The dawn has brought a fair day to King’s Landing at last, or at least a fair morning. A gentle breeze from the east, off the bay, belies the day’s coming heat, and the sky for once seems bereft of clouds. The air is light and smells of the sea; the crushing humidity of past weeks is but memory, for now at least.
In the stand of bleachers overlooking the lists, Ser Jaesin watches contentedly as a pair of youths try their hands at the quintain. One wears the royal livery, the other House Lannister’s—though it is Mathin Lannister in the scarlet and black of House Targaryen and Jaesin’s own squire, Alaric Lantell, in the crimson-and-gold.
The boys are each doing a fair if not impressive job of it, and on occasion the knight calls encouragement from above between bites of a crunchy apple.
True to form, Jyana has been up and out of her bed since before dawn, having wandered to the library restlessly and re-emerging yet again with another book. As the lists were, oddly enough, the place were she preferred to read, she heads there now, hearing sounds of activity absently while she keeps her eyes on the pages. It seems that her new acquisition for today was a treatise concerning Braavosi waterdancing, judging by the title emblazoned on the worn, leather cover.
Not like she would ever be able to lift a sword with any degree of competence, but she can dream.
She steps towards the lists and the bleachers, preferring to sit at the highest levels once she gets there. A long stick, lightweight and slender, remains in her hand as she absently, halfheartedly, goes through the basic movements listed on the page in front of her. At the sound of a triumphant shout, she looks up from her book.
And catches sight of a familiar shock of blonde hair and the unmistakeable sounds of apple-crunching. Somewhere, at the back of her mind, the looming, disapproving face of Jonothor Arryn glowers at her.
“....damn.” The curse, unladylike and sudden, escapes her mouth before she can do anything about it. A sliding step is taken backwards, slowly, and away. Her turn is also slow and gradual. The attempt to escape is there. Almost. Aaaalmoooost….
“Lady Jyana Arryn!” booms a voice, floating from somewhere behind. “Whenever I find your fool girl-self it’ll be a HUNDRED stitches today!”
Chewing idly at his apple, content in his watchful repose, Ser Jaesin is sprawled lazily across the bleachers with the laconic grace of a man entirely comfortable in his own skin. “Well ridden, Mathin!” he cries aloud as in the lists, his youngest brother strikes the quintain a solid blow.
Then a scolding voice booms from somewhere across the yard, and even the squires pause to glance about for its source. But its target, less mysterious, has already caught the eye of Jaesin Lannister. Smiling wryly, he waves a hand down in the maiden’s direction and calls out, “Lady Jyana!”
“You must join me up here. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my goodbrother at an armorer’s last night, for the first time since the voyage home,” he laughs, “and I would have you tell me whether Ser Jonothor is always so cold and aloof as your vaunted Eyrie.”
Hide. Run. FLEE.
Jaesin is bigger than her, perhaps if she sat on the other side of him, she’d be well hidden. At the same time, there was also Jonothor’s…perhaps not wrath, but exceeding irritation.
Jyana hesitates from the lower end of the bleachers, but when her septa calls her name again, it is enough to spur her into action. She hops onto a bleacher, in a spurned show of agility that only youth can possess, and she clambers upwards. Reaching him, she drops herself carelessly next to him. “If you lean forward and sideways,” she says, somewhat breathless at the sheer desire to escape her septa and not rebel against the wishes of her ‘uncle.’ “This conversation may last beyond ten seconds.”
She sets the book in her lap and inclines her head to look at the knight sidelong. “And I heard. Believe me, I heard. An earful. Uncle wasn’t happy when he came home last night.”
Lifting her book, she thwaps him lightly on the upper arm. “You’re -insane-. What made you think he’d have a sense of humor?”
A vague look of mild amusement settles in on the Lannister lordling’s face while the girl hides herself in his shadow. In the lists below, the squires resume their tilting, and he shades his eyes to make a show of observing them closely. Meanwhile, his low-pitched words are meant entirely for the so-called Jewel of the Vale.
“I’d assumed he was only so rigid and formal in council,” Jaesin explains, grinning but never flinching as she slaps at his arm.
“Most men are, before the King. The Young Dragon is a serious… man,” the knight says, choosing the last word with some care. “But your Jonothor carries the cold of your mountains with him well beyond the council tent. Almer says the man’s an icicle in armor, and he’s not far wrong, I think.” Jaesin laughs.
“He wasn’t so much as…I wouldn’t say angry, but irritated that I’ve spoken with you,” Jyana admits. “Rather he was a little….” She gestures vaguely with a hand to fill the word with a form of body language that she thinks best illustrates what she has in her mind. “...about me going anywhere near you without a septa or any sort of person who would safeguard me and, of course, report what you say. The explanation can be brief, or it can be long - but the gist of it is I suspect it’s more for my sake than his that he is wary of you.”
She pauses and she sighs, leaning back on the bleachers and rolling her head back a bit. “He wasn’t always this way. In fact in my earliest memories, I recall him being a little bit more like Jonn. But ever since…” The perpetually cheerful expression darkens just a bit, her aquamarine eyes focused on some fixed point in the horizon.
A brief shake of her head and she lifts it once again to look at Jaesin’s profile. “He can be very warm, affectionate even,” she speaks delicately. “But only towards family, and even then, to a select few of his family. He is very much like grandfather, in a way.”
“Then I am sorry for my sister,” muses Jaesin in muted response. Watching Mathin kick his heels in for another turn at the quintain, the eldest son of Casterly Rock speaks softly, though there is an underpinning of iron in his tone. “I hope you will tell me next that he is warm—aye, even affectionate—to Lira most of all, among his family.”
“The rest of it is stuff and nonsense, really,” Ser Jaesin sighs, smiling, regaining a measure of his usual good humor. “If he’s so insistent on my calling him a lord, then like as not the honor itself does not rest easy on his shoulders. And he needn’t worry about your virtue in my presence—”
Now he laughs: “Although I am entirely guilty of telling him that I ought to have married you when I had the chance. His eyes could have frozen dragonfire at that!”
“You needn’t,” Jyana says, smiling reassuringly over at him. “It is good of you to worry for your sister, you’ve mentioned before that you aren’t particularly close. However Uncle loves her dearly - rare for arranged marriages, and he actually cannot wait to see her and Eldred. But…since he is required to remain here and to answer whenever the Hand calls for him, I suppose that could account for his sour mood as well.”
She laughs and shakes her head, leaning forward…only to pull back again at the remembrance that she’s supposed to stay in his shadow. “He is difficult, to be sure. I know him and love him well, and that defines him most of all. But his men respect him and his family looks up to him. He’s either used to the adoration, or it may not be so obvious, but perhaps he’s making sport of you himself. After all, I doubt very much that he particularly likes you, though respect perhaps may be a different matter entirely like it usually is.”
At the last, her expression is exasperated. “Believe me, I know -that- too. He was particularly incensed about that part,” she grumbles, rolling her head back again to rest it on the bleachers above her. “And it isn’t so much as he worries about the state of my virtue whenever I’m around you. Rather…well. I was ill when he and my father both told me about the failed contract. I suppose in such a state, they sincerely thought I was devastated. After all.” She pitches her voice in a mock-falsetto. ” ‘Every high born lady would rather die than let the chance of marrying Jaesin Lannister drift them by.’ “
She can’t help but laugh a little bit. “Truth be told, marriage may have never been in my best interests.”
“He’s welcome to try making sport of me at the next royal tourney,” Ser Jaesin drily remarks. With an open, honest laugh, he dismisses the thought and wonders aloud, “But you say that marriage is not in your best interests? You should join hands with Reyna Rowan and Elanna Baratheon, I think, and the three of you can dance mocking gay rings about all of these hungry young knights fresh from war.”
His tone is sardonic, though not angry or bitter in saying so; there is the sense of a wry amusement to it.
“In truth—and I suspect you know it well already—I have similar feelings. I do not even know that I wish to inherit the Rock and all its incomes. I’m quite happy as I am.”
“I am familiar with both, and they are nothing short of elegant, every time I lay eyes upon them,” Jyana says softly, generously. “I’ve a growing fondness for Lady Elanna in particular, not at all because she was my mother’s kin, but she has been very kind to a good friend of mine who is having a difficult time these days.”
She pulls her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around it. At his laugh, she stays strangely silent, regarding hungry knights and the jest of dancing rings around them and taunting them as to what they can’t have. Instead, her eyes are on young Mathin and Jaesin’s squire, going about their daily practice. Despite the somber eyes, she couldn’t help but smile, just faintly. “Are they, really?” she questions. “I wonder why…I know Lady Elanna was particularly attached to her husband, but Lady Reyna…I’m not certain. At least once the mourning period is over, the two of them could pursue new lovers or lusts as the case may be.”
“Oh, aye.” A small bout of laughter escapes her to erase that split-second glimpse of a sort of despondency she would not express. “Like I said, a man who was seriously considering marriage would’ve put an effort in investigating his options, which you’ve not done. I knew that about you from the very beginning, but I take to heart that whatever your choices are, that you are happy.” She finally turns her face to him and grins.
“That, and why be content with the heart of one woman where dozens would willingly throw theirs at your feet like rose petals to the wind,” she utters dramatically in an obvious jest, one hand to her heart and another gesturing to their surroundings.
“Rose petals? Now you sound even more like Reyna,” he chuckles. “Truthfully, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe those stories about her and my cousin aren’t at least part—”
A sudden and resounding crack of a breaking lance interrupts Jaesin’s musings! Startled, the eldest of the Lannister brothers looks down to see his younger sibling exulting at the far end of a triumphal tilt.
“Well done, Mathin,” Jaesin calls from his perch in the viewing stand!
The lad glances up to the lists, lifting his visor to reveal the familiar Lannister features despite the unusual Targaryen garb he wears so proudly. Bright delight is writ plainly there, and laughing along with friend Alaric, the pair wave to Ser Jaesin and the fair maiden before proceeding to taunt the quintain mercilessly.
The quintain, like Lord Jonothor Arryn, remains quite stiff and stoic.
Jaesin had said the magic word.
“I freely admit a certain fondness for flowers,” the maiden tells him with a laugh. “Roses, lilies, and all. You will have to learn to expect such metaphors from me.”
“Stories?” Jyana asks, her aquamarine eyes turning to him and furrowing her brows. “I’ve heard about Ser Almer’s Dornish mistress, of course, I think everyone has. But…what do you mean? About Lady Reyna and Ser Almer? They are related, aren’t they?”
She is still regarding Jaesin curiously when the shattering of a lance captures her attention as well. Recognizing the youngest Lannister, she smiles, and waves to him and Alaric as well from her perch. When they turn to taunt the quintain, she can’t help it. She laughs - quick and prone to doing so.
“Somehow, my lords, I believe as with your lances prior that Ser Quintain will be taking your jeers and taunts like a man!” she calls from where she is.
The squires glance back at the sound of the lady’s voice. One cannot help but be reminded that this pair are in service to Ser Jaesin and Prince Aemon, respectively, when Mathin laughs, “He -is- a noble opponent, to take such sport and not seek retribution!”
Adds Alaric, grinning, “He’s not without skill—he thumped Ser Bryce quite soundly three days back!”
Unable to repress a smile—though doing so is hardly in his nature—Ser Jaesin shouts to the boys, “Three more courses apiece, lads! No more, or the Master-at-Arms will miss you.”
As the young squires cheerfully return to their practice, the knight returns his attention to Jyana in kind. “Ser Almer Connington and Reyna Tyrell are of an age, cousins who were reared together at Highgarden for quite some years,” he explains. “When I was a squire, it was often put about at the tourneys that the two of them were rather… fond of one another. Lady Reyna was wed to Colyn Rowan, though, and that put an end to the stories. Until recent days.”
“Both Almer and Reyna will tell you those stories have no foundation in truth, and I do not doubt them. But of late I am given to wonder whether the pair of them wish those tales were true instead.”
“Oh?” Jyana muses, tapping her fingertip to her chin. “Ah, what a pity. And here I’ve been secretly daydreaming about the day Ser Almer and I could be together! My poor heart, alas, broken yet again. Cads, the lot of you. Cads!”
She grins cheekily over at Jaesin, even so much as rolling her eyes at her own dramatcs, but the cheerful expression fades just a touch, folding her arms over her torso as she leans backwards again, and much more comfortably.
“I’m so very wary of rumors simply because it’s difficult to determine where the root of the truth lies,” she remarks. “I’ve no doubts that -some- of those stories are true, the trick is to know which one. And really the only ones who know would be Lady Reyna and Ser Almer.”
She glances over at Jaesin then. “It does sound you’ve been thinking about it for a while, or at least lately. Why the curiosity? Did something happen?”
Jaesin stares pensively out across the yards, toward the imposing structures of the Red Keep itself—the Tower of the Hand, the Old Keep, and especially Maegor’s Holdfast. “That’s just the thing,” he answers, frowning slightly. “I’m not quite sure.”
“I was teasing Reyna about marriage when Almer grew distant, and then he went on about wanting things we cannot have. It seems too close to the stories,” he admits. “He’d have you think him some charming rogue—and maybe he is—but if Almer’s a rogue, he’s also a good man with a good heart. And it would be entirely like him to deny himself the suit of Reyna’s hand.”
There is almost a heartbeat’s pause then, but only the hint of it; immediately Ser Jaesin fills the would-be silence with more details.
“He and Ser Colyn were friends and comrades,” the knight explains, “and of course, there is bad blood betwixt Connington and Lord Garvys. Then you must account for this Dornish doxy and the duty Almer seems to feel toward her. He wants Reyna, and he thinks he can’t have her. That has to be it.”
There is silence there, Jyana’s blue-green eyes observing Jaesin’s pensive expression quietly from where she is. She says nothing for a while, as she is unwittingly presented with a subject she knows little about, and the sort of thing she doesn’t want to think about to begin with - avoided for some time.
“...you…” she begins hesitantly. “Care very much for your friend.” She watches Mathin and Alaric take yet another turn on the lists. “The logical part of me would say that I see no reason for him to just come out and ask.
If it is truly desired by both parties perhaps they could work the particulars of such themselves. I honestly don’t see the harm in at the very least just declaring himself to her - I would hope at least that their relationship is made of stronger mettle that a simple, honest and sincere confession will destroy it forever.”
She glances down at her book, and smiles ruefully. “But I know very little about the true nature of love that makes bonds between people so very complicated, the sort of affection that goes beyond the flesh and into the realm of the deeper mysteries of life. And I’m afraid I could never experience that sort of thing myself so it may very well be that any efforts to contemplate it would be moot. However I’ve been told by someone much older, and certainly wiser than I, when I had been for a time contemplating over something similar, that while contemplation is fine…it would be unwise to delve too deeply into it. Especially when other people are concerned.”
She sighs. “I just hope that things haven’t become so dire around here that people start forgetting that loving and being loved is a -good- thing. By itself such intentions are pure, it’s just the -execution- that mucks things up sometimes.”
Ser Jaesin lends an ear to all of this, at some length. When she appears to have finished speaking, he responds neither with similar depth nor a similar thoughtful tone. Instead… he laughs.
In a place grown momentarily too somber for comfort, that is a welcome thing.
“You are a philosopher at heart, Jyana Arryn,” the knight exclaims, impressed. “I should not be surprised if the Citadel or the Faith comes calling in search of your counsel! I do not know—and never will, I think—what has passed through the years between Almer and Reyna. I am a man of simpler tastes than you. I’d prefer they simply desist with all these jealous glances and poetic longings and have done.”
“Maybe we can enlist good Prince Baelor to marry them,” the Lannister quips. “I’m told the King’s brother has developed quite a fondness for the Septry.”
Jyana crosses her arms over her chest and huffs. “You were warned,” she says, giving him a mock glare. “I told you, I think. Often! ...and sometimes out loud! Like earlier.” She laughs. “And maybe not -simpler-, but perhaps on the other side of the extreme. You want them to stop, while I wish that they’d just come out with it already. At the very least they’d understand one another better.”
She grins. “Besides, counseling the Citadel or the Faith would certainly be a lot of work and will most probably drive me insane. I relish the freedom I have, or at the very least the freedom I so often seize for my own. I may pay for it with a hundred stitches today, but it’s well worth the conversation. I do my best to learn something new every day.”
The comment about Baelor causes her to laugh. “If you can get him -out- of the Sept in the first place.” She ponders, looking very serious for a moment. “Or we could take the two of them to him. That’s not a bad idea.
What do you think? Whenever Ser Almer goes back to the stables, we could throw a sack over his head and subdue him. And then we could have someone else do the same to Lady Reyna.”
She turns to face him fully, ticking her fingers off. “And then we could push them through the back door of the sept, Prince Baelor can perform his ceremony, I can provide the flowers, and you can stand there as a witness, wiping away manly tears of joy with your sleeve. I can see you now, standing proudly to the side, tears rolling down your cheeks and mumbling ‘It’s so beautiful!’ now and then. I wouldn’t be able to stand next to you, I’d laugh too much and I’d get thrown out.”
Laughing long and loud—and he is oft given to good humor and great laughter, but this is something more—Jaesin doubles over, clutching his sides. Finally catching his breath, he lifts his head to reveal a sly, knowing smile.
“It was a similar jest that began all this,” he confesses, chuckling. “I told Lady Reyna that I would carry her off to the Rock, and her brother and mine could stand side-by-side as witnesses and share the same cup. Now, the enmity betwixt Jonn and Garvys is well-known, but even that fails to explain the look she gave me—”
“You’d have sworn the woman meant thought me a striped zorse, or better, Balerion the Black Dread returned from the grave!” Jaesin shakes his head. “There’s no other explanation for it,” he concludes, grinning. “You may think me poor husband material, but I hear too many whispers to think that opinion is shared by most women. Either way, it was a jest, meant in fun. Sometimes I think my brother—and you, you’re his acolyte, did you know that? That you’re the only folk in this city who remember how to laugh.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Jyana articulates gravely, though her eyes are still full of that same aquamarine mirth. “I’ve never seen a zorse. Of course.” The rhyme was deliberate, and groan-worthy, but she smiles widely as the hapless knight holds his sides and is reduced to stitches.
She stares at him, and then, with a mighty, but delicate fist, she reaches out to the side of her to knuckle his shoulder closest to her. “Oh, so -that’s- it!” she cries, giving him a petulant look. “You’d carry Lady Reyna off to the Rock to marry her, while you reject me over a lousy locket-picture! Poorly done, ser. You do me no justice at all! Why, I can barely -fathom- why I’m sitting here -patiently- bearing your presence.” She sniffs. “You’re so cruel to me.”
She can’t help it, she can’t keep the straight and outraged look for long.
She just bursts out laughing, a shake of her head and a finger coming up to wipe excess moisture from one eye. “And no, you’re certainly mistaken. I actually thought you’d make a wonderful husband from what I’ve heard of you.
It’s just that I would’ve made a very poor wife.” Her smile, as angelic as it usually is, grows mischievous. “I’d beat you nightly for vexing me, which I’m certain you’re capable of multiple times a day.”
The mention of Jonn causes her to somber just a bit. “Aye, he does. But…”
Her fingers tighten just a bit over her book. “I don’t know…occasionally these days…his laugh sounds cruel, sometimes bitter. Not when he’s with me of course, but…when I’d see him with other people.”
Ser Jaesin has the grace to look flattered, and may even be sincere; he accepts his beating with good humor, though it doesn’t appear to hurt him any more than it was meant to—which is to say, not at all. He laughs along with the Arryn girl until her mood darkens, and it is to those words that he says in answer, “And now you see the side of my brother that’s worried me for years.”
The words come calmly, without anger or derision or—most tellingly—judgement.
“Men will say it is his nature, but I know better. It is the liquor’s doing, like as not. Even when he’s sober, it twists him at times. Jyana… my brother has potential that he doesn’t even see. He is a Lannister, a Lion of the Rock, and our father’s heir after me. Not some fool Crakehall or meddling ironborn—a Lannister.”
This word—his family name—as spoken by Jaesin is given a grave and prideful power.
“We may be envied for our wealth and disliked for our influence, but we were kings once, Jyana Arryn. And if we are the only such House in the Seven Kingdoms with enough pride to remember it, then our rivals and detractors are pitiful men indeed. I will not have my brother fall prey to their wild hopes. It is time he understood his own true nature—and his own true strengths. He doesn’t have to be me. He has his own gifts, just as useful… if he’d use them.”
Jyana says nothing on that - already so many moods have passed her face, etched over her delicate features tellingly. Perhaps she’d be a very poor card player.
At the very least she takes a moment to listen. She hears the lack of judgment in his tone, at the very least that has improved, though the flat delivery is very much like Jonn’s own whenever he speaks of his brother. To her, they were more similar than they think themselves.
“I…” she begins, her voice quiet. “If there is a thing I should -not- discuss with you, it’s Jonn.” She sighs. “But I suppose it can’t be helped.
We both love him, in our own way.”
She pauses, and she lifts her head to look over at Jaesin. “Jonn has always been intelligent,” she reminds Jaesin. “You may have seen him under the influence, but I have not, you know this. But your brother is clever, and as you said, he is a Lannister, he is very much in touch with his pride. I’m more inclined to believe that he knows what his gifts are, he just chooses to execute them in the way he does and that I believe is the source of your disapproval. As I said, while I know him, even I have difficulty in seeing through to his intentions, but they are there. And if there is any confusion in his part…”
She shakes her head. “He knows very well that he is a Lannister. But what he has lost touch of is who -Jonn- is. If that makes any sense. It may very well be the reason why he doesn’t seem to remember, or does, but chooses not to, the way the two of you used to be.”
“Then it is past time he recovered himself,” Ser Jaesin says flatly, standing to his feet. His smile has lost none of its warmth, but there is a distance in it now—as if he looks through her, beyond her, when he gazes on the Arryn maid. “I need him if I’m to survive this court. Father needs him, and Mathin too—each in our own way.”
Unconsciously resting his left hand on the intricately worked lion’s-head hilt of his ancient sword, Jaesin Lannister focuses again more closely on Jyana. “You are right,” he admits with a grimace. “We should not discuss my brother. But there are battles he can fight that Ser Jaesin cannot—or will not. We stand here in the midst of an empty stand, so I can speak freely—”
“But the Red Keep is a dangerous place. Prince Viserys plays subtle games. If we do not take special care, the Lions of the Rock will become mere pawns on his gameboard. I may bear Brightroar, but Jonn is the one with Lann’s own cleverness. Together, no foe could stand before us. Tell him what we have shared here today. Tell him that, if you are his friend.”
Sketching a quick and hurried bow, a suddenly thoughtful and grim Ser Jaesin Lannister says, “Farewell, Lady Jyana.”
Jyana rises, and looks him straight in the eye. “From what I have been taught,” she says, her voice subdued, but certainly determined. Jonothor’s ice is not present here, but her own gaze does burn with a hint of frustration, and perhaps an inward struggle not to get too involved. “It takes two people to carry on a conversation.”
Her fingers flex, and ball into fists, before relaxing again. But she doesn’t tear her eyes away. “I do my very best to be kind, but if you think that my care for Jonn will spur me to….middle-man your difficulties with him, you’re mistaken. I agree that between the two of you, your destinies however great they are will be realized - but I tell you, do NOT use me to get to your brother. If you want to fix things, if you do wish to put forth a united front and mend the rift between the two of you, confront him yourself. Tell him the reasons why you left him to join Ser Aemon, ask him why he is the way he is! For the love of the Seven, just TALK to him!”
She grits her teeth. “Don’t use me,” she repeats, turning away, anger marking her spine and the line of her shoulders. “Don’t use me.”
Her eyes close, but when she opens them again, they stare straight forward.
She doesn’t run, but marches, dropping down from the bleachers and leaving him with nary a word of polite goodbye.