Minor Miracles, 5/? (2016-03-09)

Jesena Sand

(a snake, a shark; a predator with teeth)

Technically, Jesena is a Sand Snake–one of Oberyn Martell’s acknowledged bastard daughters–in practice, she’s never fully belonged. After all, while the other Sand Snakes are loyal to their father and Dorne, Jesena was raised to be loyal to one thing above all else: the Iron Bank of Braavos.

Although, that is not to say that Jesena did not also enjoy the Water Gardens as a child, or learn how to ride on a Dornish Sand Steed, or train in weaponry and poisons and subterfuge alongside her half-sisters. Because she did. And she is both grateful and fond of those times.

But while Oberyn made it clear to the mothers of his other daughters that they were first and foremost his, with Jesena’s mother he was willing to compromise. After all, the Iron Bank is not a force you want to antagonize when you can ally with it instead.

And so Jesena is to follow after her mother’s footsteps–as an Iron Banker of Braavos.

Supposedly, Jesena’s mother was the daughter of the Merling Queen–the previous one, that is–and while she was just as beautiful, there was something about her. She wanted blood, not wine, she wanted to take money not have it given to her. She left her inheritance as a courtesan in order to follow the path of a banker.

Supposedly.

It’s likely there are some hints of truth in the story. Perhaps Jesena’s mother was once a Mermaid, a lovely but poor girl elevated above her station, and yet still wanting more. Regardless of what the truth may be, the story still lingers.

Jesena’s mother is known as Rina Squalo–the Shark of the Iron Bank.

The Iron Bank of Braavos is unlike banks that Jesena remembers from that place and time that she keeps secret. Or rather, it is something more. It is independent of the Braavos government and yet it has the personnel and organization of an agency that would be in her former world.

When Jesena is twelve, the age Westerosi highborn boys become squires and girls get betrothed, she becomes an Iron Bank cadet. At first, she is one in a class of twenty other Braavosi adolescents, trying to learn enough to make the cut.

After a year of learning maths and culture and language and water dancing and, actually, many things she already learned at her father’s side, Jesena graduates alongside five of her classmates. Under the guidance of an experience banker, she is put on an apprentice team with two others and all three of them are given new names: Noho Dimittis, Tycho Nestoris, and Sena Martello.

“It seems… rather on the nose, don’t you think?” The newly renamed Noho Dimittis asks his teammates, “Isn’t the whole point of these new identities to be to protect our families?”

Tycho, whose new last name literally just means ‘scion’ and who is the grandson of one of the council members running the Iron Bank, just shrugs.

Jesena, in contrast, considers it fully, “Sometimes your family name can be a weapon instead of a shield,” she says.

“Oh yeah, Hammer?” Tycho responds pointedly of Jesena’s new last name.

“I was thinking more of a spear,” she says, “A sun and spear.”

Noho, Tycho, and Jesena learn, and soon enough are sent off on collections of their own.

Noho is known for somehow surviving the most hostile situations, Tycho for weaving and entrapping new clients, and Jesena? Well, she is the daughter of a viper and a shark–there aren’t many things deadlier than she.

When the time comes, Noho is sent to deal with Mad Queen Cersei, Tycho with the stony, self-styled King Stannis Baratheon, and when it comes time for Jesena’s assignment the council gives her a choice:

Daenerys Targaryen or Aegon Targaryen.

Which dragon would she rather take on?

While Jesena will always be loyal to the Iron Bank of Braavos above all else, that does not mean she is at cross-purposes with Dorne’s agenda. She will always be proud and thankful for the other half of her heritage.

The other half of Aegon’s.

In the end, it’s not really a choice at all.

~

A/N: So… you can probably tell that I was writing some DoS recursive fic simultaneously. But… uh. JESENA SAND aka Sena Martello, the badass banker from Braavos.

I basically picture the Iron Bank training super elite bankers kind of like Interpol agents or at least the secret agents you see in movies.

So Dimittis means “release” in Latin, Nesto(ris) means “scion” in Italian, and Martello means “hammer” in Italian. And originally, I was going for the hammerhead shark kind of thing… but then Martello sounded too much like Martell for that not to be a thing…

Minor Miracles, 4/? (2016-03-05)

Helwen Hightower

(not all knowledge is meant for the light of day)

Helwen is the only child of Baelor Brightsmile, who himself is the heir of Leyton Hightower.

It is not a problem yet, but she is daughter not heiress–give it time.

“No need to look so grim, little cousin,” Willas says amused, smoothing his hand over her hair. She forgot to tie it up before delving into the library this morning–no doubt it is a horrible mess. But in a way, Willas has always been more Hightower than Tyrell, and so he does not mind.

“Uncle would never wed you to someone stupid or cruel,” he finishes, in what he must think is a comforting manner.

It’s not his fault it fails. Were she a different ten year old highborn girl of Westeros that might be enough.

But she is not, and so it is not.

She’s not worried about the intelligence or kindness of her potential husband. She’s angry that she even needs one.

She tries to explain to her father, but though he listens, he is still a man in a culture of systematic patriarchy. Mother, too, doesn’t understand her concerns.

They worry that she’ll end up like Aunt Malora, the “Mad Maid,” but that’s not the case at all. She doesn’t hate marriage, she just hates that she needs to be married to get what ought to be rightfully hers.

Helwen realizes that, if she wants to maintain her lifestyle in the future, she’ll have to secure it herself.

She starts small. Or rather, near.

She knows that, despite the disastrous tournament that resulted in Willas’ bad leg, he corresponds with Oberyn Martell. It’s a tenuous connection at best, especially given the traditional enmity between the Reach and Dorne, but it’s the only one she has.

“Do you think I could write to his daughters?” Helwen asks tentatively, glancing at her cousin from the corner of her eye.

The surprise is obvious on Willas’ face–no doubt struggling to resolve the idea of his young, bookish cousin wanting to befriend the Sand Snakes whose collective reputation can only be described as fearsome.

But he has always been concerned for her–the only child in a castle full of adults and books. And though he understands why Helwen doesn’t want to be one of Margaery’s aptly nicknamed flower girls, he still thinks her lonely.

He might not be wrong, but he is not entirely right, either.

Correspondence with the Sand Snakes go well–which is surprising even to Helwen. She thought, at most, they would indulge her for a letter or two before stopping, but that’s not the case.

While Obara’s letters are sparse and mostly talk about weaponry, and Nymeria’s are long and winding things that give absolutely nothing away, Helwen has actually met with Tyene and Sarella. As a septa and trader’s daughters respectively, they are the two Snakes which best correspond to Helwen’s own position as first daughter of Oldtown.

But it would perhaps be overly generous to call Helwen friends with the Sand Snakes. First of all, there is the continued cultural differences that even the most earnest letters would not be able to overcome. Second, there is an age gap–and while they respect her intelligence, she’s still technically a child. Third? Well.

There are some secrets she’ll never tell, and the Snakes know that.

But they don’t need to be friends to be allies, and who else would Helwen turn to help her overthrow the Lannisters?

The Reach has enjoyed a blessed existence–rich in natural resources, situated for mild climes and profitable trade–and Oldtown is its crown jewel.

When Helwen turns eleven, the Hightower receives no less than twenty suits for her hand in marriage and more are incoming. She is no beauty like her cousin Margaery, but that does not matter–she is any man’s ticket to the seat of Oldtown.

Her mother is excited at her prospects, Helwen is less appreciative.

Her father takes great pride in rejecting the lesser suits, and he promises not to let her ends up like Aunt Lynesse who eloped with some minor Northern lord only to return home once the man was exiled as a slaver.

Helwen looks at her father in surprise and thanks him–not for the vow, though that is appreciated, but for the information. Aunt Lynesse’s slaver ex-husband? Jorah Mormont–Daenerys Targaryen’s Bear Knight.

She doesn’t know how she’ll cultivate this tenuous connection, but its more than she had before. And plus, the Reach had been loyal to the Targaryens during Robert’s Rebellion–she has until the Tyrell’s formally claim alliance with Renly Baratheon to establish another correspondence.

Maybe the Dragon Queen will allow Helwen to keep the Hightower seat.

Just in case, she leans heavily on her grandfather’s current Florent wife to cultivate her own Baratheon alliance.

Shireen Baratheon is both younger and lonelier than Helwen was, and far easier to influence.

Dragon Queen or Stag Queen, Helwen believes in hedging her bets.

Now if only she could figure out how to get a Stark.

Despite all protests, Helwen goes to King’s Landing. She will not be there for long, to her mother’s despair–hoping that the trip would become Helwen’s debut in court–but her cousin is getting married (again) to a king (again) and so Helwen is expected to make an appearance.

She doesn’t enjoy it at all, constantly on edge and paranoid that someone will know what she’s been doing for the past four years. That she’ll be accused of treason and thrown into jail, while the Tyrells are accused of the same and the Lannisters turn their claws on her family.

While the latter does not happen the former does.

“Lady Helwen,” Lord Varys greets mildly, after she rebuffs the latest knight attempting to steal her birthright. Unlike most girls her age, she thinks she almost prefers the Spider’s company than the false charm of an ambitious minor lord.

Almost.

“Lord Varys,” she returns, just as mild.

“I commend you on your collection,” he says. And to an eavesdropper, it may seem like he is referring to her well-known love of books. Or, to one more politically inclined, even her frustratingly ever increasing number of suitors.

But she knows what he means; her back stiffens even as she thanks him for the compliment. It is, in its own way, flattering that the ultimate spymaster has acknowledged her own burgeoning ring. Though, for obvious reasons, such a thing is also incredibly dangerous.

What exactly does he want from her?

“Now is not the time, what with the festivities and your dear cousin’s upcoming nuptuals,” Varys says, “but I understand Hightower used to have quite the aviary.”

Helwen considers the statement and the offer hidden within, “I’m open to discussion,” she responds with a smile, “send me a letter.”

~

A/N: So what I know of the Hightowers I got from the Wiki of Ice and Fire here and also the absolutely fantastic fic Rough Winds Do Shake by SecondStarOnTheLeft.

When I first thought about making a Hightower character, I wasn’t expecting her to be so ambitious or political… but I also didn’t realize until I checked the Wiki that Baelor didn’t have any children. Which means Helwen would be the only Hightower of her generation and, well, as is obvious from the ficlet, she doesn’t want her inheritance to go to someone else.