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The Lion, The Wolf and The Dragon

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Joanna's last pregnancy almost ended up in a disaster. Death was nearing her but then the miracle happened. Joanna survived and lived to see her son, Tyrion Lannister. Her dwarf son, but she loved him. But this time the gods wouldn't be so forgiving. In the year of 282 AC of the fifth day of the eighth moon, she had come to another pregnancy stage and was nearing the delivery phase. Now, she was laying on a comfortable and feathered bed in Maester Creylen's office, which was three level above the Lord and Lady of the Rock's apartments. Her condition worsened overtime, she was very pale all shown around her skin tone, her muscles were too weak to even support her to get up and the intense high fever she had was another addition to her suffering. Her beloved husband Tywin was banished to enter the Maester's office by Joanna and Maester Creylen due to his excessive worrying and his gloomy dark suggestion to remove their baby just to save her. It wasn't going to help her nor she would want to do that anyway. Joanna, my dear, just remove the baby. We already have three children and we don't need for a fourth one. You're killing yourself Joanna, the baby's killing you, said her husband a few days ago. She knew it was already useless and she didn't want to throw their fourth baby either way. They DO need a fourth child. She'd rather give her own life up to let her fourth one to live. And here she was laying on her labor bed. Her death bed.

She knew she wouldn't survive this pregnancy to her fourth child. Luckily, she wasn't carrying twins this time for sure, she could thanked the gods for that. Joanna didn't care whether her fourth baby would come out to be a boy or a girl but what she did fear was her fourth baby's safety and life. Tywin wouldn't be so forgiving when Joanna ended up dead and the baby lived. That was why she banished her husband from entering the Maester's office. She hoped her fourth child would be a boy. As any mother would, Joanna had loved all of her children more than her husband, that was the truth. She knew they both would be having two proper children, who would be Tyrion and her upcoming baby in the days of her last. Cersei and Jaime may had been her children but they had done something together that Joanna couldn't forgive them. Joanna couldn't just do it. She was disgusted with her twins. Her two younger children would be her real children she could really rely on to continue the Lannister bloodline and legacy. She would miss her husband, her siblings and relatives, and most of all, her children. She only wished she could spent a little more time with her fourth one.

Back to the situation, Tyrion was there and so was Genna and Maester Creylen. There are other of her relatives as well. Everyone was there except her husband. All of them was standing and sitting around her bed looking at her with sad smiles and worried faces. It was Tyrion, Genna and Creylen that had much more worries in them. One of her hand was p[lace on her belly, her big belly. The baby was giving waves of kicks. She needed to speak alone with her son, Genna and Maester Creylen.

She cleared her throat internally then start to speak, "I want... all of you to... leave me alone with... my son... Genna and... Maester Creylen," Joanna paused for a moment for air then continued, "I would... like to speak with them... alone. Privately, without any... disturbances under any... circumstances." She managed to get her words out without a weak but trembling voice to her family and relatives. Without any words coming out from their mouths, they nodded and curtsied and withdrew quietly out of the office. Being the Lady of the Rock and the Westerlands benefited her a lot.

Tyrion, Genna and Creylen went to take their seats beside Joanna. They were looking at her with more worries now, especially her son Tyrion. She tried to give them a smile. Creylen was the first one to speak. "Is there anything you want from us, Joanna?" he asked softly and gently, placing a hand of his on hers.

Yes, there was something very important she would like to talk about to them. A promise. Joanna swallowed. "I need you three to listen... carefully, and only... you three." Joanna paused when she received a kick, a painful one. Quite the little lion this one is, thought Joanna with a weak smile. She continued. "I need you to make me... a promise. A promise... for my upcoming baby."

"Anything, mother, any for you and the baby." said her son Tyrion. Joanna smiled weakly to her son as her appreciation.

"I won't be surviving this one and you three know Tywin... He won't be so forgiving... if the baby lives instead of me. You know him... Tyrion, you know your father as well as me, so protect your little brother from him... and treat him good. Make sure no harm comes to him... Raise him properly, train him... and teach him... teach him good." 

Tyrion, Genna and Creylen exchanged worried looks to each other then sat their sorry eyes on hers. They gave her their kind smiles in response. "We will," replied Genna. "We will protect your son from Tywin. We promise you that."

"How do you know it'll be a boy?" asked her son innocently.

"I know he'll be," Joanna had very much confident that her fourth child would be a boy. If it wasn't then how do you explain the power kicks she received? "But listen to me, you three, please... protect him... protect him from Tywin." Joanna had her tears streaming down silently. Her coming words was much more painful to bear, as a mother. "I will not be there to raise him and protect him... Genna, you will have to be his... his mother in my stead... You have to." She meant that, what she said to them. She had raised all of three of her children with her passion but not to her fourth one, this coming baby. The gods only knew what would her husband would do to their fourth one. She wished she could stay longer to protect him but fate had already dictates her life otherwise.

Joanna wouldn't be the mother to her fourth one. She wanted to curse the gods for their cruelty. At least, she would love him with all of her heart and she was willing to gamble her life for her son's safety and life. She had prepare some gifts for her fourth baby as she had always did to her children. But for this fourth one would be a very special one. She was giving him her personal golden lion necklace that she had treasured it while she was of youth, her medallion of the Lady of the Rock and the Westerlands and finally her music box she had when she was still a child. Not only that, before she fall into sickness, she had sew a crimson cape with the golden lion on it for her little babe. Joanna passed her gifts to Genna, telling her that she want her gifts to be given on her little one's first nameday. 

"Promise me?" she asked in the uncomfortable silence around her.

Genna nodded, sadly. "I promise."

That was what Joanna wanted to hear from them. Their reliability and their assurance was something Joanna cherished a lot. She received another unpleasant and painful kick from her belly. Gods, her son was really roaring and she admired that. Joanna already smiled internally of what kind of a lion her little one would be. She had already think of names for her baby, be it boy or girl.

Joanna spoke again, "Raise him properly, you three. Don't make him like Cersei or Jaime." she said hoarsely. All three of them nodded almost instantly. They knew what Joanna meant and she meant it. She loved Cersei and Jaime for sure but they were a complete disgrace and disappointment to Joanna and Tywin. One time, she caught them doing... those activity. She was full of dread and fear when she found out of her twins was doing it. The good thing was that she would have two sons now. Tyrion may be a dwarf but he was very clever, patient, kind and observant. He even inherit his father's cunning. And Joanna loved him. Her hope was place on Tyrion and her fourth babe.

"Anything more or is that it, Joanna?" asked Creylen.

She nodded. "Yes. Leave me alone with my baby. I would love to spend some private time with him while I still have it."

All three of them understood and quietly withdrew out of the office, leaving Joanna alone with her babe. When the door was finally closed, silence struck around the air, a comfortable silence one. Joanna was gently caressing her big belly, receiving kicks after kicks. A mixture of pain and pleasant kicks. A good blend, she thought. Strangely to her, she liked it. She knew her baby would be a fine and strong one as he grew older. All she could do now for her baby before she go was to sing him a hymn. The Mother's Hymn. One of Joanna's favorite. She swallowed to moist her throat and started to sing

Gentle Mother, font of mercy,

Save our sons from war, we pray.

Stay the swords and stay the arrows,

Let them know a better way.

 

Gentle Mother, Strength of women,

Help our daughters through this fray.

Soothe the wrath and tame the fury,

Teach us all a kinder way.

 

Gentle Mother, font of mercy,

Save our sons from war, we pray.

Stay the swords and stay the arrows,

Let them know a better day.

 

Joanna sang that gently with her soft voice and her compassion from her heart to her baby. It eased the kicks to a stop. He listened. That's my baby lion cub, thought Joanna happily inside her. She was a believer of the Seven, no doubts or oppositions to that, but what made Joanna wanted to damned all of the Seven was her baby's life. So she prayed, to Seven and the Old Gods to take her life instead in return for her baby's safety. As she prayed she had her tears streaming down silently again from her eyes. After finishing praying, she caressed her belly gently again. She loved to do that. Her husband didn't know what it felt like to be a mother. How it felt like to feel the life growing inside her belly. She was bringing another life to this world, and she wouldn't be there to raise him, to love him, and to protect him. To be there for him when he cries from wounds and help. All she could only do was to pray and hoped that Tywin would love their fourth baby. If that happened, if her prayers had come to true, then she would rest in peace at least, knowing that her son was raised properly and be loved.

Then, the dark voice of her husband came back. Joanna, my dear, just remove the baby. We already have three and we don't need for a fourth one. You're killing yourself Joanna, the baby's killing you, said her husband's voice came haunting in her mind.

She wanted to slap her husband so hard for saying such thing like that to her. Throwing her baby's life away? Their baby's life? That was completely mad. Instead, Joanna assured her husband that she would be fine, the baby had to live no matter what the result was. Hearing that and as she expected from her husband's reaction, he was angry and disappointed but he couldn't fume against Joanna. Her words were much stronger and much powerful than her husband's own. Tywin loved her so much. Joanna ruled her husband at home and Tywin had always failed his attempts to persuade her in removing their baby's life despite his intelligent and persuasion. He failed miserably. Joanna herself wanted to see the baby being delivered, if she managed to live until that moment. Though she had prepared everything. The gifts to her coming son or daughter, she even wrote a letter for the baby when he could finally read and write.

I will not be there to raise him and protect him... Genna, you will have to be his... his mother in my stead... You have to. Joanna sobbed internally when she recalled those words. Joanna really wanted to be the mother to all of her children, ALL of them. Her fourth one... what would Tywin do to their fourth one once she was gone?

Oh, but Joanna knew what would Tywin do to their fourth baby once he was born well and alive instead of Joanna. She knew him just too well. Again, Joanna prayed to the Old Gods and the New to have mercy on their little one. Tyrion, Genna and Creylen would be there to uphold their promise to her but there was no knowing what Tywin could really do. She hoped it doesn't get to that point. Suddenly, a guard knock on the door from the outside and came in. All clad in his crimson armor and lion crested half-helm and armed to the sharpest of shining blade. He announced.

"My Lady Joanna, my Lord Tywin wants to see you."

Of course he wanted to see her. She waved her hand with a nod of approval. "Bring him in." she commander to her guard. He obeyed and left. After a few moments, Tywin came in.

She would smile every time her husband came in to check in on her in the past few months but the past two weeks she would avert her eyes away from her husband almost instantly to her belly or her favorite books beside her. Joanna didn't smile at her husband or turned her eyes up to meet him. She already knew what Tywin had to say from his mouth, She was very fed up with her husband's constant nagging on removing their baby. In fact, she didn't want to see her husband until the baby was born. She grabbed one of her favorite books on the end table beside her bed. The book cover was black in color of the background with a silver dragon sigil at the center of it. It was the Book of the Dragonborn. Joanna opened the book to the first page. Tywin came nearer with slow steps towards her, she sensed it, and finally sat at a chair beside her. He was observing her and the air was uncomfortable with silence and his presence. She could even felt his gaze. In very rare times, she had some minor arguments with her husband but only at rare times. This time, however, was a major argument and it was their first one. It would also be their last one. Joanna didn't turn her head to face him and instead read the first entry passage of the book.

Many people have heard the term "Dragonborn" - we are of course ruled by the "Dragonborn Emperors" - but the true meaning of the term is not commonly understood. For those of us in the Order of Talos, this is a subject near and dear to our hearts, and in this book I will attempt to illuminate the history and significance of those known as Dragonborn down through the ages.

 "What are you reading?" asked her husband solemnly and interrupted her from reading.

"The Book of the Dragonborn." Joanna simply replied without turning her eyes to her husband. She continued to read the following passage.

Most scholars agree that the term was first used in connection with the Covenant of Akatosh, when the blessed St. Alessia was given the Amulet of Kings and the Dragonfires in the Temple of the One were first lit. "Akatosh, looking with pity upon the plight of men, drew precious blood from his own heart, and blessed St. Alessia with this blood of Dragons, and made a Covenant that so long as Alessia's generations were true to the dragon blood, Akatosh would endeavor to seal tight the Gates of Oblivion, and to deny the armies of daedra and undead to their enemies, the Daedra-loving Ayleids." Those blessed by Akatosh with "the dragon blood" became known more simply as Dragonborn.

Tywin cleared his throat uncomfortably and spoke again to get out of the awkward silence between them. She knew him. "A favorite book of yours and Tyrion. A small book it is but a very good writing one. Prior Emelene Madrine and his other companions tried to make more books related to that story to complete it but he and his companions was coldly murdered at the Citadel before they could even write. All the same, it is a good book."

"It is." she replied. Awkward silence struck between them again but Joanna didn't care nor give any hints of hazes to her husband. She didn't want to see his face with his sincerity and his pleading eyes. They wouldn't work on her. "What do you want, Tywin?" she had to ask eventually.

Tywin sighed internally with his nose. "You know why I'm here. Just to check on you to see if you are... good in everything or anything."

"I'm fine, Tywin. I have all my needs here with me. My favorite books is on the end table beside me, the food is still hot and fresh on the table and the bed I'm laying on is comfortable and soft. Creylen had already prepared the medicine as well. Yes, Tywin, I'm perfectly fine." she response with a cool voice. Everything was fine, that was true except for her health condition. Joanna didn't want to show any signs of weakness in her.

Her husband checked on the small pile of books on the end table. She was right of course, all of her favorite books was brought there. Joanna had the books delivered to her a few weeks ago but she couldn't finish them.

"All of the works by Archmaester Tolkien I see, and the Infernal City by Maester Keyes. What makes you think you can read them all finish in a short time?" asked Tywin, annoyingly.

"I'll just flip through the pages." Joanna had read them all for more than five times throughout her lifetime and she still find it quite interesting, especially the works of Archmaester Tolkien. His works were legendary but his books were reduced to a few copies left in the world overtime. Luckily enough, Casterly Rock's library had two complete sets of Tolkien's works, including the ones on the end table.

"Joanna, you know why I'm here." said her husband.

"And you know why I'm here, my love. You know perfectly well why I'm laying on this bed."

"Because you're dying," he pointed coldly, "why can't you just listen to me and just remove the baby?" he argued cooly.

Joanna had enough of this conversation. She closed the book and look at her husband intently. "Can't you see it, Tywin? I may be dying but in a few more days I'm going to give birth to a new life. You know what Cersei and Jaime had done together. Our twins! You said so yourself we wanted more children, and here I am."

He shook his head slowly with his fingers intertwined. Frustrated. "You mean you wanted more children. You're letting that... creature consumed your life and let it live?"

Did Tywin really just said that? Could she just misunderstood? She didn't like that word at all. The word creature. How dare he. "If my health condition is perfectly well now, I would get up and strangle you myself for saying that to my baby, our baby." Joanna couldn't contain her fury as she looked intensely at her husband with pain and angry expression. How could he said that?

"You might just do it. Letting that creature eating out of you and let it live? I will not allow that to happen."

"If you so don't want our baby to be born then why do you even bother to impregnate me? Even more so, why do I even bother to make love with you if I had known you're this type of a cold and cruel person. Tell me Tywin, my love, have you always been selfish towards others and only care about the house and the Lannister name and legacy?" This caught her husband off the guard.

"It is not a matter of selfishness and that of I only cared for the house and the Lannister name and legacy. You're half wrong on that. It is a matter that we are performing our duties as husband and wife should."

"And you know very well why I'm on this bed then. That is my duty as a mother, as any mother should." she countered. "You don't know what it feels like to bring life to this cruel world. You don't know how it feels like to carry a child in my belly, to know a life is growing inside of me. You don't know how it actually feels like to raise and protect our children from the harshness of this world as a mother. You don't know how painful it is that I won't be here to protect and raise this one when I'm gone. I wanted to live a little longer so I can be a mother to him amd to protect him. To protect him from the cruelty of the world, and to protect him from you, Tywin. You don't know anything of how it feels like to be a mother, You don't know anything." Joanna had her tears streaming down as she said those to her husband. She'd definitely felt like a dagger had plunged deeply into her heart.

For the first time in a long time, Tywin was speechless. He looked away from her, down to the marveled floor with shame and guilt. Perhaps her words was quote powerful than she expected that made her husband think twice about it. She spoke again, gently and passionately this time.

"Tywin, I love you, truly and dearly, but you have to know why. I'm not going to do what you suggested. That is just cruel and cold. If I do what you ask then I am no better than the Mad King." said Joanna. That reminded her, Robert had started his rebellion this very year, all of the course of the abduction of Lady Lyanna Stark.

Tywin sighed. "I still cannot allow you to die, Joanna. I cannot bear it." he said genuinely.

"And I cannot do what you requested, my love. I will never do it. Gods be good."

Tywin shook his head in disbelief, yet he remained silent. He couldn't believe what she just told him. Joanna, being the Lady of the Rock and the Westerlands, her words were much more powerful, more so than her husband. Tywin stood from his chair with a gentle behavior yet hard expression. He sighed deeply, in disappointment,

"I can't watch you do this, but I also cannot force you either. Maester Creylen will see to your every needs. I'll go now." Tywin began walking away from Joanna with his hands on his back. He stopped before the double door and look back on his shoulder to Joanna. "I love you, Joanna. Truly I do."

Joanna could feel her husband was smiling weakly at her, there in front of her. She returned it. Although her husband's smile was weak, it was still a smile all the same. "I love you too, Tywin." With those words, Tywin left the Maester's office and the double door closed.

Genna and Creylen entered the office later with few handmaidens and servants behind them. Genna took her seat where Tywin sat earlier, Creylen went to his desk and resumed his works. Where was Tyrion? The handmaidens were bringing in new lunch food and replaced the old ones. Genna was checking on her health condition, also the baby's condition. They were both fine, for now. Creylen came and he had brought a soup with him from the table, he said it would ease the high fever she had. When the first spoonful of soup came into her mouth, she tasted them and swallowed them. She wanted to spit them all out as it was very bitter. At least it was hot and not cold. She received a painful kick.

"No thank you, Creylen. I don't want it." said Joanna, rejecting the second spoonful that Creylen was about to fed her with. She pursed her lips.

"You'll need it, Joanna. For you and your baby's health. Come on, drink it." he was urging her but Joanna wouldn't want to take a second spoon of it. It was too bitter for her taste.

"It's useless for my health anyways and I can't be saved. The baby is fine, Creylen. I assure you. I'm pretty sure he hates the soup as well." Joanna smiled there, the soup part. Finally, the maester conceded. He placed the soup back on the table. She felt relief.

Joanna turned thirty-five last month. She didn't celebrate with her condition. Though they did wished her well and prayed for her with all their gratitude. This year was a very interesting one. Robert Baratheon rebelled against the Targaryens when the Mad King Aerys burnt Lord Rickard Stark and Brandon Stark. The Mad King Aerys demanded Jon Arryn for the traitors's heads of Lord Robert Baratheon of Storm's End and Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell. They were at the Eyrie under the watch of Lord Jon Arryn, however, Jon Arryn refused to oblige. Instead, he raised his banners in revolt. It resulted with a full scale war around Westeros, except that House Lannister remained neutral. On the royalist side were House Tyrell and House Martell along with their vassals and bannermen. To the rebels' side were House Arryn, House Baratheon, House Tully and House Stark. Indeed it was a full scale war, but Tywin was wise enough not to choose any side and remained out of the conflict, besides, their baby was about to be born in a couple days. Tyrion and Cersei stayed back in Casterly Rock whereas Jaime was needed in King's Landing to protect the Mad King. It was his duty after all. 

Cersei had grown to be a very beautiful lady, or woman. Most said that she even outmatched her own mother in comparison. Jaime was the gallant and glory one. He grew up to be quite handsome. He was supposed to be Tywin's heir but since his ever-disappointing in choosing decisions he had always done, he lost it. More so, Jaime disliked reading books and being a lord. He wasn't smart. Tyrion was quite the special one. He may be a dwarf but he was very smart and kind and not the monster everuone had talked about. Gods damned them. Joanna loved her dwarf son and Tywin made Tyrion his heir to his titles and lands.

Tyrion spent most of his time in the library reading books and doing some exercises his father had given him. Reading was Tyrion's favorite hobby. From time to time, Tywin had Tyrion ruled the Westerlands for a few months and the Westerlands propsered. That was because Tyrion was his heir and Tywin wanted their son to be prepared and had some experience in it. To Tywin and Joanna's amusement, Tyrion managed to thrive the Westerlands and they were proud of him, Joanna was more. Even a dwarf could cast the largest shadow and Tyrion had stood taller than most. Tyrion loved to drink wine as much as he loved his hobby. Sometimes before, Tyrion had always had a drinking contest with his father and some with the bannermen until they all ended up drunk. Tyrion would always have a friendly match of cyvasse with his lord father either in his solar or in the library. He spent most of his time there reading and lectured there by his father.

Night had arrive and Joanna woke up to find herself alone with Genna and Creylen. The handmaidens and servants wasn't with them but they had replaced the food on the table with new ones. Creylen was doing some reading while Genna still sat beside her, also reading while eating some treats. She didn't seemed to notice Joanna's awoke. Her stomach was growling. She was hungry, and the baby too.

"Genna," she called her name out like a whisper and tired voice. Genna turned her attention away from the book and looked at her now. "Can you... can you bring me some food? I'm hungry..."

Her cousin-sister-in-law nodded quickly and brought her a wooden tray with some bowls of delicious food of meats, side dishes and a mug of milk she picked from the table. Genna helped her to get spoon fed since her hands were busy protecting her belly, and her tired muscles. She felt like a little girl when Genna spoon fed her. The food was very delicious. It really seemed that Joanna and the baby was really hungry. Tywin had appointed the best chefs from Westeros and Essos to be the cooks of Casterly Rock, and they served them well. Her main dish was grilled beef meat with black pepper sauce and mashed potatoes with gravy. Another dish was a bowl of fruits and vegetables. Her side dish was mushroom soup, her favorite. As she progressively ate, she was starting to feel a little full. Joanna wanted her baby to be as strong as a lion and roar like a crushing thunder. Genna continued to fed her until she was full. Genna placed the bed tray away from her. 

Genna spoke while she wipe the food stains from her mouth with her napkin. "Joanna, are you really sure what you said earlier to me? You might just survive this pregnancy like you always have. You're a fighter, Joanna. Don't give up so easily."

She wanted to believe in that, really. It was useless already. Creylen had told her that her muscles were not only too weak to move around but she even stated that her muscles were hardened and cramped most of the times, leaving her few options to move around slightly for awhile. She could barely even support herself to get up from bed, let alone walk. And her high fever was only getting worst. Creylen insisted her to drink two mugs of milk to strengthen her bones and only eat red meats for energy. "I would love to believe you, Genna, truly and really. You know why I asked you three to promise me. I fear the worst to come and it is, as it is as inevitable anyway." she said, sadly.

Genna nodded. "And for that you have our full trust and reliability, Joanna. Don't worry, Tywin won't lay a finger on your baby, nor any harm should come to." assured Genna. She gave her a weak smile.

"That's what I like to hear from you. Thank you."

In this dire situation, Joanna could only put her hopes and trusts on Tyrion, Genna, and Creylen. She cannot put it on Cersei. For the past few months of Tywin's constant nagging was really irritating and it got her nerves on. She would not want to hear anything related to about abortion or taking moon tea. She won't permit any, not while she still breathed.

"What are you going to name him, or her?" asked Genna all of the sudden. She didn't know why but Joanna had a smile across her face.

She had already thought of the names for the baby, be it boy or girl. She always came prepared. "If the baby turns out to be a boy, which I'm sure and most likely the baby will be, he will be named Braenden Lannister... or Baldwin Lannister. I don't want to follow the family tradition of starting the name with 'Ty'." When she gave birth to Tyrion, she actually wanted to name him Baldwin but her husband insisted on using Tyrion. "Which... which do you think sounds pleasant?" Joanna, despite being thirty-five years old, loved to talk about baby names.

Genna went thoughtful there for the moment. She was thinking of the two names. She hoped she would like them. Braenden or Baldwin. Joanna preferred the name Braenden more but both sounded nice and pleasant all the same. She never discussed this to anyone, until now. Genna had finally decided and spoke her cast.

"I think Braenden sounds nicer."

Joanna smiled. "And for that, I agree with you. I actually preferred the name Braenden over Baldwin but both are pleasant in their ways. What do you think about the name Baldwin?" asked Joanna to Genna.

Genna just shrugged and shook her head in disapproval. "Well... it sounds... bald don't you think?"

Joanna let a small laughter escaped her throat. "Yes, I agree."

"So it is settled then," declared Genna. "My upcoming nephew will be named Braenden Lannister then?"

Joanna nodded. "Yes, he shall be named Braenden Lannister, of Casterly Rock."

"What if your baby turns out to be a girl instead?"

Joanna sighed internally and hoped that it wouldn't turn out to be that way. A girl of very young age will have a very difficult time facing Tywin's wrath then. "Then she shall be named Jaina, or Mylla, or Alyne. I just want something new for my baby." It was true. Joanna wanted more of a diverse name for her baby. He or she deserved it.

"Whatever you picked, I'm sure we will all like it. After all, it is the mother's duty to name her baby."

She smiled at that, but not for long. She would be the biological mother to her fourth but not a mother physically to her fourth one. The thought wounded her gravely. Genna would be the one of the mother, and Tyrion and Creylen would be tone ones to teach him or her properly, what was good and what was bad. Train him or her too. But not Joanna. She received a kick from her belly. Gods, he is really roaring to get out, said Joanna inside of her heart, admiring. All of her children she conceived them in her belly, Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion, had all been patient and calmed when she entered the delivery phase. Except this one, her fourth one was very eager to get our its shell, its mother's womb. Another kick she received and the baby was moving around. Quite the rebel this one, a rogue little cub. The baby was moving around relentless as if he was looking for a way out. Like a lion trying to get out of its cage. The baby wouldn't stop moving, and Joanna actually liked the feeling. She decided to sing a song to her baby. Another favorite of hers. She started it by humming the tune and the melody, then the words.

Our hero, our hero

Claims a warrior's heart

I tell you, I tell you

The Dragonborn comes.

 

With a voice wielding power

Of the ancient Nord art

Believe, believe

The Dragonborn comes

 

It's an end to the evil

Of all Skyrim's foes

Beware, beware

The Dragonborn comes

 

For the darkness has passed

And the legend yet grows

You'll know, you'll know

The Dragonborn's come.

Joanna sang that song as lowly as her trembling voice. The baby stopped moving. She had to smile and place her hands on her pregnant belly. Slowly, carefully and gently caressing her belly with her protective hands and her love. She loved that song, but sadly, the composer of that song was unknown but it was said to be one of Prior Emelene's companions. The song was often called as 'The Dragonborn Comes'. Joanna loved everything that was related to that fantasy world as much as Tolkien's own imaginations. Her favorite fantasy world was Nirn and Middle-Earth. Tyrion also loved them. Joanna wondered if her fourth child would like or love Archmaester Tolkien's works of masterpiece. She bet her baby would love it. Knowledge was something Joanna and her son Tyrion loved a lot. Sadly, Cersei and Jaime did not. Cersei lusted for power and Jaime was hungry for gallantry. And they were both twins, and lovers. It was a wonder why they both hated to be lectured and read books. Joanna didn't want to think of her twins now. It was madness, wild and taboo... incest. Like the Targaryens. She remembered how the Mad King Aerys II lusted for her during her times in King's Landing as one of the lady-in-waiting to Queen Rhaella Targaryen. The thought disgusted her. She hated the Mad King.

The thought of a newborn life was about to come out to this world brought her joy and sadness. Both a blender. If it was a boy, then he shall be named Braenden Lannister. If it was a girl, then she shall be named Alyne Lannister. No matter the outcome of the sex, she wanted to be there for her baby, at least to breastfeed her before she goes. She prayed one last time to one of the Seven Gods, to the Mother. She prayed to have mercy and love and protection to her fourth one. She prayed until she was done, she was already asleep with her hands rested on her big belly.

 

Chapter Text

Yesterday was just a normal day, like any other day for Joanna before. Surprisingly, she felt healthy and energetic all of the sudden when she woke up  She didn't get up from her bed though, fearing the pain might come back again so she remained laying on the bed of hers. Yesterday, she felt very relieved and full of hope and energy that she thought she might survive this pregnancy. She banished her son Tyrion from entering, leaving only Genna, Creylen and a few trusted handmaidens to her company. She didn't know why she banished Tyrion but it had something to do with her delivery. She had her personal bodyguards of four in heavily armored red cloak and armed to defend outside the door, preventing anyone from entering without her consent. She had told her guards to not let anyone enter, not even the Lord of Casterly Rock and the Westerlands were allowed to be entered.

"Remember, no one is to enter or leave the Maester's office without my approval. Knock first if anyone wants to come in." she said to her guards yesterday and they obeyed. So far, only Genna and Creylen and a few handmaidens were allowed to leave and enter. Tyrion wanted to go in but her guards told him otherwise. 

Today, this morning of the seventh day of the eighth month of the year 282 AC, Joanna ate a lot for an average breakfast tray. She was really starving and the baby too, she thought. The gods only knew that she and her baby was starving. But this afternoon, as of now, Joanna was severely weakened and sick to the stomach. Her muscles were greatly weakened and cramped and she could barely move her whole body except her arms and hands. Her fever grew more and more intense as the time passed on. Creylen kept changing the towels to new ones but it didn't help to ease down the body temperature. The baby was moving relentlessly inside her belly. Today could be the birthing phase, she could feel it already, another birth of life. She would have another little cub running around and roaring around in Casterly Rock. She only wished she could see that happen. She wanted to see her new cub screaming, crying, wailing, grinning, smiling, giggling and laughing. She wanted see and hear that herself. The handmaidens were preparing as well for the delivery, Creylen too as they feared today could be the day. Genna was there beside her to support her always. Creylen was too busy setting up. The rest of her family members and relatives were waiting outside the Maester's office, including her husband Tywin, her son Tyrion and her daughter Cersei. Her husband demanded to be there inside with his wife but Joanna refused to even let anyone in now, except for the handmaidens to have an approval of leaving and entering for bringing food and drinks only, nothing more. She was glad that she had her bodyguards blocking and guarding the door for her. Today she feared, could be the day for her to give birth. The seventh day of the eighth month. or moon turn.

This birthing process would be a very painful one, more so than when she gave birth to her twins, Cersei and Jaime and then Tyrion. She could feel the pain already. Today could be the day, she reminded herself about that, to be prepared for the worst. She was laying on the bed with her head rested on two stacked of feathered pillows, sweating. She was even more pale and weaker than before. Fortunately and luckily, she managed to save up some energy when it was the time to push her little cub out. Maybe, just maybe then she could spent some moments alone with her newborn baby, maybe even breastfeed him or her. If only given the enough time. Joanna looked forward to that. At least the gods was merciful enough to grant her that special time. If they would. A servant came with a bed tray with lunch food on it. She gently placed that beside Joanna. She didn't had any but now she had it. Genna helped spoonf ed her again like yesterday and the days before when she was put onto the bed. She chewed and swallowed every waves of spoonful of food into her mouth. It was good, too good. Finishing the main dish came in the milk. She drank it all in one go but carefully not to choke herself. When Creylen offered her the medicine soup she immediately pushed the soup away from her with her hands and the contents spill on the ground. She was being very clear on that. She would not take that soup. Instead, Joanna went for the mushroom soup and she surprisingly had the energy for that. Despite being hot, Joanna ignored the heat and gulped them whole in a go. She was now satisfied but still hungry for more. Genna's eyes were wide in shocked at the way Joanna drank the soup. She smiled weakly back at her as her response. Her stomach called for more.

"Bring me more... bring me more food. I'm hungry... the baby too..." said Joanna quietly to Genna. She gathered some energy and pushed herself up slowly, her back against the headboard of the bed.

Genna nodded and turned her head to the handmaidens. "Bring the Lady Lannister more food. Now!" she shouted with a tone of command. They quickly obeyed and turned on their heels and left the office as quickly as possible. If there was anyone else in this world that would be fit to be the Lady of the Rock, it would be Genna.

The handmaidens of four returned with trays filled with foods. They sat the trays on the table behind Genna and reserved themselves to a large couch. Genna stood from her chair and walked towards the table. She picked up the bed tray, pick some food and place them on the bed tray and brought it on top of Joanna's lap. Her belly covered some parts of the view but she could see the food all the same. The main plate was seasoned salmon meat in a big portion, Joanna could smell the salt and seasoning. Her favorite fish. The second plate was enticing as well as the first one. Bits of pieces of various meats, turkey sausages and grilled bacon. And of course, a bowl of hot mushroom soup. Joanna didn't let Genna took the chance to spoon fed her this time. She sat properly while remained laying on the bed to rest her legs. Gathering some energies, Joanna went for the salmon first, the first chunk of fish meat landed on her tongue and she loved it when she swallowed it. She continued at a moderate pace to finish up her first plate to go for the second one. The bits of pieces of various meats were small chunks of roasted chickens, ducks, lambs and porks. Other than that, it was the turkey sausages and the grilled bacon. She picked them one by one quickly as they entered and swallowed into her stomach to digest. She could sense someone was giving her an uncomfortable heat. Finish the chunks of meats, she went on with the sausages and the bacon. She had come to think that spoon and fork wouldn't do much of a help to quickened her feeding. She went barehanded and quickly tossed the bacon into her mouth, as quickly as she munchedit and swallowed it. Joanna finished the second plate and went for the third one, her favorite hot mushroom soup fresh from the heating cauldron of the kitchens. Slowly, she picked the soup bowl with her two hands and slowly bring it to her mouth. The edge of the wooden bowl touched her lips and she could feel the heatwave already. She slowly pour the contents into her mouth. Gulping one at a time carefully. It was hot, too hot perhaps that her tongue might just get burnt. 

Genna was the one to talk as she drank the mushroom soup. "Joanna, my dear, you should be careful with that soup. It's too hot to just drink in all at once. I fear the baby might get hurt with it. You are eating like a madman." she said with a worried voice and expression.

"I'm very hungry, Genna. The baby is too." she replied before pouring small volume of the hot mushroom soup content into her mouth.

"All the reason to make your baby stronger I guess."

Joanna simply nodded. Both first and second plate was emptied leaving only the greasy oil on it as the remainder. Her hands were greasy as well. She didn't want to waste anytime for her baby so she tried to pour lots of volume into her mouth, resulting only with a hot growing heat in her tongue that made her spill. 

"Joanna, calmed down dear. I told you the soup is hot."

"Damn you, Genna. Leave me alone! I'm hungry!" she noticed that she nearly shouted there but she didn't care. The baby was really hungry, it seemed. "My baby is hungry, and I have to feed him."

"You should but calm yourself first. There's no need for rushing."

She decided to ignore her and went on drinking the mushroom soup. She finished it all the eventually, she took her time. Nothing was left on the bowl. She cast the bed tray aside and lay rested on her bed, contemplating. Genna took the bed tray away from the bed and put it aside on the table. She grabbed one of her books but before she could open to the first page. She heard voices grumbling from the other side of the door. 

"I order you to let me in now. I am the Lord of Casterly Rock and the Westerlands and you do well to know who I am." growled the familiar rough voice she had always heard. It was her husband Tywin, demanding to enter the office room.

"I'm sorry, my Lord Tywin but we take our orders from the Lady Lannister. She told us to not let anyone in or out without her consent. Including the Lord of the Rock Her words. Until further notice, no one is to be entered the Maester's office until Lady Lannister said otherwise." replied one of her guards.

"This is completely outrageous! Tyrion, tell them to open the door." her husband asked.

"They won't let us in anyway. Mother banished me from entering the office since yesterday." 

Joanna wanted to laugh at them for being rejected. She grinned and chuckled lightly. Even her smart son couldn't even persuade the guards to let them enter. Joanna told Tyrion so.

"We're truly sorry, my lords," said one of the guards to them, "you will enter the room once the Lady Lannister gives us her commands."

She heard footsteps receding away from the door. The guards managed to halt her husband for the moment to buy Joanna some time. Tyrion played his part well enough, she supposed. This wasn't the first time though. Earlier hours, Tywin had already demand to enter the office. The guards did well on their performance as bodyguards. Creylen came to sit beside her and placed his hands on her belly, checking any further signs if the baby was about to come out. Joanna had allowed Creylen to touch her belly but only to check on the baby, nothing else. She could feel Creylen's hands moving around her round belly, he went thoughtful there. Joanna was curious to know. She wanted to know if this was the time. Creylen gave her a shooking head in no to her. It wasn't the time to deliver, yet.

"When will be the time?" asked Joanna. The maester removed his hands from her belly and she felt relieved there. It was disturbing actually.

"Most likely tonight. Your baby is moving around like a lion wanting to get out of its cage, Joanna." he said with a cough. "Your baby will be a hard and a rebellious one. From what I could tell, I'm sure the baby will definitely turn out to be a boy. As for your health, Joanna, you will need to take some rest and accumulate as much energy as you can for the push. You'll need it." he left with those words.

"I will be the mother of four but not a mom to my fourth one." said Joanna, dark and sadly.

Genna placed a hand of hers on Joanna's sweating palms. "Don't say that, you might just live through this and you will raise him and protect him."

The Lady of the Rock really wanted to put her hopes up on that but it was too useless already. "Too late now, Genna. Just make sure no harm comes to him or her. You, Tyrion and Creylen made me a promise and I'm relying on you three on him. I put my trust in you so I hope I didn't make a mistake there." she replied sternly.

Genna nodded. "No, you did not but you have to understand that not everyone is willing to be in the way of Tywin's wrath. My brother wouldn't be so forgiving. You know him as much as I do." 

She knew only too well in that matter. Tywin had proven his wrath during the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion. She knew that story and what happen to the Reynes of Castamere and the Tarbecks of Tarbeck Hall. They went extinct. Tywin was the most feared lords of all the Seven Kingdoms, the people feared him, his vassals respected him and the Mad King liked him for that. Even Joanna. When it comes to dealing with their children, it was Tywin that respected her. Tywin loved her as much as Joanna loved her children. She couldn't allow Tywin's wrath set above their fourth baby but she couldn't stop him. Her time was almost up anyway. She wouldn't be there and it was all up to Tyrion, Genna and Creylen for that job. They made her a promise and they wouldn't just fail it. Wouldn't they?

"Joanna, close your eyes. Tonight, you'll need it the energy for the push. Go get some rest. I'll make sure no one enters the room.

And so she did. She rested her whole body while placing her hands on her belly for protection. Her baby. Her little lion cub. Her baby was moving around like a lion on a rampant and she closed her eyes to feel her baby. She could... she could feel him. Could it be a boy? Joanna could hear him roaring inside her belly. He would be the greatest lion to ever roar in Westeros and the known world. He would be the greatest Lannister of them all. If only Tywin would see the other way around, their little one could eventually be. Tywin was being in his selfish, as always. Caring about the house, the Lannister name, the family history and legacy. Tyrion would do that and there wasn't any need to harm their fourth one. If only the gods would blessed their blessings on Tywin, that would be good. No matter. The only thing that matters was that Tyrion and Genna and Creylen would be there for the little one, protecting him from Tywin's wrath. They would do it as they would uphold to the promise. Her little one would be raised properly, taught to be as smart as Tyrion, smile like Gerion and fight like Tygett. In her letter for her fourth child, she also stated that her fourth one was forbidden to join the Maesters of the Citadel or even the Night's Watch under any circumstances, if the baby turned out to be a boy. No, Joanna didn't want any of that. She closed her eyes and prayed silently, praying it didn't come to that.

She woke up to a feeling of something had been of a leak. When she opened her eyes, her vision was unclear for a short moment and her head felt like it had been spun. There was another pain she received, from her belly and from between her legs. She checked and checked around after she was sobered up with her hands and... No, it couldn't be. Most likely tonight. Your baby is moving around like a lion wanting to get out of its cage, Joanna, said Creylen earlier the afternoon. Her water had broke. She looked around to find Genna still sitting the same place as she had been earlier, only this time she was sleeping. Creylen was studying a book. The handmaidens were talking, Joanna could hear their whispering. 

"Genna, Creylen..." she called in a low voice. She was still tired but she must call for them now. She sat herself against the headboard of the bed. "Genna, Creylen!" she shouted their names this time with a rough voice. Genna woke up and Creylen quickly got off from his desk to her. The handmaidens too.

"What... What happen? Joanna, are you alright?" Genna had her eyes widened and desperate looks as if she was already awoke. She wasn't clearly aware of the situation now.

Joanna's water had broke. "My... my water... it broke." her baby was moving now and the pain was coming, growing too.

Genna called out the handmaidens and they brought towels with them. Creylen got onto the bed and spread Joanna's legs apart from each other. He checked and with a nod, he confirmed tonight was the night. They helped position Joanna in a more comfortable position with her legs spread out. The pain was really growing. Genna sat beside her with her hands on her shoulder and tightening around one of Joanna's hand. The pain, oh... the pain! she cried internally inside as she gasped for air. Creylen stood in front of her with a towel on his hands, ready. This was the time.

"Try to push Joanna." he said.

She tried and tried with her energy. Each attempt of her pushing ended nothing with no result. The baby was giving her a hell of a pain inside her belly. She pushed again but with no result. Only the pain she received was an unbearable one. Joanna tried to muffle her scream but she failed so. She screamed in agony. "By the gods! It's so... painful... and relentless!" she cried and screamed again when she tried to push. Joanna tightened her grip Genna's hands very tightly.

Genna called out. "Go get the wet nurse now!"

"This is it, Joanna. This is the time. Breathe in and out," Joanna followed Creylen's instruction, barely but she tried. The pain was so devastating, and unbearable unlike her previous one. "You can do it, Joanna. We put our trust in you." The handmaidens were all scattering around. She tried to push and it success, the baby moved but so was the pain.

No, she couldn't do it. "The pain, Creylen. It's too painful. I-I can't! Please help me..." the baby was tearing her apart.

"Just push! You can do it! Push more! I can't see it yet." She pushed and pushed but to no avail. She couldn't feel her baby between her legs. Nothing came out. Only the pain kept growing unbearable. Does it ever stopped? Joanna couldn't remember any of this kind of pain from her previous birthing. "Push!"

Joanna need no motivation for that, she knew how the drill works, but she listened anyways and pushed more. She could feel the baby was moving now and she made some progress. One at a time. Breathe in... and out... then push. She was certainly not well with this procedure, if one was asking. Come out boy and get out! she screamed internally. Oh, the baby was departing from her belly as she pushed further. What a very painful process she had to undergo again. Joanna screamed and pushed and more until she could feel something at her entrance between her legs.

"Push, Joanna! Push! I can see the head!" announced Creylen, in disbelief. Joanna set her hopes up and pushed even more. She really wanted to see her baby. Her baby boy, or girl.

Joanna did the same process again when pushing. This time she did it with all of her energy. The head was getting out of her entrance. The pain was very drastic now and there wasn't any moment to bear it. "Get it out, get it out, get it out!" she screamed afterwards as she pushed, fully committing all of her energy to get her babe out from her entrance.

Finally, the pain was starting to fade and recede away around her body. What a painful process that was. The pain seemed to worn off. After sometime of recovery, she heard a crying, a baby one. Did she do it? Had she successfully done it? Joanna was very eager to see her baby but she was too weak to move around. Almost all of her energy was wasted in the delivering process. No, she reminded herself. I have to see my baby. I want to see him or her. She pushed herself up, her back against the headboard of the bed. Her belly returned to its normal state.

Creylen was the first one to speak in the midst of the baby's crying. "You have a boy, Joanna! A boy! Perfectly healthy." Joanna smiled weakly as she gasped for breath. A boy, she wondered. She was glad that was the outcome of the sex of her baby. Her little cub was healthy and strong. She could hear his crying of roars. Then, Creylen said something that made Joanna's smile gone almost instantly. "My Lord Tywin would want to see him at once!" Creylen said, gleefully with excitement as he wrapped the baby with a white towel. No.

"Give me my baby boy." Joanna demanded with a low voice, yet it was enough for everyone around her to hear.

"But my Lord Tywin-"

"I said give him to me!" Joanna shouted with an angry and ordering voice. The maester nodded and obeyed. He handed her baby to her gently. She smiled. She hadn't seen him yet but now she did. She held her little baby boy in her arms, couldn't help to keep a smile. His eyes were of emerald green and had a blond duvet like hers. His nose were so small like his hands, a delicate nose he had acquired from his mother. She couldn't help to contained her smile at her baby boy. Crying he was. 

"He's very handsome. You're very handsome, my little cub." Joanna cooed. The baby's crying was quite loud across the room but that didn't bother Joanna. She kissed her baby boy on top of his small forehead and her nose touched his. "You.. you must be hungry. Here, let me... let me feed you." she remove her lace of her gown over her shoulder and with the other and they fell to her waist line. Her breast was revealed, ready to feed her little lion cub. She moved him closer to her breast and the baby started to suckle it naturally. She watched her baby drinking milk from her breast. Tears of joy streamed down silently as she couldn't help but smile, with sorrows as well. Finally, Joanna could at least breastfeed him as any mother should. She wanted to cry but she held it. She watched her baby boy being fed by her. She had finally reached to this point where she could feed her baby. That was certainly what she wanted. She heard the door open and footsteps building its sounds, drawing closer and closer to her. But she didn't want to see anyone other than her newborn baby boy. Her sweet, sweet little cub.

"My Lord Tywin Lannister and his children, Lady Cersei and Lord Tyrion Lannister." the guard announced the intruders. Joanna didn't even bother to look away from her baby. She wanted to watch him suckle her milk. She wanted him to be stronger. She wanted to be there for him. Tywin and their children moved closer and stood beside Genna, looking at her.

"His name is Braenden. Braenden Lannister." Joanna said, without lifting her head up. Her vision was starting to threatened her with darkness, she fought it back. Her energy... "Our baby boy, Tywin. Your little brother, my sweet children." Her muscles were starting to fail. Joanna didn't know what was their reaction was but she could feel the gaze on their baby. She could feel Tywin's heat cloaking over Braenden. Her vision started to darkened again. She needed a few more time with her baby boy...

"Joanna, stop. Give me the baby. You are about to passed out." said Genna worriedly.

"Give me the baby, my love. You need to stay strong." Tywin supported with a gloomy voice. She her husband's hands drawing near to their baby. Joanna flinched that instant, not wanting to give their little boy handed over to her husband.

"You will not take him from me," Joanna growled. "I will not allow any of you to harm him... my little boy. My sweet little Braenden. Not while I still breathe." Joanna warned.

She tightened her grip firmly around baby Braenden and continued to feed him. Her body received a dropping pulse. Her energy was almost finish, her vision started to be unclear. Her eyes threatened to shut, forever. "My sweet, sweet little boy... you must... you must know, I-I love you. I want you... to know that." Her eyes was half closed but she made a stand for it to look her son was last time.

"Joanna? Joanna!"

"Mother!"

"I love you, my baby Braenden. Don't ever... forget that... my little golden cub..."

Her time was up. Time for her to meet the gods and to face her judgement. But the best part was that she breastfeed her newborn son Braenden. She left with those words, one final words to her little baby Braenden. My little golden cub... At least, her son would know that his mother would love even though she barely even know him. A mother's kiss and a mother's love. She would give all of her heart to her baby boy. Her baby Braenden.

Chapter Text

"The wall is about seven hundred feet tall at its highest point if the foundations were flat. Greyguard is a hilly region which sends the wall to about nine hundred feet tall in the air, Lannister." said Lord Commander Mormont earlier.

Indeed it was very big and tall, though not as tall as Casterly Rock. The Wall was stretched one hundred leagues long all the way from Westwatch-by-the-Bridge until Eastwatch-by-the-sea. He went atop of the Wall to see the land beyond the wall for the first time. In front of his sight was the haunted forest. It was so vast that it almost covered the entire landscape until the horizons. It was his first time here in Castle Black and his second time in the north. The Wall was magnificently big and beautiful at the same time. Braenden was at awe when the Wall first came to his eyes when he arrived at Castle Black. His bodyguards too. He was the first southern lords to arrive in Castle Black in many years, Tyrion would join with him next week once the King's party was done in Winterfell. The main reason why Braenden went to the north is to meet his childhood best friend again in Winterfell but when he heard that she was taken and charmed, Braenden's heart broke. He didn't want to see her eyes again, he never entered Winterfell to join the feast. Instead, he went forward following the Kingsroad, passing through Winterfell and Castle Cerwyn, through the Wolfswood, making a stop at the Long Lake and finally to Castle Black. The journey was tiresome but with minor companions with you, you can travel with haste. 

When he first arrived at Castle Black, the brothers in black coats and furs were giving Braenden and his bodyguards queer looks. Seldom does a southern lord ever visit the Wall. Lord Commander Mormont welcomed him warmly and they retire when Maester Aemon showed his apartment. It was small and dark and cold but it had a hearth near to the bed, a washroom to clean himself and table and chairs. His apartment in Castle Black reminded him of his time in Casterly Rock when he was two until eight years old. Dark memories they were, but they were the past. Braenden came to the north to see his best friend but that went backfired. Another reason for him to go to the north was to join with Tyrion to go to Castle Black together but Braenden went along first, leaving Tyrion behind. He sent him a letter when he arrived in Castle Black, saying that he had known what happen and that he was already at the Wall. The first day, Braenden inspect around the castle. It was old, cold, dusty and much looked like a ruin. When Braenden was finally Lord of the Rock and the Westerlands, he would send some support to rebuild but it would have to wait. Convincing his lord father to sent a shipment of golds and silvers to Castle Black was pointless to his father. It would be nice to show some support to the Night's Watch from the south. 

The second day, Braenden was with a seasoned ranger, he was the master-at-arms in Castle Black. He was training the new recruits. Watching them training, they were slow and untrained. The former great order of the Night's Watch was now filled with brothers of rapers, murderers, thieves and outlaws from around Westeros. Braenden felt pity for them, but angry at their crimes they had committed. But it wasn't Braenden to judge over them. He kept it to himself. Braenden was trained at Casterly Rock by his own personal appointed master-at-arms by his father at the age of nine. He was far better than any of them below in the courtyard. Better than Jaime actually. His master-at-arms trained Braenden only, and he had taught Braenden so much about combat, both Westerosi-style and Essosi-style. He was a former veteran fighter in the pits of Meereen for about thirty years. He won his freedom at his fifth year but he continued to fight for money until Braenden's father appointed him. He was a veteran and seasoned fighter and made a name for himself around Essos, even Westeros. His name was Aren, the Gladiator. Sadly, Aren couldn't follow him to the north as he was training others in Casterly Rock too. The first time they met they quickly made a bond of friendship together. Braenden got out of his trance and he realized that he should at least train the new recruits for the Night's Watch.

He asked Ser Aliser Thorne, a slim and sinewy, dry and hard, black of eyes and black of hair streaked with grey. He was fifty years old. He had a thin smile and a sharp, cold and humorless voice. He was mean and bitter towards almost everyone. Braenden's father gave Ser Aliser a chance to take the black or to die during Robert's Rebellion. He fought on the Targaryen side. "Mayhaps I should be the one to train them, ser. If you want to have good fighters and good handlers of weapons, I should be the one to train them for a short while."

"Are you planning to take the black, Lord Lannister? If you want to then the Lord Commander would be happy to have a men like you to watch over the walls and over this sorry lots. Men like you wouldn't dare to take the chance of serving in the Night's Watch when you are priced with crimes." he replied, coldly.

"No more than what my father had offered to you during Robert's Rebellion. No, I won't take the black but I will help train your recruits even if it is just a short time." 

He went down the dais through the small stairs down that led to the courtyard. Ser Aliser didn't follow him. His words were dark and cold but he didn't scare Braenden at all. He had faced worst people and animals than him. It was a good thing that he wore the outfit of the black brothers, it was offered by Lord Mormont this morning. It was light and good for a swift strike and attack. He left his fur coat at his apartment. He attached himself with his two longsword to his waist. Braenden mastered at every arms but his favorite was wielding two swords. He reached the courtyard a few steps later and told the trainer that he would take his place to train the new recruits. The trainer stood aside and watch him with a mocking expression. He had yet to watch how Braenden performed. He could also hear the small grumbling and scoffing with the new recruiters. Braenden armed himself with a blunted longsword from the rack behind him.

A recruiter with broad face and aquiline nose spoke, "Why should a southern lord would want to train us? I was sent to the Wall by a southern lord from the Reach. They have no place in the wall here." he complained, then the rest agreed.

"You should think twice about the crimes you have done before you have complain to me. It wasn't me that send you all to the Wall." he said to the five of the new recruiters. "Now, if you want to serve the Night's Watch well, then follow my lead."

Braenden sparred with one of the recruits. They both inched away from each other and when the trainer herald the signal, the recruit charged head on with his blunted sword up in the air. What he didn't see it coming was that Braenden simply kicked him down when he was of legs' reach and he fell to the ground. Braenden pointed his sword next to his throat, smiling at him. He was fast but not a thinker and certainly not an observant. He was too easy to be knocked down. Braenden helped him to get on his feet back and they went on training for a few hours until the wind picked up. It was getting very cold. Braenden had to return to his quarter and put on his fur coat, he lit up the hearth with some firewood himself and it warmed the room. He sat near the table close to the hearth, reading about the history of the Night's Watch that was brought to him by a brother of the Night's Watch. A small gratitude from the library of Castle Black. Braenden loved to read books. When the saw was nowhere to seen in the pale cold sky when he looked out to his window, it was already sunset. You couldn't tell where the sun was at. Then a black brother stood before his door, knocking it.

"My Lord of Lannister, Lord Commander Mormont wants to see you. He invites you to have an early dinner with him." announced the brother in black.

"I'll be there with him shortly. Thank you for telling me."

He walked up the stairs that led to the Lord Commander's Tower. He stood before the door and knock it to let anyone know inside that he was at the threshold. A voice called out from within saying that he could enter. The door opened from behind by a brother and Braenden entered the apartment. It had three normal sized room. The first one was a waiting area for those who would want to seek or consult the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. The second room when he entered was Lord Mormont's solar. A hearth in front of the solar's desk and a table for four beside it. There was a window with flaps which are opened. The hearth was burning. The other room behind the second one could be the Lord Commander's bedchamber, Braenden thought. The brother in black who had a straw colored hair and had a droopy nose and eyes of cold blue. A northerner, perhaps? 

He knocked the door on Lord Mormont's bedchamber. "Lord Commander, your guest you requested is here." he said to the door. Braenden heard some footsteps growing until it stopped before the door. It opened and revealed a large figure wearing all black of coats and furs. 

Lord Commander Jeor Mormont, despite his age, was an imposing figure. He had a broad-shoulder and stern gaze. He had lost most of his hair save for his shaggy grey-white beard. He was considered strong as a bear, a resolute leader, a formidable battle commander and also fearless in adversity. He had his pet raven on his shoulder too. Lord Commander waved at the brother and he left the apartment, leaving Braenden and the Lord Commander alone in the second room. He urge him to sit in front of him at his office desk and Braenden followed. The Lord Commander's seat was a big, it was made for him specially. He lit a candle on the table and his pet raven flew to the stand beside him. "Corn! Corn!" his pet raven demanded.

"Quiet you, raven." he ordered to his own pet. "Forgive me, my lord for the food that is not yet prepared but it will be arriving shortly." he apologized to Braenden.

Braenden affirmed a nod. "No need to worry, Lord Commander. It's just dinner after all and the food can wait."

Lord Jeor Mormont gave a light chuckle. "We men of the Night's Watch had been patient for thousands of years since the wall was built. We brew a good ale and kept a steady rations for the brothers. We have supplies but we are always low on it. I suppose you southern lords could contribute some gratitude to us at Castle Black as appreciation but we mostly got our supplies from the northerners." he said, brusquely. "I mean no complain to you, Lord Braenden, but we are running short on good steels and fresh food from the south. The North is a cold and damp place, not suited for agriculture. Even during autumns, our harvest had always been small."

He knew what the Lord Commander wanted. He only wished he could give what the Night's Watch wanted. "I do know that, Lord Commander. If it is within my power to control over Casterly Rock and the Westerlands, I would have sent dozens of shipments en route to Castle Black with steels and surpluses of foods and wines."

"Of course, of course. I talk of good to you, Lord Lannister. It's just that, none of the southern lords seemed to care about the Night's Watch. We have been protecting them from the darkness that lurks beyond the wall. I only request of goods from the south, that's all." The Night's Watch lost its former glory overtime since it was formed. Like the infamous chivalric order of the Kingsguard, The Night's Watch used to have a very good reputation. Now, it was nothing but a shadow of its former glory. 

He hoped he could convince his father when he returned to Casterly Rock after this journey. Sent shipments of goods to Castle Black would be hard but Braenden could persuade his lord father Tywin to do it. After all, Braenden was his heir. He would listen to his son no matter what. "Once I return down south, I will talk of this matter to my lord father about your request."

He gave him a smile of gratitude in response. "You have my many thanks, Lord Lannister. If I may ask of course," Lord Mormont asked and Braenden nodded. "If you can, convince your queen sister and your brother-in-law King Robert to send us good men to the wall. We could really use some vigil watchers and trained men from down south. Not criminals. With the wildlings kept crossing over the wall to reach the safety of summer south, I would be forever in your debt if you could grant me that request."

The Night's Watch numbers had been dwindling. They had about six hundred black brothers now. It was sad to see how the Night's Watch manpower had decreased overtime, they used to have proper rangers to watch over the wall. Now, it became a shadow. They had protected the Seven Kingdoms from the threats looming beyond the wall, such as widlings and the Others. Braenden had read about them, the Others. It gave him the chills and shivers every time he read about them. But the disturbing part was that Braenden believed in them. He didn't know why but he just believed in their existence. And with him at the Wall was an extra. It wasn't scary, it just made him feel uneasy. When he was atop of the wall overlooking the Haunted Forest, it gave him the cold shivers. The wall was built to protect the realm of men, from the shadows of the north. The Long Night, the thought of that made him even more uncomfortable than just now. After the Battle for the Dawn, with the cooperation of the First Men and the Children of the Forest, they fought together to end the endless winter.

"We need more good men. Men like you would be most of helpful addition to the wall." he said as if nothing was amiss. It got Braenden out of his thoughts. "We lost good men like Ser Waymar Royce, Gared and Will. They went for a ranging north of the wall and disappeared all of the sudden. I sent my First Ranger, Benjen Stark along with six rangers with him to find Ser Waymar, but he too disappeared." He shook his head frustratingly. "Benjen Stark was one of the best men I've ever met in my life and he went missing." Braenden understood what the Lord Commander meant. With somany untrustworthy rangers in the Night's Watch, you could only be very selective when it came to choosing your trusted men.

"He went missing? Benjen Stark? I thought he was at Winterfell to celebrate King Robert's arrival?" he asked, curiously.

The Old Bear nodded. "He was, and came back before you arrived." he said.

Braenden knew who Benjen Stark was. The youngest sibling of the late Lord Rickard and Lady Lyarra Stark. "I'm sorry for your loss." was all Braenden could reply with his sincerity. 

"Good men often lead to dead tracks when they are missing. I humbly accept your sincerity. But now, the Night's Watch could really use men to manned the walls."

"I will send words to Casterly Rock and see if there is anyone willing to join. If not then the dungeons of the Rock could give you. As for good steels and supplies, I will have that matter discussed with my father."

He smiled thinly to Braenden. "My many thanks, Lord Lannister. You're very young to be so wise and smart. I also must thank you for coming to Castle Black. Isn't your older brother coming? What is his name? The... dwarf one. Lord Tyrion Lannister, is it?" he asked and Braenden nodded. "Then I would like to have a discussion with you two when he arrives."

"Is there any new recruits coming up to Castle Black?" Braenden asked.

The Lord Commander shrugged. "We have a word from Winterfell that the bastard of Lord Eddard Stark will be joining the Night's Watch. I got this message from Benjen Stark when he arrived. There are some as well coming down from the south. A Tarly boy if I can recall."

This alerted Braenden Lannister. His old friend, Jon Snow was going to be a brother of the Night's Watch? Why? It dawned in him. When Braenden went to stay at Winterfell at the age of eight for a few months, Jon had told him that the Lady Catelyn despised him. He felt sorry for him but they grew to have a good bond. It was a pity to have him sent to the wall. But since the Old Bear had been requesting for honorable men, Jon would be a welcome addition to the order. Braenden was a year older than Robb Stark and Jon Snow. Braenden was much closer to Jon rather than Robb since Braenden and Jon had a similar background, but Braenden had much worst. He did not want to dig into his past anymore. He cast that aside. Jon Snow, he remembered him. 

"I have known him when I was of eight years old. That Jon Snow of Winterfell. Always the quiet and lonely one but I know him. He is a friend to me that time. I guess I can spend a little more time in Castle Black. I'm sure my brother Tyrion would arrive with Jon Snow." No matter how sad it was for his friend to join the Night's Watch. Braenden was actually eager to see him again. It had been eight years since he last saw him along with the rest of the Stark family. Very eager actually. 

The black brother from earlier had arrive with the dinner and set on the table. Two baked trout, boiled and covered with oyster sauce and salted. A hard bread one each for Braenden and the Old Bear. A potato soup with vegetables in it as the side dish. It was simple and dull but Braenden couldn't refused it. It was food and the Night's Watch had a trouble rationing their supplies now. Braenden was only glad to be served like this in Castle Black. It was a harsh place too. He wondered how will Tyrion and Jon Snow fare here. It had been only two days since Braenden arrived. They ate their meals with minor talks about the politics of Westeros, the news across the Narrow Sea and the wildlings. The Old Bear Jeor Mormont had been annoyed by this. When they captured the wildlings and question them, they kept saying that they were running away from the white walkers, Lord Commander said, but he didn't believed it. He gave them to the swords then. He drank his soup as the Lord Commander continued his tale.

"Our last captured of the wildlings was making their way towards the wolfswood. We captured them and question them again, same answer in return. Claiming that they were running away from the Others and the dead." 

"I must confess, Lord Commander, that I actually believe in myths and legends." Braenden admitted.

He chuckled and took a gulp from his mug of wine. "Superstitious nonsense, my Lord of Lannister. They are just story after all. The threats we've been receiving was only the wildlings and the howling of direwolves in the haunted forest. Nothing more."

After having his dinner with the Old Bear, Braenden retired to his quarter. He bathe with hot water and a soup to wash himself. After washing himself, Braenden slip into his tunic and breech. He would always wore his necklaces that was given by his mother. He treasured it a lot. The golden lion pendant and the Lady of the Rock's medallion his mother used to wear when she was alive. Genna gave his mother's gifts to him when he turned one years old. He remembered the letter as well. He remembered what his mother wrote on the letter. Very well. Let it be known that my fourth child, be it a boy, is forbidden to join the Night's Watch and the Maesters of the Citadel under any circumstances. He smiled when he recited that line. His lady mother Joanna wouldn't want him to join the Night's Watch or to be a maester. When he was five years old, Braenden actually got accepted to be a maester of the Citadel but was dreadfully backfired. When he was eight, he left Casterly Rock to join the Night's Watch, only to be backfired again by his father. Night dawned in and Braenden could hear the brothers in black having their supper in the common hall, cheering and laughing. Braenden didn't know what it felt like to be a brother of the Night's Watch. The thought of joining the Night's Watch dread him. 

He realized he couldn't sleep. He slip into his normal wear with his fur cloak to protect him from the cold of the north and armed himself with his two longsword strapped to his belt. He walked out of his quarter and closed the door behind him. Braenden looked around Castle Black from where he was standing on the dais. He had three options where he would want to go. First was the common hall where the black brothers were currently having their supper. Second was going atop the wall again. He had been there for three times already. Third was the library vault, located underneath Castle Black. Braenden had never been there so he made his way there. Maester Aemon resided there, at the library. The thought of meeting the old maester made him warm. He was kind but blind. He entered the library, it smelled of old and dusts of ages. But he couldn't help but smile. The library of the Night's Watch was considered to be ancient, more so than the Library of Oldtown. Braenden was in a treasure, he thought. There were bookshelves of books of old, the languages of the children of the forest and scrolls from Valyria. So many good topics to choose for little time. He picked one of the books from the bookshelves and sat himself quietly at the long table. It was hard to concentrate reading the books with the men above cheering and laughing of late night. It was cold dry here in the library. He closed the book and returned to its original position. He returned to his quarter, slip back into his tunic and breech and went to lay on his bed.

He thought of the girl he used to spent his time with when he was at Winterfell. She was only four at that time and he was eight. her high cheekbones, vivid blue eyes and thick auburn hair. Sansa Stark. She used to be shy towards Braenden when he was brought to the Great Hall of Winterfell but as they soon get to know each other, Sansa would always bring Braenden to the godswood and make snow castles and talk cheekily. She was quite rebellious from what he could remember. Always disobeying her mother's orders and skipped her lessons from her septa just to spend her time with him. One time, they would discuss about them getting married and they even shared some light kisses. A childish thing they had done, but Braenden couldn't help but smile remembering that moments. Even the Lady Catelyn proposed this idea to her husband, Lord Eddard. But his lord father Tywin refused the idea and brought Braenden back to Casterly Rock. He missed her. And with the arranged betrothal of Sansa with his nephew Prince Joffrey the Illborn. He would rage, but his heart made him felt broken. That was the reason why he didn't enter Winterfell and continued along the Kingsroad to reach Castle Black. He wondered if Sansa still remembered Braenden. Their memories together was one of the moments Braenden cherished the most. Not wanting to think anymore of that, Braenden pushed it aside and tried to sleep. As he closed his eyes, he remembered the words of his mother when she told him before he go. 

You, my sweet little Braenden, will be my light and my golden lion, said his lady mother to him.

In the next morning, Braenden remained in his quarter. All dress and ready for the day. His hearth had been newly lit and breakfast was brought to his quarter. Not only that, Braenden received a letter from Winterfell. From his brother Tyrion. He break his fast first with burnt bacon, scrambled buttered eggs and a white pound cake. His drinks were of brown ale. It was good when he drank it but he still prefer water and milk and wine. He quickly finished his breakfast and opened the letter and read what his brother had to reply to him.

Dear brother,

I'm sorry for what King Robert had done to arrange such betrothal. When I speak to Lord and Lady Stark, they question me of your whereabouts. I told them you were busy in Casterly Rock. As for the Lady Sansa, she didn't even ask of you. I'm truly sorry little brother. I will arrive Castle Black on the next week with Jon Snow, the Bastard of Winterfell along with a few more recruits. After we spent our time there, we can travel further down south to Highgarden and maybe even Sunspear. Father disapproved of us to go travel around across the Narrow Sea but perhaps around Westeros he would consent. Wait for me at the wall and do reply if you can. Again, I'm sorry for your Lady Sansa.

Your brother Tyrion

Braenden sighed. He didn't want to think of Sansa. The thought of her just shattered Braenden's heart and soul. He crumpled the letter with his hand and threw it into the hearth. Watching the letter turned into an ash when the fire consume it for fuel. But Braenden couldn't blame Sansa for that. He knew. It was Braenden's fault for leaving Casterly Rock late. He arrived at Winterfell three days after the King's arrival and learnt that Sansa was already engaged to Joffrey. She hurt Braenden internally, but he couldn't blame her. Maybe she had forgotten already. Maybe, Joffrey was her sweet rose after all. No matter who his nephew was, he wasn't his proper nephew. He was a spawn of his older sister and brother, Cersei and Jaime's. Abomination. Myrcella and Tommen was far better than Joffrey was. They were sweet, kind and shy. Braenden liked them, even if they were the product of incest. They were gentle too. Maybe Sansa wasn't meant for him. If she wasn't the lady of his suit, then who? Well, Braenden was too young anyway to find a suitor so he had all the time he needed. 

He went to the courtyard and inspect the training of the recruits again. This time, Ser Aliser was the one to actually train them. There was more recruits on the ground than yesterday. Braenden counted eight new brothers, excluding Ser Aliser. He showed an example of how to knock down a person, in a harsh way. Ser Aliser always spat on them, mocking of their skills in combat. Braenden felt sorry for the lads. He watched Ser Aliser trained with a boy, no more than fifteen years old. Braenden thought of what crime he had committed until he had ended up to join the black. The boy swung his sword across Ser Aliser's position but he ducked away and quickly push the boy to the ground and beat him at his face. After he was done, Ser Aliser got up and spat beside him. His dark gloves were even darker with the blood around it.

"Weak. Boy like you deserved to be thrown away as soon as their mother gave birth to you." said Ser Aliser, "You're worthless more than the swords your holding. Even the Night's Watch is no place for you. Get up! Train more, the lot of you." With his harsh voice of command, they all quickly find their partner and spar against each other with their blunt swords. Aren wasn't like this when he trained Braenden, he was mean at times but only for the good of training him. Aren was far faster and better than any of them. He taught Braenden how to fight and defend himself so well that he almost perfect the arts of combat. He had much to learn though.

Braenden watched the recruits training in the yard. He was bored watching them sparring as they train. Their flexibility of moving their arms to swing the swords were not proper. All they do was head on in, hack and slash like a wildling. A barbaric style. Some even used longbows and composite bows with arrows, shooting the target practice. There were others as well, watching the new recruits training. They were the seasoned rangers. What they do was only mocking and spitting at the new recruits. But it was their right to make a joke out of them. The more pressure they put on the new recruits, the better they become. Though it would also mean that driving the recruits crazy. 

"I pity the new recruits if I were you, Lord Lannister." said a rough familiar voice beside him. He knew the person's voice well. The Old Bear Mormont. He stood beside Braenden with his big hands resting on the fence of the dais. "Ser Aliser may be harsh but it is necessary to discipline these sorry outlaws."

Braenden nodded and understood what the Lord Commander meant. "Of course. Though the boy Ser Aliser sparred with just now was fifteen of age, maybe younger."

"We need hard and strong man for the Wall. The boy will have to endure that harsh training of Ser Aliser then." 

"Indeed." Braenden agreed. "My master-at-arms trained me harshly but with good manner, and very well."

The Old Bear's face turned cold and stern. "We need harsh trainers to train ill-disciplined and immoral bastards like them," the old man said, "They weren't raised like us in Castles and Keeps, they're commoners, not bastards."

"I'm still wondering why Jon Snow would want to join the Night's Watch. Sure, you need good and honorable men but still, even if he was treated badly by his step-mother, he could do better than taking the black." Jon could have better ways to live his life down south rather than joining the Night's Watch. He could join a tourney and be a knight if he was willing to. Too late now. 

"When they feel out of place in society and civilization, what's more of a better way than to join the Night's Watch with that they are feeling, Lord Lannister?" He replied, grimly, then sighed. "With the bastard you carried with, you are treated worst than a commoner by the lords and ladies down south. They may have no place anywhere, but here. Taking the black. If you truly do believe in the Others and the rising of the dead, then you know that we need men for the wall. Any men that can be available to take post on the battlements. Not just halt the wildlings from crossing the wall, but to stop the White Walkers too. This wall was built after the Long Night. And you know the rest."

Braenden knew the rest, he did. "Of course. Forgive me, Lord Commander, of my ignorance. I will send recruiters to Castle Black once Tyrion and I got down south." Tywin would certainly be persuaded to sent some outlaws and picks of the dungeons in Casterly Rock for that. It had been eight thousand years since the Wall was built, not long after the Long Night. He continued, "Don't worry, Lord Commander. The Wall will stand should they ever arrived."

He nodded, yet kept his stern and worried face. "I pray for that, Lannister. We are the only guardians that guards the realm of men. You know our vows. And if the Others ever attack the Wall with the politics and squabbles happening down south, I fear we have very little chance of survival." he said.

I am the shield that guards the realms of men. Braenden Lannister remembered their oaths. He said to the Old Bear, "Winter is Coming, truly. The Starks are always right on that but it will autumn that is coming for us before then. We'll have to wait a few years before Winter finally sets in. But when autumn finally finished, let's hope that it won't be the next Long Night." I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

When Braenden reached the common hall, his two bodyguards were there as well, having their noon meals at one of the long table. There were few black brothers as well sitting near to the hearth. Braenden took his seat next to one of his bodyguard. Braenden only accepted two bodyguards because he wanted to travel faster. With many company riding alongside him would made the journey a little longer so Tywin picked his best of the best from his bodyguards to follow his heir. He knew their names, Ovar and Rend, both were brothers and served for more than seventeen years in the Lannister Lancers. A black brother with broad face and gray of hair with stern looking face brought Braenden his lunch. Pork sausages and seasoned chicken meat, Braenden could smell it. A plate of a slice of apple and grape pie. A bowl of beef stew and a mug of ale. Ale. Braenden preferred mead over ale but he didn't mind drinking ale all the same. He ate them.

"When is Lord Tyrion's going to arrive, my lord?" asked Ovar to Braenden.

He place a piece of chicken meat into his mouth. "Soon, next week. When he arrives we'll have to spend a couple of more days then we'll be heading south to Highgarden then Sunspear."

"The black brothers been giving us queer looks." this time it was Rend who said it. The look on his face was disturbed. "We didn't talk to them but still they're just giving us the creepy look."

"Aye," agreed Ovar, "We never leave our weapons out of our sight. It's just that it's better to get out of this place as soon as possible."

"Tyrion won't be here for long. We have many places to go, and maybe we'll even visit the Narrow Sea." Tyrion just wanted to piss on top of the Wall, that was all he wanted to do when he wanted to visit Castle Black.

"Lord Tywin would never allow us to let his heir go visit the Free-Cities. It's dangerous there."

It was true that his father wouldn't let Tyrion and Braenden go visit the Free-Cities of Essos. Even when Tyrion wasn't his heir and Braenden was, he wouldn't just let them go to a risky continent. "I said we might. My father will allow us to go to Highgarden, Sunspear then finally back to Casterly Rock." Braenden said and the brothers nodded. Tywin would never allow any of his children to go around without guards. They continued to eat their lunch. Braenden cut a pork sausage in half and ate it, swallowing it down to his stomach. 

As they ate, Braenden could hear the unrecognizable words from the black brothers around them, laughing and eating and drinking. It didn't make him feel uneasy yet he felt they don't belong here. Whatever the feeling was, it made Braenden and his bodyguards like an unwelcome foreigner. Braenden took a sip of his stew. The hearth of the common hall was burning brightly with extra piles of firewood next to it ready to be used as a fuel. The dais of where the Lord Commander, Maester and the other officers and senior rangers remained empty. The servants of the kitchen went around serving the black brothers with food and drinks of ale and mead. The ale was really good. When he arrived at Castle Black, he brought with him some fine wines from the south like the wines from the Arbor, gold and red. He passed it to Lord Commander Mormont as his gift to the Night's Watch. He finished his main bowl after placing the last pieces of seasoned chicken meat into his mouth. 

A black brother messenger came into the common hall, without rush. He was in his black wear and black coat of grey furs. He was holding a rolled parchment with a red seal on it. He looked around as if he was looking for someone. When the messenger's eyes stopped at Braenden's position. He began to walk to his seating position slowly, remaining neutral. Ovar and Rend noticed the black brother messenger's presence. Their hand on their swords' hilt but they remained passive, waiting to draw out their swords should any threat comes. When the messenger stopped at their long table, he handed the parchment to Braenden.

"It's yours, Lord Lannister, from Casterly Rock." said the messenger. He left without any words adding. Braenden took the parchment and open it.

To my youngest son and heir, Lord Braenden Lannister,

You are to immediately called back to Casterly Rock with your brother Tyrion. You two have have many things to learn yet and the news from Winterfell has reach me. Never mind that now. Lady Alysanne is much more of a suitor for you. Come back to the Casterly Rock. Things are not going well for the southerners and the northerners. 

Your father, Lord Tywin Lannister.

Braenden laughed lightly. "So much for his sincerity for me. We'll go back to Casterly Rock as soon as Tyrion arrive here." he said to Ovar and Rend.

Chapter Text

"When are you going to tell me about my mother?" Jon asked.

His father's face turned to look at him intently, with sincere. "The next time we meet, I promise you. I will tell you your mother's name."

Jon sighed. "I am about to take the black, been waiting for all my years getting rejected by Lady Stark and this is what you have to give me in response. I only ask her name."

"When we meet again," his father said, "I promise you, Jon. Hmm? You may not have my name, but you have my blood."

When he saw his father departed down the kingsroad with his bodyguards and retinue, Jon followed his own path north of the kingsroad. To Castle Black. Lord Tyrion, the one they call the Imp, was following him to the Wall. Tyrion said to Jon Snow that his little brother Braenden Lannister was waiting for him at Castle Black. Jon remembered him. That was like about eight years since he last saw the Lannister. That was at Winterfell. Jon was eager to see his old friend again. He was good and kind to him during his stay at Winterfell. He was very close with Sansa that they even had a budding relationship. He watched his father and sisters, Sansa and Arya, along with their household guards trot their way down south the kingsroad. Lord Tyrion was already ahead of him with his four red cloak, holding the banners of the golden lion of House Lannister. Jon never thought he would see those banners again in his life. The first time he saw those banners flapping was when Lord Tywin arrived at Winterfell, again that was eight years ago.

Jon knew the reason why Braenden didn't visit Winterfell, Tyrion told him. It was sad to see his half-sister Sansa being betrothed to Prince Joffrey instead of Braenden Lannister. Braenden and Sansa had a good relationship when they were young and they were only four years apart. He didn't find it weird for Braenden to wait at Castle Black. He remembered what had happened eight years ago when Lord Tywin came to Winterfell. He didn't know why Lord Tywin Lannister had finally allowed his youngest son and heir to go to Castle Black. Not at all. Jon was eager to see his old friend again. He was also excited to join the black to work with his uncle Benjen. He had come to the feast when King Robert arrived with his family and retinue with open arms. That was when Jon was asking his uncle to join the black.

Jon remembered that he didn't like Prince Joffrey Baratheon. He looked nothing like his father and yet, he act so proud. He didn't know why his half-sister Sansa fell so in love with the Prince. He was handsome, yes, but Braenden was much more kinder, opened-minded, and also shared the same background with Jon. They had something in common for that. Jon suddenly remembered, Braenden had four fingers instead of ten. His left hand (not arm) was cut in half, his right hand only had the four fingers. His left eyes was so damaged and disoriented. Braenden told him what happened when they tortured in his quarter, or a cell. He showed his hands to him. At eight, Braenden was eagerly to be accepted to the Stark family when he was brought in the Great Hall of Winterfell. Too happy, until his father came and stopped everything at once. That was Jon's first time seeing Lord Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Lord Paramount of the Westerlands, Warden of the West and Shield of Lannisport. He was very terrifying. From what Jon could tell, Braenden looked nothing like his father, except something. He had forgotten.

He kicked his horse and run with it to go beside Lord Tyrion and his on mount. There would be other recruits to be joining him. They would meet at the Long Lake when they make a stop there. Jon was somewhat eager to meet them but Tyrion told him that the men of the Night's Watch was no more than a good common folk, which destroys Jon's enthusiasm. He heard about the dwindling prestige of the honorable esteemed Night's Watch order. Jon thought himself whether he made the right decision of joining the watch. As they trot, Jon considered about being a ward to Lord Tywin but only dismissed it at the end. He remembered what his lord father said about the Lannisters that they couldn't be trusted, including Braenden Lannister. But Jon knew Braenden better than his lord father. He was kind, sweet and smart. Being a ward to Lord Tywin Lannister was a dreadful thought though.

Tyrion started the conversation. "Tell me, Jon Snow, why does the Lady Catelyn hate you so much?" he said.

Too much of the Lady Stark hated him. "I am my lord father's bastard son. I was born sometime after my half-brother Robb was born in the south."

"Hmm, that so." Tyrion scruff his chin. "I think she doesn't like me too. Though I can't blame her for it. Your little brother's fall affected her a lot and with our disturbances... I'm just glad that we left Winterfell soon." 

"I will miss brothers and sisters. With my father taking as Hand of the King, Lady Stark rules Winterfell and she wouldn't allow me to stay there while she is there." he said, sadly. Lady Catelyn Stark was his stepmother but he didn't like her at all. Jon couldn't hate her for some reasons. "So I had to take the black. I thank you for offering me to be your father's ward but I will serve with my uncle Benjen at the Wall."

"So be it then."

Their conversation ended there. Though it was a small one. When night came, they settle their small camp near the wolfswood. It would be two days to reach the Long Lake and whence they were there, they had to wait for the other recruiters to join with them so they could get along up to Castle Black together. Jon was gathering firewood while Tyrion, since he couldn't do much, was just reading his book. His four bodyguards however was busy installing their tents in between trees and pines. It was dark and a cold that they had to open a large campfire pit surrounded with stones. On top of it was a kettle supported by two iron stands pinned into the dirt ground deep. They were boiling pottage and stew in mix. Jon gathered and placed the firewood he had gathered earlier next to the campfire. Two of Tyrion's bodyguard came back with dead hares and a small wild boar they had hunted earlier as well. 

They did skin the hares off their furs and the wild boar's pigskin and cut off their legs and meats into parts. But they didn't cook them as they had already brought with them plentiful of supplies. They ate silently once the pottage and stew were done serving. Jon's tent wasn't all the luxury but they did their best to make it comfortable. Furs of pelts were scattered flat around. They would have to wait for two days before the other recruiters came to join with them. Now that he wondered, where was his direwolf Ghost?

"Hunting," said Jon to himself quietly before closing his eyes to join the rest in sleeping. "He'll be back on the first light tomorrow."

The next day, sun rays dawned on him and shone on his face which made him blinked a couple of times. It was too bright for a cold morning now. Jon looked outside from his small entrance of his tent and Tyrion and the others were already awake. The good part was that two of the Lannister guard was already cooking and grilling on a flat metal grill on top of the newly lit campfire. There were two campfires, Jon noticed, one was for the grill and another for the cooking pot. Jon got out from his tent and Ghost awoke on his presence. Tyrion, as usual, reading his book he got from Winterfell while waiting for breakfast to be served.

"Good morning, Snow." greeted Tyrion without lifting his head from his book. "Breakfast is about to be served so do please wait awhile. The other two is fishing at the lake for fishes. Can't never be too sure about our supplies even when it was plentiful." 

"Soft boiled eggs and strips of salted bacon. Slices of rustic bread with butter, honey and berry preserves." said one of the guard, cooking. "we also have cheddar and mint tea for our morning fast." 

Tyrion grumbled lowly. "I hope you're not using the hot water that you used to boil the eggs, Darwen. Sometimes, you can be predictable and unpredictable when it comes to your cooking." Tyrion closed his book and looked to the grill.

"Of course not, my lord."

"Good. Now where is Trawis your partner in chef?"

The guard named Darwen looked around, looking for answer. Finally, he said, "Feeding the horses, me think."

 Their horses were tied to a tree not far from their tent. Tyrion didn't want their surrounding camp to be smell of horse manure. Their camp was only a minute or less walking to the Long Lake. They could catch a brown trout or carp. If the other two guards were fishing for sometime (if they had wakened earlier before Jon) then they might had catch many fishes by now, freshly from the lake. Jon's stomach growled in hunger and it was loud for Tyrion and Darwen to listen. Ghost perhaps was hungry as well. Trawis returned from wherever he came. Jon sat on one of the log that surrounded the campfirea as seat, reasonably for two. Just so happens, the other two who went fishing came back with fishes of variety on their buckets.

Jon was given a bowl of two soft boiled eggs, six strips of bacon and a slice of rustic bread grilled in butter and pasted with honey and berry preserves. The others had the same. Ghost was fed with a fresh raw meat they took out from the satchel that was strapped to one of the horses' waist. They ate silently as there wasn't much to talk about.Jon wished their morning meal could be a lot more but this was enough as they weren't at Winterfell any longer. She wondered if Lady Stark actually did rule on his father's stead, or was it Robb? Anyway, the thought of home was painful now as he couldn't go back there, nor even go back south the kingsroad once he set afoot on Castle Black. Tyrion could, and so was his bodyguards. Jon could say he already missed his home already. Winterfell. Jon thought.

While Jon was at wondering at his thoughts, Tyrion spoke. "Tell me, my loyal bodyguards, should we go to the Free-Cities of Essos for a visit?" Tyrion's start of conversation got Jon out of his trance.

One of the guards frowned, the others were dumbfounded. "Didn't your lord father told you that you aren't allowed to visit the Free-Cities? It's dangerous there as far as I know with a lot of reaving, raping and thieving alike."

Tyrion scoffed. "Isn't that how the world works now? You should know better. Only, the Free-Cities is much more strict than in Westeros. Anyway, it's my little brother that my lord father forbade him to go, not me. He would be very jealous to know of this when I tell him." Tyrion made a small smile there.

"The Free-Cities?" Jon muttered, asking. "What on earth wants you to visit those places?"

"Life is short, bastard." Tyrion jested. "I don't intend to live out my life a boring one other than just reading books. The Free-Cities offers new wonders... like selling slaves for example and the Colossal of Braavos. If Braenden wants something from the Essos, I perhaps could get it for him. Perhaps valyrian steel swords for him. If I could find one. They're quite scarce now, snow, do you know that?"

Jon remembered what valyrian steel sword looked like. His lord father had one and it was large and terrifying. A valyrian steel greatsword. He remembered the day his lord father brought him, Robb and Bran to execute one of the deserters of the Night's Watch as he was fleeing south. If there was anything Jon felt now, it was a mixture of jealousy and happy for his old Lannister friend. "My father have one. A greatsword called Ice. It will be passed to Robb Stark then his sons and his grandsons after that."

Tyrion chuckled. "Don't be too grim, bastard, if there is many valyrian steel swords I could manage to buy I would be happy to give one to you." he said, then looked to his bodyguards. "Not to this lot of guards though."

“What did we have ever do to have your improper bantering, Lord of Imp?” the bodyguards laughed, Tyrion too.

“I can say that you sorry lots are not well good enough to carry a valyrian steel, let alone facing my elder and little brothers.”

“I heard that Lord Braenden is not fond of getting tickled. Is it true, Lord Lannister?” asked Trawis in curiosity, the rest too. Even Jon was surprised by this, if it had been true.

Tyrion shook his head in disbelief. “Most are just nonsense of rumors. I may have a guess where you get this absurd talk.” Tyrion said, then he grinned. “Yes, my little brother is not fond of getting tickled. As the matter of fact, he hates it and he is known to guard his stomach part quite heavily.”

They laughed and Jon couldn’t help but to chuckle a little as well. Braenden, his old Lannister friend, was not fond of getting tickled? Jon laughed internally. He supposed it wasn’t Braenden’s fault for that. Jon hated getting tickled as well but that was only seldom with Arya. The Lannister cub that once lived with Jon and his family in Winterfell hated being tickled? That was absurd indeed.

If Braenden had a happy ending of his childhood life at Casterly Rock, then he may be better off telling of it when they reached Castle Black. Jon considered Braenden Lannister as his closest friend, if not a brother too like Robb. The day they were playing snowball fight at the courtyard of Winterfell, alone with Braenden.

“You’re cheating, Jon.” complained the eight year old Braenden. “You know snows better than I do.”

“Of course I do! The blood of winter runs in me strong!” Jon tossed a snowball at Braenden’s direction but he quickly ducked down behind his erected snow wall of defenses.

Despite Braenden having only four fingers on his right hand (being the left had none), Braenden could still throw afar to Jon’s position. Jon Snow was hiding behind a corner with a snowball on his tight hand.

“Give it up, Lannister!” shouted Jon. “You can’t win this fight over me. For I am the-” Jon didn’t complete his sentence as he saw young Braenden had crept silently towards his position and appeared suddenly in front of his face. Braenden threw his snowball to his face and ran off.

“I’m no Lannister, but I am my mother’s son.” said Braenden proudly. “I beat you, Snow.”

They continued their matches in the court yard and Robb came to join in in neutral sides. For a man was of their own territory. They played till mid-noon when Sansa of four years old came to the courtyard, all dressed in blue gown and small fur coat in black. Her Tully red hair was fashioned in northern style. Jon knew only one thing what her half-sister wanted. To spoil their fun being one of the major reasons.

“Braenden!” exclaimed Sansa merrily. “We have to visit the godswood before the evening. There’s one thing I have to show to you!”

“Go away, Sansa! We’re playing snowball fight here. Go back to Septa Mordane’s teaching.” replied Robb, annoyed at his sister’s presence.

Sansa’s face became hard, though it was adorable of her to be angry. “You shut up! I don’t want to go back there. It’s boring.” She complained.

“You have always wanted to learn how to be a proper lady, Sansa.” Jon joined Robb’s side. “Why go against her now?” Of course, Robb and Jon knew the answer but they loved to teased her.

Sansa’s face reddened. “I never said so!” replied Sansa angrily to her brothers. Robb and Jon laughed. “Braenden will you come with me?”

Braenden looked to them for answers, but Robb and Jon only gave him a sly smile. “Go ahead, Braenden. Go play with your lady lover. Come, Jon, we can go and train sword fighting with Ser Rodrik.” Robb left with Jon to the barracks, leaving Braenden and Sansa alone together.

But Jon hid against one of the walls to eavesdrop on their conversation between Braenden and Sansa. Robb joined with him.

“What are we going to see at the godswood?” asked Braenden solemnly.

“Firstly, you have to give me a kiss!” replied Sansa merrily. Robb and Jon couldn’t contained their laughed as they needed to cover their mouths with their hands.

“No, tell me what are we going to see!”

“Well, if you have to.” Jon tilted his head slightly down left to see what were they doing. Sansa was kissing Braenden! Jon gestured his hand to let Robb to see. He too saw in shock, but then he laughed uncontrollably next.

Their kiss was a long one, and to that was lips to lips. It seemed that Sansa was the one to make the move and not Braenden. Since Braenden’s arrival at Winterfell, Sansa grew more and more… fond of the little eight year old Lannister.

Then, Sansa spoke again when they were done kissing. “We’re going to get married in the godswood! Father and mother will be there to see us, Braenden!”

And now, Robb and Jon couldn’t contained any longer and laughed aloud, loud for anyone to hear within their vicinity. Though when they were invited to their wedding in the godswood. It was all an act to cheer Sansa up. Even Braenden was dumbfounded by all this sudden.

His lord father Eddard Stark stood in front of the heartree with his greatsword Ice. His lady wife Catelyn Stark of House Tully beside him, smiling at her young daughter. Ser Rodrik Cassel stood in-between Sansa and Braenden.

Ser Rodrik announced, “Sansa, of House Stark comes before the Old Gods to be wed. A Lady of the North, trueborn daughter and noble of the ancient Stark blood.”

Sansa stepped forward, couldn’t contained a smile. Jon could say she was quite beautiful for this “wedding” of theirs now.

“Who has come to claim me?” asked Sansa innocently.

Ser Rodrik gestured Braenden to come forward, and he did, though he didn’t know what was still going on. “Say your name, lord of Lannister, and of your house.”

“B-Braenden, of House Lannister.” Jon could read the face of Braenden, still in fuzzed.

Then their father looked upon the two newly-wed bride and groom. Still an act only. “Do you, Lady Sansa Stark, my daughter, take this man as your husband?”

“I take this man.” Sansa declared happily.

“Do you, Lord Braenden Lannister, take my daughter’s hand as your wife?”

“I… I take this lady as my wife.” replied Braenden stiffly.

“Do you both swear it unto the Old Gods with your hearts?”

“We do, with our hearts and words.” They both said it together.

Ser Rodrik nodded. “Two of you, Lord Braenden of House Lannister and Lady Sansa of House Stark may now kiss each other to seal this vow you swear under the eyes of the Old Gods.” And Braenden and Sansa kissed, not a quick peck or light kiss, but a kiss of lips and lips.

That was eight years ago, a month before Braenden was brought back to Casterly Rock. Lord Tywin never knew of this ‘fake’ marriage but they took their vows like a real one. With that, could Braenden and Sansa really be married despite being young of age since they had taken their vows? Of course it was all an act to make Sansa (and Braenden) happy but it looked so real, and young Sansa took it quite serious with all that wedding thing.

Despite all that happening, Jon doubt it was even valid anyways. Even Sansa seemed to forgot all those. Perhaps Braenden too. He felt bad for those two. They would make a very good match since they were in love. Perhaps one day, the gods would be kind. Anyway Jon was eager to meet Braenden again, and Uncle Benjen. He couldn’t wait to see Castle Black despite what Tyrion had already said so about the Night’s Watch. He had no place in the north and in the south even as a ward to Lord Tywin. The Night’s Watch was his only hope to serve a purpose.

Out of his trance, Jon spoke lightly to them. “How long until the recruiters joins us?”

“Tomorrow noon, Snow.” replied Tyrion the Imp. “Trawis, how were you selected to be in the service of my father’s personal bodyguards?”

Trawis the guard went thoughtful there. “It was when I was sparring with one of my mates in Lannisport. We signed up to serve in the First Lannister Lancers, though, little did we know that your lord father was looking for the best swordsmen in the army to serve as his own bodyguard. That was four, or six years ago. I think.”

“And what do you think of my lord father?”

“I’ll be honest with you, Imp. Your lord father is scary most of the time and the bodyguards had to practice five times a week with little rest. The good part is that your father pays us quite handsomely.” Trawis smiled. All of Tyrion’s bodyguards now was still serving the Lord Tywin Lannister.

Tyrion grinned. “Good!” exclaimed Tyrion. “I shall tell my lord father that you have a shitty cooking with Darwen and lower your monthly wage to two hundred and fifty silvers instead of ten gold dragons.”

Trawis and Darwen frowned. “M-my lord? I-I… we… we-” Darwen stammered, his face was pale as snow though Tyrion kept grinning.

“I’m just kidding!” Tyrion laughed. “You should see the look on your face. Priceless!”

“Damn you, Imp.”

When afternoon dawned in Jon had not much to do but to stay in his tent thinking. Tyrion and the others were laughing outside around the camp, unmoved. They had been there since breakfast. Ghost was rest outside, guarding his tent. Jon thought about Bran, his little half-brother who was still sleeping in his bed. Or dying. He visited him before he left off Winterfell to join the black. Oh, Lady Catelyn Stark was there since the day Bran fell. Her fiery eyes and hateful heart towards Jon was not surprising. Before Jon left the room, Lady Stark called him and told him that she wished it was Jon that fell from the tower and not Bran. Jon tried to be strong but that hurt him a lot. More the reason to leave Winterfell sooner.

He wondered how Bran was now. Had he awaken yet or still dying in his sleep? Bran was a good climber, Jon knew, and he couldn’t simply just slip from the wall to the ground. Perhaps there was something? The Broken Tower was quite perilous to climb and Lady Stark had often warned Bran not to climb there, yet Bran was heedless. It could be that he slip otherwise something else? Jon wouldn’t know but if he did though the person would be in a begging for his life from Lady Stark. He thought about his own mother. It made Jon sad. How did she looked like? Did she know that her son was going to join the Night’s Watch? It gave a pang to Jon’s heart. He was the bastard of Lord Eddard Stark. All he wanted in his life was to be a Stark like his other siblings. I must not think of this now since I’m joining the black. Uncle Ben is a Stark but he is a brother of the Night’s Watch.

By the time the Lannisters were done with their long lunch, Tyrion went reading again while Darwen went to train with his longbow and quivers against a tree. The other three guards went to the long lake and to catch more fish there. Jon silently observed the Imp reading. He had a golden curls with slightly good looking. The only part that made him absurd was his stature of height. The first time Tyrion Lannister came in to Winterfell, Jon wanted to laugh loudly but he constrained himself from doing so. When Jon felt he wasn’t welcome in the feast at the great hall, he went out to train alone until the Imp found himself. They had a small chat on first but then Tyrion gave him a good advice. 

"Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Amor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you." Tyrion said when they were at Winterfell that night.

Jon thought about it. And it made sense too. For all Jon's life he had often been rejected by Lady Stark and others called him bastard. But when Tyrion told him that advice, he was right. A life advice. Even though Jon was the bastard of Lord Eddard Stark, his bastard status was what made Jon alive till now.

Night dawns in and th others were preparing for dinner and supper, should any of them sleep late. Tomorrow would be the day the others joined him. He wondered were they willing volunteers or just prisoners with criminal backgrounds? From what Jon heard, the Night's Watch as of now was nothing to compare to the Night's Watch thousands of years ago. Filled with outlaws, thieves, rapists, murderers and other barbarism notion. What a life I'm going for. He thought, bitterly.

What they were cooking was a large spit-roasted. The rabbit was skinned out of its coat of cur perfectly then it was skewered with a very long metal skewer through the length of the rabbit. Darwen had a bowl of combined butter, honey and lemon juice. He swirl them together until they were fully mixed and merged with his spoon.

Trawis suspended the rabbit over hot coals, and baste with the honey mixture. He turned the rabbit periodically to all expose sides to the heat, took out a knife and carve the rabbit into portions to small wooden plates with the option of additional honey. The leftovers were given to Jon's direwolf, Ghost.

The rabbit was large enough to feed about person maximum. It was great too, Jon didn't know why Tyrion complained earlier of their cooking. Perhaps different taste or it was merely for his jape. Whatever it was for, he finished it with a satisfied belly full. Once they were done eating their dinner, they prepared again for supper. From what Jon could tell from the recipes, they were making white leek bruet.

It was dark midnight, but Darwen rinsed the leeks and cut the white section of them into a quarter of four inch rounds. Once he was done cutting them, he put the leeks in a pot with the sliced salt pork and cover with two cups of water. Trawis renewed the campfire with the two mixture of coals and firewood which the vicinity around them comfortably warm. They brought the mixture to a boil and about fifteen minutes pass the leeks and pork were tender and cooked.

The broth was poured into a bowl, reserving the leeks and salt pork. Darwen poured the liquid back into the pot, along with the two cups of beef broth and the ground almonds. Again, they bring the pot to another boil. When the leeks had cooled lightly, Trawis mashed them between his fingers and add them back into the broth with one half water and blanched almonds, and simmered for about twenty minutes. The mixture was thicken slightly from the almond flour, and there was a nice color from the beef broth. They ladle them into serving bowls with a vintage wine from the Arbor the dwarf brought.

When Jon was done (he was always the first one to finish his meal as it was his habit_, he walked from the campfire and took out a fresh cooled meat from his horse's satchel and gave it to Ghost. He yanked the meat viciously but not too much. After awhile, Jon went back into his tent and lay his body against the crude ground covered with layers of fox and wolf pelts. The Others were still talking and laughing with their mugs of wine but Jon tried not to let their chatters bother himto sleep. He closed his eyes.

Jon woke up when Trawis was shaking his shoulder to wake him up. "Wake up, Snow. It's time to break our fast."

Jon sat on a log beside one of the guards named Whent. Brown of hair with a sloppy face yet broad shouldered and tanned rough skin. Jon received a bowl of barley stew with buttered white bread heated from the tray. His refreshment were goat milk with a sweet mixture of honey to lightened the spirit up. It wasn't much for this breakfast but when the second dish came, which was unexpected for Jon, was strings of crispy bacon and a fillet of smoked trout fish from the long lake. Their next drinks were red wine. Now that was the breakfast Jon's stomach rumbled for. He had to wonder what kind of food the Watch were serving in Castle Black. Could it be good? Or just worse than stale black bread?

Whilst Jon was biting a bacon of his, Tyrion said, "We can't go in the dark once the new recruiters joins us. It's too dangerous so we'll break our lunch as soon as they arrive then we'll go." Tyrion then turned to look to Jon. "You're going to meet your new brothers later Jon. Oh, the prospect of meeting them must be bitter and sweet. Trawis, as soon as you are done eating, you'll go down the kingsroad and look out for any black brothers coming up the road then informed us about it then."

He nodded. "Aye, m'lord." before tearing off a bread in half to his mouth.

After he was done breaking his fast with the others, Jon had went to the woods and throw some water from his body and the unrequired contents further away. Ghost was sniffing the bushes with peachberry, biting them off from the small twigs of the bush. Finishing his business, he walked along the way to the long lake. The path was filled with mossy cold rocks and stones and boulders, lifeless twigs and branches, dried brown leaves and empty pinecones. The mist around him was rather thick and dense but he could still make it out of his way to the long lake.

It was still morning when Jon reached the long lake, though the sun was already high up above. The water on the lake was shimmering by the ever-bright sun. It was shining silver crystal. Though the water itself was dark that you could barely see the shallow shores of the lake. When noon come she would have to meet his new brothers of the Night's Watch soon so he would make his leisure time to enjoy the scenery. There were some freshwater marine life living inside the shells on the shore. There were fishes on the lake as well. Jon could see the movement of fishes swimming away and back, down and up for the air on the surface.

By the time Jon came back, lunch was getting prepared by Tyrion's other two guards. Trawis wasn't with them so Jon assumed that he was still waiting by the kingsroad for the Watch recruiter and his fresh recruiters. Passed half an hour later, Jon was laying on the ground with his face facing the cold grey sky. Ghost was sleeping beside him, his beast was growing every day.

By the time Trawis returned, there was no one other than himself. No black brothers of the Night's Watch trailed behind him or anything at all. Just him and his steed. "I see no one coming up the road, m'lord," Trawis said, "been freezing up my arse waiting for the cold wind as my companion. No movements, if that pleased your question."

"We best not waste time, then." Tyrion replied as he was getting up from the log he sat. "Mayhaps they might be at winter town or at Winterfell, who knows. But we wait longer than we anticipated. We're oging for the Wall straight to regroup with my little brother again." Tyrion smiled faintly.

After all of their horses was fed and watered, they packed up their belongings and cuddle them into tight, smaller huddles for space and strapped it onto their horse’s waist. Saddling them up, Jon mounted up his horse. Jon looked down to see Ghost was awaiting for them on the command. He then turned to Tyrion. A dwarf like him couldn’t ride a horse, yet he mount them as any normal person would. he bewildered at that thought. Then he realized his saddle had some mechanical works of hinges and locks and binds. His saddle was made of wood covered with horse leather and thin layers of cushion.

When they trotted their horses through the dense wood for nearly about half an hour they finally reached the tracks of the kingsroad. They were going up north. The Wall will be my lifelong service, to protect the dangers from beyond-the-wall. I will fight and serve side by side with uncle Benjen. the thought of that wasn’t merrily but at least he had his uncle there. Down south, his father was travelling with the rest of kin. His sisters, Fat Tom, Ser Jory Cassel, Steward Vayon Poole, Lady Jeyne Poole and fifty other household guards with him to King’s Landing. Sansa was to marry the prince and Arya was to trained to be a proper lady, as her mother always wanted her to be. Arya was a little stubborn, proud independent girl like her Nymeria but she could, sometimes, be reasonable but rarely at times. The thought of that was bitter because they were going to have a better life than he was to acquire.

Trotting up the kingsroad, after a few hours, they were finally out of the wolfswood and its dense forest. To Jon’s left was a hilly region where the northern clans dwell with their bands of families and friends. To his right was another patch part of the wolfswood, and north of him lies the land of the Night’s Watch: New Gift.

The North was the biggest kingdom of all the seven kingdom but was barely populated and not fit for agricultural planting and farming. Elsewise, the north kept their tradition down to their hearts and bone; the Old Gods and the old ways. Southerners may called it uncivilized but the northerners were proud and pragmatic.

All I want was to be accepted to the Stark family and bear the Stark name. he said to himself as he trot. Snow, my bastard name, and all that hope and dreams getting legitimized has erode away. But at least my uncle took the black with him without any complains. I will pray for them all for safety in the south. May the Old Gods protect them with my blessings.

Chapter Text

The castle gate opened upon their arrival few feet away from them. The brothers in black alarmed the rest of their brothers inside Castle Black with a sound of horn, not a moment later, the castle wooden gate opened for them to enter.

When the Wall came to their sight when they were on the slightly slanted hill upon arriving at Mole’s Town, Tyrion was at awe even though it was still afar from him, and so was his little brother. They stayed awhile in Mole’s Town and not under the watch of his father he went to the brothels but only for a woman not two. “Do me a favour and try not to scream because of my stature. I’m a dwarf.” he had said to one of the brothel woman whose hair was chestnut brown with a pair of large perfectly shaped breasts with delicate features.

She grinned. “I won’t, my lord. I won’t scream for any prices.” and she undid her clothes. Her name was Angie. He could see the small patches of brown hair between her legs and Tyrion had a jolt of hardened manhood.

Gold, gold is what you want. Not me. Tyrion thought but in the end they were both satisfied with the girl’s arms wrapped around Tyrion’s neck and her hands held tightly around his head. His manhood finished the final blow inside of her. Do use moontea would you and try not to get me a bastard or two. Father would kill me if he knows you carry my seed. But the lady was so pretty that she kissed him feverishly and slept beside him while her arms still wrapped around him after their intercourse. Whether or not the lady drank moontea was unknown to Tyrion.

Tyrion and his companions entered Castle Black and the wooden gate closed behind them with a bum sound. Many of the brothers in black was looking at them queerly and warily. And some were even with admire. Tyrion guided his horse to the stables and he could see that some of the horses there were his brother and his father’s men. And there was the Lannister lion banner tied to their saddles. A stableboy came to him and guided Tyrion’s mount to a vacant slot and his men as well to the others available. It was hard for him to come down from his saddle since it was specially made mechanism but he got down all the same with the help of his guards.

As soon as Tyrion was down on the ground he said, “Feed the horses and you’ll have your payment. Carrots and apples and oats only, and do not overfeed them will you.”

The stableboy nodded. “Yes, m’lord.” He looked to be no more than zero-and-one years old with a straw coloured hair with tired eyes.

Then he heard footsteps behind him and called out his name. “Tyrion?” the familiar voice called out. Tyrion loved that voice.

Tyrion turned and looked at his little brother, of who was seven-and-one years old with a curly-straight down blond gold hair with soft pink lips, a delicate nose and shining green eyes. It was his little brother Braenden, his favourite brother. Braenden looked every bit of their mother Joanna. You could say that Braenden is Joanna reborn in a different gender and generation and his laughing was, too, very similar to their late mother. Tyrion smiled looking at him.

“Ah, you’re here but you didn’t greet me at the gates when I enter.” Tyrion said, feigning indignant.

“You came earlier than the schedule though I don’t see any more recruiters of the black brothers that would be joining with you?”

“We waited for them but they never rendezvous with us so we came up kingsroad without them. No hug for your older brother?”

Braenden went on his knees and hugged Tyrion warmly and he liked it very much. “I’m glad you’re here.” he whispered to him. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too.” Tyrion broke off the hug, to his dismay. “I’m sorry about your lady, father was a total arse for giving you extra lecture.”

Braenden sighed. “All the more reason for me to not be the heir to Casterly Rock and the westerlands. You know I can give it to you and father would still approve. I didn’t ask for it.”

When Braenden returned he wanted to relive and resume his work at the Sunset Inn in Lannisport since he missed that so dearly but Tywin forbade that. And when Braenden found out that Tyrion passed down his heir claimants to Braenden, he frowned immediately and begged his brother and father that he didn’t want to be.

“Seven hells to that I want to travel around the world like Lomas Longstrider, to see the wonders built by mankind.” replied Tyrion, smiling.

His brother stood up, he was taller by two inch than Jaime and at least six times better in terms of swordfighting. Braenden had a personal master-at-arms from Meereen, an elite veteran renowned gladiator familiar with Essosi and Westerosi style that his father appointed and trained Braenden almost daily from morning till the evening. His name was Aren the Gladiator, he had won every single matches in the fighting pits of Meereen and only five-and-four of age. Every time Jaime and Braenden spar, it’ll last no more than a minute and every single victory was given to Braenden.

“I want to go with you,” Braenden said, with a hint of jealousy. “Jaime can be father’s heir.”

Tyrion frowned at this. “You do know that father hates Cersei and Jaime. Even less for Jaime to be the heir after him. I gave it to you because I didn’t want it.”

“And what will you do after all your travels, then?”

Tyrion smiled. “Why I want to have my own vineyard and create a brand known as the Imp’s Delight.”

Braenden was in disbelief and looked at him dumbfounded, then he laughed. “Well, I looked forward to that.”

Then Jon came from behind them. “Braenden?” he called faintly.

His little brother turned to meet him and said, “Hello there, Jon, it’s good to see you again.” Tyrion could see Jon’s reaction was in shocked. And he knew very well why. Braenden and Jon broke off into a hug for a moment.

“When I last saw you in Winterfell, your left hand’s fingers and your eye…” Jon mumbled.

“Yes, I know. But my mother gave it back to me, weird claims but perhaps I can explain it to you after you have all settled.” Braenden said, breaking off the hug as he and Tyrion did earlier. “Tyrion, I have told the Lord Commander about my dreams.”

Braenden was not a believer in the Old Gods or the Seven Faith but a follower (not a devout religious person) of the All-Tinker which was unknown to Tyrion nor did it mention that name in the books of faiths and religions. “And what did he say?”

“Simply just nodded about it but he wants more men for the Night’s Watch waning manpower. The wildlings been crossing over the wall more so than the last decades or centuries to which made me feel uneasy about it. Not the threat of the wildlings but from what they are running away from.”

“I’ll talk to him about it later but for now the men and I are weary of the journey. Tomorrow I want to go atop of the Wall and see the lands beyond the wall. Do follow me will you, and where’s the common hall?” he asked.

Braenden pointed the direction. “Just a block after and beside the stable.” he turned to Jon. “It’s good to see you again, old friend. We can talk more later but you should introduce yourself to your Lord Commander and Ser Alliser first. I’ll meet you in the common hall.”

Tyrion, Braenden and their bodyguards came into the common hall (or a great hall if you called one) with many of the brothers of the Watch was sitting along with their brothers with mugs and plates of food on the long table. When they entered some laughed indirectly towards Tyrion but others were just giving the arrivals some queer faces or possible threats for no apparent reason. At least they weren’t doing anything and continued along with their daily conversations. In the common hall, there was a dais with a very long table and a few chairs which indicated that they were for the higher ranking seniors of the Night’s Watch. Other than that, further behind the common hall there was a doorway (without a door) that leads to the kitchen area. On the western corner side of the hall seated Braenden’s bodyguards of four, donned in their crimson armour and longsword, their half-lion crested helms on the table.

They joined with them in their lunch when the kitchen servant came with some empty wooden mugs, two jars of ale, and a platter of the “finest” dishes in Castle Black. Braenden paid the kitchen servant with two golden dragon, as he was always generous and kind-hearted.

After biting off a smelly cheese, Tyrion said, “Any news while I wasn’t here?”

“First Ranger Benjen Stark is missing, and so is Ser Waymar Royce when they ranged beyond the wall and a few other rangers. Lord Commander Mormont is sending out a searching party but none came back as of yet. I thought Benjen Stark was at Winterfell at the feast?”

Tyrion nodded. “Indeed, but he wanted to go forth first before us as he wanted to see King Robert himself. He stayed for the feast but as soon as daylight breaks he left off. He is missing? Lord Snow won’t be liking this news.”

“I know his relation with his step-mother. Perchance you have offer him to be a ward to father or something in Casterly Rock? I mean he has not said his vows as of yet.”

“I did and he declined though I’m sure if he spend some time with the brothers of the Night’s Watch, he’ll change his mind.”

“Perhaps, but here he comes.” Jon appeared behind them, and with his direwolf named Ghost. He was large. “Wow!” Braenden exclaimed. “you have a direwolf? An albino! What is his name?”

“Ghost.” Jon replied.

“What a great companion you have there. I have my own companion as well, a mountain barbary lion, bigger than an average direwolf adult age. His name is Atlas. But this! A direwolf is as rare as a mountain barbary lion.”

“You have a lion? Where is he? Male or female?” Jon asked.

“At Casterly Rock. My father wants Atlas to breed more as lion is very rare to find, less for a very large mountain barbary lion. They are an endangered species much like the direwolves, you know. I am just lucky to have one.” Braenden knelt and looked closer into Jon’s direwolf. He wasn’t growling but wary but Braenden was so fond of creatures of nature. Then Braenden patted Ghost’s head. “My Atlas is a male.”

Ghost was not yet of an adult sized direwolf but Atlas, Braenden’s mountain barbary lion, was only five years old and already twice the size of Ghost. Atlas’ roar could reach halfway around Casterly Rock and the strength of the Braenden’s beast was astounding. Braenden doesn’t need a horse as he could just ride Atlas but that was not necessary. How Braenden got Atlas was at the age of eight near Crakehall’s forest and since then they became so fond of each other and Atlas was very protective of Braenden.

Tyrion broke off the chatter. “Lord Snow, I fear we have a grim news for you. Your uncle, Benjen Stark is missing beyond the wall and a few other rangers.”

Jon’s breathing came to a stop with his eyes widened. “What?” he said, unclear and confused, yet he could see the growing worry in his face.

“We’re not lying, Jon,” said Braenden, “I got this news from the Old Bear himself. Have you gone to see him as I ask you?”

“One of the guards said he is busy at the moment and Ser Alliser is rude and overlooked at the green boys and the training yard. So I came here stead. Are you sure that my uncle…”

“We are sure, Lord Snow.” supplied the bodyguard named Ovar. “He came to Castle Black before Lord Braenden and us arrived.”

“I’m sorry, Jon.” said Braenden with a sincere look.

Jon sighed, in dismay and sadness. “I came here because I know I don’t have a place at Winterfell, Lady Stark would assure me of that and my bastard status. I came to join the Night’s Watch because I want to serve alongside my uncle. And now I couldn’t.”

“My sincere, Snow.” said Trawis.

“The offer is not done yet. You can still become a ward to my father or find yourself a knighthood in the westerlands. I am sure you’ll find yourself a place in Casterly Rock than in Winterfell, no offense.”

“None taken,” Jon immediately said without emotion. “I don’t know, really. I don’t know what to do now.”

“Take a seat first and ponder awhile about it. Here, have some ale! It’ll help you get through this void of yours.”

Braenden and Jon took their seat and Darwen poured the ale on Jon’s mug. Jon drank it heavily that some of the content spill over to his breeches. “Slow down, Jon, you might choke yourself.”

He finished drinking and almost slammed his mug on the table, just almost. “That was some good ale. Better than the ones in Winterfell. To hell with this…”

They broke off their lunch quietly; salted beef, buttered corn, oats, grapes, and raspberries. It was decent enough for a military order though they could do much better. Anyway, it only matters when it filled your stomach for the next day. The Night’s Watch is known to have a supply blocked and are constantly at rationing. Perhaps Braenden might had discuss about that with Lord Commander Mormont, perhaps.

Jon was looking rather grey and dead than alive. He is worrying about his uncle, as he should be. Then Braenden broke off the silence. “Tyrion, father sent me a letter. He wants us both back in the Rock as soon as we’re done here.”

It was strange. Their father knew that Tyrion would be travelling from Winterfell to the Wall, to King’s Landing then until Sunspear. But this was something new. “Why does he want us back?”

“Mainly lecturing, but he mention something as well that I would prefer we speak privately. This concerns a relation between houses.”

What would that be? “Is it important?”

“He wrote about it at the last sentence of the letter so I assumed it’s very important. We can leave as soon as you’re done looking at the wall.” then his voice turns to a whisper. “I feel uncomfortable with the northerners looking at us queerly.”

When Tyrion and Braenden broke off from the lunch, and Jon Snow was having a conversation with Lord Commander Mormont, the two Lannister brothers went to Braenden’s temporary chambers. It was too small than Braenden’s original bedchamber back in Casterly Rock but it would suffice. There was a bed for a person enough, a small fireplace beside it, a wooden round table with a lit candle on it and two chairs. They took their seat.

“So, what is the important matter that relates the relations of the houses? You have to tell me the Houses.”

Braenden looked around at the entrance bedchamber door and spoke softly, he had the voice of their mother, and it was a bliss to hear it. “I’m not sure what happen in Winterfell between the Lannisters and the Starks but father mentioned in the letter, ‘Things are not going well for the southerners and the northerners.’, he wrote. What happen in Winterfell?”

The news had spread, that and or things between the Starks and the Baratheon-Lannister down in the kingsroad were distorted. “You know Bran Stark? Brandon Stark is his full name.”

“Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn’s second son and fourth child. Yes, I know. What about him?”

“He fell from the broken tower when he discovered something he shouldn’t have seen, but also an action that shouldn’t have happened in Winterfell. Bran Stark fell and is on bed, dying, or so we all think of it.”

“Let me guess, it’s Cersei and Jaime?”

“You bet it is.”

Tyrion had told Braenden about the relationship between Cersei and Jaime when Braenden was ten. At first, he frowned about it but then he didn’t care about it. The worse part was that Cersei and Jaime didn’t know that Tywin knew about it secretly. Incest was a common thing on Targaryens, his mother had said earlier. Truth be told, Cersei and Jaime wasn’t the seed of the Tywin Lannister but of Aerys. The twins were product of rape.

“I may not love them as much as I love you,” his mother said to Tyrion, a few years before Braenden’s birth. “but never tell your father about it. He will kill the twins if he finds out that it is Aerys’ bastard.”

“Why didn’t you take moontea? And why did you let it happen?”

“The Mad King has a weird fascination for me and the night of my wedding, your father was very drunk and Aerys took me to his bedchamber. I did take some moontea but it was all too late. Either way, the tradition of incest runs strong in Cersei and Jaime.” she said.

“I have always suspected something weird was going on between them, their close relationship.”

“Keen eyes you have and a smart brain. They are my bastard, and sad to say I have little love for them after you were born. You are Tywin’s trueborn son, his only son until I give him more. No matter what you look like we love you, Tyrion, and you are Tywin and my heir to Casterly Rock and the westerlands, not Cersei or Jaime. I am glad that Jaime took the vows of the kingsguard, and near to his father on the Iron Throne. But you, Tyrion, you are rightfully right to be beside your father and rule the westerlands beside him.”

“Should I call them half-siblings or just Cersei and Jaime?” Tyrion asked.

“Call them by their names, I may not love them much but they are still my twins.”

“Will I ever have a real brother, or sister?”

His mother Joanna smiled. “Yes, I will give your father more children but not now or the coming months.”

And so he had a real brother named Braenden Lannister who was born during the midst of chaos of Robert’s Rebellion and also their mother’s death who died giving birth to Braenden. Out of the memories, he returned to the present.

“I’m not entirely sure how is this important, little brother.”

Braenden took out a letter from his sleeve. “Read it.” he said.

Tyrion took the letter, the content was written on another piece of paper and he took it, reading it.

To my youngest son and heir, Lord Braenden Lannister,

You are to immediately called back to Casterly Rock with your brother Tyrion. You two have many things to learn yet and the news from Winterfell has reach me. Never mind that now. Lady Alysanne is much more of a suitor for you. Come back to the Casterly Rock. Things are not going well for the southerners and the notherners.

Your father, Lord Tywin Lannister.

Strange, Tyrion thought. “What could this mean?”

“Perhaps something had happened between the Starks and the Baratheons, and the Lannisters in the riverlands? If that could be true that the relations between House Stark and House Lannister is disturbed then I fear that we are in hostile lands.”

“And father wants us to go back to the Rock immediately.” And we are his only sons.

“Yes, that’s why I urge you to quickly do what you want here and set off down south. A war is unlikely but the relations between the Lannisters and the Starks was bad since our father sacked King’s Landing and with the murder of Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys. Lord Eddard didn’t liked that. And if it is true about what happened in the kingsroad as of now, we are surrounded by three hostile lands.”

Tyrion knew what it was. “The North, the Riverlands and the Vale.”

Braenden nodded. “We could take a ship from White Harbor to King’s Landing, that would be better, and I never visited King’s Landing before.”

“A shit city with shitty people and shitty governers. It also smells like shit from the Red Keep. Lannisport is way better than King’s Landing. I’m sure White Harbor smells better than King’s Landing as well.”

“Well, whatever the smell is, it’s dangerous that we cross country. House Tully and House Arryn supported King Robert during his rebellion.”

“If the relations is already damaged then we need not to hide it. Going by the sea would just gives out more whisperings for the Starks on us.” Tyrion said. “Lady Catelyn has already suspected that we Lannisters were involved with Bran’s fall.”

“But we are not involved, are we?” asked Braenden.

“Not us both but Cersei and Jaime is. After all, they carry the Lannister name.”

Braenden doesn’t know that Cersei and Jaime was their half-siblings. It was better that way to not let Braenden know first as it was not the right time. If this story spread that Cersei and Jaime were the Mad King’s bastard, Cersei and Jaime would be in danger of their lives.

“All the more for us we go quickly. I don’t care what route we choose so long as we are out of potential hostile lands.”

“Agreed, but before that I will have to see the wall. I would like to have a word with Lord Commander Mormont first. We leave the day after the morrow.”

Tyrion was escorted by his little brother to the Lord Commander’s Tower where the Old Bear resides. When they reached the threshold Braenden knocked the door and someone from within responded, “Come in.” it was a husky rough old voice, but it was loud enough to hear.

The door opened and it was Jon Snow who opened it, surprisingly. “You wanted to talk with the Lord Commander?”

“Tyrion does, not me. Have you already taken your oaths that quick?”

“My training is to start on the morrow.”

“Just remember that our offer still stands until we have your assured decisions. Me and Tyrion leave on the day after tomorrow.”

Jon nodded and left the Lord Commander’s Tower and into the common hall. Tyrion then entered the tower with the door closed behind him by Braenden. The room he was introduced was a waiting room with a door that leads to another room, which could be the commander’s office. Tyrion entered the room without making much noise and he found a person of white hair and beard, with a black crow perched on his left shoulder.

Lion, Lion, Lion.” it cried out, and the person looked up to meet Tyrion’s face.

“Ah, you must be Lord Tyrion Lannister. A pleasure to meet you, my lord. My name is Jeor Mormont, and I’m the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Welcome to Castle Black.”

“The pleasure is mine as it is to you.” Tyrion replied.

“Please, take a seat.”

Tyrion sat on a chair front of the Lord Commander’s desk and opposite to him. On the desk was various of books of histories and letters, a parchment, a quill and ink, and a lit candle. The room was warmed by the fire radiated from the fireplace behind Tyrion.

“Wine?” the Lord Commander asked.

“Oh, don’t mind if I do.”

“Dornish red. We have arbor gold but we are stockpiling them for better measures.” the Old Bear said. “but dornish wine would be more than suffice.” He poured a healthy amount of red wine into both of their goblets.

“You must have probably heard from your younger brother that some of our rangers has gone missing, two of them being a renowned and seasoned rangers.”

Braenden told about this to him earlier in the common hall. “Indeed. My sincere, Lord Commander.”

“And why is it that you presumed that they are dead? What such notions have befall upon you?” the Old Bear chuckled. “We lost a lot of rangers, good rangers like First Ranger Benjen Stark and Ser Waymar Royce.” he pondered for a moment bitterly, then he took a sip of his goblet. “You have offered a service for Jon Snow, the bastard of Winterfell.”

“I did as it is also Braenden’s intention.” Tyrion replied, taking a sip from his cup.

“Hmm… we need good men to man our walls. Honourable men like Benjen Stark. We could use a man like you or your younger brother.”

“Say that not to my father’s face. Braenden is Tywin’s heir and he will forbid him from ever joining the Night’s Watch or the Maesters of the Citadel or such sworn orders.”

“Strict father you both have. Aside from that matter, I find your little brother rather… strange for believing a… a myth of the North as a southerner he is. He talked to me about the shadows that lurks beyond the wall. Not wildlings.”

“No?”

“No, not that. Do you know why the Wall was built?”

He read a lot of books about it so it wouldn’t be to hard for Tyrion to answer this. “Not to keep the wildlings out, for sure. If we follow the True History, the Wall was built eight thousand years ago after the Long Night in fear that the Others might returned and invade the seven kingdoms.”

“Indeed, though I find it oddly for a southerner to believe in such northern myth. The North and the South has different religions, save the Manderlys, but we have different traditions as well.”

“Braenden is a special person that is born one in a hundred thousand.” said Tyrion. “He was born during Robert’s Rebellion and suffered a lot during his childhood. But I would not share that story with any others for his sake. Were I you, I would take aware note of what he said. I have every intention to respect him and believe what he said, well most at the least.” If their mother gave Braenden back his life then why not believe in the existence of the Others?

Mormont’s mouth twitched. “So you believe in the existence of the white walkers, then?”

“That I cannot answer but the dragons existed so why not the white walkers?” Tyrion replied. “I may be a dwarf but I have a human brain, not a monkey brain.”

“Still,” said Mormont, “Braenden and I have also discussed about the situation in the Night’s Watch. He said he would convince your father to send men from your dungeons and supplies of food to the Shadow Tower and up the kingsroad.”

“He did?” Of course he did, he is always kind to obliged so, even with the smallest matters at hand. “Men, perhaps, but supplies? The westerlands have production that is almost on par with the Tyrells on the Reach but after autumn passed, winter will come. We have irrigation farms and more livestock, more than twelve years ago but we have people to feed as well.”

“Understandable but if you somehow believe the shadows the walks beyond the wall then you know that the Night’s Watch and the Wall is the only obstacle that stops them from entering. For supplies we can buy from the Free-Cities,” he took a paused. “but our coffers runs little, our armament is mostly training swords and our provisions could last only for a few months when winter does come.”

Mormont’s crow cried. “Death, death, death.

Tyrion felt uncomfortable by the crow’s cry. He hid it. “I suppose I can convince my father to send men but supplies? I think not. Gold you shall have, a gift from me and House Lannister. Should be more than enough for you to buy provisions and weapons.”

Lord Commander’s face light up. “My many thanks from me and from the Night’s Watch. If I may ask, how is it that you are giving us?”

“Why, we Lannisters are so rich that every Houses in Westeros envy us for our tremendous wealth that buying a fleet or an armada wouldn’t be a problem. Fifty thousand gold dragons, from the vaults of Casterly Rock. Lord Tywin was hesitant about this but I am fortunate enough to persuade him to give a gift for the Night’s Watch. Gold you shall have but not our food or livestock. I fear that prices of chicken and corn will be double or triple than the original when winter does hit.”

“True,” added Mormont. “You have the gratitude from the Night’s Watch and rarely do southern houses care about the Night’s Watch. It’s good to see that House Lannister does care after all.”

“From me and Braenden, at the least. I would urge you to buy whatever food and weapons you need before winter hits. Prices would be staggering and there will be high demands from cities and towns.”

“I will look into it as soon as I can, and give my best regards to Lord Tywin from me and the Night’s Watch. The only operating castles that protects the wall is the Shadow Tower, Castle Black and Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. The rest has been in ruined and abandoned. Greyguard would be in reconstruction as soon as possible. The gold you gift to us would do more than just buying weapons and provisions, I do not doubt. Mayhaps we can buy building materials from the markets as well.”

“Do what you wish with it. It’s yours already. I will have my men bring the gold to you later but I’m afraid that me and Braenden won’t be staying her for long. The day after the morrow we’ll be leaving for Casterly Rock at dawn breaks.”

“The preparations of bedchambers for you and your men is in the progress. I heard that you liked to read books, we have a library located in the vault underground. Maester Aemon is old and blind but not deaf nor stupid. You can speak to him and read some of the books the Night’s Watch have. Some of them the Citadel’s never have but they’re old and dusty. Do handle them with care.”

Tyrion took a large sip and finished his goblet. “Lord Commander, if I have the decision to choose between a valyrian sword or a book, I would rather pick knowledge than power.”

Cersei never had any sufficient knowledge stored in her brain but she had a lust for power. Jaime hated reading but he was better reader than Cersei but he preferred gallantry and chivalry. Well, Jaime’s dignity was a little damaged when Braenden defeated him easily without a sweat. Aren the Gladiator refused knighthood and so Braenden followed. Jaime was trained by the Sword of the Morning, the finest knight in the Seven Kingdoms of his time but once Aren and Jaime sparred and not ten seconds Jaime was already on the ground. Tyrion remembered what Aren boasted that day.

“If your master-at-arms was the finest knight in Westeros he would have live and serve King Robert by now. It was a bold claim, but he is no match to me or Braenden. Do partake yourself in the fighting pits of Essos instead of listing yourself in just jousting. Braenden fought five times better than you did and he has yet to master a lot of arms.”

Braenden almost mastered every weapons with quick and short duration. He learned relatively quickly but he prefers fighting with two longswords, just like his master-at-arms. Tyrion envied him and soon the word spread of Aren the Gladiator around Westeros that King Robert wanted to appoint him to his kingsguard. Fortunately, Aren refused and remained to be faithful to be Braenden’s master-at-arms.

He left the Lord Commander’s Tower and into the vault that located underground. It was rather cool than outside and Tyrion was lucky to wear his leather gloves or else his hands might freeze. The vaults was the place where they store food and there was a long hallway that leads to another room. Tyrion walked across the hallway and he soon found himself in a library. The library was filled with ancient and dusty smell that he coughed for a moment. There were bookshelves and tables and chairs in the many but most of the books from viewpoint looked rather old with their leatherskin covers. It also had some dust on it and Tyrion could barely read the title out.

After choosing some books from the bookshelves, he set them on a table with a lit candle. The book was stacked to five books and it was already heavy that he could barely carry it. The first book he brought it before him was The Silmarillion by Archmaester Tolkien, a favorite of his and his brother and mother. The second book was The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, the third The 48 Laws of Power by Maester Robert, Where Men Win Glory by Jon, and the last of them was The 38 Strategies of War again by Maester Robert.

He read The 48 Laws of Powers for the first few page attentively for about three minutes passed. It mainly talked about the power elites and politics with powerful figures throughout the history. If one of the things that Tyrion and Braenden shared in common, was their fondness of books. When turning on the fifteenth page, someone entered the library, a person or two or three, he could not tell. He lift up his head to find his brother Braenden there. Another person of a very old age, bald, wrinkled, shrunken and blind. Maester Aemon. he declared. The third person had a red face with many cyst on his face that made Tyrion shivered.

“Brother, Maester Aemon you must be. And you are?” Tyrion asked the third fellow.

“Chett, name’s Chett and steward to Maester Aemon here.”

“You… you must be Lord Tyrion Lannister, a pleasure to meet you, Lord Lannister.” Chett helped him sat on one of the chair opposite of Tyrion.

“A pleasure to meet you as well, Maester.”

“It’s always a pleasure to find people reading books in library. Most of them would just go to the hall and feast and most to the training yard to learn to shoot bow and spar with swords.”

“I do read books as often as Tyrion reads.” said Braenden.

“The worse is ones that governs the realm and those who plays the game of thrones. I joined the master of the Citadel to escape that. And what happen to.. to the Targaryens? Lost and defeated at the War of the Usurper. The extinct of House Targaryen officially.”

“The realm bleeds, but knowledge remains and recorded all those events that happens in the known world. History will continue as it is since the making of the world.” Tyrion said.

“Yes, yes…” Maester Aemon coughed lightly. “Actions that is taken today is what made the foundation of tomorrow and time will continue. Not like the cycle of life like humans continuing their generations but time will just keep on going forward and never back. We humans continue to live to preserve the culture and history, but what do most do? I asked.”

“That very few people writes down history based on what they could gather and see. And to the most, they created the events that shaped the Known World.”

“Aye… as a maester myself it is my duty to defend the knowledge that was written by authors so that we may one day use that in our darkest time of need. To progress humanity that if one day all technological things stagnated and lost, books is what they all got of the past histories. It is every maester’s duty to preserve knowledge.”

“I once wanted to join the maester of the Citadel.” said Tyrion, grinning at Braenden. “Though my father and mother forbid me so.”

Maester Aemon nodded. “Harsh, I would say but who am I to judge your parents? Lord Tywin and Lady Joanna Lannister, is both of your parents, are they not?”

“They are but Lady Joanna died giving birth to Braenden, my little brother here.”

“So I’ve heard about it. My condolences to you both and your father.”

“It was a long time ago, Maester.” said Braenden. “And Lady Joanna is now at peace with the All-Tinker.”

“Hmm… All-Tinker? All-Thinker? That is new to me.”

Braenden chuckled lightly. “Yes, yes it is.”

“Maester Aemon, your name is it?” Tyrion asked. “Many commoners had named their children their after the Targaryens.”

“My father named me Aemon after Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. My father’s name was Maekar, and my mother was Dyanna.”

“Maekar and Dyanna…” Tyrion pondered to think about it, as it sound oddly familiar.

“No, you couldn’t be.” said Tyrion softly.

“My father was King Maekar I Targaryen, First of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, and the Prince of Summerhall. He was also known as the Anvil. My mother and his wife, Queen Dyanna Dayne, of Starfall.”

Tyrion and Braenden was taken aback by this revelation. The library was quiet. “You… you are a Targaryen… The last one.”

Aemon’s expression grew dark and sad, but he nodded. “When I heard that your father’s men, the Mountain, raped and murdered Princess Elia Martell and murdered her children. I was filled with grieve and raged… and the Mad King’s death… Oh, for I grieve for my extinction of my house. The pain and the void that enters my heart was so painful… oh, dear…”

Tyrion, and Braenden had nothing to say for they felt guilty about what their father had done in sacking of King’s Landing, and their half-brother murdering his sworn king, a vow that Jaime took to protect his liege king. “I am dearly sorry for your loss and your house, truly.”

“Were you?” Maester Aemon asked. “Who lies dead and who is sitting on the Iron Throne now if it is not the dragon’s blood? King Robert Baratheon the Usurper.” he wanted to spat.

“My father had no intention of killing Princess Elia Martell and her children, that was an accident. As for my brother Ser Jaime, he did broke his oath and killed the Mad King but he is also sworn to protect the innocents of King’s Landing. The Mad King wanted to turn the city into ashes when the usurpers entered the city. Think of it, wildfire caches stationed in strategic positions that would cost thousands of innocent lives.”

“The past is the past… but I grieve for them…”

If the talk was real then there are still possible Targaryens out there in the Free-Cities of Essos. When King Aerys heard of his son’s demise at the Trident, he named his youngest son Prince Viserys as his heir and shipped his pregnant wife Queen Rhaella and Prince Viserys to Dragonstone. And when Stannis stormed Dragonstone there were not there, except that the news of Queen Rhaella Targaryen died giving birth to another child, but the prince and the rest fled to Essos.

“The past is the past.” Tyrion said. “History is written by the victor, and while the truth streamed along with the river of blood.”

“Mayhaps one day I will write about my story, called On the life of the Last Targaryen, if I have the time to write it. I am old, a hundred and two of age, and I fear my time is coming to join my brothers and my father and forebears.”

Chett helped Aemon up from his seat and guide him carefully off from the library to his bedchamber. Only left was Tyrion and Braenden in the library.

“I thought I wouldn’t live to see a Targaryen at my time. I thought they were officially extinct.” said Braenden. “Oh well, I was born during the rebellion. Maester Aemon looked like a good person.”

“Indeed, but Aemon Targaryen is not the last of the dragon blood. Prince Viserys, the second son and heir of King Aerys should be in one of the Free-Cities of Essos along with his other sibling. Queen Rhaella died giving birth to another during a storm. When Stannis stormed Dragonstone, the prince and the loyalist was nowhere to be found.” Tyrion explained. “I was hoping that maybe I could find them on my journey should I ever travel in Essos.”

“King Robert wouldn’t like that notion of yours. Father had pledged his support before Robert by presenting the bodies of Princess Rhaenys and Prince Aegon before Robert, and gave Cersei as Robert’s bride.”

And who does Cersei gave birth? Jaime’s bastards, not Robert’s. Princess Myrcella and Prince Tommen is good hearted, though. “The Iron Throne is a huge debt to the Bank of Braavos and the Faith. Should they failed to pay them back in due time…”

The Iron Bank will have its due.” finished Braenden. “We could pay it for them.”

“No, never. It’s their problem and of their own only, not ours. And father didn’t even want to send any gold and silvers to helped them anyway.” The gold in the vaults of Casterly Rock was vast that it was estimated to be at least at seventy million golden dragons, excluded the silvers and the coppers.

“But Cersei-“

“Has no claim to the vaults of Casterly Rock. When father is gone it’ll yours and you do well to remember that to use it wisely.”

“Ours, you mean.”

Tyrion chuckled. “Perhaps, perhaps… Oh, and before I left the Rock for King’s Landing father told me that he wants to betroth you to Lady Alysanne Lefford.”

“We have been close friends but I don’t admire her, less that I ever have love her.”

“She loves you, though.” said Tyrion.

“I know but I keep telling her that my heart only goes to one and only one. And her name is Lady Sansa Stark.” argued Braenden.

Stubborn, he is. “She is betrothed to our witless fool nephew Joffrey.”

“That may be. Never liked him or loved him, even father despised him. Myrcella and Tommen is good but Joffrey is a no.” That they both agreed. “Mayhaps if the All-Tinker is good, something will happen to Joffrey.”

Chapter Text

King’s Landing was so huge when she saw the city from her bedchamber, Arya’s was next to hers and her father’s was located just above them, in the Hand’s Tower. The city was very beautiful; the Great Sept of Baelor and the Dragonpit was the biggest structure within the city, save the Red Keep. But the smell of the city wasn’t pleasant. Her best friend Jeyne shared the same room with Sansa and they often talked about Sansa’s coming wedding in the near future to her beloved Prince Joffrey. She was very excited about it and couldn’t wait for it. She even begged her father to just go through with it.

“Father, please tell King Robert to go through the marriage. I love Joffrey he will be king one day. He will be a great husband to me and a good father to our sons.” Sansa begged. The Great Sept can be viewed from Sansa’s bedchamber and it was beautiful, and it was also where Prince Joffrey and her would get married, by the Seven Faith.

Her father chuckled. “You need to get along with your prince first before going that. I’m sure you will give him good children but patience is virtue, Sansa. You’re still quite young, and so is the prince.”

But she couldn’t contained it. She wanted to begin her life with Joffrey as soon as possible. It was the reason why she came down to King’s Landing. “Do you think me and Joffrey will have many children? Will they look like him?”

“That is for the gods to decide whether or not they will look like their father or not. But I do know that you are beautiful like your mother and you will have beautiful children.”

Today, there would be a tourney, the Hand’s Tourney for the celebration of her father as Hand to King Robert Baratheon. The tourney would be very busy with contest such as jousting, melee combat, archeries and alike. Already the surrounding roads, inns and the city had become very busy in the preparation for the tourney. Her lord father was busy with his duty as the Hand so he would not be with her until dinner. Septa Mordane and a few handmaidens was to accompany her for the rest of the day until at night.

Jeyne was sitting, combing her hair for the tourney and braided her hair in southern fashion. Back in Winterfell they used to practice braiding their hair in southern style because of their dreams of marrying a southern knight or prince. And here they are now in King’s Landing. Since Sansa was betrothed to Prince Joffrey she wouldn’t be jealous of who Jeyne might fall for or betroth to. That was up to Lord Vayon to decide, father’s steward. Sansa was all for Joffrey and him only. No others could compete with that. Unless…

Ser Jory Cassel would list himself on the jousting list. Ser Rodrik’s nephew. “Do you think Ser Jory will defeat some southern knights?” Sansa asked, to Jeyne Poole.

“Perhaps, or not.” replied Jeyne. “I hoped to meet some knights as they trot through us before going tilting. They say the prize pool for the runner-up and winners is astounding.”

The King was so rich that putting up a huge reward for the winners was like nothing. Twenty thousand dragons to whom who won the jousting, another twenty thousand dragons to whoever wins the melee and ten thousand dragons for archery. “It’s good to see His Grace be so kind. After all, they join the joust to be at the top.”

“No doubt. Is Arya ready for the day? Our wagons will be waiting for us and ready to depart for the tourney.”

“I don’t know.” she simply replied.

Sansa still blamed Arya for Lady’s death in which she could overcome it. She wept that very night and how much she missed Lady since then. She wished her direwolf would still be with her. To watch her get married with the prince at the Great Sept of Baelor. No matter how much hate she could put unto Arya, she was still her sister. Even so, if only Arya would spend the time with Princess Myrcella, Lady would be alive and so was that butcher boy Mycah. Nymeria would still be beside with Arya. She hoped Arya would comply to come with them to the tourney. After all it was a celebration in their father’s name.

“We must hurry,” said Jeyne, who brought Sansa back from her dark memories. “I can’t wait to meet handsome knights.” It was clear that Jeyne couldn’t contained her excitement. It was exhilarating too.

Jeyne was very pretty in her gold and green baroque gown. Sansa wanted to wear something that would appease her prince but instead put on a grey dress. Jeyne helped her earlier to braid her hair the way Queen Cersei fashioned her hairstyle. The queen was so beautiful in everyway.

There was a knock on her door, to which perked their heads up. Then a voice from behind the door said, “Lady Sansa. Lady Jeyne. Lord Stark has told me to accompany you to the retinue in the courtyard. He’s waiting for you in the wagon house.”

By the time they reached the courtyard of the Red Keep, it was near noon but still brightly morning. The sun was so bright since they entered the city. The retinue was long but there was one of the wagon house with the banner of House Stark, her house. When she entered the wagon her father was there sitting in the middle, wearing a brown doublet and grey court pants, in addition of the Hand’s brooch on his left chest. Beside him was Arya with her rather ragged northern hairstyle and her lady appearance (if you could call that), her appearance was wild but at least she would be with them in the tourney.

She seated herself near the window whereas Jeyne sat opposite to Arya. “Sansa, you looked beautiful today. And so are you, Lady Jeyne.”

She blushed. “Thank you, my lord.”

Arya scoffed. “A hundred knights would pile up for her hand.” said Arya, in a sarcastic tone. “Can I list myself in an archery match, father? I beat Bran back in Winterfell, you saw!”

Their father sighed, but not annoyed. “You will be there sitting with us watching the jousting. Is that not enough for you, Arya?”

“No.” answered Arya. “It’s boring to watch knights tilt each other until they fall. They’ll just repeat until a winner gets to the top. I want to see a real melee combat and an archery competition! That would be nice.”

Why was Arya always complained? Can she just be glad for once? Sansa was already irritated but she kept it. Annoyed, she looked away to the window and looked outside. Their retinue was long but not large. They were protected by Baratheon, Lannister and Stark men at the flanks. Father brought with them fifty of his best household guards and they would protect them from harm, if they could come to them.

“I hear Ser Loras will be competing.” said Arya suddenly.

Sansa flashed her head towards Arya. “Really? The Knight of Flowers?” She had heard a lot of that Tyrell knight and his appearance has spread throughout the kingdoms quickly, and it made half of the ladies and girls gone mad. She had also heard from rumours that he was very good other than looks. Her heart was racing.

Arya nodded. “Mhm, but he would do well not to go against the Mountain. He, too, has listed himself in the jousting list. I wonder if Ser Flower will compete in the melee competition. I want to see how good he is.”

Sansa said, “Ser Loras is trained and will beat them all easily without a sweat.” That she was curtained. There was no other knight or person who could defeat the Knight of Flowers. Not even the monstrous Mountain That Rides. Sansa had saw him a day after they entered King’s Landing and he was so big and terrifying and dreadful.

Sansa could look at the Red Keep from where she was moving, it was so huge and magnificent on Aegon’s High Hill. So red and beautiful. It would be her new home once she became the queen when marrying her beloved prince. And that is where their children would grow up to be prince and princess, bearing the Baratheon name.

Down they went to the tourney grounds and the carriage door was opened by one of the guards, the first one to go out of the carriage was her father, then her sister Arya, then Sansa and finally behind her was Jeyne Poole. The tourney ground was so busy and filled with watchers and participants, and the royal household. The tourney ground was large and separated into several sections; the participant’s ground (which include the royal pavilions and the armoury), the melee ground, the archery range, the jousting ground and the watchers’ stand. There was a dais where noble lords and ladies, the king and queen and their children would reside to watch the jousting. The commoner’s stand was opposite from where the royal dais was, opposite and across the jousting track.

There were already nobles and commoners taking their seats and stands in their respectful place. The royal dais was divided into three dais in which the middle one with a canopy roof resided King Robert in the middle, Queen Cersei to his right and their children just below them a few step down. They were protected by two of the kingsguard, the White Knights. On the left and the right was stationed the noble’s seat, where Sansa was seated with her family and Jeyne on the left dais.Septa Mordane was above her with Arya and Jeyne while she sat next to her father on her right and a stranger wearing black in attire to her left.

Everyone was cheering and bustling for the tournament to begin and the first contenders rode pass through, circling around the fence and waving themselves on the commoners and nodding and bowing to the nobles and the royal family.

The first contender with a brown rouncey with a whole-plated tournament armour with a long four metre long with a heater shield emblazoned with the grey direwolf on a white field. “Ser Jory Cassel.” Sansa guessed. She remembered that he enlisted himself to participate the tourney for fun and for the honour of House Stark and Cassel. He was positioned on the far right end of the jousting track, left fence.

Ser Jory’s contender rode through, nodding to the noble lords and ladies, bowing to the royal family. He too wore the same similar plated tournament armour like Ser Jory with the same shield but different house. His shield was painted with a burgundy grape cluster on a white field. She knew that house. “House Redwyne, of the Arbor. Who is he, father?” The knight had a comely appearance with orange hair and a square, freckled face.

“Ser Horas Redwyne.” said her father. “One of the son to Lord Paxter Redwyne and older twin brother to Hobber Redwyne. He is the heir to the Arbor.”

The herald sounded his trumpet, demanding a silent from the crowd. “Good citizens of King’s Landing, noble lords and ladies from Westeros, great King Robert and his royal family. Today we are celebrating the Hand’s Tourney in King’s Landing! Please applaud to Lord Eddard of House Stark, the Hand of the King!” Everyone cheered, but when Sansa turned to look at her father’s reaction, he was dull. Then the herald again demanded silence with knocking his stick to the wooden dais several times. “May I present you the first contenders. To my right we have Ser Jory, of House Cassel.” Ser Jory raised his lance and a few cried came out. “To my left we have Ser Horas, of House Redwyne of the Arbor.” More people cheered for the Redwyne knight.

“Contenders! To your post!” the herald shout out. Ser Jory went to the right (left fence) and Ser Horas went to the left (right fence) and they faced towards each other. They made ready for the brace of impact.

The sound of the signal from the signaller’s trumpet sounded and both of the contenders reined up their rouncey and galloped towards, their lances pointed towards each other. From what Sansa could see, the end point of their lances was blunted. With two contenders coming to a close, Ser Jory’s lances raised up a little and strike it initially before the Redwyne’s lance could touch Jory’s pauldron. His lance went broken into splinters and Ser Horas was dismounted from his horse down to the ground. Everyone cheered and clapped, praising Ser Jory for his victory over Ser Horas.

With the first round won by Ser Jory, his next opponent bears the shield of House Frey. Them being ready, the signaller sounded his trumpet and they both rode forward, pointing lances at each other. Again, Ser Jory won the second round over the Frey knight.

On the third round a knight who had a squashed nose, a square jaw and a mat of nappy grey hair. The knight looked stocky and strong too, Sansa observed. He was not handsome, not at all, but he not ugly either.

The herald announced the knight’s name. “Ser Lothor, of House Brune of Brownhollow.”

The first tilt of theirs was fruitless, the second tilt Ser Jory almost fell off his rouncey but he held his rein tightly and gripped his legs around his rouncey tightly as well, to which he was not unhorsed. As they get ready for their third tilt, and surprised by the outcome, Ser Jory was unhorsed by Ser Lothar Brune. Even his father was a little surprised.

After some moment of break, the jousting tourney resumed. Ser Meryn defeated Harwin of Winterfell. Ser Balon Swann defeated Alyn of Winterfell. Ser Jaime unhorsed Ser Andar Royce. Ser Jaime unhorsed Lord Bryce Caron. Ser Baristan Selmy the Bold won over two unknown rider, probably a hedge knight or a freerider. To their gasped, Ser Jaime Lannister unexpectedly defeated Ser Baristan the Bold. He’s too old to ride but he tried his best.

Then the Mountain That Rides came into play, he was so huge that Sansa thought his palfrey might fall due to his intense weight. He wore a black boiled leather armour with a plated pouldron. His lance was so long with a sharp end. He unhorsed a rider that Ser Gregor’s lances flew him to the ground hard.

“Ser Hugh of the Vale.” the herald announced the new Mountain’s opponent. He had a polished plate armour and a fine steed.

The trumpeter signalled and Ser Hugh and Ser Gregor charged forward against each other at a dangerous speed, both sharpened lances pointed towards each other. Only… Ser Hugh’s lances isn’t long enough to reach- There was a horrific cry came from the crowds. She gasped in terror. Sansa looked and the Mountain’s lance was shortened in half, his other broken half was pierced into Ser Hugh’s throat. Blood came spilling out from his mouth but he lay there, helplessly. He died not long and the barber-surgeons came to pick up his body off from the jousting track.

It didn’t cancel the competition though, King Robert insisted. Ser Gregor was still on the joust list and defeated Ser Balon Swann.

Next came the Hound, who had gave her a stare which made her uncomfortable and weak. The Hound defeated Lord Renly Baratheon, which was quite a feat for a minor swordsmen to defeat a high ranked lord. Lord Beric Dondarrion defeated a hedge knight in a checkered cloak but Lord Dondarrion was unhorsed by Thoros of Myr. Ser Aron Santagar and Ser Lothor Brune competed against each other but after three tilts they were awarded a draw, on behalf of King Robert. Lord Jason Mallister defeated Ser Aron Santagar finally in the next round. Ser Robar Royce unhorsed Ser Lothor.

“Ser Loras of House Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers.” With a very large crowd, mostly girls, was crying and praising for the Tyrell knight. Sansa saw him, he was very handsome and was a true knight. He rode through the dais and stopped on Sansa’s view. He produced a rose and gave it to, seemingly, Sansa and smiled to her. If I wasn’t betrothed to the prince, I would beg father to ask him to marry me to Ser Loras, she told herself. Jeyne was blushing brightly too.

The Knight of Flowers, to Sansa’s delight and wish, unhorsed Ser Meryn easily and brandished himself. He had the right to do so, he won his round. And so he went forth and continued unhorsing another two more knights of the Kingsguard and he defeated Ser Robar Royce in their fifth tilt.

At the semi-finals, Ser Loras managed to unhorsed Ser Gregor with just their first tilt and fell to the ground. While waving his hand for his victory on the crowd, Ser Gregor got up, removed his great helm, and shouted, “Sword!” his squire came and brought it for him. Ser Gregor unsheathed his large greatsword and roared. He then wield his greatsword up and swung it down to his sword’s neck and cut through. The horse neighed in terror and pain that the Mountain’s sword almost cut his horse’s head almost completely. The horse crumbled down to the ground and died. Ser Gregor turned his attention and wrath towards Loras, who scared the Knight’s of Flowers’ horse and he fell the ground. The Mountain swung down his greatsword against Ser Loras but fortunately he got his shield, but unfortunately with every blow from the Mountain’s sword it got damaged until his shield went to splinters and useless.

Ser Loras was in danger. “No! Father, please make him stop!” but her father had no response.

When Ser Gregor was about to finish with his last blow, the Hound stepped in and parried his own greatsword against Ser Gregor’s before it could strike down on the Knight of Flowers. Everyone was in terror, some in awe.

“You leave him alone!” the Hound shouted, against the Mountain. But he did not heed and the two fought with few strikes.

Until the King shouted, “STOP THIS MADNESS IN THE NAME OF YOUR KING!” His roar was like a thunder. The Hound quickly knelt down with one of his knees and bowed while Ser Gregor almost got the Hound’s head, just almost.

Ser Gregor was furious when he looked at the king but he threw his greatsword abruptly to the ground and left the track. Two Kingsguard member went forward to the Mountain’s path but the King said, “Let him go!” and the two Kingsguard member step aside and let him go.

The Knight of Flowers got up and walk towards the Hound, thanking him for saving his life. The Hound was just doing his duty but Ser Loras grabbed his hand with his and raised it to the air, cheering. “The Hound!” Ser Loras shouted, and the crowd cried along with him. Sansa stood up and clapped her hand altogether. He was a knight from the stories after all, a true knight that Sansa had always dreamed of.

Once everything was settled down and everyone back to their place, the Hand’s tourney was not over yet, and barely midday. What the Hound and Ser Loras did was truly chivalrous. As any true and handsome knights would dreamed to do. The winner of the jousting section was given to the Hound, who had a somewhat burned and scarred meshed face on his right. Twenty-thousand dragons was given to the winner. Still, they seated on their respective places as the unimportant jousting contenders was still going on. To Sansa’s wishes, she hoped it would end quickly since the contenders were just hedge knights and all. They weren’t particularly handsome either. The jousting just went on and on until it was over at mid-midday.

“We’ll switch to watch the melee fighting.” her lord father said to them as they were making their way towards the melee ground. Septa Mordane and Jeyne and the others followed them behind.

“I heard Thoros of Myr is fighting everyone with his flaming sword!” exclaimed Arya, enthusiastically.

Her father chuckled. “If King Robert didn’t agree on giving him free swords, then the coffers of the royal house wouldn’t be having any problems.”

Ignoring all those, Sansa said, “Is Ser Loras fighting in the melee, too? He could face anyone even if his enemy is wielding a flaming sword. No one can be of a match to Ser Loras.”

“I hear there’s that Lannister who can defeat anyone easily,” said Arya, smirking at her.

Sansa thought about it who could it be. “Ser Jaime? Ser Loras defeats Ser Jaime during Prince Joffrey’s nameday. Like I said, no one can beat Ser Loras.” Sansa boasted. No one could potentially beat the Knight of Flowers, except maybe Prince Joffrey.

Arya frowned. “What?! No! Not the Kingslayer. His little brother defeated him every time they spar each other, I heard.”

“The Imp?” Sansa guessed. “But… he’s a dwarf.” Sansa saw the Imp at Winterfell during the king’s visit. Though he looked fine, save that he was dwarf, he was weirdly interesting.

“No!” Arya exclaimed, frustrated.

“Arya, I think it’s not the time to say it-“

Her lord father couldn’t finished his sentence when Arya cut him off. “NO! Not the Imp!” She groaned. “Ah, never mind about it we’re here anyway.”

Melee ground wasn’t that far from the jousting tracks so it only took them some minutes to get here. The place was packed as it was in the jousting ground but this was even more with people gathering around the melee ground, cheering and shouting and placing bets. They were only restricted by the wooden fence.

In the melee ground there were mostly knights but some were unknown to Sansa. There was a tall and fat person with a bald head in a tourney armour, wielding a flaming sword. That could be who Arya been mentioning. Thoros of Myr.

His flaming sword looked magical. It scared his opponents’ horses away from him and he beat them all easily at once. But the Tyrell knight wasn’t there in the melee ground. He is most likely to be tired from the jousting. Exhausted, he is now. But Sansa yearned to watch him defeat all these so-called proclaimed knights.

The royal family returned to the Red Keep after the jousting and Sansa and her family wouldn’t be staying on the tourney for that long. They had to go back to the Red Keep eventually before evening breaks. But who was the person Arya talked about who could defeat Ser Loras? If it wasn’t Ser Jaime then who?

By the time they went back to the Red Keep, Sansa and Jeyne went back into their bedchamber (they slept together) and wash themselves and slip into their nightgown silk. They went off to the dining hall with her family. When the door opened by her father’s household guards, her lord father was talking with Arya in sullen voices but as soon as they saw Sansa’s presence they looked at her and kept quiet.

“It’s time to eat, Sansa. Jeyne. Please, take a seat.” her father gestured.

The longtable was enough to be seated by ten people but for now it was only her father, her sister Arya, her friend Jeyne and Septa Mordane. She missed her mother and brother in Winterfell. Bran especially, he lost his ability to walk since he fell from the broken tower. When he wakes up I’ll write a letter to him and ask him to visit King’s Landing. By then, I might already be married to Prince Joffrey. The thought made her giggled and blushed.

Sansa seated herself to her father’s right, Arya to his left, Jeyne next to her and Septa Mordane beside Arya. Dinner was plentiful; a roasted wild boar glazed with lemon and honey, a platter of seven pork and blood sausages, a bowl of steamed vegetables with raisins, oat meals, and strings of fried bacon. Their refreshment would be weak sweet wine, her father insisted. Lord Eddard wanted his children to have a good taste of cheap wine before going into a finer vintage.

While eating, her younger sister Arya asked to their lord father, “I’ve seen how they fight at melee ground earlier this afternoon. I wonder if I can have a teacher or a mentor to teach me how to fight?”

“Lady Arya!” Septa Mordane scolded, unbelieving.

But Arya ignored her and kept going. “I don’t care about being a proper lady, that’s Sansa’s obligation, not mine. You’ve seen me beat Bran in archery! And he couldn’t even catch me.”

“I’ll find you a teacher, who can teach you both Westerosi and Essosi fighting style, but you have to promise me that you will eventually learn how to be a proper lady and learn how to be formal.”

“Yes! Thank you, father!” Sansa thought, maybe, Arya wasn’t entirely putting her hopes up about the learning the proper lady thing. She’s a wild wolf anyway and Sansa’s going to be a royal Stag, a Baratheon once she was married.

“Is there any exact date when me and Joffrey will get married, father?” Sansa asked, eager to know.

“No, and it will take a long time before that to happen. Sansa, you’re still a child and still have lots to learn, albeit a little better than Arya in your way. The Prince will also learn in time. No doubt you both will make a happy family.” Lord Eddard assured her, to her question.

It didn’t satisfy Sansa, but her father was right. Prince Joffrey will not go anywhere nor he would fall for anyone other than her. They were betrothed anyway as that was the king’s intention when the royal entourage came to visit Winterfell. As she ate, she wondered how many children will she bore for her beloved prince. She wanted her family to be big, strong and healthy like her current one. She hoped her children would inherit the blond hair from Joffrey. The thought made her excited. She couldn’t wait for her wedding day.

Arya asked, “Will Jon visit us in King’s Landing after joining the Night’s Watch? We won’t be going anywhere or back to Winterfell for sometime until Sansa gets married. The Imp went to the Wall with Jon to rejoin with his little brother in Castle Black, I heard.”

Their father took a healthy drink of his wine. “Jon is going to be a member of the Watch. You know their order, Arya, swore to never to take wives, father no children and forbidden to be in love. They set aside their previous lives and they now belong to no one but defend the realm of men,” he said, placing his hand on Arya’s shoulder. “Jon can visit Winterfell if he wants to but he has his duties as a black brother. You know your mother…”

Jon was a few months younger than Robb but they were born in the same year of Robert’s Rebellion. They grew up like brothers but they also had their flaws; they would sometime fight but soon absolve. When her father brought the infant Jon to Winterfell, it made her mother furious but also sad to see that Eddard has taken a lover during his campaign with Robert. Up until now, Lady Catelyn hold a remorseful grudge towards her bastard half-brother Jon Snow. Her mother always told Sansa to stay away from Jon and try not to talk with him much and so she did, not much but she did. Arya, on the other, Sansa wouldn’t know why her little sister was so close with their bastard brother.

“Maybe you can tell mother to allow Jon to live in Winterfell with Robb. They can rule the north and Winterfell together.” said Arya, hoping.

He shook his head. “Jon can never become the Lord of Winterfell, Robb will and have to. As for the steward position, Jon isn’t capable of taking it anymore since he’s going to take the black and serve uncle Benjen.”

“I’m sorry about your brother, father.” Arya suddenly said.

“Hopefully they would find him and the others who are missing.”

News had reached them about Uncle Benjen and his party who ranged beyond the horrors of the uncivilized north beyond the wall. They went missing before Jon arrived at Castle Black. Suddenly Sansa felt sorry for Jon for having very limited options in his life. Sansa had heard the tales of the Night’s Watch: from their pinnacle history until their declination throughout the course of time.

“I hope Uncle Benjen is fine, and Jon too.” said Sansa.

“Why should you?” Arya was glaring at her. “You hate Jon as much as mother hates him. You are also the reason why Jon is joining the Night’s Watch. If the Night’s Watch allowed ladies to join them, I hope that you would be one of them instead of Jon.”

“Arya…”

“I didn’t!” argued Sansa. “You’re always cruel and acts like a direwolf. If you would only come to join with us Lady would be here with me now.” Her eyes were starting to water. She still couldn’t forgive Arya for Lady’s death.

“That’s because we’re wolves, Sansa. Are you blind or too naïve to understand your own sigil and words? Just because you’re about to marry and become a Baratheon doesn’t mean you have to forget your own house. Ever since the royal family arrives at Winterfell, you’ve been styling yourself with southern fashion, especially following Queen Lioness.”

“You’re so mean. When I become queen I’ll make sure you get the proper punishment for what you did to Lady and Prince Joffrey.” Sansa promised.

“You two, enough!” scolded their lord father. “Septa, escort them to their room, dinner is finish now and I don’t want them to argue anymore about this matter starting from tomorrow and onwards. We’re in King’s Landing not Winterfell so behave yourself.”

But Sansa went on, furious at her little sister. “I will make sure that if you ever dare to raise your hand against me I will have Joffrey’s army make you and your husband’s holding dearly. I will have both the Baratheons and the Lannisters alliance in this. What do you have?”

“Sansa!” exclaimed Septa Mordane, unbelieving as her father.

“What makes you think the Lord of Casterly Rock and the Westerlands would help you because of this petty arguments? They would laugh at you for that, especially a childish lady with childish intentions. I hope that you remember which Lannister I was hinting out earlier. The heir to Lord Tywin’s titles and lands.”

“That is Ser Jaime, or Lord Tyrion the Imp.” answered Sansa.

“Wrong!” Arya grumbled. “Why are you so stupid? You have better hand-writing than I ever could and good at lady stuff but you never can understand mathematics and guessing? Even I’m better than you at certain obligations. Ser Jaime isn’t the heir since he is the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and Lord Tyrion ceded his inheritance to his little brother. Do you still remember the Little Cub?”

The Little Cub? “Isn’t that… Lord Tyrion? He’s the Imp of Casterly Rock.” Perhaps that title was a mocking to the Imp’s stature. She would laugh for that.

Arya was frustrated. Why was she frustrating over this? “No! No, no, no, no, no! It’s Lord Braenden Lannister! That boy you married back in Winterfell when you were four! How can you forget the Little Cub?!” Arya rolled her eyes and left for her bedchamber.

Braenden… she remembered now.

Chapter Text

“How much did the tourney cost last week?” he asked again, bewildered.

The youngest brother of the Baratheon brothers, Lord Renly Baratheon, shifted his seat. Robert was out hunting again but Ned wanted to held the council with the rest to discuss the matters. Renly cleared his throat. “Two hundred and fifty thousand dragons, Lord Hand. Excluding the weapons and armours and the lavish dishes and all that was handed out throughout the course of your tourney.”

“Not mine.” Eddard replied. “How much does the crown owe?”

Lord Renly didn’t know the answer but it was Lord Petyr Baelish, the Littlefinger, that answered his question. “His Grace, King Robert Baratheon has owed to the Lannisters about three million dragons, two million to the Iron Bank of Braavos and one million to the Faith. The others are the rest and they all want their debts paid back in full.”

The Lannisters? Cersei’s marriage to King Robert was Tywin’s intention that he wanted to prove that House Lannister was on the rebel’s side but that was at the very late of the war. Their marriage was a joined house together of House Lannister and Baratheon through those two. But the Iron Bank of Braavos… “What the seven hells was Robert thinking about asking loans to the Lannisters and the Iron Bank?” A Lannister always pays his debts, was the common word for House Lannister. He remembered. The Iron Bank will have its due, the words of the Bank of Braavos. They were very similar and shared something in common when it comes to debts.

“Robert is a good man but a king? That is questionable.” said Varys, the Spider. “Lord Tywin Lannister has already been demanding that King’s Landing is to pay back their debts they owe to him few years ago and till now. The Iron Bank however, is a different story. They are well known to invest big money on the crown’s enemies. This debt has been with us awhile because of the Iron Throne.”

He couldn’t believe it. The crown’s debt was massive than what he had expected. He was hoping that it would not reached beyond half a million but it did, and beyond that. “My lords, how do you suppose that we overcome this situation? Have any of you tried to stop Robert from throwing parties and tourneys?”

“We have warn him about the situation of the coffers but good King Robert did the latter.” answered Renly this time. “I suppose we have to postpone our due date to all the sources we owed to while we try to cultivate more gold dragons to the crown’s treasury.”

Lord Baelish nodded gently. “Agreed,” he grinned, “we can raise taxes from markets, brothels, blacksmiths and farmers. The public will go under unrest but it will have to do to feed the treasury. But I could always ask for loans from others to help us-”

“No!” Eddard cut him off. “The royal house have owe to much already. Do what you can with raising the taxes. Lord Renly, I want you to employ more city watch to guard the streets and contained the population, and protect all economic buildings.” Ned had to drink his wine to wash down his dry throat and to clear his mind. “We have to pay our debts to the Bank of Braavos first, then the Faith then finally the Lannisters.”

Even the Targaryens faced uprising religious unrest before. But they could and would not have to suffer from the mercenaries companies hired by the Braavosi bank that will invest the crown’s enemies. Soon if things going according to as plan, Sansa would be marrying the Prince Joffrey and they would face a heavy threat from them. For Sansa and Arya, he wouldn’t allow that.

“We have to give our good reasons to Lord Tywin if we are to postpone his due. Remember the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion and the Sack of King’s Landing. Lord Tywin’s wrath is well known, feared and respected throughout the Seven Kingdoms.” Varys said.

“I remembered.”

Ned and his bannermen entered the sacked city of King’s Landing by Lord Tywin’s bannermen. When he entered the throne room Jaime was sitting on the massive and dreadful looking sharp iron throne with a person with long beard and old, silver-white of hair with his crown not far from his head, laying on his pool of blood. Ser Jaime murdered his king he vowed to protect and he forsake that vow, as a kingsguard. By the time the Lannisters were done and Robert arrived to King’s Landing, Lord Tywin showed the bodies of Princess Elia Martell and her children to him as their support. To Ned’s contempt and disgust, he had a major argument with Robert about the murder of the innocent Targaryen children and the princess. With that, Robert sent him down south to quell any rebellion and make them swore fealty to Robert, westeros newest conqueror king. After that was done, he quickly went back to Winterfell to reunite with his family. He left Cat carrying his child after their loveless wedding but they did their duty. Robb was born, a few months after Jon came.

He never trust any Lannisters again since the murder of Princess Elia and her children. What Tywin did was unjust.

“We may face riots in King’s Landing with the highly raised tax.” said Varys, bringing Ned out of his trance. “But I suppose this is for the better of the economic situation of the crown. After all, Robert is not the first king to undergo this kind of problems. I am sure that once our coffers are filled we can pay back in full to the Lannisters, the Bank of Braavos and the Faith.”

“It will and must do.” concluded Ned. “Lord Renly, give word to the Commander of the City Watch to recruit more men. King’s Landing has always been a dangerous city.” Even Lannisport, Oldtown and White Harbor had much better public order than King’s Landing would ever dreamed of.

“Very well, orders can be given easily but how can we pay the newly recruits? We can barely pay city watch already and the populace holds many grudge and look with hatred and sinister thoughts whenever they look up to the Red Keep.”

That was sadly true indeed. “We have to lower the wages of garrison then. How many soldiers do we have in the Red Keep? Kingsguards, Lannisters, Baratheons… all of them.” Ned asked. He brought with him fifty of his household veteran guards to King’s Landing.

“Seven kingsguards members, about two hundred Lannister soldier but they swore oath to Tywin and not to the Queen. As for the Baratheons, all of them are only seventy-seven and under my command. Robert left most of his bannermen to me and my older brother Stannis at Dragonstone.”

When Robert took the throne and Dragonstone was captured, Robert gave the Stormlands to Lord Renly and Dragonstone fortress to Stannis. “I fear that we might face problems with the city watch since we are going to lower the wages. They might riot as well. Bring some of your bannermen to King’s Landing, Lord Baratheon.”

“At once.”

“I suppose the meeting is over then?”

“Not quite.” said Varys, showing his disdain face. “There are people who sought to have a compensation from the crown for their losses and it requires the king’s attention, or the hand if the king is absence. Since Robert is out hunting, I suppose you have to sit on the iron throne and listen to them.”

It was a wonder why Robert called him to be his hand. While Robert was out whoring and drinking, careless to even hold a court, it was Jon Arryn who held them all. “Get the court ready, then. I will be there within the hour. Meeting is adjourned.” And they all left, leaving Ned alone to ponder what to think about the situation with the royal coffers. He opened the administration ledger book beside him and read the current year’s income.

“Farming production income will be projected at around five thousand dragons and seven thousand stags,” said Ned when he read, quietly. “Blacksmiths income has a rough estimation of two thousand dragons per year, depending on the level of taxes. Market sells profited the crown’s coffer about eleven thousand silvers. This is barely enough with the king and queen throwing out parties and tourneys.” The worst part of the Hand’s tourney was that the champions’ purses was exaggerating: twenty thousand dragons to the champions of melee and jousting and ten thousand dragons to the champion of archery.

If the normal tax rate was set at around two percent (which was the normal circumstances during time of peace) then he had to raised it to around seven percent at least to feed the royal treasury. He closed the ledger and opened up the military accounts of the current year in westeros. Ned needed to know the estimation of each major houses of their manpower, particularly the state of the crownlands. Wages of a bannermen started at five stags per moon, sixty per year. The first read as follows:

Military records of House Baratheon of King’s Landing:

With the separation and rewards given by His Grace, King Robert I Baratheon, to his younger brothers Dragonstone and Storm’s End, his force was divided into two. At around five thousand bannermen swore allegiance to Lord Stannis Baratheon of Dragonstone, and the main bulk of twenty-five thousand bannermen swore their allegiance to Lord Renly Baratheon of Storm’s End. King Robert still commands them but only holds about two thousand royal Baratheon bannermen in King’s Landing.

During the end phase of Robert’s Rebellion, Stannis sailed to Dragonstone, the last remaining holdout of the Targaryens to capture and bring them to Robert. It was hardly even a siege since it fell quickly but the dragons managed to escape from the rebels. Queen Rhaella was reported dead on her childbed, giving birth to another Targaryen. Ser Willem Darry and four other loyal men and the last remaining dragon individuals fled to Essos. He continued to read the Lannister page.

Military records of House Lannister:

During the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion against lions of Casterly Rock, Lord Tywin held about thirty-thousand bannermen with him at that time. He continued to raise more until during Robert’s Rebellion, he fields an army sized of sixty thousand bannermen. Eight years after that, Lord Tywin’s two younger sons, Lord Tyrion and Lord Braenden Lannister, managed to raise another twenty thousand bannermen in a week; each hold ten thousand with their own military banner standard, the ‘leo’. In total, Lord Tywin holds around an estimation of eighty thousand bannermen. 2/8th of them belongs to Lord Tyrion and Lord Braenden.

Ned was shocked. Lord Tyrion the Imp and Lord Braenden the Little Cub managed to raised twenty thousand bannermen in a week? That was almost impossible. It would take some months to gather all the bannermen and prepare them for a campaign but to be able to raised such numbers within a short period of two weeks would be consider almost impossible.

Come to think about it, it was rather more dangerous than giving a complimentary to the Lannisters. Ned seemed to underestimate the Imp and the Little Cub. They had their father’s brain. And should they march on a campaign it would be hard to stop them. But what is a war with them when there was a peace in the kingdom now? The Targaryens were gone, and for that, Ned was glad there was just a justification at least that the Mad King was dead but he would rather be there to justify his cruel works and intentions. He wanted to get the answers from the Mad King why did he burn his father and brother, Rickard and Brandon.

Just as he was about to close the book, there was another line that continues from the Lannister page from the military record book.

As of last year’s record, Lord Tywin managed to raise more bannermen and set them out in several military drill around the westerlands to prepare for any campaigns or invasion or to defend his lands from invaders such as the ironborns. And, as to his promise, the next overall supreme commander of the Lannister army would be Lord Braenden Lannister, the Little Cub.

He was surprised to find that Lord Tyrion wasn’t the successor to Lord Tywin’s possessions. Why would he passed down all his claims down to his youngest son, knowing that the Imp is older than the Little Cub? He could understand why Jaime was not appointed as the successor since he was a kingsguard, and Queen Cersei was no capable ruler, he found it strange.

The door opened by two guards and it introduced Ser Barristan Selmy, the Bold. “My lord hand, not done yet?”

“Ser Barristan,” said Ned with a respective nod, “no, not yet. Please, take a seat.”

The Bold knight was tall and blue eyes, which looked rather sad. He was old, with white hair and lined features. He could be better looking and handsome if he was still at such youthful age. Despite his old age, he looked rather strong and graceful and every bit the skilled knight he was in his youth. As the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, his armour, cloak, and shield are all in white coloured. His enamelled scales have silver chasings and clasps. He took a seat in front of him, studying him.

“What is the Hand reading?” asked Ser Barristan.

“ ‘The Military Records of Major Houses in the Seven Kingdoms’ by Grandmaester Pycelle.”

“Reading the Lannister page, are you?” he chuckled. “I can’t help but to give my respect to the Lannister duo for being able to do that in such matter of small times, two weeks in specific. You have to give it to them, no matter how bias the Lannisters are with their immense wealth.”

Of course, House Lannister was the richest house amongst all the noble houses of Westeros. Anyone could just think that they could just use their money and bought more mercenaries into their army, and the Lannisters just happened to be just that.

“I find it strange for Lord Tywin to be choose his youngest son as his successor. Why so, if I may ask?”

Ser Barristan’s face went from thoughtful to grimaced. “I’m sure you’ve known about the Little Cub’s childhood tale? Lord Tywin wanted to supressed that from spreading but it didn’t work out.”

“I’ve heard of it, but what makes him to choose Lord Braenden as his heir?” He knew the tales of the Little Cub’s childhood, all of it comes from the haunting experience in Winterfell that day.

“Well, we know how much Lord Tywin loved his wife, the Lady Joanna and the fact that he hated his youngest son so much and blamed him for her death. But now he seems to be praising his two younger sons’ achievements, especially the youngest one.”

“You said Lord Tywin hated his youngest son, and blamed young Braenden for her death? Why?” It was cruel to blamed on a babe that was not his or her intention to kill their mother when they born. He wondered about Lyanna now.

The knight clasped his hand together. “I see that the horrifying tale didn’t reach up north.”

“I have seen what Lord Lannister done to his youngest son when he came to retrieve his youngest son back to Casterly Rock. Tried to stop him but he was unstoppable.”

“Very well, then.” Ser Barristan poured himself a wine into his goblet. “Do you know where the Little Cub spend his entire childhood in Casterly Rock? Say, sleeping.”

“A bedchamber?” Ned answered.

But the knight shook his head. “No. Lord Tywin hated his son so much that he condemned him to live in the deepest cell Casterly Rock can offer, and to many bonuses he added, tortured him everyday for almost eight years that the little lion almost died everyday. Did you know that he lost an arm, an eye and his jaw around the forest of Crakehall?”

“No…” He didn’t know this. And he knew now why the Little Cub wanted to join the Night’s Watch.

“Now you know. I think it was after he retrieved him from Winterfell and abandoned him deep inside the forest to die, without anything. I do believe he was tied to a tree, and a pack of wolves attack him.”

That explained why Braenden lost his arm, his eye and jaw. “Is that how-“

“No. The little cub lost his arm by his father’s men on their way back to Casterly Rock. Even on their journey back home he was tied to a galloping horse. You wouldn’t want to know how he died when he was brought back home. A very sad ending, really.”

“He… died?” Ned asked, in confusion. “What do you mean that he… died?”

“Oh, a week of treatment to his death-like state condition, Tywin was furious and brought him back to his cell, letting his executioner do all the torturing work. Tywin sentenced his youngest son to die in a brazen bull style. But the night before his execution, Ser Wrenddy the Saddist, Lord Tywin’s personal executioner, rape him then brutally murdered him in every barbaric possible way, though he was very drunk that night.”

The chills on his body started up from his back spine. He looked to the candle that was still lit on the table they were using, watching the fire slowly consuming the wax. “I… I don’t believe you,” Ned managed to say. “If he was dead then he wouldn’t be alive now, maybe the torturing part was no doubt believable.”

“It was superstitious to me as well but we can never know Lord Lannister’s capabilities. We do know for a fact that he love his wife so much.” The old knight inserted.

“Continue this… tale.”

“Lord Tywin postponed the execution date to a week forward, not knowing that his youngest son died and his body rotten in his cell. Ser Wrenddy ran away to Oldtown looking for a ship to Essos. When Lord Imp wanted to brought him food to his youngest brother, he found out that he was dead. Brains came out in bits, his eyes stabbed in the many, his teeth pulled out, legs tied tightly and twisted. All that covered in a ragged cloth that barely covers his entire body. Lord Tyrion really loves his brother a lot, a lot more than he love his father or any of his other relatives, and he got really depressed that he wanted to take his own life, giving away all his claims as a successor to anyone who was capable to take it.”

“Ser Wrenddy was caught before he could embark his ship to Essos. Lord Tywin’s huntsmen found him in a tavern in Oldtown, spending all the gold. Arresting him back to Casterly Rock and have his personal executioner tortured in the brazen bull that was originally meant for his youngest son. A week of burning, I say justice. Realizing how much pain and agony he gave to his little cub, he wept and begged for forgiveness before his wife’s statue. To answer for what he had done, he ordered a stone tomb to be place beside Lady Joanna for Braenden, at most. But Tyrion was so depressed he hated his father and blamed him for his little brother’s death. He ordered a statue of Braenden and a lion playing to be erected in front of his tomb. Braenden’s body undergo an examination for a few days before putting it into his tomb. His face covered with a complete boy face mask and body lamented with the golden-red raiment of House Lannister. His body was left alone in Lady Joanna’s old bedchamber for a day before his funeral, given that Tyrion wanted to be there for the last time to be with his little brother for the last time, reading him a story that his mother read for him before he was born.

“Tyrion forbade anyone of any status from entering the room except for the maesters and servants. The night before his funeral, Braenden awoke from his death but was too weak to speak or move his mouth to talk. Yes, all of his eyes and brains and everything was restored. Maesters work, most say but I claimed it to be the merciful gods.” he paused for a sip. “Since Tyrion didn’t want Casterly Rock or anything, Tywin appointed his youngest son as his heir to his possessions and everything to compensate what he did. Though to me, it wasn’t enough to justify what he did. Did you know that, out of all the Lannister relatives and minor branches, only the Little Cub managed to acquire a mountain barbary lion?”

“A mountain barbary lion?” Ned asked, wanting to know more.

“The sigil of House Lannister is a rampant golden lion on a crimson field, but only a normal lion. A mountain barbary lion is twice the strength and twice the size of an average lion. They grow faster but age very slowly, a rare beast. Rarer than a direwolf of yours. Faster and stronger and bigger than an average direwolf. Little Cub named him Atlas. A bold name for a war-like beast of his.”

A mountain barbary lion, twice the size, strength and speed but age slower than an average direwolf? The Lannisters were really something up to now. “Lord Braenden spent his entire youth in a cell, you say, was he educated, well-fed or anything?”

“No. Braenden’s only lecturers were his brother Tyrion and Maester Creylen. He was only taught how to say a few words before even reading or writing. He was barely fed the bare minimum throughout his entire childhood. A small chunk of bread and a dirty stale water was his everyday ration to survive but most of the times they would just fed him with nothing at all.”

Why would his father do all that harrowing stuff to his own son? If killing the two Targaryen children wasn’t enough then this story was more haunting. He never met anyone who did all that to their children just because they unintentionally killed their wife.

Ned asked, “You said that he never get to learn how to speak or talk. How is he now?”

“This is all according to Varys’ reports, however, and it is mostly unclear. But we do know that after the little boy awoke, Lord Tywin immediately hired a sellsword from Meereen to be Braenden’s personal master-at-arms. Rather young and very skilled. A veteran fighter and master at every arms, or so I’ve heard. As for literature, it was Tyrion, Creylen and Tywin who lectured the boy. Lady Genna is the maternal mother to Braenden.”

Ned shooked his head. The story of this gave him the chills. A father would’ve never done those things to their children, no matter how fault they are. Why even bother to produced children if you want to hurt them? “I think I have enough story for today. I didn’t know that… Nevermind that. We have to deal with getting the crown’s treasury filled again.”

“You wanted to raise more gold cloaks to supress the populations from ever rioting? It would be inevitable but I guess it would work.”

“No killings or hurting, just preventing them from rioting. I hope His Grace King Robert will see to this matter quickly with both his eyes and his brain rather than going out whoring or hunting.” It would be even better if Robert stopped his obligations and start governing his kingdoms. “I want to ask, about a particular topic.” Ned asked, out of the sudden. It’s also another reason why I came here.

“What is it?” the knight answered, eyeing him.

“It’s about Jon Arryn.” The thought of him already made him sad. “How did he came to die?”

“We’re not truly sure of what happened but I suspect he died of natural causes. Heart attack, perhaps.” Ser Barristan too seemed unsure about it.

“Is there anything he did before his death? Anything, be it small or big.”

He gave at the wall behind Ned, thinking. “He spent a lot of time in researching a particular book, I couldn’t recall what it is but I’m sure Grandmaester Pycelle would know of it.”

“He was here earlier,” said Ned, but he was mostly asleep than giving advice.

Ser Barris shrugged. “Lady Lysa Arryn fled after his death to the Eyrie. In fear that the Lannisters were behind this and feared for her son’s life. The little Robert Arryn. Ask Pycelle for the book he was reading. Perhaps you can get the answers to your questions. Just when we thought that talking about the Lannisters wasn’t enough since the story just now.”

“No, it will never be enough.” Ned concluded, closing the book. “Do you want to go for a stroll around King’s Landing? It’s been awhile since I came here.”

“Tomorrow, perhaps. Not today. I have to go look for King Robert to protect him. I’m afraid the other kingsguard couldn’t. They’re young and strong, but not as skilful and talented as me.”

Ned went back to his chambers to prepare for lunch break. He swiftly garbed himself into his white tunic and grey cloak, put on his breeches and boots. Keeping Ice safely above the wardrobe of his and strapped a longsword to his belt. He would be meeting someone first before lunch. A trainer. After finishing his rounds in his tower, Ned got out of his bedchamber.

“Guard the door and don’t let anyone in without telling me first.” he told the guards guarding the Tower of the Hand. Jory being one.

“Yes, m’lord.”

“Jory, follow me.”

They both went down the stairs that was alight with wall sconces and torches. The Red Keep was as old as King’s Landing since Aegon’s Conquest. Down and down, until they reached the courtyard. They then walked towards the docks where ships from the seven kingdoms and the Free-Cities of Essos came in and out to trade.

There were a lot of kingslanders and merchants, and beggars too in the dockyard. Spices, wines, oysters, seacrabs and mudcrabs, swords, armours and many more. The place was bustling with chatters of trading and haggling.

It was hard to spot the ship or find the deck for the braavosi ship as they were a lot of variants of ships lay in dock, docking their crates and barrels of goods from other places. Fermented crab was in the air; which is mostly used in brothels.

“I couldn’t spot the ship I’m waiting for, for someone. A braavosi.”

“We should ask the people around, m’lord.”

As they made their rounds asking people about the particular ship Ned was looking for, a person finally answered what he was looking for. For a price of two dragons.

The ship they were waiting was docked near the port market with stalls stank with the fishy smell. Fish scales were almost everywhere, clam shells stacked in sacks, cats fought over a rotten fish, and beggars with their cups in front of them for money for food a day. King’s Landing became worst ever since Lord Tywin sacked it. His bannermen pillaged every houses and raped mothers and daughters alike, fathers and sons put to the sword and babes didn’t live long enough to make their first words. “I smell Lannisters’ works everywhere everytime I walk in King’s Landing, even in the Red Keep.”

“Pompous house in all of the Seven Kingdoms.” Jory answered.

The ship was a large travelling and trading caravel with its flags painted with the face, shield, and sword of the Titan of Braavos, on a white field. Foreign crews was doing on their daily rounds as crewmen of the ship; carrying sacks, barrels, crates and docked them down on the wooden jetty. There was a thick wooden plank that abridge the ship and the jetty, a man with dark skin tone with a bald head, save his short ponytail, squinted eyes and big mouthed was guarding it.

Ned and Jory walked towards the shady person who was armed with a curved sword. “We are looking for a person. He should be short, taller than a dwarf. A braavosi .”

He realized the person had a rough skin as well, and some muscles. He was shorter than Ned, or Jory, but he doesn’t looked soft either. He eyed at him suspiciously, then turned towards his crew. “The bald master fencer. Fetch him!” shouted the guard to his crew.

A moment later, a person shrouded with black hood that even in the gleaming sunrays was inconspicuous. His face was covered with the dark shadow of his hood. He stood before Ned and Jory. The person’s hand raised up to grab the edge of his hood and flip them over backwards, revealing himself.

As it was mentioned by others, he was no taller than Ned but an inch taller than Jory. Slight body and bald man with a break of a nose. He introduced himself, “My name is Syrio Forel. You must the Lord Hand Eddard of House Stark. A please to meet you.” He bowed respectively, with the braavosi accent.

“The pleasure is mine, master. This is my bodyguard, Jory of House Cassel.”

“An honour to meet the master of braavosi.”

Syrio nodded. “The place haven’t changed. King’s Landing. The smell rots with fishy sellers and selfish hagglers.” He looked around the port, then turned his attention towards the two. “Now that I have arrive, who is it I’m going to train? The kingsguards?” he asked. Not sure whether if he was joking or not.

“My daughter, Arya Stark. Have you brought any belongings with you?”

“Just a baggage and a purse of coin.” he replied.

“Not much for a master fencer?”

“Would I be as fame as the king himself, I would invited my entire retinue to this city. The First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos does not carry with him much.”

He doesn’t looked much either. He had a shortsword strapped to his waist belt but nothing more to protect him except his casual attire. “What style of fighting do you have to offer to me, and my daughter?”

“If it is hard steel you are looking for then I’m afraid you hired the wrong trainer.” Syrio chuckled lightly. “Mainly water dancing, mostly light arms and swift speed.”

“My daughter has sword, not a longsword but a thin one. I’m sure you would do her well. You will train her on the morrow. In the meanwhile, welcome to King’s Landing.”

Chapter Text

“We can still go to White Harbour and take a ship to King’s Landing for a stop, then go back to Casterly Rock.” his brother Braenden suggested.

Tyrion scruff his chin. “Remember, we’re not to make the north to get us into their suspicion. We are still in the north and if they suspect us then we can get arrested. A result in war between the Starks and the Lannisters.”

“I hope Bran Stark is alright with the modified saddle plans. He seems happy with it.”

“Boys tend to like toys.”

They continued to trot down the kingsroad, behind them their bodyguards. Tyrion looked up to the sky while riding his horse. It was grey, as grey as the direwolf of house Stark. Even the clouds were blurry by the sight – the sun rays were dim lighted.

Seeking hospitality in Winterfell was a risked but they couldn’t afford to jeopardized their status, even though it wasn’t their fault to what happen for the accident. They needed to go to Winterfell to remain “innocent” or to safeguard their safety. Since Lord Eddard Stark was at King’s Landing with the Royal family, it was Robb Stark who rule Winterfell. When Tyrion and Braenden was looking for a kind hospitality in Winterfell they were unkindly dejected. Tyrion had already suspected the Starks’ thoughts that the Lannisters were involve in Bran’s fall but Tyrion tried to counter-persuade that by giving the Bran the modified saddle plans to Maester Luwin.

When Robb Stark suddenly and warmly offered them hospitality in Winterfell, Tyrion rejected, much to Braenden’s dismay. Only because Robb was a fool to think that the Lannisters were involve in the first place, or so Tyrion hoped so. Tyrion’s goal was to get them all back to Casterly Rock safely and in one pieces. For Tyrion, he didn’t to get back home to Casterly Rock just yet. He had plans to go to the Free-Cities to live the tales of Lomas Longstrider. Braenden’s matter was another but he was forced to get back home now in the mean time.

Winterfell was far behind them, they were on the lands of the neck now, thirty minutes passed Moat Cailin – a ruin fortress built to withstand hundreds of thousands invaders from the south. Very formidable indeed and all it takes for few hundred of soldiers to defend the fortress. But it wasn’t like they were at war now.

At this time, Braenden spoke to his left, straddling. “I wonder where is Greywater Watch. It is suppose to be around the swampy and boggy lands of the neck, or so the map pointed out.”

Tyrion answered, “A rough speculation. Don’t truly trust the map completely.”

Braenden always wore his custom made armour and not the average red Lannister outfit. Braenden’s armour was more lighter and less protective but he was a speed fighter.

A black robe with a plated-carved Lannister lion sigil painted in black colour. His gauntlet was dark-grey with layers of thick steel, and sharp and spiky. Even his pauldrons wasn’t thick enough for heavy duty but capable enough to deflect a hard blow from a greatsword or claymore. But the most terrifying part of his armour was the helmet. A long and pointed spike going up from the nose and smaller spikes from the sides, no visor to close or open, an open mouthed part below the nose larger than Braenden’s mouth or lips and the helm’s jaw dropped so low below the chest part with a spiky end. Addition to that, from the outside, you couldn’t even see the face as it was dark as a night. Braenden’s personal sigil was a black lion, not the golden lion.

It would take until tomorrow morning to reach the Crossroads Inn if they continued until nightfall. From there, they could take the Riverroad down to the Golden Tooth, the seat of House Lefford. Lady Alysanne Lefford would be delighted to see Braenden if we were to stop there. Tyrion smirked. That was the fastest route but also the most risky. The Tullys and the Starks had been great allies since Robert’s Rebellion. Not to mention the Arryns just beside them. Even if they reached south of Moat Cailin they were still under strangers’ lands.

“We should camp here,” Tyrion said, pulling his horse’s reins to a stop. “we should feed our horses and try to hunt some hares or deers if we are lucky, otherwise mud crabs and mud fish would suffice.”

Braenden frowned. “I’ll just stick to whatever that is left in our saddlebags. We still have meat for the journey, you know.”

“With the amount of people we have to feed and the amount of time we have to feed, I say we have to hunt more.”

They stopped beside a viable patch of plains but surrounded by bogs which was filled with lion lizards and other more creatures that lurked within the Neck. The horses were tied next to the trees, feeding on mud grasses. Trawis, Darwen and Braenden helped set up the tent and place torches around the area. The rest were busy hunting and catching mud crabs and mud fishes not far from them, Tyrion could see.

“A huge mud crab there!” one exclaimed, holding his spear up pointing to the mud crab he pointed.

“Big! Enough to feed three people with belly full. Strike it now!”

He tossed his spear, and brought up the spear with a large mud crab attached to it, speared from the top.

“Make a fire around the camp, Trawis, and the banner too. We don’t want strangers to think we are bandits.”

“Aye, m’lord.”

When evening was set there were already fireflies around them lighting. And the sounds of frogs and crickets was palpable that it could drive Tyrion to insanity. It was annoying. The campfire was alit but finding firewood was hard as it was scarce. Most of the wood they could find was large and hollowed logs. Twigs was wet.

The mud crab was removed of its shell and the contents was cut into pieces. They caught three mud crabs so far and a few mud fishes but Braenden wouldn’t have the fish. They mixed all the crab meat into one pot and applied salt, thyme, chunks of potatoes and crab broth brewed earlier. They poured clean and boiled water after, and proceed to put the pot on top of the campfire.

While waiting for the dinner to distribute, Braenden was snacking on his dried salted pork and buttered bread as he was staring into the fire. The rest were either asleep or was on the lookout. Their little camp wasn’t far from the main road so people who crossed by could just shout over and wave over them.

Braenden said, “I was wondering how thing is going in King’s Landing now. About Cersei and Jaime and them all.”

“They’re doing fine.” Tyrion hoped, remembering what their father’s words on the letter. “Sansa is doing fine, I’m sure.”

“I wonder what she looked like now. I’m sure she’s beautiful and lady-like, happily with her betrothed.” Braenden’s expression was clear – happy, but also sad at the same time. “If I ever get married, do you think I’ll be a good husband and a father?”

“I’m sure you will, better than father. And your children will look like you and follow you when they grow up.”

Braenden sighed, tiredly. “I wonder what Joffrey and Sansa’s children would look like. I wonder if Joff would treat Sansa kindly.”

Joffrey was a sadistic child and the eldest child and son of Cersei and Jaime. He looked princely on the outside but had that bad traits he carried with him inside.

“Maybe, but she’s not a concern now to you. She’s betrothed to our nephew now and there’s nothing we can do about it. Father wants you to get married quickly and the best one you have now is Lady Lefford.”

“Alysanne is pretty, too pretty. But I really don’t know. My feelings for her doesn’t resemble the ones I have for Sansa. I miss her, as much as I miss mother.”

Braenden told Tyrion that he met their mother after he was returned to life. He said that their mother told Braenden that he looked like her so much, and that was very true. He was only eight that time and Tyrion was utterly depressed when he was dead, too empty to even show a sign of life. He remembered that sad time. “I miss mother too.”

But all Tyrion had now was their father, their half-siblings, their relatives, and Braenden. And the thought of losing Braenden again would destroy Tyrion that not only he resembled like their mother but also the only real brother Tyrion would have.

“I can still remember when I first met her. It was a week I spent at that world and I didn’t want to get back here, but fate told me otherwise.” said Braenden, hollowly. “She said I really look like her. More so than Cersei is. Is it true?”

Tyrion smiled. “Yes,” he answered, “so much that you might just be a girl if you have long hair with woman parts.” Tyrion joked.

“She loves mushroom soup just like I do.”

“That’s her favourite side dish, just like you.”

There was so many things that Braenden and their mother had in similarities and not very much in comparison. Braenden’s favourite fish was salmon and side dish was mushroom soup. The only difference was that his little brother ate more but could never grew big in weight.

Braenden smiled wanly. “She made many mushroom soup for me, and salmon too!”

Even though Braenden was near on his seventeenth nameday, he would sometime act like a boy, and Tyrion couldn’t blame him for that. He didn’t have the childhood that everyone expected their child to have. Tyrion blamed their father for ruining Braenden’s childhood.

“We have mud crabs and mud fishes in replacement for your salmon.” Tyrion implied.

Braenden waved his hand, “No thanks. I’ll just have the mud crabs. When are we going to cook the hares? I want to try to cook!”

Tyrion quickly intercepted. “No need. The others can do it so spare yourself.”

There’s one thing Braenden wasn’t good at, cooking. In fact, it was so bad even Atlas didn’t had the appetite to eat his food anymore. And even Tyrion would just walk away not wanting to have anything from Braenden’s cook. But that was just one of Braenden’s bad rhetorical skills. Elsewise, he was just as clever as Tyrion and far superior than Jaime in sword fighting.

“Very well, then. I’ll go to sleep in the meantime.”

It was served in the evening. Braenden had some mud crab soup with his dried pork and buttered bread. The rest just took whatever is in the pot. That was until nightfall when everyone else had their supper from the hares they hunted. Skinning first, washing with boiled water, pinches of salt, and glazing them with wild honey before skewering them to the fire.

The night was too dark that they needed to put more firewood into the campfire. Even so, it was just enough to light the camp and the torch were swarming with bugs and insects that was lusting for light. And the croaking toads, chirping of crickets and many other more noisy animals made Tyrion cursed. He gone onto his furs and covered himself with a small blanket. He wished a woman or two would be beside him to comfort him. He wanted one now. Tyrion would never go to a brothel whenever he was traveling with his little brother but Tyrion did notice that many girls were flirtingly looking at Braenden. Commoner or noble. The only problem was that Braenden was still a virgin and going to a whorehouse was going against his will. Tyrion slumbered into his night.

The sound of lowly chatter outside was palpable. Sun rays shone upon Tyrion’s face through his tent made him flinch away. Why didn’t they wake wake me up during supper? He felt a little indignant but there was nothing he could do now, and the air was filled with crisping bacon and perhaps some others.

Tyrion donned into his red doublet with patterns and dark blue breeches; in addition of his family signet ring into his left middle-finger. An iridescent musgravite ring enclosed with gold. His father and his brother had one of their own as well but Tyrion got it from Joanna, his mother.

When he walked outside, yawning, the torches were unlighted and the smoke was so vividly clear. The others (Except Braenden was still asleep) was cooking their breakfast. Same guards on cook and the others await and preparing.

“Morning, m’lord.”

“Morning.” Tyrion stretches his arm. We go to the Kingsroad Inn after breakfast. Wake Braenden up. I’m going to take a piss.”

“Alright. Breakfast will be served soon.”

Breakfast would suffice for their journey until they reach the crossroad. The kingsroad was secured without any troubles but Tyrion had always kept in mind that they were not in friendly lands. Even Braenden was wary that he wore his armour. Passers-by were intimidated or insecure with their presence but they all gave the looks. Braenden told the guards to only raise two Lannister banners and that was it.

Braenden asked brusquely through his helmet. “The nearer we are closer to Casterly Rock, the better of our chance of safety.”

“We have to pass by Riverrun first, the seat of House Tully. Cately Stark’s home.”

“Should we be glad that Casterly Rock doesn’t need to be built on dirt?” Braenden asked.

Tyrion scratched his jaw. “I think. Casterly Rock is a natural fortress with natural resources like gold and gemstones alike.” Tyrion shrugged, “Riverrun is surrounded with river and fishes and muds.”

“I’m not trying to say that Casterly Rock is better.” Braenden implied.

“You have to give it to the builders of Riverrun for making it impenetrable even though it doesn’t have any natural defences. All you need is a hundred defenders to defend the castle from invaders.”

“And home?”

“I’m sure you know all, if not most of it, that Casterly Rock has secret entrances not just through the Lion’s Mouth. But father did barricade them leaving only a few in service in time of desperate need. We found you and Atlas in one of the library’s secret passageway, did you remember that?”

Braenden smiled. “I remembered. I was still reading books I borrowed from the library, and took some food from the kitchens and supply stores. Most didn’t even notice me when I go out. How long was I there?”

“We tried searching you for almost a week.” And when they found Braenden sleeping in one of the coffins in a small secret room, Atlas was on guard and growled at intruders. That was a few days after Braenden resurrected.

“I wonder how’s Genna doing. And Emmon. Kevan too, and the rest. Especially Atlas and Aren too.”

“They’re doing fine.” Apart from those who wanted to be the Lord of the Rock? Tywin dismissed those ‘candidates’ immediately since they’re not his children. Genna’s children and grandchildren were all moderate but there were some relatives who wanted the position of the Rock and the Westerlands for themselves – the oppositions against Braenden. But they dare not move against him since Braenden (and Tyrion himself and Tywin) was more than eligible for it.

“Well, the inns’ not too far from where we are if I recall correctly. We should refresh ourselves with proper food and comfort.”

They reached the crossroads inn eventually. Just north of Lord Harroway’s town and west of Saltpans. Sat to the north of the Trident, near the ruby ford. It lay in the lands that used to belong to House Darry. The inn is three stories tall with turrets and chimneys made of white stone. Its south wing is built upon pilings that rise over a bed of weeds. Tyrion noticed north of the inn sided a stable with a thatch roof and a bell tower. That reminded him a history of the inn.

The inn had existed for hundreds of years. The inn was raised during the reign of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, who built the kingsroad. He and his wife Queen Alysanne stayed there, and the inn was named the Two Crowns in their honour. The inn was later changed to the Bellringer Inn after one of the innkeeps built the bell tower.

Tyrion would recite all the notable moments that revered the inn but he was too tired to even cultivate the information that was stored in his brain.

They got off their saddles when they neared the stables, and walked their horses to the open space. A thin man with bald head came with two stableboys to help, and he saw that Braenden paid them with three dragons. Tyrion noticed, with the Lannister displaying so openly, intimidated the nearby commoners.

“Remove your helmets. They would think we are trying to confiscate the inn for ourselves.” Tyrion joked, but insisted that they remove their lion half-helms.

There was a lot of people sitting in groups that their voices were so aloud even from outside. But when presence was present inside the inn they were greeted with low conversation and unwelcoming eyes. A fat, middle-aged woman came to them and welcome them.

“Welcome to the Inn at the Crossroads, my name is Masha Heddle and I run the keep.” The innkeeper wanted to make Tyrion choke. Her teeth coloured in deep blood-red that Tyrion actually think that she ate glass shards and wooden splinters, which she actually might.

Even Braenden was speechless but remain his emotion. “Thank you, my lady. We would take two table, fresh meals and beverages.”

“Oooh, such a fine lord you are.” Masha flirted, Braenden took a step back. “The two table near the window they’re is yours. Anything else?”

“Warm beds as well, for the whole lot of us companions.” Tyrion asked.

“We don’t have enough rooms. Only two left, the rest of you have to sleep in the cellars or in the stables.”

“We’ll take the room, the rest can make tents outside the inn. M’lady, fresh meals for us.”

They sat near the window, and the inn was chattering with laughter and jokes. The only unusual individual was his little brother, Braenden. He was still wearing that custom armour of his.

“Say, Braenden, how are you going to eat with your helmet on? You’re intimidating some people here. Uncomfortable, I would say.”

He removed his helm. “I don’t feel comfortable here. Just a night here, then we’ll go?” Braenden whispered.

Tyrion secretly scour the inside of the inn. There were some Tully bannermen, armed. “So long as we keep our heads low and don’t spread anything obvious that we are involved in the incident. It might stir up a scene here.” Tyrion whispered back.

“But we didn’t.”

“No, we were not. But just stay quiet. The food is here.”

The innkeeper Masha Heddle brought up two trays filled with fresh and hot meals that they were carving for. Tyrion had enough of camp food (be it good or not), he just wanted to try some country dishes. Braenden ate his finish before Tyrion could put on his third bite on the roasted chicken leg.

“One mushroom soup please!” Braenden raised his hand. His lips had some hot honey around it.

“How is it that you eat a lot but never get fat?” Trawen asked, curious.

“That is because he is special.” Tyrion actually meant it.

The mushroom soup Braenden ordered came and not long after that he drank it finished without his wooden spoon. “This is good. More!”

Their mother, Joanna, would always have mushroom soup every time they took breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Now that she was gone, which Tyrion truly misses her, Braenden inherited the mushroom soup ‘trait’ from their mother, and that thought gave him joy.

After they broke their lunch together, Braenden was cleaning himself at his own room and Tyrion to his. The water they brought for them was hot enough to not think about the situation and Tyrion’s mind was wandering outside, relaxing. Too good. He applied soap into the bath and washed his hair with shampoo.

By noon passed, Braenden was with the others downstairs about to have their early dinner. Tyrion changed into his fine brown tunic and black breech, his cloak draped over his shoulders and his donned his signet with a lion carved. He went down the stairs to join them.

They had already ordered some meals for the night but they hadn’t started yet. “Kind of you all to wait for me eat.” Tyrion took his seat across of Braenden. “Else I might feel a little bit indignant.”

“Not all of the food is here.” said Braenden. “Not the mushroom soup at least. We can start eating now if you want.”

“We can wait.” Tyrion observed the inn’s main hall. It was still bustling with nightly boasts but not as much as the afternoon earlier. But he did suspected there were many men-at-arms of whom they swore allegiance to House Tully. “Brackens. Freys. Blackwoods. Darrys. Mallisters. All of them.” Tyrion muttered.

“Tyrion? Are you all right?” asked Braenden, worried.

“We’re surrounded by guards sworn to House Tully. It makes me uneasy.”

“So long as we keep our heads down like nothing had happened we’ll be fine.”

“Quite right,” Tyrion concluded, trying not to think to much. “We leave as soon the dawn’s light appears.”

“Also,” Braenden started, taking out a small book with a black cover and placed it on the table. “I’ve been reading The Silmarillion. It’s my second time now.” He flipped the pages.

“Which part?” Tyrion asked. He had read it a few times and his most favourite part was Chapter twenty-one, Of Turin Turambar.

“Chapter 24, Of the voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath. My favourite. I supposed I love the part where he slew Ancalagon the Black and the peaks of Thangorodrim was crushed to rubble.”

“He is certainly big.” Tyrion took a bite of the white cold bread. “Bigger than Balerion the Black Dread.”

“Smaug is smaller.” Braenden implied.

“He is but he has the wits and intelligence, and the mouth to win against Balerion.”

My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” Braenden quoted. “It always give me the chills whenever I read that part.”

It sure did. “I prefer Middle-Earth creatures over ours any day. Ent, orcs, elves, dwarves and many more than I can account for.”

“Are you saying our world needs repair, m’lord?” Trawis asked, curious.

“Indeed. It’s beyond fucked recognition, actually. If you would read the book by Archmaester Tolkien then you’ll understand.”

That Archmaester? I thought the Maesters of the Citadel disbanded him for writing treasonous and heretical works?”

“He did and they did, but that doesn’t mean his works was bad. Not at all, in fact it’s far from that. I would honour the man if he were still alive. Have to give the praise to him for creating such a world. In comparison to our fucked up world.”

“I guess that is how life works in our world. I would read that work of his if I had the time.”

“Make sure you do. It’s a really good pieces of work.” Braenden supported. He was reading where he left of.

“I’m afraid I think I don’t have the privilege of reading that book.”

“Food’s here.”

And they all went about eating silently, and to not try to pry any attention from the men that were sworn to Riverrun, although they too were eating and boasting merrily. They were, however, on unfriendly lands. Even more less that they only had eight guards protecting them against the might of House Tully and its vassals.

Then Braenden said lowly, “Do you think there’ll be a war between the Lannisters and the Starks?”

“No.” Tyrion simply said, dismissing the kind of idea. Although he wasn’t entirely wrong. Whatever happened in Winterfell the incident should have never happened. “If we do have to then we’ll have the advantage. But let’s hope and wish that that would never occur.”

“I wouldn’t wish for that as well.” Braenden said, sighing.

“Not when father is too old,” implied Tyrion, “although he still have the capability of ruling the Seven Kingdoms with his thumb.” But Tyrion didn’t meant it that way. Tywin wanted to educate his heir, Braenden, on how to ‘properly’ administer the westerlands and Casterly Rock after he was gone. That was Tywin’s aim. To make Braenden ruthless and merciless as he is but also resourceful and reliable in contribution. And also to amend for what he did to Braenden.

“He can still roar that lives up to his title. The Great Lion of Westeros.”

“Soon came the Lion Cub, of Westeros.” That was Braenden’s official title. “Jaime has one too. The Young Lion.”

“What about you?” asked Braenden.

“Well, I think it’s quite obvious already that one can just look at my height. The Imp!” Tyrion boasted, jesting. “Soon enough, I’ll have the The Travelling Imp. Much to live up for for Lomas Longstrider.”

“Too cheeky for all of our titles. And that doesn’t diminish the desire I have to travel around the world.”

“Too bad. You have to marry either Lady Sansa or Lady Alysanne and then have family and raise them properly.” Not like Jaime or Cersei. “I do not entirely reject the idea of you marrying the heir of the Golden Tooth. Father isn’t wrong, actually. The fact that the Stark girl has forgotten about you makes Lady Alysanne the best suitor you can possibly have now.”

Braenden looked hurt. “But-”

“And also to addition that House Lefford is the second most richest of the houses in the westerlands and whence you marry her you’ll have two powerful castles.”

“I can wait until I have no other options or father would forced me too. But he can’t since I’m free now.”

“As of now.” He wasn’t entirely free. No. When he was young he was much more worse than a slave to their father. The word freedom meant entirely something for Braenden, something he yearned for when he was only a child and still now. “Our times will be called when our duties needed us the most. We cannot runaway from our responsibilities because it’ll have an effect to the world. I’m not saying that you should absolve yourself from freedom but you have to know what’s best for House Lannister, and the legacy.”

“Father cares about the reputation and the legacy of House Lannister, but did he care about me when I was only at tinder age? I didn’t ask to be born into this world.”

Tyrion was silent for a long moment. Tyrion knew what his little brother meant. It was not fair, not morally and rationally justified at the least of what Tywin did those cruel actions towards him. “I-I didn’t mean it that way… I just…” Tyrion was lost, and Braenden was right.

“I get what you mean. I try not to think about it when I sleep but it just keeps coming. I wish mother was here, but at the same time I should be sorry. I wonder what would it be if she had lived instead of me.” Braenden didn’t have any tears developing around his eyes, but he was staring emotionless out into of the window.

“Don’t… don’t say that. Don’t ever say that. You know how much mother loved you. The part where I sacrificed some things just mend you.”

“Still doesn’t justify or mend everything or most of what father did. But I thank you for saving me, though. But it still haunts me and I can still feel the pain.”

“Don’t think about it then.”

“The past is the past. I’ll do my best to forget them.” Braenden promised.

But that doesn’t assured Tyrion. None at all. And he suddenly remembered that day when he brought four year-old Braenden from his slave-cell (one of the deepest, scariest and creepiest dungeon level in Casterly Rock) to the Halls of Legend secretly at night because it was the death of their mother’s day but also Braenden’s birth. At that night, Braenden had already scars and marks on his body, tired eyes and one of them was blackened. His little hands shaking and lost his left thumb finger.

“This is mother’s tombstone.” said Tyrion, remembering. “Today is the day she died four years ago. But it is also the day you born. Happy Nameday, little brother.” Tyrion kissed his forehead, and Braenden startled. He couldn’t comprehend the common tongue but he could nod no and yes. Braenden was shrieking.

“No.” Braenden mumbled. “Nononono.”

He brought Braenden closer to their mother’s tombstone. “Touch it, if you understand me.” Braenden didn’t comply and remained silent for the most part. He was still scared around him. Tyrion sighed. “I only wish that mother was still alive so she can protect you from father.” The Halls of Legend was dark at night that the only light source was the lighted candles, sconces, and candles. Braenden’s slave-cell only had one candle that was only lighted when his torturer was with him.

Joanna’s tombstone was newly redecorated, and quite beautiful. “Not that I am against it, but you deserve more than this. I accept that mother’s dead and that father and our relatives should spend more time on you. You shouldn’t have born if knowing that father would do cruel things to you. You didn’t ask to be born and yet here you are. I wish you have a better life than this. You being born of high-blooded noble and treated like this I don’t know why. Maybe father just wants to unleash his wroth on you.”

Cersei was indifferent as well from their father too. Jaime, on the other hand, would only help when he could but nothing more. Tyrion, Genna and Maester Creylen was the one there for Braenden in his time of need. “What would mother’s brothers think when they found out you are treated like this? Uncle Tygett would certainly be outraged.” Gerion Lannister knew about this but he was powerless to do anything but to console Braenden. “Maybe, if he were still alive he would brought you out of Casterly Rock and train you to be his squire in Essos and partake in some arena matches.” What better lifestyle option now for Braenden instead of this one?

“What is the meaning of this?” their father’s voice boomed. Tyrion and Braenden turned to where the voice came from. Braenden was shaking uncontrollably and Tyrion had to hold his hand. “Why is this… vermin here? At this time of hour he should be in his slave-cell sleeping.” Then Braenden’s tormentor came and stood beside their father, on his hands were his slave-chains for Braenden.

“It’s my fault. I brought him here without his consent nor yours. I just want him to see mother’s tombstone.”

“His life is too worthless to even step afoot in this hall.” Tywin looked to the tormentor. “You know what to do.”

And so he dragged Braenden from Tyrion’s grasping hand and forcefully pinned him on the ground. Braenden was crying. He stretched out Braenden’s right arm and took out a sharp dagger, and was cutting Braenden’s palm badly that his little brother was screaming in agony.

“Stop this, father! Please.” Tyrion pleaded. “If anyone should take the punishment it’s me.”

Then Jaime appeared, a sword unsheathed on fighting hand. “What is going?! By the gods, get off from my little brother, torturer, or I will forcefully make you so.” His blade was pointing at Ser Ivan, and moved closer.

Ser Ivan didn’t moved or comply, and it was their father that defended him. “Leave him be, Jaime. I don’t know why you’re protecting this wretched little worm. He deserved it.”

“Get off him, Ser Ivan.” Jaime warned, ignoring their father’s words. “Or I will stab you. I don’t mind doing it but since you’re punishing my little brother I will not hesitate this. Get off of him.”

“Jaime, leave him. Cersei’s voice appear.” She donned in her expensive nightgown.

“Quiet sister.”

“You all came here to make hassle. This is where the dead sleeps in peace and you are disturbing their slumbering.”

“You’re right,” Tywin said, “Ser Ivan, bring that wretched little slave back into his cell and make sure it gets the proper punishment accordance.”

“Yes, my lord.” He tied the slave-chain to Braenden’s slave-collars that is around his neck and legs, and then dragged him off to the deepest dungeon where his little brother dwells.

“Bringing him here isn’t a sin, but a crime for him. He doesn’t have the permit to leave his cell unless it is his work labour to mine stones.”

“He’s only four, father. And if have forgotten today is his nameday.”

“And also your mother’s death day. I have given him my gift to answer for his crime on setting his plague feet in here.” Tyrion already knew. “Go to sleep, all of you. If you want to see Braenden lived through the night then I suggest you all to abide what I said.”

Tyrion and Jaime were forced to comply, but Cersei just gave in and she didn’t care about their little brother. “I would rather see my little brother die peacefully than for him to suffer your torturer’s cruel works.”

“He is born into this world with the cost of your mother’s life, and for that he has to pay for it.”

You fucked up old man it is not his fault. Tyrion argued inside. But it wasn’t worth it now since it already happened. And from that night onwards, Braenden too feared Tyrion that he might bring him more torturing than comfort or consolation.

“Tyrion? Tyrion?” Braenden snapped him out of his thoughts. He was brought back into the present. “You were out of the blue there.”

“I… I was.”

“Are you troubled?”

“No, just some weird thoughts.” Tyrion lied. “Let's continue eating. We move on the morrow's noon.” He made a promise to their mother that Braenden would live until of old age and father children of his own. He remembered Joanna's promise, and he wasn't going to break it like he did when Braenden was eight.

Chapter Text

King Robert and his hunting party had returned earlier this noon. Him, Ser Barristan the Bold, Lancel Lannister his squire, and a few other hunters. Robert would always be tired from all the hunting so he would be off to his chambers with his prizes. Their return, however, was earlier than expected so there wasn’t anyone to greet them on their return journey.

“No need to celebrate my return, Ned. I’m in need of rest. Goodness knows that I’m fat to even hunt!” he burst out his laughter. “Oh, please. Don’t hesitate to eat what I hunted. Two deer. Lancel!” he boomed. “Get these dead animals to kitchen and skin them!”

“Y-Your Grace, how would you want-”

Robert cut him off too abruptly. “Do you want to skin them yourself? Be my guest, then! Have them roasted however you want. Make sure that you don’t disappoint our honoured guests.”

His squire left, and when Robert turned to look to Ned, he said, “Can you believe him? He’s been nothing but a pain in the arse when we went hunting. Ser Kevan’s son, he is.”

Ned let out a chuckle. “Leave the poor lad be, Robert. People need you in your throne room now.”

“Seven hells, it’s the reason why I make you as my Hand, Ned. So I can go off hunting and whoring. It’s the reason why the pin is on you now instead of the Kingslayer. The Gods knows how much I miss Jon Arryn.”

From Ser Barristan’s account, the old knight explained that they left in a scurry hurry. Lady Lysa Arryn feared for her son’s life. Fear? On what? He remembered when Maester Luwin knocked on their chamber’s door in the night and received the letter from Cat’s sister, saying that the Lannisters were behind her husband’s assassination. She did mention to be aware of the Lannisters at any cost.

“You should get some rest, Robert. Who knows you might go off hunting again without my knowledge.”

His friend let out a laugh. “Ned, you know me. The day after tomorrow, we’ll go hunt near the Kingswood. Go, Ned. The people look to you in my stead. I’m too fat to even listen to their complaints. Go, before I drag you with me to hunt as well.”

Ned thought, thought deeply into his mind after his meeting with Robert. He found himself sitting on his office chair behind his office desk. There was much paperwork to do, and it took a heavy toll on him. “How did Lord Tywin manage to do all these for two decades to King Aerys?” he asked, shaking his head.

After signing five delegation papers, the warning from Cat’s sister came to his mind again. She said Jon Arryn was murdered by the Lannisters, he remembered Catelyn said those words to him when they were awakened by Maester Luwin. She said the King is in danger. He placed the quill down gently. Why would the Lannisters murder Jon Arryn? He thought about it deeply. Lannisters. Murderers. Lannisters. Murderers. Lannisters. Murderers. Lannisters! It echoed in his heads. He remembered now, his son fell from the broken tower of Winterfell… Bran.

Ser Jory entered the Tower of the Hand after not hearing any knocking from him. He stood before him, saying, “My Lord Stark, the people is requesting an audience.”

“And the king?” Ned asked.

He was hesitant, at first. “Busy… my lord.”

“Alright, then. See to it that the girls are in their chambers.”

There were dozens of people commoners requested to have an audience with the royal officials, some were nobles. They complained too much about outlaws and bandits roaming free and about around the countryside. Ned had to admit that they weren’t facing many troubles during his trip down south from his home. Only because they were the king’s party with veteran and seasoned soldiers during Robert’s Rebellion. None could dare hope to attack them, less to even raid their party.

The throne room was filled with nobles, commoners, guards and the famous kingsguards. The commoners were the one Ned was supposed to hear and listen to what they have to say. They were all over Westeros but most of them were countrymen of the crownsland and the stormlands. And there it was the Iron Throne, where Balerion the Dread helped forge it with dragonfire on behalf of Aegon the Conqueror, made of swords surrendered by his enemies.

The Iron Throne was a monstrosity of spikes and jagged edges and twisted metal. It is uncomfortable, and the back is fanged with steel which makes leaning back impossible as soon as Ned climbed up the iron throne and sat. As big as it was, the Iron Throne had been located on a high platform in the throne room within the Red Keep. Members of the Kingsguard stand guard below, protecting the King or the Hand of the King during the king’s absence.

Ned nodded to the herald to begin the petition and pleading to what he has to hear from them. “First person in the line, come forward!”

The person explained everything that his hut and stock was raided. He was lucky not to have any wife or father children else it would be another difficult matter again to handle. Outlaws that raided his abode spared his life in return they rummage his stocks to nothing. “They’ll say winter is coming, my lord Hand. Prices of food and livestock are increasing, taxes ever go higher and I still pay them however I could.”

Winter is Coming. Those were the words of House Stark, his house. “The crown will compensate for your losses, and we’ll provide the livestock and provisions for winter that you have lost.” He knew what the horrors of winter could bring upon them all. If only the tourney didn’t have an extravagant expenses for the champions’ purses. We may have to borrow from Lord Tywin Lannister again. The thought of that wasn’t pleasing at all.

He bowed down deeply. “Thank you, my lord. Seven blessings to you and your family.”

“And to you as well.”

The second petitioner came forward and explained about how he lost his family in the riverlands. They were just farmers, and he mentioned about a large men with his hounds on the move. “They put their swords through my sons’ throat. Only three they were, and they took my daughter, not reaching her second year yet.”

“And who are these men you’re talking about? Who took your children?”

“I can’t say, my lord.” He began crying. “The one who was leading was big. Big as a horse. They had a sigil. A sigil with three dogs, yellow background me thinks. Please, help me get my Aela back.”

A sigil with three dogs on a yellow background… dogs, dogs, dogs… Big as a horse, he said. He knew the man. Ned met him during the sack of King’s Landing, when Lord Tywin marched his army through the goldroad. It could only be one person. The Mountain.

“I’ll send word to the riverlands and the westerlands at once to return your daughter back, and with compensation. I’m sorry about your sons. I know gold won’t bring them back but it’s all the crown can offer now.” Ned definitely needed to send word to Lord Tywin Lannister not only concerning about the crown’s debts but also related to his bannermen’s raiding. This was treason to break the peace, and also an act of war and irresponsibility to his bannermen to let them roam so freely. “Three thousand dragons would do. My blessings to you and your family. May the Seven and the Old Gods bless you with their wisdom and hope.”

“Thank you, my lord. May the gods bless you too.”

“Jory, meet me at my chamber as soon as this meeting is over. I will need someone to carry out my letters.” And hopefully Lord Tywin would comply to our request.

According to Varys the westerlands and Casterly Rock’s mines were still brimming with silvers and golds and that the westerlands were currently thriving and prospering with health and harvests like the reach.

It goes on and on. They were more or less the same; complaining about their losses and that the crown’s treasury have to be spent until it was completely exhausted. The Hand’s Tourney, how much Ned despised it or would want to take part of it; they spent forty million dragons only for the champions’ purses. Ned still had to garner the cost of the extravagance expenses of the tourney regarding the pastries, the arms and armours, horses and much more. Ned was frustrated. It was incredulous to know that the small council or even Jon Arryn couldn’t stop the crown’s treasury from being empty.

When it was finally over past afternoon near evening, Ser Barristan came forward before the throne and requested Eddard’s presence to the small council’s room to discuss matter about the financial issues that was a recurring problem since he and his family arrived to King’s Landing. Ned had already done what was necessary to restore the treasury. Raising taxes and doubling the prices on wines and whoring to 10% seemed wasn’t enough.

Ned followed Ser Barristan to the small council room, but as they were making their way the knight spoke, “I do believe that His Grace King Robert wants to go for another hunt?”

Ned sighed deeply. “Yes, he told me when he got back.”

“It’s what clears his mind, he says. Killing reminds him of the day he slew Prince Rhaegar at the Trident. It eases his mind and heart.”

Of course, Robert was a strong warrior on the battlefield that led his soldier on the frontlines with his Warhammer. Ned remembered the battle of the Bells and the Trident during his rebellion. It was mostly for his beloved betrothed, Lady Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister. “Whoring and drinking as well? Is that his resolution only?” He was baffled at it. “I thought when he became king he could find conciliation at least. He got his justice at the Trident.”

“He received his justice, that I can confirm, but dreams are dreams. They came to him often than it shouldn’t be, truth be told, and that’s why King Robert always go on hunting rather than always listening to what the people have to complain.”

The King shits and the Hand wipes. Littlefinger’s jest reminded Ned. He wasn’t wrong there. “Are you going to accompany His Grace to hunt?”

“I have to, as the Kingsguard duty is to protect the king from harm. Ser Mandon Moore will be following the hunting party as well.”

They finally reached before the small council’s door. “Thank you for accompanying me, Ser Barristan. Make sure Robert gets back in one peace.”

“I’ll stand guard and vigil before anyone could get past me. You have my word as a knight.” Ned entered the room as the door closed behind him.

Everyone were seating at the small council’s table, except for the Queen Cersei Lannister. Lord Baelish, Lord Varys, Lord Renly, and Grandmaester Pycelle. What’s worst was that they were books, ledgers, inks and quills on the long table as well. He would be very busy today, and the remainder of his days as Hand of the King. He was still weary from the journey to King’s Landing but he would have to face it.

Maybe his wife was right about declining the offer to serve beside Robert as Hand of the King. Maybe Cat was right that he should stay in Winterfell and rule the north instead of the seven kingdoms.

“My lords, what news?” Ned asked, making his way towards to his seat at the small council.

“Same thing, Lord Stark.” replied Lord Baelish, ever with a smile that makes him uncomfortable.

Ned made his way around the table and chose his seat beside Lord Renly and Lord Baelish. He sat down. “Has the streets and the people rioted against us?”

“You have predicted correct, my lord. Flea Bottom is speaking about revolting and the streets are unsafe, such is the Street of Sisters. The Street of Flour is filled with angry demanders for lower prices. Many nobles find their pouches and pockets almost empty with the fees on whoring and the extravagance of pleasure in brothels and such. I’m sure that Lord Baelish knows this too well.”

“Very,” he replied. “My clients aren’t too pleased with the decision we have taken here. I suppose we may have to look for another alternative option at best.”

“Our farming incomes will have to wait for the next harvest. It’ll be our last as well since winter is coming. Lord Baelish, how fare is our request from the west?”

“Lord Tywin demands why does the King and the royal officials demand such request. We are already in late payment to Lord Tywin, the Iron Bank and the Faith.”

“I know that already, Lord Baelish, but does Lord Tywin accept our request?”

Lord Renly was the one to response before the Master of Coin could. “He has but it would be the last one the Lannisters would send to King’s Landing for now. He has agreed to lend one million dragons and is being sent through the goldroad with guards.”

“Should we stick to the decision we have taken, then I suppose we have to increase the revenues and incomes tenfold, and invest the treasure in business and trading.” suggested Littlefinger. “If may work, with a little suppression of here and there just might work.”

“It’ll have to.” agreed Eddard. “How is the gold cloaks fare in the streets?”

“Lord Commander Janos Slynt is showing sheer diligence in his duty to keep the King’s peace, however, several fights have broken out that two died in Flea Bottom in the charges of trying to steal a loaf of bread and a fish.” answered the Master of Whisperers, Varys. “Ser Jacelyn Bywater, an honourable and brave person and is liked by the smallfolk did his best to supress the riots with kindness than Lord Commander Slynt could.”

“Good. If the smallfolk doesn’t like the new taxes we have delegated then we lower the tax from fifteen percent to ten percent. As for the golds and silvers from Casterly Rock, I want Lord Baelish to put them in good use, invest them in business, trades, farming, all those. You are the Master of Coin, after all.”

A smile appeared on his face. “Of course, Lord Hand, a wise decision. We can see that the crown’s treasury is starting to fill on its own again.”

“If that is all, then I conclude this meeting. I have to admit, my lords that my head is not particularly well today.”

“Being the Hand of the King is no easy task to wipe the King’s arse.” sneered the Master of Coin, closing his ledgers and preparing to leave the room as all the others.

If there is one thing I can’t trust you in, it’s that I must keep you away from my daughters from your vulgar tongue. “Conclude this meeting, then.”

When they all leave, Grandmaester Pycelle stood up from his seat ever so slow and almost appeared he was about to stumble to the ground. He was mumbling words so stiffly and softly that Ned couldn’t make out his words. The old grandmaester turned to look at Ned. “I am meant to give you this, Lord Stark,” he said, producing a small scroll from his sleeves and hand it to him. “A letter from Winterfell from your son.”

A letter? “Thank you, Grandmaester Pycelle. You may take your leave now.”

Grandmaester Pycelle left with a weak bow and slowly make his way towards the door out. Ned opened the letter and read it.

Father,

Bran has awakened from his coma but he cannot remember what happen to him when he fall or before that happen. Maester Luwin says that he is a cripple, and that his legs won’t be of use to him anymore. Bran isn’t himself most of the times. I have sent a word to Jon at the wall of this news.

Your son,

Acting Lord of Winterfell, Robb Stark

His younger son had awakened from his unconscious fall. Brandon Stark, named after Ned’s oldest brother after himself. The fall was a crippling blow to Cat and his little boy Bran. Now that he couldn’t move, ride a horse or even shoot arrows at the archery range would deprived him from doing what he desire, depriving him from being a knight of the kingsguard members. Robb has not mention anything about Rickon, Ned found it queer and a little worried for his youngest.

He rolled the letter back and out of the small council’s room with a reminder of dissatisfaction that the problems weren’t going anywhere to solving it. Borrowing from the westerlands was their only priority should Ned have to choose between Lord Tywin and the Iron Bank. Even so, the Lannisters and Iron Bank of Braavos had similarities. A common word of House Lannister was A Lannister always pays his debts, and for the Iron Bank: The Iron Bank will have its due.

Because the debts the crown’s in debt now was over six million and that they borrowed again means that they would have to pay back their debts slowly as they were gaining incomes and revenues from invested economical buildings. It’d take time but it will have to do. He never had this kind of staggering problem in the north and this was already as challenging.

Ned reached the throne room and was making his way back to his chamber, to make a stop first to his daughters’ room before retiring to his tower. As he was making his way he was stopped by Littlefinger, the Master of Coin. He seemed to be holding a ledger. “Good news?” he asked. Ned was about to answer what he meant but he was cut off. “Perhaps you would like to share it with your wife?”

He was surprised to know about this when Lord Baelish was one of them who got out of the small council’s room before Grandmaester Pycelle. “My wife is in Winterfell.” Ned replied.

Lord Baelish was walking pass him, but stop for a moment to reply, “Is she?” He gave a sly smile before walking away again.

Is she? Ned remembered that Cat was staying at Winterfell to take care of Bran and Rickon. The day he left he remembered the part where Catelyn was talking down to Jon when he was saying his farewell. What could he mean? Ned followed Lord Baelish.

They rode down to Street of Silk where many of Littlefinger’s brothels made their revenues to the crown, being one of the best sources of incomes in King’s Landing. They tied their horses near the fences and got down. “I told her she’d be safest in here,” he said, turning back to where the brothel situated. “One of several such establishment of my own.”

It fired him up. He raised his left hand and grabbed Littlefinger’s neck from behind and pushed him against the wall near the doorway. He wasn’t expecting it but Littlefinger was struggling as Ned tightened his grip on his neck. “You’re a funny man, huh? A very funny man.” Who did he think he is? Bringing him to one of his own brothels he owned? He had such audacity to even think one.

“Ned!” said a familiar voice from above. It was Cat.

He quickly removed his grasping hand from Littlefinger’s neck and went inside hurriedly. Up the stairs quickly and he saw that Ser Rodrik Cassel was guarding one of the big door covered with costly silk curtains. “My Lord Stark, Lady Cat is inside.”

“Can I know what are you and my wife is doing here?” Ned asked, incredulous.

“She insisted to go to King’s Landing, my lord.” replied Ser Rodrik. “It’s regarding about your son, Bran Stark.”

They entered the room which looked more like an office of administration – a place where Littlefinger would do all his brothels’ paperwork, it would seem. And there stood his wife, Catelyn, and no else. Wearing a simple blue gown with her auburn hair tied to a ponytail. She walked slowly towards him with a comforting yet sad smile on her lips. They hugged together. It broke off when Littlefinger entered the room from another door from behind. Ned almost wanted to forgive him about earlier but he just couldn’t seem to do it.

“Ned, Lord Baelish have told us who the dagger belonged to.”

“Dagger? What dagger?”

“I should have thought earlier that there is a person who entered Bran’s room with a dagger and tried to assassinate him.”

“What?!” he exclaimed, not aloud. An assassin tried to murder his crippled son for no reason? Anger was boiling inside of him again. “Cat, tell me everything.”

“I don’t know, we have no proof or any evidence to back it up. But I suspect the Lannisters are behind this. This dagger,” she pulled out a dagger from her waist belt. Ned took it from her and unsheathed it. The dagger looked plain but it was a finely made of Valyrian steel with a smooth dragonbone hilt. “It belongs to Tyrion Lannister, the Imp.” she finished with distastefulness in her words.

“Tyrion Lannister? And why would the imp want to murder an innocent boy?”

“As I said, we suspected that the Lannisters were behind Bran’s fall. I think he also suspected us to know about it and that’s why he sent an assassin to kill Bran, our poor boy. We are lucky to have his direwolf nearby to kill him before he could do his task.”

“The Lannisters were behind this? And they sent an assassin to do their dirty work? Are you sure about them, Cat?”

“She is sure, Lord Stark. I can confirm this.” Littlefinger intervened. “This dagger belongs to me before but I lost it at Joffrey’s tourney when the Knight of the Flowers, Ser Loras Tyrell unseated Ser Jaime. As we know this dagger belongs to Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf son of Tywin Lannister.”

“I think Bran saw something he wasn’t expected or intended to see. But I can very well feel that the Lannisters are in this.” his wife said.

The Imp was there when the King’s retinue was at Winterfell. He feasted on their food and lavish on their drinks, and when his son Bran fell he tried to have him killed? The Lannisters sure have the guts to do this. But something told him otherwise that it made him hesitant to doubts. “Are you sure this belongs to the Lannisters? We can’t simply have him arrested without any proof could lead to hostility and war.”

Cat sighed. “Ned, they tried to kill your son, our poor boy. I know it in my bones they are behind this. They can buy a fine Valyrian dagger why can’t they hire a skilled assassin as well? We can to suggest to King Robert that they were suspected to be behind this.”

“The mere suggestion that the Queen’s brother tried to kill your boy would be considered treason.” said Littlefinger.

“We have proof. We have the blade.” Cat countered, looking at him.

“Which Lord Tyrion will say was stolen from him. The only man who could say otherwise has no throat, thanks to your boy’s wolf.”

She turned back to meet her husband in the eyes. “Petyr has promised to help us find the truth. He’s like a little brother to me. He would never betray my trust.” Of course he wouldn’t. The fact that he tried to defend your honour against his older brother to win her heart. He remembered it.

“I’ll try to keep you alive, for her sake. A fool’s task, admittedly, but I’ve never been able to refuse your wife anything.”

“I won’t forget this. You’re a true friend.”

Chapter Text

Cat shrouded herself with her scarf and wore the same gown yesterday when she entered King’s Landing with Ser Rodrik. Her task here wasn’t satisfy enough to gather proof to have her justice, but it was satiable enough to gather information who the dagger belonged to now. Tyrion Lannister, she thought the devilish imp with disgust and resentful. Even his stature was not normal to be a lord. She prayed that justice would pay him a visit or two. Oh, how she really prayed that the Lannisters deserved what they get. All the blonde lot of them.

“I wish I could see the girls.” She missed Sansa and Arya already. Knowing that Sansa would be marrying to the prince gave her sadness but also happy for her daughter, her beautiful Sansa.

“It’s too dangerous.” Ned responded. She knew that was the answer as she was expecting it.

“Just for a moment,” Cat insisted, hoping it would convince him to let her see their girls one more time before leaving for Winterfell.

“Until we know who our enemies are…”

“I know they did it, Ned. The Lannisters. In my bones, I know it.” She would repeat countless of times that the Lannisters were behind Bran’s fall.

Ned looked down a little. He seemed that he wanted to believe in her words but he was so hesitant. “Littlefinger’s right. I can’t do anything without proof.”

“And if you find the proof?” She prayed to the Old Gods and the New that would be the case. She really wanted to have justice to those who attempted to kill her Bran.

“Then I bring it to Robert… And hope he’s still the man I once knew. You watch yourself on the road, huh? That temper of yours is a dangerous thing.”

She couldn’t repress a light chuckle. “My temper? Gods be good, you nearly killed poor Littlefinger yesterday.”

Even her husband couldn’t supress a low laugh. She remembered when she saw Ned pinned poor Lord Baelish against the wall yesterday with his hand. “He still loves you.” he said.

Cat knew what that meant. All too well she remembered the day Littlefinger challenged Brandon Stark to win her heart but failed, and mortally wounded. Brandon Stark was supposed to be her husband but he was called to the capitol and met his end there.

“Does he?” She looked at him and him to her. They looked at each other in the eyes for a moment and their heads got closer to each other and their lips met. Their arms wrapped around their necks and shoulders. It was a long kiss enough. She would still hope that she could give Ned a son or daughter before leaving again but that wouldn’t be best for now.

Finally, they broke off their kiss slowly. Their face grew concerned suddenly, but Ned’s hands were on her shoulder. “Off with you.”

Cat took another moment to look at her husband before leaving. And it meant a lot of things and meanings than just a glance of judge. King’s Landing was a dangerous place for anyone who were royals and nobles and important associates. She left Ned behind the Littlefinger’s brothel’s compound.

Ser Rodrik was waiting for her with the two horses they mounted, with supplies replenished from Littlefinger as a token of his friendship. They would be enough on their return trip back to Winterfell, where she belonged. She was hoping she could make a stop for her father Lord Hoster Tully where he was severely sick and eventually became bedridden.

But now her place was with her three sons: Robb, Bran and Rickon. Especially Bran since Ned told her that he had already awoken up. She couldn’t wait what she had to hear from Bran’s mouth concerning his fall. That would put the Lannisters in a bad situation, she hoped.

Ser Rodrik helped her got up her horse, and another moment she took another glance to her husband just one more time. May the Old Gods and the New protect him and my daughters in King’s Landing. It broke her heart that she had to leave Ned. Her husband had left her three times previously. First was during Robert’s Rebellion, second Greyjoy Rebellion, and the third was when Ned took the official royal office as Hand of the King to his long best-friend Robert Baratheon. This time however, she was the one to leave him but not the same reason. She left because she had good reasons to. To protect her family. Family, Duty, Honor.

Cat and Ser Rodrik reined their horses to where the Dragon Gate was located; they came in from there before they were found by the City Watch and brought to Littlefinger. It was the road to the kingsroad, the road to Winterfell. She would not dare to look behind as it would tempt her to stay just to be with Ned. She had to resist and supply her mind that her sons would need her guidance and assistance. They must’ve missed her already, but she knew Robb would be strong and wise in ruling in Ned’s stead.

As they strode off the road of the Dragon Gate there were still many people going in and out of the capitol city. Guards posted on their post and stopped individuals who sought to enter the city – asking for their warrants or official papers to get passed. Some were patrolling around in groups, armed and armoured, little were mounted. Cat noted that not many could afford horses or a saddle.

She had thought about hiring a ship to White Harbour and back to Winterfell. She had some money left for the return journey home but she’d rather save them and they have ample supplies on the road ahead. Not to mention that she’ll go past her father’s lands first and might make a stop at Riverrun and the Crossroad Inn. She would love to meet her brother Edmure again, and probably make an appearance for the riverlords and ladies. She was still a Tully deep in her. She might… but she won’t.

She started the conversation as they strode off from the city gate. “It’ll be nightfall when we reach my father’s land.” Cat said. “We’ll have to spend the time on the road.”

“We can make a stop at Darry. They’re your father’s bannermen. I’m sure they would greatly receive you as their guest of honour.”

Castle Darry was ruled by House Darry, a black plowman on a brown field. It would be a good idea to know that they would have comfort and proper food for a fortnight but Catelyn wouldn’t risk having their whereabouts and identity. If Littlefinger could know where she went or her intentions then anyone could as well. She was taken aback when the goldcloaks found her and Ser Rodrik when they entered the city through the Dragon’s Gate.

“No, we must not risk that.” Cat told him. “We’ll make a camp not far from the road if we have to. At first light then we’ll go to the inn at the crossroads.”

“Aye, m’lady.” he complied. An old and stoic but loyal lad. He may be big and old but he was still capable of fighting and trained as master-at-arms.

Cat looked back over her shoulder, and the city was impedingly staying away from her, and no goldcloaks to follow or stop her. It may be the last time she saw Ned, Sansa and Arya for a long time before meeting again. By then, Sansa might already marry to the prince and have children of princes and princesses. Arya also might have been betrothed to some southern high lord as well and probably learn some fundamental etiquette of how to be a lady. I miss my girls already.

She had left the dagger to Lord Baelish’s safekeeping. She thought it would be better to give it to him and received more information from what her old dear friend could gather. To know that the Lannisters had a hold of the dagger when Lord Baelish lost his bet to Tyrion Lannister during the prince’s last nameday was more than enough proof to arrest him and those who partake in the attempt. But Ned and Littlefinger suggest otherwise since it was too risky and that Lord Tyrion the Imp could contradict her statement. Littlefinger had been right as well because Bran’s direwolf Summer killed the catspaw that could otherwise spoke the truth against the Lannisters.

There was a fire happening during the attempt to assassinate Bran. She stayed in Bran’s room when it happened and the catspaw was so swift and skilled that Cat didn’t listen any noise when he entered the room. She tried to stop the catspaw in result her palms getting scars but she did it to protect Bran. It was pure luck that the direwolf was there to protect her boy.

Afternoon came and half an hour later they passed Hayford Castle and making their way across the countryside. There were still some leagues away before passing Harrenhal and Darry. Journey with two people would be faster than travelling in group or in an army (not that she had been in one) but the countryside were filled with criminals, outlaws and bandits alike. And that her children had direwolves each, who knows what creatures, could dwell in forests and caves and lakes.

“I suppose we can make a stop at the Ivy Inn. It’s not far from where we are now, Ser Rodrik. We’ll break our afternoon meals there for proper food.” she said, breaking their long silent.

“Decided to get warm meals and bed, m’lady?” the old knight asked.

Cat shook her head. “No, we couldn’t risk that. We’ll get beds at Crossroads’ Inn.” It had been awhile since she last saw Masha Heddle with her crooked smiling teeth. Cat remembered it all too well.

“It’ll be a long journey from the riverlands to Moat Cailin, m’lady. There won’t be any comfort in the Neck.”

“We’ll force ourselves to get as much closer to Winterfell then.”

They stopped at the Ivy Inn and a table for two. The inn was simple two floor house with the main hall first and the beds and room above. Outside was a stable with a small hut house at the back with a windmill. There were five family members that helped operate the business, and there were much patrons stopped over for a drink or bed.

Cat didn’t bring much with her, a large pouch of silvers would be enough for the road and they wouldn’t have to spend any for supplies, thanks to Littlefinger. They ordered what was enough to satiate their belly and kept the remaining silvers for the road ahead. Beef stew and bread was more than enough until dinner when they set up camp.

They didn’t rouse any suspicious heads or any whispers in the inn when they left. Everything was in order for her to get back to Winterfell. They mount up their horses and started moving north again. By nightfall they finally made camp around the outskirts of castle Darry. By tomorrow’s morning they would reach the Crossroads Inn and take a rest there for a day and after that they would make their harsh journey up the Neck to Winterfell.

They set up camp just east of Darry, and the both of them set up small tents to cover themselves from rain. Ser Rodrik then went on to a nearby patch of trees to find some firewood and twigs and branches to fuel the fire from extinguished. And he brought back a bundle of them back to their camp. From where they were, they could see the castle lit and people carrying torches passing them by but none bothered them.

As the fire was still burning brightly Ser Rodrik prepared their dinner with skewered beef meat peppered with salt and spices, and glazed with honey and butter. There wasn’t any support stand to place the skewer atop the campfire so they had to take out a small pan to cook it. Ser Rodrik waited for the pan to get heated and when it finally was he placed two of the skewered beef on the pan and came the sizzling sound and the great smell from the butter and honey glaze. Cat took out a boiled leather waterskin from the saddlebags that contained wine.

She sat back down on the log as her seat while watching Ser Rodrik tampering on the beef with his stick. Cat had to let out a chuckle. “I didn’t know you were good at cooking, ser, nor do I know that you have a thing for cooking.”

He smiled back. “If we have the necessary ingredients and things to make something good for a meal, my lady, I don’t see why not.”

It wasn’t a big portion, not that she was very hungry, but it was certainly good. Finally she had eaten something fine since she left Winterfell. The stay at Littlefinger’s brothel wasn’t much with just pastry and wine. She was surprised to even know that the old knight was a fine cooker.

After he was done finishing his fill and drank some wine from the waterskin, he told Cat that he would go to take a rest first and would wake up when Cat takes her sleep. It would be hard to sleep on rugged pelts with the dirt and grass just underneath it, not to mention that there would be insects flying around them with the fire they just started earlier. She took a moment looking around the dark night; it was beautiful with dim-lighted torches, sconces and braziers that were inside houses and the castle.

Cat looked up to the dark skies, with thousands of bright stars and the silhouette traces of the clouds. It was beautiful to ponder at to waste her time by before taking the short sleep. Even the wind was gentle as the Mother. It was cold, but a warm coldness against her skin and cheeks. Winter is Coming, her husband’s house words came into her mind. She had to enjoy her summer while it last before it came.

She started to feel her eyes about to close and felt that her eye bags a little heavier than it normally was. She had pondered for about half an hour up at the sky, awed at nature’s beauty the gods have blessed this world upon. She woke up Ser Rodrik slowly and told the old master-at-arms that she would be taking the short sleep before continuing their journey up to the inn.

Early in the blue morning Ser Rodrik woke her up. She let out a dry cough, and her eyes were still heavy from the sleep. The old knight passed the waterskin to her and she removed the attached cap and drank the contents. At first it was sour before starting to turn into a sweet taste, too much for her dry throat to handle she passed it back.

“With this morning, m’lady, we can move swift. I have already fed the horses.” he said, sitting down on his log and took out a small spool and two wooden bowls. He was already cooking something without her knowing. It was like a soup or something heavy liquid when he poured it on the bowl. “It’s oats, m’lady. Very hot and warm for the morning.” He handed Cat her bowl of hot oats.

She took it with gratitude. “Thank you, Ser Rodrik.” She slowly took the contents into her mouth. It was still freshly hot from the pot but it was sweet that it alleviated her empty stomach. “I should asked you to be the master cook of Winterfell one day other than being the master-at-arms, ser.”

He chuckled. “I’m far better off training your sons’ swords. Robb is still leagues away from mastering a sword, and Bran has yet to learn how to properly shoot a bow.”

If he ever could stand on his feet, would that I will be very much jubilant. She finished her fill. “We have to go the inn, Ser Rodrik. Sleeping on rough surface makes me uncomfortable and uneasy.”

“We’ll have to spend money when we take beds and meals at the inn, though.”

It was not her silvers anyway. “If you have the golds and silvers to spend at your leisure, ser, I don’t see why not.” she smiled back at him, remembering that the old knight told her something similar last night. They both laughed for a short while, until she broke their silence again. “We’d best get to the inn, then. Every second we wasted the more I yearned to see my sons’ faces.”

It was shining bright already by the time they were making their way. They passed castle Darry five minutes ago and they would reach the inn not long from now. There weren’t much people as they walk their horses. Most were busy with reining their wagons with goods and farming. Otherwise, not a person had bothered the both of them.

The inn was just before them, after some while, she thanked the gods for good beds and warm meals. They stopped before the inn and a stablemaster came to them, offering to let their horses stay under the stables’ roof with food and water. Cat accepted the offer and got down from their horses. She remembered to put her hood up when she heard the morning bustling chatter inside the inn. They entered.

It was almost packed that Cat thought they weren’t any rooms or seat for them to stay. That was until Masha Heddle came. She remained the same. Fat and middle-aged woman but with her dreaded smile that showed her blood-red teeth caused by her continuous eating of sourleaf. Ser Rodrik was the one to do the talking.

“Ser. M’lady.” she greeted. It was a good thing the innkeeper didn’t know who she was, for she was hidden under the shadow of her scarf. “How can I be of service?”

“Two rooms with beds and a table for two. All those until tomorrow. Can you give us that?”

“Indeed,” she nodded, “you’re lucky to have rooms because patrons left not along ago. Though there was still important persons here that take most of the rooms. What would you have for breakfast?”

Surprisingly to Cat, she found her stomach rumbling again. The oats earlier was only to fill for a short while until they reached the inn. “Two mugs of milk, for a start, and good bread you can offer and two stew. That’ll be all.”

“You can have the seat near the window, just near the staircase.” she showed the place where they were going to break their second fast. “Jeyne! Where is my niece? Don’t tell me she had enchanted herself with the lions.” she went into the kitchens.

Lions? Ser Rodrik led her to their table and seats. A window and the staircase was just opposite of the side of them. A tall thin girl, plain with brown hair and brown eyes brought them their mugs of milk. This could be Jeyne, Masha’s niece, Cat thought. She looked around her to the people that were in the inn. Most of them were her father’s bannermen. Brackens. Smallwood. Darrys. Whents. Freys. All of them. She felt safe and comfortable.

A singer came to join them at his own will. He grabbed a nearby stool and sat with them. “Would the two of you want a song? A Bear and the Maiden Fair? The Dornishman’s Wife?”

“What do you want, bard? Don’t you see that we are busy?”

“M’lady,” his tone was sweet. “is this your father? Grandpa here seems to dislike songs that are known throughout Westeros. I would gladly sing a song freely if grandpa here covers for my meal.”

“I’d rather throw myself down a well.” the knight responded, which she chuckled silently.

“Grandfather, may be your last chance if you’re heading north. The only music the northerners know is the howling of wolves!”

That was wrong. Sansa mastered her music lessons like a perfect lady she was. She could perfect sing Gentle Mother and A Bear and the Maiden Fair and more.

That was until when she heard the distant voice of a familiar that she hated. It was coming from the stairs and it was becoming more apparent as they were taking their steps down. She couldn’t see who it was but she could certainly tell who the voice belonged to. None other than the Imp of Casterly Rock, Tyrion Lannister.

She remembered that he was at the Wall visiting along with Jon Snow when he took the black. He was there now before the stairs with his richly crimson vest and tunic with a fur cloak over his shoulder. His blond curly hair and his nose were perfectly normal, even for a dwarf. Come to think of it, he would have been a perfect lord had he not been born a dwarf. There he was the mastermind behind her Bran’s fall.

“We will have our breakfast here before we make our journey back,” he said to Masha, “I don’t want to go on a journey with empty stomach.”

“The lot of you took a lot that I fear our storage and granaries might be exhausted.” Masha complained. The lot of them? Tyrion had seven Lannister guards, heavily in crimson cloak and armed.

“We paid you handsomely than the rest here. More so than your prices and fees. We’ll double our average pay so you can fill your stores again. Now, we would like to break our fast.” Tyrion took a look around them seeing that the room was filled with people. There were no seats left for his lot. “Is there no one to give up their tables and seats for us for a bag of silvers?”

“You can have my table and seat.” replied a sellsword that had a lean, wolfish appearance with a dark hair and dark eyes, with stubble of beard.

The Imp smiled. “There’s a clever man. You can manage on your yes, I trust?” He threw a small pouch of gold to the sellsword.

“My Lord of Lannister!” exclaimed the bard merrily. Cat looked away immediately as soon as the dwarf’s head turned to their position. “Might I entertain you while you eat? I can sing of your father’s victory at King’s Landing!”

“Nothing would more likely to ruin my supper.” Cat felt the silence, and that a glance was on her and Ser Rodrik. “Lady Stark! What an unexpected pleasure. I was sorry to have missed you at Winterfell.”

She sighed deeply because her cover was blown. Everyone, her father’s bannermen at the least, were now talking in whispers voices. “Lady Stark.” Masha curtsied.

Cat stood, and removed her scarf back. “I was still Catelyn Tully the last time I stayed here.” she said to her, then turn her face to a knight. “You, Ser… Is that the black bat of Harrenhal I see embroidered on your coat?”

A knight of House Whent nodded. “It is, my lady.”

“And is Lady Whent a true and honest friend to my father… Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun?”

“She is.”

She turned to another bannermen that sworn to her father’s house. “The Red Stallion was always a welcome sight at Riverrun. My father counts Jonas Bracken amongst his oldest and most loyal bannermen.”

“My lord is honoured by his trust.”

“I envy your father all his fine friends, Lady Stark, but I don’t quite see the purpose of this.” Tyrion Lannister said.

She was bothered by his interruption. She quickly ignored him and turned back to another bannermen. “I know your sigil as well… the Twin Towers of Frey. How fares your lord, ser?”

“Lord Walder is well, my lady. He has asked your father for the honour of his presence on his ninetieth nameday. He plans to another wife.”

She heard the Imp scoffed. Baffled by it, this was her moment. “This man…” she pointed her finger on the dwarf. “came into my house as a guest and there conspired to murder my son, a boy of ten.” she could see the confusion on his face. Act confused all you want, you cannot escape now nor can your guards to protect you. “In the name of King Robert and the good lords you serve, I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell to await the King’s Justice.”

All of her father’s bannermen answered her with a response of them unsheathing their swords and pointed at Tyrion and their guards. Even Ser Rodrik. The dwarf was speechless. Then a person appeared before them. She knew this one, a familiar sight that was not of dread and terror but of comfort. She knew him.

Tall and handsome, or pretty, with his short golden curls with a good body build, with straight and small bulgy chin and his delicate aquiline nose. His cheeks were crimson pink, his lips were similar to his brother but slightly smaller. He was Braenden Lannister of Casterly Rock. He was clad in a dreadful black cloak with a black lion carved on his chestplate.

“Tyrion, we sho- What is the meaning of this?”

One of the bannermen’s swords pointed towards Braenden’s neck, threatening him silence. She noticed that his hands were fast that it reached the pommels of his swords but made no further attempt to unsheathe his swords. “I could kill you all here like a hot knife through butter.” Braenden threatened.

“Braenden, stop.” Tyrion said.

“You’re outnumbered, Lannister. It’s high time that you meet your justice.”

Chapter Text

There were at the very port of Lannisport itself. Kevan was accompanying him along with several bodyguards, including the Mountain Ser Gregor. They were inspecting the Lannister fleet that had originally two flagships carrack (Lord Tywin and Lady Joanna), seventeen caravels and thirty-two war galleys and trading galleys separately. Bur because the Ironborn attacked Lannisport and burned most of their ships, the Lannister fleet remained only five caravels and twelve war galleys.

Until seven years ago, when his two sons Tyrion and Braenden were ruling the westerlands they implemented many civic laws about equalities and equities, reinforced the laws of the westerlands more, building of schools and infirmaries were raising in Lannisport in many that they have to extend the walls of the original size Lannisport. Irrigation and farms were built along the countryside from Crakehall to the Golden Tooth. Not only that, Tyrion and Braenden had undergo many military reforms and from that the original manpower strength of Casterly Rock was raised from forty-thousand banner to sixty-thousand in just two mere weeks. Tyrion raised ten thousand and Braenden the other ten, and each had their own standard banner. Those months were known as the Golden Months of the Westerlands.

With fearing that the ironborn might try to attack Lannisport again, Tyrion oversee that watchtowers armed with ballista and catapult was to be built around Lannisport with chain-gate linked to each other to close the port from any attack. Though almost always the chain was below the sea waiting to be raised whenever the case of attack was drawing nigh. Not only that, they also managed to rebuild most of the ships that was lost to the Greyjoys during the Sack of Lannisport. Four flagship carracks: Lord Tywin, Lady Joanna, Lionsclaw (Tyrion’s flagship) and finally Lionheart (Braenden’s flagship). Many caravels and war galleys were raised more than the original as well.

To finish the original plan of restoring the glory and strength of the Lannister fleet, and also to make it more formidable and stronger, Tywin had to do it himself since two of his sons were on their trip in the north. “Build two more carracks named Ser Jaime and Queen Cersei. Five more caravels and twenty war galleys would suffice for now.” he instructed to his shipmaster Admiral Tylas. “Make sure they’re finished before the year ended.”

He nodded deeply. “Of course, my lord.”

“Kevan,” Tywin called, “How the situation of the extension of the wall is delegated? Are the builders doing their work?” They wouldn’t be paid until the month’s end and that wall haven’t completely finished. He would send Ser Gregor Clegane to punish those who did not do their job.

“Indeed. From morning to noon and afternoon until evening.”

The extension of raising another wall for Lannisport was more than just necessary. The birth rate of the population in the city was tripled since Tyrion and Braenden’s management. Average to high income for every workers with high living condition. That was their policy and people’s rights, his youngest son imposed. Tax remained indifferent at 15% since Tyrion understood expenditures of their many big projects and that the people were living in Lannisport with better life support for everyone.

“I assigned Stafford in recruiting more bannermen. Is he doing his work as well?” Tywin asked his brother. He nodded in response. Stafford was Joanna’s elder brother. “And are more farms and irrigations been building around Lannisport?”

“That, my lord, has to be postponed due to wall being built. We don’t want any interference between the builders and engineers and farmers.” Kevan responded.

“I suppose I can work with that. Very well, just make sure you carry them all out and finished all this before the year ends.”

He was trying to finish his two younger sons’ projects. They dealt with it mostly during their rule and management but only because the people was inspired and followed them for four months. Not much was done after that, thus ended the golden months. There were only a few delegations yet to be finish or started but it wasn’t much paperwork to even call it hard.

He was inspecting the four flagships. Lord Tywin and Lady Joanna were undergoing a maintenance and technical fix so he had to see the condition of Lionsclaw and Lionheart. They were in very good condition as they were built before. Originally, his youngest son Braenden wanted to name it Vingilot, like the one it the books but soon discarded it when his older brother Tyrion named his own flagship related to House Lannister and lions.

“How many men each in my sons’ flagship?” he asked the shipmaster.

“Fifty.” the shipmaster replied. “We can add more if you’d like, my lord. Their condition’s still great and ready to be in service. We can add extra oars, decks, and bedchambers and sails. They’ll not be the first Grande Carrack flagships to ever sail but there are very few of them in centuries.”

“Do so, then. Raise all four flagships to Grande Carracks and trained the men in boarding and sailing. Navigation as well. I will not afford to let the Greyjoys burn my fleet my sons raised from the ashes. I want them all to be trained and armed when we attack the Iron Islands.” Tywin said, remembering sourly about the Sack of Lannisport.

“It can be done but I’m afraid they would not be finish within a year or so.”

“Then make haste.”

He bowed and left. “Yes, my lord.”

“Kevan,” Tywin called and Kevan came by his side. “Raise another twenty thousand bannermen before the year end.”

Kevan looked at him, brows up and confused. “My lord? We have sixty thousand already. Unless you want them for the Iron Islands I don’t see any reason to raise more. Not to mention that we have to pay our bannermen monthly.” He carefully explained.

“Nevermind that, we’ll have our plunders when we attack Balon Greyjoy and his lot.” We’ll remind them that it is not easy to taunt the lions. “Raise them. We have weapons and armours more than we needed.”

He nodded. “Very well, but we have assigned other lords and knights to command some groups. So does your sons Jaime, Tyrion and Braenden. Who is going to lead twenty thousand?”

Tywin had thought about the person who was going to lead them. He had been with them for quite a while and never wavered his loyalty, not to his youngest son at the least. “Have five thousand of them assigned to each of my sons’ legion. The other five thousand will be led by Ser Aren.”

Ser Aren had not shown any leadership yet but he was highly respected in the westerlands and in Casterly Rock. Not to mention that he hadn’t reached his thirties yet but nearly there. Tywin could feel that he had the potential to lead, to be content enough if his swordsmanship wouldn’t be enough to instil terror upon the enemy. He trusted him enough that he knighted the Gladiator on his fourth year in the westerlands, and Ser Aren was loyal to Braenden.

“As you wish, brother. I’ll have the recruiting centre opened as soon as I can.”

It had been years ago when they raised twenty thousand bannermen in just two weeks. This time, however, without his sons to inspire would take longer. Not that he was in such haste but Tywin wanted to have them prepared should they invade the Iron Islands, for the result of the Greyjoy Rebellion wasn’t enough to satisfy him. If they do, Tywin would hang all the Greyjoys and their lots around the precipices of Pyke, and so do their lords and ladies and children. He would replace the houses of the Iron Islands with lords and ladies he could entrust with.

And if they do take the Iron Islands, he would give Pyke to either Tyrion or Braenden, or even Jaime if he even wants to be a lord. He had to ensure that the westerlands were completely safe from the ironborns because Tywin would not suffer having them raiding their shores while they do nothing in response. Though it would be harder for them to attack Lannisport now, almost nigh impossible with the extra ballista towers erected and the great chain gate that would block off all the ironborn ships from entering Lannisport.

It was Stafford Lannister that came to him with a letter. The brother of his wife. “My lord,” he bowed, “a letter from the riverlands. From one of our agents.”

Riverlands? Why would he received news from the riverlands unless it mattered Riverrun or the Twin Towers? Unless… “Good, or bad?”

He chose his words carefully. “Bad.”

They rode back to Casterly Rock through the Lion’s Mouth as hastily as they could. Ser Kevan. Ser Stafford. Ser Gregor Clegane. Ser Amory Lorch. Ser Addam Marbrand. Ser Forley Prester. Tywin even summoned his vassal lords: Lord Andros Brax. Lord Leo Lefford. Lord Roland Crakehall. Lord Regenard Estren. Lord Garrison Prester. Lord Gawen Westerling.

They were all in the war room that kept secret from most of the household. It was located near the Hall of Lions that was used by the old Kings and Queens of the Rock. “What are we to make of this? This is treason.” began Ser Daven. “They have both of my cousins alive and captive.”

Stafford asked, “We should send word to King Robert. Demand that the Lady Stark release Lord Tyrion and Lord Braenden and the remaining captives they took at the inn.”

“This is a declaration of war.” said Lord Leo Lefford, the uncle of Lady Alysanne Lefford who he tried to betrothed her hand to his heir.

“Don’t make such declaration yet, Lord Lefford,” replied his brother Ser Kevan. “War will not help until they are our last option. For now we have to use diplomatic to win them back.”

“We cannot afford to look weak, Ser Kevan. Lady Stark didn’t declare war; I know that but that she called for it. Arresting the Lannister brothers for unknown reasons? We don’t know what Lady Stark would do to them.”

He read the letter for the second time again while the lords and knights of the westerlands argued what would be the best option.

The lions fell into the lion’s caves. Held captives and going north to Winterfell, they say. Information from an agent in the riverlands.

His two younger sons were arrested at the Crossroads’ Inn on the orders of Lady Catelyn Stark. His two sons. His fists clenched that it crumpled the letter. Tywin would show the trouts and the wolves what were the fates of those who dare mocked the lions of Casterly Rock. The lions would feast on their meats.

“Ser Gregor,” Tywin called, and everyone was silent. He walked closer to him. “You will take five hundred of your bannermen with you, and you will rampage the riverlands from Wayfarer’s Rest and Wendish Town, to Stone Mill and Riverrun as you did before.” Ser Gregor bowed and left the war room. “That’s your task now.” I will not have my sons’ corpses shown before me. I will not have it.

“Tywin, perhaps you have taken the situation too seriously.”

“It is serious, Kevan.”

“Yes, it is but choosing a war just because an arrest had occurred will not solve things.”

He was boiling inside him but he tried to soothe it. “They’re my sons, Kevan. Tyrion and Braenden are hostages to the Starks and they are making their way to Winterfell. You’d think I’ve chosen to go to war? I have merely sent the Mountain and his men to force the Tullys and the Starks into submission.”

“As soon as we get words from the capitol then we’ll act with however our option gives us.”

“Two decades of ruling the Seven Kingdoms I know how to deal with this matter.” Except, he was very anxious to have his sons captured. “Call the bannermen.”

Kevan grabbed him by the arm. “Are you sure we’re not going to war? Marching into the lands of House Tully means war.”

And what do they have? Could they muster up to House Lannister’s manpower? “No. We will show our defiance from Nunn’s Deep and the Golden Tooth. Show them the might of House Lannister.”

“The means to scare them. As long as it doesn’t risk any war until we received word from the king.”

King Robert would most likely not care and spend his treasury on tourneys and feasts. He had received a letter from the newly appointed Hand of the King, Lord Eddard Stark. The king’s best friend. They needed the wealth of Casterly Rock to help them rule their Seven Kingdoms. Come to think of it…

“We’re not going to war.” he concluded, “if they marched down south with an army then I am to take the offensive.”

“Riverrun’s might is not as great as it once used to be. Though they have experienced soldiers from Robert’s rebellion. And since the Starks and the Tullys are allies through means of relations and marriage, we might be facing two.” said Kevan.

“Three,” Devan corrected, “Lady Lysa Arryn, daughter of Lord Hoster Tully and sister of Lady Catelyn Stark is wed to the previous Hand Jon Arryn. We will have three Great Houses against us.”

“It’s too early to even think of a plan, lord brother. Think about the consequences it’ll bring to House Lannister.”

The consequences it’d bring to his house? “They should be worrying themselves than we should to ours. Anyway, call the bannermen and have them ready. I want to be prepared in case they should take up arms in defiance and response.”

His brother Kevan sighed deeply, then nodded in concede. “Alright, then. Daven, you’ll stay here with your father Stafford to raise more bannermen.” Ser Daven and his father Stafford nodded. “I think we can appoint Ser Aren to lead the forces to Nunn’s Deep, I to the Golden Tooth.”

“No,” replied Tywin, “you’ll follow me and Ser Aren will still remain in his place in Casterly Rock until I give further orders.”

“And who will lead the forces in the River Road?”

He had one in mind. It was high time that he showed his prowess in leading an army rather than glorying himself in swordfighting. “Leave that to me.”

They all soon carried out their orders. Tywin retired to his solar just above his apartment. He called for his page Robert Brax to be summoned to his solar. As he waited for his page to arrive, Tywin sat himself on his office chair behind his desk, pondering. His solar office was already lighted with candles and sconces; he realized the shadows and the heat wave. Perhaps his page had already been here earlier since the books, papers, letters, inkpots, quills, all of them were properly arranged in manner.

He opened one of his desk drawers where he kept some of the most important letters and things in it. He took out an important letter that was written by his wife long ago when she was carrying their youngest son. Tywin closed the drawer and looked at it. Worn and old, but maintained in condition. The content was inside but he stared at the letter. “I’m sorry, Joanna. I should have kept my eyes on them. I shouldn’t have let them go with the king’s retinue. I promised I’ll get them back, with whatever means necessary.” He was sorry, but more so because he felt bad and guilty for himself. He had to make amends. Tywin would made sure that he wouldn’t resort to war unless he really had to.

Robert Brax, his page, came into his solar after a long while. He apologized for his lateness but Tywin merely waved it implying that he summoned him unexpectedly. He had a task for him to do later but for now… “How is your training with Ser Benedict Broom?” Tywin asked.

He stood there in front of his desk, bewildered, but he answered. “Well, my lord. And my progress with Maester Creylen is also going well.”

“I’ve never known what’s your ambition or your obligation.” Even when his page was serving him for some time now, he still didn’t know his goals. “What is it that you seek?”

Robert Brax seemed to be looking for answers. He finally did. “I have two right now that I’m really aiming for. One is being a knight, and the other is being a maester of the Citadel so I can serve House Lannister in the future. Should I fail one of them I can just chose the other.”

Maester Creylen was still old but capable for several more years, Tywin predicted. In any case should that ever happened, who knows he might let his page to be the maester of Casterly Rock one day. The only other Lannisters to take the chains of maester was Theomore Lannister. “Did you know my son, Tyrion, wanted to be a maester of Oldtown?” Robert Brax didn’t know and was quite surprised to know about it now. “I rejected his idea of becoming one since he was going to be my heir to my titles and lands.”

“Wh… I… I thought your youngest son…”

Tywin just nodded. “When he woke up, Tyrion relinquished all his claims to my titles and land rights, entrusting them to my youngest one.” Tywin had nothing to argue about this. The both of them were capable to rule. Tyrion did that because his little brother deserved it after what he had been through, thanks to Tywin, and that Tyrion wanted to take tours around Westeros and Essos. Of course, he wouldn’t let that happening. First, his eldest son took the white cloak of the Kingsguard, and then two youngest sons wanted their own freedom. Tywin couldn’t let that happened again.

“You must have heard,” Tywin said, “about my youngest one when he woke up.”

He placed both of his hand behind his body. “I have, my lord, but I shouldn’t ask or ponder about it.”

“I will not blame you should that subject come to your thoughts. Though I expect from you that you should keep it to yourself and have it not spread around.”

“I will, my lord. You can promise me on that. If I may ask one thing regarding about that, Lord Tywin.” Robert Brax asked anxiously.

“What is it?”

“Why?”

Why? Tywin thought about it first. He set aside the letter that was written by his wife. He stared into the lighted candle. Why? He thought again. Tywin blamed Braenden for the death of his mother, Tywin’s wife, for the first. Secondly, the fact that his youngest son was the only one out of four of his children to take everything from Joanna, in terms of appearance, personalities and traits. Thirdly, he was the youngest one and that Tyrion was the heir Tywin thought that he wouldn’t need him. Out of all those, they were just parts of why he used to hate and scorn his youngest son. But he learned that he was very wrong to the core. Why? “A question I ask myself from time to time.”

“I swear I won’t spill this subject out.” he promised.

Tywin merely just chuckled. “I suppose it’s alright if you did. After all, it already had circulated around Westeros.” Where did this kindness come from? Tyrion? Joanna? Braenden? “Take a sit, boy.”

He did, in front of him. Young, with dark brown hair with dark eyes, and tender appearance. He was no more than ten, if Tywin was not mistaken. “I heard that he went north when he was young,” he began when Tywin was about to take a paper and quill, “that he went to Winterfell.”

How far have you heard from people’s whispers and gossips? “He did, and fell in love with a northern lady.” Until I took that away from him as well. If I didn’t do those things to him he might just strengthened the ties and bonds between House Stark and House Lannister. The Wolves and the Lions. It was futile now anyway. Tywin take the blame for everything he did. Maybe soon they might be at each other’s throats. Braenden’s only great suitor now was the Lady Alysanne Lefford.

“…and what happened?”

Now Tywin regretted to answer all of his questions. “It didn’t work out well.” Thanks to me I have to ruin the relations between the Starks and the Lannisters to despicable. “You may leave now but I’ll need to summon you again for a minor task.”

“Yes, my lord Tywin.”

His page finally left the solar through the main door. Tywin relaxed internally and sighed deeply. He thought that his page would ask endless of questions. Tywin was more afraid that he couldn’t answer those or couldn’t take it. But he knew his wrongs but a great lord should remain authoritative regardless.

 Now he could continue with what he wanted to do earlier. He took a blank paper from his office desk, prepared the inkpot and quill, and began to write his letter of inheritance. It was now or never. Tyrion would have to do his part as well.

I, Lord Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Shield of Lannisport, Lord of the Westerlands, and Warden of the West, hereby declare my youngest son, Lord Braenden Lannister, to be my heir to all my titles, lands and possessions.

Should he unable to inherit all of my titles, lands and possessions they should belong to my eldest grandson from Lord Braenden Lannister.

If my heir was not of age to rule when my death will occur, I hereby declare my second son, Lord Tyrion Lannister, as Lord Regent of Casterly Rock and the westerlands until my heir comes of age to rule.

Tywin had to make sure that Braenden would marry someone that was worthy of the title Lady of Casterly Rock. Tywin knew, however, that Braenden had no feelings for Lord Lefford’s maiden niece who was his heir. He needed to make sure that Braenden would at least have a son from a lady that had not yet sullied or soiled herself; losing her maidenhead to someone else. It reminded of someone he loved dearly… so he wouldn’t have that repeated again to his sons. He would ensure that Tyrion would marry as well.

The guards posted outside of his solar’s door opened and announced his sister’s arrival. Genna. She wore a sleeveless green and red gown with a hint of gold colour contrast: luxe fabric and an embroidered lion. She was a Frey by marriage and laws, but Genna had always been a Lannister in appearance and heart. She was Tywin’s princess until she disappointed her.

“Hello, brother.” she greeted, taking a seat where the errand boy Robert Brax sat earlier. Genna seemed to scrutinize his troubled looks. She sighed. “You should have listened to me.”

“What can I do, Genna? They’re just as stubborn as their mother.” Indeed, Tyrion and Braenden were just as stubborn as their mother. They inherited it from her, not that Tywin blamed them for it, and he actually found it relaxing and peaceful, assuring. “I have done every measure I can take into account.”

Tywin found Genna pouring herself a cup of wine from the nearby decanter near his office table. She took a sip, “We cannot lose them. They’re the future to House Lannister’s legacy. You could’ve just let Braenden stayed in Casterly Rock for more lecturing and his training with Ser Aren, you know.”

He had sent a letter to Castle Black to Braenden regarding about it but it also adds that Tyrion was involved and that both of them were wanted in Casterly Rock immediately after their trip north. In the end, Tywin received that both of his sons were captured at the Kingsroad. “I cannot lose them, Genna.” Like Tyrion’s state when he found Braenden was dead, he was afraid he could not bear it. All because they resembled like Joanna, especially their youngest son.

Genna tried to give him a assuring, kind smile, but it was sadness too. “I cannot lose them as well. Well, it seems now that your sorry expression contradicts what you did to your youngest son. You’re not the only one who considers Braenden your darling son.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“Tyrion, Creylen and I were the ones to take care of him instead of you, because you were grieving about Joanna’s death. He was just born, Tywin, and lonely for a start. Did you know that many times Cersei took a dagger to his chambers when he was asleep? She would remind him that he was the one who took their mother’s life. You didn’t do anything but to let her do it. When Braenden awake from his death Tyrion did everything he could to spend time with him. He said to me many times that he considered Braenden more than just his little brother, a best friend or a son he wanted. I was in no position to talk to him about it. You probably didn’t know how much joy when Braenden wake up from his deathbed brought to us, especially to Tyrion, Creylen and I. Discarding the fact that the gold and silver mines in Casterly Rock and the westerlands replenished, of course.” She took a long sip.

She was right. Tywin knew that Cersei went to Braenden’s chambers with a dagger on her hands, but he didn’t know that Cersei would remind her youngest brother that he was the one who killed their mother. He took the blame as well because he allowed it to happen and that he was grieving about the passing of Joanna. Everyone did. Tyrion as well but he quickly cast that aside and look to his newborn baby brother. And what about Tywin? Crying for Joanna’s return when he could hold his youngest son in his arms and smiled at him for Joanna’s sake.

“Do you remember the part where Ser Ivan killed him?” Genna asked, suddenly turned dark. “It was a week too late already when we discovered. The part where his body was just so… his head, mouth, stomach and eyes… Tyrion wanted to take his own life back then. He loved his little brother so much. Do you remember that sight? Gods, Tywin… I didn’t know you were capable of this.”

Tyrion had shown many times that he devoted himself to spend more time with Braenden and dedicated his knowledge to him; teaching him how to speak and learn and read. No…

“I don’t need you to remind me, Genna. Haven’t Ser Ivan have received the punishment.”

She snorted. “I don’t need you to tell me about it. I just want you to accept the facts that you did it. He got what he deserved but it wasn’t justice.” She placed her hand on his. “I know you want to reconcile and amend the horrid you did to Braenden. I don’t blame you but you know Joanna’s words when she was on her deathbed.”

You will not take him from me, Joanna growled at them once when she took baby Braenden into her arms for the first time, and the last. I will not allow any of you to harm him… my little boy. My sweet little Braenden. Not while I still breathe. Even in her last minute in this world, she fought fiercely to protect their youngest cub.

And another words from her echoed in his head. And you know very well why I'm on this bed then. That is my duty as a mother, as any mother should." Joanna countered. "You don't know what it feels like to bring life to this cruel world. You don't know how it feels like to carry a child in my belly, to know a life is growing inside of me. You don't know how it actually feels like to raise and protect our children from the harshness of this world as a mother. You don't know how painful it is that I won't be here to protect and raise this one when I'm gone. I wanted to live a little longer so I can be a mother to him and to protect him. To protect him from the cruelty of the world, and to protect him from you, Tywin. You don't know anything of how it feels like to be a mother, You don't know anything.

His eyes were threatening him with water. “I know.”

“What will you do now? What will we do now?”

He took another paper and set it in front of him, a quill on his writing hand dipped with a blank ink. Tywin began writing again.

To my son Jaime,

Words will reach you in time about the incident that took place in the Crossroads’ Inn. Your two younger brothers were arrested there recently by the Hand of the King’s wife, Lady Catelyn Stark. They’re taking them to Winterfell.

I have consult with the lords and knights here to do what we can to response to this treasonous act. You do what you can to convince the King Robert and his Hand Lord Eddard Stark to release them by any means necessary. I’ll provide whatever it is they sought to request.

Your father, Lord Tywin Lannister

He rolled the paper and sealed it with a red wax and the print of House Lannister’s lion on it. “I can’t answer you. You ought to see Kevan for answers. When you leave, call my page to come here. I have something for him to deliver to Creylen.”

“A message to whom? To Winterfell? To Riverrun?”

“None of your concern, Genna. Don’t you have other things to do?”

“It is my concern to oversee the progress and safety of Joanna’s sons. Your sons. One of her words to me was that I would be a mother to Braenden in her stead. I know my part in this, Tywin.”

He did know that. Most of the time, Joanna had forbade him from entering Creylen’s office when she was labouring. “Just have my page here, will you?” Why couldn’t she just done a simple task? A letter sent to the rookery was no hard thing to do.

She got off her seat, finishing her cup and set that aside. She took the rolled paper from the desk. Genna offered, “I’ll have this send to Creylen. After all, you’re trying to make right to all your wrongdoings. Aren’t you?” She smiled at him, and left the solar.

Tywin sighed after she was gone, and there was no one in this solar except him. He finally felt relieved and in peace. “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Jaime had listened to him laughing and japing at his royal bedchamber whenever he was on guard duty. It somewhat reminded him when he was on guard duty to King Aerys II when the Mad King took his sister Queen Rhaella to his bed. He wanted to go inside and save the queen from his lust but his Lord Commander Ser Gerold Hightower would always be there to stop him. Jaime insisted that their duty was to protect the royal family, but Ser Gerold countered him that they swore their vows to the king regardless.

And this time it happens again, only that he was alone without his former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard with him, and a different king. There he was standing in front of the bedchamber’s double-door listening to their cry of pleasure and laugh. All cladded in suit of white enamelled scales, his fastening for his breastplate and other pieces made of silver. Although some of the Kingsguard members bear the right to carry the white unemblazoned shield, Jaime had no used for it. His white armour had little decoration. With his white sword sheathed in its scabbard and strapped to his belt. All glorified and chivalrous, only to be rewarded with pleasure moaning sounds from the whores King Robert brought with him.

Although, he found it rather amusing at times he also found it irritating and annoying. King Robert would sometimes do that to his sister Cersei during their night as a mock to him. He didn’t like it. He never liked it. Jaime would just breathe deeply and his thoughts changed to him and Cersei alone and in bed.

Cersei and Jaime had argued about their topic of the North relating to her son Joffrey. Their son. It wasn’t really an argue but Cersei was furious about it that Jaime had to make a jape that made her even redder, all to his amusements.

Cersei opened the door quickly, unlocking the locks as fast as she could from what Jaime could hear. As soon as the door opened and her head peeking out of the edge Jaime entered. She closed the door not too abruptly and locking everything. “How can you be so stupid?”

“Calm down.” He looked to her.

“He’s a child… Ten years old.” Cersei’s blond curls covered her chest and wearing light blue nightgown with loosely laces. “What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking of us. You’re a bit late to start complaining about it now. What has the boy told them?”

“Nothing. He’s said nothing. He remembers nothing.”

“Then what are you raving about?” Jaime asked. If the Stark boy remembers nothing then what was there to be afraid of?

“What if it comes back to him? If he tells his father what he saw…”

He got closer to her as he was talking, “We’ll say he was lying. We’ll say he was dreaming. We’ll say whatever we like. I think we can outfox a ten year old.”

She looked at him, eyes fixed on his. Jaime loved her eyes. “And my husband?”

“I’ll go to war with him if I have to.” Jaime then thought about something amusing that might spark anger in Cersei. “They can write a ballad about us: The War for Cersei’s cunt.”

Jaime did spark her anger, the slap was fast he couldn’t react yet he anticipated it. It was strong that the sound echoed in the bedchamber they were in. Jaime merely mused at her with a smile. She tried to give another slap again with her left hand but Jaime quickly grabbed a hold of her and turned her back to meet him. They were facing the same direction now.

Cersei tried to free herself but she wasn’t strong enough to free herself from Jaime’s arms. And he knew that Cersei liked it in some ways. “Let me go.”

“Never.” he whispered back.

“Let me go.”

“The boy won’t talk. And if he does, I’ll kill him. Him, Ned Stark, the King… the whole bloody lot of them, until you and I are the only people left in this world.”

Jaime didn’t really mean that, of course. He meant that he would kill all those who had suspicions on their secret and complicated relationship that was viewed as a sin and abomination. To Jaime, it just two closely related individuals feeling one another. He loved Cersei and Cersei loved him. Their relationship remained discreet. Except for Bran Stark the boy whom he pushed from the tower and Tyrion. Maybe his youngest brother as well as Tyrion was the closest to him in all their siblings. Jaime wondered if the both of them had gotten back from their trip north or not. He wanted to join them but other duty calls for an important person like a member of the Kingsguard. And that conversation took place a while ago.

He was interrupted when the King’s Hand assistant. The captain of the household guard at Winterfell. Ser Jory Cassel was his name, Jaime remembered. Short, curly brown hair and wry smile, along with wearing clothes that befits an assistant or a page.

“This is for the King from Lord Stark.” he began, holding out a scroll to him.

Jaimed stopped him. “Listen,” he hushed, “Do you hear them? How many do you think are in there with him? Guess.”

Ser Jory took his time to guess, and it was random though from what he could perceive. “Three? Four?”

“He likes to do this when I’m on duty… He makes me listen as he insults my sister.”

The door opened and one of the brothel whores looked at them awkwardly, she closed the door and quickly left between them.

“Forgive me, my lord…”

“Why do I have to forgive you? Have you wronged me?” He rested his left hand on the pommel of his sword.

“We’ve met before, you know.” Ser Jory said.

When? “Have we? Strange, I’ve forgotten.”

“The Siege of Pyke. We fought side by side one afternoon.”

It was coming back to him. He blurrily remembered it now. “That’s where you got your scar?”

He nodded lowly. “Aye. One of the Greyjoys nearly took my eye.”

“Vicious sons of whores.” Jaime commented.

“They like their bloodshed.”

“They stopped liking it at the end. That was a proper battle. D’you remember Thoros of Myr charging through the breach?”

“With his burning sword? I’ll remember that till the day I die.” Jaime would remember that, too. It was a sight to see and a proper battle. Revenge more like for burning the Lannister fleet at Lannisport. One of Lord Balon’s brothers, Euron Greyjoy, set afire to them.

“I saw the youngest of the Greyjoys lads at Winterfell. It was like seeing a shark on a mountaintop.” He had forgotten his name but he was the youngest brother of Rodrik Greyjoy and Maron Greyjoy.

“Theon? He’s a good lad.” Ser Jory implied.

“I doubt it.” Jaime had scorned the Greyjoys for burning House Lannister’s fleet from then on.

A loud laughter came from the royal bedchamber. It was King Robert’s. The door then opened and two fine looking women came out and slip past between him and Ser Jory. He heard King Robert saying, “I’ll bet you smell of blackberry jam! Let me smell it. Come here!” Gods, is there no end to his whoring? He closed the door back abruptly.

Ser Jory lifted up the scroll with his right hand. “Can I leave this with you? The message from Lord Stark.”

“I don’t serve Lord Stark.” As much as Cersei’s son tried to assassinate the crippled Stark boy. Slowly, Ser Jory back off and walked up the stairs with his scroll with him. Jaime guessed that he scurried off to Lord Stark in the Tower of the Hand. Yet, he had to endure here and listen to Robert’s disgusting comments.

But the good thing was that King Robert would soon go off to another hunting of his sport. That would mean more time for him and Cersei alone.

He was relieved of his duty to stand guard by Robert’s bedchamber. Jaime was glad that he wouldn’t have to listen to his laughter and jokes anymore. He preferred Tyrion’s anyway. It was Ser Mandon Moore and Ser Preston Greenfield to take over his watch.

“Lord Commander Barristan would like to a have a word with you, Ser Jaime.” said Ser Preston, a short knight.

“What does he want with me?”

“Don’t know but he said he’s got a letter for you,” replied Ser Mandon Moore, the most dangerous of the Kingsguard, after Jaime of course.  “He says it’s urgent.”

Jaime had to make his way towards the White Sword Tower. The tower where the Kingsguard members resides. A slender structure of four stories built into an angle of the castle wall overlooking the Blackwater Bay. Jaime walk up passed the Round Room, then the undercroft, third the sleeping cells and finally the Lord Commander’s apartments. Ser Barristan was there, sitting behind his desk almost filled with volumes, papers, and letters. His rooms were sparse but spacious enough to move around.

“Lord Commander,” Jaime bowed his head to the old knight respectfully.

“Ah, Ser Jaime,” he looked up to him, “please, take a seat.”

Jaime took a seat in front of him. The old knight was holding a paper that was already opened from the wax seal. It must be Jaime’s letter. Why was he reading it? Though he knew better than to question Ser Barristan the Bold. “It appears we have bad news, at least to you,” he began, passing the letter to him. “I was talking to Grandmaester Pycelle. I don’t mean to read this but your allegiance is to the King now, not to House Lannister.”

“No, I come from House Lannister of Casterly Rock. That makes me a Lannister, Lord Commander.” Jaime was still a Lannister despite swearing his allegiance to two Kings. After all he had two little brothers to look after. “What’s this about?”

“Read it, Jaime.”

To my son Jaime,

Words will reach you in time about the incident that took place in the Crossroads’ Inn. Your two younger brothers were arrested there recently by the Hand of the King’s wife, Lady Catelyn Stark. They’re taking them to Winterfell.

I have consult with the lords and knights here to do what we can to response to this treasonous act. You do what you can to convince the King Robert and his Hand Lord Eddard Stark to release them by any means necessary. I’ll provide whatever it is they sought to request.

Your father, Lord Tywin Lannister

Jaime wanted to crumple the paper and light it on fire. Instead he put the letter down, controlling his anger. Ser Barristan said, “What will you do? Will you tell the king?”

Jaime simply shrugged. “Does Grandmaester Pycelle know this, or anyone?”

“Only you and me, Ser Jaime. It’s best that you send word about this to King Robert. He’ll know what to do about it.”

I’m afraid, Lord Commander, he’s busy fucking whores. “Consulting him and listen to his words? What can he do about it when my two little brothers are going to the cells of Winterfell?”

“The King’s words are law, Jaime. They can’t do anything but to comply or they’ll risk war.”

Something Jaime looked up to. “I will send word to my father about this. I will deal with it myself even if I have to.” He got up from his seat, and bowed to his Lord Commander. “Thank you, Lord Commander, for not telling anyone else but me.”

“At one point, I will have to tell King Robert. I trust that you’ll do the right thing and not something foolish that would have negative scars on the name of the Kingsguard. I will soon depart with His Grace to hunt. Don’t soil the reputation of the Kingsguard.”

Jaime left the Lord Commander’s apartments rather abruptly, ignoring his last advice. Why should he? The Starks had captured his two little brothers. Partly it was his fault. He either had forgotten that Tyrion and Braenden had gone off to the Wall for sightseeing, or that he was busy with guarding the fat king. Jaime had to take actions now.

Down the stairs of the White Sword Tower, he found his way towards Cersei’s personal bedchamber. He entered. Most of the time she would spend her time with her children, their children, somewhere within the Red Keep. But she was there donning in her glorious red and gold attire. Her locks streamed down curly like a goddess. “Brother, what are you doing here?” she asked, obviously confused.

“Have you heard?” Jaime asked. It was most probably by now that his sister had heard of the news. Cersei always had her ways.

“Heard what? Jaime, I hope this isn’t about the boy again.” she put down her glass and filled it up with again from the decanter. “And for you to be here is rather odd, especially someone who looks distressed. Jaime?”

“Our little brothers have been arrested,” he broke the news to her. Cersei frowned.

“What?!” Her expression was calm, but the anxious and surprised were very palpable to read on her face.

“Yes, you heard me unless you’re deaf. They’ve been arrested in the Crossroads’ Inn recently.” he said. “I’m afraid we have a part in this.”

She looked at him, frowning more than ever. “What do you mean?”

“If we haven’t been fucking in that tower none of these would’ve happen.”

“Don’t blame me, Jaime. How do you come by this news?”

“Letter from Casterly Rock, from father himself.” replied Jaime. “They have our little brothers.”

The both of them pondered on about what to do. It was also their situation in anyway. Lady Catelyn had both of their little brothers and the part where he pushed the Stark boy from the tower in attempt to kill him. What would he do now? Cersei broke the silence. “What are we going to do?”

He thought of a plan. He scratched his head trying to think one, frustrated. Jaime thought of one, finally after some time. “We have Lord Stark here, and his daughters.”

Cersei quickly dismissed such ideas of his. “You must be stupid to think like that. Sansa is to marry Joffrey, and maybe Arya is to marry Tommen even though I hate that idea of that little wolf runt marrying my son.”

“They have our brothers, Cersei.”

“And you think holding the Hand of the King and his daughters’ hostage would bring them to heel? You would raise a war, Jaime! Let me speak to Robert about this, he’ll know what to do.”

Cersei’s thinking was just like Ser Barristan’s. They had to do something. “Where is Captain Vylarr?”

“In the Royal Barracks with yjr household guards, why?”

Jaime shook his head. “Nothing. Ser Jory wanted to send a letter to your husband earlier. I don’t know what it contains but it’s from Lord Stark. Do you know what it is?”

“No.” she replied, anxious. “Though he has rather been busy with the people in King’s Landing. Especially in the Street of Silk and the Street of Steel. Don’t you think that’s rather odd? Which reminds me of someone…”

“What or who is he looking about?”

It was his sister time to shrug. “I don’t know but he is in one of Littlefinger’s brothels now in the Silk Street.”

One of his brothels? What was he doing there? Sullying himself? No. Lord Eddard Stark was far more honourable than that. Even though he brought his bastard from the south back to his home during Robert’s Rebellion. Why would he go there? Unless he had appointments with the Master of Coin, which they could just do it in the Red Keep; Jaime saw no reason for him to go there. At least he knew where he was at now.

“You’re here, drinking and doing nothing while your husband invites whores to his bedchamber, while our little brothers are arrested?”

“What do you want me to do, Jaime? Call the banners? Or go hire sellsword companies to do the job to save them? Father is still the Lord of Casterly Rock and he will think about a plan, he always does. I can’t do anything in here.”

Yes, you can. Talk to your husband about it and tell him to release their little brothers from captivity instead of drinking wine. But that wasn’t the case. “Then talk to Robert about it, or his Hand.”

“Or we could,” she said provocatively, got up from her seat, untying the laces of her gown and it dropped to the floor. Cersei was now standing naked. Her golden bushy hair between her thighs and her breasts… The blood was now surging to his manhood.

“Cersei, s-stop it.”

She smiled at him, more of a smirking. “Why?” She asked, walking closer to him. “The door’s shut behind you. I’m sorry that I slapped you that day, I was wrong. We were wrong. Jaime, I want to feel you inside of me.” Cersei’s hands found themselves undoing Jaime’s white armour while her mouth and lips were working on his. Their tongue meets one another. It was going to happen again. She broke the kiss and her head closed in on his ear. “Fuck me, Jaime.”

They had to make sure that the bedchamber was locked and that no one was around, not even their children. It was very risky especially when the King was still here before his next hunt.

Cersei rolled her body to face the bed, with her hands and knees supporting her up. Jaime’s manhood was pumping in and out of her while they both gasps of pleasure. It wasn’t their first anyway and why not now? Love was a natural thing for everyone, even close blood.

“Yes, Jaime!” Cersei breathed, pleasure was filling the both of them. Jaime loved her tight cunt. “Faster! Faster! Harder!”

Jaime brought her up with his hands playing with her breasts, her back meets Jaime’s chest. Then, quickly, Jaime placed right hand to between Cersei’s thighs, stimulating her wet cunt. Oh, he loved the feeling of her golden bush there.

He pumped harder and harder, and their mouths and lips working together in union. As one. Like twins. “Do you want to drink them or feel them inside?” Jaime asked, slowing the heat down for a moment.

“Inside, Jaime! Inside!”

Time to get her pregnant again. Jaime thought, but with delight. He just wanted this feeling inside his sister’s cunt. He loved it. They both loved it. Cersei would take and drink moontea anyway.

Jaime exploded inside of her and they both pant for breath. It was heaven. They both knew that they love it the feeling of the last explosion.

“Robert can fuck his whores,” said Jaime, still panting. “I have you, and you have me.”

Her hand work its ways to his manhood, stroking it. “Don’t go for them, brother. Father will find a way to get them back. Stay with me. Be with me. Be in me.” Cersei kissed him tenderly with both of her hands now cupping his face. She was very beautiful. The most beautiful person he had known.

“No.” Jaime broke the kiss. I’m no less like King Robert, fucking my sister while my little brothers’ lives hanging on threads? “I have to go, Cersei. I’m sorry.”

“And just like that, I’m just a product to be used for entertainment and pleasure,” Cersei said. “Isn’t that right, Jaime?” He ignored her comments and left her personal bedchamber.

Captain Vylarr was honing his longsword’s edges with a grindstone in the Royal Barracks within the Red Keep. He and his hundred Lannister household guards slept in here for god knows how long. He was employed in here during Cersei’s betrothal to King Robert by their father Lord Tywin. Now, Jaime would need him.

He rounded up about fifteen red cloaks armed fully with spears and swords. Sad thing was that Captain Vylarr wouldn’t be joining him as his task was to protect the Lannisters in King’s Landing within the Red Keep. Even though Jaime was a Lannister, him being a Kingsguard distinguished his family name.

“I follow what my lord orders me to do.” Captain Vylarr said to him just now. “You can take as much as fifteen or twenty men if you want but I’d have to send word to your lord father and King Robert himself later on. By the way, what do you need them for?”

“There’s a riot near the Street of Silk,” Jaime lied.

The Captain of the Lannister household guards looked at him queerly. “I thought Lord Eddard Stark had employed Ser Jacelyn Bywater to handle in this matter? Or that Lord Janos Slynt would be handling it.”

“It’s gotten dire,” Jaime added, “they’re trying to incite it more. Dire it is that it requires a knight of the Kingsguard to handle it.”

“Whatever it is,” said Captain Vylarr. “Killing the people won’t solve it. Take as many men with you if you want but I won’t take part of it.”

“No, it won’t.”

He and his fifteen companions made their way from the Red Keep and into the Street of Silk. Where many of Lord Baelish’s brothels stood, though there were many prominent ones. Jaime knew which his office was when he was administrating his brothels from time to time. It was near an inn which made both place swell with patrons. Jaime waited outside, dismounting his horse.

As he had suspected, two horses were tied to the fence outside of the brothel. One black one white, with a person tending to the horses. The men he brought with him made their way to form a half circle, holding their spears and swords.

Great timing, Lord Stark, Ser Jory and two of his bodyguards came out just in time. When the Stark saw Jaime and his companions he mustered from Captain Vylarr, they made no attempt but instead remained on their ground.

“Such a small pack of wolves.” Jaime commented, musing. He thought there would be more of his bodyguards to the grinder.

Ser Jory stepped in. “Stay back, ser. This is the Hand of the King.”

“Was the Hand of the King,” he corrected him. Jaime’s left hand holding the pommel of his sword. “Now I’m not sure what he is… Lord of something very far away.”

That was when Littlefinger came out of the brothel. “What’s the meaning of this, Lannister?”

“Get back inside where it’s safe.” He said to Littlefinger, then turned his gaze to the former Hand of the King. “I’m looking for my brothers. You remember my brothers, don’t you, Lord Stark? Blond hairs, one of them with sharp tongue and short, the other taller and prettier.”

“I remember them well.”

Of course you do. “It seems they had some trouble on the road. You wouldn’t know what happened to them now, would you?”

Ned was staring back at him, keeping his stern expression. “They were taken at my command to answer for their crimes.”

Jaime drew his sword out from its scabbard; his men pointed their spears at the little wolf pack and start to move forward slowly. They were stopped when Littlefinger stepped up.

“My lords, I’ll bring the City Watch!” Littlefinger left them.

Bring them here, and let them witness the pelts from wolves. Jaime ignored Littlefinger, and cocked his head to Ned, sword in hand. “Come, Stark.” Jaime urged. “I’d rather you die sword in hand.”

“If you threaten my lord again-” Ser Jory had his sword sheathed as well.

“Threaten?” Jaime was surprised, not really but he did. “As in, ‘I’m going to open your lord from balls to brains and see what Starks are made of?’” He gestured it with his sword.

“You kill me,” Lord Stark said, “your two brothers’ will be dead.”

He made a point there and to Jaime’s advantage, he said, “You’re right.” Jaime gave a signal of attack. “Take him alive! Kill his men!”

Two Lannister men threw their spears, aiming at the two Stark bodyguards and penetrated their stomach, skewered. His men charged in. Ned sheathed his sword in a blink and slew one of Jaime’s men down. Ser Jory was holding near the end of a spear from one of the Lannister’s hands with his left while his sword hand fought off the others. To his surprised, he slew two down, next was the spearmen he was keeping at bay.

Then Ser Jory chose his next target. Ser Jaime Lannister.

Ser Jory gripped his two hands on his sword hilt. He took his steps carefully first then strike head on with his sword arcing up to strike Jaime down. Jaime deflected it easily his with sword with one hand, holding him at cross-guard of Ser Jory’s sword, Jaime took out a dagger from his golden boiled leather jerkin and shove the sharp end to Ser Jory’s left eye. He was breathing hardly at first, then slowly… Jaime pushed him away to the ground. It wasn’t a good fight, but a fight all the same. He was hoping something more challenging from the Northerners, especially from wolves. He turned to Lord Eddard Stark.

Lord Stark was surrounded by four of Jaime’s men; the remainders remained behind to take in line. “Don’t kill the Old Wolf.” Jaime reminded them.

One of the guards then shoved his spear to the back of Lord Stark’s leg, bringing him to his knees. Jaime then mounts his horse back up. “I’d rather see you dead than be crippled, truth be told.” he said to him. “My brothers, Lord Stark. We want them back.” His men trailed him from behind, leaving Lord Stark and his dead wolves with him.

Jaime had a plan of returning to the Red Keep, but instead took his followers to the Lion Gate, where the road leads west to the Goldroad, to Casterly Rock. There he would reunite with his father and help him take his brothers back. By any means necessary.