|The Lioness & Her Sister|
|Summary:||In which Magnola Lannister informs Saffron about her courtship.|
|Date:||20 May 2012|
|Related Logs:||A Favor from the Lady Ghost and Afraid of Freying|
|The Lannister Tent - The Tournament Grounds|
|Morning of the Joust|
For a day and night, the storm clouds besieged the skies over the Twins. Rain fell at a constant, changing only in tempo from downright pouring to lazy sprinkling. It was late morning before the sun fought through the walls of dismal grey to shine upon the soggy tournament grounds. It brought with it warmth, and burned off the fog that had tried to strangle out the day. Saffron Banefort, shadowed by her two faithful guards, was one of the first women to dare the outside. Instructed by the wisdom of her crony minder, she wore an older gown that would not be ill-fated by the swaths of mud and wet clay left behind by the night’s storm.
A summons had come to the tent earlier that morning from the Lannisters, specifically Magnola Lannister. Her oldest sister had been lucky to be matched so neatly with Tysin Lannister of Lannisport—a marriage that was meant to strengthen the bonds between the Westerland houses. The Baneforts would have done better to have wed Magnola’s sickly sister to the Lannister instead, for Terra Banefort would have not been blinded by the glitter of the Lannister wealth that she would forget where she came from. Letters between Magnola and her family, especially her younger sisters, became shorter and shorter, less and less personal. By the time Terra died of her fever, it was as if Lord Bernard Banefort had lost two daughters, leaving the barely-tamed Saffron as his next hope for a proper legacy. It was no wonder over the last year her shoulders had started to slump as more and more weight was placed upon them.
Now, as she neared the Lannister tent, all gold and red, and shining like the renewed sun, she felt them collapse even further beneath the ill-fit collar of her gown. She self-consciously began to adjust the skirts, tugging at the cuffs of her sleeves, and tucking a silken lock of strawberry-red behind her ear. She had spent all morning scrubbing her skin, picking the dirt out from under her nails, and scrutinizing her reflection in the mirror glass.
"Remember," she said in a soft breath, "we are just as proud as they." And she looked over her shoulder to her guards; Punbah and Timmen looked equally downtrodden as they came within sight of the gleaming red breastplate and spaulders of the men posted just outside the tent’s opened flaps.
"Lady Saffron Banefort to see Lady Magnola Lannister," Saffron announced to the Lannister guards. She expected that she would be made to wait, as Magnola loved reminding her inferiors that their time was not as important as hers. Instead, there came a shrilling note of excitement and her sister nearly exploded out of the tent.
"Saffy!" The Lannister squealed as she embraced her. It would have been far more crushing if not for the swollen belly now sandwiched between them. No word had come to Saffron, nor she assumed the Banefort, about her sister’s third pregnancy. It should not have shaken her as much as it did.
"Maggie," Saffron said breathlessly as she stepped back to provide an arm’s length distance between them. "By the Seven, you are enormous."
Her sister giggled in the same manner she had done in her youth. It was attractive and warm, and now somehow maternal. It was hard not to smile when she laughed, and Saffron found herself dimpling in response. "Twins, they believe," Magnola said, rubbing at her belly with a glowing smile. "I will give my husband four sons, and only have swollen ankles thrice."
"You are blessed," Saffron said as she was shuffled into the tent, soiling the beautiful rugs inside shamefully with muck and mud. Her sister didn’t notice—and why should she? They would be replaced within a fortnight. It was the Lannister way, even the Lannisters of Lannisport.
Magnola heaved herself into a chair full of cushions, pillows, and furs. Despite the giant swell that changed her form, she was still as beautiful as ever. She had the glorious red hair that all of Lord Bernard’s daughters had been blessed with, though hers was far more golden than Saffron’s. Where Saffron had a more oval face, Magnola’s was heart-shaped without a freckle and her eyes were a far darker blue. She had the same dimples, and her smile was just as infectious.
Saffron claimed a chair adjacent to hers, and fretfully started to smooth out her skirts. She could feel the weight of her sister’s gaze, though she did her best to delay looking up into that scrutinizing face.
“You still haven’t found yourself a good seamstress, Saffron,” Magnola said in a voice all too like their mother’s. “That dress looks like it was meant for someone two inches shorter and several pounds heavier around the hips. You drove poor Terra mad every time she made you a dress. She was meticulous with your measurements, and still you seemed to have caused it to never fit.”
“This dress is just old, Magnola,” Saffron replied now looking up into the judgmental eyes of her sister. “I promise you, the dress I intend to wear for the tilt will not dishonor your tastes.” And she smiled, though it was strained. She did not give her time to retort, plowing forward with the necessary conversation. “You said you needed to speak to me, so here I am. What is on your mind, Sister?”
A silent maidservant had dematerialized from behind all the fiery textiles within the tent with a pitcher of juice in hand. Magnola gestured for both of their cups to be filled, forcing Saffron’s question to hang there unanswered until the maid had finished the necessary chore and returned to stand behind the Lannister.
“Well,” Magnola finally said as if no time at all had passed. “Obviously, I want to speak about the news of Walden Frey.” And she smiled, full dimpled and earnest, as if her sister would know immediately how to continue that point of conversation. Instead, the younger of the two redheads just looked confused.
“I’m sorry, Sister… I’m not up to date on the gossip around the Twins,” Saffron said in a patient, albeit confused, voice. She reached to take her cup of juice, anything to busy her fingers so they stopped twisting up together in her lap. “You will have to give me more before I can reply.”
What she received was a laugh, bursting and incredulous. Magnola leaned forward over that swollen belly to look at Saffron with wide, astonished eyes. “Come now, Saffy! I know you’ve heard about the courtship! Stop playing coy!”
Again, Saffron looked confused. “I’m not playing at anything,” she said reproachfully. “Who is Walden Frey courting?” Then she blinked, her eyes widening. “He’s not courting a Lannister, is he? Your new House can’t possibly be that desperate.”
“Oh please,” Magnola said with a touch of distaste. “As if Tywin—” She said the Lord Lannister’s name with such familiarity, as if they had long ago become best friends, “—would approve a Frey marrying into the Lannisters.” She wrinkled her nose as if she had caught scent of something foul, though then relaxed into a smile once more and continued slyly, “no, no. He’s to begin courting a Banefort.”
Saffron stared at her sister, who continued to smile with those irritating dimples and laughing eyes. Her mind went into a panic, groping around for logic, for reason… for damned sense! How many eligible Baneforts were there? How many cousins, how many nieces? “Grenna is too young,” Saffron said finally in a hushed protest.
“Quite,” Magnola said as she sipped at her juice. Her eyes remained trained on Saffron whose brow had gone tense with thought. She became inpatient, clapping her hands together suddenly. “Its you, Saffron!”
It was then that the bottom fell out of Saffron’s gut. The room tilted sideways, and she felt a great weight in her legs as she desperately tried to remain anchored in the real world. This is what waking nightmares must have felt like. Her knuckles had gone white as she gripped the cup in her hands.
“But,” Saffron began in protest, “but, you just said the Lannisters would never marry a Frey.” Her voice sounded feathery in her own ears, distant and light.
“The Lannisters, no,” Magnola agreed with a nod of her golden-red head. “But the Baneforts, certainly.” Whether or not she meant her words to be unkind, they twisted up in Saffron’s gut like a knife. She was left to merely listen to her sister trill onward. “I mean, look at how marrying a Banefort to a lesser Riverlands house went? Now, you know I love Annie, but honestly she married so poorly. She was lovely, she could have married a Tully! Now of course, you can’t marry a Tully. You are too far from the actual House seat. It makes sense to marry you to a smaller, but still prominent house. I mean, the Frey house isn’t small. But, I mean in prestige of course.” There was a sudden pause. “Saffron… Saffron? You look terrible.” What little concern that was in Magnola’s voice was quickly replaced by chiding. “Did you go running around in the rain again? You know Mother will have a fit if you’ve gotten yourself sick. Remember what Father said, you are supposed to be stopping all that nonsen—”
“Magnola, by the Seven, will you shut up!” Saffron was on her feet, her voice raging in something not quite a scream, but definitely loud enough to cause one of the Lannister guards to look in on them in concern. She had dropped her cup, the bright red liquid staining the hems of her dress and the carpets beneath her feet. Magnola looked up at her with wide eyes, her mouth gaping. No one raised their voice like that to Magnola Lannister nee Banefort. It must have given her quite a fright. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her belly, protective of the treasures she carried. The sight was enough to draw Saffron back down in her seat, the numbness sinking in again.
“Saffron,” Magnola said after a moment of shared silence. “I pray you not to do that again.” Her voice was so small and demure, Saffron felt a swell of guilt start in her chest. She merely nodded, breathing deep through her nose. Nothing could stop her heart from pounding.
“I’m to marry a Frey,” Saffron mustered finally.
“If the courtship goes well,” Magnola replied. The Lannister began to relax again, loosening her arms and straightening once more in her seat. “Negotiations have already started between Lord Frey and the Banefort, but the Freys want to make sure you aren’t cursed.”
Saffron blinked. “Cursed?”
“Well, you have managed to kill three men just by swearing your heart to them.”
That was enough to cut through the numb haze, and Saffron blurted out an outrageous, half-insane laugh. “What?”
“Well,” Magnola started, counting off on her fingers. “First was the boy who fell out of the apple tree two weeks after you kissed him—”
“We were six, and it was an accident! I wasn’t even there!”
“Then there was Ser Jeoffin Greenfield who was trampled by his horse after you gave him your favor—”
“I was thirteen, and you encouraged me!”
“And then, of course, there’s Ser Etin Graves,” Magnola said as she tapped her ring-finger for number three. It silenced Saffron, who stared at her with disbelieving eyes. “You were betrothed to him for, what, six months, and he died of a broken neck after falling down some stairs at Pyke. After the battle was over, as I hear it.” Magnola looked almost smug at the pale, aghast look on her sister’s face. “So, obviously you can see why the Freys are worried you might be cursed.”
“I was told Ser Etin died in the heat of battle,” was all Saffron could muster. She hated the pitying look her sister gave her, and how she reached out to pat Saffron’s hand as if she were slow and gullible.
“I’m sure they told you that to save you embarrassment,” Magnola said patronizingly.
It was all Saffron could take. She was on her feet, but this time without the anger to fuel her movements. She tripped over a bit of rug underfoot as she stumbled for the tent entrance. She could hear her sister’s voice, imploring her to come back, to stay and chat. Instead she stepped out into the dazzling sun of the day, her mind now as dark as the clouds that had consumed the night.