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Those Deemed Worthy

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“I’m leaving.” She repeated, her words firm.

“Leaving?” Jaime looked bemused.  

Brienne attempted get out of the bed, her skin brushing against his, sweat on sweat, a reminder of what they had done.

He clasped his fingers around her arm, halting her escape.

She opened her mouth to protest.

“No,” Jaime said. His eyes had become dark.

A startling crash came from the door splintering it off the hinges, four guards’ swords drawn smashed through. The table was upset and her new book flew to the floor scattering the cherries she purchased across the room.

Jaime was up quicker than she, as naked as his name day.

Brienne grasped the thin sheet and covered herself, her eyes darting to the foot of the bed where Oathkeeper lay.

“Do not move,” a large man with a scarred face ordered, his common tongue thick with the Myrish accent.

Three swords drawn on his command, pointed at their bare flesh.

“Get dressed and follow me,” the leader barked.

Jaime’s eyes flitted to hers briefly. They silently commanded her... do nothing, say nothing...

“Allow the lady some privacy,” Jaime said as he pulled on his breeches.

The captain ignored Jaime’s request and spoke to his men.  Seemingly on his order one of the guards gathered their weapons.  He unsheathed Oathkeeper and whistled as he inspected the blade. Brienne clenched her fist and willed herself not to move.

One of the guards bound Jaime with a rope, wrapping his arms tightly to his torso. With a shove they pushed him through the door.

“You may dress,” said their captain before leaving her alone in the room. From outside the door she heard him give command to his men. "Watch her."

The lack of a door and a guard watching, offered her scant privacy. Brienne scrambled into her clothes. Taking advantage of the guard's one quick glance away, she grabbed the dagger kept beneath the mattress. She slipped it in at her waist, hiding the weapon within the folds of her tunic.

Once out of the room a guard grabbed her roughly and pushed her down towards the common hall.

The usual busy room was cleared except for the captain, his guards and Jaime.  He must have angered one of them because his lip was busted open and bleeding into his beard.

“Sit,” the captain commanded, motioning her to the chair across from Jaime. Brienne did as she was asked. In silence they stared at each other. Waiting.

The door to the inn opened. A slice of sunlight stretched across the floor, quickly blocked out by another guard and a woman trailing behind.

“Well?” the captain asked.

“That’s them.” Sweet Sherry nodded.

The captain placed a small purse in to her palm, and she was escorted back the way she had come.

“I’ve been searching for you for some time now.  You’ve killed many important men in this city. Rich men with powerful families, all crying for your blood. Demanding it! You’ve made my life very difficult. What are your names?” the captain asked.

Jaime stared at her and said nothing.  The captain said a few words to one of the guards.  One slammed his  fist into Jaime’s jaw with a meaty thud. Jaime shook his head. The captain motioned for his soldier to hit him again.

“Stop!” Brienne shouted.

“Don’t.” Jaime gave her a warning look as he spat blood to the floor.

“He is Jaime Lannister,” Brienne said firmly.

Jaime sighed.

The guards looked at each other, the name ‘Lannister’ breaking the barriers of their language.  The captain squinted his eyes at Jaime. “Is this true?”

Brienne exhaled, relieved. The tone in the captain’s voice gave her hope.

Jaime glared at Brienne.  She ignored his anger and continued, “Look at his arm! It is he.”

The man took but a moment to consider before answering, “do you realize how many fair-haired cripples I arrest that claim to be the Kingslayer all in the hopes of dodging a sentence? This proves nothing! Take him to the cells!”

“No! He is Jaime Lannister! The Queen’s brother!”

Jaime hissed at her, “Shut up.”

“We do not have a queen in Myr.  I said take him away!” the captain shouted.

Brienne panicked as they began to drag Jaime out of the room “Please he is who I say! His sister will pay a fortune for his return!” A guard silenced her with a  smack across her mouth.

Jaime pulled away from the guards, only to be tripped and thrown to the ground. One placed his boot on Jaime's temple. “If you harm her, I promise you will see not see one gold coin.”

 “And who is she to you?”

Brienne froze, dread crawling up her throat.

Jaime looked at her dismissively, “Noting. A whore I met on the docks back at Kings Landing.”

The captain laughed.

“I was very drunk,” Jaime explained. “She’s an innocent. Let her be.”

The captain appraised Brienne, “No. I think not.” He grinned.  “What paying man cares if a whore requires privacy to dress? I do not believe she’s your whore.”  

“She is.”

The Captain raised his eyebrow. “Well, what is one less whore in Myr?”

With another command one of the guards drew his short sword and took three quick strides toward her.

Jaime yelled, “Stop!”

Brienne smashed the back of her head into the guard holding her; a gush of blood spewed across the wood. She grabbed the dagger from her waist and spun the injured man in front of her, using him as a shield.  She held the blade to his throat.

“Let him go, or I will kill this man,” Brienne demanded.

Of them all the captain was the first to regain his senses, “So be it. Kill him, I’ve plenty more men.”

Brienne felt defeated.

“What is it you want?” Jaime asked from the floor. He was still pinned, a knee now pressed to his back. “If you are who you say you are… I want enough gold to get me away from this city and those rich fucks who are demanding your head.”

“Done.” Jaime responded. “Now let us go.”

“I’ll let you go, but her…” the captain pointed to Brienne. “Her, I keep. If I do not hear from you in a moon turn… well.” The captain dragged his fingers across his throat and shrugged.

Brienne pushed the guard she was holding away from her and dropped the dagger to the floor. “Jaime, go.”

“Let’s find this man a boat,” the captain said with a smile.

Brienne gave a relieved breath as she watched Jaime being dragged away.

 

When she awoke her temples throbbed like dull thunder. Her breathing was uneasy and a hood had been thrown over her head. Her mouth was dry, and her shoulders felt tight from having her hands bound behind her back.

Jaime…

She manoeuvred herself up as best she could, sitting on the cold ground she listened, for voices or the sounds of others. It felt like hours had passed before she heard the scuffling of feet. One man's stride and the clanking of a key ring.

A door was unlocked and something was slid across the floor, landing at her leg, a cold splash upon her knee. The smell made her stomach clench. Food.

The hood was ripped away from her head.

Brienne blinked against the guards lantern light.

The Captain muttered, "eat.”

“How am I to eat with my hands tied?” She croaked.  

The Captain held a small wooden cup in his hand.  Without word he set it down and locked the door behind him.

Brienne left the bowl resting at her leg and wobbled on her knees over to the water. She bent forward and lifted the cup with her mouth, slowing tilting her head back... she did nothing more than force water up her nose and down her chin. A few cruel unsatisfying drops landed upon her tongue.

She was able to eat from the small bowl of gruel left for her. On her knees and lapping like a dog.  A watery stew of some kind, its chunks of salted meat were scarce, but she managed.  It was a delicacy compared to what they subsisted on in the north.

Sitting back against the stone wall she willed the throbbing in her head away. There was not much to observe in the cramped dark cell.  The only light coming from a single torch on the wall outside, a feeble light that was dimming.

Brienne lay on her side, trying to find a comfortable position on the dusty hay.  She wondered how long she’d been out.  She imagined Jaime on a boat, his cloak blowing in the breeze as he headed back to Westeros.  She closed her eyes and slept.

Brienne woke with a start.  Something had run across her hair and face.  

She rolled up to a seated position, sweating; the air felt still and thick.

A voice spoke to her from her left. Brienne jumped.

“If I take those binds off your wrists.  Will you behave?”

It was the captain.

Brienne nodded.

As he sliced at the ropes, she thought of a dozen ways to take him down, but as her binds fell away, instead she rubbed at the chaffed skin of her wrists.

“I’ve brought some more food and water.” He gestured to a tray which held water and the same gruel she’d had before.

"Thank-you." Brienne reached for the cup, bringing it to her lips she sipped slowly. The dryness of her throat abated, still without spoon she slurped at the thick porridge. She wondered if Jaime had made it to shore by now.  Where would he go?  His sister...

The visits from the captain became regular. It was difficult to determine alone in the dark, but she thought he visited her once or twice a day.  His short visits were the only interruption to her solitude. There had not been a sound from the corridors or the other cells. Brienne had never been one to seek the company of others, and she thought perhaps it served her well, but the hours spent in the dark were starting to wear.

“Do you know where you are?” The captain asked on one occasion.

A dungeon. Brienne shook her head.

“Not many even know this level exists.” The man ceased speaking while she finished her food, her dirty fingers pressing hard bread over her lips and into her mouth.

“I wonder what is it about you the Kingslayer sees. When I threatened your life he looked as though he wanted to tear my throat out. What hidden charms do you possess?”

Brienne’s muscles tensed.

“Or perhaps I've been made the fool and he is not coming back! And that thought... well..." The captain stared at her coldly.

Brienne chewed her bread and braced herself for a fight.

The captain smirked, "He has three more days. If he does not return in that time, you go to trial.”

“Trial?” Brienne finally spoke.  

“For your crimes. The murders.”

“Why not simply kill me?”

“Because the Kingslayer has severely angered me.  Here, the guilty suffer the fate determined by the victim's family.  I once saw a trial where two thieves were found guilty. One had to eat all the coins from a large purse while the other cut his middle open.  If he found all the coins, he was free to go.  They tossed a coin to see who would be fed, and who would hold the blade.  That was one of the tamer punishments".

Brienne did not flinch.

The man laughed. He left, taking his torch and the light with him.

 

The North had been harsh.  There were few men who survived the march south with all their fingers, noses, and toes intact. They slept in caverns dug into the snow.  Storms howling above them, burying them deeper and deeper.  It was common to sleep closely together, an almost futile attempt to keep from freezing in the night.  Jaime would lay beside her, head down into her shoulder, or hers into his.  She'd listen to his breathing slow as he drifted to sleep.  Once she dreamt she could feel his cold finger brushing against her cheek.  Some men would  go mad during those nights, stripping their clothes and running into the storm.  Once another had cut his wrists open, his blood had hardened into ice, slightly curved by the wind.

"Prepare him, then we keep moving," Jaime ordered.

She awoke hungry again. The mealy stew did little but ebb the raw ache of hunger gnawing at her guts.  It had been far too long since the captain had visited. Another rat scurried across the floor running through her hair. She slammed her fist upon it. Satisfied it was dead she drained its blood into a bowl and ate the meat.  

Still better than the north... She reminded herself. To live through that only to die here in this hole?

A  bitter ache in her throat throbbed as she fought away tears. If I was dead, he would stay away.

She fell back asleep, her dreams turned to Jaime the night of their arrest. His mouth at her throat, exhaling into her hair as he thrust into her, his fingers gripping at her naked thigh as he moaned her name. Brienne... Oh fucking gods, Brienne...

She awoke suddenly, eyes wide in the black cell.

She could hear keys jingling with each step.

She spilled the blood and it spread across the floor.

“Food.”

She did not move.

“Up!”

The captain cursed and fumbled with the keys at the door, unlocking her cell.

She could sense him crouching beside her, opening one eye slightly she watched his fingers dip into the rat’s blood.

Brienne drove her elbow into his guts as she pushed up from the floor, cracking her knee against his face as he bent over trying to gain his breath. Knowing he’d go for his dagger, she reached for his arm.  He screamed furiously at her, his mouth collecting the blood from his broken nose.  Brienne wrestled with him, holding his forearm, keeping the blade away.  She felt weak.

I’ve waited too long.

She clung on to his arm, her vision darkening, giving her head a shake she used what strength she had left and brought her knee up into his groin.  The guard collapsed with a groan of pain. He dropped his dagger to the floor.  Both scrambled for it, but Brienne reached it first. She flipped to her back, straight armed she braced herself as she felt his weight fall upon it.  

His eyes widened in shock.

“You bitch.”

Brienne pulled the dagger free, holding him by the shoulders she ran the blade across his throat. His arms flailed as he gurgled and died.  She lay there weak from the fight.  The captain's blood trickled out on her neck. Warm.

She shoved the man aside with grunt.

She grabbed the captains keys and his dagger, then proceeded to undress him.  

The worn linen was stained. She cursed at herself for being so careless with letting the blood spill so freely.  

Armed with his weapon, she gripped it in her right hand tightly, bracing herself against the wall of her cell briefly before moving beyond the door.  

She had never heard a sound from another, not a cough, or scuff of boot on stone.  She was certain it was her who dwelled on this floor alone.  Eyeing the stairs at the end of the hall, she moved slowly.  

She stood at the stairs and listened, the steps curved upwards, a single torch flickered - yet it was enough to cause her to squint at its light.  Slowly she climbed the spiral.  At the top was a gate of bars, and beyond it a long tunnel.  As quietly as she could she tried several keys before happening upon the correct one. The gate gave a painfully loud squeaking protest as she pushed it open.  She stopped still as the sound of men's voices echoed faintly from down the hall.  Brienne closed the gate and rushed to an alcove carved into the stone.  Once the voices disappeared, she proceeded in her escape.

She stumbled and a moment of faintness threatened to pull her from her senses.  Gripping one of the cell doors she leaned against it, hoping for the dizziness to pass.  A hand grabbed hers, startling her into a shock that made her heart thunder.

The man inside stared at her with wide eyes; he opened his mouth to speak, what came out was a garbled mess of noise.  His tongue had been removed.  Brienne pulled free of his grasp.  The prisoner screeched furiously.

"Stop!" Brienne pleaded "Please! Be quiet. I will free you! Stop!"  The man continued to wail.

She contemplated searching for the key that would open his cell - to get inside and silence him.

The thought was brief, as two guards rounded the corner.  They shouted at her in words she couldn’t understand.  Knowing her disguise was as weak as her legs she braced herself for a fight.  She collapsed to her knees before they reached her.  The sounds of the prisoners hooting faded as she fell to the floor.

 

Not dead.  Brienne thought as she blinked her eyes open. She was in another cell, one with a small window no larger than her hand. Her unbound hands felt the rough spun fabric she was now dressed in. In the room was a small bowl of food.  It was the same grey slop the captain had brought her.

"She is awake." a woman called out from beyond her cell door. She yelled again in the low Valyrian of Myr.

The familiar sound of keys at a gaoler’s belt came briskly down the hall.  Two figures stepped inside.

A pale wispy woman asked, "Who are you?"

Brienne played with the idea of giving a false name, to feign ignorance, to take the beating or torture that was to come for being difficult.  Instead she answered, "Brienne of Tarth. Daughter and heir to Lord Selwyn Tarth."

The woman repeated her words to the guard. After an exchange between them, the woman turned to her again. "How did you come to be in this prison?"

"I was taken prisoner by a guard.  I don't know his name."

The man sneered as she translated.

"You killed him?" the woman asked.

"I did."

"Why did he bring you here? What are your crimes?"

"My crimes are many." She said bitterly.

She told them everything.  The assassinations, the coin she received for it, and her capture at the inn.

As the woman recounted her tale to the guard his glowering face turned to a pleased smile.  He was sure to be rewarded greatly for her capture.

“You acted alone in all this?” the woman asked.

“I did.”

“He doesn’t believe you.”

Brienne moved quicker than she had any right to be able to.  She disarmed the guard, pushed him against the wall, his own blade at his back.  She dropped the sword to the floor and backed away from him.

“I did.” she reaffirmed.

 

The following day the same pale woman came to wash her and comb her hair.

Brienne wrapped her arms around herself, but did not protest. She sat on the small bench while the woman poured it over her, letting it splash down to the floor. The water was cool, and her flesh welcomed the feel of the dirt and blood being washed away. The woman scrubbed her with a cloth before dousing her once more.  The woman did not attempt to exchange words.  And for that Brienne was grateful. When finished with her chore the woman tossed a clean shift on the hay before leaving.

Alone again, Brienne went to the window her eyes feasting on the colours of the sun setting in the west. She watched the golden swirls of cloud change to pink, then red.  She tried not to think of what torture would be devised as her punishment for the deaths of all those men.  Instead she tried to be satisfied that Jaime would be safe.

 

In the morning she had no appetite for the food that was brought.  There was an uneasy stillness in the cells.

The only time there came a startling interruption to the quiet was when a man was dragged out of his cell by the guards.  He screamed and yelled what Brienne assumed was his innocence.  She wondered if there was anyone who would hear or understand her words.  

Innocence was not something should could claim.  

When two large guards came she knew she could have taken them both when she had been first brought to this place.  Now weak limbed and weary she allowed herself to be dragged down the corridor to her trial.

Up more stairs, down another hall, and up another set of stairs again, the men pushed open a door to a startling rabble of shouts, jeers and hisses.  Men and some women sat and stood along the walls of the court.  Most of them were attired in fine clothing and jewels.  Brienne felt like a child at Evenfall Hall again, too many eyes were on her.  With a push she was made to stand on a dais at the center of the court.  She wondered how beastly she must have appeared, covered in flea bites, sunken-eyed, and matted hair.  A brief moment of faintness threatened to take her again - she braced herself grasping at the wooden railing that encircled her,  her chains clanking.

Words were spoken, the high merchants of the city taking their turn to yell, spit, and rage at her.  The women who sobbed were the worst. Brienne felt the guilt like a nail being hammered into her.

One man in the middle of his tirade strode towards her, drawing a dagger from his belt.  He pushed past her guards.  Brienne decided she would not fight.  This could be her quick death.

The thrum of a bow string caught her ear.  The approaching man was halted mid-step - an arrow lodged into his skull.

 

Brienne whipped her head in the direction of the bowman. It was no one she recognized. Her confusion grew.

The quiet interlude of shock wore away quickly in the room as the sound of multiple swords were drawn, guards and high merchants were attacked.  A small army of men worked quickly, slaughtering every man in the room.  It was a brutal and bloody scene.  Not a single man was spared. Unable to escape the women screamed and cried, hovering over their dead.

Jaime moved through the mayhem, striking down a guard who ran up to his right. Pushing him away off his blade, he continued his stride towards her.

His face was sober, eyes steadier than she had ever seen.  

Jaime climbed the dais, and struck at her chains.  Once freed he dropped his sword to the floor and encircled her waist with his arm, the hard metal of his hand at her back.

Finding her voice she uttered, "Jaime, what have you done?"

His hand found her cheek. Warm...

"It would appear I have started a war for you Brienne."