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The Star of the North

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The North:

*The North is a lot more powerful in this story than in canon. The Free Folk (different to the wildlings) and the Three Sisters are both vassals to the Stark of Winterfell.

*The population is a lot bigger now, and they have a standing army. Due to the North having expanded its territory beyond the Wall, they retain their magic and are aware of the wight/White Walker threat. Southrons don't take it seriously, however, so the North has given up on convincing them and concentrates on ensuring that the Night's Watch is filled with men and backed up by the Army.-Dragonglass is very valuable in the North, and they have several teams dedicated to tracking down any trace of it and mining it. They also have a mining agreement with Dragonstone for it.

*The North expects its women to be capable of self-defence, but they still must submit to their fathers, husbands, brothers, etc.

*Certain Houses are matrilineal-e.g. House StarStark. These are called shield-maiden houses. They produce warrior women and the Ladies of the House typically marry second or third sons. In these cases, the husband cannot overrule his wife in matters relating to their House, and the children are all given the mother's surname.

*The First Men still have magic, and follow the traditions of their ancestors, sacrificing criminals to the weirwoods, etc. The Old Gods are more prominent in this world.

*'Burner' a derogatory term for the Andals used by the First Men. The First Men's devotion to their gods borders on fanaticism, as their gods are active and it strengthens their faith. They see themselves as the 'last bastion of defenders' for the Old Gods.

*The faith and culture of the First Men is based heavily on the Ancient Celtic/Viking ones and a lot of their myths in this mostly come from Ancient Ireland.

*Green Men are common and highly revered by the First Men. Greenseers are also more common, and act similar to Septons or Septas, in that they preach the tenets of the Old Faith. All followers of the Old Faith put great stock in the words of the greenseers, and revere them highly. It's a great honour to be offered the chance to become one of them. Every Northern child is tested for the ability. Howland Reed is the current High Greenseer.

*The First Men allow both homosexual and polygamous marriages.

*The North does not believe that bastardy is shameful, at least not for the child. The shame is on the parent if they break vows of fidelity, or if they do not support their child. Most Northern bastards are born before their parents were married to another, or after the parent was widowed.

*The North prefers for women or bastards to become heads of Houses over the Houses going extinct.

*Elders are the people responsible for teaching the children of the North about their history, traditions, etc. They can be men or women. There is one in every village and keep. Old Nan was Winterfell's Elder.

*The population is much larger here, so the Watch is stronger. All castles are manned. Any criminals sent north by the Southrons often 'disappear' on rangings very quickly, depending on their crimes.

*In 1557 BC, King Artos XVII 'the Scholar Wolf' Stark set up the University of Winterfell. He believed the education was vital for everyone, no matter their rank or gender, and made a law that every child attend a school from the age of five to ten (one for boys and a separate one for girls) where they are taught the basics of reading and writing as well as history and Northern traditions and stories by Elders, and everything else by Scholars, the Winterlands' equivalent to a Maester. After finishing at the school, the students can apply to go to the University and study there as an Apprentice Scholar. If they cannot afford the fee, they can use the Conclave to appeal to the Starks to fund their apprenticeship. They have to work off the loan and keep their work to a certain standard, however. If they cannot do so, they will no longer be funded, and still have to pay off their debts. The Maesters and their Citadel are sometimes accused of stealing the idea for their organization from the Scholars of the University.

*Houses in the North bear the title of 'Ancient' (for any older than 400 years) and/or 'Honourable' (awarded and stripped by the Courts depending on the House's deeds.)

*Life in the Winterlands centres around the tenet that 'the lone wolf dies but the pack survives'. Everyone works hand-in-hand, regardless of rank or feuds, to keep their kingdom strong. It is tradition in the North that every noble child goes to foster at Winterfell for half the year, every year, so as to foster bonds whilst still keeping close to their family. They call themselves the Wolf Pack, and the heir(ess) of the Starks is the Alpha.

*In the Winterlands (The North, Hardhome-Stark territory beyond the Wall, Skagos, Bear Island and the Three Sisters.) betrothals can only be made official after a lady turns fifteen, and she must be sixteen to marry, as Northern girls tend to flower very young.


The Army has several different sections:

The Warg Warriors: this is the second most elite part of the Army. There are a thousand of them, and their base is on the coast of Skagos. They are all wargs, taken from their families at age five and raised to be utterly loyal to the Starks. Each is devoted to their duty. It's a mixed gender unit, the only one in the North. Every child in the Winterlands is tested on their fifth nameday, regardless of gender or birth and it's considered the greatest honour one can receive to be chosen for the unit. While marriage and families aren't forbidden to the members of the Warriors, they are not common, as the Warriors consider it a hinderance to their duty.

The Ice Guard: this is the law enforcement of the Winterlands. They ensure that no crime is committed and hunt down any outlaws or brigands. If they discover a criminal, they try them (as required by King Rickard XVI, who made a law ordering that all people be tried and found guilty before being executed.) and then, should the criminal be sentenced to death, they are sacrificed to the weirwoods according to First Men law. The Ice Guard also oversees any criminals sentenced to hard labour, ensuring they don't escape (the North doesn't send criminals to the Wall). Many landless second or third, so on, sons join this unit to be able to support their families.

The Twilight Troopers: The Twilight Troopers are the most elite part of the Army, selected from among the Warg Warriors' best recruits. They are a force dedicated to both reinforcing the Night's Watch, defending the settlements beyond the Wall and fighting the wights. All are armed with dragonglass weapons, all are able to warg into at least three animals and are hardened warriors. They are nearly undefeatable. Only White Walkers can defeat them, and they always put up a fierce fight.

The Army of the North: this is the main part of the Northern Army. In 595 BC, King Edric Stark XX decided to figure out a way to increase the population of the Winterlands, seeing as there was so much land unused. He then made a law stating that any family with more than five children would be eligible for a decrease in the amount of taxes they had to pay, the amount lessening a bit more for each child, though there remained a minimum. This caused a huge baby boom. The consequences of this was the need to find a way to employ everyone. Edric's son, Edric XXI, came up with the idea of having a standing army. They would be trained and kept ready to defend against any attacks, unlike the disorganized and untrained smallfolk levies of the other kingdoms. People flocked to the army, and their constant training has made them the greatest army in Westeros. It can field around 130,000 men altogether, slightly more than the Reach. However, it is not undefeatable, and they are careful not to become arrogant.

The Navy of the North: Although Brandon the Burner foolishly destroyed the entire Northern fleet in grief after his father's disappearance at sea, his son was not so short-sighted. Knowing that their lands would be vulnerable without a sea force, King Rickon restored the fleet, naming his second son Benjen as its' Admiral. Benjen took the name of 'Spraystark' and married Asha Karstark, becoming the founder of House Spraystark, which ever since has always been involved in the Navy, along with House Starstark, founded by Princess Alayne Stark (it was the first ever matrilineal house, of which there are six).

The Conclave: these are inspired by the Cortes of Aragon during the Medieval Age. They are summoned every quarter year, and are filled with representatives of each village in the Winterlands, as well as the nobles. It gives a chance for any grievances to be aired before the Warden of the North, and Lord/Lady Stark is bound by oath to listen and heed it. If a noble is abusing his smallfolk, for example, then if proof is presented before the Conclaves, the Stark must punish them. The Conclave also have to be summoned for the creation of any new houses. They award and strip the title of 'Honourable House', 'Ancient House', etc. If a Lord/Lady Stark is abusing their power, the Conclave has the power (with a unaminous vote) to force them to abdicate in favour of a more worthy Stark.


House Stark:

{Lord Eddard Stark}- Middle son and second child of Lord Rickard and Lady Lyarra Stark. Inherited his lands unexpectedly after the deaths of his father and brother, whilst his wife Ashara was pregnant with their first child. Executed along with his direwolf Laochra for treason after Queen Cersei discovered that he knew of her adultery and had him and his family framed.

{Ashara Stark née Dayne}- Eldest daughter of Lord Edric Dayne and his wife, Lady Alayne Starstark, second daughter of the late Lady Elissa Starstark. She married Eddard just a month prior to the Harrenhal tourney. Grief over the death of her elder brother Lord Alaric Dayne at the Battle of the Trident sent her into early labour, resulting in the birth of her eldest child, Alarra, named in honour of both her uncle and many greats-aunt, the first Alarra Stark. A strong, beautiful woman, dubbed 'The Star of the North' in her younger years, Ashara was an excellent Lady of Winterfell, a loving wife and adoring and protective mother. She raised her goodbrother's bastard as though she had birthed him. She had seven pregnancies, but only four of her children lived past their first namedays, and Bran was born with damaged legs, unable to walk. She was killed when Theon Greyjoy and Gerold Dayne attacked and ransacked Winterfell.

Alarra Stark- The eldest (and only known) surviving child of Lord Eddard and Lady Ashara Stark. Alarra inherited her father's introverted personality, but has her mother's beauty. She was raised to be the future Wardenness of the North, and has a deeply ingrained sense of responsibility towards her people. The grief of her family's death weighs heavily on her, and she blames herself for everything. The abuse she has suffered since being taken captive by the Lannisters has made her wary of Southrons and fearful of men. Her direwolf is Taibhse, however Larra was forced to send the wolf along with her siblings away when Cersei called for their heads.

Robb Snow- The bastard son of Brandon Stark and (secretly) Lady Catelyn Baratheon née Tully. Lady Catelyn and her family didn't want the shame of having a bastard, but Ned discovered her pregnancy whilst at Riverrun and stopped her taking moon tea, insisting that the babe be given to him to raise and swearing not to speak her name in connection to him. Robb was treated like Ned and Ashara's son, and was always fiercely protective of and loyal to his family. He was particularly close to Larra. When Ned went North to become Hand, he went with them. When the Tower of the Hand was attacked, Arthur gave Robb and Arya Dawn and Ice and told them to flee. They are currently hiding out in the Riverlands, trying to figure out a way to return to King's Landing and save Larra. His direwolf was Morning, and he was sent away with the others when Cersei wanted their heads, however they reunited with them when they got to the Riverlands.

Arya Stark- The secondborn (living) child and daughter of Lord and Lady Stark, Arya was wild and stubborn from the start, with a fierce and unabating love for her family. She was indulged in her wildness by her family, who were too relieved that she was so healthy to be genuinely upset with her antics. She is consumed with revenge against the Lannisters for killing her father and uncle, and only Robb restrains her from going right up to the Red Keep and trying to murder them all. She also wants to kill the Greyjoys and Gerold for sacking Winterfell. Her direwolf is Nymeria, whom she was reunited with upon returning to the Riverlands.

Brandon 'Bran' Stark- The thirdborn and only living (biological) son of the Starks. Bran was born unable to walk due to damaged legs, but he remained an optimistic and clever child anyway. He had his mother's colouring but otherwise favoured the Starks (including the grey eyes). He dreamed of becoming a maester at the Citadel, then learning a way to fix his own legs whilst serving at Winterfell. Larra, who felt that she was 'stealing' his rightful inheritance, often spoiled him with affection and little gifts to try and make up for it. He was killed with his mother and younger sister when Winterfell was sacked. His direwolf, Winter, was killed at the same time.

Alayne Stark- The youngest child of the Starks, Alayne was merely three years old when the Ironborn attacked and sacked her home. She was a shy, gentle toddler often found stumbling after her mother or playing with her dolls. She was the image of her mother as a child. Her direwolf was named Star, and was also killed.


The Ancient and Most Honourable House Dayne:

House Dayne originated in Dorne, however, when the Andals came they fled to the North to avoid conversion. Their keep is 'Starmount', formerly the Dreadfort.

{Lord Edric Dayne}- Former Lord, husband of Lady Alayne Starstark, father to Alaric, Arthur, Ashara, and Allyria. Died two years after the Greyjoy Rebellion.

{Lady Alayne Dayne née Spraystark}- A strong-willed woman descending from a sea-faring, shield-maiden House, she taught her daughter to be a lady who was elegant and demure but strong and independent, capable of caring for and defending herself. She died in childbirth with Allyria.

{Alaric Dayne}- Eldest child and former heir of House Dayne. He was a cheerful man and a fierce warrior with a strong mind. He avoided dying with Brandon Stark like most the heirs of the time, as business had delayed him from going to Riverrun, but he died at the Trident instead, leaving behind a pregnant widow.

Serena Dayne née Icewolf- Wife of Alaric, mother of Edric. She and her husband were a love match, and Serena refused to remarry after his death.

{Arthur Dayne}- The late and most recent Sword of Morning. He was Ashara's twin brother, and spent most of time at Winterfell after her marriage. He was a serious man, but doted fiercely on all of his nieces and nephews (including Robb, whom they all considered as much Ashara and Ned's child as the ones she birthed). On Ashara's request, Arthur went south with Ned to help protect him and the children, and he was executed for conspiracy to commit treason.

{Ashara Stark née Dayne}- See Ashara Stark.

Allyria Dayne- youngest of the late lord's children, she was only three years older than Larra, and more like a sister to her nieces and nephews than an aunt. She fostered at Winterfell under her sister's care (constantly instead of half the year like the other fosterlings) as her father didn't know how to raise a daughter without his wife. She left Winterfell for Starmount a week before the attack, and as such managed to survive.

Lord Edric Dayne the Younger- son of the late heir, he is a young lord, unsure of himself and heavily reliant on his mother and aunt's advice. Most call him Nedric, to differentiate between the other Edric and Ned. He was always very close to his cousins, and his stricken by their deaths and captivity. He advocates for calling arms fiercely, but the Lannisters have been threatening Larra's life to keep the North in line, as they are all devoted to the Starks.

Gerold Dayne- disowned by Lord Nedric for helping Theon Turncloak, has always been jealous of his lack of land. His father died in the Rebellion, his mother of illness shortly before that. He was raised by the Starks, and came to think that he deserved to be heir of Winterfell. He tried to gain Larra's hand in marriage when she was only nine, which was refused. He conspired with Theon to run away to the Iron Islands just after Ned went south, where they convinced Balon to let them sack Winterfell. Due to the greenseers not predicting the attack in time and their knowledge of Winterfell and its secret passages, they succeeded. Gerold tried to claim the title of Lord of Winterfell, but Theon took it instead, backed up by the Iron Born, and Gerold had to go on the run.


List of OC Northern Houses:

Honourable House of Starstark (matrilineal): Lady: Sybelle Starstark, Admiral of the North's Western Fleet, age 34

Lord Consort: Artos Icewolf age 39

Heir: Lynara Starstark, age 13

Others: Rodrik Starstark, age 15, Jorelle Starstark, age 10

Sigil-a white direwolf with stars on a midnight blue background

Words- We follow the Diamonds of the Sky.

Specializes in seafaring, along with the Seastarks, with whom they have a rivalry that alternates between being friendly and vicious. Their keep, Wolf's Way, is a Harbour city on the coast of the Stony Shore.

Lystark (newest cadet house): Lord: Benjen Lystark, younger brother of Magnar Eddard Stark. Warden of the Neck, received Moat Cailin as his seat after its' previous Lord Rickard Wolfguard died heirless (end of House Wolfguard) in the Rebellion. Age 30

Lady: Dacey Lystark née Mormont, age 32

Heir: Rickard Lystark, age 4

Others: Lyarra Lystark, age 18 moons

Sigil-A grey wolf's head surrounded by winter roses on a black background.

Words-We Will Remember.

Their keep is Moat Cailin.

Honourable House of Seastark:Lord: Brandon Seastark, Admiral of the North's Eastern fleet. Age 57

Lady: Meriah Seastark née Royce. Age 52 (had 10 miscarriages/stillbirths out of 13 pregnancies, very fragile woman)

Heir: Rodrik Seastark. Age 32

Others: Yohn Seastark of the Ice Guard, age 27. Maege Seastark, age 18

Sigil-a ship with a wolf's head on the prow, on a sea-coloured background.

Words-We Rule the Waves.

Specializes in Sailing. Has a rivalry with House Starstark. Their keep, Sailor's Cove, is a Harbour city near Widow's Watch.

The Ancient and Honourable House of Whitewolf: Lord: Torrhen Whitewolf, age 39

Lady: Lysana Whitewolf née Seastark, age 30

Heir: Markus Whitewolf, age 17

Other: Serena Whitewolf, age 15

Sigil- a white wolf on a black background with gold edging.

Words- We Remember

Descended from Brandon Snow, brother to Torrhen Stark. They were entrusted with the method of creating glasshouses by the Last King of Winter, and as such are the richest House (save for the Starks themselves) in the North. Their keep, 'The White Wolf's Den' is midway through Moat Cailin and White Harbour.

The Ancient and Honourable House of Icewolf (matrilineal):Lord: Alyssa Icewolf, age 68

Heiress: her granddaughter, Erena Icewolf, age 14

Sigil-A sword of ice gripped in the teeth of a grey wolf with a black background

Words-First to Charge, Last to Retreat

Their keep is called 'The Sword's Sheath' and based on the Bay of Ice

The Ancient House of Greystark:Lord: Rodrik Greystark, age 49

Lady: His wife and second cousin, Emelia Greystark, age 33

Heir: Eddard Greystark, age 16

Sigil-a white direwolf on a dark grey background (reversed Stark colours)

Words-We Repent (formerly, Ever Loyal)

The Greystarks once rose in rebellion during the era of the Kings of Winter. They were put down brutally, with only the baby heir spared. He was raised by the Mormonts, the Starks' most loyal bannermen, who frequently reminded him of how gracious the Starks had been not to kill him too. Ever since, the Greystarks have raised their children to be utterly fanatical about protecting the Starks. They have been offered to have their title of 'the Honourable House of Greystark' restored by the Courts, who believe they have long redeemed their ancestors' actions, but they refuse. They are the first to attack in battle, and often have to be ordered to fall back by the Starks. Their keep used to be Wolf's Den (now White Harbour) but it was stripped after their rebellion. Their current keep is Beverstone Hold, between the Stony Shore and Sea Dragon's point.

The Honourable House of Frostfang (matrilineal):

Lady: Alysanne Frostfang, age 48

Lord Consort:Brandon Amber, age 50

Heiress: Raya Frostfang, age 29

Others:Raya's husband, Benjen Harclay age 29, their twin daughters Melessa and Maege age 6

Sigil-a white fang on a blue background.

Words-Strong As the Winter Winds

Keep-Raven's Roost, near to Moat Cailin

The Honourable and Most Ancient House of Amber:

Lord: Bennard Amber, age 78

Lady: None (formerly Lysana Umber, deceased)

Heir: Ellard Amber, age 55

Others: Lyanne Amber of House Greystark age 32, Bennard Amber age 17, Sybelle Amber 16, Arsa Amber age 16, Rickon Amber age 12

Sigil-A piece of amber on a dark yellow background

Words-We Shine in the Dark

Keep-Elden Fort, beside the Long River

The Most Honourable and Most Ancient House of Greenwood (matrilineal, crannog, sworn to the Reeds):

Lady: Berena Greenwood, age 39

Lord Consort: Edrick Greenwood of House Peat, age 40

Heiress: Arya Greenwood, age 19

Others: Meera Greenwood, age 16, Jonos Greenwood, age 14, Jory Greenwood, age 12

Sigil-A green branch spouting upwards on a black banner

Words-We Stand Straight and Steady as a Tree

Keep-Marshwood Keep

The Most Ancient House of Frost:

Lord: Joran Frost, age 59

Lady: Jorelle Frost of House Greystark, age 56

Heir: Eddard Frost, age 21

Others: Asha Frost of House Starkstark, age 22, Lyanna Frost, age 15, Brandon Frost, age 13

Sigil-A white snowflake on a royal-blue background

Words-Frost in Our Veins, Ice in Our Hearts

Keep-The Wolf's Den, outskirts of White Harbour

The Most Honourable and Ancient House of Ashwood:

Lord: Arthur Ashwood, age 37

Lady: Erena Ashwood of House Cerwyn, age 34

Heir: Domeric Ashwood, age 17

Others: Alysanne Ashwood, age 13, Aregelle Ashwood, age 11, Steffon Ashwood, age 6

Sigil-an ash tree on a white background

Words-Unyielding as Ash

Keep-Direwood Fort, based in the Bay of Ice

The Honourable and Ancient House of Snowstark (matrilineal):

Lady: Lysa Snowstark, age 44

Lord Consort: Ellard Blackwood, age 47

Heiress: Lyanne Snowstark, age 18,

Others: Lorra Snowstark, age 16, Eddard Snowstark, age 14, Cregan Snowstark, age 12, Arielle Snowstark, age 10

Sigil-a swirl of white snowflakes on a dark blue background.

Words-Beware The Frozen Heart

Keep-Brawnlyn Fort, circa Deepwood Motte

*These are the main ones who might be mentioned, I will add to it as needed.

*House Blackwood was never exiled in this, and of the canon extinct houses, only the Towers, Fisher of the Stoney Shore and Flints of Breakstone Hill are gone. The Boltons are extinct.


History:

Ned married Ashara before the Harrenhal Tourney. Everything during it happened as in canon, with Catelyn marrying Stannis Baratheon (they went on to have four children: Sansa, Shireen, Steffon and Orys) instead of Ned. Larra was born on the winter solstice (22nd December-I will be using the Gregorian calendar but with BC/AC) and Robb was two months older than her.

Flash forward thirteen years, Jon Arryn was killed and Robert persuaded Ned to become Hand. He agreed because he had already refused to allow a betrothal between one of his daughters and Robert's (step)children and because the greenseers warned him that (A) Jon had been poisoned and (B) if he didn't something terrible would happen.

Ned and Arthur investigated Jon A's death and learned of Cersei's adultery. She learned they knew from her spies, and sent her men to ambush them just after Robert's death. It was the middle of the night, and they were all taken off-guard. Everyone in their party save for Larra was killed. Larra was kept alive to be used as a hostage against the North. Robb and Arya managed to escape with the Dayne and Stark ancestral swords, but they are believed dead.

The North wanted to call their banners, but fear for Larra stopped them.

Theon and Gerold attacked Winterfell, blocking off the secret passages and circumventing the guards due to their knowledge of it. They killed Ashara, Bran and Alayne. Theon then turned on Gerold, chasing him off, and declared himself Prince of the North. The Northerners responded by besieging Winterfell. They defeated the IronBorn, but Theon fled back to the Iron Islands where he resides with his family and people, who are contemptuous of him at best.

Larra was treated the way Sansa was in canon, stripped and beaten before the court, but Baelish has little-to-no interest in her.

While the White Walkers exist in this story, they don't matter to this plot, there won't be a Long Night. This fic focuses on other stuff.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Read, enjoy and review! I hope this is as well-liked as A Song of Marked Souls is!

Chapter One

The Agreement

The Red Keep: October 31 st , 298 AC

Larra:

Larra had been deep in prayer when the sound of a branch snapping beneath someone's foot made her head snap up in alarm. A second later, her worries were proven right when not just one person but two people came striding confidently into the godswood, the sight of the pair alarming her immensely.

Larra recognized the man as Prince Oberyn Martell, the infamous Red Viper of Dorne who terrified most of the court. The elegant woman with the cascade of dark curls clinging to his arm was his paramour, the Lady Ellaria Sand of House Uller. Larra felt her heart sink in dismay at the sight of them. She had never been a particularly sociable person in the first place. Nowadays, even small talk regarding the weather was a trial of endurance that she struggled to find the strength for.

"Ah, Lady Stark," Prince Oberyn said at the sight of her, giving a bow while Lady Ellaria gave a curtsey. Reluctantly, Larra stood to curtsey back, frowning internally. He had called her by her correct title.

She was unsure if people simply did not think of it, or if it was yet another way for the Lannisters to degrade her, but the fact was that Larra was the rightful Lady Paramount of the Winterlands, even if the lions had placed Ser Willem Lannister as its Regent. With the rest of her family dead, Larra held the title in her own right. Yet everyone in King's Landing persisted in addressing her as Lady Alarra, and she did not bother to correct them.

"I hope that we have not disturbed your prayers, my lady," the prince smiled cheerily at Larra as he spoke, increasing her unease. "And there is no need for you to curtsey. You are at least my equal in rank, if not superior, given the fact that you are a Lady Paramount in your right."

"Indeed," Lady Ellaria added with a cheerful laugh. "And if a Wardenness goes around curtseying to my prince, his ego will swell so much that he shall be unable to fit his head through the door. And I myself am a bastard, and certainly should not be given obeisance by a lady of such an exalted rank as your own, Lady Stark."

Larra hid her flinch, twisting her bracelet anxiously around her wrist. They were mocking her, surely. Reminding her that her once-great family had been reduced to her alone, with her unable to care for her people, as was her gods-given right and duty.

"We were taking a turn about the gardens," Prince Oberyn informed her in a light tone. "And it occurred to us that we have never seen a godswood before, and so, knowing that there was one nearby, we decided to see it. I do hope that we are not intruding on you, my lady? You did not say so before."

Larra held back a sigh. Clearly, they did not intend to leave, regardless of how much she wished that they would. Why would a pair of Andals be interested in a godswood, anyway? The whole reason she spent so much time in this one was to avoid the court and her tormentors. The way they all acted, it was as if they would taint their souls if they dared to step foot within.

"The godswood is open to all," she said softly, giving the socially required answer. "You have not disturbed me, I assure you." Go away, go away, she chanted in her head. Leave me alone, go away, please.

The gods yet again ignored her pleas, because they took her at her word and sat down on the grass, apparently uncaring of the stains that would form on their fine clothes, a contrast to most people in the capital. Larra debated leaving, but the thought of running into one of the Lannisters was even worse than these two people, so instead she re-took her place seated in the roots of the heart tree and continued to fidget with her bracelet, trying to recall what she knew of Prince Oberyn and Lady Ellaria. There were a lot of whispers going around about the man and his lover, but Larra never listened to gossip. Still, she knew a bit.

The Prince was known as the Red Viper of Dorne, she recalled, and had considerable skill with poisons. He was the younger brother of the current Ruling Prince, and the late Princess Elia. He also had a great number of illegitimate children (all daughters as far as she knew), the youngest ones being his children with Lady Ellaria whilst the rest each had different mothers. He had stunned the whole court when he showed up with his entourage for the king's wedding, as everyone knew how much the Martells hated the Lannisters for what had happened to the late Princess and her children during the Sack of King's Landing.

Lady Ellaria, Larra knew even less of. She was a bastard, and unmarried to Prince Oberyn, yet she had mothered at least three of his children if not more, and he treated her the same, if not better, than many men treated their actual wives.

What did they want with her? Regardless of what the prince had claimed, Larra was not a fool. A Prince of Dorne and his mistress had not just stumbled across the captive Lady Paramount of the Winterlands by accident. If she were to leave right now, she was willing to bet that one of them would have again come across her 'accidentally' soon enough.

"This is truly a sight to see," Prince Oberyn hummed, looking around the godswood with a fascinated expression.

"Indeed, 'tis a very peaceful place," Lady Ellaria agreed, her own expression filled with interest as she looked around the small godswood.

Larra stiffened and stared fixedly at her knees. They were going to mock her gods, call them barbaric and false the way the other courtiers did, she just knew it. Oh why, why couldn't they just leave her be? If the Lannisters would not allow her to go home, then all she wanted was to be left alone with her gods.

"Lady Stark," Prince Oberyn turned his attention to her along with Lady Ellaria, and she forced herself to look at him.

"Yes, my prince?" she murmured softly. "Is there something that I might help you with?"

"I would like to know if 'tis true that one cannot lie in front of a heart tree," he informed her. Larra looked at him warily as she responded.

"Aye, my prince, 'tis the truth," she confirmed for him. "The Old Gods reside within the trees, and so we are unable to lie before them. They do not allow it." Well, small lies could be told, but nothing large, nothing serious. It all depended on what was being said, and the intent behind the words.

The Prince nodded thoughtfully. "And because of that, the First Men always make agreements in sight of a heart tree, do they not?"

"Aye," Larra breathed, her heart in her throat. Oh, she disliked where this seemed to be going.

"We would make an agreement with you, my lady," he said to her.

Larra clenched her fists tightly enough to feel her short nails dig into her hands. "What sort of agreement, my prince?" she asked woodenly.

"One in which we all agree to tell nought but the truth to one another," he answered simply.

Larra felt her eyes go wide at that. Did he even realize what he was asking? Should they make such an agreement in front of a heart tree, it would be genuinely impossible for either of them to tell a lie or a mistruth to the others. The Gods would simply twist any words into the truth before they left their mouths. And telling the truth, most especially in King's Landing, was a terribly dangerous thing to do.

She swallowed, digging her nails into her palms and trying to decide what to do. On one hand, it could be a trap to trick her into admitting how much she loathed the Lannisters and wished death on Joffrey for murdering her family. Though, given the utter hatred she felt towards them for murdering her own siblings, she was sceptical that the prince could feel any different after the brutal slaughter of Princess Elia and her babes at the hands of the Lannisters. And Larra was hardly in a position to refuse, anyway. So long as she was alive to ensure that the North complied with the Crown's demands, the Lannisters let people do what they liked with her. He wouldn't be the first man in King's Landing to leave her bloody and bruised for refusing him something.

The two of them would be bound by the agreement as well, of course, she considered. And she had to admit it would be a relief not to have to struggle to decipher hidden meanings in at least one couple's words. She had never needed to do so before going south, and it exhausted her.

"Very well," she agreed quietly. "But any heart tree agreement must be bound with blood."

"Aye, mine nephew fostered with the Yronwoods, who follow the Old Gods," Prince Oberyn mused. "We slice our palms, do we not? And say that we make our vows on a few things, I am afraid I am uncertain as to what."

"It goes like this," Larra cleared her throat and recited the ancient phrase, reeling it off with ease despite it having been over two years since the last time she witnessed a heart tree agreement with her father. "I pledge, whatever it is, by fire and water, by bronze and iron, by ice and fire and by the blood we have shared in the eyes of the Gods. So mote it said, so mote it be."

She glanced at them, still wary of a verbal attack on her people's ways. She was so used to being told her culture was barbaric and heretical, it almost made her more uneasy when they simply nodded instead. She tensed automatically when Prince Oberyn unsheathed the dagger on his hip, and bit her lip as he stood and helped Lady Ellaria to her feet before they walked closer to her. Reluctantly, she rose from her seat amongst the roots to meet them. The top of her head wasn't even level with the prince's shoulder, and the way he towered over her, a dagger in hand that he could obviously use, made her swallow in instinctual fear.

The prince slit his two palms first, just a shallow cut on each one, then handed the dagger to Lady Ellaria, who copied him before she passed it to Larra, who barely managed to keep from shaking in nerves as she slashed her own palms open. As the blood welled up and out over her hand, she clasped his and Lady Ellaria's hands, the two copying her so that all of their blood mingled together, and spoke.

"I pledge to tell only the truth to Oberyn Nymeros Martell and Ellaria Sand, by fire and water, by bronze and iron, by ice and fire and by the blood we have shared in the eyes of the Gods," she chanted solemnly, keeping her gaze on their hands instead of daring to look at either of her companions. "So mote it said, so mote it be."

"I pledge to tell only the truth to Alarra Stark and Ellaria Sand," Prince Oberyn spoke after she finished, in a quiet voice. "by fire and water, by bronze and iron, by ice and fire and by the blood we have shared in the eyes of the Gods. So mote it said, so mote it be."

"I pledge to tell only the truth to Alarra Stark and Oberyn Nymeros Martell," Lady Ellaria finished it off. "By fire and water, by bronze and iron, by ice and fire, and by the blood we have shared in the eyes of the Gods. So mote it said, so mote it be."

Once they had finished, Larra quickly released their clasped hands and stepped away. She frowned at her hands, worrying over what to do about the bleeding. She had no handkerchief to stem the flow of blood. To her surprise, the prince held one out to her.

"Use this, Lady Stark," he instructed her. Timidly, she accepted the cloth and pressed it between her hands, stemming the free flowing blood.

"I shall wash it and return it to you as soon as I can, my prince," she murmured, casting her gaze down. Keeping a submissive posture and attitude was the best thing to do to avoid blows, she had learned. "Thank you."

"There is no need," he answered her in a light tone. "'Tis merely a piece of cloth, after all. Now, my lady, I believe that we all owe each other a truth, do we not?"

She glanced at him through her eyelashes, giving a reluctant nod. "I suppose we do, yes," she agreed hesitantly. "What do you wish to know, my prince, my lady?"

He looked thoughtful for a second, exchanging a quick look with his lover before giving his response. "What is your favourite activity, milady?"

Larra blinked in surprise at that. What did her hobbies have to do with anything?

"I, ah, I am torn, I must confess," she said slowly. "'Tis been some time, but I used to ride every day, no matter the weather. But I also love to read, especially if they are in foreign languages such as High Valyrian, and I often drew."

He smiled at her, and she was surprised that the expression seemed almost gentle. Nobody looked at her gently anymore, only mockingly or angrily. Her favourite way to be looked at was indifferently, as it was the one least likely to signal an incoming blow. She looked down at the grass, uncomfortable with the kindness in his gaze.

"All excellent activities," he complimented her, startling her even more. "And what do you wish to have from us, my lady?"

She bit her lip. "Well, I suppose that, seeing as I have told you what I enjoy doing most, I would know the same for you," she suggested uncertainly. She eyed him worriedly, fearing a backhand for impertinence, but he simply nodded, looking relaxed and at ease.

"My favourite thing to do is spend time with my daughters," he told her, his tone and expression warm and loving at the mention of his children. "I have nine of them: Obara, Nymeria, Tyene, Elaena, Sarella, Elia, Obella, Dorea and Loreza, in that order. They are beautiful, fierce and stubborn girls. I quite adore them all."

"I am the same," Lady Ellaria agreed. "There is nothing so wonderful as playing with my girls. I birthed only the youngest four, but I love them all as if they came from my own womb."

Larra clenched at her skirts, her heart aching as she thought of her own parents. Strangers had called her father a cold man, but to his wife and children he had been the most loving and caring father in the world. Her earliest memory was of sitting in front of him on his horse as they trotted around the courtyard in Winterfell. Her mother she had been close to also, forever seeking to mimic Ashara's elegance and kindness.

"I am certain that they adore you also, my prince, my lady," she said stiffly, averting her gaze. Unfortunately, he stepped into her line of vision. She couldn't suppress a flinch when he reached out, but all he did was cup her jaw to lift her face towards his.

"I wish to extend both my own and Dorne's sincerest condolences for your father and uncle's deaths, as well as the rest of your family, Lady Stark," he told her quietly. "Lord Eddard and Lord Arthur were brave, honourable men. They did not deserve such fates. I met your mother only the once, at Harrenhal, but she was a gentle, lovely lady, who deserved a far better fate than the one she was given."

Her hands trembled and she stepped away, biting her bottom lip and sinking into a curtsey. She could not say her usual claim about her father and uncle being traitors, because she did not believe it and she was before a heart tree. But she was not about to risk saying something that might be used against her later on, either.

"Thank you, Your Highness," she said stiffly. She could always claim to have been speaking of her mother, who had not been attained, rather than all of them. "Pardon me, I must be going." She didn't give either of them the opportunity to say anything else to her, fleeing the godswood as if the Great Other himself was at her heels.

She paused half-way up to the palace, realizing that she needed to do something to explain the cuts on her hands to Cersei. Deliberately, and with great reluctance, she let herself fall on some stones, scraping her knees and tearing her dress, not to mention the dirt. She shoved the handkerchief up her sleeve to hide it, then clambered back to her feet to make her way back to the keep to face the Queen's wrath once again.


Oberyn:

Oberyn watched the young lady flee his and Ellaria's presence and sighed. It could have gone worse, he supposed. But he had seen her fear at their arrival, her flinch when he had reached towards her. She spent almost the entire conversation playing with the silver-and-amethyst cuff-bracelet in what seemed to be an anxious habit.

Oberyn did not like it when young girls were frightened of him.

Still, they had made the vow, so she would be able to trust he and Ellaria were telling her the truth. It was the first step in getting her to trust them enough to convince her to let them help her.

Eddard Stark and Arthur Dayne had saved his sweet Elaena during the Sack, and delivered his sister's bones back to Dorne in state, preventing the Usurper from desecrating her and her babes' bodies as he had desired to do. Not to mention bringing back the bodies of all the other Dornishmen who had died that day, as many identified as possible, and the few survivors had all been saved by his men too.

Now, Oberyn intended to return the favour by getting their own daughter and niece away from the damned place that was the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.

But first, he needed her to trust him.

"It's a start, my love," Ellaria murmured to him. "We must take this slowly. I cannot bear to imagine what she must have suffered, being under the thumbs of those monsters for so long. We shall earn her trust, and get her to safety, and gain justice for all the Lannisters have done."

"Aye," he agreed, the word coming out in a breath. Finally, after so many years of waiting, he would be able to gain revenge for what had happened to Elia. And, perhaps more importantly, for Elia was gone and young Lady Alarra lived still, he would be able to repay Ned Stark and Arthur Dayne for saving his daughter, by saving theirs.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. BTW: None of the knighted Northerners are knighted in this, nor is Arthur, who was also of course not a Kingsguard.

Thanks to everyone giving this a shot! Read, enjoy and review! (Reviews with insults about my writing, plot, etc, will be promptly deleted without being read fully)

Chapter Two

The Star, The Viper and The Sand

November 3 rd , 298 AC

Larra:

Larra spent the next few days cowering in her small bedchamber, avoiding going out like the rest of the Red Keep was filled with some type of deadly plague. It was not due to the red hand mark and the shallow cut from one of the queen's rings that had graced her cheek since Cersei had discovered her ruined gown, but rather to due to fear of meeting Prince Oberyn again. The Red Viper was dangerous, and telling the truth in King's Landing was even more so. Larra had been fool not to flee the godswood the minute that he entered it, let alone agree to the oath with himself and Lady Ellaria.

She was so desperate to avoid having to go out that she deliberately made herself sick, sticking two fingers down her throat to force herself to vomit. She endured Pycelle's 'examination', the corrupt old maester happily taking the chance to grope her and make her skin crawl in disgust before he announced that she had a stomach flu. Hearing him declare that she would have to remain abed and quarantined away from the court was so wonderful, though, that it nearly made his molestation worth it. Nearly.

Unfortunately, by the fourth day she could no longer feign illness, and her bruise from Cersei's slap had faded enough that it could be passed over if she wore her hair in the right way. Pycelle again checked her over, declared her recovered, and she was forced to leave the relative safety of her rooms and return to court.

To her great relief, Joffrey and his mother were both too concerned with the king's upcoming wedding to Lady Margaery Tyrell to turn their attention to her. She was able to slip into the library, retrieve a book written in High Valyria on the history of the Freehold, and escape to the godswood without anyone bothering her.

She just barely avoided bumping into Lady Margaery and several of her cousins on the way, ducking behind a bush and waiting until the trio had passed her by to exit and continue for her haven. The Tyrells put up a veneer of kindness towards her, but Larra had seen the ambition sparkling in their eyes when Joffrey had announced his intention to wed Lady Margaery, and she had heard about the Queen of Thorns' reputation. Their ambition was much too similar to the Lannisters for her to ever trust their intentions. They wanted to plant her in Highgarden long enough to take control of the North through putting a babe with Tyrell blood in her belly, she was certain of it.

But Larra had been raised to be the Lady of the North, and she would happily die before letting her people be oppressed by any southron, be they lion or rose.

She was lost in thought when she entered the grove, and jumped nearly three feet in the air from shock and fear when she was greeted by Prince Oberyn and Lady Ellaria.

"Lady Stark, are you alright?" Lady Ellaria asked, a look of innocent concern that made Larra paranoid as to her intentions on her elegant features.

"We apologize for startling you, my lady," Prince Oberyn added lightly. "We have taken to coming her for some peace and quiet away from the court. I take it you feel the same desire for a break?"

Larra swallowed and smoothed down her skirt with one hand, the other holding onto her borrowed book with white knuckles. "Aye, I do, my prince," she murmured, sinking into a curtsey and casting her eyes to the ground. "My apologies for my reaction, I am unused to people visiting the godswood and did not expect any other's presence. The fault was entirely mine."

Larra did not actually think she had done anything wrong, but it was safer for her if she simply claimed all of the blame for herself for any incidents and apologized immediately. It cooled people's tempers and made them smug, seeing the last of her ancient House humbled. How her ancestors would rage in fury at the state that their House had fallen into.

The two Dornish exchanged looks, seeming to communicate through their gazes in a way that Larra recalled many long-term, loving Northern couples doing. She had never seen any Southron couples interact in such a manner before, however, until meeting these two. It was interesting, and she automatically made note of it, just in case it was useful later on.

"If the two of you desire to be alone, I can leave you be," she stated meekly, even though it alarmed her to think of their reputations and imagine what they had been doing alone in the godswood. Were not even the sacred groves of the Old Gods safe from Southron desecration anymore, in spite of Aegon's Freedom of Religion Laws? The thought made her despair increase even more. Though they were dressed, so perhaps she was being hysterical. She prayed it was so.

"That is entirely unnecessary, Lady Stark," Prince Oberyn smiled at her. "Perhaps you could be so gracious as to tell us what the book you are reading is about?"

"We heard that you fell ill," Lady Ellaria added. "I trust that you have since recovered?"

"The maester said that 'twas only a mild stomach flu, milady, but you are good to ask after my health," Larra replied uneasily, sitting in between the roots of the heart tree. It was a reassuring feeling, the rough bark against her back. The godswood was the only safe place left in the world. "My book is about the Valyrian Freehold, prior to the Doom."

"There is no need to call me 'lady', Lady Stark," Lady Ellaria let out a husky laugh. "I am not one at all, I assure you. A blessing really, for to be a proper lady as dictated by society seems a dull life indeed to me."

Larra stared at her in bewilderment for a minute before giving an uncertain nod.

"Is that High Valyrian?" Prince Oberyn craned his neck to see the title. "Ah, I have read that one. 'Tis quite interesting, with more focus on the day-to-day lives than usual for such books. You read High Valyrian, my lady?"

"I do yes, my prince," Larra confirmed timidly. She hunched her shoulders slightly, staring down at the leather cover as she waited some snide comment about it being impressive that a 'northern barbarian' could read at all, let alone read another language.

"Very impressive," he replied, surprising her with his sincerity. "Of my girls, I am afraid that only Elaena and Sarella have inherited my love for reading. Though I have my hopes for Dorea. She is but six, however she is ever begging myself or her sisters for a story. In fact, she is fascinated by tales of the North."

The couple gave Larra an expectant look, and she tried to think of a reply. "I was given to understand that many Southrons thought our stories too frightening for children," she stated carefully, hyper-aware of her oath of truthfulness and her desire not to draw anybody's wrath.

"I do find some of them rather alarming, yes," Lady Ellaria said ruefully. "That one about the King who served his son to his guests and was sent to the dungeons of the Otherworld to starve, for example. But it is a good way to teach children lessons. All of your people's tales seem to have a lesson in them. 'Tis quite clever."

Larra hummed in acknowledgement, looking down at the grass to keep them from seeing the tears she was fighting as she thought of Old Nan telling them stories by the fire in the evening. Like everyone else, Old Nan was gone forever, whisked away into the Otherworld by the thrice-be-damned Iron Bron. Larra hoped she was enjoying her time in Valhalla, and not worrying over Larra. She deserved a peaceful rest, after decades of leal service to the Starks.

"What is your favourite tale, Lady Stark?" Prince Oberyn asked her lightly. "Not just of the North, but in general."

Larra didn't even have to think about it. "The story of the Salmon of Knowledge," she stated.

"I do not believe that I have heard of that one," the prince replied lightly. "Would you be so good as to tell it to us?"

Larra inhaled and exhaled, then gave a small nod. "Back in the Age of Heroes, legend held that, in the Last River, there was a salmon that had been blessed by the Old Gods. Whomever ate a single bite of it would gain all of the knowledge of the world.

A scholar by the name of Feargal was the wisest man in the North at the time. He desired more than anything else to have the salmon and gain its' knowledge, so he lived beside the Last River and spent all of his time trying to catch it.

The King of Winter at the time sent his son, Brandon, to learn from Feargal. Whenever Brandon asked why Feargal was always fishing, the scholar would only smile. One day, Feargal at last caught the fish. He was delighted, but very tired. He gave the fish to Brandon to cook it, and warned his not to taste it, not even a single bite.

So Brandon cooked the fish, but he burned his thumb and stuck it in his mouth, not realizing that he has just tasted the salmon. When he brought the cooked salmon to Feargal, his teacher saw instantly that something had changed in his eyes. He asked if Brandon had eaten any of the fish, and the boy denied it. Then he recalled his thumb, and told Feargal what had happened. Feargal was disappointed, but said that the Gods had great things in store for Brandon, and he could teach him nothing else.

Brandon later went on to become known as the Breaker for defeating the Night King, and finished the Builder's campaign to unite the North under the rule of the Starks, a rule that has lasted for over eight thousand years."

She finished the story and looked at the pair, startled to see that they had both leaned forward, looking interested.

"That is a very good legend," Lady Ellaria mused. "Not so dark as the others from the North that I have heard."

"Is it true?" the prince cocked his head curiously.

Larra nearly shrugged, then managed to stop herself at last second, imagining her governess' scolding look at the unladylike gesture that Larra had always done without thinking and driven her mother and Lady Arielle mad in the process.

"I would not know," Larra answered softly. "Though certainly, the Breaker was renowned for his mind, as well as his ability in battle."

He nodded thoughtfully.

Larra peeked at the pair between her eyelashes, thinking of Arya. She had been as fascinated by the culture of Dorne as by the shield-maiden lines, and read the stories of Queen Nymeria a thousand times.

"My sister was fascinated by Dorne," Larra said abruptly. The two gave her surprised looks, probably at her actually giving up a truth freely instead of in response to a question. "Arya was absolutely wild, and she found acting ladylike the dullest thing in the world. She loved to hear about your Queen Nymeria and Princess Meria Martell, almost as much as she loved to hear about the shield-maidens of our own people."

"She sounds as if she were a very spirited girl," Lady Ellaria said gently.

"Aye, she was," Larra agreed, feeling tears prick at her eyes as she imagined her sister, dark hair always knotted because she refused to let it be brushed, dress torn and dirty from playing in the mud, eyes sparkling with mischief and stubbornness. "She was terribly spoilt, we all were really. Mother lost three babes, and the rest of us were adored. Arya was born after two stillbirths, and everyone was so relieved that she was healthy, nobody ever said no to her. But she drove everybody mad, always disappearing off into the village without telling anyone where she was going. Mother and Father would have guards posted at her door and beneath her window to keep her from escaping, but she would still manage it. It took years for us to realize that she was climbing out of her chimney, of all the things!"

The pair laughed softly.

"Her chimney?" the prince repeated, looking amused. "How did she manage that?"

"Our fireplaces are very large, and the chimneys themselves are quite thin, to keep in the heat," Larra explained. "And Arya was always quite scrawny. She would climb up the chimney, then out over the roof."

"How on earth did you realize what she was doing?" Lady Ellaria asked.

"She timed it badly one day, and one of the guards spotted her," Larra explained. "They brought her to our parents, and Mother tried to scold her, but she was laughing too hard to manage it. Even Father was bent over, he was laughing so much. Uncle Arthur congratulated her on being so creative, then told her she needed to alternate her escape routes a bit more."

For a few minutes, Larra had been smiling at the memory. Then she remembered all over again that her family was dead, her ancestral home in ruins, and the expression slipped.

The two Dornish took in the look on her face, then Prince Oberyn spoke up.

"There was but eleven moons' between myself and my sister, Elia, with her the elder," he told Larra, a hint of sadness in his eyes.

Larra had no need to wonder what pained him, for who did not know of poor Princess Elia's fate, and that of her innocent babes? Larra's own father had bitterly regretted to the end of his days that he had been only minutes too late to prevent the tragedy. All he had been able to do was deliver her bones and those of her children back to Dorne for proper burial rites, defying the late King Robert's desire to display them in a vile act of desecration. Larra had heard him speaking of it to her mother one night when she had been unable to sleep. Ashara had tried to insist that he had done all he could, but her father had maintained that he should have done more.

"We were as close as twins," Prince Oberyn continued, Lady Ellaria taking his hand in her own. "One of my fondest memories from my childhood is how we would fool our tutors. Elia found embroidery quite dull, while, at the time, reading bored me to tears. In order to help each other, Elia would read aloud our extra work to me whilst I did her needlepoint."

Larra clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from bursting into laughter at the image in her head of a shorter version of the Red Viper working away at a piece of embroidery, though she failed to stifle her giggles completely. The couple looked pleased at her amusement, thankfully.

She lowered her hand, feeling a smile play on her lips. It was strange, smiling genuinely. She had not done so in nearly two years.

"Did that truly work?" she asked.

"Oh yes, for years," he nodded. "I am quite an expert at sewing and embroidery now. However, when I was seven and Elia was almost eight, our elder brother Doran returned from fostering with some of our bannermen, the Gargarlens. He realized what we were doing, and confronted us. I was very upset to be discovered, until he then proceeded to convince our mother that it was unnecessary for Elia to learn more sewing then she did already, and helped me learn to read better by finding books that were actually interesting to a child, instead of the dull ones that my tutors would assign me. I do not believe that he ever revealed our deception to anyone."

"That was kind of him," Larra remarked softly.

"Aye, he is a wonderful brother," the prince nodded, smiling faintly. "We were not too close as children, given he is over a decade my elder, but as adults we are much closer."

Larra gave a strained smile, nodding.

"Unfortunately, Lady Stark, we must go," Lady Ellaria sighed regretfully as they stood. Larra climbed to her feet and fell into a curtsey, ignoring the amused looks they gave her for it.

"I hope we shall speak with you again soon, my lady," the prince said courteously.

Larra hesitated then admitted in a soft tone, "I am here most of the time, my prince. I prefer to be away from the court."

They beamed at her, Prince Oberyn kissed her hand politely as Lady Ellaria curtsied, and they left, leaving Larra feeling off-kilter and confused as to what they wanted from her.


Oberyn:

Once they were out of Lady Stark's earshot, Oberyn growled in anger. "You saw the mark on her cheek?" he muttered to Ellaria, who was also frowning.

"Aye," she agreed. "Gods, have the Lannisters no shame? Or even sense? 'Tis well-known how loyal the North is to the Starks. The only reason that they have not called for their banners in response to the murders of Lord Stark and Lord Dayne is because they are holding their liege lady captive. Should the North learn their lady is being mistreated, they may very well decide they cannot stay their hands any longer, and attack."

Oberyn nodded, gritting his jaw in anger. "We should never have waited," he muttered, guilt filling him. "The first thing Lord Stark and his men did when King's Landing was sacked was go searching for my sister and her children to secure them. He failed, but he saved Laena and a dozen of our people through the actions of himself and his men. Yet when his daughter was in the same situation as Elia was fifteen years past, we failed to aid her immediately."

"My love, do not blame yourself," Ellaria murmured to him, tugging him to a stop and cupping his jaw. "Who could have believed that the Lannisters would be so foolish as to act in such a barbaric manner towards any lady, in particular the key to the Winterlands, the most powerful military-power in the Seven Kingdoms? And this is the best plan. But it could not work were she still a young maiden of three-and-ten."

Oberyn grimaced and nodded, running a hand through his recently-cut curls. The young maid's circumstances reminded him painfully of Elia, and he could hear Laena's wails of grief and panic when they told her of Lord Stark and Lord Dayne's deaths. Laena had never fully stopped associating the Starks and Daynes with safety, and she was grief-stricken and frightened by their deaths. Oberyn didn't want to contemplate how much more traumatic the losses must have been for Lady Stark, given that they were her blood, she had seen it occur, and she had subsequently become the hostage of her kins' killers.

"We will fix this," he said aloud, to reassure himself. "I will gladly kill everyone who laid a hand on her, once she is safely under my protection."

Ellaria kissed him firmly for a moment before pulling away. "Aye, my love," she agreed. "By the Old Gods and the New, 'twill be so."

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

Chapter Three

The Lion's Decision

The Red Keep: December 1 st , 298 AC

Larra:

Larra could barely breathe she was so frightened, as she reluctantly made her way to the Tower of the Hand. She had no idea why Lord Tywin had summoned her, but it couldn't be good. Nothing that involved the Lannisters ever was. Her heart was in her throat as she climbed the steps to his office. She worried he had discovered that Prince Oberyn and/or Lady Ellaria kept coming to see her when she was in the godswood.

Just under a full moon had passed since she had made the vow of truth with them, and she saw at least one of them daily. If Lord Tywin learned that she was meeting with a pair who made no secret of their loathing for the Lannisters, his wrath would be terrible.

The Rains of Castamere played in the back of her head as she climbed the stairs of the Tower, trying not to think of the awful day that the Lannister soldiers had come crashing into their rooms in the middle of the night, cutting down their surprised guards with brutal efficiency. Archers had shot flaming arrows into the rooms, which had been the death of Ygritte, her best friend and Wolf Guard. Not even their servants had been spared.

She kept her gaze forward and resisted the urge to shake, clenching her fists in her skirts to keep them from trembling.

Two redcloaks stood guard outside of the door, and she kept her gaze down and submissive as they sneered at her.

"Lord Lannister requested my presence," she announced softly. "Might I be permitted to see him?"

One of the guards made a humph sound and rapped on the door sharply.

"What is it?" Lord Tywin's cold voice made her shiver in fear, her stomach twisting.

"Lady Alarra is here to see you, my lord," the guard muttered, even he fearful of the lion's wrath.

"Enter," he ordered. The guard opened the door for her, and Alarra entered feeling as if she were walking to her own execution.

She walked to the desk and promptly sank into a curtsey. It was much too deep for a Lady Paramount to make, even to the Hand of the King and Warden of the West, but Larra knew well that maintaining a veneer of being broken to the Lannisters' will was her only hope of surviving the viciousness of the Red Keep.

And, though thoughts of the Otherworld sometimes tempted her, Larra was not yet so deep in her despair that she was prepared to die without seeing her family avenged. And she knew that her family would've been horrified by her joining them by her own hand. They had loved her, and she would not disrespect the sacrifice made by her uncle and father by throwing away her life. Not until it was her only option left.

"You summoned me, my lord," she stated meekly, clasping her hands together and keeping her head bowed.

"Yes, I did," Lord Tywin acknowledged coldly. He didn't even look away from his parchment as he spoke. "The Council has come to an agreement. You are a maiden flowered, turning five-and-ten on the 22nd of this month. 'Tis past time for you to marry."

"What?" Larra gasped, her head snapping up and eyes going wide in horror. "To whom?" she demanded, hearing the hysteria in her own voice.

He continued to scratch away at his parchment, indifferent, and it only increased her ire and loathing for him. "We have yet to decide. You are a ward of the Crown, and we may bestow your hand to whomever we see fit. We will marry you to somebody suitable."

Someone who is loyal to you, you mean, she thought bitterly. Somebody who will have no qualms abusing his wife and raping me until I produce a male heir so as to keep myself and my bannermen in line. May the Old Gods take your soul to their dungeons. May you rot in the worst of your seven hells, and your precious legacy crumble into nothing, forgotten by all.

"I see," she stated, trying desperately to keep her composure. She would not show her despair and horror to him. She was the daughter of Eddard and Ashara Stark, a descendant of a thousand warrior kings and queens on both sides of her lineage. She would not let this jumped-up lion break her. "Might I leave then, my lord, unless you have more to say to me?"

He waved at her in dismissal, and she was quick to take advantage of his permission and flee. She barely took note of her surroundings as she fled to the godswood as fast as she could without outright running. Once there, she fell to her knees in front of the heart tree, clasping her hands into a prayer position and muttering desperate prayers, imploring them to take pity on her and kill her before she was forced to marry someone who would destroy her people and their culture.

She barely took note of the now-familiar sound of Prince Oberyn and Lady Ellaria's footsteps, too focused on pleading with the gods.

She stiffened, however, when Ellaria wrapped an arm around her shoulders and rubbed her back in a soothing motion. Prince Oberyn silently held out a handkerchief, making Larra realize that she was sobbing. She accepted the handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes, hiccupping.

"What happened, sweet one?" Ellaria asked gently, when Larra had at last stemmed her tears.

"The council has decided that I must marry," she replied bleakly. Her voice grew hysterical as she went on, her chest heaving painfully. "They have yet to decide to whom, but 'twill be the same no matter what, will it not? They will drag me to a sept with a sword at my neck if needs be, to pledge myself to some Lannister sycophant, if not an actual Lannister. Then they will brutalize my people, destroy our culture and steal our resources for themselves. The Stark name will be lost, our traditions and religion turned to ashes. Oh, by the Gods, how is this happening? Eight thousand years of protecting the people of the North, destroyed in but a few words."

She started crying again, hating herself and the Lannisters equally. Thank the Gods, neither of her companions spoke, instead Ellaria simply pulled her face into her shoulder and stroked her hair while the prince stayed silent. She was grateful for their silence. No truth could comfort her, but if they did not confirm her fears, she could try and convince herself that she was exaggerating out of panic. She could pretend that the gods would take pity on her and strike her down before she was forced to bear the child of a Lannister. A child that would doubtlessly be ripped away from her arms the moment it came into the world, raised to be as vile as his father and hate her Northern blood.

"We are not even allowed to marry at my age in the North," she sniffled.

"Oh?" Prince Oberyn asked softly. "That is a good thing, I think. In Dorne, we do not force ladies to marry as soon as they flower. My niece is eight-and-ten, and not yet even betrothed. Neither are any of my daughters, of whom the eldest is soon to be two-and-twenty."

Larra hiccupped, pulling away from Ellaria's comforting embrace reluctantly and automatically starting to fidget with her bracelet. "Several thousand years ago, King Edric V Stark put a law in place, forbidding any Northern maid to be betrothed before fifteen and we cannot marry before six-and-ten," she informed them, staring at the face on the heart tree. "He was the younger of a set of twins. Girls in the North often flower as young eight or nine."

Larra herself had flowered at nine, common enough in her kingdom.

"Eight or nine?" both of the Dornish looked startled.

"Obviously, girls cannot become mothers so young as that, even if their bodies are technically ready for it," Larra stated, her companions nodding in agreement. "But the law was the same as the rest of the kingdoms back then. King Edric's twin sister, Erena, was married to the Lord of the Dreadfort as soon as she flowered, at ten. She died birthing a stillborn child later that year, and Edric was certain that it was because she was too young for marriage. He was absolutely devastated, and he had not yet even been coronated when he announced a new law: no maid could be betrothed prior to turning five-and-ten, and could not marry before six-and-ten. Any man who married a girl younger than that was guilty of sexual slavery and rape, and would be gelded and executed for it."

"It seems a good law to me," Prince Oberyn said. "I think girls marry much too young, in the kingdoms between ours."

"Aye," Larra mumbled, feeling her bottom lip wobble and her fill with tears all over again.

The pair sighed heavily, glancing at each other. She was surprised to realize that she appreciated it when Ellaria pulled her into another hug and the prince placed his hand on her knee.

She had been wary of them at first. She was still sure that they wanted something from her, and thoughts of what that might be made her nervous. But with every conversation that they shared without them making cruel comments or raising their hands to her, the calmer she felt in their presence.


Ellaria:

The young Lady Stark had eventually stopped crying, apologized stiffly and hurried off, apparently embarrassed by her tears. Ellaria longed to assure her that giving her comfort was no hardship, their sole regret was that she needed it in the first place. But Alarra was not going to believe them, and so they let her go to restore her dignity. Once they had seen her safely off, the two of them laced their arms and returned to their rooms in the keep.

"I wanted to give her more time, to get to know us, to learn how to trust us," Oberyn stated finally, after they had arrived back in their bedchamber and were sitting in bed, intertwined with Ellaria's head resting against her lover's chest.

"I know," Ellaria acknowledged. "But time is not on Alarra's side. If not you, then whom shall be her bridegroom, my love? Will they marry her to the Imp? Release the Kingslayer from his Kingsguard vows to wed and bed her? Mayhaps the Old Lion himself will decide 'tis time to have a new young bride on his arm."

Oberyn growled at the mere thought of any of the Lannisters marrying the sweet young maiden they had been getting to know over the past several weeks. Ellaria went on, undaunted by his anger.

"She speaks truthfully when she says that they would force her to make her wedding vows at sword-point if necessary. They will take even the comfort of her gods from her, forcing her to convert to the Light of the Seven. She speaks so fondly of the servants she knew who worked at Winterfell, how most of their families served the Starks for generations and she played with their children. You have seen the way the Lannisters treat their own servants, my love, how they shamelessly beat them and terrify them. Can you bear to contemplate Alarra's grief if those people she loves so dearly were to become as fearful and starved as the ones here?"

"We ought to arrange for her to marry Quentyn instead," Oberyn muttered, sounding guilty. "A beautiful young maid of four-and-ten does not want a man with silver in his hair as her husband."

Ellaria hit him lightly on the arm. "What do you know of what young maids want?" she scoffed. "You were never one, but I surely was. Though, thank the Seven, I never went through what she did. I will tell you want that young lady desires in her husband.

She wants a man who will not harm her, a man who will care for her and her opinions and thoughts. She wants her people, their culture and traditions to be respected instead of stifled. She wants to be safe, and to not have her rights as Wardenness of the North subverted by her husband because she is a woman. That is what she wants."

She gave Oberyn a pointed look, but he remained stubbornly silent. Ellaria rolled her eyes, well-acquainted with his stubbornness after over a decade with him.

"Now," Ellaria went on. "Shall we go over it?"

He sighed and gave in to her with a nod. Ellaria smirked and continued.

"Alarra wants a man who will not raise his hand to her, would you ever do such a thing?"

"You know that I would not," Oberyn replied tightly. "I do not hit women."

Ellaria nodded in agreement. Even in the worst of their arguments, even when one of his daughters were being much too out-of-control and he was furious with them, Ellaria had never once thought that Oberyn would ever hit any of them. The thought repulsed him, and she knew it. The thing he regretted most was slapping Obara's mother in a fit of temper at the woman hiding his child from him and learning that she had been allowing Obara to be 'trained' to follow in the whore's footsteps.

"I know," she confirmed softly. "Now, what else does Alarra want in her husband? Somebody who will respect and care for her opinions and thoughts. Do you not do so?"

"She is a very clever lady," Oberyn acknowledged. "Something we have mentioned to each other already. Her father groomed her well to be his successor."

"He did, and you have also basically just confirmed that you shall not steal her inheritance from her, as whomever the Lannisters marry her to would."

He gave a curt nod. It was far easier for a Dornishman to marry an heiress than for someone outside of their homeland (save for the Winterlands, with their matrilineal Houses), given their equal-gender primogeniture raised them to be prepared for such a scenario. Dornishmen were not taught that their wives were property and needed to submit to their husband's will.

"Finally, you do not intend to turn the Winterlands into a Dornish colony, do you?" Ellaria asked.

"Certainly not," Oberyn replied tensely. "The Winterlands are not Dorne, but you know well that I have nothing but respect for it and its culture."

Ellaria nodded to that. "And it goes without saying that Alarra will be safe with you," she finished softly, reaching out to stroke his brow soothingly.

"I do not wish for her to accept me out of fear," he sighed. "Or to think that I am trying to help her solely so as to repay the debt to her father and uncle for saving Laena."

It was Ellaria's turn to sigh this time. "Fear will pay a factor in her decision," she stated softly, feeling as sorrowful at that fact as her lover looked. "But not fear of you, my love. Fear of the Lannisters, fear for what they would do to her people. I dislike it also, but 'tis inevitable. We have, over the past three weeks, gained a certain level of trust with her I believe. She did not flinch when we touched her today, the first time such a thing has happened!"

"I care for her now," Oberyn admitted. "More than I expected to when we came up with the plan."

Ellaria nodded, smiling at him. "Aye, I too find myself falling in love with her," she agreed. "She has such a character, does she not? Either you love her or hate her out of jealousy."

"She does not return our feelings," Oberyn said, looking regretful. "It may be that there is another in the North who holds her affections, yet I would have her as my wife instead of allowing any other to have her, selfish as it may be. Though I still believe Quentyn would be better suited to her."

"If she loves another, there is nought to be done about it," Ellaria replied frankly. "And it may not be so. What is certain is that Alarra must marry quickly. As for her and Quentyn, we have already discussed and dismissed that possibility. He is too close to the Sunchair, and the Lannisters will not want her to be happy. In this case, your reputation will be an asset to us, for they will think you will treat her terribly. But if she does not marry you, I fear for her greatly. She will not allow a lion to put his child in her, to torment her people. I fear she will resort to drastic measures to escape. Will you do it, my love? We can coax her into loving us later. First, we must make her safe."

"I will," Oberyn agreed lowly, as she had known that he would. "Tomorrow, then," her lover decided. "We will ask her to join us for dinner, then speak to her afterwards."

"A good idea," Ellaria nodded. He glanced at her.

"I think perhaps I ought to plan out what to say, for once," he admitted, looking embarrassed. "I would make my intentions clear, that she not believe I seek her hand solely for ambition or repaying the debt."

Ellaria smiled and leaned in to kiss him. He put on a front of toughness, but she saw his heart. He was a loving man, and together the two of them would be able to heal the scars on Alarra's heart. She pulled away and pecked his cheek.

"Tomorrow, we will plan out what to say," she agreed. "Now, however..." She straddled his waist and made him groan with a practiced flick of her hips.

"Will it not be wonderful, my love," she whispered in his ear. "When there are three of us in bed with one another, not just us two?"

"Ellaria," he moaned, flipping her over to pin her to the bed and press his lips against hers.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks to everyone enjoying this!

Chapter Four

The Proposal

The Red Keep: December 2nd, 298 AC

Larra:

Larra rested in the godswood, mechanically sewing a rip in her single shawl as she tried to block thoughts of what Joffrey had said earlier from her mind. Her despair and fear was mixed heavily with fury, both emotions fighting for dominance within her breast. They were so strong, she felt as if she might go mad from it all.

Mayhaps 'tis time to restart the tradition of the First Night, the vicious boy king had sneered at her mockingly, his malicious smirk covering his face. And once you've been bedded well, you need hardly worry about keeping chaste then, do you? Remember, wolf-bitch, I am the king. Nobody may refuse me anything. Nobody. It does not matter whom either of us weds, you will always be mine, to do whatever I desire with.

She could never decide if she hated or feared the lions more. She definitely despised her fear. It infuriated her to know that she, the last of the oldest dynasty in Westeros, feared a bunch of upstarts, who had ruled as Kings of the Rock for less than a century before the Targaryens had forced them to bend the knee. It made her bite through her own tongue in rage to know that, in order to survive, she had to let that fear show.

If only the dragons had killed the Lannisters off as thoroughly as they did the Gardeners, she mused bitterly to herself. The world would be all the better for it.By the Old Gods, I will not give them the North. Never will a lion rule Winterfell. Never. I will die before I bring another of those vile monsters into the world.

Not for the first time, she brooded on the thought of Queen Helaena Targaryen, and Princess Serena Stark. Both had been captives who had chosen to kill themselves, Queen Helaena out of grief and Princess Serena in order to keep from being used against her family by the Boltons in their rebellion. Her father Harlon had slaughtered them to a man for it, and the late Princess had been applauded for her bravery.

Was Larra being a craven by not following in their footsteps? She was wary of dying without ensuring that her family was avenged, their bodies given the proper ceremonies to allow their spirits to rest. And if she were to kill herself, she would be spitting on the sacrifice made by her father and uncle. They had only confessed to protect her, after all.

Yet was that more important than the North? Her father had always told her and her siblings that their kingdom must come before all else for them. Being stuck under the thumb of the lions was in no way the best thing for her people.

The thought of how her people would suffer under the Lannister's reign made tears fill her vision and she swore in the Old Tongue when she subsequently jabbed herself in the finger with her needle. "Drat," she hissed in frustration to herself, sticking her finger in her mouth and snapping her eyes closed to keep the tears from falling.

By the gods, Larra was so sick of crying helplessly whilst her people suffered and the lions sauntered around, smug at having the most powerful part of the Seven Kingdoms under their thumbs. Yet there was no way for her to fix any of it, and that just made her despair increase, dampening the strength of her anger.

"Oh dear, I hate it when that happens," Larra glanced up at Ellaria, who had a smile on her face as she sashayed into the grove and sat down at Larra's side.

"I was always ruining the things I sewed as a young girl," Larra told her ruefully. "I got lost in daydreams and ruined my stitches, or stabbed my thumb. I improved as I grew."

Larra had started forcing herself to excel when it became increasingly clear that Ashara would not bear a healthy son to succeed Lord Eddard.

Although the North had a preference for women leading their Houses instead of those Houses becoming extinct, and though they had more than a few matrilineal Houses, they still judged Ladies who ruled their Houses more harshly than they did men. And as Lady of the North, Larra had known that she would have to interact with people from outside the North, who would think her and her people weak because she was of the fairer sex. She had forced herself to be better than everyone else at anything, practicing anything she didn't instinctively understand day and night until she was perfect.

She had wanted so much to be a good Lady Paramount. She had wanted to prove her family right when they said she would be a great lady. Instead she had failed worse than any of her ancestors save perhaps the Nameless, who had turned on his people and become the Night King.

"Such is the way of most things," Ellaria said lightly. "Now, my sweet one," she leaned forward and grasped Larra's hands in her own. "I have a request. We are having a small party this evening, just myself, Oberyn and our party. We hoped that you would join us?"

Larra hesitated, chewing on her lip. She was uncertain whether or not to accept the invitation, though she was quite certain that eating with the Dornish would be far more preferable to eating in the Great Hall, surrounded by Tyrells and Lannisters who were eyeing her up, thinking of ways to gain her hand and her kingdom whilst making verbal digs at herself, her family and her gods.

But should she accept?

On one hand, if she was seen interacting with the Dornish, she risked drawing the wrath of the Queen Mother and King down on her head. On the other, if she did not accept the invitation, she might offend and alienate the only people in King's Landing save for her handmaiden Shae who had shown her any degree of kindness, no matter why.

That settled the matter then. Larra was finding too much relief in her talks with Prince Oberyn and Lady Ellaria to willingly offend them and risk losing those brief respites.

"I would be delighted, my lady," she agreed. "At what time?"

"I hope that eight is not too late for you? We Dornish eat our dinners later than most of Westeros, I fear. A habit borne of our long days, I suppose."

"No, eight is fine," Larra assured her.

"Wonderful!" Ellaria clapped, then embraced Larra and kissed her cheek. "I am afraid that I must go and get everything ready, however I am delighted you will join us. And then afterwards, there is something that Oberyn and I wish to discuss with you privately, if you would be so amendable?"

Larra paused at that, instinctively worried. But Ellaria was still looking at her expectantly, so Larra forced herself to reply. "I would," she agreed warily, inclining her head as they rose to their feet, Larra automatically curtseying.

Ellaria laughed and shook her head. "We have both said so before but I feel that I must say so again," she smiled. "You know that we do not need or expect you to give us obeisance? We are, I hope, your friends, and friends need not be formal with one another. And even if you do not feel that we are, there is no reason for the Lady of the North to curtsey to a bastard."

Larra gave her a careful look. "Base born you may be, Lady Ellaria," she answered softly. "But you are the only woman in this keep that I think is worthy of my respect. The same for Prince Oberyn. I know you want something, as everyone does. I do not know what that is, whether 'tis something from me personally or, more likely, from my kingdom. But you have both been respectful towards me, and you gave condolences on the loss of my family. Respect is earned, and you two have earned mine."

Lady Ellaria gave her a soft expression and took her hands in Ellaria's own. "I am most honoured, Lady Stark," Ellaria told her, before going on. "Do you think 'tis selfish for us to desire to earn your trust, also?" she asked gently.

Larra bit her lip. "I do not know if I will ever be able to trust anybody ever again," she admitted, feeling tired and old beyond her almost five-and-ten years.

Ellaria sighed sorrowfully, reaching out to cup Larra's face. Larra surprised herself when she didn't instinctively flinch from the touch. In fact, Ellaria's warm hand actually felt comforting. Not the way her mother's hands had been comforting, but comforting all the same.

"Trust is a valuable commodity, and you are right to give yours sparingly after all that you have suffered," Ellaria told her. "I promise you that we will prove worthy of gaining it. I merely ask that you grant us the opportunity to do so."

Larra nodded slowly, clenching her hands in her skirts. "I will try," she murmured. "I cannot, I simply cannot, promise more."

"That is more than enough, and I thank you, sweet one," Ellaria said, leaning in to kiss Larra's cheek. "We shall see you at our rooms these evening at eight then? Do you wish us to send someone to escort you or do you know the way?"

"No, there is no need, I can make my own way," Larra shook her head. "I shall see you tonight."

Ellaria gave her a final, bright smile, then turned and left. Larra had the strange feeling that she was missing something, but she had no idea what it was.


Oberyn:

Alarra was announced at eight on the dot, being led into the room by Rogar Sand, the guard on duty that evening.

"Lady Alarra Stark, Head of House Stark, Lady Paramount of the Winterlands and Wardenness of the North!" Rogar announced to them, making them all rise and give respectful greetings to the young lady.

Oberyn noticed the way Alarra stiffened slightly when she was announced and they stood for her, and he was unsure if it was because she unused to hearing her title being acknowledged and receiving the proper respect it deserved, or if she was pained by the reminder that she had become Lady Stark so young. Either way, it made him hurt for her.

She looked a vision, he thought appreciatively, discreetly looking her over. Although her hair was the chestnut of her father instead of the raven black of her mother, otherwise she was the image of Ashara Stark née Dayne, who had rightfully been called the Star of the North in her youth. Even the slightly-ragged and tightness of her blue dress, too short for her with some of its faded silver embroidery fraying, did not detract from her beauty. If anything, it made Oberyn admire her all the more for her strength in enduring everything the Lannisters had put her through over the past two years. The lions had sought to kill the wolf in her, but Oberyn was certain that they had merely caged it. With enough care, he hoped to coax it out again, bringing out the strong lady of the North he saw within her.

She kept her expression even and polite as she curtsied to them in return, whilst Oberyn made his way to her side, taking her hand to kiss the back of it.

"I am delighted that you came, Lady Stark," he told her softly.

"Thank you for the invitation, my prince," she answered, allowing him to guide her to the table and help her into her seat, on his other side from Ellaria, who greeted her cheerfully.

"Might I introduce you to the rest of my company, my lady?" he asked her as he poured her a goblet of Arbor Gold and passed it to her. He had ordered the Arbor Gold especially for her, recalling her admitting that she hated the colour of red wine during one of their discussions without Ellaria's presence. He suspected from the expression she had worn, that it reminded her of blood. She was hardly the only one.

Alarra accepted the drink with a polite thanks, tucking a loose curl behind her ear. "If it would please you, my prince," she responded, ever the perfect lady.

"Would it please you?" Oberyn pressed her. He disliked putting her on the spot, but he wanted to get her into the habit of considering what she wanted as well everything else when making a decision, even if it was something as simple as being introduced to strangers.

She was quiet for a second, before giving a hesitant nod. "Yes, thank you," she murmured.

He smiled as gently as he could at her, then began to list off his companions, pointing to them when they were introduced. "We shall start on Ellaria's far side, with her father Lord Harmen Uller of the Hellholt and her uncle, Ser Ulwyk, who is heir to the seat. Then on his other side is the heir to Godsgrace and my cousin, Ser Ryon Allyrion and his natural son, Ser Daemon Sand, my former squire. Beside Ser Daemon this is Lady Larra Blackmont, Lady of House Blackmont and her children Jynessa and Perros. Next we have Lord Tremond Gargarlen, the Lord of Salt Shore, Lady Myria Jordayne, heiress to the Tor, Lord Dagos Manwoody of Kingsgrave, his brother Ser Myles and his two sons Mors and Dickon. His wife remains back at Kingsgrave with their infant daughter, Mariah. And finally we have my good friends Sers Arron Qorgyle and Dezial Delt."

Each one greeted her warmly, much to his satisfaction, and Alarra herself gave them soft smiles that almost reached her eyes. He considered that to be a great accomplishment, given her usual expression was a worried frown or neutrality.

"Can you recall them all?" he asked her teasingly, taking care to keep his tone light and gentle.

She hesitated a moment before resolve settled in her beautiful violet eyes. "I know the main members of most Houses already, my prince," she informed him softly. "I simply could not match their faces to names. I can recall them, I assure you."

"Most Houses, even from Dorne?" he asked her in pleased surprise.

She nodded, taking a sip of her drink before replying. "My siblings, Robb and Arya. Well, Robb was my cousin by blood but Mother and Father raised him as if he were their own," she swallowed briefly, her eyes snapping shut, before re-opening them and continuing. "They hated to have lessons on anything save swordplay, and many others fostered at Winterfell alongside us, so classes were always hard for our teachers to keep under control.

In order to get everyone to pay attention, Mother made games out of most of our lessons. In this case, she had all of the different Houses, their main family members, words and sigil all put on a large set of cards. There would be the people listed on one side, and the sigil and words would be on the other. We would look at the sigil and have to list off the family members. She, she always said it was important to know such things."

Her voice shook faintly as she mentioned her mother, and Oberyn longed to embrace and comfort her, though he doubted she would appreciate it. More likely, she would be embarrassed and uncomfortable.

"I and my younger brother Bran were the best at it," Alarra went on, her eyes fixed on her plate. "I always put a great deal of effort into excelling at whatever task Mother or Father or tutors set me. I wanted- I was Father's heiress all my life, and everyone said I would be a wonderful Lady Paramount. I wanted to prove them right."

"You have," Oberyn murmured to her. She gave him a bleak look, and he continued firmly. "I see your love for your people, your culture, every time that you speak of them. The best rulers are those that love their kingdoms and all within."

"I will not pretend that the North is perfect," she told him softly, a longing look in her eyes. "But 'tis my home, and I love it dearly."

I miss it, Oberyn heard what she did not say. He sighed heavily, picking up her palm and kissing the back of it. "You will see it again, Lady Stark," he assured her. "If I must sail the boat to White Harbour myself, I shall see it done."

She swallowed and looked away. Oberyn changed the subject to a lighter topic, realizing that he was getting beyond the line of how much familiarity she could accept without becoming distressed and uncomfortable.

"I hope you will not mind if I should steal your lady mother's idea and use these cards to teach my younger babes. 'Tis quite an ingenious idea. Dorea is always happy to be read to, but they all dislike their lessons, I am afraid. A common trait among my daughters, save for Sarella and Laena. They both read every book they can get their hands on. Sarella is recently returned from studying at the Citadel, in fact. She forged two links," he did not bother hiding his pride at that fact.

She gave him a bemused look. "I was under the impression, my prince, that women were not allowed to study at the Citadel," she commented.

Oberyn gave her a wicked grin. "They are not," he confirmed. "She dressed as a boy and called herself Alleras. She has two links now, one bronze and one Valyrian steel. I am very proud."

"That is quite an accomplishment," Lady Stark agreed. She hesitated then added. "The University of Winter accepts women, should she ever desire to attend. They can be harsher on foreigners, I confess, but if she wanted to attend, I could write her a letter and they would gladly welcome her on my behalf."

"You are a very generous lady," he replied, as he grabbed her hand and lifted it to his lips, hoping she could see his sincere appreciation for her offer. She gave an uncomfortable smile and glanced at the food that had been served. Most of it was Dornish, but he and Ellaria had ordered some Nothern dishes made too, in order to help her be more at ease.

"I have never seen rice this colour," she commented, blinking at the yellow colour of the grains.

"'Tis made with saffron," Oberyn smiled at her. "A dish called paella, made with rice and seafood. I urge you to try it, 'tis delicious." He was careful to avoid phrasing anything as a command, wanting to always feel she had options available with he and Ellaria.

She gave a small smile and nibbled at the rice, examining the other dishes curiously.

Seeing her interest, Ellaria leaned over and began pointing out the various dishes to her, warning her to drink some of the honeyed milk to avoid hurting her tongue from the heat of the peppers. Alarra clearly appreciated the warning, and was careful to only have small bites of the hot curry and spice-filled dishes.

"I believe that Ellaria mentioned that the two of us wish to discuss something with you after dinner, my lady," he murmured to her.

She nodded in confirmation, a hint of curiosity and wariness, though not outright fear at the prospect in her eyes, much to his relief. "She did, but I confess that I do not know what you might wish to speak of with me," she admitted.

Oberyn gave her another smile, hoping that his own apprehension wasn't showing. "We shall speak in the godswood later, if that is acceptable with you?"

"Yes, quite," she agreed, and with that settled, they returned to focusing on eating and chatting lightly. Oberyn was delighted to see her gradually lose a bit of the tension that seemed to line her spine constantly.


Larra:

Larra felt her stomach twist with nerves as she made her way to the godswood with Prince Oberyn and Lady Ellaria.

What could they possibly want to speak with her of?

If it was something that they wanted from the North, there was little Larra could do. She was Lady Paramount of the Winterlands in name only, for the Lannisters used her official status of the ward of the Crown to rule her people, keeping her bannermen in line through threats to Larra's life and safety. She was not even allowed to send letters to anybody. If the Martells wanted anything from the North, she could not aid them. Nor was there anything she personally could do, powerless as she was.

So what would they want to talk to her about?

They arrived at the godswood, and Larra automatically went to her place in the roots of the tree. The feel of the weirwood bark at her back eased her worries. The Old Gods' presence was not as strong as in the North, but she felt them still. Even after everything, she could not bring herself to abandon her faith in Them.

Every trial is a test of your loyalty to the Gods, Lady Arielle's voice whispered in the back of her mind. Have faith in Them. Remember, maireann ceaithre rudaí tríd na haoiseanna: An Geimreadh, an tSaoil, Mairbh, and na Starkanna. (Four things endure throughout the ages: Winter, Life, Death and the Starks.)

Whatever happened, Larra would endure. She had to. Her father and uncle had confessed to save her life, and she would not waste their sacrifice. It had not been a worthy trade, but she would not shame them by letting the lions break her.

She was broken out of her brooding when, much to her surprise, Prince Oberyn knelt in front of her. He took her left hand in his own and rubbed his thumb over her knuckles, whilst Ellaria perched beside her and wrapped an arm around Larra's shoulder, the two of them lacing their free hands together.

"My prince?" she questioned. "My lady?"

"If you would, Lady Stark, I would like to explain the reason Ellaria and I first sought you out before explaining our plan to you. Afterwards, say or ask whatever you desire, but allow me to say this part first."

"Aye," Larra agreed slowly and warily. She almost thought he looked nervous, but that was ridiculous. What could the Red Viper of Dorne have to say to a maid of four-and-ten that would make him feel nervous?

"Lady Stark" he began, a hint of rehearsal in his tone. "I do not know if you are aware, but my family owes yours a great debt, and I and Ellaria have both come to care for you deeply over the past few weeks. As such, we have come up with a solution to your current situation. But first, I would ask, my lady, if you know of the debt of which I speak?"

Larra shook her head, bewildered. "I know that Father and Uncle Arthur brought Princess Elia's body and those of her children and household back to Dorne," she said carefully. "But that hardly is worthy of your family becoming indebted to mine."

"You speak truly," Prince Oberyn inclined his head in acknowledgement. "However, 'tis not the full truth. You recall my daughter, Elaena?"

"Aye," Larra repeated. "She is your third daughter, born to a woman in the Crownlands in, in 281...281, the same year as...Princess Rhaenys?" she hardly spoke in a whisper, darting her gaze around the godswood, terrified of the Lannisters' spies overhearing her. Even if she were wrong, the idea would have been planted, and Larra feared what they would do to the Martells if they thought there was even the slightest chance that Rhaenys Targaryen lived to threaten their grip on the Iron Throne.

"Yes," Prince Oberyn confirmed, as softly as her. "Your father and uncle saved her life, killing the thrice-damned cur that had pulled her from beneath her bed who was about to murder her. They replaced her with the body of another young girl killed in the Sack, and smuggled Rhaenys out of King's Landing. They risked treason charges to bring her back home to Dorne under the guise of returning the bodies of my sister and her babes, as well as Lorch's head. We kept her out of sight until she had adjusted to being named Elaena and addressing me as Papa not Uncle, and until she had grown enough to dismiss any resemblances as cousins who looked similar. After that I openly claimed her as my child and she has been raised as such ever since."

"I vow by the Old Gods, I shall not tell anyone," Larra managed to promise despite how shaken she was, for once trying to show her sincerity, instead of keeping a blank expression. So, that was why they had been so kind to her. Larra had wondered if maybe her circumstances had reminded him of his sister, and he sought to comfort her, or if their kindness had all been some elaborate southron plot. She certainly had never expected this, though it made some things make sense.

He gave her a warm smile and kissed her hand. "I knew that you would not speak of it, otherwise I never would have spoken of it to you," he informed her. "But you see my lady, what my family owes yours."

"You owe us nothing," Larra could not stop herself from protesting. "My father and uncle were honourable men. They would never have allowed an innocent child to be killed. 'Twould have been a grave insult to the Old Gods themselves to let her die for no reason other than her blood. You owe me nought, my prince."

He gave her a soft smile. "Your lord father said the same thing, when Doran asked how we could possibly repay him for his actions. But the fact remains, my lady, that Lord Stark and Lord Dayne risked their necks to get Elaena to safety, and now I would return the favour by saving you from the Lannisters."

Laena swallowed, and felt Ellaria squeeze her softly in what she supposed was an attempt to reassure her. "How would you do such a thing?" Larra forced herself to ask. She did not want to hope, nor could she agree to anything that might put the Martells at risk. Larra's parents had not raised her to sacrifice others for herself.

He inhaled and exhaled, then forged on determinedly. "My lady, that I wish I did not have to put you in this position of making such a choice, especially not so soon. If I could, I would give you the long courtship that you deserve, so that you might learn me better before entrusting yourself to me. I can only vow, before your gods and my own, that if you accept my offer, I will make sure that you are safe.

I will never force you into anything or allow you to be hurt by anyone, including myself and especially not the Lannisters or their men, nor will I ever attempt to take away your right to rule the Winterlands as you see fit. Any children you bear, would have the name of Stark and I would proudly raise them as such. Yours is an ancient, illustrious family, and I would never disrespect it by allowing to die out solely to have trueborn children with my name. My niece and nephews can carry on the Martell name.

I care for you and desire solely to protect you, to see you happy. I have no more reasons than the ones I have stated for asking you this.

But, I am rambling. I shall get to the point. Will you, Lady Stark, put yourself under my protection and become my wife?"

Larra's mouth was dry, her eyes stung they were so wide. She had never, in a million years, expected that he would ask for her hand. Even a few moments past when he had been speaking of getting her away from the Lannisters, Larra had not expected that. And his offer was far too generous. It seemed too good to be true. He was basically giving her everything she had ever wanted, to repay a debt that she did not truly think existed.

She glanced at Ellaria, and saw no upset at the prospect of her long-time lover marrying another, only a warm smile. Then she looked up at the stars, thinking of her mother. What would her parents want her to do? Well, that was easily answered. They would want her to make the decision that kept her and their kingdom as safe as possible. So there was only one answer that she could give.

"My prince, you flatter me," she managed to say, meeting his gaze as best she could despite the instinct to look at the ground instead. "I still do not believe that the Martells owe my family a thing, but so long as you are certain that it will not cause strife, then I am honoured to accept your proposal. And, if we are to be married, I would ask that you both call me Larra, if you would."

Ellaria let out a delighted laugh, while Prince Oberyn beamed at her, kissing her hands again.

"Then we are Ellaria and Oberyn," Ellaria declared, pressing a kiss to her cheek.

"By the gods, Larra, you shall not regret this," Prince Oberyn added, brown eyes seeming to sparkle. Larra gave a tentative smile.

"I do not believe that I will," she agreed softly. Strange, to feel that she might be safe again. Larra had forgotten what it was like, to be happy about anything.

Yes, as many people suspected, Rhaenys and Elaena are one and the same! Congratulations to everyone who guessed it.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks to everyone enjoying this! Read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Five

Thoughts of Trust

The Red Keep: December 3rd, 298 AC

Larra:

The morning after Prince Oberyn proposed to her, Larra made her way to the godswood automatically. She was clutching a crown of daisies to lay at the roots of the heart tree when she prayed to them for their favour and for her family's spirits to have peace. A daisy chain was not the appropriate offering for such prayers, but it was all she had and so she had to make do.

She was so lost in thought that she nearly jumped out of her skin when she came across Queen Cersei and her retinue of ladies, with the ever-loyal Ser Jaime at the queen's heels.

"Y, Your Grace," Larra croaked out, sinking into a deep curtsey and holding it until given permission to rise. She tangled her hands in her skirts, swallowing the familiar mix of nerves and hatred directed towards the blonde woman.

"Lady Alarra," Cersei sneered at her, her usual look of smug contempt shining from her jade eyes. "How surprising to see you out and about, instead of lying about in your bed all day."

Larra bit her lip, resisting the urge to remind the queen that Larra spent most of her time in her bedchamber in order to allow the various wounds inflicted on her by Cersei and Joffrey to heal. It would not do for word to get out that the Wardenness of the North was being mistreated by her guardians, after all. That was why even Joffrey did not allow those suspected of being disloyal to the Lannisters to be there when she was being beaten anymore.

"I regret that my health is so poor so often, my queen," Larra replied softly.

"Yes," Cersei gave an icy smile that sent shivers down Larra's spine. "Hopefully, it shall not affect my father's efforts to find a, suitable, match to you. He is considering several men, for example my cousin Ser Willem who is acting as your Regent. I believe that even Ser Gregor Clegane has requested your hand."

Larra could not prevent herself from swaying on her feet in fear at that. She knew from what had happened to Princess Elia and from his brother Sandor just how brutal the Mountain was. And everyone knew that he had killed his first two wives, even it was unacknowledged. Despite Prince Oberyn's promises to her, Larra would not let herself believe that he would succeed until she had heard from Lord Tywin whom her husband would be. If her hopes were raised and then subsequently crushed, she would go mad at last, Larra was sure of it. Which meant that marrying the Mountain could very well happen.

'Deithe, cabhraigí liom,' she pled mentally. Gods help me.

"Do you not feel honoured, little one?" the Queen smirked coldly and maliciously at Larra's obvious distress. "To have such a, loyal and well-known knight, offer for you? I recall you often spoke to his brother, surely you must be pleased at the thought of becoming a Clegane. Of course, I shall be glad to give you any advice you require on being a wife, seeing as your poor mother is unable to do so."

"I am not worthy of such generosity, Your Grace," Larra managed to rasp out, her stomach twisting in disgust and her hands clenched in her skirts to keep them from trembling violently. "My sincerest thanks, though I beg you not to inconvenience yourself."

Cersei's smirk grew more triumphant, and Larra suppressed a shudder of fear. Cersei was as vicious as her firstborn, but in a different way to Joffrey's outright brutality. Cersei liked to torment people's minds, whilst Joffrey liked them trembling and bleeding in front of him. Personally, Larra preferred being beaten into unconsciousness to Cersei's mind-games.

"Lady Stark, how delightful!" They turned towards Ellaria, who was walking towards them with the other women of the Dornish party. Larra tried to hide her relief at the sight of them, though she was unsure how successful she was.

"We were just discussing you," Ellaria clapped happily as she arrived at their sides, the group giving curtsies. Larra felt her cheeks warm at the way they blatantly curtsied lower to her than the queen, whilst Cersei's eyes seemed to shoot daggers at them all. "And saying that we wanted to share luncheon with you. I hope that you will agree to join us?"

"I would be delighted," Larra croaked, still shaken by Cersei's earlier words.

Ellaria turned to the queen, who had her nose wrinkled in disgust. "We would invite you also, Your Grace," she declared in a cheerful voice. "But I fear that you are terribly busy, readying everything for the king's wedding to Lady Margaery. We would not want to impose on your time."

Cersei sniffed disdainfully and didn't even bother to reply, turning to sweep away. Larra sighed in relief when they were out of sight, sitting on a nearby bench in order to regain her ability to breathe.

"My thanks, Ellaria," she managed to say, voice barely above a whisper. The Dornishwomen all gathered around her, looking concerned.

"What did she do, my love?" Ellaria crooned, wrapping her arm around Larra's shoulders and rubbing her arm comfortingly. Larra leaned into the embrace without even realizing it. "Are you well?"

"She said that, that the Mountain had requested my hand in marriage," Larra wrung her hands together in distress. The others' expressions darkened grimly at that.

"Oberyn will not allow that to happen, my love," Ellaria told her softly, wrapping an arm around Larra's shoulders and rubbing her arm soothingly. "I promise. He has a meeting with Lord Lannister tomorrow, and he shall not leave until Tywin has given in to his demands. You will be safe, I vow it."

"Will you eat lunch with us, Lady Stark?" Lady Myria Jordayne, a young maiden about three years Larra's elder and of Stony Dornish origin, with long and dark Rhoynar curls, flawless bronze skin and warm honey-brown eyes, asked her. "We dearly wish to get to know you."

"I would be honoured, of course," Larra replied, rising to her feet. She forced a smile, hoping it did not look more like a grimace and suspecting that it did.

"Wonderful!" Lady Jynessa Blackmont, who looked as if she was around Larra's own age, but far less troubled, clapped delightedly, her mother also smiling pleasantly. The two Blackmont women were the images of each other, sharing the same hair that was a mixture of light brown and dark blonde, with guileless blue-green eyes and pale skin covered in freckles.

"Tell us about growing up in the North, please," Lady Jynessa requested as they began heading for the Dornish party's rooms. She linked arms with Larra as she spoke, much to the Northerner's surprise. "I am terribly curious."

"Ahm, what do you wish to know?" Larra stammered, startled by the lady. Jynessa reminded her a bit of Serena Whitewolf, who'd always been happy and bright. Larra could not recall a single occasion when Serena had so much as frowned, save for the Solstices when she would briefly pout over either leaving her family for six months, or else protest leaving Winterfell and the Pack. Her upset never lasted long, however. Larra's mother and Lady Arielle had despaired over Serena's exuberance, for she had always needed to move and chat and was dreadfully curious about everything, but Serena was simply too sweet and cheerful for anybody to get upset with her.

"Were you fostered as a child?" Lady Myria, who had fallen into step on Larra's right side and had now taken her other arm, inquired.

Larra shook her head, clearing her throat and forcing herself to be calm instead of panicked at how close they were to her.

"No, ah, in the Winterlands, our entire way of life revolves around the maxim that, that the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. The pack is, is everyone, noble or smallfolk, base or true born, we must all work together in order to survive. Our lands are very harsh. Winter never really ends for us. We have a population on par with that of the Reach, but our terrain is not conducive to growing food the way theirs is. We cannot afford to have feuds and such tearing us apart during a famine. So, in order to ensure that we are all loyal to one another, all of the noble children from the North, the Sisters and such all come to foster at Winterfell," she felt her tension ease a bit as she explained. She was comforted by the encouraging smile that Ellaria shot at her as she spoke.

She was relieved that Ellaria seemed supportive of Larra marrying Oberyn. It felt a bit as if she were taking Ellaria's rightful place, the same way she'd always felt that she had stolen Bran's position as the true heir to Winterfell, but Larra reasoned that it wasn't as if Oberyn would be putting Ellaria aside for her, so surely it was alright. She still didn't understand why the couple had not married before, but assumed that it had to do with the way the south looked down on bastards, though Dorne seemed much more sensible about that sort of thing.

"We do something similar in Dorne," Myria informed her. "Prince Doran encourages all noble children come to the Water Gardens to foster for a period, and we mix with the servants' children too. 'Tis a valuable lesson, and I shall always remember it fondly."

"Yes, but, ahm, Northern fostering is different to how 'tis done in the south," Larra explained. "Fosterlings first come to Winterfell when they are ten namedays, and they stay from Yule until Beltane, then go back home for the rest of the year, and so on until they turn eight-and-ten, and by then everyone is already marrying or on the verge of it. It's to, to make sure that families do not lose contact with each other whilst still building bonds with other families. It also allows anyone who is betrothed to spend more time together, and ensures that nobody marries a stranger."

Larra fell silent for a moment, brooding on chestnut curls and blue-grey eyes with an ability to make her laugh that nobody had ever matched. Then she quickly pushed thoughts of Torrhen Karstark away. He was dead in the Burning of Winterfell, alongside her mother and younger siblings. She did not want to weep in front of the ladies with her. She would save that for later, in the godswood where she could beg his spirit to forgive her.

"My, my father was first in our family that I know of to foster outside of the North," Larra forced herself to go on, not allowing herself to think of her beloved papa. He was perhaps an even more painful thought than Torrhen was. "Though there have occasions when one of the Starks fostered with a bannerman's family for whatever reason. He, he always had mixed feelings about it, because it cultivated a distance between himself and the pack. But he was still the best Lord Paramount that the Winterlands ever had," she couldn't refrain from adding the last part despite her usual caution of not speaking well of her family where a Lannister loyalist might hear her, and they all aimed sympathetic looks towards her.

She exhaled shakily and fell silent, feeling the familiar pain make her chest clench as she remembered her father, distant and in control to most, but always aiming a proud smile at his children and giving a wide beam whenever he caught sight of her mother.

What would her father think of the fact that she was about to become the first Stark in history to marry an Andal? She wanted to think that he would be pleased that she was doing her best, but she still felt that he would be disappointed in how helpless she was.

"-like to hear about the Water Gardens?" Jynessa asked her, breaking her from the spiral of despair that she had been about to fall into. The Dornishwomen must have picked up on her melancholy, because they all had gentle looks in their eyes.

The Dornish, Larra decided abruptly. Reminded her a great deal of the people of the North. If they kept being so kind, she suspected that she might end up trusting them.

Larra had always been a quiet person, but she had grown up in an environment where "being alone" meant only being around three or four other people at a time. Being completely alone had been safer for her, these past two years, but they had worn on her, as well. She felt a part of her ease at being able to just have a regular talk without looking for the double meanings or fear of a blow for once. Even if she could not bring herself to trust the ladies she did not know, she trusted that Ellaria would not allow them to harm her.


Oberyn:

Ellaria stroked her lover's hair absently, humming softly.

"I think that we are making good progress with her," she mused.

"You more than me, I believe," Oberyn sighed, regretful over that fact.

"That is only natural, my love," Ellaria reminded him gently. "Our lovely little wolf has seen men as only a source of fear and pain for two years, two years that have been filled with trauma and grief she has been unable to properly process. After Elia died, you were able to grieve, to yell and weep and curse and swear vengeance for her and Aegon and all the other innocents murdered in the Sack.

But Larra was never able to do that. She was trapped in the city where her kin and friends were brutally murdered. She was forced to praise and obey and thank their killers, whilst also decrying those she loved and their actions. It kept her alive, but it damaged her."

"She will bear those scars all of her life, even if they fade," Oberyn sighed unhappily. "If only I could take that pain from her, I would do so in a heartbeat."

Ellaria nodded in agreement, looking as pained as he felt at being unable to do so.

"You said that you had lunch with her," Oberyn changed the subject. "How did it go?"

Ellaria smiled. "It went as well as can be expected," she replied. "She was nervous at first, but gradually she calmed. In fact, she even managed to tell us a few stories of the North. She misses it dearly, I can tell. We may find ourselves living in the cold in the future, my beloved prince. I do not know how we shall bear it, though Larra's happiness is an excellent motivator." She gave him a playful look as she spoke of them being in the cold.

Oberyn smirked mischievously at that. "Well, I suppose that we shall simply have to come up with ways to warm ourselves up, shan't we?"

Ellaria gave him a wicked grin as he flipped their positions so that she was lying beneath with her dark curls spread out over the pillows. "And how, my love," she purred. "Do you propose that we do so? Mayhaps we ought to practice, in order to ensure that we are properly prepared once we are in Winterfell?"

He growled and lowered his head to meet her lips with his own, and she eagerly returned his touches in their familiar dance that never got dull. Oberyn could only pray that one day Larra would trust them enough to be as confident and happy with them in the bedchamber as the two of them were together.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Glad so many people are enjoying this! Read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Six

Negotiations

The Red Keep: December 3rd, 298 AC

Oberyn:

Oberyn strolled into the office of the Hand as casually as if he owned it. Lord Tywin was seated behind the desk, scratching away at a document. The Warden of the West did not bother to glance up from the parchment to greet him, despite this being the arranged time for their meeting and Oberyn being a Prince of Dorne, with whom the Crown's relationship was particularly fragile. It was easy to glance at the parchment and see that it was nothing of great importance. Certainly not when compared to the Crown and Dorne's delicate rapport.

It was a blatant power-play, an attempt to make Oberyn feel inferior to him. It was also laughably pathetic, and Oberyn felt his lips stretch into a smirk filled with venomous amusement.

"My Lord Hand, I see that you are quite busy," he drawled, sauntering over to the chair across from Tywin and sitting in it casually. He held out a hand to the servant in the corner for a goblet of wine and held it to his lips without actually sipping. While he did not believe that Tywin was foolish enough to breach guest right and kill a Prince of Dorne, he knew better than to put any faith in the Lannisters having any sense of decency. These were, after all, the people who shamelessly rose to power by brutalizing innocent young ladies out of what Oberyn assumed was some sort of sick amusement. "Do not fear, this shall not take up much of your time, I assure you."

"What might the Crown do for you, Prince Oberyn?" the Old Lion at last met Oberyn's gaze with his own, cold green eyes.

Whilst Cersei's eyes reminded Oberyn of wildfire, uncontrolled and dangerous, her father's stare always made think him think of lumps of jade, dead and indifferent to everything. The people of the Free Cities believed that jade was an unlucky gem, and avoided it at all costs. Looking into Tywin Lannister's eyes, Oberyn could understand their belief. He could also understand why the Old Lion terrified Larra, a defenceless maid of four-and-ten in the lions' power, so much.

"You can give me the hand of Lady Stark in marriage," Oberyn declared, not bothering to beat around the bush. He had one goal for this meeting, and he was determined to gain it no matter what the cost. 'Twas not as if he planned to actually go through with any promises he made in exchange for Larra's hand, anyway.

He was pleased to see that his announcement had startled Tywin enough to rattle the man's famed composure slightly. His eyebrows lifted, his eyes widened a hint of a fraction and suspicion crossed his gaze.

In the corner, the servant gasped in surprise and hastily covered his mouth.

"This is unexpected, Your Highness," the Hand said after a moment of silence spent with the two of them weighing each other and their opponent's motives. "I was unaware you had even spoken to Lady Alarra."

Oberyn hid his scowl at the improper term of address. Larra was the Lady Paramount of the Winterlands. She ought to be considered the most powerful lady in the Seven Kingdoms, given that she was the ruler for over a third of it. The way the Lannisters addressed her as 'Lady Alarra' and refused to give her the respect she deserved was a clear attempt to keep her from recalling her own power and undermine her in the eyes of the court.

He would breathe a sigh of relief when she was safely away from the poisonous family. If he had it his way, she would never lay eyes on a Lannister again.

"I have spoken to her on occasion," Oberyn acknowledged calmly. He knew this dance, and he was determined to make it seem as if he merely possessed a fancy for the lady. If the lion realized how desperate Oberyn was to get Larra into his care, he'd lose any chance of gaining her hand. "She's a pretty maid, quiet and eager to please. She is also the right age for childbearing from a good lineage, that produces far more boys than girls. My brother has been pressing me to marry and have trueborn male heirs, and you are marrying the girl off, are you not? This solves both of our problems nicely."

Oberyn resisted the urge to sneer at the words coming from his own mouth. Worse yet, they were believable to people from outside of Dorne. At least in this case, the whispers that Doran wanted to supplant Arianne with Quentyn because Quentyn was male and the beliefs of the countries between the Red Mountains and the Neck in regards to bastards worked in his favour.

Tywin narrowed his eyes at Oberyn, who met the stare with a guileless expression even as he sent a silent apology to Larra for speaking of her in such a manner, even if she was unaware of his words. Though, he acknowledged grimly to himself, he was probably speaking much more gently than most of her would-be suitors were.

"You realize, of course, that the marriage of Lady Alarra is a delicate matter," Tywin said after a moment. "She is the heiress to Winterfell, after all. The Crown must ensure that her husband will not take advantage of that."

Oberyn suppressed a scowl. Tywin had deliberately used the term 'heiress of Winterfell' in order to diminish Larra's inheritance. She was not the heiress of Winterfell, she was its Lady, and it was an insult to the entirety of the Winterlands to claim otherwise.

He faked a grimace. "I assure you, Lord Lannister, I have no interest in being Lord of the North." That, at least, was true. He had sworn to Larra he would not steal her inheritance from her, and he had meant it. "I am not inclined to waste the remainder of my life away living in the coldness of the North, surrounded by tree-worshipping barbarians. My wife will live with me in Dorne, and that is the end of it. You have a Regent in place for her, do you not? Let him continue ruling the North, I understand that he has been doing a fine job of it so far."

Oberyn couldn't resist the smirk that briefly flashed over his face at the subtle anger in Tywin's eyes at the jab. In truth, Willem Lannister was doing terribly as Regent of the North. According to Doran's knowledge, he could not stay at any of the keeps, as the bannermen refused to give him guest right. Any information they gave him was always inaccurate and incomplete, usually contradicting itself in multiple ways. Winterfell itself had been sealed off by the Northerners, who threatened death to anybody who dared to step foot in it before Larra's return. The smallfolk were rioting and brigands were attacking the Lannisters at every turn, whilst the Three Sisters and the North had both sealed off all of their ports and there were 'pirates' targeting any Westerlander who came into sight of their watchtowers.

Tywin was threatening Larra to try and control them, but the Northerners were always careful to toe the line between defiance and endangering their lady's life. All of the brigands wore disguises and were undoubtedly been discreetly aided by the law enforcement, further hampering efforts of Ser Willem to control them.

And Tywin knew as well as everyone else that should the Old Lion actually execute Larra, the Winterlanders would immediately take up arms and race to avenge her. He would not risk it, not when his control over the rest of Westeros was so fragile, the Stormlands and Riverlands were still in rebellion under Lord Stannis (or King Stannis as he called himself) and the Winterlands' military so formidable and large.

If the Winterlands pledged support to Stannis in exchange for justice for the Starks, then the Lannisters would be doomed. The only part of Westeros they would entirely rely on was the West, because even the Reach would not side with them should Olenna decide against it, regardless of Joffrey and Lady Margaery's betrothal.

"You say so now, Prince Oberyn," Lord Tywin answered him in a tight voice. "But how am I to know that you shall not change your mind in the future? How am I to know that you will not demand Winterfell in the name of the children you desire Lady Alarra to bear for you?"

Oberyn had prepared for this already as well, and he sent another mental apology to Larra for agreeing to this without speaking to her of it. He assured himself that it was never going to happen anyway, so it would not matter in the long run.

"You will have insurance," he replied simply. "Should Lady Stark bear me a boy, he will foster with your family or the Crown from the age of eight until he is six-and-ten. He will marry the king's eldest daughter and then become Lord of Winterfell. Should she only give me more daughters, which I pray to the Mother she does not, as having sons is the whole reason I want her, than my eldest daughter by the lady will foster with you instead. She will then marry the king's second son upon her flowering, and he will subsequently become the Lord Paramount of the North."

His offer had intrigued Tywin, and Oberyn could see it. Tywin wanted one thing, and one thing only: power. He wanted his blood to run in the lines of every Great House, for his name to be placed among the likes of Aegon the Conqueror and the Young Dragon in the history books. But he was also willing to play the long game, and he knew that he needed a steadier relationship with Dorne if he wanted his family to maintain their grip on the Iron Throne.

In addition, Tywin was right about Larra's marriage being a delicate matter. If she were to marry someone with a large claim to land in any of the kingdoms near to the North or the Sisters, including the Westerlands, then her children would be heirs to most of Westeros, and she would be in reach of her vassals. Whilst Larra was bowing to the will of the Lannisters for the moment, there was no guarantee that it would last when she had children whose rights she believed were being subverted to fight for.

Oberyn himself had only a few personal, though wealthy, properties as his own inheritance, and he lived in Dorne. It was too far for Larra to rule her kingdom from, meaning she would have to allow a regent to do so for her, and she would be out of reach of her bannermen's aid, or any others who might think to put up Eddard Stark's grandchild as heir to the North. The fact that Oberyn had sired only daughters so far also worked in his favour this time, as Tywin, like most men not from Dorne or the Winterlands, looked down upon women and their abilities. He would think it better for Larra to have only daughters, who would be ineligible (in the Lannisters' eyes) to claim the North either.

"I have several alterations to the deal, Prince Oberyn," Tywin said finally.

Oberyn kept his expression calm, raising an eyebrow in a silent gesture for the Hand to continue.

"First of all, any children borne by Lady Alarra foster with my family, from the age of three namedays, not just the heir from the age of eight."

Oberyn briefly narrowed his eyes, but nodded and gestured curtly for Tywin to go on.

"Secondly, as you agreed, my nephew will remain as Regent of the North," Lord Tywin went on. "In the event of him being forced to give up the post for whatever reason, the Crown will have sole control over naming a new one. Lady Alarra will have no say in the matter, and nor will you."

Oberyn pursed his lips but inclined his head in agreement.

"She will not receive a monetary dowry from the Crown," Lord Tywin finished. Oberyn nearly laughed at that. It seemed that Doran's suspicions of Casterly Rock's mines drying up were true, after all. If only they had spies in the Iron Bank to confirm their suspicions fully. Unfortunately, the Bank was too careful for that.

"Very well," he drawled. "I am satisfied. We are in agreement then?"

"We are," Tywin gave a curt nod. "The wedding will be in a sennight, and the Crown will provide a dress and maiden cloak for the lady, after which responsibility for her and any of her needs will be placed in your hands."

Oberyn smirked in pleasure and stood, returning his still-full goblet to the wide-eyed cupbearer hovering in the corner of the solar.

"Excellent," he purred. "I bid you good day, my Lord Hand. My thanks for your, generosity."

Before Tywin could reply, Oberyn made his own power-play by striding from the room before he could be dismissed, making straight for his party's assigned rooms to inform Larra and Ellaria of the wonderful news.


Larra:

Ellaria had tried to distract her from her worries through a game of cyvasse, but Larra could not be diverted from her thoughts of how Prince Oberyn's talk with Lord Tywin was going. She barely paid attention to the moves she made, simply placing the pieces at random. She was not even sure if she was moving her own pieces or if she was moving Ellaria's. She had forgotten what colour she was playing as.

"Sweetling," Ellaria sighed at last, moving the board aside and reaching out to grasp at Larra's hand. "Everything will be fine, I promise. Oberyn will secure your hand, do not fear."

Larra opened her mouth to argue that Ellaria could not be sure of that, but she was cut off by the sound of the door swinging open. She let out a shocked cry and covered her suddenly-racing heart in surprise as Prince Oberyn came bounding in, a broad grin on his face. There was only one reason for him to be so pleased after his meeting with Tywin, but Larra hesitated to believe that it was true.

"Am I not a genius, my loves?" he demanded cheerfully as he strode over and scooped Larra out of her chair to swing her around, drawing a startled laugh from her at the motion.

"'Tis done then?" Ellaria confirmed as he put Larra down again.

"Aye," he nodded, still holding Larra in his arms. She leaned against him for support as her legs nearly gave out from relief as he continued. "We are to be married seven days' hence."

"Truly?" she whispered, feeling tears sting her eyes as she met his gaze. "You truly managed to convince him?"

"Did I not promise that I would, my love?" he responded gently. "You are officially under the protection of Dorne now, and the lions can never harm you again."

A sob broke free of her and she covered her mouth as tears of relief flowed from her eyes. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she wept. Ellaria had come over to join their embrace and rubbed her back soothingly whilst Oberyn stroked her hair and they both swore she was safe now.

She was not going so far as to say that she was safe, as Larra had long since come to the conclusion that safety was but an illusion crafted for the sake of children. But she was safer than she had been since her father's death and she was not going to be forced to marry a Lannister and watch her people lose their culture and ways to her kins' killers. That was reason enough to sob in raw relief.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Don't worry guys! Can anyone seriously think that Oberyn would ever keep a promise to Tywin Lannister? Especially one involving giving any of his kids to his worst enemy? No way, I promise.

Read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Seven

The Wrath of the Rulers

The Red Keep: December 3rd, 298 AC

Larra:

By the time Larra left her chamber the next morning, word of her and Oberyn's betrothal had spread from the cupbearer who had served the prince and Hand during their meeting. Everyone stared at her shamelessly as she walked past them. Their expressions ranged from curiosity, to suspicion, pity and mocking amusement, the same type of looks sent her way by the more vicious members of the court when she was being beaten.

Larra had no doubt that they were laughing at her contemptuously in their minds. The last of the disgraced Starks, daughter and niece of traitors, humiliated regularly before the whole court and now claimed as a wife by the notorious Red Viper. The malice-filled courtiers were probably delighting in this, assuming she was absolutely miserable instead of utterly relieved.

Larra tried her best to ignore them and keep from meeting anybody's gaze as she walked past. It was a shock when people of lower status actually made way for her, something that had not happened since her father still lived and was Hand of the King. Still, despite their actions she knew that they were all adjusting their personal plans for their own next moves in the Game of Thrones, debating how the marriage of the Red Viper and Lady of Winterfell would affect the already-muddy political waters. If they were granting her any respect, it was solely in case she had any influence over Oberyn and they wanted to avoid drawing his ire by being openly disrespectful towards her.

Every last one of them had laughed as she was beaten into unconscious, had scorned herself and her kin and mocked her openly. Did they really think that she would simply forget that so easily?

She had to force herself to walk to the Great Hall, her stomach twisting in nerves. The last thing she wanted to do was meet with the King and Queen Mother, but the look in the eye of the servant who had brought her the summons had been enough to tell her that if she didn't get there within minutes, they would simply send a guard to drag her there. By her hair if necessary.

She arrived at the doors to the Great Hall and swallowed in fear, smoothing down her dress as the sensechal announced her presence to Joffrey and Cersei.

She walked up to the dais on unsteady legs and promptly sank to her knees. She knew from experience that if she did not do so immediately, a member of the Kingsguard would kick her legs out from beneath her.

"Your Graces," she forced out, her throat dry. "How may I serve you?"

She kept her eyes fixed submissively on the ground as Cersei stormed up to her. She could not stop her cry when the queen suddenly grabbed her by the hair and pulled her head back painfully to glare down at her.

"You think you are so very clever, do you not?" the queen spat at her viciously. "Seducing the Viper for whatever treasonous plan you have come up with!"

"I have not!" Larra objected, feeling as if her heart would burst out her chest, it was beating so fast. The very mention of treason terrified her and brought forth memories of flaming arrows flying into their rooms, of Ygritte collapsing with blood spilling from her chest and fire licking at her clothes. Of Father and Uncle Arthur's heads rolling on pikes, the steps leading up to the Great Sept coated in their blood. Treason was terrifying and dangerous, and she wanted nothing to do with any of it.

"I swear, Your Grace, I am plotting nothing! I never approached Prince Oberyn, let alone tried to seduce him! I would not even know how!"

Cersei slapped her harshly, the impact occurring just as her head was released and sending her sprawling on the floor. Joffrey laughed maliciously from where he was sitting on the throne. He adored her pain more than anything else, it seemed to Larra.

"Mother, I think you give the northern bitch too much credit," the king smirked, Larra trembling in terrified anticipation from the dark glee in his voice. "You have to have a brain to plot, after all. She's just a stupid little girl. A Dornish whore now, not just a barbaric Northern heretic."

He wandered over to her, and lashed out with his foot, catching her right in the ribs and making her groan in pain and curl in on herself instinctively to shield her torso from anymore blows.

He was about to continue, no doubt wanting to say something vulgar that would reduce her to humiliated tears again, but Cersei spoke up first. She had regained control of herself, and Larra almost wanted her to continue shrieking wild accusations.

Joffrey's madness did not come from the incest that had created him, Larra was certain. If it had, then Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen would have been as mad as him. No, Joffrey had inherited his insanity from his mother, and the lack of proper guidance as he grew had only worsened it. But when it came to Cersei, she was always far more dangerous when she was calm and in control than when she was wild and yelling.

"Of course, it hardly matters whether you are plotting or not," the queen sniffed, smoothing down her red and gold dress. "You will be here under our watch still, given that your husband-to-be is to act as Prince Doran's proxy on the small council."

Larra was silent. She had not known of that, but it made sense. The Lannisters needed better ties with Dorne if they wanted to keep their hold on the Iron Throne, and if it was true that the Ruling Prince was ill, than sending his younger brother to be his proxy was a logical solution.

"And of course, I will be honoured to oversee the raising of your future children," Cersei added smugly. Larra could not prevent her head from snapping back at that, staring at the queen in panic.

"Oh, were you unaware, little one?" Cersei cooed mockingly, both her and Joffrey's matching eyes glinting in satisfaction at Larra's distress. "All of your children will be fostered here, from the age of three onwards. Your heir will marry one of Joffrey's children. Do you not feel honoured?"

"Your Grace is too kind," Larra forced out, tears blurring her vision and her voice shaking. She felt as if she would be ill from horror at the thought of her future children being raised by the Lannisters, or marrying one of his children, who would probably be as awful and cruel as their sire. That was exactly what she had wanted to prevent by agreeing to marry Oberyn!

"It's not as if you'll be around to raise them yourself, anyway," Joffrey sneered. "You're so weak, you will probably die in childbirth within a year anyway."

"Even if you do not," Cersei added, casting a disdainful look over Larra. "You shan't be able to keep his attention. Much too...Stark, I suppose. Shame that you inherited so few of your mother's looks. Then again..." She trailed and smirked at Larra.

Larra felt fresh tears prick her eyes at the reminder of how her lovely mother had been dishonoured before death, either before or after watching Bran and Alayne's deaths. It was an awful replica of what had happened to Princess Elia and her own babes, but Larra had no hope that somebody might have managed to smuggle either of her own siblings to safety, nor would she allow herself to consider the possibility, least she go mad from wondering and hoping for the impossible.

Just then, Lady Margaery came in with several of her cousins at her heels. She cast a quick look with a hint of concern at Larra, still shaking on the floor, then turned a bright smile on Joffrey.

"My love!" the Rose of Highgarden cried. "I have been looking for you! Will you not join me for a walk? I simply must hear you retell how you fended off Lord Stannis' attack. One of my cousins is just arrived for the wedding, and she too is eager to hear the tale."

Larra slumped in relief as the king abandoned her and gave his attention to his betrothed, puffed up with undeserved pride. Cersei's expression had turned stormier than ever with Margaery's entrance, and she stalked after the couple as they left, trailed by the Kingsguard. Larra herself was left forgotten on the floor, and she was desperately grateful for it.

After several moments spent regaining her breath and suppressing her shock and fear, she finally let out a shaky breath and forced herself to her feet. She had not thought to ask how Oberyn had gotten Tywin to agree to the betrothal the night previous. She had simply been too overwhelmed with relief that he had managed it at all to care how.

Now, however, she had to know. Surely he had not actually agreed to let the Lannisters of all people raise their future children? She had to know, right away.

Ignoring the agony in her ribs from Joffrey's kick, Larra began carefully making her way out of the Great Hall.

***

She went to the Dornish apartments first, filled with nerves at approaching without an invitation, but none of them were there. Instead, a servant helpfully informed that the Dornish party had taken over part of the gardens for the afternoon, and she headed there.

When she arrived, it was to find her new betrothed using two spears to spar against Sers Arron, Daemon and Dezial, all at once, whilst the ladies of the party watched.

Larra felt her eyes widen at Oberyn's skill. His style was completely different any she had ever seen, but it was also very good.

"He's quite skilled, for a southron," her uncle had once commented off-handedly in regards to Prince Oberyn during a conversation on the Great Houses. "Too flashy for my tastes, but I would not want to be fighting against him on a battlefield."

Larra wondered briefly who would have won in a spar between the Sword of Morning and the Red Viper, but she quickly pushed the thought away. That brought to mind the Northern tradition of her male relatives testing her suitors' abilities in battle, and it hurt to remember that would never happen.

She focused on watching the spar instead, fascinated by the fighting style of the Dornishmen.

The North had always favoured long-endurance fighting styles, using as little energy as possible in order to wear out your opponent. They had no use for excessive movements that used up energy solely for distracting the enemy. Simple and straightforward with the goal of coming out alive was how her Uncle Arthur had taught herself and siblings to fight.

The Dornish, however, seemed to be the opposite. She could barely keep up with the speeds the four men were going at, but she could tell that Oberyn was the fastest, and it was obvious why his namesake was a snake. He seemed as slippery as one, avoiding being cut with seeming ease. And she was fairly sure that many of his movements were designed to trick his opponent into thinking he was going to make a certain move, when instead he was planning something else entirely different. She would not have been able to tear her eyes away had she wanted to.

The fight ended abruptly with Ser Arron disarmed and on the ground, and Oberyn holding his spear tips to the others' throats. The watching ladies cheered, whilst Larra smoothed down her skirts nervously and shifted from foot-to-foot as she debated how to go about asking Oberyn to speak with her.

In the end, however, she did not have to. Ser Daemon spotted her and indicated her to Oberyn, who grabbed a drink from the table as he made his way over to her.

He smiled at her when he came up, reaching out to grasp her hand and press a kiss to her knuckles. She automatically curtsied when he let her go.

"My lady," he greeted her.

"My prince," she replied, she exhaled, then forced herself to go on. "I would speak with you, my prince, if you could spare me a moment?"

"I always have a moment for you," he assured her, before nodding to a bench in sight of the group, but out of earshot. "Shall we?"

"Yes, thank you," she agreed, unable to keep from biting her lip as he led her over to sit down.


Oberyn:

Oberyn would have been pleased by Larra seeking him out on her own, without them sending an invitation, had it not been for the anxiety in her eyes and the fact that he was almost certain she was in pain. A red mark was beginning to form on her cheek, and she was holding herself in a way he recognized came from injured ribs. He suppressed his outrage for Larra's sake, least she fear he was angry with her, not whomever had hurt her.

It had to have been Cersei. Only the king or queen would be arrogant or foolish enough to strike his betrothed and risk his wrath, and the mark was too small to have been made by a male's hand. Woman or not, Cersei was going to pay for that, Oberyn vowed, as he sat beside Larra on the stone bench.

She exhaled, frowning at the ground and fidgeting with her bracelet. Oberyn stayed silent, waiting for her to speak and trying not to spook her.

"I spoke with the king and queen a short while ago," she finally said, not meeting his gaze. "They are, displeased, by our betrothal."

"Were you struck?" he questioned her carefully, trying to suppress his anger for her sake.

She winced and looked away, still frantically rubbing her bracelet like it was her anchor to sanity. "That is not- The queen said that, that you agreed to give them our children." She finally looked at him, and Oberyn winced at the distress in her eyes.

He had not told her the day before, because he had not wanted to upset her and she had been so relieved. He regretted that now. He had wanted to break the details of his and Tywin's deal to her gently, emphasizing repeatedly that he had no intention of holding to it. Instead, Cersei had gotten there first, upsetting Larra's already delicate sensibilities.

Certain as he was that the Lannisters had not killed the wolf within her, she was fragile, and the thin bond of trust he hoped that they had managed to develop with her over the past month was thinner and more delicate than gossamer. Treating her with great care was necessary, until she had learned to trust them more and her scars from the Lannisters' cruelty had healed somewhat.

He picked up her tiny hands and pressed a kiss to each thin fingertip. "It's true," he confirmed, wincing again when she let out a distressed moan. He hastened to explain. "I did not speak to you of it last night because I did not wish to upset you, but I intended to tell you soon. I agreed that our children would be raised by the Lannisters from the age of three onward. Should you have any sons, the eldest will be named Lord Paramount of the Winterlands at six-and-ten, and marry Joffrey's eldest daughter. Should you only have girls, then she shall marry the king's second son, and he will be Lord of the North. I-"

"No, no, nonono, no," her voice verged on hysterical and she shook her head violently. Her breath was coming rapidly enough that he feared she would swoon from lack of air. "No, they cannot have our children, please! You have not seen how brutal Joffrey is, he would torture them! Even if he did not, they would raise them to hate us, to be ashamed of their blood. Please-"

"Larra, look at me," he made it an order this time, desperate to calm her down so she could breathe again. She responded automatically, tears streaming from her grey eyes and hiccupping sobs making her delicate form shudder.

He cupped her jaw as gently as he could, meeting her gaze firmly. "In no world, will I allow the Lannisters to raise our children, Larra, I swear it by the Old Gods and the New," he promised her. "Not one lion will ever marry one of my children whilst I have breath in my body. Even if they were to take leave of their senses and desire such a match, I would forbid it."

"But you said," Larra began to say, though her panic was thankfully dying down, her breathing returning to normal.

"I said what was necessary to persuade Tywin to agree to give you to me," Oberyn interrupted her. "But I will not keep my word to him. I promise you, Larra. No lion shall ever even lay eyes on a babe of ours."

Or, should it come to pass, on a babe Larra bore another. While he and Ellaria both hoped Larra would come to love them and wish to be with them, if Larra ever fell in love with another and gave that man a child, Oberyn would be relieved that she had healed so much, and gladly claim the babe to have them raised as a trueborn heir. That was a discussion for another time, however, not right then.

Larra studied his expression, and he kept his resolve clear. She bit her lip, went on warily. "The queen also said that you are to act as your brother's proxy on the small council."

Oberyn grimaced. "Not for long," he promised her. "Just while he looks for someone else more suited to the role, as I am most certainly not." He took in her distressed look and made a guess at what was upsetting her.

"You will be a Princess of Dorne, my love. They would not dare lay a finger on you, or else risk the wrath of my people fall upon them."

She swallowed, tugging her hands away and rising to turn and stare away, her arms wrapped around herself. "I," she faltered then continued quietly. "Lord Lannister forbid the king from, from doing anything before my marriage," she explained carefully, while angry realization began to dawn on Oberyn.

"But the king has said, he has threatened that, after I am married. He is the king and, if he demands me, I cannot-"

Oberyn moved to stand in front of her, cupping her face in his hands and giving her the most serious look he could muster. He could not quite suppress his rage at the threat, however, and Larra winced slightly at the sight of it, much to his regret.

"King or not, he will not get within ten yards of your chamber," Oberyn vowed to her. "I will gladly kill him, should he ever dare to try."

She swallowed and nodded, still looking strained. Then she paused and studied his expression, before speaking so quietly that he had to strain to hear her.

"You mean to kill them, do you not?"

"I believe that the Mountain had his orders when King's Landing was sacked," Oberyn admitted honestly. He had no intention of lying to her about anything. "And I will have vengeance for Elia and Aegon."

She nodded, a knowing look in her eye. Of course, if anyone outside his family could understand the desire to gain justice for a loved one's brutal death, it would be her. In fact, her grief was probably worse than his. He still had Doran, after all. He had Ellaria and his daughters, Arianne and his nephews. He was not trapped in enemy territory far from home.

Larra, meanwhile, had seen the two men she adored most in the world be murdered right after the deaths of servants and guards she had grown up around. Her mother and siblings had died at that hands of her foster brothers, and to this day nobody knew what had happened to Robb Snow and Arya Stark. Her fortitude at surviving and not succumbing to her grief and fear astounded and awed him deeply.

"Thank you," she whispered, surprising him. He felt his eyebrows raise as he gave her a bemused look.

"For what, my love?"

"Everything," she murmured back. She hesitated, then carefully leaned against his chest a bit. It was only a light touch, but it was the first she had initiated with him, and he smiled warmly, pressing a kiss to the top of her chestnut curls.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

Wedding chapter! Yay! (Updated 26/11/19)

(I'm kinda speeding things along a bit, to get into the plot properly.)

Hopefully everyone is enjoying reading this as much as I'm enjoying writing it.

BTW, losennta is from Silberias' fic: Fear Tonight Is All on AO3, so thanks to Silberias. Now, read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Eight

The Wedding

The Red Keep: December 5th, 298 AC

Larra:

The evening after her conversation with Oberyn, five days and six nights before the wedding, Ellaria visited Larra in her bedchamber, wearing a warm smile. "Hello, sweetling," she greeted her cheerfully. "Might I join you?"

Larra, dressed only in her shift and threadbare dressing gown, flushed and tied the belt more tightly. "Of, of course," she replied uncertainly, stepping aside to let Ellaria enter the bedchamber. "Would you like a drink?" she offered, falling back on her courtesies for lack of any other idea what to do. "I fear that I only have Arbor Gold, however."

"That would be lovely, my darling," Ellaria agreed easily, heading over to the bed and making herself at home on it, shamelessly stripping to her own shift as she went, much to Larra's startlement. The young Lady Paramount hastily went to get the drinks, then joined Ellaria on the bed uncertainly.

Ellaria smiled at her, reaching over to grasp her hand. "How are you feeling, my love?" she asked warmly. "Did you enjoy visiting with the dressmaker?"

Larra sipped at her drink and tucked a stray curl behind her ear. Now that she had recovered from her surprise, she was able to relax a bit. "It was fine," she murmured. "Though I think that it is too much. Lady Blackmont insisted on that I order an entire wardrobe. I do not need so many dresses, truly." Lady Blackmont had also tactfully ordered the dresses be made in the more conservative Dornish style, along with several Northern style gowns.

Larra had nearly burst into grateful tears. She had no wish to insult the Dornish who were all so kind to her, but the thought of what her family would think were she to wear something like Ellaria's dresses made her go pale. Not to mention that many of them would show off the scars that covered her back, and she shuddered to think of what people would say.

Ellaria smiled at her. "You are a sweet, lovely lady," she said fondly. "And soon you will be a Princess of Dorne as well as the Lady Paramount of the Winterlands. You deserve to look like it. If it makes it easier, than consider it this way. Dorne and your own kingdom would be shamed, should you not have an appropriate wardrobe for your rank. The dresses that you have are, though 'tis certainly not your fault in any way, entirely unfit for a lady of your station, nor do you have enough. I promise, the cost will not damage Oberyn at all. He shan't even notice it, I assure you."

"I did not consider the impact on Dorne or the North," Larra bit her lip. "You are correct, although I still feel guilty."

Ellaria leaned over to press a kiss to Larra's forehead and stroked her hair gently. "Never fear, my love," she soothed. "All will be well. Only a few more days."

"Yes," Larra agreed hesitantly. Her nerves must have leaked into her expression however, because Ellaria gave her a concerned look, reaching out to grasp her hand and setting aside her goblet.

"Is something frightening you, my love?" she inquired. She paused then added, "Perhaps the part that comes after the wedding?"

Larra felt herself go bright red and looked away, nerves making her stomach twist. She couldn't bring herself to reply, feeling as if her throat was stuck together.

"Larra, there is no reason for you to fear," Ellaria assured her gently. "Though I understand why you would be. Will you tell me what it is that you fear, that I might reassure you? You may always ask me anything, and I am glad to help however I may."

Larra swallowed, and reminded herself that Ellaria was trustworthy. "I just," she faltered, her cheeks still warm. "Mother and Lady Arielle only explained a small bit to me. It was, it was the queen who told me details. But I am unsure if she was exaggerating to frighten me or-" Larra trailed off, staring at the sheet with her shoulders hunched.

She didn't add that Cersei's 'maiden talk' had come right before the Battle of Blackwater and mostly involved the queen telling her how, should Stannis win, they would be brutally raped by his soldiers. Nor did she add about the queen's stories of how the late king had always left her bruised and bleeding after visiting her bed, or how he would get her drunk to make her more submissive before taking his rights. Larra no longer believed that Oberyn would hurt her intentionally, but she still could not help but fear the whole thing greatly.

Ellaria sighed. "That woman is going to suffer for her sins," she declared firmly, making Larra start nervously. Ellaria grasped her jaw gently and turned her head so Larra met her gaze, and smiled at her comfortingly. "I admit, the first time is always a bit unpleasant," she stated. "'Tis painful, but not very. Not if the man is careful. And I swear to you, Larra. Oberyn will always be careful with you. We treasure you, and Oberyn does not hurt his lovers."

Larra met her gaze, exhaled softly, and nodded. "I believe that," she agreed, making Ellaria smile, before she began elaborating on things that took place in the bedchamber. It was mortifying to listen to, but Larra appreciated the frank and careful way that Ellaria explained it all to her. She preferred understanding what she was going into. Sometimes she thought that not knowing was worse than anything else, really.


The Red Keep: December 10th, 298 AC

It seemed as if she had blinked and found herself going from the conversation with Ellaria to her wedding day.

She wasn't ready, and she knew it.

She trusted Oberyn and Ellaria as much as she could bring herself to, but marriage had been a source of terror for her for so long that the mere thought of it made her feel lightheaded with a sickening feeling of fear. It was made all the worse by the fact that it was going to happen in a sept instead of a godswood, and not one of her family members would be there. Not even her Uncle Benjen and aunts, or even her cousins, though they lived still.

At least, she assumed they did. If they were dead, then Joffrey would have rubbed her nose in their losses as well.

Shae had a frown on her face when she woke Larra to get ready for the wedding breakfast.

"You should be careful," Shae said as she pulled Larra's hair into a simple plait, breaking the silence they had been in since Larra had woken up.

Larra glanced at her handmaiden's eyes in the mirror, frowning slightly. "Careful of what?" she asked. "I already know to be careful of them." There was no need to elaborate on who 'they' were.

"The Dornish," Shae replied seriously. "They want to use you. Everybody does."

Larra glanced at her lap. "Everyone wants to use everyone," she murmured. "Sometimes I think I might go mad from it all. I'm using them too, though. To get away from the Lannisters. I believe Oberyn when he says he won't hurt me, or my people. That's all that I want."

Shae was quiet for a moment, smoothing down the finished hairstyle. "Just be careful, will you please?" she pled softly, grasping Larra's hand. "You're such a genuinely good person, Larra. I worry that one day your good nature and compassion will be the death of you."

Larra nodded solemnly. "I will," she murmured. "I promise Shae. Thank you."

Shae gave a casual shrug that would have given Lady Arielle heart palpitations, then stepped away. "You're done. Enjoy your wedding." Due to tradition, Shae would not be attending Larra when she dressed for the wedding, and Larra would not see her for the rest of the day. She regretted that fact. Shae's familiar face and impertinent nature would have been a comfort.

Larra gave a grim smile and nodded. She clenched her skirts in white-knuckled fists as she left the bedchamber. Ser Daemon was standing guard outside of her door.

After their conversation, Oberyn had declared that Larra was to be guarded by a Dornish guard at all times. At times it made her uneasy, given her experience with the guards of King's Landing, but she trusted that Oberyn would never order one of his men to beat her. She was even starting to trust that they would refuse to obey, should he give such an order.

"Ready to go, my lady?" Ser Daemon asked cheerfully, giving a respectful bow.

She smiled at him, hoping her strain wasn't showing, and nodded. "Yes, thank you," she nodded. They made their way to the Great Hall in silence, and Larra was thankful for it.

She had never imagined her wedding day would be like this, she mused to herself. The last of her line, and marrying an Andal in a sept.

The topic of religion worried Larra more than she was willing to admit to either Oberyn or Ellaria. Her Dayne ancestors had chosen to abandon the kingdom they had originated in rather than convert to the Seven, and the amount of Andal Invasions repelled by the Starks was nearly-uncountable. Larra would be the first Stark ever to marry someone not of the First Men's religion and she worried over what the spirits of her ancestors would think. She half-feared that Theon the Hungry Wolf would claw his way out of his grave in fury at her actions. She could only hope that they understood that she was trying to do the best she could.

Mother would have known what to do, she thought painfully. Ashara had always seemed to have an answer and a solution for everything.

Larra had never thought that she would be getting married without her mother present.

She blinked back the tears as she entered the Great Hall and made her way to the high table, reluctantly taking her seat beside the queen. She was the guest of honour for the day, meaning she had to be beside Cersei, but it only made her feel more miserable.

"Are you excited, Lady Larra?" Lady Margaery inquired brightly.

"Oh very," Larra lied.

"I cannot imagine how desperately every other lady here, save myself with my beloved Joffrey of course, wishes that they were in your place," the Rose of Highgarden chattered. "To become a princess is every young maiden's dream, is it not?"

"I suppose," Larra murmured non-committedly. She supposed it might be so in the south, but in the north they made of fun of the type of girl who dreamed of being saved by knights and being princesses in a fairytale. Northern ladies were expected to be able to look after themselves, without a man to rely on for everything. Larra fully expected Ygritte to be rolling on the ground of the Otherworld howling with laughter at Larra becoming a southron Princess.

'What's next, braiding flowers into your hair to look pretty instead of sword practice?' she could hear her late friend sniggering. Her friends from the North would probably have gone into shock at how she had been living her life in the Red Keep. It had been years since she had even touched a sword hilt, let alone trained.

"Although I do not believe anybody ever expected that Prince Oberyn would decide to marry," Margaery added thoughtfully. "But, in case you are worried," she reached out to grasp Larra's hand, looking genuinely kind. "He is a friend of my brother Willas, despite the way they first met, and Willas speaks highly of him. I am sure he is a better man than his reputation would have you believe. My brother would not be friends with him otherwise."

"That is very kind of you to say," Larra managed to get out. The queen-to-be smiled warmly and pulled away again.

"Do you require any attendants?" she asked. "If needed, some of my cousins could help you."

"That's not necessary," Larra assured her, hoping she wasn't grimacing. "The ladies of the Dornish party will be helping me."

"Wonderful," Margaery beamed. "'Tis good that you are getting along with them."

"They have all been very kind," Larra admitted freely, as it was true. The conversation turned to Queen Cersei's new betrothal to Lord Willas, making the blonde queen scowl in open irritation at Lady Margaery's cheer. Personally, Larra found the way the Tyrells and Lannisters were linking themselves together so much the height of worrying, and she was relieved when she was finally able to escape to go and dress. Ladies Larra Blackmont, Jynessa and Myria all joined her.

"Gods be good and spare me from ever having to share conversation with Queen Cersei and Lady Margaery at the same time again," she whispered to the other ladies as they left, making the other girls giggle.

"Did you not enjoy it?" Myria asked teasingly. "I am utterly shocked. It seems like such an enjoyable venture, the Queen Regent and future queen sharing a table."

"It seems that Queen Cersei is not looking forward to moving to Highgarden to marry Lord Willas," Larra informed them, feeling herself grin slightly. "Shockingly."

"I wish I could see her interacting with Lady Olenna," Jynessa whispered, making even Larra laugh at the mental image that conjured.

Ellaria was waiting for them in her room, along with a bath filled with scented rose petals. She embraced Larra when she entered and then promptly urged her to the bath. "We had best hurry, my love," she urged her. "You always look wonderful, but by the time we are finished, no man shall be able to pull their eyes away from you. They will be challenging Oberyn for your hand at the altar of the sept."

Larra gave a weak smile and quickly slipped behind the screen to strip and climb into the bath. She had realized at her fitting that none of the Dornish were aware of how she had been beaten before the court, and she was reluctant for them to see the scars. If they saw them, they would push for explanations, and the mere thought of trying to speak of how she had been shamed made her sway from lack of air.

She knew she wouldn't be able to hide the scars forever, but she was determined to put off the inevitable as long as possible.

She stayed in the bath as long as she could, reluctant to leave and face reality, but eventually Ellaria called out that she needed to come out and get dressed.

She dried herself and pulled on her shift before stepping into view and being descended upon by the ladies.

Given the lack of time, and the fact that the dress would be torn to pieces in the bedding ceremony anyway, Larra had insisted on just having a simple wedding dress. In a quiet rebellion against the Lannisters, she had also chosen to have it in the Northern fashion, instead of the style favoured at court that Cersei had popularized.

It was made of white satin and clung to her torso and arms before it flared out slightly at the waist, which had a grey belt sewn with stars around it, matching the hemline and the edges of her neckline and the sleeves. Somehow, she had no idea how, Oberyn had managed to get the jewels confiscated from her by the Crown when her father and uncle were arrested returned.

As such, she was able to wear the silver-and-diamond jewellery set that her mother had given her as well as her mother's bracelet, along with the wolf's head torc-style ring that had been in the Stark family for over three millennia. The upper-part of her hair was braided with the rest left loose, also in the Northern style, with a pair of silver combs set with amethysts pinning them in place. Her mother had worn the combs for her own wedding, and gifted them to Larra for her eleventh nameday. Finally, she had her maiden's cloak. It was made of grey wool, with a white wolf's head in the centre and small stars sewn along the hem.

It was not the cloak she and Mother had started to painstakingly sew when she was eight, and that made her heart ache. She had left the cloak behind when she went south, and Larra assumed that it had been destroyed along with her home.

"You look like a winter queen," Ellaria told her softly, as Larra stared at herself in the mirror, feeling as if she was looking at a stranger.

"I look like my mother," Larra corrected her, voice low. She exhaled heavily, closing her eyes and fighting back her tears for the sake of not ruining the make Jynessa had carefully done. "I never thought to marry without Mother here," Larra admitted to Ellaria, her pain coming across in her tone despite her best efforts to suppress it.

Ellaria gave her a look of sympathy, but thankfully there was no pity in her expression. Larra hated being pitied, it was insulting.

"I know, my love," Ellaria sighed. "But remember that she, and the rest of your family, are always with you in your memory. So long as something is remembered, it is never truly gone."

"The North remembers," Larra muttered, touching her mother's bracelet for comfort.

"Exactly," Ellaria agreed. Then, much to Larra's surprise, she leaned in and kissed her. It was a quick, gentle, kiss, and Larra didn't get a chance to react before the older woman was pulling away from her again. "'Tis a shame I cannot marry you as well," Ellaria sighed.

Not fully thinking through what she was saying, Larra corrected her distractedly. "Not according to the Andal religion, but the First Men still practice polygamous and homosexual marriages."

Ellaria gave her an interested look at that. "We shall have to discuss that more later," she informed her. "But for now, 'tis time for you to go and get married. If you're late, Oberyn will think you have come to your senses and run off to marry a man more worthy of you."

Larra blinked at that and darted a glance at the timepiece. To her shock, Ellaria was right that it was almost time for the ceremony to begin. In less than three hours, she would no longer be Alarra Stark, but Alarra Martell. It hurt, but she tried not to let it, reminding herself that she could have been taking up a far worse name, and that Oberyn had promised any children she had would be Starks. Her family line was not to end with her.

"I wish that you were coming," she murmured.

Ellaria laughed lightly. "I think you are perhaps the first lady in history to tell her husband's mistress that she wished she was at the wedding," she teased Larra before softening and kissing her cheek. "I shall see you on the morrow. Do not fear, my love. All will be well."

Larra swallowed and nodded, before they left the room and she, along with Ser Daemon, the Blackmonts and Myria, all made their way to the sept, whilst Ellaria went off somewhere Larra didn't know.

Larra paled underneath her make-up when she saw Joffrey outside of the sept, a smug smirk on his face. The Dornish ladies curtsied to him before heading to their places, but thankfully Ser Daemon stayed so she was not alone with the king.

"Seeing as your family's dead, I will be your family today," he announced smugly.

"You are not my family," Larra replied sharply, before she could stop herself. His face darkened, and she felt her heart jump into her throat from automatic fear.

"Yes I am," he insisted, glaring at her.

Biting her tongue to keep from saying anything else, Larra reluctantly gave him her arm and allowed him to escort her into the sept.

She focused on Oberyn as she walked up the aisle, uncomfortable with having everyone's gazes on her. He was giving her a concerned look, and Larra realized that tears were escaping her eyes, despite her best attempts to hold them back. She tried to smile at him, not wanting him to think the wedding was the reason for her upset, but she suspected that it was more of a grimace than anything else.

Joffrey handed her over to Oberyn, and they knelt in front of the High Septon.

"We are gathered here," the portly man began pompously. "To celebrate the union of Prince Oberyn of House Nymeros Martell and Lady Alarra of House Stark, in the Light of the Seven."

Larra barely noticed the long speech or any of the complicated hymns and prayers. It all passed her by in a blur. She did notice, however, when they finally got the vows.

The septon wrapped a cord of rope, made with a different colour for each of the Seven, around her and Oberyn's wrists as they held hands.

"Do you, Prince Oberyn of House Nymeros Martell, take this woman as your wedded wife?" the septon asked. "Willst thou honour her, love her, protect her, comfort her and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, as long as you both shall live?"

"I will," Oberyn replied without hesitation, calmly confident, in contrast to Larra who was doubting her ability to speak the vow. She could hardly find the air to breathe, let alone speak. She was clutching him so tightly, she feared that she would break his skin, but if she loosened her grip she would probably swoon.

"Do you, Lady Alarra of House Stark, take this man as your wedded husband?" the septon turned to her. "Willst thou obey him and serve him, love him, honour him and keep him, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?"

"I will," Larra forced out, her voice hoarse and strained. He gave her a warm smile, but she couldn't meet his gaze.

"Please remove the lady's maiden cloak and replace it with your own, Prince Oberyn," the septon ordered, once Larra had made her vow.

Oberyn did so, and Larra felt herself sway slightly when the orange cloak settled around her shoulders. It seemed very heavy, though she knew that it was merely her own imagination.

"Repeat after me together seven times," the septon continued. "Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone and Stranger, I am his/hers, and s/he is mine, from this day until the end of my days."

They repeated the words, Larra's voice barely audible, and then it was almost over.

"Now, kiss the bride and pledge your love," the septon ordered them.

Oberyn leaned down and gently pressed his lips against hers for an instant before he pulled back, squeezing her hand gently.

Knowing she was supposed to speak first, Larra swallowed and spoke a second later. "With this kiss I pledge my love and take thee for my lord and husband," she murmured.

"With this kiss, I pledge my love and take thee for my lady and wife," Oberyn continued, his own voice far easier for the audience to hear.

"Prince Oberyn and Princess Alarra of House Nymeros Martell are now man and wife," the septon announced. "One flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever. Cursed be the one who comes between them."

The watching crowd cheered as the septon undid the cord, before Oberyn grasped Larra's hand lightly and tugged her back down the aisle.

"It's alright," he whispered to her. "You're alright."

She gave a shaky nod, following him to the Great Hall. The feast was not as bad as she had feared that it would be. Oberyn kept her distracted from the glares Cersei sent towards her, and the crowd attending was small. She was so busy trying to stifle her laughter at her new husband's whispered mocking of their various guests that she barely realized that people were looking at her.

When the seventh course was ended, Oberyn guided her to the floor to open the dancing. She was unsurprised that he was as a graceful at dancing as he was at fighting. The only reason Arya had agreed to attend dancing lessons was because Uncle Arthur had promised it would improve her swordplay. She mostly danced with Oberyn, but she also danced with several others: all the men in the Dornish party, Garlen Tyrell, Jalabhar Xho and (much to her dismay) Ser Lancel Lannister. Thankfully, any time she was about to be transferred into the king's arms, one of her husband's bannermen intervened to spare her.

She was taking abreak from dancing and standing with Oberyn and several others when Joffrey started the chant for the bedding, making Larra turn pale. Oberyn squeezed her hand softly and pecked the top of her head before stepping over to the women who were crowding around him eagerly.

Larra nearly wept in relief when several of the Dornishmen picked her up whilst she still had her shift intact and set her on top of Ser Daemon's shoulders, sparing her the rest of the humiliation.

The Winterlands didn't have bedding ceremonies, and Larra was sincerely grateful that she would never have to go through the awful experience again. It was awful, having various men in different stages of drunkenness tug at her clothes and say lewd things to her. And southrons called the North barbaric.

"Thank you," she murmured to Lord Harmen when he tucked her wedding cloak around her shoulders as the men filed out of the bedroom. For all she was marrying the father of his granddaughters, taking a title that she really felt ought to be Ellaria's, neither of the Uller men had been anything but kind and polite to her. Dorne was clearly very different from the rest of the south.

Perhaps she would have to redraw her mental map. Everyone from kingdoms between the Neck and the Red Mountains were to be treated with extreme caution, but Dorne and the Winterlands had honour and courtesy, regardless of the way they were spoken of.

Lord Uller smiled at her and patted her shoulder. "Dorne is blessed to have such a lovely lady as our new princess," he told her, before bowing and leaving her alone. Though, from the noises she could hear, she doubted she would be alone for long.

Uncertain what to do, Larra made her way to a chair and sat on it, tugging her knees to her chest and resting her chin on top of them.


Oberyn:

Larra was sitting in the corner with a distant expression when he entered. To Oberyn's relief, it seemed his bannermen had succeeded in keeping her from being stripped completely. He'd always been amused by the bedding ceremony before, but to a lady with Larra's delicate sensibilities, he worried it would traumatize her.

"Are you alright?" he asked her, studying her as he pulled on a pair of waiting breeches.

She blinked, seeming to just realize he was there, and started to shrug before apparently remembering it was unladylike and stopping herself. It was an amusing habit of hers, and one that never failed to make he and Ellaria grin.

"I am alright," she murmured. "We do not have bedding ceremonies in the Winterlands. I disliked it."

Oberyn grimaced and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. "Well, you shan't have to go through one again," he assured her, before glancing around for the gift he had ordered for her. "Ah, here it is," he muttered, picking it up and passing it to her.

She took it with a confused look, blinking when she shook the cloth out to reveal a silk dressing gown. It was made in silver with a white interior and decorated with delicate white stars and wolves. "Thank you," she said, her voice shaky.

"Why don't you put it on," Oberyn encouraged her. "While I pour us some losennta? It's a drink from Dorne, always delicious before bed."

As far as Oberyn was concerned, there was no question of consummating their new marriage that night. Larra had been threatened with rape, and doubtless she associated the marriage bed with terror. Once she wanted to lie with him, he would gladly do so. But only once she wanted to, not felt obligated to. Until then, he and Ellaria had both agreed not to go further than kissing with her.

She gave a quick nod and went behind the changing screen, where Oberyn had ordered there be a nightgown waiting for her. He, meanwhile, poured out the warm losennta into two goblets and went over to the bed to stretch out on it. A piece of orange fabric lying folded on the bedside table that he did not recognize caught his attention, and he reached for it as his new young wife appeared. She hovered uncertainly for a moment before joining him on invitation.

"Thank you," she murmured after sipping the losennta. "It's lovely."

"I nearly always have some before bed," Oberyn told her easily. "It soothes the mind, I find."

She hesitated before saying shyly, "I meant the dressing gown. 'Tis lovelier than I deserve."

He shook his head, leaning over to kiss her softly before pulling back. "You deserve far more than something as small as a dressing gown, Larra," he corrected her. Then he changed the subject to what had been bothering him for most of the day. "Why were you crying earlier?"

She looked away, her grip tightening on her goblet. "The king said that he was acting as my family, when he informed me that he would be giving me away," her voice was a monotone, whilst Oberyn scowled. Of course, it had been Joffrey.

"It upset me," she shrugged, looking uncomfortable.

Oberyn sighed and put his goblet aside. "I ought to have known," he huffed. He showed her the fabric. "Do you know what this is?" He asked, seeing her eyes flicker in recognition of it. She nodded hesitantly, biting lightly at her lower lip. "Does it upset you?" he inquired, concerned by how she averted her eyes and reached for her bracelet.

"No," she denied. "I just, I fear you will think it stupid of me."

"Impossible," he denied immediately.

She exhaled and looked at him shyly as she explained. "In my kingdom, it is tradition that, on the eve of a wedding, the bride gives their new husband a gift, in order to thank him for accepting her into his family and giving her is protection," she informed him. He smiled warmly at her in understanding, even as he felt pained that she thought he might sneer at her for following a tradition from her homeland. "But, you see, it is supposed to be handmade," she went on, cheeks tinting pink. "We think, we think it more meaningful. I did not have much options, but Myria loaned me her sewing kit for it."

He carefully unfolded the cloth, revealing an exquisitely-sewn handkerchief emblazoned with the sun-and-spear of the Martells, surrounded by the flames of House Uller. To finish it off, she had embroidered red snakes around the edges. The care and work she must have put into it awed and humbled him.

"Thank you, my love," he said as sincerely as possible, hoping that she could hear how genuinely he meant it. The only thing that disappointed him was that she had not added anything to represent herself to it, but he would not upset her by saying so. She smiled shyly again, brightening a bit as he carefully folded the cloth and put it back on the table. He reminded himself to thank Ellaria for leaving it out for him to find, for it could only have been his paramour to make the arrangements for it. Then he returned his attention to his bride.

He reached out to remove the combs securing her hair and put them aside carefully before he looked her over for a moment. He debated for a second, then leaned in to kiss her. If she showed any sign of fright, he would pull away immediately.

She was stiff for a moment, before responding uncertainly, making him hum in approval and encouragement. Her naïve kisses were enthralling, a sharp difference to his typical, experienced companions. He twisted his fingers into her hair and pulled her closer to him, using his free hand to stroke her back in the hopes of relaxing her a bit more. To his pleased relief, it worked.

Finally, they separated and he smiled at her again. The one she gave in return was hesitant and wary still, but it was something. She was smiling at all, for one thing, instead of eyeing him like she feared he would raise his hand to her. Oberyn considered that a great victory.

"Larra," he told her seriously, wanting to ensure she was aware of his decision. "We are not consummating our marriage tonight."

She jolted in surprise, eyes widening. "Why-?" she began to ask, looking worried and fidgeting with her ever-present bracelet.

He leaned in to kiss her forehead, trying to reassure her. "Because you are not ready yet," he told her firmly. "When you are willing, we will do it. But not before then."

"I am willing," she protested, still wide-eyed and uncertain. By the Gods, she seemed so young and wise at the same time. The eyes of the Crone set in the face of the Maiden.

"I speak of willingness borne of desire, not of duty," he replied gently.

She still looked uncertain. "But your rights," she began to say. He cut her off, cupping her cheek.

"No matter what the law says, I do not own you or your body, Larra," he insisted in a low, firm voice. "Insisting on lying with you when you do not desire to be with me would be rape no matter how legal it is, and I will not be a rapist.

You are not ready for this yet, Larra. There is nothing wrong with that. I promise, I will never hurt you or force you to do something against your will. Especially not this. We will do this entirely in your time, not mine. I can wait for you."

She bit her lip and nodded. The hint of relief in her eyes assured him that he had made the right decision and he adjusted their positions so that he was leaning against the headboard of their bed, with Larra tucked into his side and his arm around her.

"Will you tell me of the North?" he asked her carefully, not wanting to upset her by mentioning her homeland. "I have been to many places in my life, but never there. It has always been a regret of mine."

She sighed, staring at the ceiling. "It's beautiful, but very harsh," she said, voice wistful. "Winterfell is built on hot springs, so 'tis not as cold as people would expect it to be. And the godswood is the most peaceful place in the world. On a clear night, you can see the stars so clearly 'tis almost as if you could reach up to touch them. Mother always loved the stars so much. Supposedly her family is a descendant of a star who fell to earth and turned into a human, you know."

"I did not," Oberyn responded, twisting one of her curls around his finger. "You shall have to tell me that story in more detail at some point."

"I will," she promised, before continuing with her previous tale. "Every month when the sky was clearest, we would all, myself, my parents and siblings, bundle up and go out to the godswood. Father would build a fire and then Mother would tell us stories, and point out the different constellations associated with them. We would spend the entire night that way, and never get a wink of sleep. I always loved it."

"A lovely tradition," Oberyn agreed softly.

"Yes," she nodded. "Winterfell itself is always bustling. Even when the fosterlings were at their own homes, it was still full. The Army's main garrison and the Warg Guards are both based out of the castle grounds, and somebody was always coming for one reason or another. The lords had to come to Winterfell if they needed to meet Father, because if the sitting Lord of Winterfell were to travel, he would never get anything done. The lands are too vast. So anybody who wanted to speak with him or petition him or whatever would have to come to him. Then there were visiting Scholars and Healers from the University or the hospitals, petitioners, family. The Conclave gathered regularly too. It was always so busy."

Her expression was filled with pained longing and her tone wistful and sad. He did not want her to be sorrowful on their wedding night, so Oberyn kissed her lightly again and took over speaking, telling her of how he had become involved in the Second Sons' Company in Essos.

They continued talking for a while longer, until Larra's eyelids started drooping and she stopped being able to hold back her yawns.

"Go to sleep," he urged her. "We can speak more tomorrow."

"Alright," she yawned, shifting down under the covers. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight, my love," he replied, pressing a final kiss to her mouth before pulling her close and letting the feel of her breath against his chest ease him to sleep.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. These next two chapters are heavily influenced by annabethwrites' I'm on fire (like a thousand suns) on AO3, so thanks to her! Read, enjoy and review!

Sioc: Ice in Irish

Chapter Nine

The Day After

The Red Keep: December 10th, 298 AC

Larra:

The first thing Larra noticed when she woke up was that she was not alone. There was a heavy arm draped over her waist with another beneath her and she was tucked against a firm chest, her head resting under a chin. Instinctively, she went stiff, until the memory of the previous day returned to her.

She was married, Gods help her.

She opened her eyes reluctantly, her head aching slightly. Larra did not typically drink much alcohol, but she had drunk six goblets the day before in her anxiety, and now her head was reminding her why she avoided doing so regularly.

She bit her lip and looked up at her new husband's face. She was relieved to see that he was still asleep, because she had no idea what to say. She wasn't sure what to do, either. If she tried to leave his embrace, she would probably wake him up. On the other hand, she hated lying in bed doing nothing. In fact, she hated doing nothing in general. She had been raised not to waste a minute of time, to always be doing something. Her long stretches of time abed in the Red Keep had made her hate it even more, as she had discovered that it led to her brooding on one thing or another that was bothering her.

She shifted unconsciously, and accidentally woke Oberyn with her movements. He sighed and blinked, removing the arm that was beneath her hip and rubbing at his eyes before smiling down at her.

"Good morrow, my love," he greeted her as he sat up. Now free from his embrace, Larra also sat up, tucking a strand of hair that had come loose from her sleep braid behind her ear. "Did you sleep well?"

"I slept fine, thank you my prince," Larra replied softly, feeling shy. "And you?"

"I slept wonderfully," he answered. "I usually do with a companion. When I am alone, however, it is different."

Larra nodded. Well, he certainly didn't lack for company, at any rate. She still wasn't sure what to think about having a husband who bedded so many people. The Dornish were kind, but Larra still felt embarrassed and nervous about their casual approach to intimacy. In her kingdom, fidelity in marriage, and that intimacy should be a sacred thing, was heavily emphasized. Oberyn and Ellaria seemed no less devoted to one another just because they took others to bed, but Larra did not expect the same treatment. She did not really know what she expected from either of them.

"What is bothering you, my love?" Oberyn asked her, cupping her jaw.

"What makes you think that something is bothering me?" Larra asked, unwilling to bring up the subject and unable to lie and say that she was not bothered by anything either.

He smirked slightly, tracing the bridge of her nose lightly. "Whenever something is troubling you, you get a crease in your nose," he told her. "And you touch your bracelet."

"My mother's bracelet," she corrected him. "A family heirloom, passed to the eldest daughter. She gave it to me my last nameday before...Before everything happened."

He hummed with a sympathetic look and kissed her forehead. "What troubles you, my love?" he pressed her for an answer again instead of allowing the deflection as he usually did.

"It is simply strange to think that I am a wife now," Larra said, giving the second thing preying at her thoughts as an answer.

A beam spread over his face, making his eyes sparkle with pleasure. "And I am a husband." To her surprise he looked genuinely delighted at that fact.

"Very strange, but not a bad strangeness," Larra offered. He kissed her again, this time on the lips. Now that she was not lost in worry and grief over her missing family, as she had been the previous day, she found that she rather liked it. Her cheeks heated as he pulled away.

"Is there anything you wish to do today, my love?" he inquired.

She bit her lip and shook her head. "Nothing in particular," she replied. "Though I do not wish to be idle either."

"Well, I have little for you to do here," Oberyn informed her. "Though when we return to Dorne, I expect Ellaria will hand over control of the household to you. And of course I am sure that you will want to correspond with your people in the North. But whilst we are King's Landing, feel free to do whatever you wish, my lovely wife."

His grin brightened again when he said 'wife', whilst Larra felt her flush darken. It was ridiculous, and she cursed her pale complexion for making her blush so easily. She wasn't even sure why it made her feel embarrassed in the first place.

"I would not wish to displace Ellaria," she murmured.

"You are not," he assured her. "In truth, she will be delighted for it. She finds running the household very dull."

"I will discuss it with her, then," Larra stated uncertainly. She knew how to run a household, and had started helping her mother run Winterfell when she was eight. But there was a great deal of differences between how Northern ladies and Southron ladies ran their households, and Larra was uncertain how Dornish women did it. She did not wish to insult someone by doing it incorrectly.

"Wonderful," he smiled again, squeezing her shoulders gently. "If you are agreeable, my love, I want to bring you to the blacksmith and commission a weapon for you. Which would you be most comfortable with?"

Larra blinked in surprise, touching her bracelet. "I, I am not sure," she answered slowly. "I trained in archery and with daggers like all Northern ladies, and I also learned to use a broadsword due to, to being expected to wield Ice. But I have not practiced in years."

Oberyn nodded thoughtfully. "Daggers first, mayhaps," he mused. "You would be able to hide them easier. I will rest better knowing that you have protection, should it be needed. And once we have returned to Dorne, I will get a horse for you."

"You do not need to," Larra objected weakly, though the prospect of going riding again was sinfully tempting. She had not been on horseback since the day before her father and uncle's arrest. Before that, however, not a day had passed without her going on a ride, even if it was only a few minutes trot around the courtyard. She had been just short of warg-bonded to her horse, Sioc, a gift from her Uncle Arthur on her tenth nameday. Joffrey had made her watch Sioc be killed and then had her cooked for the dinner that night.

Oberyn leaned down to kiss her. "I wish to," he told her. "And as your husband, it is my right and duty to spoil you with however many presents I wish to give."

"You have gotten me away from the Lannisters," Larra replied quietly, hugging her knees to her chest. "Spared me marrying and being raped by someone related to my kin's murderers. I cannot express how grateful I am for that."

"You are a Princess of Dorne now," he responded, expression turning solemn. "They will not dare to touch you, 'least we take up arms against them. And the North would likely help."

Larra hid a wince. She did not want war, her father having always drilled into her that she should avoid it as best she could, for it could only bring grief and suffering to their people.

"I must write to my bannermen," she informed him, twisting her bracelet. "And explain our marriage to them. Otherwise they shall assume the worst, and probably try to kill you."

She didn't think that either Oberyn or Ellaria quite realized just how monumental her marriage would be to her people. Never, in their eight thousand years of ruling, had a Stark married an Andal, and only a few southron First Men followers, each since the Conquest. Her people would not take the news of her marriage well.

Especially given her husband's age. In the Winterlands, it was believed that, if a man wanted a wife more than ten years' his junior, that man was best served with a knife to the chest by the lady's relatives, or she herself. Larra was counting on them accepting the fact that it had been Oberyn or a Lannister to keep the Conclave from declaring her mentally unfit to rule due to trauma based on her agreeing to marry him willingly. Such had happened before, though rarely.

"Ah, yes," Oberyn hummed. "I confess, were somebody my age to ask for one of my girls' hands, especially the younger ones, I should as like kill them as not."

Larra nodded nervously. "Lord Karstark will be so insulted," she muttered to herself.

"Why?"

Larra darted a quick look at him before looking away again. "It was always expected that I would marry his son Torrhen," she explained woodenly. "The betrothal was unofficial, because we were both too young for it according to our laws. But, it was assumed."

"Are you in love with this Torrhen?" his voice was carefully neutral, though she knew not why. He did not usually take such a tone around her.

Larra frowned. "In love?" she repeated. "I am unsure. We were both very young. Too young, I think, to know such. But I certainly loved him, and I trusted him. We grew up together. Outside of Ygritte and my siblings, he was my best friend."

"Was?"

"He was at Winterfell when it was destroyed," Larra muttered, feeling tears prick her eyes. She snapped them shut to keep them from spilling. "He is dead also."

"I am sorry, my love," Oberyn sighed. "I know that saying so does nothing to ease your grief, but I cannot do more, I regret to say."

"You and Ellaria have done much for me," Larra answered. She hesitated then blurted out the question before she could talk herself out of doing so. "Does it ever stop hurting?"

Her husband was quiet for a moment, and Larra winced, angry at herself. "I apologize, I should not have-" she began to say, but he stopped her, cupping her jaw lightly and turning her head to meet his gaze.

"You may always ask me anything," he insisted firmly. "I promise, I will not grow angry with you for it. As for your question, 'tis a difficult one to answer. I still miss Elia and other lost loved ones dearly. The manner of my sister's death haunts me still. It took several years before I was willing to name one of my children for her, as simply saying her name made me furious and griefstricken all over again.

Now, however, I can think of the good as well as the bad. I chose to give Laena her name as Elia had always loved the name and wished for her daughter to bare it. She hoped to convince Rhaegar to let her use it for a younger daughter, as he insisted on naming Rhaenys as he did. Honouring her desires helped grant me a bit of peace. The pain does not go, but it is no longer overwhelming."

Larra nodded quietly, relieved when he released her jaw, letting her look away again. Part of her was relieved that he had not claimed she would stop mourning her losses, as others did. She did not want to disrespect her family's memories by doing so. But she also knew that they would not have wanted her to remain lost in grief for the rest of her life. Out from under the thumb of the Lannisters, Larra suspected she might be able to put the pieces of her heart back together again. She just wasn't sure she wanted to.

While she had been thinking, Oberyn had slipped out from beneath the covers, and Larra automatically went red when she realized that he had been sleeping in his smallclothes and nothing else. She couldn't stop herself looking, however.

He was slimmer than Northern men were, and his chest was smooth, though various scars covered his torso. Larra supposed the chest hair that covered the chests of the men of her own kingdom would be a hindrance in the heat of Dorne. Everyone said that he was handsome, but Larra did not really notice men's looks anymore. Only their strength, and the ways that strength could be used against her.

Her husband was a dangerous man, yet for some reason Larra trusted that he would not hurt her. She did not quite understand why, either. Yes, he and Ellaria had been nothing but kind to her, but the Lannisters had acted kind up until the night that they had sent their men to slaughter her family's household.

She shook her head, dismissing her thoughts, and pushed back the covers, pausing when she spotted a red stain of dried blood in the middle of the sheet. She stared at it, at a loss to explain it. She had drunk more than usual, yes, but not enough to forget losing her maidenhead. Nor did she feel any pain, and anyone she had ever spoken to about the whole thing had all said she would feel it afterwards. Most importantly, he had said he wouldn't.

Oberyn turned back to her, now dressed in a pair of breeches and a tunic, and saw her staring in confused discomfort at the stain. "There are many reasons that a lady might not bleed on her wedding night," he stated, going over to sit beside her and take hold of her hand, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. "Riding for example, which you have said you did often when you were younger. But without blood on the sheets, there was a risk that the Lannisters might decide to have you examined. If they learned we did not consummate our union, they would likely try and annul the marriage. I could not risk it, my love."

"I do not understand," Larra replied uncomfortably, wishing that she could touch her mother's bracelet. As he was holding the hand she used to do so, however, she could not.

He twisted and pulled up his tunic, revealing a shallow cut on his hip that she had previously not seen. "I cut myself yesterday," he explained patiently. "And put the blood in a vial which I left in the drawer beside the bed. Should anybody see it, it came from sparring with Daemon, alright?" He winked, and she forced a smile, before going behind the changing screen to pull on a spare shift that had been left for her along with her new dressing gown.

She felt surprised and guilty at his actions. Had she realized, she would have offered she be cut instead. Then again, it would have been harder to explain away a cut on her then on him, so he probably had the right of it. She was unsure how to feel about the fact that he was willing to harm himself for her sake, however. He was giving her far more than she deserved, and instinct insisted that something would go wrong eventually, that she was being selfish and ungrateful by not giving more back to him. Not that she had much to give, but surely she should have given him his bed rights at the least? She still failed to understand what desire had to do with any of it.

She paused to trace the pattern on the fabric, comforted by the familiar wolves and stars. She had been forbidden from wearing anything connected to her family for two years, and she had not realized just how pained it had made her. The sight of the white wolves eased a tension she had not realized was there. After pulling on her slippers, she stepped out from the screen.

"Shall we?" Oberyn asked, holding out a hand for her. She accepted it and let him lead her to the chambers that had been prepared for her, just across from his.

She wasn't sure how she felt about spouses living separately. In the North, it would have been the equivalent to her husband loudly declaring that he was dissatisfied with her, but she was fairly sure it was just how things were done in the south, and that she had not actually angered him. It didn't fit with the rest of his actions, and she did not think him the type of person to play mind games like Cersei did. If only because he loathed the Lannisters far too much to do anything similarly to them.

Two young women were waiting in her new rooms when they entered, and they quickly curtsied. Larra frowned in confusion at the sight of them, as she was fairly certain that they were Jynessa and Myria's handmaidens each.

"Larra, my love, these are Mariah and Clarisse," he introduced the two. "Lady Jynessa and Lady Myria agreed to spare them for you. They will be attending you until we get back to Sunspear and can hire personal handmaidens for you."

Larra felt her heart speed up in alarm, but tried to keep it out of her expression and tone when she replied. "What about Shae?" Her voice came out more anxious and quieter than she had intended, and she realized she was yet again rubbing her bracelet, practically screaming she was distressed to anybody who realized the significance. Unfortunately, that included her husband.

His expression softened, and he quickly instructed the two handmaidens to draw her a bath and prepare an outfit for her, before pulling her over to sit on the chaise. Larra bit her tongue, anchoring herself with the slight pain.

"I should have spoken of this with you earlier," he stated regretfully. "Your handmaid was assigned by the Imp, was he not?"

"Y, yes," Larra confirmed, her heart in her throat.

"She is most likely a spy for the lions, my love," he pointed out gently, squeezing her hand. "I cannot remove them from power yet, but I can keep them out of my rooms, and yours also. I will not allow any Lannister spies in my household my love. Do you understand?"

Larra cast her eyes down as she nodded quietly. She did understand his reasoning, and Shae had not hidden the fact that she shared Tyrion Lannister's bed from her. But still, Larra knew Shae. Shae had been the one to attend her faithfully after each beating, had protected and shielded Larra as best she could, including helping her hide her moons' blood for months before they had been found out. The thought of Shae's familiarity being replaced by strangers made Larra feel more than a little ill. Guilt was mixed in as well, that she had not known or realized previously, and told Shae goodbye and thanked her for everything.

All the same, she had made an oath to obey her husband's will, and so she would. Ashara and Ned Stark had not raised her to break her word, and she would not disgrace her family by doing so.

"I understand," she forced out as she nodded. "But there is no need for Lady Jynessa and lady Myria to lose their attendants. We did not have handmaidens to help us dress and such back home. I can attend myself, truly." She did not mention that the reason she did not have any handmaids in Winterfell was because Ygritte had always been there to help her, and she to help Ygritte.

"You are a Princess of Dorne, and the Lady of the Winterlands," he answered, frowning slightly to her dismay. "Of course, you must have attendants."

"Very well," Larra agreed reluctantly, more than a little upset at the thought of strangers helping her change. The thought alone was enough to make her breathing speed up, but she tried to keep it hidden.

Although she had given into his desires, Oberyn still looked troubled. She wanted to reassure him, but was at a loss to know what was bothering him. After a few long moments of silence, Mariah came out to quietly announce that the bath was ready, and Oberyn kissed her before leaving.

Larra reluctantly went to the bath, but dismissed the two girls firmly. She would not have people she did not know touching her in the bath. Not after the time, before Shae had been assigned to her, that the servant who'd been with her at the time had held her head under the water 'accidentally' for several long moments, until Larra had been on the verge of fainting from the lack of air and the water in her lungs. Ever since, she had insisted on bathing alone. She was too vulnerable in the bath to allow another to be around her.

She worried as she washed her hair. She was nervous about the king's upcoming wedding. In the past, Larra had spent feasts either being humiliated or else she was shut away, much more preferable. She was hoping that the fact that she was now married to the Red Viper of Dorne would shield her from Joffrey's viciousness, but she doubted it. Joffrey saw everybody, regardless of their rank, as below him and considered his subjects to be his property. At the very least, Larra expected to be shamed in words, if not physically.

Realizing that the water had grown cool whilst she brooded, Larra rose from the tub and climbed out. Hearing her movements, her two new attendants came around the changing screen. They gasped when their eyes fixed on her, Mariah dropping the sheet she held to the floor and both of them staring at her in shock. Larra went rigid, automatically covering her breasts, though she knew that 'twas not her bosom that had shocked them so.

It was the way her ribs pressed against her skin, each of them countable from the lack of proper meals, the boot-shaped bruise that was still mostly purple on her upper-abdomen and the yellowing ones on her upper-arms. They had probably even seen the scar curving over her shoulder, one of many given to her by the Kingsguard.

She had changed for her wedding behind a screen so the ladies had not seen anything, and during the bedding ceremony the drunkenness and the remainder of her shift had shielded it from the men's sight. Oberyn had not made her undress, so hiding it from him had been simple. But she had been too lost in thought to think of the handmaidens.

"Princess, what happened?" Clarisse gasped. Mariah had a hand over her mouth, staring in wide-eyed shock.

"'Tis no matter," Larra croaked, reaching out for the sheet Mariah had dropped. "Truly, I am well."

"Should we send for the maester?" Mariah asked anxiously, handing over the sheet.

Larra shook her head quickly, horrified at the thought. Not only was the prospect of enduring Maester Pycelle's hands on her horrifying, but if the maester was summoned than Oberyn would be informed. And whilst neither he nor Ellaria had pressed her for details on what the Lannisters had done to her, he surely would if she were examined by a maester. She couldn't speak of any of it, she simply couldn't.

And part of her feared his reaction to the scars that marred her back. She didn't know if he would be angry with her for concealing them or the king and his men for giving them to her, but either way the prospect of him getting angry frightened her. She did not have good experience with angry southron men.

"No, there is no need," she insisted, wrapping the sheet around herself tightly. "I am well, I assure you. There is no need."

The two still looked uncertain and concerned, but they nodded and conceded to her wishes.

She had just finished dressing when there was a knock on the door and Ellaria came sweeping in. Larra relaxed at the sight of her. In the background, Mariah and Clarisse curtsied and slipped away, leaving them alone.


Ellaria:

"Hello, my love," Ellaria greeted Larra brightly with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "How are you? How was your night?"

"Fine," Larra replied uncertainly. "But, all we did was kiss and talk. We did not..." She trailed off, looking uncomfortable.

"Yes, that does not surprise me," Ellaria acknowledged, leading Larra to the chaise.

"He said that we would wait until I desired him, but I do not understand his meaning," Larra admitted, twisting her bracelet.

Ellaria sighed and reached out to cup her cheek. The young princess was wise in many ways, but her perception of things had been damaged by her time in the Lannisters' custody. Ellaria had no doubt that if either Oberyn or even she herself pressed Larra to join them in bed, the girl would do so dutifully. But it would be traumatizing, not enjoyable, and it would cost them the delicate trust they had built with her.

"My sweet, you are so wise in so many ways," she said. "But untested in others. There is a reason that people call it lovemaking. It can bring such joy, but that joy is not found when one of the partners forces the other."

"I am perfectly willing to-" Larra began.

"Oh, of that I have no doubt, my love," she stated, cutting Larra off. "Oberyn knows perfectly well that, should he demand his bed rights from you, you would agree. But you would not enjoy it, and Oberyn himself would be greatly shamed, in his own eyes and those of Dorne, for bedding an unwilling wife. When you can feel comfortable in yourself, then he will gladly lie with you. Although he will have competition from myself. That is, if you are interested in such."

Ellaria looked at her carefully, while Larra blinked. Ellaria had been calling her 'love' and she had kissed her the day prior, but she had not outright said to Larra that she desired her also. She wanted Larra to accept her, but only if Larra wanted it also.

"I, with you?" she checked. "And Prince Oberyn would not be upset?"

"Certainly not," Ellaria assured her. "And yes, with me. Truly, my love, you have entranced us both. But it is your body, and your decision, always. You need not make it now. In fact, perhaps 'twould be better if you thought about it."

"I thought that Andals could not lie with others of their own gender," Larra cocked her head. "The queen sent a septa to convert me, and she told me that homosexuality was against the Scripture of the Seven."

Larra had a grimace on her face as she spoke, and Ellaria did not blame her for it. Ellaria had loathed the religious lessons she had been forced to endure by her father, and she had tormented her septas, of which she had had six. Her daughters were doing their level best to beat her record now. They were on their fourteenth septa since Lia's birth.

"The Faith disallows it, yes," Ellaria confirmed, realizing that the subject of religion had never really come up save for brief mentions. "But first of all, the Rhoynar culture mixed heavily with Dorne when Nymeria came, and the Rhoynar celebrated love in all forms. As such, we do not disapprove of love, no matter what form it comes in. And anyway, I do not follow the Faith of the Seven."

"You don't?" Larra blinked. "What religion do you follow then?"

"I worship Venus, the Lysene goddess of love and beauty," Ellaria explained. "My mother was a Lysene noblewoman, and she raised me until her death of illness when I was two-and-ten. After that, Father took me in to raise. I had several septas whilst under his guardianship, but my devotion is for the goddess. Speaking of religions, yesterday you mentioned that your people practice polygamy still?"

"Yes," Larra nodded. "Though, in a different way to how the Targaryens and Valyrians practiced it. For the First Men, their way was rather shameful, actually."

"How so?"

"Well," Larra tucked a curl behind her cheek, looking thoughtful as she considered how to explain. "When there is polygamous marriage in my religion, all the spouses are expected to wed each other. To have a husband wed multiple women and the women not be married also, that is highly frowned upon. And, the way Aegon the Conqueror married two women, then favoured Queen Rhaenys. Were such a thing to occur in a First Men marriage, the neglected wife's kin would likely demand a duel for the insult to her. It would be considered a form of abuse. Unless, of course, the wife preferred it that way. Then it would be another story, I suppose."

Ellaria found that very interesting. "And you say that same-sex relationships are accepted also?"

"Yes, so long as there is a blood heir," Larra confirmed. "We believe that the Gods made everyone the way they are for a reason, and to defy and restrict that is to defy the Gods themselves. That is also why we do not shame bastards for their birth. The Gods chose to have them born outside of wedlock for a reason, so it must be so. We do not legitimize base born children unless they are all that is left of their House because of that belief."

"Hmm," Ellaria hummed and then clapped her hands and rose. She would have to mention that to Oberyn, given she knew he intended to have a First Men wedding once they had gotten Larra back North, one her remaining family could attend. Perhaps, if the Old Gods and Winterlands did not forbid it, Ellaria would also be a bride one day. But she would bring that up later.

"I believe that Oberyn wanted to get you fitted for a weapon today, did he not?" she asked. "And some of your new dresses ought to be ready by now. We can go to the city and get things sorted out before lunch. How does that sound, my love?"

"Wonderful," Larra breathed almost reverently.

Ellaria guess that she was adoring the thought of stepping foot outside of the Red Keep's walls for the first time in years, and smiled sympathetically at her. "Then we shall go now."


Oberyn:

"Something troubles you, my prince," Ellaria said, stroking his temple with a finger. Oberyn reached up to grasp her hand and pull it to his lips for a kiss.

"Aye," he agreed, knowing that there was no point in denying it. Not only would Ellaria see right through him, but it would not work anyway. He had known that the Old Gods were more active than the New, but he had not quite realized the ramifications of their oath until after it had been made.

"What is it?" Ellaria pressed him. "I would think your heart would be lighter, now that our sweet she-wolf is safe with us at last."

He grimaced. "Larra is what is bothering me," he confessed with a sigh, hoping that Ellaria would be able to figure out what to do. "I fear I upset her earlier. I am a fool."

"You are a prince," Ellaria corrected him. "Which, granted, is quite similar. When it comes to Dorne, you and Doran are geniuses. Yet you were both raised to do what you willed, and it causes you to make mistakes, my love. Now tell me what occurred."

He sighed and ran the back of his hand across his temple, recalling the stricken look Larra had worn when he told her he had dismissed her maid and the way her breath had increased in her distress, though she had tried to hide it from him.

He explained what had happened to Ellaria, who listened silently, her expression even. "I did this before," he muttered. "I did not tell her of the compromise I made in exchange for her hand, and she was distressed terribly because she was blindsided by it by Cersei. I am fool, to repeatedly make the same mistake."

"You made a mistake," Ellaria agreed. "You should have warned her, and she would have had time to prepare herself for the separation. She is tender-hearted, also. I expect that not being able to say goodbye upset her."

Oberyn winced and looked away, sighing in irritation at himself. By the Gods, he was a fool.

"But I am also sure that she genuinely does understand your reasoning," Ellaria went on. "Give her a few days to adjust. If in, say a week, she is still troubled, then perhaps we may need to consider an alternative solution. But give her a few days, and all may be well."

"I worry that she did not object because she fears I will strike her," Oberyn admitted, pained by the mere thought. Ellaria sighed, adjusting her position.

"We know that the Lannisters have struck her," she pointed out sadly. "She trusts us, but instinct is difficult to unlearn. She has learned protective habits over the course of two years, she has known us for a turn of the moon. Quite possibly she is wary of what would happen should she upset you. Marriage has equalled terror for her for a long time, she is unused to thinking of it as safety. Give her time, my love. Once we are away from this ghost-filled place, she will blossom like a sunflower from the Marches at the height of summer. Patience is key, patience and repeatedly showing and reminding her that we wish to protect her, not harm her."

Oberyn nodded, though it was a hard truth to accept. If only they had intervened sooner, Larra would not be so sorrowful. "She had a boy whom she intended to marry," he informed Ellaria, recalling Larra's mention of Torrhen Karstark.

The jealous part of him resented that Larra so freely admitted to loving and trusting the late lad, even if she had claimed to not know if she had been in love with him or not. Oberyn was her husband, he had sworn an oath not to lie to her and had told her so many times that he wanted to keep her safe and protect her, but still she was wary of him. He was at a loss as how to persuade her to let down her walls.

"Oh?" Ellaria hummed in interest, a hint of jealousy flickering through her caramel eyes. "Whom?"

"Torrhen Karstark," Oberyn said. "A younger son of the current lord. He died when Winterfell was sacked."

"So, no threat to our own claims on her heart," Ellaria reasoned. "Though another heartache for our poor she-wolf. Truly, the gods test her."

"Aye, they do," Oberyn agreed. "But how is one to compete with a ghost, I ask you?"

"You cannot, for the dead are either perfect or the epitome of terrible," Ellaria responded calmly. "But Larra has a loving heart, and she is not meant for loneliness. She will let us in, we must simply be gentle and patient with her."

"I suppose that you are correct," Oberyn sighed, though patience was not in his nature. Still, fatherhood had taught him a measure of it, alongside prudence. For Larra's sake, he would be as patient as he could.

The Gods, both Old and New, knew that she would be worth the wait.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. GoT. I have also adjusted the ages of the older Sand Snakes, deaging them a bit. Their new ages/birth years are at the end of the chapter, during Oberyn and Larra's talk.

Chapter Ten

Anger of the Wolf Star

The Red Keep: December 19th, 298 AC

Larra:

Larra had been writing the fifth draft of a letter to her Uncle Benjen when her husband came into her rooms. He raised an eyebrow in silent question at the pile of torn up parchment that crowded her desk, making her flush.

"I am trying to write to my uncle," she explained. "But I am, unsure, how to explain all that has happened. It is difficult to know what to say, and how to say it. There is little to please him."

"Of course it is," he murmured. "But I guarantee you as a loving uncle myself, that Lord Lystark's main concern will be how you are now. That you are well and safe will please him greatly."

"I know," Larra nodded, glancing down at the letter. The current draft only had a basic greeting written on it, and nought else. "Uncle Benjen was always the funner of my uncles," she told Oberyn wistfully. "We all worshipped the ground that Uncle Arthur walked on, but Uncle Benjen was more like a fun but protective older brother at times. He and Father were very close, as the last of their siblings, and Mother was the only maternal figure he had save Old Nan and his governess. My grandmother died in childbed when he was three, and my parents married when he was ten. They acted as parents to him for years. It has been so long since I have seen him, so much has happened. I do not know what to say, what to ask."

"Well, perhaps you could put the letter aside and try to finish it later," Oberyn suggested. She felt a frown form on her face at the strange look in his eye. She did not recognize the expression, automatically making her wary. "I have something that I wish to do with you."

"What is it?" Larra asked, placing down the quill and rising.

"We are going for a ride outside of the city, if my princess is agreeable to it," he replied with a lightness that didn't match his eyes.

Despite the expression he wore, Larra brightened at the suggestion. The chance to get outside not just the keep, but the entire city, was one that she was eager to grasp, regardless of her worries over her husband's strange expression.

"I am," she agreed quickly. She paused, tilting her head to the side. "Is Ellaria-?" she began to ask.

"No, Ellaria is out with a knight she has had her eye on since our arrival," he replied lightly. "I thought it would just be the two of us, if you are amenable?"

"Alright," Larra agreed, slightly more nervous. She had not been alone with him since the morning after their wedding, and his expression was still worrying her.

"Excellent," he smiled, leaning in to kiss her softly before pulling back. "If you would change for a ride, I shall go down to the stables to organize things for us."

"I shall see you there then," Larra stated simply, curtseying to him before he kissed her forehead and hurried out. She stayed in place for a minute, puzzling over what he might be planning, before giving up on trying to understand and turning to Mariah, who was sorting through Larra's newest gowns in the corner. The handmaiden stepped away from the clothes clutching a riding dress in the orange of House Martell with a cream kirtle, and quietly helped Larra change and then pulling her hair into a crown braid to keep it out of the way for the ride.

"Do you wish for me to accompany you, Your Highness?" Mariah asked once Larra had finished her outfit off with a cloak, this one a silvery-grey on the outside with white within, a nod to her Stark heritage that had brought tears to her eyes when she saw it. She had desperately missed wearing her family colours.

Larra hesitated, then shook her head. "No need, I shall be fine," she assured her. "Do what you like, though I shall need your help to change for dinner, I expect."

"As you wish, Princess," Mariah curtsied. Larra nodded at her and hurried away, not wanting to keep her husband waiting for her.

As usual, Ser Daemon was standing guard for her, and he fell into step behind her silently when she left her rooms. She liked him as her guard most. She especially liked that he never tried to engage her in conversation when she did not feel able for it. Talking was getting easier, at least with the Dornish, but it was still a trial with anybody save Ellaria and Oberyn. Even with them it could be difficult on occasion.

They arrived at the stables without meeting any Lannisters, thank the Gods. Larra was surprised when she saw Oberyn only had one horse saddled. It was a black sand steed, and Larra admired the stallion as she approached.

"He is lovely," she told her husband, carefully holding her hand to the horse for him to sniff. He did so then nuzzled her palm. She could not resist smiling, and used her free hand to stroke his snout. She had always loved horses, the smoothness of their coats and the comfort and freedom she felt, perched on their back.

"His name is Bantis," Oberyn informed her, running a hand through his steed's mane.

"Bantis," Larra repeated, noting and copying the High Valyrian accent he pronounced the name in. "Night in High Valyrian, correct?"

"Correct," he confirmed, kissing her forehead. "Are you ready to go, my love?"

"I am," she nodded. She was about to ask where the second horse was, before realizing that he must have intended for them to share Bantis. "Shall we?" she asked nervously, glancing at the ground.

"Aye," Oberyn agreed. A gasp of surprise escaped her when he unexpectedly picked her up and placed her on top of Bantis, who skittered at her sudden weight. Larra automatically adjusted her seat and her skirts, remembering her father's firm instructions in her memory from when he had first taught her to ride at three. She had not sat on a horse in two years, but it was as familiar as if she had done so only the day prior.

"Do you require me to accompany you, my prince?" Ser Daemon asked, as Oberyn swung himself up behind her, wrapping his arms around Larra's waist and grasping the reins.

"No need," Oberyn shook his head. "Take the day to show your skills with your spear to some of these stuffy Crownlanders." Ser Daemon grinned and nodded, whilst Larra felt as if her face was on the verge of bursting into flames, it was so hot.

"Comfortable, my princess?" Oberyn asked, his mouth close enough to her ear that she shivered from the feel of his breath on her skin.

"Aye, my prince," she replied softly. "Might I ask where we are going?"

He snapped the reins to make Bantis begin to move as he replied. "Just a little bit outside of the city. 'Twill be a leisurely ride, I promise."

She nodded, doing her best to relax despite feeling shamefully improper in her position.

Larra's parents had been deeply in love with each other. But whilst they had been considered quite demonstrative in their actions to each other, that had been in a Northern way, and the Northern way involved discretion.When Larra said they had been demonstrative, she meant that they had kissed in their solars and in front of family, and her father had frequently held her mother's hands instead of her hand being tucked into his elbow. She could only imagine how shocked her mother would have been, to see Larra pressed so close to her husband and in public no less!

Still, despite her nerves, the relief of being out of the Red Keep was too strong for Larra's discomfort to last. She found herself leaning back against her husband's chest, and he dropped a kiss atop her curls in response.

When they reached the tourney grounds, however, Larra's discomfort returned. She could still remember the tourney held for her father, how confused she, Robb and Arya had been at why the king would want to host such an expensive event when his people were starving. She definitely remembered how the Mountain had killed his horse in a fit of temper, and her uncle had won the jousts before crowning her as Queen of Love and Beauty. She'd been more than a little uncomfortable with the attention, especially the looks she had drawn from the king and queen.

"My love, are you well?" Oberyn's concerned inquiry startled her out of her memories.

"A tourney was held here for my father, when he first became Hand," Larra explained stiffly. "He disapproved. Father would much have preferred that the gold be spent alleviating the plight of the smallfolk, not on rewarding men for bloodying themselves. Uncle Arthur entered and won, then crowned me before we went out to the city and gave the winnings away as alms."

He was silent for a moment before answering her. "That was a very kind thing of you all to do. Your father and uncle were probably the most honourable men I have ever met, even so few times."

"How many times did you meet them?" Larra asked, crinkling her eyebrow. Obviously they had met at least once, when her kin had smuggled Princess Rhaenys to safety with her family under the guise of returning the bodies of the Dornish killed in the Sack, but when else would they have met each other? Dorne and the North scarcely interacted, after all.

"Just twice," Oberyn replied, dismounting and helping her slide off. "Once when your father and his men returned the bodies of not just my family, including my Uncle Lewyn, a Kingsguard killed at the Trident, but also the servants and their families, to Dorne. They had identified as many as possible, in order to ensure that they could be returned to their kin in Dorne for proper burial rites. That was the second time I met your father, and the only time that I met your Uncle Arthur.

The first time was Harrenhal."

Larra started at the mention of the infamous tourney that had been referred to as 'the day smiles died' by the singers who spoke of Robert's Rebellion.

"My goodbrother bestowed a crown of blue roses on your aunt, and every Stark raged in the aftermath," her husband informed her. "Many would have been flattered by the Crown Prince's attention, regardless of him being married, but not your family. They all stood and left immediately, your aunt leaving the crown behind. Anybody could tell they considered his actions to be the height of insulting. Apparently, your Uncle Brandon had needed to be dissuaded from challenging Rhaegar to a duel over the whole thing. In truth, Elia had to do the same for me, as I was utterly furious at how she had been shamed.

I had not met any of your kin before, but I had been told that, save for your uncle Brandon and aunt, they were generally cool-headed and cold. But that day I saw fire in your father's eyes, where the night before he had been smiling brightly and dancing with his new wife. Not two hours after the crowning, the entire group came to Elia's tent, where they went to their knees in front of her, giving her all the respect that she deserved and more still. Lady Lyanna swore she had spoken to Rhaegar only once for a few minutes, and that she had done nothing to knowingly entice him. She begged forgiveness for the slight.

I have had the greatest of respect for your family since that day."

Larra swallowed and looked at the ground, uncertain what to say. "Thank you," she said finally, for lack of any other ideas.

He hummed and kissed her forehead, then went around to the other side of Bantis. The unexpected sound of a sword being unsheathed had Larra flinching instinctively and stepping away in alarm, feeling her eyes widen and her face go pale.

Her husband could obviously see her upset, and he gave her a concerned look. "Larra?"

She swallowed and nodded, reminding herself that he had never once tried to hurt her, neither verbally nor physically. "I was startled," she explained vaguely. "What exactly are you planning, my lord husband?"

He studied her for a moment before coming over to her side and taking her hand to tug her towards a post that had once been covered in ribbons for decoration during the tourney, planting her in front of it and handing her the sword. Looking at it, Larra realized it was a blunt practice sword, in the Dornish style.

"I do not have any broadsword blades, so this shall have to do for the moment," he said.

"Do for what?" she asked warily, automatically adjusting her grip, her uncle's many lessons coming back as if he stood at her side and spoke them aloud to her. Though, given she was holding it as she would a broadsword the height of her, she suspected she was doing it wrong.

"When I was a child, I was sent to foster for three years with the Qogyles, whilst Elia went to stay with the Tolands," he informed her, changing her grip slightly. "I was furious, feeling that my parents were separating us and sending us away out of spite. My father took me outside and had me attack a training dummy, telling me to picture it as himself or my mother, whomever I was angry with. Ever since, when I am angry, I picture the source of my anger and attack a training dummy. When Obara came to live with me, she had a great deal of anger in her for both me and her mother, and I had her do so as well. The same with my other daughters."

"I do not understand why you are telling me this," Larra frowned.

"It is not a training dummy," Oberyn acknowledged, pointing at the post. "But it shall have to do."

Larra stiffened, realizing at last what he intended. "I am not ang-" she began to say, only to choke off as the Gods reminded her of her oath. She snapped her mouth closed and pursed her lips. Oberyn gave her a pointed look and she looked away. "I do not think this is a good idea," she insisted stiltedly instead.

"Larra you have a great deal of anger and grief in you," he answered. "And if you keep ignoring it, it will destroy you. I have seen it happen before. I will not let that happen to you. Hit the post."

She scowled, but it was obvious that he wasn't going to let her away with it. She turned to the post and gave a half-hearted swipe at it that would have had her uncle throwing a fit at how terrible it was. "I have not used a sword in years," she insisted stubbornly. "And never this sort. This is a bad idea."

"The principals are the same, and seeing as I fully intend to get you back into the habit of using a sword so that you can defend yourself, you might as well continue," he replied mildly.

"I'll drown," the words escaped her before she even realized what she was saying. "If I start dealing with my anger, I'll drown in it."

He cupped her face and met her gaze, though Larra's vision was blurred from the tears pricking at her eyes.

"I will not let that happen," he promised. "Try it, Larra. Please, trust me."

She swallowed and nodded, pulling away and giving another swipe, not quite as terrible as her first but still bad enough to make her flinch.

"What happened to your father and uncle?"

His question made her start, her heart jumping into her throat. For a second it seemed that she was on the steps of the Great Sept again, screaming in horror as her father was forced to his knees and decapitated before her uncle was made to kneel in his blood and suffer the same fate.

"You know what happened to them," she croaked, her hands trembling on the sword hilt.

"Tell me yourself."

"They died!" she snapped. "They were murdered!"

"Who killed them?" he continued to press her.

"Ilyn Payne executed them," she answered tightly.

He stepped into her line of vision and pointed firmly at the post. "That is Ilyn Payne. Hit it."

She growled and stepped closer, slashing at it and drawing a line diagonally across as she pictured the cold expression on the Royal Executioner's pockmarked face as he took off first her father and then her uncle's heads.

"What happened to your mother?" Oberyn asked a second later.

She swallowed a mixture of fury and pain, Joffrey's taunting words ringing in her ears: Your bitch of a mother's dead, the IronBorn killed her and your cripple brother. Your whining little sister, too.

"Theon Greyjoy and Gerold Dayne, my mother's cousin and both of them raised by her as if she had birthed them herself, killed Mother, after making her watch my siblings be killed." Larra spat the words out, rage boiling in her chest. She hacked at the post, picturing her former foster brothers. "She raised them as if they were her own and they killed her!" she snarled again. That hurt worse than the Lannisters' actions. Theon and Gerold had been family to them, and they had betrayed them for profit.

"Bran couldn't even walk!" she hissed, continued to slash at the post with awful strikes filled with rage. "Alayne was not three namedays yet!"

She didn't need any more prompting. "They had our entire household slaughtered!" she spat. "They shot flaming arrows into our rooms, blocked off the doors. Ygritte died burning with an arrow in her chest because she shielded me, Lady Arielle had her head taken off by the red cloaks! All on Cersei and Joffrey's orders because they knew that Father would never allow them to get away with their actions and he had been named as Lord Protector! So instead they framed him and Uncle Arthur for treason, and killed Ygritte and Jory and my siblings and everyone!"

"What did they do to Alarra Stark?" his voice was quiet this time.

A new set of tears spilled from Larra's eyes and she shook her head, continuing to slash at the post despite the aching tiredness in her arms and back.

"What did they do to Alarra Stark?" he repeated firmly.

"They killed almost everyone I loved and made me watch!" she choked out, finally dropping the sword and falling to her knees to sob into her hands. She felt him kneel beside and pull her into his arms a second later, but she continued to sob. "I hate them, I hate them, I hate them."

"What did they do, my love?"

"They tried to kill me too," she sobbed. "But slowly, by turning me mad and making life not worth living. They wanted to break me, and for what? Because Robert bloody Baratheon saw his dead beloved when he looked at me, Cersei wants me to suffer! Damn them all to the worst of the Andal seven hells."

"Who is they?"

"The Lannisters, Boros Blount, Meryn Trant, Preston Greenfield," Larra listed. It could have gone on, but she could not keep speaking through the pain in her chest and her sobs. She should have explained, but she still could not bring herself to speak of her shaming, even now.

"They will pay for what they have done, my love," Oberyn promised her, stroking her curls and kissing her head. "In blood."

Larra simply continued to weep, until at last her tears had gone dry and she pulled away slightly, though he continued to hold her.

"Larra, tell me truthfully," he said. "What do you think of Mariah and Clarisse?"

Larra did not reply immediately, caught off-guard by the question. "They have been nothing but kind," she finally answered. "And I understand why you assigned them to me."

"But?" When she glanced at him, she could see that he wanted a proper answer.

She sighed, rubbing at the tears drying on her cheeks. "I do not know them," she finally responded. "I dislike having strangers around me when I am vulnerable."

He nodded. "Do you wish for your previous handmaiden, Shae I think you called her, to return to your service?"

Larra nodded hesitantly. "But I realize why you sent her away," she added. "I would not want to endanger anyone."

"We shall work something out," he replied, wiping away the tears on her face with his thumb. "Your wants and comfort matter too, Larra. They matter very much. If having this Shae back will make you feel more comfortable, then arrangements can be made easily."

Larra nodded quietly, twisting her mother's bracelet and not knowing what else to say.

"Larra, I want you to know that you do not have to hold your tongue when you disagree with me, or a decision that I make," Oberyn told her. "I value your opinions, you are very intelligent and raised to be a ruler. Please do not fear to voice your thoughts. If you disagree with something that I do, say so and we shall discuss it, as I do with Ellaria. I know that I am a fool sometimes. But I would never be angry with you solely because you disagree with me."

Larra chewed on her bottom lip. She had sworn to obey, and she had also spent the past two years protecting herself by submitting to others' wills. The thought of once again voicing her own thoughts and opinions was intimidating to say the least.

Still, she had not been raised to be meek. As he had said, she had been raised to be a ruler of a kingdom. Her mother, a descendant of a thousand Swords of Morning and a shield-maiden house, would have highly disapproved of how Larra had been so weak-willed. She exhaled and nodded. "I will try," she promised.

He smiled and kissed her softly. "The Lannisters, and Greyjoy and the Darkstar will all pay for what they have done," he assured her.

Larra smiled grimly. "They have forgotten their history," she informed him. "They ought to have learned the stories of the Winter Kings better. The Towers, Fishers of the Stoney Shore, Boltons and Flints of Breakstone Hill all rebelled and reduced the Starks to one or two people, and now they are extinct."

"Winter is Coming?" he raised an eyebrow at her with a smirk.

"And it will bring death with it," Larra replied decisively.

"Yes," he confirmed before kissing her firmly on the lips. "It will."


Oberyn:

He decided to spend the night in Larra's bed that night, though she insisted she was fine if he wanted to spend it with Ellaria or another.

He cut off her protests with a kiss, before insisting that he wanted to. It was true, as well. He enjoyed the feel of her slim form in his arms, her head resting against his chest. He liked that she had learned enough trust for him to allow him to see her so.

That was how he ended up leaning against the headboard, running a hand through her soft locks repeatedly and telling her different stories in exchange for her own tales.

"How did you end up being known as the Red Viper?" she asked, tracing a scar he had earned fighting for the Second Sons with a delicate touch. He kept a firm grip on his arousal, fully aware that Larra was oblivious to her effect on him.

"Well, when I was sixteen I had a liaison with the paramour of Lord Edgar Yronwood," Oberyn began. Larra sighed exasperatedly and shook her head.

"I should have guessed that was part of it," she muttered, making him grin and kiss her head affectionately. As he had suspected, the exercise had done her the world of good. The promise of Shae's return to her service had probably helped as well. He was annoyed at himself for not thinking of how she would feel having strangers attending her, given her wariness of touch. Still, he had dispatched a servant to find Shae and the woman had agreed to return to Larra's service, and would begin in the morning.

"Well, at any rate," he continued. "Lord Yronwood was less than pleased, and challenged me to a duel. It was only to first blood, however he died several days later. I have been known as the Red Viper of Dorne ever since."

"Was your weapon poisoned?" she asked curiously, tilting her head to the side.

"I have never either confirmed or denied such accusations," Oberyn grinned. Actually, it had not been. He had not done any studying into poisons at the time. But he had liked the notoriety it gave him, so he had never denied poisoning the man. He'd been an awful person, anyway. The world was better off without him.

She eyed him, then hummed and nodded.

"Your turn," he reminded her.

She frowned and twisted a strand of hair around her finger. "The Starks all receive direwolves as children," she said finally, a distant expression on her lovely face. "They are typically our warg familiars. It's very rare that a Stark cannot bond with a direwolf. We got ours the day that we received word that the court was coming to Winterfell. Father's wolf, Laochra, was their sire, and a wild direwolf we caught to breed with him was their mother. Mine was named Taibhse, the Old Tongue word for Ghost, because she was so silent. She was an albino. Her coat was pure white, blending into the snow, with bright red eyes. She was beautiful."

She fell silent, looking pained.

"What happened?" he prodded her gently. It pained him to do so when he knew it hurt her, but he knew from experience that if she failed to speak of it at all, it would eat her up from the inside. That was why he fully intended to take her out to hack at the post every day if that was what it took to help her heal properly from all she had gone through.

"Joffrey was bitten by Arya's wolf, Nymeria, when he shoved Arya on the way down to King's Landing from Winterfell," she explained in a monotone. "Queen Cersei wanted their heads, but we sent them away before she could. I do not know if she lives still, we are too far apart for me to reach her mind."

He sighed and kissed her head again. "They will pay," he promised her again. "For everything."

She nodded silently. "Albinos are sacred to the First Men," she informed him. "We say they are touched by the gods, as they have the same colouring as a weirwood tree does. Everyone was so excited that the heiress of the Winterlands had been chosen by an albino direwolf. They said it was a sign from the gods that I was meant for greatness."

"I am sure they were right," he replied. He was not simply saying so, either. He was certain that Larra could be brilliant, if she were but given the chance.

"Maybe, maybe not," she sighed, her expression saying she thought the latter more likely. "'Tis your turn again," she reminded him.

"Aye, 'tis," he acknowledged, leaving the subject alone for the moment. "Did you know that I spent some time at the Citadel? I forged six links of a maester's chain."

"Which ones?"

"Silver, iron, bronze, platinum, red gold and yellow gold," he listed easily.

She crinkled her brow thoughtfully. "Silver is for medicine and functions of the body, correct?"

"Yes, that's right," he nodded.

"Then, the others," she frowned, though that was not unexpected. As far as Oberyn knew, the Winterlands had little-to-no maesters, preferring to rely on their native Scholars and Healers.

"Bronze for histories, yellow gold for mathematics and economics, and iron is for warcraft I think," she hummed. "But I do not know the rest at all."

"You're correct for all of them," he told her. "Though bronze is also for astrology and astronomy, and I also studied poisons when forging my silver link. Platinum is for alchemy whilst red gold signals politics," he explained. "After making my sixth chain, I grew bored, and the lifestyle of a maester was not to my taste."

"I cannot imagine why you of all people would not wish to be celibate," she deadpanned, making him chuckle.

"Indeed, 'tis very strange of me, is it not?" he grinned at her. "At any rate, I left. I was unaware for some time that I had left a babe behind, in the belly of a brothel worker."

"Your eldest daughter, Obara?"

"Yes, Obara is two-and-twenty now. She was born in 276."

"How old are the rest?" She looked nervous at the mention of his daughters, and he stroked her arm gently. He had no doubt that they would love her, especially Laena.

"Nym is my second born, soon to be nine-and-ten. She was born to a Voltene noblewoman in 279. Then I have Tyene, who is not quite eight-and-ten, the same age as my niece, Arianne. Elaena is next, born in 281, and Sarella was three months after her. They are both six-and-ten. Elia is my next, born in 286. She is two-and-ten. Obella was born in 288, and turns one-and-ten in February. Dorea was born in 292 and is six, and then finally Loreza is five, and was born in March of 293."

Larra nodded quietly, twisting her bracelet. For once she simply looked thoughtful, rather than worried, so that was something.

"They will love you as much as Ellaria and I do," he assured her softly. "Laena has been asking after you in her letters."

She blinked at that, glancing up at him. "Truly?"

"Yes," he nodded. "She quite adores your family, after your father and uncle saved her."

Larra nodded, resting her head against his chest and stifling a yawn. He smiled fondly and shifted so they were lying down.

"Go to sleep, my love," he instructed her.

"Goodnight, Oberyn" she murmured, using his name without the title before it for once and making his smile broaden.

"Goodnight, Larra."

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

Purple Wedding, here we are! Along with bonus reactions to the Martell-Stark wedding from the Northerners.

Read, enjoy & review!

Chapter Eleven

The Purple Wedding

Moat Cailin: December 25 th , 298 AC

Dacey:

"This cannot be borne!"

"'Tis is an outrage! How dare those thrice-cursed burners sell our liege lady as if she is chattel?"

"Do they think we will accept this insult? We ought to call the banners and kill them all! I volunteer to lead the van!"

"Fucking southrons, we'll not accept a burner as our liege lord!"

"The Viper is forty, is he not? What does he want with a wife of five-and-ten? That sort of men needs one thing only and that's a knife to the gut!"

Dacey Lystark, formerly Mormont, sat silently beside her husband, who was chairing the hastily-called meeting. The news that Larra had been married off was not unexpected, but it was still a blow. By the Old Gods, she had still been four-and-ten when she was wed. Her fifteenth nameday had only been three days prior. Dacey shuddered to think what her sweet niece was going through.

Benjen had been furious at the news, swearing to murder everyone involved in marrying Larra to Oberyn Martell, and Moat Cailin had been descended upon by a dozen Northern lords, all infuriated by the marriage.

"A bunch of arrogant murdering rapists, that's what all of those fucking southrons are!" Benjen snapped, slamming a hand against the table. "They will not get away with this! First they murder my brother, nephew and niece and his goodbrother, now they force my niece into marriage! This will not be tolerated, by the Old Gods I will make them pay for this!"

"My lords, my ladies, please!" Lady Alysanne Frostfang called. "Calm yourselves! We can make no decisions if we are all shrieking as if the Night King himself has descended upon us. And everyone seems to be forgetting a few basic facts."

"And what facts are those, Lady Frostfang?" Lord Karstark snapped, still furious. Unsurprising, as his late and much-lamented son Torrhen had once been expected to marry Larra, and Rickard Karstark had doted on his would-have-been gooddaughter.

The Lady of Raven's Roost gazed back at him steadily, unintimidated. "There are a dozen reasons why this can hardly be considered a legitimate marriage. For one thing, Lady Stark is a follower of the Old Gods, not the Seven. Unless there is a second ceremony before Them, it can be contested. In addition, she is below the marrying age in the Winterlands. The moment Prince Oberyn," here a bit of anger leaked into her calm voice. "Steps foot in our kingdom he becomes guilty of holding a Lady Paramount captive, sexual slavery and rape, and can be arrested and punished for his crimes."

Bloodthirsty smirks formed on everybody's faces at that, whilst Lady Frostfang continued.

"Finally, in both the burner and the First Men's religion, both parties must consent to the wedding of their own free will. Lady Stark was forced into this marriage out of fear for her life, therefore 'tis not a genuine marriage. If the Viper thinks to escape justice for his actions towards our lady, he will regret it when we show him the error of his ways."

"This is all well and good, my lady," Nedric spoke up. "But that does not aid my cousin. Only the Old Gods know what she is going through. She has been a captive over two years now! We must do something, this situation is untenable! Need I remind you that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell? If the wards are not redone, catastrophe will strike!"

"Catastrophe has struck already," somebody muttered.

"Lord Dayne speaks truly," Ben nodded, his expression stoic and angry. "I shudder to think of what my niece is suffering, how she must be affected by the trauma. But all the same, we remain in the same position we have been since my brother Lord Stark's death. If we risk attacking the south, whether the west or Dorne, then we endanger my niece's life. What say the greenseers?"

Lord Reed sighed tiredly as they all turned to him. It seemed as if he had aged a century since word had arrived of Ned Stark's execution. Dacey knew that many were angered by the greenseers' failure to see the tragedy that would befall the Starks, though the reverence for the sacred order remained strong.

"This was the better of outcomes, I must say," the High Greenseer said, earning incredulous looks.

"The better outcome?" Ben scoffed. "My niece is now married to a burner older than Ned would be, had those fucking lions not killed him. Yet you say this is for the better? In what way?"

"Had she not married the viper, she'd have married a lion," Lord Reed replied grimly. "And she would have greeted him with a knife in the wedding bed, before turning the weapon on herself to keep herself from being dishonoured by her kins' murderers."

A grim hush fell over the room. Beneath the table, Dacey felt Benjen take hold of her hand and clutch it tightly. She rubbed a thumb over his knuckles to comfort him.

"The lions will die for this," she spoke up at last. "But we must consider this. Why the Viper? After Princess Elia and her babes' deaths, I had not thought Dorne to be a friend, or even an ally, to the lions. Yet Cersei's bastard daughter is to marry Prince Doran's youngest son, whilst the lions agree to give mine niece to Prince Oberyn, instead of marrying her to their own family in the hope of gaining full control of our kingdom and its resources. Why?"

Everybody exchanged troubled looks.

"Gods only knows," Lord Cerwyn scowled. "But these are southrons we speak of. The same people who abandoned the True Gods in order to save their earthly bodies, rather than stay true to the Old Gods and letting their immortal souls be honoured for their sacrifices in the Halls of the Otherworld. They care for nought save power. Mayhaps they believe the insult to their late sister is worth the gain for their House."

Everybody sneered in contempt at that, as Serena Dayne, of House Icewolf, leaned forward.

"What I wish to know, my lords and ladies, is this," she said. "If my niece was willing to kill herself to keep herself from being dishonoured by a lion, why did she not do so when she was forced to marry the Viper? And whatever is going on, we must remember that the situation is the same. Our liege lady is in enemy hands, and should we attempt to aid her, they will surely slit her throat. That must not happen, for we have all sworn our allegiance to the Starks, and she is The Stark."

Everyone looked at each other in grim silence at that. Even Serena's son, Edric and Greatjon Umber, the two loudest advocates for war, said nothing.


The Riverlands: December 26th, 289 AC

?:

In a market in the Riverlands, a young man with dirty brown hair kept his head down as he hurried through the rush of people, clutching a bundle of produce to his chest.

"Hear the latest from King's Landing?" a merchant selling some fabrics asked his current customer, a farmer. The young man paused, stooping to redo the laces on his worn boots, discreetly glancing at the pair conversing.

Like everyone in the Riverlands, the toll of the ongoing war between King Stannis and King Joffrey and the Lannisters, showed on them both. The Lannister army was running rampant throughout the Riverlands, and everybody, from the lowest peasant to the besieged Lord Edmure Tully, Lord Paramount of the Trident now his father was dead, was suffering for it.

"No, what's happened with the Illborn?" the other man replied, accepting his purchase.

"They've gone and married the Lady of the North to the Red Viper of Dorne," the merchant informed him. "So it seems that the alliance between the Iron Throne and Dorne is stronger than ever."

Neither man noticed the sharp intake the young man took in at the mention of the marriage, carrying on with their talk.

"Of course it is," the other man pointed out, voice despairing. "The Lannisters have all the power in the world. Dorne cannot defeat them anymore than anybody else. I pity that poor young lady, though. The Viper is hardly the sort of husband young maids dream of. And I don't want to think of how the Winterlanders will react to this. They will surely be furious, and we'll be in the way of their wrath."

"May the Seven be with us all."

Robb didn't hear anymore, for the men ended their discussion and began hastily packing up to flee the market. It was almost dark, and everyone was closing up and hurrying home to hide from any soldiers seeking to raid the small village. They were only a couple of miles from Riverrun, where the Lannister army was besieging the Tullys, and the Westermen took a cruel glee in tormenting the locals.

Robb raced back to his and Arya's camp, finding her waiting their for his return along with Nymeria. She was leaning against her companion's side when he arrived, polishing Ice with the look on her face that told him she was picturing burying the sword in a Lannister's chest.

"Larra's married!" he blurted out, before she could greet him.

"What?" she snarled, jumping to her feet and sounding like the direwolves that symbolized their family and stood by their sides.

"To the Red Viper," Robb added furiously. He supposed that a Martell was better than a Lannister, but the thought of his sweet cousin/foster sister being forced to marry a southron burner enraged him. "A burner, can you believe it? They must have forced her into it somehow. 'Tis the only explanation for it. Damn those greedy curs!"

"I'll kill him," Arya bit out furiously. "I'll stab him and give his corpse to the wolves!"

"We have to do something," Robb agreed. "The question is, do we continue with the original plan of going to Moat Cailin and getting help from Uncle Benjen, or do we go to Dorne for Larra instead? They'll probably take her there."

Arya raised her chin, looking determined. "We go to Dorne, for our sister," she declared. "The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Larra's alone and she needs us, so we must go to her."

"Alright," Robb agreed easily, seeing as the thought of leaving Larra to her fate didn't sit well with him. He would never forgive himself for leaving King's Landing without her in the first place. They'd thought her dead in the attack on the Tower of the Hand, and by the time they'd learned differently, they'd been past Duskendale, unable to do anything to help her without aid.

"To Dorne we go," he confirmed.


The Red Keep: December 31st, 298 AC

Oberyn:

Larra looked as if she was going to her own execution instead of a wedding. Oberyn was genuinely worried that she might swoon, she was so pale. Shae had put gods-only-knew how much rouge on her cheeks, but it failed to hide the whiteness of her pallor.

"Everything will be fine, my love," he tried to sooth her, rubbing her back. "The Lannisters cannot afford a war with Dorne on top of Stannis. Everything will be fine."

She grimaced, clenching her hands in her skirts. Shae, hovering concernedly in the corner of the room, gave him a warning look, silently demanding he look after her mistress. Oberyn had to admit, he liked the fiery handmaiden, despite her abysmal taste in men. (Though she had apparently stopped lying with the Imp now that he wasn't her employer anymore). She was protective of Larra, whose nerves had eased greatly since Shae's return to her service, and he suspected that, if she deemed it necessary to protect Larra, Shae would probably try to kill him. He appreciated that Larra had somebody so loyal to her as an attendant.

"I know they cannot," Larra muttered. "But I still worry. Joffrey sees people as toys. He is as mad as Aerys was said to be. The new Maegor the Cruel."

Oberyn disliked the implications of Larra of all people saying that, but he did not say so to her. Instead, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. "All will be well," he assured her again. "Are you ready to go?"

She exhaled and nodded. "As much as I shall ever be. Though really, seventy-seven courses, with the city folk all starving on his doorstep. 'Tis a disgrace. In what world would anybody even be able to eat so much, anyway?"

Oberyn shrugged, guiding her from the room with his hand on the small of her back. Ellaria was waiting in the sitting room, and he was stunned by the beauty of the two them side-by-side.

Ellaria wore Dornish clothing, in a dark yellow that showed off her figure and just barely covered her breasts, the plunging neckline showing off her stomach and leather cuff-bracelets with snakes stamped on them around her wrists. A gold headdress was resting atop her styled Rhoynar curls. She looked like the sun, in contrast to Larra's moon.

His wife was more modestly dressed, though she still looked beautiful despite the simplicity of her outfit. It was a delicate beauty, one that Cersei Lannister would never be able to compare to. She wore a Northern-style dress, made of silk and fitted to her torso, flaring out slightly at her waist. The underskirt and the sleeves from where they flared out at her elbows were a shimmering silver, whilst the rest of the dress, including the ties that laced across her front, pushing up her bosom, was white. It had a square neckline that teased him with a glimpse of the top of her breasts, aided by the silver-and-pearl necklace she wore, which went with the earrings dangling from her earlobes. He had given them to her for her nameday gift, prompting her to initiate a kiss with him for the first time, much to his pleasure. As usual, the bracelet given to her by her much-lamented mother was around her slim wrist.

He knew that many men would be annoyed by their wives continuing to wear their birth House's colours after marriage, but Oberyn was not bothered by Larra's preference for Stark colours. Just being able to wear her family's colours seemed to soothe her, and she looked lovely in them. Besides, he had already reconciled himself with the fact that he would eventually be taking her name. It would be a deep insult to her ancient family and its' illustrious history to do otherwise, and he would not do so.

He himself wore a white outfit embroidered with golden suns, in order to match both his paramour and wife.

"I will be the envy of every man in King's Landing," he declared. "To be escorting the two loveliest ladies in realm."

Larra flushed that delightful pink colour, whilst Ellaria laughed and leaned in to kiss him, taking care not smudge her make up.

"I suppose we ought to go now," Larra sighed, looking pained. "Gods, I do not want to know what Joffrey will do this time."

"We will leave as soon as possible," Oberyn promised her as she tucked her arm into his elbow, Ellaria taking the other side. His young wife's nails dug into his arm, betraying her anxiety despite the even expression she had dawned.

"Nothing else to do but get it over with," Ellaria hummed, reaching across him to touch their youngest love on the arm. Larra sent her a smile that failed to hide the strain in her eyes, and they headed for the Great Sept.

***

The only sign Larra gave of the tension she felt was the stiffness of her spine. Otherwise, her stress was hidden under the Northern stoicness that was so typical of her people.

Jugglers and fire-breathers, some on stilts, were preforming the entertainment. It was far more extravagant than his and Larra's wedding, which had only had about seventy guests and seven courses with musicians for entertainment, but he had preferred theirs. This was much too over the top, in Oberyn's opinion.

They walked through the crowd, Larra's nails digging into his wrist, and passed by the Imp as he and Ellaria admired a pretty contortionist, whilst his wife kept a careful eye on everybody around them.

"Lord Tyrion," Larra murmured, nodding her head to the Imp. She shifted closer to him as he discreetly rubbed a thumb over the back of her hand to ease her.

Thankfully, she did not make any obeisance to the Imp. He did not like to tell her what to do, but he had reminded her multiple times that, as a Princess of Dorne and Lady Paramount, she should only give obeisance to the king, Doran, Arianne and himself. Were she to act subservient to anybody else, it would undermine both kingdoms. But he also realized it was difficult for her, when being submissive had been a shield for her for so long. Thankfully, she was improving steadily.

"Prince Oberyn, Princess Alarra," Tyrion nodded cordially at them. "Lady Ellaria."

"Lord Tyrion," Oberyn nodded curtly to the Imp before tugging his ladies away from the man. Of all the Lannister, the Imp was the most tolerable, but that hardly said much. Oberyn certainly did not want Larra around him.

"They are singing the Rains of Castamere," Larra mumbled to them as they sat down.

"The king does so love his ego being stroked," Ellaria whispered to her in reply. Oberyn noticed several people giving them strange looks, no doubt puzzled by the obvious affection between his wife and paramour, and it made him grin.

Just then, the incest-born lion that called himself king stood, demanding everybody's attention.

"Everyone," Joffrey called. "The queen would like to say a few words."

The crowd applauded as he sat back down and the now-Queen Margaery stood with a bright smile. No doubt the Tyrells were glorying in at last having one of their blood as queen, though Oberyn actually pitied the lady for being forced to marry such a madman.

"We are so fortunate to enjoy this marvellous food and drink," the Rose of Highgarden declared. "Not all among us are so lucky. To thank the gods for their aid in the war against the usurper, King Joffrey has decreed that the leftovers from our feast be given to the poorest in his city."

"She ordered it, rather, and gives the credit to her husband to soften him towards her," Larra whispered, her words hidden by her goblet, which was raised to her lips. "Joffrey scoffs at charity. The riot where the last High Septon died was caused by him refusing to give alms to the people."

"Not much longer, my love," Oberyn replied to her softly. "We shall be away from this cursed city soon enough, I promise."

"I will hold you to that," she sighed.

Oberyn leaned over to kiss her, savouring the feel of her soft lips against his own. They still had not progressed beyond kissing, but he and Ellaria had both started spending time in bed with her. He'd have them all sharing a bed already, as was usual in Dorne, but he didn't want to overwhelm her or make her feel pressured. He met Ser Loras' gaze when he pulled away, and smirked when the Knight of Flowers' eyes went wide and he stumbled back into the Kingslayer.

A fool began juggling, but it made the king scowl in annoyance. He rose to his feet.

"A gold dragon to whoever knocks my fool's hat off," he yelled.

Larra flinched as the fool was suddenly pelted with food, and he ran off to escape. Oberyn decided they could do with moving again, and he stood.

"My ladies, will you join for a stroll, that I might ensure every man is seething with jealousy over my wonderful company?" he asked them lightly, enjoying the amused smiles that his comment earned him as they both rose to take an arm each.

Unfortunately, they ended up coming face-to-face with Lord Tywin and Queen Cersei. Larra lost the slight ease she had gained over the course of the evening without any problems from the lions. Oberyn released her arm to wrap his arm around her waist and pull her against his side, stroking her hip boldly and ignoring the angry contempt on Cersei's face.

"Your Grace," he said. "Lord Tywin."

"Prince Oberyn," the Old Lion replied.

"I don't believe you have met Ellaria," Oberyn went on, smirking at Cersei's sneer. "This is the Lord Hand Tywin Lannister and Cersei Lannister, the Queen Regent. I suppose 'tis former the Queen Regent now. Lord Hand and Lady Cersei, Ellaria Sand."

His lover smiled brightly as she curtsied as shallowly as she could get away with. Larra was tense in his embrace, as if she expected either Lannister to lunge forward and attack one of them.

"My lord," Ellaria greeted them. "My lady."

"Charmed," Tywin sneered.

"I cannot say that I have ever met a Sand before," Cersei sniffed, looking disdainfully at his paramour.

"We are everywhere in Dorne," Ellaria answered lightly. "I have 10,000 brothers and sisters."

"Bastards are born of passion, are they not?" Oberyn added. "We do not despise them in Dorne."

"No?" Cersei raised an eyebrow. "How tolerant of you." To his dismay, she turned her attention to Larra. "Hello, little wolf," she smiled coolly. "I have not seen you since your wedding, much to my disappointment. Are you enjoying being wed?"

"Very much, Your Grace," Larra responded, voice so soft it was nearly inaudible. Her eyes were fixed on the grass. Her obvious fear of Cersei only increased his loathing for the lions. "I apologize for my absence. I am loath to inconvenience you by taking up your time. I know how busy you are."

Oberyn quickly took the opportunity to step in and take the attention off of his wife before they could make anymore comments to upset her. "Yes, I expect that it is a relief, Lady Cersei, giving up your regal responsibilities. Wearing the crown for so many years must have left your neck a bit crooked." He smiled sharply, stroking Larra's delicate curves to try and soothe her. If he scandalized a few people in the process, that was only a bonus.

Cersei scowled, clearly angered by the reminder that she was no longer ruler. "I suppose you'll never know, Prince Oberyn. It's a shame your older brother couldn't attend the wedding."

He smirked at that. It was truly a pathetic attempt at a jab. He had never been interested in ruling. Doran was a wonderful Ruling Prince, and Arianne would be excellent when she succeeded him. And if Cersei was referring to his agreement with Tywin in regards to Larra's kingdom, well she did realize that Dorne let women rule, didn't she? Larra had been borne and raised to be Lady of the North, and Oberyn looked forward to the day she was able to take up that mantle properly. She would be superb, he was certain of that.

"Please give the Prince our regards," Tywin added. "With any luck, the gout will abate with time and he will be able to walk again."

"They call it the rich man's disease," Oberyn remarked, quietly but seriously wondering if Tywin knew that Doran was only mildly affected by his illness. His brother was almost as healthy as ever, save for some difficulty with walking. It simply suited Dorne for the Prince to appear weak. "A wonder you don't have it."

"Noblemen in my part of the country don't enjoy the same lifestyle as our counterparts in Dorne," Tywin remarked.

Oberyn's tone cooled as he responded. "People everywhere have their differences. In some places, the highborn frown upon those of low birth. In other places, the rape and murder of women and children is considered distasteful. What a fortunate thing for you, former Queen Regent, that your daughter Myrcella has been sent to live in the latter sort of place." Larra gripped his arm tightly, and he casually raised her hand to his lips for a kiss.

Before anyone could say anything else, the 'king' who had usurped the throne that rightfully belonged to his niece/adopted daughter stood again.

"Everyone, silence!" he ordered. "Clear the floor. There's been too much amusement here today. A royal wedding is not an amusement. A royal wedding is history. The time has come for all of us to contemplate our history. My lords... my ladies..."

Somebody pulled a lever, making a giant lion's mouth open and a red carpet roll down.

"I give you. King Joffrey... Renly, Stannis, and Balon Greyjoy. The War of the Four Kings."

They watched stoically as the dwarves mock-fought each other. Oberyn gritted his teeth in rage as Larra flinched when the dwarf playing Balon knocked over a tower of bricks onto three dolls dressed in Stark colours and cried out triumphantly that he had destroyed Winterfell, before dropping dead at the dwarf-Stannis' hand.

"Not much longer, my love," Ellaria whispered to Larra, who was looking away.

"Please Gods," she whispered back. Oberyn might have been pleased that she was leaning against his side, if not for the fact that her family's death and the destruction of her ancestral home had just been made a mockery of. It was an outrageous insult, and he could see the discomfort everybody was feeling at Joffrey's actions. He had to ponder the possibility that it was not the first time Larra and the Starks had been mocked by the king at a feast. Another strike. Joffrey would die painfully, he swore it.

"Well fought," Joffrey clapped after the Stannis dwarf was chased off. "Well fought. Here you are. Champion's purse. Though you're not the champion yet, are you? A true champion defeats all the challengers. Surely there are others out there who still dare to challenge my reign. Uncle. How about you? I'm sure they have a spare costume."

The crowd laughed uncomfortably, save for a few counting the Dornish guests, who were still angered by the insult to Larra's family.

"One taste of combat was enough for me, Your Grace," the Imp replied after standing. "I would like to keep what remains of my face. I think you should fight him. This was but a poor imitation of your own bravery on the field of battle. I speak as a first-hand witness. Climb down from the high table with your new Valyrian sword and show everyone how a true king wins his throne. Be careful, though. This one is clearly mad with lust. It would be a tragedy for the king to lose his virtue hours before his wedding night."

Everyone went quiet as the furious king stalked over to empty his goblet over his uncle's head.

"This is getting incredibly dangerous," Larra hissed at them, a thread of panic lacing her voice.

"His bride is distracting him," Ellaria tried to ease her nerves, whilst Oberyn frowned and looked around, something making his battle instincts start thrumming. He wanted to believe Larra's worry was only rubbing off on him, but he knew better.

"He'll probably end up killing her in their marriage bed," Larra scoffed grimly as pigeons flew from the pie. Ellaria rubbed her arm whilst Oberyn kissed the top of her head.

The Imp's mismatched eyes glinted in anger as Joffrey continued to goad and degrade him.

"Can we please leave now?" Larra begged.

"Alright," Oberyn agreed. It was late enough to be acceptable, early enough to be a snub. The perfect time to go, really. And his ladies would be safely away from the blonde version of Aerys. He signalled at the other members of his party they were going as he helped Larra and Ellaria stand.


Larra:

Larra felt as if she could weep in relief when Oberyn at last agreed to leave. They hastened for the exit, Larra resisting the urge to out-right run. She knew the expression in Joffrey's gaze far too well. The last time she had seen it, it had been after Stannis won Faircastle. The subsequent beating she had received had landed her in bed for over a month. She had no desire to test Tywin's ability to control his grandson.

Tywin knew that the Crown could not afford problems with Dorne whilst dealing with Stannis, but Joffrey did not. Or perhaps he simply did not care. Larra suspected that Joffrey thought himself a god given flesh. He would not care for Dorne's anger, therefore they all had to rely on Tywin's dubious ability to control Joffrey to keep the mad king from starting a war.

They were almost at the exit when the coughing started, and they all automatically turned. Larra gasped and covered her mouth in wide-eyed shock, whilst Oberyn muttered a curse and Ellaria also gasped.

Joffrey was staggering, gripping his throat and coughing. His face was turning a sickening purple colour. Larra could hardly breathe as she stared fixedly at the sight.

People yelled, Cersei and Jaime rushed to try and help their son, and Oberyn tried to make her turn away from the sight, but she refused to look away. She had to see it happen.

Please Gods, she begged. Please, please, please.

Blood streamed out of Joffrey's nose as he convulsed painfully. Cersei cried desperately as she watched him. He reached a hand out towards Tyrion, who at that moment picked up the goblet from before him. The king who had ordered her father and uncle's deaths and tormented her for two years gasped a final time as blood continued to stream from his nose, his face a horrid shade of purple, before finally dying.

"My son!" Cersei howled, sounding as if her heart had just been shattered into a million pieces.

Good, Larra thought, dazed and stunned. Now you know what true grief is.

"He's gone," a man declared grimly. "Our king is gone."

Cersei spun to point at her younger brother, look mad with rage. "He did this!" she shrieked. "He poisoned my son, your king. Take him. Take him! Take him! Take him!"

Two guards grabbed Tyrion, whilst Larra felt herself being pulled away by her husband. She twisted her neck to keep staring at Joffrey's body as long as she could, trying to imprint the image in her mind.

***

"Larra, Larra my love, can you hear me?" When she came back to herself after a period of unawareness, she was lying on her bed and Oberyn was crouched in front of her alongside Ellaria, both looking concerned. Shae was holding a goblet to Larra's lips, and she drank it on instinct.

"Is this real?" she finally asked, after Shae had pulled the cup away. "Is he actually dead, or am I having a wonderful dream?"

Their expressions softened.

"It's real, my love," Ellaria promised, resting a hand on Larra's knee. "Joffrey is dead."

"He murdered my father and uncle, and he died in agony," Larra breathed. "I had nearly started to doubt the Gods' justice."

Oberyn kissed the back of her hand. "One down," he said to her. "It's a start, anyway."

She started to sob, and she wasn't even sure why.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Like the previous chapter, some of the dialogue comes from the show.

Chapter Twelve

Interrogations and Confessions

The Red Keep: January 1st, 299 AC

Oberyn:

Oberyn was not particularly surprised when guards showed up at their rooms early the next day. The king had been poisoned, and he was a famous poisoner. It was only logical that they at least question him, though he was certain that they would not be serious about it. It was too risky for the Crown. He was only thankful that Larra was still abed. He could only imagine how distressed she would be to see him arrested, after what had happened to her father and uncle. She'd only just fallen asleep, having spent most of the night weeping in his and Ellaria's embrace from the emotions evoked by the Illborn's death.

"Prince Oberyn, we have been ordered by the Master of Laws to bring you in for questioning," the senior guard informed him with a bow.

He nodded curtly, turning to Daemon. "Stay with the Princess," he ordered him lowly. "Tell Ellaria what's happening but try and keep it from Larra should she wake whilst I am gone. Say that there is an emergency council meeting or the like. She does not need this stress."

"Yes, my prince," his former squire agreed, frowning heavily.

Oberyn turned back to the guards, gesturing at them. "After you, gentlemen."

They had the sense to question him in Ser Kevan's office instead of bringing him to a cell. He sat calmly, wearing a bored expression as if this whole thing was beneath his notice entirely.

"Prince Oberyn, my apologies for disturbing you," the Master of Laws stated, bowing his head. "This will not take long."

"I should hope not," Oberyn replied coolly. "My wife and paramour were very shocked and distressed by last night's events, and I would return quickly to ease their upset. But I am given to understand that the Imp was accused by the Queen Mother, so why is it that I, a Prince of Dorne, am being interrogated?"

Kevan Lannister was not as skilled at politics as his brother, and discomfort flashed briefly over his face. "Simply standard, Your Highness," he replied uncomfortably. "Given that your wife-"

"My wife has not the ability to harm a fly, let alone kill her king," Oberyn cut him off sharply. He refused to allow that train of thought to go anywhere. Gods only knew how distressing it would be for Larra to be interrogated by these brutes. In truth, Oberyn was even more contemptuous of Tywin's siblings than the Old Lion himself. In his opinion, they were brainless cowards who obeyed their brother's every word as if they had no minds of their own, regardless of what the order was.

"No, but she has motive to hate the king," Kevan pointed out, looking uncomfortable. "Given her kins' execution-"

"Princess Alarra is loyal to the Crown, her father and uncle were executed for treason to which they confessed," Oberyn replied coldly. "Traitors are executed, there is nothing more to be said of the matter."

"All the same, her being shamed-" Ser Kevan continued.

"Am I or my wife under suspicion?" Oberyn cut him off, clenching his fists.

Shamed? How had Larra been shamed? He regretted not pressing her for details on what Joffrey and Cersei had done to her. Clearly that was a part of why they were questioning him, assuming they believed his motive to be his wife's treatment at the hands of Joffrey. But he did not know the specifics, leaving him on the back-foot.

Ser Kevan was about to reply, but he was interrupted by the arrival of Tywin.

"Kevan, I would speak to Prince Oberyn alone."

"Of course, Brother," the younger Lannister rose, bowed to them both and left. Oberyn tapped his fingers lightly on the armrest as he studied the Hand of the King who now sat across from him.

"Lord Tywin," Oberyn inclined his head a fraction. "My condolences on the death of your grandson. Poison is a very unpleasant way to die."

Larra had been pleased by it, though Oberyn regretted he had not been able to kill the boy himself for her. He consoled himself with the fact that the Strangler was a painful and unpleasant death. Joffrey had murdered his wife's father and uncle, not to mention her household, and tormented Larra herself. He had deserved a far more prolonged agony for what she had gone through.

"Some believe that the king choked," Tywin pointed out.

Oberyn scoffed at that. "Some believe the sky is blue because we live inside the eye of a blue-eyed giant," he drawled, recalling a story he'd heard in the Free Cities. "The king was poisoned."

"I hear you studied poisons at the Citadel," Tywin studied him intently.

"I did," Oberyn confirmed with a curt nod. "That is why I know."

"Your hatred for my family is rather well known," Tywin pointed out. "You arrive at the capital, an expert in poisoning, some days after your marriage to a lady whose kin died on the orders of my grandson, he dies of poisoning."

"Rather suspicious," Oberyn retorted. "Why have you not thrown me in a dungeon yet?"

Tywin did not respond, changing the subject. "How is your wife coping with the events of last night? She has always seemed to be a rather delicate lady."

Oberyn nearly scoffed at that. He had never heard of a Northern lady being 'delicate'. Larra was frightened, fragile due to her grief. She was not delicate.

"She was very shocked," Oberyn acknowledged. That much was true, at least. "She spent the night weeping." That was also true, but they had been tears of relief, not grief. Not for Joffrey, at any rate.

Tywin hummed. "It surprises me that she is so distressed, given the circumstances."

"My wife is a loyal subject of the Crown," Oberyn informed the Old Lion flatly. "And such a sight was not fit to be seen by a lady's eyes."

"I have not seen her much since your marriage," Tywin noted.

"I've kept her busy," Oberyn smiled sharply. The Old Lion sneered, evidently assuming the worst. Well, he judged people by his own standards, so 'twas hardly a surprise he assumed that Oberyn was occupying his time with his wife by lying with her, regardless of her feelings. Truly, the Lannisters were the best examples of 'despicable' that Oberyn could think of.

"Well, I suppose that people can overlook a great deal for the sake of having proper heirs," the lion murmured, making Oberyn's eyes narrow into slits. He was missing something, and it was dangerous.

"What do you think of my grandson's death?" Tywin asked. "You say it was poison, I assume you know which one?"

Oberyn narrowed his eyes at the older man as he replied. "It was a poison called the Strangler. Rare, and difficult to make. It blocks of the airway and prevents the victim from breathing. The alchemists of Lys and the Faceless Men both use it."

The Warden of the West nodded curtly before changing the subject again.

"You spoke with Tyrion in a brothel on the day that you arrived," Tywin stated. "What did the two of you discuss?"

"You think we conspired together?" Oberyn scoffed. As if he would ever resort to helping a Lannister, even to kill another of the thrice-cursed lineage.

"What did you discuss?" Tywin repeated.

"The death of my sister," Oberyn replied coldly. He clenched his hands into fists, thinking of Elia's broken body in the casket delivered to them by his dead goodfather and gooduncle.

"For which you blame me," Tywin stated.

"She was raped and murdered by the Mountain," Oberyn snapped. "The Mountain follows your orders. Of course I blame you."

"Here I stand unarmed, unguarded." The Old Lion spread his arms wide. "Should I be concerned?"

"You are unarmed and unguarded because you know me better than that," Oberyn answered icily. "I am a man of reason. If I cut your throat today, I will be drawn and quartered tomorrow." Much as Oberyn longed to kill the Old Lion, he could not. Not yet, at least.

"Men at war commit all kinds of crimes without their superiors' knowledge," Tywin shrugged.

"So you deny involvement in Elia's murder?" Oberyn bit out.

"Categorically," the older man nodded sharply.

"I would like to speak with the Mountain," Oberyn stated. With my spear in hand, he added mentally.

"I'm sure he would enjoy speaking with you," Tywin replied.

"He might not enjoy it as much as he thinks he would," Oberyn warned.

"I could arrange for this meeting," the Hand said.

"But you want something in return," Oberyn lifted an eyebrow, waiting.

"There will be a trial for my son," Tywin informed him. "And as custom dictates, three judges will render a verdict. I will preside. Mace Tyrell will serve as the second judge. I would like you to be the third."

"Why?" Oberyn asked.

"Not long ago, the Tyrells sided with Renly Baratheon," Tywin pointed out. "Declared themselves enemies of the throne. Now they are our strongest allies."

"Well, you made the Tyrell girl a queen," Oberyn drawled. "Asking me to judge at your son's trial isn't quite as tempting."

"We are forming a Regency Council for King Tommen," Tywin told him. "I would also offer a seat to House Martell and Dorne on it."

"I never realized you had such respect for Dorne, Lord Tywin. Seats on the Small and Regency Councils, myself a judge for such a prestigious trial. Why?"

"We are not the Seven Kingdoms until Dorne returns to the fold," Tywin declared. It was plain to see his resentment at his admission. "The king is dead. The Greyjoys are in open rebellion. Stannis Baratheon and his Riverlander allies continue to resist the Crown. The North is in anarchy, despite our best efforts."

"You're saying that you need us?" Oberyn smirked. "That must be hard for you to admit."

"We need each other," Tywin insisted. "You help me serve justice to the king's assassins and I will help you serve justice to Elia's."

Oberyn pursed his lips, considering the Old Lion's offer.


Larra:

Larra flung herself at her husband to embrace him in pure relief when he walked into her solar where she had been pacing like a caged direwolf, ignoring everyone's attempts to sooth her.

"It's alright, my love," he murmured, rubbing her back. "I am well. They did not even truly question me, I promise. All is well."

She pulled back, glaring as best she could through her tear-blurred vision. "You should not have given orders to hide this from me," she insisted.

"I did not you to be distressed," he replied.

She shook her head, too relieved that he had not been arrested to stay upset with him. She buried her head in his chest, sighing in relief at the feel of his heartbeat. He was alive, thank the Gods. Alive and not arrested. She'd been utterly hysterical when she'd overheard Mariah and Clarisse (who remained in her service despite Shae's return, though Larra failed to see why she needed three attendants) whispering to each other about him being taken away for questioning. Nothing had consoled her. All she'd been able to think of was her father and uncle's arrest and how terribly that had ended for herself and her family.

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, before pulling away and guiding her into the bedchamber. She heard Ellaria follow them, shutting the door while Oberyn and she sat on the bed.

"Larra, my love," unease twisted her stomach at the look in his eye. "What did the Lannisters mean when they said Joffrey shamed you? Tywin implied something odd."

Larra felt herself go pale and she automatically looked away, staring out the window. It was a lovely, clear day. Fitting weather with Joffrey dead.

"Larra? What did he mean?"

"It does not matter," Larra whispered. Her chest felt tight. "He is dead. It does not matter."

"Larra, I do not like pressing you," he sighed. "But I must know this. It could have gone badly wrong in the interrogation. If there is something I should know, you have to tell me."

Her lip wobbled and she bit it to make it stop trembling. "Shae knows," Larra managed to force out, breathing a struggle. "Ask her. Do not make me speak of it, I beseech you."

"Larra-"

"Oberyn, do you not see her distress?" Ellaria snapped, pulling Larra into her embrace. "Speak to her handmaiden, you have a duty of care to your wife."

Larra stared at the ceiling, ignoring everything as Ellaria stroked her hair and Oberyn went to the door to call for Shae. Everything felt strangely distant. Their voices seemed to be coming from a far-off tunnel.

"How did the king shame my wife?"

"If your spies are too incompetent to tell you that, then I suggest you get new ones," Shae snapped back impertinently.

"How?" It sounded as if Oberyn was speaking through gritted teeth. "What did he do?"

"Beat her!" Shae snapped. "Half-to death about two dozen times over. Maybe more, damn them all. They would summon her to the Great Hall, strip her naked and those brutes who call themselves knights of the Kingsguard would beat her bloody with their swords! That's where those scars on her back all came from. One time they even dragged her out of the bath by her hair, and refused to let her even pull on a shift! Only her dressing gown, and she put it on whilst being taken to the hall."

That was when Larra finally fainted from the lack of air.


Ellaria:

Ellaria was borderline panicked. Larra was unconscious in her arms, whilst Oberyn was stalking towards the door, wearing an expression of utter rage. She had no doubt he was intent on going straight for the nearest Kingsguard to gain vengeance for what they had just learned. Hastily, Ellaria laid Larra's limp form on the bed, then flung herself at her lover, grabbing hold of his shoulder to try and halt him.

"Let go of me, Ellaria!" he snapped, a fury she typically associated with mentions of the Mountain in his voice. She understood, of course. She was furious too. But attacking anybody involved in Larra's shaming would only worsen the situation.

"No, not until you calm yourself," she refused. Of course, he was far stronger than her, and could subdue easily her if he tried. But it would require raising a hand to her, something he would never even consider doing. Thank the gods for his morals.

"I want their heads for this!" he hissed.

"And what good will that do Larra?" she retorted. "Calm yourself, do you not see that she is unconscious, she became so distressed simply by the mention of it? How do you think she will feel to wake and find you arrested for murdering the Kingsguard, when you only just returned from being questioned under suspicion of treason? We had to give her some milk of the poppy to calm her, she was so distressed earlier."

He faltered, guilt flashing across his expression as he glanced at where Shae was bent over her mistress in concern.

"How is the princess?" he called to her, his anger fading to be replaced by worry as he stepped towards the bed. Ellaria judged it safe to release him, though she remained in front of the door.

"Unconscious," Shae replied curtly. "But I cannot say more than that. I am no healer. She has no fever, her heart seems regular enough, if a bit fast. It often is."

Oberyn's own training from the Citadel kicked in and he bent over Larra, examining her. "Just unconscious," he murmured finally, straightening as Ellaria sighed in relief. He dismissed Shae, who left with a final worried glance at Larra whilst Ellaria headed over to sit on the bed. Larra lay still, seeming very small in the middle of the large bed, and Oberyn had buried his head in his hands.

"We should have gotten her out far before this," he muttered to her. "Before she was shamed and beaten in public, before she was threatened with rape. Gods, Ellaria. She does not deserve this."

"No," Ellaria agreed sadly. "She most certainly does not." Unfortunately, the gods seemed to be cruellest to the best of people.

She was surprised when Oberyn suddenly moved, pulling Larra's still form into his arms and adjusting her. She understood when he pulled down the back of Larra's dress and shift, revealing her shoulders to them. Ellaria could not stop her gasp of dismay.

It was only the slightest glimpse, but the marks were raised and ugly. Ellaria had no doubt they had been agony to earn, and she shuddered at the image in her head of Larra, stripped and being beaten at the Illborn's feet.

"These were not tended by a maester," Oberyn declared darkly, restoring Larra's clothing but continuing to hold her.

"Of course they weren't," Ellaria scoffed bitterly. "Damn them all."

"Gods, Ellaria, I have no idea how to help her," Oberyn sighed, rubbing his forehead exhaustedly. "The mere mention of it had her fainting. What do we do?"

Ellaria shrugged helplessly. "Keep doing what we have doing since we met her, I suppose," she sighed, not knowing what else to do. "Assuring her that she is safe now, that we love her."

"Hm," he sighed tiredly. "It does not feel like enough."

Ellaria didn't get the chance to reply, as Larra finally started stirring, much to their relief.

"Larra, my love, can you hear me?" Oberyn asked her as she sat up, looking bemused and holding a hand to her head.

"I, yes," she confirmed slowly. "What-? I do not remember what happened."

They exchanged quick looks, then Ellaria explained. Larra looked stricken and embarrassed, looking at the wall with tension lining her back.

"My love, you bear no shame for this," Ellaria breathed to her, rubbing Larra's back.

"Blame?" Oberyn repeated disbelievingly. "Of course she is not to blame! Why would-?" He fell silent at Larra's trembling lip and Ellaria's irritated look. His voice quietened.

"You have done nothing to be ashamed of, my lovely wife," he assured her, running a hand through her curls.

Larra let out a shaky breath and shook her head, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes. "What happened when they were questioning you?" she asked softly.

Oberyn and Ellaria exchanged looks. They both wanted to press the subject, but Larra's fainting spell had alarmed them both. They did not want to risk a repeat, so they indulged her silent plea to change the subject.

"It could hardly be called a questioning, really," Oberyn informed them, continuing to stroke Larra's hair. "I spoke first with the Master of Laws, then with Lord Tywin. It was clear from their questions that they have chosen to indulge Cersei and make the Imp the scapegoat. Frankly, I do not believe it. I dislike the man, but he is the best of the lions I believe. He would not kill his kin."

"I agree," Larra nodded. "I am sure that he is relieved Joffrey is dead. I expect only Cersei is not. But Lord Tyrion is too intelligent to murder the king in front of so many witnesses and too much a Lannister to murder a member of his family, no matter how much he loathes them."

Ellaria stayed quiet. She had never interacted with the Imp, she could give no opinion either way on his guilt.

"I was also given an offer by Lord Tywin," Oberyn added, a certain look in his eye that put Ellaria (and Larra too by the look of it) on her guard.

"What sort of offer?" Ellaria asked suspiciously. She knew her lover. He hated Tywin Lannister as much as he loved his daughters. What offer would he ever entertain from him?

"I am to be a judge for Lord Tyrion's trial, which will occur in two weeks," Oberyn said slowly.

"And?" Larra pressed. "What else?"

Ellaria spared a second to smile internally. Just a fortnight ago, Larra would have been too wary to even think of pressing Oberyn for anything. It was a good sign, hopefully.

"He has agreed to give Elia justice," Oberyn explained.

"You will not fight the Mountain?" Ellaria demanded in horror. Larra went pale, covering her mouth.

"You both know that I have been planning on how to gain justice for my sister," Oberyn pointed out stubbornly.

"Poison him then," Larra insisted. "But do not be a fool and fight a man never defeated in combat!"

"I may not fight him," Oberyn agreed, pulling his wife to one side and reaching to take Ellaria's hand with his free one. "But before we leave, Clegane will die."

"His brother will be disappointed he was not the killer," Larra remarked, looking exhausted.

They shot her shocked looks. She gave a humourless smile.

"Sandor Clegane was the only member of Joffrey's Kingsguard who refused to beat me," she informed them, a haunted look in her eyes. Ellaria felt her eyebrows going shooting up in surprise at that, whilst Oberyn looked stunned.

"The Hound?" he confirmed in utter disbelief.

Larra nodded, looking away and twisting her bracelet. "Yes," she confirmed shortly. "Gregor Clegane has no care for anybody, let alone his kin. He's the one who damaged Sandor's face."

"By the Gods," Oberyn muttered, shaking his head. His expression abruptly darkened as a thought occurred to him. "Was Arys Oakheart one of-?"

"Yes," Larra cut him off, her cheeks stained red. For once, Ellaria did not enjoy the flush, for it was a sign of Larra's humiliation instead of her sweet modesty and humbleness. "All of them. Save for Sandor, as I said. But Ser Arys protested the first time, and he always tried to be gentler than the others. Some of them seemed to enjoy it."

She looked distant and haunted, staring out the window. "They'd come and drag me out at random times," she murmured. "I never knew when I would be summoned. I was afraid to undress, because they would not even let me make myself presentable. If I was not quick enough, they would drag me by my hair."

Ellaria felt ill, and Oberyn looked a mixture of stricken and furious as their young love continued to talk in a dead tone.

"They insisted on me kneeling in front of the throne, and if I was too slow, they would kick my legs out from beneath me. Then they would beat me, and Joffrey revelled in me weeping and pleading. It was the only way to make it end. It was so humiliating.

I was forbidden a maester. Though, given Pycelle's fondness for fondling any woman he can touch, I suppose that might have been for the better." She gave a humourless laugh. "Traitor's blood," she muttered. "Damn him. Damn them all."

Oberyn clearly couldn't stand it any longer, not that Ellaria was any better. He pulled Larra into his lap again, and Ellaria wrapped them in her embrace.

"None of them will ever touch you again," Oberyn vowed to Larra. "And I will have take a head for every scar on your skin."

"You have not seen me undressed," Larra replied tiredly. "You will need an army to collect so many heads."

"Then it is excellent that I am a Prince of Dorne, married to the Lady Paramount of the Winterlands who is most loved by her people," Oberyn replied. "As both of those kingdoms have the finest armies in Westeros."

"Does Elaena plan to claim the Iron Throne?" Larra asked without warning, pulling back to meet Oberyn's gaze.

He nodded silently.

Larra gave a tired smile. "Well, my army will certainly be glad to help her, so long as the Greyjoys are all thoroughly eradicated as the Lannisters are going to be."

Oberyn kissed her at that, before Ellaria pushed him away and kissed Larra herself as well.

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, Ellaria thought to herself. Larra might be a Martell by marriage instead of blood, but she definitely had the spirit of her marital House.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Again, there is dialogue from the show during this chapter. We also have Benjen receiving word from his niece from the first time in years, so I hope you guys enjoy how I did it.

Chapter Thirteen

The Trial of the Half-Man

Moat Cailin: January 3rd, 299 AC

Benjen:

She has lost her mind, Benjen concluded painfully, re-reading the letter. 'Tis the only explanation. Grief and trauma has made her insane.

His poor, sweet niece. Either she was insane or else she had been forced to write the letter. But had she written it under duress, then surely she would not have used the Old Tongue, as whomever had dictated it would have wanted to read it for themselves to search for any hidden messages, of which there was none. Therefore the sole explanation was that she had gone mad.

Yes, there was some sense and rationality in her words. But to willingly marry a burner? To claim him honourable? A man who had married a girl younger than most of his daughters, who worshipped the Seven? It was pure madness.

He read it a third time, searching desperately for some sanity in the words.

Dear Uncle Benjen,

I know not how to begin. It has been so long, so much has occurred. Aunt Dacey was with child again when last I saw her, and now the babe must be nigh on two namedays. I do not even know if it was a boy or a girl. And as for myself, so much has happened, I know not how to tell you. Nothing seems as if it can be committed to parchment. It all seems as if it should be said in person.

I will go to the most important part first. I am wed, as I am certain you have heard already. My husband is Prince Oberyn of House Martell. It is as you must fear, he is an Andal.

Forgive me Uncle, I implore you. I had few options.

The Lannisters, made they rot at the bottom of the Otherworld's dungeons, decided I was to be married. I feared that I would be forced to marry one of them. I would have died before letting a Lannister put his seed in me, Uncle. Had such a thing occurred, on the wedding night I would have greeted him with a blade in the marital bed, then put it in my own heart to prevent another one of them from dishonouring me.

About a moon prior to the Old Lion informing me that the council had decided that I was to wed, I first met Prince Oberyn and his paramour, the Lady Ellaria Sand of House Uller. We made a blood oath to speak only the truth to one another, in the godswood. We continued to speak with each other afterwards. Or rather, one or both of them would come seeking my company. The day after I learned of Tywin's (I shall not do him the courtesy of calling him a lord) plans, they invited me to dine with their party, and then afterwards we had a private discussion.

As it turns out, House Martell believes that they owe House Stark a debt. I will not go into detail, least unfriendly eyes discover and manage to decipher this. The prince offered to marry me, in order to protect myself and the North from the Lannisters. His offer was the best I could hope for, and so I agreed. I know you must be disappointed in me, Uncle. I have betrayed our ancestors. But truly, I had few other options, and I am unwilling to die yet if I have a way to live.

He has been the sole of courtesy and kindness towards me, as has Ellaria, I swear it. I have not been harmed, nor forced into anything .

But I regret to say that I must go now, as the hour is late. I promise to explain in more detail all that has happened since Father's death.

Please forgive me for being a coward, Uncle. I chose to submit to the lions who murdered our family instead of die, and have shamed myself deeply in the process.

With all my love, your niece,

Alarra of Houses Stark and Martell, Lady Paramount of the Winter Lands, Wardenness of the North and Princess of Dorne.

She had added her marital house and title when she signed the bottom of the page.

"My love, you sent for me," Dacey entered without bothering to knock. After so long together, they hardly needed any formalities unless they were in public. One of her hands rested on her stomach, swollen from her seven moons' of pregnancy.

"I just received this," Benjen informed her grimly. "Read it." He handed it over to her and buried his head in his hands, filled with despair.

He loathed the south only slightly less than he hated the White Walkers, the abominations every follower of the Old Gods was sworn to fight against. He had lost so much to the south: father, sister, both brothers, niece and nephew. All of them taken decades too soon. And for what?

Lya had been stolen away by the so-called Silver Prince, for a reason none of them had ever determined. Father and Brandon had gone to demand justice for her kidnapping, and the Mad King had killed them painfully for it. Ned, Robb and Arya had all died because his elder brother was an honourable man, too good to allow the Lannisters to get away with their actions. Now, his sole surviving niece was being manipulated by yet another southron, and Benjen was, as always it seemed, helpless to do anything for her.

Dacey read it quickly, before setting down the letter and moving her chair so she was sitting at his side, a hand on his shoulder.

"Is this not good news, Ben?" she asked softly. "Larra is safe. Or as safe as she can be."

"Safe?" Ben scoffed. "She has gone insane! Did you not read the letter? She speaks of a burner being honourable! If he is acting kindly towards her, 'tis solely so that he might manipulate her in one those convoluted southron plots of theirs! I have never heard of a blood debt between our Houses, and how would there be? The Starks and Martells scarcely interact. At least until now."

"We cannot know that he is manipulating her," Dacey murmured. "You do Larra a disservice. She is intelligent, and I am sure she has learned the Game of Thrones over the past two years. She would see if she were being used in some plot to seize control of the Winter Lands."

"But a burner being honourable," Benjen repeated. "Have you forgotten what they did? First they burned down the heart trees, raping and murdering and pillaging as they went and forcing the Old Gods North. But that was not good enough for them, and to this day they continue their attempts to destroy the true faith, only more insidiously. Then my father, sister, both of my brothers and my nieces and nephews were murdered by the thrice-damned southrons! Now my brother's sole surviving child is in their power, and she-"

"Will be fine," Dacey cut him off and cupped his jaw in her own calloused hands. "Whether the Viper is putting on a show to take advantage of her or if he truly is honourable and fulfilling a debt, we will get Larra back. She is a Stark, and the Starks endure. The direwolves have survived for over eight millennia, and fought and defeated foes far more fearsome than the lions and snakes. Larra will conquer these trials too. Have faith in the gods, my beloved. They are with the Starks, so long as the Starks are with them."

Benjen sighed and leaned in to breathe in her scent of metal and pine needles. "We will get her back, and my brother and his family will be avenged," he said aloud, needing to say it and hear it. It had been his mantra since word had come of Ned's imprisonment and execution.

"We will," Dacey promised. "And everyone will regret angering the North."

"The North remembers," Ben agreed, hearing the steel in his own voice. "And it takes its' revenge." The south had forgotten what it meant to cross the Kings of Winter. But the North would remind them of the cost of angering the direwolves. His line had not ruled for eight millennia by allowing their enemies to survive. When somebody angered the Starks, they were put down hard.

The time was coming when they would show the lions why the Starks were not to be defied.


The Red Keep: January 15th, 299 AC

Larra:

"Must we attend?" Larra sighed, already knowing the futility of it. "Or at least bring Ellaria?"

Oberyn leaned in to press a kiss against her forehead. "I know that you do not wish to attend, my love," he murmured. "I do not want to go either. But 'twould be a major insult if we did not. And as for bringing Ellaria, I wish we could. Regretfully, we cannot afford to test the lions' tolerance or make them suspicious at this point."

Larra sighed again. "I shall dress then," she murmured. He kissed her again, before pulling away and striding out quickly.

Shae and Clarisse, who had been organizing Larra's outfit for the coronation, straightened and came over clutching the gown and jewellery chosen.

Larra still thought the amount of dresses made for her was excessive. But she had to admit that they were lovely, and she enjoyed wearing Northern styles again, instead of the robe-like dresses popularized by Cersei and favoured by the court.

The dress she would wear to the coronation of the now-King Tommen was in the colours of the Martells. It was simple, perhaps too simple for a coronation, but Larra preferred simplicity. She was a Northern lady at her core, and she had been raised to be practical, not pretentious like many southron highborn ladies.

The dress was made of orange silk, with gold bell sleeves falling from her upper arms to trail near the floor. The orange split from a belt at her hips to reveal an underskirt that was also gold, and there was a short train. The belt was made of gold also, and had a sunburst in the centre. For jewellery, she had a gold necklace shaped like a sun and a pair of matching studded earrings, gifts from Ellaria. The outfit was finished off with a simple circlet keeping her loose tumble of curls away from her face.

She looked every inch the Martell Princess.

"There," Shae declared once Larra was dressed and her face done with make-up. "You're ready."

"I hope so," Larra muttered, heading towards the door and dismissing her maids as she went.

Oberyn was waiting for her in the sitting room, speaking quietly with Ellaria.

"I do not suppose that you have decided to ignore Her Grace's decree and attend with us?" Larra asked hopefully, leaning in to kiss her friend? Lover?'s cheek.

Ellaria laughed huskily, turning so that their lips met instead. Larra could taste Oberyn on Ellaria's lips. It was a lovely taste, strange though the thought felt.

"I am afraid not," Ellaria grinned. "What a pity you shall be deprived of my company, forced to keep an eye on our beloved without aid."

"Surely moving mountains is simpler," Larra answered lightly, giggling softly at Oberyn's look of mock offence.

He had brought her out to attack the post again the day after he and Ellaria had learned a small bit of what she had gone through at Joffrey's hands. Neither of them had pressed her for more details, but they had spent several days treating her even more delicately than usual. Larra had promised she would speak more once they were away from King's Landing and the Lannisters. Whilst in the lions' den, she was too nervous of spies to speak of it. In truth, she was unsure how she would be able to find the words to tell them of the torment, both physical and mental, that she had gone through.

"Your Highnesses," Ser Arron spoke up. "We must go, else we shall be late and refused admittance to the Great Sept."

"What a shame that would be," Oberyn drawled. "To miss another feast with the lions. How disappointed everyone would be."

"Oh yes," Larra scoffed, taking his arm when he offered it to her. Ellaria kissed them both once more before they left, Larra's train dragging behind them.

***

"May the Warrior grant him courage and protect him in these perilous times," the High Septon called, holding the crown over Tommen's head. "May the Smith grant him strength that he might bear this heavy burden. And may the Crone, she that knows the fate of all men, show him the path he must walk and guide him through the dark places that lie ahead. In the light of the Seven, I now proclaim Tommen of the House Baratheon First of His Name. King of the Rhoynar, the Andals and the First Men and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. Long may he reign!"

"Long may he reign!" Everybody watching called.

Larra contemplated the new young king as they cheered.

Tommen was alike to Joffrey in looks, but that was all. He was sweet and gentle, he cared. In another life, he could have been a good king. She regretted that he would suffer from his family's actions. Out of all the lions, Tommen and Myrcella were the only innocents she had met.

That being said, Tommen was the son of two Lannisters. He had no right to the Iron Throne, whether it was a claim of blood or conquest. She did not think he even wanted the crown. His mother did, however.

Tommen would not reign long, but hopefully he would live. Larra wondered how many coronations would occur in her lifetime. This was the third, though she had been but moons' old when Robert Baratheon had been crowned. Rhaenys would be the fourth. If she was still alive by then, which was by no means certain.

Larra had no intention of remaining behind when war inevitably came. No Stark of Winterfell, man or woman, had ever remained behind when their men marched to battle, and she would not be the first. And if Larra had it her way, she would be the one to kill Cersei. Joffrey might have given the order for her father and uncle's deaths, but Cersei had been the one to kick everything off. Larra would not rest, and neither would her family's spirits, until the lioness was dead and rotting in the Andals' seven hells, where she deserved to go.


The Red Keep: January 23rd, 299 AC

Oberyn:

Oberyn was relieved that Larra had decided against attending the trial, and that Ellaria had decided to stay with her. Whilst Larra was improving steadily, crowds still distressed her and made her nervous and tense. Though she was an expert at maintaining her composure and hiding her distress, it had taken them both two hours to soothe her and get her to rest after they had returned from the coronation. Attending the trial would only put strain on her already-overwrought nerves, and Ellaria would be able to keep her distracted.

"Kingslayer!" someone yelled accusingly as the Imp was escorted down the aisle towards the accused's dais in front of the throne by his brother and a pair of guards.

The new little lion king stood from the Iron Throne after catching a look from his grandfather. He cleared his throat and spoke. "I, Tommen of the House Baratheon, First of my Name, King of the Rhoynar, the Andals and the First Men, and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, do hereby recuse myself from this trial," his young voice was clear and firm.

Oberyn had to acknowledge, he was a good young lad. He would ensure that Tommen and Myrcella were as affected as little as possible by Rhaenys' ascension to the throne. They could not control their genetics, after all. Dorne did not punish innocent children for their parents' sins.

"Tywin of the House Lannister, Hand of the King, Protector of the Realm, will sit as judge in my stead. And with him Prince Oberyn of the House Martell and Lord Mace of the House Tyrell. And if found guilty... may the gods punish the accused."

The High Septon stepped forward to say a prayer to the Seven to guide them to the right verdict once the king had left, then Tywin got down to business. From the expression of utter indifference on his face, you would never guess that he was sitting in judgement on his own son. Thinking of his own children, Oberyn wondered how the man could be so cold to his own flesh and blood, regardless of Tyrion's deformity and the death of his mother in childbirth.

"Tyrion, did you kill King Joffrey?" The Hand demanded coldly.

The Imp did not waste a heartbeat. "No."

"Well, that's a relief," Oberyn said dryly. As if the man would simply confess to high treason without any fuss at all.

"The gods killed Joffrey," Tyrion insisted. "He choked on his pigeon pie."

The Fat Flower reddened, looking as if he'd had too much wine. Oberyn was bored sick of dealing with the idiot Lord of Highgarden. If he was reminded once more that Queen Margaery had also been drinking from the poisoned goblet, he would be forced to take drastic measures to shut the fool up. Nobody who had actually spoken to Tyrell would blame him for it, he was certain of that.

"You would blame the bakers?"

"Them, or the pigeons. Just leave me out of it."

The Imp had made a mistake with that statement, and Oberyn could tell from his expression that he had realized it.

"There are witnesses against you," Lord Tywin stated. "We shall hear them first. Then you may present your own witnesses. You are to speak only with our leave."

The Imp could do nothing but nod, and Oberyn felt a hint of pity for him.

The first witness was Ser Balon Swann of the Kingsguard. He was on Oberyn's list. But as Larra had said that he had not been so brutal as some of the others, Oberyn would allow taking his head to wait until after Trant and Blount, the ones whose names Larra whimpered in sleep haunted by nightmares, were dealt with.

"Lord Hand," Swann began, after he had been sworn by the High Septon to speak only the truth, "I had the honour to fight beside your son during the Battle of the Blackwater. He is a brave man for all his size, and I will not believe that he did this heinous thing."

Oberyn was surprised by that, as was everyone else. But Cersei's game soon became clear as Ser Balon spoke reluctantly of how he had pulled Tyrion away from Joffrey on the day of the riot where the last High Septon had been killed.

"He did strike His Grace, that is so," the man acknowledged in response to the Hand's query. "It was a fit of wroth, no more. A summer storm. The mob near killed us all, blood was high."

"In the days of the Targaryens, a man who struck one of the blood royal would lose the hand he struck him with," Oberyn observed coolly, tracing a finger around the edge of his goblet. "Did the dwarf regrow his little hand, or did you White Swords forget your duty?"

"He was of the blood royal himself," Ser Balon answered. "And the King's Hand beside."

"No," Lord Tywin corrected the man. "He was acting Hand, in my stead."

Ser Meryn Trant was called up next, and was more than pleased to elaborate on the whole affair.

"Once we'd got King Joffrey safely away from the mob, the Imp rounded on him," Trant informed them. "He slapped the king across the face and called him a vicious idiot and a fool. It wasn't the first time the Imp threatened Joffrey. Right here in this throne room, he marched up those steps and called our king a halfwit. Compared His Grace to the Mad King and suggested he'd meet the same fate. And when I spoke in the king's defence, he threatened to have me killed."

"Oh, why don't you tell them what Joffrey was doing?" Tyrion retorted.

"Silence," Tywin ordered him.

Tyrion ignored him, looking pointedly at Oberyn as he went on. "Pointing a loaded crossbow at Alarra Stark while you tore at her clothes and beat her."

Oberyn inhaled sharply, realizing that he was clutching the handle of his knife as Tywin rose to his feet. He had never laid eyes on one of those scenes, but he had pictured what it must have looked up a thousand times since Larra' admission. The image of his wife, sweet and small, curled in a ball to protect her torso from a rain of brutal blows, her back bloody and exposed to the world, furthering her shame, haunted him. She had not said that Joffrey had pointed a crossbow at her. The urge to kill the imposter knight, who was right in front of him, was nearly over-powering.

If only they had made their move sooner. If only he and Doran had not been so confident that the Lannisters would not risk their hold on the North by harming Larra, that they had time. His poor, sweet young wife. Oberyn would kill a man for each scar that marred her skin, he swore it before the Old Gods and the New.

"Silence!" the Lord Hand barked harshly at his son. "You will not speak unless called upon. You are dismissed, Ser Meryn."

Oberyn gave the chubby man a death glare as he left the stand, seething silently. Had he not pressed Larra for an explanation after being questioned, and only learned of it there, he had no doubt that he would not have been able to keep control of himself. He would have jumped at the man to tear his throat out for what he had done. As it was, it took everything in him to stay silent. But he would not refrain from revenge forever. They would all pay for what they had put her through.

The Kettleblacks came next, all three of them in turn. Two of them, Sers Osney and Osfryd told the tale of a supper between Cersei and the Imp before the Battle of the Blackwater, and of threats that Tyrion had apparently made to her.

"He told Her Grace that he meant to do her harm," Ser Osfryd stated. "To hurt her." His brother Osney elaborated on the words. "He said he would wait for a day when she was happy, and make her joy turn to ashes in her mouth."

Well, Oberyn did not blame the dwarf if he had really made such threats. He wanted to make Cersei suffer too.

Ser Osmund Kettleblack, the vision of chivalry in immaculate scale armour and white wool cloak to disguise his evil, maid-beating nature, swore that King Joffrey had long known that his uncle Tyrion meant to murder him. "It was the day they gave me the white cloak, my lords," he told them. "That brave boy said to me, 'Good Ser Osmund, guard me well, for my uncle loves me not. He means to be king in my place.' "

The claim of Joffrey Baratheon being a 'brave boy' forced Oberyn to suppress a scoff. It was nearly more than he could take.

Clearly, the Imp was losing his patience as well. "Liar!" He took two steps forward before the gold cloaks dragged him back.

Lord Tywin frowned. "Must we have you chained hand and foot like a common brigand?"

"No," Tyrion responded sullenly. "I beg your pardons, my lords. His lies angered me."

"His truths, you mean," Cersei snapped. "Father, I beg you to put him in fetters, for your own protection. You see how he is."

"I see that he is a dwarf," Oberyn said flatly. "The day that I fear a dwarf's wrath is the day that I drown myself in a cask of red." Better yet, he'd drown the Kingsguard first, and then kiss his wife and paramour. That sounded lovely to him.

"We need no fetters." Lord Tywin glanced at the windows, and rose. "The hour grows late. We shall resume on the morrow."


The Red Keep: January 24th, 299 AC

Oberyn spent the evening cuddling his ladies, pressing kisses to Larra's face and savouring the feeling of her supple form in his embrace to reassure himself that she was safe now and erase his imaginings of her beaten and weeping on the throne room floor. She did not press for information on the trial, and neither did Ellaria. They simply passed the night in a shared bed, speaking of light topics until they fell asleep. The next day, Oberyn again went to judge the trial whilst his ladies entertained themselves.

Two of Maester Pycelle's assistants, men by the names of Ballabar and Frenken, opened the second day of trial. They had opened King Joffrey's 'noble' corpse as well, they swore, and found no morsel of pigeon pie nor any other food lodged in the boy's throat. "It was poison that killed him, my lords," Ballabar declared, as Frenken nodded gravely. As if anybody had doubted that.

Then Grand Maester Pycelle was brought forth. He was leaning heavily on a twisted cane and shaking as he walked, a few white hairs sprouting from his long chicken's neck.

Oberyn felt his lip curl in disgust, recalling Larra's distress when Jynessa had been feeling ill and her mother suggested going to the Grand Maester for a potion to soothe her. "He expects ladies to repay him in the bedchamber," she had said, looking hollow-eyed. "He takes any excuse to touch a woman, of any age. Even the queen has complained." She had sworn he had not forced her, but the tension said that he had touched her. Oberyn was going to kill him for that, too.

Pycelle had grown too frail to stand, so they permitted a chair to be brought in for him, and a table as well. On the table were laid a number of small jars. Pycelle was pleased to put a name to each.

"Greycap," he said in a wavering voice, pointing at them as he named them. "from the toadstool. Nightshade, sweetsleep, demon's dance. This is blindeye. Widow's blood, this one is called, for the colour. A cruel potion. It shuts down a man's bladder and bowels, until he drowns in his own poisons. This wolfsbane, here is basilisk venom, and this one the tears of Lys. Yes. I know them all. The Imp Tyrion Lannister stole them from my chambers, when he had me falsely imprisoned."

"Pycelle," Tyrion called out. "could any of these poisons choke off a man's breath?"

"No. For that, you must turn to a rarer poison. When I was a boy at the Citadel, my teachers named it simply the Strangler. I am certain that Prince Oberyn could confirm it also."

Oberyn gave a curt nod when people glanced at him, whilst the dwarf continued to speak.

"But this rare poison was not found, was it?"

"No, my lord." Pycelle blinked owlishly at the short man. "You used it all to kill the noblest child the gods ever put on this good earth."

"Joffrey was cruel and stupid, but I did not kill him!" Tyrion exclaimed. "Have my head off if you like, I had no hand in my nephew's death."

"Silence!" Lord Tywin ordered loudly, over his son's voice. "I have told you thrice. The next time, you shall be gagged and chained."

After Pycelle came the procession of nobles, endless and wearisome. Lords and ladies and noble knights, highborn and humble alike, they had all been present at the wedding feast, had all seen Joffrey choke, his face turning as black as a Dornish plum. It was all basically the same, and Obeyrn nearly yawned in boredom at the whole thing.

Lord Redwyne, Lord Celtigar, and Ser Flement Brax had heard Tyrion threaten the king; two serving men, a juggler, Lord Gyles, Ser Hobber Redwyne, and Ser Philip Foote had observed him fill the wedding chalice (as had many others who were not called); Lady Merryweather swore that she had seen the dwarf drop something into the king's wine while Joffrey and Margaery were cutting the pie; old Estermont, young Peckledon, the singer Galyeon of Cuy, and the squires Morros and Jothos Slynt told how Tyrion had picked up the chalice as Joffrey was dying and poured out the last of the poisoned wine onto the floor.

After that, the court was again adjourned for the day, and Oberyn was quick to return to the warmth of his ladies' embrace. Whilst Larra bathed, he and Ellaria laid together, whispering of how much they longed for his young wife to join them. When Larra finished, the three of them curled up together in the large bed, and Oberyn wondered why anybody even bothered to pretend they were genuinely sorrowful for the Illborn's death. Personally, he wished to learn the killer's name so as to thank them. An idea was growing in the back of his mind, one that became stronger with every witness that lessened the likelihood of the Imp being found innocent.

Tyrion was a Lannister, but he had played no part in Elia and Aegon's deaths, nor in Larra's torment. Oberyn did not condemn people for the crimes of their predecessors.


The Red Keep: January 25th, 299 AC

Lord Varys was the witness to open the third day of the trial.

Powdered, primped, and smelling of rosewater, the Spider rubbed his hands one over the other all the time he spoke. An irritating man, but an intelligent one. Oberyn did not trust him in the slightest.

They listened to the eunuch's mournful account of how the Imp had schemed to part Joffrey from the Hound's protection and spoken with his former sellosword Bronn of the benefits of having Tommen as king. And unlike the others, Varys had documents to back up his words; parchments painstakingly filled with notes, details, dates, whole conversations. So much material that its recitation took all day, and so much of it damning.

Tyrion was so obviously guilty, Oberyn became more certain with each word that the man was entirely innocent of this particular crime.

Varys confirmed Tyrion's midnight visit to Grand Maester Pycelle's chambers and the theft of his poisons and potions, confirmed the threat he'd made to Cersei the night of their supper, confirmed every bloody thing but the poisoning itself.

"How is it that you could possibly know all of this, my lord?" Oberyn asked him, raising an eyebrow carelessly. "Given that you were not present at any of these events."

The eunuch only giggled and said, "My little birds told me. Knowing is their purpose, and mine."

"Next, we will hear the testimony of Her Grace the Queen Mother," Tywin announced. Cersei, dressed in black with red-rimmed eyes swept up to the stand, exchanging looks of poison with her younger brother.

"Your Grace, you are the one who accused the defendant," Tywin stated. "Please explain your reasoning behind your belief in his guilt."

She nodded, looking as haughty as always. Oberyn deeply regretted that she was a woman, as it shielded her from his wrath. Still, she would die too. He just wouldn't be the one to do it. Maybe Larra would want to do the act herself, given she followed the Old Way of the First Men and Cersei had triggered the events leading to her family and household's deaths.

"Of course, my lord father," Cersei consented. "My brother and I have never been close. Too much distance in age and such, I suppose. And when he was sent to be Acting Hand in your place, he came very controlling, of everything. We had, as you heard from the Kettleburns early, dinner together shortly before the Battle of the Blackwater. That was when he threatened me, and his words made it seem as if my heart had stopped beating."

What heart was that? Oberyn wondered idly as she continued to speak.

"He told me 'I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you are safe and happy and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth and you will know the debt is paid.'"

"And this was just before Blackwater?" the Fat Flower checked. "What led to this threat?"

Cersei nodded. "Shortly before the Battle of Blackwater Bay, yes," she repeated. "I confronted him about his plans to put Joffrey on the front lines. As it turned out, when the attack came, Joff insisted on remaining at the battlements. He believed his presence would inspire the troops."

"Tyrion said, 'And you will know the debt is paid.'," Oberyn repeated. "What debt?"

"I discovered that he had been keeping whores in the Tower of the Hand," the Queen Mother explained. "I asked him to confine his salacious acts to the brothel where such behaviour belongs. He wasn't pleased."

Tyrion shook his head, looking enraged.

"Thank you, Your Grace, for the courage of your testimony," Tywin told her. "You are dismissed."

She swept away again, shooting another glare at her brother.

"We will now adjourn-" Tywin began to say, only to be interrupted by his youngest son.

"Father, wait," Tyrion called. "I wish to confess. I wish... to confess."

A hush of surprise fell over the room, and they all stared at the Imp in shock.

"You wish to confess?" Tywin repeated, his dead eyes widening a fraction in shock.

Tyrion turned to the crowd. "I saved you," he declared contemptuously. "I saved this city and all your worthless lives. I should have let Stannis kill you all."

The crowd clamoured and the Hand waved at them angrily, trying to calm them.

"Tyrion," he bit out. "Do you wish to confess?"

"Yes, Father," Tyrion confirmed. "I'm guilty. Guilty. Is that what you want to hear?"

Why would he admit to a crime he had not committed? Oberyn wondered. He had no doubt that the Imp was innocent. This offered confession made no sense, unless the man had given up entirely. Still, something was off. He was too angry to have resigned himself to death.

"You admit that you poisoned the king?" Tywin checked.

"No, of that I'm innocent," Tyrion denied. "I'm guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I am guilty of being a dwarf."

"You are not on trial for being a dwarf."

"Oh, yes, I am," the Imp laughed bitterly. "I've been on trial for that my entire life."

"Have you nothing to say in your defence?" Tywin demanded.

"Nothing but this- I did not do it," Tyrion said. "I did not kill Joffrey, but I wish that I had." He turned to his sister. "Watching your vicious bastard die gave me more relief than 1,000 lying whores," he told her venomously, making her sculpted features contort in raw rage as he turned to the crowd.

Oberyn grinned, enjoying the whole thing immensely.

"I wish I was the monster you think I am," Tyrion said. "I wish that I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it."

"Ser Meryn," Tywin called. "Ser Meryn. Escort the prisoner back to his cell."

"I will not give my life for Joffrey's murder," Tyrion declared. "And I know I'll get no justice here. So I will let the gods decide my fate. I demand a trial by combat."

"So be it," Cersei spoke up, looking triumphant. "Ser Gregor Clegane will be the Crown's champion. Who will stand for you?"

The Imp's eyes darted to his brother, but Oberyn was already on his feet and speaking.

Thoughts of everything else had flown out his mind the minute that Cersei spoke the name of the man he despised most in the world, the man who had raped and murdered his sister.

"I am utterly convinced of Lord Tyrion's innocence, my lords and ladies," Oberyn declared, all eyes turning to him. He grinned sharply as he continued.

"I will gladly volunteer my services as his champion."

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Some of the dialogue comes from 'A Storm of Swords'.

Thanks to everyone enjoying this story! Extra long chapter, 'cause I couldn't be mean and keep you all waiting for the Trial by Combat. So, read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Fourteen

The Judgement of the Seven

The Red Keep: January 25th, 299 AC

Larra:

Larra heard Ellaria's angry yelling the instant she entered the sitting room that connected her and Oberyn's rooms, and it made her falter. She had never heard Ellaria raise her voice before, and it made her feel nervous and fearful.

What had happened while she was gone? She had gone to the godswood with Ser Daemon as her guard, and returned when she had noticed that it was near to dinnertime. Oberyn should have returned from the latest day of the Imp's trial by now, and she wanted to know what progress had been made with it. She had not asked so far, but she was curious and knew that it was the last day of the Crown presenting its' own case.

Reluctantly, she went to the door to Oberyn's bedchamber, pausing for a moment to gather her courage before entering and shutting the door behind her softly. Ellaria and Oberyn were too deep in their argument to notice her arrival, and she hovered anxiously at the entrance, wringing her hands in worry.

"Did you not think of your family when you did this?" Ellaria demanded furiously, flinging her hands in the air. "Well? Answer me, did you think of me, of Larra and the girls? Did you think of how your brother would feel? Well? Did you?"

"Of course I thought of you!" he snapped back, the anger on his expression making Larra cringe and swallow to try and wet her suddenly-dry throat.

She had never seen him direct such anger at either Ellaria or herself. Instinct from her time in the Red Keep urged her to hide even as reason pointed out that he had promised a thousand times never to harm her, nor could she picture him raising a hand to Ellaria either. His anger still frightened her.

"I am always thinking of my family and your safety!" he continued in the same tone. "That is why I must do this! I must ensure he can never be a threat another woman that I love! I am doing this to protect you all!"

"You are doing this for your own desire for revenge!" Ellaria raged back. "Do not insult us by claiming that you do this to protect us, when it is purely your own selfishness leading you to do this. Have you even thought of what will happen to Larra should you be killed? Tywin Lannister will take her for himself, your daughters will get themselves killed trying to save her and avenge you! By Venus, Oberyn! How could you do this to us? You promised!"

"I never said that I would not fight him!" he retorted. "I-"

"What has happened?" Larra abruptly blurted out. Their heads snapped over to look at her, upset faces softening at her blatantly distressed expression.

"You tell her," Ellaria ordered Oberyn, looking away and stalking to the window with her arms crossed under her bosom. "You tell your wife of the fate you have condemned her to, for I cannot bare to see the look on her face when she learns of it."

Oberyn's jaw was tense, but he came over to wrap an arm around Larra's shoulders and guide her to the bed, where he sat beside her and took her small hands in his own. He lifted them to his lips to kiss her fingertips before speaking. Larra felt as if her throat was sticking together, and breathing had once again become a struggle.

"My love, the Imp has demanded a trial by combat," he began carefully. "And I am his champion."

"Who are you fighting?" Larra asked, already knowing from Ellaria's earlier words what he would say. The world felt distant and strange, as if she were watching from outside her body. It reminded her of standing on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor, knowing that she was weeping and pleading and not really feeling as if it were really her doing those things as she watched her father and uncle be made to confess before they were forced to their knees and beheaded.

"Gregor Clegane," her husband admitted. "The Mountain That Rides."

Larra let out a distressed moan at the confirmation of her fears, taking her hands out of his grip and burying her face in them, feeling a mixture of sick and despairing. This was her fault somehow. She was unsure how, but she was certain that it was her fault. Everyone she cared for seemed to end up getting killed prematurely. Perhaps she was cursed. Next Ellaria would die too. She moaned again, feeling her fingers digging into her temples almost painfully.

"My love, please understand why I must do this," he implored, pulling her into his arms, though she continued to cover her face and fight the tears pricking at her eyes. "The one who ordered your family's deaths is dead, but the one who violated my sister and killed her and my nephew still lives. You already knew what I planned."

"You said that you would poison him," Larra whispered. "I did not think you fight him in single combat. I understand why you wish to do this, but I beseech you. Do not expect me to be pleased that my husband is risking his life, and in the name of a Lannister of all people."

Should he lose the trial, it would be for one of their enemies. Tyrion was the least-awful of all the lions, but that hardly said much. He had defended her once, but it had been purely because of how it looked to have the king having the Lady of the Winterlands beaten in public, and the intervention had made it worse for her the next time. She believed that he was innocent of killing Joffrey, but that did not mean that he was innocent. Would the Seven judge him for one of his other sins during the trial, or only the crime he was accused of?

He sighed deeply, trying to tug her hands away from her face but she resisted his pull, digging her nails into her head and pressing the bottom of her palms into her eyelids.

"My love, look at me please," he murmured.

"I cannot," she whispered. Ellaria came to their side, wrapping her arms around them and leaning in to kiss the back of Larra's head.

"What will happen if you lose?" she asked, finally forcing herself to meet her husband's eyes.

His expression hardened, and Ellaria's grip tightened.

"Should such a thing occur," he replied. "Then my men will have orders to see that you and Ellaria are on the next ship to Dorne."

Larra shook her head silently, knowing that plan would never come to fruition. Oh, they would try to get her away, to obey their prince's final order to them and save his wife. But the Lannisters would not let her and her inheritance escape their grasp a second time. They all knew it, he just did not want to acknowledge it, though the oath would not allow him to say what he did not believe, even subconsciously.

But Larra would not allow herself to be imprisoned a second time. She had experienced a brief taste of freedom and safety with Oberyn and Ellaria. She would not allow herself to be caged again. Ever.


Oberyn:

Oberyn was startled when Larra came to his solar later that evening after he had withdrawn to read the letters just arrived from Sunspear and his family.

He read the letter from his brother first. Doran had written a small report on the state of things, saying that Arianne was doing very well in helping him to manage Sunspear. His pride in his eldest was obvious. This year, Arianne would at last begin to take up the duties that Oberyn and his brother shared, allowing her time to adjust slowing to ruling Dorne before Doran abdicated in the next few years. "She is fair and intelligent in all of her rulings," Doran declared. "Though I admit that I have some fear that her compassion and fiery nature get the best of her on occasion. We must work more on her emotional control. Other than that small complaint, if complaint it truly is, she flourishes in her role."

Not for the first time, Oberyn wondered how the rumours that his brother intended to supplant Arianne with Quentyn had started. Arianne had been treated like any heir or heiress of Dorne was, save for not being fostered due to Mellario. The only difference in how Doran raised his children was that Quentyn had been fostered and neither Arianne nor Trystane had been, which was due to Mellario. It was puzzling, but the rumours had spouted years ago and they had never managed to find their source. He shrugged and dismissed it. It was irrelevant how they had begun, and it helped Dorne to allow outsiders to think they were ununited. When he had finished reading Doran's letter, he turned to the ones sent by his daughters, eager to hear their news. He dearly missed them all.

There was nothing too important in any of them: Bara had taken up learning the halberd and was having some trouble with it, much to her annoyance. Nym had beaten Ser Symon Santager in a spar and Tyene had progressed to working on creating her own poisons, instead of simply practicing with ones that already existed. Sarella was looking after Hellholt for her adoptive grandfather whilst he was away, and Laena was eager for news of Larra. Of the younger ones, Elia had not written, but Bella had dutifully reported that she was still sulking, and that Dorea and Loreza had managed to help her chase off yet another septa.

Oberyn smiled affectionately at the letter from Laena. "Do give my love to Mother and to my new stepmother. Tell her that I look forward to seeing her greatly, and am eager to get to know her in person"she had written. Of all his daughters (biological and adopted), Laena was most pleased about the plan they had come up with to save Larra. She had been the one who had first brought up the fact that Larra was a hostage, reminding them that they needed to do something to help her. The thought of becoming kin to the Starks had made her absolutely gleeful.

Once he had finished with Laena's letter, he started on Bella's, frowning at the section in Obella's letter about Elia. He loved all of his daughters dearly, but even he could not deny that his sixth child was troublesome. His first child after his sister's death, her image even more than Elaena and her namesake, he had spoiled Lia terribly. But while she looked like and shared his sister's name, she had inherited his personality, not Elia's. She was, he hated to admit, rather self-centred and arrogant, as he had been before meeting Ellaria. The war, Elia's death and Ellaria insisting on him tracking down his daughters after Sarella had been given to him by her mother and he had confessed to knowing of at least one other child of his loins that he had failed to acknowledge had forced him to grow up. He prayed Lia would not have to go through such pain herself in order to leave behind her selfishness and occasional cruelty.

Elia, his little Lady Lance, had not been pleased when he had informed his children that he would be going to King's Landing. She was even angrier when he explained that he would be returning with a new stepmother for them. She had thrown a fit, and refused to say goodbye to him.

It was his own fault, he acknowledged. He had indulged both Elaena and Elia far more than the others. But Laena had been grounded by her lessons from he and Doran, preparing her to one day take her place as Queen, and by the traumatic memories of the Sack of King's Landing. Lia had not, and he was paying the price now for indulging her every whim and not disciplining her as he had her sisters when they acted out.

But he would have to lay down the law upon their return, he mused to himself. If Elia wanted to be mad at him, fine. He would deal with it. But he could not allow her to act meanly towards Larra, who would surely be greatly distressed by it. Even now, he had not failed to notice that, although she had sought to hide it, she had been very distressed and frightened by his and Ellaria's argument even before learning of the trial by combat. Whether it was them raising their voices or something else, it confirmed that she was still fragile. She was improved however, and he would not allow that progress to be undone by anybody, even his own child.

He was just thinking that when there was a quiet knock at the door. "Come!" he called, surprised by Larra's entrance. He had thought she and Ellaria were together, praying for his success during the trial, which was to occur in two days hence.

Her hair was braided back in a braid for sleeping, and she was wearing her nightdress beneath the dressing gown he had given her. Her expression was troubled, much to his sorrow. He could not bring himself to regret offering to be Tyrion's champion so that he could face the Mountain, but he dearly regretted that Ellaria and Larra were pained by it.

"My love," he murmured, opening his arms to prompt her into coming into his embrace. She went to him, allowing him to place her on his lap and leaning her head against his chest. They were silent for a while, Oberyn running his hand over her braid and kissing her forehead, whilst Larra gathered her thoughts.

"We are none of us fools, nor naïve, Husband," she finally said. Her voice was soft, and sad enough to make his heart crack. She was too young to be so sorrowful.

"I am well aware of that, Wife," he responded. "I was blessed to have the two wisest and most intelligent ladies in the Seven Kingdoms in my embrace. I even flatter myself that I am capable of keeping up with you both. Though I must acknowledge that I am not so wise and sensible as you and Ellaria are." He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it gently.

"But you are an expert in poisons," she stated, a strange note in her voice.

"I am," he confirmed lowly. "But why is that relevant, my love? If you wish to request I poison the Mountain to give me the advantage in our duel, I promise I planned such already."

She pulled away to meet his gaze with her own. She looked solemn, resigned and tiredly determined as she answered him. "That is not what I wish to speak with you of, though I am relieved to hear it, my lord."

He waited, suppressing a sigh when she addressed him as 'my lord' instead of his name. She was upset, and had reverted to shielding herself with courtesies again. It pained him whenever she did so. "Then what do you wish to speak with me of, my love?" he pressed her gently, seeing she was struggling for words. A second later, he cursed himself for prompting her into speaking her request. For once, he was tempted to use his status as her husband to forbid her from ever speaking such again, but he could not disrespect her by doing so.

"I would have you give me a poison that I might take," she informed him, making his heart shatter. "So that, should the worst happen and you be killed, I am not imprisoned again."

He opened his mouth to insist that would not happen, that in the event of him failing she would be taken to Dorne or even the Winterlands immediately. But the words would not come out, his oath preventing him from telling her a non-truth. He hated to admit it, but he knew that the Lannisters would seize custody of her again the moment his heart stopped, forcing her into a fate worse than death. But give her something to kill herself with? Help rid the world of her sweet smile and musical voice? A world without Larra's compassion, with Ellaria grieving for them both, was too awful to even contemplate.

"I cannot," he said instead, shaking his head. "I cannot be your death, my love. Do not ask this of me, my darling she-wolf."

She continued looking at him sadly, and he leaned in to press his lips against hers. She responded, pressing herself against him and wrapping her arms around his neck.

"My distant grandfather was the Sword of Morning in his time," she murmured after they had pulled away to breathe. "He died by slipping on a piece of black ice during a spar. Nothing is certain in battle, my uncle told us that a thousand times over. If you mean it truly when you say you care for me, you will grant my request."

He swallowed thickly, feeling sick. Then he kissed her again, desperate to make her stop begging him for death. He lifted her up and took her into his bedchamber where Ellaria was on the bed, eyes rimmed with red, and laid his wife down on the sheet before climbing in between his two loves, both of them curling against his sides.

As he stroked Larra's hair and entwined his and Ellaria's fingers, stroking her hand, with great reluctance he began mentally going through his supply of poisons, trying to decide which would grant his wife the quickest and most painless death.


The Red Keep: January 27th, 299 AC

Ellaria:

Ellaria was stricken when she watched Oberyn hand a small vial filled with dark powder to Larra on the morning of the duel. She knew what it was, and it broke her heart into a million pieces that it had come to this. Oberyn's expression was pained, whilst Larra looked a mixture of relieved and sorrowful as she accepted the vial and tucked it into her smallclothes, placed in the valley between her breasts where it would not be noticed.

"Sweetsleep," Oberyn told their young love softly, reaching out to tuck a curl behind Larra's ear and cup her cheek gently. "Three pinches mixed with some milk or honeyed wine will send you into a peaceful sleep. You will not wake up, nor will you feel anything."

Larra nodded solemnly, smoothing down her skirts. "Do not give me reason to use it, Husband," she implored him. She looked far older than her five-and-ten years, and watching the scene made tears fill Ellaria's eyes.

Larra hesitated then picked something off her desk and handed it to him. It was a bracelet carved with runes.

"What is this, my love?" Oberyn asked, accepting it.

Larra looked embarrassed but firm. "'Tis carved from a branch from the godswood and those are protective runes to keep you safe and give more power to your strikes. I know that Andals scoff at my people's superstitions but I want you to wear it anyway."

"You are sweetness incarnate, my wife," he murmured, kissing her forehead and putting on the bracelet. "And I am most grateful for it. I would never scoff at you or your people's ways." Larra's eyes shone with unshed tears and she fussed anxiously with his armour, her worry clear.

"Shall we go then?" Ellaria asked, unable to keep the tremble from her voice. She and Larra had spent the night and most of the morning pleading with him to just finish the battle, not to drag it out trying to make him confess. He had been verging on petulant by the time he had gone to put on his armour, but now he just seemed serious and determined. She prayed that their words had gotten through to him. At the very least, knowing that Larra would kill herself should he die would prompt him to take care, surely?

Gods please, protect him, she prayed. She did not know if she was praying to Venus, the Seven or maybe Larra's Old Gods. Perhaps she was praying to all of them.

Oberyn nodded, though Larra continued to fuss with his armour unnecessarily, looking pale with her lower lip trembling.

"Larra, my love, we need to go," he reminded her. She let out a shaky breath and nodded. He offered an arm to each of them, and Ellaria gripped his left arm as tightly as she could, fearing it would be her last chance to do so. Larra was doing the same on his other side.

Thankfully, Oberyn did not make light of the situation or their distress, guiding them out of the bedchamber where the rest of the retinue waited quietly. Once everybody had joined them, they made their way to a tent just near to the arena where the fight would take place.

Ellaria and Larra hovered beside him as he drank a cup of red wine, looking casual. Lord Tyrion was brought in, escorted by a group of guards, and Oberyn offered the jug to him.

"Good morrow," Oberyn stated. "Can I interest you in a drink of wine, my lord?"

Ellaria could not help giving the Imp a dark look. Had he not called for a trial by combat, Oberyn would have poisoned the Mountain, not fought him. Larra's jaw was tight, and she was gripping Oberyn's arm as if she could prevent him from going out to fight by doing so. They both knew that Oberyn was one of the best, but as Larra had reminded him repeatedly, nothing was certain in a fight, and Clegane was not one to fight honourably. Thankfully, neither was Oberyn in this case.

"Should you be drinking before a fight?" Lord Tyrion asked dubiously.

"I always do," Oberyn shrugged.

"That could get you killed," the Imp stated. "Worse, it could get me killed."

"The world shall not mourn the loss of a Lannister," Larra muttered quietly, though she was still audible. "It will mourn the loss of my husband." She was glaring outright at the Imp, and Oberyn wrapped an arm around her shoulders, dropping a kiss atop her curls and murmuring something into her hair to reassure her, though it hardly seemed to work. Ellaria reached across him to squeeze Larra's hand, knowing that the princess was the only one able to comprehend her feelings at the moment.

The Imp gave Larra a stunned look when she spoke, evidently shocked by her words. Ellaria supposed he was used to the meek version of Larra, who hardly dared to speak in case she earned herself a backhand across the face. Oberyn gave him a razor-sharp smile.

"Do not fear, my lord," he told the Imp. "The gods defend the innocent. You are innocent, I trust?"

"Of killing Joffrey," Tyrion replied. "I hope that you know what you are doing. Gregor Clegane is-"

"Large?" Oberyn suggested. "So I have heard."

Larra groaned. "Do not take this so lightly," she plead. "I feel I will be ill with fear for you. Stop jesting, Oberyn. I implore you."

Ellaria nodded in solidarity with her. Oberyn's japing was not reassuring her that he was taking the whole thing as seriously as it should be taken. Ellaria had never seen him, but she knew that the Mountain was not one to be underestimated. Oberyn's expression softened and he kissed first Larra and then Ellaria herself.

"I have no intention of dying today, my loves," he assured them. "I promise you both, I am taking this as seriously as it deserves. Do not fear for me my loves."

"Larra is your wife and I am the mother of your children," Ellaria replied flatly. "You are about to fight a man who has never been defeated before in single combat. Do not ask us not to fear for you, 'tis impossible."

The Imp cleared his throat. Ellaria was bitterly pleased to see his discomfort. At least he had the common decency to feel a bit bad about what he had done. As Larra had said, Oberyn's loss would be a great one, whilst only the Kingslayer would be disappointed about the Half-man's death.

"Daemon, my spear," Oberyn ordered, and his former squire threw the spear to him.

"You mean to fight the Mountain That Rides with a spear?" Tyrion asked, looking horrified.

"We are fond of spears in Dorne," Oberyn shrugged. "Besides, 'tis the only way to counter his reach. Have a look, Lord Imp, but do not touch."

The men continued to speak of weapons, whilst Larra came to Ellaria's side and leaned against her. "Do you think that he will win?" she asked quietly, voice scarcely louder than a breath.

"Yes," Ellaria stated firmly, refusing to entertain the other option. "For 'tis not only him at risk. If it were only himself, I would be more fearful. But he will never take risks with either of our lives, my love. He loves us far too much."

Larra startled slightly when she said that, glancing at her with surprise in her beautiful violet eyes. Ellaria was bemused as to what she had said to confuse the younger woman. Surely she realized that they meant it when they called her 'love'? Then again, Larra was still so young, and had suffered greatly. Perhaps they needed to clarify some things with her.

Once Oberyn had survived the trial ahead.


Oberyn:

"It is said that a Lannister always pays his debts," Oberyn said casually as they began heading for the arena entrance. Ellaria was gripping his right arm, whilst Larra was holding his left. Both of them looked worried and Larra especially looked pale. If they were anybody else, he'd have been insulted at how nervous they were. But he knew it was not that they did not have faith in him, simply that they loved him. Well, Ellaria loved him and Larra was his wife and cared deeply for him. They were frightened for him.

Despite what his attitude suggested, Oberyn was taking this deathly serious. Not only was this his best, perhaps only, chance to avenge Elia's rape and murder, as well as her son's, but he was hyper-conscious of the sweetsleep hidden in Larra's smallclothes. He would press for the confession from the Mountain that he longed to hear, nor allow his emotions to get the best of him. She was too precious for him to play games with her life.

"Perhaps you would like to return to Dorne with myself and my retinue once the day's bloodletting is done," he went on, running his thumbs over his ladies' hands to try and soothe them. "My brother Doran would be pleased to meet the rightful heir of Casterly Rock."

"A trip to Sunspear might be pleasant, now that I reflect on it," the Imp answered.

"Plan on a lengthy trip," Oberyn instructed him. "You and Doran have many matters of mutual interest to discuss. Music, trade, history, wine, the dwarf's penny . . . the laws of inheritance and succession. No doubt an uncle's counsel would be of benefit to Queen Myrcella in the trying times ahead of her."

Larra stiffened at the title, shooting him a suspicious look. He raised her hand to his lips to kiss it lightly. Of course, nobody in his family intended to crown Myrcella as queen. But a little misdirection would do none of them any harm.

"Do you recall the tale I told you of our first meeting, Imp?" Oberyn asked. "'Twas not for your tail alone that my sister and I came to Casterly Rock. We were on a quest of sorts. A quest that took us to Starfall, the Arbor, Oldtown, the Shield Islands, Crakehall, and finally Casterly Rock . . . but our true destination was marriage. Doran was betrothed to Lady Mellario of Norvos, so he had been left behind as castellan of Sunspear. My sister and I were yet unpromised.

Elia found it all exciting. She was five-and-ten, and her delicate health had never permitted her much travel. I was a year her junior and preferred to amuse myself by mocking my sister's suitors. There was Little Lord Lazyeye, Squire Squishlips, one that I named the Whale That Walks, that sort of thing. The only one who was even halfway presentable was young Baelor Hightower. A pretty lad, and my sister was half in love with him until he had the misfortune to fart once in our presence. I promptly named him Baelor Breakwind, and after that Elia couldn't look at him without laughing. I was a monstrous young fellow, someone should have sliced out my vile tongue."

"You still have a cruel tongue when you wish it," Larra murmured to him.

"But never will it be directed towards you," he promised her. She smiled at him, though it failed to reach her sad eyes.

He loathed that he had contributed to the pain in her expression that day. He would not press for a confession, much as he wished to. Not when there was a vial of poison between his wife's breasts, ready to be swallowed should he fail. The thought of the poison was constantly at the forefront of his mind, and he longed to rip it out of her clothes and fling it into the sea. When he had won the battle, he would do so immediately. And then he would keep a careful eye on her and his potions stores for their rest of their lives, just in case.

"Lannisport was the end of our voyage," Oberyn went on. "Were you aware that our mothers knew each other of old?"

"They had been at court together as girls, I seem to recall. Companions to the then-Princess Rhaella?"

"Just so. It has always been my belief that our mothers had cooked up this plot between them. Squire Squishlips and his ilk and the various pimply young maidens who'd been paraded before me were the almonds before the feast, meant only to whet our appetites. The main course was to be served at Casterly Rock."

"Cersei and Jaime."

"Such a clever dwarf," he drawled, smirking. They had arrived at the entrance to the arena, though it was not yet time, and the gate remained closed. "Elia and I were older, to be sure. Your brother and sister could not have been more than eight or nine. Still, a difference of five or six years is little enough. And there was an empty cabin on our ship, a very nice cabin, such as might be kept for a person of high birth. As if it were intended that we take someone back to Sunspear. A young page, perhaps. Or a companion for Elia. Your lady mother meant to betroth Jaime to my sister, or Cersei to me. Perhaps both."

Thankfully, he had been spared having the incestuous, arrogant harpy as his wife. Instead he had been blessed with the hand of the most compassionate and saddest lady in all the world, and he intended to spend however long it took working with Ellaria to erase the shadows from Larra's violet orbs.

"Perhaps," said Tyrion, "but my father-"

"-ruled the Seven Kingdoms, but was ruled at home by his lady wife, or so my mother always said. At Oldtown we learned of your mother's death, and the monstrous child she had borne. We might have turned back there, but my mother chose to sail on. I told you of the welcome we found at Casterly Rock.

What I did not tell you was that my mother waited as long as was decent, and then broached your father about our purpose. Years later, on her deathbed, she told me that Lord Tywin had refused us brusquely. His daughter was meant for Prince Rhaegar, he informed her. And when she asked for Jaime, to espouse Elia, he offered her you instead."

"Which was an offer that she took for an insult."

"It was," Oberyn scoffed. "Even you can see that, surely?" Elia had been a Princess of Dorne, worthy of far more than a malformed second son, for Jaime had still been the heir at the time. Even discounting those factors, Elia had been five-and-ten, much too old to be betrothed to a newborn. Nobody would have accepted such an offer for their only daughter.

"Oh, surely," the Imp sighed before continuing. "Well, Prince Rhaegar married Elia Martell of Dorne, not Cersei Lannister of Casterly Rock. So it would seem that your mother won that tilt."

"She thought so," Oberyn agreed, "but your father is not a man to forget such slights. He taught that lesson to Lord and Lady Tarbeck once, and to the Reynes of Castamere. And at King's Landing, he taught it to my sister." He paused and held out a hand in the direction of his men. "My helm, Dagos." Lord Manwoody handed it to him; a high golden helm with a copper disk mounted on the brow, the sun of Dorne. The visor had been removed. "Elia and her children have waited long for justice." He pulled on a pair of soft red leather gloves given to him by Obara, and took up his spear again. "But this day they shall have it."

The gate opened, and they walked out. Ellaria paled at the sight of his opponent, and Larra's grip tightened. She mumbled a shocked exclamation in her native tongue at the sight of the Mountain, though Oberyn himself felt no fear.

Cersei seemed like a child beside Ser Gregor. In his armour, the Mountain That Rides looked bigger than any man had any right to be. Beneath a long yellow surcoat bearing the three black dogs of House Clegane, he wore heavy plate over chainmail, dull grey steel dinted and scarred from battle. Beneath that would be boiled leather and a layer of quilting. A flat-topped great-helm was bolted to his gorget, with breaths around the mouth and nose and a narrow slit for vision. The crest atop it was a stone fist.

"You are going to fight that?" Ellaria breathed.

"I am going to kill that," he declared fearlessly. He paused long enough to give a firm kiss to each of his loves before turning and stalking out into the centre of the arena, anticipation and bloodlust making his blood turn hot.

At last, after a decade and a half, the man who had raped and murdered his sister would die.


Larra:

Larra felt as if she would be sick. She and Ellaria had been escorted by Ser Daemon and Ser Arron to stand under a canopy away from everyone else save for Lord Tyrion.

Ellaria and she were holding tightly to one another's hands, their nails digging into each other's hands. It felt as if Ellaria's grip was the only thing keeping her grounded. She had prayed desperately all the previous day, and carved the protection bracelet personally with the dagger her husband had commissioned and gifted to her.

She could only hope that her efforts, along with Ellaria's own prayers and Oberyn's skill, would be enough. The vial of poison had warmed to the temperature of her skin, its' weight a comforting reminder that, should Oberyn lose, she would swiftly follow him. She hoped that, if such a scenario came to pass, Ellaria would be able to ensure that she was given her own people's burial rights instead of the Andal ones. Her kin had not even received that much from the lions and krakens, though, so perhaps it was a selfish hope.

The day was cloudy and windy, and the stands were filled with people, all come to see how the Seven would judge the Half-man. There were so many people the goldcloaks and Kingsguard had to shove them back to make room for the fight. Larra could even see children seated on their parents' shoulders to get a better view, everybody pointing at Tyrion and yelling.

What is it about humans? she wondered. That we are so eager to spill blood, or watch it be spilt? How dare we call ourselves civilized when we revel in such things?

The tradition of a trial by combat was solely an Andal one. It was not considered valid in the Winterlands, and Larra feared that relying on the silent statue gods would make her a widow before she had been married for two months. And the Old Gods had little power in the south. Gods, she was frightened.

"He will win," Ellaria mumbled to her. "He is the best fighter in Dorne. He will win." Her tone did not share the confident nature of her words.

Nobody is unbeatable, Larra thought as she stared out at the arena.

"Deithe, cosaint é, impím oraibh go léir, (Gods, protect him, I beg you all)" she prayed, despite knowing the Old Gods would not be able to affect the outcome of the battle. But she did not know how to do the complicated rituals and supplications used by the burners, and so she resorted to the gods she knew and had faith in.

Lord Tywin and his brother Ser Keaven were seated on a dais that had been erected half-way between the two champions.

The Lord Hand glanced briefly at his dwarf son, then lifted his hand. A dozen trumpeters blew a fanfare to quiet the crowd. The High Septon shuffled forward in his tall crystal crown, and prayed that the Father Above would help them in this judgment, and that the Warrior would lend his strength to the arm of the man whose cause was just.

My husband's cause is just, Larra thought. Even if the Imp's is not. Please. Please.

A man Larra recognized as Ser Osmund Kettleblack brought Clegane his shield, a massive thing of heavy oak rimmed in black iron. Larra noticed that the hounds of Clegane on it had been painted over. This morning Ser Gregor bore the seven-pointed star the Andals had brought to Westeros when they crossed the narrow sea to overwhelm the First Men and her gods. The sight of it made her annoyed.

There were fifty yards between the men, and Oberyn advanced quickly, Ser Gregor more ominously. When the pair were about ten yards apart, the Red Viper stopped and called out, "Have they told you who I am?"

Clegane grunted through his breaths. "Some dead man." He came on, inexorable.

Her husband slid sideways, deftly avoiding him. "I am Oberyn Martell, a prince of Dorne," he said, as the Mountain turned to keep him in sight. "Princess Elia was my sister."

"Who?" the Mountain grunted.

Larra's heart was in her throat, and Ellaria's grip was so tight she expected to have bruises from it later. If she didn't have to drink poison, that is.

Larra was surprised but relieved when Oberyn didn't retort. She had expected him to press his sister's killer for a confession, to taunt him. Instead, Oberyn stayed cold and focused, much to her relief. Uncle Arthur had always warned them that the worst thing you could do in a fight was let your emotions get the better of you. She was thankful that Oberyn was not letting his eagerness to avenge Elia get the best of him.

Clegane swung his sword in broad arcs and hacked gracelessly. Oberyn, meanwhile, darted out of the way, keeping out reach of his opponent's sword. Each time he avoided a hit, the Mountain clearly got angrier.

Oberyn managed several strikes of his own, but none pierced the brute's armour. Despite that, Oberyn did not seem discouraged.

Larra wished her uncle were there. He would have been able to tell with a glance who would win, and she would not have to suffer through the sickening anticipation she was currently feeling.

Larra gasped as her husband drew first blood, slicing Clegane's arm. The knight roared angrily, though it could hardly have been a deep wound, and they went back to clashing against each other. But soon, it became clear that the Mountain was slowing down. She cried out in alarm and Ellaria hissed when Clegane managed to injure Oberyn's leg, making him stumble.

Her heart thudded painfully in her chest, and Ellaria's nails drew blood as they watched. Slowly, achingly slowly, the fight began to turn in Oberyn's favour, despite his wounded leg.

Finally, Oberyn stabbed his enemy in the back of his knee, sending him crashing to the ground with a loud thud. Ellaria's grip on Larra's hand loosened, but Larra refused to relax until it was over. Anything can happen in battle, her uncle's voice whispered in the back of her mind. You have never won until your opponent is dead or too wounded to continue. Until then, they can always flip the tables back on you.

The knight struggled to get back up, but failed. Oberyn reached out and yanked off his helmet, throwing it aside contemptuously. "I will see your eyes as you die," he declared. Her husband glared at the Mountain with an expression she had never seen on him before. It was hard to believe the man who was so gentle with her and refused to bed her because he wanted her to trust him first was the same man who looked with such venom at his sister's killer.

"Gregor Clegane," Oberyn declared, his voice ringing out through the now-silent arena. "For raping and murdering my sister, for slaughtering her son, you should have died long ago. I should make you confess, to say their names and admit what you did. But today, Elia and Aegon will just have to settle for your head!"

Then, before anybody could react, he had shoved his spear through Clegane's thick throat, making blood spurt out and the man choke on it. The body collapsed sideways after he removed his weapon, blood coating the sandy ground.

It brought back memories of the attack on her family's rooms, and the blood covering the steps to the Great Sept from her father and uncle's deaths.

Her knees gave out, and Ellaria grabbed hold of her arms to keep her aloft.

Oberyn turned to the judges. "Do what you wish with the filth's body," he instructed them loudly. "But I claim his head in the name of Princess Elia Martell of Dorne. See it is sent to my rooms. As for the Imp, 'tis clear that the Gods have judged him innocent of the king's murder."

The High Septon echoed the judgement as Oberyn hurried over to them, kissing first Ellaria, then Larra herself.

She did not hesitate to kiss him back, pressing her hands against his chest and feeling the thump-thump of his heart beneath his armour, a silent reminder that he had survived. Tears leaked from beneath her eyelids and he pulled her to him, kissing the tears away. She could feel the blood on his hands staining her dress with red, and he no doubt left some on her face as well when he cupped her jaw. She probably looked feral, covered in bloody handprints as she was.

"You will return my gift immediately, my love," he ordered her quietly.

"Back in our rooms, I will do so straight away," she promised lowly. "Thank you, Oberyn. I have never been so relieved. Thank you for surviving."

"I will not leave you without protection, my love," he insisted, kissing her again and biting her bottom lip slightly before pulling away again to kiss Ellaria a second time, one arm still wrapped firmly around Larra.

Larra leaned against him, no longer able to support herself from relief.

He was alive. Thank the gods, he had survived. Thank the gods, Old and New.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Of course I wouldn't kill Oberyn! He's too Oberyn to die! I'm not as cruel as George R.R. Martin is.

BTW, I am now writing Winter Lands as Winterlands. Tiny thing, but yeah. It's intentional, not a spelling mistake. I'll get around to fixing the previous chapters soon enough. I have 11-this one done, the others I need to re-upload first.

Chapter Fifteen

The Thoughts of the Old Lion

The Red Keep: January 23rd, 299 AC

Larra:

Larra glared coldly at the Grand Maester, planting her hands on her hips as she lifted her chin and dawned the haughtiest expression she could muster.

"Queen Cersei does not control who enters my husband's sickchamber," Larra declared. "That role belongs to me, as Prince Oberyn's wife. He has a perfectly capable healer tending to him now, you are unneeded and unwanted. Leave."

Pycelle glared at her. Two moons' past, she would never have dared to speak so to anybody. The glare he wore would have made her shudder in fear, as she knew he would report her words to the Lannisters, who would be swift to stamp out any hint of defiance she expressed. Now, though, it was different. She felt confident enough to meet his eyes, reassured by the dagger hidden in her sleeve and the Dornish guards standing in the background.

Perhaps she did still have a wolf within her, after all.

"Queen Cersei-" the Grand Maester began to insist.

"The Queen's wishes are irrelevant when it comes to my husband," Larra bit out. "Leave and stay gone, or I shall have our guards remove you."

Ser Daemon and Ser Arron both stepped forward from their positions at the main door with hands resting on their weapons, silently backing up her statement.

Pycelle's wrinkled face went sour, and he gave her a curt nod. "Very well," he sniffed, beginning to turn away, only for Ser Arron to grab his arm and stop him.

"You will not leave the Princess' presence without expressing the due reverence and respect," the knight warned, eyes narrowed threateningly.

Pycelle looked even more irritated, but he bowed and kissed the hand Larra offered him, before she dismissed him with an indifferent wave, feeling smug. It was poor revenge for his humiliating molestations of her and any other lady he could get his filthy hands on, but it was still sweet.

Her smile fell away when he was gone, and she sighed, smoothing down her skirts. "Ensure that nobody else enters please," she instructed the two guards, who nodded in acceptance. "I will be in the bedchamber with Ellaria and my husband."

"Princess," they murmured, bowing to her as she swept back to the bedroom where Oberyn was being tended to by a maester summoned from the city. Maester Edwyn had studied with her husband in the Citadel, before taking up a position tending the smallfolk of King's Landing. Larra had chosen to have him fetched, rather than allowing either Pycelle, who was so deep in the Lannisters' pockets he probably couldn't see reality anymore, to tend Oberyn.

She would have preferred a Healer from the University, but that was impossible as none of them had ever gone outside the Winterlands without a specific order from her family. Perhaps she could convince her husband to let her have one summoned to Sunspear. At the least, they had a treatment for gout. She had no idea how much, if any effect, it would have on her goodbrother's ailment, but Lord Amber had recovered marvellously from his own bout of the disease.

She was relieved to see that her husband was no longer unconscious when she re-entered the bedchamber. He had collapsed without warning shortly after they had left the arena, as they'd been heading for their rooms. She had been utterly terrified that he had been injured within his body, almost certainly fatal, or else that his own poison had gotten inside him, also fatal. Thankfully, Maester Edwyn claimed that while Oberyn had some broken ribs and would need to use a cane to walk for several weeks whilst his leg healed, he was going to be fine.

He smiled at her as she stepped inside. "My lovely wife, I wondered where you were," he called to her, voice slightly hoarse.

She made her way over to the bed, perching on it beside Ellaria and accepting the hand he offered to her, clutching it tightly. "The Queen is apparently under the impression that she has the right to dictate how you are cared for," Larra informed him. "I assured the Grand Maester that there is no need for him to be concerned, and suggested he leave and not step foot in our rooms again, least I have our guards fling him out physically."

The both of them laughed, though Oberyn stopped quickly with a small wince, alarming her and making Ellaria lean forward, looking anxious.

"Oberyn, are you well?" Ellaria inquired concernedly.

"Are you alright?" Larra asked worriedly at the same time. She turned to look at the maester, whom she expected would give her a more truthful answer than her prideful husband would. "Is he well?"

"I am fine, my loves," Oberyn insisted.

Ellaria waved him off. "Let the maester tell us, my prince," she instructed him. "Gods know, you shan't give us a genuine reply."

Oberyn gave them an exaggeratedly wounded look, whilst Maester Edwyn chuckled.

"He shall be well, Your Highness, Lady Ellaria," he assured them. "But, as I said earlier, he has several broken ribs. I have tended them as much as I can, but these things must heal themselves, I am afraid. I advise he avoid horse riding and of course, he must not spar or the like. No activities that might shift his ribs. He must be leisurely for several weeks."

"How long, specifically, do you think, Maester?" Larra asked, wondering how she and Ellaria would be able to keep Oberyn resting for more than a few hours. He was always moving, even in sleep. She had been shocked and frightened by how still he had been, lying unconscious in the bed. It had been a stark contrast to the active man she had married, and not in a good way.

"Oh, at least six," Maester Edwyn declared. Oberyn grimaced.

"I think you exaggerate," he accused his friend. "That is far too long."

"Were you the one making use of your silver link and tending a person with three broken ribs, you would recommend the same," Edwyn retorted fondly.

Oberyn pouted like a child, making Ellaria roll her eyes.

"Honestly, Oberyn," she scolded him, pure relief in her voice. "You are like a child when ill. Poor Larra will want to have a separate household from you, after six weeks of your sulking."

"Ah, I shall convince her otherwise," Oberyn winked cheekily.

"Ah, speaking of which," Edwyn intervened. "No lying with anybody, Oberyn, until your injuries are healed. Whether 'tis your wife or Ellaria or somebody else. The movements might jar your ribs."

Larra managed to keep from flushing, three moons around the sexually-liberal Dornish having allowed her to cover her embarrassment at the mention of such things. It still made her uncomfortable, but she was able to hide it better now.

Oberyn nodded, stroking her knee. "So be it," he sighed. "'Twill make doing those things all the sweeter once I have recovered."

"Thank you very much for your aid, Maester," Larra sighed. "I appreciate it very much."

Edwyn dismissed her gratitude with a wave. "No need, Your Highness. I am relieved that my old friend survived, and happy to see that he is as irritating as ever. However, I regret to say that I must leave now, as I have other patients to see to. I shall write a list of potions for him to take and have it left for you, to allow you to better tend your lord husband."

"My thanks, again," Larra repeated, rising and inclining her head to him as he strode briskly to the door after exchanging goodbyes with Oberyn and Ellaria. Once he was gone, the door shut tightly behind him, she sighed and buried her head in her trembling hands.

Oberyn reached out to grab her nearest wrist gently, tugging it away. "Look at me, my love," he murmured to her. "I am well, as promised."

"I know," Larra choked out, tears threatening to spill. "I know. I just- I was so fearful for you, especially when you were injured. I feared-" she cut herself off. Ellaria wrapped an arm around her shoulders, rubbing her arm.

"I know, Larra my love," she breathed into her ear. "I was frightened too. But he is safe, and alive."

"I am," Oberyn agreed softly, holding one of their hands each and rubbing them with his thumb. Then his expression hardened, startling Larra slightly. From Ellaria's expression, he had surprised her too. "Larra, my love. Give me back the sweetsleep. Now." From his tone, it was obvious that he would broke no objection or protest.

Larra blinked. In the midst of the chaotic stress over Oberyn's collapse and Maester Pycelle's attempt to 'treat' him (Larra would not have been shocked if he had 'succumbed to his wounds' under the Grand Maester's care) she had forgotten about the vial of poison between her breasts.

Ellaria went stiff beside her, giving a quick nod. "Yes, my love," she agreed. "There is no need for it now. Give it back to Oberyn."

Larra nodded quietly, reaching into her dress to pull out the small vial. A part of her sighed in disappointment as she passed it to her husband, who quickly put it into the beside drawer. She would have liked to have the option of escape, just in case something happened.

Ellaria and Oberyn both relaxed when the poison was gone, and Ellaria kissed her cheek.

"I think we need to clarify something with you, Larra," she commented softly.

Larra wrinkled her brow, puzzled. "What?" she asked, tilting her head to the side and feeling her curls fall off of her shoulder. Oberyn too raised an eyebrow, looking puzzled.

Ellaria met her eyes, warm and reassuring with something else Larra didn't recognize. "When we call you, 'my love', we mean it," Ellaria stated softly.

Larra felt her breath stop.

"Of course we mean it," Oberyn said, drawing their attention. He stroked Larra's cheek with his thumb, looking deep into her eyes. "Did you not realize how we felt, my lovely wife?" She felt a surge of guilt when he looked pained at that.

"I," Larra faltered. "I-" She fell silent, caught off-guard and at a loss as to how to reply. She had not really put much thought into it. They had been calling her pet names since the beginning of their acquaintanceship, and she had accepted that they cared for her, realized from their kisses and touches that they were attracted to her. But they had large hearts, and were attracted to many people of all shapes and forms. It had not occurred to her that they loved her. Why would they?

She felt as if she ought to say it back, but she wasn't sure she returned their emotions. Oh, for sure she trusted them, cared deeply for them. The thought of Oberyn dying had nearly made her heart stop in her chest. But love? She didn't know about that. And what if she did allow herself to love them, and then lost them? She would go mad, she knew it.

Ellaria smiled at her, a hint of sadness in her eyes, and leaned in to press their lips together. "We love you, Larra," she repeated, pulling back to cup the side of Larra's cheek. "But that does not mean you have to force yourself to feel the same way. We will always be here for you, no matter what. If you never feel anything more than friendship for us, then so be it. But never doubt our love for you, alright? That is all I ask."

Larra swallowed, looking down at her hands. She was unsurprised to see that she was twisting her mother's bracelet. "I just, I do not know," she muttered. "I am sorry."

Oberyn rubbed her back and pulled her against his side. She was careful not to lean against him too much, not wanting to jar his ribs.

"You have nought to apologize for, Larra my love," he breathed, kissing the top of her head. "You have gone through so much, 'tis only natural that you placed a barrier around your heart to protect it. Just know of our love, and that we are always here for you.

Laena was the one who noted that you were a captive of the Lannisters, and we came up with the plan of our marriage in order to remove you from their custody. Originally, we planned to have the marriage set aside once the Lannisters were dealt with. That way you would be free. But the more we spoke, the more adoration grew in Ellaria and I's hearts for you. I confess, I do not think I would be able to bear it if you were to request we set our marriage aside."

Larra exhaled shakily. "I do not wish to have our marriage set aside," she replied timidly, keeping her eyes on her hands. "I do not know- but I do not wish to be away from Ellaria and you."

Ellaria gripped her ankle and stroked it with her thumb. "That brings such warmth to our hearts, my love," she stated, smiling. "For we do not wish to be away from you, either."

Oberyn gently tilted her chin up and leaned down to kiss her, whilst Ellaria moved to join them on the bed, sitting on Larra's other side. Once she had separated from her husband, Ellaria too leaned in for a deep kiss, her taste mixing with Oberyn's.

"I feel safe with you," Larra revealed after Ellaria pulled away. "I trust you both. I know that, at least."

"It honours us so, that you can feel trust for us after everything," Ellaria stated, her smile seeming to light up the room. Larra was relieved the earlier sadness was gone from her lovely eyes.

"We will not abuse that trust, my love," Oberyn added, kissing the top of her head. "I swear it."

"I have no doubt of that," Larra agreed, resting her head lightly on his shoulder and clutching Ellaria's hand. Ellaria's other hand was resting in Larra's lap, entwined with Oberyn's.

The feeling of peace and safety was something Larra had once thought she would never feel again, after her family's deaths. She savoured it, turning to kiss Oberyn's cheek.

"I am so glad you are alive," she murmured. "And that the Mountain is dead."

"Aye, he is," her husband agreed, voice hoarse with emotion. "My sister's rapist is dead. My nephew's killer is gone from this world."

"Aye," Larra agreed. "And the Gods will ensure he suffers in the afterlife for his sins. Elia and Aegon can rest at ease now."

"Soon enough, the Old Lion will follow his killer," Oberyn vowed.

"Winter is Coming, and it will bring death with it," Larra promised him in response.

"So it shall," Ellaria agreed.


Tywin:

Tywin would not admit it aloud, but he was secretly relieved that Oberyn Martell had survived the trial by combat and Tyrion had been declared innocent. He hated his younger son, but with Jaime stubbornly remaining in the Kingsguard, Tyrion was his only heir. He had once thought to make Tommen his heir, but that had not been an option since it had become clear that Joffrey would have to die prematurely. He was pleased that somebody else had beaten him to the deed, as he would not have liked to become a kingslayer and kinslayer with one order.

No, Tyrion was his sole option for continuing the Lannister line, unless he were to turn to his brothers' children, something he was loathe to do, not just because most of them were fools. Although Tyrion was a failure in so many different ways, Tywin had to admit that, despite Cersei's belief, his dwarf son was the only one of his children with the intelligence needed to run the Rock.

Jaime was his golden son, but he had never had the head for the non-battle related aspects of rule. Not to mention he shied from certain darker tasks. Tywin doubted he would have bedded the Stark girl, had he gone through with his thought of marrying her to Jaime so as to gain a proper heir for his family seat. Jaime had always been sentimental, bedding a girl with scars to prove her trauma was not something he'd have been capable of. Possibly Tyrion would not have done so either. Of course, from the bloody bedding sheet Tywin had examined, the prince had not allowed her to escape her conjugal duties.

For all the man complained about rapists and insisted maidens were not harmed in Dorne, he clearly did not consider that to extend to his wife, though Tywin understood the sentiment. Wives needed to obey their husbands, that was the way the world worked.

It had been different with Joanna, of course. Joanna had been clever and sly, his most trusted advisor. And she had never been anything save the perfectly submissive wife in public. Only when they were alone together did she chide or question him.

Tywin had heavily contemplated marrying the Stark girl himself, in spite of his previous vow not to remarry and replace Joanna. He could have gained complete control of the Winterlands as well as having the West. And unlike his sons no doubt would have, he would not have allowed the girl to get away with defying him. He would have ensured that she stayed meek and obedient to his will. She was pretty enough too, though Joanna had far outshone every lady around her.

But the Dornish prince's offer had been too tempting. It added another layer of protection between the girl regaining her inheritance and also added more security to the Dornish's loyalty to the Crown, as they would not risk the Viper's future trueborn children losing their maternal inheritance. Gods knew they had enough trouble with his bastards. He was so fond of his Sand Snakes, he probably planned to give them any land he had in his kingdom. Therefore his trueborn children would need their mother's lands to inherit. And Tywin would still have control of the Winterlands, so he had decided that the gain was worth the wait.

Concerningly, however, it seemed that the girl was growing a spine now she was married. Tywin had no spies in the Dornish household, and the last time he had seen her she had seemed as timid as ever. But this report...

"Tell me exactly what happened," Tywin ordered the Grand Maester, who bowed and cleared his throat.

"Her Grace Queen Cersei ordered me to attend to Prince Oberyn's wounds," he stated, emphasizing the word 'attend', making it clear what he had been told to do.

Tywin bit back a frustrated snarl. How idiotic was his daughter, thinking that murdering the Ruling Prince of Dorne's sole surviving sibling, the co-Regent of the kingdom, was a good idea? Even if they claimed he had succumbed to internal wounds that could not be seen, were the man's body opened and examined the truth would have been revealed. Foolish woman.

"However, Princess Alarra refused to allow me entrance to the prince's bedchamber," Pycelle continued, grimacing. "She insisted that the queen had no right to dictate her husband's care, and that duty belonged solely to herself. Then she ordered me to leave, threatening to have me thrown out by the guards if I remained."

Tywin pursed his lips, annoyed. "Go and do not seek out the Dornish party again," he ordered the man. "And remember that your loyalty is owed to me, not my daughter."

Pycelle flinched, nodded and left after giving a deep bow, leaving Tywin alone to brood.

He had miscalculated, clearly. Tywin had been expecting that the girl would remain withdrawn and submissive. She had been so the entire time he had known her. Tywin knew she was not so broken as his daughter and grandson had believed. Her hatred for his family had always radiated from her lowered eyes, covered though they were by layers of frost.

Tywin had known many Starks in his lifetime. He had not known them well, but he'd known them well enough to be wary. All of the Starks had impenetrable masks, and the power of nearly half of the continent at their fingertips.

Eddard Stark had been called the 'Quiet Wolf' as a young man, but he had gained the title of the 'Stalking Wolf' during the Rebellion for a reason. He had run the realm skilfully during his time as Hand of the King, short though that term was.

Alarra Stark had the blood of the Kings of Winter and many Swords of Mornings running through her veins. Long before Tywin had made his family one to be feared with the Reynes and Tarbecks' fates, the Starks had taken over the North and the Three Sisters. They had not done that, nor had they kept a hold of their power, by being breakable.

It had been because of his knowledge of the danger posed by the Starks that Tywin had allowed his grandson to continue beating and abusing the maid, despite knowing the danger of angering the Winterlanders, should they learn of it. He had decided it was important to keep her too battered and abused to contemplate a way to escape and gain revenge for her family.

Should the girl manage to get in contact with her supporters, then Tywin doubted his ability to keep his fragile hold on the Winterlands.

He gritted his teeth, rising to his feet and starting to pace as he brooded on the matter.

Alarra Stark had been wedded and bedded by the Red Viper. She had seemed as timid as before her marriage when they briefly encountered each other at Joffrey's wedding. Her eyes had been lowered, her voice quiet with a hint of a shake when Cersei spoke to her. The Viper had kept a firm grip on her, and he was clearly keeping her obedient, given she showed no sign of the shame she had to feel by the presence of his mistress on her husband's other arm. According to his spies in the Keep, she spent a great deal of time with the woman, probably due to her husband ordering her to play nice with his lover.

But the Viper despised him, and Prince Doran was ill. Princess Arianne was still the official heiress of Dorne, despite the common belief that Doran was going to supplant her with Prince Quentyn. According to Myrcella's letters, Princess Arianne was very similar to her uncle, and close to him, whilst Prince Quentyn was quiet and possibly easily influenced. That meant that there was a serious risk of the Viper persuading his brother's successor to declare war on the Iron Throne for vengeance for his sister, and making use of his wife's men to help the Dornish cause.

With their fragile stability, they would not be able to hold them off.

It could not be allowed, but assassination, despite Cersei's belief, was not the answer.

A knock came at the door, and he twisted on his heel to stare stonily at it. "Enter," he barked.

His dwarf son strode in, a goblet of wine clutched tightly in his hand. Tywin grimaced.

"Why the long face, Father?" Tyrion asked cheerily. "Myself, I am feeling excellent. Something to do with not being due for execution, I suppose. Ah, never mind. I imagine you are terribly disappointed that I have been proven innocent in the whole matter. Has my dear sister sent an assassin for me yet?"

Tywin huffed and sneered at his son in disgust, re-taking his seat behind the desk and steepling his fingers. "Cersei has taken to her rooms," he informed the dwarf coldly. "She is distraught by her son's death, and is ill from grief."

She was hysterical, insisting that the prince had cheated and demanding that he and Tyrion and everyone else she considered to be an enemy be executed for Joffrey's death. Gods only knew if he would ever be able to let her out of the room again. Either way, he would have to dissolve the betrothal to Willas Tyrell. Frustrating, but he would manage. He would need to do something to steady the alliance with the Tyrells, however. They were the only allies he thought he could count on to any degree, and even then... Renly Baratheon had probably thought he could count on them as well.

"I pity the guards keeping her there," Tyrion replied happily. "They shall need visors made of Valyrian Steel to keep her from raking their eyes out."

"I am given to understand that you have been invited to visit Dorne," Tywin stated, ignoring his son's comments.

"I have," Tyrion confirmed. "Prince Oberyn offered just before the battle. I am of a mind to accept. I hear Dornish women are very skilled in the bedchamber."

"You will," Tywin agreed. "You shall go to Dorne, and observe the situation. In particular, pay attention to the Viper. See if there is any chance that he will break our deal and seize control of his wife's kingdom. Find out how Prince Doran's health really is. Make sure that there is no chance of them using Myrcella as a hostage. Find out everything you can, and then report back to me. After that, we will begin seeking a proper match for you. Once you have a son, I will name him heir of Casterly Rock. After my death, you will be his regent."

Tyrion's eyes flashed with desire.

"But," Tywin added. "I will only name you regent if you cease lying with whores. Should you continue to disgrace the Lannister name, I will have one of my brothers or nephews named instead."

Tyrion's jaw tensed, but he bowed his head obediently. "As you wish, Father," he said. "If I may be excused?"

"Yes," Tywin waved him off. "Go and inform the Dornish that you will be joining them when they return to their kingdom."


Ellaria:

Ellaria stroked Larra's hair. Oberyn was asleep between them, his wounds and the potions he had been assigned for them making him tired, not to mention the emotional upheaval of the day.

"I cannot wait to show you Dorne," Ellaria murmured. "To introduce you to our daughters."

Larra looked a tad nervous at the mention of their daughters, and Ellaria smiled sympathetically. "Do not worry, my love. The older ones will be cautious at first, but they will come to love you as deeply as Oberyn and I do, though of course in a different way. And Elaena is giddy with excitement at the thought of being kin to the Starks. Had you been a boy, I expect she would have tried to convince Oberyn to have her marry you instead."

Larra smiled timidly at that. "And the younger ones?"

"The youngest three will be fascinated by you," Ellaria smiled. "Obella is the most ladylike of our daughters. She will be delighted to have you as a role-model. She will probably ask for stories of King's Landing." Larra's expression tightened at that. She grimaced and inclined her head in acceptance as Ellaria went on. "Loreza and Dorea will be delighted with you, so long as you keep them well-supplied with stories."

"And Elia?" Larra's voice was guarded.

Ellaria sighed. "I love her deeply, but she can be difficult," she admitted.

She adored her firstborn, but Lia could be troublesome. Ellaria worried about her. Lia thought she could conquer the world, that her skill with jousting and heritage meant she was on top of society's hierarchy. She seemed to think that she owed something, Ellaria sometimes thought. The people of Dorne treated the Sand Snakes as if they were trueborn, and none save for Obara, who had not yet turned six when Oberyn collected her from her mother, had been outside of Dorne. They had been told, but did not fully comprehend, that they would not be given such treatment outside of their homeland.

"She will just need time to adjust," Ellaria tried to reassure her young love, who was biting her lip nervously. "I promise. Do not take anything personally, should she snap harshly at you. 'Tis not about you."

Larra nodded. She was silent for a while, deep in contemplation. Ellaria smiled at the thoughts swirling behind her love's violet eyes. Larra was so different from her other partners. She was quiet and thoughtful, modest and compassionate. She dwelled on things, and was the epitome of duty. She never seemed to think of her own desires, only those of the people around her. How could anybody not fall in love with such a lady? Her beauty was merely the icing on the cake.

"When Oberyn is recovered," Larra finally said. "I want to consummate our marriage. And, if you would not mind, I would prefer that you be there also."

Ellaria was startled by the announcement. She was concerned too. She reached out to take Larra's hand, stroking it with her thumb.

"Are you sure, my love? You must never feel pressured into lying with either of us." She prayed that Larra was not doing this because she felt guilty at being unable to return their words of love earlier that day.

"I know," Larra agreed easily. "I trust you both, I know you would not wish for me to lie with you out of duty instead of desire. I want to do this. I need to do this." There was a determined glint in her eye and Ellaria studied her younger love carefully.

"And you want me there also? I am glad to join, of course. But I would not like you to be overwhelmed by your first time."

"I do," Larra insisted. She glanced down uncomfortably. "I want to do this," she insisted lowly. "And I believe that Oberyn would never intentionally harm me. I just- I will be more comfortable with you there as well."

Ellaria softened, squeezing Larra's hand gently in understanding. Of course, Larra had always been more nervous around men than women. It should not have come as a surprise to Ellaria that the young princess wanted to have her presence as a reassurance, when so long the thought of being bedded had been a fearful one for Larra. Most maids Larra's age were curious and having their first experience with arousal. Any dreams Larra'd had of being bedded had probably been nightmares.

"I would be honoured, my love," she said, leaning across to kiss her.

She paused after they separated, Larra's earlier words replaying themselves in her mind. "What do you mean, you need to do this?"

Larra chewed her bottom lip, glancing away. "I need to prove to myself that Joffrey and his actions did not break me," she admitted. "And, and if the marriage is unconsummated, then it can be set aside and annulled. I cannot- I do not want to risk losing either of you. Death is inevitable, but-"

Ellaria cut her off with a kiss, entangling her fingers in Larra's curls.

"We love you so, and would never dream of leaving you behind willingly," she whispered. "But if you truly want this, then we will lie with you gladly. And of course, the Illborn did not break you. You are Unbowed, Unbent and most certainly Unbroken."

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

Chapter Sixteen

Leavetaking at Dawn

The Red Keep: 15 th February 299 AC

Ellaria:

They were leaving at last, and Ellaria had never been more pleased to see the back of a place.

Oh, there had been a few good points during their visit: meeting Larra, Larra and Oberyn's wedding, Princess Elia and her son's killer dying.

But the place was a source of far too much pain for both of Ellaria's loves for her to feel even partially comfortable there. Not when Oberyn had jolted awake a dozen times over from a potion-induced sleep with wild eyes, calling Elia's name, or when Larra feared to leave the safety of their rooms and woke regularly from her own night terrors. It was worse with Larra than with Oberyn's nightmares, however, because Larra's nightmares were silent.

When Larra had a nightmare, they often failed to wake up themselves to comfort her, for she made no noise to wake them, nor would she do so intentionally. Instead, their sweet girl woke herself and cried in a shuddering silence, before slipping from the bed so she would not disturb them. She was rarely able to return to sleep after waking up.

They would not have even realized she was having trouble sleeping in the first place, had Ellaria not woken up needing a drink one of their earlier nights sharing a bed with her. They had urged her to wake one or both of them for comfort, but she never did so. In an attempt to help, they had taken to placing her between them, and her shuddering then woke them. She never failed to apologize, always flinching from their touch. It was as if any progress they made was temporarily undone in the darkness of nighttime. It was a mixture of heart breaking (for Larra) and infuriating (for those who had hurt her).

Ellaria looked forward to getting away from King's Landing. Hopefully, she would not need to go there ever again. Once had been too many visits.

Laena had once told her that she wanted to raze the entire capital to the ground and rebuild it from the ground up, or perhaps move the capital to another location entirely. "A new capital for a new era," she had said, her purple eyes, the only obvious sign of her Targaryen heritage, glinting.

Ellaria couldn't wait for it.

Oberyn woke them both sometime before daybreak. He had declared that their party would leave under the cover of darkness, leaving the reason unspoken. It was a snub to go without taking leave of King Tommen and Queen Margaery, but they would not risk the lions doing something to keep them from fleeing with Larra in tow. Given the deal made, it was unlikely, but Cersei had quite clearly lost whatever was left of her mind since her mad son's death. Despite being confined to her chambers, she had been overheard accusing Larra of being his killer, and of Oberyn cheating in the Trial by Combat. He had cheated, but it was foolish of her to accuse a Prince of Dorne of such, and heretical as well. And Larra was not a killer. She was a fighter, but not a killer. The accusations were ridiculous and offensive, and a clear sign that she was utterly mad.

Larra had quietly admitted that her family's household had been attacked hours before they had planned to flee the capital. Somehow, Cersei had learned of Lord Stark's plans to get his family away from the Red Keep. They were not about to take the chance that she would have her men stop them from leaving too.

Standing in the bedchamber, Ellaria could not stop herself reaching out to trace one of Larra's scars softly. After a moment, she pulled away so that Shae and Ellaria's own handmaid, Elyse, could finish helping them to dress. Larra shivered under her touch.

"Would that I could take your pain away, my love," Ellaria sighed sadly, as Elyse tied her dress for her. She was wearing a backless dress in dusky gold, with the flames of her father's House around the hem. Larra, however, wore a hooded dress with white on the outside and grey within the hood and sleeves, as well as on the panel at the front.

"Only the gods can do that entirely," Larra replied quietly. "But you help. You help me very much. So does Oberyn."

Ellaria smiled slightly at that and leaned in to kiss her, pulling away when there was a knock on the door and Oberyn slipped in, leaning on his cane as little as he could. He resented needing it, but had given in to her and Larra's combined pleas with little grace and much guilt at Larra's teary eyes. The young she-wolf had pretended to cry to guilt him into making use of it, and Ellaria had laughed in delight and rewarded her with a kiss when she sheepishly revealed it to her in secret later that eve, when she had sought to reassure her. It was a relief to see the signs of Larra's slow healing. They had yet to tell Oberyn. Once his wounds were healed, they would inform him that Larra had not been as distraught by his sulkiness as she had led him to believe. Ellaria was confident he would be as pleased by the news as she was. Larra doing such meant that she felt safe enough around them to act in that manner.

Oberyn smiled at them, striding over to kiss each of them. The two maids slipped out the room, leaving behind two cloaks for their mistresses.

"Thank the Gods that 'tis dark still," Oberyn teased lightly. "Else I shall have to duel every man in King's Landing, who all surely will be horrified to realize I am stealing away with the two most beautiful ladies alive."

Ellaria laughed and kissed him again as Larra huffed, cheeks tinting the way they always did when she was complimented. "You are ridiculous," she complained, tone fond and violet eyes sparkling.

He grinned. "Only because the sight of such splendour causes me to lose my wits."

Ellaria swatted him lightly, before raising a hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn. "Are we going now, then?" she asked after it ended.

Oberyn turned serious, nodding. "As soon as we put on our cloaks," he replied. "The horses are waiting in the stables, and we will go straight to the docks. When I spoke to the captain yesterday, he assured me that the tide will fine for us to leave immediately."

Larra looked anxious, wringing her hands. "And you do not fear that there will be any, delays?" she faltered before saying delays. "After all, your replacement on the councils have yet to arrive."

"My cousin Manfrey has left Dorne already," Oberyn replied calmly. "He will be here soon. I confess that I pity him. I would not wish this place on anybody short of the lions themselves."

"'Tis haunted by the blood of innocents spilled here by evil people," Larra agreed, soft and sad.

Such as Princess Elia, Prince Aegon and nearly every Dornishman and woman who had been in King's Landing with their Princess, Ellaria thought. Such as Larra's father, uncle, most likely her cousin/foster-brother and sister, as well as her whole household.

"A place of blood and ghosts for us all," Ellaria agreed. None of her kin had been killed in this place, but a friend of hers had been one of Princess Elia's ladies, killed in the Sack, though thankfully she had been spared rape. Leaving this place behind would be wonderful for them all.

Oberyn kissed their foreheads, before stepping back. "Shall we, my loves?"

"Yes," Ellaria agreed fervently. Larra did not speak, but she nodded, her eyes wide with eagerness and desperation shining in them. Oberyn helped them pull on their cloaks and lace them up. Ellaria had a dark orange one, whilst Larra's was a regular black with a white direwolf on one breast and the Martell sun-and-spear on the other. Larra was not one for ostentatious clothing or colour, bless the sweet young she-wolf.

Oberyn could only offer one arm, given his crutch, and he offered it to Larra, who glanced at Ellaria first before accepting. Ellaria made a mental note to try and reinforce that nobody considered Larra to be an interloper again, and she was glad to share Oberyn's love and her own with the young Lady of the Winterlands. She knew that Larra occasionally felt as if she were intruding, despite their reassurances. It was lessening however, Ellaria believed. Healing took time, but it was happening.

They entered the sitting room, finding the rest of their group ready and waiting. The servants and several of the guards had all been sent ahead to the ship with the baggage. The guards left behind to guard the party were all alert, hands on weapons, the men of the party had their own weapons close at hand, and the other ladies all looked tired but eager.

"Oh, I hope we were not keeping everybody waiting," Larra murmured, too softly for anybody save for Ellaria and Oberyn to hear. Oberyn shook his head and kissed her cheek as he replied.

"No, my love, do not worry," he whispered to her. "When I entered the bedchamber, the Blackmonts had yet to arrive."

She relaxed at that.

Oberyn straightened and scanned the group, before turning to Ser Arron. "Everybody is accounted for?" he inquired briskly.

"Aye, Your Highness. Daemon is waiting at the stables, where we have horses and a wheelhouse ready for the ladies and yourself."

"A wheelhouse?" Larra's voice was tense, drawing concerned looks from them all.

Gods, what other awful torment had the Lannisters done, to have her fearful of wheelhouses on top of everything else?

"Aye, my love," Oberyn confirmed gently, brow crinkled in concern. "'Twill be safer than on horseback. And a short journey, only ten minutes from here to the docks via our route."

"Unless it tilts over and goes on fire," was Larra's miserable response. Before Oberyn could say anything, the young princess shook her head. "No, forgive me. I understand. Shall we go, then?"

He eyed her worriedly, then leaned down to kiss her quickly, whilst Ellaria squeezed her hand comfortingly, wondering when Larra had seen such a thing happen. Perhaps during the food riots.

"Aye. Let us go, then."

The guards spread out in a defensive circle and Ser Arron led the way, with the ladies kept carefully in the middle of the group, surrounded and protected by the men. Everybody was too tense and tired to speak, making the journey in silence. They passed by several servants, brow-beaten and weary-eyed, who bowed or curtsied as they scurried out of the way, and some redcloaks who glared at them, but made no move to prevent them leaving.

Ellaria breathed a sigh of relief once they arrived at the stables, where, as promised, Daemon awaited them with saddled horses for the men, and a wheelhouse for Oberyn and the women. Oberyn handed Larra and herself up, then waited until the other ladies were inside before climbing in himself, sitting between Larra and her. Ellaria managed to suppress the urge to scold him for overdoing things when she saw him rub his thigh and subtly wince. Later, when it was only the three of them, she would chide him for risking his recovery, but not here where his subordinates could see. She had too much respect for him to do such a thing.

She laid her head against his shoulder, noting that Larra sat rigidly, staring out the window. Oberyn had taken his wife's hand, and was rubbing his thumb over her hand soothingly, whilst she gripped his hand with a white-knuckled grip. Ellaria glanced around at the remainder of their party. Lady Blackmont sat rigidly, clearly anxious to be away from the Keep. Her brother, the former Lord of Blackmont and her cousin had both been guards slain during the Sack, and she had hated visiting the place where they had died. Her daughter was dozing with her head on her mother's shoulder, whilst Lady Myria had her eyes closed, her head resting back against the wall of the wheelhouse.

The journey to the docks was made in the same silence as the one from their rooms to the stables had been.


Oberyn:

Oberyn lent Larra his arm again as they made their way up the gangplank, with Daemon escorting Ellaria. Larra was placing her feet with exaggerated care, and it occurred to him that she might not have been on a ship before this. He had not thought to ask before, though it seemed obvious now that she probably had not.

"My love," he spoke softly to her. "Have you ever sailed anywhere before?"

She shook her head, expression tense. "No," she admitted. "The year before we came to King's Landing, I was supposed to go with Father to visit our vassals on the Three Sisters, but I fell ill, and was unable to go. We came to the capital overland, of course. This will be my first time on a ship."

"You need not be concerned," he assured her. "Three to four weeks of travel at the most. Our sailors are all very skilled and the ship itself well-built, I promise you. The worst you will suffer is seasickness, and perhaps not even that."

Larra nodded, glancing back over her shoulder at the city as she was helped onto the deck by a sailor, letting out a shaky exhale. The party gathered together, staying out of the sailors' ways as the ship was prepared for departure.

He exchanged pleased looks with Ellaria when they saw Larra speaking softly to Lady Jynessa and Lady Myria. She was, unfortunately, still wary and nervous around everyone save for him and Ellaria, though she was good at hiding her discomfort. But even around the two of them, she could have periods where he was 'my lord', Ellaria 'milady' and her eyes fixed themselves on the ground as she curled in on herself and shied from either of them touching her. But those periods were lessening in frequency, and she was sleeping in the same bed as the two of them most nights.

As Ellaria frequently reminded him, healing took time.

But this morning she was comfortable enough to chat with the two ladies (who were to be her ladies-in-waiting once they returned to Sunspear). It sounded as if they were telling her about the Dornish court. Larra had her head tilted to the side, making her curls slip off her shoulder to taunt him with a glimpse of the top of her shoulder.

Her pale skin glowed in the darkness, shining as brightly as the star that was the sigil of her mother's House. A part of him regretted that her complexion would turn gold in the sun of his kingdom. But she would be beautiful either way, and the snow-colour would return when the Lannisters were overthrown and he could finally take her back to her home in Winterfell.

"Levad anclas!" the captain yelled. "Vamos!"

"Levad anclas!" the sailors called back, and the ship swung into motion. Larra left Jynessa and Myria, returning to his and Ellaria's side.

"What does that mean, the words that he said?" she asked quietly, her gaze fixed on the capital city they were rapidly leaving behind them. It was a windy morning, speeding their transport on its way with a relieving haste.

"Anchors away, let's go," Oberyn translated. He and Ellaria had been teaching her Rhoynish in preparation for their return to Dorne, and she was picking it up with a characteristic quickness.

She in turn was teaching them some of the Old Tongue, but it was far more complicated than Oberyn had expected it to be. Not to mention the runes, which Ellaria had given up learning entirely. Oberyn himself struggled with them greatly, but he was stubbornly determined to master the language, for the sake of his pride if nought else. It was nice to spend time alone with his wife without it involving her attacking posts to vent her anger and grief, too. Not that he resented doing that with her, any time spent with Larra was time he treasured, just as he treasured every moment with Ellaria. But it was lovely to see her violet eyes sparkle whenever she learned something new and her smile reach her eyes.

Apparently, learning was something the Winterlanders heavily encouraged, and Larra had a fondness for it. She was an excellent teacher as well, despite the complicated language. He did not even mind her giggles when he mangled a word in her native language or mistook a rune for one that meant something else entirely. The laugh she gave whenever such occurred was sweeter than a song, and as rare and precious as Valyrian Steel to him.

"So, levad is away, and I remember that vamos is let us go, or we are going, depending on the context," she mused to herself giving a nod. "Voy, vas, va, vamos, vóis and van. Yes, I recall."

"Genius, my love," he praised her. As usual, her cheeks tinted with her delightful pink flush, making his smile broaden. It was such a lovely blush, so modest and sweet. Gods, he loved her. She had entranced him as much as Ellaria had, all those years ago.

They fell silent again, and several minutes later he was about to suggest that they go down to their cabin. Ellaria was struggling to stifle her yawns, and he himself could feel tiredness pulling at his eyelids. Then he realized that Larra was trembling. He stepped forward, preparing to remove his cloak and put it over her shoulders to shield her from the brisk morning sea wind. But when he saw her face, he realized that she was shaking from the force of her silent sobs, and not the cold.

"Larra?" he reached for her. "What is wrong, my love? Larra?"

She shook her head, a tearful gasp escaping her lips as she stepped away slightly, her arms wrapped around her abdomen. "I-do not be concerned," she urged, despite her distraught tone and damp cheeks. They had gained the attention of their party by now, and Ellaria hurried to their side, looking worried.

"Larra, tell me what is upsetting you," he ordered her. He hated to use his authority as his husband over her, but when it was her well-being, whether physical or emotional, at sake, then he would most definitely do so.

"I was going to die there," she whimpered, her expression crumbling entirely. This time, she allowed him to pull her into his arms, Ellaria also joining their embrace. "They were going to kill me," she wept. "If you had not-I was going to die there. I thought I would never see the back of it."

She sobbed against his chest, as he stroked her back and promised her over and over that nobody would ever be allowed to hurt her again, he would kill everyone who ever harmed her, she need never return to the hellish place where she had suffered so much ever again.

He could see the looks in his party's face, the rage they shared with him. In Dorne, maidens were never harmed. Anyone who raised a hand to a lady lost that hand, and most often their life as well. That a maid of five-and-ten had been reduced to such despair by her supposed guardians was the height of disgusting and sorrowful.

He guided her down below the deck, Larra still weeping and Ellaria at their heels. Once they arrived at their cabin, he pressed her down in the middle of the bed, himself and his paramour on either side of her, cuddling and kissing her, whispering reassurances until she fell asleep in their arms.

"I will kill them all for this," he growled to Ellaria. He wished he had done so already. The list of those whom he needed to kill in order to gain vengeance for his wife and her family reeled itself off within his mind, though not in order of importance:

Joffrey Baratheon  

Cersei Lannister

Tywin Lannister

Jaime Lannister

Theon Greyjoy

Gerold Dayne

Meryn Trant

Preston Greenfield

Boros Blount

Balon Swann

Osmund Kettleback

Arys Oakheart

Of those who had abused his sweet young wife, only one was dead, and not by his hand. It was entirely unacceptable.

"I should have killed them before we left," Oberyn muttered to himself. "Slipped poison into their food or drink, challenged them to a duel, something."

Ellaria sighed and reached out to clasp his hand. "You know that could not be, my love," she reminded him. "And anyway, what good will killing them do? 'Twill not make Larra's scars fade away, nor make her memories cease haunting her sleep."

He sighed painfully, pressing a kiss to his wife's curls as sorrow pricked his chest. "When I return to Sunspear, I will deal with Oakheart," he vowed. "I will not allow Larra to feel unsafe in Dorne. I promised her that she would be safe there." He would feel so much better as well, with the disgrace of a knight's blood coating his spear.

Ellaria pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. "Speak to Doran first," she urged.

Oberyn shot her a dirty look. He knew she wanted Doran to dissuade him from killing the knight. But Oberyn did not care that Arys had apparently once protested Larra's treatment, and 'tried to be more gentle than the others', as his wife had insisted. The man had vowed a sacred oath in front of the Seven to protect maidens and women. He had later sworn to obey the will of a madboy with a crown on his golden head. And when the time had come to choose between those two oaths, he had made the craven's decision.

It disgusted Oberyn to know that he had respected the man a bit at one time. He had not thought him good enough for the Kingsguard, but he had believed him to be a decent man. He certainly had never thought that he would harm a lady, else he would never have allowed him to be alone with one of his daughters or niece. Oberyn would not be fooled any longer. The man was no true knight, and he would not tolerate his presence around a lady of Oberyn's family.

He had sent a letter to his brother, informing him of what Oakheart had done and urging him to put an end to Arianne's trysts with the so-called knight. The heiress of Sunspear was strong-willed and intelligent, with great potential for the future. But she was young too, inexperienced with the world outside of the Dornish court, and filled with ambition. He would not allow her to be harmed by Oakheart due to her youth. If Doran had yet to stop the relationship by the time Oberyn returned, the whole affair would end once he took Oakheart's head.

The image of Oakheart's head on the ground made him smirk, only for it to disappear when Larra shifted and whimpered softly in his arms. Her eyelids fluttered, damp from the tears leaking through them and breathed out an almost silent "Please" that broke his heart. Ellaria's own expression crumpled slightly, her eyes fluttering closed in pain for a moment.

Oberyn sighed heavily, pulling his wife closer to his chest and leaning down to whisper in her ear. "You are safe, my love. You are safe, I am here and I will not allow you to be hurt. Shh, my love. Rest, you are safe."

She stilled, then twisted to curl closer to him, gripping his tunic loosely and sighing against his neck.

It would not be only time he or Ellaria had to soothe her for the rest of her sleep that morn.


Larra:

She was Taibhse again.

Her vision was sharper, her nose filled with a million scents that no human would ever be able to smell, let alone identify. As was typical for a wolf-dream, her emotions seemed distant and strange, suppressed by the lack of connection to her own body.

Distantly, Larra wished that it was a true warg-dream, that she had managed to connect to Taibhse's mind once again. But she could tell that it was not, due to her wolf's companions.

Nymeria and Morning were also there, laying alongside Taibhse with their heads on their paws. That made sense, for they were litter-mates, pack, and had been sent away together to spare them from Cersei's wrath. But the proof that it was not a wolf-dream came in the form of Arya and Robb being there too.

Arya was poking at a small campfire with a stick, while Robb studied a piece of parchment that looked to Larra as if it was a map of some sort.

"So, we are around here," Robb was saying, pointing at a spot on the map. "Tumbleton should only be a few miles away. We can restock there on the morrow. Then we can continue southward, hopefully avoiding the Stormlands border. I do not want to get entangled in any skirmishes between Baratheon's supporters in his homeland and the Tyrells' men.

After that we can slip through to Dorne via the Red Mountains, and it should be simple to get to Sunspear from there. It will take a few weeks, but if we keep riding on Morning and Nymeria's backs, we should skim off about a month of travel that would be added if we were to head there on foot. We will have to shave their fur off, though. The sun will be too hot for them, otherwise."

"We ought to travel by night," Arya answered thoughtfully. "I doubt that a desert kingdom has much forests for us to use as cover, and we do not want to tip off any enemies that the Starks are not so beaten as they believe."

"Maireann na Starkanna," Robb sighed, tugging his hand through his hair. "The Starks endure."

His hair was dyed, Larra realized. She had thought it was just the grey-tinged tones of Taibhse's vision, but no. He had changed his hair colour, hiding the red he had inherited from his birth mother. It was longer as well, which made sense.

Tradition demanded no Stark cut their hair until the blood feud Larra had declared against the Lannisters and Greyjoys was fulfilled. Meaning, until the lions and krakens were extinct, all those who played a part in their family's massacre dead and the rest dealt with to ensure they could not revive the blasted lines, no Stark would cut their hair.

Arya had a scar curving around the top of her temple and down her left cheek, partially hidden by her hairline. It too was longer, knotted and ill-kept. Arya had never paid much attention to her upkeep, but she had never allowed herself to get into such a state as this in Larra's memory. Their mother and governess would have had fits.

They looked so old and hardened, their clothes ragged and dirty. Two years ago, Arya had been chasing cats around the keep and Robb had gone bright red whenever somebody mentioned Sybelle Amber's name. Larra could hardly reconcile the two images in her head of her mischievous younger sister and almost-twin with these two hardened fighters, their hands calloused from their swords. She wondered if she had changed so much, too.

Ice and Dawn were with them, the hilts disguised. But Larra would know her ancestral swords anywhere. Arya had the thin sword Larra had given to her the nameday before their lives had collapsed, too. Needle. Father had hired the First Sword of Braavos to teach Arya to use it, Larra recalled. Braavos had been a close friend to the Starks since her ancestor King Donnel had sent men to guard the escaped slaves who had founded the city and loaned money to start up the Iron Bank. Syrio Forel had died fighting with her family's guards to protect them from the Lannisters' men.

"We need to figure out how to get through the Mountains," Arya frowned, petting Nymeria's snout and looking at the map with narrowed eyes. "I warged with a bird to see. They all seem heavily guarded, as guarded as the Neck I think."

"It makes sense that they protect it heavily, but 'tis bad for us." Robb's frown deepened. "We need to get into Dorne without earning any attention," he muttered, tracing a finger over the page.

"We could find one of the less guarded outposts and set the wolves on them," Arya suggested, voice cold as she suggested the slaughter of soldiers doing their jobs. Taibhse growled slightly, picking up on Larra's distant distress.

The two humans glanced at the albino direwolf, Robb clicking his tongue and reaching out to stroke Taibhse's snout.

"Shh, Tai," he soothed. "Do not fear, we will get Larra back, I promise. And, no Arya, we cannot. We must not be detected. Should an entire company of guards suddenly be violently murdered by a mysterious animal, then they will go on alert, searching for it. No, we must figure out another way, that does not involve killing."

Arya scowled. "Is fuath lion an Deisceart, (I hate the South)" she spat. "May their souls all rot in the depths of the Gods' dungeons, tortured for all eternity as they deserve."

Robb nodded in agreement with her. "Not much longer, Arya," he sighed. "We will get Larra back soon enough, and go home to Winterfell to call the banners and gain vengeance. Everything will be fine then."

"Yes," Arya breathed, vulnerability peeking through her cold expression. "Not much longer."

Suddenly, her eyes snapped open, and she realized in bemusement that her face and hair was wet. Ellaria was bent over her, looking near to tears, whilst Oberyn was holding a vial of something strong smelling beneath her nose. Automatically, she reached up to bat the vial away.

"Oh, thank the Gods!" Ellaria cried.

"Larra, can you hear me properly?" Oberyn demanded, pressing the back of his hand to her forehead. "Do you know where you are?"

"Yes, I can hear you," she confirmed, surprised at the hoarseness of her voice. "We are on the ship, I believe. Why am I wet?"

"We could not wake you," Ellaria informed her, her caramel eyes wet. "Not with our voices, not with water or tapping your cheek. Nothing. And when Oberyn opened your eyelids, they were pupiless, completely white."

Larra felt herself inhale sharply. Ellaria was describing the signs of a warging human perfectly, whether she knew it or not. Had she truly connected with her direwolf for the first time in three years? Were Robb and Arya actually alive?

"I have given orders for the ship to pull in at the nearest harbour," Oberyn stated. He looked strangely pale. Larra realized she must have genuinely frightened them by slipping from her body. "We can have a proper maester examine you there. I-"

"There is no need," Larra objected, using her hands to leverage herself into a sitting position. "Truly. I ought to have warned you both of the possibility, but I simply did not think of it. Everyone in the Winterlands knows the signs, and I have not done so in years. I am sorry to have alarmed you. I promise, nothing is wrong."

Things could be very right, in fact. If her siblings were alive- Larra quickly pushed the thought away. She needed to think, to figure out what to do. She definitely needed to make sure that, if it really was them, alive and heading to Dorne in search of her, they did not go around killing Dornishpeople on the belief she was being abused by her husband.

They gave her doubtful looks.

"What do you mean, my love?" Oberyn asked, sitting on the side of the bed and raising her hand to his lips. She felt a stab of guilt at the signs of distress on his and Ellaria's faces.

She should have warned them, but she simply had not thought of it. She was well-passed, or should have been, the time when she slipped from her body without intention. Such had not happened in since she was a childhood, for she had been trained intensely to prevent it. She had only rarely warged with strange animals in the Red Keep, because she had feared to leave her body vulnerable, and it made her longing for Taibhse increase. Only when she was utterly desperate to be reminded that there was a world beyond the castle that was her prison had she done so, usually feeling more miserable and lonelier than ever once she opened her eyes in herself again. And her familiar had been out of reach for so long...

It was hardly an excuse, she chided herself. For worrying them so.

She cleared her throat, then realized the bed was swaying. "Is the room supposed to be moving?"

Ellaria let out a watery laugh. "Yes, beloved," she promised. "'Tis the water."

"Ah," Larra sighed. "Well, I promise what happened was entirely natural, and nought to be alarmed about. I usually would not do such without intention, but it has been so long, I have not done the exercises to anchor myself in some time and so slipped away without intention."

"Slipped away?" Oberyn repeated. "What do you mean?"

Larra blinked. "Warging," she stated, feeling her head tilt to the side. Was it not obvious? Of course not, the south had no wargs left. By the Old Gods, she was slow today.

"I warged," she explained simply. "I am sorry I frightened you."

They exchanged heavy looks, before Oberyn leaned in to kiss her, Ellaria copying his actions once he pulled away.

"Explain this more to us, my love," Oberyn instructed her. "I must know what to do, should this re-occur."

Larra decided not to mention that his and Ellaria's earlier attempts to 'awaken' her, could very well have sent her spirit further away from her body. She did not wish to make them feel guilty over her stupidity and lack of forethought, after all.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

A/N: If you don't want to read a threesome sex scene, then skip over Larra's section. BTW, I've never written a threesome before, nor experienced one, and sex scenes are not my area of expertise. If it's utterly awful, break it to me gently, 'kay?

I also went over past chapters and made a few small changes, nothing major. A couple of spelling/grammer mistakes, added one or two things, etc.

The biggest thing is Tyrion's trial (not the trial by combat, the original one.) When I first wrote it, I didn't have access to the book, 'cause I loaned it to a friend. I now have it back again, and I rewrote the trial to be closer to the book one than the show one, so if you want to check it out, go ahead!

Love you guys! Read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Seventeen

The Dawn-Bringers' Revenge

Starmount: 3 rd March, 299 AC

Allyria:

It was hard to believe how easy it had all been.

How arrogant were these southrons, that they thought that the North would submit to them so quietly after all they had done? After the best part of three years of defying the Iron Throne for what it had done to the Starks?

Yet, the whole plan had gone off without the slightest hitch. Serena, wearing a look of demure submissiveness, had welcomed Willem Lannister and his party into the keep. Unbeknownst to the southrons, they had not received guest right at all when they entered Starmount, only a fake prepared to get them to lower their guards. Allyria was still stunned by their lack of ability to tell the difference. They had all been prepared for their deception to come undone at that point, yet the men had merely chuckled and made remarks about their cooking ability, making their opinions on women and servants clear.

It was obvious they believed that a pair of women, from a family of 'Northern barbarians' were incapable of deceiving them. Serena had flirted with Lannister, her eyes lowered coquettishly as she explained that the lord of their family was away, and she feared he would be furious to see the southrons there on his return. They would have to be gone by the time of his return, a week hence, she had told them. She and Allyria would be in terrible trouble should he learn his commands had been defied, but they simply could not leave such brave, handsome men stranded outside in a blizzard.

The men had gobbled it all up, oblivious to the disgust everyone in the keep felt towards them. Allyria had exercised an award-worthy amount of restraint in order to keep from unsheathing the dagger hidden in her sleeve to slice their throats.

Allyria did not think the southrons even realized they were in the home of Ashara Stark's blood kin. They certainly did not realize that Allyria herself was Shara's sister, and had spent the entire night struggling not to drive her dinner knife into their fat necks. Well, their necks were no longer as fat as they had been when they first came up from the south. Nobody was willing to sacrifice their precious food stores to feed the lions who had helped to bring such ruin on the Starks, the greatest and most ancient family in Westeros.

Late that night, she made her way to the rooms the southrons had been put in. With her was her goodsister, nephew (who had not been away at all, simply hidden from view) and a dozen others, all eager to gain some small revenge for the Starks.

As expected, the Lannister men were all slumped in various places, snoring heavily from the drugged wine they had been given at supper.

"Tie them all up," Nedric ordered, a bloodthirsty grin on his face. "And take them to the old dungeons. Should anybody wake up, entertain them while they await my judgement. I am sure they'd all be fascinated to hear of the Boltons', ah, hobbies."

Everyone chuckled darkly at that. Of course, nobody flayed anyone anymore.

King Harlon Stark had put an end to that when he defeated the Red Kings who had deified his laws and kidnapped and raped his daughter, leading to her biting through her own tongue to keep herself and her unborn babe from being used against her kin.

Due to the aid given by Lord Vorian Dayne, the last Dayne King who had taken his family and fled North during the Andal Invasion of Dorne, in defeating the Boltons, for Vorian's brother, the then-Sword of Morning, had been the one to kill the Lord of the Dreadfort, King Harlon had given the Bolton's lands to the Daynes and Bolton's niece as a bride to Vorian's brother. The Daynes had been loyal ever since.

But they still had some of the equipment, kept and cared for in the dungeons, to use as threats and for leather-making from the cattle they kept, which supplied a good amount of Starmount's income.

A group of guards grabbed the southrons, some of whom stirred enough to mumble and groan as they were roughly dragged out of the rooms. Allyria smirked as she watched them be pulled out mostly by their feet with their heads banging against the stone floor. Gods knew the arrogant, godless raping murderers deserved all that and far worse.

That done, the Daynes exchanged looks, raised their weapons and then stormed into the bedchamber where Ser Willem Lannister slept.

They made enough noise that he jolted awake in spite of his sedative, his green eyes wide and shocked by their sudden and loud entrance.

"What is the meaning of this?" he bellowed. "How dare you-?"

"Willem Lannister, you are under arrest," Nedric declared. No, it was not her nephew/younger brother who spoke. It was Edric Dayne, Lord of Starmount and loyal vassal of the Starks and Winterfell. "For usurping the rightful rulership of The Stark, Lady Alarra of the Most Ancient and Most Honourable House of Stark.

You and your men will be taken into custody, and you will be brought before the Conclave to be judged and condemned for your foul crimes.

Among these crimes are: as previously noted, usurping the authority of Lady Alarra, The Stark of the Winterlands, conspiring to kill the previous Stark, Lord Eddard and his family, aiding the treason of the Lannisters, oathbreaking, illegally demanding to see records you are unentitled to, and forcing yourself on a minimum of three maidens, perhaps more. Any other charges may be added later, as they come to light during the trial."

"You cannot do this!" Lannister sputtered, falling from the bed and grabbing a sword. "Guards, guards! You cannot do this, I am the Regent of the North, declared so by the Iron Throne! Guards! You deceitful whores, you tricked me!"

Serena spat at his feet, her disgust radiating from her face. "I am Serena Dayne, of House Icewolf," she bit out, blue eyes flashing fiercely. "The Lady of Starmount! I am no whore, nor is my goodsister. More importantly than that, however, I am the aunt to Lady Stark, through her late mother, my goodsister Ashara Stark of House Dayne. Of course we tricked you, you fool. 'Tis not our fault you are too arrogant and lustful to see through a pair of women. Blame yourself, not us."

"'Twas not even difficult," Allyria sneered. "You and your men were too busy leering at us to notice that we drugged your wine. Do you know what we do to rapists and would-be rapists here in the Winterlands, my lord?"

Willem's eyes widened in panic at the implicit threat of losing his manhood and his life. "Guards!" he called again, sounding desperate. "Guards!"

Allyria laughed mockingly at him. Truly, the man was utterly pathetic. "If they have yet to come, do you truly believe that they will?" she sneered at him, enjoying the horror on his expression.

The image of Ashara's body, broken with her eyes staring blankly at the ceiling, was one that haunted her whenever she closed her eyes, despite not having been there when Winterfell was sacked. She had always had a good imagination, and was capable to dreaming up a dozen different images of her sister's death. The Lannisters had not murdered her sister/foster-mother, but they had killed her goodbrother, blood brother and the people she considered siblings, her sister's beloved children. Larra was still in their hands, a captive for years now. Had it not been for the Lannisters, Allyria was certain that Winterfell would never have ended up being destroyed, meaning they were at fault for it. The Greyjoys would pay, but the lions would do so first.

"Your men have been captured also," Allyria continued, smirking victoriously. "They will be sentenced for their own crimes here by my nephew, Lord Dayne. You, however, will be put in a cart and taken to Moat Cailin, where a Conclave is gathering to judge you. After all, you are a peer of the Seven Kingdoms, and entitled to be judged by your equals."

She could see him swallowing, his eyes darting around the room as he tried to figure out a way to escape. He would not find one. She could take him down easily herself, there would be no contest with the three of them fighting to subdue him. Even if, by some miracle, he managed to get by them, there was still all of the guards in the keep to get through. He was trapped, and surely even someone so foolish as he had to know it.

"I am under guest right," he tried to protest.

They laughed, Serena replying cheerfully to his argument.

"No, Ser. I fear that you are not. We did not give you and your men bread and salt, we gave you slices of cake cooked with salt instead of sugar. Really, we expected you to notice something was wrong, but clearly we over-estimated your intelligence. Now, do you surrender?"

He lunged at Nedric even before she finished speaking, evidently thinking that the male was the biggest threat. More the fool he, to dismiss herself and her goodsister because of their gender.

Nedric raised his sword, blocking the pathetic thrust easily. Meanwhile, Allyria and Serena also attacked, their daggers flashing in the soft candlelight. Within moments, they had the man flat on his back and disarmed, bleeding from several areas and whimpering pathetically. Allyria had her foot on the centre of his back, her heel digging into him so deeply and harshly that she was delighted to notice that she had drawn blood, as the others tied him tightly, his hands going slightly purple from the lack of blood-flow.

"Now, Ser," Serena spat the title disgustedly, and rightfully so. The Winterlands did not have knights, but they knew that the men who followed that path all pledged before the Seven to protect women. Willem Lannister was a confirmed rapist, and Allyria had seen the way he acted around their serving girls that eve. Thank the Gods, the sweetsleep they had given him kept him from doing anything. But it was proof of how evil the man was, not just haughty and full of himself and his weak lineage. To break an oath was a horrific thing. To break one before the Gods, even the southron ones? That was just outright despicable, and utterly irredeemable.

"You will, as we said, be taken to the Moat for your trial," Nedric took up the reigns of the speech. "And may the Gods have mercy on you, for we shall not." That was supposed to wait until right before the execution, but Allyria hardly cared. The man would die, one way or another. The second Lannister to die for their crimes against the Starks and the Winterlands, now that the Illborn had choked to death painfully, but certainly not the last.

She grinned a fang-filled grin at him as Nedric grabbed a clump of his hair and began to drag him out of the bedchamber, the prisoner protesting that he was a Lannister, and they would not get away with this. He started saying something about his uncle, but Allyria could not hear it, nor did she really care.

"You know," Serena said conversationally as they linked arms to follow the men. "Lord Harrion will probably accompany his father for the trial."

Allyria felt her victorious smirk soften. "Aye, he likely shall," she agreed, thinking fondly of her betrothed. She had known Harrion Karstark for years, and she was very fond of him. A large part of why the nobility of the Winterlands fostered their children together at Winterfell was so that betrothed couples could learn each other and become friends, increasing the chances of felicity in marriage and lowering the risk of colscaradh (AN:divorce-Vikings had it!). She was looking forward to being Harri's wife, for she knew they'd have a happy life together.

"You could marry him then, you know," Serena suggested gently. "You are nearing twenty namedays now, and I know that Lord Karstark is eager to secure his line, now that..." she trailed off, as they lowered their heads in respect for those slaughtered in the Burning of Winterfell, including Torrhen and Eddard Karstark.

Allyria firmly shook her head. "No, I cannot," she insisted. She paused, pulling Serena to a stop, and gazed out of the window in a southernly direction. "I will not marry until Larra is safe at home with us, where she belongs," Allyria declared, softly but determinedly. "I have spoken with Harrion, and he agrees with me. Either we marry with Larra there, or not at all."

Serena did not reply, but when Allyria glanced at her, she saw that Serena too stared out towards the south where their liege and kinswoman was.


Aboard Nymeria's Spear (Martell ship): 3 rd March, 299 AC

Larra:

"Are you absolutely certain, Larra?" Oberyn pressed, studying her for any sign of doubt, she thought. He would not find any, though he could probably see her nerves. Despite that however, Larra was confident in her choice. She trusted Oberyn and Ellaria, and she wanted to be with them.

"I do not wish for you to feel pressured into doing this," he continued. "Your body is your own, it is entirely your choice."

"I know," Larra agreed. "You both have told me so repeatedly. I know that you would never force me. I want to do this." She was nervous, but she was being truthful too. She wanted to do this, but she felt no pressure to give herself to either of them. Not from them, at least. It was her who had settled herself on this course of action, and she was determined to see it through.

He leaned in to kiss her, cupping her jaw gently in his hands and making her sigh into the kiss when he gently pressed her lips open to taste the inside of her mouth. He pulled away and pressed their foreheads together, running a thumb over her cheekbone.

"I love you," he stated, staring at her intensely.

The way he looked at her sometimes made Larra feel as if she were the only person alive, as if he were sucking her in with his gaze. As if he were drowning and she was the air he needed to live. It was a mixture of terrifying and addicting, to think she could be loved so much, after so long being alone and wallowing in her grief.

"I know you do," she replied softly, again feeling a sting of guilt that she could not return the phrase. "I trust you," she added, her own response.

He smiled at her, leaning in to press their lips together again. The door opened, and Larra heard Ellaria's familiar footsteps come in.

"Oh, do I get to join?" she asked, voice filled with warmth for them as Larra and Oberyn broke apart to greet her.

"Always," Larra assured her promptly, smiling at her and holding out a hand. She was glad that Ellaria had agreed to be there when her marriage was consummated. It would not have felt right to exclude her.

Ellaria grinned as she came closer and dropped a kiss on the crook of Larra's neck, sending shivers down her spine as Ellaria's warm fingers skilfully began undoing the laces on Larra's dress. Oberyn stepped back and started to untie his tunic, whilst Larra reached out to undo the claspes holding Ellaria's dress together.

Soon enough, they were all undressed. Larra's nerves increased, and she found herself studying the floor with hot cheeks. She could feel their gazes on her, taking her in. She didn't think they had seen her completely uncovered before this. The scars on her back tingled as Oberyn traced one with a pained look, before kissing her neck. His breath gave her goosebumps, making her shiver.

"We do not have to do this if you do not feel ready, Larra," Ellaria reminded her yet again.

"I want to," Larra replied stubbornly, forcing her gaze off of the floor reluctantly to look at them. "I just, I do not know what happens next."

Her husband smiled at that. "Let us show you then, my love." He reached out and picked her up by the waist, carrying her to the bed and laying her down on it. The intensity of his gaze made her swallow. His brown eyes looked nearly black, with an almost hungry light in them.

"This comes next," he murmured in a husky voice, kissing her and stealing her breath as he pushed his tongue into her mouth and plundered it. He finally pulled away with a faint 'pop', and Larra cried out in surprise when he took one of her breasts into his mouth to suck at it.

"Are you well, my love?" Ellaria asked, crawling onto the bed beside them and stroking Larra's hair. Her eyes had also gone dark and heated, but the gentleness remained still.

"Y, yes," Larra stammered out, wide-eyed from the sensations coming from her breast. She had never felt anything like it. Heat pooled between her thighs, and she rubbed them together to ease the discomfort.

Ellaria laughed softly as Oberyn pulled away from Larra's breast to kiss their paramour. Not for the first time, Larra thought that the two of them seemed to fit perfectly with one another. She didn't understand why they wanted her too, when they had each other. She wondered where she even fit, when the two of them fit like pieces in a puzzle.

They turned back to her, Ellaria moving to kiss her whilst Oberyn knelt between Larra's legs. She gasped in surprise against Ellaria's mouth when she felt his tongue dart out to taste her cunt. The sensations made her moan and she would have bucked her hips instinctively, but he was holding her in place. Not firmly enough to hurt, but enough to keep her from moving as her body wanted her to.

Ellaria was smirking lightly when she pulled away, before starting to kiss her way down Larra's neck. Larra herself could not think, overwhelmed by the feelings filling her body.

"You're so good, Larra," Oberyn murmured, pulling his mouth away from her flower for a moment to meet her gaze. She was so dazed from the sensations they were filling her with that she could barely see straight. "I love you, my brave she-wolf."

She mumbled something back, not sure what it was, before groaning and tossing her head back when Ellaria bit at a particularly sensitive spot.

Oberyn rubbed her hip, before again diving in to taste her. Larra could feel something building in her, as if a coil was tightening with each suck. Then his tongue touched a certain nub within her, and the coil burst. She cried out, going limp and slumping into the mattress, panting heavily with tears falling from her cheeks.

Ellaria and Oberyn hovered over her, Ellaria running a gentle hand through Larra's sweat-tangled curls.

"You are alright, beloved," Ellaria crooned, "just breathe. 'Tis intense, is it not?"

"Aye," Larra mumbled. "I am well, just-inexperienced. I am well, I promise."

"My love, do you think you can take me, now?" Oberyn asked gently once she had regained her breath, after pressing a kiss to her lips, much softer than the passionate one of earlier. "You're doing so brilliantly."

"Wonderful," Ellaria agreed. "Just as perfect as we imagined you would be."

Larra was exhausted, but she nodded, giving them the best smile she could to show her appreciation for them. She squeezed Ellaria's hand. "I can, yes," she promised.

Oberyn exhaled shakily and kissed her deeply again, leaving her breathless. Ellaria bent her mouth to Larra's right breast to suckle and bite at it whilst Oberyn wrapped Larra's legs around his waist and angled himself to penetrate her, slicking himself with her wetness.

She couldn't keep from crying out when he entered her, in pain this time. It was not as bad as she had feared it would be, but it still felt as if he were splitting her in half. He stayed still, rubbing her thigh and muttering encouragements to her along with Ellaria as Larra struggled to adjust to his size being within her.

"I, I am well," she got out at last, anchored by Ellaria's grip on her hand and Oberyn's hand rubbing her softly.

"My brilliant, beautiful and brave wife," he whispered, before starting to thrust.

Larra groaned, and her moans increased when she felt Ellaria slip a finger into her cunt as well, her finger moving in time with Oberyn's cock and regularly passing that sensitive spot. Through her lidded eyes, she saw that Oberyn was also pumping two fingers in and out of Ellaria's own flower.

All three of them cried out as they reached their peak together


Oberyn:

Oberyn used his thumb to wipe the tearstains off his wife's cheeks. Her breathing was even, and she had curled in on her left side, as she often did in sleep.

She had been flat as a board on her back instead of curled on her side that awful day several weeks past when she had warged accidentally, the thing that had first alerted he and Ellaria that something was wrong with her.

Larra had not spoken of what had happened whilst she was 'out of her body' as she had referred to it, but something had been troubling her ever since. Something she refused to tell either of them, regardless of how they pressed. They had eventually stopped, given the subject had upset her too much. He was relieved that she had taken to doing exercises that she insisted were designed to prevent the event repeating itself. It had been utterly terrifying, seeing her white eyes and not being able to make her respond to them, no matter what they did.

But she was well now, and he thanked the Old Gods and the New for it.

She was holding herself slightly more tenderly than usual, but she had not seemed to be in pain, thank the Gods. He would never forgive himself should he ever hurt her.

She had been as wonderful as he had imagined. She had looked so beautiful, coming undone under his and Ellaria's ministrations. The tears on her cheeks made him sorrowful for her, but she had assured them both they were not from pain or fear or the like.

"She was wonderful, was she not?" Ellaria murmured. Her eyelids were half-shut and lidded, her form spent and limp with satiated satisfaction.

"Just as we knew that she would be," Oberyn replied, reaching over Larra (who was in the middle this time) to stroke his paramour's arm. "She cried, though," he added, still bothered by her tears. "I know she said that she was not hurt or upset, but-"

"Tears of relief, my prince," Ellaria interrupted him. She gave him a loving smile, reaching out to cup his jaw, both of them taking care not to disturb Larra's rest.

"For so long, sex was used as a threat against her, another way to keep her beaten down and obedient," Ellaria reminded him.

Oberyn felt his expression darken, remembering Larra's stuttered revelation the day after their betrothal was formerly made.

"She did not have to lie with us," Oberyn said, guilt stirring in his stomach.

Had he pressured her in any way? He had told her repeatedly that it was Larra's choice alone, but she was a dutiful lady. What if-?

"My prince has the kindest heart in all of Dorne," Ellaria whispered, thumbing his jaw. "And you understand many forms of pain. But you cannot understand this pain, because you are no woman to be threatened in such a manner.

Those tears were not caused by fear. They were caused by the relief of losing that fear. Larra knew we would not force her to join us. She made that choice herself, and is the better for it. She lost a spectre tonight, my love. Do not doubt that."

Oberyn exhaled heavily and nodded, glancing down at Larra again. She was breathing softly. He was pleased and relieved to see that, for once, her eyelids weren't fluttering furiously in distress at some past horror haunting her sleep.

"We were gentle enough with her, were we not?" he double-checked, ignoring the hint of amused and fond exasperation in Ellaria's smile when she looked at him. "I thought that we were, but 'twas her first time. If it was too much for her-"

He was a passionate man. In some ways, Tywin Lannister was right to call him half-mad. It had taken great effort to restrain himself as much as he had. He'd wanted to steal the breath from her lungs with his kiss, to leave marks on the surface of her skin to proclaim to all the world that she was his, and have her leave her own marks alongside Ellaria's, so everyone would know he was theirs, as well. But Larra was not ready for the intensity of his and Ellaria's unrestrained passion yet, and so he had sought to hold back and be gentle.

She was still developing finger-shaped marks on her thighs and hips from him, with Ellaria's lovemarks on her breasts and neck. The marks pleased a primal part of him, whilst making him worry that he might have hurt or frightened his gentle wife.

"Worry not, my love," Ellaria reassured him. "She is strong. She enjoyed it, I know."

He propped himself up and leaned over to kiss his paramour, trying to express his love and appreciation for her through their lips. Larra mumbled in her sleep and curled closer to his side.

What miracle had he done, for the Gods to bless him with the two dearest ladies alive?


Ellaria:

"Larra," Ellaria spoke softly to the young princess the next day.

Larra glanced up from the book she had been reading. Ellaria noted that it was one of Oberyn's books, a history of Dorne that he had translated from Rhoynish by the look of it.

Oberyn enjoyed doing that, and had started to try and transcribe the tales of the North into a volume for Larra too. However, as he planned to give it to her as a gift, and as such had to rely on the stories they coaxed from her (and it was hard to make themselves ask her anything about her homeland. Her eyes were always so sad when she spoke of it, it truly broke their hearts to see it.) it was a slow progress.

"Yes, Ellaria?" Larra asked, tilting her head like an owl and adjusting her position to be more comfortable despite the fact that she was surely still sore from the previous night. It was an adorable gesture, and enticing too, as her braid slipped from her shoulder to show off the crook of her neck. You could just about spy the top of one of the lovemarks they had left on their young lover the previous night.

"Larra, we do not have enough of the supplies for moon tea for the two of us aboard," Ellaria told Larra seriously, reaching out to clasp Larra's hand. "I ought to have planned ahead and brought enough for us all, but I did not."

"The maester said that you must stay on moon tea, did he not?" Larra checked. "That is why Loreza is your youngest. You had complications birthing her and nearly died. You would likely not survive another pregnancy." She had paled slightly at that, looking stricken.

She had been more than a little distraught the first time Ellaria had told her of it. "You would have died, and I would never even have met you!" That was when Ellaria knew for certain, that even without Larra realizing it for herself and saying so, that Larra loved them as they loved her.

"That is true," Ellaria agreed. "Larra, you realize that-"

"You need to drink the tea, so I cannot. Meaning, I may become pregnant," she spoke quickly, nerves dancing in her lovely violet eyes. "Yes, I understand. 'Tis fine, do not worry."

Despite her words, her tone contradicted herself. She was young still, only five-and-ten. She was recovering from great trauma, and her life was still changing. Ellaria worried that becoming a mother might be too much stress for her. It would probably be difficult enough, having a horde of stepdaughters, never mind a newborn daughter of her own.

"If you are reluctant," Ellaria suggested. "We can share the rest of the tea, then refrain from sharing Oberyn's bed until we have restocked."

Larra shook her head, making her curls swing from side-to-side. "No, 'tis fine," she insisted. She hesitated, then added. "When he proposed, Oberyn said that our children would be Starks. I-"

She did not go on, but Ellaria understood, reaching out to bring her into a hug. Larra laid her head on her shoulder, and it was a mark of how far they had come over the past few moons that Ellaria's touch eased her rather than distressed her.

"It will be wonderful to meet the newest generation of Starks, will it not?" Ellaria murmured to her young lover.

"Proof in our maxim," Larra sniffed softly. "Maireann na Starkanna tríd na haoiseanna. The Starks endure through the ages."

"That they do," Ellaria agreed. "Winter is in your family's veins, and Winter is Unbowable, Unbendable and Unbreakable. Just as you are."

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

Thank you all for your reviews and enjoying this story! You guys rock! I love writing this story so much, and I love to see you guys love it too!

We sped through the trip 'cause only one thing significant happened in it ;-D. Well, plus the wolf-dream. So here we are, arriving at Sunspear!

BTW: (A) Mellario and Doran never separated in this. He never gave support to Viserys, and there was less strain on their marriage. They have troubles, but they're still together. (B) News of Willem Lannister's capture has yet to get out, as the Northerners are keeping it quiet. His trial is on-going and will be glimpsed in the next (?) chapter.

The hair thing comes from my belated and much-missed granny, who always supported me and my writing.

Now, read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Eighteen

Arrival at Sunspear

Sunspear: 30 th March, 299 AC

Doran:

"Enter!" Doran called in response to the knock on his solar door. Arianne and Laena turned their attention from the documents he had been going over with them to the servant who entered and curtsied to them.

"Your Highnesses, Prince Oberyn's company has reached the bazaar," the girl announced with a bright, warm smile. "They will arrive soon."

Laena's expression lit up in delight. As always, Doran felt his heart sting a bit at the sight, though the grief had lessened greatly after so many years. She looked so much like his dear younger sister, only Laena was healthier than Elia had ever been. He thanked the Seven daily for their intervention allowing the Northmen to save her. To think that, had Eddard Stark been moments later, his sweet niece would have died at a mere three namedays.

It had been a wonderful, heart-breaking shock, when the Northeners had revealed his niece's survival to them.

***

Sunspear: Fifteen Years' Ago:

Oberyn's breath was heavy, his fists clenched so tightly Doran expected the skin to break. His younger brother's eyes were wild with grief and rage as Lord Stark and his goodbrother entered the room with several men carrying caskets in tow. The sight made Doran suppress a harsh swallow, and Mellario rested her hand on his shoulder in comfort.

Within the coffin covered by a banner with the Martell and Targaryen symbols was his sister's body. There were two other, tiny caskets as well, also covered by dragon banners. His sweet young niece, and tiny nephew. Rage and grief warred within his breast, but he forced himself to maintain his composure. Dorne could not afford for its Prince to fall apart in grief.

He forced his gaze away from the sarcophagi, and studied the men who had brought his people home. He had already been told that the Winterlanders had saved a dozen Dornish during the Sack, and had identified the bodies of all of those killed, bringing even the kitchen workers back to Dorne. The new Lord of Winterfell had defied the Usurper in order to do so, and rumours said that the rebel leaders had argued viciously over Elia's fate.

Eddard Stark looked drawn and pale, with dark shadows under his eyes. His expression was grim and his eyes solemn as he bowed deeply to Doran and Mellario. His family's ancestral sword was sheathed across his back, and he had a half-healed scar on the left side of his face. The trials of the war, unexpectedly ascending to his position and his family's tragic fates showed on him. In spite of the recent war between their people, Doran felt sympathy for the young man. The Starks had suffered much over the past year, and Stark had tried to help his sister and people in the capital. Dorne had no ill-will towards Stark for his part in the war. Had Oberyn been murdered, and Elia snatched away, Doran too would have reacted by calling his banners.

He examined the other men, all dressed in the uniform of the famous Wolf Guard save for two. A young crannogman with a necklace made from a piece of weirwood and engraved with runes around his neck. A greenseer then. The First Men's equivalent to septons and septas, yet perhaps even more respected by their people.

The other man was Arthur Dayne, the Sword of Morning and the acknowledged best swordsman alive. The legendary Dawn was sheathed across his back, and he wore a large cloak with his family's sigil of a white sword and falling star. Curiously, Lord Dayne had something held carefully beneath his large cloak, hiding the bundle from view and hampering his movements.

"Prince Doran, Prince Oberyn," Lord Stark dropped to his knees, his goodbrother copying his actions more carefully. The Wolf Guards set down their burdens and also went onto their knees before them, heads lowered solemnly.

"I cannot beseech your forgiveness for what has happened as I do not deserve it, Your Highnesses," the new Warden of the North declared grimly. "The Old Gods will judge me for my part in this tragedy. Princess Elia was a victim in this, as were her children. I can only give you small comfort." He gestured towards the coffins. "She and the other Dornish killed have all been brought home, to be buried and given the proper respects according to Dornish culture."

"You bring us my sister's body and call it a comfort?" Oberyn spat bitterly, his grief and anger clear. "Is this all the recompense offered for Elia's death? Her dishonourment? What punishment is to be meted out to those who murdered a sovereign princess of the realm and her children?"

Lord Stark's own unhappiness was evident in his voice when he lifted his gaze to meet their eyes. Seeing the exhausted pain in the younger man's eyes, Doran felt a stab of pity for him. Stark had lost a great deal in this war also, and he was delaying pursuing his sister in order to return Elia, the babes and the Dornish who had been in King's Landing during the Sack. It spoke volumes to the man's character.

"Ser Gregor Clegane murdered your sister and her son," he informed the grimly. His jaw tightened as he went on. "He is being given a keep by Lord Tywin, whose daughter is now betrothed to King Robert."

Oberyn yelled in rage at that, hand flying to his sheathed dagger and eyes wild and furious. In spite of his own grief and rage, the ever-alert politician in Doran noted the anger showing in the eyes of all the Winterlanders at that. He recalled the rumours of Stark's fury at Elia's fate and made note that it seemed there was now a schism forming in the ranks of the rebel leaders. He pushed it away however, for Oberyn needed him.

"It is your duty to look after your siblings, alright my son?" the late Prince Consort Olyvar Martell of House Allyrion had told him when he was first introduced to his two youngest siblings. Doran had failed to protect Elia, but he would not fail Oberyn.

"Oberyn, put up your dagger!" he ordered his brother, as Aero helped him to restrain the younger prince. "This is not the fault of Lord Stark, who has returned our sister and her children."

"I can give little more to ease this grief for you," the Lord of the Winterlands informed them once the room was silent again and Doran had gestured for him to go on. "But this is the head of Princess Rhaenys' attacker," Lord Stark stated, gesturing one of his men forward with a box. "Ser Amory Lorch. When we arrived at the capital, the Lannisters were already sacking the city, and we went to secure the royal family. We assumed that Princess Elia and her children would all be in the Maiden's Holdfast where the nursery was, but we were wrong. Only Princess Rhaenys was there, being attacked by Lorch. My goodbrother, Lord Dayne, killed him."

"Yet my niece is dead still," Doran finally spoke. The Northmen exchanged looks ladened with meaning at that.

"No, Your Highness," Lord Stark's voice was soft, nearly too soft to be audible. "She lives."

For the first time, Doran felt hope, as Lord Dayne undid his cloak to reveal what he had been cradling so carefully.

Mellario gasped, covering her mouth in shocked relief, Oberyn sat down heavily, staring at the child clinging to the tunic covering Dayne's chest.

"Rhaenys," Doran croaked out.

His sweet young niece had buried her head in Dayne's neck, but she looked to him at the sound of his voice, her eyes wide. She smiled, though he was pained to see it was not so wide and innocent as her smiles had once been. She continued to cling to Dayne's dark purple tunic with her small fists, and only spoke when he whispered in her ear.

"Tío (Uncle) Doran," she cooed softly. "Tío Oby. Tía (Aunt) Melli."

"How?" Oberyn gasped, voice ragged. He stared at Rhaenys with tear-filled eyes. Only Mellario's hand in his own kept Doran from weeping himself.

Rhaenys lived. His sweet niece, the light of his beloved and only sister's life, was alive.

"We intervened in time to save Princess Rhaenys," Lord Stark told them. "Though I fear she has been greatly traumatized by the whole event, unsurprisingly. We knew that she would be at risk, and so we had her replaced with the body of another Dornish child of similar age and build killed in the Sack. Gods forgive us for that sin. We had her hidden in the ship of one of my most loyal naval men, Lord Seastark, until we could get her back home to her kin."

"Thank you, my lord," Mellario was the one to speak, giving Doran time to restore his composure. Oberyn had gone over to Rhaenys, who reluctantly released her hold on Lord Dayne and curled into her uncle's chest, hugging his neck.

"Dorne owes you a great debt for this," Doran added.

"No, you certainly do not." Lord Stark waved his words off. "Children should never be punished for being born," he declared fiercely. "The actions during this war have torn the realm apart, and I am pained to know I took part in them. Dorne owes no debt to anyone. I ask one thing, however."

"Say it, and I will do so," Doran vowed.

"Let the realm heal," Stark sighed heavily, looking years beyond his young age of twenty namedays. "This war has destroyed enough lives, including the princess'. Let the people heal, before seeking revenge. It will come in time."

"You do not ask us not to?" Oberyn studied the man curiously, his temper apparently eased by Rhaenys' weight in his arms.

Lord Stark lifted his chin. "What happened to your sister and nephew is one the greatest sins in the eyes of the Old Gods," he stated firmly. "I have fought a war to avenge my father and siblings. Why would you do no less? Princess Elia and Prince Aegon deserve justice. But Westeros needs to heal, Your Highnesses. Let it heal, I beseech you."

"It shall be as you ask, my lord," Doran agreed, bowing his head to the man. "And know this, Lord Stark. Your family will always a friend in ours, for what you have done."

"I saved an innocent girl's life, Your Highness," the Warden of the North responded simply. "That is simply the right thing to do. There is no debt. But I will tell you the same. House Stark will always be prepared to aid House Martell, should it be needed and not force us to go against our oaths."

***

Doran smiled and nodded at the serving girl. "My thanks, Myrina is it not?"

"Yes, Your Highness," she confirmed, flashing him a bright grin.

Doran nodded at her, pleased he had not mistaken her for her elder sister, who was her doppelganger in looks. It was vital to treat his people, servant or noble, with respect and kindness.

House Martell had ruled for a thousand years, longer than any other House save for the Starks themselves. In that time, the Martells had figured out a key part of ruling, one that was surely part of the Starks' secret to their success: treat your vassals and smallfolk with love and loyalty, and they will return it in spades. However, treat them with derogation and cruelty, and their anger and resentment would gradually build, until they were no longer willing to accept their treatment, and fought back against it.

"Wonderful news," Doran remarked. "Has Princess Mellario and the children all been informed?"

Myrina shook her head. "No, Your Highness," she denied. "I was sent by Ser Steffon Toland to inform you. I can go and inform everyone else now, if you wish it?"

"That would be greatly appreciated," Doran agreed. "I expect that my wife is watching over the younger children, and the older Sand Snakes ought to be training in the yards, at the moment. I am sure they will all be delighted to see their father and meet their new madrastra (Stepmother in Spanish according to my dictionary)."

Laena's grin widened, her brown eyes sparkling. She was half jumping out of her skin, she was so keen to make the acquaintance of her beloved saviours' daughter and niece.

Doran himself was eager to meet and take the measure of Alarra Stark. From the letters Oberyn had sent, he was clearly besotted by the young girl. And she clearly had her ancestors' strength, which could only serve her well in her future. Doran had heard rumours from the Red Keep of her, and he was particularly interested to have one confirmed. It was obvious that the original plan to have the marriage between Oberyn and Alarra set aside once the lions had been de-throned was no longer an option in his brother's mind. Doran was anxious to ensure that the lady Oberyn had fallen in love with was a real person, and she had not managed to deceive him.

Of course, given everything, Doran would not blame her if she was playing a part. But for the sake of his brother's heart, he prayed it was not so.

He also hoped that she got on well with Arianne and Laena. They would be the three most powerful people in the Seven Kingdoms soon enough, and linked by their kinship. It would be best if they all formed a friendship with one another, for the realm's sake.

Myrina curtsied and hurried off to track down the rest of the family, whilst Doran adjusted himself in his wheelchair.

"Shall we go then, girls?" he suggested to his daughter and niece. There would be a welcoming feast later, in order to celebrate Oberyn's return and his new marriage. Knowing his brother, it could also quite likely be celebrating an approaching unborn princess as well. But given Oberyn's description of his wife's skittishness around crowds and new people, Doran thought it would be best to introduce her to the family in a slightly more relaxed setting. Besides, he wanted to ensure that Oberyn was blocked from making a beeline straight to Ser Arys' throat.

"Of course, Father," Arianne agreed, rising and smoothing her skirts whilst Laena bounded to the door with excitement. Aero grabbed the handles of Doran's chair and they followed the girls to the courtyard.


Laena:

Lady Elaena Sand, once Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, could not put into words how much she worshipped the Stark and Dayne families. It was not just the memory of the two men charging into her bedroom and saving her life and that of her cat's.

It was also the recollection of how Lord Arthur had soothed her tears and patiently explained to her over and over that Mama and Egg were gone, but she was going to live with her uncles who would keep her safe. The way Lord Stark had given her a wooden necklace carved with runes to wear after she had repeatedly woken from nightmares (after which they both had personally soothed her tears) and promised it would protect her. Like any child, she had wholeheartedly believed him, and still wore it constantly to this day. Even after leaving her with her family, they had sent her gifts and the occasional letter.

She had read of how the North and the Starks had been treated by her paternal ancestors, and was deeply ashamed of it. The Starks had been the most loyal of vassals up until her father and grandfather had pushed them beyond their limits. Yet, the Targaryens had not shown any appreciation for it.

Queen Visenya and Queen Rhaenys had tried to arrange the marriage of Torrhen Stark's daughter to Ronnel Arryn, and only the uproar from the Winterlands had prevented it. Despite that, the girl had still been forced to marry outside her homeland, only not to an Andal. Aegon III's insults and the promises that he had broken to Cregan Stark had made Laena flush in shame, and that only scratched the surface.

She wanted dearly to make up for the insults the dragons had laid upon the direwolves, but she did not know how to do so. She hoped to become friends with Larra Stark, and learn of how she might make amends for it all. She wanted to give her condolences for Lord Stark and Lord Dayne's deaths as well, and thank Larra for all her family had done for Laena herself.

Laena shook her thoughts away to focus on the present, brushing down her dress and eyeing it dubiously. Larra knew already whom she was, but Laena wanted to make a good impression. She wanted to show that Lord Stark and Lord Dayne had made the right decision to risk their necks for her. To prove that she was going to be a good Queen, one who would make up for her predecessors' failures.

"Calm down, Laena," Tyene scolded her gently, smiling fondly. "You look lovely."

Elaena swallowed and nodded. "I am calm," she insisted. She wished that Sarella was there, but her closest sister was away tending to Hellholt for their adoptive mother and grandfather.

"Look!" Loreza squealed from her position on Nym's hip, before Laena could say anything else. She pointed eagerly at the approaching banners. It was their father's personal banner, consisting of the Martell sun-and-spear quartered with a red snake, coiled and poised to strike. Laena noticed, however, that it was different. One square was white, and it held a grey direwolf running across it.

She felt her smile widen in love for her adoptive father. For all his reputation, he was the most loving and kind-hearted man she knew. It was extraordinarily generous of him, to add his wife's coat of arms to his own.

"Mama y Papa están aquí (Mama and Papa are here!)!" Dorea announced, clapping excitedly.

"I know!" Obella beamed.

"Wave to your parents, children," Tía Mellario instructed them with a smile. Mellario was looking forward to meeting Larra too, Elaena knew. The Princess Consort of Dorne still got lonely and homesick in Dorne sometimes, and was looking forward to having another foreign lady around who could sympathize with missing their homeland.

The younger children waved fiercely as their father's party came thundering into the courtyard amidst a chorus of welcoming cheers from the people around them.

In the back of her mind, Laena noticed that Ser Arys was nowhere in sight, despite Myrcella being present. It was strange, given that he was typically only steps away from his charge, ready to defend her at a second's notice.

Her father (and Oberyn would always be her real father. Rhaegar might have sired her, but she would never forgive the man's sins, that had brought their House to ruin. She had no memories of him at all, and the stories she'd heard did not make her feel sympathetic towards him) swung himself off of his horse flamboyantly, spreading his arms wide.

"Where are the most beautiful ladies in the world?" he called with a grin that spread from ear-to-ear. "My heart has been broken, to be away from them for so long. Only their greeting shall allow me to recover from the heartache!"

Laena laughed and ran with her sisters to tackle him in a hug, delighting in the feel of his strong arms wrapping around them. Even Lia, who had been sulking for months, had thrown aside her grumpy demeanour to laugh and greet their father with a sunny smile.

A few moments' later, they were joined by their mother, and Laena buried her head in the crook of Ellaria's shoulder, savouring the embrace.

She had only dim memories of Elia Martell. Dark hair, the scent of orange blossoms, a soft voice humming a lullaby and a cool hand stroking some hair out of her face. Everything else she knew was secondhand. She knew her mother had loved her dearly, and she had decided to remain Elaena instead of ever reverting to Rhaenys in Elia's honour.

But Ellaria was her mother too. Oberyn had become involved with Ellaria when Laena was five, and she was the one who had acted as a maternal figure for her all these years. Tía Mellario was kind and lovely, but often distant and distracted by her duties as Princess Consort and as a mother.

Padre suddenly pulled away and hurried over to a young woman, who had dismounted from the horse she had been sharing with Ellaria without waiting for help. He whispered to her as she tilted her head back to meet his gaze and reply in a soft voice.

There could be no doubt who the lady was, even before Padre took her hand and guided her over to the family.

"Everyone, allow me introduce my lovely wife," Padre announced grandly. "Alarra Stark, Lady Paramount of the Winterlands, and Princess of Dorne."

Elaena took in the sight of Lord Eddard's only living child.

She was shorter than Laena had expected her to be. But then, the image in Laena's head was that of a pair of men larger than life, capable to defeating any foes in their path. In truth, the Starks were generally a short family, supposedly having intermarried with the Children of the Forest on several occasions. More likely it was crannogmen.

Larra's hair and face were both covered by a shimmering golden veil, sparing her sensitive skin from the heat of the Dornish sun. Underneath it, Laena could make out almost-Valyrian cheekbones and violet eyes slightly tinged with grey, studying them warily. She wore a rather conservative dress made of golden silk, and her pale hand rested on Father's arm for support.

She curtsied to them, her eyes darting over each of them carefully. Laena felt as if her very soul was being studied and weighed, as if she were being judged worthy. She straightened her back and met Larra's stare with the warmest smile she could muster. When Larra inclined her head to her, eyes crinkling slightly, it seemed as if she had passed, much to her relief.

"My love," Oberyn turned to his wife and smiled a smile previously reserved for Ellaria at her as she undid her headcover to reveal her yet-untanned features and Cupid's bow lips. "This my brother, Doran, the Ruling Prince of Dorne, along with his wife Mellario."

"I am honoured to meet you, Your Highnesses," Larra said, giving another curtsey.

"Welcome to Dorne, Princess Alarra," Tío Doran replied kindly. "My brother wrote of the treasure he was bringing home, but clearly he underscored your loveliness."

"I see that the ability to flatter a lady falsely is inherited, my prince," Larra replied with a wry smirk. "But my thanks, all the same."

"We speak only the truth, beloved," Padre corrected her, before going on. "These are Arianne, Quentyn and Trystane, Doran and Mellario's children. Arianne is the heiress of Sunspear, as you are aware."

"I look forward to speaking with you, Tía," Arianne grinned at the younger princess. "I think we can do much together, given our respective positions."

Larra eyed her thoughtfully, giving a nod. "I hope so," she murmured in response. As did Laena.

"And finally, but most importantly," Oberyn went on. "My beloved daughters: Obara, Nym, Tyene, Laena, Lia, Bella, Dorea and Loreza. The Sand Snakes of Dorne. Sarella is at Hellholt, unfortunately. You shall meet her soon."

Laena caught a hint of trepidation that was quickly hidden by the younger girl, and hurried to try and ease it. She strode forward and pulled Larra into an embrace.

"I am so delighted to meet you at last, Madrastra," she greeted her. "You remind me of your father." It was true. They had the same look of steel in their eyes, the same determination and strength lining their spines.

"That, my lady," Larra replied once she was released. "Was the dearest compliment you could have given me."

Lia stood back, frowning, as the rest of them greeted Larra.

"Can you do braids?" Loreza asked seriously. "Septa Ryelle does not do them properly."

Larra tilted her head, looking thoughtful. "Well, I can do braids, yes," she confirmed. "However, they are a bit different to the ones in the south."

Loreza frowned at that. "Well, you can do one and then if it looks alright, you can keep doing it," she decreed, making everyone smile.

Larra nodded with the utmost gravity, as if this were a conversation of vital importance. "Of course," she confirmed. "A lady's hair is her crown of glory, and ought to be treated as such."

"I like that," Tyene hummed. "Where did you hear that?"

Larra's smile dimmed, and Father and Mother gave her concerned looks, Mother reaching out to rest a hand comfortingly on her lover's slim shoulder.

"My mother used to say such to me," Larra explained simply, the sadness she felt at the thought of her lost kin unhidden.

Madre kissed the side of her head, before Padre offered an arm to each lady.

"Shall we go inside, then?" he asked lightly, covering up the slight tension. "Larra is yet to adjust to the heat. I do not wish to risk her fainting."

"I am well," Larra assured them, though her face was flushed and she looked exhausted.

"All the same, mi amor," Padre replied, touching her face with a tender expression. Her political mask softened and she gave a smile back, nodding softly.

"Alright."


Oberyn:

Oberyn could not deny it, not even to himself. He was pained by Larra's reaction to their arrival at Sunspear. But he could not say that it really surprised him, either.

They had all been elated a fortnight past, when Larra had come into the cabin and settled down against his side, placing his hand over her stomach and whispering in his ear: "I want to name her Shara, for my mother." He had asked if she was certain, and she replied that she had not bled since they first lay together and she was starting to suffer from a mother's stomach. There could be no doubt that he would have a tenth daughter within the year.

But once they had docked at Planky Town and switched to horses, heading for Sunspear, Larra had seemed to lose all the progress she had made in opening up to them. The closer they'd gotten to Sunspear the more she had reverted to meek submissiveness, much to his and Ellaria's puzzled dismay. He was uncertain if it was nerves over the coming babe or the prospect of meeting his kin that troubled her, but he cursed the Lannisters for it. It was all their fault that she was upset. Another strike, he had almost lost track of the things he needed to make them suffer for.

He was seeing proof of her discomfort as they sat with his brother and Mellario in the family's private sitting room after freshening up.

Whenever Larra was nervous or uncertain as to how a situation would play out, she retreated behind her courtesies, and she was far better at covering her emotions than she believed herself to be. The only way somebody who did not know her only able to spy her distress was if they knew that she touched her bracelet when upset.

Larra's back was straight as a pin, her expression polite and with a smile that failed to reach her eyes. The violet orbs he loved so dearly had layers of frost over them, and he knew that she was marking the position of everyone in the room, trying to keep an eye on everybody at once in case somebody randomly tried to harm her. He had deliberately seated them where she could see the room and still be near to the exit, in the hopes of soothing her frayed nerves a bit. It did not appear to be helping her very much.

She had requested they not reveal her new condition to anybody yet, so Oberyn refrained from resting a hand over her stomach as he desired to. She had claimed that she did not want to get anybody's hopes up in these risky early stages, but Oberyn and Ellaria knew her too well. It caused both of them great sorrow to know that she did not trust even her goodfamily to know that she was with child, but they understood her fears as well.

Her own cousin who had been raised with her, as well as one of her other foster brothers, had sacked her ancestral home and slaughtered her family and vassals. If you could not trust those you were raised alongside, whom could you trust? It was a miracle that she trusted he and Ellaria, and he would not try to pressure her into gifting his family with her trust. That would simply have to come with time, as she learned that the Martells and their people would never harm her, and would defend her with everything they had if needs be.

"I must confess, Sister," Doran spoke up after they had ended the discussion on their trip. "I have been eager to meet you, and question you in regards to a rumour that I have heard."

Larra smoothed down the folds of her dusky gold skirt as she replied. "Of course, my prince. I am glad to help if I can."

Doran smiled kindly at her. "It is in relation to the Battle of the Blackwater."

Oberyn eyed his brother warily, wondering what he was doing. If Oberyn suspected Larra would become distressed, he would have to intervene. She was in a delicate state, and could not afford to be upset. He had spread his cloak of protection over her, and if that meant insulting his brother, then so be it. Doran would understand.

Larra frowned, looking bemused. "I will do my best to tell you the truth of the matter, my prince," she agreed. "But I fear that I cannot say much. I spent the whole of the battle in Maegor's Holdfast, along with the other ladies, the children, the servants and the Queen Regent."

"Ah, but this story tells that the Queen left," Doran commented. "Her leave-taking was seen as a sign that the battle was lost. Servants fled, ladies wept in terror and children threw fits, crying hysterically. Then, do you know what they tell me occurred?"

Larra did not reply, glancing down. Oberyn and Ellaria were both riveted by the tale. Doran went on when Larra failed to respond, voice gentle in a way reserved for kin and distressed young ladies, of which Larra was both.

"A young girl, still three-and-ten, stepped forward to take control of the situation," Doran stated. "She commanded the servants' obedience, organized care for the wounded, had the children distracted from the fear through games, and led a hymn to the Seven. She helped to tend the injured after the battle, also, and reminded the Acting Hand to have arrangements made for any widows and children left without menfolk to care for them after the battle."

Oberyn could not stop himself from kissing his wife's cheek, feeling his heart swell with warmth for her. Her compassion was so very rare and sincere, she was a true gem among women.

"I did not lead any hymns," Larra corrected Doran. "I know none. I follow the Old Gods. As for the rest of it, forgive me my prince but I do not see the relevance. The queen was gone, somebody had to calm everyone. And had I not reminded the Hand of the widows and orphans, then nobody would have done anything for them. I but did my duty."

"Very few could handle such a distressing situation so well," Mellario spoke up, voice kind. "And even less at such a young age. I do not believe even your own lady mother, by all accounts the greatest of ladies, would have been capable of doing better. You are a credit to her, sweet one."

Larra's breath hitched faintly and she brushed her fingers over her mother's bracelet. "My thanks, Your Highness," she croaked out, her striking violet orbs glinting with unshed tears.

"We are family now," Mellario cut in, smiling at Larra. "There is no need for formalities."

"Of course," Larra agreed, uncertainty flickering through her eyes briefly.

Oberyn kept a careful eye on her, and he could see Ellaria was also watching her for signs of their young love becoming too overwhelmed by it all.

"There is something else, Sister," Doran went on. His smile disappeared and he looked at her gravely. "We have heard something of your troubles over the past few years. We had spoken of aiding you for some time before Oberyn went to King's Landing, yet we thought too highly of the Lannisters, it seems. I must extend the sincerest apologies on behalf of House Martell and Dorne for our part in your struggles."

"Y, your part?" Larra stammered. She had gone more rigid than a spear at Doran's words, her colour fleeing. Her eyes darted around the room in search of an escape, lingering on the window as if debating whether or not she could jump through it.

Oberyn allowed her to pull away from him, but kept himself ready to grab her if needed. He would never forget how she had implored him to give her a poison to be spared once again being trapped with her enemies. Unlike the lions, he was not going to underestimate the lengths his wife would go to in order to escape from what she considered to be captivity.

The others could clearly see her actions also, and their eyes were sharp as they observed her. Larra was going to be mortified when she realized that the signs of her trauma had been on full display.

"Yes," Doran nodded briskly, watching Larra carefully. "I once promised your father that, should he or his family ever require aid, House Martell would provide it to the best of our ability. Yet, we were unable to help your family, and we allowed you to linger in the hands of our mutual enemies for two years. I apologize for that, Alarra."

Larra eyed him warily, swallowing before replying in a rough voice. "Your Highness, if we were to punish people for doing nothing, the streets would run red with rivers of blood."

"Aye," Doran inclined his head. "However, Prince Artys Martell once said a phrase that Dorne tries our best to follow: all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

"A wise phrase," Larra murmured, casting her gaze to the ground.

Oberyn decided that enough was enough, and he stood, helping his ladies to their feet. "If you will excuse us, Brother, Sister," he nodded to Mellario and Doran. "I think my wife ought to rest and recover from the heat, and Ellaria and I have gifts for the girls to give."

"Of course, we shall see you all at supper," Doran agreed. Mellario kissed Ellaria and Larra's cheeks before Oberyn took their arms and guided them out, feeling Larra lean on him for support as they left.

She would probably have nightmares again tonight, he mused to himself. He would have her sleep in the middle, so as to avoid her slipping from the bed without them waking up.

For now, she really did need a break from the heat.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks to everyone enjoying this! You rock! Read, enjoy and review, as per usual!

(BTW: if you don't want to read any smut, skip from after Larra tells Oberyn that she trusts him to the end of his pov. It's marked.)

AN: some extra Northern Houses have been added to the Background Info, so check it out if you want to.

Chapter Nineteen

The Verdict of the Conclave

Moat Cailin: 30 th , March, 299 AC

Nedric:

"Hear ye, hear ye!" the herald called. "Quiet! Quiet in the court! The jury has returned to announce their verdict!"

Nedric watched eagerly from his position in the stands. Due to his close kinship to the Starks, he was not allowed to be a part of the jury, but he had faith in each of them.

A trial for crimes such as this consisted of a jury made up of thirteen of the accused's social peers to decide on a verdict, with a judge to give the sentencing. The jury and judge could not be connected by blood or marriage to either the defendant(s) or accuser(s) within three generations.

For this high-profile case, the jury contained Lords Reed, Manderly, Glover, Umber, Frost, Seastark and Amber, as well as Ladies Frostfang, Mormont, Starstark, Icewolf, Greenwood and Snowstark. The judge was Lord Karstark.

"My lords and ladies of the jury," Lord Karstark stood, his deep voice booming out. "You have heard the witnesses accounts of the defendant's crimes, have seen the evidence gathered by the Ice Guard. The defendant has given no proper defence, nor has he called for his own witnesses to testify on his behalf. What is the verdict?"

Of course, everyone knew what they would say. Despite that, Nedric held his breath as the Chief Juror, the elderly Lord Bennard Amber of Elden Fort, rose to his feet, supporting himself with his cane.

"The decision was unanimous," the old man declared, voice strong and audible despite his advanced age. "Guilty of all charges."

The audience, made up of everyone, smallfolk or noble, who could get to the trial, broke into loud cheers and clapping, roaring their approval and seeming to make the roof rise off the walls. Nedric himself cheered loudly, before grabbing Serena Whitewolf and pulling her into a deep kiss entirely inappropriate for a betrothed pair. He laughed gleefully when they separated, Serena beaming back at him broadly, her green eyes shining in delight.

"Quiet!" Lord Karstark called, though he himself was obviously ecstatic. "Quiet! Silence in the courtroom!"

Gradually, the celebrations settled down, as everyone waited eagerly to hear what punishment Willem Lannister would receive for his actions.

Lannister himself looked stunned, as if he had somehow thought that he would be declared innocent. He had a broken arm, and his face was bruised, with a gag keeping his voice muffled and his wrists were chained to the floor behind his back. He had attempted to flee several times whilst Nedric and his people were transporting him, and if he had ended up with a few broken bones when they had subdued him. Well, nobody particularly cared what shape he was in, so long as he was in a good enough state for them to claim he had not been tortured (which would have been in defiance of the laws set down by Brandon 'The Peaceful Wolf', who had forbidden torture to be used on suspected criminals save for in certain cases or with permission from the Starks).

"Guilty of all charges!" Karstark repeated dramatically, fixing his grey eyes on the prisoner. "There is but one punishment for treason, and that is death by beheading in a weirwood."

Whispers rippled through the crowd as he continued.

"However."

Lannister looked hopeful, whilst people stared in confusion at the judge. Nedric felt himself frown. What was Karstark doing?

"This could very well be a deep conspiracy against the Starks," the judge went on. Lannister slumped, while the audience brightened again, realizing the loathed Regent was not going to escape his fate. "Therefore, we will not execute you yet. Instead, you will be taken to the Wolf's Den, in the custody of Lord Frost and his guards. There, they will question you for any other information on these crimes. Upon the return of The Stark, she will carry out your execution, in accordance with the Old Ways."

There was dead silence in the room. Nedric himself was stunned. Nobody in living memory had been sentenced to the Den. It was reserved for only the worst of cases, and the torture inflicted on those prisoners unfortunate enough to be sent there had broken many a hardened warrior. The Frosts were a sadistic, ruthless family, descended from the extinct Boltons and kept loyal to the Starks by repeated marriages, hostages being taken and the Starks gifting them with rewards for obedience and punishing them harshly for stepping out of line.

It was hard to say if Willem Lannister would even manage to survive long enough to be executed by Larra.

Slowly, people started to clap and cheer the verdict, screaming in bloodthirsty delight at the thought of the man's future suffering. Nedric felt a fang-filled grin stretch across his face.

He had seen Aunt Shara's body, seen the evidence of how she had shielded sweet little Alayne with her body and been brutalized in the worst way a woman could be. The lions had done that, the lions and the krakens. The Lannisters had caused the Warg Guard to go south to their deaths, leaving Winterfell under-defended when The Traitors had attacked it. Uncle Ned was lost forever, and so too was Uncle Arthur, and all of his cousins save for Larra, and nobody knew what to think about her mental state, given the letters she had sent vouching for her burner husband.

Was she being deceived or not? They had no way to tell, for the Ice Eyes answered only to the Starks, and were strictly forbidden from speaking even to the Conclave. No one even knew the spies' identities, save for themselves and the Starks.

Now, the lions would pay in blood for what they had done. Willem Lannister would feel the pain his kin had caused to be inflicted on Nedric's family.

As Cregan Stark 'The Old Man of the North' had once said: revenge truly was a dish best served cold.


Sunspear: 30th, March, 299 AC

Oberyn:

Oberyn laughed as he was ploughed over by his (current) three youngest daughters. Obella had wrapped her arms around the back of his neck and she had hooked her legs around his waist, whilst Loreza was clinging to his left arm and Dorea to his right.

"Ah, what a lovely greeting from some of the loveliest girls in Westeros," he declared, maneuvering himself in order to plant a kiss on each of their cheeks. The girls shrieked and laughed, the sound warming his heart in a way only his daughters could manage.

"Ah, but no hugs for me," Ellaria stated mournfully, one hand placed dramatically over her chest and the other resting against her forehead in mock despair. "How my heart aches. I fear I shall die of sorrow, to be deprived of the love of my girls."

"No Mama!" Dorea exclaimed, releasing Oberyn's arm and running to fling her arms around her mother's waist. She buried her head of dark curls in Ellaria's stomach as his paramour wrapped her arms around their second-youngest in a hug. "We have missed you both so!"

"Yes," Loreza agreed. "You must never go anywhere ever again. You were gone for forever!"

"Forever?" Oberyn repeated with a mock frown. "Are you certain that 'twas forever? I am certain that it was forever and three days. What do you think, Ellaria?"

She tapped her chin theatrically in thought. "Oh, I fear that I must agree with the more intelligent of my loves in the room," she finally decided, her eyes twinkling like stars. "'Twas forever."

Oberyn gasped comically and pointed accusingly at her. "Traitor!"

"Ah, but who could resist such a lovely sight as our Lady Loree?" Ellaria replied teasingly.

Oberyn sighed loudly at that. "I suppose that I must concede, miladies. Your mother speaks truly, for 'tis impossible to deny any one of you." The girls descended into laughter, but the mood was soured by a grumbled comment from the far side of the room, where Elia had stayed instead of coming over to embrace them alongside her younger sisters. The cheer she had shown at their original return had changed to sullenness once again.

"Yet you went off to the capital without us, and bring back a madrasta we have no desire for."

Oberyn felt his grin drop at Lia's cutting comment, and he exchanged a look with his paramour, who had pursed her lips.

"Elia Sand," Ellaria scolded their daughter. "That is no way to speak, especially not to your father. Nor is it acceptable for you to speak of Larra in such a manner. She is kindness incarnate, and does not deserve your ire."

"We do not want her here," Lia replied, crossing her arms and glaring. "Why do you not send her back to the North to live among the rest of those heretical heathens? We-"

"I like her!" Loree declared, glaring at her elder sister. "You are the only one cross about her, Lia. Do not be so mean."

Lia scowled at her sister, but Oberyn did not allow her to speak. He put down Obella and Loreza, then strode over to Elia to pick her up as if she were a babe again.

"I will return soon," he informed the rest of his family briskly, before carrying her from the room, ignoring how she squirmed and protested his actions.

"Padre, Bájame (father, put me down)!" she exclaimed. "Bájame!"

Once they reached her bedchamber, he did exactly that, placing her on her bed and crouching before her, wearing a deep frown. He had always hated punishing his daughters. Poor Ellaria had usually been forced to take up the role of discipliner in the family, because his resolve often faltered at the sight of their upset faces. But not this time. This time, he would not let Lia get away with it.

"Elia," he kept his tone curt and brisk. "Enough is enough. Every letter sent by your sisters, your septa or by Doran and Mellario have all spoken of how you have been unruly and temperamental, mean to your sisters and the servants, complaining about your madrasta, despite never meeting her before today. Your behaviour is entirely unfitting for a lady of House Martell, and I am extremely disappointed in you. Do you have an explanation for your attitude, young lady?"

Elia crossed her arms over her chest and glowered sulkily at the floor, refusing to answer. Oberyn pursed his lips, frustrated by her petulance.

"Very well then." He rose to his feet long enough to grab her elbow and tug her over to her vanity, sitting on the chair in front of it and laying her across her lap. He moved quickly, and he had never punished Lia in this manner before, so it was not until his hand was smacking against her bottom that it dawned on her what was happening. She promptly began struggling against his grip, thrashing and howling as if she were being murdered. Oberyn steeled himself against her sobs, continuing to smack her until he had reached ten hits, at which point he stopped and set her on her feet again.

"Well?" he raised an eyebrow at her. Her face was splotchy and red with tears and her breath hitched. It pained him to see her in this state, but she had brought it on herself. A part of being a parent was disciplining your child when they acted wrongly, and so he had to stay on his chosen course, for Elia's sake. "Well, Elia?" he repeated. "Are you going to explain yourself now?"

She sniffed, bottom lip trembling. "You hit me," she accused.

Oberyn exhaled slowly, wishing she were not so similar to him. "I disciplined you for being disobedient and disrespectful," he corrected her coolly. "Do not make me do so again, Elia. I like doing this about as much as you do. Answer me."

"You said that you would be putting her aside once the Lannisters were dead," Lia burst out. "But now she is to stay instead! Our family was good the way it was, why does she have to come and ruin it all? So what if her father saved Laena, she did not! Any children she gives you will be more important than us, 'tis not fair!"

"That, my daughter," Oberyn stated quietly. "Is the most selfish thing I have heard one of my children say. I am appalled to hear such from your lips." Elia began to speak, but he did not allow her. He raised a hand in a silencing motion and gave her a stony look, warning her to stay quiet as he went on speaking.

"You were not raised not to think of those in less-fortunate situations than yourself," Oberyn told her briskly. "You were fortunate enough to be born into a Great House of Dorne, despite being a Sand. You are treated as if you are my trueborn child, and loved dearly by everyone in this family and our kingdom. Most base born children could only dream of being treated in such a manner as you take as your due.

Yet, upon learning of a person in a very precarious situation in need of this House's aid, you are more concerned for how your life will be affected than how Larra is feeling with all she has gone through, and is still going through right now. The bit about your future sisters through Larra is so selfish and appalling for me to hear, I refuse to even address it, for I may well strike you properly. In addition, you are never to call the Winterlanders barbaric or heretics again, do you understand me? They follow a different religion that is all, I remind you that so too does your own madre."

"What she is still going through?" Lia burst out, looking indignant. "What should she be upset over? She has become a Princess of Dorne, moved to the best country and become a member of the best House there is! She has married the best man in the world, and is Lady Paramount in her own right of her own kingdom. What has she to be upset about?"

Oberyn turned her back over his knee again for another three strikes before he stood her again and corrected her misconceptions.

"She is upset because she has lost all of her own family," Oberyn reminded Elia, unsympathetic to her shining eyes and the way that she rubbed her backside with a miserable expression. "Yes, she has joined our family, but we cannot supplant those she has lost. She may officially be Lady Paramount of the Winterlands, but the Lannisters have effectively blocked her actually making use of that position. And yes, she is lucky that she is married to me instead of one of the Lannister's men, as they wished. But this was not the life she wanted, and she grieves for what is taken from her. Dorne is the best country in your eyes? The Martells the best House? To Larra, the North is home, the place she loves best in the world, and none can compare to the Starks in her eyes."

He finished speaking sighing and rubbing at his temples with a hand. Lia did not reply, her eyes continuing to shimmer as he stood. "You will spend the rest of the day here, contemplating your recent behaviour," he informed her. Her expression flashed indignantly as he went on dictating her punishment. "You will not be permitted to go riding or jousting until I or your mother say so. She and I will be discussing in more detail how you have been acting since we left with your septa and tutors, and we will then decide how to deal with it. When in the presence of your stepmother, I expect you to treat her with all the respect due to her as your social and familial superior, do you understand me?"

"Sí, Padre (yes father)," she muttered, voice choked.

He forced himself not to comfort her, instead striding to the door of the chamber and leaving the room, shutting it firmly behind himself. He leaned against it for a moment to sigh heavily, before pushing himself away and heading for his own rooms to check on Larra.

*****

She was running her brush through her hair, seated in front of the mirror, when he arrived. He felt his frustrated expression soften at the peaceful sight, and a smile curved up the corners of his mouth as he watched her rest a hand on her stomach and rub it absently.

He walked over to her and kissed her cheek. "Have a drink with me, my love," he requested when she turned her head to see him and smile softly, though troubled shadows continued to darken her lovely orbs. Having a drink was not what he wanted to do with her.

He wanted to take her to the bed and lay her down on it, to see and feel her come undone under his touch, to listen to the way she moaned his name and whimpered for his touch. But he had yet to bed her without Ellaria being present, and he was wary of inviting her to lay with him, least she feel obliged to do so when she did not want to.

They had made a great deal of progress, but he knew that her instinct was to give in to his desires, regardless of her own feelings on the matter. The importance the First Men placed on their vows was not something he had taken into account when he'd wed her. Oh, he put a great deal of gravity on his word also, but Larra was borderline obsessive about it, and he thought that he understood why, given the activeness of the Old Gods. He would not wish to invoke their wrath either. Unlike with the Seven, he was sure that their retribution would be swift and merciless.

She nodded and rose with him, lying beside him on the bed and accepting the goblet of losennta he gave to her.

"I thought that you would be with your daughters," she commented softly after thanking him. Her eyes shone with concern as she studied him. "Is aught amiss, Husband?"

He leaned in to kiss her for a moment before pulling away again and sighing as he rested a hand on her abdomen. "Being a parent brings such joy to me," he mused to her. "But it also requires disciplining the child on occasion, and I loathe doing so."

"What happened, may I ask?"

"You can always ask me anything, my love," he reminded her. He sighed and took her hand to kiss it. "Lia is struggling to adjust," he offered. It pained him to see her walls instantly fly up, her expression smoothing out and her eyes going cool and distant from him. They had spoken enough about his daughters that she was quick to realize the source of Lia's discontent.

"I apologize if I have caused strife in your family, my lord," she said stiffly, lowering her gaze. He sighed and leaned in to kiss her for a moment.

"You have not caused any strife in our family, Wife," he corrected her firmly. "Lia's problems are her own. There is nought for you to apologize for. And it is our family, as I said. You are a member of House Martell now, beloved."

"Yes," she conceded, bowing her head. "I am still sorry, however."

He pulled her into his lap and kissed her again, reaching to undo the pins keeping her long brunette locks in their braid so that he could tangle his hands into the soft curls.

"Do not be," he instructed her once he had pulled away and rested his forehead against her own. "My love, will you tell me what is bothering you? You have been troubled for some time now, and I would ease your distress for you."

"I," she faltered and started to fidget with her bracelet, a sure sign that she was trying to figure out a way to avoid giving an answer without lying. She sighed, shoulders slumping and looked downward to avoid his eyes. "You recall the deal that you made with Tywin to gain my hand?"

He stiffened. "Larra, remember that I also promised you I would not fulfil it," he pointed out to her. "No Lannister will ever lay eyes on a child of ours if I have anything to say of it."

"But the Imp is coming to visit, for a lengthy stay," she reminded him, expression distraught as she released her cuff to cradle her stomach protectively. "And much as he resents his family, he is loyal to them. What if he takes the babe? Or, Ser Arys might- The Kingsguard is so loyal to the king, and Tommen is under Cersei's thumb. What if-?"

"I will not allow it," he cut her off, alarmed by her rising hysteria. It was dangerous for a young lady in her state to become over-wrought, particularly this early and during her first pregnancy. He cupped her face in his hands to make her meet his gaze. His heart ached at the fear and pain in her eyes. Would that he had the ability to go back in time and reverse the tragedies she and her family had gone through, to erase the memories that troubled her.

"I swear to you Larra, by the Old Gods and the New," he said, putting all of the firmness and determination he could into his voice. "Nobody will ever take this child away from us. Ever."

He was caught by surprise when she suddenly pressed her lips against his, kissing him almost desperately. He was happy to return it, however, pulling her close to his chest. It did not take long for them both to start fumbling to remove their clothes, and soon she was lying beneath him on the bed, her hair spread over the pillows as he hovered above her, supporting himself with his arms and caging her beneath him.

"Are you sure?" he checked, because he never wanted to force her into something she didn't want to do. "Ellaria is not here, are you sure?"

"I trust you too," she assured him solemnly. There was no fear in her eyes as she met his gaze, and he beamed at her in adoration. For all she said 'I trust you', both he and Ellaria heard 'I love you.' For somebody who had gone through the torment that Larra had, who had lost her family to those she had loved and shared her childhood with, trust was the most sacred gift she could give them.

-----

He leaned down and pressed his lips over hers, pressing his tongue into her mouth and moaning in delight at her delicious taste. "You always taste so wonderful," he muttered, pulling away for a moment. She flushed pink, still embarrassed by compliments even moons after the first time.

"I like you kissing me," she admitted shyly.

"Then I will do so again," he replied, before doing exactly that. Supporting himself with one hand, he reached up to start rolling one of her nipples between his fingers, making her moan and arch into his touch. He chuckled and pecked her lips. "Patience, my love," he purred at her. "Patience. 'Tis always rewarded."

"Please," she whimpered, as he settled between her thighs to suck at her cunt, revelling in her taste. Gods, he loved this. He loved her.

"My beautiful, brave wife," he whispered, between licking stripes up her cunt, deliberating avoiding brushing her pearl to delay her peaking.

She gripped his hair, making him chuckle in pleasure at the mix of lust and mild pain. "Please, Oberyn," she whined pressing against him. "Please!"

"Please what, beloved?" he cooed. "You must use your words."

"Make me come," she begged.

He grinned wickedly and deliberately pressed his tongue against her nub. She cried out, yanking harshly on his hair as she came. He sucked up every drop, before moving back to kiss her again. He licked a piece of cum off the side of his mouth after pulling away. She bit her lip, and he was surprised when she shifted downwards.

"Are you sure, my love?" he asked when her realized what she intended. "You have not done this before."

"I wish to try," she responded.

"Then wait a moment," he instructed her, climbing off the bed. She was quick to scramble after him and kneel before him on the soft rug. She paused, and he ran a hand through her curls to reassure her. "If you do not-" he began, only to be cut off when she leaned forward and wrapped her Cupid's bow lips around his swollen cock.

Oberyn groaned, feeling his grip tighten in her hair as she sucked, careful not to deepthroat her so as to avoid making her choke. She was inexperienced, but she quickly found a rhythm, and when she glanced up at him through her eyelashes it wasn't long before the sight had him cumming right into her mouth. She swallowed, and the sight of his seed on her lips made him start to harden again even as he withdrew from her mouth. He quickly bent to scoop her up and lie her down on the bed again, positioning himself between her legs and wrapping her legs around his hips to get a good angle to enter her.

Once she was gripping the headboard firmly for support, he started to thrust into her, making her moan and toss her head back as she rolled her hips in time with his own. He thought that he could feel her womb when he finally released his seed, and the relief made him collapse atop of her, though he quickly rolled off of her to allow her to breathe.

----

She sighed and willingly curled against his chest, entwining her legs with his as he twisted a lock of her hair around his finger and whispered words of love into the shell of her ear.


Dornish Desert: 31st, March, 299 AC

Robb:

Robb rubbed a hand over his eyes tiredly whilst he used the other to keep himself steady atop Morning. It was a lot harder to ride a direwolf than it was to ride a horse, but the wolves were far faster than any steed would ever be, in spite of the added weight of the humans, their supplies and the two broadswords that weighed them down.

"'Tis nearly dawn, Arya," he called over to her. "And I see a watering hole. We ought to stop there and rest for the day." She waved at him, signalling she had heard his words.

They would need the rest and water access. Whilst the nights in Dorne were frigid, reminding him fondly of Winterfell and his homeland, the days were awful. To think that he had once thought that the Crownlands were hot! Even if not for the necessity of discretion, the heat alone had them travelling beneath the stars. It was utterly intolerable, and he had no idea how the Dornish could manage to stand it at all.

He glanced up at the stars, saddened that they were again fading from view. Natural as it was, it always felt as if he were losing his mother all over again when the stars she had loved so dearly disappeared to be replaced by the too-hot sun of Dorne.

Arya had stopped, and was sliding off of Nymeria, patting her companion on the neck. Robb copied her actions, and Taibhse reluctantly stopped when her litter-mates did. They did not have the control over the albino Alpha female that Larra did, but she respected them enough to stay with them. But it was obvious that she sensed the decreasing proximity between herself and her warg-companion, and was eager to finish closing it. It was hard to decide which of them was more eager to reunite with Larra: he and Arya, or Tai.

The wolves bent their snouts into the water, slurping it up eagerly, whilst Robb and Arya slumped down. He glanced automatically at the two swords strapped to Nymeria and Morning's sides, checking they were within reach and secure. Uncle Arthur had shoved the two ancestral weapons into their arms as smoke had filled the Tower of the Hand and their guards had all rushed to defend them.

"Get out of here!" Uncle Arthur had yelled at them. "I'm going for your father and sister! Go! Now! We'll meet you at the outskirts of the city! Run, protect yourselves!"

Robb swallowed and looked away again. Despite his words, they never met Uncle, nor his Father and sister, again.

But they had seen from the distance as Ned and Arthur's decapitated heads had danced on spikes, had heard the whispers that all in the Stark household had been killed, including the Lord's children. Thinking their sister lost forever, they had fled, vowing vengeance and stricken with a mixture of grief and terror.

Robb had been carrying Ice, whilst Arya carried Dawn. Both swords were far too big for them, and the weight they signified was a heavy one.

Robb had never felt as if Ned and Ashara Stark were anything other than his parents. Yes, he logically knew that Ned was by blood his uncle, and that he shared no blood at all with the Daynes (well, not since Cregan Stark had married his cousin Lynara, whose mother had also been a Dayne). But he had started to address them as 'Mama' and 'Papa' as a toddler and they had never corrected him, Ashara had nursed him at her own breast. Larra was more his twin than anything else. His anam cara (soulmate-platonic. Soul friend is the direct translation). The loss of them had been far more painful than hearing the story of Brandon Stark's death had been, or learning that Catelyn Tully had not wanted to raise him, preferring to maintain her reputation over caring for her own son.

"Where do you think that we are?" Arya asked after some moments of silence.

Robb did not reply at first, pulling his equipment from his bag and beginning to compare the compass readings to the maps, calculating the distance they'd travelled in his head. He had resented the more academic parts of his lessons as a boy, but now he was grateful for the hours spent under Scholar Luwin's tutelage, learning to read maps and do complicated sums mentally.

"Here, I would say," he finally decided, jabbing at a spot on the map. "Nearly at the Vaith River. We can follow it to Planky Town, then ride alongside the coast to Sunspear. Another moon and a half of travel at this speed."

"Not fast enough," Arya grumbled, glaring at the map resentfully.

"We cannot go any faster," Robb shrugged. He felt tired, as if he were Lord Amber's age, not five-and-ten. And he had been brooding on a grim thought for some time now.

What if Larra did not want to come with them?

He would not blame her for hating them. They had abandoned her, left her to suffer captivity under their kin's murderers and be forced into marriage with a burner.

Despite what Arya seemed to believe, things would not magically be fixed by reuniting with their sister, Robb understood that. The way Arya acted, Robb thought she had come to the conclusion that, by killing off everyone involved in causing their family's tragedies, the tragedies would be undone. They would return to Winterfell and their family would all be alive and together once again. He feared how she would react when she at last understood that, no matter what they did, that would never happen. Their family would never be whole again, and their lives would always be in pieces. How could it be otherwise, when their kin was dead, and they damaged in so many ways, Robb doubted that their own mother would have recognized them?

"We need to figure out a plan to smuggle her out when we get to Sunspear," Arya mused, absently reaching out to run a finger down the side of Dawn's sheath. Uncle Arthur had been training them both, and it had been a toss-up whom he would choose to succeed him as the Sword of Morning. Either way, 'twould have been a revolutionary choice: the first female Sword, or else the first non-Dayne-blooded Sword. They would never know now, whom their uncle would have chosen. Maybe he would not have chosen either of them, and let it wait until the next generation instead. Only he could have answered, and it was just another of the many questions that Robb wished he could ask his father and uncle, and would never be able to.

Robb sighed wearily, shoving his things back into the sack wearily and petting his companion's side. They had shaved off the wolves' fur to help them in the heat, and it still felt strange. Morning bent his head to lick Robb's fingers, and he appreciated his familiar's support.

"We cannot make any plans yet," he reminded his younger sister. "We know nought of how Larra is, how they guard her, the palace patrols. Once we get to Sunspear, we can warg into some birds or something, and then plan based on that. For now, our goal is just to get there undetected."

Arya huffed and scowled, glancing away and leaning against Nymeria's side. "Do you want first watch, or shall I take it then?" she asked curtly, rather than protesting as he'd half thought that she would. Robb waved her off. He was exhausted, but so too was Arya.

"This is your little sister, Arya, my darlings," Máthair's voice echoed in his memory. She had been weak and exhausted from labour when Athair had led them into the bedchamber to meet their new sibling, but she had glowed brighter than any star, her smile seeming to stretch from one eye to the other. After two failed pregnancies in the nearly six years between Larra and Arya's births, everyone had feared that she would never bare a second living child. Arya had revived her hope and happiness, and Athair's also. "You must look after her, because she is much younger than you. Can you both do that for us?"

They had promised her with all the wide-eyed solemnness of children. Thinking of the past few years, Robb could not say whether he had broken that vow or not. He had kept her alive, yes. But Arya was skilled and sensible enough that she might've managed fine without him. And she was so hard, so angry and hurt.

He missed the younger sister who chased cats around the Red Keep and spoke eagerly of travelling everywhere in the world, from each of the Seven Kingdoms all the way to Asshai and Old Valyria.

Robb had changed too, left behind the boy who dreamed of joining the Warg Guard officially and becoming its' captain, serving as his sister's most loyal defender and marrying Sybelle Amber.

How much had Larra changed, he wondered? Was there anything left at all of his almost-twin, or was she a stranger wearing Larra's face?

A large part of him never wanted to reach Sunspear and learn the answer to his question.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

AN: Obviously, in this story High Hermitage and Starfall don't belong to the Daynes. As such, I have Oberyn as Lord of High Hermitage so he has some property. Starfall is a property of the Martells, currently unused I believe. Thanks to everyone enjoying this, I love to hear that I'm doing well! Keep reading, enjoying and reviewing please!

Chapter Twenty

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

Sunspear: 31 st March, 299 AC

Larra:

Larra drummed her fingers on the vanity table as Shae carefully worked her hair into an updo for the feast that evening.

Personally, Larra would have preferred to avoid going, but she knew that was impossible. It was natural that the return of one of Dorne's beloved princes, with his new wife in tow, would merit a celebration. But Larra herself disliked feasts, and disliked having attention on her even more. She wanted to hope that everyone would simply ignore and focus on Oberyn and his macabre prize of the Mountain's head that he intended to present to his brother, but she was not a fool. The Dornish courtiers would naturally be curious about their new princess.

She sighed and rubbed her stomach. She was only a few weeks' gone with child, but she felt as if all somebody had to do was take a single glance at her before realizing that her state. It made her feel anxious and vulnerable. Oberyn was confident that everyone in Dorne was loyal to his family, but Larra had thought the same of her own family's men. Yet growing up in Winterfell under Ned and Ashara Stark's guardianship had not prevented Theon and Gerold from killing her family and destroying her home. What if one of the Martells or Starks' many, or even one of Oberyn's personal adversaries learned of her pregnancy and went after her child?

Everyone knew that pregnant women needed to avoid thinking negatively and poisoning their child, but Larra could not stop herself lingering on the worst case scenarios.

"What's wrong?" Shae asked her, inserting a jewelled pin into Larra's curls to pin another strand into place.

Larra sighed again. "I hate feasts," she muttered.

"Well, this shan't be like the feasts back in the capital," Shae reasoned. "No Dornishman would dare insult you, and your lord husband would not tolerate it, either."

Larra nodded, momentarily forgetting that Shae had yet to finish, and winced when her hair was tugged. "Sorry," she apologized to her huffing handmaid, before going on. "I used to adore the feasts at Winterfell, did you know?"

"No, you have never spoken to me of your homeland," Shae replied gently. She had a sympathetic look in the reflection of her face. Of course, Shae knew what it was like to have a past you did not wish to think or speak of. Larra did not know any details, but she knew enough.

"I have not," Larra agreed. "Nor have you spoken to me of your own past." She was not trying to push, simply stating a fact.

"Do you wish to know?" Shae shrugged. "'Tis now that matters most, not then."

"Yes, but memories make a person whom they are, do they not?" Larra pointed out. "But, I do not ask. If you wish to tell me, I will gladly listen. But 'tis your decision."

Shae smiled and stepped back. "You are done," she announced, the two of them silently agreeing to leave the topic alone again. "Let me grab your dress whilst you ensure that you are satisfied with it, alright?"

Larra nodded, twisting her neck from side-to-side and patting her hair to check that it was secure, though she knew Shae well enough to know that it was faultless.

It was more extravagant than she would usually go for, even for a feast, and entirely Dornish. She wanted desperately to make a good impression on her husband and lover's people, and was anxious to ensure that nobody thought she believed ill of them or their ways. She did not agree with those who scorned the Dornish as sinful and savage. The same people who addressed them as such called her own people barbaric heathens and claimed they performed blood sacrifice, after all. The Dornish were the only genuinely good people among the nobility of the south that Larra had ever met. For all the Arryns' words were High As Honour, Lysa Arryn had not lifted a finger to help her sister's cause, in spite of her Duty to her blood Family and their Honour.

Shae had done her hair in a series of French plaits pinned securely in place at the top of her head, with the rest falling down in a tumble of styled ringlets, jewelled pins keeping it secure and shining in the soft light from the setting sun. At least with the sun going down, she would not be so hot. Larra had known in theory of the temperature of Dorne, but she thought she might faint from it. How did anyone manage to find the energy to even breathe in such intense heat? No wonder they needed to take naps at noon.

She was not looking forward to her pale complexion turning gold and lessening her similarity to her late mother either.

Satisfied, Larra stood and went over to the changing screen by habit so that Shae could help her pull on her dress for the evening. She was still a bit sore from her and Oberyn's activities the day prior, but she was able to hide it easily. One benefit of Joffrey's treatment of her, she supposed. She was good at covering pain and discomfort.

Her gown was in the conservative Dornish style, meaning that it covered her back (and most of the scars on it, though the tips curved up to her shoulders), leaving her shoulders bare with a heart-shaped neckline. It was Martell orange, with red embroidery in the form of tiny sunbursts along the neck, edges of the split and plunging sleeves and the hemline. It was made of a cool silk, and fitted against her torso, in a manner that would have shocked Lady Arielle speechless. Although she wanted to fit in with the Dornish culture, she could not bring herself to be more revealed than she was currently, and even this took some deep breaths to calm herself and gather the courage to dress herself in whenever she wore something similar.

For jewels, she had a sunburst-shaped necklace made from gold and a fire opal hanging between her breasts. Two fire opal earrings dangled from her lobe, and her hair was pinned in place with a dozen jewelled pins, all made of the same gem and gifted to her by her husband with the rest of her wardrobe. He was constantly spoiling her with gifts, insisting she deserved them, and she could not convince him not to waste the money on her, no matter how she tried.

"Beautiful, my love," Ellaria called from the doorway when Larra exited from behind the screen.

"Not nearly as beautiful as you," Larra replied earnestly, taking in her lover's own outfit.

Ellaria was as naturally beautiful and elegant as ever.

Her hair had two thin crown braids wrapped around her head, with a pile of curls styled to look almost like roses within, and the rest tumbling freely down her back. She wore a backless dress of gold without sleeves that tied around her neck in a bow and a plunging neckline that seemed to go almost to her bellybutton and showed a faint glimpse of her breasts with the flames of House Uller decorating the skirts. For her own jewellery, she had multicoloured hairpins inserted into her hair to keep it in place, along with a series of gold and jewelled bangles on both arms, and a gold necklace in the shape of her house sigil around her neck.

The sight of her took Larra's breath away, and she could not resist the urge to go up on her tiptoes (even with heels, she was shorter than both of the others) to press her lips against Ellaria's, careful not to smudge their make-up.

Ellaria smiled at her when they pulled apart and tucked a strand of hair that had come loose back behind her ear.

"Tá grá mór agam duit (I love you)," Ellaria whispered to her, and Larra felt her chest warm at the sound of her native language in Ellaria's Rhoynish drawl. One of the first things that they had asked her to translate to her tongue for them was how to say I love you. Every time that they said it to her, she felt her heart flip backwards in her chest.

It became more and more tempting to say it back with each day that passed, but a part of her still could not bring herself to say it. She no longer doubted that what she felt for them was love, but the thought that had occurred to her upon learning of Oberyn's duel with the Mountain continued to linger in the back of her mind. What if she admitted to loving them, let down the final barriers that she had placed to protect her heart, and then she lost them? She'd not survive it, she was sure of that.

"Tengo confianza en ti, (I trust you, informal)," Larra replied. Ellaria smiled and kissed her again softly.

Oberyn came in just then, pausing to run his gaze over them. His eyes grew heated, and she felt her cheeks tint pink beneath her make-up.

"Las damas más guapas del mundo (The loveliest ladies in the world)!" he declared, wrapping an arm around each of them and pressing hard kisses to their lips.

"You are full of false flattery," Larra huffed at him, embarrassed and flattered. He always seemed sincere when he complimented her, but she always felt he was over-exaggerating. Larra had never considered herself to be particularly attractive, regardless of how many people insisted that she was the image of her beautiful mother. And when compared to Ellaria, how could anybody call her pretty? Ellaria was the loveliest woman Larra had ever seen, perhaps even surpassing her mother.

He kissed her again, softer this time, as Ellaria stroked her arm.

"One of these days, my lovely wife," he said after pulling her away. "I am going to give you a compliment, and you will know that I am being completely honest. Everyone shall be in awe of you, and terribly jealous of my luck, having you both on my arms."

Larra felt her smile falter and she stepped away to smooth down her skirt. She had, with great reluctance, removed her mother's bracelet as it did not match her outfit at all. Her wrist felt naked and cold without the cuff wrapped around it.

Her husband and lover's expressions turned concerned, Ellaria reaching out to cup her cheek as Oberyn grabbed her hand. Larra leaned into Ellaria's touch, sighing in comfort. It briefly occurred to her that, only a few moons' past, she would have been rigid and felt trapped instead of safe at their touch.

"What is wrong, my love?" Ellaria asked, caramel eyes shining in concern.

Larra shrugged. "I just," she faltered, sighed and went on. As always, they waited patiently for her to gather her thoughts and figure out how to phrase them. Larra had inherited her father's introverted nature, and she appreciated that they never pressured her to speak before she was ready to. In the capital, even before her father's attainment, her slowness to speak had irritated many. "I just do not like feasts," she stated lamely, unable to meet their eyes.

"Larra, nobody will hurt you here," Oberyn reminded her, gripping her chin lightly to make her meet his eyes, filled with concern and love for her.

"I know that," she assured him quickly. "I do. Your people have been so kind to me, truly. I just, I cannot help but feel nervous. I do not want to disappoint anybody."

"Impossible." Ellaria insisted adamantly. "Absolutely impossible. What would anyone be disappointed in you for?"

Before Larra could reply, Ellaria's own maid, Elyse, stuck her head around the door wearing an apologetic expression. "I apologize for interrupting, Your Highnesses, milady," she stated. "But the feast is starting in a few minutes."

"Thank you, Elyse," Ellaria replied, still studying Larra with concern. "We shall go in a moment, if you feel well enough my love?"

Larra forced a smile and nodded, accepting her husband's arm when he offered it to her. Ellaria took his other arm, and not for the first time Larra felt relieved that he had completely recovered from his duel, save for a long thin scar that had formed on his leg. It had not felt right, holding his arm whilst Ellaria did not, yet Ellaria had always insisted that she be the one to hold his arm.

"Are you sure you are well, my love?" he asked her in a whisper as they began making their way to the hall. She nodded, trying to appear genuine.

"I actually used to love feasts, did I ever say?" she responded. He shook his head, gentle fondness on his expression as he looked down at her. Ellaria leaned forward slightly so that she too could see Larra as she spoke.

"The feasts at Winterfell were wonderful. We did not have them so often as the south does, of course. And there was only about three courses, maybe five if there was a particularly important celebration. But they were such fun. We called them ceilís, and the dancing was wonderful. I loved to dance when I was younger."

"You have never said," Oberyn commented softly. "I am glad to dance with you, whenever you desire."

Larra felt her smile sadden a bit, and she could tell they had noticed. "It reminds me of my father," she revealed softly. "He always very busy of course. But he tried to spend time with each of us daily, and he helped me learn to dance as well as ride. When I was a child, I would stand on his toes whilst Máthair (Mother) gave instructions and somebody played the pianoforte. They made such a sight. Anybody could tell that they were in love. 'Twas as if the two of them were lost in their own world. Of course, at first Arya hated it. But then Uncail (Uncle) Arthur told her that being a graceful dancer would help improve her swordplay, and suddenly she could not practice enough. Mother and Father loved to dance together, also."

They laughed softly at the story, as Larra felt herself dwell on Arya. She had not been able to warg into Tai's mind since that day on the ship, but that was not a surprise. For whatever reason, pregnancy hampered a woman's ability to maintain a warg. Larra had no way to know if what she'd seen was real or simply a dream, and she both feared and longed to know.

There was nought she wanted more than to be reunited with her family, but they had been so different. And what if they hated her? If they were alive, why had they not sought her out before? Thoughts and questions swirled in her head. She knew that Oberyn and Ellaria knew something was bothering her, but she could not bring herself to put it into words, and they did not press.

They drew to a stop in front of the large doors leading into the hall, and Larra could hear the cheerful Dornish music drifting from behind them, along with the sounds of people laughing and talking with one another. She steeled herself, unable to bring herself to loosen the grip she had on Oberyn's arm, using it as an anchor to steady herself against habit-ingrained fears.

"Her Highness, Alarra of Houses Stark and Martell, Lady Paramount of the Winterlands, Wardenness of the North, Lady of Winterfell and Princess of Dorne!" the herald announced. Larra was surprised when she was announced first, and made a note to ask her husband or Ellaria about it later. "His Highness, Prince Oberyn of Houses Martell and Stark, Prince of Dorne and Lord Consort of the Winterlands and Winterfell, Lord of High Hermitage! Lady Ellaria Sand of House Uller!"

They entered to much applause, and Larra struggled to keep herself from shying away from the crowd's gaze. Oberyn stroked a thumb over her hand discreetly, no doubt sensing her tension.

They arrived at the high table, where she was placed between Laena and Oberyn, with Ellaria on her husband's far side, Princess Mellario on Ellaria's other side beside Prince Doran. Princess Arianne was seated beside her father, followed by Princes Quentyn and Trystane, then Princess Myrcella. Obella was beside Myrcella, whilst Tyene, Nym and Obara were seated in a row beside Laena. Loreza and Dorea were too young for the feast, of course, but Elia was not, yet she was not present either. Larra felt her stomach twist in guilt, even as another part of her sighed in relief when she failed to spy any sign of Ser Arys.

She had never wanted to cause any strife to her husband and lover, especially not with their children.

"Hello, Madrastra," Laena greeted her warmly.

"Yes, hello," Tyene added, leaning forward a bit to smile brightly. They both had kind airs about them, but Larra knew from her husband that they were as deadly as the rest of his children. Perhaps more, for Obara was obviously dangerous, whilst you would think Tyene as innocent and pious as an angel until she was slitting your throat, smiling sweetly as she did so.

"I hope you have recovered from your journey," Laena said. "You look lovely, I must say."

"You flatter me," Larra replied, smiling back as best she could. Elia already resented her, despite them not having shared a conversation yet. She did not wish to make any of her other stepdaughters dislike her too. "Yes, I am recovered well enough, though this heat is much harsher than I am used to, I fear. And truly, you are both visions of beauty."

It was no lie.

Laena had her hair in an elaborate tumble of brunette curls, with gold pins shining in them. On closer examination, Larra noted that the pins were in the shape of the Martell crest. The future queen wore a dress similar to Ellaria's, but the neckline was not quite so deep, and it was white and gold. A double chain of gold looped several inches from her neck, and she had diamond-and-gold earrings studding her lobes, with a matching set of rings glinting on her fingers. Her make-up was tastefully done, and Larra could see the Valyrian hints in her face, even without looking at her bright purple eyes. Regardless of her Dornish colouring, her ancestry could be seen in her easily when you knew what to look for.

Tyene, meanwhile, was wearing a dress in the more conservative style that Larra preferred when it came to Dornish styles. It was, like her sister, white and gold. She had a Seven-Pointed Star necklace and a pair of crystal earrings, and no other jewellery. Her own make-up was subtle, but well-done.

They were far prettier than Cersei, Larra mused to herself. Bitterness and resentment had ruined the beauty of the woman once labelled the Light of the West. No matter how she tried to hide it, the layers of make-up the queen coated herself with did not hide the ugly nature within her soul.

"We were hoping, Madrastra," Laena commented. "That you would agree to spend the day with us tomorrow. We dearly wish to get to know you."

"Of course, I would be delighted," Larra agreed softly. "I am eager to know you all as well. Your padre and madre sing your praises."

Laena grinned at that. "Well, 'tis hard for them to find anything negative to say about us," she joked lightly, eyes sparkling. "How do you like Dorne so far, Madrastra? I realize that it must be very different from what you are used to."

"It is, but in a good way," Larra confirmed. "Everyone has been so very kind. I much prefer it to King's Landing."

"Yes," Elaena murmured, expression darkening slightly. "One day, that city will be torn to the ground, the Red Keep destroyed. Then a new capital will be built, a new capital for a new era."

Larra cocked her head, studying her stepdaughter/niece. "I hope that happens," she said after a moment. "And I look forward to offering the services of the Winterlands' builders for the purpose. The Three Sisters have some of the best architects in the world."

"So I have heard," Laena agreed, brightening again.

"Would you be so good as to tell us of your kingdom, Madrastra?" Tyene asked, leaning forward. "I have never been outside of Dorne. Well, I was borne in the Riverlands, but Padre collected me when I was, oh I think I had yet to see five namedays. I cannot recall much of it, I have to say."

"Well," Larra began, struggling to speak of her homeland without letting her homesickness and grief touch her voice or expression. "'Tis a beautiful place, though I know that everyone thinks such of their own home. I recall that when the court arrived, everyone was stunned by how warm it was. Winterfell is built on hot springs you see, and the water is pumped through the walls to keep the castle warm."


Sunspear: 31st March, 299 AC

Oberyn:

It was a relief to see his elder girls welcome their new stepmother with open arms. Obara was cautious, but not cold, and Nym had inserted herself into the conversation quickly enough. The talk had distracted Larra away from her nerves, thankfully. He had redirected the subject away from the dangerous topic of the North as quickly as he could, changing it to Larra's skill at swordplay. Upon learning that she had such skills, Obara and Nym had offered to spar with her, which Larra had accepted tentatively.

Oberyn was wary of allowing it when he knew that Larra was in a delicate state, but he knew that, so long as she was careful, there was no real reason for her not to continue with her usual hobbies when her belly had yet to swell with the babe. He wanted to tell his family of the coming babe, however, and resolved to bring it up with her on the morrow.

After dinner ended, he guided his wife out to the dance floor and spun her around. He was delighted when she laughed and smiled brightly, seeming to glow in his embrace. She was light and graceful as ever on her feet, and he adored seeing her smile so genuinely.

Eventually, she grew tired however, and he brought her back over to sit with Jynessa and Arianne. He then danced several dances with his paramour, before she was stolen away by her uncle. By then, it was late and Oberyn caught the subtle signs of Larra's exhaustion. Ellaria joined them as they prepared to excuse themselves, all of them weary after their travels and the long day.

He escorted his ladies back to their chambers after saying goodnight to his family, lying between them and falling asleep easily.

He woke when Larra cried out in her sleep several hours later. It was obviously a particularly bad nightmare, making her thrash around in the bed and actually crack him harshly across the mouth.

Ellaria sat up as he grabbed Larra's wrists to restrain her, rubbing her eyes and giving them a worried look. In their moons of marriage, Larra's nightmares had been an almost-nightly thing, but typically she was silent. Only twice before had she been loud enough to wake them up.

At some points, Oberyn wondered if, like for him, she was worse when she slept alone. If so, he dearly regretted that they had not immediately had her join them in their bed, even if it was just for sleeping. He had not realized until Larra had mentioned it off-handedly that couples from the Winterlands only slept in separate beds if there were problems in their marriage. He had thought she would be more comfortable in another bed, when her trust had been so tentative and more due to desperation than anything else. Making her feel upset and anxious was the last thing he wanted to do.

"Athair!" Larra wept, squirming in his grip. "Athair! Uncail!"

Ellaria flinched at her words, and Oberyn took both of her wrists in one hand, reaching out with the other to shake her gently awake.

"Larra," he called, trying to break through to her. "Larra, my love. Wake up, please. 'Tis but a dream." Likely a lie, he acknowledged glumly. Likely she was once again recalling her father and uncle's executions, or perhaps the attack on their rooms as they had prepared to flee the Red Keep.

"No, no please," she whimpered, going limp and breaking his heart. He pulled her to his chest, pressing his lips to her head repeatedly and speaking softly to her, trying to break her from her mind. Ellaria reached out to rest a hand on her stomach, rubbing the area where their new child was just beginning to form and crooning softly to their love.

Finally, finally, Larra's eyes flickered open, red-rimmed and confused, fearful. Her breath hitched and she trembled in his embrace. He held her as gently as he could, suppressing a grimace when she automatically flinched from him at first.

"All is well, my love," he breathed to her, stroking her arm soothingly. "You are well, as is the babe and the rest of us. Just breathe, beloved. Joffrey is dead, he can never harm you again."

"Did I ever tell you why my father and uncle confessed?" Larra asked, the expression on her face and the tone of her voice telling him that she had yet to fully return to reality.

"No, my love, you have not," Ellaria informed her gently.

Oberyn could guess. Had he been accused of treason in Eddard Stark or Arthur Dayne's place, and either Arianne or one of his daughters been threatened, he would not have been able to confess fast enough, if it would spare their lives.

"I was locked in a room for days," Larra told them, voice empty and distant, her gaze on the ceiling but seeming not to see it. "Four or five, I believe. I only saw the servants who brought me food and water, and they would not tell me anything. I had no idea what was happening, where my family was. Then eventually a goldcloak appeared, and dragged me down to the Black Cells."

Ellaria faltered in the middle of forming soothing circles on Larra's stomach, and Oberyn felt as if his heart had jumped into his throat.

Larra had been a maid of but a mere three-and-ten at the time. And they had taken her to the Black Cells, a place reserved for the worst of criminals, humanity's scum? It was no place for any lady to lay eyes upon.

The Strangler had not been a painful enough death for Joffrey. Oberyn feared to hear what had happened next, but he did not try to stop her speaking. He merely thanked the Seven that he knew she had been spared rape. One small mercy among a multitude of horrors.

"They brought me to the cell where they were interrogating them," Larra went on, seeming not to notice their stricken looks. "Gave me a bucket of water and some cloth to clean their wounds. They were both so bloody and bruised, the smell nearly made me ill. Yet despite that, they tried to reassure me, swearing that all would be well, telling me I was so brave and how proud of me they were. They knew we would not speak again, I believe. I did not realize at the time.

After I had tended them as best I could, the Chief Undergaoler, Rennifer Longwaters, came in. He cut off my dress whilst Athair and Uncail watched, and held a knife to my throat. I remember exactly what he said, clear as if it were moments' ago: Pretty little maid, ain't she? Personally, she's a little small for my tastes, but I wouldn't mind having a go at her. And there's more than a few men who'd be happy to go at her and that wild little sister of hers. Teach that wild little she-wolf some proper manners. We did not know she and Robb had disappeared at the time, of course."

Oberyn could not speak, for he knew that he would rage if he opened his mouth. Rennifer Longwaters, the name repeated itself in his mind. His would be a painful death. Ellaria was pale as she listened, gripping his arm so tightly her nails broke through his skin.

"Father and Uncle Arthur were furious, struggling against their chains. Uncle Arthur called him a monster and swore to rip his throat out, Father insisted that Arya and I were just children and damned the man to hell. Then the other gaoler, Rugen, came in. He promised that, were they to confess, we would not be harmed. All they had to do was admit that they had committed treason, tried to supplant Joffrey with Stannis for whatever reason. Athair demanded an oath on the Old Gods and the New that our lives and honour would be left untouched, and when that happened they could not confess fast enough.

The whole time, I was just standing there, trying to cover myself and crying. I did not object or anything, I simply let them do it."

"Larra," Ellaria started to murmur, but his sweet, tiny and tortured little wife did not stop speaking. Every word she said shattered another piece of his heart and made his hatred surge, both to the lions who had sold their souls for power, and towards himself for not saving her earlier.

"They were to go to the Night's Watch at first. But then, Joffrey changed his mind. That is literally what he said. We were standing there in the square, Athair and Uncail were on the steps and had just confessed publicly to treason. Then Joffrey said this: I have changed my mind. 'Twould set the wrong example for my reign, allowing traitors to go free. Ser Ilyn, bring forth your sword. Then they made Daidí (Daddy/Papa) kneel and cut his head off. Uncail Arthur had to kneel in his blood."

Tears were streaming from her lovely, haunted eyes when she looked at them at last. She looked so painfully young and lost. "Daidí looked at me when he was kneeling, and he mouthed something to me. But I don't know what it was. The last thing he tried to tell me, and I don't know what it was."

"I can guess what I would have said to one of my girls, in that position," Oberyn replied, his own voice pained. He leaned into kiss her head, cradling her in his arms as gently and comfortingly as he could. "I love you, be safe and strong," he whispered into her ear.

She broke down into a wave of tears so strong her slim body shook with the force of them. "'Twas all my fault," she wept bitterly into his chest, gripping his shoulders for support as he rocked her and Ellaria stroked her back, Ellaria's own lovely face filled with sorrow on Larra's behalf.

"'Twas all my fault," Larra repeated. "It was not a fair trade, they-"

"Did what any loving father or uncle would do," Oberyn corrected her. "Their deaths were entirely the fault of the lions, my love. They shall not get away with what they have done. They will die for it, I swear. It was not your fault, I promise."

Ellaria also tried to reassure her, but he feared they failed, for she continued to weep and shake until she had drifted back to sleep again.

"I had no idea," Ellaria whispered to him once Larra was asleep again, her breath occasionally hitching. "Not the slightest."

"Nor I," Oberyn replied dully. Rage and grief warred within him. Gods, why Larra? She was the sweetest and most gentle lady alive, with a spine of steel. She had not deserved such torment. Nobody did, but his wife least of all. "They will pay for this," he had been saying such for moons, for years really. But Oberyn had not thought that he could hate the Lannisters more than he did already until this night.

"They will." Ellaria had never looked so hateful before. She had never objected to his quest for revenge, but she had never been fond of it, either. She had often reminded him that revenge would not undo the hurt of the past. Right now, however, she seemed ready to rip Cersei's throat out with her bare hands for what she had done.

***

Sunspear: 1 st April

Oberyn had thought that the hours, along with some intense and brutal sparring in the yard with several of his knights, had eased his rage and helplessness over Larra's late night revelation.

He proved himself wrong when he laid eyes on Ser Arys Oakheart, walking alone in the opposite direction, with Princess Myrcella nowhere in sight.

Oberyn had been returning to his rooms to take a bath prior to the midday fiesta, when he caught sight of the man in the great white cloak of the Kingsguard. He did not know what Oakheart had been doing, nor where he was going.

But when he laid eyes on the man, a haze of red coated his vision. Within his sight was one of the men who had tortured his wife, who had created the scars that covered her back. They were raised and pink, and he knew from his studies at the Citadel they must have been hell to gain and to heal. They would have all been reopened once or twice, to continue being so unfaded for so long, and Larra had been forbidden the attention of a maester. She had been made to kneel before the Illborn, Oberyn recalled her admitting once. Made to thank him for being so generous as to correct her and for his mercy. Her eyes had been rimmed with red on awakening that morning.

Raw rage filled him, and he felt himself unsheathe the dagger at his hip. The next thing he knew, Oberyn was pinning Oakheart to the wall, holding a dagger against the man's throat and wrapping his other hand around the coward's nape. He heard cries and yells, but ignored them.

"You!" he snarled in raw fury. "You! How dare you? How dare you walk around, wearing that cloak as if you are worthy of it! How dare you pretend you are not a craven, beating innocent maids on the orders of a madboy with a crown on his head! Choosing to save your own skin over the oath you swore to the Maiden to protect all ladies, to the Mother to shield all innocents! You dare to walk around as if nothing is wrong, after what you have done to my wife!"

Distantly, he heard his name being called, but he ignored whomever it was. "Confess!" he bellowed, shaking the man and ignoring the fact that Oakheart's face was starting to turn purple, unable to breathe from the strength of Oberyn's grip on his neck. Why should Oakheart be allowed to breathe properly? Larra would not have been able to breathe properly, when her ribs were broken by having a grown man wearing a heavy gauntlet drive his fist into her abdomen.

Oakheart coughed and sputtered as Oberyn shook him again, repeating his demand for a confession. He would hear the man admit what he had done, Oberyn was determined. The man would say what he had done, and then Oberyn would kill him.

But before he could try to extract an admission for the third time, hands grabbed hold of him and pulled him off of the man. Oberyn yelled in anger and thrashed in the firm grips, struggling to get to Oakheart again, who was grasping his neck and gasping desperately for breath.


Ellaria:

Ellaria had been leaving the nursery in order to lie down for the fiesta when Tyene came rushing up to her. Her adoptive daughter's blue eyes were filled with genuine fear and alarm, and she panted for breath, having run so fast to fetch her.

"What is it?" Ellaria demanded, alarm filling her at Tyene's state. Had Larra's distress the night before caused a miscarriage? Had Oberyn been hurt sparring? Or worse, was one of her girls harmed somehow? "What happened, Tyene?"

"Padre is trying to kill Ser Arys in the courtyard!" Tyene cried. "Mama, you must come quickly, he will not listen to anybody!"

Ellaria gasped, and took off at a run, hitching up her skirts to let herself go faster and avoid tripping. She nearly slipped and fell when she arrived, instantly spying Oberyn. He had been pulled away from the Kingsguard by Aero Hotah, Daemon, Arron and several other guards. He was struggling against their grip, trying to lunge at Oakheart again.

"Confess, craven!" Oberyn bellowed. "Say what you did to her! Say it!"

Ellaria understood why Oberyn was so enraged. Her own heart had been filled with more hatred than she had ever before felt the night before. But this was not the way to fix things. Larra would only feel worse, blaming herself for Ser Arys' death, regardless of how justified that death would be. Not to mention the problems it would create with the Crown, causing conflict before Dorne was ready for it.

Doran was with Mellario near to his brother's side, trying to reason with Oberyn. But the Red Viper was too far lost in his fury to hear his brother, either commanding or reasoning with him.

"Oberyn!" Ellaria cried, shoving her way through the gathered crowd to his side. "Oberyn, Oberyn stop! You must stop this!"

Where his friends and brother's voices had failed to reach him, her own did not. Oberyn's struggled lessened slightly, and he responded to her in a tight voice filled with despairing fury.

"He must admit what he did to her!" he insisted. "He needs to pay for what he did! You saw her last night, you have seen her back! He did that!"

"He helped to do that," she corrected him. She suppressed a grimace as she discreetly glanced around the courtyard. It would not be difficult for the court to put the pieces together, and then Larra would be mortified. "And yes, he must. But this is not the way, my love. This is not the time. Calm yourself, my prince. Calm yourself, and come with me to see Larra and our girls. The sight will ease you."

Oberyn slumped, appearing to give in. But the men restraining him did not loosen their grips. If anything, they tightened it. Their suspicions were proven correct a moment later, when he let out another animalistic howl and once again tried to throw himself at the knight.

"Confess, you cur!" Oberyn snarled.

"I, I," the man stammered. He looked to Ellaria, as if he hoped she would help him. She gave him the coldest look she could muster, hoping he could read the contempt and disgusted hatred she held for him in her expression. If not for the reaction Larra would have at the man's death, she would not have bothered to intervene. Perhaps she would have helped instead, for Larra's utter despair and grief shattered her heart into smaller pieces with each new revelation.

"I tried to protest!" the man cried. "The first time, I said that she was a child, innocent of her father and uncle's crimes. But King Joffrey said that only a traitor would defend a traitor's child and- I tried to be gentle, to only hit her where her gowns were thickest."

He continued babble excuses for his cowardice-induced cruelty, as the audience grew contemptuous and disgusted by the words coming from his mouth. It was thoughts of Larra, how humiliated she would feel to have this spread over the palace, that caused Ellaria to stride over to her lover and kiss him deeply. After several moments, he began to ease and return her kiss.

The other knights released their prince, but remained ready to grab his again if necessary. Though by now they probably wanted to help him in his desire for revenge, not prevent it.

"Come with me, my love," she urged Oberyn after pulling away from him. "We will hold our love, see our children. Think of how Larra will feel, should you kill him."

He sighed and leaned his forehead against hers for a moment, before pulling away to glare icily at the cowering Kingsguard. Ellaria sneered at the pathetic man in contemptuous loathing.

"Make no mistake, you live purely because Ellaria intervened," he warned him. "But know this: you will never be in my wife's presence again. Should you enter a room she is in, or the reverse, you will leave instantly, giving her all the respect she is due to as a Lady Paramount and a Princess. Should I learn that you have so much as breathed too loudly near her, should you ever force her to endure your presence again, you will wish that I slit your throat.

And you will stay away from my daughters and niece, also. If I learn you have tainted the air that they breathe with your foul breath, I will kill you. Understood?"

He waited until the shivering man had nodded fearfully, before coldly turning his back, taking Ellaria's arm in his own, and stalking away, shoulders rigid.

"It is only a stay of execution," he whispered to her as they headed back to their chambers where Larra was resting, worn out from the unfamiliarity of the Dornish heat and their travel. "But I will have his head soon enough. His and all the others who helped in her torment."

"You will, beloved," she replied softly, tracing a soothing pattern on his wrist. "You will. But for now, Larra must be our chief concern, not vengeance."

He lifted her hand to his lips to brush a kiss over it gently. "Te amo, mi amor (I love you, my love).""Te amo también (I love you too)," she responded easily and lovingly.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. The moment everyone has been waiting for: the Stark siblings' reunion! I hope you like it!

Read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Twenty-One

The Reunion of the Wolves

Shadow City: April 27 th , 299 AC

Larra:

Larra knew that it was a bad idea, and probably very selfish too. She was putting not only herself but also her unborn babe at risk. It was unforgivable of her.

She ought to alert her husband to the contents of the note she'd found in her bedchamber that morning. She ought to admit to Ser Daemon that she had not asked to go to the bazaar because she wanted to choose some new cloth for the clothes she was sewing for her approaching babe, as she had claimed to him.

But she could not bring herself to do so.

There was a strong chance that the whole thing was a trap, she knew that perfectly well. It could be one of the Starks' enemies, or those of the Martells. It could be one of her husband's many personal enemies, eager to snatch away his wife to use her against him. Her condition had not been formerly announced to the public, but she knew that it became more obvious with each day that passed. She was being a reckless fool, endangering herself and her babe.

But the note had been written in the Old Tongue, and signed with Robb's signature. Surely, nobody could mimic it so well?

Gerold could, a voice whispered in the back of her mind, as she pretended to compare two lengths of orange cloth, nodding absently to the merchant's cheerful words, though in reality she had no idea what he was saying. Gerold had always been wonderful at copying people's handwriting. How many times did he get out of doing something he did not wish to do by forging a note in Máthair or Athair's writing and giving it to their tutors, or pull a prank by leaving love notes in others' rooms? Gerold was good at the Old Tongue, too. He was so intelligent, her father had asked if he wanted to attend the University, or even the Citadel. He had refused the offer, saying that he did not wish to be an academic. But he could have forged that note easily.

She sighed and placed down the fabric in her left hand, choosing the other purely to end the whole farce. The merchant waved her off when she attempted to pay him. The Martells were as beloved by the people of Dorne as the Starks were by their own people, and it was rare that a vendor would accept her coin.

"No, no, Princesa (Princess)!" he exclaimed. "I am honoured to know that my cloth will be used by a Martell! Es gratis para usted (It is free for you-formal)."

"Muchas gracias, Señor (Thank you very much, sir)," she replied, giving in, though she discreetly left some coins on the table as she turned away. Usually, she would have argued with him to let her pay, but not today. It was nearly time, and she had to decide if she would go or not. And, if she decided to go, she had to slip away from her vigilant guard as well.

Whom was she trying to fool? Of course, she would go.

For all that none of her attempts to reach Tai's mind since her accidental warg on the ship had worked, for all that she knew the likelihood of this being a cruel trick was higher than she could count, she was still going to go. She would go because there was a faint chance that it wasn't a trick, that Robb and Arya really were alive. Nothing could ever keep her from them if they were. Not even the knowledge that she would terrify her husband and lover by disappearing without a word or a guard.

In truth, she had made her decision the moment that she had failed to go and tell her husband or Ellaria or anyone else about the note in her rooms. She knew that, when they learned she had disappeared, they would all be frantic for her and the babe. The entirety of Sunspear and the Shadow City would probably go into an uproar, assuming the worst had happened and she had been kidnapped.

At least if it were a trap, they would learn of it early enough.

It was selfish of her to go when she knew how everyone would react, and reckless too. Oberyn had repeatedly reminded her that she needed to be careful when in the bazaar, that she needed to have a guard with her whenever there. It was not like Wintercity, with few foreign merchants visiting, and all of the residents willing to die for the Starks who protected them in return. There were many thieves and lowlives constantly passing through the ramshackle city. She was deliberately disobeying him for the first time, endangering herself and their child in the process.

For all there were far more reasons for her to return to the palace than there were for her to take the risk, Larra would still do it.

"Pack is everything, and everything is the pack," her father had told them a million times. "When all else fails you, you shall always have your family. The pack comes first. Always."

She needed, more than anything, to know if the note was real. She had to know if Robb and Arya lived. She would go mad with wondering if she didn't go.

The thought of bringing someone with her never occurred to her. After all, if it was a trap, then bringing someone else would put that person at risk. Larra was not the type of person to let others put themselves in danger on behalf. In her eyes, too many people had died for her to live already, and she would do whatever necessary to prevent that body count from rising.

She made her way back to Daemon, who was waiting for her to finish only a few steps away, and he reached out to take the fabric from her. "Here, Princess, let me," he insisted.

She handed it back to him with a thanks, before adjusting her headwrap and considering how to escape his watchful eye as he led her to the drinking fountain and urged her to refresh herself. She debated how to slip away as she sipped from the water, relieved by the soothing liquid wetting her dry throat and its' freshness on her face when she splashed her cheeks and forehead. She did not think it would be an easy task to do.

None of the guards in the service of the Martells could be considered lax. They reminded her of the Warg Guard, actually. They were constantly on guard and ready to throw themselves between their charges and a threat. But Daemon, who was close friends with her husband and Oberyn's former squire, took particular care when it came to watching over her, especially since he was one of the few who knew for sure that she was in a delicate condition.

She was helped by a conveniently-timed argument breaking out between two men nearby. They had just been tossed out from a bar, and their yelling quickly turned into out-right fisticuffs.

Daemon glanced at them, putting down the cloth on the edge of the fountain they were beside. "Stay here a moment, Princess," he instructed her. "I'll go and sort this out quickly, then we ought to head back to the palace for the fiesta. Just wait a minute."

She nodded silently, waiting until he was gone and looking around. Everyone was focused on the argument or their own things. Nobody was paying her any attention at all. It was as if the gods themselves were helping her.

She turned on her heel and strode down a nearby alleyway, taking off her Martell-orange veil and replacing it with a yellow one she'd disguised as a belt to ensure her features could not be seen properly and identified. She needed to reach the outskirts of the city before they noticed that she was gone and sealed it off.


Daemon:

Daemon left the two men slumped unhappily in the grips of several members of the city guard, returning to his princess' side.

But she was not where he had left her.

He felt his breath catch, but forced himself to remain calm. Perhaps she had simply gotten too hot and moved into a more shaded area to wait for him. It would not be like her, as she would know it would worry him and she was ever-anxious to ensure that those around her were comfortable, but the babe she carried made her weary. Perhaps she had felt faint and needed to sit down. He scanned the area, but could not spy any sign of the pregnant princess. Then he saw the cloth she had bought, left abandoned on the side of the fountain, and he knew that the worst had occurred.

The men had not been squabbling over a tab after all, he suddenly understood. They had deliberately fought loudly so as to draw his attention away to them and away from his charge. She had not cried out, so somebody must have placed a sedative-laced cloth over her mouth to subdue her quietly.

He turned on his heel and ran over to where the guardsmen who were still securing the prisoners to drag them to the dungeons for an overnight stay.

"Where is she?" he barked at the nearer of the conspirators, grabbing his collar. "Where is Princess Alarra, you treacherous cur?"

"What?" the man cried, playing innocent and widening his eyes.

Daemon cursed. There was no time for this. He looked at the guards, who were on-guard and worried-looking. "The princess has been kidnapped, they must be in on it. Have the city sealed off, shut down the docks. Sound the alarm. They cannot have gotten far with her."

"Aye, aye," the captain nodded, before starting to give urgent instructions to his men, who were quick to run and fulfil their orders. The two captives were loudly insisting that they had nothing to do with the princess' disappearance as they were roughly dragged away for interrogation, as if such timing could be a mere coincidence.

Daemon, meanwhile, rushed back to his horse and swung on its' back, kicking it into a gallop and racing back towards Sunspear.

He needed to warn the rest of the Martells what had happened. He dreaded Prince Oberyn's reaction. Daemon would not blame him if his lord slit his throat.

He would never forgive himself should anything happen to the kind young princess who had already suffered so greatly.


Sunspear:

Oberyn:

He was bent over some documents with Doran in his brother's study, working through the latest news from the Marches.

"Bandits," Doran mused. "If they are coming from the Marches, like as not they are refugees fleeing the Reach-Stormlands fighting."

"Aye," Oberyn agreed. "I can lead a group to hunt them down?"

"No, no," Doran dismissed the proposal. "This is Larra's first pregnancy, she will be distressed if you are off hunting brigands. We do not wish to distress her."

"No," Oberyn agreed. "You are correct, of course. I did not think of that." He clicked his tongue, irritated at himself for offering without thinking it through properly. Larra was much improved from the young maid who'd feared to meet his eyes least he raise a hand to her, but carrying women had delicate emotions even without going through everything that his wife had been through. "Who will we assign then?"

"How about Obara?" Doran suggested. "She can-"

He was cut off by a loud peal of bells suddenly ringing out. Even Doran's vaunted composure cracked, his eyes widening as he struggled to rise from his chair. Oberyn himself felt his heart stop in horrified recognition as the doors burst open and guards came charging in. He could not recall the last time he had heard that sound, unless it was a drill that he had been alerted to beforehand. This was not one of those times.

Those particular bells were only rung to alert the guards that a Martell had been attacked, warning them that the rest of the family needed to be secured.

"Your Highnesses, we must take you to the secure point immediately," Aero declared, speaking for once. He kept a hand on his swordhilt and scanned the room, as if he thought assassins were hidden in the curtains of the Prince's solar.

Oberyn wanted to argue and go racing to find his girls, but he knew that was foolish. His family would all be taken to that same point. It would be quicker for him to simply go without a protest.

"Fine, let's go," he barked. "I'll push Doran, move!"

They went, Oberyn doing his best not to hurt his brother and still go as quickly as he could. Who had been attacked?

****

When they arrived, Mellario and Ellaria were both there with the younger children and Quentyn. Tyene and Arianne were hustled into the room several moments later, Obara and Nym came a few moments later with Sarella and Laena.

Oberyn felt sick as he scanned the group. "Where's Larra?" he demanded, voice hoarse with suppressed panic. He was not the only one frantic.

Ellaria was looking around the windowless room wildly, her eyes wide and worried as she clutched Lorie in her arms. At six-years-old, their youngest child was technically too old to be carried by her mother, but she was in tears and they would not deny her comfort when she was frightened. Lia had broken from her stubborn sulking to cling to her mother's side, eyes shining and lower lip trembling. Dorea and Obella were hiccupping and crying in Mellario's embrace, as was Myrcella. Trystane was attempting to hide his own fear and upset, but failing. Oberyn would have tried to help soothe their distress, were it not for the fact that a vital part of his family was missing.

Somebody had been attacked, but it was not one of the people in the safe room. Meaning that...

"She went to the bazaar," Laena whimpered, pale and shaken as she clutched Sarella's hand. "We had to meet Lady Santager, we offered to go with her if she would wait but she said that she wanted to go for a walk before the fiesta. Oh gods, we should have gone with her."

"This is not your fault," Ellaria assured her without a glance, her gaze on Oberyn. "Oberyn, she-"

Daemon came in then, grim and promptly kneeled and bowed his head before Oberyn. "My prince, I-"

"Where is my wife?" Oberyn cut him, struggling to suppress his panic. "You were assigned to watch her today, there has been an attack and she is not here yet you are. Where is she?"

He had an image of Larra that morning in his mind's eye. He had risen early to go sparring, and she had stirred long enough to kiss him and mumble unintelligibly before returning to sleep, curling against Ellaria with their paramour's hand resting over their unborn babe.

Had that been the last time he would ever see his sweet she-wolf wife?

Daemon did not look up from the ground and his voice was low as he spoke. "Her Highness wished to go to the bazaar and pick up some new cloth for some clothes for the babe. Just before we were going to return to the palace, a pair of men began fighting in the street. I believe that they were part of a conspiracy, faking an argument to distract me from the princess. They succeeded. No members of the city guard were around, and so I took it upon myself to go over and sort them out. I left the princess beside the fountain, in broad daylight with a dozen witnesses around her. I can only assume that they must have put a cloth with some sort of sedative on it over her mouth in order to subdue her without a struggle. I-"

Oberyn could listen no more. Ellaria was moaning in distress, for once losing the composure she was so good at maintaining. All Oberyn could think was that he had promised Larra he would take her riding this afternoon, yet now that would not happen. He had not broken a promise to her before, yet now he had broken the most important ones he had given to her. He had sworn to her that she would be safe in Dorne, had placed his cloak of protection over her shoulders and vowed to her that she would never be hurt again once she was his wife.

He had failed her.

Storming past Daemon, whom he feared he would try and beat to death if he looked in his eyes, Oberyn rushed out of the doors. He ignored his family's calls for him, instead starting to bark orders at the various, grim-faced soldiers spread out over the hallway. Obara joined him quickly, but Daemon had the sense to stay out of his way.

Doran called to him as he went for the stables. The city was on lockdown, and Oberyn would search the entire place room-by-room if necessary.

"What?" he snapped at his elder brother, trembling with the need to go and find his wife. Gods, what if the Lannisters had managed to get a disguised agent into the Shadow City to steal her?

"You will find her, Oberyn," Doran stated, as certain as if he were saying that the sky was blue. "She will be fine. Calm yourself, the gods are on our side."

Oberyn did not reply, twisting on his heel and hurrying down to the stables.


Shadow City:

Robb:

Robb swallowed. His throat was tight and his eyes burned, but it wasn't due to the heat for once.

For the first time in three years, since that godsawful day when their family had started to collapse, he was seeing his sister in person. Not through the eyes of an animal he had warged into, but through his own. She was right in front of him and Arya, close enough to touch if he could bring himself to break the spell that had fallen over them as soon as she entered the abandoned dock warehouse they had been waiting in.

Larra was staring right back at them, just as dazed. She was dressed in a way that would have sent their dear mother into shock, and Robb's brotherly side heavily disapproved of how much skin she was showing, though she was certainly better than many of the women in Dorne. She had tears shimmering in her eyes, and one hand was covering her mouth whilst the other was pressed against the gentle swell of her abdomen.

Pregnant. He had known already, but it was still a shock.

"Larra," Robb finally managed to force out her name. It seemed as if some barrier had been broken by his voice, and suddenly she was sobbing freely and flinging herself into their welcoming embrace. They were all clinging to one another, weeping and babbling shamelessly. The wolves howled their own delight and bounded over, prompting a fresh wave of tears from Larra as she flung her arms around Taibhse's thick neck.

"I cannot believe it," she wept. "I had a wolf dream but- When I got the note, I could hardly believe my eyes. I thought that it must be some sort of trap, but I couldn't not come."

"We've missed you so much," Arya sniffled. She looked like a little girl for once, instead of the hard young warrior woman she had started to become after the first time they had killed a man attempting to rape Arya and steal their supplies.

"How did you get here?" Larra interrogated them.

They were slumped on the ground by now, tangled in one another's embrace the way they had done as young children in their parents' large bed. Robb felt a sting at that. No, not quite that way. Were it that way, Bran and Alayne would have been there too, with their parents joining them, Father on one side and Mother on the other, their arms meeting in the middle to link their hands together as they held their children. Robb could still recall the last time they had done so, the eve before they had gone to the thrice-cursed capital. He had never dreamed it would not happen again. If only he'd had the sense to savour it, instead of asking questions about the south.

To think, he and Arya had been excited to leave Winterfell for once. Larra herself had wept bitter tears over Athair declaring that she was to come, complaining that she didn't want to leave their home and trying to persuade him to leave her behind. She had always been the smartest of them.

"We heard that you had been killed in the, the attack," Robb explained, stumbling over the mention of That Day. Larra's expression briefly darkened, and she leaned her head deeper onto his shoulder, tugging absently at one of Arya's tangles.

"We fled the city after, after the executions," he went on. "It was moons before we heard that you were alive, and by then we were so far. We had no way to break you out, so we were heading to Moat Cailin to get help from Uncle Ben to get you back. We found the wolves, or maybe they found us, when we reached the Riverlands. Then, when we were near to Riverrun, we heard that you had been married, and to a burner! We headed for Dorne straight away, we assumed that he would bring you here. We managed to make our way here through the Marches, no trouble thank the Old Gods. When we heard of your marriage we thought that- we assumed the worst, but we've been warging into birds and watching you and- Tell us, Larra, please."

She exhaled heavily and looked away, rubbing her belly. "Oberyn has never once so much as raised his voice at me," she began at last, returning her gaze to them. "Let alone harmed me. 'Twould be unthinkable for him. I promise that he is the best of men, and Ellaria is wonderful."

"You seemed comfortable around them," Robb acknowledged. "But still, they are-" Robb grimaced. What if his sister was unaware that her spouses (well, Robb assumed it was so from the interactions they had witnessed but he had been under the impression that burners did not allow polygamous marriages) were lying with others? If she cared for them, he did not want to be the one to have to hurt her, especially when they had just reunited.

All the same, if she did not know, then it was proof that the Viper and the others were all deceiving her somehow. Robb doubted that his sensible and clever sister would be so easily hoodwinked, but it was possible. It had been so long, they had all gone through so much. Did they even know anything about each other anymore?

"Dornish?" Larra gave a rueful smile and shrugged. Robb could picture the fond and stern look Máthair would have shot her upon spying the gesture. "They are not so fixed on such things. I confess, I am less comfortable with how liberal and open they are than I let myself show, but truly, I am not pained. Oberyn and Ellaria love me, and our babe. Please, trust my word."

They loved her, Robb noted. But did she love them back? Or had his sister traded happiness for safety and vengeance? It was obvious from their discussions that the Martells were plotting the downfall of the lions, after all. Something that Robb thoroughly approved of. But he loathed the thought of his wonderful sister being miserable in her marriage. If only Baratheon had never summoned Athair south to be Hand, their family would be alive and Larra would be preparing to marry Torrhen by now.

Gods, Torrhen. Robb had not even considered how his old friend would feel. He had worshipped Larra, and been eager to wed her. How pained would he be, to know that she had wed another to save herself from the Lannisters? That was clearly her motive for the marriage, after all.

"But he's a southron, a burner!" Arya was protesting, looking betrayed. She had been adamant that Larra was putting on a show to fool the Martells. Clearly, she was less than pleased to learn that she was wrong. "They are the enemy, Larra! How can you-"

"The Lannisters are the enemy!" Larra declared shrilly, scrambling out of their embrace to plant her hands on her hips and glower down at them. She looked so very like Máthair in that moment, Robb felt himself inhale sharply. "The Lannisters are the ones who killed our family! The Greyjoys, Gerold! They are our enemies! Not my husband and his family. They saved me, they did not leave me to die in the capital, which is more than I can say for anyone alive who shares blood with me!"

They both recoiled, and Larra's temper instantly dosed. She looked pained dropping her hands to her sides and biting her lip.

"I did not mean that," she whispered. "I truly did not. I just- All the letters I get from the Winterlands, everyone seems certain that I am a naïve fool, being swindled by a seducer. But truly, answer me this. Why would he still be bothering to put on a show now?

Before the marriage, to get me to trust him, yes. I feared such too, in spite of his promises. I freely admit it. Even after, I was wary of him for some time. But so long after, what would be the point? If he wanted to beat me black and bloody and force himself on me nightly, the law gives him that power. There is no point to him putting up a show such as this for so long. He and Ellaria say that they love me, and I believe it. Now, I need you two to believe me. Please."

Robb let out a slow breath, glancing at Arya who was looking at the ground.

"Please," Larra whispered, the violet eyes she had inherited from their mother glimmering with another wave of tears, but these were caused by sorrow instead of happiness. It stung to see her so sad. Larra had always been quiet, solemn and thoughtful. She had Athair's character. But she had not been sad before their family had been broken.

"Come back to Sunspear with me," she begged. "Bring the wolves, you will see what I do. Direwolves see a person's soul, they will like him I swear."

"Well," Robb gave a wavering smile. "I know that 'tis a little late, but I still must deliver the 'harm my sister and I will feed you to my direwolf speech', mustn't I?"

She started to smile hopefully, looking to Arya.

Their younger sister huffed and gave a curt nod, crossing her arms and looking sulky. "Fine," she muttered. "But you were my sister first, and I am going to remind them of that."

Larra laughed. It was like the first breath of spring after Winter, Robb thought. Everything was not alright, not yet. Not ever again. But he was with his two sisters and their wolves. The pack was together again, and they would endure, as Starks did.

They were no longer lone wolves.


Oberyn:

"We have finished searching the area she disappeared from, Your Highness," Ser Dezial Dalt informed him grimly. His jaw was tense and his expression grim. "There is no sign of her anywhere within a six-mile radius, though the search continues."

Oberyn clenched his hands into fists, feeling his nails dig into his palms, and studied the map. He was clinging to his sense with all his strength, trying to keep from losing control. Only the knowledge that he would be more likely to make things worse for his missing wife persuaded him to do so.

"So, we have searched the whole area, and nothing," he muttered. "Gods damn it all, how is it that nobody spotted her be taken?"

At his left side, Arron shrugged grimly, frowning deeply at the map. "She must be in the city somewhere," the knight pointed out, for the thousandth time. "The Threefold Gate was shut within less than an hour of her disappearance. If-"

A chorus of yells started, and Oberyn felt his head snap up, his heart jumping into his throat. He shoved himself away from the table and rushed towards the source of the shouting.

'Please, Seven Old Gods, Venus,' he sent up prayers to both his own gods and those of his two loves. 'Let it be her, let her and the child be well. Please, please.'

He gasped in shock when he saw the approaching group, instantly understanding what had caused his soldiers, many of them hardened veterans, to shake in fear.

Oberyn had never seen a direwolf before. The Starks had not brought their companions with them to the Harrenhal tourney, and Ned Stark's Laochra had been left behind with his men during his stop at Sunspear all of those years ago.

Larra had described and sewn her beloved Taibhse, and he had seen drawings of the animals in books. But descriptions and pictures were one thing.

In person, they truly took one's breath away.

He could tell immediately which one was Taibhse, even without Larra. She was pure white, though her fur had been shaved close, with crimson eyes that took everything in with an almost-human intelligence. She was larger than the two other wolves beside her, though admittedly not by much. She was the size of a small sand steed stallion, large enough for Larra to ride on her easily, which was exactly what his wife was doing.

The other direwolves, one with smokey grey fur and yellow eyes, the other similar but with slightly darker colouring, were also carrying two people, and Oberyn studied them, taking in their features as best he could in the fading light that haloed the group. He could guess whom they were. It was without a doubt one of the most stunning sights he had ever seen, regardless of the wolves' presence. Arya Stark and Robb Snow lived.

He pushed away his shock and ran forward towards his wife. The wolves tensed slightly, but calmed quickly when their warg-mates patted them soothingly as they dismounted. His young goodsiblings studied him suspiciously, but he ignored them so as to scoop Larra into his arms and kiss her deeply and passionately.

"Are you alright, my love?" he breathed at her after pulling away. He cupped her jaw and studied her worriedly, searching for any sign of harm. He could guess now what had happened, and part of him was furious with her. But he was far too relieved to feel her breathing in his arms, her stomach pressed against him, to do aught but ignore that anger. At least for now. "By the Gods, I feared that-" he cut himself off and kissed her again.

"I am well, forgive me for causing such distress," she replied. "But I-they are, I had to-"

"We will speak of it later," he cut her off. "For now, whom are these people? I think I can guess, but I would have you confirm it for me."

She stepped back. Taibhse moved forward, and Oberyn tensed, sensing his men do the same, as the direwolf moved her black nose closer to sniff at him.

Larra and her siblings watched with wide eyes of anticipation and nerves, and Oberyn had the strangest feeling that this meant more to them than he could currently understand. The animal ran its snout along his arm, then let out a growl and, to Oberyn's surprise and relief, licked the side of his face as if it were a regular house dog and not a wild animal kept under control through his wife's willpower.

Larra let out a relieved sigh and smiled. She shot a look at her siblings, who inclined their heads. Oberyn could recognize a set of siblings speaking silently easily. How many times had he done so with Doran or Elia? He wondered if he had just passed some sort of test. It certainly seemed so. Some, though not all, of the pair's tension had eased.

Despite that, their guards remained up in a way unnatural and unhealthy for youths of their ages, and he grieved for all that they had been through. Like his wife, they had been badly damaged by all they had gone through, but in a different way to Larra. It made sense. Larra had needed to act one way to protect herself as much as possible, whilst her siblings had (apparently) been on the run, and needed to act differently to stay alive and together.

"My lord husband, I wish to introduce you to my siblings," Larra declared. There was a lightness he had never seen her with wrapped around her, a weight seemingly lifted from her shoulders. Despite how stricken he still felt at the day's events, he was delighted to see it. "Arya Stark and Robb Snow of Winterfell. Robb, Arya, this is my husband, Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne."

"Welcome to Dorne," he smiled at the pair. Though they were not so tense as they had been before Taibhse had apparently decided that she liked him, they still looked tense and wary. These two had been through a great deal, and Oberyn deeply regretted that he had not known they lived. If he had even suspected it, he would have had men searching high and low for them, for their own sakes and as well as for Larra's.

"Thank you, Your Highness," Robb Snow said after a moment, keeping one hand tangled into his wolf's shorn coat. He had Tully blue eyes and dirty hair, and it looked like it had been moons since he'd had a meal that consisted of more than a slice of bread and cheese, and longer too since he'd had a proper wash. Young Arya was the same, but her own anger was blazing. They both had swords at their hips, and he saw two, much larger, blades strapped to the wolves' sides.

Was it possible? He hardly dared to think it, least his assumption be wrong and Larra upset.

"Our wolves eat humans, you know," Arya noted abruptly, glaring at him sullenly.

He raised an eyebrow, a mixture of amused and saddened. Amused because she was a girl of eleven namedays and threatening him, a famed warrior. Saddened because all he had to do was glance in their eyes and he knew that they had killed before.

"Arya!" Larra exclaimed, looking horrified. "You cannot say things like that! They do not. Not unless they are told to, which they will not be!" She glared firmly at her sister, who shrugged indifferently at her sister's chiding.

"I was only mentioning it," the younger Stark grumbled in reply. "Can we please get out of this dratted heat? I feel as if I am going to burst into flames."

"I fear for my kingdom once Obara meets you," Oberyn mused. Larra had commented once, looking sad, that his description of his eldest when she was young, reminded her of Arya Stark. He saw what she meant, but his daughter's eyes had never been so resentful and pained, even in the worst of her moods. "But yes, I quite agree. Back to Sunspear, if you would follow me." He scooped Larra up into his arms as he spoke and began carrying her back to the castle, her siblings and the wolves following.

"Larra, you are going straight to our rooms, where Caleotte will examine you," he informed her briskly, taking care not to jostle her as he carried her. She looked embarrassed by her position, but he did not care. He could see the faint signs of the sun sickness starting in her face, and was anxious to get her into the shade and drinking as quickly as he could.

"Oh, but I do not-" she began to protest.

He cut her off, voice sharper than he usually allowed it to be with his wife. Relief was starting to war properly with anger now as it dawned on him that she had deliberately disobeyed his orders and gone wandering the shadow city alone and unguarded. He only had a few rules for her, but all of them were for her safety and he expected her to follow them. It was entirely unacceptable for her to endanger herself, and he was getting angry with her now.

"Larra, I have spent the past few hours fearing that you were kidnapped or murdered. Do not test me on this, you will go straight to bed and let the maester look you over."

Guilt flashed through her eyes, and a part of him was glad to see it. At least she realized that she had been foolish. Hopefully it would prevent her acting so recklessly again.

"Aye," she whispered softly. "I am sorry, Oberyn. I did not want-I never wanted to frighten anyone."

He sighed and would have rubbed his temples were his hands free, feeling the weariness beginning to press in on him. "Later, Larra. Later, we will discuss what happened today. But right now, I just want to hear from Caleotte that you and the babe are well."

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks for the reviews and such, you guys! Glad you're all as happy as I am that the siblings are together again.

BTW, according to canon, Oberyn is around 41 during the series, and he and Elia were both in their mid-twenties during the Rebellion. Doran would've been in his thirties at that point. I'm deaging them all by a decade. So, Oberyn was 17 when the Rebellion started, 18 when it ended, and is now 33. Ellaria is a year younger than him. Princess Elia was 18 at the start of the war, and died at 19.

Finally, there is a small section of Ellaria and Oberyn speaking in Rhoynish with one another. When having a conversation with more than just one or two sentences in the other language: bold italics will be Rhoynish , and underlined italics will be the Old Tongue.

As usual, read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Twenty-Two

Lovers' Quarrels and Spousal Decrees

Sunspear: April 27th, 299 AC

Ellaria:

The only time that Ellaria had ever felt so frightened was while Oberyn was fighting the Mountain. She had been sewing a new dress for Dorea to replace the one she had outgrown and gossiping casually with Mellario and some of the Princess Consort's ladies-in-waiting when the alarm had sounded. The guards had come running in at full speed, grabbing Ellaria and Mellario and half-carrying them both to the secure room. Despite trying to keep herself calm for the sake of her panicked and upset daughters, Ellaria had nearly swooned in horror when it became obvious that Larra was missing.

At least Oberyn had been able to go out and do something. Ellaria had been forced to stay behind in the secure room, trying to sooth the children whilst attempting to hide her fear for her pregnant lover at the same time. Horrific scenarios of what might have been happening to the sweet young Lady of the North had swirled around Ellaria's head the whole time, ranging from her being raped by a criminal to her being abducted by Lannister men, basically the same thing.

The news that Larra had been found alive and well and had been taken to her rooms had overwhelmed her and made her start crying in pure relief. She had immediately left, rushing to be at her loves' sides.

She had still been in tears when she had burst into the chambers to find Oberyn waiting impatiently for news and two sullen and thin children in desperate need of a wash glaring suspiciously at everyone and thing around them.

"Oberyn!" Ellaria had exclaimed upon arrival. "Is she well? Is the babe? What happened, where was she?"

Oberyn strode over to her and pulled her into his embrace, kissing her deeply. She could sense his lingering anger and panic in the way he gripped her hips as if she were his anchor to sanity. Sometimes, Ellaria knew that she was. He and Larra both relied on her to guide them when their pasts affected them too much for them to cope properly.

Of their trio, Ellaria was only one who had not gone through anything overly traumatic and scarring. Her worst personal experience had been Loreza's difficult birth, and that was not an uncommon event. It had not overly affected her either. She was pained at not being able to birth anymore children for her lovers and her herself, but she had nine wonderful girls with a tenth on the way. Ellaria had been blessed not to have suffered any lost children, and she knew that.

Oberyn and Larra, however, both had many scars, both on their bodies and their minds. When she had first met her princely lover, Princess Elia had been dead for just over a year. He had yet to claim any of his other children, save for Laena, and he had not been the father he was now. He had alternated between avoiding the child he felt he had stolen from Elia and showering Laena with affection and gifts. Unsurprisingly, she had been growing spoiled and wild from the lack of boundaries. Ellaria had initially joined Sunspear's court as a lady for Princess Mellario. Laena had taken to her quickly, and the Princess Consort had quickly put Ellaria in charge of the girl, as Ellaria had been one of the few that could calm the girl when she was throwing a tantrum.

That position had of course brought her into contact with the Red Viper, who had been more than a little shocked by a lady scolding him for his parenting abilities.

***

The Water Gardens: December 18 th , 285 AC

"Your Highness, might I speak with you?"

The men sparring in the courtyard stopped their clashing at her call, and the prince approached her with a bemused look.

Ellaria knew that this was not, perhaps, her best idea. Especially given the fact that everybody knew of Prince Oberyn's instability since the princess' death and those of her children. But she was starting to adore little Lady Laena as her own, and she had been assigned to care for the child. Laena had no mother, and her father was too wrapped up in his grief to pay attention to his child. When he did come to visit her, he showered her in guilt-laced affection and gifts, encouraging bad habits and leaving the child more distraught than she had been before once he had left again.

Ellaria was not going to stand for it any longer, for Elaena's sake.

He glanced at her, and Ellaria could tell that he didn't recognize her. A year or so ago, like as not he would have flirted with her. But everyone knew that the Viper Prince had not been lying with anyone lately, too busy trying to convince his brother to agree to rebel against the Usurper or venting his rage on anybody suicidal enough to agree to spar with him.

"I am Ellaria Sand of House Uller," she added. "I run Lady Elaena's household. I need to speak with you about her."

Alarm flashed over his expression and he quickly gave her his full attention. He was a bad father, but she did not doubt that he loved Laena. That was why she had decided to confront him.

"Is something wrong with Laena?" he demanded, looking frantic. "Has she been hurt?"

Ellaria swallowed, reminded herself that this was for Laena's own good. "Yes, my prince, she has," Ellaria declared boldly. She hurried to continue before he could say anything more or go running to his daughter's side. " You are hurting her."

Prince Oberyn recoiled, looking stricken and angry. "How dare you? I have never laid a finger on Laena, nor have I so much as raised my voice to her! How dare you-"

"You are failing her as a father!" Ellaria snapped. She planted her hands on her hips and glared at him, raising her chin defiantly. "You barely come to see her. You see her so little, you could not recognize me despite my being in charge of her household for almost three moons now. When you do come, all you do is give her gifts and praise without actually giving her any real attention. You stay for less than an hour, then leave for Venus knows how long again. You have not responded to any reports I have sent to you in regards to her education or her health. Are you even reading them? She misses you. She is troubled by her mother's death still, she calls for you when she has nightmares. Yet you do not come.

So yes, Your Highness, I dare to say that you are hurting your daughter. I dare because 'tis true."

The prince stared at her. His eyes were wide with shock and his face pale and stunned. His sparring companion, Ser Arron Qorgyle she now recognized, also looked at her in shock for her harsh words to the prince. Ellaria wondered when the last time someone had spoken to him in such a manner was. Everyone had been treating him like glass since Princess Elia's death. Perhaps what he really needed to heal was to be reminded that he might have lost a beloved sister, but that did not mean he had lost everyone.

"I know that you are grieving, my prince," she continued more gently. "Princess Elia's death and those of her babes were horrific tragedies. And I know that Lady Laena looks very much like your sister and the resemblance must hurt you. But do not punish your daughter for the lions' actions. The princess was a compassionate woman who loved her family, she would not want it."

He exhaled shakily, running a hand through his curls and swallowing before he straightened, looking resolved. "Thank you, Lady Sand," he murmured after a moment. "I deserved that. My apologies for my initial reaction. You are entirely correct. I never meant to-" He paused and swallowed again, closing his eyes briefly. "I never meant to hurt Laena. That was the last thing I ever wanted to do, please believe me on that."

"I do," Ellaria assured him.

In spite of her anger towards him for his neglect of her charge, Ellaria felt sympathy for him. She could not imagine how difficult it must have been. He had gone to war at seven-and-ten to try and preserve his sister's safety in Aerys' hands, yet his almost-twin had still been murdered so very ruthlessly. And the ones who had spat on the corpses of her children had climbed onto the Iron Throne by wading through Martell blood. Then he had suddenly gained custody of his traumatized daughter without warning, and Prince Doran was yet to recover from the leg injury he had received during the war, leaving Prince Oberyn to travel around for the various duties of his family when needed. He was only recently turned twenty namedays. It was a great deal for one young man to deal with.

"You said that Laena is still having nightmares?" he asked. "I did not realize. She calls for me?"

"Aye," Ellaria confirmed with a nod, making him flinch slightly, wearing a look of guilt. "She calls for her Papa. Also for Ned and Arfur, perhaps Arthur, but I cannot say whom they are."

"The men who saved her," he replied hoarsely, running a hand through his hair again. "I, I will do better," he promised. "I swear. I will go to see her right now."

"She is having lessons right now," Ellaria informed him. "But we can speak over her progress and such while we wait on her to finish?"

"Excellent," he agreed. "Just give me a moment, and then I will come."

Ellaria smiled in satisfaction as she waited for him to speak quickly with his former foster-brother, before returning to her side and offering her his elbow. Hopefully now he would put his focus where it belonged: on his living daughter, instead of his dead sister.

****

Two moons later, Sarella had arrived in her mother's arms. The woman had given Oberyn custody of her daughter, declaring that she simply could not do it anymore, and unintentionally triggered a frantic quest to track down any other of Oberyn's children. He had been more than a little stricken with guilt to learn he'd had three other daughters he had not known of. Especially given the circumstances they had found Obara in.

"She is being examined now," Oberyn stated, breaking Ellaria from her memories. "But she seems well. It appears that she was not kidnapped after all, she simply went off alone without informing anybody of her plans."

His voice was tight with anger, and it made the two children eye him suspiciously. Ellaria noticed with concern that they both had swords at their sides, and clearly knew how to use them. Both of them looked familiar, but she could place their features under the dirt and sweat that coated their malnourished faces.

"What do you mean, Oberyn?" Ellaria asked, incredulous at his claim. "She would not do such a thing. It is not like our Larra at all. What-?"

"These are Lady Arya Stark and Lord Robb Snow of Winterfell," Oberyn interrupted her. "Larra's siblings. It seems that they are alive after all. They learned of their sister's location and came after her. They sent her a message to meet them this morning, and she decided it would be a good idea to go into what could very well have been a trap without alerting anybody."

Ellaria exhaled slowly and reached up to kiss her lover. He relaxed, but only slightly.

Ellaria herself was less than pleased with Larra's actions, but one of them needed to keep their head on straight. It had been up to Ellaria to act as Oberyn's anchor for a decade and a half now, and she intended to continue fulfilling that role for the rest of her life.

"Look on the bright side, my love," she whispered to her lover in Rhoynish. "She is safe, reunited with her siblings. They are safe now too, under the protection of the Martells. And this was as good as Larra yelling that she no longer has any fear of you."

He frowned at her, and she elaborated, aware that the two Starks were watching and probably eavesdropping intently, trying to decipher their words.

"You ordered her not to go out without guards, yet she disobeyed you. She trusts you enough to break the rules you give her. She knows that you will not hurt her for it, even if you discipline her."

"Did she have to disobey me when it comes to her safety?" he sighed in return.

"The only rules you give her are for her protection," Ellaria reminded him. "But we will all speak of this later."

She turned to smile at the two wary children. Were they really children, with such hard looks in their eyes and warrior-like airs? The gods had been hard on the Starks. Ellaria hoped it was not to prepare them for worse trials in the future.

"I am Ellaria Sand," she greeted them. "We are so pleased to see that you are well. Larra has missed you very much."

"Well, we are her family," Arya muttered, eyeing them stonily. Robb shot her a disapproving look, before glancing apologetically at Ellaria and Oberyn. There was no need for him to feel bad, of course. They had probably and justifiably feared the worst upon learning of Larra's marriage. And only the Gods and the pair themselves could say what had happened to them since they had disappeared. It was only natural that they were wary and on-edge.

Oberyn was about to speak when the door opened and everyone instantly turned their attention to Caleotte as he trotted out, leaning on his cane for support.

"How is Larra?" Robb blurted out, before anyone else could speak.

"Is she alright?" Arya added, glaring at the maester. "You did not do anything stupid and southron like bleeding her, did you? One of the idiots at the capital wanted to bleed me once, but Healer Amber always said that bleeding was dangerous so Athair forbade it. How are Larra and her babe?"

Caleotte blinked at the children, before giving a reassuring smile. "Princess Alarra is well. She needs to spend the next day or so abed, and drink plenty of fluids, but she is fine. I did not bleed her, I promise. She is asking for the two of you to come into her."

Ellaria felt an irrational sting that Larra was not asking for her or Oberyn, but she forced herself to understand. Larra had been separated from her beloved siblings for years, had thought them dead. Of course, she wanted to be close to them now that they were at last reunited with one another.

Ellaria still felt hurt, though.

The pair ran into the bedchamber, and Ellaria could hear Larra's voice mixing with her siblings' as the door shut.

Caleotte gave his goodbyes to herself and Oberyn, and they sat down tiredly on the chaise together, Oberyn running a hand through his hair and sighing heavily.

"What now?" he asked.

"Now?" Ellaria shrugged. "Now, we take a few minutes to breathe and be relieved that things turned out so well. Later, we will speak to our lover, and convince her never to frighten us so again."

He kissed her head, and they fell into a peaceful silence, listening to the muffled voices of the Starks.


Oberyn:

It was not until late that he was able to confront Larra on her actions. Her siblings had stayed with her until Arya had fallen asleep, at which point Ellaria had Shae and Arron take the pair to the rooms that Mellario had organized for them. The rest of the family, and probably all of the court, knew by now what had happened, but Arya and Robb had yet to be introduced to everyone.

Larra's expression was guilty when they were at last left alone together. He sat on one side of the bed and Ellaria on the other, and he allowed himself a moment to just look at his wife and savour the relief of knowing that she was alive and safe, in contrast to his earlier fears.

Her chestnut hair was pulled into a half-braid, and she wore only a thin shift, with a sheet covering her legs. Her cheeks, which darkened more to gold daily, were flushed and rosy. Many a woman glowed when they carried a babe, and Larra was certainly one of them. She was wonderful with the children, too, despite Lia's on-going, though gradually decreasing, hostility. He'd sire half-a-dozen babes on her if she would let him.

"Are you upset with me?" Her eyes shone unhappily as she fidgeted with her mother's cuff bracelet, and her lower lip trembled. In other circumstances, he would have tried to kiss away her distress, but not right now.

"I am," he freely confessed. "You realize that your actions today were unacceptable, do you not?"

She nodded reluctantly, shoulders slumped in misery. It pained him to erase the delight her siblings' presence had given her, but he could not, would not, let this go so easily.

"I had to, though," she implored him, looking earnest. "If there was a chance that they lived-"

"Larra, you had no reason to think that note was anything other than a trap," Oberyn cut off. He stood and began pacing the room, frustration coursing through his veins. Ellaria stayed silent, but he could feel their gazes on him.

"You were reckless and foolish!" he scolded his wife, who shrank into the pillows and stared at the bedsheet covering her. "What were you thinking? Why did you not alert us that you had found a note asking for a secret meeting in your bedchamber of all places? That 'twas written in the Old Tongue is not a good enough reason to think that it could be genuine."

Originally, he had assumed that she had caught sight of them in the crowd and gone after them without thinking. Learning that she had instead deliberately set out to leave behind the safety of Sunspear and Daemon, based on a mysterious note placed in her rooms, had rendered him speechless. It had not been an impulsive action, but a thought-out one. That made it far worse, in his eyes, because she would have had a chance to consider the consequences of her actions. He could not understand what had possessed her. That it was written in the Old Tongue was not a good enough excuse.

"But when I warged-" she began, before faltering. Oberyn turned to stare at her, frowning deeply. Ellaria also looked puzzled.

"You said that you could not warg whilst with child," Ellaria noted, bemused. "What are you speaking of, my love?"

Larra swallowed and avoided their gazes as she explained the wolf dream she'd had on the boat to them. Oberyn turned away from her afterwards, feeling deeply hurt that she had failed to reveal something of such importance to them. Did she truly trust them at all? Or was it merely that she trusted they would not harm her, but did not trust they themselves? He had been taking her 'I trust you's as her own way of telling them she loved them, but perhaps his own love and hope had blinded him from the truth of the matter.

"Why not tell us, beloved?" Ellaria inquired, speaking what he could not. She too sounded stung. "Surely you realized that Oberyn would have sent a hundred men searching the Pass for them, would have gone himself to look if needs be."

"Of course!" Larra exclaimed. He turned back to them. She gave them a pleading look. "But I knew from how they were speaking that they thought the worst of you. They would have attacked, somebody would have been hurt! That is why I went alone, also. If it were a trap, I would have been the only one endangered, it-"

"But you were not the only one endangered, Larra, were you?" Oberyn cut her off sharply. "Because you are with child! You did not just place yourself in danger, you placed our babe in danger also. We all thought that you had been kidnapped, were being raped and murdered as we searched high and low for you! How could you be so selfish?"

"Oberyn, that is enough," Ellaria cut him off as Larra's tears spilled over silently and she looked away, cradling the swell of her belly, just starting to form. "You are letting your anger rule you, do not say something that you are going to regret."

Oberyn stared at the sight of his wife crying in their paramour's embrace and felt his anger towards Larra drain away. He redirected it towards the people truly responsible for this. The Lannisters had done this. Not only had they set off the chain of events that led to the Starks siblings being separated in the first place, but they had abused his wife to the point that she had forgotten she deserved protection to, had convinced her that her life was worth less than others.

If you traced any dark event back far enough, you could always find a Lannister at the source of it eventually. They were the cause of all suffering in the world.

"I am sorry, my lovely wife," he breathed, feeling his shoulders slump as he made his way over to the bed and pulled the two ladies into his arms. He pressed his lips against the top of her head in a kiss before pulling away to cup her face in his hands, pained by the sadness and guilt lurking in her violet-tinted grey depths.

"I am sorry for upsetting everyone," she insisted, sincerity clear. "I know, I knew that everyone would assume the worst but I feared that, should I appear with guards, either they would be hurt defending me or Robb and Arya might attack, again resulting in the guards being hurt, or my siblings. I did not want anybody to be hurt. I was just- I had to go."

"I would have done the same in your place," he acknowledged, wiping away her tears. "But Larra, your safety is so very important. Not just to the Winterlanders who so desperately desire the return of their liege lady, but to us personally."

"We would be devastated to lose you," Ellaria added, clutching Larra's hand tightly. "The only time I have ever been so fearful in my entire life was when Oberyn was fighting the Mountain. We love you, Larra. Doran and Mellario love you, Laena and Sarella adore you and the youngest girls all worship the ground that you walk on. And now, your siblings are back with you, and were you to be hurt, they would lose you a second time. For our sake, please be more careful with yourself."

Larra's gaze was fixed on the sheet as she nodded solemnly. "I am sorry. I have never wanted to cause anybody any pain or distress."

"I know," Oberyn sighed heavily. He forced her to look at him, holding her head in place to keep her from avoiding him. "Alarra," he used her formal name for once, making her wince. "Are my rules for you unreasonable or constricting?"

She bit her lip and shook her head with distress. "No, you are the best of husbands," she replied. "I am sor-"

He did not allow her to continue, going on. "I do not like using my status as your husband against you," he informed her. "I have never wanted my wife to be my servant. But the rules I down are there for a reason. From now on, Wife, I expect to be obeyed when I give an instruction related to your safety. Meaning, you are never to go out without a guard again. You will have one guard with you at all times whilst inside the palace. If you desire to go out to the bazaar, you must take more, and you must seek my permission first, giving a reason for why you wish to go. If I refuse, you will not go. Am I understood?"

He truly despised doing this, especially because he had triggered another wave of silent tears. But all it took was the recollection of the panic he had felt on hearing Daemon saying that Larra was missing to steel himself against the distress his declaration had evoked from her.

"Yes," she hiccupped miserably.

"Good," he muttered. "You will obey me?" He did not doubt that she would. For all she was devoted to her Old Gods, Larra would never consider breaking a promise made before any god, and she had sworn to serve and obey his will.

"I will," she agreed softly, her voice barely more than a whisper.

"Good," he repeated, before shifting so that they were all entangled together on the bed. "Lie down with me, my love," he sighed. "I need to hold you and our babe, and I suspect that Ellaria needs such also."

"Aye, I do," Ellaria agreed. He adjusted their positions so that Larra was in centre of the bed, with Ellaria on her left and he on the right.

"I truly am sorry, Oberyn, Ellaria," Larra whispered to them. "I truly am."

"What's done is done, my love," Ellaria said to her. "We are upset, yes. I do not deny that."

Larra hiccupped again at that, shying away from them as best she could with their arms around her. Oberyn kissed her gently, as Ellaria went on.

"But just because we are upset with your actions, my love, does not mean that we are going to stop loving you. 'Tis because of our love for you that we are upset. You and this babe are both far too precious for us to lose you."

"I just, it seemed better for me to be the only one in danger," she reasoned weakly. "Less people would be upset by my death, and the two of you would still have each other."

"I never wish to hear you say such again," Oberyn insisted firmly. "Your death would be devastating for everyone who knows you, from us to the smallfolk of the Winterlands. As for us personally, how would you feel were one of us to die? Just because we would still have one another, does not mean we would not be just as heart-broken. We would feel as distraught as you would in such a position. We love you, Larra."

"I know," she agreed softly. "I trust you both. More than anybody else. I promise, I will take more care with my safety."

"We know," Ellaria murmured, kissing her neck gently.

"Rest, my love," Oberyn instructed her. "You have had a long, emotional day. Rest, and all will be better on the morn."

Her breaths evened out after a while, but he and Ellaria remained awake, holding her to reassure themselves that she was well.

"What are you thinking of, my prince?" Ellaria whispered to him, careful not disturb Larra.

"I am thinking that the Imp will be arriving in a few days," Oberyn replied lowly. "Doran and I were discussing it just this morning. We received a letter from the Dalts. They delayed his party as much as they could, as did the Gargalens when his party disembarked at the Salt Shore, but they could do no more. He will be here by the end of the week. No doubt he is to spy on us for his lord father. We will not be able to keep Arya and Robb's presence a secret from him. They are my goodsiblings, my responsibility now. I know not how I am going to protect them. And I can tell both of them are struggling with their own demons. I know not how to start go about helping them, and I worry how Larra will react when she realizes that they have changed from the image she had of them."

Ellaria exhaled heavily, reaching over to stroke his jaw lovingly. "We will manage, my love," she murmured. "Let us rest for now. As you said to Larra, all will be better on the morn."

"Do you think she will ever say it back to us?" He could not keep the wistfulness from his voice as he asked the question. "Properly, not hidden behind words of trust."

"I hope so," Ellaria murmured. "But either way, it will not change anything. She loves us, and she shows that in her actions. We cannot push her harder than she is able to manage."

"The Lannisters and their abuse is the whole reason that she does not think of herself as worthy of protection as others are," Oberyn said bitterly. "I will make them pay for that. Dearly."

"Soon, my prince," Ellaria breathed in reminder. "Dorne is mobilizing already, Larra is corresponding with her own men to have them prepare. Soon, the lions will learn that the higher you rise, the harder you fall."

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT! Thanks to everyone enjoying this! I just saw the new Frozen movie, so the song comes from that, and there's a reference to the first movie in this chapter as well *blushes and shrugs embarrassedly*

Monday: Mothersday, Tuesday: Smithsday, Wednesday: Cronesday, Thursday: Maidensday, Friday: Fathersday, Saturday: Warriorsday, Sunday: Strangersday

Chapter Twenty-Three

The Imp in the Snake Pit

Sunspear: May 4th, 299 AC

Larra:

"Where the north wind meets the sea
There's a river full of memory."

It had been years since Ashara had last sung to her, but the words of her mother's lullaby returned to Larra's lips as easily as if she had heard them just yesterday whilst she pulled the brush through Arya's hair. It reminded her of her mother doing the same thing with her, but for once thinking of her mother didn't hurt like a dagger to the chest. It hurt, yes, but not so much as it had when she thought herself to be the last of her bloodline.

"Sleep, my darling, safe and sound
For in this river all is found
In her waters, deep and true
Lie the answers and a path for you
Dive down deep into her sound
But not too far or you'll be drowned
Yes, she will sing to those who'll hear
And in her song, all magic flows
But can you brave what you most fear?
Can you face what the river knows?
Where the north wind meets the sea
There's a mother full of memory
Come, my darling, homeward bound
When all is lost, then all is found..."

She let the song trail off as she set down the brush. Arya leaned back into her, and Larra wrapped her arms around her sister, heaving a sigh and pressing a kiss to the top of her younger sister's head. It had taken hours to get the knots out, but Arya had nearly thrown a fit when Mellario had suggested cutting it, leading to Larra explaining that, until the Lannisters were gone, none of the Starks could cut their hair least they insult their ancestors' spirits by undoing their declaration of the blood feud.

Larra had needed to slip away and weep when she'd caught sight of a thin scar going from Arya's temple all the way to the bottom of her ear, until then hidden by her sister's hair. She had not yet found the courage to press for details on what her siblings had gone through during their years of separation, and neither had they inquired into her own time as a Lannister hostage.

"I want to kill him," Arya informed her. "The Imp is a Lannister. I swore to kill them all, to eradicate their entire House for what they have done."

"You must not," Larra replied softly, stroking the side of Arya's arm. "Not yet, at least. We cannot afford to tip our hand to the lions too soon."

"I do not understand why we cannot simply kill them all now and be done with it," Arya said bitterly. Her grey eyes were filled with a bone-deep anger that frightened Larra deeply. She felt that same anger, but she worried that Arya would be consumed by her hatred and desire for revenge. Robb had already confessed to her that he feared what would happen to Arya when the lions were defeated and she realized that it would not restore things to the way they had been before. The more she spoke with her sister, the more she agreed with his concerns. She had no idea what to do to help her sister.

"Beware the frozen heart, Arya," Larra reminded her sister of the old Northern phrase, warning people of the dangers of focusing on negative emotions and letting them rule you. Arya winced and looked down. Larra rubbed her arm and kissed her head lovingly. Angry and changed Arya was, but she was still Arya at the core of her. Nothing would ever make Larra's love for her falter.

"We will see them suffer for what they have done," she promised her younger sister. "But we must take care, so that no innocents are harmed. After all, we cannot blame Janei Lannister, a girl barely out of her swaddling clothes, for the actions of her cousin the queen, can we? Myrcella and Tommen are both so sweet and kind, regardless of their parents' and brother's crimes. They should suffer for their blood's sake. Athair and the others would not want us to harm innocents in their name, would they?"

"No," Arya admitted, scowling. Larra smiled faintly and kissed her head again.

"I need to go and get dressed," she sighed, reluctantly stepping away. "Do you require anything?"

Arya shook her head. "No, I am fine. Lia has loaned me a fresh tunic to wear for the presentation."

"Wonderful," Larra murmured. "I am glad that you are getting along with our family."

"They are not our family," Arya grumbled. "They are the Viper's. But his daughters are mostly tolerable, I suppose."

Larra hid an affectionate smile. As she had always thought would be the case, Arya deeply admired Obara and Nym, though she tried not to show it. The fact that Laena was so openly grateful to and spoke so glowingly of their kin had softened Arya towards her and earned her the young she-wolf's like. But the friendship that had formed between Lia and Arya had been a bit of a surprise. Though in hindsight perhaps it should have been expected they would like each other. They were a few years apart, but they had similar interests, both enjoying fighting and riding and being unladylike. But they mainly seemed to have bonded over their mutual loathing of Larra and Oberyn's marriage. It was rather amusing, really, and a relief to see her sister and stepdaughters getting along.

The friendship had not stopped them challenging each other over one insulting the other's family member. In the past week, the girls had fought four times, with Arya winning three bouts and Lia the fourth. Larra had been alarmed the first time, but the two seemed to become closer with each fight, and she was too relieved to have some of her family back and that Lia was softening towards her to be upset about it.

If it worked for them, who was she to judge, so long as they did not get anybody innocent hurt?

But it pained Larra to know that Arya continued to treat Oberyn and Ellaria like they had the plague. The only reason she was being so mild was for Larra's sake, she knew. If she was not happy with the two, her sister would probably have tried to get Nymeria to eat them both.

It was difficult to make herself leave. Robb and Arya had been returned to her for days now, yet she still felt as if they would disappear the moment she took her eyes off of them. Still, duty called. She gave her sister another tight hug before she headed back to her own chambers where Ellaria and Oberyn were changing in preparation for meeting the Imp, who was to arrive within the next few hours.

Larra suppressed a shudder. She did not like the thought of any Lannister being in Sunspear. It felt violating, their enemies coming into their home. The Imp was better than his siblings, but that was a very low bar standard of behaviour.

Two guards walked a few steps behind her, and she felt the same squeeze of guilt she always did whenever she recalled why she was no longer allowed to be without at least two men at a time. But despite everything, if she had to go back and redo things, she was not sure that she would have done anything differently. She still thought it would be better if she were the only one risked. But she hated that she had caused her lovers to be distressed, and caused such panic.

She had not said so, because she suspected that it would hurt them, but she had underestimated how frantic everyone would be. She had known they would all panic and assume the worst, but she had not anticipated how frantic everyone would be for her. She had apologized to them all for causing them distress, especially Ser Daemon and the two men who had been accused of conspiring to help kidnap her, but she still felt guilty despite them all saying they forgave her and understood her actions.

And she felt even worse whenever she recalled how she had endangered the babe. What kind of mother was she? A mother was supposed to put her children above everything else, yet Larra had only had a few brief thoughts for her child's safety before putting her at risk. She was the most selfish person in the world. Even Cersei Lannister was a better mother than her.

She pushed away the thoughts so her lovers wouldn't pick up on them as she entered the bedchamber. She smiled when she found Oberyn kissing Ellaria's neck, the pair of them only half-dressed.

They drew apart slightly on her arrival, Oberyn reaching out to grab her wrist and pull her over into their embrace. She sighed and rested her head against his chest, closing her eyes and savouring the feeling of safety she felt whenever she was being held by either of them. She did not understand why they loved her, nor what she had done to deserve it, but she was selfish enough to expect and savour it anyway.

"How is your sister, my love?" Oberyn asked, whilst Ellaria undid her laces for her. She no longer felt uncomfortable being undressed around them. How could she, when they stubbornly insisted on calling her beautiful in spite of the scars that marked her skin?

"Well, I think that I have managed to persuade her that she cannot kill the Imp whilst he is a guest here," Larra replied. "But she is still quite unhappy about the whole thing."

She sighed again and pulled away, heading for the dress laid out for her and stepping into it. "Remind me how long he is to stay?" she asked, as they too returned to dressing.

"Too long," Oberyn grimaced. "I know not what insanity gripped my mind, suggesting that a Lannister come to Dorne. But he is due to remain for two moons."

"He will be spying for his father," Larra muttered. She rested a hand over her stomach, feeling anxious. She was three moons along, her stomach swelling faster than she had expected it to. It was obvious now that she was carrying a babe. No formal announcement had been made, but all anybody had to do was glance at her to know the truth, and gifts and congratulations were frequently given. The whole of Dorne was delighted that their beloved prince was to have a tenth child within the next few moons.

"Nothing will happen, Larra," Oberyn told her, coming over to pull her into his arms and cup her cheek.

"Our prince is right, my love," Ellaria agreed, also joining them and wrapping her own arms around Larra's waist. "This babe is so precious, we shall take the utmost care with you both."

"My mother lost three babes and had one born crippled," Larra noted lowly. "My father's mother lost two and died birthing the second. My mother's mother had four lost babes between my mother and she died birthing my Aunt Allyria. Your mother had two boys die in the cradle, and four miscarriages. Even without foul play, there is still always a chance that something will go wrong."

Oberyn exhaled heavily, looking solemn. Ellaria leaned in and kissed Larra's neck, rubbing her back.

"You must not think in such a way, beloved," Ellaria urged her. "'Tis not good, for you or the babe. We will all take every care possible for this child."

"The Healers from the University that you requested are on their way," Oberyn added. "Maester Caleotte has been in service to Sunspear since my mother the Princess Loreza's time, and he is the one who saved Elia when she was born early. I have studied midwifery myself, and Ellaria has personal experience with it. Take care and think good thoughts, my love. Do not fear, all shall be well. My daughters are good to their mother's in the womb, even if Lorie decided to make a dramatic entrance to the world."

Larra nodded, biting the inside of her lip. She knew they were right, that every possible care would be taken for her child. She was still frightened though.

"That being said," Oberyn added, straightening and looking seriously at her. "You are not to be alone with any of the Imp's party. Nor are you to eat or drink anything they give you. Should they present you with any gifts, have a servant accept them and then I will have them examined for any traps or the like. I will not risk you or the babe."

Larra nodded solemnly. There was a knock on the door, and Shae and Elyse entered on receiving permission.

"We need to do the ladies' hair and make-up, Your Highness," Shae informed Oberyn, a hint of 'get out' in her tone.

He smiled and kissed the two of them. "Excellent timing," he complimented the two maids. "For I must be on my way to collect our guests. I shall see you both on my return, my loves."

"Goodbye," Larra replied, going on tiptoe to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him quickly. "Be careful," she instructed him after they separated.

He gave her a soft smile and tucked a curl behind her ear. "I love you," he told her.

She nodded solemnly. "I know that you do," she promised. The temptation to say it back was ever-growing, but something continued to hold her back.

Oberyn gave another kiss and goodbye to Ellaria, then strode out, leaving them in the hands of their capable maids.


Tyrion:

Tyrion was impressed by the shadow city. Yes, it was mostly a mix of ramshackle huts made of mud and some stone pillow houses and the like. But the life in it was strong and obvious. It was different to Lannisport or King's Landing, where the residents were sullen and unhappy, preferring to hurry through their duties before rushing home as quickly as they could. Here, people lingered and chatted, laughing and gossiping with one another as they did their shopping and the like.

Prince Oberyn was the one to greet them, and Tyrion considered the man who had saved his life. In truth, Tyrion was rather jealous of the Viper. The secondborn prince had been born to a similar status as Tyrion, but whilst Tyrion's life had been filled with disappointments and scorn from those meant to love him the most, the Viper seemed to be nothing but successful.

Oberyn Martell could have any woman he desired, and he had a beautiful and dutiful wife on his arm, one who seemed indifferent to his philandering and paramour. He was clearly adored by his people, who cheered the sight of him and tossed flowers and such towards him as he rode up to greet Tyrion's party. He had several properties of his own, had never needed to argue for respect.

Oberyn Martell was one of those people who got whatever he wanted without a hassle, and Tyrion could not help but feel bitter about that fact, when he never got anything that he desired. Even Shae had chosen serving as Princess Alarra's handmaiden over staying with him. He still could not bring himself to think about Tysha and how badly things had gone wrong with her.

Still, the Viper had saved him from decapitation, and as Tyrion was very fond of his head, he thought that it behooved him not to let on that he held any resentment for the prince.

"Lord Tyrion!" the Viper called in greeting, dismounting smoothly from his sand steed. "Wonderful to see you again. How was your journey to Sunspear? Untroubled, I hope?"

"Oh, we had no problems at all," Tyrion replied glibly. "And the Gargalens and Vaiths were the height of welcoming to us. They pratically refused to allow us to leave!"

It had taken him until several days into their stay with the second family to realize that they were being intentionally delayed, and slightly longer for it to dawn on him that they were probably acting on the Martells' orders. He simply did not know why. What were the Dornish hiding?

"How is my niece, the Princess Myrcella?" Tyrion went on. "I am most eager to see her. 'Tis been some time. Not since she came to live in Dorne."

"Yes, I could not bear to go so many years without laying eyes on my beloved niece Arianne," the Viper's grin grew sharper. "Princess Myrcella is well, and looks forward to seeing you again. There is a special bond between an uncle and a beloved niece, is there not? Mine wife willingly admits that she worshipped the ground that her late uncle walked on. Of course, him being named a traitor along with her lord father caused her much distress. She was but two-and-ten at the time. Such a tender age."

Tyrion suppressed the urge to swallow. Did Prince Oberyn know how Lord Stark and Lord Dayne were made to confess to treason? Tyrion himself had not had anything to do with it, nor their arrests and executions. He had not yet even arrived at the capital when it all went to hell for the Stark family. But if Princess Alarra had told that to her husband, then she had probably told him other things, and he had surely seen the evidence of it all on her skin. The Viper had seemed more than fond of his young bride at the trial by combat. Tyrion did not doubt that he sought revenge for his wife's hurts, as well as his sister's death.

"A very traumatic event for her," he replied, hoping his voice was not as hoarse as it sounded to his ears. "Shall we continue on to the palace, then? I confess, I am unused to such heat. 'Tis bad for my lovely face. I would not look well with a sunburn."

He gestured at his scarred face as he spoke, and Martell barked out a laugh, eyes still glinting dangerously. The sooner they'd partaken of guest right, the better Tyrion would feel. Why couldn't his father have sent Jaime to spy on the Dornish ruling house? He was a warrior capable of defending himself from angry Dornishmen, unlike Tyrion who had to rely on Bronn's fondness for money. Or Tywin could've even sent Uncle Kevan. Just as long as it wasn't Tyrion's neck on the line.

"Let us go, then," the Viper declared, signalling for some horses to be brought forward for them.

Tyrion liked the sand steeds. He felt so much less ridiculous seated atop one of the small steeds than he did on a regular horse or a pony. He almost looked like he was a normal size, and didn't even need to use a step stool or be lifted up onto its' back!

"Is there some sort of festival going on, Your Highness?" Tyrion asked, noticing the celebratory aura that hung over the shadow city, and the decorations being hung. Flowers were thrown towards the prince, but he noticed more than a few sneers directed at his own Lannister banner.

"La Fiesta del Invierno," Martell replied. "The Festival of Winter. It celebrates the change from Autumn to Winter. There are special markets, dances, shows, games for children, competitions and more. Anything you can think of it. It starts the day after tomorrow, on Mothersday, and lasts for the week. You chose a good time to come and visit, Lord Tyrion."

"It certainly appears so," Tyrion consented, looking around in interest.

The members of the group made small talk until they at last arrived at the gates of Sunspear, where Tyrion and his party were first brought to their rooms to freshen up, before being taken down to the Great Hall to meet the Martells.

"Lord Tyrion Lannister of Casterly Rock presents himself to Ruling Prince Doran, and Princess Consort Mellario!" the sensechal called loudly as Tyrion bowed before the gathered Martells.

Prince Doran was a man of fifty with the appearance of being much older, and cursed with gout that kept him stuck in a wheelchair. His body was soft from a lack of exercise and his legs were covered by a blanket. Despite that, his eyes were filled with a shrewd intelligence. The gout might have affected his body, but it had not hampered his mind.

Princess Mellario was several years' her husband's junior, with a wig of dark curls on. She too looked aged, but was pretty still. She had a regal, controlled air around her. Tyrion could sense her disdain for him as he kissed her offered hand and gave her his greetings, though not a hint of it touched her features.

"These are our children, Lord Tyrion," Prince Doran gestured at the three youths standing in a row beside their parents. "Our eldest daughter and heiress, Arianne, and our sons, Quentyn and Trystane, your niece's betrothed."

Tyrion turned to the trio, bowing again and studying them.

Princess Arianne was a true Stony Dornish beauty, with a bosom he could easily get lost in. Her expression was icy as he greeted her. Prince Quentyn, the suspected to-be heir of Dorne, stood beside her, and there appeared to be some tension between them, based on how they were careful not to touch or brush against one another. That definitely lent credence to the rumours. Prince Trystane, eleven years' old, was the only one to greet him with a smile.

"Lord Tyrion, I am delighted to meet my gooduncle-to-be," he said cheerfully. "Myra has spoken of you highly, and I look forward to knowing you better."

"And I you, Your Highness," Tyrion responded, smiling back at the boy. Perhaps here was a way to see into the Martells' lives. "My niece speaks glowingly of you in all of her letters. 'Tis a great relief to know that you realize what a treasure the Crown has given to you."

"Indeed, Myra is a gift," the young boy agreed, reaching out to grab Myrcella's hand and lead her forward as she beamed brightly. Tyrion smiled fondly at his niece as they embraced one another.

"I am so pleased that you are here, Uncle," Myrcella exclaimed. "I have missed you dearly. Have you any news for me from the rest of the family?"

"Aye, your mother and King Tommen sent me with letters and gifts to give to you," Tyrion acknowledged. "And Cersei bid me tell you that she sends her love." It was the truth. For all his sister was a wicked, soulless harpy, she loved her children more than anything. Tyrion would give her that much credit.

"Of course, you have become acquainted with my brother and goodsister already, Lord Tyrion," Prince Doran cut in after he had stepped away from his niece.

"Indeed," Tyrion murmured, reaching out to grasp Princess Alarra's offered hand and lay a kiss on it. She looked far healthier than she had whilst in the capital. Being away from his family suited her. No longer did she hold herself in anticipation of a blow, and her expression held no fear of him. "Princess, you are as lovely a picture as ever. And if I might extend my congratulations on your current state? You glow with the Mother's blessing."

"My thanks, my lord," her voice was distant and cold, her expression blank. Her husband had his arm wrapped around her waist, stroking it boldly. She did not appear embarrassed by the demonstrative actions either, leaning into the Viper's embrace and resting a hand over her stomach protectively. "I am pleased to see that you are well." She did not sound or appear pleased. Tyrion was not unaware that she probably wished him dead along with his siblings and father, despite his lack of involvement in her torment.

"These are my daughters," the Viper added, gesturing at the long line of ladies. "Obara, Nymeria, Tyene, Elaena, Sarella, Elia, Obella, Dorea and Loreza. And you have met my lovely Ellaria already of course."

"You are blessed, my prince," Tyrion commented. "Or mayhaps cursed. To have so many beautiful daughters to worry over."

"Oh, all of my daughters are more than capable of caring for themselves," Prince Oberyn said lightly. "And no doubt this coming one shall be the same." He patted his wife's bump affectionately, his sharp grin softening into a genuine smile. The man was a loving father, none could deny that.

The princess smiled back at him. "Aye, she will be wonderful," she agreed, before she paused and turned back to Tyrion. He could see a hint of mockery seeming to glint in her eyes. He'd noticed before that they seemed to change between her mother's violet and her father's grey. Currently, they seemed a mix. "I believe that you have met my siblings, have you not? Back when the court visited Winterfell. Please, milord. Allow me the opportunity to re-introduce you to my sister, the Lady Arya Stark, and my cousin, Lord Robb Snow, of Winterfell."

Tyrion could not stop his jaw dropping to the floor in utter shock as he finally spotted the two missing Stark children, the pair having previously been tucked out of sight by the shadows of the nine Sand Snakes. One look confirmed their identities. Even with Robb Snow's red hair and blue eyes, the classical features of their House shone through obviously, and Lady Arya looked uncannily like her elder sister, though her own eyes were pure grey.

Unlike the Dornish nobility, the two Northerners did not try to hide their utter loathing for him. Tyrion suddenly found himself wondering if guest right shielded him from the wrath of the Starks too whilst under the Martells' roof, or if he ought to increase Bronn's pay. Otherwise, there was a large chance that he would find himself waking up with a knife being buried in his belly.

"Well," he swallowed. "Lady Arya, Lord Robb. What a surprise. I had thought you dead."

"No," Lady Arya replied stonily. "We survived. Others did not. Do you know, Lord Lannister, that the last time I saw a soldier in a red cloak, they were cutting my family's guards to pieces?"

"Ah," he breathed, as Princess Alarra's expression grew harder and she reached out to lie a hand on her sister's shoulder. Robb Snow crossed his arms. He had a warrior's air. As did the she-wolf.

"Well, now that introductions are done, shall we go and get refreshments, then?" the Viper suggested cheerfully, ignoring the loathing being sent in Tyrion's party's way by his goodfamily. "I do so love a good goblet of proper Dornish wine on a hot afternoon."

"You love a goblet of Dornish wine at any time of the day, my love," Lady Ellaria laughed, batting his shoulder casually.

"Quite true," he shamelessly agreed, grabbing her hand to kiss it.

Prince Doran agreed with his brother's suggestion, and soon enough Tyrion found himself in an open-air courtyard, holding a goblet of wine tightly. He gulped the liquid down quickly, mind stuck on the Starks. He needed to figure out a way to warn his father, though the Dornish would no doubt be reading his mail shamelessly.

Even if the Martells did not want revenge for Princess Elia and her babes anymore now that the head of Gregor Clegane was preserved and displayed on a pike outside of their home, Tyrion knew that the Starks most definitely did.

Had anybody ever found out which animal would win in a fight? He wondered to himself. Lions, or direwolves? He had to admit, he would probably put his money on the wolves. Shame that he was a lion then. He really was very fond of his head.

He drained a second goblet as Arya Stark ran a hand over the pommel of a long, thin, sword at her side, and loudly asked Obara Sand about the different vital points on a man's body.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks to everyone enjoying this. I'm so glad that you all like it so much!

A reviewer helpfully noted that I had both Tuesday and Friday as Smithsday, so I've now fixed that so Friday is Fathersday, and also added a date for the last chapter, which I also forgot, sorry. Also, I changed the name of the Greystark' keep, just so you guys know. It's not important but I like to mention when I do that sort of thing.

Chapter Twenty-Four

An Eye for an Eye

Sunspear: May 4th, 299 AC

Larra:

The evening of the Imp's arrival in Sunspear, Larra was brushing her hair in front of her vanity when she suddenly hissed in pain as her nail caught and pulled on the hidden hook that kept the compartment in her silver hairbrush closed.

"Larra?" Oberyn called from where he lounged on the bed. "Are you well, my love?"

She didn't reply, frozen in place. She stared down at the brush in her hand, her breath caught in her throat. She had forgotten entirely about the mysterious instructions given to her by her father two days before his arrest. Or rather, she had forgotten up until now.

"Larra?" Oberyn repeated, suddenly standing just behind her and reaching for her, alarm in his tone. "What is it my love? Is something amiss with the babe?"

She did not reply to him, but abruptly moved instead, scrambling to open the secret compartment. Inside, covered by a thin layer of dust, was the folded-up envelope her father had given to her.

"Do not let anybody know of this," he had told her seriously, expression grave as he gripped her shoulders tightly. "Anybody. Keep it hidden until I or your uncle tell you to give it back to us."

"Larra," her husband pressed her. "What is going on?"

"I had forgotten," she explained vaguely, gripping the letter. "It was just before-and then they confiscated anything valuable so I could not run away so it didn't matter anymore anyway. But-" The words were tumbling out of her in a hysterical jumble.

Black spots danced in her vision as she struggled to breathe through the emotions filling her. Gods, how could she have forgotten? He had been so serious and worried, impressing on her the importance of secrecy and then only days later he and her uncle had been arrested. How could she have forgotten the last thing her father had ever asked her to do for him? What kind of undutiful daughter was she?

"My love, breathe please," Oberyn coaxed her, catching hold of her jaw lightly. He placed her hand over his heart, allowing her to feel the steady and reassuring thump of his heartbeat. "Copy me, my love. Breathe in, breathe out. That's it, my darling. You are doing wonderfully. Keep breathing with me, beloved."

This had not been the first time they had done this, and Larra always felt ridiculous and stupid afterwards, even as she leaned into her husband's strong embrace. Neither he nor Ellaria had ever done anything to make her feel ashamed for her occasional bouts of panic and distress, but she could not help but feel weak whenever it happened. What did it say about her mental state, that she could become so upset she forgot to breathe? It amazed her that they had not given up on her in frustration. It had been months since she'd wed Oberyn, become safe, yet still the memories and emotions haunted her. Surely, something was wrong with her that she was still having such bouts of alarm and panic.

Finally, she was able to breathe normally again and her tears had eased.

"Now," Oberyn said gently, crouching in front of where she sat on the vanity chair. "Tell me, my love, if you can. What is this letter, and why was it hidden in your hairbrush?"

She swallowed and wiped at her face with the back of her palm. She gave a weak smile and nod of thanks when he passed her a handkerchief to wipe her tears away with. Her smile brightened slightly when she noticed that it was the one she had sewn for him as a wedding gift. He used it often, taking care with it. It warmed her whenever she saw him do such, respecting the tradition of her homeland.

Larra had been nervous about making it, and had talked herself out of giving it to him a dozen times even as she stitched it. It had seemed such a trite thing way to thank him for saving her from the Lannisters. Not to mention at the time she had still been wary of him, and feared that he would consider the Northern tradition stupid, the way so many southrons did in her experience.

She had been incredibly lucky in her marriage, and she knew it. It made her hate herself all the more for knowing that, if giving up Oberyn and Ellaria would restore her family to life, she would do it. Surely she was a terrible person, willing to trade their love and care for her family. She did not deserve the love they so freely gifted to her.

"Larra?" his voice broke through to her and she exhaled, nodding and trying to organize her thoughts into comprehensible words.

"The day before King Robert was injured, my father came to my bedchamber," she began, remembering her father's look. It had been one she had not recognized at the time, but now she did. Fear. Fear for her and her siblings, no doubt. He must have been certain that Lord Arryn had died for learning the truth, and feared that they too would suffer for his investigation. He had been so very right. Her father had always been right, about everything, it seemed.

If only he were there. If only he had refused the king. Maybe if he'd accepted King Robert's offer to wed her to Joffrey, he could have stayed safe in Winterfell. Larra would have suffered, yes. But her family would have lived, Arya and Robb would not be so angry and hard, would not have spent three years as fugitives. Alayne would have lived past her fourth nameday, Bran would have been able to become High Greenseer as he had so desperately longed to. Their parents would still be alive and well, along with their uncle and their guards and servants who died for no reason other than they had served the Starks. So much would have been better if her father had not become Hand of the King.

She looked away from Oberyn's compassionate and concerned gaze, pressing her cheek against his calloused hand as she went on. "The day before the king's death," she re-started her story. "Father gave me this letter, and told me to keep it safe, and secret. To hide it until either himself or my uncle asked me to retrieve it. But of course, they never got the chance. King Robert died the next day, and the redcloaks attacked late that night as we were packing to leave. When the Crown confiscated my valuables, they took the brush too. I suppose because it was silver. They would not take the chance that I might be able to sell anything and flee. I had forgotten all about it until right now, else I would have gotten the letter out as soon as you returned my things after getting them back for me."

"May I?" Oberyn asked her. She nodded and handed it over, watching silently as he cracked open the seal (the Hand of the King's one, not her father's personal one, she noted) and scanned the parchment. She stiffened at his sharp inhale, and looked anxiously at him as he raised his eyes to meet her own, a disbelieving grin on his face.

"Larra, this is wonderful," he breathed to her. "Read this, do you realize what this is?"

She accepted it and read it, feeling her eyes go wide as she took in the words.

This is the witness testimony of Vayon Poole, steward of the household of Eddard Stark, Hand of the King, Lord Paramount of the Winterlands and Warden of the North. Signed and witnessed by Lord Stark and Lord Arthur Dayne, Captain of the Warg Guard and Sword of Morning in the office of the Hand of the King. Transcribed by Lord Stark and dictated by Vayon Poole.

This morn, on the date of the fourteenth day of the six moon of the year two-hundred-ninety-six After Conquest, I was passing by what I believed to be an empty room on the lower levels of Maegor's Holdfast when I overheard moans. Concerned at first that somebody might have been injured and require aid, I went to investigate. However, nobody had been hurt. Instead, I was appalled to become a witness to an act of treason, oathbreaking and sinful adultery.

The Queen, Cersei Baratheon of House Lannister, was in an intimate embrace with her own twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard, a man sworn to celibacy before the Seven. I dared not to move least I make a sound and be caught, and thus I overheard them speak to one another of 'their children'. They also discussed the queen's concern that the late Lord Jon Arryn had discovered their secret, and they mentioned 'their children'. They also mentioned that Lord Stark had seemed to be investigating something, according to Lord Baelish. The queen said he would need to be dealt with should he discover the truth. Those were her exact words: "If he continues to look into it, we must deal with him in case he discovers the truth. And anybody helping him as well."

When they began to dress after that, I took my chance to flee. I immediately came to report what I had seen to Lord Stark.

This is the entire truth of the matter as I know it to be, so I swear before the Old Gods and the New, and may I be struck down if I am a liar.

Signed: Vayon Poole, steward in the service of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell

Witnessed: Eddard Stark, Lord of the Winterlands and Hand of the King for Robert Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Rhoynar, the Andals and the First Men, Defender of the Faith and Lord Protector of the Realm, on Smithsday, the fourteenth day of June, the sixth moon of the year two-hundred-ninety-six After Conquest .

Witnessed: Arthur Dayne, Captain of the Warg Guard in the service of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, Sword of Morning, on Smithsday, t he fourteenth day of June, the six moon of the year two-hundred-ninety-six After Conquest.

She knew those signatures so very well, had seen her father's script on a thousand documents as a child. And how many times had she gone over Vayon's notes on the household with her mother? The documents could not possibly have been faked.

Larra's hands shook as she set down the page, looking at her husband with wide eyes. "This is why she did it," she whispered huskily, filled with utter certainty. "I thought it was because she knew he would not let her and Joffrey get away with what they had done, but it was not. It was because she realized that he had proof of what she had done."

"Larra," he murmured her name, gaze soft.

"This is why she did it," Larra repeated. "My father and uncle are dead because of this statement, and I forgot it existed." She started to sob, and leaned into bury her head in his shoulder as he pulled her close and stroked her hair, murmuring soothing words of love.


Oberyn:

Ellaria's expression was concerned when she entered their bedchamber to find Larra weeping in his arms whilst he rocked her.

'Her father' he mouthed at their paramour, who's expression instantly softened into understanding as she joined them and rubbed Larra's back.

"I am such a fool," Larra muttered angrily.

"You are a great many things, my lovely wife," Oberyn replied firmly. "But you have never been a fool. Do not call yourself such, you speak lions' words, not your own."

She shook her head, still distraught. "I ought to have remembered before now. What kind of daughter forgets their father's last request to her? I-"

"None of that now, my love," Ellaria cut her off. "I know not what you speak of, but I know you. You were the most dutiful and loving of daughters, of that I have no doubt. Do not blame yourself for being focused on your own safety and grief instead of a single request."

"Ellaria is right, Larra," Oberyn agreed. "Anyway, what would you have done, had you recalled it earlier? You told me that the brush was taken along with the rest of your things. And we were not yet in the position to act against them. Even now, we must take care not to tip off the lions too soon. We have it now, and we will ensure that your father's work was not in vain. I swear it, my love."

"It was all my fault that we came to that thrice-cursed place," she murmured. Her eyes had darkened to the stormy grey they turned whenever she was particularly sorrowful, and she dabbed at her cheeks with the handkerchief, her expression distant.

"You were but a girl, my love," Ellaria reminded her. "Only two-and-ten at the time. 'Twas the Usurper who called your father to be his Hand so that he could whore and drink himself to death." They did not bother to hide their scorn for the Butcher Stag around Larra, whom herself had a fierce hatred of the man. It was quite obvious that she placed much of the blame for what had happened to her family on Robert Baratheon for calling her father to act as Hand.

It had been a surprise to hear his wife insist that her father had not particularly liked Baratheon, when the Usurper had always referred to Lord Stark as his brother. Perhaps they had been friends when they were boys in the Eyrie, but things had been different as grown men. According to Larra, Lord Stark had often used the Usurper as an example of how not to behave as a man or ruler for his children and wards.

According to Larra, Lord Stark's loyalty had been to his former foster father, and he had felt obligated towards the man whom would have been his goodfather if Rhaegar had not been so selfish and lustful as to abscond with a betrothed maid of four-and-ten. Whether Lyanna Stark had gone willingly or not (and given her apology after the Harrenhal tourney, Oberyn leaned towards 'not') she had been a young girl, with limited experience outside her home. Rhaegar had been a grown man with a wife and two children. The fault lay entirely with him.

"He suggested," Larra swallowed and curled closer to his chest. He ran his hands through her dark curls, waiting patiently. They never pushed her to speak before she was ready, and he was determined that they never would. She needed to heal at her own pace, not theirs.

"Baratheon offered a betrothal between myself and Joffrey, when he told Athair that he wanted him as Hand," Larra revealed, her voice hoarse.

Oberyn could not help but stiffen. Larra had mentioned that she blamed herself for her family going south, but she had never explained why before. It was a good thing that Larra was unable to see Ellaria's expression, because it was filled with disgusted horror at the thought of their sweet she-wolf being wed to the monstrous Illborn. He sent a prayer of thanks to the Mother for preventing it.

"Father spoke to me of it, and asked if I wanted to," she continued bleakly. "But I hated the mere thought of it. I never even wanted to go south at all, let alone be Queen or a Princess. The only title I ever wanted was Lady of Winterfell. And the wolves were constantly growling at him, and the First Men all know that if a direwolf dislikes someone, they have evil in their soul. I begged Athair to refuse the betrothal, and so he did. He refused the suggestion of Arya becoming Joffrey's wife too, because we knew that Joffrey was a bad person, even if he did not show it and she would have been miserable. He used my being heir, and Arya being too northern to enjoy the south, as excuses to refuse the betrothal.

But he could not refuse both the betrothal offers and the office, so he had to accept and go south. And then the damn king insisted that Arya and I come with, because he liked to stare at me and pretend that I was Aunt Lyanna back from the dead. And then Robb asked to come too, because he wanted to see somewhere outside of our kingdom. If only I had not refused, then they would be alive and-"

He cut her off and kissed her firmly. When he pulled away, he cupped her face to make her meet his gaze. "I am speaking as a father myself, beloved," he murmured to her. "No loving father would ever choose themselves over their daughter. Your father loved you, do not demean that love by claiming his efforts to do his duty and keep you safe weren't worth it. They were, my love. Your family's loss were a terrible tragedy, but do not say that your life was not worth theirs. It is always worth it for a parent to give their life for their child. When our babe is born, you will hold her in your arms and understand why your father had no regrets over choosing your safety over his life and honour when he died."

Tears slipped out of her eyes and he pulled her back into his chest, cradling her in his arms as Ellaria rubbed her back and spoke lovingly to her.

For the millionth time, he vowed that the lions would pay for what they had done to his wife.

***

The next day, Oberyn made his way to his brother's solar, Vayon Poole's testimony in hand. Larra had told him to bring it to Doran for them to use it "however is best for the Lannisters to end up burning in the deepest of the Andal seven hells."

She was pained, but enraged now as well. She wanted the lions to die, painfully. He had ended up giving her a philtre to let her sleep, and Ellaria was with her. When she woke up, she would likely go to her siblings to comfort herself with them, and probably their direwolves also.

"Oberyn," Doran greeted him when he entered, not bothering to knock. Almost everyone else was expected to request permission to enter the Prince's solar, but Oberyn and Mellario were able to enter whenever they desired. They were his family, and his most trusted advisors, and as such it was meet that they had certain privileges.

"What is wrong, Brother?" Doran frowned, easily picking up on Oberyn's mood.

Oberyn sat, expression stony, and held the parchment out to his elder brother. "Read this," he instructed him. "Larra's father gave it to her the day before the Usurper's death, and told her to keep it secret. She hid it in the hollow of her hairbrush, and forgot about it until last night."

Doran raised an eyebrow and accepted the page, reading it quickly once, then again more slowly. He looked up, meeting Oberyn's stony gaze.

"This will aid our cause greatly," Doran murmured. "It provides a legal justification for rising against the Iron Throne, and ensures that Elaena is the sole legitimate claimant, save for Stannis, whom nobody supports save for the Tullys. A bastard born of Lannister incest has no claim, by blood or by conquest, to the Iron Throne. It also provides grounds for accusing Cersei not only of adultery and treason but of murdering the Hand of the King and declared Lord Protector of the Realm, also a treasonous offence."

"Larra is distraught," Oberyn told his brother bitterly. "She is convinced that Cersei had her father arrested because she learned that he had proof of the adultery."

"Is she well?"

"I had to give her a potion to make her sleep," Oberyn sighed heavily and reached up to rub his temples. "I wish I could go back in time and stop all of her hurts," he murmured tiredly.

"I know, Oberyn," Doran sighed. "But we cannot, so we can only continue on our course. Lord Stark and Lord Dayne's deaths will not be in vain, we will expose the Lannisters for what they truly are and see them fall from the heights they rose to by wading through the blood of babes and ladies."

"Aye, so we shall," Oberyn agreed viciously. "Speaking of which, how goes our efforts?"

"Excellent," Doran replied with a pleased smile. "Naval wise, we must rely entirely on the Winterlands. A problem I hope to correct after Laena has been crowned. The Winterlands have a navy of one hundred seventy-eight ships, in comparison to the Lannisters' sixty and the Redwynes' two hundred. However, their sailors are all better trained and more experienced than those of the Reach and Westerlands. Lord Seastark and Lady Starstark have both mobilized their fleets. They have dispatched twelve ships each between them in order to protect Dorne's coasts. Then another thirty are prepared to attack the Reach, thirty will go after the Westlands and the rest will be divided in half, some left behind to defend the Winterlands and the rest to act as reinforcements or to go after Stannis, should he become involved. Some have gone out already. They have disguised themselves as pirates, and are aiming to attack the West and the Reach, in order to start harrying them prior to our official attack."

"It leaves the Winterlands under-defended," Oberyn frowned. "They rely heavily on trade to feed their population, and as my wife's House words like to remind us, Winter is coming."

"We will supplement any deficits if necessary, as will the Crown once Laena is on the Iron Throne," Doran murmured, grimacing. It was not in the nature of House Martell to take advantage of their allies, especially when those allies were kin, as the Starks now were.

"The Crown is heavily in debt, though," Oberyn pointed out. "Have we figured out how to deal with that?"

Doran shrugged. "Confiscating land and property from those who rebel against their liege lords is a typical punishment," he stated. "Laena will simply have to be heavy-handed. Showing herself to be a firm ruler from the start will necessary anyway, given many will doubt her as a lady brought up as a base born child."

Oberyn nodded in acknowledgement of that, rolling his eyes at the collective stupidity of most of Westeros. "What of the other preparations?" he inquired.

Doran cleared his throat. "As you know already, Dorne can field thirty thousand men, with another fifteen thousand if we were to empty our lands and leave our kingdom undefended, which would be idiotic. We have about twenty thousand preparing to march already, and the rest should be ready to go within the next few moons. The Winterlands can field another fifty-eight thousand men, leaving themselves with about twenty thousand to defend their own lands, and that is the very minimum they can afford to leave behind to guard the Neck. Given that they do not disarm their armies, they are already prepared to march. They simply require Larra's order. Altogether we have eighty-eight thousand, against the Crown's supposed one hundred thirty-five thousand.

However, the Crown will never be able to field so many in their current straights, especially given Stannis is still fighting along with our strategy and their lack of warning. Our spies in King's Landing assure me that the lions are too focused on Stannis to notice us. When they asked about us increasing the guard on the Pass, they believed our claims of concerns about an attack from Stannis' supporters in the Stormlands. At most, they could bring ninety thousand against us, and that is the very most, and involves pulling men from the Riverlands to do so. All of which, of course, takes time, and their men will be weary and injured, whilst ours will be fresh.

Now, the Fowlers have confirmed that they are finished with their own preparations. Should an attack come, they will be able to hold the Pass for several months before being overwhelmed. I have assigned Lord Yronwood to oversee the first of our hosts. He will lead them to join with a force of Winterlanders under the command of Lord Rodrik Greystark of Beverstone Hold. Altogether the host will amount to around twenty-seven thousand. They will go to the West, with the aim of keeping the Lannister men left there too occupied to aid the Iron Throne.

Then our cousin Ryon will take his own host to the Reach where he will meet with Lord Umber of Last Hearth. Their force will contain another thirty-one thousand. Finally, Lady Toland will take her army to the Crownlands to attack them and prepare to besiege King's Landing. She will meet with Lord Lystark, your gooduncle, and his men. Their own group will have about thirty-seven thousand men."

"Wonderful," Oberyn breathed. Likely, he would have to leave within weeks of his newest daughter's birth in order to fight for Laena's throne. He regretted that deeply, but it was unavoidable. He had a duty to do so. Thankfully, armies took a long time to move, and even more so when attempting to avoid detection, and as such he could afford to wait until the babe had arrived before going to fight alongside the army when it took the capital. "And we have Tywin's heir, even if he is a hated one, in our grasp. Trystane knows what to do?"

"Aye, he does," Doran confirmed. "He will ensure that Tyrion learns incorrect information to give the lions, and gain any snippets he can if possible."

"Not much longer," Oberyn breathed, settling back into his chair and casting a glance at the portrait of their family, back when their family consisted of himself, Doran, Elia and their parents, hanging on the wall. "And at last Elia and Aegon will be avenged."

"Yes, soon, Brother," Doran murmured. "Soon, our sister and nephew will have their vengeance."

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thank you everyone reading and enjoying this. Keep reading, enjoying and reviewing please!

A/N: in response to a guest reviewer on : yes, Larra is also a warg. All of the Starks are. However, I headcanon that all wargs have one 'true' warg-familiar, but the stronger wargs are capable of temporarily warging with other animals for short periods. It's harder however. I also headcanon that there is a range, and if the pair are too far apart, they can't connect with one another. The Stark children's direwolves were sent away in the Riverlands after Cersei demanded they be killed for Nymeria scratching Joffrey.

Whilst in the Red Keep, Larra didn't warg for several reasons: (a) like you guessed, she feared what would happen if she were found by Lannister men whilst 'out of her body'. (b) she missed Taibhse loads, and the grief of it worsened whenever she tried to warg with another animal. (c) finally, she got very depressed whenever she did risk warging, as she was temporarily 'free' so to speak, and it was hard to make herself go back to her real body. As such, she rarely risked it.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Aurora's Tears

The Water Gardens: 13 th April, 299 AC

Robb:

"Are you not cold?"

Robb did not jolt at the voice. Her footsteps were light, but he had learned to listen for the softest of sounds over the past few years, and he'd heard her approaching. Over the past couple of weeks, he had managed to learn to tell apart the footsteps of each of the Martells, and he had spent more time with her than any of the rest of them. He turned away from his direwolf and bowed to the secret Queen of Westeros.

The Martells' admission of what Athair and Uncail Arthur had done at the end of the Rebellion had come as a shock, but not so much as a surprise. Robb's father would never have allowed an innocent child to be harmed if he could prevent it. It made sense that he would have saved Princess Rhaenys and taken her to safety with her family.

"No," he replied as he straightened, shaking his head. "This is about the same as back home. 'Tis comfortable for me, actually."

Night time in Dorne was cold enough that it reminded him of the days of his childhood, of Winterfell's stone walls and his family surrounding him. Playing in the snow with his siblings and the fosterlings, or else passing the night in the godswood, listening to Athair and Máthair's stories.

Morning nudged at him with his snout and he patted his familiar fondly. The direwolf had barked happily when he saw Lady Elaena. It was a great reassurance, that the wolves were fond of the Martells. It showed that they were not deceiving his sister, and that the Dornish could be trusted to help them destroy the Lannisters. But of the Ruling Family of Dorne, it was the three youngest, Lady Elaena and the Viper himself whom the wolves liked the most.

The wolves' like for the prince Larra had married caused Arya a great deal of dismay, as it took away most of her justification for hating him. Not that it stopped her from acting sulkily around him, though she was interested in his stories of his time wandering the Free Cities.

Lady Elaena smiled at the wolf, holding out her hand and petting him after glancing at Robb for permission. She always did that, even though Robb had never refused it. She was very respectful of them all.

She was very pretty as well, Robb acknowledged easily. She had the dark colouring of the Stony Dornish, save for her striking purple eyes. But when you knew her heritage, you could see the Valyrian features in her cheekbones and ethereal beauty.

Though, what really attracted him was how kind and genuine she was. Most southron ladies were false, coating themselves in layers of make-up and indifferent to anything save themselves. If they acted charitable, it was usually due to wanting to appear better to others. But Laena was different. She spoke of improvements that could be made to people's lives, and she meant it. She asked about how the Starks ruled their lands, about the schools every village had and the way they ensured the smallfolk were not abused by their lords, and paid attention.

She was going to be a wonderful queen one day.

"I wished to say something to you, Robb," Laena said, looking at him. "I have wanted to do so for some time now, but I was never sure how to put it into words."

"What do you mean?" Robb asked bemusedly, tilting his head. It felt as if her eyes could pierce through his soul.

"I want to apologize," she admitted, averting her own gaze.

Robb frowned. "Apologize?" he repeated. "To me? For what? You and your family have been the souls of kindness, and you saved my sister when I could not. You have nothing to apologize for."

"But I do, for my grandfather cannot," she insisted, her eyes darting to the ground briefly. "And I cannot imagine that he would have, even if he were alive to do so."

Robb froze, stiffening.

"I must apologize for what Aerys did," she said, meeting his gaze again. "What Rhaegar did. Rhaegar absconded with your aunt, and his actions led to the death of your birth father. I know that it turned out well enough for you, that Lord Eddard and Lady Ashara raised you as if you were their own. But still, their actions were inexcusable, and had terrible consequences."

"For all of us," Robb agreed lowly. He did not like to dwell on his birth parents. Ned and Ashara had never let him feel as if he were any less loved then the others, and he had never met his birth parents. If not for an overheard conversation as a boy, he'd never have even known that Catelyn Baratheon of House Tully was his mother. His mother who had wanted to drink moon tea instead of suffer the damage to her reputation. Only a vision from Lord Reed had warned Ned of what was happening in Riverrun, and he had prevented it, installing his own men as Lady Catelyn's guards to prevent her from aborting her pregnancy. As for Brandon Stark, Robb had visited his tomb with Ned regularly, left offerings and heard tale after tale of the man. He thought that he would have been a good father. But Ned had been a great one.

"Your family suffered greatly due to Aerys and Rhaegar also, my lady," Robb went on, keeping his gaze fixed on Morning's coat. "And you do not bear the blame for your father and grandfather's actions."

"Still," she said, and he stiffened a bit as she stepped closer to him, verging on the edge of his personal space. "I would see the Winterlands given compensation for their suffering at my predecessors' hands. And I will see your House rewarded for all that you have done, for me, and for the realm itself."

He swallowed at that. "The destruction of the Lannisters will be reward enough," he croaked out.

Her eyes flashed at that, giving a sharp smile. "Oh, they will," she promised. "They will be grateful if the remnants of their House still have Casterly Rock after the end of it all. I think giving the Paramountship of the Westerlands to Lord Jason Tarbeck is a fitting punishment, do you not agree with me?"

"Jason Tarbeck?" Robb repeated, eyes going wide. "Do you mean-?"

"Rohanne Webber's son, the last Lord Tarbeck, yes," she grinned. "He was smuggled to safety in the Free Cities along with much of their family fortune by her friend, Lady Elissa Lefford, who raised him as her own. He currently lives in Braavos, with a wife and five children. Padre met him whilst visiting the Bank several years ago. Lord Tarbeck has grown up knowing of what the Lannisters did to his kin, and he is eager for the lions to pay also."

Robb grinned and laughed. "That's brilliant," he crooned in delight. "Gods, I hope that Tywin lives long enough to see that three of the families he thought he crushed managed to survive and are all out to gain vengeance against him."

"It will be sweet, will it not?" Her eyes glinted with vicious delight.

Robb felt his stomach and he forced his gaze away. It was different to how he'd felt for Sybelle. That made sense though, because he was different, and Sybelle and Elaena were different people.

He was a fool though. Elaena was going to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Even as one of the bastard daughters of the Red Viper, she had men falling over themselves to be her lover or obtain her hand in marriage. Why would she ever look at him as anybody other than her stepmother's bastard cousin/brother?

"Robb, can you look at me please?"

He reluctantly turned his gaze back to her, and a second later her lips were pressed against his. He'd only kissed one other girl before, and though both of them had soft, plump, lips, Elaena tasted of blood-oranges, her favourite food, instead of how Sybelle had tasted of mint. He responded on instinct, pulling her closer by the hips, and adjusting his head to be more comfortable as she opened her lips to allow their tongues to intertwine.

The kiss ended when Morning Star barked loudly and jammed his snout in between them, forcing them apart. They stared at each other for a moment before he barked again, sounding excited, and making them both laugh in amusement.

Their laughs eventually died off, and Robb felt himself go serious.

"My lady," he began.

"Laena, please," she interrupted.

He sighed and went on. "My lady, I am not Dornish. We do not take intimacy lightly in my kingdom. And I have seen how bastards are treated between Dorne and the Winterlands. I promised myself I would never sire an illegitimate child, and risk them suffering for their birth. I will not lie with a woman whom is not my wife. I am sorry, but I cannot do this. I will not do this. 'Twould shame my ancestors greatly. I will not risk disappointing my parents' spirits."

Laena reached out to clasp his hand. "I told Madre, when I was a girl, that I wanted to marry a Stark," she stated, her curls glowing in the torchlight and giving her a dark halo. "And there is an old agreement, never fulfilled, between our two Houses, that a Targaryen princess would marry a Stark."

"I am a Snow," Robb pointed out, clearing his throat. "And anyway, I would not wish to marry a lady purely because she sought to repay a debt that my family does not believe exists."

"Legitimization is a simple thing for a ruler, and I want to marry you, Robb," Laena murmured. "Repaying the debt is another thing, and I have other plans for how to thank your family. Madrasta told me so much of you over the past few moons. I hope that we are friends. I certainly think of you as a dear and treasured friend. Friendship is more than many people start a marriage on, and I know that I can trust and rely on you to help me rule without trying to usurp my position. I want to choose my husband, to have a good man. I have known many good men, but 'tis you that I want at my side when I am Queen. You understand me, and I believe that I understand you in turn."

"This is insanity," Robb croaked, running an anxious hand through his hair.

Laena shrugged and grinned, stepping closer to him again. "Well, they say that when a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin," she pointed out. "Maybe mine landed on madness."

"I think 'twas greatness," Robb corrected her, voice hoarse from her proximity. "Queen Elaena of Westeros, the First of Her Name and first uncontested Queen Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms."

"With King Consort Robb of House Stark at her side?" Laena asked, looking hopeful.

"Will the Viper kill me for it?" Robb responded, barely able to think. He was entranced by her eyes. They were so unique, different even from the violet eyes of the Dayne family.

"No," Laena laughed. "Madrasta would be terribly upset, as would I. Padre would not consider the few moments' satisfaction worth it. Besides, he has always made it clear that our marriage would be our choice, whether we wanted to wed or not. He swore he would only intervene if he thought that the groom was truly awful for whatever reason. He likes you. So, will you marry me, Robb?"

"I will," he agreed, stunned. "But is it not expected that I ask you?"

She smiled, seeming as bright as the Sun of Dorne, and stepped back, gesturing to him.

He knelt and took her hands in his own. "Elaena of Houses Martell and Targaryen," he said formerly. "Will you be so gracious as to grant me the honour of becoming your husband?"

"Yes," she breathed, as beautiful as the pictures of the Maiden he had seen. "Yes Robb, I will marry you."

He laughed in disbelief at what had just happened, wondering if he was having some mad dream, and scrambled up to pull her into an embrace and a deep kiss.

So this is Valhalla, he thought as she kissed him back. His sisters alive and safe, both within his reach, and the loveliest lady he'd ever seen, the heiress to the Iron Throne at that, wanting to marry him. If this was a dream, then Robb never wanted to wake up again.


The Red Keep: 30th April, 299 AC

Tywin:

"Lord Baelish has sent word from the Vale, milords," Varys reported. "Lord Stannis has sent notice to the Eyrie that he is sending an envoy to his goodsister, in order to try and negotiate aid from the Vale. Of course, Baelish assures us that both he and Lady Arryn are entirely loyal to the Crown. However, my birds whisper of turmoil among the Lords of the Vale.

Six have formed a group and declared themselves the Lords Declarant, and have sworn to defend one another, Lord Robert and the Vale. They wish end what they consider the 'misrule' of the Vale and they are suspicious of Lady Arryn's reliance on Baelish. I am given to understand that they plan to force her to give young Lord Arryn be fostered by Lord Royce, and then likely seize the Regency from her. The group consists of Lords Royce, Hunter, Redfort, Belmore, Lady Waynwood and Ser Symond Templeton. I confess my king, for the good of the Vale, it may be best to give support to their plans. Otherwise, my little birds indicate that the kingdom is likely to descend into civil war. The Lords Declarant are not the only ones dissatisfied with the current regime."

Tywin frowned. On one hand, the Vale needed to be kept stable and neutral. These Lords Declarant had no reason to aid Stannis, at any rate. They had far less reason than Lady Lysa, in fact, and had brains. On the other hand, Baelish was his family's man, and letting him lose his position might cause problems for them down the road.

This was the problem with ruling the realm. You had to weigh the good of the many, in this case the Vale, against the good of those that mattered, his House and legacy. It was a difficult decision.

"I have heard," Ser Manfrey Martell, the new Master of Coin who was filling the Dornish position on the Council and replacing Lord Baelish, began. He was not as capable as Baelish had always been, but he was skilled enough. Tywin would much rather have one of his own men as the Master of Coin, but he needed Dorne on his side.

"That Lady Arryn's mental health is not the best, likely a result of her problems with bearing a healthy child," the Ruling Prince's second cousin continued, casually drumming his fingers on his armrest as he spoke. "And while her refusal to aid the rebels shows loyalty to the Crown, it does say a great many things of her character that she does nothing to aid her own kin, regardless of the dire straits that they are in. Mayhaps allowing the Vale to be taken over by more competent rulers is for the best, Your Grace."

Tommen considered their advice quietly, looking thoughtful. Tywin was relieved that, despite his youth, his grandson had seemingly inherited all of the intelligence and wisdom that had skipped his parents and brother. And his stepfather too. Tommen was probably the first king since Jaehaerys II to sit on the Iron Throne and actually deserve it. His wife was sensible too, presenting herself and Tommen as pious and gracious rulers, concerned with their people's welfare. Unlike Cersei, Margaery understood that the smallfolk heavily outnumbered them all, and they needed the commons on their side least they decide to rise up. Why couldn't his children be clever? What had he done to offend the gods that they gave him such fools and a dwarf for heirs?

"You are correct, Ser Manfrey, Lord Varys," Tommen finally declared. His voice was not yet fully broken. Tywin worried he would die before seeing Tommen groomed properly. What would happen to Tywin's legacy then? Left under Cersei's control, or the Imp's. His reckless and idiotic daughter, or else his dwarf, whoremonger of a son as ruler of the Rock. Horrific prospects, both of them. All of his work would be undone, ruined. House Lannister would be reduced to the mockery of a Great House that it had been under his father's weak rule. He could not allow such.

"Whilst I admit that it is a concern for me that the Lords of Vale are prepared to rise up against their liege lady, I do believe that they have cause to be concerned," Tommen continued. "I recall Lady Arryn from her late husband's term serving my father as Hand, and she was, not the most stable of women. Nor was her son in the best of health. I would have a royal decree drafted, removing her son and the regency from her. Lord Arryn will be given to the custody of Lord Royce, a loyal and intelligent man who can fashion him into a strong ruler, and then the Lords Declarant will form a Regency Council to rule the Vale until such time as Lord Robert comes of age."

"Yes, Your Grace," Tywin nodded at his grandson, granting the boy an approving look. A wise and sensible decision, though it was regrettable that Baelish would no longer be able to influence Lord Arryn in his family's favour. Joffrey would have just ordered everyone involved be executed at the least. Tortured and then executed at the worst. Robert would have just complained and delegated responsibility for the situation to his Hand.

"What is next on the agenda, my lords?" the young king inquired.

Lord Mace, the bumbling fool that he was, spoke up. "Grave news, Your Grace," he announced pompously. "It seems that pirates are taking advantage of the Crown's fleet being occupied dealing with Lord Stannis' rebellion. Some fifteen merchants have been attacked in the past month alone, in a series of assaults focused around the West. 'Tis badly disrupting trade." He looked around proudly, as if announcing that pirates were attacking and damaging their trade was in some way rewardable. Idiotic man.

"Ah, and another thing, Your Grace," Lord Varys added. "A rather curious thing about these attacks. Nobody is killed during these raids. Their ships are disabled, the crew and any passengers are secured and watched over whilst their cargo is taken to the pirates' ships, and then they are set afloat. They are left dead in the water, but nobody is hurt and provisions are left to sustain them until rescue, though not comfortably."

Tommen frowned. "That is very strange," he murmured. "Not Ironborn or Stepstones then?"

"Definitely not," Varys confirmed. "Most of the Ironborn are engaged with the Winterlands still, and the rest are being dealt with by the Redwyne fleet. They are under control now. As for the Stepstones, a new pirate king has set himself up on Torturer's Deep with three warships. The rest of the pirates are busy fighting him. This group is somebody else."

"Have this investigated," the king ordered. "I would know the identities of these pirates, and their attacks must stop, regardless of whether or not they are killing people."

"It will be as you say, my king," the Spider assented, bowing his head obediently to the young boy.

"In relation to earlier remarks, how goes the war against my uncle?" King Tommen asked, looking at Tywin. "Is there any progress being made?"

"Soon enough, we shall have defeated them," Tywin assured his grandson confidently. "We have them all pinned in their keeps. Both Riverrun and Dragonstone under siege, and they lost most of their men in the Battle of Blackwater Bay and during the campaign in the Riverlands and West. Tully cannot hold out much longer, and Stannis has no way to feed his men, meaning they are unable to fight. However, it is unlikely that he will surrender, and we cannot actually breach the walls of the castle. Most likely, Stannis will starve and then his men will lay down their arms."

"I see," Tommen murmured. "And what of my Aunt Catelyn and cousins? Is there any word of their health? After all, they are my kin, and cannot be blamed for obeying the orders of their father and husband as they are required to."

"My spies in Dragonstone say that Lady Catelyn is becoming hysterical since the death of her father," Varys reported. "She is insisting on fighting to the end, blaming his death on the Crown, regardless of his ill-health. As for your cousins, Lady Sansa and Lady Shireen are both very upset, complaining constantly of hunger. Young Lord Steffon is copying his father and remaining stoic, whilst little Lord Orys has become ill from lack of sustenance. Your aunt refuses to leave his side."

Tommen sighed heavily, frowning deeply. "How much longer can they hold out, do you think?"

"Riverrun will fall within two moons at the most," Tywin assured his grandson. "As for Dragonstone, it cannot hold out much longer. A few moons, and they will all be half-dead by then."

"Good," Tommen murmured. "Ensure the army has orders to be gentle with the women and children, and with the servants. They cannot do other than obey their lord's commands. The rebel lords are the ones who must be punished, their families and servants bear no blame for this."

"You are most merciful, my king," Ser Manfrey complimented him, inclining his head towards the young boy.

"My thanks, my lord," Tommen replied solemnly. "Now, if you would all progress to the next point of business?"

Randyll Tarly, the new Master of Laws, sat forward. "Your Grace, I have grave concerns about the number of goldcloaks in the City Watch," he began. "At present, we have but forty-four hundred men available to defend and patrol the city. You realize, my king, that this is far too low to even keep order, let alone protect the city in the event of an attack."

SotNSotNSotN

Later that evening, Tywin read a newly arrived letter from the Winterlands. It was not good news.

30th May, 299 AC

Moat Cailin

To Tywin Lannister, Head of House Lannister, Hand of the King and Protector of the Realm, greetings.

This letter is to officially advise you that your nephew, Ser Willem Lannister, has been arrested and charged with the rape of three young maidens. He was visiting with House Ashwood of Direwood Fort, and was discovered forcing himself on one of Lady Ashwood's maids. It was quite clearly rape, for the girl was tied up and had several injuries. Upon learning of his arrest, two more ladies came forward to admit that he had also forced himself on themselves also.

He has been tried and convicted according to the laws of the Winterlands. He was tried by a court made up of Lords Reed, Manderly, Glover, Umber, Frost, Seastark and Amber, as well as Ladies Frostfang, Mormont, Starstark, Icewolf, Greenwood and Snowstark as the jury of peers he was entitled to. The judge was Lord Karstark. They found him guilty with a unanimous verdict according to the evidence, and he was thus sentenced to death, a sentence that was carried out soon after.

My sincerest condolences on your loss. Regardless of his sinful and despicable crimes, he was still your kin. I know the pain of losing family, and I would wish it only on my worst enemy.

Yours sincerely,

Benjen Lystark, Head of House Lystark, Lord of Moat Cailin and Guardian of the Neck.

Tywin sighed grimly and put down the letter. This was a disaster. He did not doubt the veracity of the charges, but he had no doubt that the Winterlanders were all celebrating Willem's death. Now, he had nobody in the Winterlands to even just keep eye on them, let alone subdue them. And the line about losing family had clearly been a less-than-subtle jab towards himself and his House.

Why was he cursed with such idiots for kinsmen? What sin had he committed to deserve such? All he had ever tried to do was protect his legacy, to make House Lannister powerful and respected, the way it ought to be.

It was obvious that the Winterlanders were on the verge of outright rebellion. Were Prince Oberyn to reach out to them, they would eagerly call their levies. With Varys' inability to install any permanent spies in the kingdom, and their policy of never disarming their Army, instead just having the soldiers act as law enforcement during peace-time, the Crown would have little to no warning before they attacked.

All they needed was their liege's permission.

If only Tyrion had more information on Doran's health. The Ruling Prince was a reasonable man, aware that things happened in war and seemingly far less inclined to believe in his people's nonsense such as women being equal to men and bastards not being embarrassments. If the Prince could survive and stay well enough to rule until the Crown had won and recovered from the war with Stannis, all would be well. They could deal with the Winterlanders.

But if he did not, and Prince Oberyn used his wife's army to attack, then they were doomed. Their men were war-weary, wounded and tired, their supplies dwindling. They could not afford to engage in another war with a fresh and bloodthirsty foe. Especially not one so skilled as the Army of the Winterlands.

They had sometimes been referred to as the 'Ever-Victorious Army', because they never lost wars. Battles, yes, but never wars. They fought until they won, no matter how long it took, or the losses that they suffered amidst those wards. The War Across the Water had taken them over a thousand years, yet still they had never given up, fighting until they had full control over the Three Sisters and utterly defeated the Vale's attempts to seize the Sisters back, wiping out several of their enemies' Houses in the process. After that disaster, the Valemen had never again sought to regain control of the trio of islands. Tywin wished that he knew their secret. They appeared to adjust their strategies depending on their foes, and always came out on top. More than once, he had considered the possibility of their future seeing greenseers being the source of it, but he wasn't sure, unfortunately, and no greenseer would agree to come into his employ, no matter how much gold he offered them.

He needed Tyrion's information, but he knew that he would have to wait. His son would not risk committing anything of substance to parchment. The Martells, loyal to the Crown or not, would definitely be reading Tyrion's mail. Tywin had no option but to wait until his youngest returned to learn whether the snakes were preparing to bite or not.

The Lord Hand took a deep sip from his goblet, frowning in bemusement at the unusual sweetness of it. It almost tasted like blood oranges, of all things. He took another sip, then frowned down into the cup. It looked like the same Arbor Gold that he usually drank, but the taste was wrong.

"Aurora's Tears," a familiar voice spoke up.

Tywin launched himself to his feet. Or rather, he tried to. But as he moved, his vision darkened and he was forced to grab the edge of the desk to keep from collapsing.

Ser Manfrey walked around into Tywin's line of sight, a smirk on his face.

"How did you get in here?" Tywin demanded, trying to hide his dizziness. From the dark amusement in Manfrey's dark brown eyes, he suspected that he was failing.

"I was close to my cousin while she lived," Manfrey explained, a cold smile on his lips. "Not as close as she was to her brothers, but close still. She lived here for several years, and we are us all descendants of Daenerys Martell of House Targaryen. She left a series of journals that my Aunt Loreza and my father, the late Prince Arron, often read to us as we grew up. Some of them mentioned passageways she had discovered whilst growing up in the Red Keep. After Elia's marriage, she sought them out and wrote to us, confirming their existence. One leads right into this solar."

Elia Martell. By the Gods, if Tywin had known the trouble her death would cause him, he might have ordered only the deaths of her babes, not her as well.

"My cousin Elia was only two years my junior, did you know that my lord?" Manfrey asked, sounding idly. Tywin cursed, then coughed. His chest ached painfully, and spots danced in front of his eyes.

"Naturally, as our parents were cousins, I grew up as a companion to she and Oberyn. Elia was so sweet, so gentle and loving," Manfrey went on, his expression darkening. "The most loving of mothers. She fed her children from her own breast, never mind that their births very nearly killed her. And what happened to her? The worst violation a woman can suffer, with her son's blood still staining her dress. And then what happens? The people who had her raped and murdered dug their claws into the Iron Throne! Cersei stole Elia's crown and waded through my cousin's blood and those of her babes to get her hands on it! But Dorne is patient, we know how to wait.

And so we did.

I have to admit, I was delighted that I was given the honour of doing this deed. When Doran sent me here to be his proxy on the council, I had expected it to be harder, but no. You are too focused on the obvious threats to see the hidden ones. But I wanted to watch it happen, so that I could describe it to Elia's brothers. We debated, wondered whether or not to let you live long enough to see your House be reduced to nothing. But doing so risked that you might figure out a way to circumvent your plans. Dorne gives you this, milord. You are skilled at being an oathbreaking brute. You ought to be proud of yourself for being so talented at murdering women and babes.

Then Tyene, Oberyn's third daughter, came up with a wonderful idea. She inherited her father's skill with poisons, you know, and is very skilled with them. This is her unique concoction. She named it for a story from the Free Cities, of a princess cursed to sleep for a thousand years until the spell was broken with the death of the one who spelled her. It will put you into a coma, until such time as you receive the antidote. We will give it to you after we have defeated the Crown, allowing you to see that nothing remains of your precious legacy.

When you wake, Lord Tywin, Rhaenys Targaryen, Elia's daughter, will be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Your children will all be executed for treason, and Lord Jason Tarbeck will be Lord Paramount of the Westerlands and the new Warden of the West. Your House will be reduced to nothing. All of your remaining male relatives will be sent to the Wall, and from what my cousin's wife says, they are not likely to last long, whilst the ladies will likely go to motherhouses.

When you wake, it will be to the knowledge that House Lannister is nought more than ashes, and your legacy will one of a murderer and his incestuous, tyrannical children. Not a legacy to admire, but one to spit and sneer at in disgust."

Tywin tried to speak, to yell and grab his knife to attack Manfrey. But he could not. He had sunk to his knees, and his vision was going dark. Rhaenys Targaryen and Jason Tarbeck lived? How was it possible? It must have been a lie, to disturb him and put him off-balance. But then again, nobody had ever found Rohanne Webber's son's body. He had assumed it had been lost in the mines, dismissing the rumours of the child's survival after a short investigation into them with no proof of it. As for the princess, he had seen the destroyed body of a little Dornish girl in the torn remains of a red and black nightdress, but she had been too broken to see any identifying features.

It was possible. It was terribly, horrifically, possible.

"As we speak," Manfrey continued to speak his terrible words with utter confidence and smugness in his expression. "Dorne's army is preparing to march. The Winterlands have already begun to move, since my goodcousin sent the word to them. You recall the report of pirates attacking your lands and failing to murder anybody from the meeting earlier? I admit, I look forward to meeting Lady Sybelle Starkstark. She is a skilled admiral, do you not think so? Well able to outwit the idiots in charge of your own fleet. I believe that she plans to sail to Lannisport next. Some of your servants very kindly revealed that you have a secret passage leading into the Rock. Our men are very grateful for it. Shame you failed to discover that the true secret to being a successful ruler is to gain loyalty through love, not cruelty. As my ancestor, Marina Martell once said: all throughout history there have been tyrants, and murderers. In the end, they always fall. Always."

Tywin groaned, collapsing from his knees to all fours.

Manfrey walked over to him, casually and steadily. Tywin was too weak to lift his eyes from the man's boots, and so he crouched to let Tywin meet his gaze, grabbing a chunk of his hair and pulling his head back painfully. His smirk had changed to an expression of utter loathing.

"Dorne is Unbowed, Unbent and Unbroken, Lord Tywin," he whispered in a dangerous tone. "If even the dragons could not defeat us, how could you genuinely believe that you could? The sun will outlast everybody, except perhaps Winter. What a shame for you that you angered both."

 

Chapter Text

isclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks to all my wonderful readers, the reviews you guys send make my day every time! Keep reading, enjoying and reviewing, please! On with the chapter!

Chapter Twenty-Six

The Beginning of the End

The Red Keep: 30th June, 299 AC

Jaime:

"AAAHHH!" Cersei screamed loudly, seconds after they entered the Hand's Office. The first thing they saw was their father, sprawled on the floor and frighteningly still. Jaime immediately began scanning the room for any assailants, clutching at his sword-hilt. That the only sign of any problems was some parchment, scattered as Tywin had fallen, only made him more uneasy. How could he defeat an intangible enemy such as illness, as this seemed to be?

"Father!" Cersei cried. "Maester! Somebody fetch the maester, quickly! Father!" She flung herself down on her knees beside her father, struggling to ascertain if he breathed. Jaime watched with his heart in his throat as she held her fingers against his mouth and nose.

"He breathes, he lives," she declared in relief after a moment. "But he will not stir. Gods, where is that idiot maester? Where is Pycelle?"

"I can go-" Jaime began to offer to fetch the Grand Maester himself, just as the elderly man came inside, puffing heavily for breath. His clothing was dishevelled. Jaime could guess what he had been doing, and it revolted him. What a disgusting man. Why did Cersei trust him so much?

"My queen, forgive me," the man panted. "I was-"

"Never mind that, you fool," Cersei snapped. "My father is unconscious! Are you blind, you idiot? Do something, Maester! Help him!"

Pycelle quickly knelt beside Tywin's limp form, running his hands over the man and muttering under his breath to the assistant who had arrived with him.

Cersei stood and went to Jaime, clutching at his armour with a fearful expression. He wrapped his arms around her in response, struggling to hold her in a brotherly, not lover-like, manner.

"Do not worry, Sister," he urged her, trying to hide his own worry from her. "Father is a strong man, and he has not been ill lately. He will be fine."

"Yes, yes," she nodded, brow crinkled. "I must have Tyrion arrested," she said to herself. He felt his grip on her slacken, leaning back to stare at her.

"What?" he asked in disbelief. How could she possibly be thinking of such things in this moment of all times? Why would she even arrest Tyrion anyway?

She gave him a startled look. "If Father dies, I must act quickly to ensure that Tyrion does not claim the Rock," she explained, as if he were a child.

Jaime stared at her, feeling stricken. He was not oblivious, he knew that his twin was a cruel, selfish woman. He knew that, in contrast to him, she loved her power more than him. He knew that she hated Tyrion fiercely, as if he was to blame for their mother's death, not the Gods. He knew that, distraught over their eldest son's death, she had ordered Tyrion's arrest, and that she still suspected him to be Joffrey's killer.

But their father was unconscious at their feet, possibly dying. And what was Cersei's concern? Making sure that Tyrion did not receive the inheritance that was rightfully his. Why did he love this selfish, hateful woman?

"Cersei, Tyrion is Father's heir," Jaime said, strained. "Casterly Rock is rightfully his. You have no grounds to arrest him."

"I am the Queen Regent," Cersei declared haughtily. "I do not need a reason. I rule the Seven Kingdoms, and all must follow my desires."

Anybody could tell where Joffrey had gotten his attitude from, listening to the late boyking's mother talk.

Jaime was appalled by her words. He began to speak, to try and reason with her, only for Pycelle to interrupt him before he could begin to talk.

"Your Grace, Lord Tywin must be removed to his bedchamber, where I can properly examine him," the Grand Maester informed them.

"What is wrong with him?" Cersei demanded, turning her attention away from Jaime and leaving his arms to glower at the Grand Maester.

The man spread his hands helplessly. "I cannot say without a more in depth examination, my queen," he replied. "I saw the Lord Hand only a few hours ago, and he seemed perfectly well. I must consult my books, to see what has befallen him and decide how best to treat it."

"Could it have been poison?" Jaime demanded sharply, worried. Their father had made many enemies, and few friends or even allies, over the course of his fifty-seven years of life. It was not an unlikely explanation that someone might have decided to deal with the Old Lion at last. Jaime could think of a dozen suspects, right off of the top of his head.

Cersei looked stunned, as if the thought of someone going after their father had never occurred to her before, regardless of the many who loathed him so much.

Pycelle frowned. "I see no recognizable signs of any poison that I am familiar with, Lord Commander," he answered. "However, it is a possibility. As I said, I need to have Lord Lannister moved to his bed, where I can properly examine him. If you and Ser Trant would be so good?"

Jaime gave a curt nod. Trant looked mutinous at being relegated to carrying an elderly man instead of a more dignified task, but he yielded to Jaime's warning look and helped to carry Lord Tywin to the Hand's bedchamber. They laid him carefully on the bed, where the Grand Maester again bent over him, listing off various potions for his waiting assistant to fetch for him.

Jaime had a sick feeling in his gut as he sat with Cersei, awaiting news. This was the start of something, he knew it deep within him. The start of something terrible for his family. He just did not know what.


The Water Gardens: 28 th July, 299 AC

Doran:

Doran read the letter from Manfrey aloud to his family, a rare smirk playing on his lips. His family looked equally cheerful at the words he read, and no wonder. The news Manfrey had sent was even better than they had dared to hope for.

1 st July, 299 AC

The Red Keep, King's Landing

To Your Highness, my lord and cousin Prince Doran, Ruling Prince of Dorne, greetings.

I send this letter with a heavy heart, my liege. Tragedy has again struck the Red Keep. It is almost as if the noble House of Lannister has recently been placed beneath some deadly curse.

Forgive me my rambling, my lord cousin. I will explain my words. Lord Tywin, Head of House Lannister, Hand of the King and Lord Protector of the Realm, has fallen deathly ill. He was found unconscious in the Office of the Hand late yesterday evening. Despite the best efforts of Grand Maester Pycelle and his assistants, nothing has yet managed to rouse him. He does not appear to be dying, but he will not stir, no matter what they do. The maesters all say that they have never seen such a thing before. They are at a loss as to what to do, and have sent ravens to the Citadel and even the University asking for information.

As I am sure you are wondering, as many of the court did upon learning of Lord Tywin's sudden illness, I wish to reassure you. Maester Pycelle has examined the Lord Hand, and found no indication of any known poison that he knows of. He informed the Small Council that he suspects that the stress of the war against Lord Stannis, ruling the realm and the recent loss of his beloved eldest grandson, our much lamented King Joffrey, has had an effect on His Lordship's heart, causing him to collapse from the stress. Nobody knows when he shall wake. If he will.

In the meantime, the Queen Regent has named her uncle's goodfather, Ser Harys Swyft, as the new Hand of the King until such time as her own lord father is awake and capable of retaking the position. She has also informed me that I am to instruct you to take Lord Tyrion of House Lannister into custody on the orders of the Queen Regent.

The entire Red Keep is in chaos. I will continue to keep you abreast of all that is going on.

Yours sincerely,

Ser Manfrey of House Martell, Master of Coin for His Grace King Tommen of House Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Rhoynar, the Andals and the First Men, Defender of the Faith and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.

Oberyn laughed gleefully when Doran finished the letter, whilst Larra's lips curled into a smug smile as she rubbed her stomach. At about five moons' gone with child, she was clearly carrying more than one babe. She glowed with her pregnancy, and seemed to have been vitalized since re-discovering the letter entrusted to her by her late lord father. It seemed as if the last remains of her fear had disappeared, replaced by a desire for blood and justice. Ever since, she had been taking full and intense part of organizing the war, showing that she had most definitely been raised as the heiress to a kingdom that stood ever-ready for war.

Of course, it was not all well. She had declared her intention to go with Oberyn, Robb, Laena and the rest of their family who would be participating in the coming siege of King's Landing. Oberyn and Ellaria had been arguing with her about it ever since, but she was insistent. She agreed that she ought not to be taking part in the battles themselves, but she was bound and determined to be there when the lions were defeated at last. It was an on-going argument that had driven Oberyn to Doran's solar to complain about stubborn and headstrong women multiple times. But despite his frustration, Doran knew that Oberyn was pleased to see the wolf in his wife shake off the last of its' fear-formed chains. Doran was pleased to see it also.

"This is wonderful," Laena said, smiling widely. "And you are absolutely certain, Tyene, that he shall not wake until you give him the antidote?"

"Aye," Tyene confirmed, nodding her golden head, blue eyes sparkling smugly. "I put a great deal of work into that poison, and I tested it several times, on animals and on prisoners. I am sure."

"That's my girl," Oberyn grinned broadly, his eyes shining with pride for his child. "And things will only go downhill for the lions now. Without Tywin or the Imp, they have not half a brain between the lot of them."

"That is for certain," Larra agreed, exchanging a wide smile with her husband. "Cersei is a fool. She thinks herself Tywin with teats, but she knows nought of ruling, and little and less of war. Their people have no genuine loyalty for them, only fear of Tywin. Without fear of his wrath, and exhausted of their resources from fighting Stannis, they will not put their lives and holdings at risk for Cersei. Harys Swyft is a weak, old man, indebted to her family. He will be nothing more than her mouthpiece, I am sure. Not to mention the fact that are the Tyrells working so hard to gain control of Tommen, forming splits in their camp and leading to chaos. The Red Keep will be helpless by the time that our army reaches them."

"Aye, and Admiral Starstark is due to arrive at Lannisport soon enough," Robb (now legitimized as Robb Stark even if the knowledge was limited to a select few trusted people) added from his place beside Laena. They would wed the coming week. Hopefully, Laena would be carrying an heir when they took the capital. It would strengthen their cause. "Casterly Rock has only the bare minimum of defenders to protect it. With the information the servants gave on those secret passageways, they will fall with ease."

Doran nodded. They were blessed by the Gods, Old and New, with their efforts. The Lannisters, and even the rest of the Great Houses, had failed to learn what the Starks and Martells had done many centuries past. There was a reason that they were the longest-reigning Houses in Westeros, the world even.

The Martells and the Starks knew that loyalty was needed to keep their positions, and there was more to loyalty than making your people fear you. In fact, being feared would work against you in the long run. To paraphrase the words that Princess Marina Martell had once said, tyrants always fell. If you were a cruel and harsh ruler, caring only for your own power and not for the people you were sworn to protect, then you would not last long. Oh, you would keep your vassals in check for a while. But eventually they would get fed up of being mistreated and taken advantage of. You did need to crack down harshly on disloyalty, but you needed your people to love you more than anything else if you wanted to rule. Be caring to your people, protect them and suffer their hurts alongside them, and they would love you, die for you.

His House had learned that long ago, and the Starks had learned it even further back. And by following the rule of being loving with a hint of ruthlessness when needed, they had maintained their power longer than any other. And all of them had seen their enemies fall eventually, by staying patient and convincing their enemies to put down their guards.

As his goodsister's ancestor, Cregan Stark, had once said: revenge was a dish best served cold.

"Well, it seems we have orders to obey," Doran stated, sure that his own eyes were glinting as he reached out to clasp his wife's hand loosely in his own. The others gave him questioning looks. "The Queen Regent ordered us to take Lord Tyrion into custody, did she not?" he reminded them mildly. "We are loyal servants of the Crown, and must obey."

Oberyn let out a bark of a laugh and stood. "You speak correctly, Brother," he smirked. "Of course, we could not think of refusing to obey Her Grace's will. Arya," he turned to his viciously-grinning young goodsister. She raised an eyebrow at him. She had softened to them over the past moons, but she remained harsh. Doran doubted, after all she had been through, that she would ever lose that angry edge. It was yet another sin for the Lannisters to pay for, a child of one-and-ten having the air of a war-hardened veteran decades' her senior.

"What?" she asked.

"Care to join myself and the guards as we arrest the Imp and his household?" Oberyn suggested mildly, his mouth curled into a half-smirk.

Arya's grey eyes lit up in angry pleasure and she bounded to her feet. "Gladly," she agreed cheerfully, resting a hand on her sword, Needle.

"Be careful," Larra ordered, concern flashing in her expression as her eyes changed from violet to stormy-grey.

"Always, my love," Oberyn assured her. He leaned down to kiss first his wife and then Ellaria, before leading Arya out to take the Imp into custody.


Coast of Lannisport: 30 th July, 299 AC

Admiral Starstark:

Admiral Sybelle Starkstark stood at the prow of her personal ship, the flagship of Winterlands' Eastern Fleet, the Sea-Wolf. Her ship had was her pride, and she loved it almost as much as she loved her children and husband. Before it was hers, it had been her late mother's, and Sybelle had lovingly maintained it, ensuring it stayed in pristine condition and adding any necessary (and unnecessary but desired) changes as they were produced, ever since she had taken over its' command.

Sybelle was a good seafarer, a veteran of Robert's Rebellion, the Greyjoy Rebellion, and a thousand battles with the IronBorn. She'd grown up, as all Starstarks did, on the sea, climbing from cabin girl to admiral between the ages of five and fifteen.

But in between that she had grown up in Winterfell, a member of the Pack. She'd been raised with loyalty and obedience to the Starks being pounded into her head, right alongside her letters and the various knots needed for handling a ship. Her elder sister, the former House heiress, had gone with and died defending Brandon Stark when he had learned of Lyanna's abduction and her mother had given her life for Rickard Stark only a few moons' later. By the time that Lord Eddard had called the banners, Sybelle had already begun mobilizing her fleet, despite been younger than Lyanna. She had gone so far as to put aside her House's feud with House Seastark and work with Admiral Seastark. She had been unprepared for her new responsibilities, and unwilling to allow old grudges to get in the way of victory. Seastark'd had far more experience than her, and she'd known it.

The North Remembered, and when it came to outsiders, all in-kingdom grudges were put away to band together as the pack that they were.

She had been one of those in favour of attacking the southrons when the Conclave had gathered to debate their next move after Ned's execution. Unfortunately, the greenseers had spoken, and they declared that staying their hands and waiting was necessary. It had not sat well with anybody, especially not leaving Larra in the lions' den, but they had done so.

That hadn't stopped Sybelle from working with the Seastarks and Sistermen to organize 'pirate' raids on the Westerlands and their trade lines, though. And the satisfaction she'd felt whenever they had engaged and defeated an Ironborn ship and crew had filled her with bitter satisfaction.

"Admiral, Lannisport is in sight!" Cregard Longthorpe, from a minor House in the Sisters and one of her veteran sailors, who'd sailed with her since she was a child, came to her and saluted sharply.

She gave a brisk nod, unfolding her hands from where they were clasped behind her back and holding one out to accept the eyeglass that he offered her. One of the University's most useful inventions, in Sybelle's opinion. First, they would attack the city and obliterate the garrison. Then they would sail to Casterly Rock, making use of the information given to them by mistreated servants to enter and destroy the Lannisters' centre of power.

It would be a beautiful sight, she had no doubt of that.

She raised the telescope to her eye and scanned the port, a smirk forming on her wind-weathered face at what she saw. "Look alive, boys!" she yelled to her crew. "Target in sight! Looks like they've no idea that we're comin', but be ready for any tricks! You know these southron fucks, can't live without a dozen plots bein' on the go!"

"Aye!" they yelled back, rushing around to prepare for their attack and several wargs using their bird companions to communicate with their other ships.

"Everybody better remember that we're actin' like pirates, we're not real ones, understand?" she bellowed as she returned the telescope and grabbed a bow and arrow. "I hear that anybody's disgracin' my fleet by actin' like the barbarians the burners think we are, I'll give ye to the weirwoods myself!"

"Aye, Admiral!" they called back.

Of course, Sybelle hardly needed to say such. She knew all of her crew, trusted them completely. Good, honest people, loyal to their liege lords, as it ought to be. She didn't understand how those southrons lived with themselves, constantly plotting to usurp the positions of those the Gods had chosen to lead and shield them. Then again, the southrons never seemed to do their duty to their underlings, so perhaps they felt that they had no obligation to remain true to oaths when the ones they'd given them to did not keep to their own terms.

Still, she was not in such a position. The Starks were her kin in a dozen different ways, and she had given them her allegiance, and they had repaid her devotion a thousand times over.

"Admiral, ready to attack at your command!" Ensign Crowl came hurrying to her side. His blue eyes glinted with excitement. The newest member of her crew, he was a young lad from Skagos, too young to fully understand that the south's claims of war being glorious was all nonsense. The tutors for the Wolf Pack always did their best to make their pupils realize the truth of war, but only real life could properly teach it to a person. Their 'fights' with the various traders and merchants they'd intercepted heading for the West and Crownlands had not blooded him yet. Sybelle regretted that he would have lost his innocence by the end of the day.

They would not be harming any civilians, but the guards of Lannisport and Casterly Rock itself were fair game.

"Get into position, Ensign," she ordered him briskly. He scampered to obey her, and she sighed heavily. She scanned the deck, double-checking and unsurprised to see that her crew was in position. Even the excited Ensign Torrell was focused and ready, pouring oil over the cloths covering the heavy crossbow bolts mounted on the bulwarks.

"Ready arms!" she called at the top of her lungs, keeping her gaze fixed on the port. Apparently, the garrison had at last realized that something was wrong about the group of warships sailing for them, because they were scrambling to close the port off. But she could tell that they had acted too late, and they were moving too slowly to do anything to stop their attack.

"On my mark!" Sybelle ordered, preparing to fire the signal for the rest of the fleet. "One! Two! Three! Fire! For the Starks!" She launched the arrow, ordering the attack for her other ships.

"Stark! Stark!" the crew screamed, and also fired.

The flaming bolts fired right into the harbour, setting a dozen ships ablaze.

"Forward!" Sybelle cried. "Again! Fire!"

The bolts flew forward again, and Sybelle smiled in satisfaction. Her cousin had been a guard, slain defending the Starks when the redcloaks had attacked them. Now, she was getting vengeance.

"For Arsa," she whispered. "For the wolves!"

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks to everybody enjoying this story!

I hadn't originally planned on showing the arrest of Tyrion, but one of my best reviewers/readers on AO3 requested it, so I hope it lives up to hopes! Obviously, I had to hop back a few days for it from the attack on Lannisport, so the arrest is set BEFORE Admiral Starstark's pov, the rest of the chapter is set after.

Credit for the Davos storyline goes to KingofWinter's The White Wolf Rises series. It's really great, I highly recommend it for anybody who enjoys powerful North stories.

Read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Twenty-Seven

The Fallen Star

The Water Gardens: 28th July, 299 AC

Arya:

Arya nearly bounced in dark glee as she made her way to the rooms where the Imp and his party were, along with the Viper and his guards.

She didn't like the Viper, or the Sand woman. They had stolen Larra from her, an unforgiveable sin. But she hated the Lannisters, whom the Martells were helping to take down, and she loved her sister, who, for some reason, loved the Viper and Sand. So she resisted the temptation to send Nymeria after either, much as it pained her.

Nymeria was bringing up the back of the group, her dark yellow eyes glinting with excitement. Arya was excited too. Granted, going after the Half-Man and his men, who hadn't even been in King's Landing when her family was ripped apart, was not as satisfying as going after the Kingslayer who'd been the one to lead the attack and use Larra as a hostage to force Athair and Uncail to lay down their swords. Or, even better, going after the Lioness Whore who had ordered the attack in the first place.

But the Kingslayer seemed to care for his siblings, in a very twisted and ungodly way when it came to the Lioness Whore, so Arya contented herself with the knowledge that he would no doubt be pained by the news of his brother's arrest on the orders of his sister/lover. Besides, the Imp was still a lion, and if Arya had it her way, the whole family would be extinct within the next year. The children would be stripped of the name, the adult women married to loyal families. This was not the first time the Starks had set themselves the task of eradicating another House, and they had it down to an artform by now.

"Alright," the Viper stopped them at the end of the hall, just out of sight and hearing range of the Imp's guards. "Avoid casualties if possible for the moment. If you can't, too bad for the lions." He winked at them, smirking and twirling his spear before going serious again. "This shouldn't be too difficult, the Imp only has a dozen men to guard him against our twenty, we're in our territory and I expect that they're all drunk at the moment. But stay on guard, just in case. You can never be sure in a fight. Arya, do not kill him, and don't let Nymeria do so either."

Arya glared at him grumpily. "You are not in charge of me," she grumbled. "You might be Larra's husband, but she is my head of House and only she can tell me what to do."

"That may be so," he replied briskly. "I am in charge of this arrest, however. And I will leave you behind if I do not think you can act properly. I will not allow anybody to be endangered because you are unable to control your temper."

She clenched her jaw, but gave a curt nod. "I won't kill him," she promised resentfully, Nymeria lashing her tail back and forth agitatedly at her side.

"Good," her goodbrother nodded crisply before gesturing at the group to follow him. "Let's go, then."

They followed him down the corridor to where a pair of guards were slumped boredly on either side of the entrance to the Imp's rooms. They straightened at the sight of the armed contingent striding up to them.

"Drop your weapons and open these doors!" Prince Oberyn barked them, any trace of Larra's teasing husband hidden behind a mask of unyielding authority.

"Why should we?" one of the redcloaks demanded.

"Because you were given an order by a Prince of Dorne," the Viper replied sharply, triggering an argument. But Arya barely heard the words being exchanged. Her eyes were fixed on the crimson-coloured cloaks of the Imp's guards.

She felt her hands clench at the sight of the cloak. Whenever she closed her eyes, she saw it: Uncail Arthur yelling at her and Robb to run, fending off their attackers with an inferior sword due to giving them their families' ancestral weapons, knowing the runes carved into Ice and Dawn would help them defend themselves better. She could still see Master Syrio's body lying on the steps as they fled, the First Sword having fallen shielding Vayon's daughter Jeyne. She could hear Lady Arielle screaming, see Martyn Snow jump between them and a pair of redcloaks, only to stagger and fall to his knees a moment later, clutching at the hole in his chest.

That wasn't even touching on the horrors committed by the Lannister soldiers in the Riverlands. The destroyed villages, the hollow-eyed women, grieving for lost husbands and male kin, many of them with child after being brutally raped by the Westerlander soldiers. Arya could still recall as vividly as if it had only just occurred how she and her brother had been pinned near the Trident by some of the Mountain's group. Robb had been unconscious, blood forming a crimson halo around his head as the Tickler advanced on Arya while she tried to get to her brother or one of the swords. If they had not been found by their wolves, then she and Robb-

Arya forced the thoughts and memories away, determined not to think of any of it again. It hadn't happened. She and Robb were alive, and back with Larra. Once the Lannisters were dealt with, they would go home and everything would be right again.

Whilst she had been lost in thought, Prince Oberyn had gotten fed up arguing with the guards. He lunged at them, Ser Arron Qorgyle moving with him, and their weapons clashed loudly. Arya wanted to cut the redcloaks down herself, but she had to content herself with watching them. It did not take long. Prince Oberyn dealt with one while Qorgyle took down the other. Within only a few clashes, one of the men was unconscious with a crown of scarlet spreading around his dark blonde hair, and the other was struggling to stem the blood flowing from his arm, which now ended in a stump. The others were running into the rooms, weapons raised.

Arya smirked when Nymeria snarled and snapped at the pair as they passed, making the conscious one yelp in fear and cower pathetically.

Then she shoved away those thoughts to focus. The Imp, looking panicked, was trying to hide behind his sellswords and squire, who were reaching for their weapons, despite the hints to their drunkenness in their eyes and stances.

"What is the meaning of this, Prince Oberyn?" the Imp demanded, mismatched eyes panicked. "We are under guest right!"

The Viper smirked and shrugged. "Actually, you no longer are," he corrected the Lannister dwarf. "You partook of guest right whilst we were at Sunspear, however this is the Water Gardens, and you are no longer under that protection. As for what this is, the Queen Regent ordered your arrest. It seems Lord Tywin has fallen deathly ill. Now, shall you come quietly?"

The Imp gave a panicked look to his guards. The main one, the sellsword always at his side, huffed and withdrew his sword, as did the rest of them and the ever-nervous squire of his.

The next thing Arya knew, they were locked in battle, furniture and jugs of wine becoming collateral damage. Her vision tunnelled. All she could see was the redcloaks around the shoulders of the guards. The same cloaks as the ones worn by those who killed her family and household. She slashed and dodged in the style taught to her by Master Syrio, mixed with some moves she'd learned from Uncail Arthur.

Suddenly, she realized that she was holding Needle to the Imp's throat, and Nymeria had the lion's leg between her teeth. The Half-Man was frozen in place, looking panicked. Around her, the guards had all been taken care of by the Dornishmen. She held her sword to the Imp's neck, entranced by the sight of a line of blood appearing. In her mind's eye, she could see her family's heads on spikes. She had been spared seeing the executions, but Larra had not, and Arya knew she had nightmares of it still. And they had all seen the heads, skin waxy and eyes staring blankly, placed on spikes above the walls of the Red Keep as a warning not to betray Joffrey Baratheon.

The nephew of the man whose throat she was holding Needle, the sword commissioned for her by her Uncle Arthur, against.

It had been a joint nameday gift, that final nameday before the world had fallen apart. Her uncle had gotten her the sword, whilst her parents had arranged for the First Sword of Braavos to come and tutor her in swordplay. She had been so excited, so proud.

"A future Sword of Morning, mayhaps?" Uncail Arthur had winked at her. "You or Robb. We shall have to wait and see how you do in your lessons, alright?"

Uncail would never again adjust her grip on her sword, or decide between her and Robb to be his successor, all because of the lions. She pressed deeper at the Imp's throat, darkly satisfied by his fearful whimper.

"Arya!" Prince Oberyn called. "Enough! You have him, enough!"

Arya trembled, keeping her sword held against the Imp's neck. "They killed them," she mumbled. "They killed everybody, and they tortured Larra."

"I know," he replied soothingly, coming closer to her and resting a hand carefully on her shoulder. "And they will pay, all of them, in blood for what they have done. But not yet, Arya. We have him. Let Ser Daeron take custody of him now."

She stared at him for several long moments. He didn't try to rush her, waiting patiently. At last, dully, she stepped away and dropped her arm, Needle scraping against the ground. "Nymeria, release him," she ordered her companion flatly.

The direwolf growled in disappointment, then unclenched her teeth. The Imp's foot had been badly mangled. She doubted that he would ever be able to walk unaided again.

"Everyone, out," the prince ordered, gaze still locked on Arya. She realized that she was trembling. Nymeria nudged her, but Arya couldn't bring herself to pat the wolf's snout as she wanted, keeping her own eyes fixed on the now-unconscious dwarf as he and his men were escorted away.

Eventually, she was alone with her sister's husband and her familiar. He knelt beside her, but didn't try to touch her, thankfully. Or maybe not. After all, if he were to touch her, she'd have an excuse to hit him, and she wanted to hit something. She wanted to be angry again, instead of this awful desire to weep an ocean's worth of tears. Anger was so much easier to deal with then hurt was.

"Arya," Prince Oberyn murmured gently, still not reaching for her. "Do you want one of your siblings?"

She shook her head frowning at she noticed that she was now clutching tightly at Nymeria's fur. "They're all dead," she said. Her voice came out small and hurt, confused. As if she were a child, not a maiden flowered with a dozen kills to her name.

"Not everybody," Prince Oberyn reminded her softly. "Larra and Robb still live. Your Uncle Benjen, his wife and children, your Dayne relations. They all live still."

"But Athair and Máthair, Uncail Arthur and Bran and Alayne," she hiccupped. "They are gone."

"I know. I know Arya."

A sob escaped her, despite her best efforts to hold it back, and before she knew it she was crying into his tunic while he rubbed her back and muttered promises of revenge against those who'd ripped her family apart to her.

It made her feel like a child again, but as when she was a little girl, the tears made her feel lighter when they finally stemmed and she pulled away.

Oberyn didn't comment, simply handing her a handkerchief with the Martell and Uller symbols on it, as well as a border of red snakes. It reminded her of Larra's stitching. Probably her sister had made it for him. The Viper wasn't so bad, Arya supposed grudgingly.

She didn't like him still, but for Larra's sake she supposed she could make the effort to get along with him and Ellaria. But only for Larra. Not because she actually liked them or anything.


Oldtown: August 15th, 299 AC

Gerold "The Darkstar" Dayne:

Gerold kept his head down as he eavesdropped on the latest news in the inn.

"Supposedly, Casterly Rock itself was burned to the ground!" one man insisted to his friends. "I tell you, the Seven have abandoned Westeros. What's next? The Eyrie being destroyed."

"Do not be ridiculous," one of his drinking companions scoffed. "I can believe the part about Lannisport. How many times have the IronBorn sacked that city? But Casterly Rock? No, I do not believe it. That is mere nonsense, of that I am certain."

The first man looked indignant at not being believed. He quickly began defending himself, insisting that he had a cousin who was a merchant working in Lannisport who'd written to him of the attack. His companions continued to dismiss the claims of Casterly Rock's destruction as exaggerations, but Gerold knew better.

He felt as if his heart was at the bottom of his stomach. The temptation to throw up was strong. Gerold knew his history, as every Winterlander, high or lowborn, did. The destruction of the Lannisters' ancestral home, the lack of anybody save guards being killed in the raid on Lannisport all pointed to one thing. The Sea-wolves had been unleashed and were wrecking vengeance on the Westerlands.

No doubt the land-based part of the army was also on the move, hidden from the Lannisters' spies by the magic of the crannogmen.

The Winterlands were out for blood. Nobody got away with going after the Starks. What had he been thinking, agreeing to Theon's idiotic plan?

The Towers, the Fishers of the Stoney Shore, the Flints of Breakstone Hill and the Boltons of the Dreadfort, the predecessor of his own family home, had all been rendered extinct by the Starks after trying to destroy them, and they were merely the most powerful examples. When the Starks decided somebody was their enemy, nothing stopped them. The War Across the Water had lasted over a millennia because the North had refused to give up their claim on the Three Sisters after so many of their own had died for the cause. And almost everybody was devoted to their liege lords. The North would fight to last breath to avenge the crimes against House Stark.

Gerold knew the fate that Larra would no doubt bestow on the Lannisters and the Greyjoys. First, the males old enough to go to war would all be either executed or else gelded and exiled. The women, meanwhile, would be either married to loyal vassals or else put in motherhouses. Any children would be made wards of Stark bannermen, or at Winterfell itself after it was rebuilt. They would be strictly watched, with reminders given to them many times of the mercy the Starks had shown in sparing them, until the children were as devoted to the Direwolves as their own men were. The girls would be married to cadet branches of the family, and the boys would likely be directed towards joining the Watch, or the Citadel, or some sort of career that prevented them from wedding and continuing their lines. They would all be stripped of their surname to ensure none could resurrect the Lannister name.

It had happened many, many times before. The Starks had made an art out of destroying their enemies, and they never failed.

The Lannisters and Greyjoys were dead men walking, they simply didn't realize it yet.

Gerold was a sensible man, despite his fit of greed-induced stupidity when he'd helped the IronBorn attack Winterfell. He knew that Larra was undoubtedly out for his blood. He had not killed any of his kin himself, but he had helped in the Sack of Winterfell. He was a kinslayer by aiding his cousins' murderers. At the time, Theon's plan had seemed like a great one, but he couldn't recall his reasoning anymore. Had he been drunk, or had his mind failed him?

Either way, it no longer mattered. What mattered was figuring out how to escape Larra's wrath. He would need to leave the Seven Kingdoms, none were safe for him now that the Winterlanders were on a rampage.

It would have to be the Free Cities, but not Braavos. Braavos was closesly linked to the Starks and the Winterlands, a result of King Donnel XV sending men to protect the fleeing slaves who had founded the city, and giving the loan that had started the Iron Bank. Ever since, they had remained close. Many a Stark had married into the Braavosi elite. The latest union had been Willam Stark's youngest sister Alysanne, who had married the Sealord of the time. Not to mention the Company of the Rose was based out of there, and they also maintained close ties with the North. If Gerold went to Braavos, he would be in as much danger as if he were in the Sisters themselves. The place was filled with Winterlanders who'd left their kingdom to earn a living or some other such reason, and many Braavosi highborn visited the North, and usually Winterfell, at least once in their lives. He'd never escape unrecognized.

No, Braavos was definitely not an option, but that made things difficult. He didn't have enough coin to gain passage to any of the other cities. He had to figure something out, some way to flee Westeros without being found by Stark supporters.

Perhaps if he went to the lions, offered up his information on the Winterlands' military in exchange for protection from them...He considered it a moment before scoffing at the idiocy of the idea.

It was a stupid idea. The lions would never be able to defeat the Winterlander army, and should he be discovered giving up the secret knowledge of their people's ways, they would not be kind enough to just execute him. They'd send him to the Wolf's Den first.

He shuddered, thinking of Lord Frost's dark eyes. They had always made him think of bottomless tunnels, going straight down to the Otherworld.

Gerold tried to drink some more of his ale, then huffed to himself in frustration as he realized that his tankard was empty, shoving away from the counter of the bar. He rose and tugged on his cloak, stalking out of the bar with a sullen expression on his face. Lost in thoughts of how to get out of reach of his vengeful cousin and her loyal vassals, he failed to spot the group that stood from their own table, hidden in the shadows of the corner, and began following him.


Matthos Seaworth:

Matthos Seaworth walked with the rest of his group at a distance behind their target. Aided by the Warg Warriors, it had not been difficult for them to narrow down the Kinslayer's location after receiving the letter from Larra ordering he be tracked down.

Matthos was Lord Davos Seaworth's third son. He'd been a toddler during the Rebellion, when Admiral Seastark had employed the then-smuggler to help him relieve Storm's End. As it turned out, Davos had already been planning on helping the besieged Baratheon stronghold, but he had accepted the Admiral's offer of a lordship and a keep on a small isle off the coast of Sailor's Cove, sworn to the Seastarks. It had been more than worth it, with the Seaworth boys all growing up as members of the Wolf Pack. Nobody looked down on any of them for their backgrounds, instead honouring Davos for his bravery. That he had allowed Stannis Baratheon to take several of his fingers as punishment for his smuggling impressed them all the more.

"A fine example for you all to look to and mimic, my lads," Lord Stark himself had once said of Davos.

All of the Seaworths who were old enough to go to war were stationed on various ships. Davos himself was captaining The Black Betha, which was heading to help besiege Pyke along with The Lady Marya, captained by Allard. Matthos, meanwhile, had been sent to bring the group assigned to arrest the Darkstar to his location, before taking him to Dorne to be judged by their lady.

The Darkstar didn't notice them until it was too late for him. They stalked him silently until they came to an abandoned area. They exchanged looks, and then silently attacked.

He put up a good fight, and he had been trained by the Sword of Morning himself. But so had they, and there were six of them. Gerold was fighting to defend himself, they were fighting to avenge their families.

None of the Seaworths had been present at Winterfell when it was attacked. Only representatives of the most powerful Houses of the Conclave had been present, debating what to do about the murder of Lord Stark and his household and Lady Larra being held hostage. But Matthos had grown up beside those people, they were Pack. Lady Ashara had been like an aunt, or even a second mother, to he and his brothers. Bran had been so cheerful and bright-eyed with enthusiasm, never allowing his damaged legs to dampen his happiness. And sweet little Alayne, Matthos could easily picture her toddling around Winterfell, ragdoll clutched tightly in one hand and her thumb stuck in her mouth, her grey eyes wide with wonder.

And they had all died, because Gerold was a greedy kinslayer.

The thought of it invigorated him, and Matthos was the honoured to be the one to strike the final blow, knocking Gerold to the ground just after Markus Whitewolf disarmed him.

Gerold groaned into the ground as Cley Cerwyn, eyes dark with bitter anger over his father's muder, placed a foot atop the man's back to hold him down whilst Jorelle Mormont tied him up.

"It wasn't my fault," the Darkstar whimpered as he was roughly yanked to his feet by Daryn Hornwood. "Theon-"

Jorelle broke his nose, her expression twisted in fury and grief. "Shut your fucking mouth, you damn traitor!" she spat in rage. "Lyra was at Winterfell that day, damn you! My sister is dead because of you! Dacey probably would've died too, if she had not been with child and forced to stay at home. My mother lost her arm! You did that! You killed Lyra! You mutilated Máthair! Traitor! Kinslayer!"

Daryn grabbed her and hauled her away before she could do more than bloody his face. "He'll get what's coming to him, Jory," Matthos assured her. He turned his gaze on Gerold, who had a satisfying look of dread in his purple eyes. They had always been different, darker and less caring, than the rest of the Daynes. "Larra will see to it."

Jory relaxed, a bitter smirk spreading across her face. "Yes," she agreed. "She will."

"You made a bad decision, Kinslayer," Jojen Reed declared. "And now, you shall pay for it."

Gerold's shoulders slumped, his head falling forward. Matthos was unfoolled by the apparent submission. They would keep a careful eye on their prisoner, to ensure that he did not escape.

They exchanged quick glances, and nodded to one another. Daryn pulled his head back by the hair, and then Jory, looking bitterly pleased, smashed her fist into the centre of the Darkstar's face, sending him straight into oblivion. Then Matthos took his legs, whilst Cley grabbed his shoulders. The others surrounded them, weapons at the ready for any attacks, and they began making their way back to where their small ship was waiting at the docks.

Soon enough, Lady Ashara and her babes, as well as everybody else slaughtered at the Bloody Conclave, would be avenged. Matthos couldn't wait. He hoped that Larra let them watch.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Thanks for every lovely review, you guys rock! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This'll probably be the last update until after Christmas, but I should update at least one of my stories before the New Year, hopefully both.

(There is another short jump back in time for the first part of this, then forward again for Gerold's trial).

Read, enjoy and review!

Chapter Twenty-Eight

The Judgement of the Wolf Princess

Sunspear: 2 nd August, 299 AC

Robb:

"Are you sure about this?" Arya peered up at him. "It's not too late for us to grab the wolves and run off, you know."

"I thought that you liked Laena," Larra frowned at her from where she was sitting at the vanity, her handmaiden Shae pulling her hair into an elaborate braid with jewelled pins decorating the hairstyle. They were all dressed for the wedding ceremony already, Larra in a silver and white dress in the 'conservative' Dornish style, Arya in a grey and white tunic with breeches, her hair pulled back into a plain braid. Robb himself wore a similar outfit to Arya, though his was masculine and had a direwolf sewn on the breast. He wore a Stark cloak around his shoulders, as he would be becoming a member of House Targaryen with this wedding, instead of Elaena joining House Stark.

He still wasn't sure how he felt about becoming kin to the men who had done so much damage to his family, but he knew that he loved Laena, and if this was the cost he had to pay to be with her, then so be it, he would pay willingly. Besides, it was not as if there were any other Targaryens yet. There had once been, but Viserys Targaryen "the Begger King" had died years ago, and nobody knew what had happened to Princess Daenerys after her marriage to the Dothraki horse lord.

Robb didn't really understand, nor did he pretend to know how things would be for him in the future, as King Consort. He was a bastard. Yes, he had been fortunate enough to be born into House Stark of the Winterlands, therefore he had it far easier than any bastard born between the Neck and the Red Mountains. But he had made it obvious from the start that he did not want to be a lord ruling over a keep, though he had no doubt his uncle would have made arrangements for him to be landed, if he had wanted that.

But Robb had always been a master warrior and tactician, always beating his peers and even the older fosterlings, and so he had been drawn, naturally, towards the Warg Warriors. He had planned to join them and become Captain, heading his cousin/sister's army in the future. He had spent the past few years relying on his martial skills. He had his doubts as to how well he'd do in peacetime court, filled with southrons currying favour to his and Laena's faces and scheming behind their back. Just the thought made him grimace. It was so much easier in the Winterlands. There, when somebody wanted to kill you, they did so.

But Laena was worth it. For her, he'd grit his teeth and muddle through as best he could.

"I do like Laena," Arya replied to Larra, her voice grumpy as she acknowledged that fact. "But that doesn't mean she should be marrying Robb. I still think we ought to go home and leave all the burners to fix their own damn messes."

Shae had just finished doing her hair, so Larra sighed as she stood, smoothing out any creases that had formed in her dress. Her handmaiden slipped out, leaving the siblings alone for a few private moments before they had to go to the ceremony.

"Well, Robb?" Larra asked mildly. "Are you ready to marry a lovely woman, one who will be Queen soon enough?"

"It'll be a sacrifice," Robb sassed his sisters. "But I suppose that it'll be good for our House, so I shall make it and wed a beautiful, intelligent and powerful lady."

Arya snorted, then darted in to wrap her slim arms around his waist, hugging him with surprising strength for someone so small and slim. Larra also joined the embrace, the three of them hugging each other tightly.

"I wish that they were here," Arya whispered, voice muffled. "I wish we were at home, and you were a Warg Warrior and preparing to marry Sybelle Amber instead, that we were witnesses to Larra wedding Torrhen. I wish none of this had ever happened, that we had never left home. Everything would have been so much better then."

"I know, Arya," Larra sniffled. Robb could tell she was trying not to cry and ruin the make-up Shae had carefully done. "I wish that they were here as well."

"Me too," Robb agreed, swallowing against the lump in his throat. He wished desperately for his uncle to be there to give him the wise and assuring advice Eddard Stark had been known for. If anybody could have reassured him about being a husband, it would be him. But never again would any of them be able to have their father rest a hand on their shoulder and give them a serious look as he advised them on something.

Arya slipped out of the embrace after several moments. "Nymeria is upset about something," she muttered. "I better go and settle her before she eats a guard or something."

Robb rather suspected that Nymeria was not the one upset, but he said nothing, merely nodding. Arya had always hated being vulnerable, something that had only increased over the past couple of years.

"We will see you in the sept then," Larra murmured, running a hand over Arya's braid to flatten it in a motherly fashion.

Like for Larra, Robb's wedding would take place in a sept. But he and Laena had already agreed that once they had secured control of the capital, they would have a second ceremony in the godswood there, just as Larra, the Viper and Ellaria planned to have a First Man's wedding once Winterfell was restored.

"Larra," Robb began. He did not have either of his uncles available for advice, but his sister was always a wonderful sounding board. "How did you know that you had fallen in love with your husband and Ellaria?" He was certain that he loved Laena, but the question was nagging at him, and had been for some time now.

Larra chewed on her bottom lip, looking thoughtful and tilting her head in a bird-like motion that brought to mind Lady Arielle when she was contemplating the best way to explain a complicated lesson to her pupils. Robb and the boys had not spent much time with her, but they'd had a few lessons on etiquette and politics from her and Máthair instead of from Scholar Luwin.

"Do you know, I have not ever said that I love them to them?" she stated finally. Robb blinked in surprise. Of course, he had seen the pair tell her that they loved her, though Larra did not say it in return, either smiling and kissing them, or else saying that she trusted them. Robb had simply assumed it was because of their upbringing, which demanded such things be kept behind closed doors. He knew that she loved them though. He could see it in the way she acted around them, automatically adjusting herself to be closer to them when they entered a room, relaxing into their touch, trusting them in way she trusted nobody else save for Robb and Arya themselves.

"Why not?" he inquired, frowning slightly. She had been married the best part of a year now, and had known them longer. She'd already loved them by the time he and Arya had arrived. What was stopping her from saying so?

"I do love them, and it frightens me terribly," Larra admitted. She continued before he could interrupt. "In response to your actual question, I suppose that I realized that I loved them when I informed them that I was with child, and Ellaria said that she could not wait to meet our babe, and Oberyn kissed my stomach and said that he could not wait to meet the next generation of Starks. That he was willing to have our children be named Starks for me, that Ellaria unquestionably considered the babe her own despite them not sharing blood, that was what settled it.

I just, I do not know. It was not sudden. It was not as if they spoke with me once and I fell head over heels. I was wary of them first. The offer to marry me to keep me from the lions shocked me, I had not considered them that way at all, I truly I had not. I knew logically that they were attractive, and we'd had some enjoyable conversations, but I did not think of such things. Honestly, I associated all of that sort of thing with danger after all of the threats the lions had made to me. I accepted Oberyn's proposal because I was desperate. I did not yet truly trust them, but I trusted that they hated the Lannisters, so if I was his wife I would be away from them. Not to mention the truth vow we had all taken.

I started to genuinely trust them when Oberyn insisted on waiting until I was emotionally ready to consummate our marriage, instead of taking his rights. I knew that he enjoyed sex, but he was willing to wait for me to be more comfortable. Then when Oberyn was fighting the Mountain, I felt as if I would die of fear for him, and I think the only thing that kept me from fainting was Ellaria. She was like an anchor."

"But why not tell them so?" Robb had listened in silence to his sister's speech. She had said none of it to him before, save for small fragments. But he was glad to hear it, even if the reminder of everything she had gone through enraged him. He had never thanked the Martells for saving her, Robb realized suddenly. He would have to do so. He had not saved her, as was his familial duty, and that was something that he would never be able to forgive himself for. But he needed to thank his soon-to-be goodfamily for succeeding where he and the North had failed.

Another thought occurred to him. Larra had not said 'I love you' to him since their reunion either. Nor to Arya, so far as he knew. His frown deepened. She had always been free (for a Northerner) with her affection and expressions of love as a child. They had all been, as was proper for a pack of wolves such as their family. Warm hugs and expressions of love had been frequent, though once they were past a certain age they had restricted it to behind closed doors, as was appropriate.

She glanced away briefly. "Do you know that the last people I told I love you were Athair and Uncail Arthur?" she asked, voice trembling on their names.

He swallowed harshly against the sudden lump that had formed in his throat. "When?" he questioned her softly.

Her eyes had shifted to stony grey and shone with unshed tears as she answered. "They used to make them confess," she explained, voice monotone. "I was dragged down to the cell where they were and given some water and a cloth to tend their wounds. Gods Robb, it was awful. Daidí was so weak and bruised, Uncail had both of his legs and his arms broken because of the fight he'd put up trying to protect Daidí. After I had done what I could for them, the jailors came back in. They made them watch as I was stripped and then had a knife held to my throat. They threatened to make them watch me be raped to death unless they confessed. They threatened Arya too, because we didn't know you had escaped."

She laughed bitterly as Robb struggled between horror and rage, pulling his sister into a tight hug as she continued. Robb almost wanted her to stop, but he didn't interrupt, listening to her bare her griefs to him. He was her brother, he would help her bare them as best he could. A woman marrying did not mean she could lose her blood family's protection and support.

"Of course, they could not get the confession out swiftly enough after Rugen promised on the gods that we would be spared if they admitted their 'treason'," she sneered the word contemptuously, swiping at her cheeks. Her make-up was undamaged, but her eyes were red-rimmed. "Rugen said that mercy would be shown, that they would be sent to the Watch, not executed. Then they oh-so graciously granted us a few moments' alone to say goodbye.

They promised me that all would be well, told me to do whatever necessary to stay safe until I could get back to the Winterlands, even if it meant scorning them as evil incarnate and kissing the Lannisters' boots. Then they said that they loved me, that it was a worthy sacrifice if I was safe. I told them I loved them as well, and then the guards made me leave before I could say more.

Then the next day, I had to watch as they were made to confess in front of a huge crowd, all of King's Landing had come it seemed. None of the commons were pleased about what was happening, everyone could tell.

It was unsurprising to me, but I think that it offended Joffrey and Cersei. Never mind that our family probably gave more alms in that small period that we were there together than that entire family combined did in all of their years living in the Red Keep. And then, after the confession, Joffrey," she spat the name with the same utter loathing that Robb felt for the incest-born brute who had ordered his kin's deaths and his sister's torture. "He said that he had agreed to be merciful. And then he said that he had changed his mind," she hissed the words, hatred twisting her lovely face. "Changed his mind!

And then he called for Payn to come forward. Athair was executed first. I think they did it like that deliberately, to make Uncail suffer more, because he was captain of our guards. Then they dragged Uncail forward and made him kneel in Papa's blood, and took his head off." She exhaled shakily, looking just upset instead of angry now. She looked down at her lap, adding quietly. "Both of them looked at me as they were killed. Daidí mouthed something at me, but I do not know what it was."

Robb blinked back his own tears, hugging her tightly. "They would have done it for any of us," Robb said shakily. "Without blinking. Máthair also. They loved us, Larra. Do not demean their sacrifice by saying it wasn't worth it. It was to them, and is that not what matters?"

She looked at him with shining eyes. "Oberyn and Ellaria have been saying similar things," she admitted. "But, it means more coming from you somehow. I do not know why."

"I knew Athair and Uncail," Robb suggested. "They did not. Maybe that is why."

She nodded thoughtfully, swiping at her cheeks again. "Gods, how did we end up speaking of such things on your wedding day?" she asked rhetorically. "That is not a fitting topic for such an occasion."

Robb gave a half-smile. "Ah, but have you not heard from these southrons how grim we Northerners are?" he asked as lightly as he could, trying to lighten the mood. "So surely, we ought to be acting as if a wedding is the equivalent to a funeral. That would suit our reputations perfectly."

Larra giggled softly, smiling a slightly-strained smile.

Robb glanced out of the window, noting that they had only a few more moments before they absolutely had to leave to avoid being late. He certainly did not want to be tardy to his own wedding, and Laena would probably be furious if he was.

But there was one last thing he had to tell his sister before they left for the sept. "You know, Larra," he said gently to her. "Telling them you love them, saying it to Arya and I again, that is not going to curse us to die soon."

Her bottom lip trembled again. "The last thing I said to Máthair, Bran and Alayne was I love you as well," she whispered.

"I know," Robb replied solemnly, recalling the image of their family, slowly fading from view as they rode away from Winterfell. "But that was not what killed them. Any of them. And it will not kill us, either. You do not have to, but I beseech you not to let the lions win, Sister. And if you give into this fear, prevent yourself fully opening up your heart again, then that is what will happen.

Don't give them that power over you, Larra. They do not deserve such."

She was silent and thoughtful for a few moments, before they both rose in unison. "Are you ready to become a husband and a king with one set of vows, Brother mine?" she asked with a warm smile.

"Not in the slightest," Robb admitted honestly. "But for her, I will try my best to be a good one."

"Just follow Athair's example," Larra suggested. "Then you will be fine."

Robb nodded in agreement, then offered her his arm to guide her from the room so they could make their way to the sept for his wedding.


Sunspear: September 4th, 299 AC

Larra:

The happiness of the celebrations for her brother/cousin and stepdaughter/goodniece's wedding seemed to be years past only a turn of the moon later, when Larra found herself sitting between her goodbrother and Lady Delonne Allyrion, her goodaunt, the three of them to act as judges for Gerold's trial. There was no jury, as the south did not use them, though Doran had been fascinated by the Winterlands' legal system, as had Laena.

"Your House has had more than eight millennia to perfect ruling," Laena had pointed out to her reasonably. "We would learn of it, to improve our own skills, if you would share."

Doing so could only benefit Westeros as a whole, so Larra had lately spent many hours explaining her family's methods to Doran and Laena, who listened intently and came up with intelligent questions about various things. From what her stepdaughter had been saying, Larra expected much of her kingdom's laws and practices to be adopted once Laena had established herself enough to be able to start making waves in the muddy political waters of court.

The court of Sunspear was all gathered to watch the trial. Larra searched for her loves' gazes, reassured when she met their eyes and they gave her encouraging looks. She had yet to take Robb's advice and tell them outright that she loved them. When the time was right, she would do so. But not just yet. She felt that she would know when it was right.

This was not only the first time she had sat in judgement over a trial such as this, but it was for such a personal crime, also. Were they in the Winterlands, she'd not have been allowed near the judging bench, or the jury. Quietly, she was pleased to be one of his judges. She wanted to pass the worst sentence she could think of down on him, wanted to look in his eyes and hear his explanation for turning on his family.

Like her father, Larra's wolf's blood was mild. But also like him, when it was evoked it was enduring and vengeful, in contrast to her late Uncle Brandon, who had gotten angry at the drop of a hat and then lost that same fury within moments, becoming best friends with people he'd been on the verge of murdering only moments prior to that.

The doors opened, and a pair of Martell guards entered, holding their spears. Then, following the two Dornishmen came six of her former foster siblings. It had been years, but Larra could identify each of them with a look: Markus Whitewolf, Jorelle 'Jory' Mormont, Matthos Seaworth, Cley Cerwyn, Daryn Hornwood and Jojen Reed. They were surrounding another familiar figure.

Larra swallowed, staring at her cousin. She hardly noticed anything else around her as he was escorted up to the waiting dais, and subsequently chained to the floor. His nose was broken, his eyes blackened. His clothes and hair were dirty and bloodstained, and his shoulders were slumped in resignation. Matthos and Jory held him roughly by his upper arms, even after he was tied down. The herald's voice, introducing him and listing the crimes he was accused of (treason against his liege family, murder, conspiracy to usurp his liege's title, kinslaying and oathbreaking), barely penetrated her mind.

She was Chief Judge and would be interrogating him. In the south, in contrast to her homeland, the person with the greatest connection to the accused, or else the highest rank, was the interrogator and Chief Judge. She felt it a bad idea in general, but in this case she appreciated it.

Gerold was ordered at spear point to vow on the Old Gods not to lie, and the trial began.

The hall was silent as she locked eyes with him, violet on violet, and spoke, not bothering to mince her words. "Did you do it?"

Something flashed over his expression, and he looked down, breaking the gaze. "Yes," he responded quietly. "I did."

Arya snarled in anger. Robb let out a growl, and Laena rested her hand on his arm, looking worried. The Winterlanders looked ready to rip his throat out themselves, eyes enraged.

Larra had been angry before, but now she just felt tired and empty. "Why?" she half-whispered. "Why Gerold? Máthair and Athair raised you after your parents died. They treated you as another son, they loved you. Trustedyou. You helped Bran learn to read the Old Tongue. When my mother was birthing Alayne, you prayed for them with us in the godswood, and you were among the first to hold her, you watched my sister's first steps! How could you murder them?"

Her voice had gained passion as she spoke, her previous emptiness shifting to hurt and fury. Her babes kicked within her, and she rested a hand on her seven months' pregnant stomach protectively. She stared desperately at her cousin, silently beseeching him to at least tell her the truth of why he had done such a thing to them, after everything and in spite of their familial ties.

He exhaled shakily, and set his shoulders. His eyes were wet when he met her gaze, but Larra was unmoved by his seeming remorse. Regret was all well and good, but it did not change the past, or the consequences of his actions.

"I," he faltered and then continued. "I was greedy, and an idiot. I wanted- 'Tis like you said, Larra. They treated me as a son. I felt like I was their elder son. I wanted more than to be one of Nedric's men or an advisor. And then after Uncail Ned died, everything was in chaos and nobody knew what to do. Theon proposed we go to Pyke, convince them to help us take over Winterfell. He wanted to prove to his people that he was a worthy Lord Paramount of the Iron Islands, and we figured that we could get the Winterlands under control. I just- things got out of hand. It was not meant to be this way, it truly was not."

Larra stared at him, feeling hollow again. Her pregnancy made her emotions shift faster than the wind, as far as she could tell. Ellaria had told her it was common in a pregnant lady.

"You felt that, as the eldest adopted son of the Lord and Lady of Winterfell, it belonged to you," she stated flatly, having seen the truth behind his words. "So, you decided to sack my home, kill not just my mother and young, defenceless siblings, but also a dozen lords and their spouses and heirs, as well as the servants and guards! How? Tell me how you managed it!"

His voice had a hint of a tremble as he answered. "Theon and I revealed the guard rotations to the IronBorn. Prior, we preformed several raids disguised as wildling attacks on the settlements near to Winterfell, places we knew would need reinforcements to be sent from Winterfell, so the keep was not so heavily guarded. Theon also had the exits of the passages blocked off so nobody could escape, but I swear by the Old Gods that I did not know of that until later. I never meant for Aintín or your siblings to die or be harmed, I swear Larra. I did not want them to be, but the IronBorn were out of my control. Your mother fought to the end, killed several of them herself and scratched out the eye of the one who-" he faltered and swallowed.

Larra stood, feeling oddly calmed, and then she leaned over the table to spit at his feet. "Damn you," she breathed.

"I do not believe we need to hear anymore," Doran spoke up. "You have confessed to your crimes. I judge you guilty of all crimes, and defer the decision of your sentencing to Princess Alarra Stark-Martell, Lady Paramount of the Winterlands and Lady of Winterfell."

"I concur with Prince Doran," Lady Delonne agreed.

Larra lifted her chin and pursed her lips to whistle in a very particular pattern.

Gerold's face drained of what little blood had been in his cheeks, knowing what she had just done. He looked stricken with terror, and Larra smirked darkly at him, knowing that she was probably radiating fury. She could see, out of the corner of her eye, that her fellow Winterlanders all looked viciously satisfied, eyes gleaming eagerly, whilst the Dornish looked either puzzled or suspicious.

Taibhse came bounding in after several moments, causing several startled shrieks. Gerold swallowed thickly and began muttering a prayer in the Old Tongue as she bounded down the aisle.

"Taibhse," Larra called to her direwolf, somehow certain that her expression was as icy as her father's had been when doing this. She stepped away from the judge's table, feeling everyone's eyes on her but for once uncaring of it. Justice for her mother and siblings was here at last. The Greyjoys would not last much longer, but Gerold was the one she hated most for his actions. The others had all been enemies from the start, even if her parents had tried to treat Theon as a ward instead of a hostage, but Gerold had been family. His action was the worst, in Larra's opinion.

Tai came to her side, and Larra, stroked her fur. She could not kill Gerold with her own hands. She would not do him the service of damning her soul by becoming a kinslayer. But this was a fitting death for the treacherous cur.

She walked towards him as Jory and Matthos forced him to his knees. To his credit, he did not struggle or plead, resigned to his fate.

"Any last words?" she asked flatly.

"I really do regret it," Gerold responded, looking up at her. "If I could go back in time and change my decision, I would. But I cannot, so I accept this, and I accept that I will go to the Dungeons of the Gods."

"May the Gods have mercy on your soul," Larra replied curtly. "Because I will not."

Then she turned to her beloved familiar. "Taibhse, marú é," she ordered coldly. The albino wolf ran right at the waiting man, her teeth closing around his neck and subsequently tearing his throat out, making blood spray as his head fell to the floor alongside his body, blood flowing out of both of them.

A sob burst from her lips as she stared at the scene, and she found herself bending almost double with the force of her weeping. A moment later, Oberyn's arms were scooping her up and he was taking her from the hall, Ellaria at his side.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GOT.

Hey, I'm back! How was everyone's Christmas/New Years? Hope it was better than mine was (admitted to hospital for emergency surgery on the 22nd , can you believe it? I'm still wiped).

So, whilst recovering from surgery I started playing around with another new story idea that has taken up all of my (limited) energy. The first chunk of it is quite similar to the books/show, so by now it's about 20 chapters in, and I decided to post it.

I know, I typically don't like to have more than 2 stories on at once, but Star of the North is almost done already, and I've got some writer's block when it comes to the sequel for ASoMS, while A Song of Vengeance is pouring out onto my laptop. Check it out and then tell me in your reviews what you think!

Read, enjoy and review! Your support makes my day and encourages updates!

Chapter Twenty-Nine

The Birth of the Desert Wolves

Sunspear: 10 th October, 299 AC

Larra:

Larra woke up in pain, rolling away from Ellaria with a moan that bordered on a small scream. Her movements jostled Ellaria and Oberyn awake as she put her hand on her belly, rubbing across it to try and calm the twisting and squirming babes somehow.

"Larra, what's wrong? Larra?" Oberyn's urgent voice pierced her haze of pain and she managed to focus on his face through the tears of agony filling her eyes.

"Something's wrong!" she gasped, bending double and clutching at her belly.

"Ellaria, go and get Caleotte, get him right now," she heard her husband bark at their lover. She could hear Ellaria scrambling for the door, but she couldn't concentrate. She had been having mild pains all week but only on and off. Caleotte had examined her and declared that they were simply practice pains as the babes moved into position and prepared for their birth.

This, she knew instinctively, was very different and very dangerous. She recalled her mother's troubles with childbearing again, how both of her grandmothers had suffered multiple stillbirths and miscarriages before dying of childbed fever, and felt fear mix in with her pain. Tears fell from her eyes and she struggled to breathe through the tightness in her chest.

"My love, I know it's hard but you must breathe," Oberyn said coaxing, cupping the sides of her face. She groaned in response, hiccupping through her tears.

"It's too soon, they're too early," she whimpered in reply. She could spy the anxiousness in his own gaze, though he was clearly trying to hide it from her. She was still about a moon away from when Caleotte had said she was likely due. The maester had said that multiples often came sooner than expected too, but she knew perfectly well that the earlier a child came, the more dangerous it was. Her husband's late sister had been a moon and a half early, and whilst Elia had survived, she had suffered with ill health her whole life.

Larra was utterly terrified in a way she had not been since the attack on the Tower of the Hand when she was twelve.

"Everything will be fine, just breathe, Caleotte is a genius with childbirth, he will be here soon," Oberyn replied soothingly. "Twins often come early, do not fear. Everything will be fine."

"I want my mother," she sobbed, utterly petrified. She had been longing for Ashara more than ever since the start of her pregnancy, but now the desire for her mother's cool hands and loving purple gaze was almost crushing, it was so overwhelming.

He grimaced. "I know, my love, I know," he muttered.

The door flew open and Caleotte and the midwife, Lady Myriah Wyl, came rushing in with Ellaria at their heels.

Caleotte was barking orders, Oberyn was pushed out of the way, and Larra finally fell unconscious, but not from pain. What tipped her over the edge into blackness was the raw panic she felt when Lady Myriah ripped the blankets away to reveal the blood staining the sheets.


Ellaria:

Ellaria did not remember much about the birth of her youngest daughter. Loreza's birth had been traumatic, as if the child had tried to rip her way out of Ellaria's womb. Ellaria had been only half-conscious the whole time, all of her scattered concentration focused on pushing the child from her womb. Mostly she remembered utter agony and Oberyn's panicked voice demanding that her life be saved and pleading with her to stay with him, with their daughters.

If this was how he had felt when she had nearly died birthing Lorie, then she dearly regretted not comforting him more in the aftermath. This was as bad as the fear she had felt during his battle with the Mountain, and when Larra had disappeared that day to meet her siblings in secret. She was less than pleased with the return of the feeling, to make an understatement. The whole of the Water Gardens were awake and bustling now, for all it was still dark outside.

Even if word had not spread quickly when her ladies-in-waiting were all summoned from their beds to Larra's side to help with the labour, the pandemonium in their rooms would have drawn people's attention. Ellaria and Oberyn were at Larra's bedside, unable to do more than pray for the safety of her and their soon-to-arrive twin daughters. Because she was unconscious, they could not even give her comfort, though Ellaria was repeatedly wiping her sweaty forehead and trying to bring her back to consciousness, Oberyn doing the same and looking pale and worried.

She could not give him any comfort, when she felt the same way.

"We need to wake her up!" Caleotte growled.

"Really, I had not realized that!" Healer Elyse Blackwolf, a woman in her late fifties with grey hair, a scar over the bridge of her nose and a fierce, no-nonsense attitude who had served at Winterfell for generations, narrowly escaping the Bloody Conclave by clambering out of a window with three servants' children, snapped back. Neither of them stopped moving, rustling through vials to pour down Larra's throat, putting palms against her forehead to check for fever, or else checking her progress, even as they argued fiercely over what to do.

"What does your oh-so-excellent southron training suggest that we do to awaken her then?" Healer Blackwolf growled at the Dornish maester. "Do you Citadel fools have some secret way to replenish the effects of blood loss? The University will be delighted to hear it! We have been trying to figure out a solution to that for centuries!"

The pair continued to argue, but Ellaria hardly noticed. Her attention was fixed on the form laying prone on the bed. She had already lost so much blood that her ladies had changed the sheets thrice. All the while, Ellaria was helpless even to do anything but bathe her young lover's forehead, bitterly chiding herself for not being able to do more. She had brought four daughters into the world, yet she was unable to do anything, and she felt almost paralyzed with fear for her young love.

She couldn't believe that this was happening, though the midwife and Healer Blackwolf had both expressed concern over the fact that Larra had not gained much weight during her pregnancy.

When carrying her girls, Ellaria's face, ankles, thighs, everything had seemed to gain a thousand pounds, as was generally typical for most pregnancies, from what she had seen and heard. She had felt like a beached whale, though Oberyn had always insisted that the only time she was more beautiful than when she was with child was when she was with child and surrounded by her already-existing daughters.

Larra's experience with pregnancy had been different. Her stomach had ballooned (and Ellaria definitely agreed with Oberyn that being with child suited the young Lady Paramount of the Winterlands, almost seeming to give her a glow) and the sharp angles of her face had softened and rounded slightly. That was all. In fact, lately she had begun to struggle to walk due to the weight of her belly, requiring somebody to lean on to go more than a few steps, and always tiring quickly.

But Caleotte had dismissed the women's concerns, claiming that it was merely due to her young age, her naturally slim form. They had trusted him, the man who had overseen the birth of Princess Elia, Oberyn himself, and all four of Ellaria's daughters, as well as Doran's children. They had ignored Larra's own worries also, thinking them the normal fretting of a first-time mother.

What had they said, Ellaria tried to recall. When she had expressed her fears after her late mother's difficulties in the birthing bed, the way her grandmothers had both died birthing their youngest children and even over the late Princess Loreza's struggles to bear healthy children and her succession of miscarriages? Ellaria could not remember, only that they had insisted it was only her fears, that she had the best of care and that nothing would happen.

They had ignored Larra's own instincts, the wealth of experience obtained by Lady Wyl and even Healer Blackwolf, who had a vast array of medical knowledge and experience with Larra's family and Larra herself. They had ignored, too, that Larra's thinness had not just been because it was the way she was, but because she had been starved and denied food by the Lannisters at a critical time in her growth, something that Ellaria knew from her male lover typically had effects on a person's body long-term.

If they had taken Larra's concerns more seriously, had been more careful, would they be in this situation? They had not stopped her from attending the meetings to plan for the war, and she had spent many hours bent over reports and letters from the Winterlands, updating herself on the state of her kingdom and gradually taking over as much of its ruling as she could given the constraints she was under. Not to mention the execution of her cousin. In spite of his crimes, killing him weighed on Larra's conscience still. He had once been her playmate, and was her blood as well. It had given her some small measure of closure, but added another grief in its place. Perhaps the stress, which even little Lorie knew a pregnant woman was supposed to avoid as much as she could, had caused this early onset of labour.

"I want to see my sister!" Arya's voice, loud and desperate, came through from the adjoining room. "You cannot stop me!"

"She's our sister, you cannot keep us away from her!" Robb added furiously. "I am the Prince Consort of the Seven Kingdoms!"

"Somebody go and keep them out of here!" Lady Wyl snapped without removing her attention from where she was checking on Larra's progress again. "We need all the space and as little distractions as we can manage."

Serena Whitewolf, one of the Winterlanders who had appeared at Sunspear three moons past, announcing that they were Larra's retinue, as was appropriate for a lady of a Great House who had come to another kingdom, shoved the bloody sheets she was holding into Jynessa's arms and hurried out to the other room to see to the two distraught and frantic siblings. In the back of her mind, behind the worry for Larra and their babes, Ellaria approved of it being Serena who went. Arya was still prickly around a lot of southrons, she would be more likely to listen to one of her childhood companions than a Dornish lady.

"She's waking up!" Myria cried, and indeed the young heiress of the Tor was correct.

Larra, who was still so terrifyingly pale, had her eyelids opened just a fraction, and she twitched her gaze towards them, too weak even to turn her head in their direction.

"Keep her awake, my prince, milady," Caleotte ordered. "The first babe is twisted around, she cannot get out. The princess will need to stay awake to push."

Oberyn gave a curt confirmation, before smiling as comfortingly as he could at their lover, whilst Ellaria bathed her forehead gently.

"Mm?" Larra mumbled, gaze foggy and confused, with fear beginning to creep in.

"The babes are coming, my love," Ellaria cooed to her lovingly. "You must push."

"Can'," Larra whimpered, voice hoarse.

"Yes you can, and you will," Oberyn insisted, leaning closer to her. "You are a Stark and a Martell, the Lady Paramount of the Winterlands and a Princess of Dorne. You will not be defeated in this battle, my love. I am your husband, and I forbid you to die."

Ellaria thought that was taking the authority of a husband a bit too far, but if it worked than she would gladly kiss him breathless in relief. Larra's lips quirked up at the edges, but she didn't even attempt a reply. Healer Blackwolf spoke up, coming over to them to speak, her expression grave.

"We are going to perform a maneuver to help the babes out," she announced bluntly. "But it will pain you greatly, my lady. You will have to use all of your strength to do it."


Oberyn:

Oberyn had seen many a battlefield during his life, had fought in a sellsword company for several years and yet, he was convinced that no sight was more awful than that of a woman's battle to bring a child into the world. It always stunned him that something so bloody and painful could bring forth such joy for a person.

The first time he had witnessed a labour had been Lia's birth, and he had been convinced that something was most definitely wrong, that Ellaria was going die and he would lose the woman who had become the anchor for his sanity. Surely nobody who lost so much blood could survive? Yet he had been proven wrong on both counts. Not only had Ellaria survived and recovered in record time, but Caleotte and the midwife had both declared it to have been a smooth, easy labour. After that, Oberyn had prayed that he would never have to see a difficult one, if that was what they considered to be easy.

Yet now, for the second time, a woman he was in love with was on the verge of death from attempting to give him a child. Irrationally, he blamed himself. If he had not gotten her pregnant, if he'd been able to keep his hands to himself until she was older, her body more recovered from the trauma the cursed lions had put it through, then Larra would not currently be screaming an inhuman shriek as Caleotte and Blackwolf did something to force the first babe into the correct position for birth.

He blamed the lions too, for forcing her into a position where she had to be wed at such a young age. It provided him with no comfort to think that, were she married to a Lannister or one of their sycophants, the midwives probably would have let her bleed out during her labour.

He really wished there was somebody around that he could kill. It was awful, being unable to fight the thing that was causing his wife such pain. He was meant to keep her safe, yet she was at risk of death due to him and his lust for her.

He could not decide if things were going better or worse than Ellaria's struggle to birth Loreza. That had certainly been quicker, though it had not felt like it at the time. Loreza had been born within two hours. Larra had woken them with her pain-filled cry almost seven hours ago now. Dawn had broken already.

"Such a pity, is not my beloved," Ellaria jested with false light-heartedness. "That these twins of ours are as much as trouble-maker as their father, and from such a young age! We shall both go grey trying to keep them all in line."

Larra simply sobbed in response, shattering his heart and increasing his guilt.

"The first babe is coming," Blackwolf declared. "When the next contraction comes, milady, push down. You are a Stark, you shall endure. This will all be worth it when your babes are in your arms."

Larra groaned and screwed up her face, inhaling deeply. A second later her face twisted into an expression of pure agony as she howled like a direwolf (and given that Tai had been howling her own distress from below the window since Larra's labour had begun, Oberyn was able to say so for certain), her body arching upwards even as she pushed.

"A boy!"

For a moment, Oberyn thought that he must have misheard the Northron healer's words. Had she really just said that...? His head whipped around to stare at her incredulously, just in time to see her deftly slap his child on the buttocks and draw out a wail, before handing the small babe (smaller than any of the babe's elder sisters, even Dorea who had seemed small enough to curl up twice in his palm when she was first born) over to Lady Myria, who was looking with wide-eyed shock at the child. The expression made him consider the chance of him not having misheard Blackwolf's words after all.

"A what?" Ellaria sounded as astonished as he felt.

"A boy," Blackwolf repeated impatiently, returning to her position with Caleotte and Wyl. "Honestly, what is so shocking about that? There is a chance either way, you know."

"But I only have daughters!" Oberyn objected. "This is my tenth child, and never a girl before! How-"

"These things are the Gods' wills," Blackwolf snapped, blatantly annoyed at what she probably considered to be 'southron stupidity'. The Winterlanders had a very low opinion of southron intelligence, from their attitudes, though Larra had apparently intervened before they could majorly offend anybody by expressing their opinions. Given some of the people he had met at court, Oberyn understood why they felt that way.

"But-" he began to protest again.

"Enough!" Blackwolf snapped, cutting him off. "The next child is coming. Ready, milady?"

Larra simply moaned, the moan turning into another scream. Well, it would have been a scream if she'd had the energy and her voice wasn't destroyed by her earlier cries. But a few moments later, his second son was being born.

He'd have felt more overjoyed if he and Ellaria were not promptly handed the babes and shoved outside of the room so that Larra could be tended to.


Sunspear: 15 th October, 299 AC

Larra:

Larra's mind felt as if it were filled with fog when she awoke. Her eyelids seemed absurdly heavy, and she felt as if she were trying to lift a mountain as she pulled them apart. Her stomach and lower half felt more sore than she had ever felt before. She'd thought that she was quite familiar with pain after all of the torture Joffrey and his brutes had put her through, but it now seemed that she was wrong.

"Larra, Larra my love?" Ellaria's voice pierced her haze-filled mind and she turned her head towards it.

"'Laria?" she mumbled, her voice hoarse and her throat dry and sore, as if she had been screaming for hours straight.

Perhaps she had been. She did not remember what had happened to make her feel so weak and pained, and alarm began to form.

"You're alright, my darling," Ellaria murmured soothingly, stroking her forehead. Larra sighed in relief at her cool hand, a lovely contrast with the scorching heat. The touch soothed her rising distress. "Do you wish to meet our two new babes? They have been eagerly waiting to meet their máthair."

"Babes?" Larra repeated, her voice more of a croak than anything else. For a moment, she was bemused. Then suddenly she recalled waking with the awful pain in her stomach and the blood, and she tried to jolt upright only to cry out as it made the pain in her stomach flare. Ellaria quickly pressed her back down, cooing soothingly.

"They are fine, I promise, as are you. I-"

The door opened, and Larra recognised Oberyn's urgent footsteps.

"She's awake," Ellaria announced triumphantly.

"Thank the Old Gods and the New," he exclaimed in reply, footsteps gathering speed and urgency. A second later his face came into view, one hand cupping her cheek. "My love, how do you feel?"

"I want to see our daughters," Larra answered, calmer now that Ellaria had assured her of the babes' well-being. She was puzzled at the mysterious smiles and glints in her lovers' eyes at her words, and Oberyn swiftly leaned down to kiss her forehead.

"I will fetch the babes immediately, my love," he promised, before going to do just that.

"I am glad that you have woken at last," Ellaria told her as they awaited his return. "You have been asleep for five days now. We feared you would never awaken."

"I'm sorry," Larra murmured, guilt spiking at having caused her loves distress.

"Do not be," Ellaria replied, with a gently chiding tone. "But do as the healers say, yes? Without argument, that you might recover quicker."

"I will," Larra promised. A thought occurred to her and she inquired, trying to hide the hurt she felt at the thought. "Has a wet-nurse been feeding them, then?"

The Winterlands did not approve of using wet-nurses. It was believed that they interfered with the bond of a mother and her child. Larra had always loathed the thought of her child being fed by another woman. She didn't understand how anyone could prefer such.

To her surprise, Ellaria grinned and shook her head. "No, my love. I have been feeding them myself. The gods very kindly gave me milk for them, to allow you to rest."

"Oh," Larra breathed, relaxing. It was different, Ellaria feeding the babes. She was their mother too, it was probably better. They would bond with Ellaria as well. That was reassuring.

At last, the doors opened again and Oberyn entered, carefully cradling a small bundle. Robb was at his heels and also holding a bundle, slightly larger. He gave Larra a broad, relieved grin as he entered.

Ellaria helped Larra sit up straighter as the pair came over.

"My lovely wife," Oberyn began as he sat beside her so she could see the babe's small face. "Meet our firstborn son."

Larra's eyes went wide with surprise. "A boy?"

"Twin boys," Robb corrected her. "But this one is bigger, even though he was second to arrive."

"Trouble makers from birth, both of them," Ellaria jested.

"They have their father's big head," Larra agreed with mock solemness. Oberyn feigned a look of indignation as the others laughed. "Did you name them then?" Larra asked uncertainly. They had never bothered discussing boys' names, everyone had been so very certain that she would bear girls. "Shara and Mariah will not do for boys."

Shara to honour her mother without causing too much of an ache, and Mariah because it had been used by both the Starks and (more frequently) the Martells, as well as the Ullers. Ellaria's great-grandmother had borne the name also, so it had seemed a good way to honour the families of all of the children's parents.

"We would not name them without your input, my love," Oberyn assured her softly, kissing her forehead. Larra brightened at that. She had a name in mind for their firstborn already. She'd always had it in the back of her mind, but given the amount of daughters her husband had, with not a son to be seen among them, she had figured there was no point in hoping.

"Here," Robb said. "I will give him to you and leave you be for a while."

There were a few moments of fussing, and at last Larra was holding her sons in her arms. Of course, Oberyn and Ellaria were right beside her ready to intervene if she lost all of her energy, and she had a dozen pillows supporting her. But she was holding her sons.

Robb kissed her forehead and muttered some quiet words of love and relief at her being awake before leaving them in peace. She guiltily acknowledged that she barely noticed him go, too entranced by the small forms that she held.

Looking at them, she could not possibly imagine any other child in existence could ever be as perfect as the two boys in her arms. Their faces were squished and red, they were both bald, and they were tiny.

Perfect.

"What shall we name them?" Oberyn asked, looking at her.

"Eddard?" Ellaria glanced at her as she spoke. "Or perhaps Arthur would be better?"

"I want to name our older boy Eddaryn," Larra answered softly. "For his father and grandfather."

Oberyn inhaled sharply at that. Then he leaned into kiss her deeply. "Thank you, beloved," he murmured.

She smiled at him, feeling tears sting her eyes. "I hope he will be half the man his namesakes were, though 'twill be a great legacy to live up to," she answered, making him kiss her again.

"Ellaria should name our second son," she added once he had pulled away. "But perhaps his own name instead of honouring somebody we love?" He nodded immediately.

"I agree," he said, looking to their paramour, who was watching with a smile.

Ellaria's smile broadened. "What about Garin?" she suggested. "For Garin the Great of Chroyane. I always admired him, and thought to name a son for him if I had one."

"Princes Eddaryn and Garin Stark of the Winterlands and Dorne," Oberyn tested the names. Larra let out a shaky exhale. The next generation of Starks, when but a year past she had feared the name would die with her, an eight-thousand-year-old legacy reduced to ashes. The twins in her arms were a safeguard against that tragedy occurring.

"A grand pair of boys," Ellaria declared.

"They are wonderful," Larra breathed, still fixated by her boys' peaceful faces. Eddaryn scrunched up his small nose and sneezed, and she thought it the most beautiful and perfect sound that she'd ever been blessed enough to hear.

"They are," Oberyn agreed, leaning in to kiss her again. "I love you," he said sincerely when he pulled away.

"As do I," Ellaria added, also going in for a kiss. "I pray to the Gods that you never scare us in such a manner again," she went on, eyes glazing slightly with tears and voice trembling.

Larra swallowed, looking at her two lovers. If there had ever been a time for her to say the real words, it was now, when she had nearly died without doing so, with their babes in her arms.

"I love you both," she said, putting all of her genuineness into her voice so that they would hear the truth of it in them.

Ellaria's eyes widened before a smile brighter than the sun split her face, while Oberyn stared at her with such a look of adoration on his face she thought he must think her some sort of goddess.

"I," he began lowly. "Have never heard a more welcome or wonderful set of words."

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

Chapter Thirty

The Declaration of War

29 th October, 299 AC

Sunspear,

Dorne

To Whom It May Concern,

Sixteen years ago, King's Landing was sacked by Lannister forces. During that brutality, it was believed that the two children of the late Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and his wife Princess Elia Targaryen of House Martell, Prince Aegon (then heir to the Iron Throne) and Princess Rhaenys were killed alongside their lady mother. This is not the entire truth of the tale.

Shortly after Lannister forces arrived and began sacking the city, the Northern forces, under the command of the late Lord Paramount of the Winterlands, Lord Eddard of House Stark, also arrived. They immediately began making their way to the Red Keep, to try and save the royal family. Regrettably, they were too late to save Princess Elia, or Prince Aegon. They did, however, manage to save Princess Rhaenys, killing Ser Amory Lorch just before he could murder a little girl who had seen a mere three namedays.

Knowing that the Usurper Robert Baratheon would not suffer a child of Targaryen blood to live, the princess' rescuers subsequently decided to replace the princess with a body double, using the body of another young Dornish girl murdered during the Sack. Then, they proceeded to smuggle Rhaenys to Dorne and the safety of House Martell's protection, under the guise of returning the bones of Princess Elia and her children, along with the other Dornishmen and women, to their homeland and families.

There is documented evidence of this, in the form of sworn affidavits from all those involved. Several of the Winterlanders who were involved in the deception at King's Landing still live, and all are willing to testify to the truth of my heritage whilst under oath.

I was thus hidden in plain sight as the base born daughter of my mother's brother, Prince Oberyn Nymeros Martell, with a deceased Crownlander woman and given the name Lady Elaena Sand.

As the sole surviving issue of the late Crown Prince, and with the knowledge that King Aerys left no surviving issue after the death of Viserys Targaryen in Essos several years past, I hereby declare myself as Rhaenys, First of My Name, Head of House Targaryen, Queen of the Rhoynar, the Andals, and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms, and Defender of the Faith. Any other who claims the Iron Throne is thus in rebellion against the Crown and ordered to lay down their arms and surrender immediately. I am willing to be gracious, I do not desire bloodshed.

I thus order the Usurper's wife, the so-called Regent for the false-King Tommen Baratheon, to surrender control of King's Landing and the Red Keep to me, and to swear allegiance to myself and to my husband and consort: Prince Consort Robb Targaryen, born to House Stark as the nephew of the late Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell via his late elder brother Brandon Stark.

Furthermore, I hereby order the self-proclaimed King Stannis Baratheon to surrender control of Dragonstone to me, and also to declare his own allegiance. All other Houses should do the same. Bear in mind that I have already received oaths of allegiance from the Winterlands and Dorne, as well as several others.

Signed and dated on this the twenty-ninth day of the tenth moon, two-hundred and ninety-nine years After Aegon's Conquest,

Rhaenys, First of My Name, Head of House Targaryen, Queen of the Rhoynar, the Andals, and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms, and Defender of the Faith.


The Red Keep: 9 th November, 299 AC

Jaime:

"This is a LIE!" Cersei's voice started off low and shaking, and rose to a furious, hysterical shout as she finished. "The brat is dead! Father specifically ordered she be killed along with her Dornish whore of a mother and squalling brat of a brother! Ned Stark was Robert's pet, he'd never have conspired against him!"

Tommen frowned in confusion at that, but the others ignored their young king's bemusement, focused on the problem at hand.

"Your Grace, I realize that it is impossible," Pycelle tried to soothe the hysterical woman. "But this is a serious threat all the same. Lie or no-"

"It is a LIE!" she shrieked at him, making him flinch as she flung her goblet at his head. She grew more erratic by the day, and at this point Jaime could see absolutely nothing of the young girl he had loved in her. That girl had been slowly disappearing ever since their father had first started filling her head with dreams of her becoming Queen when they were children, but now she did not even seem to care for Tommen, save for the power that his title gave her. She was growing madder and madder with each day that passed without their father awakening.

"Of course it is, my queen," Pycelle hastily agreed. "But all the same, with the forces of Dorne and the Winterlands backing her, she outnumbers us, and their army is currently marching towards us along the Kingsroad. Lord Varys and Ser Manfrey are both missing, presumably having defected to the Dornish-Winterlander alliance. In addition, Princess Myrcella is currently in Dorne and-"

Cersei screamed in rage, grabbing the jug and flinging it, wine and all, at the GrandMaester, her eyes flaming like wildfire. "I'LL KILL THEM ALL!" she screamed. "I WILL KILL THOSE DORNISH AND NORTHRON SAVAGES!"

Jaime felt sick as he stared at her. For a second, it seemed as if he were back in time, watching Aerys' mad cackles as he ordered his pet pyromancers to 'burn them all', 'burn them all!'

Was this a punishment for breaking his oath? He wondered, as he numbly followed Tommen's whispered order to subdue his mother and confine her to her chambers. Cersei screamed and thrashed in his arms as he carried her to the chamber where they had passed so many nights together, and he held her down as one of Pycelle's assistants poured some sort of potion down her throat, causing her struggles to weaken steadily until she at last fell asleep.

Jaime stepped away, still numb, and stared at her limp form for a moment. He'd been trying to ignore it for years, clinging to the illusion of the woman he had fallen in love with. Had she ever really existed, or was he simply fooling himself all of his life?

Eventually, he found the energy to force himself out of the room. Tommen was waiting, alone, in the sitting room.

"Your Grace," Jaime croaked out, bowing to the boy. Tommen lifted his troubled gaze from his knees to meet Jaime's matching emerald eyes.

"I would speak with you," the young king said softly, looking solemn. "Please, sit with me."

Jaime sat. Not for the first time, he wondered where his younger two's kind, gentle natures had come from. It certainly hadn't come from him or Cersei. Maybe the nursemaids were responsible for it? Gods knew that, though Cersei had loved all three children, her attention had always been focused on Joffrey, meaning Myrcella and Tommen had both spent most of their childhoods being cared for by nursemaids and septas.

Or maybe, in a life where their mother had survived to countermand Tywin's ambitions and cruelty, Jaime and Cersei would have turned out more like their two youngest children, and the pair had inherited some small spark of that goodness. But unlike with Jaime and his sister, they had not had it extinguished.

"You were the only Kingsguard in the capital during the Sack," Tommen finally said. "Is it possible? What the letter claimed?"

Jaime considered it only a moment before nodding. "Very possible," he confirmed. "Ned Stark arrived only about an hour after Father's forces did, and the first thing he did was order his men to find and secure the Princess and her children. Prince Rhaenys always went to hide under her father's bed when she was frightened, in Maegor's Holdfast, and that was where they went first. There were several Dornish children who could have been used to replace the princess, and the girl's body." He paused, swallowing. "She had been stabbed so much, in so many places, that only her dress identified her," he admitted to his nephew-son. "It's very possible."

Tommen looked away, frowning.

"But," Jaime went on quickly. "Robert won the Iron Throne by right of conquest. As his heir, you remain the rightful king. This does not change-"

"But Robert was not really my father, was he?" Tommen interrupted him sadly. His expression was pained. "Ned Stark never committed treason. He just found out that Mother had. And she and Joffrey had him killed for it."

Jaime went to deny it, to do something. But he made the mistake of meeting Tommen's eyes, and felt his shoulders slump helplessly. He bowed his head and at last made his admission.

"Yes," he confessed. "Robert was not your father. I am."


Dragonstone: 9 th November, 299 AC

Catelyn:

"What will we do now, Your Grace?" Her uncle, Ser Brynden asked the King in the Narrow Sea, her lord husband.

Despite the serious nature of the meeting, Cat could not bring herself to draw her attention away from a particular line in the letter that had arrived: swear allegiance to myself and to my husband and consort: Prince Consort Robb Targaryen, born to House Stark as the nephew of the late Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, via his late elder brother Brandon Stark.

Her bastard son, the son that she had scorned out of shame, was now consort to the last (self-proclaimed) Targaryen. She had not heard anything of him after giving him to his uncle, had in fact told her might-have-been goodbrother that she did not want to know anything of the child.

Even after Brandon's death, she still would have been able to raise him, had it not been for Ashara Dayne. Her father had initially demanded that Ned Stark take his brother's place as her betrothed and wed her along with Lysa marrying Jon Arryn in exchange for the Tully's support in the Rebellion. He had ordered her to say nothing of her state, that they would pass the babe off as Ned Stark's. Who would be able to tell, after all, with the father and stepfather being brothers? As Brandon's sole issue, born in wedlock (in spite of the circumstances) her son would have been heir to Winterfell by blood and name. But Ned Stark had already been married by then (even if a marriage in front of a heart tree hardly counted as a real wedding ceremony) and had refused to set aside his pregnant wife. Things had escalated, especially when Stark confronted them with the knowledge that he knew she was with child, and that they were seeking to cover up her shame.

At the same time, his men had managed to seize control of Riverrun by sneaking in somehow (to this day they didn't know how the Northrons had managed it), and Edmure had been taken hostage. With Edmure spending the Rebellion as a 'guest' at Moat Cailin, her father had been forced to yield to the rebels' demands, though Jon Arryn, in desperate need of heirs, had agreed to go through with his new betrothal to Lysa in spite of her father's dishonour.

She had spent the rebellion at Riverrun with only Lysa (and the Northron guards and maids there to keep her aborting a Stark's child) for company, and her sister had been filled with spite towards her, furious that their father had made her abort her and Petyr's babe and Cat had not received the same fate. She'd been even angrier when, after the war, Cat had been wed to Stannis, making her goodsister to the king.

But it was not as if Catelyn's marriage was the fairytale she had once thought it would be, as a young maiden betrothed to handsome and charming Brandon Stark. Her husband disliked and distrusted her due to his knowledge of her bastard son. She was left to rot at Dragonstone, only allowed to attend the glamourous court on rare occasions. She was not given control over her daughters' education because he feared she would influence them to be 'loose women', and it was obvious that he blamed her for Lysa deciding to remain neutral instead of declaring in their favour. Her marriage was not a happy one, and she often wondered if that was because she had lain with Brandon before they married.

And now this. The bastard she had always been so ashamed of bearing was now married to a princess, and a contender for the Iron Throne.

What was she supposed to think of that? She had no idea. She wondered if his inherent greedy and lustful nature as a bastard had led him to seduce the self-declared Queen Rhaenys, and if her being dishonoured had led to the marriage. Or perhaps it had been to further seal the alliance between the Winterlands and Dorne. She didn't know. She knew nothing of her eldest child's character, or even his looks. She had never so much as held Robb, and it had been her uncle who named the babe.

"I will not surrender!" She looked up, realizing that, while she had been brooding over her son, her lord husband and uncle had been debating the best course of action. Her uncle had suggested they give up, but Stannis was a stubborn man, and he had been already been passed over once, when the late King Robert had given Storm's End and the Lord Paramountship of the Stormlands to Renly, whilst naming Stannis as Lord of Dragonstone and dumping the responsibility of keeping a leash on the angry loyalist lords onto him. Stannis would not stand to lose the Iron Throne as well.

"Your Grace, we have no choice," Uncle Brynden warned him. "We could barely fend off the Lannisters. Riverrun has now officially surrendered, meaning we have lost a large chunk of our support, and the supplies are dwindling. The Winterlanders' army is no joke, but you are more likely to receive mercy from the Dornish then from the Lannisters. For the sake of your family, I urge you to make terms with Queen Rhaenys."

Stannis glared at him, slamming his fist onto the Painted Table. "I will not!" he bellowed. "I will die before giving up what is mine!"

"Then your sons and daughters will die with you," Brynden warned him. "If they do not starve, the lions will have them all killed."

Cat swallowed, thinking of her sweet little Orys' thin face, Shireen's weakness and Sansa's tears. Her brave Steffon was staying stoic as best he could, but he was but three-and-ten, and struggling greatly despite his efforts to hide it.

Catelyn herself suspected that she herself was going mad from it all. Either she was weeping in hysteria, or else she was locked in a grey haze, numb to the world around her.

Stannis said nothing in response, turning and stalking from the room.

"Cat?" Uncle Brynden turned to her, looking worried. "Are you well?"

"Prince Consort Robb Targaryen," she replied, eyes returning to the letter once again. "The son of Brandon Stark. My son."

Uncle Brynden swallowed, reaching out to rub her shoulder. "Everything will work out, Cat," he promised her. "I swear."

She didn't answer, too busy staring at the name. Prince Consort Robb Targaryen, born to House Stark as the nephew of the late Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell via his late elder brother Brandon Stark.


The Eyrie: 11 th November, 299 AC

Yohn:

Lord Yohn Royce led the way into the Great Hall of the Eyrie, the royal decree clutched in his hands. With him were the other members of the Lords Declarant: Lady Anya Waynwood, Lord Gilwood Hunter, Lord Horton Redfort, Lord Benedar Belmore and Ser Symon Templeton. After working for this since only a few moons after Jon Arryn's death, they were at last in place to make their move. Yohn was relieved that their efforts had finally come to fruition. He could only pray that they had intervened quick enough to repair the damage done to his old friend's son. Sweetrobin was an Arryn, but Gods only knew how badly he had been affected by his mother's insanity and the way she babied him.

Lady Lysa Baelish (as she was quick to correct anybody who dared to call her by the Arryn name, as if being the wife of a dishonourable, grasping cur who's House went back about three generations, if that, was better than being the wife of an honourable man such as the late Lord Arryn, who was acclaimed during his lifetime for his honour and good nature.) was seated on the throne-like chair on the dais. Beside her stood her second husband (and the true Regent of the Vale. Lady Lysa would probably jump out of the Moon Door if he told her too, damn the man). Young Lord Robert was nowhere to be seen.

"Lady Baelish! Lord Baelish!" Yohn called as he strode forward.

Lady Lysa scowled at him. Once, she had been a comely young lady. Now, she was very different with a sour, milky scent (no doubt caused by the fact that, despite her son being six namedays, she was still breastfeeding them) a pale and puffy face filled with frown lines and a thick, stout body. Yohn did feel some pity for the woman. She had suffered greatly, losing seven children to stillbirths and four miscarriages. Her sole child was of a fragile health, and Baelish had taken advantage of his former foster-sister's affection for him. But despite his pity over her losses, Yohn knew that he needed to do what was best for the Vale. And the best for the Vale was not Lysa and Petyr Baelish.

"What is the meaning of this, my Lords and Lady?" she demanded.

"We have here, my lady, a royal decree," Yohn announced. "Ordering that yourself and Lord Baelish surrender the titles of Lady Regent of the Vale and Lord Protector. Furthermore, custody of Lord Arryn is to be given to myself, and Lord Baelish is to be taken into custody."

Baelish stood in outrage. "How dare you?" he barked. "I am the Lord Protector of the Vale, and my wife is Lady Regent. This is rebellion! How dare you?"

"We dare, because our sovereign declares it to be so," Lady Anya replied haughtily.

"And as for your claims, the decree held by Lord Royce proves that statement false," Lord Redfort added. "Surrender peacefully, we have no desire to harm either of you."

"I refuse!" Lysa screamed. "You will not take my son or Petyr from me! Petyr! Help me! Don't let them take Sweetrobin from me! Petyr!"

Baelish ran for the door, ignoring his wife's desperate cries.

"Guards!" Ser Symon called to their waiting men. "Seize them!"

It was a wild clash of screams and some steel, but it passed in only a few moments. Only a few of the Eyrie's guards were loyal to Lady Lysa and her husband, and they were heavily outnumbered, especially when the rest of the men turned on them and joined the side of the Lords Declarant.

"Take Lady Lysa to her chambers and lock her in," Lady Waynwood ordered. "Ensure that she is not harmed. Put Littlefinger in the dungeons to await his interrogation."

"And I shall go at once to write the letters to our fellow bannermen and to Dorne, swearing the allegiance of the Vale to Her Grace, Queen Rhaenys," Yohn added with a grim smile.

Inside his breast pocket, the letter he had received from Larra, informing him of all she knew and pleading that he support her cousin and goodniece's claim, crinkled in its' place against his heart. He had only met her thrice, but she was his cousin through his grandmother Jocelyn Royce of House Stark. Ned and he had been close while Ned was being fostered in the Eyrie, and his letters had always contained information on his children, whom, along with the late and much-lamented Lady Ashara, had been the lights of Ned's life.

How proud his old friend and cousin would be, to know of all his children had endured and survived, only for them to come out stronger than before. For the sake of the love he had borne his old comrade, for the loyalty he held to the Old Gods who scorned the murders of infants, House Royce would support Rhaenys and Robb gladly.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. One small thing: for official things, Laena will be 'Rhaenys'. To her friends and family, she's Laena. They don't to risk causing doubts in regards to her heritage by using the wrong name.

Chapter Thirty-One

The Fall of King's Landing

King's Landing: 5 th December, 299 AC

Elaena/Rhaenys:

Laena could not keep herself from beaming in pride as she surveyed the army that ringed King's Landing. They had set up camp a week beforehand, straight after arriving, but it was only now that everything had been properly organized and the last of the troops had trickled in.

It had not taken her small group much time to catch up with the army, slow-moving as the convoy was. Due to the army's slow pace, the soldiers were still several miles from the capital by the time that her group, consisting of herself, Robb, Arya, her padre, stepmother and Ellaria, the eldest four of her adoptive sisters/cousins and their trusted guards caught up to them. The two young boys had also come. How her madrasta had managed to convince Oberyn that bringing his still-recovering young wife and his infant sons to a warzone an entire kingdom away was a good idea, Laena had no idea. Thinking of the various ways her madre had 'persuaded' her padre to do things over the course of her life, she decided that she didn't want to, either. She might have been raised in the liberal culture of Dorne, but there were things a child ought never to know about their parents.

On receiving the letter declaring her heritage, the Crownlander Houses, which had always been loyal to the Targaryens and had only grudgingly bent the knee to the Baratheons due to their lieges being lost to them, had all promptly abandoned the Lannisters and Stannis like rats fleeing a sinking ship, racing to join her and sending letters assuring her of their eternal allegiance. A thousand Crownlander soldiers had arrived under the command of Lord Monford Velaryon to aid her cause, though many of their levies were still trapped in Dragonstone with the Baratheons, or else too weakened by the war with the Lannisters to come.

The Head of House Velaryon, who had ever been the Targaryens' most loyal vassals, had wept and fallen to his knees on seeing her, praising the Gods for her survival and declaring that he would forever consider himself indebted to the late Lord Stark and Lord Arthur Dayne for their intervention. Larra had clearly appreciated it, and later it had been revealed (after Lord Velaryon had publicly gone on one knee before her and apologized for 'his sins against her noble House') that during her captivity multiple loyalists including the Velaryons had made it clear that they blamed the Starks for the Rebellion, and that they had thought Ned Stark and Arthur Dayne's executions to be a good thing. Arya had almost attacked the man in her rage at the admission, but they had managed to calm her down by shoving little Daryn (as they had taken to calling Eddaryn) into her arms. Arya was not a very maternal person, but she clearly doted on her sister's children, and was ferociously protective of them both.

The Vale was also on Laena's side. And though Larra denied it, Laena knew that it was in large part due to the new Lord Protector being a distant cousin to Larra as well as being a close friend to her father at one time.

Combined with the armies of Dorne and the Winterlands, the Usurpers would be helpless.

The Winterlands' Navy had split in three, a third kept behind to defend their own coasts (and twelve sent to guard Dorne's also, given the Dornish had no navy of their own), and another third besieging Great Wyk (the navy had already taken Old Wyk, Saltcliffe, Harlaw, Blacktyde and Orkmont. Once they had control of Great Wyk, they would head for Pyke, and, more importantly, Theon Greyjoy. Letters had been sent informing them of the navy's progress, and that they had taken the initiative to liberate any salt-wives or thralls that they came across. They were doing very well indeed.). According to the latest letter from Admiral Seastark, they expected the island, unprepared and badly commanded as it was, to fall within the next two moons. Pyke might hold out longer, but it still did not have the ability to withstand their assault.

The rest of the fleet had originally been tasked with harrying the Lannister fleet and that of the Redwynes, so as to ensure that they were unable to defend the capital. Now, however, the remains of the fleet that wasn't occupied with the still-ongoing Siege of Dragonstone, was too damaged to be any use in a fight. As such, sixty-five ships of the Northern fleet under the command of Admiral Starstark had sailed to the capital, and sent up a blockade to prevent the lions escaping as well as stopping them from receiving any supplies.

And, unlike the Battle of Blackwater Bay, there were no more wildfire caches left (confirmed by Tyrion Lannister during his frantic attempts to save his own skin after his arrest and her padre revealing to him just whom she was and what they intended to do.). Because of that, the fleet was safe from defeat . Even if Cersei had somehow managed to conjure up enough wildfire to copy her brother's previous feat, the ships were prepared to deal with it. How they were prepared, Laena wasn't sure, but she had taken Larra and Robb's words for it.

The secret to the success of the 'Ever-Victorious' Army was shockingly simple. It was frankly embarrassing that nobody had ever realized it before. The army was ever adapting and switching their strategies and methods so that the next time it confronted an enemy, they would be certain to win, instead of simply repeating and reusing old tactics that had been successful in earlier times. They also shamelessly stole tactics from their opponents and allies alike, and adapted them as well. Not to mention keeping up with any new developments in war technology.

It was so obvious and simple, yet everybody had been convinced that there was some great secret or magic. But the greenseers were apparently never consulted in regards to the outcome of a battle, as doing so risked prejudicing the commander's decisions by making them cocky or hopeless. Laena would be having the Army's tactics implemented in her own army also.

In addition to the extra troops supplied by the Crownlands, they now had two thousand Vale knights as a part of their ground forces as well. The knights had been sent to join them by Lord Royce under the command of Ser Andar Royce, Lord Yohn's eldest son and heir. The Lords Declarant had all sent apologetic letters explaining that the Vale was currently dealing with the upheaval caused by Lady Lysa and Littlefinger's removal, and they could neither come themselves nor send more for the moment. Laena had wondered if they wanted a safety net in case of her failure to claim the Iron Throne, but her padre was sceptical. Their excuses were genuine, he had pointed out, and two thousand was still not a small host under the time constraints. They had to have been gathered already when the Lords Declarant had seized control from the Baelish couple, and then marched double-time after taking their ships to Duskendale to make it in time.

With the addition of the Crownlanders and the Valemen, the ground forces laying siege to King's Landing contained about forty-one thousand men. The city itself was defended only by the redcloaks and the City Watch. According to Ser Manfrey's report, even with both groups combined, they still only had about forty-four hundred men to defend the city, and not near enough supplies to withstand a siege. Especially with the siege weapons brought by the Winterlanders via ship and then transported from the port at Duskendale. They had two siege towers, and a battering ram on wheels covered with a canopy to shield them from arrows being fired from above. The Dornish army, meanwhile, had contributed a trebuchet and a pair of ballistae. Ammunition for the weapons were stockpiled alongside them, and they had been carefully checked and tested multiple times to ensure that they would work properly.

In reality, the lions and roses had no choice save to surrender, because they were both outnumbered and outgunned. All they would do by resisting was earn harsher punishments and prolong the suffering of everyone. Laena intended to be a fair, yet firm queen. Should they surrender immediately, she would be gracious and merciful (save for Cersei and Tywin, of course). However, should they resist out of stubbornness and pride, then she would have to ensure that they served as an example for any other future dissidents.

"Here," Laena said to the messenger they had selected to deliver the terms to the lions, handing over the scroll she held. It was sealed with the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen. "Give this offer to Lord Tommen and Lady Margaery. Inform them that they have until sunset tomorrow to respond. If they fail to do so by then, we will assume they have refused Our gracious offer, and then We shall act accordingly."

"Yes, Your Grace," Ser Myles Manwoody, the chosen messenger, agreed. Ser Myles had been chosen for several reasons: first of all, he was fiercely loyal, and skilled, fighter. Secondly, he, along with his brother Lord Dagos Manwoody and Lord Dagos' two sons Dickon and Mors, had all been a part of the retinue that her padre had taken with him to the capital for the so-called King Joffrey's (and her padre's own) wedding. As such, he was more familiar with it than many of their army, and would have a higher chance of getting away in the event of things going sour. None of them trusted the lions to hold to messengers' rights.

"Thank you, Ser Myles," she murmured, stepping back and watching, her arm tucked into Robb's elbow, as he mounted his sand stallion, a white flag to signal he was being sent to parley attached, and rode off, leaving the safety of the camp behind to approach the sealed Dragon Gate.

"Something is troubling you," Robb muttered discreetly into her ear as they headed back in the direction of the command tent, to go over the battle plan again, in the event that the lions refused to surrender.

Robb was one to talk, in her unspoken opinion. There were shadows beneath his eyes, and both he and his sisters had been having difficulty sleeping the closer they got to King's Landing. It was obvious that they were being haunted by memories of their father and uncle's deaths, and by 'what ifs'.

Of course, so was she.

"My clearest memory of when I was a child is the Sack," she revealed to him, feeling her heart wrench as she recalled that awful night, the one that had been haunting her nightmares since she was a mere three namedays old. "I keep seeing it, every time that I close my eyes."

He squeezed her arm softly, sympathy (but not pity) shining in his blue eyes. "Do you wish to tell me?" he inquired gently, silently telling her with he would not push if she refused.

She glanced away briefly. "Later," she finally replied. "But not now. We must focus for the moment."

"As you say, my lovely Queen."

SotNSotNSotN

The Red Keep: Fifteen Years Ago

Rhaenys whimpered in fear as she clutched Balerion to her chest. All around her people were screaming and running, and she could hear loud clanging like when the guards were practicing in the yard or at tourneys. But this was different somehow. People sounded scared, not excited as they had at the tourney.

She had looked for Mama, but she couldn't her, or any of the white-cloak men who were usually around to look after her. Most of them had been gone for a while, she knew, but Ser Jaime was usually there. She couldn't find him tonight, though, and she couldn't see any other guards in gold either. Tears spilled from her violet eyes as she stumbled through Maegor's Holdfast, searching for Papa's room so that she would be able to hide beneath his bed until all of the scariness had abated.

Balerion must have been afraid as well, because he was quiet as a mouse, curled within himself and shivering in her tight grip as she shoved open the door to Papa's bedchamber, running over to crawl beneath the bed.

She trembled and wept quietly as she hid, wishing for Mama to come and kiss her better, as she always did after Rhaenys suffered a nightmare. She couldn't understand why her mother had failed to come and find her yet. Mama was always there when Rhaenys needed her, no matter what. She had promised that she always would be. Where was she?

The young princess felt a scream rip itself from her mouth as one of her ankles was roughly grabbed and she was dragged out of her hiding place, accidently releasing Balerion from her tight grip as she struggled against the harsh grip. Her beloved cat hissed violently, his fur standing on end.

Rhaenys was thrown on her father's bed, and she twisted around to see a man looming above her with a cruel sneer twisting his piggy face. He gave a mocking laugh as he took in her tearstained face and shivers of fear.

"So much for the fearless and undefeatable dragons," he mocked her.

Rhaenys didn't understand what he was talking about, but the tone he used frightened her even more, and her sobs increased. "Mama!" she cried. "Mama!"

Unlike every other time she had called for her mother, Princess Elia did not instantly come rushing to her side, crooning soothing words and hugging her softly. Rhaenys' cries only made the man's expression turn irritated, and she screamed when he slapped her harshly, barking at her to "shut up, brat!"

Balerion lunged at the man, scratching at his face, but was batted away with contemptuous ease, the man's eyes flashing with annoyance.

"Gods, why did I have be the one to go for the wailing toddler while Clegane got to have fun with the princess?" he complained to nobody in particular, before unsheathing his sword. "Right, I've had enough of your howling, little dragon princess. Time to meet the Stranger."

Suddenly, the door burst open and two more men came running in with swords raised. They were the biggest swords that Rhaenys had ever seen, and the sight of them dripping with a red liquid she recognized as blood made her sobs increase. Her chest was sore from the force of her weeping, and her body shook with a mixture of the force and utter terror.

"Get away from her, you childkilling, oathbreaking monster!" one of the men, the one with silver hair a bit like her father's family's, snarled. Without giving her attacker a chance to snap out a response, the silver haired man lunged at her attacker and engaged him, though even Rhaenys, young as she was, was able to tell that Silver Hair was the better swordsman by far.

While his companion fought, the other man hurried around the edge of the fight to the bed. "Hello, Little Dragon," he greeted Rhaenys in a gentle voice. It sounded different to any voice she had heard before, but she recognized the tone. It was similar to the one that the guards and such used with her, gentle and respectful. He carefully reached out for her with his free hand, the other holding the sword pointed away from her. In the back of her fright-filled mind, the young princess wondered how strong he was, to hold it so easily when it appeared to be half the size of him.

She flinched away from him, hiccupping in fear. "No!" she whimpered. "No! Mama! Mama, help me! Mama!"

Dark Hair looked stricken by her words, freezing in place. "Shh, Little Dragon," he crooned. "Shush. It's alright. You are safe now. I will not allow you to be hurt. I am going to take you away, to a place where you will be safe. Will you come?"

She sniffled, eyeing him nervously. There was a thud from behind them, and the sound of the fighting ended. Silver Hair came striding around into her line of sight. He was covered in blood, and it frightened her.

His expression, though, was soft and kind when he looked at her. "The bad man who tried to hurt you is gone, Princess," he told her. "Will you come with us? We will take you away, to a place where you will not be hurt or scared again."

"Promise?" she asked hesitantly. Balerion had recovered from being thrown, and jumped up onto the bed to scamper into her arms. She held him close, reassured by her pet's familiar weight and warmth against her small chest. "No more bad mans?"

"No, there won't be any more bad men," Dark Hair assured her. "We promise."

"Mama 'n' Egg there?" she inquired, uncurling from her protective ball slightly. Maybe Mama and Egg had gone to this safe place already, and that was why she had not come when Rhaenys had called for her. But that still did not explain why they had left her behind. Had she been bad, and this was her punishment? Usually Mama only put her to bed without supper when she was disobedient. Rhaenys must have been very bold indeed, to earn such a punishment.

The pair flinched at the question, confusing her.

"Your mama and brother had to go away, Little Dragon," Silver Hair informed her gently after a moment. "But we are going to take you to your uncles, Doran and Oberyn. Do you remember them?"

Rhaenys crinkled her brow, images of men who looked like Uncle Lewyn and who made Mama smile coming to mind. The younger one had given her Balerion, and both of them had daughters for her to play with when they visited her family. She liked them, especially because of how happy Mama was when they visited. Mama had been sad lately, ever since the tourney where Papa had given the flowers to the other lady. Rhaenys had tried to cheer her, but it hadn't worked very well.

Rhaenys nodded, relaxing fully and crawling into Dark Hair's open arms. He settled her on his hip, and she was fascinated by the feeling on his cloak, giggling softly at the fuzzy feeling of unfamiliar material. "Balerion come with us?" she asked them hopefully.

"Of course, Balerion will come," Silver Hair agreed, scratching the animal between his ears to make him settle and purr before picking her beloved cat up and draping him over his shoulders.

"Now, Little Dragon," Dark Hair began. "My name is Ned. This is my goodbrother, Arthur."

Rhaenys wrinkled her brow. "Goodbrother?" she repeated. "Is that like Egg is my brother?"

"A bit yes," Ned confirmed. "But not quite. But it's unimportant at the moment. I need you to do something very important for me, alright?"

Rhaenys nodded, straightening and feeling proud that her saviours were giving her an important task. "I'm a clever girl!" she told them eagerly. "Everybody says that I am. I can do it!"

They smiled at her, further increasing her pride.

"Of course you are, I can tell," Arthur complimented her. "And you're brave too. What we need is for you to keep being brave alright? Ned is going to put you beneath his cloak. You have to stay very quiet, and make sure that you do not peek out from underneath, alright?"

"Like when Uncle Lewyn and I play hide and seek?" Rhaenys inquired. "I'm really good at that! Mama and Uncle always has to look for me for forever! I always win!"

"I bet you do, and yes, just do exactly like that," Ned grinned at her, though she thought that his eyes were very sad looking still. "Just stay very still and quiet, no matter what, alright? I promise that you will be safe. Arthur and I won't let anything happen to you. Just be a brave little dragon, and when everything is over you can have some sweets on the ship and a nice long nap."

"Are we going back home?" Rhaenys blinked. "We always take a ship to Dragonstone."

Their smiles grew strained, like Mama's smiles had been since they had come to visit Grandfather and Grandmother all those moons ago.

"No, Princess," Arthur gently refuted her. "We are taking you to Dorne, to where your uncles are. You will like it there. Your mama grew up there."

Rhaenys felt herself light up in excitement. "To the Water Gardens?" she asked eagerly. "Mama and Uncle Lewyn have lots of stories about them! I want to go and see the fountains!"

"Well then," Ned's smile looked happier. "Your wish is our command Princess."

Arthur draped a large, dark and warm cloak over her, and she clung to Ned, staying as quiet as she could as they began heading out of the bedchamber.

"You're going to be a great father, Ned," she overheard Arthur murmur to his goodbrother as they left the awful room behind. Rhaenys hoped she never had to step foot in it again. She could still hear sounds of screams and fighting, but she was no longer afraid.

Ned and Arthur would protect her, and then she would play in the Water Gardens with Arianne and the Sand Snakes. And Mama might come soon. She would not stay away forever. She always said that Rhaenys was her sun, and Egg her moon, and that she could not live without them. She would come and they would play together. Hopefully Egg would be big enough to play properly by then. At the moment, he did little more than shuffle around on his bum and make noises or cry.

"Well, I will have Shara with me to help," Ned replied. "Nobody could ever fail with her at their side. Gods, I cannot wait for this all to be over so that I can get home and meet my daughter."

"Aye, I do not blame you," Arthur answered back. "I'm looking forward to seeing my new niece also. What did Shara's letter say that she named her again?"

"Alarra Stark," was Ned's gentle response, an almost awed tone to his voice. "For Alaric."

Arthur's voice was strange, almost strangled, when he answered. "Ric would have been honoured."

Rhaenys could hear the steady thump-thump of Ned's heart beneath his tunic as she laid her head against his chest. Combined with her exhaustion from the night's events, and the feeling of safety she had in her saviour's arms, she swiftly drifted into sleep, unaware that her life had been forever changed, and that Ned Stark and Arthur Dayne would be last people to ever address her as 'Dragon' or a 'princess' again in her life.

SotNSotNSotN


The Red Keep: 5 th December, 299 AC

Margaery:

Margaery clutched the hand of her young husband, fighting the tears that were pricking her eyes. She liked Tommen very much, and far more than her previous two husbands. He was kind and compassionate, and the complete opposite of his family. He was a good person, who cared for the people around him and had been trying hard to be a good king in spite of the circumstances.

She cared for him a great deal, and feared for both of their lives.

"We must bend the knee," Tommen murmured solemnly, his head bowed and shoulders slumped in defeat. "I have no legal right to the Iron Throne, whether through blood or through conquest, and we do not have the ability to withstand a siege. We must surrender, and pray to the Seven that Queen Rhaenys will stay true to her promises."

He had admitted to her that he and his siblings were bastards born their parents' incestuous relationship. For his sake, Margie had pretended not to have known so already.

"I know," Margie sniffed, reaching out to grasp his hand. "Gods save us."

"Perhaps they will agree to dissolve the marriage," Tommen suggested, avoiding her gaze. "You can wed again. To a- to somebody worthy of you."

"No," Margaery denied immediately. "I have wed thrice, and this is the only time that I have been happy with the match because of the one that I wed, not because of the title that came with it. I'll not wed another Tommen. I won't do it."

His emerald eyes glistened as he whispered a soft thanks to her, squeezing her hand.

He glanced at the letter again, pain flickering across his expression. "I know that she has done some truly awful things," he said painfully. "That she has gone against the laws of the Gods and men, murdered innocent people, abused a maid and committed incest and treason. But she is still my mother. I am afraid for what will happen to her and my grandfather when Queen Rhaenys takes control of the Keep."

"Of course you are," Margaery answered softly, running a hand through his gold strands. "I have never liked Cersei, I confess it freely. But she has always been a loving mother, nobody will ever deny that. Of course you fear for her fate, and for your lord grandfather's.

But if you do not surrender, it will not just be her and Lord Lannister who pays for everything that has happened, it will be the two of us, the rest of the lords and ladies in the Keep, the smallfolk in the city. We are still the King and Queen for the moment. We must put what is best for the good of the many above what is best for the few."

"Yes," Tommen whispered. He straightened his shoulders and held his head up high. "Yes," he repeated. He took a deep breath and rose to his feet, going to the door and opening it to reveal the Dornish messenger, Ser Myles Manwoody, waiting along with a dozen redcloaked guards.

"Ser Myles," Tommen spoke calmly, no sign of the turmoil she knew was within him. "Please inform Queen Rhaenys that we accept her terms. We will have the gates opened at sunrise."

Ser Myles smiled and bowed to him. "My thanks for your quick answer. I shall inform the queen immediately."

The next day, Margaery watched her husband kneel before the victorious Queen and Prince Consort as they rode into the city ahead of the rest of their host. He had a solemn, regal air to him as he knelt before the conquering couple and greeted them, pledging his fealty. In that moment, she thought him the bravest, strongest man that she had ever been fortunate enough to meet, and she was proud to be his wife.

AN: I know that people were expecting a fight, but this is how I always pictured it happening. Any attempts to try and write a battle scene turned out awkward and stilted, so I gave up and went back to the original idea. There will (I think) be battle scenes of Pyke (Robb vs Theon) and I'm thinking of what to do with Stannis. Not quite settled on that yet though. I hope, even without a battle, that you guys still liked it!

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT. Sorry that the fights are a bit ugh. I'm not good at writing them, and I don't really know how to. I hope that you guys still like the chapter, and are happy enough with it. We're in the home stretch now, can you believe it?

Read, enjoy, and review please! I love you guys, and your lovely, encouraging comments!

Chapter Thirty-Two

The Fall of the Krakens

King's Landing: 6 th December, 299 AC

Robb:

The day after they officially claimed control of the Red Keep, Robb climbed aboard the Sea Wolf to set sail for Pyke along with a hundred other bloodthirsty, vengeance-craving Northern sailors and Arya, who had been granted permission to come as well. Before he left, he went to say goodbye to his sister, who was nursing Garin when he arrived at the rooms she, her husband and their mutual paramour had all been installed in. Apparently, it was the same set of rooms where they had spent their stay earlier in the year, and as far as possible from the small chamber where Larra had spent her two years of captivity.

Daryn was lying in a cradle beside her seat. Shae and Serena had been attending her, but she had dismissed them on Robb's arrival. It was rare for her to be without one of her loves at the moment, given her still-fragile state, but neither of them were currently around her. As far as Robb knew, Oberyn was overseeing the securing of the various guards (most of them Cersei's men) who had ignored Tommen's surrender and tried to fight back. He wondered briefly where Ellaria was and what she was doing, but given Larra's lack of concern or distress at her paramour's absence, he assumed that she, at least, was aware, therefore he felt no need to worry.

"You're going now then?" Larra asked after her attendants had left, meeting his blue eyes with her own. They were a dark, steel-grey colour today, and he could see her tiredness in the slight slump in her posture and the dark shadows beneath her eyes. She ought to be resting in Sunspear still, recovering from such a difficult birth, not here helping secure Laena's position as Queen. Yet Larra was a Stark and a descendant of House Dayne. She would not be content to stay safe in Dorne whilst others gained justice for their murdered kin and ensured that the Winterlanders properly submitted to Laena. Robb was mildly surprised that she had agreed to stay behind in the (current) capital instead of joining he and Arya at Pyke. It spoke to her exhaustion, he supposed. But then, Larra, though she could fight, and fight well at that, was not the type of person to seek out battles and bloodshed. It was just not in her nature.

Not like it was in Robb's and Arya's. But then, that made sense didn't it? Larra had survived the aftermath of their father's attainment through words, through speaking the things that Joffrey and Cersei wanted to here, by folding up her spirit and tucking it away, pretending to be a broken wolf, a fallen star whose light had gone out. She had learned to play the Game, and learned her lessons well.

As for Robb and Arya, they had survived by fighting, by becoming wolves in human skin. Killing had become almost a comfort over time. The feel of Dawn in his grip was a reassurance, an anchor to his sanity.

He sometimes wondered if he was even worthy to call himself the newest 'Sword of Morning', yet Dawn would allow him to wield it, and not Arya, or Larra, or Edric or even Allyria.

What would Uncail Arthur have thought? He had never gotten the chance to properly decide which of them he would take as his official apprentice, and so Dawn had chosen for them. Robb didn't feel worthy of it, of being the successor to the greatest swordsman and one of the greatest men to ever live, yet here he was.

If giving up Dawn, if melting it down to be turned into jewellery and given to the Lannisters themselves, would restore his family, any of them, to life, then Robb would have done so in an instant.

"I am," he confirmed.

She lifted her chin and reached out for his hand, squeezing it softly. "Promise me that you will bring back his head," she murmured. "For Máthair, for Bran and Alayne. For everyone that he betrayed and murdered that day. Kill him."

"I'll come back with his head or I will not return at all," Robb vowed, his tone full of determination. She gave a pained smile and touched his cheek lightly.

"May the Gods go with you," she replied. "Come back safely, Robb. Please. I cannot lose you twice."

"You won't," he promised, before embracing her and heading off to say goodbye to his wife.

Laena was surrounded by lords and ladies in the Great Hall, most of them assuring her of their undying loyalty, and several actually being useful. Ellaria was near her, a silent support. On seeing him, she managed to get herself away from the gaggle and they slipped into the antechamber where he wrapped her petite form in his arms, resting his chin on top of her head for several bliss-filled, peaceful, moments.

"Be careful," she said finally after they separated, one hand resting protectively over the faint curve of her belly. She was so early into her pregnancy, most of her dresses concealed it.

"I will be," he promised her too. "Wait until my return to deal with Cersei and Tywin, alright?"

She gave a small smirk that didn't reach her worried eyes. "Of course," she agreed. "I would not keep you from seeing justice carried out for your father and uncle. I am going to be busy dealing Stannis, anyway."

He knelt for his queen's blessing, kissed her goodbye, and hurried to the docks, where the sailors of the Sea-Wolf were already busy getting ready to sail. Arya was already waiting on the deck, a travel-pack slung over her shoulder, Nymeria pacing the wooden deck, growling uncertainly at the rocking of the ground beneath her paws. Morning huffed his own displeasure at the moving floor, but Robb was able to soothe him with some stroking of his snout as he set his own pack down at his feet.

"Ready to go then?" Admiral Starstark asked him with a raised eyebrow. Her blue-green eyes glittered darkly with her own desire for revenge. For the Winterlands, if you had not lost kin in the Bloody Conclave, then you had lost friends. It had not been a matter of deciding who got to go to Pyke, but rather a matter of deciding who didn't get to go.

"Yes," Robb confirmed, baring his teeth like the direwolf at his side. "I am more than ready."

Finally, after almost two years without consequences, his treacherous ex-foster brother would die for his crimes. Robb had meant it when he promised Larra that either he would either come back with Theon's head in tow, or else he would not come back at all.


Dragonstone: 12th December, 299 AC

Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully:

Brynden sighed as he peeked into the family's private solar to look over his great-nieces and great-nephews.

First he spotted Sansa, who save for her dark hair and blue eyes was the image of Cat at that age. His eldest great-niece was the perfect lady, a girl any man would be proud to call his daughter. She was a naturally good girl too, eager to please. But he had never been blind to the fact that she was rather spoiled, a bit arrogant and more than slightly naïve (or rather, she had been naïve until the war had broken out. Stannis' ambition had shattered her beliefs in stories and songs, and she had turned hard and cold in response.). He blamed it on being her mother and septa's clear favourite. He loved Sansa, as he loved his nieces, but she could at times be cruel and self-centred. He feared she was going down the same path as her mother and aunt, paths that had turned both of them into cruel, selfish women. Thankfully, the war had had one benefit, in that Sansa had lost her rose-coloured view of the world and reached out to her siblings. Her old personality still flared up at times, but she was growing up, becoming more compassionate and less inclined to think herself superior to others. She was trying to sew something, but her gaunt hand was trembling from hunger and weakness, and he could see her frustration rising.

Beside Sansa, also attempting some needlework was Shireen. Cat's younger daughter was sweeter than honey, and the kindest of the two. She had no care for social boundaries, happy to play with the servants' children just as much as she played with the noble children Catelyn considered suitable companions for her children. Shireen was shy and uncertain, the vivacious personality of her youth battered down by Cat's loud despair over her scarred cheek. His niece loved all of her children dearly, and she had been horrified by the damage to Shireen's marriage prospects that the scars had caused. She had wanted to send the girl to a motherhouse, but Stannis had refused. But her actions had led to a divide between Shireen, and Catelyn, Sansa (who sided with her mother) and Septa Mordane. Shireen had instead turned to her brothers and books for comfort, hurt by what she perceived as her mother's rejection.

In another life, one where Cat's pregnancy with Robb Snow and the way she acted had not shown him the spiteful streak in his niece's soul, the distressing resemblance to the worst of her father's characteristics, Brynden would have tried to repair the damaged relationship between the pair. Instead, he had tried to be a source of comfort for his niece, and was her defender. He had been the one to persuade Stannis against sending Shireen to a motherhouse when she had come to him about her mother's plans, utterly distraught at the prospect.

It damaged his relationship with Cat more, but Brynden had resigned himself to that a long time ago. He didn't know if she had always been the way she was and his love for her had blinded him or if it was a result of losing her betrothed and being shamed by the birth of a bastard and then wed to a man who was suspicious of her due to that child whom had been taken from her, but Catelyn was different now. Or at least, different to how he recalled her. She was haughty and proud, disdainful of others and with a belief in her competence at skills she didn't have. She had disappointed him greatly. She played favourites with her children, too. Orys and Sansa were the ones she doted on most. Oh, she loved them all, Brynden had no doubt of that, but they were her favourites. Steffon and Shireen had been the ones to pay for that, Shireen becoming cripplingly shy and self-conscious, whilst Steffon grew more and more distant from his parents by the day. Brynden often felt that he was more of a parent to them both than either Stannis or Catelyn had ever been to the pair. He could only hope that he was doing a better job with Catelyn's children than he had done with her and her sister.

Bent over a book, but not having turned a page since Brynden had cracked open the door was young Steffon. The Blackfish felt himself wince as he recalled now only the other day his great-nephew had asked Brynden if the Seven were punishing them for something, and that was why they were suffering so much.

Brynden scanned the solar a second time. As he had expected, there was no sign of little Orys of his mother. No doubt they were in the nursery. Cat, who was frighteningly gaunt, hovered over her sick young son constantly, nursing him. He was such a young child, and wept constantly now, speaking of the pain in his stomach. Catelyn herself seemed almost a corporeal ghost, her every thought and action centred around the care of her youngest child. She had only retreated further into herself after the letter had come, declaring Rhaenys Targaryen as queen and mentioning her husband, Cat's lost bastard son whom she had scorned.

The maester could do no more for either of Orys nor Catelyn's states than he could the rest of the people in Dragonstone. The medical supplies were long gone, and Brynden knew that there was only a tiny fraction of food left in the pantry, barely enough for another meal split between the family, never mind everybody else in the castle. The Lannister fleet had disappeared, replaced by a Winterlander one flying the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen.

They would not hold out much longer, and Brynden feared for his family's lives if they persisted in their defiance of the Crown. Whilst it had been the Lannisters and Cersei's bastard on the Iron Throne, he had been willing, even after the epic disaster that was the Battle of Blackwater Bay. But now things were different, for Rhaenys Targaryen had successfully defeated the lions, and she had the Ever-Victorious Army on her side, bound to her cause by marriage. Once she had finished securing the Lannisters, she would no doubt turn her attention to Dragonstone, her House's ancestral home that was currently housing the man whom was claiming her title and his family.

Turning away from the quiet scene in the solar, the Blackfish sighed and gave into the inevitable. It had to be done. Family, Duty, Honour. His niece's husband had surely gone mad from the stress of the war and the siege, otherwise he would have realized that his insistence on holding out to the end was futile stupidity. And the servants and guards left were unlikely to accept it either. They were suffering even more than their overlords (whom they had never held much loyalty to in the first place) were, and losing their patience. Stannis might lose his head, and so too might Brynden, but if he acted quick enough, then he could still save his niece and her children. Perhaps he would be able to ensure that House Tully kept hold of the Riverlands also. After all, they had not fought against Rhaenys Targaryen, nor the Starks. Though if she held a grudge against his House for them siding against House Targaryen in the Rebellion...

Damn Hoster's ambition! Brynden had advised him to stay neutral in the matter, for they were sworn to the Targaryens yet Aerys really did need to be overthrown, but Hoster had always been greedy, always sought to increase House Tully's prospects. He had resented that their bannermen were such an unruly bunch, that their House would have been nothing if not for Edmyn Tully deciding to side with Aegon the Conqueror over Harren the Black. Their House owed everything it was to the dragons' generosity and Hoster had repaid their debt by choosing greed over loyalty, hoping to be able to be influential in Baratheon's court.

Not that it had served him well in the end, for even before Stannis had begun the War of the Four Kings, all throughout Robert's reign in fact, Hoster had been quietly sneered at for his actions during the Rebellion. People had disdained how he had wed one of his daughters to a man several decades older than Hoster himself, another to a second son because he (wrongfully) believed that by doing so Catelyn would become either Lady Paramount of the Stormlands or else the next Queen if Robert had no heirs. His vassals had barely helped during the war, and over half of them had outright refused his call, making him a laughingstock.

There was a reason that Hoster had not managed to betroth his heir to anybody, and it was not due to lack of trying. Even their loyal bannermen had hemmed and hawwed, avoiding Hoster's attempts to persuade them to give Edmure the hand of one of their daughters. Nobody wanted to be linked to the honourless man, who was out of King Robert's favour by default due to being Stannis' goodfather. Not to mention that, though they had done their best to keep things quiet, somehow rumours had started to abound about Catelyn and Lysa's pregnancies. Hoster had blamed Eddard Stark for it, but Brynden thought that is was more likely that there was a servant at Riverrun whom was actually a spy in another family's employ and that family had been the ones to have spread the news in order to blacken the Tully's reputation. No lord wanted to risk getting involved with a family whose words were "Family, Duty, Honour", yet seemingly none of the members lived up to it.

Brynden sighed and shook his head bitterly, damning his brother to the bottom of the seven hells. If only the man were not so stubborn! Yet the troubles that had befallen their family could not be laid entirely at his brother's feet. Brynden had failed to notice how self-entitled Catelyn had become until her pregnancy had been revealed and she had been so very hypocritical and cruel towards Lysa, had failed to notice Lysa's naivety had become so dangerous and that her crush on Petyr was strong enough that she'd be willing to ruin herself to try and be wed to him. Cat had been bedded by her betrothed only a few days prior to her wedding, and so it was not as serious, but Lysa had deliberately gotten herself with child because she longed to marry Petyr so desperately. He had even failed to see Petyr's designs on Cat, designs that were so very obvious in hindsight. He had not known about Petyr and Brandon Stark's duel until after Cat's pregnancy was revealed, having been away for moons before hurrying back to Riverrun as the war began. If Brynden had done something differently, had know more, than perhaps things would have turned out better for his House.

But he had not, and now he could only do one thing to preserve his family's lives, even if he failed to preserve their status.

He strode into the Chamber of the Painted Table, where his goodnephew was bent over the stone table, scowling at the section of the Crownlands.

"I take it that you have heard the news then, Blackfish?" Stannis grunted.

"Queen Rhaenys and her host took the capital, yes I know," Brynden nodded in response, jaw tight. "King Tommen and Queen Margaery yielded without a battle, and are now confined to their chambers under house arrest, as is Queen Cersei."

The word was that Cersei had to be kept under the effects of a sleeping potion. She seemed to have lost her mind completely, attacking allies and enemies alike and trying to scratch their eyes out, screaming that she was the rightful queen of Westeros. Not Queen Regent or Queen Consort, but Queen Regnant. She was utterly mad by the sounds of it.

Brynden had to admit that a part of him pitied the woman. Once, decades ago, he had visited Casterly Rock. Tywin Lannister had been Hand of the King for King Aerys at the time, spending moons at a time in King's Landing keeping the realms intact whilst his lady wife ruled the West in his name. Lady Joanna had been a lovely woman, and her twins (a mere five namedays at the time) had been sweet and golden, if rather spoilt. It was sorrowful to see and hear of how the little girl who had proudly shown off her new porcelain doll and told him with utmost earnestness and excitement that the doll's hair was real, not made of thread, had fallen so far.

Brynden blamed the Old Lion for all of it. He hoped that the man would go down in history as the one who had nearly destroyed the Seven Kingdoms out of a mixture of ambition, greed and an unquenchable lust for power.

"It means that they now have the forces of the Lannisters and the Reach under their control, along with that of Dorne and the Winterlands," Stannis muttered, rubbing his chin. "We shall need a miracle to get my crown."

"Only the intervention of the Warrior himself would be able to fix this, Stannis," Brynden sighed. "Surely you realize that there is no hope for your cause? We must surrender, and hope that Queen Rhaenys will be merciful because of it."

Stannis' head snapped back and he glowered at him. "I will not!" he yelled, blue eyes wild. "I have had what was rightfully mine stolen from me once already, I will not give up the Crown as well!"

The Blackfish grimaced. "Then you give me no choice," he sighed. "Family, Duty, Honour." Stannis' eyes went wide as he saw Brynden unsheathe his sword and lunge at him, the would-be King scrambling to snatch up his own weapon and just barely grabbing the blade in time to block Brynden's attack.

They clashed against one another, the sounds of fighting bringing a dozen guards rushing into the room.

"Help me!" Stannis called to them. "Treason! Treason!"

But the guards had little loyalty to Stannis. The vast majority of the people who lived in the dreary castle were from families that had been based on Dragonstone for decades if not centuries, families that bitterly resented the Baratheons for overthrowing their former liege lords. They longed for the return of the Targaryens, and Stannis had never been charismatic, unlike his brothers. His sullen, grudge-holding nature worked against him, as did his wife's superiority and disdainful treatment of those she considered to be below her.

And so, filled with resentment towards Stannis and eager to receive the favour of Queen Rhaenys, instead of helping their self-declared king, they helped the Blackfish. Drawing their weapons, they lunged into the fray, and soon Stannis, who had never been a particularly martial man in the first place, was overwhelmed, disarmed and on his knees with a trail of blood flowing down the side of his head as his blue eyes blazed with rage.

"We oughta kill 'im, an' send 'is 'ead tuh the new queen," one of the guards, a dragonseed with the trademarked silver hair of the Valyrians, suggested, glaring at the King in the Narrow Sea.

"No," Brynden refused, shaking his head. "We will confine him to a cell, and send a letter to Her Grace informing her of what has transpired."

Please Gods, he prayed as the guards consented and began hauling the infuriated but not struggling Lord of Dragonstone away, another hurrying to raise a white flag on the battlements, as per Brynden's orders. let me have done the right thing. Let my family be safe.

Brynden could only hope that he acted in time to save them all. Once he was alone in the room again, he took out a sheaf of parchment and some ink, beginning to compose first a letter to Queen Rhaenys, assuring her of the loyalty of everyone in Dragonstone to her and her consort.

Brynden prayed that, if Prince Consort Robb knew the truth of his mother, he held no resentment towards her for giving him up, or that the queen and her husband would at least not allow it to affect their actions towards Catelyn's family. Otherwise he might have attacked his goodnephew, the king he had pledged his fealty to, for nothing.


Pyke: February 4th, 300 AC

Robb:

The Gods were on their side, and they reached the Iron Islands within two moons of sailing. During that two moons, the rest of the fleet had managed to take Great Wyk and were now laying siege to Pyke, already having taken control of the majority of the island, with only the castle of Pyke itself still holding out against them. In truth, they likely could have taken the keep too already, but they had been awaiting the arrival of the Sea-Wolf with Robb and Arya aboard.

"When we attack," Robb instructed the two admirals, who had put aside their famous feud for the sake of avenging their fallen kin and Pack, "Then it's a free for all for everyone. It does not need to be said that there is to be no harming thralls or saltwives or children, of course. But anyone else is fair game. However, Theon is mine. Mine or Arya's. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Your Highness," the pair chorused, eyes flashing eagerly.

Robb suppressed a grimace at the title. 'Your Highness'. It neither sounded nor felt right. Originally, people had simply assumed that he would be styled as the 'King Consort' and addressed as 'Your Grace'. It had been Robb who had pointed out that doing so might undermine Laena's authority, make people think that he was the real power behind the Iron Throne, given the expectations of the Midlands as to how women were meant to submit to their husbands and such nonsense. He didn't want that, neither the pressure of ruling nor the potential damage to his relationship with Laena. There had been many Queens of Winter who had ruled in their right during the eight millennia before Torrhen XXV had bent the knee to protect his people from the wrath of the dragon. Whenever a woman had ruled the North, her husband had been called the Prince Consort, and Robb had figured the title of his ancestors would do fine for him as well.

But it still felt unnatural. Like a southron story or song, only with the wrong genders, given that in those things, it was always princes falling for lowborn women. Southron, or midlander, he corrected himself, society was very irritating. Robb had no idea how he was going to survive it for the rest of his life. Hopefully, between him and Laena, they would be able to do something to make the people of the midlands see the sense of the way things were done in the Winterlands and in Dorne.

He shoved those thoughts away and focused as they began descending into the water to wade up the coast past the port town of Lordsport to the keep.

The Iron Islanders were waiting for them.

Robb's mind went blank during the battle. He didn't pay attention to his own actions, or what was going on around him. He simply fought alongside Arya, Needle held aloft and dripping blood, with their two direwolves at their sides, ripping one opponent after another apart. He lifted Dawn and brought it down again and again. As he fought, the image of his aunt who had been his mother in every possible way save for actually birthing him, his little brother Brandon, who would have been utterly defenceless with his damaged legs, and sweet little Alayne with her thumb in her mouth, playing out in front of his eyes. The last time he'd seen his family, as he turned back to look one last time before Winterfell was out of sight, Bran had waved from his chair, calling after them to write about everything, whilst Máthair had held Alayne on her hip, the little girl sucking on her thumb with her beloved doll clutched firmly against her side.

It seemed to take both hours and minutes to reach the centre of the castle. Robb truly didn't know how long it was, or even how he ended up in the Great Hall of the island keep.

He only knew that the Greyjoys had gathered in the Great Hall with the remainder of their guards, prepared to make their last stand.

"Theon is mine," he growled to the others with him, gaze fixed on the pale-faced traitor who was waiting with his sword.

It would not be a difficult fight. Theon was an archer, not a swordsman, whilst Robb was the new Sword of Morning. Robb had always beaten him in the yard, and this time was serious.

"Theon is ours," Arya corrected him. She was covered in blood, her hair knotted. Robb was in a similar state. Máthair would have had a fit at the state of them both.

But she would never be able to scold either of them for sloppy appearances again, never meet Robb's wife or the babe growing within Laena's belly, never meet Larra's husband and lover or hold her twin grandsons. She had missed both of their weddings, days when they had desperately needed the advice from her and Athair. Her, Bran and Alayne, ripped away decades too soon. All because of the unseen greed and ambition of Theon and Gerold, people they had all trusted and loved as Pack brothers.

Time had slowed down long enough for him to give that order, but then it sped back up again. Robb cut down several guards that tried to get between him, Arya, their wolves and their target, as did the others. Soon enough, Theon was encircled, and Robb snarled at him.

"Why?" he demanded bitterly, hearing the crack in his own voice. "Why Theon? Was it only greed? A desire to prove yourself worthy of being the heir to a House full of murderers, thieves, slaveholders and rapists?"

Theon lifted his chin defiantly. "I do not have to excuse myself to you," he insisted stubbornly.

Robb spat at him.

"We're not going to let your body be committed to the ocean, Greyjoy," Arya informed him gleefully. "We're going to burn your body, and bring your head back to give it to Larra, as proof that we avenged Máthair and our siblings."

Theon began to reply, but he never got the chance to say another word. Robb and Arya had learned to fight as one during their time on the run, and they had only needed to exchange a single look with each other to know how to act. They did not need any more answers than the ones they had received already. Gerold had turned on their family out of greed, Theon because he was desperate to prove himself worthy of his family's legacy of thieving slaveholders. Now, he would pay the price for it.

Robb lunged forward and Dawn cut through the flesh and sinew of Theon's neck, even as Arya's shoved Needle through his heart.

His head fell to the floor and rolled away as Arya yanked her blade back out of the traitor's body to allow it to sink to the floor and lie there with blood spilling out.

Around them, fighting was continuing, but the Northrons were quickly gaining the upper-hand and Robb was too busy staring down at Theon's corpse to do anything else to contribute, not when the world seemed to have frozen entirely around him. Even when a girl with a pink scar on her neck and dark hair lunged at them in rage, he did not move, did not even register the threat properly. Morning jumped at her instead, jaws closing around her throat. Robb barely noticed.

'Máthair, Bran, Alayne, they're both dead,' he thought as Asha Greyjoy's body collapsed beside that of her brother's. 'Gerold and Theon both. You are avenged. You can rest in peace now.'

It was very just, he thought absently as Admiral Starstark declared they had control of the keep, that he, Arya and Larra had all been able to take the life of one those who'd participated in the Bloody Conclave. The blood of a boy he had once considered a friend was on his hands, and Robb was pleased about it.

Theon was dead, and his family was avenged.

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I don't own ASoIaF/GoT.

This is it, guys. The final chapter (there's a bunch of time skips). The godswood wedding is slightly altered from the canon version of a First Men's wedding, similar to how I did it in ASoMS.

I hope you all enjoy the final chapter, and I hope that it wraps up everything well! Thank you all for following this, and I hope you keep checking out my stuff.

Chapter Thirty-Three

Epilogue

King's Landing: 1 st May, 300 AC

Oberyn:

Laena looked every inch the Targaryen Queen as she made her way down the aisle of the Great Sept of Baelor for her coronation. It would be the last coronation in the Great Sept, as Laena had already announced her intention to raze King's Landing to the ground and rebuild the city from scratch. Many monarchs had made such noises, but Laena was the first to actually order plans be made for the project, and she had already hired architects for it. Responsibility for the whole thing was assigned to Robb, whom she had named her Hand of the Queen. He was managing very well, even if he was unlikely to go down as one of the greatest Hands, being more military-inclined.

The young Queen wore a black dress with red dragons chasing each other around her skirts, and red trimming along the edge of her neckline. A thick cloak trailed after her, made of red velvet with black fur lining the inside. Her hair was done in an elaborate series of braids that had been, though she was not wearing a crown yet. Her diadem was waiting on a cushion on the dais for her crowning. She had a regal majestic air around her as she walked down to kneel before the High Septon on the dais.

Oberyn felt himself beam in pride as he watched, barely paying attention to the ceremonial prayers and hymns.

"Will you, Rhaenys of House Targaryen, solemnly promise and vow to rule the kingdoms of the Crownlands, the Reach, the North, the Vale, the Stormlands, the Riverlands, the Iron Islands, the Westerlands and Dorne according to their laws and customs?" the High Septon asked gravely.

"I do so swear," she vowed.

"And do you vow to rule justly according to the laws of the land?" the priest continued. "Never allowing your personal emotions to influence your judgement?"

"I do so swear," she repeated, confidence radiating for her slim form.

"Do you vow to respect and protect the Faith of the Seven, the First Men and the Rhoynar?" the High Septon had a slight hint of distaste in his voice as he said this particular part.

It was a greatly controversial part of the oath for the priests of the Seven-Who-Are-One. In fact, there had been many attempts by the Most Devout to have this section removed, and Baelor the Blessed had very nearly done so. It had caused a near revolt by the Winterlanders and Iron Islands, however, and his uncle Viserys had managed to prevent him from doing so. The laws laid down by Aegon the First granted all residents of the Kingdoms the right to worship as they willed, and trying to take away that right would have ripped the realm apart in a war that would probably have been even bloodier than the Rebellion.

"I do so swear," Laena stated a third time. The High Septon nodded, and Oberyn felt Ellaria squeeze his fingers as they watched him pick up the newly-created tiara that had been forged specifically for Laena.

'Elia, if only you were here to see your daughter,' Oberyn thought, smiling proudly at the sight of his daughter/niece as she swore the coronation oath. 'If only you could see what a wonderful woman our daughter has become. She reminds me of you so much.'

His sister would have been so proud to know that her beloved daughter, 'the sun of her life', had ascended the Iron Throne as the first woman to rule uncontested in her own right.

"May the Mother and Father grant her the wisdom, compassion and sense of justice that she needs to rule," the High Septon called out then, holding the crown over Laena's head. "May the Maiden ensure her reign is a long and revered one, letting her be filled with mercy and love for her people. May the Warrior grant her courage and protect her in these times. May the Smith grant her strength she needs to let her be able to properly bear this heavy burden. And may the Crone, she that knows the fate of all men and women, show her the path that she must walk and guide her through the dark places that lie ahead of her in her reign.

In the light of the Seven, I now proclaim the ascension of Rhaenys, Head of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, Queen of the Rhoynar, the Andals and the First Men, Defender of the Faith and Lady of the Seven Kingdoms. Long may she reign!"

There was thunderous applause from everyone as they rose to their feet to clap and cheer. Oberyn himself was stunned even as he clapped louder than anyone else for his adopted daughter.

Finally, after so many years of cautious and secretive preparations, after fifteen years of waiting for the 'time to be right', at last Elia's child was in her rightful place atop the Iron Throne. All that was left was the trials of Tywin and Cersei and their judgements. Already, the Kingslayer had been judged guilty of various crimes and sentenced to the Night's Watch and the remaining Lannisters themselves (with the Imp now to be Lord of the Rock) had lost both the Lord Paramountship and Wardenship of the West, with Lord Tarbeck holding them now.

The trials of the former queen and her child-killing father would begin in a week, and Oberyn could scarcely breathe in anticipation of the approach of the final piece of Elia and Aegon's long-delayed justice.


The Red Keep: 1 st May, 300 AC

Robb:

Robb was startled when a thin woman with red hair laced with grey dressed in a blue dress approached him at the feast. He didn't recognize her, but something about her seemed familiar.

"Can I help you?" he asked politely, eager to get the pleasantries over with so as to return to Elaena's side.

"Robb," she breathed, staring at him in amazement. "I cannot believe it. To think, you were born a bastard, and now you are King."

He stiffened, uncomfortable with everything she had just said and suspicion as to her identity beginning to dawn. "Catelyn Baratheon of House Tully, I presume?" he guessed.

The Dowager Lady of Storm's End, the mother of the new Lord Paramount, Steffon Baratheon. His birth mother.

Her husband had bitten through his own tongue whilst confined in Dragonstone, and Laena had cleared the remaining Baratheons and Tullys of all charges. They retained all of their titles and honours, but Robb had not been aware that she was there. He had no desire to speak with her, at any rate. Perhaps he should have been curious, and maybe in another life he would have been.

But not in this one, and he wasn't.

"Mother," she corrected him. "I am your mother. You surely must know that-"

"You are not my mother," he replied, quietly but firmly. She faltered mid-sentence, looking ready to protest his statement. "You might have birthed me, against your will I am given to understand, but that does not make you my mother.

Ashara Stark of House Dayne was my mother, the woman who cared for and raised me. She nursed me at her own breast, right alongside her own child, loved me as if I were born from her own womb. You are not my mother, and I will not tarnish her memory by addressing you as such. I bear you and your family no ill-will, but I have no desire to know you or interact with you. I have a family, and I have no wish for you to be a part of it. You cannot try to abort me, refuse to have any contact with me my whole life, and then expect me to embrace you with open arms the best part of two decades later because you hope to rise in status by being goodmother to the queen."

Her expression had fallen in disappointment, but Robb felt no guilt for speaking the truth. He began to turn away, only to pause a moment to look back at her again.

"And one more thing," he added. "I am not the King, I am the Prince Consort. Do not disrespect Her Grace again by addressing me as such. Good day to you, milady."

With that, he returned to his wife's side, wrapping an arm around her waist to rest his hand over her swollen stomach and pushing away anymore thoughts of Catelyn Tully Baratheon. He had a family, and while he would be happy for it to expand, he had no wish for that expansion to include Lady Catelyn.


The Red Keep: 8 th May, 300 AC

Larra:

It was impossible to have an impartial panel of judges for the Lannisters. Their greed and lust for power had caused too much grief and had ensured that they were hated even by their allies.

Therefore, the new Queen, she herself, and Lord Willas Tyrell were the sitting judges (Lord Mace had suffered a heart attack when his goodson had been declared a Waters after Cersei was condemned for adultery and incest by the Most Devout. The Fat Flower, as Larra's husband called him, was now abed recovering whilst his heir and mother ran things for him (not that they had not been doing so already). The man was absolutely horrified by the fact that his precious daughter was married to a landless bastard born of incest, and that she had refused to consent to him going to the High Septon for an annulment.).

Cersei had already been judged guilty by the Most Devout for her incestuous and sinful actions with her brother, as had her brother Jaime (obviously), and she had been condemned by them to a walk of atonement through the city before being sent to a motherhouse (if she was not executed). But that had been a religious trial. The one she would be going through after her fatherwas a criminal one, and Larra doubted that she or the Old Lion would be given such a light sentence as the former-Ser Jaime, who was now on route to the Wall, whose crimes were mitigated from a death sentence due to the fact that he had saved millions by killing Aerys and the pyromancers all those years ago, and that, although he had done terrible things, it had all been on the orders of his father or sister.

Larra herself was certainly in favour of them both losing their heads.

Tywin was judged first. As he was escorted down the aisle, people spat at him and sneered insults. Tywin remained blank faced, thin and sickly-looking after his long coma, but Larra saw the way his fists clenched in anger at the blatant contempt and disrespect for him. The Old Lion had been awake for not quite a fortnight, and, as Manfrey had promised him, he had woken to find the world turned upside down for his House. No longer were the Lannisters a family to be fawned over and sucked up to for the sake of gaining the favour of the Crown. No longer were they the most powerful people in the kingdoms.

Quite the opposite in fact. Nobody who wanted to gain the favour of Queen Rhaenys or her Prince Consort wanted to associate with the disgraced lions who had murdered their families. The lions were now the unofficial personae no grata of the kingdom, and had as good as been banished from court. It had come out that their supposedly bottomless mines were in fact empty, and that had resulted in them losing large chunks of land and Tyrion Lannister having to resort to pawning various portraits and such due to being unable to pay the fines levelled on his House by the Crown. Larra had even heard that Lady Genna and her children had been sent to live at the Twins with her loathed husband, as her brother was unable to support them. The Lannisport branch had lost all of their own property also, and they basically had nothing more than the Rock left to them, and the keep itself was more of a hinderance than anything else, due to lack of resources to sustain it.

Occasionally Larra felt that perhaps she ought to feel bad for them. Not all had participated in the actions of the main line, after all. Some were but children, like Ser Kevan's youngest daughter. But then she recalled how, even if they had not participated, they had stood back and done nothing to prevent their kin preforming actions that they knew to be morally and legally wrong. They continued to hold the Rock and they were alive and not sent to the Wall. It could have been far worse for them, and they could possibly regain some power in the future, when the wounds were no longer fresh and Tywin's siblings were no longer around to remind people of his actions towards the Crown and so many others.

Elaena rose to her feet, dressed in a black dress with red along with hems, her dark hair swept into a plain bun and tucked beneath her crown. It was made of gold, in the shape of a dragon, curled around the wearer's temples so it appeared as if the dragon's tail was in its' mouth, with a pair of rubies for eyes. She wore no other jewellery save for her signet ring, due to the solemnity of the occasion.

"We are gathered here today," Laena called to the audience, silencing the whispering. "For the trial of Tywin Lannister, former Lord Paramount and Warden of the West, and Head of House Lannister! He is being tried for the murders of Her Highness Princess Elia Targaryen of House Martell, her son the late Prince Aegon Targaryen, for the massacre of the Tarbecks and Reynes, for embezzling money from the Royal Treasury, for holding then then-Lady Alarra Stark, Lady Paramount of the Winterlands and Wardenness of the North captive and assaulting her in an attempt to usurp the authority of the Starks over the Winterlands, for..."

The list of charges seemed to go on forever, every possible thing that the Old Lion could be charged with being brought up. Laena's voice was barely audible above the jeers and cries for the man's execution. Once the charges had been listed, the witnesses started coming out. People ranging from servants who eagerly testified to overheard conversations to Lannister's own bannermen, anxious to escape being charged for their own crimes by laying the blame at their former-liege's feet.

The whole trial took two days, the whole time spent listening to witnesses speaking against Tywin. Nobody, not even his own kin, had offered to speak in his defence. When the presentation of evidence was over, the three judges spoke with one another for only a few minutes before announcing their verdict.

Absolutely nobody was surprised when Tywin Lannister was declared guilty, stripped of all his titles (including his knighthood) and sentenced to execution. But they might have been surprised by Laena's announcement that she would be doing away with the office of the Royal Executioner, and from now on either she herself or her husband would take responsibility for that distasteful task.

Tywin Lannister lost his head to a swing of Laena's sword at sunset the day after his sentencing, followed less than ten minutes later by his daughter, at Robb's hand. It was fitting, that Laena avenge her mother, and Robb avenge Eddard Stark and Arthur Dayne.


Winterfell: 31 st August, 300 AC

Ellaria:

Ellaria was the last of them to arrive in the godswood of Winterfell. She had come on the arm of her father, whilst Larra had been escorted by Robb. The grove was full, even in spite of only close blood relatives being allowed to attend the ceremony. There were the Sand Snakes (including Elaena, who had come to Winterfell along with her husband in spite of her advanced pregnancy purely to see the wedding, as she had missed the sept one between Oberyn and Larra), Ellaria's father and uncle, and the remaining members of the House Stark. Daryn and Garin were being held by Tyene and Arya respectively, and even the typically-fussy Garin was quiet and pliant.

The air of the godswood was heavy. It was clear that the Old Gods were indeed watching them that eve.

"Who comes before the Old Gods on this eve?" Robb, who was officiating for them, called in a strong voice, affection in his eyes as he looked at his cousin-sister. "And for what purpose?"

"Lady Alarra of House Stark, noble and flowered, comes before the Old Gods on this eve," Larra replied, smiling back at him. She looked absolutely radiant in her grey-and-white ensemble, her pale skin seeming to glow like the star that graced the banner of her mother's House. Her hair, as well as her sister and cousin's, had been cut recently, when Myrcella had wed Trystane (who had insisted on going through with his betrothal in spite of everything.) Those they had declared blood feud against were dead or in the Night's Watch, and so they had said it was over now.

"To claim Ellaria of House Uller and Oberyn of House Nymeros Martell as her spouses," Larra finished.

"Who comes before the Old Gods this eve and for what purpose?" Robb repeated, turning to Ellaria and Lord Harmen this time.

"Lady Ellaria Sand of House Uller," Ellaria's father answered gruffly. "Noble and flowered, comes before the Old Gods on this eve. She comes to claim Alarra of House Stark and Oberyn of House Nymeros Martell as her spouses."

Robb repeated the question a third time, this time looking at Oberyn, who was grinning from ear-to-ear. Ellaria was not one to talk, however, as she too was unable to stop beaming with happiness.

"Oberyn, of House Nymeros Martell," Oberyn responded. "Comes to claim Lady Alarra of House Stark and Lady Ellaria of House Uller as his wives."

Robb turned back to his sister. "Do you take this man as your husband?" he asked her. "Do you take this woman as your wife? Do you vow to take their feuds, their sorrows and their joys as your own feuds, sorrows and joys? To love, defend and honour them all of your lives? To become one in the eyes of the Old Gods who watch us now?"

Larra nodded confidently. "I take this man and this woman," she agreed. "Their feuds are my feuds. Their sorrows are my sorrows, and their joys are my joys. I will love, defend and honour them all our lives. This I swear in the eyes of the Old Gods who watch us now."

Robb repeated the question as he looked at Ellaria, who repeated the pledge before the Prince Consort tur