Return to Chapter Index
Return to the Breoch Cycle
Breoch certainly hadn’t expected Lord Willas here. She was racing through the forest, legs astride her horse, her riding coat of deepest black trailing behind her, when she came to a clearing not far from the city. There, in a glade just off the trail, was Lord Willas.
His attendants were farther off, eating from a basket on a blanket, but Lord Willas did not seem to be disturbed.
“My lady,” he greeted when he opened his eyes and looked up at her.
“Forgive me. I had not expected—“
“No,” he agreed. “I used to love this trail. I thought I might come here and feel the sunshine.”
She looked at him for several long moments before dismounting and leading the horse toward him. Her riding coat belied her masculine attire, her hair was tasseled over her shoulders, but that couldn’t be helped. Breoch probably looked like a wildling.
However, he was smiling at her. “Do you like horses?”
“I do,” she confessed. “It’s unusual back home. One usually prefers—other pursuits—but if one travels a day and sets up camp, there are some fine woodlands for riding. Father rarely comes as there’s nothing for the hunt. Then again, I don’t think he cares for the hunt.” She shrugged. “He cares for military campaigns, but there have been none of those since I was very small.”
Willas—he was Willas now—was still smiling at her.
“What?” she asked as she tied her horse to a low branch and sat down on the ground beside Willas.
“If you were dark of hair, I would say you look like a child of the North. Your eyes, your windswept hair, riding astride like a man.”
“Perhaps I am better than any man,” she suggested. “You do not know that. I could best the prince in a fight.” After thinking a moment she realized, “I could not best his uncle, Ser Jaime. I think he’d let me live with my pride in shambles.”
He leaned toward her. “Most likely.”
She smiled to herself, looking away. “Was not that man—that knight—Ser Edmure—brother to Lady Stark of the North?” she wondered. “I remember learning it from my Septa.”
“Ah, yes. Ladies with their Septas.”
“You have sisters, good sir. Lady Margaery has a Septa.”
“Indeed,” he agreed. “She is more Prince Joffrey’s age, however. She is of an age where she has decided that she will one day be queen.”
They shared a look.
“I have not that ambition,” she admitted. “Nor have I ever. I wanted nothing more than to play with my dolls or in the bay.”
“Water,” Lord Willas declared. “Your blue eyes! You are a mermaid!”
“A mermaid who rides horses through the woods?” she countered. “I must be the most peculiar one who has visited Westeros for several centuries now perhaps, even, before the Targaryens.”
The two became silent, the birds singing above them in the trees, until Willas finally took a breath. “I cannot ride at the tourney.”
Breoch said nothing as she knew there was nothing to say.
He seemed to wait for her answer, but when she remained quiet, he continued onward. “My brother is to ride. He has not a sweetheart. I ask that he wears your favor—he has agreed as I am in my ‘dotage’ supposedly.”
She looked away, although Breoch could sense his gaze on her. “I have already turned down one favor,” she admitted, though she quickly amended, “of my brother. I fear—Lord Willas—“ she turned to look at him. “Have you ever wondered why I am such close friends with Prince Joffrey?”
“Yes. I assumed you were one of the Queen’s ladies—“
“—I am not,” she said quickly, cutting him off. “I expect I’ll have my own ladies once I am married. In the eyes of my father, nothing else would suit. You see, Lord Willas,” she looked at him and then deflated again. “I was born at Breoch.”
He paused. “I do not know the place.”
“Of course you do not,” she laughed. “Breoch is a Sept. My brother Ser Jaime did not understand that both his grandmother and his sister could be named Ilse although he was eleven, and so instead of being called Lady Ilse or Lady Ilse Breoch, I am simply known in the West as Lady Breoch.”
“And you do not wish to cause undo offense or favor,” Willas realized after a long pause.
“Yes,” she answered miserably and then she stood, glancing around for something to do and finding nothing but her horse, who was too far away for her to go to and still hear Lord Willas if he should speak to her.
She was startled when she realized Lord Willas was laughing.
“You have not been to many tourneys. Knights jive for a lady’s favor, especially if she is the most sought after of the spectators. It is for her to let her smile on someone to give him luck and to show her preference. It is a knight’s fault if he does not gain favor, not the lady’s for not giving it. I ask such favor for myself.”
“I am Lord Tywin’s only marriageable daughter—“
“Who is here,” Lord Willas rebutted, “because her sister decided to marry her off! The whole court has been talking about it for weeks. Who is he?”
She looked at him in horror. “Weeks?” Then she leaned back. “I could have sworn it had been about ten years since she first proposed the match. I really should speak to the Queen. Her machinations are too well played if her court doesn’t hear about them for a decade!” She tried not to smile at her teasing as she went to her horse. “You should ride with me one day when I’m not with my intended! I see that you can sit and bend your legs at the knee, so presumably you can ride—“ Swinging herself into the saddle, she smiled at him before taking off down the pathway, leaving him to his own thoughts.
When she found her brother Jaime in the gardens, she looked up at him. “I think I teased Lord Willas too much. He thinks Cersei’s been matchmaking for me since I was a child to some Lord come to the tourney.”
Taking a bite of his apple, Jaime continued to stroll alongside her. “She has, hasn’t she? I remember her mentioning it just before the fateful—occurrence. She actually said, ‘He’d be perfect for Bree. He’s handsome, he’s wealthy, he’s from the perfect house, and she would be second in the kingdom only to the Royal Household.”
Breoch stopped. “She actually told you this? I thought—when she wrote that letter—“
Jaime turned to her. “She wrote you a letter on the subject when you were seven? When she mentioned bringing about the match six months ago I thought it odd, but this is simply devious of her. And he has no idea?”
“None! He didn’t even know that I was Lady Ilse Breoch until I told him. He thought I was one of Cersei’s ladies since I’m always playing with Joff and in plain clothing while I muck about with wooden swords.”
“That nephew of ours has much to learn,” Jaime groused. “He comes by a warrior’s prowess naturally. You’d think he’d develop it.”
“It’s not you,” she told him, linking their arms. “It’s from the other way. He’s belittled, I think. He pretends not to notice, but he cries to Cersei and becomes mean just to make himself feel better.”
“Baratheons,” Jaime murmured. “I never should have given up that throne when I sat upon it when you were just a girl.”
“Hush, brother,” she murmured. “Not here.”
“There are no spies about. I’ve checked,” he murmured. Then, louder he said as they carried on, “What’s this about Ser Edmure being in love with you?”
“He’s an idiot. Ignore it.” She paused. “Lord Willas wants me to give Ser Loras my favor since he cannot ride himself.”
“Cersei wins ten gold dragons,” he stated sadly.
Breoch looked affronted and then laughed.
“Would you give it to Lord Willas?”
“I think so, yes.” It was the truth, strangely enough. She’d hardly known this man a week, and yet she would give him her favor in the games.
“Then there is someone you should meet.”
The siblings walked through the garden until they came across two dark haired men standing closely together. One was in a silk pale green tunic, while the other was wearing Baratheon yellow. “Lord Renly, Ser Loras—Have you met my little sister, Lady Ilse Breoch? Bree, two of our fair riders in the tournament.”
They all bowed to each other before Jaime led Renly off to talk about something.
“You are the beautiful ‘Lady Breoch’ my brother has spoken about? He did not mention you were the Queen’s mysterious sister.” He took her hand and boldly kissed it.
“He did not know, Ser Loras. I only told him above two hours ago. He made a request—“ She looked at him.
He nodded. “I offered once he told me of the fair Lady Breoch, although he thought you from some small house.”
“Did he believe your father would disapprove of even just a simple friendship?”
“Indeed,” he agreed. “However, seeing your loveliness would lighten any worries on that score.”
“I see you flatter, Ser Loras. You do not mind the Lannister colors?” Her blue eyes sparkled and he looked at them for a moment. “It is indeed gratifying that there is no bad blood between our houses.”
“Crimson and gold are your House colors, if I may be so bold, but not your own. I think you displayed them quite efficiently your first night here.”
“You are indeed bold, Ser Loras.”
“I am a young knight, surrounded by splendor and a city the likes of which I have never seen. My brother is happier than I have seen him since when I was a child. I have every cause to be bold.—I am also surrendering your favor to someone who just learnt you were a Lannister. Before that you were a lady in simple dresses playing with a prince and then dressed in blue whenever she danced. He has, I must confess, mentioned your eyes, wondering if I had any thoughts as to their origin.”
“I have never been told exactly. I understand. And for myself, all that is wanting is my brother Tyrion. If he knows the Tourney is in my Honor, I hope he will be present, but with Tyrion one can never be certain.”
Of course, finding blue was more difficult than she thought. She, Lalie, and Avlinda, who was strangely not missing, poured through all of her drawers until, three hours later, Avlinda found a piece of pale blue and yellow fabric that was from a dress she had worn when she was but fourteen years old. It was long enough to tie around a lance or a shoulder. It was exactly what was needed and the yellow, she thought, made it whimsical.
Feeling a little silly, Breoch stroked it and then set it on her dresser to be remembered for the next week when the Tourney would commence.
Morning meals were taken with family and Cersei sighed as she sat down next to Jaime. “Ned Stark ‘s sigil has been seen,” she reported. At Breoch’s questioning look, she added. “He and Robert grew up together. They’re insufferable when in the same keep.”
It wasn’t until later, when she was sitting in the garden with Lord Willas that she heard the story of Lyanna and Robert. She knew that Rhaegar Targaryen had absconded with her and that it had started the Rebellion, but not the more personal details.
“She must have been very beautiful,” she whispered when Willas finished the tale.
“It’s not about beauty,” he told her as he took her hand. Turning to him, bewildered, she let him continue. “It’s about the way her eyes light up. The eyes tell the truth about a person. I knew you were telling me the truth when you said your name was Lady Breoch. I knew it a lie, to you, when you were forced to call yourself simply ‘Ilse.’ You are Breoch to yourself.”
She laughed. “Blame Jaime.”
“I shall heartily scold him for calling you such a lovely name, but why?”
“That is a story,” she told him sadly, “Lannisters will only tell other Lannisters. If Lyanna had still died but Rhaegar had instead lived, that quest to find her again would be his Breoch.”
“Then you are named for tragedy.”
“I am named for a Sept,” she stated firmly. “Breoch is a place. If you ever go to Lannisport and visit the Rock, you will see it.”
“Perhaps I shall go,” he answered quietly, “if you are there to show me.”
The flowers whispered around them with the wind and with the presence of another. They were surrounded by roses as Willas favored them as they were grown at Highgarden, but now their little hideaway was being breached.
“Here is the lady,” Ser Edmure said with a man the age of her goodbrother Robert.
The man was broad shouldered, his dull brown hair to his shoulders, his eyes gray. He was not an ugly man, but he certainly wasn’t handsome. Honest, she thought. If he were a farmer, he would be honest.
Lord Willas leaned toward her and covered his lips carefully with the placement of his hand. “The Warden of the North.”
“I see we are all gathered but the East,” she greeted, standing and curtseying to the two knights. “We have the North before us, I humbly represent the West, while Lord Willas holds the South. Good ser.”
“Lady Ilse,” Ser Edmure introduced to her annoyance. “May I introduce my sister’s husband, Eddard, Lord Stark of Winterfell?”
She held out her hand, which he took. “I am Lady Ilse Breoch,” she corrected. “Do you find it too hot especially after your long journey, or have you acclimated? I thought I heard from the Queen that you arrived two or three days ago.”
“It is quite warm, yes, Lady Ilse Breoch,” he answered, “and I arrived as you said. I have been visiting with your goodbrother, the King.”
“How do you find him? You fought together, am I correct?”
“We were fostered at the Eyrie,” (she raised an eyebrow in mild interest) “and then, yes, we fought together. Our houses once were to be joined.”
“Well, there are still opportunities,” she suggested, looking at Lord Willas mischievously. “The king has brothers, both unwed. I think any daughters you may have might be a bit young, perhaps more the prince’s age, though he is full young to think of marriage. He is content to practice on his swordplay with my humble self.”
“Women should never—“ Ser Edmure began, but Breoch quelled him with a look.
“If the Queen’s sister,” Lord Willas stated, “wishes to help teach the prince how to parry with practice swords, it is not your place to suggest otherwise, Ser Edmure. I have observed them multiple times and the lady has not been harmed and the prince’s technique has been improved.”
Lord Stark looked uncomfortable. “I am certain Prince Joffrey is appreciative of his aunt’s talents and time.”
At this, Breoch decided to sit again.
“Lady Ilse Breoch,” Ser Edmure said, coming toward her and taking her hand. “Will you present me with your favor at the tourney?”
She stared at him for a moment. “Forgive me, Ser Edmure, but it is already promised to another. I cannot keep you from asking in the lists, but your request will be refused.”
It seemed that Lord Stark did not seem at all surprised. Instead, he stood there, watching the three of them.
Ser Edmure stood there holding her hand. He would not let it go.
“Lady Breoch and I were discussing more of the finer points of the Rebellion,” Lord Willas said, staring at Ser Edmure who fortunately let go of her hand. “She seems to have not to have been an avid student of history.”
“You misrepresent me. Whenever I asked about the Rebellion, Father told me all I needed to know was that my windows should be locked from the inside and that Jaime was involved and he would one day tell me.”
“Have you asked him?” Lord Willas inquired.
“Of course not! Whenever I say something, he seems to lose several gold dragons to my sister. I’ve decided to speak to neither of them for fear of bankrupting one or the other.”
Lord Stark laughed heartily. “Older siblings with a younger sister are alike everywhere in the Seven Kingdoms. Come, Edmure. We are not wanted.”
Breoch and Lord Willas waited until their footsteps could no longer be heard against the grasses. “Tully to Stark. I suppose Tully to Lannister wouldn’t seem much of a stretch.”
“You are sister to the Queen,” Willas reminded her.
“I am that. I have no intention of marrying to Dorne, however. That would be strange, to go from Lannisport to a desert.” A shiver ran down her spine at the thought. “I could not live without water.”
“Blackwater Bay must not hold much appeal. One cannot get to it except through the slums of the city or by jumping off the Keep’s wall.”
“Not even I wish to do that,” she responded. “What can you not live without?”
“Roses,” he told her simply. “May I send you oil I have brought from Highgarden? It smells of roses?”
“You do not care for the fact that I smell of living gold?”
He looked at her in confusion and she took a long braid of her hair and offered it to him to smell. When he did, he gave her a strange look. “It smells of honey.”
“It smells of gold,” she informed him, “found deep in our mines. A rare bee travels into the darkness and we make our soaps from it.” Breoch smiled at him and stood, walking away through the garden, knowing that his eyes were on her.
She was wearing pink when Tyrion came. She was in a tower when she saw him and she came whispering down, meeting him in the small royal receiving room. Running to him, she hugged him close. “Brother!” she greeted.
“I hear you have been wooed.”
“Wooed, Brother. I, wooed? I simply favor some company over others.”
“The some being a future Warden of the South. Are you certain, Sister, you would wish her married to a cripple? He can never leave his chair.”
Cersei looked at him cruelly, “And you are the first to think on that, Little Brother. Our sister is happy. Lord Willas is a full man who simply cannot move his legs below the knees. If I have to do it myself to please you and gain your unneeded and unwanted consent, I’ll have an architect make him braces and crutches so he can stand well enough on his own. Then he might be laughed at when now he is admired for his feats of bravery.—When have you ever completed a brave act, Brother?” The two looked at each other. “Come, Bree. You and Tyrion may speak at the feast. I am not fully resigned to the favor you have chosen.”
It was a precept, they both knew. Breoch had shown it to Cersei, who had declared it right and good if it reminded Lord Willas of her eyes. “A woman must always use her natural beauty. Men have their lances and their horses, when we have but poetry and long glances.”
The night before the Tourney was the first time she danced with Ser Loras. He was in his green silk and, for the first time, she was wearing a simple red with small stitching around the edges of gold. “A Lady Lannister,” he commented. “A Lady born in a Sept, I am told.”
“I am certain there are often children born in such places,” she quipped as they spun around each other. “It is just not of such importance. They are not named for such places.”
“Was your mother religious?”
Breoch was unused to being asked such a question. “Come. Tonight is for frivolity. I may pray to the Mother, tonight, but those involve the secrets of my heart and not of my earthly mother. If we must talk of mothers—“
“I would ask as to your interest.”
“Need I have one? You had none.”
“I did. I wished to learn something about you before my brother and tease him with it all night as I doubt I can sleep. Perhaps I shall find activity elsewhere.” His eyes flashed over to the young men who were to joust on the next day.
“Perhaps you shall,” she agreed, “and we shall not speak of mothers. It can be such a dreadful subject.”
He leaned close to her. “Willas murmured something about Ser Edmure.”
“I see,” she agreed, not turning her head so as not to be obvious. “Give me to my brother Jaime. Is he available?”
“He will be for this,” Ser Loras promised before bowing and taking her to Ser Jaime.
“Your sister, as promised,” Ser Loras said, his eyes flashing.
“But of course,” Jaime agreed. “Have you danced enough, Bree?”
“Not quite. I would like to take a breath of air, if I may, and I know not the way.” They both knew this to be false. He took her hand, nodded to Ser Loras, and led her to one of the balconies. “I’m avoiding Ser Edmure. I wish he would leave.”
“His father, it is said, told him to find a wealthy bride.”
“Truly?” she asked. “Well, Father would never agree to it. I thought my fondness for Lord Willas’s company was no secret.”
He laughed, looking at her. “It is not. However, everyone supposes that you have some unknown intended who is allowing this friendship. They see it as a crack in your intended’s fastidiousness. They think your hand can still be won.”
She laughed. “All this from a silly comment Cersei made at a tourney ten years ago. I often wish I had been older, so I could have held her confidence as she did mine. I never knew who held her heart.”
“She will tell you, Sweet Sister,” Jaime promised. “She is letting you enjoy your life for the first time. Cersei understands that you might be falling in love.”
“How can I be falling in love?” she whispered desperately. “I have never seen it. I never saw Father with Lady Joanna. Cersei—well—and You—Did Tyrion have a wife?”
His jaw hardened. “She was a woman of ill repute. The Seven granted an annulment.”
“I am sorry. That must have been difficult.”
“It was,” he agreed. “Tyrion has not been happy since.”
“He has not been happy since I’ve known him and he was eight when I was born.”
“Thirteen when he was married,” Jaime confided. “Now, Bree. This ball is for you. Shall I deposit you with our favorite scholar? Promise me, if this match does strangely come about, that you will send me a new hunter for my namesday.”
“You may only hunt when the king does and the king does not like you.”
He leaned forward. “Sometimes he banishes me for weeks on end. Then I may do all the hunting, I desire, Lady Sister.”
The two smiled at each other and they walked back in, a vision of white and crimson red, blood and innocence strangely reversed.