A storm of swords, p.24
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       A Storm of Swords, p.24

         Part #3 of A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
 

  “Dragons and krakens do not interest me, regardless of the number of their heads,” said Lord Tywin. “Have your whisperers perchance found some trace of my brother’s son?”

  “Alas, our beloved Tyrek has quite vanished, the poor brave lad.” Varys sounded close to tears.

  “Tywin,” Ser Kevan said, before Lord Tywin could vent his obvious displeasure, “some of the gold cloaks who deserted during the battle have drifted back to barracks, thinking to take up duty once again. Ser Addam wishes to know what to do with them.”

  “They might have endangered Joff with their cowardice,” Cersei said at once. “I want them put to death.”

  Varys sighed. “They have surely earned death, Your Grace, none can deny it. And yet, perhaps we might be wiser to send them to the Night’s Watch. We have had disturbing messages from the Wall of late. Of wildlings astir…”

  “Wildlings, krakens, and dragons.” Mace Tyrell chuckled. “Why, is there anyone not stirring?”

  Lord Tywin ignored that. “The deserters serve us best as a lesson. Break their knees with hammers. They will not run again. Nor will any man who sees them begging in the streets.” He glanced down the table to see if any of the other lords disagreed.

  Tyrion remembered his own visit to the Wall, and the crabs he’d shared with old Lord Mormont and his officers. He remembered the Old Bear’s fears as well. “Perhaps we might break the knees of a few to make our point. Those who killed Ser Jacelyn, say. The rest we can send to Marsh. The Watch is grievously under strength. If the Wall should fail…”

  “… the wildlings will flood the north,” his father finished, “and the Starks and Greyjoys will have another enemy to contend with. They no longer wish to be subject to the Iron Throne, it would seem, so by what right do they look to the Iron Throne for aid? King Robb and King Balon both claim the north. Let them defend it, if they can. And if not, this Mance Rayder might even prove a useful ally.” Lord Tywin looked to his brother. “Is there more?”

  Ser Kevan shook his head. “We are done. My lords, His Grace King Joffrey would no doubt wish to thank you all for your wisdom and good counsel.”

  “I should like private words with my children,” said Lord Tywin as the others rose to leave. “You as well, Kevan.”

  Obediently, the other councillors made their farewells, Varys the first to depart and Tyrell and Redwyne the last. When the chamber was empty but for the four Lannisters, Ser Kevan closed the door.

  “Master of coin?” said Tyrion in a thin strained voice. “Whose notion was that, pray?”

  “Lord Petyr’s,” his father said, “but it serves us well to have the treasury in the hands of a Lannister. You have asked for important work. Do you fear you might be incapable of the task?”

  “No,” said Tyrion, “I fear a trap. Littlefinger is subtle and ambitious. I do not trust him. Nor should you.”

  “He won Highgarden to our side…” Cersei began.

  “… and sold you Ned Stark, I know. He will sell us just as quick. A coin is as dangerous as a sword in the wrong hands.”

  His uncle Kevan looked at him oddly. “Not to us, surely. The gold of Casterly Rock…”

  “… is dug from the ground. Littlefinger’s gold is made from thin air, with a snap of his fingers.”

  “A more useful skill than any of yours, sweet brother,” purred Cersei, in a voice sweet with malice.

  “Littlefinger is a liar—”

  “—and black as well, said the raven of the crow.”

  Lord Tywin slammed his hand down on the table. “Enough! I will have no more of this unseemly squabbling. You are both Lannisters, and will comport yourselves as such.”

  Ser Kevan cleared his throat. “I would sooner have Petyr Baelish ruling the Eyrie than any of Lady Lysa’s other suitors. Yohn Royce, Lyn Corbray, Horton Redfort… these are dangerous men, each in his own way. And proud. Littlefinger may be clever, but he has neither high birth nor skill at arms. The lords of the Vale will never accept such as their liege.” He looked to his brother. When Lord Tywin nodded, he continued. “And there is this — Lord Petyr continues to demonstrate his loyalty. Only yesterday he brought us word of a Tyrell plot to spirit Sansa Stark off to Highgarden for a ‘visit,’ and there marry her to Lord Mace’s eldest son, Willas.”

  “Littlefinger brought you word?” Tyrion leaned against the table. “Not our master of whisperers? How interesting.”

  Cersei looked at their uncle in disbelief. “Sansa is my hostage. She goes nowhere without my leave.”

  “Leave you must perforce grant, should Lord Tyrell ask,” their father pointed out. “To refuse him would be tantamount to declaring that we did not trust him. He would take offense.”

  “Let him. What do we care?”

  Bloody fool, thought Tyrion. “Sweet sister,” he explained patiently, “offend Tyrell and you offend Redwyne, Tarly, Rowan, and Hightower as well, and perhaps start them wondering whether Robb Stark might not be more accommodating of their desires.”

  “I will not have the rose and the direwolf in bed together,” declared Lord Tywin. “We must forestall him.”

  “How?” asked Cersei.

  “By marriage. Yours, to begin with.”

  It came so suddenly that Cersei could only stare for a moment. Then her cheeks reddened as if she had been slapped. “No. Not again. I will not.”

  “Your Grace,” said Ser Kevan, courteously, “you are a young woman, still fair and fertile. Surely you cannot wish to spend the rest of your days alone? And a new marriage would put to rest this talk of incest for good and all.”

  “So long as you remain unwed, you allow Stannis to spread his disgusting slander,” Lord Tywin told his daughter. “You must have a new husband in your bed, to father children on you.”

  “Three children is quite sufficient. I am Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, not a brood mare! The Queen Regent!”

  “You are my daughter, and will do as I command.”

  She stood. “I will not sit here and listen to this—”

  “You will if you wish to have any voice in the choice of your next husband,” Lord Tywin said calmly.

  When she hesitated, then sat, Tyrion knew she was lost, despite her loud declaration of, “I will not marry again!”

  “You will marry and you will breed. Every child you birth makes Stannis more a liar.” Their father’s eyes seemed to pin her to her chair. “Mace Tyrell, Paxter Redwyne, and Doran Martell are wed to younger women likely to outlive them. Balon Greyjoy’s wife is elderly and failing, but such a match would commit us to an alliance with the Iron Islands, and I am still uncertain whether that would be our wisest course.”

  “No,” Cersei said from between white lips. “No, no, no.”

  Tyrion could not quite suppress the grin that came to his lips at the thought of packing his sister off to Pyke. Just when I was about to give up praying, some sweet god gives me this.

  Lord Tywin went on. “Oberyn Martell might suit, but the Tyrells would take that very ill. So we must look to the sons. I assume you do not object to wedding a man younger than yourself?”

  “I object to wedding any—”

  “I have considered the Redwyne twins, Theon Greyjoy, Quentyn Martell, and a number of others. But our alliance with Highgarden was the sword that broke Stannis. It should be tempered and made stronger. Ser Loras has taken the white and Ser Garlan is wed to one of the Fossoways, but there remains the eldest son, the boy they scheme to wed to Sansa Stark.”

  Willas Tyrell. Tyrion was taking a wicked pleasure in Cersei’s helpless fury. “That would be the cripple,” he said.

  Their father chilled him with a look. “Willas is heir to Highgarden, and by all reports a mild and courtly young man, fond of reading books and looking at the stars. He has a passion for breeding animals as well, and owns the finest hounds, hawks, and horses in the Seven Kingdoms.”

  A perfect match, mused Tyrion. Cersei also has a passion for breeding. He pitied poor Willas Tyrell, and did not know w
hether he wanted to laugh at his sister or weep for her.

  “The Tyrell heir would be my choice,” Lord Tywin concluded, “but if you would prefer another, I will hear your reasons.”

  “That is so very kind of you, Father,” Cersei said with icy courtesy. “It is such a difficult choice you give me. Who would I sooner take to bed, the old squid or the crippled dog boy? I shall need a few days to consider. Do I have your leave to go?”

  You are the queen, Tyrion wanted to tell her. He ought to be begging leave of you.

  “Go,” their father said. “We shall talk again after you have composed yourself. Remember your duty.”

  Cersei swept stiffly from the room, her rage plain to see. Yet in the end she will do as Father bid. She had proved that with Robert. Though there is Jaime to consider. Their brother had been much younger when Cersei wed the first time; he might not acquiesce to a second marriage quite so easily. The unfortunate Willas Tyrell was like to contract a sudden fatal case of sword-through-bowels, which could rather sour the alliance between Highgarden and Casterly Rock. I should say something, but what? Pardon me, Father, but it’s our brother she wants to marry?

  “Tyrion.”

  He gave a resigned smile. “Do I hear the herald summoning me to the lists?”

  “Your whoring is a weakness in you,” Lord Tywin said without preamble, “but perhaps some share of the blame is mine. Since you stand no taller than a boy, I have found it easy to forget that you are in truth a man grown, with all of a man’s baser needs. It is past time you were wed.”

  I was wed, or have you forgotten? Tyrion’s mouth twisted, and the noise emerged that was half laugh and half snarl.

  “Does the prospect of marriage amuse you?”

  “Only imagining what a bugger-all handsome bridegroom I’ll make.” A wife might be the very thing he needed. If she brought him lands and a keep, it would give him a place in the world apart from Joffrey’s court… and away from Cersei and their father.

  On the other hand, there was Shae. She will not like this, for all she swears that she is content to be my whore.

  That was scarcely a point to sway his father, however, so Tyrion squirmed higher in his seat and said, “You mean to wed me to Sansa Stark. But won’t the Tyrells take the match as an affront, if they have designs on the girl?”

  “Lord Tyrell will not broach the matter of the Stark girl until after Joffrey’s wedding. If Sansa is wed before that, how can he take offense, when he gave us no hint of his intentions?”

  “Quite so,” said Ser Kevan, “and any lingering resentments should be soothed by the offer of Cersei for his Willas.”

  Tyrion rubbed at the raw stub of his nose. The scar tissue itched abominably sometimes. “His Grace the royal pustule has made Sansa’s life a misery since the day her father died, and now that she is finally rid of Joffrey you propose to marry her to me. That seems singularly cruel. Even for you, Father.”

  “Why, do you plan to mistreat her?” His father sounded more curious than concerned. “The girl’s happiness is not my purpose, nor should it be yours. Our alliances in the south may be as solid as Casterly Rock, but there remains the north to win, and the key to the north is Sansa Stark.”

  “She is no more than a child.”

  “Your sister swears she’s flowered. If so, she is a woman, fit to be wed. You must needs take her maidenhead, so no man can say the marriage was not consummated. After that, if you prefer to wait a year or two before bedding her again, you would be within your rights as her husband.”

  Shae is all the woman I need just now, he thought, and Sansa’s a girl, no matter what you say. “If your purpose here is to keep her from the Tyrells, why not return her to her mother? Perhaps that would convince Robb Stark to bend the knee.”

  Lord Tywin’s look was scornful. “Send her to Riverrun and her mother will match her with a Blackwood or a Mallister to shore up her son’s alliances along the Trident. Send her north, and she will be wed to some Manderly or Umber before the moon turns. Yet she is no less dangerous here at court, as this business with the Tyrells should prove. She must marry a Lannister, and soon.”

  “The man who weds Sansa Stark can claim Winterfell in her name,” his uncle Kevan put in. “Had that not occurred to you?”

  “If you will not have the girl, we shall give her to one of your cousins,” said his father. “Kevan, is Lancel strong enough to wed, do you think?”

  Ser Kevan hesitated. “If we bring the girl to his bedside, he could say the words… but to consummate, no… I would suggest one of the twins, but the Starks hold them both at Riverrun. They have Genna’s boy Tion as well, else he might serve.”

  Tyrion let them have their byplay; it was all for his benefit, he knew. Sansa Stark, he mused. Soft-spoken sweet-smelling Sansa, who loved silks, songs, chivalry and tall gallant knights with handsome faces. He felt as though he was back on the bridge of boats, the deck shifting beneath his feet.

  “You asked me to reward you for your efforts in the battle,” Lord Tywin reminded him forcefully. “This is a chance for you, Tyrion, the best you are ever likely to have.” He drummed his fingers impatiently on the table. “I once hoped to marry your brother to Lysa Tully, but Aerys named Jaime to his Kingsguard before the arrangements were complete. When I suggested to Lord Hoster that Lysa might be wed to you instead, he replied that he wanted a whole man for his daughter.”

  So he wed her to Jon Arryn, who was old enough to be her grandfather. Tyrion was more inclined to be thankful than angry, considering what Lysa Arryn had become.

  “When I offered you to Dorne I was told that the suggestion was an insult,” Lord Tywin continued. “In later years I had similar answers from Yohn Royce and Leyton Hightower. I finally stooped so low as to suggest you might take the Florent girl Robert deflowered in his brother’s wedding bed, but her father preferred to give her to one of his own household knights.

  “If you will not have the Stark girl, I shall find you another wife. Somewhere in the realm there is doubtless some little lordling who’d gladly part with a daughter to win the friendship of Casterly Rock. Lady Tanda has offered Lollys…”

  Tyrion gave a shudder of dismay. “I’d sooner cut it off and feed it to the goats.”

  “Then open your eyes. The Stark girl is young, nubile, tractable, of the highest birth, and still a maid. She is not uncomely. Why would you hesitate?”

  Why indeed? “A quirk of mine. Strange to say, I would prefer a wife who wants me in her bed.”

  “If you think your whores want you in their bed, you are an even greater fool than I suspected,” said Lord Tywin. “You disappoint me, Tyrion. I had hoped this match would please you.”

  “Yes, we all know how important my pleasure is to you, Father. But there’s more to this. The key to the north, you say? The Greyjoys hold the north now, and King Balon has a daughter. Why Sansa Stark, and not her?” He looked into his father’s cool green eyes with their bright flecks of gold.

  Lord Tywin steepled his fingers beneath his chin. “Balon Greyjoy thinks in terms of plunder, not rule. Let him enjoy an autumn crown and suffer a northern winter. He will give his subjects no cause to love him. Come spring, the northmen will have had a bellyful of krakens. When you bring Eddard Stark’s grandson home to claim his birthright, lords and little folk alike will rise as one to place him on the high seat of his ancestors. You are capable of getting a woman with child, I hope?”

  “I believe I am,” he said, bristling. “I confess, I cannot prove it. Though no one can say I have not tried. Why, I plant my little seeds just as often as I can…”

  “In the gutters and the ditches,” finished Lord Tywin, “and in common ground where only bastard weeds take root. It is past time you kept your own garden.” He rose to his feet. “You shall never have Casterly Rock, I promise you. But wed Sansa Stark, and it is just possible that you might win Winterfell.”

  Tyrion Lannister, Lord Protector of Winterfell. The prospect gave him a queer chill. “Ver
y good, Father,” he said slowly, “but there’s a big ugly roach in your rushes. Robb Stark is as capable as I am, presumably, and sworn to marry one of those fertile Freys. And once the Young Wolf sires a litter, any pups that Sansa births are heirs to nothing.”

  Lord Tywin was unconcerned. “Robb Stark will father no children on his fertile Frey, you have my word. There is a bit of news I have not yet seen fit to share with the council, though no doubt the good lords will hear it soon enough. The Young Wolf has taken Gawen Westerling’s eldest daughter to wife.”

  For a moment Tyrion could not believe he’d heard his father right. “He broke his sworn word?” he said, incredulous. “He threw away the Freys for…” Words failed him.

  “A maid of sixteen years, named Jeyne,” said Ser Kevan. “Lord Gawen once suggested her to me for Willem or Martyn, but I had to refuse him. Gawen is a good man, but his wife is Sybell Spicer. He should never have wed her. The Westerlings always did have more honor than sense. Lady Sybell’s grandfather was a trader in saffron and pepper, almost as lowborn as that smuggler Stannis keeps. And the grandmother was some woman he’d brought back from the east. A frightening old crone, supposed to be a priestess. Maegi, they called her. No one could pronounce her real name. Half of Lannisport used to go to her for cures and love potions and the like.” He shrugged. “She’s long dead, to be sure. And Jeyne seemed a sweet child, I’ll grant you, though I only saw her once. But with such doubtful blood…”

  Having once married a whore, Tyrion could not entirely share his uncle’s horror at the thought of wedding a girl whose great grandfather sold cloves. Even so… A sweet child, Ser Kevan had said, but many a poison was sweet as well. The Westerlings were old blood, but they had more pride than power. It would not surprise him to learn that Lady Sybell had brought more wealth to the marriage than her highborn husband. The Westerling mines had failed years ago, their best lands had been sold off or lost, and the Crag was more ruin than stronghold. A romantic ruin, though, jutting up so brave above the sea. “I am surprised,” Tyrion had to confess. “I thought Robb Stark had better sense.”

  “He is a boy of sixteen,” said Lord Tywin. “At that age, sense weighs for little, against lust and love and honor.”

  “He forswore himself, shamed an ally, betrayed a solemn promise. Where is the honor in that?”

  Ser Kevan answered. “He chose the girl’s honor over his own. Once he had deflowered her, he had no other course.”

  “It would have been kinder to leave her with a bastard in her belly,” said Tyrion bluntly. The Westerlings stood to lose everything here; their lands, their castle, their very lives. A Lannister always pays his debts.

  “Jeyne Westerling is her mother’s daughter,” said Lord Tywin, “and Robb Stark is his father’s son.”

  This Westerling betrayal did not seem to have enraged his father as much as Tyrion would have expected. Lord Tywin did not suffer disloyalty in his vassals. He had extinguished the proud Reynes of Castamere and the ancient Tarbecks of Tarbeck Hall root and branch when he was still half a boy. The singers had even made a rather gloomy song of it. Some years later, when Lord Farman of Faircastle grew truculent, Lord Tywin sent an envoy bearing a lute instead of a letter. But once he’d heard “The Rains of Castamere” echoing through his hall, Lord Farman gave no further trouble. And if the song were not enough, the shattered castles of the Reynes and Tarbecks still stood as mute testimony to the fate that awaited those who chose to scorn the power of Casterly Rock. “The Crag is not so far from Tarbeck Hall and Castamere,” Tyrion pointed out. “You’d think the Westerlings might have ridden past and seen the lesson there.”

  “Mayhaps they have,” Lord Tywin said. “They are well aware of Castamere, I promise you.”

  “Could the Westerlings and Spicers be such great fools as to believe the wolf can defeat the lion?”

  Every once in a very long while, Lord Tywin Lannister would actually threaten to smile; he never did, but the threat alone was terrible to behold. “The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them,” he said, and then, “You will marry Sansa Stark, Tyrion. And soon.”

  CATELYN

  They carried the corpses in upon their shoulders and laid them beneath the dais. A silence fell across the torchlit hall, and in the quiet Catelyn could hear Grey Wind howling half a castle away. He smells the blood, she thought, through stone walls and wooden doors, through night and rain, he still knows the scent of death and ruin.

  She stood at Robb’s left hand beside the high seat, and for a moment felt almost as if she were looking down at her own dead, at Bran and Rickon. These boys had been much older, but death had shrunken them. Naked and wet, they seemed such little things, so still it was hard to remember them living.

  The blond boy had been trying to grow a beard. Pale yellow peach fuzz covered his cheeks and jaw above the red ruin the knife had made of his throat. His long golden hair was still wet, as if he had been pulled from a bath. By the look of him, he had died peacefully, perhaps in sleep, but his brown-haired cousin had fought for life. His arms bore slashes where he’d tried to block the blades, and red still trickled slowly from the stab wounds that covered his chest and belly and back like so many tongueless mouths, though the rain had washed him almost clean.

  Robb had donned his crown before coming to the hall, and the bronze shone darkly in the torchlight. Shadows hid his eyes as he looked upon the dead. Does he see Bran and Rickon as well? She might have wept, but there were no tears left in her. The dead boys were pale from long imprisonment, and both had been fair; against their smooth white skin, the blood was shockingly red, unbearable to look upon. Will they lay Sansa down naked beneath the Iron Throne after they have killed her? Will her skin seem as white, her blood as red? From outside came the steady wash of rain and the restless howling of a wolf.

  Her brother Edmure stood to Robb’s right, one hand upon the back of his father’s seat, his face still puffy from sleep. They had woken him as they had
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