Minor Miracles, 4.5/? (2016-03-11)

Helwen Hightower and the Queens of Westeros

(secrets have consequences, the truth is dangerous)

The Lion Queen

Helwen was never sure how the story would end, but she didn’t think it would end like this: with a Lannister queen upon the Iron Throne, the crown on her head almost as gold as her hair. Dragons and Stags and Wolves rebuffed under the claw of Lions and the thorns of the Roses.

She had thought she knew what the end would be–not the exact winner, but at least that the Lannisters would not triumph after everything. Worsened but not weakened, prevailing over a kingdom that hates them.

Helwen is at court again because her presence was specifically demanded and in this kind of political climate, that is not a good thing. Her hands are sweaty and shaking but she is mindful not to grip the fabric of her dress between her fingers–she cannot be seen as nervous even though that is all she can feel.

It does not matter who her cousins are, does not matter that she is the only daughter of the heir to Oldtown.

When she is brought to the chopping block, Lord Varys looks away and she does not hold that against him.

She has committed treason and nothing can save her now.

It is only because the Tyrells are allies that Wilas is allowed to take Helwen’s body home.

The Stag Queen

“Helwen,” Shireen says, sitting carefully but not fearfully upon a throne made of swords. She gestures for the other girl to stand.

It would be stupid to deny a queen anything, especially in the presence of her full power, members of her court lining the walls with watchful eyes. So Helwen doesn’t, rising to her feet, the lone Hightower standing amongst kneeling Tyrells–the Reach called to bend the knee after so many missteps or, as some of the more bloodthirsty witnesses wish, to be executed.

“Your Grace,” Helwen says, humble but unsure.

“Helwen,” Shireen repeats, thoughtful and considering and almost wondering.

A few steps back and to her right is the Onion Knight, the chain of golden hands almost obscene next to the pouch purportedly containing the bones of his missing fingertips. He looks at Shireen like she is the last hope for a dying kingdom. He looks at Helwen much the same way he looked at Lord Varys before he was executed alongside all of those who served the Lannisters.

“You have always been a dear friend of mine,” Shireen says, voice soft and high, and almost kind. Unlike the previous queen that sat upon the throne. “And a loyal subject,” she adds, just as sharp as the swords of her throne.

From the corner of her eyes, Helwen can see her cousins’ reactions: the shock on Willas’ face, the thunderous scowl on Garlan’s, the betrayal etched onto Margaery’s pretty face. How galling it must be for her: three weddings to three kings and yet the girl with greyscale becomes queen. And for her cousin of all people to have helped pave the way.

“I live to serve,” Helwen chokes out around the lump in her throat. Because she knows what Shireen is doing, even as it seems she is bestowing an honor upon her.

Helwen may have helped clear the throne of Lions, but she would have been just as satisfied with a Dragon upon it instead of a Stag, and Shireen very well knows that.

Being pronounced lady-in-waiting to the Queen is nothing to scoff at after all, neither is the implied role of Lady of Whispers, but Helwen knows the truth.

She can never go back to the Reach.

The Dragon Queen

“Helwen,” Daenerys says, sitting carefully but not fearfully upon a throne made of swords. She gestures for the other girl to stand.

It would be stupid to deny a queen anything, especially in the presence of her full power, members of her court lining the walls with watchful eyes. So Helwen doesn’t, rising to her feet, the lone Hightower standing amongst kneeling Tyrells–the Reach called to bend the knee after so many missteps or, as some of the more bloodthirsty witnesses wish, to be executed.

“Your Grace,” Helwen says, humble but unsure.

“Helwen,” Daenerys repeats, thoughtful and considering and almost wondering.

On either side of her, seated upon chairs far less grand or symbolic, are her two nephew-husbands each as different in appearance as their mothers were. Jon Snow–newly recognized as Targeryen–clearly uneasy with the glamor of court, his clothes still far more suited to the Wall which Daenerys took him from. In contrast, Aegon’s posture is steadier, but the bland smile on his face is far less honest than Jon’s: Aegon would rather be on the Iron throne than seated next to it.

Helwen can’t say she would disagree. But she’s always been good at keeping secrets. The same cannot be said of their queen.

“You have always been a dear friend of mine,” Daenerys says, voice soft and high, and almost kind. Unlike the previous queen that sat upon the throne. “And a loyal subject,” she adds, just as sharp as the swords of her throne.

“I live to serve,” Helwen murmurs, still unsure as to what the other might be leading towards.

“For your service, I grant you your rightful inheritance as Lady Hightower, unwed if you should choose” Daenerys says, and for a moment Helwen thinks that will be it. Foolishly thinking that she has succeeded, that her machinations have bore the correct results.

But there is more.

“Moreover, I decree that from now on, House Hightower is to be Lords Paramount of the Mander and Wardens of the South,” Daenerys continues.

From the corner of her eyes, Helwen can see her cousins’ reactions: the shock on Maergery’s face, the thunderous scowl on Garlan’s, the betrayal etched onto Willas’ familiar face. How distressing it must be for him: for the titles that rightfully should be his, that he has been born and raised for, that the Reach has been waiting for him to inherit all to be taken from him because of his family’s ambition. And for his cousin to have been the one to receive them for treachery.

“I live to serve,” Helwen repeats, closing her eyes, unable to think of anything else to say, unable to bear the sight of Willas looking at her like that.

Helwen may have helped clear the throne of Lions and restored the Dragon to her rightful place, but as the burning of Harrenhal can attest to: dragon fire can still destroy towers.

She knows Daenerys means well, but this is not what Helwen wanted.

The Wolf Queen

Helwen was never sure how the story would end, but she didn’t think it would end like this: with a Stark queen upon the Iron Throne, the traditional crown abandoned in exchange for the one that her brother once wore when he was King in the North.

She hadn’t expected a Stark queen to triumph over Dragons and Stags and Lions. She had expected the Wolves to eventually have a happy ending, or revenge, or as close to either as they could get, but not necessarily for them to sit upon the Iron Throne. They had no claim and, more importantly, no desire for it; no love for a kingdom that had unjustly destroyed their family.

For once, Helwen is treated the same as her Tyrell cousins: ambivalently. While the Tyrells had been kind to a girl hurt by the world in a time and place where kindness did not grow, they still had allied themselves with the Lannisters. But the Starks that remain know that sometimes survival means doing terrible things.

In contrast, while Helwen helped clear the throne of Lions that does not mean she did anything on behalf of the Wolves. Nor did she do anything to actively harm them, either.

Helwen kneels alongside her cousins and, when bidden, stands amongst them as well. For now, the Reach and all its children, despite their plotting and scheming, are safe.

The same cannot be said of Helwen’s correspondents.

When Lord Varys is brought to the chopping block, the executioner’s sword held in the hands of a Stark, Helwen does not look away. But her hands grip the fabric of her dress so tightly that she knows it will wrinkle.

Around her, once the deed has been done, members of the court seem to sigh in relief, thinking the Spider finally dead and their secrets safe.

They are wrong.

His little birds simply have a different tower to roost in.

~

A/N: Who the hell is Helwen? Check out Minor Miracles, part 4/? here.

… So here’s more about Helwen. I was trying to write about a different person but Helwen was like–hey, what’s gonna happen to me. Am I gonna die?–and I was like, god, Helwen fine let me settle the matter for you. Except then I was like… I guess it really does depend on which family wins the game… So here are four possible futures for Helwen Hightower.

Also I wanted to leave it ambiguous as to whether or not the Lannister queen was Cersei or Myrcella and whether or not the Stark queen was Sansa or Arya.

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.