A\N: Kole commissioned this idea way back in May of last year. Better late than never, I guess. Disclaimer: I own neither Youjo Senki nor A Song of Ice and Fire.
The Crofter's Daughter
I looked at the two men blocking my way. They looked like robbers. I would be lucky if they were. Losing the few coppers I had on me would be painful, but I could deal. However, seeing as how I was a good-looking girl in a medieval hellhole, it was fairly obvious what these two were after.
The only real question was if they'd slit my throat or sell me to a brothel once they were done.
I suppose the situation was an improvement in one way. Last time around, I'd been fighting for my life by the age of nine. This time I got to wait until I was fourteen.
From one angle, Being X had kept his word. He did say he would return me to the cycle of reincarnation if I successfully reached the end of my natural life in my first reincarnation as an orphan in magical pre-WW1 Germany. He just did it in the most dickish way possible.
First, he tossed me here, in Westeros, a land permanently stuck in the middle ages (seriously, 8000 years of history and they still haven't figured out the steam engine?).
Second, the body he stuck me in was the blonde-haired blue-eyed waif of my second life, instead of the tall and athletic male body of my first.
Third, he told me that since I completely lacked faith in him, he would send me to a place where he held no power whatsoever. Which meant my ongoing afterlife was now in the hands of whatever passed for deities in this world. Although, the local so-called gods were a definite improvement over Being X. For starters, I had yet to see any sign that they actually existed.
And, perhaps cruelest of all, he once more arranged for me to be an orphan. Only this time I didn't even have the power of magic to fall back on. Even the years I spent in hiding after my empire's defeat in my last life hadn't made me feel so helpless. Without magic reinforcing my body I lacked the strength to make use of my vast combat experience. Without wealth and backing I had no way to take advantage of my skill in organization and economics. Heck, even learning how to read and write in the local language had taken an immense amount of effort. In my last life, I'd been soldier, commander, spy, mercenary, leader of my own paramilitary group. One thing I had never been is helpless, and being forced into such a position had been the closest I had ever come to contemplating suicide.
But I had eventually come to terms with my situation. If there's one thing I could always count on, it was my rational intellect and capacity for hard work. And thus, as I faced rape and probable murder at the age of fourteen, I repeated my prayer. The prayer I had formulated myself, as I watched my father of this life die of an illness I recognized but lacked the skills to cure. This will not break me.
Of course, a stern motto isn't enough to change physical reality. The two thugs in front of me were not particularly large or skilled specimens, but they outmassed me significantly, and that was enough to make them dangerous. They were both armed with clubs, and the one in front of me had a good knife in his belt.
I had a knife of my own, but it was a cheap iron thing barely adequate for its purpose as a tool. I gave it a 50/50 chance of doing nothing unless I managed to hit them somewhere soft like the gut or neck. I suppose I should be thankful neither of them were wearing any armor or thick clothing.
Running was an option, since we were on a country path with scrubland on either side. The problem was that they were both taller than me with longer legs. The one in front of me had a gut, but the one behind was a skinny weaselly type. While I had done my best to train my endurance, I was far less confident about beating them in a sprint.
"Well little songbird, ya think ya too good fer me? Yer not. Now we gonna have some fun, and you're gonna learn some sweet new songs ta sing."
Ah, now I recognized him. He'd been in the audience at one of the taverns where I sing for my supper. In spite of my skinny frame, he wasn't the first man to find the doll-like features of this body attractive. And since in Westeros any girl past puberty was considered fair game, there wasn't even any way to shame them for being attracted to a child. Usually though, they weren't persistent enough to set up an ambush.
Well, it was a risk I knew I was running from the very first day I decided to take advantage of this body's naturally perfect pitch and cute looks to put coin in my purse. And I'd already spent one lifetime as an attractive woman often thrust into violent circumstances. Even though in my last life only a few opponents were so barbaric as to threaten rape, it was a fear that never really went away for a woman in a career dominated by physically aggressive men.
And so a threat which had paralyzed me with shock the first time I heard it made many decades ago (with nearly disastrous results) now barely registered as I felt the familiar rush of adrenaline in my veins.
Still, I wasn't going to win this fight through a frontal assault. And so I fell back to feigning weakness. Lowered eyes, shuddering voice, hunched shoulders, and a meek, "Please, don't hurt me, I'll give you whatever you want."
Even as I spoke I shuffled closer, looking as if I was on the verge of throwing myself to my knees. An ugly gap-toothed grin spread across his broad face. "Oh, yer gonna give me everything all right. First I'll teach ya to use that pretty mouth for more than just singin'."
His eyes seemed ready to glaze over as he started envisioning his disgusting desires. I gave him a bright smile. "Oh yes good sir, whatever you say!"
Now, even the village idiot would find my reaction suspicious. But the sheer unexpectedness of it threw him off long enough for me to take one last quick step and put my arms around him.
He was not entirely devoid of instincts. His immediate reaction was to check his belt, and his meaty hand grabbed my own just as I got hold of his knife. A swift kick towards his groin distracted him long enough for me to pull free, but then instead of stabbing him I had to leap to the side to keep his friend from braining me.
Pulling out my own knife in my off hand, I pointed the blades towards my opponents in a parody off a Mexican stand-off.
"You fuckin' whore!" snarled the man I just robbed. "I'm gonna fuck ya bloody!"
"That's assuming you still have a cock to fuck anyone with," I replied, showing my teeth. "Because I promise you this, boys, I will be going for what's 'tween your legs."
That made them twitch, and I felt my grin stretching wider. "Oh yeah, one little prick - " I made a suggestive motion with a knife - "And you're without a prick. Now, maybe I won't get you both. But I figure I can get at least one of you. One of you might get to have his way with me, but all the other one will do is watch."
I could see the image take hold, and I couldn't help but laugh a little. The next words came to me with no conscious thought. "So, I guess you both really need to ask yourselves, 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya? Ya sorry fucks?"
Unfortunately, while my spiel did make them wary, neither of them were willing to give up just yet. And so we started our little dance.
After a previous lifetime of combat experience, I have one advice for facing multiple opponents. Don't. Your best hope is to turn such a situation into a series of one-on-one engagements. Against two people with no formal training, it's entirely doable. But with both of them having a large advantage in reach and strength, I had to be extremely cautious. I simply couldn't risk focusing on one of them long enough to put him down.
So, for the next few minutes, both sides accumulated nicks and bruises, but no telling hits. The only advantage I had was my superior stamina. While I was sweating, they were both puffing. I thought exhaustion would decide who made the first fatal mistake, and I was determined it would not be me. Then I heard shouting voices and galloping hooves, and looking to the side I saw something straight out of a fairy tale.
Charging down the road was a literal white knight. Bright blonde hair, chiseled features set in stern determination, shiny sword, blinding white plate armor with gold accents, and a pale steed with white-and-gold trimmings.
I was so surprised by the walking - well, riding - stereotype that I barely registered my assailants turning to flee. Not that it did them much good. He might have looked like a living cliché, but there was no mistaking the trained efficiency with which he sliced through the first thug.
"Are you all right, my lady?"
It was a testament to my distraction that I didn't even notice the second rider until he was talking to me. Turning, I did my best not to stare. Good grief, of course the storybook hero has to have an ugly sidekick. His hair was a mix of light and dark, his head looked too large for his obviously stunted body, and to top it off he had heterochromia.
Still, he was also dressed in expensive clothes, his pony looked well cared for, and there was genuine concern in his mismatched eyes. It wasn't hard to decide on a response. Bowing low, I said, "I am well, if only for you and your companion's timely intervention. You have my sincerest thanks, my lord."
He gave a self-deprecating laugh as he dismounted from his ride. "I hardly did anything. Please, rise, and let me make sure you are unhurt. What's your name?"
"Tanya, my lord." My parents in this life had tried to name me something else, but after 80 years of answering to Tanya, I'd been too stubborn to change. As I straightened up from my bow, I realized I still had knives in my hands, and I hastened to tuck them into the pocket I had laboriously stitched into my dress after giving them a quick wipe.
The very short boy (and he was a boy, no older than me) looked on curiously. "While I can understand a girl carrying a knife to protect herself, it's rare to see one with two."
"I took one off my attackers." I was struck by a concern. "Do I have to return it?"
He laughed and indicated behind me. "Why? It's not like he'll need it anymore."
Looking back, I could see two bleeding lumps on the road, and the knight riding back, sword now sheathed. As he drew near, he spoke, "The girl all right, Tyrion?"
"Oh she's fine," Tyrion smirked. "In fact, I don't think she really needed us."
While I agreed with his assessment, one could never go wrong with flattering the wealthy. "I was doing my best, but the situation was most desperate. Once more, thank you for rescuing me, Lord Tyrion and Lord...?"
"Oh, where are my manners. I am Tyrion Lannister, son of Tywin, and that dashing fellow is my older brother Jaime."
Lannister! There was no way I could fail to recognize the name of the lord whose land I dwelled in, and whose castle was visible from here. In fact, I had heard of both of these fellows. Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer, brother to the Queen, bodyguard to the current King. And his younger brother Tyrion, who in spite of his youth was already developing a reputation for mischief that had gotten him the moniker of the 'Imp'.
This changed everything. As the two sons of a Lord Paramount, these two were as important as you could get on this continent without actually being royalty. And even among the exalted heights of the Lord Paramounts, their father was infamous for both his wealth and ruthlessness. Being rescued by them might put me in their debt, but it was also an opportunity to develop a relationship with a pair of genuine VIPs.
If there was one thing I would never give up on, it would be to bettering my lot in life. No matter how many times Being X knocked me down, I would fight my way back up.
Still, I had to be careful. The one thing I could not afford to do was come across as a gold digger. With their status, even Tyrion would have beauties far better than me trying to get their hooks into him. Bowing low once again, I picked my words carefully. "Then I am truly blessed, that the sons of our great Lord would come to my rescue. I know that I have nothing of value to offer, but if you would indulge me for a short while, I do have a meager talent that I would like to use to express my gratitude."
"This talent, it wouldn't be as a bard would it?" asked Tyrion.
"Why my Lord, how did you guess?" I asked, widening my eyes.
"Your diction is too good for regular smallfolk. I've only known bards and players to speak so well," explained Tyrion, obviously pleased at his own cleverness.
"My Lord is wise. Indeed, I have some small talent as a singer and storyteller. I was on my way to a nearby inn to put on a show when those men accosted me. If you have the time, I would beg you to come by so I may do what I can to show my gratitude."
Tyrion turned to Jaime. "What do you think? I was going to suggest we escort her to her destination anyway, so I don't see any harm in delaying our return a short while longer."
Yes! Score! Now, ideally, I would have liked to wait a few years, establish a reputation, before I tried auditioning for nobility. But when opportunity knocks, you have to answer. I am confident enough in my vocals to know that they at least won't find me terrible. Now I just have to select the piece. With two lifetimes of pop culture to draw on, I should be able to come up with something of interest.
Of course, I didn't expect to get hired to perform at Casterly Rock. These two have undoubtedly grown jaded with the best Westeros had to offer. Still, simply being publicly known to have performed for the Lannisters would do wonders for my profile. And if by some chance they actually like me? Cream on the cake.
Yes, this could really speed up my plans. Even being forced to ride side-saddle with Jaime Lannister couldn't dampen my good mood.