into the room, Lyan walked to her. He was suddenly aware of his own exhaustion. The late nights and early mornings had seemed to catch up with him all at once as he slumped down beside her. He had come to her side without thinking. Something inside of him was calling to her, from that empty place inside himself where an endless void had always sat. He felt a longing, not for her flesh but merely for her company. Without considering the implications of the act, or how the young woman at his side might feel about it, he let himself fall into her. His head landed against her side, in the soft curve of her waist just beneath her breast. He could hear her heartbeat, feel it quicken as she likely observed the proximity of a man who had previously shown no interest in physical contact.

“Sorry,” was the muffled answer to the silent question she asked. “Is it alright if we stay like this… just for a little while?” He let her peaceful silence envelope him like a blanket, warming even his most chilled bones. It filled him up, pushing aside all the noise that banged around inside his head. The shouting of his parents, the clashing of steel, the pattering of running feet, the laughter of drunken men; all of it fell away in the presence of her ever-inviting silence.

“Just for a little while…” he repeated quietly, but his eyes were already growing heavy and without realizing, he curled himself into her.

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Offline asterin

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The hours passed by as the young woman went through the books with a voracious appetite, absorbing relative information from the records of history. She did not seem to tire or hesitate as she proceeded from one heavy tome to another. Though she had been schooled on the history of the Targaryens, there was not much knew she about the history of Baratheons aside from the Usurper and the heinous way he had stolen the throne and slaughtered babes. The same went for the Lannisters; she had received much intel about the players on the board, but not about the legends of their lineage. It was all an intriguing read, but Esen was not reading for entertainment—she was reading to further weaponize herself. She was also very well aware that this was a good time as any to look through the prince’s desk once more, but the assassin did not touch it, remaining in her usual spot. There was a simple excuse—she’d seen the papers he worked on nightly in passing, and it would not have been an exaggeration to say that there most likely wasn’t anything for her to use anyhow. Nevertheless, she could not ignore the annoying tug in the back of her mind that insisted her reasons were not quite what her brain wanted them to be.

So engrossed in her reading was she that she did not realize just how late it had become until she heard the creak of the door and the familiar footsteps. She looked up to see the prince in the doorway, who appeared visibly exhausted, perhaps more exhausted than she had ever seen him before. A quick smile flitted through her features as a greeting before she glanced back down to her book—it wasn’t rare for them to speak few words and opt to read independently in comfortable silence, especially when one or the other had had a long day.

It was easy to assume that he would sit at his desk and scribble away for a little while before he grew too tired to continue, like he so often did, so it was only when he unexpectedly sat down next to her that she lifted her face from the tome to send him an inquisitive look. Had something happened? But before she could give voice to the question, he abruptly slumped into her, eliciting a sharp intake of air from her as her assassin’s instincts blindly warned her of danger. It was clear to Esen in the second after that he meant her no harm; this was the princeling, after all. Despite knowing that the situation was not a dangerous one, it still left her temporarily floored—she could not truly comprehend his motivations for such an action. However as he spoke in response to her nonverbal surprise, she found something in the quiet mumbled answer that made her slowly relax, the tight coils in her stomach softening and unwinding.

The position allotted her to study his face in a different angle than before. She had seen him stuttering, she had seen him with gentle compassion in his expression, but now that she was watching his eyes slide close she thought it was not merely the angle that was making him look different; in his visage she saw something vulnerable, not weak, but somehow still fragile. It was as if the stiff mask of duty had fallen away and in its place there was perhaps the image of the young boy he had once been. As he shifted closer to her, a few locks of his dark unruly hair fell across his face.

After a long pause, she cautiously brought her fingers to the misplaced locks as if they would suddenly twist to life and bite her—no such thing occurred and she brushed the curls back from his face with a feather-light touch. The young woman let out a exhale, belatedly realizing she had been holding her breath. Her gaze moved to the tome of Baratheon history she had been intently studying before.

She had meant to finish the book, but she was already closing it, reaching her arm out for another book on the shelf while balancing her weight to make sure she did not disturb the slumbering prince. It was not a tome on the history of the Lannisters or the Baratheons she pulled out and opened. It was the book of children’s tales and songs: the kind of book she had deemed unworthy of her time merely hours ago, and yet for inexplicable reasons she was flipping through the pages, once again filling her head with gentle things. Her hand came to a halt on the page with Ruwena’s lullaby on it and she closed her eyes, wracking her memory to attempt to recall the melody. How had it gone…? She began to hum softly under her breath, and then attempted to add the words in afterward, though the song did not seem to want to cooperate. Two verses in she trailed off, feeling ridiculously stupid and mentally kicking herself. Her only consolation was that the princeling had not been awake to witness it.

Her cheeks felt hot as she shoved the songbook away, her lips pressed thin and her brows furrowed. Why was she even trying to sing a lullaby? In fact, why was she doing any of this? Esen was thoroughly puzzled once more, this time by her own actions. She shook her head, glancing back down at the young man’s sleeping face. A streak of exasperation flushed through her and she picked up the candle that was nearly just a puddle, blowing it out. It couldn’t be helped, she supposed—she would be spending the night this way. The nook was cushioned and therefore quite comfortable, though this would be the first time she’d ever had someone asleep in her lap. It made for some interesting maneuvering, but it wasn’t long before she found a suitable position and drifted off to sleep, hidden fatigue sucking her into the depths of slumber.
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Offline Reigning King

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He dreamt of the weirwood.

Not the one in Kingslanding, of course, as there was none left in the south. He dreamt of the weirwood at Winterfell. He stood at it’s edge, behind him the yard of the castle bustled with life. Somewhere behind him he knew where he might find each one of the Stark children, the boys especially some of the closest friends he had ever known. But today he was not sparing with Rob, nor climbing with Bran, or hunting with Jon. On this particular day he was headed for the weirwood tree where his uncle had taken him to pray only ever once before. In his dream the wood looked different, alive somehow, as though each tree was watching him with eyes the flittered just out of sight.

When he reached the weirwood tree, it was writhing. It looked at him when he approached it, pulling a face. It’s hollow eyes looked over him and then off to the side, it was only then that Lyan heard the struggle going on along the other side of the tree. Following the gaze of the weirwood, with cautious steps upon the forest floor, Lyan moved around the trunk of the tree until he reached the other side. There, stood a man clad in black and shadowed by the tree. Over his head he held a spear which was aimed for a stag that lay crumpled against the base of the tree.

“Wait…” Lyan began, stepping forward. “Wait, don’t!” He cried out as the spear was brought down upon the defenceless creature.

Crash.

With a start, Lyan sat up straight. He blinked the blur out of his eyes as wood splintered against the chest plate of a Knight, struck during the joust. The abrupt sound had shaken him from the sleep that he had unknowingly slipped into, perched in the highest most levels of the stadium. To his right sat the unoccupied throne meant for his father, and on his left sat Lord Stark who was looking at him with concern.

“You alright?” He asked. Lyan only nodded in response. “Are you not sleeping again?” Lord Stark asked again.

“I sleep sometimes.” Lyan answered, rubbing his eyes.

“Seven hells.” He cursed, letting his eyes pan back out to the joust. “You’ll be an old man before ever even sitting on the Iron Throne.” He remarked, bringing his worried eyes back to the young man at his side. “What’s your rush to salvage the Realm, Lyan?”

“Who else is going to?” He answered back immediately. And to that, Lord Stark had nothing to say and so quietly, turned his attention back to the joust carrying out in his name.

The two men eased into a silence they had both become comfortable in. Neither one were the sort for laboured conversation and were content to let the other turn their attentions to their own private thoughts, which was exactly the place Lyan went to now. He thought of the hours earlier when he had awoken in the lap of Nasira. He thought of her expression as she woke up when he stirred and the strangely intimate moment the two had shared, uncoiling themselves from one another. He had left her with only the promise that he would see her at the tournament. She, and the other women of similar standing, would be given free range on this day and Lyan would likely find Nasira with Sansa’s handmaiden, Ruwena. Sansa had spoken of seeing the two in conversation in the hallways, and Ruwena had supposedly spoken fondly of her exotic friend. It wasn’t until several hours into the joust however that Lyan spotted Nasira, and as expected she was sitting amongst Sansa, Arya and Jeyne Poole, blending in amongst their handmaidens.

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Offline asterin

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The day of the Hand’s Tourney had taken King’s Landing by storm. Esen sat in the swell of the crowd, next to Ruwena, Lady Sansa, and other handmaidens and young girls, though she felt detached as ever from the rest of the populace. The noise, the glinting armor in the sun, the gaudy banners snapping smartly in the wind—these things had enraptured the other young women, Lady Sansa and Ruwena in particular, but it did not seem to quite reach her. “It’s better than the songs,” Esen heard the pretty young Stark girl whisper to Ruwena, and the older girl had nodded emphatically, gushing back about the noble knights with her young lady.

“Which d’you fancy, Nasira? I think that youth there is quite the charmer,” the question finally was aimed towards her.

“Oh, I don’t know…” she answered distractedly, trying to muster some excitement for the red head’s sake. She could not find it within herself to tell Ruwena how she honestly felt about the tourney—it seemed more pomp and circumstance than any real fighting, and she truly found little amusement in males prancing about preening their feathers. Oh, she was aware that jousting indeed had its risks, and indeed the melee would certainly have blood and gore, but for what purpose was this for? It all seemed rather useless to her. Men beating each bloody for a purse of expenses that would further indebt the throne—useless and stupid. Useless spending of money, useless spilling of blood. She had no qualms about killing, she was an assassin, after all, but it all directed towards a specific cause, a goal, was it not? “The one with the curls, I suppose.” She nodded her chin towards the general direction of a jouster, whose face she had not even glanced at.

“But he’s got such a crooked nose,” Ruwena commented. “Such strange tastes you have, Nasira.”

“It gives him character,” she justified without missing a beat, though her eyes were elsewhere. Ruwena let out a quick laugh.

“Nasira, that young lad’s got the nose of an artisan’s masterpiece statue. In fact, that’s the Knight of Flowers.” Ah. That explained the overpoweringly female tone to the cheering. The red-haired woman pinched her side affectionately. “But my oh my, looks like you’ve got your sights elsewhere—up on the royal dais no less!” she whispered teasingly.

The amber-eyed assassin shook her head with a wry laugh. “It’s not anything silly like that,” she answered dryly, despite a small dash of embarrassment at being caught by Ruwena. “It’s just strange that his Majesty the King is absent.” Indeed, the large throne that should have been sagging with the weight of the portly monarch was empty.

“Oh yes, it is. Hmm,” Ruwena mused. “I pray he is not ill.”

“Indeed,” Esen replied dutifully, though her fingers went to the ring on her right hand, giving it an absentminded twist.

“Why, what a pretty ring—is that new?” The red-haired woman did not miss much, it seemed.

“No, it’s not new. I just haven’t put it on in a while,” she answered truthfully. “It is a special day, after all.” Well, that wasn’t the reason for the ring, but there was no need for Ruwena to know about what was hidden within the hollow ring.

A roar from the crowd brought Ruwena’s attention back to the joust; Loras Tyrell had done it again. The cheers were deafening, but the screams of the women were most prominent. Even the urge to wince a bit did not distract her from discreet contemplating the empty throne up on the dais.

Having grown accustomed to keeping her target in sight whenever she could, it was jarring to see the Usurper not there when he should have been. Shirking his duties, no doubt too drunk to attend what had been his own indulgences. The Hand, Eddard Stark, for whom this very Tourney was being thrown for, did not look particularly festive (not that he was known for being a festive man), looking more weary than anything else. That went equally for the prince at the side of the empty throne—time to time she could see that his eyes were failing to stay open. None could blame him, especially if like her, they knew of just how little sleep he had been getting. For a moment, she thought his gaze turned to her, and she glanced away.

Seeing the prince up there beside an empty throne was like a visual representation of something unpleasant beginning to creep in the recesses of her mind. For when the Usurper was gone, who else would there be to take the throne? To become the next Usurper on the Targaryen throne? This was not a belated realization; the line of succession was obvious and she herself had known it from the beginning that one day, the princeling would also be deigned an obstacle. And as for her? She was a tool for clearing the obstacles barring the rightful heirs to the Iron Throne. She knew this already. Why did this suddenly bother her so much? Was it because she knew just how easily she could’ve killed him many times over in the past few weeks? Because the chance had practically been in her lap the night before? Before, Esen had calculated that killing the crown prince first would set the King on high alert. That was still true. But what was truly beginning to eat away at her was that her motives for inaction were no doubt changing, bit by bit, no matter how much she wished to deny it.
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Offline Reigning King

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The Queen arrived, accompanied by her children, some time before finally the King made his grand appearance. She slipped onto the royal dais and into her ornate seat on the opposite side of the empty throne reserved for his majesty. Joffrey sat on the other side of her while Myrcella and Tommen found seats on the lower levels with their keepers. Neither his younger brother, nor mother offered him so much as a sideways glance until finally, the King made his loud entrance.

He stumbled partway up to his throne, catching himself on a nearby squire whose face contorted painfully at the enormous weight he bore on his shoulder. Commands were barked to fetch more wine and an insistent demand for blood echoed across the jousting yard before finally he sank down into his wooden throne. The King’s crown sat on his head crookedly and the buttons of his doublet stretched to contain his girth. At once he tipped his goblet of wine back into his mouth and down his throat, finishing the thing in only one gulp.

“More wine!” He barked at his squire.

“Surely, Robert, you’ve had enough.” The Queen chided gently from his side.

“Shut up, woman. I’m celebrating my Hand.” He smiled then and lifted the goblet in Ned’s direction. Lord Stark, however, seemed hard pressed to even meet the King’s gaze but did so with as much conviction as he could muster. He lifted his own tankard which was filled with water and not wine to meet Robert’s mid-air.

“That’s it, Ned.” Robert cooed, red-cheeked and hiccuping. “Enjoy yourself.”

Lyan did not miss the daggers that his mother launched in Lord Stark’s direction from her emerald pools. When finally her cat-like eyes flicked to him, she composed herself and looked away. The Prince continued to watch her however, as though he expected her secrets to rear up over her head and present themselves to him. He knew that there must be a reason she had been avoiding him as of late, but he also knew that his mother was a women of scheme and plot. She thrived in the midst of a deception. Perhaps it would be necessary to meet once more with Varys the Spider, though Lyan wasn’t sure how willing the eunuch would be to relinquish information after their last encounter.

“Do you see how he leers at her?” Lord Stark whispered, worriedly from beside Lyan.

The Prince looked over his shoulder at the Hand and followed his gaze to Joffrey who was indeed leering. Following then the gaze of his younger brother, Lyan saw that the her Joffrey was leering at was none other than Sansa Stark. His eyes flicked back to those of the Hand, who looked between his daughter and her hunter, concern setting deep lines into his forehead.

“Do us a favour,” Lord Stark began, turning to Lyan. “Go and speak with her. Her and Joffrey have been getting closer than I’d like as of late.”

“Uncle, I…” Lyan began, prepared to offer his father’s adoptive brother the same speech he had given many times. Already the Queen Cersei was pushing to set plans of the union between Sansa and Joffrey into motion, and there was little Lyan could do to stop it.

“Just let me pretend for a while longer that it’s you.” Lord Stark requested gently, cutting off the Prince.

And of course, what else could he say to that other than, “alright.”

As he rose from his seat, he plucked a brightly coloured flower from one of the arrangements that surrounded the dais. He did not miss the way his younger brother watched him, with venom seeping from his eyes, as Lyan moved down the steps to the lower observatory levels, stopping beside Lady Sansa and her many ladies in waiting that surrounded her. He had a hard time keeping his eyes from flicking to Nasira, and when they did, they found hers looking back at him.

“Your Grace,” Lady Sansa said at once, rising in order to stoop into a curtsey. As her ladies rose with her, Lyan lifted a hand to halt them. Obediently, they seated themselves and Lyan took the place beside Sansa that was made for him.

“Where has your sister gone?” He asked conversationally.

“To her dancing lessons.” Sansa answered back with a roll of her eyes.

“Of course,” Lyan replied with a nod. “She’s rather fond of Syrio, isn’t she?”

“Yes, I suppose.” She was distracted as she spoke. Her eyes kept flittering from Lyan to the joust occurring before them. Ser Loras Tyrell was riding against Ser Gregor Clegane. Her focus on the joust was likely inspired by the red rose that Sansa already held in her hands.

“How embarrassing, here I’ve come to give you a flower for your hair and you already have one.” He noted charmingly.

“Oh!” Sansa began, blushing. “It was from Ser Loras… I didn’t mean to… He just rode up and handed it to me… I really…”

“Sansa, it’s alright.” Lyan laughed, cutting her stuttering short. “I’m glad you’re enjoying the joust.” He said softly to her over the din of bets being placed. Behind them Lord Baelish was antagonizing Lord Renly with a bet of one hundred dragons towards Ser Gregor, or as he was better known, the Mountain.

“The Mountain won’t hurt him, will he?” Sansa asked slowly, worry contorting her pretty face in much the same fashion it did for her father.

“Ser Loras rides well.” Lyan assured her.

As Sansa kept her eyes on the joust, hands gripping those of the other ladies that surrounded her, Lyan let his gaze wander. His blue eyes finally fell on Nasira, who was seated just behind Sansa, a little ways off. Beside her, Ruwena had found a place in order to accommodate for the Prince’s sudden presence. He waited for her gaze to find his before he looked down at the flower he still held in his hands, and reached out to place it on her lap. He set it there gently, letting his eyes meet hers once more and ignoring the way Ruwena gawked between the two of them, before finally turning back to the joust. When he faced the jousting ring once more, however, it was to face a waving Knight of Flowers and a Mountain quaking with rage. It was clear enough to Lyan, who was well versed in the mannerisms of Ser Gregor, that he had been dismounted and was now seeking to even the score in his own fashion.

“Lyan, stop him!” Came the cry from his Uncle Renly behind him.

Sansa screamed as Ser Gregor swung the first blow of his sword into the Knight of Flowers. He fell from his horse, his helmet falling off to reveal a mass of curls tangled in his face. He rose his shield to block two more blows from the towering Mountain. Already Lyan was on his feet and bounding for the jousting ring. Fearlessly and without hesitation he moved himself in front of the recoiling Knight of Flowers, placing himself directly in the path of a mighty blow from the monstrous Ser Gregor Clegane. It looked as though Lyan would be split directly in two when suddenly, the Knight’s sword halted, naught but a child’s reach away from Lyan’s face.

“Enough.” He said coolly.

“But… your Grace…” The Mountain hissed, rage making his eyes bulge from his head.

“I know, but you can’t.” He answered plainly.

Ser Gregor struggled against the storm raging and rippling beneath the surface of his skin, his dark and soulless eyes boring into those of the young Prince before finally, with a grunt of defeat he let the tip of his sword fall to the ground at his side. With a cry of rage he tore his storm off into another direction, grumbling and swinging his sword haphazardly as he went. As castle guards shuffled in his path, unsure of what action to take, Lyan called to them, “let him go!” At the instruction they stood aside and let the Mountain stalk off.

On Joffrey’s first name day, he had been given a Hound to do his bidding. Lyan, however, had been given the far more troublesome Mountain.

“Thank you,” Ser Loras whispered as the Prince stooped to offer him a hand. He brought the Knight of Flowers upright and to his feet. With a gentle push forward, a subtle gesture, and a few claps he had the stadium applauding their champion.

“Onto the next!” His Majesty roared over the clapping, silencing it at once. “Bring out the swords, I want to see someone get hit!”

And of course, as his Majesty commanded, so it was done.

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Offline asterin

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The Queen’s arrival with her children did not escape Esen’s attention, and nor did the Usurper’s, though his was accompanied with so much noise a half-deaf man would have noticed it as well. He was drunk, as she had predicted, no doubt attempting to remedy a hangover with drunkenness. What a sight he made, slouching on the throne, his piggish face red as a common drunkard.

Her thoughts were finally interrupted by a chorus of girlish sighs and gasps, and Ruwena’s excited voice—“Lady Sansa, by the Mother, surely this is a day worthy of being sung by the bards!” She turned her dark head to see the Knight of Flowers trot off, having bequeathed a red rose to Sansa Stark. If she looked elated, Ruwena looked ready faint from happiness for her young charge. “Oh Nasira, did you see that?”

“I did,” Esen leant forward to join the conversation, finding a smile for the two red-haired women. “He must fancy Lady Sansa,” she tilted her head teasingly, to which the young girl blushed prettily, her eyes dreamy. “Did you see? He’s been handing out white roses before.” She gestured to the rose cradled preciously in her white hands. “He gave milday a red one.”

“That’s true!” Ruwena exclaimed, her curls bouncing as she turned to Sansa. The young girl, her eyes alight with the same excitement, was still every inch the proper lady, shy, modest smiles and rosy cheeks. Esen thought then, that even though this Tourney was nothing but a gross expenditure in her eyes, if it was to happen either way, then it was good that it was living up to Ruwena and Sansa’s expectations. The assassin did not believe in songs and tales of the bards, for she knew as beautiful as those songs sounded, they weren’t true. Nevertheless, perhaps, for them—at least just them—they could be true. She knew it was a silly, foolish thought.

“Oh,” she heard Ruwena say, and Esen turned to see the prince heading in their direction. Their gazes met for a moment as he stopped by Sansa, who greeted him in the proper fashion. Ruwena rose readily to make room for the prince by Sansa’s side, sliding into the seat next to Esen. They both dutifully averted their eyes towards the joust, giving the prince and Lady Sansa at least the pretense of privacy. The competition at the moment was quite the interesting one, after all—Gregor Clegane, the Mountain, riding against the slender Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers. Their sheer difference in size made it a nail-biting sort of encounter for any maiden who favored the young lad, especially with the Mountain’s gruesome and cruel history. Killed babes, raped women. Murderer.

“The Mountain won’t hurt him, will he?” she heard Sansa ask. Lived in a song, she did, the poor innocent lass.

“Ser Loras rides well.” the prince answered, and he was not untruthful. The Knight of Flowers did have talent, but as some might have noticed, it was not simply talent that he was wielding against the Mountain. In fact…

“The mare he’s riding,” she murmured to Ruwena, leaning over to the woman to tell her of his clever strategy. “It’s—”

“That’s not important right now!” Ruwena hissed back, nudging her sharply with an elbow.

The raven-haired young woman realized that there were eyes on her—it was the princeling. She met his gaze with a puzzled one in response, the very same she had given him the night before. Esen had never expected him to acknowledge her in public, beyond a passing glance or two. It was then he reached over and placed a flower in her lap gently, as if he thought it would crumble into ash upon contact. Esen could not bring herself to do anything but stare at him wordlessly, even as the crowd around them erupted into cheers and she could practically feel Ruwena’s stunned gasp on her cheek. Even after he turned around she said nothing, picking it up gingerly and staring at the flower as if it was some strange foreign object she’d never encountered. Ruwena was clutching at her arm, whispering with barely contained excitement, but it was like she was far away.

“Lyan, stop him!” the cry ripped through her stupor and her head snapped up, just in time to see an infuriated Gregor Clegane strike Loras with his sword. Someone screamed—Sansa? Ruwena? The youth fell from his horse, shocked by the sudden attack but not without the wit to use his shield to protect himself from the onslaught of angry blows.

Esen realized that the prince was running into the arena and she found herself on her feet, having suddenly found her voice. She could see what he was about to do. “You fool, get back!” The words tore forth from her throat before she had thought them, but they were lost in the alarmed shouts of the crowd as the crown prince threw himself between sword and boy. She heard the ladies scream in horror, but the sword came to a jerky stop before it cleaved the young man in two. After an intense exchange between the Mountain and prince, the sword tip hit the dust. Letting out a shuddering breath, the dark-haired girl sat down as abruptly as she had lurched to her feet; luckily it seemed no one but Ruwena had taken note of her, and the friendly redhead took her hand.

“That was frightening,” Ruwena exhaled, her voice trembling slightly. “Are you alright, Nasira?” Esen nodded, though feeling somewhat drained after briefly losing her composure. The motherly girl gently pried the flower from the death-grip Esen had on it. “Poor thing’ll wilt before its time if you keep squeezing it like that.” A hint of mischief returned to her face as she waved the flower at the amber-eyed girl. “Methinks he fancies you.”

Something suddenly sank within her at the notion. “Don’t say that,” she snapped back coldly. She saw Ruwena flinch and immediately regretted it. “It’s...it’s just a flower. And he meant it for Lady Sansa, after all. It’s nothing,” she said, forcing the good cheer back into her voice.

“Oh, Nasira,” Ruwena said kindly, her eyes too sympathetic—it was difficult to look at them, and the assassin averted her gaze. But Ruwena reached over, and with gentle fingers she tucked the other girl’s dark hair behind her ear, securing the flower in it.

“I feel silly,” Esen mumbled, feeling a flush creeping up to her cheeks.

“Nonsense,” Ruwena said matter-of-factly. “It goes perfectly with your eyes. Golden, amber honey.” Esen couldn’t help but pull a wry face at the description of her eyes, causing Ruwena to make a face as well, and the two women ended up bursting simultaneously into laughter, the tension dissipating like fading mist.

Meanwhile the tourney carried on: the archery section that Esen personally thought was perhaps the most interesting, and then the brutal, three-hour melee with Thoros of Myr taking the championship with the power of his flaming sword. The prizes were 40,000 golden dragons for the champion of the joust, 20,000 for the runner up, 10,000 to the winner of the archery competition, and 20,000 for the winner of the melee. So it was that in a single day 90,000 golden dragons were added to the throne’s debt.
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Offline Reigning King

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“What about Ser Hugh, what can you tell me of him?”

Lord Stark and Prince Lyan walked side by side down the corridor. It was an attempt they had each been making individually to avoid the festivities in the Hall, only running into one another by coincidence. However, what had begun as a typical, amicable conversation between two had turned into a very one-sided interrogation. Presently, Lyan was willing to face the crowd, packed and slobbering drunk, in the Hall rather than endure this line of questioning.

“He was always arrogant and rude, but he faked it for Lord Arryn, I suppose.” Lyan answered. “Though, it is a shame what happened.” He added, referring to the joust earlier in the day that resulted in Ser Hugh’s being stabbed with the tip of a jousting rod. Naturally, it was the Mountain who brought him his gruesome end.

“So you didn’t know anything about that?” Lord Stark asked.

“About what?” Was the Prince’s immediate response.

“Nothing.” Lord Stark suddenly said, turning away, eyes in favour of the flagstone floor. His hand came to his chin where he scratched thoughtfully at the bristle of his unshaven beard. Truly, the Warden of the North looked as though he hadn’t slept in days.

“Uncle, why are you asking me these things?” He began. For some reason, it was at that moment that the warning Lord Varys had given him the previous night chimed forefront from the recesses of his mind. “What’s going on?” He asked suddenly.

Lord Stark snapped his eyes back to the Prince, his brow furrowed in concentration. He looked intently at Lyan’s face, as though he were studying it. He seemed to decide something before giving Lyan a pat on the shoulder, muttering inaudible words under his breath. “What?” He asked sternly.

“Nothing,” Lord Stark repeated.

“Uncle, I…” Lyan began but his father’s childhood friend was already cutting him off.

“I will explain everything to you, Lyan. I will.” He assured him. “But not tonight.” He gave his shoulder a final squeeze and then gestured down the corridor in the opposite direction they had been heading. “Why don’t we make an appearance, eh?”


If there was one thing, and one thing alone that could be said for King Robert, it was that he knew how to throw a party. The feast, of course, was on a scale of grandeur, food lining the tables with serving girls bringing out more courses hour by hour. Along the far wall barrels of wine had been lined up and stacked. Serving girls, personal squires, and folk of more common nature moved back and forth from the barrels to their tables, filling flagon after flagon. At the head of the hall, on an elevated dais, the royal family was seated. In the centre sat his Majesty King Baratheon. To his left sat his wife, Ser Jamie, Joffrey, and Tommen. Myrcella had already been sent to her chambers for bed after the second course. To the right of his Majesty sat Prince Lyan, Lord Stark, both his daughters, and Lord Renly. Highborn Lords and well-to-do commoners, flittered back and forth from the royal dais throughout the celebration, conversing with both golden and black sides of the family.

To the left and right of the royal dais tables were arranged for those of higher standing, with the more common of the court seated in the rear of the Hall. In the space in the middle, ladies danced, musicians sang ballads, and jesters put on small theatrical performances and made shows of their trickery. Though the guests looked to be enjoying themselves quite fully, up on the dais is looked as though his Majesty was the only one having any fun at all.

“Is there any word yet from my uncle Tyrion?” Lyan asked Lord Stark conversationally.

“Not yet, my boy.” He answered, but not before sliding the Prince a queer look.

“That’s odd.” Lyan said back quietly. “He should be on his way back from the Wall by now.” He added conversationally. Surprisingly, Lord Stark had nothing to say back. Surely he was anxious to hear from Lyan’s uncle Tyrion as well, after all his son, Jon, would soon be a man of the Night’s Watch. “So,” he continued, electing to once again ignore his favourite uncle’s strange behaviour. “What’s this I hear about you visiting a city blacksmith?” He asked. At that, Lord Stark looked up from his meal and turned a narrowed eye to the Prince.

“Who told you that?” Lord Stark asked back sternly.

“What’s wrong?” He asked, confused. “Uncle why…” But he was thrown from his train of thought by his father’s slurred, disgusting rhetoric.

“Well, yer’a beauty.” He croaked.

Lyan turned his head to see Lord Baelish grinning at him. Beside him stood five girls clad in clothing appropriate for their profession. Among them, Nasira stood. After having searched for her in the crowd all night from his elevated place on the dais, she now stood naught but three feet from him. Her eyes however, were not meeting his. Instead, her gaze was locked firmly on his father's. The look on her face was the same as the night she had first met him. Without care for the fact that his wife sat at his left, positively fuming, he leaned across the table and trailed a pudgy finger down Nasira’s arm.

“The thing’s I’d do’t the likes o’ you…” He slurred.

And something inside of Lyan wretched itself awake, hot with rage and roaring.

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Offline asterin

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The feast was, just like the tourney, a show of excessive indulgence. Goblets overflowed with wine, entire fowls and other luxurious dishes near made the tables buckle under their sheer weight. People were eating, drinking, dancing—but she was not in their midst. Ruwena was chatting up a storm with her fellow chambermaids, but this time Esen was not next to her. Instead, she was trailing after Littlefinger. She was dressed in a deep crimson gown that swirled like water about her legs whenever she took a step, having been told to change after the initial tourney. Though it was made of finer materials than most of her other clothes, it was still a far cry from prim and proper—the tops of her shoulders were revealed and slits in her sleeves were cut and pinned back to showcase the flesh beneath. Not even a simpleton would mistake her for a noble’s daughter.

Why she was included amongst the other whores to be taken along with Littlefinger was not very clear to Esen. Ever since she had made the agreement with the prince, Littlefinger had not singled her out for the king’s bed—such was her unfortunate privilege as the crown prince’s assumed favorite. And yet, he had chosen her and the other four girls from a room full of twenty or so beautiful whores. What game Littlefinger was playing, she knew not, but she was starting to get a creeping suspicion that others had caught on to what truly went on in the prince’s chambers. But there was no time to dissect the other possibilities, for they had reached the royal dais.

The prince was speaking to Eddard Stark, having not yet noticed her presence. Her eyes swept over his familiar features before she pulled her gaze away from the young man and back to her target. King Robert Baratheon himself in all his drunken glory. Baelish gestured to the girls and they sunk into proper curtsies. Esen too dipped into a curtsy, but her eyes were fixed intently on the king instead of the stone floor. Her boldness did not go unnoticed and the red-faced man leant forward with some effort to stroke her arm. “Well, yer’a beauty,” he crooned. From the corner of her eye, she saw the blur of black as the prince’s head turned, but she forced herself to ignore everything else and zero in on the Usurper. If she made an impression she might be called to bed despite her status.

“The thing’s I’d do’t the likes o’ you…” he told her drunkenly. Many girls would have blushed, lowered their eyes demurely. She, however, smiled, her lips twisting into a wicked curl, her amber eyes on the fat monarch with a glint that bordered on predatory. Esen cocked her head to one side, dark hair tumbling over a shoulder, as if she was nonverbally prompting him to tell her more. The king let out a slurred chuckle, taking a draught of wine from his never-empty goblet, his gaze roving shamelessly over her form. However, it was not only the king’s eyes she could feel burning into her; there was the queen at his side, bestowing both king and assassin with a withering, wildfire-green glower. Oblivious to his wife’s ire the Usurper set his goblet down clumsily in front of him, the motion causing some of the blood-red wine of jostle out and stain the tablecloth.

It was like the moment had slowed and she could see that her chance had come. “’S strange I ‘aven’t been acquainted with you yet.” The finger on her arm turned to a slimy hand on her wrist, tugging her closer. Without a hint of awkwardness, she arched over the table with the grace of a lithe cat, one hand splayed on top of the table surface. “Would r’member a lass like you!” his hand took her chin, angling her face this way and that. She said nothing, wordlessly pinning the king with her intense gaze. Her silence only seemed to further mystify the drunken king, who seemed so occupied with his new discovery that the goblet of wine was going untouched. Instead his finger left the point of her chin to linger on her lips. She daringly bit down on the pad of his thumb, which caused the fat king to burst into bawdy guffaws. “You’ve been keep’n the good’ones from me!” he exclaimed loudly, gesturing at Baelish. Littlefinger’s moustache only twirled in that rat-like manner of his, but Esen did not notice.

The cup was only a small distance away from her hand, resting in the shadow of her torso. The ring felt hot on her finger. It would only take a little drop. In a subtle movement of her thumb, she unlatched the tiny silver clasp that appeared to be a prong to keep the stone in place. It instead was the plug to a pinhole that wept poison. No taste, no smell, no color.

As the king continued to babble and the queen continued to glare daggers at him, her attention was focused on her right hand, creeping ever so slowly towards the goblet. A deathly calm had overcome her. Just a little closer. No one was paying attention to the cup or her hand, no, the scandal was elsewhere. It would be quick, easy. A small inconspicuous wave of her hand as if she was reaching up to rearrange her hair—and the deed would be done. The Usurper would be writhing on the floor like a swine in the mud and this tool would have proved its worth.
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Offline Reigning King

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“You’ve been keepin’ the good ones from me!” He King roared, a bellow of laughter echoing after his repugnant remark.

“That’s because this one is your son’s favourite.” The Queen hissed into his ear.

“Oh, is she now?” King Robert inquired, mockingly, turning a cruel eye to his son at his right. Without even looking at the girl, he reached out and seized Nasira viciously by the face. His hands were fat but beneath that old muscles still proved strong.

“Enough,” Lyan warned lowly. His voice was quiet but there was something deadly about his tone, like the calm before a great storm.

“Enough?! Enough?!” He demanded, laughing as he rose to a stand, still holding the young girl’s face in his meaty hand. She jarred, lurching forward as he stood, absolute murder lurking in the depths of her amber eyes. “It’s ‘nough when I say it’s ‘nough. The whore’s mine t’do with as I like.” He explained condescendingly, in his drunken stupor. He let go over her face then, but only to reach for her throat.

“If I want t’fuck ‘er, I’ll do it. If I want t’kill her, I’ll d—”

His Majesty’s hand barely reached the flesh at Nasira’s throat before Lyan was knocking his arm away and pushing him back hard in the chest. He stumbled backwards a few more paces than was reasonable before looking back at Lyan with both horror and absolute fury. Recoiling from the blow, he reached for his sword.

“Who d’ye think you are boy?” The King bellowed, unsheathing his sword and holding it out unsteadily. “You're not King yet!” He screamed.

“Robert, put the sword down.” Ned began carefully. He had risen from his chair and was approaching the two furious men. His hands were raised in surrender, his voice one of gentle, calming tones. “You’re drunk, and he’s your son.”

“He’s got t’learn sometime, Ned.” King Robert snapped back. “This is my realm boy!” He shouted, before charging on his son.

Smoothly, Lyan avoided three clumsy blows before disarming the King, knocking the sword from his hands and taking it for himself. It was like duelling against Tommen. He held the steel in his hands expertly, but kept the tip pointing down while Robert raged against his lifelong friend who held him back along with the help of Robert’s younger brother. From behind him, Lyan could tell that the entire Hall had fallen silent. He could feel the stares of his younger siblings and the Stark girls, burning a hole into the back of his head. He could feel her stare burning a hole into the back of his head.

“Have you no respect for your King?” He demanded fiercely.

“Respect given, is respect earned, father.” Lyan answered back lowly, in a dangerous tone. In his hand, he still held the sword. He spun it in his grip and closed the space between them, offering him the hilted end. As he reached for it, however, Lyan pulled him in closer. “Next time, old man, I’ll knock you flat on your back.” He whispered in the King’s ear.

“You Godless, son of a whore.” The King cursed through gritted teeth, reeling back from his son. The two stared one another down, the oceans of their eyes each attempting to drown the other. However, it was in the depths of Lyan’s eyes that his Majesty saw something lurking, causing the great King Robert to recoil beneath it, if only for a moment. “I’ll not stand here and listen to this.” He hissed, though he seemed less sure of himself this time. “Have your feast,” he spat at Lord Stark. “And have your whore,” he spat at Lyan.

Lyan watched his father trudge his way drunkenly through the Hall, bursting open the great double doors violently. With a nod from the Prince, six white cloaks were sent scurrying after the King, closing the doors behind them. There was only a heartbeat of silence before Queen Cersei was rising from her chair. With an elegant wave of her hand and a well poised composure, she commanded the orchestra to “carry on.”

“You’re dismissed,” Lyan ordered, waving a thoughtless hand in the direction of the women who still stood lined up before the table on the dais. He couldn’t bring himself to meet her gaze, the gaze that had been so intently focused on his father, eyes challenging and seducing.

“Your Grace,” Lord Baelish began. “What about—”

“You are dismissed.” Lyan snapped again. His voice was like a whip cracking through the air, leaving no room for further inquiry or discussion. He did not watch them go.

“Lyan…” His mother began slowly. He looked to her and for once she was looking back at him, her eyes filled not with loathing but something else entirely. She opened her mouth as though she might say something, but then looked away from him instead, giving no voice to whatever had brought on this strange interaction.

“I think it’s time for Tommen to go to bed.” Lyan suggested, filling the silence. “Our little Lady Starks as well.” He added, turning then to Lord Stark. His uncle Ned looked at him with the same peculiar expression he had given him at small council. True, it was rare for Lyan to speak out of turn or raise his voice, but it seemed as though the wolf was bothered by something much darker.

“Do we have to?” Arya complained at once.

“Please, can’t we stay up a little longer?” Sansa chimed in. Both girls turned to their father, Sansa letting a sideways eye slide to Lyan, likely looking for support in her cause. The Prince, however, would like nothing more than to rid himself of the responsibility of entertaining the two young, easily influenced girls.

“You heard the Prince, time for bed.” Lord Stark answered sternly. Both girls pulled faces but eventually conceded to sleep. Lyan watched the man he admired so fondly walk his daughters to bed, one on each arm, with his house guard following after them. Queen Cersei left with Tommen and a personal guard not long after. It was only once they had turned around a corner that Lyan took his seat once again, looking down at his untouched dinner as the feast carried on around him.

Wandering eyes eventually landed on the goblet of wine still sitting across from his Majesty’s place at the table. Lyan had been avoiding wine for the night and his own goblet was filled with just water. With a lustful eye on the contents of the goblet, Lyan reached for it, pulling it in front of his own place.

“I can’t believe you did that.” Came a voice of someone that Lyan had forgotten was still seated at the table with him.

“Shut up, Joff.” He snapped back.

“I mean you actually, pushed father. You know he’s murdered children before right? You wouldn’t be his first.” His brother laughed, though there was a quality of awe in his voice.

“No, I suppose I wouldn’t.” He answered back quietly. He looked down into the goblet and suddenly longed to be anything but sober. At once, he brought the wine to his lips.

King Kade - Reigning from the North


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Offline asterin

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Her lips pressed themselves thin ever-so-briefly as she heard Queen Cersei inform the king that she was his son’s favorite whore. She had been hoping no one would attempt to enlighten the Usurper of this, for surely it would ruin things. No matter now, when she was just an inch away from the cup. Esen could have foreseen the king mocking his son, perhaps even ignoring the prince’s feelings and opting to summon her to his chambers, but she could not have expected what happened next—she had underestimated his hatred for his son. This time his pudgy hands were forceful and rough as they grabbed her face, his nails digging into her flesh. She fought the urge to jerk away and grit her teeth, her hand reaching, reaching—and in the very edge of her vision a single drop of poison plummeting downwards, though whether it reached its target she had no time to check.

“Enough,” she heard the prince say, but it only upset the king further, who rose to his full height with her face still in his grip. She lurched forward, still silent but her eyes shooting to kill as she endured the king’s raving. She sucked in a breath as he let her go, only to see him reaching for her throat. The assassin flinched back, her hand already halfway to her belt where her knife was hidden. She could just carve him open where he stood, she thought. She could have him fumbling to keep his guts from spilling out of his stomach. These murderous ideas rushed by her, but none of them would come to be. In the next moment, the portly monarch had been shoved away with considerable force by none other than the prince.

All eyes were on the dais now; the orchestra had stopped playing, and people had all frozen in place, mid-bite, mid-step, all to goggle at the sight of their crown prince and king go head to head. Even Esen was standing still as a statue; she had never witnessed the princeling act aggressively and it stunned her. The one time he had shown any sign of frustration had been the second night she had been sent to him. His gentle, placating manner had been replaced with a different sort of calm—but she could see in his face and the tone of voice he took that he was not truly calm. He was angry.

The king seemed equally shocked and furious; he unsheathed his sword and her throat tightened; slew babes and children and it seemed he would slay his own child if he could. But the prince expertly avoided the king’s haphazard blows and quickly disarmed him. King Robert was of course far from pleased at being humiliated by his son and the fact that his Hand had not taken his side. He stormed away spitting out curses, leaving the hall ringing with the spiteful words—“Have your feast, and have your whore.” There was a heavy silence before the queen rose, telling the orchestra to carry on with the composure befitting a queen.

As the music jerked into the air the full realization of what happened finally caught up with her. The goblet sat untouched on the table, abandoned. “You are dismissed,” she glanced up to see the princeling wave his hand thoughtlessly. He did not so much as look at her and it felt more like he had slapped her. The raven-haired girl turned on her heel and stalked away, feeling something hot and unpleasant unfurling inside her.

“By the Mother, are you alright, Nasira?!” someone rushed up and caught her arm, and Esen forced herself to look at the woman. Worry made Ruwena’s voice high as she continued frantically. “That was terrible, I, are you unhurt?” she ended up repeating herself anxiously, fussing over her like a mother hen inspecting her chick.

“I’m fine,” she replied quietly, gently prying Ruwena’s hands from her arms. “I just want to leave.” Though she knew that the red-haired girl meant well, she did not want to talk about what had happened. She wanted to be alone with the searing bitterness that was beginning to pulse in her head. She realized that she, too, was angry.

The fact that a perfectly good attempt had been ruined was cause enough, but she knew that the Usurper would likely never summon her, for she was now branded in his mind as part of a public humiliation by his son. And then to add insult to injury, the princeling…She turned around to glower at the princeling, only to see him pick up a goblet. The goblet. She did not think of how the poison might not have fallen into the cup. She did not think of whose son he was. Not him, was all she could think at the moment, and before she was quite aware of what she was doing, her body had spurred into action.

“Nasira?” she heard Ruwena utter in surprise, but she was already at the dais. Don’t, don’t drink it, don’t! Esen wanted to cry, but she acted before the words could even leave her mouth. Her hand caught his arm quick as a striking cobra and yanked it away from his lips, sending the wine splashing over the tablecloth and the cup clattering to the floor.

People were staring once more; what a sight she must have made, pale and strangely out of breath, and yet it didn’t matter at the moment. Safe. He was safe. A rush of overwhelming relief washed over her, but as soon as she met his blue eyes it dissipated. Dark blue eyes like the ocean, like the eyes of the Usurper. It was self-loathing that came charging in after, and she let go of his arm as if he had burned her, coiling back into herself. Her eyes that had been filled first with panic and then relief frosted over into nothingness.

An explanation was needed, but what excuse did one have for knocking a goblet of wine out of the Crown Prince’s hand? None, except some weak paltry story about flies in the wine. “Pardon me, Your Grace,” was all she said, her voice distant and cold, perhaps the most formal tone she had taken with him. She even sunk into a curtsy before she stepped off the dais, sweeping past a speechless Ruwena.

The anger that had been directed outwards now returned to herself with a punishing force. She knew she was a fool. She was a fool and had her masters seen her just then, abandoning reason and overtaken with emotion, she would have been deemed compromised, a failure.
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Offline Reigning King

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Clang.

It had been a day and a half since the evening of the Hands Tourney, the last time that he had seen Nasira. Though, he was unwilling to admit it to himself, he felt her absence keenly. His uncles Renly, Jamie and Ned had all made themselves absent and unavailable to him, leaving only one companion with whom Lyan could occupy his time with. Having no desire to re-enter his study and face the distraction, or rather, lack thereof, that lurked within, he found himself in the duelling yard with none other than his least favourite little brother.

“That’s it Joff, keep your shield up.” Lyan encouraged as the two stepped about each other in the ring. Of course, duelling with Joffrey was not nearly as spending as duelling against his uncle Jamie, he found it even easier as of late. Presently, the difference in size between the two boys was becoming something rather glaring as day by day Lyan’s stature began to dwarf that of his lithe brother. In spite of this however, the two had spent a considerable amount of time together in the latest of days. Lyan expected it had something to do with the spectacle that he made of their father not but a night’s past. It were almost as though, after all these years, he had finally earned his little brother’s respect.

After finally lowering his shield and practice sword, tired and sweating, Joffrey asked, “do you think grandfather will give me a sword like yours?”

“I expect he might.” Lyan conceded, nodding thoughtfully. Truth be told, it was rather obvious to all of Lord Tywin’s grandchildren that Lyan was the favourite. However, the Lord of Lannisport was nothing if not dutiful to his house and all it’s offspring. “Once you get a bit older maybe.” He added.

“Yeah,” Joffrey agreed thoughtfully, looking down at the practice sword. He twisted the tip in the dirt distractedly, a rather sorrowful expression coming over his face.

“Hey, do you want to go again?” Lyan asked, stepping towards him.

“I think I might miss you, after all.” Joffrey said suddenly, as though not realizing that he had said it. At once he looked up from his sword with wide eyes, nervously flicking to his elder brother.

“Miss me?” Lyan repeated. “What do you mean, is everything alright, Joff?” He placed a hand on the back of his little brother’s neck, craning it so that he was forced to look up and meet Lyan’s eye. The two held onto the eye contact, the most familial moment the brothers had shared in years, and for a moment, Joffrey looked as though he might say something. He parted his lips and then looked away thoughtfully again.

“Joff…” Lyan repeated slowly. “What is it?”

“Your Grace!” Came a voice from across the yard. It was a squire.

“Pardon, your Grace.” He continued. “The King has requested Prince Lyan at the small council meeting.”

“Father? At a small council meeting?” Joffrey inquired, his tone at once venomous and needlessly harsh. He had resumed once more his role as Lyan’s awful little brother. Whatever it was he might have gotten out of him, it was not likely to resurface now. “Must be good.” He added slyly before spinning on his heel and sauntering off to the armoury. As Lyan watched him go he couldn’t help the warning that echoed lowly in his ear once more.

There are those who would see you dead…


Lyan had only just sat down at the table along with the rest of the small council, including his Majesty, when Lord Stark arrived. Before the Warden of the North could sit down, or even pour himself a goblet of wine, the King was talking. The state of affairs presently on his list of concerns, the Targaryen girl.

“The whore is pregnant.” His Majesty growled.

“You’re speaking of murdering a child.” Lord Stark answered back sternly.

“The girl is younger than Joffrey.” Lyan added. He wore an incredulous look on his face, though he was not surprised by his father’s lunacy. The woman from whom Lyan’s name derived had been haunting his father for his entire life, so much so that the mere mention of the name Targaryen was call for bloodshed. What did surprise Lyan, however, was that none of the other members of the small council seemed has horrified as he did, with the exception of course of Lord Stark.

“I don’t care I want her dead, mother and child both. And that fool Viserys. Is that plain enough for you self righteous fools? I want them both dead.” The King snarled, looking between his son and Hand.

“You’ll dishonour yourself forever if you do this.” Lord Stark answered. There was a quality to his voice, such a tired struggle to maintain the strength behind his words.

“Honour? Is that what you think keeps the Seven Kingdoms in line, Ned?!” King Robert roared.

“Well, it certainly isn’t you.” The Prince chided. “You assassinate a girl, a world away, over a whisper from the Spider?” He asked, gesturing to Lord Varys.

“No whisper, your Grace.” Lord Varys answered back, “Lord Mormont is in position as advisor to the Princess.”

“Mormont? The traitor?” The Warden of the North asked, crooking his head sideways at the memory. “He flees our lands and you bring us his word from across the sea and call it fact?”

“A Targaryen brat at the head of a Dothraki hoard…” The King began, but the Prince was cutting him off.

“This is what you bring to council?” He asked suddenly. “You arrive finally not to discuss the fact that your people are starving, nor the debt of the crown, nor the strife in your Kingdom, but the murder of a girl no older than Sansa.”

“I’m doing this for you boy,” the King warned, rising from his chair. “It’ll not be my Kingdom the bitch burns down, it’ll be yours.”

“Then let me save it!” He snapped back, rising as well. “Unlike you, I’m not afraid of a little girl.” The two hadn’t seen each other since the feast. As they stared at one another, the same way they had that night, there was something seeming to crack along the edges of his Majesty’s stoney composure. The old man was looking at him in a fashion that was somehow, fatherly. However, as quickly as it arose, it flittered away.

“You’re my council, council!” The King shouted suddenly. “Speak sense to these honourable fools!”

One after another, the men seated around his Majesty offered their two pence. They outlined their justifications for the horrific notion, explaining how it would benefit the realm and that sometimes hard things must be done for it’s protection. However, as they addressed the Hand and on occasion Lyan, he realized that Lord Stark was not paying attention to any of them. Instead, he was focused on the Prince. He turned and caught Lord Eddark watching him, who only offered a minuscule smile and a small nod in acknowledgement of the moment.

“The Robert I knew, didn’t tremble at the shadow of an unborn child.” It was clear in moments like these that Lord Stark had the blood of the first men coursing through his veins. Though the bags under his eyes hung low, and the weight sitting on his shoulders slumped them forward, and he looked as though he hadn’t bathed in days, he looked the part of a true Northman. Someone not to be contested with.

“She dies.” King Robert answered slowly.

“I’ll have no part in it.” Lord Stark retorted immediately.

“You’ll do as I command or I’ll find me a hand who will.” He warned.

Without hesitation, Lord Stark plucked the pin of the Hand from his leather doublet and tossed it onto the table. “And good luck to him.” He said plainly. As Robert began to roar, and shout, and rage, making his voice echo all about the Great Hall, Lord Stark was already turning and striding from the room. Lyan had no doubt that he was headed directly for the Hand’s Tower, and while he couldn’t have been prouder of his uncle, he couldn’t help but feel his stomach drop when he noticed the pointed look he was receiving from Varys.

King Kade - Reigning from the North


Character limits kill my vibe...


Offline asterin

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“Pick to your liking, child.” The woman crooned. “Go on, take one.” The buzzing port. The withered old crone, holding out the bread and knife. Her stomach growled, the pangs of hunger stabbing at her gut. She skittered forward, grabbed the hunk of bread instead of the knife. “Wrong choice!” the old woman cackled and lunged, plunging the knife into her chest. Right between the ribs, straight into the heart, she heard the voice of her masters.

"Jump!" the voice called. "Jump, girl, jump!"

She was suddenly on the edge of the roof, staring down into the familiar scene. Cobblestones. Her master and his upraised arms. The wind blew through her hair like it always did, and she wriggled her toe out of the worn hole in her shoes, as she always did. "Jump!"

And she jumped. Like she always did.

But this time, as her master moved away, she did not tuck herself into a ball. She landed hard on the cobblestones headfirst, and with a terrific crack she was lying in a pool of her own blood. Hot, sticky. Smelt of iron and looked the same as the blood all her targets spilled. The red consumed her, pulled her in until she was nothing and felt nothing. As her hearing faded she could hear the sound of the princeling choking on poisoned wine.

Esen woke with a start, fear rattling in her head. The room was dark and cold, the fire having long gone out. Alana mumbled something in her sleep about mutton. The assassin swallowed and tucked the hair away from her face. Unsettled, she rose from her pallet and leant against the wall, slipping out her knife. She held it tight, traced its familiar edges and handle. The knife--the knife she had chosen instead of the bread. The knife that had been the start to everything, the item that proved her origin. Dreams didn’t mean anything. It was a waste of time to dwell on them, she reminded herself. They had never bothered her before, so why did this one disturb her so?

Sucking in a quiet breath, she tucked her knife away and settled back into her designated spot. She closed her eyes, willing herself back to sleep, but it did not come easily. When it, however, her sleep was mercifully black and dreamless.



***********



“Come on, Nasira, it’ll be fun, I promise!” Ruwena pleaded, seizing her arm and hooking it with her own. “And it’s sure to make you feel better.”

“I’m sorry, Ruwena,” the raven-haired girl repeated, gently prying her arm out of her friend’s grasp. “Maybe next time.” The bouncy handmaiden was in the process of trying to convince her to join her and her fellow ladies-in-waiting on a walk in the gardens, but Esen was having none of it.

“Or maybe just the two of us. We could talk!” Ruwena insisted. “I wish you’d...tell me what’s going on.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Esen answered, a tinge of weariness in her amber eyes.

“...Have, have you seen His Grace?” the question came rather timidly, as if Ruwena was expecting her to become upset.

“No, I haven’t,” was all the assassin said in return. “You really must get going, the other girls are starting to look impatient.” She gestured to three girls waiting out of earshot, who were staring rather intently in their direction. No doubt they remembered her from the banquet.

“Alright, then…” Ruwena murmured reluctantly. “See you later, Nasira.” She smiled as she left, but Esen did not fail to note how her smile wobbled ever-so-slightly as she turned on her heel. It bothered her, and for a fleeting moment, she felt the urge to call her back and apologize. In the end, she turned as well, walking away alone.

A day and a half had passed since the tourney and the disaster it had brought on. She had not seen the princeling since then, which did not come as a surprise. What did surprise her, however, was just how strange it felt for her to spend her evenings in someplace other than the prince’s study. That aside, she was busily going about the Red Keep on the lookout for information. She had spent nearly an entire day on the lookout for guards headed her way to put her head on a spike or something similar, but it seemed that the prince’s outburst against the king had taken precedence over any wine she’d spilled.

It meant she could stay in the Red Keep, but her former strategy had been dashed along with the wine. She would have to find another, and she realized it would most likely involve her patching up any ruptures in the princeling’s trust towards her. It would be no easy feat, especially because her feelings towards him were a jumbled chaotic mess of frustration, anger, and other emotions she wasn’t so familiar with. But this was for a mission, a target, a purpose. Means to an end. She had done terrible things to achieve her mission, done them without hesitation. Surely, this was nothing compared to those deeds.

She had decided to swallow whatever was holding her back and attempt to mend things with the princeling, but she was having some trouble finding him. He was usually in his chambers or his precious study, but as she had discovered, he was not in his study. The Red Keep was indeed a spacious castle, but she was bound to run into him somewhere. One other place she suspected he might be was the training yard, which was where she was heading.

The assassin’s suspicions turned out to be well-founded when she spotted two figures sparring from a window--it was the princeling and his younger brother. She watched them, recalling how easily the prince had disarmed his father the night of the tourney. She’d thought him only interested in books and the sort, but obviously, he knew his fair share of combat. Hearing the faint sound of the prince instructing his younger brother, she recalled how she was taught. Esen and the other children who had survived all knew their trade. They hadn’t been taught to fight, but to kill. Kill for the words Fire and Blood.

The two brothers paused midst the sparring. They were talking, but she was too far away to make out anything, unfortunately. Suddenly a shout caught their attention and hers as well. A boy rushed over and passed on a message, the contents of which were also impossible to make out, much to her annoyance. The squire rushed back into the building and she suddenly lurched into movement as well.

She caught up to squire on the lower floor, and she called out to him. “You there, boy!” He ground to an unsteady halt, turning slowly as if he was unsure whether she had meant him. “Yes, you.” She gestured impatiently, and the squire rushed over. “Have you given the message to his Grace, Prince Lyan?” she demanded, her tone of voice ringing with haughty authority.

“Yes, milady. I did.”

“Did you really?” she pressed, crossing her arms as if unimpressed.

“Truly, I did! I informed His Grace that he’d been summoned to attend the small council, just like I was told to,” the boy replied nervously.

Esen gave him a satisfied nod, her impatient frown loosening. “Good lad,” she said, tossing him copper before gesturing dismissively. “Run along now.” The boy caught the piece eagerly, bowing in thanks before rushing back off. The young woman also left the spot quickly, mulling over her newly acquired opportunity.

The small council...the inner circle that advised the King. Whatever it was that they were to discuss, it would surely be a massive advantage to her and the Targaryen cause. Perhaps there’d be an extra ear listening in to their bickering this time...and if that was to be so, it was best she had a head start.


***********


Sneaking in or hiding in earshot, for that matter, wasn’t a simple task, but it was one she managed due to having studied the layout of the Great Hall many times over. Esen was no stranger to creeping about silently--it was something she had mastered before she had even been taken away to be made into a weapon. It was a skill one acquired as a starving child; she’d survived on stolen bread, not charity. She stowed herself into a small hiding place and remained there as the rest of the council gathered. The last to join were the princeling and Eddard Stark. She crept forward as they settled down and began to talk, her ears perked.

“The whore is pregnant,” she heard the voice of the Usurper. For a moment Esen could not fathom who he was speaking of, but the Hand and the princeling objected immediately, mentioning how young this ‘whore’ was. The target the Usurper was so intent on killing, however, was soon made clear.

It was Princess Daenerys Targaryen, as well as her elder brother, the Crown Prince. Her lips pressed into a thin line--she was no stranger to hearing assassination plots being tossed around, but this was ill news indeed. She would have to alert her masters, and not just about the assassination. Apparently, this Jorah Mormont, who was in service to the Princess, could not be trusted. Her fingers clenched up as she continued to listen, only to hear the princeling interrupt his father.

Trying to save the Realm, as always, she thought to herself. Though...surely, the death of the Targaryens would be a good thing for the princeling. They threatened the rule of the Baratheons--and in fact, Esen’s very existence in the Red Keep was proof of how real the threat was. Why was he so against it? The things the princeling did and said confused her, as usual.

Father and son both rose from their chairs, raising their voices against each other. The Usurper demanded that his council convince Eddard Stark and the prince, and one by one they uttered their justifications: the greater good, the danger of the Dothraki, how it was better to get it over with as quickly as possible. The two were outnumbered; Esen knew how this would end. The Usurper would have his way, hell or high water. “The girl dies,” the fat monarch spoke, finality in his voice.

It seemed, however, that Eddard Stark was a formidable force and more stubborn than most. He did not sway in his conviction, even as the King threatened him; he was an honorable man indeed, giving up the position of Hand in order to have no part in an assassination. Though the one in danger was the very bloodline she fought for, she found it hard to understand Lord Stark’s strong aversion to the idea of assassination. After all, it was her profession. Death was her trade. It was a significant part of politics, just as important as diplomacy to some, and most in the small council seemed to agree. They did not know it, but the Targaryens had sent an assassin of their own.

Esen belatedly realized that Eddard Stark was storming out of the room. She thrust herself back into her earlier hiding spot, and luckily for her, the former Hand seemed too distraught to notice the girl cloaked in shadow. He strode away angrily, and Esen let out a soft exhale before turning her attention back to the council. Now the only person to argue against the assassination was the princeling, and could only assume it would not go in his favor. Just how far was the princeling willing to go to prevent an assassination of the enemy, she wondered.

.。*゚+.*.。bury me in the stars +..。*゚☾+


Offline Reigning King

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“— And seven hells to him!” King Robert screamed. Finally, he had winded himself and allowed the weight of his body to knock him backwards into his chair. “So we’ll kill the girl then,” Robert added, waving his hand as though the very end of a young girl’s life was barely worth his attention.

“Do you know anything beyond death?” It wasn’t really a question, in fact it was very clear that Lyan had intended for his father to take his words as insult. He remained standing, risen after Lord Stark had thrown the badge that marked him as Hand of the King onto the council table. He had watched him leave the Great Hall with a weight of disappointment hanging clear as the bright day over his dark locks. Had there been a man in the Seven Kingdoms, who might have been able to make his father behave as a King, it would have been Ned Stark. However, it had been made clear to Lyan that even he was not equal to the task.

“One more word out of you boy, and I’ll have your head on a spike.” He said the words emptily, not as though he didn’t mean them but as though he didn’t care enough to try to. “This is how a Kingdom is ruled. You need the stomach for it.” He pulled a face and snorted back the moisture in his throat. He had once been a man capable of lopping another’s clean off, now he could barely make it through a yelling match.

“This is how you rule a Kingdom…” Lyan repeated. His father had struck upon a chord within him and now he was positively fuming. “You rule a Kingdom by feeding your people,” he began, moving from his seat and circling the table. “You rule a Kingdom by guarding it’s wealth,” he pressed, coming round to square himself before his father. “You rule a Kingdom by defending justice, but instead you get fat, while children starve in your streets. You fill a champions purse and host a tourney while the Realm bleeds.” The moment he was close enough to reach it, he knocked away the King’s goblet of wine, sending it spilling onto the floor and rattling into a corner. “Killing children might have won you the Realm, father, but it won’t help you in keeping it.”

“Get out of my sight!” He roared, mustering whatever remaining strength he had and coming to his feet. With both hands flat against Lyan’s chest he shoved him hard, but the boy — a man now, as his father was just learning — barely swayed an inch.

“How many times have I come to you?” He demanded, there was an incredulous quality in his voice now, all the frustrations of his lifetime spilling out into one moment. “How many times have I come to you and begged you to see reason? Your people could eat, they could live in peace and feel safe. You could make that happen.” He had begun to close in on him, narrowing the space between them. The moment the King rocked backwards, onto that first retreating step, Lyan knew he had won.

“You’re a coward.” His voice was lower this time, edged in disgust.

“Your Majesty… Your Grace…” Varys began after a few beats of uncomfortable silence. “The Targaryen girl…” He reminded them.

“You’ll do what you like, you always have.” Lyan said with disappointment, turning away from his father. “And when you’re gone, I’ll clean up the mess you leave behind.” He didn’t bother to turn around as he continued, moving towards the doors of the Great Hall.

“Lyan!” King Robert called after him.

He paused in the doorway, turning back to face his father. Were there any gentility left in him for his parents, they had seemingly joined forces to strangle the last of it out of him in recent days. The Baratheon Doe had found his fury, Lyan could see the truth of it reflected back at him in his father’s expression. He looked at him hopeful, as though he might say something to bring tender to this peculiarly intimate, but hostile moment between them. Instead, he said, “the girl did not take Lyanna Stark from you, and neither did the unborn child she carries.” He did not give him the chance to answer before leaving the Great Hall and letting the heavy door swing closed behind him.

The last thing he saw was the swell in his fathers round, blue eyes at the mention of the love he had lost. He had started a war to get her back, and now he was left with only his fury and a stale memory. Really, it didn’t feel as though he’d truly won anything.


“Uncle! Uncle? Unc—”

The doors of the Hands Tower swung open to reveal, not Ned Stark, as the crowned Prince had so hoped. Instead he found himself facing his mother. The Queen stood at the Hand’s desk, lithe and elegant fingers pushing through parchment and document alike. She didn’t even bother to stop even after caught in the act. As though adding further insult to injury, she dared to even lift a letter to the light, getting a better angle on the text so that she could more easily read. There was no shame coating her smooth features, but rather an expression that looked a great deal more like gloating.

“What are you doing?” He demanded, stepping into the room.

“Is there something I can help you with, Lyan?” She didn’t even bother to offer him the decency to look up from the words, let alone any sort of formality in her address. The air of superiority she wore, she donned like battle armour. While she struggled to see reason through the glimmer of whatever victory she must have believed herself to have achieved, her son — who knew her so much better than she would have liked to admit — was reading through her arrogance.

“What did you do?” He asked. “Where is the King’s Hand?”

“Not Hand anymore, from what I hear.” She sneered, turning her eyes to a different document she shouldn’t be looking at.

“I’m through playing games.” Lyan warned cooly, closing the space between them and snatching the parchment from his mother’s hands. She looked amused at first but there must have been something lurking in her son’s expression because for an instant, she was given pause. In that moment Lyan snatched her wrist and shoved her back from the desk. As he closed in on her again he kicked back the chair she cowered behind, veiled beneath a stony composure, fear quivered inside of her.

“Where is Lord Stark?” He asked again.

“You think you’re so honourable, but you’re nothing like the Starks. You're a beast, just like you’re father.” She hissed at him.

“Like you.” Lyan corrected.

The Queen opened her mouth to say something in return and while Lyan expected a quick remark, or a cruel turn of phrase, what he got was even more undesirable. Starting, she cooed, “like me” in agreement before continuing, saying, “and like all Lannisters.”

“Where is Lord Stark?” He asked it in a way that suggested he wouldn’t ask again.

“Lord Stark is at a brothel in flea bottom.” The Queen answered contemptuously. “Where he will be arrested for the actions of his wife, who arrested your Uncle Tyrion yesterday on false charges.”

“You’re lying.”

“You’re Uncle Jamie has already left to arrest him personally.” The Queen confirmed, but she hadn’t even gotten out her last word before Lyan was turning on his heel and bolting out the door. He didn’t have time to register her expression but he hoped he had left her shaking in her fine linens and silks. He hoped she felt his fury reverberating through her like the rhythmic chanting of a war-cry. Forget the Dragon—

The Lion had been awoken.

“Get my horse!” He called to a squire, reaching the bottom of the Hand’s Tower and making a beeline for the gates of the Red Keep. “And Ser Gregor!” Today, the princeling would need his Mountain. Lyan was a formidable combatant, he had rigorous training to thank for that, but he had no dreams of grandeur of defeating his Uncle Jamie in open combat. While his Uncle’s Jamie and Tyrion were his family, the Starks were the family he chose. Seven blessings to the man who lay the first hand upon Lord Stark.

King Kade - Reigning from the North


Character limits kill my vibe...


Offline asterin

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After the roaring storm that had swept over the Great Hall, there was an uncomfortable silence hanging heavy over the men sitting around the king. Seeing that the king’s mood had soured considerably over quarreling with both his best friend and son within a span of a few minutes, it wasn’t long before the men of the small council were dismissed and wine was summoned posthaste in their place. Too busy trying to avert their gazes and leave as quickly as possible, no one noticed the lithe figure of a woman drenched in shadow.

Down the grand corridors of the Red Keep, the raven haired assassin flitted along, a torrent of thoughts tugging at her mind. It had been like watching another person entirely—she had thought there was no such rage within him. She had marveled how such a docile soul had come forth from a union of two people who were vindictive and cruel. In the beginning she had thought it to be an act, a façade, but had come to acknowledge it as his true persona. Had she been wrong? Was he his father’s son after all? Then again, the things he spoke of, the things he stood up for—they were noble things, things a good ruler would embody. Surely those were desirable traits. Surely--….

Esen’s line of thought stopped short, her footfalls slowing. How arrogant she was being! She had no place debating what qualities made a good ruler; that wasn’t her purpose, her task. Indeed, her masters had instilled in her a detesting heart towards what the Usurper stood for. She was crafted as a weapon, a tool to place the rightful rulers on the throne. Rightful…what did that mean to her? The Targaryens, her head responded immediately before any other voice within her could get a word in. Yes, the Targaryens. She inhaled slowly, focusing on that single name. That was her cause, her dedication. She couldn’t forget her truth. Esen didn’t have the right to have these thoughts; she was a tool, directed and used as her masters pleased. It was the truth, a truth she had always known and accepted. She didn’t have the right to feel unhappy about it—did swords complain about the way they were swung? They didn’t, she reminded herself sternly.

Ignoring how cold she suddenly felt, she swept down the hallways towards the shared room that had started to feel stifling. Just as she was about to pass an alcove, she heard low voices—familiar voices. She immediately picked out the voice of Littlefinger, being all-too-familiar with the knowing, smug tone of his voice. The second she recognized a heartbeat afterwards, for she had just heard in within the hour. It was Lord Eddard Stark. The assassin immediately folded herself behind the corner, scanning her environment attentively as she zeroed in on the muttered words.

From what she could gather, Littlefinger was promising to take Lord Stark somewhere—a name bubbled up—Chataya. She knew that name; it was name of a high class brothel in King’s Landing. While she had infiltrated a different brothel to be called to the Red Keep, many of the girls that had come in the same cart as her had mentioned Chataya’s. In fact, she was almost certain that Ruwena had mentioned it as her former workplace when they’d first spoken. But why was Littlefinger taking Lord Stark to a brothel? He did not seem like the type to be in the habit of whoring, unlike the Usurper. In addition, the tone of their voices did not make it sound like a jest or bawdy suggestion. No, there was another reason, a more important reason. She was sure of it. As the two men walked away together, Esen went off in the opposite direction, her mind set on finding her way to the very establishment, her former internal conflict shoved back into a corner of head. She had a job to do, after all.

She found Ruwena in her new chambers—the redhead looked surprised to see her at her door, for it was always the other way around. Esen’s amber eyes slid over the room; while it wasn’t lavish, it was clean and neatly decorated, looking as cozy as the personality of its inhabitant. “Oh, Nasira! What brings you here? Is, is something the matter?” Something in her eyes was cautious, as if she was recalling their encounter earlier and reminding herself to hold her tongue.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Esen replied, a tad more kindly than her neutral tone of voice. She didn’t like upsetting the cheery girl, and a part of her wanted to apologize. “I just had quick question—if you’re not busy, Lady Ruwena.” She said playfully with a quick wink.

“Of course I’ve got time for you,” Ruwena smiled broadly, her awkwardly cautious mood melting away in a split second. “What is it?”

“If I remember correctly—you said you worked at Chataya’s before coming here, yes?” Esen made sure to lower her voice slightly in case Ruwena worried about anyone overhearing about her former profession in detail.

“Why yes, that’s right. Been there for the past handful of years,” Ruwena nodded, looking slightly puzzled.

“Might you tell me where it’s located? I’ve got some business that’s just cropped up, and I might need to head there today.” Esen did not dare drop any hints that might lead to the true purpose of her trip. While she did not know why Littlefinger and Lord Stark were heading there, she very much intended to spy on them, or at least attempt to find out why they were there. It was clear in the small council meeting that while Robert Baratheon did not like to listen to anyone, his old friend still had a better chance. It would be advantageous knowing what was going on. Esen knew well that knowledge was a powerful and deadly weapon.

“Oh, why, by the Mother!” Ruwena let out a laugh, and this time Esen was the one to wait for an explanation. “What a coincidence! I was planning to visit Chataya’s very soon, you see!”

“You don’t say,” the dark haired young woman replied with a short laugh of her own.

“Yes, oh you see, one of my old friends there—Mheagan, she’s had a baby, and I haven’t been to see her yet. I promised her I’d come visit them soon! How perfect, why don’t we go together?” Ruwena spoke enthusiastically, already picking through her clothes. “I’d love the company, and it’ll be safer than going alone, right?”

Esen couldn’t deny that; it would also be much less suspicious on her part to have a concrete excuse to be at Chataya’s brothel. “Alright, it’s decided then,” she smiled, unable to resist the buoyant atmosphere Ruwena was so skilled at creating. “I believe I owe you a walk anyways.”


**************


The trip into the city was indeed a refreshing change of pace even though Esen was firmly focused on their destination. It hadn’t taken long for them to leave, and with luck, she would be able to arrive while the two men in question were still in the middle of their business. Ruwena was happy to chatter away over the clip-clop of the horse, and Esen did not have to try too hard to engage her in spirited conversation. Her red haired companion was by no means thick headed, and she avoided any topics might lead to speaking about the aftermath of the banquet. The wind made the veil in her hair flutter—besides being a pretty accessory, it was useful for disguise if something called for it. It certainly wasn’t the only thing she’d brought along with her—besides the small blade she always carried, she was well-equipped with two more weapons strapped snugly against her frame. It wouldn’t do to go about weaponless, especially when she was trailing targets.

Ruwena broke off in the middle of her story about how she’d met Mheagen as the cart pulled up towards a large building. “There it is, right there!” Esen turned her head as if she was taking in the sight of the establishment, but in truth she was looking out for any signs of Lord Stark and Littlefinger. Indeed it appeared as if the men standing outside the building were from the Stark household, waiting for their lord.

None of them seemed to recognize Ruwena or her companion, and they went inside without any interference. Ruwena was greeted affably by the girls she used to work with. All seemed to be sweet in temperament—at least the ones who weren’t occupied. While Esen would have preferred to go unnoticed so she could search for where Littlefinger and Lord Stark were, it didn’t take long for the girls to turn their attention to Esen.

“Ruwena, you always had a good eye. Are you recommending her for the empty slot you left behind?” one of them inquired with a giggle.

“She’s pretty enough. Got a certain look about her, doesn’t she? Plenty who like that,” the other chimed in. Neither of them seemed to be speaking with malice, but Ruwena jumped in apologetically nonetheless.

“No no, she’s already at the Red Keep,” Ruwena laughed, waving their words off. “Sorry, girls.”

“I don’t think I’m sweet enough to uphold the reputation of Chataya’s girls,” Esen added with a hint of a smile.

“That’s right,” Ruwena crowed with laughter. They all joined in, Esen included, but her attention was straying to the various doors and staircases, ears straining for those two particular voices.

“Anyways, I’m here to see Mheagen—where is she?” Ruwena asked the girls, holding up the basket she’d brought with her.

“Mercy, she’s a popular one today,” the one in green exclaimed.

“Popular?” Ruwena echoed.

“Why, a little while ago, two lordly sorts sought her out. Just to talk, they said,” the blonde one answered in a low voice. That certain caught the assassin’s attention.

“Lordly sorts?” Esen inquired casually.

“Indeed, they were escorted by several men. They’re still standing at the entrance, aren’t they?” the brunette in green answered again. What were the chances that the girl Ruwena had come to see was the very same girl Littlefinger and Lord Stark had business with? Nevertheless, it seemed to be the case.

“Wow,” Ruwena’s lips formed an ‘o’. “I suppose we’ll have to wait for a bit. Might as well, you have business too, don’t you Nasira?”

“Ah yes, I’d almost forgotten. I was wondering if a girl named Shirin was here,” Esen managed without a hitch in her words.

“Shirin?” the blonde girl repeated, looking confused. Of course she was—Esen had made up this girl on the spot. “I don’t know any Shirin here.”

“No? Curly black hair, hazel eyes?” Esen feigned a frown as both girls shook their heads in unison. “I’d heard some rumors, but I suppose they weren’t reliable…” She sighed, but shrugged her shoulders good-naturedly. “No matter.” In that moment she saw two figures coming down the stairs—none other than Littlefinger and Lord Stark. She inwardly cursed—they were already leaving. The assassin angled her body away, her hair and veil curtaining her features enough to keep her from being found out by Littlefinger. They strode past them and out the door none the wiser.

“I think that might have been Lord Baelish and Lord Stark,” Ruwena whispered to her, her eyes wide.

“Oh, really? That’s strange,” Esen feigned surprise, turning to the door they’d left out of.

“Mheagen’s in the back room upstairs,” the girl clad in green nodded. “She’ll be glad to see you, Ruwena.”

Once the two women entered the room, the girl lying in the bed looked up. Recognition and joy blossomed on her freckled face at the sight of the redhead. “You finally came!” she exclaimed. At her bosom was a swaddled infant, and Ruwena rushed to the bed to embrace the mother and fawn over the baby. She soon introduced Esen to Mheagan—she had a pretty smile, Esen thought idly. But why had they visited her? Esen wracked her brain while Ruwena happily bounced the baby in her arms. “What’s in there, did you bring me something?” Mheagen inquired, having noticed the basket set down next to the bed.

“Mother be blessed, yes! I brought quite the collection for you—“ Ruwena turned to Esen, “—Can you hold her for a moment?”

“Ah no, I’m not very good with children…” she began to protest, but the babe was already being handed off to her. She held the infant aloft awkwardly, not knowing the proper way to support it.

“Hand behind her head, support the body with the arm,” Ruwena guided her, giggling at how stiff she seemed—Ruwena had never seen the lithe girl look so awkward or flustered in the time she’d known her. “You’re getting the idea,” she nodded in encouragement before turning back to her friend to busily explain the items she had brought her.

Esen stood there akin to a statue, still feeling immensely uncomfortable with the weight in her arms. She looked down at the baby as if it were a strange creature that could potentially be dangerous. At the same time, she almost felt like it was wrong for her to be holding something so pure, something that had yet to be marred by the ways of the world. It wasn’t right for her hands to be touching the babe, not when they had been soaked in blood too many times to count. She was about to tell Ruwena to take the child once more when she finally realized what had been bothering her about the baby other than not being used to one. It was something about her face, the eyes, the hair. Thin black hair wisped about the infant girl’s face, and the eyes that peered up at her were blue. A deep ocean blue.

They reminded her of someone.

When a face came to her, it was not the Usurper’s she thought of first. It was the princeling's. ‘Barra,’ the baby girl’s name was. She was holding another one of the Usurper’s bastards—the realization struck her like lightning, and there was not a trace of doubt in her mind. Why else would Littlefinger and Lord Stark have business with her? “Barra,” she murmured to herself. It caught the attention of Mheagen, however, who smiled at her.

“It’s a pretty name,” Ruwena nodded.

“Like Baratheon,” Esen finished, and Mheagen’s smile faltered with surprise. That was more than enough proof.

“Why, y, yes,” the mother stuttered. “How did you?...” She looked nervous, even frightened.

“Beautiful blue eyes,” Esen answered with a smile to put her at ease, gently placing the baby girl back into Mheagen’s arms. There was no need to scare the poor girl. She was young, younger than both Ruwena and Esen, and now she was burdened with being a mother.

“Really?” Ruwena turned to Mheagan, jaw dropped in surprise. “By the Mother, why didn’t you tell me that first? Ah, that does make sense, you were his favorite here!” Mheagen blushed prettily, saying something in response, but Esen wasn’t listening anymore. She could hear something…outside. A clamor. Something was not right.
.。*゚+.*.。bury me in the stars +..。*゚☾+