Chapter 1: The Proposal
It had been a long time since she’d stayed and slept in such comfortable quarters. Had it been since Winterfell, during a life she could barely remember ever living? Only thirty-seven, and her bones ached, and not from her time on the road. Her room in the Red Keep was much brighter than the bedroom she’d shared with Ned, but it felt colder too, despite the heat of the southern sun. There were no warmth of the hot springs under Winterfell and no Ned to warm her bed, just herself and the ghosts of her family.
The first three days, after she’d been shoved unceremoniously into the room and locked in, she had sat in a plush chair by the window, staring out unseeingly, picking at her food and refusing to speak to anyone. There had been no time or place to mourn since Ned’s death, not for him or for their daughters or sons, but now that the war was over and had taken all of her sweet children, grieving was the only thing left for her to do. She didn’t see King’s Landing, the buildings or the landscape outside. She had seen Robb swordplaying with Rodrik Cassel; Sansa learning how to dance; Arya looking mischievous with a stick behind her back; Bran climbing a tower; Rickon running and laughing through the halls; and Ned, her dear Ned, lying in bed next to her, his chest slowly rising and falling, letting her know that they were all alive.
(But they weren’t. Everyone was dead and these ghosts would never bring her warmth.)
Catelyn Stark had broken down the fourth day, crawling weakly to the large bed and slipping under the covers where she could weep quietly. The next two days were spent in bed. She wrapped herself up in a protective cocoon of blankets and grief and cried every night until she had nothing left in her. The tears began to vanish and she began to come out of it after the first week passed, but she felt completely hollow. Grief had swallowed her whole and when it was done with her, it spit her out, leaving her as just a shade.
By the end of the second week, Catelyn pulled herself out of bed and slipped into a cool dressing gown. When one of the maids came in with her meal, Catelyn asked for a bath. It had been far too long, since she’d first arrived and they’d washed Robb’s blood off of her. An hour later, she was submerged in steaming water. It scalded her, but she didn’t care, preferring to let the pain wash over her skin. It was the first time she’d felt something since Robb’s lifeless body had been dragged away from her. They dressed her in a beautiful blue southern-styled dress, something she hadn’t worn since she’d married Ned as a girl at Riverrun. Her family’s colors, they’d said, the Tully colors, but she had been transformed into a Stark over the past two years, cold and unforgiving as winter itself.
While she was brushing her long red hair into something much more manageable than it had been for the past months, she heard the door creek open behind her. When she turned to see who it was, about to tell a maid to leave her be, Catelyn was stunned to find herself looking at Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King, the man who had concocted the plan that murdered her oldest son.
At first, Catelyn didn’t know what to do, frozen in place, the brush in her hand still against her hair. For a wild moment, she pictured herself throwing the brush at the older Lord, screaming that he was a murderer and to get out, rushing to him and clawing his eyes out. She thought of how they would drag her away and lock her in chains. How there would be blood on her hands again and on the clean dress they’d given her. She wanted him to hurt just as much as she did. She’d heard that his son, the Imp, Tyrion Lannister, had fled in the night after murdering the first boy king Joffrey. She knew that he’d lost nephews to a furious Karstark. There was some loss in his family, but not enough, not anywhere close to Catelyn’s, and she wanted him to suffer just as much as she was. She wanted him to burn and die in agony. She wanted to take his dagger from his side and stab him in the eye with the pointy end.
But Catelyn did no such thing. Instead, she set the brush down, dropped her hands to her side, bowed her head, and said, “My lord,” in a soft whisper. It pained her to speak to him like this. She didn’t even know why she was, except for the fact that perhaps keeping like this, remaining proper, was the only thing that tied her back to the world when all other strings had been severed.
“Do you like the dress?” Of all the things for Tywin to say, Catelyn had not expected that. She raised her eyes to him, a slightly puzzled expression on her face. He shut the door behind himself and stepped closer towards her. “I made sure it was Tully colors. It will need to be taken in to fit you more properly, but I thought you might...appreciate it.”
Catelyn mulled over what to say. She had not thought that Tywin Lannister would pick out her outfits especially, but she certainly wasn’t appreciative of it. “It is beautiful,” she finally settled on saying, silently adding, But it will not bring me my children back.
“There are things we need to discuss,” Tywin stated, no longer beating around the bush. Yes, she preferred it this way. She didn’t have the desire to dance around with all the proper politeness. “I’ve come to broker a truce with you.”
“With me?” It wasn’t a question so much as incredulity.
“Yes, a truce, with you.” Tywin stepped towards her, proud and unrelenting. This was a man who was used to getting his way; and Catelyn was a woman that knew how to deal with men like that.
She refused to move, even if he was trying to intimidate her. She had never been a timid maid; she would not be one now. Besides, she mused, she had nothing left to lose. What else could they take from her? Here, the only person they could hurt was her, and she did not care about that any longer. “Why would you want to do that? Why would I want to do that? You killed my son, kept my daughter hostage, lost the other, burned my father’s land and tortured his people. I have no peace to strike with you.”
“It is not your peace that I seek, Lady Stark,” Tywin explained, “but the peace of the North and the Riverlands.” She pressed her lips together. The North had only been her home when she gave birth to her children and came to love Ned. She didn’t know what it was to her now, but she had started to lose pieces of it with Bran’s and Rickon’s deaths until it vanished completely with Robb’s. And while the Riverlands had been the place of her birth, she felt a foreigner there as well. “The Riverlands are a disaster and there is no peace in the North. It has become a wild mess, nearly as bad as beyond the Wall. Most of the families there have sworn fealty to the Iron Throne, and Roose Bolton is now the Warden of the North, but the hold is tumultuous at best. I need to solidify it, before winter takes over completely.”
“And what does this have to do with me?” Catelyn asked, feeling edgy. She had a suspicion about what he was going to say, but she didn’t want to believe her thoughts. They were absurd. There was nothing she could do to help contain the North. It had always been wild and untamable. Surely he knew that there was nothing a woman could do to bring them to their knees, especially a woman that did not want to do anything of the sort to begin with.
Tywin stood there, for a moment, looking her in the eyes. He was a cold man, she knew that, but two could play at that game. If she did not want to lose herself in her grief, she could lose herself in her anger. “The Tullys will hold no power in the Riverlands anymore, once Riverrun is taken from the Blackfish, but that does not mean they have lost the respect of the people. You also married a Stark. You cannot get any higher in the North. You walked with the men; you spent time in their camps; you broke bread with them. There is not a woman in the North that commands as much admiration and respect as you. Even Jaime said he had never seen a woman stronger than you.”
“What do you want?” she demanded. “No more games, no more flattery, Lord Tywin. Tell me.”
“I want your hand in marriage, Lady Catelyn. If I have that, then perhaps the rest of the men that still struggle against me will finally give up and bend to my will.” Without thinking, Catelyn went to slap him in the face, but he caught her by the wrist and pulled her closer to him. “You can do this willingly, or you will find out what your daughter Sansa went through.” She struggled against him, but he only tightened his grip. Once she realized it was futile, she stopped fighting and glared at him heatedly. “You may not realize it now, but this will benefit both of us. We both lost the one we loved. You have lost your children; and I need an heir. Peace will be a wedding gift, so that we may prepare for the coming winter.”
Catelyn finally jerked herself from his grasp. “Do you think I will just go to bed with the man that killed my son?”
“I think you will do your duty and whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of your remaining family,” Tywin replied coolly. She wanted to strike him again, but kept her fury at bay. “If you do this, then your brother Edmure will be pardoned; your uncle Ser Brynden as well, as long as he gives up his hold of Riverrun. We’ll even give Edmure a little bit of land in place of Riverrun, so that he may continue to be a Lord. I heard a rumor that his Frey wife is with child. Will you choose to protect them or keep your pride? What are the words: Family, Duty, Honor? Family and Duty come before Honor, it appears.”
Tywin knew as well as Catelyn that she would. Her brother and uncle were all that she had left. Her sister Lysa was hiding in the Vale, supposedly with Petyr at her court, and had proven to be no sister or friend to her. Sansa had vanished in the night and Arya was presumed dead. She didn’t think she was strong enough to handle being the only one remaining from two once proud families.
“I will leave you to consider your answer.” Tywin walked to the door, but turned before stepping out of it. “You have one night,” he told her, “to decide if you will fight or follow.” And then he left, leaving Catelyn alone with her fears and thoughts.
Chapter 2: The Acceptance
The chapters on here are a lot longer than the ones I posted on tumblr, partly because the ones on tumblr were so small and partly because it just flows better. I didn't realize it would be this long when I started it. Oops.
That night proved to be cold and infuriating. Catelyn first paced the bedroom, thinking about how much she wanted to kill Tywin Lannister on the spot. How dare he? How dare he even begin to consider such a proposal? She took a goblet that a maid filled with wine earlier and threw it across the room at the door, trying to pretend that he was still standing there, and then watched as the wine seeped down the door like blood. Her children’s blood. Her husband’s blood.
And now she was going to be married to the man that had had a hand in their deaths.
Tywin had made it clear that she was not going to be given a choice. He was merely extending a courtesy of sorts, letting the idea grow in her mind, giving her time to think about whether or not she would fight him, as he said. Catelyn was not the sort of woman who just gave up though. She was a fighter and always had been. This marriage, even though forced upon her, would not break her. It would only add fuel to the fire burning inside of her. It would be difficult, but marriage was a battle in itself, as she had found out as a young girl.
She had fought her way through Robert’s Rebellion, alone and forgotten. After Brandon’s death, her sudden marriage to Ned, and the realization that she was already pregnant, Catelyn had felt completely desolate. She had worried about Ned, tried not to picture him being burned alive like Brandon, but it had been difficult. A part of her had been excited to see him; she had been proud to show him that she’d already produced him a son. What a good, young wife, she was, she couldn’t help but think. And then Ned came back with his bastard son, proof to her that he hadn’t cared about her, that she would only be duty in his bed, and that he didn’t need her more than he needed his sword or a whore. It had been eye-opening.
Of course, things had slowly mended between them. She had grown to love Ned, especially when she would see him play with Robb. Ned had been the North in person, but he had warmed like the hot springs when with little Robb. When Sansa was born, and she’d been scared that Ned would be displeased with a girl, she had felt a burst of love and relief when Ned had picked up his daughter and proclaimed her to be a gift from the Old Gods, happy and true.
This marriage would be different. Catelyn would not battle to love her husband; she would have to battle to not kill him. Though she had been hurt by Ned, she had never strayed from her duties as a wife. He had apologized to her, though he had offered her no explanations or justifications. Tywin would be different. He would never apologize to her. He would not wipe the tears from her eyes should they appear during their wedding. He would not help her wash the shame away after she did her duties in bed. He would not hold her gently in the night if she struggled to conceive. He would not join her in the sept when she prayed to the seven about Sansa or her lost children. She would be with him, but she would be alone.
I will be as strong and cold as the North, Ned, Catelyn thought, looking out the window. You taught me well enough.
She knew what she must do – what she had to do. It terrified her, to say the least. Technically speaking, she was going to marry her daughter’s father-in-law; she would become Sansa’s mother twice over. But if that were the case, then the seven would have granted her Sansa’s life and presence, and she could intensely mother her daughter. Instead, there was no one.
The next morning, Catelyn found yet another beautiful gown hung on the door of her bedroom. One of the maids must have slipped it in some time in the early hours of the morning after Catelyn had fitfully fallen asleep. She put it on, carefully did her hair in the old southern ways she’d done as a girl, and examined her reflection in the mirror. She looked tired. She wanted to look proud and unbroken, but there were limits to her strength. By all accounts, her pride had been shattered and she was more broken into pieces at well. Bits of her were left in the burned ruins of Winterfell, the Twins, and the Riverlands. Her whole life was scattered across Westeros, and no gown or marriage would piece her together again.
When the maid entered again with her breakfast, Catelyn startled the girl by sitting on the bed waiting for her. The poor girl nearly dropped the tray of food, but Catelyn jumped and hurried to catch her. “M-m’lady, I did not expect to be awake.”
Catelyn felt a pang of shame. Since she had crawled into the comforts of the bed, she had not gotten out of bed until well after midday. There had been some days when she had pretended to be asleep when the maids came in, so they would not disturb her. Still, she gave the girl a soft look. “If you could be so kind, please tell Lord Tywin that I wish to speak with him.”
“Yes, m’lady.” The girl set the tray down on the table, curtseyed, and then left the room. Though she had never been much of a drinker, Catelyn poured herself a healthy glass of wine. She sipped, resisting the childish urge to dump its entire contents into her stomach, and waited.
Thirty minutes later, the door opened and a knight in white armor stepped inside. He was one of the Kingsguard, though she did not recognize him. She couldn’t help but wonder if this man had laid a hand against her daughter, something she had been told about by one of the serving girls. Gone were the days when the Kingsguard were filled with men of honor. She did not hide her revulsion. “The Hand will see you in his chambers,” he said, his voice rough and lukewarm. Perhaps he made a move to hold her by the arm, to look chivalrous, but she blew past him, her shoes clipping on the stone floor. She could hear the sound of his armor clinking after her. She was embarrassed to not know where the Tower of the Hand was exactly, but the knight caught up with her easily enough and guided her the rest of the way without her having to admit it.
When they reached Lord Tywin’s room, Catelyn was sure that she had lost all of her resolve. She wanted to run back to the bedroom and hide under the blankets. She could not do this. She could not handle this. She could not live like this, not while her sons and daughters and husband and parents were dead, all dead, and she was alive and breathing and for what purpose. So she could marry her enemy? Were the gods so cruel?
A deep breath shuddered through her body as the door opened and she was pushed in by the knight. When the door shut behind her, she knew that she had come to the end. Tywin Lannister was no less imposing in his court clothes than in his armor. He was dressed in the Lannister colors, golden and red like blood. He was a striking figure that was not to be trifled with. The court and small council, after all, were just fields of battle. She wished Ned had had his prowess in politics, but Ned had been an honorable man. There was no room for honorable men in politics.
“Lady Catelyn,” he said, turning to look upon her, “I had not expected you so early.”
“I’m sure you did not expect me to come at all.” Soften your words, her conscience warned, but Catelyn paid it no heed. She would bend to Tywin, as she had not been given a choice, but she would not break. Not for him at any rate. “I accept the offer. I will not fight it.”
Though he did not smile necessarily, Tywin looked pleased. “It gladdens me to hear that.” He poured two glasses of wine, walked to her, and handed her one. The goblet was cold in her hands. “You must understand that this is for the best of Westeros. There are many wounds between us that will not be mended, but perhaps through our peace, there can be a peace through the land.”
“What if peace doesn’t come for the Riverlands and North like you hope?” Catelyn asked, trying to mask her fear. She did not want to think of what would happen should this plan fail. There was a chance he would lay the blame on her. She had spent the better part of the night wondering about this aspect. “What if this incenses them more or if they do not even care? I am just a woman. If the North and the Riverlands did not bend to you, why do you think they will bend to me?”
“You will tell them to – or rather, you will beg them to. Reason with them. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me” – it took everything in Catelyn not to hiss at the word – “then they must too.” He never took his eyes away from hers. They were close now, just a foot apart. She could see him clearly now, his intelligent eyes green like moss, his face serious yet cunning. “You will never forgive me, I know that, nor do I expect you to. But all the injustices that the North seek to avenge were done to you. All the wrongs they fight to right were done to you. If you cast those away, if you even pretend to let go of them and move on, then what does the North have left to fight for but the ghosts of your sons and husband?”
Catelyn gripped the cup tightly. “But what if it fails?” she asked in a whisper.
“Then it fails,” Tywin said simply, “and I will smash them until they can only stand on their knees.” It was as much as Catelyn feared. She thought of Edmure and how proud he’d been when he’d held Tywin’s army at bay, all those months ago. It felt like those days had never happened. Unexpectedly, he put a finger under her chin and lifted it. “No harm will befall you. Once you are my wife, you will be treated with respect. I saw what my grandson did to your daughter, when they were still betrothed. I know you consider me a monster, but I will not beat you or put my guards on you. You have suffered enough for your disloyalty.”
Disloyalty, he called it. The war her son raged against his family and the Iron Throne. Suffered enough, he said of the deaths of her family. If anything, she had suffered too much. The cost would be high, she had known, but the seven, war, and Tywin Lannister had taken everything from her, even her ability to mourn as a widow.
“Even if this does not bring peace to the lands, our marriage will benefit us in other ways,” he continued. He spoke so exact; there was not a drop of emotion in his words. It made her head spin or maybe it was the wine on an empty stomach. “With Jaime in the Kingsguard and Tyrion on the run, I need an heir for Casterly Rock. Cersei refuses to leave her children. You’ve had five children, all healthy when born.” And all dead now. “Another child will not replace the ones you lost, but it may help you heal.”
“Nothing will heal the loss of my children,” Catelyn told him coldly, setting the glass down. “Ask your daughter how she feels or your brother Ser Kevan Lannister, and then we will talk about my children.”
Tywin paused for a second, looking her in the eyes, and then took a sip of wine. “I cannot bring your children back,” he finally said, “no one can, not the seven or the old gods your late husband followed.” He set his goblet down next to hers. “Should your daughter Sansa be found, she will be pardoned, as a peace offering from me to you. My daughter seems to believe that she and Tyrion plotted Joffrey’s murder, but from what I saw of the girl…”
Not her Sansa, no. The look on Catelyn’s face, betraying her, seemed to convince Tywin of what he himself was already thinking. She too had heard the whispered rumors that Sansa and Tyrion Lannister had poisoned the boy king, but she knew that, no matter how far Sansa had been pushed and tortured, she would not be capable of a cold-blooded murder like Joffrey’s.
Catelyn turned away from him, unable to mask the growing emotions inside of her. She didn’t want him to know just how weak she felt. She imagined that a show of weakness was terribly unattractive to Tywin Lannister; and though by no means was she trying to be attractive, she couldn’t bear the thought of him looking down on her or being disgusted with her in any way. She would not break in front of him. Swallowing the rock in her throat as discreetly as she could, she asked, “When will the wedding be held?”
“In three weeks.”
She turned to him questioningly. “I thought it would be sooner.”
“In a hurry to be a married woman again, are we?”
Catelyn stiffened. “You jest, my lord. I would sooner die a widow than marry you, but it seems as if I have naught the choice.”
Tywin allowed himself the smallest of smirks, but then turned serious again very quickly. “You need to announce the wedding, the treaty, and your forgiveness to Westeros. Before the wedding happens, people need to know why it is happening. There will be more rebellions to squash. Ravens must be sent as far as can be – to the rebellious Riverlands, the uncontrollable North, even the cold shoulder that has become the Vale.” Catelyn did not want to think of the Vale, but Tywin seemed to already know what was crossing her mind. “The lack of response from your sister when your family went to war and disarray was very curious indeed.”
“She is afraid.”
“She is weak.” Tywin looked at her in a way that made Catelyn wary; it was as if he was sizing her up, like she was the prey and he was the predator. It made her skin flush. “You are…very different, Lady Catelyn. Not a warrior in the sense that most men think of, but of the mind.” That smirk quirked his lips again. “It would seem as if my daughter has been trying to be you and failing. You were not the Queen Regent for your son Robb?”
“No, he was a man grown, even at a young age. The North hardened him – as did the murder of his father.”
Tywin pressed his lips together. “Your son was foolish, but he was wiser than my grandson. He needed a Regent, but my daughter knows half of what you do about politics.” Catelyn was surprised at his blunt honesty, which he seemed to catch onto almost immediately. “If this marriage is to work, even if it is just a political sham, we are going to have to be honest with each other, even if it means professing hate or disdain. We may not care for or love one another, but there will be no discord between us. We’re civilized people, Lady Catelyn, in a very uncivilized world.”
She didn’t want to tell him what she thought of that. Civilized people did not do what he did. They did not order their mad dog to burn lands, rape women, torture men, and kill children. They did not plot a boy’s murder when their own son was still in the grasp of that boy’s men. They did not callously put a woman who had lost their entire family in a position like this. No matter what Tywin told her, he would always be a monster to her; nothing would change that.
“May I return to my room?” Catelyn asked, beginning to feel weak and woozy. Her stomach was turning far too much to be comfortable, and she put her hand on the table to hold herself up.
“There’s just one more thing,” Tywin announced. Catelyn resigned herself again, raising her tired eyes to him. “At the wedding, you’ll be wearing Tully colors.”
Catelyn wasn’t sure why that upset her so much, considering she was a Tully, but she’d put on the colors and the honor when she took the Stark name and became Ned’s wife. “I’ve been wearing the Stark colors for sixteen years; I gave birth to five, Northern Stark children. I have not…”
“You are a Tully, Lady Catelyn, just as you were born and always have been,” Tywin told her, unmoving and uncaring. “I know how you work; I’ve seen how you live. You have always lived by the Tully words – Family, Duty, Honor.”
But winter comes for all in the end.