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Return to the Breoch Cycle
The boy was small with dirty blond hair and big ears. “Hello, Edric,” Breoch said as she bent near him. They were near the kitchens, which were busy with the deer and boar from the recent hunt that had been brought down to Storm’s End. “I’m your Aunt Breoch.”
“I don’t have an aunt,” he said childishly.
She smiled at him. “Well,” Breoch said, taking his hand carefully. “I’m marrying your uncle this week. That will make me your aunt and I’m to take care of you.”
“Uncle Renly?” he asked. “He never comes here.”
Biting her lip, she shook her head. “Uncle Stannis of Dragonstone?” she tried. “Have you heard of him?” She looked into his watery eyes and smiled again. She’d come across the child, quite by accident, and had to be told who he was. He was in fair clothing, but nothing worthy for even the bastard of a king. She’d have to see to that, she thought. Perhaps he could do very well as a knight and later bannerman.
She didn’t hear Stannis come up behind her. “Joffrey wants you in your dress again. Something about Westron styles.”
Glancing over her shoulder, she smiled. “Edric, this is Uncle Stannis.” Her blue eyes glistened at him, sending him a clear message. “I was going to send Aalis later to find his best tunic for the wedding. I know he’ll be near the back, but he should look his best. He is a future knight of Storm’s End, don’t you think?”
Stannis gave her a long look and nodded. “Of course, my love.” He knelt down. “Edric, you have to be quiet while the King is here, but afterwards, we’ll make sure everything is sorted for you. A tutor, perhaps in a year or so?” Looking at Breoch for confirmation, he gave her a slight upturn of his lips when she nodded. They both knew that this could have been her fate.
“Cersei should not see him.”
“No,” he agreed, kissing her forehead. “Now, go. The prince demands your presence and I am looking forward to seeing Westron styles.”
“It was for my Name’s Day next month,” she told him. “This takes precedence, as does the color gold.” She kissed him softly before she wandered her way through the halls, trying to find her guest chambers. It was a beautiful keep and she knew it wouldn’t take long for her to memorize it.
It was several hours later, when Cersei and Lalie were deciding on her hair for the wedding, when her sister said, “I heard you were with that urchin.”
Breoch paused. “Forgive me, Cersei. He’s under my charge now. I cannot help but think what might have happened to me if Father had not loved me.”
She brushed a piece of lace aside. “Robert comes here once a year to visit the boy. He shows him more attention than Joffrey.”
“I could never be accused of that!” she exclaimed. “I love the prince. I was hoping you would let him visit for a few months a year. I’ll keep Edric sequestered. He will want for nothing, and Joffrey will be treated with all the adoration and affection I have always given him.”
“And when you have your own sons?”
“It could only be good for Joffrey,” she determined. “He has Tommen and Myrcella, of course. However, little cousins can help him mature just as well. Family ties can only help him grow as a future knight and King.” She turned. “Think of it, Cersei. Little lions together.”
“Stags, you mean.” Cersei rolled her eyes.
“Joffrey has all the potential of being a great lion,” Breoch stated. “He has little of Robert in him. I don’t know of my own children, but they will be half lion. Perhaps they will be golden haired like me. Did you know the creature who mothered me had auburn hair?”
“How would you know?” Cersei declared. “Father would never have said anything. I was too young to remember or know. Jaime and I only remember your eyes. We were never permitted in Breoch when she was there and if she had been, her hair would have been covered.”
She paused. “She went to Dragonstone and told Stannis several years ago. He—silenced her so she could never hurt me before he even knew exactly who I was.—Cersei, you can never tell Father.”
Cersei wasn’t listening, playing with the lace.
“Yes,” her sister said. “Of course.—I think ringlets in a twist so that the cloak is shown off. And the ringlets will look more enchanting than the braids, I think. Braids are more the style of the Capital and with the dress as it is—ringlets, I think. We want to make you look—foreign.” She smiled. “Exotic. I also heard you had Targaryen jewelry. Let’s let the Stormlands know that they have a Lioness that is to be coveted.”
“Oh, Cersei,” she said, kissing her cheek. “I’m sorry about Highgarden.”
“No,” she said, pushing her hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry about what happened. I did not know he would ever do something so horrible. My darling little sister. You know, I think you are Mother’s gift to us from beyond the grave. It’s strange, I know, but it’s what I truly believe.”
Tears forming in her eyes, Breoch embraced her sister.
The night before the wedding, Tywin allowed Stannis to walk her to her door, with the express orders that he take her directly to them and “I would know if you don’t.” Clearly, Aalis would speak to him. Her great-uncle was one of his bannermen.
The hallway was lined with torches and soon the stone walls gave way to arches with hidden corners. Stannis’s arm was around her waist, the other’s fingers entwined with her own, when he pulled her toward one of the arches. She was about to exclaim when they suddenly stopped. Looking up, she stared in surprise.
There was Renly in pale silver and between him and the wall was long black hair and Highgarden green. She would know that color anywhere. She would know that ring anywhere. Breoch had particularly noticed it when the hand had passed her roses at her Tourney.
Looking up at Stannis in horror, she quickly exited the arch to the sound of Stannis right behind her. “Stannis?” Renly’s voice rang out, and now several people were moving behind her. When she reached her hallway, she leaned up against the wall and took a breath, and she felt Stannis’s hand against her own.
“You cannot tell—“ he began, and she nodded before moving on. “It’s the night before my wedding,” she heard Stannis hiss. “Couldn’t you control yourself? You’ve shocked Lady Ilse Breoch!”
“What were you doing playing the lover?” she heard Renly demand, but she was whispering inside her room instead.
“Send for Father, and be discrete,” she ordered Aalis immediately, touching her hand gently. “He’s in the hall.”
Pacing the room back and forth, she allowed Lalie to undress her as she moved until she was in her corset and shift. When there was a knock on the door, a dressing gown was thrown over her shoulders, and Lord Tywin was quickly let in.
“I swore not to say who,” she quickly stated. “But two men—“ Her eyes were wide. “I just wanted a moment alone with Stannis and they were there. What is going on? I left to a full out argument, albeit one in whispers. Stannis was quite put out that the night before my wedding had been ruined.”
“He should be,” Tywin answered, sitting her down on a small couch. “And I think I know who he was fighting with. A relative perhaps?”
The two looked at each other.
“It is well guessed at in the Capital. I may no longer be Hand of the King, but there was much speculation as to why Ser Renly wanted nothing but his place at Court.”
“By the Seven,” she murmured. “Why would two men?”
“One can only speculate,” Lord Tywin told his youngest child. “I’ve never pondered the issue at great length. I would recommend the same. Then again, I am not like most men. I do not have unusual appetites unlike Tyrion or the King, I have only ever desired your stepmother. Unlike Lord Renly, I have only desired a woman, though his affliction is unusual. I think I may safely say that your future husband does not share that affliction if he was going against my express wishes and taking you through one of the archways, which is what I assume. He has no obligation to you except in the marriage bed. You seem to have truly made a love match.”
“I heard his voice before I saw him,” she told her father, remembering. “He knocked on my door after midnight before the Tourney. I came to the door in my nightgown and saw only darkness. He demanded my favor. When I told him it was given, he demanded I give him another. And his voice, the sternness, the harnessed passion, the face that was not handsome but commanded respect, made me wake early and search my drawers for that piece of black material that he now wears beside his heart. I saw it the morning he was invested with his titles. There it was, shimmering through the gold.”
“You fell in love through a favor,” he laughed. “That is a truly romantic story to tell your little nephew Edric and the children you will bear Lord Stannis.”
“How did you know you loved Stepmother Joanna?”
Tywin smiled sadly. “I’d known her, barely, since we were children. She was my third cousin, I believe. Her father, Ser James, was visiting Casterly Rock, and she was walking in the gardens. She was in almost all white because of the heat. She had taken off her slippers and had pulled up her dress to almost her knees. Her high collar had been unlaced to her collarbone and her sleeves were rolled up. She looked like a common gypsy playing at refinement, and then she looked at me with a playful fierceness, and said, ‘Judge me, Cousin, if you dare.’ In that moment, I knew that I would marry her.”
“I often wish I could have known her, though, of course, I would not have been born.” She sighed. “I’m glad I seem to favor the Lannisters.”
“The Seven were good,” he responded.
There was a knock on the door and a knight was on the other side with a piece of parchment. It was handed to Lord Tywin who smiled. “Your future Lord wishes to know if you are well and if you require anything for your comfort.”
“Lalie,” she murmured, “tell Ser Knight that I am happily speaking with my father and I believe that I will sleep well, and that I shall see Lord Stannis at the bondler.”
When they were alone again, Tywin asked, “Do you really want that child who scampers about?”
“I didn’t think I would, but I do,” she told him. “I was upset when Lord Willas told me about his children, but this one does not belong to Stannis. This one was meant to hurt my sister. I won’t let Robert get away with it. I will make him a credit to the House Baratheon, although he is a Storm. He and Joffrey can serve as examples to my children.”
“Joffrey will miss you,” Tywin said, standing. “Now, you must go to bed. I know you won’t sleep, but you must at least attempt it.”
She didn’t bother to change. Instead she got into bed in her corset and shift, her hair still in braids. The next morning, she knew her hair would be in waves, but that could only be good for her curls.
It took an aching four hours to prepare her, Cersei applying cream to beneath her eyes to hide that she had been too excited to sleep that much. Trying to coach her words carefully, she asked, “Will you tell me of that great love you mentioned to me once?”
A grin passed across Cersei’s lips. “I think that is for later. It is not a sweet love of a maiden. Next time we meet, sister, I will tell you everything over tea and I will quite shock you. Then again, perhaps you will shock me.”
“Perhaps I will,” she stated. “Did you know there is honey here that they turn into scent? It is not true gold, but I quite like the smell. I will start using it in a month or so, saving mine for special occasions.”
Cersei smiled again. “An excellent thought. I had not thought such of the Stormlands.”
When her ringlets where arranged in a complicated circlet on her head, dragonstone placed on her brow and incorporated into it so that it would fit on her head, Breoch was placed into her dress. Cersei undid the high collar, pinning it back, so the dragonstone necklace could be seen, and the earrings were put in her ears. The cloak was heavier than Breoch had expected. She knew it was the one that Cersei had worn, the one that Lady Joanna had as well. It was now her turn. Who would wear it next was a mystery to her. Jaime would probably never marry and Tyrion had been cast out.
Cersei kissed her cheek before she went to take her place in the front row and Breoch turned to Tywin, who held out his hand to her. They shared a smile, and then slowly he walked her up the aisle, showing her off to the assembled noblemen and bannermen. When they reached the bottom of the Sept steps, he kissed her cheek and released her. She picked up her flat skirts that were so unlike the Capital’s full skirts, and climbed the stairs until she reached a proud looking Stannis. When she reached him, she looked into his strange blue eyes, and gave her hand to him. She felt a ring being placed on her hand and she looked down to see a small ring with a diamond-shaped piece of dragonstone in it. Smiling at him, she saw it reflected back at her, and they turned to the Septum, waiting for the ceremony.
When her cloak was removed and handed back to Lord Tywin, she took a deep breath from the weight that was lifted, and then a new cloak was fastened to her gown. Applause sounded from around them, and when Stannis leaned down to kiss her, she slid her hands up his chest until they were clasped around the back of his neck. When they pulled away, he was genuinely smiling for the first time since she had first met him.
“Happy?” she whispered.
“Your favor is still at my heart.” It was the perfect answer.
They were escorted to the Lord’s rooms, Stannis refusing to allow his bride to be undressed before the company. He swept her over the threshold in his arms. The room was dark gold with black edges and she laughed. When he set her down, he kissed her, holding her jaw gently with both his hands.
“I am the only Lady Baratheon,” she laughed as she pulled away. Breoch then pushed him on the bed. She stood back and took her earrings out and placed them on some surface she didn’t care to inspect. Seeing the heat in his eyes, she smiled teasingly at him. Next, she reached back and carefully undid her hair. It took her several minutes and when she reached for the final pin, she turned so he could watch the ringlets fall down her back over his cloak.
She hadn’t even realized, he was behind her, kissing her exposed neck, unclasping her cloak from her dress. “You look every inch the blushing bride,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Do I?” she asked, “even in Westron clothes?”
“Especially in them.” His hands reached forward, cupping her breasts slightly before he began undoing the ribbons on her dress that had been gold but had been replaced with black at the last moment. He seemed startled that they stopped on the waist.
“You take it off,” she told him as she turned toward him for a kiss. “There’s an underskirt, just as red, with just as many Lannister lions.”
“How different,” he commented. “I have seen the seamstresses at work and Capital dresses are made differently.”
“Quite,” she answered, capturing his lips in a sultry kiss and then she was being lifted into his arms again. “Not yet,” she told him carefully, placing a finger on his lips.
Setting her down, he helped her step out of her underskirt and she sat, lifting her shift up so he could see her stocking, which she rolled down slowly for him. When she went to unroll the second, he quickly but gently took the second and did it himself, kissing the bare skin. Her slippers had been placed somewhere.
She was left in her shift, corset, and dragonstone necklace and headdress.
“I have no knowledge of men’s clothing,” she told him truly, “and I have little interest in it tonight.” Her blue eyes, as sharp as the sea, flashed at him. She sat back on the bed and casually watched him take off his breast jacket, his tunic, and hose. He was left in his britches, and when he came toward her, she welcomed his kisses as he settled him on top of her. Her favor was placed beneath a pillow, near them, reminding them, and the thought made her smile.
Remembering a certain type of parry, she hooked her leg over his and pushed him onto his back, letting her curls fall as a veil between them and the outside world. They looked at each other, and he reached forward to caress her cheek. “Lioness.”
“Don’t forget it,” she murmured, kissing him. Her fingers traced down his sides, feeling the scars there. “Are there stories?”
“For later,” he promised, and she accepted the answer.
She kissed his shoulder above one. “My brave husband. He did win a Tourney with my favor and crowned me queen.”
“I crowned you again for our wedding—“ But she didn’t let him speak again as she raked her nails across his chest lightly.
Gasping, his head stretched backward, exposing his neck. Then he surprised her by pushing her up so that she was sitting in his lap. They still weren’t quite eye to eye, but they were nearly of the same height.
“Have I ever remarked on how tall you are husband?” she asked.
“Never,” he told her, kissing her gently.
They didn’t speak for the rest of the night.
When she awoke the next morning, her corset was thrown across the room and his britches were—somewhere. She was sore, but Stannis’s arms were around her and she didn’t want to move. Then she noticed that she was wet—but she shouldn’t be. In a fortnight perhaps, but not now. Carefully disengaging herself, she drew back the covers and saw that her shift was stained red. She stared in confusion.
Stannis woke, perhaps from the sudden rush of cold, and looked at her.
“I—“ she stated. “It’s too soon.” When she realized he was looking at her, she quickly covered herself quickly. “I am sorry, Stannis. I would have withdrawn if I had known. I would have rescheduled.” Breoch was truly perplexed.
Stannis was smiling. “No one told you, Bree, did they?”
“Told me what?”
“It’s your maidenhead. You bleed when your husband first takes you to his bed. It is a point of pride, my love.”
“Cersei should have told you as your mother is no longer in the Seven Kingdoms.”
She nodded. “I—it—hmm. But we—several times. I did not notice. Does it take several times?”
“Just once. Our passion was great.” He kissed her deeply and she leaned into him, desperate for him again. She left scratches on his back, not quite drawing blood, as they made love again.
It wasn’t until Stannis closed the drapes to the bed and perhaps got dressed that food was brought in and he demanded a nightdress and a robe for his bride along with a bath for her later.
“In her ladyship’s rooms?” she heard a valet ask.
“No,” Stannis stated. “These are her rooms. She will bathe here behind a privacy screen. Have her favorite handmaiden come when it is time. I will leave for an outer chamber.”
They ate boar and cheeses before she was washed for the day, evening really, and she entered the great hall in her pink gown in the style of the Capital. Her hair was left in braids, the dragonstone upon her person, and Stannis looked proud as he escorted her into their hall.
Joffrey kissed her hand as she sat down in her place as Lady of the Keep, Cersei by her side, the two sisters whispering together about Baratheon men, although they each had had very different experiences. Breoch barely took part in the dancing as she was still sore, but everyone seemed to understand and it was with much fanfare that she was escorted back to the Lord’s chambers.
That night her ladies were there to undress her and prepare her for bed behind a screen, while the same went for Stannis, and Breoch kissed him sweetly as she led him to the bed. Their lovemaking was slow and gentle, and she fell asleep easily in his arms, still tired from the night previous.
The next morning she had tea with her family, wearing her first dress in black and gold that had been a gift from Renly on behalf of her wedding. “I can see that he treats you right, sister,” Jaime said with pride, wearing a red tunic. “I would stand for nothing less.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “I daresay I am very happy although it’s been less than two days.”
“Well,” Cersei said, “Joffrey demands weekly ravens, and I hope I will not be forgotten, despite my misguided belief in knowing who would suit you. When you are with child, I would like to be of use to you. It can be tiring and only another woman can truly understand.”
“Thank you,” Breoch responded. “I hope I have a few months of marital felicity before that.” She sighed happily.
“Ah, yes,” Tywin remarked. “You sound like Joanna just after our marriage, and far into it, if I am truthful. I am glad I could give that to at least one of my daughters.”
“Father,” Cersei stated. “I am Queen, and I have my three beloved children. I would not wish them away for anything.”
Jaime looked at her with an emotion that Breoch could almost read and it frightened her. She glanced at Tywin who seemed to be looking at the two of them as well. He glanced at his youngest and his eyes told her to hold her council and she nodded. She did not know what she quite knew, but she would not speak about it, not even to Stannis.
When the Royal Party left not even three days later, Breoch and Stannis stood on the ramparts, waving goodbye. Little Edric was hiding in the shadows and as soon as the line of knights, lords, and the King was far enough away, Breoch grabbed him and twirled him about. “Now,” she told the child. “You must show me your room. Do you have a knight to play with?”
He shook his head.
“Well, your Uncle Stannis and I must change that,” she decided quite firmly, looking at her husband with a smile. “Come, you must show me,” and the two were quickly away.
Stannis watched them go, perhaps hoping their own family would soon follow.