When Tywin orders the priest aside and steps into the confessional himself, the young man blinks with surprise; the cardinal rarely troubles himself with confessions. The only ones he would hear with any regularity were the king’s (on His Grace’s insistence, and Tywin knew the reason behind that, but the king hasn’t shown his face in the cathedral for weeks, anyway).
But today, he takes his place behind the screen and waits for her to slip into the opposite booth, to smooth her billowing skirts down and remove the veil from her face before she speaks. Lady Stark’s posture is flawless, and if she clings to her rosary beads a little too tightly, that is the only outward sign of any anxiety or strife.
She whispers, soft as a summer breeze: “Ignosce mihi, pater, quia peccavi.” Absolve me, Father, for I have sinned.
Lady Stark confesses her fears for her elder children- courtiers all, and in danger of following the king’s blasphemy. She speaks of her grief, the maw of despair that consumes her whenever she thinks on her loneliness, on the beloved husband who will never return-
(Tywin understands this more than he would like- phantom faces from another life float before his eyes, golden hair and green eyes and rosy cheeks and a soft, lilting laugh- Joanna…)
At the last, Lady Stark tells of her husband’s bastard, sent off to France after her husband’s death. He feels a hot flash of indignation of her behalf for the disgrace she has suffered, keeping a baseborn child in her own house, raising him alongside her own children.
She reaches up to brush a curl of russet hair behind her ear- pale and perfect, like the shells on the seashore of his childhood home. And then a silence, far too long to be comfortable-
Tywin collects himself, assigns her the necessary prayers. Once her tapered back, clothed in a velveteen cape, exits the cathedral, he barks at the insipid monsignor to fetch him some communion wine.