Margaery’s day started much like many others in Highgarden. She stood in the orchards watching the children play under the crystal blue sky while whispy white clouds hung low in the sky like the tomatoes that dangled from the plants in her garden. Highgarden was a place of perpetual beauty. It always felt like Spring here with some kind of flower always in bloom, and birds darting and swooping through the air, singing songs of wonderment and joy. Butterflies flittered about, carefree. Young sheep bleated with calls and cries to their mothers, as bees went about their work amongst the fields of marigold and poppy. The trees of Highgarden were so full of fruit, their limbs hung almost to the ground. Young children were charged with the task of picking the pears and apples and lemons and plums from the trees to relieve them of their burdens before the weight of the fruit caused the limbs to snap.
But not Margaery. Now 16, she was a woman grown, and her duties were much more important than picking fruit.
This afternoon, Margaery Tyrell was informed she was to marry a King.
Arranged by her brother, Ser Loras, and their father, she was to marry Renly Baratheon, brother to the slain King Robert. By doing so, she would bring great honour to her family, and unite the entire Seven Kingdoms. Many considerations that she dare not voice raced through her mind. Family duty was important, and a wedding was in her future. So, she walked, and contemplated, and walked.
“Will I be a good queen? Yes, I WILL, she determined, and Renly will have to be a better king than his brother Robert. Surely Renly will treat me better than his brother treated Queen Cercei. I’ve heard such terrible things about the drunken whore king, and his plethora of bastards.”
“Will Renly be able to love me as he loves Loras? Be able to plant little princes and princesses to grow inside of me?” Margaery regarded her family’s sigil, the rose, flying from the banners around the tents in the grove.
“Family,” she thought. “Neither Father nor Willis will be able to come to King’s Landing, but grandmother will.” She thought fondly of her grandmother, whom some called “the Queen of Thornes” because she did not hide her tongue or her rapier wit. She was blunt and to the point, and people often regarded her with fear. But, that strength is one of the many reasons Margaery, the now future queen, admired and loved her grandmother so dearly and sought to emulate her – strong and fierce when necessary, yet kind to those she loved.
The more questions she had, the less answers she found, and the more questions were born, so she walked, and she thought, and she wondered, and she walked.
As she walked, the orchards around her turned into fields of flowing wheat. After a time, the fields of wheat gave way to fields of corn. The first time Margaery realized how far she had gone, was when she noticed that she was fully covered in stalks of corn, growing three feet over her head. She turned around to see just how far she had walked from the castle. She could see only the towers of the castle in the distance now. The buildings where she lived and the walls that protected her and her family were all gone from her view.
“It looks so small from here,” she thought, with wonder “Like a toy, like one of father’s paintings.” A realization dawned suddenly. “Father! Oh, Father! He is going to be so upset. I better head back now.” How had she managed to wander so far from the grounds with no one questioning or following?
Margaery turned back towards the castle, wishing she had not gone so far alone. Twilight was settling in, and the sun sitting low in the sky set the horizon on fire. The fluffy white clouds were replaced by gray streaks, outlined in black and red. Clouds no longer dangled like tomatoes, they drifted like morning fog over a warm lake.
Dark quickly approaching, Margaery lifted her dress with both of her hands and started to quickly walk through the field of corn, darting left and right to avoid the leaves of the stalks. Her thoughts of wonderment and marriage quickly left her as she realized that she was nowhere near the safety of the castle, and that darkness was beginning to envelop her. A wolf howled in the distance, then another, not so far away. She heared the scurrying and chitter of small animals among the corn, and the flutter of bat wings over her head. Another wolf howled at the moon that barely lit the gray-black streaks of clouds in the night sky.
Margaery looked up, searching for the site of the castle towers. She stood on her toes and turned around, and around again, and around again. She could no longer see past the stalks of corn that surrounded her. Terror struck through her body, down to her bones, and crawled at her skin as she realized she was lost…in the dark…alone.
Not one to act rashly in any situation, the young girl hugged her arms to her to fight a sudden chill and again contemplated her direction, focusing on what stars could be seen and the direction of the rows of corn.
If I go the wrong way, I could get further away from the castle, Margaery thought. If they come looking for me, I could be too far away. Mayhap I should just stay placed here. Yet, if I just stay here, I’m easy pray for wolves and shadow cats. If I keep moving, I’ll attract more attention to myself and the wolves will just hunt me down. What to do? Surely, Loras or Father will come find me. Perhaps though they do not yet realize I am gone! Loras will come and visit, see that I’m gone, and bring the dogs to search for me. Unless he is too busy entertaining my future husband who was to arrive today. Loras may not even think of me for a long while tonight. A bride eaten by wolves would make a terrible bride, I’m sure.
Her reverie broken by another howl, Margaery again looks around. She hears a rustling near her, among the fallen, dried husks of corn on the ground. “What was that?” She asks herself. “Who goes there?” She asks aloud, but received only the cornstalks rustling as reply. Searching the field for the source of the noise, a vague light, in the distance amidst the cornstalks becomes apparent. “A fire,” she whispers, and for a moment she is excited. But, then her cautious nature kicks in. “Who would have a fire out here? Maybe it’s the poachers of whom father has been complaining of that raid our land of late. But, they wouldn’t light a fire. They would be worried about getting caught. They know they would be beheaded, if they were caught poaching on these lands.”
“Maybe it’s father’s men. They could have set up camp out here looking for the poachers.” Either way, she had to know who built that fire. Margaery weaved her way through the corn, moving towards the light. As she got close to the fire, she came upon a clearing in the corn. She pulled back the last few stalks and peeked around them to see who was there.
By the fire, sat a lone woman with long silver-gray hair and old, tattered clothes. She sat with her feet crossed over her legs and her elbows propped up on her knees. Her arms were out and hands open with palms facing up, as if to catch the stars were they to fall from the sky.
Margaery, still hiding behind the last row of corn, stared at the old lady’s face. Her nose was long and pointed. Margaery could tell that it had been broken before, from the hump in the bridge of her nose. Her face looked orange and leathery in the firelight. Her eyes were shut.
“Don’t be afraid. Come, sit by the fire, girl,” the old lady said to Margaery, without opening her eyes, or looking her way. “Come. Come wash the chill from your bones. Sit, girl, sit. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Waiting for me?” Margaery said startled and confused, but curious. “How could you be waiting for me? Even I did not know I would be here. How could you?” Margaery asked the old lady, as she sat on the ground, on the opposite side of the fire. She knew she should be cautious here, but strangely, she did not feel afraid.
“Oh, but I did know you were going to be here, my dear.”
“How could you ? I only just got lost a little while ago.”
“No, my dear, you’ve been lost for some time now. As for knowing where you would be, I saw it in a dream. I saw you here, in this place, wearing that dress, turning about in place, lost. That’s why I am here. I don’t know why I dreamt about you, only that I did. Perhaps one of us needs something from the other. I do not know, as of yet, my dear.”
“One of us…the other…what could…what are you talking about?”
“Maybe, it’s that you have something I need, or that I have something you want,” the old lady continued.
“What could you have that I would want ? My father is Lord of Highgarden. My family is among the richest families in the entire Seven Kingdoms. Maybe, it’s you that wants something that I have. I can pay you in gold if you help me get back to the castle.”
“I have no need to go near your castle young lady, besides, what I have, is more precious than gold, and more sought after than live dragon’s eggs,”
“Something more precious than gold?” Margaery questioned the old lady as if the woman were joking. “People have been looking for dragon’s eggs since before the time of Aegon. What could be more sought after than that ?”
“Knowledge, my dear.” The old woman poked the fire with a stick, stirring embers like fireflies into the dark sky. “Knowledge of your past and of your future. You already have knowledge of your past and your present – I can give you knowledge of your future,”
“My past and my future? What knowledge do you have of me, stranger? We have never met. I do not know you, and you certainly do not know me!” Margaery proclaimed.
“I know that you are at a crossroads now, that you must make many important and difficult decisions for yourself and your family and your people. That is what brought you out here this very night, isn’t it? You are to be Queen, are you not?”
“How could you know that, I only found out this afternoon. That means nothing. You could have heard that from some tavern wench or some camp traveler.” Margaery stated matter-of-factly.
“I told you, dear girl, I saw you in my dreams. I knew you were going to be here this night, in this place, lost, wearing that golden locket under your small clothes.”
“How do you know of this locket?” Margaery asked in astonishment as she pulled the locket from underneath her skiff, grasping it tightly in her hand.
“I told you girl, I saw you in my dreams. May I see it?”
“It was my grandmother’s,” Margaery said, as she lifted the chain, that held the locket, from around her neck.
“She gave it to you as a wedding present, did she?” asked the old lady, as she held out her hand to receive the locket and chain.
“Yes, how did you know?” asked Margaery, as she stood and placed the locket into the old lady’s hand.
The woman grabbed Margaery’s wrist with both of her hands and held it tight. “Because I am a witch,” she said, “and my kind know these things.”
Margaery’s surprise turned into an instant shock of horror as a bolt of electricity ran into her hand and up her arm. Her eyes wide open, she was speechless. The current ran up the back of her neck and into her head. She could feel it swirl around her brain like bees swarm about their hive. It made her dizzy. The swarm of lightning gathered itself into a ball and shot down Margaery’s throat, and into her chest, filling her lungs. Margaery couldn’t breathe. The electricity engulfed her heart, and for a long moment, it sat, pulsating, beating in unison with Margaery’s heart. Then, it shrank into a ball the size of a pea and buried itself deep inside of Margaery’s heart, still pulsating. Then, it stopped, as did Margaery’s heart. The ball of electricity began to shake, and, with a flash, it exploded ! It exploded out of Margaery’s chest, and through the old lady, knocking her down, filling the night air with light.
With her eyes and mouth wide open, gasping, Margaery took one long draw of air to refill her lungs and restart her heart. Once her heart started beating again, and her lungs could breathe on their own, she fell to her knees, gasping, looking at her hand.
“What have you done to me !” She commands of the witch.
“I have done nothing TO you , my dear. I have simply read your future…and your past. Most people want to know their future. They don’t think much about their past…or their present. Most people think they know their past when they really don’t. Like the corn that grows in this field, you must peel back the husks of love to get to the heart of what really matters.”
Margaery looked up into the witch’s face. “In your past, I saw a boy, a blood kin, whose bones are growing crooked,” The witch told her, “In your present, I saw another of your blood kin, giving you something , and hiding it from you at the same time. He will lose what he has given away, and his loss will be your gain. And, in your future, I saw you marrying a King, a small boy. And by doing so, you will steal from a Queen all that is dear to her.”
Beginning to recover from the shock of electricity, and drinking in the words she has just been told, Margaery stands, looking the old lady in the face. She wipes clean her dress with several swipes of her hands. Straightening her neck and back, and pulling back her shoulders, like a proper lady, Margaery looks down upon the tattered old woman.
“You are no witch!” Margaery said calmly. “You’re just an old crazy woman with a few parlor tricks, trying to scare a young girl. Well, I’ll have you know, I’m not stupid. My father warned me about people like you.”
“Everyone knows my brother Willas had an accident and broke his leg when he was younger. Yes, I AM going to marry a King, but Renly is no small boy. He is a man grown, and I am to be his first Queen, so, I can’t steal anything from someone who doesn’t exist?” Margaery sighed. “Cryptic witch’s prophecies do not frighten me.”
“Oh, sweet child,” the witch said, “Your past and your present and your future are all linked together by love. The “accident” that caused your brother’s leg to grow crooked also caused your love to grow crooked. You must use the present to find your past love, so that it will become your future. Remember girl, remember these words I have told you here, today. Whether you believe now or not, when you do understand their meaning, you will want to find your past love, and for that you will need me. Your Grandmother’s locket will show you the way. I gave your grandmother this locket when she came to me before her wedding. She did not like the words I told her either. When you find me and show me that you understand the meanings of these words, then I will know that you are ready. It is then, and only then, that you may ask of me one question. And of this question, I will give you one answer.”
The witch reached up with one finger and touched Margaery on the forehead. Margaery’s eyes rolled back into her head, her body went limp, and she fell listlessly to the ground.
“They never listen,” the witch said to herself.
When Margaery woke, the moon was fading from the sky as the sun colored the horizon with pinks and greens and blues. She looked up to see her locket hanging from a stalk of corn, shimmering in the morning light, and the witch gone. She had the taste of burnt flesh in her mouth and remembered dreaming about her first love.