Chapter Title: Yorick Sand
Fandom(s): A Song of Ice and Fire
Word Count: 2,880
Summary: Five people who loved Elia Martell in secret, and one who told her.
When the West Wind Moves
i. Yorick Sand
i. Yorick Sand
Mother said never to wander into the palace, but obeying orders is so boring. The pools of the Water Gardens, she’d said, were open to everyone, and Yorick was welcome to play in them with all the other children, but the interior was only for the royal family and their attendants. Bastards have no place within.
But Mother, he’d whined, I thought it doesn’t matter that I’m a Sand. That’s only for northerners.
She’d patted his head. Not always, my son. Best stay away.
Only…what Mother doesn’t know won’t hurt her. He’s not sure exactly what she does during the day, just that she’s always tired and there’s not enough coin for her to hire someone to properly supervise him. He’s always been resourceful, though, and responsible, so Mother leaves him to his own devices when she’s out.
That also means that it’s easy to slip out of sight, and on this day, his excitement mounting, he wanders away, the squeals and laughter of children growing quieter. He peeks around the corner, and quickly evades a passing guard. He’s noticed the ones at the Water Gardens are nice enough—or at least he’s observed it, none have ever spoken to him—but each of them carries a spear sharp enough to shave with.
As swift as he is, he thinks one of the guards catches a glimpse of him when he hurries into the palace, and he hides behind one of the pillars, crouching into a ball deep in the shadows. The guard doesn’t come for him, as it happens, but somebody else does.
“Who are you?” asks a girl somewhat younger than him and thin, the sort of thinness he’s known well. She’s dressed far nicer, though, in some shiny material of bright blue with a big white magnolia tucked over her ear.
It dawns upon him too late that he probably should have lied. “Yorick Sand.”
“Sand? But…” She frowns a moment, then shrugs and bobs a curtsey. “My name is Elia Martell.”
He doesn’t know much about a lot of things, but he does know the name Martell, and it has him gulping. “You’re a princess?”
“Mhm. I won’t rule, though. That’ll be my big brother’s job. He’s a squire for Lord Gargalen.”
She bursts into a coughing fit, her small body wracking with the force of it until he’s afraid she might expel a lung. He rushes forward, not sure what to do. Just as he’s considering calling for the guards he’d tried to avoid, her coughs begin to subside, and she waves him off. She sucks in a breath that has a worrying rattling sound behind it.
“I’m all right,” she assures. He doesn’t believe her. “I fall ill sometimes, that’s all.”
Even though he’s only seven, living the way he does means he’s learned to read expressions, and right now he sees the sadness in her, the disappointment, like she expects him to leave. “I could be a squire,” he pipes up. He strikes a pose, wielding an imaginary sword. “I’ll be the greatest knight who ever lived!”
She giggles, and he decides he likes that sound much better than her cough. “I think you could, Yorick Sand.”
Puffing out his chest, he declares, “A knight needs a princess to save. Can I save you?”
She holds out her hand, and he blinks, befuddled. “You’re s’posed to kiss it.”
Elia opens her mouth to respond, then bites her lip. “I don’t know. Just because.” Yorick does, though judging by her grimace, he’s not sure he did it right. “Now you can save me.”
“Elia!” yells a voice from somewhere in the depths of the palace. “Little lady, where have you gone?”
“My septa,” Elia pouts. “I thought I’d lost her.”
Yorick blanches. If they thought the princess missing, then there would surely be guards on the lookout as well, and he will be in mountains of trouble. “I have to go,” he says, backing away from her. She calls his name as he breaks into a run, bare feet slapping against the pink marble. He glances over his shoulder to check if he’s being followed—which means he doesn’t see the man in front of him until they collide.
“Whoa there!” The man yanks him up by his collar before he can fall to the ground. “Where are you headed so fast?”
Yorick looks up at the man, only marginally glad he’s not carrying a spear, for if he’s in the palace, he must be important. “I—nowhere, I’m sorry, m’lord.”
Mother had always told him to be contrite.
The man smiles, his hazel eyes gentle. He crouches down and asks, “What’s your name, boy?”
“That’s Yorick Sand, Papa,” Elia supplies, flouncing up to them. Yorick groans—how bad must his luck be to run into the princess and her father the Prince Consort of Dorne?
Elia’s septa shouts for her again, and Yorick flinches, needing to get away, but the man’s grip is too tight—
“On the run, are you, Yorick?” The man looks him up and down, and Yorick flushes, knowing what he sees. Raggedy clothes, unkempt hair, crooked teeth, dirty feet. The man fixes Elia with a stern look and chides, “The next time you bring a friend into the palace, you need to tell someone, sweetling.”
“I didn’t bring him,” Elia objects, putting her hands on her hips. “I found him.”
“I just wanted to see inside, that’s all,” Yorick blurts out. “I meant no harm, m’lord prince, really I didn’t.”
Trystane Manwoody appraises him for a moment, then squeezes his shoulder. “No, I don’t believe you did, Yorick. I’d like to speak with your parents, however.”
“I only got a mother, m’lord,” he mumbles. She’s going to kill him. “She won’t be around for hours yet.”
“Well, it’s a good thing we have hours then, isn’t it?”
Princess Loreza takes the news of Yorick’s presence less well than her husband had, and he suspects that’s the exact reason she hadn’t been told until after the prince had met with Yorick’s mother and come to an arrangement. He feels like an entirely new person, though, transformed in the span of a single day. The maids had given him a hot bath, scrubbed his skin raw, washed and cut his hair, served him food so rich he promptly threw it all up, and provided him with sets of clothes that he knows are worth more than his mother could make in a lifetime. He feels rather like an impostor, or maybe that this is a dream, but for as long as it’s offered to him, he’s not going to object.
He learns in short order that despite the plethora of children he’d always played with in the pools and the various sons and daughters of the Martells’ attendants and the Princess’s ladies-in-waiting, Elia doesn’t have much in the way of friends. She’s perfectly gracious to all, the flawless princess, but apart from her brother Oberyn, it’s plain to Yorick that no one her age particularly wants to spend time with her.
It baffles him until he happens upon two boys chatting, and decides to eavesdrop. Elia would say it’s impolite—Mother would tell him to listen carefully. And listen he does. Oh does he. They speak of her health, mostly, of how they’d heard she wasn’t expected to reach her first name day, that now she’s doomed to die before her tenth, that they find it taxing to play with her because she can’t play in the same ways they can. She can’t run, nor go outside when the weather’s bad, and now and then the maester decrees she’s not to play at all. They say Princess Loreza hawks over her daughter, gnashing her teeth this way and that, that it’s no fun to pretend to be her friend, and that even their sisters complained.
He’s heard enough. One of the guards has to be called to pull him off the boys in the end, such is his anger. He’s bloodied them both, given one a black eye and the other a wrenched shoulder. The guard doesn’t listen to his explanations, merely deposits him in the Princess’s solar and waits outside the doors. When the Princess makes her appearance, Yorick does his best not to be intimidated, though he very much is.
Fearful she’s going to send him away, he blurts out, “I had to, m’lady, you should’ve heard what they were saying! They were mean and no one should talk about Elia that way—”
“Yorick.” He withers instantly, such is her commanding tone. No wonder she rules Dorne, he thinks. She’s as fearsome as Princess Nymeria. “You are not here to be punished.”
“I’m not?” He’s gotten in fights before, and he was always punished for it, no matter how much the other person deserved it.
“No.” There’s the briefest twitch of her lips, almost a laugh. “A gentleman should never debase himself with such brawls, but I can hardly scold you for standing up for my daughter.” She grows sad for a moment, the lines in her face deepening. “Elia has far too few protectors. I want to thank you, child.”
“Oh,” is all he can manage to say.
She leans across her desk, clasping her hands together. “I am inclined to keep you here, Yorick. Elia is fond of you, and I don’t want to take you from her. But I cannot have you fighting anymore. This is a palace, and while you are our ward, you must adhere to our standards. Do you understand?”
Yorick nods vigorously. “Yes, m’lady princess, yes, I do.”
Whether at the Water Gardens or Sunspear, he goes where Elia goes, determined to not let the Princess’s mercy go to waste. She doesn’t grow much as the years pass, not like he does, not like her brother does. Three years after Prince Trystane plucked him up by the shirt collar, Arthur and Ashara Dayne arrive in Sunspear, and Yorick’s hackles instantly rise at the newcomers. He discovers in due course that he needn’t have been worried, for Ashara sticks to Elia like glue and Arthur is too busy polishing Prince Lewyn’s armor and getting thwacked by tourney swords to do much anything else. The Starfall squire does nicely ask him to practice every now and then, though, so he supposes he can’t be that bad.
On his thirteenth name day, Prince Trystane tells him the Lemonwood master-at-arms has agreed to take him on as a squire, and it isn’t until he’s past the gates of Sunspear that he realizes how much he’d come to rely on Elia’s company, her secret smiles and her light touches. But the opportunity to become a knight, trained by a real swordsman, is too good to pass up, especially given that it’s being offered by the Princess of Dorne’s own consort. So he goes, Elia’s kiss on his cheek staying with him the entire way there. It doesn’t feel like so far a distance, for Elia writes him twice a week, most of it sundry and superfluous but occasionally filled with fears or stories.
When the fever ravages the coast, it takes Prince Trystane along with it, and hardly a word is spoken at the funeral. Princess Loreza doesn’t cry—he’s not sure she even knows how—but there is a coldness in her eyes that wasn’t there before, and she doesn’t so much as acknowledge him when he offers his condolences. She doesn’t acknowledge anybody, for that matter. The pleasantries fall to Doran, who is grimmer than ever, and Yorick feels utterly helpless.
He’s comforted, at least, in knowing that Elia and Oberyn are supported. The Daynes are at their sides through everything, Elia gripping Ashara’s hand so hard the younger woman’s fingers turn white, and once, half-hidden in shadow away from the other mourners, he even sees Oberyn sobbing silently, Arthur’s embrace the only reason he’s upright.
He thinks he’s been forgotten entirely, until that night Elia crawls into his bed, and he holds her until she cries herself dry. He wakes before she does, and he can’t help but stare at her. Her hair is a mess, her eyes puffy and red, her forehead creased with a frown, but all he thinks is, I want this. I could die happy if it meant every morning this is what I saw.
The realization that he loves her doesn’t come as a surprise—maybe he’s always loved her—and a spark of hope blooms in his chest at the possibility that she feels the same. After all, it had been he she sought out for comfort, not Ashara Dayne or Arthur. She hadn’t gone to her brothers to reassure her, nor her cousins or uncle or anyone else. It had been him.
Maybe, he dares to think, maybe she loves me, too.
His chance to tell her comes a year later, when a tourney is announced to honor Doran’s marriage to Lady Mellario of Norvos. The field of jousters is a formidable one, but Yorick has trained for this since he stepped foot in Lemonwood. He would name Elia the Queen of Love and Beauty and finally tell her what he’s been harboring all this time.
It goes well, initially. He triumphs over all opponents, handily in many cases, and the cheers he receives are music to his ears. They cheer for a bastard, the son of a woman nobody paid attention to. Daeron Vaith wins his bracket to earn a place in the champion’s tilt, and Yorick’s confidence soars, for he knows he can beat him. And then it promptly plummets as he watches Arthur unhorse his cousin Ryon, the heir to Godsgrace, without breaking a sweat and suddenly the path to the crown becomes treacherous.
Elia beams at him in encouragement from the royal stands, and he marshals his courage. Just because Arthur had been named the Sword of the Morning doesn’t mean Yorick can’t best him. If he imagines Arthur as he was at eleven, all elbows and knees, he no longer seems so intimidating. Arthur nods at him and they don their helms.
Yorick breaks four lances against him, but the last catches him squarely in the chest, and he feels himself lose his position in the saddle. The next thing he knows, he’s flat on his back, his head ringing like a bell from where it had hit the ground. He clenches his hands into fists, furiously angry, cursing himself for his error.
The knight of Starfall comes into view, helping him up from the ground and clapping him on the back. “You’re a worthy opponent, old friend. I just got lucky.”
“No, you didn’t,” says Yorick. The disappointment courses through him in torrents. Next time, he vows. Next time I’ll win. Next time, I’ll tell her everything.
The champion’s tilt requires half again as many lances, but ultimately Lord Vaith’s son falls backwards off his horse, and Arthur is declared the victor. After offering Vaith a hand up, Arthur waits for Princess Loreza to slide the crown of yellow marigolds onto his lance, and without so much as a second’s deliberation canters his horse towards the royal stands. Except it is not the bride in front of whom he comes to a halt, nor his sister, nor his mother, nor any number of other maidens.
It is into Elia’s lap that he delicately places the crown, and he proclaims in a voice that carries clear across the lists, “For you, princess, the fairest one of all.”
A poisoned spear through the gut would hurt less. He’s not surprised at Arthur naming Elia the Queen of Love and Beauty—he’d wanted to do the same thing. It’s the expressions on their faces that do him in. He recognizes Arthur’s well, for the emotion behind it is the same as what Yorick feels every day, except Elia had never looked at him the way she’s looking at Arthur. Her cheeks are tinged a lovely pink as she places the circlet on her head, her smile almost obscene with what it promises.
He’d thought…well, he supposes it doesn’t matter what he’d thought.
He readies himself to return to Lemonwood after the tourney’s conclusion, saying his requisite goodbyes to everyone, but before he can leave, Elia pulls him aside. “You’ve been acting funny ever since the joust. Are you all right?” she asks. “Is it because of Arthur? I told him he oughtn’t show off so much.”
Truthfully, he hadn’t thought Arthur to be showing off much at all, but if Elia wants to take Yorick’s side, he won’t object. “I might have hit my head or something when I fell. I don’t mean to be acting funny.”
I’m in love with you, he wants to say. Love me back, Elia, please.
“Oh, good,” she says in relief. “Not that you’re hurt, of course, I just…I care about you, Yorick. You’re my dearest friend.”
Friend. A single word, with a blow heavier than any warhammer.
“I…care about you, too.”
She embraces him tightly and wishes him safe travels as he falls in with the Dalt retinue, a gaping hollowness where his heart used to be.