The rain starts. No sprinkles or light rain, but a sudden downpour. The droplets bounce off the metal of Brienne’s helm, making a cacophony of pings and clangs as she moves across the tourney field, surveying her remaining competitors. She nearly removes her helmet to better her field of vision, but she has only been on the tourney circuit a short while and is afraid revealing herself may result in being disqualified.
Squinting through the rain, all she can see is crimson. There are three of them left, clad in armor with lion’s heads on the shoulders, removing whatever doubt she might have had as to which house they represent. The only one she recognizes is Jaime Lannister. Heat rises up the back of her neck. It is nearly impossible to be unaware of him, he was thought to be the best swordsman in Westeros. Years ago, she’d seen him fight in a tournament. His daring and footwork drew gasps from the crowd as he easily defeated three men, stole the hearts of many of the noble ladies in attendance, and, if the rumors were true, at least one lady’s virtue that night.
He looks older. Perhaps it’s the patchy beard on his face, but it does not take away from his beauty, instead it makes him all the more handsome. His hair falls to his shoulders, the golden color darkening in the rain as it sticks to his forehead. His green eyes shine even brighter among the gray clouds which have descended on the tourney pitch. He smiles at her, which is both unnerving and charming at once. He flexes his right hand, which is flecked with mud and possibly blood, but he does not step forward to fight her. Instead, his two bannermen move towards her.
Brienne tears her gaze away from Jaime and tightens her grip on her sword. They advance on her quickly, but perhaps she can use it to her advantage. They expect little of her, she realizes. As their grimaces draw closer, she spins around, using her blunted mace to knock one man to the ground and unsheathes her longsword before the second one is upon her, hitting him not with the blade, but the pommel. He reels back in shock, falling to one knee. Brienne flips her sword in the air, catching the pommel, and points the blade at his throat. He chuckles, his red hair blowing about his face, before lowering his own sword. “I yield.”
Jaime still has not approached her. When she finally looks up to gage his reaction through the visor of her helm, he gives her a polite nod, his eyes glinting. If she weren’t facing him on the melee field, she might think him kind, but knows he means to disarm her. It is tempting to strike towards him, to swipe that smile off his face, but Ser Goodwin’s advice rings in her ear:
Patience, my dear
. Jaime has been observing her. How she moves, how she fights, but she does not have the same advantage. She knows only his reputation.
He fought in the campaign against the Kingswood Brotherhood, was knighted at fifteen by the Sword of the Morning, Ser Arthur Dayne. During Robert’s Rebellion, he led Lannister men to King’s Landing in an attempt to thwart Aerys Targaryen. Was nearly named to the Kingsguard by Robert Baratheon for his heroics during the Sack of King’s Landing, but chose to remain a soldier instead.
He smiles at her again. A smile which has charmed fair maidens, taken down Targaryens, and soothed Baratheon tempers. She may not be very seasoned on the tourney field, but men overestimate their own skill and underestimate hers, whether she is wearing her helm or not. If she is patient, they will make the first move.
Jaime is no different.
He comes at her with an agile grace, but he is not cocky, at least not at first. All together he is not what she expected him to be. His movements are simple, controlled, and when he does get a hit on her, she almost loses her footing at the shock of it. He is strong, much more powerful than she thought for someone so slim. Brienne is wise enough to know she makes for a large target, while Jaime is easily able to twist and spin and tighten himself out of her way. It frustrates her, that she can barely get a hit on him, and when their blunted swords clash together, neither of them seems willing to break out of the hold.
She has blocked out the noise of the crowd. No doubt they are cheering for him. All the coin is being wagered in his favor, but she will not yield. “Are you tired?” Jaime asks in a sing-song voice. As their swords meet, the two of them once again become locked together, his blade edging down her own. With a grunt, she pushes him back and from the way his eyes twinkle, she wonders if he already knows her secret. Not who she is, but what she is.
Even in the cold mist the rain has turned into, she is sweating, can feel it sliding down her back and creeping into her eyes. Her muscles ache, her breath coming hot and hard inside her helm. She chides herself for slowing down, for conserving her movements, but he must be tired, too, because as he parries towards her and she sidesteps, their swords singing, he steps too far forward, or perhaps expects her to push back, and he starts to fall, his foot slipping in the mud. He manages to straighten himself, not going down on one knee, but Brienne can see his grip loosen on his sword. She knocks it out of his hand with a simple blow. His green eyes flash with fury, but he lets out a laugh. “Well met.”
“Do you yield, Ser?” She asks, but Jaime is crouching into a squat, his hands in fists, like he’s going to continue this fight. She swings her sword towards his face, lowering her wrist so it points at his neck. “Yield!” she demands again. He squirms underneath the point of her sword. She draws close, can feel his heated breath and the eyes of the crowd on her back. “I said yield.”
His mouth draws up into a cat-like grin. “I will not. Not until you show yourself, mystery knight.”
Brienne hesitates before she straightens to her full height. She pauses for breath, already imagining the groans and jeers which will come from the crowd. Shutting her eyes against these thoughts, she reaches for her helm, lifting it off her head and letting it fall into the mud. Jaime’s mouth drops open. A sneer crosses his face. “You’re a bloody woman?” he laughs.
There are gasps and shouts from the crowd, but she has the upper hand and will not flinch. “You are at my mercy, Lannister. Now yield.”
“It was a fine attempt, my
, but the Lannisters do not yield.” Despite him being on his knees and at the end of her sword, each name he calls her drips with derision.
“My name is Brienne.” She says staunchly.
“And what are you? Not a daughter, but not a son. You’ll never be a knight. You’re nothing but a monster with a sword.” The thought of her father catches her in the throat. Brienne wishes to deflect his words somehow, but she is not quick enough, cannot parry his argument. Instead she stands gaping like nothing more than a thick plank of wood. Before she can even react, he draws a short dagger from his boot, slashing at her leg. She takes a step back and Jaime neatly bounces to his feet.
The thin line of open skin at her ankle burns in the wind and anger rises in her chest. “Call me that again and you’ll
my sword, Lannister.” They circle around each other, drawn back into their battle of wills. He is waiting to see if she will be the first to break, watching for any weakness to manipulate. Maybe this is hers. Considered too weak to be a warrior, but too ugly to be a lady.
. Are you frightened?” A loud crack rings out in the yard and Jaime falls to the ground, holding his right shoulder. Brienne’s hands are shaking, surprised at her own violence. She’s never taken such a dirty hit against an opponent.
The tourney field is silent. Brienne drops the sword, extending a hand to Jaime. He’s curled onto his side, but snarls as she comes near.
She changes course, leaving him to sulk as she crosses to pick up his sword. It’s all she will take from him, even though as champion, she is allowed his horse and armor as well.
“You have no place here,” he nearly spits at her when he sees it in her hand.
It would be easy to let his comment get the better of her, but she draws in a deep breath and says calmly, “You’re injured. Let me help you.”
“Don’t touch me, cow. My men will assist me.”
“I defeated your men,” she snaps, through with patience, through with rising above.
“Then leave me. I will walk off this field without the help of the likes of you .”
“You are exactly as they say. You
a good fighter, but you are pompous and spoiled and you let your pride get the better of you.” Her hurt and anger pours out of her easily, but she does not regret it. Instead, she turns on her heel to go, leaving Ser Jaime Lannister in the mud, and claiming her right as champion.
That night, Brienne spends some of her winnings to stay at an inn
When she is able, she will send the rest to her father on Tarth. Other than an occasional foray into a stream, she hasn’t had a bath in weeks, and pays extra coin to have one of the young boys carry water up to her room. She rubs her skin until it burns, red and raw, her head echoing with the words Jaime Lannister spat out. Despite the blow she dealt him today, she knows she will meet him again. Making an enemy out of one of the best knights in Westeros may not have done her any favors.
When she is clean and dressed, she pulls Jaime’s sword from the cloak she wrapped it in. Even flecked with mud from the field, it gleams in the firelight. Brienne stares at it for a long time. Her eyes must be deceiving her. There are red and black ripples in the steel. Tilting the blade in the light, she admires the colors. She grips the pommel, a lion’s head with two rubies for eyes, the weight easy as she balances it in her hand. She’s never seen another sword like it.
She will take it to a smith tomorrow, but no doubt it is Valyrian steel. Brienne is aware it is worth its weight in dragons, but she knows she will never sell it. It is too beautiful.