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You Win or You Die

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Days passed, and the battle grew further and further into the past.

The first day after I woke in my own chambers and felt a painful numbness that I’d never experienced before, like a piece of me had been ripped from my body.

I desperately wanted to stay locked in my room, but I had work to do, and someone to protect. So, I buried my pain deep and ignored it.

Two days passed and Joffrey’s grandfather, Lord Tywin, was sworn in as the Hand of the King, I honestly felt bad for Tyrion, no one recognized the good he did during the battle, how well he’d held off Stannis and his men before Lord Tywin and his men arrived.

I stood in the throne room with Sansa watching the ceremony for Lord Tywin.

I watched at the old man rode in on a horse, seemed a bit much to me but whatever they think is necessary.

It wasn’t till he came to a stop that I recognized him from the dream I’d had of Arya. He was the older man at the head of that table. Arya had been with Tywin Lannister in my dream…But I’d never seen him before, how had I been able to dream of his face if I’d never seen it?

I shook myself from the thoughts as Joffrey started to speak.

“I, Joffrey of the House Baratheon, first of my name, the rightful King of the Andals and the first men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and protector of the Realm do hereby proclaim my grandfather, Tywin Lannister, the Savior of the City, and the Hand of the King.” Joffrey said as Tywin rode closer. When he finished a barer came with a red pillow and Joffrey put the Hand pin on it, the barer took the pin to Tywin and he picked it up, he looked at it for a moment before bowing as low as he could on his horse.

“Thank you, Your Grace.” He said before turning his horse and riding back up the aisle.

Before Tywin was even halfway out Joffrey spoke. “Lord Petyr Baelish, step forward.” He said, and the disgusting man did as ordered, kneeling before Joffrey. “For your good service, and ingenuity in uniting the Houses of Lannister and Tyrell, I declare that you shall be granted the castle of Harron Hall with all its attended lands and incomes to be held by your sons and grandsons from this day until the end of time.” He announced, pulling many gasps and murmurs from the crowd.

“You honor me beyond words, Your Grace, I shall have to acquire some sons and grandsons.” Baelish said, causing the crowd to laugh, before moving back to where he had been.

“Ser Loras Tyrell!” Joffrey called.

The man looked less than interested in talking to Joffrey, probably still angry at the boy’s cowardice during the battle but knelt before his nonetheless.

“Your House has come to our aid, the whole realm is in your debt, even more so than I, if your family would ask anything of me, ask it, and it shall be yours.” Joffrey said.

“Your Grace.” Loras stated before clearing his throat. “My sister, Margaery, her husband was taken from her before…She remains innocent.” Loras explained, and Joffrey sat a forward in his seat a bit, his interest peaked. “I would ask it in your heart to do us the great honor of joining our Houses.” He finished, I could tell he was trying not to cry at the loss of the man he’d loved, most thought that Loras and Renly’s relationship had been solely for sex, but I could tell that Loras truly loved Renly.

Joffrey looked to the woman stood next to where Loras had been, her lovely blue dress was the first thing to catch one’s eye as the front was cut quite low, the next would be her beautiful face framed by long brown hair.

“Is this what you want, Lady Margaery?” Joffrey asked as Cersei looked Sansa’s way with a smug expression, like she knew that this would happen.
Margaery stepped forward as she spoke. “With all my heart, Your Grace. I have come to love you from afar. Tales of your courage and wisdom have never been far from my ear, and those talks have taken root, deep inside of me.” She said, clearly stroking Joffrey’s ego, I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes and fight a gag.

“Well, I too have heard tales. Of your beauty and grace, but the tales do not do you justice, My Lady. It would be an honor to return your love, but I am promised to another, a King must keep his word.” Joffrey said.

Cersei looked like she was trying to keep from laughing as she spoke. “Your Grace, in the judgement of your Small Council, it would be neither proper nor wise for you to wed the daughter of a man beheaded for treason.” She said. Every woman, the same women who Sansa had calmed in the Holdfast, looked at her like she’d been the one to do something wrong. “A girl whose brother is in open rebellion against the throne as we speak. For the good of the realm, your counselors beg you.” She looked directly at Sansa. “To set Sansa Stark aside.” She finished.

The murmurs were loud, and a few people called out, but whether it was in the affirmative or the negative I couldn’t tell.

Joffrey stood quickly with his hand up, silencing them all. “I would like to heed your wishes and the wishes of my people, but I took a holy vow.” He argued, probably because he thought that Sansa would leave if they were no longer betrothed and he wanted to keep tormenting her. As he spoke I saw Margaery look at Sansa with a strange expression, one that I wasn’t sure I could trust.

“Your Grace.” Maester Pycell called. “The Gods do, indeed, hold betrothal solemn, but your father, blessed be his memory, made this pact before the Starks revealed their falseness. I have consulted with the High Septon and he assures me that their crimes against the realm free you from any promise you have made to them in the sight of the Gods.” He informed in his halting slow manner, how did anyone listen to this man at length? He never shut up and he spoke so slowly.

Cersei smirked at Sansa again and I wondered what she had in mind, how could she possibly hurt Sansa more than she already had?

Joffrey sighed. “The Gods are good. I am free to heed my heart.” He announced. “Ser Loras, I will gladly wed your sweet sister.” He agreed as Loras stood, Margaery grinned. “You will be my Queen, and I will love you from this day, until my last day.” He said, looking strangely happy.

The crowd clapped joyously as Margaery looked Sansa’s way, her smile dropping, Sansa looked more than a little shocked, how was she supposed to react to such a thing?

Sansa turned and walked away, I quickly followed her and caught the grin that slowly made its way to her face at being free from him, along with the joyful tears, then a chuckle that could have been mistaken as a sob left her. We were almost to the door when someone called her from behind.

“My Lady.” It was Baelish, I quickly curtseyed as he came closer. “My sincerest condolences.” He said, only stopping when he was much too close to an unwed, and now unbetrothed, girl.

“They’re right. I’m not good enough for him.” She said, playing the part amazingly.

“You shouldn’t say that. You’ll still be good for many things, he’ll still enjoy beating you, and now that you’re a woman, he’ll be able to enjoy you in other ways as well.” He explained, I wanted to hit him for taking away the first little bit of joy she’d has in months, but I knew he was right.

“But…He’s not marrying me, he…” She started.

“He’d let you go home?” Baelish questioned, a quiet scoff left him before he shook his head. “Joffrey’s not the sort of boy who gives away his toys.” He said and placed his hand on her arm, it was a gentle thing, but it still made my hand itch to grab my dagger and cut it off. “You have a tender heart, just like your mother did at your age, I can see so much of her in you.” He said, and then I understood his interest in her, he was in love with Cate, and now he’s after Sansa. “She was like a sister to me, for her sake, I’ll help get you home.” He promised. At what price I wondered.

Sansa looked hopeful for a moment before it disappeared. “Kingslanding is my home now.” She said quietly.

“Look around you, we’re all liars here. And every one of us, is better than you.” He said before turning and walking away.

I escorted Sansa back to her room. “Why didn’t you take his offer? He can take you home.” I asked as I prepared her a plate for lunch.

“Because he’ll want something in return.” She answered as she sat at the table.

“They all do, but at least you can pay them back later, or never, these are uncertain times, they could die before you can.” I said as I set the plate in front of her.

“Are you a liar?” She asked, not even looking at her food.

I met her gaze. “Only to protect you.” I answered simply.

“Why didn’t you go with him? When he left during the battle.” She asked, referring the Sandor, but knowing better than to say his name.

I was quiet for a while. “Because you matter to me more…” I whispered, it wasn’t a lie, but it’s far from the whole truth.

“You can have the rest of the day to yourself, I don’t intend to go anywhere.” She said as she ate.

I nodded. “I’ll return at dinner time.” I said before stopping in the door way. “You should accept Baelish’s offer to take you home.” I said before leaving. I hated the man, but he seemed to be the only way for Sansa to get home, and that made him important.

I didn’t know where to go.

In the past I’d have gone to the gardens in the hopes that maybe I might encounter him, but I couldn’t do that anymore.

I sighed and decided to go there anyway. There was nowhere else to go, and I wasn’t going to leave the Keep in case Sansa needed me.

I wondered in the gardens till I reached the small nook where I’d first kissed Sandor. It seemed so dim now, like the sun wasn’t fully reaching it.

I took in a shaky breath and closed my eyes.

“(Y/N)?” A voice questioned from behind me. I looked over my shoulder and saw Tyrion’s Squire.

“Yes?” I questioned as I turned to fully face him.

“I’m Podrick, I was asked by Lord Varys to ask you to meet him in his office.” He said, standing awkwardly before me.

“Aren’t you in service to Lord Tyrion? Why would you take orders from Lord Varys?” I asked.

“I am, but Lord Varys asked nicely, and Lord Tyrion doesn’t really want to see anyone right now.” He explained, clasping his hand uncomfortably.

I nodded, I’d heard that Tyrion had been injured, it was nice to know that he’s alive. “Thank you for letting me know.” I said before turning to walk away.

“Is it true what they say about you?” He asked suddenly.

I stopped and looked back at him over my shoulder once more, with a lifted brow. “Is what true? What do they say?” I asked.

He visibly gulped. “That you’re scarred like the Hound, and just as dangerous.” He said, starting out confident in his question but growing quieter as I gazed at him.

I sighed. “No one is as dangerous as him.” I said before walking away.

I made my way to Varys’ office and found him sitting in wait at his desk.

“Varys. Why did you call me?” I asked after closing the door, something which had long since become a thoughtless action.

“I had my little birds keeping an eye on Lars, in case he wasn’t as trustworthy as we thought, and they’ve reported that during the chaos of the masses during the battle, he was killed.” He informed as he stood from his seat.

I sighed deeply. “Damn it…” I muttered, what was I supposed to do now? I doubted there were any other men in this city that would be willing to risk teaching me to fight.

“I met with him a few days before the battle and he told me that there wasn’t much else for him to teach you. While tragic, his death is less inconvenient than it would otherwise be.” He said as he leaned back against his desk.

I could only nod in response. “Was there anything else?” I asked, I needed to be alone, at least for a while.

“Not quite. I’ve received word from Winterfell. It seems that when Robb sent Theon to Iron Islands to enlist Lord Greyjoy to join his side of the war, Theon decided to side with his family line and take over Winterfell…Last I heard, he killed Bran and Rickon…” He explained.

I thought my heart ached when Sandor left, but this news made the air flee my lungs, it made my knees feel weak, my blood pounded in my head. Varys guided me to sit before I fell.

I gasped for the air that seemed to be evading me. How could Theon do this to us? I know he was a ward of war, but we raised him, we loved and fed him. And he chose to return the favor by killing two innocent boys that weren’t even alive when he arrived?

“How long…?” I wheezed, my eyes unable to leave the floor.

“Theon took Winterfell a month ago…And the boys a few weeks after that.” He answered quietly.

I managed to get my breath back, and with it came a rage I never knew I could feel, it made my chest burn and my eyes go dark. “And I’m only just hearing about this? Surely Robb has had word of this and would have sent a raven to inform me!” I said, trying to keep my voice down, but unable to mask my fury.

Varys sighed, ever the pillar of calm. “Robb has been preoccupied with war efforts. If he could have, I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate.” He said, trying to sound reassuring. “And some reports say that it was a cover for the boys escaping with the large man and a wildling.”

My eyes darted to him. “And you didn’t think to start with that?” I sneered.

Varys gave me an apologetic look that had me sighing and rolling my eyes.

“Anything else I should know?” I asked, my face resting in my hand.

“I have taken on a partner, someone you may know. She’s known as Ros, she comes from a brothel near Winterfell” He informed. I recognized the name immediately, Theon went to see her often, and I’d met her more than once.

“I know of her, and I’d seen her a few times, but we’ve never spoken. Last I heard she still worked in that brothel.” I said, looking up at him through my fingers.

“She’s been in Kingslanding for a while, almost as long as you have. She works in Baelish’s brothel, and now she works for me as well.” He said, sounding almost smug, probably happy to get one up on Baelish, as he moved back around his desk to sit down.

“Can she be trusted?” I asked, more concerned that she’ll give information to Baelish that I don’t want him to have.

“I think she can. To a certain degree, at least. Everything she learns will come to me before it reaches him.” He explained.

I nodded before a sigh forced itself from me. “What of the Tyrells? They’re a rather influential house, I’m doubtful that they can be trusted, but do I need to be looking over my shoulder for them?” I asked. Margaery seemed nice, and she was certainly pretty, but I’ve learned that one should never take looks as a sign of trustworthiness.

“I have yet to speak to any of them, but I don’t think they wish Sansa, or you, ill.” He said.

“Good…Please let me know, Margaery seems like a good enough sort, but then, so did Joffrey.” I said before standing from the seat.

“I have little birds everywhere, not just in Kingslanding…I can have keep an eye out for your Hound, if you wish…” He offered quietly.

I was tempted to accept his offer, I would know if he were alive or not, I would know where to find him when Sansa and I finally escape. But he wouldn’t want to be followed or watched, and I shouldn’t invade his privacy…No matter how I feel.

I was already facing the door when Varys spoke and had to keep my face blank to keep from showing all the pain I was carrying as I turned and shook my head. “Thank you for offering, Lord Varys, but I must decline.” I managed, my throat tight, before I turned back to the door once more.

“(Y/N)?” He called, and I halted with my hand on the door handle, turning my head to look at him over my shoulder, waiting for him to continue. “I’m sorry.” He said. He was being earnest, but I didn’t want pity, I didn’t need it.

I didn’t reply as I opened the door and walked away.

I was so lost in thought that I found myself back at my room before I knew it.

And there I stayed till dinner time came around and I went back to Sansa’s room to do my work, then I returned and stayed there for the rest of the night.

My bed felt cold, and I’d never felt so alone in my life.

But even at my darkest, my dreams wouldn’t leave me be.

Suddenly I was standing on a snowy cliff, the cold flakes falling around me like heavy rain. I looked around for a moment before I looked below my perch, and what I saw took my breath away.

Thousands of men, women, even children and animals, walked slowly by. I couldn’t see their faces, but something in the back of my mind, some primal piece of me, knew what I was seeing was the dead. I knew that if I were closer I would see an icy blue looking back at me.

I knew that what I was seeing, were Wights.

The dead were coming.