just so everyone is aware, i will wait is /the/ song that describes this little series of stories.
seriously. it is already breaking my heart.
small amount of interested people: @semper-eadem @roses-are-roses
there are so many caveats and things that contradict the actual stories, but just go with it.
The Scarlet Guard was staring. She cleared her throat.
“Knights, you are excused. Your duties are at the wall. Ser Feris,” Ava said, addressing the eldest knight, “you have done well today. Thank you.”
“Thank you, my lady,” Feris replied, bowing. “But it was Ser Willem who made the capture.”
Ava nodded. “Many thanks, Ser Willem. Please, take your leave.”
“As you wish.”
Only Ser Lochlyn stayed, standing faithfully at Ava’s side as she gazed upon the visitor.
“You’ve come a long way, Northerner,” she said gently. “I’ve half a mind to hold you captive – coming so far, you must be worth something to someone.”
Jon Snow stayed silent, but his eyes darted to the window beside him.
“Go ahead, take a look outside,” Ava urged him.
He stood, slowly, and walked to the window. Ava watched the expression on his face as he took in the sight of spikes littering the ground below, waiting to welcome any prisoner who attempted to exit via the window.
Ava spoke again. “I will not keep you here, Jon Snow. You may find the door is easier to leave by. But if you will stay the night, or a few, there will be a bed, and food, and the company of the South.”
“Nothing sounds sweeter, my Lady. But there is one thing – I travelled with a white wolf –”
“I know of it,” she nodded. “ He gave some of my farmers quite a fright. My knights assure me that he is safe within the castle walls.” Ava turned to her most trusted knight, flashing her smile at him. “Ser Lochlyn, please make the appropriate arrangements for our guest. He will feast with us tonight.”
The young knight nodded, taking Jon lightly by the arm and guiding him from the room.
Ava took the opposite direction, walking quickly down the wide, empty hall. On the sills of the open windows, cardinals gazed at her, singing for their supper, but she had no crumbs to give them. Her footsteps echoed lightly against the stone.
She found Myles Doran sitting in his writing chamber.
“Trusted uncle,” she said, welcoming herself to the couch across from him. He glanced up at her, raising his eyebrows.
“I fear you’re about to ask me for a favour, Lady Ava.”
“Not a favour, so much, but I have something to discuss with you.”
Myles nodded, closing his ledger book and placing his hands gently on top of it. Ava smiled; her uncle always had time for her, particularly when it came to matters of running Folly.
“The Scarlet Guard seized a wanderer today. Jon Snow, the late Lord Eddard’s son.”
“Bastard,” Myles remarked.
Ava raised her eyebrows before continuing. “I wouldn’t keep him here unnecessarily, not when there are already wars being fought. The Northmen cannot give us what we want unless they sit on the Iron Throne.”
“This is true, yes.”
“But if they /were/ to take King’s Landing...”
“It is unlikely, Ava.”
“But not entirely impossible. Maybe an alliance can be arranged.”
Her uncle looked shocked, for once. “I would never expect you, of all people, to talk about an alliance.”
“The Starks are concerned with the North. They fight to free themselves. They will dispose of Joffrey and the Lannisters, I believe it. But who intends to take the Iron Throne? If it is them, they will need counsel regarding the South.”
“You intend to provide this counsel.”
“In one way or another. We are not in a position to strike anyone, wise uncle. The men of Folly fight well but we are not numerous, and we have no friends. And anyone who thinks that the Martells will not be on our doorstep soon is a fool.”
Myles leaned forward, his sparkling green eyes mirroring Ava’s own. “So what is your plan, Lady Doran?”
She chewed her lip. “I confess, I have none, yet. The Northerner has only just passed through our doors. Come this evening, I may have something in motion.”
“I believe you.”
“Through here, Northerner.”
The servants eyed Jon carefully as he took his place at one end of the long dining table. Directly across from him sat an aging man, his long white beard reaching to his knees.
“More wine, Lord Doran?” someone asked. The man bobbed his head up and down eagerly, watching the smooth red liquid flow into his cup. As the last drop was poured, he snatching it up in a wrinkled hand, drinking quickly and slamming the cup down on the table. Red drops flew onto the table.
He stared at Jon, intensely, silently. Then he laughed. Quietly at first, but soon his laughter bounced off stones. Jon glanced around, looking for the source of hilarity. And he realised that it was him.
Adaris Doran stopped laughing when a young girl joined him at the table. He smiled sweetly at her, and then raised his empty glass to his lips, drinking invisible wine. The girl, with long, strawberry blonde hair and big eyes, gazed up at Jon. She would have been a few years older than Sansa.
“Who are you?” she asked softly.
“Jon Snow, of Winterfell.”
“I am Akka.”
“Hello, Lady Akka.”
She blushed, staring down at the table.
Minutes passed and a silence fell over the room until the rest of the dinner party arrived. Ava first, her red gown trailing on the ground behind her. Jon found his eyes lingering on her a little longer, and she smiled coyly. Following her was a slightly older-looking girl with hair the same colour as Akka, and a boy about the age of Bran.
Jon was puzzled.
“Lady Ava, Lady Aelena, and Lord Angus,” a red-cloaked knight announced.
Ava sat next to him, and they feasted on seafoods and fruits that Jon had never tasted. She told him of the history of Folly, the history of her family. The area had always produced the milk of the poppy, and though it supplied the Seven Kingdoms, it needed better access to the lands across the Narrow Sea. The only way to secure this was by a passage through Dorne. Adaris had been a fearless fighter, leading invasion upon invasion against the Dornish, but had lost both his older sons by doing so. The grief sent him mad, and now the kingdom was ruled by Aelena and Ava, not Angus – the tradition of boys holding power above their older sisters was not observed here. The people of the Scarlet Hills were promised rule of the South by Aegon, and never received it; it was a betrayal that they had never forgotten.
When Jon confessed that he had very little knowledge of the ways of the South, Ava smiled coyly.
“There are many things you have yet to discover about us, Jon Snow.”
One of these such things was discovered by Jon after the dinner feast, when Ava led him to the expansive courtyard of the castle. The floors dropped away dramatically, casting a view out to the inlet and ocean. Musicians played, wine flowed, and ladies danced.
“And you celebrate every night?” Jon asked, disbelieving.
“The poppies bring us harvest every day. It’s only right to honour them.”
The warm sunlight radiated on her face, and even the poppies in her hair seemed to shine. She took his arm, leading him to edge of the courtyard.
“Jon, I know you intend to travel to Dorne, and I beg you to reconsider.”
“I have been commanded by my King to make peace with the Dornish.”
Ava sighed, drumming her fingers on Jon’s arm. “They do not make peace. We know that best. Doran Martell is no friend of the Starks – he will capture you as soon as you cross the border.”
“As you did, Lady Ava.”
“He is not quite so accommodating as me,” she smiled, almost sadly. “He will not hold you hostage, Jon – make no mistake, he will have your head.”
Jon’s throat ran dry. There was something so honest and pained in her voice that made fear grip his heart. Two of her brothers, beheaded by the Martells. His father, a similar fate at the hands of Joffrey Baratheon. He closed his eyes briefly, until she spoke again.
“I have an alternative offer.”
He was surprised. “You do?”
Ava’s fingers clutched him a little tighter, and he felt a flush rise in his chest.
“My sister Akka is fifteen, and beautiful. She is gracious, kind, and sweet. Your brother Robb is not yet married...”
A Stark marrying a Doran. They would laugh in his face if he were to return with the suggestion.
“I cannot speak for my brother, my Lady.”
“I would not expect you to. You will be returning to Robb’s host soon, I believe. I would come with you.”
“Ava...” he started, forgetting himself. “Lady Ava... it is a hard ride –”
“I have ridden before I could walk; you forget yourself, Northerner. Ladies are not so delicate here.”
Jon bowed his head, feeling shamed. “I did not mean to cause offense. The roads are dangerous, and I have no men.”
“Ser Lochlyn will accompany us, and he will bring his best riders.”
Jon thought that Ser Lochlyn would be thrilled, and that he looked at Ava a little too longingly, but did not say as much.
“I could not dissuade you, could I?”
Ava smiled sweetly. “Not even a little, Jon Snow.”