16 A Coat Of Gold
"How many people saw you come up here?" Margaery asked.
"Six, maybe seven," Aylward answered for me.
"Anyone important?" She asked. Aylward shook his head. "Good, let's get you changed quickly and I will have these clothes disposed of." She reached into her closet and pulled out a dress like one I'd worn in Storm's End. "You need to blend in at court, you don't look like someone from Highgarden."
Aylward stepped into the hall while Margaery helped me into my new dress. "When can I see my sister?" I asked.
"Sansa? Soon," Margaery assured me. "She goes down to Godswood every day. My ladies have been instructed to watch her and report to me when she is on her way there."
"There is a Godswood here?" I asked.
"What's left of one, at least." Margaery sat me down at her vanity and combed through my hair.
I was silent for a minute, but I was anxious to see Sansa. "How long do you think she'll be?"
"Soon," she repeated. "Your hair is a mess, at least let me get some of these knots out while we wait." She pulled sharply on my hair. "That was a twig, it's like you've been living in the woods."
We locked eyes in the mirror and she nodded apologetically. "Right, I'll just…"she ran her comb through my hair again and it didn't pull as much this time. "It isn't all bad, just that one spot."
"How is she?" I asked.
"She's alive, that is the most important thing," Margaery told me. "I'm not sure you heard, there's something you should know-"
There was a knock on the door. "My lady?" A girl called from outside.
"Come in," Margaery called back.
The girl came in and curtsied quickly. "Forgive me for interrupting, but you told us to tell you when Sansa went to the Godswood. She's just gone."
I stood up quickly and Margaery shot me a look before turning back to the girl. "Very good, please escort my cousin to her."
"Desmera Redwyne," I told the girl. She curtsied again nervously, I wanted to laugh but I thought that might be rude.
"This way, my lady." I followed her into the hall where Aylward was still standing.
"I won't be long," I told him. He nodded. The girl and I wound though the building before emerging in the gardens. She took me to one end of the gardens overlooking the river and pointed down stairs.
"The Godswood is down there. May I help you with anything else?"
"No, thank you." She nodded before hurrying off. I turned towards the stairs and descended slowly. Part of me was terrified that I would be too late and Sansa would be gone, but when I reached the bottom there she was. "I haven't been to a Godswood in months, you were always more diligent than I. Some things never change."
She shifted slightly and pressed her eyes together tighter. Just when I was about to speak again, her eyes flew open in surprise. "Amina!" She threw herself into my arms and pressed her face against my shoulder. I had barely gotten my arms around her when she began sobbing.
"It's ok, shh." I petted her hair. "Shh." It took Sansa a few minutes to compose herself.
Finally she stepped back looked me over and then hugged me again. "I thought you were dead."
"I should be, Robb sacrificed himself so I could escape." That sparked a second wave of tears. "How are you? I haven't seen you in so long."
"They made me marry Tyrion Lannister," she told me.
"Oh my gods. Sansa, I didn't know."
"I'm just so happy you're here!" Suddenly terror crossed her face. "You can't be here. Joffrey is mad, he'll have your head."
"He won't know," I assured her. "Margaery and I have worked it out."
"Yes, of course, who else would have given me this gorgeous dress?" She didn't even glance at what I was wearing; this was not the same little girl I'd last seen in Winterfell. "Gods, I wish I had time. There's so much I want to tell you and even more I want to know."
"You can't stay?" She asked.
"I'm posing as Margaery's cousin for the time being, it would not be in character for Desmera Redwyne to be seen for an extended amount of time in the Godswood."
She nodded. "I understand, but please when you can…"
"I will try to see you as much as possible. I promise." I kissed her on the forehead and she squeezed my hands as I slipped away back to the gardens.
When I reached the top of the steps I ran right into Jaime Lannister and Brienne. "I thought I saw you rush through the gardens, but I thought, of course the Queen in the North would not be stupid enough to risk coming to court."
I looked a Brienne who looked just as terrified as I was. "Jaime-"
"Oh calm down," he said to her. To me he said, "I'm not going to tell your secret, I'm not cruel."
"Really?" I asked skeptically.
"You don't know me as well as you would like to think you do, Amina."
"Amina, what are you doing here?" Brienne hissed.
"I could ask the same of you."
"You can't be here."
"She is right you know, I don't know what game you have cooked up with the Tyrell girl but my father will find out."
"I am not planning anything," I snapped. "I just wanted to see her." I glanced over my shoulder at the stairs.
"You really were raised a Stark, honor, family, all of that, how interesting," Jaime said thoughtfully.
"Is that a bad thing?" I asked.
"You are really too uptight for your own good, relax. No Highgarden girl walks around with a stick up her ass."
I rolled my eyes. Being around Jaime was making me increasingly more nervous but he didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave and I did not want to offend him by rushing off, he held all the cards. "You look better than the last time I saw you," I noted.
"I believe I had a beard then, and two hands."
I glanced down at his hands. His right hand was stiff and gold. "You lost your sword hand," I realized. "I'm sorry," I said uncomfortably, but honestly.
"Don't apologize, your losses far exceed mine." I pressed my lips together. "Forgive me for bringing it up, the wound is still fresh, I know."
"Yes, it is."
"I'm sure you have other places to be, don't let me keep you," he said. I nodded at Brienne before walking back towards the Red Keep. "Oh, and Amina?" I stopped petrified his next words would be a threat. "Be careful, this is a very dangerous place." Instead of threatening he sounded genuine and I nodded at him over my shoulder at him before disappearing back into the garden.
For the next few days I saw Margaery very little and Sansa only once. It wasn't that I didn't want to see them but Margaery was busy with wedding preparations and despite my offers to help she told me she wouldn't force me to go through the motions. Going to the Godswood meant walking from one end of the gardens to the other and I couldn't risk being seen there so often, so Sansa was just out of my reach. Aylward avoided me when possible, I didn't blame him, I had been a mess the entire time we were traveling to Kings Landing.
What no one seemed to understand was that I needed to be distracted. Since Margaery wasn't going to give me something to do, I had to find something else to busy myself with.
"Where have you been?" Margaery asked me one night when we were having supper together on her balcony.
"Nowhere important, just out," I told her shrugging.
"Are you sure that's really best?"
"No, but I cannot stay in this room all day. I'll lose my mind," I told her. Under my breath I added, "If I haven't already."
"At least be careful, I would hate myself if something happened to you."
"Surprisingly, I feel relatively safe, all things considering." I finished my tea and hopped up. "I should be going."
"Going where? It's nearly nightfall!"
"Your grandmother summoned me for tea tomorrow, I'll see you then." I pecked her on the cheek and hurried into the hall.
The halls of the Red Keep often still confused me, but I had memorized this path well. I reached the door I was looking for and knocked, Jaime opened the door and I slid in. "You're late."
"I am not," I protested. "I told you nightfall. The sun isn't even down yet." I motioned to the window to prove my point. "Now, where's the wine."
"I can honestly say that I never thought I'd be getting drunk with Jaime Lannister," I said.
"You drink like a man, you could give my sister a run for her money."
"I have been living with a few thousand men, on the front lines of a war for the last year," I reminded him. "Are you sure you don't have anything stronger than this?"
"I'm trying not to get you killed, I don't think I trust you out there drunk."
"How chivalrous," I garbled the word and he smirked.
"They all think you're sleeping with me."
I shrugged. "Safest place as any, I suppose. Word must not have reached Margaery yet, she hasn't tried to lock me in her room and throw away the key yet."
"She is a bit protective of you isn't she?"
"If she wanted to protect me she would let me do something, elsewise I'm going to throw myself off her balcony."
"Wouldn't that be a twist, Queen in the North avoids massacre only to throw herself off balcony because she was banned from helping with wedding preparations."
I laughed. "Wouldn't that be story for the history books."
"The sun will be up in a few hours," Jaime noted.
"Has it really been that long? Gods, I have tea with the Tyrells this afternoon."
"I have to train with my little brother's sellsword today."
"I wish I could see you fight a man drunk," I said. "I bet that would be a laugh."
"I haven't had as much to drink as you, little queen."
"I'm not a queen," I said quickly. "Not anymore."
"You mean, not yet?" He asked. For a moment I thought he was going to accuse me of scheming again, but then he smiled and winked at me. "Feel free to stay here. I'll have a guard wait outside, if you'd like to sleep."
"Yes, I think sleep would be nice. I have a feeling meeting Olenna Tyrell will require a decent amount of rest."
"Little queen," he mumbled. "You might get used to that nickname."
"I do not think the current queen regent would approve."
"Does she approve of anything?"
When I left Jaime's room that afternoon I passed the guard outside and nodded at him. He barely looked at me. I wondered how many secrets had he been tasked to keep since being here. I was sure the Red Keep had more than a few.
When I approached Olenna's section of the garden, the Tyrell women had already arrived. "Oh Desmera, there you are!" Margaery said. "Come sit."
"Sorry, afternoon nap." I joined Margaery and her grandmother at the table.
Olenna smiled, "I've heard much about you Amina Stark." It shocked me to hear my name spoken aloud. I hadn't even become used to the Stark name yet. "Don't worry child, we can talk freely here."
"To a certain extent," Margaery mumbled.
Olenna gave her granddaughter a look before turning back to me. "If you don't want to talk about Amina Stark, let us talk about Desmera Redwyne. I hear she's been spotted slipping to Jaime Lannister's room in the middle of the night."
"Have you really?" Margaery asked surprised.
"It really isn't what you think, I assure you," I told her.
"Maybe it isn't, but that is what we'll let them think," Olenna said.
"That's what you meant when you said you felt safe," Margaery realized. "You are insane. Do you know how badly this could end? Grandmother, I don't think you understand the seriousness of her situation."
"The safest place for Amina Stark is where no one would expect to find her," Olenna stated. "Is that not why you came to Kings Landing to begin with?"
I nodded. "More or less."
"Now, Margaery tells me you want to help with the wedding? I think that sounds delightful. I already have girls hunting for the perfect jewelry, but let's see…" She pulled my arm closer to her and ran her fingers through my hair. "Softer, than I'd expect for dyed hair."
"How did you know?"
"It's fading, I'll have more dye sent to you. Maybe a change is in order? How about a lovely chestnut, like Margaery's?"
I shrugged. "Alright."
"Good. Margaery does not have time to sit and let the handmaids work out hairstyles for the wedding, but you do."
"So, I'm your double."
Olenna nodded. "More or less."