"Aim higher, lad. You won't succeed like this. You want to hit the more vulnerable spot between helmet and pauldrons, not the heavily armored chest," Ser Arthur advised, as he watched Jaime's struggle against one of Prince Rhaegar's men.
"Can't I take a break? I don't feel so good. The last dinner did not agree with me I fear..." Jaime asked shakily, as he looked indeed quite pale. And with every movement of the ship they were traveling on, his condition seemed to deteriorate.
Arthur did not answer, instead, he looked at Rhaegar, waiting for a decision from the prince. Jaime was his squire and his to command. But the keen look on the knight's face made it clear what he thought about this matter. The boy had enough for one day.
Rhaegar chuckled, as he watched the young Lannister, before he made a dismissive gesture with his hand, "Alright. Go and lie down for now. We will resume your training at a later time." He said.
Jaime was grateful and left hastily, to find a place that did not shake, not that this was a possible task at the moment. The sea had been rough since the day they had left King's Landing and the waves had only grown in strength, the further they got.
"Who would have thought that the boy would be seasick. What the great Tywin Lannister would say, seeing his proud son so feeble," Arthur jested lightly.
"We all had our difficulties with our first time on a ship, my friend. I remember you emptying your stomach quite fast... and on the lap of my Septa," Rhaegar reminded the knight before they both shared a laugh.
"Aye. Septa Rylene has never forgiven me that slight, however unintended it may have been." Arthur's gaze wandered, as he looked for any other persons around them. The crew was busy, minding the ship and the prince's guardsmen were nowhere to be seen. "But..."
"What, my friend? Feeling unwell, Arthur?"
"No. But I wonder. After watching the boy for a few days, there is one thing that leaves me confused. Your mother's words... they were... unexpected," His expression changed, a concentrated frown on his face, the jaunty smile gone for the moment.
"I know what you mean. A lot of it came as a surprise and my mother was rarely one to surprise me like this," His mother had always been open with him. He thought that he knew how to read her, but she had obviously deceived him and everyone else at court.
"Her words don't add up. I tried to remember the Lady Lannister, but her time at court ended sometime before I was appointed a Kingsguard. But I know the rumors."
"Gossip, not rumors. Rumors have some truth hidden amongst the drivel, gossip is just made up to pass the time and discredit those of importance at court." Rhaegar interjected chidingly. He was never one to put much stock in rumors and gossip. The court was filled with the most insane claims and outrageous lies and to keep up with it was both timeconsuming and mind-numbing. Even if there was a hint of a threat hidden amongst all the blather, he had other men in his employ to keep their eyes and ears open for such things.
"Gossip, yes. Untrue? Not necessarily." Arthur replied. "What they had said about the king and the lady..."
"Were made up lies. I find it hard to believe any of this and you should not be so gullible to believe it either. Do you expect me to believe that Joanna Lannister had been my father's mistress? The mere idea is preposterous. Though it is a known fact that my father had lusted for this woman, there had never been a word about any sort of... illicit connection of the two. And just think about it, Tywin Lannister would not have married her, had there been any such relationship between the king and his betrothed. He is no man to appreciate... damaged goods."
The prince looked critically, disbelief obvious on his face. What a laughable idea. There were many more words, not all becoming of a man of his station, which he wanted to use to describe this claim. But he drowned them with a large gulp from his wine.
"You have to admit, some things have been hard to explain. I have conversed with Ser Barristan before we left and asked him about Lord Tywin's wife. Forgive me, should I have overstepped my boundaries, but I could not help myself. Your mother's words had been too puzzling." Arthur admitted. But looking at him, it was obvious that he was not sorry in the slightest. The knight was known to be well informed at most times, of course, this wouldn't be any different.
"And what did he say?" Not that he was curious, for he was not. But if there was a rumor that could do damage to his family's reputation, he had to know, so he could get rid of it and those who have started it.
"Though he decried any illicit actions most vociferously, he has admitted that Lady Joanna's dismissal from the Queen's service had been most... unexpected and abrupt. As was the sudden change in your father's friendship with Lord Tywin. They had been friends in their youth, good friends, we all have heard the stories of their exploits, from the time before Summerhall. But Ser Barristan has admitted that the presence of Lady Joanna had a large impact on the court in King's Landing."
Though he was loath to admit it, Rhaegar could not dismiss Arthur's words that easily. He had heard of this as well, but he had never believed any of this. But the disappearance of the golden lioness from the court had indeed been unexpected. If any of this was true, then it would suggest that his mother had tried to deceive him yet again... but why? Why lie about the late wife of Tywin Lannister and why the scheming to make his firstborn son and heir a ward of House Targaryen?
"I do not mean to imply anything by this, but the queen might have plans for the boy that we are not yet aware of."
"As does my father. And Lord Tywin. Jaime is the son of a very powerful and influential man and anyone who manages to get this boy under his thumb, will gain a fair share of that power and influence," Rhaegar concluded. But he had his doubts that this was all there is to it.
"With all due respect, Rhaegar, but this does not look like the sort of court intrigue you usually have to face."
A mocking laugh escaped Rhaegar's lips, as he considered this. Court intrigue. He stayed clear of King's Landing to escape these mock games of death and deceit. Usually, it was the noble houses, who clamored for the symbols of power, which the king would bestow upon those who had his attention. But maybe the current royal family was not just watching their subjects tear each other to pieces. Maybe they were far more involved in this game than he had expected at first. A dangerous and disturbing idea. House Targaryen and their ruling system were the only constant the Seven Kingdoms had. With them too involved in the power game, the whole realm would suffer the consequences.
"The realm may be at peace at the moment, but should this information be handled without proper care and discretion, someone might try to shatter the fragile peace we have right now. The lord of the Riverlands is an opportunist and Dorne is always only one step from leaving the realm, to secure concessions from the king. And don't forget the North, only the gods know what goes on in that frozen land with its wild people who know only loyalty to House Stark and no one else." Arthur continued. "Your father's position is only strengthened because of his shared blood with the Baratheons and the strong alliance with the Lannisters. Should anyone shatter these bonds..."
Rhaegar sighed, knowing full well what the consequence of this would be. A new war, the realm divided, just like during the Dance of Dragons and the Blackfyre rebellions. They would have to tread carefully. But luckily they had one advantage at the moment. The young son and heir of Lord Tywin. With him, under their control, they had far more control over the situation. Maybe that was why his mother wanted the boy to be his squire. It was at the very least the reason why his father had given the boy to him, though the reasons why he had done it were most likely different from the queen's own.
"Why do I feel like the small boy, who gets conflicting yet similar orders from his parents?" Rhaegar asked wearily.
Arthur laughed and patted his friend lightly on the shoulder, "That is because you hid away on an island for many years, ignorant of what your family does. In a way, you are still the young boy who had once asked Ser Willem to teach him how to fight, without telling anyone why you were suddenly interested in swordplay."
Rhaegar shook his head in exasperation. He wanted to deny this accusation, but he knew that Arthur was right. He could have stayed in King's Landing, despite his appointment as Lord of Dragonstone. He could have... should have involved himself more. But he didn't. He was content with planning his future, far away from the trouble of the capital. A mistake.
It was early on the next morning as they finally saw the coast of Dragonstone. The dark and dreary volcanic island rose out of the sea before them, looking every bit as menacing as described in the stories.
Rhaegar could not keep the smirk off of his face, as he saw young Jaime look at the island with the curiosity and giddiness that only children were allowed to exhibit. He wondered whether he had looked the same, but the way Arthur smirked at him, he most likely looked the same. Arthur had to know, he had been his knight ever since he had left his family for the first time.
"That is Dragonstone, lad," Arthur said, as he joined Jaime. "The ancestral seat of House Targaryen. This is where everything had begun. Now you will see the fortress of Aegon the Conqueror and the seat of every heir apparent of House Targaryen."
"Jaime," Rhaegar called his squire. The boy looked surprised at first, but complied quickly and bustled over to him. It was obvious that the meaning of duty and respect had been drilled into this boy's head from the very first day of his education. It would be both helpful and hindering his plans for the boy. "Once we arrive, you will also meet my other squire, Myles Mooton, the younger son of the Lord of Maidenpool. He is around your age and I expect you to treat each other with the respect and dignity befitting of your station. Is that clear?" Gods, the last thing he needed would be quarreling squires. Better make it clear now, that wrong behavior will not be tolerated.
"Yes, Prince Rhaegar," the boy replied dutifully.
"Very good. Myles will be able to show you around on the island and introduce you to the noteworthy people."
"Your grace... is true that the people here..." Jaime stopped mid-sentence, obviously unsure whether he should ask that question or not. Rhaegar was curious about what the boy wanted to know.
"Speak up. Don't be shy. I want you to ask questions, else you won't learn as quickly as necessary." Rhaegar told the boy, as he tried to look supportive and open-minded.
"Forgive me, your grace. I should not have considered asking this... it is inappropriate."
Now Rhaegar was truly confused. What kind of inappropriate questions can an eleven-year-old boy ask him? "Gods, Rhaegar, are you not getting what the boy is asking?" Arthur asked, obviously amused. "The boy wants to know about the Dragonseeds. I have seen him read the book about Dragonstone I have given him. Spent half of last night reading about the island and its history. The last chapter before he dozed off was about your ancestors... pastime with the local village girls."
"Dragonseeds..." Rhaegar repeated. Now he understood why the boy stopped mid-sentence when he realized that this was not the kind of thing he should ask the future king of the Seven Kingdoms. It was a topic he had only investigated in passing. It had never been of much interest to him. "Some might consider the actions of my ancestors... unsavory and dishonorable. But from all we know, the people on Dragonstone had been more than willing participants. So to answer your question, Jaime, there might still be some remnants of my bloodline left in all the people on this island, but there had been no true Dragonseeds in some generations, as far as I know. The greatest of them vanished with the dragons of my family."
"Not that the lasses on the island would be unhappy, should the prince decide to pay them some more attention," Arthur jested merrily. "Don't look like that, Rhaegar. You know it is true. But alas, there won't be any more Targaryen bastards here anytime soon. A pity. There are some very pretty ones among the smallfolk, who show the traits of the old Valyrian blood. Maybe one or two of them will be to your liking, Jaime."
"My... father would not like that..." Strangely the boy did not look all that bothered about that fact.
"That did not sound as if you were opposed to the idea," Arthur chuckled, "Seems like we might have a rebellious nature in this one, Rhaegar."
Even the prince had to smirk now. Maybe this boy was truly more than just his father's pawn. Maybe it would be possible to make sure that Jaime would choose his side on his own, instead of blindly following Lord Tywin. That alone would make all their plans much easier. For Rhaegar and for his parents, whatever their true plans may be.