Revelation and Reconciliation
In the last few weeks Queen Lyanna had been trying her best to avoid Ser Semly, either by ignoring him or by finding a task to keep him busy with. While normally this was working, today the old Knight seemed particularly dead set on discovering why his Queen despised him so.
What could I have done to have upset her so?
The old knight found Lyanna in the castle training yard. It was deserted now that most of the men left to war, but Barrestan still knew Lyanna well enough that he was sure she liked to be alone with her memories. Memories of training with her sword, of watching Robert display his great prowess with a warhammer, of hearing Ser Trant boast of fictitious tourney victories, of watching sullen Sandor knock the sword out of some knight's hand, of Ser Jory training Prince Richard in swordplay, of much and more were the fond memories Lyanna had of the training yard. But Lyanna could only reflect for a moment before Ser Barrestan Semly found her.
"Your Grace, may I have a word with you?"
I can feel the hostility coming off of her. That's not a good sign.
Taking Lyanna's silence for allowance, Ser Semly asked what he came for.
"Your Grace, I fear that I have done something to cause you displeasure. I would like to know what it is, so I might avoid repeating my mistake."
Ser Barrestan knew courtesies as well as any other knight, so he is unsure of what he did to offend her. But Lyanna angerly revealed that it was more his thoughts that give her reason to take offense.
"It will never be enough, will it?" Lyanna's voice was a furious whisper. Though she might have meant it as a question, it came out as an accusation. "Robert Baratheon ruled with justice and kept the kings peace, he brought festivity and joy to a realm previously accustomed to war and mourning widows. My husband saved your life and allowed you to keep your white cloak, even after you fought against him and killed his men! You are only alive because of Robert, but that will never be enough."
Barrestan stood silent, not quite understanding.
Lyanna elaborated. "I have seen the way you look when you're in the castle library or the Royal Nursery. It is clear that you still wish you're Silver Prince was sitting on the throne." Lyanna said the words 'silver prince' with a sneer, clearly disgusted by the the memory of that man.
Barrestan was hurt by this.
If she hated Rhaegar this much, why did she run away with him all those years ago?
"Your Grace ... you're husband has been a good King-"
"Not just a good king, a good man. A better one than The Mad King's sons ever could have been."
It's unfair of her to blame her dead lover for his father's crimes.
This was where Barrestan misspoke. "Rhaegar would have taken good care of you-"
This was the point where Lyanna interrupted him by striking the Lord Commander in the face. Not with an slap, with a closed-fist punch. Barrestan was a knight, so he was able to take the punch without even wincing. However, this is not to say Lyanna striking him did not hurt Barrestan emotionally.
"Do not EVER presume to speak that name in my presence!" Lyanna's voice rang out through the training yard, filled with a mixture of sorrow and fury that sounded as bitter in Barrestan's ears as her father's agonized screams. "Rhaegar raped me! I told him that I was already promised to someone else, but he drugged me and locked me up for a year! Do you have any idea how it feels to be violated and dirtied almost every night for a year?! To know full well that he could nod his head and his friends would slit your throat without hesitation?! It has been over a decade and I still sometimes wake up screaming after having a nightmare about being back in that dammed tower!"
At this point, Lyanna's furious eyes were glistening with tears. But now she focused her rant on Barrestan and his brothers in arms.
"And while I was going through hell, that bastard's father murdered half my family! Murdered them in cold blooded malice while you and your buddies watched without so much as lifting a finger. You like to hold yourself up as a brave and honorable man, but I know that you're really a coward! You're a coward who stands by while women are raped and good men are burned alive. Were you 'defending the innocent' when my brother and father were murdered, simply because they demanded that King Aerys subject his son to the laws of his own kingdom? Were Arther Dayne and Gerold Hightower and Oswell Whent 'protecting all women' when they held me prisoner to so that Rhaegar could continue to hurt me?"
Oh Gods be good, I had no idea ... This can't be true, it can't.
But the old knight feared deep down in his heart that it was. Barrestan was speechless, so Lyanna continued her rant. By now burning tears were streaming down her face.
"Arther Dayne told me that he was 'just following orders', that the Crown Prince was allowed to do as he pleased. Oswell Whent even told me I would never see my family again! And that was what I was afraid of most: not that Rhaegar would keep hurting me, but that I would die alone and forgotten in that dammed tower."
Oh Gods, how could I have been so blind?
So strong were Lyanna's emoations that she had tremors. To hide this, she turned towards the door to the castle hallway. But before she left she gave Ser Barrestan Semly a parting command.
"From now on, keep your distance from me. I don't want to see you anymore than I have to."
Despite Lyanna's orders, he again went to speak to her. He knew she would be preying in the Godswoods, so after giving Lyanna about an hour to be alone he sat down in front of the Weirwood tree next to where she was preying.
"You risk a Queen's Wrath by coming here. 'Barrestan the Brash' is a nickname that suits you better."
"My Queen, I must beg your pardon for disobeying an order, but I said the words before Gods and Men to protect Robert Baratheon and his family. If you want me gone, I beg that you at least hear my apology before you send me away."
Still hostile, Lyanna waited silently before nodding. "Go ahead."
So Ser Barrestan continued, "When I took my vows as a Kingsguard, I had no idea what type of man I would be serving. By the time I learned what King Aerys truly was, it was too late. I knew what King Aerys did was wrong, but whenever any of us asked the Lord Commander he told us to guard the king and not to judge him. This does not excuse me, not in the slightest; I should have protested when he was about to murder your kin, I should have spoken up and told the King what he was doing was evil. I myself might have been burned, but it would have been better to have died than to dishonor myself. Until the day I die I will live with the guilt of knowing I did nothing."
Lyanna seemed to believe that Barrestan's words were honest.
She simply asked, "Did you know beforehand about Rhaegar's plan to abduct me?"
Ser Barrestan was taken aback by this, but he still answered honestly.
"I swear, in the eyes of Gods and Men, neither Rhae- neither Aery's eldest son, nor any of my Kingsguards Bretheren have uttered even a word to me about their plan. If they had, I would have tried my best to put a stop to it."
Lyanna looked at him curiously.
Better curiosity than hatred.
"But that would mean breaking your Kingsguards Oath."
"I would have first tried to stop them without breaking my oath, by going to King Aerys and hoping he would intervene to reign in his son. But yes, I would have broken my oath if there was no other way to stop them. Even if they called me Barrestan the Betrayer, that would be a small price to pay for a clear conscience and an preserved honor."
"Then why didn't you act after I was taken?"
Because I did not think for myself. Because I followed orders lIke a blind fool.
"I didn't know for sure whether or not Aery's eldest son was doing as the rebels claimed he was. Truth be told, I didn't want to know the truth. I was a blind old fool, and I desperately wanted to believe that the son was not cut if the same cloth of his father, that he would rule differently. I didn't want to face the possibility that the boy I watched playing in the Red Keep grew up to be a monster. I have failed as a knight, and I am sorry."
Barrestan hung his head and closed his eyes, feeling like what he said could never be enough.
But, to Barrestan's great surprise, he felt Lyanna's soft hands squeezing his. When he looked at her, he could not see any hatred in her grey eyes. He saw plenty of sorrow, but no hatred.
"You're not the one who raped me, nor did you kidnapp me and keep me prisoner either. As much as it hurts me that you watched my family die, I know father would never have wanted me to harbor malice in my heart. Especially not towards a man who could admit his mistakes and apologize."
"I don't understand ..."
"I don't think you're a monster. If you were, you wouldn't have expressed regret. Any man can hold a sword and fight in a battle, in fact many often are drunk off the thrill of the fight. But it takes true bravery to admit falling short. I think I see in you what Robert saw, what convinced him to keep you around."
With that Lyanna got to her feet and extended to Barrestan a hand to help him up. He took it, and rose to his feet as well.
"Come now Ser Semly, my son and I should be eating supper soon. We'll need our Kingsguard with us."