“Let Daenerys Targaryen be queen of the ashes” Cersei smirked, watching King’s Landing burn from the deck of the ship headed towards Pentos, where she and Jaime would now be able to start a new life together. As he wrapped an arm around her, Jaime wanted to laugh, but also felt concerned. Was Tyrion dead? Was his attempt to save the people of King’s Landing from destruction that’d earned him the name “Kingslayer” now in vain? As his hand rubbed Cersei’s stomach, grown swollen with child, he realized it was not. The lives of innocents who called him a traitor for saving them mattered less than being with Cersei, as did the life of the child he would get to raise and claim as his own, after only being able to witness his other children’s upbringing from a distance. This time, he would be able to teach them how to use a sword, no matter whether it was a boy or a girl. Cersei would love for her daughter to be able to fight, he knew, and to get the training Cersei had always longed for. Jaime kissed Cersei behind the ear as their boat moved further away, the flames engulfing the city receding into the distance.
“We’re going to have to choose new names, you know,” he told her. “If I go around calling you Cersei, someone will bring our heads to the Dragon Queen before her coronation.” “Coronation?” Cersei sneered. “I give her a fortnight before she’s killed. My subjects will miss me. “What’s left of your subjects,” Jaime retorted, and Cersei arched an eyebrow at him. “I was thinking Gerion,” he said. Cersei laughed. “That fool was always your favorite uncle,” she replied. “Maybe he wasn’t such a fool,” Jaime said, feeling the red velvet of her dress against his hand and realizing they’d need lighter fabrics in Pentos. “Maybe he had the right idea getting away from Westeros. I’m sure he’s very happy wherever he is. Perhaps in Pentos.”
“Perhaps in a crypt,” Cersei said. “Well, if I have to choose one…” she paused and tilted her head to the right. “There’s someone else in our family who escaped. Do you remember the stories about our great-grandmother, Rohanne Webber? The woman who people said poisoned her previous husbands, then captured Gerold Lannister’s heart and disappeared?”
“The name suits you,” a familiar voice said from behind the twins, and they turned around. Qyburn waved his hand in front of his nose. “The smell of the smoke from King’s Landing is putrid. Did you think after all my hard work rescuing your hand, Jaime, and your reign, Cersei, that I would abandon you now? As the Hand of the Queen I pledged to serve her and her loved ones, and I will do so until my final day. Or, will serve Rohanne and Gerion, I should say.”
Cersei ran over to Qyburn and did something Jaime had never seen her done with anyone besides himself before: she hugged him. “You’re an odd fellow, but I’ve never been happier to see you in my life,” she said, as Qyburn looked equal parts confused and content. Jaime shrugged at him. As Cersei pulled away from the hug, her smile dropped. “Jaime, look away,” she demanded, as she ran to the side of the boat and retched. “I fear the maternal sickness and seasickness combined will make this trip arduous,” Qyburn said, but Jaime didn’t care. He could handle a sick Cersei. As long as they were together and their baby was going to live. Jaime looked down at his golden hand and realized it might make him too recognizable in Pentos; no one else had one, and he could not risk his second chance at life being cut short. Slowly, he removed it with his good hand and flung it into the sea. The gold glittered as sunbeams bounced off it, growing smaller as the ship sailed away from Westeros, where despite their power they were never truly free.
They could never look like an average family. Many families might play on the beaches of Pentos, but none this attractive, Tyrion thought to himself as he watched them from afar. And how many other fathers would be teaching their three-year-old daughter swordfighting? “To your left,” Jaime said, facing her with a piece of wood. The little girl moved the wooden stick in her hand to the right. “That’s not left,” Jaime said. She threw the wooden stick down onto the floor and stomped her foot. “Yes it is,” she said, and started to walk away, turning around so that she faced Tyrion.
“Daddy, look!” she shouted, a confused expression on her face. “He’s little like me, but he’s old .” Jaime dropped the wooden stick he held in shock, his mouth opening. “I see she’s just like her mother,” Tyrion said wryly, approaching them. “Insistent on everything going her way and not afraid to point out ugly truths. Especially about me.” Jaime’s surprised expression morphed into a wide grin, and he ran to Tyrion. They embraced, Jaime and Cersei’s daughter picking up her wooden stick and playing with it as she watched. “I didn’t get a message that you were coming,” Jaime said. “I couldn’t do that. Too dangerous for it to be known I was visiting mysterious blonde-haired, green-eyed strangers who happen to look uncannily alike. The official word is that I’m here on a mission from the King, but after three years, well, I had to come. I missed you. I missed having a family.” Jaime hugged Tyrion again. “I missed you too, brother. Deeply. There are so few people to talk to here under our veil of secrecy, so few to laugh with…” they heard a thud; the little girl had fallen on her bum onto the sand, “Well, except for her. We laugh together plenty, don’t we, Jo? “Jaime said with a smile, and ran over to pick her up, wiping the sand off her legs and bringing her over to Tyrion. “Tyrion, this is Joanna. Joanna this is your…” he paused.
“You don’t have to tell her who I am. It could be too dangerous in case she tells anyone she happens to have a very short uncle. Here, I’m just a friend of Gerion and Rohanne. Maybe not so much Rohanne’s friend.” Joanna looked at Tyrion quizzically. She was even more adorable than Myrcella had been, with blonde curls that shone like the sun and freckles dotting the bridge of her nose. Almost made Tyrion want one of his own. “This is Tyrion. He’s my best friend, and he saved both my and mommy’s lives. Your life, too!” Jaime tickled her stomach, and she giggled sweetly. “You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him.” Joanna looked up at Jaime. “Can I hug him?” she asked, but jumped onto Tyrion for a hug before Jaime could answer.
Then Tyrion heard the voice that had tormented him for his whole life, and that he never thought he’d miss. “Joanna, show him the routine,” he heard Cersei say from behind him. Joanna ran back towards the water and picked up her wooden stick again. Thrusting it forward at Jaime and Tyrion she yelled, “hear me ROAR!” and growled like a lion. Jaime clapped and smiled at Joanna. Tyrion saw bare feet walk past him, and tracked them with his eyes as they approached Joanna. “Isn’t she a fierce lion cub?” Cersei said proudly, standing and smoothing Joann’s unruly hair. “She’s certainly not another Joffrey,” Tyrion replied, and Cersei rolled her eyes, then glared at him. “There she is, the loving sister I remember.”
But Cersei was not as Tyrion remembered her. The queen of the seven kingdoms would not have stood on the shore barefoot, free from any corset in a white, loose dress that billowed where the wind blew it. When Tyrion had last seen Cersei she was the picture of coldness and severity, adorned in high-necked stiff black dresses that shielded her like armor, her hair kept short for reasons he could never understand; to seem tougher, he supposed. Over the last three years she’d let her hair grow in waves to her breasts; Jaime’s too had grown long and was tied behind his neck, gold newly threaded with grey.
“I suppose I have to thank you” she said reluctantly, looking away into the cloudless sky. Tyrion waited, but she did not add anything else. “Exile suits you,” he told her, and she sneered at him. “We’re not in exile, we’re waiting . Soon they’re going to want their rightful queen back. Must have been quite a blow for you to realize your false queen was even madder than me.” Joanna picked up a piece of seaweed and placed it in a circle on her head. “Queen!” she said, beaming up at Cersei, who smiled. “That’s my girl.”
Jaime walked over to Cersei and put his arm around her. “We’re just fine in Pentos, Cersei. You said you wouldn’t speak of those foolish hopes anymore. What did the throne do for us besides tear us apart?” Cersei sighed and took Joanna’s hand. “For once you’re right, but the people would love her.” “And they’ll love her better alive,” Tyrion interjected, “as would I. She’s beautiful and sweet. She could be a great queen one day.” Joanna ran away from her parents and up to Tyrion. “I’m not going to be a queen! I’m going to be a knight and a queen! Hear me ROAR!,” she said, and poked her stick out at him.
Tyrion smiled and beheld the seemingly perfect family. If only the passerby in Pentos knew the dark past that lay underneath...and that they were too close of family. “Supper is almost ready,” they heard Qyburn yell out to them from the modest house on the shore. “Qyburn cooking,” Tyrion roared with laughter, “and I thought seeing a one-handed man try to teach swordfighting would be the funniest thing I’d see today. Now, Cersei,” he pointed at her bulging stomach; the baby must be coming any day now, “I know you’ll name him Tyrion if he’s a boy...”
“The little man snores so loud,” Joanna complained as Cersei led her to bed. “Yes, he is a nuisance. If I could move his bedroom further away from yours, I would, but we don’t have enough rooms” Cersei sighed. “And he’ll be gone soon.” In the past she would have thought, not soon enough , but for some reason that thought didn’t pass through her head today. “If you tell me a story, I won’t hear him. Tell me the witch story!” Joanna pleaded, clasping her hands together excitedly.
Cersei began, getting on her knees as she tucked Joanna into bed. “Once upon a time, a little girl and her friend went to see a witch in the woods. They’d heard she was fearsome and that she could see the future, and the little girl could not wait to see the splendors she knew her future would behold. So she dragged her friend to the witch’s tent, but the witch spoke of terror rather than splendor. ‘Queen you shall be,’ she said, ‘until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.’” Joanna’s eyes widened, as they always did at this part. “She told the little girl that she would have three children, but all three would die. And so the little girl lived each day of her life in fear of this fate, doing everything she could to avert it. She never trusted anyone. She loved her children, but was afraid to love with all her heart in case she would lose them.
But the witch was wrong. Because, you see, that little girl was me. Someone younger and...perhaps more beautiful to some, though probably not, did come and try to take everything I held dear, with fire and blood. The evil usurper burned my city to the ground. She took my crown. But she died for her crimes, and me? I kept what I held most dear. I thought it was power that mattered most to me,” Jaime walked into the room and knelt down on the floor next to Cersei; they smiled softly at one another. “But it was family. It was love. It was the chance to raise the child the witch did not see in her vision and love her without fear of losing her.” Joanna poked a chubby finger out from her crib and poked Cersei on the nose, which made both twins laugh. “That’s you, silly! And your father...maybe he is the stupidest Lannister—ouch!” Jaime poked Cersei on the nose just as Joanna had, “but he’s MY stupidest Lannister.” Joanna put her hands together and clapped. “Come here, my little princess” Jaime said, and used his one good arm to scoop her into his and Cersei’s laps.
Joanna stretched her tiny body along both their thighs, yawning, and Jaime’s hand grabbed Cersei’s hair tightly as he and Cersei kissed. “Ew,” Joanna said as they kissed as if she hadn’t seen them all over one another all day, every day, now that they no longer had to fear being seen. The twins pulled apart and laughed. “Okay then, mommy and daddy will go back to their room,” Jaime said, and started to stand up. Joanna tugged on the ends of Cersei’s long hair. “No! More stories!” “You’re just like your mother. A stubborn thing. But without all the bad parts.” Cersei rolled her eyes. Joanna crossed her arms and huffed, “Mommy isn’t bad! She’s the best mommy in the whole wide world!” Cersei smirked at Jaime. “You hear that, Jaime? That means another story for you, Joanna. Here’s a good one; it’s a song. And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low?/Only a cat of a different coat, that's all the truth I know/In a coat of gold or a coat of red, a lion still has claws/And mine are long and sharp, my lord, as long and sharp as yours. ...”