So I thought once more of Dornish scorched earth tactics... also of the fact that I'd never done Jaime/Bronn slash, and of this Russian military folksong, "Czarist Lieutenant Golitsin" (Поручик Голицын), also known as "Czarist Lieutenant Golitsin, Ensign Obolensky" (Поручик Голицын, Корнет Оболенский)... so I thought doing for something completely different, a songfic with this pairing --Jaime as Golitsin and Bronn as his second-in-command Obolensky--. And set in Dorne because this region (the Plana de Castellón) in August right now might as well have been Dorne, that is as difficult to invade as Russia for the same reasons, though with General Summer instead! It wound up being very friendly Jaime/Bronn, the usual aide-de-camp shenanigans, with a wee bit more of Jaimienne and a lot more of character study.
WHY DO WE NEED A FOREIGN LAND?
The fourth day of the Dornish campaign.
After taking a holdfast by storm and finding it empty of Dornishmen and Dornishwomen, their mounts, their provisions. They have retreated inland, into harsh lands they know well, with everything in tow. Who knows how far they have made it?
The Westerosi warriors cast off their breastplates and helmets, wiping off the perspiration and lounging in the shade they can find, after a forced march that seemed to last for ages.
Maybe the fountain in the courtyard, and the kegs, in the cellar, are laced with poison to knock the thirsty enemy out, Ser Bronn, that dark-haired veteran upstart, warily tells his commanding officer; but Jaime had already plunged head first into the fountain, that fountain as blue as the eyes of a certain mannish maiden, and was gaping like a fish after quenching the blaze in his throat and on his face. Yet he has turned strangely pale, his blade clanking within the scabbard on his right thigh, his thoughts flashing back to Joffrey's wedding... Ser Bronn had also been there, though not as close to the newlywed crown prince as Jaime Lannister, now lord of the Westerlands, had been himself.
Still, Joff was a mere stripling, and a coward. While the thirtyish man he never would know was his real sire, Jaime, was a warrior through and through... should he die in such an inglorious and painful way? Lord Tywin had died on the privy, Joffrey had been poisoned on his wedding feast... at least Ser Jaime Lannister himself would have fallen upon the battlefield and, as one of the few living Lannisters, have honoured the family name...
"Keep those spirits high. I'll pour you some Dornish red, Ser. Just to ensure it's not poisoned either..." his scarred aide-de-camp says with a gentle slap upon entering the keep once more. The hot sun is setting behind the craggy peaks of the Marches, a pleasant evening coolness pervading it all.
After taking just one sip of his strong drink to check if it has been poisoned, Bronn hands it over to his golden-haired commander, who takes the tankard in a hardened left hand before putting it doubtfully to his lips.
"We have led our men this far... and we are heading for Sunspear... and half our ranks are sunstruck and perchance up for dying," Jaime sighs, having but wet his lips in the blood of the Dornish grapes, a right hand of solid gold on his chest, above his still steady heart. "We are fighting for a higher cause, aren't we...?"
The fifth day of the Dornish campaign.
The next morn, at the crack of dawn, the dark veteran has already saddled the horses and prepared all the weapons, while the one-handed Lannister's face is strangely pale and his head is throbbing... A flash of suspicion cuts through Jaime's thoughts. Poisoned? No, more likely hungover, he reasons. That pain in the right wrist... it's always been there, ever since he became left-handed. Oh, he had woken up all thirsty and drenched with perspiration in the middle of the night because he dreamt that his right hand was of flesh and blood, fingernails and all, then severed at the wrist once more. So he plunged his head into the fountain once more, and fell asleep right by its side after a while.
"Bronn, saddle the horse... my white mare, Joanna..."
"She's already saddled, Ser."
In his dreams, there were tapestries and gardens of the Rock and the Red Keep, familiar faces surging through the fair commander's mind's eye: a golden-haired queen, her emerald orbs as cold as ice; a stern old noble, already silver-haired but with Lannister-green eyes equally piercing, a statesman and a warlord of renown; a tall and freckled, awkward maiden, more mannish than maidenlike, but still full of reassuring warmth... It was Brienne who had cut him at the right wrist in that dream, and then pulled him away from the throne room, and from his family, by seizing his left. Saying she would stanch the blood and tend to the stump as both of them ran away in haste... and he was startled awake by the pain.
Now the Maid of Tarth had ventured up north with that sword she was given, that Lannister sword he called Oathkeeper, to search for those two lost little girls, since moon-turns ago. Worlds away from Dorne. Ah... You reap what you have sown, his lord father used to say. Everything will be all right, Ser Jaime Lannister; you finally saw the light and your deeds and words have so far been true.
They have found some friendly shade in these ruins in the middle of the day, but no spring near to quench their thirst. Wiping the perspiration from his forehead: "Pour some Dornish red, Bronn... from that keg we took in the empty keep." After the order is carried out, the left-handed commander drains his tankard at one deep draught.
"And somewhere near is my girl... niece, I meant saying. Gods know how the Dornish are being to her. We do not know if we are the ones to blame, for... Lord Tywin, bless his soul, gave the order to kill Elia and her children, and the command was carried out in cold blood; a young woman and two children whose only crime was being related to the late royals..." And the shadow of that decision still lingers ominously over both Dorne and the Lannisters.
"Stay strong, Ser Jaime", Bronn reassuringly pats him on the back.
"How should I?" He glances into the palm of his left hand, then puts it to the hilt on his right thigh as if to draw steel. "Come fill up my tankard..."
A refill, another drink downed at one gulp, Jaime drunkenly singing as he huddles himself up in his white kingsguard commander's cloak, right before intoxication and the chirp of cicadas lull him to sleep little by little:
"Come fill up my tankard, come fill up my can;
come saddle the horses and call up the men;
come open the West Gate and let me go free,
there are wild ruthless rebels three-thousand times three!"
Not the usual Dornishman's Wife, but this song everyone in King's Landing and Lannisport, and their environs, know. One that, like the Rains of Castamere, speaks volumes about the Lannisters in general and their late patriarch in particular.
The sixth day of the Dornish campaign...
...and a short funeral service has been held (Ser Bronn, that inured sellsword, knows prayers not only to the Seven, but also to foreign gods, by heart for a good reason) at a mass grave when the survivors of the Westerosi force have earthed and mourned the casualties. None of them killed by enemy steel; either sunstroke, snakes, or scorpions took their lives, that may have been as short as a decade and a half. Luckily, Jaime Lannister and his faithful right-hand man are among the survivors.
For Queen and Country, they have made it this far, staggering and forcing their hearts and spirits to the utmost. Come hell or highwater. Though Dorne hates and dreads those from north of the Marches, especially from the capital, even if neither the commander nor his second-in-command were born within its walls.
And, anyway, because there is the heir to Elia's bane, come with fewer armed men than when he left the Red Keep, but still at the head of his company; the rank and file never wavering or turning back, out of fear to betray the finest warrior in all Westeros, including Dorne and the lands beyond the Wall. --That's what's worth a look from a bold man! What would Lord Tywin say from the heaven or hell in which he spends his afterlife?-- Like the rank and file, the leader himself is reeling when they reach the next empty village a short while before the sun begins to set, but still his golden hair and green orbs, and the ever-so-conspicuous prosthetic right hand and white uniform, proclaim who and what he is.
Though what he is --a Lannister-- had hitherto been lost to who he is --Ser Jaime, not a twin sibling or the scion of a great dynasty--; this is harsh, unforgiving enemy country. The shimmering fountain on the square is as blue as her eyes, a speck of azure in a place bereft of greenery, where the few hardy plants are from golden to straw-blond. And his throat feeling as if stuffed with thorns all the way down to his chest. It's as if he were wearing a breastplate and a helmet of dragonfire, and the equally un-Dornish rank and file must be feeling the same. Flames dance before emerald eyes that seem to shrivel up in haste.
Right now, splash. Head first, as usual.
Up goes his face as down his throat rushes the soothing, cooling draught. Refreshed, as thirst and perspiration glide off him like water off a duck's back (never better said). Gasping for air. Once more, that feeling of his original right hand cut at the wrist, as the blade clanks on his right thigh.
Ominous storm clouds closing in on the twilit skies. When it rains in Dorne, it does so rarely and violently. The warriors up there in the hills must have left all their tankards and pans and helmets out of their hideouts.
The sun of Dorne is a great star, far more relentless than that of King's Landing or Lannisport. But now it's going down in a sack of clouds.
What does it take to believe in such omens?
The Lannister soldiers have found pans, kettles, vases left indoors by the non-existant villagers. They leave the containers out of doors to gather rainwater as Jaime and Bronn make themselves at home in the local holdfast.
"And why are you so downhearted?" the blond warrior asks the dark one in response to a sigh of the latter, wrapping a warm left arm around the downcast sellsword.
"I would slit your throat for a good Dornishwench, Lannister. The 'ladies' have retreated into the wasteland, and they're having it with those wicked men of their own kin. Hope we get a heartier welcome at Sunspear..."
"These clouds... the sun is going down in a sack... the great sun of Dorne... we are damned, Bronn, we are damned, pardon my Valyrian. I remember Elia... one of the first Dornish I ever saw, first as a little girl and then as a mother of two. That silky dark skin and those glossy raven locks... and those friendly midnight eyes of hers... The second time, I was a kingsguard then, at fifteen, but a mere stripling... a dutiful son and a dutiful guard... We cannot change the course of the stream of chance. I was powerless. Powerless."
Rarely do teardrops trickle from those peridot orbs, but Jaime remembering Elia and looking at the sun setting in a sack, his glances darting to the prosthetic hand and the pommel on his thigh --both on the right side--, and he's become the quivering stripling again.
Just like when his right hand was severed.
And when he was frozen in place before the carnage of the Princess Consort and her children.
And when his lady mother lay on her deathbed, and all he could do was clasp Cersei as she clasped him in return, drying up one another's tears.
"We cannot change the course of the stream of chance. What if we return home from this journey through the Seven Hells? Why do we need, friend, a foreign land, either in Dorne or further up north? Perchance the best thing would be to be realmless, as most of you sellswords are," he sobs as he wraps his left arm around the veteran's waist. It's harsh when the past resurfaces, the one-handed leader thinks, having drunk his fill, as the rains pitter-patter against the half-broken windowpanes.
Perchance he deserves rightfully to be undone by Dornish warfare himself. Powerless. Powerless to save Elia, but also to save his own flesh and blood, who also deserved such inglorious fates; from poison, from assassination, from whatever dark intrigue the Lannisters had wrought themselves and chance ironically turned upon them.
"And now the rains weep o'er his hall,
with not a soul to hear..."
Ser Jaime sings to himself, left hand on the pommel, right arm hanging by his side, lulled to sleep by a pitter-patter reminiscent of that flooded underground castle at home in the Westerlands, whose children were drowned on Lord Tywin's command as well.
The seventh day of the Dornish campaign.
Everyone is hastening to drain the containers they left that evening on the village square, either down their own throats or into their camp kegs. It's been a generous downpour, puddles on the hard golden Dornish soil and all.
And he's dreamt of them.
Of Joffrey choking after that last drink to quench all his youthful thirst, looking up and surely realising, after a painful and fixed gaze cast upon the twin siblings, that the Baratheon lush was not his real father.
Of Lord Tywin found riddled with bolts on the privy, then already decaying from within as he was laid in state, yet seemingly telling the mourning twins, wordlessly, how proud and how disappointed of them he was at the same time.
Of Cersei, once his better half, the only lock that fit his key --until someone else entered the scene--, turned a hideously broken and bloated shadow of her former self, flushed with brandy, a stripling in court dress on each arm.
Of all the slain soldiers he had led, here in Dorne and elsewhere, who never wavered when facing his piercing stare, but who eagerly whispered behind his back slurs addressed to him as a kingslayer and as a Lannister.
Of Elia and her children, and then of the children of Castamere, coming forth in peace to shake his callous left hand, the children eagerly peering at the prosthetic right, which once more was racked with pain, as he felt his own heart throb on the left side. Reconciled with their innocence nipped in the bud.
Of the northern warriors that had severed his right hand, of Brienne, of Qyburn, of poppy possets and wooden swords, of respite and rebirth as his true self.
Perchance he is not that powerless as he felt in all those days.
There is still life, and courage, and hope after all at the end of the day.
"'Tis not far to Sunspear," Jaime tells Ser Bronn, seeing the great castle jutting out on a cape, as if the fortress were part of the cliff itself, a thriving port town nestling in its shade. "Very like Casterly Rock, isn't it?" Having never seen Sunspear live before, the Lannister heir is left astonished as he steels himself, ready to rally the people on the square after they had whet their blades and saddled their steeds. Raising his right hand so that the glittering palm and fingertips rise to the sky, added to the lace on his uniform and his unkempt locks of beaten gold, all of them dazzle their eyes and encourage them further on towards an uncertain destination.
Commanding them with all the sang-froid that returns to his veins, after he has drunk and washed his face clean of perspiration --now at least a tad more Jaime and a tad less Lannister--; bareheaded, raising his right arm to the sky and lowering the left one to the hilt on his right hip; commanding all of his men upon the village square, no matter their rank or descent, to put their honours first.