Three moons or so after winter had ended, Jaime and Brienne wedded and went to Tarth, she the Evenstar and he her lord consort. They were on their horses, heading to Evenfall Hall, when a farmer nearly stumbled into the way of Brienne’s horse, and it was only her swift handling that stopped the poor man getting trampled.
“M’lady!” the man exclaimed in surprise. “Oh, M’lady, you’ve returned! Thank be to the Seven.” He’s a thin, reedy man a little older than Jaime, with sunburnt skin and muddy hair, his eyes clear and joyous at the sight of his lord.
“Gil,” Brienne greeted. “You nearly got yourself trampled there, man. Bad news?”
Gil bowed. “Apologies, M’lady. M’lord,” he added, belatedly, to Jaime. “Good news, all good. My daughter—she’s watching the goats while I ran an errand—she sent word, just now, through the cheesemonger—well in any case, in any case—” He paused, panted, then continued, “We’ve got the first kidding since winter! Nearly lost my mind, I did. Would M’lady and M’lord like to see?”
Brienne chanced a look at Jaime. “Do you want to?” she asked.
Jaime had, before this, longed for the small luxury of a bed that didn’t rock, but he had never seen a kidding. He scarcely thought when he answered, perhaps with too much eagerness, “Yes.”
Brienne’s smile was fond. She inclined her head with the grace of a lady, then gestured to Gil. “My lord husband would like to see this kidding. Shall, we, then?”
Gil bowed to them both and led the way, though from Brienne’s assured manner Jaime could tell she knew exactly where each barn is on the island, Gil’s included. They kept their horses slow so the poor man could catch his breath. Brienne introduced Jaime to Gil, and the goatherd barely blinked an eye at his name before turning back to Brienne and asking her many questions, mainly news from the continent. With winter and the war just ending, and the island only recently liberated, everything was uncertain.
“That’s why we’re all very excited. This kidding is the first, M’lady, and from Cersei of all our does!” It was only after the words escaped him that Gil realized the company he was in, and he looked at Jaime with an ashen face. “Apologies, M’lord. I wasn’t… We don’t…”
At this point, Jaime had Brienne’s hand on his arm. They all thought he would be angry. He thought he would be angry, too, but there’s a hysterical, strangled tone in his voice as he asked, “And this Cersei, who fathered her children?”
Gil’s voice was very, very small when he eventually said, “Her brother Jaime, M’lord.”
Jaime pursed his lips. He didn’t want to look at either his wife or the goatherd, lest he lost his calm and laugh, so he looked down at the reins in his hand. As evenly as he could, he asked, “Are we close to the barn?”
“Jaime,” Brienne said, squeezing his arm. “Gil and his children meant nothing of the names, surely.”
“I hope this goat is beautiful. Did you know, Gil, that my sweet sister was thought to be the most beautiful woman in the world?”
Gil sounded like he might faint. “Aye, M’lord. The goat… is very beautiful, M’lord. The prettiest one in all the island.”
“And is she also a little bit of a cunt?” Jaime asked.
Brienne barked out a laugh. “Jaime!” she chided, though she seemed glad of his good humour, at least.
Jaime decided to drop all pretence. He allowed the grin to bloom on his face. Chuckling, he said to Brienne, “I have to know if she’s named properly, Brienne. My sister was a nightmare. You know that, I hope?” he asked Gil.
Gil chanced a look at Jaime. With a wry smile, he said, “A little, M’lord. She doesn’t eat if we don’t give her the best grain or bring her to the best pasture, and she would headbutt us all the time if we’re in her way.”
Jaime laughed, the sound ringing through the air. “Oh, then I see no offense being made. You name your goats well.” He half-wished his sister was still alive, so he could see the look on her face when she heard of this goat named after her. “And this goat with my name, what is he like?”
“Followed his sister everywhere, M’lord.”
“Oh, well. I suppose that’s true enough, though not anymore. I follow your lady, now, and that’s how I get here.”
Gil looked between Jaime and Brienne, seemingly unsure of what to say, but then he’s rescued by a girl running through the road—his daughter—who latched to his arm and dragged him towards the barn with nary a curtsey to either Brienne or Jaime.
They arrived at the barn shortly, and that was where Jaime was brought to Cersei the goat. She was, indeed, a very pretty goat, a pure white coat, evenly shaped horns, a very fluffy beard, and a look on her face that was serene, almost, even though she was huge. “How big is a kid?” Jaime asked.
Gil’s daughter placed her hands in front of her, a foot or so apart, saying, “About yay big, M’lord. We think Cers—the doe—she might be carrying two.”
“You may say her name,” Jaime said. “She truly looked like my sister,” he added.
It was at this moment that Cersei bleated, her legs moving as though trying to stand, her tail curling towards her back. Jaime watched as a round sac began to grow from her behind—she bleated with every push, loudly, painfully—bigger and bigger it grew, and then it dropped slightly, and Jaime saw the shape of a kid’s head from behind the filmy sac. Cersei managed to stand, then, and it seemed to help her, as it became easier for her to push, and push, and push, a bleat with every push, and the first kid fell into the hay in a little splash of womb water, followed by a quick pour of blood. Gil knelt and cleared the filmy sac from the kid’s face, and the little thing squirmed, long-legged and wet, its long ears flapping. Cersei bleated and headbutted Gil out of the way, bending down to lick her kid affectionately.
“Papa,” Gil’s daughter said. “Papa, I think there might be two more!”
Cersei was unconcerned by the idea of having to birth another two kids. Her attention is to this one small kid as she cleaned it until its fur become all fluffy, coaxing it to stand with small bleats. When the first kid—a male, Gil’s daughter declared with the confidence of someone raised among goats—managed to stand and ambled towards Cersei’s teats, another was being pushed out.
Jaime was kneeling on the hay, now, watching the first kid raptly. The kid unlatched himself from his mother’s teat and looked at Jaime with baleful eyes, and that was that. Jaime was gone. He was only vaguely aware of the other kid falling down the hay as he reached forward to pet the first kid, and the kid letting Jaime pet him, even leaning into the touch as Jaime ruffled the soft damp fur and played with the flappy ears.
The joy was interrupted by Cersei’s head butting between Jaime’s hand and her kid, and Jaime backed away just in time to evade her teeth snapping at him. She bleated at him, loud and full of reproach. Somewhere to the side, Gil declared the second kid a female. Brienne said, “Very good,” acknowledging the second kid with profound solemnity, but Jaime had no time for all that. He stared into Cersei’s odd goat eyes with their horizontal blacks, refusing to back away. Cersei snorted and bleated again. Jaime extended his hand towards his kid. Cersei snapped at it with her teeth.
Jaime gave up, and Cersei was back at grooming her first kid. The second kid was somewhat cleaned, though clearly still needing attention. Jaime turned to the small thing, slowly, carefully, to see if Cersei would snap again, but she only had eyes for her first kid. He looked at Gil’s daughter, who, wide-eyed, offered him a rag. Without a word, Jaime took it and began cleaning the second child. She was smaller than the first one, and meeker too, but she let Jaime clean her and swaddle her and Jaime was only beginning to cradle the sweet girl when Cersei expressed her displeasure and butted into Jaime’s side.
Reluctantly, and only because the girl needed to feed, Jaime let go of her. Cersei herded the kid, coaxing her to walk with wobbly legs until she reached her mother’s teats and began suckling.
Jaime watched the two kids suckle on Cersei, both of them pure white like their mother, and noticed the third kid, even smaller, being pushed out. This took the least time. When the third kid was out, Cersei turned to clean it with a couple of licks, then lied down on her side, bleating softly as if to congratulate herself on a job well done.
Jaime moved to the third kid and cleaned that one, too, and with gentle touches coaxed it to stand, and Cersei watched their every move. When the third kid managed to stand, it went to its mother’s teats, and so all three kids were there, huddled together, and Jaime felt a warmth he had forgotten he ever felt.
Jaime turned to Brienne. “I would like to come back.”
Brienne was not at all surprised. Why would she? She saw how he behaved—like a fool, said Tywin’s voice somewhere in Jaime’s head—and so easily, she said, “You’re their lord. I’m sure it would not be a problem.” She turned to Gil and her daughter whose name Jaime still did not know. “Would it?” Brienne asked them.
They assured Jaime that it would not, of course, and maybe tomorrow he would like to see the buck that fathered these kids?
Jaime smiles. “Why, yes, of course I would like to see him. I hope he’s a handsome buck with big horns.”
Brienne thumped his arm at this, then dragged him away. It was almost sundown, and they were expected at the castle more than two hours ago.
Jaime threw one last look at Cersei, who was watching him with what he liked to think was resentment, and said, “I will return.”
Cersei bleated a good-bye.
“Be well, Cersei.”
Tyrion Lannister had never been to Tarth. From Jaime’s description, he expected something else, but it was in fact very quaint. Very simple. He supposed he should not be surprised, if Brienne was to be the representation of this island.
Tyrion stepped down the gangplank and came face-to-face three little goats.
He looked up, and there he saw Jaime and Brienne. “Hello, brother, goodsister,” Tyrion said. “You brought your cattle with you, I see.”
Jaime crouched and hugged Tyrion. “Hello, Tyrion.” He turned and gestured at the kids. “These are not just cattle. Joffrey, Myrcella, Tommen, say hello.”
The kids bleated at Tyrion, and very politely at that.
Tyrion blinked. “Well-met, Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen.” To his loon of a brother, he asked, “What is going on?”
Before Jaime could answer, a loud bleat sounded from behind him, and he was toppled down from his crouch, into the gravel. A very pretty, very angry-looking goat just headbutted Jaime. He groaned, gratefully accepting his wife's hand. “And say hello to Cersei, too. She’s their mother and we are always disagreeing about who they should be spending time with.”
“Yes. Don’t try to pet her. She’s pregnant again and would bite you if you even come close.”
Tyrion looked at this goat called Cersei. The goat looked back. She leaned in. Tyrion flinched. Jaime was preparing to put himself between the goat and his brother, which somehow brought back memories of childhood.
Cersei sniffed Tyrion and gave him a long lick, then another.
Jaime made a sad, disappointed sound. “She was supposed to hate you.”
Brienne said, very calmly, “I think she thinks you need a bath. We have arranged one to be drawn in your rooms. If you’ll follow me, Lord Tyrion.”
Jaime added, “We’ve also arranged some refreshments. Cersei’s cheese is particularly delicious.”
“Please don’t say Cersei’s cheese,” Tyrion said.
“Jaime only speaks the truth. Cersei’s milk yields the best cheese in all the island,” Brienne said.
“Not that she let me milk her.”
“Maybe she’ll let Tyrion milk her.”
“That is a very good idea. What do you think, brother? Would you like to milk Cersei?”
To the great disappointment of Jaime and Brienne, Tyrion said, “I will not milk your goat.”
“This isn’t just a goat you’re talking about. Call her by her name. Call her Cersei.”
“Fine,” Tyrion said. He took a swig from his wineskin. “I will not milk Cersei.”