"That's Arya Stark of Winterfell, my lord."
Tywin remembered very clearly the moment he heard those words from Peytr Baelish. It brought a mix of emotions: both triumph and frustration. Triumph that they had another bargaining chip in this war-two Stark girls instead of one. Frustration that he had not seen it sooner.
He knew she was from the north. He knew she was a noble girl by her speech and education. He knew she was on the run from something. All of those pieces should have connected far sooner. Perhaps they would have, had he not been so focused on stopping her damned brother and his north men.
Arya Stark, right under my nose, he thought. I wonder if she has been reading our letters.
She was a smart girl, travelling as a boy and keeping her head low. But she was just a bit too smart for her own good. It showed. It made her obvious. He would have been willing to let her slip by if she was any other northern girl.
Not Arya Stark, however.
"You wouldn't have known, of course," Littlefinger continued. "You never met the girl, or any of the Stark children for that matter."
"No," Tywin said.
"Shall I bring her to you?" Littlefinger asked. "I can arrange for-"
"No," Tywin said. "She'll be along shortly. I'll handle her then. I can handle this on my own."
Lord Baelish inclined his head. "I'll leave to you then. In the meantime, I shall go to High Garden to negotiate with the Tyrells."
"Good," Tywin said. "Make sure they do not declare for anyone but King Joffrey."
Tywin did not act immediately on Lord Baelish's words. Not yet. He wanted to see how well the girl lied when he tested her. He asked her questions, wondering if she would give herself away.
If you're going to pose as a commoner, you should do it properly.
My mother served lady Dustin for many years, my lord. She taught me how to speak proper. Properly.
She was a quick liar, but easy to see through.
She reminded him very much of Cersei when she was younger. Daring, and utterly disdainful of the role society laid out for her as a woman. Yet as the daughter of a great noble house, there was very little that she could do.
He let her play her game for a little longer, until the winds of war changed at it came time to move out again.
When his generals left the room to prepare and Arya began to slip away, Tywin stopped her.
"Girl...Come here a moment."
Arya's mind was racing. Lord Tywin meant to ride out that night, and she had to find Jaquen before he did. If she could kill him, perhaps that would cripple the Lannister army in the fight against Robb. It was a good choice, she knew. The best possible choice for her third name.
The Lord of House Lannister was surprising. She had heard many awful stories about him, and while he was certainly a man to be feared, she did not fear him as much as she should. She hated him, primarily for his name and for his campaign against her brother. But he had done little to wrong her personally. He was miles away when Joffery took her father's head.
His was a strange inclusion her list, because she did not yet have something to blame him for. But she would do it. She would find Jaquen and give him the name.
"Girl...Come here a moment."
Arya paused, fighting the urge to curse under her breath. She had to find Jaquen as soon as possible. Slowly she turned to face Tywin.
"Yes, my lord?"
Tywin motioned for her to sit across from him. It was clearly not a suggestion. Slowly, Arya moved toward the table, perching herself on the edge of her chair, in case she needed to make an escape. He seemed to notice.
"Are you planning to run?" Tywin tilted his head to the side. "What do you think I am going to do with you?"
Arya shook her head. She didn't know, but something about this did not feel right. "Do you...mean to take me with you? As your cup bearer."
"I do plan to take you with me, yes," Tywin held her gaze. "What's your name, girl. You never said."
The question threw Arya off guard. He had never asked and she thought he never would. She scrambled for an answer, saying the first name that came to mind. "Jeyne...Poole," she managed.
Tywin's mouth twitched. "You seem uncertain of that."
"I'm not," Arya said firmly. "It's Jeyne Poole."
"You're lying," Tywin said. "Let's try, once again. Tell me your name."
Icy dread spread through Arya's chest, and her hands shook. He looked at her with the eyes of a man who already knew the answer. "Do you...already know my name... my lord?" she murmured.
"Yes," Tywin said. "I do. I may not have known your face, but Lord Baelish did. You must have suspected he would. You got very tense around him."
Arya swallowed a lump in her throat. Then she tried to bolt.
He had predicted this. He stood at the same moment she did, holding her fast by her shoulders. She twisted and struggled in his grip but it did not give. Her size worked against her here. He was much stronger than her.
"Let me go!" she demanded.
"You know I'm not going to do that," Tywin said.
Arya squirmed and tried to wiggle free but his grip only tightened like a vice around her.
"Settle yourself, Lady Arya. You'll never make it out of here without at least one of my soldiers catching you. And they might not treat you as kindly."
Arya's heart beat a fast pace against her chest. She wanted to fight him off, to claw his eyes out. She wanted a wolf's form to break through her small human shape and rip out his throat. But caught in the lion's jaws, she felt more like a helpless girl.
She stilled, drawing in a few deep breaths. He looked down at her. "Are you done?"
Arya gave a small nod.
Tywin kept his grip for a moment longer. Then he let her go. "Good. Sit."
Arya sank slowly into her chair. "You've known...Since Littlefinger came?"
"Yes," Tywin said.
"Then why didn't you mention it earlier?" she asked.
"It was not necessary then," Tywin said. "And I wanted to see how well you would lie."
Arya looked up at him. "How did I lie?"
"Well enough," Tywin said. "For someone who comes from so honest a family." He tilted his head to the side. "You must hate me deeply. A wonder you did not poison my cup."
"I hate your family," Arya agreed. "They killed my father."
"King Joffrey did kill your father, yes," Tywin said. "It was a dreadfully stupid thing to do. Your father could have been the key to making peace with the North. I very much wish he was alive."
"Not as much as I do." Arya murmured.
Tywin observed her for a long moment. "No. Not as much as you do."
"I was there that day," Arya said. "Even after my father gave him his confession, and said everything he wanted, he still took his head because the crowd wanted it." Her hands clenched into fists. "I would kill him if I could."
"I imagine. But you can't," Tywin said.
"Kings die all of the time," Arya said. "Everyone dies."
"You should mind that tongue of yours," Tywin said. "Being so honest is what gets you Starks in trouble."
"I'm already in trouble," Arya said. "You know my name. You won't give me a chance to escape."
"I won't," Tywin agreed.
"Will you send me back to King's Landing?" Arya asked.
"I've thought about it," Tywin said. "I don't suppose it would be a pleasant experience for you. Kept a captive in the Red keep with your sister...Joffrey does despise you for that business with your wolf. I can't imagine he would treat you kindly. I don't think my daughter likes you very much either."
"I don't like her," Arya muttered.
"Yes, but she has more power in this situation, so how you feel doesn't matter," Tywin said.
Arya shivered. Truthfully, the thought of returning to the Red Keep terrified her. What would they do to her there, now that her father was not around to protect her? Sansa was still alive. It amazed her that she had managed it this long. Arya wasn't sure how long she would last without wanting to throw herself from the tower.
"I can offer you an alternative," Tywin said. "One that might be more favorable to you."
Arya raised an eyebrow. "Will you let me go?"
"Of course not. I'm not stupid. But I might need you as a bargaining chip on the battlefield. You could continue to pose as my nameless cup bearer for a time. I won't let you out of my sight and neither will my generals." He leaned forward. "But if you try to run, you will be caught and I will ship you back to King's Landing to be at the mercy of Joffrey and his mother."
Arya pressed her lips together in a tight line. If she could pick her companions, she far preferred Tywin. He seemed to tolerate her at least, even when she was careless with her words. Not to mention, being on the battlefield could put her closer to Robb.
She knew Tywin would not tolerate an escape attempt though. He would keep her carefully guarded.
"Well?" Tywin asked.
Arya nodded once. "I will take your offer...my lord."
Tywin nodded once, as if he expected this. "I don't imagine you have any possessions to gather."
Arya shook her head. Everything had been taken from her long ago. Her sword, her family...now her freedom. She had nothing left but her own name. Even that seemed cursed.
"Good," Tywin said. "We ride tonight."