A/N: We're going a little backwards in time since Arthur's chapter pretty much picks up where his last perspective left off in Chapter 38.

282 AC

A Dragon's Roar

By Spectre4hire

43: Purpose


Even before he saw him, he felt the prickling creeping across his skin.

Rhaegar Targaryen was laid out on a bed, out of his armor and put into a simple, white garment that was worn by septons not princes, not kings. His king's tent was off to the side, as far away as it could safely be from the rest of Daeron's encampment. It was banished, treated like it was diseased.

The silent sisters had been kind enough to excuse themselves at his arrival. His guards had been respectful enough to let him enter alone. They fanned out around the tent as if that could possibly deter him if he wanted to escape. He didn't need Dawn to be lethal. In his head, he already saw how he'd disarm the first guard, but he stopped himself from following that tempting thread.

Rhaegar's hands were clasped, resting over his chest. Arthur's gaze lingered there for a long second as if hoping to discern movement, the slightest rise in his friend's chest, but there was none. Rhaegar was still. He spotted the lethal blow, a scar on the neck. The dark stitches stood out against the pale skin. The curve of the wound resembled a gruesome black smile.

He turned his gaze upwards. His king's hair had been cleaned and cut. His face tended to with the skilled effort of the silent sisters. The softest touch of red to color his cheeks, helped to paint the illusion that Rhaegar was only resting. He wasn't dead, only sleeping. Arthur desperately yearned for it to be true with all his heart, but it changed nothing.

It hurt deep inside his chest, a pulsing numbness that only grew, like it was a living thing. Settling inside him, stretching out with cold strumming that made him further forlorn and weary. He hesitated before placing his hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Forgive me, Rhaegar," he murmured to his king, "I have failed you." His fingers dug deeper into the unmoving flesh, selfishly gripping it, needing an anchor, to stop himself from drifting in despair.

"I know nothing of your family," He confessed, ashamed. Arthur was given no news, nor could he send any letters. All he knew was that when Daeron would head south to the capital, Arthur would be heading west to the Rock. The Lord Commander of his kingsguard was powerless to defend his king's family, to protect his friend's children, his wife, his queen. The guilt tightened around his heart in a thorny cord.

He squeezed tighter, afraid to let go, afraid to lose this last remaining tether to the man he dedicated his life to. The king he swore to die for, but Arthur could not even do that. "Your children deserved their father," He said softly, "And you deserved a better lord commander," the grief nested in his throat, swelling. He bent down and kissed Rhaegar's forehead. "And I hope you'll forgive me when we are next together, my king."

"Ser Arthur."

"Lord Eddard."

It was a formal greeting between good brothers on an early morning where they were to set out to travel. His good brother was flanked by two guards in Lannister colors. "If you give me your word, I'll allow you to travel without chains."

"Would you trust my word as a knight?" Arthur interacted little with his sister's husband. He had attended their wedding, in what felt like years ago in Storm's End, but they had barely conversed there or since.

"Yes," Eddard answered, the guards beside him betrayed their feelings on the matter.

They see me as a traitor, Arthur saw it plainly, they think my word is good as dirt. He'd not give them the satisfaction to prove them right. I was the knight who stuck to my vows. While all around him were men who betrayed theirs. Lords and knights who defected from their rightful king, and latched onto another. Greedy leeches, he'd give them no respect. Hollow men, he had seen many who happily turned from Rhaegar to Daeron, a gesture so casually you'd think they were changing their tunics not their kings. It made him sick. And what was worse, he was now judged by them, he was now seen as the traitor, though he betrayed no oaths.

"Then you have my word, Lord Eddard," Arthur pledged with all the dignity he could muster in iron shackles and dirty clothes.

Eddard watched him for a heartbeat, grey eyes betraying nothing before nodding. "Undo his binding," his tone ensured the guards didn't balk or protest. One moved forward, unhappy about the arrangement, and undid Arthur's manacles. They fell to the ground with a metal clang.

Arthur rubbed at the spots of raw skin on his wrists where the iron had been unforgiving against his flesh. "My horse?" He moved his hands gingerly which was met with slight stiffness.

"I will take you to it," Eddard gestured with his arm to where horses were saddled and waiting for them.

The good brothers walked in silence, the Lannister guards behind them. Arthur felt more eyes turning in his direction as they approached the horses. He walked proudly amongst their looks of loathing and harsh whispering. It was not until he was close enough to get on his horse did he think to ask after his sister.

The mention of Ashara was enough to soften the stoic expression of Eddard Stark. "She is well," he answered, warmth reflected in his tone, "She is with child," he said tentatively, looking at Arthur with an unasked question.

"I had heard," he said awkwardly, unsure what else to say. He knew he was going to the Rock to see his sister, but it was a request not by him, but by Daeron. Arthur would've been gladder for it if Daeron had just removed his head when he had been dragged to his tent. Daeron was too petty for that. Arthur knew Rhaegar's brother would not allow him a quick death. He intends to make me suffer. I was his brother's champion, his great friend, and Arthur knew that cut deep in Daeron's mind. A festering wound from when they were boys, and one that had never healed.

The road to Casterly Rock was long and uneventful.

Another day of riding, led to a night of camping. An early morning would follow leading them into a day of riding, before retiring before twilight to set camps and on and on the routine went. It differed here and there when instead of camping they stayed in castles.

It was on one of those nights where they camped outside where Arthur found himself sitting across Lord Jaime. It was the first time he had seen Daeron's Lord Hand since they had set out from Daeron's royal encampment. The Heir to Casterly Rock had been quiet, slipping into his seat with catlike grace.

"Where's Dawn?" He never bothered asking his guards because he knew they would not know.

Lord Jaime looked up from his supper. "It's safe."

"As your trophy?" Had he not been so distracted by the Tully treachery to allow himself to be struck, he never would've parted with his family's sword. They would have had to kill him for it, to remove his stiff fingers from its hilt. Then I would've had my honorable death, he thought sullenly, Instead of whatever this is.

"No," He said curtly, looking insulted. "It is not the Lannisters who have rights to claim it."

Arthur nearly asked who did, but stopped himself. He already knew. He felt the cold touch against his heart, when he saw himself being beheaded by his own sword. The grim smile of Daeron, wielding it. He nearly shuddered when a soft swish passed through him, but it wasn't the falling of a sword, but the gentle, evening breeze.

"He is not the sort," Jaime seemed to have sensed some of Arthur's thoughts. He looked genuinely upset at the unspoken implication of his friend's character. "Dawn will stay with the Daynes."

Arthur didn't voice or show his relief, he went back to his meager rations.

"Do you remember that Tournament at Lannisport my father hosted in honor of Prince Viserys?"

"I do," Arthur had won that tournament and said as much, seeing Jaime nod, he broke his bread in two. Unsure why it had been brought up, but he preferred thinking of that tournament over the battle. Where he would have slain the man in front of him for Rhaegar, despite what it would have meant to Elia. He stirred uncomfortably, and used a piece of his bread to sop up the soupy residue in the bowl.

"It was the first time I met you," Jaime said softly, "It was the first time I met King Daeron too."

That friendship which would bring his friend's reign to a sudden and crushing end. Arthur kept his head bowed, The pact between the lions and Daeron had been Rhaegar's undoing. He took a small bite, his friend had sensed it and had tried to stop it, but he couldn't. He took another bite, the bread was stiff and wet from the soup drippings, but it went down smoothly. "I do not recall," He said honestly, his memories of the man in front of him blurred all those years ago. Jaime was younger than him, talented, and enthusiastic, but that was all he could truly say from that time.

Jaime nodded, as if expecting that answer. "I once thought you were the greatest of knights, Ser Arthur. The finest swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms," he chuckled, "but that was long ago when I thought a sword was all I needed," He stood up, "Now, I know better," He left without another word.

His chambers in Casterly Rock were adequate.

He was not locked away in the cells where the Lannisters kept their prisoners. He was treated more like a burdensome guest, someone they tolerated, but one they didn't wish to see or acknowledge. All his meals were brought to him by the same two servants. They were also responsible for emptying his chamber pot, and had given him new clothes. He settled in and waited to see her.

She didn't come the first day nor did she come the second day.

It was on the third day he received his first visitor. It wasn't his sister. Arthur stood when Elia entered his humble chambers. She was swathed in Lannister crimson and gold, but she'd always be Princess Elia to him. She hadn't even spoken to him when she was announced by the guards, coming in quietly, before thanking the guards who closed the door behind her.

Arthur waited by the table, wondering if she was to join him there.

"You have a nephew," she stayed by one of the window nooks, where there was a cushioned seat against the tall window that gave a nice view of the sea. "His name is Robb."

He sat down when he realized she wasn't going to join him. "Is she and the babe well?" He went on when he saw Elia's nod, "Delaying her visit will not change my mind."

"Even in death, Rhaegar consumes you," she observed gently, "His hold on you, strangling all sense from you."

Arthur's jaw tightened. "He was my king." He kept his clenched fists below the desk so she could not see them. "He was my friend."

"He was lost," Elia said sadly, "And he dragged you with him."

"Are you, my man?" Rhaegar asked quietly.

"I am, my prince."

"You must swear to me. To keep my trust and counsel in all things. To never share what is spoken between us."

"I swear."

Arthur woke with a jolt from the memory. They came to him at night like vultures circling him, picking at him, feeding off his failures. He pushed himself out of his bed and went to the window to see it was still dark. His throat was scratchy and dry, he poured himself a drink, while his mind replayed it, making it feel as if it just happened the night before. The decision Arthur made without hesitation. Rhaegar had offered him salvation, a way to atone when he stood and watched as Aerys burned men alive. He had been quiet when Aerys raped his queen. All that guilt rising up like a wave threatening to drown him, and here was Rhaegar, his solution. His way to make Arthur feel worthy again.

He drank the water greedily, and poured himself a second glass. Alleviated, he took a smaller sip. Rhaegar was what a king should be. A light to follow, a light that would banish Aerys' darkness. Fate played out differently.

When the sun rose it would be the fifth day, but that still was hours away. He stared out into the dark night that spread out across the sky, the waning moon and winking stars. Anything, to get his mind off what he awoke from, but it stayed close, just pressing on the outside of his consciousness. He did not know how long he kept his vigil, but eventually he felt his eyes drooping, and he knew he couldn't stave off the drowsiness. He went to his bed, trying to think of anything else with his eyes closed in the smothering black, but there were cracks, and it swarmed in with relentless precision.

"My father is a difficult man," Rhaegar sighed, "But he is not the threat to my realm."

"Your brother wants no crown," Arthur defended the absent prince, stopping himself from adding: he just wanted a brother. It was not his place to speak on such things.

For the second time that night, Arthur rose before the sun, and intended not to go back to sleep. He splashed his face with tepid water, preferring to face the new day as a prisoner of the Lannisters rather than facing the ghosts from his past.

Elia returned that morning when the servants brought him food to break his fast. The presence of the future Lady of the Rock allowed for a larger spread then he was accustomed to. He was surprised to see some of the fruits offered to him, not expecting Dornish delicacies at the Rock, but he gladly took one. Enjoying the citrusy crunch after his first bite, thinking of Starfall and the Water Gardens, when he was a boy with a sister and friends, Oberyn and Elia, and the dreams of Dawn.

This time Elia did sit with him, taking a seat at the opposite side of the small table. Her plate had bread, eggs, and bacon. Her eyes were on him, smiling as she saw him devouring the fruit in only a few more bites. "I remember a time when your face would scrunch up at the taste."

Arthur found himself smiling at the memory, nodding. He preferred these memories then the ones that chased him when he slept. He took another piece to eat. They ate in idle silence for a little while longer before he broached it with his curiosity about her own child. "How is your son?"

"He is good," Elia's eyes shone with pride at her answer, but they hardened when she met his gaze. "You fought my husband."

"Yes." He shifted uncomfortably at the sudden change in her mood and tone.

"You would've killed him."

"I did not want to," Arthur frowned, "I warned him to surrender."

Elia let out a gentle scoff. "Would you have listened if it was him asking you?" She didn't wait for his answer because they both knew it. "I thought as much, but what would you leave behind? A white cloak? A sword? But Jaime-" She paused, closing her eyes, composing herself. "A wife, a son, and so much more than you could possibly understand."

He didn't speak. He knew his words were not needed or welcomed at this moment.

"To be apart from him is like losing a part of your heart, waiting for it to return to help make you whole again," Her eyes glistened, speaking softly she continued, "In that hole left behind is nothing but cold sorrow, and the worming black dread that you may never see him again," She took a shallow breath, "That is a pain, Arthur, you will never know, never feel. And it was all because of Rhaegar."

The rest of their meal passed quickly and quietly.

"I need you to keep me informed on what it is my father or brother are doing while you are away with them."

"You would have me spy?" Arthur's mouth instinctively twisted at the unspoken order: To break my oath to my king. To serve the son not the father. "I-I," He tried to form the words to reject his friend's offer. To tell him it was folly, that it went against his oaths as a kingsguard, that this should not be done, but when he met the Prince's eyes, he could not. He bowed his head. "I will try."

They kept pouring in, slipping through the cracks like water. For so long, he had properly kept them back, built a wall to shield himself from those doubts, and fears that he was straying from his duties. In the dark they only grew and festered, and with Rhaegar's death, the walls were cracking. Elia's words and his dreams brought a hammer to them, buckling and crumbling the wall, he tried to hide behind doubts he tried to deny, lies he told himself. At how he twisted his words in a tangled knot to try to convince himself that he was still keeping his oath,

"This way," The Lannister guard grunted. They had come for him before he could finish breaking his fast. There were a handful of them, and none of them told him where he was being led to. They moved through the deep bowels of Casterly Rock which made him wonder if he was being placed in a cell, was he finally to be executed?

All of them were armed and armored, watching him warily as if aware of the great threat he was even without his famous sword. None of them were arrogant, to try to provoke him. Arthur had been thankful for their arrival despite the cold treatment they gave him. They offered him a distraction which he sorely needed. Anything to keep his mind off what was haunting his sleep.

Ahead of them the dark corridor opened up into a wall of bright light that made him wince and turn his head. His feet carried him towards it, but he didn't look until the waft of brine tickled his nose. He blinked to see himself standing at the mouth of a small cave, an expanse of sand sprawled out before him, the sound of crashing waves and circling gulls.

"Arthur," a familiar voice called to him, beckoning him.

The guards nodded, so he moved forward. The sand cushioned his steps. He kept a hand over his forehead to try to shield the glaring sun. The air smelled of the sea.

Waiting ahead of him was his sister. Before he could greet her, her arms were around him, hugging him, and he found himself hugging her just as tight. He felt her shudder against his chest, which sent a lance of pain through him. The guilt followed, surging through him.

"Ashara," he mumbled, having not thought much about her for so long to suddenly have his sister in front of him, was disorienting. He had been so transfixed on his friend, on the war that his sister and his nephew had been brushed aside without thought, and only now was he feeling that shame. Only after those days of being alone, adrift, while at night he was bombarded by the choices from his past.

"Arthur," she sniffled, but when she leaned back to see his face. There were no tears on her cheeks and her violet eyes were sharp and clear. She took his hand, leading him to where the waves crashed onto the beach, he gingerly followed. None of the guards who had escorted him had come to the beach. They all waited by the cave's opening.

"Do you remember those little sandcrabs we used to dig up when the tides receded?"

"Yes," All those years later he could still see them digging into the wet sand, laughing as water sprayed their clothes and faces. "I told you to never hurt them."

"That's right," she nodded, "Only to look at them. You told me it would not be right to." She glanced over at him, "Even then you had the heart of a knight."

He looked away, not feeling any good from her intended compliment. All he could think of were his mistakes. He stopped when she noticed she had. She crouched in the shallows, water lapping above her ankles. "I did not congratulate you on your son," he said stiffly, chiding himself at his tone. He tried to recover by putting his hand on his sister's shoulder, feeling relieved when she didn't shake it off. "I'm sorry I should've said it sooner."

"You were busy."

Arthur knew this would be difficult, but he hadn't asked for this. It wasn't his fault he was brought to his sister before being led off to the block. "I did not want to come here."

"No, you asked for death," Her fingers were curled into her palm under the clear water. "I never considered you to be a craven, Arthur."

He flinched. "I serve Rhaegar." For the first time that he could remember the name almost sounded hollow to his ears.

"Served," Ashara corrected, "He's dead."

"He is," Another one of Arthur's mistakes. "I swore an oath, can I not be granted this peace?"

"Then why did you not ask for this peace when Aerys died?" She cupped some of the seawater. "Did you not first swear your oath to him, not Rhaegar? You swore to serve Aerys, to protect him, to be his guardian, his servant," She didn't look at him, instead she watched the water slowly fall away, slipping from her fingers. "Don't speak of keeping to your oaths when you had no problem breaking them for Rhaegar."

Arthur started a half dozen answers, explanations to defend what he had done, what he was doing, but something kept him to stay quiet.

"I received a raven from King's Landing today," She looked over her shoulder at him, knowing her words would have his full attention. Ashara was merciful to not dangle the truth from him. "The capital is King Daeron's." A touch of a smile on her lips at her friend's victory. "Aegon and Rhaenys are safe and alive."

"Queen Laela?"

"Dead," Ashara shrugged, standing up, "She killed herself before Daeron had even reached the capital."

"And you believe that?" Arthur felt a pang of sympathy for the Queen, of everything she has lost these last few weeks. Her world tumbled down all around her. Those she had relied on to keep it from falling had failed her. I had failed her.

"Daeron would not lie," Ashara's eyes darkened at the implied insult of Arthurs' question.

He believed her because he knew Daeron too. Or thought he had, before Rhaegar's words and warnings had muddled his mind, leaving Arthur confused to try to sift truth from lie. He had let Rhaegar guide him into what to believe, but now his friend was gone. "Their children?"

"Why do you care?"

He was taken aback by her sharp look and sharper tone. "Because they are my friend's children."

Still, she didn't answer him, scrutinizing him as the silence stretched on between them. "They are to be raised by Queen Rhaella," she finally said just when he feared she would not tell him. "Aegon will go to the Wall and Rhaenys to the Faith or she will be betrothed to one of her future cousins."

They'll live, Arthur found comfort in knowing Rhaegar's progeny would live on. That his friend's legacy had not ended after that fateful battle. Still, the relief was bittersweet. Aegon was to be the sixth of his name, the prince who was promised, Rhaegar had believed that with all his heart, he had let that belief guide him, but he was wrong. Wrong, the word wrung loudly in his head. And look at what his friend's pride had wrought.

"Do you still wish to die, brother?" Ashara's words cut through the fog swirling through his mind.

"I-I," Arthur hesitated, "I don't know."

Arthur did not think he'd see inside the White Sword Tower again after his defeat. He had left it as the Lord Commander of Rhaegar's Kingsguard, and returned as King Daeron's prisoner. Barristan had cleared out the rest of his kingsguard to allow him and Arthur this moment alone. Only two had been in the tower when Barristan and Arthur had arrived. The Greyjoy, who grumbled and glared at him when he passed. A towering brute, but one who Arthur would respect if they had crossed paths in battle.

An ironborn in the kingsguard, it had surprised him, he wasn't even a knight. To his further dismay he watched Barristan saying something to him when he passed which made the Greyjoy chuckle before leaving. The other kingsguard had been Prince Lewyn, Arthur did not meet his disapproving look.

"The book," Barristan pulled his attention to the White Book which was resting on the weirwood table. A massive tome which Arthur had become familiar with in the past few months when he served as the Lord Commander of Rhaegar's kingsguard. "You did not write in the book about my choice," Barristan's inflection implied more a question than a remark.

"No," Arthur remembered his conflict in how to write about his brothers Gwayne and Barristan. The former he ended up killing in the pivotal battle, a life he regretted taking. But I still took it, he could see Gwayne, wounded, on his knees and Dawn slashing down to kill him in a stroke. He shuddered, and turned away. "I had hoped to write a better end for you, and Ser Gwayne."

"I understand," there was no judgment in his voice, "I've written of Gwayne's passing."

"Did you write that I killed him?"

"Yes." Barristan answered, "I've written of the others," he cleared his throat, at the mention of Rhaegar's kingsguard, all that remained of them was Arthur, Oswell, and Alliser. The latter had been sworn in Daeron's kingsguard. Oswell had decided on the Black, his other former brothers had either died in the battle or had already chosen death and had been executed. "Your story still needs its end."

Death or the Black?

The question that hung over his head for weeks. He had been so confident when he had given his answer to Daeron without second thought, seeking an end for the sorrow that filled him. Now, he felt unsure of his decision. He remembered the relief he felt at hearing of Aegon's survival and his future on the Wall. I could be there for him. Then there was another part, a selfish part that feared having to face Aegon, having to look him in the eye, to tell him that he failed his father. That he grew up an orphan instead of the heir because Arthur could not do what had been asked of him.

"How?" He and Barristan had walked the same path, but when it diverged, he chose the right way, and I got lost. Arthur's talk with his sister had rattled him, as had Elia's visits. He sighed, it was as if living his whole life without color only to wake up one morning to see this strange, bright new world waiting for him, both terrifying and exciting. It all tilted for him, his belief, his purpose, anything and everything. It left him reeling, and he was still trying to find his footing this past fortnight.

"How many times did we try to comfort ourselves when Aerys burned men alive? When he raped his wife?" Barristan asked, "Each time digging deeper and deeper, trying to escape the guilt, the doubt, and then it came to me," He chuckled without mirth, "To get out of the hole, I had to climb out, to accept I was in the hole," he observed, "but you just kept digging."

"I did," Arthur had been so sure he had chosen the proper path. He had trusted Rhaegar, his friend, his king, trusted his judgment, his counsel, it never occurred to him that it could be wrong. That he could be wrong. How deep was the hole Arthur dug? And would death be his way of still digging? He frowned, but he couldn't ponder it further because they were joined by another.

"King Daeron," Barristan straightened up to greet him.

Arthur saw pride in the Lord Commander's expression, confidence in his eyes, that none of them had in Aerys' reign. He turned to face him thinking of the boy he once was, who hadn't wanted to fight his older brother, but to be with him. How different would the Seven Kingdoms be if Rhaegar had embraced his brother instead of turning him away?

"I've come for your decision." Daeron didn't waste time with his purpose for being there, "Death or the Black, Ser Arthur?"

Arthur said the first answer that came to him. "The Black," remembering Barristan's words. It was time for me to leave the hole. I'll not let it be my grave. He thought he saw relief in the Lord Commander's expression by his answer, but when he turned to the king, he saw a face of stone. He snapped his fingers and a servant came in carrying a sheathed Dawn. He took his sword back, determined to do better.

And just like dawn promises a new day, a new start, this would be his.

With this choice, I'll start anew.


"Father," Jaime entered the room carrying a sword that once bore the name Heartsbane, the valyrian steel sword formerly of House Tarly. It now bore a new name, Brightroar, and now belonged to House Lannister. It was not the first valyrian steel sword that was acquired by bloodshed and it would not be the last.

Lord Tywin Lannister was pale and gaunt in the sunlight. His clothes hung loosely off his reedy frame. The bloody flux had left him, but its touch could be seen in the ravaged body it left behind. He was sitting in a newly created chair that had wheels which allowed him to be pushed around since his legs were still too weak to move him.

His father was not alone, sitting in another chair was Tyrion. He had a book opened and it appeared he had been reading to their father before Jaime's arrival.

"Jaime," Tyrion greeted him first, the book on his lap forgotten. He was grinning, and squirming in his chair, but he didn't rise out of it. His mismatched eyes went from Jaime and then back to their father.

"Go ahead, Tyrion," Tywin gave permission.

Tyrion scrambled off his seat and ran to Jaime, before wrapping his arms around him. He adjusted his grip on the sword so he could lift Tyrion off the ground with one arm, and hold him against him. Balancing Tyrion in one arm while holding the sheathed valyrian steel sword in the other.

He looked to see their father watching them without reaction. He had seen his father a few times since his return to the Rock, but his father's condition always unnerved him. He was used to the tall and imposing Tywin Lannister, strong and proud, who made visiting nobles quiver with just a glance. Now, he was an ailing man, too weak to stand, and confined to either his bed or this chair. Jaime carried Tyrion a few more steps before bending down to let him go, his younger brother pouted, but didn't protest. He went back to his seat, with his eyes following the sword that Jaime was carrying.

A sword that Jaime hoped could lift his father's mood, knowing how long he had yearned to have a valyrian steel sword for their family. Lord Tywin offered gold and gems from the mines of Casterly Rock to many houses, but even the poorest of houses balked at the suggestion of exchanging their prized sword for gold. In the end it was blood not gold that secured the Lannister family our new sword.

He brought the sword forward, now carrying it in both hands, pleased to see his father's visible interest. Jaime had taken to overseeing the new hilt's creation not wanting his father to see it until it was finished. "Father," Jaime was formal in his presentation since his father was the Lord of Casterly Rock, and the head of their family. He bent down to present the sword, holding his hands up and offering it to his father as was his right.

Tywin's hazel eyes gleamed when they took in the hilt of the sword. He inspected it silently. Thin fingers skimmed across the newly forged hilt starting at the cross guard which were two roaring lions between them was a large ruby cut in the shape of a heart. Father's thumb was too small to blot out the heart shaped ruby. He tapped it twice, a soft chuckle followed, before he went to the pommel which bore another, smaller ruby cut in the shape of a heart between a lion's jaws. "You thought of this?" His father finally asked.

"Yes," Jaime answered, while quietly trying to decipher his father's enigmatic tone. It proved unneeded since father's next words easily conveyed it.

"Well done," he praised.

Jaime perked at the compliment before he slipped the sword out of its scabbard so his father could see the valyrian steel itself. He could see Tyrion's own awe shine in his eyes and in his expression from where he was sitting. "It's yours, father."

His father made no attempt at taking it from him. "You are the one who took it."

"I'm not-" Jaime was going to say the head of their family, but his father interrupted him.

"It's yours," he said bluntly, but not unkindly. "You deserve it." His spindly fingers reached across the sword to pat Jaime's own. "You have done well. I am proud of you."

"Thank you, father," Jaime sheathed the sword.

When he eventually left his father, it would be his father's praise and not the valyrian steel sword that Jaime would be most grateful of.

The horizon was a clash of colors.

The glistening blue of the sea stretching out as far as the eye could see, above it a bright orange painted the sky with streaks of red and purple. The touch of salt in the air wafting in the spring breeze. He had seen his friends off the day before not forgetting the look of surprise on Ned's face when he learned Jaime wouldn't be going with them. He made sure Ned's party would have plenty of protection. His friend was setting out with his wife, son, sister, and brother, all of whom had been guests of Casterly Rock for nearly a year.

Ned was too polite to ask the question: Why aren't you coming? Are you not Daeron's Lord Hand?

Jaime was not sure how he would have answered his friend's question. He had been back at the Rock for more than a fortnight enjoying being with his wife and son. He wanted to be with them after having missed so much this past year. He was holding the pin for the hand of the king, it felt heavy in his hand. There was a fleeting temptation to put it away or to even toss it, but he did neither. Her footsteps drew his attention away from it. "How is he?"

"He is not fit to travel," Elia answered, coming up alongside him.

He had feared as much. The sickness had left him, but it had taken much of his strength and fortitude. His father was a husk of his former self, thin frame, stretched skin, pale color. Jaime visited him every day, pleased to see some progress with how his father could sometimes sit for certain periods, and the commanding timbre in his voice would return, but would often fade if he overexerted himself.

"Your mother says they'll simply visit another time, and that we're to bring Tyrion with us."

Jaime nodded, knowing how much his younger brother wanted to see the capital, and to see their sister again.

"I shall miss these views when we're living in the capital."

It took a second or two for Jaime to register her words. When he turned to look at her, he got distracted by her thin dress and sun kissed skin. "Miss? I haven't made up…" His words trailed off at her smile.

"That's sweet," she kissed his cheek, "But you know in your heart. You've always known."

"What have I always known?" he asked dryly.

"That your doubts could never stop you. Your heart, your loyalty is always stronger," she answered, "That you will be your friend's and king's Hand."

"You sound so confident," Her words rang true. He did feel doubt, but it was overshadowed by his desire to serve his king, to help his friend. He felt her hand slip into his, tapping the Hand pin he had been holding. She pulled it from his grip without resistance.

"You, my husband, are a great man," She pinned the Hand of the King pin to his crimson doublet. "And this," she tapped the pin with a finger, "will not be like the war when we were separated. I'll be with you," She said, "Whenever you need me."

Jaime flashed her a grateful grin before wrapping her in his arms. "Thank you," He kissed the top of her head, "So does that mean that you'll not grow bored with me?"

Elia chuckled, "I can't promise-" The rest of her retort was swallowed by her surprised gasp when Jaime suddenly picked her up. She protested, but it was hard to take seriously with the peals of laughter that followed. "Where exactly are you taking me, Lord Hand?" There was sultry twinge in her tone. She was in his arms, being carried away, the sunset behind them.

"To do something terribly boring."

"Your Grace."

"My friend."

"Do you still have all Seven Kingdoms?"

Daeron smiled, "I do."

There had been a formal greeting held by Daeron and Cersei outside the Red Keep to welcome them which had quickly descended into a more familial reunion. Tyrion had gone straight to their sister, who was happy to see him, picking him up, and promising him to take them to see the elephants.

"Elephants?" Jaime mouthed to his friend and king.

"Indeed," Daeron sent a fond glance towards his wife. "I'm starting to think we may need to rename the Dragon Pit." He gestured for the servants to come forward. "Take their trunks to their quarters. The Tower of the Hand is currently hosting the Starks and some of their retinue," he explained, "But Lord Stark does not plan to stay long past the wedding."

"We thought you were going to miss it," Cersei said, still holding Tyrion.

Jaime had been afraid too. They had fortunately arrived the day before Robert and Lyanna's wedding. "Where is the future groom?" He did not see his friend or his betrothed, nor Ned and Ashara.

"They all went out riding," Daeron answered, "I think they're having a picnic somewhere along the Blackwater, but knowing Robert it'll be more like a feast," he joked. "They should be back before supper, and will surely be quite surprised at your arrival."

"I am a bit insulted that they're not here to greet us."

"You're not that important, brother," Cersei shot back with her own smile before turning to see Elia, who had returned after retrieving a sleepy Tyrone.

"Is this my nephew?" Daeron had yet to see or hold him. It appeared he would have to wait since Cersei intercepted her nephew before he could reach her husband. She had put Tyrion down, but their brother didn't seem to mind since Viserys had joined them. The two boys quickly started talking over each other, both excited at telling the other what they had been doing since they last saw each other.

Daeron ordered Ser Kyle to escort the boys to Viserys' chambers, both were put out by this, until he added that they'd see the elephants soon enough. Their party continued to splinter off when Cersei volunteered to lead Elia to their chambers where her good sister wanted to rest after their taxing journey.

Jaime said farewell to wife and son. Tyrone was still being held by his doting aunt, and then it was just him and Daeron, and his friend's group of guards.

"Come," Daeron led him deeper into the Red Keep, "We have much to discuss."

"Please, no tax policy," Jaime walked alongside him. "I make a rule not to talk numbers without a stomach full of wine."

"A sound policy, my friend," Daeron laughed, "Surprisingly, we still have plenty of wine. My cousin hasn't emptied the cellars, but it hasn't been for a lack of trying on Robert or Oberyn's part."

Jaime smiled, pleased at how easy it was for him and his friend to fall right back to where they left off. No awkwardness, or stilted conversations or long silences, it was no different than their countless get togethers. A part of him worried that by taking the position, their friendship would transform into something new, that it wouldn't be as good or as strong as what it once was. Between their friendship and the title of Lord Hand, it was their friendship that meant more to him. Thankfully, that fear proved to be fruitless.

"Are you going to ask me?" Jaime asked after answering Daeron's inquiries after Jaime's parents.

The two were walking down a corridor, Daeron's escort fanned in front and behind them, all in black save for the two knights in white cloaks. One was Jaime's cousin, Ser Leo Frey and the other was Ser Brynden Tully. "I cannot come across desperate," Daeron winked at him.

Jaime rolled his eyes. "So you've had many restless nights worrying over this?"

"I assure you, my nights are neither restless nor peaceful, my insatiable queen sees to that."

He groaned, over his friend's laughter. He was saved from hearing further details when they reached the doors that Jaime recognized would lead them into the Small Council chamber. The guards waiting for them, bowed while another opened the door to let them inside. Jaime followed his friend through, spotting Daeron's personal sigil on a large tapestry against one wall, he saw other ornaments and decorations, but he glanced at them only briefly. His eyes were moving to another spot in the room, the seat his father sat in for two decades, The Hand of the King's. It didn't seem so imposing when he looked at it now. Nor did it seem too large for him, as if he was a child trying to sit in his father's seat.

Daeron was at the end of the table where his own seat was. A pile of parchment was waiting for him, he was thumbing through it before turning to look at him. "Will you join me, my friend?" He gestured to the empty seat where he wanted Jaime to sit, to help him rule, to help him lead the Seven Kingdoms into a new age of peace and prosperity.

Jaime pulled the pin that was in his pocket, showing it to his king. "I would be honored."

A pleased Daeron took his seat. "Then let's get to work."


I probably could have written an entire short story centering around Arthur and what his choice would be, but I didn't have that luxury.

The newly designed Brightroar is based on Lion's Tooth with a mix of me leaning more on fantastical (aesthetically pleasing) over practical.

So with this chapter concluded, all that is left is a short epilogue with an appendix. I hope this didn't prove to be a disappointing ending for you all.

I know this was a long chapter, but if you enjoyed it and have the time then please consider leaving a review, I would appreciate it. Thank you.

Until the epilogue and our final farewell,