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The Good, the Bad, and the Surprisingly Competent - ASOIAF SI

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Morph-Writing, Sep 18, 2023.

  1. Threadmarks: Synopsis

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    The world of Ice and Fire has always been a terrible one. Winters to last a decade, omnipresent wars, blood magic, despotism, and all alongside the regular trappings of a medieval world. So, what happens when a man from our world finds himself trapped in the body of one Tommen Baratheon? Will he be able to change things? To leave his mark? Will he even live long enough?
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: A New World

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 1: A New World

    It is not often that one stares down a corpse.

    For a corpse, I had to say, it was a surprisingly well-dressed one. The dead don't usually look so pretty. Gold and bright red and the finest and most luxurious silks I had ever seen, all packed into perhaps the most impractical and ostentatious set of gilded armour one could imagine. He had a brilliantly shiny sword with the most wonderful patterns in the steel clasped in his hands, and two painted stones covering his eyes.

    Had I wondered into some sort of renaissance fair, or maybe a cosplay convention? Oh, maybe even a movie set? That would be a story to tell the grandkids, eh?

    Looking around, nobody could be seen. What good is a convention, especially one held in what looked to be such a grand locale, if nobody bothered to turn up? The only person in the vicinity was a freakishly tall and yet stunning blonde, who somehow managed to put all the models I had ever seen to shame.

    Cheekbones you could cut glass on, brilliant emerald eyes, pearly white teeth, and long flowing locks. If she was an actress, she was certainly not one I knew. If she was a cosplayer, then it begged the question of who she was cosplaying. No normal person dressed like that, at least not in the modern age. It was a conservative style but gave hints of a well-maintained and eminently desirable figure underneath it all.

    This observation, however, was swiftly followed by another, less pleasant, realisation. She wasn’t tall, I was short. Now, I had never been the tallest, but I was a solid six feet on most days, and this woman’s proportions did not lead me to believe that she was seven feet tall.

    I looked down at myself, observing the similarly fine clothing that I seemed to be wearing, and then around at my location, and I struggled to restrain my urge to curse when the truth of the matter struck me.

    I was a child.

    I hadn’t been a child in a long time, and the fact that I suddenly was one did not serve to alleviate my confusion at the situation. I didn’t curse, still trying to gain my bearings, but the woman stood next to me did shoot me a look when my breath quickened as my panic grew. Suddenly, I was broken from my reverie when a deep voice could be heard echoing off the walls of the building, “Your brother is dead,” the man said as he walked into the room. “Do you know what that means?”

    I kept silent, my breath falling still as the reality of my situation finally dawned on me. I was Tommen Baratheon, the woman stood next to me was Cersei, my mother, and the man speaking to me was Tywin mother-fucking Lannister.

    Either this was the most vivid dream I had ever had, or something was deeply wrong. I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t drink, so what else could it be? I wasn’t a child either, so there went any notions of having gone anywhere by accident. I hoped and prayed it was a dream, and one that I was due to wake from any moment now, but knowing my luck, I wasn’t going to bet on it. The world of Westeros was a notoriously brutal one, so I wasn’t going to fuck around on the off chance that this wasn’t a dream.

    Whilst I was working this out, the older man, who I happened to notice that whilst he didn’t look like Charles Dance, he certainly sounded like him, grew concerned at my lack of response to his question, “I’m not trying to trick you.”

    I kept it short and simple, and resisted a grimace when my voice came out high-pitched and childish, “It means I’ll be the next king.”

    He nodded, moving closer to us, “Yes, you will be King. What kind of King do you think you’ll be?”

    I contemplated my answer, looking down at Joffrey’s corpse, and then back up at Tywin, “A good one, and hopefully an old one as well.”

    “Mm, I think so as well. You’ve got the right temperament for it. But what makes a good king, hmm? What is a good king’s single most important quality?”

    The woman stood next to me, supposedly Cersei, interjected, “This is hardly the place or the time.”

    Like Tywin, I opted to ignore her, “That’s easy: wisdom.”

    Tywin looked curious, “Yes! But what is wisdom, hm?”

    “A King’s power is vast, and all-encompassing. His duty is to exercise good judgement, so that the realm may prosper under his guidance. Making good decisions requires a King to be smart, but it also requires him to be humble, to know what he knows and to know what he doesn’t. And to be wise enough to know the people who know what he doesn’t know, and to seek them out.”

    Tywin looked a mixture of pleased and contemplative, though his expression had barely shifted from its default position at all, “You’re young, but I can tell you’ll be a wise king. A wise young king listens to his councillors and heeds their advice till he comes of age. And the wisest of kings continue to listen to them long afterwards.” He looked down at the corpse and back at me, “Your brother was not a wise king. He was not a good king. If he had been, perhaps he would still be alive.”

    I resisted the urge to snort at the shade he was throwing, “What do you think his moniker will be, now that he’s dead? Every king has one. Jaehaerys was known as ‘the conciliator’, Daeron simply as ‘the good’.”

    Tywin looked at me, “What do you think yours will be?”

    “King Tommen,” I said, “the surprisingly competent.”

    Tywin quirked the eyebrow at the strangeness of the title, came around the dais where Joffrey’s body lay, and placed his arm on my shoulder as he began to lead me out of what I presumed was the sept, “Now, as the King, you will have to marry. Do you understand why?”

    “A King needs a Queen, both to further the family line and to forge an alliance with the new Queen’s family.”

    Tywin nodded, “Do you know how that happens?”


    “Of course, but has anyone explained the details to you?”

    Hearing Tywin offer to give me the talk was simply too good of an offer to pass up, “I’ve only ever heard tales. The nature of them leads me to believe they aren’t true.”

    Tywin nodded, “It’s all relatively straightforward.”

    Before he could continue, Jaime approached from in front, and looked me in the eyes, “How are you?”

    “A little nervous, truth be told. Being king is a massive amount of responsibility for a child who’s never had to deal with any before.” I looked at Joffrey’s body, “I don’t want to be like him, and I don’t want to wind up like him." I turned my gaze back on Jaime, "Otherwise, I’m fine.”

    Jaime grasped my shoulder to comfort me, “You are fine, and you will be fine. I’ll see to that.”

    I nodded, and Jaime ventured down the steps to see his son’s body, and presumably to fuck his sister as well, the pervert. I ascended the steps with the man who was for the foreseeable future, or at least till I woke up from this nightmare, my grandfather. We emerged from the gloomy sept out into the brightness of day, and before Tywin could lead me to wherever he wanted to lead me, I looked out onto the city and spoke, “Do you smell that, Lord Tywin?”

    “Smell what?”

    It was the smell of shit, but I couldn’t help myself, “Opportunity, grandfather, what else?”
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Do you guys want more updates?
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to edits
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: Pragmatism

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 2: Pragmatism

    The day went by faster than I had imagined it would.

    My coronation was a surprisingly humdrum affair. The people assembled in the throne room, the High Septon blessed my rule and so on. The event dragged on in pomp and circumstance, and I took the time to acclimatise myself to those around me. Looking around, some bore a resemblance to those I had seen on-screen, though not one was a perfect match. Margaery was closest, but with many differences in her likeness that led me to believe that this was not the show universe. Conversely, not everyone matched the description given in the books either, leading me to the conclusion that this world was something of a mash-up of the two.

    That had interesting implications for my future plans, depending on what was what, but I filed it away for the moment.

    The coronation ceremony drew to a close with thunderous applause, echoing off the walls of the throne-room, and I seated myself atop the monstrosity that was the Iron Throne, with jagged edges all over, and bladed steps leading up to the actual throne part. I could only seat myself in a few positions lest I cut myself, which I am pleased to report I did not.

    The evening passed, and I was soon shown to my bedchambers to spend the night, where I had the pleasure of stumbling upon a furry and affectionate tom, presumably Ser Pounce. I lay down, and attempted to fall to sleep, knowing I would have a long day ahead. Before I could, the sound of soft footfalls could be heard, and Margaery emerged from the shadows, walking to my bed, and I felt the need to question her, "How did you get past the Kingsguard?"

    Even as the words left my mouth, I knew the answer. Either she bribed one of the more ineffective members, or Loras was guarding me tonight. Either way, caution was advised. She brushed my question aside, almost mockingly, "The Kingsguard."

    I narrowed my eyes at her, "Your brother, then, Ser Loras?" She had an odd look on her face, and I continued, "In any case, I don't think you're supposed to be here. I'm not allowed visitors at night. My mother would not be pleased."

    She lit the candle on the bedside table, seemingly unaware that the cut of her dress showed off her cleavage as she did so, "I'm not a visitor, Your Grace. Word has it, I'm to be your bride." She looked at me once she was done with the candle, taking a seat at the side of my bed, "Did you know that people in arranged marriages often never meet until their wedding day? Before we decide to spend our lives together, we ought to get to know one another, don't you think?"

    "I'm aware. But a late-night visit hardly looks good, and if my mother or grandfather found ou-"

    She cut me off, "It can be our secret, hmm? If we're going to be man and wife, we'll have a few secrets from them, I hope." She smiled at me, "So, Your Grace, tell me a secret."

    "You first."

    Margaery wound up to answer, and was saved from doing so as Ser Pounce leapt up into my bed, "Hello, aren't you a proper fellow?"

    I couldn't help the childish grin on my face, "That's Ser Pounce, the bravest knight in all the Seven Kingdoms. Some even say he is the one in the prophecy, Azor Ahai born again, come to save mankind from the Long Night."

    Margaery humoured me, "Most gallant, I can see, and very handsome."

    I looked her in the eyes, "Joffrey didn't best like him. He threatened to skin him alive and mix his innards in with my food."

    Margaery seemed genuinely sympathetic, "That's very cruel." She looked at me as if she were appraising me, "You don't strike me as cruel."

    "Well, I hope I'm not."

    She nodded sagely, "That's a relief, because you know what happens when we marry."

    "My grandfather walked me through it. We say our vows before the High Septon, and afterwards we-"

    She chuckled, cutting me off in the process, "When we marry I become yours... forever."

    I offered her a hard stare, "Whose does that make you, then? Renly's, Joffrey's or mine? Because if that's what happens when we marry, then I don't believe it, and I don't think you do either."

    "And what do you think happens when we wed?"

    I offered her a smile, "You become my wife, and if I live long enough, the mother of my children. The realm gains stability, and both of our houses a useful alliance. We may even fall in love, but I have also been told that is more often than not a fantasy."

    She seemed genuinely saddened, "You mustn't say that, Your Grace."

    I feigned a sigh, "I can only hope."

    She lingered for a moment, seemingly uncomfortable, but them made to leave, speaking to me in a whisper, "It's getting late, I should go. May I come and visit you again?"

    I nodded, "In the day, no more night visits till we are wed. I'll not start my reign by risking the spread of rumours of impropriety."

    She gave a breath of laughter, her tone suddenly becoming coy, "Alright then, but I hope you'll grant me one small impropriety." She leaned in, and offered me a tender kiss on the lips. It lingered for a while, and when it was done, her head hovered just above mine, her tone now serious, "Remember, our little secret."

    I nodded, and she left. Sleep struggled to come after that, though eventually I exhausted myself by my tossing and turning, and the morning sun streaming into my chambers woke me back up. The servants came in, running my bath and insisting on dressing me, which I allowed them to do, if only to avoid seeming strange. Afterwards, I called for my uncle Jaime. He came up, clad in his Kingsguard armour, and kneeled before me, "Your Grace."

    "I may be King now, but you are still my uncle. When in private, you don't have to kneel."

    He rose from his knee, "Yes, Your Grace."

    "I want you by my side today, understood?"

    He nodded, although reluctantly, "Of course, Your Grace."

    I adopted the closest thing to a commanding tone that my cracking voice could offer, "Before we leave, I want to make one thing clear. The things you hear in my presence, are to be treated as most secret. You will not so much as breathe a word to grandfather, to mother, to anyone. Am I understood?"

    Jaime looked mighty confused, but nodded regardless, "... Of course, Your Grace."

    With that settled, we departed from my chambers, making for one of the terraces in the keep, where I sent for Bronn, "You are Bronn?"

    "That's me." He looked me up and down, "So, what do you want with me?"

    "I understand you are in the employ of my uncle, Tyrion Lannister?"

    His eyes darted to Jaime, whose teeth were clenched at the mention of his brother, and then to the crown on my head, "Was. Not anymore."

    "So, you're seeking employment?"

    He shrugged, "I s'pose I am."

    I nodded, "Good. I find myself in need of men like you, and would much like to procure your services. I'll offer the same rate my uncle offered before his incarceration."

    Bronn was now in business mode, "He offered to double anything anyone offered me."

    I smiled, "I thought you weren't working for him anymore? In any case, I'm afraid that my uncle's gold is the hay the lines the floor of his cell, and his sliver the dust."

    Bronn seemed a tad less enthusiastic, though he acceded my point, "Killing a King will do that to a man, I s'pose. Still, he promised me a highborn beauty, and a castle of me own. Seems only fair I give him the chance to keep that promise."

    I nodded, "Stokeworth, and the soft-hearted lady that comes with. Serve me well, and when the time comes, it'll be yours. And I offer you that with the added bonus of not dangling you from the end of a rope for serving a traitor."

    Bronn seemed unamused by my threat, but he shrugged it off, "Fair enough."

    I gestured to the edge of the terrace, where seclusion was more easily attained, "Shall we discuss your duties further?" He nodded, and we walked over, till we were far from anyone else. This area would normally be a hive of activity, but so early in the day, scarcely anyone was about. Only when we finally reached the edge, far away from any prying ears as one could get inside the Red Keep, did I speak, "I find myself in need of men of... dubious, morality."

    He nodded in understanding, "You need someone's throat cut, eh?"

    Jaime looked alarmed by the direction of the conversation, but wisely opted for silence after I shot him a look, "Amongst other things. I need a team of competent and reliable killers, someone to do the dirty work that is an unfortunate necessity of governing. Not sadistic, you understand, like the mountain, just callous enough to do what must be done." He nodded, "Tell your men they will be richly rewarded for their service, and make sure they are cut from the same cloth as you. People who will do dirty work for coin, and who can be trusted to be discreet about it. I don't want a mess on my hands because one of your men fancied a girl in a tavern and decided to rape her, or worse, to spill his guts to her, you understand?"

    Bronn nodded again, "Aye, I know the type."

    I looked at Jaime, and then turned back to Bronn, "You will have one more duty. Alongside slitting the right throats, I will need you to aid my other uncle in regaining his abilities with the sword, such that he is as good with his left as he once was with his right. Naturally, I will be partaking in these lessons as well. Officially I'll be asking Ser Balon of the Kingsguard, so you needn't worry about any extra scrutiny, but I also know that shadowed blades kill just as well, if not better, than shiny steel."

    Bronn looked at Jaime's golden hand whilst Jaime bristled under his gaze, and whistled, "Very pretty. I almost didn't notice it underneath all that armour."

    I nodded and smiled as I made to leave, "Good. You'll have your coin on the morrow, Ser Bronn."

    After we left, Jaime felt it fit to speak, "Your Grace, is this wise? I mean, a sellsword is hardly trustworthy or honourable, and you have many knights in your service..."

    "Good and competent and honourable knights, uncle. Who better to do the dishonourable thing than a dishonourable man?"

    Jaime looked at me strangely, "You've changed..."

    I smirked, "Not the sweet boy you remember?"

    "You talk more like your grandfather than yourself. It's... strange."

    "I'll take that as a compliment." I straightened my expression, and spoke to him with as much earnestness as I could muster, "I learnt many hard lessons during the war. I may not have seen much fighting myself, but I did see plenty of the consequences, and unlike Joffrey, I learned from it. Power is all well and good, but from what I have seen it is often subtlety that gets the job done best. Bronn has plenty of that, and as a sellsword, he is both a disposable and a deniable asset."

    He had a strange glint in his eyes, "I know, it's just..."

    I nodded, "I know. I didn't expect to have to do any of this either. I didn't want the crown, but it's mine now, and I am not fool enough to neglect any aspect of governance simply because I find it distasteful. I may not yet be a man grown, but I am far from the child you knew, the one who believed in all those songs." I turned and looked at him, "I want to to be a good king, but I also want to be an old king, and I have enough sense to know that sometimes that means getting my hands dirty. So, uncle, will you help me? To be both a good king and an old one?"

    He bowed his head, a determined look on his face, "Of course, Your Grace."
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  4. Shaedy Hoe

    Shaedy Hoe Versed in the lewd.

    Nov 20, 2020
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    Hey. Guess you decided to cross post on here. Good to know. Anyway, you need to rearrange your chapters as they're currently arranged latest chapter first - first chapter last.
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: Poisons

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 3: Poisons

    When you think of Olenna Tyrell, what is the one word that comes to mind?

    In a past life, my answer might have been cunning, rude, devious, dangerous. She was intelligent, to be sure, and subtle, and capable of the most elegant wordplay and yet, none of those things came to the front of my mind when I looked at her.

    Now, that word was old.

    The passing resemblance to Diana Rigg aside, as well as the almost pitch-perfect recreation of the voice I remembered, this woman was... different, to say the least. It would not have been an exaggeration to say that she was the oldest person in the capital. Pycelle offered stiff competition, but I doubted that even he could match the tally of years that she had, and it showed. Her skin seemed to be hanging off her bones, and her entire visage was marked by wrinkles. Her manner of dress did much to alleviate the dreaded sag, but there was only so much to be done.

    Her back was hunched, her hair gone a snowy white, her frame smaller than even mine, and I was a child. I thanked whoever was watching that at least she wasn't toothless, and had a still-strong set of teeth with she seemed determined to use to constantly snack on something. Cheese, figs, cakes, and all in the scant few minutes I had been sat here. She munched on her cakes and delighted in bossing her people around, issuing orders like a general, delighting in the mounting frustration of her servants and maids.

    In spite of the silliness of her antics, especially considering her age, I did not let myself relax. This was a woman on-par with Tywin Lannister in the power department, and just as ruthless, and perhaps even more subtle than he. In a straight battle of wits, I did not doubt my defeat. Here, she was in her element, overlooking the city, high above it all, on a vast terrace which doubled as a garden. In many ways, her seeming infirmity only enhanced the sense of danger that one got from sitting in her presence.

    One did not live that long without serious brains or at least without picking up some tricks along the way. At the peak of her power, the only advantage I had to bring to bear was the element of surprise. My entire plan was predicated on it, and I intended to take full advantage.

    "Your Grace," her tone was almost mocking, "not that I don't enjoy your company, but can I ask why you decided to join an old woman for tea today?"

    "For the pleasure of your company, of course."

    She raised her eyebrows at that, and once again saw fit to mock me, "I am honoured. To think that the His Grace could find time out of his busy schedule of chasing cats to sit with little old me." She brought her tone back down to earth, "Though, once you marry my granddaughter, I suppose you and I will have a lot more time together, won't we?"

    I feigned a frown, "Marry your granddaughter? A little presumptive, don't you think?"

    Olenna's gaze grew sharper, "Tell me, Your Grace, are you at all familiar with the events of the past year?"

    "Only as much as any King tends to be."

    "Very well, allow me to illuminate you." She gestured to the table, laden with cakes, "This is the product of my house. House Tyrell has supplied a million bushels of wheat, half a million bushels each of barley, oats and rye, twenty-thousand head of cattle, fifty-thousand sheep, and is set to supply more to feed this cesspit of a city." She gestured to the guards standing at attention at the entrance to the terrace, "As is that. House Tyrell have supplied twelve-thousand infantrymen, eighteen-hundred mounted lances, two-thousand in support, all for your war." Olenna snorted, "Why, even a member of your own Kingsguard is a Tyrell! All that comes with the assurance that my granddaughter would be queen." She leaned back in her chair, adopting an almost casual air about herself, acting with the kind of nonchalance one would expect if you were discussing the weather, "Of course, if you don't desire our little rose, we can't fault you for that. The heart want what the heart wants, after all, but then you can't fault us for taking our grain and our men away from here." She leaned in, her tone regaining the intensity it had lost not a moment ago, "And when the people starve, who do you think they'll blame?"

    I allowed myself to smile, completely unfazed by her threats, "This is how you sell your granddaughter? With threats? One would think you would seek to exalt to me about her womanly virtues."

    "I didn't take you for a fool. My granddaughter is one of the loveliest maidens in the realm, a fact obvious to anyone with eyes, even if you were a sword-swallower like Renly was." She looked me up and down, the insinuation clear in her tone, "Are you?"

    I snorted, "Hardly."

    "So, why are we here? You knew my granddaughter is nice, kind, and pretty, and now you know that House Tyrell is necessary to your survival. What more could you ask for?"

    I allowed myself to smile, "A couple million dragons should suffice."

    Olenna snorted on her drink as she laughed, "I offer thousands and thousands of tons of food, thousands of men, the hand of the most eligible maiden in all Seven Kingdoms, and yet you still have the gall to ask for more?"

    "I'm not asking."

    She raised an eyebrow, thoroughly unimpressed, "Oh?"

    "It is not House Tyrell that is necessary, Lady Olenna, it is the Reach. You have cast a pretty net around the Reach, to be sure, but unlike my grandfather in the Westerlands, your power still rests atop a house of cards. Houses Hightower and Redwyne will never betray you, on account of blood, but the rest? Say I made Lord Tarly's daughter my bride, and Lord Rowan my Hand. They are both sensible men, or so I have heard, and they would doubtless take the opportunity presented. With the Florents already loyal to Stannis over you, that is three of your most powerful bannermen poised to oppose you. Say my uncle Jaime marries into another great house, and all of a sudden your house of cards comes tumbling down. Mix the Lannister armies in, and the Dornish, who will surely take advantage of the ensuing chaos, and we have the makings of another war on the scale of the one in the Riverlands, all right on your doorstep."

    Olenna nodded sagely, "And when the fields burn and the granaries are all looted, who will feed the realm, hmm?" She smiled at me, thinking she had won, "It was a handsome threat to make, child, but an ultimately empty one. You want to be a good king, or at least that is what I hear, and letting your people starve is hardly going to aid you in that cause, is it?"

    I ceded her point, "You're right, of course. I never did have much of a stomach for bloodshed." I shook my head almost mournfully, "The only real time I've ever seen any was when Joffrey died. Frothing at the mouth, face turning purple, it was horrid." I looked Olenna in the eye, "Had you ever seen the Strangler work, Lady Olenna, before you had it slipped in his cup?" She paled a shade, her face remaining otherwise flat and her expression unchanged. I smiled at the implicit admission, "My mother may have stuffing in place of her brains, but I do not." I leaned in, my voice quietening till it was little more than a whisper, "Did you think I wouldn't notice that headdress that Lady Sansa was wearing? That Baelish is mysteriously missing, and straight after Joffrey's death?"

    Olenna switched from shock to anger, "Has the crown suddenly stopped needing the troops, gold and wheat that my house supplies? Do you expect our alliance to continue after you have threatened our future with these lies? For our armies to continue to fight your war?"

    I continued, unfazed by her threats, "I may not have the stomach for bloodshed, Lady Olenna, but my mother certainly does, and she loved Joffrey with all her heart. All I'd need to do is tell her, and she would demand that heads roll as justice for Joffrey, and three of your four grandchildren are currently in her grasp. Your armies may be vast and mighty but they can't protect you, nor your grandchildren, from the truth. Assuming your house survives the ensuing conflict, I imagine you will find it significantly harder to make any alliance afterwards, with the taboo of kingslaying staining the Tyrell name." I lightened my tone and dismissed my earlier threats with a careless wave of my arm, "Of course, none of that need happen at all. I am not a cruel boy like Joffrey was, and I happen to actually like your granddaughter, but I am also a person who understands the necessity of setting an example to keep people in line."

    Olenna's expression turned sour, "Two-million dragons."

    I attempted to be reassuring, "Come now, the Reach is fat and bloated like your Lordly son, you can afford the expense. Not to mention, with the Riverlands in ruins, I expect you should make most of that coin back quickly enough over the course of the coming winter. Once your virtual monopoly on food for the coming winter is considered, it's a tiny price to pay for all that I'm offering you."

    She eyed me coldly for a moment, and then threw her head back and cackled, "Oh yes, you'll do just fine for our rose, I can tell."

    I shared her smile, and stood from my chair, "I'll be waiting on that coin, Lady Olenna. I expect the first shipment to arrive before Tyrion's trial commences."

    She waved me away, "Yes, yes. I'll let the Lord Oaf of Highgarden know."

    I walked away from the terrace, allowing myself to relax slightly when it disappeared out of sight behind stone walls. My stomach threatened to rumble, on account of the fact that I neglected to eat or drink anything with Lady Olenna, in spite of having ostensibly sat with her for tea. Even still, I did not stop for food, making my way directly to the chambers that I had selected for my solar. Once inside, I sent for the Grandmaester, who appeared only after a long delay, "My apologies, Your Grace, for the delay."

    As Pycelle sat, I observed him. His whole body seemed to tremble with age, making it seem as if he was about to keel over at any moment. The chains wrapped around his neck seemed to weigh him down immeasurably, and he walked as a hunchback would. When he sat down, he did so with a small whimper, as though he was relieving himself of a great burden. It was a masterful performance, in truth, and if I didn't know any better, I suspected that even I would have fell for it. The snowy white and thinning hair, the mildly dishevelled look of his robes, the wrinkles about his facial features, all seemed to sell the image he sought to present.

    He looked nothing like he did in the show, and save for the occasional similarity, he didn't much sound like him either. It was hard to gauge which Pycelle this man truly was, and there was only really one way to find out. He may not have been the greatest player in either the books or the show, but he was competent enough and certainly worthy of caution. In any case, I suspected I would get what I wanted out our meeting today.

    I sent Ser Balon, the knight who had been guarding me for today, to wait outside, covertly instructing him to send for Bronn as I did so, and gestured for Pycelle to sit, "Do you know why I have called you here today?"

    "I gather you want to discuss a few matters with me privately, in advance of tomorrow's council meeting?" I nodded, and he continued to speak, "I often find that the council environment is less than hospitable to the principles of good governance."

    "You are right, in a sense. In truth, I have called you here to discuss your treason."

    Pycelle broke out in a fit of feigned stammering, "Your Grace, you cannot... I mean... I have... I would never..."

    "Perhaps my uncle was right, perhaps in the Black Cells you truly found your level." Pycelle's words became unintelligible, "Stop it." Silence descended on the chamber, "Am I the only one who can see through this performance? Is it possible that so many could be so stupid for so long?"

    Pycelle straightened, any pretence of frailty abandoned, the fear draining from his face, "There are times I have trouble believing it myself."

    "Then why do you bother?"

    "So many flowers, Your Grace. Each wanting to grow the tallest, bloom the brightest, and one by one, sooner or later, they all get plucked. I don't want to be the tallest or the brightest, Your Grace, I only want to remain in the garden, until my time comes to return to the dirt."

    "I thank you for your poetic candor, Grandmaester, but I still don't see why I shouldn't have you returned to the dirt today."

    Pycelle remained calm in spite of my threat, "Since the time I convinced the Mad King to open his gates to your grandfather, I have served the interests of the House of Lannister, unfailingly."

    "Which is also treason, I might remind you."

    Pycelle nodded sagely, "In that case, Your Grace, your uncle the Lord Jaime Lannister is also a traitor, and a far greater one than me, given that he killed the Mad King rather than merely deceiving him as I did."

    "Even still, you betrayed my uncle's trust, who I might remind you is a Lannister."

    "Because I felt he was acting against the interests of his house, yes. A wise decision, don't you think, Your Grace, given that he also turned out to be a kingslayer?"

    "And what have the Lannisters done to earn such touching loyalty?"

    "They have built the strongest house."

    "And what happens when they are no longer the strongest house?"

    Pycelle smiled, "By that time I will be rotting beneath the floor of the Sept of Baelor. Assuming you deem my years of service worthy of that honour, Your Grace."

    I nodded, "In the future, starting from today, it is not House Lannister you will serve, but me. You will keep my secrets, and you will divulge them to nobody, not even my grandfather. And should you to fail to do that, I will have you returned to the dirt, post-haste."

    "Yes, Your Grace."

    I nodded and smiled, "I have a request for you, Grandmaester. I am in need of a certain kind of poison, and I have been told that you are something of an expert on the subject."

    Pycelle frowned as he nodded, "Of course, Your Grace. May I ask why you are in need of poison? If you want to be rid of someone, surely you can just order them executed in your capacity as King? Poison is a woman's weapon, after all."

    "I care not that it is a woman's weapon. And no, Pycelle, you may not ask why. In any case, I need something to weaken a man when ingested, to kill him slowly. Something... subtle, almost unnoticeable in everyday life, yet effective."

    Pycelle took a moment to think, "Widow's Blood or the Tears of Lys come to mind, Your Grace, alongside some species of mushroom."

    "Do you have any of those in your stores?"

    "A little Widow's Blood, and perhaps a little Greycap. I'm afraid that after Lord Tyrion raided my stores, I find myself to be a tad short on anything else."

    "Fetch what you have." Pycelle made to leave, "And Pycelle?"

    He stopped in place and looked at me questioningly, "Yes, Your Grace?"

    I let my tone carry the promise of violence, "Not a word. To anyone."

    Pycelle bowed and left for his chambers. In the interim before he returned, Bronn arrived, "You called for me?"

    I nodded and gestured for him to sit, "I did. I have a task for you."

    "What is it?"

    "Tell me, Bronn, have you heard of the Mountain that Rides?"
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future.
  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: Deception

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 4: Deception

    Getting some face-time with Oberyn Martell was a surprisingly hard thing to do.

    Even though I was a king, I was also a king operating under the pretence of being a child. As such, making a visit to the city was a move that would almost immediately raise some red flags in the minds of people who's attention I wanted to evade, at least till the trial was over. Conversely, I also wanted to impress upon Oberyn the power of the throne, as a backup in case the offer of Gregor's head on a stick proved insufficient to achieve my goals.

    Even worse, Oberyn spent much of his time post-wedding in Chataya's brothel, where he opted to stay in his stint in King's Landing, rightfully suspicious of the Lannisters in the Red Keep. Ultimately, if I was going to extract the maximum benefit from Tyrion's trial, it was a risk I was going to have to take. It wasn't like Baratheons weren't known for whoring, right? Being a young lad in the midst of puberty, even if a tad young for that sort of thing, I figured a visit to a brothel would be easy enough to explain away.

    And so, here I stood, outside the entrance to Chataya's brothel. With me I brought two members of the Kingsguard, in the form of Ser Jaime and Ser Balon, alongside a full guard of a dozen gold cloaks. Venturing inside revealed an intensely unpleasant atmosphere. The smell of sex was mixed with a strong waft of various perfumes, as well as the characteristically shitty smell of the rest of the city. Given the stench alone, I struggled to imagine how anyone could manage to find the atmosphere erotic. Oh, to be sure, the decor was nice, and girls were pretty, but the whole thing seemed more disgusting than enticing, and the place gave me the same feeling as the one I got from a motorway service station.

    Spotting their royal visitor, one of the girls let out a peep and rushed off, Chataya herself emerging from the background to greet me, a tall, slender, handsome woman who wore a surprisingly conservative dress for her profession. Still revealing, but not as much as I had expected. She gave a shallow curtsy with a small smile on her face, "Your Grace, what a pleasure it is to see you here. Come, and I will personally see to it that all your desires are met."

    I nodded curtly, "Many thanks, Lady Chataya, but I am not here for a woman, but for a man instead." At that, I spotted some of the occupants of the brothel shooting me strange looks, "I hear Prince Oberyn is currently patronising your establishment. I have business with the Prince, and I would like to see him."

    Some of my gold cloaks sported relieved expressions, and Chataya nodded, "You heard right, Your Grace, but the Prince is occupied for the moment. Can I tend to your needs whilst you wait?" She gestured and a slim girl who looked perhaps no more than fourteen came over, "We have many different maidens to suit your tastes."

    I pointed to the upstairs, where I knew the private rooms were, "Is he up there?"

    "I cannot say, Your Grace."

    Chataya looked a tad on edge, and I couldn't be bothered to begin issuing orders. Instead, I pulled out my coin-purse and tossed it at her, "For you to let the prince know I'm waiting to see him, and to keep my men entertained whilst we wait."

    Chataya nodded, and one by one, the gold cloaks, many of whom I suspected were reporting to someone other than me, were lured away by the whores. Jaime and Balon stuck close by, as I had ordered them to do, waiting in the room Chataya had seen fit to give me, and I had the two of them search it up and down for hidden doors or hidey-holes or any other means by which someone might be listening in. Inevitably, Varys would find out about the details of the conversation, and that didn't much bother me, but I didn't want the true nature of this meeting to be revealed to Tywin or Cersei too early, lest they find some way to fuck up my plans.

    After a few minutes, Oberyn finally appeared, shirtless. I dismissed Jaime, bidding them to wait outside, and bid Oberyn in, speaking as he sat down and made himself comfortable, "I must thank you for taking the time out to meet me, Prince Oberyn, I hear you were quite... busy."

    Oberyn nodded, a smile on his face, "Such is the purpose of a brothel, no?"

    "I suppose, though I wouldn't know. Kings can rarely afford such luxuries during such tumultuous times. What with the weddings and wars and all."

    Oberyn sniped at me with an amused smirk on his face, "Which one? The one where your brother choked on his pigeon pie, or the one where you will marry his widow?"

    "I was rather referring to the one of my sister to your nephew, the Prince Trystane."

    "Little Myrcella." He nodded and smiled, "She's taken well to Dorne, and last I saw her, she was playing with my daughters in the water gardens. From what I hear, Trystane is quite smitten with her."

    I nodded, "And I hear that she is similarly taken in by him. I expect that means that my request for their wedding to be brought forwards will be granted."

    Oberyn tutted, "My brother is patient beyond all good sense, you see. He will not reschedule just because you asked."

    I paused for a moment, taking care to meet Oberyn's increasingly curious gaze, "Myrcella's my favourite sibling, and one cannot help but wonder about the health of one's loved ones, and a marriage would help protect her." I leaned forwards, noting that he made no attempt to deny my accusation, "And I don't expect you to do that for nothing. In return, I will grant you the one thing you've always wanted."

    Oberyn quirked an eyebrow, "Which is?"

    "Gregor Clegane."

    He snorted, "Your grandfather already offered me a meeting with the Mountain, King Tommen, provided I act as a judge in the trial of your uncle, the Imp."

    "Would that satisfy you? A meeting with the Mountain. I don't think so, I think you want the pleasure of taking his head for yourself. I certainly would, if it were my sister."

    Oberyn's eyes narrowed, "And how, pray tell, would you help me do that?"

    "Simple. As it is, my grandfather promises to offer my uncle mercy at his trial if he confesses and repents, at which point he will be shipped off to the wall. My uncle, lacking for much in the way of alternative choices, plans to take this offer. If, on the other hand, he could be convinced to ask for a trial by combat..." I smiled, "My mother, possessed by her vindictive fury, plans on using the Mountain to represent the crown should that occur. Just imagine it, Prince Oberyn, the chance to exact revenge on your sister's killer, the great Lord Tywin Lannister helpless to do anything but watch as you bring his rabid beast crashing to the ground. A spectacular sight, I would imagine."

    Oberyn looked sceptical, "You would undermine your own grandfather in such a manner? Free the man who killed your own brother?"

    "My uncle is innocent," I insisted, "he is a great many things, but a kinslayer is not one of them. My mother is merely blinded by her own hatred of him."

    "You know your mother hinted that she may wed me if I were to rule against your uncle in his trial? Ellaria, my paramour, was practically gushing between her legs at the thought, so beautiful a woman your mother is." Oberyn chuckled, "Then again, Ellaria always was a lusty wench." His expression straightened, "But I have a greater desire than her, greater than even the Mountain's head."

    I smiled at the implication, swiftly rejecting his hidden request, "I love my grandfather dearly, Prince Oberyn, even if he and I don't always see eye to eye. If it were up to me alone, I would have Gregor hung, drawn and quartered, and his head delivered to you on a silver platter for his crimes against your family. Alas, it is not up to me alone."

    Oberyn nodded sagely, "Hmm, I suppose I must be satisfied with that, for now. And the price for this golden opportunity is the marriage of your sister to my nephew?" I nodded, "And if I say yes, and my brother says no?"

    I shrugged, utterly nonchalant, "Then I will find another way to free my uncle. It'll be harder, no doubt, with my mother's desire to see Tyrion's head on a spike, but your refusal is ultimately of little consequence."

    Oberyn narrowed his eyes, clearly probing me, "Weddings take a long time to arrange, King Tommen. What if one cannot be arranged in time? And Myrcella is too young to be wed, as is Trystane."

    I was tempted to threaten Oberyn with my knowledge of Doran's plot to wed Arianne to Viserys, or perhaps Arianne's plot to put Myrcella on the throne. Instead, cognizant of Oberyn's famed volatility, and the dagger that hung off the belt on his waist, I opted for a different approach. I wasn't looking to get stabbed, after all, and no number of guards could save me from internal bleeding or infection.

    "It is not as if I am asking for some elaborate affair, merely a few words muttered before a Septon to bind my sister and your nephew together, followed by a public announcement that the ceremony has been completed as proof. As for them being too young, I call bullshit. Just because they are being wed does not mean that they have to immediately be abed. I'm younger than either Trystane or Myrcella, and I am to be wed to a girl five years my senior. A girl I neither know very well, nor particularly like."

    Oberyn laughed as he sipped his wine, "Do the Tyrells know this?"

    I let a little annoyance bleed into my tone, "Oh, come on, Oberyn. I am offering you the vengeance that you always wanted. Myrcella and Trystane actually like each other, so it is hardly a punishment for them. And it's not like Trystane is the heir to Dorne, not with both Quentyn and Arianne in the mix, so it's not as if you have anything to worry about there."

    Of course, Quentyn was on his way to get roasted in Yunkai, potentially allowing me to secure Dorne as a future ally by having Arianne bumped off, but I didn't think that would be a productive fact to mention right now. "I know Myrcella's marriage to Trystane won't stop you from rebelling, not if you really wanted to, but it will insure she doesn't suffer a similar fate to your sister in that event. I merely want safety for my family, just as you want justice for yours. And, frankly, it is high time for our feud to come to an end, for the good of all involved."

    Oberyn's eyes softened marginally, and he appeared contemplative, "The Martells did not initiate this feud."

    I nodded, "Then it falls to me, as a Lannister and Baratheon both, to end it. Let us bury the hatchet between our two families, Prince Oberyn, preferably in the Mountain's ugly skull."

    Oberyn let out a harsh bark of laughter, and the tension seemed to drain from his form, "That is a lovely image, King Tommen." He sipped his wine and looked at me and then nodded, "Very well. I will send a letter to my brother, and the wedding will be pushed forwards."

    I stood, extending my hand for him to shake, "I'll be waiting for the announcement."

    With that sorted, I left the brothel with Jaime and Balon in tow. I left the Gold Cloaks behind, enjoying their dose of rampant hedonism, though I found myself somewhat sickened to discover than many of them had opted for much, much younger girls than I thought suitable. With a twinge of guilt, I realised that I had probably overpaid. Girls, some of which looked to be as young as twelve, should not be spending their time on their knees servicing men more than twice their age, even if they were willing, or more likely, desperate.

    Alas, what had been done was done, and I buried the twinge deep down. I had bigger fish to fry. I made a beeline for the Red Keep, not yet comfortable with spending a prolonged period of time in the city proper, with furtive glances given by all those on the streets, but once inside, I was content to meander for a good while. I had all day to meet Tyrion, he was hardly going to be going anywhere, and I wanted to shake off or at the very least confuse any of Varys's little birds hiding in the walls.

    As my legs began to ache, Tommen's body not particularly well-adjusted to exercise, I made my way to the top cells, where Tyrion was being held. The gaoler let me inside, and I had Balon and Jaime wait outside. I could hear some grumbling on Jaime's part, likely an expression of frustration, and I elected to ignore it. Tyrion heard the gate to his cell close behind me, and he stood from his seat, turning his head to look at his latest visitor with curiosity written across his features, "Tommen?"

    Tyrion, frankly, looked a bit shit. There were hints of Dinklage in there, but many features were entirely different. For one thing, his hair was a silvery white, and one of his eyes the characteristic Lannister green whilst the other was black, though neither eye appeared misshapen. The most noticeable feature was the complete absence of a nose, just a bit of bone and cartilage that left a whacking great hole in the middle of his face. It was a bit shocking, but I had seen worse, and I ploughed through, "It's King Tommen now."

    He nodded and moved forwards, giving me a mock bow, "Ah, where are my manners. Welcome, Your Grace, to my humble abode. What can this servant do for you on this fine day?"

    I smiled, "I should have known that your time behind bars wouldn't have blunted your wit, nor your tongue."

    Tyrion looked to be appraising me, seeming to catch on with my friendly tone, and tried to build on the rapport, "I've found that being a prisoner suits me. Did I ever tell you about the Vale?"

    I smirked, "I've heard bits and pieces. Something about you sullying the young Lord Arryn's ears with the tawdry tales of how you milked your eel into my mother's stew." I raised an eyebrow as if I were his disapproving mother, "Is that what you wanted to tell me?"

    Tyrion blushed and coughed into his palm, "Ah. Well, no, not exactly. I was more referring to some tales regarding the famed sky cells and the trial by combat that ended with a fall through the moon door." He looked at me and frowned, "How did you know about that?"

    I gave him a non-answer, if there ever was one, "The same way I know you're innocent."

    "Varys, I presume?" When I neglected to respond with anything bigger than a smile, he brushed past the topic, "Am I to be released?"

    "No. Your trial will still commence as planned."

    "But you know I'm innocent! Why would you still try me as a kingslayer?"

    "Just because I know you're innocent doesn't mean that anyone else does. My mother, in particular, seems possessed by some fury, and will accept nothing less than your head on a spike. She's spent her time trying to bribe the judges who aren't grandfather, and gathering what is practically an army of witnesses, detailing those times you butted heads with Joffrey. I would free you outright, if I thought it were possible, but I'm afraid that when given the choice between following their king or following Lord Tywin, most people would choose Lord Tywin."

    Tyrion seemed to deflate and become even smaller, "So, it's hopeless, then?"

    "Not quite. Grandfather intends to have you shipped off the the Wall instead of executed. Whilst normally I would be inclined to agree with him and to abandon you as a lost cause, I can't just seem to let you go. I suspect it has something to do with loving thy family."

    Tyrion snorted, "Yes, that old chestnut." His expression became serious again, "So, what can you do?"

    "Just because the results of the trial has been rigged doesn't mean that the rules by which it will be conducted have changed. You can still call for trial by combat."

    He gestured to his body, "I am hardly a warrior, nephew, and from what I can gather, there is not a man in all of Westeros willing to fight in my stead."

    I nodded, "It is quite true that the attitude of the court has turned quite against you. But just because nobody is willing to fight for you doesn't mean that there isn't anyone willing to fight against the Mountain."

    Tyrion's eyes narrowed as he thought it through, arriving at the only logical conclusion, "The Red Viper?" I nodded, "Risky."

    "Not as much as you'd think. I've done my best to stack the deck in the Prince's favour. Even if that fails, I guarantee you this, no matter the outcome of the duel, I would have you alive, and not rotting in a cell or freezing at the Wall, but free as a bird. Likely in Braavos, or any other place in Essos where I could have you squirrelled away till your innocence could conclusively be proven."

    He smiled a resigned smile, "I appreciate that, nephew."

    "Of course, if that doesn't happen, and Oberyn wins his duel, then I would have you on my small council, if you would still like a place on it. My reign is in desperate need of competent, loyal, and most importantly genuinely good people as advisors, and I have it on good authority that you are all three. Given time, I think you'd even make a good Hand of the King."

    "Your Grace, I... I would be honoured."

    I nodded and moved on, "Naturally, there is a political cost to all this plotting. Once Tywin realises what I did by turning to the Dornish, he will be beyond furious. To keep him in line and ensure his continued cooperation, which I will need to retain stability, I'm going to have to dangle a particularly juicy carrot in front of him."

    Tyrion looked suspicious, "And what would that be?"

    "You know what it is."

    Tyrion looked to be filled with hatefulness and spite at the very thought, "Ah, yes. The heirship."

    I shook my head, "Don't act aggrieved, uncle, we both know it's only temporary. If I make uncle Jaime the heir to Casterly Rock, who do you think he will appoint to take his place when Tywin dies? Jaime openly admits that he never had much interest in governance, and you know it." I waved my hand and cut Tyrion off as he made to rebut, "The change in heir will last only as long as Tywin does. Though I wouldn't tell him that, if I were you."

    Tyrion bit down his pride, "I see. Very well, then."

    "And there is one other thing. Your woman, the Lady Shae, is one of the witnesses against you." Tyrion seemed stunned, "I suspect that mother has applied a mixture of coin and threats to get her to comply, and that her testimony will be particularly humiliating. If you don't want that happening, I suggest you shout and rage and scream at the end of the first day of the trial, and call for a trial by combat then and there. Mother will no doubt still want to use her to humiliate you, but I can stop that from happening if you ask at the end of the first day of testimony."

    Tyrion's face cycled through a range of emotions. Rage, fear, concern, and most importantly, exhaustion. He nodded his head slowly in resignation, "I will."

    I smiled and patted his shoulder, "Stay strong, uncle. It is only a matter of time. And don't worry, in due time, I will deal with mother's hatred for you as well."

    His smile was more genuine this time, "I look forward to the day, Your Grace."

    I stood, offered him a final farewell, and left.
    Up next, trial by combat!
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: Oberyn

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 5: Oberyn

    He had been waiting for this day for a long time.

    The Mountain dead, the Old Lion humiliated. It sounded like the opening to a bad jape, but it felt more to Oberyn to be a gift from the gods themselves. The Boy King was not shy with his price for this bounty he had offered up, and all it took was a few quick strokes of a quill to make it real.

    And yet...

    Dare he trust a Lannister? The Boy King claimed he was no Lannister, that he was all Baratheon, as did his mad brother, but Oberyn saw little difference between the two.


    They were all monsters in his eyes. Throats, ready and waiting to be opened for their crimes. Their crimes against Elia, against her children, against Dorne itself. His blood boiled, as any good Dornishman's did, at the sight of the golden lion on a background of red, the banner fluttering regally in the wind. Kill, a part of his body seemed to say, fuck the consequences and kill! Rip that bastard's throat out! Rip the whore! Kill them all!

    Doran has a plan
    , his mind shot back. Doran always has a plan. Quentyn courts the Targaryen girl. Arianne plots to make Myrcella Queen. Patience will win the day, not mindless violence. You can kill now, but your children will pay the price for that killing, and so will you. And what good is victory if you cannot go home to tell the girls about it?

    Thoughts of revenge, in the sense that Doran planned it, seemed sour to him now. He, like many of the others, had not been happy with Myrcella's presence in the Water Gardens. A Lannister! In our very home! The very thought had filled him with an unquenchable fury. But she wasn't a Lannister, he could now see, she was a girl. Not unlike Sarella just a few years ago. Curious, and playful, and innocent. Oberyn thought it a shameful necessity that he still thought himself capable of killing her. I wouldn't like it, but if ever the need arose, for my family...

    And now, Oberyn could see that the Boy King was not much different. Tommen put up airs of being an earnest young lad in court, naive but good hearted, and similar airs of being a ruthless dealmaker in private, when he thought himself safe from prying eyes. In truth, however, he was ever as much a child as Myrcella was, as Myrcella is.

    I merely want safety for my family, just as you want justice for yours.

    No, what the Boy King really was, was a boy. A young one at that, who missed his sister and knew of the dangers he faced, but didn't quite know how to face them. A young boy trying to pull his bickering family back together. It was evident in his clumsy manipulations, his different facades, put up both in private and in public, all aimed at being the polar opposite of his brother and his father.

    Who am I to deny a young boy his family? And if I can have the Mountain's head, and the Old Lion's pride at the same time, then all the better.

    And with that thought in his mind, Oberyn penned the letter to his brother, and received a letter back just a few days later, enclosed with confirmation that the marriage had been completed. The trial commenced in earnest soon after. A long day of dry testimony, followed by one of the loudest tantrums Oberyn had ever seen a grown man throw. Well, I say a grown man...

    It wasn't real, Oberyn could tell. There was anger there, in the dwarf, but his rage came off more theatrical than genuine. This suspicion was furthered by the subtle glances the Boy King and the Imp seemed to share over the course of the trial. At the end, the Imp raged, stamped his feet, threatened to poison all the inhabitants of the throne room, and declared that he had heard enough. He then proceeded to ask for a trial by combat.

    It was now Oberyn's turn to share a glance with the Boy King. Blood, those eyes seemed to promise him, blood and bone for Elia. Oberyn stood from his seat then and there, and announced to the world his intent to fight on the Imp's behalf. Lord Tywin looked impassive, though Oberyn could tell from the clenching of his teeth that he was not happy. The Queen made little effort to hide her disdain at his decision, not that he paid her any mind.

    And soon, enough, the day came.

    Oberyn's spear was tipped with the finest Manticore Venom, his armour some light leather. He gave it an experimental twirl, testing the weight of the heavy shaft in his arms, looking at the tip with a sort of reverence. This spear-tip will be the one to slay the Mountain that Rides. I shall have it mounted, pride of place, back in Sunspear, alongside the Mountain's skull.

    Before he entered the grounds where the combat was due to take place, Oberyn was forced to share a few words with the Boy King, "King Tommen, I expected to see you in your seat, not down here with me."

    "I will be, in a minute. As it is, I came here to offer you some advice."

    Oberyn was amused at the notion of this green boy giving him, the Red Viper, advice on combat of all things. What could he possibly have to offer? "Advice?"

    He nodded sagely, his expression deadly serious, "No doubt you intend to dance around the Mountain, to whittle away at his strength and endurance until an opening presents itself. It is a good strategy, but you must remember it relies on distance." The Boy King's gaze travelled up and down Oberyn's body, landing back on his eyes with a fresh intensity, "I know you want vengeance, Prince Oberyn, but victory must take priority. Fight smart, and don't let your rage take hold till the Mountain is well and truly dead. He is a vicious and hardy beast, and I wouldn't take him for a corpse till his head is visibly separated from his body."

    The Boy King reached into his tunic, withdrawing a sheathed dagger. He handed Oberyn the sheath, "If your spear fails you, for whatever reason, I want you to use this. Valyrian steel should cut through the Mountain's armour as though it were paper."

    Oberyn accepted the dagger initially with scepticism, till he unsheathed it to find that the Boy King spoke the truth. The brilliant, swirling patterns on the steel were unmistakeable. For the first time, Oberyn felt something for the Boy King he had never felt before. Respect? Pah, not for a Lannister! Even still, Oberyn offered the King a solemn nod, placed the sheath on the back of his belt, and watched as the King went to take his seat in grave silence. All of a sudden, the task he had eagerly been awaiting became daunting.

    He grabbed Ellaria close, kissing her as deeply as was imaginable, and groping her under her dress in the process, something she actively encouraged. It lasted a mere moment, but it was enough for Oberyn, a final goodbye, if it came to be necessary.

    He emerged into the arena, for that is what it had become, with hundreds of spectators, and the Lannister colours proudly displayed. The smallfolk jeered his appearance, declaring their loyalties for the crown. Cersei watched him with an eagle eye, hate simmering behind her pleasant facade. The sight only encouraged him, and he went with a smile.

    Once the High Septon had finished initiating the trial by combat, the fighting began.

    The Mountain was, as ever, a fearsome sight. He was clad from head to toe in utilitarian grey plate, the kind built exclusively for practicality. His sword was five feet of battle-hardened steel, so heavy that only the Mountain could possibly work up the strength to wield it with one hand. He lumbered about, slower than Oberyn had expected, but no less powerful. When he swung his sword, Oberyn could tell he swung it hard enough to cleave an Ox in two.

    There was little grace in those swings. They were wild, and would have, if they had landed, killed Oberyn in a single blow. As it was, the Mountain telegraphed his attacks well in advance, and seemed to be becoming fatigued mere minutes into the fight, what little mobility he had used sparingly, only taking measures to block or dodge when Oberyn's spear strayed near a chink in his armour. The rest of the time, he seemed content to hear the sound of Oberyn's spear strike and bounce off the plate he wore.

    Oberyn danced around him in pretty circles, almost making a show of the whole affair. Inevitably, he was unable to resist the temptation to taunt the Mountain, "Have they told you who I am?"

    The Mountain's response was breathless, yet still arrogant, emerging from his lips in a growl, "Some dead man."

    "My name is Prince Oberyn Martell. Princess Elia was my sister."

    Oberyn couldn't tell if the Mountain was attempting to goad him, or if he was genuine, "Who?"

    "The Princess of Dorne!" Oberyn hissed, "You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children." The Mountain grunted, and Oberyn repeated the words as though they were some prayer, "You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children."

    "You come to talk or to fight?"

    Oberyn narrowed his eyes, sighting a break in the Mountain's defence, a gap between his shield, his sword and his armour, "I came to kill."

    Still repeating his chant, the Mountain's irritation building at the sounds of his opponents speaking, Oberyn unleashed a flurry of blows. The first was aimed at his throat, bouncing off his gorget, the next at his eyes, the Mountain flinching back soon enough for the spearpoint to miss the gap in his helm by a hair and come falling down on his breastplate. "You raped her, your murdered her, you killed her children."

    "SHUT UP!"

    The Mountain, in his irritation, bull-rushed Oberyn, who swung around and made his move. Dancing around the Mountain's charge, he found himself suddenly behind him, and seized the opportunity. His spear moved forwards in a quick thrust, much in the same manner in which a Viper goes for the kill, and slipped through the small gap in the Mountain's armour, delivering a quick yet deep cut at the back of his knee.

    The Mountain reeled in pain, turning with an almighty bellow and bringing his sword crashing down towards where Oberyn was standing. Oberyn met the blow with his shield, which visibly cracked under the strain, and retreated, his arm aching something fierce from the force of the strike. He retreated again as the Mountain wound up another strike, and then another, till his back was to the stable. The Mountain charged again, albeit now with a noticeable limp, and Oberyn dodged out of the way, the crowd beginning to hurriedly try to move out of the way, seemingly losing all interest in the trial.

    Some were not so lucky, and a poor stable boy found himself being hacked to bits by Gregor in the midst of a blood-rage. His arm came off at the elbow, and when he screamed, the Mountain cleaved the boy in two with a single swing of his sword. He turned to face Oberyn, still chanting, and he stood up, now even more daunting a foe, covered from head to toe in blood and gristle.

    "You talk too much," he grunted, "it makes my head hurt."

    At this point, the Mountain was less lumbering than stumbling. The Manticore venom was making its way through his system, and every beat of his heart intensified the pain. Oberyn, recognising the symptoms and the fact that Mountain was not long for this world, was once again possessed by his lust for vengeance, "Elia. Say it! Elia of Dorne!" The Mountain raised his shield at Oberyn's next strike, and Oberyn used the moment to divert his swing into another gap in the Mountain's armour, landing a deep cut just under his elbow. He screamed, "Say it! ELIA! ELIA OF DORNE!"

    He brought his spear down in a savage arc, losing all semblance of strategy in the process, the shaft striking the edge of the Mountain's shield and toppling him like a log, and breaking Oberyn's spear in two in the process. Oberyn, acting like a man possessed, charged his foe who now lay flat on his back with a scream, "ELLLIIIAAAAAA!"

    He brought the broken end of the shaft down with all his weight, driving it into the Mountain's gut with all his strength and firmly pinning him to the ground. Once this was done, he came back around to the Mountain, till his face was almost touching Gregor's helm, "I swear to you, if you die before you say her name, I will hunt you through all seven hells." He grabbed his helm and rattled it, "ELIA OF DORNE! SAY HER NAME!"

    The Mountain spasmed, lifting his arm and landing a heavy blow to Oberyn's gut , winding him in the process. He pulled Oberyn close, and whispered into his ear, "Elia of Dorne." He punched Oberyn again, and Oberyn could feel several of his ribs shatter under the weight of the blow, "I killed her screaming whelp." He smiled a bloody smile as he pushed his hand up to Oberyn's face, gripping his skull in an effort to crush it, "And then I raped her. And then I smashed her fucking head in. Like this."

    He pulled back his other hand, ready to deliver a killing blow to Oberyn's skull. In the very moment, Oberyn remembered the Valyrian steel blade the King had given him, alongside his advice, and he withdrew the dagger from his sheath, desperately slashing at the wrist of the hand that clutched his skull in a vice-like grip. Thankfully, the steel cut through the flesh as though it was butter, the stump spraying blood onto Oberyn's face as he withdrew, and the Mountain's closed fist sailed through the air where Oberyn's head would have been just moments later, his other arm suddenly bereft of a hand.

    Taking the opportunity, Oberyn backed away, prying the Mountain's now severed hand from his skull, and collapsed down, his chest heaving. He still felt the rage in his heart, but the pain of his ribs, and the hand-shaped bruising around his face compelled patience. He watched the Mountain's death throes from a distance, watching him struggle to stand, till eventually his heaving chest stilled. Wise advice, coming from a green boy.

    When his breath had been still for more than a minute, Oberyn approached the Mountain's presumed corpse cautiously, watching for any signs of life, and made once more for his head. The Mountain leapt back to life, his one remaining hand reaching for Oberyn's neck, tightening around it. Oberyn, meanwhile, brought his dagger to the Mountain's throat, and hacked his head clean off, the Mountain's hand becoming limp around his throat, allowing him to breathe once more.

    Oberyn rubbed the bruising around his throat, and then lifted the Mountain's heavy head for all to see. He looked first to Tyrion, who looked ill, his breakfast coming bubbling back up at the sight of the Mountain's maimed corpse. The Old Lion looked unimpressed, though Oberyn could tell that he was not pleased by the clenching of his teeth. You're next. Cersei seemed similarly perturbed, but made little attempt to hide her fury, her face twisted into a silent snarl. The King, on the other hand, raised his glass in a silent toast, nodded, and then offered Oberyn a small smile.

    Oberyn grinned back, his bloodstained teeth glistening in the sun.

    For Elia.
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to edits
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 6: Trial

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 6: Trial

    Tywin Lannister on the prowl was an impressive sight.

    Every step full of purpose, every movement formidable and intimidating, and he was headed right for me. He made it past the servants, scattering them with a single look such that we were alone, and then levelled his icy gaze in my direction but gave no further indication of his emotional state save for a slight furrowing of his brow, "I thought you smarter than this, Tommen. That trial was a farce."

    I frowned, still putting up an innocent act, "If you take issue with the result of a trial by combat, than you ought to speak to the High Septon. The Gods-"

    Tywin shook his head and cut me off, "Do I look like a fool to you? I had Pycelle examine the Mountain's corpse. He concluded from the contents of the Mountain's bowels that there were significant traces of Widow's Blood in his system." I gave no response, save for a small smile, and Tywin pressed on, "I know you visited the Red Viper in the brothel."

    I kept my tone light, "As does everyone else. I don't think I tried to hide that."

    Tywin quietly seethed, "You don't think you should have trusted me with your plans? When I am your Hand?"

    "Do you know why I did what I did? Why I made sure that Gregor would die and Tyrion would go free?"

    Tywin spoke through clenched teeth, "Enlighten me."

    "There were a variety of reasons. The trial presented the perfect opportunity to engage in some politicking. I used my mother's threat to make use of the Mountain to entice Oberyn, dangling the prospect of exacting his revenge at the cost of hurrying along Myrcella's wedding. I then used the threat of a newly allied Dorne to bleed the Tyrells, making them pay for the privilege of having their little rose marry the King. Which consequently, had the effect of weakening their house and strengthening yours."

    Tywin looked impassive, though I could tell that he was most definitely not happy, "I see, and for that you would let an accused Kingslayer, a man who killed your own brother, walk free?"

    "A bit hypocritical, coming from you. Or have you forgotten Jaime and Aerys?"

    Tywin looked about ready to throttle me, "You are blinded by your love for that hateful little creature."

    I ignored his glare, "Believe it or not, that was not the only reason that I made sure to ensure Tyrion's freedom. He's innocent, plain and simple."

    "I had Joffrey's throat cut open to check if he really choked," Tywin said. "He didn't. He was poisoned."

    I smiled and nodded sagely, "Yes, he was poisoned, but Tyrion wasn't the one doing the poisoning."

    "Then who did?"

    "Littlefinger, of course."

    Tywin's tone betrayed nothing, though I could tell he was intrigued, "Explain."

    I shrugged my shoulders, "It's simple: Tyrion is no fool. If he really wanted to kill Joffrey, do you really think he'd plot to have him poisoned in such a manner that made himself out to be the obvious suspect? Of course not! He'd be halfway to Braavos by the time the poison ever touched Joffrey's lips."

    Tywin quirked an eyebrow, "And that makes Baelish the killer?"

    "Ask yourself: who had the most to gain from Joffrey's death? Tyrion immediately found himself in a cell, awaiting his own execution, meanwhile Baelish absconded with Sansa Stark to the Vale, where he has already married Lysa Arryn. If you're is keeping count, that brings the one of the two Kingdoms which has suffered no losses during this war under his direct control, alongside it's armies, whilst granting himself sizeable influence over two more. The Riverlands by way of being the Lord of Harrenhall, and the North by way of his possession of Sansa Stark."

    Tywin scoffed, clearly acknowledging of my claims about Sansa, but unwilling to admit it. It was at that point I realised that Tywin was likely already aware of this. Hell, he may even have figured it out beforehand, but still allowed it to happen, likely because he believed that I would be a more pliable King. Tyrion's trial was just the icing on the cake, something he could used to get Jaime back as his heir. His next words seemed thick with implication, "I wouldn't concern yourself with Baelish. Men who aspire beyond their station rarely succeed."

    "You know, he told Lady Catelyn that Tyrion was behind the attempted killing of her son, and Lady Lysa that Tyrion was responsible for the death of Jon Arryn? He made himself a friend to the Starks and the Tullys, and then he held a knife to Lord Eddard's throat at mother's behest. He poisoned Jon Arryn, and arranged for the attempted murder of Bran Stark. He pitted Wolf against Lion, and used the ensuing chaos to advance himself far beyond his station, going from lord of rocks and sheep to one of the greatest lords of the realm. He is a man who knows no such thing as loyalty, and no limits to his schemes." I shook my head and allowed myself some disbelieving laughter to sell the act, "I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss him, if I were you."

    Tywin was, by this point, eyeing me with some amount of suspicion, "You can't know that."

    He kept his gaze level at me, and I stared him down, and then tried to find some way to explain it away, eventually opting for the vaguest and least helpful response, "Suffice it to say that a King must have many eyes, and many ears."

    He narrowed his eyes slightly, "Is that so?"

    Before Tywin could do something against my interests, I thought it best to placate him, "Yes, it is. And if you help me deal with him and all the rest of his ilk in court, then I'll give you the one thing you always wanted. Jaime may have no interest in being your heir, but he will have little choice if his King orders it of him." Tywin looked at me suspiciously, "Of course, I could just as easily keep Jaime as one of my Kingsguard, and have Tyrion inherit Casterly Rock instead, if only to whore and drink away everything you've built."

    Tywin grit his teeth, his grip on the back of one of the chairs tightening till his knuckles turned white, his stare hardening at the threat to his legacy, "Baelish will die for his treason."

    I nodded, happy at his implicit acceptance, "And Jaime will be your heir, though not for a while yet."

    Tywin did not seem pleased at that, "And why is that?"

    "I have a task for Jaime to complete first, something that will raise his profile enough to justify letting him go. I expect you will get him back in a year's time, perhaps eighteen months. It may even be sufficient to restore his reputation from when he killed the Mad King."

    "And what task is that?"

    It varied from plan to plan, but that would take time to determine the best course of action. It was all rather uncomfortably changeable, and I saw little point in speaking of a plan that might never be, not to mention anything of who might be listening in, precautions or no. As such, I wasn't going to reveal my true intentions, but a half-truth that would be true regardless of circumstance would suffice, "I want him to help me pacify the Riverlands. Nothing major, just some cleanup work, hunting bandits and sieging the odd castle. When all is said and done, his reputation should be a lot cleaner, and Jaime a lot more respectable a lord. Don't worry, it will only enhance the prestige of House Lannister."

    Tywin, unaware of this calculation, nodded his assent, "Hmm, I see."

    "As for Baelish, he is too powerful to openly confront. We can always assassinate him, but if we do, you can rest assured that Lysa will turn the knights of the Vale against us. And if we somehow fail at killing him, he will then use Sansa to assert his influence over the North and the Riverlands, and with that he could wage a war that would drag on for years, and ravage the realm in the process."

    He looked at me, clearly testing me, "The Boltons hold the North, and the Freys hold the Riverlands. Not to mention that Sansa is Tyrion's bride."

    "Just as Margaery was Renly's?" I shook my head, "The Boltons may hold the North for now, but anyone who knows anything at all about the North could tell you that they won't hold it for long. The North is too large and too wild, and the Boltons are not respected in the same manner in which the Starks were, and already the lords of the North plot to put the Starks back in power. Sansa is yet still believed to be a maiden, and you can bet she will feature in such plots." I was tempted to tell him about Rickon and Bran, but thought better of it, and focused in further south, "The Freys are in much the same position. I doubt there is a single lord in the Riverlands that will be loyal to them for very long without Lannister blades at their back to compel that loyalty."

    "All the better that we should rid ourselves of Baelish quickly, before he can rally support."

    "Not if we want to avoid another war that we cannot afford, which I do." I shook my head, "No, if we are going to get Baelish, we first need to strip him of his power and influence without alerting him to the fact that that is our goal. Only once we have stripped him of allies, potential or otherwise, and lured him from the safety of the Eyrie can we have him executed."

    Tywin looked at me with a strange glint in his eyes, "And how do you propose we do that?"

    I reached up and sipped from my glass, the water pleasantly cold. I was aware that Varys was probably listening in, and desiring to reduce the chances of him overhearing, I stood from my seat and walked over to the ledge of the terrace, beckoning for Tywin to follow. When he finally joined me, he seemed irritated at having had to move, "Why are we here?"

    "The walls of the Red Keep have many eyes and many ears, grandfather, and regretfully not all of them are mine. In times like these, I think you would agree when I say that there is no such thing as being too cautious."

    Tywin nodded, "Hmm."

    I spoke to him in a conspiratorial half-whisper, "Tell me, grandfather, do you remember encountering a young girl in Harrenhall? About my height, brown hair cut short, grey eyes, a Northerner?"

    He frowned, "I made a girl matching that description my cupbearer. Why?"

    Well, wasn't that interesting? "That girl was none other than Arya Stark." I couldn't help but grin at his surprise, which was evident to me no matter how much he schooled his expression, "She is currently wandering the Riverlands, and, as such, is within our grasp."

    Tywin looked at me, "Arya Stark has been missing, considered dead, for more than a year. Our best spymasters have not been able to find not even a whisper of the girl's whereabouts. How do you know where she is?"

    "Never mind how." Tywin looked doubtful, "If I'm wrong, what does it cost you? If, on the other hand, I'm right..." I smiled, "You ought to be discreet about it. Send your best and most trusted fighters, clad not in Lannister colours but in plain clothes. If my sources are correct, and they usually are, you ought to be able to find her at an inn near the Ruby Ford, in the company of the Hound."

    "Sandor turned traitor?"

    I waved away his question, "He was never one for loyalty in the first place. Kill him, but only if it's absolutely necessary. As it is, I'd prefer it if you could bring him in alive. I have many a task for a tool like that. As for Arya, make sure to let your men know to keep a keen eye on her at all times. She's a smart girl, and I wouldn't put it past her to steal a blade and kill her captors in their sleep in order to escape. I want her here, in Kings Landing, alive and unharmed."

    Tywin nodded, "Hmm, very well. You can consider it done."

    I smiled and clapped my hands together, "Excellent!" Tywin stood to leave, only for me to interrupt his departure, "Oh, and I thought it best to inform you, given that you are indeed my Hand, that I'm planning some changes in the Small Council. Some people will be leaving, and some new ones will be joining."

    Tywin stared me down, "Who?"

    I tapped the side of my nose, "All in good time, grandfather. All in good time."
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to rewrite in the future.
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 7: Jaime

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 7: Jaime

    If this is power, Jaime thought to himself, then why does it taste so much like tedium?

    Plotting, politics, manipulations and murders. Jaime watched the business of the Small Council from the end of the table, and he found himself thinking of all the lords who aspired to a seat at this table. They can bloody well have mine. He watched the King, just barely tall enough to sit at the Small Council without a cushion under his arse, slowly but surely perusing the documents laid before him. Every so often, he would dip his quill into an inkpot, scratch something out or scribble some note on the side, and then sign the documents given to him.

    I'm bored, Jaime realised. And sore.

    His muscles burned from his sessions with Bronn. Where once he had been arguably the greatest knight in all the realms, now he was barely strong enough to lift a tourney sword. The truth stung more than any bruise ever could. It seemed so simple, changing hands. It wasn't. Every instinct, built and honed over years, was suddenly wrong. Bronn, a common sellsword, had disarmed him thrice over with ease, and sent his blade spinning into the dirt.

    Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. What a cruel jape.

    The King signed another decree, and Kevan snatched it out from under his quill, "Only a few more, Your Grace." He puled another sheaf of paper from the top of the pile, and handed it to the King, "This is royal pardon for Lord Gawen Westerling, his lady wife, and his daughter, Jeyne."

    The King gave the document a quick look over, and then signed it, and the process continued, "This is a pardon for Lord Jonos Bracken of Stone Hedge. This is a pardon for Lord Vance. This for Lord Goodbrook. This for Lord Mooton of Maidenpool."

    As the tedium drew on, Jaime entertained himself with thoughts of what kind of King Tommen would be, when he was grown. Being king is a massive amount of responsibility for a child who’s never had to deal with any before. A surprising thing to hear from a boy. Even more surprising was what came after. I may not yet be a man grown, but I am far from the child you knew, the one who believed in all those songs. Jaime watched the King sign his name in a surprisingly elegant but still childish scrawl. He watched him read every word on every page, comprehending more than Jaime would have at his age.

    Wise beyond his years and hardened by war. This son of mine is no man, not yet, but he is a boy no longer.

    Tommen will be a good King, I can tell. Better than Joffrey. Then again, damn near anyone would have been better than Joffrey.
    Jaime felt a dull pang of guilt at the thought, but it wasn't genuine. Cersei cared more about the boy than he ever had. He knew in his mind that he should mourn his son, but there was little to mourn. He... he was a monster. The Mad King come again.

    “This grants Ser Rolph Spicer title to the castle Castamere and raises him to the rank of lord.”

    Jaime watched the King read and then sign the document, and he suddenly felt exhausted by the whole affair. I'm a fighter, not a lord. Though... I guess I'm not much of a fighter now, either. Jaime pushed himself to his feet, "You seem to have these matters well in hand, Uncle. I shall leave His Grace to you."

    Kevan responded, urging him to mend the ever-widening breach that had formed between him and his father, and Jaime felt his patience fraying. He turned to Tommen, "Sire, do I have your leave to go?"

    Tommen looked at him, and then the rest of the Small Council, and then back at him. After a long moment, he shook his head, "You do not, Uncle. I have need of your presence here for a little while longer." Jaime grit his teeth and sat back down, his armour hanging loose over his still-recovering body. The King turned back to Kevan, "Is there anything else, Great-Uncle?"

    Kevan nodded, and pushed two more sheafs before the King, "This is a bill of attainder against Lord Edmure Tully, stripping him of Riverrun and all its lands and incomes, for rebelling against his lawful King. This is a similar attainder, against his uncle Ser Brynden Tully, the Blackfish."

    Tommen gestured to the last two on the pile, "And those?"

    “This is a decree of legitimacy for a natural son of Lord Roose Bolton of the Dreadfort. And this names Lord Bolton your Warden of the North.”

    Tommen nodded, stacked all four sheafs together without reading or signing them, and pushed them to the side, "I will get to that at a later date."

    Kevan seemed to be getting annoyed, "Your Grace-"

    Tommen cut Kevan off with a wave, "Worry not, Great-Uncle, I will have the matters seen to in a timely fashion. As it is, there was some important business I wanted to lay before my Council."

    "And what is that, Your Grace?"

    "The war."

    Varys tittered and many of the other lords sported raised eyebrows. The King had not voiced interest in such matters yet, and it was a strange thing to hear him voluntarily speaking of it. Till now, the King had been content to observe the business of the Council, but not to truly participate. Kevan addressed him in an even, almost curious, tone, "The war is over."

    Tommen quirked an eyebrow, "Do you take me for a fool, Great-Uncle?"

    Kevan shook his head, "No, Your Grace."

    "Then why did you lie to me?"

    "I did not lie."

    Tommen nodded, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but has my Uncle Stannis been defeated?"

    "Your Grace-"

    "And what of the Ironborn? Have the Greyjoys suddenly bent the knee to the Iron Throne? Has Dragonstone? Has Storm's End? And what of the Targaryen girl in the East? Has she suddenly keeled over and died without my knowledge? Or perhaps she has abandoned her quest for the Iron Throne? Because if she has, I'd very much like to know."

    Kevan seemed to be reaching the end of his patience, "You are yet a child, Your Grace, with much to learn. Neither the Lord Hand nor I thought it wise to burden you with such matters so soon."

    Tommen smiled, "Of course, Great-Uncle, your efforts to protect me are much appreciated. And yet, I cannot learn without experience, can I? If I stray, I have you as my trusted advisor, alongside Grandfather, to advise me upon the correct course of action." The true meaning in his words were clear, and Kevan nodded after a long moment, an intrigued look in his eyes. Tommen glanced about the chamber, and said, "I notice that the Small Council seems... smaller, than usual. Several key position lie vacant. And we cannot go about the business of administering the Kingdoms like that, can we?"

    There was a round of murmured agreement, and Kevan narrowed his eyes at the King, "No, Your Grace, we cannot."

    The King pulled out a spare scrap of parchment, quickly scribbled on it, and handed the note to Jaime, "Have these people summoned to these chambers, immediately."

    First a cripple, Jaime thought, and now a glorified servant. Nevertheless, Jaime stood from the chair, grateful for the chance to stretch his legs, and walked out of the chambers, reading aloud to the guards outside the names on the list. Tyrion, Bronn and... Paxter Redwyne? What is my son doing? His task completed, Jaime returned to his seat as the King was conversing with the Spider, "Tell me, Lord Varys, of the Wall."

    Even Varys seemed surprised at the question, "The Wall, Your Grace?" Tommen nodded, "Well, Your Grace, it is my understanding that Lord Stannis has taken residence at the Wall. Supposedly, he has gone to fight off an invasion of Wildlings."

    Tommen licked his lips and nodded, "I see. And did the Lord Commander have nothing to say about this?"

    Varys simpered, "Lord Commander Mormont is dead, Your Grace. As I understand it, the Wall has no leader for the moment, till one of their number is elected to succeed him."

    "And the Targaryen girl?"

    "I have only rumours, Your Grace. Some say she is in Astapor, others in Yunkai. It is said that she birthed a three-headed dragon in the city of Qarth. They all agree on one thing, however: she has set Slaver's Bay alight with... with Dragonfire. Supposedly, she means to eradicate slavery, and there have been many slave revolts following where she is rumoured to have gone, though precious few have proved successful. Still, she is referred to as the Mother of Dragons and the Breaker of Shackles."

    "A commendable goal, if a poor attempt at reaching it. The girl leaves a trail of blood in her wake." Tommen frowned and narrowed his eyes, "Meereen? Are there any rumours of her in Meereen?"

    Varys frowned, very clearly making it seem as though he were deep in thought, "A couple, Your Grace."

    Tommen did not seem convinced that that was all Varys knew, but if he suspected anything, he said nothing of it, "Hmm." At that moment, Tyrion arrived in the chambers, shooting Jaime a look as he walked in, and Tommen addressed him, "Uncle Tyrion, how are you?"

    Tyrion shot Kevan a look as he responded, "Well enough, nephew. Much as I enjoy captivity, I find that freedom suits me better. It's much more... pleasurable."

    Tommen smiled, "That is good to hear, Uncle. In any case, I am in need of a Master of Coin, and I happen to note that in spite of your acquittal, you have yet to attend a Small Council meeting since your trial. No matter the reason, I expect you here at every meeting hence, understood?"

    Tyrion claimed a seat on the far side of the table, dragged it near to where Jaime was sat, hopped up onto it, and nodded, "Yes, Your Grace."

    "Given your absence from the Small Council, I will give you a week to reacquaint yourself with the Crown's finances. After that, we can get to work."

    Tyrion nodded, but before he could reply, Bronn came walking in, "You called for me?"

    "Yes, Bronn, I did. From what I can gather, you have fought for the crown loyally, yes?"

    "Aye, durin' the riots and the Battle of the Blackwater. Lord Tywin made me a knight for it."

    Tommen nodded, "Well, Ser Bronn, your services are required in a similar capacity now. I could use your talents as my commander of the City Watch and the gold cloaks."

    Bronn nodded and accepted the post as though he had been expecting it, with all too much dignity for a man of his station. This was planned, Jaime realised. Tommen means to make the gold cloaks his red cloaks. Why else put his killer in charge of them? Kevan made to object to the appointment, but Tommen cut him off in a tone that brokered no argument. At that tone, Jaime felt a shiver run through his spine. It ought to have sounded ridiculous, given that Tommen's voice had not fully deepened yet, but somehow he managed to make it intimidating.

    Though many of the lords silently bristled at having a man of such low birth sit at the table as though he were one of their equals, the combination of the King's gaze and Bronn's sword bouncing merrily away on his hip was deterrent enough to make them keep their peace. Jaime watched Bronn with narrowed eyes, and the sellsword found his gaze and met it with a cheeky grin. I'm watching you, Jaime thought. A tense silence reigned till eventually Lord Paxter arrived, "Your Grace."

    "Ah, Lord Paxter." Tommen eyed the man critically, observing his facial features before he spoke, "How fare Horas and Hobber, my lord? Are they well?"

    Paxter eyed Tommen back, understanding the threat inherent in his words, and spoke only after a lengthy pause, "Yes, Your Grace. My sons are well."

    Tommen nodded, "I am gladdened to hear it, my lord, but I did not call you all this way to talk of your sons. Should you want it, I have a place in my Small Council for you, not just as the mere advisor that you are now, but as my Master of Ships."

    There was no doubt in Jaime's mind that Mace would have objected to being replaced, but he was not present, and so, he could do no such thing. Paxter needed only a moment to consider the offer. He bowed as he spoke, "I would be honoured, Your Grace."

    Tommen gestured for Paxter to sit, and once he was sat, Tommen said, "I have a task for you, Lord Paxter. Thanks to Lord Varys, it has recently come to my attention that the seat of Dragonstone has been left sparsely defended by my Uncle Stannis, who has left for the Wall, supposedly to make war with the Wildlings."

    Paxter caught on quickly enough, "You wish for me to take Dragonstone?"

    Tommen nodded, "Ideally within the next three months. It is a speedy capture I am looking for, not a lengthy siege. Gather however many ships and men you feel necessary for the task, and prepare yourself to launch an invasion." Paxter nodded, "In addition to this, I think it right to warn you not to take your entire fleet to Dragonstone. The Ironmen are ever a tricksy lot, and if Dragonstone does become a siege, I should not wish for the Reach to be left exposed to their raids. The exact number you leave behind, I'll leave to your discretion. After all, you would know better than me."

    Paxter nodded again, and Tommen stood from his seat, slowly walking around the table as he spoke, "Before we bring this meeting of the Small Council to a close, I thought it best to inform you all of something. I am not my father, who cared not for the business of ruling in favour of drinking and whoring and warring. Neither am I my brother, who was more interested in torturing little girls than in the of the business of this Council."

    Many of the lords began shooting strange looks at each other at this open disparagement of the late King, but Tommen did not let it stop him. He raised his tone slightly for a moment to regain their attention, and ploughed on, "I intend on ruling, and ruling well. As such, I will work you all hard, perhaps harder than many of you have worked before. And I will be working right alongside you all." Those words were thick with hidden meaning, and everyone seemed to Jaime to understand this.

    The King is watching.

    There was a moment of silence, and Tyrion saw fit to fill it, "A lovely speech, Your Grace. Truly."

    Varys chimed in, speaking with a theatrical flourish, "Indeed. It fills our hearts all with hope to hear it."

    Tommen's gaze stayed cool, unmoved by flattery, "You are all dismissed."

    There was a clattering of wood on stone as all the attending lords of the Small Council rose from their seats and made to leave. Less than half had attended this particular session, but Jaime did not doubt that every single member would attend the next. Kevan shot Tommen an approving look, and left without a word, likely to report this new development to his brother. Jaime felt himself shudder at Tommen's gaze. It just felt... wrong, somehow, to see it coming from a child. He couldn't quite put his finger on it when, all of a sudden, it struck him.

    Oh Gods, Jaime thought, I know what kind of King Tommen will be.

    He will be Lord Tywin with a crown.

    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to edits
  10. ThedudeManBro

    ThedudeManBro The Dudeliest Man on the block, Bro!

    Nov 19, 2018
    Likes Received:
    If the tag says "NSFW for safety", i suggest you either ask a mod to dump this in NSFW creative writing... Or maybe just stay here and when you feel the need to make it lewd or extra bloody or smt you ask then?

    Anyway, interesting start to a story. It's got my Like&Watch, wellcum to the QQQlub.
    aeoniam likes this.
  11. Xodarap

    Xodarap Versed in the lewd.

    Jan 25, 2019
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    Huh so this is what a Tommen SI is like without the ruthless sadism that is a Gangster behind the wheel watched hope this story goes better than that one as after the magic azor ahai rebirth the story went downhill culminating in Jaimes death for me.

    Chapter 5 isn't threadmarked
    pochez01 and Zey69 like this.
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 8: Dream

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 8: Dream

    Though Cersei was most definitely a Lannister, at that very moment, one could not be blamed for believing her to be a true Baratheon.

    Ours is the Fury, indeed.

    "Out! All of you, out!" The doors shut behind the servants as they nervously rushed away from their wrathful Queen, not wishing to attract her ire. Left in the room with me was Jaime, who was the Kingsguard accompanying me for the day. I swiftly compelled his silence, aware that this conversation was a long time coming. Cersei levelled her head in my direction, "Is it true?! Did you put that wretched dwarf on the Small Council?"

    I frowned, still putting up an innocent act, "You mean Uncle Tyrion?" She nodded, "Of course I did."

    "He killed your brother!" she raged. "And you would give him a seat on the Small Council!?"

    I shook my head, "Not according to the gods, if the results of the trial by combat are anything to go by."

    Cersei scoffed at me, "The Gods! Pox on the Gods. Just because one man was more lucky in combat than another does not prove anything."

    I quirked an eyebrow, "Somehow, I don't think you would say the same thing if Ser Gregor had won that bout."

    Cersei's eyes looked into mine as she purposefully softened her expression, lowering herself so that she was at the same eye-level as me, her skirts pooling on the floor as she crouched, "I know you love your Uncle, Sweetling, but he killed your brother. That vile, treacherous little Imp is not to be trusted."

    I nodded, "And I would agree with you. Had he killed my brother, then of course he could not be trusted." It was my turn to look into Cersei's eyes, "As it is, he did not kill Joffrey, and so he can be trusted."

    The same ugly snarl appeared on her face, and she stood, her fingernails grazing my cheek as she pulled away, though her tone became sickly sweet, "Oh, is that so? And pray tell, then who did kill my son?"

    I smiled, "Why, I thought it obvious? Do you really not know?"

    She seemed frustrated with my defiance, "Who?"

    "Littlefinger, of course."

    She shook her head, "You can't know that. I was there, sweetling, when the Imp made his threats. Threats against you, against Joffrey, all for that.... for that whore. He threatened his family for a whore. How can you trust such a man?"

    "Easily, when he is family. And it is hardly as if Joffrey was much better, really. Not with the way he treated Sansa and behaved like a tyrant. Frankly, even if Tyrion did kill him, I still would have pardon-"

    She slapped me. Hard, across the face, tears stinging her eyes. She did it again. And again, "He was your brother! Your brother!"

    I let any hint of mirth slip off my face entirely, "No, he wasn't. He was your firstborn, I'll grant. Related to me by blood, to be sure, but he was no brother of mine and nor was I any little brother of his. Brothers are supposed to care, to protect each other. He hurt me, abused me whilst you turned a blind eye. Frankly, I'm glad he's dead, and I'd wager most of the rest of the realm is too."

    She blinked in realisation, looking at me with a blank stare. Soon, she snapped out of it and shook her head, "I... you're wrong. Tyrion isn't trustworthy. He'll hurt you, sweetling. Betray you."

    "No, he won't," I insisted.

    "You can't know that."

    I did my best to feign discomfort, "I can."

    She looked at me with scorn emerging once again into her features at my obstinance, "Oh? And how is that?"

    Excellent, she had sprung my trap card. I considered sending Jaime away, but on the off chance that the two got together later, it wasn't a risk I could afford to take. If this particular manipulation was going to work, I would have to convince both twins, not just Cersei. I leaned back in my chair and sighed, feigning a world-weariness that I only partially possessed, "Because... because of my dreams."

    Jaime, who had till now been silent, had a concerned look on his face, "Dreams, Your Grace?"

    "More like visions, to be honest. I've had them since I was young, and I didn't know what to make of them, and yet, everything I saw, it all came true. Bran falling, or rather being pushed, from the tower, Ned's execution, Tyrion's capture and subsequent escape."

    Cersei looked at me as though I was mad, and scoffed. I looked at Cersei, and I decided to take a bit of a gamble, looking at Jaime instead, "Burn them all. Do your remember that, Uncle? I want him dead, the traitor. I want his head, or you'll burn with all the rest. All the traitors."

    Jaime paled, his mouth agape, unable to understand what he was hearing, "But... how? Nobody alive knows what he said to me. Not those words, at least. How..."

    Cersei sighted Jaime's shock, "Jaime?"

    I turned to look at Cersei instead, "Gold shall be their crowns and gold shall be their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands around your pale white throat and choke the life from you." Now it was Cersei's turn to pale, though she stayed silent, "For all these years, you placed more faith in the words of a mad witch than those of your own family, and in doing so, you became your own worst enemy. Not to mention, Tyrion wasn't the only valonqar at that wedding, was he?"

    She reared back at my words, and shook her head in denial, "No... It can't be... Not you..."

    I was eager to put any silly notions she may be having to bed, "You can relax. I didn't kill Joffrey, for accursed is the kinslayer. I just didn't... remember, that he would die till it was too late." She shot me a suspicious look, "As a babe, I have seen the Dance of the Dragons, the age of Heroes, the coming of the Andals. I have lived a thousand years in my sleep, and I have seen thousands of Kings. Joffrey's reign made the reign of the Mad King look like that of Jaehaerys the Conciliator." I feigned a shudder, "The things he would do... they do not bear speaking. And with the image of Westeros ablaze in my mind, of Dragons in the skies once more, of blood filling the rivers instead of water, of a winter that never ends, can you honestly blame me for letting a measly poisoning slip my mind?"

    Cersei gathered herself back up together, and looked at me with damp, conflicted eyes, conveying the pity, concern and anger she felt towards me in that moment. Making a snap decision, she placed her hand back on my cheek, "Why didn't you tell me? About these dreams?"

    I gently freed myself from her grasp, "You would have thought me mad. And, in truth, till relatively recently I thought the dreams to be some product of a twisted imagination, not actual prescience. I mean, what child wants to believe that his own Uncle is his father?" Cersei flinched and Jaime shot me a look, but neither of them made any attempt to deny it, "I was content to sit in the corner of the Red Keep playing with Myrcella. As it is, I must now sit in that blasted metal chair, and it falls to me to face the crises that will come. If I'm to have any hope of success, I will need all the help I can get, and Tyrion is a key part of that."

    "And these same dreams tell you Tyrion is innocent?" I nodded, and realisation flashed across her face. Cersei looked at me through narrowed eyes, "Myrcella's wedding announcement, the Tyrell ships with their gold. Those were no ordinary attempts to curry favour, were they?"

    I looked around, listening for the patter of little feet, only to find silence. That wasn't to say that Varys wasn't listening, but given the sudden nature of this encounter, I could only hope. I looked at her with a smile on my face, "No, they were not. If we are to survive, we need both the Reach and Dorne on our side, and Tyrion's trial presented the perfect opportunity needed to secure that loyalty. The Lannister armies may be strong, but alone they are no match for what's coming. We will need our allies, if we are to survive." I shrugged, "The Mountain was a small price to pay for that."

    Jaime looked at me with a curious look on his face, "And what is coming, Your Grace?"

    "War is coming, Uncle. War. What you have fought, what you have experienced... it is nothing compared to what lurks around the horizon. Nothing, you hear me? Denys dreamed of the Doom of Old Valyria, and I dream of the Doom of Westeros." I looked out the window, speaking in a low, desperate whisper, the two of them listening with rapt attention, "Sometimes... sometimes the urge strikes me, to give up. To climb to the tallest tower in the keep, open the window, and to just... fly, like Bran did." I rubbed the bridge of my nose, as if plagued by some great burden, "I've seen your corpses, did you know that? All of you. They haunt me in my dreams. It all seems so utterly, hopelessly inevitable." I clenched my fist till the knuckles turned white, my face drawn in determination, "And yet if I chart the right course, tread the right path, I know I will be able to prevent it. To save my kingdom, my people, my... my family."

    A lone tear slipped from reddened eyes, and internally I could hear the imaginary audience applaud at my masterful performance. If nothing else, it seemed sufficient to get the two of them to believe in, which is all I really needed.

    Jaime gulped, "I... I see."

    I sighed, letting all tension slip from my form, "But that is all in the future. We have more immediate problems. Baelish wasn't the only traitor, and as it is, I will need to conduct a purge of the Small Council to stand any chance of keeping the peace. The Kingsguard too. When the politically opportune moment comes for the blood to flow, we need to present a united front. The King needs to be seen to have the full support of his family. Do I have that support?"

    Cersei gave me a tight nod after only a moment of thought, and said, "Always, Tommen. Always."

    Jaime looked at me with something that approached reverence in his eyes, "Of course, Your Grace."

    I turned my gaze to my uncle, "Jaime, could you please go and have one of the maids fetch Tyrion for me?" Just as he was making to leave, I interrupted him, "Oh, and Jaime?"

    "Yes, Your Grace?"

    "Needless to say that you will speak to nobody about the things you have heard today. Nobody." I turned to look at Cersei, injecting some steel into my tone, "I am trusting you two with this, and only you two. Nobody else is to know."

    He nodded and left the chambers, and Cersei said, "Why are you having him summoned here?"

    I looked her in the eyes, my gaze unfaltering, "To settle the matter of this petty rivalry between the two of you. You were so distracted with your hatred of each other, that you failed to spot the real danger, sat just a few scant seats away from you the entire time. That rivalry was ultimately what got Joffrey killed, by allowing a plotter like Baelish to escape notice. I will not allow the same kind of infighting to undermine my reign, and to endanger my person. As such, I expect you to apologise to him when he arrives."

    Cersei looked outraged, "To that Imp!" She spat the word as though it were poison, "Never!"

    I met her fiery gaze head-on, speaking in a cool monotone deliberately reminiscent of Tywin, "You will apologize, or you will be shipped off to Casterly Rock, do you hear me? Those are the only choices you have. You are my mother, and I love you, but my very life hangs in the balance, and I'll not risk it for the sake of your pride. I won't end up like Joffrey."

    I kept my gaze focused on hers till she eventually quailed, leaving the air still with a stubborn silence. When Tyrion arrived a few minutes later, he came in with a grin, one which quickly fell off his face as he saw Cersei, "Your Grace?"

    I turned and looked at Cersei, and then back at Tyrion, "My mother has something to say to you, Uncle." Cersei stayed silent, and I allowed a threatening quality to bleed into my tone, "Don't you, Mother?"

    She gave a sort of strangled growl, and then bowed her head, her speech emerging from her lips stiff and stilted, "Yes, I..." she shot me a look, "apologise. I shouldn't have tried to have you executed."

    Tyrion looked legitimately stunned. He looked at Cersei as though she had grown a second head, and then back at me, and then back at Cersei again. Eventually he overcame his shock, clumsily accepting the apology, "Ah... I see."

    "And Tyrion, don't you have an apology to make to my mother?" He looked at me quizzically, and I clarified my words, "For threatening her."

    He nodded, and though the words came out of his mouth more smoothly then they came out of Cersei's, they still bore an uncomfortable quality to them, "Well... of course. I am sorry. For threatening you."

    "Well, that wasn't awkward in the slightest, was it?" I clapped my hands together loudly, shattering the tension hanging in the air between the two, "Now, with that over and done with, I must leave. I have kingdoms to conquer, debts to repay, disputes to settle and a realm to rule. There is so much work to be done, and so little time to do it in!"
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to rewrite.
    App E, Proman, The Unicorn and 66 others like this.
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 9: Arya

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 9: Arya

    "We don't want to go in," Arya said. "There might be ghosts."

    The Hound snorted as he swung off his saddle, "You know how long it's been since I had a cup of wine? Besides, we need to learn who holds the ruby ford. Stay with the horse if you want, it's no hair off my arse."

    "What if they know you?" Arya questioned. "They might want to take you prisoner."

    Sandor grunted, "Let them try."

    He loosened his sword from it's scabbard, the dull grey steel peeking over the top, and marched into the inn like he owned it. His face was uncovered, almost challenging the world to a fight. Not that his helm would have helped much, shaped like a hound as it was. Arya looked around, to the long flat stretch of land in all direction, to a small copse of trees in the distance, and the river not too far away. The Kingsroad ran straight through here.

    Arya patted Stranger, chewing her lip as she did so. I could run. Take Stranger and Craven and ride away. He'd never be able to keep up. And yet, she led the horses to the stable as he had instructed her to do, tying them to a post, and then went in after him.

    They know him, she could tell. And I know them.

    Not the women or the skinny innkeeper, but the soldiers. The Tickler and Polliver both. Already, Arya could tell a fight was brewing. There are only three, Arya thought. Not a hopeless battle, but certainly not a smart one. The third one, a pudgy boy with spots on his face, likely a squire, spoke up, slurring his words slightly, drunk, "This the lost puppy Ser Gregor spoke of? The one who piddled in the rushes and ran off?" The Tickler put a warning hand on his arm, and shook his head, beckoning the boy to stop. The boy apparently did not notice, and gave the Hound a stupid mocking grin, "Said he ran off whimpering."

    The Hound stayed silent, and Polliver shoved the girl he had on his lap off, and rose to his feet, "The lad's drunk. He can't hold his wine, is all."

    "Then he shouldn't drink."

    "Ah, is the puppy scared-" the Tickler grabbed his ear and twisted, hard, his words becoming a sharp squeal of pain.

    The innkeeper arrived, arms laden heavy with flagons of wine. Sandor immediately snatched one off the platter, and gulped it down till half his flagon was all but gone. He slammed the flagon down, fished out some coppers and threw them on the table, and turned to the innkeeper, "Best pick those up. It's likely the only coins you'll see today."

    Polliver frowned, "We'll pay when we're done drinking."

    "When you're done drinking you'll tickle the innkeeper to see where he keeps his gold. The way you always do."

    It seemed as though the innkeeper and the rest of the inhabitants of the inn had caught up. He left quickly, and the girl that had been on Polliver's lap fished a garment off the ground, using it to cover her bare breasts as she rushed off. We should leave too, Arya knew. "If you're looking for Ser, you're too late. He was at Harrenhall, and now he's not. The Queen called for him." Polliver paused, and Arya took stock of the steel on his body. Three blades on his belt: a longsword, a dagger, and something in between. He sipped his wine, speaking very matter-of-factly, "King Joffrey's dead, you know. Poisoned at his own wedding feast."

    Joffrey's dead. She felt the urge to smile, but it felt hollow when she did. Still, the news was music to her ears. Joffrey's dead!

    "Who killed him?" the Hound asked.

    "The Imp, it's thought. Him and his little wife."

    Both Sandor and Arya were confused at that, till Polliver explained it to them. That's stupid, Arya thought when she heard. She'd never marry the Imp. Sandor gulped his wine with the ghost of a smile on his face as he heard of the Queen's suspicions of Tyrion, "She ought to dip him in wildfire and cook him."

    Arya bit her lip so hard at hearing that she tasted blood. He's one of them. Just like all of them. I should kill him whilst he sleeps. Arya payed only the barest of attention as Sandor and Polliver began to discuss Harrenhall, "-a couple wenches to warm our beds, and put all the rest to the sword."

    "All of them?" Arya blurted out. She covered her mouth, and the two went back to discussing Harrenhall, the Riverlands, and the Saltpans.

    Then, the topic of Sansa came back up, "Well, the little bird flew away, did she? Good, she shit on the Imp's head and left."

    "They'll find her," said Polliver, "if it takes half the gold in Casterly Rock, they'll find her."

    "A pretty girl," the Tickler interjected, smacking his lips, "and courteous too. Not like her vicious bitch of a sister."

    "They found her too," Polliver said. "The sister. Rumour is that she was off to wed Bolton's bastard, but the new King put a stop to it."

    Arya sipped her wine so that they couldn't see her mouth. Sansa Stark has no other sister. Sandor laughed uproariously.

    Polliver frowned, "What's so bloody funny?" Then, he leaned in, speaking in a low, threatening tone, "Ser would sooner see you returned to Harrenhall, Sandor. Or Kings Landing..."

    Sandor shook his head, "Bugger him, bugger that, bugger you."

    The Tickler reached behind his head to scratch himself, and Sandor burst into action. He lurched to his feet just as a flash of silver flew past him, leaving only a shallow wound on his ribs instead of through the middle of his throat. The Tickler's hand was outstretched, as though he had just thrown something. Polliver cursed, drew his sword, and swung. Sandor met his blow, directing it away, "I was hoping you'd do something stupid."

    Sandor met the Tickler and Polliver in combat, and it seemed as though they were all an even match for each other. Arya saw the squire scrabbling for his sword, however, and knew she would have to join. She flung her cup of wine at his face, and he went down flat on his hindquarters. She turned back, only to find the Hound was being driven back. He's drunk, she realised with dismay. The Tickler was reaching behind him, quiet as anything, waiting till Polliver pushed him far enough. Arya snatched up a second cup and flung it at his face, only to find that his awareness was better than that of the squire's. Metal clanged on the floor, and he gave her a cold, hard stare.

    The squire was slowly recovering, drawing himself back to his feet, and Arya felt panic bubbling in her chest. She could only watch as the Tickler closed on Sandor, blood gushing from his face, the stump where his ear should have been replaced with an open wound. He twisted violently, and the two men began to back him into a corner. Arya sighted a third flagon, this one of heavy stone, and she grabbed it, ready to fling before she was stopped. You forgot the other one, you big stupid.

    The squire had a sword in one hand and her waist in the other, his grip tight enough to leave bruises. Still, he was too close, and Arya strained and reached around, pulling his dagger from it's sheath and plunging it into his gut, twisting and twisting. His eyes went big, his sword clattered to the ground, and he fell down, blood pooling around him. Sandor was, at this point, hiding behind a bench, leaning against the wall noisily, taunting them, "If you want me, come get me."

    "You think we won't? You're drunk."

    Sandor kicked the bench, sending it into Polliver's shins. When he fell, a vicious cut followed, and blood spattered the ceiling, "Maybe, but you're dead."

    The Tickler backed away, reeking of fear. Arya suddenly noticed that she still held the bloodstained dagger in her hand. All his focus was on Sandor, and he wasn't armoured. It was the easiest thing in the world to stab him. And she did. Over and over and over. She was on top of him now, screaming, face splattered with blood, "How many, how many, how many, how many?! Is there gold in the village?!"

    Sandor pulled her off him, and she directed him to the still-bleeding squire, and he examined the lad, "Pricked him in the bowels, you did, that'll be the end of him. He'll be dying a long time, too."

    The lad whimpered on the ground, begging, and Sandor gestured for her to finish him. She braced herself, searching for his pulse, and when she found it, she plunged her dagger deeper and deeper into his chest till he was still. Sandor began to speak, and she listened in a haze to his jabs, and to his plans. She went off, dutifully, to fetch the wine and coin, and when she returned, they left. He needed help mounting Stranger, blood still flowing, albeit slower now. They set off, eyes watching them leave, though they disappeared out of sight as they passed some trees, avoiding the ruby ford and following the Kingsroad, through marshes and woods and weedy fields. Finally, hours later, they arrived at the banks of the Trident, far from the inn.

    They made camp there, and Arya gathered deadwood for a fire and watered the horses as the Hound gulped that last half of a wineskin she had stolen for him, "If only I had more wine. Maybe I ought to send you back to that bloody inn for another skin or three."

    Arya shook her head, "No." I won't do it. If he asks again, I'll leave him, I swear it.

    Sandor saw the look on her face, "A jest, wolf-girl. A bloody jest."

    Eventually, he got the fire going, and Arya watched him, "Won't the smoke be seen?"

    The Hound grunted weakly, "Anyone wants to find us, they only need to follow the blood. We've made a trail straight here." He poured the last dregs of the wineskin into his helm, mixed it with some water, and held it over the fire till the mixture simmered, "Take the cup from my bedroll and dip it. Careful. You spill any and I will send you back for more. Pour it over my wounds."

    She did as he ordered, her fingers blistering at the heat, and he bit down on a stick, a piece of deadwood she had fetched. As the boiling wine poured over his wounds, he grunted, but did not scream, though the stick broke when she did his neck. Finally, with a fresh stick in his mouth, she did his ear, and he did scream then, loud. A long, painful howl, his body writhing, and then he slipped into unconsciousness. She didn't need instructions to finish her task. She bound his head with strips of the squire's cloak, using almost half to stem the bleeding.

    "The Hound," she whispered. Maybe he'd be dead by morning...

    Then, she settled herself in for another cold night, letting the horses graze as they pleased. She lay down, the fire crackling in the corner of her eyes as night fell, the moon visible through the branches. She recited her list, "The Mountain," she said softly, "Ser Illyn, Raff the Sweetling, Ser Meryn, Queen Cersei-"

    She closed her eyes, Joffrey. It made her feel odd to leave him out. She was glad he was dead, but sad that she hadn't been there to see him dead. She turned her thoughts to Tommen. He stopped 'Arya' from leaving for the Boltons. Surely he must know it's not really Arya? She remembered the short, pudgy blonde who had come to Winterfell. Didn't seem the cleverest. All he ever did was play at swords with Bran, and not very well at that. Could he have forgotten me?

    The thought made Arya long for Winterfell. I... I wish I could change into a wolf and grow wings and fly away.

    Arya shook her head, Valar morghulis, and resumed her recitation of her list, "Lord Tywin, Dunsen-"

    "Arya Stark?" asked a breathless voice.

    Arya jerked up, her blistered hand closing around Needle's hilt. She looked around, searching for the source of the voice, and saw a helm peeking through the foliage, which emerged to become a knight clad in half-plate and chainmail. Perhaps a half-dozen more knights followed the man, whose helm turned to look at the Hound, and then back at her. None of the men bore any sigil, but Arya did not need any sigil to tell that these were Westermen.

    The man at the front spoke up, "You are hereby under arrest, Arya Stark, by order of His Grace, King Tommen Baratheon."

    No, Arya thought bitterly. I don't think he has.

    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to edits in the future
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 10: Tyrion

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 10: Tyrion

    Tyrion's balls itched.

    After his initial release, he had not managed to see Shae in what felt like years. It was really only a few weeks, but he already felt himself grow irritable as more and more time passed without release.

    It was a bittersweet feeling, that.

    The feeling of being backed up was fast becoming intolerable, but the reasons behind it were strangely pleasant, at least for him.


    The new King was a great deal cleverer than Tyrion had ever given him credit for. A great deal more diligent, too. Oh, to be sure, he was prone to all the fits of fancy to which all children succumbed, but for such a young child, Tyrion didn't know if he'd been even half as clever. The boy took to administration like a fish took to water, and seemed full of an almost boundless and often irritating amount of enthusiasm for things that seemed to Tyrion to be rather mundane.

    In the Small Council he was appropriately stern, strict and impassive, and the same for court, but he was still very much a child in all other walks of life. Tyrion remembered when he had first shown the boy the Royal ledgers and accounts, and Tommen proceeded to gush over them. He had looked at the long strings of numbers, and proceeded to ask Tyrion a series of exhaustive questions about what seemed like every expenditure since the beginning of the war.

    Tyrion couldn't find it within himself to begrudge the boy his curiosity. He had been the model of manners and politeness the entire time.

    His chambers had, at Tommen's behest, been switched to a rather luxurious set of rooms close to Tommen's own, which often played host to the King, as the two would whittle away their hours going through the books and untangling the mess Baelish left behind. Every so often, the comfortable silence would be broken by his nephew asking a question about this or that.

    From what Tyrion could tell, he was not unique in this regard, as the new King liked to go from solar to solar within the keep, and assist all the members of the Small Council with their work whenever they required it. Though, from what Tyrion could gather, he was often graced with his nephew's presence the longest of all the members of the Small Council. Ostensibly, this was so that Tommen could 'learn the full scope of the art of governance', but Tyrion suspected it was to prevent his lords from plotting against him.

    A clever idea, that.

    Father would approve. Father likely already does.

    Honestly, it seemed that the new King would work himself to death before his wedding. When he was not in the yard, in court, in the Small Council, or helping one of it's members, he could usually be found doing something productive or another. Tyrion suspected that the new King missed his sister, for he could often be found talking about her. Tyrion felt pity for the boy. He's lonely. It was only at Tyrion's insistence, with the hopes that he could secure some more time alone to visit Shae, that the King relaxed some, opting to spend some time fishing. Alas, not even this worked as intended, as the new King often insisted that Tyrion come with.

    Not to say it wasn't enjoyable to fish with Tommen, but it certainly was not as enjoyable as fucking with Shae.

    In this, Varys proved his greatest ally, making himself invaluable in allowing Tyrion to slink away from the notice of both the King and Lord Hand to visit her. And so he could finally relieve himself one last time with her, in the eunuch's own chambers. Silken sheets and long legs and smooth skin. A long, languid evening full of sex and wine and warmth. The tinkling sound of her laughter was music to his ears, though Tyrion did his best to ensure that she was too busy either moaning or sucking on his cock to do much laughing.

    A wonderful evening, in all. Maybe even their best. Likely their last, too.

    Since then, his world had been work, work, and more work.

    More recently, Cersei had become more involved. To say his feelings were mixed about that would have been an understatement. A mere apology would never be enough to forgive her for all her crimes against him, and she knew it. Still, Tyrion tolerated her at Tommen's behest, deriving a quiet pleasure from seeing Tommen frustrate her efforts to assert her authority over him time and again. It quickly became clear that the two was not as close as Tyrion had presumed, and that Cersei's influence over him was comparatively smaller than his own.

    The bitch scolded by her own pup. What a sight!

    Such thoughts, no matter how pleasant, could not quell his boredom for very long, however. Tyrion shuffled the papers on his desk, stood from his seat, hobbling on his little legs through his chambers. Somehow, he wound his way to the yard, suddenly possessed by the desire to see his brother. Jaime had spoken precious little to him since his release, something justified quite easily as a combination his duties as a Kingsguard and the surprising vigour of his new King.

    He feels guilty, Tyrion guessed. He knows that Tommen means to unseat me in favour of him. He must know.

    And yet, if he did, he gave no indication. In their few interactions so far, Jaime japed and teased him as normal, and though he seemed somewhat distant, it was not entirely a strange thing. Tyrion knew Tommen had stolen Bronn out from under him, and that he was building something of a force of his own. Was Jaime involved? As his uncle and Kingsguard both, it seemed likely.

    Then again, he could just be feeling guilty about Joffrey. No matter how vicious the boy was, Jaime is still a Kingsguard, after all.

    Tyrion arrived not at the yard, but rather a low ledge overlooking it. The King was present, dressed in a loose tunic, sweat forming a sheen on his skin, a short length of dulled steel grasped in his hands, for the King was yet still too young for a full-length sword. He danced clumsily around Ser Balon, making the occasional attempt at a strike. His body was littered with bruises and small cuts, and yet every time he was knocked down, which was often, he always struggled back to his feet.

    Jaime was nowhere in sight, and just as Tyrion was about to leave, the stench of perfume struck him. A moment later, pale, soft hands grasped the ledge beside him, and Varys appeared, "His Grace seems ever a determined sort, doesn't he?"

    In spite of all the help he had gotten from Varys over the years, Tyrion could not help but feel some suspicion of him. It was only natural, he was a spymaster, after all, and Tommen had felt fit to whisper to him his own warning about trusting the eunuch. And so, he defaulted, as he always did, to his wit, "He could put Stannis to shame."

    "Indeed. The new King has been a... refreshing, change."

    Tyrion smirked, "Oh? He's been badgering you too, has he?"

    "A treasonous sentiment, my lord." Tyrion looked up at him expectantly, till Varys relented, "His Grace has proven himself to be most curious."

    A small silence descended as they watched the King dance around Ser Balon, practicing the odd manoeuvre whenever Balon would correct an error in Tommen's form. Tyrion did not envy his nephew his training. It was clear he was far behind where he should have been at his age, likely a product of Cersei's coddling, though he was making large strides of progress, thanks to his diligence. After a few scant minutes, however, the King's under-developed arms grew too tired to continue, and he retired from sparring so that he could recover.

    Another squire took to the yard, sparring with someone else, and Tommen went and sat himself down off to the side, picked up his brother's old crossbow, seemingly fascinated by it's design. Tyrion looked up at Varys, stood silently beside him, "You testified against me."

    Varys tittered nervously, "As did a great many more, my lord. The Queen - I am a man of a delicate constitution, as you well know - it was not difficult for her threats to turn my stomach."


    "I do hope you can forgive me, my lord."

    "I suppose I could..."

    Varys quirked an eyebrow at that, "Have you seen the Lady Shae recently, my lord?"

    Tyrion smiled, "You know I have not, Lord Varys, as per my father's commands."

    Varys nodded, implicitly acquiescing to Tyrion's hidden request, "I expect we have brighter days ahead, and a long future ahead of us, with His Grace as he is."

    Tyrion watched Tommen test the drawstring of the crossbow, "And how is that?"

    "He has the makings of a good King, wouldn't you agree? Patient, diligent, humble, pious, just-"


    Varys nodded in agreement, "Yes, my lord. Clever. At least for his age. Though that may not be my choice of words, I would agree."

    Tyrion quirked an eyebrow, "And what word would you use, then?"

    Varys rubbed his silky chin, pondering his choice of words, "Gifted, perhaps?"

    "Gifted? Seems an even stranger choice of words." Varys had an odd look on his face, and Tyrion caught on, "What do you know?"

    "A secret."

    Tyrion snorted, "So many secrets, these days. Why, even Oberyn seemed to be giving me an earful."

    "Queen Myrcella, I'm aware. Apparently, His Grace is as well."

    "Oh? How did he react?"

    "He appears to have largely dismissed it. He's confident that his sister could never betray him in such a manner, at least not willingly."

    "He's lucky, to be so confident."

    "Indeed. His relationship with his sister is far warmer than yours. The Queen doesn't seem best pleased with you, my lord."

    Tyrion shrugged his shoulders, "When is she ever?" He looked back up at Varys, "Did you tell him?"

    Varys smiled, "No, my lord, and that's the secret."

    Tyrion remembered the non-answer Tommen had given him, back when he had spoken to him in his cell. Tyrion watched as Tommen loaded a bolt into the crossbow, fascination written across his features, "Oh? Then who did?"

    "That's the very thing, my lord. Far as I can gather: nobody did."

    Tyrion looked up at Varys to see his expression as serious as it had ever been, and then scoffed, "What, are you telling me the boy is magic? Blessed by the gods, is that it? Should I go to the High Septon?"

    Varys crinkled his nose in distaste, "I wouldn't say blessed, my lord. But something is definitely... off, about him."

    "I didn't take you for a very superstitious man."

    "You know how I became a eunuch, my lord. Can you blame me for my caution?"

    Tyrion watched as Tommen aimed one of his bolts at the target at the edge of the sparring yard. Though the target was obscured from his angle, it was apparent to Tyrion that Tommen had missed, shook his head, and loaded another bolt. Tyrion spoke with amusement and a certain degree of incredulity lacing his tone, "Are you telling me my nephew is a blood mage?"

    Varys shook his head, "No, my lord."

    "Then what?"

    "He isn't a mage, my lord, he's a dreamer."

    Tyrion scoffed, "A dreamer? What, like the Targaryens? Like Denys?"

    "The Baratheons do have some Targaryen blood in them," Varys insisted. "And the Lannisters are an old house. It is not impossible."

    But wasn't Tommen a bastard? Jaime's son? Or had Robert gotten lucky? Tyrion looked down into the yard, and observed Tommen's features more closely. Green eyes, blonde hair, a slim build - though that didn't mean much, given his age. He looked every bit the spitting image of a Lannister. Tommen's eyes met his from across the yard, and the boy offered him a kind smile and friendly wave, and then turned back to his crossbow. Nothing like Joffrey, Tyrion mused.

    Tyrion remembered the old phrase, every time a new Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land. Could Tommen be the opposite side of Joffrey's coin? Tyrion shook his head, "Do you have any proof? Or have you simply gone mad?"

    Varys shifted uncomfortably, though it felt to Tyrion to perhaps be feigned discomfort, "Well, my lord, Tommen knows things he cannot possibly know."

    Tyrion was curious now, "Like what?"


    Varys was cut off by the nearby sound of wood clattering on stone above him, and then a brief flash of brown crossed his eyes as the spent bolt fell to the floor. Tyrion bent down, and saw a crossbow bolt lying near his feet. Looking across the yard, he saw Tommen sport a sheepish look, and shrug apologetically at him from a distance. Tyrion shrugged back in what he hoped was forgiving manner, and turned back to Varys-

    -only to find him keeling over with a huff, his face paler than it had ever been before. There was what looked to be a crossbow bolt protruding from his back, the quarrel sunken deep, right to the fletching. Blood began to seep out onto Varys's robes, staining the yellow fabric as it spread. Tyrion looked frantically around for the attacker, only to sight a boot-shaped blur slip around a corner at the end of the hallway in which they were stood and disappear.

    Helpless to give chase, Tyrion turned Varys's slumped form over to it's side, his eyes glassy with shock, blood seeping from between his lips. Suddenly, with the strength of a man possessed, Varys grasped Tyrion's shoulder in a grip so tight he feared it might leave bruises. "It was him," Varys whispered. "He... knows..."

    Tyrion felt panic bubbling in his chest, "Knows what?! Who?!"

    Varys's speech gradually became more and more unintelligible as he slowly died, coughing up more and more blood till his chin was covered by it, "Tommen... He... called me here... for Dragons..."

    Tyrion shook him the by shoulders, "What do you mean?"

    Varys spoke with a bloody rasp, and with his last breath, said, "Long live... Aegon... The one true King..."

    Tyrion shook his shoulder again, but to no avail. He was dead. Well and truly gone. Aegon? Tyrion observed the blood on his hands with a morbid fascination, and looked over the ledge once again, his gaze swiftly meeting Tommen's from across the yard. As he saw him, Tyrion felt his blood suddenly run cold.

    Tommen was looking at him, straight in the eyes. It was apparent to Tyrion that he had watched Varys die, even if nobody else appeared to have done so.

    Tyrion shuddered.

    He's smiling.

    I was really nervous writing Tyrion. Did I do it right?
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 11: Iron

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 11: Iron

    The capital was in a furor.

    The Master of Whispers - a member of the Small Council - killed! And in broad daylight, no less!

    Honestly, leading these people about by the nose was almost hilariously easy. A few careful words here, a suggestion there, and out of nowhere materialised this grand conspiracy against the crown. The suspects were endless. Stannis, Daenerys, the Ironborn, the Vale, the North, the Dornish, anyone.

    There were spies in the walls.

    Not that much of this bore any fruit, of course. Initially, many people laid accusation against one another, keen to be seen as loyal defenders of the crown. After this, as per my instructions, no accusation could be laid against anyone till anything in the way of substantial evidence could be provided to indicate the identity of Varys's killer.

    Naturally, the King was above suspicion.

    Well, apart from in Tyrion's mind, anyway. But I wasn't too worried. He knew better than to trust Varys.

    Still, this was all a convenient enough excuse to launch a purge. With the Master of Whispers dead, and a mysterious assassin supposedly wandering the Keep at night, an effort would have to be made to force this mysterious figure into the light. As such, at my behest, and with the approval of the rest of the Small Council, the process of locating and opening up almost every secret passageway within the Keep could begin.

    I made sure to keep some hidden, just for emergencies, of course. The inhabitants of the passageways, however - Varys's little birds - were all rounded up and locked away till I could figure what to do with them.

    No more listening for the pattering of little feet.

    It was a glorious feeling.

    Not to say I wasn't still going to be cautious, but I was much safer today than I had been just a few days ago. And I would be safer tomorrow than I was today. And that was, as far as I was concerned, a step in the right direction.

    And so it was that I enjoyed a nice, quiet dinner with my family - and my soon-to-be family - in this world. Cersei sat at the opposite end of the table to me and Jaime stood guard by the door. Kevan, Tywin and Tyrion were all regrettably absent. On my left was sat Margaery Tyrell, and her father, the Lord Mace Tyrell. The room was dark, with only flickering candles for light and a small hearth in the corner for warmth.

    It was comfortable enough for me. With the cut of Margaery's dress, however...

    "Are you not cold, Lady Margaery? Wouldn't you like a cloak?"

    "I am touched by your concern, Your Grace, but luckily for us Tyrells our blood runs quite warm."

    "Indeed," chimed in Lord Mace.

    Cersei gave a stiff smile, and I resisted the urge to break out laughing at the almost palpable tension hanging in the air. Instead, I focused on cutting my meat into small chunks, hiding my smile as I did so, and eating them slowly and deliberately. Ser Boros may have tasted the food, but some poisons worked by accumulation, and I was not one to take a risk.

    Margaery made an attempt at peace-making, likely well-aware of my mother's reputation for vitriol, "Father, isn't the Queen's gown magnificent? The fabric, the embroidery, the metalwork - I've never seen anything like it."

    "You might find a bit of armour quite useful, once you become Queen - perhaps even before." Margaery looked up at Cersei at her not-so-veiled threats, "I hear you stopped your carriage in Flea Bottom on your way back to the Sept this morning."

    Margaery nodded, "Yes." She turned to face me, "I payed a visit to an orphanage the High Septon told me about."

    "Margaery does a great deal of work with the poor, back in Highgarden," boasted Mace.

    "The lowest among us are no different than the highest, if you give them a chance, and approach them with an open heart."

    "An open heart is what you'll get in Flea Bottom if you're not careful, my dear," said Cersei. "Not long ago, we were attacked by a mob there. We had a full compliment of guards, and it still didn't stop them. We barely escaped with our lives."

    I nodded, "It is not the healthy man that one should fear, but rather the lean and hungry-looking. Desperate men so rarely have anything to lose, and death by the headsman's axe for treason appears a far better prospect than a slow death by starvation."

    Cersei looked indignant, "Joffrey-"

    I kept my tone calm and collected, deliberately reminiscent of Tywin, "Joffrey let the people starve, and the half-million sheep finally turned on their shepherd, as they are won't to do."

    "Hunger turns men into beasts," Margaery said. "I'm glad House Tyrell has been able to help in this regard. They tell me a hundred wagons arrive daily now from the Reach. Wheat, Barley, Apples; we've had a blessed harvest, and of course, it's our duty to assist the capital in a time of need."

    "And the assistance is much-appreciated, Lady Margaery." I chewed on my meat, and continued once I had swallowed it, "But my mother is right. Food only goes so far, and I should ask you to either travel under heavier guard, or to cease this 'charity' of yours, lest you wind up suffering the same fate as poor Lady Lollys. With Varys's killer still uncaptured, it would be unwise to take undue risks, after all."

    The ghost of a cruel smile could be seen tugging on Cersei's lips at that.

    Did she think my warning was a threat? Knowing her, it was likely.

    An uncomfortable silence descended over the table, and Lord Mace in particular looked out of place. I was content to keep eating at my sedate pace, though my mother had long finished her dinner and was now working on her second cup of wine. I was still halfway through my meal, and though I enjoyed the tension, the silence fast became intolerable.

    "Let us speak of happier things, then. Tell me, Lord Mace, how fare the preparations for my wedding to your daughter?"

    At this Mace brightened considerably, "Very well, Your Grace. As per your request, the celebrations will be kept humble, but I have been assured that many a lord will be in attendance, practically the entirety of the crownlands-"

    "Humble?" Cersei questioned, only the thinnest veneer of nicety masking the malice in her tone. She herself had not wanted a grand ceremony, this I knew, but her hatred of the Tyrells was greater than her grief-induced lethargy over Joffrey, "My son is a King-"

    I cut her off, my tone still dispassionate, "Who happens to be destitute, mother. And the guests matter more to me than the event itself. If there are three great occasions at which the most work can be done, they are weddings, funerals and tourneys. We lack the gold for a tourney, and we can hardly expect the realm to travel the length of the country on the eve of winter for poor Lord Varys, but a wedding..."

    Margaery pouted, "Will you be working during our wedding, Your Grace?"

    I waved my fork in the air in between bites, "The realm never sleeps, my lady. If you have not already learned that, you will, soon enough."

    Margaery seemed intent on playing up her innocence, feigning nervousness, "But you will help me learn, won't you?"

    I remained indifferent to her advances, "Initially, my lady, but I'm afraid this profession of ours - of ruling - it is not something that one can learn. You are either suited to it, or you are not. From what I hear, you have quite the head on your shoulders, and I should like to see that in use."

    Margaery smiled, "I would like that too, Your Grace."

    I looked at her for a long moment, and then said, "I'm sure you would."

    A silence once again descended over the dinner. Just before I could finish my meal, however, a red cloak arrived at the door to the chamber, "Let him in, Ser Jaime."

    The red cloak came and stood before me, and offered me a short bow, "The Lord Hand requests your presence in the Tower of the Hand, Your Grace."

    I frowned, "Did he give a reason?"

    "No, Your Grace, but he did tell me to inform you of the urgency of the matter."

    I nodded, stood from my chair, and said, "Well, then. Lead the way."

    We walked through the keep at what felt like a half-jog with my smaller stride, Jaime close behind. The steps leading up the tower of the hand were particularly problematic, but eventually we made it to the chamber in which Lord Tywin was. Opening the door, revealed a half-dozen knights, fully armoured, though they lacked any form of insignia or banner.

    And in their company?

    What looked like a young boy, with a mud-covered face and matted hair.

    A touch of Maisie Williams shone through, but only a little. Otherwise, she looked like she was described, with dark hair, and a long face, and grey eyes. She hung from her arms, each one in the grasp of a different knight, stubbornly refusing to carry her own weight. Her clothes were tattered and worn, and she looked as if she were exhausted. It was clear that she had attempted to escape, and had failed - repeatedly. Still, there was an air of defiance about her, of a childish sort of rebellion present in her eyes as she shot Tywin a murderous glare.

    This was Arya Stark, alright.

    Lord Tywin looked at me as I came in, and said, "How did you know?"

    I quirked an eyebrow, "I believe I already told you that."

    "Enough with the games. How?"

    I gestured to the girl, "Why? Do you recognise her? Is she the one?"

    "She is the girl from Harrenhall, to be sure. As for her being Arya Stark..."

    I turned back to Jaime, "Care to weigh in here, Uncle?"

    He approached her, lowering himself to his knees to look at her face, and then nodding, "Her hair is shorter, her face more gaunt, but this is Arya Stark."

    "Hmm." I turned to the knights, "And Sandor? What did you do to him?"

    Two of the knights shared a look, and spoke with a slight stammer, "We caught him as well, Your Grace. We left him in the cells, in the company of the Grandmaester, as he was quite badly wounded. We had to carry him on a stretcher much of the way."

    "And their belongings?"

    One of the knights raised a finger and pointed at a hessian sack, filled with various odds and ends, sitting on the floor next to the table, "Everything should be in there, Your Grace, apart from their swords."

    "Did you find a thin one?" I asked, approaching the sack. "Needle, I believe it was called?"

    One of the knights nodded, and Arya raised her head and shot me a venomous look. I hauled the sack up onto a chair, and then loosened the drawstring as I went through their possessions, taking an account of all their things.

    "What are you doing?" asked Lord Tywin.

    "Looking for something."

    "Looking for what?"

    I left his question unanswered, as I realised that it was not going to be found in the sack, "This is all?", I asked the knights, "You found nothing else?"

    One of the men shook his head, "This is everything, Your Grace."

    Immediately, my gaze flicked over to Arya, still hanging from their arms. Though she smothered it well, she could not hide the small upwards twitch that showed on the corners of her mouth, "Hold her still, will you?" I approached her, left hand grasping her jaw, lifting her head, so that I could look into her eyes, "Where did you put it, hmm?"

    "I don't know what you're talking about," she spat.

    Now it was my turn to smile, "We'll see about that."

    Then, I began to pat her down, and immediately, Arya realised what I was looking for, "No!", she cried, writhing in place and trying her best to hurt me. Her foot caught my shin, but save for a small expulsion of air through my nose, I gave no indication that I felt a thing. After less than a minute of searching, it came to be I found it in her breeches.

    A small protrusion under her waistband, hidden by the curve of her hips, roughly half the size of my palm and disk-shaped. I reached inside, and the knights had to hold her back by her hair as she tried to lash out at me, screaming, tears leaving tracks down her face. I withdrew my hand, having secured my prize, and said, "Take her to the top cells, if you will, and make sure to have some red cloaks guard her cell, and guard it well. Get her washed and looked at by the Maester, and mind you make sure she has every comfort short of freedom. I'll not have it said that the crown mistreats it's prisoners."

    The men looked to Lord Tywin for confirmation, and when he nodded his assent, they hauled Arya off, her feet dragging dejectedly along the floor. Once she was gone, Tywin gave me a long, hard stare, his lips pressed together in displeasure, "What," he asked, his tone dangerously cool, "was that?"

    Wordlessly, I walked up the table where he was sat, and gently lay my prize on the top of the table, just out of Tywin's reach. Tywin stared at it, and then looked back up at me, half-angry, half-proud.

    Because what I had just placed on that table was a heavy iron coin.

    It was the favour of the Faceless Men.

    "That," I said, snatching the coin back up off the table, "was me saving your life."
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 12: Nightmare

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 12: Nightmare

    The world feels like water.

    It's heavy, and it surrounds me. Flowing and fluttering as I move, and then settling back into stillness. Silence reigns supreme.

    It's not uncomfortable by any means, this weight. It presses tightly on the tops of my shoulders and arms and back, but it never constricts. It's warm like a blanket.

    It reminds me, in a moment of melancholy, of my mother. Not Cersei, my real mother. So full of love and life as she was.

    Looking around, all that can be seen is a plane of darkness. Shifting sands and growing flowers and fish jumping in and out of rivers and streams and birds chirping in the air and snakes slithering through grass and snow falling down and shards of ice sprouting a thousand feet into the air, sparkling in the evening sun. My breath emerges from between my lips in a could of mist, and all of a sudden, I'm shivering.

    And then, nothing. The black claims me once again.

    Why does it feel so strange, to dream? They never used to be like this before. Never so... vivid.

    And then, the world swirls and everything changes.

    I'm in a tower, in a keep, though not any I recognise by sight. The wind bites my skin, cutting deep and freezing me to the bone, but I don't shiver. Little rivulets of water drip down the walls, sparkling in the fading light of the sun. Ahead of me, a trickle of dots appears over the horizon, then a flood. They are all white, I note, and grey, and sparkling. Panic hits only a moment later, when the realisation of my location finally hits.

    I'm at the Wall.

    Or, at least, I think it's the Wall. I look around, and I'm alone, I look down, and then I'm not.

    So many corpses. Enough to make a man think the world has died. Some of the bodies are big and armoured, though the details of the armour are difficult to make out. I see straps and furs and glittering steel and not much else. There are smaller corpses too, some women, some children. They are all piled on top of each other, each looking like they had been freshly killed. In spite of this, it's hard to tell who they all are. Gold and silver and green and blue and grey and yellow, the colours of all the houses, of their clothes, all blend together.

    I look back at the specks, and a morbid sense of calm overcomes me. Maybe the world really has died, I muse. For Westeros, it certainly wouldn't be out of character for things to get this fucked.

    The specks are starting to mass in the distance, now. Forming one big clump and charging. I smile, and refuse to allow myself to panic. If this is how it ends, then I'm okay with that. It's as good a death as any other.

    Maybe there's another world after this one?

    Beside me, a pair of gloved hands grasps the ledge. They're big hands, and looking up reveals dark hair and a powerful body clad in black leather and white furs. This is a warrior, if I've ever seen one. On the other side, another pair of hands, daintier and softer, grips the ledge as well. It's a woman, with silver hair and sharp eyes, though I can't quite make out the colour. A cloak of scales flows down her back and to the bloodstained floor. Neither seems hostile.

    I close my eyes, and suddenly I'm flying.

    The wind whips through my hair, bitterly cold on one side and unbearably hot on the other. I open my eyes, and I see a thousand men ahorse beneath me. The river forms a fork from above, almost like a trident, and their armour glitters in the sun. It's ice, I realise. They're armoured in ice. And then the ice stops glittering, and the rays of the sun above me are all driven away by a shadow.

    The shadow, a dragon, I now realise, swoops down and spews a torrent of fire from it's gaping maw. I'm helpless to watch as the army screams and melts away like dew and turns the rivers into torrents, flooding over and drowning the land. The rider seems to change every time I look. Sometimes it's a flash of flowing silver hair, and other times a shock of blue cropped neat and short.

    And then, the dragon turns to me.

    It's teeth are too many to count, crammed into a mouth that can barely accommodate them. They are all yellowing, and razor sharp. But the teeth are almost irrelevant, almost as much as the scaly skin and bony wings. It's maw opens, and red hot flames spew out.

    All around me, my sheets are slick with sweat.

    It's almost pitch dark, my eyes note, and a little movement reveals that I am in my bed. I'm sat bolt upright, my chest heaving, my heart beating a thousand times a minute.

    What... what was that?

    A small trickle of moonlight filters through the shutters, and I use it to navigate my way out of bed. Without the warmth of the covers, and the sweat on my skin rapidly cooling as I calm down, I begin to shiver. In the corner, there is a small lamp, the candle covered to allow me to sleep. I go over to it, and removing the cover casts a warm, flickery light over the surrounding area.

    Though this isn't my office, I keep a table in my chamber. I sit down in my chair, neatly stacking and pushing away the mess of papers I had been working on last night. I have a stack of thick tomes on my desk, all legal volumes borrowed from the Grandmaester stemming from my attempt to create a version of common law for Westeros. It was very much still a work in progress.

    When it was finished, I'd submit it to the Small Council for review, and later, the Lords Paramount. It was a beast of a task, and one of my longer-term aspirations. I ignored it for now, however, pulling out a spare scrap of parchment and readying my quill to scratch out the details of my dream whilst they were still fresh in my mind. I kept my notes short, and made sure write them in code. No doubt, anyone who saw it would think it gibberish.

    When I was done, I tucked the parchment away under all the other papers, and went back to bed, though sleep evaded me the rest of the night. Thoughts of the dream, of it's meaning and of it's cause, lingered all night long.

    The next day, the lack of sleep weighed heavy.

    Ser Jaime's swings, kept light on account of my smaller frame and weaker arms, felt as heavy as a plow-horse. There is a harsh clang as metal strikes metal, and an uncomfortable scraping sound as I disengage off to the side, taking the brief reprieve to catch my breath and wipe the sweat from my brow. Though we are only training with tourney blades, I insisted on wearing some armour, and it feels like I'm being cooked alive.

    Worth it, though. No amount of comfort is worth the risk of accidentally winding up brain-damaged.

    We circled each other once again, blades raised in preparation for a strike. I attempted to look for a flaw in his stance, and it was only after a long moment of searching that I found one. His blade was raised a tad too high, and his legs looked open.

    I offered a tentative swing to open him up for a follow-up. To nobody's surprise, it's a trap.

    He deflected my attack, using the parry as an opportunity to loosen my grip on my sword and open my guard. Then followed a lunge, parried in the nick of time, though it felt like deflecting a freight-train, and then a series of slashes, each one pushing me further and further back. My arms move almost automatically to defend me, and I'm proud to report that his attack failed to penetrate my guard, though it had certainly thrown me off-balance.

    In a real fight, I knew, I'd have been killed a dozen times already.

    Jaime, even weakened and fighting with his left hand, was leagues above me.

    Bronn, clearly, had done his job well.

    Though I had always known that, for some reason today, the knowledge of my own limitations enraged me. My focus narrowed, by breaths became fast and shallow, and hot blood pumped through my veins.

    I charged.

    Jaime, now a more methodical fighter, remained an immovable wall in the face of a storm. He weathered my blows, deflecting my strikes with relative ease, waiting till I exposed myself so that he could become a hurricane himself. I kept up the pressure, and evidently, it was working. My sword strayed near his neck with a stretch of my arm, and he met it in the nick of time with his gauntlet, his right arm, bereft of any hand, raised.

    I switched the angle of my attack, and his sword met mine, the blade slipping down mine and striking my arm. Pain flowered from the point of impact, and my teeth clenched. At this point, I would have normally conceded the fight, but a stubborn rage stirred in my gut, and I kept my blade swinging at Ser Jaime, though ultimately it was all in vain. His arms were stronger, his reactions faster, his reach longer, and I was nearing exhaustion. He caught my shoulder with the blunted practice hook that had replaced his missing hand, and he used it to give me a hard shove. I landed on a plate of my armour, the metal striking my back with enough force to wind me. Jaime approached me, and held the tip of his blunted sword to my neck.

    "Do you yield?" he asked.

    "I yield," I wheezed, gasping for breath.

    I let my head fall back to the ground. After I had made it clear that I didn't want anyone to take it easy with me, I had not won a single bout. It really gave you a new appreciation for soldiers when you realised just how large a gulf there was between you and them. Between Loras, Balon, Jaime and Bronn, I never found myself wanting for bruises. It was to be expected, I knew, but that didn't make the defeats sting any less.

    "Are you alright, Your Grace?" he asked, practice sword clattering to the ground, his hand extended to help lift me to my feet, concern lacing his tone.

    I accepted his offer, catching my breath on my feet with my hands on my knees, "I'm fine, I'm fine. Just pushed myself a tad too hard is all."

    "You have advanced leaps and bounds," Jaime said. "And all in a few months, too. No need to rush. You'll be a great fighter in your own time."

    "I still lost," I pointed out.

    "You got sloppy in this last fight, Your Grace," he said. "Don't make the same mistake again, and you'll be fine."

    The adrenaline was fading, and the pain in my arm was returning, "I know."

    Ser Jaime frowned, "Is something the matter? You don't usually attack like that."

    I shook my head, "Just a bad dream, is all. Just a bad dream."

    Jaime looked around for any prying eyes and ears. Though this terrace, the same as the one Bronn and Jaime used in the show, tucked in the cliffs beneath the Red Keep and overlooking the Blackwater, was secluded, Jaime knew better that to be careless about such matters. Even with Varys gone, it appears that my efforts to impress upon him the importance of caution had been successful, "If you want to tell me," he whispered, "you can. I'll keep your secrets."

    "I know you will, Uncle," I said. Then, I feigned a world weariness I only partially possessed, rubbing tired eyes and scowling as I spoke, "But what is there to tell? Just more corpses. Corpses and armies and wars and killings. So many killings. It's all I ever seem to dream about, nowadays," I groused. "I'm so sick of all the corpses. Why can't I ever get a happy dream, for once?"

    Jaime looked at me pityingly, though he looked a little uncomfortable with the situation, "I..."

    Nothing rankled like pity, even if he didn't mean it like that. I changed the subject, "How's the hook?"

    He looked at his right arm quizzically, "It's... practical, Your Grace."

    "Well, I figure if you're going to be a fighter again, a hook would be better than a golden hand. I'll have another made for you, of gilded steel this time, with an edge so sharp you could slice through glass." I looked at him, "Only if you want it, of course."

    Jaime smiled, "I would like that, Your Grace."

    I nodded, my breath fully recovered now, "Good."

    I stood up straight, cradling my arm, "Are you injured, Your Grace?"

    I nodded, "It seems so. Don't worry, it's nothing serious."

    "You should still see the Maester."

    I nodded, "I know, I will."

    We walked to my chambers, and when we arrived, I called for the Grandmaester. Before Jaime could leave to fetch him, I stopped him on his way out, "Your know, Uncle, I promised Tywin that you would join him at the Rock."

    Jaime seemed panicked by the idea, "Your Grace, I have been a Kingsguard since before you were born. Members of the Kingsguard swear their oaths for life-"

    "I know," I interrupted, "but Joffrey broke that tradition when he dismissed Barristan. And I swear you'll not lose any honour for it when the time comes." Jaime seemed hesitant, "Circumstances demand sacrifice, Uncle. We must all do our duty. I have sacrificed my childhood for my duty. Tyrion has given his face. For you, the cost will be the white cloak."

    "And there is no other way?" Jaime asked, a desperate look on his face.

    "Why did you join the Kingsguard, Uncle?" I questioned.

    He seemed to have difficulty getting the words out, "To... to be closer with Cersei," he admitted.

    I nodded, "And are you close with her now?"

    He shook his head slowly, "...No, Your Grace."

    "I understand your reluctance, Uncle, I do. With all you have lost, the white cloak must seem like all you have left."

    Jaime's eyes glistened, "Your Grace, I..."

    "You are a good knight, Uncle," I told him, looking him in the eyes to make sure my words landed. "A good knight, white cloak be damned. Take pride in that."

    I had to stop him bowing before he left, his eyes brimming with unshed tears.
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  17. Threadmarks: Chapter 13: Arianne

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 13: Arianne

    They arrived in the throne room with little in the way of pomp and grandeur.

    Arianne stood at the helm of the party. Behind her was Ser Arys Oakheart, resplendent in his thrice-damned white cloak. It was honestly a relief, now, that her attempts to seduce him had been stymied so quickly. Arianne didn't know how she would have tolerated a man who seemed so foreign to the concept of wit. Still, Arianne could not deny he cut a dashing figure.

    She knew the King had requested that Trystane attend his wedding alongside Ser Arys, and she watched as his eyes flicked over their party, a flash of irritation crossing his features when Trystane could not be found.

    Even here, Arianne mused, I am unwanted.

    And that had been the plan, originally, to send Trystane. But Oberyn had interceded with a letter, and specified that it would be better if she came instead. Her father, wanting her out of the way, readily concurred. When they had departed their ship, only the Imp and her Uncle and his paramour stood to greet them, escorting them to the Keep and the King.

    And what a King he was!

    Arianne, hearing word of him from afar, had expected to be disappointed. The picture in her mind was of a small child, pudgy and naive, more boy than man, and certainly no King. She had expected a ridiculous spectacle, an immature babe sitting in a monstrosity of steel and iron.

    Arianne was disappointed, to be sure, but not in the way she had expected.

    There was no denying the King's youth. His features were young, his frame small, so much so that Arianne suspected he was no taller than herself. But he was also no suckling babe. The roundness of his cheeks was slight, the baby fat in the process of melting away to reveal sharp and regal cheekbones. His expression was impassive, his gaze penetrating and powerful. Around him, his councillors appeared to either cower, or to pay rapt attention to his every movement. His form, from what Arianne could discern behind his tunic and coat, looked lean and strong, at least for his age.

    Were he any other man, Arianne found herself thinking, and I a little younger, I would have him abed.

    That was not to say that all was well with the new King, of course. Whilst he was growing nicely for his age, he appeared to have traded away his youthful vigour. His movements were slow and deliberate, and a certain indescribable world-weariness marked his demeanour, of the kind her own father had in his bearing. There were small, dark circles under his eyes.

    The King knows more than he says, Uncle Oberyn had warned. Be wary of him. He is not the boy you think he is.

    Looking at his eyes, Arianne did not doubt her Uncle. I know, they seemed to say, I know everything.

    Those eyes dragged across the party, starting with Ser Arys, making it's way to her cousins, and then finally landing on her. Arianne suppressed a shudder, and plastered a pleasant expression on her face. Her hair cascaded down her shoulders in soft ringlets, shimmering and smooth. Her dress exposed more than it covered, Arianne knew, and sought to arouse. The curve of her breasts was on full display, though her nipples remained mercifully hidden. The yellow fabric was thin and flowing, and in a certain light seemed to disappear entirely. Thin golden chains hung loosely off her form, the glittering adornments only highlighting her features.

    The King, again, surprised her. His eyes flicked once across her body, and then landed upon her face, half-lidded from a mix of boredom and curiosity. He seemed utterly unaffected by her manner of dress.

    After a long moment of silence, Oberyn proudly declared, "My family, King Tommen!"

    "Charmed," the Boy King said, seemingly disappointed by the absence of his sister. "You must be Princess Arianne, yes?"

    Arianne curtsied, "I am, Your Grace."

    "And the lovely ladies behind you, I assume they are some of the famous Sand Snakes?"

    Oberyn smiled and nodded, "Two of my eldest daughters, Nymeria on the right and Tyene on the left."

    The King offered an impatient smile as her cousins both curtsied, "Welcome to the capital. If you don't mind, Prince Oberyn, I would ask that your family stand to the side till the regular business of court concludes. Unless there is a more urgent matter they have to present, I will greet them more appropriately on my terrace."

    Oberyn seemed unaffected by the insult, though Arianne felt her cousins grow hot with silent anger behind her. They all filed to one side of the throne room as the business of court resumed. A trail of people, smallfolk and hedge-knights and even some minor lords formed a small huddle in one corner, the men emerging from the huddle to greet the King.

    The men, though they had clearly made some effort, reeked and appeared in dull brown roughspun. They kneeled down and appeared to tremble before the throne as they begged for justice. Arianne, utterly uninterested in such affairs, looked around. Sat across from her, some few seats away was a hard-nosed, balding old man with a bristling beard and a bowman as his sigil. Lord Tarly, Arianne guessed. Her Uncle had told her he had arrived not a few days ago, only to find himself with a seat on the Small Council.

    It was said that the new King valued his martial prowess greatly, and had made him his Master of War within the week. For what purpose, it was not known. The King was an extremely secretive person. Arianne observed him with interest, only to be taken away by a nudge from her Uncle, sat beside her. "Pay attention," he whispered. "You'll learn much more watching the King than you will watching him."

    When the smallfolk had finished his plea, the King crooked his finger beckoning for his Great-Uncle, the Lord Kevan, to approach. The Old Lion's lapdog. The King and his Master of Laws shared a few whispers and then the Master of Laws shook his head and withdrew. Whatever words they had shared, the King made the final decision. His rulings were the law.

    "Goodman," The King said at last, "I have heard your tale, and I agree that you have been wronged. Your livestock was given to your neighbour for better breeding and safekeeping during a time of war, and have survived even if your crops have been destroyed, yet your fellow has taken the choicest and returned to you only the sickly and valueless. There exist those in this court that think this a small matter - not fit for the King to address. They are wrong. Honour compels me to bring justice to all those who rest under my protection. Men like you feed the realm, and it is not just that you should be thrown out a living when you are able to work and are still a loyal subject of the crown."

    "I am," the farmer insisted. "Yer Grace."

    "My sentence is this - you are to intermingle the entirety of your flock with his, and from thence divide your flock into three groupings of any size you desire. Your neighbour - though he has not acted very neighbourly - shall firstly claim one of these three groups as his own, and you shall claim the other two."

    The King nodded, and his Master of Laws declared, "In the name of the Seven, by the authority of the Crown this judgement is rendered, and the matter hereby settled."

    Arianne shifted in her seat, whispering to her Uncle, "An unusual judgement," she muttered to him. "I don't believe I've heard a ruling like this before."

    "The King is a master of unusual solutions," her Uncle murmured back. "He calls it his 'third way'."

    Arianne sighed, "Why did you ask me here?" she asked at last. "What use is this to me?" Went unsaid were the words when I am fighting for my birthright.

    "... It's been far too long, Arianne. I've missed my niece."

    "And I my uncle." She observed Oberyn's profile, "But that doesn't answer my question."

    Her father had been sparing with the details when he had sent on her way. Be careful, was all he had said. Kings Landing is a pit of snakes.

    She had only laughed at that. Why, Father, I love snakes.

    Oberyn turned to look at her, a wry grin on his features, "The King is a queer lad, I've learned. Strange, but not in a bad way. I would wager he could teach you a lot, niece," he waggled his eyebrows, "and I would wager you could teach him just as much in turn."

    Arianne furrowed her brow, whispering, "Is he not to be wed?" though that would not have stopped her if she truly desired him. Still, she could not deny that the thought appealed to her. I could be a Queen. The King, for all his youth, was not an unattractive man, though he lacked the rugged wildness that she usually went in for. And all the better if it would sow chaos amongst the lions.

    Oberyn seemed to concur with her thoughts, "To a Tyrell, yes. But they are our ancient enemies, are they not?" He smirked, "Now be quiet, and pay attention."

    Arianne, at the behest of her uncle, did precisely that. Disputes and petitions came to the attention of the court, and were all promptly and efficiently settled in that same swift manner. The King is a harsh taskmaster, Oberyn had told her, harsh but fair. It spoke highly of him that her Uncle refused to call him Usurper, and Arianne suspected his victory over the Mountain had sated his lust for vengeance somewhat.

    When news of his victory arrived, impromptu celebrations had broken out all across Sunspear. The tale of the Valyrian Steel dagger that ended his life, and of it's origins, soon spread far and wide, and men told drunken tales of the blade that killed the Mountain to each other in inns and taverns. The attitude among the smallfolk towards the Iron Throne, whilst still broadly negative, improved significantly once details of the fight, and the meeting that preceded it, started to emerge. The Lannisters, on the other hand, remained much reviled across all of Dorne.

    At least that monster admitted to his crimes before he died. We got that much justice, at least.

    Court wound down to a close not long after, and all the King's attendants filed dejectedly out of the throne room, exhausted. Arianne followed her Uncle from the throne room through the winding halls and passages of the Keep to the terrace at which the King would meet them and spend the rest of the evening.

    Arianne settled herself at a table, nursing a cup of wine that a serving-maid had deigned to pour. The Tyrells, alongside several Lannisters, joined not long after. Cakes and cheeses were carted out for their consumption as they awaited the arrival of the King.

    The Queen appeared, polluting the air with her presence. The false smile behind which she hid her malice was so thin as to be almost transparent. She was a great beauty, to be sure, but her smiles were superficial and did not stretch to her eyes. Speaking with her was a game of trading hidden barbs and meaningless platitudes, and thankfully the Queen quickly grew bored with her and moved away from her table.

    The Tyrell girl, Margaery, was a far more pleasant sort. Ever the pretty and delicate flower. I might well take her to my bed, Arianne thought. She could certainly benefit from the experience. She was a lively sort, and seemed amused when Arianne announced her intent to tease her betrothed.

    Finally, the King arrived.

    He had changed, and appeared refreshed. His demeanour, impassive and domineering in court, had flipped completely. He walked with a youthful spring in his step, offering smiles and greetings freely. He approached their table, secluded in a quiet corner of the terrace, and pulled out a chair, "I must apologise, Princess, for my brusqueness in court. I could tell it offended you and your cousins. I assure you, no insult was intended. It is merely an unfortunate necessity, I have found."

    Arianne raised an eyebrow seductively, "Oh?"

    The King nodded, seemingly completely oblivious to the suggestiveness of her tone, "Yes. There is much work to be done, now that the bulk of the fighting is over and done with. We may have won the war, but we have yet to win the peace, and that is a task that demands my total attention. I am wed to my duty, in this respect."

    Arianne looked at the King, his apology ringing hollow to her ears. She flicked her hair back defiantly, and decided to test this new King, "That poxy bitch?" she snorted. "I know her. Dry as dust between the legs, and her kisses will leave you bleeding. You can let duty sleep for once, and stay with me tonight."

    Margaery looked stunned by her audaciousness, though not as offended as Arianne had thought she would be. The delicate rose is less delicate than she looks, Arianne thought to herself, bemused. The King looked at her flatly, unimpressed with her blatant proposition, "What can I say?" he said jokingly. "I'm a masochist."

    "I can play the bitch, if it excites you. My uncle tells me you are yet a maiden. No man should be a maiden before his wedding night. You need a woman, Your Grace, and I would please you well."

    The King calmly sipped his drink. Water, not wine, she noted. A careful one, this King. He observed her skeptically, a touch surprised by her boldness, though he rebuffed her advances regardless with his tone, if not with his words, "I appreciate the offer, Princess. If ever I am in need of such... assistance, you will be the first to know."

    She pointed to the table where Nymeria and Tyene were sat, talking with her Uncle, "And my cousins would as well. They are beautiful, wouldn't you say? More so than me, and I assure you they would be just as eager as I if you decided to take them abed. None of us have had a King, and we are all eager to try. We'd teach you how to please the Lady Margaery properly."

    "Two Oberyns, with teats," the King laughed. "Now there's a thought."

    "The Princess was just telling me about your sister, Your Grace," Margaery said, hurriedly changing the subject, blushing something fierce as she did so. "Apparently, she has taken well to Dorne."

    The King kept his eyes on her, brow furrowed with suspicion, "So I have heard. Cella seems to have taken a liking to cyvasse. She wins consistently against Prince Trystane now, or so I am told, though some suspect that the Prince is letting her win as a way to gain her favour."

    Arianne knew the King corresponded regularly with his sister, and that he likely had spies as well, but the depth of his knowledge was nonetheless surprising, "That she has, Your Grace. The Princess Myrcella sends her apologies, that she could not leave to attend your wedding."

    "It is good that she is settling in," Margaery said. "I hear the Water Gardens are quite the sight to behold. I should like to visit, one day."

    "You are more than welcome." Arianne looked around the terrace and gardens growing atop it, "Though I must say, it is quite pleasant here as well."

    "Why are you here?" the King abruptly questioned. "Not that I mind, of course, but it seems strange for Doran to send his heir to the capital when his brother already represents Dornish interests on the Small Council."

    "Because I will not be staying much longer," Oberyn cut in, approaching their table. "Ellaria longs to see her children, and I will admit that I do too. I have not seen my three youngest for too long. Loreza is only six, and I have not seen her for near a year. I wouldn't want her to forget her father's face. So, Arianne has come as my replacement."

    Like the Boy King, she too sat dumbfounded at the news. Of course, if my father knew he would never have agreed to this. It is no wonder I wasn't told anything.

    The King's eyes narrowed ever so slightly in suspicion, Arianne noted, as they observed Oberyn, "I hope I have not offended you."

    Oberyn shook his head, "No, King Tommen, not at all. Quite the contrary. I am confident that Dornish interests will be protected, so much so that I no longer feel the need to personally ensure them."

    The King's gaze turned on her, suspicious and scathing in equal measure, and then leapt back to her uncle, "And you are sure there's nothing I can do to convince you to stay, Oberyn? I do so value your counsel, and would loathe to lose it so soon."

    "I'll stay till the wedding at least, King Tommen. And maybe the tourney I hear you plan to throw after it, but then I must return home."

    The King gave a false smile that did not quite reach his eyes, "I see. And the two of your daughters will leave with you, will they?"

    Oberyn laughed and shook his head, "They will go where they please, King Tommen. I have learned long ago that there is no telling them what to do."
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 14: Prisoners

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 14: Prisoners

    A servant rapped twice on the door and entered, offering a deep bow, "Your Grace."

    I dismissed Jaime with a wave of my hand, "Go, fetch her when she's ready."

    I watched Jaime leave, and turned to the servant, beckoning him to speak with my gaze, "Lord Paxter is here to see you, Your Grace."

    I nodded, "Yes, yes. Let him in."

    The servant nodded, left, and a few moments later, Paxter Redwyne strode into the room. He looked appropriately haggard, with dark bags under his eyes and his few remaining tufts of orange hair appropriately ungroomed. Nonetheless, there was an air of self-satisfaction about the man. Paxter offered a decidedly tired bow, "Your Grace."

    I smiled at his appearance. Clearly, he had not shirked his duties, "Lord Paxter! Are you well, my lord? Come, sit."

    Paxter pulled out a seat and collapsed down into it as gently as possible, "I am, Your Grace."

    I nodded, "I presume you are here about the fleet?"

    Paxter nodded, "Yes, Your Grace. We have assembled all the ships - more than a hundred, all told. Warships, the lot of them."

    I frowned. That sounded like a lot of ships, "And the reserves? How many remain in the Arbor?"

    Lord Paxter nodded, "I felt ninety ships would suffice, Your Grace. The coasts of the Arbor are quite defensible, and ninety ought to prove sufficient for patrolling the coasts of the Reach."

    "Very well. I will defer to your judgement on this matter." I rubbed my chin, feigning thoughtfulness, "And I gather you are ready to leave?"

    Paxter nodded, "As you commanded, Your Grace. We leave for Dragonstone on the morrow."

    "And Garlan?" I asked. "He is also ready to leave?"

    "He is, Your Grace. And eager too. He is confident that he can take the island in no more than a month once a siege is established."

    "That's good to hear," I said. "And you are aware of my orders, yes?"

    Paxter again nodded, "Ships departing Dragonstone - carrying dragonglass, specifically - must be allowed to leave freely. But not returning. Only departing."

    "And my orders for the mines?"

    "Once captured, the mines are to be kept functional, and as much dragonglass as can be possibly mined and shipped to the Wall should be."

    I smiled, "Excellent, Lord Paxter. Truly exemplary what you have managed in so little time. And with so little trouble, too. I am most pleased."

    "You are most kind, Your Grace," Lord Paxter chirruped, no doubt feeling thoroughly pleased with himself. Then, he frowned, as if from confusion, "Your Grace, may I ask exactly why we are shipping dragonglass to the Wall?"

    I nodded, "You may, Lord Paxter." Then, I began to lie through my teeth, "You see, if I can make peace with what remains of my family at the Wall, then I'd rather do just that. Make no mistake, I am furious with my uncle over his claims on my parentage, yet he is my blood still. And, as I am sure you would agree, I am no kinslayer."

    "Of course not, Your Grace."

    "The dragonglass is vital to the process," I explained curtly. "It's serves as leverage."

    Paxter nodded, his expression still uncertain, but unwilling to press the issue further, "I see."

    "Tell me, Lord Paxter, which of your two sons would you say is the most martially capable?" I asked, changing the subject.

    Any trace of mirth or joy in the man's face promptly soured. Paxter's body appeared to stiffen, limbs becoming still as his jaw tensed and some of the colour left his face. No doubt, the mention of his sons had set him in a knife's edge. After a long moment of tense silence, he finally spoke, his voice suddenly hoarse and uncertain, "Horas, Your Grace."

    "Very well, then. I think the time has come for Horas to be returned to the Arbor, wouldn't you agree, my lord?"

    Paxter's lips split into a grin, the tension slipping from his form to reveal an exhausted relief, "Yes, Your Grace."

    I smiled back, with as much grace and dignity as I could muster, "Of course. It shall be done after my wedding day. I'll have him write you."

    Paxter, for some reason, seemed thoroughly pleased to hear it. He stood from his seat and departed from the chambers, offering a deep bow as he left, clearly eager to stay on my good side. After he had gone, Jaime reentered my chamber, a nervous Brienne behind him.

    She looked positively miserable, stood there like that.

    She had been dressed in women's clothes again, but the dress at least fit her well. It was a pale blue colour, and as simple as it was possible for a lady's dress to be. Though, I noticed, the seamstress had made a job of... emphasizing, some of Brienne's more womanly features, or at least the few that she had. Her corset pinched her waist tight, and seemed to give her breasts and hips both far more prominence than I suspected her armour ever did.

    She actually looked comely. It didn't hurt that a bit of Gwendolyn Christie bled through. Though, her look of discomfort did not do her any favours.

    No matter, she would be in armour again soon enough.

    She gave an awkward bow, "Your Grace."

    I smiled my most gracious smile, "At ease, my lady, at ease. I apologise for your internment - and for it's length as well. Ser Loras took some convincing to believe the truth of your innocence. And things have been rather busy in the capital - you understand."

    She nodded, not quite satisfied with my excuses, but unable to challenge them, "I do."

    I gestured to Jaime, "My uncle tells me that you could not possibly be guilty of the crime of which Ser Loras has accused you. Not that it is much of a crime - slaying a pretender to my throne. Nevertheless, he says you could not have done it."

    Brienne shot Jaime a look, a mixture of suspicion and gratitude. Jaime gave her a cheeky smile in return, "Wench."

    Brienne scowled, "My name is Brienne, not wench."

    "Blue is a good colour for you," Jaime suddenly observed. "It goes well with your eyes."

    Brienne looked down at herself, flustered, "Septa Donyse padded out the bodice, to give it that shape. She said you sent her to me." She lingered where she stood, unwilling to advance further into the room, and afraid to leave. "You look..."

    "Different?" Jaime managed a half-smile. "More meat on my bones and fewer lice in my hair, is all. The stump's the same."

    "Not quite the same," Brienne pointed out.

    Jaime brandished his gilded hook rather lamely, "Oh, this? Just a little gift from His Grace."

    I cut in before this little and back-and-forth they had could continue any longer, "I hear you swore an oath, my lady - to Lady Catelyn?"

    Brienne hesitated, and looked to Jaime for reassurance, "To return the Stark girls home, yes."

    I looked back at Jaime, "And she is a good fighter, is she?"

    "She's okay," Jaime said with a half-smile, watching her reaction out of the corner of his eyes. "Clever enough to beat Loras in a fair duel."

    I looked Brienne in the eyes, "And she is honourable?"

    Jaime nodded, "Oh, yes. Almost foolishly so."

    "If I were to ask something of you, Lady Brienne, could you swear it to me?"

    Brienne's eyes flickered to Jaime, her expression profoundly unsure, and then settled back on mine, "It would depend on what you would ask, Your Grace."

    I smiled, "Oh, my lady, nothing more than to ask you to honour your own word. And you would be richly rewarded for it, as well."

    "I desire no reward save freedom, Your Grace," she demurred.

    I quirked an eyebrow at her words, "But you have always wanted to be a Knight, no?"

    Brienne looked up at me, half-shocked, half-outraged. "It was a title I intended to earn, Your Grace," Brienne said, rather defensively.

    "And earn it you will, my lady. All I'm offering is an opportunity."

    Brienne stared at me, eyes narrowed, silent for a long moment before she spoke, "How?"

    "You know Arya Stark?"

    Brienne's face twisted with ill-thought fury, "I will not harm my lady's daughter for a knighthood-"

    "Peace, Lady Brienne, peace," I cut her off, hands raised in a placating manner. "You see, I have her in my custody, and when the time is right, I intend to return her to her family - or what remains of it, at least."

    Brienne frowned, any trace of fury leaving her face in a flash, only to be replaced with confusion, "And you want to me to escort her?"

    "When the time comes, yes. But as it is, there is nobody to return her to. I need someone to protect her in the capital, and to keep her here, in case she tries to run. She got lucky the last time she fled, that she wasn't raped or murdered, but she may not be so lucky next time."

    Brienne's face darkened, "You want me to be her gaoler."

    "Her gaoler and her guardian both," I corrected her. "Better you than a Red Cloak, no? And I suspect Arya would be more comfortable with you than with anyone else who may be under my command. She's quite the fighter, not unlike yourself. Cut her hair, and you could hide her as your squire. Nobody in the capital save us need ever know she is here. And you get to keep your oaths to your lady all the same."

    "And for this I will be knighted?" Brienne questioned.

    I shook my head, "No, my lady. You see, I plan on throwing a small tourney for my wedding. And it seems to me as though the best tourneys throughout history have always had a mystery knight..."

    Brienne nodded grimly, "I see."

    "I'm glad that you see, Lady Brienne, but do you agree?"

    Brienne stood still, silent.

    I stood from my seat with a sigh, gesturing for her to follow, "Follow me, Lady Brienne."

    From my chamber we departed, walking through the twisting and winding passages of the Keep at as brisk a pace as I could comfortably manage. After so many months, I had finally begun to memorise the layout, and could quite easily lead our little party. Down from Maegor's Holdfast and through to the tower cells and all the way up again to the top cells. We made use of many of the newly-revealed secret passages, intent on evading notice whenever possible.

    When we arrived, I motioned for the gaoler to unlock the gate to Arya's cell, and commanded the Red Cloaks to stand to the side.

    Arya shot me a venomous look from across the cell, and stayed stubbornly silent. Her cell was a luxurious one, as per my orders, with a table and chairs and a good view of the city and ample amounts of food. I had even made sure the seamstress would dress her in something she would like, and not standard women's clothes, hence her breeches and tunic.

    Still, she looked well. Her face had gained some colour, many of her smaller wounds had healed, and she looked to have gained some weight. Her hair had even grown out a little, though not enough to make her look completely like a girl.

    I sat down in a seat opposite her crossing my legs and getting comfortable, Brienne staring at her with mouth agape, and Jaime watching her reaction.


    She shot me a sullen look, and opted for more silence.

    "You wanted to make your way to Jon at the Wall, did you not?"

    Her gaze suddenly locked onto mine, eyes narrowing in suspicion.

    I chuckled at her reaction, "You know, he's been elected Lord Commander? Your brother has done well for himself. Play along, and I'll send you to him."

    The silence dragged on for a long moment, "I don't believe you," she finally said.

    I nodded, acknowledging her point. So, I tried another angle of attack, "When we came to Winterfell, what did you think of Joffrey?"

    "I thought he was a little shit."

    I smiled, "And me?"

    She shrugged.

    "Well, for what it's worth, I give you my word I don't intend to hurt you. I'm actually here to tell you that I plan to let you out of your cell."

    "And Sandor?"

    "He's alive. But in no condition to be wandering about."

    Arya furrowed her brow, "So, I'm free to go?"

    I shook my head, "No, you're still a political prisoner. At least for now, anyways. But you never struck me as the kind of girl who liked to live in a cage, no matter how gilded. And it would do you some good to stretch your legs, no doubt."

    "And what's to stop me running away?" she questioned.

    I gestured back to Brienne, "She is. Trust me, she's a lot more formidable under that dress than you know." She seemed to doubt my words, looking at Brienne, "And if I could find you before, when the whole realm thought you dead, and know enough about what you were doing to take the coin from you, then you can be assured I will know enough to find you again."

    "How good of you to do that," Arya scoffed.

    "Yes, it was." Her eyes snapped back to me, angry as ever, just as I let any hint of joviality slip completely from my tone, "And next time, I'll not be so merciful. I'll have your legs broken, so you can't run anywhere."

    She sized me up with murderous intent in her eyes, quickly switching tac as her sense of self-preservation prevailed, "And you don't want anything?"

    "Not quite. I will ask a small favour of you."

    Arya frowned, "What favour?"

    I waved my hand dismissively, "Oh, nothing strenuous. Just some letters I want you to write."

    Again, Arya was silent. She was no idiot. In all likelihood, she knew what those letters would be used for. I could practically see the cogs turning in her head. Was her freedom worth potentially blackmailing her family? Was I going to keep my word? Still, I was gladdened to see that she seemed torn. She observed me in cold assessment, too jaded to be trusting, too trapped to be able to afford to be doubtful.

    This would take some time. And some more convincing, but not from me. My hair was too blonde, my eyes too green.

    I stood from my seat with a hefty sigh, and gestured for Brienne to sit, "Well, I'll leave you two to get acquainted. The Lady Brienne can explain the arrangements to you. I do hope you make the right decision, the both of you."

    With that, Jaime and I again departed. Midway through our journey back to my office, Jaime gathered the courage to speak, "Are you sure that was wise, Your Grace?"

    "Why?" I asked. "Is the Lady Brienne not to be trusted?"

    "Not exactly, Your Grace. But I think you ought to know that she doesn't exactly have the highest opinion of Lannisters."

    I smiled as I opened the door to my office, "Given all the things that we've done, I'd say that's not entirely a bad thing, wouldn't you? So long as her discretion can be counted on, at any rate."

    Jaime made to protest, but found himself unable to deny the truth of my words, his mouth opening and closing again as he reformulated his argument, "She's a woman of her word, but the Lady Arya..."

    "Don't worry," I assured him. "I'm not fool enough to not take at least some precautions."

    "What precautions, Your Grace?" Jaime asked.

    I smiled, "Send for Bronn, would you?"
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2023
  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 15: Cersei

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 15: Cersei

    "Oh, I pray the Seven will not allow it to rain upon the King's wedding," Jocelyn Swyft said as she laced up her gown.

    "No one wants rain," Cersei responded. No, not rain, but sleet and hail and ice and lightning instead. She wanted a storm to match her rage. But she would have to settle for not being upstaged, "Tighter. Cinch it tighter, you simpering little fool."

    It was the wedding that enraged her, though Jocelyn was by far a safer target. Tommen's hold upon the Iron Throne was not strong enough to risk offending Highgarden. Not so long as Stannis held Storm's End and Dragonstone, so long as Riverrun continued on in it's defiance, so long as Ironmen continued to prowl the seas like wolves. So Jocelyn would have to endure her rage.

    The thought of tying her last remaining son to Margaery Tyrell and her hideous wrinkled old grandmother was one that roiled her stomach. She settled for spiced wine in place of a true meal, hoping the liquor would help her with the long nasty day she had ahead.

    Jaime did not improve her mood when he came to tell her of the measures Tommen had ordered for his protection, "Men in the kitchens watching as each dish is prepared," he said. "Ser Bronn's goldcloaks will escort the servants as they bring food to the table, to make sure no tampering is done on the way. Ser Boros will be tasting every course before it comes near Tommen. And if all that should fail, Maester Ballabar will be seated at the back of the hall with many different antidotes to common poisons at the ready. Tommen will be safe, I promise you."

    "Safe." The word was bitter on her tongue. Jaime did not understand. Nobody, save perhaps Tommen himself, truly did. And he treated it like a bad jape. Only Melara had been in the tent to hear the old hag's croaking threats, and Melara was long dead. "Baelish will not kill the same way twice. He is too cunning for that."

    "Suppose he is. Cunning enough to slip past His Grace. And planning to kill him," Jaime said. "Whatever plan he makes, Tommen will be surrounded by some of the finest knights in the realm. The Kingsguard will protect him."

    Cersei glanced at her brother's golden hook, "I remember how well they guarded Joffrey, those splendid knights of yours. I want you to remain with Tommen all night. Is that understood?"

    "I will have a guardsman by the door," Jaime said.

    She shook her head and seized his arm, "Not a guardsman. You. And inside the chamber itself."

    Jaime seemed amused by her panic, "In case an assassin crawls out of the hearth?"

    "So you say. Will you tell me that you found all the hidden tunnels in these walls?" They both knew better. Of the ones they had found, Tommen had not ordered the opening of at least a third. And who knew how many more remained yet undiscovered? "I will not have Tommen be alone with Margaery, not for so much as a heartbeat."

    "I cannot ignore His Grace's commands."

    "And you cannot ignore your Queen's either." Cersei had not wanted Tommen and his wife to share a bed at all, but the Tyrells had insisted. And her father, and Tyrion, and even Tommen himself had joined them in their insistence. In the end, she had been forced to relent, if only to preserve the image that her opinion still mattered.

    "Husband and wife should sleep together," the Queen of Thorns had said. "Even if they do no more than sleep. His Grace's bed is big enough for two, surely."

    Lady Alerie had echoed her goodmother, "Let the children warm each other at night. It will bring them closer together. Margaery oft shares blankets with her cousins. They sing and play games and whisper secrets to each other when the candles are snuffed out."

    "How delightful," Cersei had said, not feeling at all delighted. "Let them continue, by all means. In the Maidenvault."

    "I am sure Her Grace knows best," Lady Olenna had said to Lady Alerie. "She is the boy's own mother, after all, of that we are all sure. And surely we can agree about the wedding night? A man should not sleep apart from his wife on the night of their wedding. It is ill luck to do so."

    Someday, I will teach you the meaning of ill luck, Cersei had vowed.

    But still, her efforts were in vain. Tommen insisted that his wife lay with him, and continue to do so after the wedding. In public, he exalted Margaery's virtues, acting as though he were some sick love-struck puppy. In private, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "It's politics, mother. The best way to secure our alliance with the Tyrells is to put a baby in Margaery."

    "You are still young," she had countered. "There is time yet."

    "There is always time," he had agreed. "But there is not always opportunity. I need the Tyrells, and the Reach as well, and I cannot afford to let their strength slip through my fingers. There is no avoiding that."

    Cersei's fingers were digging in hard enough in Jaime's arm to leave bruises at the memory of that conversation, "I need eyes in that room," she pleaded.

    "To see what?" Jaime asked. "It is hardly as if you are unfamiliar with the marriage bed. Tommen is young, but not too much to do his duty. At that age you could not spend half a moon without having me inside you."

    "Just... swear to me you will stay by Tommen's side till the sun comes up."

    "As you command," Jaime said, as if her fears were groundless.

    How could I have ever loved that wretched creature? she wondered after he had gone. He was your twin, your shadow, your other half, another voice whispered. Once, perhaps, she thought. No longer. He has become a stranger to me.

    As strange to me as my own son.

    It was clear to her now what had happened. Tyrion, the Tyrells, they had all sunken their claws in him. Why else would he defy her, and so often? He had never done that before. His dreams may have been true, that much she would admit, but that did not mean that Tommen did not need a guiding hand. He was a babe still.

    She lamented her loss just as she planned to avenge it.

    Tommen may have given me back my seat, but he did not give me back my power. Counting coppers and shuffling papers! No matter, I am the Regent still. There is time yet to reclaim my rightful place.

    Compared to the magnificence of Joffrey's nuptials, the wedding of King Tommen was a modest affair, though still quite big. No one truly wanted a lavish ceremony, and nobody wanted to pay for one. So the Young King took Margaery to wife in the Red Keep's royal sept, with a few hundred guests compared to the thousands who had witnessed his brother joined to the same woman.

    The bride was fair and gay and beautiful, the groom still short and baby-faced. He recited his vows in a high voice, deliberately practiced to make him sound as adult as possible, promising his love and devotion to Mace Tyrell's twice-wedded daughter. Margaery wore the same gown she had wore to wed Joffrey, an airy confection of sheer silk and Myrish lace, studded with pearls. Cersei herself was in black, out of mourning for her murdered firstborn.

    His widow may be pleased to laugh and drink and dance and put all memory of Joff aside, but his mother would not forget him so easily.

    Baelish would suffer for what he had done.

    This is wrong, she could not help but think. It is too soon. A year, two years would have been enough of a wait. Highgarden should have been content with a betrothal. And so should Tommen. Cersei turned her head and looked to where Mace Tyrell stood. You forced me into this travesty of a wedding, my lord, and I shall not soon forget it.

    When it was time for the changing of the cloaks, the bride sank gracefully to her knees and Tommen covered her with the heavy cloth-of-gold monstrosity that Robert had used on their wedding day, with the crowned stag of Baratheon worked upon it's back in beads of onyx. Cersei had wanted to use the same fine red silk that Joffrey had used, but Tommen had, once again, refused her.

    Thanks to Stannis and that filthy letter, there were already too many rumours concerning Tommen's parentage. Cersei dared not fan the fires by insisting that he drape his bride in Lannister crimson, so she yielded as gracefully as she could. But the sight of that thing still filled her with resentment.

    The more we give, the more they demand of us.

    When all the vows had been spoken, the King and his new Queen stepped outside the sept to accept congratulations. "Westeros has two Queens now, and the young one is as beautiful as the old one," boomed Lyle Crakehall. She could have slapped him. Gyles Rosby made to kiss her hand, but only succeeded in coughing on her fingers instead. Mace had kissed her cheeks. Pycelle had told her that she had not lost a son, but gained a daughter. Tyrion had made some poor jape, but the King had laughed, and so everyone else did as well.

    Oberyn plied her with compliments and charm, which she bore with disdain. That whore Arianne came dressed so wantonly that most men could not avert their gaze, though at least her bastard cousins had some measure of propriety in comparison. Lord Randyll offered a stiff bow and even stiffer handshake.

    All the while, Lord Tywin looked on silently. Her father's eyes were cold and threatening, watching carefully his daughter for any misbehaviour.

    Jaime escorted her to the Small Hall, where a feast was being readied. "I blame you for all this," she whispered as they walked. "Let them be wed, you said. Margaery should be mourning Joffrey, not marrying her brother. She should be as sick with grief as I am. I do not believe she is a maid. Renly had a cock, didn't he? He was Robert's brother, he surely had a cock. If that disgusting old crone thinks that I will allow my son to-"

    "You will be rid of Lady Olenna soon enough," Jaime broke in. "She returns to Highgarden on the morrow."

    "So she says." Cersei knew better than to trust any Tyrell promise.

    "She's leaving," Jaime insisted. "And half the Tyrell strength is going with her. Garlan has already left. In a few days, the only roses left will be Margaery, her ladies, and Lord Mace."

    "And Ser Loras. Or have you forgotten your Sworn Brother?"

    "Ser Loras is a knight of the Kingsguard."

    "Ser Loras is so Tyrell he pisses rosewater. He should never have been given a white cloak."

    "He would not have been my choice, I'll grant you. But no one troubled to consult me. Loras will do well enough, I think. Once a man dons that white cloak, it changes him."

    "It certainly changed you, and not for the better."

    Jaime smiled wanly, "I love you too, sweet sister."

    He held the door for her, and walked her to the high table and her seat beside the King and her father. Margaery was on the other side of Tommen, in the seat of honour. When she came in arm-in-arm with her little King, she made a point of stopping to kiss Cersei's cheeks and throw her arms around her. "Your Grace," the girl said, bold as polished brass, "I feel as though I have a second mother now. I pray that we shall be very close, united by our love for your sweet son."

    "I loved both my sons." Behind Margaery, Cersei could see Tommen quirk a single eyebrow at her choice of words.

    "Joffrey is in my prayers as well. I loved him dearly, though I never had the chance to know him."

    Liar, she thought. If you loved him even for an instant, you wouldn't be in such an unseemly rush to wed his brother. His crown is all you ever wanted. If she could have, she would have slapped the blushing bride right there upon the dais, in full view of the court.

    Much like the ceremony, the wedding feast was quite modest. Only seven courses were served. Butterbumps and Moon Boy entertained the guests. Musicians entertained the guests, with only one singer who sang a few love-songs and retired. "What a disappointment," Lady Olenna loudly complained. "I was hoping to hear the Rains of Castamere."

    Lord Tywin did not rise to the bait.

    Whenever Cersei looked at the old crone, the face of Maggy the Frog floated to the surface, wrinkled and terrible and wise. All old women look alike, she tried to tell herself, that's all it is. And though in truth Olenna looked nothing like her, the sight of her nasty little smile was enough to put Cersei back in Maggy's tent again. She could still remember the smell of it, stuffed with queer eastern spices. The softness of her gums as she sucked the blood from Cersei's finger.

    Queen you shall be, the old woman had promised, with her lips still wet and red and glistening, until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear. Cersei glanced past Tommen to Margaery. She is pretty enough, she had to admit, but most of that is youth. Even peasant girls are pretty at a certain age, when they are still fresh and innocent and unspoiled, and most of them have the same brown hair and brown eyes as she does. Only a fool would ever claim her more beautiful than me.

    The world was full of fools, however. Most of all herself, for being taken in by that miserable old hag, so many years ago.

    Her mood was not improved when Mace Tyrell arose to lead the toasts, swaying slightly, smiling at his pretty little daughter, and in a booming voice said, "To the King and Queen!" The other sheep all baaaaaaaed along with him. "The King and Queen!" they all cried, smashing their cups together, "The King and Queen!" She had no choice but to drink along with them, and even the little King, who had yet to partake in any wine, was forced to have a cup or two.

    Cersei drank several cups of wine, and pushed her food around a golden plate. Her stomach refused to settle. Jaime ate even less than her, and seldom deigned to occupy his seat on the dais. He is more nervous than I, Cersei realised as she watched him prowl the hall, twitching aside the tapestries with his good hand to assure himself that no one was hiding behind them. Only her father and Tommen seemed relaxed, though she noted that even his appetite seemed diminished.

    My son is safe, Cersei told herself. No harm can come to him, not here, not now. Yet every time she looked at him, she saw Joffrey clutching his throat. And when the boy began to cough the Queen's heart seized for a moment, knocking over a serving girl in her haste to ensure he was safe, relaxing only when the fit passed and he sipped some water with a smile on his face.

    "Only a little wine that went the wrong way," Margaery assured her. She kissed Tommen's fingers, taking his hand in her own. "See, you scared your mother half to death."

    It was more than Cersei could bear to watch. I cannot let them see me cry, she thought, tears welling up in her eyes. She wandered past Meryn Trant and out into the back passage. Finally alone, she allowed herself a shuddering sob, and then another. A woman may weep, but not a queen.

    "Your Grace?" said a voice behind her. "Do I intrude?"

    It was a woman's voice, flavored with the accents of the east. For an instant she feared that Maggy the Frog was speaking to her from the grave. But it was only Lord Merryweather's wife.

    "The Small Hall is so stuffy," Cersei heard herself say. "The smoke was making my eyes water."

    "And mine, Your Grace." Lady Merryweather was as tall as the queen, but dark instead of fair, raven-haired and olive-skinned and younger by a decade. She offered the queen a pale blue handkerchief of silk and lace. "I have a son as well. I know that I shall weep rivers on the day he weds."

    Cersei wiped her cheeks, furious that she had let her tears be seen. "My thanks," she said stiffly.

    "Your Grace, I... " The Myrish woman lowered her voice. "There is something you must know. Your maid is bought and paid for. She tells Lady Margaery everything you do."

    "Senelle?" Sudden fury twisted in the Queen's belly. Was there no one she could trust? "You are certain of this?"

    "Have her followed. Margaery never meets with her directly. Her cousins are her ravens, they bring her messages."

    "If this true, why tell me? You are one of Margaery's companions. Why betray her?"

    Cersei had learned suspicions at her father's knee, and this could well be some kind of trap, meant to ensnare her or sow discord between lion and rose. "Longtable may be sworn to Highgarden, but I am of Myr, and my loyalty is to my husband and son. I want only what is best of them."

    "I see." In the passage, Cersei could smell the woman, and under her perfumes she smelled ambition. She gave testimony at Tyrion's trial, Cersei suddenly recalled. She saw the Imp put the poison in Joff's cup and was not afraid to say so. Of course, she had been lying, but that didn't much bother Cersei. "I shall look into this," she promised. "And if what you say is true, you will be rewarded."

    And if you've lied to me again, I'll have your tongue, and your lord husband's lands and gold as well.

    "Your Grace is kind," Lady Merryweather smiled. "And beautiful."

    When Cersei gathered the courage to enter the Small Hall again, she found Jaime observing the proceedings from the corner, eyes shifting relentlessly as Tommen addressed the Hall, giving a speech to the sheep. "It was only a small gulp of wine that went down the wrong way," Jaime whispered. "Though it startled me as well."

    "My belly is such a knot I cannot eat," she growled at him. "The wine tastes of bile. This wedding was a mistake."

    "This wedding was necessary. The boy is safe."

    "Fool. No one who ever wears a crown is safe." She looked about the hall, at all the lords and ladies paying rapt attention. Lords Rowan and Tarly were sharing furtive glances as the King spoke. Uncle Kevan sat brooding over his wine. The Redwyne boys, Horror and Slobber both, were sat next to Lancel. The Dornish whores continued to attract glances, even as the King demanded full attention. Grand Maester Pycelle looked half-asleep.

    There is no one I can rely upon, not even Jaime, she realised grimly. I will need to sweep them all away and surround the king with mine own people.

    After a good long minute, Tommen looked to be finishing his speech, "With this blessed union," he offered a small smile to Margaery, "we bring order back to this great land of ours." He raised his cup in a toast, "To peace, prosperity and fertility, my lords!"

    There was a great round of thunderous applause accompanied with chants of, "Peace, Prosperity, Fertility!" from the crowd. Though it stung her pride to admit, Tommen looked to be a better orator than she had ever been. No matter, Cersei reminded herself, the lioness does not concern herself with the opinions of the sheep. So what if he can make them baaaaaaa better than I can? They are sheep still.

    Later, after the meals had all been taken away, Margaery and Tommen began the dancing, looking a sight ridiculous as they whirled and twirled about the floor. The Tyrell girl stood a good six inches above her husband, and though Tommen proved surprisingly adequate at dancing, he lacked Joffrey's easy grace. And no sooner was he done that Margaery's cousins all swooped in, one after another, all insisting that His Grace must dance with them as well. They will have him stumbling and shuffling like a fool by the time they're done, Cersei thought resentfully. Half the court will be laughing at him behind his back.

    Finally, when he was done with the cousins, Tommen danced with the Dornish whores, finishing with Lady Arianne, who seemed all too eager to provoke Tommen with her harlotry. Still, Cersei was glad for it if only to witness the flash of distress on Margaery's face as she watched them whilst dancing with her brother Loras. They could be twins, Cersei thought as she watched them. They looked the perfect pair. A ripe crop of pimples would teach them some humility.

    Cersei was interrupted from her reverie by her own twin, "Would Your Grace honour her white knight with a dance?"

    She gave him a withering look and refused, making to refill her cup. Cersei refused Mace Tyrell, and later Lancel. The others soon took the hint. Our fast friends and loyal lords. She could not even trust the westermen, her father's sworn swords and shields.

    Tommen approached her, then, and asked her to dance. It was not a request she could refuse, she knew, and she forced a smile on her face and stood and entered the floor with him. They began to slowly twirl to the music, and Tommen leaned forwards and whispered in her ear, "You look anxious. Or drunk."

    "I'm fine," she said, much too curtly.

    "No," Tommen asserted, "You're not. But I think I know what's troubling you. It's Margaery, isn't it?"

    Cersei stiffened, and then forced herself to relax as she continued to twirl, "The bedding-"

    "Is necessary," Tommen cut in. "We've been through this, mother. I need their loyalty, and this is by far the best way to get it."

    "I do not believe the girl is a maid," she blurted out, echoing the concerns she had voiced to Jaime. "Renly had a cock, did he not?"

    Tommen offered a half-shrug in response, "What of it? Father's wedding to you did not stop him enjoying other women. So long as she is virtuous from now on, and I can be assured of the parentage of any children she bears me, it hardly matters."

    Cersei resisted the urge to scowl, "Robert bedding me did not keep me loyal."

    Tommen smirked as their dance wound down, "Don't worry, mother," he said as he kissed her cheeks. "I won't moan another's name as I finish."

    She could have slapped him.

    Their dance ended, his words leaving her simmering with rage as she watched her son walk over to his table to nibble on some applecake. She returned to her seat, finishing her cup of wine hastily, stomach unsettled by the reminder of her son's knowledge. She scowled again as she saw him share a laugh with his bride. Margaery is spying on me. When Senelle came to refill her cup, the Queen had to resist the urge to throttle her. Do not presume to smile at me, you traitorous little bitch. You will be begging for mercy before I'm done with you.

    "I think Her Grace has had enough wine for one night," she heard Tyrion say.

    No, Cersei thought, all the wine in the world would not be enough to see me through this wedding. She rose so fast she almost fell. Jaime caught her arm and steadied her. She wrenched free and clapped her hands together, preventing Tommen from doing the same later. The music died, the voices stilled, "Lords and Ladies," Cersei called out loudly, "if you are so good as to come outside with me, we shall all light a candle to celebrate the union of Highgarden and the Iron Throne, and a new age of peace and prosperity for our Seven Kingdoms."

    Tommen had arranged the display, and in a moment of pettiness, Cersei hoped it would fail. Let it set the city alight. We will build a new palace, across the river. Away from this cesspit. Hells, for half a groat I would move the capital from here to Lannisport and rule the realm from Casterly Rock.

    Laid out on the floor were queer little paper lanterns, resembling little onions in shape, of Tommen's own design. They were available in every colour possible, of which she had selected a red one. Servants came through the crowd, handing out small stumps of candle, the wicks lit. Slobber accidentally set his on fire, and was left bereft of any lantern. She placed the stump in the little basket, taking care not to set the paper alight.

    Tommen looked about him, to see if all the lords had prepared their lanterns correctly, "On my word, yes? One, two, three!"

    Tommen wafted his lantern up into the breeze, and hundreds more soon followed. The lanterns rose into the night sky slowly leaving it alive with light, red, yellow, orange, green, blue. A symbol of the unity of the realm, the King had said. The Queen could see the lights drift across the sky, as if stars themselves. Some of the ladies gasped, others cheered. Many, including herself, were gripped with wonderment at the sight.

    It's beautiful, she thought, as beautiful as Joffrey, when they laid him in my arms. No man had ever made her feel as good as when she had felt when he had taken her nipple in his mouth to nurse.

    Tommen gazed at the sight solemnly, until Margaery whispered something in his ear that made him chuckle. Some of the knights began to place bets on how long it would be before they began to disappear.

    "It's a pretty sight, I'll grant you," Lady Olenna said after a while, leaning on her cane. "Pretty enough to see us off to bed happy, I think. Old bones grow weary, and these young ones have yet more excitement awaiting them on this one night. It is time the King and Queen were abed."

    "Yes," Tommen beckoned to Jaime, "Lord Commander, escort us to our pillows, if you would."

    The three left, and Cersei stood alone, watching the little stars drift away and all blink out, one by one.
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 16: Tourney

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 16: Tourney

    The wedding tourney was turning out a far grander occasion than the wedding itself.

    In the stands were sat myself, my bride in the seat of honour beside me, and another seat, occasionally occupied by anyone I cared to speak to. Oberyn sat a good few seats away, along with his niece and daughters. Lord Mace and Lord Mathis were sat beside each other, talking with Lord Kevan on some matter. Maester Pycelle was never too far away, and Maester Ballabar sat ready in waiting in case anyone was injured.

    My mother had neglected to attend the tourney thus far - out of pettiness, no doubt.

    Behind a line of rope the masses of Kings Landing had gathered to watch. On this day, the third of the tourney thus far, the jousts were well underway. Knights mounted their horses and raised their lances and charged at one another, and every so often a decisive blow would be struck, resulting in some truly spectacular falls. Armour clattered, bones snapped, steeds neighed and reared back in panic as shards of shattered lances were sent flying.

    In an age before entertainment, this was the closest to action I could get without actually putting myself in danger. And with the state of the crown's finances, this would likely be the last such display for some time. So, I forwent my usual fare of water for some Arbor Gold, swirling and sipping the liquid from my cup as the day progressed.

    One advantage to being so young? You don't need to drink so much to get a buzz.

    "Ser Boros," Tyrion leaned over to me and whispered conspiratorially, "or that Hedge Knight?"

    "Which one is he again?"

    Tyrion squinted at him, "No sigil, far as I can see. A lack of coin or a lack of name, I wonder?"

    "And yet," I wryly observed, "he can afford full-plate. A practical man, this hedge knight must be."

    Margaery, sat on my other side, offered her thoughts, "I don't know much about war, Your Grace, but it seems Ser Boros is far less steady on his horse than his opponent. I doubt that bodes well for him."

    Tyrion scrutinised Boros for a moment and then nodded, "Yes, it does seem so." He gulped some wine and jangled the coin in his purse, "So, would you like to lose some gold, Your Grace?"

    I smiled, "It wouldn't be seemly of me. A King shouldn't gamble, much less with the crown's finances."

    Tyrion shrugged, "Very well, then. In any case, I know where I'm placing my bets."

    "Careful with that," I smirked as he stood from his seat. "Stick to gold. We don't want anymore daggers changing hands, do we?"

    Tyrion grumbled slightly as he left, not bothering to offer any parting shot.

    "How are you finding the tourney, my lady?" I asked Margaery as we waited for the next joust to start. "Is it to your liking?"

    She smiled sweetly, unable to help the slight blush in her cheeks as I looked at her, interlacing her fingers with mine, "It's wonderful, Your Grace."

    I smiled a devilish smile, "That's good."

    The two of us weren't quite as randy as rabbits, but it was a close run thing. No doubt, I had surprised her on our wedding night. She had been expecting fumbling hands and awkwardness, and I liked to think I left her pleasantly surprised. There was awkwardness aplenty, to be sure, as I unlaced her gown and lay her on the bed and kissed both her upper and nether lips, but we quickly settled into a more comfortable back-and-forth.

    What followed was for her, or so she says, the best hour-and-a-half of her life. Fingers, tongues, no effort was spared to leave her basking in the sweaty afterglow of sexual congress. I'm not quite sure I believed her claims, but so long as the blushes and moans were real, I didn't much mind.

    My stamina and attention to detail certainly pleased her, if nothing else.

    In truth, it didn't much matter, so long as everyone knew she had been despoiled. She was mine now, and her family's wealth and power was as well.

    The knights had readied themselves for the tilt by this point, and I gave my assent for the joust to begin. Ser Boros's armour hid his nerves, no doubt - I had to basically force him into competing in the tourney - so much so that I had to make it into a requirement for all the Kingsguard, just to stop him squirrelling away. Only the Lord Commander received an exemption, to ensure the safety of the King.

    If Bronn had done his job right - and he usually did - then this would be a tilt to pay close attention to.

    At the first pass, the hedge knight struck Ser Boros square in his shield, unsettling him from his saddle and shattering the tip of his lance in the process. The two men gathered themselves, the hedge knight replaced his lance, and the second pass began.

    And it was here that it finally happened.

    The hedge-knight's lance struck Boros's shield at just the right angle, and with just enough force. The tip of the lance struck the shield, but did not break, the lance scraping against the wood and climbing higher and higher till it broke past Ser Boros's defences completely, bouncing off his breastplate and landing against his gorget with enough force to unhorse him completely.

    Ser Boros tumbled off his horse like a sack of potatoes, falling messily to the ground in a heap, his form partially shrouded by his white cloak.

    The joust was halted, and when Ser Boros's form remained still on the ground, Maester Ballabar rushed out into the field to see to the knight's wounds. His crumpled form did not move as his body was turned over and Maester Ballabar hurriedly removed parts of his armour to examine him.

    It did not take a Maester, however, to determine that Ser Boros was not breathing.

    As it turned out, it wasn't the lance that had killed him, but the fall. The angle of the strike combined with the force of the impact with the ground had snapped his neck cleanly. There were no punctures on his skin, no outward physical signs besides some bruising, but he was dead all the same.

    Truly, Bronn was really quite good at his job. An onlooker would have no idea that such an accident had been planned.

    Discreet, efficient, it was everything a King could ask for.

    I would have to remember to keep him loyal.

    That day, the tourney came to an early end, and with a glum mood. Well, glum for everyone else, though I played along.

    The day after, once the last of the jousts had been finished and a victor emerged, in this case Ser Loras - narrowly beating out Ser Balon to name his sister his Queen of Love and Beauty - the archery competition could begin. Arrows struck the ground as much as they struck their targets, and I found myself enjoying the slower pace of proceedings. The lack of overt violence held it's own charm, in a way. Though I wouldn't call it exciting, to watch experts of their craft hone their practice was certainly fascinating in it's own right.

    And useful, too. I would need men to man the scorpions I planned to build.

    Ser Balon won that one. And by quite an impressive margin as well.

    The day after, the big event finally arrived. A massive melee, with more than a hundred participants spread across a far larger field.

    And among the horde of sigils and swords was one particular warrior...

    On one side of me was Margaery, on the other was Arianne, eyes affixed on the field before us. For once, her efforts to seduce me had been - if not abandoned, at least toned down - in favour of watching the melee. She still wore sheer clothes and lace adornments and little chains, but it seemed an afterthought for once. We were all watching different people, I noted. Margaery's eyes remained focused on the corner of the field where her brother was, running to engage his enemies. Arianne's gaze flitted about the field, jumping from hedge knight to hedge knight, no doubt scouting targets for potential seduction and/or assassination.

    Or mayhap that was just my paranoia shining through.

    Looking behind me, Jaime's eyes seemed locked on the same person as me. A lone figure, wielding a morningstar with some degree of ruthless efficacy, much as she had done at Bitterbridge. Her first target came to be a hedge knight, who succumbed quickly enough. Then followed one of the Kettleblacks, though which one it was could not be determined at such a distance. Osney, Osfryd? It was hard to tell.

    Off in another corner of the field, another hedge knight was taking Ser Meryn Trant to task with a warhammer. I could only hope it would be another tragic loss.

    Brienne gave a whirling dervish of blows to one opponent, wielding her morningstar with a not insignificant degree of brutal power. Armour crumpled and dented under the weight of her blows, and one by one, her opponents yielded. The hours passed, and the participants of the melee were gradually whittled down. Soon, only a handful of knights remained in the field.

    Soon after, the handful had been whittled down to just three. Ser Loras, Ser Osmund and Brienne. They circled each other, wary of striking the first blow and leaving themselves exposed to the other.

    Ser Loras struck first, taking aim with his longaxe at Brienne. No doubt, he recognised her armour and was eager to avenge his humiliation at Bitterbridge. That eagerness, however, soon cost him. Ser Osmund, ever the opportunistic fellow, closed in from the rear as the two traded blows. Loras took aim with his axe, swinging deftly in a colourful pattern that would both keep Brienne at bay and knock her off balance.

    She took one step back, blade sweeping past the visor of her helm, then two, then three. Finally came time for her weapon to do it's work, morningstar swinging in from the side, a blow aimed at denting Loras's breastplate and knocking him cleanly out of the fight. He leapt backwards in the nick of time, the spikes on the weapon just grazing his plate.

    Behind, Ser Osmund had halted at all pretentions at advancement. Realising just how equally matched this mystery knight seemed to be with Ser Loras, he seemed content to sit and wait, and pounce on whoever emerged the victor, weakened and exhausted as they would be. When it looked as though Ser Loras might emerge the victor, the mystery knight now firmly on the backfoot and forced into a retreat, Ser Osmund seized the opportunity.

    With a single swing of his mace, Loras crumpled and fell, unconscious. Brienne looked up at her new opponent hesitantly, aware of his deception and the fact that he stood almost as tall and heavy as she did.

    Beside me, Margaery gave a sharp intake of breath at her brother's defeat, and a frown marred her pretty features.

    "Something the matter, my lady?"

    She turned to glance at me, "Just my brother, Your Grace. I know this is a melee, yet I cannot help but wince at every blow struck."

    I interlaced my fingers with her and kissed them, comforting her, "Do not be concerned, wife. Their weapons are blunted, and Ser Loras has some of the finest armour in the realm. Not to mention that his own sworn brother would not try and kill him. He will survive."

    "It was a dirty trick," Arianne cut in. "That Ser..."

    "Kettleblack," I supplied.

    "Yes," Arianne continued, "Kettleblack. It was a dirty trick he used. Dishonourable. Your brother, the gallant Ser Loras, should have won that contest."

    Margaery smiled prettily, "My thanks, Princess. I am certain my brother will be most pleased to hear it."

    "I am certain he will," I said. "But that will not change his defeat. You are right, Princess, to say that Ser Osmund used a dirty trick. But wars are not won by raising your banner and fighting with honour. And better Ser Loras learn that lesson in the tourney field than the battlefield."

    Margaery frowned, and Arianne quirked a curious eyebrow seductively, "What does win wars, Your Grace?"

    I smiled as I turned my attention back to the field of the melee, "Dirty tricks do, Princess. And luck."

    At this point, the duel between the two had degenerated. Brienne was nearing exhaustion, and though Ser Osmund had suffered through far fewer fights, he was slightly smaller - and no doubt slightly less determined - than his opponent was. Their swings were wild and poorly-controlled, a back and forth of battered shields and near-misses till one would either slip up or fall from exhaustion.

    Or till one would use a dirty trick.

    Ser Osmund and Brienne continued to trade blows for some time. The turf beneath them stirred and became loose under the trampling of their boots, swiftly becoming a muddy mire. With their weapons, they were both evenly matched for war, with similar reach, similar weight and power behind every swing. Ser Osmund's armour, previously quite well-kempt, was gaining dents and scratches aplenty. It was clear that they both wanted to win.

    But only one was desperate.

    Brienne, fast approaching the limit of her strength, swung her morningstar in one sweeping, savage arc - a blow aimed squarely at Ser Osmund's helm. He backed off, sacrificing his footing to stumble back and evade the incoming blow. Brienne leapt forwards. With Ser Osmund unbalanced, she managed to bring him crashing to the ground with her body, using her gauntlets to deliver strike after strike to the joints in his armour as she wrestled with him in the mud.

    Ser Osmund gave almost as good as he got, however. He writhed about, trying to escape the grip of his opponent. He lashed out with his elbows, his knees, his fists, and even once attempted to headbutt Brienne. Yet she had the clear initiative, now. She had him pinned with her heft, and held him in place in a vice-like grip. And though she lacked the strength to continue this much longer - her grip loosening - she used her weight to press Ser Osmund into the ground.

    If he did not find a way to escape, and soon, he would drown in mud. A worse fate I struggled to imagine.

    Truly, it was the dirtiest of tricks.

    Slowly sinking under the weight of his own armour and the heft of his opponent, his attempts to wrestle only sinking him faster, Ser Osmund was forced to yield. There was a moment of uncertainty, to see if it was a feint or some kind of trick of his own, yet Brienne lifted herself off him and even offered him a hand when he struggled to escape the mire.

    The winner decided, Brienne approached the stands on tired legs.

    "Congratulations, brave warrior. You are the victor in this bout," I said. "Now I would ask you to remove your helm, ser."

    She did so, tucking her helm under her arm only to receive gasps of shock from the audience in the stands as they saw her face. Beside me, I saw Margaery frown and Arianne's curiosity grow tenfold.

    "I know I am a woman, Your Grace," Brienne said, sighting my feigned look of concern and offering a deep bow. "But I am a warrior all the same."

    I nodded, the very picture of grace and equanimity, "Very well. As champion, you may ask of me any boon you desire. If it is in my power to grant, then it is yours."

    "Your Grace," Brienne answered. "I desire nothing more than to be dubbed a Knight in your service."

    "Yet you cannot be a Knight, for only men can be Knights," I declared. "But you will serve me all the same. Kneel, my lady."

    She did so, as the stands held their collective breath, aware they were about to witness history in the making. I stood from my seat, snatching up my scabbard from beside me, descending the steps from the stand to meet her in the field, Jaime just behind me. Arianne looked spellbound.

    I approached Brienne, and drew my blade, and placed the flat of it on her left shoulder, "In the name of the Warrior I charge you to be brave." I switched shoulders, laying the flat on her right, "In the name of the Father I charge you to be just." Left, "In the name of the Mother I charge you to defend the young and the innocent." Right, "In the name of the Maid I charge you to protect all women." Left, "In the name of the Smith I charge you to remain humble and hardworking in a time of labour." Right, "In the name of the Crone I charge you to be wise with your blade." Left, "In the name of the Stranger I charge you to be fearless of death in your oaths and duty." Right, "Brienne, do you swear?"

    The world held it's breath.

    "I do, Your Grace."

    I smiled as I withdrew my blade and sheathed it, "Then arise, Dame Brienne of the Sapphire Isle. Arise and serve your King."

    When she stood, she stood proud and tall, and a smile lit up her face. She was towering, gallant, a vision in spite of the squirrel's nest of hair on her head, the crooked teeth, the nose that had been broken more than once, or the sheen of sweat on her red face. Her eyes seemed to glow, basking in the glory of her victory, no matter the circumstances that made it possible.

    When I looked back, I saw a mix of eyes, some gazing at Brienne, others at me. Tyrion looked amused, the High Septon and Pycelle perturbed. Tywin's gaze was as cold and impassive as ever, neither offended nor impressed. Mace did not seem best pleased at the elevation of a woman in such a manner whilst his daughter, my new wife, seemed intrigued at the prospect. Nymeria seemed both stunned and excited by the brazenness of the display.

    Yet, most worrying of all for me was Arianne's reaction.

    She was smiling, her eyes locked onto mine, a curious little smirk tugging at her lips.
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  21. Threadmarks: Chapter 17: Cersei II

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 17: Cersei II

    A knight of the Kingsguard was always posted outside the doors of the council chambers when the Small Council was in session. Today it was Ser Loras Tyrell.

    "Ser Loras," the Queen said pleasantly, "you look quite grey. Did something happen, perchance?"

    The news of his defeat had spread far and wide - especially as it was learned that he was struck down whilst distracted by a woman. The same woman who had supposedly beaten him at one of Renly's fool tourneys, and who had now been made a knight, or a dame as the King liked to call it. Not quite the pimples I was hoping for, but still a humbling. Loras hated the mention of his loss. His face quivered slightly at her allusion to it. Truly, Cersei had been sorry to miss it when she had heard.

    It was the first bit of good news she had gotten in a long while.

    As fond of Osmund as she may have once been, she was fonder of him now. Even if he did at times seem as slow as Robert. Mayhaps I will offer him more than a hint and a smile...

    The councillors quieted as she entered the room. It was crowded, she noticed, with nearly more people than the table could afford to seat, many sat with their arms touching. Lord Mace's fat face split into a smile, and he offered his greeting to her, loud enough to wake Pycelle from his slumber. The others rose, mouthing pleasantries. Cersei allowed herself the faintest of smiles, "My lords, may I ask where the King and his Hand are?"

    Behind her, the doors swung open and her son confidently strode in, "Just a small delay, Mother. Nothing to fret over."

    He claimed his seat as Lord Tywin made to sit at the opposite end of the table. He offered all the table a small smile and gestured for them all to sit with his hands. Cersei followed, claiming the seat of honour to his right, only to be thwarted as Tyrion hopped up onto the seat to his left, shooting her a vicious little grin as he did so.

    Cersei looked around with hidden disgust at the table. My councillors. Were she to have any say in it, she would have had all the roses uprooted from the council post-haste. Tyrion as well would be gone. Instead, her son had only invited more in. Not only did she have to tolerate Lord Mace, but also Lords Mathis and Randyll. Lord Paxter was mercifully still absent alongside Garlan Tyrell, seeing to the siege of Dragonstone.

    And then there were the newest arrivals of the lot. Prince Oberyn sat next to his niece, the harlot more undressed than dressed. Some of the lords wanted her, she could tell. Men had been looking at her that way since her breasts had began to bud. Because I was so beautiful, they said, but Jaime was beautiful as well, and they never looked at him that way. When she was small she would sometimes don her brother's clothing as a lark. She was startled by how differently men treated her when they thought she was Jaime. Even Lord Tywin himself...

    Cersei clenched her fists at the boldness of the girl, though thankfully Tommen seemed to ignore her presence in it's entirety.

    "Do we have wine?" the Queen asked.

    Tommen frowned as one of the lords was about to offer her some, and interrupted them, "No, Mother, we do not. Not in these chambers, at any rate."

    The Queen's mood only soured further, "I see."

    "Grandmaester," the King began, "I hear we have received a letter from the Vale?"

    "We have, Your Grace." Pycelle plucked it from his pile of papers and smoothed it out. "It is a declaration, rather than a letter. Signed at Runestone by Bronze Yohn Royce, Lord Waynwood, Lords Hunter, Redfort, and Belmore, and Symond Templeton, the Knight of the Ninestars. All have affixed their seals. They write-"

    They write a deal of rubbish, Cersei thought. Evidently, the King cared to disagree, "They write that they mean to remove Littlefinger as Lord of the Vale, forcibly if need be. Yes?"

    "Yes," Pycelle nodded, uncertain.

    The King tapped the table with his wedding ring once, "Does Lord Baelish seek our help?"

    "Not as yet," Pycelle said. "In truth, he seems quite unconcerned. His last letter mentions the rebels only briefly before beseeching me to ship him some old tapestries of Robert's."

    Unconcerned, Cersei thought. When I get my hands on him...

    The King tapped the table again, "And these lords of the declaration, do they appeal to the King to take a hand?"

    "They do not."

    The King tapped the table one last time, "How long would it take to send a raven from here to Runestone, Grandmaester?"

    Pycelle frowned, "Mayhaps between three or four days, Your Grace. Assuming the weather is fair."

    Tommen nodded and reached down, withdrawing a letter which he then reached over and handed to the Grandmaester, "Have this sent to Runestone. Do not open or read it, Grandmaester, I will know."

    There was an undercurrent of steel in her son's voice, and Pycelle nodded again nervously.

    "And the contents of the letter?" Tywin asked.

    "What we had discussed, my Lord Hand," Tommen answered. "Surely you remember?"

    "And a letter will be sufficient?"

    "Place your faith in me, my lord. You did it before, and your faith was rewarded then, was it not? I'll not misstep now."


    Cersei gazed at her father, and then at her son. The looks they shared. There was a certain sense of unease, of subtle wariness about her father that he had not had before. Does he know? Of all the people Tommen could have told, her father would have been the wisest choice, she would admit.

    "Might we discuss the fleet?" Lord Mace asked. "Fewer than a dozen ships survived the inferno on the Blackwater. The crown must restore it's strength at sea."

    The King frowned, "Truly? I was under the impression that much of our strength was yet laying siege to Dragonstone."

    Ah, Cersei resisted the urge to smile. The Fat Flower resents one of his vassals being raised up over him. Whether the effect of her son's decision had been intentional or not, she could not deny it's wisdom. The less power the roses have the better.

    "Well..." Lord Mace struggled to find the words. "Of course it is, Your Grace. Yet strength at sea is most essential. And it is not wise to leave so much strength in the hands of one house."

    "Are the Redwynes not loyal?" the King innocently asked. "Has some fresh treason been discovered, my lord?"

    "No, Your Grace," Mace spluttered. "But it is not prudent-"

    "Ah, yes. I see," the King tapped his ring again. "Wise words, my lord."

    "Could we make use of the Ironmen?" she suggested. "The enemy of our enemy? What would the Seastone Chair want of us as the price of an alliance?"

    "They want the North," her father said. "Which I have promised to House Bolton."

    It was as much a reminder to the King as it was a rebuke of her suggestion.

    "How inconvenient," she said. "Yet surely the North is large. The lands could be divided. It need not be a permanent arrangement. Bolton might consent, so long as we assure him that our strength will be his once Stannis is destroyed."

    "Balon Greyjoy is dead, I had heard," said Pycelle.

    "Do we know who rules the Isles now?" Lord Rowan asked. "Leo, Theo?"

    "Theon Greyjoy was raised at Winterfell, a ward of Eddard Stark," Tywin said. "He is not like as to be a friend of ours."

    "I heard he was slain," Lord Mace said.

    Varys would have known, Cersei thought with some irritation. "It matters not," Tyrion said. "Forming an alliance with the Greyjoys is like trusting a pirate to guard your treasure. They may claim loyalty today, but tomorrow they'll be off plundering and pillaging with whomever can offer them better terms. Mark my words, they are not to be trusted."

    "True enough, Uncle," Tommen agreed. "Yet it is Balon who was the untrustworthy one. Lord Quellon was considered wise for his time, was he not? I believe my mother is right, and that some of the Greyjoys may be reasoned with now that Lord Balon has passed."

    Cersei preened at the compliment. "It's risky," Tyrion warned.

    Tommen nodded, "As are all things." He reached down and withdrew another letter, handing it over to Pycelle, "Send this to Harlaw, Grandmaester. As before, you are not to open or read it."

    Cersei ceased her preening. He is leading a mummers farce, she realised. All our counsel he has heard before, in his dreams.

    Pycelle nodded again and Tommen turned to face Tyrion, "So, Uncle, how fares our vaults?"

    Tyrion cleared his throat, "Well enough, Your Grace. After Lord Mace's rather generous dowry," Lord Mace seemed all too happy with himself, "we find ourselves quite comfortable."

    "And our incomes?"

    Tyrion sighed, "Our incomes have never been greater. And yet we have too many gold cloaks and too little gold. Though large, the crown's incomes are not enough to keep abreast of your father's debts."

    "So we will have to renegotiate those debts, no?" Tommen said. "Starting with the Iron Bank."

    "The Braavosi have a saying," Lord Tywin cut in. "The Iron Bank will have it's due."

    "That they will," Tommen agreed.

    "Yet surely we can come to some arrangement," Cersei added, eager to have her voice heard. "There must be someone at the Iron Bank we can speak to, come to some arrangement."

    "The Iron Bank is the Iron Bank," Lord Tywin said. "There is no someone."

    Cersei frowned, "But someone does work there, it is comprised of people."

    "And a temple is comprised of stones. One stone crumbles and another takes it's place and the temple holds it's form for a thousand years or more. And that's what the Iron Bank is: a temple. We all live in it's shadow, and almost none of us know it," he declared. "You can't run from them, you can't cheat them, you can't sway them with excuses. If you owe them coin and you don't want to crumble yourself, you pay it back."

    Tommen smiled a knowing smile and turned back to Tyrion, "I want you to arrange the purchase of ten-thousand dragons worth of Iron Bank shares, Uncle. Even if it does not give me leverage, it will pay dividends after enough time, no doubt. Make whatever arrangements you think necessary."

    "A substantial sum..." Tyrion glanced at Lord Tywin for approval and then saw the look on Tommen's face and nodded, "I will see it done, Your Grace."

    Pycelle shuffled through some more papers at the ensuing silence, "The next matter... we have had a letter from Lord Frey putting forth some claims..."

    "How many lands and honours does the man want?" snapped the Queen. "His mother must have had three teats."

    "You may not know," Oberyn finally spoke up with a small smirk, "but in the brothels and winesinks of the city, there are those who suggest that the crown may have been somehow complicit in Lord Walder's crime."

    His words were incendiary, and all the lords shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Cersei was merely thankful it would be his last day on the council. "Do you mean the Red Wedding?" Tommen asked.

    Pycelle cleared his throat noisily, "These sparrows are especially outspoken," he warned. "The Red Wedding was an affront to all the laws of gods and men, they say, and those who had a hand in it are damned."

    Cersei was not slow to take on his meaning, "Lord Walder must soon face the Father's judgement. He is very old. Let the sparrows spit on his memory. It has nought to do with us."

    "No," said Lord Mathis.

    "No," said Lord Mace.

    "No one could thinks so," Pycelle agreed.

    "A little spittle on his grave is not like to disturb it," Tommen agreed. "But I think he ought to be punished for such a heinous deed. A few of the Frey heads that partook in the Red Wedding should suffice, when the time comes."

    "Lord Walder would never sacrifice his own," said Pycelle.

    "He will not have much choice in the matter," Tommen said. "But that is a matter for another day. For the meantime, we allow the people to say what they will about him. And whilst we await his funeral, I must ask how the planting is going. Lord Mathis?"

    "Well enough, Your Grace," he answered. Lord Mathis had been made Tommen's Master of Works, an appointment she objected to, for he was surely another hidden rose, but Tommen had again refused her counsel. "You will be pleased to know that many of the Lords have accepted your proposal, and the shipments of seeds for planting have begun in earnest all across the Crownlands, Westerlands and parts of the Riverlands and Stormlands."

    "All winter crops or crops that may grow fast enough to be harvested before winter, yes?"

    "Aye, Your Grace. Mostly breeds of winter wheat, corn and some potatoes as well. And animals. Breeding pairs of black-nosed sheep and haired cattle have been procured and sent to the Riverlands, to the lords with marginal lands not yet under the plow for meat, milk and wool. They're hardy enough to survive in the winter snows."

    "I am gladdened to hear it, my lord. I pray we can avoid a famine," Tommen said. A fool errand, Cersei thought. We ought to let the more quarrelsome sheep starve, not pay for their meals. "And the construction?" he continued.

    "The walls are near completely repaired, and the Mud Gate is being rebuilt. And the storehouses you ordered are nearing completion."

    "Remarkably fast, my lord," Tommen commented with a frown.

    "We are only repurposing old buildings, Your Grace," Lord Mathis explained. "It is easier than building anew. And with so little in the way of crime or rioting to interrupt the works, they have been running remarkably smoothly as of late."

    "I am gladdened to hear it, my lord," Tommen said. "Ser Bronn, I take it the reason for this is that you have been successful in your reforms to the gold cloaks?"

    "Aye," he grumbled. "Gold cloaks must all report any bribes they receive, and accept any they are offered. Anyone offering a bribe is to be lashed on their first offense, and sent to the Wall on their second. Any gold cloak who accepts a bribe and does not report it is to be sent to the Wall. Any gold cloak who sol-sol-"

    "Solicits," the King provided.

    "Aye. Any gold cloak who solicits a bribe is to be sent to the Wall. All known thieves, murderers, rapists are to be sent to the Wall."

    "And the new recruits?"

    "Training," Bronn answered tiredly. "All city boys."

    "Excellent work, Ser," Tommen smiled. "So much so, I think the time has come for you to enjoy some rest. Travel up to Stokeworth, Ser. Your betrothed, the lovely Lady Lollys, awaits you. Select one of your lieutenants to serve in your stead till you return."

    Cersei straightened in her seat at the news. Bronn had kept his distance from her as best he could, but perhaps his lieutenant might be different. This would present some interesting possibilities.

    "I will, Yer Grace," Bronn nodded.

    "Speaking of the Wall," Pycelle broke in, "another problem has arisen. The brothers of the Nights Watch have taken leave of their wits and chosen Ned Stark's bastard son to be their Lord Commander."

    "I glimpsed him once at Winterfell," she said, "though the Starks did their best to hide him. He looks very like his father." Her late husband's by-blows had his look as well, though at least Robert had had the grace to keep them out of sight. Once, after that sorry business with Joffrey and the cat, he'd made some noise about bringing his baseborn daughter to court. "Do as you please," she'd told him, "but you may find the city is not a healthy place for a growing girl."

    The bruise those words had won her had been hard to hide from Jaime, but they heard no more about the bastard girl. Catelyn Tully was a mouse, or she would have smothered Jon Snow in his cradle. Instead she's left the filthy task to me. "Snow shares Lord Eddard's taste for treason too," she said. "The father would have handed the realm to Stannis. The son has given him lands and castles."

    "The Night's Watch is sworn to take no part in the wars of the Seven Kingdoms," Pycelle reminded them. "For thousands of years the black brothers have upheld that tradition."

    "Until now," Cersei said. "The bastard boy has written to us to avow that the Night's Watch takes no side, but his actions give the lie to his words. He has given Stannis food and shelter, yet has the insolence to plead with us for arms and men."

    "An outrage," declared Lord Mace. "We cannot allow the Night's Watch to join it's strength to that of Lord Stannis. We must declare this Snow a traitor and rebel. The black brothers must remove him."

    "No," the King cut in, his tone firm. "I'll not make another enemy by rushing to judge a boy just for his blood. Snow may have Stark blood in his veins, but if I recall correctly he joined the Watch of his own free will."

    "Yet he has offered your enemy food and shelter," Cersei reminded him.

    "He offered my uncle food and shelter," Tommen shot back. "And if I recall correctly, we received letters from Lord Commander Mormont asking for aid, and yet we did not respond. So long as he offers my uncle no more than food and shelter, I will not begrudge the Lord Commander his desperation. In fact, I should seek to provide as much aid as he requires, if only to prevent my Uncle Stannis doing as we fear."

    "A ploy," Lord Tywin cut in. "Yet a foolish one. You have no assurances. So long as Stannis remains at the Wall, the loyalty of the black brothers he will be able to compel. You would be better sending a hundred men to the Watch. To take the black, ostensibly, but in truth..."

    "... to remove Jon Snow from command," Cersei finished, laughing. If this bastard boy truly is his father's son, he will not suspect a thing. Perhaps he will even thank me, before the blade slides between his ribs.

    "Oh," Tommen smiled. "But I have assurances, Grandfather. Or have you forgotten?" Tywin considered his grandson's words for a moments and then nodded wordlessly with approval. Cersei frowned. What assurances? Tommen reached down and withdrew another letter and passed it over to Pycelle, who by this point was becoming quite flustered by the sheer volume of letters the King seemed to have at the ready, "Send this to the Wall, Grandmaester. As before, you are not to open or read it."

    "Of course, Your Grace," he said as he accepted the letter. "Yet if Lord Janos can be believed, Lord Stannis is trying to make common cause with the wildlings."

    "Savages in skins," Lord Mace declared. "Lord Stannis must be desperate indeed, to seek such allies."

    "Desperate and foolish," she agreed. "The Northmen hate the wildlings. Roose Bolton should have no trouble winning them to our cause. A few have already joined up with the bastard son to help him clear the Ironmen from Moat Cailin and clear the way for Lord Bolton. Umber, Ryswell... I forgot the names. Even White Harbour is on the point of joining us. It's lord is on the verge of wedding his daughters to lords of our choosing and opening his ports to our ships."

    "Wyman Manderly was a loyal bannerman to Ned Stark," Pycelle warned. "Can such a man be trusted?"

    No one can be trusted. "He's fat, old and frightened. He is proving stubborn on only one point. He insists that he will not bend the knee till his heir has been returned to him."

    "Do we have this heir?" Lord Mace asked.

    "He will be at Harrenhall, if he is still alive," Cersei said. "Gregor Clegane took him captive. If he is dead, I suppose we must send him the heads of those who killed him, with our most sincere apologies."

    "Will not Lord Stannis seek to win the allegiance of White Harbour as well?" Pycelle asked.

    "Oh, he has tried," Tommen answered. "Lord Manderly has sent his letters onto us and replied with evasions. Lord Stannis demands White Harbour's swords and silvers and offers nothing in return. Just this morning there was another bird. He has sent his Hand, Ser Davos, to treat with White Harbour on his behalf. Manderly has placed the man in a cell. He asks what we should do to him."

    "Let him die," she said. "His death will be a lesson to the North, to show them what becomes of traitors."

    "Have him sent here, for questioning," Tyrion suggested instead. "The man might know much of value."

    Tommen nodded, "I quite agree, Uncle." He reached down, and withdrew one final letter, passing it on to Pycelle, "I already have written a response. To White Harbour, Grandmaester. You know what else I will ask."

    Pycelle nodded, "Not to open or read it, Your Grace."

    Tommen nodded as Lord Mace voiced his concerns, "What if Lord Manderly should refuse?"

    "He may well do," Tommen said. "But he risks his own son's life in doing so. And even in letters, I happen to be quite... persuasive. I may yet be wrong, but I do not believe he would refuse."

    "Very good, Your Grace."

    "We have done good work today, my lords," Tommen said. "I thank you. Is there aught else?"

    The lords all looked around at each other. "Only the matters of who is to be the new Master of Whispers, and the new members of the Kingsguard, after the tragic passing of Ser Boros," Pycelle said.

    "And the matter of Lord Bolton," Lord Tywin added, his tone stern and unforgiving. He may have taken a passive role till now, but this was an issue on which he would budge no longer.

    Tommen sighed and tapped the table again with his ring, "Very well, then. Give me the sheaf that names Lord Bolton my Warden of the North."

    Pycelle handed it to him, and Tywin continued, "And the decree of legitimacy?"

    After a moment's thought, Tommen shook his head, "No." He stood from his chair, offering no explanation for his rejection, tapping his ring twice on the table with his knuckles to signal that the council was over, "If that is all, my lords, then I will declare this meeting of the Small Council finished. You are all dismissed. Bronn, be sure to escort the Grandmaester to the rookery, to have those letters sent immediately."

    Bronn nodded, and Pycelle left on shuffling feet, his back hunched under the weight of the myriad links on the chain around his neck.

    Tommen stood waiting with his grip tight on the back of his chair as all the remaining lords stood from their seats and filed out of the room.

    Cersei watched her son out of the corner of her eyes as she left.

    He stands alone.
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite in the future
  22. Threadmarks: Chapter 18: Oberyn II

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 18: Oberyn II

    Oberyn sat on one of the many terraces of the Red Keep that overlooked the bay.

    He sipped his wine - a fine Dornish vintage - and allowed himself to admire the beauty of the midday sun. Such musings were more Doran's pace than his own, of course, but Oberyn could see the appeal. There was a certain relaxing quality to the quiet, rolling ocean, the glimmer of the sun off the waves, the soft orange shadows cast across every surface, the relative isolation and silence.

    Across the table at which he sat, the Boy King shared his view, a small tomcat sat in his lap, occasionally purring as he stroked it's back, "This is my little gem," he said. "When ruling becomes tiresome, I come here."

    Oberyn observed the Boy King. He did look tired, but not as much he might have claimed. There was a nervous quality to the way he moved, that half-second delay that spoke to a mix of uncertainty or apprehension. Though King Tommen's eyes flashed with an intelligence they should not have, it was that delay that set Oberyn's mind at ease. The Boy King might have been exceptional, but he was a boy all the same.

    "It is pleasant," Oberyn neutrally replied. "Ellaria and the girls would love it, I'm sure."

    The King allowed the smallest hint of a smile to tug at the corners of his lips, "As would Myrcella, but we'll keep this our little secret, won't we? I'd so hate to lose my sanctuary."

    Ah, Oberyn realised, Myrcella. I was wondering when her name would be mentioned.

    "Myrcella will be well taken care of," Oberyn assured him. "You have my word."

    The King shrugged, continued stroking his cat, and once again stared out over the bay, "What can I say? A brother worries."

    "Yes," Oberyn said. "I know this all too well. My vengeance is not yet complete, but we have no more cause for strife - at least not with your side of the family."

    The King smiled pleasantly, though Oberyn noted it did not quite reach his eyes, "And I'm glad for that, at least. Though I will say we were quite disappointed to see you could not ride in the tourney field, my prince. Many a man would have paid good gold to see the Red Viper ride. I do trust you are healing well."

    "Well enough," Oberyn said with an easy smile. "But if these petty aches and pains are the price for you fulfilling a decade-old dream of mine, Your Grace, then I'll consider it a price well-paid."

    The King smiled, "I'd much prefer to fulfill a woman's dreams, my prince."

    Oberyn allowed himself a bark of laughter, "So I've heard." The new Queen in particular seemed keen to mark her territory before the old one. "And my daughters have apparently heard as well," he said with an impish grin. "I'm sure you'll get on famously."

    "I'm sure we will," he said. "There are worse ways to die, after all."

    "Don't worry, Your Grace," Oberyn mock-assured him, "they'll be gentle."

    The King smiled another smile, and then said: "Yes, and that is much appreciated. But I am afraid we must move onto the meat of the matter. I did not call you here merely to enjoy the pleasure of your company, after all."

    "How disappointing," Oberyn said. "Very well, then. What is the matter?"

    "Myrcella," the King said.

    Oberyn started a little, "King Tommen, I have already given my word."

    King Tommen's tone hardened as he spoke, "And yet, your brother the Prince Doran felt perfectly comfortable keeping her from coming to my wedding. And after I specifically requested her attendance. How else can I take that but as an insult?"

    "Oh," Oberyn said dismissively. "My brother is far too careful. He has a suspicious mind, you see. But again, I assure you, no harm will come to the Princess Myrcella."

    "Ah, but is it your word that matters?" the King said with an eyebrow quirked. "Or your brother the Prince Doran's? You see my dilemma here, don't you?"

    "I do," Oberyn tentatively said, his eyes narrowed. He's setting a trap, Oberyn realised. "But I came here empowered by my brother. Whilst I am here, I speak for him on all matters. It is as I told your mother-"

    "You do not hurt little girls in Dorne," the King finished.

    Oberyn nodded.

    King Tommen clapped his hands together, and a servant rushed over, setting something large down on the table, covered in a silken cloth. For a moment, Oberyn thought it might be a head. The King gripped the cloth and pulled it away to reveal a fine marble plinth, "This is yours, Prince Oberyn. Consider it a gift, and an apology. As I said before, a brother worries."

    "A fine gift," Oberyn said.

    "It is," the King agreed. "Fit for a large man's head."

    Oberyn's expression soon fell to mirth and he let out a bark of uproarious laughter. He offered the King a gleeful smirk as he inspected the workmanship, "Consider your apology accepted. I will mount the Mountain's head besides the dagger that took his life, and when you come to visit your sister in Dorne, I will feast you under this for a fortnight, King Tommen."

    "It will be my pleasure, my prince," King Tommen easily replied. He gestured again with his hands, and the waiting servant hefted up the plinth and carried it off, presumably to load aboard the Elia.

    "I look forward to the day, King Tommen," Oberyn said.

    "I am saddened to see you go, my prince," King Tommen said. "Are you certain I cannot convince you to stay?"

    "No, I'm afraid not," Oberyn shook his head. "I have been away from my children for far too long. And Ellaria longs to see her daughters. But you mustn't worry, King Tommen. Arianne is a clever girl, she will take good care with you."

    The King looked as though he were sucking a lemon, "Yes, Arianne. She has been trying to take good care of me for a while now."

    Oberyn again laughed. "We Dornish are a fiery people," he said. "And I believe Arianne has taken a liking to you. You should expect worse."

    The King groaned, "Isn't she going to wed?"

    "We are still looking at suitors," Oberyn said with a smirk. "But if her heart is taken by another, then what can I do?"

    "Might I suggest a Tyrell?" the King asked, not dignifying his question with a response. "I don't suppose you'd consider a Lannister cousin - I know I wouldn't, if I were you. But Willas is still unwed, and I hear you have good relations with him. Such a match should put the animosity between your two houses to rest, at any rate. It would be good for the realm."

    "I do know him," Oberyn said. "And it probably would, but I fear my brother Doran may be more hesitant to agree to such a match."

    The King nodded, "Well, I suppose the final decision rests with him, in any case. It is his daughter. Yet with Viserys Targaryen dead, and your secret pact rendered meaningless, I don't see much more cause for delay." The King shrugged, "Still, I suppose I am not familiar enough with the politics in Dorne to say."

    Oberyn felt the blood chill in his veins a little. So this was his trap. His mouth suddenly felt dry, "King Tommen?"

    Tommen gestured dismissively. "Please! Think of it no longer," he said, his voice smooth and pleasant, as though he had not mentioned a grave treason like it was some passing fancy. "I have long forgiven your plotting. In fact, I quite sympathise. I know I would not react well if it were my sister. You don't have to worry about it, Prince Oberyn. I will keep your little secret."

    "This has been interesting, King Tommen," Oberyn said suddenly, resisting the urge to ask the King a thousand questions, or perhaps to challenge his honour in the face of the accusation and demand satisfaction as he rose from his seat. It was a statement, he knew. I'm powerful enough to know, the King was telling him, and powerful enough to risk saying so. And so, partly out of respect and partly out of fear, Oberyn instead said, "But I believe the time has come for me to leave."

    The King looked out at the evening sun over the horizon and nodded, "Yes, I suppose it has. Safe travels, my prince. I wish you all the best. Try not to commit any more treasons. Oh, and do be sure to tell Myrcella I miss her."

    The balls on this boy...

    Oberyn nodded sharply, "I will."

    Oberyn departed from the terrace with a certain uncertainty in his gait. He walked almost in a daze, unable to comprehend what he had just heard. He knew, Oberyn thought. And from the sounds of it, he has known for a while. And yet, he decided to help me anyways. But King Tommen had already explained himself there. More concerning for Oberyn was the question of how.

    Who betrayed us?
    Oberyn thought, a cold fury lancing down his veins.

    Though Oberyn was known for his fiery temper, he was not an impatient man. He knew how to wait, like a coiled serpent stalking it's prey through desert sands, waiting for the perfect moment to strike and deliver his venom. When I find this traitor, Oberyn vowed, I will make him suffer worse than the Mountain. Till then, however, he could not afford to tip his hand.

    Oberyn stalked down the stairs and through the passages of the Red Keep. He made his way down into the city, and past the bay, where the Elia was waiting to take him home. He walked first to Chataya's brothel, making his way to see Ellaria and gather her to depart with him. He made his way to the usual room and found her with Alayaya, head thrown back, eyes screwed tightly shut in pleasure. She looked up at him as Alayaya wiggled her bare arse suggestively in his direction, her head still buried between Ellaria's legs with the wet smacking of lips on lips.

    Oberyn resisted the temptation to join them.

    "We have to go," he said.

    Ellaria eyed him for a second, and then dismissed Alayaya with a frown on her face, straightening herself as she stood before him, "Is something the matter?"

    Oberyn pulled Ellaria in for a kiss, his hand sliding between her legs to find her slick and dripping, "Yes," he said between kisses. "My patience for this city has been exhausted. Far too many lions for my taste. And it is time to leave, anyhow."

    Ellaria moaned a desperate, shuddering moan at his touch, and then nodded sharply as she seized back her wits from the throes of her lust. "Our possessions have been moved from the cornerfort and are already aboard the Elia," she said. "Let me dress, and then we can go bid the girls farewell."

    Oberyn nodded, cursing himself as he left. The girls. In his fury, he had forgotten them. Would the King tell Arianne? Should I do it instead? And if he did, how would she react? How would Doran when he inevitably found out?

    A few moments later, Ellaria joined him and the pair departed for the bay. They walked arm-in-arm through the busy streets, the people of the city making way for them whenever they passed. Oberyn felt his hackles rise as eyes followed the pair through the streets. Eventually, the Elia came into view, and his two daughters, his niece and the Imp stood waiting to bid them farewell.

    Oberyn greeted the Imp first. "I thought this was too enormous a task for you?" Oberyn asked, a teasing lilt in his voice.

    Tyrion forced a smile and shook his head, "I am plenty big enough for this. I came only to bid you goodbye, my prince. And to give you my thanks as well."

    "I have all the prize I could ever need here, Imp," Oberyn said, gesturing to the dagger on his hip. "I have no need for your thanks."

    Tyrion gazed at the sheathed dagger intently, "No, I suppose you don't." The Imp's eyes met Oberyn's own a moment later, "But I hope you will my accept my farewell, in any case."

    Oberyn nodded, "That, I will accept. Farewell, Lord Tyrion."

    Tyrion nodded and stood waiting with a frown on his face. His mouth opened, as though he wished to ask something, and then closed again with an indecisive frown, and then he turned and left. Queerer and queerer, Oberyn thought, suddenly sick of this place and longing for the warmth of home. What does he know?

    He watched the Imp waddle away into the city before he turned back to face Arianne.

    "Uncle," she said. "We'll miss you."

    "Yes," Nymeria agreed. "The capital will become ever so boring without you."

    Tyene stood silent, waiting. Oberyn said goodbye to his girls, told them he loved them, and gave them each their instructions once they were all aboard the Elia and Oberyn could be certain there were no prying eyes or ears. To Tyene he said, "There have been some rumblings about the High Septon. The crown owes the faith a great deal in gold. See if you can try and get close to him."

    "Why not?" Tyene said. "White suits my colouring. I look so... pure."

    To Nymeria, he said, "A rift has opened between the King and his Lannister mother. Widen it if you can, so the sun can shine on the maggots and worms within her. This ends with the utter ruination of Tywin Lannister, and he cares for nothing more than his golden lions."

    "I will," Nymeria said simply.

    Finally, Oberyn pulled Arianne to the side, and spoke to her where no ears could pry. "The King knows plenty," he warned. "Be prudent about what you say, and about what you do."

    "I will be," Arianne said, a look of concerned confusion on her face. "It is unlike you to be this... cautious, Uncle. Is something the matter?"

    Oberyn battled with himself for a moment, and then made his choice. This is Doran's decision, not mine. I will speak with him first. Doran would no doubt be furious at him merely for leaving his daughter in the capital. Oberyn had no desire to earn any more of his ire.

    It will be good for her, Oberyn thought as he looked at Arianne. She has much to learn, and I'd wager she'll learn it best here.

    "Much is the matter, but nothing you need concern yourself with just yet," Oberyn said. "In the future, perhaps. Till then, stay close to the King, and learn all you can from him and of him. His marriage is new, use that if you must. Befriend his Tyrell wife. Speak to the other lords on his council. Exercise your best judgement. The King is not one for cruelty, and I do not think he is our enemy, but he is still the son of Robert and the grandson of Tywin. Remember that."

    "I will," Arianne said with a frown.

    Oberyn gave his daughters and his niece a hug each, and sent them back off to the Red Keep with his guard. "Above all," he said as he sent them away, his tone jovial again, "take care of each other!"

    Once they were off, Oberyn stood on the deck of the ship and watched the city from his perch as the vessel began to move out of port. It isn't like me to brood, he offhandedly thought. But he knew better than to not. He watched the city shrink in his vision as the wind hit the sails of the Elia and caused them to billow and flap. Out of the bay they sailed as the sun descended over the horizon.

    He stood waiting as the city disappeared from view, stood waiting as night came and darkness fell. He nursed a cup of wine in his hands as he continued to brood, caught in dark thoughts. Ellaria came to bid him to sleep, and he sent her down with a kiss and a promise to join her in a few moments. She would await him naked, he could tell by the glint in her eyes.

    So, Doran, he thought as he finished the last dregs of wine in his cup, what now?

    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  23. Threadmarks: Chapter 19: Tyrion II

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 19: Tyrion II

    Tyrion rather liked Prince Oberyn, he decided.

    It was natural, after all. He was practically obligated to like the man after he risked his life fighting the Mountain for Tyrion. Not that he had done it for Tyrion, but he didn't begrudge him that. He got to keep his head, and that was enough. And though Oberyn had offered him insult after insult, his tone had betrayed his true feelings. There was a touch of hostility at his name, and a little amusement, but no true venom.

    Yes, Tyrion decided. I was sad to see him go.

    And not a week after he had gone, a new curiosity had arrived at court. His concern in particular, given the man's allegiances.

    Noho Dimittis, the Braavosi named himself. An interesting name for an interesting man. And though he was quite the dour and serious character, he had an interesting voice, too. There was that Braavosi tang in his manner of speaking, but there was some hint of something else that Tyrion could not quite discern.

    And he had been hearing a lot of that voice, as of late. Noho was incessant in his hectoring.

    When he paused for a breath, Tyrion had spoken frankly, "No, Lord Noho, I do not have an answer for you. The King's orders were quite clear. I beg patience. His Grace will meet with you when he can."

    "Yet he understands why we cannot approve the bill of sale?"

    Tyrion nodded tiredly, "I have informed him, and he has told me he does. It is not in the Iron Bank's interest to let foreign entities control it's vaults. He understands that perfectly well."

    Noho had stalked off then, impatient. Two more days passed fruitlessly before Tyrion made his way to the King's solar to finally put the matter to rest. Why Tommen had insisted that Noho had to wait, Tyrion did not know, but he knew better than to question it.

    The guards outside Tommen's solar let him in silently, standing to attention, and he came in and hopped up onto one of the chairs in the corner, and sat waiting with his hands in his lap. He looked over to Tommen's desk, and saw a stack of papers half as tall as him. They were rumpled, and the language on them looked... strange.

    Possessed by his curiosity, Tyrion pulled one sheet off the heap and read it closely. It was nonsensical. He tried to pronounce the words, only for the sounds to emerge a garbled mess in his throat. Whatever language this was, it was unlike any Tyrion had seen before. He looked over at the rest of the desk, and making quite sure he was alone, flicked through the stack of papers.

    They were all like the one he held in his hand. A complete mess of letters assembled in ways that could not possibly be words.

    He quickly abandoned his search, however, when the door to the solar again opened. His father strode in, his face set into a frown. "Tyrion," he said, more an acknowledgement than a greeting.

    "Father," Tyrion acknowledged him in turn. "I presume His Grace has summoned you here as well?"

    "To oversee the negotiation, yes."

    "I take it you don't approve," Tyrion deduced.

    "It was as I said in the Small Council. One does not negotiate with the Iron Bank."

    "And yet, here we are, preparing to negotiate." Tyrion frowned, "Why? If it were Joffrey or Jaime or anyone, you would not have allowed it."

    His father turned to look at him. "What were you looking at when I walked in?"

    Tyrion saw little harm in telling the truth, and showed his father the sheet of paper, "This."

    "Tell me, Tyrion, were you able to understand a word?"

    Tyrion shook his head, "No. It's nonsense, anyhow."

    "When Tommen arranged to have you freed with that farce of a trial, I was displeased," he said. "I went to confront him, and he told me he knew you were innocent. Not that he suspected, not that he thought or believed, but that he knew you were innocent with the same certainty that I know I am a Lannister."

    He isn't a mage, my lord, he's a dreamer. Tyrion listened to his father with rapt attention as he asked, "How?"

    "Spies," Tywin said, much to Tyrion's own confusion. "Or so he claimed. A network so vast and powerful that it put the combined efforts of Varys and Baelish to shame. And he did this as a mere boy. The tall tales of a child, or so I thought, but his tales turned true."

    "He has spies?" Tyrion asked, though he did not really feel the surprise that laced his tone. He was smiling. "Tommen?"

    "I had his rooms searched whilst he was in court," his father said, as though it were the most normal thing in the world to do to a King. "The men found a sheaf of papers, three-dozen pages thick, just like this."

    Tyrion stared at the page again, and suddenly saw a method to the madness scrawled onto the page. There were blotches of ink scattered about, and the script was untidy and looked hastily put down. Some of it was almost recognisable, but it's meaning evaded Tyrion. It looked as though a child, or perhaps a commoner, had written it, "And you think they come from his spies?"

    "Where else?" Tywin asked. "And why else would the King keep nonsense on his desk?"

    "If His Grace can do that..."

    "Then what else can he do?" Tywin finished his thought. "What else will he do? Tommen has not proven such a failure as Joffrey. He is no fool. But he must learn. And he can only learn by doing."

    Tyrion quirked an eyebrow, "High praise, coming from you."

    It was at that moment that Tommen finally strode into the room, a faint smile on his lips. "Uncle! Grandfather! I trust you are both well?"

    "Well enough, nephew," Tyrion said as Tommen rounded the desk and sat in his chair, reciprocating Tommen's familiar tone.

    Tommen sighted the papers on his desk, and picked one up. "Tell me," he said, the slightest smirk on his face, "have you figured out what they say?"

    "No," Tywin said back. And though his father betrayed nothing in his expression, there was a certain curtness in his tone that exposed his irritation.

    "Good," Tommen simply responded. "After all, what use would a code be if you could read it?"

    "Don't you think," his father said, "that you should tell me your plans? Given I am your hand?"

    "I tell you as much as you need to know," Tommen replied as he shuffled through his papers. "And no more."

    Tywin raised the sheet in his hand, "And this? Is there nothing I need to know about this?"

    Tommen gave an exasperated sigh, and turned to look at Lord Tywin, "What is there to tell? My spies send me reports, and I read them. You've had my rooms searched, I'm sure. You know this."

    "Is this why we don't have a Master of Whispers?" Tyrion broke in.

    "Partially," Tommen said. "That, and I have yet to find anyone I can truly trust with the task. The last one was a traitor."

    "Varys?" Tyrion questioned.

    Tommen nodded tiredly, "Yes. A Targaryen loyalist through and through, that one. Such a shame. He and Baelish were at one time the best at their craft in all of Westeros, perhaps even the world. So good, in fact, that I had little choice but to kill him once his true loyalties were revealed to me. A man like that is too dangerous an enemy to leave alive."

    Tyrion sat stunned. Did father know? He looked over, and saw just the slightest quirking of a single eyebrow. No, then, he hadn't known. But he didn't seem surprised, either. He suspected it. Tyrion had had his own suspicions, of course, but to hear it said openly was entirely a different matter...

    "Aegon," he mumbled, suddenly holding Varys's dying body in his arms again. Blood soaked his palms, the air blew in cold-

    "What?" Tommen snapped, frowning. "What did you say?"

    Tyrion snapped back to the present, his nephew's eyes locked on his own, his gaze intense. Tyrion shook his head, "Nothing."

    Tommen's eyes flashed with suspicion, "No, you said something: 'Aegon.' Where did you hear that name?"

    "Varys," Tyrion admitted. "It was one of his last words when he died."

    "Any more last words?" his father asked, his manner of speaking suddenly rich with scorn.

    "No need," Tommen said. "Let me guess, he mentioned something about the 'one true king,' didn't he?"

    Tyrion nodded dumbly. How?

    Tommen sighed again, shut his eyes tight, and rubbed his brow as though he were attempting to dispel a headache.

    "You know something," Lord Tywin deduced. "What?"

    "Aegon Targaryen," Tommen finally said. "Or, at least, someone claiming to be him. Varys claimed that he switched the babes before the Mountain's arrival, and that what you presented to my father was merely a common babe. As I said, he was a Targaryen loyalist through and through. My spies think that he's planning a claim to my crown. Reports are sparse, information is thin on the ground, but there are rumours that the Golden Company plans to take up arms with him."

    "Traditionally supporters of the Blackfyres," Lord Tywin noted.

    Tommen nodded, "My thoughts exactly. I have not yet managed to confirm Varys' claims, though I suppose it matters little. An army is still an army."

    "And you didn't think I needed to know this?" his father questioned. There was a hostile edge to his tone, but Tyrion was surprised to discover how small it was. He likes this one, Tyrion thought.

    "I had already planned to deal with him," Tommen explained. "This hardly changes much. I had hoped my spies were mistaken, of course, but I am not surprised. The main problem now will be preventing Danaerys Targaryen and Aegon from joining ranks. Alone, I can quite comfortably handle them. But with the might of the Golden Company joined together with the Dothraki and the Unsullied, and those three dragons of hers, and the threat they can pose becomes quite concerning."

    Dragons! he thought, half-hysterical. And an army to match! "And you had a plan for this?" Tyrion asked incredulously.

    "Yes," Tommen nodded, deadly calm. "I was going to pit the black dragon against the red, and allow them to weaken each other. I am told that Aegon plans to offer his hand in marriage to Daenerys. It should not be too hard to muddle that up. Let old rivalries take their course once again. It's risky, but it is the path that costs me the least for the moment. There were other plans, but those are even riskier, and more difficult. Even if the rewards are greater."

    "And your men could do this?" Tywin asked.

    Tommen shrugged. "Perhaps, perhaps not. But that is a matter for another day," he said as a servant entered to announce the arrival of Noho Dimittis. Tommen sent the servant back, bidding Noho to enter. He then turned back to the two of them, "Now, remember, you will answer when I call on you. Do not interrupt unless you think it absolutely necessary. I don't think I have to tell either of you how important this is."

    Tyrion nodded, and asked: "We wish to stall repayments, yes?"

    Tommen shook his head, "No, not quite. We want to simply reduce repayments. If the Iron Bank receives no gold from us, then there is a risk they may seek it elsewhere. The goal is to balance expenditures and revenues, not to strengthen an enemy of ours."

    Tyrion nodded again as Noho Dimittis entered, "Your Grace."

    "Lord Noho!" Tommen said with a pleasant smile and a jovial lilt to his voice. "Please, sit. Are you well?"

    "Well enough, Your Grace," Noho replied flatly. "I was told you wished to discuss the debts?"

    "Yes," Tommen nodded. "I wish to negotiate to a lower interest payment."

    "The Iron Bank will be paid in full," Noho declared. "Nothing less will suffice."

    "That they will," Tommen assured him. "And yet winter comes regardless. Simply put, Lord Noho, the current debt payments exceed our revenues. And to protect your investment - and our ability to pay - some concessions will have to be made."

    Lord Noho looked doubtful.

    "You must ask yourself, Lord Noho: what is in the Iron Bank's interests? That the realms starves, and we lose our ability to continue paying? Perhaps you think you can back one of my rivals instead, but that will not change the reality of this situation. Even if they win - and that is not likely - they will inherit the same frozen fields and empty vaults. There is a superstition among the smallfolk, you might like to know, that the longer the summer, the longer the following winter. And this summer has lasted more than a decade." Tommen leaned forwards, his tone earnest and open, "We want to pay. We just need a little room to breathe."

    Noho considered the King's words for a long moment. Then, he said: "What do you propose?"

    "Interest payments should be cut in half over the course of the coming winter and the following summer. We will continue paying that half quite happily, and then once the realm has recovered from winter and this terrible war, repayment can resume in full."

    Noho still seemed reluctant, "I note your coffers are full. The Iron Bank demands surety."

    "The Iron Throne is prepared to deposit a hundred-thousand as surety," Tommen calmly replied. "Consider it a down-payment on the debt, if you will, and reduce our payments by that sum."

    "You have more," Noho said. "A hundred-thousand is not sufficient, given the size of the debts you owe us."

    The King nodded, "I do. That gold is meant for fighting the last wars to unite my kingdom, to repair the damage done by these wars, and to plant and reap the last harvests before winter. And, if the worst comes true, to import enough food to stave off a famine. You must be reasonable, Lord Noho."

    "I am being reasonable," Noho replied. "A hundred-thousand is insufficient."

    "Very well," Tommen sighed, exasperated. "I will be generous, and offer a hundred-and-fifty-thousand, and not a groat more. Five percent of all that we owe should suffice."

    Noho nodded, looking neither pleased nor displeased.

    "And you should note, Lord Noho, that I consider it the Iron Bank's responsibility to collect this sum. You will send your ships here, and I will load them with my gold and silver, and then what happens to them after they leave my shores is neither my responsibility nor my concern. Once the gold is on those ships, I will consider my obligations fulfilled."

    Noho frowned, but nodded regardless, "That is... acceptable."

    "Well enough," the King said, "with that matter settled, there is one last thing I wished to discuss."

    "What, Your Grace?" Noho asked.

    "I hear, Lord Noho, that the Iron Bank has some connection with the Faceless Men of Braavos. Is this true?"

    Noho seemed suddenly uncomfortable, "We... have employed their services in the past. Against those who failed to repay."

    "And... you would be willing to employ their services again?" Tommen questioned. "On my behalf?"

    "We would," Noho nodded hesitantly. "For a fee."

    The King smiled a wicked smile, and clapped his hands together in delight. "For a fee!" he exclaimed. "Of course, Lord Noho, of course. I think this has been a productive meeting for the both of us, no? Please, Lord Noho, you are welcome to stay a while longer. I will have the details of the arrangement for you later."

    Noho smiled a cold, humourless smile. He nodded as he stood from his seat and said, "Yes, I think so too. I will arrange transport for what you owe us, Your Grace. And I will await your message."

    "My thanks, Lord Noho," Tommen said. "You are dismissed."

    The three of them watched Lord Noho leave the room in silence. Nobody said a word. Then, finally the King sighed a relieved sigh and said, "Well, that was easier than I thought it would be."

    "The faceless men?" Tyrion asked.

    Tommen shrugged, "They are as good as killers get. And I need some people killed."

    "They are expensive," Tywin said.

    "A price worth paying," Tommen simply said as he stood from his seat, "when the prize is a kingdom."

    "Who?" his father asked, fast reaching the limit of his patience.

    "The claimant across the water," Tommen said. "Who else? Now, if you'll forgive me, my lords, I must leave you. The training yard beckons. Tyrion, I trust you will be able to organize the payments with Lord Noho?"

    Tyrion nodded dutifully, "I will." When His Grace was gone, Tyrion turned to his father, "What do you think of him?"

    "Entirely too impudent by half," his father said as he stood from his seat. "Not unlike you in wit, though far more prudent with his tongue."

    "And he's not a dwarf," Tyrion added glibly. "You must be thrilled."

    "He has not yet proven a disappointment," Tywin said in a voice of quiet satisfaction.

    No, Tyrion thought as he watched his father leave, I suppose he hasn't.

    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  24. Threadmarks: Chapter 20: Cersei III

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 20: Cersei III

    In the yard twoscore knights were hammering each other with sword and shield.

    A blustery autumn wind was blowing in. Across the yard, some squire made a pass at the quintain and sent the crossarm spinning. The cheers were being led by Margaery Tyrell and her hens. A lot of uproar for very little, Cersei thought. You would think the boy had won a tourney. Then she saw it was Tommen on the mare, clad all in gilded plate.

    The queen had little choice but to don a smile and go see her son. She reached him as Ser Loras helped him from his mount. When he removed his helmet, Tommen was puffy and sweating. "Did you see?" he was asking Ser Loras. "The visor is too small, I couldn't tell. Did I do it right, Ser Loras?"

    "A pretty sight," said Osmund Kettleblack.

    "You have a better seat than me, sire," put in Ser Dermot.

    Tommen's face darkened a shade. "So, in not as many words, I made a fool of myself?" Ser Dermot sputtered. "I have seen you ride, ser. And so I can only assume you mean to either flatter or mock me. Mocking aside - you are no fool, far as I can tell - I must tell you I detest undeserved flattery." Tommen sighed heavily, "Well, at least I broke the lance. Ser Loras, did you hear it?"

    "As loud as a crack of thunder," he said. "You did well, Your Grace, though you have far yet to go. You must ride every day, till every blow lands hard and straight, and your lance is as much a part of you as your arm."

    "I want to," he said. "But I think the sword will stay my priority for now."

    "You were glorious." Margaery bent down slightly and pressed a firm kiss on the King's cheek, and put an arm around him. "Brother take care," she warned, "my gallant husband will be unhorsing you in a few more years, I think."

    "When he is a man grown," Cersei cut in.

    Their smiles withered and wilted. One of Margaery's little cousins was the first to bend the knee, and the rest soon followed, save for the little queen and her brother. Tommen did not seem to notice the frost in the air. "Mother, were you watching?" he asked almost happily. He leaned forwards, and Cersei obligingly leaned down a little to let him kiss her cheek. "I broke my lance on the shield, and the bag never touched me!" he said with just the slightest hint of pride.

    "You did very well, Tommen," she assured him, "I would expect no less of you. Jousting is in your blood. One day you shall rule the lists like your father."

    "No man will dare stand before him," Margaery said with a coy smile. "But I never knew that King Robert was so accomplished with the joust. Pray tell, Your Grace, what tourney's did he win? What knights did he unseat? I know I should like to hear of King Robert's victories."

    A flush crept up Cersei's neck. The girl had caught on. Her fool husband had been a middling jouster at best. During tourneys he much preferred the melee. It had been Jaime she had been thinking of when she spoke. It's not like me to forget myself.

    "The big one," Tommen broke in, eyeing her as he spoke. "The Tourney of the Trident, where he unseated Prince Rheagar and named my lovely mother his queen of love and beauty."

    "Quite right," Cersei nodded, sparing Margaery no room for response. "Ser Osmund, help my son with his armour, if you would be so good. Ser Loras, a word?" The Knight of the Flowers looked to his King, but found no solace. He had little choice but to follow at her heels like a puppy. She waited for him at the steps. "Whose notion was that?" she asked.

    "Mine," he admitted. "Ser Tallad and Ser Dormet were riding at the quintain, and the King seemed interested by it, so I suggested he might like a turn."

    Surely, she thought, he means to irk me.

    "That horse was much too large for him," she snapped. "What if he had fallen off? What if the sandbag had smashed his head in?"

    "Bruises and bloody lips are all part of being a knight."

    "I begin to see why your brother is cripple," she said, watching with hidden glee as the smile slid clean off his face. "Perhaps my brother failed to explain your duties to you, ser. You are here to protect my son from his enemies. Training him for knighthood is not your calling nor, for that matter, is it Ser Balon's. His training rests in the hands of the master-at-arms."

    "The Red Keep has none since Aron Santagar was slain," Loras said. "His Grace is old enough, and eager to learn. And we serve at his pleasure, and follow his commands without question. He is old enough to be a squire. Someone has to teach him. And so when he commands us to teach, we teach."

    Someone will, she thought, dripping with venom, but not you.

    Cersei saw how tight the bonds grew between squires and the knights they served. She did not want Tommen growing close with Loras Tyrell. "I have been remiss," she finally said. "With all the goings-on, I have neglected to name a new master-at-arms. I shall rectify that error at once."

    "Your Grace will not find any man half so skilled with sword and lance as I."

    Humbled, is he?

    "No," she said. "But I can find a woman. Dame Brienne, was it?" Loras clenched his teeth so hard Cersei thought they might shatter. "Tommen is your king, not your squire. You are to fight for him and die for him. No more."

    She left him there as she stormed off and made for Maegor's holdfast alone. Where am I to find a new master-at-arms? she wondered as she climbed the steps. Having refused Ser Loras, she could not turn to another on the Kingsguard - that would only pour salt on the wound, enough to anger Highgarden. Her father would not stand for that. Ser Tallad? Ser Dormet? There must be someone. It was a pity the Hound had gone rabid. Tommen had always been frightened of Sandor's rough voice and burned face, and his scorn would be the perfect antidote to Tommen's new defiant streak.

    Dreams or no, he was still her son. I waited, and so can he. I waited half my life. I will not be robbed of my hour in the sun.

    Aron Santagar was Dornish, she suddenly recalled. I could send to Dorne. Centuries of bloodshed lay between Highgarden and Sunspear, and Prince Oberyn had left in high enough spirits. Yes, a Dornishman might suit my needs admirably. They must have some good swords. Then she remembered Arianne Martell was here, and quickly soured on the idea. The slut will have the man in her bed in half a moon. No, not a Dornishman...

    When she entered her solar, she found Lady Merryweather chuckling with Jocelyn and Dorcas. "What is so amusing?" she asked.

    "The Redwyne twins," said Taena. "They have fallen for Lady Margaery. They used to fight over who would be Lord of the Arbor. Now both of them want to join the Kingsguard, just to be near the little queen. Now Ser Horas has left he claims in his letters to pine for her from afar, from the Arbor."

    Cersei laughed. "The Redwynes have always been known more for their freckles than their wits." Still, it was a useful little thing to know. Horror and Slobber, in bed with the queen... Cersei smiled. Does she like freckles, I wonder? "Dorcas," she commanded, "fetch me Osney Kettleblack."

    Dorcas blushed, curtsied, and then rushed off. When she was gone, Taena turned to her with a quizzical look. "She blushed up a storm," Taena noted.

    "She fancies our Ser Osney," Cersei said, hiding her smile behind her glass as she sipped her wine. "She likes his scars, I think."

    Taena's eyes shone with a hidden mischief. "Just so. Scars make a man look exciting."

    "And yet," Cersei said, "you married Lord Orton. We all love him, of course, but..."

    Taena laughed. "My husband is more comforting than exciting, this much is true. Yet, and I hope Your Grace will not think less of me for saying so, I did not come quite a maid to his bed."

    You are all whores in the Free Cities, Cersei thought, aren't you?

    "And pray tell," she said, "who was this... lover?"

    Taena's dark skin turned darker as she blushed. "Oh, I should not have said. Your Grace will keep my secret, yes?"

    I will have his name from you soon enough. "Men have scars," she reached over to kiss her cheek, "women have mysteries."

    When Dorcas returned with Ser Osney, Cersei saw fit to dismiss her ladies.

    "Come sit with me by the window," she beckoned. "Will you take a cup of wine?" She tutted, "Your cloak is threadbare. I have a mind to put you in a new one."

    "What, a white one?"

    "Is that your wish?" she asked him. "To join your brother Osmund on the Kingsguard?"

    "I'd rather be on the queen's guard," he said, waggling his eyebrows and breaking out into a grin, "Your Grace."

    "You have a bold tongue, ser," she said as she caressed his cheek. "You will make me forget myself again."

    "Good," Osney grabbed her fingers roughly and kissed them.

    "You are a wicked man," she said into his ear, her voice a husky whisper, "and no true knight, I think." She let him touch her breasts through her gown, and then feel his way up to her bare skin.

    If only Jaime could see this, she thought, he'd rip you in two. And then he'd rip me in two... It had been so long since they had last been together. She was almost tempted to just give in.

    "Enough," she finally commanded.

    "It isn't," he said. "I want you."

    "You've had me."

    "Only once." He grabbed her breast and gave it a hard squeeze that reminded her of Robert. Cersei felt herself become vaguely disgusted with him.

    "One good night for one good knight," she said, making sure to keep her voice sweet. "You did me valiant service, and you had your reward." Against her hip, she could feel him hardening under his breeches. She gave him a coy smile and quick squeeze. "Tell me," she asked, "do you think our little queen is pretty?"

    Ser Osney stiffened and drew back, wary. "For a girl, I suppose," he cautiously ventured. "I'd sooner have a woman. Like you."

    "Why not both?" she leaned over and whispered, hand sliding down his chest. "Pluck the little rose for me, and I won't be ungrateful."

    "... Margaery, you mean?" In spite her efforts, his passion was beginning to wilt. "She's the King's wife. Wasn't there a Kingsguard who lost his head for bedding the King's wife?"

    "Ages ago," she assured him. His mistress, not his wife. And he didn't just lose his head. Aegon tore him apart piece by piece, and made the woman watch. Cersei did not want Osney dwelling on that, however. "Have no fear, he will do as I bid," she lied. "And Tommen is no Aegon the Unworthy. I mean for Margaery to lose her head, not you."

    That gave him pause.

    "Unless you think Margaery would prove unresponsive to your..." she squeezed his crotch slightly, "charms?"

    Osney looked down and then looked back up at her with a wounded expression. "She likes me well enough."

    "Well, there you are then."

    "There I am," he agreed, tone doubtful, "but where am I going to be after... I mean...if we...?"

    Cersei gave him a barbed smile. "Lying with the queen is treason. Tommen would have no choice but to send you to the Wall." It was all she could do not to laugh as he balked at her. Best not. Men, especially the prideful lot like him, hate being laughed at. "A black cloak would go well with your hair."

    "No one returns from the Wall," he said.

    "You will. All you need to do is kill a boy."

    Kettleblack was afraid, she could smell it on him, but he was too proud to back down. They're all alike, aren't they? "What boy?"

    "A bastard," she said, "in league with Stannis Baratheon. You'll have a hundred men by your side."

    "And once this boy is dead, I'll get my pardon?"

    "And a lordship." Unless Snow's brothers hang you first. "A queen must have a consort."

    "Lord Kettleblack..." He rolled the words around his mouth. "Aye, I like the sound of that. A lordly lord..."

    "...fit to bed a queen."

    "Fit to bed two queens." Osney grinned. "I'm your man."

    She put her arms around his neck. "You are, ser." She kissed him fully, letting him have a little tongue before she pushed him away.

    After he was gone, Cersei had Jocelyn brush out her hair whilst she readied herself for bed and stretched and luxuriated like a cat. It's genius, she told herself. Not even Mace Tyrell would defend his daughter abed with another man, much less with the likes of Osney Kettleblack. Neither Stannis nor Snow would have any cause to wonder for Osney's crime, nor any reason for suspicion till the moment he slipped a blade betwixt their ribs.

    Father will approve, she told herself, it was his suggestion in the first place, after all. And Tommen's defiance will end here. It was good of him to put me back on his council, but he must know his place till he turns of age.

    Dreams or no, I am still the queen.

    Cersei summoned Taena to her bedchambers that night. "On the morrow," she said, "I want you to pay a visit to my good-daughter."

    "Lady Margaery is always happy to see me."

    Cersei smiled. "I know. Tell her that she has a secret admirer, a knight so smitten with her beauty he cannot sleep at night."

    "Might I ask which one?" Taena asked, mischief sparkling in her eyes. "Could it be Ser Osney?"

    "It may be," she shrugged, "but don't offer that name up freely. Make her draw it out from you."

    "Yes, Your Grace," Taena said. "If it please you."

    Cersei smiled and poured her a cup of wine. They stayed up late into the night, trading stories. Taena became quite drunk, and as she had promised, Cersei prised the name of her lover from her lips.

    "A hundred times I told him no," she said, "and he said yes. Until finally I was saying yes as well. He was not the sort to be denied."

    "I know the sort," Cersei said, thinking of Jaime in all his glory, as he had once been.


    "Robert," she lied.
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  25. Threadmarks: Chapter 21: Victarion

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 21: Victarion

    "The king is dead!" his brother's drowned men intoned.

    "Balon is dead," Aeron Damphair continued, his hair wet and claggy with seawater. "Balon my brother, who honoured the Old Way and paid the Iron Price! Balon the Brave, Balon the Blessed, Balon Twice-Crowned, who won us back our freedoms and our god. Balon is dead... but an iron king will rise again, to rule the isles. For what is dead may never die!"

    "What is dead may never die!" the drowned men again intoned, their voices discordant and clanging in his ears, but still fervent and eager. "A king shall rise! A king shall rise!"

    The crashing of the waves answered their chants. Victarion watched as the drowned men quieted, watching the waves roll and crash and lap at the rocks below. All around him, the crowd seemed to jostle and stir, each man looking to their neighbours to see which one of them might presume to chance a claim on the Seastone Chair.

    Victarion watched from the corner of his eye as Euron stood silent with his arms crossed, flanked by his mutes and monkeys and monsters. Go on, Victarion silently urged. But Euron did not speak, no doubt in the knowledge that as these captains had all come this long way to this feast and would not choose the first dish set before them. Go on, Victarion again thought, his gaze acerbic, claim the throne like you claimed my wife. She won't come so easy to you this time.

    But only the winds and waves answered Aeron's call, and Euron stayed silent. "The Ironborn must have a king," Aeron declared. "So I ask again: Who shall be king?"

    "Me!" a deep voice boomed, and the crowd parted. He was a great old ruin of a man, ninety-years old and fat. He wore a cloak of white bearskin, like the last few strands of hair on his head and the great shaggy beard that fell down to his knees. He sat in a driftwood throne, carried up the hill by his grandsons, all of whom were made red-faced by the effort.

    Forty years ago he might have been a threat, Victarion thought, but his best days are all long past.

    "Why not!" he boomed at the looks he got from the crowd. "Who better? I'm Erik Ironmaker, Erik the Just, Erik Anvil-Breaker." He looked down to his grandsons below. "Show them my hammer, Thormor," he commanded. One of them hefted it up with a heave, holding it aloft for the crowd to see. It was a monstrous thing, with a spiked brick of steel for a head. "I've smashed more heads with tha' thing than I can remember," he said, "but maybe some widows could tell you. Now, I could tell you all the deeds I've done in all the battles I won, but I won' live long enough to finish. So if old is wise, then there's none wiser than me. If big is strong, there's none bigger. And I got heirs - more'n I can count. So, come say it with me. KING ERIK! KING ERIK ANVIL-BREAKER!"

    Below his seat, his grandsons took up the cry, beating their chests. The crowd joined the chant even as his grandsons set down the driftwood seat and raised axes and swords in the air, chanting over and over. The rest of the crowd looked caught in the chant, but before they could build any true rallying-cry a woman's voice cut loudly through the din.

    "ERIK!" Asha cried. The crowd parted to let her through as she approached the driftwood throne. "Stand up, Erik!"

    A hush fell over the crowd. Off in the corner, Victarion saw Euron's face split into a grin. The crowd broke out murmuring and muttering.

    "What did you say, girl?" Erik asked, his voiced deep and dangerous.

    "Stand up," Asha said, unperturbed by Erik's grandsons glowering at her. "Stand up and I'll cry your name with all the rest. You want a crown? Then stand up and take it."

    Euron's smile spread, and then a laugh bubbled up his throat and past his lips. Erik shot him a glare, and Euron just laughed louder. Erik's arms gripped the sides of his throne tight, his fingers white. He heaved and groaned. His face went purple with strain, and though for a second it seemed as though he might do it, his breath escaped him at his last second, his strength escaping with it. He leaned back, bowed his head and finally looked his age, and his grandsons hefted up his throne, and carried him sullenly down the hill.

    "Who shall rule the Ironborn?" Aeron asked again once Erik was gone. Again, the people in the crowd looked at one another. Some glanced at Euron, others at him, and a final few glanced at Asha. Victarion counted. Him and Euron were roughly even, and Asha was far behind.

    "Make your claim," the Merlyn called to him, "so we can have this mummer's farce done with."

    Victarion shook his head. The crowd wasn't quite done with it's revelry yet. "When I am ready," he shouted back, "and no sooner."

    Another two claimants presented themselves: Gylbert Farwynd, who offered the crowd a fool's fantasy of a great land in the west for the Ironborn to claim; and then Old Drumm, who spoke and spoke till he lost the chants and cheers he'd won himself, and then offered such petty gifts that his last supporters left him. Each time the crowd grew excited, and then fell disappointed when the men proved unsuitable.

    It's time, Victarion knew. Aeron was shooting him a tight look, even as he asked again, "Who shall rule the Ironborn? Who shall be king over us?" Victarion nodded to Aeron for his introduction. "Nine sons sprung from the loins of Lord Quellon Greyjoy. But one was mightier than the rest, and knows no fear."

    The captains all parted before him as Victarion shook himself and began his climb to the top of the hill. "Bless me, brother," he said when he reached the top. He knelt and bowed his head before the glory of the Drowned God, watching his waves. Aeron pulled his waterskin from the folds of his robes and poured the salty brine of seawater atop his head.

    "What is dead may never die," Aeron intoned, "but rises again, harder and stronger."

    When Victarion stood, his champions all arrayed themselves before him. One man unfurled the Greyjoy banner. "You all know me," Victarion began, eye flicking to Euron to watch for any disruptions. "If you want sweet words, go elsewhere. If you want heads smashed, you're in the right place. I have no great tongue, but I have this here axe. With it, I was a loyal brother," Victarion said. "The first time Balon took a crown, he sent me to Lannisport to singe the Lion's tail. I led his longships, and never lost but one. The second time, it was me he sent to see to the Young Wolf if he came howling home. And that's all I have to say."

    Besides him, his champions began the chant. "VICTARION! VICTARION! KING VICTARION!" They flung open the chests, stuffed to the gills with gold and silver and gemstones, quite literally a king's ransom. The captains in the crowd scrambled to seize as much as they could, taking up the chant as they did so. "VICTARION! VICTARION! KING VICTARION!"

    Victarion watched Euron closely as the crowd kicked up in a frenzy. He stood, relaxed and quiet. Does he mean to stay silent? Victarion wandered. Has one of his mongrels finally ripped out his tongue? Victarion braced himself for an interruption, but when the voice ripped through the chants and cut through the crowd, it wasn't Euron.

    "Nuncle!," Asha cried. "Nuncle! It was good of you to bring gifts to my queensmoot, Nuncle, but you need not have worn so much armour. I promise I won't hurt you." She turned to face the captains, and Victarion felt the urge to punch the back of her head as some of the captains laughed. "There's nobody braver than my nuncle," she said, "nobody stronger, nobody fiercer in a fight. He has no sons, though. His wives keep dying. The Crow's Eye is his elder and has a better claim..."

    What are you doing? Victarion raged in his mind. You came to me! Offered to be my hand, all so that Euron wouldn't win! And now you hold him above me!

    "He does!" one man cried from the crowd below.

    "Ah," Asha said, "but my claim is better still. Balon's brother cannot come before Balon's son!"

    "Balon's sons are dead!" one of his champions shouted over the wind. "All I see is Balon's little daughter!"

    "Aye," she said, "I'm his daughter. And I'm a a mother too." She pulled a dirk from under her jerkin, tucked between her breasts. "Here's my suckling babe!" She held it up for the crowd. "I may be a woman, but I'm man enough for this! Nuncle says he'll give you more of what my father gave you. And what was that? Gold and glory, some of you will say. Freedom, others will no doubt agree. But most of all, he gave us defeat. Tell me, how many of you have had your homes put to the torch when Robert came? How many wives and daughters and sisters of yours were raped and despoiled? No, what my father really gave you was burnt towns and broken castles. Nuncle promises more of the same. But not me."

    "And what will you give us?" another man asked as Victarion seethed. "Knitting?"

    "We need to take a lesson from the Young Wolf," she said, ignoring the man, "who won every battle, and lost all. We need to take a lesson from the Boy King on the Iron Throne, who lost every battle, and won all."

    "A wolf is not a kraken," Victarion felt the need to break in. "What the kraken grasps it does not lose, be it longship or leviathan."

    "And what have we grasped, Nuncle?" Asha asked. "The north? We have Winterfell, aye, and Moat Cailin and Deepwood Motte and Torrhen's Square, but that is all leagues and leagues away. What do we really have to show for it?" She waved, and the men of the Black Wind pushed forwards, heavy oaken chests on their shoulders that they set down before Asha. "I give you the wealth of Stony Shore," Asha said as she flipped open one chest, "I give you the riches of Deepwood, the wealth of Moat Cailin, and lastly, the gold of Winterfell. Your sons and brothers all died for this. And if you'd keep trading their lives for turnips, then by all means, keep shouting my nuncle's name!"

    "And what would you offer us?" the crowd seemed to ask with one man.

    "Peace," Asha said, reaching again under her jerkin and withdrawing a little bundle of paper from between her breasts. "Land. Victory. I'll give you the Stepstones and the Disputed Lands and the Orange Shore and Volantis and Myr and Pentos and Norvos. Enough stones for every man to build his own keep, and enough land to shame even King Harwyn Hardhand and Harren the Black!"

    "Land even further away than the north," Victarion noted.

    "Which is where this comes in," she said, brandishing the paper like a blade. "For on this page is an offer of peace from the Iron Throne! Peace, independence, and the return of the Old Way! Support for our new endeavours, not on the shores of Westeros, but in Essos! Where we can raid and reave and rape and pillage to our heart's content without ever having to worry about the Iron Throne!"

    Victarion scoffed. "I'm not afraid of a little boy," he said. "I'll show the Boy King where he can put his peace!"

    "Nor am I," Asha said. "But we all know what happened when Robert brought the full might of his muster against us. And it isn't the Boy King I worry about, it's his grandfather. What will the Old Lion do to us, I wonder, if we fight him and we lose?"

    That stilled the crowd a little, and Victarion felt himself scowling. He searched his mind for the answer, and came up empty. Even here, Tywin Lannister was feared and respected. He showed no mercy. And the Boy King was yet so young. He wouldn't have had the wherewithal to send such an offer. No, that letter had to be from the Old Lion's own hand. And what then? The south was just so much bigger than the north. Another war would inevitably mean another loss.

    "Your choice is simple!" Asha continued. "Crown me, for victory and peace and endless plunder. Or crown my uncle, for more war and more defeat. What will you have, Ironmen?"

    "VICTORY!" shouted Rodrick Harlaw, his hands cupped over his mouth. "ASHA! ASHA! QUEEN ASHA!" Others in the crowd joined his chant, stamping their feet and shaking their fists. Victarion couldn't believe his eyes. They were all shouting for her... for a woman!

    If only she had showed him that letter earlier, he would have taken her as his hand! If she had offered more than just false help and promises, I would have accepted. The Iron Throne offers us our independence, and you keep it from me? Victarion almost struggled to believe it. If only she had told me the truth.

    But she hadn't, and now some looked to be refusing to join her chant. "NO CRAVEN'S PEACE!" one of his champions shouted over the crowd. The chants of "VICTARION! VICTARION! KING VICTARION!" continued where they had left off. A fight looked to be brewing as the two sides shouted ever louder over one another, building to a confrontation. One man threw something at Asha's head, and she had to duck out the way. Victarion made no move to calm the crowd. Asha had asked for this when she'd lied.

    But then, sharp as a knife, a shrill horn cut through the clamour. It was one of Euron's mongrels with his mouth to the horn. It blew again, terrible and rattling with a high wailing shriek that threatened to make Victarion's ears bleed. If he doesn't stop soon, Victarion thought, I'll go up there and smash his head in with that horn, kingsmoot or not.

    It took a few moments longer, but eventually the shrill wail of the horn fell silent.

    "Ironmen!" said Euron, climbing up the hill to join him and Asha. "Your have heard my horn. Now hear me. I am Quellon's son, and Balon's oldest living brother. The blood of the kraken flows through my veins, and my heart beats with the waves of the sea. I have sailed further afield than any man here. Only one living kraken here has never known defeat. Only one living kraken here has never bent the knee. Only one has sailed as far as the Shadow of Asshai, and gazed at wonders and terrors beyond imagining."

    "If you like the shadows so much," Asha foolishly interrupted, "you should go join them."

    "My little brother would continue Balon's war," Euron pressed on, ignoring Asha, "and try and claim the north. My sweet, foolish niece would give us peace with a blade to our necks. Asha prefers a false victory to a true defeat. Victarion wants a kingdom, but will take a few clods of earth. With me, you shall have more! I offer a true victory and a true kingdom!

    "We are the Ironborn, and we are conquerors! My brother would have you content with the cold north, my niece with a fantasy as mad as the land beyond the Sunset Sea! But I will give you Lannisport, Highgarden, Oldtown, the Arbor. We will take the Riverlands, the Reach, the Westerlands, the North, the Vale, the Stormlands, the Crowlands and Dorne! Together, we will take all of Westeros! For the glory of the Drowned God!"

    "Crow's Eye," Asha called with admonishment in her tone, "did you leave your wits in Asshai? How can we hold the Seven Kingdoms if we cannot even hold the north?"

    "It has been done before," Euron said. "Did Balon never teach his darling daughter the ways of war? Did he never teach you about Aegon the Conquerer?"

    "Aegon?" Victarion asked. "Aegon had dragons."

    "Yes," Asha nodded, "and I see no dragons here."

    Euron grinned. "That horn you heard was from the ruins of Valyria, niece, where no other man dared go. Your heard it's call, felt it's power. It is a dragon horn, made from bands of red gold and Valyrian steel engraved with enchantments. The dragonlords of Valyria sounded such horns before the Doom. With this horn, Ironmen, I can bind dragons to my will."

    Asha laughed. "But there are no more dragons," she said. "A horn to bind goats would be of more use."

    Euron's smiling eye glinted in the moonlight. Victarion felt a pit of dread open in the bottom of his gut as he saw that eye.

    "Again, girl," he said, "you are wrong. There are three dragons, and I know just where to find them."
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  26. Threadmarks: Chapter 22: Arya II

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 22: Arya II

    Each night before sleep, Arya muttered her prayer into her pillow.

    "Dunsen, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Lord Tywin, Queen Cersei, King Tommen..."

    On and on the list went, and Arya wished she knew the names of the Freys that had been there on the night of the Red Wedding. I'll kill them all, she swore to herself.

    "My lady," her gaoler asked her one day from across the room, "what are those names you whisper?"

    She chewed her lip and shook her head and turned over. "The names don't matter."

    Dame Brienne shot her a worried look from her own bed, the outline of a blade tucked between her breasts visible from under the sheets. Brienne always had a weapon on her. Sometimes a dirk, sometimes a longsword.

    Brienne wasn't anything like the Hound, Arya had found. For one, she had sworn her vows, and meant every word of them. Once, the chance to be a squire - to learn how to truly fight - would have filled her with a fantastic thrill, but now she resented it more than anything. It felt hollow, somehow. Every morning, the two of them would head down to the training yard to practice with sword and shield, with a thousand mocking eyes watching them.

    "Yard's not a place for girls," one squire had said to her when they first arrived.

    Arya had wanted to punch him, but instead resolutely ignored him. She knew better than to start a fight she couldn't win. For now, she thought, I remain more mouse than wolf. But I will be a wolf, one day. Then I'll come back and bite you. The squire had seemed ready to grab her in rage when she turned the other cheek, and for a second Arya thought she would have to scarper, but a harsh look from Brienne sent him running.

    She had never been more appreciative of her gaoler than in that moment.

    She was also a bastard now. One of the late King Robert's, to explain the sudden interest the king would take in her, and to explain why the dame might take her on as a squire. But even as she met with Tommen, ostensibly under the pretence of the king getting to know his extended family, she saw how his maid's eyes flicked over her.

    She recognised those eyes...

    Jeyne Poole! At first, Arya hadn't believed the tale the king had told, but Jeyne confirmed his words later. It was all true. It was Littlefinger. Arya had never really liked Jeyne, but she didn't deserve that. Nobody did.

    That very same day, Arya added another name to her list.

    From Brienne she would learn the art of war. Almost like she had once learned it from Syrio, but not quite. There was no chasing cats with Brienne, no dancing. Her moves were always powerful and sharp and direct - intended to leverage her weight and height. But Arya did not have much weight to leverage, and so when she could find the privacy, she would practice her needlework. And though her duties as a squire kept her busy most of the day, she'd duel against her shadow in the light of the evening sun, even as she got the tell-tale crawl under her skin that told her someone was watching.

    Needle sliced through the air with a deadly accuracy. The blade sang for blood with every swing. The king had given her Jon's gift back. 'A gesture of intent,' he said it was. To show her he meant her no harm.

    Somehow, Arya doubted that.

    Her newfound bastard name was the king's idea as well. 'Hiding in plain sight,' he called it. Everyone knew the late King Robert's preference for northern girls. Nobody would offer her a second glance.

    "My lady," Brienne whispered to her one day, "His Grace commands your presence in his chambers."

    Arya had wanted to object, wanted to make threats, but all she ultimately did was sigh and nod and follow along. All the way through hauntingly familiar halls and up the steps to Maegor's Holdfast. One of the Kingsguard was stood waiting outside. Ser Loras, Arya guessed by the armour. He offered Dame Brienne a tight nod and waved them through to where the king was sat.

    He was behind his desk, his nose buried in some dusty old book, quill scratching down notes in his free hand. When he heard their footfalls, he looked up from his work and offered them both a smile.

    "Dame Brienne!" he said. "And Lyra! Welcome! Come, take a seat. We have much to discuss."

    "Your Grace," Brienne said with a slight bow in her neck, silently refusing to sit.

    "Well," Tommen said, looking at her, "how are you settling in?"

    "Where's Sandor?" she asked instead.

    "Still in his cell. He's recovered, mostly, but I'm still trying to decide what to do with him."

    "Are you going to kill him?"

    The king shrugged his shoulders. He's not kind, Arya reminded herself, he's just too clever to be cruel.

    "Your Grace," Brienne cut in, "why did you ask us here?"

    Tommen nodded and reached down, withdrawing a thin sheaf of blank pages from one of the drawers under his desk and dropping it onto his desk with a gentle thump. "Letters," he said. "The time has come for you to pay the price for your freedom."

    Arya glared at the papers and then glared at the king. "No."

    The king cocked his head to the side. "I'm afraid this is not a choice, my lady. Your relative freedom is conditional on this. Otherwise you go back in the cell. And I swear I won't tell you what to write, just who to write it to."

    Arya licked her lips and scowled. "Who?"

    "Lady Sansa, Lord Jon and... Lady Catelyn."

    "What?" Arya's glare intensified into a confused rage, a shadow of hope stopping her heart for a beat. "What are you talking about?"

    "Your Grace..." Brienne half-whispered, half-demanded, "is my lady alive?"

    The king sighed and shook his head and offered Arya a pitying look. "Believe me or not, I never wanted bad things for your family." Liar, Arya thought. "I did my best to keep you all alive. Bran is alive, Rickon is alive, Sansa is alive, and so are you. But even my influence has it's limits. I can only do so much. And I could not protect your brother from his own foolishness-"

    "Robb was not a fool!" Arya burst out.

    The king smiled a soft smile. She wanted to rip that smile off his face. "No, of course not. He'd not have won all those battles if he was a fool. But even the wisest and smartest of men suffer from bouts of foolishness and are struck by strange fancies from time to time," he said. "Lady Catelyn... is probably dead. But I am told there is a chance that she is, well, not quite alive, I suppose, but...?"

    "What do you mean?" Arya demanded. "Is my mother alive or not?"

    "I don't know," the king confessed with a weary shake of his head. "But if she is, she is not the woman you remember."

    "But you still want me to write her a letter?"

    The king nodded. "Better safe than sorry."

    "A letter saying what?" Arya asked.

    The king shrugged. "That you're alive, and in my caring custody. The rest is up to you. If a raven can carry it, you can write it. But please bear in mind I will be reading your letter before I have it sent, in case you ask to have me killed or any such tripe."

    "And to the others?" Arya asked.

    "Same situation. They're your family, Arya. Write what you please. Just bear in mind I'll be reading those letters as well."

    Arya swallowed and stared down at the blank page before her.

    The king tapped the table and stood from his seat. "Well," he said, "I have places to be. Busy ruling a kingdom and all. My thanks again, Dame Brienne, for seeing to this task. I know it's not in your nature to lie."

    "Of course," Brienne said, bowing her head again, "Your Grace."

    "I expect those letters to be finished by the time I get back, Lyra," the king said as he left.

    Arya watched him leave and then sat and stared at the page. She stared and stared and stared even as the snakes twisted in her gut and the silence dragged on.

    "My lady?" Brienne asked, shattering the silence, concern lacing her tone.

    "My mother," Arya began, and then stopped again. Her mouth suddenly felt dry. He could be toying with me, Arya realised. Trying to prevent me escaping with sweet secrets and whispers instead of sharp swords and thick walls. Arya shook her head. "My mother is dead."

    "And your sister and brothers?" Brienne asked, pulling herself up a seat.

    Arya lifted a quill from the table, dipped the nib in the inkwell, and pressed it to the page. "I have some letters to write," she sighed.

    Jon, she scratched, suddenly recalling that she had never had the best handwriting, I'm still alive.

    Don't really know what else to say. Still have Needle - lost it and found it again a bunch, but I still have it. By now you should know Joffrey's dead, and that Tommen's king now. He's nothing like I remember. Smarter and more callous, but I suppose having a cunt for a brother and a cunt for a mother will do that to you.

    Arya paused, considered whether the king would let her send that, and then turned to see Brienne peering over her shoulder. Arya simply looked at her even as she flushed and stood from her seat to walk across the room and seat herself back down near the opposite wall. Arya turned back to her page.

    Anyways, she continued, I want you to know I'm not being hurt. Tommen set me up to hide from his mother as a squire. New name's Lyra. It's not been too bad. I practice swordplay in the morning, riding in the evenings. Learn how to clean and maintain armour, how to joust, even how to cook. I'll be as strong as Robb, one day. Tommen's promised to send me to you when the time comes, and I think he'll keep to his word on that. Then again, I could be wrong. He is a Lannister, after all.

    Hope you're safe, Jon. Love, Arya.

    Arya stared at her own handwriting for a while, felt the throbbing ache in her wrist, dipped the quill in the inkwell again, and then turned to write Sansa's letter.

    Sansa, she wrote, I want you to know I forgive you.

    Tommen told me what you did, getting father killed. I had it tough for a long while, out in the cold, on the run from the crown because of you, but you were stuck with Joffrey, so I reckon you've suffered enough. And I hear you had a hand in killing Joffrey. Good work with that. Somehow, I wound up back here in Kings Landing, as a prisoner. Tommen's king now, and I guess he had me hunted down. Made me a squire to hide me from his mad bitch of a mother, and it's been working so far.

    He told me that you're in the Vale, with Littlefinger. Baelish is using you, Sansa. I don't know what else to say. Tommen tells me that Littlefinger was the reason for father's death, as well as Joffrey's. And then he said something about him killing Aunt Lysa. Apparently he pushed her out the Moon Door? I don't know whether to trust Tommen about that or not, but you definitely shouldn't trust Baelish. You know Jeyne Poole? Well, Baelish got her, and he had her raped and whipped and forced her to whore for him. I wouldn't have believed Tommen when he told me, but I spoke to Jeyne as well, and saw her scars. Be careful. He might try and do the same with you. So try not to tell Littlefinger about this letter, if you can.

    Stay safe. Arya.

    Arya leaned back in her seat and set the quill down on the desk and flexed her aching fingers. She turned her head and looked out the window, watching the cool autumn breeze waft gently past the hangings. The sun had fallen lower in the sky since she had arrived. Had it really taken so long for her to write just two letters?

    "My lady?" Brienne asked from across the room after a long moment of still silence.

    "Why is he making me write these letters?" Arya asked, even though she knew the answer.

    "Leverage," Brienne simply answered. "He's using you."

    Arya sighed and scratched her brow. "And they say the king is a good boy."

    "Better than his brother," Brienne said. "And better than his father too, by the sounds of it."

    "There is that," Arya admitted. "Jeyne Poole," she suddenly said. "Do you know her?"

    Brienne frowned. "The name is unfamiliar to me, my lady."

    "She was Sansa's attendant, when we first came down south. The daughter of the steward at Winterfell. Now, she's Tommen's maidservant."

    "I've seen her," Brienne said nodding, eyes busy with thought. "Didn't think much of her, but..."

    "She was raped," Arya abruptly said. "The girl's only a couple years older than me, and though I never really liked her, I knew her well enough. They beat her, whipped her, and raped her bloody. I spoke with her a few days back. She's like an entirely different kind of girl now. Broken. Guarded. But when I ask about Tommen, her eyes light up like they used to when she talked about the boys she liked. She only has praises to sing for her beloved King Tommen. Says he held her when she cried, treated her kindly, rescued her. She's fallen for him."

    Brienne's eyes met hers, even as she shifted her weight uncomfortably in her seat at the mention of rape.

    "I hate him," Arya confessed. "Tommen. For dragging me back here. But I see Jeyne, and I keep thinking to myself: 'That could have been me.' And no matter what else, Tommen showed her mercy when nobody else would."

    Arya still reckoned it was more cynical than that. Keeping Jeyne close meant keeping some other unknown woman away, and making her love him reduced the chances of a betrayal. Especially when Jeyne followed him about like a lost puppy.

    "What are you saying, my lady?" Brienne asked.

    Arya held up the blank page for Brienne to see. "This letter to my mother," she said. "Is he trying to torture me, do you think, or is he telling the truth?"

    Brienne furrowed her brow in thought. "I think he's telling the truth," she said after a long moment. "I've never known His Grace to lie to me, my lady."

    "He's lying to everyone about me," Arya countered.

    "To keep you safe, my lady."

    Arya hummed and set the page back on the table and picked up the feather quill again. As she dipped it into the inkwell she gripped it so tight her fingers went white, and her hand trembled as she pressed the tip to the paper and began to write.

    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  27. Threadmarks: Chapter 23: Jon

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 23: Jon

    Jon read the letter over and over till the letters began to blur together.


    No. He refused to believe it. Tommen was lying. He had to be lying. He had yet to offer proof, and words were only wind, after all...

    Jon had wanted to burn the parchment then and there, toss it into the hearth, but instead he sat in his chair and sipped from a flagon of ale. He read Tommen's letters in silence for the umpteenth time, awaiting Sam.

    "Corn!" the raven crowed in the corner. "Corn! Corn!" A clever bird, Jon had learned. An old friend to the Old Bear, not that it had stopped it's beak from gnawing Mormont's face off when he finally died. Fairweather friends, Jon thought grimly. That's all they were. Fairweather friends. The kind that would turn and run at first opportunity. His own men had proven difficult enough to deal with, but Stannis...

    And now he had another king to please. Tommen's claims of sending aid rang true, ravens running back and forth between Eastwatch and the Wall keeping Jon informed of the goings-on. Ships laden with food and leather and even men in irons were arriving at Eastwatch, offloading their cargoes. The men arrived to Castle Black downcast and angry, but the training yard had never been busier, and the Watch was slowly regaining it's strength.

    Day after day, the men came from the east. Kingslanders, mostly. New recruits. New prisoners.

    New brothers.

    It was everything Jon had asked for, but he would be a liar if he did not say it set him on edge. What demands will the Iron Throne make? he wondered. Already, men were talking in the common room. A fight had threatened to break out once, between one of Stannis's retainers and Jon's own black brothers. It had not gone further than open bluster and chest-beating, but even that seemed like treacherous territory.

    But finally, after months, the hungry looks on his men's faces were starting to fade. Jon had anticipated a hard rule, but slowly increasing the rations had silenced most dissent. Only Janos Slynt remained, and his little band of men. They would always remain - Janos thought himself to big to take orders from a bastard. So he'd get his own command, then, somewhere dark and cold and far, far away. Still, Jon could even afford to send some food to the wildlings. The winter rations that Stannis had eaten so deeply into were finally replaced, and at the current rate it even seemed as though their stores would soon begin to fill up again.

    But for all his aid, Stannis had ridden to their rescue, and Tommen had not.

    Sam arrived mid-musing, opening the door with a stack of books in his arms. Mormont's raven launched at him, and Samwell stumbled back, books flying from his arms and scattering about the floor. "Corn!" the bird demanded, pecking at Sam's hands. "Corn!"

    Sam waved his hands about his head and shooed the bird away. He yowled as the bird pecked at him and flew away out the window. Sam gingerly removed his gloves and inspected his fingers. "I'm bleeding!" he groused.

    "Wear thicker gloves next time," Jon told him as Sam bent down and gathered his books from the floor. "Sit," he commanded, lifting the letter from his desk and holding it out for Sam to grab and read.

    Sam sat himself down, red-faced, opened the parchment and flicked his eyes across it. "This..." Sam seemed lost for words, "is more than we ever dared hope for."

    "Tommen sparred with my brother back in Winterfell," Jon recalled. "Wore so much padding he looked like you." Sam looked up from the parchment and shot Jon a wounded look, and then resumed his reading. "Bran knocked him to the ground. Yet now that same Tommen sits the Iron Throne."

    "Have you written a reply?" Sam asked.

    Jon shook his head. "Mormont begged the Iron Throne for help a hundred times. No letter will make the Lannisters love us better. Not now that they know we've been helping Stannis."

    "But Tommen's already offered his help," Sam pointed out. "The ships, the men, the food. That's all him."

    "I'm more concerned with Tywin than Tommen," Jon said, rising suddenly from his seat, restless, and slamming the shutters closed against the howling winter winds. "Why would they help us now? They never did before."

    "You think it a poisoned gift?"

    "Stannis is a prickly guest at the best of times," Jon said. "Presently, he stands demanding from me the castles of the New Gift. What better way to drive a wedge? Tommen knows his uncle. He means to force my hand, I'm sure of it. His Grace is becoming uneasy. I gave Stannis food, shelter, the Nightfort. And yet he still demands more, as proof of my allegiances." Jon sighed. "The more you give a king, the more he wants. We are walking an icy tightrope here. Pleasing one king is hard enough. Pleasing two is scarcely possible. One day a letter will come, mark my words, and in it will be orders for me to slit Stannis open. And then chaos will consume the Night's Watch."

    Sam looked down at the letter and frowned. "He keeps mentioning dragonglass," Sam noted. "And there's more here. Burn the horn. How does he know about that?"

    Jon met his question with a silence. What else does he know? Jon wondered, and not for the first time. What else does he have? The pit in Jon's gut deepened slightly.

    Samwell shook his head, and turned to the stack of books he had piling high on the table. "I've gathered all I can carry."

    Jon licked his lips, suddenly eager to change the subject. "Tell me something useful."

    "The Others," Sam said. "Their mentions are scattered through the annals, infrequent. The one's I've looked at, at least. The older ones are all crumbly, liable to turn to dust if disturbed too much. They're mentioned mostly in the old histories - about Brandon the Builder and Garth Greenhand - detailing the Age of Heroes and the Long Night. It was all written thousands of years afterwards, though, so I don't know how much use any one text can be."

    "The Others," Jon cut in. "What about the Others?"

    "Dragonglass," Samwell simply said. "There are details of obsidian daggers during the Age of Heroes. The Others are creatures of cold, most legends agree. Creatures of night as well - they hide from the sun, it burns them. There are stories of the wights as well. Dead animals for mounts - giants, mammoths, bears, direwolves. We know that part, at least, is plainly true. Another common thread are men. Those who fall in battle must be burned, else the cold will claim their corpses."

    "We knew all this," Jon said, impatient. "The question remains: How do we fight them?"

    "Dragonglass," Samwell said again. "Regular steel shatters in the cold. And I've seen mentions of dragonsteel as well."

    Jon frowned. "Valyrian steel?" he asked.

    Sam nodded. "Most likely."

    Jon sighed again. "Who are the Others?" Jon asked, frustrated. "What do they want? Why are they here?"

    "I don't know, my lord," Sam answered, "I haven't finished yet. But if King Tommen's letter is to be believed..."

    They want the world. Jon gathered himself and nodded, dismissing Samwell to his work. I'm tired, Jon thought. Sleep had evaded him the past few nights, true rest replaced with wolf-dreams. He'd spent the whole morning reading letters, poring over maps, planning. His day was not done, however. He knew what he'd have to face today, and found himself tense as he brooded on Tommen's words.

    They want the world. They want the Long Night to come again. They want to wipe life and light from the land.

    From the armoury came the clatter of swords and shields, noisy as the new southron recruits armed themselves for practice. He could hear Alliser's voice barking as he walked, telling them to be quicker about it. His guardsmen's boots thumped on the stone behind him as he glanced at the yard. He hated having guards - hated the necessity of it all. This castle had once been his to move about as he pleased. Yet somehow, in gaining power he'd lost freedom. Wandering eyes followed him everywhere he went.

    Castle Black seemed a bleak place in the pale, overcast light. The Lord-Commander's Tower was still a shell, the Common Hall a blackened pile of cinders, and the whole place seemed like a strong gust of wind might blow it over, though it had looked like that for years now. The Wall loomed in the distance, silver ice glimmering and weeping cold tears in the low light. Scaffolds rose near the base, building the steps he'd ordered. The winch was no longer enough.

    And then there was the King's Tower. The black and gold standard of the crowned stag hung from the roof and flapped with the icy winds, occasionally cracking against the stone. Two guardsmen stood flanking the door, shivering on the steps, hands tucked under their arms and spears nestled in the crooks of their elbows. Their breaths emerged from between their purple lips in clouds of mist.

    Jon moved between them, and began the long climb up the winding steps. They want the world. Tommen's words haunted him like a shadow. Jon prayed he wasn't speaking the truth. But if he is, a traitorous part of his mind said, then what else does he say?


    Jon listened to his steps echo off the stone walls as he climbed. Stannis, and his red witch, would be awaiting him at the top. Could she see it, in her flames? She certainly had that air about her - that kind of air that spoke of the arcane and dark and terrible. If Ygritte had been kissed by fire, then the red witch was fire, her hair the colour of blood. She always wore that same ruby choker around her neck.

    Outside Stannis's solar, a few more guards were stood waiting. When Jon reached the top of the steps, he wordlessly undid his belt and handed his blades and other weapons reluctantly to them to keep safe. If he dared march in with a weapon, they'd cut him down, Lord Commander or no. It was pointless to resist such a request.

    Inside, the solar was warm. The rest of the castle had caught the winter chill, but Stannis's rooms were always warm, almost sweltering under his furs. The work of the red witch. Stannis himself was stood by an old wooden table, hastily repaired, with a worn and tattered map of Westeros laid out on top. It wanted to curl up, Jon could tell, the edges making ears, held down by a heavy candle and His Grace's hand.

    Jon kneeled, lowering himself in supplication. Stannis rarely had patience for such formalities, but with Tommen's reach growing at the Wall, Jon figured he might accept the gesture as assurance.

    "Twoscore ravens sent out," the king grumbled, "yet we get naught but silence. Are the Karstarks the only men with honour in the north? Fealty is the duty every lord owes to their king. Yet your father's bannermen all turn their backs on me."

    The Karstarks have no other choice, Jon wanted to say as he stood. They'd betrayed Robb and killed the little lions. Jon shuddered to think what men like Roose Bolton or Tywin Lannister would do to Lord Arnolf. Stannis Baratheon must have seemed a far safer choice by comparison.

    But that bitter truth would only anger Stannis. Jon bowed his head, glancing at the map, and offered a more diplomatic response. "These are troubled times, Your Grace. Even men of honour will wonder where their loyalties should lie."

    Stannis shot Jon a pointed look. "I am beginning to think you are one of these men," Stannis said with narrowed eyes. "Or have you forgotten that of all the kings you beseeched for aid, I was the only one who came and answered your call?"

    "I remember," Jon insisted.

    "Yet you lap the Lannisters milk," he spat.

    "Desperate times call for desperate measures," Jon said. "And the Wall takes no side in any war in Westeros. You know this."

    Stannis's eyes flashed a with dangerous fury. Without Longclaw bouncing against his leg, Jon suddenly felt naked. "Does my aid mean nothing to you?"

    "It means a great deal," Jon objected.

    "Then give me the castles."

    Jon shook his head and braced himself. "They are not mine to give," he said. "You ask too much. I have already ceded you the Nightfort."

    "I asked you to be a Lord of Winterfell and a Stark," Stannis said, voice thickening with spite. "I am not asking now. I need these castles. There are nineteen of them, and only three are manned. What does it cost you to say yes? I merely mean to man them."

    You mean to hand them to your banners as gifts, Jon thought. "Those castles belong to the Watch, Sire. And men of the Watch will man them. We are already preparing to send some men out to garrison Greyguard. Others will soon follow." Stannis scowled. "As for Winterfell... It belongs to my sister Sansa."

    "You mean Lady Lannister," Stannis said. "Are you so eager to see the Imp sit your father's seat? Not while I draw breath, Lord Snow."

    Jon clenched his teeth, and then with a silent breath unclenched them. Why did Stannis rankle him so? "She is Lady Lannister no more," Jon said. "She has fled Kings Landing, and remains yet a maiden. Tommen has annulled the marriage, apparently, as they never consummated. The Imp apparently was unwilling to rape her."

    "Ha!" Stannis let out a rare breath of laughter. "Never a more lust-filled or shameful creature have I ever met than the Imp. A likely story. Tommen lies."

    Jon knew better than to press the point. He pursed his lips and kept his peace.

    Stannis tapped the table, fingers beating a drumbeat into the wood, on the part of the map where the New Gift lay.

    "Your Grace," Jon said, his voice cold in spite it's courtesy, "I have offered you all the aid I can. I have lent you hay for your horses and food and shelter for your men - at dire cost to our winters stores, I might add. I have given you the Nightfort and agreed - in spite of stiff resistance from my sworn brothers - to let you settle the wildlings on the Gift. I cannot give you more."

    Stannis scowled again even as his eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Cannot," he said, "or will not? I offered you a name, Snow, and you spurned me. What did the bastard boy on the Iron Throne offer you?"

    Arya... "Nothing but his aid," Jon lied, his gut twisting with guilt.

    Stannis's hand strayed to his sword-hilt. "Just who do you think you are?"

    Jon stiffened and stood his ground. "The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch."

    Stannis gripped his hilt tightly, but made no move to draw his blade. "Only by my sufferance," he said. "Remember that." And with a wave of his hand, Stannis dismissed him and turned back to his table.

    Jon breathed a sigh of relief and turned sharp on his heel, descending the steps of the King's Tower. At the bottom, he was accosted by the red witch. She stood in her red silken dress, arms bare to the wind, though she showed no signs of feeling the bitter cold. The true queen, Jon thought. Stannis had left his real wife to suffer in Eastwatch alone. Jon pulled his furs tighter over his shoulders, his breath emerging from his lips as moist mist. Night was beginning to fall, the moon sitting level in the sky with the shadow of the sun.

    "You might want more than that," Jon said as he walked. "Wind's rising."

    "I have my faith to warm me," Melisandre said.

    They want the world. "I wish I could say the same," Jon replied. Tommen's letter had cast his whole world into doubt. The Lannisters had killed his family, slaughtered Robb and Catelyn. They'd killed his father. The Lannisters had lied time and again. They want to wipe life and light from the land.

    Tommen never did any of that,
    Jon reminded himself. He never lied. So why should he be lying about Arya?

    Jon sighed. The Lannisters or the Others? My choice is between the lesser of two evils.

    Melisandre laughed. "You lie," she noted, "but not with ill-intent."

    Jon shot her a side-eyed glance and kept on walking.

    "I can see through stone," she said, "you think I can't see through snow? The Lord of Light guides me to the truth."

    "Are your fires never wrong?" Jon asked.

    "Never," she insisted. "Though we priests are mortal and sometimes err, susceptible to misinterpretation and mistakes."

    Jon could feel the heat radiating from her as she drew nearer to him. No matter what tricks she used, there was true power there, somewhere. "What do your flames show you of Tommen?"

    Melisandre blinked, a flash of genuine confusion crossing her visage. "R'hllor sends us what visions he will," she said after a moment. "We can look, but we may not always see. And Tommen, it seems, is not one for flames. He remains beneath a shroud." Her lips curled from a sour look to a smile. "But I have seen you, Jon Snow."

    "Oh? And what did you see?"

    "I have seen your Wall," the red woman began. "Battered by winds and rocks and ice and fire. I have seen you blown by the gale, hard-pressed, hemmed in by your enemies and pushed to a bitter fate. But I see a few friends as well, if you choose to have them."

    "Friends?" Jon asked. Arya was my friend, he thought. "You mean Stannis?"

    "He is growing fond of you," Melisandre assured him.

    "I can tell," Jon said, a tad incredulous. "He only threatened me twice."

    "I meant me," she demurred.

    Jon turned away. "The Wall is no place for a woman."

    "You think so?"

    "I know so."

    Melisandre laughed a final time. "Then you know nothing, Jon Snow."
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  28. Threadmarks: Chapter 24: Jaime II

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
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    Chapter 24: Jaime II

    Part of him would be glad to leave Kings Landing behind, Jaime knew.

    As of late the city left a sour taste in his mouth. This was the place of his shame, of all his indiscretions. This was the place...

    Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat. Let him be king of the ashes.

    It was not an evil act, Jaime knew. He knew. But they had mocked and jeered him all the same, never knowing they all owed him their worthless lives. The time had still come, however, for them to learn the truth. The time had come for Jaime to confess his crimes before the kingdom. There was no other way, the king had said. The list burned a hole in his pocket. No matter. This was his only way back to honour.

    But still, even as he pondered his own honour, Jaime wanted one last chance to be dishonourable.

    One last night, Jaime thought as he pushed open the doors to the queen's chambers. He found her stood upright, staring thoughtfully at a winestain on the wall, shards of shattered glass scattered across the flagstones below. He watched almost awestruck as the dappled light danced across her golden hair. She had set aside her mourning dress by now for a gown of green silk. A ruby as large as a pigeon's head hung from a chain around her neck, nestled between her breasts.

    Even now, he still found her beyond beautiful.

    She turned to him as she heard his footsteps. "I had hoped by now you would grow tired of that wretched beard," she said, brow furrowed. "All that hair makes you look like Robert."

    "Robert's beard was black," Jaime argued, stroking his chin. "Mine's gold."

    Cersei scoffed derisively. "Grey, more like." She reached over and pulled a single silver strand from his beard. "All the colour's drained from you, brother. You've become a pale, pitiful little ghost of yourself. It's all the white, I expect. I prefer you in red and gold."

    Jaime smiled. I prefer you in nothing at all. He wanted to push her back against the wall and kiss her, have her here and now and roughly. "I will make a bargain with you," he said instead. "Relieve me of my duties for an hour and I'll give you command of my razor."

    She licked her lips, her look souring slightly. "I command you already," she said.

    "Then command me," Jaime urged, leaning forwards. Up close she smelled strongly of spiced wine and sweat.

    "I'm not in the mood," she snapped suddenly.

    Jaime glanced again at the winestain on the wall, the remains of the glass littering the floor below. "Why?"

    She paused, looking him up and down. "Ser Osney..." she mumbled. Was he the cause of her foul temper today? "Knights! Tell me, do your wits all leave you when you swear your oaths?"

    Jaime's quirked a lone eyebrow with confusion. "What are you talking about?"

    Cersei stiffened, jaw clenching and unclenching. "Nothing," she spat dismissively. "Now leave me be. I'm in no mood for you."

    Jaime left Cersei's chambers quietly seething, marching stiffly. But no matter what he told himself, Jaime still pined for his sister. The most beautiful woman in the world...

    Now was not the time for such thoughts, Jaime chastised himself, not when his duty was calling.

    He walked to the throne room, and found the king awaiting him on the Iron Throne, flanked by Ser Balon Swann and Ser Loras Tyrell. When will he have to face his shame? Jaime wondered as he gazed at Ser Loras. Everyone knew he was a sword-swallower. They had to know.

    Jaime turned and stood before the court, waiting and watching as all the lords and ladies filed into the gallery. He felt his father's gaze behind him, but determinedly ignored it. Petitioners filed in through the doors and one by one the king heard them. Almost an entire hour passed without incident.

    And then, finally, it happened.

    Lord Mathis Rowan entered the court, Tommen's Master of Works, and after feigning a little fuss, the king waved him through his guard and allowed him to whisper a few hurried words into his ear. The words they shared were irrelevant. This was all staged, a lie. No matter. It would suffice.

    "Ser Jaime Lannister," the king called gravely down to him atop the Iron Throne, waving Lord Rowan away. "Please present yourself before the throne."

    Jaime felt the pit in his stomach deepen as he walked stiffly into the centre of the throne room and turned to face his fate. Lord Tywin watched the proceedings with interest from his place of pride on the steps to the Iron Throne. Did he know? "Your Grace," Jaime said, kneeling.

    "You are known by many as Kingslayer," Tommen began, and Jaime felt a little pang of impotent anger at the name as he arose to his feet again. "But I don't think anyone cared to ask why you broke your oaths and betrayed the Mad King."

    "Your Grace..." Jaime pleaded in a moment of practiced weakness, even as he hardened his heart.

    "The truth, Ser Jaime," Tommen insisted, eyes narrowing.

    Jaime did his best look haunted, gazing out into the middle distance as he began his mummery. "The Mad King was obsessed with wildfire before he died," Jaime tentatively said, voice thick with emotion. "He used it to roast the flesh off all those he thought his enemies. Murderers and rapists at first, nobody any decent person would object to seeing burned, but as time passed his lusts for the flames grew more and more insatiable. His pet pyromancers were only too eager to serve.

    "His last Hand was one," Jaime recalled. "Lord Rossart, a burning torch as his sigil. I should have drowned him instead of gutting him-"

    "Ser Jaime!" Tommen interrupted.

    Jaime snapped from his rehearsed reverie. "Yes, Your Grace. My apologies. Where was I...?" Jaime itched the beard on his chin thoughtfully. "Ah, yes. The flames. You see, Your Grace, it wasn't just criminals the Mad King wanted burned near the end. He burned Lord Rickard, of course, and that should have been enough for me to slay him, but I kept my sword buried in it's sheath, bound by my oaths. But then he gave the order during the Sack of Kings Landing, and I just... broke."

    Tommen leaned in, listening with supposedly rapt attention. "What command did he give, Ser Jaime?"

    "Burn them all," Jaime recited, eyes shut tight in remembrance. "I want him dead, the traitor. I want his head, or you'll burn with all the rest. All the traitors."

    "The Mad King asked you to slay your own father?" Tommen questioned after a long moment, lone eyebrow raised.

    "Aye," Jaime said, nodding. "But that wasn't what made me turn. There was something else he ordered."

    "And what was that, Ser Jaime?" The rest of the court suddenly seemed as enraptured as the king, eager ears awaiting his words.

    "Let Robert be king over charred bones and cooked meat," Jaime chanted. "Let him be king of the ashes. The Mad King had ordered his Hand to plant wildfire throughout the city, you see. And if the war didn't go his way, he wanted... No, he ordered the city immolated."

    A hush fell through the throne room. Without even having look, Jaime could tell he was achieving the intended effect. But they didn't quite believe him, not yet. They wouldn't till they saw proof; a proof that would soon be provided. Mercifully, however, Jaime's role in this mummery was soon to end.

    "I did what I did to save this city," he continued in a hoarse voice, almost whispering. "It was a choice between my oaths as a knight, and my oaths as a member of the Kingsguard. I chose my knighthood over my white cloak."

    Tommen nodded. "Very well," he said gravely.

    "Your Grace," Jaime interrupted as expected. "May I ask... Why now? You never... Everybody just assumed... Nobody ever cared to ask that question till today."

    "Because we found some," Tommen said. "During some of the works I commissioned to repair the damage done to the city during the siege. After Lord Mathis told me that, it wasn't hard for me to make the connection to the Mad King's obsession with wildfire. I merely wished to confirm my suspicions, or failing that, be made aware what group of people would think to place jars of wildfire beneath my city."

    "Of course, Your Grace," Jaime said, nodding in understanding along with all the watching lords and ladies.

    "Now," Tommen said, "I will ask, Ser Jaime, if you have any knowledge of where the Mad King had his Hand put the pots."

    Jaime gulped. "The Dragon Pit, the Great Sept of Baelor," he said to many shocked gasps from the lords. "The Red Keep..."

    Tommen blinked as if he was genuinely blind-sided. "Truly..." he trailed off, the court hanging off his every word. "Truly the madness of the Targaryens knew no bounds."

    "The Mad King was obsessed with wildfire," Jaime said again. "He would have bathed in it if he'd had the balls."

    "That's enough for now," Tommen said, and turned to his Master of Works. "I think, Lord Mathis, that we have a great deal of work ahead of us making this city of ours safe again once Ser Jaime has written us a list."

    Lord Rowan nodded gravely, brow furrowed with worry. All around, all the lords seemed to share his look of consternation. Still, the ploy had worked - their opinion of him had increased immeasurably. Even Lord Tywin, stood stern beside the throne, seemed a little shaken if you knew where to look. But now that he had told the truth about what the world thought was his darkest deed, the time had come for him to finally pay the price for his crimes.

    "Ser Jaime Lannister," the king called out, "none can deny that in killing the Mad King you did a great service to the realm. A service for which a reward is long overdue. And yet, you also killed your king. You could have knocked him out, had him bound, done a dozen other things, but you slew him instead. This is a crime, no other word for it, a crime for which you have not yet been punished.

    "And so I have decided on your fate," he continued. "You will venture forth from Kings Landing on the morrow to the Riverlands with a small company of your choosing, and commit yourself to restoring order to that portion of my realm. Once this task is complete, and only then, will you be allowed to choose your own fate. You can continue on the Kingsguard, your honour restored, or you can choose to depart from my service."

    Jaime bowed his head, respecting the king's decision. Stood beside the throne, his father's eyes seemed to glimmer with... something. Hope, perhaps, that his heir was finally coming back home?

    Jaime continued ignoring him as he wound his way back to his own chambers for the night. He readied all his things, sent his list to Lord Rowan, and sipped his wine balefully in silence, watching the sun crawl below the horizon. Tyrion came and offered his congratulations, and the pair shared japes and tales as the sun went down, and then he up and left the moment night fell, and Jaime was alone again. He had wanted to say something, but by the king's orders he was forced to let the remaining secrets he had sour his soul. Tyrion would never the know the truth about his beloved Tysha.

    The shadow of the city and the glimmer of the sea filled his gaze as Jaime leaned back and sighed.

    He was only ripped from his reverie in the small hours by another visitor. He turned his head and gazed out at the doorway, and found Cersei stood awaiting him in the door, clad in a slimmer, thinner gown, shimmering red and gold in the candlelight. She walked to him and offered no words, reaching down and pulling his lips to hers. Jaime's passion stiffened in his breeches, and he had his wish after all.

    One last night...

    He had her on his table, tearing her gown away and revealing her glory underneath. She wore nothing to slow him; no stockings, no smallclothes. His hands wandered all over; her lips, the nape of her neck, her shoulders, her breasts, the curve of her waist, the dimples at the base of her back, her plump arse and the tight little hole hiding in the middle between her buttocks. She spread her legs wide for him, welcoming him into her wetness with a soft moan. After so long without her, Jaime spared her no mercy; he lost himself in her flesh.

    "Oh, Jaime!" she moaned as they mated. "Yes, yes, yes. Do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime." Her hand looped around the back his head, pulling him closer, and he silenced her with a kiss, attacking her lips with an unspoken ardour. "Yes," she said breathlessly once he broke away. "My brother, my sweet brother, just like that. Don't leave me, don't leave me."

    Jaime slowed slightly even as she nibbled his ear and stroked his hair and kissed a line down his neck. His passion dulled a little between his legs. She's seducing me, he realised as he neared his finish, changing his mind at the last minute as he withdrew from within her and sprayed her belly and breasts with his seed instead. That certainly explains her sudden change in mood, Jaime thought.

    "I don't have a choice," he said after he was done.

    "I am the queen," she said. "You are mine to command. And I command you to stay."

    "You must know the king gave his commands before the entire court," Jaime argued. "I can hardly ignore him."

    "Then talk to Tommen," she said. "He knows about us; he can surely be made to understand. You are my brother, the only one I can trust."

    "Have you spoken to him?" Jaime asked.

    Cersei stiffened and scowled. "He's proven nearly as robust in his defiance of me as Joffrey was."

    And a great deal cleverer too, Jaime thought. Joffrey truly had been a cunt. "Then what do you expect me to do?" Jaime asked. "You're the boy's mother, not me. I'm only his uncle. You of all people should know that Tommen's mind is made up. And father is firmly in favour of his decision, so it's hardly as though I can appeal to him."

    Cersei scowled again, quiet infuriation furrowing her brow. "That boy..."

    "Your son," Jaime reminded her. "And your king as well."

    Cersei suddenly stood up from her seat on the tabletop, gathering up her torn gown and dressing herself hurriedly. "I must be off," she said stiffly.

    "Stay a little while longer," Jaime pleaded, pulling her closer and pressing a kiss to her chest.

    Cersei shook her head, gently pushing him away. "No," she said. "No, the risk is too great."

    Jaime watched her leave longingly, and then tossed and turned the rest of the night. He awoke bleary-eyed to the harsh rays of the sun shining through the hangings in the early light of the morning. Armour clattered as he dressed himself and gathered his things. Ser Illyn greeted him silents as he ventured from his room and headed to the place where he would depart. The tongueless man would be a valuable tool, now that Bronn was gone. A whetstone against which he could sharpen his skills; a secret-keeper for his shame.

    Forty knights and many guards awaited him outside the Red Keep's stables. Half were westermen sworn to House Lannister, Ser Addam Marbrand at the helm. Ser Dormet stood waiting, ready to carry the king's standard. Jaime observed his group with a keen eye even as he clambered atop his charger. Together, they left the Red Keep and set off into the heart of the city.

    Looking around, Jaime could see the king's orders at work. Men gingerly lifted aged pots of wildfire out from the ground - new holes already dug under the buildings - and carried them slowly to carts filled with beach sand. From there they would be taken... somewhere. Presumably to the Guildhall of the Alchemists to be destroyed, but with Tommen there was no telling. What do his dreams tell him to do? Jaime wondered.

    Lining the edges of the streets he rode crowds of well-wishers were arrayed to wish him farewell. Tommen's trick may have worked perhaps a little too well, Jaime thought as he ignored them and rode on down the thoroughfare to the gates.

    "My lord," one man asked from beside him, "will you wave your golden hand and give the smallfolk a tale to tell their children?"

    "I don't have a hand," Jaime bit out. "I have a hook."

    There were others as well, arrayed beyond the gates. The royal crowd of well-wishers stood at the edge of the wood, the king standing strong at the helm, his remaining Kingsguards looming over him. There was Lord Tywin, Tyrion, much of the Small Council, and finally Lady Brienne.

    Jaime sighed and cursed under his breath and slowed his horse with his reigns. He had hoped for a clean break from this place, but it appeared that his torment was not yet done. He stopped his steed and clambered back down to the ground, and had to endure a whole lot of eager hand-shaking and well-wishing from the lords, before finally he got to Lady Brienne.

    "This is my squire," she said, nudging a girl that rose just above her waist, dark of hair and grey of eye. Arya. "Lyra."

    Jaime offered her a stiff, uncertain nod even as she glanced up at him with murder in her gaze, and then he turned back to face Lady Brienne. "She suits you," he said awkwardly.

    Lady Brienne nodded. "As does all this gallantry and gold suit you, my lord."

    Jaime stared at her, the usual squirrel's nest of hair brushed neatly back, her armour polished to a shine. He felt the sudden urge to lean in and kiss her. "It suits you finely enough as well, wench," he said instead with the ghost of a smile.

    Brienne snorted and let out a breath of laughter in better humour than Jaime would have expected from her. Something about her had changed, Jaime thought, but it seemed for the better. She was smarter, less stubborn. Impulsively, Jaime pulled her in and pressed a peck to her forehead before he moved on, watching amusedly out of the corner of his eyes as she blushed a bright red. The king dismissed her, and after offering Jaime one last parting look she left with her squire in tow.

    Now, only Tyrion and Tywin and Tommen awaited him, and two members of the Kingsguard he was supposed to command.

    "Brother!" Tyrion began. "Off to play the peacemaker, are you?"

    Jaime lifted his hook. "Thought I'd try my hand at it," he japed.

    Tyrion's mismatched eyes gleamed with mischief. "Oh," he said, "I'm sure the Riverlords will be thrilled to have you riding to their rescue."

    Jaime shrugged, a smile tugging on his lips. "I've faced worse in my time," he said. "I'll be back before you know it."

    "Well," Tyrion replied with a wry smile, "just try not to lose any more limbs on the way."

    Jaime snorted. "I'll try my best, little brother."

    Next was Lord Tywin. "Jaime," he said severely, eyes hard. "I'm glad to see you have some sense."

    "Lannisters are no fools," Jaime reminded him sourly. "I haven't forgotten who I am."

    "Yes," Tywin said simply, gaze gleaming with a quiet satisfaction after having finally gotten his way.

    And finally, Tommen stood patiently awaiting him. "Your Grace," Jaime greeted him.

    "Just Tommen for today, I think," he said, looking around. "Come with me, Uncle. I have some things I wish to tell you away from prying eyes and ears."

    Jaime followed his king deeper into the wood, around a thicket of trees so that all the rest of the men fell out of sight. It looked like one of the Kingsguard might have wanted to protest, but a stern glare from the king struck Ser Loras dumb again.

    When they were finally free of any onlookers, Tommen launched at him with a tight hug. "I'm going to miss you, Uncle," he said into his breastplate.

    Jaime awkwardly patted his son's back with a gauntleted hand. "I'll miss you too." Tommen pulled away, eyes sharp again, and reached down into his belt and withdrew some crumpled letters from under his coat. "What are these?" Jaime asked as he took them.

    "Insurance," Tommen said. "The Riverlands is a dangerous place, Uncle. Those there contain various orders that should enable you to do as I bid without too much obstruction from the Riverlanders or their Riverlords. Don't open them now, you can do that later. And finally, I have reason to believe that Lady Catelyn is not as deceased as she seems, but lives on as a vengeful wraith of her former self."

    Jaime quirked a disbelieving eyebrow. "Is this a bad jape?" he asked, but Tommen's face did not turn. Jaime paled. Tommen's dreams haven't been wrong yet, he reflected with horror.

    "No, Uncle, it is not," Tommen replied grimly. "That last letter was written by Arya Stark. That one with my seal on the top. In the event you wind up in the Lady Catelyn's undead custody, I want you to show her that. It might just stay her hand from lopping off your head. With it I have also packaged something else. Orders to slay all the Freys involved with the Red Wedding. That should help your case a little more as well."

    Jaime nodded hesitantly.

    Tommen smiled. "Do not fret, Uncle. And remember: Though regular steel may not slay such a wraith, Valyrian steel will still do the trick. May I see your sword?"

    Jaime withdrew the unnamed blade, Valyrian steel shaded a morbid blend of smoky grey and scab-coloured crimson. Tommen took the blade into his own hands and inspected it with the dappled light shining through the leaves.

    "Did you give it a name?" he asked.

    "Not yet," Jaime said, shaking his head.

    Tommen nodded his head, eyes transfixed to the metal. "Well, then you'll allow me to name it instead?"

    Jaime shrugged again as Tommen looked over the sword. "As you please."

    "Men say you broke your oaths when you slew the Mad King," Tommen began grandly. "I disagree. I say you broke your oaths when, like last night, you bedded your own sister, your own queen. This steel had an honourable owner, once."

    Of course the king had known. Of course. His dreams must have told him. Jaime looked down in shame. He had no excuses to offer.

    "It deserves an honourable owner once again," Tommen continued. "You'll break your oaths no longer, Uncle, and I think your sword should reflect this fact."

    Jaime looked at the blade the king held in his hands.

    "Oathkeeper will be the name," Tommen declared as he offered him the hilt. "For the blade and it's bearer both."

    Jaime nodded sharply as he accepted the newly-dubbed sword.

    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  29. Threadmarks: Chapter 25: Oberyn III

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 25: Oberyn III

    For Oberyn, the port of Sunspear was a sight for sore eyes.

    The journey south had been meandering, and thrice now unfavourable winds had slowed their way. With every passing day Ellaria grew more impatient to see her daughters, and Oberyn to see his brother. And yet, there was naught he could do to allay their boredom. Oberyn stayed mostly in his cabin, welcoming the occasional sailor to their bed, several nights spent in the nude, grunts and squeals and groans the only sound as even Ellaria's seemingly endless lusts were exhausted.

    And yet, regardless of what he tried, thoughts of murder still ran through his mind with every league. A spy...

    No matter. Today was not the day for such suspicions, and Oberyn felt a grin grow in the middle of his face as they drew nearer and nearer to the dock. Obara, Elia and little Obella stood arrayed at the end of the quay, awaiting their victorious father on the prow of the Elia as it sailed ashore. Dorea and Loreza, presumably, would greet him either in the Old Palace or in the Water Gardens.

    Obara, of course, had on her full plate, bronze glittering in the sunlight, leather straps for various swords and daggers crisscrossing her skin, her whip hanging off her hip in a loose loop. She had made an effort to look her best for him, he could tell; her rat-brown nest of hair was uncharacteristically well-combed, her clothing almost womanly. A savage grin graced her face, however, much like Oberyn's own.

    Elia, on the other hand, seemed better put-together. Her long black braid trailed down her bare shoulder, her dress orange, held aloft by a ring of gold around her neck. Still, she was smiling, and Oberyn could see in the distance the outline of a dagger on her thigh when the wind blew her dress hither and thither. Beside her was the littler Obella, her dress of a similar cut, a more mischievous smile on her face. Her black hair shimmered in the sunlight and fell around her slim shoulders in straight lines, unbound and untamed, but still well-cared for.

    When finally the ship was still, bobbing gently in the water as one of the sailors threw a rope out to tie it to the quay, the gangplank was lowered and Oberyn could go to see his daughters, Ellaria at his side. She swept little Obella up in a warm hug, even as Oberyn embraced the other two, and once all words were spoken they finally set off together into the streets of the Shadow City, guards flanking them as they reached the end of the quay.

    All around, the city was silent in anticipation. The Spear and Sun Towers loomed in the distance. Crowds of well-wishers lined the streets, backs against mud-brick walls the colour of dun, and broke out in raucous cheering at his arrival. Whores leaned out from brothel windows, clad in naught but jewels and oil, teats sweating and swaying and glistening in the golden sun as they watched him pass. Today they'd service any man and refuse any coin in honour of the Mountain's demise at his hand. Oberyn smiled and waved as he walked past the rows of loyal Dornishmen on his way to the walls of the Sunspear.

    "Our prince is here!" they cried. "Victory for the Viper!"

    Compared to Tyrosh or Myr or even Kings Landing, the Shadow City was merely a town; and yet it was the nearest thing to a true city that Dorne had. The air smelled of dust, sweat and smoke, and the babble of voices could be heard at all hours. In the centre was the seat of House Martell; the Sandship and the Spear and Sun Towers, flanked on three sides by the sea, and on the fourth side mud-bricked hovels and shops and pillow-houses had sprung up, some with walls of their own. More hovels had arisen behind those walls, and so on and so on.

    And so when they finally reached the gates, the cheering of the crowds still loud behind them, they were quickly welcomed inside. They went through the Threefold Gate, heading along the straight brick path, bypassing the winding web of alleys and narrow passages the walls made, and went into the Old Palace. Only once they had passed the thick walls of the castle did the shouts slip away, and when they reached the outer ward they found Ser Manfrey waiting to greet him. Beside him half the court was arrayed: the blind old seneschal Ricasso, young Maester Miles, and a dozen knights.

    "Prince Oberyn," Ser Manfrey greeted him. "Sunspear rejoices at your return."

    "I heard," Oberyn said, grinning.

    "I have commanded the cooks to prepare a feast for this evening," he continued, "with all your favourites."

    "I can hardly wait."

    When they finally got away Oberyn was firstly led to his chambers, where he bathed, a task he involved Ellaria in, and by the time they were done a servant called them down to dinner.

    At the table, Oberyn's family were all arrayed, along with the feast. Every type of food, lavishly prepared, served on golden platters and plates. Ser Manfrey sat at the foot of the table, gesturing for Oberyn to take the head. Ellaria sat herself beside that seat, Obella beside her, Obara and Elia sat opposite.

    "A wonderful feast!" Oberyn declared, grinning. "But lacking in decoration, I think." He reached down into a sack he'd brought with him from his chambers, and withdrew from within a large skull, meat boiled off the bones, and set it down in the centre of the table. "Compliments of the king," he said as he finally sat.

    "The trail," Elia said, eyes gleaming. "Tell us about the trial."

    Oberyn chuckled and nodded and complied. He told the tale of his duel with the Mountain that Rides in detail, and all his family listened with rapt attention. He told them of the king's gift, which he then withdrew from it's sheath at his hip and presented to the table, still red with the Mountain's blood, and then of what a close shave that victory truly was. He described each blow and cut. His three daughters all listened intently, faces showing at times excitement and at others fear. Little Obella in particular seemed most excitable, and made a show spearing her meat as she imagined her father had speared the Mountain.

    "The king?" Obara leaned over and quietly asked once he was done. "Not the Usurper?"

    Oberyn nodded as he dug into a cut of beef. "You heard how he helped me," he said. "My quarrel is no longer with the crown."

    "And the Old Lion?"

    "The Old Lion's end will come," Oberyn answered between bites. "We just have to be patient."

    Obara frowned, confused. "Patience, father? Has defeating the Mountain sated your desire for revenge?"

    No, Oberyn thought, the king's agents did that. A serving girl rounded the table, clad in a dress of jewels and precious little else, and poured him a glass of Dornish red, batting her lashes and bending over perhaps a little more than necessary to grant Oberyn a better view of her bosom. Are you one of his? Oberyn wondered as he took a sip and sent her on with a slim smile, her hips swaying enticingly as she sauntered away.

    "I was able to slay the Mountain because of circumstance," Oberyn said. "Killing Lord Tywin is an entirely different sort of task, at least if we wish to get away with it. The king is cleverer then he looks, and more dangerous as well. An ill-thought plan could well get us all killed."

    "Or start a war," Obara added.

    "Or start a war," Oberyn agreed. "I need to see Doran."

    "He's still in the Water Gardens," Obara said. "He ordered Princess Myrcella and Trystane back to the Water Gardens after Arianne left, though he himself has not left in what feels like an age. I can't imagine he'll leave anytime soon, and I'd ask you stay a while longer. Still, if the matter is urgent then we can leave on the morrow."

    "It very much is," Oberyn said, nodding. The feast went on for a few hours more, and Oberyn only went to his bed once it was late, Ellaria and the serving girl moaning and screaming his name into the early hours as they took turns on his cock. Despite this, he awoke at sunrise and readied his things for the next leg of the journey, Ellaria opting to remain a little while longer in Sunspear with her two eldest daughters.

    When they set off, it was Obara and Oberyn with a dozen Dornish guardsmen that Oberyn felt he could no longer truly trust. He watched their backs with a keen eye as his sand steed carried him forwards. He was safe, most likely - the king would not order him killed, but he misliked it nonetheless. Most likely these are loyal men, Oberyn thought as he rode on in silence. Most likely...

    The road to the Water Gardens ran beside the sea, so he had a nice breeze to soothe his suspicions as he rode. Only after an hour of silence did Obara draw her steed beside his and venture to say: "Father, I would know what troubles you so."

    Oberyn shot more suspicious glances at the guards around them. "Not here," he hissed. "When we are more alone."

    Obara frowned as she followed his gaze to the guards. "This matter is so private even our most loyal men cannot hear it?"

    "Of course not," he said. "But who's to say who's loyal and who's not?"

    Obara's expression changed in realisation at his words, her grip on her horse's reins tightening as she glanced about. "You talk of a turncoat?" she asked in a low voice.

    "I told you the king was clever."

    Obara stiffened. "And dangerous as well, so you said," she said, nodding.

    And onwards they rode in silence, suspicions filling the air, blown across by a gentle sea breeze. Only three leagues of coast road separated the Water Gardens and Sunspear, and yet they were akin to different worlds. The citrus scents of lemons and blood oranges wafted over to them, a sharp contrast to the dust and sweat they'd left behind. The Water Gardens themselves were a shock of pale pink marble and luscious green and a gentle blue in the pools.

    In those same pools Oberyn could hear the children laughing and playing and splashing as he dismounted his horse and set off at a fast march through the halls of the Water Gardens, guards all around him bowing their heads as he passed. Obara was close behind, the drumbeat of her boots on the marble floor never too far away. Oberyn clambered up the steps to Doran's terrace, and was confronted at the end of the hall by Hotah.

    "Captain," Oberyn acknowledged, even as suspicion again sparked in his mind. What better man than him? he thought. With Hotah the king would have a look into even my brother's most private moments.

    Areo gestured onto the terrace. "The prince awaits you."

    With a nod Oberyn ventured onto the terrace, Obara grumbling behind him as Hotah barred her entry. "The prince is watching the children at their play. He is never to be disturbed when he is watching them at their play."

    And play the children did. Below, Oberyn could see them all, the youngest no less than five, the oldest no more than ten. Half were boys and half were girls. He could hear them splashing and shouting at each other, their voices shrill and sharp and playful. They waged mock-war in those pools, wading in waist deep water and trying to force each other below the surface, throwing up huge splashes of water that flew over the sides of the pool. Out in the distance Oberyn could see some of the older boys swimming in the sea, a row of girls sat on the beach, watching the boys whilst they built tall sandcastles.

    The citrus scent came in strong up here, and fat, ripened blood oranges occasionally fell from the branches of their trees and burst on the pale marble floors, splattering their sweet juices all over. Beneath the shade of one tree, conveniently plucked clean of all falling fruit, was Trystane with his new wife, like ivory and ebony. They sat opposite each other at a stone table, a cyvasse board between them.

    No, Oberyn thought as he watched her share a smile with her husband, she surely cannot be the spy.

    Doran watched all this with his shrewd, sunken eyes. He was sat in his rolling chair with his gouty legs propped up, a fine myrish blanket thrown over his lap to hide his swollen joints and limbs, wrapped in bandages soaked in soothing lotions. Maester Caleotte knelt beside his prince, tending to one last matter, his head as smooth and round as an egg. He was so fat it was hard to tell his age, though Oberyn knew he had once served his own mother. And yet, in spite his age, at Doran's command he was quite nimble, and fled the terrace meekly.

    "I suppose congratulations are in order," Doran began as Oberyn found a seat for himself, eyes still affixed to the children below. "Your victory over the Mountain was very well-received in Sunspear, or so I am told."

    "Oh, brother," Oberyn boasted, "it was glorious! You should have seen it. All the lords of the realm arrayed, the king watching closely, the Mountain's massive sword sweeping overhead. The spectacle of the century! And all the better that Lord Tywin lost his favourite tool and had no choice but to sit and watch. I took the Mountain's skull as well, brother, but I decided to leave that in Sunspear."

    Doran turned laboriously in his chair to look at him, and Oberyn noted how much older he seemed than his age. His hair was greying fast, his body soft and shapeless beneath his robes, his legs noticeably swollen, his knees lumps under his blanket. His eyes were tired, and yet also alight, hard with a quiet fury.

    "I note Arianne is not with you," he finally said.

    "I left her in Kings Landing," Oberyn answered. "To sit the small council in my stead."

    "You left my heir with the Lannisters," Doran said quietly, and Oberyn resisted the urge to wince and rear back at his brother's softly-spoken words.

    "She needs to learn," Oberyn explained. "Viserys is dead, and if she is to be the heir to Sunspear then she will need to learn more about the rest of the realms. And with Arianne's lust for excitement, I thought Kings Landing might suit her well."

    "You left my heir with the Lannisters," Doran repeated.

    "They won't hurt her," Oberyn insisted. "Not now we have Myrcella."

    A silence fell over the two of them as they watched Myrcella play against Trystane. Her golden hair cascaded down her pale shoulders, over her crimson gown. Her full lips were slightly parted, emerald eyes narrowed in concentration as she gazed at the jade pieces on the board. They looked like night and day, the two of them together. Trystane with his olive skin and straight black hair, Myrcella with her milky complexion and mop of curls. One was five-and-ten, the other four-and-ten, and both were at just the age where when they caught each other's eyes they'd break out into blushes and look away shyly.

    "She bled for the first time a little while after you left," Doran said. "It'll only be a matter of time before the two are abed. We can't hurt her, not now that she has become one of us. And so an empty threat protects my Arianne in that pit of snakes people call a city."

    "The king does not seem to think so," Oberyn said, glancing around to ensure they were alone. "He took care to tell me as such before I left. Made some veiled, and some not so veiled, threats to try and keep us in line, to ward us away from his sister and his grandfather. Even went as far as to tell me something he couldn't possibly know."

    "What was that?" Doran asked, curious.

    "Viserys," Oberyn said. "Arianne and Viserys. He knew. Mentioned it in casual conversation, as though he were not discussing a grave treason. And then the king had the gall to offer his forgiveness and tell me it was all forgotten, so long as such plots were not continued and his precious princess was kept safe."

    Doran sighed and licked his lips. "We have a turncoat," he concluded.

    Oberyn nodded in agreement. "My thoughts as well," he said. "It must be someone significant, and someone close to us, else the king would not know such things."

    "Did the king give any indication anyone else knew?" Doran asked. "Does he have some new Master of Whispers? Does Lord Tywin know as well?"

    Oberyn shook his head. "Not so far as I could tell."

    Doran watched Myrcella more closely at her seat below the orange tree in silence. "She sends letters to her brother often," he noted offhandedly. "I presumed it was how he knew of Arianne's plot to have her crowned, and yet..." Doran sighed. "I wonder if she knows who among us belongs to her brother?"

    "Perhaps," Oberyn remarked. "Regardless, only a handful of people knew our true intent. It should not be too hard to sift through them and find the culprit."

    Doran rubbed his chin contemplatively, the fire fading slightly in his sunken eyes. "If he knows that, then... What else does he know? What of Quentyn?"

    "I can only presume," Oberyn said. "Yet if he knew about Viserys, then it does seem likely."

    "And so another of my children is at the boy king's mercy," Doran said. "Quentyn is already across the narrow sea, with Ser Gerris Drinkwater and Ser William Wells and Sers Cletus and Archibald Yronwood. He is already too far gone. I cannot call him back now, nor send someone after him who could reach him in time."

    "Perhaps Essos is outside the king's reach?" Oberyn ventured.

    "Perhaps," Doran agreed. "Yet regardless you are right: the king is indeed cleverer than he seems. He means to secure himself by simply telling us just enough to fill us with uncertainty and doubt, to disrupt our work. The mere idea of his men in Dorne is enough to stay my hand, enough to discourage me away from thoughts of open treason. It matters little whether Daenerys Targaryen has dragons if the king can just order all our throats cut at a moment's notice, never mind that he holds my daughter hostage. With one conversation he has destroyed years of planning."

    "So what now?" Oberyn asked. "The Mountain is dead, but Lord Tywin is not. And justice for Elia cannot be had so long so the Old Lion lives."

    Oberyn's question was met with silence. Doran stared out onto the pools of the Water Gardens, but Oberyn noted his eyes were mostly affixed to his last remaining son. He and his new wife were sneaking a kiss, thinking themselves alone with all eyes watching the water-battle.

    "You went above and beyond what I asked of you," Doran finally said, his eyes gleaming. "I'd call it foolish, except you were fortunate enough to succeed. Can you imagine the uproar if you'd been killed? But now... the Boy King on the Iron Throne has again changed the game, and we are forced to adapt. But one thing is for certain: Now that the stakes have risen again, there can be no more room made for risk."

    "Don't worry," Oberyn said. "I told Nymeria and Tyene to be careful. They'll do little more than ingratiate themselves and acquire influence and information, and perhaps even undermine his new regime just a tad. To test the true extent of Tommen's strength. They know to await our orders before they act."

    "Let us pray they listen, then," Doran said wanly. "Lest the Boy King sees exactly what kind of an ally he has in Sunspear."
    Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.
    Hope you guys enjoy!

    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
  30. Threadmarks: Chapter 26: Davos

    Morph-Writing Making the rounds.

    Sep 18, 2023
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 26: Davos

    Even in the gloom of the Wolf's Den, Davos could tell something had gone awry.

    He had come to White Harbour an envoy of his king, but they held him captive. His cell was large and luxuriously furnished - twice the size of his cabin on his ship, with a hearth and even a proper privy in the corner - and yet guards patrolled outside his doors day and night, ever vigilant against escape attempts. He pressed his ear against the wood of the door every morning, only to hear shuffling of feet and the odd whispered word, and then silence till a tray of porridge was pushed through the slot in the door.

    But not that morning. There were no feet, no words warped by wood, just silence. The usual hour for his morning meal came and went without notice, and Davos's nerves had begun to fray. All the days in the Wolf's Den were much the same, and any changes were usually for the worse.

    Davos still remembered Wyman's parting words to him. I have heard enough treason for one day. You would have me risk my city for a false king and a false god. You would have me sacrifice my only living son to Stannis Baratheon's fool stubbornness. No. I will not do it. Not for you. Not for your lord. Not for your god.

    I answer to the Seven as well as Stannis
    , Davos had replied.

    Wyman had seemed disinterested, Davos recalled. Do you? Very well, then. You came into my city a smuggler, a spy, a peddler of lies and treasons. I should tear out your tongue with hot pincers and deliver you to the Dreadfort. But if the Mother can be merciful, then so can I. The King - the true king - will decide your fate.

    And since that day, Davos's whole world had been his cell in the Wolf's Den. Every night Davos went to sleep with those words in his head, dreading the day the raven would come and his fate would be decided. It would not be a good end, Davos was willing to bet. Cersei and Lord Tywin were a great many things, but merciful was not the word that came to mind when he thought of them. And Tommen - supposedly sweet, little Tommen - might be willing to offer him clemency, but at what cost? He'd have to forswear his king, no doubt, betray the man who gave him everything.

    Davos hardened his resolve. No, he decided. No matter what, I will stay true to Stannis. I will not plead for mercy, either. I will die a knight.

    It was a moot point, anyhow. Such a young king would not possess that kind of power.

    But then, after so much waiting on that morning that his gut was beginning to growl, Davos finally heard the shuffling of feet. He rose and paced his cell as he awaited... something. Much to his surprise, however, the door did not swing open, and a gang of guards did not storm his cell. Instead, the slot in his door slid open again, another tray pushed through, this time laden with freshly caught fish and bread still warm from the oven, spiced mutton, boiled crab and a medley of vegetables ranging from turnips to carrots instead of the usual dungeon fare of gruel and stale bread and rotting meat.

    This treatment persisted for a while following that first morning. When he asked for furs to keep him warm, he got them. When he asked for a book to keep him entertained whilst he sat on his own, he got a copy of the Seven-Pointed Star. He got wood for his hearth, clean clothing, a candle, a bottle of ink, a roll of parchment and even a quill that he used to scratch out some small letters, a stack building in the corner over the course of his confinement.

    I was a better smuggler than a knight, he wrote to his wife, a better knight than a lord, a better lord than a hand, and a better hand than a husband. I'm sorry, Marya. I should have been there, should have loved you whilst I still had the chance. Please forgive my wrongs. Should Stannis lose this war, our lands will be lost. Take our children and flee to Braavos. If Stannis should win, then I expect our sons will have a place at court, and a fosterage for the lot of them under lords high and low till they can all earn their knighthoods.

    Davos shuffled through the rest of the letters awkwardly. The ones to his youngest sons were stiff and awkward, for in truth he knew them not nearly as well as the older ones, the ones who'd drowned and burned at the Blackwater. Davos screwed his eyes shut and shook his head with guilt. A man should have more to say to his sons that just that. He dipped his quill again in the ink and after a moment's hesitation wrote: I did not do so ill. I rose from Flea Bottom to become a King's Hand, and I learned to read and write, but I lost my luck when I lost my fingerbones. But the one thing I never lost was my love for you all.

    Davos stared at the lacklustre letters again, still dissatisfied. He felt no more words coming to mind, however, and so pushed the stack into the corner and stared at them mournfully from across his cell as he did most days, awaiting his morning meal.

    It was another silent dawn, stretching on so long his gut again began to growl. What now? Davos wondered. Last time he had seen luxury, but as his stomach twisted tighter and tighter in anticipation with every passing second he suspected the same could not be said of today. He was still staring at the letters when suddenly, the rattling of metal on metal and then the clanking and clicking of a key turning in a lock could be heard. Davos seized up in surprise, then swept up his letters in his arms and held them close to his heart as the door slowly swung open.

    The man who stepped through the door was not one of gaolers. A fine longsword hung from his hip, a crimson cloak on his shoulders, his build tall and lanky, his thin seamed face haggard and tired. "Lord Seaworth," he said. "We haven't much time. Please, come with me."

    Davos frowned as he stood, still clutching the letters. The 'please' confused him. Men due to be punished were rarely afforded such courtesies. Then again, prisoners such as himself were rarely afforded the courtesy of such a large cell or such luxurious meals. "Who are you?" he asked.

    "Glover," he said. "Robett Glover."

    The Glover's seat was Deepwood Motte, if he remembered correctly, currently under Ironborn control, and Robett had fought at Duskendale against the Lannisters. Davos braced himself as he rose to his feet and took a chance. "If I should die today, I beseech you to see that my letters are delivered," he asked on faith alone.

    Robett nodded, accepted the letters and said: "You have my word, but if you die, it will not be at Glover hands, nor Lord Wyman's."

    And with that, the pair set off into the hall, winding their way through a darkened flight of steps and out of the Wolfs Den straight into the godswood, which they crept through slowly and quietly. Red leaves littered the snowy ground. A tangle of white roots and a web of branches passed underfoot and overhead. They went past a rusted old gate at the other end, stopping only to light a torch, and then down into a cellar with seawater sloshing around their feet. They passed through several cellars, in fact, and rows of small cells much darker than the one Davos had.

    Then there was a blank stone wall that turned when Robett pushed it, beyond which was a narrow passage and yet more steps.

    "Where are we?" Davos asked.

    "A secret way up to the New Castle," Robett answered. "It would not do for you to be seen, my lord."

    After yet more walking and climbing, so much that Davos's feet began to ache and his legs burn, they finally emerged into a snug solar, richly furnished and cosy. And in the centre of the room was sat Wyman Manderly, the enormous lord of White Harbour.

    "Please, sit," Lord Wyman said, gesturing with an arm that jiggled as he moved it. "Are you hungry?"

    Pangs ate at Davos's stomach, yet he shook his head. "No, my lord."

    "There is wine, if you thirst," he said.

    "My king commanded me to treat with you, not to drink," Davos said defiantly.

    Wyman sighed and leaned back in his seat. "Well enough," he said. "I have treated you terribly, I know. I don't expect you to like me. I had my reasons... but, well, I don't expect you should care about that."

    Davos shook his head. "If it will help you find your loyalties, I will listen."

    Wyman let a breath of laugher out through his nose, his belly quivering as he shook his head. "The Lannisters have my son," he said. "Wylis, my eldest, my only, and my heir. That rancor I showed you earlier at court was a ruse to please our Frey friends. I, like a great many other northern lords, have no love for this new regime. And yet, I will not see my son slain by stubbornness." Wyman smiled again and sipped his wine. Davos watched in silence. "When treating with liars, even an honest man must lie. I dare not defy Kings Landing so long as they have my son. Tywin Lannister wrote to me himself to say as much. To say that if I did not bend the knee, swear my city, repent my treason and declare my loyalty my son would die and my line would be reduced to another song such as the Reynes of Castamere."

    Davos nodded, still silent.

    "I am fat, and so many think me weak and foolish. Perhaps Lord Tywin is one of these men, perhaps not. I sent him a raven saying I would bend the knee and swear my loyalty only after my son is returned. Soon after the Freys came, carrying Wendel's bones... to make peace and seal it with a marriage pact, or so they claimed, though I would sooner trust a Lannister than a Frey. I was not going to give them what they wanted till I had Wylis, safe and sound, and they were not going to give me Wylis till I proved my loyalty. Your arrival was convenient, in this sense."

    "I see," Davos said.

    "I hope so," Wyman said. "You have sons of your own, or so I hear."

    "Three," Davos said. Though I fathered seven...

    "I had two," Wyman said. "But my son Wendel went to the Twins a guest. He ate Lord Walder's bread and salt, hung his sword up on the wall, and they slit his throat and murdered him. Murdered, I say, no matter what Frey fables you might hear." Lord Wyman's hand clenched into a fist. "I drink and jape with them, but never for a second have I forgotten. The north remembers, Lord Davos. The north remembers."

    Something about the way Lord Wyman spoke sent a shiver up Davos's spine. "King Stannis can give you justice."

    "Your loyalty does you credit, my lord," Wyman said, "but Stannis cannot be my king. They watch me day and night, they do, their noses twitching at so much as a whiff of treachery. They have bought some of my knights, and one of their wives handmaid's has found her way into my fool's bed. If Stannis wonders why my letters say so little, it is because I cannot trust my maester. He was born a Lannister of Lannisport, you see, and though maesters are supposed to give up their old loyalties when they don their chains, I cannot forget his blood. False friends and foes fill my court, Lord Davos. They riddle my city like roaches."

    "If the risk is so great," Davos asked, "then why am I here?"

    Wyman nodded, and produced from beneath his doublet a crumpled scrap of parchment. "Not so long ago, I received a letter from the Boy King on the Iron Throne. A very curious thing, I think you will find, this letter. One that leads me to believe that the situation within Kings Landing has changed considerably. But before we come to that subject, we must first speak on Winterfell. Do you know what transpired there?"

    "It was captured by Theon Greyjoy," Davos said, eyeing the letter. Was his fate in there? "He had Stark's two young sons put to death and their heads mounted on the walls before putting the entire castle to the sword when the northmen came to oust him. Eventually, I hear he was slain by Bolton's bastard."

    "Not slain," Wyman said, "captured and carried back to the Dreafort. The bastard has been flaying him. The tale you have heard is a lie. It was the Bolton bastard who put Winterfell to the sword... Ramsay Snow. He didn't kill them all, however. He spared the women and the girls, tied them together, and then marched them off to the Dreadfort for his sport."

    Davos felt his gut clench with sickening dread. "His sport?"

    "He hunts them," Wyman simply said. "He strips them naked and sets them loose in the woods. Then he goes after them with horns and hooves and hounds. From time to time some wenches escape and live to tell the tale. Most are less fortunate. When Ramsay reaches them he rapes them, and if they were not good enough sport he has his men rape them too, and sometimes his hounds and horses as well, and then when they are all done he flays the girls and feeds the mangled remains to his dogs. He brings the skins back as trophies."

    Davos paled, his stomach roiled, the lingering traces of rumbling hunger gone from his gut. "Gods be good... How...?"

    "If ever there was an evil man," Wyman said, shaking his head. "Ramsay took Lord Hornwood's lands by raping his widow, then locked her in a tower and let her starve. The Boltons have always seemed more beasts than men, more cruel than cunning, but this one is something special. The Freys are not much better. They speak of skinchangers and wargs and tell me it was Lord Robb who slew my Wendel. The sheer gall! Roose Bolton lies about his part in the Red Wedding, just as the Freys do, and his bastard lies about Winterfell. And so long as they have Wylis I have no choice but to accept it."

    "So what now, my lord?" Davos asked.

    Wyman brandished the letter again. "And so we come to the Boy King and the situation in the capital. When I received this letter it seemed innocent enough, just simple instructions to have you sent down to the capital, alive and unharmed for questioning. I wondered why he had used so much parchment, and chalked it down at first to his childish script. But there was a message hidden in the parchment. Invisible ink, revealed by the heat of a flame. In this hidden message he professes his own hatred for the Boltons and the Freys with much neater words. He speaks the truth about Winterfell, about the Bolton bastard's true nature and about the Red Wedding. I wondered for a while why Ramsay had not been legitimised despite Roose's requests, and now I know. He plans, like I do, the downfall of the Freys and the Boltons for their betrayal, and promises the release and safe return of Wylis as assurance of his intent the moment you arrive in Kings Landing."

    Davos frowned. "He means to slay the Freys and Boltons even as they swear fealty to him?"

    "It is not so strange," Wyman said. "Would you trust a lord who's loyalty is so lacking? And all he needs do is nothing. Those south of the Neck must know that most northern lords have no lost love for the Boltons. He must know that the perceived lack of Lannister support alone will be enough to ruin Roose and sow the seeds for rebellion. Yet there's more in the message as well, speaking of the survival of the younger sons of Eddard Stark."

    Davos stiffened. "You mean to say that the bastard king wants to seat the Starks back in Winterfell?"

    "I believe so," Wyman said. "And if my suspicions prove correct, then I am prepared. I have been building warships for more than a year, and many are hidden up the White Knife. Even with all my losses, I have more heavy horse than any other lord north of the Neck. My walls are strong, my vaults full of silver. Oldcastle and Widow's Watch and Ramsgate all take their commands from me, not from the Boltons. I can deliver all the lords east of the Knife to any king I please."

    Davos nodded in realisation. "Yet you have a price."

    Wyman nodded and clapped his hands, and Robett returned with a boy held tight by the shoulder. A Stark? Davos thought at first, but when he caught sight of him he knew it was not so. He was too tall, too big, almost fourteen or fifteen by the look of him.

    "Who are you?" Davos asked.

    "An Ironborn mute," Wyman answered in his place. "Wex. He was at Winterfell when Bolton's bastard came. Survived by climbing a Heart Tree and staying hidden among the branches till they left. He dared not descend, till one day he heard voices below him. There were six, so Wex says, and two were Ned Stark's murdered sons."

    "How can you know if the boy is mute?" Davos asked. "And as he is an Ironborn, how do you know he doesn't lie?"

    "I can know by chalk," he said. "He drew them when he arrived; two boys and two wolves. We can never know the full truth, of course, not till he learns how to write, but Wex is good with his drawings, and the likeness is too close to be coincidence or falsehood. Anyhow, the six did not linger long, and as they split up Wex went east after one group."

    "He knows where one of the Stark boys is," Davis concluded.

    "And evidently, so does the Boy King," said Lord Wyman as he waved Wex and Robett away. "He makes many promises in his letter, but I know better than to trust a Lannister spawn on his word alone. I want to know what he knows, and how. I want to know what he wants, and why. And you, Lord Seaworth, are perfectly placed to find out for me."

    Davos gulped. They'll kill me, he wanted to say. "I serve Stannis, not you," he said instead.

    Wyman cocked his head, his many chins quivering. "Even honest men must lie when dealing with liars," he said again. "For now I must serve the Boy King on the Iron Throne. In the future... who knows where the winds of fate will blow and the will of the gods will go? And, if it helps, there was more in the letter as well, speaking of a greater threat to the far north, beyond the Wall. He even claims to be willing to make peace with King Stannis if it will help him face this supposed enemy."

    Davos clenched his teeth and then unclenched them. The prospect of peace piqued his interest, he could not deny. But it would be a delicate thing, difficult to accomplish and dependent on a hundred conditions. Davos was no wordsmith. Yet what other choice was there?

    "From the Wolf's Den to the Pit of Snakes," he sighed.

    "And then back again and onwards," Wyman assured him. "I'll give you a proper ship, and a crew. You will leave in chains, of course - I cannot be seen to be defying a command from the Boy King - but when you are safely at sea and after you have docked at the capital and sent me my whispers from court the ship will be yours, alongside her crew, to do with as you please."

    "And if I refuse?"

    Wyman smiled. "If you will not go into the Pit of Snakes by ship then you will go by the Stranger's Embrace."
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    P.S. May be subject to a rewrite or edits in the future
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2023