17 A Coat Of Red
Jaime caught up with me as I was leaving the garden. "Cersei wants to meet you."
"I believe she's jealous."
"I cannot see her, what if she recognizes me."
"Cersei barely pays attention to anyone but her children and her own reflection. You don't have to worry about her remembering. As far as she knows, you are Desmera Redwyne."
"Of course I am," I added quickly as a few girls walked past. "I will not meet your sister," I hissed as soon as they were out of earshot.
"She isn't going to take no for an answer, I'm afraid." It was then that I realized where we were going. Straight into the lion's den, or should I say the lioness.
The guard outside opened the door and Jaime pushed me in lightly. "So this is her," Cersei said stepping in from the balcony. "Everyone is talking about you, the new pet of Jaime Lannister."
"You Highgarden whores are everywhere. Growing Strong indeed, you are all like invasive vines, choking the life out of this place."
"Actually, my family lives in the Arbor, and growing strong are not our words." I didn't offer house Redwyne's words because I didn't know them. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jaime smirk.
"She doesn't look seventeen," Cersei noted. "She doesn't act seventeen either."
"She acts like you," Jaime said. Cersei scoffed. Even I wanted to feel a little offended by that.
"Father will like her. She's exactly the kind of girl to keep you out of trouble." She added, "If she isn't getting into trouble herself."
"I'm not sure I understand your meaning," Jaime said.
"The honorable discharge of course. Father wants to send you home to Casterly Rock with a pretty wife, and you've made it easy for him."
I looked at Jaime with panic. He barely glanced at me. "As I've told him, I am not leaving the Kingsguard, that's the end of it. No one is getting married."
"You should know better, dear brother, Tywin Lannister always gets his way."
"I'm sorry! I should have known what my father was thinking. He's been trying to get me to leave the kingsguard." He held up his golden hand. "Honorable discharge."
"He wants to make you lord of Casterly Rock and marry you off to a girl of high enough birth," I continued.
"Of course he would have heard rumors and assumed he'd gotten me."
"But you want to remain in Kings Landing." I didn't need to add anything else; we both knew I was aware of his relationship with Cersei. "You do want to stay here, don't you?"
"Yes, of course. But, maybe he has a point. What Lord Commander only has one hand?"
"That is the most idiotic thing that I've ever heard come out of your mouth. If you want to be a knight, who cares if you hold your sword with your foot? You lost your sword hand, it seems like the end of the world now, but you're still here."
"You're more understanding than my sister."
"You are more than your hand, Jaime Lannister."
"Are you sure you don't want to marry me?" He asked.
"Even if I thought you were being serious, which you aren't, you are forgetting the real Desmera Redwyne is at home in the Arbor."
"I am aware your family has money, but enough to pay off an entire family to pretend I'm their kin?"
He shrugged. "Give me one reason why you can't marry me."
"Other than the fact that I am still not Desmera Redwyne?" I asked sarcastically.
He crossed his arms. "Casterly Rock is worth more than anything you've ever laid eyes on. You would be set for life. What is there I couldn't give you?"
He laughed. "So you are scheming!"
"I am not. I just…you were right about there being more of us, more Targaryens." I shook my head. "I don't know why I told you that."
"I already knew. So does everyone I could think to tell."
"Even if they didn't, I do not think you would have told them." I groaned. "I should hate you, but it seems I can't."
"I murdered your father."
"The Mad King was not my father, Ned was. Family is more than blood." I looked at him for a moment. "Maybe that's why I can't hate you. Daenerys would, you are a Lannister and you killed Aerys. But he was horrible; he would have destroyed this city and everyone in it. What you did saved lives."
"Did Brienne tell you that?" He asked. "At this rate my entire reputation at court will be ruined."
"No one had to tell me, you are more noble than you let on. I can see it."
"I suppose we both have our secrets," he said. "You're in love with that bastard. But now you have lost him, he took the black for you." He paused. "Why did you come here, Amina?"
"My sister is in danger, I came for her," I insisted.
"You're running." He paused for me to speak but I just stared at him. "What happened to Robb was not your fault. Do not die for a dead man."
I stepped away. As much as I did trust him, the idea of spending another night drinking with Jaime Lannister did not seem quite as inviting as it had before.
The morning of the royal wedding I woke up early to get ready. Olenna had planned my day so that I would draw as little attention to myself as possible. I was to wear a dress she'd chosen specifically for the occasion, stand with Loras at the ceremony, and sit with the Martells at the wedding because we could be sure they wouldn't recognize me.
Aylward knocked on the door. "Are you dressed, my lady?"
"Hardly! Olenna did not think to leave me with handmaidens and this dress is impossible. Why in seven hells would someone have this many straps on a dress, it is like a puzzle!" I could hear Aylward laughing in the hall. "Oh shut up!"
Once I'd finally arranged the twisting straps around my shoulders, I had to admit the gown was beautiful. The straps looked like vines and the rest was simple blue-green fabric. I pulled back the hair above my ears and pinned it back out of my face, before stepping out into the hall. Aylward looked me over and frowned. "Don't you like it?" I asked.
"You look like a Tyrell."
"As do you," I noted. He was dressed similarly to Loras, but Aylward's shoulders were broader and he looked more like a soldier than a pretty highborn boy. "Shall we be going? There's nothing worse than being late to a wedding."
"Are you sure you're alright with this?" He asked. "The last wedding-"
"Do you think I've forgotten so soon what happened at the last wedding I attended?"
There were carriages to take each party to the Sept and Loras was waiting beside one for Aylward and me. He smiled when he saw us and embraced us both. "Margaery told me you were coming but I didn't believe it."
"I tried to talk her out of it," Aylward said.
Loras helped me into the carriage and the hopped in beside me. "You look beautiful," he told me.
"At least someone thinks so," I said, glancing at Aylward.
"I never said you didn't look nice."
"It was implied."
"Forgive me, but I was not expecting you to be quite so…jovial," Loras said, shifting uncomfortably.
"It's a royal wedding, how could I be anything else?" I asked. Aylward and Loras shared a look. "I understand that you have been friends for ages but if you're going to talk about me, I'd rather you did it out loud."
When we arrived at the Sept of Baelor, Loras and I were separated from Aylward as we filed into lines. "This is a beautiful place," I whispered to Loras.
"Nothing quite like this where you're from," he responded.
"Definitely not. I live on an island of trees." Loras smiled at me conspiratorially, like we had created our own language.
The bells chimed, letting us know the ceremony was about to begin. We all turned to watch Margaery enter the sept on the arm of her father. She looked beautiful; her gown was adorned with roses and thorns. The thorn-covered vines that draped my shoulders complimented hers in a subtle way. Even if it was a ruse, I felt like I was a part of something for a moment.
Joffrey appeared to lead Margaery up the stairs. Not for the first time, I wondered how she could stomach marrying someone so sadistic. I wanted that throne, as much as she did, if not more, but there were some things I could never bring myself to do.
Without a word Joffrey cloaked Margaery and symbolically brought her under his protection, though I had a feeling the Tyrells would be the ones bringing the crown under their protection.
The septon said his piece and then Joffrey kissed Margaery, sealing the deal. We were expected to clap and we did, though very few guests looked happy about the ordeal. As the king and new queen turned to face us, Margaery's eyes locked with mine and she smiled. As much as I wanted to be happy for her, I couldn't bring myself to smile back.
The wedding feast was outrageous. It was the sort of thing I would have loved as a girl, I was always begging Ned and Catelyn to have a feast and invite guests from near and far. My motivation had mostly been to stuff my face with as much food as possible, it was a wonder I hadn't been a plump little thing. As I'd grown, however, feasts were a rare opportunity to meet people from outside Winterfell. I looked around now; people from all seven kingdoms were in attendance. For the first time in months I felt a little of my childhood-self peeking out.
Before I could reach my table, fingers clasped my arm. I jumped. "I didn't mean to scare you," Jaime said. We stepped behind a large lion head, out of the view of the royal couple's table. "How are you?"
"Did Aylward tell you to ask me that?" I asked.
"No, but maybe he should have. I'm beginning to think I am the only person you're honest with."
I rolled my eyes. "I am not a child. I won't break down over a silly wedding."
"Hm." He was quiet for a moment. "Funny how color can change so much," Jaime mused.
"What is that supposed to mean?" I asked, confused at the sudden change in subject.
"You always seemed so Northern, dark hair, pale skin. Now look at you."
"Perhaps it is my lack of Northern blood."
"And your eyes," Jaime continued. "I always thought there were icy blue, but now I think they're more lavender."
"Have you given that much consideration to my eye color, Ser?"
"Just an observation. I've been looking beneath the color of your eyes, for your father's madness."
"And?" I asked, suddenly breathless. I knew what his answer would be but I wanted validation.
"You are not your father's daughter." A moment later he added, "You look like her."
"What was she like?" I asked. Throughout my childhood everything I learned about my house came from books and lessons, Ned had told me very little and he hadn't known the Targaryens well anyway.
"Like you. Maybe a little less determined, I don't think she was ever too interested in being queen," he told me. It crossed my mind that this was neither the time nor the place for this conversation, but I was hanging on his every word and wanted to hear as much as I could. "She fell in love with a low born man before she married Aerys. After Rhaella married her brother the knight put down his lance and turned to religion. What is it about you Targaryen women that turn poor men to vows of celibacy?"
"And when she was queen?" I pressed.
He hesitated. "She was brave." There was something he remembered that he did not want to tell me. "Even though she didn't want to marry Aerys or become queen, she knew her duties and she was dedicated to her children."
"She doesn't sound much like the Targaryens I've heard of," I noted.
"Not all Targaryens are worthy of the history books. Sometimes when the gods flip a coin, it lands on its edge and those Targaryens are neither mad nor great." He glanced back towards the feast. "Your table mates will be wondering why your place is empty. You should be going."
I nodded and walked back towards the music. I wound my way through the tables and found my place. I recognized the Martells from their clothing and knew I was in the right spot. I took my seat and the man and woman looked me over. "Desmera Redwyne," I introduced myself.
"I am Oberyn Martell," the man told me. "And this is my paramour, Ellaria Sand." It caught me off guard to be introduced to a bastard. A few women around me scoffed quietly or murmured something to the guests next to them, clearly annoyed by Ellaria's presence, but I wasn't offended.
"Nice to meet you both," I said with a smile. Ellaria smiled back. I took one of the treats from the tray in front of me. "How are you enjoying King's Landing?"
"It's quite different from Sunspear," she told me.
"I'd expect so. I would love to visit Dorne one day."
"It is a beautiful country, though I suppose I may be a bit biased."
The woman next to me frowned at me. "Have I gotten something on my dress?" I asked her. She shook her head. "Are you afraid the prince has brought his brother's sickness with him? Isn't it gout, Prince Oberyn?" I asked. He nodded. "The rich man's disease. I don't think it's contagious. But even if it was, I highly doubt you're rich enough to catch it." The woman went a little pale and quickly turned back to her husband. Ellaria and Oberyn looked amused. "It's impolite to stare."
"It must be the beauty of you both that draw their eyes," Oberyn said. Both of them had accents that I could listen to for days. Before I could respond the sound of a goblet clinking drew my attention to the King and Queen.
Joffrey stood. "Everyone, silence! We have had enough amusement today; a royal wedding is not amusing. It is history. The time has come for us to contemplate our history." The giant lion head that Jaime and I had been hidden behind earlier opened and a troupe of dwarves danced out. "I present to you the War of Five Kings!"
The dwarves were dressed in costumes to resemble each of the five kings of Westeros. Robb's impersonator wore a wolf mask. Of course I'd heard the rumors that the Freys had chopped off Robb's head and sown Grey Wind's in its place. There was a churning feeling in my stomach and I thought I was going to throw up the pastry I'd just eaten.
I stood up quickly and walked away from the feast. I didn't want to watch this show. I almost ran right into Loras. "I think I'm going to be sick," I blurted. Almost as soon as the words tumbled from my mouth I turned and threw up in the bushes. Loras had quick reflexes and was there to hold my hair out of my way. "I regret eating so much for breakfast now."
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"I didn't see Robb after the massacre but I heard what they did to him. I haven't thought about it, I pushed it out of my mind but seeing that stupid show made me think of it."
He grabbed a servant's arm, "Bring my cousin some water please, she isn't feeling well." The girl nodded and hurried off. "I can't imagine what you've been through."
"You lost your king too." After a pause, I added, "He would have been a good one."
"So would Robb. And you would have made a good queen."
"Look the pie!" I heard Margaery exclaim and the guests cheered.
"Your sister will be a good queen," I told Loras.
"There isn't anything Margaery has that you lack."
"And there's nothing I have that she doesn't." Besides a birthright, I added internally. I wanted to get off the topic of kings and queens before someone overheard something we'd rather they didn't.
The girl returned with my water. "Thank you," Loras told her. She curtsied and left us alone again. "Are you returning to the feast?"
I shook my head. "Aylward was right. I cannot handle this."
"It's truly impressive you've made it this long."
The screams of the guests startled me. My first thoughts were of the bloodbath I'd recently escaped and I had to fight the instinct to run towards the Red Keep. Loras put an arm around my shoulder protectively, clearly sensing my fear, and we walked quickly towards the festival.
In front of the royal couple's table, Cersei and Jaime were knelt on the ground. Jaime moved and I could see Joffrey on the ground. "Is he dead?" I hadn't intended to whisper but that was all I could muster. Margaery was turned away looking ill.
"The king is dead," Loras muttered.
"Good riddance." My eyes searched the tables. "What happened to Sansa?"