They could do as they wished with her; imprison her, rape her, kill her, it made no matter. She had lived too long, and Ned was waiting. It was Robb she feared for. “On my honor as a Tully,” she told Lord Walder, “on my honor as a Stark, I will trade your boy’s life for Robb’s. A song for a son.” Her hand shook so badly she was ringing Jinglebell’s head.
Boom, the drum sounded, boom doom boom doom. The old man’s lips went in and out. The knife trembled in Catelyn’s hand, slippery with sweat. “A son for a son, heh,” he repeated. “But that’s a grandson…and he never was much use.”
A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blooed stepped up to Robb. “Jaime Lannister sends his regards.” He thrust his longsword through her son’s heart, and twisted.
Robb had broken his word, but Catelyn kept hers. She tugged hard on Aegon’s hair and sawed at his neck until the blade grated on bone. Blood ran hot over her fingers. His little bells were ringing, ringing, ringing, and the drum went boom doom boom.
Finally someone took the knife away from her. The tears burned like vinegar as they ran down her cheeks.
It hurst so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb… Robb… please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting… The white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown. Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes. It tickles. That made her laugh until she screamed. “Mad,” someone said, “she’s lost her wits,” and someone else said, “Make an end,” and a hand grabbed her scalp just as she’d done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don’t, don’t cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.
“Tell them the Mad King is dead,” he commanded. “Spare all those who yield and hold them captive.”
“Shall I proclaim a new king as well?” Crakehall asked, and Jaime read the question plain: Shall it be your father, or Robert Baratheon, or do you mean to try to make a new dragonking? He thought for a moment of the boy Viserys, fled to Dragonstone, and of Rhaegar’s infant son Aegon, still in Maegor’s with his mother. A new Targaryen king, and my father as Hand. How the wolves will howl, and the storm lord choke with rage. For a moment he was tempted, until he glanced down again at the body on the floor, in its spreading pool of blood. His blood is in both of them, he thought. “Proclaim who you bloody well like,” he told Crakehall. Then he climbed the Iron Throne and seated himself with his sword across his knees, to see who would come to claim the kingdom. As it happened, it had been Eddard Stark.
You had no right to judge me either, Stark.
“It fell to me to hold the Red Keep, but I knew we were lost. I sent to Aerys asking his leave to make terms. My man came back with a royal command. ‘Bring me your father’s head, if you are no traitor.’ Aerys would have no yielding. Lord Rossart was with him, my messenger said. I knew what that meant.
“When I came on Rossart, he was dressed as a common man-at-arms, hurrying to a postern gate. I slew him first. Then I slew Aerys, before he could find someone else to carry his message to the pyromancers. Days later, I hunted down the others and slew them as well. Belis offered me gold, and Garigus wept for mercy. Well, a sword’s more merciful than fire, but I don’t think Garigus much appreciated the kindess I showed him”
The water had grown cool. When Jaime opened his eyes, he found himself staring at the stump of his sword hand. The hand that made me Kingslayer. The goat had robbed him of his glory and his shame, both at once. Leaving what? Who am I now?
“Ser Jaime?” Even in soiled pink satin and torn lace, Brienne looked more like a man in a gown than a proper woman. “I am grateful, but… you were well away. Why come back?”
A dozen quips came to mind, each crueler than the one before, but Jaime only shrugged. “I dreamed of you,” he said.
“And if you think for one misbegotten moment that I would wed Joffery’s widow…”
“You are my son -”
“I am a knight of the Kingsguard. The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard! And that’s all I mean to be!”
Firelight gleamed golden in the stiff whiskers that framed Lord Tywin’s face. A vein pulsed in his neck, but he did not speak. And did not speak. And did not speak.
The strained silence went on until it was more than Jaime could endure. “Father…” he began.
“You are not my son.” Lord Tywin turned his face away. “You say you are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and only that. Very well, ser. Go do your duty.”
He felt a bone-deep ache in his phantom fingers. I’ve lost a hand, a father, a son, a sister, and a lover, and soon enough I will lose a brother. And yet they keep telling me House Lannister has won this war.
Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper
“It’s said that there are to be seventy-seven dishes served at the king’s wedding feast.”
“Are you hungry, my prince?”
“I have hungered for a long time. Though not for food. Pray tell me, when will the justice be served?”
“Justice.” Yes, that is why he’s here, I should have seen that at once. “You were close to your sister.”
“Dwarf,” said the Red Viper, in a tone grown markedly less cordial, “spare me your Lannister lies. Is it sheep you take us for, or fools? My brother is not a bloodthirsty man, but neither has he been asleep for sixteen years… I came for justice for Elia and her children, and I will have it. Starting with this lummox Gregor Glegane… but not, I think, ending there.”
“A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favors, they’re silk ribbons tied around the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with ribbons hanging off of it, but it will kill you just as dead.”
Jon took another swallow of mead. There is only one tale that he might believe. “You say you were at Winterfell, the night my father feasted King Robert.”
“I did say it, for I was.”
“Then you saw us all. Prince Joffrey and Prince Tommen, Princess Myrcella, my brothers Robb and Bran and Rickon, my sisters Arya and Sansa. You saw them walk the center aisle with every eye upon them and take their seats at the table just below the dais where the king and queen were seated.”
“And did you see where I was seated, Mance?” He leaned forward. “Did you see where they put the bastard?”
Mance Rayder looked at Jon’s face for a long moment. “I think we had best find you a new cloak,” the king said, holding out his hand.
“Tell me, then – when he touched a man on the shoulder with his sword, what did he say? ‘Go forth and kill the weak?’ Or ‘Go forth and defend them?’ At the Trident, those brave men Viserys spoke of who died beneath our dragon banners – did they give their lives because they believed in Rhaegar’s cause, or because they had been bought and paid for?” Dany turned to Mormont, crossed her arms, and waited for an answer.
“My queen,” the big man said slowly, “all you say is true. But Rhaegar lost on the Trident. He lost the battle, he lost the war, he lost the kingdom, and he lost his life. His blood swirled downriver with the rubies from his breastplate, and Robert the Usurper rode over his corpse to steal the Iron Throne. Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly. Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.”
They are children, Sansa thought. They are silly little girls, even Elinor. They’ve never seen a battle, they’ve never seen a man die, they know nothing. Their dreams were full of songs and stories, the way hers had been before Joffrey cut her father’s head off. Sansa pitied them. Sansa envied them.
“I know I’m not the sort of husband young girls dream of, Sansa,” he said softly, “but neither am I Joffrey.”
“No,” she said. “You were kind to me. I remember.”
Tyrion offered her a thick, blunt-fingered hand. “Come, then. Let us do our duty.”…
This is not right, this is not fair, how have I sinned that the gods would do this to me, how?
“On my honor as a Lannister,” the Imp said, “I will not touch you until you want me to.”
It took all the courage that was in her to look in those mismatched eyes and say, “And if I never want you to, my lord?”
His mouth jerked as if she had slapped him. “Never?”
Her neck was so tight she could scarcely nod.
“Why,” he said, “that is why the gods made whores for imps like me.” He closed his short blunt fingers into a fist and climbed down off the bed.
He had this all prepared for me. “My lord, I… I do not understand… Joffrey gave you Harrenhal, made you Lord Paramount of the Trident…why…”
“Why should I wish him dead?” Littlefinger shrugged. “I had no motive. Besides, I am a thousand leagues away in the Vale. Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you. Remember that, Sansa, when you come to play the game.”
“What… what game?”
“The only game. The game of thrones.”
“The Crag is not so far from Tarbeck Hall and Castamere,” Tyrion pointed out. “You’d think the Westerlings might have ridden past and seen the lesson there.”
“Mayhaps they have,” Lord Tywin said. “They are well aware of Castamere, I promise you.”
“Could the Westerlings and Spicers be such great fools as to believe the wolf can defeat the lion?”
Everyone in a very long while, Lord Tywin Lannister would actually threaten to smile; he never did, but the threat alone was terrible to behold. “The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them,” he said, and then, “You will marry Sansa Stark, Tyrion. And soon.”
Tyrion stared up at his father’s hard green eyes with their flecks of cold bright gold. “Guilty,” he said, “so guilty. Is that what you wanted to hear?”
Lord Tywin said nothing. Mace Tyrell nodded. Prince Oberyn looked mildly disappointed. “You admit you poisoned the king?”
“Nothing of the sort,” said Tyrion. “Of Joffrey’s death I am innocent. I am guilty of a more monstrous crime.” HE took a step toward his father. “I was born. I lived. I am guilty of being a dwarf, I confess it. And no matter how many times my good father forgave me, I have persisted in my infamy.”
“This is folly, Tyrion,” declared Lord Tywin. “Speak to the matter at hand. You are not on trial for being a dwarf.”
“That is where you err, my lord. I have been on trial for being a dwarf my entire life.”
It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads.
He found his father where he knew he’d find him, seated in the dimness of the privy tower, bedrobe hiked up around his hips…
“What did you do with Tysha?”
He does not even remember her name. “The girl I married.”
“Oh, yes. Your first whore.”
Tyrion took aim at his father’s chest. “The next time you say that word, I’ll kill you.”
“You do not have the courage.”
“Tysha. What did you do with her, after my little lesson?”
“I don’t recall.”
“Try harder. Did you have her kill?”
His father pursed his lips. “There was no reason for that, she’d learned her place…and had been well paid for her day’s work, I seem to recall. I suppose the steward sent her on her way. I never thought to inquire.”
“On her way where?“
“Wherever whores go.”
Tyrion’s finger clenched. The crossbow whanged just as Lord Tywin started to rise. The bolt slammed into him above the groin and he sat back down with a grunt…”You shot me,” he said incredulously, his eyes glassy with shock.
“You always were quick to grasp a situation, my lord,” Tyrion said. “That must be why you’re the Hand of the King.”
“You…you are no…no son of mine.”
“Now that’s where you’re wrong, Father. Why, I believe I’m you writ small. Do me a kindness now, and die quickly. I have a ship to catch.”
For once, his father did what Tyrion asked him. The proof was the sudden stench, as his bowels loosened in the moment of death. Well, he was in the right place for it, Tyrion thought. But the stink that filled the privy gave ample evidence that the oft-repeated jape about his father was just another lie.
Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.