Seven Years Prior

The Hand of the King

Jon Arryn looked down at his daughter as Grand Maester Pycelle tended to her wounds. Contusions on her wrists and thighs, a split lip that refused to stop trembling. He felt a rush of anger at the man who attacked her but took solace in the fact that he was dead. The Lord of the Eyrie bristled at the fact that the Kingslayer had been the one who killed the assailant, and made a mental note to thank the gilded lion in no small manner. Perhaps a new sword or an impressive mount would do the trick.

Saoirse, who had begun to cry, interrupted Lord Arryn's thoughts. Jon rushed to her side and gingerly placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. In that moment she looked as small and scared as she had upon her birth, and this melted her father's heart. True, he had not loved the girl's mother (his second wife, Morgana), but from the moment his daughter had been born she had him wrapped around her finger. He would do anything she asked of him, and seeing her like this was tearing him apart.

"Saoirse, my girl," he said comfortingly before shushing her in a gentle tone. "He is dead. This is all over."

She sniffled and lifted her head from her father's chest and used her sleeve to rub her nose, "No, it's not. I am ruined, Father. The only lords who will want me will be old or cruel or both. Please," she looked at him with her large tear-filled eyes, "don't turn me into Lysa." She whispered.

Lord Arryn's heart shattered. Saoirse was young and beautiful and had a life full of promise, but she was correct. No lord would consent to marrying his son to a woman so despoiled, which was precisely why Jon Arryn had consented to marrying Lysa Tully. He had needed a male heir and Lysa had been young enough to bear him one, but their marriage was devoid of affection (and, thus far, devoid of an heir). Saoirse deserved more than a loveless marriage to a lord thrice her age that thought of her as Jon thought of Lysa. She deserved love, or warmth at the very least.

"I would never do that to you, my sweet. I will think of something." He promised, planting a small kiss on his daughter's temple. She wrapped her arms around his neck suddenly and buried her face in his chest once more, sobbing uncontrollably. He let her weep until the Grand Maester insisted she get some sleep, offering her dreamwine, which she gladly accepted.

As he stepped out of his daughter's chamber he was surprised to find Ser Jaime Lannister slumped against the opposite wall, looking at the door expectantly. The Lord Hand nodded to the golden knight.

"Ser Jaime." He said curtly, "I cannot express my gratitude for your actions today. You saved my daughter's life. I am afraid I cannot ever repay that sort of debt."

"I am only sorry I did not arrive sooner, my lord. I could've saved her from losing her maidenhood – "

"Ser Jaime, I would much prefer that you not mention or even think of my daughter's maidenhood." The falcon said sharply.

"Apologies, my lord. I was merely expressing a regret." The lion mumbled.

"What are you still doing here? Shouldn't you be guarding the king?"

"In truth I was hoping to see her, my lord. Offer my condolences in person." The lion straightened up boldly, looking the falcon straight in the eye for the first time that night.

"You've done enough, Kingsl- Ser Jaime. She is asleep and her attacker is dead, that is the best we can hope for tonight." Jon Arryn said wearily, catching himself before addressing the knight by his unsavory nickname. He made another mental note to desist with calling him "Kingslayer" as a courtesy for what he did for Saoirse.

The knight nodded, a look of disappointment crossing his noble features, and gave a quick bow before turning and striding down the hall. Lord Arryn sighed and trudged up to his chambers, hoping for a hot bath and a warm bed. Instead he found his wife Lysa sitting in a chair pointed toward the door, smirking at him from over a glass of wine.

"What is it, woman?" he demanded irritably, finding her smirk unsettling.

"How does your daughter fare, my lord?" she asked knowingly.

"She has been attacked. Her maidenhead is gone, but she will recover."

Lysa's smirk grew to a wolfish grin, "Her reputation will not. It seems now that she is unfit to wed that Tyrell heir."

Arryn tensed. Lysa had been unhappy about the match Jon had made for Saoirse; mostly because she had always been jealous of Jon's affection for his daughter. She felt she had been cheated out of all the advantages that Jon bestowed upon Saoirse. His petty wife was jealous that her own father hadn't loved her enough to make a better match for her.

"Now your sweet little girl will be left with no other choice but to marry a bitter old man like you." She was gloating as she rose from her chair and crossed to her husband, placing a hopeful hand on his shoulder.

Was she mad? How could she think he'd want to have her after insulting Saoirse like that? He whirled around and gripped her wrist tightly.

"How dare you think I would condemn my daughter to a fate such as yours, you hateful, barren cow!" He pushed her away forcefully and she landed in the chair she started in, "You were a desperate whore that willingly opened her legs. My daughter was raped! And if you ever insult her honor like that again I will have you locked away in the Eyrie, heir or no heir!" he bellowed at her as she stared up at him with fright in her eyes. For such an even-keeled man, Jon Arryn could truly cause terror when he wanted to.

"Now get out of my sight. I will summon you if I wish to see you again." He muttered, running a hand through his thinning blonde hair as he sat on the edge of his bed and waited for his wife to comply. Lysa shakily rose from the chair and fled the room, not wishing to incite her husband's anger any further.

Jon sighed loudly and began to ponder his daughter's fate while crossing to his desk. Her marriage to Willas Tyrell could still happen, for Mace Tyrell was an understanding (if a bit oafish) man, and on their last visit to the capital it seemed that Willas was quite taken with Saoirse. He briefly considered keeping the news to himself, but honor wouldn't allow him. All Jon could do was inform the Tyrells of the news and hope they wouldn't back out. Perhaps if he proposed a postponement?

He slammed his fists against the desk in frustration. He hated feeling this mix of white-hot hate and sadness and worry. What sort of father was he to let this happen? What sort of father had to depend on the likes of the Kingslayer to save his daughter? He hated himself at that moment because he realized that he had failed her.

Jon Arryn had never been one for excessive drink, but that night he had one of his attendants bring him a flagon of Dornish red.

He did not sleep that night.


Saoirse

It took ten days for Saoirse to rise from her sickbed and venture out into the gardens. She desperately wanted to visit the library, but she couldn't face passing that spot in the hallway yet. Instead she'd had her maids set her up on the terrace overlooking the sea in the garden, with Ser Hugh standing guard not far away.

She sat quietly, a book open on her lap but her eyes fixed on the sea. She had sent her maids away and knew she must look frightful, but she didn't care about her looks just now. She didn't feel anything but numb.

The bruises on her wrists and thighs had mostly healed, but the bite marks on her neck from his horrid teeth were a sickly shade of yellowish green. Her lip was healing nicely with the help of some salve from Maester Coleman and the dreamwine helped to keep the nightmares at bay.

Her father had sent a raven to Highgarden the night of her attack and had yet to hear back. Saoirse had a sinking feeling in her stomach that she would soon be released from her engagement to Willas. Her father promised not to condemn her to her stepmother's fate, but what was to become of her otherwise? They hadn't spoken about it since the incident, but she could tell he had a plan; her father always had a plan.

Saoirse heard footsteps approach from behind her and she stayed still, closing the book on her lap and gripping it tightly in both hands, ready to use it as a weapon. A familiar voice relaxed her grip.

"Lady Saoirse." Jaime said quietly, maintaining a respectable distance between them.

She turned slowly and looked at him, a calm spreading through her body. It had been ten days since he'd saved her and in that time the only people she'd seen were her father, Maester, and handmaids. Seeing a fresh face was comforting, especially since it belonged to her savior.

"Ser Jaime," She said, the hint of a smile appearing on her lips. "Come sit down." She motioned to the bench next to her chair and he moved closer to her, but remained standing with one hand on the hilt of his handsome new sword.

"I came to offer you my condolences…about what happened, if I had only gotten there sooner – " He took long strides over to her, his armor glistening in the afternoon sun and the breeze gently lifting his golden locks away from his face.

She held up a hand to stop his explanation. "Jaime, please. I do not wish to dwell on the past. But I must thank you for what you did. Ser Arthur Dayne would be very proud of you for it." She had picked those words carefully over the last week. She knew that alluding to his hero would mean more to him than any other silly words she could come up with.

"Please, come sit." She insisted again, patting the bench next to her. Ser Jaime awkwardly obliged, sitting stiffly until she reached over and placed her small hand on top of his larger, combat-ridden hand. She could feel his tension melt away like wax from a candle.

Her breath quickened as, slowly, Ser Jaime turned over his palm to meet hers. His strong fingers wrapped around her hand, his thumb tenderly stroking the knuckle of her first finger. The skin on skin contact made her feel warm all over, like she'd had too much wine. She looked down and carefully lifted his hand to place a small kiss on his long fingers, keeping their entwined hands hovering dangerously close to her chest.

Her eyes searched his face for any indication of how he was feeling but she found a blank mask. His body was pointed toward her, but his face was turned toward the ground beneath them. His brow was smooth, his cheeks freshly shaven, and his mouth was a grim line. Saoirse suddenly felt as if she'd done something wrong and slowly returned his hand to his lap.

"I'm sorry." She whispered.

"Saoirse, I need to tell you something…rather important." He said, turning his face toward her but averting his emerald eyes to the ground.

"What is it?"

"The reason I was walking down that hallway that night…it wasn't because I was on patrol. I was…I was looking for you."

"You were looking for me? Why?" His confession was unnerving her in the worst way. Panic started creeping around the edges of her mind, as it periodically had over the last week. She started focusing on her breathing; in through the nose, out through the mouth, like Maester Coleman had told her.

He sighed, running a hand through his golden mane. "It's a bit complicated…but I had something to…to tell you."

"And what was it?" she implored, scooting a bit closer to him; his insecurity and nervousness making the Golden Lion of Lannister more approachable, calming her a bit. He opened his mouth, but he was interrupted and got to his feet at the approaching footsteps. Saoirse turned and saw her father approaching; a few pieces of parchment held in his hand and a stern look on his face.

"Ser Jaime, shouldn't you be patrolling the courtyards instead of bothering my daughter?" Jon Arryn asked, his voice as stern as his face.

"Father, I asked Ser Jaime to sit a moment so I could thank him. There's no need to be rude." Saoirse defended as Ser Jaime tried to come up with an answer.

"Could you give me and my daughter some privacy? I need to speak with her." Her father said directly to Jaime, who bowed a bit and took his leave.

"Goodbye, Ser Jaime." She called after him. He waved one hand over his shoulder but didn't turn around. It seemed to Saoirse that he was walking rather quickly, as if desperate to get away from her.

Her father waited until the Kingslayer was out of earshot and then handed her one of the scrolls of parchment, "News from Highgarden."

The first letter was what she expected, a formal cancellation of her engagement to Willas signed by Lord Tyrell. The next had its seal intact and was addressed directly to her. Her father had clearly respected her privacy enough to not read it. She broke the green rose seal and immediately recognized Willas' neat handwriting.

'My Dearest Saoirse,

I start this letter with heavy heart, as I have heard about what happened to you and the effect it has had on my father. He has broken our marriage pact despite my best attempts to persuade him otherwise. I am truly, deeply sorry Saoirse. In truth, I had grown very fond of you during my visit to the capital and was eager to be your husband. I would hope to continue correspondence with you, but I realize that it may be inappropriate or awkward given the circumstances.

I wish you the best, and hope to see you again someday.

Favorably,

Willas Tyrell'

Saoirse felt her stomach drop as she read Willas' parting words. Part of her was incredibly relieved at his kindness; another part was disgusted with his condescension. How dare he pity her? Had he any idea what she had gone through he would have forced his father to agree to a postponement, knowing with full certainty that it was not her fault in the slightest. She shook her head and looked up at her father.

"Well, what did it say?" he asked gently.

"That he is sorry the marriage pact was broken. He hopes we can remain friends, et cetera."

"You sound disappointed."

"I'm not. It's about what I expected from him. Caring, with just a bit of condescension." She smiled a bit to reassure her father, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. He would know she was lying. She was disappointed her marriage pact had been tossed aside like rotted fruit. As a lord's daughter, her job was to marry another lord's son and bear his children, run his household. Barring that, what was she to do? Become an old maid and haunt the Eyrie for the rest of her days? And what of the Arryn bloodline? Lysa was proving to be less fertile than hoped, so it was possible that her father's lineage would stop with her.

Her father took a step closer and put a hand on her shoulder, "My dear, how would you like to travel?"

Saoirse furrowed her brow, "Travel? To where?"

"To Dorne. Prince Doran and I became good friends during my visit, and he assures me you'd be more than welcome at Sunspear."

"But…why? You've never wished for me to travel before."

Her father moved his hand from her shoulder and down to her hand, grasping it lightly. "I think you should leave the capital for a while. I've seen you in these last days; all you do is mope around. This is the first you've seen sunlight in a week. A change of scenery would do you immense good. Perhaps bring you back to yourself."

Saoirse was silent, considering her father's proposal as she remembered her last journey of note. Her travel to the capital from the Eyrie seven years prior had been long and arduous; mostly because it had been a stormy spring in the mountains, making their descent from the fortress rather dangerous. The roads were either too slippery or too muddy, and they'd nearly lost a wagon in a mudslide. Then there were the mountain clans to deal with; brutish, angry, and ugly tribes who raided the villages of the Vale and would attack anyone not protected by at least four swords. Instead of two weeks, the trip took nearly a month and at the end Saoirse was glad it was over.

But she was older now, with a longer attention span and a calmer nature. Everything she had heard about Dorne had appealed to her on some level; the exotic foods, intoxicating spices, the warm sun and sandy beaches, fierce population, and strong wine.

And she saw some merit in her father's justification. There were still hallways she avoided because he had followed her down them. She could barely look in the direction of the courtyard where it happened. Getting out of the Red Keep, away from the place where it happened, would be a relief. Perhaps put some of the rumors to rest.

"Dorne it is, then. When do I leave?" she queried.

Jon Arryn looked relieved, "The next ship leaves five days from now. It's a ten day trip by sea, and you'll be taking one of your handmaidens with you as well as two of our household guard."

"Which two?" she asked casually.

"Bronson and Hewl. I trust them the most."

"As do I." Saoirse agreed. The two Royce brothers were what some referred to as "wildling twins" being that they were born within a year of each other. They had both squired under her father and were knighted by him upon their arrival in King's Landing, having earned their Lord Protector's trust on the journey south by vigilantly guarding Saoirse and her new stepmother from the mountain clansmen and, on one occasion, a ravenous shadowcat. For his effort against the shadowcat, Hewl sported an ugly scar on his left cheek. If not for that, Saoirse would not have been able to tell them apart. Both had the grey eyes of House Royce, with sharp cheekbones that looked as if they could cut stone and made the long planes of their face much more apparent.

Saoirse rose to her feet, her father doing the same, "Well, if I am to set sail in such a short time, I'd best get packing." She smiled a genuine smile this time, making sure to crinkle her eyes happily. In truth, she was excited to go and get away from the pitying looks and worried glances and barely-muffled whispers she'd been subject to the last few days. She stood up on her tiptoes and planted a kiss on her father's bearded cheek, "Thank you, father." She said quietly, hoping that he caught her meaning.

"You are most welcome, my girl." He said in return, placing a loving hand on her cheek. Apparently he understood that she was thanking him for not searching for a desperate lord to marry her off to in an attempt to hide her shame. She had never loved her father more.

Ser Hugh escorted her back to her room, where her handmaidens Della, Chassa, and Rosalie was already bustling about in preparation for their sea journey.


The Kingslayer

What in the seven hells had he been thinking? He scolded himself as he stormed back toward the White Sword Tower, "Stupid…godsdamn…ignorant…fuck!"

He took the hard stone stairs two at a time until he reached his chamber door, slamming it roughly behind him. No matter how many calming breaths he took, his heart wouldn't stop pounding in his chest. From nerves or the exertion of sprinting up the stairs in armor he didn't know. Resting his head on the wooden door, he sighed loudly.

How could he have been so stupid? He'd almost told Saoirse the truth. If her father hadn't shown up, he would've told her…Told her what? That he was following her that night because he was concerned for her safety because he was in love with her? It certainly felt like it, but he couldn't be sure. The only other woman he'd loved was Cersei, and he had been born loving her. He loved Cersei to his very marrow, but he…admired Saoirse. While he knew what Cersei was, he simply accepted her and she accepted him. They loved each other for exactly the way they were. With Saoirse, he wanted to be better; he wanted to be the knight he had set out to be. One of the dragon slayers in her books of fairy tales, honorable and brave and worthy of the fair maiden's love. Merely being around her made him feel as though he could achieve that; as if he could achieve anything. Cersei was his roots binding him to the earth, while Saoirse was the sun in his branches making him want to reach for the sky.

He growled in frustration and pulled his forehead off the door, letting it thunk back onto it a second later.

"Rough morning?" Cersei's voice sounded from over his shoulder.

He turned, looking at his twin's striking features. She'd clearly snuck over; her hair was pulled back and had been hidden under the hood of the cloak she was wearing. She was also wearing a simple roughspun outfit. He knew this meant she was expecting a late morning tussle in the sheets, which he was in no mood for.

"What are you doing here?" he hissed lowly, indicating that she shouldn't have come.

"What do you think? Robert's out hunting, Joff and Myrcella are with their septa, Tommen is napping…" she trailed off, her thin hand going to the string of her cloak and pulling it, letting it fall to the floor. Her eyes were hooded and he could tell she was set in her plan.

He sighed and strode over to her, throwing her cloak back over the shoulders, "Not today, Cersei."

She looked playfully offended, "Who are you to deny me? I am your queen!"

"It's been a long morning. I'm in no mood." He excused as he ushered her toward the door, "Take the back stairs."

She whirled around out of his grasp, "Is this about that pathetic little whore?" Her face was suddenly cut into jealous, vicious lines as she searched his face for confirmation. Apparently she found it and her lips curled into a cruel smirk, "You know what they're saying about her. That she had been flirting with that knight for over a week, leading him on, shaking her little falcon tail feathers at him. She got what she wanted, didn't she?"

Jaime's hands flew to her upper arms, squeezing them more tightly than necessary. He glared at her, making sure he showed her the danger of her accusations. He had been there, had witnessed Saoirse's fear and the tears that carved red tracks down her face. He had heard her whimpers of fear and pain and seen the knife stinging her throat. The way her eyes had landed on him with immense relief.

"She was raped, Cersei. I know what I saw."

"You sentimental idiot. Arryn's probably made her a marriage pact with one of his elderly lordlings already." She said as she wrenched her arms from his grasp. He let her go so as not to bruise her porcelain skin.

"He wouldn't do that. He loves her too much."

"Fathers never love their daughters that much. All daughters are good for is what's between their legs and which powerful men want it." She said bitterly before crossing her arms and continuing, "And besides, how is what happened to her any different than when Robert climbs into my bed and forces himself on me?"

"You are Robert's wife. It's your duty to – "

"To be touched by him when I don't want him? Against my will? Isn't that the definition of rape? Tell me, Jaime, why haven't you killed him? If you love me as much as you say you do, why have you never stopped him?!" She was getting agitated, her eyes boring into his dangerously.

He lowered his head, eyes finding the tiles on the floor, "He is my king, Cersei. And your husband."

"Since when has being king stopped you from murdering anyone?" she spat the words at him and he seized her by the throat, exerting just enough pressure to hold her there but not cut off her airway.

"Take that back, you slut."

She lurched forward, lips pursed as if to kiss him, but he held her in place, staring her down. He wouldn't let her get away with calling him a Kingslayer, however obliquely or however much the kingdom used his unwelcome moniker. He wouldn't take that abuse from her.

She tried to kiss him again, and again he held her in place. This time, she pulled backward out of his grasp.

"I hope you and your wretched little sparrow are very happy together." Her words were laced with venom, but she hadn't broken the skin so he would live despite her ire. He saw her face flash in anger when he didn't respond, but instead of yelling at him she turned and left his chambers, taking the back stairs as he suggested.

He knew that she wouldn't take the revelation that he cared for Saoirse well; they were supposed to only love each other. She was his first love, as he was hers; loving another woman was akin to betrayal in her eyes.

He watched her go and cursed himself further. Were the gods punishing him for his years of indecency by making him love Saoirse? Already he could feel the delicate balance of his life shifting under his feet and he didn't like it.

He didn't like it at all.


Hello! I'm back with Chapter Two and I really hoped you enjoyed it! I thought giving you a taste of Saoirse's past would help clear up some of the questions I got in the reviews. The feedback I got from Chapter One was encouraging, so THANK YOU for that!

In future chapters this is going to be very AU, which I'm really excited and kind of worried about. But I really hope you all will like the direction I take it. Reviews/Favorites/Follows are very much appreciated!